Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Friday, 29 February 2008

Because celibacy is EASIER....

A catalogue in the mail, today, from LitPress.In the blurb advertising a book entitled, Demythologizing Celibacy: Practical Wisdom form Christina and Buddhist Monasticism, we learn that celibacy is a “valid” practice for those who “CHOOSE NOT TO ACCEPT THE DEMANDS [emphasis mine] of a committed sexual relationship.”Explain this to me--Cause celibacy is so UNdemanding?
Well, at least they condescend to admit that it is "valid."Kinda like “fasting is a valid practice for those who choose not to accept the demands of eating.”
Going to early Mass is a valid practice for those who choose not to accept the demands of sleeping in.
Almsgiving is a valid practice for those who choose not to accept the demands of spending their money on themselves.

Yeah, celibates have taken the easy way out....

I’m thinking LitPress is not going to be getting any more of my book money.

Retiring to my fainting couch...

As usual, things fell into place, and there is indeed time for everything that needs to be done and even a moment or two for fluff. (I'll retire to my fainting couch and eat bon-bons)
For it is even in looking over my own agenda that I must remember not to conflate "needy" with "wanty." (Thank you, Tick....)
The programs for Stations look good (thank you, CMAA for that excellent link to suitable graphics http://inillotempore.com/blog/images/gallery/LineArt) although I seem to have left out all directions as to posture other than the genuflection during "We adore you, O Christ...." but perhaps I can consult with Father and have him indicate them.
Choir gave me a scare last night, after the programs were already printed, the Schubert "In Monte Oliveti" which had sounded ready to go sight-reading it, for pete's sake, and was truly beautiful and dramatic (which yes, I am aiming for...) at rehearsal for the last two weeks was a train-wreck. We ended up spending more time on the third phrase of that than on the entire De Profundis, or on both of the Palestrina motets we are working on COMBINED.
But I think it will be all right.
And I think the people will be glad for a chance to sing some of their favorites.
And of course, the choir seems to welcome it (on the whole... some are no more conscientious about various facets of their practice than they are about attending rehearsals.)
Part of the impetus for this project, besides the inspiration of the (much finer) similar devotion at St J.C., and the desire to bring more people to Stations, was the alteration in the liturgical character of Lent during the lifetimes of many of these people, that with the emphasis on preparation for the sacraments of initiation instead of on atonement, (both Christ's sacrifice, and our need for penitence,) there is less opportunity for some of the choir's favorites, (which aren't necessarily mine, but it ain't about my taste.)

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Feeling whelmed

I'm not overwhelmed, mind you, whelmed is all, but between Stations, Holy Week, income taxes, directing a stage production, Companions and LitCom meetings, agreeing to replace someone who dropped out of another show, working with all the soloists, constructing the psalm database, finishing a script I somehow pledged to complete, and all... just very worried that I am going to lapse into my usual reaction of having too much to do: doing nothing.
That has been my most frequent prayer since my last confession: Lord help me overcome my sinful sloth.

Transplant debacle

I hate to read this kind of news.
From what I have read, it strikes me that the surgeon did nothing wrong, that a gross misunderstanding has arisen, but it horrifies me the chilling effect this could have on potential donors.
One solution, of course, is for people reading this to be LIVING donors.
Most of you reading this have a spare kidney.
And you can do without part of your liver for a while, (it'll grow back.)
Save a life.
Give now.


Starter Faiths....

Why not, we have gone from "starter houses' to starter jobs, starter marriages...
What can I say, we are an aspirational society....
Always looking to trade up, and failing to recognize the pearl of great price, not acknowledging value, absent public approbation.
And, so commitment-phobic, that we are willing to scavenge for scraps rather that pledge to always and only dine at the Lamb's Wedding Feast.



More than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion, according to a new survey of religious affiliation by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
The report, titled “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” depicts a highly fluid and diverse national religious life. If shifts among Protestant denominations are included, then it appears that 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations.
For at least a generation, scholars have noted that more Americans are moving among faiths, as denominational loyalty erodes. But the survey, based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans, offers one of the clearest views yet of that trend, scholars said. The United States Census does not track religious affiliation.
The report shows, for example, that every religion is losing and gaining members, but that the Roman Catholic Church “has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes.” The survey also indicates that the group that had the greatest net gain was the unaffiliated. More than 16 percent of American adults say they are not part of any organized faith, which makes the unaffiliated the country’s fourth largest “religious group.”

All those poor wandering souls. But to say, as the published result of the pew survey had it, that "The Catholic Church has lost more adherents than any other group: about one-third of respondents raised Catholic said they no longer identified as such," is misleading.
I would actually say that considerably more than 1/3 of those raised BY FAMILIES WHO FOR NOSTALIGIC AND ETHNIC REASONS INACCURATELY IDENTIFY THEMSELVES AS Catholic no longer identify themselves as such.
Pitifully few people are raised Catholic.
Which is just as sad a matter, but a very different one.
The catechetical failures of the Church during my lifetime are a tragedy of epic proportions, and it will be a long time before Benedict and his successors manage to turn this tub around.
But they will.
The Barque of Peter may spring leaks, but it shall not founder.
We have His word for it.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Another illiterate primate?

No, no this is not about chimps who can't read.... oh, all right, it isn't even a valid pun because the bishop in question isn't a primate.

But seriously, SumPon isn't all that long, and it doesn't use outrageously big, hard words, or complicated sentence strucutres, or dazzlingly acrobaticly complex concepts -- so why can't they get it through their pointy little mitres that they do not have the authority to bestow or withold permission for the Extraordinary Form?


The first serious battle over the traditional Latin Mass has been fought in the diocese of Brentwood, where Bishop Thomas McMahon first banned parishioners from holding a Sunday Mass using the pre-Vatican II Missal – and then decided to grant permission for it.

The problem is that his permission was neither sought nor necessary. The parishioners of St Anthony of Padua, Forest Gate, followed Pope Benedict’s rules to the letter when they arranged for a weekly Mass in the extraordinary form. The parish priest, Fr Dennis Hall, was happy; so was the diocesan archivist, Fr Stewart Foster, who was going to say the Mass every week. The Latin Mass Society (LMS) was delighted. Not so the bishop.
At the end of January, Bishop McMahon “indefinitely postponed” the Mass while he explored the provision of the traditional liturgy in his diocese.

I was never one of those girls swooning over le Petit Prince, so I never read the entire thing, but isn't there a character, a king of some sort who wants to decree where a flower or something can be put, and is perfectly willing to decree whatever is going to happen anyway, and even change the decree if he finds he isn't being listened to, he just wants to be the one who gets to issue the decree? to pretend somthing has happened on his authority?

A vocation with pulchritude

Called to be beautiful? to genuine lovliness? (This time of year the words of the great hymn, My Song is Love Unknown are much with me....)
A bit more on the Heralds of the Gospel -- they admire truth virtue and beauty as reflections of God, and they seek to give witness to them.


Many are the charisms raised up by the Holy Spirit, according to the historical circumstances and the necessities of the times. What is the charism of the Heralds of the Gospel?
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, they admire the truth, virtue and beauty of the created universe (verum, bonum and pulchrum), as reflections of God.
“Truth carries with it the joy and the splendour of spiritual beauty. Truth is beautiful in itself”, teaches the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2500).
It is the same with virtue, “the practice of goodness is accompanied by spontaneous spiritual joy and moral beauty” (ibid.).
However, before manifesting Himself to men in words of truth, in order to ask for the practice of virtue, “God reveals Himself to him through the universal language of creation, the work of his…wisdom” (ibid.).
“The beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator”, for “God created the world to show forth and communicate his glory” (ibid. 341, 319).
Take note that it is not only to “show forth”, but also to “communicate”. “That his creatures should share in his truth, goodness and beauty — this is the glory for which God created them” (Catechism, 319).
To give witness to beauty, the splendour of virtue and of truth; to be a symbol of the infinite greatness and goodness of God, transmitting a note of solemnity and pulchritude, in all their manifestations, is the ideal of the Heralds of the Gospel.
In order to fully develop their charism, the Heralds of the Gospel envelop all their actions with perfect ceremonial, from the simplest — such as personal appearance, the manner of dressing, eating and praying, individual and social conduct —, to the most solemn, in community or in public, such as singing the Office, corteges, liturgical functions and ceremonies of a cultural or civic character.
They wear a habit that seeks to symbolize their vocation with pulchritude. In their emblems, symbols, standards, ceremonies, in everything, they want to show forth the beauty, sacrality and sublimity of the Order of the Universe, in order to exalt the grandeur and perfection of the Divine Creator.
With their presence, bearing, behaviour, manner of dressing, and treatment of others, even with their timbre of voice, the Heralds of the Gospel desire to represent a human type that proudly proclaims the Catholic Faith and a great love of the Holy Church.In this manner they seek to interpret that which the Catechism sets forth in the following terms: “All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God. The manifold perfections of creatures — all reflect the infinite perfection of God” (41). “We must contemplate the beauty of the Father without ceasing and adorn our own souls accordingly” (2784).
One of the joys of the heralds of the Gospel consists in awakening in mankind that admiration for the marvels of the universe, of which John Paul II speaks. For only in this way can they transmit the enthusiasm that the world needs “to meet and master the crucial challenges which stand before us. Thanks to this enthusiasm, humanity, every time it loses its way, will be able to lift itself up and set out again on the right path. In this sense it has been said with profound insight that ‘beauty will save the world’” (Letter to the artists, 04/04/1999, 16).
It is in accordance with this charism that the Heralds of the Gospel — those who lead an entirely dedicated life, as well as the Companions — seek the perfection of charity in all things: “If I have not charity I account for nothing…if I have not charity, I am nothing… the greatest [of the three theological virtues] is charity” (1 Cor 13:2-3,13). They desire to attain sanctity itself.

