Book Review: Celebrating a Merry Catholic Christmas

If you are curious about the customs and feast days of Advent and Christmas, and you want to prepare yourself and your family for a truly fruitful (and fun) Advent and Christmas, this book by Father William Saunders is exactly what you need. It isn’t a long book. I finished it in a couple of days.

Some of the topics covered:

  • Origins of Advent
  • Symbolism of the Advent wreath (holly, ivy, and the four candles)
  • Suggestions for a good Advent preparation
  • Special Role of St. Joseph
  • Christmas greenery and plants
  • Octave before Christmas (the O Antiphons, Vespers)
  • Origins of the Christmas creche
  • Christmas tree
  • St. Nicholas (Santa Claus)

If you have children, I think it would be great to read parts of the book to them. Many of our traditions go back several centuries and the stories behind them are fascinating. Father Saunders also offers spiritual reflections that will make this Advent and Christmas more meaningful. Moreover, he doesn’t stop at the Nativity, but also devotes several chapters to the Feast of the Holy Family, The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, The Epiphany, the Baptism of Our Lord and Candlemas Day (the feast of the Presentation).

Get the book now:

celebrating a merry catholic christmas

Celebrating a Merry Catholic Christmas: A Guide to the Customs and Feast Days of Advent and Christmas by Father William Saunders

Advertisements

New Roman Missal by F.X. Lasance: a detailed review

This is a review of The New Roman Missal in Latin and English by Rev. Francis Xavier Lasance and Rev. Francis Augustine Walsh, O.S.B. (with an illustrated study plan “Read Mass with the Priest” by the Very Rev. Msgr. William R. Kelly, Ph.D.) reprinted by the Christian Book Club of America. Imprimatur: Francis J. Spellman, D.D. – 1945. Softcover; 1800 pages with gold coloured page edges. Original 1945 reprint without revisions; additions were made according to Papal decrees dating from 1945 to the end of Pope Pius XII’s reign.

I bought The New Roman Missal by Father Lasance because I was looking for a pre-Vatican II missal with Latin and English side-by-side. I purchased this book from Daughters of Mary press for US$65. It arrived in excellent condition.

The New Roman Missal contains the Tridentine Mass with complete Latin and English  text for the Ordinary and Propers of the Mass plus:

  • Liturgical calendar
  • General devotions (a vast number of traditional prayers)
  • Notes on the Ecclesiastical Year and the Sacred Liturgy
  • Accounts of feasts and lives of the saints

Pros:

  • Douay-Rheims versions of the Epistles and Gospels
  • Many prayers for every occasion and purpose (I often say the Morning prayers from the missal)
  • Very clear pictures of the priest’s movements during the Mass
  • Explanations of the requisites and prayers of holy mass, furniture and articles on the altar and in the sanctuary; sacred vestments
  • Accounts of the lives of the saints

Cons:

  • Because the missal fits in the palm of your hand, the text had to be made very small, so it is difficult to read in low lighting. If your eyes are not good, either get reading glasses or don’t buy this missal.
  • Pages are very thin (to reduce the weight of the missal) so they can tear easily and you need to be very careful when moving the coloured ribbons.

Here are photos to give you an idea of what it looks like:

roman_missal_lasance1

roman_missal1

roman_missal_lasance3

 

roman_missal_lasance4

roman_missal_lasance6

IMG_1373roman_missal_lasance7roman_missal_lasance9roman_missal_lasance8

Here is the PDF version of The New Roman Missal (handy for when you are traveling only with carry-on bags to a place without a Catholic mass).

Further reading:

Comparing Catholic Missals

Sermons for the Feast of the Holy Rosary

October 7 is the Feast of the Holy Rosary. I found three great sermons on the Rosary by Rev. Francis X. Weninger.

Here is his book on feast day sermons which you can download:

Original, short and practical sermons for every feast of the Ecclesiastical year – 3 sermons for every feast) by Rev. F.X. Weninger, S.J., Doctor of Theology, 2nd edition 1882.

I find the PDF format (which are scanned pages of the book) best of all the formats since you can print out only those pages that pertain to a particular feast. The text, EPUB and Kindle formats are garbled and unreadable.

Each sermon for the Feast of the Holy Rosary focuses on what we should be meditating on when we pray the 3 sets of mysteries. In the first sermon, Fr. Weninger talks about the Joyous Mysteries; in the second sermon, the Sorrowful Mysteries and in the 3rd sermon, the Glorious Mysteries. Since this book was published in 1882, there is no “spirit of Vatican II” nonsense in it.

You should just print out these 3 sermons and keep them handy for when you pray the Rosary.

(Note: If you have not read it yet, go to Classic Catholic Sermons You Can’t Live Without which has links to both of Father Weninger’s books, which you can download for free.)

