TSD 19: Ancient and New

Schulte, Kolbe, and Clare (silent 'e')

I like Edward Schulte churches. (In fact, I’ll be speaking at one in November—more on that later.) Active from the 1920s into the 1960s, Schulte was inspired by a lecture (in Pittsburgh!) by the great Ralph Adams Cram to focus his work on ecclesial architecture. The result was decades of consistently excellent work, mostly in Cincinnati and around the Ohio Valley, blending traditional principles and the modern idiom.

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Pittsburgh’s St. Raphael Church feels like a set from The Hunger Games—and I love it.

Schulte churches, like the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse and his renovation of St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in Cincinnati, have the distinction of being both unmistakably Catholic and unmistakably modern. These are spaces clearly designed for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but they also incorporate modern materials (lots of concrete) and design motifs (I’ve come to really like stylized and imposing angels intoning SANCTUS behind the altar at St. Anne, only 10 minutes from our home).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This is what a lively tradition looks like. Recreating the best of past architecture is fine, but a confident tradition is imperial and forward-looking: It co-opts the best of the surrounding culture and innovates so that it can be at the same time timeless and cutting edge.

These Seven Days…

…in the Ordinary Form

It is the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time. The readings are Wisdom 18:6-9, Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 (or 8-12, if you’re lame), and Luke 12:32-48 (or 35-40, if you’re super lame).

The Epistle includes the classic definition of faith, “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” The Haydock commentary has Robert Witham waxing epistemological: “For when God has revealed things, and we believe them upon the divine and infallible authority of the revealer, we have a greater certainty of them than any demonstration can afford us.” It then also has Menochius making a stark statement about the relationship between two theological virtues: “ Faith is the basis, the foundation supporting our hope; for unless there be faith, there cannot possibly be any hope.”

The Gospel, also oriented us toward our heavenly goal, focuses on our preparedness for the Second Coming. Here, St. Bede encourages us to avoid unnecessary curiosities and focus on what we can and do know: how to glorify God:

Observe that it is counted among the vices of a bad servant that he thought the coming of his Lord slow, yet it is not numbered among the virtues of the good that he hoped it would come quickly, but only that he ministered faithfully. There is nothing then better than to submit patiently to be ignorant of that which can not be known, but to strive only that we be found worthy.


Wednesday, August 14, is the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe. One of the most popular saints of modern times (and inspiration for a Catholic baby naming trend that, I must confess, I’m not a huge fan of), this Franciscan priest made a tour of some of the most tragic moments and places in twentieth century history. Through it all, his life was marked by boldness and courage both in missionary work and in resistance to injustice.

Before his famous act of self-sacrifice at Auschwitz (he was arrested for hiding Jews and publishing anti-Nazi tracts), St. Maximilian was known for his monthly magazine, Knight of the Immaculata, which he used to advocate for personal consecration to the Blessed Mother—and against Freemasonry, a cause he had held dear ever since witnessing a Masonic demonstration as a student in Rome. He reported:

They placed the black standard of the "Giordano Brunisti" under the windows of the Vatican. On this standard the archangel, St. Michael, was depicted lying under the feet of the triumphant Lucifer.

The magazine had a circulation of 800,000 by the time of Germany’s invasion of Poland—and it had a Japanese-language version, the first Catholic periodical on the islands. St. Maximilian had undertaken a mission to East Asia, including founding a successful monastery in the hills above Nagasaki. The monastery survived the nuclear blast (Masons, again), and a church and shrine to the saint exist there today.

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At the age of 12, Maximilian experienced a vision of the Blessed Mother: “That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.”


…in the Extraordinary Form

It is the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost. The Epistle is 1 Corinthians 10:6-13 and the Gospel is Luke 19:41-47.

The Gospel includes the second (see John 2:13-16) cleansing of the Temple after Christ laments the sinfulness of Jerusalem and foretells its destruction, which would take place in the year 70. Origen writes:

I do not deny then that the former Jerusalem was destroyed because of the wickedness of its inhabitants, but I ask whether the weeping might not perhaps concern this your spiritual Jerusalem. For if a man has sinned after receiving the mysteries of truth, he will be wept over. Moreover, no Gentile is wept over, but he only who was of Jerusalem, and has ceased to be.

St. Gregory the Great focuses on what Jesus does after evicting the money changers from the Temple—return to preaching the Good News:

But our Redeemer does not withdraw His word of preaching even from the unworthy and ungrateful. Accordingly after having by the ejection of the corrupt maintained the strictness of discipline, He now pours forth the gifts of grace.

I chose this image, by Giotto, because I love the faces of Christ and of the men about to be struck by Him, but especially of the alarmed Apostle at left. “Yikes.”


