Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The Perils of Double Dipping

I should preface all this with the fact that I am an inconsistent and illogical germophobe.
(Though of course not in the same league as K., who as a child would refuse to eat off his own plate if someone else reached past him at the table, thereby causing even a small portion of his arm to invade K.'s plate's "air space." And in a great cosmic joke, HE married a woman who, without a second thought, would walk into someone else's kitchen, stick her finger in something cooking on the stove, lick it off and go for seconds. If that wasn't evidence right there that he was making a mistake, I don't know what is. And we've all been proved right, haven't we? ... but I digress.)
As a Catholic I have always ardently consumed the Precious Blood from the communal communion cup, though I am often loathe to shake hands, and not only from the pain it often causes me.
Though while the thought of a stray bacterium or two on the lip of the chalice held no terrors for me, (and let's face it, an EMHC making a swipe with a purificator or whatever it's called is in the same hygienic league as your friend blowing on a piece of candy you've dropped on the movie theater floor -- "convectiventilation," I think the technique is called,) I admit to have inwardly shuddered at seeing, and worse, hearing serious slurpers in front of me in line, attacking the spoon at an Eastern Rite church.
And when my best friend was dying from AIDS, although I myself seldom caught colds and was never debilitated or even laid up very long with various flus and bronchitises making the rounds, I was paranoid about picking up and passing on even a minor cold that could have been devastating to him.
I seem to be sick all the time now, but I am in contact with no one delicate, and since my main task is not vocal, (although laryngitis or a bad cold during what I think of as "high Ave Maria season" could be devastating economically, I suppose,) I don't give as much attention to the way the rest of the world conspires to give me germs as I used.
Himself is a different matter, and to my shame I admit I try not to but carp at him a bit, about washing hands, about not spilling the entire contents of a pill bottle into his hand and pouring the ones he doesn't want back, about not swishing a knife used to cut raw meat under some water and wiping it off on a hand towel and calling it clean, .... again I digress.
I was never a big Seinfeld watcher (if I want to spend a half hour with unpleasant but invasively funny people, I've got an enormous family, right?) but everyone is probably aware of how one episode gave a name to the pervasive and pernicious practice that has been on display at probably every party one has attended during the now winding-down holiday season, and will be out there in spades this coming "Super Bowl" weekend, (I asked, as we planned a meeting for this coming Sunday and someone opined that turn-out may be sparse because of the Bowl, "And that is...? some sort of sporting event?" I do it every year, but I think it is good for my friends to have something they can rely on about me.)
The NYTimes reports on an actual study of the possibility for germ transfer via "double dipping."
[Researchers] instructed volunteers to take a bite of a wheat cracker and dip the cracker for three seconds into about a tablespoon of a test dip. They then repeated the process with new crackers, for a total of either three or six double dips per dip sample. The team then analyzed the remaining dip and counted the number of aerobic bacteria in it. They didn’t determine whether any of the bacteria were harmful, and didn’t count anaerobic bacteria, which are harder to culture, or viruses.
There were six test dips: sterile water with three different degrees of acidity, a commercial salsa, a cheese dip and chocolate syrup.
On average, the students found that three to six double dips transferred about 10,000 bacteria from the eater’s mouth to the remaining dip.
Each cracker picked up between one and two grams of dip. That means that sporadic double dipping in a cup of dip would transfer at least 50 to 100 bacteria from one mouth to another with every bite.
The kind of dip made a difference in a couple of ways. The more acidic water samples had somewhat fewer bacteria, and the numbers of bacteria declined with time. But the acidic salsa picked up higher initial numbers of bacteria than the cheese or chocolate, because it was runny. The thicker the dip, the more stuck to the chip, and so the fewer bacteria were left behind in the bowl.
Professor Dawson said that Timmy was essentially correct. “The way I would put it is, before you have some dip at a party, look around and ask yourself, would I be willing to kiss everyone here? Because you don’t know who might be double dipping, and those who do are sharing their saliva with you.”

Guacamole, anyone?

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Brave New World


A Return to Barbarity
Quest for Perfection Leads to Selective Killing of Unborn
By Father John Flynn, LCROME, JAN. 28, 2008 (
Zenit.org).- The quest for a perfect child is leading to the increasing use of techniques to discover possible health problems in the unborn. Normally this is not done with a view to healing, and results in the deaths of embryos considered imperfect.I
t Italy court decisions are in effect undoing a legal prohibition against the use of such screening programs, known as preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). A 2004 national law vetoes screening embryos before they are implanted in the mothers' womb.
The trend to increasing use of PGD is very evident in England. A couple recently received approval to test their embryos for a genetic defect that leads to high cholesterol levels, reported the Times newspaper on Dec. 15.
The approval, by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, was given in relation to a genetic trait that is a relatively rare condition and which can lead to the death of children at an early age. The Times noted, however, that the couple have a milder form of this genetic problem and that it could well result that the embryos would have a good chance of becoming children with reasonably healthy lives.
Shortly after this authorization it was argued that deaf parents should be allowed to screen their embryos so as to be able to pick a deaf child, reported the Sunday Times on Dec. 23. According to Jackie Ballard, chief executive of the Royal Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People, a small minority of couples would prefer to have a deaf child so as "to fit in better with the family lifestyle."

[Preimplantation genetic diagnosis] is gravely opposed to the moral law when it is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion depending upon the results," the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith warned.
A diagnosis that reveals some illness "must not be the equivalent of a death sentence," the instruction added.
Eliminating embryos who suffer from malformations or hereditary illness, is a violation of the unborn child's right to life and as an abuse of the rights and duties of the spouses, the document concluded.

Hearing parents can allow deaf babies to lie frozen in Limbo, deaf parents can give hearing babies a pass, gay parent can screen out little breeder babies, macho societies can just kill off all the girls, except the bare minimum needed, beautiful people can consign those babies without the probability of fair hair, strong jaws and bright eyes to the rubbish heap, no people with cleft palates can be allowed to be born...
How far we've come, how advanced we are.
O brave new world that has such monsters in it.

Universal norms... for anullments?

I, of course, have a particular interest in the process of seeking a decree of nullity.
And I imagine I may have benefited from the... looser application of law here than in other part of the Church in the world.
What would I have done? I though he had absolutely rock solid grounds, but suppose the judgement had come done in favor of the first marriage's sacramentality? (is that a word?)
I thank You for Your great mercy, Lord, that I never had occasion to learn how strong a character I had... or lacked. (I have been tickled that over the course of Janez-a-poppin', the late winter bookened to Scrooge-a-palooza, he saw a parallel to our adventure.)


The Roman Rota should be increasingly characterized by unity, since the application of law in diverse cultures can tend to become distant from Church teaching, Benedict XVI says.
The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience officials from the Tribunal of the Roman Rota on the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year.
At the beginning of his address, the Holy Father said this year's commemoration of the first centenary of the re-establishment of the apostolic tribunal of the Roman Rota, as endorsed by Pope St. Pius X in 1908, provided an appropriate occasion to reflect upon "the jurisprudence of the Rota within the context of the administration of justice within the Church."
"Any juridical system must seek to offer solutions," said the Pope. And in seeking such solutions, "apart from prudently assessing each individual case in its own uniqueness, the same general principles and norms of justice must be applied," he said. "Only in this way is it possible to create a climate of trust around the tribunal's activities and to avoid the arbitrariness of subjective criteria."
...Benedict XVI highlighted the Roman Rota's notable achievements in the area of marriage over the last 100 years, indicating how the tribunal is still "called to undertake an arduous task that has great influence on the work of all other tribunals: that of determining the existence or otherwise of the married state, which is intrinsically anthropological, theological and juridical."
"Law cannot be reduced to a mere collection of positive rules which tribunals are called to apply," said the Pope. "The only solid foundation for legal work consists in conceiving of it as a real exercise in 'prudentia iuris,' a prudence that is nowise arbitrary or relativist. [...] Only in this way do legal maxims acquire their true value and avoid becoming a compilation of abstract and repetitive laws, exposed to the risk of subjective and arbitrary interpretations."
Hence, the objective assessment of the facts in the light of the magisterium of the Church constitutes an important aspect of the activity of the Roman Rota, and has great influence on the work of ministers of justice in the tribunals of local Churches."
The Holy Father highlighted how, "through such work in the causes of nullity of marriage, concrete reality may be objectively judged in the light of criteria that constantly reaffirm the truth of indissoluble marriage, which is open to all men and women in accordance with the designs of God."
The Pontiff noted that due to the universal nature of the Church and the diversity of juridical cultures in which it operates, "there is always a risk of the formation of 'sensim sine sensu' [local forms of jurisprudence], ever more distant from the common interpretation of positive laws and even from Church doctrine on matrimony."
In this context, the Holy Father expressed the hope that attention be given to "the right ways to ensure that the jurisprudence of the Rota is ever more characterized by its unity, and is effectively accessible to all who work in justice, so as to find uniform application in all the tribunals of the Church."

