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Thursday, 30 April 2009

Music: the "Heart's Abandonment to God"

At a concert, (half of which was not sacred music,) the Pope proposed that music becomes prayer and the "abandonment of the heart to God."

But the final piece was the Mozart "Ave Verum," after which Papa said that:
"meditation gives way to contemplation: The gaze of the soul rests on the Blessed Sacrament to recognize the Body of the Lord, the Body that was truly immolated on the cross and from which sprung forth the fountain of universal salvation."

"Mozart," he continued, "composed this motet shortly before dying, and in it one can say that music truly becomes prayer, abandonment of the heart to God, with a deep sense of peace."
[He thanked those responsible] for the concert, which, he said, "has richly been able not only to gratify the aesthetic sense, but at the same time, to nourish our spirit."
It is not only in the Liturgy that music's power is abused and debased. How much of what is listened to today, I do not say "how much of what is played or sung" because those for whom music is something passively and remotely received are so vastly in the majority -- but how much of it "nourishes the spirit?"

I had to leave a store last year, (I should have sought out a manager to complain, but it didn't seem like a safe situation in whihc to do so,) because blaring from the sound system was a profanity-laden piece of "music" whose "singer" was describing how much better his girlfriend's sister was at a particular sex act than she.

How could the producers market that? How could the station play it? What does it do to young people to be bombarded with that?

An Anonymous "Yoot" on Liturgical Music

Over at Dr Jerry Galipeau's newish blog, in an ongoing discussion of the aptness and utility of different styles for use in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, an anonymous but sage whippersnapper has this to say:
One thing I get tired of as a young adult is the (well meaning) idea that we youngsters need to be hooked in via popular music. I find four major problems with that-

1- We don't all like the same music.

2- We don't get to tap into the music of our heritage, and we can't connect to it if other people decide we shouldn't hear it.

3- Generations are segregated and end up being pitted against one another in the battle of taste.

4- Music based on popular trend dies more quickly in the larger market than in the Church. This is why people make fun of us for hanging on to 70's style music when the rest of society has moved on.

I often go to an EF Mass these days. And I like the feeling that it is one family, not so much separated by tastes and generations. It is more like what I've experienced at various Eastern Rites, where the Mass is just the Mass, not the possession or creation of any one age group.

Regarding style, as I read Vatican documents more and more, it seems the wisest course of action in recovering a Catholic identity should be to aim for what the Church is asking in terms of sacred music. Seeing as the Mass is intended for all peoples and at all times, why not move toward mostly chant and polyphony in the sung liturgy and go for popular music in a rich and varied devotional life? Everyone wins.

Market-driven and profit concerns aside, I think this is our best option.
I find it sad that, as an earlier commenter in the same thread said, young people are leaving the Faith to attend mega-churches because of their taste in music, but I find it even sadder that thinking Catholics would find changing the music to suit anyone's taste is the answer.

If they have appropriate catechesis before they have drivers licenses, Catholic would put up with John and Darlene Edward as music ministers in order to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ; and the greatest performers of the greatest music in the universe would not lure them to worship instead with a sect of whose sanctuary it could be declared, as Blessed John Newman (IIRC,) is purported to have remarked about a beautiful Anglican church, "As the angel at the tomb said, He is not here."

Music, an Uncompromising Meritocracy

While looking for something else, (yes, the internet is the greatest timesuck since pinochle...,) I came across this two-year-old Ignatius Press essay, excerpted below, by Joseph Swain, a music professor music at Colgate University.
Well worth your time to read the whole thang [emphasis supplied throughout]:
another cultural view, perhaps too obvious to be analyzed by scholars, affected thinking on liturgy and liturgical music even more: democratization. The Cold War made democratization seem particularly virtuous and the rise to power of autocracies in Africa and in the Islamic world after the Cold War has only increased its allure.

I use this term and its verbal parent "democratize" rather than "democracy" because they imply the making of something into a democracy which formerly did not have that character. To say that democratization is an important agent for change in the modern Church is an understatement, and in liturgy in particular it can explain many of the reforms, both lauded and lamented, of the past four decades.

Under this thinking, the perceived value of the individual has risen in comparison to central authority, even in comparison to God. Everyone has a right, even a responsibility, to some role in liturgy. Every individual is potentially important and deserving of attention, which means that everyone has access to a role in the liturgy almost regardless of qualification, in the same way that most everyone can vote...

...the reconciliation of democratic principles with Roman Catholicism, whose theology makes the Kingdom of God a central image and yet recognizes a freedom of conscience, is problematic to say the least. More problematic is the democratization of music...

Music and democracy do not get along very well. Music is the most communal of the fine arts, so this seems a paradox, but it is nonetheless true. When music aspires to anything greater than the pub song, democracy proves to be highly impractical, and the greater the number of people involved (usually a sign of a successful democracy) the greater the impracticality.

Symphony orchestras and large choruses, the two flagships of western music, are among the least democratic of human institutions. Here, highly skilled and artistically gifted men and women surrender precisely what democracy prizes most — individual opinions, interpretations, decision-making, improvisation, physical autonomy, and to a great extent, freedom of speech — to the absolute rule of the philosopher king who is the conductor.

Individualism of any kind is the enemy of such music.

The last thing a section violinist wants is to be heard as an individual, to have audible character. Rather, his goal is to blend into the group as much as possible, to become an anonymous supernumerary. And why do these intelligent people cede their rights so cheerfully? In order to create a work of high art, unique in all creation, whose being depends upon their total dedication and surrender to the communal action that is the orchestra or chorus. But the point of it all is not communal action itself, or communal spirit, togetherness, or any such thing. The point is the music itself, to make it as great as its potential allows. It is not a bad analogy for liturgy, when one thinks about it.

[The so-called "folk" idiom] is an easy and attractive solution to the problem of what to sing in the liturgy, at least at first, and not without certain virtues, one of which certainly is that the music is not imposed from outside by a foreign tradition, but arises naturally from the people and therefore seems as democratic as music can be.

In most cases, the acceptance of folk idioms was and is entirely uncritical.... anyone who suggested that a popular idiom would not do in the liturgy was branded a reactionary who rejected the spirit of the Council, a person no longer to be taken seriously. This refusal to judge music has proved a disastrous mistake, for in place of a liturgical repertory parishioners have a revolving door.

The revolving door of parochial repertory is one big reason why people are unhappy with current liturgical music: it never acquires, for most of the year, the status of Christmas carols, songs that we have known from the cradle, that provide a distinct and warm sense of return every time the year rolls around again. The parish that has carols like that for every liturgical season, as all should have, is a rare parish. Instead, worshippers feel a subliminal tension each week: "What will they throw at us now?"
And so we spend a lot of time on music of poor quality. [Which, eventually] we can no longer stand to hear or sing it. It has failed, abysmally, the test of time. Once fresh and exciting, it has now become an embarrassment, often ridiculed by the youth it was supposed to attract....

democracy is thoroughly egalitarian. Everyone's vote is equal in weight; therefore, by extension, everyone's voice is equal in influence. T.... Authority and expertise are suspect; the majority rules.
... this conception is alien to the real world of music making, which, except where it is corrupt, is an uncompromising meritocracy. All men are definitely not created equal. Some musicians play better in tune than others. Some play more wrong notes than others. Some can play very fast. Some can sing so as to fill a large hall, with beautiful tone. Some can improvise and some cannot. There are better musicians and worse musicians and, when things are going well, the best ones are in charge....

Rev. M. Francis Mannion, [writing in 1988 ] in the journal Liturgy:
There is a whole generation of mostly young Catholic musicians who are severely disillusioned with the state of church music in the United States and who feel thoroughly unrepresented by the nation's liturgical music establishments . . . They experience incredible frustration because their training is not taken seriously . . . They worry, with good cause, that the ministerial conception of liturgical music often involves a bias against professional excellence....
If a parish were to install a new heating system, or to replace the roof or a crumbling foundation, can anyone imagine that notices would be placed in the Sunday bulletin asking for volunteers? Of course not; the parish would hire an expert and then execute his prescription. But in the business of music, which is many times more complex than any heating system, the typical American parish shuns the professional and his advice...

[The collapse of standards leads to] a vicious cycle of underqualified church musicians creating a market for music within their reach ...

Perhaps the most common complaint about the reformed liturgy, which indicts not the form of the liturgy but its performance, is the lack of solemnity. Like music itself, solemnity is not quite comfortable with democratic ideals. We are solemn in the face of awesome, infinite power, something far greater than ourselves. Solemnity restrains our behavior and makes us speak quietly, if at all, and sing otherworldly music. Solemnity implies attention to something other than ourselves, even other than our own families or community.

