Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Thursday, 24 December 2009

"And the Word was with God and the Word was God

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Among US.
A thing unimaginable.... and yet He did.

Wishing all a blessed Christmastide!

Setting off on a expedition, into deepest, darkest.... CHURCH?

This makes me so very sad: a Tourists' Guide to the quaint and exotic - Christmas church-going.

I know it is not meant that way, but it seems a trifle condescending, to both church-goers and neophyte alike.

I'm half surprised this former vicar didn't advise on what shots to get. (I take it a "former vicar" is not quite like an "ex-priest," it's more of a job from which one can retire and still remain in good standing?)

At least he didn't say, Don't Drink the Water!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Midnight Mass

(Ours is elevenish...)
A, despite a few inaccuracies, (or more probably, simply wordburgers, "faces to the East with his back away from the congregation"?) more-than-fair article about the only Extraordinary Form Mass in one Canadian diocese.

In 1965 the church moved away from the 1,500 year-old tradition, and though it was never banned, priests were encouraged to deliver the new form, also known as the ordinary form.

In 2007, four decades after Latin mass was widely discontinued, Pope Benedict XVI revitalized it by allowing any priest to say the mass.

Father Alex MacLellan of Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church jumped at the chance, and now heads the only church in the Victoria diocese that has a Latin mass.

The most obvious difference between the two forms is the language, he said. There are other routine differences as well. MacLellan faces to the East with his back away from the congregation and toward God. The Latin mass calls for almost 30 genuflections over the course of the mass (bending a knee toward the ground).

“And there’s more silence,” he said, noting that he will say some prayers in a low voice so quiet only the alter boys will hear.

“I felt a need to be able to go back and be able to say this Latin mass because I found it more contemplative, you’re directing more to God,” he said. “The other mass is more social,” although he doesn’t favour one over the other, saying neither is wrong.

"More social" is an interesting turn of phrase.

I understand there will be an EF Midnight Mass in New York City, as well.

Well, in that case, I DO like Heavy Metal...

I ate enough of these as a child, helping my Mom decorate Christmas cookies, to qualify as a Hazmat site, I suppose, now that they are considered to contain a worrisome amount of heavy metal. (What would be a non-worrisome amount of something toxic? I don't know... but I'm a pretty careless individual.)

Dragees Silver 4mm

I want some Christmas cookies.... maybe decorated with those little cinnamon redhots.

Thinking About Climate Change?

Though the heavens grow thin like smoke,
the earth wears out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies,
My salvation shall remain forever and my justice shall never be dismayed.

(Just a mild tweaking of friends to whom environmentalism is a religion...)

"God doesn't know what 'too late' means. And neither should we"

Great little post from MJ, harpist and schola mistress extraordinaire over at Sacred Miscellany about the Gospel pericopes leading up to the Nativity.
Zachariah is struck dumb by the annoyed Angel Gabriel because Zachariah doesn't think that God can overcome obstacles, that it's too late for him and Elizabeth.
What have I been putting off so long that it now seem impossible or not worth the effort?

Chrétiens, à genoux!

I wonder if they at least kneel for the consecration...

On the other hand, I wonder if this is even a real story, a real controversy - note the lack of any date or time, beyond the note that the USCCB, (or would it have been the NCCB?), took up the matter in 1969.

The Bishop sent a letter when?
The Monsignor said thus-and-such when?
The practice spread when?

The Chicago Tribune used to be a real newspaper, I understand.

The Scrumptious Mysteries

Fr Hunwicke's commentators are nearly as wickedly witty as he.

"Defenceless Love"

Isn't that a beautiful phrase?

It's from the Holy Father's catechesis on the subject of Christmas.

It is all the more wondrous since of course He wasn't defenseless, He was All Mighty, He chose not to defend Himself, in any way, from His appearance as an Infant in a manger to His death, a Lamb led to slaughter.

No defense, no resistance.


There is a cliche, (from advertisement for a movie? the book on which it was based? not sure,) that spawned a million catch phrases, "Love means never having to.... [fill in the verb.]"

The original is a lie -- never needing to apologize? that's not love, that's presumption.
The truth would not have been so catchy, Love means being willing to forgive, and still loving despite the object of one's love not having said he's sor-- you see the difficulty, a trifle unwieldy for a poster.

But mightn't this be true, that Love is, (not never having, but,) never choosing to defend yourself? Opening yourself, submitting?

God Omnipotent made Himself defenseless.
Utterly vulnerable.

What Love!

What Makes a Saint?

The Vatican news service tells us that Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. today issued a note concerning the signing of the recent decree on the heroic virtues of Servant of God Pope Pius XII.
Is there any reason to think that the points he makes about the process with an eye toward canonization, and about what the Church's magisterial judgement in these matters do not apply as much to any other soul for whom a cause has been advanced?
A reminder that the prudence of any given action taken by a person may be open to discussion and may yet be irrelevant to that person's sanctity?
"When the Pope signs a decree 'on the heroic virtues' of a Servant of God - i.e., of a person for whom a cause for beatification has been introduced - he confirms the positive evaluation already voted by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. ... Naturally, such evaluation takes account of the circumstances in which the person lived, and hence it is necessary to examine the question from a historical standpoint, but the evaluation essentially concerns the witness of Christian life that the person showed (his intense relationship with God and continuous search for evangelical perfection) ... and not the historical impact of all his operative decisions".[emphasis added]

"At the beatification of Pope John XXIII and of Pope Pius IX, John Paul II said: 'holiness lives in history and no saint has escaped the limits and conditioning which are part of our human nature. In beatifying one of her sons, the Church does not celebrate the specific historical decisions he may have made, but rather points to him as someone to be imitated and venerated because of his virtues, in praise of the divine grace which shines resplendently in them'.

"There is, then, no intention in any way to limit discussion concerning the concrete choices made by [X] in the situation in which he lived. For her part, the Church affirms that these choices were made with the pure intention of carrying out the Pontiff's service of exalted and dramatic responsibility to the best of his abilities. In any case, [X's] attention to and concern for the fate of [a particular group of people] - something which is certainly relevant in the evaluation of his virtues - are widely testified and recognised, also by many [if, sadly, not all of these people].

"The field for research and evaluation by historians, working in their specific area, thus remains open, also for the future. In this specific case it is comprehensible that there should be a request to have open access to all possibilities of research on the documents.

"It is, then, clear that the recent signing of the decree is in no way to be read as a hostile act towards [anyone], and it is to be hoped that it will not be considered as an obstacle on the path of dialogue".
I think, for instance, of the animus felt towards Pope John XXIII by some traditionalists for having called for the Ecumenical Councial, toward Pope John Paul II by any number of people for any number of reasons.

It is hard, sometimes, to remember that It Is Not All About Me.
Or about my concerns.
The Jewish people, per se, are not the subject at hand in this instance, (this cause for sainthood -- they are the subject at hand, a bit, in this press release, PR being PR.)

But surely the same points were intended to apply to the bigger picture, to all such causes.

John Paul's cause will not be about people who think condoms are the best defense against AIDS, or that praying with those of another faith is not the best way to go about bringing them into the Faith; nor John's about people who felt bereft of the old Mass.

Having not done what I would have done, or having done something that in hindsight was not the most efficacious course of action, does not in any way, shape or form negate a person's heroic virtue.

And not acting toward me, or some newspaper columnist, or those of another faith, or an over-caffeinated blogger; in the way I, or some newspaper columnist, or those of another faith, or an over-caffeinated blogger wish he had, has nothing whatever to do with the love he felt for me or some newspaper columnist, or those of another faith, or an over-caffeinated blogger.

The nearness to perfection of any person's imitation of God, Who is Love --- that is the only true criterion for sainthood.

St John of Kęty

Warmest wishes to, and grateful prayers on behlf of the Canons Regular of St John Cantius on the occasion of their patronal feast.
St John of Kęty was born in Kęty in the diocese of Kraków in 1390. He became a priest and for many years taught at the University of Kraków; later he became parish priest of Olkusz. He taught and researched in both physics and theology and excelled in holiness and in charity towards his neighbour, in which he was an example to his colleagues and pupils. He died in 1473.


Tuesday, 22 December 2009


I always ask my cantors, when they are fretting about a coming assignment, or obsessing over a perceived mistake -- were you praying? then it wasn't a mistake!

Gotta remember that... rehearsal tonight, the last before Christmas? a disaster.

Versatile baritone moved up to tenor and the basses fell apart on number after number.

Colds and sinus infections all around, no power from sopranos above the staff, alto who keeps the others honest, (intonation-wise) has laryngitis and the Bass WRE is in particularly robust voice.

The meat purchased for Christmas dinner, and the half & half for the vistors was left out all night.

No tree, no manger yet, our expected company is determined to drive through a storm OVER NIGHT, my expected replacement left my pastor in the lurch... yes, yes, the praying needs to start NOW and continue without ceasing.

"Let it be known: There is no Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem.”

Sad news.

But some words to bear in mind:

God has something else planned.

In Praise of Rote Learning

Does this make me a Neanderthal? (digression -- am I the only one who learned that word with the "t-h" pronounced?)

One of the more waspish of Catholic bloggers has a post about a failed, (or at least re-structured/named/focused,) group/initiative/agency, hitherto, (but only for a very short time from hither,) involved in evangelization and catechetics under the aegis of a national bishops' conference.