Well done, Jon Stewart

The sequence of Cheney "smiling" to the pounding accompaniment of O Fortuna was priceless.
Frankly, the commercials today for the Daily Show, touting their coverage of the State of the Union address as a break from reality shows, as the only scripted fiction currently on TV was also terrific.
I'm disappointed that Abp. Marini I's book tour seems to be canceled as I really did want to get to the event at CTU. While I certainly don't care for all the liturgical shenanigans that he might logically be thought to have had something to do with, I think he may have been unfairly blamed, very little is accomplished by fiat in any organization.
And I took an illogical dislike to him --
It is not his fault, after all, that he reminds me of Dick Cheney...

Monday, 28 January 2008

R.I.P. Archbishop Christodoulos


Archbishop Christodoulos, the charismatic head of the Greek Orthodox Church who helped heal centuries-old grievances with the Roman Catholic Church but stirred controversy with his politically tinged statements and tireless interventions in state affairs, died on Monday. He was 69.
He led Greece's 10 million Orthodox Christians for a decade, boosting church attendance. He died at his residence in the Athens suburb of Psychiko, refusing hospital treatment in the final days of a seven-month battle with liver cancer....

he mended rifts with the Vatican, receiving the late Pope John Paul II in Athens in 2001 -- the first pontiff to visit Greece in nearly 1,300 years.
Despite widespread opposition from conservative adherents of the Orthodox faith, the influential clergyman, who was schooled by Catholic monks in Athens, followed up with a historic visit to the Vatican last year, meeting Pope Benedict XVI.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

The USCCB's Mission

I had no idea that part of the USCCB's mission (http://usccb.org/) as they saw it, and have elucidated it on their home page, was to "foster communion with the Church in other nations, within the Church universal, under the leadership of its supreme pastor, the Roman Pontiff."
Two points:
Sometimes they have a dang goofy way of showing it, (i.e., any "Adaptations for for the United States"; or objections from BCL that translations were "English" rather than "American.")
And I'm not sure this isn't reflective of a Spiderweb rather than Hub ecclesiology. The way to foster unity with other countries' Catholics is surely through adherence to universal principles, conformity to curial requests and decisions, a joyful and whole-hearted acceptance of documents such as Summorum Pontificum, Redemptionis Sacramentum )
But perhaps I am looking at this wrong.
Or perhaps there has been a change of heart at the USCCB with their gradual change of leadership, or at least seeming shifts in their center of power.


Bad funeral....
In a first for me, I felt the necessity to call a funeral director afterwards and apologize.
I had vented a bit on the sidewalk in front of the church immediately after the funeral.The regret I felt was for bothering him, (certainly not for intruding on the grief of people, whose method of mourning was to blow noise makers, so they couldn't have heard me, anyway.)
The funeral had begun over 40 minutes late (the funeral home is two blocks from the church.)
And after my sitting on the bench playing and leading FIFTY MINUTES OF PRELUDE MUSIC (boy, is my improv in e flat gettin' good, into Nimrod, out of requiem eternam, a whisper of SLANE, ...,) the Mass nearly over, and my thinking I can't wait to get to the rest room out of this frigid loft and to some food, in that order, Father said, there is an announcement, and to Father's obvious surprise, said "announcement" turned out to be a eulogy, and before the first eulogist finished another moved to the ambo to add his 3 cents.
Some of it was unintelligible for the sobbing, but some of it was jokes... it is so edifying when the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is used as a warm-up to a roast.
And I was already steamed because in single digit weather some members of the choir don't see any good reason not to stand at an open the window in the loft counting cars....
Anyway, at the funeral director's request I have printed out what the Instruction General has to say about eulogies.
Chapter VIII
Masses and Prayers for Various Circumstances and Masses for the Dead
II. Masses for the Dead
para. 382. At the Funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind.

Men who can't grow beards

Why do they try?
I realize that it is the suppression of facial hair that is active, do nothing and what ever wants to sprout will sprout. (The late great Claude Jean Chiasson told stories, perhaps apocryphal, of his aunt who would say things such as, "Ewww, a beard, dear? If God meant for you to have that He'd have put it there.")
So it's not exactly trying.
But, as someone who has never had to worry about razors, (I did not inherit other aspects of Mom's gorgeousness, but un-platinum and un- zaftig though I be, I still think I lucked out,) I have always assumed that unless a man goes for the ZZ Topp, OT patriarch look, facial hair by design takes MORE time than just shaving the entire face.
Trimming, shaping it, shaving some areas of the face but precisely not others, or keeping the growth to that exact level that evokes Zorro during a period of intense and perilous activity rather than the guy from water department on his day off?
It seems to me facial hair is usually more rather than less work.
I would ask Himself, except that any mention of beards or mustaches and he thinks I'm bringing up the fact that against my expressed preferences he sported a mustache for our wedding. That is a source of continuing confusion in our other blissful connubial state... we are both forgetful and negligent, and neither of us can locate with any precision that tipping point when reminders, or even ascertaining that one was indeed heard crosses the line into NAGGING. But I digress...
Anyway, that is why I won't ask him.
But I wonder, if after a reasonable number of days of effort, if it becomes apparent that you really can't .... why try?
The ladies at a website that I will not name are wondering about some TV actor, who apparently can grow a respectable beard, and have an idea whose time may have come, the XY crowd's counterpart to Locks of Love:

maybe this is one of those A Character's Downward Spiral Is Reflected In His Facial Hair beards, or perhaps he's growing it so as to donate it to Beards For Bros, a charity I just invented which benefits college dudes who try desperately to grow facial hair but totally fail and instead lope around campus scratching their ill-seeded, patchy cheeks, wondering if their tragical [beard] configuration means something bad about their testosterone levels.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Suffering from Ecumania

An interesting, ("I'll be the judge of that!" I always shout when Himself begins a story that way.... I'm a pain, aren't I? He probably gets a Get Out Of Purgatory Free card for having married me,) but anyway, an interesting piece by a Fr Michael Seed.
He obviously travels in far more exalted circles than I, but I think, I think he just may be talking about the same reaction I am having to what passes for Ecumenism, this kind of very earnest and spacey at the same time, What does it matter what you believe as long as you're a nice person? jamboree.
When Mrs. Himself Sr. learned we were to be married she asked him, or rather, more or less stated, "So you'll become a Catholic," and I too quickly said NO, and then of course explained, not unless he wants to we haven't even talked about that, it's certainly not necessary, not that it wouldn't really make me happy, but that's not a good reason... I never know when to stop talking anymore than I know when to stop typing.
But after we were married, and he began to ask more questions, and I began to ask them back, we decided, he couldn't really think about converting, (yes, I know being received into the Catholic Church from another Christian denom is not technically "conversion,") unless he knew from what he was converting.
And there's the rub.
And I cannot speak for Anglicans, or Methodists, (I'm thinking of some of the big entering into full communion stories of the past few months,) but it seems to me for Catholics, the emphasis on ecumenism in my lifetime coincided perfectly and horrifically with the catechetical collapse. All those Catholics "leaving" the Church had no idea WHAT they were "leaving."
And also perfectly synchronized with the let's cut out felt banners and sing I am a Giant Ball of Love phase of faith formation, (I'm not making this up -- our class had a big poster that said, "God is Orange,") was the de facto suppression of all the oblique catechesis , the devotions, sacred art, the ethnic Catholic customs, the cultural Catholicism.
So maybe I'm reading into Fr Seed's piece, but I think I'm seeing someone who looks on most manifestations of "ecumenism" with as jaundiced an eye as I.

The 100th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends today. The week was established in 1908 by the founder of my order, the Rev Paul Wattson (an Anglican who became a Catholic a year later). It worked pretty well for the first 60 years, but over the last 40 years it has become ever more complex and problematic. We often say: “Oh, it’s the turn of the Methodists this year” or “It’s the turn of the Anglicans.” It’s their turn to organise “the thing”, whatever the thing is. The week now is an exercise in “forced ecumenism”. It’s dominated by thousands of ecumaniacs. These are people in the grip of a terrible disease called ecumania. There is no cure at the moment. The disease leads to a living death, and it is a very painful one. The week needs to be totally rethought.

