Sunday, 27 September 2009

The fast of the seventh month: Ember days and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement

This evening starts the day of atonement of the Jews, Yom Kippur.

This year, 2009, it virtually coincides with the Ember Days of September.

Ember Days are days of fasting and occur 4 times a year at Advent, Lent, Pentecost and the Exaltation of the Cross.

Even Dom Prosper Gueranger, the great liturgist of the Roman rite, speaks of them only in general terms as being days of fasting.

But they have a deeper significance still.

They are all liturgical days of ancient antiquity that remain from the days of the Jewish Temple worship.

The great Jewish feasts are continued in Leviticus 23.

Pesach or Passover, being the feast that our Lord transformed into the Mass on Maundy Thursday, of course, corresponds with our Easter Triduum. This feast also coincides with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which lasts a week, and the Feast of the First Fruits.

Sha vu ot which is the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, obviously corresponds to our Pentecost.

Sukkot which comprises the Feast of Trumpets (also Rosh Hashanah or Jewish New Year), the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, and the Feast of Tabernacles or Ingathering. This corresponds (usually) with the month of September in which often occurs the Jewish seventh month, that is Tishrei, and often coincides with the Ember Days of September.

New Year is the 1st day of Tishrei, Yom Kippur is the 10th day of Tishrei and the Feast of Tabernacles starts on the 15th day of Tishrei, when the fruits of the land are gathered in, and lasts 7 days beginning and ending with a Sabbath.

During those 7 days the Jews are required by the Law to live in tabernacles, or elaborate tents, so that "your posterity may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in tabernacles, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt".

During Sukkot and following Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, the Jews are required to live in tabernacles for a week as a reminder of their exile from the land of Egypt. It is a wonderful tradition most worthy of preservation (and it has the added benefit of being exciting fun for the children!).

Of course, this is where we get our word "tabernacle" referring to the place wherein is kept the Blessed Sacrament over the High Altar in every Catholic Church.

The Jews believe (or are meant to believe) that the tabernacles also symbolised the dwellings of heaven. Thus the word "tabernacle" is all the more appropriate for use by the Church as the dwelling place of the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ, wherein the Lord of Heaven dwells here on the earth.

Here is a classic example of how the Ember Days retain crucial parts of the old Jewish Temple worship including the most sacred day of the year for Jews, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

The readings for the Ember Days are numerous but very fine because they retain those readings that relate to the old Jewish traditions and show the continuity with the Old Testament, show how our Lord fulfilled the Law and show how important it is to retain our ancient traditions in the Catholic Church.

The Ember Days celebrated at the traditional Benedictine Abbey of St Marie Madeleine at Le Barroux

It shows the hermeneutic of continuity from the time of Moses and Abraham to our Lord and on to our own day.

Where are the Ember Days in the new rite of Mass?

They probably remain as an option of some sort but let us face the truth with honesty and sincerity.

In the new rite the Ember Days simply are as good as never celebrated.

And yet the champions of the new rite assure us that the new rite has more of Scripture and the Old Testament in it!

Here are parts of the readings from Leviticus 23 which form the first 2 readings of Ember Saturday, yesterday:

"27 Upon the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the day of atonement, it shall be most solemn, and shall be called holy: and you shall afflict your souls on that day, and shall offer a holocaust to the Lord. 28 You shall do no servile work in the time of this day: because it is a day of propitiation, that the Lord your God may be merciful unto you. 29 Every soul that is not afflicted on this day, shall perish from among his people: 30 And every soul that shall do any work, the same will I destroy from among his people. 31 You shall do no work therefore on that day: it shall be an everlasting ordinance unto you in all your generations, and dwellings. 32 It is a sabbath of rest, and you shall afflict your souls beginning on the ninth day of the month: from evening until evening you shall celebrate your sabbaths".
[Lev. 23:27-32]

"39 So from the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you shall have gathered in all the fruits of your land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord seven days: on the first day and the eighth shall be a sabbath, that is a day of rest. 40 And you shall take to you on the first day the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God. 41 And you shall keep the solemnity thereof seven days in the year. It shall be an everlasting ordinance in your generations. In the seventh month shall you celebrate this feast. 42 And you shall dwell in bowers seven days: every one that is of the race of Israel, shall dwell in tabernacles: 43 That your posterity may know, that I made the children of Israel to dwell in tabernacles, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God".
[Lev. 23:39-43]

Ivan Kramskoy, Christ in the Desert. The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. 1872.


Thursday, 24 September 2009

The sacred and the secular: the perfection of God's plan

A lengthy, slightly frustrating but ultimately useful discussion with a correspondent leads me to a few further random thoughts on the relationship between the lay and the clerical and, indeed, Church and State in a Catholic society.

This portrait of the Emperor Charles V recalls a time when all Christians understood the central importance of his role in Christendom as a model of the role of the laity.

At that time the Empire stretched across much of Europe and across the seas to the New World so that it was of this empire, before all others, that it was first said that the sun never set upon it.

Are the lay and clerical states a form of vocation?

Vocation means calling. God calls us to sanctity. The Catechism teaches:

"All the Faithful, whatever their condition or state... are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity...Charity is the soul of holiness to which all are called" [CCC#825-6].

The Catechism then quotes from St Therese of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church, thus:

"Love, in fact, is the vocation which includes all others".

Clearly some do this better than others and some are called to a higher level than others, whether priest or lay.

Even more clearly, our Lady was called to that vocation, and fulfilled it, far more than any other creature, even including the Angels.

The fact that some have higher vocations than others does not mean that their higher vocation is somehow not a vocation.

Each is called but some are called to a higher level.

We should never suppose that it is only the most dignified and powerful offices in Church and State that represent the highest Christian vocation. Love is the highest Christian vocation. In the Kingdom of Heaven the least shall be the greatest and the last shall be first. Many a poor and humble wife and mother shall occupy a greater place in heaven than many a pope or emperor, priest or abbot. The more you commit yourself to, and so suffer for, your faith in this life, and the more you show humility, the greater shall you be in heaven. God has decreed it. God loves the humble but He resists the proud. Yet even the great and powerful can be humble, with God's help, just as many a poor person can become mortally proud if he or she spurns God's help.

That is clear from Sacred Scripture itself:

Multi autem sunt vocati, pauci vero electi [Matt 22:14]

and this:

Nisi unicuique sicut divisit Dominus unumquemque sicut vocavit Deus ita ambulet et sic in omnibus ecclesiis doceo[1 Cor 7:17].

Here is what the Catholic Encyclopaedia has to say on the subject:

"And in the celebrated passage 'every one hath his proper gift from God' (1 Corinthians 7:7) St Paul does not intend to indicate any particular profession as a gift of God, but he makes use of a general expression to imply that the unequal dispensation of graces explains the diversity of objects offered for our choice like the diversity of virtues. We agree with Liguori when he declares that whoever, being free from impediment and actuated by a right intention, is received by the superior is called to the religious life".

So - one is "called" to the religious life but "graces are dispensed unequally". Not everyone is offered ALL graces. God can choose Mary to be His mother and not Jane or Hannah.

And even if one is called, and answers, there are nonetheless wise virgins (i.e. good religious) and foolish virgins (i.e. bad religious) [Matt 25:1-11].

The wise ones will certainly be queens in heaven, although clearly not of the rank of our Lady.

