A Brief History of the Liturgical Movement in the Catholic Church

St. Padre Pio Quote

In the modern world “reform” is a frequently used word. During the 2008 presidential election, a major issue was the reform of the United States healthcare system. Currently, violent revolutions occurring in Libya and Egypt cause people to call for political reform. The modern world frequently criticizes the Church. Many people believe that the Church should update its doctrine by permitting gay marriage and contraceptive use.

The Church is Incarnational

Though being a human institution, the Church has a Divine aspect, and is guided by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, all of its doctrines are immutable and Her truths are eternal. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the “liturgy as the sacred action par excellence is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed and it is likewise the font from which all her powers flow.”[1] So the Church desires liturgical worship focused on God rid of excesses that deter from that goal.

Papal authority throughout the centuries advocated liturgical reform when abuses crept in. A prime example of this can be found in the 6th century with Pope Gregory the Great. He made several changes to the Roman Rite in response to heretical groups which caused some bishops to become scrupulous with prayer texts.[2]

Another instance of immense liturgical reform occurred in the 16th century when the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant Reformation, sought to elucidate the Catholic doctrine, in particular the sacraments and reaffirming the Sacrificial nature of the Mass. While successful in clarifying the Church’s teaching, the rigidities of Trent led to decay in liturgical participation among the laity.[3]

Context for Liturgical Reform

Within the 20th century, the 2nd Vatican Council provided the renewal needed for the liturgy of the Roman rite. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium states, “The liturgy builds up those who are in the Church, making of them a holy temple of the Lord, a dwelling-place for God in the Spirit, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ.”[4]

Because of the importance of the liturgy, the Council required that reforms should be made and practical norms established. Yet, the reform decrees found in the conciliar document did not develop in isolation. Rather, liturgical reform was several years in the making. Starting as a pastoral movement, the Liturgical Movement of the twentieth century began in monastic centers and sought to return piety to the liturgy. It gained papal impetus through Pius XI’s Divini cultus in 1928 and Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei in 1948.

Latin at Mass

Since the liturgy’s development is organic, many of the renewal efforts of the Liturgical Movement pushed for a return to earlier Christian liturgical elements such as: an increased focus on the centrality of Christ’s sacrifice, better use of Scripture reading, greater emphasis on Gregorian chant and promotion of active participation among the laity. Ultimately, these concerns were addressed and declared by the Church in the 2nd Vatican Council.

A brief liturgical history from the Reformation to the 20th century will help to put the Liturgical Movement into perspective. Protestant reformers rejected not only the abuses of the Church, but the medieval liturgy as well. Dustan Tucker viewed the Reformation as “essentially an anti-liturgical revolution”.[5]

Council of Trent and the Liturgy

The Council of Trent responded by criticizing such departures from Tradition. Pope Paul V declared, in the papal bull Quo primum, a return to the rite of the Early Fathers. This included removing lengthy and unnecessary prayers, ornate elements, and superstitious piety from the Mass.[6] Soon after Trent, the Church implemented this reform. From 1568-1570 the Tridentine Missal and Breviary took shape. Requirements to pray the office of the Blessed Virgin and of the dead were lifted. General rubrics at the beginning of the missal provided uniformity in worship.[7]

Catholic Church

For the next few centuries there was stability in liturgical reform. However, abuses in the liturgy still arose. For instance, the number of feast days increased from 182 to 300 between 1584 and 1903. Many started to take priority over Sunday.[8] Several attempts at reform failed during the three centuries preceding the Liturgical Movement.

Influence of Prosper Gueranger

Liturgical study blossomed within monastic communities in France in the 19th century. The Benedictine Abbey of Solesmes, in France, housed one of the early promoters of the European liturgical movement, Prosper Gueranger.[9] He advocated a return to Gregorian chant as the authorized liturgical music for the Church. By the 1870s, his fellow monks researched chant manuscripts and desired to purify the texts to their original content.[10] Gueranger made liturgy the center of monastic life.

Prosper Gueranger

Despite his positive contributions, he never encouraged the essential liturgical principle full and active participation by the whole congregation.[11] Despite this, reform in France soon found its way to Germany and later Belgium around the turn of the century.

Though Gueranger had an important part in the liturgical reform in Europe, many historians acknowledge the movement’s true founder as the Belgian Benedictine, Dom Lambert. Beauduin.[12] A speech given by him at the Catholic Conference at Malines in 1909 marked the beginning of the Liturgical Movement.[13]

Pius X and Spread of Liturgical Reform

Influenced by Pius X’s motu proprio, Beuduin called for complete and active participation of all Christians within the liturgy.[14] He wanted to reach beyond the people of Belgium to all Catholics. To accomplish this, Beuduin wrote a missal for the laity. Later he organized his abbey to provide liturgical education and even published a journal, Les Questions liturgiques.[15]

The Liturgical Movement soon spread beyond Germany, France, and Belgium. As the century continued, the liturgical reform came to the Netherlands in 1911 and Italy in 1914 and eventually throughout the rest of Europe.[16]

