Mortis portis fractis fortis

Harrowing of hell

The Harrowing of Hell, from a fourteenth century manuscript – wikimedia commons

I was looking for Easter Carols and came across this gem from an old Latin hymn by Peter the Venerable from the 12th century.

Lo, the gates of death are broken,
And the strong man armed is spoiled;
Of his armor which he trusted,
By the Stronger Arm despoiled.
Vanquished is the prince of hell,
Smitten by the Cross he fell.

Then the purest light resplendent
Shone those seats of darkness through,
When, to save whom He created,
God willed to create anew.

That the sinner might not perish,
For him the Creator dies;
By whose death our dark lot changing,
Life again for us doth rise.

Satan groan’d, defeated then,
When the Victor ransom’d men;
Fatal was to him the strife,
Unto man the source of life;
Captured as he seized his prey,
He is slain as he would slay.

Thus the King all hell hath vanquish’d
Gloriously and mightily;
On the first day leaving Hades,
Victor He returns on high;

With Himself mankind upraising,
When He rose from out the grave,
Thus restoring what creating
In its origin He gave.

By the sufferings of his Maker,
To his perfect Paradise
The first dweller thus returneth;
Wherefore these glad songs arise.

Peter the Venerable
translated by Elizabeth R. Charles

from Great Hymns of the Middle Ages

To The Googles!

The Latin title is fantastic, Mortis portis fractis fortis.  Magdalene’s Egg has the latin text in an article titled A Diamond in the Rough. There Fr Anonymous gives two English translations, the one above and another from S.W. Duffield. Looking at Duffield’s book we find a reference to yet another hymn, this time by Bishop Reginald Heber. Duffield finds an echo in some lines of Heber’s hymn God has gone up with a merry noise.

How about I type up Heber’s Easter hymn here, as it seems worth perpetuating:

God is gone up with a merry noise
Of saints that sing on high,
With His own right hand and His holy arm
He hath won the victory!

Now empty are the courts of death,
And crush’d thy sting, despair;
And roses bloom in the desert tomb,
For Jesus hath been there!

And He hath tamed the strength of Hell,
And dragg’d him through the sky,
And captive behind His chariot wheel,
He hath bound captivity.

God is gone up with a merry noise
Of saints that sing on high;
With His own right hand and His holy arm
He hath won the victory!

I like those hymns where the final “y” rhymes with “high”, “aye”, “bye”. He hath won the victor-eye!

Duffield quotes Heber’s second verse as : “Now broken are the bars of Death,”

Duffield’s own translation is maybe the most literal:

The gates of death are broken through,
The strength of hell is tamed,
And by the holy cross anew
Its cruel king is shamed.
A clearer light has spread its ray
Across the land of gloom
When he who made the primal day
Restores it from the tomb.
For so the true Creator died
That sinners might not die.
And so he has been crucified
That we might rise on high.

For Satan then was beaten back
Where he, our Victor stood ;
And that to him was deathly black
Which was our vital good.
For Satan, capturing, is caught,
And as he strikes he dies.
Thus calmly and with mighty thought
The King defeats his lies,
Arising whence he had been brought.
At once, to seek the skies.

Thus God ascended, and returned
Again to visit man ;
For having made him first, he yearned
To carry out his plan.
To that lost realm our Saviour flew,
The earliest pioneer,
To people Paradise anew
And give our souls good cheer.

Hymnary has a translation by Alexander Ramsay Thompson Broken are the gates of death.  I’ll type it up here as no one else seems to have done so yet.

Broken are the gates of death!
To the Stronger yields the strong,
And his kingdom perisheth
At the cross, while all along
Death’s dark dungeon streams the light,
Driving out the abysmal night.

What at first He did create
Pure and holy, now to save,
And to make regenerate,–
Though it cost the cross and grave,–
Comes the Maker from on high,
Dying, that man may not die.

Wondrous death, which gives us life!
Hell against the Champion lone
Rushes madly to the strife,
Only to be overthrown,
What can ever equal this!
Life is ours, for death is His.

He who led a captive train,
Is himself a captive led;
And the slayer now is slain;
Death is left among the dead;
Strong and glorious comes the King
From the conflict, triumphing.

Risen with Him, in Him restored,
Is the falled, guilty race;
Sinful man and sinless Lord
Now are one; his rightful place,
By His Maker’s will, man takes,
And His joyful worship makes.

Litany of Loreto Bingo

When I found the Litany of Loreto or Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Latin I was amazed.  It rhymes!  Granted the English sometimes rhymes, but the Latin beats it hands down.

Having grown up with the aspiration of someday being to recite the litany by heart, I hoped to inculcate this in my children.  So far it has not been popular.  Which is fair enough.  The version we listen to in the car is in Latin at the end of the Rosary in Latin (available here).

