Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Saturday, 22 December 2007

The Fragrance of Christ

On my way to a funeral, and thinking about the incense, which I love, and which we don't use enough of, IMO (our parish is really smokin' at funerals, I must say.)
If you don't read Zenit.... well, you should.
I am not sure that fragrance is not also a good metaphor for the intuitive communication that seems to be an attribute of women.
Interview With Biblical Scholar Núria Calduch Benages
By Miriam Díez i Bosch
ROME, DEC. 20, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Jesus Christ, with his words, gestures and works, emanates a fragrance, which a biblical exegete calls the perfume of the Gospel.
Núria Calduch Benages, Old Testament professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University, is the author of "Il Profumo del Vangelo: Gesù Incontra le Donne" (The Perfume of the Gospel: Jesus Encounters Women), published by Paulist Press.
In this interview with ZENIT, the author comments on this fragrance, and on Christ's encounters with women.
Q: What is the perfume of the Gospel?
Calduch: The perfume of the Gospel is nothing other than Jesus Christ: That which emanates from his words, from his gestures, and from his works; a perfume of nard, pure, very expensive -- the fourth evangelist will write later -- whose fragrance filled the whole house at Bethany, where Jesus was found eating with his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus six days before the Passover.
"The Perfume of the Gospel" presents various encounters of Jesus with women, some of which were characterized by the presence of perfume; an element full of connotations and rich in symbolic significance which, according to the context, permits various interpretations.
Q: What happens when Jesus encounters women?
Calduch: Nothing strange and exceptional, but all his encounters were born from his gratuitous love manifested in his preference for the poor, the little, and people marginalized from society for many reasons. All the women appearing in the book belong, in some way, to that category of society's victims, either because of her sex, because of her illness, because of her work, religion or nationality.
Jesus met the unclean Israelite woman with the hemorrhage, a Canaanite woman from the Greek culture, a public sinner and many other disciples who, once they followed Jesus, had no fear of violating the male-centered system that dominated Israel in the first century.
Jesus openly spoke out in favor of these women and, becoming one with their pain -- physical or spiritual -- brought into being a new trend in humanity.
Q: What symbolic role does perfume or fragrance have in the Gospel?
Calduch: Perfume is a refined liquid used for special and unusual occasions. It is not used like water. Perfume is delicate and costly. We remember the pure nard perfume which filled the house of Mary of Bethany with its fragrance [cf. John 12:3], or the verse about the sinful woman at the feet of Jesus in Simon the Pharisee's house [cf. Luke 7:37-38].
Perfume is not given to just anyone, nor is it wasted pointlessly. It is a present to be given to those people who are especially cherished. So, perfume is the fragrance of gratitude. Perfume symbolizes love's triumph.
Q: Your book has a very interesting end; there is a rough sketch of the figure of Jesus as the "Wisdom of God." What does the wisdom of Jesus have to do with women?
Calduch: The figure of Jesus as Wisdom of God seems appropriate for our agitated world, but it is also a critical counterpoint. His acts continue being acts that our world needs: The blind see, the lame walk, the dead rise, and the invitation to the table of Lady Wisdom is a language every human being of today can understand.
Awareness of life is something we all need, in order to know that life doesn't live us, but that we live life. But it is also certain that we need silence from time to time and, above all, we need to value the mark time leaves, because with time comes all the stored-up and inherited wisdom. Youth is not the only, nor the best, moment to value in life.
Jesus, the Wisdom of God, extends beyond knowledge and information. He invites our lives and not only our minds; our emotions and affections, and not only our rationality; our body and not only the soul, to be saturated with his perfume and his gifts.
Women, in Christ, continue to have the relational capacity of dialoguing with God. And already today this capacity continues being one of the gifts of women.
© Innovative Media, Inc.

Crunch time

Am I the only one who does such things?
But here it is two 1/2 days to Midnight Mass, (yes, yes, I know Mass During the Day, is the pinnacle of the Three Mass Marathon, but logistics and the fact that no one would be there to listen preclude the pre-Liturgy carol-fest, which everyone insists on, including me -- it is a chance fro them to get out of their systems the items that are much beloved but are not going to happen during Mass on my watch.... but I digress,) here is is, etc., and I have not delivered music to the instrumentalists, or indeed even given it much thought, or touched base with them since securing their services months ago.
Crunch time indeed!
DO I have a trumpet part for the Kuykendahl?
Does the flautists know the Herbeck?
Have they all done the Vermulst mass before?
And what key does the Mass of Remembrance Gloria end up in?

And WHY isn't' that one cantor returning my phone calls and am I gonna hafta go medieval on him if he leaves me stranded at the early Mass on Christmas? (or impose on the ever-trusty Himself?)
Anyway, are there no prisons, are there no workhou.....
Erm, wait, no, I mean, God bless us everyone!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Umm... 3? ....7?

How many Gospels are there?
A sad, but not surprising article about the general ignorance in the putatively Christian country of Ireland, the subjugated counties.

