Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Friday, 31 October 2008

Why bother with a funeral Mass?

Our diocesan paper runs a syndicated Q & A column by the absent-minded Fr D.
You may know that I have written about him before, because he frequently neglects to include all the pertinent words when quoting from authoritative documents, and sometimes forgets to tell a simple truth that would really answer the question because he gets himself inadvertently tied up with some kind-hearted, but irrelevant, and even misleading tangent, which manages to, accidentally I am sure, imply a falsehood.
As All Souls approaches, we have this exchange:
My mother ....died recently. Since I know mom is with our heavenly Father I'm curious how a... Mass for the dead benefits such a departed soul.
So he immediately tell the author about the doctrine of purg -- well, wait, let's just see what he does have to say:
Masses my be offered for a deceased person for many reasons.
First... the intention may be to ask God's blessing and grace on that person during his or her entire life, from birth to death.

That may sound strange.... but we know God's actions are not bound by limits of time. Past, present and future, all are one eternal moment to him. [sic] By that prayer, we place ourselves in that sphere of reference of eternity. The church [sic] does this all the time. In funeral liturgies as well as some anniversary liturgies years after death, the prayers ask God to give that individual the grace of a holy and peaceful death.
He does seem to have left something out.
Hmmm.... what could it be?
From the CCC:
958 Communion with the dead. "In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and 'because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins' she offers her suffrages for them."[498] Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.

Oh, or maybe:


1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611
Oh, yeah, THAT'S the word I was trying to think of.
But judging by the fact that very few people have a need for confession any more, it's probably empty.
Since no one ever sins, no one goes there any more.
Kinda like Church...

Children's Choirs

The redoubtable bow-tied one has this excellent post at NLM on the subject of gettin'em while they're young.
My experience bears out everything he says (sometimes, to my sorrow, or course, I can vouch for the truth of certain of his dire predictions....)
I attended school Mass today, as it happens, Table of Plenty, an Ordinary I did not recognize that had a sing-songy rhythm but seemed to change tonality every measure, and strange descants that I at first thought were either birds or wailing toddlers (I am not kidding. Literally, that's what I thought. I felt bad, because I know these children, and I like their music teacher.)
My "schola," (we're really a concert choir,) which has only a tenuous connection to the parish, has a somewhat different sound (although I have two, so far tone-deaf kinds.... they are legacies.)
They are doing a bang-up job on a "Bell Canon" in a brisk 5/4 (thanks to all who helped with international onomatopoetic words, and every one of them can now conduct in 5 better than a lot of people I went to conservatory with....,) touching my heart with a lovely bluesy Cherry Tree Carol, and they are vying for the solo in their general favorite: In Splendoribus.
Small triumphs....
(I said I only had the time, energy or voice to prepare two things for this concert, so of course, we're already at 7, and since we have 9 more rehearsals, I woudln't be surprised if we had eight in good enough shape to sing in public.)
Anyway, JT's piece:
If your parish has a children's choir, thank both the director and the pastor, both of whom are crucially important to maintaining such a program in time when such choirs are ever more rare in Catholic Churches. If they are singing serious music, such as chant, receiving real training in music theory using the voice, that is all the more spectacular.
When you read the personal biographies of great singers, in our times or the past, it comes up again and again that their first training occurred in church. Would that the schools were a substitute but even in the best of times, it was the liturgy of the Church that provided the most intense singing experience.
What happens when children's choirs are gone for more than one or two generations? We see the results all around us. Scholas have a hard time forming in parishes where very few people can read music or feel confident that they are singing notes at all. You might be able to get past the failure to read, but they don't understand how their voices work and they don't have the confidence to sing publicly (as versus in the shower).
There is also the problem of proper artistic formation. People cannot reliably distinguish what Pius X called "true art" from music that has long been said to be inappropriate for Mass. The capacity to know the difference cannot be spelled out in some rule book or scientific measure of beats and intervals. It comes from familiarity with music generally and the sacred music tradition in particular.
In a parish where there is a huge dearth of talent and a lack of common commitment to true art, starting fresh with a sacred music program can be a serious challenge. The ground can best be prepared by an active children's choir program that extends over a long period of time.
Starting is itself a challenge. In observing this in a number of parishes, it seems clear that it is not enough for there to be one music director with the goal in mind. That music director can carve out a place in the schedule, post signs, talk to many parents privately, and still find himself or herself standing in front of an empty classroom. It's not the case that parents don't want their children to learn to sing.
The problem is that there too many other priorities that come first, such a sports or studying or playing with friends or whatever. There are a thousand reasons not to show up.
Another problem is that parents expect fast results that cannot be obtained in a high-quality program. They want the kids to learn songs to sing to family and friends, in the hope that the child will become some kind of singing phenom like you see on television. When this hope doesn't materialize, they take to kid out so that he or she can discover his or her true brilliance in another setting.
Careful music training takes place over a series of years in which the student discovers how to distinguish between high and low notes, whole steps and half steps, and learns how to sing on pitch and sight sing. Ideally, the child learns the do-re-mi system of singing as the first music instrument and finds out how to navigate up and down this scale, starting from any note and moving to any note. This is critically important for learning to sing and learning about music, but it is not the kind of talent that is going to impress extended relations at family reunions. This is source of frustration for parents who are themselves illiterate in this area.
Technology has helped pedagogy in most every area of life, but the field of music is highly specialized in that it requires an unusual interaction and coordination between abstract thinking and real-world doing. It takes time and relentless effort. Whatever tools we might have at our disposal today, music comes down to the relentless practice and the striving for improvement over a long period of time. In this sense, music pedagogy today and music training takes no less time right now than they did in the ancient world. It can't be rushed. And as time becomes ever more valuable, the willingness to make the sacrifices diminish ever more.
The music teacher himself or herself also needs a supportive pastor. Nor is it enough for the pastor generally to nod agreement with the idea of a children's choir program. He must also encourage parents relentlessly both publicly and also privately. He probably needs to personally call parents with young children and make sure that the parents know that it is a parish priority, that it matters, and why it matters.
Many pastors figure that they have enough on their plates without intervening in what is widely considered to be a matter of private family business. But without this support, it is too easy for parents to just figure that music education is not for their kid.
Even with a good teacher and an activist and supportive pastor, parish involvement might be low for a few years. The parents most likely to put their kids in a choir program are those who plan years in advance. The program has to first exist, probably at a small level, and then young couples need to see the kids sing and dream that their own children will someday join. Children of 4 and 5 need to see older children singing and want to join them when they are old enough to.
I hate to say it but it is often the case that children who are already 10 and older when the choir forms are already interested in too many other things to change direction. So the plan for the choir must be a 10-year or 20-year plan, and the short tenure of pastors tends to shorten the time horizons.
Boys in particular are a challenge, given the public-school culture that regards singing as something that is not masculine in the same way that hunting or football is. Boys in general eschew the arts, and are more likely to require pressure to pursue them. In other words, it has to be seen as something crucial to education – a required course.
Pastors must also learn to deal with interruptions in the schedule, as kids go off to college and move out of town or possibly come back later in life. The full benefit might no accrue to the parish in particular but to the Church overall, and many years down the road.
It is possible to cite studies show a link between music education and other for coursework. It is possible to cite the historical precedence that regarded music education as part of a foundation for all education. We might cite its therapeutic achievements and its source as an outlet for creativity.
But for Catholicism, the benefits come down to the concern for beauty in the worship of God. If this doesn't matter, children's choirs in parishes don't matter. But if it does matter, we desperately need them, for music proves to be a difficult task to undertake for adults. The time to learn is when you are young. This is an investment that pays high returns only many years from now.
There are a million reasons not to have children's choirs but one good one to undertake the effort: the liturgy desires our voices. At every stage in salvation history, music has been present. It must always be so.

