Requiem Masses after the Day of Burial
by Fr. William Rock, FSSP
From the very foundation of Christianity, Masses and prayers have been offered up for the repose of the souls of the departed.1 In the Roman tradition, this practice developed into the various Requiem Masses, prayers, and other suffrages for the dead. Named after the first word of the Introit (entrance chant), a Requiem Mass is a Mass whose focus is the repose of the soul (or souls) of the departed. The Requiem Mass is, therefore, a Mass for the dead. All of the Requiem Masses share the same chants (Introit, Gradual, Tract, Sequence, Offertory, and Communion), but the orations (Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion) and readings (Epistle and Gospel) vary. There are Requiem Masses for the Day of Death or Burial, three for All Souls Day, on the Anniversary Day of the Death or Burial, the daily Mass for the Dead, and those for the Third, Seventh, and Thirtieth Day after the Burial.
The Requiem Masses which can be offered on the third, seventh, and thirtieth days after the burial are the same as the Mass of the Day of Burial (Epistle: 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Gospel: John 11:21-27) with the following orations:2
(Collect) We beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant fellowship with Thy saints and elect to the soul of the Thy servant (or handmaid) N., the third (or seventh or thirtieth) day of whose burial we commemorate, and wouldst pour out the everlasting dew of Thy mercy. Through Our Lord…
(Secret) Look favorably, we beseech Thee, O Lord, upon the offerings we make on behalf of the soul of Thy servant (or handmaid) N., that cleansed by heavenly remedies, it may rest in Thy mercy. Through Our Lord…
(Postcommunion) Receive our prayers, O Lord, on behalf of the soul of Thy servant (or handmaid) N., that if any stains of earthly contagion remain, they may be washed away by Thy merciful forgiveness. Through Our Lord…
Offering Masses on these days for the departed is very ancient and symbolic reasons have been given for their celebration.3 “With regard to the third day, as commemorative of the three days which Christ passed in the sepulcher, and as presaging the Resurrection, there is special prescription in the Apostolic Constitutions [4th Century] (VIII, xlii): ‘With respect to the dead, let the third day be celebrated in psalms, lessons, and prayers, because of Him who on the third day rose again.’”4 Evidence of the Masses offered on the seventh and thirtieth day is found in the works of St. Ambrose (d. A.D. 397): “Now, since on the seventh day, which is symbolical of eternal repose, we return to the sepulchre”5 (De fide. resurr.), and
Because some people are accustomed to observe the third and thirtieth day and some the seventh and the fortieth, let us look closely at what the text of Scripture teaches. When Jacob died, it says, Joseph instructed the undertakers in his service to bury him. And they buried Israel. And forty days were completed for him; for this is how the days of the funeral rites are reckoned. And Egypt mourned him for seventy days [Gen 50:2-3 according to the Itala]. This, then, is the observance to be followed, which is set out in the text. But equally, in Deuteronomy it is written that the children of Israel mourned Moses for thirty days and the days of mourning were completed [Deut. 34:8 according to the Itala]. So either observance has the authority through which the duty required of filial piety is fulfilled. (De ob. Theodosii, iii)6
In the Roman tradition, then, the Mass on the third day can be seen as being done in honor of the days Our Lord’s Body rested in the tomb and also His Resurrection, on the seventh as expressing eternal repose, and on the thirtieth in imitation of mourning of Moses by the Hebrews.
In the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, these three Masses are votive of the third class, so they can be celebrated on fourth or third class days according to the rubrics (rubric 415). The computation of these days, however, is a bit complicated. In this regard, the 1959 edition of Matters Liturgical gives the following:
In computing the day of the Mass, one must count three or seven or thirty days exactly. This count, however, may be made either from day of death or from the day of burial; in either case the day of death or the day of burial may be either included or excluded. Consistency is not required in computing all these privileged days for the same person; thus the 3rd day may be computed from the day of burial exclusively, the 7th day from the day of burial inclusively, and the 30th day from the day of death either inclusively or exclusively. One may have these privileged Masses said on all three days or on one or two of them only; all three Masses may be said for one and the same person, not only in one church or oratory, but in more than one. It should, however, be noted that only the first 30th day is privileged. (294.d)
It is fitting that during this month dedicated the Holy Souls that the Faithful be urged, when preparing the funeral rites of a loved one, or even for oneself (if plans are being made in advance), to see if this ancient tradition of celebrating Masses for the departed on the third, seventh, and thirtieth days can be arranged as well, so that this venerable tradition may continue, and the souls for whom these Masses are offered receive the associated spiritual assistance.
Fr. Wiliam Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.
- See, for example, Appendix II of Neale, J. M.’s The Liturgies of the Saints (Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2002) and the Old Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Prayers for the Dead.”
- The translations of these orations are based on those presented in The Saint Andrew Daily Missal (St. Paul: The E. M. Lohmann Co., 1940), p.  and The Roman Catholic Daily Missal (Kansas City: Angelus Press, 2004), pp. 1617-1618.