The Wise Virgins

Scripture confirms that we shall have "crowns in heaven":

Bonum certamen certavi cursum consummavi fidem servavi; in reliquo reposita est mihi iustitiae corona quam reddet mihi Dominus in illa die iustus iudex non solum autem mihi sed et his qui diligunt adventum eius. [2 Tim 4:7-8].

Kings and queens have crowns. That is the origin of the meaning of the word.

Moreover, nuns are indeed mothers, too, understood spiritually, otherwise what would be the point of their being "Brides of Christ"?

Brides are married and married women have children. That's one of the purposes of marriage.

The spiritual motherhood of nuns is, in a spiritual and mystical sense, an imitation of the motherhood of Mary.

Any religious life, male or female, is, if fulfilled, higher by its nature than the life of a secular cleric.

If that were not so then one would have to ask why some clerics seek to enter religious life.

This is made clear by St Thomas in the Summa II-II, Art.184, Q.8 in which he poses the question:

"Whether parish priests and archdeacons are more perfect than religious?".

He replies:

"On the contrary, It is stated (
XIX, qu. ii, cap. Duce): 'If a man while governing the people in his church under the bishop and leading a secular life is inspired by the Holy Ghost to desire to work out his salvation in a monastery or under some canonical rule, since he is led by a private law, there is no reason why he should be constrained by a public law'. Now a man is not led by the law of the Holy Ghost, which is here called a 'private law', except to something more perfect. Therefore it would seem that religious are more perfect than archdeacons or parish priests".

St Thomas, the holy Count of Aquino, who became a Dominican friar and whom the Church regards as one of the greatest of all the Doctors of the Church

In De Perfectione Vitae Spiritualis St Thomas repeats this and goes into more detail.

Thus the "vocation" of an abbot, including one who is lay and not clerical, would, in principle, be higher than the vocation of a secular priest.

But what of the secular, unconsecrated lay vocation?

For this we must look back to the days when kings, queens, emperors and empresses were the leading lay figures in Catholic society.

The vocation of emperor or king - or equivalent lay leadership role in a Catholic society - is also a vocation but it is not a religious vocation. It is a very high and dignified lay calling but this must be distinguished, once again, from the vocation to perfection.

Our primary Christian vocation is to perfect sanctity (through faith, hope and charity, by grace). There are degrees of perfection, however. In heaven (if we get there!) we shall all be perfect (which means “complete”) but some will be more perfect than others (e.g. our Lady).

That kind of vocation is to be distinguished from the use of that word to signify a calling – by a worldly superior as much as by God – to an office of dignity and rule.

In that sense, save that it is a lay, not a clerical, role and therefore has not the Sacramental character, the vocation of emperor or king (or its equivalent) is one of dignity and power, temporally, just as the priestly role is, spiritually.

Thus, just as the office of pope is the highest dignity in the clerical vocation, so that of emperor is the highest dignity in the lay vocation.

There is some coalescence since the Pope clearly also has some temporal power and the Emperor always had some power over matters spiritual for example in the appointment of bishops and a power of veto over the election of a pope.

Interestingly, it has been the custom since early times for the Emperor to be made a cleric by the Pope - at first a sub-deacon but, from the time of Emperor Charles V, a deacon. Nevertheless, the role of Emperor was always regarded as a primarily lay role by the Church.

Similarly, since at least the time of barbarian invasions when the Roman imperial power had been eclipsed, the popes have also had temporal, secular power, first in the city of Rome (which, however, still technically remained the temporal seat of power of the emperors) and then, after the donations of Pepin and Charlemagne, over the Pontifical States in central Italy. Nevertheless, the role of the Pope is, as we know, a primarily spiritual role.

This kind of “vocation” is distinguished from that of the vocation to perfection but it is, nonetheless, a vocation since the office-holder is, indeed, called to it (by election) in each case.

Roman Emperor Francis I, Caesar Semper Augustus et Romanorum Imperator, who was elected Holy Roman Emperor because he had married the Empress Maria Theresa, is pictured here in the imperial cope, stole, alb, gloves and buskins, wearing the original Crown of Charlemagne and the imperial sword and holding the imperial sceptre, the imperial orb being seen on the nearby cushion. The solemnity and holiness of his role is made very clear by his sacred apparel. It is from the ceremonial of the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor that all the ancient parts of the British coronation rite derive.

The role of emperor reflects the role of Christ the King which is one of the 3 roles of a Christian, they being Prophet (or teacher), Priest and King.

All of us, lay and clerical, must fulfil these roles.

We can do that as a layman (there is a priesthood of all the faithful which is wider than the ministerial priesthood) or as a cleric (a cleric chiefly rules spiritually but also has some temporal power which is a kingly role).

The Emperor symbolically exemplifies in his person, role and vocation the summit of the layman’s fulfilment of the role of Christ the King. He symbolises the Social Reign of Christ the King upon the earth.

The use of the word "vocation" has more than one sense. In the sense of a calling to perfection, the priesthood is not the highest vocation.

In the sense of a calling to an office, which connotes dignity and power, the priesthood is the higher but in a spiritual, rather than a temporal, sense.

However, the spiritual is higher than the temporal but here we speak generically.

Within each office there are higher and lower roles.

Pope St Pius X in the Papal Tiara

For the spiritual, the highest office is that of the Pope and for the temporal it is that of the Emperor. Each is the Vicar of Christ in his own sphere, spiritual and temporal.

The Pope is higher than the Emperor spiritually and vice-versa temporally.

However, since the spiritual is higher than the temporal, a papal excommunication, if just and right, ought to be obeyed above an imperial rescript.

However, if the papal injunction were unjust or trespassed unjustly upon the imperial power, then the imperial rescript, if just, was to be preferred.

Moreover, an illegal or immoral order of the Pope can justly be resisted, as Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, did - in the name of the Papacy and the proper use of papal power - when he refused a rich canonry in his Cathedral to the nephew of the reigning pope who had insisted on it out of nepotism.

Finally, a diagram might assist appreciation and understanding of the various roles in the Church:






Thus one can see that there are 2 separate axes forming a cross (appropriately): one axis is religious/secular and the other axis is lay/clerical.

One might be a secular cleric or a religious one. Equally one might be a religious layman or a secular layman. It was not just the lay brothers who were not clerics in a monastery. Traditionally, most choir monks were not priests or, often enough, even clerics.

Most people today are in the first quartile - the secular laity.

The idea that there must be a wall of separation between the secular laity, on the one hand, and the religious and clerical, on the other is as un-Catholic as a "wall of separation" between Church and State in a Catholic society.

But this has become common in our time.

The result is that it is a common occurrence for people to confuse the clerical with the religious and the lay with the secular whereas they are not the same at all.

Thus the expression "lay clerk", sometimes used to describe a layman acting in clerical roles like acolytes, is technically a misnomer. It is like saying something is both black and white at the same time. But it is an understandable misnomer.

Bartolome Esteban Murillo. The Assumption of the Virgin. 1670s.

The Blessed Virgin and Queen of Heaven fulfilled the highest vocation most fully and became, by God's power and grace, the highest of all creatures, higher even than the Angels themselves, the very Seraphim and Cherubim and certainly higher than any cleric, priest, archbishop, cardinal or pope. She is higher in heaven than the Apostles - higher than either St Peter or St Paul, and that by a very long way.

