Richard Rolle on the Psalms

Richard Rolle

Richard Rolle

I know I’m on break, but I wanted to share this from my recent reading of the works by the great medieval English hermit Richard Rolle. Those who pray the Hours know how true it is:

A great fullness of spiritual comfort and joy in God comes into the hearts of those who recite or devoutly intone the psalms as an act of praise to Jesus Christ. they drop sweetness in men’s souls and pour delight into their thoughts and kindle their wills with the fire of love, making them hot and burning within, and beautiful and lovely in Christ’s eyes. And those who persevere in their devotion he raises up to the life of meditation and, on many occasions, he exalts them to the melody and celebrations of heaven. The song of the psalms chases away devils, stirs up angels to help us; it drives out and destroys discontent and resentment in the soul and makes a peace between body and soul; it brings desire of heaven and contempt for earthly things. Indeed, this radiant book is a choice song in God’s presence, like a lamp brightening our life, health for a sick hearts, honey to a bitter soul, a high mark of honor among spiritual people, a voicing of private virtues, which forces down the proud to humility and makes kings bow in reverence to poor men, nurturing children with gentleness. In the psalms there is such great beauty of meaning and of medicine from the words that this book is called “a garden enclosed,” a sealed fountain, a paradise full of apples.

Richard Rolle, The English Psalter and Commentary



I Got a Pope Benedict Bobble Head For Christmas


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He sits by my laptop and nods his approval or disapproval at things I write. Mostly disapproval.

He does not, however, bobble as well as my daughter’s Agent Colson bobble.

We did pretty well this year. My book haul was great, as always:

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I plan to review the Russ Manning Tarzan because it’s just such a gas. I collect the Scrooge McDuck and Mickey Mouse books, and I can recommend them with ease.

My wife also got me this childhood favorite:

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This was one of those shows that took up permanent residence in my brain.

Anyway, I’m not here to brag or anything. I just wanted to check in and share some Christmas goodies and write a post to let you know I won’t be writing any posts. It’s vacation week at Casa McDuck, partly because I want a vacation, and partly because no one reads blogs this week anyway. In fact, no matter what you might think, you’re not even reading this post right now.

The How I Pray series returns next Monday with Jen Fitz.

Enjoy your continuing Christmas season, and God bless you all!

Verbum Bible Software: Enter to Win an iPad Mini and Scholar Edition

Go here and scroll down.  The contest goes until January 6th. Since it’s Rafflecopter, you might be able to enter once a day.

Some good stuff is on sale as well, in case you have some Christmas money burning a hole in your pocket. I liked the Sacra Pagina series, Scott Hahn’s Letter & Spirit series, and, of course, the Ratzinger/Benedict collection. For the hardcore cases, The Fathers of The Church series is also on sale.

Gaudete, Christus est Natus

From my family to yours, may you all have a very blessed Christmas.

Gaudete, Gaudete!
Christus et natus
Ex maria virgine,
Rejoice, Rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary,
Tempus ad est gratiae,
Hoc quod optabamus;
Carmina laetitiae,
Devote redamus.
Now is the time of grace
That we have desired;
Sing songs of joy,
Give devotion.
Deus homo factus est,
Natura mirante;
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.
God is made man,
And nature marvels;
The world is renewed
By Christ who is King.
Ezechiellis porta
Clausa pertransitur;
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.
The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through;
From where the light rises
Salvation is found.
Ergo nostra cantio,
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.
Therefore let our assembly,
Sing shining Psalms;
Let it praise the Lord:
Greetings to our King.


Veni Veni

I’m getting ready to sign off for Christmas in order to focus less on blogging and squabbling and news, and more on Jesus. I’d like to leave you with a little bit of music and beauty as I go.

Latin is just a neat language. I don’t mean neat as in “cool,” like the kids say these days, although it can be that. I mean it’s just a neat, tidy language that expresses thought and emotion in a tight little package. Witness: my favorite Christmas hymn: Veni Veni Emmanuel.

Veni Veni blends the “O Antiphons” of the octave before Christmas (December 17th through 23rd), which themselves date back to maybe the 9th century. The hymn probably originated in the 12th century, although some dates place it as late as the 18th, which marked its first appearance in print.

Here are two notable performances, first in Latin, then English.

Note the compression of thought in “captivum solve Israel / qui gemit in exsilio / privatus Dei Filio” and how it’s lacking in “and ransom captive Israel / that mourns in lonely exile here / until the Son of God appear.” The Latin flows better, and takes fewer words, creating a greater impact. I love English. I study it, I work with it, I dig deep into it’s weird little dark alleys and disreputable haunts, and keep up my skills in Middle English. (I do a mean Chaucer: buy me a beer and I’ll recite “Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote” better than you’ve ever heard it.) It’s just a grand and amazing language.