I know nothing about the case, what struck me was a story in the combox, probably apocryphal, but containing a great kernel of truth.

It tells of a man, fallen away from his childhood faith and on the verge of despair, who suddenly recalls the answers memorized to questions in a "penny catechism" long ago, beginning with the very reason God made him.

These simple truths have remained with him so thoroughly, so deeply, that unsummoned, unbidden they come to him, they stay his hand; he does not swallow the lethal dose, he does not commit suicide.

Why did we stop asking children to memorize?

Yes, yes, yes, it is important to understand reasons, to have a grasp of relationships, to make analogies... but how does it then follow that memorization is not also valuable, or even counter-productive?

One often hears it disparaged, any learning that is merely "rote" is dismissed as being beneath notice, not even worth discussing.

Why did we stop taking advantage of the natural state of children's brains, of their ability to memorize -- the first nearly empty and the latter nearly limitless?

Do we worry that few 5 year olds will have the words "indivisible" or "allegiance" in their vocabulary, much less really understand their meaning, and so postpone teaching kindergartners the Pledge? whinging

There are so many facets of Catholic culture and Catholic doctrine I learned as an adult that I should have been set to memorize as a child, instead of painting shells and singing silliness.

Numbered lists of precepts and marks and cardinal thises and thats... the comprehension of why could have waited, but the facts would have been installed.

This is not just a problem of religion education, it was a rampant stupidity in all of education as afar as I can see.

I, for instance, do not know my times tables.
I was set to making arrays, and combining sets, and lining up rows of dots.... but never asked to memorize simple multiplication problems.

Higher than 6 X 6, and I have to actually work it in my head, by remembering how 7 groups of sixes relate to 6 groups of sixes.

It becomes a process of addition rather than simple recall.

And it's not that I haven't tried, even as early as in high school, when I realize what a disadvantage it was.

And it's not that I have no aptitude for mathematics -- my math SAT was 780. I say that not to brag, (not that pride isn't one of my least attractive traits,) but to give evidence that it is not my fault. (Never accepting blame for anything is my VERY least attractive trait...)

Obviously I could have memorized my multiplication tables, somewhere along the line one of my teachers should have insisted. Heck, suggested, I was pretty malleable.

In short, bring back memorization, bring back rote learning.

It should not be the only weapon in the teaching arsenal, but it should certainly be one of them.

Monday, 21 December 2009


A serious accusation, indeed, simony, the "a deliberate intention of buying or selling for a temporal price such things as are spiritual."

A Mexican priest seems to be stirring up no end of acrimonious intercourse between hierarchy and his constituents; I don't say "his parishioners" because from the news stories he does not seem to limit the dispensing of fast tracked "pay your fee, get your ticket punched" sacraments to those residing in hie parish territory, or even in his country.

I do think that there has not been enough attention paid, at least in my immediate area, to the ecclesiastical expectations and even needs of some of our immigrant population, and it does not surprise me that in a Church famous for keeping "permanent records" such dust-ups will now be occurring with some frequency.
The church bells rang all afternoon. Archbishop Rafael Romo Muñoz was on his way to say a Mass marking the transfer of Father Raymundo Figueroa, the beloved priest at Santisimo Sacramento parish.

Hundreds of men, women and children answered the call of the bells. But they weren't there to greet the bishop.

They chained the gates and locked the doors. They hung signs. "This church belongs to the people; not the church," read one.

When Romo stepped out of his SUV, 20 robed priests from the Tijuana diocese tried to form a procession, but burly men blocked their way. The archbishop tried to say a prayer, but the crowd drowned him out with bullhorns and bells. ...people to join him in prayer. The bells kept ringing.

The archbishop, Baja California's highest Roman Catholic authority, retreated. The people applauded and bowed their heads in prayer.

More than a month after that chilly November evening, Figueroa remains the parish priest. To parishioners, he is a brave figure who transformed a half-finished building into this seaside city's largest house of worship. To the Catholic hierarchy, he's a rogue who has financed his church through simony...Romo was on a mission to oust Figueroa because complaints had been pouring in from priests and bishops as far away as Los Angeles. They accused the cleric of crossing into the United States and charging up to $180 for fast-tracked confirmations, first Communions and baptisms.

Scores of Mexican priests have been crossing the border for this purpose, but Figueroa's case was so serious that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles and Bishop Robert H. Brom of San Diego sent letters to Romo, according to Tijuana diocese officials.

"These are underground celebrations, hidden from the diocese here and the diocese there," said Father Juan Garcia Ruvalcaba, the vicar general of the Tijuana diocese. "It's a lot of money . . . and [Figueroa] doesn't provide an accounting to anybody."

Many Catholics in Mexico aren't fussy about bookkeeping when they see churches rising. They view Mexican priests like Figueroa as Robin Hood figures who raid relatively wealthy parishes in the U.S. to build up their impoverished churches.

Figueroa, 41, seems to relish his image as a populist tweaking the staid church. He's been hammered on talk radio, denounced from pulpits and criticized in an expose in the diocese newspaper.

He delivers impassioned sermons greeted by loud ovations and vows of support from his congregation. When he is pressed to address the accusations, his answers are cryptic and cloaked in irony, only deepening the intrigue. He is clear about one thing: The church is picking on the wrong guy.

"I'm portrayed as the worst priest in the world. Never!" Figueroa said. "I've never become a drunk or a priest that runs around with women. There are priests like that, you know. Drunks. Pedophiles. I've only tried to serve this community as best as I can."

When Figueroa arrived at the parish in February 2007, the church was little more than a wooden shell with a bare concrete floor. Worshipers had to bundle together to ward off cold ocean breezes.

Figueroa oversaw a frenzy of construction to complete the church, a modestly appointed but expansive space that features an open-beam ceiling, a granite crypt and seating for about 300.

The church became a source of pride. The parish rolls have grown dramatically to about 8,000 people, and instead of five Masses on Sundays, there are 14. On Sundays, people occupy every cushioned pew and spill into the courtyard, where Figueroa's sermons are heard through loudspeakers....

Figueroa has broken ground on projects at several other chapels in his parish. Other clergy eye the construction suspiciously....Figueroa is suspected of organizing ceremonies from Chula Vista to the San Fernando Valley. Fifty to several hundred children at a time receive the sacraments in nonchurch settings, like parks and hotels, people's living rooms and backyards. Instead of church choirs and organs, strolling mariachis provide the music.

"They just do it in people's houses. You don't need much. For baptisms, a little water. For first Communions, you just set up a table," said Father Richard Zanotti of the Holy Rosary parish in Los Angeles.

Church officials say that Figueroa sometimes sends deacons to step in for him or contracts with bishops and priests from the Old Catholic Church, a breakaway group from the Roman Catholic Church....

To avoid church scrutiny, the services are done on short notice, the cash-only ceremonies offering a convenient fulfillment of Catholic obligations. While the church's educational requirements for first Communion can take two years, Figueroa's classes, taught by laypeople from his church, take a matter of months.

"It makes it difficult for us. We have certain policies to help people prepare, and [Figueroa] has circumvented all that," [another priest] said.

Martha Gonzalez, 47, of Chula Vista said a fast-track first Communion for her son appealed to her. As a working single mother, she didn't have time to shuttle her then-10-year-old to catechism classes and church for two years.

The classes, held in a garage, were supposed to last six months, she said. After a month and half she got a call from the teacher saying her son was ready for Communion. The classes were $160 and it would cost $20 more for flowers and chairs for the ceremony.

About 60 children received first Communion in November 2007 at a park in San Ysidro, she said. There was a canopy and a table and just enough chairs for the children. According to Gonzalez, Figueroa said a quick Mass and the children received certificates stamped with the seal of his church in Rosarito Beach.

The appeal is understandable.
DREs and priests too often see the sacramental prep of children as their golden opportunity to catechize the "lost generation" that comprises the parents of those children, and the demands are often burdensome. (I have more than once said that if I had a child to be baptized I would refuse to go through the rigmarole that several parishes I know insist on.)

But none of that excuses Fr. Tetzel.. er, I mean, Fr. Figueroa

Rumors and Accusations Concerning an Encyclical On Sacred Music?

I have no German, so I have no idea if this says what this claims it does, but it may be that Vatican Radio denied German rumours of a new Encyclical regarding the restoration to Gregorian Chant of its appropriate "pride of place".

Saturday, 19 December 2009


An old thread at Organ-ic Chemist, a commentator, JP, had a wonderful little minature, a snapshot of a far-too-common interaction between progressives, and those mired in the past (the ''70s,):
the only complainer was a baby boomer -- she was always "concerned" that "the people wouldn't understand". And she was a teacher, ironically. I always countered her by saying "as a teacher you know what clears up an inability to understand?...teaching".[emphasis added]
Nota bene, chief liturgists et al, instead of saying "Wait," maybe you could, um... teach.

The Bloom is Off the (Christmas) Rose

Poor Father Christmas.
Himself came home today and told me a woman had hissed strict instructions to him, before she came back with her child, and plopped said child upon his red velvet lap:

"You have to tell her to use the BIG girls' potty!"

