Annual Enrollment for the Return of Lost Sheep

If we should be saved and become saints, we ought always to stand at the
gates of the Divine mercy to beg and pray for, as alms, all that we need
.”
—Saint Alphonsus Liguori

The National Shrine of Saint Alphonsus Liguori in Baltimore will celebrate its patron’s feast day again this year by offering a novena of Masses for the return of lost sheep. Saint Alphonsus was given by God a particular zeal and a special grace for the conversion of souls. As the patron saint of arthritis and the ailments afflicting the connective tissues in the body, we see also his gift as Doctor of the Church to aid the afflictions of the Mystical Body.

With confidence we can call on his powerful intercession for nothing less than the complete and total conversion of our own souls, as Saint Alphonsus was wont to beg us to accomplish, and for the conversion of others, too. You are invited to visit the Shrine’s website to enroll your intentions in the Novena that begins Tuesday, August 2nd.

You are also invited to join them live online for a preached novena leading up to their parish feast day. Beginning with Mass on Sunday, 24 July, daily broadcasts of Mass and its sermon will be available on their YouTube channel. See their website for more details and the schedule:

https://stalphonsusbalt.org/return

July 22, 2022

Peter & Paul 2022: Tu Es Petrus

by Fr. Anthony Dorsa, FSSP.

“Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that Thou permit us not to be shaken by any fears, whom Thou hast solidly established upon the rock of the apostolic confession.”
–Collect of the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul

I cannot help but be struck by the relevance of this collect to the circumstances of our time. This powerful prayer is a reminder to us both of the unfailing faith and confidence we should have in our Lord and His Grace, and the necessary reality that that faith is contained in a Church established by God upon the Rock, the Confession of Peter.

With so much confusion and uncertainty besetting the world in which we live, how important it is for us to pray to God that our faith remain unshaken by any fear, knowing that it is God Himself in whom we place our trust, and God Himself who asks us to place this trust in Him through His Church, which He established.

It is a reminder especially for us that we are the Fraternity of St. Peter. Thus, our ministry is not our own, but cum Petro et sub Petro.

God grants us so many tangible signs of His Grace to “be not afraid”, such as the Holy Father’s reaffirmation of our work and charism following our consecration to the Blessed Mother.

In this spirit, we invite you during this octave to join us in contemplating the lives and examples of St. Paul and St. Peter, the firm rock upon which Christ founded the Church.

As we ordain new priests and send them out to be fishers of men, we in the Fraternity rededicate ourselves to our charism and the work we do in our apostolates, to bring about a greater knowledge and love of this same Church, in all of the souls we encounter. And we hope that you too will commit yourselves ever anew, or for the first time, in supporting us as we seek to help Peter fulfill the command of Our Lord to feed His sheep.

June 30, 2022

“These things were done exactly as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP

The Erection of the Tabernacle and the Sacred Vessels

After the Hebrews left Egypt, Moses ascended Mount Sinai while the people remained below.  On the Mount, God showed Moses the plan for the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle, and the liturgical instruments which the Children of Abraham were to use in the worship of the One, True, and Living God – “According to all the likeness of the tabernacle which I will shew thee, and of all the vessels for the service thereof: and thus you shall make it” (Exo 25:9).1

The Tabernacle consisted of a court, open to the sky, whose perimeter was marked by hanging curtains. As one moved from the entrance of the court, on the eastern side, one would encounter the brass-covered wooden altar of holocaust, then the basin for washing (the laver), and finally the Tent.  The interior of the Tent was divided into two parts by a hanging veil.  The area immediately inside the entrance of the Tent, called the Holy Place, contained the oil lampstand to the left as one entered, the table for the Show Bread to the right, and the altar of incense ahead.  Beyond the veil, in the Holy of Holies, was the Ark of the Covenant with its two Cherubim.  The Ark itself was considered God’s footstool (see 1 Par [Chr] 28:2; Pss 98:5, 131:7-8 [Vulgate numbering]).  If the Ark was His footstool, then it follows that God was symbolically present in the space over the Ark.  Indeed, from the space over the Ark, between the Cherubim, God would speak to Moses (Num 7:89).2

The Jewish tabernacle and Priesthood

As one moves out again, an order is recognized.  The space over the Ark from where God speaks is a special sign of God’s presence among His people – “In the beginning God…”.3  Under this sign of God’s presence are the two Cherubim atop the Ark. “The Fourth Lateran Council and the First Vatican Council declare: ‘at the beginning of time, [God] created at once out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, that is, the angelic and the earthy.'”4 – “…created heaven, and earth.”

