Eucatastrophe: Tolkien’s Catholic View of Reality

by Fr. Kent Grealy, F.S.S.P.

Tolkien in the 1940’s

“Eucatastrophe” is a word coined by J.R.R. Tolkien in his important essay On Fairy Stories. This essay gives, as it were, the key to his view of the purpose and function of Fantasy – of Myth, in the true and good sense. “The eucatastrophic tale,” he writes, “is the true form of fairy-story, and its highest function.”1  Yet, since Myth in founded upon and draws from Reality,2 eucatastrophe is also a principle of the Primary World, of the Great Story God has chosen to tell in Creation.

What is eucatastrophe? Let us allow Tolkien to speak for himself – and we, especially as Catholics, will right away grasp the truth of his words, the profundity of his insight, and see the depths of his penetrating vision of Reality. Eucatastrophe is

the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous ‘turn’ (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well… is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief…
[I]t can give to a child or man that hears it, when the ‘turn’ comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears…
The peculiar quality of the ‘joy’ in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth… in the ‘eucatastrophe’ we see in a brief vision that the answer [to the question ‘does the story have the inner consistency of reality?’] may be greater – it may be a far off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world…3

Philippe de Champaigne’s Saint Augustine

Eucatastrophe, then, is a word to describe that most important truth, that God brings good out of evil; that “where sin abounded, grace did more abound.”4 St. Augustine writes, “[God] would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.”5 Evil, then, is permitted for the sake of some greater good. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Incarnation and Redemption – Christ, the God-Man, and He upon the Cross and then Risen triumphantly. “O happy fault that merited for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer,” as the Exultet proclaims. Evil serves Good, ultimately. As Tolkien has Eru Illúvatar say to Melkor (God and the Devil in his Legendarium, respectively): “no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in Me, nor can any alter the music in My despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but Mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.”6 Nothing is outside of God’s Omnipotence; nothing is outside His Providence. In the end, everyone and everything serve His Glory. Writing of how eucatastrophe is found in Reality itself – for Reality, the Great Story, is indeed Catholic – Tolkien continues,

[I]t has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories… among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable Eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the Eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the Eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the ‘inner consistency of reality.’ There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.

How beautiful a vision of things this is! And it is simply what we all believe: Christ is the heart of the Great Story. He is the key to it all. Fallen humanity fought the “long defeat,”7 incapable of saving itself. Thus was necessary the Eucatastrophe of the Incarnation of the Son; only God could save us – and the Story He tells is unlike anything we could have dreamed. The power and truth of it pierce us to our very core like a sword, with utmost sorrow and highest joy woven together – become one.

The Silmarillion

All stories, aiming to have that ‘inner consistency of reality,’ need to be based on Creation, on the Evangelium, the Great Story. The better they are founded on Primary Reality, the more of the truth they will contain and show forth. This is why modernity is all but incapable of writing proper Fantasy – it has rejected the Gospel, and so has been blinded to Reality; its stories do not reflect the Light of the Evangelium, but rather the darkness, bitterness, misery, and despair of Fallen, sinful humanity bereft of God. Its fantasy is Anti-Fantasy, a corruption and mockery of true fairy-story. Modernity does not see or know the Great Story; indeed, it does not want to. And in its rejection of it is its ruin.

Tolkien goes on to write of how the Gospel, the climax and centre of the Great Story, has not done away with story – with Myth – but has raised and hallowed it:

It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be “primarily” true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the “turn” in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men – and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused. But in God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man. Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on. The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the ‘happy ending.’ The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the Fallen that we know.8

Grace does not destroy nature, it perfects it – transfigures it.

Tolkien’s word Eucastrophe captures the ‘inner consistency of reality,’ as it describes how God Himself tells the Great Story. “’Thus even as Eru spoke to us shall beauty not before conceived be brought into Eä [Reality], and evil yet be good to have been.’… ‘And yet remain evil.’”9 While not denying evil’s reality and power, we deny its final victory. “[E]vil labours with vast power and perpetual success – in vain: preparing always only the soil for unexpected good to sprout in.”10 That is our Christian Joy: to the glory of God, the Great Story, with Christ at its centre, has a happy ending.

Fr. Kent Grealy, F.S.S.P., was born and raised in Victoria, BC, Canada – his Shire. He considers Tolkien to be his first teacher in the Faith, who showed him that Reality is Catholic. Fr. Grealy styles himself a ‘Tolkienian Thomist.’ He is currently assigned to Holy Family Parish in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and rejoices to be living on the West Coast once again.

    1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Tree and Leaf, ‘On Fairy Stories,’ (HarperCollins Publishers: London, 2001), p. 68.
    2. Cf. Ibid., pp. 55, 59, 71.
    3. Ibid., pp. 69, 71.
    4. Rom. 5:20 [Douay-Rheims].
    5. St. Augustine, Enchiridion, Ch. 11.
    6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, ‘The Ainulindalë,’ (HarperCollins Publishers: London, 1999), p. 5f.
    7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter n. 195, in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Humphrey Carpenter, (HarperCollins Publishers: London, 2006), p. 255.
    8. Tree and Leaf, pp. 71-73.
    9. The Silmarillion, ‘Of the Sun and Moon and the Hiding of Valinor,’ p. 108f.
    10. Letter n. 64, in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 76.

March 25, 2023

Purim and Lent – Esther and Cecilia

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP

As discussed previously, the traditional Roman liturgy preserves, incorporates, and elevates elements of worship from the Old Law, Christianizing them.  The connections between the Jewish Passover and the Christian Holy Week and Easter and between the Jewish Pentecost and the Christian Pentecost are perhaps the most well-known, and it was noted that the Ember Days of September incorporate into the worship of the New Law the feasts of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year, more properly the Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles).  All of these feasts were instituted by God during the Exodus and their specifications are found within the Torah, the Books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible.