When the Phone Rings at 1:39 in the Morning, it Means that Someone is in Jail, in the Hospital, or in the Morgue! or DOES it?

Actually, I just remembered something that I learned from a source other than a Christmas carol or other religious song...

I learned it, as it happens, at 1:39 this very morning.

When your phone rings like that, waking you out of a dead sleep, it might NOT mean that someone is dead or in trouble, as I had heretofore believed.

No, it might just mean that someone in your family has a new cell phone and doesn't know which button retrieves voice mails and which one is for re-dial.

"And The Meaning of All These Signs Is Christ"

This sounds like an excellent idea.
I cannot say enough good about Fr Martis and about the Liturgical Institute.

You know that your parish, your diocese, your pastor, your committee NEEDS this kind of formation.
And they need it now.

The Mystical Body, Mystical Voice program sees the implementation of the third typical edition of the Roman Missal as a providential opportunity for heeding the call of Vatican II to enrich the liturgical participation of the faithful.

Mystical Body, Mystical Voice is based on the liturgical principle lex orandi, lex credendi, holding that the Church says what she believes when she prays and means what she says.

Mystical Body, Mystical Voice recalls that the Sacred Liturgy is safeguarded by the Church and its purpose is the glorification of God and the sanctification of humanity. To that end, the texts of the Mass are seen in light of the Paschal Mystery and the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.

Mystical Body, Mystical Voice reiterates that the words we say make a difference in worship and in life because language itself is sacramental. The language we use communicates what we believe.

Mystical Body, Mystical Voice understands that the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam represents an ongoing implementation of the Second Vatican Council.

Be Lovely

Everything I need to know I learned in Christmas carols and songs, and in hymn texts.
Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely.
Love, to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.
The love that we have always known, our constant joy and endless light,
Now to the loveless world be shown, now break upon its deathly night.
Into one song compress the Love that rules our universe above,
Sing love, sing love, sing "God is Love."

So that's our job, to be love, and in that way to become lovely.

So, who needs my love? who needs your love?
CRS is a member of Caritas Internationalis

Our Novitiate 2009

Or ....?

Or your local St Vincent DePaul, or food bank, or music school, or parish, or....

Or yeah, the colleague who works your last nerve, like that alto in the second row who, always, but especially now.... just be lovely. (Yes, I'm talking to myself now...)

Friday, 18 December 2009

"We've Waited Long Enough"

I urge any reader with a love for the Church and Her Liturgy, to read and sign this petition, asking that the new English translation of the Roman Missal finally be implemented without further delay.

We've Waited Long Enough

New, (to me,) Blog

St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association, an Irish organization that promotes the rich liturgical heritage of the Catholic Church has a blog.

I remember, (this is gong back ten years, mind you,) being disappointed in the Liturgies I intended, but impressed with the participation, and attendance in Irish Churches.

Weekday Mass crowds seem large and the involvement of the people intense.

Not in the everybody-get-into-the-act-and-run-around-performing-liturgical-"ministries" kind of way so often promoted here, but in vocal responses and a fervent attention to the actions of the celebrants, from the pew.


Thursday, 17 December 2009

A most lovely day...

'Jever have one of those days?
Everything turns out perfectly, everything is pleasant, everything works, everything is on time, every thing is available?

Errands to run, but wanted to go into Chicago.
Needed to make copies (LEGAL! Copyright Police, don't you come 'round my door!) before final full choir rehearsal,but the rectory copier is on it's last legs -- so I hie myself over to school, and THERE IS NO ONE IN THE COPIER ROOM.

I mean, what are the chances? So quick work of Shepherds' Farewell, In Splendoribus, Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light, and Silent Night in myriad different languages -- all legible !!!! (rectory copier would have produce scores with note heads, but essentially no staff lines... but unlike Big Julie, I can only sometimes remember "where they formerly was...")

Then, despite heavy traffic, we hit the loop in record time, and I ask, expecting "no," , do you think we can go to Noonday Prayer? and somehow, there we are!

Arrived at St John Cantius in good time, perfect parking space and... it was just lovely, sp prayerful, so beautiful. One of the brothers asked if we had a LotH, and we didn't and he said, here, use mine, and showed me with what ribbons he had marked Proper and Ordinary.

(From what did the dour traditionalist canard arise? are there more delightful people than the Canons Regular?)

And dropped off a very nice donation to the SAG library, (perfect parking space) and up 'round North Avenue found, (first, a perfect parking space,) a few perfect Christmas presents including one for a dear friend, (a priest who is not well and really deserves a treat but has a severely restricted range of treats of which he can avail himself, but IS there better coffee than Trader Joes?) and ran into a friend, also at Trader Joe's and COULD her son be more beautiful? and took Himself to a a terrific burger dive, (Wiener's Circle,) and got home in plenty o' time and had a really fine choir rehearsal, and found out that a dear recently-moved-into-a-nursing-home choir member will be able to attend a few Christmas week goings on, and everything is going to be fine for midnight Mass. (The Nanino Hodie Christus Natus Est surprised me, it was so crisp and elegant.)

So now, I have but to remove the indications that the Collyer brothers have taken up residence in my house, and... all shall be pretty well, and all manner of thing shall be pretty well.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

There's a Blow...

The linchpin of the tenor section approached me after rehearsal tonight and told me, somewhat sheepishly, that he won't be available for any Masses, (or the pre-Mass hour-long "concert" on Christmas Eve, either,) until the 31st, because family is visiting, family who are fallen away but who will go to church if, and only if, he sits downstairs with them.

How could I argue, how object?

The Rutter and the Berlioz will certainly suffer.

As will I...

Monday, 14 December 2009

A Hymn for a Soul Who's Probably Headed to Purgatory

It is, as they say, the "dying season".
Lots of funerals of late, and all with very specific, (and sometimes odd,) musical requests, (shall I put a brandy snifter on the console....?)
Also, lots of non-authorized, (non-canonical?) canonizations,if you know what I mean.

A friend mentioned that this bothered him, that he hates that people act as if there's no need ever to pray for the souls of the departed who might be in need of Purgatory -- but gee whiz, he just loves "For All the Saints," and really would like to be carried out of the church to its strains.

So I wrote an alternative final verse to be sung to SINE NOMINE, (it needs to be sung before death, unless I fix the tenses, I suppose.)

Anyway, this is for you, Gregory:
Remember Christ's my Judge, not just my Friend.
I've faith in the 4 last things, whate'er the trend.
So I'd ask your prayers, when earthly life shall end;
Alleluia, alleluia!

Did You Feel a Disturbance in the Force?

Forget 2012, the world may be hurtling towards a cataclysmic end e'en now as we speak.
At any rate, hell hath frozen over: the Christmas cards are finished and it isn't even New Years yet!
One year I think we even called them Presentation/Groundhog's Day cards.

But it was not industry or new-found organizational skills that wrought this miracle -- it was my casting about for ANYTHING to do rather than work on my final cantor schedules, (which, let me tell you, if you have high-schoolers in the corps, is like planning the season for MLB -- I'm going out of town that day so i want the early Mass but otherwise please don't put me on any earlier than 11 o'clock I hate to get up and that evening I have a date but wait, is the vigil moved up? then I'll be out in time to get to, you didn't TELL me they were doing 2nd graders First Reconciliation pledges that'll make it run longer, my family is visiting I want to be free, no wait, I think I'd rather they get to hear me , oh no, I can't do THAT psalm, oh, okay it's a choir Mass, but does that mean I don't get to do the invocations to the Kyrie, I LOVE that part why can't we sing....)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Serving as your own general contractor...

Serving as your own general contractor to build that addition on --- your family?

What in the name of heaven are we DOING?
Unable to have a baby of her own, Amy Kehoe became her own general contractor to manufacture one...

Working mostly over the Internet, Ms. Kehoe handpicked the egg donor, a pre-med student ... From [a website] she chose the anonymous sperm donor, an athletic man with a 4.0 high school grade-point average.

On another Web site ...Ms. Kehoe found a gestational carrier who would deliver her baby.

Finally, she hired the fertility clinic...which put together her creation last December.

“We paid for the egg, the sperm, the in vitro fertilization,” Ms. Kehoe said as she showed off baby pictures [of twins] at her home near Grand Rapids, Mich. “They wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for us.”...

[The infants] are now in the custody of the surrogate who gave birth to them, [after she] obtained a court order to retrieve them after learning that Ms. Kehoe was being treated for mental illness.

Infant humans are commodities, a species of consumer goods, if you can afford to have one constructed, you're entitled to him, huh? or should I say, entitled to "it"?

Surrogacy is largely without regulation, with no authority deciding who may obtain babies through surrogacy or who may serve as a surrogate....

controlled mainly by fertility doctors, who determine which arrangements are carried out and also earn money by performing the procedures. ....

The lax atmosphere means that it is now essentially possible to order up a baby, creating an emerging commercial market for surrogate babies that raises vexing ethical questions.

In some cases, parents must go through adoption proceedings to gain legal custody of the children. But even in those situations, the normal adoption review process is upended. In surrogacy, prospective parents with no genetic link often create their own baby first, then ask for legal approval, potentially leaving judges with little alternative. Some states allow prebirth orders that place the parents’ names on the birth certificates without any screening

Ah, the way I can pre-order a not-yet-published book on Amazon, I see.


