Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - pulpit detail

Richly detailed carved ornament, on the pulpit of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Feast of Saint John the Apostle

Pere Marquette Gallery of the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - stained glass window of Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist

Stained glass window of Saint John the Apostle, at the Pere Marquette Gallery of Saint Louis University.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pope Benedict's Message to the United Kingdom

HERE IS Pope Benedict's address to the United Kingdom, originally broadcast on the BBC:
Recalling with great fondness my four-day visit to the United Kingdom last September, I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you once again, and indeed to greet listeners everywhere as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God's chosen people, the children of Israel, were living in intense expectation.

They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send, and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.

God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them.

The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place - he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history.

And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross.

And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God.

Out of love for us he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability, and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life, to a share in the life of God himself.

As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down; he gives us hope, he brings us life.

Dear friends from Scotland, England, Wales and indeed every part of the English-speaking world, I want you to know that I keep all of you very much in my prayers during this Holy season.

I pray for your families, for your children, for those who are sick, and for those who are going through any form of hardship at this time.

I pray especially for the elderly and for those who are approaching the end of their days.

I ask Christ, the light of the nations, to dispel whatever darkness there may be in your lives and to grant to every one of you the grace of a peaceful and joyful Christmas.

May God bless all of you

Unto Us a Savior is Born

Saint Francis de Sales Oratory, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Christmas manger

After Midnight Mass at Saint Francis de Sales Oratory.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Photos of Wreathes

ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS decorations, taken recently:

Our Lady of Sorrows Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - front door decorated for Christmas

Our Lady of Sorrows Church, in Saint Louis.

Saint Raphael Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Advent wreath

Saint Raphael, in Saint Louis.

Saint Raphael Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - garland

Also at Saint Raphael.

Saint Gabriel the Archangel Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - door with Christmas wreathes

Saint Gabriel the Archangel, in Saint Louis.

Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, in Maplewood, Missouri, USA - door with Christmas wreathes

Immaculate Conception, in Maplewood.

Saint Joseph Roman Catholic Church, in Clayton, Missouri, USA - door with Christmas wreathes

Saint Joseph, in Clayton.

Discalced Carmelite Monastery, in Ladue, Missouri, USA - door with Christmas wreathes

Discalced Carmelite Monastery, in Ladue.

Annunziata Roman Catholic Church, in Ladue, Missouri, USA - door with Christmas wreathes

Annunziata, in Ladue.

Annunziata Roman Catholic Church, in Ladue, Missouri, USA - Advent wreath

Also at Annunziata.

Canon 216

IMAGINE IF faithful Catholics would organize together in a cabal, with the goal of joining atheistic and secularist organizations: gaining the trust of current members, rising to leadership positions, and then subverting them to reflect Catholic goals. Now this would be dishonest, not an activity a faithful Catholic would want to do, and is undoubtably sinful in many ways. It would also be ultimately futile, for secularists and atheists believe the world to be in constant flux, and so true believers would quickly start new organizations, untainted by Catholic influence.

But as Catholics, we have nowhere else to go; if our organizations are subverted by secularists and atheists, we end up suffering due to our obedience to Christ and His Church. Few of us can — or ought to — be a new Athanasius against the world. But we should not despair, as long as we keep the Faith.

In the old days, I used to read the so-called Progressive press, and these newspapers would often advertise for paid activists who would be trained to specifically target and subvert the Catholic Church. The general strategy included gaining the trust of existing members with the goal of rising to positions of power so as to move the Church in a secularist and atheistic direction.

But this is not an activity merely restricted to the political Left. Occult or New Age groups associated with the political Right have long-standing policies of encouraging their members to join mainstream religions for the purpose of subverting them towards the ideals of the so-called Enlightenment.

It would seem that Catholics are at a severe disadvantage. Worldly organizations are immune from direct Catholic influence, while Catholic organizations are open to being subverted by worldly influence. And yet we are not to uproot these influences in a wholesale manner, in a holy yet misguided effort to cleanse the Church — recall Christ's parable of the wheat and tares.