The Power of the Pronoun

Might I ask a favor of all who consider themselves "pro-life"?
Or perhaps, in light of the boon I beg, I should say, of "him who considers himself 'pro-life'".
Stop Saying IT!!!!!!!!!!
There was a lovely piece in my diocesan paper today, syndicated I believe, (and it took my mind off the more infuriating pieces, the column that went as far as it could to deny purgatory without quite doing so...) about parents burying and mourning a premature, stillborn infant.
And yes, the baby was so premature that the parents did not know if they were mourning a boy or a girl.
But I'm sorry, I suppose it's an old grammatical sexism that nobody wants to use, but if you don't know the sex of a person, of a human being, you can say "him," "he," "his."
And if you're just too much of an equal rights warrior, say she, her hers. Or be ungrammatical and use plural pronouns with singular verbs, I don't care but DON'T SAY "IT!"
A person is not an "it."
An embryo is not an "it."
A human being is not an "it."
A blastocyte is not an "it."
A mourned offspring is not an "it."
A fetus is not an "it."
A beloved baby, however tiny, however young, however unformed, however short-lived, however despised by health care professionals and pro-choice advocates is not an "it."

Do we pray FOR them or To them?

Father Hunwicke has an interesting and sad post, Whatever happened to the Resurrection?,in the aftermath of a funeral.
It reflects an all too common experience of the modern day funeral-goer.
Father says, he "came away wondering where God had been. The service seemed so Man-centred. There was no emphasis - as there would have been in a Medieval rite - on the need to pray for the dead lest he end up in Hell. Indeed, white rather than black or even purple stoles were worn by the clergy. But this was not an indication that Resurrection Glory had become the major theme of the celebration. It was barely mentioned except in some of the set Common Worship formulae."

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus Christ, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere in the Universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on the souls detained in Purgatory. It was for their salvation that you took on our human nature and suffered a most painful death. Have mercy on their burning desire to see you, have mercy on their tears of repentance. Through the merits of your Passion, remit the sentence they incurred by their sins.
Dear loving Jesus, may your Blood descend on those dear souls! May it shorten their time of atonement and may they soon be called to eternal happiness in your Presence! Amen.

O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant unto the souls of Thy departed servants full remission of all their sins, that through the help of our pious supplications they may obtain that pardon which they have always desired. Thou Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.
V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
R. And let perpetual light shine upon them
V. May they rest in peace. Amen.


I loved to choose, and see my path...

So, there we are at choir rehearsal, two and a half flights up, and the choir is on their chairs on risers, with their hymnals, purses, coats, water bottles, CANES, folders, bags of cough drops, kleenex boxes, and the various detritus of life strewn about them.
And we've done the psalm, we've done the gospel acclamation, or rather, the THREE Gospel acclamations because I can't be certain which Mass which presider will have chosen and thus, which Gospel need to be... acclaimed. (I chose which psalm, on the basis that The Lord is my Shepherd is what everyone will want to sing and i will never hear the end of it if we don't....Being "pastorally" rather than "liturgically" minded, if you will.)
And we've absolutely flown through the Tallis and the Croft, they both sound great, and I'm thinking to use a hymn as another choir anthem, but since the Dread Hymnal Gather has an insufficiency of of real hymns I am up on the risers passing it out -- as we have a complete black-out, and we all discover that what were thought to be emergency lights with their own back-up batteries are not.
So by the light of someone's cell phone I crawl in the the otherwise pitch blackness on my hand and knees to the stairs to the risers, inch down them by means of the railing and go into the side room to open a window and let in a little more light, and find a flashlight.
And after much hub-bub, (which I wont go into, but which involved yelling at one chorister repeatedly to stand still on the top riser until we made it possible for said chorister to see a little bit, and if feelings of said chorister were hurt and said chorister does not return I will be almost relieved, but I digress... oops, I guess I DID go into it here,) we got everyone safely out of the building.
The music we were about rehearse?
A lovely work about trust in the Almighty, you may have heard of it, it's called, Lead Kindly Light.
Is Blessed John having a chuckle at us e'en now?

Garish and Awkward Manipulations

That would make a good name for an edgy indie rock band.
Or an punk chiropractor.
Or my forays into athletics.

But it's actually a reference to the methods used by those who take advantage of the Biblical illiteracy wrought by the secularization of our society (I would add, though the CNS article does not, that cultural illiteracy, and plain ol' illiteracy PERIOD, also make many easy targets for dor-to-door evangelists, heretical preachers, and agenda driven ersatz Catholic middle management types -- the "demi-clerics" as I've hread them described.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A lack of biblical literacy can make people, even Catholics, more susceptible to believing the distortions and falsifications in biblical texts published by the Brooklyn-based Watch Tower Society, said an article in the Vatican newspaper. While secularism "poses serious problems also for the preaching of Jehovah's Witnesses," the article said, the religious illiteracy that comes with secularism also can create fertile terrain for creating new converts. L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, published an article called "Jehovah's Witnesses: Just Incredible!" in its Oct. 29 weekly edition in English. The article, written by author Valerio Polidori, first appeared in the paper's daily Italian edition July 25. "Poor knowledge of the sacred texts favors the spread of garish and awkward manipulations" of the Bible, it said. It said the Watch Tower Society's "The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures" contains text that has been manipulated by translators making "completely arbitrary additions or subtractions."


"The Tridentine rite is used only in the liturgy celebrated according to the 1962 Roman Missal."

I mean, it's not wrong.... that ritual does indeed occur only during, well..... during ITSELF.

It's just an oddly obvious thing for a Catholic journalist to say.

Like, the Holy Father appears only at events at which the Pope is present.

Or, Sunday Mass is only held in Eucharistic Liturgies on the first day of the week.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Chant Intensive This Winter

I can't remember if I already blogged about this, so my 2 1/2 regular readers, forgive me if I have?

Winter Chant Intensive

January 5-9, 2009
University of San Diego
Instructor, Scott Turkington

If you have any way of getting to this, you will be eternally grateful. Great teacher, great concept, great organization, great music, great spirituality.

(And for pity's sake, SAN DIEGO? In JANUARY? Exactly...)

Bathe in the river Jordan, seven times....

I would have tried it...
I'll try almost anything, (although my Mother, thank God, resisted when my Grandmother suggested she try Lysol on my hands and feet when I was a kid......)
Apparently the incidence of infant eczema, like that of almost any other condition related to the auto-immune system, has gone haywire.


I seem to defy trends, (well, of course, how could I be ordinary?,) mine has NOT gotten better with age, and in a large family with not much better than average hygiene (although some... my Mom is a clean freak, but it was a losing battlewith 5 sons, and 6 less than prissy daughters,) I think something like half of us have some kind of respiratory or dermatological allergies.
I'll look into the Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion and Triple Cream Severe Dry Skin/Eczema Care mentioned in the article, although barring a severe outbreak (I just came through one,) or something on my face, Bag Balm seems to have made an enormous difference in the likelihood of a mild irritation progressing into a debilitating one.
People who don't experience rashes have trouble understanding what a power the impulse to scratch, (I have, in my sleep, despite wearing gloves and keeping my nails short almost to the quick, scratched hard enough to break the skin through clothing of Dickie's work clothes - weight,) and I admit to sometimes getting testy with people who say "Stop scratching!" or tell me about something they know will "clear that right up."
Yeah, 'cause I never heard of cortisone.
Of course, often, my problems are directly tied to stress, and shamefully, sometimes a result of ingesting something I suspected or even knew had a bit of some allergen in the recipe, and since both of those are more or less my own fault, I try to to make too big a deal out of it, and wish people would pretend not to notice it, (though I was touched by the chorister who ran out to find some band-aids when he noticed I was bleeding all over the keys once during Mass.)
But you think I'm cranky and snarky NOW? stay out of my way when....!
And a warning to the rest of the world, you think incivility has reached unpleasant proportions NOW? If the incidence of eczema has indeed grown from 1 in 20 to 1 in 6... well, there're gonna be a whole helluva lot more of us cranks out there in coming years.
At one point when I was younger, I thought someone was yanking my chain with the Lectionary, especially on weekdays, when I was at my most uncomfortable and most unsightly someone at Church always seemed to be talking about leprosy....
One great line from the Times article: Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you — think of poison ivy.
Oh, and I don't like to brag, (not much!) but that accompanying photo of an "outbreak" on a hand?
In my entire life, I would literally never even have noticed anything that slight.

