The Death of David Bowie

Although we are not huge fans of David Bowie’s music (his Lets Dance album was his best), he certainly was an interesting man, and played a part in our lives through his decades long music playing and thespianism.  As we everyday pray for the souls of the departed, faithful or not, we hope that Bowie had a last minute conversion (we often pray for the soul of the former lead singer of Boston, Brad Delp, because Boston simply rocks and Brad was a sad and sweet man).  Steve Skojec, (from the outstanding blog) as always, explains our feelings well on the subject of  Bowie’s unexpected death.


Imagining David Bowie in Hell 

Born in 1977 to young parents, I grew up with a lot of that era’s music in my home. My father’s record collection had quite a range, from the Beatles to the Doobie Brothers, Chicago to Dire Straits, The Eagles to Steely Dan. If he had a David Bowie album, I don’t remember listening to it, and I listened most of what he had on vinyl or, later, cassette tape.

For me, David Bowie will forever be immortalized in his role as Jareth, the Goblin King, in the 1986 Jim Henson fantasy classic, The Labyrinth. It was a memorable film, and Bowie’s acting performance, as well as the unique brand of music he added to the movie’s few musical numbers, demanded attention. I loved him in that movie (even if I wasn’t a fan of those pants) and ever since, that role was my point of reference when encountering him in a movie (like Zoolander), a show (like Extras), or even discovering some of his very eccentric music. I could never have been classed as a David Bowie fan, but I was certainly aware of who he was and the strange breed of iconic status he once enjoyed.

Yesterday, when I heard he had died at the young age of 69, I was as surprised as anyone. As I approach 40 myself, I’m living through the time when more and more of the ubiquitous figures in my life — both personal and cultural — have passed, or are passing away. When it’s a family member or the parent of a friend, I always have some idea about who they really were and how they lived, and there’s a consolation in that whenever I come to understand that they were men or women of faith, close to God in the sacraments and in the lives that they lived.

It’s a much more ominous feeling, though, when I hear that a celebrity has died. We tend to be aware of their personal proclivities and behaviors too, but often their worst ones. Bowie was famous for living the stereotypical life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Whether it was his flamboyant, androgynous, and obviously chemically-fueled performances as Ziggy Stardust, or his open claims of bisexuality, or any of the other excesses he was known for to even a non-devotee like me, his was not a life that would ever have been construed — from the outside — as one that courted the sanctifying grace necessary for salvation.


Perhaps I’m just morbid, but when I hear that someone like David Bowie has just died, my first impulse is to think what a horrible shock the particular judgment must be. It’s terrifying enough for me to contemplate as a believer (and sinner) who expects it; what must it be like for those who live their lives as though such a thing does not exist?

Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I found myself imagining David Bowie in Hell – which led immediately to praying quietly for his soul. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the… and here I pause. Every time. Can I say “faithful departed” about someone like this? Can I hope that maybe in his last days, unbeknownst to us, or in his final moments, unbeknownst to anyone but he and God, there was a moment of grace? Of conversion? It could be! …all the souls of the faithful departed…and all the departed (just to cover my bases) through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

I know what the Church teaches. I understand the necessity of Baptism and the Eucharist and Confession and lived faith and even membership in the Church for salvation.

But the idea of Hell is so awful, the reality of eternal suffering in the knowledge that you could have kept yourself from it so horrifying, I find myself fervently hating the idea that anyone, even someone as weird and as openly amoral as David Bowie, being there.

After all, I could very well wind up there too. I could never take delight — not in this life anyway — in such punishment, even knowing that it is perfectly in accord with God’s justice.

There but for the grace of God go I. 

So I pray for souls like Bowie’s. I hope that God, in His infinite mercy, gave him a moment to see, to choose, to understand, as did Dismas on the cross beside Jesus, that even a life spent largely in the pursuit of vice is no impediment to final repentance.

If I love souls, it is because God loves souls, but also because I see in others the same possibility of damnation that I see in myself — and the same opportunity for eternal beatitude.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but this is why I despise the promotion of the idea of universalism, that numbing self-deception that seeks to soothe our troubled minds with a belief that all men are very likely saved. If that’s the case, why bother trying? Why not live like David Bowie? Or for that matter, like Hitler, or Stalin, or Pol Pot? Why make sacrifices or observe meatless Fridays or live chastely or go to Mass or practice the works of mercy or spend time praying or any of a hundred other things we must do on our path to sanctification, and ultimately, heaven?

