05 May 2015

The Feast of St. Catherine of Siena in Siena

The Italian friars at the Catherinian Basilica of St. Dominic in Siena kindly invited another friar and me for the feast of St. Catherine.  The feast usually celebrated by the city on the weekend near her feast day, with several events spread through the weekend.  This year, the Pope's representative was Beniamino Cardinal Stella, the Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, who celebrated the solemn Mass.  The Archbishop of Siena, the aptly named Antonino Buoncristiani (which would translate as Tony Goodchristians), also attended all of the events.

It is interesting, especially as an American, to see the mixture of civil and religious in events like this.  For the Italians, the civic, the cultural, and the religious are mixed (and assumed) in a way that we simply do not normally do in the U.S.  St. Catherine is both a figure of religious holiness and of civic pride for the Sienese, and remains a very important figure.

The first event we attended was the laying of flowers at the statute of St. Catherine near the Basilica.  This generally involved groups of women--religious, lay groups, and civil organizations--who came with bouquets of flowers to be set at the statue.  In attendance were also the mayor of Siena and other civil officials.  As at most of the events, the local neighborhoods (contrade) had representatives in period costume with flags and drums.

That same evening was a concert in honor of St. Catherine at the Duomo (Cathedral), with the Archbishop in attendance.  Siena has a well-regarded school of music, the Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali "Rinaldo Franci" da Siena.  They chose a selection of music from Gustav Faure, and especially music from his Requiem Mass.  I find the Pie Jesu from Faure's Requiem Mass to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music.  (Here's a YouTube version of the Pie Jesu sung by the great Kathleen Battle.)

The next day began with another religious/civic event at the house of St. Catherine.  With the Cardinal, the Archbishop of Siena, the Mayor of Siena, and various military figures in attendance, gifts were offered to the sanctuary there, including candles and oil for the lamps.

Following that was the solemn Mass presided by Cardinal Stella at the Basilica San Domenico.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, was the procession with the relic of St. Catherine.  The relic was solemnly carried from San Domenico, accompanied by the local neighborhood (contrada) where the Basilica is located (the contrado Drago (dragon)), with flags and drums.  We then came to the Church of St. Christopher near the town center, where we were joined by the sisters from the shrine of St. Catherine, as well as representatives from the other neighborhoods (contrade) in period costume.  The drums escorted us to the campo, where there is a permanent outdoor shrine and altar, where the relic rested as various speeches were made by civil officials.  The event ended with a prayer of blessing from the Archbishop of Siena.

Here is a slideshow with more pictures:

And here is some video from Siena:

29 April 2015

Even the Pope gets Canon Law wrong sometimes!

Once in a while I post something on canon law, usually to correct some major error I see.  It is odd now to write a post to correct a rather major error from the Holy See on Canon Law, and even from the Pope himself.

So what is the mistake.  A bit back, Pope Francis announced an extraordinary jubilee to begin this year.  He has called this a Year of Mercy.  As is typical, he has issued a Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae Vultus (the Face of Mercy), listing the spiritual benefits to accrue to the faithful in this Jubilee Year.  In that document he makes the following statement in paragraph 18:

During Lent of this Holy Year, I intend to send out Missionaries of Mercy. They will be a sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith. There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer. 

A bit of background here.  Most Catholics are under the impression that any priest may hear a confession at any time.  This is not true.  While the sacrament of Order (i.e., just being a priest) gives the priest sacramental power. that is not sufficient for him to absolve sins during confession.  He also needs something called jurisdictional power, or the executive power of governance.  The Code usually calls this faculties.  Basically, he needs to be given permission by his local Bishop to hear confessions.  (Although pastors of parishes and some others have the power by the law itself.)  Without that granting of authority, he has no power to absolve sins.

The point in question here is about the "authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See".  That refers to sins that the Pope has reserved to himself (or one of the Apostolic Penitentiaries) alone to absolve -- no other priest or bishop would have the power to absolve those sins.

