Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Monday, 30 June 2008

Whither are we led by said Leading Catholics?

On Zadok's blog
he discusses the spurious petition from "thousands of leading Catholics" in Great Britain (or would that be "Great Celtain" in the Geography According to Peg? but I digress...) insisting, among other matters, that the Church must address the ordination of women, (as a woman who, whilst a girl, always hoped and fully expected to become a Roman Catholic priest, I am not disinterested.)
In a body of Catholics that makes the cross section polled by the Pew Foundation look faithful and, er... participating by comparison, the question is rightly asked, by Zadok, ARE there "thousands" of leading Catholics in the UK? (Scelata wonders, are there even thousands of actual, that is to say practicing, "following" Catholics, much less leading ones?)
And Zadok also rightly wonders "why the report is so shy in naming the supposed 'senior clergy' who have signed the petition. If they were chuchmen of any note, then I'm sure their names would have been part of the report."
But anyway, a lovely line in the combox, from one Seraphic Single, (who, I vaguely gather from other comments I've read, is one of the Canadian White Martyrs who may be showing us all our future.)
Get a grip, "leading" Catholics! Get a grip!
And what the heck is a "leading" Catholic anyway? The real leading Catholics are the saints, and they lead us towards what is truly important--Christ
Well said!

Dialoguing on Catholic Sacred Music?

I received an email from someone I don't know, or recall, but for whose family I apparently had played and sung a funeral some time ago.
This person thanked me and suggested as we were from different parts of the country, (as well as sized towns, sized parishes, Catholicity of the local population at large,) and of different ages, (my correspondent is very much of that boomer VCII generation that has controlled liturgical music in this country for the past thirty, forty years,) it might be interesting to compare notes and exchange music, from our differing Catholic perspectives.
This person included a Schutte song which their choir does, and mentioned some others of which they were fond.
All in all, I'm eager for the exchange, because I think it's helping me hone my take on things....
Some excerpts from the emails so far, for which I'd welcome (I think,) criticisms and corrections:

Me: Thank you for the [popular religious composer's] music, very interesting.
Beautiful tune, too, very reminiscent of some Sacred Harp tunes.
He certainly has come a long way since [early hit], (which was reminiscent of [advertizing jingle].)
I question the keyboard accompaniment, clearly intended for piano, and the long instrumental coda, reminiscent of saecular ballads and love songs, which seems to be intended primarily to arouse emotion. I think liturgical music ought properly to have less affect.
Note the connection our current Holy Father is asking for between Faith and REASON, not Faith and "feelings."
I don’t know [another song mentioned], but Surely the Presence Of the Lord Is In This Place is already in our parish repertoire. It is very pretty.
I don't use it much because of the ambiguity of the words, it allows of a very un-Catholic understanding of the Real Presence (I have always assumed the writer was an evangelical Protestant.)
I am not sure it is appropriate in an actual Catholic church, with a Tabernacle, to put so much emphasis on some presence of Christ that can be detected by the expressions of peoples' faces, (again, an appeal to "feelings,") rather than directing our thoughts toward contemplation of the Lord's Presence, whole and entire, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
Since this is one of the core Mysteries of the Catholic faith, and the one that is the greatest stumbling block for many non-Catholics, and the one that even Catholics are in most danger of misunderstanding or even rejecting;
and since we know that it is only through Faith that we can comprehend this Presence, not through our senses, I think it's important that non-scriptural, devotional songs we may inject into our worship continue to emphasize THAT, rather than other aspects of His Presence.
I am trying, with my programming choices to get a little closer to what is mandated by the Second Vatican Council documents, both in regards text and style of music:
http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html (Chapter Six is the one on music,)
and really, every papal or authoritative document:
before and since:

utilizing the texts of the propers when possible, the pride of place that is to be given to the "official" music of the Church, sacred polyphony, both classic and contemporary, preservation ofe of the Roman Catholic Church, etc.
Have you read Benedict XVI's The Spirit of the Liturgy? terrific book, what he has to say about liturgical music is very helpful.
Also, here is a wonderful site for free PDFs of public domain music:
And have you seen this?
Excellent, easy to use, inexpensive new book (just published about 2 weeks ago)
Thanks for your reply; that was a lot of work! ...
Obviously you've thought things through much more than I have.
I just enjoy the singing and the praying that goes with it. I wonder, though, if there is an antithesis between reason and feelings as you suggest. Why can't they work together?
It seems to me that music has the unique ability to stir our souls, to get an emotional response from us. And aren't we more likely to act if we have been emotionally moved? I know that people in Africa are dying from hunger, but I'm much more likely to give if I've seen pictures of the suffering.
Of course what we sing must be doctrinally correct, but I see nothing wrong with singing something that moves us or even makes us smile or laugh (although I have to admit, I haven't seen too many of the latter. Several years ago the men in our choir sang "The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy", a calypso hymn, in the choral prelude before midnight Mass at Christmas, that did just that.) Do you have anything against "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord"? There's a lot of emotion in that one.
Isn't the purpose of good liturgy to get us emotionally involved with our God?
I hope you're not taking offense at my comments; it's just I found your comments so interesting and different from where I'm coming from.
I'm passing this on to our choir director so he can check out the references and the possible sites for new music.
I'll also try to check out the new music, but I don't read music well enough to figure out the tunes.
You didn't mention anything about [another song brought up in the first email] so I'll send you a copy; I hope you like it.
"I wonder if there is an antithesis between reason and feelings as you suggest"
No, I don't think there is an antithesis between reasons and feelings, nor that there is necessarily anything wrong with having emotions evoked by music.
Reason and feelings can "work together" but the former must be superior to the latter.
I do think that it is wrong for the evoking of emotions to be the primary intent of music used LITURGICALLY (not in worship, generally, certainly not in private prayer or public devotions --but in Liturgy,) and I think it is wrong for that to be our primary response to music, again, when that music is used in the Liturgy, (Mass or the Divine Office, or prescribed rituals for the administration of sacraments.)
This is because feelings are notoriously untrustworthy, and notoriously mutable.
It is a cliché, (and a cliché because it is true,) that one may not "feel" like doing something one "knows" one must do because it is right.
It is a cliché, again because it is true, that ones "feelings" toward another person are subject to change.
Feelings are good only when they support actions and thoughts that are good.
Another problem with the fetishization of feelings is that everyone doesn't "feel" the same way, and Liturgy is corporate worship.
I am not in communion with the Church, with the Pope, with other Catholic Christians because we all "feel" alike, (I'm pretty sure we don't,) but because we all know the same Truths, we all believe alike.
"Isn't the purpose of good liturgy to get us emotionally involved with our God?"
No, not at all.
Liturgy, the corporate worship of the Church has two purposes, the first and most important is the worship of the Triune God.
The second is the sanctification of the Faithful.
Emotional involvement with God or our fellows is completely beside the point.
A good analogy might be to sacramental marriage, (which is meant to be a metaphor of God's relationship with us, with His Church.)
The commitment that we make, the Love that is demanded of us by the sacrament is not to always "feel" the emotion we call "love" toward my spouse, (because we won't, we can't,) but to always act in the way to which genuine love will call us, regardless of whether we feel that way, even if the feelings in which we initially took such delight don't last.
The commitment, once made, the decision of the will, is demanded of us regardless, even in spite of whatever emotions we may eventually feel.
I daresay a great many, (if not most,) Christians have suffered some setback or tragedy in life that left them angry with the all-powerful and providential God.
That does not mean we stop loving Him, and fearing Him and worshipping Him.
One problem with music whose primary appeal to us is emotional, or that we like, rather than that it suitably expressed what the Liturgy us intended to express, is that it takes times and resources away from more important music, liturgical music.
I love Were You There.
We sing it every Holy Week.
But it would be wrong to take the time and effort to learn it an practice it if we hadn't first put the necessary time and effort into the Reproaches.
Or the Ordinary.
Or the other Propers.
Such priorities would be askew.
Well, sorry, I didn't mean to write a novel!
God bless.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

The Triumphal March?