But the simple reality is that the Church thinks in Latin, and therefore expresses itself more precisely and fully in Latin. I spent a lot of time studying St. Thomas Aquinas, and the ability to switch back and forth between the Latin and English in Verbum was essential. I don’t read Latin fluently: I kind of pick through it, and therefore it’s not practical to read hundreds and hundreds of pages of the Summa in a compressed time in Latin. It’s just not my primary language.

I found, however, that there were certain issues that are not rendered as precisely or clearly using English terminology alone, and there other places where the Latin just explained things better. (The phrase “terminus ad quem” is one.)

The same goes with hymnody. The most moving moment of the liturgical year in parish in the singing of the Pange Lingua on Holy Thursday. Is it a coincidence that it’s the only Latin hymn we’re expected to sing?

I don’t attend a Extraordinary Form as my regular mass, because I prefer a well-said Novus Ordo. (Note the qualifier.) There’s an openness to it that a prefer in regular worship, in contrast to the more interior, mystical approach of the Extraordinary Form. There’s a place for Latin and Greek in the NO, however, and we need to recapture it. We need to press our pastors and liturgists and music directors to include it more. It elevates us. It calls us to attention. It’s the voice of history ringing down through the years. It’s part of our heritage, and we deserve it.

* * *

For a compare and contrast: Veni Veni Emmanuel (alternating Latin/English)

And here are the words in alternating Latin and English.

VENI veni Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.
R: Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

O COME, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
R: Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!

Veni O Sapientia,
quae hic disponis omnia,
veni, viam prudentiae
ut doceas et gloriae.

O come Thou Wisdom, from on high,
and order all things far and nigh;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.

Veni veni Adonai,
qui populo in Sinai
legem dedisti vertice
in maiestate gloriae.

O come, o come, Thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law,
in cloud, and majesty, and awe. R.

Veni O Iesse virgula,
ex hostis tuos ungula,
de spectu tuos tartari
educ et antro barathri.

O come Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem,
from ev’ry foe deliver them
that trust Thy mighty power to save,
and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

Veni Clavis Davidica,
regna reclude caelica,
fac iter tutum superum,
et claude vias inferum.

O come Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav’nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
that we no more have cause to sigh.

Veni veni O Oriens,
solare nos adveniens,
noctis depelle nebulas,
dirasque mortis tenebras.

O come Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadow put to flight.

Veni veni Rex Gentium,
veni, Redemptor omnium,
ut salvas tuos famulos
peccati sibi conscios.

O come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven’s peace.


And here’s just something weird for you.

How I Pray: Will Duquette

will-headshot-300x273Will Duquette blogs at Cry ‘Woof’–And let slip the dogs of whimsy. He has the sharp mind you’d expect from someone who’s both a Dominican and a software engineer, but a light touch that makes his writing appealing and accessible. His series on Bootstrapping the Interior Life should be a starting point for people looking to deepen their spiritual life. (Begin at the end and work your way forward.) Let’s see how he answers the pressing question: How I Pray.

Who are you?

I’m a husband, father, Lay Dominican, software developer, and blogger, in more or less that order.

What is your vocation?

Depends how you mean it. My primary vocation, as the Church defines it, is marriage; and that means my wife and kids come first. But we all have additional callings within our primary vocation, sometimes for a season, sometimes for much longer. In my case, I’m a life-professed Lay Dominican (that is, I’m a tertiary of the Dominican Order, also known as the Order of the Preachers). That’s a true calling, over and above the basic Christian ideal, and among other things it means I’m called to preach. My blogging and my Church-related activities flow out of that.

Whether anyone is called to listen is, I suppose, a fair question.

What is your prayer routine for an average day?

The Lay Dominican rule pretty much determines my routine: the Liturgy of the Hours (Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer), a daily Rosary, and daily Mass if possible (which it usually isn’t).

In the morning I get up before anyone else, make coffee, and say Morning Prayer. Immediately after Morning Prayer, I say an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Eternal Rest for all of the Dominican dead.

While driving to work I say the Rosary in the car. This is completely in-line with St. Dominic’s example; one of Dominic’s “Nine Ways of Prayer” is “Praying while traveling”.

Sometime in the evening, either before or after dinner, I say Evening Prayer. Some days I manage to stop at a parish near where I work, and say it before the Blessed Sacrament, but that’s unusual.

Just before turning out the light, I’ll say Night Prayer.