The process of formal excommunication is very slow and is restricted to the Bishops, and then only after much private counsel with the particular disobedient Catholics, who are given much time to learn and repent. Only after much private discussion is formal excommunication carried out. The same goes with Catholic institutions that are not carrying out the Catholic mission.

Two days ago, Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix decreed that a hospital can no longer call itself Catholic:
By virtue of my Episcopal authority as the Ordinary of the Particular Church of the Diocese of Phoenix, and in accord with Canon 216 of the Code of Canon Law, I hereby revoke my consent for the following organization to utilize in any way the name “Catholic.”

• St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, AZ

After much time and effort in cooperation with the leadership of Catholic Healthcare West and having studied the matter carefully with the assistance of experts in medical ethics, moral theology, and canon law, it has been determined that the aforementioned organization no longer qualifies as a “Catholic” entity in the territory of the Diocese of Phoenix. For the benefit of the public good, particularly amongst the Christian Faithful, I decree that the organization listed above may not use the name Catholic or be identified as Catholic in the Diocese of Phoenix.

The reason for this decision is based upon the fact that, as Bishop of Phoenix, I cannot verify that this health care organization will provide health care consistent with authentic Catholic moral teaching as interpreted by me in exercising my legitimate Episcopal authority to interpret the moral law.

This Decree of Removal of my consent goes into effect as of this day, and will remain in effect indefinitely, until such time as I am convinced that this institution is authentically Catholic by its adherence to the Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in addition to the standards of Catholic identity set forth in official church documents, Caholic theology, and canon law.

Given this day, December 21, 2010 at the Chancery of the Diocese of Phoenix

+ Thomas J. Olmsted
Bishop of Phoenix

Sr. Jean Steffes, CSA
Here is Canon 216, from the Code of Canon Law:
Since they participate in the mission of the Church, all the Christian faithful have the right to promote or sustain apostolic action even by their own undertakings, according to their own state and condition. Nevertheless, no undertaking is to claim the name Catholic without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.
A faithful Catholic ought to believe what the Church believes, and ought to want to be obedient to the Church and her bishops, even if they don't understand why. Most specifically, they shouldn't argue with their Bishop and deny his authority.

The world, the flesh, and the devil do not want Catholic hospitals — or anything else Catholic. Obviously there is no consensus as to whether hospitals ought to be owned by large privately-owned for-profit corporations or if they ought to be owned by the government: but certainly these are not to be owned by the Catholic Church and operated as charities. The world does not believe in charity — or love; the market and social justice are incapable of love, and it too often appears that the adherents of either are incapable of love also.

Losing a Catholic hospital is a tragedy, and this is most certainly what the world wants — it wants all of them closed down. They may use the word “Catholic” for a while until it is no longer useful.

Audio Recordings of Kenrick-Glennon's Workshop on Sacred Arts

A FEW MONTHS ago, artist David Clayton gave a series of talks on sacred art at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, the seminary of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. An Englishman and former engineer, Clayton is a Catholic convert, studied Eastern and Western iconographic painting, and now teaches at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire.

Yesterday the Seminary posted Clayton's talks online:

Talk 1 — overview
Talk 2 — the iconographic tradition
Talk 3 — the Baroque tradition
Talk 4 — the Gothic tradition

These are enhanced audio lectures, having illustrations from the talk.

I must admit that art theory has often left me cold. The theory used before the 20th century usually seemed — to me — to be incomprehensible: the supposed influence of the Golden Ratio never seemed clear, and many of the supposedly unbreakable rules seemed arbitrary to me. However, purported applications of these rules were often unconvincing to me. In this sense, I have much sympathy with those artists, notably the Impressionists, who rejected this system. On the contrary, the newer art theories found today, usually derived from Marxism, are even more incomprehensible — and the final works of art produced from these theories is ugly at best, and are provably harmful to the soul.

Clayton's approach to art theory is refreshing; it goes back to the classical sources found in the ancient and influential Greek schools of Pythagoras and Socrates, and continues through the Christian traditions of the Byzantine, Gothic, Baroque, and Eastern iconographic styles. This art theory is very comprehensible, and is based on simple numerical proportions and geometrical relationships. Under this system, an artist does not have to be a mad genius, nor does he have to be ‘creative’ — he just needs to be humble and diligent. The classical tradition is not egocentric, but rather is harmonious — Clayton shows a photograph of an English street with a mix of buildings of various eras, yet all remain harmonious with each other, since they all incorporate the same harmonious ratios.

