Saint Benedict Center's main site is An online Journal edited by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Richmond, New Hampshire.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lex Orandi Lex Credendi

By Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M.

This ancient Latin axiom is quoted so often, I thought a little explanation of it on our web site would be helpful. A paraphrase of a longer patristic expression, the phrase means, "the law of praying is the law of believing."

The Father of the Church who gave us the axiom is St. Prosper of Aquitaine. He coined it in his controversy with the semi-Pelagians, who held that God's grace was necessary neither for one's first movement towards conversion nor for final perseverance.

According to Prosper of Aquitaine, legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, which is to say, 'the law of prayer determines the law of belief' (Prosper used the equivalent term lex supplicandi in place of lex orandi ). Prosper treats the church's prayer as an authoritative source for theology in arguing that salvation must come entirely at God's initiative since in the liturgy the church prayed for the conversion of infidels, Jews, heretics, schismatics and the lapsed who would not seek the true faith on their own. (Charles R. Hohenstein, “‘Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi’: Cautionary Notes “. Cf. Prosper of Aquitaine, De vocatione omnium gentium, 1, 12: PL 51, 664C.)

The same phrase turns up in an official document of the Holy See, Indiculus, which was a compilation of all the authoritative statements of the popes on the subject of grace. It is believed that this document was edited by St. Prosper himself, as he was Pope St. Celestine's secretary at the time. Here is the relevant passage, as contained in Denzinger's:

Let us be mindful also of the sacraments of priestly public prayer, which handed down by the Apostles are uniformly celebrated in the whole world and in every Catholic Church, in order that the law of supplication may support the law of believing.

For when the leaders of the holy nations perform the office of ambassador entrusted to them, they plead the cause of the human race before the divine Clemency, and while the whole Church laments with them, they ask and pray that the faith may be granted to infidels; that idolaters may be delivered from the errors of their impiety; that the veil of their hearts may be removed and the light of truth be visible to the Jews; that heretics may come to their senses through a comprehension of the Catholic faith; that schismatics may receive the spirit of renewed charity ; that the remedy of repentance may be bestowed upon the lapsed; that finally after the catechumens have been led to the sacraments of regeneration, the royal court of heavenly mercy may be opened to them. (Indiculus, chapter 8; Denz., n. 246 [old edition, n. 139], emphasis ours.)

The editors of Denzinger's inserted a footnote stating that the entirety of chapter eight of this decree agrees with St. Prosper's De vocatione omnium gentium, where the argument first appeared. They also refer the reader to the ancient Solemn Prayers we described above as having been excised from the new Missal. Doubtless, St. Prosper had heard these prayers on Good Friday, as liturgical historians date them back to the earliest persecutions. He probably had them in mind when he wrote this passage.

This highlights the grave importance of tradition in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and all the Church's liturgy. It also shows us that the liturgy itself is a powerful source of Christian truth.

When we Latin Catholics of the West return to our liturgical traditions and show that we take this axiom seriously, the Eastern Orthodox — for whom tradition, liturgy, and the rule of faith are virtually synonomous — will take Catholic unity under the Pope more seriously.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Speeding Ticket to Salvation

By Mr. Jeremy Patria

We all know that God works in mysterious ways, but little did I realize that my penchant for speeding while driving would be the vehicle that God would choose to slow me down onto the sure path of salvation. I was born into a family of practicing Baptists in a small, southwestern New Hampshire village. It is one of those picturesque towns that can be seen on typical New England postcards — and Yankee to the core. Fitzwilliam by name, it is a popular tourist attraction and even hosted a Good Morning, America show several years ago. Our family regularly attended church services and my father, being a Baptist deacon, would frequently deliver the sermon. I attended Sunday school until thirteen years old when, abruptly, we stopped going to church altogether. It seems my parents had a falling out with the pastor, which led to their refusing to attend that or any other church thereafter. Although confused, I just accepted the fact.

My siblings and I, five in number, attended public schools and immersed ourselves in all the activities being offered. I was very active in sports and I was a member of the choir for all four years of high school. Religion of any sort was not on my mind, but I do remember one time when I attended the funeral of the father of a choir member who was Catholic. I was struck by the smoking incense, the reverence and pageantry of the service but, although curious, I did not investigate. I also found it interesting later, after becoming a Catholic, to discover that many of the songs performed by our choir were of Catholic origin.

