Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cold Frames: A Welcome Head Start

We've broken out of the long winter and extraordinarily cool spring here in southwestern Wisconsin. But I'm telling you, it's still remarkably cool around here for this time of year (global warming meets the new Ice Age?) It has been a great year to have a cold frame or two, to get a jump start on the garden.

I have not made as extensive use of my cold frames as I would like, but this year I did sock in a planting of salad greens early this spring and we are loving those right now.

Cold frames are easy to make. I make the tops of mine out of old patio doors, not window sashes. Lots of people use old windows, which are certainly in greater supply than the patio doors with blown seals that I hawk out at the town dump. But I have had a couple of windows shatter in the garden (both from maurauding goats and from my own carelessness) and it is no fun at all to pick all those tiny shards glass out of your soil. Patio doors are made from very heavy tempered glass, so they are much more sturdy.

The frame itself is just made from regular untreated 2 x 10s. A tip I got from market gardener and author Eliot Coleman is to tack a 2 x 2 strip around the whole bottom of the frame. This is what sits in contact with the soil and when it rots away you can just replace that strip, without messing up the whole frame (you don't really want the nasty chemicals that they use in pressure treated lumber in contact with your garden soil, so use untreated wood for a cold frame.)

Once you have a nice stand of salad greens that no longer need protection from the cold, you can move the cold frame to another spot on the garden and use it to start your warm weather plants like tomatos, peppers, etc. Yes, I'm running a little late this year, but I think I still have time for these late starts to bear in late summer and I'm just too cheap to buy plants from a greenhouse. Obviously I need to leave the cold frame open during the sunny days now, or the poor plants would cook. But I close it up on very cloudy days and at night and its 7 - 10 degree overnight temperature boost is welcome in such a cool year.

Later this summer I will start a batch of salad greens in one cold frame and a batch of carrots in another to extend our fresh eating well into the early winter.

Let Every Knee Bend

Several friends sent me notices about wonderful news concerning the recent Mass at which the Holy Father distributed Holy Communion exclusively to recipients who knelt and received on the tongue (the photo at right is the First Holy Communion at our own Latin Mass apostolate this past Sunday):

They knew I would be interested in this development not just in a general way, as yet another move by the Holy Father to restore liturgical sanity to the Roman Rite, but because late last year my wife and I were refused Holy Communion for kneeling. (Letters to our bishop asking for some redress have gone unanswered.)

A number of Catholics who saw what happened to us and were very sympathetic were nonetheless confused as to the status of kneeling for Holy Communion at a Novus Ordo Mass (NOM). Certainly, if you're the only one out of a crowd of people who kneels down to receive our Lord it does appear as if you're doing something strange, if not downright disobedient.

So let's get a few things straight. First, the norm of the Roman Rite, in both the NOM and the traditional Latin Mass (TLM), is to receive Holy Communion kneeling, on the tongue. The bishops of the United States had to obtain an indult to allow communicants to stand, an indult being a departure from the norm. What they didn't make public, but what has now been revealed, is that this indult was granted on the condition that no communicant be denied Communion for continuing to kneel:

Another fundamental right of the faithful, as noted in canon 213, is "the right to receive assistance by the sacred Pastors from the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the word of God and the Sacraments". In view of the law that "sacred" ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them" (canon 843 ß 1), there should be no such refusal to any Catholic who presents himself for Holy ommunion at Mass, except in cases presenting a danger of grave scandal to other believers arising out of the person's unrepented public sin or obstinate heresy or schism, publicly professed or declared. Even where the Congregation has approved of legislation denoting standing as the posture for Holy Communion, in accordance with the adaptations permitted to the Conferences of Bishops by the Institution Generalis Missalis Romani n. 160, paragraph 2, it has done so with the stipulation that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds. (Congregation de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum, Prot. n. 1322/02/L; my emphasis.)

Second, no Catholic is obligated to obey an order that runs contrary to the law of the Church. Therefore, not only is there nothing "disobedient" about kneeling to receive our Lord, there is also nothing "disobedient" if one is ordered to stand up and he refuses. The notion that a Catholic is obligated to obey an unlawful order from a priest represents a real distortion of Catholic obedience.

