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Thursday, 31 July 2008

Canadian Bishops About to Actually "Do Something" About Music

Not perhaps the right thing, but something at least, which is more than the USCCB has managed.
(Note, no indication that there will be recognition that propers even exist, but at least they will be coming out against paraphrases substituting for the actual words of scripture... I think from something another blogger said, they may have done that previously, as well.)
Liturgical music guidelines aim to nourish, strengthen message
A new committee within the National Liturgy Office is developing liturgical music guidelines for the Catholic Church in Canada.
The guidelines, being drafted by the National Council for Liturgical Music, once completed, will need to be approved by the bishops and will help worship leaders, priests and liturgy offices in the task of deciding what songs are appropriate to play or sing during Mass.
It will also assist musicians hoping to compose music for the Mass setting.
“What we’d like to see happen is a parish that has a song that isn’t in the (Catholic Book of Worship), that they bring it to us,” said John Dawson, a member of the council.

“We’re developing criteria to advise what songs are appropriate and which are not. We’re there to be a musical resource.”
The committee could be consulted even when it comes to choosing where to use approved songs within the Mass setting. The committee is still determining the submission process. “Although we can be contacted directly through the members or through the National Liturgy Office, individuals and parishes are encouraged to go through their local bishop or whoever handles liturgical issues on his behalf as this council is, first and foremost, an advisory body to the bishops,” said Dawson.
Dawson, himself a musician who works with the archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Catholic Youth, is the committee’s consultant on youth and contemporary music.
He said that with the growth of Christian contemporary music in recent years, guidelines will help to keep the Catholic messages intact. “Some music can have blatant theological problems,” he said. “I think if people are not discerning in choosing appropriately, they risk undermining the sense of corporate worship.”
Fr. Bill Burke, director of the National Liturgy Office, said he has encountered many instances where liturgical errors are committed through music, and cites the Communion procession.
“You need to decide — is it appropriate for the Communion procession?” said Burke.
“It’s not a time for a personal approach, it’s a time that we are in communion with God through Christ Jesus and with others.”
Burke said that the “me and Jesus” approach in some music [hmm.... like, I dunno, "Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for You," maybe?] should be avoided in favour of a reverant, yet communitarian song.
Some Christian songs express a theology contrary in tradition to Catholic teaching when used at inappropriate times, he said.Burke said the parts of the Mass equally need to be respected.
For example, parishes must not replace responsorial psalms with a hymn which uses altered or completely different wording. “It is Scripture and it cannot use a paraphrase — in the same way you do not paraphrase the Scripture readings or Gospel,” said Burke. “There’s an inner logic to the nature and dynamism of liturgy and music must nourish and strengthen that, and that’s really the purpose of the guidelines.”
There is of course leeway for light textual changes in the refrain of the responsorial psalm, he said. But that is, again, something that parishes should ask their bishop about.
Burke said clear guidelines on liturgical music in Canada will help control some of the extremes in music. However, Catholics need not worry that they will be limited to Gregorian chant or any other particular style. “With youth, there is a genre of music that’s more attractive (for example) and we recognize that,” he said. “But we have to look at how to develop that and these guidelines will help to do that."
Burke said the council was formed two years ago, in response to Pope Benedict’s emphasis on the importance of liturgical music.

Is there a Catholic faculty member...

... at the University of Minnesota at Morris, or even a non-Catholic one with just an interest in speaking truth to power, who would test the courage of their chancellor's "convictions" by blogging on something outrageous, a la Dean Swift's modest proposal, to see whether, say, public support for the KKK, or promulgation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, or some kind of flagrant and ugly and un-PC misogyny, would merit a reaction from TPTB?
Heck, maybe just someone who'd pull such a stunt out of idle curiosity?
I think I would be tempted.... but maybe I'd be too cowardly, fearful of losing favor, or my job, or grants.
Because I don't know if I would put much trust in the administration's even-handedness in these matters.

Tomorrow a day of prayer and fasting

An article in Zenit offers the suggestion of Father John Trigilio, Jr., the president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy that fasting and prayers be offered tomorrow in reparation for acts of desecration by, among others, an exhibitionist academic atheist in arrested adolescence.
Spread the word...

Musical Disconnect

Just watched the better part of a half hour on EWTN dedicated to the Eucharist, very good, words of saints about the Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence, interviews with young people on participating in mass, rejecting the uninformed desire to "get something out of it," (yeah, I'm watching a lot of TV today, haunting the house these days...)
But the theme music leading in and out of this otherwise thoughtful little documentary about the greatest miracle any of us will ever experience, the most profound theological truth we can ponder?
A kind of gospel-styled protestant hymn, no connection to the Eucharist at all, just generalized praise, (with an admittedly fitting title, if nothing else,) How Great Thou Art.

Television close-up

I just caught sight of the main celebrant in this shrine dedication, it is that great, great man, Archbishop Burke.

Isn't watching "active participation"?

I am skimming past and occasionally watching, (that's not the kind of "watching" referenced in the title,) a broadcast on EWTN.
It is the dedication of a new shrine, (to Our Lady of Guadalupe? somewhere in the mid-west? I'll have to look it up.)
A bishop is anointing the altar and walls... never have I so clearly realized the truth of something I once heard Dr Mahrt say, something about how he has from time to time resented being made to feel that his EffCap* depends on his singing something when what the soul needs to participate most fully is to be watching something, a procession, a ceremony, whatever, which one MISSES because of having to look at words and notes, or worse, an animator/cantor flapping away, whoops, is it our turn to sing the refrain again?

Some singing is the purpose of a choir, of a schola, they are deputed to sing with the angels on our behalf, while we perform some action (consuming the Body and Blood of Christ? reverencing a crucifix?) or watch someone else performing some action.
Interesting, macaronic, sometimes handbell-accompanied chanting.
I can't but help think if this were going on around here, someone would think the whole assembly ought to be singing "We're Standing On Holy Ground." or some such, and be unable to give the attention one ought to a perhaps once-in-a-lifetime ceremony.
In order to participate one would NEED, if present, to watch such an anointing, without the distraction of reading music. or perhaps worse, the distraction of singing something so trite and commonplace that the average person could do so without recourse to the printed page.

(Not original, can't remember where I read it... it hits just the right note of snarkiness toward jargon.)

The temptation that got us where we are...

Is pride the original sin?
Must reading on the occasion of the 4oth anniversary of Humane Vitae:
Cardinal Stafford's recollections of how things in the Church started to fall apart.
This is very much in line with what I have discerned -- the break-down came not, as the Trendists who like to think they are "progressive" maintain, from the issuance of that brilliant and brave encyclical, (Paul the VI's greatest moment,) but from the machinations and flagrant disobedience of the Hired Men to whom the sheep had been entrusted.
How many were mislead by the treason, however well-intentioned, of Curran et al, who herded to flock on to that slippery slope? (Age has brought me little wisdom, but at least I now acknowledge that slippery slopes are not something invented by old fogies...)