Somehow I got the idea of Latin as a buried treasure, a secret language, a tantalising mystery.  To my kids, Latin is a chore, a part of the furniture, a freaky thing that just about everyone else doesn’t care about.  Maybe that’s exaggerating a bit, I hope so.

So, Bingo, a silly game.  Take the invocations from the Litany of Our Lady.  Make flashcards using Quizlet.  Make Bingo Cards.  Play Bingo with your students!

And you know what my six year old said when he saw it: “Is this a trap?”

Here’s the word list for the Bingo Card Generator:

Sancta Maria, Sancta Dei Genetrix, Sancta Virgo virginum, Mater Christi, Mater Ecclesiae, Mater Divinae gratiae, Mater purissima, Mater castissima, Mater inviolata, Mater intemerata, Mater amabilis, Mater admirabilis, Mater boni Consilii, Mater Creatoris, Mater Salvatoris, Virgo prudentissima, Virgo veneranda, Virgo praedicanda, Virgo potens, Virgo clemens, Virgo fidelis, Speculum iustitiae, Sedes sapientiae, Causa nostrae laetitiae, Vas spirituale, Vas honorabile, Vas insigne devotionis, Rosa mystica, Turris Davidica, Turris eburnea, Domus aurea, Foederis arca, Ianua caeli, Stella matutina, Salus infirmorum, Refugium peccatorum, Consolatrix afflictorum, Auxilium Christianorum, Regina Angelorum, Regina Patriarcharum, Regina Prophetarum, Regina Apostolorum, Regina Martyrum, Regina Confessorum, Regina Virginum, Regina Sanctorum omnium, Regina sine labe originali concepta, Regina in caelum assumpta, Regina Sanctissimi Rosarii, Regina familiae, Regina pacis

Which makes me wonder, what is the point of the whole exercise.  Sure it gets them reading the Latin text.  You could make it trickier and read out one language and have them mark off the other language on their cards, but tricky and fun are two elements to weigh carefully.  You don’t want to make learning a game – not one where students are dependent on the teacher to come up with new gimmicks on a regular basis.  I guess the occasional game is good.  If you’re teaching at a co-op then games can help get unwilling participants in.

So, in fine, I offer this suggestion with no guarantee of merchantability, applicability, educationality, frivolity or edificationality.  I do not recommend the use of Bingo cards during family prayer time.  But I do endorse teaching children the meaning of the prayers they say – whatever language you use.


Kids Mass Sheets

Kids Mass Sheets

I’ve put together a simple page for each Sunday with a black and white picture to colour and some words to trace – Latin and English.  The theme is taken from the Gospel of the day, according to the 1962 books (or Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite).

Before each Sunday you can prepare a youngster with these posts.  Read through the Gospel in English.  Have a look at the pictures – I try include an colour picture each week as well as the colouring page.  There’s a short phrase in Latin and English.  See if you can match up the corresponding words.

Kids Mass Sheets

12 American soldiers walk into a French widow’s house in WW1

Warm fuzzy may not be the first thing you associate with WWI, but this short story by Joyce Kilmer is something like it. It is also amazingly striking for Catholics – how religion can transcend national, cultural, linguistic boundaries.

From the intro:

Joyce Kilmer was born in New Brunswick in 1886; studied at Rutgers College and Columbia University; taught school; worked on the staff of the Standard Dictionary; passed through phases of socialism and Anglicanism into the Catholic communion, and joined the Sunday staff of the New York Times in 1913. He was killed fighting in France in 1918. This sketch is taken from the second of the three volumes in which Robert Cortes Holliday, his friend and executor, has collected Joyce Kilmer’s work.

The title and the intro emphasize the Irish-ness of the story – what do you think? Is it really about Ireland or another country I’ve heard of long ago, most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know?

Also I’m currently rereading Prince Caspian for the boys and just read Doctor Cornelius telling the young Prince about how the modern people are supressing all talk of Old Narnia. You see more and more this modern aversion to passing on Christianity. If you go for grants so many of them are specifically for non religious groups. Looking for a free Moodle host, again there is this stipulation that they not be used for religious purposes. Religion has become something very like a dirty word – except less acceptable.

As in Narnia, part of the problem is the fracture of Christianity. So many splinter groups with different agendas! But getting back to Joyce Kilmer’s story you glimpse the real deal. The very word Religion comes from the word to bind – it should be a uniting force rather than an individualistic personal thing.

In the end we shall know as we are known. Until then, pray for me and live in such a way that we may be reunited in a blessed eternity.

Baltimore Catechism Flashcards

For anyone wanting to memorise the Baltimore Catechism.

First, install Anki – a nifty little open source program available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, Android, FreeBSD and even Nintendo DS.

Next start up the program and go to File > Download > Shared Decks. Type Catechism in the search box and that should bring up “Baltimore Catechism”. Install that one and you are ready to go!