- Old Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Masses of Requiem.”
- Translated Texts for Historians, Volume 43 – Ambrose of Milan: Political Letters and Speeches. Trans. Liebeschuetz, J. H. W. G. with the assistance of Hill, Carole. (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2005), p. 178.
November 2, 2023
A Marine’s Mission: Phil’s Camino Pilgrimage
Every year, more than 400,000 pilgrims from around the world walk the Camino de Santiago—the Way of St. James—in Spain, hoping to encounter God in a new way. For U.S. Marine veteran Philip Webb, this trek is also a chance to raise money for a very worthy cause: FSSP Mission Tradition.
Webb, a retired machinist, begins his Camino pilgrimage on October 3 and plans to finish by November 10, the 248th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps.
“For me, the Camino walk is a fantastic opportunity to disconnect from the noise of the world,” said Webb. “It’s a chance to live each day by faith, not knowing what lies ahead on the trail. It’s also a way to draw attention to a very worthy cause. The priests of Mission Tradition do an excellent job of bringing the light of Christ to remote and often dangerous places. This draws me to their cause, and I’m happy to donate my efforts to them.”
Read more at FSSP Mission Tradition.
October 3, 2023
Our Lord’s Help and Ours
by Fr. William Rock, FSSP
“And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself” (Gen 2:18). While this verse from Genesis is familiar, there is a level of meaning which is missed in the English translation for the Hebrew word translated as “help” or “helper” (עֵזֶר / ‛ezer) can have a military or martial, warfighting, connotation.1 As such, it would not be much of a stretch to translate this passage as “let us make him a military ally like unto himself.”
God creates Eve, and, when He presents her to Adam, Adam says, “She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man” (Gen 2:23). In the original Hebrew, there is a play on the words “man” and “woman” (מאישׁ / ‘ish and אשׁה / ‘ishah respectively), similar to that in English. When St. Jerome translated this passage from Hebrew into Latin, he ensured this play was retained. The usual Latin words for “woman” are femina and mulier, but here Jerome used the word virago, to play off the Latin word for man, vir – “man” and “woman,” vir and virago. Happily, the word virago’s normal meaning is “warlike or heroic woman, a heroine, a heroic maiden.” So, God created Eve, this heroic maiden, to be the helpmate, the military ally, to Adam. Why? Because they were set in Eden not just to enjoy it, but, as Scripture says, to “dress it, and to keep it” (Gen 2:15). Adam and Eve were placed there to take care of the plants, but also to keep the Garden, to keep it from evil, to keep out the evil of the fallen angels and their own personal evil.
Unfortunately for us and for them, Adam and his military helpmate failed in this, let in the evil, were stripped of all their supernatural and preternatural gifts, and were exiled from the Garden. Worse still, heaven was closed to them, and their nature was wounded by sin. But as dark as this seems, all was not lost, for a second Adam came to the fight, Christ Our Lord (1 Cor 15:45). And just like the first Adam, this second Adam would have His helpmate, His military alley, His Eve – and this second Eve is, according to the testimony of the Fathers, the Blessed Virgin Mary.2 The Blessed Virgin, the promised woman who crushes the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15), strove in union with Our Lord for our salvation as she stood at the foot of the Cross. The Church recognizes that Our Lady is a heroic maiden in the praise offered to her – “Who is this, beautiful as a dove, like a rose planted by the brooks of water? It is the mighty Virgin, like the tower of David; a thousand bucklers hang upon it, all the armour of valiant men.”3
But Our Lady’s mission as a military ally did not end with her Son’s Ascension or her own Assumption. As Our Lord was hanging upon the Cross, He addressed His Mother, calling her “woman” (Joh 19:26) – no doubt a reference back to the passage in Genesis where Jerome introduces to us the heroic maiden – and gave her to all of us, in the person of St. John, as an adopted Mother, yes, but also as a military ally for our battles, and not just us individually, but also the Church as a whole.
Not only does Mary enter into the battle with us and for us, but she has entrusted us with a powerful weapon by which we can call upon her aid and strive against our foes. The Rosary – in more or less its present form – was, according to pious tradition, given by Our Lady to St. Dominic as the tool for defeating the Albigensian heresy.4 This was by no means, however, the last time Our Lady would procure victory through the pious use of her Rosary.
On the First Sunday in October – October 7, 1571 – the Christian fleet, commanded by Don Juan of Austria, engaged the Turkish fleet in the Gulf of Lepanto. The Christian victory – which preserved Christendom from a Turkish sea-invasion – was in large part due to the prayers of the Rosary confraternities. In thanksgiving and in commemoration of this victory, Pope St. Pius V established the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. “His successor, Gregory XIII, altered this title to Our Lady of the Rosary, and appointed the first Sunday of October for the new feast,” the same day of the month as the naval victory.5 “In 1716, Clement XI inscribed the feast of the Rosary on the universal calendar, in gratitude for the victory gained by Prince Eugene”6 over the Turks. More recently, the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary was moved to October 7, the calendar date of the battle of Lepanto, but an External Solemnity of Our Lady of the Rosary may still be celebrated on the First Sunday of October.
