Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Pope is turning back the clock on ecumenism!!!!!

Isn't that the hue and cry?

Ron Fraser has a different take in the April 2009 edition of the magazine published by the Philadelphia Church of God (although he seems no more happy about it):

A great cry went up from the press when the pope lifted the excommunication from a Holocaust-denying bishop. Yet again, the press got it wrong on Benedict XVI....
In the wings—observing, participating actively in and occasionally commenting on this crisis—waits an institution that, as faz noted, is far more ancient than any of Germany’s—or Europe’s—political parties. Its resilience is borne out by its almost 2,000-year history. It has survived contests between church and state to rebound, time and again, in the wake of failed empires, redundant dynasties and the ebb and flow of economic conditions.

The Vatican looks on and bides its time.

It is significant that in this latest verbal contest between church and state, it was the state that blinked first. Pope Benedict clearly won the day politically, within a crucial election year for the European Union’s chief law-making institution, the European Parliament, and the EU’s leading nation, Germany. His win was Merkel’s loss.

Few observers read between the lines of Joseph Ratzinger’s crafty, carefully chosen and deliberately challenging public statements and power plays as he steadily follows his agenda to “Christianize” Europe, to give Europe its “soul.”

As Pope Benedict xvi, Ratzinger declared his hand against pan-Islamism and secularism in his infamous speech at Regensburg University in 2005. Shortly after that speech produced a great outcry against him from leading Muslim clerics, the pope met with leaders in the Muslim religious community to pour a calming diplomatic oil upon the turgid waters that he had stirred. But he did not recant his position, which behind closed doors remains powerfully anti-Muslim.

With the sspx affair, Benedict did it again. This is an extremely astute pope, with long experience roaming the corridors of Vatican diplomatic power. There can be no doubt he knew that his reinstatement of Bishop Williamson, an unrepentant Holocaust denier, would cause an outcry. It did. It surely did from the Jewish community.

Just as he did with leading Muslim clerics after their being insulted by his Regensburg speech, Benedict met with leaders of the Conference of American Jewish Organizations on February 12 in a diplomatic maneuver to both assure world Jewry that they had the respect of the Vatican, and to create an official forum for his announcement that he had accepted the invitation to visit Israel.

This was followed days later by the Vatican announcing that Benedict would visit Israel in May of this year....
Benedict is a pope who out of one side of his mouth lauds ecumenical dialogue and out the other declares that Roman Catholicism is the one true faith and all other Christian denominations are spurious.

This is simply a pope for all seasons. He is a master diplomat, with a universal vision from which he will not retreat one iota.

Nope, the Pope is not rolling back the clock on ecumenism -- he is reminding Catholics what the word really means.

Ave Maria University's Liturgical Style

This is a guest editorial in the Naples News from the president of Ave Maria University. (I wish I could find the editorial or letter to the editor to which it replies.)
It has been the university’s explicit desire from the onset to have all forms of Catholic worship permitted by the church to be permitted at Ave Maria University. Thankfully, the bishop and our pastor allow Mass in Latin, the Tridentine Mass and Mass with praise and worship music (all in good taste and quality). If anything, the more traditional liturgies are dominant, since our university choirs (with the support of the university’s Sacred Music Department) exclusively sing Gregorian Chant and sublime classical hymns at liturgies. Those students and town residents who prefer more contemporary liturgical music have been given very little, far less than in most parishes.

Yes, it took several months to work out the terms for the utilization of the Oratory, a building owned and maintained by the university, to be put at the disposal of a diocesan parish. The inherent complexities of such an arrangement take time and patience to be resolved, and the long and careful discussions ought not to be interpreted as “defiance” of the bishop.

As for kneeling for communion, the American bishops, with the formal approval of Rome, have established that the norm for receiving Communion is standing, although no one can be refused Communion if they kneel. Anyone who comes to Mass at the Oratory can testify that no one is ever refused Communion kneeling. In fact our pastor has installed kneelers near the altar — as is his prerogative — and in practice, many of those receiving Communion do so kneeling. Those who stand for Communion, in faithful compliance with the bishop’s explicit directive, should not be labeled as “unorthodox” as de Stuart’s too-narrow standards seem to suggest.

Diversity and pluralism are hallmarks of Catholicism and are celebrated at Ave Maria.
There has certainly been a deal of conflict coming out of the place, and it didn't always seem to reflect well on Healy, but the president presents a good case for his liturgical vision here, I think. (And I am not a fan of "charismatic" liturgical stylings....)
I have no doubt that at least some of the liturgical music at Ave Maria comes near perfection, (with that faculty and staff.....)

This is of more than passing interest to me because.... well, after this miserable, began-too-early-running-too-long-how-can-I-pay-the-gas-bill winter how could a hedonist NOT be thinking of relocating to warmer climes, and wondering where might be a good place to alight?
(Yeah, come July I will be b****ing and moaning about the heat, instead of my current self-indulgent threnody)

"The end result is chaos"

A Catholic university campus minister has some things to say about the requirements of music used in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the neglect rather than honor paid these requirements virtually everywhere.
He also touches on the seizing upon of options -- WHERE OPTIONS DO NOT LEGITIMATELY EXIST, and the fact we must keep always before us that most of the abuse and destruction is the work of ignorance, not willful disregard of liturgical precepts.

The reason this interests me is that, unless I have misread, this is not a [traditionalist, axe-grinding, purview-defending, snobbish, you pick the word....] liturgical musician speaking.

If you can read, you can know this stuff.

I'm willing to bet...that your home parish doesn't frequently feature Gregorian chant in their Sunday liturgies. Why is this?

Many think the answer is obvious. Didn't all that go out with Vatican II and the New Mass? Isn't it just now starting to make a come-back with the new allowance of the Old Mass (now called the Extraordinary Form) under Benedict XVI?

Well.... not exactly.

The truth is that Vatican II did have something to say about sacred music in the liturgy (more in fact, than any other council before it). But it's not what the average Catholic might think.

Our blogging campus minister goes on to tell the average non-musician what he needs to know an probably doesn't.

I have to remember the truth of his laying the blame for this on ignorance.
Althouhg is it invincible ignorance when TPTB refuse to inform themselves of the truth when it is explicitly pointed out to them?

Because it isn't only average )lay) non-musicians who are in want of this information -- it is many employed or volunteering as musicians who toil in ignorance.
And sadly, it is many, many members of the presbyterate and episcopacy.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Triumph of the Will[ful Liturgist]

I realize that the guilt of far heavier sins probably weighed upon Fr Marcial Maciel than this, but is he to blame for the horrid practice of priests telling their entire congregations to extend their hands in blessing over whomever is being subjected to the ritual du jour?

The entire rally-at-Nuremberg visual thus produced is beyond disturbing, and one of my pet peeves...

"Vows of SIlence," a new documentary film about the Legionaries of Christ, the crimes of their founder, and about his victims.... "suggests connections between the Legion and the farthest right wing ideology. [Two of Maciel's accusers] explain that Maciel admired the Germans and Christianized the Nazi salute. [One of them] demonstrates the Heil Christus! "

His Lordship? His Excellency? His Excellent Lordship? His Lordly Excellency?

How will he be addressed?

There is a rumor that,
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor may become the first Roman Catholic bishop to sit in the House of Lords since the 16th century, The Times of London has learned.

