“Tunc Iesus”: a pastoral epistle to the clergy

Beloved sons

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” St Matthew 16:24 These words, my sons, are an invitation. An invitation to embark on a transformative journey, to embrace a life of purpose and meaning. Jesus, the embodiment of love and truth, invites us to shed the shackles of our own self-interests and to rise above our own limitations. He beckons us to leave behind the superficial pursuits that consume our days, and to instead focus on nurturing our souls and serving a higher purpose.

It is no easy task, this call to discipleship. It requires us to confront our deepest fears and insecurities, to challenge the status quo, and to let go of the comfortable and familiar. But in doing so, we open ourselves up to a world of boundless possibilities. By denying ourselves, we discover our true potential – the capacity to love unconditionally, to forgive endlessly, and to bring about positive change in our own lives and the lives of those around us.

This week we remember with great fondness and affection those men who were raised within the sacred ministry a year ago to the priesthood within our apostolate for the Church and others whose anniversaries occur at this time. Their decision to accept the sacred ministry was not merely a choice to deepen their commitment to follow Jesus, but a resolute embrace of both their personal crosses and His. Their vocation is not just to be a disciple but to become “alter Christus” – another Christ. In accepting the sacred ministry, they willingly embraced not only the joys and rewards that come with this noble calling, but also the inevitable challenges and sacrifices that lie ahead.

True priesthood is the embodiment of a perpetual act of sacrifice. Just as Our Lord exemplified this selfless devotion, so too must those chosen to be “alter Christus” offer a continuous surrendering of oneself; echoing the kenosis described in Philippians 2:5-9. Just as Christ humbled Himself by divesting His divine nature for the sake of humanity, we too must tirelessly shed our own human desires to fully embrace and manifest His divine essence.

We are called to become “nothing,” just as Christ willingly emptied Himself, as beautifully articulated by St John the Baptist when he proclaimed his own need to decrease for Christ to increase within him, John 3:30. This is to become “in persona Christi” – to identify and understand ourselves in Him, and this means enduring all the pain and suffering that goes with surrendering oneself to the Will of God.

We have a tradition after ordaining new priests, to present them first to their mothers giving them a rose tied with the manutergium just used to bind their freshly consecrated hands, and then to a statue of Our Lady there to sing a Salve. This custom holds deep meaning and purpose – it signifies the presentation of these new priests as devoted sons to Our Lady. They willingly embrace the challenges and sacrifices that are part of their sacred calling, just as Jesus had foretold when He spoke of the “cup” Matthew 20:22 that His Apostles shared. Like Him, these new priests will offer themselves completely in service to God’s Will by participating in His ultimate sacrifice for humanity’s sins: offering not only Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross at every Mass but also surrendering their own lives in selfless service to others.

The priestly role, akin to the sacrificial nature of Our Lady’s call to the children of Fatima, requires a willingness to embrace suffering in service of God’s Will. Just as Sr Lucy, SS. Francisco, and Jacinta were asked to dedicate their lives to God’s purpose despite the hardships it entailed, priests within the Old Roman apostolate understand that a life of sacrifice is expected of them. This commitment to living a life of suffering is an integral part of their vocation, demonstrating their unwavering devotion and alignment with God’s divine plan.

The role of a priest is not just to believe in Christ, but also to embrace the concept of sacrifice and endure suffering for His sake. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). Father Humbert Clérissac OP, a prominent figure during the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, wrote, “that to be truly part of the church one did not only have to suffer for the Church but also at the hands of the church”. This perspective resonates with Old Roman priests and clerics who strive to faithfully serve the Church, yet often face ridicule and scorn despite their unwavering dedication.

The act of self-sacrifice we engage in is the very reason why the priesthood we uphold is legitimate, our calling is sincere, our practices are orthodox, and yet our ministry is often criticized and belittled. Through this enduring hardship, we align ourselves with Christ who was despised and rejected, a man burdened with sorrow and acquainted with grief. This reference to Isaiah 53:3 aptly captures the essence of our commitment to preserving the genuine Catholic priesthood. “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” John 15:20.

As members of the Old Roman apostolate, we do not enjoy the same automatic privileges granted to other members of the clergy. We can relate to the words of St. Paul when he said, “Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (I Corinthians 4:15). These powerful words encapsulate the challenges and hardships that we, as Old Romans, face in our daily lives. Despite the adversity we encounter, we persevere with unwavering determination and a steadfast commitment to our beliefs.

Our unique position as the “offscouring of all things” only strengthens our resolve to uphold our values and serve our communities with integrity and compassion. We recognize that our role may not be celebrated or revered by society at large, but we take pride in our unwavering dedication to our calling. It is through our struggles and sacrifices that we find solace in knowing that we are making a difference, even if it may go unnoticed by the world. As Old Romans, we embrace the challenges that come our way, knowing that our faith and resilience will guide us through any obstacle.

One of the prominent difficulties encountered by Old Romans revolves around the prospect of never attaining acknowledgement from the Church hierarchy. Regrettably, apart from a limited number of instances, most Old Roman ministries are not recognized by the Roman authorities. This underscores the depth of our dedication to the timeless faith and teachings of the Church, we suffer for her sake, but as well at her hands.

We understand the immense disappointment that arises from this matter, especially for the younger clergy who have a clear and undeniable recognition of God’s calling to the priesthood. They have struggled often to realise their vocations, impeded and prevented by those who, it may seem to us, have no understanding of their calling. It is disheartening to witness their dedication and commitment go unrecognized, and to see them not receive the same level of automatic respect and privilege as their fellow priests and counterparts within the institutional Church.

