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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Puzzled in a Puzzling Church

America magazine has a review of the memoir of Archbishop Weakland, formerly of Milwaukee, now of a retirement monastery IIRC, somewhere in NJ?
The review was written by a friend of the poor man, and is favorable, as one would expect, not just on account of the friendship, but because Weakland is a good and articulate writer.
She feels the book is, on balance, honest.

I intend to read it….. eventually. I intend to do everything “eventually.” In truth, days pass and I seem to have done nothing, or more precisely, done a great deal but gotten nothing done.
Several things struck me in the review.

One is the reviewer’s insistence, (surely echoing the memoir itself?) that the man’s life has been anchored by the Rule of Benedict.

Is there nothing about particular friendships in the rule?

That surprises me.

Another is this peculiar revelation of her reaction when the Weakland blackmail scandal first broke:
when I heard that he had had an affair with a man and that there had been a cash settlement of $450,000, two thoughts converged: one, that he fell in love; two, that nobody in church leadership—bishop, cardinal, whoever—should have free access to large sums of money. I knew that canon law allows bishops to avail themselves of church funds if the amount is not $500,000 or more, and to do so without the involvement of the diocesan finance committee. But less ($450,000 in the Weakland case) does not require oversight. This distinction, while legal in the strict sense of church law, seemed to me to fail a basic ethical test, as normal people understand ethics. I thought at the time that canon law needs some fixing; I still think so.
The law forbids an action beyond a certain limit, and someone obviously intent on doing something unethical or immoral knows that law and goes almost exactly as far as he can, violating the spirit of the law but not its letter, and your first thought is that the law ought to be changed?
Not that as sinners we will always seek ways to circumvent law and rules to which we pay lip service while trying not to get caught? and then lie to ourselves that we did nothing wrong?

(It is not strictly true that he went "almost exactly as far as he" could. He could have gone further, I suppose, and paid his ex-boyfriend $499,999. And ninety nine cents.)

But it seems likely that he knew what they could get away with without setting off alarms, I can’t give you half a million, people will be suspicious. Okay, I’ll take 450 thousand.

Gee, better change canon law, so we can effectively cap hush money payments bishops make to disgruntled former sex partners.

I didn’t know the amount of money up to which a bishop may avail himself no questions asked, but now that I do, the incident puts me in mind of nothing so much as several recent scandals involving homosexual predators who “groomed” their young victims, sometimes for years, while tkaing great care not to cross certain lines -- until eighteenth birthdays arrived.

Most intriguing of all, is the reviewer’s assertion that the book “raises big issues the church needs to grapple with honestly: the role of the laity in the contemporary church, and especially of women.“

I am curious as to how consternation about the place of women “especially” in the Church figures in the story of a man nearly destroyed by his closeted homosexuality.
Would the presence of galpals, (to use the kinder rhyming slang, and I’m not calling names, I’ve been one myself,) in the hierarchy have mitigated his SSA?
Can she possibly think the position of women be BETTER in a Church where gay men didn’t feel the need to hide their inclinations and their activities?

That is perfectly ludicrous.

But perhaps that’s not what she meant.

As I said, I intend to read the book.

Okay, but THIS is why you don’t get things done.
The train of thought, no, train of PAGES I was riding was New York Times Magazine -- The Red Book -- Jung -- Archetypes -- Catholics and Jung -- Catholics who hate Jung -- Catholics who buy Jung -- Leckey -- America -- Weakland…

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Hungering for Love

I had never before heard of the Hindi custom, Karwa Chauth.

In a NYTimes piece under the Modern Love umbrella, (which often has pieces of monumental silliness, andwill feature crippling feats of verbal and mental gymnastics in an effort to avoid following a premise to its -- oh horrors!-- Politically Errant conclusion, but is usually entertaining,) an Indian-Canadian writer describes her mother's fasting to honor her husband.
When I was a child, growing up in a tiny Canadian mountain town where we were the only Indian immigrants, she used to tell me: “This is a day to honor my husband. Only when you are married will I tell you more.”

I used to think of that day as magical. But now that I am married, I am not so sure.

“It is good you remembered Karwa Chauth,” my mother said after I told her that I hadn’t eaten. I wanted to explain that I had not been fasting on purpose, only that I had forgotten to eat. But I didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth....

After our conversation, I went over to our refrigerator and opened it. I imagined myself making [my husband's] favorite meals, but I grew exhausted just thinking about it — the hours of preparation, the mess I would make in the kitchen. I called him instead.

“It’s Karwa Chauth,” I said mysteriously. “I’m fasting for your good health.” It sounded glamorous, this declaration. Wifely. Though it was a lie, he seemed rather surprised and pleased. Maybe even touched.
The woman seems to love her husband, seems to respect if not share her parents' beliefs.
Yet she does not embrace the custom.
Why not?

She has trouble acknowledging that what her parents share might possibly be love.
my father calls it as he sees it. The trouble is, he sees only half of everything.

On the subject of marriage, my father has given me the same talk over and over: “In the first few years, a man will want to have sex with his wife to make babies. Afterward, his wife will no longer interest him. That is all.”

My parents have always slept with their bedroom door open, and for years my brother slept on a cot near their bed. I remember being keenly aware of the absence of touch between my parents. Once, when I was 19 and feeling emboldened by a women’s studies class I’d taken in college, I asked my mother if she still had sex with my father.

“Wouldn’t you like to know!” she cried out. But even as she avoided answering, I noticed her hiding her flushed cheeks — the smallest hints of her longing?
Perhaps the writer also is guilty of seeing only half of everything -- is it so impossible that her mother's blush is the smallest of hints of her continuing physical intimacy with her husband, despite his pronouncements, (which surely echo the received wisdom of his culture,) that she can't possibly interest him?

I wonder if there is a reciprocal abstention or sacrifice by men on behalf of their wives, and the love they bear for women?

Such practices could very profitably be adopted as a spiritual exercise by Christians, I think, (and have been, I think by some Evangelical and conservative Catholic men's movements.)

I think ritualizing such fasts would be a most excellent form of inculturation.

(I am not starved for affection, but I would most gladly fast for love of Himself. And for someone who loves food, sometimes to distraction it seems, a fast is a very deliberate thing.)

Monday, 28 September 2009

Giving Shape to the Liturgical Year

Or, more aptly, recognizing its inherent shape and form.

Gary Penkala has some advice, which plays right into another of my unanswered prayers, my unsuccessful projects -- SING YOUR PART, FATHER!
Seminaries should teach priests their musical parts of the Mass, and should train them to sing what is theirs.
Singing is part of the celebrant's role — like preaching, and should be expected of him.
Goodness knows, it's "expected" of the congregation. "Nerves" or "my lousy voice" are not excuses.
Priests not totally "comfortable" with public speaking learn to deal with the "thorn" of delivering a homily.
I'm not sure I'd go so far as to advocating always singing the dialogues and presidential prayers (although there are some priests and communities who do).
Using these sung parts on occasion highlights important liturgical days. Our liturgical year risks becoming a flat, lifeless desert rather than a contoured, living landscape, if Pentecost sounds just like the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (but for red clothes).
Although I part company with him on one point, the dialogues? Yes, they should sung always.
If anything is sung, they should be.
Before you bother with songs, or even most parts of the ordinary.

But I thoroughly agree, singing the collects and preface is a most excellent manner in which to highlight the highpoints -- sing them on the major feasts and solemnities and holy days!

We have abandoned so much of the Catholic culture that once gave us wordless catechesis, that informed our Faith without our even realizing it, and in some cases, instead allowed secular culture to give rhythm to the year.

A Day Spa for Saints, or a Clinic for Sinners?

Or better, is the Barque of Peter a luxury liner for saints or a lifeboat for sinners?

I have no dog in this fight, so to speak, I don't believe that I have ever even met anyone in the SSPX, (full disclosure, I did once, inadvertently go to Mass at the chapel of "independent" schismatics, but I did not at that time know that there were schismatics.
I also, in those days, by mistake found myself worshiping with schismatics on t'other fringe of the Seamless Garment, a sect with Catholic in its name, and married and women priests, and thus forced to avail myself of a LifeTeen Last-Chance-Mass that evening to fulfill my Sunday obligation.
So you can see, I am an equal-opportunity Osteo-encephalitic.)

