Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

The Loss of the Unifying

November 20th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

The deterioration, degradation, dumb-ing down, localizing and secularizing of Catholic liturgy over the last 45 years, in the Rochester diocese, in the United States, and indeed throughout much of the world, has removed the major unifying factor of the church. Some would say that the pope is the unifying factor of the Church, but that isn’t the case. The unifying factor is –or should be– the Eucharistic liturgy. This essential fact to appreciate came to mind this morning as I read the following paragraph in “Byzantine Theology: historical trends and doctrinal themes” by John Meyendorff.

In Eastern Christendom, the Eucharistic liturgy, more than anything else, is identified with the reality of the Church itself, for it manifests both the humiliation of God in assuming mortal flesh, and the mysterious presence among men of the eschatological kingdom. It points at the central realities of the faith not through concepts but through symbols and signs intelligible to the entire worshiping congregation. This centrality of the Eucharist is actually the real key to the Byzantine understanding of the church, both hierarchical and corporate; the Church is universal, but truly realized only in the local Eucharistic assembly, at which a group of sinful men and women becomes fully the people of God.

This Eucharistic-centered concept of the Church led the Byzantines to embellish and adorn the sacrament with an elaborate and sometimes cumbersome ceremonial, and with an extremely rich hymnography, in daily, weekly, paschal, and yearly cycle besides the sacramental ecclesiology implied by the Eucharist itself, these hymnographical cycles constitute a real source of theology. For centuries the Byzantines not only heard theological lesson and wrote and read theological treatises; they also sang and contemplated daily the Christian mystery in a liturgy, whose wealth of expression cannot be found elsewhere in the Christian world. Even after the fall of Byzantium, when Eastern Christians were deprived of schools, books, and all intellectual leadership, the liturgy remained the chief teacher and guide of Orthodoxy. Translated into the various vernacular languages of the Byzantine world–Slavic, Georgian, Arabic, and dozens of others–the liturgy was also a powerful expression of unity in faith and sacramental life.

The arrival and proliferation of ‘liturgy committees’ with their silliness of the week programs has done much damage to the unifying nature of the liturgy. I remember a visiting priest in a parish I belonged to being asked by the reader and announcer “What is the theme today?” The priest asked “What theme?” The person explained “The theme of your sermon and Mass”. The priest answered “What it always is, The life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ”.

The typical Catholic Mass in the United States always seems to be about something else.

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Church Architecture Styles: Gothic

November 18th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

Previously in this series:

1. “House” Churches

2. Early Christian

3. Byzantine

4. Romanesque

5. “Pilgrimage Churches”

The style we call ’Gothic’originated toward the middle of the 12th century in the northern part of France, surrounding Paris, called the “Île-de-France”.

(Click on pictures to see larger images)


Fig. 1

The architectural characteristics of the Gothic style resulted from the pursuit of three perceived needs. First, there was a desire to increase the amount of light flowing into churches.  Because of their thick heavy walls and supports and small windows the Romanesque churches had been rather dark. Second, a more open plan was desired to better accommodate the needs of the liturgy and larger crowds. Third, there was the somewhat vain and dubious desire to attain spectacular heights. In was in arriving at solutions that the Gothic style emerged.

As the masons accomplished their tasks and increasingly attained the three goals, aesthetic and spiritual interpretations came to mind that were inspired by the results 2. The increased light flowing into the new churches through large stained glass windows began to be understood as a metaphor for divine luminosity.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

The more open spacious plan began to be understood as a metaphor for divine unity and harmony.

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

Increased height suggested soaring spirituality.

Fig. 4

Fig. 4

These metaphysical interpretations inspired patrons and masons to even greater achievements along the same lines.

Fig. 5

Fig. 5

The exteriors of the great Gothic cathedrals appear as huge skeletons to viewers: spiky piers and pinnacles, and soaring buttresses –but no walls, no meat. Where walls would normally be, there are windows. To reach the first two goals of Gothic builders –to admit more light into the church and to open up the interior space—the number and sizes of windows needed to be increased and solid walls and thick bulky supports, decreased.


Fig. 6

The builders did that by concentrating and directing the weight of the vaults and overall structure down more vertical support lines to relatively small points on the ground. By doing that they were able to reduce or even eliminate walls.

Fig. 6

Fig. 7

The resulting view from the inside of many of these magnificent structures can often remind people of a birdcage, from the bird’s point of view.

Fig. 7

Fig. 8

Not only was more light allowed to flow into the building, and the floor space opened-up, but the structural supports, thinned and lengthened, appeared as vertical lines leading the eyes upward. Furthermore, the increased effectiveness and efficiency in the support or thrust system allowed the construction of ever taller buildings. With this, all three goals were met and resulted in a style of church architecture that has become an icon of Christianity in the West.

The basic architectural form of the Gothic style is the pointed arch. It directs the weight above downward in a more vertical direction than the round Romanesque arch. This allowed for thinner piers and walls 3. The more outward thrust of the round arch required thick piers and walls to keep the arches from caving in.

Fig. 8

Fig. 9

The same general principle applies to the pointed Gothic vaults compared to the round Romanesque vaults. The ribs used in Gothic vaults, however, may have had a more functional use in directing stress downward than the more decorative ribs of the round Romanesque groin vaults. The ribs of the Gothic vaults were apparently used to support the placement of the webbing material until the vaults were completed. They directed the stress thrust of the web material down to the vertical piers between the windows. Ribbed vaults are also a major architectural form characteristic of the Gothic style.

Fig. 9

Fig. 10

Finally, the so called flying buttress is a prominent architectural characteristic of Gothic. It transferred the stress, weight, or thrust from the interior vaults and piers to ‘flying’ buttresses that flew over the roofs of the side aisles of the building to tower buttresses outside the structure. Some would argue that the buttresses actually work by pushing against the clerestory piers, counteracting the thrust from the vaults and locking the elements into a rigid structure. Whatever the case may be these buttresses  lightened the work of the piers inside the building so that they could be less massive.

Fig. 11

Fig. 11

Fig. 12

Fig. 12

Stained glass windows are also, of course, a characteristic of the Gothic style 4. In the quest for more abundant light came the increase in the space devoted to stained glass windows Stained glass was already in use in the Romanesque style. One aspect of the Gothic windows in particular is uniquely Gothic: tracery. Tracery is the stonework elements that support the glass in a Gothic window. The term probably derives from the ‘tracing floors’ on which the complex patterns of late Gothic windows were laid out. There are different types of tracery worthy of study but we will keep it simple here by just illustrating a couple of  examples.

Fig. 13

Fig. 13

Fig. 14

Fig. 14

The Gothic style lasted into the 16th century after passing through different phases or developments. The one country that resisted the Gothic was Italy. The cathedral in Milan was the only really true Gothic church constructed in Italy. Some others make use of pointed arches but do not stress height or utilize flying buttress. They are labelled “Italian Gothic” but are clearly in a class of their own that has little resemblance to the “French Gothic style”. England produced a version of Gothic more closely allied with the French style 5.

Fig. 16

Fig. 15  Milan Cathedral, Italy

Fig. 16

Fig. 16  Santa Croce, Florence, Italy. ‘Italian’ Gothic

The Italians actually developed a style in conscious opposition to the Gothic. Called the “Renaissance” style, we will explore that next in this series. I hope some folks out there are finding this series helpful even though it is rather academic.



1 The term ‘Gothic’ originally was used as a term of derision, meaning ‘barbaric’. It was used by Italians of the Renaissance Period who saw the new ‘French” style as a rejection of classical forms. The root word of ‘Gothic’ is Goth which is the name of a variety of barbarian tribes that had immigrated or otherwise overrun the Roman Empire but settled mostly in the north and in Spain.

2 This a debatable point as there are differences of opinion as to whether theological thinking inspired the Gothic style or whether the style developed as simple architectural development. I have tried to represent these two views by offering a possible interplay but granting the initiative to architectural developments.

3 This is somewhat relative. Gothic piers may have in some cases remained as thick as their Romanesque precursors but the space covered by the arches or vaults was greater in the Gothic structures.