The ramifications of this disparity are far-reaching and often result in unfortunate consequences. One of the most distressing outcomes is the loss of friendships and even familial relationships. It is disheartening to witness the breakdown of these connections due to a lack of understanding regarding the beliefs and values held by those who adhere to traditional Roman practices, especially by those who are fellow Catholics and should have a better appreciation. Yet we do what we do for their benefit, for their salvation, offering the sacrifice of Calvary with our own lesser sacrifices for their sake.

For Old Roman clergy, the journey to priesthood is not merely a vocation; it is a deep and profound commitment to serving God and the community self-sacrificially. Our priests have answered a divine calling that compels them to dedicate their lives to the service of God and neighbour. Yet, despite their obvious unwavering dedication, the length to which they are prepared to sacrifice for the sake of the faith, they find themselves derided and ignored by the institutional Church.

Let us not be deterred by the weight of our crosses, for within that burden lies the strength and resilience we need to navigate the trials and tribulations of life. Jesus, our guiding light, assures us that we do not walk this path alone. With every step, he walks beside us, offering his unwavering support and guidance. Through his example, he shows us the way to live a life rooted in compassion, humility, and unwavering faith. We have great saints to emulate, those who in past times made similar sacrifices in difficult times for the Church. Let us implore their intercession.

My dear sons, I implore you to continue to grasp hold of this profound invitation with unyielding determination. Let us wholeheartedly deny ourselves the fleeting temptations and seeking the superficial adulation of this world and instead, courageously shoulder our individual crosses, as we embark on a path that mirrors the footsteps of Jesus. Through this spiritual journey, not only will we discover the boundless gift of salvation and the promise of eternal life, but we will also unearth the deepest and most authentic expression of our own humanity in union with the mystery of His Incarnation.

Know that I earnestly intercede in prayer for each and every one of you, every day, extending my supplications not only to those individuals upon whom I have personally conferred the grace of holy Orders through the laying on of hands, but to every member of our Old Roman presbyterate. The depth of my devotion and the sincerity of my prayers transcend any boundaries or limitations, encompassing all who are connected to our sacred endeavor.

As I bow my head in prayer, my heart is filled with a profound sense of responsibility to lift each of you up in prayer, seeking divine intervention and guidance for your well-being, prosperity, and fulfillment. With unwavering conviction, I beseech the Holy Trinity to bestow upon you strength, wisdom, and clarity in your endeavors, enabling you to navigate the intricate paths of life with grace and fortitude. Offering you to the sacred, immaculate and most chaste hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

In my fervent prayers, I implore the divine forces, your guardian angels to grant you solace during times of tribulation, offering you solace and comfort amidst the storms that may assail your lives. As at your ordination, I invoke the intercession of the saints to aid you by their supplications and example. May the knowledge of and power of these prayers serve as a beacon of hope, illuminating your path and providing you with the resilience to overcome any obstacles that may stand in your way. May you remember the strength of St Michael and his armies protect you.

It is with unwavering dedication and utmost humility that I commit myself to this sacred duty, interceding on your behalf with fervor and sincerity. May these prayers bring you solace, strength, and success, as you continue to tread upon the path of life with unwavering determination and grace. May these profound supplications bring you solace during moments of turmoil, instilling within you a renewed sense of strength and resilience. Know that we are together in our self-sacrificing and especially connected every time we share in offering the most holy and august sacrifice of the Mass, by Whom, with Whom and in the person of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Oremus pro invicem.


Quatuor Tempora Septembris MMXXIII A.D.

Michaelmas Ordinations 2022

On Saturday, September 24th, HE ✠Jerome of Selsey, ordained to the sacred priesthood in the Traditional Latin Rite broadcast live from the historic Clarissine Church of the Elevation of the Holy Cross in Bratislava, the Revd Dr Adam Sýkora PhD (Karlova) & the Revd Dr Robert Wilson PhD (Cantab).

Dr Sýkora will serve the Old Roman apostolate in Slovakia. A theology doctoral graduate of the Univerzita Karlova, Prague and a Masters degree graduate of the Roman Catholic Faculty of Theology of Cyril and Methodius of Comenius University where he received seminary formation. Dr Sýkora is also a trained psychologist.

Dr Wilson will serve the Old Roman apostolate in the United Kingdom. A theology doctoral graduate of Cambridge University, and a Masters degree graduate of Selwyn College, Dr Wilson is an archivist and librarian at the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, one of the oldest libraries in Europe.

Likewise, in Detroit IL, USA, HE ✠Nioclas of Movilla, ordained to the sacred priesthood via letters dimissorial in the Traditional Latin Rite, the Revd Fr. Stanislaus Guadalupe Ybarra, FMCD (Esteban) of the Littlest Sons of the Sweetest Heart of The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, a religious order under the Congregation of Divine Charity. Fr Stanislaus is a Masters degree graduate of the Catholic University of America, Washington DC and received religious formation in the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary

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Episcopal Visitations 2022

The following are confirmed visitations by the Archbishop of Selsey in 2022.

23.04.22 – 30.04.22Slovenská Republika
Republik Österreich
Wien / Haslau-Maria EllendPilgrimage
09.05.22 – 19.05.22Rzeczpospolita Polska
Hayastani Hanrapetut’yun
Էջմիածնի մայր տաճարConference
Երևան / Տաթևի վանքPilgrimage
06.06.22 – 13.06.22Ellinikí Dimokratía
22.06.22 – 29.06.22République Française
Bordèu / BrageiracPastoral
19.08.22 – 23.08.22República Portuguesa
21.09.22 – 30.09.22Slovenská Republika
Rzeczpospolita Polska
Warszawa / Gora KalwariaPilgrimage

The archbishop provides pastoral episcopal oversight for Old Roman communities throughout Europe, requiring him to travel regularly to provide sacraments reserved to the episcopal order, e.g. Confirmation and Ordination. Usually these trips include pilgrimages, retreats and conferences, and opportunities for disparate Old Romans within a region to gather together.