I am a Counterfeiter

I am a counterfeiter
Yet another self-centered post, huh? Im a heretic, I'm a counterfeiter, I am plain... I'm only clueless sometimes.
Oh, and, I'm not a very good counterfeiter

An interesting article in the New York Time on, of all things, ugliness. Which, sorry, that's just wishful thinking, will NEVER be "the new pretty."
It's in the fashion pages but it could just as easily be thought of as an article on philosphy, economics, psychology, anthropology, civil rights, art.... (okay, that's me trying to justify the fact that I wouldn't miss the Fashion page in the NYTimes on Thursdays.)
It's difficult to imagine, but there are, apparently, people who have standards of beauty for those whom they will allow to make beds and clean toilets:

Few laws prohibit employment discrimination based on lack of attractiveness, although some plaintiffs have pursued cases under broader statutes: a Vermont chambermaid who was missing her front teeth and was fired won a case against her employer when in 1992 the State Supreme Court upheld her suit, ruling that she was protected by the state’s Fair Employment Practices Act.
Some cities, including Washington, San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Calif., have passed ordinances banning discrimination based on looks. But legal action on behalf of the unattractive can be complicated.
“One pitfall is the distinction between people’s identities as members of a race or a religious group or gender versus as a member of a group of ugly people,” said Sherry F. Colb, a law professor at Cornell. “Because of successful identity politics, people have come to identify profoundly with other kinds of groups — ‘I am a Jew,’ or ‘a French person.’ But it’s not likely with ‘I am an ugly person and let’s have a meeting of all ugly people.’ Most people in general would want to disclaim membership. It’s like declaring yourself a member of the clueless.”

Well, no, Miss Colb, being clueless is more like being unshod -- you can go put some shoes on. Ugly, I guess, would be more like having no feet.
And of course, the clueless are, de facto, unaware of their misfortunate state, whereas most of us pretty much do know what we look like, despite occasional bouts of denial.
Oh, and that includes the gorgeous women who love to tell interviewers that thy look really awful without their make-up.
I guess I could attend a meeting for the Proudly Plain, but yeah, I'd stay away from the Unabashedly Ugly meeting.
I know this is partly a function of the need to vary vocabulary over the course of a long article, but the author doesn't seem to make the distinction between "plain" and "ugly."
The idea of beauty of the most superficial kind continues to fascinate me because I think its want has affected my life, professionally speaking. (Not necessarily, I see now, to the bad.... )
I remember when I first began auditioning professionally, I thought, despite a plain-ish face dazzling high notes and brilliant comic timing, (see? I wasn't the modest type, that is not what led to the self-assessment of my looks,) would guarantee success, especially in a branch of the business where when the actual performance came, people watched you from several yards away.
And I stubbornly failed to do as much as anyone with more sense would have done to look attractive -- a kind of reverse snobbism, what does it matter what I'm wearing or whether the way I wear my hair is fashionable, do I WANT to work for someone who has so little imagination that he cares?
Once a casting director said, "Wow, that was gorgeous. But we're probably going to go with someone blonde," and I, snarkier than usual, and knowing the show would be mostly wigged, said , You know you can say 'someone prettier', it's not going to hurt my feelings," and he, not at all non-plussed, said, "Oh. Okay."
Of course America Ferrara is mentioned in the article. Likewise, whenever Sondheim's Passion is performed, or The Rainmaker or 110 in the Shade, feature articles especially, but reviews too, are at great pains to assure the reader that their author knows the actress is acting, and that in reality she's attractive outside of the role. (You'd have thought for the press for one revival of 110 in New York that the woman had undergone Charlize-Theron-in-"Monster"-level cosmetic machinations...)
When "Frankenstein shoes" were highly touted by the fashion forward a few seasons ago and got scads of editorial space , some snarky writer finally acknowledged what us civilians already knew, the clunky platforms with misshapen heels "could only be worn by pretty girls," only the beautiful could get away with layering on such ugliness and still be pretty.
The rest of us are expected to use clothes and lip gloss and tonsorial techniques to counterfeit beauty.

Gifted is as Gifted Gets

Fewer Children Entering Gifted Programs in the New York public schools, despite attempts to "increase diversity."
I suspect in this case gifted is as gifted has been given -- the parents Providence has provided probably have the greatest effect of an single variable.
It would be un-PC as all get out, but when they compute the stats on this, it would be interesting to see if the race of the parents if a significant factor in the success or failure of attmpets to increas "diversity" in the children in the program.
Since that generation has already played and won or lost at the lottery of parents and education, at this point in the nation's history clearly a smaller proportion of some minorities would have higher education, value education, have made the commitment to teach and nurture their chidlren in a way that increases the likelihood of testing as "gifted," whatever....
But one of the greatest gifts? patently, parents who care.
Parents who value the Arts are going to expose their children to the Arts more than those who don't. Parents who place great stress on the written word are going to read to their children and read with their chidlren and talk about books, and produce readers; in greater proportion than parents who never put down the TV remote. Gang members are more likely to breed little thugs than pacifists are.
Parents are certainly one of the greatest determinants in successfully receiving the Faith.
Yes, yes, yes, many of us do good things in spite of our parents, (Thank God!) but more, IME, owe most of what is good in us to Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Okay, now that CARA has provided more up-to-date statistics, presumably endorsed by the (either neutral or possibly prog-leaning) FDLC I guess we are no longer allowed to claim that that oft quoted stat about 2/3 of putative Catholics in the U.S don't believe in the Real Presence was bosh because of methodology.
I don't recall the source of the original study, (Gallup? early '90s?) but I was willing to believe those who claimed it was flawed, that it was clear that most Catholics did understand the truth of the doctrine of the Real Presence, even if they didn't necessarily understand the doctrine itself in precise theological terminology, yada, yada, yada....
Anyway, any Fr, Sr, (or more usually, Ms.) Pangloss who liked to wax poetic on how all's for the best in this best of all possible post VC II catechetical worlds, so those stats couldn't possibly be correct, why, all my Cooney-crooning parishioners understand the Real Presence -- will need to face the (cheezy, apostasy-breeding) music.
Of course, Ms Pangloss may point out that perhaps the first poll was NOT flawed, which would then prove that orthodoxy in regard to the Presence of Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, soul and divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament was on the rise! Yeah, that's it....

Liturgists discuss decline in Mass attendance
By Amy Guckeen
Catholic Herald Staff
MILWAUKEE - Only 23 percent of Catholics attend Mass every week, according to a February 2008 survey by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).
Findings from the study, "Sacraments Today: Belief and Practice Among U.S. Catholics" and the implications of the study were discussed at the national meeting of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, Oct. 14 - 18, which drew about 240 participants.
"We should not ignore the fact that we see the ebbing in interest of the liturgy," said Bishop Blase J. Cupich, from the Diocese of Rapid City, S.D.
An estimated 65 million Catholics live in the United States today, according to Sister of Mercy Mary Bendyna, executive director for CARA. From the survey of 1,007 self-identified Catholics, 20 percent attend Mass every week, 11 percent attend almost every week, 10 percent attend once or twice a month, and 3 percent attend more than once a week. Thirty two percent attend rarely or never.
"We've seen an erosion in the faith life of people because of that lack of practice," Bishop Cupich, a member of the U.S. bishops' ad hoc committee on liturgical translations, said in an informal discussion with participants on current liturgical issues.
The statistics force the church nationwide to ask what people are searching for in the liturgy, but the church cannot let the discussion be driven solely by people's desires, Bishop Cupich said. Respondents to the CARA survey placed higher importance on feeling the presence of God at Mass and receiving the Eucharist as opposed to the homily, music and environment.
Reasons for missing Mass ranged from 51 percent of those attending Mass at least once a month being too busy, to 48 percent of the same group citing family responsibilities. From the CARA survey, 68 percent of respondents believed they could be a good Catholic without going to Mass every Sunday and 57 percent believed that it was not a sin to skip Mass.
Bishop Cupich cited the upcoming revisions to the Roman Missal, which contains the texts used in the celebration of Mass, including the responses by the congregation, as a perfect opportunity to create enthusiasm and renewal in the church. (See related sidebar outlining coming changes.)
"How do we use this moment, this opportunity and be a teaser, inviting people?" Bishop Cupich said. "Something new is coming. Americans love that theme."
In 2001, the Vatican ruled that the translations of the Mass must more completely and strictly follow that of the original Latin. The U.S. bishops are in the process of creating the new English-translation, divided into 12 units. The earliest the Vatican could receive the final units of the translation is November 2010. The changes, while difficult for some, will call Catholics deeper into their relationship with Christ, Bishop Cupich said.
"The way the church is calling us to pray is going to deepen the lives of people," Bishop Cupich said. "We are a church always in reform. We are a church mining the depths of our tradition. This is a mine that is very deep and we should be excited about this.... We're pliable. We can stretch our lives. This is a moment for us to ask, how are we being renewed?"
Another trend noted by the CARA survey was the lack of belief in the real presence in the Eucharist. Only 57 percent of respondents said they believed that Jesus Christ was truly present in the Eucharist. [emphasis supplied]
"The mystery is a part of our lives," Bishop Cupich said. "We forget that the Eucharist is the only repeatable sacrament of initiation. It is to repeat what happens in baptism and confirmation. If people don't understand what baptism means, they won't understand what Eucharist means."