Moving through the veil from the Holy of the Holies to the Holy Place, one encounters the altar of incense, possibly with still glowing coals, and the perpetually lit many-branched lampstand (see Ex 27:20-21) – “And God said: Be light made. And light was made…and there was evening and morning one day.”

As one steps out of the Holy Place, the sky is above, the ground below, and the laver filled with water ahead – “And God made a firmament, and divided the waters that were under the firmament, from those that were above the firmament, and it was so.  And God called the firmament, Heaven; and the evening and morning were the second day…God also said; Let the waters that are under the heaven, be gathered together into one place: and let the dry land appear. And it was so done.  And God called the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, He called Seas. And God saw that it was good…And the evening and the morning were the third day.”  During the day, the sun would shine over the court and the moon and stars would give their light at night – “And God made two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night: and the stars…And the evening and morning were the fourth day.”

Beyond the laver is the altar of holocaust.  This altar can be seen as representing the dry land separated from the seas (represented by the laver), or “the foundations of the earth, a symbolic association found throughout the biblical record, beginning with the ‘altar of earth,’ that Moses is commanded to build.”5  On this altar were offered sacrifices of birds – “God also said: let the waters bring forth the creeping creature having life, and the fowl that may fly over the earth under the firmament of heaven…And the evening and morning were the fifth day.” – and sacrifices of land animals – “And God said: Let the earth bring forth the living creature in its kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth, according to their kinds.  And it was so done…And the evening and morning were the sixth day.”  Plants, which were created on the third day, were not excluded from the plan of the Tabernacle.  The Show Bread was perpetually set in the Holy Place before the Presence of God.  Olive oil burned in the lampstand.  There were libations of wine, sacrificial cakes, and offerings of grain.6

Burnt Offering

Incredibly, the Ark, the Tabernacle, and its designated worship were designed by God to be a representation, a sign, of all of reality, of Himself and of His creation ordered to His service.  “A canonical reading of Hebrew scripture indicates that God’s purposes in creating the world are liturgical.  The world is made for worship.  The covenant made in creation establishes the world as the temple and kingdom of God.”7  But, as this was obscured by the introduction of sin into the material world, God would, in the worship He commanded to be offered to Him by the Hebrews, remanifest it, even if only locally.  This ordered creational worship commanded by God in the Tabernacle served as a reminder to fallen material creation of what its true purpose and end are.

In his work, The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire – A Theological Commentary on 1-2 Chronicles, Dr. Scott Hahn wrote the following touching on this subject:

The creation of the world in Gen. 1-2 is recounted in liturgical terms and ritual rhythms, unfolding in a heptadic patter, with a series of repeated sevens – beginning with the first verse, which contains exactly seven words in Hebrew, and proceeding with seven clearly defined creative speech-acts of God (“and God said, ‘Let…’”), seven statements of divine approval (“It was good”), and culminating in the divine rest of the seventh day…This same heptadic pattern is found in the account of the tabernacle.  Moses’s time on the mountain can be seen as a kind of new creation.  The cloud of divine presence covers the mountain for six days; on the seventh day Moses is called into the cloud to receive the divine blueprint (tabnît) for the tabernacle (Exod. 24:15-16; 25:8-9).  The instruction that God gives him are delivered in seven speeches (introduced by “the LORD said” or “the LORD spoke”;…), the last of which commands the observance of the Sabbath as a “perpetual covenant” and a “sign…that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested” (31:16-17…).  On a closer reading, the creation-tabernacle connections are even more apparent…:

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Gen. 1:31)
And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it. (Exod. 39:43)

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished. (Gen .2:1)
Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished. (Exod. 39:32)

On the seventh day God finished his work which he had done. (Gen. 2:2)
So Moses finished the work. (Exod. 40:33

So God Blessed the seventh day. (Gen 2:3)
And Moses blessed them. (Exod. 39:43)8

Just as Catholic worship incorporates the astronomical worship of Eden, the post-Fall agricultural festivals, and the religious observances of the Old Law, so too does it, as the Tabernacle did, employ all of creation, all of reality, in the worship of God.  No longer is God symbolically present by His footstool but is now substantially present in the Tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament.  Images of the inhabitants of heaven – angels and saints – should fittingly adorn the church building.  Candles give their light during the various liturgical ceremonies.  Water is found in the holy water stoops.  Water, wine, and bread are offered to God.  Linen from flax plants dress the ministers and altar and is the material of the pall, corporal, and purificator.  Animals are represented by the bees and silkworms – “creeping things” of the sixth day – which provide the wax and silk for the candles and vestments.  Stained glass windows let in the natural light of the sun, moon, and stars.  The altar, stone.9

There is still one portion of creation, however, the portion of creation which makes the worship of the material world rational (see Rom 12:1) and befitting the God Who is to be adored “in spirit and in truth” (Joh 4:23), which has not yet been addressed – “And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.”  But this treatment will be for another time.

