a pilgrim and friend of God.

Meditatio (I) – Pharao’s Chariots

Feria V post Cineres – 19 Feb 2015
Thursday after Ash Wednesday – Lent

Carrus Pharaonis et exercitum emus proiecit in mare.
Pharao’s chariots and his army he hath cast into the sea. (Ex 15.4)

From this morning’s Lauds, we read in the Canticum Moysis (Canticle of Moses, Ex 15) that the Lord God, as a part of His people Israel’s redemption, has drowned the pursuing Egyptian army in the waters of the sea.

This is baptism, the redemptive action of the Lord God upon his people, the Church: the body of the sinner, the chariots of Pharao, is plunged and drowned in the watery tomb of Christ’s saving blood; the demons who haunt, taunt, and tempt the sinner, his army, are scattered, exorcised from about the body of the sinner.

I have baptism on my mind because my friend and colleague’s newest son was recently baptized this last Sunday (right before the Lenten cut-off), and the right was performed in the usus antiquior (i.e., in both English and Latin).

After the saving sacrament of baptism is completed, however, the care of the soul is taken up in Confession, both in the Sacrament of Penance and in the public confession, called the Confiteor (lit. I confess)

We see all this clearly in the Confiteor of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (see below): firstly, to Our Lady, Mary ever Virgin, whose matronal care we as Christ’s disciples are entrusted; secondly, to Saint Michael the Archangel, who is vigilant in battle against the Adversary and all the evil spirits who prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls; thirdly, to Saint John the Baptist, the forerunner of Our Blessed Lord and the one to whom Our Lord submitted himself to John’s baptism to fulfill all justice. Into John’s care we commend our prayers concerning both baptism and confession, as he is the patron of the First Sacrament, but also since John came in the way of justice, commended his own disciples to fast, and confessed Christ to be the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world, connecting John to both confession and to Christ’s absolution of our sin. Our Lord, moreover, even said of John that “amongst those that are born of women, there is not a greater prophet than him; fourthly, to the Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul – the former whose successors guard the keys to the kingdom and the power to bind and to loose, and the latter who tells us that with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. In addition, these Apostles made fertile the ground of the Eternal City with the blood and witness of their martyrdom.

The chariots of Pharaoh are also the old man that the Apostle warns us about:

Put you also all away: anger, indignation, malice, blasphemy, filthy speech out of your mouth. Lie not one to another: stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds, and putting on the new, him who is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of him that created him.

Note that the old man is given over to all manner of verbal sins. The old man, originally corrupted according to the desire of error,  is now crucified with Christ, that the body of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer. With this, it is only fitting that confession be made such an integral part of all remission of sins.

Canon Law commends the faithful to perform, among others, two things: first, once admitted to the blessed Eucharist, each of the faithful is obliged to receive holy communion at least once a year (Can. 920 §1) during Eastertide. And second, All the faithful who have reached the age of discretion are bound faithfully to confess their grave sins at least once a year (Can 989). In this way, it is often encouraged that we make a good confession now during the forty days of fasting and prayer,.

In ending this meditatio, let us return to Pharao’s chariots; look, lastly to the Song (of Solomon/Songs):

To a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots
I have likened you, O my beloved (1.9, trans Griffiths)

My graduate advisor Paul J. Griffiths offers this in his commentary on the Song:



Confíteor Deo omnipoténti, beátæ Maríæ semper Vírgini, beáto Michaéli Archángelo, beáto Ioánni Baptístæ, sanctis Apóstolis Petro et Paulo, ómnibus Sanctis, et vobis, fratres: quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo et opere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa. Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem, beátum Michaélem Archángelum, beátum Ioánnem Baptístam, sanctos Apóstolos Petrum et Paulum, omnes Sanctos, et vos, fratres, orare pro me ad Dóminum, Deum nostrum.

I confess to almighty God, to the blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to you, brothers, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech the blessed Mary, ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and you, brothers, to pray to the Lord our God for me.

