Saturday, 28 March 2009

Lent IV

As Lent turns into Passiontide, the Catholic mind turns more intensely to thoughts of the Cross, to Christ Crucified and to His Sorrowing Mother. The hymn Stabat Mater Dolorosa sets this theme.

It is ascribed popularly to the Franciscan Jacopone di Todi, but is also ascribed by Pope Benedict XIV, with a wealth of scholarship, to Pope Innocent III. It was only in the year 1727 that it entered the Roman Liturgy, being assigned to the feast of the Seven Dolours of Our Lady, on the Friday after Passion Sunday (and before Palm Sunday!).

I have searched in vain for the chant version, so familiar from traditional renditions of the Stations of the Cross, but it it not to be found on Youtube or This happy fault forces us to look at the rich inspiriation that the Church's Liturgy has provided for composers of every age.

First in time, of the three examples here is that of Fr. Antonio Vivaldi, composed about 1727, the same year that it was introduced to the Roman Missal, probably for the girls of the Pio Ospedale della Pieta, or State Orphanage of Venice, where he had been on the staff until 1711. The composition is divided into eight sections. The melodies of sections 1 to 3 are repeated in sections 4 to 6. Only the first 10 stanzas of the hymn are used.

The second is the Stabat Mater of the short-lived Giovanni Battista Pergolesi composed in 1736. The German poet German poet Tieck once wrote: "I had to turn away to hide my tears, especially at the place, 'Vidit suum dulcem natum'" in speaking of this setting. The melodies have given rise to some criticism because they were thought to be too cheerful. Of particular note is the line: 'dum e-mi-sit' in that it is marked to be sung intermittently to create a musical picture of the last breaths of Our Lord on the Cross. This device has been copied by other composers.

Finally, we will consider the Stabat Mater of Giacomo Rossini, written in 1832 and revised in 1841. The composition was not intended for liturgical use. It is essentially a performance piece. However, despite the obvious operatic tendencies, this seems not to have been Rossini's intention. Writing of his Petite Messe, he says that his sacred works come of a real religious feeling: "Here it is then, this poor little Mass. Have I written truly sacred music, or just bad music? I was born for opera buffa, as You well know. Not much skill, but quite a bit of feeling - that's how I'd sum it up. Blessed be Thy name, and grant me a place in Paradise".

While the sensuality of the composition has often been regarded as unsuitable for the sanctity of the theme, Rossini's defenders, who included Fr. Taunton, one of Cardinal Manning's Oblates of St. Charles, have said: "critics who judge it harshly, and dilettanti who can listen to it unmoved . . . must either be case-hardened by pedantry, or destitute of all 'ear for music'".

Mother of Sorrows, pray for us!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Feast of Our Lady in Spring

Today is known in the Irish Language as Lá Fhéile Muire san Earrach (the Feast Day of Our Lady in Spring) or Lá Theachtaireacht an Aingil (the Day of the Coming of the Angel).

The unequalled love of the Gaelic Race for the Mother of God is woven into the very words of everyday language. Even as the Anglophone will speak of Mary-down-the-street and Mary-the-Ever-Virgin-Mother-of-God by means of the same word, the Gael will call his neighbour Máire and the Immaculate Queen of Heaven Muire.

The Mother of God was a practical part of everyday life, as shown in the traditional Gaelic Milking Song or Cronan Bleoghan:

Thig, a Mhuire, ’s bligh a bhó,
Thig, a Bhride, ’s comraig í,
Thig, a Choluim-chille chaoimh,

’S iadh do dhá laimh mo m’ bhóin.

Thig, a Mhuire, dh’ fhios mo bhó,
Thig, a Bhride, mhór na loin,

Thig, a bhanachaig Íosa Críost,
’S cur do lámh a níos fo m’ bhóin.

This roughly translates as:

Come, O Mary, and milk my cow,
Come, St. Brigid, and attend her,
Come, St. Columba, the kind one,
And in thy two hands cradle my cow.

Come, O Mary, to meet my cow,
Come, St. Brigid, great of beauty,
Come, O milking woman of Jesus Christ,
And put thy hand beneath my cow.

*The image of the Annunciation on this post is the Cestello Annunciation on tempera by Sandro Botticelli c. 1490 in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Pilgrimage to Kilcock

A spring mist still clung to the village of Kilcock as 39 members and friends of St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association came together for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated in the Gregorian Rite in honour of the Holy Year of Saint Paul by Revd. Fr. David Jones, D.D. They received the warmest of welcomes from the Parish Priest and his staff.