The newspaper reported Friday that offering a life peerage to the retiring Archbishop of Westminster was discussed during a meeting last week between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Pope Benedict XVI.

The move would require a special dispensation from the Vatican because the Catholic Church bans its clergy from any office that might involve the exercise of political power.
I wish him a peaceful retirement.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

".... And you can't MAKE me!"

And they're right, we can't....

From the wise and charming Sacred Miscellany of the subject of "getting" the PIPs to sing:

Last evening I listened, for what seems the upteenth time since I began working as a musician in Catholic Churches, to a discussion of how it is IMPERATIVE (all caps deliberate here) for the congregation to sing everything. We must work and work to make them want to sing it. And if they don't want to sing, we will tell them they must - that they are there to sing and enjoy singing too. And that Vatican II says they must. So there!

Leaving aside the exaggeration of conciliar and later documents which is usually accompanied by a distorted history of music in Christian worship for at least 1,000 years, why would we think it is the role of musicians to dictate the emotions of the congregation? Because every time I hear this little speech, I hear how the people must learn to love singing and feel good while they're doing so. And any resistance on their part is childish, backward, petty, and probably a sign that they have retrograde opinions on almost everything else.

Well, I disagree. Surprised, aren't you? Actually, I ask lots of people how they feel about singing at Mass. Just regular people in the course of ordinary conversations if my work as a church organist comes up. News flash! Many people don't like to sing some of the time or all of the time. They have trouble carrying a tune in the first place. Quite honestly, there are people whose voices are a bane to those around them. Perhaps they don't agree with the sentiments of a particular hymn. In many cases, they find the music too difficult in terms of range or syncopation. And sometimes they just don't want to.

And that's their right. Use singable music for the Ordinary and only switch it out a few times a year. Encourage without browbeating or guilt-tripping for that. On everything else, let the choir and those who wish to sing with them take care of it. Leave those other folks be - and let your singing be a beauty they can drink in.

I'm just sayin...

From today's Office of Readings, Exodus:
Then there came to power in Egypt a new king .... ‘Look,’ he said to his subjects ‘these people, the sons of Israel, have become so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us.

We must be prudent and take steps against their increasing any further, or if war should break out, they might add to the number of our enemies. They might take arms against us and so escape out of the country.’

Accordingly they put slave-drivers over the Israelites to wear them down under heavy loads. ...

But the more they were crushed, the more they increased and spread, and men came to dread the sons of Israel. The Egyptians forced the sons of Israel into slavery, and made their lives unbearable with hard labour, work with clay and with brick, all kinds of work in the fields; they forced on them every kind of labour. The king of Egypt then spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah, and the other Puah. ‘When you midwives attend Hebrew women,’ he said ‘watch the two stones carefully. If it is a boy, kill him...

And from Mark Steyn:
Without immigration, the Western world would be in steep population decline. Even with immigration, Germany and Italy are in population decline....

It’s striking that, no matter how many British women think globally and sterilize locally, the population of the United Kingdom keeps rising: those London ladies assume they’re saving the planet for ... polar bears, and the spotted owl, and the three-toed tree sloth, and the green-cheeked parrot.

In fact, they’re saving it for the cultures whose womenfolk don’t get themselves sterilized. Forty per cent of children in London primary schools now speak a language other than English at home.

The Muslim population of the United Kingdom is growing 10 times faster than the rest of the population. No matter how frantically the ecochondriacs tie their tubes, their country grows ever more crowded. This is a story not of “overpopulation,” but of population transformation.

I draw no conclusions, I make no comparisons, I have no point.

These two tidbits of my day's reading just popped out at me, is all, so I'm just sayin'.....

"There still is required a daily renewal to repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature..."

Why, it could almost be an ad for Olay or L'Oreal.

But it is Leo the Great, reminding us in today's office of readings that our needs for repentance and reconciliation are a constant.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009


We sang for the evening Mass.

The morning Mass was, by all accounts, crowded, and the school Mass was standing room only in the peanut gal..., um, in the seats allotted to the non-school-children.

So I was not expecting much of a turn-out for the "last chance Mass," and worried that I would be taken to task for wasting paper, (deciding it was easier to gain forgiveness than permission, I took advantage of the once-a-year occasion, and selected some good texts not in our hymnal, and used them, and actually MADE PROGRAMS!), so I was astounded at how large the turn-out was.


Is a great change happening, a turning?



Very interesting piece by Ann Arco from some months past in the UK's "Catholic Herald." It reminded me of reading some Victorian novel whose name escapes me at the moment, which featured a heroine who had to live with, or eventually die from, I think I recall, the pain and shame of loving a Catholic, what with Catholicism's grisly worship of bits of dead people ;oP

Well, it is hard to convey our beliefs about this to non-Catholics.

It also reminded me of the great sadness I have felt when coming across holy cards, crucifixes, etc., items almost surely blessed, desecrated in bins of mismatched mittens and old tupperware at thrift stores. I always feel obliged to ransom them...

The hand-sized brass crucifix I found rummaging through boxes at home appears to be a reliquary. I was in search of a replacement rosary among my great-grandmother's things when I discovered it. My generation is, on the whole, fairly unused to devotional objects except in churches, so it took me a few hours to work out what it was.

A twist of the little round screw at the bottom opened it up to show a wealth of relics. Nothing gruesome, just seven little gold paper filigree flowers each covered with another little piece of paper bearing a saint's name. Unfortunately these are very faded, but I can work out "Adrian", "Bonifaz", "Agatl" and "Pius". In the middle, a quilled Sacred Heart nestles; the crown of thorns is made either of hair or thread. On the back of the crucifix there appears a pictorial meditation on the crucifixion: the gaming dice, Christ's clothes, a ladder and a scourge, the Sacred Heart and the three nails. I think it is late 19th or early 20th century.

Relics can be a taboo subject. Some people hate talking about them. There is something that feels very un-21st century about keeping bones or fabric connected to a person who has long been dead and then venerating it. For some, it is one of the Catholic Church's embarrassing secrets, a practice that should have been relegated to a drawer in the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford to keep the witch in the silver bottle and the shrunken heads company.

And yet what agnostic person has not at some point treasured a memento, a card signed by a particularly famous singer or a jersey which belonged to a footballer or shorts belonging to Mohammad Ali. These things are apart and removed from daily life, assigned a special meaning. And yet - to argue this is dangerous - because it brings one to the inevitable question: how are these relics different from the relics of the holy people whom we venerate in the Church and ask to intercede for us?

Before you get angry, pause. These are merely questions that a weak defence of Catholic thought brings forward: there is no way of presenting a strong argument about Christian teaching without Christ and through him the possibility of salvation. In the current "dictatorship of relativism" Christianity has, in the popular consciousness, been reduced to one logical system among many - which makes it very difficult to argue any Christian point without the premise of Christ.

Remember thou art ether, and to ether thou shalt return

When I first had regular access to a home computer, I enraged those more knowledgeable than I, (and those forced by bonds of blood, charity, or similar level of academic achievement; to work in the messes I created,) by bookmarking everything, by putting so many links on the desktop it was cluttered beyond any hope of actual utility, by downloading stately-mansions-libraries-full of information and saving them to disc, and worst of all --- by making hard copies.


Imagine so sinful a thing, not just wasteful of paper and printer ink, but all but slapping technology in the face!

