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Mandatum: Liturgical History

The Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper is distinctive for two unique features: the foot washing ceremony known as the Mandatum, and the Eucharistic procession to the Repository, which sets the stage for the services of Good Friday. Both features are well attested in the history of the East and the West and serve to highlight the Mass of the Lord's Supper as the opening of the Triduum, the "Still Days" preceding the celebration of our Blessed Lord's Resurrection on Easter. The washing of the feet has its origin in the actions of our Lord after the Last Supper, as narrated in the Gospel of St. John; it later became a sign of service in the early Christian community and eventually found its way...


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St. Patrick's Lent on Cruachan-Aighle

According to various lives of St. Patrick, the great Apostle of Ireland retreated to the summit of a desolate peak called Cruachan-Aighle near Loch Derg on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday in the year 441. Patrick spent his entire Lent upon the peak, weeping for the sins of men and begging God to grant to him a certain number of souls for the heavenly kingdom. After suffering demonic attacks in the form of black birds, Patrick was visited by an angel who was sent to negotiate Patrick's demands on God's behalf. What followed was reminiscent of Abraham's negotiations with the Angel of the Lord for the lives of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah, as related in the Book of Genesis. Due to the perseverance...


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The Public Apostasy of Pope Marcellinus

The Sedevacantist would have us believe that a pontiff can lose his office by professing "manifest" heresy or committing public acts of apostasy. Yet in such statements there is usually lacking a distinction on what constitutes a "manifest" heresy or a "public act" of apostasy. As we shall see, there is not a direct correlation between holding or teaching a heretical proposition and being a "heretic", nor between committing an act of apostasy and being an apostate in the formal sense. We shall explore this distinction with a lengthy examination of one of history's less memorable pontiffs, Marcellinus, who was pope during the Great Persecution of Diocletian. Marcellinus is of great interest to this discussion because he very well may have committed a public act...


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Quinisext Council in Trullo and Priestly Celibacy

The discipline of clerical celibacy is a sticking point between the Catholic Church and the Eastern churches, both those in and out of union with Rome. Eastern Christians allow a married, sexually active priesthood while the Latin Church has always insisted on sexual continence from its clerics. This discussion is often framed in such a way that the East is said to be preserving a very ancient tradition in the while the West is maintaining a tradition that "only" dates from the 10th century. Implicitly, the Eastern discipline is given a more credible historical pedigree. In fact this is not the case. The Latin custom of perfect continence for clerics is actually much more ancient than the current Eastern tradition, which only goes back to...


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Benedict XIV Non Ambigimus

In honor of Lent, we bring you the 1741 encyclical letter Non ambigimus of the great Pope Benedict XIV (Prospero Lambertini, r. 1740-1758) in English. In this great encyclical, Benedict XIV elaborates on the importance of the Lenten fast, which he sees as one of the distinguishing characteristics of the true Church, at least vis-a-vis Protestantism. Another important take away relevant to our own condition is Benedict's observation that failure to take the Lenten fast seriously or to observe it with appropriate devotion is responsible for a general decline in morals, and that the degree of this damage is not negligible. Therefore, we are happy to present an English translation of Benedict XIV's Non ambigimus. Note: This is an original translation from the Italian and...


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A Miserable Cup of Coffee

Some time ago, we featured an article on the acceptable, good and perfect will of God. Looking at passages from the Scriptures, some of the Fathers and the life of St. Galgano, we endeavored to explain that there are varying degrees of holiness a Christian is capable of obtaining. One degree is merely doing what is acceptable to God; i.e., not sinful. This may allow one to eek one's way into heaven, but it does not constitute holiness in the strict sense. Another degree is doing the good, that is, orienting our life around God and making a sincere effort to be a good Catholic. Then there is the third degree, the way of perfection, which consists in denying attachments to this world in a...