Had a wedding meeting this week.
The B & G, of, of course, really the bride on her lonesome ownsome, had already pretty much made all the musical decisions, except for "which Ave," which I suggested she leave up to her friend who would be soloing.
For the recessional she wanted "the Triumphal March."
I, thinking faster than the amount of wine I had consumed (the meeting followed the final choir rehearsal of the season, and copious amounts of cheese, chips, grapes, eclairs and wine had been transferred from inanimate containers to animate ones.... if you can count our bass section as animate,) might have led one to expect I could, lied.
Triumphal March?
Gee, I don't know what that could be... in any case, I'm sorry, I don't know how to play it since I don't know what it is.
So we settled on something else, Elgar or Handel or something...
But in all seriousness, the Triumphal March?
Could she have meant anything besides the Verdi? (Gloria'al Egito, e d'Iside.... or something. I'm leaving out a handful of consonants, at least, but I recall the gist of it. I ain't playing Glory to Egypt and the goddess Isis in a Catholic church.)
And could she possibly have meant the Verdi, is Aida on the list of currently trendy wedding recessionals?


Help me out, anyone who does weddings have any clue as to something else of that title?
And should I add it to my repertoire?

Church and Baseball, what else matters?

Brilliant bit of analysis by Sir Monocle:
the Chicago White Sox fan actually resembles your typical American Roman Catholic. He may rarely attend mass - and may even regularly criticize the Pope. But you can bet a million dollars, notwithstand all his complaining, that you'll never find him in the pew of a church of any other denomination.
(I, of course, just as I believe the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, would never dream of believing in anyone other than the Yankees, even though at times bad men have ascended to the pap.... er, ownership.)

Ut diversi sint? I think not...

Okay, it may be that I am still high from the CMAA Colloquium (is it 2009 yet? is it 2009 yet? is it.... You kids shut up back there or I'm gonna pull over, and then I'll give ya something to be noisy about!) or it may be that I have managed to reduce the amount of blood in my caffeine system to acceptable levels, but I feel tremendous excitement about several things, which are really all one thing -- the SSPX announcing that they have sent a letter responding to the Vatican "ultimatum" which they, (who apparently live in some kind of time warp, where tenses of verbs do not apply,) will not respond to, [and the old news of the head of the SSPX having said, in effect, if the Holy Father says jump, I ask how high (If he calls me, I go. Right away. Or rather, I run. This is certain. Because of obedience. By filial obedience with regard to the head of the Church. http://www.sspxasia.com/Newsletters/2001/Jan-Mar/Roman-talks-An-Update.htm ] ;
the impending showdown at Lambeth corral (or rather, than impending failure to show UP at Lambeth,0 ( and I hope the Church is ready with the water wings, or rather the boats to send out for stragglers swimming the Tiber) http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=58776, http://www.christiantoday.com/article/church.of.england.bishops.threaten.lambeth.conference.boycott/11895.htm;
and Bartholomew I's preaching the homily at St. Paul Outside the Walls on the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul.
Okay, all together now, to UNDE ET MEMORES....

Friday, 27 June 2008

Saving the world, one communicant at a time...

Well, the bishops say it so it must be so...
CNS agrees that Marini II has indeed said that His Holiness will give the Blessed Sacrament on the tongue, to communicants who are kneeling, from now on at papal liturgies.
Will this matter?
Can "reverence" be legislated?
I believe our actions not only express our thoughts and feelings, they cause them.
(It's not only a loose moral climate that causes on-location romances...)
And I do not agree with Himself that we are fighting a losing battle against the the Forces of Dimness, (the unwitting foot-soldiers for Forces of Darkness,) or that we are trying to squeeze toothpaste back in to the tube.
I think a single person, a single incident can be so powerful a witness that the effects will be felt around the world for years to come.
I know post hoc, propter hoc is a fallacy, but I am simple as Fezzik, and things having gone wrong, we need to go back to the fork in the road at which things began going wrong.
Will that cure anything? "Save" anything?
But it will give us a bit of solid ground on which to stand, while we contemplate how best to avoid the Fire Swamp, and Liturgists of Unusual Size, in our journey to the Kingdom.
Vatican: Receiving Eucharist kneeling will be norm at papal liturgies
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Receiving the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling before the pope will become the norm at papal liturgies, said the Vatican's liturgist.
While current norms allow the faithful to receive the Eucharist in the hand while standing, Pope Benedict XVI has indicated a preference for the more traditional practice, said Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies.
Kneeling and receiving Communion on the tongue highlights "the truth of the real presence (of Christ) in the Eucharist, helps the devotion of the faithful and introduces the sense of mystery more easily," he said in a June 26 interview with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.
Pastorally speaking, he said "it is urgent to highlight and recover" these aspects of the sacredness and mystery of the Eucharist in modern times.
Generally at papal Masses, those receiving Communion from the pope stand and the majority choose to receive on the tongue.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

More about relativity

The Holy Father catechized us during his audience yesterday on yet another saint of whom I know nothing, St. Maximus the Confessor.
I have no courage at all. I am in awe of such people.
PapaRatz had this to say:
"Tolerance that does not know how to distinguish between good and evil would become chaotic and self-destructive.....dialogue that does not know what to dialogue about becomes mere empty chatter."
I seldom have the temerity to suggest a correction, but... I'm not sure he should have used the subjunctive.

Poor Fr Pfleger

Hmmm.... "mean?" "horrible?" maybe he just doesn't understand their style of preaching, er, I mean emailing -- maybe the emails were "prophetic."

Doesn't it all depend on what construction you put on words like "shoot"... or "snuff"?http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=5247464&page=1
Pfleger... received numerous death threats, which he said were indicative of the racial climate in the country.
One e-mail threat he received said, "I wish one of the folks in your dangerous neighborhood will shoot you."
"I mean, just some of the mean, horrible things that were said," Pfleger said. "I think you have to also understand it's the reality, it's the reality of the sensitivity of this country, the name-calling.

Only 354 days to go!

Note the new banner immediately to the left....

(Mary Jane, if you're readin' this, I am as wound up as if we were singing Christus Vincit, if you were here you'd have to slap me silly.)

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The Rosary? Sr Mary Martha explains it all for you

I was dialing around on TV a couple weeks ago and caught some of Sr Mary Ignatius....
I was a little shocked, I mean I knew the play existed, and what its take on the Faith was, (and also, personal knowledge, just how sad the playwright is, and what his family situation was and is...,) but I didn't know it had been filmed and I was startled by the vitriol, by the identity of some who chose to participate in this vitriol, and finally, by how bad some of the performances were, (considering the good work usually done by the actors in question -- does the Holy Spirit make people involved in sinful projects indicate and pose and comment when they imagine they're "acting"? Considering how truly boring and bad Tom Hanks and that darling French actress were in Da Vinci Code, I wouldn't be surprised. But I digress.)
Anyway, SOME fictional nuns are more reliable than others.
The Rosary, besides its 15 or 20 mysteries, has a great mystery about it: why is it so very difficult, somehow, to explain this very simple devotion to a non-believer?
Well, never fear, Sister Mary Martha is on the case.
The wisest woman (if she IS a woman) in Christendom ‘splains it all for you

We have to pause … to clear up some rosary issues.
[A reader asks]
So what is the penalty for praying the 'wrong' mysteries on the wrong day? I usually stick with the traditional distribution, but sometimes I'm more in the mood for a different mystery, so I just do the one I want. Will I be docked grace? Points? More time in purgatory?
I can see I have some explaining to do.
Rosary Mysteries Days of the Week 101:
In order to actually say the Rosary, you have to go through the beads four times. Each time through you meditate on a different set of Mysteries. There are four sets of Mysteries now. There used to be three. A few years back the Pope added the Luminous Mysteries, so now we have those plus the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries. Holy Mother Church in her infinite (and we do mean infinite) wisdom realized that what with internet surfing, blog reading, raising a large family, clipping coupons and searching for the cheapest gas, you don't have time to say a Rosary every day. No one, however, has such a hectic life that they can't get through ONE set of Mysteries during the day. Let's call this saying the rosary. Small 'r'.
I'm not sure why the Church (in her infinite wisdom) decided to suggest exactly how to do that. I can guess. There are people who only like one set of Mysteries and would just stick to that all time saying the Joyful Mysteries day in and day out. That would rather defeat the purpose of saying the Rosary.
What is the purpose of saying the Rosary? Let's review: The Rosary is a meditative prayer.
Here's something that really tickles me, by the way. "Guided Meditation" is the new rage here on
the Coast (capital "C"). Just the other day I had to ride in a car with someone who had a tape on with a woman's voice who was telling my driver over and over that she was "an organized person" and will organize her things. Nothing could be further from the truth. My feet, resting on empty water bottles, a gift she had to give someone but hadn't yet, and some important paper work her lawyer had given her about her recent car accident, were testifying to the fact that the tape was not working.
The Rosary is guided meditation! We are laughing behind our hands at how advanced we've been since St. Dominic popularized the beads way back when. WAY back when.
The Rosary is a meditation on the Life of Christ as seen through the eyes of His mother. [emphasis mine] I'm surprised Oprah hasn't noticed.
So to just stick to one or two sets of Mysteries that you like causes you to miss the boat.
Sister St. Aloysius has come up with a chart of the break down and I apologize in advance. She is not a person that needs a tape to tell her she is organized. Sister St. Aloysius is neat as a pin. She is a mathematician. I thought a chart would be right up her alley. Here's the chart. [which she provides]