As we read in the Book of Job, “the life of man upon earth is a warfare” (7:1) but we are not without allies. Our Lady is the military ally par excellence given to us by Our Lord, and she is more than ready to enter into battle with and for us, not just against political and ecclesial enemies such as naval fleets and heresies, but also against our personal enemies of the world, the flesh, and the devil. But if we want her to be with us in the combat, we need to call upon her. And we do this by praying to her and especially by using the weapon she herself gave us, her holy Rosary. Let us then, in this month of the Holy Rosary, commit ourselves to call upon Mary to aid us in our struggles against our enemies, personal, political, social, and ecclesial. And let us respond to her request given at Fatima to pray five mysteries of the Rosary daily. If we are already in the habit of doing this, let us try to pray more fervently. If we are not in this habit, let us take up the practice, if only for this month.
Our Lady of Victory, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!
Fr. William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.
- “The Hebrew ‘ezer kenegdo (King James Version ‘help”) is notoriously difficult to translate. The second term means ‘alongside him,’ ‘opposite him,’ ‘a counterpart to him.’ ‘Help’ is too weak because it suggests a merely auxiliary function, whereas ‘ezer [עֵזֶר] elsewhere connotes active intervention on behalf of someone, especially in military contexts, as often in Psalms.” – Alter, Robert. The Hebrew Bible – A Translation with Commentary. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018), Commentary on Gen 2:18.
- First and Second Antiphons at Vespers of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (Beatæ Mariæ Virginis a Rosario). Translation taken from The Divinum Officium Project.
- Pitre, Brant. Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary – Unveiling the Mother of the Messiah. (New York: Image Press, 2018), pp. 33-35.
- Guéranger, Prosper. The Liturgical Year, vol. 14 (Time after Pentecost Book V). Trans. The Benedictines of Stanbrook Abbey. (Fitzwilliam: Loreto Publications, 2000), p. 296.
- Ibid., p. 297.
- Ibid, p. 298.
October 1, 2023
Pray for Fr. James Buckley, FSSP
Please pray for Fr. James Buckley, FSSP. Father has been experiencing health problems over the past few months which have recently worsened and are compounded by his advanced age. Father has been with the Fraternity of St. Peter for thirty years.
September 14, 2023
“Forget not the Groanings of thy Mother”
by Fr. William Rock, FSSP
In a previous article it was related that the 40 days between the Feast of the Transfiguration and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross represent, through the lens of Our Lord’s Resurrection, a recapitulation of the 40 of Days of Lent with the Feast of the Exaltation being a recapitulated Good Friday. This all being the case, it is not unreasonable to ask if there is, following this recapitulated Good Friday on September 14th, a recapitulated Holy Saturday on the following day, September 15th.
Holy Saturday, for its part, marks the day when Our Lord’s Body rested in the tomb and His soul abided in the Limbo of the Fathers. It was also on this day that only Our Lady, of all of His disciples, kept faith in her Son. On this point, in his entry for Holy Saturday, Dom Guéranger wrote the following:
And now let us visit the holy Mother, who has passed the night in Jerusalem, going over, in saddest memory, the scenes she has witnessed. Her Jesus has been a victim to every possible insult and cruelty; He has been crucified; His precious Blood has flowed in torrents from those five Wounds; He is dead, and now lies buried in yonder tomb, as though He were but a mere man, yea the most abject of men. How many tears have fallen, during these long hours, from the eyes of the daughter of David!…Mary alone lives in expectation of His triumph. In her was verified that expression of the Holy Ghost, where, speaking of the valiant woman, He says: “Her lamp shall not be put out in the night” (Prov. xxxi. 18). Her courage fails not, because she knows that the sepulchre must yield up its Dead, and her Jesus will rise again to life. St. Paul tells us that our religion is vain, unless we have faith in the mystery of our Lord’s Resurrection: where was this faith on the day after our Lord’s death? As it was her chaste womb that had held within it Him whom heaven and earth cannot contain, so, on this day, by her firm and unwavering faith, she resumes within her single self the whole Church. How sacred is this Saturday, which, notwithstanding all its sadness, is such a day of glory to the Mother of Jesus! It is on this account that the Church has consecrated to Mary the Saturday of every week.1
Providentially, the day following the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a feast of Our Lady, a feast whose object is the sufferings of the Mother of God, including those she experienced during the Passion of her Son – the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As with the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, this September Feast of the Seven Sorrows2 can be seen as a recapitulation, through the lens of Our Lord’s Resurrection, of what was observed during Holy Week.