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

  1. The instructions given by God and the construction are recounted in the Book of Exodus, chapters 25-40.
  2. The Ark itself can also be seen as a special presence of God. See Hanh, Scott W. The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire – A Theological Commentary on 1-2 Chronicles. (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2012), 119.
  3. The quotes concerning God’s creation throughout are taken from Genesis, Chapter 1.
  4. Denzinger, Henry. The Sources of Catholic Dogma [1954]. (Fitzwilliam: Loreto Publications, 2010), §26.
  5. Hahn, 118.
  6. See The Levitical Offerings And Sacrifices for a summary of the various sacrifices commanded by God.
  7. Hahn, 120.
  8. Hahn,115-116.
  9. Until recently, the table/mensa and supports of a fixed altar were to be made of stone. Otherwise, a stone containing the relics of martyrs and consecrated by a Bishop was necessary (see Matters Liturgical nn. 71-75). The General Rubrics of the 1962 Missal state the following: “525. The altar on which the most holy sacrifice of the Mass is to be celebrated must be wholly of stone, and duly consecrated; or at least it must have a stone slab, or an altar stone, likewise duly consecrated, large enough to hold the host and the greater part of the chalice; or again, by apostolic indult, an antimension [a piece of linen containing relics], duly blessed” (translation taken from Divinum Officium).

June 14, 2022

Marcus Tullius Cicero and the Traditional Latin Mass

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP

As the name suggests, the Traditional Latin Mass is mostly prayed in Latin.  While there is some Hebrew and Greek, the majority of the ceremony is carried out in the Latin language.  But to say that the Traditional Latin Mass is in Latin does not completely capture the state of things, as there are varieties in the Latin used.  For example, the readings (Lessons, Epistles, Gospels) are taken from St. Jerome’s [d. A.D. 420] translation of the Sacred Scriptures (the Vulgate), while the chants (Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, Communion, etc.) are drawn from Latin translations of Holy Writ which pre-date Jerome’s work.1

Cesare Maccari’s Cicero Denounces Catiline

The Latin of the Orations (Collects, Secrets, and Postcommunions) is also noteworthy in that these prayers utilize a specialized vocabulary, setting it apart from the Latin with which one would normally converse.2  Additionally, the arrangement of the words themselves are not without consideration.  Word placement at the end of clauses follows certain patterns which can be traced back to a Roman oratory style first used by Marcus Tullius Cicero, a renowned Roman orator [d. 43 B.C.], drawing from patterns used by the Greeks.3

In order to understand how these patterns are present in the Orations, an understanding of spoken Latin must come first.  In spoken Latin, only the second-to-last (penultimate) or third-to-last (ante-penultimate) syllable receives stress.  In some cases, stressing the proper syllable distinguishes between words with the same spelling.  Without knowing which syllable is stressed, and without context, Maria could be either Mary (Maa) or seas (ria).  When Latin is written, the stressed syllable is marked by an accent to aid the reader.

Philippe de Champaigne’s The Annunciation

The oratory patterns direct how words are to be arranged at the end of clauses based on where the words are stressed/accented for rhetorical weight.  This also sets the rhythm of the prayers.  There are four agreements, each called a Cursus.4 The Postcommunion of the Feast of the Annunciation, which is also the prayer used at the conclusion of the Angelus, will serve as the basis for exploring three of the Cursus.5

Grátiam tuam, quǽsumus, Dómine, méntibus nostris infúnde; ut, qui, ángelo nuntiánte, Christi Fílii tui incarnatiónem cognóvimus, per passiónem eius et crucem, ad resurrectiónis glóriam perducámur. Per eúndem Dóminum nostrum Iesum Christum Fílium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sancti, Deus, per ómnia sǽcula sæculórum.

In the Cursus Planus, “a word accentuated on the penultimate syllable is followed by a word of three syllables also accentuated on the penultimate syllable; that is, the accents are placed on the second and fifth syllables from the end.”  This is seen in the Postcommunion as follows: méntibus -stris in-fún-de;.