But there are other Jewish feasts which were established later and not immediately by the command of God.  These feasts commemorate important events in the post-Exodus history of the Jewish people.  One, Hannukah, celebrated in the winter, marks the rededication of the Jewish Temple under the Maccabees.1

Aert de Gelder’s Esther and Mordecai Writing the First Purim Letter

Another Jewish feast, Purim, commemorates the saving of the Jewish exiles in the Persian Empire through the intercession of Queen Esther.  It is recorded in the Book of Esther that the Persian King, Assuerus, dismissed his queen because she offended him in front of the dignitaries of the Empire.  A quest was then made to find the most beautiful woman in the kingdom to be the new queen, and Esther, a Jewess, was chosen.  When later her adopted father and uncle Mardochai learned of a plot by Aman, a court official, to have all the Jews in the kingdom killed by command of the king, Mardochai asked Esther to approach and intercede with the king for their people.  This was not without danger, however, as the law stated that any who appeared before the king unsummoned would be immediately killed if the king did not signal clemency with his scepter.  After praying, Esther entered the presence of the king.  The king granted her mercy and said to her that “this law,” concerning entering the king’s presence, “this law is not made for thee, but for all others” (15:13).  Then, through the intercession of Esther, the Jews of the kingdom were saved, and their enemies defeated.

This Feast of Purim is yearly celebrated in February or March.  On this feast, the entire Book of Esther is read in the synagogues.2  The only time, in the Roman tradition, when a reading is taken from the Book of Esther during the Temporal Cycle is on the Wednesday after the Second Sunday of Lent, which occurs yearly around the same time as Purim.  This year, the Wednesday after the Second Sunday of Lent falls on March 8th, Purim on March 6th-7th.  In this way, the Roman Liturgy preserves, incorporates, and elevates, as it were, the celebration of Purim.

The Station, the Roman church where the Pope would celebrate Mass on a given day, chosen for the Mass of the Wednesday after the Second Sunday of Lent, is the church of St. Cecilia in Trastevere.  This is worth noting because the “oldest synagogue,” in Rome is “situated in the Trastevere quarter, near the present Church of St. Cecilia.”3  Indeed, “until the first century C.E. the Jewish settlement in Rome occupied the Trastevere section of the city.”4  So the Roman Christians, then, would have had their Liturgical observation of Purim, as it were, near the oldest synagogue in Rome in the area of the city historically associated with the Jews of the diaspora, Jews living outside of the Holy Land.  It should be remembered that the events recounted in the Book of Esther took place outside of the Holy Land also.

Apsis mosaic of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere (note: St. Cecilia is the middle figure on the viewer’s left, crowned)

The choice of the Station of St. Cecilia’s is also fitting as there are similarities between the two women, Esther and Cecilia.5  Both were forced into marriages with pagan men.  They both resented the pagan excess of the societies where they lived, Cecilia even singing to God in her heart during the pagan excesses at her wedding.  Blessed Ildefonso Schuster, in his Sacramentary, wrote the following: “Truly there was need to say with Mardochai [whose prayer is the Epistle of the Mass on the Wednesday after the Second Sunday of Lent]: ‘Shut not the mouths of them that sing to thee, O Lord our God.’  These words apply also to St. Cecilia – the patron of sacred music – who, whilst the harps of the [marital] banquet sounded in her ears, sang to the Lord in her heart.”6  He also wrote that “the representation of Cecilia, who, adorned with golden ornaments and Byzantine gems, is resplendent in the apsidal mosaic of [Pope] Paschal I [at her church], evokes the memory of Esther imploring from the Persian king the salvation of her people.”7  Similarly, the Gradual and Tract of the Mass, following the Epistle, both have the theme of imploring God to save His people from their enemies.

Our Lady, Star of the Sea

Beyond bringing forward, as it were, this Jewish Feast into the New Law, there is a fittingness that the Roman Liturgy should reference Esther during Lent.  For Queen Esther – whose name means “Star” – is seen as a type, a foreshadowing of Mary, the Queen of Heaven and Earth who cooperated with the King of All for our salvation and whose name has been interpreted to mean “Star of the Sea” (Stella Maris).8  The Church even ascribes the declaration of the King to Esther when she entered his presence to Our Lady in support of her Immaculate Conception – “this law,” concerning the inheritance of Original Sin, “this law is not made for thee, but for all others.”

Writing in the mid-1800s, Dom Prosper Guéranger wrote the following as a commentary for the Epistle of the Wednesday after the Second Sunday of Lent in his Liturgical Year:

This petition, which Mardochai presented to God in favour of a whole nation that was doomed to destruction, represents the prayers which the saints of the old Testament offered for the salvation of the world.  The human race was, to a great extent, in the power of satan, who is figured by Aman.  The almighty King had given sentence against mankind: ‘Ye shall die the death.’  Who was there that could induce Him to revoke the sentence?  Esther made intercession with Assuerus, her lord; and she was heard.  Mary presented herself before the throne of the eternal God: and it is she that, by her divine Son, crushes the head of the serpent, who was to have tormented us for ever.  The sentence, then, is to be annulled; all shall live that wish to live.9

Let us then, dear reader, always give thanks to God for bringing His faithful, by means of these traditional liturgies of the Roman Church, into communion with not just our Catholic forefathers, but also those Jews and Hebrews who looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, and all those who worshiped the One, True God in spirit and in truth, even back to Adam and Eve in Eden.  Glorious and great is our heritage!  And let us also be thankful for having been given such a great Intercessor, Queen, and Lady, Mary, the true Esther, the Star of the Sea.

William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.