It's all on there, though. I should have known that Sister St. Aloysius would do something....unexpected.
During Lent you have to say two rosaries because you do the regular day's meditation and then you add the Sorrowful Mysteries to each day. Those are little plus signs there at the bottom. They look like "T's" but they are supposed to be plus signs. On Tuesday and Friday you are off the hook for the two rosaries as far as I can make out.
You're best bet, if your only concern is confusion, is to just say the Rosary every day and not the rosary. Then you side step the whole problem.
As for your question, (did you think I forgot? I actually did for a minute there!) there is no penalty of any kind for not saying the right thing on the right day. To begin with, there is no right day or wrong day. The Church is just trying to help you, Sister St. Aloysius' chart notwithstanding. You can skip the Rosary and the rosary all together and no one is going to blink.
That said, you're never going to get a nun to tell you doing things because of your 'mood' is a good habit to nurture.
I'm letting it pass, though, giving you the benefit of the doubt that what you really mean is something like, 'today I feel put upon, so to remind myself that my suffering is paltry, I'm going with the Sorrowful Mysteries because I need a good swift kick in the pants."
That good swift kick is what' s going to keep your Purgatory time at a minimum. That, and all the people who are praying the Rosary for the repose of your soul.

Funeral Fall-out from the Colloquium

Whenever one attends such an event one is asked, (and one would surely ponder on ones own,) what one will bring back to ones own position and state in life, "What do YOU take away from this?"
To be honest, I usually answer, "not much." I am constrained in my work from implementing that I knew to be right and wanted to do pre-Colloquium, and I see little chance of that changing post-Colloquium, and least not in the foreseeable future.
So, warm-fuzzies, (validation, affirmation, the reassuring knowledge that someone, somewhere knows and is able to do what ought be done....,) but not much concrete.
Oh, there were maybe three pieces of ancient polyphony, and a modern motet or two I can introduce into the (begrudgingly allowed,) CHORAL repertory at my parish, but the song of the faithful will remain as it it, the chant of the minsters will be unaltered, (that is to say, non-existent.)
But there was one almost instant result.
Yesterday during a typical funeral, well, perhaps better than most, no OEW or HMGW or BNA or How Great Thou Art... but on t'other hand, no chanted Agnus, the only smidgen of genuine Gregorian music that I am ever allowed to program for the Faithful, (I am having vocal difficulties, and wanted everything possible to be organ-driven; but I digress.)
As I was saying, yesterday during a funeral I gazed down into the nave and sanctuary and saw to my shock someone in choir dress, (a rare enough sight,) and dashed if it wasn't a Colloquium participant.
So what was the result?
Wounded pride.
Not that this gentleman is unaware of the situation and the strictures faced in implementing genuine reform, but still...
Himself, a typical midwesterner is painfully, (and I mean that, the stress causes physical pain of varying forms,) is painfully concerned with What Other People Think, and will express envy of me, a typical easterner, to his mind, who doesn't give a tinker's dam what anyone else thinks.
But his impression is wrong -- I care very much: I am desperate to have other people think I don't care what they think.
So, what Himself sees as a failing in himself is a virtue -- it is charity, when you come down to it, and humility, a respect for others.
And what he sees as one of my strengths is nothing more than base pride. And deceit, at that, since I try to pretend it isn't there.
Ah, well....
Funerals at our parish are a mixed bag. Prelude is a silly custom, (usually the church is EMPTY!) that I cannot do away with, (though I have shortened it from my predecessors' 8 selections to 2 or 3,) but use as a place to throw bones.
I refuse, as at all Masses, to use "Ordinaries", however popular, which play fast and loose with the words of the Missal.
Ditto for psalms, which we chant either to a Gregorian or a Meinrad tone, ( the practice was to sing Shepherd Me O God, which is now consigned ONLY IF SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED to one of the hymn "slots." Propers, alas are not an option, even in English.)
And the change of which I am truly proud, (see? there it is again,) , instituted on day One of my regime: we sing the In Paradisum, (albeit in English.)
It will be done, despite periodically pronounced protest or preference from clergy and choir.
This balances out the Funeral Theme Song which replaces Requiem Aeternam, and the chants for incensing, final commendation, etc., the Taize Jesus Remember Me, (which I find a bit odd textually speaking.)
And to return to my theme, so flummoxed was I by the knowledge that all this was being observed by Someone Who Knows Better, (not just Him Who knows all,) that I began the In paradisum a step higher than we usually sing it, (no great problem,) and forgot to visibly bring the choir in after I intoned it (yes, we've all sung it together some 300 times, so you wouldn't think that would make much of a difference. Would you?)
(Well, it did.)

Have YOU been guilty?

From Lyn at Organ-ic Chemist http://musical-chemist.blogspot.com/2008/06/yet-another-top-ten-list.html :
(And a disclaimer, I'm not certain number ten is even inherently a bad thing, much less fit to be numbered among the "worst," I think it can be a charitable means of avoiding displaying in front of God and everybody the bad taste and liturgical ineptitude of some other person who mistakenly felt qualified or obliged to select music...)
I doubt I could come up with ten, but I could add some dillies: a music director/organist quitting at the Easter Vigil, a wind player asked not to play on a vocal solo ostentatiously cleaning and swabbing out every tube in his possession during said solo in full view of the assembly instead, a director wearing glittery insect antennae to direct the postlude at Christmas Midnight Mass...

1. Arriving drunk on Christmas Eve, then leaving before the service, saying, "No one will care if it's a service without any music."
2. Disputing the priest's canonical oversight of the liturgy at a public meeting.
3. Stopping the eucharistic prayer and starting a choir piece which had been omitted accidentally earlier in the service
4. Refusing to engage in a performance review because "no one is qualified to judge me."
5. Improvising unexpectedly on an instrument while the priest is reading a prayer
6. Refusing to come to worship committee meetings
7. Raising an umbrella at the organ console during a baptismal renewal sprinkling
8. Tuning a guitar during the sermon
9. Always looking for ways to insert extra choir music into the liturgy
10. Pretending not to have the music at the organ for something the musicians didn't like.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

