So button up that wool suit, pagan
I don’t know how the men in suits do it. Pittsburgh’s Latin Mass parish had its Ascension Thursday (we celebrate it on the correct day in Pennsylvania, like civilized people) at the new church we’re getting on July 1, and it most definitely was not air conditioned. It had even been a mild day, but the church was sweltering.
I wore my typical summer Mass costume: cotton pants and a patterned dress shirt. Given the mild weather, I thought I’d keep the sleeves down. One sprint down the aisle after our insane two-year old was enough to put an end to that, and up they went.
I suppose I’m dressed on the more casual side at the Latin Mass. If I felt uncomfortable about it, I’d probably change, but at this time in my life Mass is some of the best exercise I get all week—chasing the toddler and separating the pre-schoolers and rocking the baby—so erring on the side of comfort makes sense to me.
Dressing for Mass seems to be a great example of balancing the subjective and the objective. As for the subjective, we should dress in a way that allows us to focus most intently on the Lord given our circumstances and personality. For some, formal dress brings a clarity of purpose that is more valuable than staying cool; for others, physical discomfort distracts from reverence more than rolled-up sleeves do.
As for the objective, who could deny that we should present ourselves well to the Lord? Collared shirts and long pants (I’ll wear nice jeans in a pinch) seem to me a baseline of respect for men, available to all regardless of income. But there are always exceptions: I’m sure Jesus didn’t mind the parishioner who came to Mass last night direct from work, reflective stripping and all.
It’s only going to get worse at the new parish as summer heats up. I’ll continue to admire the fortitude of the dark-suited men, but you’ll find me in unbuttoned gingham trying to steer the toddler toward open windows.
These Seven Days…
…in the Ordinary Form
In most American dioceses, it is the Ascension of the Lord. In the dioceses where the Ascension is celebrated on the proper day, it is the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Since we covered the Ascension last week, we’ll do the Seventh Sunday this week. The readings are Acts 7:55-60; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20; and John 17:20-26.
The Gospel covers the last verses of the beautiful prayer of Jesus in John 17, itself the conclusion of the Farewell Discourse (John 14 through 17). These are the last words of Jesus to all the Apostles before the Passion. This is an incredibly rich and theologically dense reading. Consider especially:
And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.
St. Hilary parses this sentence:
By this giving and receiving of honour, then, all are one. But I do not yet apprehend in what way this makes all one. Our Lord, however, explains the gradation and order in the consummating of this unity, when He adds, I in them, and Thou in Me; so that inasmuch as He was in the Father by His divine nature, we in Him by His incarnation, and He again in us by the mystery of the sacrament, a perfect union by means of a Mediator was established.
Note that it is by the sacrament—the Eucharist—that this mystical divine unity is made manifest for us on Earth. This adds an important aspect to the exhortation to Christian unity clearly present in this selection.
Jesus’ farewell, from the Maesta altarpiece by Duccio, fourteenth century.
But for every novena of preparation, as also for every novena of prayer, not only the best explanation but also the best model and example was given by Christ Himself to the Church in the first Pentecost novena. He Himself expressly exhorted the Apostles to make this preparation. And when the young Church had faithfully persevered for nine full days in it, the Holy Ghost came as the precious fruit of this first Christian novena for the feast of the establishment and foundation of the Church.
There are innumerable sources for prayers for this novena. It seems the most traditional prayers are supplications for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, flanked by general prayers to the Spirit. This website will remind you every day, though the prayers are non-standard. The Holy Spirit novena is also heavily indulgenced.
Monday, June 3, is the feast of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions. Charles Lwanga, born 1860, served King Mwanga II of Buganda (part of prest-day Uganda) as the chief of the king’s pages—a group of boys the king used as a harem. He protected the boys as best he could, and had many of them baptized. When confronted by Mwanga, Charles led the boys in refusing to renounce the faith and in resisting the king’s sexual demands. For this, Charles Lwanga, along with a dozen other Catholics and several Anglicans, were executed. It is said that, while he was being burned, Lwanga exhorted his persecutors: “It is as if you are pouring water on me. Please repent and become a Christian like me.”
Over the course of King Mwanga’s reign, over 40 Christians were executed. They are memorialized at the Munyonyo Martyrs' Shrine near Kampala, Uganda, which sits on the site of the killings.
…in the Extraordinary Form
The reading from the Gospel of John anticipates Pentecost:
But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me. And you shall give testimony, because you are with me from the beginning.
The Holy Spirit He calls the Comforter, a name taken from His office, which is not only to relieve the sorrows of the faithful, but to fill them with unspeakable joy. Everlasting gladness is in those hearts, in which the Spirit dwells. The Spirit, the Comforter, is sent by the Son, not as Angels, or Prophets, or Apostles, are sent, but as the Spirit must be sent which is of one nature with the Divine wisdom and power that sends Him.