José Guadalupe Posada

Pentecost Ordinations 2019

On Saturday, June 8th while offering the Divine Liturgy for the Vigil of Pentecost at the Brighton Oratory, UK, ✠Jerome admitted by tonsure into the clerical state Bro. Juniper n/CDC and Dr Robert Wilson. The following day, Pentecost Sunday during Mass, His Grace ordained Bro Juniper and Dr Wilson to the minor orders of Porter and Lector. Both have been ordained to serve the new Oratory mission in formation in Bristol, UK. Bro Juniper is a novice in the Congregation of the Divine Charity, Dr Wilson has a PhD in theology from Cambridge University a librarian formerly of the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth and an assistant at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

Ordinandi… (ii)

Secunda die infra Octavam Dormitionis B.M.V.
[Septa die infra Octavam S. Laurentii]


Ember Days

Ordinands… in my first post I touched on the process of formation, particularly in my own jurisdiction but primarily on the practical academic aspect. As we approach the retreat taking place during September’s Embertide, my thoughts have turned towards the “Scrutinies” which traditionally take place on the Ember Wednesday.

“In promotion to orders a scrutiny or examination of the candidate is to be made according to the warning of the Apostle: “Impose not hands lightly upon any man” (1 Timothy 5:22). That the practice is ancient is testified to by St. Cyprian (who died in 258) in his thirty-eighth epistle. The ninth canon of the Council of Nicæa (325) supposes the scrutiny of candidates to be already in use. Many later synods enforced and defined more exactly this scrutiny of those who aspired to orders. The present discipline is laid down by the Council of Trent (Sess. XXIII, Cap. v, de ref.), though its observance in every detail has not been reduced to practice in all countries. A three-fold scrutiny is ordered: first, through the inquiry into the qualities of the candidates by the parish priest and teachers and by public proclamation in the Church. The information thus obtained is to be embodied in a testimonial letter to the bishop. Secondly, shortly before ordination through the bishop himself and ecclesiastical persons appointed to examine into the morals, faith, and doctrine of the candidates. Thirdly, through the ceremonial form prescribed by the Pontificale Romanum for the ordination of a deacon or priest.” [The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13]

During the Ordination after the chanting of the Litany of the Saints, the Bishop asks the Archdeacon “Scis illo esse dignos?” (Do you know them to be worthy) and in order for that question to be satisfied intelligently and honestly, the Bishop needs to determine the result of the discernment and formation that each candidate has been through. Of course, there isn’t the time to do that during the Ordination service, so the Scrutinies which traditionally take place during the prior week are the opportunity for the Bishop to examine the candidates and himself, make a final determination. By this time he has received the personal, professional and academic references, now with the candidate in person, he establishes the faith, doctrine and morals of the ordinand for himself. Afterall, and this is something regrettably many fail to appreciate the import of, he will answer to God for the men he ordains!

All of this is necessary of course, to establish that each ordinand has both a Divine and Ecclesiastical vocation, i.e. that both God and the Church have called him. The former of course begins the whole process, sometimes with a little coercion from others, but generally an ordinand senses his vocation from God. The latter is the affirmation by the Church of that vocation from God, it involves however a dialogue with the Church, a trying (testing) of vocation through mutual discernment, the Church both encourages the individual to test for himself, as well as for her own purposes too, as it is she who has the care of souls to consider and weigh the suitability of someone who is called. “For many are called, but few are chosen.” [Matt 22:14] Throughout his formation a candidate will have undergone all sorts of “testing” and this will have been observed and directed by various people on behalf of the Bishop – the Rector of Formation, the academic tutors, the retreat chaplains, spiritual directors, pastoral placements, personal references and examining chaplains etc. By the time of the Scrutinies, the Bishop will have heard from all quarters the “sentire cum Ecclesia” (the thoughts and feelings of the Church) and as the person of the Church, deduce the “sensus fidelium” (sense of the faithful) about the ordinand before him; have the majority reached the same conclusion, that he is called to be ordained?

“Vocation to the clerical state is… an act of Divine Providence whereby God selects some above others for His priesthood and prepares them with suitable gifts for the worthy exercise of priestly duties. For this reason, and because this sacrament has been instituted not so much for the recipient as for the common good of the faithful, one who is conscious of a lack of vocation or who has made insufficient inquiry or who is in serious doubt about his vocation is liable to grave sin in approaching the reception of Holy Orders.”

Halligan, The Administration of the Sacraments [1962], 376

Sancta Dei Genitrix, Matrem Sacerdotii, ora pro nobis!


Secunda die infra Octavam Dormitionis B.M.V.
[Septa die infra Octavam S. Laurentii]



Ordinands… My recent posts have been born from my own personal reflections whilst on retreat recently and although they do have a particular audience in mind, they are not meant as “sermons” though they may indeed have that “preachy air” about them!