An opinion poll conducted by Millward Brown Ulster on behalf of the Iona Institute and the Evangelical Alliances of Ireland and of Northern Ireland showed that levels of religious knowledge in the North are even lower than in the rest of the Emerald Isle.
The poll is a follow-up to a religious-knowledge poll conducted in the Republic of Ireland in April. This found low levels of basic religious knowledge in the population, especially among young people. This latest poll allows a comparison between levels of religious knowledge in the North and the republic, and between Northern Catholics and Northern Protestants.
The poll finds that levels of religious knowledge among Northern and Southern Catholics are roughly the same. However, in general, levels of religious knowledge among Northern Protestants are lower than among Northern Catholics. Thus Northern Ireland as a whole seems to show lower levels of religious knowledge. In the Republic of Ireland, the population is almost 90% Catholic.
David Quinn of the Iona Institute commented, "As with the poll conducted in the South, we find that levels of religious knowledge in the North are very low, especially among young people. It shows that knowledge of Christianity, both North and South, is disappearing from general knowledge."
The Northern Ireland poll showed that only 42% of respondents can say there are four Gospels (Catholics, 52%; Protestants, 36%). Some 65% of Catholics could name the persons of the Holy Trinity, whereas only 45% of Protestants could.
Protestants were more able to name the first book of the Bible -- 68% got that question right, compared with only 54% of Catholics.
Almost 40% of Catholics could say the First Commandment; only 26% of Protestants could.
The poll also found a marked difference between the levels of knowledge among younger and older age groups.
Just 21% of Northern Ireland respondents aged 16-24 could say there are four Gospels. Some 54% of those over 65 could.
Similarly, only 33% of young respondents could name the persons of the Holy Trinity, whereas 67% of those over 65 could.

Desperately Seeking a Kidney

No, not me.... but plenty of other people.
You don't need both of yours, why not check into GIVING SOMEONE BACK HIS LIFE by offering your spare?
Theoretically, kidneys should be in booming supply. Virtually everyone has two, and healthy individuals can give one away and still lead perfectly normal lives.
Yet people aren’t exactly lining up to give.
At the beginning of 2005, when I put my name on the list, there were about 60,000 people ahead of me; by the end of that year, only 1 in 9 had received one from a relative, spouse or friend.
Today, just under 74,000 people are waiting for kidneys.
I found the article interesting, a bit surprising in how little it mirrored my experience.
A potential donor "needed to talk it over with her husband but thought it would be fine."
(A step I almost forgot until it was insultingly late.)
But then a knowledgeable friend "talked her out of it."
The knowledgeable friend, a transplant surgeon seems merely to have informed her about some of the risks.
The "chance of death [that is so] tiny" the recipient poo-poohs it even as she reports it?
Put it this way.
Imagine something you want or need -- say the amount of money it would take, however many millions, to change your life and the lives of everyone you love, utterly and irrevocably for the better. Now double it, just to make the reward of this step you're about to take really meaningful. Okay? And there it is for the taking, on that table. Oh, one problem... it is attached to a bomb. And there is a chance, one in 5,000, that it will blow up and kill you. So yeah, that means that there is a 4,999 in 5,000 chance everything will be fine.
I don't know how you can call someone else's 1 in five thousand chance of death "tiny," frankly.
Let me say right now, I don't know if that is even an accurate statistic.
And it is certainly one I can call tiny. I'm entitled. But she, frankly, does not have that right.
I am also taken aback at her supposition that no one who is squeamish about blood and pain would step up to the plate.
She doesn't know anyone with a greater aversion to needles than I, or a bigger wuss about pain.

I am not sure how I feel about this:
Altruism is a beautiful virtue, but it has fallen painfully short of its goal. We must be bold and experiment with offering prospective donors other incentives for giving, not necessarily payment but material reward of some kind — perhaps something as simple as offering donors lifelong Medicare coverage. Or maybe Congress should grant waivers so that states can implement their own creative ways of giving something to donors: tax credits, tuition vouchers or a contribution to a giver’s retirement account.
In short, we should reward individuals who relinquish an organ to save a life because doing so would encourage others to do the same. Yes, splendid people like Virginia will always be moved to rescue in the face of suffering, and I did get my kidney. But unless we stop thinking of transplantable kidneys solely as gifts, we will never have enough of them.
Not at all sure...
But the concept of “tyranny of the gift” she goes into fascinates me.
Because what developed is a sort of dread, not of the recipient's gratitude, but of that of one of her relatives. And it is not only I who suffer from it, but Himself.
This was as nearly as close to anonymous as any other altruistic donation could be, didn't know the family before, have only discovered third and fourth degree connections since (everyone in town, but us, is related...) and we have virtually nothing in common.
We meet for dinner once a year, if they remember.
The author is correct about the satisfaction of the donor. I suppose there is a bit of vanity in it -- it fulfilled my expectations of the person I pretend to be.
Anyway, where was I?
Oh, yeah.
Donate your organs.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

So tired....