We are now in the awkward period between the Ascension and Pentecost. Christ is gone, but the Spirit has yet to come. It is a trembling time. We have Jesus’ own assurance that all will be well—but do we trust Him?
In our time in salvation history, it can feel perpetually like this fearful moment. Neither Christ nor the Spirit are visible to us. And yet we know—we affirm at every Mass and in every recitation of the Creed—that He is here in the Eucharist and the Spirit is with us in the sacraments. Steeling ourselves to proceed with confidence, as if what we say is true is actually true, is the aim of a lifetime of growing in faith.
The introit is the Exaudi, Domine:
Exaudi, Domine, vocem meam, qua clamavi ad te, alleluja: tibi dixit cor meum, quaesivi vultum tuum; vultum tuum, Domine, requiram: ne averstas faciem tuam a me, alleluja, alleluja. Dominus illuminatio mea et salus mea: quem timebo?
Hear, O Lord, my voice with which I have cried to Thee, alleluia. My heart hath said to Thee, I have sought Thy face; Thy face, O Lord, I will seek: turn not away Thy face from me, alleluia, alleluia. The Lord is my light, and my salvation: whom shall I fear?
The trepidation of this moment comes through in the introit. Three times we mention the face of the Lord—a face that is missing for the first time, other than the days in the tomb, since His Nativity. We beg Him not to turn from us, but it seems in these nine days that He has.
And then the psalm intervenes! The perfect 26:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?” In darkness and despair, He is everything we need. There is nothing and no one to fear. This introit is an entire spiritual drama in miniature.
Thursday, June 6, is the feast of St. Norbert (in both calendars). My favorite apparent fact about Norbert, for which I sadly can find neither details nor confirmation, is that he “adopted an asceticism so fierce that it killed his first three disciples.” What those ascetic practices might have been or, perhaps more urgently, why he didn’t chill out after the first two guys died, will have to be left to the imagination.
Like so many great saints, Norbert’s early life was one of dissolution. He was ordained to the subdiaconate but landed a cushy sinecure and indulged in all the pleasures of youth. A near-death experience brought the young cleric to his senses, and he was ordained, then in his fervor (maybe) killed three disciples, then founded the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré—the Premonstratensians, or the Norbertines.
This is a good time to plug the beautiful St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado Canyon, California, which is bursting at the seams with priests and seminarians.
A digital rendering of the new abbey being built by the fathers in Silverado.
St. Norbert sheepishly returning his book of ascetic disciplines before he kills off another protege. (It’s St. Augustine bestowing his monastic rule to Norbert.)
Those Seven Days…
…in Catholic Twitter
Matthew Walther posts a death notice for an incredible nun:
Padre Brendon doesn’t mince words about an American Catholic icon—and he’s right:
Femme Malheureuse@Femme_MalThis. John Bel Edwards used his Catholicism as an excuse to sign the bill, undoing everything John F. Kennedy had done to win presidency as a Catholic. It's a gross betrayal of the Democratic Party let alone women's reproductive & health care rights. https://t.co/pr5MA4GOgq
Odd how people can make the time for free piety symbols and not for the Eucharist:
Not to put too fine a point on it:
This newsletter will always appreciate Catholic handcrafts:
…in the Content Mines
There are two debates to catch you up on this week.
Pecknold-Mena on the Church and socialism:
Chad Pecknold of the Catholic University of America fatefully chose political economy as the framing mechanism for his Monday piece on the Franciscans of the Holy Spirit in Arizona. In response to criticism, he dedicated his Tuesday column to specifically considering the compatibility of Catholicism and socialism.
In response, Jose Mena (@go_oat for you Twitterers) gamely defended a conception of socialism—one which tries to recapture economic justice from secularists and authoritarians—as the natural instantiation of Catholic Social Teaching.
Ahmari-French on liberal norms and Christian politics:
Sohrab Ahmari of the New York Post delivers a broadside against National Review’s David French as an avatar for a kind of polite conservative-liberalism that tries to preserve the possibility of a neutral public square. He sees it as a quixotic mission that runs up against reality.
David French, notably a Southern Baptist, responds, citing his personal successes as a litigator and persuader, arguing that no apparent emergency is worth giving up on classical liberalism and, by extension on his account, genuinely Christian engagement with politics.
Meanwhile, in non-political Catholic content:
The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee has launched a ministry to those just released from prison. I can say from speaking to men in prison that going out is sometimes as scary as staying in.
A new shrine to Our Lady of the Rosary is being built in South Sudan.
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