Autumn Ember Days: fasting, prayer and meditation

The autumnal Ember Days (Michaelmas Embertide) are upon us. I found this helpful post on Rorate Caeli about the origin of Ember Days to encourage you to devote three days this week to prayer, fasting and penance. Pray especially for Holy Mother Church during these difficult times.

Listen to this lecture by Father Chad Ripperger about Ember Days and Rogation Days. The part about Ember Days ends at minute 22.45.

The Ember Days mark the beginning of every season. As the days grow shorter and the nights cooler, I’m filled with joy and expectation because autumn is my favourite season.

Consider that Ember Days are not only for fasting, but for prayer, giving thanks to God for the bounties of nature, silence and meditation. Meditate on the sins of pride and covetousness. Use the Ember Days to bring your physical appetites under control and to develop a regular fasting routine (one day a week).

Here are a few books I’ve found helpful if one wishes to cultivate a habit of mental prayer and silence:

The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise by Robert Cardinal Sarah (after you read this, you’ll wish he was the Pope)

The Ways of Mental Prayer by Dom Vitalis Lehodey

Introduction to the Devout Life by Saint Francis de Sales

Three more books containing classic Catholic sermons

Here are three more books containing classic Catholic sermons which you can download in PDF format from the Internet Archive for free. You can print them, read them online, or download them to your Kindle or iBooks app. They were written by Father Franz Hunolt way before the Pepsi generation came up with Vatican II.

(1) Sermons on Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, and on the Saints, vol. 2, by Father Franz Hunolt, S.J. (translated by Rev. J. Allen) [New York, NY: Benziger Brothers, 1897].

(2) Sermons on the Four Last Things, vol. 1, by Father Franz Hunolt, S.J. (translated by Rev. J. Allen) [New York, NY: Benziger Brothers, 1897]. This volume covers death and the last judgement.

(3) Sermons on the Four Last Things, vol. 2, by Father Franz Hunolt, S.J. (translated by Rev. J. Allen) [New York, NY: Benziger Brothers, 1897]. This volume covers hell and heaven.

I had previously posted Classic Catholic Sermons You Can’t Live Without by Father Francis Xavier Weninger.

I noticed that Father Weninger and Father Hunolt were both Jesuits.

Classic Catholic sermons you can’t live without

If you are looking for traditional Catholic sermons, the kind written by a priest who actually believes in Hell, the Last Judgement and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (pre-1960s), check out these two books written by the Reverend Francis Xavier Weninger in the early 1800s.

These are sermons untouched by Vatican II!

Download these two books for free from the Internet Archive. They are in PDF format and you can upload them to your iBooks or Kindle app, or print the appropriate pages for the feast day or Sunday of your choice. The sermons are easy to read and inspiring. They are not at all dated. They are true classics.

(1) Original, short and practical sermons for every feast of the Ecclesiastical year – 3 sermons for every feast) by Rev. F.X. Weninger, S.J., Doctor of Theology, 2nd edition 1882.

Original Sermons for every feast day of the ecclesiastical year
(2) Original, short and practical sermons for every Sunday of the Ecclesiastical year – 3 sermons for every Sunday) by Rev. F.X. Weninger, S.J., Doctor of Theology, 2nd edition 1881.

sermons_sunday_weninger

The one complaint I have about these sermons is that they are scanned books so they’re a bit hard on the eyes at times, and I encountered some pages that did not get scanned properly. If you can find these in print, go and buy them. They are priceless treasures.

Holy Week 2018: what to listen to and read

Holy Week is here. It is a time of meditation, prayer and penance (Go to Confession, as Father Z tells us).

I have compiled a list of things to read and music to listen to.

Music

St. Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach: the best recording is by John Eliot Gardiner with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists in 1989 (Deutsche Gramophon).

Reading

Pre-1955 Holy Week Propers: This is an excellent website for those who want to download Holy Week booklets in Latin and English, and more!

The Liturgical Year: Passiontide and Holy Week by Dom Prosper Granger

 

How tolerant should Catholics be?

This is the age of ecumenism or playing “nice” with atheists, pagans, and protestants, and finding “common ground” (very popular cliché), all in the name of peace.

Robert Hugh Benson in “Paradoxes of Catholicism” published in 1913 (available for free here on Project Gutenberg) warns us in Chapter I (Peace and War)  that although Christ tells his followers to seek after peace, they must not violate his teachings in doing so, and that his teachings take precedence over what we today call ecumenism:

“It was not the language of a modern “humanitarian,” of the modern tolerant “Christian,” that fell from the Divine Lips of Jesus Christ. Go and tell that fox, He cries of the ruler of His people. O you whited sepulchres full of dead men’s bones! You vipers! You hypocrites! This is the language He uses to the representatives of Israel’s religion. Is this the kind of talk we hear from modern leaders of religious thought?  Would such language as this be tolerated for a moment from the humanitarian Christian pulpits of to-day? Is it possible to imagine more inflammatory speech, more “unchristian sentiments,” as they would be called to-day, than those words uttered by none other but the Divine Founder of Christianity? What of that amazing scene when He threw the furniture about the temple courts?”