Clayton regrets that there are very few Magisterial guidelines regarding sacred art, and no handbooks. But there are traditions we can follow. He notes that all the great artistic styles began on the altar, and derive from a liturgical source. As Clayton gave these talks at a seminary, he reminded his audience — future priests — that they will become patrons of the arts.

Following Pope Benedict's book “Spirit of the Liturgy”, Clayton describes the three authentically liturgical figural artistic traditions:
  1. Iconographic depicts Eschatological Man — the Saints in Heaven — this is specifically non-naturalistic and other-worldly. This style is often associated with the East, but the Iconographic is very much a part of the Western tradition also.
  2. Gothic depicts Man on Pilgrimage. Under the influence of Aristotle, Saint Albert the Great, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Francis of Assisi, this tradition is more naturalistic. It artistically shows emotion, and the suffering of Christ on the Cross became prominent during this period.
  3. Baroque (at is best) shows Fallen Man who has hope for Heaven. There was no theological imperative for this direct imitation of ancient Roman art, but Clayton states that it is liturgically good if properly executed (and he shows some counterexamples of poor Baroque). The great academies of art were founded during this period, and they lasted until they were taken over and closed down by revolutionaries during the 19th and 20th centuries.
I might add that Modernism and its derivatives depicts Man in a state of unrepentant mortal sin, on his way to Hell. I would think that this kind of art is not suitable for liturgical use.

In addition to these figurative traditions, Clayton also covers the abstract geometric decorative art that typically makes up the bulk of the artwork found in old churches. This art most obviously shows the theories of proportion and number found in the liturgical tradition. This kind of abstract decorative art is typically completely missing from modernistic buildings, which prefers blank walls, floors, and ceilings.

[For an excellent architectural overview of the tradition, I recommend the book Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy by Denis R. McNamara. This book is more specifically liturgical.]

There has been a resurgence of classical art academies in recent years. These all derive from a single, elderly American artist who studied at the last of the old art academies before it was closed down. However, these are not in the Catholic tradition — and many are in fact hostile to Christ. These are mainly in the Enlightenment arts tradition, and have an over-emphasis on painting the nude. Clayton thinks that artworks produced by these new academies tend to look too much like portraits because of excessive naturalism. Instead, Clayton is forming an explicitly Catholic school of the arts according to authentic Catholic tradition.

According to Clayton, the general aim for liturgical art is “To instruct and inspire the faithful to love God and mankind.” This ought to remind us of the Two Great Commandments:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with your whole mind, and with your whole strength.’ This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Rev. Francis X. Cleary, local historian of 'Exorcist' case, dies"

The Rev. Francis X. Cleary was 20 years old and about to enter the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant when Jesuits performed an exorcism on a 14-year-old boy in the old psychiatric wing of Alexian Brothers Hospital on south Broadway.

The event would become the basis for William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel "The Exorcist" and the hit movie that followed. It also would remain a fascination for Father Cleary, who later in life became an unofficial historian of the event; the go-to Jesuit on all matters "Exorcist," both real and fabled.

Father Cleary, who was ordained in 1963 and became a renowned biblical scholar at St. Louis University, died Wednesday (Dec. 8, 2010) of infirmities at Jesuit Hall at SLU. He was 81.

- Click here for the full obituary.
Saint Louis University has an obituary here.

Fr. Cleary is featured in documentaries; details can be found on the Internet Movie Database.

Upcoming Events at Saint Francis de Sales Oratory


2653 Ohio Avenue
Saint Louis, Missouri 63118
December 21, 2010

Cardinal Burke - Midnight Mass -  New Sign - Survey Continues

Dear Faithful and Friends of Saint Francis de Sales Oratory,

A few weeks after his elevation to the College of Cardinals by the Holy Father, His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke is coming home to St. Louis.
St. Francis de Sales Oratory will have the great honor of receiving His Eminence on Saturday, January 8, 2011 at 5:00 PM. Cardinal Burke will celebrate a Solemn Te Deum of thanksgiving with Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. After the ceremony all the faithful are invited to the church hall for a reception in the Cardinal’s honor. Please join us on this glorious occasion when we will have the opportunity to congratulate His Eminence personally and to thank him for all that he has done for St. Francis de Sales Oratory.