St. Coca (orse Ercnait), foundress of Kilcock, whose feast is 6th June, was the sister of St. Kevin of Glendalough. The Beautiful Church of St. Coca was built in 1867. Its 131 feet of length beheld, for the first time in 40 years, the Rite of Mass for which it was constructed. Sensitive 'reordering' permitted the Gregorian Rite to be celebrated again on the main Altar of the Church.

The next pilgrimage in honour of the Holy Year of St. Paul will be to the Church of the Assumption, Vicarstown, Co. Laois, Ireland, on Saturday, 25th April, 2009.
The Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin has announced that the next Latin Mass in Newbridge will take place on 19th April and not on the second Sunday, which is usual.

St. Coca of Kilcock, pray for us!

St. Senchel of Clane and Killeigh

St. Sinell, or Senchell, one of the most distinguished ecclesiastics of his time, founded a Monastery of Killeigh at the beginning of the sixth century. This monastery became afterwards known as the Priory of the Holy Cross of Canons Regular of St. Augustine. St. Senchell, who is stated to have been St. Patrick’s first convert, was the son of Kennfinnain, and grandson of Inchad, or Finchada, of the royal blood of Leinster (Colgan, Trias. Thaum.) The father of the saint was ninth in descent from Cathair Mor, monarch of Ireland. In both the Martyrology of Tallaght and the Feiliré, St. Aengus notes the 5th of April as the Feast of the first Baptism conferred by St. Patrick in Ireland: —“Baptisma Patricii venit ad Hiberniam.” (Mart. Tall.)

“Excellent Patrick’s baptism was kindled in Ireland.” (Feiliré.) On this latter the gloss in the Leabhar Breac adds, “i. Smell, son of Finchad of the Ui-Garrchon, he is the first person Patrick baptised in Ireland.” It is related that St. Ailbe, of Emly, presented him a cell, in which he had himself lived for some time, at Cluain Damh (now Clane, County Kildare). We find St. Senchell afterwards at Killeigh, where he founded a monastery, which in course of time became very celebrated. In order to distinguish him from another St. Senchell, a relative of his, who lived with him at Killeigh (and who is styled Bishop in the litany of St. Aengus), he is usually called senior.

Having lived to a good old age, he died on the 26th of March, AD 549, in his monastery at Killeigh, and was interred there. Petrie states that St Kieran and the two Senchells died of the Plague which raged in 549.

In the litany of St. Aengus Ceile De, written in AD. 799, we have evidence of the celebrity and holiness to which this religious establishment had attained. “Thrice fifty holy bishops with twelve pilgrims, under Senchell the elder, a priest; Senchell the younger, a bishop; and the twelve bishops who settled ia Cill Achaidh Dromfota in Hy Failghi. These are the names of the bishops of Cill Achaidh: —Three Budocis, three Canocis, Morgini, six Vedgonis, six Beaunis, six Bibis, nine Glonalis, nine Ercocinis, nine Grucimnis, twelve Uennocis, twelve Contumanis, twelve Onocis, Senchilli, Britanus from Britain, Cerrui, from Armenia. All these I invoke unto my aid through Jesus Christ.” And again: —“ The twelve Conchennaighi, with the two Senchells in Cill Achaidh, I invoke unto my aid through Jesus Christ.” (IE. Record, May, 1867.) The learned editor of this litany (which he copied from a MS. in the archives of St. Isidore’s at Rome), in a note on the eight monastic rules of the early Irish Saints extant, writes as follows “We may add that we have ourselves discovered another, some-what different from these, in the St. Isidore MS. from which this litany is published, and we regret that want of space alone prevents us from laying it before our readers. It is entitled— The Pious Rules and Practices of the School of Senchil. This was Senchil, surnamed the Elder. The Rules and Practices are 38 in number. When we say that an ardent desire of hearing, and offering up the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and frequent confession were amongst the rules and practices of a school which was celebrated in the first half of the sixth century, we have said enough to prove under what system of education Ireland became ‘another name for piety, and learning in most of the languages of Europe.”

The Irish Annalists relate that in the year 1163 “Glendalough was burned with the house of Kieran, the house of Kevin, and the Church of the two Senchells.” Commenting on this passage, Petrie writes “I am disposed to conclude that the unnamed Church to the S. of St. Kevin’s house (at Glendalough) is that called by the Annalists “The Regles of the two Senchells.’ I may add that we may infer, with every appearance of probability, that all these buildings were of contemporaneous age, and that, if not erected by the persons whose names they bore, those called after St. Kieran and the two Senchells were erected by St. Kevin in their honour, as, though they were all contemporaneous, and Kevin was the dearest friend of Kieran of Clonmacnoise, he survived both him and the Senchells more than sixty years, having lived, according to Tighernagh, to the extraordinary age of 129.” (Petrie’s Round Towers, p. 436.)