But this September Feast of the Seven Sorrows serves another purpose. On the 8th of September, Holy Mother Church celebrates the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The September feast of the Seven Sorrows falls on the Octave Day of Our Lady’s Nativity. So not only can the September Feast of the Seven Sorrows be seen as a recapitulated Holy Saturday, it is also connected with the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady.
As such, it can be argued that there is a fittingness to having this Feast on the Octave Day of Our Lady’s Nativity. The Octave Day of Our Lord’s Nativity marks Our Lord’s Circumcision, when He first shed His Blood for us and received His Name, which means “Savior” or “the Lord saves.”
In the 1957 translation of the Raccolta – a book which is a collection of the various prayers which were then indulgenced – is found the meanings the Church has recognized in these two interrelated events – Our Lord’s Circumcision and the conferral of His Name – on the Octave Day of His Nativity. She expresses herself as follows: “Jesus, sweetest Child, wounded after eight days in Thy circumcision, called by the glorious Name of Jesus, and at once by Thy Name and by Thy Blood foreshown as the Savior of the world, have mercy on us.”3
Just as the events which occurred eight days after Our Lord’s birth foreshadowed, at least in part, His mission, it is fitting that there be a feast around the birth of Our Lady which expresses the same on her behalf. There cannot be a complete unity of expression between Our Lord and Our Lady on these points as Jewish baby girls do not undergo the rite of Circumcision on the 8th day after their birth. But having a feast on the Octave Day of her Nativity which touches on the newborn Queen’s future sufferings mirrors well the feast on the Octave Day of her Son’s Nativity which touches on His future sufferings. For just as Our Lord was predestined to be the Man of Sorrows, so was Our Lady predestined to be Our Lady of Sorrows. Even more, for, as the Church sings in the Communion for the feast of her sorrows, Our Lady merited the palm of Martyrdom as she stood at the foot of the Cross. She is rightly and properly titled, then, “the Queen of Martyrs.” Additionally, just as the Octave Day of Our Lord’s Nativity also commemorates Our Lord’s reception of His Name, so within the eight days of the Nativity of Our Lady, the Church keeps the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. This Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary falls on the 5th Day of the Nativity of Our Lady, that is September 12th.4 So not only does this time of the Liturgical Year provide the faithful a recapitulation of Lent, it also serves as a mirror of Our Lord’s Nativity through these feasts of Our Lady.
And just as Our Lord underwent His Passion and Death for our sake, so did Our Lady undergo her Sorrows for us also, the modes being different, of course. For we read in the Book of St. John’s Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation, “And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. And being with child, she cried travailing in birth: and was in pain to be delivered…And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her son was taken up to God and to his throne” (Apo 12:1-2, 5). While these verses can admit of various, non-contradictory interpretations, one interpretation understands this woman symbolizing Our Lady, and the child symbolizing Our Lord. After all, He is to “rule all nations” and was taken up to the Throne of God, being equal with God. But this leaves the issue of her “travailing in birth” and being “in pain to be delivered,” for Our Lady did not suffer any labor pains in the birth of Our Lord.5 So, the questions must be asked, for whom is she suffering these labor pains and what exactly are these pains?
To find an answer to these questions, it should be noted that what was quoted earlier as “and being with child” is more an interpretation than a literal translation. The Latin, following the Greek, is “et in utero habens,” literally, “having” or “holding in the womb.” The Greek and Latin do not specify how many children the woman is holding in her womb, just that she is expecting. Giving this text as “being with child” reflects what follows in the proximate verses, but this is perhaps too restrictive. As it will be explained shortly, the more vague, “holding in her womb,” conveys a deeper spiritual reality. Additionally, it should also be noted that what is translated as “was in pain” in the Greek (“βασανιζομενη”) comes from the word “to torture,” the Latin being “cruciatur,” literally meaning she is being crucified, tormented, tortured, in order that she may deliver. These are not normal labor pains.
A few verses later, St. John explains that the woman had other children, namely, those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (12:17). Surely, she held these other children in some way in her womb, in some way gave birth to them. And would not these “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” be all true Christians? Therefore, all true Christians are children of this woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, held in her womb in a certain manner and then born by her, in pains and sufferings which are compared to being tortured, being crucified. This reinforces the interpretation which says that at the Foot of the Cross, when Our Lord said to Our Lady and to St. John, “behold thy son…behold thy mother” (19:26-27), that Our Lord was giving His Mother as Mother to all of the Faithful in the person of St. John. It was not by accident that this occurred at the Foot of the Cross, for here she suffered, was crucified, tormented, tortured, in her Sorrows so that she might give supernatural life to us, her children, as a mother suffers for her natural children.
It is written in the book of Sirach, “forget not the groanings of thy mother” (7:29) which she suffered in giving you birth. If such is true regarding our natural mothers, how much more so should this apply regarding our Mother in the spiritual life, in the life of grace?
Fr. William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.
