Priesthood and touching the Body of Christ

This Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi, let us reflect on the priesthood and the Blessed Sacrament, by looking at two post-Resurrection episodes in Holy Writ. First, when Christ, risen from the tomb, met Mary Magdalene, He forbade her from touching Him. “Touch Me not,” said He. Second, when Christ appeared to His disciples again, Thomas being present, He bade Thomas put his finger into His wounds. “Put in thy finger hither, and see My hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing,” said the Lord. While theologians sometimes juxtapose these two instances to expound the mystery of faith, we can read these two episodes under a different light.

Явление Христа Марии Магдалине после воскресения | Алексaндр Андрeевич Ивaнов | 1835

Holy Mother Church ranks Mary Magdalene amongst the Lord’s disciples, according her an honour more sublime than the rest. The West calls her the Apostola Apostolorum, the Apostle of the Apostles. The East calls her Ἰσαπόστολος, an Equal to the Apostles. While Mary Magdalene received the privilege of being the first of all Christ’s disciples Holy Writ recorded to have met and conversed with the risen Lord, she didn’t receive the honour of touching the Lord’s risen Body. The privilege alone belonged to the apostles. The Lord did not raise Mary Magdalene to the ministerial priesthood, and He commanded her not to touch Him. On the other hand, the Lord did indeed raise Thomas to the ministerial priesthood, and so He instructed him to touch the living marks of the Passion on His risen Body. Here we can see why Holy Mother Church cannot go beyond what the Lord had done, and that is to admit women into sacred orders.

Incredulità di san Tommaso | Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio | 1601–1602

While Mary Magdalene did not receive the ministerial priesthood, she, of course, shared in our common priesthood. For all intents and purposes, she was laywoman, a holy laywoman. When this sinks in, terror must then possess us whenever, unworthy as we are, an ordained minister invites us to touch the consecrated species. Our unconsecrated and unanointed hands must never touch the Most Holy Body of the Lord. Such an honour was denied even from one who watched the salvation of mankind unfold on Calvary, who stood under the Cross as the Lord hung from its gibbet, witnessed His burial, and brought myrrh on the first day of the week after to properly anoint His Body. We must always remember His command to this holy laywoman whom the Church honours as Equal to the Apostles and as the Apostle of the Apostles: “Touch Me not!”

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Probing the flores de mayo

Flores de mayo starts today. May in the Philippines is without doubt fiesta season, and with the ongoing community quarantine in all its varied enrichments and generalities, our compatriots are finding creative ways to celebrate feasts, and the ceremonies and rituals associated with them. We, however, choose to dedicate our time towards investigating the origins of this devotion, which witnesses Catholics throughout the archipelago trooping to churches and chapels every afternoon in May to offer fresh flowers and sing hymns of praise to the Blessed Virgin.

Las flores de mayo | Cayetano Vallcorba y Mexía | 1892

In the course of our investigation, we developed two theses that might not sit well with the conventional reading of the history of the flores de mayo, which we shall call here the theory of unified origin. To this theory, we juxtapose our first thesis: that different places developed their own flores de mayo ritual. If we are to credit a single manual for establishing a widespread devotion, we must contain it within a reasonable ethnolinguistic domain. We can think of a parallel in another paraliturgy: semana santa processions. The list of saints and tableaus that make their salida varies from place to place. What unites this is the pageantry that, disappointingly, though not strangely, projects repressed childhood fascination with Barbie dolls.