And then, I’ll frequently say brief prayers throughout the day. If someone brings me a prayer request, I usually say a Hail Mary immediately.

The rule calls for me to attend Daily Mass if I can; but the daily masses in my immediate area are all scheduled for the retirees, and so daily mass is a rare event for me. I usually only attend on particular feast days (St. Dominic, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Thomas Aquinas).

How well do you achieve it, and how do you handle those moments when you don’t?

I don’t achieve it as well as I should; in particular, I pray a lot of two- and three-decade Rosaries because I don’t live that far from work and I tend to get interested in what I’m meditating on. Sometimes, alas, what I end up meditating on is what I’m going to be working on that day rather than the mystery in question.

But the Dominican rule is to be lived out of love, not on pain of sin. If I look at the clock and realize I’ve missed one of the hours I offer it up to God and move on. I don’t beat myself up over it; there’s no point.

On the other hand, I do try to avoid putting off the hours. In other words, if it occurs to me that it’s time for Evening Prayer, I try to sit down and say it right then. Otherwise I might not think of it again until it’s time for Night Prayer.

Do you have a devotion that is particularly important to you or effective?

My go-to prayer is one that I learned from Julie Davis (Happy Catholic) and then adapted: “Lord, please bless him (or her) and keep him and make your face to shine upon him; and have mercy on me.” This is appropriate to almost all occasions and for pretty much everyone, from the friend who asked me to pray for him to the jerk who cut me off in traffic. Everyone can use God’s blessing, and I can always use God’s mercy—especially when I’m bitching about someone who has annoyed or inconvenienced me. I usually pray this prayer many times a day.

And then, I do love the Divine Office. I’ve been praying it daily since the spring of 2008; before then I’d never managed to keep up a daily prayer regimen for more than a few months.

Do you have a place, habit, or way of praying?

I usually pray sitting, by myself: at the kitchen table when no one else is up, or in my room. I often pray in the car; and if I’m walking by myself I’ll often use part of the walk to pray the Rosary.

At meetings of my Lay Dominican chapter I’ll pray Morning Prayer and the Rosary with the chapter, but otherwise I pray them alone.

Do you use any tools or sacramentals?

I use the iBreviary app on my iPad for the Divine Office, and I have a Rosary bracelet I use to pray the Rosary—unless I’m driving. When I’m driving, I just use my fingers.

What are your relationship with the Rosary?

Some of my best prayer experiences have been while praying the Rosary. Some of my most perfunctory prayer experiences have been while praying the Rosary. I cover the waterfront. My current struggle is sitting down to pray the Rosary on Saturdays and Sundays, when I don’t drive to work.

Because of the Rule, though, the Rosary will be a regular part of my life for the rest of my life—I can’t simply ignore it.

Is there one particular book or spiritual work that has been particularly important to your devotional life?

Other than the Divine Office, not really. Devotional books, in the sense of books that want to be looked at every day, don’t seem to work for me. There are so many of them, and they all look interesting, but I can’t seem to commit to any of them. For the rest, I read books that catch my attention, and then move on.

What is your current spiritual or devotional reading?

I’m trying (and mostly failing) to build up the habit of looking at the daily Mass readings every morning; and I’ve been spending time with a treatise by St. Thomas Aquinas called “On Creation”. This is not your typical spiritual reading, but it seems to work for me. And then, I’m working through Thomas’ Compendium Theologiae week by week.

Are there saints or other figures who inspire your prayer life or act as patrons?

Every morning when I put on my Dominican scapular, I ask Sts. Dominic, Catherine, and Thomas Aquinas to pray for me: Dominic as the founder of the Order, Catherine as patron of Lay Dominicans, and Thomas as my patron. Sometimes I ask Justin Martyr to pray for me, since he clearly had a Dominican spirit, or St. Joseph to bless my efforts as a husband and father. I also ask Thomas for help when I work and particularly need to think clearly.

And finally, of course, there’s the Blessed Mother; the Rosary is the Dominican prayer.

What is one prayer you find particularly powerful or effective?

The Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I’m not often moved to pray it, but once in a while…

Have you had any unusual or even miraculous experiences in your prayer life?

Nothing flashy. I do sometimes feel God’s presence strongly when I’m praying, or, more typically, when I’m studying; it’s a Dominican thing. And I’ve seen enough to believe that intercessory prayer is definitely worth while and so I often do pray for others. I rarely find out what happens, and I’m OK with that—God’s in charge, and He’ll take care of it.

I’d like to see__________ answer these questions.

Julie Davis, Mike Flynn, and Melanie Bettinelli.

Anything else you’d like to add?

(Insert profound yet original thought into this space.)