Heralds of the Gospel

I saw part of a broadcast on EWTN of the dedication of a new shrine, in Sao Paulo.
I had never heard of the Heralds of the Gospel before, but I was struck by the incredible beauty of tiny details of the Mass, (the demeanor and gait of a young girl carrying flowers in a procession, for instance...)
The solemnity of the liturgy, the care and precision brought to everything, (despite a few things I would think inappropriate -- the trumpet fanfares at the elevations, for instance,) has whetted my curiosity about this group --- anyone know anything about them?
The idea of lives consecrated to perfection.... more than a little daunting, to say the least. But to seek perfection in Truth, perfection in Goodness, perfection in Beauty -- how compelling!

Sunday, 24 February 2008

New Plaque for the Loft

Someone suggested it during a particularly odd rehearsal this morning:

The St X's Choir Loft: what happens here, stays here...

Save the Liturgy, Save the World

I gotta get that book...

I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us. But when the community of faith, the world-wide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence? Then the community is celebrating only itself, an activity that is utterly fruitless. And, because the ecclesial community cannot have its origin from itself but emerges as a unity only from the Lord, through faith, such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration into sectarian parties of all kinds - partisan opposition within a Church tearing herself apart. This is why we need a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council.

Benedict XVI, as Cdl Joseph Ratzinger in Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 (SF, CA: Ignatius), p. 149.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Abstinence from Meat

Our diocesan paper runs a column from CNS, a priest who gives advice and information in answer to question on all things Catholic.
He seems wrong almost as often as he is right, frequently offers opinion as fact, and often manages, inadvertently I am sure, to imply untruths by means of incomplete truths.
Today's question was about abstinence from meat.
A new priest in our area tells us that all Fridays are again days of abstinence. Another priest says it is a sin if we do not perform some act of penance on Fridays. I know the rules about fast and abstinence during Lent, and we should do some penance on all Fridays, but I've never heard the obligation expressed in terms to sin. Is there a change?

And the columnist's answer starts out with one of those partial truths: No, there is no change.
That much is correct, in that it is literally factual.
The norms have indeed not changed in several decades.
"All Fridays" are NOT "again "days of abstinence"
All Fridays are STILL days of abstinence.
Lest we be treated to a performance of the cantata, The Seven Last Words:

“Oh, Vatican Two Did Away With That”

…let’s look it up, shall we?
Paenitemini, the Apostolic Constitution on Penance, February 17, 1966. (Paul VI)
I. 1. By divine law all the faithful are required to do penance….
II. 1. The time of Lent preserves its penitential character. The days of penitence to be observed under obligation through-out the Church are all Fridays and Ash Wednesday, that is to say the first days of “Grande Quaresima” (Great Lent), according to the diversity of the rite. Their substantial observance binds gravely.
2. Apart from the faculties referred to in VI and VIII [
this, VIII, refers to law governing Eastern Rite] regarding the manner of fulfilling the precept of penitence on such days, abstinence is to be observed on every Friday which does not fall on a day of obligation, while abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday or, according to local practice, on the first day of ’Great Lent’ and on Good Friday.” …
VI. 1. In accordance with the conciliar decree "Christus Dominus" regarding the pastoral office of bishops, number 38,4, it is the task of episcopal conferences to:
A. Transfer for just cause the days of penitence, always taking into account the Lenten season;
B. Substitute abstinence and fast wholly or in part with other forms of penitence and especially works of charity and the exercises of piety.
2. By way of information, episcopal conferences should communicate to the Apostolic See what they have decided on the matter (See note at end.)
[all emphasis mine]

And more recent work of a juridical nature? (not the Code of Canon Advice, mind you…)

Code of Canon Law (1983)
Canon 1250
All Fridays throughout the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the universal Church.
Canon 1251
Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Canon 1253
The Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

Hmmm… so what did our Episcopal conference say?

Pastoral Statement On Penance and Abstinence, November 18, 1966
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (precursor to USCCB)
“… the Catholic bishops of the United States, far from downgrading the traditional penitential observance of Friday, and motivated precisely by the desire to give the spirit of penance greater vitality, especially on Fridays, the day that Jesus died, urge our Catholic people henceforth to be guided by the following norms:
1. Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year, a time when those who seek perfection will be mindful of their personal sins and the sins of mankind which they are called upon to help expiate in union with Christ Crucified;
2. Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ;
3. Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence as binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law. Our expectation is based on the following considerations;
a. We shall thus freely and out of love for Christ Crucified show our solidarity with the generations of believers to whom this practice frequently became, especially in times of persecution and of great poverty, no mean evidence of fidelity in Christ and his Church.
b. We shall thus also remind ourselves that as Christians, although immersed in the world and sharing its life, we must preserve a saving and necessary difference from the spirit of the world. Our deliberate, personal abstinence from meat, more especially because no longer required by law, will be an outward sign of inward spiritual values that we cherish.”

It may just be my reading comprehension problem, but what I derive from those three sources is that even though the US bishops, in accordance with a freedom given them by the supreme pontiff, declare that abstinence from meat is no longer the only way under pain of sin to fulfill the obligation to do penance on every Friday, the obligation to do penance in SOME way still exists. And we suggest and hope you voluntarily elect to do so by means of abstinence from meat.
And yeah, we hope you do it out of love, rather than merely out of a sense of obligation.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no obligation.
Whatever penance you set yourself, the obligation to do penance on Fridays remain.
I guess all the columnist really is saying is that in his opinion disobedience to laws or directives of the Church, in the sense of deliberately ignoring them, or denying the authority of the Church to make them is no sin... but then, after all, what is nowadays?

'Cause that Pat guy ain't a follower of Christ so much as a hook to hang beer ads on, ya know?

Some of my hardest drinking Irish-American Catholic friends, (including, IIRC, several of my sisters,) like to say St Patrick's Day is mainly for amateurs. Apparently it is also mainly for heathens.

What of the fact that the Church has transferred the celebration of St Patrick's Day for those who must celebrate it (parishes, dioceses, nations whose patron Patrick is,) to a day outside of the most solemn and somberly joyful week of the year?

Well, yeah, what of it? I think participation in these events will clearly demonstrate who is, at heart and soul, Christian. and who is Alcoholian.

"We aren't scared to do things that aren't fitting to, say, 'peace on earth' and all that," said [the man] who organizes the parade for the Allied War Veterans of South Boston. "We all want peace, but our obligation is supporting the armed forces. So, nope, we don't have any problems with that."

I am concerned about these yahoos, after transferring the date to the 16th, saying that it shouldn't interfere with "church services."
Can we trust that a guy who thinks that what happens at a Catholic Church on Palm Sunday is a "service" will have any awareness whatsoever that it is a much longer than usual serv... er, Mass, and that many of his brothers in yahoodity, * who would not darken the door of a church at any other time, show up on Palm Sunday and clog the streets, parking lots, and pews 'cause they're giving stuff away?
Since we know what the make-up of a group organizing a St Patrick's Day anything in Boston likely is, we are forced to conclude that in Boston there are a goodly number of "Catholics" who could rightly be called "our separated brethren." (I don't know whence the "we," I don't have a mouse in my pocket, nor do I think I'm Queen Victoria. I'm just being affected today I guess, sorry.)