The Year of the Peirasmòs - 1968
By Cardinal James Francis Stafford
“Lead us not into temptation” is the sixth petition of the Our Father. Πειρασμός (Peirasmòs), the Greek word used in this passage for ‘temptation.’, means a trial or test. Disciples petition God to be protected against the supreme test of ungodly powers. The trial is related to Jesus’s cup in Gethsemane, the same cup which his disciples would also taste (Mk 10: 35-45). The dark side of the interior of the cup is an abyss. It reveals the awful consequences of God’s judgment upon sinful humanity. In August, 1968, the weight of the evangelical Πειρασμός fell on many priests, including myself.
It was the year of the bad war, of complex innocence that sanctified the shedding of blood. English historian Paul Johnson dubs 1968 as the year of “America’s Suicide Attempt.” It included the Tet offensive in Vietnam with its tsunami-like effects in American life and politics, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee; the tumult in American cities on Palm Sunday weekend; and the June assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy in southern California. It was also the year in which Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical letter on transmitting human life, Humanae Vitae (HV). He met immediate, premeditated, and unprecedented opposition from some American theologians and pastors. By any measure 1968 was a bitter cup.
On the fortieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, I have been asked to reflect on one event of that year, the doctrinal dissent among some priests and theologians in an American Archdiocese on the occasion of its publication. It is not an easy or welcome task. But since it may help some followers of Jesus to live what Pope Paul VI called a more “disciplined” life (HV 21), I will explore that event.
The summer of 1968 is a record of God’s hottest hour. The memories are not forgotten; they are painful. They remain vivid like a tornado in the plains of Colorado. They inhabit the whirlwind where God’s wrath dwells. In 1968 something terrible happened in the Church. Within the ministerial priesthood ruptures developed everywhere among friends which never healed. And the wounds continue to affect the whole Church. The dissent, together with the leaders’ manipulation of the anger they fomented, became a supreme test. It changed fundamental relationships within the Church. It was a Πειρασμός for many.
Some background material is necessary. Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan, the sixth Archbishop of Baltimore, was my ecclesiastical superior at the time. Pope Paul VI had appointed him along with others as additional members to the Papal Commission for the Study of Problems of the Family, Population, and Birth Rates, first established by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1963 during the II Vatican Council. There had been discussions and delays and unauthorized interim reports from Rome prior to 1968. The enlarged Commission was asked to make recommendations on these issues to the Pope.
In preparation for its deliberations, the Cardinal sent confidential letters to various persons of the Church of Baltimore seeking their advice. I received such a letter.
My response drew upon experience, both personal and pastoral. Family and education had given me a Christian understanding of sex. The profoundly Catholic imagination of my family, friends and teachers had caused me to be open to this reality; I was filled with wonder before its mystery. Theological arguments weren’t necessary to convince me of the binding connection between sexual acts and new life. That truth was an accepted part of life at the elementary school connected with St. Joseph’s Passionist Monastery Parish in Baltimore. In my early teens my father had first introduced me to the full meaning of human sexuality and the need for discipline. His intervention opened a path through the labyrinth of adolescence.
Through my family, schools, and parishes I became friends with many young women. Some of them I dated on a regular basis. I marveled at their beauty. The courage of St. Maria Goretti, canonized in 1950, struck my generation like an intense mountain storm. Growing into my later teens I understood better how complex friendship with young women could be. They entered the spring-time of my life like the composite rhythm of a poem. To my surprise, the joy of being their friend was enriched by prayer, modesty, and the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.
Later education and formation in seminaries built upon those experiences. In a 1955 letter to a friend, Flannery O’Connor describes the significance of the virtue of purity for many Catholics at that time. “To see Christ as God and man is probably no more difficult today than it has been. ... For you it may be a matter of not being able to accept what you call a suspension of the law of the flesh and the physical, but for my part I think that when I know what the laws of the flesh and physical reality really are, then I will know what God is. We know them as we see them, not as God sees them. For me it is the virgin birth, the Incarnation, the resurrection which are the true laws of the flesh and the physical. Death, decay, destruction are the suspension of these laws. I am always astonished at the emphasis the Church places on the body. It is not the soul she says that will rise but the body, glorified. I have always thought that purity was the most mysterious of the virtues, but it occurs to me that it would never have entered human consciousness if we were not to look forward to a resurrection of the body, which will be flesh and spirit united in peace, in the way they were in Christ. The resurrection of Christ seems the high point in the law of nature.” O’Connor’s theology with its remarkably eschatological mark anticipates the teaching of the II Vatican Council, “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light” (Gaudium et Spes 22). In those years, I could not have used her explicit words to explain where I stood on sexuality and its use. Once I discovered them she became a spiritual sister.
Eight years of priestly ministry from 1958 to 1966 in Washington and Baltimore broadened my experience. It didn’t take long to discover changes in Americans’ attitudes towards the virtue of purity. Both cities were undergoing sharp increases in out-of-wedlock pregnancies. The rate in Baltimore’s inner-city was about 18% in 1966 and had been climbing for several years. In 1965-1966 the Baltimore Metropolitan Health and Welfare Council undertook a study to advise the city government in how to address the issue. At that time, the Board members of the Council, including myself, had uncritical faith in experts and social research. Even the II Vatican Council had expressed unfettered confidence in the role of benevolent experts (Gaudium et Spes 57). Not one of my professional acquaintances anticipated the crisis of trust which was just around the corner in the relations between men and women. Our vision was incapable of establishing conditions of justice and of purity of heart in which wonder and appreciation can find play. We were already anachronistic and without hope. We ignored the texture of life.
There were signs even then of the disasters facing children, both born and unborn. As a caseworker and priest throughout the 1960's, part of my ministry involved counseling inner-city families and single parents. My first awareness of a parishioner using hard drugs was in 1961. A sixteen-year old had been jailed in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. At the time of my late afternoon visit to him, he was experiencing drug withdrawal unattended and alone in a tiny cell. His screams filled the corridors and adjoining cells. Through the iron bars dividing us, I was horror-stricken watching him in his torment. The abyss he was looking into was unimaginably terrifying. In this drugged youth writhing in agony on the floor next to an open toilet I saw the bitter fruits of the estrangement of men and women. His mother, separated from her husband, lived with her younger children in a sweltering third floor flat on Light St. in old South Baltimore. The father was non-existent for them. The failure of men in their paternal and spousal roles was unfolding before my eyes and ears. Since then more and more American men have refused to accept responsibility for their sexuality.
In a confidential letter responding to his request, I shared in a general fashion these concerns. My counsel to Cardinal Shehan was very real and specific. I had taken a hard, cold look at what I was experiencing and what the Church and society were doing. I came across an idea which was elliptical: the gift of love should be allowed to be fruitful. These two fixed points are constant. This simple idea lit up everything like lightning in a storm. I wrote about it more formally to the Cardinal: the unitive and procreative meanings of marriage cannot be separated. Consequently, to deprive a conjugal act deliberately of its fertility is intrinsically wrong. To encourage or approve such an abuse would lead to the eclipse of fatherhood and to disrespect for women. Since then, Pope John Paul II has given us the complementary and superlative insight into the nuptial meaning of the human body. Decades afterwards, I came across an analogous reading from Meister Eckhart: “Gratitude for the gift is shown only by allowing it to make one fruitful.” Some time later, the Papal Commission sent its recommendations to the Pope. The majority advised that the Church’s teaching on contraception be changed in light of new circumstances. Cardinal Shehan was part of that majority. Even before the encyclical had been signed and issued, his vote had been made public although not on his initiative.
As we know, the Pope decided otherwise. This sets the scene for the tragic drama following the actual date of the publication of the encyclical letter on July 29, 1968.
In his memoirs, Cardinal Shehan describes the immediate reaction of some priests in Washington to the encyclical. “[A]fter receiving the first news of the publication of the encyclical, the Rev. Charles E. Curran, instructor of moral theology of The Catholic University of America, flew back to Washington from the West where he had been staying. Late [on the afternoon of July 29], he and nine other professors of theology of the Catholic University met, by evident prearrangement, in Caldwell Hall to receive, again by prearrangement with the Washington Post, the encyclical, part by part, as it came from the press. The story further indicated that by nine o’clock that night, they had received the whole encyclical, had read it, had analyzed it, criticized it, and had composed their six-hundred word ‘Statement of Dissent.’ Then they began that long series of telephone calls to ‘theologians’ throughout the East, which went on, according to the Post, until 3:30 A.M., seeking authorization, to attach their names as endorsers (signers was the term used) of the statement, although those to whom they had telephoned could not have had an opportunity to see either the encyclical or their statement. Meanwhile, they had arranged through one of the local television stations to have the statement broadcast that night.”
The Cardinal’s judgment was scornful. In 1982 he wrote, “The first thing that we have to note about the whole performance is this: so far as I have been able to discern, never in the recorded history of the Church has a solemn proclamation of a Pope been received by any group of Catholic people with so much disrespect and contempt.”
The personal Πειρασμός, the test, began. In Baltimore in early August, 1968, a few days after the encyclical’s issuance, I received an invitation by telephone from a recently ordained assistant pastor to attend a gathering of some Baltimore priests at the rectory of St. William of York parish in southwest Baltimore to discuss the encyclical. The meeting was set for Sunday evening, August 4. I agreed to come. Eventually a large number of priests were gathered in the rectory’s basement. I knew them all.
The dusk was clear, hot, and humid. The quarters were cramped. We were seated on rows of benches and chairs and were led by a diocesan inner-city pastor well known for his work in liturgy and race-relations. There were also several Sulpician priests present from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore to assist him in directing the meeting. I don’t recall their actual number.
My expectations of the meeting proved unrealistic. I had hoped that we had been called together to receive copies of the encyclical and to discuss it. I was mistaken. Neither happened.