To explore this thesis, let us consider one example. The beginnings of the flores de mayo ritual observed in Iloilo goes back to as early as 1855, when the Augustinian friar, Fray Raymundo Lozano Mejía, parish priest of San Miguel, published his Diario de María, courtesy of the University of Santo Tomás. Ten years later, in 1865 (yes, the same year Padre Mariano Sevilla y Villena published his Mangá dálit cay María, courtesy of the Imprenta de los Amigos del País), Fray Lozano republished his Diario, together with a new booklet called Mes de María. The archbishop of Manila, Don Gregorio Melitón Martínez Santa Cruz, granted an indulgence of 80 days for each day of devotion from either the Diario de María or the Mes de María. The bishop of Cebú, Fray Romualdo Jimeno Ballesteros, O. P., and the bishop of Nueva Cáceres, Fray Francisco Gaínza Escobás, O. P., each granted 40 days of indulgence, recouping a total of 160 days of indulgence. These two booklets provided daily meditations on the titles of Mary invoked in the Litany of Loreto. While no longer read in the flores de mayo, their erstwhile prevalence is still palpable in the practice of carrying before the reina of the day a titulus bearing a Latin phrase lifted from the Litany (say Mater purissima for 5 May, and Turris eburnea for 20 May). Sometimes, to save on effort, organisers simply nail the titulus on the arco of the day’s queen.

In 1867, the same year that Padre Sevilla published Mangá mariquit na bulaclac, Fray Lozano reorganised his previous booklets, composed meditations for each day, and, most importantly, added a hymn. In the booklet’s front matter, Fray Lozano finally provided the seasonal backdrop of the flores de mayo, why Spaniards offered flowers and sang hymns to the Holy Mother of God in May. This booklet, which he called Flores ni María Santísima, carried the papal grant of indulgence, dated 21 March 1815, numbering 300 days for each day of devotion, plenary when completed for the whole month of May under the usual conditions. Besides this, the booklet also reminded devotees of the papal exhortation of 28 June 1822 to apply the indulgences for the souls in purgatory. To these papal indulgences were added the customary 80 days from the bishop of Manila, and 40 days apiece from the bishops of Cebú and of Nueva Cáceres. The hymn Fray Lozano wrote for Flores ni María Santísima became the ancestor of one of the hymns that is still being sung in scattered parishes throughout the Visayas.

San Miguel, 1867Otón, present
Dayawon ta si María,
Gugmaon ta ang aton Ilóy,
Halaran ta ang flores niya,
Agud hatagan kalooy.
Dayawon ta si María,
Bitoon labíng maanyag,
Maghalad kitá sa iya
Sing matahúm nga mgá bulak.
Kumarí, mgá binunyagan,
Sa atubangan ni María,
Inyo siya panhalaran
Ang igò sa flores niya.
Kon kamó binunyagan,
Karí kamó kay María
Karí, kay aton halaran
Sing rosal kag azucena.

And comparing a parish in the Western Visayas and a parish from the Eastern Visayas, a separation of around 500 kilometres via the Western Nautical Highway, or, to provide more geographical context, a distance crossing the islands of Negros, Cebu, and Bohol:

Otón, presentCabalían, present
Dayawon ta si María,
Bitoon labíng maanyag,
Maghalad kitá sa iya
Sing matahúm nga mgá bulak.
Daygon ta si María,
Bitoon nga labíng maanyag,
Nagahalad kitá kaniya
Sa matahúm nga bulak.
Kon kamó binunyagan,
Karí kamó kay María
Karí, kay aton halaran
Sing rosal kag azucena.
Umarí kamó binunyagan,
Umarí kamó kang María,
Ngarí, ngarí, atong halaran
Sa rosal ug azucena.

While Padre Sevilla was translating the hymns for the Tagalogs, and Fray Lozano was composing his own for the Ilonggos, Bicolandia could not be bothered by any vernacular hymn whatsoever. Why translate, when the Spanish works fine? So, if by chance you get lost in Sorsogón May next year, you’ll probably hear the following sung for the flores de mayo, taken verbatim ac litteratim from the 1832 Mes de María.

Dulcísima Virgen,
Del cielo delicia,
La flor que te ofrezco
Recibe propicia.

Here we end our first point: the ritual of the flores de mayo developed independently in different geographical units, following ethnolinguistic domains, arising from a priest who championed the devotion.

