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Cervantes and the Vice of Curiosity

In El Curioso Impertinente—“The Curious-Impertinent”—we meet Anselmo and Lothario, two dear friends since birth, close enough to be called “The Two Friends of Florence” by all who knew them. Anselmo, of a romantic nature, was always enamored of love and poetry, and so won the hand of one of the most beautiful and virtuous women of Florence, Camilla. Lothario, for his part, was a more practical man and devoted himself to study, hunting, and cultivating his administrative skills.

But soon, Anselmo becomes restless in his security, and begins to wonder how secure he truly is in his relationship with Camilla. As Anselmo confides his woes to Lothario, he expresses that he has been consumed by one question: whether Camilla’s chastity is by virtue of her inward moral purity, or simply the product of circumstance. Anselmo fears whether, if given the chance, Camilla would betray him and run off with another man. To satisfy his curiosity, and to assuage his fears, he asks Lothario for a favor: that Lothario try to seduce Camilla.

It is easy to imagine how Anselmo’s curiosity—along with his determination to satisfy it—ends up costing him dearly. What is less obvious is how much our own ill-tempered appetites for useless or harmful knowledge end up costing us. In an age saturated with smartphone notifications, clickbait, and social media, it may not seem apparent to us that we’ve become slaves to our curiosity.

St. Augustine, in Book 10 of his Confessions, laments our tendency to seek knowledge that is grotesque, harmful, or useless. “What pleasure is there to see, in a lacerated corpse, that which makes one shudder? And yet if it lie near, we flock there to be made sad and turn pale.” He goes on to explain that such knowledge has no use to it, and provides us with no benefit, spiritual or otherwise. “How many minute and contemptible things daily tempt our curiosity? And who can number the times we have succumbed? […] When this heart of ours is made the receptacle of these crowds of vanities, our prayers are often interrupted and disturbed by them.” By allowing our curiosity to run wild even some of the time, we unwittingly invite the distractions of idle thoughts and meaningless “wonderings” when we ought to be focusing the most—at work, with our families, and when praying at home or in the Mass.

El Curioso Impertinente, written during the Catholic Counter-Reformation, has proven to be prophetic. “Remove not the ancient boundary which your fathers have set” (Prov. 22:28). Cervantes saw, in his own time, the consequences of heedlessly pushing the boundaries against authority in the name of “knowledge” or “freedom.” Ever since then, Western society has been marked by curiosity (and its sister vice, acedia or “spiritual slothfulness”). From the Enlightenment’s proud champions of an anti-Catholic “science” and politics to today’s champions of sexual and gender experimentation, many of our sorrows can be traced back to the question, “Did God really say…?”

Some questions are not worth asking, and some ideas are too dangerous to entertain. Just as we must mortify our flesh to temper our physical appetites, so too must we control our intellectual appetites, and keep our thoughts on higher truths.

Baptism and the Salvation of Infants

The Church teaches that someone who is invincibly ignorant of God’s revelation concerning the necessity of baptism can be saved without the sacrament.[1]  But this applies only to someone who has the use of intellect and will to seek truth and do the will of God in accord with their understanding of it.[2] So, the question is, “What happens to infants to who die without baptism? They don’t have the use of their intellect and will.”

Some theologians have proposed the idea of Limbo for the children, which is a state of the afterlife akin to that of the Old Testament righteous saints before they went to heaven—a state of natural bliss that is not heaven, hell, or purgatory (see Luke 16:19-31).

Traditionally, the Magisterium explicitly defended the doctrine of Limbo as a legitimate theological opinion. In his 1794 papal bull Auctorem Fidei, Pope Pius VI called the rejection of Limbo by the Jansenists “false, rash, and injurious to Catholic schools.”

Although the Magisterium has never rejected Limbo as an acceptable and legitimate teaching, it has more recently proposed another way to approach the topic of unbaptized infants. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God,” and then gives two reasons as to why we can “hope that there is a way of salvation” for these children: 1) God desires all men to be saved, and 2) Jesus was tender toward children (CCC 1261).

The bottom line is that the Church doesn’t know with certainty whether children who die without baptism receive the Beatific Vision or exist in Limbo. The simple reason for such agnosticism is that it’s not revealed to us. This testifies to the humility of the Church and her concern for preaching only what Christ has revealed. In the end, however, we do have reason to hope for the salvation of unbaptized infants. And that’s something that we can take comfort in.

  [1] See Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1260. [2] See Ibid.