Come to St. Francis de Sales Oratory and celebrate the birth of Our Savior with the pomp and splendor due to our newborn King! We will begin singing carols at 11:30 PM. The Mass at midnight brings to us the beauty of the 17th century, age of St. Francis de Sales, with Charpentier’s charming Messe de Minuit for choir and orchestra. At the end of the Mass all the faithful are invited to come forward and to venerate the True Relic of the Stable of Bethlehem. Join the Oratory family for a Midnight Mass to remember!

Friday, December 24 – Vigil of Christmas
8:00 am, Low Mass
Christmas Carols 11:30pm, Solemn Midnight Mass

Saturday, December 25 – Nativity of Our Lord
8:00 am, Low Mass; 10:00, High Mass

Sunday, December 26 – Sunday in the Octave of Christmas
8:00 am, Low Mass; 10:00 am High Mass

Friday, December 31 - 7th Day in the Octave of Christmas
8:00am Low Mass; 5:00pm Benediction & Te Deum
(Plenary Indulgence available at Benediction)

Saturday, January 1- Circumcision of Our Lord
8:00 am, Low Mass; 10:00 am High Mass

Sunday, January 2 - Holy Name of Jesus
8:00 am, Low Mass; 10:00 High Mass

Thursday, January 6 - Epiphany
8:00am Low Mass; 12:15 Low Mass; 6:30pm High Mass

Beginning this week, greeting all visitors and potential visitors to St. Francis de Sales will be a new permanent sign by the front entrance. The old sign has guarded the church grounds for decades, and has aged while watching the neighborhood change all around the church. As we retire the old sign from service, its place has been taken by a new one with a tasteful electronic board which will announce more clearly the ageless liturgical events taking place at the Oratory. The legal and technical work for the installation of this sign has been a rather long process, and the final success was brought about by the tireless work of many dedicated benefactors. We are most grateful to all who have contributed towards this new arrival at the Oratory – just in time to invite and welcome all the faithful and our Christmas visitors.

To help us better serve all our families and individuals at the Oratory, we ask that everyone help us by participating in a survey which will be conducted over the next few weeks. We ask you kindly to fill out survey forms which are made available in the church bulletin and on-line at The survey will be open until mid-January since not all Oratory attendees are able to come every week. Thank you very much for your participation.
Canon Michael K. Wiener
Rector, St. Francis de Sales Oratory

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fight the Good Fight

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of Christ, "I have fought a good fight"

While Advent remembers the longing of Israel for the Messiah, Whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, this season also has an eschatological dimension — we await Christ's return at the end of the world, and also His judgement. Am I able to say, along with Saint Paul, I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith?

Photo taken in the narthex of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Rectory door with Christmas wreath

At the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.
Little Flower Roman Catholic Church, in Richmond Heights, Missouri, USA - stained glass window

At Little Flower Church, in Richmond Heights, Missouri.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Via Pulchritudinis

THE WAY OF BEAUTY, according to Pope Benedict:
Hence, following that via pulchritudinis that the Servant of God Paul VI indicated as fecund itinerary of theological and Mariological research, I would like to note the profound syntony [resonant harmony] between theological and mystical thought, the liturgy, Marian devotion and the works of art that, with the splendor of colors and shapes, sing the mystery of the Assumption of Mary and her heavenly glory together with her Son. Among the latter, I invite you to admire two of them that are particularly significant in Rome: the mosaics of the apse of the Marian Basilicas of St. Mary Major and Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Theological and spiritual reflection, liturgy, Marian devotion, and artistic representation truly form a whole, a complete and effective message, capable of arousing the wonder of eyes, of touching the heart and of enticing the intelligence to a more profound understanding of the mystery of Mary in which we see our destiny reflected clearly and our hope proclaimed.

