Tuesday, May 31

Make Your Own Bad Church Music

(1) Pick an innane gerund. Capitalize it.
(ex: sending --> The Sending)

(2) Fish around for a theological concept you don't really understand. It won't matter that you don't really understand it, because we'll be ignoring its precise meaning, anyway.
(ex: The Great Commission)

(3) For the tune, take a folk song from a Catholic country, but insure you pick one of the few folk songs that are not actually religious. Irish drinking songs work best.
(But, I'll use "Row your boat")

(4) Slow the melody and boost all the notes an octave, to ensure that no man would ever want to--or be able to--sing your new song.

(5) Make the afore-mentioned gerund sound like it is the very reason God has created us. Do not mention God any more directly than that. Instead, capitalize words such as "Justice," "Peace," etc. Refer to Heaven in the form of banal promises.

(6) Add exclamation marks.

Made for the Sending
Out to all the world!
Peace and Justice,
Rest for men,
Out to all the world!

Ooops -- one more change: the awkward excising of masculine pronouns.

Made for the Sending
Out to all the world!
Peace and Justice,
Rest for them,
Out to all the world!


"Lord, we just, we just
thank you for this food and we, we ask you to bless it and to bless our fellowship here today..."

The most obvious fact which presents itself when Baptists or Free-Churchers insist on "spontaneous" (as opposed to memorized) prayer is that their "spontaneous" prayers are always the freakin' same, except that not everyone can take part and it comes out choppy.

But I recently had the occasion to hear a "extemporaneous" dinner prayer, and I was struck by a bigger, more interesting question: Many Protestants aren't keen on blessing much in particular, like the aforementioned Baptists and Free-Churchers. But we all know they bless food.

So why stop there? Why to they only bless food?

Is there any good theological reason that they see a huge difference between blessing food before you use it as opposed to, say, a car or a church before you use it? Or do they just not realize what they're doing when they bless food, that they are blessing physical objects as such?

Or would it just be too painful to sit through a extemporaneous church dedication?

Monday, May 30

The Finnish Catholic Church?

Rumor has it that the Finnish Lutheran Church would like to be... Catholic. That is, if by rumor, I mean "speech by the presiding bishop of the Finnish Lutheran Church at the Eucharistic Congress in Bari, Italy."

After explaining that Martin Luther did not want to found a new church but simply renew it, the bishop said, "We Finnish Lutherans wish to be part of the Catholic Church of Christ."

Given that Sunday is the theme of the Eucharistic Congress, the Lutheran said that one cannot live "without the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, without Christ and without God."

"Sunday is the day of Christ's resurrection" and "the Eucharist is the sacrament of the real presence of Christ," he said.


The Lutheran Church of Finland is quite interesting. Its English site has a Latin edition of the official catechism issued in 1999. I submit to you that there is only one audience in the world for which a Latin edition of a final catechism is prepared, and that audience was formerly headed by the current Roman Pontiff.

Finland bills itself as "the most Lutheran country in the world." Imagine the effects of its union with Rome--the goodwill it would show the world.

Even more interesting, Finnish interest in union with Rome comes as the Lutheran Church there is GROWING, and is not (as one sometimes suspects with talks of Anglican union with Rome) the result of ecclesial rot or theological disinterest. The afore-mentioned Lutheran homepage reports that Finland saw a REVERSE in secularism during the 1990's:
edition of their 1999 catechism.

The Finns’ confidence in the church increased substantially in the 1990s. While 32% of the Finns expressed confidence in the church in 1990, no fewer than 57% did so in 2000.
The majority of the Finns regard the Church as necessary, honest, competent and reliable. Many negative perceptions lost their edge during the late 1990s. The most significant change was that by the end of the 1990s only 35% of Finns saw the Church as old-fashioned, while in the mid-1990s this view had been held by 51%.
About half the Finns (47%) say that they believe in God as taught by Christianity. The proportion of those believing in God as taught by Christianity increased significantly over the 1990s. In 1991, only a third of the Finns said that they held such beliefs.

A recent report on church architecture at the same site uses the word "altar" exclusively, and references paintings of the suffering of Christ, Crucifixes, and the Stations of the Cross as standard components of Finnish churches.

Nonetheless, the Lutheran Church is still quite Lutheran:

Accordingly the Church confesses the Christian faith, which is based solely on the Bible. The faith is expressed in the three ecumenical creeds which date from the Early Church, i.e. the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. The confession of the Evangelical Lutheran Church is explained by the Augsburg Confession (1530) and the other Lutheran confessions.

The Church teaches that Christ is present in his Church through the agency of the Word and sacraments. Christ by his grace gives free salvation to all who believe in him. There are two sacraments - baptism and Holy Communion.

All very interesting, at least.

Friday, May 27

New movie based on the true story of a priest imprisoned in Dachau during World War II: The Ninth Day. Sounds intriguing. Anyone seen it?
Celebrating Corpus Christi, Brompton-style: Sackbutt sighting at the London Oratory! I'm in heaven just thinking about it!

Thursday, May 26

This is funny.

Wednesday, May 25


Catholic Schools and Virtue

A British article observes the effects of Christian schools:

"Boys at private Anglican and Catholic schools are more likely to oppose sex before marriage and be less tolerant of pornography."

"They are also less likely to feel depressed or consider suicide, according to a survey of 13,000 teenagers by Professor Leslie J Francis from the University of Wales, Bangor."

Not that there's any CONNECTION, or anything...

read more

Tuesday, May 24


Side Altars Today: Restoring A Lost Balance

With a renewed appreciation of traditional architecture, there is often (though not always) a return to the installation of side altars: side altars are beneficial to the of hierarchy and design integral to traditional ecclesiastical architecture. However, this is not a “good enough” reason: “the merely decorative erection of several altars in a church must be entirely avoided.”[1] In light of the great lengths which have been taken to soundly demonstrate the legitimacy of their construction, and with deference to liturgical law, a more coherent and motivational impetus for the recovery of the side altar is absolutely necessary.

Once again, recall the stark division between popular piety and the liturgical life of the Church which was bemoaned at the commencement of this consideration. Indeed, it is not uncommon for some liturgists to remark that popular piety “indicates a deficiency in the Liturgy.” The side altar offers a proven solution to this division.

The Second Vatican Council declared that the “sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church.”[2] Additionally, the Church must also preach Faith and penance, prepare faithful for sacraments, teach, and encourage works of charity, piety, and apostolate. Speaking of these works of piety, the Council continues, “the popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended… These devotions should be so drawn up that… accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them.”[3] In other words, popular devotions are not contrary to the Liturgy, but serve the Liturgy. If such is the case, popular piety must be consummated in the Sacred Liturgy of the Mass, “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed and the font from which all her power flows.”[4] Such a liturgical consummation of popular piety is precisely the reason that liturgical feasts honor the Saints, the dead, devotions to Mary (such as Fatima and Lourdes), the Sacred Heart, and Holy Name.