It is high time to stop pretending...

Very fine, VERY fine column by Cardinal Egan:

It is high time to stop pretending that we do not know what this nation of ours is allowing—and approving—with the killing each year of more than 1,600,000 innocent human beings within their mothers. We know full well that to kill what is clearly seen to be an innocent human being or what cannot be proved to be other than an innocent human being is as wrong as wrong gets. Nor can we honorably cover our shame (1) by appealing to the thoughts of Aristotle or Aquinas on the subject, inasmuch as we are all well aware that their understanding of matters embryological was hopelessly mistaken, (2) by suggesting that "killing" and "choosing to kill" are somehow distinct ethically, morally or criminally, (3) by feigning ignorance of the meaning of "human being," "person," "living," and such, (4) by maintaining that among the acts covered by the right to privacy is the act of killing an innocent human being, and (5) by claiming that the being within the mother is "part" of the mother, so as to sustain the oft-repeated slogan that a mother may kill or authorize the killing of the being within her "because she is free to do as she wishes with her own body."


And as an afterthought, thanks to Fr Z for this parody of the lame duck ICEL style collects:

O God,
you are so big.
Help us to be big
like you.

God is Big, Real Big!

(First of all, as a member of The Committee for the Propagation of Adverbs, let me say I am real, real upset with the title of the book from which I took the title of the post)
H/T to Fr Z for this story in an Australian newspaper about a non-Christian posing as a Catholic priest, with the connivance of his Bishop, so far. (Because that's what it boils down to if this book is not an Onion hoax, unless this man is defrocked immediately)

Tess Livingstone | October 29, 2008

THE controversy surrounding one of Australia's most radical Catholic churches, St Mary's South Brisbane, has escalated into a wider debate over bedrock Christian beliefs.
On the line for parishioners of St Mary's and several other parishes in Queensland and NSW are fundamental church doctrines such as who can celebrate Mass, whether Jesus Christ was God, whether Mary had as many as six children, the bodily Resurrection, and the need for sacramental celebrations for same-sex marriages.
In a booklet being sold for $20, a NSW priest, Peter Dresser of Coonamble in the Diocese of Bathurst, insists Jesus was not God and did not think he was God. The booklet is on sale at two Brisbane parishes: St Mary's and the Wooloowin/Windsor/Kalinga Parish of outspoken Brisbane priest Richard Pascoe.
In God is Big. Real Big! Father Dresser -- who prefers to be known as Peter -- says: "This whole matter regarding Jesus being God ... not only does violence to my own intelligence, but must be a sticking point for millions of people trying to make some kind of sense of the Christian religion ... No human being can ever be God, and Jesus was a human being. It is as simple as that."
Father Dresser said he found his own rural flock "very conservative" and admitted that many of them found his theology difficult to accept. He said he had rethought his approach after taking an interest in science. "I'm delighted they're opening up the debate at St Mary's," he said.
In his book, Father Dresser claims Mary had as many as six children, Joseph was the father of Jesus and the bodily Resurrection is not to be taken literally.
Sydney lecturer in church history, Anthony Robbie, said Father Dresser's claims defied all scriptural evidence.
"What a breathtaking know-all, to claim he knows the mind of Christ contrary to scripture and tradition. His words rob Christianity entirely of its meaning and purpose," Father Robbie said.
"The Council of Nicaea settled the question that Christ was God in 325, so he is 1700 years out of date. The rest is a regurgitation of every discredited 19th-century liberal Protestant German cliche in the book."
Recently, the priests at St Mary's -- Peter Kennedy and Terry Fitzpatrick -- also canvassed the idea of Catholics celebrating the Eucharist in their homes, without a priest.
A discussion paper handed to parishioners by Father Kennedy and written by Charles Kelliher said the lack of priests in the 21st century should prompt the faithful to look back to the first 200 years of the church, before the priesthood and the church hierarchy came into existence.
"Like the house church of the first 200 years, it is the community of believers who can concelebrate and bring about the presence of Christ in the eucharistic celebration. Let us embark on the journey as a community of believers in the modern day house church.
"The community of believers would call forth one of its members to preside at this memorial service. This person could be either man or woman, married or single ... with no special designation except being chosen or called forth to leadership by the community."
The director of adult education in the Archdiocese of Sydney, Opus Dei priest John Flader, said the earliest celebrants of the Eucharist were called presbyters, a Greek word meaning elders, but they had been appointed by the laying-on of hands by a bishop, and there was no evidence that women took such roles. "Even as early as around 100AD, Pope Clement I wrote to the church in Corinth setting out the authority of Rome over the local church, including the presbyters," Father Flader said. "Suggesting that lay people gather in homes today and pick someone to celebrate the Eucharist is absurd. It would never be valid."
St Mary's has continued with eucharistic prayers celebrated by the congregation with women leading much of the mass. Recent preachers have included "community jester" and activist Tony Robertson.
While some argue that St Mary's should be closed, some priests say this would drive the teachers who attend the church towards informal services at home, which could influence the children they teach. "They say they regard themselves as Catholic so it would be better to ensure they conform to the Church's teachings and practice. These are not optional," said one.

Incidentally, the Daily Telegraph in picking up the story offers a poll, Do YOU think Jesus was God? Vote early and often, as well as a snide editing job that "conservative Catholics" take issue with Pete. (As opposed to the original story in which Pete not the author calls detractors of his cockamamie ideas conservative.)

Let's all sing now,
Everything's Upside Down, St Mary's Brisbane,
They've gone about as fer as they kin go....