All such attitudes are dismissed in a democratized liturgy, which, in case we forget, is of, by, and for the people. Formality implies a social rank (witness the decline of the formal verb forms in French, Italian, German, and other European languages in the last 30 years and the ubiquitous use of first names in the United States)...

The last and saddest irony is how unnecessary it all has been. The aesthetics of a fine piece of sacred music and the ideals of participatio actuosa are in no way incompatible. Take a simple plainchant. For the typical congregant who is not a musician, it is easy enough to learn. For the music lover, still not a musician, it has a timeless sacred semantic that drives the growing revival of plainchant in Italy and other places. For the church musician, it poses more than enough challenges in performance and subtleties in appreciation.

And it doesn't even matter that everyone does not belt it out, for plainchant sounds better that way, rising mystically and anonymously from the people of God....
Most masterworks of liturgical music, indeed most masterworks in any art, have the power to appeal to nearly everyone on some level. That is one of the things that makes them masterworks. In this regard, they are true democratic art, far more so than the banalities that can satisfy, at best, the lowest common denominators of taste. If this is true, we may reasonably hope that the rediscovery of the treasure of the Catholic musical tradition is even inevitable. For after forty years of mediocrity, the people will demand it.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009


I should preface this by stating that I don't much about Mary Ann Glendon beyond the fact that she was slated to receive and honor which she has since declined to signal disapproval for another honor being bestowed by the same institution at the same time; that she is avowedly anti-abortion and pro life; and that she used to be US ambassador to the Vatican.

I don't know if she was a Bush apologist, or a supporter of a public policy of torture, or a tax cheat, or a paper clip swiper, or if she kicked her cat, or if she is any other kind of sinner.

But am I the only saying "huh?" at this editorial expressing the judgement Ms. Glendon was unworthy to receive the honor in question because, er.... she had the temerity to, uh, ... judge that someone else was unworthy of an honor, and in doing so showed herself to be "exclusionary and punitive "?

And as to the question, "since when is offering both sides of an issue, even symbolically, considered an abuse?", allow me to explain -- that would be when one "side" of the issue is morally untenable and anathema to the Faith.

Look, just because you don't support chattel slavery, don't try to inflict your morals on everyone else.
Your race is inferior to my race.
Women should have no leagal standing outside of being someon's wife or daughter.

Like that, you mean? Offering the other side of an issue?

(Oh, and bringing the honoring of Pres. Kennedy into the argument by reminding us that he was an absolute scumbag of a skirt hound WHICH WAS NOT KNOWN AT THE TIME is a perfectly idiotic argument for your thesis, Miss Standring.

“If the Liturgy is beautiful and dignified, it helps us to perceive the splendour of God”

You tell'em, Papa!
(Or perhaps I should say, "That's what I'm chantin' about!")
“If the Liturgy is beautiful and dignified, it helps us to perceive the splendour of God”.

That was the message at the heart of Pope Benedict XVI’s catechesis in his Wednesday Audience, held in a sunny St Peter’s Square.

The Pope’s thoughts on the liturgy stemmed from his reflections on early Christian writers of East and West, in particular Saint Germanus, Bishop and Patriarch of Constantinople, who in the 8th century openly opposed Emperor Leo III’s campaign against the use of sacred images, judging them to be a source of idolatry. Because of his opposition Germanus was forced to retire in exile to a monastery, where he later died. But his memory was not forgotten, and in the Second Council of Nicea, which restored devotion to sacred images, his name was honoured:
“The writings of Germanus, steeped in an ardent love of the Church and devotion to the Mother of God, have had a wide influence on the piety of the faithful both of the East and the West. He promoted a solemn and beautiful Liturgy and is also known for his insights in Mariology. In homilies on the Presentation and the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, Germanus extols her virtue and her mission. A text which sees the source of her bodily incorruption in her virginal maternity was included by Pope Pius XII in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus. I pray that through the intercession of Saint Germanus we may all be renewed in our love of the Church and devotion to the Mother of God”.

In comments in Italian Pope Benedict went on to say that God created man in his own image and likeness, but that this image has been soiled by human sin to such a point that it is almost unrecognisable to modern man. The Pope emphasised that sacred images teach us how to search for God in the face of Christ and the saints, who have been illuminated by Holiness.

Pope Benedict added that today we tend to only see what is negative in the Church, above all its sins; but that with the help of faith we become capable of seeing the Church in a more authentic way so we may rediscover its divine beauty. In this way a liturgy that is dignified and aims for beauty helps us all to rediscover the splendour of God”.
And this lovely testimonial:
Among the thousands present at this weeks audience was one very particular pilgrim who had made his way from America to greet Pope Benedict. And not for the first time. He is Joseph J. Esposito, New York City Police Chief. He told us why he had wanted to make this pilgrimage from the Big Apple together with his family:

“He had a tremendous influence on everybody in New York when he came, I would hope that he would have a similar influence when he goes to Israel, for peace. It’s something we need and I think one of the main ways we are going to get there is through prayer, and who better to tell us to pray for it than the Holy Father”.

"Notes Toward a Comprehensive Theory of Church Music"

A pretty thorough treatment of The Way Music In Churches Today Is , and what the main obstacles to achieving The Way Music In Churches Today Should Be from one of our episcopalian brethren, Fr Dan Martins.
His observations ring true, IME for Catholics, in this country at this time, and to my way of thinking his assessment and proposals are very balanced (but of course, if I'm unbalanced, my opinion of his thinking doesn't count for very much, eh? Ah, well....)
Notes Toward a Comprehensive Theory of Church Music
[I]in ecclesiastical wrangling... there will always be music to argue about.
.... virtually [no parish] can escape some degree of tension and ferment over what music should be used in the practice of corporate worship, who should perform it, and how it should be performed.

Music has been integrally associated with Christian worship from earliest times. And it has always generated tension. St Augustine experienced this tension within his own soul:
Thus I float between the peril of pleasure and an approved profitable custom: inclined to more (though herein I pronounce no irrevocable opinion) to allow of the old usage of singing in the Church; that so by the delight taken in at the ear, the weaker minds be roused up into some feeling of devotion. And yet again, so oft as it befalls me to be more moved with the voice than with the ditty, I confess myself to have grievously offended; at which time I wish rather not to have heard the music. (From Confessions)
One dimension of this tension concerns the delicate dance between liturgy qua liturgy, and music qua music. Liturgy is dependent on music (even though many western Christians regularly participate in “low Mass”—a celebration of the Eucharist sans music—this is a generic anomaly, and would wither without a connection to its normative template, the Sung Mass). But music is a veritable “force of nature,” and will always seek to take the lead position in the dance if it is allowed to.

Consequently, we see a cyclic pattern in history: Liturgical music, which begins as simple chant or song, very much “owned” by the assembly and its presider, grows little by little more complex, to the point where it becomes a high art form with a life of its own, reserved for skilled specialists, who perform while the main body of the assembly is mute. ...

When this happens, the liturgy eventually strikes back, and there is draconian reform. In the late 16th century, Pope Marcellus floated the idea of banning polyphony ... in1903, Pope Pius X once again attempted to reform and simplify the music of the Latin Rite in his Motu Proprio on Sacred Music, this time in reaction to the mammoth choral and orchestral Masses and Requiems of composers like Verdi and Berlioz.

In the early 21st century, this ongoing dynamic of gradually increasing musical complication leading to reactive simplifying reform still looms over our various liturgical landscapes. But we are usually too close to the ground to put our experience into this larger context.
Rather, at the moment, we tend to draw battle lines in the “worship wars” pitting various classical traditions (represented by organs, hymnals, and SATB choirs singing from anthem folios) against the “contemporary” stream (represented by texts projected on screens and “Praise Bands” singing from lead sheets). It may be tempting, but is too facile, to equate the “classical” strain with the tendency toward complication and “professionalization” of church music, and the “contemporary” strain with the reformist impulse. Reality is not so simple. There are multiple examples of liturgical music in the classical tradition that is accessible, sturdy, and meant to be sung by a congregation without formal musical training. There are also plenty of instances of “praise and worship” music that is clearly more at home on the lips of the rehearsed “Praise Team” members than on those of the general congregation.

Actually, before we can begin to fruitfully sort out the issues relative to musical style, we need to tame the beast that is Music itself—i.e. the medium that will never stop trying to become the message.....
Let the Liturgy be the Liturgy. This is to say, music (like tradition), is a wonderful servant but a horrible master.

