Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Renewing Your Youth Like an Eagles

I'm in bird watching mode these days, since spring migration yields many interesting species in my yard, in the wood, and along the waterways here in Pennsylvania. It's also nesting time for many birds. On a recent walk I spotted a bald eagle's nest along the Allegheny River.

So when I read  Psalm 103 this morning (Office of Readings), my eyes lingered on verse 5 and I recalled an old post I'd written about that several years ago. Here's a rerun of that.

Reading Psalm 103 during Office of Readings today, I remembered this 2011 post wherein I satisfied my curiosity about the eagle verse. Have you ever wondered why it's an eagle's youth that is renewed, as opposed to that of, say, a chickadee?   I finally looked it up and here's the result:

Psalm 103 comprises the psalter for today's (Wednesday, week IV) Office of Readings.In verse 5, after listing some of God's blessings--forgives guilt, heals your ills, redeems you, crowns you with love and compassion, fills your life with good things--the psalmist adds, renewing your youth like an eagle's.

Every time I read this line, I first give the little happy sigh with which I respond to beautiful  biblical nature imagery, a mini Hallmark poster of the image flashing in my brain.

Then I stop and say, Wait!...  what?

 Because I can't figure out what's so special about an eagle's youth.
Not his strength, power, beauty, far sight, but his youth.

My first guess--could it be there was a phoenix-type myth going on about eagles that the psalmist had picked up on?

I did a search and found that many people share my question. An interesting "biblical birdwatching" site gave a lengthy description of how many times a bald eagle molts until he acheives the mature, white-head-and-tail plumage at 5 years of age. The evangelical writer considered this molting a kind of renewal. Not bad, but 1. this would teach a lesson about the desirability of Maturity, the wisdom of old age, not about youth. and 2. the bald eagle is a North American bird.

Luckily, I remembered that the Fathers of the Church have commented at length on just about every verse of scripture. Good old New Advent has St. Augustine's comments. Augustine claims that an eagle's beak tip never stops growing, and that after many years have gone by, it curves down and around the lower mandible such that the eagle would be unable to eat.  He grows weak from hunger, and then, in desperation, bashes the end of his beak off against a rock. Once again able to eat, his strength, vigor, and plumage are renewed, and he is once more like a young eagle. Augustine concludes:

 ...the eagle is not restored unto immortality, but we are unto eternal life; but the similitude is derived from hence, that the rock takes away from us what hinders us. Presume not therefore on your strength: the firmness of the rock rubs off your old age: for that Rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4 In Christ our youth shall be restored like that of the eagle....

My own knowledge of birds tell me that eagles don't really need to break off their beaks. I have seen crows and pet parrots rub their beaks against hard material.  And I've known pet parakeets to need a beak trim when they haven't had something hard to chew on. Probably eagles wear their beaks down by tearing at the bones of their prey.   But as St. Thomas points out, an analogy does not have to be true to be a good analogy.

So it looks like Christ, our rock, rubs off or breaks off our weary, aged sinfulness, and restores to us the youth of our baptismal purity. Enabling us to soar to heaven. On eagles wings  the wings of eagles.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

From the Catholic Hipster

I always love to share someone else's published enthusiasm for the Liturgy of the Hours. So when Alert Reader Rachael Murphy told me about this article by Tommy Tighe, I had to drop everything and let you know about it at once. Here's the beginning:

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, St. Paul makes a recommendation that at first glance seems flat out impossible: “pray without ceasing.”
When I hear that, my first reaction is something akin to, “He can’t be serious, right?”
I react that way, despite the fact that I pretty much check my social media feeds without ceasing, snack without ceasing, and complain without ceasing. For some reason, those come pretty easy to me. 

Praying without ceasing though? Not so much!

There’s just too much to do! I’m working full-time, spending most of my time away from work corralling three kids into our minivan and around town, and I’ve got WAY too many shows to stream on Netflix after the kids finally fall asleep. 

I feel pretty lucky to cram a single Hail Mary into the midst of all that, but “pray without ceasing?” I can’t even imagine!

