saint_stan_sgs_easter_3_closeWelcome to the new webpage of the Saint Gregory Society.

Our Society sponsors the Traditional Latin Mass in New Haven, Connecticut, each Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at Saint Stanislaus Church (State and Eld Streets).

Sermon: The Good Shepherd

Sermon on The Good Shepherd (John 10:11-16)
given by Fr. Dennis Kolinski, SJC
St. Stanislaus Church in New Haven, CT
The Second Sunday after Easter, 14 April 2013

The readings, which we hear every Sunday during Mass come from a different time and different culture, but they, nonetheless, tell us about things, which are still current. Perhaps, the context is different, but human nature has not changed. Listening to the Holy Scriptures we should see not only prophets and apostles, Jews and Greeks but also ourselves. Sometimes we see the connection right away but sometimes it isn’t as readily apparent. But the words of Scripture are words, which should always speak directly to us.

For instance, in today’s gospel from St. John Christ calls Himself the Good Shepherd and us His sheep. “I am the Good Shepherd; a good shepherd is ready to lay down his life for his sheep. … I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own and my own know me. … they will heed my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”1 And in his first epistle St. Peter, the head shepherd of the Church after Christ’s Ascension into heaven, continued the same analogy that his Master used, writing, “For you were once like straying sheep, but now you have turned back to the Shepherd who watches over your souls.”2

Christ spoke about us this way because we are really very similar to sheep, which are very helpless animals. They need a sheepherder to constantly lead them to water and to pasture. Sometimes they wander far away from the flock and get lost. They can’t defend themselves. They can’t quite seem to make it on their own and are reliant on the shepherd for so many aspects of their existence. This doesn’t present a very flattering picture of how we are, but nonetheless, when we rely only on ourselves we are really very similar to sheep—helpless in many everyday matters and sometimes just plain stupid in some of the things that we do. We are constantly getting lost in the matters of this world and our earthly shepherds, who are acting in the name of the Supreme Shepherd, lead us back on the right road time and time again—just like sheep.

Christ remains the One True Shepherd of our souls, as both St. John and St. Peter wrote, but He knew that we would still need visible shepherds on this earth and that’s why He appointed other shepherds to act in His name, to take His place here on earth after He ascended to His Father in heaven. He left behind priests and bishops, who are called “pastors” from the Latin word for “shepherd.” And above all, He entrusted His sheep in a special way to the pope as His chief shepherd on earth.

There are those, however, who find themselves being led, not by the Good Shepherd and His appointed co-workers, but as St. John writes, by a “hired man,” who allows the wolf to ravage the flock and scatter the sheep, “for the hired man is not their shepherd and they are not his sheep.”3 The hired man is a false shepherd and the wolf that ravages the flock is the Devil.

We unfortunately have many false shepherds today and many of the sheep are being scattered. These false shepherds often imitate the voice of the True Shepherd and this is what makes them so dangerous. They fool the sheep into thinking that they are safe with them, but they actually lead them outside of the sheepfold, where they are left unprotected from attacks by the wolf. How many Catholics have been led astray by faulty or watered-down teachings? Many of them have believed their shepherds in good faith, just like sheep, not realizing that they have been led out of the fold.

And how many traditional Catholics have also been led astray because of those, who look like a true shepherd, or sound like a true shepherd, or act like a true shepherd, but are really only false shepherds, who are acting, not on the authority of the One True Shepherd, but only on their own authority? Beware! Just because it look right doesn’t mean that you are safe from false shepherds, who have also led many of Christ’s sheep astray under the pretext of tradition and orthodoxy.

Those, who have been seduced by false shepherds, find themselves outside of the sheepfold, no longer protected by the walls of the enclosure, which help guard against the attacks of the wolf. We have only one true shepherd here on earth that legitimately acts in the name of the Good Shepherd and that is Peter. And where Peter is, there is the Church. Whoever is not solidly with Peter is only a false shepherd, who “has no concern for the sheep.”4And if you aren’t solidly with Peter, then you’re acting like a Protestant, who is merely a sheep shepherding himself.