The Eucharistic liturgy of the Church, both East and West, has a discernible shape, rhythm, and flow. Dom Gregory Dix may be in a sort of scholarly Purgatory at the moment, [?] but we nonetheless all owe him a debt of gratitude for helping us see this shape, rhythm, and flow more clearly. This is the infrastructure through which the liturgy accomplishes its work—doxologically, catechetically, homiletically, sacramentally, and eschatologically. Anything we bring to the liturgy by way of adornment, enhancement, contextualization, vestments, ceremonial, music—whatever—anything we bring to the liturgy must serve the liturgy’s own ends and not introduce some other agenda. The duty of liturgical music, in particular, is to serve these ends by revealing, clarifying, and highlighting the liturgy’s inherent shape, rhythm, and flow.

As soon as music calls attention to itself, to the extent that liturgical song—be it “folk art” or “refined art”—says, “Hey, look at me!” it immediately becomes an alien and an interloper. When that happens, the liturgy has been hijacked and turned into a flatbed truck. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s of the last century, the Eucharist was often hijacked to carry the freight of social protest, with spontaneous Masses being celebrated in front of government buildings and defense plants. But musicians of all stripes are probably the worst offenders here. I can recall a conversation with another church musician more than thirty years ago where we looked at the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass as little more than a vehicle on which we could load as many jewels of the Anglican choral tradition (which, just for the record, I believe is magnificent) as possible. More recently, I have had similar conversations with “contemporary” musicians who simply want to load different freight on the same truck. Both sorts of musician ask all kinds of important questions, like “What would most please the congregation (or celebrant, or bishop, or visiting dignitary)?”, “What will keep the choir/praise band happy?”, and “What can we do well with the resources at our disposal?” [these are all questions I have asked myself, even when I would prefer not to.] These are all good questions—even necessary. They’re just not the “one thing needful.” Unfortunately, the most important question in planning liturgical music is the one that too often never gets asked: “What music will best serve the needs of this particular celebration on this particular day with this particular congregation at this particular point in the service?” The question pastoral musicians (one bit of contemporary Roman Catholic parlance that I find quite helpful) need to be asking of the liturgy is not, “How can you help me accomplish my pastoral goals?” but “How can I best serve you today?” [Precisely! Perfect...]

...we invariably ask people to sing in church (except at those anomalous Low Masses), but church is increasingly the only place where that request is made. I think it is arguable that there is presently no vibrant (or even living) American folk music (in the sense of a genre and repertoire in which most people can readily participate) tradition. We are culturally bereft. Think about it: In movies from fifty and sixty years ago—I’m not talking about musicals, but straight dramas and comedies—it was not implausible for there to be a scene of spontaneous singing (often with someone playing the piano, also a dying skill). Aside from stylistic conventions, such a scene would be literally incredible in a film set in today’s culture. [I have been reminded my entire life how wonderfully odd my family is in this respect.]

It’s not that music isn’t important to people...But “my music” is something I passively receive, and not something I’m likely to get together with friends and attempt to spontaneously replicate. ... recorded music has become the norm and live performance the aberration—not only in bars but at weddings and funerals. (The culprits are probably legion; my candidate is the steady erosion of music education in the public schools.)

So, while in the relatively recent past, singing in church was a speciation of an activity in which people were likely to also participate in other contexts, it is now a thing-unto-itself, and an increasingly alien thing at that. This realization not only complicates the job of a pastoral musician; it is a potential game-changer in the worship wars because it suggests that both sides are fighting a losing battle. Those attached to the classical tradition (a company in which I can readily number myself) already know that. When I go to an orchestra concert, the proportion of gray heads to youth is about as alarming as it is in the typical Episcopal congregation on a Sunday morning. And when I bring up the rear of the procession into and out of a Sunday sung liturgy, the tendency to not even crack a hymnal—let along attempt to sing—is inversely proportional to advancement in years. But this doesn’t mean that those attached to the “contemporary” idiom (which my pastoral obligations have required me to make some peace with over the last twenty years) can claim victory. Just because someone won’t sing “Love divine, all loves excelling” doesn’t mean they’re going to respond full-throatedly to “Shout to the Lord.”
... My suspicion is that there in fact needs to be another reform movement in liturgical music, a movement that is populist in that it effectively calls the plebs dei to “own” its participation in the liturgy—musically and in every other way. But it must not merely be a reform that panders to popular taste, because popular taste is presently wedded to passivity and artificiality, which is to say that it is poorly-equipped to generate music that serves the needs of the liturgy, that reveals its inherent shape, rhythm, and flow. Rather, the work before us is more fundamental, more seminal. With the exponentially-increasing de-christianization of western culture, perhaps the Church is called to cultivate (once again?) a musical idiom that is distinctly ecclesiastical (rather than an unreflective emulation of prevailing secular styles, whether “high art” classical or “folk art” popular), accessible (both technically and affectively) to those gathered for worship, and, most importantly, a style that takes a following role rather than a leading role in its dance with the liturgical action.

What will such music sound like? We can only imagine. Let the imagining begin.

The Grieving Church?

Poor Fr McBrien.
The sad thing is, I think he believes what he has written.

The e-mail came from a large suburban parish in which the pastor has apparently done everything that he can to remove most traces of the reforms initiated by the Second Vatican Council.

The pastor has done away with all contemporary music at Mass, and has restored pre-conciliar devotions along with auricular confession. How are the first two incidentals and the last named necessity "reforms initiated by the Council?"]

...Under the pastor’s control, the parish has no youth ministry, [this is not necessarily a bad thing, if in some previous incarnation in the parish, "Youth Ministry" was a liturgical balkanization of young people.] no parish council, nor any other consultative body. [A legitimate complaint -- does he mean the pastro did away with the finance council?] According to my correspondent, “consultative is not in his vocabulary.” He also gave vocal support to the minority of U.S. Catholic bishops who proclaimed in effect that “Catholics could burn in hell” if they voted Democratic in the recent presidential election. ["In effect." In other words, that's not what he said, but the interpretation someone put on it. So his sermon could have been nunaced and the parishioner's understand a bit blunt.]

My correspondent reported that other members of the parish staff are hurting “terribly.” Indeed, they share the feelings of the woman who darted out of church recently during the homily – in tears.

She informed the pastoral associate that she could no longer handle the situation, and that she had to leave the parish. She said that all that she ever hears from the pulpit is what sinners the parishioners are, and why it is so necessary for them to “go to Confession.” ["All she ever hears," but is that all that's ever said? It is quite possible that the only thing that sticks in her memory is that which pricks her conscience. I know I, sinner that I am, am that way.]

That particular Sunday, with the old-fashioned church music, all the statues covered in purple as they were before Vatican II, [oh, the horror!] and the usual severe words in the homily, the pressure was simply too much for her to bear.

The woman poured out her frustrations, saying that the pastor had taken the parish back to a church that she knows nothing about [why does she know nothing about it/ and if she knows nothing about it, how can she object?] and in a manner that showed no understanding of others’ feelings. [This man may have behaved very un-pastorally, and seems to have done so. That is a legitimate complaint. But is important not to fetishize ones "feelings" which really are, or should be, among the least of our concerns. Others' spiritual health, on the other hand....

At the end of his first e-mail, my correspondent asked, “Are we expected just to get used to it?”

In my reply, I wrote: “No, you are not simply to ‘get used to it’. Parishioners need to go elsewhere, like the woman who left Mass in tears.”

I continued: “If there are no parishes or other worshipping communities in the vicinity where the pastoral leadership is healthy rather than driven by a narrow ideology, then one simply has to ‘take a vacation’ from the church until the skies finally clear and we are bathed in sunlight once again.” [Does he, did he, offer the same advice to those who fled parishes where the priest who heretically denied authoritative teaching of the magisterium; or were grieving when they closed up and abandoned the choir loft, tore out the altar rail and put a praise band in the sanctuary; or were traumatized when a priest refused to give them communion if they knelt; or who objected to illicit general absolutions or mass foot washing rituals? did he say, "That's okay, just don't go to Mass, there's no obligation?" I'm just askin'...]

In response, the pastoral associate noted that “the number of our parish families who are already on vacation from the church is amazing. It hurts to see it.” [As it should. But can he or she really be unaware that unless this "new" pastor has been there for several decades, a full 3/4 of American Catholics are "on vacation from the church" since before he arrived?

“It’s new territory, dealing with people grieving for their church,” he wrote. [Now this is ludicrous. How can it be new territory? People have been grieving for their Church since before I or he were born. And specifically, to pretend that there wasn't a great deal of well-documented grieving following the council and precipitated by liturgical changes erroneously said to be mandated by the council is absurd.]