She is the most perfect of all models of the Christian life, followed some distance below, by those other laymen, her husband, St Joseph, and her cousin, St John the Baptist.

St John the Baptist came from the priestly line of Levi (his father, Zachary, being a priest of the Temple) but John himself was not a priest, either of the Old or the New Covenant.

St Joseph came of the line of Judah, the line of kings, and was, himself, tradition tells us, the true Prince of Judah and King of Israel, and his divine foster-Son was thus also, by inheritance and succession, the true King of the Jews, both in the flesh (through both His parents) and spiritually, as the Son of God.

The clericalists among us would do well to remember all of this!


Saturday, 19 September 2009

Jews and Christians: the untold story

A harmless but misguided individual calling himself "Anders" has written to this site surreptitiously seeking to get me to advertise his fanatical anti-Christian website which claims that the "Nazarite" sect and its leader, Ribi Yehosuah (guess who that is folks!), were really only another Judaic sect and those who "pretend" that he started a new sect are going to Hell with their apostate errors.

Nice, try, Anders but - as per usual for your type of false and black propaganda - you advance no arguments or sources other than those that agree with you because they already belong to your peculiar school of thinking.

It is the good old "you are wrong because I say you are" school of pseudo-philosophy.

Let me ask you a question, my dear fanatical friend. If you are right then please tell me:

Where are your sacrifices?

Where are your priests?

Where is your Temple in which to carry out those sacrifices?

Why are you not following the Torah and causing your priests to make the sacrifices in the Temple that the Torah orders you to make?

The answer is this: since the destruction of the Temple by Titus in 70AD there have been no sacrifices in the Jewish religion, Rabbinic Judaism has taken over and the Jewish priesthood has ceased to function.

Destruction of the Temple in 70 AD during the invasion by pagan Roman general Titus Flavius Vespasianus, later Emperor Titus. In fact, it was the Jewish defenders who themselves set light to parts of the Temple Wall, thinking to assist its defence, but then they attacked the Roman soldiers who were putting the fires out on Titus's orders. The fires therefore caught and spread so that the irnoiuc reuslt was that the Temple was actually fired by Jewish hands [Josephus. De Bello Judaeico. vi. 4]

For Christianity, this is because we believe that the Moshiach (Messiah) had come to bring in the New Law.

For Christians it is blasphemy to deny it. For observant Jews it is blasphemy to assert it.

However, for Charedic Jews the destruction of the Temple was a punishment for sin and it is yet further sin to set up a Jewish State before the Moshiach comes.

However, Charedic Jews, unlike some Zionists, want to live in peace with their neighbours, whether Jew, Christian or Moslem and despite the obvious and mutually exclusive differences in faith. That is a most noble aim.

We of the New Law want to do the same. We do not hate Judaism - still less the Jews. Witness the charity of recent popes to Jews and the heroic saving of hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives by Catholics in the Second World War during the Shoah.

Pope John Paul II is greeted by Elio Toaff, Chief Rabbi of Rome, outside the Roman Synagogue

Which city in Europe never once expelled Jews, even when some fanatics amongst them attacked the Christian host community?

The answer is: the Rome of the popes.

True fact!

The popes never expelled Jews from Rome. Ever.

On the other hand, it is a characteristic of fanatics that they are fanatically intolerant of others even when those others wish them no harm but only good. But these tend not to be genuinely religious people but rather those who try to harness religion to serve an earthly political purpose like the IRA, the Arab Ba'athists and the secular Zionists. These people are almost entirely unbelievers, apostates or heterodox, who use religion as a cloak, and distort it, to achieve their revolutionary political aims.

Having said that, it must be honestly admitted that there have been Christian fanatics in the past who have behaved badly to their Jewish minorities, even when innocent of any crime. I would, however, question just how Christian such people really were. Persecuting the innocent is a grave sin and against Christian doctrine.

Falashas: the ancient Ethiopian Jews

But now, sadly, the State of Israel is doing the same to its minority Christians and Muslims.

But even more does it persecute those Jews who are not Zionist like the Charedim.

The Charedim believe that there can be no State of Israel until the Moshiach comes and so they consider the State of Israel to be a blasphemy.

Hear this testimony from Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of the anti-Zionist Jewish movement Neturei Karta International.

Charedic Jews praying

Listen as pro-Zionist Cavuto of Fox news tries to shout him down, telling him to "answer the question" whilst not giving him a chance to do so. Watch how the bully Cavuto claims to be protecting Jews whilst saying he is against diplomatic dialogue and insults Rabbi Weiss with talk of his relatives being turned into "bars of soap" and falsely accusing him of holocaust-denial and wanting the atomic bombing of Israel simply because he dared to go on a peace mission to President Ahmedinajad of Iran.

It's a pretty disgusting performance by Fox but not surprising given the large amounts of conservative Jewish and Christian Zionist money which goes to Fox. However, Cavuto's views are also representative of opinion in particular sectors of American and British society:

This Charedic rabbi is genuinely interested in peace and co-existence in Palestine but, as can be seen, bigotry will not allow him to speak. And the bully pretends that it is to do with "time constraints" in television.

Well, it's a point of view!

Jewish music from the time of Temple worship was the immediate basis of Christian worship and it is from that source that we get our chant, later codified by Pope St Gregory the Great and thus called Gregorian chant.

Here is a somewhat schmaltzy but nevertheless wonderful old recording of Leibele Waldman singing the great hymn Kol Nidrei sung on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Judaism's most solemn annual day. Notice how orthodox Jews traditionally sway when they pray and the men cover their heads. Notice also, amidst the books, bells and candles, the horn that must be blown at the beginning of Yom Kippur.

Waldman was one of the great Jewish Cantors. Another was Yosselle Rosenblatt.

One of my favourite prayers is Sh'ma Yisroel but I could not find a Youtube version of it that wasn't ridiculously and excessively ultra-Zionist to the point of showing tanks, guns and artillery in virtually every scene.

Sh'ma Yisroel (שמע ישאל‎ר) - that is, "Hear, O Israel" - is central to the morning and evening prayers of Jews. It is taken from Deuteronomy 6:4 which reads thus:

"4 Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. 5 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength".

The Sh'ma is the most important prayer in Judaism, and it is a mitzvah (religious commandment) to recite or sing it twice daily. It is also a pray said by the dying.

The prayer comprises Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37–41 contained in this Torah prayers said regularly: VaEtchannan, Eikev, and Shlach.

The whole of the passage from Deuteronomy ought to be read regularly by Catholics, too, to remind us of our sacred duty to uphold the traditions that God has given to us and not to go hankering after novelties such as now predominate in so many parts of the Church in flat disobedience of God's law.

"4 HEAR, O ISRAEL, THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD. 5 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.

6 And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart: 7 And thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising. 8 And thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be and shall move between thy eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them in the entry, and on the doors of thy house. 10 And when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land, for which he swore to thy fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: and shall have given thee great and goodly cities, which thou didst not build,

11 Houses full of riches, which thou didst not set up, cisterns which thou didst not dig, vineyards and oliveyards, which thou didst not plant, 12 And thou shalt have eaten and be full: 13 Take heed diligently lest thou forget the Lord, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt serve him only, and thou shalt swear by his name. 14 You shall not go after the strange gods of all the nations, that are round about you: 15 Because the Lord thy God is a jealous God in the midst of thee: lest at any time the wrath of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and take thee away from the face of the earth.