As I stated in my first post about having been on retreat, my thoughts were and are much occupied with the upcoming ordinations at Michaelmas, especially during this holy season of Assumptiontide and the recalling of Our Lord’s love for Mary, His mother and thus the mother of all priests. So recent content has primarily been with the ordinands in mind concerning the nature of priesthood particularly, and where suitable tying in references form the liturgical year as it passes. Certainly my thinking developed in the writing of them, but being also conscious of an audience not necessarily experienced in theological discipline, I felt a need to explain some points in slightly more detail than I might otherwise have done. This of course, though perhaps making the pieces longer, certainly helped somewhat to train my thoughts in what could be an expansive area!

Some future postings will continue in a similar vein, as I have promised to explore the “spiritual reason why” to explain various rubrical actions in the liturgy i.e. why the priest “does what he does” and what his thoughts and accompanying intentions should be. Of course, much of this sort of thing would be delivered in a conventional seminary formation course such as I experienced. But being a small jurisdiction with a wide geographical remit and only limited resources, a conventional seminary formation isn’t practicable. Our candidates this year are coming from Croatia, Greece as well as the UK and are self-supporting and their time taken up with work, family and academic courses. Neither is it always possible to have that other mode of tutoring, the “training incumbent” as often our clergy are church “planters” or “start-ups” i.e. they will be the parish priest from “go”! So the hope is that my postings will compliment their academic courses and “fill in” the gaps as it were with what academia doesn’t cover… like “how to say Mass” and why!

It’s worth remembering that such a system and circumstance of clerical formation is not unlike that which existed before the Council of Trent, before there were seminaries. In those days priests were taught almost by apprenticeship, some were fortunate to attend the then great Universities and centres of learning, the majority of course were not. Whilst those who attended University certainly received a better and more concentrated theological education, the “priestly craft” was still learnt by apprenticeship, whether by an ordained professor or mentor, or if a religious by a priest of the Order, or like most others, “on the job” in a curacy after graduation.

The nearest experience in those days to what became a seminary formation was found only in monasteries, the enclosed Orders particularly. There in the densely religious atmosphere of the monastery, students for the priesthood had access to some of the best theological libraries and the routine and discipline of the daily hours of prayer of the community, as well as the wisdom of older monks in spiritual learning and insight. Unfortunately, being monasteries, these educated and disciplined clergy were ordained for the particular monastery they lived in and would serve only such faithful as came to the monastery church or went to the churches the monks served sacramentally. Before the Trent reforms, the vast majority of priests were ill-educated academically and only able to offer such services as their apprenticeship and experience had taught them. Saving those from rich enough backgrounds to have enjoyed a University education, but even these were often at the expense of spiritual sciences. Reform was needed!

I have tried both in my time previously as Vicar General and now as Metropolitan to ensure as far as is practically possible to provide what candidates for the priesthood ought to know in order to make them what a priest ought to be within the limit of our resources. Compared to those able to enjoy the benefits of a conventional seminary formation, this often requires an even greater level of commitment, one might even suggest of sacrifice on the part of the candidates. Balancing work and home commitments, family and “a life” on top of discernment, part-time theological studies, spiritual exercises and retreats… it’s a huge demand on a man’s resources both material and spiritual. For a younger candidate the situation isn’t a lot better, often burdened by student debt or a limited earning potential, holding down a job, a place to live and finding the resources to complete discernment, part-time theological studies, spiritual exercises and attend retreats… By comparison “conventional” seminarians have got it made with tuition, board and lodging all thrown in! But I can’t help but wonder if the rarefied environment of such seminaries does produce by comparison the “best” priests?

I’m not trying to suggest that our candidates for the Sacred Ministry are indeed better than those being formed through a conventional seminary process. But considering all that they have to go through I think it certainly proves a man’s resolve and even character. Though the process is less than what might be ultimately desirable, candidates that pass through it are, I would opine, more worldly-wise, more in touch with what passes for “normal” life experienced by most ordinary people and thus able to relate the mysteries of the Faith to the realities of what most people have to contend with trying to be disciples of Christ in the 21st Century.


As far as possible within the limitations of cost and time, they receive an academic theological formation comparable to that received by any seminarian, often earning degrees awarded by the same accredited institutes of Higher Education/Universities as the seminaries themselves. At the very least I expect our candidates to attain the same level of academic formation that Roman Catholic permanent deacons receive, attending the very same courses. Though it is necessary of course to supplement with other courses for sciences that would ideally be in a formation programme but are lacking in most University theological programmes of study.

Hence the need too for retreats in order to provide particularly the spiritual sciences and practical elements of priestly formation, as well as the opportunity for candidates to receive spiritual direction and cultivate the discipline of the Breviary, which I don’t think it can be denied, is always best instilled through a communal rather than private experience of recitation. It’s also an opportunity too to take the candidates away from their normal busy lives and spend sometime in discernment and “being”.

The pre-ordination retreats (for there are two this year running simultaneously) will soon be upon us and naturally, though the candidates have progressed far or have already qualified ref their theological studies, these last couple of months provide the last opportunity to consolidate their knowledge before the final scrutinies and examen prior to ordination. Forgive me then if posts are slightly more biased towards this end than of a more personal nature to me, though I hope to comment on my own experiences too as we go along, when appropriate. Afterall it is an “Episcopal Journal” and it is the office of the bishop to teach, I hope to fulfil some of that sacred obligation through this medium. I hope what I write might still of be interest to a wider audience and certainly I beg your prayers for those to be ordained this coming Michaelmas.

Sancta Dei Genitrix, Matrem Sacerdotii, ora pro nobis!