The lead article in America magazine’s 100th anniversary issue (4/13/09) is by a Dominican who is justly admired the world over. It is Timothy Radcliffe’s “The Shape of the Church to Come.”

What follows here is a continued commentary on the problem of the “grieving church” and not meant as a criticism of Timothy Radcliffe’s fine article in which he deplores the polarization that is “deeply wounding and inhibits the flourishing of the church.”

However, he does identify this polarization as consisting of self-defined “traditionalist” Catholics in open conflict with self-defined “progressive” Catholics.

My experience with the worldwide Catholic church is surely much more limited than Timothy Radcliffe’s, and I would defer to his experience if indeed he has come across a significant number of Catholics who actually identify themselves as “progressive.” [I find this literally incredible. I do not believe that Fr McBrien does not know many, many Catholics, indeed, most of his circle who so self-identify. He must simply be unaware that they do so. ] On the other hand, I know of countless numbers of Catholics who proudly call themselves “traditional” or “orthodox.”

The pastor in the true story above surely would regard himself as “orthodox,” but the woman who left the church in tears would never have defined herself as a “progressive” Catholic. [That is fortunate, because she isn't. She feels that changes instituted by her pastor take her back to a pre-Vatican II Church, but it is a Church she does not know, she has been mislead that there are two, or perhaps numerous Churches and she and her "church that SHOULD be" are somehow, and happily, cut off from the nearly 2 millenia of it that preceded 1963.] That adjective would mean nothing to her.

She and other Catholics like her grieve simply for the loss of their church, a church renewed and reformed by Vatican II. ["c"hurch"? Church, Fr McBrien, church is just a building. If she is only grieving for her church, that may be a good thing because she may be led into taking her rightful place as a member of the Church. You know... the ONCH one?]

It is not polarization but the pastor of the story and many like him who are responsible for the grieving church.

"Avast, me hearties!" or, the Definition of Insanity

Slattern and slovenly housekeeper that I am, I expect to run out of clean laundry at about this time in the count-down to any production.
Make that laundry and strong drink.
But not medication.

When I directed the graduation musical for the parish school last year it almost killed me.
Why am I doing it again this year? and why am I surprised that I feel the way I do?
Yes, some of the effects are simply lack of sleep and of down-time, but a lot of it it the way the Body of someone who refuses to exhibit stress puts her Psyche in its place.

Trying to drag at least a simulacrum of emotion out of an affect-less generation is a lot of work.

Are we beginning to suffer from a sort of societal autism?
I mean that quite seriously.

More and more commonly I am finding that children, and I mean those who volunteer, who actually want to perform, (as opposed to the ones, usually a boy, we have to strong-arm, or bribe with the prospects of sword fights, who have always existed,) when asked to smile and scowl have barely differentiated facial expressions.

And expressive singing is almost a lost art, you can see it in the zombie-like personae of many pop singers.

Anyway, what can, what should be exciting and interesting for me, and always used to be when working with this age, is now drudgery.

Oh, stop complaining and get cracking on stapling those milk jugs together.

(I think if the administration would just let me murder one of the eighth graders, my back pain, headaches, facial tic and atopic dermatitis would go away. I'll ask in the office today...)
(I don't mean that seriously.)

The "Hidden Hand" and the promotion of bad liturgy

A most interesting thread that ranges far afield from it's initial post, (ranges typically, I might add, which is one of the best things about the CMAA fora, IMNSHO, they remind me of Loud family conversations, in their scattered topics and weird trajectories.)

But there is some riding of one of my favorite hobby-horses there, the abuse of the mnemonic power of music especially as regards children and authentic texts.

Some good toing-and-froing as to whether the over-arching problems with the current Catholic liturgical music scene is this country is not market-driven, and either way what can and should be done about it by the bishops in whose dioceses reside the worst of the pablum publishing perps.

Also fascinating to me was a remark by the initial poster that seems to have gone unnoted by the commentariate, that "Archbishop Malcolm Ranjinth, the Secretary to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments told me [emphasis added,] back in November that there will be a document from the Holy See addressing the problem of music in the Mass."

Well, well...
Lofty circles some members of the CMAA run in, eh?

Personally opposed, but...

It sounded on Jon Stewart, as if Cliff May was saying it needs to be safe, legal and rare.
And that he is not in favor of it, in fact, no one is in favor of it, but sometimes it is the only compassionate choice.

Oh, torture.

What did you think we were talking about?

And I'm sorry, to be precise, we don't mean torture, we mean "inflicting pain that the subject has can no longer endure."

Monday, 27 April 2009

I know everyone's MMV, but....

Newsweek's David Noonan has a predictable "the nuns smacked us around in the olden days," editorial that purports to "tell all." (Yes, the headline writer's phrase, not his.)

My parish had Sisters of Charity when the school had nuns teaching, (when they had a school, for that matter, several sea changes since my childhood.)

I attended but a single year, but my oldest brother went through it, and he was, to put it mildly, the kind of kid that is bound to receive punishment.

And he was never. Let me repeat that, never punished physically.

Whereas Himself, who was raised Methodist and attended public school, has a great deal of (vicarious,) experience in this regard. (He was himself a goody two shoes, but saw teachers get physical with other students frequently, and as a student teacher part of his duty was sometimes to be the witness of corporal punishment.)

So can we please get over this, "the bad old sisters were evil to me because it was the way the mean old Catholic Church was" whinging?

Because it wasn't the way the Church was, per se, it was the way society was.

He also has this to say: Our parents weren't much help; they'd been through it themselves when they were kids and they accepted it.

No, I don't know, but I'm willing to guess that his parents also favored physical punishment. But that is not mentioned -- because saying so wouldn't advance an agenda of spreading the gospel of the bad old days in the awful old Church, with the cruel old nuns?

Larcenous Squirrels

I remember on one of our endless-seeming, cross-country treks back in the day, lighting on a gardening show on the radio, desperate for any non-Limbaugh, non-sex advice talk to keep us awake and engaged as it grew dark and we still had miles to go before we could afford the time to stop and get a motel.


Homeless and likely to remain so, (or at least house-less, Himself was figuring to stay nomads, but perhaps get an apartment or condo somewhere,) it never occurred that the information would actually be of interest. (I am lazy, and indoor person, anti-sunlight, and hate to get earth on my hands.)

But it was engaging it, and it did spur conversation, and actually stuck in my memory. It was a call in program, and a mna was seeking the hosts advice on placating his neighbors, who were accusing him of theft.

It seem that they had planted many tulips, and come spring, most of them had bloomed in his yard.

He blamed it on the squirrels, but the host/expert treated that excuse and the caller with amused contempt.

Well, I'm here to tell you the guy was on the money.

Because we do own a house, and I've discovered I do love seeing things grow, and feeling the satisfaction that comes with knowing one has effected that growth, and so though still lazy as a slug, against all natural inclinations, I planted tulips bulbs.

And not only have I had to chase squirrels from time to time out of the beds and pots where I had planted them, but now that they've raised their proud red heads, many of them, perhaps MOST of them, rather than in the beds where we could enjoy them most easily from our windows, are in the middle of the lawn, or next to the trash bins on the other side of our fence (though still on our property,) and at the foot of some lilacs we propagated, (another excellent effort for lazy gardeners, I highly recommend it.)

So it WAS those accursed squirrels.

Anyway, I hate those thievin' squirrels, (they also seem far too fond of orange peppers for my comfort. Grrrrrrr.)

Why not a Religious Humanist?

In the NYTimes, a piece about how atheists are flexing their muscles a bit, as they discover they are not so few in numbers as they might have feared.
The article mentions a woman who though not believing in God, works as a church musician, because she, unlike many of her co-non-religionists, doesn't think religion is a bad thing.

While I am grateful for her vote of, well, if not confidence, at least a vote of non-miscreance, I find her position less supportable than that of atheists who despise and mock us and our belief in the Holy Other.

She thinks religion is a lie, but good?

If she thinks religion is false yet potentially good for people, isn't that a little patronizing of the humanity she purports to put her "faith" in?

For that matter, what is a Humanist? Why all the self-proclaimed Secular Humanists, why not a Religious Humanist? Why should those with faith allow those without it to "own" the word?

We Catholics are, in the so-buzzy-a-buzzword that it almost become a meaningless phrase, a people of Both/And.

Fides ET Ratio.

I can certainly be "a person having a strong interest in or concern for human welfare, values, and dignity, a person devoted to or versed in the humanities, a student of human nature or affairs", while being a devout Christian. In fact, I MUST be.