New Compositions, Music Reading Session

As pledged, a few words about the new music presented at the CMAA Colloquium:
Crucem Tuam a 4, Aristotle Esguerra, beautiful, well-crafted, contrapuntal, I could see programming during Lent, I wouldn't risk for Good Friday when we do everything a capella and work schedules could leave us with some sections under-manned ( or -womanned)
On Wisdom, Edward Sywulka -- interesting, not particularly accessible, rangy. Not sure if it would have a liturgical use, but certainly a composer to keep an eye on.
A very intriguing harmonization to Kyrie XVI by Heath Morber, as well as some gospel acclamations, (very like those I already write, although his a a darn sight better crafted)
Good, practical psalms by V Dudych, (but I think I'm already set on settings for both of those psalms.)
Excellent new harmonization of PICARDY, one of the GREAT hymn tunes, by James Carrano We already do the RVW setting with "Let All mortal flesh..." (also one of the great texts,) but I would love to use the tune more, for different texts, so I shall look into that.
Two Christmas pieces by Kevin Allen, I particularly liked the Vidimus Stellam, but I think I would take it at a slower tempo, (if I directed a motet giocoso alla giga, I would lose my reductio ad absurdum argument against the mariachi or polka Mass --"they're dances, would it make any sense for me to have a Tango Mass, or a Grande Valse Mass? or maybe a Jig Mass because I have some Irish ancestry?"
Lovely, lovely harmonization of Jesu Dulcis (surely the most beautiful of all chant hymn tunes,) by Kurt Poterack.
The beginning of a strong fugal setting of Jeremiah 29:11 by Nathan Page, I'd be interested in the rest of it.
A stirring Tu Rex Gloriae Christe by James Roach, good and interesting (without being unexpected for the sake of being unexpected,) vocal lines, nice divisi only to fill out the end of the piece (rather than making it pointlessly difficult throughout.) I'm not sure if the rhythms aren't unnecessarily tricky.
Part of an ordinary and a very fine setting of Christus Factus Est by Don Roy, (an on-line acquaintance whom I mistakenly assumed was a priest and was whimsically using an Italian term of address... his compositions are as worthy as his opinions) (by which of course, I mean that I usually agree with him!)
Jesu Parvule, a Christmas motet. Two voices, Latin, in the style of Di Lassus, by Georg Bagan, very nice indeed, I think I will definitely be using this with the Scola Scelati, transposed up a fourth.
The piece I am most looking forward to trying with my choir, (although we already have the Stainer setting of the text firmly in our repertoire,)is God So Loved the World by Kile Smith, hauntingly beautiful, really effective for its simplicity.
And finally, the exquisite Lux Aeterna by David Adam Smith, simply and utterly gorgeous. Not sure I could ever sing it without weeping.
Oh! And kinda along the same lines, two EXCELLENT hymn texts by the new Ephrem over at Hymnography Unbound. Well done, Kathy (the one person who was EXACTLY what I expected from her online "voice.").

That survey on religion in America

Much fuss yesterday about an enormous (36, 000 people,) study done on attitudes toward religion, it was the lead story on some of the evening network news programs.


It was spun as demonstrating how "tolerant" Americans are, but even a perfunctory glance shows that what it demonstrates is ignorance.
To whit: 21 percent of self-identified atheists said they believe in God or a universal spirit.

Archbishop Chaput, as usual, nails it: "The statistics show, more than anything else, that many who describe themselves as Catholics do not know or understand the teachings of their church," said Denver Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput. "Being Catholic means believing what the Catholic church teaches. It is a communion of faith, not simply of ancestry and family tradition. It also means that the church ought to work harder at evangelizing its own members."

Monday, 23 June 2008

Legitimate Diversity

One of the more delightful aspects of the CMAA Colloquium was how very NOT a homogeneous group we were.
It was quite catholic in that it wasn't even entirely Catholic.
Laity and priests, old and young, men and women (actually, the group's make-up was unlike most expressions of Catholicity, large "C", that don't of necessity skew one way or the other, e.g., a mothers' support group, a priests' council, in that there seemed to be perhaps more men than women,) possessors of doctoral degrees in music and the musically illiterate, (seriously, complete non-readers of either four-line or modern,) residents of Rogers Park and Malaysia, singers and instrumentalists, political conservatives and liberals, devotees of organum and members of the Give-Me-Monody-Or-Give-Me-Silence party, natty dressers and total slobs....
It was quite an illustration of James Joyce's description of the Church, "here comes everybody!"
I met several Protestants, and I suspect more than one schismatic.
I was intrigued by a variety of veiling practices.
Another blogger has described us as being, on average, in our 40s and 50s.
I think that may be a little high, I would have said 30s, 40s and 50s.... hmmm, I guess that means, to be more brief, 40s.
After all, there were scads of 20-somethings, certainly more of them than of the (non-prematurely) grey heads that predominate, to use the current code, at Giant Puppet Head Masses.
There were quite clearly Tridentinists and Reform of the Reform types.
I would love to have some stats compiled, I wonder if there is any sort of accounting of the %s, by sex, state in life, (and within that, diocesan priest vs. order or society, and civvies vs. cassock,) age, musical education, diocese ... I don't even actually know the numbers in attendance, (the figure of 250 was bruited about.)
And I would be very curious to know how we break down by professional connectedness to music ministry, blogging involvement, adherence to semiology vs. old Solesmes method, (though there seems to be a party-line to be hewn to,) satisfaction with current praxis in ones own parish or community...

Of course, the one area in which there was utter, and COMPLETE accord -- no accompanied chant!
(I jest, for I know how rancorous that topic can become on the CMAA forum, or TNLM... I will say, such a practice was never spoken of with approbation except in hushed and furtive tones by members of the Underground.)


I am still in recovery from the past two weeks, (elective sleep deprivation is a terrible thing, as is elective consumption of Things That Might Be Bad For Me, "eating out" is always risky and eating out for two week straight is dermal suicide, and a moment ago I inadvertently shook out and chugged the largest safe dose of my nighttime antihistamine, so I expect this not to be all that comprehensible if I indeed post it, rather than just putting my head down on the nearest horizontal surface and ambling on over to the land of nod...) but I am also reading and watching obsessively as I come to the realization of how much I depend on television and the internet to keep me abreast of goings on in the world, in matters both saecular and Catholic. (Oh, heck, I'm not even observant enough to dress appropriately for the weather, without media advice... ordinarily not a problem, I get to the loft and find it unbearable, I walk one home and put on lighter weight clothing, but the Colloquium schedule was so packed and the Loyola campus so difficult to traverse that that was hardly ever an option.)
The Eucharistic Congress was something to which I would have happily given more attention, (I didn't even realize that the gathering more or less coincided with the Colloquium. That explains the absence of Fr. Keyes from the CMAA event, ( Fr. Keyes' blog, Rifugio San Gaspare )
I did watch a bit of the concluding Mass last night on EWTN, it seeemd to suffer from the usual faults of stadium Masses, but until I fell asleep. I was not horribly displeased by the music, genuinely liturgical and otherwise.
Anyway, Gashwin Gomes was in attendance, and blogs about the power of Eucharistic Adoration.
In my tradition of using multitudenous words to say, basically, "I have nothing to add," I say, YES.
It was pretty widely agreed at the Colloquium that the Holy Hour, organized almost single-handedly by Jenny Donnelson, was among the spiritual and musical highlights of the week.
Of course Exposition and Benedicition has a prescribed form, but its roots are devotional, and once again I mount one of my hobby-horses --
the de facto suppression of Catholic devotions has not only left the Church, the Body of Christ as made up by Her members, but has had precisely the opposite effect of that intended by those who effected it.
The neglect and even outright denigration of Adoration, of the Rosary, of novenae, of processions, by some of the Forces of Dimness has NOT occasioned the realization that it is the Eucharist that is the Source and Summit of our faith, it has NOT filled the pews at Mass, it has NOT led to a more authentic Eucharistic spirituality, it has NOT brought about a greater understanding of Theology.
It has caused an insertion of fabricated rites into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it has led to a mind-set that unless I'm "doing something" at Mass other than, well, than the Mass itself, I don't much need to be there; it has deformed our understanding of the god of progs, Full, Conscious, Active Participation in convincing the PIP that only the visible and audible is "participation" worthy of the name.

R.I.P, George Carlin

I was not fond of his comedy, but in a fine example of God managing to draw straight with crooked lines, his portrayal of a progressive bishop trying to promote a new image of "Buddy Jesus" in the movie Dogma was a devastating and dead-on send-up of an all-too-ubiquitous foot soldier in the Forces of Dimness.

The Three Week Baptism

I was unable to stay for the last day of the Colloquium (incidentally, I am going to leave that graphic up in the side bar, until Jeffrey Tucker, who has nothing else to occupy his time, provides me with a new one for NEXT years Colloquium, which I am already itching with excitement for.)
I would have loved to sing that Bruckner piece, too.... ah well.
So, yesterday at Mass we celebrated the 3rd stage of the sacramental marathon that is an Official Rite of our Particular Chur... er, our Particular Parish.
I have heard of this, (Baptism being stretched out over three consecutive Sunday Masses,) being done only at one other place, and the anonymous poster on another forum who described his parish's similar practice did not respond to my request to compare notes.
But that was in the day before I had My Own Blog, (she says puffing, and preening, despite the fact that blogs are like noses, everyone, save Johnny Depp in the final reel of The Libertine, has one.)
So I am asking if anyone who reads this would comment do you, or do you know of a parish which does, divide the Rite of Baptism of Children into chunks and spread it out over more than one day?
Can you tell me from whence the idea for such creativity sprang?
I often find there is an obscure article in some publishers advertisi..., er, liturgy planning periodical, which suggests or encourages odd things that seem to spring up in disparate parts of the Church simultaneously (witness the goofy, ungrammatical petition that will occasionally be mentioned on a blog which elicits responding posts of, "hey, OUR pastor wrote the same on this week!")
In a train of thought prompted by reflecting on our parish Masses of yesterday, many at the colloquium were mourning in advance, that to which they would be returning, and musing, would the "mountain top" experience of the Seven Days of Heaven make of returning to "the plain" all the greater pain, in Spai....? (STOP it, she hissed)
Well, in charity and foresight, I personally did my best to help make the transition easier by perfectly execrable singing on an Alleluia one day... I will never be able to look Mode 3 in the eye again.

