Accipe calamum administrativum: Canonical Life after Napoleon

death of napoleon
Napoleon I on his death bed,
 Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse (1843)

One of the causes for the virtual disappearance of canonical life in the West, even after the monstrous depredations of the Napoleonic regime, was the new system of ecclesiastical government that followed Napoleon’s re-organization of the Church. This short excerpt from the series Storia della Chiesa gives a brief summary of these changes.

A cura di H. Jedin, Storia della Chiesa, vol. 8.2, Liberalismo e Integralismo 1830–1870 Milano: Jaca, 2006, pp. 124–125.

German original: Handbuch der Kirchengeschichte (Freiburg: Herder, 1971)

Chapter 23

i.) Renewal of Ecclesiastical Institutions

Historians have frequently observed the lasting influence of Napoleonic institutions in the greater part of Europe: they were generally retained in those places where the French had introduced them and sometimes they were welcomed in nations that had never been occupied, a natural consequence of the fact that such institutions were the juridical translation of an irreversible economic and social evolution. The same happened in the ecclesiastical sphere, where the profound transformations of diocesan administration following the nationalization of ecclesiastical goods and the Concordat of 1801, which rendered the bishop a “prefect in violet” and substituted ecclesiastical benefices with a salary paid by the state to the clergy, spread like wildfire. Geissel in the Rhineland, Sterckx in Belgium, Mathieu and Bonald in France, were the most characteristic personalities of this new generation of bishops, which was conscious that the restoration of Catholic life, which had been so shaken, and the growing complexity of the problems that had to be resolved, required greater organization and a more solid administration than that of the old regime. With a clear understanding of their episcopal authority as defined by Napoleon’s Organic Articles, applied themselves to direct the pastoral activity of their priests with systematic efficiency. One contemporary witness to this evolution of episcopal practice toward a centralized and more or less bureaucratic ecclesial administration comes down to us from Abbé Combalot, who jokingly proposed modifying the formula of episcopal consecration Accipe baculum pastorale to Accipe calamum administrativum ut possis scribere, scribere, scribere usque in sempiternum et ultra.

The situation of the lower clergy was changed profoundly. Priests without precise duties, very numerous under the old regime, were gradually disappearing, though more slowly in the southern regions where the clergy remained numerous for a long time, than in Western Europe or the German countries. Some continued to exercise their apostolate at the margins of the diocesan sphere, as preachers, teachers or professors in the state education system, but the greater part went to serve in parochial ministries: a parochial clergy whose social standing had been completely transformed in only a few years. Instead of receiving goods from a benefice which assigned them a certain degree of independence, in most nations they now received a salary from the state. Moreover, they found themselves more and more strictly submitted to the power of the bishop. In practice the diocesan offices and tribunals came to have a very reduced importance compared to what they had under the old regime and in many nations parish priests especially  found themselves under the constant threat of being moved from one parish to another against their will. It is true that the obligation to confer parishes by competition and the canon law on immovability remained in place in Austria, Bavaria, and Southern Europe, but certain Spanish and Italian bishops modified the rule declaring that the bishop is the sole immovable person and Geissel was able to get the Prussian government to admit the principle of priest’s removability, introduced in France and Belgium following the Concordat of 1801. [….]

The chapters too lost much of their importance and independence. Their members, now chosen by the bishop himself from among ecclesiastical functionaries, became secondary figures who in practice avoided conflict with their superior. Further, the offices that were once fulfilled by the canons were now entrusted to secretaries who, with the vicar generals, are the true collaborators of the bishop in the modern age.

The bishop, with the increased authority that he found himself able to exercise on the clergy, was less and less elected by them. The concordats that have proliferated since the beginning of the 19th century usually accord the right of presentation to the governments, whose criteria for choosing is more administrative than pastoral.