The emphasis of the next 100 years, I hope, will be on prayer and a deep spirituality.
The greatest joy I had in 2007 was when I was invited to address an ecumenical clergy meeting in a certain London borough. At the end of my address, they decided to abolish their pointless meetings. They wanted to wait upon the Holy Spirit to guide them to a new level of ecumenical life. I suspect that when they went back and told their congregations the meetings were over there were a few scarcely suppressed cheers from the pews.

Thursday, 24 January 2008


I received a "talking book" of Peggy Noonan's John Paul the Great for Christmas, and have been listening to it while cleani.... er, while avoiding cleaning the house.
Although I had myself in mind when I cautioned against a "papalatrous" devotion to man rather than God, (http://scelata.blogspot.com/2008/01/problem-of-unity-poses-this-question.html )Noonan's, well, there's no other word for it, gushing reminds me of a certain type I encountered when I first came to the the wide world of the WorldWide...
There were extreme conservative (NOT "traditionalist",) Catholics who hung on the then Pope's every word as if it were Holy Writ, and would declare, in so many words, things such as, "He is Christ on earth," or "John Paul speaks with the voice of God."
No, no, they could not be convinced, as I put it, that "sometimes under very specific conditions he speaks with the voice of God and sometimes he just speaks with the voice of a wise and good old Polish guy."
I'd even allow, with the voice of a VERY wise, and VERY good Old Polish, (and now, Bavarian,) guy, but not perfectly wise (for not every utterance is even intended to be, much less is, infallible,) and not perfectly good, (for he was neither immaculately conceived, nor divine.)
I'm not saying Noonan is in that category of hero worshipper, but there are times that her effusive praise is a bit.... well, almost embarrassing.
It's like hearing a 14 year old talk about her latest crush, and what a remarkable, unique, superlative paragon of masculine humanity her pimply-faced chemistry lab partner is.
Don't misunderstand, I admire many things about the late pope greatly, but her rhapsodizing about him teaching us how to die reminded me of some of her post 9-11 blathering.
Yes, Peggy, I guess if you never saw anyone else age and die with gallantry and pain and perseverance, but you know what? there's an entire world of people you will never write about doing that every day. Most of the world doesn't need a celebrated person to teach them that because they have grandfathers and neighbors and 1st grade teachers and sisters and ministers and grocers who have been teaching them that their whole lives.
She wrote a column once about applauding the blue collar heroes who were making their way to ground zero to do what needed to be done and how no one had ever applauded them before, noticed them before.
What made her think that?
Because she hadn't?
There a silly tendency among 20 year old NYU film students voting for the greatest movie Of All Time to forget that movies were actually made even, difficult though it may be to believe, before they were born.
It finds an echo in the mediocrats of either political leaning, of either coast, of any Hub of the Universe who think that the existence, (of anything, trend, activity, idea,) begins with their notice of it or engaging in it, whether it's admiration of the Common Folk, or pregnancy. (Yes, did you know that was a "trend"?)
Anyway, the sense of noblesse oblige was irritating.
This little rant was probably uncalled for, maybe I'm remembering her old column incorrectly, maybe my reaction is because her voice reminds me of someone I didn't like when I was a toddler.

Maybe I'm just a curmudgeon.

But did she really once say, "I first saw President Reagan as a foot, highly polished brown cordovan wagging merrily on a hassock. I spied it through the door. It was a beautiful foot, sleek. Such casual elegance and clean lines! But not a big foot, not formidable, maybe a little ...frail. I imagined cradling it in my arms, protecting it from unsmooth roads."

Spiritual Snacking

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a self-starter, and that I do not understand that as an descriptor of approbation -- why are employers always looking for self-starters? They are a dime a dozen.
What are rare and essential are self-finishers.
Which I am not. Hence, my joy to have settled a spiritual practice that suits me, instead of true lectio divina, I am a browser, a grazer, a snacker...
If this is not a good practice, the good person who posts the Office of Readings and the best spiritual bloggers are .... well, enablers.
(Hmmmm... as I acknowledge myself a snacker, isn't it important to have healthy snacks in the house?)
Fr Hunwicke, about whose blog I cannot say enough has a superb reflection on some writing of Blessed John Newman's, in which he nails how, in my opinion, the trendy (if a practice that seems as passe as most of the other detritus of the '70s can rightly be called "trendy,") over-emphasis on the catechetical aspects of the liturgy to be found amongst those in the Liturgical-Industrial complex betrays a thoroughly protestant lack of faith in the efficacy of the Sacrament; may I say? a shocking and ultimately heretical disbelief in the power of the Sacrament of the Mass.
Here are Fr Hunwicke's (and Cardinal Newman's) words:

Gabbling the Mass
In Newman's (insufficiently read but brilliant) novel Loss and Gain, a young Ritualist clergyman called Bateman is trying to reclaim for the Church of England a fellow Oxonian, Willis, who has become a Roman Catholic. " Do tell me, just tell me, how you can justify the Mass as it is performed abroad; how can it be called a 'reasonable service', when all parties conspire to gabble it over, as if it mattered not a jot who attended to it, or even understood it?"

Willis explains that Catholicism and Protestantism are essentially two different religions. "The idea of worship is different ... for, in truth, the religions are different. Don't deceive yourself, my dear Bateman: it is not that ours is your religion carried a little further - a little too far, as you would say. No, they differ in kind, not in degree: ours is one religion and yours is another".
This is an important perception today, when much misunderstanding is caused both in ecumenical dialogue and in the subject called 'Comparative Religion' by those who fail too realise that religions can have radically different structures; their fundamental grammar may be wholly different, not just their superficial features.
As so often, Newman is a thinker and an analyst very much for our time.
But let us follow Willis's explanation:
"To me nothing is so consoling, so piercing, so thrilling, so overcoming, as the Mass, said as it is among us. I could attend Masses for ever, and not be tired. It is not a mere form of words - it is a great action, the greatest action that can be on earth. It is, not the invocation merely, but, if I dare use the word, the evocation of the Eternal. He becomes present upon the altar in flesh and blood, before whom angels bow and devils tremble. This is that awful event which is the end, and is the interpretarion, of every part of the solemnity. Words are necessary, but as means, not as ends; they are not mere addresses to the throne of grace, they are instruments of what is far higher, of consecration, of sacrifice. They hurry on as if impatient to fulfil their mission".

In other words, for classical Protestantism, the Eucharist is an acted word; it is a sermon dramatised; it is intended to instruct the witnesses and draw their heart to that saving faith which justifies. But for the Catholic, it is an opus operatum; an action which by the powerful and indefectible promise of Christ is objectively (not merely subjectively and in the heart of the believer) effective. So the celebrant is not in the business of moving or instucting or edifying or converting the viewer - if such may be the the by-products, even useful ones, of the action, they are not its intrinsic purpose. The priest's intrinsic purpose is to confect and offer the Body and Blood of the Redeemer in sacrifice for the sins of men.
Failure to realise this is at the heart of what is wrong with so much modern and 'relevant' liturgy.
"[The words of the Mass] hurry on as if impatient to fulfil their mission. Quickly they go, the whole is quick; for they are awful words of sacrifice, they are a work too great to delay upon; as when it was said at the beginning, 'What thou doest, do quickly'.
Quickly they pass, for the Lord Jesus goes with them, as he passed along the lake in the days of his flesh, quickly calling first one and then another; quickly they pass ... " but I invite the reader to get and read the book. [Ooooooooooh.... read a book. an actual book. an entire book. Can I do it?]

In terms of rhetoric and apologetic, it might seem that Newman has cleverly (no wonder Protestant England considered him dangerously sinister in his cleverness) justified 'gabbling' the Mass. But his purpose is deeply theological. I would put it like this.
If a Protestant went into a Catholic church and saw half a dozen side-altars, and at each of them a priest murmuring a 'private' Mass, his reaction would be likely to be 'Why are all those Ministers taking separate services, each of them with no more than one person to watch? What good does it do? Actors don't put on Hamlet to empty theatres just for the sake of it. It's pointless'.
But the priest knows that offering the One sacrice for the sins of all the world is the most worthwhile thing a man can do, whether his congregation is thousands ... or no-one.
Naturally, Doing This each day takes hold of a man and changes him.
To quote Newman again, "You, who day by day offer up the Immaculate Lamb of God, you who hold in your hands the Incarnate Word under the visible tokens which He has ordained, you who again and again drain the chalice of the Great Victim; who is to make you fear? what is to startle you? what to seduce you? who is to stop you, whether you are to suffer or to do, whether to lay the foundations of the Church in tears, or to put the crown upon the work in jubilation?"
May God bring close the day when this great Doctor of the Church is raised to her altars.(Substance of an address at Pusey House, Oxford, 16 January, 2008)

From The Introduction to the Devout Life by Saint Francis de Sales, bishop

The Office of Readings yields a gem.
I should like to know more about Philothea...