16 Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God, as thou temptedst him in the place of temptation. 17 Keep the precepts of the Lord thy God, and the testimonies and ceremonies which he hath commanded thee. 18 And do that which is pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with thee: and going in thou mayst possess the goodly land, concerning which the Lord swore to thy fathers, 19 That he would destroy all thy enemies before thee, as he hath spoken. 20 And when thy son shall ask thee tomorrow, saying: What mean these testimonies, and ceremonies and judgments, which the Lord our God hath commanded us? "

The Jewish Queen, Mother and Virgin who is now our most Blessed Queen, Mother and Virgin


Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The Lay vocation: clergy and religious are NOT the same thing

This portrait of The Holy Family by Claudio Coello, the 17th century Portuguese painter of the Spanish School of Madrid, tells us what we need to know about the model of religious life.

That is why devotion to the Holy Family is an antidote to some of the sillier notions that have crept into the Church in modern times, even among some of the most intelligent people.

Note how Christ is the link between the Holy Trinity and the Holy Family and how the Holy Family reflects the Holy Trinity, St Joseph, the Father, our Lord, the Son, and our Lady the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, also the spirit of that Holy Family.

Because of the fall of Catholic states and kingdoms, the concomitant decline of lay power in Church and State, and the corresponding rise of the power of the clergy, there are numerous Catholics who now look upon the religious life as a kind of "quasi-clerical" state.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

A nun is NOT (repeat NOT) a kind of quasi-cleric. A nun is a spiritual queen and mother, in imitation of our Lady.

To consider that she is so, is to misunderstand her vocation entirely and to misunderstand the role of the laity in the Church completely.

Our model should be the Holy Family who are the exemplars of the highest vocation and are indubitably the highest of those who dwell in heaven, our Lady being far and away above all others save God Himself.

And need I remind any reader of this very obvious fact:

Our Lady was not a cleric. Since she is a woman she could not be a cleric. Yet she is the highest in Heaven, after God.

The Queen of Heaven with her Holy Child.
In all heaven and earth there is no creature greater than she, not even the very Angels of God. She is the model of royal humility, religious perfection and maternal love. And she was a lay woman - not priest or cleric. Christ the Priest obeyed her as His mother. She is a model for all laity.

But who would dare to suggest that she did not exemplify in her life the highest of all roles that any Catholic Christian can fulfil or that her vocation was not the highest or that her perfection was less than any other, save God Himself?

No true Catholic would ever suggest such.

Yet, she was no cleric. No - not at all. Yet she is the Queen of all priests, of all saints, of all martyrs, of all Christians without peer and without exception.

See how God champions and prizes humility?

Equally, there are few things as odious to God as a proud and arrogant clergy who abuse their sacred office and dignity to oppress and trouble the Christian people. Theirs will be the most awful place in hellfire - above even many an unbeliever and scoffer. For who could so scoff at God as wickedly as a proud cleric?

So beware you bishops and prelates who trade on your office, who are faithless to your charge, who love to lord it over the people and to have the places of honour and the favour of the great at the expense of the humble Christian people. Yours will be the lowest place in Hell. So beware!

If our Lord Himself chastised the Pharisees for such conduct, think how much more He will chastise Catholic bishops who, having the fullness of truth and being ministers of God's one true Church, behave thus. They will be punished worse than the Pharisees!

We do not need to look to the Old Testament Pharisees when we have so many of our own who love to be seen with the great of this world, the Hollywood stars, the politicians, the millionaires and to smile upon their vacuous and superficial opinions, to excuse their immoral lives and even, in some case, to share in the same!

Duccio Di Buoninsegna. Christ Accused by the Pharisees. 1308-11.
If our Lord condemned the bad Pharisees, how much the more will He condemn evil Christians and especially evil prelates and bishops who betray their office and re-crucify Christ by their faithlessness and desire to be seen with the mighty of the world. Theirs shall be the worst fate of all.

Let us turn away from such boundless betrayal and re-crucifixion of Christ by those very souls whom He has appointed to such high office.

Let us turn, instead, to the wonderful humility of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God.

She was, and remains, a lay woman. Her role was the model both of all religious and of all mothers and of all queens. She exemplified the triple role of the Christian to perfection: to teach, to sanctify and to govern but she did so as a lay woman, not a cleric. She taught by her silence, she sanctified by her prayerful presence, and she governed by her meekness.

Through her, God is telling us that this is the way to perfection.

So, too, the mild and gentle St Joseph. He, like Mary, sprang from the royal race of King David and, according to tradition, was the rightful successor to the Kingship of Judah in the male line, just as Mary was, in the female line. This meant that St Joseph was rightful King and Prince of Judah and that his male adoptive Son, our Lord Himself, was truly King of the Jews in the flesh as well as spiritually.

But unlike our Lord, St Joseph, was not a priest, nor even a cleric. He came from, and headed, the Line of Judah which was the line of kings, not priests. It was the Line of Levi which was the line of Priests and Levites (or Deacons). Our Lady, too, came from the Line of Judah, not Levi.

St Joseph, Prince of Judah and model of royal humility and paternal love

They were, thus, both models of the laity not the clergy.

It is to them that Christian kings and princes - and all lay Christian leaders - look as their model.

In the ages of Faith, Christian kings and princes and lay leaders had their own proper sphere in the Church and in the State and all were ranged in hierarchy below them, both clerical and lay alike.

This was as our Lord willed it. There was to be a Spiritual sword, that of the clergy, and a Temporal sword, that of the laity, just as a man is both soul and body, spirit and flesh.

If either is missing, the man is dead.

So, too, Church and State.

This is the meaning of the now so little-regarded Catholic teaching on the Social Kingship of Christ.

In the best state, there is both temporal and spiritual in perfect harmony and marriage.

That is why it is such an offensive doctrine to teach the separation of Church and State in a Catholic society. It would be like separating Christ from his holy parents and placing Him in the care of robbers, murderers and thieves.

This is not, however, the merger of Church and State, as some falsely suppose. Each retains its proper sphere. The Emperor does not become a kind of super-priest any more than the Pope becomes a kind of super-king, though each will have some dominion over the estate of the other.

Likewise, too, when a man (symbolising both Christ and St Joseph) and a woman (symbolising both the Church, Christ's Body, and our Lady, who is the typos of the Church) marry, they do not cease to be one man and one woman, each individuals. Marriage joins in love, it does not submerge individuality and sexual difference. Indeed, if it did it would be no marriage.

Pope St Leo III crowns Charlemagne as Caesar Augustus Romanorum Imperator, Roman Emperor and the August Caesar, renewing the marriage vows between Church and State, thereby.

Just so with the marriage of Church and State: if one submerged the other, there would be no State and no Church but rather some monstrous hybrid.

Instead, the Social Kingship of Christ entails a perfect and beautiful marriage between Church (represented by womankind) and State (represented by mankind).

It is rather, or should be, a perfect balance between the two spheres, between the temporal and the spiritual just as, in a man, there should be a perfect balance between the body and the soul.

Ultimately, the spirit is higher than the flesh but without the flesh the man dies. So, too, the state - and that is our current condition in the modern age. We are governed by "dead" states.