Illinois Bar & Grill: a Chicago institution (Regular cheeseburger 3/4 lb) by Chi Burger Boy aka chibbqking.
One of my sisters was full of admiration for a friend whose ambition it was to visit every Major League.

My ambitions are less lofty...
(The above picture is of a menu item at the Illinois Bar & Grill.)

Old Age Comes for the Choir Mistress...

Yeah, finally gave in, and made myself a LARGE PRINT copy of Carols for Choirs today.

Time was, I shrunk everything for myself, to eliminate excessive page turns. How the eagle-eyed have fallen....

"But except for that, I'm in complete agreement..."

How did Inigo Montoya put it?
I don't thin' those words means what you thin' they mean.

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally is in 'utter agreement' with the teachings of the Catholic Church but wants female priests, the vow of celibacy relaxed and supports abortion.

The first female and [Vegas] born premier of the state stands firm on her religious beliefs and the view that she is no 'puppet' of Labor's right faction, in an interview to be aired on Radio National's Sunday Profile program....

Ms Keneally's outspoken religious commitment has piqued interest in Australia as she walks an interesting tight-rope acknowledging her country of origin and her country of residence.

The mother of two and church-going Catholic challenges much of Rome's governing doctrine but believes in the scripture.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Integrity, Faithfulness.... ?

I am a member of Voice of the Faithful, get their newsletters, keep up with what they are doing, etc.
Apparently having integrity is the same as being obstinate; and faithful means "willfully breaking communion with..."

Guilty as charged, I've always called them monocles...

... thereby branding myself as gauche.
So be it.
Gerald Warner tells us that the single eyeglass, ("vulgarly known as [a] monocle,") is being sold in what seems to me to be the British version of Lenscrafters or For Eyes.

Apparently it is a youthful fashion, in which case it will not last. It may cause some perplexity among the relentless dressers-down in Cameron circles and raise fears of a wave of reactionary opinion.

Yet, only six years ago, there was outrage among genuine eyeglass wearers when Dollond & Aitchison announced it was no longer going to stock “monocles” except in its main London store. The lore of this essential optical aid is fascinating and longstanding. ...

When the Irish Free State in 1932 increased the tax on monocles by 50 per cent, this was seen as an act of petty revenge against the fallen Ascendancy. ... “eyeglass” is U, “monocle” Non-U. The eyeglass permeates high literature, from Proust up to P G Wodehouse. Its significance varies with nationality.

An Englishman traditionally favours a gold-rimmed eyeglass with a gallery to hold it in place, attached to a black cord (my own practice). The degenerate French seducer will most likely sport his on a broad ribbon.

Go read the rest, as I follow his link in order to read his self-proclaimed "definitive account of the history and significance of the eyeglass."

Wonderful line! It is a Cavalier accessory in an increasingly Roundhead world.

I do love a monocle... Himself has two. (And a pince-nez.) He looks like Richard Tauber in one.

"Surprising"? Surprising to WHOM?

A poll by the Pew Forum found that Americans are "surprisingly" flexible About religion and faith.

Guess what... we're also "suprisingly flexible" about ethics... morality... truth...

A kind of new-agey rabbi is quoted in the ABC story as saying, "I do think that it's a level of maturity involved in being so secure in your own root tradition that you can dabble, that you can borrow and that you don't feel that it's in some way sacrificing your own identity."

Um, yeah, maturity, that's what it is.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

NOW what're we supposed to do...?

A BRILLIANT letter from a reader of Fr Z's:
Every Sunday, there is a Deacon or other Priest to help with the distribution of Communion.

However today, there was just the Priest celebrating to distribute communion.

Oh what a bleak and grim experience it was to have to wait 20 minutes after receiving communion. All that was left to do was to sit in silent prayer, before our Lord present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I mean, can you imagine, being forced to contemplate the Divine, after receiving him into yourself, in a beautiful sacred space. I can’t believe I had to stop and pray, in a church no less! Don’t they know I don’t have 20 minutes to give reverence to the Most Holy Trinity. It was just awful.
God save us from such liturgies!

Was that virtue or vice?

I need to clean up.
I need to organize.
I need to cull.
I need to divest.

In anticipation of changes to come, this applies to my house and its environs, and to the loft and its environs.

My biggest problem at home is books and music.
Who needs all that?

Well, perhaps I do.

But it is important to examine what would have been nigh unto impossible to even find much less acquire 7 years ago, even, in some cases two years ago, (and so, I reasoned, I was justified in keeping, no, hoarding, in dusty and precarious stacks on every horizontal surface in every room of every building to which I had an access, no matter in what state of decrepitude) but is now readily available at a moment's notice anywhere on the globe, (heaven be praised for the internet....)

And to examine what can be stored on a tiny disc instead of in looseleaf notebooks needing a foot and a half of shelf space.

But it's still hard to throw things out.

I read an essay a while ago, I believe in the NY Times, in which the writer observed a young woman trying to sell unwanted paperbacks to a used book seller. After making her deal, she took those rejected by the store and unceremoniously dumped them into the nearest trashcan.

The writer admired her, but admitted he could not do likewise.

It does go against the grain.

So today, I set my face and.... oh, I can hardly admit it.... and threw away some music.
Here's the hinky part -- some of it was falling apart, barely usable at all.

But some of it.... well, it's just crappy music. Or insipid arrangements. Or simply completely inappropriate for the milieu in which it was found.
As Himself says, you can't have everything and if ya could, where'd ya put it?
And only so many filing cabinets can fit in the choir room.
So should space really be devoted to Kum-by-yah?

I had already moved it from the most easily accessible drawers where it was crammed, cheek-by-jowl with dreadfulnesses from every other era.

For my entire tenure, I have been trying to thin the herd, the task complicated by the fact that one of my predecessors had toner in his veins and seems to have been going for some kind of Guiness record for photo-cpoies, (one retiring long-time choir member, for instance, turned in his folderS for me to sort through and return to the correct drawers.... 12, count'em TWELVE copies of the same edition of the Franck Panis Angelicus. Five of them orignal, 7 illegal copies.)

Anyway, yes, I threw some items away that it is conceivable someone might still have wanted to use. But I don't think they should be in the files of the choir of a Catholic liturgical choir to even suggest themselves to any less-than-informed musician that come along in the future..

Tell me I was right? please?

All I Want from Santa...

The Onion tells us that one of the Must-Have presents, you know the ones old ladies and grown men will be elbowing each other for in Toys Am Us, is the new
Governor For a Couple of Years Barbie.

Hmmm... that might be a start

"A prelate in Bombay archdiocese has asked priests to shorten their preaching during the liturgy in an effort to draw more people to the Church... in a memo that contained a host of instructions for priests on how to enrich the service to attract people.

The prelate “strongly discouraged” priests from speaking for more than 20 minutes during the Mass. “The homily is an important part of the liturgy and is always given by an ordained minister. It should be well-prepared and to the point,” he added....

The instructions also discourage the use of PowerPoint presentations and skits to liven up the homily."

No mention of puppets, I notice...

Fact and Factoids

A TV star in the process of making a movie about Vlad Tepes gives an interview:
What can you share about the plot?
It’s a very big and sweeping story. The majority of time focuses on him as a young man assuming his rule as a prince, but we actually go all the way through his life. Basically what happened was, the Ottoman Empire was expanding at an exponentially fast rate with a father-son duo of sultans, who increased the size of their territory tenfold within 50 years. They got over the Danube into Wallachia, which is the southern part of modern-day Romania. Romania used to be three separate principalities: Wallachia, Transylvania, and Moldavia.

You have done your research. Impressive.
I did a lot of research.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


There is no other word to describe the filth spewed by this woman. (H/T to Fr Z.)
On the day the church honors the Immaculate Conception, or conception of the Virgin Mary, [Sister Donna Quinn] sent a thank you note to those who lobbied [against an anti-abortion amendment]....
Citing a poem about the Virgin Mary, Quinn noted the providential date of the amendment’s defeat.

“I was reminded of being with men and women from the Unitarian faith tradition last year as they celebrated Mary who by her ascent, they believed, was one of the first women in the New Testament to express Choice,” Quinn said.
Beyond that, the irrationality, the rank stupidity of what she says is flabbergasting.
"Let it be done to me according to YOUR Word." (The incident to which she and the Unitarians -- need I add that I find that detail of her story less than fully credible?-- refer is, of course, the mystery of the ANNUNCIATION, not the Immaculate Conception; and the choice the Father allowed Mary to make was to conceive or not conceive, not whether or not to murder her unborn Child.)
By this woman's illogic, everyone who performs a virtuous act is somehow thereby endorsing everyone else's right to perform a vicious one?

What force of evil must be at work in this poor Quinn woman, that she could so malign the Blessed Mother, to try to turn her into a mascot for the abortion cabal.

I don't know if Jewish mothers, as a rule, smack their offspring when they get out of line, but some sort of maternal correction seems in line.

Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Well sure, any teenage girl who babysits could've told ya THAT....