There will always be those, who don’t want to listen to the True Shepherd and lose their way. Modern man doesn’t like to think that he needs someone else’s guidance, much less someone to lead him. Modern man thinks that he is intelligent enough to decide for himself what is right. He doesn’t want to be shepherded and feels that he can lead himself. Wandering about thinking that he can shepherd himself and make his own decisions he may run into someone, who suits his own needs, thinking that this is a true shepherd. But before he knows it, he has wandered so far away from the flock that he can’t find his way back. This is precisely why Christ called us sheep and that’s why He said that we need a shepherd.

If we don’t find ourselves firmly within the sheepfold of the Church under its chief shepherd, our enemy, whose name is Satan, will sneak in and steal our souls. Because if we aren’t listening to the voice of the one, whom Christ left here to tend His flock in His place, then we are not listening to Christ. We must always be sure that we are the sheep, who listen to the Good Shepherd and follow Him, for if we aren’t we will we find out only too late that we have become the goats, who were separated from the sheep because they listened to the voice of another shepherd.

Christ called us His sheep and said that He is the Good Shepherd, who is ready to lay down His life for His sheep. He said, “I know my own and my own know me.”5 His sheep recognize His voice and follow Him. “For you were once like straying sheep, but now you have turned back to the Shepherd who watches over your souls.”6 Let us always make sure that we remain within His flock. Let us always make sure that it is His voice that we are following, for then “there will be one flock and one shepherd.”7

1 John 10:11-16.
2 1 Peter 2:25.
3 John 10:12.
4 John 10:13.
5 John 10:14.
6 1 Peter 2:25.
7 John 10:16.

Sermon: Summorum Pontificum

Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost 2007
Mass of Thanksgiving for Pope Benedict and the Motu Proprio
July 15, 2007
Rev. Richard G. Cipolla

It would be churlish and pedantic to point out that Mass of Thanksgiving is redundant since the Mass is essentially a thanksgiving for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a thanksgiving that is not merely an action of those giving thanks but also, and more importantly and essentially a thanksgiving that makes present the very act for which we give thanks, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for the sins of the world. But to be a churl and pedant on this day of joy is impossible. There is no need here to rehearse the contents of the Motu Proprio and the letter to the bishops from the Pope that accompanied the major document. There certainly is need to do so in 99% of our parishes, in order to puncture the culture of ignorance that has grown up in the Church these past forty years. But not here and not now. And this not only because all who gather here for this Mass love the traditional Roman Mass and after September 14 will love the extraordinary use of the Roman rite. But also because this is the goal for which the St. Gregory Society worked for, many times not even daring to hope that something like this might happen, for years working to keep alive something precious, something important, something fundamental, the basic treasure of the Church that was in danger of being forgotten, and forgetting of a basic treasure is a sin.

It is important to place the Motu Proprio in its context. The context is not primarily the return of the estranged members of the Society of St Pius X. The context is not to satisfy the poor old souls who clung to the old form and could never quite give themselves over to the new order. The context is the good of the Church. Whatever the spin given by the secular media and the Church media, the context is the good of the Church. (As the Holy Father wrote in his letter accompanying the Motu Proprio: “It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church.”)

But I would also suggest that the context is the reform of the Church, and specifically the Benedictine reform of the Church. Can it be an accident that the feast of St. Benedict on Wednesday fell in the middle of the octave of the promulgation of the MP? I think not. For this Pope chose his name as Pope for reasons that are very clear: just as St. Benedict and the monastic movement became the foundation for Catholic and Western culture, so too the Pope named Benedict is determined to lead the reform that will become the basis of the reflowering of the Catholic faith as an integral part of western culture and therefore will result in the reform of that culture itself.

The first sign, or salvo, of the Benedictine reform was the Regensburg speech. The integral relationship between faith and reason, and between philosophy and theology, was enunciated clearly and cogently. The disastrous divide between faith and reason, and between philosophy and theology, has had terrible consequences for not only Catholicism but for Christianity itself, yea, even for the very concept of faith, which has been reduced in so many places to something individualistic, irrational, emotional and unreal. The Pope’s words: “The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur—this is the program with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time.”

The second salvo was the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum removing the shackles imposed by the ungenerosity of many bishops on the traditional Roman rite, admitting that the 1962 Missal was never abrogated, and encouraging priests anywhere at anytime to celebrate this Mass. Free at last, free at last. The third salvo was sounded just a few days ago with the publication of the Response from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that re-iterated what the declaration Dominus Jesus said seven years ago but in a way that all may clearly understand what the Catholic Church teaches about her own self-identity as the true Church of Christ, never denying the presence of grace outside the Church, but always affirming the historical and doctrinal truth of the self-understanding of the Catholic Church as “the one Church of Christ.” Far from being un-ecumenical as some comments have claimed, this document dares to be honest, and there can be no progress in ecumenism without honesty and clarity.