Sacrificium… (ii)

Quarta die infra Octavam S. Laurentii
Commemoratio: Ss. Hippoliti et Cassiani Martyrum


Yesterday’s reflection ended with the conclusion that the ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant replaces that of the Old Covenant, not to offer ritualistic sacrifices but to offer “the” ultimate atoning Sacrifice of Calvary through the high priesthood of Christ to receive here in our contemporary time, the fruits of His redeeming sacrifice, the Eucharist. It is important to emphasise and remember here that the Church has never suggested that the Mass is a repetition of Calvary – it is not, it is a witnessing again, irrespective of time and place of that same, single, “once only once and once for all” Sacrifice of Calvary. It is a re-presentation, a renewal of the effects, the benefits, the merits, the fruit, of that “one and the same” historical event i.e. the atonement for sin, the restoration of creation and the confection of the Eucharist, the means of eternal life.

The difference between Calvary and the Mass are the external accidentals, i.e. the manner of the oblation of the one and the other “sola offerendi ratione diversa” [Council of Trent]. On the Cross, Christ offered His incarnated physical self, there His blood flowed from His crucified body; on the Altar He offers His death already suffered, but now in an unbloody manner, Christ does not die again on the Altar. Thus the Mass represents this past event i.e. Calvary: but it is one with the sacrifice of the Cross as the victim and the priest are the same i.e Christ, but it is not literally the Crucifixion. The late Bishop Michael Evans wrote, “The word “memorial” is very important in Eucharistic theology, and means far more than simply a recalling or remembering. For the Jews, celebrating a memorial involves evoking the past and reliving it in such a way that a past event is made effective and fruitful here and now.” [Is Jesus really present in the Eucharist?] We needs must be careful with such notions however, to make clear that the efficacy of the Mass itself is not diminished by our concept of “memorial”. The Mass itself is a sacrifice, by which the infinite merits of Christ’s death, gained on the Cross, are applied to souls here-and-now.


The Mass is a literal visible sacrifice, which represents and ‘applies the merits’ of the literal, once-for-all sacrifice of the Cross. In other words, the Mass is itself a sacrificial offering of worship i.e. of adoration, thanksgiving, prayer and expiation by the created to the Creator in fulfilment of the Law “to love God” [Deut. 6:4-5; Levit. 19:18; Matt 22:35–40; Mark 12:28–34; Luke 10:25-28], joined to the commemoration or “showing forth” [1 Cor. 11:26] of the Sacrifice of Christ upon Calvary – the purest offering of adoration, thanksgiving, prayer and atonement by and at the behest of the great high priest who instituted and commanded His Apostles so to do “in mei memóriam faciétis” [Luke 22: 19].  The twofold consecration of the bread and then the wine, “show forth” the physical death of Christ by the separation of His body from His blood shed upon the Cross. Uniting the worship of God to the commemoration of the Cross, manifests the ultimate act of offering to God by humanity [Heb 2:17] as God made-man [Matt. 1:22-23], by God made-man in Christ’s voluntary offering and outpouring of love toward God [Heb 9:12] and neighbour [John 15:13 ditto references to the Greatest Commandment above]. In this way it may be said that the “fulfilment of the Law and of the Prophets” [Matt 5:17] is fulfilled in Christ, by His saving sacrificial act of love (kenosis – self-emptying) on the Cross.

As the Council of Trent defined in its 22nd Session, Canon III: “If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice; or, that it profits him only who receives; and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities; let him be anathema.” 

As noted above, the “ends of the Mass” i.e. the purposes for which it is offered, are to adore God – adoration, to give Him thanks – thanksgiving, to make satisfaction for sin – atonement and to ask for new graces – petition, the ends for which Christ died upon the Cross. Worship, or adoration of course, is a sign of our dependence upon our Creator and His absolute dominion over us, His creatures. It was the effect of Original Sin that repudiated this reliance and subjection of humanity to God; all this has been restored by Christ on the Cross in His ultimate act of adoration and thanksgiving. We experience this restoration of humanity with God through our Baptism and actualise it through our individual receipt of the Eucharist. But of these four purposes of the Mass only two are directly beneficial to the whole Church; the satisfaction for sin and the petition of new graces; it is these that are usually meant as “the fruit” of the Mass.

As an old Manual of Devotion says; Without God’s holy grace we cannot perform one supernatural act, nor conceive one good thought, nor advance one step on the road that leads to life everlasting. “Without me,” says Christ, “you can do nothing.” [John 15:5] And St. Paul adds: “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” [2 Cor 3:5]

Our wants, temporal and eternal, are countless: graces to repent of our many sins; graces to sin no more; graces to live to love and die in His friendship; the grace for final perseverance. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass Jesus obtains all for us. On our Altars, where His death and passion are represented and renewed, Jesus obtains of His father all graces and blessings we need for soul and body. Jesus is the “beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased” [Matt 3:17] and “is heard on account of his own reverence.” [Heb. 5:7] In the Holy Mass, Jesus Himself is our advocate as well as our high priest. He presents our wants and petitions to His Father, and with the petitions His Precious Blood as a price to obtain them. The Church ends every prayer, and asks everything, “through our Lord Jesus Christ,” because of Jesus we have everything. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” [Rom. 8:32] St. Jerome says: “Assuredly the Lord grants all the favours for which we petition Him in the Mass, provided they be suitable to us; and, what is far more admirable, He very often grants us that for which we do not petition Him, provided we place no obstacle to His holy designs.”

So these graces are called the fruit of the Mass and are applied generally in a threefold division:

The General Fruit – that is the benefit for the whole Church – Militant (on earth), Expectant (waiting judgement) and even Triumphant (the blessed saints). This fruit is in union with Our Lord’s self-oblation for all mankind and the celebrant obviously cannot alter or direct it.