- Guéranger, Prosper. The Liturgical Year, vol. 6 (Passiontide and Holy Week). Trans. Shepherd, Laurence. (Fitzwilliam: Loreto Publications, 2000), pp. 547-9.
- The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary are also commemorated on the Friday of Passion Week, the Friday before Good Friday.
- The Raccolta. Trans. Christopher, Joseph P., Spence, Charles E., Rowan, John F. (Fitzwilliam: Loreto Publications, 2004 a reprint of Boston: Benzinger Brothers, Inc., 1957), p. 69 (126, V).
- Previously kept on the Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
- See Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Trans. Lynch Patrick. Edited by Bastible, James. Updated by Fastiggi, Robert. (Baronius Press, 2018), p. 222.
September 8, 2023
Video History of St. Vitus Church in Los Angeles
Seminarian Rev. Jacob Sievek has put together a wonderful video history of St. Vitus Church, an FSSP parish founded in San Fernando for the preservation and proliferation of the Latin Mass to the Los Angeles faithful. Watch the video below and check out the FSSP LA Youtube channel for more about the parish. Thank you Fr. Fryar for sharing this with us!
August 18, 2023
The Confraternity of St. Peter: Revisiting an Important Work
Behind every spiritual work, every growing apostolate, every deep conversion is prayer. Without prayer, nothing truly and eternally good ever happens. God has willed that many of the blessings He wishes to bestow upon His children be won for them by means of prayer.
And for the important work of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter it is no different. The Church has always understood this and that is why the heights of Catholic Culture were always built upon the strong foundation of contemplative prayer. Without that heart-to-heart conversation with God, there would be no soul to the apostolate.
The zeal of priests and laity alike fades over time if the fire of Divine Charity is not kept close to their hearts by prayer. Thus, the priests of the FSSP rely most upon the generous prayerful support of those many souls who daily lift them up in prayer into contact once again with the Most Sacred Heart of Our Beloved Savior and Eternal High Priest.
For any who value the work of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, there is a beautiful way to band together to support the priests and seminarians of the FSSP and it was established with Papal Approval more than 15 years ago. It is known as the Confraternity of St. Peter.
The Confraternity of St. Peter is a sodality of members who wish to unite themselves to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and aid in the work of our Fraternity, primarily by their prayers. Already the ranks of the Confraternity of St. Peter include those from all walks of life and every level of the hierarchy of the Church. Clerical or Lay, there are many who, although they may not even have been able to meet an FSSP priest in person, nevertheless generously participate in the apostolic labors of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter by their daily prayers and sacrifices.
What a magnificent way Our Lord established His Church and the economy of salvation! Even if one thinks one has nothing to give, there is this beautiful chance to be a part of the spiritual family that seeks to sanctify priests and people by means of the Traditional Roman Liturgy, Sacraments, and Breviary in full communion with the See of St. Peter.
What is the Confraternity of Saint Peter?
It is a society which gathers those who feel close to the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter and who wish to support its charism through prayers and sacrifices.
Thus, the Confraternity contributes to the service of the Church, through supporting numerous vocations, the sanctification of priests and their pastoral endeavors.
Members commit themselves to:
1. pray one decade of the holy rosary for the sanctification of our priests and for our priestly vocations
2. recite the Prayer of the Confraternity
Once a year:
3. have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered once for these intentions.
What spiritual benefit do members receive from the Confraternity?
Their commitments place the members among our most faithful benefactors, and as such, among the particular recipients of our priests’ and seminarians’ daily prayers.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered each month for the members of the Confraternity in each area. A project is under way to show members more of the fruits of their prayers.
How does one become a member?
1. Fill out an enrollment form at https://fssp.com/enroll-in-the-confraternity/
2. The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter will send to you in return the certificate of membership. The commitments take effect with the reception of the certificate.
3. Members must be Catholics who are at least 14 years of age.
4. Membership is purely spiritual and does not confer any rights or duties other than the spiritual support in prayer and charity in accord with the commitments described above.
5. By themselves the commitments do not bind under penalty of sin.
6. Membership and the commitments which follow it are tacitly renewed each year on the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter (February 22), unless expressly determined otherwise.
Daily Confraternity Prayer
Following a decade of the Rosary:
V. Remember, O Lord, Thy congregation.
R. Which Thou hast possessed from the beginning.
Let us pray.
O Lord Jesus, born to give testimony to the Truth, Thou who lovest unto the end those whom Thou hast chosen, kindly hear our prayers for our pastors.
Thou who knowest all things, knowest that they love Thee and can do all things in Thee who strengthenest them.
Sanctify them in Truth. Pour into them, we beseech Thee, the Spirit whom Thou didst give to Thy apostles, who would make them, in all things, like unto Thee.
Receive the homage of love which they offer up to Thee, who hast graciously received the threefold confession of Peter.
And so that a pure oblation may everywhere be offered without ceasing unto the Most Holy Trinity, graciously enrich their number and keep them in Thy love, who art one with the Father and the Holy Ghost, to whom be glory and honor forever.