It is my Faith that makes me such a person, it is the fact, (of which my faith and knowledge makes me aware,) that God became Man that elevates Man to the degree that his welfare, his dignity, his values, (his genuine, universal values, as informed by natural law,) acquire such staggering importance.

No, I see no contradiction at all.

I do wonder, though, how a "Humanist," either secular or religious, could possibly consider any unique human individual so unworthy of being accorded dignity that he could morally be either vacuumed to death, or fried.

There's an irrationality.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Gee, I dunno, what do YOU think it means?

I'm very good at reading the subtlest of clues and interpreting non-verbal clues from people, you know? I have a really high"emotional I.Q."

So I could tell exactly what he was trying to tell me when the pastor turned on his mic' and started BELLOWING in the middle of our processional hymn...

Nope, you can't get anything past me.

(I am not looking forward to the coming conversation when he resorts to verbal clues as to his thoughts on the tempi of hymns.
I'll try to explain sub-divided beats, and harmonic rhythm, and the way acoustics differ between a church the size of a city block where acoustic instruments are being used, and a conference room with an electric key board. Or maybe I won't.)

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Rogation Day!

Hey, did you know today was a Rogation Day?

Me neither, until last night.

In fact, I didn't know what they were.
Sound like a good idea, though, don't they?
Days of prayer, and formerly also of fasting, instituted by the Church to appease God's anger at man's transgressions, to ask protection in calamities.
Why, (and when exactly,) did they do away with them, do you think?

Part of the Catholic Self-Esteem Movement?

Just my opinion, but anything that calls for processions?

We need more of it, not less!

Shameful admission, I was looking up "Ember Days," because I didn't know what THEY were, either.
And of course, became distracted.
So that's how I found this out in the nick of time.
Oh, and ember days? we need those back, too.

Forgive me, I am morose and pessimistic, we had first Communions.
I shall say no more, because it was expounding on just such a demonstration of the utter obliviousness of most of our parishioners as to how they should comport themselves in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament that nearly got me fired last time...

On the other hand, the children themselves?

Lovely and reverent. (What is it happens to them in the next five years of their lives that turns them into .....the confirmandi?)
Oh well....
An Act of Reparation:
Most adorable Saviour,
by the most wonderful prodigy of Thy love for us,
Thou dost shut Thy self up in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar,
in order to be the perpetual Sacrifice of
the New Law, the innocent Victim of our sins,
the celestial Food of our souls,
our kind Physician, our good Master, our powerful Mediator, and our loving Father.
But, alas !
with what ingratitude on our part Thine infinite kindness is repaid.
Prostrate before Thine altar,
where Thou art as really present as in the highest heavens,
we come to make reparation
for all the injuries and for all the ingratitude inflicted on
Thy loving heart in this sacrament.

Divine Jesus,
grant us to make a fitting reparation
for all blasphemies, for all profanations,
and all sacrileges committed;
for the want of devotion
and neglect of preparation for Holy Communion,
for the little fruit we have drawn from it.

Pardon, Lord.

How happy should we be, Jesus,
could we but make reparation to Thy glory,
by our respect, and our zeal.
At least, most adorable Savior,
grant us the grace to love Thee
in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar,
with the most tender, the most generous,
the most perfect, the most constant love.

Wonderful Analogy!

Marvelous analogy, (mine are usually so cock-eyed....,) courtesy of That the Bones You Have Crushed..., originally by the (hitherto unknown to me,) Fr Frederick Heuser, regarding administering Communion in the hand:
Imagine a bishop handing a container of Holy Chrism to a confirmation candidate so that he can anoint himself? Or someone baptising themselves? That is what is happening when people take Communion in the hand. They are not allowing the minister to administer.

They are self-administering. This refusal to allow oneself to receive a Sacrament communicated from another human minister attacks a fundamental truth of Catholicism, i.e. salvation comes to us through the ministry of a flesh-and-blood, identifiable, human organization known as the Church.

Expediency and the Body and Blood of Christ

Besides my recent ruminations on the advisability of a regimented approach to presenting oneself for communion (row by row? as the Spirit moves one? from front to back or back to front?) I have been pondering the method by which one receives, said ponderings prompted by prattle with Himself, whom I am wont to forget looks at much of Catholic culture with the eyes of a convert.

Father Z's combox has hit gushers several times recently, and this one caught my eye for that reason.

How to receive the Blessed Sacrament "on the tongue."

I knew this was a subject fraught with anxiety for barely trained, (and frequently nearly uncatechized,) Extraordinary Ministers, but I didn't realize how many Catholic communicants, and not all of them converts, even of a certain age, agonize over this. (Himself's molecules are held together by worry, so everything is a source of fretting for him, but I didn't know how typical he is in this particular one.)

And the good news is that those among Father Z's commentariat most prone to this worrying seem to have shared Himself's experience -- once or twice having received in this way, and kneeling, and comes the realization that it makes the sacrament even more moving, and the sign even stronger.

I recall when I was a teenager, a woman for whom I babysat was in the vanguard of lay ministers of communion. She told me that she could only administer the Precious Blood, (although IIRC she said "the cup,") because she was afraid someone might want to receive on the tongue and she didn't know how to do that.

I guess because my hands were so often grotesque with eczema, or slimy with salve, even when virtually everyone received in the hand, I usually received on the tongue, but never really had any notion of the strong feelings on one side or the other of the question of how to receive. (My First Communion would have been on the tongue, but I don't remember it, nor when the "change" came about.)

And of course there was no question for the time that I was, (mostly,) attending Byzantine rite parishes.

Then for a long time after I started moving around, especially when such a high premium seemed to be put on keeping things moving along at a good clip, I usually received in the hand, (although I slowed things down plenty, I suppose, with my reverencing the sacrament, which was not the practice at my current parish until after the new GIRM came out. And when it did and the diocese sent out instructions as to how most expeditiously to demonstrate reverence, I admit I just ignored them and forbore to bow to the buttocks of my predecessor in the communion line...)

It was typical of my thoughtlessness that I never allowed the fact that an EM might be nervous to enter my deliberations on the subject, although I do let the EM's age, dexterity and height to influence my decision.

But the main thing, (isn't that just like me? looks like four or five hundred words, before I got to "the main thing".....) is that WE ARE NOT UNDER THE GUN. If everyone could get that through his skull it would go a long way to relieving these anxieties.

What's the hurry? where's the fire? why should anyone feel the need to rush?

Take your time, and the chances of biting the priest, dropping the Host, licking the EM, smacking the communicant in the nose, sticking your tongue out too far or not far enough, choking or being choked? reduced to virtually ZERO.

Where did these fears of the "Communion Rite" being "unduly prolonged" arise?

The Altar of Sacrifice is not the Prep Kitchen for a Fast Food Franchise.

And while I'm at it, (yes, that was the end of my rant, this is a new and barely related subject....) if anyone's ambition were really to expedite things?

Himself, almost every single time we hear a Mass offered by a member of the Canons Regular of St John Cantius, or of the Institute of Christ the King, notes the speed with which the distribution of Communion is accomplished.

We tend to sit towards the front of any nave, and he remarks after almost every Mass (I may have blogged on this before, I can't remember,) that when he looks around and sees the number of communicants he figures we'll be there all day or evening and is then shocked by how quietly and quickly all is accomplished.

How can it be that three priests administer the sacrament to three times the number of people as at another parish that has one priest and seven EMs, yet take less time?

That's the grubby little secret of American Catholic lay ministry, isn't it? everyone knows EMs cost time, they don't save it.

If we were under the gun, hiding from Tudor spies, darting about in Roman catacombs, alarmed at the approach of Federalistas? if we did need to rush?


So the claim of a "need" for more EMs than one, or perhaps two to administer the Precious Blood at a normal parish Mass is disingenuous.
(As is also, as pointed out by one of Fr Z's commentators, the frequent "germophobe" argument against Communion on the tongue, introduced as is usually is by those who don't also then, [as logic would dictate,] press for intinction, rather than the common cup. But I digress...)

United Catholic Appeal

We've heard the talk, received the brochure, been given the envelope....

I should say, right off, that I resent the way this is done in my diocese.
I would prefer that individual collections were taken up, I would like to decide how much of my contribution goes to the Pope's charities, or the fund for retired religious, for instance.

But when the colorful, glossy brochure, (hey! my money pays for that, too!) arrives and tries to warm my heart and open my checkbook by telling me that my once a year gift helps pay for important ministries, like the annual Kwanzaa celebration....

Let's just say it has the opposite of its intended effect.

Details, details...