4 Stained glass was actually an Arabic innovation and import into Europe from the near East. It had been used in Romanesque churches but the Gothic windows were so much larger.

5 English Gothic Cathedral naves and choirs are generally longer than the French Gothic structures. They also tend to end in squared off apses or East ends rather than the rounded style of the continent. While transepts in the French Gothic style seldom extended very far, if at all, beyond the limits of the exterior walls of the side aisles, they obviously do so in the English style. Two or even three transept arms were often used in English Gothic cathedrals in contrast to one in the French style. Elaborate tracery and ribbing was also more common in England. In all though the English cathedrals are recognizably ‘Gothic’.


Picture Credits/Sources: Fig. 1 Il-de-France By TUBS [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. Fig. 2 AmirwikiThis file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Fig. 3 Fig. 4 Bernie Dick. Fig. 5. Taxiarchos228 at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons. Fig. 6 Saint-Denis’ Basilica in Paris – sought approval to use but no response. “Jeff Titelius |”. Fig. 7 This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Hill. author: w:it:utente:Hill {{PD}}. Fig. 8 By Bordeled (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. Fig. 9 edited by Bernie Dick, artist unknown. Fig. 10 By Magnus Manske (Made by Magnus Manske.) [CC-BY-SA-1.0 (, GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. Labelled by Bernie Dick. Fig. 11 labelled by Bernie Dick, artist’s name has been lost. Fig. 12. labelled by Bernie Dick, (Passport To Design website); approval to use sought but no response. Fig. 13 By User:Magadan, modified TTaylor (wikimedia commons) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Common. Fig. 14 By Dmitry Tonkonog and Ksenia Fedosova (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. Fig. 15 By Jiuguang Wang (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons. Fig. 16 photo by [[User:Radomil|Radomil}}<br>{{GFDL}} The interior of Santa Croce, Florence


Light Another Candle Part II:November 2014:Training EMHCs?

November 17th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris
Torchlight Procession in Lourdes

Torchlight Procession in Lourdes

Appended to the earlier November “Light Another Candle” post were comments wondering why there are few visible signs of implementing the new Eucharistic guidelines, effective November 30th.  

It was suggested that we begin this new post for just that subject.  

Comments included were:


Can you start a thread about the bishop’s letter regarding the sacraments… are all the diocesan parishes implementing what Bishop Matano established in that letter, because my current parish is not! EMs still climbing up on the altar (without even bowing, BTW) BEFORE the celebrant receives and those same EMs adding adjectives to the proclamation “The Body of Christ”, “The Blood of Christ”. As I’ve complained before, there’s a competition there I guess on who can use the more endearing adjective as they add words such as dear, sweet, precious to those proclamations. Dreadful. I was so hoping the bishop’s letter would give rise to some instructional classes for EMs everywhere, but it has not happened at my parish. Thank you for considering this.    +JMJ

Ben Anderson:

From the guidelines:  ”I hereby promulgate these Policies for the Administration of the Sacraments in the Diocese of Rochester, today, September 30, 2014, which become effective on November 30, 2014, the First Sunday of Advent.”   I have also seen no changes at the parish that I attend during the week, but I remain hopeful that it will happen by 11/30.


The new policies direct that, prior to designating or training the new EMHC’s, the pastor must write to the chancery to ask how many EMHC’s can be appointed in his parish. Our pastor wrote as soon as the policy was promulgated and has not received a response. Hence, the training has not yet occurred. If things are still the same at your parish, it’s not necessarily due to negligence on the pastor’s part.


I have noticed that one parish I am familiar with has started using the term “Communion Ministers” instead of “Eucharistic Ministers” in its bulletin. “Communion Minister” is short for “Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion”. I asked (emailed) the person responsible for Liturgy in the Diocese if that was an okay substitution and was told it was. I have only participated in Mass in orthodox parishes and so have no experience with what’s happening elsewhere. I suppose it would be helpful to approach the priest/parish when the policies are not followed after 11/30. They will at least be aware that people do notice those things.

Highlights of Bishop Matano’s newly issued “Policies for the Administration of the Sacraments,” especially as related to the Holy Eucharist:  

1. Guidelines were promulgated September 30, 2014 and become effective on November 30, 2014 — the First Sunday of Advent.

2. The Decree of Promulgation mentions two exceptions.  The change in age for Confirmation becomes normative after July 1, 2015.  The training and informational data for “currently missioned extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are acknowledged and need not be repeated.  However, parishes are strongly encouraged to … provide ongoing formation and education to assist them in successfully fulfilling their ministry according to the norms indicated in the [newly promulgated] Policies.”

3. The “exception” in #2 above may be part of the confusion.  Since retraining of current EMHC’s “need not be repeated” perhaps some pastors think there is an exemption on following the new guidelines for those who are already EMHC’s.  But there does not appear to be any indication in the revised policies of tolerating disobedience to the new guidelines.  ”Need not be repeated” would seem to mean IF the current policy is already being followed.  It hardly seems to be the intention of the revised policy to suffer a variety of disobedient Eucharistic practices in the Sanctuary or in administration of the Sacrament just because someone is “already doing it that way!”  The widespread observation of poor adherence to the guidelines almost requires a prudent judgment for widespread “retraining,” regardless of whether or not the retraining itself is mandated.

4. First Penance before First Eucharist.


This is a selection of what we might notice as “different” from past practice.

1. Proper use and referral to the role of the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion title, (EMHC).

2. No able-bodied ordained sitting while laity administers the Eucharist.  EMHC’s should refrain from exercising their role if sufficient ‘sacred ministers’ are present.

3. Servers (often below 16 years of age) not being pressed into service as EMHC’s.

4. Bishop’s permission needed for celebration of Mass outside the consecrated space of a Church.

5. EMHC’s being practicing Catholics in full Communion with the Church (and, if married, to be validly married).

6. No intinction except by the priest.  No self-communication by EMHC’s.

7. EMHC’s may not assign anyone else to that role including e.g. “a parent or spouse of child of the sick person who is the communicant.”  It would seem this could have huge implications for the lining up of personal pyx’s at the Tabernacle, to take to the sick at home.

8. Bishop’s permission is to be sought to select and prepare a definite number of EMHC’s. (This may have some exceptions.)

9. EMHC’s are assigned to their own parish  and “are  normally not to exercise this ministry outside their parish.”

10. EMHC’s will approach the altar after the priest receives Communion.

11. EMHC says only the words “Body of Christ” or “Blood of Christ” to the communicant, without embellishment.

12. Wipes the rim of the chalice (sic) with a purificator after each communicant and turns it slightly for the next communicant. (It would likely be assumed that this applies to the use of Communion Cups as well.)

13. Properly consumes remaining Precious Blood at the altar.  Hopefully this will eliminate the abuse of sticking the purificator into any remaining Precious Blood.

14. The ordained purify all the sacred vessels.

15. EMHC “Reverently handles and consumes any dropped hosts — spilled Precious Blood must be attended to with water which is then poured in the sacrarium.”  (Note: Some churches don’t have a sacrarium.  Others have a sacrarium which is not properly plumbed to appropriately protect the sacred species.)  See

16. The priest or deacon returns the Blessed Sacrament to the Tabernacle (not the EMHC’s.)  I believe this was also to be extended to the Priest getting the reserved hosts from the Tabernacle too, but I don’t see that guideline (I may have missed it.)  Hopefully, these controls will eliminate a choir director from getting consecrated hosts to take to the choir loft for distribution at Communion.

17. Brings the Blessed Sacrament in a pyx directly to the sick without delay or unnecessary conversation, following the appropriate ritual.

18. New EMHC’s will be required to sign a profession of faith.

Some churches already show training sessions in their bulletins; others have been silent.  What are you hearing?  What changes are you expecting to see?