Being Religious


Paul J. Griffiths, Religious Reading (1999)

Hearing Mass, chanting the Our Father, doing penance, giving thanks, making a confession, creeping to the Cross, singing Laudes, saying a Hail Mary, blessing oneself, intoning the Kyrie, kneeling at the consecration, genuflecting before the tabernacle, bowing before the altar, kissing a relic, teaching catechism, receiving instruction, receiving the host.

The blessing of throats of the feast of Saint Blaise.

The blessing of throats of the feast of Saint Blaise by Dn Brad Watkins at Saint Thomas More Academy, 2015.

Lords and Dominions

I’m currently watching Beckett, a film about Thomas Becket’s life and ultimate martyrdom during the reign of Henry II, grandson of William, called Conqueror.

The priests and religious bow as the king walks into Canterbury Cathedral; the king bows before the tomb of the holy martyr sepulchered beneath the altar of Christ, and so the authority of the Church. This is political theology.

A course I wish to teach, in time, is about political theology: God’s governance of creation, pagan governance without God, and man’s governance before God.

My ultimate question would be something like: how would the head of state — a governor, king and/or the people’s governance and council, senate or assembly, — conduct himself, itself, or themselves were the attainment of heaven and the worry of Hell his/their concern.

For meditation:

And God made two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night: and the stars. (Gn 1.16)

By me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things, By me princes rule, and the mighty decree justice. I love them that love me: and they that in the morning early watch for me, shall find me. (Pr 8.15-17)

And he said to them: The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that have power over them, are called beneficent. (Lk 22.25)

Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20.28)

And he shall rule them with a rod of iron, and as the vessel of a potter they shall be broken. (Rev 2.27)

On Academic Ambition (after the academy)

It was just over a year ago that I completed my coursework and thesis at Duke University’s Divinity School for the Master of Theological Studies program.

At the beginning of that second year, Laura and I were preparing for the October advent of our first daughter (we now have two!), and I was working with my thesis adviser biweekly to chart out on my thesis—On Christian Burial—reading the necessary preliminary work to support the endeavor, and aiming to finish a solid draft of all three chapters, plus an introduction, in my Winter vacation. I knew that it would be a busy break, especially as my wife eyed her own return to work at the new year, but I thought I could secure a few good, long workdays at the library and the draft would be complete by 15 January, just in time for my final semester of courses to begin.

But then I heard back from Saint Thomas More Academy, whom I had contacted earlier in the year and who alerted me to a part-time teaching spot that might very well turn into a full-time position. This position would be lecturing in Classical and Medieval History. Had it be Latin, I would have been quite at home and happy to jump in with little preparation, given that I have taught Latin for seven years prior to my time at Duke. But lecturing in history would be another animal entirely, and even though I was very familiar with Medieval history, especially Church History (which is really just History History, given the place of the Christian Church in the Middle Ages), but I couldn’t just rattle off the cuff a lecture on feudalism or lay investiture or the Hundred Years’ War without some serious preparation and writing out formal lectures for the the overwhelming majority (90%) of the topics in the course.

Since this part-time position might become a full-time one, and since he already resigned myself to the idea that I was not going to pursue doctoral studies after my time at Duke, I knew that this semester at STMA, and the preparation necessary, was the most important matter on my December 2012 docket. In this way, my burial thesis took a quick backseat to laying out and composing history lectures.

My part-time position only required me to teach from 10am-1:15pm every Monday/Wednesday/Friday of each week. I also had a week off for Winter Vacation in February and a full ten-day sabbatical for Holy Week and Easter. At Duke, my classes only required me to be on campus all-day Tuesday/Thursday and in the late afternoon on Wednesday. It was a snug fit, but it was possible, at least on paper.

I had done the lion’s share of lecture writing that December holiday, which meant I only had to give them and grade three classes full of attending tests, quizzes, and essays once the semester began. But I also had a full course load at Duke, featuring Christian Ethics, Theology & Music, Catholic/Protestant Virtues & Vices, and Philosophical Theology, co-taught by Sean Larsen and Stanley Hauerwas. Ethics and Philosophical Theology would require about 300+ pages of reading a week combined, and Virtue/Vice asked for deep and thoughtful readings of William Langland’s Piers Plowman and various works of John Milton, including Paradise Lost. With our first daughter still learning to sleep through the night, moreover, there was very little space for my thesis.