The liturgical movement traveled across the Atlantic in 1926, under the efforts of Virgil Michel. As a student of Beuduin, he sought to promote liturgical piety in the United States. To endorse the movement, Michel founded the journal Orate Fratres and Liturgical Press at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. He once said, “Should not every devoted Catholic try to the utmost of his power to participate actively in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to follow the priest in mind and heart, to pray with him and act with him?”[17]

Origin of 20th Century Liturgical Reform

Pope Pius X

While the liturgical movement originated and grew forth from the monastic centers in Europe, the Holy See was not detached from this development. At the beginning of the century, in 1903, Pius X held the liturgy in high esteem. In his motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini, the pope referred to the liturgy as “the Church’s most important and indispensible source.”[18] Papal support continued with Pius XI’s apostolic constitution Divini cultus in 1928. Released on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Pius X’s motu proprio, this document advocated an increased need for reform in liturgical music. The pope declared,

For the Liturgy is indeed a sacred thing, since by it we are raised to God and united to Him, thereby professing our faith and our deep obligation to Him for the benefits we have received and the help of which we stand in constant need. There is thus a close connection between dogma and the sacred Liturgy, and between Christian worship and the sanctification of the faithful.[19]

Pius XI also states that task of the popes are to maintain the Liturgy like a custodian. In his 1924 bull Inter multiplices, he warned the Church of the dangers of modernism and upheld the notion of the liturgical growth as an organic development. Read in light of Divini cultus, the papal bull is not an ultramontane claim of papal power over the liturgy. Rather it is a warning to prevent liturgical reform from falling victim to antiquarianism.[20]

Pius XII’s Mediator Dei

Pope Pius XII

Papal impetus to the Liturgical Movement continued under Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei. Written in November 1947, this document solidified the relationship between the movement and the Holy See.[21] The encyclical gave the Liturgical Movement official papal approval, yet at the same time warned against liturgical abuses. Mediator Dei became the first encyclical dedicated solely to the liturgy.[22]

In defining the Sacred Liturgy and affirming liturgical piety as the center of the Christian life, Pius XII’s encyclical is viewed as the Magna Carta that set up the general reform in Sacrosanctum concilium.[23] The conciliar document’s theme of the presence of Christ in the liturgy is declared in Mediator Dei. “In obedience, therefore, to her Founder’s behest, the Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the Sacred Liturgy, states Pius XII.[24] This displays a striking similarity to a passage in Sacrosanctum concilium regarding the presence of Christ in the liturgy. According to the conciliar text, “The liturgy, then, is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ”.[25]

Sacrifice of the Mass

Sacrifice of the Mass

Another major point given by Pius XII is the fact that the Liturgy should be seen as a sacrificial act.[26] The salvific effects of Christ’s sacrifice are explained by the pope, “…it can be said that on Calvary Christ built a font of purification and salvation which He filled with the Blood He shed; but if men do not bathe in it and there wash away the stains of their iniquities, they can never be purified and saved.”[27] By placing such stress on the sacrificial nature of the Mass, Pius hoped to prevent the faithful from error in viewing the liturgy exclusively as a memorial banquet.[28] Sacrosanctum concilium reaffirmed the centrality of Christ’s sacrifice as well.[29]

Practical Liturgical Reforms

Along with a deeper understanding in theology of the Mass, the Liturgical Movement also promoted pragmatic reform such as active participation for the laity. “The cooperation of the faithful is required so that sinners may be individually purified in the Blood of the Lamb,” stated Pius XII.[30] Such cooperation could be facilitated by involving the laity. As previously mentioned, promotion of active participation started in the monasteries during the late 19th century. Publication of missals for the laity ensued at the turn of the century. This allowed them to follow along through prayer responses and singing along in the “dialogue Mass”.[31]

Catholic Mass

A large majority within the Liturgical Movement agreed that the preferred understanding of the liturgy could not be reached until more vernacular was infused into the Mass.[32] Many of the early pioneers of the movement such as Michel advocated for vernacular usage in the Mass. German bishops asked the Holy See, in 1949, to allow the epistle and gospel reading to be in the common language.[33] By the 1950s more papal allowances permitted vernacular usage in the liturgy.[34] Musicae sacrae disciplina, Pius XII’s encyclical on liturgical music granted hymns during Mass to be sung in the language of laity.[35]

Issues with the Vernacular

Not all involved in the Liturgical Movement agreed on the amount of vernacular to be introduced into the liturgy. Many groups, like the English Liturgy Society in particular, welcomed the use of the vernacular and believed it should replace Latin in many rites including: baptism, anointing of the sick, and funerals.[36]

An issue from usage of common language, raised by H.A. Reinhold, is faulty translations. He stated, “What I am personally afraid of …is a ‘commission’ of professors who know all about their fields but do not speak the language of the people…And that would be worse than what we have now, because it would falsify the spirit of our Roman Liturgy.”[37]