But I am fascinated by the continuing seeming newsworthiness of the continuing He Said/He Said, (ooooooooh! that mean ol' misogynistic hierarchy! ;oP) of the continuing ruckus over the lifting of the excommunication on the noted film critic, Richard "Bishop" Willimason.

I must say, I don't see the logic of the expressed reasons most of those who objected to the Pope's act of mercy.
There may be, in fact I believe there were, good arguments to be made mitigating against it, but the one being put forth over and over and over again ain't it.
Flunking Modern European history, being Politically Irregular rather than PC, being a mean or stupid son of a b****? Not excommunicatible offenses.

And where is the canon saying "Sinners Need Not Apply" for full communion with the Body of Christ? who has decreed that those already aboard the Barque are only to extend a lifeline if the drowning man bobbing or thrashing alongside is certifiably sinless?

And I'm not the only one with wonderings of the same sort:
Maybe those with doubts about the Apollo Moon landings should be questioned about their attitudes to the Treaty of Utrecht. Or Global warming deniers should fess up about their links to Lee Harvey Oswald.
I have my own candidate for the One Unforgivable Sin, and the leaders of the SSPX seem to be guilty of it -- lack of a sense of humor.
Cardinal Castrillón-Hoyos reveals this alarming tidbit,(I have cleaned up the syntax a bit, the English translation of the Cardinal's interview with Suddeutsche Zeitung seems to have been effected by a non-English speaker):
[The LeFebvrists he once met by chance] are good people, but sometimes fixated on the idea that all evil in the world has the reforms of the [Second Vatican] Council as its source. As I tried to relax the atmosphere and joked that if I were to choose a language for Mass, I would take Aramaic, the language of Christ, as I didn't know who had the bad idea to exchange the language of the Lord for the language of His [Roman] persecutors. They found it a very bad joke.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

In Search of Gruntlement

When one is disgruntled, yet knows very well, from prior sublime experience, that one is more than capable of being adequately gruntled -- ought one to seek out gruntlement and simply avoid the source of disgruntlement, as a near occasion of sin?

At Our Lady of The Way We Do It Here, I find myself... well, distracted.

Tornado Siren

Never actually heard one before, not live... not even when the radar clearly showed one just next-door, and we spent the evening underground.

And kinda anti-climactic, now they say, (who, "they"? the Van Pattens?), we're just supposed to worry about thunder storms.

As if.

Trek back up from the basement.

Fittingly strange end to a strange day.

That's not an office for a friend, my lord...

A slope getting slipperier and sloppier by the minute....
Assisted suicide has been illegal in England for nearly 50 years.
But, ordered by the courts to clarify the law, the country’s top prosecutor on Wednesday set out a list of conditions under which his office would be unlikely to prosecute people who helped friends or relatives kill themselves.

The new guidelines are likely to make it easier for the terminally ill and those with degenerative diseases to receive help in committing suicide.

Friday, 25 September 2009

(Okay, I'm just gonna say this once...

... and then hopefully I can let it go.)

Thirteen-year-olds doing "Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes" at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

Not appropriate.

(In the interest of full disclosure, that was not the song they were singing, just the moves that they were doing; and the accompanying photo is NOT from the liturgy I witnessed, but looks very like, except for the age of the children.)

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

"How to Pray"

A very long piece in the New York Times Magazine by Zev Chafets explores The Way We Pray Now.
(Because our relationship to God is different than in other places and than at other times in the past 200 years? No, I'm just snarking at the Times's "Way We Live Now, Way We Spend Now, Way We Think Now, Way We News Now"-speak)

As to validity, I can only comment on his comments on, and quotes from those involved in Catholic prayer.
I know that it is virtually impossible -- despite the gotcha style of many writers, bloggers (no, I'm not going to link to anyone, even the most egregious polemicist or snarker on either, or should I say "any?", of the Seamless Garment's fringes,) , etc. who speak and act as if it is -- to make sweeping generalizations about the "progressives", or the "traditionalists", or the "VCII generation", or the "Reform of the Reform crowd", or the"JP II priests"... the members of the Body, of the OHC & A form a continuum.
That said, despite the Here Comes Everybody character of the Church, I think I have discerned a flaw, or at least, a contradiction in the thinking of .... okay, not a wing, (does the Body of Christ have wings?) but a moderately cohesive chunk of the Church.
“People once learned to pray from priests and ministers and rabbis,” Liz Ellmann, executive director of Spiritual Directors International, told me.... “A lot of people today don’t have that training,” Ellman said, referring to traditional prayer. “They want to learn how to pray, but they feel awkward in a house of worship.”...

Once it was all simple. Catholics prayed in Latin for salvation in words and ceremonies dictated by the One True Church in Rome. Protestants prayed in fancy English for the expiation of sin and a place in a decorous heaven. Jews prayed in Hebrew to the One God who had inexplicably chosen us for a private destiny and saddled us with commandments.

And then, in the time it took to go from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles, these ancient taboos and walls began to crash. Prayer changed, too. For Catholics, the key event was the Second Vatican Council. “Vatican II was a course correction when it came to Catholic prayer,” says ...a professor of theology who is old enough to have personally experienced the change. “Emphasis shifted to the centrality of the Bible for Catholic prayer.”

Part of this populist shift involved better exposing laypeople to a centuries-old method of Biblical exegesis and meditation called
lectio divina...

“Priests and women religious have always been taught to do this, but Vatican II called for ‘full and active participation’ by all Catholics. Part of that was praying in the vernacular. Another part was introducing
lectio divina to laypeople.” After Vatican II the practice became widespread among the laity.

Catholic prayer has not only become more accessible to the laity, it seems; it has also become more private and personal. [One Sister of Mercy says] “Women religious have been very active in promoting deeper contemplative, mystical prayer. Until Vatican II, that was reserved for the very few. Now it is becoming the ordinary expectation for people with a regular prayer life.”

... the Eucharist remains the defining source of Catholic spirituality, but that you can have authentic spiritual experiences not mediated by ritual. “Most people don’t live in churches. And these days, most laypeople tend to do more contemplative prayer and less confession. The sacrament of penance has radically diminished since Vatican II.” .... There is a renewed popularity to the mystical component of prayer, and it is found especially in the retreat movement.

What I think I am reading in this and in much else recently, (please correct me or tell me what you think I am missing here,) as a brave front is put on in the face of incontrovertible bad news, a de facto embracing of the smaller, purer, (leaner, meaner?) Church that Benedict is, unjustly I believe, often accused of working toward, of wanting.
I say "unjustly" because while it is true that the Holy Father undoubtedly longs for a purer, more faithful Church, I think it certain that he views the loss of any members, any souls from the Body of Christ as deeply tragic collateral damage, not an aim in itself.
Just because he is not willing to scamper after those who reject Hard Sayings, (how does that go in John,"No, no guys, come back! I didn't mean it, it's just a METAPHOR!"?) doesn't mean he doesn't mourn every single lost sheep, and i think he has proved that with his efforts at reconciliation on all sides.

But it seems to me that some of the same people who decry the Pope's supposed eagerness to jettison the heterodox as if they were dead weight, (which I do not concede for a moment that he is,) try to make lemonade of the lemons of the hemorrhaging of the actively, (actuosa?) practicing that has beset the Church in the last few decades.

How else to explain obviously intelligent people claiming:
“Vatican II was a course correction when it came to Catholic prayer...Emphasis shifted to the centrality of the Bible for Catholic prayer.”

It is wishful thinking to pretend that the emphasis in prayer, in practice, as opposed to theory,) went anywhere other than to... well, to not praying.

And what evidence is there of this:
"Part of this populist shift involved better exposing laypeople to a centuries-old method of Biblical exegesis and meditation called lectio divina... After Vatican II the practice became widespread among the laity."

practice of prayer or worship or study became "widespread" among the Catholic laity in the wake of Vatican II, and most good practices that had previously been widespread became more unusual.

And finally, “Women religious have been very active in promoting deeper contemplative, mystical prayer. Until Vatican II, that was reserved for the very few. Now it is becoming the ordinary expectation for people with a regular prayer life.”

I would posit that a mystical experience of prayer may actually less common now, less sought after by ordinary Catholics in the wake of vigorous attempts to de-mystify liturgical prayer, to denigrate the supernatural aspects of the Faith, and to discourage the private prayer and devotions that were most liable to lead to a transcendent experience of communicating with the Almighty and the blessed who already enjoy the Beatific Vision full-time.