Flores de mayo | Arturo Montero y Calvo | 1884

Before we proceed to our second thesis, allow us first to rectify an error that exemplifies how plotpoints mutate as a story changes mouth, an error that evaded even the stringent proofreaders of The Manila Times. Articles on the Internet often report that Padre Sevilla’s Mangá mariquit na bulaclac was based on the Italian Misa de maggio. Some of these online pieces correctly state that this Italian opus was authored by the Jesuit priest Padre Alfonso Muzzarelli. But the error persists, and we discover it in the title: misa is not an Italian word; the Italian for Mass is messa. The correct title of the book is Il mese di maggio, meaning the month of May, and it was first published in Ferrara in 1785, translated into Spanish in 1832, into English in 1848, into Arabic in 1853, and into other languages thereafter.

That said, our second thesis is this: It is more reasonable to posit that Padre Sevilla’s work was based on a Spanish translation of Muzzarelli’s booklet, than to trace pedigree directly from an Italian original. We are not casting doubts on Padre Sevilla’s linguistic abilities. What we are suggesting is that it would have been infinitely easier to find Spanish books in Intramuros during the Spanish era, than to hunt for Italian books in the same time and place.

In this vein, we will be subjecting Padre Sevilla’s hymn to textual comparison, and measure the concordance of the texts. Why the hymn only, and not the meditations as well? First, the meditations, elaborated by Padre Muzzarelli, and designed as examples (esempio in the Italian, ejemplo in the Spanish, halimbawà in the Tagalog), were all based on the Affetti scambievoli written by the Jesuit priest Padre Tommaso Auriemma, and so these were rendered as faithfully as the translators saw fit. While Fray Lozano composed his own meditations eschewing the established Jesuit text, he nevertheless referenced Padre Auriemma in his examples (termed pananglit in the Ilonggo booklet). Second, an 1809 edition of Padre Muzzarelli’s Il mese di maggio, published in Rome by the typographer Bernardino Olivieri, does not provide any hymn text. Other versions of Il mese di maggio, both earlier (such as the version published in 1732 by the Jesuit priest Giuseppe Mariano Mazzolari) and later (such as the version published in 1853 by a priest of the Diocese of Crema), do not contain hymns. Only some ninety-odd years later do we see such hymns, in the 1895 edition of Padre Muzzarelli’s version published in Fiorenzuola d’Arda by the typographer Giuseppe Pennaroli.

The first stanza of Padre Sevilla’s dalit is based on a Latin verse that Padre Muzzarelli quoted in his advice for daily meditation. Since he did not provide an Italian translation for this verse, we will have to match Padre Sevilla’s stanza against the original.

Sevilla, 1865Muzzarelli, 1785
Matamís na Birhéng pinaghahandugán
Kamí’y nangangakò namán pong mag-aalay
Ng isáng girnalda bawat isáng araw
Na ang magdudúlot yaríng mgá murang kamáy.
Nulla mihi, pia Virgo,
dies sine floribus ibit,
Serta quibus capiti
dem placitura tuo.

If we look at the Spanish edition, however, lo and behold, a Spanish translation is provided for the Latin verse! In particular, we’re looking at the 1832 edition published by the Imprenta de D. Eusebio Aguado in Madrid.

Sevilla, 1865Spanish edition, 1832
Matamís na Birhéng pinaghahandugán
Kamí’y nangangakò namán pong mag-aalay
Ng isáng girnalda bawat isáng araw
Na ang magdudúlot yaríng mgá murang kamáy.
O dulce Virgen,
de purpúreas flores
Cada día pondré

con blanda mano
Tuhog na bulaklák sadyáng salit-salit
Sa mahál mong noó’y aming ikakapit,
Guirnalda hermosa
en tus divinas sienes:

At this point, we are convinced Padre Sevilla was looking at a Spanish copy when he was writing the hymns. The Tagalog uses noó, which means forehead, and it squares with the Spanish sien, which refers to the side of the forehead, whereas the Latin uses caput, which means the entire head. (The Latin for forehead is frons.) The next verse, then, galvanises this conviction, as it is in whole adapted from the estribillo of the first hymn appointed in the 1832 Spanish edition.