AD. 548. St. Senchell the Elder, son of Ceanannan, Abbot of Cill-Achaidh-Droma-foda, died on the 26th day of March. Thirty and three hundred years was the length of his life. (Four Masters.) Colgan (AL SS., p. 747), thinks this number should be one hundred and thirty. In the Mart. Tal. we find at 26th March, “Sinchelli, Abb. Chilli Achaidh; and at 25th June, “Sinchell Cilli Achaidh.” The former refers to St. Senchell, Senior, the latter to St. Senchell, Junior.

The Feiliré makes the 26th of March the “Feast of the two perennial Sinchells of vast Cill Achid;” to which entry the gloss in the Leabhar Breac adds

“Three hundred years—fine satisfaction! That was (the elder) Siachelfs lifetimeAnd thrice ten years brightlyWithout sin, without sloth.”

26 March. Sincheall, Abbot of Cill-achaidh-dromfota, i.e., the old Sincheall. It was of him this character was given after his death: -

“The men of heaven, the men of earth,
A surrounding host,
Thought that the day of judgment
Was the Death of Seancheall.

There came not, there will not come from Adam,
One more austere, more strict in piety;
There came not, there will not come, all say it,
Another Saint more welcome to the men of heaven.”— (The Martyrology of Donegal)

From Dr. Comerford's Collections relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin

St. Senchel of Clane and Killeigh, pray for us!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Son of Saint Louis...

As reported, His Royal Highness the Grand Duke of Luxembourg has refused to give his assent to a law legalising euthanasia in the predominantly Catholic Grand Duchy, which now has the dubious distinction of being the third European Country, after the Netherlands and Belgium, to do so.

However, the 'Christian' 'Democrat' Government has decided not to permit the Grand Duke's conscience to prevent the legalised murder of the old.

Rather than adhere to the Constitution of the Grand Duchy, which required the Grand Duke to assent to laws passed by parliament before they came into force, they have decided to change Article 34 of that Constitution, stripping His Royal Highness of that function. His Royal Highness will now be required to promulgate laws, even if they are repugnant to his own conscience .

His Royal Highness' paternal Grand Aunt, the Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde was forced to abdicate in 1919 for having defended the rights of the Church in education, after which she entered a Convent for the remainder of her life. His Royal Highness' maternal Uncle, Baudoin, King of the Belgians, was forced to abdicate in 1990 rather than sign a law legalising abortion in Belgium.

St. Joseph, Patron of the Dying, pray for Luxembourg and its Grand Duke!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Saint Patrick's Day

Most glorious Saint Patrick, Bishop and Confessor, chosen by the Almighty to be the Apostle of Ireland, we, the children of those to whom you preached the Faith of Christ, never to be renounced, hail you as the wonderful instrument of God’s mercy for the obtaining of our eternal salvation. Most glorious Apostle and Patron of our island, submit to the Almighty our every temporal and spiritual want, that through your intercession, we may be relieved, in all our necessities through life, and when called from this world to the glory of God, we may, to your honour, be found worthy of the Faith that is within us, and of eternal salvation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Let us, once again, pray for copyright holders!)

Monday, 16 March 2009

Holy Year for Priests

The Vatican Information Service states that, this morning, in the course of an address the members of the Congregation for the Clergy, the Holy Father announced: "In order to favour this tendency of priests towards spiritual perfection, upon which the effectiveness of their ministry principally depends, I have decided to call a special 'Year for Priests' which will run from 19 June 2009 to 19 June 2010". This year marks "the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly 'Cure of Ars', St. Jean Marie Vianney, a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock..."

St. Jean Marie Vianney, pray for our Priests!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Lent III

In 1350, Pope Clement VI determined that each of the four principal Marian Antiphons would be assigned, each to its own season. Two are very familiar to us, the Regina Caeli and the Salve Regina. Indeed, you would sometimes think that Pope Clement had assigned the Salve Regina to every Latin Mass in saecula saeculorum, in season and out of season.

However, the other two antiphons, both beautiful and beautifully short, are lost treasures for the great majority of Catholics and even the great majority of Catholics attached to the Gregorian Rite. The Alma Redemptoris Mater is assigned to Advent and Christmastide. The Ave Regina Caelorum is assigned to the time from after Purification until Holy Thursday. It is, in effect, the Marian Antiphon of Lent.

In this clip, the Antiphon is performed by Tien-Ming Pan, organist of St. Paul's Catholic Church, Taipei, upon the organ of Aletheia University, Taiwan. Once again, even this simple, short prayer to Our Lady displays the universality, both in time and space, of the Catholic Church and of devotion to the Mother of God. Henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed (Luke i:48).