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


That would be I. That would be me?
I have already espoused one heresy as far as many of your typical church musicians and Catholic liturgists are concerned: I think there should be some Masses with almost* no music. And with the state of music as it currently is in most parishes, (including mine,) when on the road, I am very grateful to find a Mass with not a note played or sung. I know I am not alone in this, some very fine musicians feel the same way.
But now, I realize that I break ranks with most of those of my colleagues who are taking Catholic Church music praxis in the right direction, with my mentors on the subject.
Bring back the low Mass.
With and without hymns.
Warning: loopy Food Analogy ahead.
I shall be eternally grateful for the happy accidents that landed us within driving distance of St John Cantius in Chicago, and that arranged for an audition of Himself's to be held in the building next door, and that planted one of my favorite guilty-pleasure-restaurant in the same environs.
Because of... oh, the rest of my life, I only attend Mass, other Liturgies, and Devotions there sporadically, and seldom with any pattern, (and often coupled with the bribe of a suggestion to Himself that we indulge in a cholesterol binge, and the promise that he will hear Mozart.)
But it is only thanks to this that I have experienced superbly conducted rituals of many different kinds, often not that which I would have chosen, given my musical proclivities and liturgical tastes (and I do mean tastes, not judgement or beliefs,) were I my own mistress, (or my own Master of Ceremonies.)
After a mid-week jaunt, once, to what I expected to be a Missa Cantata and which turned out to be a nearly silent Mass, I was disappointed, (sore aggrieved, as Himself would style it,) but I have since found that I understand the form of the Usus Antiquior much better than I had.
So, that's good, right?
And grand and glorious and moving and uplifting and inspiring and life-giving as some Solemn Pontifical High Mass with an orchestrally accompanied High Baroque Ordinary and perfectly sung Gregorian Propers except for, maybe, a polyphonic setting of the communio, and a procession afterwards with flabella, and the Bruckner Te Deum and a newly converted Diane Bish making the pedal sing with her flying feet on some postlude that cracks the foundation of the building next door, and the second coming of St John Chrysostom delivering the homily would be ....
Well, even Papa Ratz must do things a little more simply in his private chapel every morning, don't you think?
And I find myself thinking how nice that almost silent low Mass would be once in a while, (or whatever the equivalent in the ordinary Form is.)
Whether I as a member of the laity prayed the entire think in silence or began and ended with some fine, sturdy English hymn (which reminds me, apropos of nothing, "To Jesus Christ Our Sovereing King... Lord and Commander?" Kewl...)
And I find myself thinking that sometimes, in Man's desire to re-invent the wheel, he likes to ignore the fact that some things that seem too far from perfection developed for a perfectly good reason.
And it is not being disloyal to Thanksgiving dinner and your Mother's mad skills at de-glazing a pan, if sometimes you .... just want one perfect pear.
Or even, a beautifully chocolate-chip cookie.
Because that is the key -- while it doesn't always need to be a banquet, it shouldn't be a bruised pear, or a stale cupcake.
And it must never, ever be unwholesome sweet, or insufficient for your nutritional needs, or poisonous (Good Night Sweet Jesus, Let There Be Peace on Earth or Sing a New Church Into Being, respectively.)
I understand the problem, (I think,) it's not that I don't know y'all have a point, that liturgical fast-food was allowed to become the default "in the bad old days." And in the bad days, the prevailing defaults have led to abundance of Masses with surfeit of salt, over abundance of sugar, and excessive calories, while yet providing virtually no nutritional value.
So THERE'S the trick -- to understand the need for and to permit options, simpler repasts, without ever forgetting what the ideal is, and striving toward it, and making that the default.
But not every Mass needs to be the groaning board of Thanksgiving, not even every Sunday Mass needs to be.

In short, progressive solemnity, (in the sense the term seems to have acquired in some recent documents.)
This will only work if people can be taught again that the primary purpose of liturgical music is to solemnize. Not beautification. Not fellowship-building. Not giving people something to do. We sing sacred words to make the occasion more solemn.
And more solemn liturgies, more solemn days, more solemn times (don't forget there is a "principal" Mass,) deserve to have more of the text sung.
And less solemn can take a slightly more minimalist approach.

Okay, you can stone me now.

(*Or what most people, including too many church musicians, ignore out of hand when they consider the word "music" -- for instance, singing, all of two pitches apiece to manage, the exchange between reader and faithful, the dialogue, "The Word of the Lord.... Thanks be to God." Most would sniff at being told that was a more vital and more beautiful bit of music , for it liturgical aptness and perfectly democratic and inclusive simplicity, than either
On Eagle's Wings or the Mozart Exultate Jubilate.... THAT'S the sort of music I would always have sung, even at a "Mass with no music.")

New dismissal options..... hmmm

Fr Keyes IIRC, once bemoaned the fact that an orthodox, liturgically astute pastor who follows one who is more... loosey-goosey? always, and unfairly, has to educate people who think the changes are just "Father's way" just as what occurred under the old regime was THAT "Father's way."
(I have mentioned at LitCom meetings that we are doing the Mass and our people a disservice when we try to instruct, and piggy-back parochial rubrics on genuine ones, but it did not fall on responsive ears.)
The new dismissal options will punch a new hole in one of our parish's many and large cans o' worms, one that is already somewhat lacking in structural integrity.

Along with "Ite, missa est," the Latin phrase now translated as "The Mass is ended, go in peace," he said the new options are:
-- "Ite ad Evangelium Domini annuntiandum" (Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord).
-- "Ite in pace, glorificando vita vestra Dominum" (Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life).
-- "Ite in pace" (Go in peace).

Our poor, ultra-conscientious, transitional deacon routinely and unchangingly uses a current, perfectly appropriate optional form for the dismissal and gets little response, and many confused looks, and I suspect, our parish personality being what it is, a certain amount of vocal flack after the event.
He is the scapegoat for the "sins" of our permanent deacon, and the latter's .... creativity? Flexibility? Wanton disregard for the text of the Missal?
Not only does he take a text and add to it at whim, Go in peace to love and serve the Lord... and your neighbor; but he will wax poetic, Go in peace to love and serve the Lord... and feed your neighbor; and invent new variations on the Great Commission, Go in peace to love and serve the Lord... and go, Fighting Irish! ; and offer his own, self-composed Te Deum in thanks for blessings received, Go in peace to love and serve the Lord... and you can put it on the scoreboard!!!
So people just basically give up.... heck, since they're not planning to stick around for the priest's departure from the sanctuary, much less the final hymn, why even bother with their response?
My impulse, when the performer of the other half of a ritual, whether theatrical or liturgical, deliberately improvises his lines, is to improvise mine.
I have so far resisted, when EMHCs make up their own dialogue, when priests or deacons prefer their own invention to what they have received, what WE have received....
But someday they may hear a loud Hallelujah!, or that's righteous, brother, you tell'em!... or maybe just, Save me, Jesus!
I think I've whined about this on my blog before, sorry.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Confessions of a ... Theater Critic

Well, the guy's not a bad writer, and he certainly nails some things, not, as he seems to think, about community theatre per se, but about theatre in general, fringe theatre, semi-pro touring theater, dinner theater, academic theatre, store front theatre, straw hat theatre, and yes, even, (I know! shocking,) production contract/b'way theatre.
But what he misses, (and is it possible that it's because at some level he doesn't like it?,) is what makes it special.
It is live.
It is Live.
It is LIVE.
And that is what makes it worthwhile, or should, regardless of which side of the fourth wall you find yourself on.
And how much you paid or were paid to be there.
(Even the nights when, to quote a dear friend, it feels like draggin' a dead horse around the stage pretendin' it don't stink...

Just when I thought I had the job down, I ran out of professional theater to review — which, in Baltimore, doesn't take long. But I kept getting assignments from the City Paper, and I noticed some funny things happening. The ticket prices started plummeting. I didn't need to make reservations. The audiences were getting smaller....

My readership changed. I was no longer writing for potential theatergoers, people looking for my advice on whether to shell out for tickets. I wasn't even being read by the actors in the plays. I was being read by their best friends and close relatives. And they knew who I was. They knew where I lived. And they knew when I screwed up the names: Thanks for the review and glad you found the show enjoyable. Just a couple of little points...The "stern taskmaster" you describe is actually Florindo, played by Chris Hickle.

This is not a gig for the weak of heart. It's for the eternal optimist, the dead-end journalist who doesn't believe in dead ends. It's for the tolerant, the cheerful, the brave and gratuitously creative. It's a job for someone who doesn't have a lot to do on weekends.

Yeah, they only care about people BEFORE they're born....

Isn't that the rap the Catholic Church takes?

