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Holy Trinity

The Feast of the Holy Trinity

4th Sunday of May:
Trinity Sunday


Thus far in the liturgical year, the feast and seasons have been closely linked to sacred history, especially to the Gospel narrative of Christ's life. From Christmas to Pentecost we observed in mystery the earthly activity of our Redeemer.

Now we meet certain feasts that are oriented quite differently, "faith-feasts" in which a mystery of our religion is made the object of liturgical worship. The bond with the Sacrifice itself is no longer so intimate, for the Church celebrates holy Mass on the occasion simply in honor of a given dogma. This is very true of the Holy Trinity and of the feast of the Sacred Heart. This is not so true when speaking of the feast of Corpus Christi seems to resonate so much with the sacrificial action.


The greatest dogma of the Christian faith is the mystery of the Holy Trinity. A mystery is a supernatural fact revealed by God which surpasses our natural understanding. For the first thousand years of Christianity, no special feast was selected to celebrate this mystery since, as Pope Alexander II (1073) declared, every day of the liturgical year was devoted to the honor and adoration of the Holy Trinity.

It was to counteract the Arian heresy, which denied the fullness of divinity to the Son, that a special text of the Mass in honor of the Holy Trinity was introduced in the liturgical books. It was left to the devotion of each priest, pretty much like the present 'votive Masses'. From the 9th century onwards, bishops of the Frankish kingdoms had a special celebration of the mystery, usually on the Sunday after Pentecost, using a Mass text from Charlemagne's advisor, Abbot Alcuin from 804. But it was not until John XXII that it was inserted in the official calendar of the Western Church in 1334. However, it is interesting to note that the beautiful Preface of the Trinity (read throughout all Sundays after Pentecost), dates from the time of St. Gregory the Great. The office of the breviary, one of the most sublime of the year, includes the famous Creed of St. Athanasius.


The ancient Christian doxology (prayer of praise) "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost" was used in the Oriental [Eastern] Church. The second part ("as it was in the beginning...") seems to have been added at the time of Emperor Constantine. It crossed Europe in the 5th century and spread very quickly in the West. The Council of Narbonne (589) prescribed that it be added after each psalm and hymn in the Divine Office.


From the 14th century on, the Holy Trinity was generally invoked for help against the dreaded epidemics of the Black Death. Hundreds of Trinity churches in Europe owe their existence to public vows made in time of pestilence and cholera. After the calamities, these churches were frequented as pilgrim shrines. Later on, public columns in honor of the Blessed Trinity were placed in the main squares of cities. Sculptured in the late baroque era and made of marble, they carry the traditional image of the Trinity and statues of the saints who were patrons against epidemics. The city of Vienna alone has eleven such Trinity columns which were erected during the epidemics of 1679 and 1713.


In the first centuries, the Holy Trinity was sometimes represented in paintings by three young men of identical shape and looks. By the 6th century, however, it had become an accepted practice that only the Father and Son would be shown in human form, the Holy Spirit being represented in the shape of a dove.

Many imaginative and symbolic pictures were indicative of this mystery, and the Church, although not officially accepting any of them, has tolerated some, forbidden others.

A common Catholic symbol is the figure of the triangle (Trinity) surrounded by rays (divinity) with the picture of an eye inside the triangle (omniscience and providence), or surrounded by a circle (signifying the eternity of God). This Trinitarian depiction has unfortunately been misappropriated by the Freemasons and mutated into a pyramid of stone blocks with an All-Seeing Eye to signify the "Great Architect" of Gnosticism - this was incorporated into the Great Seal of the United States and can be seen on the one dollar bill.

One of the best known Trinitarian symbols though is the trefoil (three joined circles forming a triangular shape), also known as the shamrock. Another plant is the pansy (viola tricolor), called to this day the "Trinity flower" in parts of Europe. In Puerto Rico a delicately perfumed white flower with three petals is called Trinitaria.

Cardinal Sean Brady

Irish bishops
will not refuse
to pro-abortionists

3rd Sunday of May:
Pentecost Sunday

Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Irish Catholic bishops’ conference has said that the Irish bishops have not considered barring politicians from receiving Communion who vote to legalize abortion.[1]

On April 30th, the Irish coalition government introduced the "Protection of Life during Pregnancy" bill that proposes to allow direct abortion in Ireland for the first time in the country’s history. The bill will allow doctors to act directly to end the life of the child in cases where the mother's life is threatened, including if she threatens suicide.

The bishops issued a statement saying that "the bill as outlined represents a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law and is unnecessary to ensure that women receive the life-saving treatment they need during pregnancy." The bishops also expressed a concern that the bill will attempt to force Catholic hospitals to participate in abortion.

The statement urged Catholics to oppose the bill, "I say that they have an obligation to oppose the laws that are attacking something so fundamental as the right to life and they would have to follow their own conscience." Yet, Cardinal Brady assured politicians that there would likely be no consequences for them as Catholics if they support it with their votes, saying that among the bishops, "there would be a great reluctance to politicize the Eucharist."