Nihil obstat: Vic. Gen. FSSP, 05.II.2007
Imprimatur: Vic. Gen. Diœc. Laus. Gen. Frib., 28.II.2007
August 14, 2023
A Recapitulated Lent
by Fr. William Rock, FSSP
On the 6th day of August, Holy Mother Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration which is the second time in the liturgical year when this event of Our Lord’s life is made present to the faithful through the sacred signs of the Church’s liturgy and the infused virtue of Faith.
The first was the shared Gospel of the Ember Saturday and the Second Sunday of Lent. Historically, the Transfiguration occurred in the last year of Our Lord’s public ministry and before His final departure from Galilee for Judea and Jerusalem where He would suffer (see Mat 19:1). Our Lord, knowing that at Jerusalem He would undergo His Passion for the benefit of our salvation, took with Him up the mount where He was transfigured the same three Apostles who would be with Him during His Agony in the Garden – Peter, James, and John. As they would soon see Christ suffering in the Garden, Our Lord would give them a glimpse of His glory – a glory which He always has but which He hid so that He could suffer and die for us. This glimpse of His glory was to provide them with a reason not to despair or fear at the time of the Passion. This presentation of the Transfiguration at the start of Lent serves the same purpose for the Faithful as they prepare to celebrate the liturgical commemoration of the Lord’s Passion and Death. In this light, the placing of this commemoration of the Transfiguration near the beginning of Lent can be seen as thematically fitting.
As they were descending the mountain, Our Lord told those with Him: “Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of Man be risen from the dead” (Mat 17:9). As the August Feast of the Transfiguration will always occur after Easter, after the Feast of the Resurrection, it is, as it were, those Apostles making public to the Church, after the Son of Man rose from the dead, what they had witnessed before the Passion when Christ took them “up into a high mountain apart”(Mat 17:1).1 Unlike the commemoration of the Transfiguration at the beginning of Lent, where only the Gospel (and its commentaries in Matins) is concerned with the event, in the August Feast of the Transfiguration, everything in the liturgy manifests it. This difference between these two observances serves to indicate how one presents the not-yet-made-public event and the other the event as publicly proclaimed. There is a fittingness, then, to having these two commemorations of the Transfiguration in the course of the liturgical year.
In a previous article, it was remarked that the Church, at the conclusion of the Octave of Pentecost, seemed not quite ready to leave behind her the mysteries she had been celebrating and meditating upon during Holy Week. There were, it was observed, liturgical recapitulations where pre-Easter mysteries were revisited in light of the Lord’s Resurrection. Following the Pentecost Octave and Trinity Sunday, the Thursday of Corpus Christi recapitulated Holy Thursday and, an octave later, the Feast of the Sacred Heart recapitulated Good Friday. Something similar occurs with the August Feast of the Transfiguration.
There is a tradition which holds that the Transfiguration occurred 40 days before the Crucifixion.2 This being the case, the commemoration at the beginning of Lent is not just thematically fitting but also places this commemoration at nearly the proper historical distance from Good Friday.3 Lent, however, was considered an unfitting time for a festal celebration of the Transfiguration.4 And so, the Feast of the Transfiguration was fixed by counting back 40 days from the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, an older feast which is itself a recapitulated Good Friday, one even older than that of the Sacred Heart. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was originally instituted to commemorate the Finding of the True Cross and the Dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.5 If the Feast of the Exaltation is a recapitulated Good Friday, and the August Feast of the Transfiguration is seen as a recapitulation of the commemoration of the same at the beginning of Lent, then these 40 days between them serve as a recapitulated Lent.
The first encounter with the Transfiguration was near the start of the 40 days of Lent. Lent itself ended soon after the adoration of the Cross on Good Friday. Forty days after the August Feast of the Transfiguration, the Cross again becomes the focus of the Church’s attention. On Good Friday, the Cross was regarded as that on which Our Savior hung in agony and died for our sins – “Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the Savior of the world.” In September, unmixed with sorrow and horror, the Cross is exalted, held high as the banner of our salvation.
What has just been presented sheds light onto this time of the Church’s Liturgical Year. Looking at the Church’s calendar during this Time after Pentecost, it can seem that there is no order or structure to it. There are feasts and other liturgical days which, at first glance, seem simply to fill up the remaining time before Advent. But, by understanding the origins of the feasts, their connections with the celebration of the pre-Easter mysteries, and their connections with each other, a structure arises.
Such reflections will also reveal the Mind of the Church to her children, the Faithful, so that they can imitate her. Even now, in August and September, the Church keeps before her, and before her Faithful, the great price of redemption, the sufferings of Our Lord, with recapitulations of the Transfiguration, the 40 days of Lent, and Good Friday though viewed now in the light of the Resurrection. There can be the danger that the further the Faithful move away from Lent and Holy Week, what so impressed their minds then will begin to slip and grow dull. And, as these impressions and considerations grow dull, so too will the hearts which were aflame at Easter cool or even grow cold. By these post-Easter recapitulations, Holy Mother Church invites her children to renew in their minds the impressions made during Lent and Holy Week and enflame again their hearts.