  1. The Feast of Hannukah, also known as the Feast of the Dedication, is explicitly mentioned in the New Testament in the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel which recounts Our Lord’s activities in Jerusalem during this feast. This account was selected to be the Gospel of the Mass of the Wednesday of Passion Week (John 10:22-38).  Even though Hannukah takes place in the November-December timeframe, and the Gospel pericope of Passion Week states that the related events took place during the winter, the Liturgical Year does not place it then, the Wednesday of Passion Week always falling around the Spring Equinox.  There is, however, a fittingness of having this Gospel read during Passion Week as it captures the growing hostility against Our Lord as He approaches His Passion and Death.  There is not currently in the Roman Liturgical books any explicit mention to the Feast of the Dedication in the time leading up to Christmas, but perhaps the Postcommunion of the First Sunday of Advent, in which the Church askes “May we receive Thy mercy, O Lord, in the midst of Thy Temple,” was influenced by its proximity to the Feast of Hannukah.  Also, the Fourth Lesson of Ember Saturday of Advent is Isaiah’s prophecy of Cyrus, King of Persia, who would end the 70-year Jewish Exile in Babylon and charge them to rebuild the Temple, the same Temple the Maccabees rededicated.
  2. Old Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. Purim.
  3. Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. Rome.
  4. Ibid.
  5. See Facebook post by Benedicamus Domino (here). This post was the inspiration for this article.  The connection between Purim and the Wednesday after the Second Sunday of Lent is also noted by Alisa Kunitz-Dick in her article.
  6. Schuster, Ildefonso. The Sacramentary, vol. II. Trans. Levelis-Marke, Arthur. (Waterloo: Arouca Press, 2020), pp.85-86.
  7. Ibid., p. 85.
  8. Old Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. The Name of Mary.
  9. Guéranger, Prosper. The Liturgical Year, 5 (Lent). Trans. Shepherd, Laurence. (Fitzwilliam: Loreto Publications, 2000), p. 215.

March 8, 2023

Sub tuum praesidium – a polyphonic video recording

by Nicholas Lemme

The Marian prayer Sub tuum praesidium is thought to be the oldest of prayers dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Ancient forms of the prayer have been found in Greek, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, and Latin.  A third century Egyptian papyrus fragment of the prayer in its Greek form can still be viewed today at the John Rylands Library in England.

Traditionally, the prayer was sung in Litanies to the Blessed Virgin Mary and after the night Office of Compline.  In seminary life it is often said at the conclusion of each class.

Sub tuum
sancta Dei Genitrix:
nostras deprecationes
ne despicias
in necessitatibus,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa
et benedicta.
Under your
we take refuge
Holy Mother of God;
our petitions,
do not despise
in necessities,
but of all dangers
deliver us always
glorious Virgin
& Blessed.


This prayer, familiar to most by its traditional chant melody, has been a favorite of saints and composers alike throughout the ages.  Blessed Karl of Austria and Empress Zita are said to have had the prayer’s first lines, “Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix,” engraved on their wedding rings, and composers, such as Palestrina, Haydn, Mozart, and Camille Saint-Saëns, set it to music after being inspired by its text.

In October of 2022 Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary was invited to sing Vespers and Benediction at the Cathedral of St. Cecilia in Omaha, NE.  This is a live recording of a setting of the text by French Baroque composer, Marc Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704).  Charpentier wrote a great number of sacred works whilst being under the employment of Mlle Guise (cousin of King Louis XIV). In addition to writing works for the King’s son, the Dauphin, he also was employed in writing music for Carmelite, Benedictine, and Cistercian monasteries and convents whilst living in Paris.  The premier occasion for the following composition is unknown.

Nicholas Lemme is Professor of Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony, and voice at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, and Choir Master at St. Francis of Assisi Oratory in Lincoln. You can learn more about his work on his website

March 3, 2023

Carry the Cross: Mission Tradition

During Lent, the FSSP’s Mission Tradition is giving all of us a special opportunity to Help Carry the Cross. Like Simon of Cyrene, we can shoulder some of the burdens of our FSSP family not only here but also around the world, confident in Our Lord’s words that “as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.”

Throughout the season Mission Tradition is featuring special blog posts, photos, and updates from our missionary apostolates in Mexico, Colombia, and Nigeria.


If you feel called to give to Mission Tradition, please know that the money will go directly to the FSSP’s poorest apostolates. Our missionary priests have to regularly deal with food availability, basic education, shelter, medical hardships, and other issues that we don’t see as much in the U.S. and Canada. But the spiritual battle is the same–to advance the Kingdom of God on earth with every weapon that the Church’s traditions give us, particularly the ancient but ever-new Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

We encourage you to visit Mission Tradition’s website and experience how the love of the ancient liturgy and the love of neighbor harmoniously fuse in the FSSP’s mission apostolates.

You don’t need to read the headlines to know that it’s getting harder and harder for families to meet their own needs, let alone the ones of families across the world.

But Lent helps remind us that God’s gifts are not supposed to be just given from wealth. They are also to be shared in poverty. In this part of the world, we have been blessed for so long that we perhaps have lost sight of the hospitality practiced elsewhere: that however much or however little we have is shared by the entire family.

Please pray for our priests and all our apostolates throughout Lent, and may God bless you and the missions of the FSSP.

February 23, 2023

Webinar Today: St. John Bosco Camp Application Launch

From Fr. Joseph Dalimata, FSSP at St. John Bosco Camps:

We know that you are as excited as we are about our new program SURSUM CORDA, Camp St. Isaac Jogues and this year’s TWO sessions of Camp St. Peter.

SJBC and our supporters have been working hard to give your boys a place for joy-filled formation, a place where they can become men of the Church.  We have a lot to tell you about our plans.

That is why we are inviting you to join our Camp Application Launch Webinar on February 20th at 5:30 MST (7:30 PM EST).

On this webinar you will get to:

  • Hear from our seminarian directors.
  • Listen to the testimony of camp parents.
  • Learn about how to apply.
  • Get an update from the SJBC development team on our Capital Campaign: BUILDING ON ROCK, and our plan for a permanent home.
  • Hear from Father Dalimata, FSSP, about the vision of SJBC and why we need your continued support and help to continue to improve and expand.

We will be opening applications after this webinar, so be sure to join us!