I am hoping to see far fewer people around the altar.  I am hoping Father will be distributing Communion a bit longer, giving me more time to make a Thanksgiving.  I am hoping to hear EMHC’s when they talk about the Precious Blood in conversation say “Precious Blood” instead of “wine,”  and not to hear my name injected into the words which present me with the Sacred Body and Blood.  I am hoping to see minimal glad-handing in the Sanctuary, like 8 EMHC’s adding up to 64 individual handshakes (including the priest), and with dramatic hand-cleansing gestures.  I am hoping to see it is all much more about this great and sacred gift being exalted, than about those who serve.  

The Policy just issued includes an Addendum 2 from a Circular Letter which came from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments last June, specifically stating, in the exchange of peace, to avoid “The movement of the faithful from their places to exchange the sign of peace amongst themselves” and to avoid “the departure of the priest from the altar in order to give the sign of peace to some of the faithful.” The rubrics do not specify a handshake, so we might even expect in the future to see other forms of dignified expression.


Farewell Father John Cornelius

November 16th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

Father Cornelius of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter celebrated his last Mass with the Fellowship of Saint Alban today, November 16. Father is retiring and with his wife and family moving to Texas.

Born and bred in Bolivar, New York, Fr. Cornelius went to Allegany College, SUNY at Fredonia, then into the U.S. Navy. After receiving his Masters of Divinity degree from the Episcopal Seminary at Northwestern University, he served as an Episcopal priest for 20 some years in Florida, New York State, Rhode Island and Texas. Following his reception into the Catholic Church with his wife Sharyl, he was subsequently ordained deacon and priest in 2012 and 2013. He has been serving as a Catholic priest in the Southern Tier of New York state, as well as for the Ordinariate. The Fellowship of St. Alban was blessed to have him as its priest. He and Sharyl have three adult daughters.

Father Cornelius has been with the Fellowship since its inception in 2011.

The Fellowship is awaiting the appointment of a new pastor.

The website for the Fellowship

(Click on photos to see larger images)

Father Cornelius with acolytes John (left) and Chris at the farewell Mass at the Ordinariate.

Father Cornelius with altar severs Jon (left) and Chris at the farewell Mass at the Ordinariate.

Farewell Mass

Farewell Mass

Farewell to Father John Cornelius

Farewell to Father John Cornelius



Light Another Candle: November 2014: African Priests’ Travel

November 13th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris
Torchlight Procession in Lourdes

Torchlight Procession in Lourdes

When the news first broke of banning travel by Diocese of Rochester priests to West Africa, this was not a subject that some of us felt needed to be covered on Cleansing Fire.  After all, we can’t cover every subject and this particular decision seemed very appropriate, needing no comment.  Then I began reading criticism of Bishop Matano’s decision.  Criticism?  Yes, some very harsh and inappropriate words were posted as commentary in news media which carried the story, a story which was quite well (and fairly) covered by David Andreatta of Gannett.

Some who commented, on blogs in particular, took heavy-handed and very uncharitable positions and used those as an opportunity to criticize our bishop, and to plump up their own personal vedettas or to promote  illicit positions. Therefore, push-back is valid and needed.

First, I want to say that I applaud Bishop Matano’s taking a courageous stand for the safety of his priests and his flock, at a time when virtually every other bishop in the U.S. is silent on the matter.  He has done what we should expect our shepherds to do — protect the Sheepfold.  Even the President of the U. S. didn’t step up with immediate measures to restrict the spread, nor stop the thousands per day who  land in the U.S. from Ebola-laden areas.  Only after disaster struck was there some regulation, quarantine and screening.  It would have been SO much easier for Bishop Matano to have done nothing, or to have waited until disaster struck, and then followed the herd.  Yet he did what needed to be done.  And courage is not too strong a word.  (It applies too in the cases of standing up for Church doctrine and other teachings, Catechism, Canon Law and Scripture.)  Courage.  We can learn a lot from watching how Bishop Matano, one by one, works through the issues for the good of our souls too. It is a lot for which to be grateful.

There was only one thing in the news release that bothered me somewhat.  Father Palumbos, diocesan director of priest personnel,  in his letter informing the priests, included words which heretofore have been uncharacteristic of Bishop Matano, and I find it hard to believe those are His Excellency’s words; i.e.  “Any priest who defies the order by making a trip without permission from the bishop or the diocesan vicar general or chancellor will no longer be permitted to work in the diocese.”  It is surprising not only that such words were used, but especially that they were released to the general public.  That just doesn’t sound to me like any of the words or style I have heard Bishop Matano use previously. True, this is a serious matter, but I have not heard him previously assume priestly disobedience so that he would need to announce a penalty in advance.  Rather, I have perceived him as having a pastoral heart, and assuming the same in his priests. Until I hear otherwise, I will assume that Father Palumbos’ words are not a direct quote from our bishop.  It is a reminder to us to learn to recognize the voice of our local shepherd, and not of intermediaries or hirelings.

You can read the story at the Ithaca Journal, which picked up Andreatta’s story:


Byrd Mass at St. Alban this Sunday: Farewell to Father Cornelius

November 12th, 2014, Promulgated by Ludwig

As previously reported, Father John Cornelius has resigned from his role as Pastor of the Fellowship of St. Alban in Henrietta due to health concerns. This coming Sunday, November 16 will be the final mass he will celebrate as their pastor. Mass will begin at 12:45 in the afternoon at Good Shepherd in Henrietta.

The Fellowship’s music director, Jacob Furhman, has arranged a polyphonic mass setting for this Sunday: Byrd’s mass for three voices.

All are encouraged to join the Fellowship for this beautiful mass, and to give Father Cornelius a warm send-off.

The usual reminder: the Fellowship of St. Alban is the local group of Catholics belonging to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, and is in full communion with Rome.

All Catholics are always able to attend an Ordinariate mass. It does satisfy a Catholic’s Sunday obligation.

The following video contains highlights from the same setting, earlier this year:


STA to “reopen” Sundays; TLM to move to STA

November 9th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

ScreenShot309Today was the official announcement by Bishop Matano that St. Thomas the Apostle (STA) Church in Irondequoit, after about 4 years of effective closure, will “reopen” on Sunday, November 30th for Mass in the Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo) at 9:00 AM and for each Sunday thereafter.  Moving from St. Stanislaus Church on Hudson Avenue in Rochester to the STA location will be  Mass in the Extraordinary Form (The Latin Mass; TLM) on Sundays at 11:15 AM, also beginning November 30th, and thereafter.  In addition there will be Holy Day Masses, yet to be defined.  The date of Sunday November 30th is the first Sunday of Advent, and thus the beginning of the new Church Year.

Show below (click to enlarge) are the five pages distributed at the TLM this afternoon.   The combination of the two communities makes much strategic sense, and we praise God for hearing the prayers of so many for STA to reopen for worship, and  TLM’s long time desire to have a ‘home.’  The picture shown above was from July 3, 2014 when Bishop Matano visited STA and celebrated a Mass for the patron saint’s feastday, which many attended to pray for such reopening.  That our prayers were answered is an incredible witness for which to give thanks to God.   It is truly remarkable for any church to reopen after that much time of closure.  And we also received the Good News that Bishop Matano will be at both Christmas Masses this year at St. Thomas the Apostle Church. 

14-11-09 DoR decree re STA TLM 001

14-11-09 DoR decree re STA TLM 002

14-11-09 DoR decree re STA TLM 003             14-11-09 DoR decree re STA TLM 00414-11-09 DoR decree re STA TLM 005


“As the stars keep on their course…”

November 9th, 2014, Promulgated by Ben Anderson


Now, how is charity to be perfected in them ? It must abound, more and more, in knowledge and in all understanding of salvation, that is, in faith. It is faith that constitutes the basis of all supernatural virtue. A restricted, a diminished,5 faith could never support a large and high-minded charity. Those men, therefore, are deceiving themselves whose love for revealed truth does not keep pace with their charity! Such Christianity as that believes as little as it may; it has a nervous dread of new definitions; and out of respect for error, it cleverly and continually narrows the supernatural horizon. Charity, they say, is the queen of virtues; it makes them take everything easily, even lies against truth ;- to give the same rights to error as to truth is, in their estimation, the highest point of Christian civilization grounded on love! They quite forget that the first object of charity, God who is substantial Truth, has no greater enemy than a lie; they cannot understand how it is that a Christian does not do a work of love by putting on the same footing the Object beloved and His mortal enemy !