In the Cursus Tardus, “a word accentuated on the penultimate syllable is followed by a word of four syllables accentuated on the ante-penultimate syllable, that is, accents on the third and sixth syllable from the end.”  The phrase in-car-na-ti-ó-nem cog--vi-mus, follows this Cursus in the Postcommunion.

The Cursus Velox is “the most solemn and also the most elegant: a word of three syllables or more accentuated on the ante-penultimate is followed by a word of four syllables accentuated on the penultimate; that is, accents on the second and seventh syllable from the end.”  Two examples of this type can be found in the Postcommunion: gló-ri-a per-du--mur. and saé-cu-la sae-cu--rum.  As saécula saeculórum is present at the conclusions of the prayers at Mass, this Cursus is pervasive.

Lastly, there is the Di- or Tri-spondiac Cursus where the accents are “on the second and sixth syllables from the end.”  There are not examples of this type in the Postcommunion prayer, but they can be found in the Collects of Easter (mór-te, re-se--sti:) and of Pentecost (il-lu-stra-ti-ó-ne do--is-ti:).

David Roberts’ The Israelites Leaving Egypt

The objection might be raised that Christian prayer should be free from any “pagan contamination” and that making use of these patterns pollutes what should be pure Christian worship.  Here, the principle explained by St. Augustine in his De doctrina Christiana should be applied.6  According to the Saint, all that is true, good, and beautiful belongs by right to the True Church of God, regardless of its origin.  He points to how the Hebrews used the gold provided to them by the Egyptians as they departed to make the Ark of the Covenant and the other liturgical items commanded by God.  If such can be done with pagan gold, Christians can surely use all else which is true, good, and beautiful in their worship, regardless of its origin.  Besides, is it not fitting for Christians, when addressing God, the Supreme Being, most worthy of honor and worship, to employ high forms of language when composing public, liturgical prayer?  High things for the Highest.

Now, it is not expected that the faithful will comb through their hand Missals and identify all of the Cursus contained therein or for this to be a focus of one’s attention during Mass.  But it is important to know that these Cursus exist, as this knowledge, even if it is only general, will deepen the faithful’s understanding and appreciation of the treasures contained in the traditional Roman Missal.

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

  1. More recent feasts will also use a translation of the Psalms prepared during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII (A.D. 1939-1958)
  2. See Mohrmann, Christine. Liturgical Latin: Its Origins and Character. London: Burns & Oates, 1959.
  3. Cursus | Encyclopedia.com
  4. This is the spelling of the singular and the plural in the Latin.
  5. The foundation of the information for this article, along with the quotes explaining the Cursus, is drawn from Amiot, François. The History of Mass. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1959, pp. 44-45.
  6. Book II, Chapter 40.

May 31, 2022

Priestly Ordinations: May 27, 2022

This year, the priestly ordinations for the members of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter studying at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary will be held on May 27th, the Friday after the Ascension, at 10:00 AM. The ordinations will be at North American Martyrs Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the order will be conferred by His Excellency Archbishop Thomas Edward Gullickson.

We are grateful to His Excellency for his gracious assistance on this happy occasion as he ordains seven of our deacons to the sacred priesthood. We also offer our thanks to Father Connor, pastor of North American Martyrs, for allowing us the use of his parish for this event. All are welcome to attend the ceremony but the reception will be reserved for the friends and family of the ordinands only. Please pray for our deacons as we approach this time of Pentecost, that the Holy Ghost will fill them with His Gifts and Fruits, and help them to always be good and holy priests.

Stream available at: https://tinyurl.com/olgslivestream

May 23, 2022

Bishop Brennan Attends Easter Sunday Mass in Fresno

Fr. José Zepeda, FSSP of the Holy Cross Chaplaincy in Fresno, California ended Holy Week with a celebration of Easter Sunday Solemn High Mass in the presence of The Most Reverend Joseph V. Brennan, Bishop of the Diocese of Fresno.

Fr. Zepeda had been waiting for a solemn High Mass on a major feast day to have Bishop Brennan visit the community, and Easter Sunday provided the right opportunity.

Holy Cross Chaplaincy shares some beautiful images of Fresno’s Holy Week Triduum, Easter Sunday Mass with Bishop Brennan in choir, and His Excellency’s blessing of the Easter baskets.

April 25, 2022

The Chapters of Passiontide

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP

In these last two weeks of Lent, fittingly called Passiontide, the liturgical focus of the Church shifts from our sinfulness and the need to make reparations for our sins to contemplating Our Lord’s Passion and Death, which will soon be commemorated in the approaching solemn observances.  One of the ways she does this is by the short readings daily presented in the Divine Office, called the Chapter.  We will touch on each one in turn.