* And yes, well-intentioned seekers, as well, never let it be said that I discourage non-"regulars" from checking us out.

Saints and Miracles and Attribution

There's something about which I have been wondering.
How is it ever, ever, ever possible to attribute a miraculous cure to an as yet uncanonized saint?
I find myself unable to believe that in the entire history of intercessory prayer any life and death request was ever left in the hands of single saint or probable saint, ( with the possible exception of the Virgin Mary.)
Whoever said to himself, (and necessarily to his family and friends, for the results of the trial to be valid) yes, the baby is dying, there is no medical hope whatsoever, let's all pray to So-and-So for her intercession before the Lord of all for the dear baby's recovery, since I believe So-and-So was such a good person that she is indubitably a saint -- and whatever you do, don't pray for anyone else's intercession, not the Blessed Mother's, not that of the already canonized saint whom we think of as the patron of those with this name/this nationality/this disease/this residence, not NOBODY, only pray for the intercession of this one person, so that if baby survives we can attribute the miracle to her intercession without any suspicion that someone else had a hand in it!
No cheating now!
We want this to be a fair test of So-and-So's sanctity!
Think anyone in a desperate situation ever went about prayer like that?

Me neither.....
I'm not saying I don't sometimes ask the intercession of the uncanonized.
I'm just saying I wouldn't want to have any responsibility in that curial congregation.

Pssst..... Andy? Eddy?

I got somethin' for ya -- John 1:1-14

From a sermon "Catholic priest" we read: http://www.agreeley.com/hom08/feb17.html

Evidently Jesus had a powerful "religious experience" at some point in his public life, an experience which had a profound effect on him .... God was present in Jesus in a special way.
-- Andrew M Greeley, Author*Priest*Sociologist

And from a "Catholic priest" who is a fan of a New Age Dr. Feelgood, http://www.amazon.com/Third-Jesus-Christ-Cannot-Ignore/dp/0307338312/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1202604006&sr=8-1
Dr. Chopra captures an intriguing vision of a “Third Jesus,” who, while living on Earth, developed a deep relationship with God.... “God-consciousness,” [and] uses the sayings of Jesus to demonstrate how his basic mission and ethic of love grew out of his God-consciousness.
—Rev. Edward J. Ruetz, retired Catholic priest of the Diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend in Indiana

I guess we should be grateful that the latter, at least, is retired.
The dimness comprehendeth not the Light Who is the Light of men.
(There's also a "Catholic" nun quoted in the Amazon blurbs who is grateful that Chopra has "gently released this highly evolved spiritual teacher, light of the world and son of God [Jesus Christ] from the limitations of dogmatic theology."
Dang the limitations of dogma and theology, praise the LAWWWWWWWWWWWWD for the Magisterial pronouncements of St Deepak!)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.


There is a contentious, (for them... they are among the most civil of discussion group members in all of the Virtual Body of Christ,) thread on the ins and outs of public dominion over music on the CMAA boards.
As befits a group with such varying backgrounds and areas of expertise, the discussion encompasses many points of view on these peripheral matters, (remarkable unanimity on essentials, I hasten to add, is a hallmark of these people.)
We have scholars of early music, composers, DMs of enormous skill and erudition, DMs like me just trying to get by.... we have the articulate and the creators of Word-burgers ©... the intemperate and hyperbolic and snarky and loud, and the diffident and meek....I imagine we have the well-off and the hand-to-mouth, both in terms of personal situation and of the community we serve, as well.
It's all very interesting to me, but I don't think.... I could be wrong, but I don't think I need pay too much attention to all this with an eye towards amending my ways. (I think my photo-copying and transcribing has always, since my conversion, been non-transgressive, and my pastor is zealous about non-infringement and scrupulosity regarding genuine Fair Use, as well.)
Actually, the only reason I'm making note of it, is because of reading a review of a Jack Black movie this morning.
Now bear with me.... Be Kind, Rewind is, it seems, about this very subject, who "owns" art, intellectual property rights, when changes to another's work makes it a new work and when it's just theft, and ultimately, what is best both for Man and what is best for Art.
And besides, it sounds like an hysterical premise.
(Did I ever think I would seriously consider paying to see a Jack Black comedy?
No, I see what you’re saying, true…. but I have always before me the example of Adam Sandler. Just because Actor X appears in Film Z, it does not follow that Film Z is an Actor X Movie.
I'm a Christian, I believe in redemption.)

St Hilary on fear of the Lord

Today's Office of Readings takes its lesson from Hilary's treatise on the psalms, and concerns a subject close to my heart... fear, or, to sound like a movie blurb, the many faces of fear.

....we must understand the fear of the Lord.
“Fear” is not to be taken in the sense that common usage gives it.
Fear in this ordinary sense is the trepidation our weak humanity feels when it is afraid of suffering something it does not want to happen.
We are afraid, or made afraid, because of a guilty conscience, the rights of someone more powerful, an attack from one who is stronger, sickness, encountering a wild beast, suffering evil in any form.
This kind of fear is not taught: it happens because we are weak.
We do not have to learn what we should fear: objects of fear bring their own terror with them.
But of the fear of the Lord this is what is written:
Come, my children, listen to me, I shall teach you the fear of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord has then to be learned because it can be taught.
It does not lie in terror, but in something that can be taught.
It does not arise from the fearfulness of our nature; it has to be acquired by obedience to the commandments, by holiness of life and by knowledge of the truth.
For us the fear of God consists wholly in love, and perfect love of God brings our fear of him to its perfection.

So flush the dang thing....

No, I am being snarky, (inspired, or rather, tempted perhaps, by the fact that virtually everyone I know who makes the effort to engage in spontaneous prayer throughout the day reports that he does some of his best talking to God in the shower. Of course, they may all have access those spa-wannabe bathrooms that are almost a sine qua non of the modern McMansion, so the toilet is in a different 'compartment' or even entirely different room for the rest of the plumbing. Hmm.... now that I think of it, everyone does say "shower" not "bath," no one says he does his best prayring in the bath, perhpas modern bathing is too hedonistic. But I digress....)


A Hasidic rabbi serving time at a federal penitentiary is suing the Bureau of Prisons to change its policy on where inmates can pray.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in New York, Rabbi Mordechai Samet, who was convicted of fraudulently obtaining more than $4 million, asserts that his ability to pray according to his beliefs has been violated by the Bureau of Prisons’ insistence that he pray in his cell. The cell contains a toilet, making it an unclean place to pray for Jews, his suit says, as well as for Muslims and Buddhists.
Prisoners in federal facilities cannot pray in common spaces, and prison chapels are usually not open enough hours to accommodate those who pray several times a day, the suit contends.

Anyway, as I said, I was being snarky.
The embezzler is entitled to pray as his religious conviction dictates, despite his living arrangements being as his criminal conviction dictates.
But I think the answer is obvious.
Instead of full-time access to a toilet, and only intermittent availability of a space appropriate for prayer; giv'em full-time access to a space appropriate for prayer, and only intermittent access to a toilet.
Allow prisoners whose religion demands it to have cells without toilets.
And let them learn to limit their liquids intake; or live with discomfort or embarrassment, both of which are a small price to pay to be allowed to follow God's law. Right? Wouldn't anyone of any religion happily make such a.... excuse the pun... piddling sacrifice?

I feel like Solomon...

Oh, well, as long as the collection doesn't suffer...

As seen in the NYTimes...


NEW YORK (AP) -- Most of the United States' 25 largest church bodies either lost members or experienced no growth in the past year, according to a 2008 yearbook produced by the National Council of Churches.
The Episcopal Church, locked in a conflict over the Bible and homosexuality, suffered the steepest decline, reporting a more than 4 percent drop to slightly fewer than 2.2 million members. Another mainline Protestant group, the 3 million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), facing similar divisions, suffered a 2.4 percent membership decrease.
The figures are outlined in the 2008 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, which tracks membership and other trends from 224 national church bodies.
The yearbook's editor, the Rev. Eileen W. Lindner, said many churches' said many people in their 20s and 30s attend and support local congregations but resist becoming members.
Of the churches that reported growth, the Jehovah's Witnesses said their group had a 2.25 percent increase to 1 million members, while The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it grew 1.56 percent to 5.8 million members in the U.S.
The Roman Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church also reported membership gains under 1 percent each.
A dozen churches said membership remained steady, while seven reported declines.
The yearbook also reported a 4 percent increase in per capita giving from the 65 churches that reported contribution trends.

