Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Catholic? or Catholish

There is a piece of music I avoid programming because it attempts to replace a far better piece that is part of the great treasury of Catholic sacred music.

It just occurred to me that one reason the lesser composition may have gained currency is that it differs from the superior original by explicitly not addressing anyone as "saint", or asking for the intercession of "saints", per se; thus it makes itself more acceptable to our separated brethren and sisters.

You know, John and Mary and Thomas, they could just be your neighbors whose prayers you're seeking... and there's no far-fetched claims that some woman is "the Mother of God."

I was curious, was it like so much of the content of our "Catholic" hymnals, not expressive of explicitly Catholic theology precisely because its writers aren't Catholic, don't hold the Catholic Faith, or believe Catholic dogma and doctrine?

(There was a bit of a kerfuffle going on at the CMAA boards, as to whether it was appropriate for a Catholic parish to hire a non-Catholic music director.

How very persnickety! Why, we Catholics don't even insist that non-Catholics not write our sung theology for us!)

Anyway, in a cursory search I found nothing indicating the religious affiliation of the composer of the piece in question, but did find the name of the church for which he works.

It's website indicates that it might not be Catholic, though it is at least Catholish.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, prayer for us.

Relics via + Serratelli, and "Reformation Sunday"

As we approach All Saints, (oh, that reminds me, short digression...

I read what I think was a crackpot's rant, about Hallowe'en' candy being "cursed", and it occurred to me, wouldn't it be nice, regardless of your Butterfingers' provenance, if you blessed them, and prayed to God for His blessings on all the little porch monkeys whose teeth you'd be rotting and bellies you'd be discomfitting with it? sprinkle a little holy water or blessed salt on the, after all wrapped, candy? Just a thought...)

you might like to read what Bishop Serratelli, (head of the US CDW,) has to say on the subject of relics.

I can't seem to work the permalinks on the Peterson site, but his four columns on the subject can be accessed from the drop-down menu at the bottom of this page.

A taste:
Three important facts emerged from [the excavation of a tomb thought to be St Paul's.] First, the tomb contained traces of a precious linen cloth, purple in color and laminated with pure gold. This indicates the burial of someone highly esteemed and venerated. Second, the fragments of bones belonged to someone who lived in the first century. Third, the Basilica in honor of St. Paul was deliberately built over this tomb to which pilgrims have been coming from the beginning of the Christian era. This was no ordinary grave....

[Pope Benedict commented that] “an authentic scientific analysis seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul.”...

In the first century, Christians gave special respect to the tombs of martyrs. They adorned their graves with decorations to distinguish them from those of the other dead. On the anniversaries of their death, they would double the customary use of lamps near the tombs. They would also write inscriptions asking for the intercession of the martyr near the place of burial. Over the tombs of the more famous martyrs such as St. Peter and St. Paul, they built basilicas to mark the place of burial and to serve as a place of prayer. (cf. Paolinus Nolanus, Carmen 26 vv. 387-388; Prudentius, Peristephan. Hymn XI, vv. 195-210). In this way, both the resting place of the saints and their mortal remains were honored and treasured.

The tradition of respecting the remains of the saints is clearly witnessed at the very death of St. Polycarp (69 A.D.-155 A.D.). St. Polycarp was one of the immediate disciples of the Apostles.

[When he was martyred] the Christians gathered up his bones for burial. In a letter from the Church of Smyrna to the Church of Philomelium, the Smyrnaeans wrote, “We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy, and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom.”

From the first century until the 16th century, Christians continued this attitude of respecting the remains of the saints....

Hmmmm, the 16th century, the 16th century.... what, shall we say, disrupted or sought to disrupt the practice, d'you suppose?
Respect for the relics of the saints is one of the unbroken traditions that Catholics share with the Orthodox. ...
In Luther’s day, the castle church of Wittenberg boasted of many relics. On certain days, pilgrims would come to the church to ask for the intercession of the saints whose relics were placed on display. Great numbers would crowd the church as the feast of All Saints approached. No doubt, Luther made use of this ready audience when he posted his ninety-five propositions on the church’s door in 1517.

Luther was not favorable to the place of the saints in the life of the faithful. He spoke against the very idea of the intercession of the saints...

Theologians and pastors within the Catholic tradition have always recognized that misguided piety could lead to abuses in the use of relics. One of the most famous diatribes against the false use of relics came not from one the Reformers but from the Benedictine historian and theologian Guibert of Nogent (1055–1124). In his work De pignoribus sanctorum (On Saints and their Relics), he called for a close oversight of the use of relics. Nonetheless, he accepted their place within popular piety.
I wish the Bishop had expanded his theme a little more, and dealt more explicitly with how the veneration of relics relates to the Theology of the Body.

Anyway, these columns reminded me that I thoroughly agree with a certain CATHOLIC publication, that in giving liturgical advice suggested we find a way to celebrate Reformation Sunday.
I think we should do so by venerating the relics of the Saints.

p.s. Interesting that His Excellency mentions Lt. Col. George Custer and the other soldiers killed at Little Bighorn -- I once read an article, (in Smithsonian, IIRC,) that wrote of how the corpses at the battle were all mutilated, except for the body of one extraordinarily handsome (there was a photo, this was by anyone's standards,) Catholic officer, who bore the emblem of a papal knighthood.
It seems that some sort of mojo, whether that of Catholicism or that of physical beauty, was respected by the victors.

Verdi's Mass

Although his monumental Requiem is most well known of course,, Verdi wrote other Masses.

h/t to the Shrine of the Holy Whapping
I'm assuming it would have the following plot:

The Priest is a hunchback who mentors the subdeacon, a seminarian, with a shady past and unknown origins. We discover all this by the Kyrie. The graduale is the hit chant "La Nonna Immobile" [in honor of a particularly ferociously stolid Italian churchlady, no doubt. --MGA] By the time we get to the Credo we learn that the subdeacon is actually the schola director in disguise, as the two happen to be identical twins. Confusion ensues, but is merrily resolved. At the Sanctus we discover that the priest and the deacon were switched at ordination (Two hunchbacks--Take that, Rigoletto!), and a fight breaks out at the first step (see Fortescue, p. 47 for the staging of said fight). By the Agnus Dei the deacon has killed the priest (thurible fight!), and repeats the prayer of consecration to make the Mass valid. While he says the prayers, the subdeacon and schola director join in in perfect counterpoint. The people receive communion and the Mass concludes with "Ah! Ah! La Benedictio-oh-ne!" The sacred ministers recess.

And it's all staged by Zeffirelli, with costumes by Wippel. Like the Mass will be in heaven.

Me, I think Mass in heaven has vestments by Vionnet, (who is surely there?)

A bias-cut chasuble, gothic or baroque, would just hang so beautifully...

Pssst.... Credo in...

When I was planning our wedding, and hanging out a bit on wedding planning blogs and boards, one of my (numerous.... and you thought I didn't like animals!) betes noires was a fad, (happily short-lived,) of celebrants insisting the couple memorize their vows.

I suggested young people so beset tell the priest they'd try to do it if he would also commit to say the entire Mass without a Missal.

It was just a stupid idea.

We were professional actors yet neither Himself nor I would have dreamt of such a thing. With the nerves and heightened distractions of a wedding day, why give yourself the additional worry? especially since memorizing something to say in public is torture for the average person.

In fact, the prosepct of even reading in public alarms many, many people.

The ritual would not suffer one whit for being read, or, if need be, prompted silently by the one officiating.

In a funny synchronicity, the NY Times has run an article on the scandal or necessity, (depending on your point of view,) of mnemonic cheats and prompters in the theater, only a few days before The New Liturgical Movement informs us of the availability of "altar cards" for the Ordinary Form.

I had never thought much about them, before I knew that there were such things as canon laws and liturgical legislation about Missals, upon seeing such relics of the old Mass I assumed they were a substitute for a large, heavy, expensive book; or perhaps in larger print than the book which might be read from in the perfect world where we all have perfect eyesight.

It seems from the comment box, though, that some object to the use of these cards, at least in the OF, as being a violation of the rubrics.

But since the Vatican Press itself offers an altar card for the Novus Ordo, I think we can say that in some instances the cards are, in effect, the "Missal" that is among the items that "may be placed on the mensa of the altar."

I know in my parish there are pick-a-little-talk-a-little moments from time to time over the use of looseleaf notebook or, horrors! single sheets of paper at the ambo.
Often these are ostentatiously drawn from a groom's man's pocket, or laborioulsy unfolded and smoothed after being clutched in a second-grader's grimy hands.