The Special Fruit – also called the “ministerial fruit”, that the benefit to those who in any way cooperate in offering the particular Mass; this it is which, in the application of the priest’s intention, is primarily and mainly operative (i.e. for another person).

The Most Special Fruit – that is the personal share of the celebrating priest as being Christ the offerer of the Sacrifice. Though this fruit, being personal to the celebrant, cannot be alienated and applied to others he may apply it for the acquisition of some grace of which he himself stands in need.

Oremus pro invicem!


Tertia die infra Octavam S. Laurentii
Commemoratio: S. Clarae Virginis


Saint Lawrence being ordained deacon by Pope Saint Sixtus II (Blessed Fra Angelico)
Saint Lawrence being ordained (sub)deacon by Pope Saint Sixtus II (Blessed Fra Angelico)

Sacrifice… St Lawrence, whom we celebrate this week with an Octave, gives us another insight ref the incarnational aspect of the priesthood and indeed of the Apostolic sharing of the “bitter cup”.

St Ambrose of Milan says that Lawrence met His Holiness Sixtus II on his way to his execution. “Where are you going, my dear father, without your son? Where are you hurrying off to, holy priest, without your deacon? Before you never mounted the altar of sacrifice without your servant, and now you wish to do it without me?” Of course, Pope Sixtus was not on his way to offer Mass, Lawrence was referring to his execution… Lawrence was expressing the sharing by Sixtus in that “bitter cup” the “cup of salvation”, the “cup of trembling” and the “cup of wrath” [as discussed previously here], the Pope was about to “taste death” literally sharing in the sacrifice of Christ, for Christ by his martyrdom. Depicted in Fra Angelico’s painting is the presentation at Lawrence’s subdiaconal ordination of Pope Sixtus presenting “the cup”, a chalice and paten, signifying the invitation to share through major Orders, the Apostolic ministry and thereby the mystery of Christ’s high priesthood upon the Cross.

So now finally(!) we come to something of a conclusion ref our recent reflections. We’ve discussed something of the nature and character of the priesthood – the first obligation of the priest to be a Christian at prayer, walking daily with God pursuing personal holiness and sanctification, interceding through prayer on behalf of God’s people, most especially the Church through the recitation of the Divine Office. We’ve reflected on the true nature of humanity in the created order, that we are “body, soul and spirit” and that God works through His creation salvifically and that human beings have the potential to “spiritualise the material and materialise the spiritual”, hence the establishment by God and Christ of a ministerial priesthood. Now we come to the purpose of the New Testament ministerial priesthood; the realisation of the fruit of Christ’s redemption, the Eucharist.

It is sometimes suggested that “there is no need for a priesthood” echoing some erroneously believe the sentiments of the author of Hebrews concerning the efficacy of the high priesthood of Christ, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” [Heb 7:26-27] For whilst indeed, the sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross of Calvary does indeed negate the need for regular expiatory sacrifices common under the Old Covenant, even so the ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant exists for another purpose.

The ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant exists to confect and present to us the means by which we receive eternal life. Primarily, it exists to share in and offer the Eucharist, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, by participating in the high priesthood of Christ and making manifest the “flesh and blood of the Son of Man”. [John 6:53-54] “He who hears you, hears me” [Luke 10:16] Our Lord said to the Apostles, the new ministerial priesthood. For Christ makes plain that it is only in the reception of the Eucharist that the promise of eternal life and the redemption of humanity is realised, “Truly, truly, I say to you… He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” By instituting the Apostolic ministry, Christ established the means by which His body and blood would be made available to the faithful. He who became one of us to save us, continues to present Himself in bread and wine through those chosen [John 6:70; John 15:16; John 13:18], consecrated [Acts 1:15-26; Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3] and set apart [Romans 15:16; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Cor. 5:20] to cooperate with Him in fulfilling the promises He made when He walked among us.

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So it is that we understand the ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant to be the physical, material means by which the high priesthood of Christ is effected as in like fashion, it is in the consecrated species of bread and wine that we receive His Body and Blood and thus the fruit of our redemption, the Eucharist. As St John Chrysostom wrote, “We priests are simply the instruments and ministers of the veritable sacrifice. The Lord Himself is He who sanctifies the material gifts offered for the sacrifice, and who makes them a source of sanctification for us.” “When, therefore,” he adds, “you see the sacred minister lifting up to heaven the holy offering, think not that he whom you behold is the real priest; but rising above visible objects, consider the hand of Jesus Christ stretched out invisibly. Through Him everything is done.” [Hom. 60 ad Pop. Antioch] Similarly and more plainly here St John Chrysostom explains the relationship of the contemporary priest and that sharing in the Apostles’ ministry discussed before, “I wish to add something that is plainly awe-inspiring, but do not be astonished or upset. This Sacrifice, no matter who offers it, be it Peter or Paul, is always the same as that which Christ gave His disciples and which priests now offer: The offering of today is in no way inferior to that which Christ offered, because it is not men who sanctify the offering of today; it is the same Christ who sanctified His own. For just as the words which God spoke are the very same as those which the priest now speaks, so too the oblation is the very same.” [“Homilies on the Second Epistle to Timothy,” 2,4, c. 397 A.D.]

So then, the ministerial priesthood exists to make manifest the high priesthood of Christ. “The priest who imitates that which Christ did, truly takes the place of Christ, and offers there in the Church a true and perfect sacrifice to God the Father.” [St. Cyprian wrote to the Ephesians circa 258 A.D.] The earthly and mortal priest becomes the means by which Christ Himself offers Himself as food for the faithful. It is Christ Himself who stands before the Altar, who offers Himself in the person of the priest to God, His father as the perfect victim for the propitiation of sin; Who breathes eternal life into the species of bread and wine at the words of consecration, transforming them “This is MY Body”, “This is MY Blood”; that same “logos”, that same “ruach” that breathed life into creation [Gen 1:2; John 1:1], that breathed life into man [Isa 42:5; Ezek 37:5 Job 33:4].