Anything that absolves us of our sense of responsibility to live our faith, or to “go forth and make disciples of all nations” or to “instruct the ignorant” or “admonish the sinner” is a damnable lie, and will surely make it that much easier for souls to fall into perdition. Any attempt after death to canonize the dead instead of pray for them, or to simply cover over the reality of the Last Things with some empty sentiment is a grave injustice to the departed. After all, God transcends time, and thus, so can our prayers. If we do not know that a soul is lost, we can pray even after their death that He gave them that final grace of repentance.

Does Hell exist? It does, without question. Are people there? Yes, though we know not who. Is David Bowie in Hell? I certainly hope not, though at this very moment, he is somewhere, and ignoring it changes nothing.

Will I go to Hell? Please God, let it never be so. But there is nothing in my life that is so worthy of being called a Son of God that I could preclude it as a possibility. I may not live a life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but I have a long way to go before I am even consistent in practicing virtue. So I pray for the perfection of my soul, and salvation of the souls of others — even those who gave the appearance that they never gave a damn about being damned — because we’re all in this together.

Without you I should have Croaked like a Pig

The article below details how the composer Chopin died a happy death because of one holy and humble priest that was persistent in his efforts to save the soul of his childhood friend.  The lesson in this is to never give up on the souls of our friends and family that are away from the Church and always continue to pray for them.  God’s will will be done!


The Death of Chopin

The great nineteenth-century composer, Frédéric François Chopin (1810-1849), was born in the wake of that horrid reign of “enlight­ened” barbarity, the French Revolu­tion – the age when Masonic phil­osophers boasted that Reason had finally triumphed over “the Gali­lean,” Jesus Christ – and he lived through two more successive out­bursts of that same hellish Revolu­tion. Chopin was very much a prod­uct of that age. Though never an advocate of its contrived rage as was the radical Richard Wagner, he nonetheless absorbed enough of its underlying corrupting spirit, particularly from the writings of Voltaire, to lose his Catholic Faith. But for the persevering prayers of a simple yet determined priest, the Abbé Jalowicki, who was the composer’s longtime friend, Chopin would surely have lost his soul.

What follows is a personal and indisputably reliable account by that holy priest of the miraculous deathbed conversion of the es­tranged soul, Frédéric Chopin. It beautifully exemplifies the gener­ous, unfailing love and forgiveness that our Divine Redeemer holds out to all sinners. But even more, it dramatically illustrates the power and force of prayer in the face of hopelessness, as well as points up the enormous flood of graces that Our Lord in His particular provi­dence pours out to each one of us, especially at the hour of death. And, finally, it demonstrates the inevi­table triumph of faith and of “the Galilean” over the blindness of false “reason.” We think its read­ing will be a grace in itself to many souls. – Editor.

For many years the life of Chopin was but a breath. His frail, weak body was visibly un­fitted for the strength and force of his genius. It was a wonder how in such a weak state he could live at all, and occasionally act with the greatest energy. His body was almost diaphanous; his eyes were almost shadowed by a cloud from which, from time to time, the lightnings of his glance flashed. Gentle, kind, bubbling with humor, and every way charming, he seemed no longer to belong to earth, while, unfortu­nately, he had not yet thought of heaven.

He had good friends, but many bad friends. These bad friends were his flatterers that is, his enemies – men and women without principles, or ra­ther with bad principles. Even his unrivalled success, so much more subtle and thus so much more stimulating than that of all other artists, carried the war into his soul and checked the expres­sion of faith and prayer.

The teaching of his fondest, most pious mother became to him a recollection of his childhood’s love. In the place of faith, doubt had stepped in, and only that decency innate in every generous heart hindered him from indul­ging in sarcasm and mockery over holy things and the consolations of religion.

While he was in this spiritual condition, he was attacked by the pulmonary disease that was soon to carry him away from us. The knowledge of this cruel sickness reached me on my return from Rome. With beating heart I hur­ried to him, to see once more the friend of my youth, whose soul was infinitely dearer to me than all his talent. I found him not thinner, for that was impossible, but weaker. His strength sank, his life faded visibly. He em­braced me with affection and with tears in his eyes, thinking not of his own pain but of mine; he spoke of my poor friend, Ed­uard Worte, whom I had just lost.

I availed myself of his soft­ened mood to speak to him about his soul. I recalled his thoughts to the piety of his childhood and of his beloved mother. “Yes,” he said, “in order not to offend my mother I would not die without the sacraments, but for my part I do not regard them in the sense that you desire. I understand the blessing of confession insofar as it is the unburdening of a heavy heart into a friendly hand, but not as a sacrament. I am ready to confess to you if you wish it, because I love you, not because I hold it necessary.” Enough! A crowd of anti-religious speeches filled me with terror and care for this elect soul, and I feared noth­ing more than to be called to be his confessor.

