St. Irenaeus of Lyons

irenaeus_lyonsToday is the feast of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, whom I chose as my confirmation saint when I was reconciled with the Church and confirmed Easter 2011. The father of Roman Catholic theology and a dedicated opponent of Gnostic hatred of the material order, I found him to be a saint for our times. I can do no better than Pope Benedict, so I reprint here his catechesis on St. Irenaeus from 2007.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Catechesis on the prominent figures of the early Church, today we come to the eminent personality of St Irenaeus of Lyons. The biographical information on him comes from his own testimony, handed down to us by Eusebius in his fifth book onChurch History.

Irenaeus was in all probability born in Smyrna (today, Izmir in Turkey) in about 135-140, where in his youth, he attended the school of Bishop Polycarp, a disciple in his turn of the Apostle John. We do not know when he moved from Asia Minor to Gaul, but his move must have coincided with the first development of the Christian community in Lyons: here, in 177, we find Irenaeus listed in the college of presbyters. In that very year, he was sent to Rome bearing a letter from the community in Lyons to Pope Eleutherius. His mission to Rome saved Irenaeus from the persecution of Marcus Aurelius which took a toll of at least 48 martyrs, including the 90-year old Bishop Pontinus of Lyons, who died from ill-treatment in prison. Thus, on his return Irenaeus was appointed Bishop of the city. The new Pastor devoted himself without reserve to his episcopal ministry which ended in about 202-203, perhaps with martyrdom.

Irenaeus was first and foremost a man of faith and a Pastor. Like a good Pastor, he had a good sense of proportion, of the riches of doctrine and missionary enthusiasm. As a writer, he pursued a twofold aim: to defend true doctrine from the attacks of heretics, and to explain the truth of the faith clearly. His two extant works — the five books of The Detection and Overthrow of the False Gnosis and Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching (which can also be called the oldest “catechism of Christian doctrine”) — exactly corresponded with these aims. In short, Irenaeus can be defined as the champion in the fight against heresies. The second-century Church was threatened by the so-called Gnosis, a doctrine which affirmed that the faith taught in the Church was merely a symbolism for the simple who were unable to grasp difficult concepts; instead, the initiates, the intellectuals —Gnostics, they were called — claimed to understand what was behind these symbols and thus formed an elitist and intellectualist Christianity. Obviously, this intellectual Christianity became increasingly fragmented, splitting into different currents with ideas that were often bizarre and extravagant, yet attractive to many. One element these different currents had in common was “dualism”: they denied faith in the one God and Father of all, Creator and Saviour of man and of the world. To explain evil in the world, they affirmed the existence, besides the Good God, of a negative principle. This negative principle was supposed to have produced material things, matter.

Firmly rooted in the biblical doctrine of creation, Irenaeus refuted the Gnostic dualism and pessimism which debased corporeal realities. He decisively claimed the original holiness of matter, of the body, of the flesh no less than of the spirit. But his work went far beyond the confutation of heresy: in fact, one can say that he emerges as the first great Church theologian who created systematic theology; he himself speaks of the system of theology, that is, of the internal coherence of all faith. At the heart of his doctrine is the question of the “rule of faith” and its transmission. For Irenaeus, the “rule of faith” coincided in practice with the Apostles’ Creed, which gives us the key for interpreting the Gospel, for interpreting the Creed in light of the Gospel. The Creed, which is a sort of Gospel synthesis, helps us understand what it means and how we should read the Gospel itself.

In fact, the Gospel preached by Irenaeus is the one he was taught by Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, and Polycarp’s Gospel dates back to the Apostle John, whose disciple Polycarp was.