Portrait of a Canon, Girolamo Forabosco

Gemma Animae (16): De cantoribus

Ch. 16

On the Cantors


The cantors who direct choirs are the apostles who taught the churches the praises of God. Those who sing the Gradual signify those who serve Christ in the active life. The singers will stand on the steps [1], because the just will go from virtue to virtue on the ladder of charity [2].

Those who sing the Alleluia signify those who praise Christ in a contemplative life. These stand higher as they sing, because such men on the summit of virtue climb to heavenly places by contemplation.

The choirs will jubilate the Sequence alternately, because in God’s house crowds of men and angels will praise Lord unto the ages of ages [3].

[1] Honorius gives the most usual etymological account of the Graduale here: meaning “sung from the steps.”
[2] ibunt de virtute in virtutem, Psalm 83/84. A curious attraction of stabunt.
[3] Also Psalm 83/84

De cantoribus.

Cantores qui choros regunt, sunt apostoli qui Ecclesias laudes Dei instruxerunt. Hi qui Graduale cantant, significant eos qui in activa vita Christo serviunt. In gradibus cantantes stabunt, quia iusti de virtute in virtutem in scala charitatis ibunt. Qui Alleluia cantant, designant eos qui in contemplativa vita Christum laudant. Hi cantantes altius consistunt; quia tales in celsitudine virtutum coelestia contemplando scandunt. Sequentiam chori alternatim iubilabunt, quia frequentiae angelorum et hominum in domo Dei Dominum in saeculum saeculi laudabunt.

Trope of the Week: Kyrie de Angelis

What’s a trope? See the introductory post.

Kyrie, Rex æterno posse superno, cunticreator, eleison.
Kyrie, laudat dignum turba benignum tota polorum, eleison.
Kyrie, nunc præsentes respice gentes dona petentes, eleison.
Lord, eternal King of lofty power, creator of all, have mercy.
Lord, the entire multitude of the globe praises thee, worthy and merciful, have mercy.
Lord, behold now the people here desiring gifts, have mercy.
Christe, prævenias morbis nostris nunc Conditor orbis, eleison.
Christe, peste triumphata sumens hæc nostra peccata, eleison.
Christe, sanguine qui digno præservas hoste maligno, eleison.
Christ, mayest thou now keep us from our ills, founder of the world, have mercy.
Christ, having triumphed over pestilence, taking up these our sins, have mercy.
Christ, who by thy worthy blood savest us from the evil enemy, have mercy.
Kyrie, fac tibi clerum psallere verum pectoris hymnum, flamine fultus lumine vultus vivat in ævum, eleison.
Kyrie, nunc populorum Rex miserorum cerne precatus, flos pie florum fonsque bonorum terge reatus, eleison.
Kyrie, suscipe rursum, dirige cursum, corde rogamus, scandere sursum vivere cursum quo valeamus, eleison.
Lord, make the clergy sing a true hymn of the heart to thee, may they live for aye, borne by the spirit, a brilliant countenance, have mercy.
Lord, now, King of the wretched peoples, behold the prayers, O righteous flower of flowers and fount of good things, cleanse our guilt, have mercy.
Lord, take us up anew, lead the way, we beseech thee from the heart, by which we might have the strength to climb up and live the way, have mercy.
Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 16.36.55
Click on the image to download this trope with musical notation

The Kyrie de Angelis, Kyrie VIII in the Vatican edition, has proven the most enduringly popular of all the Gregorian settings of this first part of the ordinary. Part of its appeal rests in its agreeableness to the modern ear: unlike the other Kyries in the Vatican edition, whose mediæval tonalities can sound mildly alien to-day, the Kyrie de Angelis is actually a major-scale melody. Renaissance music theorists who first described the major scale, dubbing it the Ionian or eleventh mode, already noted its popularity amongst their contemporaries.