February 20, 2023

The Mass of the Flight into Egypt

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP

The angel warns Joseph to flee into Egypt

In editions preceding the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, in the section for Masses for particular places (Missæ Pro Aliquibus Locis), listed for February 17th, is the Mass of the Flight of Our Lord Jesus Christ into Egypt (Fugæ D.N. Jesu Christi in Ægyptum).  Although the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, information must be supplied from the Gospel of Luke to have a clearer picture of the events of the Divine Childhood.  For Matthew’s Gospel, while it does narrate the visit of the Magi and the Flight into Egypt, does not mention Our Lord’s Presentation in the Temple.  Taking this into account, the Flight into Egypt must have occurred after the Presentation in the Temple in Jerusalem, that is, after February 2nd.  According to some interpreters, such as Cornelius a Lapide, it was the hearing of news of the excitement caused during Our Lord’s Presentation which roused King Herod, recalling the visit of the Magi and their failure to return to him, to action.  As such, observing the Flight into Egypt on February 17th, fifteen days after the Presentation, agrees with this timeline.

The Introit, or entrance chant, of this Mass is taken from the beginning of the Gospel account of the Flight (Mat 2:13) and the Psalm Verse is Ps 54:8:1

An angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt. (T.P. Alleluia, alleluia.) Ps. Lo, I have gone far off flying away; and I abode in the wilderness. Glory Be… An angel….

The Psalms are often interpreted as speaking for the New David Who is to Come.  As such, the words of Psalm 54 used in the Introit can be seen as being “spoken” by Our Lord as He flees into Egypt.

The Collect (opening prayer) is as follows:

O God, the Protector of those who hope/trust in Thee, Who willed that Your Only-begotten Son, Our Redeemer, be rescued from the sword of Herod by the flight into Egypt: grant to us, your servants, through the intercession of the Most Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary, His Mother, that, freed from all dangers of mind and body, we may merit to arrive at our heavenly fatherland.  Through the same Our Lord…

Protéctor in te sperántium, Deus, qui Unigénitum tuum, Redemptórem nostrum, ex Heródis gladio fuga in Ægýptum erípere voluísti: concede nobis fámulis tuis, beatíssima semper Vírgine, ejus Matre María, intercedénte; ut, ab omnibus mentis et córporis perículis liberáti, ad coeléstem pátriam perveníre mereámur. Per eúndem Dóminum nostrum…

The Flight into Egypt, from The Life of the Virgin, Latin Edition, 1511

The first part of the oration makes it clear that the Flight into Egypt was part of the Divine Plan of the Father.  It was not something which happened by chance or by accident.  God protects those who hope and trust in Him, even, if at the time, things seem dark and confusing.  The second part of the oration asks for God’s aid, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that the faithful may arrive at their heavenly homeland, mirroring the Flight into Egypt.  Just as God watched over the Holy Family during their flight into exile, may He watch over the faithful as they make their way from this land of exile to their true home.

The Epistle is taken from the Prophet Isaiah (Is 19:20-22):

In those days: they shall cry to the Lord because of the oppressor, and He shall send them a Saviour and a defender to deliver them.  And the Lord shall be known by Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall worship Him with sacrifices and offerings: and they shall make vows to the Lord, and perform them.  And the Lord shall strike Egypt with a scourge, and shall heal it, and they shall return to the Lord, and He shall be pacified towards them, and heal them, the Lord, Our God.

This Epistle was no doubt chosen in reference to the tradition that during His time in Egypt, that country was shaken by Our Lord’s presence there.  Answering why the Holy Family was directed to flee into Egypt, a Lapide relates the following in his commentary:

Because Egypt was full of idols and superstitions.  They worshipped dogs, crocodiles, cats, calves, rams, goats, and what not.  Christ entered into Egypt that He might cleanse it from this filthiness, and consecrate it to the true God. Listen to S. Leo (Serm. 2 de Epiph.): “Then also the Saviour was brought to Egypt, in order that a nation given up to ancient errors might now be signed for salvation nigh to come, for hidden grace, and that she which had not yet cast out superstition from her mind might receive truth as her guest.”  Whence also Isaiah prophesies mystically of the same thing (xix. 1), saying: “Behold the Lord shall ascend upon a light cloud [the Blessed Virgin], and shall enter into Egypt, and all the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence.”  And so S. Jerome and others relate that the idols of Egypt did, in truth, fall down when Christ came into it.

He also adds:

It cannot be doubtful that when the Egyptians saw the sanctity of the Blessed Virgin and Joseph, and had had frequent opportunities of converse and intercourse with them, they came to know, worship, and love the true God.

Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, (mark his prompt obedience) and retired into Egypt—that Christ might sanctify and bless it by His coming. Hence faith and sanctity so flourished in Egypt that it produced the Pauls, the Antonys, the Macarii, and those crowds of monks and anchorites who emulated the life of angels upon earth, as is seen in Eusebius, S. Jerome, Palladius, S. Athanasius, and the lives of the Fathers. Whence S. Chrysostom, in loc., says, that Christ converted Egypt into a paradise. “Heaven does not shine so brightly with the various choirs of the stars as Egypt is illuminated by its innumerable habitations of monks and virgins.”  And Trismegistus, quoted by S. Austin (lib. 8, de Civ. Dei, c. 14), says, “Egypt is an image of Heaven, and the temple of the whole world.”

The Gradual is again taken from the Psalms (Ps: 90:11-12), describing how the Angels watched over the Christ Child during His journey and stay in Egypt:

For He hath given His angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.  In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

The Alleluia again quotes from the Gospel of Matthew the Angel’s message to Joseph as in the Introit (2:13).  If February 17th occurs after Septuagesima, a Tract, quoting the same text as the Alleluia, replaces it.  The Missal also provides a Paschal Alleluia to be used in Masses said during the Easter season, which again quotes Matthew 2:13.

The Gospel recounts the message of the Angel to St. Joseph in his dream and the Holy Family’s fleeing into Egypt (Mat 2:13-15).

The Offertory is taken from the second half of the Epistle just read (Is 19:21).