As the semester moved forward, I found myself enamored with teaching again and doubled-down on my decision to pursue a position at STMA. I also found myself very taken by David Aers synthesis of history, theology, and literature into a seamless garment of complexity, along with style of pedagogy was what I wanted to be as an instructor, certainly as a history lecturer. In Philosophical Theology, I was taken by deep readings of Augustine and Aquinas, all under the eye of Hauerwas in his swan-song semester. Alongside, Mary Margaret was becoming a delight to play with in the evenings before going down around 6:30 each night, leaving Laura and I just enough time each night to see each other, eat dinner together and to enjoy each others company, before returning to my own readings and papers around 9pm.

This long list of wonderful occupations is a nice way of inferring that the thesis was not gaining anything close to my fullest attention. And while I had done the preliminary readings, and while it only required thirty pages and approval from my advisor and the program’s director, I knew I would only limp-in with a strong C+/B- effort and commitment.

On Christian Burial

(Only the cover page; not actual thesis)

In the end, that’s about what the thesis was. Three chapters (Death, Burial, Relics)–needing about 15-pages each to develop and accent–became two longer chapters (Death and Burial); Relics, though completely charted, has been been never written. I had to rethink and rewrite the introduction with only two chapters in hand. My advisor was gracious in his comments, but I knew that he was likely being merciful on me and my familial and occupational situation.

Since leaving Duke, a number of friends, all of whom are now in masters or doctoral programs (two at Boston College, one at Marquette, one at Yale, one at Carnegie Mellon, one finishing up at Duke), as well as a small host of others, have asked to read my “great account of Christian burial and its philosophical, theological purchase on our lives.” In my eyes, for them to read the thesis in its current state would be like asking my wife to read the pubescent poetry I wrote at sixteen years of age. All the same, they have been gracious in giving me their doctoral essays and dissertation abstracts, for commentary and conversation. In truth, I know I should return the favor, but you don’t put new wine into old bottles, but new wine they put into new bottles. To keep such a conversation going, I know I need to revise/rewrite and write anew (especially on Relics) my thesis.

I think Christian burial is a serious topic and is, in fact, a major place of theological reflection and writing. I also think it has great import on current culture, whose opinions on such topics presses a movement past emphases on a good death and a beautiful requiem, and on to the now seemingly ubiquitous celebration of life. Such movements are dangerous.

I believe my theological training at Duke and my years at STMA since have prepared me to write something worthwhile for a good few to read. A book or pamphlet on burial won’t reach the best-seller list, nor would I likely bind such project and gift it to my relatives for Christmas. But there may be something in writing a well-written account of death, burial, alongside a renewed theology of relics, that could and should find a place in the theological conversations we have as our grandparents and even parents begin to move closer to their own (hopefully) peaceful ends.

Closer to the ground, there is something to be said for finishing the task one has started through (perhaps difficult) revival of the original vision of the project and through steady and constant renewal until the project’s completion.

I hope I have more to say on this soon.

On Liturgical Calendars

Sabbato infra Hebdomadam V post Octavam Pentecostes
Festum Sancti Vincentii a Paulo Confessoris (-1969)
19 July 2014

Today is the Saturday, the sabbath (sabbatum) of the Christian week, which falls before Our Lord’s day (Dominica [Diem]). In this way, Saturday is the final day of the Christian week.

In the older Roman calendar, today also marked the (third-class) feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, a 16-17th century priest and worker of great mercies. Since the 1969 revisions by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, Saint Vincent’s day, now a memorial, has been moved to September 27th, the date of his earthly death and birth, as the Church holds, into Heaven everlasting.