May we all, then, follow this lead of Our Mother and prove ourselves true children of the Church, children after her own mind and heart.
Fr. William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.
- See Guéranger, Prosper.The Liturgical Year, vol. 13 (Time after Pentecost Book 4). Trans. The Benedictines of Stanbrook Abbey. (Fitzwilliam: Loreto Publications, 2000), p. 271-272.
- “Originally, the feast of the Transfiguration was observed in February [in the Byzantine tradition]. However, since this joyful feast fell during the time of the Great Fast [i.e., Lent], its celebration was not in keeping with the spirit of fasting and penance. Therefore, it was transferred to the 6th of August. Why this day? The historian Eusebius and St. John Damascene are of the opinion that the Lord’s Transfiguration took place forty days before the death of Christ. Thus holy Church, in keeping with this opinion, transferred this feast from the month of February to the 6th of August, because forty days later, September 14th, is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross – the commemoration of the passion and death of Christ.” – Katrij, Julian. A Byzantine Rite Liturgical Year. Trans. Wysochansky, Demetrius. (Detroit: Basilian Fathers Publication, 1983), p. 421. But there are other traditions regarding the historical date of the Transfiguration. Dom Guéranger (1) wrote, “more than one doctor of sacred rites [Sicard. Cremon. Mitrale, ix. 38; Beleth. Rationale, cxliv.; Durand. vii., xxii., etc.] affirms that” the Transfiguration occurred historically on August 6th. The Orthodox priest Thomas Hopko presents, in his The Orthodox Faith, Volume II-Worship, the Church Year, Transfiguration, that the Transfiguration historically “took place at the time of the Festival of Booths” (September-October). If one accept this position, one would have to take into account that Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths which occurred prior to the Passion (see John 7:1, 9-10) and this would have to be the one, in this dating, associated with the Transfiguration as the synoptic Gospels, which recount the Transfiguration, only detail about the last year of Our Lord’s public ministry, although a date of early August might not be out of bounds thus harmonizing these two other positions. The liturgical tradition of the Latin and Greek Churches, in first placing a commemoration of the Transfiguration in the February timeframe, either fixed or moveable, argues for the position of Eusebius and St. John Damascene (the Murbach Lectionary, the second oldest lectionary of the Roman Tradition [~ A.D. 800], attest to the pericope of the Transfiguration being read on Ember Saturday of Lent). However, a West Syriac Jacobite Lectionary (Sachau_322) attests that in this tradition the Transfiguration is named the “Feast of Tents [Booths]” while celebrating the feast on the 6th of August.
- From the Second Sunday of Lent to Good Friday there are, inclusively and counting Sundays, 34 days. From Ember Saturday of Lent to Good Friday there are, inclusively and counting Sundays, 35 days. 40 days prior to Good Friday, according to the same counting method, would be the Monday of the First Week of Lent. Why, then, is the Lenten commemoration of the Transfiguration not kept on the Monday of the First Week of Lent but rather on the Ember Saturday and Second Sunday of Lent? According to Sts. Matthew and Mark, the Transfiguration took place on a 7th day. According to St. Luke, it took place on an 8th day (see here, here, here, and here). There is an affinity, then, for celebrating the Transfiguration on a Saturday (the 7th Day) and/or on the Christian Sunday (the 8th Day).
- The commemoration of the Transfiguration at the beginning of Lent is not festal. As was stated above, only the Gospel (and the Matins commentaries) are concerned with this event and the liturgy of the day reflects the season of Lent.
- In the Roman Liturgy, the commemoration of the Finding of the Holy Cross became traditionally associated with May 3rd and the September 14th date with the recovery of the Relic of the True Cross by the Roman Emperor from the Persians.
August 6, 2023
Thank You! Ss. Peter and Paul 2023
July 20, 2023
The New Founders of Rome, Part 2: The Monuments
by Claudio Salvucci
Out of the thousands of modern tourists who flock to Rome yearly, it’s doubtful that any are there primarily to pay their respects to monuments of King Romulus or the god Quirinus.
There was actually a quite famous site associated with Romulus in antiquity: the Casa Romuli or “Hut of Romulus” at the southwest corner of the Palatine, which apparently consisted of a mud-and-straw peasant’s house that had been repeatedly damaged and rebuilt over the centuries. St. Jerome lived in sight of it during his time in Rome, but he thought very little of it and was more at home with the holy places of Bethlehem.
The Romulan legacy still endures in archaeology and myth, but his story is not the one whose monuments draw the crowds.
That distinction belongs to St. Peter and the Roman martyrs.