Liturgical feasts alone, however, have not been sufficient to attain the synthesis of popular piety and liturgy which the Church once enjoyed. The side altar’s importance, then, is to be a synthesis of liturgy and devotion. When a priest celebrates a Mass without a congregation on a side altar in a public church, he can no longer be accused of making the Mass into a private devotion—the celebration is no longer “private”! When the highest form of intercessory prayer is publicly acknowledged, through the dedication and use of side altars, to be the celebration of the Mass for a particular intention, the liturgy becomes immediately more relevant to the lives of many who may not have connected their private worries and prayers with the Church’s public, perhaps aesthetically impersonal, liturgy. When devotion to the Holy Souls culminates in the Sacrifice of the Mass, not only is the proper place of indulgences relative to the Mass emphasized, but this doctrine no longer remains the private reserve of a few educated Catholics; further, when aligned with Liturgy, aberrations in devotion to the Holy Souls are more easily avoided. When the highest act of praying, petitioning, or thanking a saint necessarily occurs within the context of the Liturgy and liturgical furnishings such as the altar, devotion to the saint necessarily becomes Christocentric. The communion of saints is therefore highlighted not as the personal occupation of a few dedicated faithful, but instead as a real and public exchange in which the entire Church is involved. Any particular devotion, when contextualized by the side altar, is much more naturally seen to flow from and return to the liturgical life of the Church.

The earliest houses of worship had a single altar, and the primary importance of that major altar has remained through Christianity. Nonetheless, as priestly piety, intercessory prayer, devotion to the Holy Souls, and the cult of the saints all found their culmination in the celebration of the liturgy, the construction of additional minor altars became necessary. The post-conciliar Church has witnessed a stunning separation of these forms of piety from the liturgy; in fact, they no longer constitute an important part of the spiritual lives of many, many Catholics. New liturgical norms have made the construction of side altars more difficult, wrongly giving many the impression that the construction of side altars has in fact been forbidden. Despite these difficulties, however, a recovery of side altars and their use is necessary to work towards a restoration of appropriate balance between popular devotion and liturgy. As a recent pilgrim notd, “The memory and emotions of praying at the altar of St. Elizabeth Ann
Seton will remain with me forever." Our Churches should be so lucky as to enkindle such Liturgically-centered, Christocentric Devotion


Popular devotion…which is properly contextualized and Christocentric,

which proceeds from the liturgy and culminates in the liturgy, which follows the vision of Vatican II,

which belongs to the organic tradition of Christian practice and architecture,

... looks like this:

... not like this:


[1] Ceremonial of Bishops, “Dedication of an Altar,” para. 7

[2] Sacrosanctum Concilium, para. 9

[3] Sacrosanctum Concilium, para. 13

[4] Sacrosanctum Concilium, para. 10

Monday, May 23


The latest fruit of my journeys through the Raccolta:
Belli tumultus ingruit: A hymn to rival "Long Live the Pope"
(from the Raccolta, #466)

Wars and tumults fill the earth,
men the fear of God despise;
retribution, vengeance, wrath
brood upon the angry skies.

Holy Pius, Pope sublime!
Whom, in this most evil time,
Whom, of Saints in bliss, can we
Better call to aid than thee?

None more mightily than thou
Hath, by deed or word,
Through the spacious earth below,
Spread the glory of the Lord.

Holy Pius...

Thine it was, O Pontiff brave!
Pontiff of eternal Rome!
From barbaric yoke to save
Terror-striken Christendom.

Holy Pius...

When Lepanto's gulf beheld,
Strewn upon its waters fair,
Turkey's countless navy yield
To the power of thy prayer.

Holy Pius...

Who meanwhile with prophet's eye,
Didst the distant battle see,
And announce to standers-by
That same moment's victory.

Holy Pius...

Mightier now and glorified,
Hear the suppliant cry we pour;
Crush rebellion's haughty pride:
Quell the din of rising war.

Holy Pius...

At thy prayers may golden peace
Down to earth descend again;
License, discord, trouble cease;
Justice, truth, and order reign.

Holy Pius...

To the Lord of endless days,
One Almighty Trinity,
Sempiternal glory, praise,
Honor, might, and blessing be. Amen.

Saturday, May 21

A Few More Contributions to the "That Would Make a Good Band Name" List

Funny Narthex
The Boy Bishops
Vanilla Timex
Pretzel Amy
Vatican Armadillo
Illegal Operation and the CD Burners
Artichoke Dip
Blogging Molly
Parallel Lobster Universe
Mobutu Sese Seiko
Dried Plums Are Our Speciality
Lebanese Chocolate Fairy
Clogging Polly
Tilting at Windmills
Thriller Prune
The Masters of Turkish Music
Flavius Josephus and the Screaming Mimis
Bring Me the Saddle Shoes of Woody Allen
The Misinterpreter
Armenians Bearing Accordions
The Levantine Flu
Gender Dysphoria Squirrels
Bowling for Hollandaise
Riboflavius Josephus
The Big Mamou
Paul and Alison Gross
Hat Masterson
Minton and the Groomsmen
Sid and His Marching Flutophones
March of the Pink Garage-Doors
A Child's Christmas in Luang Prabang
The Port Moresby Bingo Cooperative
Roselind and the Antipodes
Ralph Kramden and the New York Port Authority
Saul Bello Gallico
The Mint Jam Incident
Stunt Comedians
The Blueberry Pancake Collective

...awright, enough for now.

Friday, May 20

Head-scratching Item

I was flipping channels and just saw a promo for a showing of The Thorn Birds. I can't remember the details but I remember someone once told me it was about about a priest who has an affair with a woman in colonial Australia. Or something like that. Scandalous small potatoes for TV today, you'd think. But it was going to be run on the Hallmark channel.


I mean, Hallmark?

Obviously folks in broadcasting and myself have slightly different definitions of the term "family entertainment."

Side Altars Continued:
New Liturgical Norms: Can Side Altars be Built?