I have no doubt that these three documents are just the beginning of what will become known as the Benedictine reform, joining those other great reforms of the Church, especially the two Gregorian reforms and the Tridentine reform, all of which are evidence of the vitality of the ecclesia semper reformanda. But today we want to concentrate on the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, that is the magna carta of contemporary liturgical reform. But like all such documents that give freedoms which make reform possible, they cannot bring about the reform itself. That always depends on people taking this freedom and using it and doing what has to be done, all for the good of the Church. Just as the freedom bought by Christ on the Cross has no meaning unless it is appropriated in faith, so too the freedom of the Motu Proprio has no meaning unless it is carried out by the Church faithful: the bishops, priests, religious, and especially the men and women who are the backbone of the Church, the laity.

There will be those traditionally minded Catholics who will find it very difficult to give up the bunker mentality of the past forty years. They have become so used to thinking of themselves as beleaguered, persecuted and the object of scorn; they have become so used to thinking about bishops and most priests as the enemy who could crush them if they tried to come out into the light of day; they have for so long a time feared to even hope for the restoration of the classical Roman rite; all of this bunker mentality attitude. This must be shed, for if it is not, that freedom to do what has to be done given in the Motu Proprio will lie fallow. There must be bridge-building, especially with the bishops. There must be a generous willingness to participate fully in the implementation of the real restoration of the classical Roman rite within and for the whole Church. The open hearts asked for by the Holy Father must be seen and encountered in those of us who love this Mass and know its great value for the whole Church of the future.

This means that organizations like the St Gregory Society must re-evaluate their role and their priorities. The courage and patience and fortitude grounded in love that has borne fruit in the Motu Proprio must now be channeled no longer to just maintain the presence of the classical Roman rite but rather to its implementation in the whole Church and the fruits of that implementation that will be the reform of the liturgy.

This also means that those priests, especially the young priests, who recognize the beauty and truth and goodness of the classical Roman rite, must display prudent courage in their own parishes, in seeing that the use of this rite spreads to the whole Church. This is not a time for waffling, it is not a time for wait and see which way the wind is blowing before I move attitude, this is not a time for assessing one’s clerical career. When the truth, goodness and beauty is shown to you in your face, as it were, you must respond with all that you have for the good of the Church. Always, always with prudence and love.

And this means that the laity who know and understand how important the presence of the classical Roman rite is to the future of the Church must abandon the friendly idol of convenience and sentimentality and take on the burden of sacrifice, a burden that is in fact easy and light.

I close with words from that sermon that inspired this sermon, a sermon preached 150 years ago in England to a group of clergy about to enter into a new time for the Church. The sermon is The Second Spring. The writer is one of the men to whom I owe my own conversion to Catholicism, John Henry Newman.

“And there on that high spot, far from the haunts of men, yet in the very center of the island, a large edifice, or rather pile of edifices, appears with many fronts and courts, and long cloisters and corridors, and story upon story. And there it rises, under the invocation of the same sweet and powerful name which has been our strength and consolation in the Valley. I look more attentively at that building, and I see that it is fashioned upon that ancient style of art which brings back the past, which had seemed to be perishing from off the face of the earth, or to be preserved only as a curiosity, or to be imitated only as a fancy. I listen, and I hear the sound of voices, grave and musical, renewing in old chant, with which Augustine greeted Ethelbert in the free air upon the Kentish strand. It comes from a long procession, and it winds along the cloisters. Priests and religious, theologians from the schools, and canons from the cathedral, walk in due precedence…and at last I see a Prince of the Church, in the royal dye of empire and of martyrdom, a pledge to us from Rome of Rome’s unwearied love, a token that that goodly company is firm in Apostolic faith and hope. And the shadow of the saints is there;–St Benedict is there, speaking to us by the voice of bishop and priest, and counting over the long ages through which he has prayed and studied and labored; there too is St. Dominic’s white wool, which no blemish can impair, no stain dim; and if St Bernard be not there, it is only that his absence may make him remembered more……And so that high company moves on into the holy place; and there, with august rite and awful sacrifice, inaugurates the great act which brings it thither….