The Bench Fee

I played a wedding out of town a few weekends back.
When I arrived the loft was locked, so I toddled, (well, actually crawled, the winds storms we've been having are bizarre to put it mildly -- I spent most of that evening in the basement, waiting for the Tornado Warning to expire -- it touched down not far from here... but I digress,) over to the rectory.
It turned out that the priest would be over shortly to let me in, at which time he also announced that one of the parish organists should have been called.
I had been told by the bride when she contacted me that the regular parish organist was unavailable as he worked elsewhere during the seek.
True, said the pastor, but there was another regular parish musician, and she would in fact be there for the entire liturgy to unlock the organ, show me the ropes, set up amplification if I required it fro singing, (pah!) find anything I needed and watch over the organ lest I break it.
When she arrived, I apologized, offered to give her the fee, or step aside so that she would play, or whatever she might wish, but she demurred.
She knew a little of who I was and was extremely gracious, but the whole thing left me uncomfortable to put it mildly.
I shall in the future ask more specifically about the sequence of musical arrangements being made when I am asked to do things elsewhere. This had been VERY last minute, which made me think that she had been assuming, as anyone at my parish would for instance, that I was, in effect, already contracted to play for any weddings on the schedule, and was not something she needed to worry about.
It also makes me think that I need to go over our parish's procedures with a fine-tooth comb. There seems to be something in the wording of the pamphlet of instructions prospective B & Gs are given that makes them think they not only need to contact me to set up a planning session, but that they need to assure themselves of my availability, which is not the case.

Apologies to a Fellow Blogger

Among the sessions of greatest interest to me at the CMAA Colloquium were those that dealt with modern repertoire, I shall have more to say on the new music reading session, but in a discussion lead by composer Kevin Allen, entitled The New Polyphony, I introduced several points which a fellow blogger (Cantate Deo, tag team blog by liturgical musicians ) tells me he had brought up previously.
In all truth, I was certain when we spoke of it over Loyola Light and soft-serve frozen yogurt or some such, that I must have missed that post, but I am almost afraid to look for it, just in case I not only didn't miss it, but actually PARTICIPATED in the discussion.
Anyway, seconding Praying Twice, (and now myself -- is seconding oneself a venial sin like googling oneself?) ,I should like to put the request to serious liturgical composers, (as opposed to the Velveeta Consortium employed by the Big Three,) to create worthy music for those rites which did not exist in their current form during the composing careers of Palestrina or Bruckner or even the neo-Caecilians.
I speak of course of genuine rites, those that form a part of the RCIA, for instance, dismissal, enrollment and the like, as opposed to BFU.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Redeeming Beauty

A must read interview in Zenit, http://zenit.org/article-22963?l=english

Redeeming Beauty
Interview With Aide at Foundation for Sacred Arts
By Kathleen Naab
WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 20, 2008 (
Zenit.org).- Christian art cannot be permitted a lower standard; in fact, it must embrace a higher standard since Christian artists serve God with their work, says the assistant director of a sacred arts foundation.
Rachel Ross is the assistant director of the Foundation for Sacred Arts, which is dedicated to the promotion of Christian artists and composers, as well as an audience receptive to their works.
In this interview with ZENIT, Ross says there are plenty of reasons to hope that Christian art can have a comeback. And that this, in turn, will help rescue a growingly secular culture.
Q: How did the Foundation for Sacred Arts get started and what does it do?
Ross: The Foundation for Sacred Arts was begun in 2002 by our current director, James Flood, who recognized the serious need for a renewal of art and music in the Church today. The inspiration to begin the foundation was particularly timely because three years prior to this, Pope John Paul II delivered his "Letter to Artists" and called on artists of faith to evangelize the world through their art.
Our mission at the foundation is to renew the fine arts today for the glory of God and the transformation of society. We seek both to promote artists and composers interested in pursuing religious themes in their work and to form audiences who are receptive to the importance of a renewed Christian art.
One way we hope to achieve these goals is by organizing exhibitions of current religious artworks. These exhibitions travel to various Catholic venues across the United States, providing artists with wide exposure to a generally Catholic audience, and opening the eyes of many people who are unaware that a contemporary Christian art exists. Our current exhibition is entitled "Redeeming Beauty." We have also begun planning our first national conference for artists, scheduled for the summer of 2010, which will provide education, formation, networking and practical tips to working Christian artists.
In addition, we will soon launch a series of mini-conferences on art education for interested parishes and dioceses. Depending on the resources in each city, these day-long conferences will include talks on the role and importance of art in the life of the Church, and a guided visit to a museum where participants will view works of Christian art in person. One of our projects focused on music is a series of competitions for recent works of sacred composition.
Q: We should first clarify what you define as Christian art -- there are perhaps some artists who claim that title for their work ... but many who would not agree.
Ross: Christian art is an authentic expression of the Christian faith and is explicitly religious in content. Its authenticity is important to consider since much art today that claims to be "Christian" in fact undermines or demeans the faith. This occurs when an artwork's message ignores or denies the inherent dignity of the human person or conveys the world in a purely materialist way. Stylistic choices are also important; the heavy emphasis on pure abstraction in much art today makes it difficult to portray the sacramental reality of the world we live in. Christian art, in its true sense, should glorify God and should communicate truth, goodness and beauty.
Q: Your exhibit "Redeeming Beauty: Religious Works of Contemporary Artists" will be touring the United States through the beginning of 2009. Tell us about the exhibit and some of the artists who created it.
Ross: "Redeeming Beauty" includes 47 artworks in a variety of media -- painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and glass -- done by 36 American artists working today. The works are all religious, but vary a great deal in subject and style. For example, some of the pieces are traditional in style --such as Matthew Collins' 8-foot-tall "Jesus Carrying the Cross"; James Langley's "Madonna of Marienfeld"; and Anthony Frudakis' sculpture "Madonna" -- while others have a much more contemporary feel -- Ruben Salinas' "Saint Andrew, the Orphans' Savior" and Sherri Denault's "Eve's Contemplation."
Many of the works use images found in the Gospels, the lives of the saints, and the Christian life. Marie Winn's "The Eucharist" communicates the mystical presence of the entire Body of Christ in the Eucharist. Others show how the Catholic worldview illuminates even ordinary events.
For instance, Carol Castor's "Green Jesus" conveys Christ's identification with the poor, the sick and the suffering. Melissa Dayton's "Escort to God" deals with the dignity and vulnerability of the unborn, and Sr. Marian Ryan's "And Your Own Soul a Sword Shall Pierce" communicates the universal suffering of a bereft mother.
The jurors who selected the show chose the strongest artwork from those that were submitted to the foundation, and they wanted to capture the variety of types and styles possible for authentic Christian art.
The result is a rich display of the vibrancy of the Christian imagination and some of the numerous possibilities for religious art today. Incidentally, most of the artworks in "Redeeming Beauty" are available for sale.
Q: At the general audience of May 21, Benedict XVI said: "If faith is alive, Christian culture will never be 'outdated' but rather will remain alive and current" and "Faith is love and so it creates poetry and music. Faith is joy, and so it creates beauty." There is no doubt that the Church currently has a Pope with a particularly keen sense of beauty and its importance. What does that mean for the foundation?
Ross: One thing it means is that we're on the right track! Our Holy Father has a clear understanding of how beauty and the arts nourish the Christian faith, and he is candid about the dangers that emerge if we forsake beauty and settle for a mere "utilitarian" approach to worship and Christian life.
I believe that Pope Benedict's appreciation of beauty, art and music will bring people to recognize the need for artistic renewal in the Church and will lead them to join us in our work. His attention to the arts shows that the work of the foundation and similar organizations is an important part of the Church's mission to spread the Gospel. This artistic renewal will be one of the distinguishing marks of the New Evangelization.
Q: Centuries ago, the best fine arts creations often had Christian inspiration -- the works of Michelangelo, Raphael and so many others. But today, some say art with a Christian inspiration often does not compete with secular works in terms of quality. (I'm thinking not only of fine arts, but also music and literature.) Do you sense that there is a lower standard for Christian works today? Is this permissible?
Ross: Much contemporary art with a Christian message does seem to pale in comparison with the great Christian artworks of the past. In those periods, the arts were supported by a richly Catholic culture, and so works with Christian content flourished. This is no longer the case. Today, the secular culture suppresses authentic religious expression in favor of the ideologies of the contemporary art world: nihilism, materialism, radical individualism --all at odds with the Christian faith.
Because of this, many artists who would wish to pursue religious themes in their work distance themselves from the established art world and from the institutes of training. As a result, the quality of their work has often suffered.
Rather than being satisfied with a lower standard, Christian art must embrace an even higher standard.
In fact, the artist who commits himself to working in Christian subject matter has the greatest obligation to perfect his skill and to refine his artistic vision. He serves God with his art, and the quality of his work will affect the way the viewer experiences God. The Christian artist must always seek to give God the best of himself as an artist.
This implies a constant effort on the artist's part to improve his skill and to develop his insight. "Redeeming Beauty" should give heart to artists and patrons of the arts because it demonstrates that fine religious art can be produced by contemporary artists.
Q: Is there hope that Christian art can flourish even if the culture is ever more secular? Is there a way to bring back a Christian culture?
Ross: Absolutely. Even though the prospects for the Christian arts have looked dim for the past several decades, there are significant signs of hope. The secular culture certainly makes it difficult for a Christian art to re-emerge; but it does not make it impossible, or even improbable. In fact, I believe there is hope for the future of art in the Church precisely because things in the secular art world have gone so far astray. Artists have a singular opportunity right now to discover their mission and vocation as artists, and to help to redirect our culture, guiding it back to beauty, and thus to God.
Art is an expression of culture, but art can also shape and guide culture. A strong and vibrant art movement developing from within the Church will help strengthen the Christian values and ideals of our society. Steps in this direction have been made already. On a fundamental level, we are seeing more and more art academies dedicated to beauty and representation, as opposed to abstraction and themes of meaninglessness.
The public is also showing a growing receptivity to spiritual themes in art and music. We have seen this receptivity in the very enthusiastic response to our exhibit, and not exclusively from a Catholic audience.
Additionally, inspired by the same issues as the foundation, several groups are emerging that focus on providing artists of all fields -- art and music, but also the dramatic and literary arts -- with support, inspiration, and the means to play their part to revive the arts.
So there is much hope in Christian art today. But in order for an artistic renewal to occur in the Church, we need two things: talented, well-trained artists who are committed to using their gifts for the glory of God; and an audience who understands art's vital role in the Church and is willing to support the artists in their work. We are still at the beginning stages, and the fruits may take some time to mature. But with prayer and dedication, I am certain that we will once again see a vibrant Christian artistic presence that will revitalize and renew our culture.