Perhaps some of you did as well -- suppose you couldn't find your way back to some webpage of importance, suppose you lost internet access, suppose links were broken, suppose material was re-formatted in a way that made it less convenient for your purposes, suppose the USCCB issued a cease and desist order, suppose the Master Cylinder or the Vogons destroyed Deep Thought....

I must have printed out a thousand plus pages from CPDL. The Chabanel Psalter, (every page the day I learned of it lest the copyright police or their jackbooted thugs came a-calling in the night.) Episode guides to beloved canceled television shows. Directions and diagrams for French-beaded flowers. Entire books.

Well, I mostly got over that, (though you can't tell from the mounds of paper which I force Himself to live surrounded by....)

But every once in a while something I love or "need", (really, want,) disappears into the ether.

Gone. Without a trace, or worse, with traces that taunt me.

What has happened to the scriptural allusion, metrical, and other indicese my Cyberhymnal???????

I can't find anything I need.


Homo? Humus....
Fama? Fumus....
Finis? Cinis!

Monday, 23 February 2009

The Spiritual Food the Church Offers Us Who Hunger

If you're like me, and there's no reason to assume you are -- though neither is there to doubt that you are -- you grew up under-informed about the Faith, at least in matter of devotion, customs, small "t" traditions...
And I had just decided I was going to learn what "stational" churches are.

But Fr Scott Haynes, the Guido Marini of the New World, explains it all for you... and for me.

So I am saved the effort!
Historically, on particular days the faithful of Rome would gather (or collect together) with the pope at a designated church called the ecclesia collecta [1] After the recitation of a prayer there, the assembly proceeded to another church referred to as the stational church. [2] In procession, they chanted the Litany of the Saints. At the stational church, as the pope began the celebration of Mass, he gathered the petitions of all the faithful into a unified prayer called the “collect”. ...

Over time, the Roman Missal eventually designated 86 stational days using 45 stational churches in the course of the liturgical year, with stations assigned on solemnities such as Easter and Christmas. [4] Most of the stational liturgies, however, occur during Lent. Pope Pius XI in 1934 made the most recent modification to the list of stational churches, adding Santa Agatha and Santa Maria Nuova. Rome’s stational liturgies slowly developed into this highly organized system, not only designating a specific church for each day of Lent, but also assigning specific liturgical propers (i.e., prayers, readings and choral chants) specially fit for each of these Lenten liturgies, as can be seen in the 1962 Missal of Blessed John XXIII. ...

The pope participated in the stational processions “accompanied by the entire clergy of the Lateran Basilica, [5] and by the high palace dignitaries, laymen, and clerics”. [6] The processional nature of the liturgy appeared in other places than Rome. By the 4th century, the Church in Jerusalem organized liturgical processions to bring worshippers to the Biblical Holy Land sites. In Constantinople, the emperor made a ceremonial procession through the palace and into Hagia Sophia, [7] in the company of the bishop — an image pointing to the rule of God and His Christ in the Heavenly Kingdom. ...

While processing to the station, the people chant the Litany of the Saints. The Church includes in that litany the stational saint of the day, whom the Church has selected as the icon of Christian virtue for our imitation. Thus, stational observance offers a magnificent way of venerating the saints.

The daily Mass propers of Lent generally refer to the stational saint or to some historical event associated with the place. For example, San Lorenzo in Luciana is the stational church for the third Friday of Lent. Historically, the Gospel that day is about the woman at the well, and San Lorenzo is located over the site of an old well. On the third Saturday of Lent, the epistle tells the Old Testament story of Susanna, and the Gospel recalls the woman caught in the act of adultery.In his book The Liturgical Year, Dom Prosper Gueranger, Benedictine Abbot of Solesmes, observed that the practice of the stational churches constituted a core Lenten practice in the monastic life of the Middle Ages: “Particularly on the Wednesdays and Fridays, processions used frequently to be made from one church to another. In monasteries, these processions were made in the cloister, and barefooted. This custom was suggested by the practice of Rome, where there is a ‘Station’ for every day of Lent which, for many centuries, began by a procession to the stational church”....

Under John Paul II, the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1988 stated that “the Roman tradition of the ‘stational’ churches can be recommended as a model for gathering the faithful in one place … at the tombs of the saints, or in the principle churches of the city or sanctuaries, or some place of pilgrimage which has a special significance for the diocese”. [23] And today our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI reminds us, [24] “These rites retain their value, despite the passing of centuries, because they recall how important it also is in our day to accept Jesus’ words without compromises: ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” ...

On the diocesan level, bishops today can designate certain churches as stational churches for Lent. If this were done, the people of a diocese would have a unique opportunity to make a mini-Lenten pilgrimage in the tradition of the Roman stational churches, to which an indulgence could be attached. It would provide an opportunity to highlight the importance of communal fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

Let God use you without consulting you....

Some advice I need to heed, from Mother Theresa, via the Archbishop-elect of New York.

“Do I want to go? Do I consider myself qualified? Are there much better candidates for the position?” Archbishop Dolan asked rhetorically.

“All of that is really beside the point. The obedience I freely and enthusiastically promised to Jesus Christ, His Church, and His vicar on earth, our Holy Father, is a very liberating act. So, I place my future in the hands of the Lord, whose grace and mercy endure forever, and I go.”

And really, how could ya not love a guy who values a good paczki? (That's pronounced "poonch-kee," for those of you who have not had the pleasure.)
I expect to enjoy at least one tomorrow night, assuming ANYONE shows up for choir rehearsal...
Even Himself is proving to be... well, let's just say, TPTB are demonstrating yet again in what lowly regard they hold what we do.
Go ahead, schedule something else during choir rehearsal.
Every rehearsal, every week.
Go ahead.
Think the noise will bother us? bother me?

I feel a Saint-Saens moment coming on....

Or is that not how He wants to use me?

The Chant, and "Accessing a Naive State of Bliss"

The Irish Times has a long piece on the power of music as experienced by the Benedictines of Glenstal Abbey, County Limerick.

Acknowledging that Gregorian chant has a special relationship to Catholic Liturgy, Br Cyprian Love speaks of the way it helps order time, calms one physically, evokes memory and emotion, focuses the mind... all good, all true.

What I like is the way Br Cyprian points to other musical forms and styles that share this power to "take you on a spiritual journey," (a "journey," I wish to add, that does not preclude utter stillness -- the stillness that is the furthest thing possible from passivity or inertia

It's important to remember that the "chant jocks" and sacred music fanatics are not, none of them, (none of us?,) so far as I know, of the Gregorian or nothing mindset they are accused of by the Ephemerists.

Rather, we hold Gregorian chant as the ideal, and any music that takes its inspiration from the chant, any music for which the chant serves as a model, any music with the same values, is a worthy avenue of exploration for liturgical musicians.

(So no, sorry, that would not include the cha-cha, head-banger, serial music...)

Sprinkling Rite During Gloria

My parish, as long as I have lived here, has had the peculiar, to me, custom of performing any sprinkling rite during the Gloria (except the one with the renewal of baptismal promises that replaces the Credo on Easter)

I always wondered where the practice originated, but the couple times I broached the subject, people who might have known became somewhat defensive, and I backed off, (I didn't want to be pegged as the Liturgy Police... even if I do have the scanner in the den, to listen to the dispatcher and the patrol cars ;oP)

Well, now I know.
Instructions for Confirmation arrived from the chancery (they don't actually concern me, because I am given unpaid leave for anything Toby decides.)