Is this really what the Charismatic movement is about?
I am the sort to fail to notice the overall point of what I read and be fascinated, or nagged at, by an (often) irrelevant detail.
Nice piece about a talk given by Francis Beckwith, the one-time Evangelical theologian and his return to the Church.
So, putting aside the fact that I'm in a forest, I ask about this tree: "The Charismatic Movement . . . holds above all that God works miracles in everyday life."

That's the gist of it? Is that the way you would put it? I would have thought it was in some ways quite the opposite, that the Holy Spirit is active and the gifts for the Holy Spirit are available now and always, in "non-miraculous" ways.
But of course, life is itself a miracle.
So we could say, that we hold above all that everyday life is one of the miracles God works.

Or something.
I should think about this later.
Too much blood in my caffeine system.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Suicide "Clinic" Doesn't Discriminate Against the Healthy

I missed this horror in the news a couple weeks back. (H/T to Catholic Light.
The founder of the Swiss assisted suicide clinic Dignitas was criticised yesterday after revealing plans to help a healthy woman to die alongside her terminally ill husband.

Ludwig Minelli described suicide as a “marvellous opportunity” that should not be restricted to the terminally ill or people with severe disabilities. Critics said that the plans highlighted the risks of proposals to legalise assisted suicides in Britain for people in the final stages of a terminal illness.

The Dignitas clinic in Zurich claims to have assisted in the deaths of more than 100 Britons. The Zurich University Clinic found that more than a fifth of people who had died at Dignitas did not have a terminal condition.

Mr Minelli said that anyone who has “mental capacity” should be allowed to have an assisted suicide, claiming that it would save money for the NHS.

Oh, well, as long as it saves money....

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Communion "Procession"

In a discussion essentially of something else, Fr Edward McNamara, who answers liturgical questions from readers on Zenit, says that the situation wherein people not in a state to take communion feel their abstention will be too embarrassingly noticeable and so receive, "is more often that not provoked by the bad habit in many parishes of insisting on an orderly pew-by-pew communion procession when a bit of confusion would be enough to help such people pass unnoticed."

Is that a bad habit?

I've never liked it, but didn't give any thought to whether my distaste had any rational basis.

I remember the weekend the pastor in my home parish, obviously peeved about it, announced that our bishop, after a visit the week earlier had dressed him down for our disorderly communion time, and henceforth, we could only come up, row by row, as the ushers indicated.
And I could be remembering incorrectly, but I think we did it beginning from the back, a relatively uncommon method which I recently learned is one more reason Cdl Mahony is a frequent target of the less leftish American Catholics' ire.

I don't get it.
Not the opposition to any wrangling of communicants, that I am glad to go on record as opposing.
But I think once you accept the propriety of any such system ("now it's your turn,") getting your noise out of joint over whether it begins in back or front is just knee-jerk opposition to anything proposed by someone with whom you have disagreed in the past.

Root Cause of "Priest Shortage"?

"Conversations around the kitchen table may be more responsible for the shortage of Roman Catholic priests in the U.S. than influences from American culture."

Or so says USA Today.

Nearly half of all those to be ordained Catholic priests in the US this year received some sort of discouragement from family, friends, priests or others.

I'd be willing to bet a d**m sight more than half of those who go into it are also told that theatre is a lousy life and a nearly impossible way to make a living, and there's no shortage of actors...

I have nothing on which to base this other than gut feeling, but my guess is that the problem has less to do with the active, any discouragement than with the passive, the lack of any encouragement.

That and, not so much a secular culture that glorifies everything, good and bad, that the religious life is a renunciation of, but the rampant "Catholic" culture that for the past few decades has gone out of it to make the priesthood seem superfluous.

This Big Guy in the Pointy Hat Said Some Things

And didn't say some other things.
Which do you wanna know about first?

I was reading Amy Welborn's blog, (the new one, which has not quite taken off to become THE Catholic internet "cracker barrel" as its predecessors were, but it will -- yeah, yeah, I know the "Catholic internet town hall" or "square" is more what most are aiming for, but we're more like the old retired coots hangin' out on the porch of the general store, some of whom know what they're talking about, some of whom haven't a clue, but all of whom have something to say, doncha think?) and there was a blog on the all too common phenomenon.

IIRC, she has used that duh title, "News Flash: the Pope/Archbishop/Nuncio/Vatican is Catholic!" before.

And I know the situation well enough to agree, shake my head and "move along, nothin' to see here...." So I almost didn't take the jump - glad I did.

Because chiming in on the thread was the author of the silly piece!
Poor guy.
This time her (completely justified,) criticism wasn't so much the pretense that it is news that actual Catholics adhere to actual Catholic doctrine, as the shoe-horning in of irrelevancies, the must-add talking points.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart does a splendid job of editing into a frenzied montage whatever the 24/7 news outlets have been told are the assigned buzzwords for the day, showing what laughably unoriginal parrots they can be (that is the charitable construction -- the snarky one would be that they are craven lickspittles who repeat what their masters tell them to.)

The "template" for Catholicism that Amy snarks reporters may be docked for not using is more flexible than she gives the NYTimes credit for, though.

For instance, in an article about Nancy Pelosi meeting the Pope a few months back, the gratuitous inclusion was a reference to the Rehabilitation-Of-Holocaust-Denying-Bishop, (we need a good headline nickname for him, like the Octo-Mom has been accorded, doncha think?)
And of course, when they've already used the obvious ones, "journalists" are allowed to use Regensberg, Hitler Youth, and Sex Scandal.

The excuse Amy's commentator used that the Archbishop's appointment/first Mass/homily needed to be put in context for a wider audience than her commentariate [sp?] rings a little false.

For one, the average NYTimes reader knows the Church position on any controversial subject that interests the reader.

And yet MSM writing about the Church, including that in the NYTimes, often seems to be directed at a readership that might be scratching their heads, going, "Catholics? are they the ones with Ayatollahs? oh, wait, the ones that handle snakes! No? no, no, don't tell me... I got it, they're the ones with that gay lady bishop, right? remind me, they don't eat meat and dairy on the same dishes?"

And secondly, I suspect that, say, school and/or parish closings are of more immediate interest to NY Catholics, and are more likely to be acted upon or assurances given that they will not happen, much sooner than the Archbishop of NY city, (however Big and Important a place it is,) will impact on the ESCR or abortion or euthanasia debate, but the reporter did not mention them.

It's just bad writing and bad reporting and he's miffed at being called on it.

New Ordinaries

Congratulations to and prayers for St Louis, Syracuse and Bishops Carlson and Cunningham on the new appointments.
I know nothing of either man, but I have great faith in the Holy Spirit and in the way Pope Benedict listens to Him.

Exactly what do fact checkers do?

Do fact checkers check facts?
Are such people even employed at most newspapers?
In the oh-no!-newspapers-are-a-dying-breed-this-is-the-end-of-democracy! meme of the past year or so, much is made of the fact that newspapers, as opposed to blogs, do actual reporting, as opposed to blogs, and are objective, as opposed to blogs, and so are reliable, as opposed to blogs.

Well, since writers of blogs do not, so far as I know, pretend to offer much more than fora for rumor and opinion and snark and publicity for freely available but not well known, (public records, etc.) , this struck me as a silly point, but not as silly as the implicit claim that real newspapers report objectively and are therefore reliable.

The idea that the Pope would be so rude as this bit of "reporting" in the UK's Times Online asserted smelled fishy.
And according to the Catholic News Service.... er, BLOG, it was.


Monday, 20 April 2009

Talk Like Shakespeare Day

It seem that the mayor of Chicago, (who is not, to my recollection, someone who might ever be described as "eloquent,") has declared Thursday "Talk Like Shakespeare Day."

Okay, I'll do my bit... (hope my funeral choir doesn't mind, nor the eight graders with whom I will be rehearsing, nor those who show for the usual Thursday night adult choir rehearsal, during the usual post-Easter doldrums.)

The War on Doves

No, I'm not speaking of hawkish attitudes toward peace activists.
Real doves.
It's an annual necessity, doing battle to keep the local avian population from taking advantage of our unfortunately inviting house - there're funny little "shelves" at the tops of our columns, or piers, or whatever they are called on buildings of this style, with terrific protection from the elements because of the porch roof overhangs, that are irresistible to nesting birds.)

If they are allowed to build, the mess from eggs and excrement will be horrendous, (I'm not sure why eggs end up on the walk below -- are doves particularly clumsy?), and if I don't get them early, Himself will have nothing to do with it, (he's too tender-hearted to disturb them if he thinks the eggs have already been laid.)

So I'll have to be vigilant for the next few weeks.

