Richness Beyond Compare
Thomas A. Droleskey
An article of mine that was published in August of last year discussed The Richness of Tradition, noting that many of the feasts of the calendar of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church had been suppressed by the revolutionaries who concocted the synthetic entity known as the Novus Ordo Missae, thus depriving Catholics of important links with the patrimony of the Faith.
This particular reflection, which will be, believe it or not, relatively brief, was prompted by a phenomenon that I noted in G.I.R.M. Warfare but have been reminded of in a particular way in the past few days while assisting at Holy Mass offered by Father Lawrence C. Smith in Silver Cliff, Wisconsin: the fullness of the Propers of the Masses of the sanctoral cycle in the Traditional Latin Mass. That is, the Collects, Offertories, Secrets, Communions, and Postcommunion prayers in the Traditional Latin Mass more fully and beautifully express the richness of the Catholic Faith and the vibrancy of the lives of the saints than the "simplified," pedestrian prayers contained in the Novus Ordo Missae. Especially disturbing is the fact that those things considered by modern man to be "legendary" have been eliminated entirely from the Propers of the Masses in the sanctoral cycle of the Novus Ordo Missae, once again demonstrating its authors' biases against anything that cannot be "proved" to their prideful satisfaction.
Take, for example, the Collect of the Mass for Saint Catherine of Alexandria (November 25):
O God, Who didst give the law to Moses on the summit of Mount Sinai and by means of Thy holy angels didst miraculously place there the body of blessed Catherine, Thy virgin and martyr, grant we beseech Thee, that, by her merits and intercession, we may be able to come unto the mountain which is Christ.
This prayer accepts as a fact that the body of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, martyred for her clear witness to the Faith, was transported by angels to Mount Sinai. Some "scholars" contend that Saint Catherine of Alexandria never existed. Is it beyond the power of God to send angels to transport the body of one of His holy martyrs by means of His angels? Why is there a bias against believing in the omnipotence of God? A Catholic who has been given the grace to have a serene and childlike Faith will not be surprised to see in eternity, please God he or she dies in a state of sanctifying grace, that the supposed "legends" that lack "scholarly evidence" are indeed factual and marvelous proofs of how God has chosen to confound His prideful creatures by His power and glory.
Although Father Lasance, the editor of the New Roman Missal, was himself skeptical of the story of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, here is what is contained in the Saint Andrew Daily Missal, which contains an excerpt from the Roman Breviary:
"The illustrious virgin Catherine," says the Roman breviary, "was born at Alexandria. Having from youth combined the study of the liberal arts with the ardour of faith, she soon rose to high perfection both in doctrine and in holiness, and at the age of eighteen surpassed the most learned. She rebuked the Emperor Maximian for tormenting the Christians, and he, filled with admiration for her learning, assembled from all parts the most learned men, to bring her over from the faith of Jesus to the worship of idols. The contrary happened, for several were converted to Christianity by the cogency of her arguments."
Maximian then ordered her to be scourged with rods and with whips weighted with lead. Then he had her tied to wheels armed with sharp swords. But the machine broke down and the tyrant caused her to be beheaded. She died about A.D. 310. She is one of the fourteen Auxiliary Saints. Christian philosophers, scholars, orators and lawyers honour her as their patroness.
Mount Sinai, where the body of Saint Catherine was carried by angels, is also the place where God's ministering angels brought His law to Moses. Let us with the Church invoke the intercession of Saint Catherine so that we may reach Jesus, the law-giver of our souls.
Good enough for me, folks. Good enough for me.
The contempt of contemporary man for the "legend" surrounding Saint Catherine of Alexandria applies as well to Saint Raymund of Pennafort, who was spread out his cloak on the waters and was transported in six hours over the sea that separated the "island of Majorca from Barcelona." Here is the Collect for his Mass (January 23):
O God, who didst choose blessed Raymund to be an eminent minister of the sacrament of Penance, and dist wondrously bring him through the waves of the sea, grant that by his intercession we may have the grace to bring forth fruits worthy of penance and to reach the port of eternal safety.
Yes, the path of our own flight to eternal safety is the one of penance, mortification, prayer, fasting, almsgiving. Too much for modern man's constant accommodations with the spirit of our capitalist/socialist/statist/collectivist/materialist world. There is no reference at all to Saint Raymund's having been transported over the sea in the "Opening Prayer" for his Mass in the Novus Ordo Missae. The man of Faith accepts the miracles that have been handed down to us through the Church's Sacred Liturgy over the centuries. The man of unbelief seeks to wipe away anything and everything that, as noted above, gives the least bit of credence to God's complete omnipotence over the laws of the nature that He himself created.
Another example of the richness of the prayers in the Propers of the sanctoral cycle of the Traditional Latin Mass can be found in the Collect for Saint Sylvester the Abbot (November 26):
O most merciful God, Who, when the holy abbot Sylvester was piously pondering over the vanity of earthly things whilst he stood by an open grave, didst vouchsafe to call him to the desert, we supplicate Thee that, despising earthly things, after his example, we may forever enjoy Thy presence.
This is a marvelous prayer to be prayed by a priest at Holy Mass, especially, as was the case yesterday, November 26, in the hours before the beginning of Advent with First Vespers on Saturday evening. This Collect specifically notes that we must despise the things of this passing life, knowing that our mortal bodies are destined one day, sooner rather than later, for the corruption of the grave. What a beautiful and fitting way to prepare for a withdrawal from the world and its false pleasures during the penitential season of Advent. A prayer of such beauty and authentic simplicity is not be found anywhere in the sanctoral cycle of the Novus Ordo Missae.