Of this [mode, the eleventh] there are many chants in the ecclesiastical books, such as the Mass called of the Angels, the antiphons Alma redemptoris mater and Regina Cœli lætare Haleluiah. Amongst the moderns this mode is in so much use and is so loved, that, induced by its sweetness and its beauty, they have changed many chants composed in the fifth mode into the eleventh, by inserting the note b-flat instead of b-natural. [1]

The Graduale romanum dates this Kyrie melody to the 15th-16th century, but the musicologist Amédée Gastoué argued it is more ancient, having discovered a version of it in a 14th century gradual from the Cathedral of Rouen, to be sung ad libitum on solemn feasts. It quickly became popular throughout France, and seems to have been often chanted in solemn votive masses; it became particularly associated with the votive mass traditionally celebrated on Monday in honour of the Holy Angels, and thus acquired its present moniker. A 15th century gradual from Rouen labels it de Angelis, and a Celestine gradual from the same century De sanctis Angelis. From France it spread to England and Italy, and acquired the hold on the Catholic musical imagination it retains to this day.

Pope St Pius X helped cement this popularity when, in 1904, he personally chose this Kyrie to be sung during the memorable Mass celebrating the 13th centenary of St Gregory the Great in St Peter’s Basilica. It was the first time in centuries that a Mass was sung entirely in Gregorian chant in St Peter’s.

The Kyrie de Angelis is one of the few Kyries in the modern Vatican edition that is not identified by the incipit of a trope. Indeed, given its late origin it was not often farced, but Dom Joseph Pothier did discover one troped version thereof in a manuscript gradual from the diocese of Toul from 1622, with the heading Super Kyrie de Angelis. Interestingly, as Dom Pothier explains, this gradual was prepared for the use of a simple country parish: a valuable indication not only that into the 17th century sung Masses were celebrated even in small churches, with full Gregorian chant, but that tropes survived the liturgical reforms spurred by the Council of Trent. In fact, the diocese of Toul kept its own liturgical use after the promulgation of Quo primum thanks to the intransigence of the cathedral chapter, which stood athwart their bishop, Cardinal de Vaudémont, who, pressured by the Jesuits, sought to impose the Roman use.

The composer of the Kyrie Rex æterno trope has taken the liberty of modifying the original melody, which is relatively unusual. That this was done deliberately, and is not a case of regional melodic variation, is shown by the fact that the manuscript also contains the untroped Kyrie de Angelis in essentially the same form as in the Vatican edition. The exuberant short melismas in the last three Kyrie verses are also noteworthy.

The striking metrical character of this Kyrie trope betrays its late origin. As Dom Pothier notes,

The first three Kyrie have tropes always composed of three verses, the first of four long syllables, i.e. a double spondee, and the two others of five syllables, forming a dactyl and a spondee, otherwise known as an Adonic verse; giving a total of fourteen syllables.

The three Christe also each have a trope of fourteen syllables, but these are contained in only one verse, viz. a hexametrical verse, of the sort that are called Leonine, where the two hemistichs rhyme together.


As for the last three Kyrie, these are also in verse, but now exclusively in Adonic verse. The tropes here, moreover, are doubled, not only at the last Kyrie, which is the usual rule, but for all three. The only difference in the case of the last Kyrie is that the vocalise, which is in any case very short, is repeated as a sort of echo.

Gastoué criticized the Kyrie de Angelis for its jocund melody, which is better suited, he says, to an Alleluia than a “cry of supplication” like the Kyrie. Nevertheless, he admits that

in this chant, we find a melody of ‘joyful’ supplication; the reason for this is, perhaps, if we consider the paintings and the sculptures of the Middle Ages, that the contemporaries of that time conceived the pure heavenly spirits praying God for humanity, with this calm joyfulness.

The text of the trope entirely supports this supposition. Throughout, the tone, despite a frank acceptance of the sinfulness of men, is one of confidence in God’s mercy, for he is the flos pie florum fonsque bonorum: an entirely suitable idea to ponder as the holy sacrifice of the Mass begins. The last verse is, moreover, a felicitous prayer for the start of the Mass: suscipe rursum, dirige cursum, corde rogamus, scandere sursum vivere cursum quo valeamus.