And third, these kind of incidents highlight why more and more Catholics are quite rightly saying "no thanks" to the NOM and its institutionalized abuses. Recently a local priest expressed his concern in our diocesan paper that Catholics who regularly attend the TLM sometimes refrain from receiving Holy Communion when they attend the NOM. He surmised that it may be because they doubt the validity of the NOM and perhaps in a few cases that's true, although I think that's a rare position. I think it's more likely that they just don't care to be marginalized and possibly publicly ridiculed because their conscience tells them to follow the immemorial custom of the Church and receive kneeling. (To be fair, though, my wife and I have received on our knees from numerous priests and even bishops at Novus Ordo Masses and only the one time did we have any problem.)

To close out I wanted to share the very moving story behind why my friend Michael Forrest always receives our Lord kneeling. The original article sparked a lively discussion/debate with Leon Suprenant, the president of Catholics United for the Faith, which became a model of how Catholics can have a serious disagreement over a critical issue and yet comport themselves as Christian gentlemen:

And here's another good article from the New Oxford Review on the appropriateness of kneeling at the liturgy: At the Name of Jesus, Every Knee Shall Remain Unbent?

I will have more to say about kneeling before our Lord and the new movement against Communion in the hand in future postings. For now, let's just say that this is the worst possible time to shy away from taking a stand (or, in this case, kneeling down) in support of Holy Tradition. The tide is turning.

Friday, May 9, 2008


We have recently celebrated Rogationtide at the PalmHQ. Fr. Glenn Gardner of the Institute of Christ the King joined us for (or, I should say more accurately, supplied us with) a wonderful feast. After dinner we moved outside to process around our property, chanting the Litany of the Saints while Father blessed our land with holy water. It was a wonderful evening and one more step toward reestablishing traditional Catholic culture in our family.

Not so coincidentally for this time of year there is a great article entitled "Rogationtide" by Dr. Michael P. Foley in the Spring 2008 issue of The Latin Mass magazine (all quotations below are from Dr. Foley's article unless noted otherwise). Dr. Foley starts with a basic introduction to the celebration, which is now almost completely unknown to Catholics:

What are Rogations? They are times in which Entreaties for safety, salvation, and a good harvest are made through a litany to God and the saints. The prayers' plaintive aspect gives these days their name: 'rogation' is from the Latin rogare, to petition earnestly.

The Rogation Days used to be a prescribed annual observance in the Roman Rite. Certainly, at a bare minimum they represent one of many perennial traditions that were set aside with, perhaps, not nearly enough forethought. As Dr. Foley notes, they in fact occupy a unique part of the Church's life of prayer.

[T]he Rogation Days ground us in more than our Catholic heritage. The Major and Lesser Litanies are the only prescribed days in the calendar that are explicitly agricultural and that explicitly concern the all-too-real dangers of natural disasters. While the Ember Days (which we will visit in a future article) commemorate nature from the perspective of its four seasons, Rogationtide commemorates nature in relation to man and the city, from his tilling of the soil to his collective aversion of meteorological and seismic calamities. This not only invites a deeper meditation on our stewardship of the earth, it adds a communal dimension to Rogationtide’s acknowledgement of nature as both a source of bounty and potential harm. As one introduction puts it, "the processions are a reminder to feeble man to turn with humility and confidence to the Giver of all good."
For me, recalling the days in which these special prayers were solemnly enacted in self-consciously Catholic countries evokes a yearning to live in such a distinctively Catholic culture. They embody the wonderful earthiness and hominess of Catholicism, a feature seriously lacking in the evangelical Protestantism of my youth. As Dr. Foley says of these Rogationtide celebrations of yore: "The Rogation Days’ roots in the agrarian led to a number of memorable rural customs. In England processions would wind their way through field and fen and stop at various stations in order for the priest to read a Gospel and for the laity to fortify themselves with ale and victuals." Ale and victuals while on procession? Sign me up!