And in related news, a "church" that markets, er, excuse me.... preaches the Proseperity Gospel is finding itself distinctly unprosperous.
Contribution shortfalls are forcing the pastor of the Living Word Christian Center, (a moment of silence while we wipe aways the falling tear....,) to sell his private jet.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Religion-Briefs.html?sq=prosperity church&st=nyt&scp=1&pagewanted=all

Thursday, 21 February 2008

CS Lewis on Taste in Sacred Music

I really have got to knuckle down and read some of the books I have stacked all over the house, there are several Lewis tomes I mean to have at.
Anyway, Christian Reflections is NOT one of them, but this lovely excerpt is inspiring people around St Blogs, so I may just have to make the piles higher:

There are two musical situations on which I think we can be confident that a blessing rests.
One is where a priest or an organist, himself a man of trained and delicate taste, humbly and charitably sacrifices his own (aesthetically right) desires and gives the people humbler and coarser fare than he would wish, in a belief (even, as it may be, the erroneous belief) that he can thus bring them to God.
The other is where the stupid and unmusical layman humbly and patiently, and above all silently, listens to music which he cannot, or cannot fully, appreciate, in the belief that it somehow glorifies God, and that if it does not edify him this must be his own defect.
Neither such a High Brow nor such a Low Brow can be far out of the way.
To both, Church Music will have been a means of grace; not the music they have liked, but the music they have disliked.
They have both offered, sacrificed, their taste in the fullest sense.
But where the opposite situation arises, where the musician is filled with the pride of skill or the virus of emulation and looks with contempt on the unappreciative congregation, or where the unmusical, complacently entrenched in their own ignorance and conservatism, look with the restless and resentful hostility of an inferiority complex on all who would try to improve their taste – there, we may be sure, all that both offer is unblessed and the spirit that moves them is not the Holy Ghost.

So, Come to the Water, (except for the Lor-or-or-ord!) may be a source of grace to me this weekend, or otherwise.
It's up to me.

Overheard in a Combox ....

From George Orwell's "Reflections on Gandhi".

[Gandhi's faith, but this appplies to ours as well, to Christianity,] cannot be squared with the belief that Man is the measure of all things and that our job is to make life worth living on this earth, which is the only earth we have... it is not necessary to argue here whether the other-worldly or the humanistic ideal is ‘higher.’ ...
The point is that they are incompatible. [emphasis mine]
One must choose between God and Man, and all ‘radicals’ and ‘progressives,’ from the mildest liberal to the most extreme anarchist, have in effect chosen Man.”

Not in some kingdom lightyears away?

Haplessly marooned in the five minutes ago

Yes, Cintra Wilson in the Times was expounding on fashion, or what's more riveting to some, on SHOPPING,* but change a few words, and it rings true for my favorite area of endeavour.
In many [hymnals], one feels starved of proper influence from the past. Sophomoric [ditties] spring into the [liturgical] world that are so right-this-second as to be divorced from any history or future; they resolve no tensions that [the Church] has been feeling for the last several hundred years, or even the last five. They feel haplessly marooned in the present.
Spirit and Song, anyone?

*Which reminds me, am I the last one to know that there are entire magazines, more than one, devoted to shopping? Shopping!?@?#??
What is the matter with us?

Pop Culture and Geezers

It may seem that I give overmuch attention of late to the more unseemly and frivolous aspects of modern life, (particularly for some one with my aspirations.)
The fact is, I am doing things, watching things, and reading things I would otherwise probably abstain from during Lent, did I not now need better command of pop culture references.
Yes, I NEED it... unfortunately
Really, what was I thinking when I agreed to this directorial assignment?
Well, I was thinking that it would be less work, having once been coaxed into the directing, to direct a musical with which I was already familiar, (albeit a familiarity from my remote, remote youth....)
And that a show that was bit- and gimmick- heavy would be an easier task for a cast without much in the way of skills or experience.
What I did not consider was that direction of, really "invention" of such a production relies heavily on references to a culture that I am not all that in touch with.
Who knows what 12 year olds watch, think is funny, listen to, crack jokes about?
Certainly not those in advanced geezerhood such as myself.
I have always said, Shared Shtick is the Basis for All Lasting Relationships.
(I have too, I've said it just like that, as if stating some profound philosophy. Not as bad as DM, with his pompous, oft-repeated, "..... or as I like to say....," as if in quoting himself he was showing himself in touch with some celebrity all the rest of us might enviously yearn to be on such terms of intimacy with. But I digress.)
Anyway, I do need to build a relationship with these kids, both to direct them successfully and to make the piece grow organically, (I HAAAAAAAAATE plays and musicals where a performer indulges in an eccentricity of readings or physicality, or pseudo-improvisational business which he clearly does not own....)
So, hang out in Malls, watch even more idiocy on TV than is my wont, infiltrate Facebook, listen to cringe-worthy music?

The bride wore....

... very little.
I know I am not the only person in Church work to have noticed and decried the increasingly exhibitionist bridal garments that grace the aisle. (At our parish, it sometimes looks as if, the girls, over-zealous to avoid the tardiness that they are so warned about, choose the lesser of two evils and show up en dishabille...)
The New York Times fashion pages comments on this phenomenon here, (needless to say, in the Wolrd of the Commentable, things are much further along than in my pocket of the world,) though not surprisingly, they do not look on the trend with the same jaundiced eye as I.
They do however nail one of the principle reasons, without taking the next step and mentioning the natural consequences of this trend.
"Today the prevailing fantasy is no longer, ‘I want to be a princess in my ball gown,’ ... A lot of women have done that already for their prom.”
Back it up a few years, buddy.
Today they've already done it for their their Quince. Or their Middle School graduation. Or their confirmation. Or their elementary school graduation. Or their 9th birthday party. Or their First Communion. Or their...
Yes, it keeps escalating, or whatever the opposite of escalating is, sinking, they dress like princesses as small children, they need to step it up and dress like brides when barely older, like vamps soon after that and like prostitutes by the time they are ready to "settle down."
It is all part and parcel with the sexualization of children and the infantilization of adults, and the vicious circle is swirling so fast that one can't distiguish cause from effect.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Middle Name Meme

I have personally been tagged, for the very first time, on a meme.
(I feel as if the popular kids have let me sit at their lunch room table.)

1.You have to post the rules before you give your answers.
2.You must list one fact about yourself beginning with each letter of your middle name. (If you don't have a middle name, use your maiden name or your mother's maiden name).
3.At the end of your blog post, you need to tag one person for each letter of your middle name. (Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they've been tagged.)

I have no middle name, per se, I have a confirmation name, Cecilia, and a fake middle name I gave myself temporarily in my teens, Alix.

Alix would be easier, fewer letters, except for that blasted "X". So, Cecilia, it is.

C urmudgeonly
E xercise-phobic
C razy-goofy in love with Himself (this is not egocentricity, "Himself" is a [perhaps faux?] Irish idiom for the head of the household, and is my husband's nickname)
I tchy (what can I say, I suffer from a skin disease...)
L azy
I nterested in a wide variety of subjects
A pt to go off half-cocked since my knowledge is often shallow but that does not stop me from forming opinions and expressing them... at times my life seems one long opportunity for apology.

I don't know that this blog is read widely enough for me to successfully tag 7 people, but here goes --
Sir Monocle
Mary Jane

Of Gregorian Chant and Cricket Bats

There is an on-going conversation at a board (to which I will not link because of the frequent uninformed rancor,) about whether there is such a thing as objectively good liturgical music, - and the 900 lb gorilla twin brother to that premise, that there is objectively BAD liturgical music.
Who knew that that pronouncement of the Snowbird signators, (often derided as the quintessence of Duh....,) was controversial?
The current code word for "bad," is "insipid." As might be expected from this board, (and the editorial positions of its sponsors,) there is a great deal of support for the notion that "people like it" is proof of something beyond.... well, the fact that people like it; that ultimately it all comes down to a matter of taste; and that as democracy has proven, majority rule in such things will always produce the desired results.
Because, you know, trained musicians are, um.... (say it with a sneer,) elitists!
Annie: What's so good about putting words together?
Henry: It's traditionally considered advantageous for a writer.