Oh, and a complete tangent, but can I just say all men have more in common than we sometimes think we have?
“Evangelical Christians, Pentecostals, they go to church to pray,” [Rabbi] Gellman went on to say. “Why else would they be there? But Jews are different. People come to temple to identify with other Jews, or socialize. The writer Harry Golden once asked his father, who was an atheist, why he went to services every Saturday. The old man told him, ‘My friend Garfinkle goes to talk to God, and I go to talk to Garfinkle.’ There’s a lot of that.”

“At least they come,” I said.

“Sure. But when you have a large percentage at a religious service who aren’t actually praying, it dilutes the quality of the entire experience.”

“Like subprime mortgages on a bank’s balance sheet,” I said. “Toxic Jews.”....
“I think it’s important to use Hebrew, saying the traditional words, even if you don’t exactly know their meaning,” he said.

“Praying in English is like kissing through a veil,” one of the young assistants said.

“In the old days,” [another Rabbi] said, “cantors made the women cry. Now they just want to do performance pieces. And congregational singalongs aren’t the Jewish way of praying. Our prayers are meant to be chanted rhythmically.”

Oh, and one other thing -- prooftexting from a reader-commentor?
For the Christians of the world, I believe some fellow named Jesus of Nazereth left pretty explicit instructions on how to go about praying in Matthew 6:5-13:
1. Don't make a public show of it. Do it privately. It's between you and God.
2. Keep it short and pretty simple.
3. Focus on what God wants, not what you want.
I'm pretty sure that same Fellow suggested that people gather in His Name, because where they did, you know, in groups of "two or more"...?

It is good to remember, the OHC & A Church? It is a Church of "both/and."


Wonderful visit from family, much making merry.
Dressing this weekend, I find I can no longer pretend just because it's a "shrunken jacket" that it's supposed to look that way.

But see how things turn out?

Food poisoning, the resolution to lose a little weight and an ember day, all at once!

Lucky me.

Wondering if there will be repercussions....

Very, very busy times, weddings, parish festival, "yoof" Masses, 40 hours, maybe a Sorrowful Mother novena, Benediction, and more funerals in a week than in the preceding two months.
And at one of them, all requests, couldn't do anything about the choice of music, bu crossed out the theologically offensive verse from all the choir hymnals.

There may have been those who questioned this, or objected.
We shall see.
Joining together, with bread and wine, and sharing our meal...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

"This is your brain on throat-singing...."

Fascinating idea: studies indicate that certain sounds "recharge" the human brain.
The effect of music on the brain has, of course, been explored quite extensively by academics.... many of whom have focused their investigations into the effects of chanting on the brain.

Dr Alfred Tomatis, a French specialist in otolaryngology, believes that the ear helps to recharge the brain; that sound causes vibration in our bones, which amplifies the sound thus making the cranium resonate, and this stimulates the stapes bone of the inner ear – which, in turn, stimulates the brain. Tomatis claims that for the ear to help recharge the brain it needs to hear "all the frequencies of the voice spectrum, roughly 70 cycles per second to 9,000 cycles per second". These are the frequencies that can be heard in Gregorian chants, the one-voice chord of Tibetan monks and the throat chanting found in east Europe.

And of course, I had to wonder, is this respectable science, or do I just really, really want it to be because it meshes with my own prejudices? Or is it merely something some writer with a deadline latched on to that's either ancient history, or more or less fabricated?

Well, ya can trust everything you read on Wikipedia, right?

Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis (January 1, 1920–December 25, 2001) [Ancient history] was an internationally known otolaryngologist, and inventor. He received his Doctorate in Medicine from the Paris School of Medicine. His alternative [maybe not quite respectable science?] medicine theories of hearing and listening are known as the Tomatis method or Audio-Psycho-Phonology .

His approach began as an effort to help professional singers in his native Nice based on his idea that hearing is the root cause of a variety of ailments. His Listening Test and later his Electronic Ear therapy were designed to alleviate these problems. Most of the research conducted on this approach has not found any support for its use.

Tomatis adapted his techniques to target diverse disorders including auditory processing problems, dyslexia, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, autism, and sensory integration and motor-skill difficulties. It is also claimed to have helped adults fight depression, learn foreign languages faster, develop better communication skills, and improve both creativity and on-the-job performance. Some musicians, singers and actors also claim to have found it helpful in fine-tuning their artistic skills.

The Tomatis Method uses altered recordings of the patient's mother and extensively uses electronically modified music by Mozart. Some people therefore call it the Mozart Effect. [Ah. Okay, that old thing.] Tomatis wrote 14 books, and numerous articles. Only a few have been translated into English. The most complete book on Tomatis’ discoveries was written by one of his students, Pierre Sollier (Listening for Wellness, 2005, The Mozart Center Press).

... Soon after he began his practice, his father began sending him opera colleagues with voice problems. Tomatis soon discovered not only did traditional treatments not work but also that there was very little research on the voice. He came up with the theory that many of the voice problems were really hearing problems. He called his theory that "The voice does not produce what the ear does not hear," the "Tomatis effect" and was the hallmark of his career and his method.

He found that the voices of opera singers had damaged their own ears. While the ear can be damaged with sounds of 80 or 90 decibels, a male opera singer often produced 150 decibels. With damaged hearing, they were forcing their voices to produce sounds in registers they could no longer hear. In his attempt to retrain the singers, he developed his device, the Electronic Ear, which used earphones and sound filters to enhance the missing frequencies. The goal was to sensitize them to the missing frequencies.

Tomatis began treating a number of other problems with the same methods, including reading problems, dyslexia, depression, severe schizophrenia, and even autism. He was convinced that many of these problems result from a failure of communication, which has to do with listening and the ear. His approach was based on emerging knowledge of the physiology of the ear.

Scientific reports showed that the ear starts forming a few days after conception and that the ear is fully developed by the fourth month of pregnancy. Tomatis theorized that information coming from the fetal ear stimulates and guides the development of the brain. He believed that autism is a communication problem that begins in pregnancy, with the fetus not properly responding to the voice of the mother.

His most controversial method attempts to lead autistic children to recognize and respond to their mother's voice. He devised an apparatus to simulate the sound of the mother's voice as heard in the uterus, and to lead the child gradually to accept and respond to her real unfiltered voice. He reported that this method often brought startling results, with children crying with joy as they recognized their mother's voice for the first time.

In many of the different problems he attempted to solve, Tomatis was often very Freudian. He believed that many problems of learning disabilities, dyslexia, depression, schizophrenia, and depression were caused by some trauma resulting from broken relationships and poor communication. He found that treatment of these maladies requires the cooperation of the parents and even grandparents.

Tomatis theorized that the whole body is involved in the production of speech and language. He stated that reading, even silent reading, is an activity of the ear. He recommended reading out loud, not only for children and by children, but also by adults, for 30 minutes a day. He claimed this not only stimulates the brain but is the best way to learn.

In his autobiography, Tomatis recounts the many conflicts he had with the medical establishment in both France and Canada, where he later worked. He finally gave up and turned in his medical license, admitting that he was practicing very little medicine. He named his new field audio-psycho-phonology.

Tomatis reported in his autobiography that he regretted not providing scientific colleagues with more statistical evidence for his work along with his many publications. But he claimed that the benefits of his methods are difficult to measure.

The theory of the method was investigated in 1979 by Gomez for a masters thesis with thesis advisor Tomkiewicz at INSERM and published a few years later. The summary (translated) states: "We show how the scientific and ideological presuppositions which underlie his conception of psychopathology, based on intuition and magic thought, cannot constitute a coherent theoretical model."

Studies by John Kershner conclude that there is a lack of support for the educational efficacy of the Tomatis Listening Training Program (LTP) for learning disabled children. This 2 year study was limited to group of 26 students and used an auditory placebo similar to the LTP program. Tim Gilmor's meta-analysis, covering four smaller studies of the Tomatis method, including Kershner's work, found that "Positive effects sizes were found for each of the five behavioral domains analyzed".

The status of research was evaluated in an article by Jill Lawton. She stated "There were also not many objective test results available. Most studies were either not scientific, as in the case of Mrs. Flores' testimonial or the story of the monastery, or taken by centers that were probably trying to 'sell' the program."