Catholic Church Resettles Nearly 18,000 Refugees in 2008;
Largest Resettlement Effort in United States

WASHINGTON—The Catholic Church resettled 17,823 refugees in 2008, through Migration and Refugee Services of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB/MRS) and its network of diocesan entities, representing 30 percent of the total refugees admitted to the nation. Overall, the U.S. government admitted 60,192 refugees during the fiscal year that ended September 30.
This number represents a 31 percent increase over last year in the number of cases handled by MRS. In 2007, MRS resettled 13,631 of 48,281 refugees or 28 percent of all refugees admitted into the United States.
Generally, the largest percentage of refugees arrive in the United States during the last three months of the federal fiscal year, July thorough September. This so-called "bulge" creates an enormous impact and strain on the service capacity of receiving dioceses.
"Despite this situation, the diocesan staff, parishes, and other community entities involved in their resettlement once again went above and beyond the call of duty to help refugees build new lives," said Johnny Young, executive director of MRS.Â
In 2008, MRS resettled people from 45 countries. The largest groups came from Burma, Iraq, Cuba, Bhutan, Burundi, Somalia, Iran, Vietnam, Congo, and Liberia.
The Church is especially proud of its "Unaccompanied Minor" program.

Hmmm.... perhaps, though, they should have rethought that bit.

"Ya mean like somethin' important was goin' on?"

I like to tell the story of how I once violated the teachers' rule that says never to be sarcastic with children, a 13-y-o was whining about a new priest, everything in Mass is so slow, even when he talks, it's like every, single word is, ya know.....? and she couldn't come up with the descriptor.
So with a gimlet eye, (I'm trying to use more lady like expressions, does that pass? my Mom hates it when I say "give him the skunk eye"...) I ask, dropping my "g"s like mad, for that plebeian touch, ya know?, "Oh, ya mean like somethin' important was goin' on?"
And you could practically see the light bulb go off over her head.
Yesterday, some important things went on.
You could tell.
I've experienced some very fine liturgical music lately, some of which functioned as "signal" of something else's importance, and some of which was important on its own, but more about that later.
I've experienced some very fine preaching lately, my pastor had a great homily last week in which starting from the "rendering unto" (or "giving back," I think, in the current clumsy lectionary,) he connected the various break-downs our world is suffering through to disdain for authority and truth, all flowing from a disdain for Him Who is the ultimate authority, and Truth itself.
But that isn't really what I wanted to talk about, either.
Fr Haynes at St John Cantius yesterday had what I recall was a good sermon, about the sovereignty of Christ, the respect for law, and St Thomas More and the current state of Christianity in Europe and England in particular, and the rise of Islam, and .... well, the details of it were completely driven out of my head by an incident after Mass.
A friend and I had had a number of discussion about politics recently and had decided to avoid the topic completely until after the election.
She is, like me, socially, politically, fiscally liberal-leaning, but pro-life only in principle, often not in voting. Between ESCR, death penalty, abortion, et al, she didn't think either major candidate had any valid claim on the pro-life vote.
Nothing either of us siad had any effect on the other, it was causing tension, so we just agreed to disagree, and put a nice anti-macassar and a potted flower on that elephant in the room.
Anyway, in the course of his sermon, Fr Haynes quoted a figure of deaths by abortion in the US since Roe V Wade. I don't even remember the number he quoted, except that it was smaller than the statistic I have heard bandied about, so it didn't stick in my mind. I think it was 46, or 47, but to be safe, we'll say it was 45, rather than over-estimate.
Anyway, after Mass (and that Gigout postlude made ya think, maybe something important had been going on so that now soemthing more that was also important was DEMANDED of us!) I smile and think we're going to tlak about the weather, or the Phillies or Mad Men, or something, and all she can say is, I had no idea..., and I, dumber than a bag of hair don't notice how stricken she looks, and say huh? and all she can say is 45 million, I had no idea....
And a man who in most other ways she feels would be a great president, and a party to which she has belonged for 20 years lost her right then and there.
And this is how Life will, ultimately, win.

So the only point I really want to make is, Priests, if you think what you say from the pulpit can't make a difference, is not a force for change in this Culture of Death, is a waste of time, is going to upset people needlessly, can't change a heart and a mind...
You are wrong.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Merlot and Motets

Food, fellowship and fa-la-la.
A wise Dominican whose comments on line on liturgy and music I found inspiring and informative, (and yes, encouraging because so often they meshed with my own leanings,) said something about food and fellowship and their power in building a music ministry I have never forgotten.
I had not given that much consideration to it before, I had never sought or expected anything other than music and prayer out of membership in any choir to which I belonged (though I remember a midnight Mass at one of my Mother's parishes, where I was welcomed to help out on my holiday visits -- the choir master was German, and as we warmed up in the parish hall an enormous amount of peppermint Schnapps was produced and consumed and I was told that it was traditional, and indeed, no one but my Mother and myself seemed surprised.)
Kleenex, Kookies and Kough Drops should always be provided, I've decided, but sometimes, you need to step it up, don't you think?
Anyway, wrisking the wrath of the wroman-collared, (I was scolded once for not having told him about a "party," although, not that I said it to him, I doubt the Rosary Society or the Boy Scouts give him a heads up every time they plan a social event; I imagine he was simply in a bad mood,) since a wedding rehearsal had been scheduled for the church on our regularly scheduled choir rehearsal night, I suggested we rehearse elsewhere, and I'd provide a little bit of refreshment.
Well, my menu of wine, soft drinks and chips quickly expanded to quiche, homemade cake, cold cut platters, smoked salmon and creme brulee.
And the rehearsal was spectacular, too, (with the single exception of the turn out from our bass section, which I have to do something about...)
Although the In Paradisum sounded as if they'd never seen it before, the Bruckner Locus Iste is really coming along, When Morning Gilds the Skies was a new and instantly accessible and liked anthem, two other Latin motets went swimmingly the first time we were looking at them in two years, and they had the fun they usually have with the Taize canons.
Oh, and I found out that they LOOOOOVE the concertante I did of Christus Vincit w/ Look Ye Saints a couple years back. Who knew?
I have been very pleased with the spirit, the sound and the commitment of the choir this year, and I guess surprised, after my job review meeting gave me the impression that the choir in general was disgruntled about a number of matters and complaining to him.

I think Father may have been ....projecting a bit?

Anyway, here's to Merlot and Motets! (Maybe that's what I'll call such nights on the schedule, from now on...)

In search of the World's Greatest Cheeseburger, Chicagoland contenders

(World's? Big talk for someone whose sampling of foreign land burgers is limited to Canada and Wales., and likely to remain so....)
I don't recall even liking cheeseburgers, or hamburgers growing up, but that may because my Mother, oh, I'm ashamed to even admit this and have anyone know of what lineage I am, I feel as if I am betraying the guilty secret of one dear to me, but my Mother.... well, she likes meat medium-well-done.
I know.
Medium well done.
The mind boggles....
She's such a good woman, in other ways.
But having discovered the joys of medium-rare, I am always on the look-out for a good cheeseburger.
And sometimes, the search rewards me with a great one.
Chicagoland is a very fine place in which to carry this quest on. (Although I shall always miss Fatburgers from the west coast -- the idea that anyone subjects their tastebuds to the mediocrity that is In-n-Out, when the glorious Fatburgers is at hand is stunning to me...)
Billy Goat's is a joke, of course, and considering my line of work, it should be no surprise that I have never tried the burgers at Mortons, or Weber, or Rosebud, or Jury's or most of the well-reputed steakhouses.
And Milwaukee is a little too far away to consider on this list, but Kopps is really good (also great custard. GREAT custard.)
There's a brew pub on the main drag in Boulder Colorado whose cheeseburger was mighty fine, anorexically skinny battered fried onion rings were the excellent topping.
We've gotten lost a couple times trying to find Paradise Pup in Des Plaines when we were out that way on other business, so I can't comment on it, but some day, some day....
Himself has it in his mind to drive to, I kid you not, SPRINGFIELD, because CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on a roadside burger shack/general store there. (But he's a great history buff, so there are other attractions...)
Poag Mahone, Hamburger Mary's, Charlie Beinlich's and Patty's I've yet to try, but various people whose opinion I trust speak highly of each.
Stella's Diner, 3042 N Broadway St; Zig Zag Kitchen, 2436 N. Lincoln Ave; Medici on 57th,
1327 E. 57th St; Twisted Spoke; are all good and I would gladly entertain an inviation to any, though not necessarily deliberately seek them out.
Hackneys and Moody's IMO are overrated, but I've only eaten at each once, so I'm open to persuasion on the matter. Wildfires was good, but at that price point greatness is expected.
My order is medium rare with the emphasis on rare, American cheese, (I love cheddar, but melted slices of American is the right texture,) grilled onions and mayo on the side. Points off for "mayo" that's really salad dressing, (Miracle-Whippy, corn syrup laden stuff,) extra points for a great bun, something eggy, or that's grilled.
So, among those I've really enjoyed, (for what they are, a greasy spoon that is frankly and proudly a greasy spoon is fine by me....,) I present for your consideration, the following:
Top-Notch Burger on 95th, (either the one on the corner of Cicero or the one in Beverly,) is one of the greats. I would not change a thing.
One of the very best cheeseburgers in Chicagoland is in another state, but only about two miles from the city line, so I think Grillers in Hammond Indiana (1232 119th St,) deserving of inclusion on the list, it's in the running for the World's Greatest, (and the homemade potato chips and sweet potato french fries are somethin' to write home about.)
Blackies can be terrific, but it has to be the one at 755 S Clark St, no a "Boston" Blackie's.
Choppers, 1659 N Ashland Ave. Spectacular malts too, and decent battered fish, if we happen to be there on a Friday. I was deeply disappointed that I couldn't take my Mother when she visits, but all their seating is at very high counter height, and I figure anyone over 50 probably can only do take-out. Also, SUPER clean, (for a place that looks like a greasy spoon,) and super friendly service.
What's the Beef 1863 N Clybourn Ave , right across from Trader Joe's, oh gee, honey, we're almost out of flax seed meal, we need to run by Trader Joe's, oh, gee, we might as well stop.... Bring Wet Ones, this is the messiest burger you've ever experienced. Huge hand formed patties that have marvelous crunchy edges all over.
Goldy's, 1023 N Northwest Hwy Park Ridge. This makes everyone's list and more than deserves to.