Hat tip to Sister M , singer of chants and teller of jokes...

So, the bishop walks into a church....
Actually, he arrives to confirm the 8th graders, little catechetical quiz first, you know the drill.
"So, can anyone tell me, Who God is?"
Little Becky has laryngitis, but waves her hand wildly.
"Yes, my child?"
She croaks out in a tiny voice, "He is One God in Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost."
His excellency cannot hear, and asks, "What, my child?"
She takes a deep breath and tries again, in her raspy voice, "He is One God in Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost."
"My child, I am sorry, I still don't understand."
"Oh, that's okay Bishop, it's a mystery you're not SUPPOSED to understand it!"

But speaking of bishops, never had the urge to pay my respects by kissing a bishop's ring before.
Excellent sermon, meticulous, inspiring Mass. (Three cheers for Fr Scott Haynes of the Canons Regular of St JC, as well....)
You may know about His Excellency from such activities as this, chronicled by the Catholic Caveman this past spring. http://catholic-caveman.blogspot.com/2008/04/another-extraordinary-american-bishop.html
(This, by the way was NOT an EF.)
Anyway, in case you don't know about him, here thanks to Wikipedia.
Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone (born in San Diego, California on June 5, 1956) is an auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, California. He was ordained a priest on July 9, 1982, and is the titular bishop of Natchesium (Natchez, Mississippi). He was appointed auxiliary bishop of San Diego by Pope John Paul II on July 5, 2002, and was consecrated bishop on August 21, 2002.

He attended Crawford High School in San Diego, as well as San Diego State University, the University of San Diego and St. Francis Seminary. He also studied at the Pontifical North American College. After ordination he returned to Rome and obtained a doctorate in canon law
He serves on the episcopal advisory board of the Institute for Religious Life. At the annual meeting of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore in November, 2006, in the course of consideration of the document which issued as "Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper" he proposed to the gathered bishops that the use of contraception should be included in a list of thoughts or actions constituting grave matter.The proposal was defeated, although a separate document approved at the meeting mentioned that the Catholic Church says that "contraception is objectively immoral."

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to the dismissal...

To say that the CMAA Colloquim so far is an astounding and encouraging thing would be to mislead by understatement.
The addresses by Dr Mahrt, the Masses and other liturgies led by Fathers Pasley, Haynes et al have been richly prayerful, and experiences of great beauty.
This latter not in spite of, but I might almost say because of the lack of ability, knowledge and experience of many of us.
I think those who grew up without the blessing of being one of an enormous passle (litter? ;oP) of brothers and sisters lack a basic metaphor for how the rest of life works.
It has been like a family treks from childhood, I vaguely know where we're heading, and why, but like my four year-old self on the beach at the Jersey shore or trudging through snow at Rigg's Christmas tree farm, I stumble, I turn the wrong way, I get tired and sulky and sit down in the middle of nowhere -- and there is a sister stretching out a hand to help me (drag me?) along, a brother to put someones shoe back on, another sibling to suddenly point excitedly to the now- in- sight goal, a parent to carry the one who just ran out of steam.
The psalms this morning at Lauds were particularly badly sung by most of us on the women's side and it was quite marvelous how the more skilled among us came to the aid of those like me.
By the way, I am having vocal difficulties so I decided not to go to this morning's chant class, because I would not have been able to shut up, (David is SUCH a fine, enthusiasm-generating chant master,) and I need to stop singing for at least a half day -- just giving a my-dog-ate-my-graduale excuse for being online.
I'm genuinely regretful, because our schola is singing the Sequence at this morning's Requiem Mass, and I know I'll likely never get the opportunity again.
Which brings me to the title of this post.
Yesterday's Mass was almost unbearable, it so gladdened my heart...
I'm the emotional equivalent of a piece of really stale filled chocolate, mind you -- crusty on the outside and virtually liquid on the in-, I tear up easily, at beauty, at sentiments of all stripe, but this was utterly different - at the dismissal I suddenly found myself weeping like Tonya Harding with a busted skate-lace, like Meryl Streep putting in an Oscar bid; weeping, weeping, weeping, scalding tears absolutely streaming down my face.
And every time we arrived at one particular phrase in the strophic closing hymn, (there were a few angelic voiced sopranos a row or two behind me,) the tears would start up again.
I dunno...
This is shaping up as quite a week.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Oh, wow....

I have so much to say and so little time (and I'm exHAUSTED!!!! who knew tracing arses [can that be the plural?] and theses in the air could be so tiring....?) but I have to say, just kind of slopping through Chrisus Vincit this afternoon toward the end of the session at the Chant Intensive (thanks for the organum, Andrei!) was, for some reason, one of the most thrilling musical moments of my life.

It's kind of barbaric, isn't it?

Just gorgeous....

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Things that make you sad...

Jason, a sometime blogger at Christus Vincit is one of the snarkier, more aggressive wits 'round St Blog's.
After a long-time position at a parish that seems to have been a beacon if not of good liturgy (not saying it wasn't just don't know,) an absolute conflagration of good music, (for which he is owed much of the credit,) he was unceremoniously canned.
I don't do tons of subbing, but when I do, I sometimes feel twinges of guilt, for the reasons he not so believably brushes aside here.
His post made me very sad....
Sometimes I have thought I might feel better in his position than in mine, but... I dunno.