Sevilla, 1865Spanish edition, 1832
Halina at tayo’y mag-unaháng lahát,
Magtaglay ng lalong masamyóng bulaklák,
At sa kay María’y magkusang humaráp,
Pagká’t Iná nating lubós ang paglingap.
Venid, y vamos todos
Con flores a porfía,
Con flores a María,
Que Madre nuestra es.

And here we end the second part, with a recapitulation of our thesis: On the strength of the textual concordance between Padre Sevilla’s hymn and the verses and hymns in the Spanish edition of Padre Muzzarelli’s work, we can conclude that Padre Sevilla accessed a Spanish edition rather than the Italian original when he produced his Dálit in 1865 and his Mariquit na bulaclac later in 1867.

Traditional Ordo 2019: May to August


Elsewhere, we have uploaded second part of the traditional Ordo for the Philippines for 2019. Apart from what has already been said here, we will only add that this ordo, like its 2017 and 2018 counterparts, has been enriched with particular feast proper to the Philippines, based on older ordines and referenced against published manualia. For example, one will find that on the Thursday after the feast of the Sacred Heart (4 July this year), the feast of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus is celebrated throughout the Philippines, except in the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Manila and of San Fernando, on the strength of the indult granted in perpetuity first on 22 September 1937 and later on 18 March 1938. We hope that this would help guide our brethren in the celebration of the Mass and the Office in the vetus ordo.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Traditional Ordo 2019


Elsewhere, we have uploaded the traditional Ordo for the Philippines for 2019. Apart from what has already been said here, we will only add that this ordo, like its 2017 and 2018 counterparts, has been enriched with old customs and received practices peculiar to the Philippines, abstracted from older ordines and referenced against published manualia. For example, one will find before the entry for 21 April the rubrics for the celebration of the salubong, according to the rite prescribed in the Manual de Manila. We hope that this would help guide our brethren in the celebration of the Mass and the Office in the vetus ordo.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Followup: Misa de aguinaldo and the canonical hours

The misa de aguinaldo is a purely devotional custom that is not linked in any way to the Office of the day. Its vestments are white, while that of the Masses of Advent are purple. Gloria is sung throughout, which is suppressed throughout Advent. Credo is sung throughout, which is only sung on Sundays throughout Advent. The misa de aguinaldo does not commemorate the Advent Mass; the Advent Mass does not commemorate the misa de aguinaldo. One appreciates here the principle of parallel actions in the liturgy that Dr Kwasniewski so eloquently observes in the usus antiquior, something that agents in the modern liturgical establishment are loathe to value and esteem.

This being the case, we shall address the discussions that our previous article generated, primarily on the anticipation of the misa de aguinaldo. People have a tendency to look at the misa de aguinaldo in the evening of the previous day as an anticipation, precisely because it has been marketed as such. In that previous article, we avoided applying the term ‘anticipated’ on the evening misa de aguinaldo, because that would imply that horologically, it is in an actually and morally exceptional temporal locus.

Anticipated Masses are admittedly a paradigm that developed after the Council, intended to accommodate the shifting occupational availability of Catholics. Anticipated Offices, however, are not prior to the Council. In the usus antiquior, if there was a need to move the Mass earlier, the Church predicated permission on the movement of the Offices to an earlier time. Take for example the norms established by the statutes of the then Conciliar Seminary of Nueva Cáceres. In order for the Mass of the Easter Vigil to be said at 6 o’clock in the morning (so the people can break fast early), the seminarians had to finish reciting all the minor hours, from terce to none, including prime, at dawn.

An anticipated Sunday Mass, therefore, is properly ‘anticipated’ because, historically and traditionally, Sunday Masses are said after the hour of terce, which is 9 o’clock in the morning. Terce, unlike matins and lauds, is, by practice, not anticipated the day before. So, saying the propers of Sunday in the evening of Saturday, when the hours preceding terce have not yet been recited, even practically and morally, is indeed an anticipation.