The true teaching, therefore, is not that invented by intellectuals which goes beyond the Church’s simple faith. The true Gospel is the one imparted by the Bishops who received it in an uninterrupted line from the Apostles. They taught nothing except this simple faith, which is also the true depth of God’s revelation. Thus, Irenaeus tells us, there is no secret doctrine concealed in the Church’s common Creed. There is no superior Christianity for intellectuals. The faith publicly confessed by the Church is the common faith of all. This faith alone is apostolic, it is handed down from the Apostles, that is, from Jesus and from God. In adhering to this faith, publicly transmitted by the Apostles to their successors, Christians must observe what their Bishops say and must give special consideration to the teaching of the Church of Rome, pre-eminent and very ancient. It is because of her antiquity that this Church has the greatest apostolicity; in fact, she originated in Peter and Paul, pillars of the Apostolic College. All Churches must agree with the Church of Rome, recognizing in her the measure of the true Apostolic Tradition, the Church’s one common faith. With these arguments, summed up very briefly here, Irenaeus refuted the claims of these Gnostics, these intellectuals, from the start. First of all, they possessed no truth superior to that of the ordinary faith, because what they said was not of apostolic origin, it was invented by them. Secondly, truth and salvation are not the privilege or monopoly of the few, but are available to all through the preaching of the Successors of the Apostles, especially of the Bishop of Rome. In particular — once again disputing the “secret” character of the Gnostic tradition and noting its multiple and contradictory results — Irenaeus was concerned to describe the genuine concept of the Apostolic Tradition which we can sum up here in three points.

a) Apostolic Tradition is “public”, not private or secret. Irenaeus did not doubt that the content of the faith transmitted by the Church is that received from the Apostles and from Jesus, the Son of God. There is no other teaching than this. Therefore, for anyone who wishes to know true doctrine, it suffices to know “the Tradition passed down by the Apostles and the faith proclaimed to men”: a tradition and faith that “have come down to us through the succession of Bishops” (Adversus Haereses, 3, 3, 3-4). Hence, the succession of Bishops, the personal principle, and Apostolic Tradition, the doctrinal principle, coincide.

b) Apostolic Tradition is “one”. Indeed, whereas Gnosticism was divided into multiple sects, Church Tradition is one in its fundamental content, which – as we have seen – Irenaeus calls precisely regula fidei or veritatis: and thus, because it is one, it creates unity through the peoples, through the different cultures, through the different peoples; it is a common content like the truth, despite the diversity of languages and cultures. A very precious saying of St Irenaeus is found in his book Adversus Haereses: “The Church, though dispersed throughout the world… having received [this faith from the Apostles]… as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them and hands them down with perfect harmony as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world” (1, 10, 1-2). Already at that time — we are in the year 200 — it was possible to perceive the Church’s universality, her catholicity and the unifying power of the truth that unites these very different realities, from Germany, to Spain, to Italy, to Egypt, to Libya, in the common truth revealed to us by Christ.

c) Lastly, the Apostolic Tradition, as he says in the Greek language in which he wrote his book, is “pneumatic”, in other words, spiritual, guided by the Holy Spirit: in Greek, the word for “spirit” is“pneuma”. Indeed, it is not a question of a transmission entrusted to the ability of more or less learned people, but to God’s Spirit who guarantees fidelity to the transmission of the faith.

This is the “life” of the Church, what makes the Church ever young and fresh, fruitful with multiple charisms.

For Irenaeus, Church and Spirit were inseparable: “This faith”, we read again in the third book ofAdversus Haereses, “which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve, and which always, by the Spirit of God, renewing its youth as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself containing it to renew its youth also…. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and every kind of grace” (3, 24, 1). As can be seen, Irenaeus did not stop at defining the concept of Tradition. His tradition, uninterrupted Tradition, is not traditionalism, because this Tradition is always enlivened from within by the Holy Spirit, who makes it live anew, causes it to be interpreted and understood in the vitality of the Church. Adhering to her teaching, the Church should transmit the faith in such a way that it must be what it appears, that is, “public”, “one”, “pneumatic”, “spiritual”. Starting with each one of these characteristics, a fruitful discernment can be made of the authentic transmission of the faith in the today of the Church. More generally, in Irenaeus’ teaching, the dignity of man, body and soul, is firmly anchored in divine creation, in the image of Christ and in the Spirit’s permanent work of sanctification. This doctrine is like a “high road” in order to discern together with all people of good will the object and boundaries of the dialogue of values, and to give an ever new impetus to the Church’s missionary action, to the force of the truth which is the source of all true values in the world.

