Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chesterton on Cigars...

Myself and a good number of my priest friends often times enjoy sharing a cigar. While some would argue this constitutes a vice, I on the other hand choose to see it as a virtue, enhancing the qualities of fraternity and relaxation. In honor of this belief, I offer a few humorous quotes about the enjoyment of a fine cigar by G.K. Chesterton:

"To have a horror of tobacco is not to have an abstract standard of right; but exactly the opposite. It is to have no standard of right whatever; and to make certain local likes and dislikes as a substitute. Nobody who has an abstract standard of right and wrong can possibly think it wrong to smoke a cigar. It is a vague sentimental notion that certain habits were not suitable to the old log cabin or the old hometown. It has a vague utilitarian notion that certain habits are not directly useful in the new amalgamated stores or the new financial gambling-hell. If his aged mother or his economic master dislikes to see a young man hanging about with a pipe in his mouth, the action becomes a sin; or the nearest that such a moral philosophy can come to the idea of a sin. A man does not chop wood for the log hut by smoking; and a man does not make dividends for the Big Boss by smoking; and therefore smoking has a smell as of something sinful."

"Incidentally, I must say I can bear witness to this queer taboo about tobacco. Of course numberless Americans smoke numberless cigars; a great many others eat cigars, which seems to me a more occult pleasure. But there does exist an extraordinary idea that ethics are involved in some way; and many who smoke really disapprove of smoking.

I remember once receiving two American interviewers on the same afternoon; there was a box of cigars in front of me and I offered one to each in turn. Their reaction (as they would probably call it) was very curious to watch. The first journalist stiffened suddenly and silently and declined in a very cold voice. He could not have conveyed more plainly that I had attempted to corrupt an honorable man with a foul and infamous indulgence; as if I were the Old Man of the Mountain offering him hashish that would turn him into an assassin. The second reaction was even more remarkable. The second journalist first looked doubtful; then looked sly; then seemed to glance about him nervously, as if wondering whether we were alone, and then said with a sort of crestfallen and covert smile: "Well, Mr. Chesterton, I'm afraid I have the habit."

"The Catholic Church is like a thick steak, a glass of red wine, and a good cigar."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Observations on the Post-Conciliar Liturgical Reform...

I am currently working on a paper involving liturgical law and the reforms which took place following the landmark Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council. This involves an analysis of the various instructions that came from the Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship directing the implementation of the precepts set forth by the Constitution. I came across a great quote from one of these later instructions, Liturgicae instaurationes, of 5 September 1970.

Regular visitors to this blog will know that I have an affinity for the "Extraordinary Form" of the Roman Rite, and that I have been celebrating it for many years now. It has always been my observation that this form of the Mass has had a particular attraction amongst younger people of my generation. This has always come as a bit of a surprise to those not in favor of this form of the Mass, who often characterize this attraction on our parts as a misplaced longing for the past, a fruit of a kind of liturgical scrupulosity, or worse. I don't believe that this is truly the case for most, however. It seems to me (speaking personally) that the attraction of younger people to the "Extraordinary Form" is based primarily on two things. First is that participation in that form of the Mass recalls so poignantly that what one is engaging in in the Church's liturgy transcends the boundaries of one's limited community of the faithful (granted that the conditions of the local community do have a part in the liturgy, especially in the content of the homily, the choice of various legitimate styles of music and vesture, and various other elements of the Mass). This longing for membership in a larger community - an identification with the Church universal - is particularly strong for us. Secondly, this form of the Mass emphasizes the nature of the liturgy as both a spiritual and physical directing of the community towards God. I would argue that this is due largely to the common orientation of the priest and congregation ad orientem, and thus strictly speaking is not unique to the "Extraordinary Form."

As I read these various documents of the liturgical reform, I can't help but identify these liturgical principles present in them. It also seems to me, a person born well after the council (i.e. 1975) and after this initial period of liturgical renovation, that there is a bit of objectivity that one can bring to bear on the liturgical reforms that ensued. It seems that as the reform progressed, there was a greater drawing-back and reigning-in of the liturgical experimentations that were occurring. At least one gets the sense of that from the tone of the various instructions as they were issued one after another. I keep reading these documents and keep thinking that in some ways the liturgical experimentations can be likened to a gorilla who was let out of its cage, and these instructions were attempts to coax him back in. Perhaps we're still trying to accomplish that. Anyway, I post one of the more interesting quotes from the document here. I think that Sacrosanctum Concilium and all of these instructions should be mandatory reading for all those involved in the Church's liturgy today:

The effectiveness of liturgy does not lie in experimenting with rites and altering them over and over, nor in a continuous reductionism, but solely in entering more deeply into the Word of God and the mystery being celebrated. It is the presence of these two that authenticates the Church's rites, not what some priest decides, indulging his own preferences.
Keep in mind, then, that the private recasting of ritual introduced by an individual priest insults the dignity of the believer and lays the way open to individual and idiosyncratic forms in celebrations that are in fact the property of the whole Church.
The ministry of the priest is the ministry of the universal Church: its exercise is impossible without the obedience, hierarchic communion, and the will to serve God and neighbor. The hierarchic character and sacramental power of the liturgy as well as the respectful service owed to the believing community demand that the priest fulfill his role in worship as the "faithful servant and steward of the mysteries of God," without imposing any rite not decreed and sanctioned by the liturgical books

(Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship; Instruction Liturgicae instaurationes, 5 September 1970: AAS 62 [1970] 692-704. Art. 1)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fall Break II: Extraordinary Form Nuptial Mass...

While I was home for fall break I had the privilege of celebrating a wedding Mass in the Extraordinary Form at St. Martin's. Congratulations to Scott ("Scotus") and Emily ("Aemilia"). Thanks also to Charlie for the pics:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fall Break...

I'm just getting back to DC after a week spent at home during the school's fall break. Had a great week catching up with friends, getting in a little fishing, celebrating Mass at St. Martin's (including a wedding last Saturday in the Extraordinary Form), and just generally doing my best impersonation of a bump on a log. As always, it was nice being home, seeing the guys, and being reminded that my time in JCL studies will soon be coming to an end...

Here's a quick video of some of last week's fishing:

A few pics of a particularly beautiful sunrise on the drive back to DC this morning:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

And a Reds Fan Weeps...

And here I thought that being a Reds fan was going to be less painful this year...