Calendars in general can be confusing. The Liturgical Calendar, which documents the many solemnities, feasts, and memorials of the Church is something that I have always been drawn to and attempted to understand in some capacity. This capacity is somewhat complicated when you factor in the many waves of revisions the Christian Calendar has undergone in the course of history.

For most of my life since my conversation and reception into the Roman Catholic Church, I have attended to the most recent revision, that of Pope Paul VI’s motu propio “Mysterii Paschalis” (14 Feb 1969). A complication has arisen, however, when back in May I purchased a four-volume set of the monastic breviary, once possessed by a Benedictine sister.

The title pages in full: Breviarium Monasticum. Pauli V. et Urbani VIII. S. Pontificium Auctoritate Recognitum. Pro Omnibus Sub Regula. SS. Patris Nostri Benedicti Militantibus [Monastic Breviary, recognized by the authority of Popes Paul V and Urban VIII. For all (the Church) Militant under the Rule of Our Most Holy Father Benedict).

Sabbato ad Laudes

The calendar in this Breviary publication dates to before the Paul VI’s revisions, which state that today is Saint Vincent’s Day. No feast, solemnity, or memorial occupies July 19th. (It should be noted that Saturdays on which no feasts fall are marked as “an optional memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Further, the memorial is a remembrance of the maternal example and discipleship of the Blessed Virgin Mary who, strengthened by faith and hope, on that great Saturday on which Our Lord lay in the tomb, was the only one of the disciples to hold vigil in expectation of the Lord’s resurrection; it is a prelude and introduction to the celebration of Sunday, the weekly memorial of the Resurrection of Christ; and it is a sign that the ‘Virgin Mary is continuously present and operative in the life of the Church.'” This is certainly no bad idea.)

The Monastic Breviary also attends to an older form of praying the psalter in one week, vis-à-vis the Liturgy of the Hours, which spreads the psalter over four weeks. The latter also attends to the most recent calendrical revisions. The more condensed from of the Psalter in Latin was the primary reason for purchasing the breviary. Not only this but the Monastic Psalter itself is pre-Tridentine (ca. 540: link).

Were I to belong to a Traditional Latin Mass parish, where the older form(s) of the Roman Calendar were still held and celebrated, I imagine I would not have any difficulty in moving forward in this. But I do not. Sacred Heart Cathedral, it is true, does host a low Mass the first Sunday of each month, and I, along with a friend, do have unique dreams that Sacred Heart would become a Latin Mass parish, once Holy Name of Jesus, the proposed new cathedral for the Diocese of Raleigh, was dedicated, but I do not believe or have any good reason that it will. The only locus for this strange and unique hope is that Sacred Heart was one of the few parishes in the area before the liturgical revisions to celebrate the old Mass. Perhaps one day it might again, or at least be open to a weekly celebration of the Extraordinary Form, and not just a monthly occasion of the lovely and drawing form of Our Lord’s sacrifice.

Sister Nature

(The Wayfaring, 15 May, 2013)

This last Tuesday I hiked up Mount Mitchell, North Carolina’s tallest mountain and the highest point east of the Mississippi River. The weather was cool and breezy and so perfect for a 5.6-mile hike up a relatively strenuous assent on a path beset with large loose stones, treacherous exposed tree-roots, and a gradient rise that tested my 31-year-old legs both going up the mountain and coming back down.

The assent of Mount Mitchell, or any mountain of significant altitude and rigor, is difficult because gravity works against the hiker’s muscles as she lifts her body up each human- or nature-made step. The descent is also demanding, but in different ways; gravity now relentlessly brings the body’s weight down onto the fragile knees and onto the rocks and roots, which must be navigated with agility and grace. The descent is especially taxing since the hiker is already tired from the climb, and descent, like falling, is never at one’s own pace but always at the behest of gravity. The hiker has to call upon every resource from within, to be attentive in body and mind in order to descend the mountain carefully.

