Friday, December 7, 2018

Corona of the Immaculate Conception

As we approach the patronal feast day of the United States, it's the perfect time to mention a beautiful devotion to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.

The Corona of the Immaculate Conception is a chaplet composed by a Jesuit priest who was one of North America's great explorers: Father Jacques Marquette.

Unfortunately, the Corona is not very well known. There's another, better known devotion called the "Chaplet of the Immaculate Conception" written by St. John Berchmanns. But in terms of authorship and historical context, Marquette's Corona has a special significance for Americans and Canadians.

Let's set the stage with an account of the Corona from Marquette's Jesuit superior Fr. Claude Dablon, writing from Montreal in 1677:
"Some months before his death, he [Marquette] said every day with his two men a little Corona of the Immaculate Conception which he had devised as follows: After the Credo, there is said once the Pater and Ave, and then 4 times these words: Ave filia Dei patris, ave mater filii Dei, ave sponsa Spiritus Sancti, ave templum totius Trinitatis: per sanctam virginitatem et immaculatam conceptionem tuam, purissima Virgo, emunda cor et carnem meam: in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, — concluding with the Gloria Patri, the whole repeated three times."
For a long time I never found an actual Corona of the Immaculate Conception for sale anywhere. So I went ahead and made my own with cord/twine, 15 blue oval beads, and a miraculous medal.

The Rosary Workshop now offers a fancier version of the Corona. You can also use St. John Berchman's Chaplet of the Immaculate Conception, which has the same arrangement of beads.

How to Say the Corona of the Immaculate Conception

1. On the medal, say the Apostles' Creed.
2. On the first bead, say 1 Our Father and 1 Hail Mary.
3. On each of the next 4 beads, say a Corona Prayer:
Hail Daughter of God the Father,
Hail Mother of God the Son
Hail Spouse of the Holy Spirit,
Hail Temple of the entire Trinity.
By thy holy virginity and Immaculate Conception,
O Virgin most pure,
cleanse my heart and my flesh.
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
4. End with 1 Glory Be.
5. Repeat steps 2-4 two times.

If you'd prefer to say the chaplet in Latin, the text of the Corona prayer can be found italicized in the passage from Fr. Dablon above.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Advent Hymns and Carols

Amanda at The Homely Hours has a list of Advent hymns and carols for each day of the season. It's a great compilation, and a timely reminder for us to keep the spirit of the season.

There is so much beloved Advent music. I doubt many who know it would be eager to toss it aside--even for a few extra weeks of Christmas carols.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Roof Collapse atop St. Peter's Church

So the roof collapsed on a Church in Rome today. No one was hurt, thank God.

This was the Church built atop the Mamertine Prison where St. Peter was imprisoned in Rome: known as San Giuseppe dei Falegnami or San Pietro in Carcere. The titular cardinal of San Giuseppe is Francesco Coccopalmerio. Remember him?

A Church's roof just fell in. This week. Where the first Pope was chained, imprisoned, and then miraculously freed. The Church under the titular leadership of Francesco Coccopalmerio.

Fun fact: a related cathedral in Rome is St. Peter in Chains. There is a legend that Pope Leo I compared the chains of this church to those of Mamertine Prison, and they miraculously fused together. The current Cardinal titular of this Church? Donald Wuerl.

All just coincidences, I'm sure. Just like the lightning striking the Vatican.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Hallowtide: The Window to Heaven and Hell

Halloween is an eminently Catholic holiday, but the average American would be forgiven for never realizing it.

Perhaps even we in the Church have not realized how this holds true even for the worst aspects of the modern bastardized holiday—the gluttony, the immodesty, the perverted iconography, and the adoration of death and the demonic. All of these are, in an odd way, as much a part of this liturgical season as the Saints.

Admittedly, the propers of Hallowtide are mostly concerned with the crowns of beatitude rather than the powers of hell. The latter make an appearance—but only in a few select places, and never for very long.

The Communion verse for the All Hallows Eve Mass has a glancing reference:

Justorum animae in manu Dei sunt, et non tanget illos tormentum malitiae—"The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of malice shall not touch them"
And the Office of Matins for All Souls' Day has the following excerpt from Venerable Bede on the life of the blessed:

There the devil will be no more an object of fear; there no evil spirits lie in wait; there, the dread of hell will be gone.
So the Church has not forgotten that there are evil spirits to be saved from. She remembers. She just does not dwell on the powers of hell during this season. We might well ask—why not, when everyone else is?

