I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
Once I was teaching 3rd graders to sing the chants of Benediction, and the school experienced a “lockdown,” which means that the windows and blinds are closed for security.
Kids get scared when this happens, and as soon as it was over, I told them the next time we met I would tell them a story of a lockdown that happened about 1700 years ago.
During a persecution, the Church at Milan gathered together and sang hymns to encourage one another in the faith. Their bishop, Saint Ambrose, wrote the hymns, as Saint Augustine recounts in his Confessions.
How did I weep, in Thy Hymns and Canticles, touched to the quick by the voices of Thy sweet-attuned Church! The voices flowed into mine ears, and the Truth distilled into my heart, whence the affections of my devotion overflowed, and tears ran down, and happy was I therein.
Not long had the Church of Milan begun to use this kind of consolation and exhortation, the brethren zealously joining with harmony of voice and hearts. For it was a year, or not much more, that Justina, mother to the Emperor Valentinian, a child, persecuted Thy servant Ambrose, in favour of her heresy, to which she was seduced by the Arians. The devout people kept watch in the Church, ready to die with their Bishop Thy servant. There my mother Thy handmaid, bearing a chief part of those anxieties and watchings, lived for prayer. We, yet unwarmed by the heat of Thy Spirit, still were stirred up by the sight of the amazed and disquieted city. Then it was first instituted that after the manner of the Eastern Churches, Hymns and Psalms should be sung, lest the people should wax faint through the tediousness of sorrow: and from that day to this the custom is retained, divers (yea, almost all) Thy congregations, throughout other parts of the world following herein.
One of the hymns attributed to Saint Ambrose was the great Te Deum, translated into English by Clarence A. Walworth as Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, which is often sung at the close of Benediction. Another was the following, here in my translation.
Deus Creator Omnium
Since God is our refuge, God who is in heaven and above the heavens, we must take refuge from this world in that place where there is peace, where there is rest from toil, where we can celebrate the great sabbath, as Moses said: The sabbaths of the land will provide you with food. To rest in the Lord and to see his joy is like a banquet, and full of gladness and tranquility.
Let us take refuge like deer beside the fountain of waters. Let our soul thirst, as David thirsted, for the fountain. What is that fountain? Listen to David: With you is the fountain of life. Let my soul say to this fountain: When shall I come and see you face to face? For the fountain is God himself.
St. Ambrose, from today’s Office of Readings
Many pastors and administrators in the United States and around the world are formulating responses to the current pandemic. I thought I would offer some of my personal considerations in case they might be helpful.
Pro-Life: The coronavirus affects persons who are weak in more tragic ways. I feel that the response of the Church should consider them in particular.
End of Life Pastoral Care: At its worst, episodes of this virus have precluded funerals and most likely the presence of a priest at the end of life. “Flattening the curve” would enable ministers to reach everyone who needs it and to have at least private funerals for the souls of those who have passed.
The Domestic Church: With the social media literally at our fingertips, pastors and their staffs could easily formulate home “care packages” to enable families to continue their Catholic home mission. It could be a very good Lent, celebrated at home.
Protecting the Triduum: It is 4 weeks until Good Friday, and a serious response now would help us recover our footing in time to celebrate these liturgies as they deserve. Choirs would suffer but could also, at least in theory, practice together using technology.
Communion on the Tongue: Holy Communion need not include contact if both the recipient and minister are careful, and reception on the tongue often involves less contact than reception in the hand.
Sunday Mass: Common sense measures might include dispensation of vulnerable persons and disinfecting pews, as well as omitting the sign of peace.
At the risk of overreacting, it seems to me that in the United States we are generally under-tested for the virus, and the statistics of existent cases may be artificially low.
May I invite all of our readers to pray for those who are making decisions at this time, including our Church and civic leaders, for families, and for those who are dying today.
Two women manage to heist the musical works of St. Hildegard of Bingen from Nazi and Soviet hands in this fascinating story.
As divisions in the Church reach an astonishing screeching pitch, one particular Scripture passage has been on my mind.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
We are in a cosmic battle, not a war against fellow Catholics. One of our common enemy’s most powerful tactics of division is also his easiest to employ: anger, hatred, resentment, scorn, sarcasm, schism.
I think we should muster ourselves and turn against the evil one who threatens us, instead of fighting constantly among ourselves. All of the easy points have already been scored.
Yes, there are blatantly corrupt prelates. But there are also shining examples of exemplary bishops. Why not talk about them?
Yes, there are public menaces who speak in bewildering scattershot against the faith while pretending to represent it. But there are also faithful priests and teachers who live both their vocations and their apostolates in extraordinarily fruitful lives of service. Why are the most-read blogs not full of their stories?
Yes, there are goofy and often tragic abuses of Catholic institutions. But there is also a constant flowering of new and effective initiatives for the authentic spread of the Gospel. Why aren’t these stories going viral?
In every age, the most effective defenders of the Catholic faith are the saints whom God gives to the Church. I suggest we find them and follow them into the real battle, and make their radiance more widely known.
Let all the Church acclaim St. Paul,
And sing the glories of his call.
The Lord made an apostle be
From one who was his enemy.
The name of Christ set Paul afire,
Enkindling him with great desire;
And higher these same blazes reached
When of the love of Christ he preached.
His merits are forever praised,
For to the heavens he was raised,
And there, the all-mysterious word,
That none dare speak, by Paul was heard.
The Word, like seed sown in a field,
Producing an abundant yield,
Fills heav’nly barns whose stores of grain
Are tilled and grown on earthly plains.
The shining of the lamplight gleams,
And drenches earth with heaven’s beams.
The dark of error’s night is past;
The reign of truth has come at last.
To Christ all glory, and all praise
To Father and the Spirit raise,
Who for the nations’ saving call
Gave us the splendor of Saint Paul.
Translation © 2008 Kathleen Pluth. Listen to Latin original here.