One poster, whose work I look for all over St Blog's, pithily describe one dreadful ditty's music as having the dignity of elevator music , being unworthy of liturgy; and its text as mediocre, like a Hallmark card, and equivocal. (This poster has a way with words, he is a voice of a moderation that is the furthest things possible from being lukewarm, he is pointed without being unkind and he is a true progressive. But I digress....)
Others insist that every community is different, it's a matter of taste, so the song in question can be very appropriate at, "right for" some parishes.
(We see yet again the elevation of Parochial Preference to Magisterium.
Forget Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form, we should all be celebrating the Rite of Thewaywedoithere.... but again, I digress.)
Such talk always reminds me of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, (from which I quoted above.)
Do you know the play?
The "Cricket Bat Scene" should be required reading for every Church liturgist.
For I believe that great hymnody, great polyphony, great anthems, great folk music (as opposed to the puerile, faux naive commercial garbage we have so much of today,) , Gregorian chant -- they are as "cunningly put together" as a cricket bat, (even if great genuinely folk music cunning is inadvertent, or the "cunning" of an entire community rather than an individual.)
A playwright, [Henry, the creation of the playwright Tom]: Shut up and listen.
This thing here, [he is holding a cricket bat] which looks like a wooden club, is actually several pieces of particular wood cunningly put together in a certain way so that the whole thing is sprung, like a dance floor.
It's for hitting cricket balls with.
If you get it right, the cricket ball will travel 200 yards in four seconds, and all you've done is give it a knock, like knocking the top off a bottle of stout, and it makes a noise like a trout taking a fly. . . . (He clucks his tongue to make the noise.)
What we're trying to do is to write cricket bats, so that when we throw up an idea and give it a little knock, it might . . . travel . . . (He clucks his tongue again and picks up [a script by a writer, a "lout with language" who, though having his own supporters and adherents, is in the judgement of Henry, who is entitled to judgement by virtue of his experience and skill] )
Now what we've got here is a lump of wood of roughly the same shape trying to be a cricket bat, and if you hit a ball with it, the ball will travel about 10 feet and you will drop the bat and dance about shouting, 'Ouch!' with your hands stuck in your armpits.
(Indicating the cricket bat.)
This isn't better because someone says it's better.... It's better because it's better. [emphasis mine] You don't believe me, so I suggest you go out to bat with this and see how you get on. [speaking of words] If you get the right ones in the right order, you might nudge the world a little or make a poem that children will speak for you when you are dead.

The words and notes that people have been choosing, and then putting together in a certain order.... what ideas do they express, and how well have the ideas "traveled?"
What are supposedly Catholic people today believing, and how are they acting on those beliefs, what are they practicing?
Are our hymnals filled with cricket bats, or just one by fours that people "like"?

Monday, 18 February 2008

Incense and Sensibility

In the NCR piece that described a group on the one hand that is concerned above all with obeying and worshipping the Lord in this world in anticipation of worshipping Him forever in the next; and a group on that other that chases after happiness in this world and fetishizes its adherents' "feelings"...

Well, perhaps I've been watching too much "Masterpiece," but it seems to me Fr Longenecker should have named his "two Churches".... Incense and Sensibility?

Saturday, 16 February 2008

The Tale of 2 Churches

Marvelous article by Fr Dwight Longenecker in the National Catholic Register.


An excerpt:

Modern Christians seem to have adopted one of America’s founding principles as the founding principle for the whole of life and the whole of their understanding of the Christian faith. The American ideal of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” may be a noble political ideal, but once the “pursuit of happiness” becomes the basic foundation for one’s whole worldview, a terrible distortion of the faith is the result.The Pursuit of Happiness
If Christians put the pursuit of happiness in this life as the primary goal, everything changes. Suddenly the Church is not perceived as an army engaged in a spiritual battle, but a mutual self-help group in which people try to make each other happy.
Church buildings cease to be marvelous buildings transcendent with beauty that take us to the threshold of heaven, and they become functional meeting halls where the mutual self-help group meets once a week.
When the pursuit of earthly happiness becomes the driving force, religion becomes utilitarian. Whatever is useful for making one “happy” is what is good. Whatever is not immediately useful is discarded.
So, for example, what use is religious art or glorious church architecture? There is no immediate usefulness, so the images are pulled down, new art is not commissioned, and if it is, it must be crudely illustrative or didactic. In other words, it has to do something and be useful.
When religion becomes a function to produce happiness here and now, hymns become comforting, banal songs about us and our problems and how God will make us happy.
When the quest for holiness is replaced with the quest for happiness, the priest ceases to be an agent of God’s supernatural grace in the world and becomes a therapist, a social worker or simply an avuncular administrator of the mutual self-help group.
When religion is expected to merely produce happiness, then worship is stripped of mystery and it must become entertaining. When religion is expected to simply make people feel better instead of being better, no one preaches on the difficult or hard hitting subjects.
The pulpit becomes a platform for pious platitudes that make people feel nice, and the confessional ends up empty.
In the end, it is not only the confessional which is empty.
People are not stupid.
They soon realize that there are self-help courses out there that are more entertaining, more motivating and run more professionally. If they want to be entertained, then worship on a Sunday morning will never be able to compete.
If they expect to be made happy by religion, they will very soon realize that religion doesn’t really deliver the instant happiness they want, and they will either start a long and hopeless search for the church that really makes them happy or they will abandon the faith altogether.

Read the rest....

Friday, 15 February 2008

Preparing for Stations

On one single Friday during this Lent, we will depart from our usual and immemorial parish custom for Stations of the Cross, and, (using a format inspired by the elegant and moving devotion that St John Cantius presents,) we will have Stations with music.
(Ours will not be in the same style as theirs, and certainly not at the level of either musical taste or accomplishment, and CERTAINLY not with any... shudder... LATIN, but it will suit us.)
I was actually more than a little surprised when Father agreed to my suggestion so quickly. Caught short, because I assumed he would either reject the idea outright or postpone it indefinitely by saying we'd "think about it," I had to scramble a bit.
And I believe I need to tread a very narrow way...
I am trying to prepare worthy music, of a quality that justifies the effort put into it, but at the same time, I can't be as rigid in planning this as I am Mass. This is NOT a liturgy, this is a devotion, there is room for more personal expression, there is room for beloved songs that don't suit Mass.
And there is such a wealth of choir music that they have been singing for years, or HAD been singing for years which either is (and always was,) simply inappropriate for the Holy Sacrifice Mass, or is just.... "surplus," since unlike decades ago when much of this repertoire worked its way into their hearts, there is only one week of Passiontide; and much of the emphasis in Lent is now on building up towards the sacraments of initiation rather than penitence or Christ's passion.
And I don't want to deprive them of what they love. In fact, I am going out of my way to create opportunities for them to sing things, that in some cases, I don't much care for..
So we can do some of the things they would like to do for Good Friday but which are simply completely unsuitable for a Catholic Mass, or that don't work without accompaniment; or that used to be de rigueur for Palm Sunday but what with the frenzy of the outside first gospel and procession as we do it now, no one hears that prelude and half of the choir always ends up stuck on the wrong staircase, or positioned so that they can't hear each other or see me, or trapped in the vestibule by catechumens blocking the doors with palms, and the cantor up front trying to lead the people who won't go outside has no idea what is happening and... (can you tell I dread Palm Sundays? I'm the only one who is thrilled that it will be so early this year that it will SURELY be too cold to start across the street.)
Anyway, the women can do the Jesu Salvator Mundi (Corde?) from faded purple mimeos older than I am, and the men a bit of that Carlo Rossini (I think) Stabat, and there will be a couple spirituals.
And beside that, that gorgeous Gluck De Profundis, the rather too dramatic Schubert In monte oliveti, one stunning movement from the Pergolesi, the people can sing the 'We adore you...." to the DuBois, slightly modified, a little Taize, a little Palestrina, everyone's favorite German chorale-style hymn -- perhaps too eclectic, but I think it will please people and make them more receptive to better refined programming in the future.
I wanted more input from the other musicians in the parish, I didn't want to suggest to them what their contribution should be, but I'm not gettin' it...
Ah well.
And I put quite a lot of effort into streamlining the scripture readings and the prayers (adapted from those written by then-Cdl. Ratzinger one year,) because it is VITAL that this not seem long to people who expect their Stations to last a certain length of time and will nover come back if they are given too much excuse to sing the Seven Last Words--
We Never Did It That Way Before.
Anyway, we had a great rehearsal last night.
They are all finally, actively LIKING, rather than merely tolerating the entrance antiphon, albeit in English (baby steps, baby steps.)
The Gouze sounds good, both Farrant (or attributed to Farrant) anthems are finally learned, the Novello "Like As the Hart" is a nice change of pace, the Stainer God So Loved the World was really quite thrilling (they are "getting" that the rests are as important as the notes in a space as live and reverberant as ours,) and the (not) Palestrina O Bone Jesu almost brought tears to my eyes.
Thank you, choir!