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Probability and Statistical Impossibility

Late last year, Wall Street Journal columnist Eric Metaxas published an interesting piece titled "Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God". The article argues that recent scientific discoveries about the universe increase the likelihood that the cosmos is the result of an intelligent designer. Though the article is brief, we recommend a studious reading of it, as it brings to the fore several essential problems with purely materialist theories of the origin of the universe. In this essay, we will examine the issue of probability and the concept of "statistical impossibility" and how it undermines the materialist assumption that given enough time, anything is possible.


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Assault on Constitutive Tradition

Why does the liturgy always bear the brunt of the attacks launched by those intent on remaking the Catholic Church in the image of modernism? What is it about the sacred liturgy that poses such a threat to progressives, such that it suffers from the constant and unremitting tinkering of liberal 'reformers' intent on obliterating all vestiges of the Church's tradition? Of course, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most perfect act of worship and as such is especially hated by the devil, who rages against the Mass with a special hatred. This is obviously the supernatural motive behind progressive attacks. But there is also a very theological reason, and it is bound up with the Church's understanding of Tradition, Divine Revelation, and...


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Council of Ancyra and Celibacy

In a previous article, "The Truth About Priestly Continence and Celibacy in the Early Church", we have shown that from the very earliest days of Christianity it was assumed that ministers of the altar would abstain from sexual relations. It is very true that there were married priests in the early Church, but those priests were expected to practice continence with their wives; i.e., abstain from even the legitimate sexual relations of the married state. We see this reflected in the regional and ecumenical conciliar texts of the period, which all stipulate that priests who are married are expected to live with their spouse as brother and sister. This is so uniformly asserted in the sacred canons that we can safely hold clerical continence to...


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Torture: Historical and Ethical Perspectives

At the time of the writing of this article (December, 2014), United States citizens are reeling from revelations concerning extrajudicial torture camps operated by the CIA. American Catholics who identify themselves as political conservatives find themselves in a difficult spot; conservative thinking associated with the United States Republican Party has - especially since September 11, 2001 - tended to justify the use of torture in the interrogation of suspects with connections to radical Islam on the premise that such methods are necessary to save American lives from future terrorist attacks. However, this stalwart defense of torture flies in the face of statements found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of recent popes who rank torture among those offenses against human dignity which no...


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History of the Catholic Church

  • St. Patrick's Lent on Cruachan-Aighle

    According to various lives of St. Patrick, the great Apostle of Ireland retreated to the summit of a desolate peak called Cruachan-Aighle near Loch Derg on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday in the year 441. Patrick spent his entire Lent upon the peak, weeping for the sins of men and begging God to g…

    Read more: St....

Theology & Liturgy

  • Mandatum: Liturgical History

    The Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper is distinctive for two unique features: the foot washing ceremony known as the Mandatum, and the Eucharistic procession to the Repository, which sets the stage for the services of Good Friday. Both features are well attested in the history of the East and…

    Read more: Mandatum:...

Catholic Spirituality

  • A Miserable Cup of Coffee

    Some time ago, we featured an article on the acceptable, good and perfect will of God. Looking at passages from the Scriptures, some of the Fathers and the life of St. Galgano, we endeavored to explain that there are varying degrees of holiness a Christian is capable of obtaining. One degree is mere…

    Read more: A Miserable...

Saints, Reviews & More!

  • American Sniper (2014)

    Two reviews of Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, one from Fr. Scott Archer, one from blogger Iris Hanlin."Well-acted and well-directed", Fr. Scott ArcherI was not certain what to expect when I went seeĀ American Sniper (2014, R), a movie directed by Clint Eastwood about the wartime experiences and…

    Read more: American...

Economy & Society

  • Torture: Historical and Ethical Perspectives

    At the time of the writing of this article (December, 2014), United States citizens are reeling from revelations concerning extrajudicial torture camps operated by the CIA. American Catholics who identify themselves as political conservatives find themselves in a difficult spot; conservative thinkin…

    Read more: Torture:...