Therefore, I take advantage of this occasion to invite experts in theology and Mariology to follow the via pulchritudinis, and I hope that, also in our days, thanks to a greater collaboration between theologians, liturgists and artists, incisive and effective messages can be offered to the admiration and contemplation of all.

— Pope Benedict XVI, December 17th, 2010; Address to the Pontifical Academies [source]
The via pulchritudinis, or Way of Beauty, has been a constant inspiration for the People of God, dating at least as far back as the Old Testament's tabernacle in the wilderness, which was richly and magnificently decorated — it wasn't a mere tent.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - pendentive with angel of government

This Way of Beauty can be found in our greatest churches; earlier today I went on a guided tour of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis — which is otherwise quite familiar to me — and the docent pointed out many things I've never noticed before. The structure and mosaics of this great church are simultaneously beautiful and are intensely integrated with liturgy and theology.

The Marian elements of this church are less clear, although there is a very beautiful chapel to the Virgin here. However, until recent decades, Catholic churches were always built on a distinctly feminine model, most particularly in the interior. This is supremely Marian in an analogical sense, for we speak of Holy Mother Church, and Mary as the Mother of the Church; and this femininity had served Christendom very well. The newer utility-seeking and beauty-denying masculine model of church architecture, as found in Modernism and its derivatives, has the effect of marginalizing not only Mary but also Christ, and ought to be considered a great failure for the Church.

In Advent, we await the coming of Christ, and in Christmas we celebrate His incarnation. Christianity is not a purely spiritualistic religion, for we know that matter itself can be redeemed and ennobled. For this reason, Advent and Christmas anticipate and celebrate God made flesh; but these are also distinctly Marian seasons, for a woman was raised to great dignity in this material world.  Likewise, faithful artists, if they make in the way that they were themselves made, can ennoble and raise up mere matter — a process that some call subcreation, which finds its highest calling in the liturgical arts.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two Philosophies

THERE ARE TWO philosophies which the world embraces, ideas that rule the intellectual life of those who teach and govern.

The scientific world view sees the cosmos as a collection of impersonal particles and forces, whose interactions follow laws that are potentially measurable and knowable. From the foundations of this physics, we get chemistry, biology, and many other scientific disciplines. Hardly a settled subject, contemporary science continually uses its powerful toolset to make new discoveries and is well-prepared to quickly make practical use of new information.

Contemporary psychology sees the human person as an independent entity, finding its own meaning, truth, and value; attempting to be happy while dealing with bad experiences. So humans have options, choices, and are free to do whatever they want to do, and free to become whatever they want to become. Still controversial is the understanding of the effect of community on the human person; some see community as determining personal identity, others say that humans seek out and form their own community, while some think that a human ought to transcend all bounds of community. From these theories derive notions of liberty and democracy and have an overwhelming influence on our contemporary world.

Please note that these two theories do not fit together. Is a human being merely an impersonal bag of chemicals operating under determined laws of nature, or is a human being a free entity? Under the worldly view, man is a ghost in a machine, a free soul residing in a deterministic body. This is contradictory to the Catholic view of a human being, where spirit and body are intimately combined, and the consequence of the Catholic view, the resurrection of the body, scandalizes contemporary worldly men, even those who consider themselves to be ‘spiritual.’

A ghost has an ambiguous relationship with physical reality.  The ghost may assume that only he exists, and that what is called reality is just for him alone, or is even his own mental construct.  Or, a ghost may find other like-minded ghosts and then they can form an elite, and they can all look down on the world together from their lofty perches.

A free ghost who creates his own values may have very bad relationships with the impersonal bags of chemicals he finds around himself. If the goal of science is to conquer nature, why not conquer human nature? Chemicals have little value, and complicated collections of chemicals (even if they are human beings) may have hardly any more value — so why not manipulate, control, and kill them? Maybe the ghost even thinks that he is doing them a favor.