Loss of meaning occurs when translating a biblical text into various languages. “The use of the Latin language, customary in a considerable portion of the Church, is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth,” proclaimed Pius XII on the importance of keeping Latin in the liturgy.[38]

Sacred Music

Sacred music

Another aim of liturgical reform in the 20th century dealt with sacred music. The Liturgical Movement sought a restoration to an unadulterated Gregorian chant.[39] In the previous century, a method for renewal in sacred music began in Abbey of Solesmes. Here monks researched liturgical music and undertook the reinstatement of Gregorian chant in the Mass.[40] While support for this style of music lacked uniformity, the majority in the movement endorsed Gregorian chant. In his motu proprio, Pius X called it the “supreme model for sacred music.”[41]

Participation in the Mass

Further promotion of this style occurred with Divini cultus by which Pius XI encouraged an end to “silent spectators” and urged an active participation among the laity. “In order that the faithful may more actively participate in divine worship, let them be made once more to sing the Gregorian chant, so far as it belongs to them to take part in it,” the pope stated.[42] His predecessor’s encyclical Musicae sacrae disciplina reaffirmed Pius X’s motu proprio. At the same time, Pius XII’s document displayed openness to development in sacred music. Yet, music must not become profane for the sake of mere exhibition in the liturgy. Rather, sacred music is an integral part of liturgy and must be given a high honor.[43]

Lay Involvement with the Liturgy

Fulton sheen quote

Besides the external elements of the liturgy, the Liturgical Movement encouraged inward participation of the laity during Mass. According to Romano Guardini, the chief goal of the liturgy is not concerned with individuals showing reverence towards God. He states,

The liturgy is the Church’s public and lawful act of worship. It is performed and conducted by the officials whom the Church herself has designated for the post— her priests. In the liturgy God is to be honored by the body of the faithful, and the latter is in its turn to derive sanctification from this act of worship. Here the Catholic conception of worship in common sharply differs from the predominately individualistic Protestant style of worship.[44]

In Mediator Dei, the pope encouraged Christian participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass.[45] Such involvement takes place in laity’s offering of the bread and wine and of alms to the priest. Upon their behalf the priest offers the sacrifice.[46] Through the liturgy and their sacrificial offerings the Christian becomes more attentive to the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ.[47]

Second Vatican Council

The activities of the Liturgical Movement culminated in the 20th century with the Second Vatican Council. Here the nature of the Church became better clarified. The Constitution, Sacrosanctum concilium, expanded upon the advocated reforms by the previous council. The conciliar document’s stress on the presence of Christ in the liturgy also harked back to Pius XII’s Mediator Dei.

Regarding Holy Scripture, in the 1950s, the movement sought for greater emphasis placed on the Word in the liturgy. Pius XII granted limited sanctions by having the epistle and gospel read in the vernacular, but only after said in Latin first.[48] This allowed for greater attentiveness in Mass.  Sacrosanctum concilium continued such reform in permitting use of the common language in places like the readings and some prayers. But the document still maintained to keep the Latin language as the norm in the liturgy.[49]

Mystical Body of Christ in the Liturgy

Mystical Body of Christ

Another theme found in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy was the Nature of the Church as the Mystical Body. About twenty years prior to the council, the encyclical Mystici corporis christi examined the Pauline concept of the Church being the body of Christ. This provided great insight on the nature of the Church.

Like the monks from Solemes and the popes, especially Pius X, the Council held sacred music with high esteem. Sacrosanctum concilium decreed, “The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride and place in liturgical services.”[50] Furthermore, the document declares that the liturgy’s development must be organic. “Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority,” asserts Sacrosanctum concilium.[51]

Conclusion

It is God who “wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”[52] Through liturgical worship humans are sanctified and receive Christ in the Eucharist. Yet, because of the human aspect of the Church, abuses have entered into the liturgy. Because of this, reform is constantly needed. In the twentieth century, this renewal came in the form of the Liturgical Movement.

Established first in monastic hubs in Europe, the movement eventually gained papal momentum from the encyclicals Divini cultus and Mediator Dei. They promoted a return to early Christian liturgical practices and encouraged more usage of Scripture, Gregorian chant, and active participation of the laity during the Mass.

Bibliography

Cabie, Robert, and Aime Georges Martimort. “The Celebration of the Eucharist in the West from the Council of Trent to Vatican Council II.” In The Church at prayer:  an introduction to the liturgy. New ed. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1988. 173-185.

Chupungco, Anscar J. Handbook for Liturgical Studies: Introduction to the Liturgy. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1997.

Flannery, Austin. Vatican Council II:  the Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. New revised ed. Dublin; Northport, NY: Dominican Publications; Costello, 1996.

Guardini, Romano. The Spirit of the Liturgy. New York, N.Y: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1998.

Jounel, P. “From the Council of Trent to Vatican Council II.” In The Church at Prayer Volume 1: Principles of the Liturgy. New ed. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1987. 63-84.