The model, ultimately, is not the Church and clergy alone, nor the Pope and Cardinals alone, nor the PP and his deacons alone. The model has always been broadly that of Pope and Emperor, Archbishop and King, Bishop and Count, Rector and Squire, Curate and Gentleman, Clerk and Yeoman, Sexton and Peasant, up and down the hierarchy of human authority.

The ultimate model is that of the Holy Family: a community of lay and clerical. Christ the Priest is obedient to His mother and to St Joseph, both lay, albeit King and Queen of the Holy Family and also, albeit disenthroned by sinful men, King and Queen of the wider community, that of God's chosen race and people, the Jews, which, in turn, symbolises the Church.

THAT is our model - not just the clergy, alone, with layman acting as no more than quasi-clergy at best. The laity have a distinct role and vocation of their own, as the Holy Family teaches us.

They were also models of the religious life, a life which had already begun in Israel with the Essenes, a community of laity, not clergy.

St Anna the Prophetess,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser. Married at age fourteen, widowed at twenty-one, she entered the Order of Widows of the Essenes and became a model of religious, waiting upon our Lady and her Holy Child when they came to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Some say that Anna the Prophetess, she who prophesied that Christ Child was the Messiah, was an Essene. She was certainly another model of the religious life.

Those who think of religious as a kind of sub-member of a clerical caste wherein lies all power, spirituality and perfection are in danger of falling into the serious heresy of clericalism.

A particularly clericalist analogy is that one still sometimes hears from a particular type of clericalist priest. It considers the Church as an army in which the bishops are generals, the clergy are officers, the religious are the NCOs and the laity are the foot soldiers.

It is utterly false, untraditional and un-Catholic.

It is also very modern.

None of our ancestors in the ages of Faith would have even recognised such an un-Catholic view of the Church.

They knew better since they could see that emperors, kings, dukes and lay Catholic leaders were no more the "footsoldiers" than were abbots, priors and religious superiors, merely the "NCOs" of the Church.

In any case, in Christianity, we are all the servants of each other and should strive, not for the highest places, but rather for the places where we may be the humblest servant of all. Therein lies holiness and perfection.

The Catholic model strikes a balance between the lay and the clerical, just as our Lord intended it, with a lay leadership on the one hand and a clerical leadership on the other.

The fact that the spiritual "arm" (of the clergy) is overall higher than the temporal "arm" (of the laity) does not mean that emperors, kings, abbots and priors are somehow a lower vocation and intended to be purely and exclusively the servants of the clergy.

On the contrary, emperors and kings expected obedience from the clergy within their domains and had very direct power over them and expected their loyalty and fealty.

St Henry the Emperor, a model for Christian kings and emperors and lay leaders

Likewise, abbots and priors expected the same of the clergy under their domain.

It is also entirely false to suppose - as the majority of Catholics now do - that abbots and priors were all priests. In the original and traditional religious life they simply were not. Indeed, many of them were not major clerics at all and some were entirely lay.

St Anthony, the father of ascetic monasticism, was a layman.

St Benedict, the father of western monasticism, was neither priest nor deacon.

St Francis of Assisi was not a priest but is thought to have been a deacon since he is depicted in the diaconal dalmatic in some portraits.

Yet no-one can deny that these men were the appointed superiors of the religious communities and orders that they founded. Their inferiors, including the clergy, called them "Father".

Indeed, it is a pity that the title "Father" has, in the English-speaking world, become fixedly associated with the office of priest. This is a mis-development, in some ways. Abbots, priors and lay religious leaders were also called "Father" in the ages of Faith and, even today, on the continent of Europe, only religious clerics or superiors are called "Father"; secular clergy are called by various titles roughly corresponding to our knightly title of "sir" (e.g. Don in Spain and Italy or Hochwurden in Germany. France is closer to us with its Monsieur l'Abbé). Indeed, as readers of Shakespeare will know, that is how Catholic secular clergy were styled in Britain before the Protestant Reformation e.g. Shakespeare's secular clergy like Sir Oliver Martext, Sir Christopher Urswick and so on.

The traditional model of religious life pre-supposes that the superior will NOT be a priest, save in those orders which are expressly clerical, like the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) and the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).

See this from the Holy Rule of St Benedict, a model of balance and religious perfection which has not a trace of clericalism in it:

Of Priests Who May Wish to Live in the Monastery

If a priest asketh to be received into the monastery, let consent not be granted too readily; still, if he urgently persisteth in his request, let him know that he must keep the whole discipline of the Rule, and that nothing will be relaxed in his favour, that it may be as it is written: "Friend, whereunto art thou come" (Mt 26:25)?

It may be granted him, however, to stand next after the Abbot, and to give the blessing, or to celebrate Mass, but only if the Abbot ordereth him to do so; but if he doth not bid him, let him not presume to do anything under whatever consideration, knowing that he is under the discipline of the Rule, and let him rather give examples of humility to all. But if there is a question of an appointment in the monastery, or any other matter, let him be ranked by the time of his entry into the monastery, and not by the place granted him in consideration of the priesthood.

But if a cleric, moved by the same desire, wisheth to join the monastery, let him too have a middle place, provided he promiseth to keep the Rule and personal stability".

St Benedict, Abbot and father of Western monasticism, was not a priest or even a deacon.

and this:

Of the Priests of the Monastery

If the Abbot desireth to have a priest or a deacon ordained, let him select from among his monks one who is worthy to discharge the priestly office.

But let the one who hath been ordained be on his guard against arrogance and pride, and let him not attempt to do anything but what is commanded him by the Abbot, knowing that he is now all the more subject to the discipline of the Rule; and in consequence of the priesthood let him not forget the obedience and discipline of the Rule, but advance more and more in godliness.

Let him, however, always keep the place which he had when he entered the monastery, except when he is engaged in sacred functions, unless the choice of the community and the wish of the Abbot have promoted him in acknowledgment of the merit of his life. Let him know, however, that he must observe the Rule prescribed by the Deans and the Superiors.

If he should otherwise, let him be judged, not as a priest, but as a rebel; and if after frequent warnings he doth not amend, and his guilt is clearly shown, let him be cast forth from the monastery, provided his obstinacy is such that he will neither submit nor obey the Rule."

See how wise this Holy Rule is!

The priest shall only take a higher place "when he is engaged in sacred functions", otherwise he shall only have the place dating from his entry to the monastery unless the Abbot or community choose otherwise.

This excellent Rule recognises the grave danger to religious life of a priest or cleric who thinks himself personally above others because of his priesthood.

The clerical state is the more dignified state in the Church but it is not the highest vocation in the Church.

The highest vocation is that of Faith, Hope and Love, the greatest of which is Love, as exemplified by the life of poverty of spirit, chastity and obedience to God, following the so-called "Evangelical Counsels" or Biblical advice on spiritual perfection, the clearest example being the life of the religious who take formal vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

His Most Eminent Highness Fra' Matthew Festing.
The Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta is a temporal sovereign, a religious superior and Grand Master of the world's oldest religious order of knighthood, the Order of St John of Jerusalem. He is not, however, a cleric. He is a religious layman. He has jurisdiction, like an abbot, over all the churches and chapels of the Order as well as the clergy of the Order. This is the traditional model of a religious superior.