Several months passed with similar conversations, so painful to me, the priest and the sincere friend. Yet I clung to the convic­tion that the grace of God would obtain the victory over this rebel­lious soul, even if I knew not how. After all my exertions, prayer remained my only refuge.

On the evening of October 12th, I had with my brethren re­tired to pray for a change in Chopin’s mind, when I was sum­moned by orders of the physi­cian, in fear that he would not live through the night. I hastened to him. He pressed my hand, but bade me at once to depart, while he assured me he loved me much, but did not wish to speak to me.

Imagine, if you can, what a night I passed! Next day was the thirteenth, the Feast of Saint Edward, the patron of my poor brother. I said Mass for the repose of his soul and prayed for Chopin’s soul. “My God,” I cried, “if the soul of my brother Edward is pleasing to Thee, give me, this day, the soul of Frédéric.”

In double distress I then went to the melancholy abode of our poor sick man.

I found him at breakfast, which was served as carefully as ever, and after he had asked me to partake I said: “My friend, to­day is the name day of my poor brother.”

“Oh, do not let us speak of if!” he cried.

“Dearest friend,” I continued, ‘‘you must give me something for my brother’s name day.”

“What shall I give you?”

“Your soul.”

“Ah! I understand. Here it is; take it!”

At these words unspeakable joy and anguish seized me. What should I say to him? What should I do to restore his Faith, how not to lose instead of saving this be­loved soul? How should I begin to bring it back to God? I flung myself on my knees, and after a moment of collecting my thoughts I cried in the depths of my heart, “Draw it to Thee, Thy­self, my God!”

Without saying a word, I held out to our dear invalid the crucifix. Rays of divine light, flames of divine fire, streamed, I might say, visibly from the figure of the crucified Savior, and at once illumined the soul and kindled the heart of Cho­pin. Burning tears streamed from his eyes. His Faith was once more revived, and with unspeakable fervor he made his confession and received the Holy Supper. After the blessed Viaticum, penetrated by the heavenly consecration, which the sacraments pour forth on pious souls, he asked for Ex­treme Unction. He wished to pay lavishly the sacristan who accompanied me, and when I remarked that the sum pre­sented by him was twenty times too much he replied, “Oh, no, for what I have received is be­yond price.”

From this hour he was a saint. The death struggle began and lasted four days. Patience, trust in God, even joyful confi­dence, never left him in spite of all his sufferings, till the last breath. He was truly happy, and outwardly expressed it. In the midst of the sharpest sufferings he expressed only ecstatic joy, a touching love of God, thankful­ness that I had led him back to God, contempt of the world and its goods, and a wish for a speedy death.

He blessed his friends, and when, after an apparently last crisis, he saw himself surrounded by the crowd that day and night filled his chamber, he asked me, “Why do they not pray?” At these words all fell on their knees, and even the Protestants joined in the litanies and prayers for the dying.

Day and night he held my hand, and would not let me leave him. “No, you will not leave me at the last moment,” he said, and leaned on my breast as a little child, who, in a moment of danger, hides himself in his mother’s breast.

Soon he called upon Jesus and Mary, with a fervor that reached to heaven; soon he kissed the cru­cifix in an excess of faith, hope, and love. He made the most touching utterances. “I love God and man,” he said. “I am hap­py so to die; do not weep, my sister. My friends, do not weep. I am happy. I feel that I am dying. Farewell, pray for me!”

Exhausted by deathly convul­sions, he said to the physicians, “Let me die. Do not keep me longer in this world of exile. Let me die; why do you prolong my life when I have renounced all things and God has enlightened my soul? God calls me; why do you keep me back?”

Another time he said, and with mild irony, “O lovely science, that only lets one suffer longer! Could it give me back my strength, qualify me to do any good, to make any sacrifice – but a life of fainting, of grief, of pain to all who love me, to prolong such a life – O lovely science!”

Then he said again: “You [physicians] let me suffer cruel­ly. Perhaps you have erred about by sickness. But God errs not. He punishes me, and I bless Him for this. Oh, how good is God to punish me here below! Oh, how good God is!”

His usual language was always elegant, with well-chosen words, but at last to express all this thankfulness and, at the same time, all the misery of those who die unreconciled to God, he cried, “Without you I should have croaked [krepiren] like a pig.”

While dying he still called on the names of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, kissed the crucifix, and pressed it to his heart with the cry, “Now I am at the source of Blessedness!”