In the recording below, the Kyrie Rex aeterno trope is sung by the Capella Antiqua München.

[1] Di questo si trovano molte cantilene ne i libri Ecclesiastici, si come la Messa, la quale chiamano de gli Angioli, le Antifone Alma redemptoris mater e Regina Cœli lætare Haleluiah. Questo Modo da i Moderni è tanto in uso, e tanto amato; che molte cantilene composte nel Quinto modo, per l’agiuntione della chorda♭ in luogo della♮, hanno mutato nell’Undecimo; indutti dalla sua soavità, e dalla sua bellezza. (Gioseffo Zarlino, Le istitutioni harmoniche, 1558)


Gastoué, Amédée. “The ‘Missa de Angelis'”. The Caecilia, Vol. 60, no. 12, pp. 375-8.

Martin, Eugène. Histoire des diocèses de Toul, de Nancy & de Saint-Dié. A. Crépin-Leblond, 1901. Vol. 2.

Pothier, Dom Joseph. “Kyrie des Anges avec tropes”. Revue du chant grégorien, xiii (1904-05), pp. 81-88.

Dom Gréa (3): Monastic Churches, cont.’d

Dom. Gréa continues his effort to show that monastic churches have always possessed full canonical status as churches in their own right, alongside the diocesan parish. What’s more, they did the job of a cathedral or diocesan parish better!

Sint Niklaas canon
A Flemish Canon of Sint-Niklaas in the Diocese of Ghent, Seminary Verzameling Sint-Jozef-Klein-Seminarie (Wiki)

Ch. XXXII Monastic Churches (cont.’d)

Thus the parish of the perfects—the monastery—was established inside the diocese, alongside the common parishes, and alongside the title of the churches of the people of the diocese, there was the title of the monastery, a title mentioned by the Council of Chalcedon right after that of the episcopal church and the city church, i.e. the parish without a bishop [1].

The monastery thus appears in its origin as a genuine church, in possession of all essential properties.

This church has its own clergy. First, a priest, and soon, according to the needs the of the monastic population, a more or less numerous college, a genuine presbyterate, assisted by deacons and and ministers [2]. Below them are the people of the monastery, “the lay crowd of the monastery,” as an ancient text says [3], i.e. the multitude of male religious that form the lay element of these churches.

From the point of view of the hierarchy, nothing distinguishes the monastic churches from the other churches of the diocese. They are not separated except by religious profession and the particular discipline of those who compose it. They are truly churches in the full sense of the term, but churches at once more holy and more involved in the work that is common to every church, the sanctification of their members.

[1] Council of Chalcedon (451), session 15, can. 6, LABBE 4, 757, MANSI 7, 416-417: “No one should be ordained absolutely, neither priest, nor deacon, nor cleric, except he is assigned to a particular church of the city, a village, or a martyrium, or a convent (monastery).”

[2] Saint JEROME, Funeral Oration of St. Paul (Letter 108), 14; PL 22, 890: “The innumerable troops of monks, of which many were honored with the order of priesthood and diaconate.”–Saint AUGUSTINE, Letter 60, “to Pope Aurelius,” bishop of Carthage: “In the holy militia of the clergy, to which we are accustomed to admit only the most worthy and proven monks.”

[3] Council of Arles (455), LABBE 4, 1024, MANSI 7, 908, HÉFÉLÉ 2, 886-887.

Et ainsi, dans les diocèses, à côté des paroisses communes, s’établit la paroisse des parfaits, le monastère, et, à côté du titre des Églises du peuple du diocèse, se forma le titre du monastère, titre mentionné par le Concile de Chalcédoine après celui de l’Église épisco- pale et celui du bourg ou de la paroisse sans évêque.

Le monastère [nous] apparaît, en effet, dès l’origine, comme une Église véritable, en possession de toutes ses propriétés essentielles.