The disappearance of side altars should not be attributed solely to the fading of the factors which led to their development, however. Perhaps the primary impediment to the continued construction of new side altars, and even the retention of old altars, is the widespread impression that current liturgical law—quite apart from discouraging their construction—out rightly prohibits the construction of side altars. The bishops’ conference of the United States, in their non-binding document on ecclesiastical architecture Built of Living Stones, states that, as “the altar is the center of the thanksgiving that the Eucharist accomplishes… [i]n new churches there is to be only one altar.”[1]

The 1983 Code of Canon Law does not address the number of altars which a church can, should, cannot, or should not have. The Code says simply that it is “desirable to have a fixed altar in every church” and that “fixed altars must be dedicated… according to the rites prescribed in the liturgical books.”[2] The preface to the current rite of dedication of an altar states that “in new churches it is better to erect only one altar so that in the one assembly of the Church of God the single altar signifies the one savior Jesus Christ.”[3] If another side altar is constructed, it should be erected in a chapel “somewhat separated if possible from the body of the church.” In so far as this statement questions the wisdom of the tradition of the Church, this author questions the wisdom of this statement: it lacks confidence in the ability of the altar maius to be sufficiently distinguished from minor altars to preserve its symbolism, whereas for a millennium the Church had full confidence in this provision. However, the current ritual is simply restating the mind of the Church at the time it was written, as expressed in the 1975 Roman Missal: “minor altars should be fewer in number… In new churches they should be placed in chapels separated in some way from the body of the church.”[4] Both the Missal and the rite of dedication, however, spoke in suggestive—rather than descriptive—language.

Subsequent revision of the Roman Missal has shifted the language on altars. Where the former instructions had made a distinction between major and minor altar, the 2002 edition of the General Instructions makes no mention of the altare maius and altaria minora. The instructions speak only of having “a fixed altar in every church” which “should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people.”[5] Paragraph 303 begins, “in building new churches, it is preferable to erect a single altar which in the gathering of the faithful will signify the one Christ and the one Eucharist of the Church.”
It appears then, to be referring to the altare maius as simply “the altar”; in this way, there is neither implication that other altars ought or ought not to exist, reflecting the great flexibility of the Roman Rite. Just as current liturgical guidelines only discuss the church building only in terms of communal liturgy, without touching upon (but also without forbidding) the church building’s role as a place for private prayer, a civic focal point, or its many other functions, so also current liturgical norms only refer to the primary or major altar without commenting on the existence of additional altars.

The second half of paragraph 303 seems to confirm the intuition that the current instructions insistence on a single altar refers only to what would formerly have been designated the “major” altar:
In already existing churches, however, when the old altar is positioned so that it makes the people's participation difficult but cannot be moved without damage to its artistic value, another fixed altar, of artistic merit and duly dedicated, should be erected and sacred rites celebrated on it alone. In order not to distract the attention of the faithful from the new altar, the old altar should not be decorated in any special way.
Note that, in speaking of old churches, only the old altare maius is mentioned, and it is referred to simply as altare in the Latin.[6] The obvious multiplicity of minor altars in the vast majority of older churches is simply not addressed: the law’s concern is to prevent the duplication of two (major) altars within new churches and to regulate the duplication of (major) altars in existing churches where new, free-standing altars have been constructed. The symbolism of one altar is clearly endangered by the presence of two altars in the center of the church building: the law intends to address this duplication.[7]

Liturgical law does clearly state that when a new side altar is to be erected, “statues and pictures of saints may not be placed above the altar.” [8] Msgr. Peter Elliot,[9] a commentator on liturgical law and rubrics praised by Vatican officials for his faithfulness “to the authorities and official sources,”[10] states that “obviously, this need not preclude a reredos or window depicting events from the life of that saint.”[11] Indeed, in this sense there is continuity between the changes in art made by Trent and the changes in art made by the post-Conciliar documents of Vatican II. Pre-Tridentine art often depicted the saints as solitary figures, isolated from the reality of their earthly lives.[12] In response to Trent’s canons on art,[13] pictures placed above Reformation side altars moved sharply away from simple depictions of a solitary, decontextualized individual, instead showing almost exclusively saints within the context of scenes from their lives. This method of depiction in liturgical art seems to have prevailed until the rise of neo-Gothic architecture in the 19th century. Msgr. Elliot thus interprets current liturgical norms as a call to recapture the Tridentine manner of depicting saints in the altarpieces.[14]

[1] Built of Living Stones, 56
[2] 1983 Code of Canon Law, #1235 & 1237
[3] 1989 Roman Pontifical, Dedication of an Altar para. 7
[4] 1975 General Instructions of the Roman Missal #267
[5] 2002 General Instructions of the Roman Missal #298, 299
[6] http://www.binetti.ru/collectio/
[7] Exhibits 10, 11, 12, & 13
[8] Ceremonial of Bishops, “Dedication of an Altar,” para. 10.
[9] Who takes for granted that the construction of new side altars in a church is completely legitimate,
Cf. Msgr. Peter Elliot. Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995) p. 31
[10] Msgr. Peter Elliot. Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995) p. xiv
[11] Msgr. Peter Elliot. Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995) p. 31
[12] Exhibit 14
[13] Rev. H.J. Schroeder, OP. The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. (Rockford, IL: TAN, 1978). p. 215-217
[14] Msgr. Elliot comments that the norm about placing images of a saint above an altar was “apparently to avoid the impression that Mass is offered to the saint.” This norm, insofar as it interrupts the classical practice of the cult of the saints in order to justify lax catechesis, or even the potential for lax catechesis, is extremely unfortunate. In his Apostolic Letter Vicesimus Quintus Annus, John Paul II states, “popular piety can neither be ignored nor treated with indifference or disrespect because of its richness and because in itself it represents a religious attitude in relation to God. However, it has to be continually evangelized, so that the faith which it expresses may become more mature and authentic.” Should this norm be interpreted so strictly as to forbid even altarpieces depicting scenes from the lives of the saints, it would be a defeat for the Church’s commitment to evangelizing—rather than abandoning—popular piety.
Two good friends of mine are very big fans of The Mask of Zorro, and I, of course, enjoyed both that fine bit of popcorn cinema and the original Zorro, The Mark of Zorro with Tyrone Power. (One of these friends, who refuses to watch black-and-white films considers this a mere prefigurement of the true Zorro, Antonio Banderas). That being said, I'm wondering what they'll make of this website, which claims the real Zorro was...yes...Irish.

Well, I've heard stranger things. Some of the details don't quite compute and the timeframe is a little off, but I suppose it's possible.

Thursday, May 19


One of the many fruits hoped for from our Eucharistic Procession was the affirmation of Notre Dame's Catholicity to the wider public. We at the Shrine are absolutely sick of hearing that Notre Dame is "no longer a Catholic institution," because that is so completely at variance with our lived experience of the University.

So right here you can witness our procession bearing witness to Notre Dame. Now, that's a happy sight.

We Called It Long Ago

First there was Society of Pius X...
Then, there was Society of Pius V...
Now, via Amy Welborn, Society of Pius I!

Wednesday, May 18


Side Altars as the Liturgical Consummation of Popular Piety
Part II: Their Decline in the Post-Conciliar Age

The other day I posted about liturgical consummation of side altars. After the stress of college graduation (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) is over, I'm going to continue posting the rest of that paper.

Thank you all for your thoughts on the matter. After discussing simply their history in the last post, we saw how a few factors lead to their development and increase. We will now consider how each of these factors has declined in the post-Conciliar Church of the last 40 years, and with their decline, there has also been a decline in the number of side altars.