Because in Hallowtide, the Church is standing in contrast to the world.

She calls attention to what she represents, while the world calls attention to what it represents. She is the light, and it is the darkness. She stands with the angelic hosts, and it stands with the demonic legions. She boasts in the modesty of saints, and it boasts of the profligacy of the damned.

The world's freakish and ghoulish Halloween nightmares furnish us with a crucially important icon for meditation—they put on flagrant display the other half of the lesson that the Roman liturgy is tastefully circumspect about. At the end of October, Almighty God has allowed our enemy, perhaps even forced him unwillingly, to drop his mask and display his ultimate reality for everyone to see.

This world is the princedom of the devil. It is the antechamber to hell. If we ever doubt that, and tend toward daydreaming only of idyllic Arcadian glens and fairies dancing in sun-dappled forests, it will only take a 9-11 or an ISIS to wake us. In a puddle of our own blood.

All around us, right now, men and women are selling their souls to pride, to money, to power, to sex, to hatred, to any or all of the seven deadly sins. Some of them will be saved from that fate by the grace of God. But many...many...will not.

The Middle Ages had a keen sense of horror. Their art proves it. They showed a readiness to use ghoulish images and devices to make a theological point. They made the gate of hell a mouth—which frankly gets far closer to the devouring, insatiable nature of the demonic than an inanimate, static cave which a person can walk in and out of at will.

Yet the medievals were no nihilists. They saw both the transcendent splendor of love and the monstrous corruption of evil. Theirs was not a pastel, soft-focus Christianity but one in bold colors: bright golds, bloody crimsons, and pitch blacks.

We modern Catholics have lost much of their wisdom. We have rashly judged their world too primitive, too coarse, too folklorish to be credible in an age of science. But having lost the sense of the monstrous, the hideous, the hellish, having psychologized and explained away evil to a mere mistaken tendency or uninformed worldview, we have lost the truth of the world. We are in desperate need to behold evil once more as it truly is. As something unspeakably terrible and ugly.

And this is precisely where the world comes in, filling a liturgical mission it didn't even know it had.

During this sacred Triduum, the minions of hell will be crawling from the bowels of the earth to mark their own.

Decadent revelers will blacken their eye sockets, tear their skimpy clothes, and paint festering wounds on their flesh. Devotees of Santa Muerte will offer prayers at the blasphemous altars of Hades and invoke, supplicate, and adore the Negation of Life. Impenitent heretics—no accident the anniversary of their rebellion falls in this period—will exult in their brazen defiance of Christ's Church and train themselves to resist it to the end. Even respectable suburban homeowners will decorate their yards with horrors from Dante's Inferno. Not to warn or teach about the Last Things but purely for "fun"—apparently.

And Catholics? We see the harvest come in, the leaves fall, the nights grow long, and the world turn dark. And through it all we keep our eyes firmly fixed on heaven. We stand with our fellow sinners in repentant tears at the Calvary of the Mass. We invoke the saints for their aid and strive to dress ourselves in their clothes and virtues. We sacrifice and pray for the souls of our dearly departed, putting their needs above our own. And through it all we grow, little by little, in charity toward God and man.

The stark contrast between the Church and the world ought never, and least of all in this time of year, to be confused or muddled. There will be a time for the Church to speak forcefully about hell and the damned, but it is not during Hallowtide. This season is about two paths, and these paths must be laid out clearly and crisply, blazed everywhere along the way with reliable, unmistakable markers of their destinations. So that, in the end, not a single soul can pretend to be surprised at where they have arrived.

God has given us Hallowtide as a three-day window to the Last Judgment in all its bright glory and dark horror. It is an audition for our part in Eternity, a dress rehearsal for that Day of Wrath that lies before us all. The liturgy of the Church versus the revelry of the world.

All of us, whether we are inconstant friends of Christ, avowed enemies of God, or secular revelers seeking nothing more than a bit of amusement—all of us in these three days will be dressing up both literally and metaphorically. And we will all be preparing and training.