A study was undertaken by the University of California on autistic children using the Tomatis sound therapy, its findings were published in 2007. The method used was randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design. The study showed that there was improvement in the children, however none of it related to the treatment. The children that were given the placebo showed a higher percentage of improvement over those given the Tomatis treatment. The study concluded there was no improvement in language using the Tomatis Method.
And as I read it through, I realized, I think I babysat for a family in the '90s, watching the other three children while the parents flew their autistic son overseas in search of ANY efficacious therapy -- it may well have been to see Tomatis?

The Pope will Visit the Synagogue in Rome

According to the Global News Service of the Jewish People, Benedict, in his Rosh Hashanah greetings to the Jews of Rome, said he would visit the main synagogue in Rome after the High Holy Days.

The comments at the linked site are pretty funny.

Collections only once a year?????

It never occurred to me...

... that Michael Moore was Catholic.
But it is only natural that his social justice concerns, (if not, alas, all aspects of his public life,) would be informed by that Catholicism.

Would you want to live like that? Well, how about die, would you want to DIE like that?

A cautionary tale.

Knowing how fond I am of liquid refreshment, I cannot think anyone will ever assume that I don't want hydration, or presume to speak for me so, when I cannot speak for myself -- but it is a frightening thought.

Offering prayers for Vera, even though that is not her real name.
Offering prayers for all those being put to death, all the starving, all those who thirst.

Of Wowsers and Womyn and Wine

Ya gotta love that Cardinal Pell. (Actually I do. And for that matter, every time he sees him on TV, Himself says, Get a load o' THIS guy! What kinda bishop is THAT? and why don't WE [Americans] have any of 'em?)

Anyway, as I was contemplating, (didn't know I was a contemplative, did ya?) a mid-afternoon glass of Shiraz, (ah, that 'splains it, huh?) this caught my eye.
Cardinal George Pell, in his weekly column in the Australian Daily Telegraph, said alcohol abuse had devastating consequences and that Australia was "long overdue for a correction". He implied that banning alcohol advertising might be a good thing.

According to the cardinal hospital admissions for alcohol-related reasons in Australia had increased by 130 per cent for 18 to 24-year-olds and 200 per cent for women in the last nine years. He said 40,000 people are admitted to hospital annually with injuries and illnesses related to alcohol ...

The cardinal said that while he grew up in a pub, enjoyed a glass of wine and didn't think he "could be called a wowser" - an Australian term for a killjoy - "you can always have too much of a good thing: in the case of alcohol, with devastating consequences".
What struck me was how far, both recently, and really throughout my lifetime, women have come, in achieving equality with men, huh?


A startling take on the so far brief reign of the current Archbishop of Westminster.
Ruth Gledhill, the religious writer for the secular Times, (she herself is Anglican, I believe?) writes what sounds, in places, like a press release from Archbishop Nichols personal hagiographer.
And on the eve of the release of his first pastoral letter, she offers a surprising contributor to British Catholicism's, and therefore, Nichol's current success
Archbishop Nichols, a conservative, is marking a near-triumphant start to his service as successor to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.

Although this has yet to be reflected in numbers of worshippers, Catholicism, along with other religions in Britain, is experiencing something of a renaissance.

This is thought partly to be due to the efforts of atheists such as Richard Dawkins and novelists such as Dan Brown and Philip Pullman. The publicity engendered by their fulminations seems to have had the opposite effect of that intended and proved the truth of the adage that no religion benefits as much from persecution as Christianity.

The number of seminarians or trainee priests at his seminary in Chelsea, Allen Hall, has risen for the third year after decades of decline, with a new intake of 12 this September bringing the total to 45.

Talk abut God's power to draw straight with crooked lines!

"I wasn’t born to be famous, but to love and serve Jesus Christ"

A fascinating, (I'll be the judge of that...," I say to Himself when he start a conversation that way,) storyof metanoia, conversion, choices:

Once a Calvin Klein model who smouldered bare-chested opposite J-Lo in a music video, and starred in Hollywood movies, [Eduardo] Verastegui's brooding looks and aquamarine eyes attracted thousands of (invariably screaming) female fans.

Today, the 35-year-old actor is a daily Mass-goer, committed to abstaining from sex before marriage, who flies to Darfur to help the starving, provides financial help for women considering abortions and organises house-building missions in Mexico....

[Six years ago] a casting director .. invited him to audition for [an English language film] . “I told him I barely spoke English” Verastegui recalls, “but he... promised me a language coach should I get the part.”

The coach, a committed Catholic, prompted by dint of gentle grilling, Verastegui’s reversion to the practice of his Catholic faith. “She used a Socratic method, just asking me questions: why had I wanted to become an actor in the first place? What did I think the true meaning of life? Was I really making the best use of my God-given talents.” Initially, Verastegui resisted. The crunch moment came when the coach asked if he believed his body “was a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

“I replied “yes” he recalls, and she said “then why are you living in a way that breaks the Commandments and offends God? For the first time I saw how my lifestyle had insulted the Lord,” says the actor, who next sought out a Mexican priest and poured out, in a three-hour confession, past sins.

The story that interests me isn't so much Verastegui’s, but the dialogue coach's -- talk about the lay apostolate!

And even though it is unlikely that she's as pretty as he is ;o) if I had it, hers would be the photo with which I would embellish this blog!

What's that question they ask, if you were accused of being a follower of Christ, would they be able to find any evidence to use against you?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Benedict, the Teacher

From the blog Unam, Sanctam, Catholicam:(GREAT stuff!)
The Holy Father recently gave an improvised talk to the members of the Choir of the Pontifical Chapel. In this talk he made some truly extraordinary statements regarding the function that papal liturgies play in setting the liturgical tone for the universal Church. Benedict said:
"Papal liturgies, broadcast internationally, are a model by which all liturgical celebrations can be measured...papal ceremonies should be liturgical paradigms for the entire world. Those who follow papal ceremonies probably use them as a measure of accord by which the liturgy must be measured. In this way, the liturgy is transformed into a path through which the Pope teaches the Catholic faithful, giving them a proper idea of what they should expect [from the liturgy]." (Miles Christi Report, no. 107, Sept. 2009).

Two things to point out about this simple but true statement:

Number one. The pope is very clearly stating that his own liturgies are meant to be instructive. This means that when he decides that all communicants at papal masses will receive kneeling, or that he will celebrate Mass ad orientam in the Sistine Chapel, he is not simply doing these things because he is an antiquarian who happens to personally have a taste for them. When he celebrates ad orientam, he is saying in effect, "I am doing this to show you what you should be doing." This should give some ammunition to priests or bishops who want to institute these practices in their own parishes - the pope has stated that he is intentionally setting an example that he wishes the faithful to follow. I think this is common sense, so I'll move on to point two.

Second, the pope states something that should give us pause: whether or not the pope intentionally tries to teach through the liturgy, he points out that this is what will in fact happen regardless:

Those who follow papal ceremonies probably use them as a measure of accord by which the liturgy must be measured.

In effect he is saying, "I know that my liturgies will be used as examples to follow regardless of whether I want them to or not; therefore, I'd better make sure all my liturgies give positive examples."

This provides the justification of the well-known disdain of trads for the masses of John Paul II, which were frequently the scenes of grave liturgical abuse ...
Pope Benedict points out the obvious truth that people will mimic what they see the pope doing - what does it mean then when John Paul II declares in encyclicals like Redemptionis Sacramentum and Eucharistia de Ecclesia that liturgical abuses are to be curbed immediately but then permits them at his own masses? We can only conclude one of two things: that John Paul II was terribly naive or else he was just a negligent pastor. However you slice it, John Paul II's liturgical administration was definitely not praiseworthy. I'm not going to say that this alone makes or breaks his papacy, but it should definitely be taken into consideration, especially when questions about canonization come up.

Papal liturgies should be teaching moments, Benedict reminds us. The pope should do the liturgy the way he wants the Church to do it. He ought not to do a liturgy one way and then tell the Church to do it another; it was doing precisely this that led to the confusion of the JPII years. Hopefully we will see more bishops and priests taking the pope's liturgies as paradigms around which to structure their own masses.