From the Onion:
New Study Reveals Most Children Unrepentant Sociopaths
MINNEAPOLIS—A study published Monday in The Journal Of Child Psychology And Psychiatry has concluded that an estimated 98 percent of children under the age of 10 are remorseless sociopaths with little regard for anything other than their own egocentric interests and pleasures.
According to Dr. Leonard Mateo, a developmental psychologist at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the study, most adults are completely unaware that they could be living among callous monsters who would remorselessly exploit them to obtain something as insignificant as an ice cream cone or a new toy.

"The most disturbing facet of this ubiquitous childhood disorder is an utter lack of empathy," Mateo said. "These people—if you can even call them that—deliberately violate every social norm without ever pausing to consider how their selfish behavior might affect others. It's as if they have no concept of anyone but themselves."

"The depths of depravity that these tiny psychopaths are capable of reaching are really quite chilling," Mateo added.

According to the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, a clinical diagnostic tool, sociopaths often display superficial charm, pathological lying, manipulative behaviors, and a grandiose sense of self-importance. After observing 700 children engaged in everyday activities, Mateo and his colleagues found that 684 exhibited these behaviors at a severe or profound level.

The children studied also displayed many secondary hallmarks of antisocial personality disorder, most notably poor impulse control, an inability to plan ahead, and a proclivity for violence—often in the form of extended tantrums—when their needs were not immediately met....

Mateo added that even when subjects were directly confronted with the consequences of their inexplicable behavior, they had little or no capacity for expressing guilt, other than insincere utterances of "sorry" that were usually coerced.

Because children are so skilled at mimicking normal human emotions and will say anything without consideration for accuracy or truth, Mateo said that people often don't realize that they've been exploited until it is too late. ...

According to renowned child psychologist Dr. Pritha Singh, author of Born Without Souls, diagnosing preadolecents as sociopaths is primarily a theoretical interest, as the disorder is considered untreatable.

"We've tried behavior modification therapies, but children actually learn from our techniques and become even more adept at manipulating others while concealing their shameless misanthropy," Singh said. "Sadly, experience has taught us there is little hope for rehabilitation."
The last sentence is priceless:

"Just look at the way most adults act," Singh added.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Using the Eucharist as a Weapon?

St Ambrose, pray for us.
I admit to knowing little of the life of Ambrose, (beyond the story of the creation of the great hymn of praise, the Te Deum.)
But this struck me forcefully:
Ambrose was equally zealous in combating the attempt made by the upholders of the old state religion to resist the enactments of Christian emperors. The pagan party was led by Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, consul in 391, who presented to Valentinian II a forcible but unsuccessful petition praying for the restoration of the Altar of Victory to its ancient station in the hall of the Roman Senate, the proper support of seven Vestal Virgins, and the regular observance of the other pagan ceremonies.

To this petition Ambrose replied in a letter to Valentinian.... To support the logic of his argument, Ambrose halted the celebration of the Eucharist, essentially holding the Christian community hostage, until [emphasis added] Theodosius agreed to abort the investigation without requiring reparations to be made by the bishop.
And people are up in arms today, accusing Bishops endeavoring to admonish their most publicly, vociferously and obstinately sinning constituents of using of Communion "as a weapon"!

And that withholding of the Blessed Sacrament is only from the actual public sinners themselves, not from the community.

I'm not saying that makes it rgiht, I'm just sayin'...

There is a precedent.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

And the pastors said...

... this is a hard saying, and who can hear it?
But Jesus, knowing in himself, that his disciples murmured at this, said to them: Doth this scandalize you?

So the pastors murmured just a tudge more, What if we were to find our voice and tell the Lord that we want to help him avert an almost certain fiasco? What if we told him that we think it unwise to teach this stuff until our people have been consulted in an adult manner that truly honors their intelligence and their baptismal birthright? What if we just said, “Wait, not until our people are ready for this new doctrien, but until the new doctrine ready for our people”?

What if the other rabbis were to appeal to you for a time of reflection and consultation on this subject, and on the process whereby this teaching will be given to the people?

What if, before spreading this around, we do some “market testing?”

What if for the space of a year this is only expressed to a select few, with carefully planned catechesis and thorough, honest evaluation?

Wouldn’t such an experiment yield valuable information?

And wouldn’t such an experiment make it much easier to convince people when this idea ready?

In short, what if we were to trust our best instincts and defend our people from this ill-conceived disruption of their faith life?

And Jesus said...

New Hymn

Apologies to Horatio Bonar...
1. Come, bishops, tarry not
New missals aim our way!
O why these years of waiting here,
These ages of decay?

2. Come, for we PIPs still wait;
Daily ascends our sigh;
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come”;
ICEL, O heed their cry.

3. (corrected) Is you work fin'lly done?
Fish! we cry, or cut bait!
You have all dithered far too long,
No longer will we wait.

4. Father, obstruct this not,
Stand not in progress's way,
Leave off your whinging and your ploys,
Your tactics to delay.

5. At last! translations new,
Faithful, and good and true.
If you defy the Church, well then...
Who's wrong, the Church or you?

(Corrected)ST BRIDE?

Needs some work, but for now...

Odd Graphics

In looking over my disposable... I think they prefer the term seasonal ....Missal a graphic for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception caught my eye.

Well, more than caught. Arrested?

It was round, and upon inspection proved a tending-in-the-direction-or-abstraction picture of Mary surrounded by the fingers of the Almighty.

But it really looked....how to put this delicately?.... Judy Chicago-ish.

Reminded me of an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond..... where Marie takes up sculpting.

Another Idea for a Christmas Gift

This book would be great for a young Catholic, a family, anyone interested in the new Missal, catechists, priests looking for an outline for the formation they will need to do with their flocks....

Structural Integrity

Fr. Ray Blake of Saint Mary Magdalen ruminates on the need for catechesis,"I am now reading the tired old inaccurately translated prayers of the Missal for what I hope is the last time."

From your mouth to God's ear, as I believe I've said in every play or musical I've ever done in whihc I played a Jewish character.
Though in real life, I think I've only ever heard New jersey Italian Americans say it... but i digress.

I'm finding myself constantly remarking on something along the same lines, my feelings of anti-nostalgia (is there a word for that?) increased by my coming liberty; sometimes, admittedly, rather unkindly, Thank GOD, I will never have to play/direct/sing thusandsuch beloved and textually-suiting-the-Mass-perfectly but just NOT VERY GOOD anthem.
(There's one setting of the Beatitudes that in particular makes my skin crawl...)
There are a number of items in our traditional pre-Midnight concert that i will be delighted never to touch again.

Fr Blake also reminds me of a pet peeve:
"One appeal: please, please, please could we have a Missal that is not going to fall apart, please. Compare the Missal of 1746 with that of 1976."
Why do missals and hymnals look like crap after very short use?
While I understand that part of the problem may be due to to changes in societal attitudes and mores, e.g. a lessening of reverence for books, a lessening of respect for the property of others, the general carelessness with objects that prosperity seems to bring -- some of it has to be the construction of the books themselves.

Surely those who deal with altar books are as gentle and respectful with them as ever, right?

I have, for instance, hymnals rescued from oblivion after being replaced after thirty or forty years of actual pew, (not choir,) use whose bindings and hinges are in far better shape than ten year old current hymnals that are not subjected to any but choir usage.
Did they know something when putting together the Episcopal 1940 Hymnal, some secret that GIA should be let in on?

Is planned obsolescence really in the mix?
When I was in middle school I took Latin.
The majority of students took French, German or Spanish.

Their curriculum, and therefore their books, changed every few years, while Latin was taught out of the same text books that our parents had used.

But the Latin books were in just as good, or better shape than the newer ones.
They hadn't been anymore gently or respectfully used, they still had the same cruel drawings of long-retired teachers, students' names with addresses that went into detail as to which galaxy they called home, outrageous genitalia or raunchy speech bubbles added to illustrations of people, origamic dog-earring.... but the bindings held, the endpapers were defaced but in place, and the corners though bumped were intact.

I do notice variations in the wear of my various libers, and wonder whether it betells use or original construction, (none of them were new with me -- I think my Triplex and Liber Cantualis are the only genuinely new chant books I own. Oh, and the Parish Book of Chant, but of course!)

(Meanwhile, I absolutely insist that every church musician find room in the budget for a roll of this)

"What If We Said, 'Wait'?"

Gee, I dunno, Father.... what if we said, "Get the **** out of our way?"

How would that be with you?

I'm starting to get a tingley feeling all over, I think I'm coming down with a touch of lay empowerment, maybe a case of lay female empowerment.
Go sit your obstructionist self down in your rectory, get out out of the way of, dare I say? PROGRESS.

We'll call when when we need you, when it's time for your part.

You can just read it if you don't feel like putting in any prep time.

I do have a question, though -- what if you'd said "wait" back in the sixties?
I know it might smack of insubordination to talk this way, but it could also be a show of loyalty and plain good sense—loyalty not to any ideological agenda but to our people, whose prayer the new translations purport to improve, and good sense to anyone who stops to think about what is at stake here.

Just what I was thinkin'...

... and I want it NOW!

God grant me patience.

At rehearsal I nearly lost it several times...
But I didn't.
I repeated myself in a measured tone.
And repeated myself again without raising my voice.
And I left the bench to rearrange someone's music in that singer's notebook.
And I marked that person's music myself.
And I walked over to the section and pointed out the measure to which I referred.
And again I interrupted myself and stopped the choir because I realized a singer was turning pages madly, searching for the right page.