Just with very different vestments, and for very different ends.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Overloading Advent

Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that Advent is even acknowledged at all in the commercial world. In the United States where we seem to have a preponderance of low-church Christians, the liturgical year is never as well emphasized as it could be.

The difficulty is that Advent is a time of penance and expected waiting, not celebration. Our kids have an Advent calendar courtesy of generous grandparents, but it's all simple things like crackers and candies, and they also got Bible verses to go along with every day, lest we forget what it is we're waiting for.

Companies haven't generally been quite that restrained. Advent has become big business. Pottery Barn has gotten into the fray, and now even Aldi has a wine calendar that is making the rounds.

Nunc est bibendum! Traditionally, the feast of St. John on December 27 was the big day for wine, but once again there seems to be an increasingly sloppy blurring of the two seasons.

Commercial outfits are motivated by and interested in one thing: moving product. There's nothing wrong with that.... our publishing company has a wonderful Advent book for this time of year:

Lynne's book is, though, more oriented toward making simple little crafts with prayers and devotions rather than moving stuff off of shelves. It's not wrong to encourage good solid Advent products like these, just to make gifts and treats the sole focus of Advent instead of tangible helps on the way to discovering what Advent really is.

Advent has a real danger of becoming overloaded with gifts, especially if we add in treats for St. Nicholas's feast, the ever-more popular "let's just exchange Christmas gifts now because we won't be seeing each other during the holidays", and even Hanukkah presents from our Jewish family and friends. Some of this can't be helped. But it seems like if we're not getting gifts, we're thinking about gifts, running around purchasing gifts, worrying about gifts, wrapping gifts.

No one described this pre=Christmas tension with better wit than the great C. S. Lewis, in "Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus."

Let's make sure we Niatirbians-in-spirit maintain a bit of restraint in this penitential season so we can show up with bright shining faces to Mass on December 25th.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Devotions for the Feast of St. Augustine

Since we will be celebrating the Feast of St. Augustine in a few days on August 28th, I'll be featuring a few lesser-known devotions to this great saint. This inaugural prayer is taken from a prayer-book published by an Irish Augustinian in 1885 and is recommended there for after Confession.


BEFORE thine eyes, O Lord, we bring our offences, and confess that the evil we have committed far outweighs what we suffer. We feel the punishment of sin, and yet we turn not from our wilfulness in sinning. If Thou waitest for our amendment, we are not corrected. If Thou chastiseth us, we are not patient. We confess our fault during our affliction, and forget our tears when the visitation is past. If Thou stretchest out thine arm, we proffer obedience; and if Thou suspendest the stroke, we forget our promise. If Thou punishest, we cry for mercy; and if Thou sparest, we provoke Thee again to strike. Behold, O Lord, we confess our guilt. Thy hand is not shortened that it cannot save. Neither is thine ear dull that it cannot hear. Thou hast shown us the manner we may come before Thee, requiring us to act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly before Thee, and trust, finally, in the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again for our justification.

Remember not, O Lord, our offences, nor those of our parents, and take not vengeance on our sins.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Candace: A Christian Name from Nubia

Nubia was an extremely old civilization, with close cultural ties to Egypt that go all the way back to the dawn of Egyptian history. It even developed its own distinct adaptation of Egyptian hieroglyphics called Meroitic.

One of Nubia’s most visible contributions to Western Christianity is the name Candace. We get it from the New Testament Greek form Κανδακη and the Candacis of the Latin Vulgate, as it appears in the story of St. Philip baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts of the Apostles:

"And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of queen Candace of Ethiopia, who was in charge of all her treasures, had come to Jerusalem to worship" -Acts 8:27
Candace ultimately comes from ktke, the word for "queen" or perhaps "queen mother" in the language of ancient Nubia. In the Meroitic script, it is rendered as follows:
The alphabetic hieroglyphs above are read from right to left. They are enclosed in an oval cartouche, indicating that they are part of a royal name; the three dots to the right are a word separator, and then the four symbols, reading towards the left, spell out k-t-k-e. The Greek transliteration is shown below.

This research will be featured in my forthcoming book "The Church for Our People: Studies in Afro-American Inculturation".