So, bishops, (or O of W's) orders --"please keep in mind that when the Gloria is to be sung, the Sprinkling Rite will occur during the sung Gloria.
If the choice is made to have a sprinkling rite song, the Gloria should be completely omitted (A spoken Gloria is not appropriate. ) For appropriate Sundays in the Liturgical year the Gloria is always sung."


A series of partial truths and tiny errors, IMO -- the sprinkling rite if used replaces the PENITENTIAL Rite, not the Gloria.
While the Gloria is a hymn and yes, it should be sung, if the Liturgy of the day calls for a Gloria it cannot licitly be omitted.
But if singing it is not an option, (yet -- it is presumed that this would be in a liturgically immature or musically challenged parish that was on its way to remedying the situation,) the Gloria must at least be spoken.

Just leaving it out is less appropriate than reciting it.
Does this O of W have a tendency to present preferences as rubrics?

Sunday, 22 February 2009

"Pinki" Wins

That All May Be One...

If you are not already reading the witty and formidable Fr Hunwicke I suggest, nay, URGE that you add him to your daily read.
In all the kerfuffle about potential unification, (RC, SSPX, TAC, a veritable alphabet soup of liturgical reverence,) he imagines a dialogue betwixt a would-be Tiber-swimmer, (yes, I've read that the metaphor is bad, inapt, I like it nonetheless....,) and one of those I-don't-see-why-you-have-to-believe-what-the-Church-teaches-to-call-yourself-Catholic prelates:

Anglican priest
Morning, Bishop. Having believed the whole Faith for 55 years as an Anglican priest, I have discerned that this is the moment humbly to seek full communion.

RC Bishop
We don't accept single issue converts. If you're one of these troublemakers who have been so noisy about women bishops ...

I don't believe that women can be bishops, but I'm not single issue. For all my life I've accepted all the defined doctrines of the Church including those of Vatican One ...

Did you say Vatican One?

(failing to notice the thunderous brow) Yup. Pastor aeternus and all that. First rate stuff.

That's as may be. I don't say it is and I don't say it isn't. But you sound a prickly sort of chap to me.

Bishop, I just thought that, now your diocesan establishment is down to nine priests with an average age of 81, I might be of some use to you.

It's far too early to think about the possibility of ordination. You'll have to spend many, many years acclimatising yourself as a layman to our Catholic culture, before the question even arises.

Well, I think I do know fairly well ...

Let me test you. What is the first thing that a priest says at the start of Mass after crossing himself in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?

Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui ...

(the veins in his firehead bulging dangerously) In fact, I think I have already discerned that God is not calling you to priesthood. You are clearly too young/old, you are under/over qualified, you are encumbered with a wife/unmarried and therefore presumably homosexual, in fact I think I recall my chum Jim/Jack/Bob/Bill, the bishop of Barchester, talking about you only the other day. He said that you were a pain in ... that you were not well adapted to modern models of collaborative ministry.

(Forgive me, I've taken the liberty of changing the format, vaguely Tams-Witmarkish, getting in practice for typing up the kiddie scripts.... WHAT WAS I THINKING???!?!???)

Friday, 20 February 2009

Hymn Playing

Michael Lawrence on Hymn playing, which, while not the "hardest part" of my existence, is indeed a trial.
As much as I relish the playing of the organ literature and the creativity of the improvisations, these are not the aspects of the playing that get most of my attention. The truth is that the hymn playing is what really grabs me. It is organic (none of this “hold the last chord and count to two-and-a-half” and other pseudo-scientific, pseudo-musical approaches), and he makes it easy for the singers. I have never taken a single, solitary breath out of sync with this organist; it’s as though he’s able to unite the whole room with the power of his genius.

Though some will feel compelled to give some kind of do-gooder answer when it comes to such things, when I get to talking about the hardest aspect of my job, the answer is quite simple: hymn playing. It’s the hardest thing an organist does.

There are so many variables that need to be engaged. Here’s just one: phrasing. I’ve known many singers who have what I like to call a “comma fetish,” i.e., they breathe where there are commas, and they steadfastly refuse to breathe where there are none—even if the musical phrase has come to an end! In retort to this chintzy approach, one of my voice teachers once said, “God made all commas, visible and invisible.” I’m reminded, too, of a masterclass I attended of John Shirley-Quirk, one of the finest baritones in the world, in which he said that in singing there is a constant tension between the word and the music, and that at any given moment one may be more important than the other.

So much for the “comma fetish” hermeneutic of hymn playing. It seems to me that in playing hymns, one must consider a number of peculiarities. Because the music is metrical and large groups of people are singing, one is limited in the amount of verbal expression that will be possible. Sometimes a comma in the middle of a phrase just needs to be ignored. Besides, most of us don’t take conspicuous pauses at every comma when we speak; why should it be any different when we sing? At the same time, it seems to me that the ends of the musical phrases need to be marked with a breath, if for no other reason than that this is exactly how 98.5% of the people in the pews who are singing are going to do it. It is not my job as an organist to be a social engineer, to try to cram down the throats of the congregation gimmicks that replace musicality.

Now this subject, like all other subjects in which organists (and musicians, too) get involved, is controversial. It will not surprise me if I get some feedback saying that I’m stupid and so was my great-great grandfather. But this highlights the mental pretzels in which one can find oneself in the process of preparing a hymn. I have not even begun to discuss registration, tempo, introductions, modulations, etc.

But there it is, my friends. This is the hardest part of my job—not some feel-good trendy liturgical fashion statement (”Minister to the minsterial needs of the music ministers…”) on my job description, but playing hymns. It’s funny how the seemingly simple can be so complicated.

Hmmm... Is Michael part of Aristotle's blog now?

Martha, Martha, Martha!

(You have to read that title in Eve Plumb's voice.)

A strange discussion on Holy Smoke begun by decrying the "hatchet job" done by a Tablet writer on the great Fr Tim Finigan descended into an "if you spend money on liturgical beauty/children you must be evil because it means you don't care about children/liturgical beauty" snipefest.

It only struck me because on the endless travel of the past few days I'd been thinking about the need we all have, of setting of priorities.

He entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me."
The Lord said to her in reply,
You are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her

There is need of only one thing - the better part.

One Thing - the Better Part.

One Thing - the Better Part.

The Gospel of Mark

According to David Letterman's "Fun Facts," the Gospel of Mark is the world's first blog.

And as long as I'm reading the NYTimes online...

Here's an article about the brief encounter between the Holy Father and the Speaker of the House.
Didya follow the link, did ya read it?
Does something seem out of place, gratuitous, irrelevant to the story at hand....?
I'll give you a hint:

Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday told Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Roman Catholic who supports abortion rights, that Catholic politicians must protect “human life at all stages of its development.”
Ms. Pelosi is the highest-ranking Democrat to meet with the pope since the election of President Obama, whose administration’s support of abortion rights worries many in the Vatican.

In a statement, the Vatican said Benedict “briefly greeted” Ms. Pelosi and her entourage after his weekly public audience and “took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.”

The pope added that all Catholics, “especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society,” should “work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.”

As a high-ranking politician and a practicing Catholic who regularly attends Mass and receives communion, Ms. Pelosi has been at the center of several contentious debates between the Catholic Church and the American political establishment.

Ever since the 2004 presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, a Catholic, United States bishops have debated whether to deny communion to politicians who support abortion rights.