(Borrowed from

Abraham Bloemaert, The Emmaus Disciples

The Road to Emmaus

My reflections on today’s Gospel, the story of the two disciples encountering the Risen Jesus on the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13ff, taken from my piece on allegory in Letter & Spirit 8:

The most important passage for biblical allegory, however, is Luke 24:13–35, the story of the two disciples who encounter the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. After Jesus’ passion, two disciples are walking to Emmaus discussing “the things that have happened.” The risen Jesus draws near and walks with them, but “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Luke employs the divine passive here: God is keeping them from recognizing the risen Jesus, and will reveal him to them at a moment of particular significance. Jesus inquires about the substance of their discussion, and in an instance of intense irony they proceed to relate to the risen Jesus much of what has just happened to Jesus. What they relate lacks coherence; they tell of events—Jesus’ mighty prophetic ministry, his unjust execution, reports of visions of angels and the empty tomb—and their dashed hopes that he might have been “the one to redeem Israel”, but they can make no sense of the data.

But the risen Jesus can and does make sense of it for them, and here Luke’s story teaches both that the Old Testament is the necessary matrix for understanding Jesus while it takes the risen Jesus to bring coherence to the Old Testament: “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Here lies the root of the fundamental Christian claim that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ provides the hermeneutical key to the Scriptures, that he is the lens that brings them into focus.

But Luke is not finished, as if Scriptural interpretation were merely a matter of drawing the proper connections between Old Testament types and New Testament antitypes on an intellectual level. The two disciples compel Jesus to remain with them, for it is “evening.” They sit down for supper, and the risen Jesus—still unknown to them—“took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.” Luke’s language is patently eucharistic, recalling the institution of the Lord’s Supper in Luke 22:14–23. And it is precisely when the risen Jesus begins to celebrate the Eucharist that “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” and he then “vanished out of their sight.” If it takes the risen Jesus to reveal the ultimate coherence if the Scriptures, it then takes the Eucharist to reveal Jesus (something Luke reinforces in Luke 24:35 as the two disciples relate “how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread”). Further, his vanishing suggests he has not departed, but that going forward he remains present in the Eucharist. And here, then, we see that Scriptural interpretation goes beyond intellectual construals; Scriptural interpretation comes to full fruition in the liturgy, at the center of which stands the Eucharist; Emmaus implies mystagogy, to which we must later return. [...]

Let us return to Emmaus, in which the risen Jesus provides dominical warrant and example for the practice of allegory consummated in mystagogy. But given that we are dealing here with the risen Jesus, who is soon to ascend into heaven, allegory in this strict sense it not merely one salutary practice among many or simply a good idea. Much more than that, Luke’s Christology of the risen and ascended Jesus suggests allegory is inherent in the structure and function of Scripture, and indeed not just Scripture but the entire cosmos, since, as Paul puts it, “in him all things hold together,” the same Risen One who was revealed to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. We encounter this risen Jesus supremely in the liturgy, which the Second Vatican Council taught is “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.” The Mass is indeed heaven breaking into earth, with architecture, art, music, and ars celebrandi all ideally functioning to point us to the eschatological moment which even now breaks in, as it did on the road to Emmaus. As Scott Hahn writes, “[E]very eucharistic liturgy conforms to the pattern established at Emmaus: the opening of the scriptures followed by the breaking of the bread, the liturgy of the word followed by the liturgy of the eucharist. The Mass, then, is the place par excellence of the scriptures’ faithful reception.”