Thus died Chopin, and in truth, his death was the most beautiful concerto of all his life.

The Devil Hates the Latin Mass . . Do You Agree?

Below is a classic post from Father Peter Carota on the importance of the Latin Mass.  This is a great way to start the new year . . . to devote yourself to the Latin Mass in 2016 for the sake of your and your family’s soul.


Latin Mass, Latin Exorcism, Latin Sacraments Crush The Devil


Ancient Catholic Missals show that the Latin Mass Canon has been basically the same ever since Pope Gregory the Great (560-604). Pope Pius V (1504-1572), only slightly modified this ancient Gregorian Missal, along with some of the rubrics.  He did not modify the Roman Canon itself.  He then promulgated this ancient Roman Latin Mass in all places (except where there was still in use another Rite that was 200 years or older).  This did not include where the Byzantine Rites were being used.  But remember, the vast majority of Catholics are Roman Rite Catholics.

Simon Marmion_Mass of St. Greg_Bk Hrs_Belgium_1475-85_Morgan_m6.154raVision St. Gregory Had While Offering The Latin Mass

Since then, slight changes have been made, like new saints feast days, but the Tridentine Missal, or St. Pius V Missal was in use all over the Roman Rite Church for 400 years.

But then, in 1965, this Tridentine Missal was translated into the vernacular (in our case, English) and no longer was obliged to be offered in Latin only.  The Novus Ordo, (New Mass), of Pope Paul VI was promulgated and began being offered all over the Roman Rite world in December 1969.  The Latin Tridentine Mass was then suppressed in the Church, (except for a few places and for old priests who did not want to offer the new mass or could not learn it).

At the exact time that Latin was being removed from the Catholic Church’s Sacraments, all hell broke out in the world.  Many attribute the break down of society and the down fall of the Catholic faith to the “drugs, sex and rock n roll” revolution of the late 60’s.  I contend that it was the devil, and his friends (demons), who brought on the revolution.

Remember that the devil hates Latin and the sacred ancient Latin Sacraments, Rites and prayers of the Catholic Church.  So you can see that it was precisely when Latin was being removed, (1965-69), that all hell broke loose.

devilMany ask why the devil hates Latin and why it is used in Exorcisms and has power over the devil.  The answer is that ecclesiastical Latin is a sacred language that was reserved only for the divine service of the Church of God, in prayer and in the Sacraments.  (There is classic Roman Latin of Cicero that is also studied today.  But it is significantly different for the sacred ecclesiastical Latin.)

H092_Devil-2Our profane language is English.  It is used to cuss with, to curse with, gossip with, to lie with, to deceive with, to corrupt souls with, along with all the other common ways it is used to communicate with.

On the other hand, ecclesiastical Latin is only used for holy things, and is a dead language that does not change and has been reserved for centuries just for prayer, (especially the Latin Mass).  For this reason, the devil hates it.

It is so sad when Catholics say they hate the Latin Mass.  They literally say they do not like it, or, in some cases, say they hate the Holy Latin Mass, just because it is in Latin.  They also say that they do not want to go because they cannot understand what is being said.  I tell them, please, God gives you everything all week long, 24-7, can’t you just offer God one hour in sacred prayer, the way He likes it?  Why hate what the devil hates?  Why not love what God loves?

480511_10151436109968705_1551975927_nThe proof that God love’s the Latin Mass is the it was He that had His Church offered it that way, in the Roman Rite Church, for the last 1800 years?  The only other answer is that God and His Church had it wrong all those years, and finally, 1800 years later we got it right.  How absurd.

My theory is that when the popes removed Latin from the Roman Catholic Church, and suppressed the Tridentine Mass, that is what allowed all hell to break out on earth.  We need to return to the Latin Mass and other Latin Rites and prayers to fight the devil.

I talk about the Roman Rite or Roman Catholic Church because Latin is our sacred language.  Other rites use other sacred languages like Greek, Russian, and Aramaic.  Most of these rites have not had their Divine Liturgies altered since Vatican II and are still basically in their ancient form.

il_fullxfull.192488957Let us all do our part to get rid of hell out of this world by bringing back the Latin Mass, all the Latin Rite Sacraments and the Exorcisms.  We are so blessed to be traditional Catholics and have these nuclear weapons to fight the devil.

My response: “Giordano Bruno died from a massive ego, intellectual pretension, a singular dishonesty, an overactive libido, and for being a miscreant priest who allowed himself to be ordained when he didn’t believe any essential truths of the faith. He’s a walking billboard for the inquisition.”