This is a repeat of what happened in the US during the presidential campaign of 2004. Senator John Kerry, running for the Democrat party, was offered speaking engagements at Catholic venues while strongly supporting abortion and the goals of Planned Parenthood. So prominent has the problem become of openly pro-abortion politicians and the inaction of their pastors that in 2004 then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a letter to the US bishops, through the intermediary of Washington’s Cardinal McCarrick, clarifying that they "must" refuse Communion to such "manifest grave sinners." In his letter, on the ‘Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion’, Cardinal Ratzinger said in no uncertain terms:

Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

When… the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, "the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it." This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

As Archbishop Raymond L. Burke put it on the same occasion:

Right reason…tells us that a bishop, if he truly cares for the flock, must admonish Catholic politicians "who choose to depart from church teaching on the inviolability of human life in their public life" regarding "the consequences for their own spiritual well being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin." For a bishop or any pastor to exclude someone from Communion is always a source of great sorrow….What would be profoundly more sorrowful would be the failure of a bishop to call a soul to conversion, the failure to protect the flock from scandal and the failure to safeguard the worthy reception of Communion.

With a hierarchy unwilling to robustly defend their faith, Fr. Blake, a popular UK clerical blogger, wrote it is no wonder that people have turned away from the Church and naturally are starting to look to other sources for moral guidance. Fr. Blake expressed his frustration with this commonly held opinion of Catholic bishops against "politicizing the Eucharist," saying, "Instead [Cardinal Brady] wishes to strip the Eucharist of any meaning of Communion, or morality and render it a meaningless ‘symbol’. What Brady seems to be suggesting is that there should be no connection with morality and belief," Fr. Blake added.

The strength of the evil people consists in the weakness of the good. When the good have no backbone to oppose the flood of sin and evil, it is a sure sign of decay and corruption. This refusal to hold the Catholic principles to the end could very well sign the beginning of the end for the ‘brave’ Irishmen.


1 Main source:

Ascension of Christ; Giotto
Ascension of Christ; Giotto

The liturgical spirit
of the Ascension

2nd Sunday of May:
Ascension Sunday

"Through the mystery of the Ascension we, who seemed unworthy of God’s earth, are taken up into Heaven. Our very nature, against which Cherubim guarded the gates of Paradise, is enthroned today high above all Cherubim."

Such are the words of St. John Chrysostom which plunge us directly into the mystery of Ascension Thursday. "Christ was lifted up to Heaven to make us sharers of His divinity."

Spirit of the Feast

Pius Parsch, in The Church’s Year of Grace, explains thus the meaning of Christ’s Ascension:

At the death of a beloved friend, we are filled with sorrow even though we know that his lot has been bettered. With this in mind we might expect the Church to commemorate her Savior’s ascension with at least some expression of sadness. Nothing can be further from the truth. Today Christ triumphs, and is receiving the reward of his well earned merit. He patiently paid the price of our redemption, because He sought to free us from Satan’s power and effect our return home. This work, the object of His love and His life’s blood is now completed. He returns to heaven as a conqueror; Son stands before Father and tells of His mission completed. We can characterize today’s feast as that of Christ’s heavenly enthronement, His coronation as King over heaven and earth.

This spirit is perfectly reflected in the hymn of Laud Salutis humanae Sator:

Hail, Thou who man’s Redeemer art,
Jesus, the joy of every heart,
Great Maker of the world’s wide frame
And purest love’s delight and flame!

Our guide, our way to heavenly rest,
Be Thou the aim of every breast;
Be Thou the soother of our tears,
Our sweet reward above the spheres. Amen

Other names for this feast

The various words used by different regions exemplify the richness of this season. The Germans use the term Himmelfahrt (going up to Heaven). The Hungarians have a popular term "Thursday of the Communicants", because it was the traditional day of the annual Easter Communion. Most interesting is the Byzantine name, "Fulfilled Salvation", which St. Gregory of Nyssa explains thus: "The Ascension of Christ is the consummation and fulfillment of all other feasts and the happy conclusion of the earthly sojourn of Jesus Christ."

In Rome, the following Sunday is called "Sunday of the Rose", because then, the Pope celebrates Mass at the church of Santa Maria Rotonda (the Pantheon, which predates the Christian era), and, in token of the Lord’s promise to send the Paraclete soon, a shower of roses is thrown from the central opening of the church.

Procession and folklore

From the beginning of its observance, this feast produced a liturgical procession which went outside the city, and usually to the top of a hill, in imitation of Christ’s leading the Apostles "out towards Bethany" (Lk xxiv, 50). In Jerusalem, of course, it was the original path that Christ took to the summit of the Mount of Olives. In Rome, the pope was crowned by the cardinals in his chapel and in solemn procession conducted to the church of the Lateran. From there, after the Pontifical Mass, the procession went to a shrine outside the walls.