Thus, as St Ambrose says, “Jesus Christ is your inheritance, O ye ministers of the Lord. Jesus Christ is your sole domain. His Name is your wealth. His Name your income. His Name constitutes your stipend, a stipend not of money but of grace. Your heritage is not dried up by heat, nor devastated by storms. The sun shall not burn thee by day, neither the moon by night. Keep then the portion which you have chosen, for it is the good portion, which the possessions of the world cannot equal.”

Sancti Laurentii, ora pro nobis!

Dies non…

S. Oswaldi, Regis et Mart.
Commemoratio: In Vigilia S. Laurentii Martyris
et S. Romano, Martyre


A day off today in honour of the OSJV’s patronal yesterday and an opportunity to gather and summarise the thoughts of the last few days postings…

Day 1

  • The invitation by Christ to the Apostles through the bishop, to share in His “cup of suffering” is extended to the priest at his ordination;
  • The “cup of suffering” is an invitation to share in Christ’s suffering in a unique way to the Apostles and those who succeed them in their ministry;
  • It is regrettable that so many think of the priesthood as the sole or ultimate expression of all the various ministries, rather than a particular vocation, a particular ministry;

Day 2

  • The first duty of the priest is to pray; to walk with God, to become holy;
  • The ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant is like to but replaces the Old Covenant ministerial priesthood and Christ’s atoning Sacrifice on the Cross replaces the high priesthood;
  • The fruit of Christ’s redemption is eternal life, we are promised eternal life through the Eucharist;
  • God works through His creation like “Emmanuel” to effect salvation, the ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant is necessary to effect our salvation manifesting in our reality the high priesthood of Christ to confect the Eucharist;

Day 3

  • St John Vianney’s teaching conveys the incarnational aspect of the ministerial priesthood;
  • We need to understand our true humanity to know how the ministerial priesthood can cooperate in Christ’s high priesthood;
  • We are “body, soul and spirit”… St John Vianney’s spiritual direction demonstrates this in pastoral application;
  • Confusion is prevalent in the Church today concerning the difference between “body, soul and spirit” considering the last two to be interchangeable or one and the same thing;
  • Vocations are compromised both priestly and otherwise due to this confusion of “soul” for “spirit”.

To be continued…

Sancti Oswaldi, ora pro nobis

Cogitationes meas… (iv)

S. Ioannis Mariæ Vianney



Today is a very special feast day for me as it is the Patronal Feast of the Oratory of St John Vianney, the priestly fraternity that I belong to. It seems wholly appropriate then to continue reflecting on the priesthood as we have these past few days.

I ended yesterday by remarking how St John Vianney was an “exemplar” of the priestly vocation. Reading the life of the Curé d’Ars (as he is also known) we notice immediately his dedication to God, like Enoch he “walked with God” on a daily basis. Like Enoch he was surrounded by sinful people, yet he obeyed and trusted in God, “… he kept clear of sin, when sinful ways were easy…” [cf Sirach 31:8-11] and he achieved great things thereby, the salvation of those he served. The teachings of St John Vianney also beautifully convey the incarnational aspect of the ministerial priesthood, “If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place.” By that he means that the priest – made in the image and likeness of God unlike the angel, is also the mediator between God and Man and again unlike the angel, has the ability to present God incarnate in the holy Eucharist. “See the power of the priest; out of a piece of bread the word of a priest makes a God. It is more than creating the world.” For those thinking this is “blasphemous” understand that a more humble man you could not have met than the Curé and allow me to explain further what he means…

I remarked to someone once expressing this incarnational teaching of the Curé another way, “If you had the choice, if the Curé himself were to appear here and I were here to hear your confession, who would you go to?” The reply, “The Curé!” “Ah,” I replied, “but the Curé would not be able to give you absolution.” Back came the stunned response, “Why not?” “Because he is dead. I am alive!” Despite all the holiness of the Curé, despite the fact that he is a Saint, he would be unable to impart God’s absolution because he is not alive! Only in this physical existence can the promise of God’s absolution promised through the Apostolic ministry [cf John 20:19-23] be realised. This simple truth is the same even for us to receive the ultimate benefit of our salvation eternal life, i.e. the Eucharist, for only “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” [cf John 6:53-54] St John Vianney again, “When the priest remits sins, he does not say, “God pardons you”; he says, “I absolve you.” At the Consecration, he does not say, “This is the Body of Our Lord;” he says, “This is My Body.”

As we noted yesterday, God works through His creation to restore it, hence why God became Man in Christ. In like fashion then, the high priesthood of Christ works through the ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant, just as under the Old Covenant the means of atonement worked through the ministerial priesthood of the Sons of Levi. The difference is, that whereas before the priesthood was patrilineal i.e. descended from a particular tribe of the chosen people of Israel, the sons of Aaron in the tribe of Levi [cf Exodus 28:1-4; Numbers 25:13], now the priesthood is called out of those who have been freed from sin, who have become by adoption “children of God” [John 1:12, 13] and have been “chosen” [John 15:16].