Cette Église a son clergé, un prêtre d’abord, et bientôt, suivant les exigences de la population monastique, un collège plus ou moins nombreux, véritable presbytère, assisté de diacres et de ministres; au-dessous se trouve le peuple du monastère, « la foule des laïcs du monastère », comme parle un ancien texte, c’est-à-dire la multitude des religieux qui forment l’élément laïc de ces Églises.

Au point de vue de la hiérarchie, rien ne distingue les Églises mo- nastiques des autres Églises du diocèse; elles n’en sont séparées que par la profession religieuse et la discipline particulière de ceux qui les composent. Ce sont bien des Églises dans toute la force du terme, mais des Églises plus saintes et plus avancées dans l’œuvre, commune à toutes, de la sanctification de leurs membres.

[1] Concile de Chalcédoine (451), session 15, can. 6, LABBE 4, 757, MANSI 7, 416-417: « Nul ne doit être ordonné d’une manière absolue, ni prêtre, ni diacre, ni clerc, s’il ne lui est assigné en particulier une église de ville, ou de village, ou un martyrium ou un couvent (monasterio) »…; trad. HÉFÉLÉ 2, 788.

[2] Des troupes innombrables de moines, dont beaucoup étaient honorés des ordres du sacerdoce et du diaconat »; trad. LABOURT, t. 5, p. 174. – Saint AUGUSTIN, Lettre 60, « au pape Aurèle », évêque de Carthage: « Dans la sainte milice de la cléricature, où nous n’avons coutume d’admettre que les moines les plus dignes et les plus éprouvés »; trad. PÉRONNE, t. 4, p. 490.
[3] Concile d’Arles (455), LABBE 4, 1024, MANSI 7, 908, HÉFÉLÉ 2, 886-887.

Theophilus Raynaudus’s Christianum Sacrum Acathistum (2): Section One

(See the introduction to this work in a previous post.)

In the first section of Christianum Acathistum, Fr. Raynaud explains the surprise with which he had discovered, upon his return to France (in 1651?), after his Roman teaching days, that the people of Lyon had begun the novel practice of sitting during Mass, on small seats and chairs brought in for that purpose. It appears the practice had not abated ten years later when he published this treatise.

Before he begins his invective against pews, he summarizes some plausible arguments for the practice from Scripture, the Fathers, reason, and tradition.

The novel custom of bringing in seats for those assisting at the Christian sacrifice

Session of Christ
Session of Christ, Book of Kells

Scarcely a decade has passed since I returned from Italy and was astounded to discover the novel practice of bringing in a seat [sellam] or chair [cathedram] for those assisting at the Mass, for which one is charged a small fee. When I asked at what point  and on whose watch this novelty had arisen, I was told things it would be better not to repeat. For many things are shamelessly invented about good people and freely bandied around. It is better to be discreet about such things, lest innocent men be sullied or besmirched by the telling alone. What is at least clear is that, once this novelty was brought in, it instantly attracted the attention of  superfluous little busy-bodies. Now it happens that on feast days, whenever someone comes to the Church to fulfill the Church’s precept of hearing Mass, some contemptible men from the basest grade of the people, along with their wives and young children, run up and accost him with great obsequiousness. Even unbidden and unpaid, they bring in a chair on which the person may lean or sit upon as they please. It is as if the chair were a monastic psyatius (?), upon which the monks of old would lean or sit on in turns (as Nebridius correctly observed in Monastic Antiquities). This “session” [sessimonium] (to use a word of Varro) causes so much impediment in the holy temple that those who want to move around can do so only with great difficulty, since the seats are dispersed so tumultuously through almost the whole church that it is a great labor even to approach the chancery.