This Cartesian Dualism does not have to be atheistic, but it tends to make God irrelevant, because the free individual will think of himself as being a god. It even makes the idea of morality quite weak — or even eliminates the concept of morality. Some think this is good; rather I am reminded of Satan's non serviam — I will not serve. However, a self-actuallized ghost will have no problems with forcing other people serve him and makes severe demands on others. People who embrace these philosophies are often tyrants, on either a small or large scale. They also often come into conflict with others, for they cannot stand being contradicted: and recall that when gods fight, there is lots of collateral damage.

Today is the feast day of Saint John of the Cross, who gives us another view of the human person, which is humble and not arrogant. The true riches of Man is not found in power and pleasure, but rather in the love of God and in the love of your fellow man. To achieve blessedness, a soul has to be self-emptying, purified and letting God fill the void — a soul that is self-centered or self-actualized may never find true and lasting blessedness.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

So Close...

Cat with doves

Birds get fed, and cats get entertained.

Gaudete Sunday

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Rose vestment

Detail of a rose chasuble, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church, in Ferguson, Missouri, USA - altar decorations with poinsettia and Advent wreath

At Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, in Ferguson, Missouri; taken early today, during an all-night vigil. Were this not a Sunday in Advent, this would be Our Lady's feast day.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holly Berries

Missouri Botanical Garden (Shaw's Garden), in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - holly berries

Holly berries, at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Immaculate Conception

Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Statues of Saint Bernardette of Lourdes and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

Saint Bernardette of Lourdes and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, at the Old Cathedral in Saint Louis

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou

National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, in Belleville, Illinois, USA - Statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Lourdes Grotto

“I am the Immaculate Conception;” photo taken at the Lourdes shrine at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, in Belleville, Illinois.


ARCHITECTURAL ORNAMENT, at the City Museum in Saint Louis. I find these particularly charming:

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Architectural ornament, beaver family

City Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Architectural ornament, love birds

Feast of Saint Ambrose

Saint Ambrose Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri - statue of Saint Ambrose 2
Statue of Saint Ambrose, at Saint Ambrose Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri. Photo taken in 2007.

A bishop during the Roman period, Saint Ambrose had to deal with the Arian heresy, which was popular amongst the powerful; he even had to rebuke the Emperor on occasion, at great risk to himself, for a leader who calls himself Christian ought to act like a Christian in his political affairs. Besides his orthodoxy, his lofty rhetoric and deep knowledge of Platonic philosophy helped to convert Saint Augustine to the faith. On matters of Church discipline, he advised others to adapt to the local customs of wherever they happened to be; from this, we eventually got the maxim “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  The Church in Ambrose's Milan was quite distinctive, and the Ambrosian Rite liturgy survives to this day.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Cause of John Hardon, S.J.

Fr.HardonIXTHE CAUSE FOR the canonization of John Anthony Hardon, S.J., is taking place at the Fr. John Hardon S.J. Archive and Guild, located near the Cathedral in Saint Louis. From the Archive's website:
“All these years of remaining faithful to the Catholic Church in spite of widespread opposition to what I believed, these were the years when I learned clearly and deeply that to remain a bonafide Catholic teacher of Catholic Doctrine was, honestly, the most demanding enterprise of my whole life.”
Fr. Hardon was best known for his catechetical programs.

A Hymn for Advent

Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church, in Gildehaus, Missouri, USA - Advent wreath
Advent wreath, at Saint John the Baptist Church, in Gildehaus, Missouri.

VOX CLARA ecce intonat
A thrilling voice by Jordan rings, Rebuking guilt and darksome things: Vain dreams of sin and visions fly; Christ in his might shines forth on high.

Now let each torpid soul arise, That sunk in guilt and wounded lies; See! the new Star's refulgent ray Shall chase disease and sin away.

The Lamb descends from heaven above To pardon sin with freest love: For such indulgent mercy shewn With tearful joy our thanks we own:

That when again he shines revealed, And trembling worlds to terror yield,
He give not sin its just reward,

But in his love protect and guard. All praise, eternal Son, to thee
Whose Advent doth thy people free; Whom with the Father we adore, And Holy Ghost, for evermore. Amen.

The Holy Bishop Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myrna

Russian Icon, at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Saint Nicholas 2a

Russian icon of Saint Nicholas, which was exhibited at the Saint Louis University Art Museum.