I played a first Mass Sunday afternoon in the diocese of Baton Rouge.
They were using glass chalices and held hands during the Lord's Prayer.
I played a wedding in the diocese of Lafayette the day before and the priest took about 10 minutes giving a little homilette before each lesson because we were too stupid to understand the plain English the lector read off.
The priest even told us that the lesson from the Epistle to the Corinthians has been used at almost every wedding he's "done".
I don't know where I'd be, had I never heard that info before.
I have no clue what his hominy was about.
By then, I'd tuned him out altogether.
Talking head.
It's good being a professional sub/wedding/funeral organist.
You don't have to get involved in the liturgical scirmishes and the nail biting when people want something that doesn't comply to the GIRM or such.
You don't have to defend Benedict 16th in front of his own priests.
You can just play along and consider the pope's words like the priests do: 100% unadulterated horse crap.
You just sit back, play The Rose, and watch it all implode. Result: smiling bride, smiling priest. Abuse? What abuse? If a priest says it's ok, it's ok, isn't it? Obedience means we go along with whatever the priest tells us, even if that means abusing the liturgy and throwing tradition out the window, even if that means relinguishing our ability as humans to use reason.
So, I play whatever the people choose as an obligation to them: I have a service to offer, they want that service, and I render it.
Whatever that does to the liturgy isn't my problem anymore.
Or should it be?

Added to the list of daily reads

A most well-written, well-reasoned blog, Music and Other Mysteries, from the perspective of a scholar of the theology of the family.
In the Good News/Bad News category, it won't add much time to my no-we-don't-have-a-dedicated-line-stop-acting-put-out-and-just-call-back-for-the-love-of-pete-our-phone-service-is-for-OUR-convenience-not-yours Internet time.... the postings seems to be sadly infrequent.
But what's there is cherce.
I don't think this blogger will ever need to look back and cringe at slap-dash, misspelled, did-I-really-SAY-that?did-I-even-ever-THINK-that? posts, (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpability, if ya get the picture...)
May I particularly commend:
(a condemnation of the False Progressive's ut multi et diversi sint theology)
(on the heresy of narcissism and a swell connecting of the dots of the strains of it in life and liturgy)
Incidentally, the author is one of those whom, bloggers were scolded, they would be offending by criticism of the music at Nationals' Stadium.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

"The Liturgical Harmonica"

Excellent book, (GIA? OCP? can't remember...) but we'll get a lot of use out of it, I know.
Who says it can't be made "apt"?

The demise of "Catholic guilt"

No doubt it is because society is holier now than it has ever been...
At least the sociologist affirmed that the outcome may have been made possible because of, as they say, ignorance of the law?
What goes unaddressed is the question of whether guilt is an absolute negative value, as the most common secular POV would have it.

Does Catholicism inspire more guilt?
Not according to a study comparing the consciences of teens of different beliefs.
By Yonat Shimron
(Raleigh) News & Observer
This just in from the myth-busting department: Roman Catholic teens feel no more guilty than other U.S. teens.
If they cheated on an exam, lied to their parents or engaged in serious petting, it's not making them feel more guilty than their non-Catholic peers, according to a study by UNC Chapel Hill researchers.
The emotional fallout of committing the Catholic Church's long list of sins – venial and mortal – may be a thing of the past. Blame the decline of ruler-wielding nuns at Catholic schools, or assimilation into the wider society.
The study, to be published this month in the Review of Religious Research, is based on data from the National Study of Youth and Religion conducted by sociologist Christian Smith, now at the University of Notre Dame; and Stephen Vaisey at UNC Chapel Hill. The survey included 3,290 teens, of whom 819 were Catholic – about 24 percent, roughly equivalent to the proportion of Catholics in the U.S. population.
The survey asked teens 13 to 17: “In the last year, how often, if ever, have you found yourself feeling guilty about things in your life?” and “How much, if any, of those feelings of guilt do you think were caused by religious influences?”
Teens who went to confession, now called the sacrament of reconciliation, were no more likely to feel guilty than non-Catholic teens. However, those who did reported higher levels of relief from guilt.
Smith said Catholic teens may not know enough about church teachings – especially about premarital sex, birth control or abortion – to feel guilty about disobeying. “They haven't internalized it, or they disregard it,” said Smith

Monday, 2 June 2008

Call to Conversion

Yes, I know that we are all called to continuing conversion.
But how is it that there are so many people who call themselves Christian, some in positions of great authority, (and not only in the Anglican Communion, there are dreadful numbers of prominent Catholics, or parochial apparatchik who strive to exert an authority to which they have no claim,) who either do not actually believe what their Faith professes to believe, or at least don't think it is significant enough to be toooo opinionated about...
Their beliefs are like the dinner Dr Johnston described, well enough, I suppose, but not to invite a man to.
Oh, yes, I kind of believe Christianity is true, but not TRUE, not something I would bother to invite you to believe, not something I care enough about to try to share.
For the love of God! (literally,) either the Faith is true or it isn't worth a bucket of warm spit!
Either it is true, in which case it is the most important fact in the universe, or it is utter nonsense -- have some of these men knowingly devoted their lives to nonsense? or are they con artists?
The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali is beginning to interest me greatly.
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, accused the Church of failing in its duty to "welcome people of other faiths" ahead of a motion at July's General Synod in York urging a strategy for evangelising Muslims.
However, his comments were condemned by senior figures within the Church. The Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, the former Bishop of Hulme and the newly appointed Bishop of Urban Life and Faith, said: "Both the Bishop of Rochester's reported comments and the synod private members' motion show no sensitivity to the need for good inter-faith relations. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs are learning to respect one another's paths to God and to live in harmony. This demand for the evangelisation of people of other faiths contributes nothing to our communities."
A Church of England spokesman added: "We have a mission-focused Christian presence in every community, including those where there are a large number of Muslims. That engagement is based on the provisions of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of thought, conscience and religion."

The spokesman played down the likelihood of the synod agenda being hijacked by those whose priority was a perceived threat from Islam: "The agenda has not yet been confirmed."
Pakistan-born Dr Nazir-Ali told the Mail on Sunday that, while Church leaders had rightly shown sensitivity to British Muslims, "I think it may have gone too far."
He added: "Our nation is rooted in the Christian faith and that is the basis of welcoming people of other faiths. You cannot have an honest conversation on the basis of fudge."
Britain's only Asian bishop, he was tipped to become Archbishop of Canterbury before Dr Rowan Williams's appointment in 2002.
Since he was passed over, he has felt able to speak more freely about his inter-faith views and has become a talisman for hard-line evangelicals who see Islam as a threat to culture and religion.
In January, he drew criticism for declaring that some parts of Britain were "no-go areas" for non-Muslims.

A tidbit of synchronicity...

On the same internet odyssey, ("in" the same odyssey? what preposition do you use for "odyssey"?) I came across, also via Charlotte Was Both, a link to a review of a older novel by an author... of whom I have never heard.
Okay, but that's not the important part.
This description of a character in the novel, from the review:
Something is wrong with the crucifix. Hanging in the tiny church in a Virginia country town, it distresses the new pastor. The wooden corpus, Monsignor Vincent Shepherd observes, has "square, unsuffering eyes" that symbolize to the priest so much that is wrong with his church and his world. The sense of crucifixion is gone. Instead, he reflects, "it was as if Christ had never really suffered and died, but had only had the Last Supper, with twelve smiling men of social commitment and three folk guitarists, and then knocked the stone away from the tomb."
And then this snarkily offered (by Uncle Di at Off the Record on CWN, who has made snark a sacramental,) link to an interview in the Tablet, (Brit prog Catholic periodical,) with Belgium's Cdl Daneels.
I ask him to explain the significance of his modern-looking pectoral cross with its image of the risen Christ. "It is a risen Lord, not the dying Lord," he points out. And it is "very cheap ... something like half a euro in Rome", he says. But this is not because he lacks taste. On the contrary. Cardinal Danneels, in the best Belgium tradition, is a man of high culture and a patron of the arts, though he is not above relaxing to the Dixie sounds of New Orleans jazz. "But I like it very much because it is Christ who is rising on the Cross. It is typical Johannine," he stresses. "If you look at the Cross with the crucified Jesus it is exactly correct. But you look at what we have before the Resurrection. We are [living] after the Resurrection ... and for a long time already," he says, his voice rising slightly as if to suggest that perhaps too many people have forgotten that part.
Of course, we travel in different circles, His Excellency ('zat the term of address for a cardinal?) but I would, if indeed that what what his inflection was meant to suggest, disagree as to which part of Salvation History is most often given short shrift by modern humanity.
Oh, and this bit of condescension:
Cardinal Danneels, though he is open-minded and respectful, is distressed that there are not brighter men in the Church hierarchy. This point comes up as we speak about the Synod of Bishops. He has attended every assembly since 1980. "When I look at the synod assembly, so many good people are there with really pastoral hearts. They are good shepherds. But from time to time I think it would be good if 5 per cent [emphasis mine] of them were also thinkers, that don't lack hearts. We need among the bishops and cardinals some really intelligent people."
I cannot but agree with the Cardinal.
Thinkers would be a very good thing indeed, very handy for the Church.
It would be nice if some of Her shepherds were thinkers, were intellectually gifted thinkers enough to, oh, I dunno... think that the fact that only about (coincidentally!) 5% of their flock was practicing their putative Faith was problematic.