Interior with a friar preaching, a follower_of_hendrick_van_steenwyck_ii_interior_of_a_gothic_church_with)
Interior of a Cathedral with Friar Preaching, A follower of Henryck van Steenwyck

There are some who find it useful to bring in a sort of ground-covering for themselves. For most people are frail, and unable to pray on their knees for very long. What would happen to these people if they fell into the hands of a prolix priest—the sort William of Paris rails against for mixing gall into the food of the people of God and rendering the highest exercise of Christian piety bitter by protracting the celebration of Mass. Knee-butchers and candle-wasters, executioners of patience, you might justly call them, following Gabriel and Major on this point. So, what is weak man to do, falling into the hands of one of these interminably-sacrificing priests, if he is deprived of a seat? But with the help of a seat he can assist piously at even a longish Mass, as long as he puts down his knees when the divine host is raised, sitting for the rest of the sacred service to flatter his infirmity. And he may find refuge in the precedent of St. Anselm who (as Edinerus relates), sought use of a chair to sit on when he assisted at Mass, and did sit for many days. Being so weak in body, and not wanting to be deprived of hearing daily Mass, yet unable to assist praying on his knees, he sat on a small chair for the duration of the sacrifice at which he so greatly desired to be. Therefore, why should those who know themselves to be weak not follow the example of such a great man?

interior engraving.jpg
For those who are not able to protest their bodily weakness and tired limbs, a seat is useful for avoiding dirt and stains from the unwashed floor.  For many arrive with shoes caked in the muck of the muddy streets, by whose tracks the floor becomes filthy . Nor is the place any less soiled, most of the time, by spit and other disgusting excretions that distract one at prayer (as the Master notes in S. Benedict of Aniane’s book). For the devil quickens and relaxes the excrements: as Cassian also warns. For not everyone is as S. Macarius of Alexandria, who (as Palladius says) for the sixty years after he received baptism, never spat upon the earth lest his tongue, sanctified by the touch and saliva of the priest who conferred his baptism, be dishonored by that ejection of spit. There are many who, no matter where they are, even in the temple of God, spit out the saliva that has richly collected, stimulated by the vigor of their humor, or when a copious fluxus of saliva urges. Not everyone has the same tender piety of S. Nonna who was careful not to spit in church, as Nazianzus records about her. Not everyone has that piety toward the church that the Roman had even toward that sewer called (according to Varro) Doliola. This was a ditch dug long ago when the Gauls were besieging the city, in which it was impious to spit, since the place was considered sacred. In the same way it was impious to spit in the sea because the whole of it was considered sacred, as Pliny notes when writing about Tyrides Magus. Thus many who come to the temple, restrained by no religious sense to abstain from spitting, strew the floor with the excretions of evil liquids and thus dishonor it.

Church interior  
There are even dogs who make their way into the temple whose feet are  often feculent and filthy, and they foul the floors with their muck and grime. It is also difficult, especially for the philocosmic sex (as S. Jerome calls the female one), especially for those whose expensive clothes might be sullied by brushing against the dirty floor as they kneel to pray during Mass. Thus a seat is a safeguard against all such ordure and justly despised filth. And so seats and stools are permitted on good grounds, at least for leaning, lest contact with the grimy floor spoil their splendid clothes and people make themselves unwholesomely dirty in the grime-coated floors.

dogs in belfast.jpg

Peeter Neeffs, Interior of Antwerp Cathedral. Note the wooden screens around all the altars.

But lest we think that either of these reasons settles the matter, we must also consider a third reason, which arises from the need to support the attention of the worshipper at prayer as conscientiously as possible. Tranquility of soul and body greatly conduces to this attention, and sitting contributes to quietude of mind. No weakness of body will weigh down the blessed in heaven, for all will be strong in justice, as Isaiah said. All will receive strength, and a corporal vigor excluding all weakness will abide forever in them. There will not be any violation of beauty, neither of the resurrected bodies nor of their clothes if the Blessed have them (this problem was amply discussed by Gabriel of Enhaus.) We need fear no such things there; for the world will all be gold as in the vision given to John, nor will any dirt be allowed in, but it will be more transparent than crystal and shinier than any glass. And yet the blessed, perpetually praising God, will have seats, seated upon which they will measure out an eternal hymnody, signifying their tranquility and rest. Many scriptures tell us this, as Christ says in Matthew 20: “to sit ad my right hand is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father”; Apocalypse 3 “to the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with my on my throne.” Paul in Ephesians 2 “raised us up with him and seated us with him in heaven.” A resplendent seat in heaven which belonged to one of the apostate angels was given to S. Francis as a reward for profound humility, and has been shown to one of that glorious Patriarch’s confreres, as St. Bonaventure says in his legend [….].