Taylor Swift is Right: I’m the Problem

I will confess to all the “Swifties” out there that I am no expert on Taylor Swift or her music, and, in addition to possibly putting my ignorance of Taylor Swift on display, the fact that I am writing about her in my latest musing may be opening myself up to lots of future jokes from my colleagues in the Alcuin Institute. But that’s okay, full steam ahead. I should start by laying out the context of how this particular musing came about. Some time ago I was able to spend quality time with my nephew who is in eighth grade. Like many eighth graders, his world is one filled with music, movies, and pop culture. In one of our conversations, it came up that Taylor Swift had just released a new album (my nephew would want me to clarify at this point that he is not a “Swiftie” …we were discussing music in a general sense). So as a result of this conversation, I listened to the first song released called “Anti-Hero.” Thus, this musing.

What caught my attention were the lyrics. Maybe the words were simply creative songwriting, but they come across to the listener as being very personal insights into the life of Taylor Swift, confessional even. One particular line states, “I should not be left to my own devices, they come with prices and vices, I end up in crisis, tale as old as time.”[1] Now, anytime I hear “tale as old as time” tied to “vices,” my thoughts are immediately directed to the story of the Fall in Genesis.

It is a well-known story. Adam and Eve rejected God’s warning about eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and, left to their own devices, they ended up in a crisis. The price of their sin was death and separation from God. In the aftermath of recognizing their sinfulness they hide from God among the trees. When God asks, “Adam, where are you?” it is not that God doesn’t see them in hiding, or that He doesn’t know their location. He is asking the question out of love. God gives Adam the opportunity to confess the sin and make things right. Adam does not confess, rather he blames his sin on Eve and even God Himself since He gave Eve to be his wife. As the Easter Exsultet says, “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a redeemer!” Through the crucifixion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sin has been forgiven and we are once again able to enter into a relationship with God.

Being sinners, we tend to fall back into sin over and over again. Because of this, the Church has been gifted with the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to this sacrament as the sacrament of forgiveness, “since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent ‘pardon and peace’” (CCC, 1449).

Back to Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift’s song ends with lyrics which insinuate that at her funeral, her family members will think that she is laughing at them in hell when they realize that she has left them nothing in the will. Now if this is some insight into Taylor Swift's self-perception and not just creative songwriting, this is heartbreaking. Taylor, it does not have to end this way. Just as in the case of Charles Dicken’s Ebenezer Scrooge, there is time for conversion. In fact, it is encouraging that, unlike Adam and Eve, who blame everyone but themselves, in the chorus of Taylor’s song there is a line which says, “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me.”[2] There is no hiding in the trees here. In a world in which we like to make excuses for all of our sins and problems, this seems like a refreshingly honest confession. So, Taylor, forgive me, I don’t know much about you, but if you are reading my musings, I do have the answer to where you can find the peace you are seeking. If the lyrics of this song are your own struggles, you have the confession down, you should take it to Christ through the Sacrament of Confession. If you are Catholic, after confessing the priest will give you absolution; if not, you can also find healing and mercy in the conversation with the priest. The same goes for anyone else reading this article and carrying around the weight of your sins. Go to Confession, ask for forgiveness, be forgiven, and enter into the pardon and peace of Jesus Christ.

    [1] Taylor Swift, “Anti-hero,” Midnights (New York: Republic Records, 2022). [2] Taylor Swift, “Anti-hero,” Midnights (New York: Republic Records, 2022).

Baptism of Desire and Sacramental Character

The Church has traditionally taught that the desire for baptism, whether explicit or implicit, saves.[1] Yet, someone may ask, “If that person doesn’t receive the sacrament of baptism, is that person ‘fully Catholic’”?

If by “fully Catholic” one means “getting to heaven,” then the answer is yes. However, if by “fully Catholic” one means receiving the character/seal of baptism, then the answer is no. The Catechism teaches that the desire for Baptism “brings about the fruits of Baptism,” but “without being a sacrament” (CCC 1258). Since the character is only communicated through the sacrament (CCC 1121), it follows that the desire for Baptism does not communicate the sacramental character or seal.

