Category Archives: Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments

Herbs Blessing on the Assumption Solemnity, August 15

It is customary in the Western Church, since at least the 10th century, for the priest to bless herbs on the Solemnity of the Assumption. The Eastern Church likely had a similar formulary much earlier.

As a point of liturgical fact, the Church asks God to bless herbs and flowers –and thus us– to remind all of us of the gifts God has given us for our sustenance, healing and beauty. In many places the faithful had all their flowers blessed, especially those closely associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Herbs blessing, therefore, is another example of giving thanks, a key theological and liturgical point in our life of faith. While customary it is not likely to be used in many parishes. The collects for the herbs blessing rich and savory.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2001) says of herbs blessing:

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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (15 August) is deeply imbedded in popular piety. In many places the feast is synonymous with the person of Our Lady, and is simply referred to as “Our Lady’s Day” or as the “Immacolada” in Spain and Latin America.

In the Germanic countries, the custom of blessing herbs is associated with 15 August. This custom, received into the Rituale Romanum (200), represents a clear example of the genuine evangelization of pre-Christian rites and beliefs: one must turn to God, through whose word “the earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seeds in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds” (Gen 1, 12) in order to obtain what was formerly obtained by magic rites; to stem the damages deriving from poisonous herbs, and benefit from the efficacy of curative herbs.

This ancient use came to be associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, in part because of the biblical images applied to her such as vine, lavender, cypress and lily, partly from seeing her in terms of a sweet smelling flower because of her virtue, and most of all because of Isaiah 11, 1, and his reference to the “shoot springing
from the side of Jesse”, which would bear the blessed fruit of Jesus.

The Order of Blessing of Herbs is found here.

Transfiguration of the Lord

Christ Jesus, the brightness of the Father and the image of His substance, upholding all things by the word of His power, effecting man’s purgation from sin, has deigned to appear this day in glory on a high mountain.

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The Church celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. It is one of two times in the liturgical year that the gospel tells the narrative of the Lord’s being transfigured. The other time we hear the narrative of the Transfiguration is in Lent. The Franciscans built a church to mark the sight of the Transfiguration and the oldest monastery in Sinai, Saint Catherine’s (an Orthodox monastery), has an ancient mosaic dedicated to this feast. As point of ecclesial comparison, the Orthodox Church observes today also as a significant feast of the Lord. Hence, the commonality of liturgical observances gives witness to a Christian reality.
Today’s feast is a twofold reminder of the Lord’s victory over death and the promise of the resurrection. You will recall that the one of the witnesses to this vision is Peter, and this vision of the Lord’s glory happens after Peter’s confession of who Jesus is and his belief in Jesus’ messiahship. A very bold claim to make, indeed. One might say that the vision portrayed in the gospel today is a reward for faith, hope and love in the Lord’s proclamation of the Kingdom. It also foreshadows the Lord’s passion and death on Calvary. This event is preparatory for that great event on what we now call Good Friday and Easter Sunday. All the synoptics record the Transfiguration.
Rafael’s beautiful painting is an enduring testament of the apostolic vision on Mount Tabor. The upper part of the painting is that of Jesus with Peter, James and John. The lower section relates the Lord’s curing of a possessed child. It is said that Rafael was commissioned to paint the Transfiguration to celebrate the Christian triumph over the Muslims and to state in no uncertain terms what Christians believe: Jesus as the divine physician overcomes death of the body and in doing so gives us glory in the resurrection. The addition of the child’s cure demonstrates for us this fact: that the Lord restores to life a sick child, thus conquering sickness and death.
In this way the Lord’s Transfiguration fulfills what was told by the prophet Elijah and Moses who spoke of future glory.
What Rafael does for us is to invite us into the Lord’s promise of immortality. He shows us that the Lord is preparing us to enter into the destiny that God the Father offered to us: communion with Himself.
O God, Who in the glorious Transfiguration of Thine only-begotten Son did confirm the mysteries of the faith by the testimonies of the fathers, and Who by Thy voice from the shining cloud did in a wondrous manner foreshadow the perfect adoption of sons, make us in Thy loving-kindness, we beseech Thee, co-heirs with Him Who is the King of glory and in that very glory call us one day to share.

St Stanislaus Church (New Haven, CT) to host the St Gregory Society

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Archbishop Henry J. Mansell, Archbishop of Hartford, in a letter to the Saint Gregory Society of New Haven, Connecticut, gave his permission for the Traditional Latin Mass community to relocate from Sacred Heart Church in New Haven to Saint Stanislaus Church at 9 Eld Street in New Haven.

