17 October 2010

Fr Melrose of Reading

Pray for the people of S Giles', Reading, that they may receive a priest, a good priest, soon, to succeed Fr Michael Melrose, who died more than a year ago now. And, for that matter, a worthy successor to Blessed John Eynon, Vicar of S Giles', martyred in the time of the second Henry Tudor.

Among the liturgical books left by Fr Melrose, which I am now fortunate enough to possess and use daily, is a very slender volume: Preces ante et post Missam. It consists of the prayers to be said "According to the opportunity of the priest", found in the old Missal and also included, for convenience, in old Breviaries. But this separate edition (Pustet, 1913) is interestingly augmented.

Firstly, it includes two lists, of the quick and of the dead, whom a priest should remember in the Mementos of the Canon. Among the rather chilling categories listed are "all to whom I have been a burden (gravamen), a scandal, and an occasion of sin". And, inter mortuos, "souls who, because of me, are suffering in Purgatory". I think it is a very good idea to be reminded, day by day, what a very great opportunity for doing evil, and provoking others into disbelief or sin, we priests have. I wonder when and why these lists disappeared. They appear in nineteenth century breviaries in my possession, and apparently survived until at least 1913. So ...?

The booklet also includes "Actus virtutum", from the writings of S Francis de Sales. I invite comments on a detail that made me pause for thought. The Act of Adoration begins: "O God in three persons ... and thou, Lord Jesus Christ, I adore from my whole heart ... And because my adoration is exceedingly slight and weak, I offer to thee those adorations which continually thy most holy Humanity offers to thee ... " What surprised me was the idea of praying to Our Lord Jesus Christ's Godhead separately and as divisible from his Sacred Humanity. Isn't this, I wondered, something a tadge more in the spirit of Nestorius than of S Cyril? What, I thought, becomes of akhoristos and all that?

But S Francis de Sales is a Doctor of the Church, and I am not ... er ...


Joshua said...

I, too, Fr H., have been troubled by a like prayer.

Years ago I was given a copy of the St Andrew's Daily Missal (1954 edition), which, amongst its many precious liturgical texts and devotions, included the following Act of Adoration, about which I quizzed my parish priest as seeming to separate the Divinity and Humanity of the Eternal Word:

"O Lord Jesus, I have received Thee within myself, and from within the sanctuary of my heart into which Thou hast deigned to descend, do Thou give to almighty God, in my name, all the glory that is His due. I unite myself to Thee, O sacred humanity, who in heaven and in the Holy Eucharist, dost never cease offering to the most Holy Trinity an infinite worship, that which alone is truly worthy of the three divine Persons. Through Thee, O divine Priest, I wish to render glory to the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, even in proportion to the immensity of their divine Majesty, because I know that by Thee, with Thee and in Thee all honour and glory are given to them. In union, therefore, with Thee, I prostrate myself in adoration before God, acknowledging His sovereign dominion over me and over all creatures."

Really! It would seem that this prayer first separates the Sacred Humanity of Christ from His Divinity, and then from the Trinity, placing It as a sort of sacerdotal demi-urge between us and God!

Troubled as I was by these words, which seemed not altogether orthodox, or at the least mala sonans, I modified them as follows:

1. I changed "O sacred humanity" to "Second Person of the Godhead";
2. I changed "the Word" to "Thee the selfsame Word";
3. I changed "their" to "the" before "divine Majesty";
4. I changed "them" to "the Trinity".

Was I barmy, or did I rightly feel disturbed by this prayer?

Joshua said...

I must now look up Denzinger...

Didn't the Jansenists carp at the Sacred Heart by pretending that that devotion separated the Word from the Sacred Humanity? And didn't the Holy See attest to the orthodoxy of this and all devotions (as to the Five Wounds, Precious Blood, Holy Shoulder Wound, etc.) as not separating the Humanity from the Divinity, but paying them all to the One Hypostasis, the Hypostatic Union of the Eternal Word, the Second Divine Person of the All-Holy Trinity?