Alas, this is not a Catholic country, although I contend that one should never say never about that possibility some day. But Dr. Foley describes a moving example of the faith of our American forebears and their trust in Divine Providence in the face even of natural disasters:

In America the Church probably never hosted such colorful Rogation spectacles, but it does have one story worth telling. In 1876, millions of Rocky Mountain grasshoppers descended upon Minnesota, destroying this years’ crops and laying eggs that would destroy next year’s as well. Minnesota’s governor declared April 26th of the following year a day of prayer and fasting. The Catholic folk of Cold Spring (near Saint Cloud) added a vow of their own: if the Blessed Virgin Mary “would rid them of the grasshoppers, they would build a chapel and offer prayers to her for the next fifteen years.” When April 26th arrived, all businesses, theaters, stores and bars were closed. Churches were filled. Midnight approached, the sky clouded over, and a cold rain began. The wind shifted from the south to the north and the rain turned to heavy snow. The storm raged throughout the following day. The next day, farmers hurried to their fields and found that the vast majority of grasshoppers had been frozen just as they were hatching.

True to their word, the people of Cold Spring built Assumption Chapel (a.k.a. Grasshopper Chapel) on a high hill. And every Rogationtide, they would process up to the chapel in gratitude for Our Lady’s protection, up to the front doors and under the archway depicting grasshoppers bowing down to her.

Dr. Foley notes that after Vatican II " Rogation Days were removed from the universal calendar in 1969, but they were not supressed." This was followed by a directive from the Congregation for Divine Worship in which the content of the now-optional Rogation celebration was made entirely free-form: ". . . the celebrations may be varied, e.g. for rural or for urban settings, and may relate to different themes, like the harvest, peace, the unity of the Church, the spread of the faith" (Notitiae 5 (1969) 405). But as with the venerable custom of abstinence from eating meat on Friday, once the practice was made optional and a free-form observance urged in its place, most Catholics basically said, "Never mind" and dropped observance completely. Dr. Foley has some important insights on just what the Church lost:

On average, however, contemporary Catholics are ignorant of the Rogation Days, leading us to conclude that something good was lost, and at one of the worst possible times. We live in an age marked by an unprecedented disconnect from the land and by a growing anxiety over it. On the one hand, we fret over the barbaric or hazardous treatment of livestock, commercial pesticides, genetically modified foods, the demise of the family farm, and the rise of food cartels . . . and we call for agrarian reform, farm subsidies, the fair treatment of migrant workers, and more organic foods. On the other hand, at no point in American history have so many of us lived away from the farm: we buy our products in supermarket cellophane and never think it odd that we can eat watermelons in January.

Obligatory traditional Rogation Days are the religious antidote to this schizophrenia. They call all believers, be they city slickers or country bumpkins, to recognize at the same time and in a shared way our common dependency on the land and on God’s mercy for putting food on the table. They ask us to pray for farms and fields and in doing so remind us that there are farms and fields that need praying for. They reconnect us with the soil, which even reconnects us to the bounds of our neighborhood, our parish, and each other. They remind us of earth’s fragility as well as its awesome power.
Now it is to be hoped that with the normalization of the traditional Latin Mass and ever-greater numbers of Catholic living their lives according to the traditional Roman rites and calendar we will see a resurgence of the celebration of the Rogation Days. And since I'm just crazy enough to think that we might just get what we pray for, let us hope that God will continue to bless our land with abundance of food, yes, but all the more that He will give to Holy Church a great harvest of souls who embrace the fullness of the Faith. Let's be increasingly public about our celebrations of the traditional Faith. Invite your friends, even your non-Catholic ones, to a Rogationtide procession and feast. These are great evangelistic opportunities. I am convinced that recapturing our lost Catholic traditions is one of the best ways to pass on our faith to our children, to enrich the faith of those Catholics impoverished by the liturgical revolution, and to reach out to those who do not yet hold the Catholic faith at all. Pope Pius XI captures the Church's perennial wisdom:

For people are instructed in the truths of faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any official pronouncement of the teaching of the Church. Such pronouncements usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful; feasts reach them all; the former speak but once, the latter speak every year - in fact, forever. The church's teaching affects the mind primarily; her feasts affect both mind and heart, and have a salutary effect upon the whole of man's nature. Man is composed of body and soul, and he needs these external festivities so that the sacred rites, in all their beauty and variety, may stimulate him to drink more deeply of the fountain of God's teaching, that he may make it a part of himself, and use it with profit for his spiritual life. (Quas Primas §21)