What’s the significance of this? For this life, it simply means that the person wouldn’t enjoy the “rights within the Church” to participate in aspects of the life of the Church, such as the sacraments (CCC 1269). The character/seal is ordered to making the baptized “share in Christ’s priesthood” and constituting them as “a member of the Church according to different states and functions” (CCC 1121). Or, as Aquinas puts it, it gives a person the right “to do or receive something pertaining to the worship of the priesthood of Christ.”[2]

Concerning the afterlife, this lack of the character might not have any significance at all. The Church only definitively teaches that the seal remains at least until death.[3] Even if the character does remain in heaven, which is the general theological opinion,[4] the only implication would be that the souls that didn’t have it would experience beatitude in a lesser degree than those that did have it. But that’s not a problem because every soul will experience different degrees of beatitude in heaven depending on their state of charity.

Regardless of whether the seal remains, the important thing is that the baptism of desire does indeed save. And in that sense every soul in heaven is “fully Catholic.”   [1] For the Church’s teaching on the explicit desire for Baptism, see The Council of Trent, Canons on the Sacraments in General, Can. 4; Decree on Justification, Chap.4; Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1259; Cf. Aquinas, Summa theologiae [ST] III, q. 66, aa. 11-12; q. 68, a. 2. For the Church’s teaching on the implicit desire for Baptism, see Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1260. [2] Aquinas, ST III, q. 63, a. 6, ad 3. [3] See Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Company, 1957), 335. [4] See Ibid.

Happy Is He Who Prays with the Church

Each feast day, St Therese of Lisieux's sister Pauline would read Dom Guéranger’s commentary on the Mass in order to prepare their minds and hearts. St. Therese writes of this experience, “How I loved the feasts! You knew how to explain all the mysteries hidden under each, and you did it so well that they were truly heavenly days for me.”[1]

Dom Prosper Guéranger was a Benedictine monk who was instrumental in the liturgical reform movement of nineteenth-century France as well as the re-founding of Solesmes Abbey. Our Lady of Clear Creek Monastery is part of the Solesmes Congregation and thus becomes a connection between our diocese and the history of Solesmes and Dom Guéranger.

Founded in 1010, the Benedictine Priory of Solesmes was closed in 1791 as a result of the anti-Church sentiment in France during the French Revolution. In 1831, the buildings of the priory which had survived the French Revolution but had fallen into neglect were put up for sale by the French Government. Father Guéranger realized that if he could buy the priory it would be an opportunity to re-establish the Benedictine religious life to France, which was all but lost after the French Revolution. With the help of private donations, Guéranger succeeded in acquiring the Priory of Solemnes, and in 1832, religious life under the Rule of St. Benedict returned to France. “Prayer which had been interrupted, has been resumed.”[2] In 1837, the Priory of Solesmes was made the Abbey of Solesmes and Dom Prosper Guéranger was appointed Abbot and Superior General of the Benedictines of the Congregation of France.

One of the results of re-establishing the Benedictine monastic tradition to France was that Dom Guéranger was able to focus on studying the Church’s liturgy. In 1841, Guéranger began writing The Liturgical Year, a fifteen-volume work which explains day by day the liturgical year of the Church, including the Mass and the Divine Office. After the devastating years during and following the French Revolution, in order to strengthen the Church, he recognized the importance of the laity having an understanding of the liturgy.

But this liturgical prayer would soon become powerless were the faithful not to take a real share in it, or at least not to associate themselves to it in heart. It can heal and save the world, but only on the condition that it be understood. Be wise, then, ye children of the Catholic Church, and obtain that largeness of heart which will make you pray the prayer of your mother.[3]

His hopes were that he could revitalize the Church by introducing the faithful to the prayer of the Church with explanations and commentaries. As seen in the life of St. Therese of Lisieux, The Liturgical Year made it possible for the lay faithful to come to know the prayer of the Church and participate in the liturgy in a way that was impossible before it was published. Saints read his work and were strengthened in their faith. Thus it is fitting that in 2005 the cause for beatification was opened for Servant of God Dom Prosper Guéranger.

Dom Prosper Guéranger died in 1875 after finishing nine of the fifteen volumes. The other six volumes were completed by another Benedictine monk under Dom Guéranger’s name. The Liturgical Year is today still considered one of the most important resources for liturgical studies. In addition to studying the liturgical year, Dom Guéranger also helped to recover and re-establish the use of authentic Gregorian Chant in the liturgy. May his work inspire us even today as we seek to draw closer to our Lord in the sacred liturgy. [1] Àngel de les Gavarres, Thérèse, The Little Child of God’s Mercy: Her Spiritual Itinerary in the Light of Her Autobiographical Manuscripts (Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1999), 23. [2] Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year: Volume I – Advent (New Hampshire: Loreto Publications, 2000), 5. [3] Guéranger, The Liturgical Year: Volume I – Advent, 5-6.