The Prophet Jeremias

At Lauds, the early morning prayer, during Passiontide, the Church reads the following from the Prophet Jeremias in the 11th chapter of his book: “Come, let us put wood on his bread, and cut him off from the land of the living, and let his name be remembered no more”1 (Jer 11:19).  The Epistle for the Tuesday of Holy Week is also from the same chapter of Jeremias and includes the quoted text.  Immediately before what is quoted for Lauds is found, “And I was as a meek lamb, that is carried to be a victim: and I knew not that they had devised counsels against me” (Jer 11:19).  The prophet is speaking in the person of Our Lord, the Lamb of God, Who was led to sacrifice as a meek lamb.  Writing in the mid-1800s, Dom Guéranger wrote the following as a commentary for the Epistle for the Tuesday of Holy Week in his Liturgical Year:

Again we have the plaintive words of Jeremias: he gives us the very words used by his enemies, when they conspired his death. It is evident, however, that the prophet is here the figure of one greater than himself. Let us, say these enemies, put wood upon his bread: that is, let us put poisonous wood into what he eats, that so we may cause his death.  This is the literal sense of these words, as applied to the prophet; but how much more truly were they fulfilled in our Redeemer!  He tells us that His divine Flesh is the true Bread that came down from heaven.  This Bread, this Body of the Man-God, is bruised, torn, and wounded; the Jews nail it to the wood; so that, it is, in a manner, made one with the wood, and the wood is all covered with Jesus’ Blood.  This Lamb of God was immolated on the wood of the cross: it is by His immolation, that we have had given to us a Sacrifice which is worthy of God; and it is by this Sacrifice that we participate in the Bread of heaven, the Flesh of the Lamb, our true Pasch.2

St. Thomas, in his commentary on this passage, has the same interpretation: “Mystically, it is the body of Christ on the wood of the cross…”3

The Prophet Isaias

At the next Office, that of Prime, the following from the 50th chapter of the Prophet Isaias is read: “I have not turned away my face from them that rebuked me, and spit upon me.  The Lord God is my helper, therefore am I not confounded” (Isa 50:6-7).  Immediately before this excerpt in the text of Scripture, the following is found: “I have given my body to the strikers, and my cheeks to them that plucked them,” so that the full quote of the verses in consideration is: “I have given my body to the strikers, and my cheeks to them that plucked them: I have not turned away my face from them that rebuked me, and spit upon me.  The Lord God is my helper, therefore am I not confounded: therefore have I set my face as a most hard rock, and I know that I shall not be confounded” (Isa 50:6-7).  Just as with Jeremias at Lauds, Isaias is speaking in the person of Our Lord regarding His voluntary suffering and Passion.  As with the Chapter from Lauds, this passage is part of a Gospel read during these two weeks, namely that for the Monday of Holy Week.  Again, Dom Guéranger provides insight into this Epistle, and thus the Chapter:

The sufferings of our Redeemer, and the patience wherewith He is to bear them, are thus prophesied by Isaias, who is always so explicit on the Passion.  Jesus has accepted the office of victim for the world’s salvation; He shrinks from no pain or humiliation: He turns not His Face from them that strike Him and spit upon Him.  What reparation can we make to this infinite Majesty, who, that He might save us, submitted to such outrages as these?  Observe these vile and cruel enemies of our divine Lord; now that they have Him in their power, they fear Him not.  When they came to seize Him in the garden, He had but to speak, and they fell back upon the ground; but He has now permitted them to bind His hands and lead Him to the high priest. They accuse Him; they cry out against Him; and He answers but a few words. Jesus of Nazareth, the great teacher, the wonder-worker, has seemingly lost all His influence; they can do what they will with Him.  It is thus with the sinner; when the thunder-storm is over, and the lightning has not struck him, he regains his courage.  The holy angels look on with amazement at the treatment shown by the Jews to Jesus, and falling down, they adore the holy Face, which they see thus bruised and defiled: let us, also, prostrate and ask pardon, for our sins have outraged that same Face.4