Monday, 11 February 2008

St Gregory Nazianzen on the fact that we are CALLED to be generous

This might be read as a rebuke to those who think "social justice" an invention of VCII, or "greying hippies" in the Church; and to those who, when they don't simply ignore or deliberately misinterpret Benedict's reminders that we are called to be stewards of the earth, deride it as PC nonsense, or capitulation to global warming "nut-jobs" and demagogues.

From today's Office of Readings, an excerpt from a sermon of Saint Gregory Nazianzen's:

Recognise to whom you owe the fact that you exist, that you breathe, that you understand, that you are wise, and, above all, that you know God and hope for the kingdom of heaven and the vision of glory, now darkly as in a mirror but then with greater fullness and purity.
You have been made a son of God, co-heir with Christ.
Where did you get all this, and from Whom?
Let me turn to what is of less importance: the visible world around us.
What benefactor has enabled you to look out upon the beauty of the sky, the sun in its course, the circle of the moon, the countless number of stars, with the harmony and order that are theirs, like the music of a harp? Who has blessed you with rain, with the art of husbandry, with different kinds of food, with the arts, with houses, with laws, with states, with a life of humanity and culture, with friendship and the easy familiarity of kinship?
Who has given you dominion over animals, those that are tame and those that provide you with food? Who has made you lord and master of everything on earth? In short, who has endowed you with all that makes man superior to all other living creatures?
Is it not God who asks you now in your turn to show yourself generous above all other creatures and for the sake of all other creatures?
Because we have received from him so many wonderful gifts, will we not be ashamed to refuse him this one thing only, our generosity?
Though He is God and Lord He is not afraid to be known as our Father.
Shall we for our part repudiate those who are our kith and kin?
Brethren and friends, let us never allow ourselves to misuse what has been given us by God’s gift.
If we do, we shall hear Saint Peter say: Be ashamed of yourselves for holding on to what belongs to someone else. [God!]
Resolve to imitate God’s justice, and no one will be poor. Let us not labour to heap up and hoard riches while others remain in need.
If we do, the prophet Amos will speak out against us with sharp and threatening words: Come now, you that say: When will the new moon be over, so that we may start selling? When will the sabbath be over, so that we may start opening our treasures?
Let us put into practise the supreme and primary law of God.
He sends down rain on just and sinful alike, and causes the sun to rise on all without distinction. To all earth’s creatures He has given the broad earth, the springs, the rivers and the forests.
He has given the air to the birds, and the waters to those who live in the water. He has given abundantly to all the basic needs of life, not as a private possession, not restricted by law, not divided by boundaries, but as common to all, amply and in rich measure.

Our Lady of Lourdes

In 1858 there was an appearance, (I want to avoid the connotation of that other word,) of the Virgin Mary, the Immaculata, on earth, in a cavern called “de Massabielle” .... and to whom did she appear?
Bernadette Soubirous, an uneducated, probably not very bright peasant child.
Yes, by means of a poor, fourteen-year-old girl, Mary calls on us all to change our lives, to convert.
She calls us to know, to love and to serve her Son, through prayer and good works, especially in the service of the poor and the sick
Read about it. Say a rosary. Do something gracious for someone.


Also from Wiki:
Saint Bernadette, born Marie-Bernarde Soubirous (January 7, 1844 – April 16, 1879), was a miller's daughter from the town of Lourdes in southern France. Her real Occitan name is Maria Bernada Soubirous, aka Bernadeta (little Bernada). From February 11, to July 16, 1858, she reported eighteen apparitions of "a Lady." Despite initial skepticism from the Roman Catholic Church, these claims were eventually declared to be worthy of belief after a canonical investigation. After her death, Bernadette's body remained "incorruptible", and the shrine at Lourdes went on to become a major site for pilgrimage, attracting millions of Catholics each year. On December 8th, 1933 she was canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church; her Feast Day is celebrated on the 16th of April.

One little tangent -- I'd never read her accounts before. Western Catholics once used terms like "Cheese Sunday"? I had no idea.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Pithy summation from Fr. Hunwicke

The Holy Father has resisted .... a racist agenda; [the belief] that the Jews alone among all the races of the world should be excluded as a matter of principle from the saving grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ ..... If omnes homines are called to recognise Christ as Saviour, it would be preposterous if that privilege were denied to His own race.

I feel when I read his blog the way I felt when I first read Fr Kimel's... whether "officially" or not, he's on our team, and we're d****** lucky he is.

Even if your son asked for a stone, you'd feed him bread

A story related by the philosopher Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, ( I may have posted this before, but I was thinking of it this week for obvious reasons, and it bears repeating.)

Let me relate an incident that caused my husband grief. It was 1946, just after the war. My husband was teaching at Fordham, and there appeared in one of his classes a Jewish student who had been a naval officer during the war. He would eventually tell my husband about a particularly stunning sunset in the Pacific and how it had led him to the quest for the truth about God. He first went to Columbia to study philosophy, and he knew that this was not what he was looking for. A friend suggested he try philosophy at Fordham and mentioned the name Dietrich von Hildebrand. After just one class with my husband, he knew he had found what he was looking for. One day after class my husband and this student went for a walk. He told my husband during this time that he was surprised at the fact that several professors, after discovering he was Jewish, assured him that they would not try to convert him to Catholicism. My husband, stunned, stopped, turned to him and said, "They said what?!" He repeated the story and my husband told him, "I would walk to the ends of the earth to make you a Catholic." To make a long story short, the young man became a Catholic, was ordained a Carthusian priest, and went on to enter the only Charter House in the United States

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Oh Frabjuous Day!

Well, it didn't actually happen today.... apparently a much mourned blog that IMO all by itself once justified the existence of the Internet long ago came back.
But I didn't know.
So, even though its resurrection means I'll need to devote even MORE time to reading, (time that I don't have, WHYYYYYYYYYYY did I say I would direct that play?) than I already do.
A sort of series on Purgatory on Fr Kimel's Pontifications will keep me up past my bedtime tonight (Himself is at the theater, so I wouldn't sleep anyway... does it matter, will it affect my preparedness for early Mass whether I read too long in bed or read too long at the computer desk?)
Incidentally, Peter Kreeft's metaphor of Purgatory which Fr Kimel relates strikes my simple mind as the product of the same kind of evolution in thinking (from earlier age's conceptions of the process/place that is purgatory) as that which led to modern society's goal in the treatment of criminals -- trying to effect a rehabilitation rather than inflict a punishment.
The territory of analysts rather than wardens.
It's nice to reflect that God is such a Liberal :oP

Gabriel's Message

Wonderful new (to me,) hymn text, John Mason Neale, using it tomorrow in the prelude. (He is fast becoming one of my favorites)
Springing it unawares on my choir, but I set it to a tune they know, and the extra (time donated, I might add,) Sunday morning rehearsal makes it feasible.
Gabriel's Message appears, (for obvious reasons,) as an Advent hymn many places, including the Chabanel Psalter site, but Summit Choir Book judges it a Lenten hymn. (Although the verses in that volume that make it so fail to appear in many other sources.)
The verses about the paradox of death defeated by death, the fall occurring in Eden and events of our redemption beginning in Gethsemane, the tree of knowledge and the tree of the cross -- they are perfect for 1st Lent in cycle A.

He that comes despised shall reign;
He that cannot die, be slain;
Death by death its death shall gain:

Like, its like shall overthrow
By a tree prevailed the foe
From a tree shall healing grow

Man was lost a garden in,
In a garden, man shall win,
Woman's faith end woman's sin.

Weakness shall the strong confound;
By the hands, in grave clothes wound,
Adam's chains shall be unbound.

The Matter of Personal Preferences


A fellow on the CMAA fora, earnest, intelligent, (if sometimes wearingly verbose.... he reminds me of the daughter's plea to her playwright father in Stoppard's The Real Thing: Say it, Fa, don't write it!, ) has a sorry tale of liturgical music.

Prayerfully prepared, well executed, appropriately selected music for a diocesan wide priests' convocation. Greek and Latin ordinaries, Spanish and English chanted propers.

And one crank priest d'un certain age, (is that idiom ever used of men? ca ne fait rien...,) had the egocentricity to complain that it didn't "uplift" him. “I don’t understand. I know your work. I would hire you any day to be my director. Why would you choose all this chant. IT DOESN’T UPLIFT ME AT ALL.

A kindly Bishop suggested sticking by his choice of the "propers.... you know, the Kyrie and Sanctus."

There are the two halves of the problem, in a nutshell.