Before the presidential election last fall, several American bishops criticized Ms. Pelosi for saying that church leaders had argued for centuries over whether life begins at conception.

The American bishops also criticized Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Catholic who during the campaign said that “to impose” his “personal judgment” that life begins at conception seemed “inappropriate in a pluralistic society.”

Most of the Vatican hierarchy is deeply concerned about the Obama administration’s support of abortion rights, which differs from the position taken by the Bush administration.

In a statement issued by her office on Wednesday, Ms. Pelosi said it was “with great joy” that she and her husband, Paul, had met Benedict.

She said she had praised “the church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel.” Ms. Pelosi’s statement did not mention the pope’s comments on abortion.

Her office noted that she has previously said she wants to reduce abortions but that she remains in favor of abortion rights.

In a move that provoked controversy, the pope last month revoked the excommunication of four bishops from a society founded in rejection of the liberalizing changes of the Second Vatican Council, including its commitment to religious freedom.

Visiting Italy his week, Ms. Pelosi has also met with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and other Italian politicians.

Oops, maybe that was too big a hint....

"Pretty Much a Dead Letter in Catholicism Today"

I think it is Amy Welborn who needs to ask, far too often when reading "Catholic stories" in the MSM, "don't you have any other names on your rolodex?"

The NYTimes has a terrific article on one priest's efforts to promote, and one parish's revival of the Sacrament of Confession, (and no, Mr. Freedman, that is not a less "formal" name for the practice than "Reconciliation.")

So, wonderful things are happening, the diocese has an initiative too, parishioners rightly point to the love affair our society is having at present with the secular versions of it, and who does the journalist drag out for a quote?
“Confession as we once knew it is pretty much a dead letter in Catholicism today,” * the Rev. Richard P. McBrien... wrote in an e-mail message.

Father McBrien... added in a subsequent e-mail message that “the practice at the Stamford parish is an anomaly, not a sign of anything else” and at best “part of a small minority” of churches.

How could there be a revival of the practice, asked Fr Kael, er.... I mean, Fr McBrien, nobody I know does it.

Anyway, well done Msgr. DiGiovanni.

* Some might beg to differ with McBrien.
F'rinstance, another priest, named Pope Benedict or something like that, is said to receive the sacrament weekly, and says, "We are losing the notion of sin. If people do not confess regularly, they risk slowing their spiritual rhythm."

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Extraordinary Ministers

Having spent a goodly portion of the only vacation I have taken in over two years in a convalescence facility, I have had the opportunity to observe sacred rituals as enacted by quite a number of extraordinary ministers of Communion.

God bless them all for their works of mercy.

Having said that, I would also like to note that in many cases either their training seems to have been inadequate, or their admission to the ministry ill-considered.

If they were properly trained, too many of them seem to feel that their primary charge is delivery of generalized comfort, rather than the Blessed Sacrament; and that they are free to personalize the ritual.

Nonetheless, I am very grateful.

The Germans are an Interesting People

Bernd das Brot, kidnapped by squatters, (in what Variety identified as a crematorium,) was found alive and well and untoasted, although his kidnappers' house has burnt to the ground.

The glumly glutenous Bernd is a much beloved, brand name, er... I mean, cartoon character.

Photo: DPA

And you thought the hallucinatorily gay SpongeBob was weird....

This article describes poor Bernd as "surly," but I had thought it was more a matter of a kind of nihilistic depression.

Monday, 16 February 2009

It's all about... ME!

I always think the Gospel and OT readings about leprosy are 'specially chosen for me, either to rub my nose in it, (deservedly, needfully,) or to comfort me.
Yesterday, no exception (was that really only yesterday? it feels like a hundred years ago that I began the busman's holiday of checking out all the Masses at this one, enormous and growing, Catholic parish, (about which... well, I need to work on how to put it in love,) before going on to the hospital.
Anyway, quite nice, Benedict's linking of the scriptural theme of the day to our need for repentance, confession, forgiveness and reconciliation in the Angelus address.

Benedict... explained how "according to ancient Jewish Law leprosy was considered not just as an illness but as the most serious form of 'impurity'. It was the priest's task to diagnose it and declare as unclean the sick person, who then had to leave the community ... until his recovery, if any, a recovery that had to be properly certified. Leprosy, then, constituted a kind of religious and civil death, and its cure a sort of resurrection.

"In leprosy", he added, "we may see a symbol of sin, which is the true impurity of the heart and has the power to distance us from God. It is not in fact the physical sickness of leprosy, as established by the ancient laws, that separates us from Him, but guilt, spiritual and moral evil. ... The sins we commit distance us from God and, if not humbly confessed with trust in divine mercy, they go so far as to produce the death of the soul". The Holy Father then observed how Christ during His Passion "would become as a leper, made unclean by our sins, separated from God: and He would do this for love, in order to obtain reconciliation, forgiveness and salvation for us".

"In the Sacrament of Penance the crucified and risen Christ, through His ministers, purifies us with His infinite mercy, He restores us to communion with the heavenly Father and with our brothers and sisters, He makes us the gift of His love, His joy and His peace".

Benedict XVI concluded by inviting the faithful "to make frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession, the Sacrament of Forgiveness, which we must increasingly rediscover today in the value and importance it has for our lives as Christians".

Hmmm... perhaps it is all about me.

Papa, the Provocateur

Fr Raymond de Souza in the National Post, working from the recent SSPX fracas as a starting point, (of which he says, disagreeing with my thesis, "The cunning plan of a master strategist? Not likely this time; mistakes are mistakes,") makes some excellent points about how the quiet little professor with the church mouse manner has been stirring the pot for years:

Since he arrived in Rome more than 25 years ago, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has repeatedly and deliberately been provocative, kicking up enormous media storms on sensitive subjects. His calculated risk is that his interventions will not move the debate one way or the other within the given parameters, but change the parameters of debate altogether.

He is willing to play with fire in order to bring both heat and light; the obvious danger is that on occasion the fire scorches the Vatican itself.

Benedict is a quiet, even shy man. But he is not timid or naive. He is not afraid to bring the fire, even if, as was the case this month, it means that those gentle, classical pianist's fingers might get burnt. [emphasis supplied]

Perhaps the gesture of acknowledgment PapaRatz makes to crowds, which either Raymond Arroyo or the late Fr Neuhaus referred to as "piano fingers" is intended to cool them off.

What I still find remarkable is how seldom with all the "what kind of message does this send to [fill in the blank] ?!?!?!?" sturm und drang around various papal moves of the past 4 years, the whingers realize that the message may be intended for THEM.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

"Because He is on that altar. Get up and go."

Interesting story, Anne Rice's.
Her prose was always a bit too purple for me, but her storytelling surely engages.

But her own life seems as intriguing as that of any of her fictional creations.

Reverts and prodigals...

But this is a great story for Mom's everywhere, no? You might not see the results, you might despair, but you are your child's best hope for salvation, because for him or her, you are the face of the Church.

Different points of view...

I think it is important to read what those with whom one disagrees are saying.

Here, for instance, one Eamonn McCann seems to be saying, Look how He dines with prostitutes and tax-collectors...!!!!!

How can the Pope welcome such appalling faces of Catholicism?
Liberal Catholics have been anguished and angered by the Pope welcoming a Holocaust denier back into the Church and promoting to the hierarchy, a man who believes that the death and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina was devoutly to be welcomed as representing God’s wrath against New Orleans for its tolerance of homosexuals.