From The Introduction to the Devout Life by Saint Francis de Sales, bishop
When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling.
I say that devotion must be practised in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman.
...the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.
[Is it] proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbour.
Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganised and intolerable?
Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently,...
[True devotion] perfects and fulfils all things. In fact if it ever works against... anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is ... false devotion.
The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh,...
True devotion does still better. Not only does it not injure any sort of calling or occupation, it even embellishes and enhances it....
Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.
It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households.
....the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state.
Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection

Really, despite being of One Spirit we have differing gifts? differing tasks? differing, dare I say.... ministries? or, (I hope this isn't heretical,) some are called to ministries and others to apostolates?
The foot isn't supposed to lust after performing the job of the ear, say?

Gambling at Ricks

Wednesday, 23 January 2008


A reading from the online guide to St. Benedict (http://www.e-benedictine.com/)

But this very obedience will be acceptable to God and pleasing to allonly if what is commanded is done without hesitation, delay, lukewarmness, grumbling, or objection.For the obedience given to Superiors is given to God,since He Himself has said,"He who hears you, hears Me" (Luke 10:16).
And the disciples should offer their obedience with a good will, for "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).
For if the disciple obeys with an ill will and murmurs, not necessarily with his lips but simply in his heart,then even though he fulfill the command yet his work will not be acceptable to God,who sees that his heart is murmuring.
And, far from gaining a reward for such work as this,he will incur the punishment due to murmurers,unless he amend and make satisfaction.

Food for thought.
To whom do I owe obedience?
To whom do you?
Do I obey?
Do you?
My mother? my spouse? my pastor?
Do I owe him obedience?
My boss, who is my pastor, and I are often in disagreement , (don't misunderstand, I love him, we just have very differrent views on many, many things, and seldom have the same ideas on how best to proceed.)
Since he's my pastor I owe him obedience, to some extent, do I not?
Is my reluctant, or even sometimes sullen acquiescence really disobedinece? I behave as I would in a secualr situation where I was at odds with someone whose right, ultimately, any decision it was to make. And I continue to try to "get my way." (which, despite
On the other hand, I must try to ultimately bring our pracitice into line with what is right. Right? (Contrary to the opinion of her nibs, I am not trying to enforce my personal taste, my personal opinion, but rather what in my judgement is right, what is called fro, what is required by those to whom I owe obedinece. But that's a different matter.)
Anyway, thinking about obedience....
I alwasy wanted to be a priest.
Quite aside from having ovaries, I'm not exactly cut out for it, am I? vows and all?


Very good reflection from the On-line Guide to St Benedict, about, among other things, a side benefit to Thanksgiving, to Eucharist

Embracing victimhood can become self-indulgence awfully quickly, can't it?
I went to the Right to Life prayer service last night, veeeery sparsely attended. Excellent speaker.
I fell into the trap I too often do.... hell, I didn't fall, I took a running jump.
I was so careful not to do this in my performing days, because I so often found my colleagues doing it and it was either rude or it was pretentious. I could just sit and take in a play or a musical and enjoy it and the performances for what they were.
But I often find myself "outside" of religious ceremonies.
Sometimes this is from necessity.
I must guard against be so immersed in the EP, for instance, that I don't hear my "cue" to play the priest's pitch for him to chant the mysterium fidei, I cannot while we are "praying" a hymn ignore the fact that two basses seems to be singing from the wrong music, and that another, the loudest, instead of actually reading and singing , to quote H., "just aims his voice in the general direction of the pitch and pulls the trigger."
So that's excusable, indeed, necessary.
But sometimes, it's just sitting in judgement, as it was last night.
And it did stem from an unwarranted sense of victimhood, (the D of L asked me to save the date 3 months ago, has mentioned it since, asked me again at the last LitCom meeting to play, I gave up something else, and then she called the day before and essentially said oh, good, you have a cold, than you will be happy that I have arranged for someone else to play.)
And what could be more self-centered?
And so I found my mind, no wandering, but questioning.
From postures, to pitch, to the objects of our prayers.... not good, not prayerful.
So after that ENDLESS digression, here is this wise reflection:

Thanksgiving is liberating. It frees us from at least two crippling stances. First, from the tendency to feel that we're victims; and, secondly, from a self-centered view of reality. Clearly, the two are related: apart from genuinely being a victim, the victim, by desiring to be so called, has found another way of putting him or her self at the center of everything. Gratitude has to be worked at; for some reason it seems easier for us to center everything around the self. Thanksgiving, such as forms the heart of the Eucharist ("Taking the bread and giving thanks, He broke it and gave it to them" Luke 22:19) is the expansive alternative that sees all as gift, centers life around Another. What we offer God in the Eucharist, bread and wine are God's gifts to us, symbols of all God has given, before they ever become our gifts. Paradoxically, it is just some loss like that of a family member or close friend that often inspires us to recognize life as a gift. Such losses teach us to treasure life with thanksgiving. When all is said and done, we must choose thanksgiving over the alternative, resentment and self-pity. Is thanksgiving itself perhaps a gift that we need to ask for, for which we should pray?
— Don Talafous OSB

Lord, grant, I beg, that I shall always be thankful to You, and bless me with a grateful heart.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

The problem of unity poses this question: Are we dealing with God or with men?

The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem states, "The problem of unity poses this question: Are we dealing with God or with men?"
(It indicts what I think of as the "Christianity as Spiderweb", rather than "Christianity as Wheel" paradigm. The cart will never do a good job pulling the horse. Too many somehow think they can successfully connect to God through other people, instead of understanding that it is through Him that we can best relate to the rest of mankind. We end up with a tangle of threads however pretty in its geometry, rather than a structure with Christ as the hub; neglecting the Transcendent reality that is God in favor of His immanent reflections.)


JAN. 20, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The biggest obstacle to Christian unity is mankind's distance from God, according to the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Michel Sabbah.
"The perennial problem... is this: If we walk with God, we walk straight, and we live the true joy and the true hope of life," ... he told the youth during a Mass for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. ...
[He affirmed] that the problem of disunity "certainly has to do with theology and dogmas," but it is principally linked to "men and women who take the place of God."
[And I would include in this condemnation Catholic Christians who are practically "papalatrous," just to let you know I see the plank in my eye.]
... "It is always necessary to come back to this principle: The Christian always deals with God, and if he deals with men, he does this because he sees the image of God in them."If [our vision of God] is lacking, and we act as human beings with our sympathies and antipathies, then it is inevitable that there will be divisions among Christians.... Deal with God, and with men as images of God. When Jesus commands us to love everyone, those who are far away and those who are near, friends and enemies, he invites us to love God himself in that person."

Monday, 21 January 2008

Art and the eye of the beholder...

Now is when I really wish I could get the hang of linking to pictures or posting photos. *
Ah well....
Sandro Magister has an interesting piece, ("had," rather, it's a month old,) on the new lectionary in Italy, and how the Italian Bishops commissioned contemporary artists to illustrate it.
A very fine idea, in theory, though I don't know how well I think it turned out, in the event, if the example given is in any way typical of the level.

* (You see, the picture Magister illustrates the article with is a painting to accompay the Gospel story of the man born blind, and there are these cartoony eyes with big lashes... well, just follow the link and look at it.)

Liturgical Martyrs

Save the Liturgy or DIE for the Liturgy?
Meant to link to this when I discovered Fr Hunwicke's blog, ("discovered" like the white man discovered the New World... plenty of people already knew it was there.)

Here in Oxford much has been made of those who suffered for the Protestant religion under Queen Mary; and the Roman Catholics have very properly celebrated their own martyrs, including Bl George Napier, who bore witness at the Castle which is within our parish of S Thomas.
Largely forgotten are those members of the Church of England who were executed - without trial - in 1549 because they would not accept the newly state-imposed protestant worship. ... Like us, they undoubtedly resented the schism in which their 'betters' had involved them.....But like us, they struggled for Catholic worship [emphasis mine] and for unity with the See of Peter from within the church of their birth and baptism.

I guess is depends on where you live...

This article from our U.S. shepherds' official news organ tells us that, "Dioceses from Anchorage, Alaska, to Syracuse, N.Y., have been posting notices on their Web sites about how to request tickets for the papal Mass at Yankee Stadium, which holds 65,000 people, and an April 17 Mass at Nationals Park in Washington, which will seat up to 45,000 people for the event.But the various notices make one thing clear: If your opportunity to request a ticket has not already passed, it will soon."
Not so.
MY opportunity did not pass, for it never existed.
I called our chancery fairly early in the process and met with nothing but (slightly annoyed) surprise that i would think they would have anything to do with it.
"Call New York, if that's where he's going to be, our diocese doesn't handle things like that," said the priest who one might have thought would be in charge.
Ca ne fait rien, nodes or not I'm probably very, very, very busy that week.