The linking of Scriptural word and liturgical eucharistic sacrament in the Emmaus story points to a truth largely forgotten. In our individualistic, post-Gutenberg age, in which Bibles are readily available and literacy widespread, most Christians read Scripture as individuals and as members of small groups. For this reason, many are unaware that both historically and theologically the Bible’s natural habitat is the liturgy. Indeed, in the biblical story itself what would become the original Scriptures of Israel—the Ten Commandments and the broader Torah—were given to Moses in the midst of an encounter with the Lord God on Sinai, and the covenant with Israel is sealed with sacrificial liturgy, after which Moses receives many detailed instructions concerning Israel’s sacred sacrificial liturgy going forward. From the outset, the first Scriptures were received in and with liturgy, concerned liturgy, and were handed down in liturgy. Later Christian questions concerning the contents of the canon of the New Testament were also driven by liturgical concerns. The question was, Which documents could be read, chanted, and proclaimed in liturgy, and which were forbidden? For early Christians and Jews before them, then, the Bible was learned and experienced in the context of the liturgy: The Scriptures were read or chanted and preached in synagogues and churches. Most of the young learned the Jewish or Christian faith not by reading scrolls or codices they did not possess, given their great expense, and could not read, given near-universal illiteracy, but from their parents and in liturgy.

But the liturgical habitat of Scripture is not merely a function of ancient social conditions in which scrolls were scarce, codices uncommon, and readers rare. Rather, Scripture’s home in the liturgy is a function of theology. In fact, it is more than that, more than an intellectual datum; it is a function of Catholic culture (which in fact the Catholic liturgical cultus cultivates). As the Pontifical Biblical Commission put it:

From the earliest days of the Church, the reading of Scripture has been an integral part of the Christian liturgy, and inheritance to some extent from the liturgy of the synagogue. Today, too, it is above all through the liturgy that Christians come into contact with Scripture, particularly during the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. In principle, the liturgy, and especially the sacramental liturgy, the high point of which is the Eucharistic celebration, brings about the most perfect actualization of the biblical texts, for the liturgy places the proclamation in the midst of the community of believers, gathered around Christ so as to draw near to God. Christ is then “present in his word, because it is he himself who speaks when sacred Scripture is read in the Church (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7). Written text thus becomes living word.


Reworking the website

As you’ve noticed, things are once again under construction here. I’m moving hosting and changing themes, now using Vantage, which has an inexpensive (as in donate what you want) premium version. Most stuff on the menu bar should be up and running.

I had thought about letting the site expire and doing away with it, being ambivalent about social media and the internet in an age of information overload, surveillance, and blacklisting, but ultimately decided it’s important to have a stable internet presence for professional purposes, as I write a lot online, get a good number of speaking requests, and receive more invitations to write than I can handle.

Have a blessed Triduum, and thanks for your patience.


RIP, Dad

His birthday was today, November 17. He died of cancer 28 July 2008. This photo is circa 1952. He was with the 3d Armored, stationed in Heilbronn, Germany, for a while.


Meeting Cardinal Dolan

At the THIRST conference this weekend—the Bismarck Diocese’s eucharistic congress and evangelism event closing out our events for the Year of Faith—I got to meet with Cardinal Dolan briefly. I had actually met him at a papal audience in Rome in July 2009, shaking his hand as I was waiting in line way early in the morning and he was escorting some seminarians, but I wouldn’t expect him to remember. A good brief conversation about our work at U-Mary in Theology and Philosophy. A major honor, not so much for me (I actually wasn’t trying to get introduced to him—I happened to be backstage trying to get someone else together with someone else) but for U-Mary, the Diocese, and the State of ND, as Cardinal Dolan was gracious enough to come and join us, receive a Doctor of Leadership degree honoris causa, and give a wonderful talk on the papacies of John Paul II, Benedict, and Francis. (Order form for DVDs of the talks available here, by the way.)

Cardinal Dolan meets with Dr. Leroy Huizenga, Chair of the University of Mary's Theology department, with the University's President, Msgr. James P. Shea

Cardinal Dolan meets with Dr. Leroy Huizenga, Chair of the University of Mary’s Theology department, with the University’s President, Msgr. James P. Shea

UPDATE: Video of Cardinal Dolan’s address is now on YouTube:

Eats Shoots & Leaves

Upping My Game

I use Grammarly for proofreading because left to my own devices, I’m a guide to my own literary self-destruction. It’s one of several tools and books I’ve been exploring for the sake of upping my game as a writer.

Writing is hard. One of my mentors in graduate school, a man everyone esteems as an academic who can write well—that rarest of birds—once confided to me that writing was a real struggle for him. I was somewhat flummoxed, as he was someone whose writing was flawless: never a wasted word, and every word chosen perfectly. He engineered his writing like a fine-tuned precision engine.