The Secret (prayer over the offerings) reads as follows:

We immolate/sacrifice victims/hosts of praise to You, O Lord, humbly praying/asking that, You, Who willed, as an exile, to be carried in Egypt with your Mother, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, by the intercession of same Blessed Virgin, would kindly lead us exiles to our heavenly fatherland: You Who lives and reigns…

Laudis tibi, Dómine, hóstias immolámus, supplíciter deprecántes ut, qui cum beatíssima Matre Vírgine María in Ægýptum exsul deférri voluísti; éxsules nos, eádem beáta Vírgine intercedénte, ad coeléstem pátriam benígnus perdúcas: Qui vivis et regnas…

This prayer, addressing Our Lord as an exile, asked of Him that same which was asked of the Father in the Collect.  The beginning of this oration uses a formula commonly used among the Secrets.

The Missal indicates that the Preface of the Nativity, or the Christmas Preface, is to be used when this Mass is prayed.  The use of this preface is fitting as the Mass commemorates an event of Our Lord’s childhood, one which occurred not that long after His birth.

The Communion is taken from the end of the Gospel (Mat 2:14-15):

And he was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called my son.

a Lapide, again answering why the Holy Family was directed to Egypt, wrote:

Because Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the children of Israel, from whom Christ was sprung, dwelt in Egypt for four hundred years, and were called forth from thence by God, by the hand of Moses. And this was a type of the calling back of Christ out of Egypt, as S. Matthew adds, That it might be fulfilled which was spoken of The Lord by The prophet (Hosea xi.) saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.  Especially because the Hebrews were delivered out of Egypt by the blood of the Paschal Lamb, which was a type of Christ. “That not without that region the sacrament of the one only Victim might be prepared, in which first the safe-giving sign of the slaying of the Lamb, and the Passover of the Lord, had been prefigured,” says S. Leo. (Serm. 3 de Epiph.)

The Postcommunion is as follows:

Grant to our minds, almighty God: that, through the temporal flight of Your Son, which these venerable mysteries testify, we may have confidence that You have given us eternal life.  Through the same Lord…

Largíre sénsibus nostris, omnípotens Deus: ut per temporálem Fílii tui fugam, quam mystéria veneránda testántur vitam te nobis dedísse perpétuam confidámus. Per eúndem Dóminum…

This Postcommunion follows the Postcommunion for the Wednesday of Holy Week which reads:

Grant to our minds, almighty God: that, through the temporal death of Your Son, which these venerable mysteries testify, we may have confidence that You have given us eternal life. Through the same Lord…

Largíre sénsibus nostris, omnípotens Deus: ut, per temporálem Fílii tui mortem, quam mystéria veneránda testántur, vitam te nobis dedísse perpétuam confidámus. Per eúndem Dóminum…

Both are fitting Postcommunions, as the Holy Eucharist just received is “a pledge of future glory” and of eternal life.2

Ruscheweyh Bendemann’s Babylon

This Mass, with its themes of exile and asking God to guide us to our true fatherland, is well fitted for the time of Septuagesima, in which or near which February 17th will always fall.  For liturgical commentators,3 the season of Septuagesima, which comes from the Latin for 70, brings to mind the Babylon Captivity of the Jews which lasted 70 years and invites the faithful to reflect upon their own exile from both the earthly and heavenly paradises due to sin.  May we follow, especially during the season of Septuagesima, the lesson given to us by the exile Christ, for “Christ fled into Egypt that He might teach us to despise exile, and that we, as pilgrims and exiles on the earth, might pant after and strive for heaven as our true country” (a Lapide).

William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.

  1. The Propers of the Mass were taken from this edition of the Roman Missal.
  2. Magnificat Antiphon for Second Vespers of the Feast of Corpus Christi.
  3. Guéranger, Prosper. The Liturgical Year, 4 (Septuagesima). Trans. Shepherd, Laurence. (Fitzwilliam: Loreto Publications, 2000), pp. 6-11.

February 17, 2023

Memories of Howard Walsh

We were grieved last month to hear of the passing of Howard Walsh, a great friend of the FSSP and a longtime parishioner of Our Lady of Fatima apostolate in Pequannock, New Jersey.

Beginning in 1994, Howard Walsh served for many years on the Fraternity’s Board of advisors. He was known to us not only as a benefactor but also as a vigorous promoter of our beloved traditions of the Church. Through publishing Latin Mass Magazine and running the website, he was a great champion of the faith and made many recordings and other information available to the Catholic world, at a time when such things were hard to come by.

Now that we have had more time to reflect on his extraordinary life and his support for our charism, we wanted to share with our readers some additional thoughts from our confreres in the FSSP.

Every once in a while, one meets someone with a sincere ardor for the Faith, an uncompromising love of family and selfless generosity to neighbor–not for show, but on tap, ripe, active, poised and “ready to use”. I had the pleasure to work closely with such a person.
For 7 ½ years, I had the privilege to work with Mr. Howard Walsh while in the Development Office. His passion for promoting solid formation of good holy priests contributed greatly to the impetus to relocate Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary to Denton, Nebraska.
Determined, magnanimous, but always inconspicuous, Howard Walsh was instrumental in the construction of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary brick by brick in all three phases of construction. Without his invaluable assistance and counsel, the project would have been delayed, probably for years. He was so proud of all the priests and seminarians of FSSP and OLGS. We have lost a great benefactor, mentor, supporter and friend!
May his reward be great for he had been faithful over a little, maybe he has now been set over much! (ref. Mt 25:21).

– Fr. Neal Nichols, FSSP


“When one speaks of the great men of the Church who fought to spread the doctrine of the Church and to help preserve the sacred Liturgy, Howard Walsh should be amongst the top names on the list. He was the silent man in the background who helped the world hear the voices of Michael Davies, Dr. Marra, and so many others. Still, to this day, Keep the Faith and Latin Mass magazine show forth the truth to thousands of men and women. He will be greatly missed by all of us in the Fraternity who knew and therefore loved him.