As my late MIL would have said:

I like the cut of Marini II's jib.
Quiet, reverent common sense, without the rad/trad trashing of VCII that the squeakiest wheels wish for. (Yes, I'm going for a personal best on "methods of transportation" metaphors. How'm I doin'?)

Pope Benedict XVI has no intention of launching a liturgical "return to the past" but would like to recover some important elements that have been lost or forgotten in recent decades, the Vatican's liturgist said.
Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, made the comments in an interview Jan. 19 with Vatican Radio. He was asked about fears that the pope wants to abandon the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council. "These are certainly incorrect inferences and interpretations," Msgr. Marini said.
The path of Catholic liturgy is "development in continuity," in which change never loses touch with the church's living traditions, he said.

The honour of their presence was requested....

Was there an R.S.V.P?
What would you write?

Half of Rome accepts Cardinal Ruini's kind invitation, with pleasure.


More than 100,000 people filled St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Sunday in a show of support for Pope Benedict XVI after protests by scientists led him to cancel a university speech.
The people assembled in the square gave a roar of approval when Benedict, speaking after his weekly blessing, said, “I encourage all of you, dear academics, to always be respectful of the opinions of others, and to seek the truth and the good with an open and responsible mind.”
Benedict canceled a speech at La Sapienza University in Rome on Thursday after dozens of professors and students protested his invitation.
A Vatican spokesman said there were 200,000 people there, and the Italian news media reported that tens of thousands more watched video of the event outside the Milan cathedral and in Verona.
The protest at La Sapienza, one of Italy’s largest and oldest universities, was spearheaded by Marcello Cini, a professor emeritus of physics, who said that to have the pope preside over the start of a new academic year would be an “incredible violation” of the school’s autonomy.

Wish I'd been there....
I'm very disappointed, it doesn't look as if I can possibly go to Yankee Stadium in April.
Ah, well...

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

(Oh, no, it's half over and I haven't done any of my shopping, or sent out cards or...)
A generally interesting piece by Peter Steinfels in the Times about the understandably evolving ecumenical impulse among Christians.
He accounts for its seeming waning firstly by claiming, rightly, that the movement for Christian Unity has been a victim of its own success.
No longer does anyone think he will go to hell for attending someone else’s religious service (if any thinking person ever really did. I suggest that is a cartoon-level memory of a cartoon-level understanding of a cartoon-level presentation to those with limited levels of comprehension of what is a profound theological truth that Catholics know; kinda like “you’d go to hell for taking one bite of meatloaf on a Friday!“, but that would be another subject.)
He notes that the “work has been carried on by … ecumenical officers and theologians engaged in interchurch dialogue. These highly committed people track the progress of unity the way brokers watch the stock ticker. But people in the pews appear to have other things on their mind.”
Well, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but this PIP’s impression is certainly that it is a worthy but not very pressing concern given inordinate attention by … those “of a certain age?”
While faith enrichment committees plan interdenominational listening sessions, children and adults closer to home are clueless about sacramental theology, liturgical principals, the economy of salvation and what either the Bible or the Catechism actually says about a given subject, (which hardly ever, contrary to widespread belief, is “Lo, it mattereth not what beliefs thou shalt cleave unto, so long as thou art nice.” But I again digress)
But he also gives 3, (perhaps less reassuring) causes for the lack of focus on what once seemed very important to more people.
1) That diversity is seen not a cause for scandal but a fact to be celebrated, 2) that much more energy goes into understanding and negotiating the relationship between Christianity as a whole and other religions, and 3) that many denominations are deeply concerned with their own identity at present.
Now this is where he stumbles.
He rightly points toward (but does not name,) mainstream Protestantism’s self-destructive pretense that attending the same conferences, and calling yourself by the same titles, and acknowledging joint heritage… wait, let’s edit that down to Being Able to Claim You’re Members of the Same Club is more important than witnessing to Truth, (if Truth would require that one of two mutually exclusive positions would have to be called… well, Falsehood.)
But he says, “this anxiety about identity is most evident in a stream of conservative positions taken by Pope Benedict XVI, [and the] Vatican offices.”
When I was nubile and attractivish, or at least aware of how attractive girls were spoken to, would-be Lotharios always accused non-compliant young ladies of fear.
What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of me/trying this/going there/drinking that?
Once, at my snarkiest, I drawled, I’m not “afraid” of you anymore than I’m afraid of spinach, the 3 Stooges or anything else I avoid because I don’t like it.
Benedict XVI is no more “anxious” about whether Catholicism can “can define and maintain any clear-cut identity at all,” than he is about… the Three Stooges.
I see no anxiety, no fear, no worry about Catholic identity.
Why would he be anxious about whether the Faith can do something that is already done? And cannot be undone, I might add.
The Faith, the Truth, the identity exists, it just is. The Holy Father knows this and so he can proclaim it, loudly, resolutely, proudly, with no defensiveness.
I imagine if he feels any anxiety, Mr Steinfels, it is for the salvation of people who don’t yet know what he knows, with the certainty, and serenity with which he knows it.
What do you know?
I would also suggest one more possible contributing factor to less noise being made about ecumenism, and that is a better understanding of what true ecumenism would entail.
Say my brother quarrels with me and moves out of the family manse, into a house across the street.
If we are reconciled, and agree that we should live together again, how is it progress if we pick a spot equidistant from where we each are now, right on the double yellow line in the middle of the road?
One other, minor point I want to touch on.
In explaining why the multiplicity of sects might be a good thing, Steinfels tells us that, “diversity of Christian traditions has kept neglected facets of the faith alive and emphasized in some quarters — to be recovered when their absence was felt.”
Now, I would gladly acknowledge that diversity of Christian t
raditions is good, but the splintering off from the OHCA Church, is an attempt to screw around with not traditions but Tradition.
This can seem to be a good thing, (as in, for instance, the much bruited about preservation of various ritual beauties in the face of widespread iconoclasm and ugliness in present day Catholicism, thanks to the Anglican Communion,) only because God can draw straight with crooked lines, and because of His mercy, things often turn out All Right, despite human efforts.

Sometimes things just strike you a certain way...

I have, for someone of the misedumacation generation of Catholics a greater than ordinary familiarity with the lives of the saints, we had favorite picture books, a love of fine art of the Old-&-Established variety, (not so much those hooligan Moderns, but then, they don't add much to the treasures of hagiography, do they? But I digress...)
So the story of St Agnes is not exactly news to me.... so why did it move me to tears?
Is it something about the horrible vulnerability of so many girls I know, so many children, even the young adults in my own family? The way that vulnerability seems to be growing, the world is looking more dangerous, and worse, the Ways of the World every more threatening, in more significant ways, emotionally, spiritually?
Or is it just because I saw my portrait etched with such lapidarian skill at Universalis?
(Yes, of course I would die for my faith in principle, but wouldn’t I be able do more good in the long run if I stayed alive just now.... )
I was .... having a moment at the rectory after the funeral this morning.
Yes, I put in "too much time." But I could put in more.
Yes, my current compensation, or rather the threats to it are manifestly unfair.
But I am neither hungry nor in danger of losing the roof over my head, so why shouldn't I do, not only not with more, but with less?
O dear, I had to listen to and accompany a piece of cheese, (well, chose to, in deference to the sensibilities of those women who do such a service. Why shouldn't they get the object of their misguided musical affections once in a while?)
On the scale of martyrdom, it doesn't even register, does it? (Cheez at Mass is in a different category, that is an affront not to my sensibilities or to the gods of art, but to liturgical propriety and to the God of All.)
Mike Aquilina has a good thought on the spread of the Faith -- a skinny little girl may have been a sight mightier than all Constantine's legions....

it was the public torture of this lovely, innocent little girl, from a noble family, that turned the tide of public opinion in favor of the Christians. In that act, pagan Rome saw itself clearly and didn’t like what it saw. It was the tipping point. (There’s no way to prove such an hypothesis, of course. But if you’d like to step outside…)

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Long Mass

In some respects, for the best of reasons -- large crowd, many communicants.
But their lack of familiarity with the responses, (and I don't mean the ones with the whacked-out cues from a minister of improv,) and the ritual postures leads me to believe many of them may not be ... regular church-goers?
And the main reason it was long was because of an invented rite.
Don't get me wrong, I like the little made up ceremonies, I think they are good for the families and good for the children. (I think the Angel one is a hoot, and utterly, utterly charming. And it happens AFTER Mass.)
I do not however like these masques inserted in Mass, I do not like the pretense that they are part of the sacrament (despite the serious sounding name...) and I especially do not like them being shoe-horned into a liturgy at a parish whose members have not yet come to terms with all those things that are SUPPOSED to happen at Mass.
We will never convince them of that, which is true, because there is so much else we are trying to convince of along those lines that is false.
They don't buy that all the rites of initiation belong in the Paschal Vigil because they can smell the fake stuff like the Rite of Enrollment for First Reconciliation. If TPTB lump it all together, the genuine with the counterfeit, how are the PIPs to do other than lump it together and reject it all?