R.I.P. Jon Hassler

What was the phrase I learned from Mary Jane recently?
Oh yeah, time suck......
The internet is the worst time suck in all of history, (it beats the card catalogue only because in the day, when they were actually in use, libraries were not open 24/7. Had they been, my parents would have been hunting me down in the stacks well after bedtime.)
So, post- Godspell and -Ordination looking in on things I've mostly missed, or didn't have time or energy to delve into aimlessly, I noticed a side bar on Amy Welborn's, a link to a new book by Ron Hansen, Exiles.
Oh, yeah, I like that guy!
So I follow the link.
And I do like that guy, but he's not the guy I'm thinking of -- Mariette in Ecstasy was an elegant, fascinating little book, so I will probably look into Exiles, (although I don't seem to do anywhere NEAR as much elective reading as much as I used to, certainly not of fiction.)
But the author of whom I was thinking was Jon Hassler, so while I'm on the Amazon page I search to see what he has written lately.
It seems he died recently, of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a Parkinson's like disease. It was during Holy Week, if I'm remembering my dates correctly, so I have an excuse for having missed the obit.
I though North of Hope was just beautiful, very, very moving -- I read it, IIRC, while going through a period of post-adolescent hopelessness about relationships, and my faith, and my place in life.
I don't know if anything else of his spoke to me in quite that way, but I always enjoyed his prose and his characters very much.
Rest in Peace, Mr Hassler.

The Iconic Monstrance in Chicago

By the way, the ONLY reason I heard about the Iconic Monstrance,
(which Himself and I both misheard as "Psychotic Monstrance,) was that as we were actually driving past the very spot form which they were broadcasting on our way, late, to events in Evanston, we tuned in "Relevant Radio," and the host of a talk show was... well, talking about it.
With someone else who I believe was that charming and erudite Dr. Denis McNamara of Mundelein.
(I have a vague but unlearned interest in architecture anyway, but he makes the subjet, particualrly of sacred architecture and the theology of it really fascinating.)

Anyway, lucky chance, and I think I shall put it on the itinerary for my mother and myslef later this summer.

Whew... and eating your vegetables

(I have a choir member who actually aloud, no, LOUDLY, articulates this at the end of a "big" liturgy, ending with a "big"piece of music. Seriously, as loudly as she has just been singing a high note, she sometimes lets out with a loud high pitched, "whew!" or "hoo boy!" I have been unable to cure her of this altogether, although I am glad to say she did not do so yesterday. I digress...) I repeat, Whew.
The ordination is over.
No disaster occurred, (except that Himself did not fulfill his Sunday "obligation" for the first time since becoming a Catholic, SFAIK. He forgot to estimate in his travel time to work, the bishop's garrulousness, and the length of the rite when Saturday night he suddenly informed me that he would be there to sing more than the prelude and the entrance.)
As to prelude, we bailed on the Monteverdi Laudate Dominum Omnes Gentes, at the rehearsal an hour before, not Mass, but before Quiet, (I am trying to enforce that -- we can rehearse, and talk as we would at a normal weekday rehearsal before Mass ONLY if we are silent by half hour, so that people both in the nave and in the loft can, I dunno... pray? collect their thoughts? something quaint like that.)
It just wasn't working. I'm not sure why, the sopranos had blamed it on the absence of a strong tenor at rehearsal on Thursday, but it turned out rather to hinge on the absence of a strong soprano.
In a contrapuntal piece, especially when I have laryngitis (I continue to claim... I suspect it's really nodes,) I simply cannot make everyone's entrances for them.
I'm not sure what has happened to the section... it is growing, we actually for the first time since I arrived, have the usual configuration for church choirs, more sopranos than anything else. The voices I thought we could depend on for "leadership" (which we all know sometimes has nothing whatever to do with voice per se or musicianship, sometimes it's just the CONFIDENCE to make an entrance, or even to breath to signal to those around one that one is about to make the entrance,) just aren't providing it.
Of course, the only reason this is a problem at all goes to a much deeper problem -- the tension between their self-identification and our aims.
Because in reality, there exists no "need" whatsoever for us to sing "show-pieces."
But they have been, for a long time, not really a liturgical choir, but a concert choir that happens to sing during Catholic Masses.
And I certainly understand it, there's way to much performer in me, (Himself would say, rather, "Hambone,") not to sympathize.
But they are too attached to what they call the Easter Screamers, (anthem after anthem, laden with melodrama and high notes,) and to the contents of file cabinets stuffed full of sweet, (in some cases, insipid,) Christmas ballads.
So part of the course I'm trying to steer is to channel those tastes and impulses into music that is at least textually more in line with what the liturgy calls for.
I thought the Monteverdi could be another Nieland Magnificat for us, something we know and love, with an actual liturgical text that is pretty generally useful that satisfies the "You ain't heard nothin' yet!" predilections of us show-off types.
(The setting of "Christ is the true vine" to the Cherubini canon that I cobbled together is another such... they love it to pieces, it's only 2 voices so we can pull it out when flu or holidays have decimated our ranks and it's close enough to one of the ad libitum communion antiphons from the Gradual to be multi-purpose.)
They "like" it. Most find it catchy and fun, (except for that wicked "et veritas Domini" section.)
And I guess it will be, eventually.
It just wasn't to be yesterday.
Well, this wasn't intended to be a dissertation on why we didn't sing Monteverdi yesterday, and what my intention are and my failures turn out to be with the choir.... but there you have it.

So anyway, I'm sorry that sometimes some of them feel the psalm or the ordinary are the vegetables I'm making them eat before we get to the dessert of The Little Drummer Boy....

Motes and Planks

I think I have mentioned before how often the Office of Readings functions as the Almighty's smack upsides my head.... so here, I'm reading along
a colloquy of St Dorotheus,
and thinking, (well, first, "Who is St Dorotheus?", of course, but then,) "Ain't THAT the truth..." and wishing the saint's words of wisdom would be read by... and then of course, I realize that I have at best an imperfect view of the motes that came first to mind, because of, you know... the plank.

My brethren, let us consider how it can happen so often that someone hears something unpleasant and goes away untroubled...
If someone is engaged in prayer or contemplation, he can easily take a rebuke from his brother and be unmoved by it. Or again, his affection toward a brother may be a strong reason; love bears all things with the utmost patience. Yet another reason may be contempt: if a person despises the one who is trying to trouble him, and acts as if he is the vilest of all creatures and considers it beneath his dignity even to look at him, or to answer him, or to mention the affront and insults to anyone else, he will not be moved by his words.
.... But on the other hand, it is also possible for someone to be disturbed and troubled by his brother’s words...
Yet the reason for all disturbance, if we look to its roots, it that no one finds fault with himself. This is the reason why we become angry and upset, why we sometimes have no peace in our soul. We should not be surprised, since holy men have taught us that there is no other path to peace but this.
We see that this is true in so many other people; and yet we hope, in our laziness and desire for peace, we hope or even believe that we are on the right path even when we are irritated by everything and cannot bear to accept any blame ourselves.
This is the way things are.
However many virtues a man may have – they could be innumerable, they could be infinite – if he has left the path of self-accusation he will never have peace: he will be afflicted by others or he will be an affliction to them, and all his efforts will be wasted.