A novena for the Holy Father, compliments of Hermeneutics of Continuity.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Okay, I am officially a... is there a feminine of "fanboy"? ... of Cameron Carpenter

I attended a concert by Cameron Carpenter this evening.

Wow and wow again. The only thing I would have changed is -- REMOVE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT FROM THE TABERNACLE WHEN YOU ARE HAVING A CONCERT IN A CHURCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
How hard is that?

But his skill is so great, his showmanship so NOT overbearing, his oral program notes so engaging, His charm so palpable, his musicality so great, his programming so interesting, and his... well, just see him and hear him if you have the chance.

I, being the epitome of Lucy Leftfoot don't follow doings in the world of non-liturgical, wait, make that "non-how-can-I-disguise-the-utter-innate-cheeziness-of-this-piece-of-religious" music, so I had no notion of what to expect.

But from the opening Revolutionary Etude through the improv on "My Grandfather's Clock," he had me.

From this cold sufferer -- DUH

So, just STOP blowing your nose.

Blowing your nose to alleviate stuffiness may be second nature, but some people argue it does no good, reversing the flow of mucus into the sinuses and slowing the drainage.

Counterintuitive, perhaps, but research shows it to be true....

The proper method is to blow one nostril at a time and to take decongestants, said Dr. Anil Kumar Lalwani, chairman of the department of otolaryngology at the New York University Langone Medical Center. This prevents a buildup of excess pressure.

I am tired of winter.

Why prisons, maybe, sorta, just oughta NOT be privatized

Among the most appalling stories I have read recently, (gad, doncha just LOOOOOVE capitalism?)

I don't know why, I do not know anyone personally, so far as i know, who has been imprisoned, much less incarcerated unjustly.
But the idea of this has always haunted me (watching I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang on the Million Dollar Movie while babysitting as a fourteen year old?)

Anyway, I am exactly the kind of bleeding heart who would rather a hundred guilty persons be back on the street rather than one innocent person be deprived of his liberty ON MY BEHALF, (which is what it is. And on your behalf too, if you are a citizen of this nation.)

Weirdly, I was just discussing this, (a natural evolution of the rant about privtizing public parking.....?)

[J]udge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care.

While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled.

“In my entire career, I’ve never heard of anything remotely approaching this,” said Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim, who was appointed by the State Supreme Court this week to determine what should be done with the estimated 5,000 juveniles who have been sentenced by Judge Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2003. Many of them were first-time offenders and some remain in detention.

Blog Blather

Am I the only one who finds the knickers-in-a-knot squealing at Whispers in the Loggia over the imminent replacement of his episcopal bete noir unseemly?
I like his writing, I like his blog, but sometimes it's difficult to read the words through the slaver and spittle all over his page.
(I realize this post is the equivalent of a nit commenting upon a gorilla...)

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Lincoln's Lesson for Liturgists

A marvelous humility.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Likewise, the Church? She's been around a while. She's not something new. She's not "ours." Our fathers and mothers in the Faith have a lot more claim to being Her founders than anyone of us and they didn't have the hubris to think She was their creation, nor dedicated to them and their wishes.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

The Liturgy the Church has received from Her Head? She can't improve it, she can't make it more "meaningful." All She, in the persons of her many members, can do is to strive to have greater comprehension of its meaning inherent and unchanging and unchangeable, the meaning already contained therein, to more completely fulfill what has been prescribed.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us

As it is for us to be formed by the Mass, not to try to form it; to be the missionaries we are sent to be - missa est.
-- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
And the gates of hell shall not prevail against Her.

New Worry

"Sometimes, Mrs. Crummles... sometimes I fear we are not immortal"

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Throwing darts at presbyteral headshots to make episcopal appointments

I was reading the Vatican News Service, and noticed in the past week there have been about twenty appointments, some curial, but most bishops in strange and exotic places of which I've never heard (Gallup, f'rinstance ;oP)

Is that a pretty normal rate?

And if so, how in the H*** can people alternately whinge about how slow the Pope is to fill their own diocese's vacancies by trying to discern the will of the Holy Spirit in choosing from among the names of several people half way around the world whom he has never met --- and whingeing about inadequately vetted choices?
And does the great mass of complainers beiing pretty evenly divided between the two camps mean that a pretty good middle course is actually being steered in the appointments business?

R i P, Eluana Englaro

Eluana Englaro was starved to death and died yesterday.

In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Mother Theresa vs. Yoda

I'm with my brother, or, as a member of a mega-family I should say, I am with one of my brothers.
He likes to scold people who have not given him as definitive an answer as he has sought, in a voice and rhythm he learned from Star Wars, "Is no try; is only do or not do."

But Blessed Mother Theresa said, "God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful."

The title of the post looks like an episode of Celebrity Death Match, doesn't it?

So, always interested in "..... Superman or mighty Mouse?" type arguments, (Welcome to the Louds! Why have a discussion when you can have an argument?) I hereby voice my opinion:

Mother Theresa in a knock-out!


O God,
to show us where innocence leads,
you made the soul of your virgin Saint Scholastica soar to heaven
like a dove in flight.
Grant through her merits and her prayers
that we may so live in innocence
as to attain to joys everlasting.
This we ask through our Lord.


If only she'd had the decency to kill some of them...

A friend insists that if only the mother of the octoplets + 6 had told the world that she had tried or even considered aborting some of them she would now be feted rather than pilloried.

I cannot think of an argument, some evidence that no, the World is not that ugly.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Saints and Sinners and Copyright

Jeffrey Tucker does the Church a great service by continuing the pressure on TPTB to come to a fair resolution of the injustices of the way the copyrights on the English translations of the sacred texts of the Catholic Liturgy are administered.
But I am puzzled.
It seems to be taken as a given that greedy ICEL demands its pound of flesh to use the real words of the Mass, and so the freedom-fighter* composer or publisher is forced to use some paraphrase rather than bow to ICEL's mercenary demands.
So it always seems to be framed.
Certainly the problem has ended up encouraging massive abuse of Mass texts by musicians who don't want to pay the ICEL tax. The most widely used Mass setting in the United States carefully adjusts the official text so that ICEL doesn't have to be paid. Thus do we sing, "Jesus, Lamb of God," instead of "Lamb of God." [emphasis added]

Oh, all these illicit, (arrogant, I say,) texts are because someone resents ICEL's greedy attempts to profit by the use of the text?
Not because the composer or publisher wants to hold and profit by a copyright of texts themselves?

Why is ICEL the villain in this scenario and the purveyors of the ersatz sacred texts get a pass?

Why are the motives of the one vilified, and the other's escape criticism?

I'm not convinced, I'd buy the noble freedom-fighter characterization.... if the silly refrains and awkward phrases of the Celebration series, for instance, weren't themselves copyrighted.
If they had been placed in the public domain, (I am speaking of the texts, only.)
And if some owners didn't insist that one needed a license to reproduce even public domain texts if one intended them to be sung to a copyrighted tune, or even a copyrighted accompaniment to a public domain tune.
I see no evidence that the impetus is more to avoid paying ICEL than to create the opportunity to exact their own pound of flesh.

Look how often a familiar (need I add, public domain?,) harmonization of a classic hymn is given minute, and often as not clumsy, changes simply to enable someone in the Liturgical-Industrial complex to copyright for himself Love Divine, or Amazing Grace.