My everyday life was in no way soft. I had many chores to perform, such as cutting, hauling, and then splitting the ten cords of wood we needed every winter. My parents were not averse to employing corporal punishment whenever I went astray but I knew it was out of love, not meanness. At the same time, we were given much freedom in our social activities and not really monitored as to our comings and goings. After getting my driver’s license, I purchased a car, for I needed wheels to get to a job I had landed in a restaurant twenty miles from my home. And I always drove fast. My heavy foot led to three speeding tickets and the loss of both my license and my job. As Divine Providence would have it, however, I found another job within walking distance from my home and there my conversion began.

I worked in the kitchen as a chef along with a young man my age named Joe Hazelrigg. He told me he came from a family of eight and had recently moved to the area to be next to Saint Benedict Center. He was not shy about his Catholic Faith and this led to many conversations about religion and my own lack of belief. Some of Joe’s friends also became employed at the same restaurant and, after being introduced, I was amazed by the large families they all came from. There was Joe Filipi, one of eight siblings, Heather Fliss, one of thirteen, and Luke LaPlume, one of eleven, and they all confronted me, in their own particular styles, with the Catholic Faith. Because my parents had continued Bible readings at home, I had enough ammunition to hold my own against their arguments. This friendly, and sometimes intense, undeclared war went on for months, until one day I needed a lift some distance away and Joe Filipi volunteered to drive. It was during this ride that grace began its work, or I should say, I finally began cooperating with grace. Joe simply told me that I had a duty before God to at least investigate the Catholic Faith before rejecting it. It was as simple as that. Where before I had been defiant during our conversations, I found myself now more passive, more docile in my outlook. I started attending Mass at Saint Benedict Center, and believe me, with all those large families I never wanted for a ride. I attended lectures on the Faith, socialized with the community, and gradually was convinced that I needed to join. After lengthy instruction, I was baptized and received the Eucharist on March 25, the great Feast of the Annunciation.

Ironically, my parents did not object to my conversion, except in one particular, that of Baptism. My mother stated that it was not necessary for salvation and, after my reciting the verse that says “unless a man be born of water and the Holy Ghost he will not be saved,” she said that although it mentioned water, it did not mean we had to be baptized!! At that point I knew there was no point in furthering the argument. Interestingly enough, my father took me aside shortly afterwards and said, “Jeremy, I don’t know why, but I could never have taught you the things which you have learned from these folks.”

I settled into my new Catholic life, interacting with the families that associated with the Center, while still being very inquisitive about the philosophy and methods of living a truly Catholic life. I was on the lookout for a marriage partner as well, and that is when I was introduced to a truly strange custom called courting. Although in theory I agreed, it was difficult to understand how you could ascertain your feelings for a young woman while parked in the living room of her parents’ house with their numerous children gawking at your every move. Only after attending a traditional Ignatian retreat did I realize not only the absolute necessity of courtship in maintaining purity, but the increase in virtue that the discipline brought to the future spouses.

I did marry a beautiful Catholic girl, Bridget, and together we have started our own Catholic community, being the proud parents of three wonderful children, Regina, Gemma, and José. I want to thank you, Lord, for your ministers, the policemen who gave me those speeding tickets, and for your Church militant, all of whom in one way or another accelerated me in the pursuit of the Catholic Faith.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

When Parents Cry Wolf

By Russell LaPlume

The sky is falling, the sky is falling,” spoke Chicken Little as she ran to warn the king. Most of us are familiar with this tale, and to most, the moral of the story is, simply, don’t cry wolf to alarm people unnecessarily. But this old fable has received several different endings depending on who related the story. The original ending had Chicken Little picking up her barnyard friends (for she had them convinced that the sky was truly falling) and taking them all to warn the king. One of these friends, a fox that pretended to believe the alarm, and, when the time was right, he proceeded to eat them one by one. Another version had a friend, in his dying breath, warn Chicken Little about the fox, giving her enough time to make good her escape. And still another had the sky truly falling and killing the fox before he could exercise his mischief. And the moral of all this? We do not know the day nor the hour when the sky will fall upon us as individuals and a rendering of all of our life’s actions will have to be made to our Redeemer.

In my lifetime it seems that the pace of social, economic, technological, and educational change has accelerated to warp speeds. One can hardly buy any communications device that won’t be outdated in a matter of months. One cannot dream of financial security without the government, or some social entity, changing the rules and severely altering the plans. One dare not express an opinion contrary to that of the liberal masses on such issues as the environment, the government, morals, or education without eliciting their condemnation. But for all this acceleration one fact remains endlessly true: in terms of eternity we are all rushing to that one defining moment when the Face of the Judge will force us to cease and desist and give an account. And it is this one inescapable truth that all parents should impress upon their children. How to do that? Well, that is what this story is about.