Archive Search

Cervantes and the Vice of Curiosity

In El Curioso Impertinente—“The Curious-Impertinent”—we meet Anselmo and Lothario, two dear friends since birth, close enough to be called “The Two Friends of Florence” by all who knew them. Anselmo, of a romantic nature, was always enamored of love and poetry, and so won the hand of one of the most beautiful and virtuous women of Florence, Camilla. Lothario, for his part, was a more practical man and devoted himself to study, hunting, and cultivating his administrative skills.

But soon, Anselmo becomes restless in his security, and begins to wonder how secure he truly is in his relationship with Camilla. As Anselmo confides his woes to Lothario, he expresses that he has been consumed by one question: whether Camilla’s chastity is by virtue of her inward moral purity, or simply the product of circumstance. Anselmo fears whether, if given the chance, Camilla would betray him and run off with another man. To satisfy his curiosity, and to assuage his fears, he asks Lothario for a favor: that Lothario try to seduce Camilla.

It is easy to imagine how Anselmo’s curiosity—along with his determination to satisfy it—ends up costing him dearly. What is less obvious is how much our own ill-tempered appetites for useless or harmful knowledge end up costing us. In an age saturated with smartphone notifications, clickbait, and social media, it may not seem apparent to us that we’ve become slaves to our curiosity.

St. Augustine, in Book 10 of his Confessions, laments our tendency to seek knowledge that is grotesque, harmful, or useless. “What pleasure is there to see, in a lacerated corpse, that which makes one shudder? And yet if it lie near, we flock there to be made sad and turn pale.” He goes on to explain that such knowledge has no use to it, and provides us with no benefit, spiritual or otherwise. “How many minute and contemptible things daily tempt our curiosity? And who can number the times we have succumbed? […] When this heart of ours is made the receptacle of these crowds of vanities, our prayers are often interrupted and disturbed by them.” By allowing our curiosity to run wild even some of the time, we unwittingly invite the distractions of idle thoughts and meaningless “wonderings” when we ought to be focusing the most—at work, with our families, and when praying at home or in the Mass.

El Curioso Impertinente, written during the Catholic Counter-Reformation, has proven to be prophetic. “Remove not the ancient boundary which your fathers have set” (Prov. 22:28). Cervantes saw, in his own time, the consequences of heedlessly pushing the boundaries against authority in the name of “knowledge” or “freedom.” Ever since then, Western society has been marked by curiosity (and its sister vice, acedia or “spiritual slothfulness”). From the Enlightenment’s proud champions of an anti-Catholic “science” and politics to today’s champions of sexual and gender experimentation, many of our sorrows can be traced back to the question, “Did God really say…?”

Some questions are not worth asking, and some ideas are too dangerous to entertain. Just as we must mortify our flesh to temper our physical appetites, so too must we control our intellectual appetites, and keep our thoughts on higher truths.

Baptism and the Salvation of Infants

The Church teaches that someone who is invincibly ignorant of God’s revelation concerning the necessity of baptism can be saved without the sacrament.[1]  But this applies only to someone who has the use of intellect and will to seek truth and do the will of God in accord with their understanding of it.[2] So, the question is, “What happens to infants to who die without baptism? They don’t have the use of their intellect and will.”

Some theologians have proposed the idea of Limbo for the children, which is a state of the afterlife akin to that of the Old Testament righteous saints before they went to heaven—a state of natural bliss that is not heaven, hell, or purgatory (see Luke 16:19-31).

Traditionally, the Magisterium explicitly defended the doctrine of Limbo as a legitimate theological opinion. In his 1794 papal bull Auctorem Fidei, Pope Pius VI called the rejection of Limbo by the Jansenists “false, rash, and injurious to Catholic schools.”

Although the Magisterium has never rejected Limbo as an acceptable and legitimate teaching, it has more recently proposed another way to approach the topic of unbaptized infants. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God,” and then gives two reasons as to why we can “hope that there is a way of salvation” for these children: 1) God desires all men to be saved, and 2) Jesus was tender toward children (CCC 1261).

The bottom line is that the Church doesn’t know with certainty whether children who die without baptism receive the Beatific Vision or exist in Limbo. The simple reason for such agnosticism is that it’s not revealed to us. This testifies to the humility of the Church and her concern for preaching only what Christ has revealed. In the end, however, we do have reason to hope for the salvation of unbaptized infants. And that’s something that we can take comfort in.

  [1] See Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1260. [2] See Ibid.