No, I am not buying it.

(*I am certainly not suggesting the Bow-tied One characterizes theses people this way.)

A Raccolta of Self-Indulgences?

Now that, some of the degressives could probably get behind.

The NewYork Times as an article on the revival of interest in, (as a result of a revival of catechesis about... duh,) indulgences.

I am one of those who grew up more or less utterly ignorant of the practice as anything that existed in the modern world, though I did know what they were, yes, partly from history class (high school? not hardly.... middle,) but also from asking the Mom and the Dad what various .... offers? on the back of the scads of holy cards in their missals and hymnals meant.

Any way, thank you, Old Grey Lady, for the balanced, accurate (so far as a know,) and even respectful treatment of the subject.
The only disrespect comes from the sadly predictable Frs. McBrien and Reese.

The good news is we’re not selling them anymore, (it seems to go without saying, then, that the speaker finds any revival of the practice to be essentially "bad news.")

“Personally, I think we’re beyond the time when indulgences mean very much,” said the Rev. Richard P. McBrien, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame who supports the ordination of women and the right of priests to marry. “It’s like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube of original thought. Most Catholics in this country, if you tell them they can get a plenary indulgence, will shrug their shoulders.”

I do find it laudable that in identifying exactly what kind of priest Fr McBrien is, the Times makes it clear what his thinking is. It would have been nice if they had also noted how infrequently his thinking is one the Church's, but you can't have everything, and if you did, where would you put it?
And they probably don't need to spell it out to those of their readers genuinely interested in the Faith.

Of sins.
That one has personally committed.
To ask the Almighty to forgive them.
In the certain knowledge that He is All-Merciful.

What a concept!

Why didn't Catholics think of this BEFORE??!??!?#??$???

The World, the Church, and "Larger" Families

As a member of such a family, I heard all this growing up, (although a reporter in a respectable paper would not have been so ugly and biased -- smaller families are "more precious"? really?) and of course articles about this interest me.

But what really is flooring me, absolutely flooring me is the utter lack of irony with which our do-whatever-you-want culture, although they have the innate sense of decency to have been shocked enough by the crazed "Mother of Six [who] Gives Birth to Octuplets" to question the morality of the situation, it's all on a basis questioning how she can afford it (would it have been okay if she were super wealthy?,) or how she'll manage child-care, (would it have been okay if she were part of a free-love common law polygamist group?,) or what are the results to the babies' long-term health, (had we discovered away to bring large groups of multiple birth babies to full term would that have made it better?), or how many is "too" many, (if there weren't already six at home would that have satisfied people?)

No one seems to get that a deal was made with the devil, by denigrating the natural family unit, (by declaring it on an even plain with any other living or relationship or sexual arrangement,) and by putting the stamp of societal approval on the reproductive technologies employed -- to divorce procreation from the marital act.
No one seems to get that this situation which the World is clucking its tongues over sanctimoniously is the natural end of the path we've been following, and about which the World cooed its approval.
All the little evils the World celebrates blend together into this fine kettle of fish that has the arbiters of the World's thoughts and mores and trends wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth.
The World has only itself to blame.
The World told this woman that children were a purchasable commodity, and a permanently committed to each other mother and father of a family were suprefluous, and that no one should tell a woman what she could or could not do with her body...

The World got it wrong.

Only the Church got it right.

Poor Cassandra.... I mean, Paul VI.

Small correction -- I was not part of a "larger family," on closer reading I see that we are a "mega-family."

Cause and Effect

So, after all the denials, and leaks, and contradictions, even the Old Grey Lady says it is so, Richard Williamson is no longer rector of the SSPX seminary.
Does anyone truly believe the SSPX would have seen fit to distance itself from even the whiff of racism and hatred, (and I do NOT accept the nonsensical stance that to question the magnitude of the slaughter or the measures employed by the Nazi's in their attempted extermination of Jews, -- as well Gypsies, homosexuals, Slavs, of course, -- constitutes either "holocaust-denial" or "anti-semitism,) had the Holy Father not bravely and without care for the beating he would take in the regard of men, lifted the excommunications?

Whatever the confusion, hurt or finger-pointing expressed by various curial voices, I have no doubt whatsoever that this all played out as Benedict pretty much knew it would, and knew it must, and knew it would have regardless of any prior attempts at spin, PR or damage control.

Those who would use any stick to thrash the Body of Christ and its Vicar would have done so in any case, and by allowing the news of the lifting of the excommunications to be released with virtually no explanation it allowed them to "... scream and shout, wave the arms and run about," and, their tantrum having exhausted them, the grown-ups were able to continue the converstion.

Last week’s statement by the Secretariat of State seemed to repair relations with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which plans to continue its dialogue with the Vatican, said its director general, Oded Wiener. The body had asked to postpone a March meeting with the Vatican in protest.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

All in a day's work

A tip of the hat to Sir Monocle for this charming story:

A first grade girl handed in this drawing for a homework assignment. After it was graded and the child brought it home, she returned to school the next day with the following note:

Dear Ms. Davis, I want to be very clear on my child's illustration. It is NOT of me on a dance pole on a stage in a strip joint. I work at Home Depot and had commented to my daughter how much money we made in the recent snowstorm. This photo is of me selling a shovel
Mrs. Harrington

"At some point there has to be peace"

It is not up to me, I understand how it would be presumptuous.
But the man quoted here ?

He has some standing. At some point, if humanity is to survive there has to be forgiveness, and acknowledgement of our mutual failings, and mutual love.

The paper next to the courtroom door announced the charge for the day’s hearing in tiny type that hardly seemed equal to its gravity. “Mord,” it read in German. Murder.

The accused waited with his lawyer, standing unsteadily, gripping a crutch with one arm. Josef Scheungraber, 90, is charged in the deaths of 14 Italian civilians in June 1944, when he was a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht. He is an accused war criminal, called to account more than six decades later.

The crimes against humanity committed under the Nazi regime remain the issue that refuses to go away here, and every time it seems to be sinking out of view it breaks through the surface again. I had just driven from the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where I was researching an article about Dr. Aribert Heim, a Nazi doctor who allegedly murdered hundreds of people, most of them Jews, through poison injections directly to the heart and surgery that would better be described as butchery.

My colleagues and I found that Dr. Heim’s flight from justice ended with his death in 1992 in Cairo, where he had lived, hidden from Nazi hunters, as a Muslim convert. He would never face his accusers in court, as Mr. Scheungraber now must.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Scheungraber ordered the shooting of three Italian men and a 74-year-old woman, then ordered that 11 more civilians be forced into a barn, which was blown up. Ten of the 11 died. Mr. Scheungraber has been convicted in absentia in Italy but has testified here that he was rebuilding a nearby bridge when the civilians were killed, and that he had nothing to do with the order to kill civilians as revenge for an attack by Italian partisans.

The trial has played out quietly, largely out of the glare. A war-crimes trial evokes images of packed benches and the strobe of flashbulbs, but on this recent morning fewer than 15 people waited to watch the proceedings. I went not because it was a news story but because I wanted to hear what Germans thought about the continuing process, at a point when some of the accused criminals from the Balkan wars of the 1990s, like Slobodan Milosevic, have already passed away from natural causes.