– Fr. Gregory Pendergraft, FSSP

We conclude by passing along an interview that Mr. Walsh gave to the Bellarmine Forum back in 2013, just days before the resignation of Pope Benedict, where he described his involvement with Latin Mass Magazine. He also spoke about the effects of Summorum Pontificum on the Latin Mass movement in general, as it stood at that time, referencing his relationship to the FSSP.

Footnote 22: The Story Of Latin Mass Magazine, an Interview with Howard Walsh


His voice within the Church will be sorely missed, and we ask for prayers for his soul and for his loved ones during this time.

February 15, 2023

“Ad Orientem”: Why is the Mass Celebrated Facing East?

by Fr. Hubert Bizard, FSSP
French original at
Translated by Anastasiia Cherygova.

On one hand, the question of the priest’s orientation towards the altar is connected to another greater question of liturgical symbolism. On the other hand, it is connected to a more specific question of the orientation of prayer.

When it comes to liturgical symbolism, we should understand, first and foremost, that the gestures and attitudes in public prayer are never meaningless nor left to the private opinion of the celebrant (1).

The orientation of the priest at the altar is a part of the rites determined by the Church; this orientation is a part of an even more ancient orientation of prayer.

Orientation in Prayer

The phenomenon of orientation in prayer existed already in the Old Testament, when Jews would ordinarily pray facing the temple in Jerusalem, “where God resided”; also, thirty passages of the Old Testament demonstrate the practice of praying facing East. (2)

In the early Church, when liturgical symbolism was very important, turning East for liturgical prayer would very quickly become the common practice – thence comes the word itself “orientation”, from Latin orient, East. This practice would be so deeply entrenched that during a considerable period of time, starting from the 5th century, churches would be almost systematically built with their sanctuaries facing East. There is an abundance of contemporary witnesses to attest and justify this orientation of places of worship. (3)

Cardinal Bona, a great liturgist, wrote in the 18th century:

From [looking] at the historic monuments, we may conclude that churches, in both the Greek and Latin Churches, were built in such a way that they were directed towards sunrise during the time of an equinox. This custom was formerly so strictly followed by the monks of the Cistercian Order that not only would their high altar be turned East, but all the other altars would be turned in the same direction.” (4)

This practice, however, was not completely universal. For instance, older Roman basilicas were “westernized” – this is why the priest and the faithful, for certain parts of the Mass when it comes to the latter, would turn to the doors in order that their prayer would still remain “oriented” – facing East.

“The Orient is his name”

Why turn to the East? Because it represents Christ according to the designation given by the prophet Zacharias (6:12): “Behold a Man, the Orient is his name.” He is again oriens ex alto (Luke 1:78). This is also where one of the Advent antiphons comes from: “Oh Orient, splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice, come and enlighten those who…”

Turning East then simply meant turning oneself to God. Some baptismal liturgies would prescribe even to the baptized neophytes to spit in the direction of the West, signifying renouncing Satan, before turning East to profess their faith and adhere to God. (5)

Turning East is also turning towards the direction of the rising sun, and, according to the prophesy of the prophet Malachi (4:2), Christ would be called “sun of justice”, sol justitiæ.

Moreover, with Christ having risen to the East during His Ascension, as per the prophesy of Psalm 67 (7), the East was also the same place whence His return was also expected. The “oriented”, East-facing prayer thus possessed also an eschatological dimension. (8)

Saint Thomas Aquinas himself in the Summa Theologiæ writes on the different motives of the orientation of prayer, adding to the discussion a common idea of the location of the Earthly Paradise being in the East:

“It is for reasons of propriety that we adore facing East. It is most especially because of the divine majesty that the East symbolizes, where the movement of heaven has its origin. Afterwards, it is there where the Earthly Paradise was established according to the text of the Septuagint (Genesis 2:8): we appear therefore to want to return there. Lastly, it is because of Christ, the light of the world who carries the name of Orient (Zacharias 6:12) and who “has risen above all the heavens in the East” (Psalm 78:34), whence we await His supreme return, according to Saint Matthew (Matthew 24:27): “As the lightning goes from the East and shines until the West, like this would be the return of the Son of Man. (9)”

And Today?

Even if it may be that, for generally practical reasons, through the centuries the orientation of the churches to the literal East had fallen into disuse, the direction of the minister and of the faithful would not. Together, they would be turned in the same direction, that of the cross, always present above or behind the altar. This is to say that they would still be facing God, the essential of the orientation being preserved.

To celebrate the Mass “with his back to the people” as it is said today sometimes, was never perceived as a way for the priest to turn his back towards the faithful, but rather and above all to turn with them to the Lord, since it is to Him that our prayers and our chants are addressed. It is to Him also that the sacrifice is offered.

If the celebration of the Mass today, according to the new liturgical books is done almost universally towards the people, let us make a note that the so-called Missal of Paul VI does not demand the celebration facing the congregation. Moreover, the Conciliar Constitution of the Second Vatican Council, according to which the Mass was reformed, did not once address the question of the position of the celebrant at the altar or demanded any changes in this matter.