After welcoming us and introducing the leadership, the inner-city pastor came to the point. He expected each of us to subscribe to the Washington “Statement of Dissent.” Mixing passion with humor, he explained the reasons. They ranged from the maintenance of the credibility of the Church among the laity to the need to allow ‘flexibility’ for married couples in forming their consciences on the use of artificial contraceptives. Before our arrival, the conveners had decided that the Baltimore priests’ rejection of the papal encyclical would be published the following morning in The Baltimore Sun, one of the daily newspapers. The Washington statement was read aloud. Then the leader asked each of us to agree to have our names attached to it. No time was allowed for discussion, reflection, or prayer. Each priest was required individually to give a verbal “yes” or “no.”
I could not sign it. My earlier letter to Cardinal Shehan came to mind. I remained convinced of the truth of my judgement and conclusions. Noting that my seat was last in the packed basement, I listened to each priest’s response, hoping for support. It didn’t materialize. Everyone agreed to sign. There were no abstentions. As the last called upon, I felt isolated. The basement became suffocating.
By now it was night. The room was charged with tension. Something epochal was taking place. It became clear that the leaders’ strategy had been carefully mapped out beforehand. It was moving along without a hitch. Their rhetorical skills were having their anticipated effect. They had planned carefully how to exert what amounted to emotional and intellectual coercion. Violence by overt manipulation was new to the Baltimore presbyterate. The leader’s reaction to my refusal was predictable and awful. The whole process now became a grueling struggle, a terrible test, a Πειρασμος. The priest/leader, drawing upon some scatological language from his Marine Corp past in the II World War responded contemptuously to my decision. He tried to force me to change. He became visibly angry and verbally abusive. The underlying, ‘fraternal’ violence became more evident. He questioned and then derided my integrity. He taunted me to risk my ecclesiastical ‘future,’ although his reference was more anatomically specific. The abuse went on.
With surprising coherence I was eventually able to respond that the Pope’s encyclical deserved the courtesy of a reading. None of us had read it. I continued that, as a matter of fact, I agreed with and accepted the Pope’s teaching as it had been reported in the public media. That response elicited more ridicule. Otherwise there was silence. Finally, seeing that I would remain firm, the ex-Marine moved on to complete the business and adjourn the meeting. The leaders then prepared a statement for the next morning’s daily paper.
The meeting ended. I sped out of there, free but disoriented. Once outside the darkness encompassed me. We all had been subjected to a new thing in the Church, something unexpected. A pastor and several seminary professors had abused rhetoric to undermine the truth within the evangelical community. When opposed, they assumed the role of Job’s friends. Their contempt became a nightmare. In the night it seemed that God’s blind hand was reaching out to touch my face.
The dissent of a few Sulpician seminary professors compounded my disorientation. In their ancient Baltimore Seminary I had first caught on to the connection between freedom, interiority, and obedience. By every ecclesial measure they should have been aware that the process they supported that evening exceeded the “norms of licit dissent.” But they showed no concern for the gravity of that theological and pastoral moment. They saw nothing unbecoming in the mix of publicity and theology. They expressed no impatience then or later over the coercive nature of the August meeting. Nor did any of the other priests present. One diocesan priest did request privately later that night that his name be removed before the statement’s publication in the morning paper.
For a long time, I wondered about the meaning of the event. It was a cataclysm which was difficult to survive intact. Things were sorted out slowly. Later, Henri de Lubac captured some of its significance, “Nothing is more opposed to witness than vulgarization. Nothing is more unlike the apostolate than propaganda.” Hannah Arendt’s insights have been useful concerning the dangerous poise of 20th century western culture between unavoidable doom and reckless optimism. “It should be possible to discover the hidden mechanics by which all traditional elements of our political and spiritual world were dissolved into a conglomeration of where everything seems to have lost specific value, and has become unrecognizable for human comprehension, unusable for human purpose. To yield to the mere process of disintegration has become an irresistible temptation, not only because it has assumed the spurious grandeur of ‘historical necessity’, but also because everything outside it has begun to appear lifeless, bloodless, meaningless and unreal”. The subterranean world that has always accompanied Catholic communities, called Gnosticism by our ancestors, had again surfaced and attempted to usurp the truth of the Catholic tradition.
An earlier memory from April 1968 helped to shed further light on what had happened in August, 1968 along with de Lubac’s words about violence and Arendt’s insights into the breaking point reached by Western civilization in the 20th century. During the height of the 1968 Baltimore riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I had made an emergency call to that same inner-city pastor who would lead the later August meeting. It was one of numerous telephone conversations I had with inner-city pastors during the night preceding Palm Sunday. At the request of the city government, I was asking whether the pastors or their people, both beleaguered, might need food, medical assistance, or other help.
My conversation with him that April night was by far the most dramatic. He described the view from the rectory while speaking on the phone. A window framed a dissolving neighborhood; his parish was becoming a raging inferno. He said, “From here I see nothing but fire burning everywhere. Everything has been set ablaze. The Church and rectory are untouched thus far.” He did not wish to leave or be evacuated. His voice betrayed disillusionment and fear. Later we learned that the parish buildings survived.
‘Sorting out’ these two events of violence continued throughout the following months and years. The trajectories of April and August 1968 unpredictably converged. Memories of the physical violence in the city in April 1968 helped me to name what had happened in August 1968. Ecclesial dissent can become a kind of spiritual violence in its form and content. A new, unsettling insight emerged. Violence and truth don’t mix. When expressive violence of whatever sort is inflicted upon truth, the resulting irony is lethal.
What do I mean? Look at the results of the two events. After the violent 1968 Palm Sunday weekend, civil dialogue in metropolitan Baltimore broke down and came to a stop. It took a back seat to open anger and recriminations between whites and blacks. The violence of the priests’ August gathering gave rise to its own ferocious acrimony. Conversations among the clergy, where they existed, became contaminated with fear. Suspicions among priests were chronic. Fears abounded. And they continue. The Archdiocesan priesthood lost something of the fraternal whole which Baltimore priests had known for generations. 1968 marked the hiatus of the generational communio of the Archdiocesan presbyterate, which had been continually reinforced by the seminary and its Sulpician faculty. Priests’ fraternity had been wounded. Pastoral dissent had attacked the Eucharistic foundation of the Church. Its nuptial significance had been denied. Some priests saw bishops as nothing more than Roman mannequins.
Something else happened among priests on that violent August night. Friendship in the Church sustained a direct hit. Jesus, by calling those who were with him his ‘friends,’ had made friendship a privileged analogy of the Church. That analogy became obscured after a large number of priests expressed shame over their leaders and repudiated their teaching.
Cardinal Shehan later reported that on Monday morning, August 5, he “was startled to read in the Baltimore Sun that seventy-two priests of the Baltimore area had signed the Statement of Dissent.” What he later called “the years of crisis” began for him during that hot, violent August evening in 1968.
But that night was not a total loss. The test was unexpected and unwelcome. Its unhinging consequences continue. Abusive, coercive dissent has become a reality in the Church and subjects her to violent, debilitating, unproductive, chronic controversies. But I did discover something new. Others also did. When the moment of Christian witness came, no Christian could be coerced who refused to be. Despite the novelty of being treated as an object of shame and ridicule, I did not become “ashamed of the Gospel” that night and found “sweet delight in what is right.” It was not a bad lesson. Ecclesial obedience ran the distance.
My discovery that Christ was the first to despise shame was gut-rending in its existential and providential reality. “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Paradoxically, in the hot, August night a new sign shown unexpectedly on the path to future life. It read, “Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered.”
The violence of the initial disobedience was only a prelude to further and more pervasive violence. Priests wept at meetings over the manipulation of their brothers. Contempt for the truth, whether aggressive or passive, has become common in Church life. Dissenting priests, theologians and laypeople have continued their coercive techniques. From the beginning the press has used them to further its own serpentine agenda.
All of this led to a later discovery. Discernment is an essential part of episcopal ministry. With the grace of “the governing Spirit” the discerning skills of a bishop should mature. Episcopal attention should focus on the break/rupture initiated by Jesus and described by St. Paul in his response to Corinthian dissenters. “You desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we shall live with him by the power of God. Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves” (2 Cor 13: 3-5).
The rupture of the violent death of Jesus has changed our understanding of the nature of God. His Trinitarian life is essentially self-surrender and love. By Baptism, every disciple of Jesus is imprinted with that Trinitarian water-mark. The Incarnate Word came to do the will of him who sent him. Contemporary obedience of disciples to the Successor of Peter cannot be separated from the poverty of spirit and purity of heart modeled and won by the Word on the Cross.
A brief after word. In 1978 or thereabouts during an episcopal visitation to his parish, I was having lunch with the Baltimore pastor, the ex-Marine, who led the August 1968 meeting. I was a guest in his rectory. He was still formidable. Our conversation was about his parish, the same parish he had been shepherding during the 1968 riots. The atmosphere was amiable. During the simple meal in the kitchen I came to an uneasy decision. Since we had never discussed the August 1968 night, I decided to initiate a conversation about it. My recall was brief, objective and, insofar as circumstances allowed, unthreatening. I had hoped for some light from him on an event which had become central to the experience of many priests including myself. While my mind and heart were recalling the events of the night, he remained silent. His silence continued afterwards. Even though he had not forgotten, he made no comment. He didn’t lift his eyes. His heart’s fire was colder now.
Nothing was forthcoming. I left the matter there. No dialogue was possible in 1968; it remained impossible in 1978. There was no common ground. Both of us were looking into an abyss - from opposite sides. Anguish and disquiet overwhelmed the distant hope of reconciliation and friendship. We never returned to the subject again. He has since died while serving a large suburban parish. The only remaining option is to strike my breast and pray, “Lord, remember the secret worth of all our human worthlessness”
Diocesan presbyterates have not recovered from the July/August nights in 1968. Many in consecrated life also failed the evangelical test. Since January 2002, the abyss has opened up elsewhere. The whole people of God, including children and adolescents, now must look into the abyss and see what dread beasts are at its bottom. Each of us shudders before the wrath of God, each weeps in sorrow for our sins and each begs for the Father’s merciful remembrance of Christ’s obedience.
J. Francis Cardinal StaffordMajor Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary

Foolish Virgins Caught Napping

An interesting critique of a current trend in Catholic church architecture, (projected and actual,) a sort of faux traditional style by Matthew Alderman highlights 4 problems, ( you'll want to read the entire blog,) all of which I have observed and found off-putting without having the vocabulary or knowledge to articulate what was wrong, (despite the long ago pique of an architecture student boy-friend at my insisting that certain matters my cognizance of which surprised him, were "common knowledge," e.g. the Greek orders of columns, what a "pediment" was...)
Besides, for instance, the specific, identifiable and therefore effable (yeah, I'm making the word up, wanna make something of it?) "where's Waldo" syndrome so much in evidence in modern tabernacle placement, or inability to distinguish from the outside of the building where one ought to enter to "go to church" (yes, on the road I once walked in to the sanctuary moments before a Mass began,) I am often discomfited for reasons I cannot explain. (Or at least could not -- now I can a little.)
This bit particularly struck me:
The modern fixation with horizontality and vast broad spans--the result of technical prowess--runs counter to human instinct.
Broad, long rectangles remind one of bodies lying down, of sleep or death, while the upright proportions of most traditional doorways and spaces convey the more active, normative quality of a standing man.
Church ceilings must be high, or at the very least convey a sense of upward movement.
Whether this is through literal verticality or some more subtle trick, it is not sufficient to simply have a roof over the heads of the faithful.
The entire "Church," (the gathered community of worshippers,) seeming, because of the general shape of the "church," (the building) to be recumbent, rather than poised, awake, and yearning toward the Bridegroom Who comes...
Anyway, that seems to me just right.
But is it?
Psychologically, this indeed seems to be my experience, my reaction -- but is it necessarily true generally of "human instinct", rather than just what I want to believe?
My "mood", my "feelings," in buildings in which I am dwarfed by soaring ceilings is drastically different from those in buildings in which I am dwarfed by vast horizontal expanses, (which can strike me two ways: either airport terminal-ish, or final-shot-of-Indiana-Jones-warehouse-full-of-crates-ish.
The latter leaves me hopeless.
But is that conditioned?
Anyone know of something short, and simple-minded, and online, for Lazy Dummies Such As I, regarding the psychology of architecture?

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Rhapsodizing on Blue

I just wanted to say, because i have so few successes of any sort lately, and almost none in gardening -- I have managed, through patient and diligent (for my slip-shod self,) adding of aluminum, I have FINALLY managed to turn my hydrangea blue.
(Now, if only there were grape tomatoes or sweet pea-pods to share with my Mother on her all too short visit here....)

Friday, 25 July 2008


Well, at least SOME accurate translation is now a fait accompli...
And how much longer for the rest? Another 40 years in the desert?
Vatican Approves New English Translation For The Order Of Mass
WASHINGTON— The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has receivedapproval (recognitio) from the Holy See’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the new English-language translation of the Order of Mass (Ordo Missae).
This is the first section of the translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal. It includes most of the texts used in every celebration of the Mass, including the responses that will be said by the people.
In its letter, the Congregation pointed out that while the texts are binding, the approval “does not intend that these texts are to be put into use immediately.”
Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation, explained the reasons for providing the text at this time. The purpose is to provide “time for the pastoral preparation of priests, deacons and for appropriate catechesis of the lay faithful. It will likewise facilitate the devising of musical settings for parts of the Mass.”
The text is covered by copyright law and the Statutes of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.
The more significant changes of the people’s parts are:
et cum spiritu tuo is rendered as “And with your spirit”
In the Confiteor, the text “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” has been added
The Gloria has been translated differently and the structure is different from the present text
In the Preface dialogue the translation of “Dignum et justum est” is “It is right and just”
The first line of the Sanctus now reads “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts”
The response of the people at the Ecce Agnus Dei is “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” At this time, no date is available as to when the entire translation of the Roman Missal will be released.

Monday, 21 July 2008

WYD "Mass Kits"

Fascinating, (to me,) bit of insider information in a combox at TNLM, from one of the (Australian?) sacristans at the papal Mass at the Racetrack.
Care was not just taken to insure that the "marquee" Masses were celebrated with the dignity and splendor that we should always wish to bring to our liturgical worship -- other sites for the pilgrim were properly appointed.
hi guys I was one of the sacristans for this Mass and all the other papal events in during the week. I am the guy putting the candlestick on the altar in the pic. As an insider I know that the sacristan manager tried to ensure appropriate and dignified liturgical materials were used throughout the week. Something you dont see in the news is the mass kits put together for the 2000 catechesis Mass sites throughout Sydney. These contained a polished roman crucifix, candles, ciboria, chalices and other altar linens all especially made for the events. This ensured that these site Masses were all provided with proper liturgical materials. I would say a great step forward in these mass papal liturgies!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Funeral Liturgy and Decorum

Sweet Lord in heaven, I thought we were a little lax in preserving the dignity of Your Holy Sacrifice of the Mass....
Catholic funerals in Ireland seem to be an unholy MESS!

FUNERALS are "about helping people to come to an understanding of Christian death and to understand that when we celebrate a funeral Mass we do so in the context of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

The quotation is from a statement issued by the Roman Catholic clergy of Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, following a rising storm of protest about an instruction pamphlet which lays down strict rules for funeral services that take place in the area's Roman Catholic churches.
One high-profile protester was jazz man
Paddy Cole, who was distressed to be told that he could not deliver a eulogy for his mother from the altar. He was, however, allowed to play in her memory.
Paddy's playing, we can be certain, was wonderful and moving. But the rules have to be universal; and if people can choose to have their "own" music, there is no guarantee that it will not be entirely demeaning of Christianity, much less Catholicism.
When the Saints Go Marching In, played by the wonderful Mr Cole, may be entirely appropriate, even if it is not sacred music (I do not know what he played, or indeed, if it was a jazz piece), but some ghastly piece of pop schmaltz is not merely unsuitable, it is also undignified and possibly blasphemous. And cruel though it may sound, if you can't have Kylie Minogue, then you shouldn't be able to have Paddy Cole either. But the rules as expounded by the Monaghan clergy are not new strict, guidelines; they are merely the rules that have always been part of the funeral rite of the Roman Catholic Church -- a rite based rigidly on the Mass.
The fact that they have been honoured more in the breach than the observance in recent years is down to the fact that the "faithful" aren't faithful, nor are they properly tutored in the rites, rituals and theology of their Church. Many of the clergy seem to be in the same boat, operating a "sure, isn't it grand if we all just hold hands in woolly fellowship" ethos.
And quite frankly, if you want that, what the hell (if you'll forgive the phrase) are you doing being buried within the rite of the Roman Catholic Church?
The clergy of Monaghan, and the clergy of Ireland as a whole, should be issuing a firm dictat that unless you are a believing Christian of the Roman Catholic education, practice and lifestyle, you can have your grieving relatives take your mortal remains somewhere other than the local Catholic Church.
Because if you are not, you, and those who have taken charge of your funeral, are mocking everything that the Church stands for. You and your grieving relatives may not care a damn about mocking all that the Church stands for, but the clergy sure as hell are supposed to.
Personal eulogies are not part of the funeral rite as laid down by Church law, and can be verbal and emotional embarrassments. But sometimes the sermons delivered by clergy are meandering verbal embarrassments as well. Clergy frequently are arrogant enough to think that, because they are indulging themselves in what they loosely consider the word of God, they shouldn't have to deliver it succinctly and articulately. That too can be an insult to what they claim to be serving.
Where Mass "offerings" are concerned at funerals, they have become offensive in their unsuitability. Gone are the days when the offerings were simply of water and wine to be transubstantiated in the central and most sacred rite of Roman Catholicism. Now we have sets of golf clubs, playing cards, footballs. Such items may be a sentimental memoir of a life lived well and piously, but they are nonetheless always vulgar, and sometimes blasphemous.
The clergy have every right to insist on the integrity of the Mass, and the dignity of the consecrated Church building. What they should not have the right to do, however, as the clergy in Monaghan have now decided, is to forbid the congregation at funerals to gather in the churchyard after the funeral Mass so that friends and acquaintances can express their sympathy to the bereaved family, though it can still happen at the removal or in the graveyard after the internment.
The only reason for this dictat would seem to be the convenience of the presiding priest, to let him get away for his dinner, one presumes. Well, the priests need to be reminded that their secular comforts should come a very far second behind expressions of sympathy on the death of a good, practising Christian.
And there we come to the final point. Regulations have recently been altered for the marriage service for those who do not profess a particular religion. They can now choose to marry in venues other than churches or registry offices, provided the marriage is conducted and recorded by a qualified registrar.
So why not the same for funeral services? The body can be buried or cremated in dignified privacy, and the loved one can then be commemorated in whatever way the mourners want, and in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. That way, if Dolly Parton is your idea of a suitable requiem, you can have her. If you sang Knees up Mother Brown when you got a few pints in during your lifetime, and want people to remember you that way, write it into your funeral service.
But please, don't be a hypocrite. Unless you are a believing, practising Catholic, accepting the Church's teachings on faith and the after-life, don't look for a Catholic funeral. And if you do accept those teachings, then accept the rulings of the Church on the sacred burial rites of the faith.
I think that's what the clergy in Co Monaghan are trying to say. At least, I hope that's what they're trying to say. I'd be more certain if they refused to accept for burial the bodies of those who proclaimed themselves atheists in life.