The Mocking of Christ

At the midmorning Office, Terce, the Church again draws from the Prophet Jeremias, chapter 17: “O Lord: all that forsake thee shall be confounded: they that depart from thee, shall be written in the earth: because they have forsaken the Lord, the vein of living waters” (Jer 17:13).  This text is also found in the Epistle for the Friday of Passion Week.  Unlike the other texts examined up to this point, this excerpt is not a prophet speaking in the person of Our Lord about what He will undergo during His Passion; rather, here, the prophet foretells what will happen to those who have forsaken the One Who made this invitation: “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.  He that believeth in me, as the scripture saith: Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (Jon 7:37-38).  It should be noted that Our Lord gave this invitation the day before He pardoned the woman caught in adultery, during which encounter He “wrote with his finger on the ground” (Joh 8:6; the Gospel for the Saturday following the Third Sunday of Lent).  Cornelius a Lapide, in his commentary on this episode, explains Our Lord’s writing on the ground by referencing this passage from Jeremias (“they that depart from thee, shall be written in the earth”).  Let this reading of Terce serve as a warning to Christians to never abandon or forsake “the Lord, the vein of living waters,” lest they find themselves under the associated censure.

The Flagellation

The Hour of Sext, prayed at noon, again draws from the 17th chapter of the Prophet Jeremias: “Let them be confounded that persecute me, and let not me be confounded: let them be afraid, and let not me be afraid: bring upon them the day of affliction, and with a double destruction, destroy them, O Lord my God” (Jer 17:18).  Just like the Chapter at Terce, this text is also part of the Epistle for the Friday of Passion Week and again concerns the doom of those who persecute Christ and reject the offer of salvation He holds out to them, while also expressing the hope of the Just Man trusting in God.

At the Hour of None, prayed in the midafternoon, a passage from the 18th chapter of the Prophet Jeremias is read: “Remember that I have stood in thy sight, to speak good for them, and turn away thy indignation from them” (Jer 18:20).  This text is also contained in the Epistle for the Saturday of Passion Week.  St. Thomas Aquinas, in his commentary on this passage has the following:

Concerning the phrase: that I may speak good for them (Jer 18:20), it should be noted that Christ speaks good for us that he may obtain mercy: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).  To excuse guilt: we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the just man; and he is the atonement for our sins (1 John 2:1–2).  You have come to the mediator of the new covenant, and to the sprinkling of blood, which speaks better than that of Abel (Heb 12:24). To obtain glory: I desire that where I am, they also may be with me, that they may see my glory, which you have given me (John 17:24).

Unlike the previous two readings, which detail the portion of those who forsake or persecute Christ, this passage expresses the good lot of those who turn to Christ, Who, in the light of His Passion, intercedes for them before the Father.

At Vespers, the evening Office, the reading continues from where the one at Lauds ended in the 11th chapter of Jeremias (Jer 11:20): “But thou, O Lord of Sabaoth, who judgest justly, and triest the reins and hearts, let me see thy revenge on them: for to thee I have revealed my cause, O Lord my God.”  Just like the reading at Lauds, this reading is also found in the Epistle for the Tuesday of Holy Week.  As with the readings at Terce and Sext, this Chapter treats with the fate of those who have persecuted Our Lord and also His Mystical Body.  St. Thomas explains this passage as follows:

Let me see your vengeance upon them, from the person of Christ, on those who are stubborn, for he prays for others.  Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).  You have seen, O Lord, their iniquity against me, judge my cause (Lam 3:59).  And he gives the reason: for to you have I revealed, not as to one who did not know, but trusting my whole cause to you.  Cast your care upon the Lord, and he will sustain you (Ps 54:22 [23]).

These are the reflections which Holy Mother Church would like us to consider in these days – as they are presented in the daily Office – as we approach the Triduum.  May we profit from them.

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

  1. These Chapters, along with their Offices, can be found on The Divinum Officium Project.
  2. Prosper, Guéranger. The Liturgical Year – Volume VI – Passiontide and Holy Week. Fitzwilliam: Loreto Publications, 2000, pp. 258-259.
  3. The translations of the St. Thomas’ Commentaries were taken from here.
  4. Guéranger, pp. 246-247.

April 4, 2022

Phone Bearers

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP

As Tolkien’s stories also aim to illustrate…one of the greatest ironies of modern industrialization, technology, and its related consumerism is the way in which they have rendered human beings so helplessly dependent upon the very things that were supposed to set them free.1

J. R. R. Tolkien in 1940’s

These powerful and striking words were penned by Jonathan S. McIntosh for his The Flame Imperishable – Tolkien, St. Thomas and the Metaphysics of Faërie.  In this work, McIntosh sets out to reveal the influence the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas had on Tolkien’s Middle Earth, with a particular focus on the creation account given at the beginning of The Silmarillion, the precursor to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  The words quoted above are found in the chapter on evil: “The Metaphysics of Melkor.”