But people unused to serving in liturgical ministries need to practice, and often write notes, pronunciations, or accent marks in the actual text from which they will proclaim, and surely we don't want them taking red crayons to the itcostsHOWmuch lectionary.

And that's not even getting into what the psalmist needs to be looking at to proclaim his assignment from scripture.... but I digress.

Since it seems that altar cards are indeed "permitted" in the Ordinary Form, my question is, can they be made by anyone?
Are they like the liturgical books, and ought to be produced only by publishing concerns with some sort of explicit commission, or at least permission, from TPTB?

It seems to me that creating altar cards would be a worthy project for an artist, and a wonderful gift, especially for a priest whose eye sight was ... well, doing what all our eyesight does.

Of course, the multiple Eucharistic Prayers, choices of acclamation, etc -- those could be an issue.

In the Era of Bad Liturgy and Bad Liturgical Art from which we are emerging such a suggestion would have been dangerous -- would we really have wanted the people responsible for tie-dyed vestments and bus station-worthy altar furniture to have been turned loose on altar cards?

But I believe object of great beauty might be made now -- I would love to commission a Daniel Mitsui, or a Matthew Alderman to design Altar Cards. (Yeah, when I win the lottery...)

Ooooh, but now that I think of it, though, what would prevent those with a ... well, let's say, "Hello Kitty aesthetic" from attempting the same endeavor?

Remembering those Precious Moments figurines, (I won't tell you where, even those with execrable taste are entitled to their good names, and that goes double for holy religious, I suppose,) I now see my idea needs a little more deliberation.

Incidentally, the reason for the title of this post? A priest I know, at his first Mass told the deacon to be sure to hand him a missallette at the presider's chair, so that he could read the Creed, he didn't trust his memory on a day so fraught with emotion.
He should have just asked for a whispered prompt -- when the moment came, missallette in hand but so filled with confidence that he felt no need to glance down at it, he boomed out, "I confess to Almighty God, and to you...."

Whither Bishops' Conference's Committees?

The USCCB will vote on new committee heads come their November General Assembly in Baltimore.
The following bishops were nominated for these positions....

2. The Committee on Divine Worship
Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron

I think Bishop Serratelli has been doing a bang-up job.

Anyone know anything of + Aymond's liturgical predilections, proclivities and preferences?

Not to mention what he actually DOES?

Friday, 30 October 2009

Catholicism, Witchcraft, and Those Mean Ol' Colonizers

A piece in our diocesan paper, (originally from CNS, the de facto journal of the USCCB,) has an interesting take on the sometimes uneasy co-existence in Mexico of the Church and spell-peddling brujos.

[An anthropologist and archaeologist from Loyola informs us that,] "In many ways the Catholic Church is in competition with the brujos." ...

While [a local priest] acknowledges that pre-Hispanic and Catholic beliefs are intertwined in the area, [the Loyola guy] suggests the phenomenon is just a continuation of the Spanish conquest that began centuries ago. [emphasis added]

"It's in some ways an uncomfortable juxtaposition, and that juxtaposition has been simply played out since the Spaniards arrived," he said.

I confess to Almighty God, and you, my brothers and sisters, that this woman I know about has sinned, through her fault, In what she has done....

Why would priests or lay people be asking how they can get in on the Investigation of Women Religious, where can they go to officially register a complaint or provide evidence?

Like Mother Mary Clare isn't going to be swamped enough....

She has her work cut out for her in this In-- you know, those ag'in' it, are sniping that the Investigation is really an Inquisition.
I'd suggest it's more of an Intervention.

You know, for those in need of spiritual and ecclesiolgical Rehab.

Saving them from themselves, all those Sister Lindseys, and Sister Amys, and Sister Mackenzies...


Thursday, 29 October 2009

Rejoice in heaven, all ye that dwell therein!

And it please God, that is where Paul Manz is dwelling even now.

The composer of one of the finest of all English language anthems, Manz died Wednesday.

E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Saint Michael probably enjoys having a gimme, from time to time....

Very interesting thread on Fr Z's, discussing a recent talk by an exorcist.
I don't know a lot about the subject, and don't think I've ever met an exorcist -- or anyone in need of his services.
Though I think I may have been prayed over by a priest (now ex-,) mentioned in the thread. Not sure of the name of the priest at the "healing Mass" I attended, but it was in Florida.
One of the weirder parts of my life....

A commenter suggests that you mention the devil "around the parish sometime and watch the eyes roll," (no doubt,) and correctly goes on to name where the blame for the State Formerly Known As Sin ©, is now oft placed.
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of vague social forces.
May God rebuke them, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Power of God -
thrust into hell, all the vague social forces,
which prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.


I did appreciate the simple explanation of the difference between "deprecatory prayer (i.e. begging the help of God and the Saints, especially the Blessed Virgin), [and] imprecatory (i.e. “commanding”) prayer," (I didn't know imprecation was ever categorized as "prayer,") and this link to the "Current Norms Governing Exorcisms."

(I suppose as a kid I might have had what the comboxites call "an unhealthy interest" in these matters.)

Year for Priests Not Just For Those Of Them Who Are Alive?

Well, yes.
In this Year for Priests we should surely pray for priests-yet-to-be...

But Father Z rightly reminds us that especially in this (about-to-be) month of November, the month for remembering the dear departed, we should pray for the souls of our deceased priests.
Pray for the souls of priests.

First, remember that you can gain indulgences on All Souls and the days following.

Second, 5 November is a first Thursday. You can gain a plenary indulgence during this year for Priests.

Third, would it not be a good idea in this Year for Priests, during the week after All Souls, for this 1st Thursday, to pray in a special way for the souls of deceased priests?

May I recommend that you bring this up with your parish priests, who might make pulpit announcements this Sunday?...
Would you recommend this to your prayer groups, friends and family?

First Pitch

Okay, Yogi didn't actually throw it out, but he was there.
And looking older and littler and wiser all the time.
I love Yogi.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/04/16/sports/16yogi_600.JPGAlign Centre

He reminds me just a bit of another beloved character.


Hmmmm... and maybe another...

Heinous Headlines

Okay, I know the author is not responsible for the headline -- but the newspaper is, doncha think?

The Toledo Blade thinks Catholicism is ... "looking to score"? (Since that's the definition of "on the make" that is suitable for polite company...)

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Thank you, David Schütz

Thank you, David Schütz, for slogging through a document much referred to around St. Blog's a little ways back, when the LCWR was under the microscope for... well, for skulking around and acting guilty, basically.
I just couldn't manage “An Invitation to Systems Thinking”, a document developed by their "Global Concerns Committee," it was written in such leaden facilitatorese, but Mr Schütz has provided a comprehensible description and a representative example of the "Systems Thinking" advocated by the ladies.

Part of this document is a section entitled “Case Study: Congregational Issue”. The case study opens with a description of a conflict within a particular (unnamed) congregation of women religious:

Description of the Situation

Recently our leadership team has received individual and group letters expressing concern over a Saturday afternoon prayer service to be held at our annual congregational gathering seven months away. The prayer is the highlight of a weekend of celebration honouring our founder. The planners of the event, a congregational committee of three elected delegates and a few volunteers, have designed a Rite of Celebration for Saturday afternoon that is not a Eucharistic celebration. Sunday morning everyone is invited to participate in the two regularly scheduled Eucharists at our Motherhouse complex.

Concerns expressed by the sisters include:

1) a belief that the most fitting way to honour our founder is with a Mass because “That’s what she would want;”
2) an assumption that our unity can best be celebrated if all of us are present at one event, and that event should be a Eucharist since it is the sign of our unity;
3) a fear that a small group (the Planning Committee) is thursting something on the whole group; and a deeper fear that a small number of those who object to priest-led liturgies is determining how we worship;
4) and a hope that such a decision could be voted on by the whole community.

The issue appears to be how we as a congregation can worship together in a satisfying way at a major congregational celebration.

Actually, the issue appears to be around some of the sisters (those on the planning committee) objecting to the Eucharist because it is a “priest-led liturgy”, and other sisters (the letter writers) not standing for this kind of nonsense.