But Mount Mitchell State Park is beautiful. Only a few power-lines and a few distant cellphone towers from the view at the summit distracted me from taking in everything that this mountain has to offer. I’m glad it’s a state park so that I don’t have to go out and find my own trails up and down Mount Mitchell. Its provision as “state park” is important for preserving the area of nature for recreation and for leisure. It is certainly good for communities, like the group of friends I hiked with on Tuesday, to use places like Mount Mitchell to endeavor and accomplish a difficult task such as climbing a mountain together. This form of bonding in a group of hikers calls upon many of the virtues and their cultivation, namely patience, prudence, and fortitude. Climbing a strenuous mountain demands these virtues.

What about the virtue of justice? Justice is the virtue of rendering to one what is owed to her. Win’s recent piece and many of the thoughtful attending comments allude to this very interesting and necessary question: what is nature or creation owed?

Some are eager to posit souls to animals or to talk or act as if all of creation collectively has a spirit of some kind. The regular name for this is “Mother Nature,” which finds its foundation in the Greek mythological goddess of Gaia, a personified form of “earth” [].

In many ways I  am sympathetic to this affection as a Christian: creatures are created to fulfill their goods as creatures, and we as human beings do well to foster these goods and not to hinder them. I think, though, it is ultimately uncatholic to think about creation as the spirited Mother Nature that many pagans throughout the centuries have regularly attributed.

G.K. Chesterton, the 20th Century Catholic writer and English wit, offers a good and correcting alternative:

If you want to treat a tiger reasonably, you must go back to the Garden of Eden. For the obstinate reminder continued to recur: only the supernatural has taken a sane view of Nature. The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism, and modern cosmic religion is really in the proposition: that Nature is our mother. Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a step-mother. The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our Mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate. This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity. Nature was a solemn mother to the worshippers of Isis and Cybele. Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson. But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.[1]


[1] G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy. 115-16



Books and Communities

From yesterday’s (May 2, 2014) New York Times, David Brooks, “Love Story”:

Today we live in a utilitarian moment. We’re surrounded by data and fast-flowing information. “Our reason has become an instrumental reason,” as Leon Wieseltier once put it, to be used to solve practical problems…

Berlin and Akhmatova were from a culture that assumed that, if you want to live a decent life, you have to possess a certain intellectual scope. You have to grapple with the big ideas and the big books that teach you how to experience life in all its richness and make subtle moral and emotional judgments. Berlin and Akhmatova could experience that sort of life-altering conversation because they had done the reading. They were spiritually ambitious. They had the common language of literature, written by geniuses who understand us better than we understand ourselves…

I’m old enough to remember when many people committed themselves to this sort of life and dreamed of this sort of communion — the whole Great Books/Big Ideas thing. I am not sure how many people believe in or aspire to this sort of a life today. I’m not sure how many schools prepare students for this kind of love.

It’s a complex piece, especially since I was not familiar with the poet, Anna Akhmatova, or Isaiah Berlin, but it is a vision of how individuals but more importantly communities can be shaped by a love of literature, especially poetry, and sharing their lives together in reflection and creation.

Quotidian (VII) – Easter Monday

Nolite timere;
Ite, nuntiate fratribus meis
ut eant in Galilaeam ibi me videbunt.

My daughter and I attended morning Mass today in an effort to attend one Mass each day throughout the Easter Octave celebration. Again, we attended Saint Catherine’s, which has an 8:30 Mass, perfect for me and Mary Margaret to attend before her (and sometimes my) morning nap. Fr Tighe sang lovely, and there was easy forgiveness when he nearly forgot the Gloria, which is said during every Mass of Eastertide.

The liturgical life at St Catherine’s, despite the new church, is rather old school: emphasis on receiving Our Lord while kneeling at the rail, attending to the Ave Maria, St Michael’s prayer, and the Salve Regina after the Mass, and the presence of live-sized statues of saints (Sts Thomas Aquinas, Thérèse of Lisieux, John Marie Vianny, et al.)