Okay, maybe Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the recently retired Secretary of State of the Holy See, said it more diplomatically on the 400th anniversary of Bruno’s death in 2000: He called his death “a sad episode,” but refused to apologize for the actions of his inquisitors.

Giordano Bruno had been forgotten to history until he was resurrected as a martyr for modern science in the late 19th century, though he was about as far from a scientist as one could get. His tale is a lesson in how Catholic urban legends are made.

Bad Theology, Bad Science

Bruno was born in Nola, part of the Kingdom of Naples, in 1548. He entered the Dominican monastery and was ordained a priest at the age of 24.

Early in his novitiate, Bruno demonstrated a distinctly odd theology. He stripped his cell of all religious art—particularly art devoted to the Blessed Mother—and later criticized a fellow seminarian for his devotional reading.

By the age of 18, he had already rejected the divinity of Christ and belief in the Trinity. In contemporary understanding, that made Bruno not merely a heretic, but an atheist. (In the 16th century, atheism was defined not as a complete rejection of the existence of God—a simply incomprehensible position—but rejection of Christ.)

But Bruno kept these views to himself and was ordained a priest for the Order of Preachers in 1572. At this point he began to develop a mish-mash of ideas, a combination of Plato, Protestant theology, Hebrew mysticism, his own “atheism” and the philosophical wanderings of a 15th-century German priest and cardinal, Nicholas of Cusa (1400-1464).

Bruno had come to believe that God had created—and continues to create—an infinite number of worlds, both in an infinitely large outer space, and an infinitely small inner space, if you will. It was that belief in an infinitely small “inner space” of creation that led some to see him as the originator of modern science, with our understanding of a world made up of atomic and subatomic particles.

But in this, he was simply regurgitating Cardinal Cusa’s speculations, which were philosophical musings, not scientific investigations. Cusa’s goal was to find the proof of God—the action of God’s creation—in all matter great and small.

Bruno’s goal was different, describing an endless universe of endless creating that God needed, rather than a universe that needed God. As one of his cellmates in Venice put it: “He said that God needed the world as much as the world needed God, and that God would be nothing without the world, and for this reason God did nothing but create new worlds.”

If that sounds like mumbo-jumbo, it’s because it is mumbo-jumbo.

Trying to get to the root of Bruno’s beliefs is like wrestling with an eel. The scientific methods employed by a true nascent scientist like Nicholas Copernicus were processes the free-thinking Bruno loathed.

That is what makes him such an odd pick for a scientific martyr. Though possessing knowledge of contemporary mathematics, Bruno had little use for calculations or observation, preferring to borrow ideas from across the landscape and to fuse them into unintelligibility. Bruno’s “science” is as meaningless today as it was in his own time.

A Triple Excommunicate

Bruno gained what actual reputation he had in his own life from feats of memory. From his Dominican training, he adapted mnemonic systems that allowed for preaching that could last for hours but had a remarkable orderliness to it. As a young priest, Bruno traveled to Rome to demonstrate his skill to Pope Pius V.

But even here, Bruno was a failure. Apparently, he was unable—or unwilling—to teach his mnemonic skills, either fearful that his “tricks” would be stolen by others, or simply incapable of conveying his system in an orderly fashion.

Bruno remained with the Dominican Order for roughly 10 years. In 1576, fearing that his ideas would bring him face-to-face with Church authorities, Bruno took to the hills.

He wandered about Italy and France until finally landing in Geneva in 1579, where he announced himself a Calvinist. He then proceeded to insult a prominent Calvinist professor and soon became an excommunicated Calvinist. Under those circumstances, he decided to flee to Paris, where King Henry III engaged him in mnemonic training.

In France he published a number of works on mnemonics and works meant to allegedly spell out his “natural philosophy.” By then, though he had expressed an interest in returning to his order, “his escape from the convent also meant an escape from the vows of chastity and obedience, and he pursued women with Falstaffian mater-of-factness rather than poetic pining” (Ingrid D. Rowland, Giordano Bruno, Philosopher Heretic, 159).

His works written in France are a mix of bombast, insults, bizarre mysticism, and sheer crackpot ideology. In the midst of trying to explain this disorganized philosophy, he celebrated “magic”—which his biographer Rowland wants to de-stigmatize by explaining it away as some kind of earthly wisdom. But he embraced magic, believing in the occult qualities of numbers and objects. He also claimed that demons caused disease, which could be cured through a king’s touch or by a seventh son’s spittle .