As the document quoted at the beginning of the present consideration detailed, following the Second Vatican Council there was—in some areas—a collapse in many forms of popular piety. Each of the forms of devotion listed above (private Masses, the Mass as intercessory prayer, devotion to the Holy Souls, relics, and devotion to the Saints, especially through the Mass) which served as factors in the construction of side altars has been muted or fallen out of practice to some degree in the last forty years.

Though an increase in the number of priests coupled with a decrease in the practice of concelebration had served as an impetus to side altars, the number of priests as a percentage of the Catholic population has declined significantly. Since 1980, the number of priests has declined more than 25% even as the Catholic population has continued to increase.[1] Further, the Second Vatican Council allowed for a revival of concelebration on regular basis, “at conventual Mass, and at the principal Mass in churches when the needs of the faithful do not require that all priests available should celebrate individually.”[2] Simultaneously, pressure from some liturgists and theologians attempted to discredit the value of Mass without a congregation; some American liturgical groups even petitioned Rome to ban “private Masses” as recently as the late 1990’s.

The legitimacy of Masses without a congregation, however, has been definitively restated by all post-conciliar editions of the General Instructions of the Roman Missal, which have included a chapter on the manner of celebrating such Masses. Nonetheless, side altars for the celebration of private Masses have often been removed from churches. Occasionally, new altars have been constructed in separate rooms to accommodate these private Masses “out of sight” of the general Catholic population, which is often surprised that Masses without a congregation are still celebrated.

The Mass as a form of intercessory prayer has declined significantly in recent times. The exact reasons for this decline, whether due to a secularization of the laity, disapproval by some clergy, or simply a disconnect which prevents laity from approaching clergy to request Masses be said for a given cause, are unknown. Whatever the reason, “recent years have seen an increasing dearth of requests for the celebration of Masses in Western society, and even the Holy See has felt the pinch.” [3] It is hoped that “among the fruits hoped for from the current Year of the Eucharist is a renewed faith in the Mass as intercession and a consequent return in the faithful to the practice of asking for the celebration of Mass for specific intentions.” Nonetheless, Masses requested on a regular basis as a form of intercessory prayer are no longer exerting the pressure for an increased number of celebrations (and therefore an increased number of altars upon which to celebrate) which they once did.

Masses requested on behalf of the Holy Souls have also decreased. While the new Code of Canon Law incorporated a lengthy section regulating pious foundations, there can be no doubt that both the awareness and the actual practice of creating such Mass foundations (much less constructing altars upon which the Masses might be said) has drastically dissipated in comparison with earlier epochs; indeed, similar practices are often discouraged.[4] While current liturgical guidelines affirm that “the Church offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice of Christ’s Passover for the dead,” it nonetheless calls for the use of Masses for the Dead “in moderation, since every Mass is offered for both the living and the dead, and there is a commemoration of the dead in the Eucharistic Prayer.”[5] Guidelines published in 1975, however, called on the priest to “use Masses for the dead sparingly.”[6] But even more influential in the decline of Masses said for the repose of the dead is the fall from favor which the doctrine of purgatory suffered during the 1970’s, and a lack catechesis on the subject which continues to be widespread even today.

Use of the side altar as a shrine for prayer to particular Saints is perhaps the practice least disturbed by the changes of the last few decades. In fact, in practice, most existing side altars “serve as shrines for popular devotion.”[7] As long as such shrines exist, the psychology of the faithful will naturally gravitate towards them as centers of devotion to the Saints they depict. However, the connection between the side altar and popular devotion to Saints in new churches is seriously under fire in various ways. Under current liturgical law, the very construction of true side altars with images of the saints seems to the vast majority of ecclesiastics, architects, and liturgical design consultants to be forbidden. Further, the rites for the dedication of an altar no longer contain any reference to titling altars after a given saint.[8] Current liturgical law permits that “in places where altars are customarily dedicated to God in honor of the saints, the practice may be continued,” but no where within the rite of dedication is name of the saint in whose honor the altar is dedicated ever mentioned.[9]

Lost by most faithful is the conception of celebrating Mass or receiving communion at side altars erected in honor of a Saint. The practice is remembered and continued by some; the St. Jude Legacy club of Chicago, Ill., for example, offers to remember all members, on the 28th of each month, “in a Mass celebrated at the altar of St. Jude in the Vatican.”[10] A general survey of younger American Catholics, however, will doubtless result primarily in confused looks. The practice of thanking and petitioning Saints through the Eucharistic Sacrifice having dwindled, the demand for such altars has also waned.

The decline of all of these factors, combined with the interpretation of post-conciliar liturgical legislation, has therefore lead to the disappearance of side altars. In some cases, these altars have been torn out of old, even ancient, structures.[11] In other cases, where new buildings have been constructed according to traditional forms, places in which side altars might normally be found have been left empty, or filled with a simple statue.[12] Or, in churches of a more contemporary style, no place for side altars even remains.[13]

[2] Sacrosanctum Concilium, 57

[4] The author’s great-grandmother recently passed away, yet when he approached an elderly priest to offer the traditional “Gregorian” series of thirty Masses for the repose of her soul, the author was strongly discouraged from pursuing such a request “which belongs to a past age.”

[5] 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal, para. 379 & 355

[6] 1975 General Instruction of the Roman Missal, para. 316

[7] Msgr. Peter Elliot. Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995) p. 31

[8] Roman Pontifical, Dedication of an Altar para. 48

[9] Ceremonial of Bishops, para. 251

[10] Rev. Bede Jagoe, O.P., ed. St. Jude Chronicle. (Chicago: The Domincans, March 2001).

[11] Exhibit 7

[12] Exhibit 8

[13] Exhibit 9

The Ring of St. Joseph

I was reading the 1964 Roman Ritual (why shouldn't I be?) availible online at EWTN when I came across (under the heading of "blessings formerly reserved to religious congregations") the blessing for the Ring of St. Joseph. If you Google that phrase, only the EWTN Roman Ritual and the Shrine itself appear as results.

It sounds potentially cool. BUT WHAT THE HECK IS IT?

Tuesday, May 17


Myself: And what's the deal with the Count? You know, on Sesamee Street? What does a blood-sucking incarnation of evil have to do with counting numbers?
Joseph: He's not a blood-sucking vampire, he's a counting vampire.
Myself: What do you mean?
Joseph: Instead of sucking blood, he counts. Counting is like eating.
Myself: Uh huh. Where does the thunderclap come into this?
Joseph: Oh, you see, that seals the deal. Otherwise it doesn't take.
Myself: And if there's no thunder?
Joseph: He keeps on counting.
Another Meme

This one's from Lauren of Cnytr, and since she's requested a royal command performance, I'm happy to oblige...