It seems that most Catholics (and many evangelical sects) are intrigued with the “end times” and the signs that mark the end of this life and the beginning of eternity. I was certainly engrossed with this theme for many years, having read all I could on the subject. Whether it was the Apocalypse, or writers such as Yves Dupont, Fr. Miceli, Nostradamus, or Hal Lindsey, no author escaped my perusal. It got so bad that I would eat Chinese just to see what the fortune cookie had to offer by way of prophecy. I became so obsessed with the subject that it became my main topic of conversation, and, as I started to raise a family, this preoccupation was dosed out quite heavily to my children along with Catholic truths. I would tell them about the “three days of darkness” (and being from New England where the electric power goes out quite frequently in the winter, I would have to endure the inevitable comment from my children that I was right all along). I would tell them of the indisputable signs of the end times in the “wars and rumors of wars” and the famines and earthquakes forecast almost everyday in the global events as we read them in the press. I would highlight the crisis of faith the Church was enduring as well as the telltale decline of Catholic influence in the world, quoting Our Lord’s words concerning His second coming: “But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8) And, of course, there was the “Comet,” the great ball of chastisement that would one day come to cleanse the world of demonic activity. I would advise them to keep their eyes up towards heaven but with their feet planted firmly on the ground of truth, not on the clouds of passing fancies. I would comment wittily that “it was better to look up and trip over a curb than to look down and get hit by a comet” — of course, I would add that even though you were looking up you still could get run over by the proverbial beer truck.

How much of this stuck I do not know. Was I crying wolf and thereby filling their heads with unnecessary trepidation? After all, are not current events supporting the latter day expectancy of our time? A few short years ago did we not whisper among ourselves that a one-world government was looming over the horizon with headquarters already established in Geneva? And today, is not this very subject advocated by the majority of our world leaders? Most people called us alarmists and conspiracy theorists amongst sundry other epithets. I never considered myself a pessimist, but a realist. Although never abandoning my conviction that we were on a fast track to apocalyptic events, I finally had second thoughts on my approach in dealing with the subject when one day I heard someone jestingly call me “Doom and Gloom LaPlume.” That is when I took a different tack.

I stopped reading these books and started reading history, specifically history that dealt with Catholic events and how they influenced the world. History does repeat itself and, there being nothing new under the sun, I found more sane knowledge to govern my future than any book I read trying to predict it. By way of prophecy I focused more on the Marian messages of Quito, LaSalette, and Fatima, which not only warned of the dire consequences of not following heaven’s plan, but also gave a positive recipe of how to avoid these predicted calamities, or at least to mitigate them. With this newfound knowledge I was able to guide my children in a more positive way, all the while keeping the negative aspects fully cognizant in their minds. They now know that the “end times” will come to pass. They also know that the hour and the moment is of no consequence to them if they remain in the state of grace, keeping always in mind that eternity could be a heartbeat away.

So, is it more important to focus on the “latter day” dire warnings? Or is it better to focus on the “here and now” positive aspects when we instruct, not only our children, but even ourselves? Every person, parent or not, has a different approach, and I am not one to guide him in the application. Personally, I think a healthy mingling of the two (that is the interaction of Catholic history measured against contemporary events and the Marian warnings from heaven), will do most in impressing upon us and our children the fragileness of our earthly existence and the need to keep our eyes heavenward. Then, if we do trip over the curb, we’ll be quick to pick ourselves up and avail ourselves of the sacramental means of gazing upwards again. But, remember, somewhere out there a beer truck is rolling and your name might be on it.

Email Russell LaPlume at

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The May Magnificat

By Brian Kelly

May is here at last. Nature is blossoming with life. “May the sun shine warm upon your face,” as the Irish blessing goes. Easter has come and gone and there is hope in the air. This is the month of Mary, under her title, Mother of God, and she will be crowned all over the world with flowers and song and pageantry. The Church ends the month with the triumphant feast of the Queenship of Mary on the 31st. [This feast has been moved in the new calendar to August 22, which is also the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, while the feast of Our Lady’s Visitation (July 2 in the traditional calendar) has been moved to May 31.]

There are three other months dedicated to Our Lady: August is dedicated to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, September to her Seven Sorrows, and October to the Holy Rosary. But May has a long-standing tradition for being all hers in many Catholic countries. Portugal, for example, has been honoring May as the month of Mary since the thirteenth century.