“Liturgica.com | Liturgics | Western Latin Liturgics | Gregorian Reforms.” Liturgica Home. http://www.liturgica.com/html/litWLReform.jsp (accessed March 31, 2011).

Koenker, Ernest B. “Objectives and Achievements of the Liturgical Movement in the Roman Catholic Church since World War II.” Church History 20, no. 2 (1951): 14-27.

Pius XI. “Divini Cultus: On Divine Worship.” Adoremus. http://www.adoremus.org/DiviniCultus.html (March 26, 2011).

Pius XII. Mediator Dei: On the Sacred Liturgy. Encyclical Letter. Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1947.

Reid, Alcuin. The Organic Development of the Liturgy:  the Principles of liturgical Reform and their Relation to the Twentieth-century Liturgical Movement prior to the second Vatican Council. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005.

Smith, Fidelis . “”Musicae Sacrae Discplina”: Pius XII’s Encyclical on Sacred Music .” The Musical Quarterly 43, no. 4 (1957): 461-479.

The Veneration and Administration of the Eucharist:  the Proceedings of the Second International Colloquium on the Roman Catholic Liturgy organised by the Centre International d’Etudes Liturgiques. Southampton: Saint Austin Press, 1997.

Footnotes

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1071-1075.

[2] “Liturgica.com | Liturgics | Western Latin Liturgics | Gregorian Reforms.” Liturgica Home. http://www.liturgica.com/html/litWLReform.jsp (accessed March 31, 2011).

 

[3] Ernest B. Koenker, “Objectives and Achievements of the Liturgical Movement in the Roman Catholic Church since World War II,” Church History 20, 2 (1951), 15.

[4] Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963), 2.

[5] Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy: the Principles of liturgical Reform and their Relation to the Twentieth-century Liturgical Movement prior to the second Vatican Council 2nd Ed.( San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005), 39.

[6] Ibid., 43.

[7] Pierre Jounel, From the Council of Trent to Vatican Council II, “In The Church at Prayer” Volume 1: Principles of the Liturgy” (New ed. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1987.), 68.

[8] Ibid., 70.

[9]Anscar J. Chupungco,  Handbook for Liturgical Studies: Introduction to the Liturgy (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1997),166.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Chunpungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 166

[12] Ibid., 167.

[13] Reid, Organic Development, 79.

[14] Chupungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 167.

[15] Jounel, From the Council of Trent, 74.

[16] Chunpungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 171.

[17] Reid, Organic Development, 97.

[18] Chumpungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 168.

[19] Pope Pius XI. “Divini Cultus, On Divine Worship,” http://www.adoremus.org/DiviniCultus.html (March, 28, 2011).

[20] Reid, Organic Development, 129.

[21] Ibid., 139.

[22] Chunpungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 174.

[23] Reid, Organic Development, 138-139.

[24] Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, On Sacred Liturgy (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1947), 3.

[25] SC 7.

[26] MD 3.

[27] Ibid., 77.

[28] The Veneration and Administration of the Eucharist: the Proceedings of the Second International Colloquium on the Roman Catholic Liturgy organised by the Centre International d’Etudes Liturgiques. (Southampton: Saint Austin Press, 1997), 123.

[29] SC 6.

[30] MD 78.

[31] RobertCabié and Aimé Georges Martimort, “The Celebration of the Eucharist in the West from the Council of Trent to Vatican Council II.” In The Church at prayer: an introduction to the liturgy, New ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1988), 183

[32] Koenker, Objectives and Achievements, 20.

[33] Ibid., 21.

[34] Reid, Organic Development, 268.

[35] Chunpungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 175.

[36] Koenker, Objectives and Achievements, 21.

[37] Reid, Organic Development, 270.

[38] MD 60.

[39] Koenker, Objectives and Achievements, 22.

[40] Jounel, From the Council of Trent,  73.

[41] Chunpungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 168.

[42] Divini cultus.

[43] Fidelis Smith, “Musicae Sacrae Disciplina,” The Musical Quarterly 43, 4 (1957), 468.

[44] Romano Guardini, Spirit of the Liturgy (New York, NY: Crossroads Publishing Company, 1998), 19.

[45] MD 80.

[46] Ibid., 90.

[47] Guardini, Spirit of the Liturgy, 37.

[48] Jounel, From the Council of Trent, 76.

[49] SC 36.

[50] Ibid., 116.

[51] Ibid., 22.

[52] 1 Timothy 2:4 (New American Bible).

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5 Reasons Why October is the Holiest Time of the Year

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“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower,” stated Albert Camus the 20th century French Novelist. Fall is my favorite time of the year. Colorful leaves carpet the lawns in my neighborhood. I enjoy seeing the visible transformation occur on trees and watching animals prepare for winter. My wife’s birthday is during October—the middle of fall. I am indebted to God for the gift of my marriage. Without my wife, my fervor for Divine Mercy and St. Maria Faustina—her confirmation saint— may not exist!