Total Number of Books I’ve Owned: Probably between 500 and 700, I would think; given many of these belong properly to my parents and were subsequently “borrowed” and never returned, the figure gets a little bit sticky. Here in South Bend I have at least 130, I should think, and at home I have a whole wall of shelves and that still doesn’t fit all of them. Unlike Zadok, I will not attempt to be ashamed.

Last Book I Bought: A history of the invention of Meissen porcelain entitled The Arcanum. Before that, it was a book on the origins and development of the Papal intelligence service called Spies in the Vatican and a Terry Prachett paperback. These were all on a gift card, so before that, the last book I actually bought was a travelogue-cum-history of the Turkish hat-making industry named A Fez of the Heart (seriously) which had followed on the heels of The Devil in the White City.

Last Book I Read: It’s difficult to define this, considering I am usually reading any number of things at once. The last book I finished was probably Terry Prachett’s The Truth and before that, an entry in Alexander McCall Smith’s Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Egelfeld series, At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances. As of today I’m reading three books, The Arcanum, Spies in the Vatican and a different Terry Prachett novel, Carpe Jugulum. This is omitting coffee-table books like the tomes on heraldry, Piedmontese architecture and Sicilian baroque churches that I have been paging through intermittently lately.

Five Books that Mean a Lot to Me: Picking favorites is very difficult for me, especially with books. Often sensing the physical existence of a book may be an emotional experience for me--taking it off the shelf and sensing its peculiar potentiality, of future enjoyment. And a payoff that sometimes never happens. I’ve gotten excited this way over all sorts of random things, some of which were great, others less so. For example--Silverberg’s history of the Prester John myth (uneven), Neil Gaiman’s charming Neverwhere, a revisionist fantasy set in the London underground (fun); a translation of Petrarch’s Canzoniere (stale, oh-so-modern renditions of old faves); Gibson and Sterling’s steampunk epic The Difference Engine (fun, but too clever for its own good); and just about every gimmicky paperback mystery ever written. Amid these trials and errors, a few classics remain:

1. Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man by Chesterton. I may be cheating by including these together in one entry, but to me they have always felt like one great book tracing the Christian’s journey through conversion and then through salvation history. Chesterton, for the longest time, was the biggest hero in my literary pantheon and still today his shadow looms large enough. Now, a little older and wiser, I look on his writing with a slightly more critical eye, but the magic still remains. I’ve read these two books so many times and taken away something different—and complementary—every time: a tapestried wealth of beautiful description; an economy of beautiful language strategically applied; the unexpected beauty and wonderful strangeness of Christianity; the unexpected rationality and straightforward logic of Christianity; and all and none of the above all at once.

2. Story of a Soul by St. Teresa of Liseaux. Unlike the other books on this list, I’ve only read it once, but it was the right book at the right time. Those of us who are just plain complicated like me rather than complex like Aquinas sometimes have to go back to the source and learn to trust God like a little child, an art that the Little Flower raised to a level of complex beauty that would have made Aquinas smile in wonder.

3. Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. (Foucault the nineteenth-century scientist, not Foucault the twentieth-century degenerate). This bloated, highly intellectual conspiracy novel about a band of crackpot editors who discover a seven-hundred-year-old Templar plot to take over the world (Dan Brown wishes he had this man’s brains) may seem like a surprising choice to some of those who know me. Or maybe it makes perfect sense. I’m not sure the book is really that profound, but it provided me with so much of my mental furniture (Templars, the Grail, alchemy, cryptography, the seamy underside of the Enlightenment, the Comte de Saint-Germain, and my loathing of the Freemasons) and gave me so many diversions during my teenage years, it’s hard to ignore on a list like this. Like Chesterton’s work, I’ve read this book at least twice straight through and at least two times in random chunks, and each time I’ve picked up a new facet of Eco’s strange adventure through the back-alleys of the last five centuries of Western history. I’ve read it and found out about the serpentine turnings of the early Rosicrucians; I’ve read it and found out why kooks are happy to believe that oligarchs in smoky rooms control the universe and yet prefer to deny God; I’ve read it and thought about how symbols work; I’ve read it and found out about spiritual knighthood (sort of); I’ve read it and found out that a culture built on reason alone breeds superstition. I’m not sure anyone else would have found those meanings there, but I’m glad I did. It’s an acquired taste, I think.

4.The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges. The blind Argentine Borges is one of those writers I love, though sometimes he tries my patience with his existential shell-games. (A good chunk of the time, I love to fall for his paranormal pranks, hook, line and sinker). In the case of The Book of Imaginary Beings, his playful flair for the esoteric comes to the surface without his other attendant manias about mirrors, doubles and darkness. In this bestiary of literary chimeras, we learn of the Mermecolion, born of a Greco-Jewish biblical mistranslation; Swedenborgian angels and demons (Joseph Smith had nothing on Emmanuel Swedenborg); beautiful sylphs; Origen’s glorified spherical bodies and Kafka’s Odradek. It’s a book which is a pleasure to read, in true Borgesian fashion, out-of-order, and a book I could see myself writing, and enjoying it to boot.

5.The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis. Of all the books written about the Middle Ages, this is by far the one that best grasps the medieval “project” by picturing the marvelous world they saw themselves inhabiting. The rational Aristotelian universe of crystal spheres, moved by the love of God, was the universe of Dante and Boethius, St. Gregory and St. Francis. The medieval world is a beautiful world, a humane and colorful world gilded and gaudy as a re-painted Gothic cathedral: unlike our confused and arcane (and, I admit, rather exciting, in a Valentinian sort of way) cosmology of ten-dimensional string and dark matter. Of course, it has the disadvantage of not strictly being true, but it’s nice to think about it, and anyway, it’s also important to remember that the medievals thought this stuff through instead of assuming they imagined the world was flat and that God lived in a local cardboard heaven about ten miles off the surface like something out of a manuscript illumination. Never underestimate the medievals. Or I will send Aquinas to your house and he will sit in your living room and make your guests feel uncomfortable until you agree.

Tag five people and tell them to do this on their blog. Well, I’d like to see some of my other Whapster friends do this, but I’d also enjoy hearing from Fr. Jim, the Old Oligarch, Eve Tushnet, young Master Cusack, and, seconding Zadok’s motion, Meredith of Christendom.
I just discovered, in an inspired bout of time-wasting, that imdb.com has entries for the various international (per)mutations of Sesamee Street. Germany has Sesamstraße with characters named Zauberer Pepe, Flaschengeist, Schnorsch, Samson the Bear (maybe a relative of St. Corbinian), Opa Brass, Hexe Mümü (which sounds like some sort of Icelandic hemorrhoid cream), Mehmet (so I guess Vienna did fall in 1683), the spectacularly-named Sherlock Humbug, and someone named Schlemihl. Wait, wasn't he in The Tales of Hoffmann?

And, of course, the Krümelmonster, whom I hope has not yet been force-fed carrots by order of the steel-toed goody-two-shoes in Berlin.