Saturday, 19 January 2008

What is the core of Jesuit spirituality?

I wonder if I am the only one disturbed by this, from an Australian Jesuit publication:


A Japanese Jesuit, Father Katoaki, has recently translated and added comments on the book of the Exercises from a Japanese-Buddhist perspective. [newly elected Superior-General Father Adolfo Nicolás] says there has also been some discussion on whether the Exercises could be presented to non-Christians, and how that might occur.
‘The question is how to give the Ignatian experience to a Buddhist’, he says. ‘Not maybe formulated in Christian terms, which is what Ignatius asked, but to go to the core of the experience. What happens to a person that goes through a number of exercises that really turn a person inside-out. This is still for us a big challenge.’

How can any Jesuit, much less their Superior-General, believe that the "core" of Ignatian spirituality is something from which Christ is absent? or if there, can be removed? For how, other than His absence could it be "formulated" in any OTHER than "Christian terms"?
If it were possible to formulate a set of spiritual exercise in terms which were not Christian, would they hold such pride of place in any Christian's much less a priest's practice?
And of what use to a Christian, much less a priest, could exercises whose core could remotely possibly be formulated in anything other than Christian terms even be?
Why turn a person inside out spiritually, for any reason other than to bring him to Christ?
What does such a Jesuit see as his mission?
Surely to bring people to Christ.
SO, presenting exercises at least initially in a way that is comprehensible to non-Christian may be necessary, but to think that this non-Christian facet might be the "core" of any spiritual practice that can ultimately be of any value is terribly, terribly misguided.
A liturgical musician might as well say, "The question is how to give the square-note experience to a to a non-believer, not maybe formulated in Catholic terms, which is what Gregorian chant is, but to go to the core of the experience."
Divorced from Catholicism, why would a liturgist, (as opposed from an academic,) give a flying fig about neumes?

Perhaps there's something I don't get, feel free to explain it to me.
Perhaps it's a translation issue.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Hey, Your Holiness, I Gotchyer Back!

What do you think, which one for a T-shirt slogan?

Hey, Your Holiness, I Got your Back!


Holy Father, I'm behind you!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

True Confessions

Okay, can I admit a shameful secret?
I don't even know what a "gradine" is. (Although my Latin/knowledge of Romance languages is sufficient to figure it out.)
I only know "reredos" because of an A N Wilson novel I read...

But more to the point, I don't care.

Beauty in any style should acceptable, the pissing contests blogdom seems to get into over Baroque/Gothic, simple/ornate, Gallic/Roman, Rococo/Palladian, Bach/Couperin, lace/linen.... give it a rest!

What goes unspoken...

I believe I read somewhere that 3 psalms are left out of the current missal and lectionary, that they do not appear anywhere, presumably because they are "difficult" (welcome to the "Church of No Hard Sayings!") or open to misinterpretation.
I wonder if there is an index anywhere, a reference wherein one might find when and if a particular scripture appears, either as the responsorial psalm or as the entrance, offertory or communion chant; either on Sunday or weekday.
Now, I'm not as good about daily Mass as I ought to be, but I don't recall ever hearing much of ol' Seventeen proclaimed:

The earth moved and shook, at the coming of his anger the roots of the mountains rocked and were shaken.
Smoke rose from his nostrils, consuming fire came from his mouth, from it came forth flaming coals.
He bowed down the heavens and descended, storm clouds were at his feet.
He rode on the cherubim and flew, he travelled on the wings of the wind.
He made dark clouds his covering; his dwelling-place, dark waters and clouds of the air.
The cloud-masses were split by his lightnings, hail fell, hail and coals of fire.
The Lord thundered from the heavens, the Most High let his voice be heard, with hail and coals of fire.
He shot his arrows and scattered them, hurled thunderbolts and threw them into confusion.
The depths of the oceans were laid bare, the foundations of the globe were revealed, at the sound of your anger, O Lord, at the onset of the gale of your wrath.

(I suppose it is frightening, not the cuddly God the Father we prefer to think about. Of course, I like storms. There is beauty in the bellow of a blast...)

But this was what jumped out at me from LotH today.

For forty years they wearied me, that generation.
I said: their hearts are wandering, they do not know my paths.
I swore in my anger: they will never enter my place of rest.

Now picture the Father as the cosmic version of "Uncle Bill," exasperatedly wiping and scrunching his own face with his hand as he half snarls, half whines, "Jodieeeeeeeeeeee....."

Yes, I think He's been remarkable patient. (And a good thing for me, too...)

*Not, alas, my trademark phrase

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Honest, I'm not very politically correct...

...but I was trying to find out something about an actor whose work I like, and came across a line in a New York Times profile, and found myself wondering if they would ever have written, say, "Kate Winslet has won respect and recognition from critics and drooling men alike."


Dunno, maybe...

The Office of Readings, for real...

No honest, this one really is about the Office of Readings.
I was in …. well, the state in which I was.
And turned on the TV to ensure that the sound was up sufficiently to adequately tape Match Game on the Game Show Network (in all seriousness -- Himself will be “hosting” an episode for a fund raiser, and always the conscientious actor that I never am, doing his research,) and tuned past Journey Home, a program I never watch.
And there was a former protestant minister speaking of how it was his very education and study as a protestant that led him to embrace the fullness of faith that subsists in the Catholic Church.
(Okay, tiny digression; it thrills me to my very marrow, how often this is the case, the Newmans, the Kimels, the Hahns; the more learned, the more erudite, the more devout you are in the theory and practice of your denomination, the more likely it becomes that you will be led back to the Church. A goofy analogy, I was likewise thrilled in a STNG episode when a fictional villain, having been accidentally endowed with super-human intelligence, naturally turned from evil.)
The former minister mentioned how the Church Fathers had had such a strong influence on his metanoia, his conversion, (in the right sense of the word, that we are all called to continuing conversion,) and particularly commended the Office of Readings.
And, well…. I knew that. So why don’t I? Why do I allow myself to be hungry and weak when I know where nourishment is to be had?
When I pray the LotH, (which is not as often as I should,) I of course do the “hinge” hours, and more often what I admit is my favorite, Compline.
(I had been meaning to add the Universalis link to my site, and never got around to it, so there’s the banner.)
Naturally the Great Song of the book of Psalms is a magnet for me.
But the OoR is perfect for me, the readings, for my attention span, proclivities, personality, level of intelligence, sloppiness… the works. I need that non-scriptural “program” spelled out for me.
The first psalm today slapped me in the face.

With what purpose, Lord, do you stay away, hide yourself in time of need and trouble?
The wicked in their pride persecute the weak, trap them in the plots they have devised.
The sinner glories in his desires, the miser congratulates himself.
The sinner in his arrogance rejects the Lord: “there is no God, no retribution”.
This is what he thinks – and all goes well for him.
Your judgements are far beyond his comprehension: he despises all who stand against him.
The sinner says to himself: “I will stand firm; nothing can touch me, from generation to generation”.
His mouth is full of malice and deceit, under his tongue hide trouble and distress.
He lies in ambush by the villages, he kills the innocent in some secret place.
He watches the weak, he hides like a lion in its lair, and makes plans.
He plans to rob the weak, lure him to his trap and rob him.
He rushes in, makes a dive, and the poor victim is caught.
For he has said to himself, “God has forgotten. He is not watching, he will never see”.

And best of all, I was no more than a few phrases into singing it when I had a conversion, and stopped seeing myself as the weak trapped in the plots of the wicked, (and you-know-who as the “wicked,”) and recalled my own sinfulness.