Reflecting on autumn, my wife, and the Polish saint allowed for me to have a profound revelation: the first week of October contains an all-star line-up for saint feast days!

Five of my personal favorite saints, and historical favorites among Catholics as well, have a feast day in the first part of October. On top of this amazing realization, October is also dedicated to the Holy Rosary and respect for all life. I will be dedicating other posts on these topics so I will focus on the five feast days of five stellar saintly role models:

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Guardian Angels

My children and I ask for the intercession of our guardian angels every night before bedtime. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 336, “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.202 ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’203 Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.” God sends his messengers from Heaven to keep us safe and remind us of His Presence.

St. Therese of Liseux quote

Therese of Lisieux

According to St. Therese, “Our Lord does not so much look at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.” Known as the Little Flower, the saint’s words provide a fresh perspective on my daily living and struggles. As a person who focuses on problems as something to be overcome, I sometimes place an emphasis on the amount of effort I have to put forth on a task. I also struggle with desiring recognition toward my works. Instead, if I focus on love as St. Therese teaches us, my life will be more joyful!

Francis of Assisi

Francis serves as an example of holiness, but for me, it is  a personal reminder for my college days. I attended Franciscan University graduate schooling. The legacy the Italian saint left on me is truly immeasurable.

His transformation from a wealthy individual to a beggar of Christ is tangible example of the Gospel lived out. Struggling with envy and greed myself, I am able to look to Francis of Assisi as a role model. Lord make me an instrument of peace like your servant Francis!

have mercy gif.gif

Maria Faustina

No other 20th century saint, besides John Paul II and Maximilian, has impacted me as much as St. Maria Faustina. Known as the Apostle of Divine Mercy, the Polish nun is to the 20th century what St. Paul was to the 1st century Church—the evangelizer of truth to the Gentiles! Sister Faustina helped console my wife after her best friend from high school died by suicide.

The Polish sister led my wife to convert to the Catholic faith as well! She became instrumental in deepening my relationship with God over the past decade. St. Faustina is probably the biggest influence on viewing God first as a merciful Father as opposed to a vengeful Judge. Through St. Maria Faustina I heard God’s truth in her words, “Suffering is the greatest treasure on earth; it purifies the soul. In suffering, we learn who our true friend is.”

Teresa of Avila

The final heroic example of holiness the first week of October is St. Teresa of Avila. Her life differs from Maria and Therese as the Spanish saint lived a much longer life. Teresa also experienced more of a 180°-type of conversion.

As a young adult, Teresa enjoyed the allure of the world. It wasn’t until her entry into the convent that the Spanish nun learned the importance of meditative prayer. Teresa’s The Interior Castle is a profound spiritual work that explores the vastness of our spiritual journey. This spiritual treatise has helped aid me on my journey.

While autumn is akin to a second springtime, my communion with the saints during October is like a second spiritual springtime for me. My guardian angel, Therese of Lisieux, Francis of Assisi, Maria Faustina, and Teresa of Avila reflect God’s merciful and transforming love.

Through communion with these exemplary role models I am given hope that my personal vices of greed, envy, and pride are able to be overcome! The Church teaches “We worship Christ as God’s Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord’s disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples!” (CCC 957). I pray the communion of saints will continue to guide you in your path toward holiness and ultimately lead us closer to God.

journey

Related Links

Spiritual Surgeons— Clean Out the Wounds of Your Soul with Teresa of Avila

3 Ways St. Maria Faustina Provided Buoyancy in the Overwhelming Ocean of Life

5 Astonishing Facts about Your Guardian Angel

St. Francis of Assisi: Lover of the Eucharist

Why I Absolutely Love Saint Therese Of Lisieux


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Why Sacred Art is Needed More than Ever


Editor’s note: Article originally published on August 22, 2019. This article is sponsored by Holyart.com.


Our world is an ugly place. Disease, cancer, war, hunger, greed, murder, abuse, and countless other appalling things have existed throughout human history. Because of the original sin of Adam and Eve, humanity fell out of communion with God. Thankfully, God had a plan. A redemptive plan of salvation. Through the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, God provided a pathway for us to return to Him. Two thousand years later, not much has changed with humanity. Human nature is always the same. Self-centered. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Catholic Church as a harbor and teacher of truth.

Catholic Church

Baptized Christians are called to a life of grace. This is best lived out by participation in the Sacraments. Life on earth is temporary. Our true home is Heaven. St. Therese of Liseux said it best, “The world’s thy ship and not thy home.” Nothing is wrong with admiring the beauty this world has to offer. It only becomes an issue when the good of the created world is preferred to the good of God.