Obviously I'm approaching all this wrong, or I wouldn't feel like this, and so many plausibly psychosomatic problem would not be plaguing me.... BUT
But, BUT, BUT--
The Berlioz chorus sounds not just not bad, but GOOD. And "Bring a Torch" sounds joyful and confused and perfect. And the psalm (Thank you, thank you, Jeff Ostrowski!,) sounds quite beautiful (I have set some verses polyphonically and in, [my (perhaps mis-)understanding ]of faux-bourdon.) And the Bach chorales sound purposeful and positive. ANd the various Ordinaries, inevitable.

And, best of all, In splendoribus finally sounds like a prayer. And besides that, (I was going to say "beyond that," but it is quite clearly a lesser achievement,) gorgeous. GORGEOUS.

Sometimes, it is just about finding the precisely correct words to convey to the choir what, in your heart, your soul, your brain, you KNOW it should sound like.

But Lawdie, I feel lousy....

Friday, 14 December 2007

The last hurrah...

... of the Regressives?


John Allen has a report on Asbp. PIERO Marini's new book.
I wonder if I can wanglemy way into the CTU presentation?
I'll ask a few people. I'd be very interested.


"No, no, I don't celebrate Christmas, I'm a CHRISTIAN!"


One has to admire the rejection of secular commercialization of a religious commemoration, but....

"I'm pro-life but I'm not part of the pro-life movement"?


Can anyone from Canada, or conversant with matters Canadian explain this to me?

The Unborn Victims of Crime bill, submitted to the Canadian parliament by Conservative Ken Epp, received its first hour of debate in the House of Commons on December 13.
The bill-- which would allow criminal charges to be laid in the death or injury of an unborn child when the child's mother is the victim of a crime-- faced heated opposition, however. Among the leading opponents was Raymond Gravel, a Catholic priest who was given permission to enter politics by Bishop Gilles Lussier of Joliette.?
"I'm a Catholic priest," said Gravel as he began his remarks on the proposed legislation.?Gravel said he was "uncomfortable" with the bill "because the member putting it forward is part of a group called the pro-life group which in my view is a rather extreme fanatical group, when it comes to life." Gravel continued, "I'm pro-life but I'm not part of the pro-life movement in Canada."??
The priest-- who had promised his Bishop before entering politics that he would not take positions that went against the doctrines of the Church-- added, "I also think this bill will open the door to a re-criminalization of women who have abortions, and that's not to be desired."


As CNA reported they would, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Levada has produced a VERY big document.
Because a lot of what passed for, like, evangelization and junk, was kinda, ya know, "centered on feelings or confused ideas about the teachings of the Church on the nature of Jesus."
Ya think?
The fact that prominent Catholics, even prelates, do not wish others to be brought to knowledge of Christ Jesus, and loudly proclaim their opposition to evangelization, limiting missionary efforts to good works, to social work; or decry efforts at true ecumenism, at true unity, in TRUTH, under... was that what gave you the clue?
Anyway, a summary is up on the Vatican website.

How's this for getting to the heart of the matter? --
3. Today there is "a growing confusion" about the Church’s missionary mandate. Some think "that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom," suggesting that it is enough to invite people "to act according to their consciences", or to "become more human or more faithful to their own religion", or "to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity", without aiming at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith.
Others have argued that conversion to Christ should not be promoted because it is possible for people to be saved without explicit faith in Christ or formal incorporation in the Church. Because "of these problems, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged it necessary to public the present Note."

Or this:
10. For Christian evangelization, "the incorporation of new members into the Church is not the expansion of a power-group, but rather entrance into the network of friendship with Christ which connects heaven and earth, different continents and ages." In this sense, then, "the Church is the bearer of the presence of God and thus the instrument of the true humanization of man and the world."

This is simply beautiful:
The communication of truths so that they might be accepted by others is also in harmony with the natural human desire to have others share in one’s own goods, which for Catholics includes the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. Members of the Church naturally desire to share with others the faith that has been freely given to them.

I am reminded of a story I read about, IIRC, Hillenbrand, in which he recoiled when a Jewish friend told of a Catholic mentor who had not tried to convert him.
How can we not want to share this, share Him?

Thursday, 13 December 2007

RIP, Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler


A great man, and a great friend to the (genuine) progressive * movement in Catholic liturgy.

In paradisum deducant te angeli: in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem

Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam habeas requiem

*I have set myself a mission -- I am going to rehabilitate certain words co-opted by the Forces of Dimness.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

"Fishers of Men"

You have to see this.
Actually, you've probably seen it, I'm probably the last Catholic in the US to have heard about it. (And all because I was malingering after the funeral this morning, resting and elevating my giant, potato-shaped feet.)
Excellent film, on the vocation to the priesthood.
Stirring, interesting, beautiful.... any admiring adjective you care to insert.
It's like the best recruitment film ever made.
Every Catholic should watch it.
Several times.
We should show it in our schools and parishes. Regularly. Constantly.
I take back everything I ever said.... hold on there, Skippy, don't get carried away -- I take back some of what I've said about the USCCB.