Despite its relative hiddenness today, it is not difficult to find examples of settings of the Ave Regina Caelorum. Among the compositions by less well-known composers is that in the second clip by Jachet of Mantua. Jachet's religious works, almost the whole of his oeuvre, may be taken as a fair representation of the mind of the Fathers of the Council of Trent upon polyphonic Church music, especially the President of the Council, Ercole, Cardinal Gonzaga, scion of the great Ducal House of Manutua, Bishop of Mantua and Jachet's principal patron.

In the clip above is the setting by Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690), one of the maestri di capella of St. Mark's in Venice. His Ave Regina Caelorum, in the clip above, clearly displays the eastern idiom that was charasteristic of Venetian Church Music. That eastern or Byzantine influence is most obviously demonstrated in In Ecclesiis by Giovanni Gabrieli (1554-1612). The Gabrielis, uncle and nephew, are the most notable exponants of the Venetian School.

Johann Kasper Krell (1627-1693) was an influential, although now hardly known, Catholic organist and Baroque composer who served both the House of Habsburg (in Vienna and Brussels) and the House of Wittlesbach (in Munich). His Ave Regina Caelorum has the richness of the Baroque but with a sobriety suited to its devotional theme.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Let us pray for our Holy Father the Pope!

"I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics... thought they had to attack me with open hostility." Pope Benedict XVI, today, 12th March, 2009, Feast of St. Gregory the Great.

Dominus conservet eum,
et vivificet eum,
et beatum faciat eum in terra,
et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius. (Ps. xl:3)

"Pro cuius amore in eius eloquio nec mihi parco" St. Gregory the Great

Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of the Catholic Church

This morning, the Holy See issued a letter from His Holiness the Pope to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre.

Some extracts:

"I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility."

"The Church’s teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 – this must be quite clear to the Society [of St. Pius X]. But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life."

""Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another." [Galatians 5:13-15] I am always tempted to see these words as another of the rhetorical excesses which we occasionally find in Saint Paul. To some extent that may also be the case. But sad to say, this "biting and devouring" also exists in the Church today, as expression of a poorly understood freedom. Should we be surprised that we too are no better than the Galatians?"

Long live the Shepherd of the Flock! Long live the Pope of Rome!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Saint Colman's Society for Catholic Liturgy

Saint Colman's Society for Catholic Liturgy, established in 2007, organisers of an excellent International Liturgical Conference last July, have launched a new website.

Their first International Liturgical Conference had the theme: Benedict XVI and The Sacred Liturgy. In their own words: "St. Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy encourages and promotes among its members full active and conscious participation in Catholic Liturgy in accordance with the authentic tradition of the Church especially as expressed in Sacrosanctum Concilium and subsequent liturgical legislation."

The Felire of St. Aengus names two Sts. Colman on 24th November. He of Cloyne is Colman MacLenine. He is described thus:

Mac Lenine the most excellent
With Colman of Duth-chuilleann.

O'Cleary's Calendar gives the following entry for St. Colman for 24th November: "Colman Mac Lenine of Cluain Uamahd in Ui Leathan in Munster of the race of Oilioll Olum son of Mogha Nuadhat or of the race of Lughaidh Lagha his brother was this Colman."

The great Irish Ecclesiastical historian Colgan cites St. Colman's Latin style in the metrical life of St. Senan: "Hujus vitae fragmentum stylo vetusto et pereleganti Patrie sermone conscriptae habitur in predicto Codice Vitae S Sinani Domini Gulielmi Derodani in Lagenia." A Latin poem on St. Brendan is also attributed to St. Colman.

St. Colman's Society for Catholic Liturgy are to be congratulated upon their new website. All Catholics are to be encouraged to take a greater interest in their activities. St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association wishes them the choicest blessings for the future.

St. Colman of Cloyne, pray for us!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Sixth Monthly Mass in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin

Fr. Simon Leworthy, FSSP, returned to Ireland to celebrate the Sixth of their Monthly Masses in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. A congregation that came close to two dozen was also in attendance (even without taking into account the members of the Parish Staff in the Sacristy), an increase of 150% on last month.

Although last month's congregation was the smallest so far and this month's congregation failed to exceed the previous all-time low of December, the average monthly attendance is a creditable 29. While the local attendance remains steady, people travelled in, this month, from as far away as Kilkenny, as well as the usual contingent from Dublin, to increase numbers.

Both in the notices and in his sermon, Fr. Leworthy asked for prayers for a Fr. Brady who is ill.

Fr. Leworthy also announced that there would be no Latin Mass on the second Sunday in April due to his being committed elsewhere on that Sunday, which is Easter Sunday, and he was unable to announce any resheduled dates.

It is worth remarking that both Chalice Veil and Maniple were in evidence at Mass today. The congregation was invited to tea and biscuits after Mass immediately through the glass door just to the left of the Tabernacle.