And then I went through the entire rigamarole on the next number.

And then I repeated the routine the next night with my church choir.

And never was heard a discouraging word.... (but I admit, I wondered, if only for a second, what is the fastest-acting, least painful poison?)

From this mornings Office of Readings:
Patience is a precept for salvation given us by our Lord our teacher: Whoever endures to the end will be saved. And again: If you persevere in my word, you will truly be my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Dear brethren, we must endure and persevere if we are to attain the truth and freedom we have been allowed to hope for; faith and hope are the very meaning of our being Christians, but if faith and hope are to bear their fruit, patience is necessary.
We do not seek glory now, in the present, but we look for future glory, as Saint Paul instructs us when he says: By hope we were saved. Now hope which is seen is not hope; how can a man hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it in patience. Patient waiting is necessary if we are to be perfected in what we have begun to be, and if we are to receive from God what we hope for and believe.
I am being patient.
More or less.
But for a while I don't want to be a director, I want to be in a choir, in a schola, in a chorus....

Friday, 4 December 2009

Liturgical Formation?

I have been asking that we begin on this, anent the new translations of the Missal, for several months, to no avail.
I am someone who actually pays attention, and paid attention as a tween and teen and adult, who can count on my fingers with one hand still in my pocket, the number of times I have failed to fulfill my obligation to assist at Mass since my 1st communion, and there are SCADS of basic, simple things about the liturgy that it would have really helped to know, I never heard from the pulpit nor read in the bulletin.
(The only liturgical formation I recall during the seemingly weekly upheavals was an announcement that we were to receive Communion in the hand from now one, unless we had a good reason not to...)

So please, let us not hang people out to drive this time.
Anyway, good article, quoting extensively from the great Dr Paul Ford.

Let us SEIZE this opportunity!!!!!!!!
There will be liturgical police on the left and right who will make our lives as difficult as they can.

And may Dr Ford be wrong about that....


Hat tip to Jeff Pinyan, who gave a hat tip to Ignatius Insight Scoop for this, in Homiletic Review:
Bringing Back Latin
By Mark J. Clark

During the debates of the Second Vatican Council one prelate after another addressed the Fathers of the Council in fluent Latin. That they did so is hardly surprising, for Latin remained the living language of the Roman Catholic Church. What may be surprising, however, is their collective level of fluency. The European prelates in particular displayed in their speeches and lively discussions a near-native mastery of Latin that would have been the envy of Renaissance humanists living five hundred years previously. Among the issues the Council Fathers debated in Latin was the introduction of vernacular languages into the Mass. When they ultimately decided to endorse the use of the vernacular in the Mass it doubtless never occurred to them that the facility in Latin that they took for granted—Latin, after all, was an integral part of their own intellectual patrimony and would remain the official language of the Church—would largely disappear within half a century.

Yet disappear it did, and quickly. How and why merits our attention, as does the question of what can be done to revivify the tradition of living Latin within the Church. For if living Latin dies, the consequences for the Church are grave. What is significant about the fact that the Fathers of the Council spoke readily in Latin is that they thought in Latin, which gave them easy access to the length and breadth of the Catholic tradition. The Church’s treasury of writings spanning the centuries is like a large chest in the attic, to which Latin is the key. Unfortunately, we stand in danger of losing the key, for few now live who can actually think in Latin. This is especially true within the Church herself. A sign of this is that even at the Vatican documents are no longer composed in Latin and then translated into vernacular languages but are first thought in the vernacular and then translated into Latin. We are in fact in danger of becoming strangers to our own tradition, for few can read the thoughts of our Catholic tradition in the language in which they were thought.

At this point, a word of clarification about what I mean by “reading” is in order. There are many young persons, a good number of them Catholic, studying Latin. Indeed, if we are to believe the New York Times, we are in the midst of a Latin-learning renaissance of sorts. Nevertheless, there is a world of difference between studying Latin and actually learning Latin. Folks today study Latin, but rarely learn it. A short while ago, folks studied Latin to learn it. They could read it, write it, speak it, and generally think in it as well or nearly as well as they could think in their own native tongue. By “reading Latin” or “thinking in Latin,” therefore, I mean the ability to understand Latin at a pace approaching the native facility of an educated person. This was a given for the Fathers and periti of the Second Vatican Council, but unless things change radically, Latin will soon be a dead language in the truest sense, namely that no one living actually knows it well enough to use it.

To understand how we got here, we have to go back a thousand years or so to the time when Europeans, and especially those speaking languages descended from Latin, first began to study Latin as a non-native language. Little books designed to teach Latin conversation, close relatives to the vast number of volumes available today for mastering conversation in French, German, Spanish, etc., began to appear in the eleventh century. Mastering Latin was important because it was not only the language of the Church but also the language of educated elites. Living Latin would continue to serve these two constituencies for another eight hundred years, and as a consequence a steady stream of books for mastering Latin conversation continued to appear. A distinguished tradition of teaching and learning living Latin arose, which served not only a clergy that said Mass and preached in Latin, but also all those who went on to study at the universities that appeared all over Europe throughout the high Middle Ages. Latin was no ornament but was rather the essential language for communication at the university. No one then could successfully attend university without knowing Latin, any more than a native speaker of English today could successfully obtain a degree from the University of Paris without knowing French well enough to understand lectures, take tests, write papers, and read books quickly and well. This explains why in the sixteenth century the middle-aged Ignatius of Loyola returned to sit on the primary-school benches with young children. He did so to learn Latin, and he was wise enough to know that he had to start from the ground floor. Fortunately for him, he was able to take advantage of a vital tradition of teaching and learning Latin as a living language, just as today, young Americans wishing to master German or French or Italian can take advantage of a tradition of well-thought-out language courses for non-native speakers.

Latin remained the language of learning for centuries after the common appearance of vernacular literatures in the later Middle Ages. Newton, for example, wrote his Principia in Latin in the seventeenth century, and throughout the eighteenth century scholars as well as churchmen continued to write and publish in Latin. Gradually, however, over the course of the nineteenth century Latin was displaced by the vernacular languages in the universities, although dissertations continued to be written and defended in Latin at the University of Paris in the 1920s and even later in the German universities. In the English-speaking world, the eclipse of Latin as a universal requirement in the university occurred earlier. The important point for my purposes is not when but why it died, for the similarities to the situation within the Church following the Second Vatican Council are unmistakable.

When university students no longer needed to understand Latin to get a university education, there was no longer any real need to know Latin as a language to be used. As a consequence, the methods for teaching and learning Latin changed fundamentally. Latin was no longer taught as a living language but as something vestigial. It became anemic, something ornamental rather than essential. Of course, there were still then, as there are now, excellent reasons to pursue a course in classics, but in the academy the quest for Latin as a living language was finished.

Two books published fifteen years apart in America illustrate beautifully the passing away of that tradition at the close of the nineteenth century. In 1892 there appeared Professor Stephen Wilby’s English translation of the Guide to Latin Conversation, a Jesuit handbook that had gone through seven editions in French. This Guide, a compendium of the Church’s tradition of teaching living Latin, contains eighty dialogues, thirty by the Belgian Jesuit Van Torre and fifty from the famous Jesuit classicist Pontanus as well as “phrases…of Erasmus, of Vives, of Cordier, of Alde-Manuce, of Fathers Pontanus, Van Torre and Champsneups.” Wilby, citing successful efforts to revive spoken Latin in Italy and France, wished to do the same in the United States. But it was in fact too late, as can be seen from the second volume, Dr. Colyer Meriwether’s Our Colonial Curriculum: 1607-1776, which appeared in 1907. In his third chapter (“Ancient Languages”), Meriwether leaves no doubt of his own negative view (“Not even the wildest Latin maniac of the present would venture upon the flights of those early days”) of the persistent efforts down through the centuries to keep alive this language that “not only vanquished Greek but for a long period…stifled all the vernacular of Europe.” After reviewing at some length the history of futile colonial attempts to instill living Latin, Meriwether concludes: “Many of their fathers wrote it at one time, in fact all educated ones who wished to keep company with their class did so, but it is rather safe to say that the boys at school did not use this tongue in their everyday intercourse with each other…. As for Latin conversation among the youth in colleges that can be dismissed summarily as an alluring myth.”

In hindsight, Wilby’s translation stands as an American tombstone for the tradition of living Latin within the academy, while Meriwether provides an unsympathetic epitaph. Meriwether actually cites Wilby’s translation, and the context in which he does so points to the continued vitality of living Latin within the Catholic Church: “This fever has burnt in European veins two thousand years and all the cooling effects of modern languages and modern sciences have not entirely reduced it. The Jesuits still talk it and the brethren of every nationality communicate with each other by means of it. Today they have fat little conversation volumes up to date in Latin terms for all new ideas introduced into English by the enormous developments in science and numerous inventions. One of the later ones appears under the authorishp (sic) of S. W. Wilby, though it is really a conversation book of the whole order.” Although Meriwether was in fact mistaken about the purpose of Wilby’s volume, his wonderment that there still existed in the twentieth century an international body, in this case the Society of Jesus, that communicated primarily in Latin serves my main point well.