Interior of a Gothic Cathedral, Paul Vredeman de Vries

Christ sits at God’s right hand, as our faith teaches and Suarez proves very amply from the Scriptures and Fathers. Thus it is just that the sons of adoption, who belong to the Son of God, should be similar to him also in this. Thus the blessed will have seats to rest on in heaven, as an expression of their eternal rest. Why then should it not be allowed to the viatores to express by imitation the state of the comprehensi, and to sit while carrying out the work of God, acquiring tranquility of mind and body, which of all things is fitting for those at leisure for the worship of God? [….].

Of course the Apostles and the whole crowd of the faithful upon whom the Holy Spirit descended when he established the Catholic Church at the moment when the first Christian sacrifice was being performed (as we have shown in a complete work de prima Missa), are portrayed by Luke sitting as the spiritual flames rained down upon their heads. Hence Cardinal Cajetan has rightly argued that sitting is not a posture incongruous with Christian prayer. St. Gregory has this to say about sitting in order to exercise an interior judgment upon our souls, when he speaks about solitude: “When everything has been properly composed within him, he will sit down in peace. He will sit, subjecting his flesh to his soul, and issuing edicts from the tribunal of reason as if from a judicial bench, all his interior motions being as so many citizens. I say he will sit, with no fear of the adversary, conscious of no hostile attack. For to stand belongs to those who fight, but to sit belongs to those at leisure. He will also sit alone, which is to say, far removed from every disturbance of the carnal desires.”

Now both sitting and withdrawing are most appropriate for one receiving an internal judgment. So many have thought that during an exterior judgment the one who judges is required to sit. This is not only from seemliness, as Bouchius thought, but also from necessity, and the validity of the sentence depends on it. Though Menochius rejects this opinion, it is in conformity with the Scriptures, in which judgments are portrayed as taken place while sitting, as in Daniel 7: “iudicium, sedit, et libri aperti sunt.” and in Psalm 121: “Illic sederunt sedes in iudicio.” And elsewhere: “adversus me loquebantur qui sedebant in porta” [….]

In civil law, when the Praetor brings a case before the tribunal, he sits [….]

Interior of a cathedral, David Roberts (1822 or 1829)

All of which goes to show that Aristotle was right when he said that the soul is made prudent by sitting, because tranquillity makes it quiet. Therefore, in order to bring rest to the soul and quietness to the flesh while performing an action for God, sitting is fittingly used.

What else? Men of surpassing piety approached God while sitting. This was done by Moses who leaned on a rock, extending his hands and praying against the Amalekites (Exodus 17) and by Elias (3 Kings 18) [….] About St. Ignatius of Loyola we read this, in Masseus, who has it from the secret observance of Ignatius’s domestics: “When he had climbed to the top level of the house where there was an unobstructed view of the stars, he stood for a little while with his eyes fixed on the heavens. Then casting himself on his knees, he humbly adored the creator of all this beauty. Thereafter, due to his infirmity he sat on a small bench [scabello] as copious rivers of tears flowed from his eyes, and that without any sobbing or noise. In this way, with his soul serene and his body still, he received the rays of the divine light, and was joined to the Father in a wonderful sweetness of spirit.” Ignatius’s sitting did not disturb him but led to greater composure, which aided his peace of soul and recollection.


(to be continued…)