With very little reflection, the truth of the quote is ascertained.  How many skills have been lost due to an over-reliance on technology?  How has intellectual rigor decayed with so much information – but not knowledge and wisdom – at the ready?  This dependence, however, does not just result in a decay of those who are dependent upon it; it makes them vulnerable as never before.  Driving this point home, McIntosh quotes Peter Kreeft’s The Philosophy of Tolkien:

The Industrial Revolution made slavery inefficient and unnecessary.  But our addiction is the same whether the slaves are made of flesh, metal, or plastic.  We have done exactly what Sauron did in forging the Ring.  We have put our power into things in order to increase our power.  And the result is, as everyone knows but no one admits, that we are now weak little wimps, Shelob’s slaves, unable to survive a blow to the great spider of our technology network.  We tremble before a nationwide electrical blackout or a global computer virus…In our drive for power we have deceived ourselves into thinking that we have become more powerful when all the time we have been becoming less.2

To be honest, Kreeft may have been setting the bar a bit too high.  It is true that “we tremble before a nationwide electrical blackout,” but how quickly does work grind to a stop when the internet or electricity is just temporarily down?

Not only has modern man become dependent upon technology, but we have become, in a certain sense, slaves to it, as Kreeft points out.  How much of our work, our energy, our money is put into purchasing, updating, or repairing our technology – the washing machine, the air conditioner, the car, the computer, the smart phone?

If anything exemplifies modern man’s slavery to technology, it is the smart phone.  He always carries it with him, looking for hotspots to utilize it and outlets to power it with the charger he brings with him.  The compulsion to constantly check it for new messages or online updates makes unrelenting demands upon a will that should be free.  Phantom buzzing influencing, damaging the mind and body of the bearer.

The choice of the word “bearer” here is not inadvertent, for it calls to mind the Ring Bearers of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, those who carried the One Ring forged by Sauron.  This Ring affected the mind and will of the Bearers, influencing and manipulating them with the purpose of being returned to its master and maker.  Beyond this influence on the will, the effect of the smart phone on its bearer is similar to other effects the One Ring had on its Bearers.  When worn, the One Ring would turn the Bearer invisible, effectively separating him from those around him.  Kreeft explains this situation as follows:

Invisibility also means isolation.  God alone can endure this (and only because He is a Trinity of persons, a society in Himself).  He is God alone; there is no other.  Yet He is other in Himself and never alone.  God is a community.  That is why He needs no community, as we do.  The Ring cuts us off from community, and contact.  We are alone with the Eye.  There is no room for an Other in the One Ring.  This is why the Ring surrounds emptiness.  If We-ness, or Relationship, or Love, or Trinity is the name of ultimate reality, then the Ring makes us unreal by isolating us.  It plunges us into its own emptiness, like a Black Hole.  Its circular shape is an image of that the emptiness: it encloses nothingness with its all-encompassing circle of power.3

Tom Bombadil with the One Ring

When one is seen with his head bowed towards the screen, it sends the message that he has cut himself off from those around him.  The body language sends a message that he is not open to interacting with others.  Such behavior, when prolonged, cannot help but have a negative influence on one’s prayer life, where one is invited to have an intimate and personal friendship with His Creator.  If one has the habit of closing himself off to other men, whom he senses, how can he possibly be open to having a relationship with God Whom he cannot (see 1 Joh 4:20)?  Interestingly, McIntosh argues that the reason why the One Ring had no power over Tom Bombadil (“a merry fellow; Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow”4) is because Tom Bombadil is “one of the earthiest characters in Tolkien’s fiction and the one whose whole identity is most tied to his love of and devotion to other things.”5 Tom Bombadil’s devotion to other was explained by Tolkien in one of his letter’s as follows: he desires “knowledge of other things, their history and nature, because they are ‘other’ and wholly independent of the enquiring mind, a spirt coeval with a rational mind, and entirely unconcerned with ‘doing’ anything with the knowledge.”6

Over Hill (Bilbo and Gandalf)

But not only does wearing the One Ring make the Bearer invisible to others, it makes him more visible to Sauron, who can be understood as a personification of evil, and his Eye.  In a similar way, those who use smart phones, without the proper self-control and, if necessary, protections, are exposing themselves to levels of evil and depravity unthinkable to previous generations.  And the more one uses the One Ring, the more one uses the smart phone, the more permanent and damaging the effects are.  As Gandalf (an incarnated/embodied angel for all intents and purposes) explained “if one ‘often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings…Yes, sooner or later…the dark power will devour him.’”7 How many long-term smart phone users do not feel the same as Bilbo after he possessed the Ring for as long as he did – “I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts….I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.  That can’t be right.  I need a change, or something.”?8