Anki defaults to introducing 20 new cards each day, but you can change this to 2 or 3 or whatever you’re more comfortable with. It aims to review each card just before you’re likely to forget it. It’s called a Spaced Repetition Learning System. You can read more about the theory in this Wikipedia article.

Baltimore Catechism No. 2The Baltimore Catechism No2 deck has 421 questions. You might be doing it bit by bit in another program such as the Classic Catechism course from CLAA. The cards are tagged by lesson and question number, so you can select which question numbers you wish to work on. Otherwise it just ploughs through from beginning to end.

The deck was made from the Project Gutenberg text of the Baltimore Catechism No 2 – etext #14552. The imprimatur is from 1885 but the fasting rules have been updated in accordance with the 1977 edition.

The text was converted using Vim with much reference to Vim Regular Expressions 101. It only took a few hours but if you find it useful, feel free to drop me a line. If you feel inclined to make a donation, consider Aid to the Church in Need or the Anki project itself.

UPDATE: deletes accounts that haven’t been active, so I think the actual deck I made has been deleted, but this time I checked (July 2016) there’s a Baltimore Catechism No 3 available. Here’s my update with deck at Brandt Lab.

Whether to capitalize relative pronouns referring to God?

Note: relative pronouns are “who”, “whom” and “whose”.

For example, some books would write “Lamb of God Who takest away the sins…” or “Our Father Who art in heaven”.

As far as I can tell, it is a matter of style. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville Minnesota has a style guide that puts pronouns referring to God in lowercase except in the case of quoting sources that do otherwise.

My interest comes from my current pet project Draft Traditional Hymnbook and earlier work on the Christus Rex Pilgrim’s Primer back in 2004. So far I have been inconsistent and the time has come to make a stand one way or another. So first I pull out all the books I can lay my hands on (in person or via google books).

Missals/books that DO capitalise relative pronouns referring to God.
Missals/books that DON’T capitalize relative pronouns referring to God.
1868 Sarum missal in English (Thee/Thy) (funnily enough it has “Our Father which art in heaven and Lamb of God that takest…”)
1961 St Joseph’s Daily Missal (but has You/Your)
same as 1966 St Joseph Sunday Missal
1962 Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary (Thee/Thou)
2004 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal, Angelus Press
2008 The Parish Book of Chant CMAA (Thee/Thy)
1815 The Roman Missal (thee/thy)
1848 The Missal for the use of the Laity (thee/thy)
1914 The Roman Missal (R&T Washbourne Ltd.) (also does Thee/Thy)
1959 St Joseph’s Children’s Missal (2000 edition, Neumann Press) (You/Your)
1962 St Andrew’s Daily Missal (You/Your)
2000 Pilgrim Prayers – Official Vatican Prayerbook (you/your)
2007 Daily Missal 1962 Baronius Press (Thee/Thy)
2008 The Order of Mass Michael Sternbeck (you/your)

1958 St John’s Sunday Missal. A G Younes, Melbourne (Australia!) but made in Belgium – “who” in the ordinary, “Who” in the propers
1959 My Catholic Companion, Good Will Publishers – “Who” in the ordinary, “who” in Last Rites and Various Prayers
2002 Sacred Triduum Missal by Neri Publications and Opus Mariae Mediatricis

So what do you think?

How to sew a cassock

Model aged 4 wearing protoype cassock It’s an exciting time here. One boy is preparing for first Holy Communion. Two older boys are learning how to serve Mass, the first altar boys in the family for who knows how long. Then there’s the one in the picture who is helping me learn how to sew a cassock.

Back view of small prototype cassockFirst I bought two secondhand patterns from Etsy. McCalls 2079 and Butterick 6765. Neither were anywhere near the size I needed, but the instructions were good. I kept reading them for 3 weeks before actually settling down to measure my sons and start drawing with chalk on the black fabric.

The fabric came from a vegan friend who was passing on fabric, much of it beautiful wool. I think its a lightweight wool blend. There’s only a very little bit left.

Another help was a book called “Principles of Garment Cutting” by E L G Gough. I referred most to this to draft the two piece sleeve. I think I will be referring to this a lot more to make the proper cassocks.

The final cassock is much more like the McCalls pattern. It was the simpler of the two with a zip front and just one box pleat in the back. Butterick’s pattern had something like a princess-line back with three box pleats.

Here I put fairly low res photos of what I am going from. If McCalls and/or Butterick object I can take them down again. Maybe they can make new patterns in size 8-10. That would make this so much easier! But drafting your own patterns is very rewarding and I’m learning lots.

For the final run I’m thinking of using Admiral Gaberdine from Lincraft and poly poplin for the surplice. Do you think a wool blend would be more breathable?

All the best in your endeavours!

UPDATE: see the finished products here

Next, to write up the instructions.