An evening misa de aguinaldo, on the other hand, at least from the perspective of the usus antiquior, is morally still within the bounds of the canonical hours where it has been historically and traditionally celebrated. And what are these bounds? As we have said before, the misa de aguinaldo is sung in the darkness between lauds and prime, before the dawn of the nine days of Christmas. If the misa de aguinaldo starts at, say, 12 noon of 15 December (being before the allowed hour of anticipation for matins and lauds) that would indeed be an anticipation.

Another factor that contributes to this perception is the fact that, in the usus recentior, the misa de aguinaldo has unique readings assigned for each day, whose beginnings were first expressed in 1975, based on the Boletín Eclesiástico. This somehow invites the thought that if the propers are said outside the astronomical boundaries of the days they are assigned, then anticipation is a real thing. Again, it is not only the set of propers that makes the misa de aguinaldo what it is. It is marked, first and foremost, for its joyous solemnity (Gloria and Credo) in honour of Mary (Votive Mass of the Virgin) at an early time of the day (the darkness preceding dawn).

The usus antiquior does not have this problem, because the readings said throughout the nine days are the same. The only change that happens is during 18 December, when the celebrant reads the Alleluia verse from the feast of the Expectation, and changes the elogium of the preface to in Exspectatióne. One here asks: Why admit the feast of the Expectation, when the misa de aguinaldo does not admit even the Advent feria? And the answer is: Because, unlike the Advent feria, the feast of the Expectation is a proper feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and is intimately linked to her perpetual virginity, being, in fact, the reason why we have the misa de aguinaldo in the first place.

These having been said, we shall abstain from comparing the set of propers of the two forms of the Roman Rite. Still, there is difficulty in our liturgical establishment accepting the independence of the misa de aguinaldo from the general calendar, and vice versa. This failure to reconcile the two results in Frankenstein liturgies where elements from the misa de aguinaldo are transplanted into the Sunday Mass. It is not uncommon to attend evening Sunday Masses where the vestments are white and Gloria is sung, but the readings are for the Sunday of Advent. It is, indeed, akin to forcing a 1-cm2 square fit into a 1-cm2 circle, an exercise in frustration.

Before we end, allow us this admonition: If people perceive these words authoritative, we say: Thank you, but authority does not reside in us. Having traced its history and pedigree all the way back to the Tenth Council of Toledo, we are merely appreciating the nuances behind the present-day arrangements of the misa de aguinaldo. Whether the evening misas de aguinaldo are legitimate, is a question our bishops can answer and moderate, as they have so done in their capacity and proper jurisdiction.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Misa de aguinaldo and the canonical hours

This weekend, the Philippine Church will once again begin the misas de aguinaldo. This term, unfortunately, is rather antiquated, and is only used nowadays in ordines. Its successors are misa de gallo, which denotes the series of nine Masses celebrated at dawn from 16 to 24 December, and simbáng gabí, which denotes those celebrated in the evening from 15 to 23 December.

As we have said elsewhere, misa de aguinaldo has two elements: misa and aguinaldo. The first element, misa, is fairly easy. It refers to the devotional Masses once celebrated in Spain in honour of the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The second element, on the other hand, aguinaldo, is rather tricky. It encodes two meanings: first, aguinaldo means carol, which refers to the popular hymns sung by the faithful within the context of the misas de aguinaldo; second, aguinaldo means gift, which refers to the acts of charity performed after such Masses.