As King Henry began to assert his Catholic faith more strongly against Huguenot claims, Bruno decided that France might not be the best home for an excommunicated Dominican. In 1583, he arrived in England. But in a rare example of good sense in Elizabethan England, Bruno was laughed off the stage at an Oxford debate. By October 1585 he was back in Paris, then onto Germany.

In 1588 he served as a professor in Helmstedt but was then excommunicated by the Lutherans—who accused him of being a Calvinist.

Now excommunicated by the Catholic Church, the Calvinists, and the Lutherans—and never once based on his alleged “scientific” beliefs—Bruno traveled to Frankfurt, where he hoped to make a living among the printers and booksellers.

At this point, he made clear once again his refusal to believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Christ as the Son of God, or original sin. But in 1591, he decided to return to Catholic Italy anyway.

Heretic on Trial

He secured what appeared to be a pretty soft position—tutoring his Venetian host. Either because his host felt cheated or because of Bruno’s unseemly attention to his wife, he turned Bruno over to the Venice inquisition in 1592.

Most cases brought before the inquisition in Venice resulted in acquittal. But this was different: Here was a renegade priest who faced serious charges, including outright heresy and blasphemy.

Though Bruno subscribed (somewhat) to the Copernican view of the universe with the rotating earth orbiting the sun, he was not prosecuted for those beliefs. The Church had not condemned the Copernican view in Bruno’s day. More than three decades after Bruno’s death, Galileo would be charged for holding similar views, but only because he taught those views as absolute fact, rather than hypothesis. Though Bruno loathed any kind of religious authority, he had absorbed the heresies of his day and they infused his thinking and writing.

The Holy Office in Rome, finding out that Bruno had been charged in Venice, sought his extradition. Venice generally rejected such requests, but in Bruno’s case, Venice wanted him out. Though Bruno made a less-than-sincere offer to retract some of his views, Church officials did not believe him. On February 20, 1593, Venice shipped him off to Rome.

His trial in Rome would take seven years. At first Bruno relied on the defense that most of his heresies were jests not to be taken seriously, but as the process dragged on he grew more obstinate. He eventually turned from what could be interpreted as negotiation over his views to defiance. He refused to retract his heresies and maintained that the judges had no authority over him. The judges had no choice but to condemn him based on his own admissions and turned him over to the secular authorities in Rome. He was executed on February 17, 1600.

A Martyr for “Science”

Thus would have ended the “sad affair” of Giordano Bruno. He died not as a scientist or for scientific beliefs, but because he had rejected the fundamental truths of the faith he had promised to uphold at his ordination—the divinity of Christ, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Trinity. He had embraced every passing fancy from reincarnation to divination.

While it is difficult today to understand how scandalous this would be to his contemporaries, at that time such views—especially from a priest who had fallen into “sins of the flesh”—were seen as endangering the salvation of souls and the basic harmony of the community. His fate was sealed when he refused to recant.

Bruno essentially disappeared from history for 300 years, until he was resurrected in anti-clerical Italy in the late 19th century.

The unification of Italy in the 19th century had been conducted by confiscating the centuries-old Papal States, concluding with the seizure of Rome in 1870.

But that didn’t end the anti-clerical, anti-papal rioting, and demonstrations which became an ordinary part of Roman life. In 1876, a group of Roman students decided to raise funds to erect a statue in Bruno’s honor, though no one but a few scholars had heard of him, his works were unread, and even those few who ventured to do so found him unintelligible.

But since he was deemed a victim of the inquisition and honoring him seen as an insult to the papacy, anti-clerical forces throughout Italy rallied to the cause.

Donations were solicited from all over secular Europe, and contributions came in from the likes of Victor Hugo of France and Henrik Ibsen in Norway. They had not a clue who was being honored but since the statue was to be a potshot at the Catholic Church, they were willing to lend their names.

Bruno was now reinvented as a martyr to science and reason. On June 9, 1889, over 2,000 anti-clerical organizations rallied at the erection of the statue of Bruno. “Today,” they announced, “the date of the religion of reason is established.”

Within a generation, Italy would be a Fascist state.

Robert P. Lockwood, director of communications for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, is  the author of A Faith for Grown-Ups: A Midlife Conversation about What Really Matters (Loyola Press).

Have Courage!

Conscious Participation

Please go to a Latin Mass over the Christmas season. You will not regret being reverent in front of our dear lord. Please read the outstanding article by Peter Kwasniewski on how the TLM actually fosters more active participation than the new mass.