Beauty and Goodness

According to Bishop Robert Barron, “Begin with the beautiful, which leads you to the good, which leads you to the truth.” His quote always intrigues me. Think of the things you consider to be beautiful. Things that immediately come to mind are the beauty of a sunset, a smile, or the kindness of a stranger. Those are truly beautiful things or actions. Beauty always points us to the good.

beauty truth goodness quote

Saint Pope John Paul II described the relationship between goodness and beauty in this way, “beauty is the visible form of the good” (Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists, 1999, no. 3). Throughout Church history, holy art in the form of icons, sculptures, and architecture has reminded Christians (and the world) of the Good News of Jesus Christ. In this article, I will provide three reasons why sacred art is desperately needed to help us recover a sense of beauty in an ugly world.

Inspiration Not Mere Entertainment

A major difference between modern art and sacred art is their purpose. The former seeks to entertain whereas the latter aims at a higher purpose—inspiration of the heart, mind, and soul. In his 1999 Letter to Artists, John Paul II describes the motivation of artists as, “they must labor without allowing themselves to be driven by the search for empty glory or the craving for cheap popularity, and still less by the calculation of some possible profit for themselves. There is therefore an ethic, even a ‘spirituality’ of artistic service, which contributes in its way to the life and renewal of a people” (no. 4). Holy art seeks to serve others and the Other—(God). Gazing at those holy individuals will help inspire you to lead a holier and virtuous life.

Drawing us into the Paschal Mystery

Sacred art draws us into the life of Jesus. “Thanks also to the help of artists ‘the knowledge of God can be better revealed, and the preaching of the Gospel can become clearer to the human mind’”, declared St. John Paul II (Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists, 1999, no. 11). Sacred art largely consists of scenes from the Gospels. Entering any Catholic cathedral or basilica causes an immediate reaction of wonder and awe. We gaze at the glorious murals, statues, and music that exist.

trinity icon sacred art

In college, I went on a trip to Europe. My favorite part was visiting the glorious cathedrals in Rome and France. I experienced the tangibility of the Gospels during those church tours. The marble statues of Christ and the Apostles transported me into the New Testament. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the primary subject matter of sacred art is Jesus, Mary, the saints, and scenes from the Gospel (CCC 2502). Sacred art helps draw our minds deeper into the Mysteries of our Faith.

Sacred Art Navigates the Soul Toward Heaven

Along with inspiring and drawing us closer to the Good News of the Gospel, sacred art helps to remind us that our ultimate destination is not here on earth, but in Heaven with God. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his August 31st, 2011 General Audience, “Art is able to manifest and make visible the human need to surpass the visible, it expresses the thirst and the quest for the infinite.” Holy art acts as a doorway to the supernatural.

doorway to the divine

Sacred art is not the end, but rather a vehicle to help us pray. The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1192 teaches, “Sacred images in our churches and homes are intended to awaken and nourish our faith in the mystery of Christ. Through the icon of Christ and his works of salvation, it is he whom we adore. Through sacred images of the holy Mother of God, of the angels and of the saints, we venerate the persons represented.”

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in my dining room reminds me of her closeness to her Son Jesus. Gazing at images of saints also help guide me closer to Christ and ponder the reality of Heaven—full love and communion with God!

Sacred art is vital to a renewal of the increasing de-Christianization of nations and cultures around the world. Bring back beauty into an ugly world by owning holy art in your home and workplace. Be an advocate for change and promote the Gospel while adding beauty to your surroundings.


Visit Holyart.com for high quality and original Catholic artwork for your home, parish, or business.


Related Links

Sacred Art is the Triumph of Beauty and Truth

The Importance of Sacred Art

3 Reasons Catholics Should Have a Saint Statue at Home

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3 Reasons the Assumption of Mary is a Big Deal

Assumption of Mary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Catholics, Mary is the most honored saint—she is the holy Mother of God. She is a perfect example of what love and obedience to God looks like. There exist over 15 official liturgical feasts celebrating Mary! Each focus on different facets of her life and various roles she performs on behalf of Jesus. I like to think of these Marian feasts as theological checkpoint—spiritual stops along our faith journey during the year.

Ultimately, we celebrate and honor Mary because she is the closest human to Christ. She is a holy role model for sinners. Why does the assumption of Mary matter? Let’s first define this event in Mary’s life. Then we will examine three reasons why this feast matters.

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What is the Assumption?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 966,

Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”

Logically flowing from the fact that Mary’s was created without original sin, it makes sense that Her body and soul are assumed into Heaven. The faithful who pass from this life will be resurrected at the end of time. Our Blessed Mary is granted the gift of experiencing the fullness of Heaven before time and space pass away.

St. Pius XII infallibly defined this doctrine in his encyclical Munificentissimus Deus. The pope clearly states, “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.” While this teaching ultimately remains a Mystery, we at least have a basic understanding of what the Church teaches about the end of Mary’s earthly life.

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Essential to Catholic Faith

Belief in the Assumption of Mary is not an option for Catholics. It is one of the hallmarks and chief doctrines of truth. Pope Pius XII explicitly declares in Munificentissimus Deus, “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” (no 45).

To jettison the teaching of the Assumption would eventually lead to a decreased faith in our Marian doctrines: the Immaculate Conception, Maternal Mediation, seeing Mary as Mother of God.