A few years ago, however, I made a Lenten goal that changed my entire way of viewing St. Paul’s directive...
By the way, this author, who styles himself "The Catholic Hipster", has a book out with the same title. I read and reviewed it  on Catholic Digest when it came out a year or so ago. It's a fun book. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Old Latin hymns restored in the 1985 LH

An interesting article in the Corpus Christi Watershed blog about the old Latin hymns that were redone in Ciceronian style Latin in 1632 for the old Roman Breviary and still in effect today. Monastic orders were allowed to keep the ancient hymns and they are still sung by a few even today.
In 1985, these old Latin hymns were added to the LH. Check it out.

Urban VIII Consecrates St Peter's Basilica

Thursday, April 12, 2018

April newsletter from Universalis

Martin Kochanski from has graciously given us permission to reprint his latest newsletter:

Happy Easter!
There is really nothing that can be added to those two words, in their fullest meaning. Easter is why we are Christians at all. Easter is why there is any point to the world. Some of our yearly Easters seem to pass without much happening, but when God chooses to use one of them to the full, what an Easter that is! So again, happy Easter. He is truly risen, alleluia!

The Office of Readings
One Easter Sunday many years ago, I rolled into the Downside Abbey bookshop after Mass, drunk on the Resurrection, and saw a second-hand three-volume "Divine Office" on the shelf. In the end, that is what led to Universalis. But what happened shortly after I incautiously bought those books is the experience I would like to share with you today.
It is the Office of Readings.
Because it doesn't have a fixed place in the timed cycle of the Hours, it is easy to neglect the Office of Readings. The more affordable books don't include it because it is too long to fit in one volume, and many people's prayer routine doesn't include it because its name makes it sound long and rather heavy. That is a pity, because the Office of Readings contains something unique: the Second Reading, the patristic reading, for each day.
These Second Readings are something that no other liturgical texts are: they are not Scripture, but something far more varied. You can read letters from St Ignatius of Antioch on his way to martyrdom in Rome in about 107, begging everyone not to rescue him. You can read the official transcript of the trial of St Cornelius on 14 September 258, a trial conducted with correctness and stately courtesy on both sides. There are commentaries on Scripture and the Psalms by St Cyril of Alexandria and St Augustine, St John Chrysostom and many others. On many saints' days there are lives of the saints in question, or letters from them; sometimes, for modern saints, there is the Pope's sermon at their canonization. Whatever you get, you get directly from the original writer. You see the Church as it truly is: of every time and of every place.
The reason for mentioning the Second Readings at all at this time of year is that the Second Readings in the Easter season are particularly glorious. They contain some of the most ancient writings on the Paschal sacrifice and on the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. They contain the basic catecheses taught to the newly baptized in fourth-century Jerusalem. They contain Justin Martyr's explanation, for pagan readers, of exactly what the Eucharist is (and is not). They contain moving sermons, and reflections whose authors have long been forgotten.
I thoroughly recommend following the Second Readings in this season, even if you don't bother with the rest of the Office of Readings. In fact, I recommend going back ten days and starting with the Second Reading for Holy Saturday, that enchanting description of Christ visiting the patriarchs to release them from Hell, with its narration of what Christ says to Adam and what Adam replies.
With Universalis, it is easy to go back in time and do this. The Universalis apps and programs have no time limits of the kind the web site has, so you can go back and forward as far as you need. If you do not have an app or program yet, now is the time to get one. It doesn't cost much, it lasts for ever, and if you are really cautious, you can even have a month's free trial before you commit yourself. Read about the apps and programs here.
Once you are looking backwards, you don't have to stay permanently ten days behind. If, each day, you read today's reading plus one reading from the past, you will soon catch up. Once you have caught up, if you still can't manage the whole Office of Readings, there is now an alternative. In any Universalis app or program, you can choose an "enlarged version" of Lauds (Morning Prayer) which includes the Second Reading and also the Gospel of the day. It is the "one-a-day multivitamins" approach to spiritual reading. Just click or tap on the menu button to the right of the "Morning Prayer" heading, and you will be able to select the enlarged version.