Latin continued to serve not only the Jesuits but the Catholic Church in general as an international language, precisely because there was an authentic need. Catholic priests and scholars did not study Latin for its own sake but rather for the sake of their living, breathing culture. Languages are intimately connected to cultures, and Latin for almost two millennia had been the language of Catholic culture in the West. It is for this reason that the Jesuits (and others) took pains to keep alive the Church’s long tradition of teaching and learning living Latin. They knew well that not only passive mastery (reading and listening) but also active mastery (writing and speaking) were necessary to be masters of Latin. This very tradition produced the outstanding Catholic scholars, many of them priests and bishops, who distinguished themselves during the first half of the twentieth century. This same tradition led to the remarkable Ciceronian exchanges at the Second Vatican Council, where fluency in Latin was the rule rather than the exception among prelates.

Sad to say, however, that tradition has all but passed away. Only a few Latin-speaking prelates remain today, and the number of Catholic priests or other religious working on the original sources of our tradition is now minimal. A few personal anecdotes will serve to illustrate how much things have changed. In the fall of 2007, while staying with the Dominicans at Saulchoir in Paris, I had the chance to speak about the decline of Latin within the Church with the Dominican scholars of the Leonine Commission, whose task it is to make available the best critical editions of St. Thomas. To a man these outstanding scholars and Latinists lamented the passing away of the Church’s Latin tradition and urged me to do whatever I could to make available to priests and other religious the resources for mastering Latin that had once been routinely available. Last summer I had dinner with Monsieur Luc Jocques, head of the Latin Section of Corpus Christianorum, the modern project whose aim is to make available modern, critical editions of the vast body of Christian literature produced down through the centuries that still survives in libraries all over the world in manuscripts, unedited and unstudied. Monsieur Jocques told me that when he started at Corpus Christianorum, the roster of scholars working on Latin critical editions was filled with Catholic priests and religious, but that now he can think of only one or two among the army of scholars working worldwide on such projects. In short, the Church itself can no longer take for granted the fluency in Latin that was until recently seemingly its birthright.

I have put off until now answering an obvious question, namely, why does all this matter? Just as the academy and the educated world outgrew Latin, why not allow the Church to do the same? I respond that, even if, Deo gratias, the Church should encompass the globe and become literally catholic in language and culture, and even if, Deus vetet, the Catholic Church in Europe should wither on the vine, it would still be true that the vast majority of Roman Catholic culture and tradition grew up and was formed speaking Latin. It is, as it were, the native language of the Roman Catholic Church, and were we to let it die we would in fact suffer the loss of our mother tongue. We would have access to our patrimony, that wonder-filled treasury that now lays unseen in the Church’s attic, only in bits and pieces and then only in translation. We would become foreigners to our own tradition, to our own thoughts. This is a potentially grievous loss for a Church that holds Tradition sacred. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have recently reminded us that the Church needs Latin for this very reason.

A second obvious question is why Latin has fallen so far, so fast. In this connection I am reminded of something that I heard Dr. Ron MacArthur, the former president of Thomas Aquinas College, say on several occasions. Addressing the question of why grammar and, in particular, Latin ranked last in importance among the liberal arts, Dr. MacArthur replied cogently but wisely: “Anyone can learn Latin.” He is right, of course. Anyone can, but the sad fact is that few moderns do. The reason for this is that roughly a century ago the Latin teachers of the world changed their goal. They stopped trying to teach Latin as if people needed to know it and began to teach it as a means for accomplishing other worthy ends, such as for example understanding grammar or building vocabulary. The result, however, is predictable. Although there are legions of native speakers of English who can read French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese or any other living language with native or near-native facility, there are by contrast few now living who can pick up Augustine’s De civitate Dei and read it in Latin as they would any other book.

The solution then is simple: to recover our former fluency, we need only restore what was traditionally our end, namely, to master Latin comprehensively so as to be able to use it: to think in it, to speak it, to write it, and to read it with native or near-native facility. Wilby had the right idea in making use of the Church’s existing resources for teaching and learning living Latin. A small sample from his volume will suffice to show the kind of treasure he unearthed. Near the end of the first dialogue reproduced is a little prayer that Father Pontanus, the original author of the dialogue, referred to as “illa [pretiuncula] Ecclesiae communissima et commodissima” (“that most common and most suitable little prayer of the Church”): “Actiones nostras, quaesumus, Domine, aspirando praeveni, et adjuvando prosequere, ut cuncta nostra oratio et operatio a te semper incipiat, et per te coepta finiatur.” This apparently common yet beautiful seventeenth-century prayer is quintessentially Latin in its structure, its thought patterns, and its striking economy of expression. As Wilby knew, these are all radically at variance with our own habits of thought and expression, and his inspiration to return ad fontes was exactly right. To think in Latin does in fact necessitate acquiring the habit of thinking in Latin.

Happily, the means for doing so—the long and distinguished tradition of teaching and learning living Latin—still exists. There are even contemporaries taking advantage of that tradition, part of a flourishing, international neo-Latin movement. Last summer, for example, many hundreds of Latin speakers gathered in Budapest for a conference organized by Luigi Miraglia, a leader of the movement. There are many reasons why people today are pursuing living Latin: aesthetic, humanistic, pedagogical, etc. It is part of the tradition of the Protestant Churches themselves, which can boast of numerous spiritual writers from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries who wrote and published in Latin. But no individual or society has an incentive comparable to that which should move us, for as Catholics, we should study Latin not for its own sake but for ours. We must do so not to return to some Utopian past or to restore some hegemonic culture, but rather to stay vibrantly connected to our own past and our own culture, past and present. Let us not forget about that treasure chest in our attic, filled with wonders great and small. Above all, let us not lose the key.

Dr. Mark J. Clark is an associate professor in the department of classical and early Christian studies at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where he teaches Latin as a living language. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2002, and his articles on the Bible and theology in the Middle Ages have appeared in a variety of journals, including, among others, Traditio, Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie Médiévales, Sacris Erudiri, and Revue Bénédictine. This is his first article for HPR.

I wish to reiterate, I am not an All-Latin-All-the-Time partisan, anymore than I am of the Graduale-Romanum-or-Silence school.

But I cannot see the answer to this -- how are these things to be given pride of place, to be preserved preserved, to continue to inform our Faith, (and, whoops!... our identity,) if easier, lazier options are allowed?

Council of Trent to Blame for Howdy-Doody Masses

Very interesting stuff from an interview with litur--- ... liturgical historian, Fr Robert Taft. via US Catholic I can agree with much of it, think about much of it, and deliver my brother's copyrighted spit-take in response to much of it.
Can you tell there's much of it?(and I'm quoting most of it here)
If any scholar could claim a ring-side seat to the liturgical reform of the 20th century, it would have to be Father Robert Taft, S.J. Taft recalls being surprised when he arrived in Europe in 1964 to see liturgical change already well underway. "Worker priests in Western Europe were celebrating the liturgy in the vernacular because it was the only way to come into contact with the de-Christianized workers there," he says. "The notion of celebrating the liturgy for them in Latin was simply absurd."

A Jesuit ordained in the Russian rite of the Byzantine Catholic Church in 1963, Taft eventually focused his studies on the ancient liturgies of the Christian East, work that has led him to a profound appreciation of the diversity of Christian liturgy in the past and present. "There is no ideal form of the liturgy from the past that must be imitated," he says. "Liturgy has always changed." Tracking those changes has been his life's work, a career that has included decades of teaching all over the world as well as hundreds of books and articles.

Though a historian, Taft is critical of attempts to remain in the liturgical past in the name of tradition. "We don't study the past in order to imitate it," he says. "Tradition is not the past. Tradition is the life of the church today in dynamic continuity with all that has come before. The past is dead, but tradition is alive, tradition is now."

Forty years after the Second Vatican Council, there is still argument about its liturgical reform. What do you make of the continuing opposition to the "new" liturgy?

Let me put my cards right on the table: I'm a Vatican II loyalist without apologies to anyone. [I think it is possible to be a VCII loyalist and say some of the reforms perpetrated in its name were an unmitigated disaster] The Second Vatican Council was a general council of the Catholic Church, and the popes since the council have made it clear that there's no going back. The mandate for liturgical reform was passed by the council with an overwhelming majority, so it is the tradition of the Catholic Church, like it or lump it....

The reforms of the council were carried out under Pope Paul VI in a spirit of complete collegiality. Every suggested adaptation, change, or modification was sent out to every Catholic bishop in the world, and the responses that came in were treated with the utmost respect. When changes were severely questioned or opposed by a large number of bishops, they were revised according to the will of the bishops and then sent back again.

So the notion that the liturgical reform was somehow forced on an unknowing church by some group of "liturgists," as if that were a dirty word, is a lie, and that needs to be said....

What we sometimes forget is that it wasn't the Second Vatican Council that began the reforms of the liturgy. It was Pope St. Pius X, who in 1910 reduced the age of First Communion to the age of reason and, in perhaps the most successful liturgical reform in the history of the church, restored the Eucharist as the daily [interesting word to me in light of recent developments in liturgical praxis, as evidenced in the Little Rock story] food of the people....