“The world grows old, but the Church is ever young. Arise, make haste, my love…for now the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land…Arise, Mary…Arise, Mother of God! Shine on us, dear Lady with thy bright countenance….till our year is one perpetual May. From thy sweet eyes, from thy pure smile, from thy majestic bow, let ten thousand influences rain down, not to confound, not to overwhelm, but to persuade.. O Mary, my hope, O Mother undefiled, fulfill to us the promise of this Spring.”

Sermon: 20th Anniversary Mass

20th anniversary Mass of the Saint Gregory Society
November 12, 2006
Rev. Richard G. Cipolla

Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam. Those words resonate with me in so many ways, so many times, places. You will forgive me if on this occasion I put aside at least some objectivity, if I indulge, if only for this Sunday, in a more existentialist perspective in the delivery of this sermon. One of my students came into my office last week, having just seen an impressive film in his European history class about Martin Luther. He is intelligent, moral, and takes Latin (the latter nearly equal to being moral!). He proceeded, on the basis of the film, which had its biases, to rip apart the Catholic Church, corruption, bad popes who had children, priests living in sin, failure to preach the Gospel, and much more. We have all heard this view of history, which despite the biases, has some basis in reality. In response, I tried to explain the significance of the Tu es Petrus saying in the Gospel of Matthew; but he would have none of it, because to him it was obvious—that is, someone had told him—that Jesus was not referring to Peter but to the rock which is the Church in some idealistic sense. So all I could do was to tell him how and when I understood this passage. I was in Rome for the first time in my life in the summer after my first year at the Yale Divinity School. I shall not tell you, for it has nothing to do with a Christian sermon, about my discovery on that occasion of my Italian heritage. Nor shall I tell you about the beginning of my love affair with the baroque in the church of St. Andrea al Quirinale. But I shall tell you what I told this young man, for it has to do with my discovery of the Catholic faith. I went into St. Peter’s and stood under the dome and read those words: Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram. And I looked to the confessio where lie the bones of St. Peter, and I looked again at the words in the dome, and I understood, and from that understanding I have never turned back.

And neither did Gregory the Great. If I were to be elected Pope, I have no doubt as to what name I would choose: Gregory. For two of my greatest heroes of the Church both bear the name Gregory: Gregory the Great and Gregory the VII. And they are my heroes because they both understood what the words Tu es Petrus mean in the most existential yet in the most objective way. Let us not quibble about understandings about jurisdiction, decretals, or Gregorian chant. Both of these men knew who they were and what they must do. They both knew the terribly earthen vessels they were, and yet pressed on with their reforms, for they were both reformers in the truest sense, not puritans or reactionaries but true reformers. What is a true reformer? And its attendant question: what is a true reformation? We all think we know what reformer and reformation mean, but if we look deep into the roots of these words we see something that surprises us. What is a true reformer: he is the one who recalls forma, he is the one who recalls beauty, he is the one who recalls the forma Ecclesiae, who recalls the Ecclesia Formosa—whose beauty is a reflection of the beauty of God in Jesus Christ—back to who she is, the bride of Christ, the locus of salvation, the meeting of heaven and earth. For the Christian, beauty finds its source in the beauty of God, whose love is the source of beauty. It is the Christian who looks upon the crucifix and there sees sheer and utter beauty. And it is in this sense that Dostoyevsky’s Idiot is absolutely right: beauty will save the world.