The Roman Missal (1962), which I bought from Baronius Press and have been studying for about a year now, is a repository for these prayers and the Latin Roman Rite, now called the Extraordinary Form, which is celebrated at St Catherine’s on Wednesday evenings. Just the Missal, and its attending Mass, rubrics, calendars, etc, name what many might call Traditional Catholic liturgical life, a moniker that I think is fitting: Catholics who attempt to inherit and live out the forms of liturgical life that harken back to many of the earlier pontiffs (St Pius X, Pius XII, and soon to be canonized Bl John XXIII) and the earlier councils (Trent), though completely in line with recent liturgical reforms (see Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum). A popular forum for this mindset is the New Liturgical Movement.

Having only know Catholic life with and since Bl Pope John Paul II, I must say that I have come late to this mode of traditional liturgical life. It is something I’m rather open to. Sacred Heart (Raleigh), my home parish hosts the Mass in the Extraordinary Form once a month. The music is captivating, and the silence of the Mass, off-putting for some who are new to it, is earth-shattering. It is a unique silence, a heavy silence, but not one that suffocates, but draws one into the mysterium — that though there are at times no audible words does not mean that the space is vacant. It is a filled silence.

It’s like watching to evenly matched wrestlers in their first grapple, pushing the other so forcefully but with the same attending force that it appears that they are not moving. But they are moving, though you can’t see it, and the force is unbelievable to those who understand.

So it is with the silence of the Mass. It is not, moreover, an easy silence at first, because the distractions or assumptions from many other forms of life cry out to be satiated and fulfilled. Instead, attending to the silence of a quiet (low) Mass requires new eyes and new ears, for Our Lord says, Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear (Mt 13.16). Or as the Apostle Paul speaks of the children of Israel: God hath given them the spirit of insensibility; eyes that they should not see; and ears that they should not hear, until this present day (Rm 11.8).

The Easter Vigil at the London Oratory

The Easter Vigil at the London Oratory

Quotidian (VI) – Easter Sunday

Resurrexi, et adhuc tecum sum, alleluia.
Posuisti super me manum tuam, alleluia.
Mirabilis facta est scientia tua, alleluia, alleluia.

Today is Easter.

I attended with friends, colleagues, and students last night’s Solemn Vigil Mass at (new) Saint Catherine’s parish church, which was tremendous, forceful, and beautiful. Beginning outside with the Lumen Christi procession into the darkness, we accompanied the great candle, announcing that Our Blessed Lord in the dark of the early morning has returned to His people. We too carried candles, smaller simulacra, calling to mind those candles that were blest at Candlemas (The Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin) in Christmastide. Etched into the wax of the great candle are the symbols A (alpha) and Ω (omega), Our Lord as beginning and end, the great creator of life and the victor over death.

My headmaster, who serves as deacon in that parish, chanted the Exultet, in English, with great clarity and tone, no small feat for him since he by his own admission is “not a singer”:

Exultet iam angelica turba cœlorum;
exultent divina mysteria.

Let the angelic choirs of Heaven now rejoice;
let the divine Mysteries rejoice…

The Exultet, chanted by the serving deacon, initiates the Vigil’s powerful beginning to the sight of candles and their flame, as Our Blessed Lord’s light, now returned and now among us, individually and collectively, shines in the darkness, for the people in darkness have seen a great light (Isa 9.2), and in another place, the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (Jn 1.5)

My friend and his wife were received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, taking new names James and Elizabeth, respectively. The night called to mind my own entrance into the Church at the Vigil Mass 2003, eleven years ago. Our Church, moreover, will be wiser and more loving because of the great capacity and depth of faith and charity these two bring to the communio sanctorum.

The themes of night and darkness are balanced and ultimately overcome by new day and brightness. Later in the Exultet:

Hæc nox est de qua scriptum est:
Et nox sicut dies illuminabitur;
Et nox illuminatio mea in deliciis meis.

This is the night in which it is written:
And the night shall be as bright as day;
And the night shall light up my delight.

The new day is further announced when the bells of the Gloria ring out in triumph as additional altar candles are lit, adding to the greater host and company of light. The Gloria, along with the bells, had been absent all of Lent, only now to return and initiate the new day, as Our Lord proclaims, that day when I drink it new with you (Mt 26.29).