Oh well, at least Mass was prayerful...

Okay, I readily admit that I am a bit defensive about BXVI because I am so taken with everything he says, but....
Was this not a bit of idiot commentary from a supposedly Catholic commentator? ... well, of course, "John Paul II was a great orator, and could really get the crowd excited" and while "Benedict doesn't quite have those gifts, " he did manage "to make the Mass very prayerful."
'Cause that's a nice, though lesser achievement....

Words of Wisdom

Maybe it's just that I don't know enough about him, but I do not expect the pithy remark, the bon mot, the perfect sound byte, the Take-That-Down-and-&-Embroider-It-On-Sampler motto from Cdl Pell; but how 'bout this?

One mission is better than a thousand options

(And I'm sorry that I insist on seeing everything through the prism of carrying out liturgical tasks...)

The text of that Angelus message...

The bit of the Angelus from which I quoted yesterday? or rather, paraphrased?
Here's the rest
My comment, my reaction to the Holy Father's words? as usual, a model of profundity, eloquence and intellectual rigor:
And yet again, WOW.

Dear Young Friends,
In the beautiful prayer that we are about to recite, we reflect on Mary as a young woman, receiving the Lord’s summons to dedicate her life to him in a very particular way, a way that would involve the generous gift of herself, her womanhood, her motherhood. Imagine how she must have felt. She was filled with apprehension, utterly overwhelmed at the prospect that lay before her.
The angel understood her anxiety and immediately sought to reassure her. “Do not be afraid, Mary …. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:30, 35). It was the Spirit who gave her the strength and courage to respond to the Lord’s call. It was the Spirit who helped her to understand the great mystery that was to be accomplished through her. It was the Spirit who enfolded her with his love and enabled her to conceive the Son of God in her womb.
This scene is perhaps the pivotal moment in the history of God’s relationship with his people. During the Old Testament, God revealed himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. It took time for the chosen people to develop their relationship with God. The Covenant with Israel was like a period of courtship, a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel’s message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said yes.
In fairy tales, the story ends there, and all “live happily ever after”. In real life it is not so simple. For Mary there were many struggles ahead, as she lived out the consequences of the “yes” that she had given to the Lord. Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her heart. When Jesus was twelve years old, she experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when, for three days, the child went missing. And after his public ministry, she suffered the agony of witnessing his crucifixion and death. Throughout her trials she remained faithful to her promise, sustained by the Spirit of fortitude. And she was gloriously rewarded.
Dear young people, we too must remain faithful to the “yes” that we have given to the Lord’s offer of friendship. We know that he will never abandon us. We know that he will always sustain us through the gifts of the Spirit. Mary accepted the Lord’s “proposal” in our name. So let us turn to her and ask her to guide us as we struggle to remain faithful to the life-giving relationship that God has established with each one of us. She is our example and our inspiration, she intercedes for us with her Son, and with a mother’s love she shields us from harm.

The corpse of a beauty

I am following the sad doings in the Anglican Communion via Father Hunwicke's Liturgical Notes , and in one heartbreaking post he quotes Blessed (soon-to-be Saint) John Cardinal Newman, mourning the reformation.
The vivifying principle of truth, the shadow of St Peter, the grace of the Redeemer, left it. That old Church in its day became a corpse (a marvellous, an awful change!); and then it did but corrupt the air which once it beautified. So all seemed to be lost; and there was a struggle for a time, and then its priests were cast out or martyred. There were sacrileges innumerable. Its temples were profaned or destroyed; its revenues seized by covetous nobles, or squandered upon the ministers of a new faith ... It took a long time to do this thoroughly; much time, much thought, much labour, much expense; but at last it was done ... the fair form of Truth, moral and material, hacked piecemeal, and every limb and organ carried off, and burned in the fire, or cast into the deep! But at last the work was done. Truth was disposed of, and shovelled away, and there was a calm, a silence, a sort of peace ...

Incidentally, I just KNEW the AP had it wrong, (Selective Quoting ) -- the Holy Father in his presser aboard to e plane on the way to WYD prayed that there would be no further divisions or ruptures , NOT that there would "'be no further divisions or ruptures' in the Anglican Communion," a very different thing.
Interview of the Holy Father during the flight to Australia (July 12, 2008)

Excessively Weird General Intercessions

Excessively specific and therefore weird "General" Intercessions this morning.
I know there are subscription services, CD-roms, online sites from which some parishes obtain the Prayer of the Faithful.
I don't know if ours does.
Maybe our diocese sends them out?
Generally if they seem monkeyed around with, it is in regards to the response we are asked to make.
I know there was a period before we moved here when people were asked to write them, (I know this from someone who was on some parish committee and hated being asked to write them, and hated even more going to a great deal of effort only to have them edited beyond recognition.
Anyway, today we prayed for... oh, let me remember, doctors in India? who are on the verge of discovering a cure for malaria. And the 47 civilians, including 38 women and children killed in a (US) bombing raid. Anyway, it was all just weird.
I remember last year or the year before when there was something oddly specific and ungrammatical that I was not the only one in the Catholic blogosphere who noticed.
And I recall another time when a number of people online mentioned being drawn up short that weekend and simply refusing to join in one prayer.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

So beautiful!

The Pope is talking in his Angelus address about God's relationship with the Chosen People, the people of the Old Covenant, as an engagement, a long courtship, and sending the angel to Mary as His proposal to the whole human race.
My God, what a teacher you have given us!

How did Mass make you FEEL?

I know Liturgy is not what the Holy Father is discussing in this (as usual, brilliant,) homily, but I think his warning that Faith is not subjective sentiment functions as a condemnation of the attempts to fabricate Liturgy according to ones own taste, according to what makes you feel a certain way, what you like.
All too often...we find ourselves immersed in a world that would set God 'aside'. In the name of human freedom and autonomy, God's name is passed over in silence, religion is reduced to private devotion, and faith is shunned in the public square. At times this mentality, so completely at odds with the core of the Gospel, can even cloud our own understanding of the Church and her mission.
We too can be tempted to make the life of faith a matter of mere sentiment, thus blunting its power to inspire a consistent vision of the world and a rigorous dialogue with the many other visions competing for the minds and hearts of our contemporaries.
I may disagree with the direction some in authority over me might take, (in contravention ISTM of the direction those in authority over them, and Those in authority over them, ask us to take,) but I refuse to indulge in, to quote a commentator on TNLM called Tobias, "pessimism that excludes consolation."

For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor

There is a fascination with and love of spectacle and extravagance on both the left and the right fringes of our ecclessial cloth that can, admittedly, be unbecoming.
But we do well to remember what and Who is glorified by our giving the best that we are able to the execution of the sacred mysteries.
It is not just "liturgical tat."
Indeed, properly vested, the priest or minister, or yes, pope, decreases as Christ, in His various Presences increases.
The priest who slings on a chasuble that for all the world looks like a wrinkled and very worn bed-sheet over the jeans and flannel shirt in which he was shortly before chowing down on a brat and a beer, whatever his personal level of reverence and devotion, gives a clear signal to those who may not yet have reached his level and so are in need of signs, that it is no very great thing we do here....
The care given, so far as I was able to see, (wasn't crazy about the EWTN coverage, lots of talking tonsured heads,) to all aspects of the Mass at the cathedral in Sydney yesterday, gave clear signals as well.
The vestments were no exception to the general excellence of the signs of the importance and gravity of the ritual being carried out.
Interesting tidbit about the vestments, from TNLM's combox. (Were I wealthy, St Bede's would be replacing some of the picnic cloths I see, and supplying some of the needs.)