And it is the Mass that is the recollection of beauty, of the beauty of God. Recollection is a strange English word. To gather together again, to bring together in the mind, to remember. And yet much more than this. But to not remember, to refuse to remember: this is sin in the deepest sense. Forgive my classical allusions today, but I know many of you share my love of the classics. I teach both Catullus and Cicero. Catullus and Cicero were certainly, although contemporaries, quite different men. Yet both took friendship ultimately seriously. Both agreed on one thing: to be immemor, to be forgetful of one’s obligations to one’s friends, was a terrible sin. To forget on purpose the bond that joins two friends who have agreed to enter into this relationship: that is the unforgivable sin. The sin of being immemor is taken to tragic and lofty heights by Vergil in the Aeneid. When Aeneas forgets on purpose who he is, that is to say, what he must do, what his destiny is, he is recalled in a terrifying way to do what he must do. And thus, for the Western hero, for the pre-Christian hero, to forget in a deliberate way who one is by forgetting what one must do—this is sin. Adam and Eve forgot deliberately who they were and what that meant. And they sinned. When Israel forgot who she was, the chosen people of God, she sinned. And then comes that moment in which the sin of being immemor is made forgivable by a gesture, by a word: “Do this in memory of me.” Memory and its pollution by sin is purified by the breaking of bread and the drinking of a cup of wine by God in the flesh: anamnesis makes memory the vehicle of God, the calling forth of God: the bell rings, the host is held on high, the people sigh, and God is with his people. Past becomes present: the unreality of the future is guaranteed and made real by this presence, the presence of God.

The latest issue of First Things, a periodical of religion and politics, has an article on the revival of patristic thought in the contemporary Church. Whether this revival is real or not is a subject of debate. But the article begins with an allusion to one of my favorite pieces of literature: the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis. The third book is Prince Caspian. The prince is fighting a battle against the evil forces led by his wicked uncle, and the prince’s troops are losing. In desperation the prince blows on a magical horn that is able to summon the heroes of the past to come to the rescue of those in the present. The Prince sounds the horn and the kings and queens of the past come back and with great courage and fortitude lead the charge and win the battle. But here and really. Not nostalgia, not memory. But anamnesis. The horn sounds not to summon imaginary heroes from the past to fight battles of the present. The horn sounds, the bell sounds, the silence sounds, to summon the power and person of God himself to be present in and defend and make fruitful the Church, his Body, et portae inferi contra eam non praevalebunt.

Twenty years is a long time and a very short time. The Saint Gregory Society exists not to wallow in nostalgia. Not to exult in some sort of gorgeous Wagnerian glorification of the past and therefore the present. Not to preserve Gregorian chant and Lassus as a wonderful and beautiful art form, which both are. Not to wall its members off from the crass and vulgar and chillingly secular and anti-religious aspects of contemporary society. But rather, with the explicit support of Pope Benedict XVI, to refuse to be immemor, to refuse to pretend that the post-Vatican II liturgy, despite its validity and source of grace, is continuous with the traditional Roman rite, to refuse to reduce anamnesis to the memory of the present community: but more importantly to take on the task which is the task of the Cross: to bear the burden of Christ whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light; to continue to offer the Holy Sacrifice with dignity, reverence and faith, and to witness to the Church and to the world, by the beauty of the Mass and the holiness of its members, the reality of the truth, goodness, and beauty of God. You who come here for the first time and experience the depth of Catholic worship which unites us beyond time and space with the dead and with the saints in heaven; you who come here occasionally when your schedule permits. Go home and consider whether what we do here and in my own parish of St. Mary in Stamford in the offering of the traditional Mass is important for the Church and important for you as Catholics. If what we do is important then it deserves the active support of those who understand what is at stake—not merely time and financial support but bodily support, being present here to worship God in this timeless rite. It is certainly easier to pop into one’s parish church and sit through the Novus Ordo Mass and, knowing that that frail garment is a source of grace, to receive Holy Communion and go home and suppress the feeling that there is something missing, something wrong. We are a people whose lives are based on convenience. And not only is this Mass not convenient to come to: the odd hour, the sketchy neighborhood, the peeling paint of the church: this rite itself is not convenient, for it demands that you give yourself, you lose yourself, you allow yourself to be swept up into the re-presentation ofCalvary; it demands that you use silence, holy silence, to go where words cannot go; it demands that you participate deeply in the act, participatio actuosa, rather than persisting with the kind of “active participation” which belongs at a school assembly. To come here requires sacrifice, but that’s what it is all about anyway.

Today we ask for the intercession of Saint Gregory the Great, that he may give us all the courage and strength and hope and joy to recall the Church to liturgical reform—not to bring something back from the past, but to recall the Church to its essence in the beauty of Christ as seen and experienced in the traditional Roman rite. Sancte Gregori, ora pro nobis.

[This sermon was kindly made available by Fr. Cipolla for the benefit of the members of the Saint Gregory Society. It has been lightly edited, but I trust in such a way that it has retained all of its original character, not to mention all of its original relevance. – Richard Dobbins]