An Introduction to the Extraordinary Form from a Wedding Program

The following is an introduction to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite for a wedding at which many of the guests had never previously experienced the older form.


Dear guest, with gratitude and joy I welcome you to the wedding of Andreas and Blaise. The Marriage Rite and the Nuptial Mass will be celebrated in the so-called ‘Extraordinary Form’ of the Roman Rite. This older form of the ceremonies is not familiar to everyone, and some explanation is therefore in order.

Continue reading

The Age of Reason

As infants are transformed into children, they learn to distinguish between, on the one hand, goods and, on the other, objects of desire. “Don’t eat, take, do that!” says the parent. “But I want it!” replies the child. “It will be bad for you,” says the parent. Or perhaps what the parent says is “Don’t eat, take, do that now. It will be better to leave it until later,” to which the reply is “But I want it now!” Why should children do what their parents take to be good for them rather than what they want? Why should a child defer the satisfaction of its wants because its parent takes it to be better to do so? Initially, it can only be because the child desires the parent’s approval and fears its disapproval, a disapproval sometimes expressed in punishment. But later the good-enough parent provides reasons for dis- criminating between objects of desire and hopes that the child will come to recognize these reasons as good reasons. How might a child do so?

One of the salient differences between young human beings and the young of other species is that the former, unlike the latter, are at a certain point treated as accountable for their actions. “What was/is the good of doing that?” they are asked, not only by parents and by other adults but also by their contemporaries, and this in a number of contexts. For as they are initiated into a variety of practices at home, at school, in the workplace, they learn to recognize goods internal to each practice, goods that they and other participants can achieve only through the exercise of virtues and skills. If and when they fail in respect of these, they will commonly be put to the question. So they find themselves having to give reasons for their actions to others and on occasion having to advance arguments in support of those reasons. They become rational agents when they first pose such questions to themselves about their own failures and act upon the answers. If they are so to act, they must of course be motivated by the prospect of achieving those goods that have provided them with what they take to be good reasons for acting. Their desires must to some large degree direct them as their reasoning directs them. Insofar as this is so, they will have begun to become accountable rational agents, accountable both to themselves and to others.

Aladair MacIntyre, Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity, pp. 37-38.

Sermon for a Wedding on the Feast of the Holy Innocents

Originally published in Jesus, the Imagination (pdf).


Dear Ingrid, you birthday and your wedding day falls within the octave of Christmas.  The great feast of Christmas is our joy, and our consolation. Consolamini, consolamini, popule meus, the prophet says: Be consoled, be consoled, my people, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, call out to her: that her woes are at an end. (Isaiah 40:1-2) Christmas is the beginning of the end: the happy ending for our humanity. It is a wedding feast, a marriage; the marriage of Divine and Human Nature in the incarnation of the eternal Word. And from this marriage of human and divine springs a great multitude of new life: the new creation, the Church. This marriage is like a seed from which a great tree grows, in which the birds of the air can find their nests. This is consolation: to be so united to God for whom our hearts yearn, to know Him, and to be thoroughly known by Him. To be known and yet not condemned, to be loved. Consolamini, popule meus.

Continue reading

The Pope’s Two Bodies: the The Weinandy-Farrow Thesis as Lancastrian Ecclesiology

In a recent article for The Catholic Thing, the Capuchin theologian Fr. Thomas Weinandy comes to some rather startling conclusions. He argues that Pope Francis is both the visible ruler of the Church on earth— as Vicar of Christ— but also at the same time the head of a ‘schismatic church’ which has separated itself from the Unity of the Una, Sancta, Catholica. Here are Fr. Weinandy’s words at length:

Continue reading

Alma Mater Rudolphina

At long last I have successfully defended my dissertation in theology at the University of Vienna. The dissertation took far too long to write, and ended up not being very good, but it is a great relief to have it finished at last.

I suppose it is natural that one doesn’t have as much affection for one’s graduate school than one does for one’s undergraduate college, but I am pleased to now have a degree from what is one of the oldest universities in central Europe. The University of Vienna was founded in 1365 by Duke Rudolph IV of Austria, and is therefore called the Alma Mater Rudolphina. The Pope initially refused to grant the new university a theological faculty, so my faculty, the queen of the faculties, wasn’t established till 1384.

Terrestrial and Celestial Motion

Copernicus and Newton both deny the Aristotelian theory of two kinds of natural motion, but they do so in opposite ways. Aristotle had argued that there are two kinds of natural motion. There is one kind for the corruptible things below the sphere of the moon namely in a straight line (up or down), and another for the supposedly incorruptible bodies above the moon (in a circle). The difference makes some sense because corruptible things have a beginning and an end (like a straight line), and incorruptible things don’t (like a circle).