Ditties and strains, the carol-part of aguinaldo, which the people sung during the Masses eventually grew more and more vulgar and caricaturesque (just listen to Rin, rin) to such a point that the master of ceremonies of Seville, D. Diego Díaz de Escobar, reported these abuses to the Sacred Congregation of Rites, which in turn responded, recommending their full extermination. Under this pretext, D. Felipe Pardo, then-archbishop of Manila, visited a short-lived suppression upon the misas de aguinaldo in the archdiocese. Acts of charity, on the other hand, the gift-part of aguinaldo, which pious men and women exercised after Masses of this wise, took varied forms. Saint Simón de Roxas fed seventy-two poor people in honour of the seventy-two years that the Blessed Virgin Mary ever Virgin lived on earth before her most glorious Assumption. The cathedral chapter of Toledo distributed gifts of money, poultry and fish (dinero, gallinas, and besugo) to the different people—the subchoirmasters, the beadles, chandlers, the sweepers, the embroiders, the upholsterers of the sanctuary, etc.—who rendered service to the chapter and to the cathedral.

We have said before that the misas de aguinaldo operate on a parallel calendar that is not concerned about what happens in the universal liturgical calendar for nine days before Christmas. The universal calendar, reciprocally, is not concerned about it. How the Masses came to be celebrated at dawn, we may never fully discover, but from the acts of the cathedral chapter of Toledo, we discover that in the 16th century, the aguinaldos were distributed on Christmas Day after the Dawn Mass of Christmas, which is sung after prime, which is the name of the canonical hour of the Divine Office that is normally prayed at 6 o’clock in the morning. However, in order for the second Mass of Christmas to be said at dawn, prime is said earlier than the usual time. This giving of aguinaldos after the Dawn Mass of Christmas is a most fitting culmination of the nine-day misas de aguinaldo that preceded it.

So, while the misa de aguinaldo is not concerned with what happens in the general calendar, it is, however, concerned with what happens in the horological cycle of the day. This immemorial custom teaches us to sanctify the hours when the world is awash in the darkness that precedes the nine days before Christmas. These hours, we know, can be referenced against the canonical hours: the misa de aguinaldo is celebrated between the hour of lauds and the hour of prime. Normally, this should be between 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock in the morning. In the past, however, the celebrations were sometimes pre-posed to as early as 2 o’clock after midnight. While we can deduce only part of the rationale, we understand that this is acceptable, primarily because, in practice, matins and lauds are anticipated as early as 2 o’clock in the afternoon of the previous day.

If we consider this anticipation of matins and lauds, we discover that the dark hours between lauds and prime practically expands from three (3 to 6 AM) to twelve (6 PM to 6 AM). Now, simbáng gabí comes to mind!

Throughout history, the misas de aguinaldo were celebrated in the darkness before dawn, at the time between lauds and terce (or prime, if we fine-tune) in order for Christ’s faithful to look forward towards the morning of the nine days before Christmas. We look forward to the sunrise of the nine days before Christmas, because these are sunrises that foreshadow the great and magnificent birth of the Sun of Justice on Christmas Day.

The Sistine indult that granted indulgences to the misa de aguinaldo only states that the Masses are celebrated nine days before Christmas. The fact that it simply mentions the number of days (and not the dates themselves) enables these possible adjustments, so long as they are morally within the duration of darkness between the hour of lauds and the hour of prime.

It is these two reasons that allow us to appreciate as well the wisdom behind the misas de aguinaldo celebrated in the evening from 15 to 23 December. While they may not fully fit in the schema of the usus recentior which follows a different reckoning for its Divine Office, they perfectly fit in the reckoning of the usus antiquior, where the duration between lauds and prime is practically extended by the anticipation of the nocturnal hours at 2 o’clock in the afternoon of the previous day.

So, Filipino brethren in the True Faith, as we celebrate the nine-day misas de aguinaldo, let us remember that we attend Mass every dawn from 16 to 24 December, or in the evening from 15 to 23 December, we sanctify the dark hours that precede the sunrise of the nine days before Christmas, to honour the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To this act of hyperdulia, we unite as well the noble intentions for the exaltation of Holy Mother Church, for the propagation of the Catholic faith, and for the constancy of those newly converted to the faith in the aforesaid faith, as well as for the constancy of the Filipinos in the faith, and for the preservation of religion in the archipelago.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Sacred Congregation of Rites, Decree 2659 (16 January 1677).
Ángel Fernández Collado, La catedral de Toledo en el siglo XVI (Toledo: 1999) cap. 5.
Sixtus Pp. V, Brief Licet is (5 August 1586).
Felipe Pardo, O. P., Decree on the suppression of the misa de aguinaldo (12 October 1680).