I’m reminded of what Dorothy Parker once said: “I hate writing. I love having written.” Many people think that writers, or artists, or musicians operate as geniuses, creating their works effortlessly as if carried away by divine inspiration. There are moments like that, in writing, art, and music, where one finds oneself inspired to the point that one’s fingers can’t move fast enough to capture the activity of the imagination as it fires idea after insight. But creative activity—which includes academic writing, in my book—is mostly hard work: carving out time, collecting and evaluating sources, discovering the facts of the matter, organizing one’s thoughts, writing them down, and rewriting over and over again. And there is that existential reward at the end of the process when one sees something in print after untold hours over months or years of work. Until one finds typos which one should have caught in the several rounds of proofreading…

The good thing about writing not being a matter of pure genius and inspiration is that it can be improved. We can work on it. One of the worst best things I ever did was take the GRE exam as part of my applications to graduate school. I loathe standardized testing in general, but neither ETS nor the grad schools to which I was applying would have cared about my whining. A necessary hurdle, I got Barron’s GRE guide, which had about 4000 vocabulary words. I went through the list, scratching the ones I knew well enough, and made a master list of the other words, roughly 2000 of them, and spent the summer learning them. That simple exercise has paid all sorts of dividends. To this day, I still work to build my vocabulary. I have a Word document with about 350 English entries, as well as foreign language words and phrases, a list which is also growing. (Most of the English words I’ve needed to learn have come from reading David Bentley Hart, who, I’m convinced, spent his adolescence memorizing the unabridged OED.)

Since writing can be improved, I’ve always been interested in resources on becoming a better writer. Some people don’t like it, but Strunk and White’s Elements of Style was a great help to me once I discovered it in graduate school. (Yes, I know that’s late.) I was always a decent writer, but it got me thinking about the craft of writing, whatever the merits or demerits of particular pieces of advice therein. I also enjoyed Stephen King’s On Writing, which talks about his work as a writer of popular horror fiction. More inspiring than technical, getting inside his head as an author was fascinating, and one learns why King’s works are they way they are: He begins with characters, not plot, letting the characters he creates write the plot for him. Recently my friends at First Things have pointed me to a couple other heftier resources. The first is Clear and Simple as the Truth, which advocates “classic style”: “The writer adopts the pose that the motive is truth, the purpose is presentation, the reader is an intellectual equal, and the occasion is informal. Classic style is at home in everything from business memos to personal letters, from magazine articles to university writing.” The second is The Reader over Your Shoulder, a basic but substantive handbook for cultivating clearer written communication.

There’s many more, of course, but these have proven helpful to me. Why does good writing matter, however? Why work on it to point of consuming and consulting big books about it? Because the truth matters, and words present claims to truth; because audiences comprise persons, who deserve our best; and because we work too hard to come up short and be found wanting. Form and content cannot be finally separated, even if one doesn’t wish to go so far to say form is content, and so we shouldn’t let bad prose limit us.

And what about tools, like Grammarly? They contacted me and asked me to try it, and so I’ve used it on this post. Good writers are generally wary of computer-generated critiques of one’s work, for good reason; I’d love to see a website entitled “D*** You Spellcheck” just like “D*** You Autocorrect,” as I see spellcheck fouling up student writing almost every day, and we all know how foolish MS Word’s grammar checking feature is. And every so often someone runs some classic piece of writing like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address through some software to point out how using software in writing leads to prosaic prose.

Grammarly is different, it seems. It lets you select the type of writing you are doing—academic, general, casual, etc., and so you can set it to evaluate your writing a certain way. It caught about two dozen things it regards as issues, some which I think are good suggestions, while others I haven’t felt the need to correct. (For instance, it found a problem with subject-verb agreement with “Elements of Style was…”; it didn’t recognize the plural noun as part of the title of a singular book.) It’s like having a good TA who catches errors and makes style suggestions proof your work, whose ideas may or may not be helpful. I’d recommend it as a tool, but like all computer tools, the writer should feel free to ignore certain suggestions and consider others.


St. Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church

Today is the feast day of St. Hildegard of Bingen, whom Pope Benedict made a Doctor of Church on October 7, 2012. I’ve a special interest in Hildegard, which is evolving into something of a devotion. I’ve written a couple things online about her, and also delivered a paper at an SBL annual meeting on her appropriation of Paul entitled “St. Hildegard of Bingen’s Premodern and Postmodern Paul”. I’ve also discussed St. Hildegard on The Sacred Page podcast.

First, “Hildegard of Bingen: Sibyl of the Rhine, Singing Still” (First Things’ On the Square, 16 September 2011). Excerpts:

It’s an age of widespread cultural and ecclesial malaise: the State encroaches ever more into the affairs of the church; the clergy is indolent and ineffective, oft corrupt and unchaste; the laity is poorly catechized; and Gnosticism advances. It’s the twelfth century, into which a Teutonic prophetess stepped, prepared to confront the spirits of the age with visions from on high. Nihil sub sole novum, and thus it’s worth considering on the occasion of St. Hildegard of Bingen’s feast day (tomorrow, Saturday, September 17) how her sauce for medieval geese might go well with our modern ganders. [...]
Even if her knowledge of nature is not a matter of revelation, for Hildegard nature is not separate from the divine…Indeed, nihil sub sole novum, save the Incarnation, the only truly new thing in the world, in which we see the most extreme union of grace and nature, around which Hildegard’s entire theology revolves. The Creator is the incarnate Word who became man, and the form of man stands at the center of the cosmos as microcosm.
Her theology coupled with her iron personality made her an implacable enemy of the dualistic and gnostic Cathars. Their descendants are with us today, for the modernity in which we live and move and have our being is a Gnostic flight from any constraints of nature, a secularized version of grace destroying nature (and thus all too often human persons) by means of technology, an insanity running headlong into death that will heed no warnings from the Church, preferring the antipope in its belly; being Gnostic, our age cannot even conceive of the possibility of a visible Church. In contrast, Hildegard’s incarnational, sacramental vision takes seriously the concept of a visible, authoritative Church speaking truth about the goodness and harmony of God, nature and man as its microcosm.

Second, “St. Hildegard of Bingen: Doctor of the Church” (First Things’ On the Square, 4 October 2012)

One overlooked aspect of her work of which Benedict is certainly aware concerns her activity as an interpreter of Sacred Scripture. The oversight is as curious as it is lamentable. The reason for this neglect, I suspect, concerns her received status as a medieval “visionary” and modern conceptions of exegesis as a disciplined, purely rational historical exercise. St. Hildegard’s most popular work is the Scivias, her record of her divine intellectual visions, and it is easy to subtly write St. Hildegard off, I think, if we regard her only as a visionary (especially if we reduce her visions to neural epiphenomena generated by migraines).
St. Hildegard did much more with the Bible than impose her visions upon it: She prayed it as a Benedictine, exegeted it for her sisters as well as others, including monks and other males, and preached it in the chief cathedrals of Europe, such as those of Mainz, Cologne, and Trier. St. Hildegard models an approach to the theological exegesis of the Bible as sacred Scripture, not merely a historical artificact, having her nose in the details of the text with her mind and spirit fully engaged in the task while she reads in accord with the Church’s rule of faith.
For those interested in post-critical retrieval of the tradition, Hildegard models theological interpretation that assumes the harmony of faith and reason. Indeed, in this she is both medieval and modern, as the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, insists that “the study of the sacred page is, as it were, the soul of sacred theology.”

Third, a bit from my unpublished paper on Hildegard, delivered 19 November 2012 in the “Recovering Female Interpreters of the Bible” section at the SBL annual meeting:
Continue reading


Three Videos on Liturgy

When we lived in the Chicago suburbs while I was teaching at Wheaton, I visited Ss. Peter and Paul in Naperville from time to time, a wonderful and large parish. The Church looks like a church inside, and liturgy was done well (whether OF or EF of the Roman Rite; the FSSP offers the EF there).