So what's the problem?  In the Latin Church, the law has eliminated all of these reserved sins since 1983 -- more than 30 years.  In other words, there are no sins reserved to the Holy See in the Latin Church.  So, it's not clear at all what these "Missionaries of Mercy" will be doing.

The law does reserve the removal of certain penalties to the Holy See.  There are certain penalties that priests can lift in the confessonial, For example, in the Latin Church, a Catholic who procures an abortion automatically (latae sententiae) receives an undeclared penalty of excommunication.  Under certain circumstances (see can. 1357), a priest can lift that penalty of excommunication.  But there are penalties for certain offense (the canonical word is "delicts") that only the Holy See can lift.  These include penalties for, e.g., using physical force on the Pope, violating the seal of confession, attempting to ordain a woman, desecrating the eucharist, and clerical sexual abuse.  Perhaps the Pope means to assign these "Missionaries of Mercy" to these reserved penalties.  If so, it does not seem to me that there are all that many of these, or why the usual process through the Holy See would not suffice.

I should note that this is not true of the Eastern Catholic Churches (e.g., Byzantine Catholics, Maronite Catholics, etc.).  There are "reserved sins" in those Churches.  So, I suppose this could mean that these "Missionaries of Mercy" will only be sent to the Eastern Churches.  Although, if that were the case, you'd think it would be specified that way.

Either way, it shows that even the Pope can get canon law wrong, and why he always needs some good canonists to give him counsel.

4/29/15 UPDATE:  I added a sentence to clarify a canonical term.

07 March 2015

La Galleria Borghese

La Galleria Borghese

The Borghese Gallery is one of the best art museums in Rome.  It began originally as the art collection of Cardinal Cardinal Scipione, who was the son of Hortensia Borghese and the nephew of Pope Paul V.  As the Borghese Gallery website explains:

Cardinal Scipion was drawn to any works of ancient, Renaissance and contemporary art which might re-evoke a new golden age. He was not particularly interested in medieval art, but passionately sought to acquire antique sculpture. But Cardinal Scipione was so ambitious that he promoted the creation of new sculptures and especially marble groups to rival antique works. Cardinal Scipione's collection of paintings was remarkable and was poetically described as early as 1613 by Scipione Francucci.
The museum houses one of the best collections of statutes by the famed sculptor Bernini.  It also houses several paintings by Caravaggio.  The Gallery is situated in the beautiful Borghese park on a hill at the northern end of Rome.  You can go through the museum in under 2 hours.  If you ever go, I strongly recommend going with a written guide or buying an audio guide.  The works of art are not well marked or described.

Here are some pictures of some of the art that can be found in La Galleria Borghese:

06 March 2015


Fiesole is a small town just outside of Florence.  You can get from the Basilica of San Marco just north of the Cathedral to Fiesole in about 10-15 minutes by bus.  In the history of the Dominican Order, it is important as a center for reform of the Order in the 15th century.  St. Antoninus, later Bishop of Florence, was one of the first novices there.  But it is also especially connected to Bl. John of Fiesole, more popularly known as Fra Angelico.  As St. Thomas Aquinas is known as the Doctor Angelicus (the "Angelic Doctor"), John of Fiesole is the Pictor Angelicus (the "Angelic Painter").  He was not only one of the greatest artists the Order has known, but he helped create the Italian Renaissance.  Below is a slideshow of some of the pictures I took from the convent in Fiesole.