Oh, how the mighty Saint Nicholas has fallen in the popular imagination! In the days when most venerated Saints were martyrs of the Roman persecutions, Nicholas was venerated due to the holiness of his life. Alas, the modern Santa Claus is nearly unrecognizable, thanks to the forces of commercialization and secularization. Even the old custom of hanging stockings on the mantle hardly reflects the ancient legend: Nicholas was anonymously giving gifts of money (it is said that he threw them down a chimney) to prevent some girls from being sold into prostitution.

Saint Nicholas, pray for us!

More information on the life and legends of Saint Nicholas can be found here, and at the Saint Nicholas Center.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Advent Wreath

Our Lady of Lourdes Church, in Washington, Missouri, USA - Advent wreath

At Out Lady of Lourdes Church, in Washington, Missouri.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Altar Decorated for Advent

Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - altar decorated for Advent

At the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France (the old Cathedral), in downtown Saint Louis.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

"Archdiocese of St. Louis to Receive new Auxiliary - Bishop-designate Edward M. Rice"

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is happy to announce the appointment of Bishop-designate Edward M. Rice, who will succeed Auxiliary Bishop-emeritus Robert J. Hermann as the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Bishop-designate Rice said he has "a great love for the Church in St. Louis, and relying on the example and support of Bishop-emeritus Hermann, who served so faithfully, I too look forward to serving them in this new capacity." He was appointed Bishop-designate at 5:00 a.m. St. Louis time by Pope Benedict XVI, and will be ordained on January 13, 2011, by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

Born in 1960, and having been a St. Louisan all his life, Bishop-designate Rice has touched the lives of many throughout the Archdiocese. He has served as a pastor or associate pastor at three different parishes, directed the Cardinal Glennon College Seminary, has given many retreats, and is currently the Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Vocations.


Hanukkah Begins

THE 25th OF KISLEV, in the Jewish calendar, marks the beginning of the octave of Hanukkah, which in the Gregorian calendar is sundown on December 1st this year. The word ḥănukkāh (חֲנֻכָּה‎) means ‘dedication’ and celebrates the rededication of the Temple after it was desecrated by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Antiochus allied with lapsed Jews against the faithful and outlawed Jewish ritual practice, to the point of prohibiting circumcision and having the death penalty for possessing copies of Scripture. His armies sacked Jerusalem, slaughtered tens of thousands, and desecrated the Temple by offering a pig on the altar and setting up a statue of Zeus. Eventually the guerrilla army of the Maccabee brothers succeeded at driving Antiochus' forces from the Temple.

Re-consecrating the Temple included the replacement of the desecrated altar and altar vessels. The Temple also had a sanctuary lamp — the menorah, a seven-branched candelabra — which required specially consecrated holy oil; however, there was only enough oil to burn for one day, and it would take at least a week to consecrate more. This led to the Miracle of the Oil Container, where this limited amount of oil burned for eight days. Because of this miracle, Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights. Desecration drove the presence of God from the Temple; re-consecration made the Temple once again a fitting resting-place for the Lord, and His return was given a sign by way of a miracle.

These events are found in Josephus, sacred tradition, the two books of Maccabees as found in Catholic Bibles (the Orthodox have four books of the Maccabees!), and from other sources.

Christ celebrated Hanukkah, as seen in John 10:22. He was at the Temple on that feast when He first fully revealed His divinity. This event gives a new spiritual meaning to Hanukkah — the world has been desecrated by Original Sin, and God returns and the world is re-consecrated anew.

Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri - Judith slaying Holofernes
Judith Slaying Holofernes, at the Saint Louis Art Museum.

Also observed in Hanukkah is the story of Judith, aunt of Judah Maccabee, who is depicted in the painting above slaying the Assyrian general Holofernes. Smitten by her beauty, Holofernes invited Judith to his tent, where she plied him with salty cheese, making him thirsty — and so he drank plenty of wine to wash it down. After he fell asleep in a drunken stupor, Judith severed his head, which so demoralized his troops that they were defeated in battle.  The Book of Judith is found in Catholic and Orthodox bibles.

Fr. Z. has additional information here.