Obviously, as before, the stewards of God’s mysteries must themselves strive after holiness, hence the first obligation to pray – to achieve personal sanctity by walking with God, by living out a relationship with Him, by discerning His will and by offering intercession for those He loves. But how is this possible for mere men? Here we must understand our own place in the created order. Remember that we are made in the “image and likeness of God” [cf Genesis 1:26, 27], what does this mean?

In Genesis 2:7 “Jehovah God formed man with the dust of the ground.” With this act, God created man’s body. The verse continues, “And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” “Breath” is derived from the Hebrew word neshamah which, significantly, is translated “spirit” in Proverbs 20:27: “The spirit [neshamah] of man is the lamp of Jehovah.” We can thus infer, that God’s breathing into man the breath of life produced man’s spirit. Zechariah 12:1 corroborates the creation of man’s spirit by telling us that just as Jehovah stretched forth the heavens and laid the foundation of the earth, He also formed the spirit of man within him. Genesis 2:7 concludes “And man became a living soul.” The soul (man’s intrinsic person) was the issue of the breath of God entering into the nostrils of the body of dust. The biblical record of the three-step creation of man clearly reveals him to be tripartite. Hebrews 4:12 “The word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow.” 

Paul similarly describes that which makes us human, “I pray to God that your whole spirit and soul and body may be made blameless until the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Thess 5:23] Here The “spirit” is the highest part of man, that which assimilates him to God; renders him capable of religion, and susceptible of being acted upon by the Spirit of God. The “soul” is the inferior part of his mental nature, the seat of the passions and desires, of the natural propensities. The “body” is the corporeal frame. In other words, we are made up of our physical bodies, our soul (psyche) is what interprets our sense sensations experienced by our bodies and our spirit is that which makes us alive and aware and enables us to rationalise above our senses; the spirit is what makes us of God who is Spirit. Essentially then we are “tripartite” beings i.e. spirit, soul, and body in order to enable us to contact and live within the spiritual, psychological and physical realms, respectively.

Firstly, with his human spirit, man can worship God, serve God, and know God intuitively. Second, the soul is that part which forms the personality of man and enables him to contact and function within the psychological realm. Finally, the physical body with its five senses enables man to relate to and communicate with the physical world. In our own time “soul” and “spirit” have become regarded as interchangeable, understandable in the sense that neither seem sense perceptible or rather physically experiential. But the fact that we are able to interpret what we experience through our senses betrays our soul, we might call it our “mind”, our “will”. But our spiritual intellect enables us to rationalise above our sense experience, our spiritual intuition has the capacity to know and discern apart from human reason or circumstantial experience.

With regard then to the possibility of men acting as mediators between God and men, between heaven and earth? Let us recall St John Vianney’s point above. Unlike the angels who are only spiritual beings, and animals who are only physical beings, the unique tripartite nature of man enables him to experience both spiritual and material things. Not only that, but man can effect and affect both spiritual and material things, he is imago mundi a microcosm of the universe itself, a mini-model of creation and god-like; the only other being in the universe able to manipulate the spiritual and the material world is, God. Man can spiritualise the material and materialise the spiritual. He is in every way a mediator.

If we recall the observation that St John Vianney could “read into men’s souls” we might understand that he could intuitively understand another person’s passions and lusts, he recognised the predilections that were preventing them from developing their spiritual intellect and he became famous for accurate diagnosis betrayed by the penances and spiritual direction that he gave those who sought him out (20’000 pilgrims per annum by the time of his death). Here the Curé demonstrates what can be achieved by a man completely self-aware to all that he is as God created him. Who pursues holiness of life by walking daily with God, a man of prayer uniting his will with God’s in the discernment of God’s will and purpose for his life. A man who can be truly a mediator between God and men, communicating with both and enabling the latter to realise for themselves all that God desires them to be. “The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you.” Curé d’Ars

I remarked before how the priesthood is in danger from the process of emasculation that is currently prevalent in all areas of the Church. Through the contemporary mindset that confuses soul and spirit as one and interchangeable, humanity is losing sight and realisation of itself. “Me, myself and I” the motto of the ego is left to interpret everything subjectively, employing only the bodily senses to make sense of the world, regarding only physical empirical evidence as “proof”. The spirit is still visible though, the realisation of spiritual intellect is still discernible in forms of art, music, painting and even in science and technology, in the materialisation of ideas onto paper into buildings and physical structures… but no more is this recognised as “of the spirit” but simply of the “soul” driven by passions and lusts and sensuality. Even higher aspirations such as “equality” are driven by the selfish desire of souls wanting to give freedom to the expression of their passions, which is why objective reason and debate are no more and subjective reasoning and impassioned belligerency are the modus operandi of campaigners.

Within the Church itself, this confusion has resulted in a situation where few are properly catechised and have been left to the “whims and fancies” of new doctrines derived from secular ideologies and principles that are in fact fundamentally at odds with the very nature of the created order itself. As Paul prophesied, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” [2 Tim 4:3-4] Through the general propensity of contemporary theologians jettisoning the wisdom of past ages to replace it with their own subjective hypothesises attempting to blend the Gospel with the fast-paced Zeitgeist of the secular world, Christianity itself is losing sight of the true reality of the created order. Ironically, in an attempt to appeal to the souls of men, they have compromised the awareness of spiritual intellect! As a result the same is true of spiritual directors, theology schools and most of the institutions responsible for the formation of priests.

To concludes today’s reflection, a sage quote from the Curé, “When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.” Sadly, in part deliberately, in part through ignorance, the contemporary Church is realising this end as people forget what their own true nature is about, so vocations of all kinds are impoverished and the priesthood affected… (more soon…)

Sancti Ioannis Mariae Vianney, ora pro nobis!