The vestments used at the Dedication Mass were made by The Saint Bede Studio and are being taken back to Rome by Monsignor Marini, who was most impressed by them,as were the other two Papal MCs. This is the reverse of the procedure followed by Paul VI and John Paul II, who left behind Roman-made vestments which were generally superior to those avaialable locally.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Dedication of the Altar

Watching the Mass from Sydney, and the psalm verse during the dedication it self are being sung to a vocal "pedal" tone.
Stirring, very stirring.
It was beautiful hearing the Litany of the Saints. Strong cantor.
I love the real one, I don't care if in English or Latin -- it's just so moving after being always subjected to the Becker "Litany".

Words of love and hope to all who hunger

From the Holy Father's speech at Barangaroo...
I love this man, his writing, his teaching his preaching -- crystalline!
How can anyone hear him spreading the Gospel and not be affirmed? not hope, not believe, not love?
To see and hear someone so utterly immersed in God's love, and so eager to share it must surely be inspiring to those who search and do not know what it is they seek.
Stop picking scraps from the rich man's table, from the trash, from the gutter, come to the High Feast of the Lamb!

There is also something sinister which stems from the fact that freedom and tolerance are so often separated from truth. This is fuelled by the notion, widely held today, that there are no absolute truths to guide our lives. Relativism, by indiscriminately giving value to practically everything, has made "experience" all-important. Yet, experiences, detached from any consideration of what is good or true, can lead, not to genuine freedom, but to moral or intellectual confusion, to a lowering of standards, to a loss of self-respect, and even to despair.
Dear friends, life is not governed by chance; it is not random. Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose (cf. Gen 1:28)! Life is not just a succession of events or experiences, helpful though many of them are. It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this - in truth, in goodness, and in beauty - that we find happiness and joy. Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.
Christ offers more! Indeed he offers everything! Only he who is the Truth can be the Way and hence also the Life. Thus the "way" which the Apostles brought to the ends of the earth is life in Christ. This is the life of the Church. And the entrance to this life, to the Christian way, is Baptism....
remember that you are a new creation! Not only do you stand before the Creator in awe, rejoicing at his works, you also realize that the sure foundation of humanity's solidarity lies in the common origin of every person, the high-point of God's creative design for the world. As Christians you stand in this world knowing that God has a human face - Jesus Christ - the "way" who satisfies all human yearning, and the "life" to which we are called to bear witness, walking always in his light ....
My dear friends, God's creation is one and it is good. The concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity. They cannot, however, be understood apart from a profound reflection upon the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death: a dignity conferred by God himself and thus inviolable. Our world has grown weary of greed, exploitation and division, of the tedium of false idols and piecemeal responses, and the pain of false promises. Our hearts and minds are yearning for a vision of life where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth, and where identity is found in respectful communion. This is the work of the Holy Spirit! This is the hope held out by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is to bear witness to this reality that you were created

But then I worry about aligning myself with someone like THIS...

An old story, hopefully that parish, that diocese, has righted itself.

A woman who teaches religious ed learns that her pastor is unavailable for the HOly Sacrifice of the Mass:
Church was filling up. One of the married priests of the congregation came to argue about him doing liturgy, but I said no. We were prepared to do what we would do. Liturgy began, and coming in procession, I suddenly felt like I was riding a wave. That continued through the opening prayers, after which I took a long moment, looked around at the assembly who were still standing, looking expectant, and said, "Sometimes miracles happen. This isn't one of them!" And they laughed. And we proceeded to pray together. Midway through, a visiting Jesuit knelt by my pew and whispered that he was a priest and if I wanted, he could do the consecration and all. I said no. (We had Liturgy of the Word, no communion, because we don't keep enough hosts in the tabernacle for 600+ people.) I thought that to plug him in at that moment would be to dishonor the community. For us to fast from Eucharist one time would only give us a deeper hunger. We did more than survive. We thrived.Our parish is a wonderful community with a good grasp on its own identity and mission. For some, it is the "parish of last resort" before they leave the Catholic Church altogether. For others it is a welcome home. Many find a place where they can begin to heal, and go on to heal others.

Well, I suspect they fulfill that "mission" very well, ushering people out the door... kind of the flip side of Joyce - there goes everbody.

The Psalms

Have you noticed how often the psalms have her who prays them worrying about what other people think, or being laughed at? Fair enough. (One of my sins, a big part of my recidivism, my vanity and pride taking the form of worrying that other people will think that I care what other people think of me...)

Let my fate not put to shame those who trust in You, Lord...
Let them not be dismayed on my account, those who seek You, ..
For it is for Your sake that I am taunted and covered in confusion:
I have become a stranger ...
–because zeal for Your house is consuming me,
and the taunts of those who hate You fall upon my head.
...I have made sackcloth my clothing and they make me a byword.T
he idlers at the gates speak against me; for drinkers of wine, I am the butt of their songs.

The Eucharistic Fast

There is some thought that fasting for the receipt of Communion should be extended, if not as by fiat, than by way of a devotional practice and penance taken upon oneself personally by those committed to what Fr Kimel called the "re-enchantment" of the Liturgy.
But that is fasting for the Eucharist.
Is there any tradition (small "t") in west or east of fasting from the Eucharist? As a discipline, as a way of increasing ones desire for the Bridegroom, sharpening ones hunger for the Celestial Banquet?
I remember when I read War and Peace, Natasha had done something in reparation for which she felt she need to undergo some spiritual practice and she decided to "make a Communion," I think was the phrase in the translation I read.
And she went to Mass, (can the novel have said that? the Orthodox would have said Divine Liturgy, no? but perhaps the francophile Russian aristocracy had adopted such terminology,) for a week to prepare to receive.
I thought that was some exotic Eastern practice, not knowing that in some centuries communion was rarely received by the faithful.
Anyway, I know there are regressives, progressives, byzantolators, and trendists who urge refraining from partaking on Good Friday, but I wonder if there is any thought about fasting from the Body of Christ at any other time, for any other purpose.
I never take the Blood of Christ in the summertime, except on the odd weekday.
Yes, I am considering a more strenuous fast, if I can find more justification for it than my own quirk or impulse.

It is wonderful that God rained manna on our fathers and they were fed with daily food from heaven. And so it is written: Man ate the bread of angels. Yet those who ate that bread all died in the desert. But the food that you receive, that living bread which came down from heaven, supplies the very substance of eternal life, and whoever will eat it will never die, for it is the body of Christ.Consider now which is the more excellent: the bread of angels or the flesh of Christ, which is indeed the body that gives life. The first was manna from heaven, the second is above the heavens. One was of heaven, the other is of the Lord of the heavens; one subject to corruption if it was kept till the morrow, the other free from all corruption...
If what you marvel at is a shadow, how great is the reality whose very shadow you marvel at. Listen to this, which shows that what happened in the time of our fathers was but a shadow....
You know now what is more excellent: light is preferable to its shadow, reality to its symbol, the body of the Giver to the manna he gave from heaven.
-- From the treatise On the Mysteries, by Saint Ambrose

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Vote Early, Vote Often....

Athanasius, who is against the world, wants your opinion as to the most annoying "spirit" of Vaticna II phrase.
So many to choose from....



I am surprised by some negative reactions I have read and heard to the gospel procession in the Liturgy of the Word presided over by B16 at WYD, the "boat" accompanies by aboriginal music, and attendants and dancers.
Or maybe I am surprised by my positive reaction.
It struck me as authentic and reverent.
Perhaps it would have been ostentatious during a Mass, but it did not strike me as out of place.

Go, the Magnificent Seven is ended...

I am reading The Heresy of Formlessness, a gift from my Mother for my birthday ... I have to keep reminding myself that everyone IRL and on the internet who would be interested has already read the dang thing, and there is no need for me to post long excerpts from it, in tandem with my commentary at once brilliant and profound.
I love movie soundtracks, really love them, especially neo-romantic, "program music" types. Alexander Nevsky, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Sea Hawk, Tous Les Matins du Monde, The Untouchables? those aren't films, they're scores, they're music!
I heard an interview once with Elmer Bernstein, who seemed very... let's say confidant.
He essentially said that his scores were responsible for the success of each one of the movies he wrote for, the films wouldn't have worked without him, (which I could buy in some cases, but To Kill a Mockingbird? Com'on....)
A choir member recently had what he intended as high praise for something (not of my choosing,) we sang at Mass: that sounds like it oughta be the score for the new Indiana Jones movie!
And so it did.
It occurs to me that the non-verbal signals many contemporary -- and I mean "of this day and age," I do not mean utilizing any particular style or era of music, which reminds me, when a Mass schedule says it features the "contemporary ensemble", what does that mean? that for musicians at other Masses they raid the local boneyard, or the other choirs have used a worm-hole to circumvent the space-time continuum?
But I digress...
As I was saying, the non-verbal signals many contemporary liturgical celebrations send are as if someone at the studio got soundtracks mixed up and we were watching To Kill a Mockingbird with the score from the Magnificent Seven.