But it is not just religious who must lead this life. We all should strive to do so within our state in life. Thus for the married Christian a life of poverty means a life dedicated to one's obligations to family, friends, the poor and to others, no matter how rich we are; chastity in our married state; obedience to the law of God and to our lawful superiors in accordance with the laws of God.

We should all beware the 3 concupiscences which the Fathers warn us of: the Concupiscence of the Eyes, the Concupiscence of the Flesh and the Pride of Life, that is, love of wealth, love of pleasure and love of power and worldly might.

The antidote to these are poverty, chastity and obedience, according to our state in life, whether emperor, king, abbot, prior, layman or cleric.

We are all called to this life just as we are all called to the Christian roles of prophet, priest and king, although not all ministerially.

The ministerial priesthood is neither the most powerful, nor the highest, nor the best vocation in the Church. Because of its special place, it is, however, the most dignified.

The highest vocation in the Church is that of Love; and to that vocation any and all must aspire.

Those who achieve it the more shall be the greatest in heaven.

The best example, among creatures, is, of course, our Lady: a Queen, a Prophetess, a Religious and a Mother - but a laywoman, not a cleric.

And let us never forget it.

Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez. The Coronation of the Virgin. 1645.

May Thy Kingdom Come!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross - 2nd anniversary of Summorum Pontificum

CRUX fidelis, inter omnes, arbor una nobilis;
Nulla talem silva profert,
Flore, fronde, germine.
Dulce lignum, dulci clavos, dulce pondus sustinens!

FAITHFUL Cross! Above all other,
One and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thy peers may be;
Sweetest wood and sweetest iron!Sweetest Weight is hung on thee!


So for centuries has been sung the song composed by Venantius Forntunatus (530-609) extolling the Triumph of the Cross.

And never more so than on the Feast which recalls the return of the True Cross to Jersualem following its recapture from the pagan Persians by the Roman Emperor in the East, Emperor Heraclius.

Indeed, this Feast used to be celebrated with almost as much ceremony as the feasts of Easter and Pentecost, themselves.

But this Feast Day, 14th September, is also the anniversary of that triumphal day in which our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, restored to the Roman Church the use of the ancient and noble Roman rite of our ancestors.

All hail Pope Benedict XVI, the restorer of the ancient Roman rites!

Yes, this Feast is the 2nd anniversary day when, by his own motion - motu proprio - Pope Benedict XVI restored to the Roman Church its ancient rites. In so doing he has placed himself in the same hallowed tradition of all those popes, among his predecessors, who always sought to preserve the ancient rites of the Church, as all popes until 1970, did.

For this alone, he will go down to history as a great pope.

He chose a very significant and memorable day to make his motu proprio, called Summorum Pontificum, become effective.

It is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross upon which day we sing the praises of the Holy Cross with such ancient hymns as Vexilla Regis and Crux Fidelis.

Listen to the beautiful version of Crux Fidelis written by the gifted royal composer and image of King David, the author of the Psalms, His Majesty King John IV of Portugal - Dom Joao IV. This piece is sung every year on Good Friday at the Brompton Oratory, Knightsbridge in London:

Venantius Fortunatus wrote both hymns, the latter for a procession that brought a part of the true Cross to Queen Radegunda in 570. This hymn is used on Good Friday during the Adoration of the Cross and in the Breviary during Holy Week and on feasts of the Cross like today.

Ancient legend is hinted at in the second verse of this hymn. According to this tradition, the wood of the Cross upon which Christ was crucified was taken from that tree which was the source of the fruit of the fall in the Garden of Eden. When Adam died, the legend states, Seth obtained from the Cherubim guarding the Garden a branch of the tree from which Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Seth planted this branch at Golgotha (the place of the skull), which is so named because Adam was buried there. As time went on, the Ark of the Covenant, the pole upon which the bronze serpent was lifted, and other items were made from this tree.

Eventually the Holy Cross was made from it and our Lord crucified thereon upon Golgotha directly over the tomb of Adam so that the Precious Blood of Christ, seeping through cracks, penetrated into the mausoleum of Adam beneath and fell upon the very skull of Adam to symbolise that the Sin of Adam had now been atoned for by the Crucifixion.

In the pre-1955 Roman Calendar, the Finding of the True Cross (Inventio Crucis) was celebrated on 3 May to commemorate that day when the Empress St Helena, daughter of a British king and mother of the Emperor Constantine, found the True Cross after long searching for it among the wells and cisterns of Jerusalem.

The British born Roman Empress St Helena finds the True Cross

The True Cross was set up and a Basilica built to house it for posterity.

3 centuries later, the pagan, fire-worshipping, Zoroastrian Persians (not yet Muslim), under King Chosroes II, attacked Jerusalem and took away the precious relic, the True Cross.

The Catholic Roman Emperor Heraclius, then reigning, swore to recover it and warred against the Persians. He was on the point of being defeated himself when an internal dispute arose within Persia which threatened Chosroes II and the distraction gave Heraclius his chance. He soundly defeated Chosroes in 629 and recovered the True Cross.

This was seen as an answer to prayer by all at the time.

When Heraclius returned to Jerusalem to restore the True Cross he carried it himself, as had our Lord, intending to process along the Via Dolorosa in his gorgeous imperial robes. But when he arrived at the gate of Jerusalem he was frozen to the spot and could not move. All were puzzled and eventually the Patriarch of Jerusalem suggested that the Emperor divest himself of his imperial robes. The Emperor did more and stripped himself to little more than the seamless garment that Christ Himself had worn to carry His Cross.

At once the Emperor found himself able to proceed and so he continued until he was able to restored the Cross to its rightful place in the Basilica upon Golgotha, walking barefoot in a single shift all along the way to the great edification of the people of Jerusalem, his subjects.

Ever after that day, 14 September, was celebrated with great ceremony - nearly as much as Easter and Pentecost - as the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Exaltatio Crucis).

The Catholic Roman Emperor Heraclius who restored the True Cross to Jerusalem in 629AD

Our Holy Father chose this most memorable and triumphant of days to restore to us the glory of the ancient Roman rite which the Roman emperors of old fought and died to protect and preserve and which countless saints and martyrs gave their lives for.

Fulget Crucis mysterium,
Qua vita mortem pertulit,
Et morte vitam protulit.

Abroad the Regal Banners fly,
Now shines the Cross's mystery;
Upon it Life did death endure,
And yet by death did life procure.

In hac triumpha gloria
Piis adauge gratiam,
Reisque dele crimina.

Hail, Cross, of hopes the most sublime!
In this triumphant glorious time,
Improve religious souls in grace,
The sins of criminals efface.

On Good Friday the second line reads "Now in this mournful Passion time" but on the Feast of the Cross this is replaced by "in hac triumpha gloria" - in the glory of this triumph!

Triumph, indeed, thanks to our Holy Father gloriously reigning!

St Helena, pray for us!

True Cross, protect us!


Thursday, 3 September 2009

Latin and the vernacular

The primacy of Latin does not, of course, exclude appropriate use of the vernacular.

One of my favourite pieces of music is the wonderful piece by Thomas Tallis entitled "If Ye Love Me".

"If ye love Me, keep My commandments and I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may 'bide with you forever, e'en the spir't of truth."

Marvellous words!