In the wake of the anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, there was comment about complaint about reminiscence about prediction about..... and anyway, I came across this from two years ago:
How can it be “for the benefit of the faithful” to return to a ritual of baptism in which the parents of infants say nothing? In the spirit of ecumenism, the liturgy that came out of Vatican II eliminated the abjuration of heresy and schism that non-Catholics made before being admitted to Catholic communion. How can we justify reviving such practices today? There was no catechumenate in the Tridentine church, despite a crying need around the world for this liturgical structure of evangelization and formation.

No argument, restoration, (if indeed it is a restoration, the arguments over we used to..." oh yeah, well before THAT we used to..." interest me not a jot, except insofar as they betray the frequent pretense and fabrications on both sides of the those argument,... but I digress, the restoration," of the catechumenate is on balance a good thing.
And it is clear, of course, that not even famously "practicing" cradle Catholics, much less celebrity converts, need abjure anything at all that conflicts with the faith, or renounce anything that pleases them, or really change at all -- "Oh no, when we ask you to stand up with us and say ' We believe…’, we don't mean we actually believe....")
I will not say that that is a good thing, on balance or otherwise.

No, what interested me is the mention of Baptism.

I did not know that about the old ritual of Baptism.
The parents said not a word, huh?
I would have been baptized with the old one, but really only remember the rite, or rather the multiplicity of rites, as it stands now, (I will not ride, or rather beat, my usual hobby horse of the Rites of Baptism at Our Lady of the Way We Do It Here)

It dates from, when? the 1970s? 1980?

In any case, that little tidbit quote above from the put-out Prog finally explains what has always nagged at me about baptisms nowadays.

Infant Baptism as the ritual is enacted now has lots for the parents to say and do, and lots for the god-parents, they say this and ask that, and hold one and receive another, and move hither and yon -- it feels, when all is said and done, like a scrutiny of, and then induction of, the adults involved.
The baby is just an adorable or obstreperous prop.
Oh, I know the priest in performing the exorcism and pouring the water is the conduit through which SANCTIFYING GRACE is conferred on the infant.

Yes, that is the salient point of the Sacrament that is its most noteworthy aspect, but not, as we practice it, the most noticeable.

I am not one of those who complains, why are they doing that in the middle of my Mass? making my Mass longer? (and believe me, I have tried to placate and to explain to many people over the years, both when it was part of my job and when it wasn't, why baptisms in front of the community are a Good Thing.)
I am glad to be in a parish that permits baptisms at Sunday Mass, (not so much to be in a parish that requires it....)

But the Rites... forgive me, who complains often enough about others fetishizing their feelings, felt wrong.
It has always bothered me, but I had never thought to tease out exactly why.
And there it is -- the Rite is apparently deliberately constructed to give people other than the recipients and the ministers of the sacrament Something To Do.
(And that's not even counting the ceremonies as celebrated in our Parish Family Faith Community -- why use one word when four will do?-- which further rigs the rigmarole. Probably would further roll it, too, if some had their way -- yeah, I know Christ instituted it, but what can I do to make special?)

It feels as if they - we?- are reaching... to " involve" people, (the way it does when the congregation is asked to stand and pose as extras from Triumph of the Will.)
So not only does that aspect of the ritual ring false, (as makework always will,) it implicitly tells us that the main even is community-building, it's all about community, it's all about initiation... the receipt of Sanctifying Grace?

Ooooh, let's not talk about that, shall we, that would send out signals we actually believe in the existence of Original Sin.

In any case, the faults, (if flauts there be, you may not see it that way,) do not necessarily lie so much with the Rite, as with the way it is enacted.
But perhaps a good ritual is so structured as to not allow too much re-prioritizing.


Without going into the merits of the point of view expressed in the linked column (there are enough people raking the writer over the coals for that,) I know, de gustibus non est disputandum, and all that, but to quote the great etymologist, Inigo Montoya, I don' thin' that word means what you thin' it means.


But I am, as always drawn to analogies, and I am reminded of an interview I gave once, to a theater critic.
She had just returned from a sabbatical, where she had, appropriately enough, studied theatre, and even done a little acting.
This journalist, whose reviews could be make-or-break for some theatre companies, who could literally close a show with her criticism, told me she had become fascinated by some of the mechanics of working on stage;
for instance, she said she had never realized before that "you have to think about props and things while trying to remember your lines!"

It's always nice for people to keep informed on matters that they are paid to write about....

O the times, o the mores

I wonder if it is in this country?
A court in Barcelona says insulting your boss with one particularly foul obscenity is not grounds for dismissal, insisting the slight is common in arguments in Spain and not that big a deal.

The zinger in question translates as "son of a b----," and was used by a worker against his boss during a January 2008 money dispute in the northeastern city of Gerona. The worker, who also called his boss "crazy," was promptly fired.

The man lost a first court challenge, but won on appeal with the Superior Court of Justice of ....

"Without a doubt, both expressions are insulting," Judge Sara Maria Pose Vidal said ...

She also wrote that the "son of a b----" remark should be viewed in linguistic context.

"The social degradation of language has caused the expressions used by the plaintiff to become commonly used in certain settings, especially in arguments," Pose Vidal wrote, calling his dismissal a disproportionate punishment.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Throwing in Our Lot With Idiots and Ogres

Not to mention tax collectors and prostitutes and gentiles.

I think I first encountered this fellow in a refreshing, if back-handedly complimentary assessment of the recently retired Bishop Martino:
I may not be the sort of Catholic who normally appreciates a hardline scold like Joseph Martino, who resigned August 31st as bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania. But all the same, I feel a eulogy coming on.

... we've gotten no end of input from flamboyant busybodies who claim to know what's wrong with how we live our lives. ...Bill O'Reilly may have been the first one vain enough to invest himself with the title of culture warrior ...

I contend it does a gross injustice to the profession of arms. People like O'Reilly and Alan Keyes and Bill Bennett, whose broad, often intemperate statements expose them to little risk but make them big bucks, are more like wartime profiteers ...

Bishop Martino was the real thing -- Ein Trau Husar, as the old martial air goes. Presiding over a diocese that was crumbling under a shortage of priests and money, he nagged the nation's Catholics on matters of doctrine for no apparent reason than that he felt they needed nagging. Though I myself cannot bear to be nagged, I find Bishop Martino's self-starting scrappiness admirable, [emphasis supplied] even touching -- kind of a Mr. Smith Goes to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops kind of thing.

It is interesting that Lindenman is a very recent convert. That makes his perspective neither necessarily more objective, nor necessarily less informed.
I merely note that it is an interesting aspect of his POV.

And THIS is how said recent convert sees a certain sort of would be progressive, the sort whom one would-be pundit of liberal Catholicism soothingly assured, recently, that they were doing the right thing if they just couldn't bear to be a part of Mean Ol' Mother Church for the time being:
So-called intentional Eucharistic communities... gather regularly and celebrate the Eucharist, with a member of the laity presiding.

If this sounds like schism or heresy -- well, it could be both. But members are quick to argue that autonomous, lay-managed communities come with a respectable pedigree. Apologists cite Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P. (a man I love for his name alone; it sounds like one of those lagers that looks like real maple syrup and costs even more by volume), who observes that early Church communities elected both their priests and their bishops, rather the way militia units in colonial America elected their officers....

That’s the theory. In practice, where there is no question how any given Catholic bishop will receive a request to ordain a lay presider, these communities have little contact with the larger Church. ...

Far from damaging the Church, the communities’ most determined partisans see a widespread ecclesiastical tea-party movement as the only thing capable of saving it. "The greater body of the church is clearly in trouble today," author Richard McClory promised guests at last June’s gathering of Eucharistic community members. "I would suspect strongly that it is groups like yours that can point the way to newer, better ways."

Yes, there’s a certain amount of hubris in this statement. McClory’s generation, with its tetchy conscience and passion for speaking truth to power, may matter less to the Church’s health than its members imagine. ...

[An] important question is whether these semi-secessionists realize that, by separating themselves, they are walking away from the greatest challenge in Christian life. I refer to getting along with -- in fact, working up charitable feelings for -- people you’re sure are idiots and ogres. [emphasis supplied]

The original Apostles tolerated a tax collector in their midst. I can sit through Mass next to some vagrant who looks ready to toss a gallon of used Colt 45 in my lap by way of offering the Sign of Peace. Refusing the Eucharist from a priest who fails to appreciate the importance of inclusive language sounds just a touch too precious.[emphasis supplied]

I have little patience with those who not just anticipate the Holy Father's posited leaner, keener Body of Christ, but those who actually revel in it, with cries of "Good riddance" to those who decide to opt out of the Faith of Hard Sayings.