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Soul and Body Integrity

Another reason Mary’s Assumption plays an important role for us is that it prohibits a purely spiritual view of the afterlife. The body and soul do not remain separated for the faithful that attain the glory of Heavenly.

The Second Vatican Council document Gaudium Et Spes points out that created things of this world, including our bodies are inherently good. “For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured,” the council bishops’ declared (Gaudium Et Spes no 39).

Because there exists some type of temporal and physical reality to Heaven it makes sense that Mary—the holiest of all saints—participates with Her body and soul unified.

Evidence of Her Holiness

Lastly, the Assumption of Mary is evidence that she is a holy and exemplar model of virtue. Mary is the handmaiden of the Lord and most humble servant of God. According to the great French priest, St. Louis de Montfort in his work True Devotion to the Mary“[The] Blessed Mother… is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus”. The doctrine of the Assumption is assurance for Catholics that Mary is united with God.

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Catholics don’t worship Mary. Instead we look to Our Blessed Mother as a guide, a signpost, and a beacon that orients us toward God. The beauty and grandeur of Mary exists because she is the perfect mirror. She reflects God’s love outward toward all of humanity. May we continue to grow closer to God and learn from the humble example of Mary to obey God in all things!

Related Links

The Assumption of Mary in History

The Feast of the Assumption

7 Things You Need To Know About The Assumption

Facts about Mary’s Assumption You Should Assume

 

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Facts about Mary’s Assumption You Should Assume


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 16,  2018.


Catholics around the world [and throughout time] celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15th. Along with the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Motherhood of Mary this feast day is a holy day of obligation for Mass attendance. The reason for this is due to the veneration—NOT WORSHIP—Catholics hold for the Mother of God.

Catholics honor Mary

Marian doctrines closely relate and point us to the even greater truth of the Incarnation—God becoming Man. The feasts of Mary, Mother of God and Immaculate Conception relate to the Incarnation. And the feast of the Assumption points toward the Resurrection of Jesus.

Assumption—Logically Flows from the Immaculate Conception

When I taught high school theology one of my favorite lessons involved the subject of the teachings on Mary. I enjoyed showing the interconnectedness between the various Marian dogmas. God preserved Mary from the stain of original sin. Due to this reality, Mary would not suffer the same type of bodily decay and separation of body and soul like the rest of humanity.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 966,

Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.

Divine Providence inspired the office of the papacy to proclaim the infallible teaching Marian dogmas to be viewed in unity with one another. Pope Pius IX in 1854 infallibly defined Mary as being immaculately conceived. Nearly a century later, his successor Pius XII formally declared the infallible dogma of the Assumption.

Assumption Hinting at the Resurrection and Destination of Heaven

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Again, I will defer to the Catechism for the best explanation of the Assumption of Mary pointing to the Resurrection,

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians (CCC966).

Saint Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus, articulated the fact Mary orients us to Heaven.  He wrote, “It is our hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective.”

Mary’s Complete Love for God is a Model for Us

Mary’s whole earthly life centered on obedience and love of God. Because of this, she is the perfect guide to her Son. Marian titles such as Stella Maris [Latin for Star of the Sea] and Morning Star point to this reality as well.

Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, body and soul, gives Christians hope. Hope in the resurrection of the body at the end of time. I am grateful for the gift of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Advocate in times of darkness. Please pray for us in our time of need!


“Mary shines on earth “until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God” (Lumen gentiumn. 68).

Related Links

Defining the Dogma of the Assumption- Pius XII

The Assumption of Mary

3 Reasons the Assumption of Mary is a Big Deal

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A Catholic Guide to Unity During the COVID19 Pandemic

The United States of America is united only by name. Today, unity is more rare than a unicorn. Even worse the Catholic Church in America has exposed Her fractured body. The COVID19 pandemic magnified problems already existing in the Church. Frankly, I am exhausted of seeing the infighting of Catholics on social media. It’s a great sign of contradiction for the world when the Church’s member fight about political, legal, or liturgical differences (all minor compared to theological unity).

4 marks of the church

Jesus prayed for unity in John 17:20-21, “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” This is the approach we need to take as Catholics. Pray without ceasing for unity. Here’s a list of other things Catholics can start doing immediately to help bring the Church together. 

Remove Labels

Religion and politics is a bloody and violent marriage. History proves this. Catholics need to quit attaching labels to themselves. There is neither conservative or liberal Catholic. To label in this case would be to limit truth. It implicitly puts politics above the faith.

Choose Kindness over Callousness

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“But [insert opposite party] acted rude and belligerent. So our side needs to fight back!” How many times have you read something  similar on Facebook or Twitter 🤦‍♂️? Likely more times than you seen the word Jumanji . 😊

Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. This virtue is not a sign of weakness. It’s an indication your willingness to care about others over your pride.