29 January 2015

Oxford & Kent

I haven't posted here in way too long, so I decided to post some pics of my trip to England.  Right after Christmas I went to Oxford as well as Canterbury and Dover in Kent.  While in Canterbury, I celebrated a private Mass at the (now Anglican) Cathedral on the feast of St. Thomas Becket.  It was in the Cathedral that he was killed while praying Vespers.  He left the evening prayers to go to the
door where the 4 knights sent by Henry II had come to murder Becket.  As others locked the doors, St. Thomas insisted they be open, as the Church of God should never be barred at times of prayer.  The 4 knights came in and then murdered St. Thomas, his body was then taken to the undercroft where a shrine existed until its destruction in the time of Henry VIII.  In fact, the shrine of St. Thomas Becket was one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in all of Europe until the Protestants demolished it.  The location of his relics remains unknown.  There is now a marker on the stone where St. Thomas was martyred (see picture)

Below are some slideshows of pics from Oxford, Centerbury, and Dover:




30 October 2014

When All Souls Day Falls on Sunday

There has been some confusion in the Catholic corner of the Internet with regards to Mass this Sunday.  The Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite now allows All Souls Day to be celebrated on Sunday.  (The pre-Vatican II calendar would have (and still does) moved it from the Sunday, so as to allow Sunday to retain its primacy.)  Normally, there is no Gloria and Creed said on All Souls Day.  The confusion seems to originate from the Canadian Bishops, who seem to have required it in their local Liturgical Ordo.

To help clear up some confusion, I have scanned the relevant pages from the 2013-2014 Ordo Missae Celebrandae et Divini Officii Persolvendi published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana:

Here is the English translation of the same from the edition published by Centro Liturgico Vincenziano:

Normally, when the Gloria and Creed are to be said, they are mentioned in the notes for the day, as is done above for the Solemnity of All Saints.  There is no such notation for All Souls Day.

The question is whether the GIRM permits or otherwise requires the Gloria or Creed.  Paragraph 53 of the GIRM reads, in part: "[The Gloria] is sung or said on Sundays outside the Seasons of Advent and Lent, on solemnities and feasts, and at special celebrations of a more solemn character."  There is a similar instruction with regards the Creed, from GIRM no. 68:  "The Creed is to be sung or said by the priest together with the people on Sundays and Solemnities. It may be said also at particular celebrations of a more solemn character."

There is perhaps an argument to be made that, at least at a solemnly celebrated Mass of All Souls, it would be appropriate to sing the Gloria and Creed, its absence in the universal Ordo notwithstanding.

12 May 2014

Pope Francis Speaks to Priests and Seminarians

The Pope met today with priests and seminarians studying at Rome's Pontifical Universities in the Pope Paul VI Hall in Vatican City.  The event began with students from the various colleges, representing most of the world, providing selections of music.  The songs ranged from Mexican hymns, to American spirituals, to Zulu ululations, to traditional English polyphony.  The Pope arrived a bit late--he was meeting with Bishops from Mexico and apparently they got to talking a bit.

The even largely consisted with a group of pre-selected seminarians each asking a question.  The questions related especially to priestly formation and ministry.  There was nothing particularly earth-shattering in the talk that I heard.  Pope Francis is always very pastoral.  Where John Paul tended to speak in the language of philosophy and Pope Benedict in the language of theology, Pope Francis speaks in the language of everyday stories.  Most of his responses were anecdotes from his own life and experience.  For example, one seminarian asked about the challenges of living in community life.  Pope Francis recalled an event when he was a young seminarian or priest and having trouble with one of his fellow seminarians/priests.  He went to his Spiritual Director to express his frustration with this person, listing all the reasons why he had a right to be angry.  Pope Francis said that his Spiritual Director asked only one question:  "Have you prayed for this brother?"  The Pope said he admitted at the time that he had not.  The Spiritual Director said something to the effect of, "Well, there's no more we can do right now."  That's Pope Francis, just a simple story to illustrate a very pastoral point.

After the talk he walked down the center of the Hall and met with seminarians.  I was able to get a few pictures there.  I left with a fellow Dominican and we were waiting just outside the exit doors.  The crowd wasn't moving, and we just assumed that security was holding everyone up to allow the Pope to get past first.  Little did we know that the Pope's next destination was just past we were standing.  So, the security quickly formed a corridor through the remaining few of us who were left, and escorted him right past us.  I never expected to get that close.  It was a nice bit of Providence!

Below are the pictures I took.