Ascension Plays became a generalized custom in Central and Western Europe. They enacted the Ascension by hoisting a statue of the Risen Christ aloft until it disappeared through an opening in the ceiling of the church. While the image, suspended on a rope, moved slowly upward, the people rose in the pews and stretched out their arms toward the figure of the Savior, acclaiming the Lord in prayer by singing a hymn such as "Ascendit Deus in altum, Alleluia" ("God rose on high").

Also, it was a widespread custom during the Middle Ages to eat a bird on Ascension Day, because Christ "flew" to Heaven. Pigeons, pheasants, partridges, and even crows, graced the dinner tables. In western Germany bakers gave their customers pieces of pastry made in the shapes of various birds. In England the feast was celebrated with games, dancing and horse races. In Central Europe, it is a traditional day of mountain climbing and picnics on hilltops and high places.

Barbara Nicolosi

A hard lesson on beauty
for Catholics

1st Sunday of May:
5th Sunday after Easter

Screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi gave a talk in Denver last month about how to give a powerful message. Her presentation "Evangelization and media: re-thinking the Catholic sub-culture," did not hide the major challenges Catholics face today.

We reproduce here some of her observations quoted from a recent CAN article.[1]

The Church was once called "the patron of the arts"… Christianity once produced such works as the Milan Cathedral, Handel's Messiah, and the sculptures of Michelangelo... As Pope Benedict said, the music at the liturgy should not be like any music you hear anywhere else – you should know immediately, 'oh, this is of God.' …Well-made secular works such as Finding Nemo actually raise important questions in the minds of fathers: "Am I a good dad?"

In recounting the legacy of Christian storytelling, the screenwriter mentioned as examples:

The Divine Comedy, Pilgrim's Progress, Anna Karenina, Brideshead Revisited, and the works of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Tolkien, Flannery O'Connor, and Walker Percy.

Screenwriter Nicolosi also pointed out that "none of these books were written for the Catholic subculture... and yet are profoundly Catholic." She went on to point out the problem of "contemporary works of Christian storytelling" which are not only inferior from the standpoint of their literary art, but also are "created in the sub-culture for the sub-culture."

But the "great works" though "written for the mainstream" nevertheless contain underlying Christian notions which though are not overt in their approach in theological matters, nevertheless "permeate their worldview." Dissimilarly though, those created in a "Christian sub-culture" and thus with overt religious ideas, "fail to incite a theological response from the reader or viewer."

One example she gave was Archbishop Fulton Sheen. For 20 years he hosted a nationally-broadcasted radio show, and later was on television throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s, demonstrating how Catholics can exercise a positive influence in the secular world around them. She further emphasized again (about the quality of art): "Fulton Sheen used to be on network television not because he was Catholic, but because he was good."

But it seems today, that Catholics have dispensed with art and culture – as if these things no longer matter. Nicolosi pointed out – correctly – that this mentality has originated from "within the Church" itself, as testified by "contemporary church buildings, modern liturgical music and a general absence of artistic endeavors." Our glorious artistic "heritage has been replaced by the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, "Our God is an Awesome God," and Rainaldi's statue of John Paul II in Rome." She further emphasized “Nothing cheap, facile, or banal will do it. Don’t you dare put something out ugly and say the Holy Spirit inspired you to do it.”

Nicolosi continued her lecture by insisting:

We’re not just supposed to be in the culture; as Catholics, we're supposed to be important in the culture, and right now, we're completely in our own little room.

Drawing her insightful conference to a close, she presented a 5-step recipe for how the Church can change the current unfortunate situation (following in paraphrased form):

  1. Identify persons capable of representing Catholicism in society; to this end, talented speakers, media representatives and singers should be encouraged.

  2. The Church needs to begin training artists again; why is there not a single Catholic school of arts among the top 20 film studios in the country?

  3. Make the arts important again by patronizing beauty. It is important to compensate architects and artisans for their work – once we were accustomed to rewarding the efforts of creating beautiful art.

  4. Work with media professionals - Catholic media that is poorly done does not evangelize: "ugly, shoddy, embarrassing work is not orthodox Catholic – it's another kind of lie."

  5. Finally (and most importantly), pray that God will give a flood of inspiration to create beauty: "Ask God to send a Mozart, and that we'll recognize him."

In the midst of the wreckage left by the passage of the post-conciliar Barbarian Hordes, Barbara Nicolosi strikes a resounding drum to galvanize a paralyzed, deaf and dumb crowd of Catholic leaders. This is refreshing and hopeful, for it demonstrates that despite that the Church is practically in a survival mode due to the crisis, nevertheless – as was the case with the systematic collapse of the Western Roman Empire – voices of reason continue to ring out to Catholics to restore and regain their role as the salt of the earth.


1 Article source and quotes from an article published by the Catholic News Agency, "Screenwriter: without beauty, media fails to evangelize" on March 5, 2013.

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