Any suggestions? someplace to try?

Oh, and there was this place in a near-western suburb that looked like a German hunting lodge, enormous roaring fire in a gigantic fireplace, terrific burger that was a happy accident, but neither of us can recall the name or location of -- if this rings a bell with anyone in the Chicago area, I'd be grateful to learn the name. It was on some major east-west street, north side of the street, in a very well-kept but outdated looking neighborhood.

Christ the King, Usus Antiquior

I will have a rare opportunity to be somewhere other than my own loft late morning of a Sunday, and if Himself can be persuaded, or bribed with hints of continuing the search for the world's greatest cheeseburger,* we may experience, oops, PARTICIPATE in, this Mass

Messe in C
Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828)

Jubilate Deo
Franz Xaver Richter (1709 – 1789)

Omnes Gentes Plaudite
Christopher Tye (1505 – 1572)

Sine Nomine Ensemble

Marche relieugse, Op. 16, No. 3
Léon Boëllmann (1862 – 1897)

Grand chœur dialogue
Eugène Gigout (1844 – 1925)

Organ Prelude & Postlude

One of the things I don't understand about the revision of the Liturgical Calendar in the wake of VCII is why the monkeying around with Christ the King? (I am only very gradually coming to understand what changes there were, as I try to pair up chants from books of yore with the calendar of now, and freely admit I don't understand many of them.
Oh, and also that I disagree strongly with some of those I do understand.)

(*and ohhhhhh, the things I've tasted!)

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

The Truth is Always Pastoral

Well said, Fr Philip Neri Powell, OP, PhD! (H/T to Curt Jester)

1). The Roman Catholic Church isn't WalMart or Burger King; it's the Body of Christ.
2). Catholic priests, nuns, sisters/brothers and laity aren't employees; we are members of the Body of Christ.
3). The doctrine and dogma of the Catholic Church are not consumer products that the Church's employees sell to those who want them; Catholic doctrine and dogma express the unchanging truth of the faith.
4). Life in a Catholic parish is not a trip to Disney Land or Target or McDonald's where your consumer needs and whims are catered to by the whimpering clergy and lay staff; parish life is the life of Christ for the local Catholic family.
5). You do not come into the Catholic Church b/c you like the building better than you like the Methodist chapel; or because the priest at the Catholic parish is cuter than the Baptist preacher; or because you heard that the homilies are shorter at St. Bubba's by the Lake than they are at the Unitarian Church. You come into the Catholic Church because you believe that the Catholic faith is the truth of the gospel taught by Christ himself and given to his apostles.
6). Leaving the Catholic Church because a priest was mean to you, or because sister whacked you with a ruler, or because the church secretary looked at you funny is as stupid as giving up on the truths of math because you hate your high school algebra teacher. Why would anyone let a crazy priest or a cranky nun or anyone else for the matter drive you out of the faith you believe is true? My only conclusion: you never thought it was true to begin with; or, you have a favorite sin the Church teaches against and crazy priests and cranky nuns is as good an excuse as any to leave and pursue your sin all the while feeling justified b/c Father and/or Sister are such jerks.
7). Anyone who comes in the Catholic Church thinking that they will find clouds of angels at Mass dressed as parishioners; hordes of perfect saints kneeling for communion; seminaries packed with angelic young men burning to be priests; a parish hall stacked to the ceiling with morally pure people eager to serve; and a priest without flaw or blemish, well, you're cracked and you probably need to go back and try again. Telling Catholics that they aren't perfect makes as much sense as telling fish they're wet. We know already. Move on.
8). Of the hundreds of priests and religious I know, I know two who could count as saints right now. The rest of us are deeply flawed, impure, struggling creatures who know all too well that we fail utterly to meet the basic standards of holiness. For that matter: so do you. Get in line.
9). The Catholic Church owes no one a revision of her doctrine or dogma. She didn't change to save most of Europe from becoming Protestant, why would you imagine that she would change just to get you in one of her parishes?
10). If you want to become Catholic, do it. But do it because you think the Church teaches the true faith. If a cranky priest on a blogsite is enough to keep you from embracing the truth of the faith, then two things are painfully clear: 1) you do not believe the Church teaches the faith; 2) and you care more about expresssing your hurt consumer feelings than you do for your immortal soul.

Monday, 20 October 2008

No Staunchy Chords!

This is an assurance (or at least an implication,) given of a new product advertised in a catalogue I have just received from one of the "Big Three" in Catholic music publishing.
A satisfied customer endorsement of said product reads: the harmonies aren't staunchy... they are written in a nice pop style that makes sense!
Of course, at least we have that implicit acknowledgment that some pop styles aren't "nice," that some pop styles fail to "make sense."
The words, I have just noticed, are from a toiler in the musical vineyard of the only parish where I have ever spent most of Mass with my hands over my ears.
Mis-use, or even correct but out of character use of slang smacks of middle-aged desperation. (And I say this as a desperately middle-aged and terminally out-of-the-loop individual.)
An afterthought -- that Mozart Te Deum, weren't those harmonies "staunchy"?
You know, bad, in the sense of ... well, as far from bad as possible.
I speak as one who is tending toward fat but in no way phat, you understand...

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Doncha just LOVE the new TV season?

(The work of Jeff Miller)

A Resemblance

Please don't take this as criticism, I have nothing but the highest regard for Cardinal Egan, but --
Himself is a Trekker, (actually, that's a pretty harmless obsession, I've decided, in light of his recent enthusiasm for reruns of some old western TV show from the '50s or '60s, called The Rifleman, which is DRIVING ME UP A WALL ESPECIALLY WITH THE RIFLESHOTPUNCTUATED THEME SONG... I digress.) so I've seen the Friendly Angel Gorgon more times than I care to recount.