Anyway, the case study goes on to analyse the source of the conflict. What is identified (using “Systems Thinking Resources”) is that some of the sisters (those who want the Eucharistic celebration) are thinking with the “Western Mind mental model”, while others (the planning committee) are thinking with an “Organic mental model”. Apparently the former “values ordiless, predictablity, continuity, productivity and a clear chain of authority” while the latter “values chaos, connectedness, process, inclusivity, relationship, and a non-linear expression of authority.” Apparently:

With regard to theology and spirituality, many sisters move back and forth between the “Western Mind” and “Organic” mental models. They value beliefs and practices flowing from a stable world of fixed relationships characteristic of an earlier time, as well as the insights of process, liberatioist and feminist theologies grounded in a more organic model. For them, cherished beliefs about Eucharist co-exist with a haunting awareness of patterns of ecclesial exclusion.


The next couple of pages are spent analysing the “systems” in which the sisters live and work, the place of entry into these systems, and how they might want to “disturb” these systems. Finally, we are told what the leaders of the congregation did to handle the concerns raised by the “Western Mind” sisters about the “Organic” planning committee sisters:

In responding we intentionally created our own ‘disturbance.’ We wrote and spoke with many of those who expressed concerns. In our response we

1) resisted the temptation to ‘fix’ the situation;
2) provided information by sharing our understanding of what the planners had in mind;
3) attempted to clarify both our own and the congregation’s identity at this time, by stating our belief that our current situation of differing understandings about the Eucharist and differing ways of celebrating Eucharist not only create uncertainty and frustration, but also offer new opportunities for the Spirit to lead us in life giving patterns of prayer;
4) attempted to strengthen relationships by thanking the writers and at the same time voicing our support for allowing the planning committee to do its work as it saw fit;
5) tried to honor all the voices by receiving without judgment each one’s uncertainty and frustration around the Eucharist question facing the Congregation; and by affirming the desire in each of us to have the best possible celebration of our founder.
6) invited a broader discussion of the Planning Committee’s proposal at our open representative Governing Board meeting a month later where the tensions around the issue were aired, and the authority of the Planning Committee was respected.

So. Without wanting to be too judgmental, I would say this amounts to a psychologising away of the objective truth of the Catholic Faith. In this “system”, the Eucharist has become an optional extra for the good sisters

One cavil, though -- Mr Schütz, the calf-length flowered skirt is just as much the uniform of the unimpeachably orthodoxly Catholic home-schooling mother ;o)

Oh, one of his commentator nails the contradictions inherent in the approach of the Global Concerns Committee:
The pseudo-response said that “the authority of the Planning Committee was respected.” But I thought the Organic mind-model had “a non-linear expression of authority”!

In other words, “we do not value a ‘clear chain of authority’ unless it’s our authority.”

Fact checkers, please?

The New Zealand Herald, after a generally even-handed piece of straight reporting on the lifeline the Vatican has extended to disappointed and distraught Anglicans, and the common ground that exists between Catholicism and the Anglican communion at large, unfortunately then goes on to present a table of "where the two churches differ."
Pope Benedict XVI has called homosexuality "a moral evil". The Anglican stance is that those who enter into homosexual relationships should be respected.

The "quote", despite the use of quotation marks is nothing of the sort -- what the Pope actually said was, "Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered to an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."

Got that? a tendency to evil, (which we all have summat of, in this post-lapsarian world. My particular tendencies to evil? well, first would be jumping to conclusions that people that write such dishonesty do so out of malice, when it is probably ignorance.)

But worse, by far is the statement that a difference from Catholicism is that Anglicans think gay people "should be respected."
It is a wicked lie to say that Catholicism teaches disrespect to any person, whether for their deviant sexual orientation or any other reason.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Solemn Vespers in Florida

I see nothing on their website but a friend who lives in Martin county called me excitedly to say that her parish bulletin had a blurb noting that (First?) Vespers for All Souls in the Extraordinary Form would be prayed, (and sung!) by the Schola Cantorum of the Palm Beaches in a place called Prosperity Farms.

If I can find anything more on line, I'll post it.
(And I should admit I'm jealous....)

CORRECTION: (10/28) First Vespers for All SAINTS

Saturday, 24 October 2009

During these plummet months...

I was thinking about buying some boots, and came across this description:These boots are...
....the tall report of a customary classic luxury sheepskin wader - and if you're sharp out something temperate, snug and fashionable for the plummet and frost months, it is a good bet that you will devotion this one.
Over the older combine of existence, the classic Australian sheepskin gumboot ... has become somewhat current, especially the "Tall" boot for its fashionable looks as well as extreme comfort.
Since this elegance of boot "took off" in language of its popularity, several companies have sprung up that create them. However, not all the boots are the same - in verity it's a good idea to research the invention before business before business a brace merely because they are worse in penalty.

I loved the phrase, (an understandable mistake,) "the plummet and frost months."

Friday, 23 October 2009

Which means that some babies are "dying NECESSARILY"?

Archbishop Chaput is a man I am coming to admire more and more, the more I read his words, as opposed to what others say about him, (we were living in Denver temporarily when he was charged with that see, and I remember at the time thinking that wherever we went subsequently we would be hearing more from him...)

In First Things he has a stunning, at times chilling essay on the way secular society looks at "imperfect" life (as if we were any of us perfect!) entitled Conscience, Courage, and Children With Down Syndrome.
His remarks on the medical establishment and those with Down's Syndrome are very telling.
Go read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts:
What kind of people are we becoming, and what we can do about it?

A number of my friends have children with disabilities. Their problems range from cerebral palsy to Turner’s syndrome to Trisomy 18. But I want to focus on one fairly common genetic disability to make my point. I’m referring to Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome....

Prenatal testing can now detect up to 95 percent of pregnancies with a strong risk of Down syndrome. The tests aren’t conclusive, but they’re pretty good. And the results of those tests are brutally practical. Studies show that more than 80 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are now terminated in the womb. They’re killed because of a flaw in one of their chromosomes—a flaw that’s neither fatal nor contagious, merely undesirable...

pregnant women now hear from doctors or genetic counselors that their baby has “an increased likelihood” of Down syndrome based on one or more prenatal tests. Some doctors deliver this information with sensitivity and great support for the woman. But too many others seem more concerned about avoiding lawsuits, or managing costs, or even, in a few ugly cases, cleaning up the gene pool.

We’re witnessing a kind of schizophrenia in our culture’s conscience. In Britain, the Guardian newspaper recently ran an article lamenting the faultiness of some of the prenatal tests that screen for Down syndrome. Women who receive positive results, the article noted, often demand an additional test, amniocentesis, which has a greater risk of miscarriage. Doctors quoted in the story complained about the high number of false positives for Down syndrome. “The result of [these false positives] is that babies are dying completely unnecessarily,” one medical school professor said. “It’s scandalous and disgraceful . . .

and causing the death of normal babies.” These words sound almost humane until we realize that, at least for that professor, killing “abnormal” babies such as those with Down syndrome is perfectly acceptable....

The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is never between some imaginary perfection or imperfection. The real choice is between love and unlove, between courage and cowardice, between trust and fear. And that’s the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not.[emphasis supplied]...
Every child with Down syndrome, every adult with special needs—in fact, every unwanted unborn child, every person who is poor, weak, abandoned, or homeless—is an icon of God’s face and a vessel of his love. How we treat these persons—whether we revere them and welcome them or throw them away in distaste—shows what we really believe about human dignity, both as individuals and as a nation.

I have been thinking for a long time about a music project, inspired by a lovely child I know here.
Her younger brother sang with my choir, and after I assured her parents that her inability to learn the music was immaterial to her joining us if it would make her happy, but scheduling always defeated our intentions.

I was going to call it Singing With the Angels, and perhaps after the Big Move I will find an opportunity to embark on it.

(Oh, and for a truly, horrifyingly, obscenely chilling read? check out some of the comments at First Things)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Top Ten Reasons...

... Wyoming Catholics might want to be cautious:
Rev. Paul D. Etienne.jpg

10. It appears that a late night talk show host might be punking them. (Stupid human tricks?)
Or am I the only one who sees the resemblance?
(Or does everyone from that part of Indiana kinda look alike?)


I don't stomp on puppies, but I'm not a hard-liner, or anything....

When do we use the word "hard-liner"?

The Wall Street Journal, in the person of someone named Stacy Meichtry, tells us, "Long regarded as a hard-liner on religious doctrine, Pope Benedict XVI also is emerging as the pontiff of interchurch, or ecumenical, relations."

What do they mean by "hard-liner", do you suppose?

Oh, I know what it means, someone for whom something is, or nearly, non-negotiable.