  1. Human nature is such that it is difficult for it to rise to the meditation of Divine things without the aid of supporting exterior aid. This is why the Church, as a pious mother, has instituted the rites, in virtue of which some formulas during the Mass would be pronounced silently, while others would be pronounced audibly. Similarly, instructed by the apostles and the tradition, she has established ceremonies, mysterious blessings, lamps, incensings, ornaments and many things of such usage meant to remind the majesty of such great a sacrifice, as well as to excite the spirit of the faithful to raise themselves through these exterior signs of religion and of piety to the contemplation of the very sublime things hidden in this sacrifice. (Council of Trent, 22nd session, chap. 5).
  2. Dom Gaspar Lefebvre, Manuel de liturgie, Ed. Apostolat liturgique, Bruges, 1934, p. 182. (tr. Manual of the Liturgy)
  3. According to the Apostolic Constitutions of the 4th century, it was ordained that the churches would be “elongated in the shape of a vessel and turned towards the East” (Les constitutions apostoliques, Ed. du Cerf, 1992, p. 112). Even earlier than that, Tertullian would write: “the house of our dove is simple, and [it is] turned to the light. The image of the Holy Spirit loves the east. It is towards the Eastern region that we pray.” (Adv. Val., c.3.) Saint Isidore of Seville would report centuries later that “when the ancients would build a temple, they would turn themselves facing the East of the equinox, in order that the one who would be in prayers would be turned to the real East” (Origines L. XV) The celebrant priest in the morning would see the sunlight illuminate him through the stained-glass windows.
  4. Migne, Dictionnaire d’archéologie sacrée, t. II, 1204 (tr. Dictionary of Sacred Archeology)
  5. When we rise to pray, we turn ourselves towards the East, there where the sun rises. It is not that God would be there, having abandoned other regions of the world… but rather to exhort the mind to raise itself towards a superior place, that is to say to God. (Saint Augustine, P.L. XXXIV, col 1277)
  6. Just as the East is the image of birth, it is also a figure symbolizing truth triumphing over error. Therefore we, Christians, have a habit of turning towards East when we pray. This is no longer like with the pagans, to adore the sun, but to adore the sun of justice and of truth. (Saint Clement of Alexandria in Dom Gaspard Lefebvre, Manuel de liturgie, Ed. Apostolat liturgique, Bruges, 1934, p. 183).
  7. Celebrate the Lord who rises to the highest heaven to the East.
  8. During the Ascension, He rose to the East, and it is in this direction that the apostles adored Him, and it is just like that that He will return, as they have seen Him ascend to Heaven, as He himself said the Lord: “as the lightning goes from the East is immediately in the West, the same would be the return of the Son of Man.” Since we are waiting for Him, we also pray towards the East. It is an unwritten tradition of the apostles. (Saint John Damascene, Orthod. Fidei., 1. IV, c. 13).
  9. Secunda Secundæ, q. 84, a.3 ad 3um (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ)

January 18, 2023

Exemplaric Baptism

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP

The word “Epiphany” comes from the Greek “ἐπιφάνεια,” [epipháneia] which means “manifestation,” and the Feast of the Epiphany, kept on January 6th, the 13th Day of Christmas, commemorates three manifestations of Christ: the visitation of the Magi from the East, Our Lord’s Baptism, and Our Lord’s first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana.  While all three are interwoven in the Office for the Epiphany, the Mass of Epiphany day itself focuses on the visitation of the Magi.  The Baptism of the Lord is celebrated in the Mass on January 13th, the Octave Day of the Epiphany, while the Miracle at Cana is commemorated on the Second Sunday after the Epiphany.

Joachim Patinir’s The Baptism of Christ

The recounting of Our Lord’s Baptism, in addition to presenting an important event in Our Lord’s life, also has meaning for the Faithful.  This is because Our Lord’s Baptism is the exemplar, the model, of the Baptism received by the Faithful (S.T. III, q. 39, a. 5, c).  What is expressed in the text of Sacred Scripture as occurring at Our Lord’s Baptism gives insight into what happens when the Sacrament of Baptism is conferred.  Following St. Thomas Aquinas, the different aspects of Our Lord’s Baptism will be examined.

When Jesus was Baptized, the voice of the Father was heard saying “Thou art my beloved Son.  In thee I am well pleased” (Luk 3:22, Mat 3:17, Mar 1:11).  This indicates that the Faithful become, through Baptism, adopted sons of God, for as this was said to Christ, it is said also to each at their Baptism.  As St. Hilary said, “the Father’s voice declares us to have become the adopted sons of God” (S.T. III, q. 39, a. 8, ad. 3).

St. Luke relates in his account of Our Lord’s Baptism “that Jesus also being baptized and praying, heaven was opened” (Luk 3:21; see also Mat 3:16, Mar 1:10).  St. Thomas explains that this occurred for several reasons, which he explains as follows (S.T. III, q. 39, a. 5, c):

Christ wished to be baptized in order to consecrate the baptism wherewith we were to be baptized. And therefore it behooved those things to be shown forth which belong to the efficacy of our baptism: concerning which efficacy three points are to be considered. First, the principal power from which it is derived; and this, indeed, is a heavenly power. For which reason, when Christ was baptized, heaven was opened, to show that in future the heavenly power would sanctify baptism.

Secondly, the faith of the Church and of the person baptized conduces to the efficacy of baptism: wherefore those who are baptized make a profession of faith, and baptism is called the “sacrament of faith.” Now by faith we gaze on heavenly things, which surpass the senses and human reason.  And in order to signify this, the heavens were opened when Christ was baptized.

Thirdly, because the entrance to the heavenly kingdom was opened to us by the baptism of Christ in a special manner, which entrance had been closed to the first man through sin. Hence, when Christ was baptized, the heavens were opened, to show that the way to heaven is open to the baptized.

Now after baptism man needs to pray continually, in order to enter heaven: for though sins are remitted through baptism, there still remain the fomes of sin [“an inclination of the sensual appetite to what is contrary to reason” (S.T. III, q. 15, a. 2, c)] assailing us from within, and the world and the devils assailing us from without.  And therefore it is said pointedly (Luke 3:21) that “Jesus being baptized and praying, heaven was opened”: because, to wit, the faithful after baptism stand in need of prayer.  Or else, that we may be led to understand that the very fact that through baptism heaven is opened to believers is in virtue of the prayer of Christ.  Hence it is said pointedly (Matthew 3:16) that “heaven was opened to Him”—that is, “to all for His sake.” Thus, for example, the Emperor might say to one asking a favor for another: “Behold, I grant this favor, not to him, but to thee”—that is, “to him for thy sake,” as Chrysostom says (Hom. iv in Matth. [From the supposititious Opus Imperfectum]).

St. Thomas Aquinas with Aristotle and Plato from Benozzo Gozzoli’s Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas

So it is that “heaven was opened” to express that the source of the power of Baptism is a heavenly source; that Baptism is the Sacrament of Faith and that by Faith the Faithful gaze on heavenly things, which surpass the senses and human reason; that the Kingdom of Heaven which was closed to the faithful by sin, is open to them by Baptism; and, that after Baptism, a man must pray in order to enter heaven for, although the way is open, he can only arrive there by prayer.