Here it is performed by the Cambridge Singers directed by John Rutter:

Thomas Tallis


"Heralding the dawn of the Gospel": the sacredness of Latin taught by Blessed Pope John XXIII

Veterum Sapientia

An Apostolic Constitution of His Holiness John XXIII
On the Promotion of the Study of Latin

22 February 1962

Blessed Pope John XXIII taught, in one of his last formal acts, the singular importance of the Latin language in the Roman Catholic Church

The wisdom of the ancient world, enshrined in Greek and Roman literature, and the truly memorable teaching of ancient peoples, served, surely, to herald the dawn of the Gospel which God's Son, "the judge and teacher of grace and truth, the light and guide of the human race,"1 proclaimed on earth.

Such was the view of the Church Fathers and Doctors. In these outstanding literary monuments of antiquity, they recognized man's spiritual preparation for the supernatural riches which Jesus Christ communicated to mankind "to give history its fulfillment."2

Thus the inauguration of Christianity did not mean the obliteration of man's past achievements. Nothing was lost that was in any way true, just, noble and beautiful.

Venerable languages

The Church has ever held the literary evidences of this wisdom in the highest esteem. She values especially the Greek and Latin languages in which wisdom itself is cloaked, as it were, in a vesture of gold. She has likewise welcomed the use of other venerable languages, which flourished in the East. For these too have had no little influence on the progress of humanity and civilization. By their use in sacred liturgies and in versions of Holy Scripture, they have remained in force in certain regions even to the present day, bearing constant witness to the living voice of antiquity.

A primary place

But amid this variety of languages a primary place must surely be given to that language which had its origins in Latium, and later proved so admirable a means for the spreading of Christianity throughout the West.

And since in God's special Providence this language united so many nations together under the authority of the Roman Empire -- and that for so many centuries -- it also became the rightful language of the Apostolic See.3 Preserved for posterity, it proved to be a bond of unity for the Christian peoples of Europe.

The nature of Latin

Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.

Nor must we overlook the characteristic nobility of Latin for mal structure. Its "concise, varied and harmonious style, full of majesty and dignity"4 makes for singular clarity and impressiveness of expression.

Preservation of Latin by the Holy See

For these reasons the Apostolic See has always been at pains to preserve Latin, deeming it worthy of being used in the exercise of her teaching authority "as the splendid vesture of her heavenly doctrine and sacred laws."5 She further requires her sacred ministers to use it, for by so doing they are the better able, wherever they may be, to acquaint themselves with the mind of the Holy See on any matter, and communicate the more easily with Rome and with one another.
Thus the "knowledge and use of this language," so intimately bound up with the Church's life, "is important not so much on cultural or literary grounds, as for religious reasons."6 These are the words of Our Predecessor Pius XI, who conducted a scientific inquiry into this whole subject, and indicated three qualities of the Latin language which harmonize to a remarkable degree with the Church's nature. "For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure to the end of time ... of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular."7


Since "every Church must assemble round the Roman Church,"8 and since the Supreme Pontiffs have "true episcopal power, ordinary and immediate, over each and every Church and each and every Pastor, as well as over the faithful"9 of every rite and language, it seems particularly desirable that the instrument of mutual communication be uniform and universal, especially between the Apostolic See and the Churches which use the same Latin rite.

When, therefore, the Roman Pontiffs wish to instruct the Catholic world, or when the Congregations of the Roman Curia handle matters or draw up decrees which concern the whole body of the faithful, they invariably make use of Latin, for this is a maternal voice acceptable to countless nations.


Furthermore, the Church's language must be not only universal but also immutable. Modern languages are liable to change, and no single one of them is superior to the others in authority. Thus if the truths of the Catholic Church were entrusted to an unspecified number of them, the meaning of these truths, varied as they are, would not be manifested to everyone with sufficient clarity and precision. There would, moreover, be no language which could serve as a common and constant norm by which to gauge the exact meaning of other renderings.

But Latin is indeed such a language. It is set and unchanging. it has long since ceased to be affected by those alterations in the meaning of words which are the normal result of daily, popular use. Certain Latin words, it is true, acquired new meanings as Christian teaching developed and needed to be explained and defended, but these new meanings have long since become accepted and firmly established.


Finally, the Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular.

In addition, the Latin language "can be called truly catholic."10 It has been consecrated through constant use by the Apostolic See, the mother and teacher of all Churches, and must be esteemed "a treasure ... of incomparable worth."11. It is a general passport to the proper understanding of the Christian writers of antiquity and the documents of the Church's teaching.12 It is also a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the past and of the future in wonderful continuity.

Educational value of Latin

There can be no doubt as to the formative and educational value either of the language of the Romans or of great literature generally. It is a most effective training for the pliant minds of youth. It exercises, matures and perfects the principal faculties of mind and spirit. It sharpens the wits and gives keenness of judgment. It helps the young mind to grasp things accurately and develop a true sense of values. It is also a means for teaching highly intelligent thought and speech.

A natural result

It will be quite clear from these considerations why the Roman Pontiffs have so often extolled the excellence and importance of Latin, and why they have prescribed its study and use by the secular and regular clergy, forecasting the dangers that would result from its neglect.

A resolve to uphold Latin

And We also, impelled by the weightiest of reasons -- the same as those which prompted Our Predecessors and provincial synods 13 -- are fully determined to restore this language to its position of honor, and to do all We can to promote its study and use. The employment of Latin has recently been contested in many quarters, and many are asking what the mind of the Apostolic See is in this matter. We have therefore decided to issue the timely directives contained in this document, so as to ensure that the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin be maintained and, where necessary, restored.

We believe that We made Our own views on this subject sufficiently clear when We said to a number of eminent Latin scholars:

"It is a matter of regret that so many people, unaccountably dazzled by the marvelous progress of science, are taking it upon themselves to oust or restrict the study of Latin and other kindred subjects.... Yet, in spite of the urgent need for science, Our own view is that the very contrary policy should be followed. The greatest impression is made on the mind by those things which correspond more closely to man's nature and dignity. And therefore the greatest zeal should be shown in the acquisition of whatever educates and ennobles the mind. Otherwise poor mortal creatures may well become like the machines they build -- cold, hard, and devoid of love."14

Provisions for the Promotion of Latin Studies

With the foregoing considerations in mind, to which We have given careful thought, We now, in the full consciousness of Our Office and in virtue of Our authority, decree and command the following:

Responsibility for enforcement

1. Bishops and superiors-general of religious orders shall take pains to ensure that in their seminaries and in their schools where adolescents are trained for the priesthood, all shall studiously observe the Apostolic See's decision in this matter and obey these Our prescriptions most carefully.

2. In the exercise of their paternal care they shall be on their guard lest anyone under their jurisdiction, eager for revolutionary changes, writes against the use of Latin in the teaching of the higher sacred studies or in the Liturgy, or through prejudice makes light of the Holy See's will in this regard or interprets it falsely.

Study of Latin as a prerequisite

3. As is laid down in Canon Law (can. 1364) or commanded by Our Predecessors, before Church students begin their ecclesiastical studies proper they shall be given a sufficiently lengthy course of instruction in Latin by highly competent masters, following a method designed to teach them the language with the utmost accuracy. "And that too for this reason: lest later on, when they begin their major studies . . . they are unable by reason of their ignorance of the language to gain a full understanding of the doctrines or take part in those scholastic disputations which constitute so excellent an intellectual training for young men in the defense of the faith." 15

We wish the same rule to apply to those whom God calls to the priesthood at a more advanced age, and whose classical studies have either been neglected or conducted too superficially. No one is to be admitted to the study of philosophy or theology except he be thoroughly grounded in this language and capable of using it.