But let's be honest, there are implications beyond that, and they are pejorative, the connotation is of an uncompassionate rigidity.

The word is part of the official journalists lexicon of adjectives and nouns to be used to describe the current Pope.

But in the context of "religious doctrine" the word is ludicrous, almost meaningless -- religious doctrine is about revealed truth and the practice of virtue, how could truth and the practice of virtue not be non-negotiable for any Pope, almost any believer?
One, well..... believes one's religious beliefs.

(Excepting always those people who stand up every Sunday and say "We believe.....," but it's not like we really believe it and stuff, ya know?)

Would a journalist use the word "hard-liner" to describe those who hold to other kinds of truth, or believe in other virtues?

Do people IRL describe those with whom they agree thusly?

Are those of us who believe the earth is more or less spherical considered "hard-liners" in our dealings with flat-earthers?

Would a woman ever say, I think it would be wrong to sleep with my sisters' husbands, but I'm not a hard-liner about it?

Of course, those who hold some positions would never be referred to as hard-liners because they don't hold them very strongly, or publicly, or exhibit any zeal to convert others to their positions.

But I think we can agree that marquee-name atheist Christopher Hitchens is not one such, no? neither waffler nor shrinking violet he.

I wonder how often Hitchens is described as a "hard-liner"? or the president of NOW?

To quote the elder sister, Let's look it up, SHALL we?

Let's go a-googling.

The word "hard-liner" itself gets 128,000 hits.

Christopher Hitchens gets 1,300,000; Christopher Hitchens and the expression "hard-liner" gets 810. (1 in 1605)
Benedict XVI gets 3,630,000 hits, add in "hard-liner" and you get 5,720, 1 in every 635.

What does this reflect? that we expect an atheist to have the courage of his convictions, but we are so used to religious leaders who don't that we need to tag those who actually do?

Bringing up the president of NOW turns out to be embarrassing, as I had the wrong name in mind. It was Kim Gandy until recently, now it's Terry O Neill.

Gandy gets 40, 600 hits, + "hard-liner" and you get 194; O'Neil get 47,400, + "hard-liner" gets you 1990.

Of course, just because the phrase appears on a page about a given subject it doesn't follow that it is applied to the subject.

The Dalai Lama, for instance, gets eight and a half million hits, and adding "hard-liner" gets you down to 1,460, but for the first I don't know how many pages, it is always the Chinese Communists or their policies that are described so.

I'd bet no one has ever called the Dalai Lama a hard-liner.

So, does "hard-liner" mean someone who won't budge on a position I don't like, or my editor does not hold, with which a majority of people disagree, or which is politically errant?

A little experiment, one more set of stats, googling for an exact phrase this time, so that we won't pick up pages that refer to someone's opponents as hard-liners, an issue on which we as a nation are almost evenly divided, and the partisans on both sides of which, no one would deny, are passionately convicted:
"pro-abortion hard-liner" 2
"pro-choice hard-liner" 2
"pro-life hard-liner" 2
[Okay, pretty even-handed, wouldn't you say? and then...]
"anti-abortion hard-liner" 87
I'm just sayin'...

Truth is the Daughter of Time

Over, and over, and over, and over again... ignoring history, reinventing the wheel, discovering that an earlier age got there ahead of this one, quoting Santayana and then going ahead and forgetting what you did yesterday anyway.

Josephine Tey wrote a mystery in which her detective is incapacitated, so instead of investigating a current crime, he digs into one of history, inspired by a postcard of a sad, wise face from the National Portrait Gallery.
And at the end of the novel, after much research, much effort, and proving to his own satisfaction that "common knowledge" of the case is, (as common knowledge of anything so often proves to be...,) wrong -- he discovers that this is old news, that the facts were there and uncovered for generations, for anyone who cared to look.

But simple truth has limited hold on the popular imagination, so it is the sizzling, or sometimes merely comfortable, or sometimes just NEW, lie that became and remains common "knowledge."

Are our struggles really different in kind from the struggles that the people of God have always faced?

Tantalizingly Close...

There are some who would say that the Twins, after all, were mere mortals, and Angels are just... well, angels.

And me? I'm singing.

We love the .... Yan-KEEEES! (no, not the Mets,) we love the...


Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Happy 99th Birthday, Bob Sheppard!

The Yanks done ya proud, no?

"Hotel Weddings and Humanist Funerals"

Funerals in England certainly are getting to be... special.
Special and beautiful.

A vicar in Tunbridge Wells is disgusted with 'crumbling clerics', secularists and others taking funerals. Father Ed Tomlinson, of St Barnabas, a Forward in Faith parish, complains on his blog about the 'death of death'. He says that he hardly ever gets invited to the crematorium to take a funeral any more, and when he is he doesn't like what he finds: people being 'popped in the oven with no hope of resurrection'.

'I have then stood at the Crem like a lemon, wondering why on earth I am present at the funeral of somebody led in by the tunes of Tina Turner, summed up in pithy platitudes of sentimental and secular poets and sent into the furnace with ‘I did it my way’ blaring out across the speakers!'
'Once upon a time the beautiful requiem mass would have been the norm and not the exception in my parish,' he writes. 'Once upon a time even funerals at the Crem would have been sincerely Christian in character. But that was another England, a time when Christianity was worshipped on these shores. We must accept that, for now, such days are past and that this has inevitable consequences.

'Atheists and secularists might delight in this fact but is it really the victory they imagine? After all, I am not the one who suffers. Along with my fellow Christians, I will still have the gorgeous liturgy of the requiem mass to look forward to. Whereas the best our secularist friends (and those they dupe) can hope for is a poem from nan combined with a saccharine message from a pop star before being popped in the oven with no hope of resurrection.

'It might offend those who see choice as a wonderful thing, but whenever I consider humanist funerals (or hotel weddings come to that) I am only ever reminded of those words from scripture, ‘forgive them for they know not what they do.’ As Britain delights in grabbing hold of its new found secular identity it seems totally oblivious to the fact that so much meaning, beauty and ultimately life is, in fact, slipping through their fingers.

'Perversely then: it is as the church loses its grip on death that death itself gets stronger for the society in which we live.'

(Addition: After reading the entire post of the Vicar in question, I think I can say that without actual untruths, being written, what he meant seems to have been misrepresented.)

Incidentally, I've never had "My Way" requested, (although I have had to gently refuse to do "Over the Rainbow")
Cooperative Funeralcare [in the UK,] have done a survey of music played at funerals. They surveyed 242 funeral homes and 30,000 services and found that 58% of people in England and Wales chose pop music rather than traditional hymns. The top ten pop picks are:
1 My Way - Frank Sinatra/Shirley Bassey
2 Wind Beneath My Wings - Bette Midler/Celine Dion
3 Time To Say Goodbye - Sarah Brightman/Andrea Bocelli
4 Angels - Robbie Williams
5 Over The Rainbow - Eva Cassidy
6 You Raise Me Up - Westlife/Boyzone/Josh Grobin
7 My Heart Will Go On - Celine Dion
8 I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston
9 You'll Never Walk Alone - Gerry and the Pacemakers
10 Unforgettable - Nat King Cole

Specifics of Anglican Spirituality?

Could someone tell this very shallow person, who has tried to read on the subject, but not very deeply, what are some of the aspects of "Anglican spirituality" that differ inherently from Catholic spirituality, that any Anglicans swimming the Tiber would be desirous of preserving? (the liturgical patrimony I "get" all too well, to my sorrow...)
A new canonical entity will allow groups of Anglicans “to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony,” Cardinal William Levada, the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said at a news conference here.

Play it again, Maurice....

So, I've been watching the ads with delighted anticipation, (although, impecunious employee of Mother Church that I am, I must wait until there are bargain matinee tickets to be had, to actually see the movie,) and thinking, how could they get that wrong?

So I take my (much-read and much-beloved yet pristine, purchased as an adult,) copy off the shelf, where it is tucked in between Outside Over There and The Nutcracker, and look it up -- the line really is "let the wild rumpus start"?

Yet a quick google confirms I'm not the only one who misremembers it, and some people are quite vehement in their inaccuracy.

So, I've decided it's like the line "play it again, Sam."

(Or the disregarded double dots in Be Not Afraid?)
(Ah! BITE YOUR TONGUE!!!!! how DURST thou put that in the same category as Casablanca? or even the merest thoughtless and discarded doodle of Sendak??!?#?$???)