Use Empathy

In Why You Should Develop Empathy in 2020 I wrote, “Empathy has become a primary focus for life in the 21st century.” If you evaluated 2020 by the amount of empathy being displayed, then it would be safe to claim we are in a new Dark Ages. Catholic social media threads largely lack empathy.

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Listen to Darth Vader. He did end up on the Light Side!

When a person explains their economic, mental, or physical struggles during the pandemic it is good to place yourself in another person’s shoes. I cannot imagine want a person is going through financially due to this crisis. Catholics make all sorts of judgments or assumptions about a person’s intentions and motivations. I can’t tell you why certain bishops or politicians acted a particular way during this pandemic. But I can TRY to see their point of view.


Pro-tip: Avoid making assumptions if you want to improve your empathy. Assumptions are the BIGGEST killer of empathy.


Pause➡ Think➡ React

Pause

Pause before you act on social media.

Stop. Look. Listen. It’s what we were taught as kids before crossing the street. What if a similar approach was used when using social media?

Scrolling down your newsfeed you stop on an interesting post. The headline caught your attention or your Facebook friend wrote something to hook you. Whatever emotions get evoked it is important to pause. Even a 30 second pause before typing can be helpful. A short stop before crossing into Comment Boulevard  will help reframe your attitude.

Read the Bible

Do you remember singing  Jesus Loves Me (or being sung to) to your kids?  It’s good to remind ourselves of the lyrics:

Yes, Jesus loves me
For the Bible tells me so (tells me)
So (tells me so)
Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong

Here’s the thing, Jesus loves you (and me) and the whole world. A simple way for Catholics be more united is develop a habit of reading the Bible. The Bible is a collection of books testifying to God’s plan for salvation from sin. If you feel you’re beginning to get frustrated on social media go to the Scriptures for guidance, patience, and perspective.

Pray for Unity

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God desires the Catholic Church to be one. Sin fractures relationships. The Enemy wants to use the suffering caused by the coronavirus pandemic to splinter the Church’s unity. Saint Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God’s ways are above our total comprehension.

Why does he allow a booming economy to be shut down? How can He let racism persist? Does God care when the vulnerable are dying alone in the hospital?

These questions are all legitimate (I think about these often). Difficulties don’t mean doubts about the faith. Catholics across the world (and especially in the United States) need to choose love over hate. Empathy over assumption. Prayer over complaints.


“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” —John 17:20-21

 

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On Autism and Being a Priest: An Exclusive Interview with Fr. Matthew Schneider


Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted via email communication in August 2019. Some of the answers provided by the interviewee were edited to provide clarity for the reader. The integrity of Fr. Matthew Schneider’s answers was not compromised in the editing process.


Fr. Matthew Schneider

What challenges do you face as a priest with autism?

My religious community tends to take on other ministries more often. I was the chaplain and on the formation team at a K-12 school for the 2013-2014 school year. I recognized I had not had a perfect year, but I figured everything was within the learning curve of being new to a certain type of ministry. However, the school administration thought otherwise. They asked that another priest from the community take over after a year of what was supposed to be a 3 or 6 year assignment.

The administration also suggested I might have Asperger’s. I felt devastated but it hindsight this is a blessing as it lead to a diagnosis about 16 months later in January 2016. After that, I was transferred to working more behind the scenes on a few projects for my religious community – preparing a course, local administration, and the national communications – while studying grad theology part time and helping out with the sacraments at our retreat center and a few parishes.

How did the parishioners react when found out you were diagnosed with autism?

The regulars at the retreat center knew me kind of like a parish and they responded quite well. They didn’t really ask too many questions and just accepted the diagnosis when I explained it to them.

Given my situation, one family at the retreat center approached me as they have several autistic children. However, the mother of that family has already managed to get most things in order for her family at Mass, etc. so I probably learned as much from her as I helped her.

What challenges did you face after your ASD diagnosis?

As far as challenges, I definitely have some. I realize that I am not great at reading people. This has a lot of side effects regarding how I approach a lot of things. Right now, I am earning my doctorate in hopes be of service to the Church as a writer or teacher.

I’m more insistent on a confessional screen as I have trouble reading faces which people often expect in face-to-face confession. Also a few times, I’ve struggled with hearing confessions with talking going on in the background like at parishes missions or big events. Usually this issue was resolved by moving somewhere the preacher was not so loud.

How ASD ever affected your approach to the Liturgy?

As far as liturgy, I don’t think it has affected it too much.  A “normal” Mass doesn’t set off any sensory difficulties for me. I do tend to prefer a more structured liturgy as opposed to a free-form or charismatic type. I tend to say the black and do the red while tending to simplicity in songs.


Fr. Matthew wants to help you experience Jesus and become his apostle.
He is a priest with the Legionaries of Christ ordained in 2013, and lives in the Philadelphia metro area where he studies at theology doctorate and helps out with a few ministries. Fr. Matthew is also one of the top priests on social media with over 75,000 followers and writes a blog on Patheos. Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Fr. Matthew has worked throughout North America.

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