TPTB, by and large, 1.) don't know anything about liturgical music and haven't a clue about the criteria for selecting music for Liturgy and 2.) they therefore assume the musician doing the programming is just indulging his personal preferences, since that is what THEY would do if they could. And then the thought hits them -- hey, I'M in charge here! (at this parish or diocese,) we WILL program according to my personal preferences.

It makes it very hard on the orthoprax (yeah, I made that word up, so what?) scrupulous,
conscientious PTwillB, when he comes in and tries to correct things, because it looks as if he too is merely enforcing his personal preferences. (e.g., my "preference" for In paradisum as the recessional at funeral Masses, over Eagle's Wings....)

The Modern Church Catholic Building

One other point in the essay asking us not to blame the Spirit of Vatican Two for the stark and clumsy buildings in whihc many Catholic are now forced to hear Mass:*
(I hasten to add, I am blessed in that regard. Our edifice is not only gorgeous, but has always been subejct to renovations that, if not necessary, were at least done thoughtfully anadd beautifully. I have not been to every parish in the diocese, but our church is the most beautiful one that I know of, by almost anyone's estimation. The cathedral isn't bad...
But I digress.)
The article http://www.catholicculture.org/library/view.cfm?recnum=8000 mentioned how common is the "white washed wall" behind the alatar, where once one might have expected a gorgeous mural or mosaic, or a striking reredos, or an awe inspiring stained glass window.
And it also mentioned the rejection of any existing "language" of architecture, a starting from zero approach to what meaning or symbplism the occupants of a building moght derive from it.
So let us consider the semiology of that feature of the average contemporary church for the average contemporary man.
Hmm.... a large, (room-sized, in fact,) flat, vertical, two-dimesional expanse of white, what does that say to you?
Is it any wonder that people drop in to Mass when they have the time, with a consumerist expectation of being entertained? or that in the place where they once would have seen a representation of the Immortal, Invisible, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Ieffable, Eternal Infallible, Almighty.... or even a precious tabernacle to house the means by which, the form in which He deigned in these latter days to Stay With Us... Whom they came to worship, there is instead that which invites them to "project" ..... what?
What do we usually see on movie screens?
A bigger, better looking version of ourselves.

This is a pretty good illustration of the differing visions of the two camps whose mottoes Cdl Dulles said were, "God is other, people," and "God is other people."

* An expression I did not know, but which I recently have read, and which dates from... hold onto your seats.... pre-Conciliar days. No! People didn't just go to Mass to practice theri own private devotions while a spiritually, emotionally and physically distant priest mumbled inaudibly words they could neither hear nor understand? they intended to "hear" something?
I am shocked, shocked, I tell you.
Gambling at Rick's!

Interesting Blog

I meant to link to this some time ago.
This woman seems to be an erudite scientist and academic who nonetheless has thrown it all over (or mostly thrown it over,) for Liturgical music.


How different from the picture painted here:

“Another One Bites the Dust.” It reminds me of a lot of my friends in music ministry: “And another’s gone and another one’s gone, another one bites the dust.”
When a friend of mine called a few weeks ago to say that he had submitted his resignation after serving as director of music at a large suburban parish for eight years, I must say I wasn’t surprised. He had endured years of difficulty: a pastor who refused to communicate, liturgy that was haphazard, and surprises lurking around every corner. The liturgy committee met once or twice a year....But he isn’t leaving to take a position in another parish that would appreciate his abilities. No, he’s just leaving and glad to be doing so. He says he wants his life back.
Sadly, this is not an uncommon story. I’ve heard it over and over and over.

(I must admit, I would return part of my salary, rejoicing, if our LitCom meetings were limited to a half an hour twice a year....;o))

Correction: the Organic Chemist has thrown nothing over and is, with remarkable gymnastic aptitude, straddling both worlds.

The Burden of Our Preaching is to Proclaim the Cross

The "Church has always held .. Christ underwent His passion and death .... because of the sins of men and out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation.. .. the burden of the Church's preaching [is] to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God's all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows. "

(Emphasis mine)

Friday, 8 February 2008

Look at me, look at me!!!!!!!!

H/T to the New Liturgical Movement http://thenewliturgicalmovement.blogspot.com/2008/02/ideas-and-their-import-for-liturgy-and.html for this article http://www.catholicculture.org/library/view.cfm?recnum=8000.

It speaks to the notion that rather than letting bad "Spirit of Vatican II" ideology bear all the blame for the far too common Ugly-As-Sin-Modern-Catholic-Church, we need look into the rancid (not his word,) concepts already running amuck in architectural circles.
Read the entire thing if it interests you, but two MINOR points struck me -- the first made me laugh, a reference to my personal bete noire, the fetishization of "eye contact."

A liturgical architect, engaged in the popular sport of convincing people they want what they don't want, said, "There was a very lengthy and difficult process as we worked through a Vatican II Diocese and a Pre-Vatican II Mission Church. The parishioners just wanted their church back and could not understand what inflecting the pews to insure eye contact had to do with being a good Catholic....It was a grueling process."
(Poor baby.)
I personally have no problem with eye contact, (I may be an introvert, but I am a loud-mouthed, confrontational introvert... you didn't know there were such people? well, now you do,) but I am sick and tired of the attempts to enforce it as an absolute and universal value. (I am not saying the architect in question did this, although notice he did not put it, "to insure eye contact WAS POSSIBLE.")
When I cantor a psalm that is addressed to God, (yes, some of them are,) why am I instructed to try to make eye contact with as many members of the congregation as possible?
When a priest says, "lifting His eyes to YOU, Almighty Father...." in addressing God the Father recounting what God the Son said to his disciples, , why does he, in mid-sentence, switch to pantomiming the Last Supper, casting the congregation as the disciples?
Why are some EMHCs trained to wait until the communicant, who may prefer to be looking at the Body of Christ, looks them in the eye before pronouncing "The Body of Christ..."?
This ideology spills over into Confession, of course.
And it does not allow for the fact that many can hear better, can concentrate on sounds best with our eyes closed.
There is no place for the Publican in most modern Church buildings. Oh, there's room, there's space, All Are Welcome -- but it is space guaranteed to make him uncomfortable, aggressively lit.
No shallow end to dip your toe in to test the water, as it were.
Modern churches try to turn us all, regardless of inclination into That Family That Always Sits In The Front Pew. (We, the Louds, were such a family... no cry room in those days!)

This is too long, I'll address the other notion that struck me in another post. (or maybe I won't.)

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men.

Much sturm und drang over the Good Friday prayers from the General Intercessions in the Extraordinary Form, (i.e. in the '62 Missal,) and whether the Successor of Peter was right to simply change the one of them that speaks to our older brothers, on his own authority.

(Father John Zuhlsdorf's translations of the prayers)
Let us also pray for the Jews:
that our Lord and God take away the veil from their hearts;
that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ to be our Lord.
Almighty eternal God,
who also does not repell the Jews from Your mercy:
graciously hear the prayers which we are conveying on behalf of the blindness of that people;
so that once the light of Your Truth has been recognized,
which is Christ,
they may be rescued from their darkness.
[through that same Lord?]

The new version:
Let us also pray for the Jews:
that our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts,
that they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men.
Almighty and eternal God,
who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth,
propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Your Church,
all Israel may be saved.
Through Christ Our Lord.

I can see how the carpers on the one fringe might mourn the loss of the "poetry" in the old one, ( I like a good metaphor myself, veil, blindness, darkness...)
But the positive metaphor, Christ, the Light of God's Truth is even more beautiful, in my (non-wordsmith, non-Latin scholar, non-poet, non-sensical,) opinion.
(And more surely more gracious? "I wish you weren't so ignorant" and "I hope you learn this beautiful truth" mean essentially the same thing, no? but what a difference!)

Some on that fringe have foolishly suggested the Pope cravenly changed to prayer in an attempt to "appease" those who objected to the old prayer.

And what of those who objected to the old version of the prayer, the carpers on the other fringe?(both within and extra the Church)
Well gee, Mr Foxman, why would you have any expectation that a prayer that expresses a theology you do not share would be pleasing to you? and yes, Fr Peckler, the Holy Father could have just used the corresponding prayer from the OF, and he didn't.

But for whom was he changing the prayer?

Let's think about this: the Liturgy is primarily for the worship of God and secondarily the sanctification of the Faithful. While good liturgy accomplishes evangelical purposes, it does that primarily by sanctifying the faithful who will then "go to the world."
The sanctification that is one goal of the Liturgy is the sanctification of the Faithful, the people who are already members of the Mystical Body; the prayers we pray, if they edify and educate, have as their aim not the edification and education of the world but of us who pray them.
The discussion that has been opened by this manufactured controversy, and fueled by the actions of the Pope and his lieutenants, (seeming delays, leaks, etc.) surely works to bring this prayer to the attention of the vast majority of the Catholic faithful WHO WOULD NEVER OTHERWISE HEAR THIS PRAYER OR PRAY THIS PRAYER.