“We have to remember,” said Manfred Wenzel, 71, resolutely, before wavering and adding, “although I’m not sure these people should be pursued anymore.” He sighed and concluded, “At some point there has to be peace.”

Mr. Wenzel seemed much happier describing a story in keeping with the European Union’s recent reign of open borders, rather than dwelling on the continent’s darkest years. “The son of one of the Italian witnesses actually married a German and they coincidentally live right here in Munich,” Mr. Wenzel said. “He showed no resentment at all.”

I first moved to Germany as a student in 1995, and was amazed to find a country so ready not only to embrace its guilt for long-ago crimes, but to discuss it, research it and commemorate it with unusual diligence. But lately I have noticed a shift. When the Nazi era comes up in interviews, people plead to me with their eyes to let it drop. There are fewer discussions and more awkward silences.

Increasingly, I get the sense that many Germans would like to move on. Not forget, but move on.

I remember hearing a homily in Detroit from a Catholic priest who had recently returned from a trip to Ireland.
What began as a paean to the faith of the Irish people in the face of adversity became a diatribe against a man he obviously hated.

Oliver Cromwell.

And yet this priest was certainly less than four hundred years old.

I don't feel Cromwell's descendants, corporate or genetic, owe me. Neither do the Turks. Or the Danes. Or the Russian people.

Do I owe someone for something that happened before I was born, a hundred, two hundred years ago?

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Pots, Kettles and Consistency

Fr Hunwicke derides, albeit charitably, far more concisely and eloquently than I could manage, the lack of irony with which the "chattering elite" who decry the threat of excommunication held over those who support the right to privately murder unborn children, have nonetheless clucked their tongues over the lifting of the SSPX excommunications.

Well, what do the POLLS say is the right thing to do?

Because shouldn't all we do and say be guided by what other people might think of it, isn't that how the morality of an action is decided? kind of the Family Feud approach to Theology and Ethics and All That Good Stuff?

Yet Père Georges David Byers, Chapelain des Sanctuaires Notre-Dame de Lourdes seems to think otherwise.

[T]here is one thing that we hate more than anything else: not being consulted. We would rather marginalize someone, kill them off, rather than not be consulted. Even if there is nothing to discuss, such as the love of Christ being manifested to us, we go berzerk. Of course we would reject His love and truth and goodness and kindness. That’s what we do without His grace. He knows that. So, he didn’t consult us about His coming. He sent His angel Gabriel to announce things to Mary, of necessity, and we have all the prophets, but there is no discussion about this. The Lord is the Lord of History. And that’s the whole of it. And we hate that. It means that without our consultation we’re going to have His love and truth and goodness and kindness, and that is going to require us to stop being such jerks, such schmucks. We hate that. “CONSULT ME FIRST!” we scream. If we want to cooperate with His grace, finally, we can get over that, thank God.
Now, take the case of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, governing with fatherly solicitude, making bold efforts for the sake of unity in the Church, unity in the body of Christ. He knows that this love in truth, that this goodness and kindness will be hated, hated, hated, even by those closest to him, and that they will scream their screams of “CONSULT ME FIRST!” just to stop the love in truth, to stop the goodness and kindness. They will claim all sorts of rubbish about combining this thing with another thing which has nothing to do with the other thing (something which really makes them guilty, does it not, of what they themselves are projecting unto the Holy Father?). The Holy Father knew all this, but decided not to let such people stop him in his efforts for unity. The Holy Father knows that the Successor of Peter is the sign of unity, not underlings in the Roman Curia!
Look at the fall out: ecclesiastics, politicians, and even policy-of-playing-stupid-always journalists are showing themselves for who they are: politically correct projectors of their own rubbish. When it’s out, vomited all over the Holy Father, maybe they can see what they themselves have done in not taking the real issues seriously, but only making them worse. Maybe then they can take a step back, wipe the spittle from their mouths, and, in awe, say, “Truly this is the successor of Peter, governing with fatherly solicitude, gathering the flock into one fold!”
There is a type of person who unable to find legitimate, logical grounds on which to object to someone else's words or actions without betraying his own unrighteous agenda resorts to sanctimoniously rhetoricizing, what kind of MESSAGE does that send??!?#?$??%?

I mean, how is modern society supposed to deal with someone whose main concern doesn't seem to be how his actions look to ME?!??#?$?%??

They never stop to wonder if perhaps that is the message....

(By the way, go to the good Father's blog to add your blossoms to the spiritual bouquet for the Holy Fathe,)

St. Bernardus Prior 8

My brother, loudly opinionated but always right one, has introduced me to a new beer, a Belgian beverage, compliments of the Trappists, I think: St. Bernardus Prior 8

Rich and dark and a little sweet, and as satisfying and comforting as a perfect bowl oatmeal.


Wednesday, 4 February 2009

The IN-form of the Reform

This is not, by any means, what this article concerning a talk by Fr. (is that the correct title?) Robert Taft about the great Alexander Schmemann about, but a wonderful use of words, struck me, and I think i want to adopt the usage: Remembering Fr. Alexander as protagonist for the discipline of liturgical theology, Fr. Taft honored him as an "informer," not a "reformer," and as a "'kerygmatic theologian'... who was able to bring out of the liturgy its true meaning and make it live for people as a joyous event, which is the life in Christ."


Both the Liturgy and those who are meant to be shaped by the Liturgy, (and perhaps even more importantly, those who foolishly try to shape the Liturgy,) are in need not of reform but a higher degree of INformation.

A correcting of misinformation would eliminate many of the DEformations that have plagued the Body of Christ in recent decades, and an ever deeper investigation into what and Who is already contained therein would accomplish far greater things than of which arrogant creativity could ever dream.

The Apostles gathered Around Peter Is the Primary Symbol of Catholic Unity

This piece from an Australian Jesuit run site makes the clear case for proper context when considering both the recent lifting of SPPX excommunications and their imposition in the first place.

Of course Australians have an interesting ecclesial context of their own, in addition to the universal one, for looking at the question.
Pope Benedict's decision to lift the excommunication of four dissident Bishops has caused controversy. It has largely focused on the anti-Semitic statements made by of one of the four Bishops, Richard Williamson (pictured). Church authorities on all sides have since scrambled to disown Williamson's attitudes.

But the Pope's decision also raises wider questions about the unity of the Catholic Church. These bear on a current conflict within the Catholic Church in Brisbane...

The disciplines that Archbishop Lefebvre ignored and the excommunication of the bishops were designed to safeguard the unity of the church in its faith and life. The decision of the Pope to lift the excommunication reflects a desire to restore unity. From his perspective it is a generous initiative, a circuit breaker, to heal division.

The gesture does not re-establish the unity in faith and in life between the Catholic Church and the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre. That was damaged before the 1988 ordinations. But it opens the way for conversation about what restoration of unity might involve. ...

The opposing claims of unity, identity and local autonomy in churches, as in societies, always need to be negotiated. The negotiation is always delicate, because in any dispute what each side prizes is precious. Pope Benedict's generous gesture, together with the projected acceptance of dissident Anglican congregations, has put into play the understanding of what unity entails.
(emphasis supplied)

It is very hard, as a Robertson Davies character might need to learn, that one is only "fifth business," but those wailing and gnashing their teeth over someone so evil and mis-guided as to impugn Julie Andrews being a part of the family may need such a lesson.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

.... Thanks be t'.... HUH?

Today our deacon entertained us with a combo dismissal and ornithological commentary.