The collective memory has corrected the creator's minor misstep. The rhythm is better, (especially if you shout it, and really, why wouldn't you?)
Let the Wild Rumpus Begin!

(Incidentally, I didn't hear him say them, but in retrospect, the celebrant may have accidentally uttered those words at a Mass I attended recently, instead of "let us being in the name of the...," at least judging from the activity that followed.)

Monday, 19 October 2009

Loving Music, and Fostering Understanding

In light of a certain amount of kerfuffle over who meant what about what kind of music, (which I may get into, later,) I though reading the Pope's words, courtesy of Zenit, on music's power would be a balm:
"This concert has [...] permitted us to taste the beauty of music, a spiritual and therefore universal language, a vehicle so importantly suited to understanding and union between persons and peoples," the Holy Father said in giving words of thanks at the end.

"Music is a part of all cultures and, we might say, accompanies every human experience, from pain to pleasure, from hatred to love, from sadness to joy, from death to life," he continued. "We see how, over the course of the centuries and millennia, music has always been used to give a form to that which we are not able to speak in words, because it awakens emotions that are difficult to communicate otherwise.

"So it is not by chance that every civilization has placed such importance and value on music in its various forms and expressions."

The Pontiff also reflected on the "vertical" dimension of music -- its power to bring the spirit toward God.

"Music," he said, "great music, gives the spirit repose, awakens profound sentiments and almost naturally invites us to lift up our mind and heart to God in every situation, whether joyous or sad, of human existence. Music can become prayer."

Ordination Histories

In honor of the Year for Priests, our parish, like, I hope, many others, is celebrating the "sons of the parish" whose vocations blessed the Church.
Not a big town, not a huge parish, but over the years, it gave a good number of young men to the priesthood.

The other parishes in town did as well, (though the widow's mite comes into play, the tiny ethnic parishes just did not have the human wherewithal to produce priests in such numbers.)

Since we are celebrating, or at least recognizing the ordination anniversaries, the stats are posted everywhere.

Several dozen priests over nearly 4 decades.

The longest gap in between vocations to the priesthood was 7 years, but at the end of that there was a cluster, so I am thinking the Second World War may have had a great affect the life trajectories of young Catholic men from this town.

A priest every three an half years, on average.

3.54, to be precise.

But looking at the numbers, on first glance, the parish seemed to have "produced" priests with a little more frequency.

Because we've only had one in the past 34 years, and there was a gap of over three decades since the second to the last.

And if you take that last one out of the equation, you see that the parish had an ordination every 2.23 years on average.

We were producing vocations.

And then we stopped.

We pretty much stopped.

What was your parish like?

Lady With a Baby on Board, or where did that person go?

When I was learning to drive, (which I did at a bizarrely advanced age for a suburbanite, but why bother when there are 6 people or so who would have dibs on the driver seat, and indeed the car itself, ahead of you? but I digress...)
When I was learning to drive, I had an outlook, almost a mantra, there's a woman in labor in the back seat.
Huh? you ask.
It was my clumsy way of incorporating Renoir's everyone has his reasons... into my life.

Yes, that driver cut me off/ran that stop sign/is going far too fast/nearly ran me off the road -- but maybe he or she had good reason, of which I can know nothing.

And since I can't know it, I'll give'm the benefit of the doubt, and drive accordingly, more importantly think accordingly.

Where did that Me go?
I don't think that way anymore, I don't drive that way, I don't treat people that way.

Sometimes it seems that life experience forces you to choose, do I want to be a cynic or a chump?

Is being a chump such a bad thing?

Believe it or not, it was choir, and choir attendance that kicked off the soul searching, but that is another matter...

Anyway, I want to go back to smiling, even if I risk having my teeth kicked in.

Friday, 16 October 2009

San Francisco CA and San Antonio TX , Singers and Support Sought

First, a schola in the North Beach/Telegraph Hill area is seeking new members.

And parish politics seem to be wreaking a bit of trouble on a schola in Texas; they could use more singers, but perhpas even more importantly they could use the support of those who long for a restoration of the sacred in Catholic liturgical life -- don't just long for it, work for it, speak up for it!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Reform of the Liturgy, the Ideal of Ecumenism, and the Way It Actually Played Out...

Conspiracy theorists abound, but I don't think it is necessary to impute malice to those whose actions brought about near-disastrous consequences. Quoth one Combox Commando:
Many faithful Catholics in the aftermath of the Council shared almost euphorically the expectation that the new liturgy would spur a wholesale influx of Protestants into the One True Church. Of course, we now know that nothing of sort happened—and instead that the Church itself was Protestantized—but in that time of hope the optimism seemed neither suspect nor unrealistic.
Another asks:
Is it any wonder that only 30% of Catholics now believe in the Real Presence?
People don't really listen to the spiel given by the flight attendant before take-off, do they? (Of course, flying was less common, then -- had either of the popes who presided over VCII flown?)
Good advice in any number of circumstances:

“If the cabin looses sufficient pressure, a mask will drop down from your over-head compartment. Secure the mask around your head like this, and breathe normally. Don’t be concerned if the bag doesn’t inflate. If you are traveling with a child or someone who needs assistance, secure your own oxygen mask first, and then offer assistance to your companion.”

Because chances are you can't give meaningful assistance to someone else after ya lose consciousness, ya know?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

"Can I bring anything, honey? well, at least let me help with the dishes..."

It's good, as we stumble along, to remember exactly what it is, with which we are dealing.
For a variety of reasons, we have been slow to take [the family meal] aspect of the Eucharist seriously.

Perhaps this is because its other dimensions seem more sacred.

Our reluctance to accept this is evident in the simple criticism that is made of people who go to church principally because of its social aspect: "She doesn't go to church to pray! She just goes for the socializing, for the chance to talk with others!"

That is always voiced as a negative when, in fact, it a good reason, among others, to go the Eucharist.

The ritual of the Eucharist was given to us because we are social in our very make-up.

To go to church to socialize is reason enough to be there.

Chant in Metuchen NJ

Those in the tri-state area may be interested in this.

Graduale Romanum - The Songbook of the Church: Chanting the Liturgy in English and Latin

Graduale Romanum - The Songbook of the Church: Chanting the Litugry in English and Latin
Nov 17, 2009
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
St. John Neumann Pastoral Center
146 Metlars Lane
Piscataway NJ 08854
Directions Cost: Per person - $ 10.00

Payment: Please make checks payable to 'Diocese of Metuchen'

"The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as distinctive of the Roman liturgy; therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy # 116)

Presented by: Mr. Christopher M.C. Deibert

Workshop Description:
This instruction comes to us directly from the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Missal and the Graduale Romanum being the keys to unlocking our understanding of the above instruction from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Armed with the knowledge of these two marvelous volumes, we may guide our parishes and worshipping communities to be more closely united with the Church universal.
This workshop, given for priests and parish musicians, will explore the history of the music contained within the pages of the Roman Missal and the Graduale Romanum, and will offer insight on practival implementation at the parish level, both in English and Latin.

Who Should Attend?
Priests, parish music directors and those involved in music ministry or liturgical planning.

About the Presenter:
Christopher M.C. Deibert is the Director of Music Ministry at Saint Mary Church, South Amboy, where he directs five vocal ensembles, a bell choir, a chamber orchestra and a concert series. He is a member of the Church Music Association of America, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, and other professional orgainzations. Mr. Deibert was the 2007 recipient of the Award of Distinction from the National Religious Music Week Alliance.

Registration Information: Please register by November 10.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

"At the Name of Jesus..."

How does a mess of cretins behave?

Okay, we're singing something, (yes, it was I who programmed it, there are considerations...) an ordinary, both for which I don't care, and than which we can do much, much better.

And I realized that without ever having stated it, one of my standards for suitability and the quality of the setting, and a tool for determining appropriate tempo is -- can the Holy Name be properly reverenced when it occurs in the text?

Without incurring whiplash?

It's something I think actual Catholic musicians understand instinctively, but I don't know that I've ever heard or read it articulated.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

"What about bad music?" Dr Jeff Mirius asks

H/T to Rich Leonardi for Catholic Cultures face-lift.
Here is Dr Mirius's article in its entirety.

It is a feature of human nature that all normal persons respond emotionally to music. For this reason, music is often described in emotional or quasi-emotional terms. It may be languorous or bombastic, martial or lyrical, peaceful or agitated, soothing or exciting, and so on. But in addition to the connection between music and human moods, music is also perceived as beautiful (or ugly) and the human intellect naturally wishes to understand those properties of music which, if properly manipulated, produce beauty. Finally, the essentially moral character of the human person leads us to ask whether music can affect either morals in particular or spirituality in general and, if so, how.