Monday, December 15, 2014
How the Traditional Latin Mass Fosters More Active Participation than the Ordinary Form
Peter Kwasniewski

How many times do lovers of the classical Roman Rite hear the objection: “The new Mass is better than the old one because it allows for more active participation of the faithful,” or “The old Mass just had to be reformed eventually, because the priest was the only one doing anything, and the people were all mute spectators.” My aim in this article is to refute such claims and to demonstrate that, if anything, the opposite is true.

Active/Actual Participation
People who take the time to sit down and study Sacrosanctum Concilium are often struck by how much of this document is unknown, ignored, or contradicted by contemporary Catholic practice. Often, there are phrases that are so rich, and yet the manner in which they have been turned into slogans has undermined their original nuance and depth.

The most notorious victim of this process of journalistic simplification has been the notion of “active participation” or participatio actuosa. The word actuosa itself is very interesting: it means fully or totally engaged in activity, like a dancer or an actor who is putting everything into the dancing or the acting; it might be considered “super-active.” But what is the notion of activity here? It is actualizing one’s full potential, entering into possession of a good rather than having an unrealized capacity for it. In contemporary English, “active” often means simply the contrary of passive or receptive, yet in a deeper perspective, we see that these are by no means contrary. I can be actively receptive to the Word of God; I can be fully actualizing my ability to be acted upon at Mass by the chants, prayers, and ceremonies, without my doing much of anything that would be styled “active” in contemporary English.[Note 1] As St. John Paul II explained in an address to U.S. bishops in 1998:

Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive. Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural. [link]

If your choir or schola sings Proper chants or motets at Mass, or if you’d like to see this happen someday, make sure you have this text from John Paul II ready for the person who objects: “But the people need to be singing everything!” Dom Alcuin Reid explained the Council’s intention very succinctly in an interview last December:

The Council called for participatio actuosa, which is primarily our internal connection with the liturgical action—with what Jesus Christ is doing in his Church in the liturgical rites. This participation is about where my mind and heart are. Our external actions in the liturgy serve and facilitate this. But participatio actuosa is not first and foremost external activity, or performing a particular liturgical ministry. That, unfortunately, has been a common misconception of the Council’s desire. [link]

Now, even with the common misunderstanding of “actual” cleared out of the way, it is an extremely curious fact that the full expression from Sacrosanctum Concilium 14 is rarely quoted: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy” (in the original: “Valde cupit Mater Ecclesia ut fideles universi ad plenam illam, consciam atque actuosam liturgicarum celebrationum participationem ducantur, quae ab ipsius Liturgiae natura postulatur”). Whatever happened to “full” and “conscious”?

Conscious Participation
Let’s probe this matter further. After several decades of attending Mass in both the OF and the EF (both celebrated “by the books”), I’ve become convinced that there is paradoxically a far greater possibility of not consciously paying attention to the Mass in the vernacular, precisely because of its familiarity: it becomes like a reflex action, the words can go in and out while the mind is far away. The vernacular is our everyday comfort zone, and so it doesn’t grab our attention. This is why when we are in a busy place where lots of people are speaking, we tend not to notice that they are even talking—whereas when we hear a foreign language, something other than our mother tongue, suddenly our attention is caught by it.

Of course, this lack of attentiveness can happen in the sphere of any language: as someone once put it, I can be doing finances inside my head while chanting the Credo in Latin—if I have been chanting it every week for years. But it nevertheless seems evident that this danger is significantly less present with the usus antiquior, for two reasons:

First, its very foreignness demands of the worshiper some effort to enter into it; indeed, it demands of the worshiper a decision about whether he really wants to enter into it or not. It is almost pointless to sit there unless you are ready to do something to engage the Mass or at very least to begin to pray. The use of a daily missal, widespread in traditional communities, is a powerful means of assimilating the mind and heart of the Church at prayer—and for me personally, following the prayers in my missal has amounted to a decades-long formation of my own mind and heart, giving me a savor for things spiritual, exemplars of holiness, ascetical rules, aspirations and resolutions. When I attend the EF, I am always much more actively engaged in the Mass, because there is more to do (I’ll come back to this point) and it seems more natural to use a missal to help me do it.

Second, the traditional Latin Mass is so obviously focused on God, directed to the adoration of Him, that one who is mentally present to what is happening is ineluctably drawn into the sacred mysteries, even if only at the simplest and most fundamental level of acknowledging the reality of God and adoring our Blessed Lord in the most Holy Sacrament. I am afraid to say that it is not clear at all that most Catholics attending most vernacular OF liturgies are ever confronted unequivocally and irresistibly with the reality of God and the demand for adoration. Or, to put it differently, the old liturgy forms these attitudes in the soul, whereas the new liturgy presupposes them. If you don’t have the right understanding and frame of mind, the Novus Ordo will do very little to give it to you, whereas the EF is either going to give it to you or drive you away. When you attend the EF, you are either subtly attracted by something in it, or you are put off by the demands it makes. Either way, lukewarmness is not an option.