The apostles had very different ideas; in order to make charity grow in the world, they gave it a rich sowing of truth. Every new ray of light they put into their disciples’ hearts was an intensifying of their love; and these disciples, having by Baptism become themselves light;l were most determined to have nothing to do with darkness. In those days, to deny the truth was the greatest of crimes; to expose themselves, by a want of vigilance, to infringe on the rights of truth, even in the slightest degree, was the height of imprudence.2 When Christianity first shone upon mankind, it found error supreme mistress of the world. Having, then, to deal with a universe that was rooted in death,3 Christianity adopted no other plan for giving it salvation than that of making the light as bright as could be; its only policy was to proclaim the power which truth alone has of saving man, and to assert its exclusive right to reign over this world. The triumph of the Gospel was the result. It came after three centuries of struggle— a struggle intense and violent 0n the side of dark— ness, which declared itself to be supreme, and was resolved to keep so; but a struggle most patient and glorious on the side of the Christians, the torrents of whose blood did but add fresh joy to the brave army, for it became the strongest possible foundation of the united kingdom of love and truth.

But now, with the connivance of those whose Baptism made them, too, children of light, error has regained its pretended rights. As a natural consequence, the charity of an immense number has grown cold in proportion ;1 darkness is again thickening over the world, as though it were in the chill of its last agony. The children of light,2 who would live up to their dignity, must behave exactly as did the early Christians. They must not fear, nor be troubled: but, like their forefathers and the apostles, they must be proud to suffer for Jesus’ sake,3 and prize the word of life4 as the dearest thing they possess; for they are convinced that, so long as truth is kept up in the world, so long is there hope for it.6 As their only care is, to make their manner of life worthy of the Gospel of Christ,6 they go on, with all the simplicity of children of God, faithfully fulfilling the duties of their state of life, in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, as stars of the firmament shine in the night.7 ‘The stars shine in the night,’ says St. John Chrysostom, ‘they glitter in the dark. ; so far from growing dim amidst the gloom that surrounds them, they seem all the more brilliant. So will it be with thee, if thou art virtuous amidst the wicked; thy light will shine so much the more clearly.’8 ‘As the stars,’ says St. Augustine, ‘ keep on their course in the track marked out for them by God, and grow not tired of sending forth their light in the midst of darkness, neither heed they the calamities which may be happening on earth; so should do those holy ones whose conversation is truly in heaven ;9 they should pay no more attention to what is said or done against them, than the stars do.’10

Note the language used against Cardinal Burke by those who applaud the revolution:

“polarizing figure”
“outspoken, unstinting conservatism in matters of liturgy and church teaching”
“helped facilitate the most controversial US appointments of Benedict XVI’s pontificate”
“one senior US prelate termed the steady stream of polemics [Burke's recent interviews] a form of “public suicide.”

When reading such things, it is always good to ask questions about such charges. What makes him a polarizing figure? Is it wrong to endorse an outspoken, unstinting conservatism? What made his appointments controversial? What exactly did he say that was a form of “public suicide?” Of course the answer to these questions is that Burke’s sin is that he takes too seriously the words of St. Paul:

Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time when they will not endure sound doctrine but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables.

The bigger question is – is it possible to be a faithful clergyman in today’s Church and not be ridiculed as Burke is (as Pope Emeritus Benedict is/was)? What must one compromise to earn the applause of the world? Is it worth it?


Is Cursillo a Cult?

November 8th, 2014, Promulgated by Hopefull

I guess even asking the question is seen by some as heresy; but it has concerned me for about 10 years, since I first heard about it.  The more detail I have heard, the more I wondered.  I don’t feel qualified to write decisively since I chose not to attend, but  my concerns have increased over the years,  especially when those who have attended those 3-day intensive weekends describe their experiences  and the “rules” and controls, which all seem to mirror a number of cultic practices.

Hopefully, Cleansing Fire is a place where we can discuss in truth and charity. As comments are made, I will excerpt from the comments section and add here to the post (so they make it into the search engine.)

As a backgrounder, you might want to google:  ”Is Cursillo a cult?”


It hit the fan (and the fans) of Cardinal Burke

November 8th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Even though we knew it was coming, it is hard not to flinch as the stuff starts to get hurled.  Here is a link to the secular, but not the overly secular, media report on   but it isn’t on Zenit yet, although I don’t expect much spin — just a factual report.  Just as the liberal “give Pelosi Communion” Cardinal Wuerl replaced Cardinal Burke in the Congregation of Bishops, I expect quite a liberal replacement for Cardinal Burke as head of the Apostolic Signatura, possibly a younger (turns out only 4 years younger)  more pliant person who doesn’t yet have a trail of speaking out strongly for the Church. Probably someone who speaks Italian or Spanish.   He speaks French, but probably a number of other languages.  Of concern, is that it will be someone who supports the idea of turning over annulments to local bishops, without Vatican oversight.  Thus, the conservative bishops will go by the rule book; i.e. an annulment really means a marriage did not take place.  More liberal bishops will throw in a few handfuls of their version of Synodial mercy; i.e. looking the other way. I am afraid the localization of the annulment process will take place even before the next Synod, as a way around the excellent theological writings of Cardinal Burke and others (see review, below, of the book calling for faithfulness to Christ) and the resistance of other faithful Cardinals.  Localization likely leads to variable enforcement of Church Law, eroding the very meaning of the word “Catholic,” IMO.

Obviously Pope Francis is not a fan of “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” not that Cardinal Burke is an enemy, except of the enemies of God.  But he is a man with his own soul to bring Home, and he seems to know that, just like St. Paul.  Keeping those who disagree “close” is the strategy which strong managers pursue. If, as the Newsmax article said, Pope Francis really wants to avoid division in the ranks of the prelates, this would not be the way to do it.  But I am not sure if he has the management expertise that would enable him to know how to handle dissenters.  And he does seem to have weak advisers (like Fr. Rosica.)  If Pope Francis is resigned to division, this accomplishes it in part, and that is a bad sign, because division there will be.  Things are easier to tear apart than put back together.  We knew it was coming, but it is a very sad day.  But we know too that it is all under the wings of the Holy Spirit, and so we pray for all involved, including ourselves.

I’ll post the link later when we get the Zenit update (which usually does not have a Saturday edition; just a weekend wrap-up.)  At the time of posting, the announcement also is not on the USCCB website.

Just released in LifeSiteNews: Replacing Cardinal Burke at the Apostolic Signatura will be Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, currently the pope’s foreign ministerScreenShot014, with Nuncio experience, more administrative than pastoral.     Moroccan by birth.      Archbishop Mamberti is considered an expert on Latin America, the United Nations, Africa, the Middle East and Islam.   Also see:




Mass in the Extraordinary Form 23 November 2014 in Corning NY

November 7th, 2014, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

There is an upcoming Mass in the Vetus Ordo (Extraordinary Form) at St Vincent’s. Details and updates about the Mass are posted here. Father Peter Mottola will offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form also known as the Traditional Latin Mass, at St Vincent de Paul Church in Corning NY on 23 November 2014 at 12:30pm. The mass will be a Missa Cantata, a sung mass, with an accompanying Schola. Come experience this timeless form of the Holy Sacrifice of the mass. This is the second in the three masses we have scheduled this year. This is the last mass of the year, with 4 masses to be scheduled for next year. Dates and time to be announced.


The Holy Spirit and the Synod

November 7th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

As the months go on, I believe we will see even more evidence of the Holy Spirit’s Presence relative to the Synod.  After the mid-term Relatio was presented, with all its evidence of preparation beforehand, and the momentum with which it built on Cardinal Kasper’s “Gospel of the Family,” it seemed impossible that just a few days later the voices of opposition would speak clearly, reject much that had been written, coalesce in unity around the eternal truths in the breakout groups, and force a rewritten, coherent document, rejecting certain heretical concepts!  How did all that happen in just a few days, when the puppeteers had months to prepare, and with Cardinal Kasper paving the way as early as last February as the key if not sole presenter in the pre-meeting on his personal opinions?  The question is not “How?” but “WHO!”