Traditional curriculum to be restored

4. Wherever the study of Latin has suffered partial eclipse through the assimilation of the academic program to that which obtains in State public schools, with the result that the instruction given is no longer so thorough and well-grounded as formerly, there the traditional method of teaching this language shall be completely restored. Such is Our will, and there should be no doubt in anyone's mind about the necessity of keeping a strict watch over the course of studies followed by Church students; and that not only as regards the number and kinds of subjects they study, but also as regards the length of time devoted to the teaching of these subjects.

Should circumstances of time and place demand the addition of other subjects to the curriculum besides the usual ones, then either the course of studies must be lengthened, or these additional subjects must be condensed or their study relegated to another time.

Sacred sciences to be taught in Latin

5. In accordance with numerous previous instructions, the major sacred sciences shall be taught in Latin, which, as we know from many centuries of use, "must be considered most suitable for explaining with the utmost facility and clarity the most difficult and profound ideas and concepts."16 For apart from the fact that it has long since been enriched with a vocabulary of appropriate and unequivocal terms, best calculated to safeguard the integrity of the Catholic faith, it also serves in no slight measure to prune away useless verbiage.

Hence professors of these sciences in universities or seminaries are required to speak Latin and to make use of textbooks written in Latin. If ignorance of Latin makes it difficult for some to obey these instructions, they shall gradually be replaced by professors who are suited to this task. Any difficulties that may be advanced by students or professors must be overcome by the patient insistence of the bishops or religious superiors, and the good will of the professors.

A Latin Academy

6. Since Latin is the Church's living language, it must be adequate to daily increasing linguistic requirements. It must be furnished with new words that are apt and suitable for expressing modern things, words that will be uniform and universal in their application. and constructed in conformity with the genius of the ancient Latin tongue. Such was the method followed by the sacred Fathers and the best writers among the scholastics.

To this end, therefore, We commission the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities to set up a Latin Academy staffed by an international body of Latin and Greek professors. The principal aim of this Academy -- like the national academies founded to promote their respective languages -- will be to superintend the proper development of Latin, augmenting the Latin lexicon where necessary with words which conform to the particular character and color of the language.

It will also conduct schools for the study of Latin of every era, particularly the Christian one. The aim of these schools will be to impart a fuller understanding of Latin and the ability to use it and to write it with proper elegance. They will exist for those who are destined to teach Latin in seminaries and ecclesiastical colleges, or to write decrees and judgments or conduct correspondence in the ministries of the Holy See, diocesan curias, and the offices of religious orders.

The teaching of Greek

7. Latin is closely allied to Greek both in formal structure and in the importance of its extant writings. Hence -- as Our Predecessors have frequently ordained -- future ministers of the altar must be instructed in Greek in the lower and middle schools. Thus when they come to study the higher sciences -- and especially if they are aiming for a degree in Sacred Scripture or theology -- they will be enabled to follow the Greek sources of scholastic philosophy and understand them correctly; and not only these, but also the original texts of Sacred Scripture, the Liturgy, and the sacred Fathers.17

A syllabus for the teaching of Latin

8. We further commission the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities to prepare a syllabus for the teaching of Latin which all shall faithfully observe. The syllabus will be designed to give those who follow it an adequate understanding of the language and its use. Episcopal boards may indeed rearrange this syllabus if circumstances warrant, but they must never curtail it or alter its nature. Ordinaries may not take it upon themselves to put their own proposals into effect until these have been examined and approved by the Sacred Congregation.

Finally, in virtue of Our apostolic authority, We will and command that all the decisions, decrees, proclamations and recommendations of this Our Constitution remain firmly established and ratified, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, however worthy of special note.

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, on the feast of Saint Peter's Throne on the 22nd day of February in the year 1962, the fourth of Our pontificate.


1. Tertullian, Apol. 21: Migne, FL 1, 294.
2. Ephesians 1, 10.
3. Epist. S. Cong. Stud. Vehementer sane, ad Ep. universos, July 1, 1908: Ench. Cler., N. 820. Cf. also Epist. Ap. Pius XI, Unigenitus Dei Filius, Mar. 19, 1924: AAS 16 (1924), 141.
4. Pius XI, Epist. Ap. Officiorum omnium, Aug. 1, 1922: AAS 14 (1922), 452-453.
5. Pius XI, Motu proprio Litterarum latinarum, Oct. 20, 1924: AAS 16 (1924), 417.
6. Pius XI, Epist. Ap. Officiorum omnium, Aug. 1, 1922: AAS 14 (1922), 452.
7. Ibid.
8. Saint Iren., Adv. Haer. 3, 3, 2: Migne PG 7, 848.
9. Cf. CIC, can. 218, pars. 2.
10. Cf. Pius XI, Epist. Ap. Officiorum omnium, Aug. 1, 1922: AAS 14 (1922), 453.
11. Pius XII, Al. Magis quam, Nov. 23, 1951: AAS 43 (1951), 737.
12. Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl. Depuis le jour, Sept. 8, 1899: Acta Leonis XIII, 19 (1899), 166.
13. Cf. Collectio Lacensis, espec. vol. III, 1018s. ( Cone. Prov. Westmonasteriense, a (1859); Vol. IV, 29 (Conc. Prov. Parisiense, a 1849); Vol. IV, 149, 153 (Cone. Prov. Rhemense, a 1849); Vol. IV, 359, 861 (Conc. Prov. Avenionense, a 1849); Vol. IV, 394, 396 (Cone. Prov. Burdigalense, a 1850); Vol. V, 61 (Cone. Strigoniense, a 1858); Vol. V. 664 (Conc. Prov. Colocense, a 1863); Vol. VI, 619 (Synod. Vicariatus Suchnensis, a 1803).
14. International Convention for the Promotion of Ciceronian Studies, Sept. 7, 1959, in Discorsi Messaggi Colloqui del Santo Padre Giovanni XXIII, I, pp. 234-235. [English translation in TPS, V, 421.] Cf. also Address to Roman Pilgrims of the Diocese of Piacenza, April 15, 1959, in L'Osservatore Romano April 16, 1959; Epist. Pater misericordiarum, Aug. 22, 1961, in A.4S 53 (1961), 677; Address given on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of the College of the Philippine Islands at Rome, Oct. 7, 1961, in L'Osservatore Romano, Oct. 9-10, 1961; Epist. lucunda laudatio, Dec. 8, 1961: AAS 53 (1961), 812 [English summary in TPS, VII, 367-8.]
15. Pius XII, Epist. Ap. Officiorum omnium, Aug. 1, 1922: AAS 14 (1922), 453.
16. Epist. S. C. Stud., Vehementer sane, July 1, 1908: Ench. Cler., N. 821.
17. Leo XIII. Lit. Encyci. Providentissimus Deus, Nov. 18, 1893: Acta Leonis XIII 13 (1893), 342; Epist. Plane quidem intelligis, May 20, 1885, Acta, 5, 63-64; Pius XII, Alloc. Magis quam, Sept. 23, 1951: AAS 43 (1951), 737.