And St Basil’s definition of sin…
let me say that we have already received from God the ability to fulfill all his commands. We have then no reason to resent them, as if something beyond our capacity were being asked of us. We have no reason either to be angry, as if we had to pay back more than we had received. When we use this ability in a right and fitting way, we lead a life of virtue and holiness. But if we misuse it, we fall into sin.This is the definition of sin: the misuse of powers given us by God for doing good, a use contrary to God’s commands. On the other hand, the virtue that God asks of us is the use of the same powers based on a good conscience in accordance with God’s command.
I need such counsel to rededicate myself, to remember what “job” God has given me.
Anyway, an embarrassment of riches, today’s Office of Readings.

The Office of Readings

There are two recurring elements in my growing less stupid throughout my life, (I won't say in my growing in wisdom, because the needle is still waaaaay over on the left, on that gauge...)
One is that kinda Zenny, David-Carradine-squatting-on-the-floor-in-his-pajamas idea that the master appears when the student is ready.
(Although IME, the master, which is not always a person, usually turns out to have been sitting there patiently twiddling his thumbs all along, waiting for me, in my fog, to notice his presence.)
But the other recurring element has had a much greater impact, occurs with much greater frequency, and that is that someone or something recalls to my mind something I knew all along.
I realize as I say this that my physical life is very like my mental life -- I live in a chaos of THINGS, unsorted, uncategorized, half-read, half-digested, a disorganized muddle of books and papers, and music, and objects that are dear to me, and clothing emblematic of an idealized or imagined self, and items I think I might need some day, and even more items I know I shall never need but with which I cannot bear to part.
Right now, for instance, probably within 15 feet of me, (but I cannot guarantee the smaller items, it's such a mess,) are the cut & pastes, and enlarged photocopies from at least 5 different books. and the products of my own imagination and music printing program, that are all a part of some projected psalter for Lent; the scribblings that make up the adaptation of Merry Wives of Windsor I've been contemplating for a year; my Father's slide rule which might as well be a nuclear fusion device I have so little idea of its use; a scarf that I think would make me look dashing and carelessly creative if I were ever to wear it; Mr Webb's Catholic Encyclopedia; an antique can of motor oil of the type purveyed by Himself's grandfather; a stack of books on tartans because they fascinated me once, (and still); tax documents, a really cool copper double edged razor from the '30s, unwrapped gifts, a photo of me and Zoe Caldwell, DVDs of every film adaptation of Jane Eyre ever made...
You get the picture.
Well, my mind is like that.
There are things I know, or at least kinda sorta know, or knew once, or heard and remembered but did not yet really take possession of, that are there, but submerged under the rest of the mess in my mind.
And seemingly chance occurrences "activate" the knowledge.
Where was I?
Oh, yes, the Office of Readings.
Well, that will have to wait.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Cardinal Arinze on Liturgical Music

From an address by His Eminence in St. Louis last year.


Gregorian Chant
"Liturgical action is given a more noble form when sacred rites are solemnized in song" (SC, n. 113). There is an ancient saying: bis orat qui bene cantat, that is, "the person who sings well prays twice". This is so because the intensity that prayer acquires from being sung, increases its ardour and multiplies its efficacy (cf. Paul VI: Address to Italian Schola Cantorum, 25 September 1977, in Notitiae 136, November 1977, p. 475).
Good music helps to promote prayer, to raise the minds of people to God and to give people a taste of the goodness of God.
In the Latin Rite what has come to be known as the Gregorian Chant has been traditional. A distinctive liturgical chant existed indeed in Rome before St Gregory the Great (+604). But it was this great Pontiff who gave it the greatest prominence.
After St Gregory this tradition of chant continued to develop and be enriched until the upheavals that brought an end to the Middle Ages. The monasteries, especially those of the Benedictine Order, have done much to preserve this heritage.
Gregorian Chant is marked by a moving meditative cadence. It touches the depths of the soul. It shows joy, sorrow, repentance, petition, hope, praise or thanksgiving, as the particular feast, part of the Mass or other prayer may indicate. It makes the Psalms come alive.

It has a universal appeal which makes it suitable for all cultures and peoples. It is appreciated in Rome, Solesmes, Lagos, Toronto and Caracas. Cathedrals, monasteries, seminaries, sanctuaries, pilgrimage centres and traditional parishes resound with it.
St Pope Pius X extolled the Gregorian Chant in 1904 (cf. Tra le Sollecitudini, n. 3). The Second Vatican Council praised it in 1963: "The Church acknowledges Gregorian Chant as proper to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services" (SC, n. 116).
The Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, repeated this praise in 2003 (cf.
Chirograph for the Centenary of Tra Le Sollecitudini, nn. 4-7; in Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments: Spiritus et Sponsa, 2003, p. 130).
Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the International Association of Pueri Cantores when they met in Rome at the end of 2005. They give a privileged place to the Gregorian Chant.

In Rome and throughout the world the Church is blessed with many fine choirs, both professional and amateur, that render the chant beautifully, and communicate their enthusiasm for it.
It is not true that the lay faithful do not want to sing the Gregorian Chant.

What they are asking for are priests and monks and nuns who will share this treasure with them.
The CDs produced by the Benedictine monks of Silos, their motherhouse at Solesmes, and numerous other communities sell among young people.

Monasteries are visited by people who want to sing Lauds and especially Vespers.
In an ordination ceremony of 11 priests which I celebrated in Nigeria last July, about 150 priests sang the First Eucharistic Prayer in Latin. It was beautiful.

The people, although no Latin scholars, loved it. It should be just normal that parish churches where there are four or five Masses on Sunday should have one of these Masses sung in Latin.

Request for Advice

I am a little stuck, and I would appreciate counsel from any of my 3 1/2, or 4 readers, most of whom, I imagine, are church musicians like myself.
I am not on salary, am paid per service, but am full time, for all intents and purposes.
I need to speak to my boss/pastor about a situation that has come up.
Feel free to criticize, or suggest better wording, or whatever, but this is more or less what I intend to call him and say tomorrow:

I received a call from [the school music teacher] yesterday looking for information about our copyright license and she mentioned to me that she didn't think she was going to be able to play for any of the 1st Communion Masses, but she didn't know yet about 1st Reconciliation.

I didn't really know what she was talking about but that evening when I went over to get ready for cantor rehearsal I found a note from [the Director of Religious Ed] in my mailbox, telling me when various rites and sacraments were occurring and who would be playing for the weekend Masses in which they were administered.

The note also said that [the music teacher] was going on vacation or something one weekend, so that I WOULD be needed for those Masses...

I didn't realize that my work schedule and therefore my income was at the [DRE's] discretion, or that my services might only be required at some of my regular Masses if the school music teacher wasn't available to take them.

Is that they way it is?

Whddya think? to the point enough without being too snarky?

I figure I WON'T go into this song-and-dance, though it's fun to imagine it:
I have had a sub in for exactly three Masses in the past 2 years, not three weekends, but three Masses.
If I go on a vacation should I tell the DRE so she can find someone to program and prepare and play the Masses?
Or should I wait to hear from her specifically if my services are needed, and assume I'm at leisure if I don't hear from her?

Sunday, 13 January 2008

My first compliment...EVER

I have never received a compliment on my organ playing before (which is quite understandable; I stink.)
But today, apparently the Soler (Emperor's?) Fanfare sounded okay, a stranger in the congregation actually came up to me and had nice things to say.
So there. (I was wretched for a wedding yesterday.)

There, was that so hard?

Although one might have hoped the august AP would have reported it with a little more clarity.


In a departure from a tradition of his predecessor, John Paul II, Benedict did not celebrate the Mass at a small altar setup to face the congregation. Instead he celebrated it with his back to the congregation which included the children's parents...

For instance, they could have said, "In a departure from a tradition of his predecessor, John Paul II, NOT TO MENTION HIS PREDECESSOR AND OF DANG NEAR THE ENTIRE WESTERN CHURCH FOR THE LAST HALF A CENTURY Benedict did not celebrate the Mass AT the congregation, but ON BEHALF OF the congregation, all of them facing the Lord together...."
But one shouldn't cavil at moments like this.
The important thing is that he did it and the Vatican didn't burst into flame, burkas and corsets didn't supernaturally and oppressively appear on all the women present, no one's memory tape was wiped of his or her "empowerment" as laity and replaced with "must pay... must pray... must obey...," no invisible fences and electro-shock collars were installed to keep Catholics from entering into dialogue with our separated brethren and sistren (much less entering into the places of worship of our separated brethren and sistren,) nothing....
He just did it.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Turning Toward the Lord

Father Z reports that Papa will celebrate tomorrow morning, in the Sistine Chapel, facing liturgical east.
Has there been better news this year?


Friday, 11 January 2008

Bless me, Father...