Indeed, as I noted in G.I.R.M. Warfare, there are few references in the Novus Ordo Missae to the fact that we are frequently the slaves of sin, that we need to live penitentially in order to repair the damage done to our immortal souls by means of our sins. Paragraph 15 of the General Instruction to the Roman Missal is quite explicit in stating that the authors of the new Mass believed it was desirable to eliminate references to "outward forms of penance that belong to another era in Church history." This bias against personal penance, reflective possibly of a desire on the part of those who wrote the new Mass not to be reminded of their own sins and the need to reform their lives, an echo of Martin Luther's own personal bias in this regard, stands in stark contrast to the recognition of our sinfulness found in the Propers of the Mass of Tradition. Here is the Collect from the Feast of Saint Felix of Valois (November 20);
O God, Who didst vouchsafe to call out of the desert blessed Felix, Thy confessor, unto the work of redeeming captives, grant, we beseech Thee, that, being through his intercession delivered by Thy grace from the captivity of our sins, we may be brought to our heavenly country.
Isn't this so beautiful? We are indeed held captive by our sins, which is why we need to make regular use of the Sacrament of Penance, yes, even for our venial sins. We need to be liberated from all attachment even to our least venial sins in order to be perfect, in order to be able to enter Heaven with the wedding garment of sanctifying grace and a soul unsullied by any debt due our sins at the moment of our bodily deaths. Far more important than physical liberty is the authentic liberation from the slavery of sin that comes from cooperating with the graces won for us by the shedding of every single drop of Our Lord's Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross. Most people who assist at the Novus Ordo Missae do not know this in large part because the Propers of the Mass do not communicate this clearly. After all, the whole ethos of Gaudium et Spes and Dignitatis Humanae stress liberty, both civil and religious, as expressions of "human dignity." Men have besmirched any shred of dignity at all when they are not in a state of sanctifying grace.
Consider also the Collect from today's Mass, the First Sunday of Advent:
Bestir, O Lord, Thy might, we pray Thee and come; That, defended by Thee, we may deserve rescue from approaching dangers brought on by our sins, and being set free by Thee, obtain our salvation.
A magnificent summary of how each of us is in need of Our Lord coming to us to save us from our sins. He came to us first in Baptism. He comes to us in the Sacrament of Penance. He is received by us thereafter in Holy Communion to nourish us unto eternity and to fortify us in our daily battles with the spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Repetition is indeed the mother of learning. The Church gave us over the course of centuries a liturgy that repeated itself year in and year out without any deviation. We are dumb sheep. We need to be hit over the head with a two-by-four frequently for us to "get" the things of the Faith. That is why the Mass of Tradition features an annual, rather than a triennial, cycle of readings for Sundays, and why Sunday Masses are repeated during the week when there is no celebration of a saint's feast day. Our Lord in His infinite wisdom knows that we might after fifty or sixty or seventy years of hearing the same Mass year in and year out actually come to some dim understanding of what it is He is trying to teach us. Although I have been assisting exclusively at the Traditional Latin Mass for several years now--and sought it out during the week as frequently as I could prior to that time, I never cease to be amazed at the richness a and the beauty of its component parts. No mere man could have composed such beauty and richness. The Traditional Latin Mass is truly a work of God Himself.
With a full four week Advent underway (next year will be the shortest possible Advent: three weeks), I cannot stress enough with my fellow Catholics the necessity of making whatever sacrifices are necessary to assist exclusively at the Immemorial Mass of Tradition. One's entire interior life deepens over time the more one is immersed in the fullness of the honor and glory that are due God in the august Sacrifice of the Cross, which is, of course, the unbloody re-presentation of the Son to the Father in Spirit and in Truth. One's faith is fed and one's peace is affirmed in the Mass of all ages. The richness of the few prayers noted above do not even begin to express the profundity of the mysteries that are plumbed by worshiping Our Lord in the very Mass that He himself taught the Apostles to offer before He Ascended to the Father's right hand in glory.
A priest says the following prayer before after saying Ite, Missa est or Bendicamus Domino in the Traditional Latin Mass:
May the homage of my bounden duty be pleasing to Thee, O holy Trinity; and grant that the sacrifice which I, though unworthy, have offered in the sight of Thy majesty, may be acceptable to Thee, and through Thy mercy, be a propitiation for me and for all those for whom I have offered. Amen.
Even a priest must be reminded in each Mass he offers of the tremendous mystery he has been privileged to make present by the power given to him at the moment of his priestly ordination. He cannot take for granted one iota of any element of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. A priest who prays this prayer, which is said immediately before he imparts his priestly blessing upon the faithful in those Masses where a blessing is to be administered (the priest proceeds after saying this prayer immediately to the Last Gospel in Masses for the dead), meditatively will always be filled with awe and dread at the tremendous power he has been given by God to make Him incarnate under the appearances of bread and wine and to render unto Him the perfect Sacrifice of the Cross for a propitiation for his own sins and "for all those for whom" he has offered Holy Mass.
Keep close, my friends, to the Mass of Tradition and you will draw ever closer to God, keeping company with Our Lady, whose prominence in the role of salvation is communicated very clearly throughout each offering of the the Mass that begins with a priest addressing God and ends on most days with the Gospel of the Incarnation.
Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Pope Saint Gregory the Great, pray for us.
Saint Pius V, pray for us.
Saint Pius X, pray for us.
Saint Rita, pray for us.
Saint Philomena, pray for us.
Saint Sylvester the Abbot pray for us.
Saint Peter of Alexandria, pray for us.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us.
Saint Catherine Laboure, pray for us.