The list of names just gets more and more...peculiar, at least from my own rube North American perspective. Funga Funga and Garibaldo the Bird at Brazil's Vila Sésamo; the Lebanese Iftah ya Simsim with Nim-Nim, Fil-Fil and Guy Smiley (you didn't know he was Lebanese, did you? Him and Danny Thomas); the Dutch Sesamstraat's Téévéé Monster (sounds like a Hopi katchina), Doctor Nobelprijs, Koekiemonster (well, duh...just so long as he doesn't crave anything else in Amsterdam) and Marga Praatgraag; Takalani Sesame, produced in Sotho, Zulu and Afrikaans; and then there's Moshe Ufnik and Kipi ben Kipod on Israel's Rechov Sumsum.

That being said, the true prize-winner has to be a character on the cast list of Spain's Barrio Sésamo named Don Pimpón. I don't care what it means, that doesn't sound good in any language.

Monday, May 16

Tiara alert!

If one scrolls through the Yahoo.com slide show of the latest photos of Benedict XVI, there are some clear images of tapestries showing the papal coat of arms with the tiara. While this is to some degree a case of cut-and-paste with a previously-established tapestry pattern, this still shows that the Pontiff is not wholly getting rid of the tiara symbolism.
Liturgical Nuttiness!

From the Nov. 1967 issue of "Liturgical Arts," dedicated to "A Chapel on the Moon."

Excepts from The Moon People's Liturgy
By which author Constance Parvey meant "the most banal aspects of contemporary socialist Sweden," or, "What happens if I suck all remnants of Christ and masculinity from religion."

There is an old saying on earth which goes, "He has no more need for religion than the man in the moon." Like many folk phrases, it embodies some prophecy and some truth. For here we are, one hundred years in the moon and it is certainly true that we have no need for religion. From what I hear about earth, your religion is still one of fear and holding back--afraid of men with other political points of view, afraid of people in other social groups, *afraid of your growing population*, and mos of all afraid of yourselves...

I live in Atreus, near the Lake of Imbrium. We live far below the moon's surface in a man-made cave...

We don't have "religion" in earth's sense. There are no religious schools, no membership roles, and not even many of what you call clergy...

We Chrisitans don't have a special group any more--but everyone meets together on Sundays for a common meal with a group of neighbors and friends... We call this meal a "meal of thanks." It is a time when we think about and sometimes say in public what we are thankful for. It is strange how we can almost read each others' minds on these occasions, because in the process of this meal somehow all the petty grievances, the hurts and injustices come out. Since we are not afraid of ourselves or each other anymore, it is quite easy for us to speak about what is truly on our minds and some how through this miracle of communication, the wounds are bound and we are wedded to a new level of neighborhood and of personal presence fo one another...

I am sure that you are wondering why I have not mentioned Christ in all this because I have heard that Christ is a very important symbol for you... Christ is so real to us that in the mention of any person's name, His name is mentioned. There is no recognition of another person without simultaneous recognition of that this 'other' is also Christ's. He is such a Real Presence that His name as such is rarely mentioned...

The word [liturgy] actually refers to something like "public works"... Our main liturgical actions togetherare to give thanks and to break the bread of life together. By the way, bread here is used in place of your word 'food.' We call everyhing that gives life 'bread.' We of course dance and sing, perhaps someone does a drama drawn from from the experience of the past week... We also spend a lot of time... sharing our inner-most thoughts through creative writing...

You must feel from all I've said that we are very self-satisfied. In a way we are, but in another way we are not. We would like the people on earth to be able to live the way we do... We could send missions... but we are afraid that these would turn into false ways which would not bring about deep internal changes. So, we have decided just to BE, and to be HERE...

Thursday, May 12

Protecting the Church from the Scum of the Universe

Is there some aspect of his previous career that His Holiness isn't telling us about?

Wednesday, May 11


Once again, proof that being around Benedict makes you happy: Dr. Ingrid Stampa, the Pope's right-hand woman, from the Proud to be a Papist Blog.
Selections from Irvingite Liturgical Offices, printed in The Liturgy, And other Divine Offices of The Church. London: H.J. Glaisher, 55 and 57 Widmore Street, W.1., London, 1925.

Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His holy place, even the glory of the Lord out of His sanctuary.

~Introductory Sentence from the Order for the Administration of the Holy Communion [sic] after Morning Prayer.

O Holy Ghost, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasure of Good, Giver of Life; Visit us, we beseech Thee, with the fulness [sic] of Thy grace. Thou that hast sanctified these gifts, sanctify us also, even our whole body, soul and spirit, that we may abide Thy temple and dwelling-place for ever.
R. Amen

~Prayer before the administration of Communion from the Order for the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

Almighty God, the Fountain of all wisdom, Who knowest our necessities before we ask, and our ignorance in asking, we beseech Thee to have compassion upon our infirmities; and that those things, which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask, vouchsafe to give us, for the worthiness of Thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

~Additional Collect for the Fore-Noon or Afternoon Service.

Almighty God, Who hast caused the hearts of Thy people to desire and long for the anointing of Thy Holy Spirit; Grant unto us, we beseech Thee, to be enriched with His manifold gifts, that, paintedly enduring through the darkness of this world, and filled with divine grace, we may be found shining brightly, like burning lamps, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, when He cometh in His kingdom: Hear us, we beseech Thee, for the sake of the same, our Mediator and Redeemer.
R. Amen.

~Collect, Evening Prayer for the Eve of Pentecost.

Tuesday, May 10

Duuuuude...that Ezekiel must have been smoking something...

New Head of the CDF?

Rather like the Papal election, not what the analysts had expected.

From the Archdiocesan home page:

In 1976, at the recommendation of then-Archbishop Joseph Bernardin, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Levada was appointed an Official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican. During his six years of service there, he continued teaching theology part-time as an Instructor at the Pontifical Gregorian University...

Since his ordination as a Bishop, Archbishop Levada has been active on many committees of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as on the governing boards of the Catholic University of America, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the National Catholic Bioethics Center. From 1986 to 1993 he served as the only American bishop on the Editorial Committee of the Vatican Commission for a Catechism of the Catholic Church; he authored the Catechism's Glossary, which was published in the English-language second edition of the Catechism.

During 2000, ***********Archbishop Levada was designated Bishop Co-Chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue in the United States (ARC-USA).*********** In November the Vatican announced his appointment as a Member of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

The motto of Archbishop Levada: Fratres in Unum,or Brothers at one.

OK, so this is what I see.
I see an archbishop is
1) Helped write the Catechism
2) Serves on the board of the very-well-run National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
3) Is an expert on Anglican-Catholic relations.

I think #3 is the biggie. Could this be further legitimization of our Anglican Rite speculations?