And between his inarguably imposing size, and that incredible, marvelous rumbling voice -- isn't there a slight resemblance?

the Enterprise

Solemn Vespers w/ Mozart

If anyone is in the Chicago area, does this not sound like a liturgical and musical and devotional FEAST?
Not for the first time, may I say God bless Fr Phillips and the Canons Regular.
(Our "vespers" inevitably include Shepherd Me O God...)
By the way, for those who worry about denying the faithful their rightful participation, seldom have I seen an assembly so attentive, so engaged , so actively participating as those gathered at St John Cantius for the Extraordinary Form, (even, now that I have experienced it, at Low Mass.) Besides the fact that their congregation practically defines the term "intentional community" in a way few parish churches do, I think a large part of this must be chalked up to the depth of catechesis. They are, despite the presence of numerous tiny beings in the pews who are new to life, new to walking and talking, let alone new to the Catholic Mass "liturgically mature" in a way that a parish with dismissal for Chidlren's Liturgy of the Word may need to struggle much harder for.

St.John Cantius

The Feast of St. John Cantius (October 20) is a solemnity for the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius as well as for the parish; thus, the 4:00 p.m. Vespers service will be the First Vespers of the Solemnity of St. John Cantius, Confessor.

For the Vespers service at 4:00 p.m., the Sine Nomine Choir and Orchestra will sing Mozart's "Vesperae de Confessore", K. 339.

The Resurrection Choir and Orchestra of St. John's will provide music for the 12:30 p.m. Mass, along with the Schola Cantorum of St. Gregory the Great.

12:30 p.m. Mass

Mass in G
Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828)

Laudate Pueri Dominum, HWV 537

George Frederick Handel (1685 – 1759)

Laudate Caeli Dominum

Adolf Hasse (1699 – 1749)

O God beyond all praising
Gustav Holst (1874 – 1934)

Resurrection Choir and Orchestra

4:00 p.m. Vespers, Eucharistic Procession and Benediction

Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, K. 339
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)

Pange Lingua
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525 – 1594)

Te Deum, K. 141
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)

Sine Nomine Choir and Orchestra

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Encyclopedia of Organ Stops

Incidentally, does everyone know about this ?
An Encyclopedia of Organ Stops
I'm probably the last person in the world with an interest in organs to have discovered it, but if it is new to anyone else out there, it is a very interesting resource.
As a late-to-the-party organist (just as I am as a denizen of the interwebs,) I often feel it is like a language everyone else learned to speak as a toddler, and adults will never be truly fluent, ("Do you speak organ?")
And part of the problem is LITERALLY about foreign languages, "Oh, I don't HAVE one of those in the choir... oh, wait, I DO, but it's called THIS in the positif, and THIS in the great, and this...."
But seriously, it's a little like liturgical language. Wouldn't a little unity be nice? Why are there four different languages* on ONE ORGAN??!?#?$?%??!??
Anyway, much thanks is due Edward Stauff.

(*I haste to add, not on our/my Casavant)

Happy Anniversary, Pipedreams!

Marvelous article in the NyTimes on the venerable Michael Barone radio program.

If anyone had told J. Michael Barone a quarter-century ago that the radio program about organ music that he was starting would still be going strong today, he might have dismissed the idea.
But this month is the 25th anniversary of “Pipedreams” as a weekly national show, distributed to public and commercial stations by American Public Media of St. Paul. Even Mr. Barone sometimes has trouble believing it.
“I feel as if I had walked down a corridor past an open door, gone in and started doing the show, and been waiting ever since for someone to return and kick me out,” he said the other day on a short visit to New York to attend a concert by the young virtuoso Cameron Carpenter (on a digital organ).
The radio audience is not huge but it is devoted and steady. Appearing on more than 150 stations (down from a peak of 180) across the country, the show draws about 250,000 listeners, Mr. Barone says, and more worldwide who listen on the program’s Web site, pipedreams.org.
“Interestingly, my two largest listening audiences are on commercial classical music stations,” he said, with those stations drawing an average quarter-hour audience of about 9,000 each in Chicago and Dallas, where the 90-minute program is broadcast on Sunday evenings. He hopes to pick up a few more stations after January by making the program available in one- and two-hour formats.
In some places it is hard to find. In New York in recent years, devotees have had to chase it across the lower end of the FM spectrum, where at 10 on Saturday nights it can now be found on two Long Island stations, WLIU (88.3) and WCWP (88.1); in Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, it has no radio home at all. XM Satellite Radio Channel 133 carries “Pipedreams” on Sundays — at 5 a.m. Eastern time.
“I suspect organ music will always be a niche,” Mr. Barone conceded. “If a million people listened to ‘Pipedreams,’ I’d be thrilled. I don’t think there’s anything about the organ that should get in the way of its being embraced by many more people than it is today.”

I''m disappointed to know that Pipedreams is no longer on the radio in LA, during the time we spent there it would time out perfectly when I went to pick Himself up at the Pantages, after some wierd-timed show, late matinee, early evening? whatever, I could listen to, fro, and if the curtain had been late, while waiting.
Loved it.
Well, I shall try to play my Casavant less badly tomorrow in honor of the Day of Organ Spectacular decreed by the AGO, and also, to ignore those who habitually complain about the volume -- you want scharf, I'll give ya scharf....

Thursday, 16 October 2008


Is this a great photo, or what? H/t to the Carolina Cannonball by way of Fr. Z

There is a call for pre-election prayers and fasting.

Bringing Repraoches to God

From yesterday's Universalis site:

When (St Therese of Avila) was on one of her innumerable journeys across Spain, her horse threw her as she was crossing a river. Soaked to the skin she looked up to heaven and said, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!” We should bring everything to God in our prayers, even our reproaches. For a reproach, in the end, is simply our way of offering up to God our incomprehension of what he is giving us.

Since I sometimes think I am all incomprehension, I should always have sufficient materials from which to construct my prayer life....

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

On a more encouraging note...

I received, in an order of mostly perusal music from CanticaNova, this wonderful little volume, Hymns for the Liturgical Year a quite marvelous selection from the wise and witty Kathy Pluth, of Hymnography Unbound
Buy it, you owe it to yourself and your parish.
I, (limited as I am to the contents of Goiter and our, much better, disposable missallette,) cannot use them for the congregation, but I intend that the choir shall sing several of these excellent, fresh, orthodox hymn texts as soon as possible.
I shall probably not use the suggested tunes, but I moight, rabbit, I moight...
The book though tiny, is mighty, a LOT of hymns, great value for the money, I, (the world's leading skinflint,) think.

So sad...

This sort of "music" is used to degrade the Mass, (although that is admittedly not the intention of those inflicting the degradation...)

From a student at Notre Dame University:

Two Sundays ago we had guest musicians for Mass from Holy Cross College: a roughly fifty year old piano and electric (!) guitar man with a roughly 20 year old percussionist / crappy singer. At first I figured they would do praise and worship songs; not great but whatever. Oh no, I could not have been more wrong. I am not making the following up:

Entrance: Jesus is Just Alright with Me (Doobie Brothers)
Offertory: Morning Has Broken (Cat Stevens)
Communion: People Get Ready (Rod Stewart)
Recessional: Spirit in the Sky (One Hit Wonder)

Truly bizarre. Of course it was completely offensive, non-liturgical, etc. But what was (to me) fascinating is the 50 year old lead man: he actually believes he is making the faith relevant by using such music. Can you imagine being a college student, attending Mass at Holy Cross, and hearing your baby boomer parent's type of music being played at Mass? Run for the hills.

When we got home I immediately put on some renaissance polyphonic chant on the principle that when someone has been force feeding you stale Budweiser the best cure is a fine wine.

First, how impressive is it that a student would recognize those songs and correctly identify two of the four artists? ("Spirit in the Sky" was recorded in 1969 by Norman Greenbaum. "People Get Ready" was a hit for Rod Stewart but was first recorded in 1965 by The Impressions and was written by Curtis Mayfield. And, yes, I had to look 'em up.)
Secondly, how depressing is it that this sort of nonsense takes place? I know, I know, it's been going on for a long time. But, really, the Doobie Brothers?
Third, why is that when Catholics attempt to pull this sort of "rock/folk" silliness, they always stink at it? Seriously, has anyone ever heard a "guitar Mass" or "folk Mass" or "rock Mass" featuring good singers? Anyone?
Finally, fine wine is good. Very good. But a Rogue Mocha Porter is equally scrumptious, especially compared to a stale or fresh Budweiser.