Would you give 17 days of your time....

... to save someones life?
A new kidney removal method for family or altruistic living-donor donations sounds remarkable:
Brad Kaster donated a kidney to his father this week, and he barely has a scar to show for it. The kidney was removed through a single incision in his bellybutton, a surgical procedure Cleveland Clinic doctors say will reduce recovery time and leave almost no scarring.
''The actual incision point on me is so tiny I'm not getting any pain from it,'' Kaster, 29, said Wednesday. ''I can't even see it.''
Kaster was the 10th donor to undergo the procedure at the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Inderbir S. Gill and colleagues at the research hospital on Thursday were to perform the 11th such procedure, which Gill said could make kidney donations more palatable by sharply reducing recovery time.
More than 80,000 Americans are awaiting kidney transplants. Last year, there were about 13,300 kidney donors in the U.S., and about 45 percent were living donors, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
The first 10 recipients and donors whose transplants used the single-incision navel procedure have done well, according to the researchers. They report on the first four patients in the August issue of the Journal of Urology.
Preliminary data from the first nine donors who had the bellybutton procedure showed they recovered in about just under a month, while donors who underwent the standard laparoscopic procedure with four to six ''key hole'' incisions took just longer than three months to recover.

The clinic says the return to work time for single-point donors is about 17 days, versus 51 for traditional multi-incision laparoscopic procedure.
Patients of the new procedure were on pain pills less than four days on average, compared with 26 days for laparoscopic patients.

Let me tell you, I would have been very happy not to have taken so much morphine and morphine derivatives....

The true standard of sacred music

From the nicely-named "Notes from Cultural Madhouse":

Nothing new here, but a nice round up of music legislation, and it finishes with a BANG!

Decorous, splendid, and with suitable melody
Catholic liturgical music should admit nothing “cheap” or “trite,” or anything of “the musical cliché often found in secular popular songs.” Such music “cheapen[s] the Liturgy,” “expose[s] it to ridicule,” and “invite[s] failure.” So wrote the U.S. Catholic bishops last year in Sing to the Lord, a document on sacred music. The passage cited above and the document’s call for the restoration of Gregorian Chant should give joy to the heart of anyone wearied by the banal, saccharine, and sentimental music that has been cloying the sensitive Catholic musical palate since the days of the St. Louis Jesuits. “Cheap,” “trite,” and “ridiculous” aptly describe so much of the ditties one is forced to endure at Mass.
Still (sadly from where I sit), Sing to the Lord does not seem to reject popular-style music in the liturgy. ...
While one must admit that the Church has allowed for a wide variety of musical styles in the liturgy, the magisterium has not been as inclusive of styles as the U.S. bishops’ statement seems to suggest. Ironically, perhaps, the 20th century witnessed a renewed attention to liturgical music,...
Perhaps it was because the new post-conciliar forms of music did not "grow organically from forms that already exist," that Pope John Paul II thought it necessary in 2003 to issue his Chirograph on Sacred Music, in commemoration of the centenary of Pius X's instruction, Tra le Sollecitudini. In the Chirograph, Pope John Paul noted how his predecessors, beginning with Pope St. Pius X, "recalled the fundamental principles that must enliven the composition of sacred music, especially when it is destined for the Liturgy." And, as if to dispel the notion that Vatican II represented a break with the previous popes, John Paul wrote, "the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council did not fail to reassert the principles with a view to their application in the changed conditions of the times." Further on, the pope says, "It is important that the musical compositions used for liturgical celebrations correspond to the criteria appropriately set down by St. Pius X and wisely developed by both the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent Magisterium of the Church." Not anything goes in liturgical music, according to Pope John Paul. Pope Paul VI, he said, "explained that 'if music -- instrumental and vocal -- does not possess at the same time the sense of prayer, dignity and beauty, it precludes the entry into the sphere of the sacred and the religious.' Today, moreover, the meaning of the category 'sacred music' has been broadened to include repertoires that cannot be part of the celebration without violating the spirit and norms of the Liturgy itself.... As I emphasized in the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, careful thought should be given to the fact that not all the expressions of figurative art or of music are able 'to express adequately the mystery grasped in the fullness of the Church's faith.' Consequently, not all forms of music can be considered suitable for liturgical celebrations." But what musical forms can be considered suitable for the liturgy? Pope John Paul, like his predecessors, did not descend into specifics; but he did establish, or re-establish, a standard -- Gregorian chant. He wrote: "With regard to compositions of liturgical music, I make my own the 'general rule' that St. Pius X formulated in these words: 'the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian melodic form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.'" ...
To those who would not heed his direction, Pope Pius X had this to say: "It is vain to hope that the blessing of heaven will descend abundantly upon us, when our homage to the Most High, instead of ascending in the odor of sweetness, puts into the hand of the Lord the scourges wherewith of old the Divine Redeemer drove the unworthy profaners from the Temple." Strong words, indeed, and to be soberly considered by all those who take upon themselves the task of composing – or selecting -- music for the worship of God.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


I've been thinking -- and as anyone knows me, I think in thoughts with the depth of a saucer, all my knowledge and beliefs system is contained in sound-bytes --
It's not the word, (the "in-Eff word," some combox wag dubbed it,) "ineffable that is the source of objections -- it is the concept.

They don't want to admit we must all deal with things that are Beyond Their Comprehension -- that are, in a word, ineffable.

Words or Music? Egg or Chicken?

"Let the servant of God sing in such a manner that the words of the text rather than the voice of the singer cause delight, and that Saul's evil spirit may depart from those who are under its dominion, and may not enter into those who make a theatre out of the house of the Lord".
-- St. Jerome, on Ephesians

In a conversation I had recently concerning hymn selection there was some disagreement as to criterion --
I made a statement that the words were the first consideration, they should take precedence over the music, that liturgical music should always be the servant of the Word.
And then it occurred to me that that may be an assumption on my part that has no basis in anything other than personal opinion.
So, I'm willing to be schooled -- is this a bit of what I presumed was "common knowledge" or common sense that simply isn't true?
Correction and admonishment cheerfully accepted.

Quality Preaching

Honest, I do not troll the internet looking for things to decry in other people's liturgies -- but this is a bit much, don't you think? (Yes, I'm doing a little Christmas planning in July)

We did have an interesting "homily" about a decade ago. After the gospel, the priest left the altar and a singer led "City of God". Then the priest, dressed as John the Baptist, came in singing "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord". After a minute or so, the choir started "Here Comes Santa Claus" and Santa came in with a sack full of catalogues that he handed out to a few members of the congregation. That led to a "debate" over how we should really be preparing for Christmas, and whether shopping should take precedence over prayer and fasting. It was extremely effective, and people in the parish still talk about it. (When "John" talked about the birth of Jesus, "Santa" pulled out a really cheap nativity set and gave it to a kid we had planted in the front row with instructions to give it back.)
Every member of the congregation was in rapt attention because they didn't know what was going to happen next.
[sometimes, IME, it is difficult to differentiate between "attention" and what I refer to as the "Springtime for Hitler Face", i.e., the faces on the audience in the non-musical movie of Mel Brooks' The Producers, as they are watching the 1st act.] They actually paid attention to every word, and many of them still remember that homily a decade later. [I would as well.] Someone mentioned it to me this year. (You probably won't be surprised to know I was Santa.) We had well-attended Advent prayer services that year and it was standing room only for our Penance Service as well as for all three of our Christmas masses.

Cleanliness is next to...

Sometimes I am so out of touch, not just with my feelings, but with my thoughts that I it is only from observation of my actions that I consciously know what they are.
In anticipation of that rare bird, an invited guest, I'm doing a massive amount of cleaning... wait, stop lying, where is that resolve to go and sin no more?... I am moving debris and detritus in my house from one spot to another.
In the bags, (yessir, yessir, three bags full,) of paper to be recycled with which I dispatched Himself, were scads of missalletes from various publishers, as well as originals of my adaptations of religious songs purporting to be "psalms," and gospel acclamations for various HallayLooojahs.
Aside from my unfortunate hoarder tendencies, there was some thought that originally went into saving these mountains of paper -- they would be needed every three years, right?
Whatever I am doing next time Year A of the Lectionary cycle rolls around it will not include looking at the deli menu to order up a Hymn sandwich, or use of Gather in any way that meaningfully requires my input.
Clearly, I have made a decision.
Why, my life loo...., I mean, the house looks less messy already!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Hymn Tempi

A commenter below mentioned taking ST THOMAS at 130.
This strikes me as a tad fast, (and I'm often told my tempi are too fast.)
But maybe I've just heard too many dirge-like hymns, and I don't have a good sense of it any more.
I'd be curious, to anyone who reads this, what metronome markings would you put on these hymntunes?