Litany for the Clergy

In the wake of the grave scandal that finally erupted in the past weeks, Catholics throughout the world called for devout acts and exercises to repair for the outrage. Around two months ago, we published an act of reparation we composed for private recitation. We now share a Latin translation set to chant of the Litany for the Clergy first published in Vultus Christi.

La misa de pontifical
La misa de pontifical | Marceliano Santa María Sedaño | 1890

We have modified the structure of the Litany (click on the subheading below to open the booklet) to facilitate chanting: first, the Precious Blood is invoked thrice after every set of petitions, instead of after every petition; second, the triple Agnus is preserved with its traditional responses, with the proper responses reassigned to the triple invocation of the Precious Blood.

(pro privato usu)

Kýrie, eléison. Kýrie, eléison.
Christe, eléison.
Christe, eléison.
Kýrie, eléison.
Kýrie, eléison.
Christe, audi nos.
Christe, audi nos.
Christe, exáudi nos.
Christe, exáudi nos.

Pater, ex quo omnis patérnitas in cœlis et in terra nominátur, Deus,
          miserére nobis.
Fili, Ætérne Póntifex, Summe Rex, Deus,
miserere nobis.
Spíritus Sancte, sanctitátis Fons, pastórum Rector, Deus,
miserére nobis.
Sancta Trínitas, unus Deus,
miserére nobis.
Continue reading “Litany for the Clergy”


Someone came up with a snarky take on the history of pews amongst Christians. Pews came very late in the Philippines. As late as 1925, the church of Guimba in Iloilo, for instance, still had no pews. And participants of the First National Eucharistic Congress gathered inside the Cathedral of Manila relieved their knees and backs by sitting on wicker chairs, the ubiquitous sillas de anea of old. The Cathedral of Jaro in 1929, likewise, still had no pews, possessing instead rows of wicker chairs. And, lest we forget, until recently, Saint Peter’s basilica herself still had no pews, while up to this point, other basilicas in Rome only have chairs.

Pews were fixtures necessitated by heresy. To subvert and demonise the True Faith, preachers had to indoctrinate the faithful constantly and frequently. Emphasis on these sermons, the engine of heretical indoctrination, gave rise to long and organised benches that we now call pews. Catholics adopted the pew quite late, so late no dedicated Latin word exists for it until now! (Well, Spaniards sometimes use escaño, so we probably can back-translate to scamnum.) Adopting it seems to never cross the Orthodox mind. If the thought crosses, it is immediately perished. These differing attitudes have inspired witty creatures to assign these three largest Christian confessions to a posture that is dominant in their respective liturgies, something which engenders a classification parallel to the three realms of the Church. So now the Orthodox form the Ecclesia adstans, the Church standing; Catholics, the Ecclesia flectens, the Church kneeling; Protestants, the Ecclesia sedens, the Church sitting.

We live in an era when liturgical postures are purposely and deliberately linked to ideologies that do not necessarily respect the organic development of these postures. Our Catholic experience allows us to conclude that the prevailing attitude tends towards the gradual eradication of kneeling. To us Catholics, the most important part of the pew is neither the seat nor the back support. It is the kneeler. This is because we had to subject furniture that we adopt from others to the sensus fidelium. And our sensus fidelium is neither to lounge or slouch inside the consecrated edifice. Once people realised that we have developed dependence on pews for kneeling, discouraging this posture became easier. Remove the kneelers from the pews, and people will be weaned from kneeling.