We should take great heart that He is with His Church.  Sometimes it seems that God allows things to go afield so that His Mighty Presence can be shown in bringing them back.  Dramatic as the Synod turnaround was, it is incredible too that in just a little over six months after the February pre-Synod meeting, a scholarly refutation would be written by committee and published before the Synod even took place.  Although only the Kindle version was on the market at the time, doubtless there were pre-copies that reached key prelates.  Again, one could ask “How did they do that?” but again the answer would be “Not “how”, but “WHO!”

There were even rumors of attempts to suppress the book “Remaining in the Truth of Christ” from being distributed at the Synod, but that would likely stimulate even a greater desire to read what the loyal committee had written.  While dealing only with the error of trying to allow divorced/remarried Catholics admission to the Sacraments (and not the same-sex issues which also emerged ScreenShot238from the Synod), it appears that the work could not have better addressed the issues even if it had been written after the Synod with the benefit of full knowledge of all that had taken place.  The points are right on what most needed to be refuted.

My order arrived only a few days ago, and I’ve read through the excellent summary Chapter One, and am going to share with you the high points and clarity expressed. No ecclesial doublespeak here!  One by one every argument of Cardinal Kasper is dismantled by those who fully know the Faith and fulfill their responsibility to the Faithful. Here are some highlights from Chapter One:  The Argument in Brief by Robert Dodaro, O.S.A., who synthesizes in a few pages the writings of all the authors.  Here are some direct quotes:

“Given the gravity of the doctrinal question [raised by Cardinal Kasper], these historical claims require a scholarly response.”

“…the few examples [Kasper] cites will not support his conclusion and the vast recorded experience of the early Church flatly contradicts it.”

“He relies for the specific cases he mentions exclusively on one author and ignores the counterarguments of others.”

“…the historical evidence for his conclusion, which was  advanced by Giovanni Cereti, is deeply flawed.  It is not clear whether Kasper is aware of the level of detail in the scholarly objections….Nevertheless, the Cardinal employs them as evidence for his proposal.”

“Rist [one of the authors] accuses Kasper of the ‘unfortunate practice all too common elsewhere in academia, whereby a ‘very few cases’ are selected in order to claim the existence of a practice, even when the contrary historical evidence is ‘overwhelmingly superior’.”

Regarding the practice of oikonomia in the Orthodox Churches, author Abp. Vasil “notes the lack of a coherent basis — or even of a common terminology — for comparing the theological, canonical and pastoral rationales behind [those] practices….”

“…highly dubious exceptions to the otherwise manifest standard teaching and practice of the Church concerning the indissolubility of marriage is more suggestive of anomalies than of parallel or alternative traditions that might be subject to retrieval today.”

[Author Cardinal Muller] “replies that in order to avoid an incomplete view of Jesus’ mercy we need to look at the entirety of His life and teaching.  The Church cannot appeal to ‘divine mercy’ as a way of jettisoning those teachings of Jesus that she finds difficult…. An objectively false appeal to mercy also runs the risk of trivializing the image of God, by implying that God cannot do other than forgive.”

[Author Cardinal De Paolis} replies “The difficulty one encounters in respecting the moral law dos not then permit that person to turn around and violate the same moral law…. [A] distinction is often made between doctrine and discipline in order to say that in the Church doctrine does not change, whereas the discipline does… However, a change in Church practice aimed at permitting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist necessarily involves a change in doctrine.  No one should be under any illusion about this.”

[Author Cardinal Caffarra] outlines reasons that Cardinal Kasper’s proposal necessarily involves a change in doctrine and not just in sacramental discipline.  He notes ….the status of the divorced and civilly remarried is in objective contradiction with that bond of love that unites Christ and the Church, which is signified and actualized by the Eucharist…. Admission of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to the sacraments … would persuade, not only the faithful, but also any attentive person of the idea that … there exists no marriage that is absolutely indissoluble….”

Cardinal Caffarra further “objects that an appeal to prudence cannot be made…because that which is in itself … intrinsically illicit can never be the object of the prudential judgment…a prudent adultery cannot exist….The Church cannot excuse the faithful from their obligation to obey God’s law.”

[Author Cardinal] Burke “points out that the faithful are badly served by tribunals that fall into a kind of pseudo-pastoral pragmatism…the faithful could become ‘disedified and even scandalized.’” [Note: placing annulments in the hands of the Diocesan Bishop without the Vatican oversight to preserve the rights of both parties is a frightening concept, when more than half the prelates at the Synod voted to accept the three heretical statements, which were dropped for receiving less than 2/3 vote!]

Toward the end of his book, Cardinal Kasper apparently argues for “Sensus fidelium,” but erroneously.  The “Faithful” does not mean only laity but includes the ordained as well.  And the “sense” is not a poll, or a majority opinion.  And faithful means FAITHFUL, not Catholic in name or for convenience.  Dodaro quotes Newman in the beautiful words that the Sensus Fidelium is “an instinct for the authentic faith possessed by the faithful, understood as both the hierarchy and the laity together, as the one Body of Christ.  Newman referred to this dynamic as conspiratio, a breathing together between pastors and laity.”

This was not a quickly slapped-together book, in spite of the rapid timing.  The Holy Spirit’s involvement is clear.  In spite of the speed of response, a moving quickly to the front lines of battle, it is a careful and scholarly work.  The authors even correct a Kasper footnote error. Whatever happens going forward, none of the Synod members will ever be able to say they didn’t know what was wrong with Cardinal Kasper’s proposal, or hadn’t been put on notice.  There is a pivotal moment here, that may someday have the same story-telling flavor as when the St. (Bishop) Nicholas punched Arius in the face.

Come, Holy Spirit, and stay with us!


Heroes of the Synod: Cardinal Pell

November 5th, 2014, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

If you are interested in what really happened at the Synod, be sure to read Sandro Magister’s “The True Story of This Synod. Director, Performers, Assistants”. In that summary he states:

When the assembly resumed its work on Thursday, October 16, secretary general Baldisseri, with the pope beside him, made the announcement that the reports of the ten groups would not be made public. A protest exploded. Australian cardinal George Pell, with the physique and temperament of a rugby player, was the most intransigent in demanding the publication of the texts. Baldisseri gave up. That same day, Pope Francis saw himself forced to expand the group charged with writing the final relation, adding Melbourne archbishop Denis J. Hart and above all the combative South African cardinal Napier.

Cardinal Pell is proving to be a another hero for Catholicism. Here is the full text of his “Homily for the Mass of the 10th anniversary of Juventutem during the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage” in which he concludes with this:

Today we have one of the more unusual popes in history, enjoying almost unprecedented popularity*. He is doing a marvelous job backing the financial reforms.

We all have an important task during the next twelve months i.e. to explain and build a consensus out of the present divisions. We will be counter productive if we have anger or hate in our hearts, if we lapse into sterile polemics against a surprisingly small number of Catholic opponents. Our task is to explain the necessity of conversion, the nature of the Mass, the purity of heart Scriptures requires to receive Holy Communion. We, and especially you young people, must live this in love, giving reason for your hope. This is a unique opportunity which we must seize in God’s name.

So I conclude with the prayer I was taught as a child. “May the Lord preserve the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and give him life, keep him safe on earth and deliver him not into the hands of his enemies”.

*Ben’s note: What concerns me about this popularity is that it seems to be based directly on the belief that he’s sticking it to the old establishment.


Major Announcement from Fellowship of St. Alban

November 2nd, 2014, Promulgated by Ludwig

The following appears on the Fellowship of St. Alban website:

[Our pastor, Father Cornelius] has recently suffered from several serious health problems that have impaired his ability to continue to pastor our group. After discussions with our Vicar General, Fr. Hough, and Ordinary, Msgr. Steenson, he has decided to resign his position as our pastor, effective immediately.