CMAA President Interview

Well, I taped Fr Pacwa's interview with Dr Mahrt, as I was playing for a Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe, (or "-loopy", as the celebrant pronounced it...,) and when I got home asked Himself if he was interested.
Nah, not really, and it will be over my head
So I sat down to watch and ten minutes later, when Himself had to get ready to turn in, he asked, could you stop it, or else leave the tape out for me to watch tomorrow, that guy's great. He's saying stuff I somehow knew but hadn't expressed, and it's not too technical.
One voice at a time... (I would have said "one heart," but that's that drippy theme song [from an excellent program,] on Relevant Radio. And besides, it's voices that need to be won, lex cantandi, lex.... and all that)

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Always wanted to be a Mom...

I admit, I sometimes think of Himself's conversion as the only motherhood I shall ever experience.
But here, via Zenit:

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican Congregation for the Clergy is looking for people willing to offer Eucharistic adoration for the priesthood and "consecrated feminine souls" ready to become spiritual mothers of priests.
A new Web site from that Vatican dicastery offers explanations and resources both for the campaign to begin Eucharistic adoration and for those who would like to be spiritual mothers of priests, following the example of the Virgin Mary.


So, not enough priests? And you haven't a son to "give" to Holy Mother Church?
Adopt one!
Stop complaining, and start sending up prayers!

When do you lofty types receive the Blessed Sacrament?

Obviously, the configuration of every church is different, and timing differs from day to day, season to season, even from Mass to Mass on the same day.
When I was a child, and a college student in another place (another lifetime, it sometimes seems,) we trekked down the stair right after singing the Lamb of God, (or even!!!! the Agnus Dei!!!) and were, in effect, the head of the line. This was so at several different parishes.
My recollection is from the Age of Standing for Communion, but I think it was so in the kneeling days as well.
At my first job, we were not in a loft, but the pattern held. Choir "went first" in silence, then began to sing, whether a piece particular to them, or in leading congregational singing.
(What I can't recall in all this is when Unnecessary Ministers of Holy Communion came into the picture. They seem always to have been there, but obviously, this is not so.)
At my present parish we are up three flights, for all intents and purposes, and an EM, (UM,) or two , or occasionally a deacon, or VERY rarely, a priest makes the ascent. (That person is called a "runner.") We have a number of EMs in the choir, and often one will meet the runner, receive, and then become the minister of one species.
The current trend among liturgisti is that singing must commence as the priest makes his communion. No silence until the musicians are ready, no instrumental music to "tide us over."
Naturally, between the stairs and the church which is nearly a city block long, we do not receive very near the beginning of communion.
When I began my tenure, I had the choir sing their anthem or proper first, then the cantor downstairs would announce the PIP hymn, which would often time out to begin just as the choir was starting to receive.
If things worked out very well I was "head of the line" and receiving as the announcement was made. Sometimes I would forgo the Precious Blood in order to get back to the bench.
Sometime, we would be well into the congregational piece and I would receive when it was over.
Sometimes, the PIP piece would be on going, (and more verses obviously needed, the lines downstairs still reaching the back of the church,) and I would receive while playing.
But many of the most requested contemporary pieces, not because of their difficulty so much as their nonsensical arrangement, do not allow me to spare a hand or even my gaze in order to receive, so I either had to stop the piece or wave the EM off.
In any case, I was never able to devote the attention to receipt of the Body and Blood that He deserved.
Sometimes, we were not quite finished with our piece, and although he claimed not to mind, the deacon, ( whether upstairs with us, or in the sanctuary playing "wine steward,") would be visibly steamed.
Some choir members, despite my requests, would stop singing, even a complicated piece of polyphony and dash to the side of the loft the minute the EM came in sight. Some did this because of a reverence that would not allow them to keep Him waiting. Other because they wanted to either receive from the chalice first or not at all.
Now, for an expectedly long Liturgy, say, Christmas, when a longer choir piece might reasonably be programmed, the "runner" would still likely arrive right in the middle of the entire communion time, meaning the longer than usual piece fit in neither before nor after the choir's receipt of communion.
And of course, a storm could mean that numbers downstairs were so small and numbers upstairs so great, that even without singing a choir piece, hence no waiting for the EM, he or she would return to the sanctuary well after communion was over for everyone else.
Then there came an insistence from TPTB that the congregation was to sing at the very beginning of communion.
Never mind if the choir were singing the actual proper or a very good approximation of it, and the piece we sang with congregation was a barely-better-than-random "communion song," from the meager offerings of Gather.
The latter took precedence over the former.
Strangely, the insistence came from someone who rarely attends a choir Mass, and probably had little idea of the week in and week out realities of how things timed out, but would be basing the decision on Holy Thursday, the Paschal Vigil and Midnight at Christmas.
What began to happen then was that the congregational communion song would run out just about when the choir had the opportunity to receive.
So, should I receive? have a time, or will there be excessive (and verboten,) silence? should I improvise endlessly as an introduction to what we would sing? are enough sopranos back in position to begin? have the tenor picked up their octavos or hymnals yet? have the EMs finished with the choir members with canes who can't get to their station by the door? are jaws still working, have the basses swallowed yet?
And then, looking downstairs -- is the communion procession over for all intents and purposes.
And of course much of this hinges on the ambulatory powers of the EM, some of whom arrive a good while before others would. This is not something that can be planned for.
On "big" feasts, the crowd, (extra instrumentalists, choirs from other parishes in the cluster, relatives who've begged a good seat,) make it impossible for the EM to get to, or sometimes even to see who has not yet received, and they abandon us; but that is a different problem altogether. The configuration of the loft, platforms, risers, console, shelves and pillars is awkward, to put it mildly, and I am not able to change it.
It's a royal mess.
Our bishop, or the liturgista who speaks for him, has requested that "post-communion" pieces be done rarely, if ever, so the obvious solution to some of this is out.
All this has made it difficult for me personally, to quote P the B, one of the P that B, "to enter prayerfully into the Liturgy."
I simply cannot devote the attention to receiving my Lord that such an action deserves.
On non-choir weekends, I simply go down to the sacristy after one of the Masses and ask a priest or EM to give me communion.
Several weeks ago I decided I would just do that all year long.
It "feels" odd, but feelings are not really germane.
Anyway, it certainly "feels" better than scrambling to receive with one eye on the organ, one on the procession downstairs, and virtually no attention to spare for Our Lord.
(I know some of the Liturgy Nazis work themselves up into a froth at the very idea of receiving outside of Mass.... tant pis.)
Of course, this way I never can receive the Precious Blood.
I am not really sure about all this....
And I appreciate that when I make this request of the deacon, he always, at least during the flu season, washes his hands after having pressed the flesh at the door.
This past week, while he was going to do so, the celebrant returned from hugging and shaking (among other things,) and he, who never washes his hands, went to the tabernacle for me.
Somehow, nearly a dozen Hosts fell to the floor (I can't figure why, he did nothing sloppily or abruptly and the ciborium was not that full.)
I helped pick them up (my eyesight is better than his,) and offered to consume them, so I guess deep down I'm not as fanatical about things as my hand-washing concerns might indicate...
(He refused my offer, incidentally.)
Odd weekend, all in all.
Should I just not take Communion so often?