Well, at least it's entertaining to small children in the neighborhood to see me hopping up and down, seemingly throwing rocks at my own windows, whooping and waving my arms about like a mad thing.

Hymns and Disappointment

Wasn't THAT disappointing?
The latest issue of GIA Quarterly, (no, I don't pay for it....,) holds promise, via a caption on the cover, of a discussion of the value of chant: Square Notes, Loosed Tongues.

Alas, whoever did the cover layout, or the proof-reader, or the copy editor, does not know the difference between square note, and shape note.

Or perhaps it was deceptive advertising, hoping rad-trad musicians would be lured into reading what many of them think of as the Opposing Team's Playbook.

But Melissa Nussbaum's article on Sacred Harp is worth reading.
It is a great tradition, and one that Catholic in this country ought to be made better acquainted with, as it is as close to authentic folk sacred music as Americans can get.

(I'm remembering my thrill of triumph when I found a spotless copy of the most recent Sacred Harp at one of my favorite used book stores, for a few bucks. This was before I had a job where I could be fairly reimbursed for such a purchase, and, although I am the tightest of tightwads at the best of times, that wasn't one of the best of times, at that point it was genuine penury.)

There's also an article by the always readable Fr Ruff on SthL, more from Gerald Custer (fine composer,) on choral conducting.... it is not, if you tear out the pages with recommendations for mostly tacky hymns to replace Propers, the editor's ramblings, and the column by a regular who needs his musical priorities re-ordered; a bad magazine, on balance.

It's the all-hymns-all-the-time sensibilities that inform it that needs fixing.

Please, don't anyone take this amiss.

I love hymns.
I adore hymns.
I couldn't live without hymns.

But until this publishing concern starts realizing that no, the Famous Fourth (option, that is,) does NOT make hymnody in the Mass other than a "stepchild"; and that every effort, penny and moment spent on a hymn, by Catholic musicians who haven't already realized the ideal in liturgical music in their bailiwick, is an effort, penny and moment stolen, it will continue along the road to what I pray is its ultimate irrelevancy.

And now I think I'll go work on that arrangement combining Wayfaring Stranger and Prospect.

Signs and Gestures

I'm in the next room, and paying little attention, and I really only looked up because as a Mass with homely music (I think I am correct in crediting Thomas Day for that term?) was drawing to a conclusion, there was suddenly a loud, aggressive, kinda "retro" bongo riff.


Ah, a bumper. (I think it might be part of a series of little theological snacks called Signs for Our Times?)

In any case, while a man identified as Bert Ghezzi, (I think that was the name, my eagle eyesight at that distance takes more time to kick in than it used to when I'd been at a page or computer screen for awhile,) spoke, this caption appeared:

Making the sign of the cross is a victory over self-indulgence.

To quote Sr Pauline, how great is that?

Two thoughts.
Firstly, gratitude: thank you, Mr Ghezzi, I am going to try to incorporate that thinking, and the gesture itself into my battle with my baser nature.

And secondly, astonishment and annoyance, (whoops, bless yourself, right now, Scelata!): I am sure this is not universal, but speaking from my experience, why has catechetics virtually abandoned teaching gestures, the gestures of Catholic ritual, the gestures of Catholic identity?

Why aren't children taught to bow their heads in reverence at the Holy Name?

Why did it take initiative on my part, (and the actual work and irresistible will of our remarkable liturgist,) to get people bowing during the creed?

Why aren't those with younger knees taught to bend them as they pass Christ in the tabernacle?

Why do our servers stand and scratch, or sit and gaze around during the consecration rather than kneel for the EP?

Why does no one seem to know that he is to strike his breast during the confiteor?

Why does our diocese instruct deacons to stand, and merely bow at the elevation rather than kneel through the EP?

Why have their liturgical studies on the way to ordination not informed so many priests that one bows ones head not only at the Holy Name of Jesus, but at the naming of the Three Persons of the Trinity, the naming of the Holy Mother of God, the naming of the saint whose feast it is?

Seriously, isn't all that more important than, AND JUST AS EASY AS, teaching 1st graders itsy-bitsy spider routines for the Lord's Prayer, and for the Advent entrance ditty?

Gift-giving, and Schism

Addendum, 4/21 - My WhiskeyTangoHotel sense was working just fine -- this report was s a hoax. Still wondering about the word "schism," though..

This report strikes me as odd, to say the least.
The Pope, on the occasion of his guest's first visit since a divorce, is going to give the latter the upscale version of a Franklin Mint collectible reminding him of a predecessor's divorce troubles?

Rather insensitive...

In his first audience at the Vatican since his divorce from Diana, Princess of Wales, the Prince will receive a gift of a “luxury facsimile” of an appeal to Pope Clement VII in 1530 in which English peers asked for the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, The Times said.

According to reports, Benedict XVI intends the gift as a good-will gesture intended to assist in the healing of relations between the Vatican and the Church of England.

And even more peculiar, the report implies that Rome thinks of what happened when Henry's quest for an heir, (and his lust, frankly,) ran amuck as a "schism".

Is that accurate?

Millenial Accretions in Need of Suppression

A most excellent post from the Recovering Choir Directo, entitled "On needless repetition in the Ordinary Form Mass";

wherein he takes remarks made earlier by the sure-footed "Pes" at the CMAA fora; comments on and footnotes them, and succinctly points out the irony of what was intended to be a liturgical renewal removing medieval accretions and needless repetition, instead becoming liturgical fabrication, acquiring its own layer of barnacles.

Aristotle's blog is fast becoming one of the greatest one-man liturgical resources on the internet. The Church, or at least Church musicians and liturgists in the US, owe him a great debt.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Interesting Line of Reasoning

I heard in a homily that the Faith must be true because we've all known, and known of, so many good people of the Faith, so many saints, and God is too merciful to allow that many people to be deceived.

Divine Mercy

Very nice holy hour.
Decent turn out, considering the damp dismal day, and how many other activities, CHURCH activities coincided with it.
And I kept my streak alive, never saying a rosary or chaplet, or really, any prayer with multiple iterations of a formula where there wasn't one decade consisting of nine, or eleven prayers....

I tell Father every time I am asked to chant something like this, or anyone who asks me to lead a decade -- my family NEVER trusted me when we were kids.

I cannot follow a string of beads and get the number right.


I will be the first to say that this devotion does not speak to me the way some other form of prayer might, but I have never understood the venom expressed toward indulgenced prayer by some people, (who often express similar contempt for anything they find "pre-conciliar.")
I put them in the same category as those who pronounce themselves "religious, but I don't think you have to go to church or anything...."

Well, bully for you if you are so deep, and so spiritual, and so disciplined that you don't need any structure outside of yourself to acheive perfection in all areas of your life.

No doubt you are also an autodidact, always weigh whatever the charts say is optimum for someone of your height and frame, and have no need of alarm clocks.

Sometimes we're just luckier than we deserve...

I was working at the computer when Himself rushed in and said he'd heard on the news that "the smoke is white!"
We turned on the TV and the cameras were trained on those red curtains on the balcony overlooking St Peter's Square.
They fluttered slightly in the wind and I saw, or though I saw a great shock of snowy white hair. "It's Ratzinger!" I yelled, "it's Ratzinger!"
"Who's that?" asked Himself, "why are you acting like that?"
(I was dancing around the room and whooping.)
Then Cardinal Medina Estevèz began the announcement and got as far as "Joseph...." and I let out such a triumphant shriek that I didn't hear the rest and Himself thought about taking cover behind the sofa.
It was a great day, and he, and He have given us many more since.
God bless Pope Benedict the Wise!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

"I've Moved Beyond Jesus"

Why are those suspicious meanies at the Inquisition harassing the ladies of the Leadership Conference for Women Religious ?
I really can't imagine...
The dynamic option for Religious Life, which I am calling, Sojourning, is much
more difficult to discuss, since it involves moving beyond the Church, even beyond
Jesus. A sojourning congregation is no longer ecclesiastical. It has grown beyond the
bounds of institutional religion. Its search for the Holy may have begun rooted in Jesus as the Christ, but deep reflection, study and prayer have opened it up to the spirit of the Holy in all of creation. Religious titles, institutional limitations, ecclesiastical authorities no longer fit this congregation, which in most respects is Post-Christian.

When religious communities embraced the spirit of renewal in the 1970s, they
took seriously that the world was no longer the enemy, that a sense of ecumenism
required encountering the holy “other,” and that the God of Jesus might well be the God of Moses and the God of Mohammed. The works of Thomas Merton encouraged an exploration of the nexus between Eastern and Western religious practices.