Lastly, it is reported that “the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, as a dove” (Luk 3:22; see also Mat 3:16, Mar 1:10).  According to St. Thomas, it was fitting that the Holy Ghost should appear in the form of a dove for four reasons (S.T. III, q. 39, a. 6, ad. 4):

First, on account of the disposition required in the one baptized—namely, that he approach in good faith: since as it is written (Wisdom 1:5): “The holy spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful.”  For the dove is an animal of a simple character, void of cunning and deceit: whence it is said (Matthew 10:16): “Be ye simple as doves.”

Secondly, in order to designate the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are signified by the properties of the dove.  For the dove dwells beside the running stream, in order that, on perceiving the hawk, it may plunge in and escape.  This refers to the gift of wisdom, whereby the saints dwell beside the running waters of Holy Scripture, in order to escape the assaults of the devil.  Again, the dove prefers the more choice seeds.  This refers to the gift of knowledge, whereby the saints make choice of sound doctrines, with which they nourish themselves.  Further, the dove feeds the brood of other birds.  This refers to the gift of counsel, with which the saints, by teaching and example, feed men who have been the brood, i.e. imitators, of the devil.  Again, the dove tears not with its beak.  This refers to the gift of understanding, wherewith the saints do not rend sound doctrines, as heretics do.  Again, the dove has no gall.  This refers to the gift of piety, by reason of which the saints are free from unreasonable anger.  Again, the dove builds its nest in the cleft of a rock.  This refers to the gift of fortitude, wherewith the saints build their nest, i.e. take refuge and hope, in the death wounds of Christ, who is the Rock of strength.  Lastly, the dove has a plaintive song.  This refers to the gift of fear, wherewith the saints delight in bewailing sins.

Thirdly, the Holy Ghost appeared under the form of a dove on account of the proper effect of baptism, which is the remission of sins and reconciliation with God: for the dove is a gentle creature.  Wherefore, as Chrysostom says, (Hom. xii in Matth.), “at the Deluge this creature appeared bearing an olive branch, and publishing the tidings of the universal peace of the whole world: and now again the dove appears at the baptism, pointing to our Deliverer.”

Fourthly, the Holy Ghost appeared over our Lord at His baptism in the form of a dove, in order to designate the common effect of baptism—namely, the building up of the unity of the Church. Hence it is written (Ephesians 5:25-27): “Christ delivered Himself up…that He might present…to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing…cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life.”  Therefore it was fitting that the Holy Ghost should appear at the baptism under the form of a dove, which is a creature both loving and gregarious.  Wherefore also it is said of the Church (Canticles 6:8): “One is my dove.”

It is fitting, therefore, that the Holy Ghost appeared as a dove, for the dove signified the disposition one should have when receiving Baptism; the Gifts of the Holy Ghost which are first received in Baptism; the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God, and, lastly, the building up of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.

With the example of Our Lord’s Baptism presented on this day, and the explanation given by St. Thomas, the Faithful are invited to treasure as most precious what they have received in their Baptism, to give thanks to God for this great benefit He has freely bestowed, and to ponder these great mysteries in their hearts.

William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.

January 13, 2023

Serenade to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Every nation has shown its love for the Mother of God in different ways: offering flowers, devotions, rosaries etc. But, Mexicans have developed a very peculiar way of expressing their love for the Mother of God, the serenade to the Guadalupana. Mexicans as a people like to sing, and it has always been a traditional custom to serenade loved ones, be it the mother, the wife, and…why not?…the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, Queen and Mother of the Mexican people.

The origin and the date on which this tradition began is unknown, but there are records of non-liturgical songs that the indigenous people of Mexico sang to Our Lady of Guadalupe when they visited her house on hill of Tepeyac. Some of these songs dating from the 16th century were rediscovered by the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble on their album “Guadalupe Virgen de los indios”, and they are a sign of the affection that was already felt for our Lady. Over the years it became customary to sing to our Lady of Guadalupe when she was visited at Tepeyac, but this custom was only in her Basilica in Mexico City where faithful and artists arrived on December 12 to honor her.

In 1932, the first live transmission of the mañanitas was made on the radio and in a more organized way. A microphone was placed at the entrance of the Basilica from where our Lady was serenaded, and it is at this point where the tradition began to extend to other parts of Mexico. The radio broadcasts were interrupted for some years and then resumed by Mr. Carlos Salinas Saucedo, who was the producer who started Las Mañanitas a la Virgen de Guadalupe on television live from the Basilica of Guadalupe and did so for 45 years from 1951 to 1997. With the first television transmission of the Mañanitas to the Guadalupana live from the Basilica of Guadalupe, this beautiful tradition spread throughout Mexico and the world.

The OLGS altar as originally decorated at the first celebration in 2012.

At the Seminary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the feast of December 12 has always been a special day celebrated with solemnity. In 2012, this longstanding Mexican tradition was added to the communal celebrations when a group of seminarians approached Father Joseph Bisig, rector of the seminary, to request permission to decorate the altar of our Lady of Guadalupe for the feast and to be able to serenade her on December 11 at night.

That first year the serenade was a complete success. Seminarians went around collecting donations and the altar was able to be decorated with many roses and candles. Seminarians sang to our Lady in various languages, thus demonstrating the internationality of the Fraternity’s seminary. The following year, due to the success of the first serenade, Father Bisig gave permission for the serenade to be extended until midnight to receive December 12 singing to the Virgin of Guadalupe the traditional Mañanitas Tapatías.

This was the humble beginning of this beautiful tradition to the Guadalupana in our seminary. Over the years the decorations have become more elaborate, and the tradition has become so dear and expected by our seminarians because with it they join the millions of Christians around the world who every December 11 express their love for the Morenita del Tepeyac, serenading her with hymns of praise and love.

January 10, 2023