Copernicus denies the distinction, and claims that there is only one kind of natural motion: circular motion. Straight line motion is only a corrective that happens when something has been removed from its proper place. Thus Revolutions, I,8:

A simple body possesses a simple movement—this is first verified in the case of circular movement—as long as the simple body remain in its unity in its natural place. In this place, in fact, its movement is none other than the circular, which remains entirely in itself, as though at rest. Rectilinear movement, however, is added to those bodies which journey away from their natural place or are shoved out of it or are outside it somehow… Therefore rectilinear movement belongs only to bodies which are not in the right condition and are not perfectly conformed to their nature when they are separated from their whole and abandon its unity. Furthermore, bodies which are moved upward or downward do not possess a simple, uniform, and regular movement—even without taking into account circular movement… Therefore, since circular movement belongs to wholes and rectilinear to parts, we can say that the circular movement stands with the rectilinear, as does animal with sick.

He thus elevates the earth, as it were, to the status of a heavenly body.

Newton thinks the symmetrical opposite: motion is as it were “natural” when it is in a straight line. Curved motion comes about by the composition of straight motions. He thus brings the heavenly bodies down to the level of terrestrial things. Thus Principia III,4: the moon is a thrown rock.

Modern astronomy thus begins by elevating the terrestrial (Copernicus), but reaches its classical form by degrading the celestial (Newton).

Robinson Crusoe

In the latest newsletter of The Lamp, Matthew Walther points out that this year marks three hundred years since the publication of Robinson Crusoe. He promises us an essay ‘on alienation and the common good’ in Defoe’s masterpiece in next week’s newsletter. I certainly look forward to reading that. A few years ago I wrote an essay on the soul in the novel, in which I argued that Robinson Crusoe expresses some typical features of ‘modernity’—including a split between the interior and subjective (in which religion is placed), and the exterior or objective (which becomes the domain of technology).

Solemn Vows

Five of my confrères in Heiligenkreuz made their solemn profession of vows on Thursday.

The ceremony for solemn vows is one of the most beautiful of all ceremonies. Splendid, but also very simple, following the form laid down by St Benedict in the Rule. After the gospel the candidates prostrate themselves before the Abbot, who asks: Quid pétitis? They respond Misericórdiam Dei et Ordinis. The abbot then tells them to arise and preaches a sermon, sitting on the faldstool with the candidates standing in front of him. Then comes the feudal homagium, in which the candidates lay their hands in the abbot’s and promise him and his successors obedience according to the Rule of St Benedict “usque ad mortem.” Then every one kneels down and the Veni Creator Spiritus is sung. Then come the actual vows, which the candidates read out from a parchment that they have written by hand:

I Frater N., layman (or: Priest), promise my stability, the conversion of my morals, and obedience according to the Rule of St. Benedict, Abbot and the Constitutions of the Austrian Congregation, in the presence of God and of His saints whose relics are kept here, in this place which is called Heiligenkreuz, constructed in honor of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the presence of the Lord Abbot Maximilian and all those standing around.

They then sign the vow charts on the altar. The charts remain on the altar and are offered to God together with the gifts of the Mass. After signing the vows they sing ‘Súscipe me, Dómine, secúndum elóquium tuum et vívam; † et non confúndas me ab exspectatióne mea’ (Receive me, O Lord, according to Your word, and I shall live: and let me not be confounded in my hope) three times. They then kneel down in front of each and every monk in the community, saying Ora pro me, Pater, to which the monks reply Dóminus custódiat intróitum tuum et éxitum tuum. While this is going on cantors sing the Miserere. Then the newly professed monks are then blessed with an extraordinary three part prayer, addressed to each of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity in turn. They are then clothed in the cowl and the Mass proceeds.

Mass lasts a long time. Afterwards there are refreshments.

Hegel’s Platonism

Hegel’s admiration for Aristotle is well known, and he is often (though rather misleadingly) said to have revived serious philosophical consideration of potency and act. But there is at least one important matter on which Hegel sides with Plato against Aristotle.

In his Lectures on Natural Philosophy, Duane Berquist points out that Plato and Aristotle disagree on their answer to the following: ‘Does truth require that the way we know be the way things are?’ Plato answers ‘yes’ to this question. And therefore, since he notices that our knowledge of mathematicals (for example) is unchanging and separate from matter, he concludes that there are subsisting forms in reality, unchanging and separate from matter. Aristotle, on the other hand, answers ‘no’ to the question: he argues that the mind knows things in abstraction from matter, so that we can have unchangeable and universal knowledge of things that are in reality changeable and particular.

Hegel, like Plato, implicitly answers ‘yes’ to the question; he things that truth requires that the way we know be the same as the way things are. And since he notices that our knowledge begins with a vague and confused notion of being, and that it becomes more definite and distinct through a dialectical process of negation and negation-of-negation, he comes to the absurd view that reality itself begins with vague, potential, and unconscious being (rather than with God as pure act and perfect thought), and that being comes to itself through a dialectical history. As I have noted before, this leads Hegel into an error equivalent to that of David of Dinant.