Now the vast majority of people go to Communion at every single liturgy[Uh.... NO. No they don't. The vast majority of Catholics do not go to Communion. A vast majority of people who bother to attend Mass go to Communion at every single liturgy - alas, most people do not receive at all BECAUSE THEY DO NOT ATTEND. Surely this has not escaped your notice?] -a great success that turned around centuries of history in which people used to go at the most once or maybe four times a year. [I believe that is PRECISELY how often most Catholic receive now.]...

What about the oft-mentioned liturgical "abuses"?

After Vatican II some people unfortunately thought that they had to be creative. As I've said more than once, I have never understood why people who have never manifested the slightest creativity in any other aspect of their human existence all of the sudden think they're Shakespeare or Mozart when it comes to the liturgy. [emphasis added, best line in the whole thing] That's sheer arrogance.

Certainly there were abuses, but the abuses weren't the responsibility of the council's reforms. In part as a result of the church's resistance to the Protestant Reformation, Rome refused even very positive suggestions that were part of it, for example, returning the chalice to the people. This in effect put the Catholic liturgy in the freezer for centuries.

When the ice melted after Vatican II, things overflowed and people thought that they could do what they wanted with the liturgy. I can remember some of those "howdy-doody" liturgies. But let's put the responsibility where it belongs.

Everything has its downside, and one of the downsides of the reform was that people were ready to burst.

How has the liturgical reform been a success?

The best thing about it is that people have come once again to pray the prayer of the church rather than praying during it, which is, without any doubt, the result of celebrating the liturgy in the vernacular.

When I was a kid, the gospel and epistle readings were proclaimed in Latin and then sometimes the gospel might be repeated in English. Who were we reading them for, God? God knows all the languages already. The prayers of the liturgy are for us.

Now Catholic communities throughout the world participate in the liturgy actively and interiorly, praying the prayers of the liturgy, giving the responses, singing the hymns, paying attention to the readings, and so forth. The Liturgy of the Hours, especially Morning and Evening Prayer, has been restored in parish worship in many countries. This is part of the prayer of the church, too.

The restoration of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults has been a marvelous success for activating entire parishes to cooperate in bringing new candidates into the church. A pastor in Washington, D.C. wrote a beautiful article in the liturgical journal Worship describing how the RCIA had transformed the entire life of his parish, with the people themselves bringing the candidates into the bosom of the church through catechesis, prayer, the exorcisms, and so forth, until they reach Baptism.

The reform has been an enormous success, and if you can't see this, then you must be blind.

What are the arguments of those who still oppose the reforms?

Some complain that Vatican II's reform wasn't done by the council but by post-conciliar commissions, but the same is true of the liturgical reform of the Council of Trent. Trent, like Vatican II, left it to the pope at the time, Pius V, to implement changes in the liturgy. He naturally appointed others to do the actual work.

Why aren't they complaining about the way things were done at the Council of Trent? [Because the work of Trent was essentially codification? not creativity? That is an actual questionl, not rhetoric. Was there new ritual constructed in the wake of Trent?] ....

For his own good reasons, Pope John Paul decided to permit the continued use of the old rite, and the present pope has extended it to win back these so-called "traditionalists."

But the real problem isn't the liturgy, it's that people, including the Lefebvrites, don't accept the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which is the teaching of the Catholic Church. They believe that the Second Vatican Council taught error. They believe that Pope Paul VI was not a real pope.

How can you pretend to be Catholic if that's your point of view? I'm not attempting to force anybody to be Catholic, but let's stop this pretense. [That sort of Invitation to the Exit seems to be extended from many different quarters to many different... zealots.]

What about those who claim that the old liturgy is more "mysterious" or reverent than the new? Are they right?

Absolutely not. The mystery we're trying to celebrate in liturgy is the fact that Jesus Christ died and rose for our salvation, and we have died and risen through Baptism to new life in him.

That life is expressed in the liturgy. [Excellent!] It is nourished through scripture and the Eucharist and prayer. You don't need Latin for that.

Some people think liturgy is our gift to God. If we go to church on Sunday, we're doing God a real big favor.

But our liturgy is God's gift to us, not ours to him. St. Paul is quite clear that the purpose of the liturgy is not what we do at the celebration itself. That is simply the expression and nourishment of what is supposed to be the "liturgy of life," the way we live in the world.

That's why St. Paul never uses words such as sacrifice, priesthood, or worship except to describe the life we live after the model of Christ. "It is not I who live," he writes, "but Christ who lives in me." That's the mystery the liturgy is all about.

Do you think people make the connection?

Most people don't realize it, of course, because they don't spend any time thinking about it. That's why we have preaching.

The preacher should make them think about it. The preacher should wake them up. The preacher should catch their attention by saying something that has meaning for them and their lives today. That's why one of the most important aspects of preparation for Sunday on the part of the pastor should be his prayer and meditation on the readings.

It's not easy, but it can be done. It's done at the beginning of the week, reading and praying over the scriptures, meditating on them. I always read very carefully the texts of the refrains and prayers of the liturgy as well. But, to put it bluntly, it takes that four-letter word, work.

Beyond that the preacher has to open up the meaning of the liturgy itself. Sometimes people will come into the sacristy and ask, "What are you offering the Mass for today, Father?" I always answer: "Open the book, it's all right there. I didn't make it up."

Just read the prayers. They say what we are doing in Baptism, what we are doing in Matrimony. People think Matrimony is a ritual expression of the love between a man and a woman. Baloney. You can do that at City Hall.

What's the difference?

A Christian marriage should be about what Jesus Christ's death and Resurrection has to do with marriage.

What does Christ tell us through St. Paul in Ephesians? Ephesians says Christian marriage is like the union between Christ and the church, a permanent union, a union of love, a union of shared life.

It's not about the love of a man and a woman; it's about the love of a man and a woman in the context of the fact that Jesus Christ died and rose for our salvation.

Liturgy is the expression of where we're supposed to be, not something that we drag down to where we're at. Liturgy is the ideal to which we must rise. Liturgy is the model of a life given for others rather than life lived for ourselves. The bread we break is the sign of a body broken for us, and the chalice we drink is the blood poured out for us. They are symbols of a life lived and given for others.[Powerful stuff. I would love if what he says about the sacrament of matrimony for forcibly made part of all marriage-prep, pre-Cana stuff...]

When we celebrate that reality in the liturgy, whether in Eucharist or Reconciliation or Matrimony, we're saying: This is what we, with the grace of God, pledge that we're trying to be. If it's not, then we shouldn't be there; we're wasting our time.

How do you respond to the complaint that people don't get anything out of the liturgy?

What you get out of the liturgy is the privilege of glorifying almighty God. If you think it's about you, stay at home. It's not about you. It is for you, but it's not about you.

One of the great problems today, especially among some of the younger generations, is that they think that salvation history is their own autobiography. They think they're the center of the universe. In John 3, when John the Baptist is asked whether Jesus is the Messiah, John says quite clearly that Jesus is the important one: "He must increase, I must decrease."

He must increase, I must decrease. Everybody needs to hear that. It's not about me, it's not about you. It's about something infinitely more important than us.[emphasis added]

Why is it important that liturgy stay basically the same week to week?

People will never take possession of the liturgy as their own if every time the pastor reads a new article, the liturgy in the parish is turned on its head. Who does this liturgy belong to?

Catholics need to stop tinkering with the liturgy. [Amen]...

The kiss of peace is a ritual gesture....not an expression of your friendship with whomever is standing around you, and you don't have to crawl over three pews to get to somebody you know. It is shared among people in your immediate vicinity as a sign that we're in the same boat together. The same thing is true of things such as the traditional greetings and so forth.[Amen]

Is there any place for creativity in the liturgy?

The two places that the church has left to our creativity, the homily and the prayers of intercession following the readings, are the two places where our liturgies are generally irredeemably awful. [I am fortunate to hear quite a bit of good preaching. But I have found creativity in the General Intercession to be irredeemably and unvaryingly AWFUL] If you want to be creative, devote your creativity to the places where the liturgy allows it.

I'm not preaching against future liturgical change. Liturgies evolve normally, like languages do. They acquire new words and so forth.

People today say, "That's cool." Cool when I was a kid meant that something just came out of the fridge. So words acquire new meanings.

But it's not the work of individuals. It's not up to me to say I'll use the word window for door and door for window, because that's where I'm at today. If we do that with language, people won't understand what we're talking about.

The same thing is true of liturgy. Leave it alone and it will grow by itself, but don't stand it on its head every Sunday, because people are sick of that.

Some people would like the liturgy to be the same everywhere, as it was before Vatican II. Is that what we should be shooting for?

It was never the same everywhere, [thank you. Wouldn't those "some people" in the interviewer's question include the rabidly anti-EF types?] unless you wish, as some Catholics would, to limit the boundaries of Christ's church to the Roman rite and exclude the liturgies of the Eastern Catholic Churches, which would be sheer foolishness.

The church is a great mosaic of different traditions, of different peoples. Until the life of the church has reached expression in every single culture, there will still be something lacking. [??] St. Paul said we have to fill up what is lacking in the Body of Christ.

What's lacking in the Body of Christ is not anything about God; it's about us. In other words, until the whole of humanity has become completely conformed to the mystery of Christ, then there's something lacking....

This interview was conducted by Bryan Cones, managing editor of U.S. Catholic, during the annual conference of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy in June. This article appeared in the December 2009 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 74, No. 12, pages 26-30).