Raised to the Altars:
Side Altars as the Liturgical Consummation of Popular Piety

As those who know me know, I love side altars. And I love them for exactly the reason listed above--I believe they represent the liturgical consummation of popular piety which Vatican II prescribed. To this end, I wrote a paper for a class on exactly the subject. Excerpted here from that paper are some considerations on the history and development of side altars; it is not complete, particularly because I wrote a total of 18 pages for a 10 page paper, so I wasn't able to address how the cult of relics led to the rise of side altars (an important theory).

Much of what I know about our religion, I read in old books. The sort of books, for example, that use phrases like "such and such died in the odor of sanctity" or "was raised to the altars by Pope who-and-who." I always eally liked that phrase: “raised to the altars.”

If the saints and the liturgy were well connected in the books I read, they were not in my lived experience of Catholicism or her liturgy. Time and again, devotions I read about in my books were totally alien to my parish life—enthralling, amazing, but alien. The Vatican has recently weighed in on the stark divide between liturgy and popular piety: “Following on the conciliar renewal… manifest and hasty abandonment of inherited forms of popular piety” and “unjustified criticism of the piety of the common people in the name of a presumed ‘purity’ of faith” have resulted “in a void not easily filled.”[1]

I argue that both a clear symptom and catalyst of this division is the neglect of liturgical side altars, which formerly served as the seamless intersection of popular piety and ecclesial liturgy. Contextualized within the history of their development, the present consideration seeks to demonstrate not only that the construction of side altars is permissible under current liturgical law, but in fact that their construction is necessary to recover a proper relation of popular piety and the liturgy.

So here is a history of their development. Tomorrow, I'll either post on the feasibility of constructing side altars under current Church law, or just skip straight to the conclusion. Either way, I hope you'll end up agreeing that side altars are a necesary component of liturgical renewal!

The History of Side Altars

The earliest Christian churches had only a single altar; in fact, in all times and places of Christendom, the importance of a single altar in a given church building has been stressed. The earliest type of altar “was a mere table copied after secular patterns,” consisting of “a rectangular and slightly oblong top, supported by one, four, or even five legs.”[2] The earliest altars were of wood, as shown by the high altar of St. John Latern—the mensa of which is the wooden table[3] upon which St. Peter the Apostle celebrated the Eucharist in his day.[4] While earliest evidence suggests the altar of the sub-Apostolic house-churches may have been built against a wall, subsequently the early Christian altar was “normally free-standing.”[5] Writing at the beginning of the second century, St. Ignatius of Antioch discusses the symbolic importance of a single altar: “For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of his blood; one altar, as there is one bishop, with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons.”[6] To this day, in Eastern rites, “only one altar is erected upon which only one Mass be celebrated in the same day.”[7]

As the monastic movement became clericized and the practice of concelebration declined, both in the early Middle Ages, the demand for altars increased with the number of priests. The Greek Church constructed small chapels or oratories, parecclesiae, around the main body of the church building for “those who desire to celebrate privately.”[8] Within the Western Churches, however, this pressure was answered by the construction of additional altars within a single church edifice: “the practice of celebrating private Masses caused other altars to be added.”[9] In addition to the simple increase in the percentage of priests, the practice of concelebration, which “during the first centuries had been a common custom,” became rare by the thirteenth century and was replaced by “separate private celebrations” of the Mass.[10] Through monasteries, the practice of private Masses spread to the whole priesthood, and it became common practice for each priest to say a private Mass each day.[11]

Other sources insist that the custom of the celebrating Mass for particular intentions “led to Mass being said every day by each priest” and “involved the building of many altars in one church.”[12] The celebration of the Mass for special intentions grew naturally out of the practice of Christian intercessory prayer. Pope Paul VI notes that “the Apostles themselves exhorted their disciples to pray for the salvation of sinners,” which the Church continues “particularly in the practice of penitents invoking the intercession of the entire community,” especially in those good works “which human frailty finds difficult.”[13] Just as Christians offered suffrages for various intercessions, they began also to offer the Holy Sacrifice for specific intentions.[14] Thus the use of the Mass as a culminating form of intercessory prayer also led the development of side altars.[15]

In addition to offering suffrages for particular intentions, the dead were also “assisted with suffrages, particularly through the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.”[16] While forms of suffrage such as “prayers for the dead, giving alms, performing other good works, and applying indulgences” are recommended by Catholic authors for the relief of the Holy Souls, they always gave “first place to the Divine Sacrifice.”[17] To this end, individuals in the Middle Ages began to establish pious foundations, “fixed bequests of funds or real property, the interest or income from which is to procure the celebration of Mass for the founder” upon his death for the repose the soul after death and its deliverance from purgation.[18] The will of John le Coffrer from1305, for example, established such a foundation at the altar of St. Mary within the cemetery of St. Martin Pomary near his mansion.[19] Historical evidence “suggests that the chapel [of St. Mary] in the cemetery was… paid for by le Coffrer himself.” In fact, the specific saint honored by name the altar on which Masses were to be said was also significant: historical records indicate that the individual establishing a Mass foundation would specify a particular altar, by the name of the saint in whose honor the altar was erected, for the Masses to be said. The historical record therefore shows wills establishing a “chantry at altar of St John of Beverley” or “at the altar of St Mary Magdalen,” according to the individual’s personal devotion.[20] Thus, devotion to the holy souls directly fueled the construction of private chapels and side altars visible in European churches to this day.[21]

The practice of having Masses celebrated on the anniversaries of a loved one’s death, or for the holy souls in general, also indirectly contributed to the construction of side altars by increasing the demand for Masses and, therefore, increasing the need for additional altars.[22] Special altars set aside exclusively for the celebration of Masses for the dead were also built; these “privileged altars” constituted the ultimate synthesis of devotion to the Holy Souls.[23] An altar was said to be privileged “when, in addition to the ordinary fruits of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, a plenary indulgence [was] also granted whenever Mass [was] celebrated thereon.”[24] Therefore, Masses offered on altars which received this designation from the Holy See were “sufficient in themselves to free forthwith a soul from the pains of purgatory.” Both through the general increase in masses said for the souls of the faithful departed, and specifically through the institution of privileged altars, devotion to the Holy Souls contributed to the construction of side altars.

The most sought-after privileged altars were “altars of St. Gregory,” those dedicated to St. Gregory. All altars were dedicated or “titled” to a specific person or event; the altar became known by that name, for example, “the altar of St. Anne.” Canon 1201 of the 1917 code “imposes the strict obligation of choosing a title for every fixed altar.”[25] Formerly, “the Roman Pontifical prescribe[d] that the name or names chosen be mentioned in several places in the ceremonies of consecration.” These titles were restricted to the Holy Trinity, or one of the Divine Persons, or to Christ the Lord and any of mysteries or even sacred objects associated with His life, the Blessed Virgin and any mysteries and titles associated with her, the angels collectively or those individual angels whose names are known, or any Saint from the Roman Martyrology or well-known event in a Saint’s life.[26] The title of the main altar had to be “the same as the title of the church,” and no church could have two altars dedicated under the “same title."