Taylor Swift is Right: I’m the Problem

I will confess to all the “Swifties” out there that I am no expert on Taylor Swift or her music, and, in addition to possibly putting my ignorance of Taylor Swift on display, the fact that I am writing about her in my latest musing may be opening myself up to lots of future jokes from my colleagues in the Alcuin Institute. But that’s okay, full steam ahead. I should start by laying out the context of how this particular musing came about. Some time ago I was able to spend quality time with my nephew who is in eighth grade. Like many eighth graders, his world is one filled with music, movies, and pop culture. In one of our conversations, it came up that Taylor Swift had just released a new album (my nephew would want me to clarify at this point that he is not a “Swiftie” …we were discussing music in a general sense). So as a result of this conversation, I listened to the first song released called “Anti-Hero.” Thus, this musing.

What caught my attention were the lyrics. Maybe the words were simply creative songwriting, but they come across to the listener as being very personal insights into the life of Taylor Swift, confessional even. One particular line states, “I should not be left to my own devices, they come with prices and vices, I end up in crisis, tale as old as time.”[1] Now, anytime I hear “tale as old as time” tied to “vices,” my thoughts are immediately directed to the story of the Fall in Genesis.

It is a well-known story. Adam and Eve rejected God’s warning about eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and, left to their own devices, they ended up in a crisis. The price of their sin was death and separation from God. In the aftermath of recognizing their sinfulness they hide from God among the trees. When God asks, “Adam, where are you?” it is not that God doesn’t see them in hiding, or that He doesn’t know their location. He is asking the question out of love. God gives Adam the opportunity to confess the sin and make things right. Adam does not confess, rather he blames his sin on Eve and even God Himself since He gave Eve to be his wife. As the Easter Exsultet says, “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a redeemer!” Through the crucifixion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sin has been forgiven and we are once again able to enter into a relationship with God.

Being sinners, we tend to fall back into sin over and over again. Because of this, the Church has been gifted with the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to this sacrament as the sacrament of forgiveness, “since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent ‘pardon and peace’” (CCC, 1449).

Back to Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift’s song ends with lyrics which insinuate that at her funeral, her family members will think that she is laughing at them in hell when they realize that she has left them nothing in the will. Now if this is some insight into Taylor Swift's self-perception and not just creative songwriting, this is heartbreaking. Taylor, it does not have to end this way. Just as in the case of Charles Dicken’s Ebenezer Scrooge, there is time for conversion. In fact, it is encouraging that, unlike Adam and Eve, who blame everyone but themselves, in the chorus of Taylor’s song there is a line which says, “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me.”[2] There is no hiding in the trees here. In a world in which we like to make excuses for all of our sins and problems, this seems like a refreshingly honest confession. So, Taylor, forgive me, I don’t know much about you, but if you are reading my musings, I do have the answer to where you can find the peace you are seeking. If the lyrics of this song are your own struggles, you have the confession down, you should take it to Christ through the Sacrament of Confession. If you are Catholic, after confessing the priest will give you absolution; if not, you can also find healing and mercy in the conversation with the priest. The same goes for anyone else reading this article and carrying around the weight of your sins. Go to Confession, ask for forgiveness, be forgiven, and enter into the pardon and peace of Jesus Christ.

    [1] Taylor Swift, “Anti-hero,” Midnights (New York: Republic Records, 2022). [2] Taylor Swift, “Anti-hero,” Midnights (New York: Republic Records, 2022).

Baptism of Desire and Sacramental Character

The Church has traditionally taught that the desire for baptism, whether explicit or implicit, saves.[1] Yet, someone may ask, “If that person doesn’t receive the sacrament of baptism, is that person ‘fully Catholic’”?

If by “fully Catholic” one means “getting to heaven,” then the answer is yes. However, if by “fully Catholic” one means receiving the character/seal of baptism, then the answer is no. The Catechism teaches that the desire for Baptism “brings about the fruits of Baptism,” but “without being a sacrament” (CCC 1258). Since the character is only communicated through the sacrament (CCC 1121), it follows that the desire for Baptism does not communicate the sacramental character or seal.