We are currently making plans for an interim solution until another pastor can be found for our group.

Msgr. Steenson has assured us that a search is underway, and progress is being made.

Please keep Father Cornelius, Msgr. Steenson, the Fellowship of St. Alban, and their future pastor in your prayers.

The Fellowship of St. Alban is the local group of Catholics belonging to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, and is in full communion with Rome.


Monthly Prayer Requests for Priests – November

October 31st, 2014, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

It’s time to print out your November calendar. Thanks to the good folks at for providing these calendars freely available to all on the Internet.

And the Holy Father’s prayer intentions for November:

Universal: That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.

For Evangelization: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.

November 1st, All Saints Day, is *not* a Holy Day of Obligation this year since it falls on Saturday. Nevertheless it would be a good idea to get to mass if you can.

From the “The Latin Mass in Ontario County” website:

Fr. Peter Mottola will be celebrating a Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form on November 3rd at 6 PM. On the Traditional calendar this year, November 3rd is All Souls Day. Hope to see you all there.


If you don’t VOTE on Tuesday …

October 31st, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

… there are good arguments why to mention it in the next confession!  And not the least of reasons is to honor the responsibilities conveyed to us by God. Catechism 1730:   God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. “God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel,’ so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to Him.”  That brings responsibilities!

The current age of persecution has a global spread, but at least in the U.S. we still can vote.  And it is reasonably arguable that failure of faithful Catholics to exercise all their rights in the last few decades has, in part at least, led to a moral malaise which metastasized into full blown cancer, as government initiated and protected immorality.  Exercising the vote responsibly means being informed, and that means finding the Truth. Since Jesus, Himself, isn’t running for office, perfection can’t be expected in any candidate.  But once we know where they say they each stand, and how they have acted in the past, the burden is on us to prioritize.  Bishop John Paprocki of the Springfield, Illinois Diocese, put this into astute perspective in the prior presidential campaign:

 ”A vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors 

that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful

makes you morally complicit

and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”

It is also fair to say that failure to do our duty to oppose candidates who support intrinsic evil also makes us complicit.  That means not only evaluating the candidate, but also PRIORITIZING the issues, with serious moral issues at the top of the list (way above property taxes, attracting business, plowing the streets.)  The moral issues are quite rightly divided by the Church into matters of intrinsic evil, and matters of prudential judgment.  And, frankly, there is no moral issue that trumps abortion.  Over 55 million dead babies is a holocaust many times the size of what Hitler and the Nazis did.  And there are very few of us who can say we did everything we humanly could have done to fight back against the abortion holocaust.  I know I can’t.

So action at the polls  – going to the polls and voting morally — is one of the few things that lies within our power now in the face of real and intrinsic evil.  It is the least we can do.  And, in case there is any confusion, “matters of prudential judgment,”  include immigration, taxes, gun control, capital punishment, length of prison sentences, government mandated health care and much more.  That is not to say there are not moral aspects to prudential judgment issues, but abortion itself, in every circumstance, is intrinsically evil.

Candidates for Governor

Thus, the candidates’ positions on the intrinsic evil of abortion must not be ignored by faithful Catholics exercising their rights at the polls. Fortunately, the positions are clear — expressed by the candidates themselves.  Governor Andrew Cuomo (Democrat) has repeatedly pushed hard for abortion right up until birth, in a state which is already the abortion capital of the country!  He had a 10 point program for women, including fair wages and against human trafficking, of which 9 points passed separately were supported by both the Assembly and State Senate, but Mr. Cuomo refused to allow it to become law, holding all 9 points hostage to getting his way with mercilessly expanding abortion.  He is at it again, and if he wins the governorship again, it is likely to be seen as a mandate for his point #10.  Mr. Cuomo claims to be a Catholic but is divorced, publicly living with a woman not his wife.

The principal challenger (Republican and Conservative) is Rob Astorino, a Catholic husband and father.  I went to his early meeting in Benton when he came to the area for the first time, and when he was quizzed by the audience he made not the slightest hesitation in saying he is Catholic, that he opposes abortion or any expansion of abortion.  A governor can’t repeal any law himself — that is in the hands of the legislature —  but he can encourage something he can sign, and he can rearrange priorities.  He avowed that he will not sign into law any expansion of abortion.  He also is opposed to Common Core.  Mr. Astorino has had two successful terms heading up Westchester County.  His Catholic roots show that, very early in his career, he was station manager and program director of The Catholic Channel on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio and hosted a weekly radio show from St. Patrick’s Cathedral with the then archbishop of New York.  Below is a picture of Mr. Astorino and his family, and Sheriff Chris Moss of Chemung County, who is running for Lieutenant Governor, and his family.

Candidates Astorino & Moss and their families

Candidates Astorino & Moss and their families

Please vote on election day, and let your true Catholic voice be heard.


Light Another Candle Part II: October 2014: Silence before Mass?

October 29th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris
Torchlight Procession in Lourdes

Torchlight Procession in Lourdes

The post on “Why the Synod Puppeteers owe an Apology” has been gently hijacked by the burning question and serious opinions on the role (or not) of silence before Mass.

Here are those comments, to get the discussion going, transferred here from the comments to the Synod post.

Additional comments will be shown as, uuhh, “Comments”, following this post.

That’s how I’ll weigh in too, rather than hijack  the hijackers’ presentation :-)

 Richard Thomas

I was attending mass in a parish in the southern tier. The topic was caring for the poor and I had a tough time with it.

But I was biased before Mass even started. Please tell me if I am wrong and standoffish. I arrived early, about 25 minutes before mass started and all was well. But about 15 minutes later, things started to get out of hand as more and more people came into church and most began chit chatting with their friends. Now, mass is begun with a procession, starting in the back of church. To get there the deacon and priest came down from the altar and walked toward the back of the church……… making social calls with everyone they saw. I was going to go to mass the following Monday and wanted to view the readings since I still had time. But as I was reading the deacon passed by me and, in order to be “friendly”, made a joke about my being on my I phone. I didn’t return the comment. And then, to make matters worse, the deacon, upon starting mass, tells the congregation to turn around and greet their neighbor.

I think this is disrespectful to God.  No one is thinking of Him as they speak with their neighbor. I was so angry that I just passed the deacon after mass and didn’t speak with him.



@Richard Thomas
You must’ve missed the reference to the 2nd Commandment in yesterday’s Gospel. :)

Richard Thomas


Are you saying it’s OK to conduct oneself like that before mass…. and I might also say some of the culprits do this during mass, even immediately after receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist.

If so, then does the second commandment state you must love your neighbor at the expense of mocking and disrespecting God?

Big E

@Richard Thomas
Conduct themselves like what? Trying to be friendly, social, and communal?

Do people go too far with that sometimes? Certainly.
But getting your feathers ruffled over a deacon who was trying to be friendly seems to be going a bit too far the other way IMHO.

Richard Thomas

I was reading scripture and trying to pray. I did not approach him.

You can be friendly after mass, outside church, possibly at those parish after mass get togethers. And if you really want to be social, you can actually call your friend and communicate on the phone or make arrangements to get together.

Do you really think people actually reverence and respect the Blessed Sacrament when they are making social rounds in church,

E, exaggeration does not change the fact that there is little respect for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus desparately wants a relationship with us. How seldom we make Him happy be cooperating with His grace.

Richard Thomas 


One morer item. Doesn’t charity mean having respect for those in church who WANT to pray? Doesn’t the constant talking and loud voices interfere with someone’s ability. Isn’t charity looking out and loving your neighbor? It sounds like the chatterers in church are not showing charity to those who desire quiet time to pray. It seems they are more interested in satisfying their own needs and ignoring the needs of their neighbor. Sounds like a lack of charity to me.

Richard Thomas

Someone’s ability to pray. It’s tough praying over the distraction of constant talking.