Dr Mahrt on EWTN

Also from TNLM -
I am fairly sure that my readership, whihc must number 2 or even 3 by now (how it is growing!) all read TNLM, but just in case not, you will want to watch one of the heroes of the contemporary Catholic Church in America on television:

Wednesday, December 12
CMAA President, Wiliam Mahrt,
Speaks on Sacred Music and Liturgy
on EWTN Live TV and Radio.
He will be on the "EWTN Live" show with host Fr. Mitch Pacwa at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time/7:00 p.m. Central (also several re-runs, check your listings.)

Watch! Tape! Tivo! Get your pastor and choir to watch!

New Liturgical Movement

It looks as if comments are closed over there, completely.
I though conversation of late was very edifying, and nothing seemed in danger of veering off course, so I can't believe it wasfound necessary to moderate it for... well, being immoderate.
Hopefully just a temporary glitch.
The have a link to a striking new piece by vaticanista Sandro Magister, on the forces of rupture (the Herniators?) and their response to the champion of continuity, our own Papa Ratz. which is must reading.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Article on Abp. Marini's Book


John Thavis, in what is, for all intents and purposes, the USCCB's newsletter, presenting their take on HOW THINGS ARE, gets it wrong in the very first sentence:
In a new book, a Vatican archbishop has chronicled the birth pangs of the liturgical reform generated by the Second Vatican Council and warned of a Roman Curia tendency to return to a "preconciliar mindset."

Birth pangs, indeed!
What can you expect of those who mistake a sullen and wayward adolescence for infancy?

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Good discussion on S to the L

Between health problems and an insane schedule, I have had time to read and form an opinion of the guidelines, Sing to the Lord, but not to blog on it.
Let me direct anyone reading this to two worthy on-going discussions.



Meanwhile, anyone reading this, prayers would be appreciated. (Nothing serious at risk, just my sanity....)

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Starting Playing Dress-up

NCR (yes, yes, it is as confusing as the "good" cholesterol, bad cholesterol thang... but this is the BAD one, or perhaps merely the silly one,) titles their lead editorial, "Finished Playing by the Rules," although my title would be better, don't you think?
And without a touch of irony a "Catholic" periodical gives us profiles of 5 women "Catholic" priests.


Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Why don't your Aunt Susie keep ducks?

That was my late Grandma's retort to any question she thought idiotic, impertinent, irrelevant or otherwise unworthy of answer.
It flashed across my mind when one of my crankier, less faithful choir members took exception to the news that we would always be singing at the same Mass from now on.
No, I have no intention of directing and (singing with, and sometimes carrying the high notes for) a choir without some contiguous preparation, and no, I have no intention of rehearsing a choir at 7:15 am.
This extra rehearsal business for Christmas is wearing me down.... I don't mind it, indeed I planned it, but it is not as fruitful as it could be, and attendance makes me question my liberal policy in that regard.
On the other hand, a dear soprano who has been deathly ill was well enough to come and sing with us this evening, so Alleluia!
Pueri Concinite is going well (will I have enough voice in 3 weeks to carry it off?) and the Berlioz Shepherds' Farewell is going to be a keeper for us.
Yes, those chromatic harmonies are difficult, (and there was some whining,) but no harder than the Rutter What Sweeter Music? we did last Christmas, whihc they all ended up loving and being very proud of..
I cannot go along with the (to me, spoil sport,) attitude toward the tradition so many places (here included,) of a concert of sacred and religious Christmas music as a prelude to Midnight Mass. It is a lovely custom.
I have written some 4 part verses (some faux bourdon, one polyphonic,) for the Chabanel psalm for Midnight Mass (God save Jeff Ostrowski!) that sound not too bad.
Mr. Webb's Hail Jesu Christ, Born for Aye, which we started on, but just couldn't quite "get" last year is going to fall into place juuuuust fine this time 'round.
A few old favorites, of course. And, truth to tell, probably a few old... what's the opposite of favorite?
There are certain customs that I just can't buck successfully, so there will probably be at least one wretched song, and one wretched arrangement of a marvelous song, and who knows, maybe even a wretched rendition of a wretched arrangement of a wretched song...
And certain members will of course fight me yet again on the In Splendoribus.
Interesting teachable moment, last week working on on of the Advent Introits at choir rehearsal, (to a simple psalm tone.)
An indignant, "You mean we're not going to sing a hymn??!?" (where were they all of last Advent? or this past Lent, for that matter? but never mind...) allowed me to explain to yet a few more people the way poor substitutes have been allowed to usurp the place of what the Church actually asks for, and the providing of which we are in a position to implement.
But GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD, it's tiring, it's like pulling teeth sometimes, and it's wearing me down and I'm losing my voice and I can neither bend nor fully straighten out my legs thanks to the swelling from the eczema and...
What can I say?
I'm feeling put-upon and unappreciated and holding a pity party. (And I think it'll be a good party, with cocktails :-P)

Diagnosed to Die: Hospice Extends to Babies


Beautiful, beautiful article on families who refuse to capitulate to the Culture of Expediency, the Culture of Death.
A story of modern day saints....
Doctors told Mary Kellett that her son Peter was not worth the resources it would take to treat the chromosomal abnormality they detected before his birth."Wrap him up in a blanket and let him go," they advised. But Peter's older sister discovered on the Internet that not all babies with trisomy 18 -- the condition affecting her little brother -- died before birth. In fact, she found out, some live two or three decades.
Peter's family did not want to abort him. Mary Kellett said the strong discouragement to treat Peter "was and remains the most painful feeling I have ever felt as a mother. ...

The organization she founded: http://www.prenatalpartnersforlife.org/
Prenatal diagnoses of illness are more and more common. And yet, even advanced medical technology can fail. The ANSA news agency reported from Florence in March that a healthy fetus was "mistakenly aborted." The baby boy was diagnosed in the womb with a defective esophagus. The mother chose to abort, and the procedure was performed at the 22nd week of pregnancy. However, during the abortion, the doctors realized the baby, who weighed just 1.1 pounds, was healthy, so they quickly moved to resuscitate the child. The boy died five days later from a brain hemorrhage incurred during the abortion.

(Explain to me again why abortion isn't murder?)

[Dr. Byron Calhoun, vice chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at West Virginia University-Charleston] acknowledged that "there is tremendous pressure by physicians, genetic counselors, and family members to perform abortions."
But, he says, "much of this stems from ignorance of hospice and the mistaken thought this will help the patients. Malpractice is part of the issue, but the majority of the issue is to 'do something' and to 'get it over with.' This approach does not work and actually traumatizes patients more."
The doctor lamented that many physicians and organizations are not aware of perinatal hospice and are often ill-equipped to deal with all the issues necessary to care for these patients and their families.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

You be the judge....

Is this material anti-Catholic?


Thank you to Catholic and Loving It's James Pearce for culling the money quotes from the apparently well written and engaging muck.