“He wants to be certain the church is appropriate for your needs,” wrote the archbishop.

He gave permission for the first Traditional Latin Mass at Saint Stanislaus in New Haven to be on The Feast of the Holy Cross, September 13, 2009. The Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal will be celebrated at 2 pm at Saint Stanislaus just as it had been celebrated at 2 PM at Sacred Heart.

In his cordial letter of introduction, Archbishop Mansell encouraged cordial relations with the pastor, Father Roman Kmiec, C.M., pastor of Saint Stanislaus. Father Kmiec has indeed warmly welcomed the Saint Gregory Society.

Archbishop Mansell said he was “glad to help” the Saint Gregory Society in finding a new home for the Community.

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Saint Stanislaus Church is staffed by the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentians) of the New England Province. The Vincentians, an congregation of priests and brothers founded by Saint Vincent de Paul in the 1600s, spread the gospel message of Jesus in championing the needs of the poor.

The De Paul Provincial House is located at 234 Keeney Street in Manchester, CT.

I am happy to receive this news. I spent nine years of my formative years at Saint Stan’s with the Vincentians and the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Saint Stan’s is New Haven’s best looking church maintaining the original artwork and liturgical furnishings.

The Saint Gregory Society of New Haven is a non-profit lay association founded in 1985 to promote the local celebration of the Traditional Latin Liturgy according to the Tridentine Missal in response to the Papal indult of October 3, 1984, Quattuor abhinc annos, which granted the use of the liturgical books in force in 1962.

Since January 1986, the Traditional Latin Mass regularly has been celebrated at the Sacred Heart Church in downtown New Haven. The Saint Gregory Society exists primarily to advocate the preservation of the immemorial rite of the Mass, to work for its celebration on a regular and unrestricted basis, and to disseminate information about and cultivate interest in the classical Roman liturgy and its central importance for Catholic faith and culture.

The Society supports a professional Schola Cantorum that provides the proper Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony for all sung liturgical functions.

For further information: saintgregorysociety@gmail.com.

(this article is edited & adapted)

Will there be a common date for Easter? Ever?

Do you ever think of the (dis)unity of Christians? Are you concerned enough to pray for the unity of the Churches? Today after Mass I prayed a prayer that asked God the Father to give us the grace of unity among Christians while He also fixes the errors that exist among the same. A tall order I know but I am known for bold requests! For some time I’ve been praying that one day–in my lifetime– that among some Christian churches we can observe a common date of Easter if not also a common altar. Needless to say, I am saddened by the fact that most Christians don’t
have an issue with the various Christian churches and ecclesial communities celebrating
Easter on different days. I lament this apathetic approach to our observing THE most solemn day of our Lord and Savior’s triumph over sin and death.


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Admittedly, the problem of
a common date for Easter is nearly as old as Christianity itself. History
shows us that when the Apostles formed the various Christian communities under the power of the Spirit and by their work of evangelization differing opinions surfaced on how and when to commemorate Jesus Christ’s death
and resurrection. Most often differing opinions were based on how the four
gospels recorded the events of our salvation. We know the first attempt at
deciding a common date for Easter began with the Council of Nicaea (325). The
Council taught that the date of Easter would be the first Sunday after the full
moon following the vernal equinox. However, there was no method for calculating
the full moon or the vernal equinox.

Today, we have the practice of the Orthodox churches who use the March 21st of the Julian calendar as the date of the equinox, while the churches of
the Western tradition  base
their calculations on the Gregorian calendar.  Hence, a window of difference is five weeks exists. Hmmm!!!???

According to a report on a recent
seminar in the Ukraine attended by Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant
theologians of Europe, all participants endorsed a compromise proposed at a 1997 World Council of
Churches (WCC) consultation in Aleppo, Syria. Notice that no North American theologians’ opinions were considered. The proposal made was to keep the
Nicaea rule but calculate the equinox and full moon using the accurate
astronomical data available today, rather than those used many years ago.
Brilliant, if you ask me!  Now I
wonder of the  churchmen who head
these churches also agree.