There is another way in which the One Ring is similar to a smart phone.  In order to forge the One Ring, “the instrument of his domination,”9 Sauron put part of his power, part of his being, part of himself into the artifact.  So tied was he to the Ring, that when it was destroyed, his own power and being was dissolved.  When one’s smart phone is misplaced, lost, damaged, or destroyed, does not the owner feel like part of himself has been destroyed?  That he is incomplete until he finds it or has it replaced?  On this point, McIntosh wrote the following: “Tolkien makes the serious, real-world metaphysical point that, in the process of aggrandizing ourselves through materialistic acquisitiveness and scientific mastery of nature, we have in fact emptied ourselves, denied our own nature, and sacrificed something of our own inherent and authentic being.”10

There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the problems described above, but a reconsideration and reordering of this dependence on technology is necessary so that the negative accompanying consequences can be minimized or avoided altogether.  Solutions should be sought by utilizing Christian prudence and principles.  But, if any of the Tolkien’s characters should be presented as a model to be followed in such an undertaking, it can be none other than Tom Bombadil with his connection to creation and nature, and, especially, his openness to other persons – an openness which is so necessary and fundamental to the Catholic spiritual life.

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

  1. McIntosh, Jonathan S. The Flame Imperishable – Tolkien, St. Thomas and the Metaphysics of Faërie. Kettering: Angelico Press, 2017, pp. 242-243.
  2. Kreeft, Peter. The Philosophy of Tolkie, pp. 187-188 as quoted by McIntosh, p. 243.
  3. Kreeft, p. 181 as quoted by McIntosh, p. 236, footnote 63.
  4. Tolkien, J. R. R., The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 7: “In the House of Tom Bombadil.”
  5. Tolkien, Letter 196 as quoted by McIntosh, p. 22, footnote 58 [emphases in the original].
  6. McIntosh, pp. 236-237.
  7. Ibid., p. 237 quoting Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 2: “The Shadow of the Past.”
  8. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 1: “A Long-Expected Party” as quoted by McIntosh, p. 237, footnote 64.
  9. McIntosh, p. 244.
  10. Ibid.

March 25, 2022

Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

The Apostolic Nuncio of the United States has sent an urgent communique to the nation’s Bishops, informing them that the Holy Father is inviting each bishop to join him in an Act of Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the Feast of the Annunciation, Friday, March 25th .  The consecration will take place at 5:00 PM Rome time.  Pope Francis is also sending a Cardinal to represent him and lead the consecration in Fatima, Portugal.

The Holy Father clearly has in mind Our Lady of Fatima’s words and request those many decades ago.

While the scourge of war wages on this earth, we know it is not unconnected to a larger, cosmic battle between good and evil.  The forces of hell will no doubt try to prevent this consecration from occurring as God desires.

We encourage all the friends of the FSSP to unite your prayers and sacrifices to this intention, that the consecration be made according to God’s holy will and draw down immense graces for Russia, Ukraine, and the entire world.

We also remind you of Our Lady of Fatima’s request to do penance, to pray the Rosary, and to make the Five First Saturdays:  https://fssp.com/a-short-history-of-the-first-saturday-devotions/

March 18, 2022

Carry the Cross: Mission Tradition

Many of us remember the days when, as Catholic school kids, Lent was a time to donate our spare change to worthwhile causes. And that was very appropriate in this penitential season as we deny ourselves and accompany our Lord on the road to Calvary.

Sadly, some of our old favorite charities seem to have lost their focus. Some have even gotten involved in tangential issues that seem more motivated by political fashion than true Christian caritas.

This Lent, the FSSP’s own 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 priests in Mexico, Colombia, and Nigeria. There you can learn about Fr. Heenan’s work preserving the Latin Mass in Guadalajara. You’ll hear Fr. Valenzuela’s account of his arrival at the Colombia mission and school. And we’ll hear from Fr. Van der Putten in Nigeria about building a church and working the farm that surrounds it.

If you feel called to give to Mission Tradition, know that the money will go directly to our 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 so harmoniously fuse in the FSSP’s mission apostolates.

It is understandable if some of us have become cynical and jaded in our almsgiving over the years, but Lent is a time to bring our minds back to the peoples around the world who still need our help. And just as importantly, our children must develop a love for almsgiving and charity–for their own spiritual good. Every opportunity we can give them to participate helps them become the generous, giving Christians that this broken world so desperately needs.

May God bless you and the missions of the FSSP.