Friday, January 16, 2009

Traditional Priest Retreats

This is a letter by a priest who loves the traditional liturgy, addressed to any other traditional priests looking for Excellent Priest Retreats.

Dear Fathers,

Considering my options for a retreat this year I am realizing that what I want does not exist. I need an eight day priestly retreat of Ignatian Spiritual Exercises with daily Solemn High Traditional Masses (according to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass) in which the priest retreatants are the ministers and servers and choir aternatingly; including chanting the entire Liturgy of the Hours according to the Extraordinary Form. Of course, each retreatant would separately offer his own private Mass each day. What would it take to organize such a yearly retreat here on the East Coast (or anywhere in the world)? It seems to me that with six to ten willing and able priests, under a seasoned retreat master, and with a good master of ceremonies we could do it. Places abound.

In other words, I would like to raise the liturgical bar and the spiritual bar on our priestly retreats. It seems to me that the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises (which I have only ever done well in Spanish) is the most effective retreat method (either eight or thirty days), and that that should be coupled with the best of the Church's Latin Rite liturgical patrimony, which is the heart of the clergy. Why not boldly put the two together? Please correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that nothing like this exists in the whole world today, in any language. There is, however, a demand for it from the traditional diocesan priests around the world. Why should traditional priests have to go off alone to Solemnes for a retreat with high liturgy? Why on our retreats must we revert to the lowest common liturgical denominator? Our retreats should build us up! We need to raise the bar!!! God requires it of us and Pope Benedict XVI encourages it. Perhaps we could tap into the priests who have participated in the musicasacra colloquia and those who have gone to the Fraternity bi-annual trainings for the traditional Mass?

Are you with me? Any suggestions?

Please send this blog to any priests who are serious about liturgical excellence and the interior life.
Omnes cum Petro ad Jesum per Mariam,
El Padre Plinthos

N.B. For the annual Gregorian Chant and Polyphony Colloquium go to

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sancta Familia

Sermon for the Feast of the Holy Family (1962 Rite) 11 January 2009

Today, the Feast of the Holy Family, we consider the most basic society, the family. It’s foundation, the only firm base on which it stands, is marriage, true marriage. The Holy Marriage is the way for the Holy Family. That is why Mary and Joseph were betrothed before she was with child. They were legally married. They had the rights of husband and wife, though completely chaste.

Every human person needs one and only one father and one and only one mother, in love with each other in marriage. That is the first and most important need for existence. If the union of man and woman is missing there is no new life. And if that union is other than marital then the family is not complete; we could even say that it is not a family. It all starts with the marriage. “To avoid the confusion with other types of unions based on weak love is something especially urgent today. Only the rock of total and irrevocable love between man and woman is capable of being the foundation of a society that becomes a home for all people.” (Benedict XVI to JPII Institute 11 May 2006)

The Virgin conceived and bore a Son—the Son of God. Not even the Most Blessed and Ever Virgin Mary—the purest woman of all, who never would entertain marital actions, neither in or out of marriage—the very Immaculate Conception herself—with the fullness of grace and the overshadowing power of God, conceiving the Creator of the universe—the very Logic and Meaning of all things—the Word made Flesh—not even they: the perfect Mother and daughter of the world and of God, with God in the flesh—the God child—are alone a family. Alone they would have been missing the man of the family. The Family needs the dedicated man. Every family, in order to be a family needs the husband and father. Marriage is therefore the start of the family; it was so at the Creation of the world: Adam and Eve, and it was so at the Salvation of the world: Mary and Joseph, and it will be so until the end of the world; and it will be so in eternity (as recorded in the last chapters of the Bible): “Blessed are they who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb…And I say the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband…Come, I will show thee the bride, the spouse of the Lamb.” (Rev. 19:9; 21:2, 9)

Tell people. Talk about it! Defend and promote the integrity of marriage as the only proper context of marital and procreative love. A single parent is not a family! And two so-called “mommies” or “two daddies” are a disgraceful and shameful lie and certainly not a family! but the exact opposite of a family; it’s destruction and an anti-God institution. Lobby our legislators for a constitutional amendment: defining marriage exclusively one man and one woman. On the offensive I encourage you to begin a movement to oppose co-ed college dormitory life. The present college bedroom scene openly promotes fornication, contraception and abortion: the anarchy of sexual license, a scandal to all of our youth. No male should be allowed in the bedroom areas of the females and vice-versa, and that needs to be strictly enforced, for the safety, integrity, well-being and true education of our youth. The gravest problem on our college campuses is neither drinking nor drugs but rather this general sexual immorality systematically corrupting the youth and destroying their affective and emotional capacity for life-long marriage, linked to the rejection of God and His commandments.