What’s the significance of this? For this life, it simply means that the person wouldn’t enjoy the “rights within the Church” to participate in aspects of the life of the Church, such as the sacraments (CCC 1269). The character/seal is ordered to making the baptized “share in Christ’s priesthood” and constituting them as “a member of the Church according to different states and functions” (CCC 1121). Or, as Aquinas puts it, it gives a person the right “to do or receive something pertaining to the worship of the priesthood of Christ.”[2]

Concerning the afterlife, this lack of the character might not have any significance at all. The Church only definitively teaches that the seal remains at least until death.[3] Even if the character does remain in heaven, which is the general theological opinion,[4] the only implication would be that the souls that didn’t have it would experience beatitude in a lesser degree than those that did have it. But that’s not a problem because every soul will experience different degrees of beatitude in heaven depending on their state of charity.

Regardless of whether the seal remains, the important thing is that the baptism of desire does indeed save. And in that sense every soul in heaven is “fully Catholic.”   [1] For the Church’s teaching on the explicit desire for Baptism, see The Council of Trent, Canons on the Sacraments in General, Can. 4; Decree on Justification, Chap.4; Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1259; Cf. Aquinas, Summa theologiae [ST] III, q. 66, aa. 11-12; q. 68, a. 2. For the Church’s teaching on the implicit desire for Baptism, see Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1260. [2] Aquinas, ST III, q. 63, a. 6, ad 3. [3] See Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Company, 1957), 335. [4] See Ibid.

Happy Is He Who Prays with the Church

Each feast day, St Therese of Lisieux's sister Pauline would read Dom Guéranger’s commentary on the Mass in order to prepare their minds and hearts. St. Therese writes of this experience, “How I loved the feasts! You knew how to explain all the mysteries hidden under each, and you did it so well that they were truly heavenly days for me.”[1]

Dom Prosper Guéranger was a Benedictine monk who was instrumental in the liturgical reform movement of nineteenth-century France as well as the re-founding of Solesmes Abbey. Our Lady of Clear Creek Monastery is part of the Solesmes Congregation and thus becomes a connection between our diocese and the history of Solesmes and Dom Guéranger.

Founded in 1010, the Benedictine Priory of Solesmes was closed in 1791 as a result of the anti-Church sentiment in France during the French Revolution. In 1831, the buildings of the priory which had survived the French Revolution but had fallen into neglect were put up for sale by the French Government. Father Guéranger realized that if he could buy the priory it would be an opportunity to re-establish the Benedictine religious life to France, which was all but lost after the French Revolution. With the help of private donations, Guéranger succeeded in acquiring the Priory of Solemnes, and in 1832, religious life under the Rule of St. Benedict returned to France. “Prayer which had been interrupted, has been resumed.”[2] In 1837, the Priory of Solesmes was made the Abbey of Solesmes and Dom Prosper Guéranger was appointed Abbot and Superior General of the Benedictines of the Congregation of France.

One of the results of re-establishing the Benedictine monastic tradition to France was that Dom Guéranger was able to focus on studying the Church’s liturgy. In 1841, Guéranger began writing The Liturgical Year, a fifteen-volume work which explains day by day the liturgical year of the Church, including the Mass and the Divine Office. After the devastating years during and following the French Revolution, in order to strengthen the Church, he recognized the importance of the laity having an understanding of the liturgy.

But this liturgical prayer would soon become powerless were the faithful not to take a real share in it, or at least not to associate themselves to it in heart. It can heal and save the world, but only on the condition that it be understood. Be wise, then, ye children of the Catholic Church, and obtain that largeness of heart which will make you pray the prayer of your mother.[3]

His hopes were that he could revitalize the Church by introducing the faithful to the prayer of the Church with explanations and commentaries. As seen in the life of St. Therese of Lisieux, The Liturgical Year made it possible for the lay faithful to come to know the prayer of the Church and participate in the liturgy in a way that was impossible before it was published. Saints read his work and were strengthened in their faith. Thus it is fitting that in 2005 the cause for beatification was opened for Servant of God Dom Prosper Guéranger.

Dom Prosper Guéranger died in 1875 after finishing nine of the fifteen volumes. The other six volumes were completed by another Benedictine monk under Dom Guéranger’s name. The Liturgical Year is today still considered one of the most important resources for liturgical studies. In addition to studying the liturgical year, Dom Guéranger also helped to recover and re-establish the use of authentic Gregorian Chant in the liturgy. May his work inspire us even today as we seek to draw closer to our Lord in the sacred liturgy. [1] Àngel de les Gavarres, Thérèse, The Little Child of God’s Mercy: Her Spiritual Itinerary in the Light of Her Autobiographical Manuscripts (Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1999), 23. [2] Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year: Volume I – Advent (New Hampshire: Loreto Publications, 2000), 5. [3] Guéranger, The Liturgical Year: Volume I – Advent, 5-6.