Do you have any tempi "principles", irrespective of texts? Slower on duple than triple meters? (I tend to sing 3/4 hymn in 1)

Just curious....

Perhaps the Holy Father fails to understand our peculiar institution...

Several decades ago I remember hearing some conservative commentator on radio, (Paul Harvey? not sure...) who had been wont to gush over John Paul II because he was such a strong ally of Reagan's in the "Cold War," or because his views of sexual and reproductive morality dovetailed with the commentator's own, suddenly getting all icy over what he perceived as the pontiff's meddling in affairs that were none of his business when there had been talk about the injustices that could arise from our economic system.
With all due respect, (a phrase that, as so often, was sneered in a tone of voice to clearly signal disrespect,) the Pope does not understand America and how its speirit of enterprise works...
Well, the right-wing may be about to talk out of the other side of its face again, if B XVI's coming encyclical expresses the Splendor of Truth in the way they fear it might.
Note that what the WSJ's man is actually saying we should celebrate is that rich folks in the Third World are living evermore like rich folks in the U S of A, and ain't that grand? Doesn't that make you feel better about things? That some nation in Africa whose name you can't even pronounce has its own Sauds or Paris Hiltons or Windsors or Donald Trumps or Oprah Winfreys? I'm sure the civic pride it produces mitigates that gnawing hunger growing numbers of residents of those countries are feeling....

For all the attention on capitalism’s failings, it is important to remember the recent boom helped lift more than a billion people out of poverty. And for all the hand-wringing over rising inequality within countries, we should be celebrating the huge strides over the last two decades to lower inequality between countries. Average living standards across much of the developing world have risen so fast that in many recently poor countries they now match those in the West.

The Worship of God and the Edification and Sanctification of the People

Okay, I'm not going to keep this up as (if) I watch broadcasts from WYD in Sydney, I promise, but it is so edifying to see a penitent realize that he or she is on camera and start whooping and hollering and gesticulation wildly. It just makes the Kyrie so special, as well as demonstrating how special it is to the penitent.

It is apparent that the Reforms have effected their purpose, Steven Warner's right, we don't need no stinkin' reform of the reform*, the understanding and participation of the People has been accomplished.

Move along, move along, nothin' ineffable to see here....

* Yes, I know that the bandidos in Treasure of the Sierra Madres really say something like, we don' hafta show you no stinkin' badges, but it's like play it again, Sam, the paraphrase has entered the popular consciousness.

The "Singers" and the "Musicians..."

Praying the Office of readings, I was struck, not for the first time, by the division in the popular mind, scripturally enshrined, between "singer" and "musician."No, it's not fair, but there you have it.
Voice Major though I was, I have ceased to take umbrage...

Psalm 67 (68)
They have seen your processions, O God,
the processions of God, my king, to his sanctuary.
First came the singers, last the musicians, between them the maidens playing their drums.
“Bless God in the assemblies:
bless the Lord, you who spring from Israel!”


Have I told you lately that I love Universalis? http://www.universalis.com/
I'm sitting here listening to some Disney anthem, sung by the Kids of the Kingdo.... oops, sorry, it's the opening song for the WYD Mass, my mistake... chuckling over the latest reason I love Universalis -- it's British.
How delightful to read that Elijah was fed with a scone baked on hot stones, instead of a hearth cake.
(It takes my mind off the Disneyfication of the liturgy.)

Monday, 14 July 2008

Most Dispiriting

I "took a meeting" today at work.
It was very pleasant, very cordial, almost fun at time, (and I HATE meetings,) --- and also left me utterly deflated and bereft of any genuine hope for the direction we are to take.
I can make no significant changes, (I didn't even bother to ask about a new ordinary or making any accommodations available to people who legitimately asked for EF funerals,) I proabably can make no small changes, I can do nothing, any tiny improvements I think I have made ought to be rolled back.
I am of two minds. (I am not quitting.)
Should I stop beating my head against a wall, and just punch the clock for a few years while I tread water, and get things in shape to sell; or should I keep trying to push the envelope?
The odd thing is, I could probably DO almost anything I wanted to, at least once, and get away with it, as a constant thorn in his side.
But the fact that I know I could, (that I would be too hard to replace,) is what would keeps me from doing that to him.

Christian Love proceeds FROM Christ's Mass

An oldie but goodie, written on the ocassion of Summorum Pontificum, setting into far more eloquent words than I can manage WHY saving the liturgy is saving the world.

July 18, 2007
Restoration in the Catholic Church

By David Warren
It is because we in the West have cultivated -- collectively, if not individually -- an extraordinary insensitivity to religion, that we fail to grasp the seriousness of the radical "Islamist" challenge to our being. ...

Ignorance of, or indifference to, religious motivations in much human behaviour, is something that can hurt you. It leaves one blind, uncomprehending, and powerless in an immense field of potential good and evil. It may even leave one blind towards one's own motivations, which are often not as plain as first appears.
And it is from the same insensitivity, even insensibility, that we might overlook the importance of the Pope's Motu Proprio last week, removing some obstacles to the celebration of the old Catholic Mass. I think the writing of that document may prove ...part, I think, of the operation by which the Catholic Church is righting itself, after having been thrown on its beam ends in the 1960s and '70s.
The alternative,
[to what we now call the Extraordinary Form] Novus Ordo form of the Mass, which emerged in the heady days after Vatican II, was and remains the new standard. But it is a stripped-down version, translated often unworthily into the various modern languages; and simply by scanning differently from the old, universal Latin, it obviates the Church's magnificently rich musical inheritance, if not much else.
The Novus Ordo is a valid Mass, ...but to my mind and that of many faithful Catholics, it is also a concession to the times, to the Zeitgeist. And because the times are out of joint with Catholic faith and practice, ..., a painful concession.
Liturgy is "just words," and sometimes music, in the received post-modern view, which immediately overlooks dress, gesture, censing, intonation, and the spiritual atmosphere.

To the contrary Catholic view, we do not go to church of a Sunday only to see and be seen, nor strictly as a "memorial" of the Last Supper, nor as a healthy habit on the analogy of bran muffins.
All of these things count, too, but the Mass combines such incidentals into something larger and simpler and therefore harder to express. At its centre is an act of Communion, with the Christ. Which is to say, with God. It is not, in the Catholic view (shared by many other Christians), a looking back to the Gospels through history. It is a participation, a dipping, a step out of current time, into the eternal.
Practically, I explain this in the hope of making my sceptical reader understand why liturgy might be so important. I do not imply by this that good works are not important, that Christian life is not exhibited in faith, hope, and charity; in prayerful humility, and a bold willingness to suffer with Christ. I am only saying that from the Catholic view, love is not a nothing. It springs from a fount, and in this world we go to the Mass as to that fount. That is what sustains our spirits, just as food sustains our bodies.
The significance of the Motu Proprio, in current affairs, is in where it points. Catholics recovering their heritage will make a huge difference in the world.

Kitsch or Nostalgia

Zenit publishes a "letter to the editor" from a musicologist in reference to the Fr Weber interview.
Gregorian chant is certainly “foreign to our time and culture,” as Omer Westendorf states in the June 1974 issue of the Liguorian -- “The English Mass is Here to Stay” -- but this is hardly a legitimate criticism.
What art of the past is not foreign to our time and culture?
But Mr. Westendorf goes still further in his bold assertion that “Gregorian chant is not a music congenial to our time and culture.”
Is it really plausible that only Gregorian chant should now find itself mysteriously impotent, unable suddenly to inspire and animate the present, while the rest of our musical heritage continues to remain quite suitable for modern taste?
Of course not. I would suggest, rather, that if anything is uncongenial to our modern culture, it is the kitsch which now passes for sacred music in our churches.
Ferdinand Gajewski
Professor of Musicology

I don't really know Liguorian, but that sounds like the sort of nonsense "Catholic" magazines were printing in the '70s.
Oddly, the late Mr. Westendorf was also responsible for the CD insulting titled, "Latin Mass: music for Nostalgic Catholics.


Sunday, 13 July 2008

Our Lady of the Bus Station

A rather unpleasant Anglican on Damian Thompson's blog had this to say about the possibility of the Roman Catholic Church taking possession of any Anglican churches: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/damian_thompson/blog/2008/07/10/the_fellowship_of_st_gregory_the_great

The romanesque churches of this country are owned and used by the Catholic church in this country. Had they been handed over to the Italian Mission they would no doubt be now re-ordered sideways and painted orange and purple, filled with the noise of guitars, and with a concrete social club built on the side.

As I said, unpleasant, but hard to argue with his description of what Catholics would have done with beautiful, medieval edifices had they come into the Church's possession during the 40 years in the desert...
I, after all, have worshipped in Our Lady of the Bus Stop, as one wreckovation I know has been called.