We are called to love.
We are called to love them.
We are called to want them back.
We are called to try to get them back, (though not at any cost -- one does not picture Jesus running after people saying, no, no, guys! com'on back, what I said wasn't TRUE, it was just a metaphor!)

But it's hard sometimes to not just roll your eyes, sigh, and go about your business, when they storm off to their rooms.

Kind of the way you do with a tantrum-throwing 2 year old, or his pretentious, angst-consumed adolescent sibling.

I number the LCWR spokeswom... spokespersons among this group.

But like Lindenman in another column, even though I know that "the ornery sisters aren’t getting any younger," and that "at this point in history, depriving itself of American religious sisters, either by dismissing or alienating them, couldn’t hurt [the Church] less. To put it bluntly, women religious are already stuck in the margins," my heart, too, goes out to them, "tottering off to the barricades."

Will we allow half the sky to fall down?

A review of a book on tragic, and important issue, shares, (with its subject? I haven't read the book,) a curious blindspot:
Today, now, more than 100 million women are missing. They have vanished. In normal circumstances, women live longer than men—but China has 107 males for every 100 females in its overall population, India has 108, and Pakistan has 111. Where have these women gone? They have been killed or allowed to die. Medical treatment is often reserved for boys, while violence against women is routine. More girls are killed in this "gendercide" each decade than in all the genocides of the 20th century. This year, another 2 million girls will "disappear."

They cannot bring themselves to admit the part that abortion, that societal and state sanctioned killing of the unborn for purposes of sex selection plays in this.

Fear they'd lose their liberal cred?

If only they would embrace true liberality.

Gendercide indeed.

Interspecies Warfare

What is with the squirrels?
What is with them this year?
I hate squirrels.
Why are they ignoring my yellow peppers, (off of which I could not keep them last summer,) and molesting my tender little flowering plum babies? (which they can't even eat, squirrels in a manger!)
And when did they stop being frightened of us?!??!#??&?
They refuse to yield until I am within actual swatting distance, and I swear, when my arms are full and they realize thet are in no actual danger of swatting, they stand their ground and mock me.

And why do they go through my compost bucket, (to which they are welcome, generally, knock gyourselves out on banana skins, boys,) only to scatter teabags across my porch?
Does this reveal heretofore hidden political leanings?
And leave my grape tomatoes alone, you!

Brazen, furry little rats...

I hate squirrels.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Why I love fashion...

Even... or maybe especially, rock'n'roll fashion.


I mean, how could this NOT be best new artist of the year?

Maybe I can borrow the outfit for Halloween this year to go as Mrs. Torquemada.

Hymns by Father Faber

The, (occasionally more rancorous than I would wish,) discussion of the proper contents of a truly "Catholic" English language hymnal over at the CMAA fora piqued my curiosity.
Well, initially, it shamed me -- Noel & c. listed so many text and tunes of which I had never heard!
And for quite a while, really ever since I found the Britt book, cheap on eBay, I'd been interested in the Office Hymns, and then I thought this year being potentially a very great one for Cardinal Newman I really ought to introduce the choir to some of his, and then there was talk of Chesterton whom I was unaware had written hymns, (though it only makes sense, him being a poet and all, duh...) and I began to think of other converts, and frankly, WOW.
I had no idea Fr Faber was so prolific. Charming self-deprecation:
The do­mes­tic wants of the Or­a­to­ry kept alive the feel­ing that[English Catholic hymns were] needed; though at the same time the Au­thor’s ig­nor­ance of mu­sic ap­peared in some mea­sure to dis­qual­i­fy him for the work of sup­ply­ing the de­fect. Ele­ven, how­e­ver, of the hymns were writ­ten, most of them, for par­tic­u­lar tunes and on par­tic­u­lar oc­ca­sions, and be­came ve­ry pop­u­lar with a coun­try con­gre­ga­tion. They were af­ter­wards print­ed for the schools at St. Wil­frid’s, and the ve­ry num­er­ous ap­pli­ca­tions to the print­er for them seemed to show that, in spite of ve­ry glar­ing lit­er­ary de­fects, such as care­less gram­mar or slip­shod me­tre, peo­ple were anx­ious to have Cath­o­lic hymns of any sort. The MS. of the pre­sent vol­ume was sub­mit­ted to a mu­sic­al friend, who re­plied that cer­tain verses of all or near­ly all the hymns would do for sing­ing; and this en­cour­age­ment has led to the pub­li­ca­tion

Did you know there were so many? I didn't.
  1. Blood Is the Price of Hea­ven
  2. By the Archangel’s Word of Love
  3. Dear God of Orphans, Hear Our Pray­er
  4. Dear Je­sus, Ev­er at My Side
  5. Exceeding Sor­rowful to Death
  6. Faith of Our Fa­thers
  7. From Pain to Pain, from Woe to Woe
  8. Hark! Hark, My Soul!
  9. Have Mercy on Us, God Most High
  10. Ho­ly Ghost, Come Down upon Thy Child­ren
  11. I Wish to Have No Wishes Left
  12. I Wor­ship Thee, Sweet Will of God
  13. Jesu, Gentl­est Sav­ior
  14. Jesus Is God!
  15. Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All!
  16. My God! My God! And Can It Be
  17. My God, How Won­der­ful Thou Art
  18. O Come and Mourn with Me
  19. O Gift of Gifts!
  20. O Je­sus, Je­sus
  21. O God, Thy Pow­er Is Won­der­ful
  22. O How the Thought of God Attracts
  23. O Paradise!
  24. O Soul of Je­sus, Sick to Death
  25. Oh! Come to the Mer­ci­ful Sav­ior
  26. Pilgrims of the Night, The
  27. Sleep, Sleep My Beau­ti­ful Babe
  28. Souls of Men! Why Will Ye Scatter
  29. Sweet Sav­ior, Bless Us Ere We Go
  30. Thy Home Is with the Humble, Lord
  31. True Shep­herd, The
  32. Why Is Thy Face So Lit with Smiles?
  33. Workman of God


Okay, it's not my country, and I don't know the writer, and I'm not certain I disagree with him, separation of C & S and all that in this country, BUT.....

In an otherwise just-the-facts-m'am bit of reportage does saying that schoolchildren are "bombarded" with Catholicism not strike you as... I dunno, a tudge subjective? editorializing? partisan?

I'm only interested in Malta for their graphics :oP

No, seriously, I don't have a dog in that fight, but reading that reminded me unpleasantly of my current efforts to stay informed anent finances, health care, education, government, Church politics, heck, nutrition, you name it -- it is becoming nigh unto impossible.
Teasing out primary sources, (oh, you mean so-and-so didn't actually say that? you are paraphrasing a description by an opponent? well what did he REALLY say?) ) and then wading through them sometimes -- where are the digests and extracts in which you can put faith?

It seems to me, in this country, ever more difficult to find trusty objective reporting on anything, everyone has an ax to grind (understandable,) and nobody has any qualms about letting their personal bias influence what is meant to be journalism.

I try to access various sources, including, perhaps especially, those who might be suspected to have a different perspective than my own, but it is becoming time consuming.


After a long weekend, a looooong weekend, I am engaging in some reflection.

I am a scofflaw.

I am a criminal.

We are singing a certain Mass.

This is a setting we, (for despite what I was told were my duties, I cannot make unilateral decisions,) choose to use, it has found favour with divers denizens of the 'rish.

And while given my 'druthers, we would be introducing a Gregorian ordinary, I am not musically or liturgically ashamed to be singing and playing this one to my God.

Now, I have a stack of lovely, (relatively) expensive, sturdy(surprisingly, in light of how shabby and flimsy much published Catholic liturgical music is,) cantor/choral/organ copies of this Mass ordinary.

Originals, those of you loft-dwellers with toner for blood will understand, and be shocked to know. (I have a MD acquaintance who never programs anything written before the youngest member of her choir was born, but whose choir hasn't laid a finger on a purchased piece of music since... well, before I was born. Shh.)

I acquired them after great difficulty, but that is not really pertinent.

What is pertinent, is that they are not usable.