The absence of pews in the early Church has been cited time and again by those in favour of standing as an incontrovertible evidence that kneeling was not an ancient posture. No pews mean no kneelers. No kneelers mean no kneeling. This is an old canard that has been debunked elsewhere. That people should banish kneeling with this logic, but leave sitting untouched, is always a funny factoid. Let us always remember that throughout the course of the liturgical year, there are only two postural imperatives that the congregation hears from the altar. In certain times, such as during the Easter Vigil, we hear the deacon chant Flectamus genua, which translates to Let us bend our knees. Afterwards, we hear the deacon bid the people Levate, which translates to Rise. There is no historical liturgical command that we know of enjoining anyone to sit for prayer. Thus, while pews have entered currency, while some of us somehow harbour the faint hope of returning to pewless churches, let us stand, sit, and kneel as our ancestors have done throughout the ages, not as how professional and wannabe worship pundits would like us to believe. Custom (not a newfangled practice desperately clawing its way to becoming a custom) is the best interpreter of the law.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Mother and modesty

In today’s fourth lesson at Matins, we read from Saint Leo the Great that the Deipara was chosen a Virgin from the royal house of David, and “lest, unaware of heavenly counsel, she should be scared of these unwonted events, the future Mother of God learned from an angelic announcement what was to be wrought in her by the Holy Ghost, and did not suffer loss of modesty”. It is amazing how great a value is placed on modesty in this text, and how trivial we treat it nowadays.

Bouguereau - Chant des anges
Chant des anges (fragment) | William-Adolphe Bouguereau | 1881

While we understand that modesty, first and foremost, is an interior disposition, a spiritual intention, we also acknowledge that the most visible indicator of modesty is clothing. Satan acknowledges this as well, and so has set his efforts at perverting the use of clothing, first by elevating it above its intrinsic usefulness and setting it upon the throne of luxury, creating modern-day idols called fashion and couture. Then followed the painful whittling down of clothes. Quite literally! As the years shouldered on, hunkered on the back of ever-developing tastes, clothes covered a smaller and smaller surface area of the average human skin. The operative principle is quantum exiguius, quantum tenuius, tantum melius. The skimpier, the flimsier, the better.

Just when we thought clerical vesture is immune from this depravity, often disguised as art to soften the impact, mollify the scandalised, and desensitise the indifferent, a high-profile event earlier this year just successfully staged one such vestural sacrilege, abetted by certain church dignities. Wannabes then took the cue, and parroted the perversion, this time, upping the ante, by debasing Catholic Christological iconography. (We refuse to link to these crazy antics, so they receive no satisfaction from our grievance.)

Puccinelli - La moda
La moda | Antonio Puccinelli | 1870

Let us remember these sacrileges on this feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, and prepare ourselves to renew, together with Catholic womankind, our promise every 8 December, when we consecrate once again ourselves and the entire Philippine Islands to the Immaculate Mother of God, “to remove far from the defiling hand of materialism, which hath degraded the use of clothing into an incentive of sin”.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Praying the Rosary in October

On the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, Pope Francis, through a communiqué from the Holy See Press Office, invited all Catholics to pray the Rosary daily throughout the month of October, as well as the earliest antiphon of the Blessed Virgin, Sub tuum præsidium, and the prayer to Saint Michael, Sancte Michaël Archangele.


Praying the Rosary daily throughout the month of October is a traditional devotion certainly not foreign to the lives of Catholics. In the Philippines, in fact, old ordines direct the faithful to recite the Rosary from 1 October until 2 November, inclusive, not only in private, but most especially in common. This said, we would like to add that the prayer to Saint Joseph, Ad te, beate Ioseph, is likewise to be added, according to the Leonine encyclical Quamquam pluries issued on 15 August 1889.

As is the custom in many places, the Litany of Loreto is added at the end of the Rosary. In the Philippines, and in many Hispanophone places, after the invocation Mater intemerata, the invocation Mater immaculata is added—notwithstanding the latter invocation Regina sine labe originali concepta—by virtue of the Clementine brief Eximia pietas issued on 14 March 1767, a tradition which the First Plenary Council of the Philippine upheld.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.