There's a lot of ascii being spilled across the world debating the question: "Are Pullman's books anti-Catholic?" A lady at Church recently told me she had read the first one and wasn't sure they were (she said it was too dull to read the other two). Personally, I'm really suprised this is even a question.
I read the whole trilogy just over a year ago and the best way to explain it is like this, imagine if somebody wrote a book set in a parallel world where the Prime Minister of Britain Adolf Hitler heroically saved the freedom loving Nazi's from an evil global Jewish conspiracy. Such a book, fiction or not, would be a tad offensive. Nobody would say "It's just a story", especially if a rift were opened between said parallel world and our own.
In the first book, the one being released as a film, the anti-Catholicism is subtle. The bad guys are called "the magisterium" and they have "priests" but it could be a coincidence. Couldn't it?
By the beginning of The Subtle Knife, things are becomming a bit more obvious. When a rift opens between Lyra's world and our own, Ruta Skadi, queen of the witches tell us...
"Sisters," she began, "let me tell you what is happening, and who it is that we must fight. For there is a war coming. I don't know who will join us but I know who we should fight. It is the Magisterium, the church. For all it's history - and that's not long by our lives, but it's many, many of theirs - it's tried to suppress and control every natural impulse. And when it can't control them, it cuts them out. Some of you have seen what they did at Bolvangar. And that was horrible, but it is only one such place, not the only such practice. Sisters, you know only the north: I have travelled in the south lands. There are churches there, believe me, that cut their children too, as the horrible people of Bolvangar did - not in the same way, but just as horribly - they cut their sexual organs, yes, both boys and girls - they cut them with knives so that they shan't feel. That is what the Church does, and every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling. So if a war comes, and the church is on one side of it, we must be on the other, no matter what strange allies we find ourselves bound to.
Thats right, the Church is the enemy of freedom and sexual organs. Lyra befriends a chap called Will from our world who finds an object called the Subtle Knife that can be used to travel from parallel world to parallel world.
Now Pullman goes all Screwtape on us. First he tells us about the fall...
There is a war coming, boy. The greatest war there ever was. Something like it happened before, and this time the right side must win... We've had nothing but lies and propaganda and cruelty and deceit for all the thousands of years of human history. It's time we started again, but properly this time..."He stopped to take in several rattling breaths."The knife," he went on after a minute; "they never knew what they were making, those old philosophers. They invented a device that could split open the smallest particles of matter, and they used it to steal candy. They had no idea that they'd made the one weapon in all the universes that could defeat the tyrant. The Authority. God. The rebel angels fell because they didn't have anything like the knife; but now..."
God was a tyrant you see. Then he tells him about the two sides in the war between good (mankind) and evil (the aforementioned tyrant)...
"There are two great powers," the man said, "and they've been fighting since time began. Every advance in human life, every scrap of knowledge and wisdom and decency we have has been torn by one side from the teeth of the other. Every little increase in human freedom has been faught over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stronger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit.
Next, Screwtape (I mean Pullman) tells us about how God didn't create us and just deceived us all...
"Tell me, then," said Will. "Tell me about the Metatron, and what the secret is. Why did that angel call him Reagent. And what is the Authority. Is he God?"He sat down, and the two angels, their forms clearer in the moonlight than he had ever seen them before, sat with him.Balthamos said quietly, "The Authority, God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father, the Almighty - those were all names he gave himself. He was never the creator. He was an angel like ourselves - the first angel, true, the most powerful, but he was formed of Dust as we are, and Dust is only a name for what happens when matter begins to understand itself. Matter loves matter. It seeks to know more about itself, and Dust is formed. The first angels condensed out of Dust, and the Authority was the first of all. He told those who came after him that he had created them, but it was a lie. One of those who came later was wiser than he was, and she found out the truth, so he banished her. We serve her still. And the Authority still reigns in his kingdom and the Metatron is his Reagent.
God, by the way, is getting on a bit...
"Well, where is God," said Mrs Coulter, "if he's alive? And why doesn't he speak any more? At the beginning of the world, God walked in the garden and spoke with Adam and Eve. Then he began to withdraw, and Moses only heard his voice. Later, in the time of Daniel, he was aged - he was the Ancient of Days. Where is he now? Is he still alive, at some inconceivable age, decrepit and demented, unable to think or act or speak and unable to die, a rotten hulk? And if that is his condition, wouldn't it be the most merciful thing, the truest proof of our love of God, to seek him out and give him the gift of death?"
Maybe we should euthanise God?
First, we need to profoundly misunderstand what "Spirit" and "Soul" means...
"You know," Mary said, "the church - the Catholic Church that I used to belong to - wouldn't use the word dæmon, but St Paul talks about spirit and soul and body. So the idea of three parts in human nature isn't so strange"."But the best part is the body," Will said. "That's what Baruch and Balthamos told me. Angels wish they had bodies. They told me that angels can't understand why we don't enjoy the world more. It would be a sort of ecstasy for them to have our flesh and our senses.