“And as for the effect of such words and methods, our Lord Himself is quite explicit. “Make no mistake,” He cries to the modern humanitarian who claims alone to represent Him. “Make no mistake. I am not come to bring peace at any price; there are worse things than war and bloodshed. I am come to bring not peace but a sword. I am come to divide families, not to unite them; to rend kingdoms, not to knit them up; I am come to set mother against daughter and daughter against mother; I am come not to establish universal toleration, but universal Truth.”

Further on in the chapter, Monsignor Benson emphasises that although the Catholic Church is human, she is also Divine and because of that, some of her teachings go against the ways of this world, especially with regard to marriage:

“For she is also Divine. Her message contains, that is to say, a number of supernatural principles revealed to her by God; she is supernaturally constituted; she rests on a supernatural basis; she is not organised as if this world were all. On the contrary she puts the kingdom of God definitely first and the kingdoms of the world definitely second; the Peace of God first and the harmony of men second.”

Therefore, she is bound, when her supernatural principles clash with human natural principles, to be the occasion of disunion. Her marriage laws, as a single example, are at conflict with the marriage laws of the majority of modern States. It is of no use to tell her to modify these principles; it would be to tell her to cease to be supernatural, to cease to be herself. How can she modify what she believes to be her Divine Message?” (emphasis is mine)

NOTE: Robert Hugh Benson was the youngest son of Edward White Benson,  Archbishop of Canterbury. He was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1895 by his father. He converted to Catholicism in 1903 and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1904. He is best known for his novel, Lord of the World (one of the first dystopian novels in English literature). He also wrote ghost stories and horror novels (The Light Invisible and The Necromancers). You can find his works in the public domain at Project Gutenberg and other websites.

Noise is dangerous and deceptive

From “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise” by Robert Cardinal Sarah:

“Today, in a highly technological, busy world, how can we find silence? Noise wearies us, and we get the feeling that silence has become an unreachable oasis. How many people are obliged to work in a chaos that distresses and dehumanises them? Cities have become noisy furnaces in which even nights are not spared the assault of noise. Without noise, postmodern man falls into a dull, insistent uneasiness. He is accustomed to permanent background noise, which sickens yet reassures him. Without noise, man is feverish, lost. Noise gives him security, like a drug on which he has become dependent. With its festive appearance, noise is a whirlwind that avoids facing itself. Agitation becomes a tranquilliser, a sedative, a morphine pump, a sort of reverie, an incoherent dream-world. But this noise is a dangerous, deceptive medicine, a diabolic lie that helps man avoid confronting himself in his interior emptiness. The awakening will necessarily be brutal.”

One New Year’s resolution: mental prayer

This is the last day of 2017. It’s time to make resolutions for the next year. But before you do, please look at the resolutions you made for 2017. Did you fulfil all of them? Probably not. I know I didn’t.

So, I decided that for 2018, I will make only one resolution. My chance of fulfilling one resolution is significantly greater than fulfilling ten or even five.

Resolution for 2018: to do mental prayer (meditation) for at least 15 minutes per day, working up to 30 minutes per day.

Unlike Buddhist meditation, you don’t have to sit in a lotus position on a cushion on the floor. You can sit or kneel. Don’t lie down though or you’ll fall asleep. Moreover, you don’t empty your mind of all thoughts. You focus your mind on one thing: one of the mysteries of the Rosary, a passage in the Bible, one of the parables, etc.

The most difficult aspect of mental prayer is keeping your attention on the object of the meditation. In the beginning you will find that your mind flits from one thing to another (what Buddhists call “monkey mind” because the mind resembles a monkey that jumps from one tree branch to another). But don’t be discouraged. The fact that you are seeing how your mind is so distracted is a very good sign; it means you’re paying attention! It’s the beginning of a long process of watching your mind, watching your thoughts, and directing your mind to the object of your meditation.

Why do mental prayer? To deepen your faith, to retreat into silence where God can speak to you, to strengthen yourself against temptation. The great saints – St. Teresa of Avila, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and St. Francis de Sales – urged people to do lots of mental prayer.

An introduction to mental prayer – two YouTube videos:

Meditation (part 1 of 2) by Father Ripperger

TR Media: Mental Prayer, a conference by Bishop Donald Sanborn

If you decide to commit yourself to doing mental prayer everyday, read first The Ways of Mental Prayer by Dom Vitalis Lehodey (available in print and e-book format). First published in 1934, this book is considered to be a classic. Pope Saint Pius X recommended it.