Study Hymns
A learned priest has gone through all the Latin hymns in the Liturgy of the Hours and made a literal line-by-line translation of each one. He has kindly given them all to us, together with a brief commentary putting each hymn in context, and we have included them as an option in Universalis. If you are reciting your Hour privately rather than in a group, you will probably be muttering the hymn anyway rather than singing it out loud, and the "study hymns" are a way to connect with the rich, original Latin without having to wrestle with the language itself. In any of the apps and programs, click or tap on the menu button to the right of the hymn, and the study hymn is the one that has a dagger † next to its name.

Lectio Divina
We have never had as many messages of thanks for a new feature as we have had for the new Lectio Divina page. If we had known how much people wanted it, we would have added it a long time ago. For those of you who subscribe to the spoken audio of the Gospel at Mass, you can now listen to this in the Lectio Divina page as well as in the Readings at Mass page.

The new season's e-books
Those of you who buy your ready-made Universalis e-books from Amazon will find that your half-year Liturgy of the Hours e-book will end at Pentecost. It will soon be time to get the next one. The new e-books are now available. The complete catalogue is here.

How to update
The study hymns are a new feature in the Universalis apps and programs. Updates are (or should be) automatic on Android and iOS, while on the Mac and Windows Universalis checks for updates from time to time and lets you know when one is available. This page has full details.

Thank you all for using Universalis. If you have trouble or questions, or suggestions, do write to us at or use the Contact Us button in one of the apps. Don't reply directly to the email this newsletter came in unless you really want to stop getting the emails! Let us all keep one another in our prayers as always.

Martin Kochanski
Universalis Publishing Limited
Facebook: Universalis
Twitter: @CatholicFeasts

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


If I had to do high school all over again, I'd take 3 or 4 years of Latin. I had a great Latin teacher (Miss Houk) but I didn't think about taking more than the two years that I did managed to pass. Anyway, if you're interested, you can download ebooks of the latest edition (2010) of the Liturgia Horarum in four volumes, 11.50 euros each which comes to about $14.23 per. It's also available in Italian. No English yet. Check it out.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

So..How's that Revised Breviary Coming Along?

My co-blogger Mike's previous post about a reprinting of the Latin Liturgy of the Hours led to some discussion in the comments about the long awaited revision/retranslation of the American English edition.

Obviously this is something we are all waiting for with great longing, or great curiosity, or perhaps great trepidation, depending on one's perceptions on the abilities of the U.S. Bishops' committee on Divine Worship and ICEL --that is, International Commission on English in the Liturgy. 

This blog was probably the first source to break the story about the proposed revision in this post and in  this one. But that was back in 2012. Progress since then has been slow but steady. If you want more details on this from the only reliable source, then go to this page from the USCCB website for a complete rundown. I'm so glad that Mike noted this pages in those comments the other day. It gives the reader a good sense of why this process is so slow. Some parts of the LOTH (in the United States) are taken from the New American Bible, while the psalms are the Revised Grail Psalms, the work of the monks of Conception Abbey in Missouri. Then there's the antiphons, Intercessions,hymns and concluding prayers, which are the work of ICEL, translating texts that come from the Vatican publishing house. So we are talking about four different entities, four different copyright holders.

You have to be a serious breviary nerd to read the entire piece, but it should answer all your questions.  Unless, of course, you are from the UK. If any Brits, Aussies, Canadians, or Kiwis out there know how, if at all, the Commonwealth bishops are coordinating with the USA on this,or just doing a new translation of their own, please share the news!

As I keep telling people, the Bishops and these other entities are share this trait in common with the Lord: to their eyes, "a thousand years are like yesterday, come and gone, or like a watch in the night."(Psalm 90:4)  So the rest of us just have to be patient.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Reprint of the Liturgia Horarum Coming Soon

From the New Liturgical Movement:


Some readers of NLM may have already seen the recent announcement by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana: the Latin editio typica altera of the Liturgia Horarum, out of print for some time, is being reprinted. The first volume is expected by June. Those who are interested in acquiring a copy can e-mail the Sales Department ( for pre-orders and more information...

The first volumes of Liturgia Horarum, which are currently being edited, will be available in print starting this June. Two different versions will be published: classic and with gilded edges. The cover price is not yet available, but the four volumes can already be pre-ordered by emailing our sales office at