Now we can get on with killing God. How do we go about doing that? Well how the fall happen last time? Remember the Garden of Eden? For maximum offense let's have somebody called Mary (you know, the one who says "Yes" to God and tramples the serpent underfoot) play the part of the serpent. Mary tempts Will and Lyra...
"I used to be a nun, you see. I thought physics could be done to the glory of God, till I saw there wasn't any God at all and that physics was more interesting anyway. The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all.""When did you stop being a nun?" said Lyra"I remember it exactly," Mary said, "even to the time of day. Because I was good at physics, they let me keep up my university career, you see, and I finished my doctorate and I was going to teach. It wasn't one of those orders where they shut you away from the world. In fact we didn't even wear the habit; we just had to dress soberly and wear a crucifix. So I was going in to university to teach and to do research into particle physics.
"Anyway, some of my colleagues were going to a restaurant a little way down the coast, and they asked if I'd like to go. [...] Well, sitting opposite was a man I'd seen once or twice around the conference. I didn't know him to speak to; he was Italian, and he'd done some work that people were talking about and I thought it would be interesting to hear about it [...] He was handsome," she went on "He wasn't a ladies man or a charmer. If he had been, I'd have been shy, I wouldn't have known how to talk to him. But he was nice and clever and funny and it was the easiest thing in the world to sit there in the lantern light under the lemon tree with the scent of the flowers and the grilled food and the wine, and talk and laugh and feel pretty. Sister Mary Malone, flirting! What about my vows? What about dedicating my life to Jesus and all that?"Well I don't know if it was the wine or my own sillyness or the warm air or the lemon tree, or whatever... But it gradually seemed to me that I'd made myself believe something that wasn't true. I'd made myself believe that I was fine and happy and fulfilled on my own without the love of anyone else. Being in love was like China: you knew it was there, and no doubt it was very interesting, and some people went there, but I never would. I'd spend all my life without ever going to China, but it wouldn't matter, because there was all the rest of the world to visit.
I suddenly realised I had been to China. So to speak. And I'd forgotten it.
I was twelve years old. I was at a party at the house of one of my friends, a birthday party, and there was a disco [...] Usually girls dance together because the boys are to shy to ask them. But this boy - I didn't know him - he asked me to dance, and so we had the first dance and then the next and by that time we were talking... And you know what it is when you like someone, you know it all at once; well, I liked him such a lot.
As Mary said that, Lyra felt something strange happen to her body. She felt a stirring in the roots of her hair: she found herself breathing faster. She had never been on a roller-coaster, or anything like one, but if she had she would have recognised the sensations in her breast: they were exciting and frightening at the same time, and she had not the slightest idea why. The sensation continued, and deepened, and changed, as more parts of her body found themselves affected too. [...] She sat trembling, hugging her knees, hardly daring to breathe, as Mary went on:"And I
think it was at that party, or it might have been at another one, that we kissed each other for the first time. It was in a garden, and there was the sound of music from inside, and the quiet and the cool among the trees, and I was aching - all my body was aching for him, and I could tell he felt the same - and we were both almost too shy to move. Almost. But one of us did and then without any interval between - it was like a quantum leap, suddenly we were kissing each other and oh, it was more than china, it was paraside.
I thought: I want to go to China. It's full of treasures and strangeness and mysteries and job. I thought, will anybody be better off if I go straight back to my hotel and say my prayer and confess to the priest and promise never to fall into temptation again? Will anyone be better for making me miserable?"And the answer came back - no. No one will. There's no one to fret, no one to condemn, no one to bless me for being a good girl, no one to punish me for being wicked. Heaven was empty. I didn't know whether God had died, or whether there never had been a God at all.
I took the crucifix from around my neck and I threw it in the sea. That was it. All over. Gone."So that was how I stopped being a nun," she said.
Lyra is 11 years old by the way, and this is a book for children. Lyra decides to act on Mary's wisdom...
Then Lyra took one of those little red fruits. With a fast-beating heart, she turned to him and said, "Will..."And she lifted the fruit gently to his mouth.She could see from his eyes that he knew at once what she meant, and he was too joyful to speak. Her fingers were still at his lips, and he felt them tremble, and he put his own hand up to hold hers there, and neither of them could look; they were confused; they were brimming with happiness.Like two moths clumsily bumping together, with no more weight than that, their lips touched. Then before they knew how it happened, they were clinging together, blindly pressing their faces towards each other."Like Mary said -", he whispered - "you know straight away when you like someone - when you were asleep, on the mountain, before she took took you away, I told Pan - ""I heard," she whispered, "I was awake and I wanted to tell you the same and now I know what I must hav felt all the time: I love you, Will, I love you -"The word love set his nerves ablaze. All his body thrilled with it, and he answered her in the same words, kissing her hot face over and over again, drinking in with adoration the scent of her body and her warm honey-fragrant hair and her sweet moist mouth that tasted of the little red fruit.
It does the trick. Will and Lyra's love for one another (which wasn't real love until they got physical) saves the world by creating a load of that Dust stuff. God can't stand it and dies.