The candles put to flight the great darkness of death that our Lord endured. The candles put to flight the necessary tenebrae penances of praying in the dark, and the Vigil itself signifies that the Church participates in its own time, its own calendar, as it resides in Our Lord’s time and by Our Lord’s light:

And the city hath no need of the sun, nor of the moon, to shine in it.
For the glory of God hath enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof.
And the nations shall walk in the light of it:
And the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and honor into it.

And the gates thereof shall not be shut by day: for there shall be no night there. 
(Apoc 21.23-25)

Luca Giordano, "Resurrection" (after 1665)

Luca Giordano, “Resurrection” (after 1665)

Quotidian (V) – Good Friday

Ecce lignum Crucis, in quo salus mundi pependit.
Venite, adoremus.

Today is Good Friday.

Sacred Heart Cathedral has Stations of the Cross at noon and Adoration of the Cross at 3pm, the hour of our Blessed Lord’s death.

Last night I attended the Holy Thursday Mass, celebrated by Bishop Burbidge and concelebrated with many priests from the area, including our Passionists, Fr Edward Wolanski, C.P., Fr Justin Kerber, C.P., and Msgr. David Brockman. The Mass was full, and hymns were sung in English, Latin, and Spanish, which in many ways reflects the character of our parish downtown. The homily was about the expression of Love in the coming days of the passion, death, and ultimate resurrection of our Blessed Lord. The Maundy (Washing of Feet) saw Bishop Burbidge was the feet of twelve parishioners.

After Communion, the Bishop, priests, deacons, and torchbearers, all following the cross, carried the Sacred Hosts in the ciborium to the Altar of Repose for adoration as the congregations sang St Thomas’ Pagne lingua, in English translation and in the original.

Sing, my tongue, the Saviour’s glory,
of His Flesh, the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our Immortal King,
destined, for the world’s redemption,
from a noble Womb to spring.

Of a pure and spotless Virgin
born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
then He closed in solemn order
wond’rously His Life of woe…

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
veneremur cernui:
et antiquum documentum
novo cedat ritui:
praestet fides supplementum
sensuum defectui.

Genitori, Genitoque
laus et jubilatio,
salus, honor, virtus quoque
sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
compar sit laudatio.

After the after was stripped of its candles, rugs, linens — calling to mind when our Lord’s vesture was divided and for them lots were casts (cf. Ps 22; Jn 19) — the Sacred Hosts remained in the Altar of repose until midnight. I said a rosary for various intentions and for the repose of the soul of Gabriel García Márquez, who had passed away yesterday. After this and another hour of silent prayer with Our Lord and those who remained, I returned home to Laura and our sleeping daughter.

Since last night’s communion and through until the Solemn Easter Vigil, I will participate in wait I call the Long Fast, in which I fast from all food and liquids, save water. It’s a discipline I took up prior to my confirmation and full reception into the Church in 2003. Saturday night, Laura and I will attend the Easter Vigil at (new) Saint Catherine of Siena’s in Wake Forest, NC, to welcome my friend and Saint Thomas More colleague Jake, along with his wife Stormy and their five children, into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. The next morning, I will take our family, including Mary Margaret this time, to Mass on Easter morning before her family and our friends come for Christ’s Feast.


May you all find many graces today as you weep for Our Blessed Lord and adore His Glorious cross.


In lieu of eating, there is still plenty to read:

On the death of Gabriel García Márquez (The Wall Street Journal)

“Angel Gabriel” — Salman Rushdie on García Marquez in 1982 (London Review of Book)

“The Pope in the Attic: Benedict in the Time of Francis” (The Atlantic)

And I’m re-reading Salvation and Sin: Augustine, Langland, and Fourteenth-Century Theology by David Aers, my professor at Duke.

Andrea da Firenze, Crucifixion (1370-77)

Andrea da Firenze, Crucifixion (1370-77)

Salve, caput cruentatum,
totum spinis coronatum,
conquassatum, vulneratum,
arundine verberatum
facie sputis illita



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