Recently, the French Orthodox theologian Professor
Antoine Arjakovsky, director of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies, pointed
out: “Whilst the astronomic reckoning of the Nicean rule comes closer to
the Gregorian calendar than to the ancient Julian one, the Roman Catholic and
Protestant churches did take a step towards the Orthodox churches in Aleppo,
accepting that the date of Easter should be established on the base of a cosmic
calendar rather than by a fixed date as had been proposed prior to the
inter-Orthodox meeting in Chambésy in 1977.”

In 2010 and 2011 there is a
convergence of calendars which will produce a common Easter date that may, one hopes, serve as
an opportunity for all Christians to join together for a celebration that is
not based on mere coincidence. By Easter 2012 (April 8), can we hope that a
date based on exact astronomical reckoning and celebrated by all Christians?

It
seems that it’s not only theology or the calendar’s calculations that’s the
problem but the ecclesial relations among the communities of faith. Sad if you
ask me.

Translation of the Relics of Saint Thomas Becket

For many reasons I have had a devotion to Saint Thomas Becket whose liturgical memorial is observed on December 29. Becket was killed in 1170. His conversion and subsequent witness to the work of the Trinity in the world is one which inspires and challenges me to follow Christ more closely.


Today is the day that the Church in Canterbury observes a liturgical remembrance of the transfer of relics of Saint Thomas Becket. I should point out, however, there is a problem for some people in verifying Becket’s relics being as true and therefore the subject of debate among some scholars. You can read any number of works on the subject if you’d like to enter the debate. I happen to come down on the side that the relics of Saint Thomas Becket are real. 

A transfer of relics from one shrine to another is similar to a reburying a body. As we know of tradition, it is in the second half of the 4th century that some local churches (dioceses) placed the relics beneath the altar and this placement of matryrs’ relics became part of the dedication rites of a church.

The veneration of martyrs is a very ancient part of Christian faith. All sorts of practices surfaced with regard to the honor paid to a martyr-saint (and later to non-martyr saints) such as adorning the tombs, lighting lamps, paintings, inscriptions, offering the Eucharist on the martyr’s anniversary of death, writing of the martyr’s history, making a pilgrimage and the like. All these things first acknowledge the power of God over sin and death (the Resurrection) and then the confidence that we have in the martyr would intercede on our behalf before God. All this contributes to the belief that the martyrs were (and continue to be) true disciples of Jesus Christ. The martyr witnesses to us the reality and truth of the Paschal Mystery and our being able to be saved if we surrender to that Mystery. Why are we concerned with the transfer of relics? Why is this important? Existentially it is rather unimportant; as a matter of faith and Christian living the transfer of a saint’s relics is important because of the honor due to God through the life of a blessed man or woman as interpreted for us by Christ crucified and risen; the martyr is only important insofar as he or she points to Jesus; the martyrs’ relics and there occasional transfer illustrates an eschatology present in the baptism we daily live.

We venerate (we don’t adore) the remains of a person we are morally convinced, that is, we have certainty that this person is among the saints in heaven and that the saint shows how to excel in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Today we remember the moving of Becket and we ask him to ask God for the grace of courage and greatness of heart.

from a letter by Saint Thomas Becket

For
our sake Christ offered himself to the Father upon the altar for the cross. He
now looks down from heaven on our actions and secret thoughts, and one day he
will give each of us the reward his deeds deserve. It must therefore be our
endeavor to destroy the right of sin and death, and by nurturing faith and
uprightness of life, to build up the Church of Christ into a holy temple of the
Lord.

The harvest is good and one reaper or even several would not suffice to
gather all of it into the granary of the Lord. Yet the Roman Church remains the
head of all the churches and the source of Catholic teaching. Of this there can
be no doubt. 
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Everyone know that the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given to
Peter. Upon his faith and teaching the whole fabric of the Church will continue
to be built until we all reach full maturity in Christ and attain to unity in
faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Of course many are needed to plant and
many to water now that the faith has spread so far and the population become so
great.

Nevertheless, no matter who plants or waters, God gives no harvest
unless what he plants is the faith of Peter, and unless he himself assents to
Peter’s teaching. All important questions that arise among God’s people are
referred to the judgment of Peter in the person for the Roman Pontiff. Under
him the ministers of Mother Church exercise the powers committed to them, each
in his own sphere of responsibility.

Remember then how our fathers worked out
their salvation; remember the sufferings through which the Church has grown,
and the storms the ship of Peter has weathered because it has Christ on board.
Remember how the crown was attained by those whose sufferings gave new radiance
to their faith. The whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing
truth that without real effort no one wins the crown.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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