I knew they would not be, (I already had one,) but I purchased them, (with my own, not 'rish money,) as a CYA strategy, morally speaking.

I haven't covered anything legally speaking.

But since the odds of a successful musical outing using these copies would be nil,
(unless the choir's program said, Stand at the ready, and when the celebrant says either "As we prepare... ask for pardon and strength," or, "Coming together...full of gentleness and compassion" or "My brothers and sisters...to mind our sins," we wait 5 seconds and if he doesn't launch into "Together, I confess to...." then I will play first five notes of the Kyrie, but for the love of pete don't sing it because the cantor will have to look at another page and sing an invocation recto tono, and then we'll sing that "Lord, have mercy" but if the priest isn't confiteor-phobic we'll sing it as written, but that top line is the congregation melody so your staffs are the next two down, printed in identical type-face and note size, so as you turn the page which you have to do every four measures the way this thing is laid out, make sure your eye goes to the correct staff...
and I can pretty much guarantee that even if the program were that detailed, it would go virtually unread; and that's not even getting into the
Agnus, Sing "verse" 1 and then skip the next page, and sing verse 3, but with the same words as verse one rather than "Bread of Angles, You take away..." or "Basket of Goodies You take...," or "Rainbow Buddy....", oh and then skip the next 6 choices and go to that last one,
and there are not enough hours in the day or paperclips in the loft to go through all the originals and mark them so that people would have even a 50/50 chance of singing as I intend, I choose to defy the law and---

Oh no! Make copies of choral music!

That's right, mark and arrange a single copy, consolidate these user-unfriendly, multi-page-turn-requiring movements of the Ordinary of the Mass onto single pieces of paper, (and STILL enlarge the print considerably,) and make photocopies.

Come and get me, Copper!

I'm sorry, I'm in a snotty mood about the laws governing these things, having been told in a wide-ranging discussion recently, by people who seem to know, that SINE NOMINE, published in 1906, is still under copyright.

Cui bono?

(Besides Mickey, for instance, Mr Bono...)

"I felt really guilty because it was my mom’s kidney and I broke it..."

A case where a government-run program is penny-wise and pound-ARE YOU INSANE?!?#?$??^?&?*?!!????

Oh, excuse me, got carried away there.
But seriously, commonsense much?

Ya got kidney disease?
Oh, sure, we'll pay 71,000.oo a year for you to have dialysis, and when that no longer does the trick, here's upward of 100,00.oo for a transplant -- but two or three thousand a month for anti-rejection drugs?
Whadya think, we're MADE of money?

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

It sounds like a fairly typical case of someone with no knowledge whatever of a field, of THE WAY THINGS WORK, having charge of decisions in that field.
Not that that's a hobby horse of mine, priestsandmusicians...

We need health care reform in this country, but why must we assume ill will on the part of those who disagree on the direction in which we must go to achieve it?

Let's just assume ignorance, she said cattily.

And meanwhile, I hope Ms. Whitaker's kidney takes.
So far as I know, AC's is doing fine.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

A Prayer for Vocations

No, not what you think...
Prayer For Choosing One's Vocation

God of wisdom and of counsel, You see in my heart a sincere desire to please You alone and to conform myself entirely to Your holy Will in the choice of my state in life. Grant me, I humbly implore You, by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, my Mother, and my holy Patrons, the grace to know what state in life I should choose and to embrace it when known, in order that I may seek Your glory and increase it, work out my own salvation, and deserve the heavenly reward which You have promised to those who do Your holy Will. Amen.

Treasury of Prayer, Lawrence B. Lovasik, S.V.D., 1954

From the Religious Sisters of Mercy website.

It could have saved me quite a bit of... what? what did I experience that I wish I had not on the road to recognizing my vocation?
Nothing, perhaps...
Nonetheless, I wish I had thought to, known to actively discern.

Henceforth to be known as "The Other Ones"

So, we know how the LCWR is reacting to the visitations.
Meanwhile, what is the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, hence forth to be known as "the Other Ones," up to?


Do the headline writers actually read the articles first?

According to NCR Bishop Slattery said that his reverting to ad orientem "ought not to be misconstrued as the bishop 'turning his back on the faithful,' as if I am being inconsiderate or hostile. Such an interpretation misses the point that, by facing in the same direction, the posture of the celebrant and the congregation make explicit the fact that we journey together to God."

But the headline writer, (or the author?) trumpets, "Okla. bishop no longer faces people at Mass!"

Because why miss an opportunity to be negative, ignorant, and hostile to anyone in the hierarchy, particularly anyone in the hierarchy who is working for a restoration of reverence and a right ordering of our priorities in Liturgy?

Ennio Morricone

A very nice profile in Zenit on a man who would be on my short list, were I in the position to do some commissioning, to write liturgical music.
THIS really struck me:
We turn to the subject of another keen musician: Pope Benedict XVI. Morricone says he has a "very good opinion" of the Holy Father. "He seems to me to be a very high minded Pope, a man of great culture and also great strength," he says. He is particularly complimentary about Benedict XVI's efforts to reform the liturgy -- a subject about which Morricone feels very strongly.

"Today the Church has made a big mistake, turning the clock back 500 years with guitars and popular songs," he argues. "I don't like it at all. Gregorian Chant is a vital and important tradition of the Church and to waste this by having kids mix religious words with profane, Western songs is hugely grave, hugely grave."

He says it's turning the clock back because the same thing happened before the Council of Trent when singers mixed profanity with sacred music. "He [the Pope] is doing well to correct it," he says. "He should correct it with much more firmness. Some churches have taken heed [of his corrections], but others haven't."

Very funny, and very apt - turning back the clock!

I am surprised in the discussion of The Mission score that the Veni Creator doesn't come up.

No one from the Vatican ever drops in at my house....

This is a good thing, because I am a slob.
(The Pope, in particular, would have difficulty find a place to sit down where his having done so would not afterwards be utterly obvious, white cassocks show the dust so...)

But the fact remains, I am a practicing, registered Catholic, trying to lead a holy life and find my way home to heaven -- yet never once has anyone from the Roman curia threatened me with a visitation.
Or told me, none too subtly, that they were "checking in" on me to "see how you're doing."

And I've missed Mass. And published, (IRL, not on a blog,) harangues about Church spokesmen. And generally been less than saintly.

So why is Sr Schneiders expecting unwelcome houseguests?

Is it, because, O horrors! she's a"progressive" and so it's a witch-hunt?

But Teddy Kennedy was a progressive, and I don't think any Roman congregation ever sent a delegation to check up on him.

Oh, but perhaps that's because he was a man, so their targeting you is some kind of paternalism? so, we should assume that the meanies at the Vatican sent investigators after Rosemary Radford Ruether?

Hmmm...hy would anyone think that you were subject to some authority? and might even welcome interest from them?
Can you think of any reason for that Sr. Scneiders? some idea why anyone might think that he or she had a claim on you friendship? and maybe even on your obedience?

And one last question, that opinion piece in the NCR? You said:
Liturgy is increasingly oppressive when it is not completely unavailable.
What did you mean by that?

One of your commentators had an intriguing response:
one question has arisen repeatedly, in various forms, and been “answered,” sometimes quite dogmatically, by people who have no lived experience of or academic competence in regard to Religious Life. Since the question is important, misinformation is not helpful to Religious themselves or to their many concerned lay friends, colleagues, and associates. The substance of the question is “What is ‘apostolic Religious Life’?”

This assumes and presumes much. First it assumes much about the interlocutors. A surprising number of us have been in, or in close proximity to, religious life. Many of us have looked at it very carefully indeed at times of discerning our own vocations.

Second, it presumes that the laity has little or no business commenting upon what forms of institutionalized religious life should be promoted or even tolerated by the Church.

I suspect that Sister Sandra would not minimize the role of non-priestly opinion were the matter under discussion, for example, the ordination of women.

Living situations in a first world urban culture are not conducive to flexible and mobile community in mission nor supportive of shared spirituality. Liturgy is increasingly oppressive when it is not completely unavailable.

I find the reference to Liturgy as unavailable somewhat odd; the active laity, by and large, seem to manage it. Indeed, in my living area had I the inclination to do so I could without major inconvenience attend Liturgy on a daily basis prior to arriving at my (very secular) place of employment.