“Dear brothers and sisters, [the] profound bond between God and man, between the love of God and human love, is also confirmed by some negative tendencies and developments, whose weight we all experience. The degradation of human love, the suppression of the authentic capacity to love appears in our time as the most effective weapon for man to crush God to remove God from man’s sight and heart. (cf. Rom. 1) However, the desire to ‘liberate’ God’s nature makes one lose sight of the very reality of nature, including man’s nature, reducing it to an ensemble of functions, which can be disposed of according to one’s pleasure to build a so-called better world and a happier humanity. But, on the contrary, the plan of the Creator is destroyed as is the truth of our nature.” (9 June 2005 Rome Congress, Benedict XVI)

Family is man and woman in one flesh (though, by a special divine dispensation, the Holy Family never had flesh union). Marriage, holy marriage, is the family; nothing else, and every other good thing is derived from it. It is the best image of God in the world. This is God’s plan and no man can change that. That is why the best image for Christmas is the child with his Mother and with her lawful husband. The feast of the Holy Family is therefore the Feast of the Holy Matrimony—the Feast of the necessary holiness of man and woman, husband and wife, who give themselves to each other for life and for new life.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Pope Benedict's Classical Education

Pope Benedict XVI had a solid elementary formation in the classics (in the ancient languages) and he largely credits that for his keen mind, and says how that type of formation is able to resist totalitarian ideologies, which explains why they take control of education and eliminate the fundamental training in Greek and Latin. Below I quote the relevant passage from Ratzinger's autobiography. But his most scholarly treatment of the theme was his prize winning and world famous "Regensburg Address"._

"With our move to and serious concerns entered my life. [The year is 1937, he is ten years old] A few days after our arrival the school opened its doors. I now entered the first class in the 'humanistic gymnasium', what today would be called the 'gymnasium for classical languages'. I had to walk about a half hour to get to school, which gave me ample time for looking about and reflecting, but also for reviewing what I had learned it school. Toward the end, the elementary shcool in Aschau [his previous school] had had little to offer, but now I found myself subject to a new discipline and new demands, especially since I was the youngest and one of the smallest in the whole class. Latin, as the foundation of one's whole education, was then still taught with old-fashioned rigor and thoroughness, something I have remained grateful for all my life. As a student of theology later on, I had no difficulty in studying the sources in Latin and Greek, and, at the time of the Council in Rome [The Second Vatican Council], although I had never attended lectures in Latin, I was quickly able to take part in the discussions conducted in the theological Latin then spoken.

"In the meantime, National Socialism had not yet been able to change any more in the Traunstein gymnasium that it had in my school in Aschau. Not one of the professors of classical studies who belonged to the old guard had joined the Party, despite the considerable pressure exerted on government employees. Soon after I arrived at the gymnasium the second headmaster was removed from his post because he did not bend to the new masters. In retrospect it seems to me that an education in Greek and Latin antiquity created a mental attitude that resisted seduction by a totalitarian ideology. Recently I thumbed through the songbook we then used, which already contained a number of Nazi songs, or old songs with Nazi words inserted, alongside valuable old songs. And I saw how our music teacher, a convinced Catholic, had had us cross out the phrase 'Juda den Ton' (to Judah death) and write instead 'Wende die Not' (dispel our plight). But within a year of my arrival in the gymnasium, an emphatic 'reform' began. Until then the humanistic gymnasium and the scientific school (Realschule) had existed side by side as two separate institutions. Now they became blended into a new type of school, the so-called Oberschule, in which the study of Greek completely disappeared, Latin was greatly diminished, with instruction beginning only in the third year, and in which modern languages, especially English, and the natural sciences instead received much greater weight. With the new type of school also came a new and younger generation of teachers, among whom one could certainly find many with excellent talents but also many who were now decided defenders of the new regime. Three years later religious instruction was banned from the schools, with its place taken by physical education and sports. but thank God that a concession was made: whoever had already begun under the old system of the humanistic gymnasium could conclude his studies by and large according to that model, the plan being of course that this form of education would die out on its own." Milestones, pp. 23-24

So, Ratzinger was among the last ones who received the classical elementary education!
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