By the 1700s, however, the May prayers, processions, and crownings became a popular celebration with the Jesuits, who practiced special public devotions at the Gesu, their church in Rome. From there it spread to the whole Church. Pius VII promoted it and Pius IX, in 1859, granted a plenary indulgence to the practice.

Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical on the Sacred Liturgy (Mediator Dei) characterized these devotions as included with “other exercises of piety which although not strictly belonging to the Sacred Liturgy, are nevertheless of special import and dignity, and may be considered in a certain way to be an addition to the liturgical cult: they have been approved and praised over and over again by the Apostolic See and by the Bishops.”

In honor of the feast of the Visitation, May 31, I give you The May Magnificat, a beautiful poem by Father Gerard Manley Hopkins:

May is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why;
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?

Ask of her, that mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?
Growth in every thing

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathizing
With that world of good,
Nature’s motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.

Well, but there was more than this:
Spring’s universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.

John S. Stokes, Jr., writing for Mary’s Garden, gives a good explanation why May is dedicated to Mary:

“The month of May, with its profusion of blooms, was adopted by the Church in the eighteenth century as a celebration of the flowering of Mary’s maidenly spirituality. . . . With its origins in Isaiah’s prophecy of the Virgin birth of the Messiah under the figure of the Blossoming Rod or Root of Jesse, the flower symbolism of Mary was extended by the Church Fathers, and in the liturgy, by applying to her the flower figures of the Sapiential Books: Canticles, Wisdom, Proverbs, and Sirach. . . .

“In the medieval period, the rose was adopted as the flower symbol of the Virgin Birth, as expressed in Dante’s phrase, ‘The Rose wherein the Divine Word was made flesh,’ and depicted in the central rose windows of the great Gothic cathedrals — from which came the Christmas carol, ‘Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming.’ Also, in the medieval period, when monasteries were the centers of horticultural and agricultural knowledge, and with the spread of the Franciscan love of nature, the actual flowers themselves, of the fields, waysides and gardens, came to be seen as symbols of Mary. . . .”

We sing of Our Lady in the beautiful hymn, O Mary We Crown Thee, that she is “the loveliest rose of the vale.” In the Canticle of Canticles, Solomon sings of the “flower of the field, the lily of the valleys, . . . the lily among thorns” (2:1,2). In the King James Bible, “flower of the field” is translated as the “rose of Sharon.” Either way, Our Lady is the “lily among thorns” and the “rose of Sharon,” indeed the “Mystical Rose,” as the Church praises her in the Litany of Loreto.

In the Middle Ages of Christendom, almost every flower had a Marian legend attached to it. The lily, for example, was called “the Madonna Lily.” In Fra Angelico’s fresco of the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel approaches Mary with a lily in his hand. Of the lily, Venerable Bede says that its “white petals [signify] her bodily purity, the golden anthers the glowing light of her soul.”

Another Marian flower is the marigold (Mary’s gold). The faithful in Europe would make garlands out of this flower, which bloomed most brilliantly in early spring, and use them to adorn Our Lady’s altars on Lady’s Day, March 25. There is a tradition that the spice rosemary, taken from the needles of the rosemary bush, received its evergreen-like aroma after Our Lady hung the clothes of the Baby Jesus on its branches during the flight into Egypt. The scientific name for the milk thistle plant is actually carduus marianus, or Mary’s thistle. The cuckoo flower is also called Our Lady’s Smock. Cardamine pratensis, as the plant is called by botanists, is believed to be the fabric used by Our Lady to sew Our Lord’s seamless garment. This garment has been preserved in the Cathedral of Trier in Germany, but it has never been examined by science. In his life of Theresa Neumann, Albert Schimberg notes that the stigmatist affirmed that the relic was indeed the seamless garment of Christ. Finally, there are rosary vines, so called because of their resemblance to the sacramental beads. In fact, the Latin word for a bouquet of roses is rosarius. The word “bead,” incidentally, originally referred to a prayer, and the use we make of this word today came from the perforated prayer balls strung along the rosary line, rather than vice versa.

Other Marian feasts to remember in May are: Our Lady of Fatima, the 13th; Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, also on the 13th; Our Lady Help of Christians and Our Lady of the Way, the 24th; Mediatrix of All Graces, the 31st; and don’t forget to honor Mary on the second Sunday of the month, Mother’s Day. Surely, she will be pleased.

Email Brian Kelly at