Monday, August 12, is the Feast of St. Clare of Assisi (her new feast is, sigh, the day before). Sts. Clare and Francis form one of the most beautiful pairs in Church history, raised by the Holy Spirit at the same time and in the same place that the light they shed—that is, the light they reflected from Christ—might be all the more enhanced. Her Order of Poor Ladies, popularly known as Poor Clares and officially known today as the Order of St. Clare, form an extensive and variegated women’s counterpart to the Franciscan communities that dot the globe.

The stories about St. Clare are too many to mention. She defied her wealthy family and friends by entering the monastery, even to the point of grasping the altar as they tried to drag her away. When her convent was besieged by Saracens who had been recruited in Frederick II’s anti-papal crusade, sick and weak she rose from her bed and “raised the Blessed Sacrament on high, [and] the soldiers who were about to enter the monastery fell backward as if dazzled, and the others who were ready to follow them took flight. It is with reference to this incident that St. Clare is generally represented in art bearing a ciborium.”

We’ll let Fr. Butler have the last word:

The example of this tender virgin, who renounced all the softness, superfluity, and vanity of her education, and engaged and persevered in a life of so much severity, is a reproach of our sloth and sensuality. … St. Clare, notwithstanding her continual extraordinary austerities, the grievous persecutions she had suffered, and the pains of a sharp and tedious distemper with which she was afflicted, was surprised when she lay on her death-bed, to hear any one speak of her patience, saying, that from the time she had first given her heart to God, she had never met with any thing to suffer, or to exercise her patience. This was the effect of her ardent charity.

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Two images of the death of St. Clare: first, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, c. 1645; second, by the Master of Heiligenkreuz, c. 1400.


…in both forms of the Roman Rite

Thursday, August 15 is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a holy day of obligation. For the officially promulgated and infallible definition of this beautiful dogma, we turn to Pope Pius XII’s 1950 Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus:

By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith. (44-45)

The origins of both the teaching and the feast are, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, uncertain. St. John of Damascus, though, reports:

St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.

Regardless of the historicity of the event, the Assumption only makes sense: Of course Mary, wholly incorrupt in body and soul, would never have to endure the bodily indignities of death. It was believed universally in the Catholic Church long before its official promulgation.

The feast has always been the dominant Marian celebration, though in the Americas the Immaculate Conception may surpass it. Processions are traditionally associated with the feast, and it remains a public holiday in much of Christendom. In the Ordinary Form, the Gospel includes the Magnificat; in the Extraordinary Form, interestingly, it is the story of Martha and Mary. The St. Andrew Missal explains:

Admitted to the enjoyment of the delights of eternal contemplation, she chose at the feet of the Master the better part which shall not be taken away from her. … The Church, on earth, like Martha, has to care for the necessities of this present life, but also, like her, invokes the help of Mary.

Here is the introit for the Extraordinary Form:

The Assumption of the Virgin by Francesco Botticini, c. 1475. I love how this depiction includes the heavenly reunion of Mother and Son. And also the (typically) confused apostles.


Those Seven Days…

This looks so cool, and is a great example of the kind of innovation-within-tradition that I describe above:


Audra Dugandzic dismantles a survey that flattered prejudices, but actually told us nothing valuable:

Following the principle of lex orandi, lex credendi, I have no doubt that the differences between the TLM and NOM matter spiritually and sociologically. However, historically, the TLM by itself has prevented neither heresy nor nonattendance. Over a hundred years ago, regular church attendance at many U.S. parishes was less than 50 percent, and even lower for men. In our present context, I suspect that self-selection would explain most differences between TLM and NOM attendees. 

If we’re going to do an Ordinary/Extraordinary Form analysis, what I’d be really interested in is rates of retention of children through adulthood and rates of priestly/religious vocation. But even then the confounding variables would make any takeaways hard to parse—and, really, I’m suspicious generally of submitting the liturgy of the Church to social science.


A wonderful matching of feast, quote, and image:


A Catholic school oriented around the skilled trades is opening in Michigan. May it be the first of many! This is the kind of big thinking we need to be doing about Catholic education.


This courtyard is one of the great underrated Catholic spaces in Pittsburgh. And it’s been so encouraging to see Fr. Cassidy Stinson’s #BreakTheChains freedom from pornography initiative take off.


Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, is mobilizing to help the children and families who were impacted by immigration enforcement raids.


This is an institutional failure. There’s hardly anything more important to rectify in the Church right now. Imagine thinking we can reform structures of abuse without recourse to the grace of the Eucharist?


Beautiful. (Click through for video.)


Feedback, &c.

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