Think, how many times have the Forces of Dimness pooh-poohed any mention of the Extraordinary Form? Oh, there’s no interest, no one cares about that, it's just a tiny radical group.
Curious, than that those same dismissers of the EF are themselves so interested in, one might say obsessed with, this prayer from the EF.

So, for whose benefit did he change the prayer?
PapaRatz changed the prayer for THEM, (for us, I should say, since I attend the OF.)
That for which the Church entreats God in that prayer is an eventuality WE need to long for and work for, the Truth that prayer expresses is one WE need to learn, but which has been denied and denied and denied, and is still denied.
Yes, Fr P, Cardinal K, loopy ecumenist.... whatever you may believe, whatever you have been taught, whatever you are currently erroneously teaching: Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men and God wants ALL men to recognize that, (believe,) and acknowledge that, (practice that belief.)
As Bishop Sklba put it, "Central to the concerns of the Holy Father is the clear articulation that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ and his Church."
And there it is in the new prayer.
Unequivocally articulated.
Not obscured by a poetic metaphor.
God not only wants all to be saved but to know that their salvation is in Christ Jesus.
Some putative "Catholics" including those in the hierarchy, will continue to deny it, but they cannot say they haven't been told.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Attempts by Civil Authorities to Suppress Catholicism

A Government agnecy, targetting the teaching of Catholicism by seeking to punish those who proclaim the Truth.
And where is this happening? Myanmar? Communist China?

Nope, Canada.

Catholic Insight, a Canadian magazine known for its fidelity to Church teachings, has been targeted by the Canadian Human Rights Commission for publishing articles [containing statements] taken from recent Vatican pronouncements.
Other types of statements published by Catholic Insight on the topic of homosexuality include political statements, medical studies, news reports and other studies.
Many of the articles concerned addressed the campaign in Canada to legalize same-sex marriage, which Catholic Insight openly opposed."
The basic view of the Church is that homosexual acts are a sin, but we love the sinner," said [the magazine's editor], adding that opposing same-sex marriage is not the same as rejecting homosexuals as persons.

A homosexual activist files a complaint and bingo -
The process favors the complainant over the accused.... There is no cost to the one who files a complaint, and the commission provides legal support to the complainant. In contrast, the accused must pay his legal costs.
Additionally, contrary to the English legal tradition, there is a reverse onus requiring the accused to prove his or her innocence.
"There's a presumption of guilt," said Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, who himself was subject to two complaints before the Alberta Human Rights Commission in 2005 after publishing a pastoral letter defending the traditional definition of marriage earlier that same year.
"I really feel that we are into a crisis situation here where we are experiencing a trumping of religious freedom," said Bishop Henry....
"Catholicism seems to be under attack for a variety of different reasons," he said. "I think one of the things is that we're not trendy; we don't easily kind of compromise on anything we consider to be essential."
So when you have very clear definitive teaching with respect to marriage and what marriage is all about, and with homosexuality as intrinsically disordered and contrary to natural law, closing sexual relations to the gift of life, I don't see where Catholics can say anything else that what our traditional teaching is."
"That is not a very popular, politically correct expression of views in our society," the bishop said. "If you can knock down that and kind of bring the Catholic Church to its knees, I would think the opponents would be very pleased to do so."
Bishop Henry lays part of the blame with an activist judiciary that has read "sexual orientation" into the section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protects against discrimination. "And further, they're reading in 'sexual practices,'" said the bishop....
Christian groups have a losing record before Canada's human rights tribunals for alleged discrimination.
In November 2005, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ordered a Knights of Columbus council to pay two lesbians $1,000 each in damages, plus legal costs, after the council declined to rent their hall to the couple for a same-sex marriage ceremony.
In 2000, the Ontario Human Rights Commission fined Scott Brockie, a Protestant print-shop owner, $5,000 for declining to print, on moral grounds, homosexual-themed stationary.
The same tribunal fined London, Ontario, $10,000, plus interest, in 1997 when Mayor Diane Haskett declined to proclaim a gay pride day for the city.

Okay, forget the Third World. We need missionaries to convert the pagan land to the north.

Vestments, venerable and Vegas-y

I have seen commercials for the past few days for the broadcast of Mass and the Blessing of Ashes from St Sabina's in Rome, presided over by the Holy Father.
And I have an instant but short-lived reaction, ewwwwww, NO! say it ain't so... until duh, it's a "LIVE" television event, ipso fact, the images shown are from LAST year.
So instead of the purple lame, (which may be lovely in person, but looks tawdry beyond believe on-screen, like something Victoria Beckham might order an ensemble made from...) there was PapaRatz this morning robed in elegant, somber yet splendid cope and then chasuable.
Well done, Marini II!
I begin to imagine Papa as having patiently stood by while a "personal shopper," or one of those (ubiqutious on television,) "professional stylists" decreed "What Not To Wear" and worse, "What TO Wear," for two "seasons," and because he is all charity, tolerated it.
And now, it's as if he has found the perfect valet, a gentleman's gentleman, a priest's preist, who knows the mind of his master, respects traditions, and has exquisite taste, who lays out the perfect garments for someone who has too much on his mind to pick things out himself.
Again, thank you, Marini II, God bless you.

Why do Catholics put ashes on their heads

The act of putting on ashes symbolizes fragility and mortality, and the need to be redeemed by the mercy of God. Far from being a merely external act, the Church has retained the use of ashes to symbolize that attitude of internal penance to which all the baptized are called during Lent. The faithful who come to receive ashes should be assisted in perceiving the implicit internal significance of this act, which disposes them towards conversion and renewed Easter commitment.
--- Directory for Popular Piety http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20020513_vers-direttorio_en.html

I wonder why some will be forever searching for, or fabricating new rituals and practices. The Church already has them, She is LOADED with them!
Tolle, lege!
(And now, I don't mean "pick up and read the latest make-em-up-as-you-go-along handbook from LTP." We as a society have forgotten the difference between primary and secondary sources. Our middle school teachers seem never to have taught us, when we were learning how to research for papers.)
I often hear the idea that we can infuse the Rites of the Church with "meaning" by our interpolations and deformations -- such hubris!
As if the meaning weren't innate! and such meaning that our puny attempts at adding relevance end up mocking if not the Rites, than mocking our selves.

Ash Wednesday

The predicted storm not having arrived I think we will have a reasonable choir turn-out tonight, and a good congregational one.
Of course, those who come this evening will be deprived of the opportunity to boast of how they have the ability to "create themselves anew."
Never mind that creatures by their very nature need a Creator, and can't create themselves, anew or otherwise.
The early Mass will probably sing it, but I shall avoid looking at the numbers posted on the hymn board as I take them down so that I need not know.
The song "Ashes", when you get down to it, is material heresy. But our modern "hymnals" are full of such nonsense.
Many church musicians complain about minor lapses in quality control, (cheap paper, many typos, flimsy binding,) but what about THAT lack of quality?
Left out a few accidentals, pages rip too easily? Utilize a pen and some library tape.
Leave out the Truth? and insert a few falsehoods along the way?
That's a much bigger problem.
And no "Catholic" editorial board seems to have given a &%$@* about it, as they rushed to supplant the texts of the Holy Mass with their (copywritten) substitutes.
The Father of Lies has used them very effectively.

I hadn't intended this as a rant.... sorry.

Lord, take away my sinfulness.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Song of Farewell

I had a funeral this morning, all requests, (except for the responsorial, Deo Gratias, I HATE having to explain to people that no, there is nothing in the Book of Psalms that goes "Shepherd me beyond my wants.)
It was wasn't too dreadful, or at least no worse than usual when there are requests, except for the final song.
I am sorry, Mr. Ernest Sands, but the refrain to your "Song of Farewell" is truly dippy.
It is good that you used words that are appropriate for the funeral liturgy, the use of the psalm for the verses is nice....
But the melody, that goofy leap on the word "paradise?" What were you thinking?
Of course, the funeral choir is enamoured of it. They used sing it often under my predecessors, well, they still sing it since hte two most recent MDs play funerals for the other parishes in town.
That was probably my "innovation" that caused the most uproar.
You can have another recessional if you want, but only after the In paradisum, (so far almost always in English.)
The funeral choir caviled more than the priests or the mourners at first, but the tolerate me now. Maybe they even like me (donuts...)