Was not the devotion to the Sacred Head particularly questioned, as being very suspect of dividing the Humanity from the Divinity?


Joshua said...

My copy of that amazing collection of devotions verging on superstitions, The Pieta Prayer Book (which still contains all the promises attached to the 15 Oes of St Bridget, promises that the Holy Office has been trying to stamp out for four centuries), includes a prayer to (actually in honour of) the Shoulder Wound of Our Lord, giving the affecting detail that this dread lesion is the most hidden and forgotten outrage suffered by Christ, being the gory mess gouged out of His innocent flesh by the splintery wood of the Cross He shouldered...

It seemed a tad morbid, that particular oration; it came supplied with a curious quotation, said to be from St Bernard, affirming that Our Lord revealed all this, and in particular that "all who shall venerate this Wound, I will remit to them all their venial sins, and will no longer remember their mortal sins".


I think the incoming priests of the Ordinariates all deserve a copy of this little book of devotions, so as to familiarize them with the important axiom that "there is always a stranger Catholic devotion". (Example: everyone knows of the Infant Jesus of Prague. But who knows of the Infant Mary - Maria Bambina - of Milan?)

The Pieta Prayer Book, amongst more reasonable devotions and orations, also includes a "true Letter of Jesus Christ" as revealed, apparently, to SS Bridget, Matilda and Elizabeth,and yet moreover supposedly kept in the Holy Sepulchre; a letter penned by the Virgin Mary, allegedly kept in a reliquary in Messina; a prayer to St Joseph over 1900 years old, having the curious quality that one who reads or carries it will not be defeated in battle, nor drop dead suddenly, nor take ill from poison, etc.; and "three very beautiful prayers" accompanied by a lengthy rubric about their being prayed when a certain Pope lay dying in despair at his sins; one gains 400 years' indulgence for them, plus knowledge of the hour of one's death. How convenient.

Joshua said...

Fr H.,

If you don't have a copy of the Pieta Prayer Book, those nice Filipino ladies you occasionally mention would be sure to provide you with one if you ask.

I think I've gone on for long enough now!

Fr Daniel Lloyd said...

See here: http://www.angelfire.com/ca3/rafaelmarie/ThePieta/athepieta.html

John F H H said...

The site will not allow direct access: go to
and scroll down for "A wonderful and HIGHLY recommended Prayer Book, just barely touching the rich Traditions of the Catholic Faith (it was instrumental in my re-conversion!)"

John U.K.

Joshua said...

Oh, good, I'm glad you've already found it.

It fascinates me sociologically, so to say, since some of the rubrics attached to the prayers are entirely mediƦval in style, resembling the apocryphal promises of indulgences that Trent ruled ought be expunged from the prymers.

Anonymous said...

Separately mentioning the Humanity and the Divinity of our Lord as two aspects in one and the same prayer, does not have to be unorthodox, as long as the one praying realises and confesses that the PErson of Jesus Christ is ONE, and that Person is God. His humanity is assumed. In the Mass, after all, Chirst our God is offering His perfect and sinless Human nature - to the Holy Trinity, of Which He is one of the Three Persons! As an example of archaic litrugical expression, this is the translation into English of the last sentence of the so-called Canon of Hyppolytus (which i myself have never used, nor hereby suggest to anyone else to use it)
''that we may praise and glorify thee through thy Son Jesus Christ, through whom be glory and honour unto thee, to the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit in thy Holy Church, both now and for ever. Amen.''

Anonymous said...

''I unite myself to Thee, O sacred humanity, who in heaven and in the Holy Eucharist, dost never cease offering to the most Holy Trinity an infinite worship, that which alone is truly worthy of the three divine Persons.''
This prayer is perfectly orthodox. INdeed, Christ offers His Sacrd Humanity in the Mass to the Blessed Trinity. He does not offer His GOdhead to the Trinity!!!
He does offer both His Godhead and His Manhood, only to us, who receive HIm in Holy Communion.