It is possible to draw from these considerations three questions of great interest to most serious Catholics in today’s culture: First, can different kinds of music in themselves be either morally good or evil? Second, is it possible for music to influence a person’s moral behavior? Third, are some forms of music more suitable than others to worship and especially to the Divine liturgy? Prescinding for the most part from the problem of what makes music beautiful or ugly, it is these three questions that I intend to address below.

Morally Good and Bad Music

One surveys the comments of ancient, medieval and modern philosophers in vain to find a consistent rational exposition of the nature of music or its potential moral effects. Different philosophers from Confucius to Nietzsche, including Plato, Aristotle, Boethius, St. Thomas Aquinas, Kant and many more, have made assertions about music, its essential character, and its impact on morals without the development of any single consistent rational line of argument that could be used to distinguish legitimate conclusions from mere opinions. This dearth has been alleviated to a modest degree by the aesthetic studies of neo-Thomist philosophers in the 20th century, including the work of Jacques Maritain, and by documents written to reach out to artists by Pope John Paul II. But we are a very long way from understanding—if we ever will understand—exactly what distinguishes music from noise, what makes music beautiful, and exactly why and how music reaches to the core of the human person.

Those who have been exposed to “arguments” on the subject of whether some music, or perhaps some rhythms, are intrinsically disordered and therefore morally evil, should have noticed that these “arguments” are always either mere assertions or they are supported only by appeal to some authority. When the authority in question is consulted, one always finds another mere assertion, without any sort of logical argument that may be tested by another. In reality, it is oxymoronic to describe either rhythm or music as “disordered”, for in fact it is precisely the ordering of sound in particular ways which creates both rhythm and music as a whole.

Therefore, even a cursory study of past serious thought about the nature of music forces one to conclude that it cannot be successfully argued that any form of music is evil in itself, but only that it sometimes appears to be evil in certain of its effects, which are always obscured in human responses conditioned by many things outside the music itself.

Music and Moral Behavior

A moment’s reflection will enable us to see that any particular type of music that we do not like, or to which we are personally opposed, can be used to produce an effective, pleasing artistic effect in some context of which we would approve. We may abhor the sound of “death metal”, for example, yet the same sound may be a stroke of artistic genius in a section of a modern opera which portrays a suicide. This leads to an extremely important point, which may be further illustrated by the use of music in film scores. For it is undeniable, as I noted in the introduction, that music stimulates emotional responses and can therefore influence our moods, and this reality is routinely exploited not only in “occasional music” such as that used on patriotic occasions, at sporting events or at dances, but in any form of art which employs music in the telling of a story. Moreover, music has been used in many periods of history to assist in the treatment of various human disorders, up to and including clinical trials in our own time. This may not get us very far in terms of aesthetic theory, but it does provide a universal human experience on which to base certain legitimate conclusions.

The first conclusion, from both our own experience, the widespread experience of others, and even various clinical trials, is that music tends to intensify human responses to other stimulants. Insofar as we are beginning to feel suspense at a certain point in a movie, the right kind of music heightens that feeling. Insofar as we are upset but have something within us which desires peace, tranquil music usually has a soothing effect. Insofar as we are attempting to stir ourselves up to an act of military valor, the right musical accompaniment can stimulate our courage and hasten us to action.

At the same time, however, the human person always retains the innate capacity—the power of will—to nullify these emotional effects of music. He may psychologically detach himself from the movie, if it is not to his taste or if he has pressing business, and so make himself effectively impervious to the normal effect of the music. Not wishing to be “tranquilized”, he might grow angry at a crude attempt to pacify him through musical sounds. Opposed to war, he may scoff at or condemn martial music without being stirred by it in the least. He may laugh at that which is palpably designed to make him cry, and cry when he hears happy music, perhaps because it reminds him of a lost love.

The second conclusion is that, just as well-chosen music tends to make us feel more deeply certain experiences to which we are otherwise disposed, so too is the emotional impact of music both altered and significantly intensified by association with things that are extrinsic to the actual musical forms. These may be associations which we already have in our own minds, or associations which we form when listening to music that includes lyrics, which possess something that pure music does not, namely the intelligibility unique to human speech.


The most obvious examples of these associations are found in the rise of many new musical forms in various cultures among musicians who are either rebelling against the mores of the culture or who are using particular forms of music to accompany immoral behavior. We could point to several examples quite easily: The rise of certain Greek forms in orgiastic rites, the emergence of jazz among musicians who typically played in bordellos, the development of hard rock and heavy metal in a counter-cultural movement too interested in tearing down conventions. Such music, which in itself might be said to produce effects of restless animation, romantic relaxation, or throbbing anger, has been used as an accompaniment either to immoral activities or to lyrics containing harmful messages, or both.

Those who care about the activities or the messages, finding them immoral or false, will naturally associate these musical forms with evil and so will often experience them as intrinsically evil. Clearly, in this moral context, moral listeners will scarcely perceive as neutral those emotional tendencies of the music which have made it appropriate to the lyrics or activities in question; rather, they are likely to react with disgust or anger. These associations and these lyrics are often very significant, and they are by no means to be lightly dismissed, especially in the formation of those who are young and impressionable. But the moral evil at work is not intrinsic to the music itself, as one final consideration will easily demonstrate.

With the passage of time, typically a generation or a little more, each new musical form tends to rise to general acceptability, in a particular context or usage, as the form is appropriated to other purposes and loses a large part of its original associations. It is too soon to see the end of this process in, say, hard rock or heavy metal, but it ought to be exceedingly clear in the case of jazz, which eventually worked its way into polite society, concert halls and university music programs, and which is considered a sort of gold standard today by a great many of those who cannot tolerate more recent musical forms. Yet in its origins, it was often regarded with horror.

There is another aspect of this progress of musical forms which also plays a critical role: familiarity. When we are used to particular forms and comfortable with them, we may find new forms distracting, jarring or otherwise annoying and unpleasant, and this certainly accounts for a large part of the immediate dislike of new music on the part of older people even as it is embraced with joy by those who are younger and more malleable. This alone is sufficient, even without various associations or problems with lyrics, to account for the common generation gaps in musical taste. But it also accounts for a very important phenomenon in the field of sacred music.

Sacred Music

If we conclude that music has no intrinsic moral quality, then we must ask a different sort of question when we consider which musical forms (or instruments, for that matter) are appropriate for divine worship. As you would expect, the evolution of the Church’s teaching on sacred music has been guided by the Church’s understanding of the Divine liturgy, in which the central and essential element (from the human point of view) is words. The Mass is a prayer of words, and insofar as music has been introduced into the public worship of the Church, its purpose has always been to give greater beauty and penetrating force to the words: the psalms, the readings, the prayers which accompany the actions of the Mass, and so on. This also has deep roots in worship under the Old Covenant.

There are two other significant considerations for Sacred Music as well. First, one must take account of the associations connected with various musical forms. It is at best pointless and at worst counter-productive to bring into Church for the purpose of worship those forms of music in any given culture which are associated primarily with frivolous or even immoral activities. This is simply a matter of common sense. Second, the Church considers the emotional tendencies of the various musical forms used in the liturgy. According to the rhythms of the liturgical year, the mood of the worshippers is appropriately glorious, joyful, martial, reflective, contrite, peaceful, sad, or even bereaved. The music should intensify rather than counteract these highly appropriate moods, which flow not only from the season and the occasion but from the liturgical texts themselves.

So Sacred Music must be conducive to the understanding of words (which suggests that interludes of “pure” music without lyrics should be rare or non-existent); the forms used should not have primarily secular associations of any kind; and the forms, settings, rhythms, and arrangements should be conducive to the emotions appropriate to the season, the feast and the texts. Now it so happens that Gregorian chant possesses an astonishing ability to intensify text (it is, after all, chant, not song); it is almost completely devoid of association with secular pursuits; and it tends to induce a strong emotional sense of the spiritual and the eternal even as it changes easily from sadness to joy. All these things have combined with the force and associations of the Catholic tradition to give Gregorian Chant a certain pride of place in the Church's liturgy. While too often ignored in practice, this position still obtains both in theory and in the Church's official recommendations today.