@Richard Thomas

From a blog from Monsignor Charles Pope (Diocese of Washington):

“And while strict silence in churches may have its appeal, there are legitimate concerns raised by enforcing it today as we shall see, since it may be in tension with legitimate concerns for the communal nature of Sunday Mass”

“As a general rule, especially on Sunday and other designated Mass times, the parish church is not a private chapel, but rather, is first and foremost a place of public prayer.”

“To be avoided is an attitude which might say something like, “I go to church on Sunday to pray to God, not to be bothered by other people.” No, Sunday morning is a day of communal prayer to God. Even in relatively quiet parishes, there are going to be crying babies, the sound of shuffling feet, coughs and sneezes, and any number of things.”

“Keeping the church with an atmosphere conducive to private prayer, while a good value, is not the first and most essential focus of Sunday morning in the Catholic Parish. Rather, it is to provide an atmosphere conducive to the gathering of God’s people…”

“And though we ought to avoid behaving in the Church of God in ways that take no notice of the Lord’s presence in the tabernacle, it does not follow that Jesus is offended that the members of his body enjoy the company of one another.”

“And the conversation isn’t all frivolous. There are concerns expressed, and significant news shared. There are prayer requests and invitations made to important gatherings and meetings in the parish etc. And yes, there is also banter of a less edifying sort.”


Please forgive me if I’m off base here, but haven’t the comments, while well thought-out and expressed, gotten away from the point of this post; the mis-information that was publicized during the synod and the fallout from that ill-conceived communique?
Might the comments on Sunday Mass belong in a separate post?


I don’t disagree.
I was just responding to Richard’s comments.
I don’t have the ability to start a new thread……


I wasn’t singling you out, my comment was meant as more of a general observation.
But I also believe that this is a pervasive enough situation for someone who can start a new thread to do so.

Richard Thomas

I am sorry for hijacking this thread. I express my ignorance. I don’t know how to start another thread, nor do I think I would have any authority since I am a guest on this site.Forgive me if I respond.E,“Tension for the legitimate concerns for the communal nature of mass”. Here we have it. The vertical nature of the purpose of mass is now replaced by a horizontal nature where man is dominant.I guess Johnny’s birthday, Jim’s new car, the upcoming party, the Bills football team, Jane’s new dress etc. are the new justifiable concerns of the communal nature. And to that, I say BS!Yes, Public prayer. All of us need to pray when we go to Church. All should express reverence and charity toward those who also want to pray.What a misuse of words. Not be bothered by people…as if that is the justification for talking about the Bills, a new car etc. His statement is just another attempt to get around honor, praise and the worship of God by disguising substituting mere socialization for prayer. And praying in church is now equated to hating and ignoring our neighbor, like the priest did in the parable of the Good Samaritan.And more nonsense to state that Jesus being offended by socialization. Of course not. Common sense. But by the volume of talking before mass Father has disproved his last statement and very underestimated his statement….“And the conversation isn’t all frivolous. There are concerns expressed, and significant news shared. There are prayer requests and invitations made to important gatherings and meetings in the parish etc. And yes, there is also banter of a less edifying sort.”Sorry, from what I and I am sure everyone else has heard before mass the conversation is frivolous with almost all banter with NO prayer requests.  I am sorry If Father is so concerned about gatherings and meetings, then why , after Communion does the priest make announcements concerning the content of the Sunday bulletin that announces parish gatherings and meetings etc? Sounds like our gabby parishioners now have one less thing to talk about before mass.What example does this give to children? Children are influenced by adults. Seeing such irreverence surely tells them that church is no special event and that it is equivalent to secular events.


Church Architecture Styles: “Pilgrimage Churches”

October 27th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie

“House Churches”

Early Christian Style

Byzantine Style

Romanesque Style

The cult of relics has been around since the very beginning of Christianity. Christians worshiped at the graves of saints and martyrs located in cemeteries outside the walls of cities. Altars (stone mensa) were erected over the graves so that during the celebration of Mass the sacrifice of the martyrs could be associated with Christ’s sacrifice.

(Click on pictures to see larger images)


Fig. 1 The mensa (altar) over the grave of Saint Lawrence. The small chapel and mensa are below the high altar of the church that was constructed above the site. The tiny chapel is called a ‘confessio’.

It is often said that many martyrs’ relics were later transferred into city churches as a precaution against sacrilege committed by marauding barbarians. That may have been true in some cases but, more likely, Christian leaders simply needed the relics transferred to more convenient locations within the cities. Initially, the pope forbade the removal of corpses from their original tombs but the ban did not stick. Finally, a complete reversal of policy occurred at the Council of Carthage (401) which declared that all altars should contain relics (it didn’t really matter how large the relic was).


Fig. 2 The crypt in the cathedral church of Speyer, Germany.

The transferred relics were normally housed in the crypts of churches, in a small chamber (or ‘confessio’) under the altar where the faithful could often get a glimpse of the relics through a window. Crypts varied in size depending upon the popularity of the relic. To accommodate large crowds some crypts were enlarged with a passageway around the inside of the exterior wall of the crypt with additional passage ways leading directly to the relics and on to the other side. This created a more orderly flow to the crush of pilgrims.

Further increase in pilgrimage activity presented major headaches for those who had to manage the crush of huge crowds packing churches, especially on holy days and feast days. One abbot claimed that his monks were forced to jump through windows with the relics in hand in order to escape rioting crowds!

By 1130 or so crypt storage and display of relics was becoming obsolete. Increasing crowds and changes in liturgical practices led to the display of relics in elaborate shrines or reliquaries. These were usually placed directly behind and above the most important altar (high altar) of the church. The change stimulated the religious fervor of the pilgrim even more as the sumptuous caskets containing the relics and the new elevated location heightened the experience of the sanctity of the relics.


Fig. 3 The reliquary of the Three Kings over the high altar of Cologne Cathedral, Germany.

There were many pilgrimage churches. The medieval travel guide “Pilgrim’s Guide” (1130) mentioned 26 shrines that could be visited on the routes leading from France to Santiago de Compostela, alone. (Not to mention Rome and Jerusalem.) Few have much in common in how they architecturally dealt with crowd control. Five, however, solved the problem in a similar way that has become known as the “pilgrimage church” style. These five are not, however, representative of pilgrimage churches as a whole but did have considerable influence on subsequent church buildings.

The five churches vary among themselves in many aspects but generally share in dealing with crowd control by including in their plans an ambulatory and radiating chapels. Pilgrims could walk up the side aisles of the nave and then continue on around the high altar and then down the opposite side of the church. This system caused a minimum of distraction and interference  with the daily liturgical offices being celebrated in the Choir and Chancel.

2 labels 295274187_354c6892fa

Fig. 4

Pilgrimage churches usually possessed many relics worthy of veneration in addition to the main one at the high altar. The small chapels radiating out to the outside of the ambulatory provided ideal places to display those. In addition, visiting priests could offer private or small group Masses in the radiating chapels. The arrangement resulted in a beautiful semi-circular east end of the church.

web label ambulatory

Fig. 5

The exterior is impressive as the clearly defined geometric forms stacked up starting with the low chapels and stepping up to the slightly higher roof over the ambulatory, and then to the higher apse roof and chancel roof, and finally culminating in the tower over the crossing; all creating the ‘stepped massing’ characteristic of Romanesque.

web label Dehio_212_Cluny

Fig. 6

The ‘pilgrimage church’ design combined functional problem solving with beautiful proportion, harmony and rhythm. It became one of the most impressive of medieval architectural expressions.


Text sources: Early Medieval Architecture, Roger Stalley, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999)

Picture Sources: Fig. 1 By Sibeaster (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Fig. 2 Bernard Dick (Own Work); Fig. 3 website <>; Fig 4 By José-Manuel Benito (uploaded from wikimedia commons) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, labeled by Bernard Dick; Fig. 5 website <>; Fig. 6 This image is taken from Georg Dehio/Gustav von Bezold: Kirchliche Baukunst des Abendlandes. This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art, labeled and highlighted by Bernard Dick.