The emergence of the women’s movement with is concomitant critique of religion invited women everywhere to use a hermeneutical lens of suspicion when reading the androcentric Scriptures and the texts of the Tradition. With a new lens, women also began to see the divine within nature, the value and importance of the cosmos, and that the emerging new cosmology encouraged their spirituality and fed their souls.

As one sister described it, “I was rooted in the story of Jesus, and it remains at my
core, but I’ve also moved beyond Jesus.” The Jesus narrative [emphasis added] is not the only or the most important narrative for these women....

Who’s to say that the movement beyond Christ is not, in reality, a movement into the very heart of God?
I know so many wonderful nuns and sisters, and I know some lovely women who are lost, and I also know some who were tragically dragged along the path to the abyss and are only just finding their way home.

The keynote address from the LCWR assembly linked to above does ask one intriguing question, huh?: Is Vatican II a felt experience of renewal or a just a catch phrase you use?

And it ends on a note of some hope:
We have lost sight that we are ecclesial women.... we have opted instead for ministry outside the Church. We may have some members who
continue as persistent widows before an unjust judge, but those sisters are few, and
largely unsupported by the congregation as a whole. We may not avail ourselves of the
Sacraments, because we are angry...
We are on the verge of extinction, not because of some cataclysmic event, but because for the last thirty years or so, we have slowly removed ourselves from Church circles.
Until we as congregations of women religious initiate a process of reconciliation with our ecclesiastical brothers, we cannot hope to have much of an impact elsewhere...But if our congregations do take this less traveled path, it will require a congregation-wide commitment, an appropriate attitude of openness, a deep and continual prayer life, and formal training in theology, scripture, and ecclesiology as well as methods of peace-making and reconciliation.

If you choose this model, you will no longer desire vocations so as to improve
your numbers or lengthen your congregation’s life. You will fervently desire vocations, You’ll work hard to get your house in order, so that you are worthy to receive them, because you will recognize that you will not finish this important and vital task on which you have set out. The mission of Jesus will not be completed by your hand...Reconciliation is not the only choice, but it is my choice, because it is also my Church. And with St. Paul, I want to be about that new creation, for “the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”My sisters, the Mission of Jesus compels us and the Church in crisis begs us to becoming an active reconciling presence.

St. Scholastica, pray for us!

Now, make a wish....


Ad multos annos!

Happy Birthday, Papa!http://img247.imageshack.us/img247/3061/2308rp7.jpg
(No, the Busby Berkeley [sp?] picture has nothing to do with anything, it was just colourful and I like it.)

Can you say "cognitive dissonance"? I thought you could...

A new Zogby poll tells us that, "more than 87 [plus or minus 3.6] percent of [American Catholics] said the sacraments were important to their Catholic faith, with 64.4 percent calling them very important."

But not important enough to receive, as prescribed by the Church which they confess, apparently.

In defense of Marty ...

.....(never thought I'd write those words, didya?) the inanity of the headline, and the lede seem to be the "journalist's" words, not his.
Nowhere in the article is the non-Catholic lyricist quoted as saying that to be appropriate liturgical music, a song must "reflect the singers' heart."
And it sounds from the process he employs today we will be spared anything further as wretchedly inappropriate as many of his most widely performed "psalms".

Wednesday, 15 April 2009


I want to say that I found this website easily navigable, and very user-friendly for filing on-line. (Not a paid advertisement, a sincere, unsolicited testimonial.)
I know, I know, too late for almost anyone doing their taxes this year I suppose, but I will definitely use them again next year.
(Between my Mom's hospitalization earlier this year, Easter, Pirates, Pizazz, the Sung Morning Prayer Project, my allergies, Himself's amnesia and ALL THAT, April 15 came at an iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinconvenient time, ya know? Couldn't it have been a week or two after the 14th this year?)

And when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and running to him fell upon his neck, and kissed him.

One of my very favorite novelists, a truly fine writer, A.N. Wilson upset me greatly when I learned that he had fallen away from Christianity.
I was almost as upset as, when I discovered that Leslie Howard, (who I though was all that, and how could women even notice that big-eared guy when he was on the screen?), had been killed.
(The fact that it had happened thirty years ago did not mitigate my heartbreak. I digress...)

I love his novels, tried to hit the Strand on just the right day so that I could buy a review copy for half price, the only way I could afford not to have to wait to own it and read it until it was published in paperback.

I couldn't see how a man whose writing continued to seem ever wiser, ever more understanding of the human condition, could have made such a grave error.

On our honeymoon Himself was tickled at my, out-of-proportion he thought, glee, on finding one of Wilson's books that had not been published in the US at a used book store in Carlisle.

I loved how, without losing any of his fit-to-slice-a-tomato wit, as he aged grew in mercy toward his charcters.

Well, he's come home.
[Jounalist Polly Toynbee] is deeply committed to the Rationalist Association, but her approach to religion is too fanatical to be described as rational.

Perhaps it goes back to her relationship with her nice old dad, Philip Toynbee, a Thirties public school Marxist who, before he died, made the hesitant journey from unbelief to a questing Christianity.

The Polly Toynbees of this world ignore all the benign aspects of religion and see it purely as a sinister agent of control, especially over women.

One suspects this is how it is viewed in most liberal circles, in university common rooms, at the BBC and, perhaps above all, sadly, by the bishops of the Church of England, who despite their episcopal regalia, nourish few discernible beliefs that could be distinguished from the liberalism of the age.

For ten or 15 of my middle years, I, too, was one of the mockers. But, as time passed, I found myself going back to church, although at first only as a fellow traveller with the believers, not as one who shared the faith that Jesus had truly risen from the grave. Some time over the past five or six years - I could not tell you exactly when - I found that I had changed.

When I took part in the procession [on Palm Sunday] and heard the Gospel being chanted, I assented to it with complete simplicity.

My own return to faith has surprised no one more than myself. Why did I return to it? Partially, perhaps it is no more than the confidence I have gained with age.

Rather than being cowed by them, I relish the notion that, by asserting a belief in the risen Christ, I am defying all the liberal clever-clogs on the block: cutting-edge novelists such as Martin Amis; foul-mouthed, self-satisfied TV presenters such as Jonathan Ross and Jo Brand; and the smug, tieless architects of so much television output.

But there is more to it than that. My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known - not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.

The Easter story answers their questions about the spiritual aspects of humanity. It changes people's lives because it helps us understand that we, like Jesus, are born as spiritual beings.

Every inner prompting of conscience, every glimmering sense of beauty, every response we make to music, every experience we have of love - whether of physical love, sexual love, family love or the love of friends - and every experience of bereavement, reminds us of this fact about ourselves.

In the past, I have questioned its veracity and suggested that it should not be taken literally. But the more I read the Easter story, the better it seems to fit and apply to the human condition. That, too, is why I now believe in it.

Easter confronts us with a historical event set in time. We are faced with a story of an empty tomb, of a small group of men and women who were at one stage hiding for their lives and at the next were brave enough to face the full judicial persecution of the Roman Empire and proclaim their belief in a risen Christ.

And in contrast to those ephemeral pundits of today, I have as my companions in belief such Christians as Dostoevsky, T. S. Eliot, Samuel Johnson and all the saints, known and unknown, throughout the ages.

When that great saint Thomas More, Chancellor of England, was on trial for his life for daring to defy Henry VIII, one of his prosecutors asked him if it did not worry him that he was standing out against all the bishops of England.

He replied: 'My lord, for one bishop of your opinion, I have a hundred saints of mine.'

Now, I think of that exchange and of his bravery in proclaiming his faith. Our bishops and theologians, frightened as they have been by the pounding of secularist guns, need that kind of bravery more than ever.

Sadly, they have all but accepted that only stupid people actually believe in Christianity, and that the few intelligent people left in the churches are there only for the music or believe it all in some symbolic or contorted way which, when examined, turns out not to be belief after all.

As a matter of fact, I am sure the opposite is the case and that materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational.

Materialist atheism says we are just a collection of chemicals. It has no answer whatsoever to the question of how we should be capable of love or heroism or poetry if we are simply animated pieces of meat.

The Resurrection, which proclaims that matter and spirit are mysteriously conjoined, is the ultimate key to who we are. It confronts us with an extraordinarily haunting story.

J. S. Bach believed the story, and set it to music. Most of the greatest writers and thinkers of the past 1,500 years have believed it.

But an even stronger argument is the way that Christian faith transforms individual lives - the lives of the men and women with whom you mingle on a daily basis, the man, woman or child next to you in church tomorrow morning.

I feel as if I'd been given a birthday present.