Perhaps more to the point in our discussion, there are several features of music (or instrumental accompaniment) which can interfere with worship precisely because they interfere with our focus on the words and their meaning. These features include novelty, complexity, and sheer distractive power. For this reason, in addition to the condemnation over the centuries by both saints and Church authorities of forms of music and particular instruments which were at any given time associated primarily with secular or immoral pursuits, there have been similar restrictions placed upon forms and instruments because the complexity of either the score or the sounds have made it more difficult to focus on the words, or because the very novelty of a particular form or instrument rendered it inevitably distracting.

Thus did a form now as revered as polyphony come under condemnation and severe restriction in the Church’s liturgy, when it was new, and thus has a strong distinction quite properly arisen between sacred music (music used for worship) and more broadly religious music. Indeed, some of the greatest religious compositions—one thinks of Bach or Beethoven—are not generally appropriate for worship. The music is so splendid, so powerful, so generally moving and perhaps even ecstatic that the listener may, through this medium, experience a significant deepening of religious devotion. But he will not thereby have entered more deeply into the Sacrifice of the Mass, unless the music has fulfilled the more modest office of helping to release within him a more deeply-felt understanding and appreciation of the meaning of the rite as conveyed through its words.


I am painfully aware that an essay such as this cries out for more examples, and for appropriate quotations from philosophers and saints, popes and councils. There is insufficient time and space to provide them here. Instead, it is best to offer a brief word of practical advice, a word about how we must prepare ourselves to assimilate the powerful experience of music through what is commonly called music appreciation.

By music appreciation I am not referring exclusively to the ability to discern the various elements which make up a musical composition, to trace their history, or to better understand the techniques and talents of either the composers or the musicians. These aspects should be cultivated whenever possible by frequent listening and by formal study, but they are not essential. Yet just as surely as everything we are given is to be used for the glory of God and our own union with Him, so too should every person strive for the same result in music. For most of us, and especially for youngsters who are very much in the process of moral, spiritual and indeed fully human formation, the essentials of music appreciation must not be ignored.

De gustibus non disputandum: There is no arguing about taste. But the essentials of music appreciation consist in five key elements which each person should learn to understand, and on which I intend to close:

  1. The emotional impact different kinds of music can have, along with the general characteristics that tend to produce various moods;
  2. The importance of lyrics as intelligible in a manner that pure music is not, and the ways in which their power is increased by music;
  3. The nature of the associations which attend upon various musical forms, especially contemporary forms, by virtue of their origins, the uses to which they are frequently put, or the attitudes and performance behaviors of the musicians;
  4. The nature of the liturgy and the reasons that some musical forms and instruments are more appropriate for liturgical use than others;
  5. The possibility and the importance of deliberately adjusting one’s own musical tastes through careful listening, through accurate discernment of the effects each kind of music has in one's own life, and through spiritual reflection.

Somebody Interrupted a Street Fair With a Mass

I have often threatened, (insincerely, I hasten to add,) to just stop playing some loud hymn or postlude in mid-phrase, loud and unresolved, as a snotty protest at the din down below, (and to see if anyone noticed.)

Well, today, I did it inadvertently, absolutely not on purpose.

I finished the final hymn, (well, what we call "finished," two verses,) and was playing a brisk, short postlude, hadn't piled on anymore ranks than for the hymn which was a loud, moderately well sung, (for one verse, anyway,) one and stopped in mid, dissonant phrase and swung around on the bench, alarmed.

In all honesty, the noise was such that I actually thought something disastrous had occurred, that someone had fallen or had a seizure -- it was that deafening.

People wereliterally shouting greetings and farewells to each other across the nave, jokes were being told.... I just don't understand it, nor why it is allowed.

I have to find a way out of the funk I am falling in to.

Friday, 9 October 2009


I hope to attend this concert.
Haydn: Lord Nelson Mass
Bach: Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor
Bruckner: Ave Maria, Locus Iste
Mendelssohn: Am Charfreitage, Weinachten
Hildegarde Von Bingen: O viridissima virga
My chances were improved by convincing Himself that Hildegarde was associated with a crooner, and may have had a hand in the writing of "White Christmas."

The best laid plans...

I put a certain amount of effort into deciding exactly when to tell everyone concerned what our intentions were and our timetable was, regarding the Big Move, (both official and social"notice" --although I work without benefit of contract and could legally just not show up, and ethically probably just give 2 weeks,) while fulfilling previously accepted commitments.

I needed to give others sufficient time to find replacements but not leave so long a time that my successor would be thrown in at the deep end or be forced by time constraints to accept my decisions in matters that were rightly his purview;
couldn't add another burden at specific times when those most affected by it were already overburdened;
could not leak information to certain people when there would be no immediate opportunity to tell others who were next, or even higher, in the pecking order, whose noses, or I guess, "beaks" to stick with the metaphor, would then rightly be out to joint to have heard through the grapevine rather than it being personally communicated to them in a timely manner;
didn't wish to present one last proposal as a "lame duck" (oh, the bird similes are just piling up!);
couldn't bear to do it immediately after a foreseeable but unavoidable conflict that was looming, lest my leaving be perceived as anything other than amicable...

And what happens? the one who will be charged with securing my replacement has an enormous burden that far outweighs the scheduled duties of the liturgical calendar thrust upon him, the opportunity to present the proposal has been shuffled waaaaaaaaaay off in the calendar, and a bit of unpleasantness sprang up out of nowhere, (and for once, I am not, so far as I can see, to blame in any way, shape or form.)

I can't win.

I sometimes feel inclined to just drop it like a bomb, in the sacristy at, say... 8:55 a.m. this coming Sunday?

After all my time is so worthless, there must be scads of people you can get to do the same things by just snapping your fingers.

I understand...

... that the committee is considering renaming it the "Nobel Not-Being-George-Bush Prize."

(Which in and of itself may be a worthy endeavour...)

Much as it pains me to come out on a side where I will surely be in the company of.... Red Sox fans, I have to ask, Why The Face?

In other news, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated me for an Oscar for the story proposal I am shopping around but for which I have not yet found a studio, much less written the screenplay.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

"What kind of health problem would you like? What sort of therapy appeals to you?"

The Lutherans, (LCMS,) have recently put out a few theses about worship, as they struggle through their own liturgy wars, and while I don't necessarily agree with every one of them -- wait, cut it out!
Okay, I disagree with some of them. There. But others really strike a cord. (Strike a "chord?")

And I will delve into that a bit more at some point, but in reading about it, I came across this article by Dr. Dean Wenthe on the Synod's site, Divine Service and Reverence.

It was first published in Lutheran Worship Notes, in '95, but is relevant to much of the conflict in current Catholic liturgical circles.
In today's culture, the word "reverence" often conveys an overtone of the artificial. Reverence suggests to many the outward and formal in contrast to the inward and the real. ... that which is informal and casual is viewed as authentic and true....

Now, as helpful as these assumptions may be in the realm of politics, it is important to ask about their value in worship. Does it follow, for example, that more casual and unstructured worship is more authentic and true? Or, does "reverent" worship denote that which is dead and without real spirit?

These questions are important for several reasons. First, few would doubt that the majority of Christians form their thinking about God around what they experience in Sunday morning worship. Scripture reading, devotions, and catechetical training remain elusive for many Christians. Sunday morning is the strategic moment for reaching, teaching, and nourishing. Second, while most Lutherans have historically kept Sunday worship as an appropriate time to be "reverent," significant voices now question whether a more casual and informal mode of worship wouldn't better serve the outreach of the church.

What is at stake in this debate? ... is "reverence" necessary for worship? To answer these questions, it is crucial that we do more than hand out questionnaires! If one had conducted a public opinion poll before the flood,the answer would have been obvious: "No way! There has never been nor will there ever be such a deluge." Our "felt needs" are not necessarily our real needs. It would be inappropriate for our physician to say: "What kind of health problem would you like? What sort of therapy appeals to you?"

...Where is a Bible passage that says "how" we are to worship? Where does the Bible make a case for "reverence" as central to an appropriate response in worship?

It is important to begin, in this case, at the beginning. The first book of the Bible stretches from Genesis to Deuteronomy. There "worship" receives lengthy and detailed attention. Not only do the patriarchs build their altars, the Exodus happens so that the people might be free to worship the true God (Ex. 3:18). After the people are free, numerous chapters are spent describing precisely what sort of surroundings and what sort of worship are appropriate to such a God. The description of the tabernacle follows God's own blueprint (Ex. 25-40). Similarly, the sacrifices and the priesthood of are divinely stipulated (Lev. 1-10). What these texts tell us is that the God of the Old Testament was very concerned about the way worship occurred!