... for I have sinned.
Why is "Shall We Gather at the River?" suggested as an appropriate hymn for this Sunday's Mass by the various "helpful" liturgy planning guides? As near as I can figure, because the word "river" is in the title, and the word "river" also appears in the gospel.
That is the only reason.
No, not even the same river is referenced, one is a metaphor about end times, eternal life, hope; the other about an actual historic event
The Gospel is about beginnings, about initiation, about baptism; the hymn text about the end, about death, about the next world.... yeah, as near as I can figure it's one single word.
On the other hand, the Lowry is a great, genuinely "folk" style hymn, (albeit one with an actual composer,) using the tune, (and the catch-phrase title,) would be authentic inculturation.
It is superbly, perfectly "American."
But is it Catholic? or really, is it suitable for THIS Catholic liturgy?
I can't say yes.
So I did what I often do.
I.... shhhh..... altered the text.
I found a text about John's ministry and fudged the meter to fit the Lowry tune.

So no, not really , no sin, no crime .... this time.
But I've done it before and skated perilously close to copyright violation.
I'm not talking about instances like this where an unobjectionable but generic, utterly unspecific text is put forward for a specific holy day.
I'm talking about unCatholic, non-Catholic lyrics , and even of writing whose theology is clearly opposed to Catholic doctrine and thought, (not to mention hymns that Deceive With Truth by emphasizing the lesser truth while omitting the greater, (talking about communities of love that share "Christ's communion bread," rather than acknowledging that He IS our Communion Bread, for instance. Or saying that the Church's mission is not to preach Her creed. Or.... well, you get the idea. No doubt you can all supply examples of texts you have asked to profane the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with.)
Because of lax to non-existent vetting of hymns by editors of erstwhile "Catholic" hymnals, far too many inappropriate texts have found their way into our hymnals and been allowed to insinuate themselves into the popular Catholic culture.
So, I Catholicilize them.
It may be wrong, but I have no intention of stopping.
In fact, I have a project in mind:
I would like someone with actual skill at this (I am neither poet nor theologian,) to write versifications of the propers for the Requiem Mass to fit the most requested "funeral" hymn tunes.
Wouldn't a lyric that asked for God's perpetual light to shine on the deceased, on the souls of all the faithful departed, that could be sung to Amazing Grace be a nice change from.... Here I Am, Lord?

Anyway, I can't ask for absolution for a sin I intend to commit, I guess...

One in a million...

Himself is one in a million.
My love and I exchange gifts at at New Years or Epiphany, as a rule, why pile that onto Christmas? But this year, because of the vagaries of the US Postal Service, my gift to him (the Tick,) hadn't arrived in time, so we just gave each other presents yesterday.
Now, how what husband do you know who would give his wife a photo book of her latest crush, image after image of the man who has displaced him in her affections?
Yet there it was, Ignatius Press's "Servant of the Truth."
(Of course, bear in mind my saint of a husband also drove me on a nine hour round trip to visit my last big crush.... retired priest and chant master extraordinaire, Fr Larry Heiman.)

Thursday, 10 January 2008

No Name Meme

Nobody has EVER tagged me with a meme, but I'm doing this one. Okay my..... okay, THREE readers -- consider yourselves tagged!

1. Do you wear a name tag at work? nope
2. What kind of car do you drive? '97 Toyota Camry, very rarely
3. What do you order when you go to Taco Bell? pintos and cheese, rice, guacamole, and if it's not Friday and I'm feeling flush, a soft steak taco
4. Have you ever had a garage sale? yes
5. What color is your iPod? I wish.... no, not really, now that I think of it. None
6. What kind of dog do you have? an imaginary wolf hound
7. What's for dinner tonight? buffalo chicken breast
8. What was the last alcoholic beverage you had? a large brandy
9. Stupidest thing you ever did with your cell phone? don't use it often enough to do anything stupid
10. Last time you were sick? still am, getting over a debilitating bout with eczema
11. How long is your hair? little past shoulder
12. Are you happy right now? very
13. What did you say last? oh okay, I guess not
14. Who came over last? someone to borrow a copy of Gather Apprehensive
15. Do you drink beer? Ja
16. Have your brothers or sisters ever told you that you were adopted? Of course, we all did, with scenarios, (we told one sister she was found on the street corner eating egg-shells out of the sewer. I ain't proud, but that's the kind of kids we were. Are. And none of us believed it.)
17. What is your favorite key chain on your keys? a Michael Collins tag, the only "swag" I've ever gotten for hanging out in a bar
18. What did you get for graduation? an Alexandrite ring
19. What's in your pocket? Nothing - I'm wearing pajamas, 3 in the afternoon, too. Pleased about it, as well.
20. Who introduced you to Dane Cook? huh?
21. Has someone ever made you a Build-A-Bear? Thankfully, not
22. What DVD is in your DVD player? Fishers of Men. We recorded it last time EWTN aired it to show Father
23. What's something fun you did today? ate a whole box of Anna's lemon crisps
24. Who is/was the principal of your high school? Dr. G
25. Has your house ever been TP'd? No.
26. What do you think of when you hear the word "meow"? people being annoyingly precious
27. What are you listening to right now? Himself opening the mail
28. Drinking? Earl Grey tea
29. What is your favorite aisle at Wal-Mart? clearance
30. When is your Mom's birthday? February
31. When is your birthday? too old and mean to remember
32. What is the area code for your cell phone? not sure
33. Where did you buy the shirt you're wearing right now? inherited from my late M-in-L. Is that creepy?
34. Is there anything hanging from your rear view mirror? no
35. How many states in the US have you been to? all but Hawaii, Alaska and Missouri, IIRC
36. What kind of milk do you drink? Anything from 1/2 % to 2%, although I do like whole
37. What are you going to do after this? make copies for choir rehearsal
38. Who was the last person you went shopping with? Himself
39. What is your favorite fruit? pears
40. What is your favorite dessert? Too many to list, almost any. I am large, I contain multitudes
41. What is something you need to go shopping for? nothing for the nonce
42. Do you have the same name as one of your relatives? nope, neither my first, my confirmation nor my late and temporarily assumed on a whim middle
43. What kind of car does one of your siblings drive? Mercedes? mustang? Dodge truck, mini-van
44. Do you like pickles? sweet, but it's very difficult to find them to which I am not allergic (CURSE YOU, Arch Daniels Midland!)
45. How about olives? ewwww, ewww, ewwwwww!
46. What is your favorite kind of gum? sugar free spearmint or cinnamon
47. What is your favorite kind of juice? blueberry, I've recently discovered
48. Do you have any tan lines? nope, and not deliberately since I was old enough to read
49. What hospital were you born in? Overlook

Abortion might be wrong sometimes!

Or so I learned on Law & Order last night.
It is a valid choice if you don't want your baby because he is retarded, and nobody should question your preferences.
It was a valid choice if you didn't want your baby because you were misinformed that he was retarded, when he wasn't, and nobody should question your preferences.
We know from past episodes that there are many other instances when it is a valid choice; when you are growing a new human being to acquire spare parts for a human being you already own, when you don't like the father, when your life is already a little too hectic.....
But it is not a valid choice if you don't want your baby because he is gay, (even when it will improve the mothers chance of survival for 0 to 5%,, although in the past I could have sworn that any advantage to the mother was a good enough reason.)
Because that could eventually wipe out... what? an entire "class" of people, a "culture"? I can't remember how it was phrased.
(Of course that wouldn't really be a danger, because if a "gay gene" were isolated and a precise enough test devised, surely in this era of designer babies there would be people who would want gay children..... gay parents for instance? In fact, married gay couples could whip up a batch of embryos, run the tests, and then keep and grow the gay baby, killi---, I mean, discarding the straight babies.)
Gay fetuses seem to possess a personhood not conferred on retarded fetuses, inconvenient fetuses, or really just any old fetus of which you don't know the eventual sexual orientation.
But it is a relief to know that according to the writers and producers of Law & Order, abortion isn't always a valid or moral choice.

That's some progress, anyway.....

In related news, http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSL08323466, since some clinics in Spain were offering to do illegal abortions, and inspections have been stepped up, other clinics have gone on strike, depriving some 1000 babies of their executions.
It accomplishes what? It hurts the anti-abortion movement how, exactly?
It sounds like a Win-Win to me. (Who is it that says "Sin makes you stupid"?)

And finally, why does the article mention that abortion was legalized "10 years after the death of conservative dictator Francisco Franco"? How is that relevant?
Is that some attempt by Reuters to tie pro-life forces to a despicable dead ruler?
Isn't that kind of like telling anyone who complains about the trains in Italy that they ran on time under Mussolini, implying that the pro-promptness forces must be sympathizers with Il Duce's Brown Shirts?