Tourism to Rome’s Christian sites can be traced back to the second century. Gaius, a local priest who flourished around the year 200, tells us the following, in a quote that was preserved by Eusebius:
“But I can show the trophies of the apostles. For if you will go to the Vatican or to the Ostian way, you will find the trophies of those who laid the foundations of this church.”
“Trophies” here is not like a modern athletic trophy but is a translation of the Greek word tropaion, a victory monument. And in fact, the monument Gaius spoke of, lost to the eyes of men for centuries, was rediscovered during the archaeological excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica in the 1940s.
The Liber Pontificalis, an ancient chronicle of the Popes, contains additional information. It states that the second and third Popes, St. Linus and St. Cletus, were both “buried near the body of blessed Peter in the Batican”. Furthermore, it states that the third Pope, Anencletus:
built and adorned the sepuchral monument of the blessed Peter, forasmuch as he had been made priest by the blessed Peter, and other places of sepulchre for the burial of bishops. There he himself was buried near the body of the blessed Peter, July 13.
We are not certain of the reliability of this information, mainly because the extant sources differ on whether Popes Cletus and Anencletus are two separate people or the same person. Moreover, the excavations have not turned up evidence for a sepulchral monument built during the years given for Anencletus: A.D. 84-95.
What archaeology has confirmed, however, is that 1st-century and 2nd-century graves surrounded Peter’s own grave, as if the deceased had wanted to be buried as close to the original grave as possible. Then, around the years 150-165, as determined by dateable bricks found at the site, Gaius’s tropaion was built at the site. As it happens, the Pope reigning from 157-168 was named Anicetus–so some scholars are convinced the Liber Pontificalis got the facts right but transcribed the name of the Pope wrong.
In any case, historical documents and archaeology both point to the fact that Peter’s grave was remembered and honored continually, starting from his earliest successors in the first century, and continuing into the middle of the second century when Christians first built a small monument over the grave.
But note: the sanctity of the site was such that even as subsequent Emperors and Pontiffs added to the majesty of the memorial, they shied away from destroying the work of their predecessors, instead tending to simply add to what was there already. Grave beside grave, tropaion above grave, memorial around tropaion, altar atop memorial, and finally altar atop altar.
The great Constantinian basilica that was built to honor Peter’s grave was precisely engineered over the existing tropaion–a project that required massive construction work, including leveling the natural hill and some of the necropolis that had grown up around the site. Constantine’s basilica, regrettably, is no more, but it stood for over a thousand years, and only when it was crumbling and beyond repair was an even larger and more magnificent basilica built around it.
This “new” basilica is the St. Peter’s that we know today.
And during that building process five centuries ago, the Popes created a new body called the Reverenda Fabrica Sancti Petri, the Factory of St. Peter, to manage the construction, maintenance, and decoration of the building as well as the tomb of the Apostle.
This organization is still plugging away at that task today, with no end in sight. So much so that the modern Romans have an expression “com’a fabrica de San Pietro”–“like the Factory of St. Peter”–for an interminable task that is perennially under construction and never actually finished.
As such the Basilica Sancti Petri may well serve as a metaphor for the whole church militant here on earth–still carefully guarding the Apostolic legacy it received during its earliest days, and still being built slowly and laboriously by human hands.
But still–what humanity can do with its own hands is limited. Even monuments solidly built and carefully tended still degrade and decay. Moreover, a stone monument can only remind us of ones who once walked on the earth–it is an inferior and inanimate remembrance of a living human soul.
A far better tribute would be to elevate a living person into a higher level of being. Something greater than he was. Something supernatural.
This even the pagans knew, which is why the Romans deified their first founder.
Yet they hardly expected to share his fate. Deification was a singular privilege of Romulus’s status as a demi-god and his foundation of Rome. His wife Hersilia was allowed to share his singular privilege; but that was as far as it went. As Augustine pointed out (see Part I for the quote), not even Romulus’s brother and co-founder Remus was deified.
Ordinary, mortal Romans were at best destined for the Limbo-like pleasantries of Elysium rather than experiencing any kind of transformation by the divine nature that the gods enjoyed.
Their second founder, however, taught to them a new and quite different doctrine, received directly from the lips of a Divinity:
Simon Peter, servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained equal faith with us in the justice of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace be accomplished in the knowledge of God and of Christ Jesus our Lord: As all things of his divine power which appertain to life and godliness, are given us, through the knowledge of him who hath called us by his own proper glory and virtue. By whom he hath given us most great and precious promises: that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature: flying the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the world.
Through Christ it is not just Rome’s founder, but the Roman people themselves–all the Roman people–who are invited to partake in the divine nature. Not just Peter, but Agnes, Cecilia, Frances, and all the saints whom we honor at our altars in addition to myriads we have never even heard of.
In the eyes of eternity, and of the faithful who visit the city, these are all a part of Rome’s truest and greatest tropaion, and a more permanent memorial than a few marble columns and slabs beneath the Vatican.
July 14, 2023