Similarly, in the New Testament, St. Paul disapproves of worship which is inappropriate (1 Cor. 11:17-22; 14:1-40). The worship of the first Christians, like that of the historic liturgies of the church, was rooted in the Sacred Scriptures. These Sacred Scriptures, for the earliest Christians, were primarily the Old Testament. The apostles, taught by Christ, viewed the Old Testament as a description of Christ and his Kingdom. So, rather than create a form of worship on readily available Greco-Roman models, the church continued the worship of Israel with the confession that the sacrifice had now been offered (Heb. 8-10). Christ, the Passover Lamb of God, was now the center of all community life (1 Cor. 5:7-8).

Why was God so interested? Wouldn't it have been equally appropriate to hold hands in a circle in the desert and speak a spontaneous prayer? [emphasis supplied] In fact, wouldn't that have been better than the routine of offering sacrifices to God in the manner that he prescribed? Wasn't God simply giving a primitive society a set of visual aids?

The answer is "no!" What was at stake for the Israelites was the very nature of their faith. God was the one who had done specific things and revealed himself in specific ways. To say that these details could be bypassed was to create a golden calf. It was, quite simply, to worship another god. It is the character of the God revealed in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures that calls forth appropriate worship.

Prayers, for example, may reflect our deepest hurts and highest hopes. They may be authentic in expressing our feelings. But, tragically, they may not be prayers which nourish our souls. Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes this point in a book entitled Psalms: the Prayer Book of the Bible:
Lord, teach us to pray! So spoke the disciples to Jesus. In making this request, they confessed that they were not able to pray on their own, that they had to learn to pray. The phrase "learn to pray" sounds strange to us. If the heart does not overflow and begin to pray by itself, we say, it will never 'learn' to pray. But it is a dangerous error, surely widespread among Christians, to think that the heart can pray by itself. For then we confuse wishes, hopes, sighs, lament, rejoicing-all of which the heart can do by itself-without prayer. And so we must learn to pray. The child learns to speak because his father speaks to him. He learns the speech of his father and mother. So we learn to speak to God because God has spoken to us and speaks to us. God's speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures. If we wish to pray with confidence and gladness, then the words of Holy Scripture will have to be the solid basis of our prayer. For here we know that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, teaches us to pray. The words which come from God become, then, the steps on which we find our way to God (pp. 10-13).

It might be added that our Lord, at the key moments of his life (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday) used the Psalter for his prayers. What this all points toward is the fact that the Triune God of Holy Scripture has revealed himself in specific words and events. They provide us with a true characterization. The Creator. The Holy One. The Provider. The Deliverer. All of these attributes and many more are revealed to us.

Now how do God's people react to such a God? Throughout Sacred Scripture there is a holy awe and respect, a "reverence" on the part of those who are privileged to see God clearly. Moses displayed it. Jesus, the Word made flesh, embodied it. In Scripture, the people who treat God lightly or casually really haven't understood his character. Nor, for that matter, have they faced the facts about their own character before such a God.

Our reactions and attitudes must reflect the real and true nature of God. This does not mean, of course, that an "appropriate" response earns us a place before God.

[No, of course not. It is the dishonest debating habit of some about the blogosphere to pretend that those of us who think reverence is necessary believe it is sufficient. As I said, dishonest. They also take the same tack to defend their ignoring or belittling rubrics.]


When we are baptized into Christ, we put on Christ (Rom. 6:1-11). His attitude becomes ours. Jesus invites us into an attitude of holy awe and respect before his Heavenly Father. Indeed, a text which distills the essence of reverence is Psalm 130:4: "But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared." Many Christian traditions articulate the majesty and might of God, but leave worshipers with a fear of God that misses the heart of the Bible's message.

It is, in a word, forgiveness - the Gospel - that evokes true "reverence" in those who behold the character of God in the Bible. This is the fitting and appropriate response. It is the response that has shaped the historic liturgies of the church. With all their variety and richness, the worship of Christians has been marked from the first by "reverence." Here, in our worship, God is truly present. ....
[and think how much more then, his words apply to Catholic liturgy, where in addition the Godhead is present in so much more sublime a form!]

When Mary and the apostles stood before the cross, there was no informality. There was pain and mystery and awe and reverence. When we worship before that cross, we behold the true character of the Triune God. Our impulse is not to go after trendy emotions or religious "buzzes." These were offered in abundance by the Baalism of Palestine and every trendy religion of the Greco-Roman empire. No, the cross remains an offense and a scandal today as then because it separates worship of the true God from myriad manifestations of human religiosity. It is also the source of true "reverence." It is authentic and it is real, for it alone reveals the true character of God and true nature of his redeemed children. Such reverence will forever mark the worship of God's people.

The Church of No Hard Sayings and Whether You Should Poke Dogs in the Eye With Pencils

Cardinal George is agin' it. (Okay, I'm just assuming he's against poking dogs with pencils, but the Church Of No Hard Sayings? He's definitely come out against that.)

The presider over the USCCB has a book debuting next week, The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion and Culture, and John Allen interviewed with him.

I think his Eminence nails the current situation "on the ground" as it were, and shows a pretty good awareness of how things are amongst those of us who don't live in the manse, or work at the chancery.Some bits and bites:
George argues that liberals too often function as “chaplains of the status quo,” taking their cues from the prevailing secular mindset, while conservatives often end up in a sectarian dead-end, clinging to a narrow and triumphalistic version of Catholic identity sealed off from the surrounding culture. [Amen]...
"If there are lacunae in the culture that is ours, which we all have to love, it’s a lack of appreciation for relationships that you can’t un-choose and that are constitutive of your identity, and also this ability to see the whole thing, to see it as global, to get outside the national parameters that define how we look at everything, including the church....

The church is strangled by putting its voice into a system of communication that doesn’t understand her, and doesn’t want to understand her....

Allen:you write that for modern American culture, everything is tolerated but nothing is forgiven, while for Christianity it’s exactly the reverse – many things aren’t tolerated, but everything can be forgiven. ...

bishops take on an importance that’s disproportionate. ...

Liberals are critical of [authority], although they’ll use it when they’re in power. Conservatives would tend to be less critical, but equally dependent upon it.

Consequently, when you get into the church, you get the conservatives unhappy because bishops aren’t using power the way they’re supposed to, the way they want them to. You get liberals who are unhappy because [the bishops] have any power at all. Both of them are defining themselves vis-à-vis the bishops rather than vis-à-vis Christ...
How can [the bishops] be related without controlling everything? This is what Americans don’t see, that you can be related even if you don’t control. Liberals say you have to be independent, because to be related is to be controlled. Conservatives say that because you are related, you must be in control, and if you’re not in control there’s something wrong...
The Second Vatican Council said we have to present the [C]hurch to the world... that you don’t have to worry about people who don’t believe... this is so beautiful that they will come along and accept it, but that’s not true. [emphasis supplied]You have people who weren’t catechized – not because they weren’t told the truth, but because they weren’t told ‘this is not the truth, and here’s why.’ That’s why I write about putting apologetics back into catechesis.

The bishops did that same thing for a while. They explained the documents of the council, they talked about the beautiful vision of a united world coming out of the council. They didn’t pay attention to the fact that a lot of people, in order to understand, have to know not only the truth, but they have to know what’s false. Now, the catechetical problem has been attended to, at least in theory, at our level … whether or not it’s the same at the level of teaching, I don’t know.

I imagine that's a diplomatic way of saying that it hasn't really been put into practice -- and he may be a little overly optimistic that all the Bishops of the world are on board with the the splendor of Truth.

But what really caught me was George's acknowledgment that you cannot teach without negatives.
Let me repeat that, you cannot teach without negatives.
I got in trouble once in a family situation because a child, (I think she was 3 at the time,) was jabbing a pencil into a dog.
The nearest adult, I cried out, "stop that!" and took the pencil, envisioning the little sweetie with half her face gone and the holiday evening spent in a hospital emergency waiting room.

I was warned off by a parent who came flying in from the next room, who whispered, horrified, "We NEVER talk to her that way, or say negative things! This is the way it should be done," and turning to the little sweetie, cooed, "Samantha may pet the nice doggie. Wouldn't Samantha like to pet the doggie?"

I'm not sayin' there're parallels here, I'm just sayin'...