The practice of titling altars continued, and they quickly became sites of petition, thanksgiving, and devotion to the saints to which they were dedicated. As a matter of simple psychology, the faithful devoted to a particular saint would, upon desiring to pray with that saint, travel to their shrine at the side of a local church; or, as pilgrims, should a member of the faithful encountering a side altar dedicated to the saint in a church, certainly he would pray there with special fervor. In its grant of an indulgence for visiting the “seven altars of St. Peter’s,” the Church asked that the faithful recite “any prayer they may choose in honor of the Titular Saint of the altar.”[27] Indeed, the phrase “praying at the altar of…such and such” has entered popular usage as a reflection of this practice.[28]

Masses petitioning God for a particular favor which were celebrated at a titled altar were understood to invoke a given saint’s intercession. Therefore, for example, medieval gilds would attend Mass at the altar of their Patron in order to call down the Saint’s intercession on their behalf:
"And so, all fairly clad, [the guild members] go in procession, with much music, to the church of the Friars Minor of Beverley; and there, at the altar of St. Elene, Solemn Mass is celebrated, and every one of the guild makes offering of a penny. The mass ended, and all prayers said, they go home; and, after dinner, all the guild meet in a room within the hall of the guild; and there they eat bread and cheese, and drink as much ale as is good for them..”[29]
This confidence that a Mass on the altar of a Saint invoked that Saint’s intercession was not only extremely strong in the minds of the faithful, but was taken for granted even in curial decisions of the Church.[30]

With intercession naturally comes gratitude, and here side altars occasioned the opportunity to offer thanksgiving. An anonymous account promoting devotion to St. Philomena recounts the conversion story of a man said to have been away from the sacraments for thirty-four years. He was “persuaded by his friends to join in a public novena to the St. Philomena” and, when his petition was answered, the natural culmination of the story is that he “afterwards received Holy Communion in thanksgiving at the altar of St. Philomena.”[31] To enable such devotion of prayer, petition, and thanksgiving before side-altar shrines, churches frequently constructed shrines to saints particularly popular amongst their congregations.[32]

In order to maintain the important Christian symbolism of a single altar in the midst of the multiplicity of altars which arose due to the four factors detailed above, a distinction arose between a principle or main altar (altare maius) and all other altars (altaria minora) constructed for reasons other than the celebration of a community’s principle daily or weekly Masses. A single major altar amidst the minor altars became the rule in Western churches. In this way the honor and importance of a singular altar was retained while the practical needs of the community were met.[33]

In addition to the four uses already discussed, other uses occasioned the construction of altaria minora. To accommodate Mass celebrated by a monastic community immediately after the celebration of Matins, a “matutinal altar” was constructed within monastic choirs.[34] Before the Tridentine reforms, some churches contained special altars apart from the main altar for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. “Pilgrim altars” were constructed behind the main altar of popular shrine churches for early-morning Masses attended by pilgrims. Within the Western tradition, altaria minora were freely constructed for a wide variety of purposes, though always with respect for the heavy difference towards the one main altar.

[1] Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines. December 2001. para 1.
[2] Rev. P. Chas. Augustine, OSB, DD. A Commentary on the New Code of Canon Law (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co, 1923) p. 85
[3] Exhibit 1
[4] The table has, however, been encased in marble on its sides.
[5] F.L. Cross, ed. “Altar,” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. (New York: Oxford Press, 1997) p.46
[6] Letter to the Philadelphians, 3:3-4:1
[7] Nicholas Martin Bliley, OSB, JCL. Altars According to the Code of Canon Law (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America, 1927) p. 16
[8] Nicholas Martin Bliley, OSB, JCL. Altars According to the Code of Canon Law (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America, 1927) p. 16
[9] F.L. Cross, ed. “Altar,” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. (New York: Oxford Press, 1997) p.46
[10] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09790b.htm
[11] Exhibit 2
[12] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09790b.htm
[13] Pope Paul VI, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, para. 6
[14] Cf. Pope Paul VI, Firma in Traditione
[15] Exhibit 3
[16] Pope Paul VI, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, para. 6
[17] Fr. F.X. Schouppe, SJ. Purgatory. (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1893 & 1986) p.234
[18] These are also known as “Mass Foundations” or “Chantries.”
[19] 'St. Martin Pomary 95/0: The parish church of St. Martin Pomary', Historical gazetteer of London before the Great Fire: Cheapside; parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane (1987), pp. 107-10
[20] http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid
[21] Exhibit 4
[22] Cf. Fr. F.X. Schouppe, SJ. Purgatory. (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1893 & 1986) p.228-229
[23] Exhibit 5
[24] Nicholas Martin Bliley, OSB, JCL. Altars According to the Code of Canon Law (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America, 1927) p. 122.
[25] Nicholas Martin Bliley, OSB, JCL. Altars According to the Code of Canon Law (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America, 1927) p. 119.
[26] Nicholas Martin Bliley, OSB, JCL. Altars According to the Code of Canon Law (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America, 1927) p. 120.
[27] 1944 Preces et Pia Opere (“The Raccolta”), grant #711
[28] Some random examples found through popular search engines include: http://www.irishexaminer.com/text/story.asp?j=25490835&p=z549y67z&n=25491741 and
[29] http://www.trytel.com/~tristan/towns/florilegium/community/cmevnt23.html
[30] Nicholas Martin Bliley, OSB, JCL. Altars According to the Code of Canon Law (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America, 1927) p. 126.
The rulings here cited refer to “Gregorian Altars,” privileged altars dedicated to St. Gregory at which Masses are particularly said for the dead. St. Gregory the Great, owing to popular stories his visions of souls freed from purgatory, is heavily associated with suffrages successfully offered for the holy souls. A Mass offered on a Gregorian altar applied both “the autority of the Church and the intercession of St. Gregory,” in addition to the merits of the Mass itself, that “souls may be freed from the pains of purgatory.”
Cf. S.V. Indulg., 11 Mart. 1884, ad 2, Collectanea S. C. de Prop. Fide, II, n. 1613
[31] http://www.scborromeo.org/saints/philomen.htm
[32] Cf. USCCB. Built of Living Stones. (Washington, DC: USCCB, 2000)
This practice is taken for granted in paragraphs 135-138: for example, “It is important that the images in the church depict saints for whom devotion currently exists in the parish.
and Exhibit 6
[33] Nicholas Martin Bliley, OSB, JCL. Altars According to the Code of Canon Law (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America, 1927) p. 15
[34] Nicholas Martin Bliley, OSB, JCL. Altars According to the Code of Canon Law (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America, 1927) p. 15

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