As part of their commitment to the new evangelization, their director of the new evangelization, Mike Brummond, runs a website called Thereon I was delighted to find three videos in particular dealing with liturgy.

The first is a presentation by Fr. Douglas Martis, Director of the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein Seminary in northern Chicagoland. I was privileged to be able to hear Fr. Martis speak from time to time, as well as attend other wonderful events at the LI and Mundelein. The talk is entitled “What Did Vatican II Really Say About Liturgy?”

Next is Fr. Thomas Milota, pastor at Ss Peter and Paul, on “The Trinity, the Paschal Mystery, and the Liturgy”:

And finally, Matthew Sprinkle, “What Is Sacred Music?”


The Secret Life of Bees…

…is fast becoming the not-so-secret death of bees thanks to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and it appears pesticides are to blame. Quartz reports:

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.
When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.
Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they’re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples. [...]
In recent years, a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids has been linked to bee deaths and in April regulators banned the use of the pesticide for two years in Europe where bee populations have also plummeted. But vanEngelsdorp, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, says the new study shows that the interaction of multiple pesticides is affecting bee health [...]
The study found another complication in efforts to save the bees: US honey bees, which are descendants of European bees, do not bring home pollen from native North American crops but collect bee chow from nearby weeds and wildflowers. That pollen, however, was also contaminated with pesticides even though those plants were not the target of spraying.


Eugenio Pacelli: “Not Hitler’s Pope”

At The American Conservative, John Rodden and John Rossi present “Not Hitler’s Pope: What history taught Pius XII about resisting tyrants,” an efficient but substantive overview of Eugenio Pacelli’s dealings with the Nazis first as papal secretary of state under Pope Pius XI and later as his successor, Pope Pius XII, having both secured the Concordat with the Nazi government in 1933 and then having issued Mit brennender Sorge in 1937. One hopes as the historical record becomes ever clearer and black legends about Pacelli ever more dispelled, his cause towards sainthood may advance.

Beyond serving as an overview of Pacelli’s dealings with the Third Reich, Rodden’s and Rossi’s piece is also of value as it discusses Pacelli’s judgments and tactics in light of those of Pius V during Elizabeth I’s reign in England and those of Bergoglio in Argentina in a way that may be instructive for thinking about how Catholics and others of conscience might engage fruitfully in high-stakes political poker (such as Cardinal Dolan is doing regarding the HHS Mandate). Excerpt:

One option for dealing with Nazism was off-limits—a papal bull, an official condemnation by the Pope of the Nazi regime. According to Oxford University historian Diarmaid MacCulloch, the leading British scholar of the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation, the use of a papal bull excommunicating a secular ruler was rejected because of the Church’s experiences during the Counter-Reformation. In The Reformation: A History, MacCulloch argues that the 1570 papal bull excommunicating Queen Elizabeth I of England “was so generally recognized as a political blunder that it was even remembered in the 1930s when the Papacy considered how to react to Hitler’s regime.”
Honest, idealistic, and fanatically puritanical, Pope Pius V (1566-72) issued a papal bull, Regnans in Excelis, to deprive Elizabeth I of her title as Queen and absolve her subjects “from any type of duty” to her. In his capacity as “Prince over all nations and kingdoms,” Pius V proclaimed that Elizabeth was “a servant of vice,” “a heretic and abetter of heretics,” and merely the “pretended queen of England.”
What followed was a terrible backlash in Tudor England: a wave of persecution against English Catholics, the execution of hundreds of priests, the definitive secession of the Church of England from Rome, the fatal identification of Catholicism with treason, and the loss of tens of thousands of formerly faithful Catholics who decided to remain loyal to the temporal order.
The Vatican is not a sound-bite culture, and the backfires of 1570 taught Cardinal Pacelli during the rise of Nazism in the 1930s. As MacCulloch notes, “discreet voices in the Vatican privately recalled the bad precedent” and reminded Church leaders of what had happened. Much of Cardinal Pacelli’s measured response to Hitler and Nazism rests on this historical experience.

Read the whole thing.

(cross posted at First Thoughts)