But overall what distresses me about Sister Sandra's essay is the suggestion that practices such as living in community and the observation of at least an abbreviated version of the Divine Office to be irrelevant.

With regard to the Hours, the suggestion that it and a personal spirituality and prayer life are somehow mutually exclusive is incorrect; one is not a substitute for the other. St. Benedict knew that well.

Similarly the role of community life ought not to be minimized. Sr. Sandra, however, seems to regard it, and the aspects inherent to same (i.e., shared preparation and clean-up of meals) as mere inconveniences. I would suggest though, that effective daily community life, in both the sacred and the mundane is a significant anodyne to the challenges that celibacy brings.

To some extent it would seem a chicken-and-egg scenario. Religious sisters (and brothers) today have made decisions to pursue less collective or consolidated and more individualistic missions which are not nearly so conducive to community life and prayer as were more cohesive missions such as the staffing of a school adjacent to an on-site community dwelling or convent.

While the popular culture has become a more "do your own thing" proposition, so has religious life. Sister Sandra would, from the tone of her essay, have us believe that that is a good thing.

It is not, however, without its costs. I believe that we should not be so quick to trivialize what has been lost. This is especially so in light of the difficulty religious congregations have had in attracting and retaining young talent. Is it possible that such talent was nurtured by the very community life which no longer exists?

It should be noted that probably a majority of the now-aging religious who've stuck around to "do their own thing" and who no longer live and pray in community or participate in any sort of regularized regimens are old enough to have had a decade or more of "formation" in which they did just that, participating in a shared mission to boot.

It is often noted how many religious have "left" the orders and gone out into the secular world as laity, to marry and to raise families. It would appear that many who have "stayed" have really "left" insofar as they have made decisions (and been allowed to make decisions) which have in essence taken them out of the day-to-day life in their communities.

Perhaps it isn't quite so trendy these days to subordinate ones own inclinations and ambitions for a shared purpose. To, for example, join a religious order whose mission is to staff K through 12 schools and to be content with 50 or so years of doing just that, with perhaps a graduate degree or two to enhance one's abilities to do same along the way, at a time not of one's own choosing but which corresponds to community needs.

Perhaps, too, it is not trendy to say "gee, that job in Podunk looks like it would be perfect for me, but there is no community within my order there to act as a home base, and I'm committed to life in community so I can't just take the job because I feel like doing so."

When there is little to distinguish one's life as a sister or brother from that of a single person living a life of professional service to the World, one begins to wonder what the difference really is. Are religious orders to be nothing more than glorified "Support Groups" with whom one meets periodically? Or perhaps a bit of a financial back-stop such that if one gets cross-wise with the local bishop and gets fired over a matter of conscience, one doesn't end up homeless and without health insurance (no small matter, in today's climate!)?

These aren't new questions. But they are hard ones, and serious ones.

Perhaps the "new" model of religious life is working for Sr. Sandra and her fellows.

Perhaps there really is no alternative, there not being very much left of "conventional" religious community life unless one wants to go the ultra-orthodox route.

In any case, it's what we've got, as a product of decisions which were made by religious and to some extent for religious over the the past several decades.

But a number of commentators, "qualified" according to Sr. Sandra's standards or not, still question whether the signs point to the new status quo being an improvement over the old one, and whether much of the good was tossed out with the bad along the way.

Frankly, I am not sure what the visitation is about, or if there is any reason those who don't want to be visited can't simply say, "no."
What would the consequences be for them?
What is the hold on them that the congregation that has ordered the visitations (there are 2, are there not, in the works?) has?

And this is a perfectly sincere question -- how is the life reduces to the essentials Sr Schneiders describes different from that of any single, chaste Catholic, with a life dedicated to service?

What does "community" mean to them, and what prevents them doing as they please?

Friday, 11 September 2009

I dunno... do you think your liturgy should be informed by your faith?

A Catholic musician voices a concern at Canticanova:
When the music director position at our church opened a couple of years ago, our pastor hired a non-Catholic to fill the position. As a cantor and choir director, I was open to the idea at first. However, with experience, I now believe hiring non-Catholic music directors to be incongruent with the practice of our faith. The religious beliefs of the music director eventually surface in many different ways, both inside and outside the liturgy.
I am curious, since the writer explicitly says "in many different ways", as to how they surfaced, in addition to, indubitably, the choice of texts to be sung.
A disregard for rubrics?
Ignorance of Catholic culture outside the Mass? (the lacunae in my experience and knowledge until shortly before I began my current position was shameful.)
A lack of knowledge as to, or even an indifference to, the liturgical theology that governs what priority should be given various musical, (or potentially musical) portions of the Mass?

In any case, in theory I have no objection to a non-Catholic musical director in a Catholic parish, given general competence, and a respect for and limitless curiosity about and willingness to comply with the requirements of Catholic liturgy.
Gary Penkala replies:
Situations like you describe can be very different one from another, and making general statements about them is often difficult. Obviously, all things being equal, a parish should hire a practicing, faithful Catholic as music director. One would expect the music director to be qualified in both Catholic music and liturgy, and if the situation warrants, to be competent in organ playing and choral conducting....

However, other circumstances may influence a decision. Perhaps no Catholics applied. Perhaps the Catholics who may have applied were not competent in other areas (organ, directing, etc). In such cases a decision must be made: hire a non-competent Catholic musician or hire a non-Catholic competent musician.

That being said, it should not be taken lightly that a non-Catholic in an authority position in a Catholic parish will be at a distinct disadvantage. Much research, training, patience, humility and flexibility would be required in order to learn and appreciate Catholic liturgy and music. It's definitely not an easy task, especially for someone who has chosen (either directly or through family tradition) to "protest" the Catholic faith.

If, as a pastor, I were faced with the prospect of no music at all, or of hiring a non-Catholic to oversee the program, I'm not sure what I would do.
I cannot argue, and this is a conversation I have heard more than once, but there are two elephants in the room eavesdropping.

One is that there are plenty of Catholic musicians and liturgists who are abysmally uninformed as to what the Catholic Church teaches about, and requires of Her music.

But that one's small, as elephants go. The next is enormous, even by elephant standards.

And that is that people who do not hold what the Church holds and teaches are nonetheless have been permitted to dictate the expression of those teachings, to write the words we pray in our liturgies, with, judging by the inadequate, misleading and sometimes flat-out erroneous theology to be found in the "Hymnals of Record," virtually no oversight.

That is why the Parish Book of Catholic Hymns, an on-going project provoking much discussion over at the CMAA boards, is potentially so valuable a development.

(I am also pleased for that acknowledgment that hymns are going nowhere, and have a valid place in our liturgies.)

Thursday, 10 September 2009


If you have Ovation on your cable, turn it on, right now!

(Sorry, I can't help it, I'm bossy....)


A most remarkable story of conversion, "conversion" both in that universally necessary sense, a continuing process of turning toward the Lord that we must all, or should all, commit to; and in that personal history way of bouncing, if not to formal membership in one denomination to another, at least to one pattern of practice from another.

I sometimes step back and try to remember, how did I get from here to there as I realize that I have lost all track of the clock in the 2nd greatest timesuck known to man -- from discussion of the CMAA hymnal to the Cherubic Hymn to the necessity or otherwise of professional church musicians to Orthodox liturgical music to one man's tale of finding God.

But I digress.

Although there is scarcely a concrete detail of our respective journeys we have in common, I read this and recognized myself:
Part of that experience was intellectual: We who mystically represent the Cherubim sing the thrice holy hymn to the life giving Trinity . . .

That’s when I “got it,” when my head began to follow my heart, then led my heart into even deeper transformation. I knew then, why we were there, and why we were not. I understood what worship truly meant.

We who mystically represent the Cherubim sing the thrice holy hymn to the life giving Trinity . . .

I had then such a deep understanding of worship that I didn’t need to inquire or wonder, because here was what I had been so shaken by at Mass, what had been so painfully absent after Vatican II, what I had been seeking for decades. And that understanding gave birth to what I can only describe as waves of awe and wonder at the power and majesty of God as I continued to hang onto ever word I heard.
Although my moment of comprehension did not occur at Divine Liturgy, it wasn't even at liturgy, it wasn't even while at prayer.
But that sudden moment of knowing why -- and why what else you might have been doing or experiencing isn't just different, but wrong?
Amazingly, beautifully painful.