Full Participation
So much for “conscious.” What about “full” participation? Again, as surprising as it may seem in the wake of tendentious criticisms, the traditional Latin Mass allows the faithful a fuller participation in worship because there are more kinds of experience to participate in, verbal and non-verbal, spiritual and sensuous—indeed, there is far more bodily involvement, if one follows the customary practices. This last point deserves attention.

At a Low or High Mass, depending on the feast, one might make the sign of the Cross 8 times:

In nomine Patris…
Adjutorium nostrum…
Cum Sancto Spiritu (end of the Gloria)
Et vitam venturi (end of the Credo)
Benedictus (in the Sanctus)
if the Confiteor is repeated at communion;
At the final blessing.

To this, some add the sign of the cross at the elevation of the Host and of the Chalice. And of course, the triple sign of the cross is made twice—once at the Gospel, and once at the Last Gospel.

Moreover, one will end up striking the breast up to 15 times (!)

3x at the “mea culpa” of the servers’ Confiteor;
3x at the Agnus Dei;
3x at the second Confiteor;
3x at the Domine, non sum dignus;
3x at the Salve Regina (O clemens, O dulcis, O pia).

Traditionally-minded Catholics have learned to bow their head slightly at the name of Jesus, and to bow at other times during the liturgy, such as when the priest is passing by or when the thurifer is incensing the people. We go one step further and genuflect at the “Et incarnatus est” of the Creed—every time it is said, not just on Christmas and Annunciation, as in the Novus Ordo. We genuflect as well at the final blessing and at the words “Et verbum caro factum est.” (There are also other special times during the liturgical year when everyone is called upon to genuflect.)

While the postures of the faithful at certain times in the Mass are not as regimented as in the Novus Ordo, a Low Mass will typically have the faithful kneeling for a long time (from the start all the way to the Gospel, and from the Sanctus all the way through the last Gospel), which is a demanding discipline and really keeps one’s mind aware that one is in a special sacred place, taking part in a sacrifice. At a Sunday High Mass, there will be quite a lot of standing, bowing, genuflecting, kneeling, and sitting, which, together with the signs of the cross, the beating of the breast, the bowing of the head, and the chanting of the responses, amounts to what educators call a TPR environment—Total Physical Response. You are thrown into the worship body and soul, and, at almost every moment, something is happening that puts your mind back on what you are doing. The OF has tended to drop a lot of these “muscular” elements in favor of merely aural comprehension and verbal response, which, by themselves, constitute a fairly impoverished form of participation, and surely not a full one.

Most distinctive of all, perhaps, is the immensely peaceful reservoir of silence at the very center of the traditional Latin Mass. When the priest isn’t reading the Eucharistic Prayer “at” you, as it were, but instead is offering the Canon silently to God, always ad orientem, it becomes much easier to pray the words of the Canon oneself in union with the ministerial priest, or, if one prefers, to give oneself up a wordless union with the sacrifice. This makes the Canon of the Mass a time of more intensely full, conscious, and actual participation than is facilitated by the constant stream of aural stimulation in the Novus Ordo.

A Culture of Prayer
An observation at the blog Sensible Bond fits in very well with the foregoing analysis:

One can still hold the new rite to be integrally Catholic, and yet consider that the culture of the extraordinary form, where the people are supposedly passive, tends to teach people to pray independently, while the culture of the ordinary form often tends to create a dynamic in which people just chat to each other in church unless they are being actively animated by a minister.

What we have seen, therefore, is a conclusion that flies completely in the face of the conventional wisdom. “Active participation,” in the manner in which it is usually understood and implemented in the Novus Ordo sphere, actually fosters passivity, while the Catholic who receives in a seeming passivity all that the traditional Mass has to give is actualizing his potential for worship to a greater extent. Consequently, if you are looking to fulfill the Council’s call for full, conscious, and actual participation, look no further than your local traditional Latin Mass and you will find, with due time and effort, a richness of participation more comprehensive than the reformed liturgy allows.

Note 1. I have rewritten the preceding sentences in response to some excellent criticisms leveled against my treatment of the Latin word actuosus in the first version of this article. Readers who are interested in the details may find them in the comment thread below.

(First and third images courtesy of Joseph Shaw and the Latin Mass Society of England & Wales; second photo courtesy of Corpus Christi Watershed and the Campion Missal, used with permission.)