Why the Synod Puppeteers Owe an Apology

October 24th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

I hope that anyone who has read my posts on Cleansing Fire is pretty clear that I do not support any gay activist position or lifestyle.  I pray to be completely and without exception aligned with all doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church.  I believe in the basic human dignity of all people to be respected  (not necessarily to be agreed with in their errors or opinions), and I acknowledge the difficult obligation of souls to call each other to repentance.

Consistent with these positions, here are just a few examples I’ve offered in Cleansing Fire over recent years.  I…

1)      have opposed the historic coziness between the Diocese of Rochester under the prior bishop and Fortunate Families, which lobbies the Catholic Church to legitimize a lifestyle which violates Church Teaching;

2)      have affirmed Pope Benedict’s clarity that those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies cannot be priests;

3)      have opposed the impropriety of Cardinal Dolan’s approving a gay contingent in the St. Patrick’s Day parade and his complimenting a gay football player for “coming out”; and

4)     have deplored all efforts through legislation, lawsuits, secular pressure or otherwise to force souls to sin by supporting any lifestyle or participating in any action opposed to their faith.

I could go on, but I consider the point well-enough made.

The Current Situation

Some same-sex attracted individuals have grown up in and then left the Church and feel separated from their spiritual roots; others have no interest in ever being Catholic, but want the painful voice of moral witness to be silenced, the daily reminder that the Church clearly identifies and treats same-sex attraction as disordered.  Why is it not enough for such individuals to join virtually any denominational church where there is either silence or an accommodating welcome, regardless of repentance? Because, at some level, there is the faintest, most insistent small voice that the Catholic Church, the only one founded by Christ, is the One that matters.   All other victories are hollow.  And it is also the reason whenever any movement to destroy Christ’s Teaching is underway, the evil one will be hidden within.  Those are the battles which do matter.

The Obligation

For all these reasons, being true to what I believe and striving to be obedient to Catholic Church Teaching, I am conscience-bound to decry the base and merciless treatment of homosexual persons in the Synod 2014 session just completed, by its organizers, by many participants, and by the media, many of whom fomented false hopes in those souls who desire some amelioration of their alienation from the Church, from Christ’s Teaching.  The October 13th Relatio which was, five days later, effectively rescinded on these particular matters, in hindsight can be seen as an almost unmitigated disaster.  I am very much for transparency and openness in the Body of Christ, and applaud that the principles of such transparency were implemented in this Synod to a greater degree than I have ever seen.  But transparency on the issues related to persons of homosexual tendencies was destructive; these were the very issues which, if discussion really were needed, should have been done privately.  Why?  Certainly not because Church Teaching is confidential (nor is the unchangeability of doctrine) but, rather, out of concern for the souls and the true dignity of the most vulnerable.  Even elementary knowledge of organizational dynamics illustrates such transparency was erroneous.

Good/bad Management

Please let me digress for a moment to one of the guidelines of good management practice in order to illustrate the point.  “Do not pique hopes unnecessarily.”  Or, as is sometimes said:  ”Be sure you want the toothpaste out of the tube before you squeeze it.”  Imagine that the president of a large company were to say, in a column in the organization’s monthly newsletter, that he or she is considering changing company policy to double vacation available to each employee (or, say, to cut the workweek by 5 hours without reducing pay).  Imagine the delight which would surge through the employee ranks!  The local newspapers would run daily stories on these breakthrough management practices.  Applications for employment would soar, and some might even leave their current employer to join such a forward-looking company; spouses would begin planning what to do with the extra vacation, and employees might even delay retirement or make some other significant life decision.  Everyone knows, of course, that the president has to ‘run it past the Board of Directors’ first, but most certainly there is delight and expectation that very soon these policies will be in place.  Then the company issues a terse news release that the Board of Directors declined to implement the ill-advised published policy.  Do you think that company will have better or worse employee relations as a result of this series of events?  Exactly my point.

Compassion for the Mis-led

Now, with compassion, remember the wide-spread media response to the October 13th Relatio.  No wonder it was released to the media before most of the Synod attendees could read it, let alone give input or vote.  One has to believe that a number of faithful prelates would have voiced strong objections, and could have been prepared to express their opinions and the whole Truth if interviewed.  When I was confirmed in 5th grade I could have told you on a true or false test that paragraphs 49 through 52, taken in the aggregate, were “false.” So could a lot of prelate attendees, and those who couldn’t should be removed for incompetence or worse.  The only thing of value to come out of this debacle was to identify some of the prelates who don’t believe and obey.

A Divisive Synod

While we were understandably focused on the division those words caused in the Church (yes, it was a very divisive Synod, as is anything that pits part of the flock against Christ’s Teaching), I for one did not sufficiently focus on what it was doing to those suffering from same-sex attraction, inflating their expectations and causing them to speak glowingly of such “changes”.  The outpouring of joy, delight, gratitude, and all versions of “it’s about time” illustrates how truly transforming were the words in those paragraphs but, unfortunately, transforming from Truth to lies.  The media, with all its lack of understanding, exploded the coverage, even interpreting from their own naiveté way beyond what had been said, and the communications experts in the Vatican did little or nothing to dissuade such reactions.  While a few hierarchical figures may have basked in a momentary triumph, recounting even the percentage of brother prelates said to be in agreement with such radical proposals, the latter state is worse than the first, for man can’t serve both God and the mammon of Klieg lights.

10 Wrongs

But my purpose in writing isn’t so much to take prelates to task, or to assuage the pain of Catholics in the pew, as to call attention to what seems almost a crime against homosexual persons.  I do not think it is going too far under the Laws of the Church to see such a serious offense in what was done.  Specifically, it seems a great wrong:

1)     to issue “a document” with words masquerading as an emerging Church teaching (but which could never be true), which misleads many individuals who are alienated due to same-sex attraction,

2)      to raise false hopes among those most vulnerable, and to leave them and the world at large uncorrected in their misunderstanding,

3)     to allow the media to use the Relatio to agitate for change in the Church, without instructing the ignorant promptly, with adequate clarification,

4)     to expose those who responded to the false content as if it were true, to remain uncorrected on a public stage, causing them shame and eventual embarrassment for having been “taken in”,

5)      to treat those real human beings, who were misled, deeply pained and afflicted by the attendant debates, like a mere challenge to a rules committee, as a strategy to grow the Church, a pawn on a chessboard,

6)      to exhibit to the world a prod and other ill treatment of those who reject itchy ears’ new teaching, and to embarrass prelates who stood for truth, pressuring others to stay quiet,

7)      to not publicly apologize (yet) to all who were misled, including weak Catholics who were traumatized and pastors unable to quickly and effectively respond to the faithful or to sincere inquiries,

8)      to sow division in the Church, which remains to be healed, and which affects those who are same-sex attracted but remaining chaste,

9)     to leave the remnant presence of the excised paragraphs, still boding confusion and reiteration of pain next year, shadowed by the impression that nothing was resolved, so it has to be done again, and

10)   to have erected further barriers to true reconciliation.

Read the rest of this entry »


Light Another Candle — October 2014 — Persecuted Christians this Winter

October 20th, 2014, Promulgated by Hopefull

ScreenShot174Winter is an especially difficult time to be homeless.  Too often people think desert-based countries are warm, but they can be very cold.  The Christians in Iraq and Syria had to flee with literally the clothes on their backs, and almost all the charity is coming from the Church and a few very stretched funds.  The families need shelter, food and respite.  That ought to be a chief priority of “family issues,” but it hasn’t been to nearly the extent that is needed.  Winter is coming on quickly.

It is relatively easy to sit in the US watching video coverage, but hard to imagine how we can help, how funds can be directed to the right place, and through the right hands. Sometimes it also snags the conscience to give for purposes and expenditures which seem to be for relative comfort locally, as opposed to real need abroad. Sometimes it is a moral dilemma: “Is it right to support _______ (fill in the blank) _______ when there is life and death need in ______(fill in this blank too).”

Many of Cleansing Fire’s readers have built trust in Church Militant as hard truth is heard and confirmed.  As a result, when Michael Voris offers a link to donate funds to these Churches in need, it is hard not to pay attention. Here is the link; see what you think: