Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Would non-Catholics, non-Christians, Atheists -- would they be better off without the Catholic Church?

Even some who express profound difficulties with Her would say not:

"For all the difficulties Jews have with the churches --- and they are profound and possibly insoluble ---- if Christianity were to disappear from Britain and Europe, the basis of western civilisation would crumble, and our precious liberties and toleration would vanish with it.

Indeed, they are already diminishing under the current onslaught upon Christianity from illiberal and intolerant secular fanatics."

Picking Up the Threads of Our Past

First off, I want to affirm that I'm still firmly in the Reform of the Reform camp, though growing more comfortable in my still rare forays into Extraordinary land.

That said, I am finding myself more, rather than less, interested in the EF even as the conduct of the OF is improving, (however incrementally.)

The reactions to the Solemn Pontifical Mass at the nationla Basilica from the haters is more vitirolic and more desperate than I would have expected.
(Why do they care so very much?)
But even more interesting are the positive reactions from non-devotees of the EF, even from non-Catholic.

I know little to nothing about Inside the Vatican's Robert Moynihan, but would venture to guess that he, (as a member of the Roman Catholic establishment of the United States of whom I have not heard specifically that he is part of the traditionalist community,) that he's an O.F. guy.
[I]n addition to the sacred mystery of the Mass itself ... something else was occurring on April 24 in Washington of considerable importance -- of importance for the future of the Church, and so also of importance for the future of the West.

...in the West, in the United States, and precisely in Washington DC, the capital of the US, despite a generation or more of "post-Christian" cultural pressure, there remains a desire, a hunger, to be connected with the Christian past, and to hand on to posterity what was handed down over the centuries, often in the face of much suffering.

In short, the celebration of this Mass, after 40 years, and in the midst of an admittedly profound crisis in the Church, suggests that American Catholics, like their counterparts in Europe and around the world, may yet turn to the riches and treasures of their tradition to find a way forward.

And this will not be pure archaism. It will not reflect a flight from present reality. Nor will it be a rejection tout court of everything that came with the Second Vatican Council.

Rather, it will be an attempt to pick up the threads of our past, and see if they may still be woven into the fabric of our present, in order to create the tapestry of our future. It is our future that it looks toward -- not just our past.

Having just been in Rome, having been present three weeks ago at the papal liturgies during Holy Week, having talked recently with a number of Vatican officials about liturgical matters, and about the Second Vatican Council and its legacy, for me this liturgy reflected what Pope Benedict is trying ceaselessly to teach: that the Catholic tradition has not been lost, that it remains to be discovered, and lived...

In this context, we must recall the words "lex orandi, lex credendi." That is, literally, "the law of praying is the law of believing."

To put it less literally: the way one prays, the way the Church prays, shapes and determines and establishes what a person, what the Church, believes. Praying "becomes" believing. And this is the fundamental reason that liturgy matters
. [emphasis supplied] Some readers may feel the liturgy is a superficial matter, that time spent discussing or arguing or debating about the liturgy is wasted time, time that could be better spent in study, or prayer, or works of mercy and charity.

But the liturgy is not a superficial matter. It is a fundamental matter. It is fundamental because it determines and establishes the faith itself: lex orandi, lex credendi. And this means that, for those who wish to change faith, or alter it, or destroy it, changing the liturgy is the first, essential step. Likewise, for those who wish to keep the faith, and hand it on, and preserve it, preserving the liturgy is the first and fundamental aim of all their efforts.

Pope Benedict has written: "The Church stands and falls with the Liturgy. When the adoration of the divine Trinity declines, when the faith no longer appears in its fullness in the Liturgy of the Church, when man’s words, his thoughts, his intentions are suffocating him, then faith will have lost the place where it is expressed and where it dwells. For that reason, the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is the center of any renewal of the Church whatsoever.”

And so Pope Benedict has been a Pope of liturgical reform, or of liturgical preservation, because he believes that only through the liturgy, through the prayer of the Church, can the Church's faith, that depositum fidei which was entrusted to him, be protected and handed on to his successor.

Lex orandi, lex credendi. In the Early Church there were about 70 years of liturgical tradition before there was any creed -- any formulated statement of what the Church believed -- and about 350 years before there was an accepted biblical canon. The Church's prayer, her liturgy, provided the basis for establishing the other bases of the faith, the creeds and the canon.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles -- whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi." ...

And so the liturgy is of central importance to Benedict, and to the Vatican, today. He and his inner circle see the liturgy as critical to the future of Roman Catholicism. But not only to Roman Catholicism. There is another reason for Benedict's focus on the liturgy.

The Orthodox Connection

It is well known that the Orthodox, in a profound way, share Benedict's conviction that the liturgy is fundamental for faith, and so also for practice of the faith.

For example, Eastern Orthodoxy's Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople quoted the phrase "lex orandi, lex credendi" in Latin on the occasion of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Istanbul in 2006, drawing from the phrase the lesson that, "in liturgy, we are reminded of the need to reach unity in faith as well as in prayer."

I believe that Pope Benedict's approval, a few months after that November 2006 visit, on July 7, 2007, of wider use of the old Latin Mass in the Latin rite, was intended to help prepare the reunion of the two great divided branches of Christianity, Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

The path toward this reunion must pass, in some essential way, through the liturgy. Through a shared liturgy.

The liturgies of the two Churches must express the same faith if the Churches are ever to be once again in unity -- something Christ willed for his disciples in his prayer on the final night with them before his crucifixion.

Save the Liturgy, Save the World

And I thought MY PARISH had trouble maintaining the integrity of the liturgy in funeral planning....

I admit that I'm a little confused about the tenses of the verbs in this account of a celebrity funeral at the Cathedral in L.A.
Thousands law enforcement officers from across the region gathered in downtown LA to pay final respects Tuesday to former Los Angeles police Chief Daryl Gates.

The funeral will be at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Gates' casket was escorted from police headquarters to the cathedral a few blocks away, and a private funeral was conducted at 9 a.m.

The funeral music included Frank Sinatra's "My Way."

"Daryl was the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Los Angeles Police Department was Daryl," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

I would have thought...

... that on this, of all weekends, amidst the specifi--- sorry, I meant to say, general intercessions for various small segments of the population and for ecological responsibility, we could have spared a fraction of a petition, a word at least, for the anniversary of the Holy Father's inauguration.

Wouldn't you?
As a rule, the series of intentions is to be

1. For the needs of the Church;
2. For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;
3. For those burdened by any kind of difficulty;
4. For the local community.

I'm trying to think when I last heard a petition for even our own salvation, much less that of the whole world, at Sunday Mass. In fact, I can't remember hearing our need for salvation expressed. (Always excepting at the Reform2 "flagship.")

And no, I don't come to share our story, and I myself am not the Bread of Life, and the Kingdom, despite our efforts at singing it into being, hasn't arrived.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

If you haven't an umbrella, DO wear a hat...

I have been helping out at the parish that is my former place of employment in a variety of musical ways (volunteer, mostly...)
After one liturgy, my replacement and I were talking about the coming new translation, how to prepare, when to prepare, WHO to prepare,etc...
My dear, dear pastor approached and we let him in on the topic under discussion.
"New translation? I got the answer, just do it in Latin...."


Now, no doubt this strikes you as an unremarkable conversation.

Six years ago this same priest accosted me after a Mass at which the Sanctus had been sung in Latin, the simple Gregorian one, Jubilate Deo, Missa Primitiva, Pro defunctis... however you choose to name it.

What was that, the people don't know Latin!
Don't worry, we're only going to do it at choir Masses, so that they'll have a lot of support, until they know it.
But the people don't know Latin!
Well, they'll pick it up with repetition.
But the people don't know Latin!
Well, they can't know it unless they learn it, and they can't learn it unless they hear it.
But the people don't know Latin!
Well, they can't know it if they don't hear it and do it. Don't you WANT them to know it?
(LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG, uncomfortable pause)

Make of this what you will. (But yeah, I feel a little like Moses, looking at the Promised Land he would never reach, even though he was the one who dragged the Chosen people, kicking and screaming, to its threshold.)

Ewww, it was so slow, so solemn -- as if something IMPORTANT were going on!

I forgot this was going to be on -- I'll have to try to catch some of the rerun tonight, though i did see a moment or two.
Did they show the children's schola of the New Ephrem?
I saw a number of priests I know, and think I may have spotted another few.
The commentators, what little I heard , were excellent, unusually informative without being intrusive.
I think one of them may have been the priest who appropriated my motto - Save the Liturgy, Save the World. (Is "appropriated" the right word? I mean nothing pejorative by it, he is most welcome to it.)
Many happy returns of this day, Holy Father!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Penance is good for the soul... of someon else, apparently

Is the Catholic world rediscovering penance?
In a statement to be read at all parishes April 24-25, the bishops [of England and Wales] ... said, it is "time for deep prayer and reparation for atonement" of the sins of priests and other Catholics who have abused children.

"We invite Catholics in England and Wales to make the four Fridays in May 2010 special days of prayer," the bishops said in their statement, released April 22.

They recommended visiting the Blessed Sacrament to pray for victims, their abusers and for church leaders who mishandled cases.
Well, some might recommend that each one of their excellencies kneel in his cathedral in sack-cloth and ashes for the entire day each Friday in May.

What a different tone would have been struck, had they instead asked for the prayers and support of their flock while THEY engaged in "deep prayer and reparation for atonement and visiting the Blessed Sacrament to pray for victims, their abusers and for church leaders who mishandled cases."

Cultural Illiteracy?

Don't know whether the news organization or the police are responsible, but I just saw a news item that asked the public's help in identifying a dismembered body that has been found.

It bears two tattoos of "the Joker", one laughing, one weeping, which they showed onscreen.

You know, kinda like this:

So now the investigators will proceed on the assumption that the deceased is a Batman fan?

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Another Voice Raised Against the Abomination that is Lawns!

This fellow has his head screwed on right.

Lawns are an artificial construct, and deeply destructive ecologically.


I've been in the processing of returning our property to prairie the entire time we've lived here.


Credit Cards, and Fairness

Since my financial and arithmetical acumen is such that I have trouble with questions such as whether it is better to have a dime or a dollar, I shall have to take this on faith, but it seems right to me:
[Credit and debit cards are] convenient and compact and often come with small cash-back incentives.

But what almost no one realizes is that those benefits are far outweighed by an implicit transaction fee, set by credit card companies and their issuing banks, that costs consumers more than $48 billion a year. ..

Card companies generate ... returns by charging an “interchange fee” for every credit or debit transaction they run — when a merchant accepts your card for a $100 item, it gets approximately $98 in payment. These costs are passed on to all consumers — even those who pay by cash — in the form of higher retail prices.

... many countries have instituted consumer protections against such hidden taxes, while the United States, which has some of the developed world’s highest interchange fees, has left them completely unregulated.

... Washington should take two straightforward steps.

First, Congress should recognize the obvious: debit cards, whose use and fees are growing at a rapid rate, are actually no more than plastic checks. Congress and the Federal Reserve do not allow banks to charge their customers a percentage of each check, and it should put the same restriction on debit cards.

Second, Congress should authorize the Federal Reserve to limit credit card interchange fees to their actual cost, fairly determined, plus a reasonable profit. The annual savings to merchants would be in the tens of billions of dollars. Since retailing is highly competitive, most of these savings would be passed on to consumers in lower prices or in the form of improved services by retailers that could afford to hire more people....

If the United States were to reduce the interchange rate from 2.0 percent to 0.5 percent, the savings would be $36 billion per year, less some relatively small offsets.

Not only would such savings make our retail payment system more fair, but it would represent a significant economic stimulus at a time when consumers are just starting to spend again. And best of all, it wouldn’t cost Washington a thing.

It seems to me that would do almost as much to make small business more viable as health insurance reform.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

First new setting of plainsong Mass for fifty years?

Uh, what?

Uh, hardly.

But good.
“The work is being produced in two versions,... one of which is simplified for use in Catholic parishes, so it is sure to have a big take-up around the country. It is also very much in line with the desires of Pope Benedict XVI for the future of liturgical celebration, as it receives its inspiration from Gregorian chant – a central part of musical liturgical history.

"[The composer's] last Mass setting, the Westminster Mass, was and continues to be an international success,... so a very wide appeal is anticipated for the Schola Missa de Angelis.”

Potential Earworm

Note: the title of this blog is NOT a judgement on any particular ordinary, nor on the one featured in this article. (whihc I have not yet heard.)
It is just an acknowledgment that the settings that get pushed by the publishers, the big organizations, and Os of W tend to possess WAAAAAAAAAAY too much affect; they get played to death; they do not wear well.
In anticipation of the new translation of the Roman Missal, OCP has chosen five new and four revised Mass settings for initial publication. Misa Santa Cecilia/Mass of St. Cecilia, a new bilingual setting by Estela Garcia-Lopez and Rodolfo Lopez, is among those selected. While Masses in Spanish only are not affected by the new translation of the Roman Missal, bilingual settings must be prepared for communities worshiping in both languages.

"When you write bilingual music it's always a challenge to make both languages feel natural and flow with the music," said Garcia-Lopez. "We tried to find a good balance between the two languages. The other challenge was presenting the music in a user-friendly way, giving musicians the versatility to switch languages as necessary given the parish's needs. We wanted it to be fully bilingual, meaning one could learn it all in Spanish or English or bilingually."

This parish-tested setting will be included in an Order of Mass supplement, which will be made available to OCP customers using resources affected by the new translation.
OCP, the 900 pound gorilla of Catholic church songs, (Himself would say "the Texas Board of Education," rather than the gorilla references,) has a website on all this.

Monday, 19 April 2010

It is not just that he needs our prayers, but that he deserves them...


An opinion piece by Vincent Twomey (Fr.? Mr?) well worth reading, even if only to remind ourselves that the haters of the media world don't speak for everyone.

A Study in Contrasts, and a Glimpse of the Future?

Very interesting article in US Catholic about the next generation of priests, and how they, with their better (my word, not the article's) formation might be getting along with their predecessors and (current but aging) bosses.

I will refrain from tagging the post "40 Years in the Desert" although it is way tempting...

(Incidentally, Father Bart? there are indeed circumstances when the amice is required. But I can't lame you for not knowing that, and I certainly can't blame you for not wanting to wear it or the alb in the Tucson heat. But I do fault you for not doing so.)

The author of the article, by the way, thinks she's reporting but can't help editorializing, whether from ignorance or agenda, I do not know: Before he began presiding with his back to the parishioners...

Friday, 16 April 2010

My Husband is Very Understanding

Yes, Himself indulges me even in my crushes on other men --

Happy Birthday, Papa!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Why My House Will Never Be Sold

I will never get the clutter under control so that a realtor can show the dang thing.
I am constantly being way-laid in my packing efforts by books which I haven't seen in a while, and even sometimes of which I was completely unaware.

From its presence on a shelf with cookbooks (a recipe for a barley-based dessert still eludes me...) I think I know the used book emporium whence this came -- the Catholic Choirmasters Course, Third Quarter, (theory of chant, and chironomy how-to,) what seems to be a correspondence course published by GIA when they still knew what their first initial stood for.

The original owner of the book was doing his lessons in 1951.

The editor is one Clifford Bennett, and the Lessons are by Rev. Ethelbert Thibeault -- wonder if they left any other legacy I can find online. (O joy! another timesuck!)

Suddenly , in the middle of one lesson we read:
Gregorian Chant is a Prayer
Before proceeding with the technical theory of this lesson, the author feels that there is a certain value in repeating once again that Gregorian melodies were conceived to pour forth a common prayer, the prayer of the solemn liturgy of all the Christian people. Our liturgy is in fact the very center of Christianity.... Religious music has one purpose: the musical clothing of the words of the liturgy.
Can one imagine the leader of the Music Group saying something similar as he launches into teaching his ensemble "Awesome God"?

Addendum - Bennet was the founder, in '41. of the Gregorian Institute of America

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Offering It Up, and Television

I had kinda forgotten, and am only now recollecting some thoughts during my own personal Passiontide.
My Mom is old school enough that I've heard her say many times, albeit wryly, offer it up.

And usually real pain makes that impossible from me, I just can't even think the concept much less embrace it.
But because I was with her during a small period of her convalescence from a relapse of the results of terrible accident last year, I was able, I think for the first time, to observe at close range for an extended period of time someone I love deeply in enormous physical pain at a time when I was in absolutely none.
And so I was able to genuinely pray, (with none of the "this is safe to offer because it won't really happen" thought in the back of my mind,) Me. Take me. Give this pain to me.

But of course, God doesn't work that way. (She's fine now, by the way, thanks for asking.)

I'm not a saint, I'm not going to acquire stigmata, (although it sometimes looks as if I have.)

I'm not a suffering soul who is going to literally take on another's suffering thereby reliving it.

But since that time I am actually able, even when in real pain, to reflect on the sufferings of Christ, reflect on how puny in comparison mine are, actually be glad that they help me focus in some ways, and finally... to offer them up.

Admittedly, this may be easier for me than for some, (then why couldn't you do it sooner, Scelata, huh?) because I am so mercifully free from hypochondria that it never occurs to me that any pain, injury or symptom, no matter how dire, is not self-limiting, or will lead to any permanent damage.

I stayed quiet and dumb, spoke neither evil nor good, but my pain was renewed. My heart grew hot within me, and fire blazed in my... gut.

So even though I had no idea what that was, (and still haven't,) while Himself tried to hustle me into the car and head to the ER for five days running, I was content for those five, and the several obviously-not-so-dire-as-to-require-professional-attention days after, to lie on the couch, moan and groan at the top of my lungs whenever he was away at the theater, (quite and dumb when he was within earshot,) and stare at the television.

And there was much to watch, liturgies from the Vatican and news, but also, quite fortutitously, a "freeview" from Showtime, essentially as bait for the current, new and final season of something called "The Tudors."

We have something called "On Demand" which allows one to view certain movies and series whenever, and also to fast-forward through any scenes which don't appeal to one.

Since the last mainstream entertainment set generally in the same epoch as this was the pretyy much anti-Catholic "Elizabeth" movies, the tone of this was quite a shock.

When I was up and about again, I constantly found myself on the verge, or even in the midst of, recommending it to our priests, our director of liturgy, various musician friends... until I recollected that besides its dramatic (if fact-phobic,) historicity, its sympathetic portrayal of the Church, and some absolutely first-rate performances, it was also filthy.

It had more, and more graphic, and nastier sex than any NC-17 film I've seen. And some of the violence, although not graphically enacted, was stomach-churning.

But it was easy to forget that as I would jump around, fast forward, etc. -- I didn't watch all of it, ( there were more than 20 hours, up to that point, broadcast, I believe,) and didn't watch it in order, and viewed some of it when I couldn't concentrate on much of anything other than my own belly.

I was particularly interested in St Thomas More, (and Jeremy Northam's was avery interesting performance, there was a believable saintliness without sanctimony, ) and Catherine, a marvelous characterization, one of the most warmly attractive I've ever seen, by an Irish actress whose name I can't recall.

But what is coming back to me now is Bosco Hogan's masterful depiction of St. Cardinal John Fisher, and the masterful writing, direction, and filming for him, especially the reenactment of his martyrdom, (the script played fast and loose enough with history, that I don't know if the words were authentic.)

It was truly stirring, moving, and his admission to the crowd of his fear and need for their prayers shocked me to tears and left me drained.

And because I was already thinking of pain and its purpose, and of what I would be willing to endure, (which is not much, I am an appalling coward,) it has really stayed with me, and will, I think.

(I could not be a martyr. Threaten me with, oh, I dunno, scratchy sheets on my bed and I'd deny my own name and give up the family hiding in the attic.

I understand St Peter at the fire in the courtyard more than I understand St Peter upside-down on the cross.)

There were other things about The Tudors that struck me, and are also garbled, in my mind, with Holy Week, and such, and slowly coming back to me...

But meanwhile, back to packing, and I shall be on the lookout for PBS serials and whatnot, with Mr Hogan, (whom I'm beginning to think I may have seen onstage? in Ireland? and is an American ex-pat?)

A Sleepless Night

I pretty much had one, last night.

Yeah, between an email I was unable to open telling me that my e-filed federal income tax return had been rejected;
wondering how in the world I was ever going to be able to just get rid of, much less pack, sort, and move, the contents of our house, (does any individual, or rather two individuals really need one hundred eighty plus linear feet of shelving's-worth of books? that's not even counting the music, and ignoring the fact that many of the shelves are tow deep...);
and fretting over the show, (it saddens me deeply to learn how often this truly wonderful story has been dramatized in someway or other, and the explicitly Christian message*, not even subtext! has been obfuscated at best, but most often removed entirely...)

But in the clear light of day, the aging Packard Bell having thought it over and decided it would grant me access to my email, I learn that the only problem with the taxes was that my return did not agree with the Guv'mint's recollection as to our having received a stimulus package payment.

Did we?

If they say so, I suppose we did.

Perhaps direct deposited, and so lost, or at least unnoticed in the vastness of our personal wealth?

Yeah, right...

(Oh, and the other two vexations yielded, at least in part, to a single solution: why should the stage set for a magnificent garden not contain a lovely-but-too-old-and-too-large-to-be-worth-transporting-halfway-across-a-continent-artificial-evergreen-formerly-employed-as-residential-Christmas-tree? Hung about with every artificial flower and bit of greenery tucked into the dusty corners of my house...)
*Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder, and looked and looked. It
certainly was a marvellous sight. In the farthest corner of the
garden was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms. Its
branches were all golden, and silver fruit hung down from them, and
underneath it stood the little boy he had loved.

Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He
hastened across the grass, and came near to the child. And when he
came quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said, "Who
hath dared to wound thee?" For on the palms of the child's hands
were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on
the little feet.

"Who hath dared to wound thee?" cried the Giant; "tell me, that I
may take my big sword and slay him."

"Nay!" answered the child; "but these are the wounds of Love."

"Who art thou?" said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and
he knelt before the little child.

How Offensive Can You Be?

And I ask this as someone who has zero faith in, affection for, or admiration of the tenets of the religion being mocked.

And as a devout follower of a second "faith", theatre, (although a secret one for fear of the liturgical musicians,) it pains me to say wish for this, but I hope the show fails hugely, colossally, famously, such that epics are written and ballads sung, with great loss of money and reputation.

I stopped packing (Lord, Lord, Lord, help me! I don't ever want to move again!) too late to catch my usual news program and turned on another channel and did not turn the station quickly enough when the foul excrescence that is The Family Guy appeared on the screen. The blasphemy is beyond belief.

What has happened to us as a people, that mainstream entertainment has no hesitancy at all in mocking what other people hold most dear and in heaping contempt on those other people?

I know this kind of thing has always existed, but at least this kind obscenity, incivility, blasphemy and crudeness was not paraded in full view.

I say bring back hypocrisy, and put this stuff in brown paper wrappers, and behind closed doors, and in dimly lit clubs about which you'd be ashamed for your family to know..

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.

There were many received into the Faith at the great Vigil, and I thank God for our converts, all of them, but I have heard no story to compare to this from Deacon Greg Kandra's homily for this Sunday:
On April 3, 2003, Sergeant Jeremy Feldbusch was serving in Iraq, near the Euphrates River, about 100 miles from Baghdad, when he was hit with enemy shrapnel. His wounds were severe, and devastating. He was blinded in both eyes. He suffered traumatic brain injury. Doctors were convinced that he was going to die or, if he lived, he'd never be able to speak or function normally again. Jeremy was placed in a coma for six weeks, to minimize brain swelling. And he was kept alive on a ventilator. Five times, they attempted to remove the ventilator. Five times, he nearly died and had to be resuscitated. Finally, on the sixth try, they succeeded.

Recovering at an army medical center in Texas, Jeremy asked his father, "Why did God take my eyesight?" His father answered with a different question: "Why did God let you live?"

It's a question that Jeremy would spend the next several months trying to answer. He returned home to Blairsville, Pennsylvania and endured several months of therapy. When he became well enough, he made two decisions. The first was to spend his life helping other wounded service members. He's one of the founders of the Wounded Warrior Project.

But a second decision was even more meaningful. It was something he had thought about for a while before he was sent to Iraq - an idea that kept coming back to him again and again. But months of prayer and reflection - and the prayers of so many friends, strangers and family members - convinced him it was something he had to do. It was, he realized, one of the reasons why God let him live.

And so it was that last Saturday night, in a church in Pennsylvania, exactly seven years to the day after that horrific attack that took away his sight...Jeremy Feldbusch became a Catholic. In a profound way, even in his blindness and his disability, he is living out the great message of Easter... a message of resurrection and hope.

And, in connection with this Sunday's gospel, it is a message of belief. Believing in what you cannot see. Trusting what you cannot touch. Just like St. Thomas.

Thomas has always been one of my favorite apostles. I like to tell people that I think he should be the patron saint of journalists; he always needs proof and substantiation for everything. Like a reporter, he has to check his sources. He's the skeptic in the upper room - a realist and a pragmatist. But he's a stand-in, really, for all who struggle to believe the unbelievable, and to accept as possible something impossible.

At one time or another, we are all Thomas. We all face doubts. Faith demands effort, especially today, when we find our faith and our trust in that faith sorely tried and tested.

But one of the lessons that Thomas teaches us is that faith also demands presence. When I read this account, I can't help but wonder: just where was Thomas? What was he doing? Why wasn't he there? The other disciples had locked themselves away in that upper room because they were afraid. But what about Thomas? Was he thinking of leaving the apostles and resuming his old way of life?

What could possibly have been more important to Thomas than being in that room that night of the resurrection?

We might ask ourselves the same question. What are the distractions in our lives that call us away?

What keeps us from being present for Christ?

Thomas was overwhelmed when he encountered the risen Lord -- so overwhelmed by what he saw, in fact, that he finally believed. "My Lord and my God," he said.

Do any of us feel anything like that when we encounter Christ in our lives? When we feel a prayer being answered, a grace being given?

How about when we are confronted with the overwhelming miracle of the Eucharist?

All we can do is echo Thomas's words: "My Lord and my God."

Talk with people baptized into our faith last Saturday night, and most will tell you they do feel like Thomas -- overwhelmed and awed.. And I suspect that Sgt. Jeremy Feldbusch does, too.

Discussing his conversion, he told a reporter recently that his vision is clearer since he lost his sight. I can't think of a more beautiful testament to belief.

This is faith.

This is trust.

This is an unshakable certainty in things that can't be seen.

And --as improbable as it sounds -- it is a great gift.

I can't help but think we would all be blessed if we could see our faith through his eyes -- eyes that see beyond the darkness, to the great and never-ending light of Easter hope.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Alan Dershowitz Understands More About the Church Than Many Catholics

And respects Her more, too. (emphasis supplied)
Thou Shalt Not Stereotype
Having criticized particular Catholic cardinals for blaming everything--including the Church’s sex scandal--on “the Jews”, let me now come to the defense of the Pope and of the Church itself on this issue. To begin with, this is an extraordinarily complex problem, because the Church has at least five important traditions that make it difficult to move quickly and aggressively in response to complaints of abuse.

The first tradition involves confidentiality, particularly not exclusively the confidentiality of the priest with regard to the penitent. But there is also a wider spread tradition of confidentiality within the Church hierarchy itself.

Second, there is the tradition of forgiveness. Those of us outside the Church often think, perhaps, that the Church goes too far in forgiving. I was shocked when the previous Pope immediately forgave the man who tried to assassinate him. But this episode and other demonstrate that the tradition of forgiveness is all too real.

Third, there is the tradition of the Church regarding itself as a state. The Holy See is a sovereign state. The Catholic Church is not big on the separation of church and state, as are various Protestant denominations. The Catholic Church, like Orthodox Judaism, believes that matters affecting the faithful should generally be dealt within the church, without recourse to secular authorities.

Fourth, the Vatican prides itself on moving slowly and in seeing the time frame of life quite differently than the quick pace at which secular societies respond to the crisis of the day.

Fifth, the Catholic Church has long had a tradition of internal due process. Cannon [sic] Law provides for scrupulous methods of proof. The concept of the “devil’s advocate” derives from the Church’s effort to be certain that every “t” is crossed and every “I” is dotted, even when it comes to selecting saints.

None of these explanations completely justify the long inaction of the Church in coming to grips with a serious problem. But they do help to explain how good people could have allowed bad things to happen for so long a period of time. Nor is the Catholic Church the only institution that has faced problems of sexual abuse. Every hierarchical body, especially but not exclusively religious ones, has faced similar problems, though perhaps on not so large a scale.

The problem of hierarchical sex abuse has only recently emerged from the shadows. Singling out the Catholic Church, and for stereotyping all priests is simply wrong.

Pope Benedict, both before he became Pope and since, has done a great deal to confront the issue. He changed the policy that kept allegations of abuse within the authority of local bishops, and he acknowledged that the local option had encouraged shifting abusive priests from parish to parish, thereby hiding their sins from potential new victims. He also met with abuse victims and recognized their victimization. Nor has he tried, as other members of the Vaticanhierarchy have, to publicly blame the problem on “the Jews”, “the media,” and others.

It is obvious that despite Pope Benedict’s good efforts, more must be done, and not only by the Catholic Church but by all institutions that have experienced hierarchical sexual exploitation. They must create structures that assure prompt reporting, a zero tolerance policy and quick action, so long as these processes are consistent with due process and fairness, not only to alleged victims but to the accused as well. It’s easy to forget, in the face of real victims with real complaints, that there have also been false accusations as well. Processes must be put in place that distinguish true complaints from false ones.

Most important, this tragedy should not be used as an excuse to attack a large and revered institution that does much good throughout the world. Blame must be placed with precision and praise should be given with precision as well. The eleventh Commandment, Thou Shalt Not Stereotype, must never be forgotten.

I do hope... what's the diplomatic phrase?... oh yeah, that they are told to go take a flying --

A group of students at Trinity University is lobbying trustees to drop a reference to “Our Lord” on their diplomas, arguing it does not respect the diversity of religions on campus.

“A diploma is a very personal item, and people want to proudly display it in their offices and homes,” said Sidra Qureshi, president of Trinity Diversity Connection. “By having the phrase ‘In the Year of Our Lord,' it is directly referencing Jesus Christ, and not everyone believes in Jesus Christ.”

Qureshi, who is Muslim, has led the charge to tweak the wording, winning support from student government and a campus commencement committee. Trustees are expected to consider the students' request at a May board meeting.

Other students and President Dennis Ahlburg have defended the wording, arguing that references to the school's Presbyterian roots are appropriate and unobtrusive.

Founded by Presbyterians in 1869, Trinity has been governed by an independent board of trustees since 1969 but maintains a “covenant relationship” with the church.

“Any cultural reference, even if it is religious, our first instinct should not be to remove it, but to accept it and tolerate it,” said Brendan McNamara, president of the College Republicans.

McNamara pointed out that Trinity displays other signs of its Christian heritage, including a chapel on campus, a chaplain, Christmas vespers and a Bible etching on the Trinity seal.

“Once you remove that phrase, where do you draw the line?” McNamara asked.

Next, I suppose they will be asked to change the name of the school to Three Guys.



So every single "Easter Screamer" need not be sun at the same Mass.
(From Liturgy, "an ecumenical site of resources and reflections for liturgy, spirituality, and worship, for individuals and communities including a regularly-updated worship blog)

Friday, 9 April 2010

Vatican to Issue Norms

The WaPo is reporting that the AP is reporting that the Vatican will issue new norms for reporting and dealing with sex abuse, leading to greater transparency.

(And perhaps more expedited handling? One can pray. Although, I have to ask, am I the only one who's looking askance at all the "liberals" who suddenly don't believe in due process, the rights of the accused, etc.?)

From the Vatican News Service:

VATICAN CITY, 9 APR 2010 (VIS) - Given below is a text entitled "Following Holy Week, Holding Our Course", written by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. and published today on the website of Vatican Radio.

"The debate concerning sexual abuse, and not only that committed by the clergy, continues with news items and comments of various kinds. How can we sail through these stormy waters while maintaining a secure course and responding to the evangelical motto 'Duc in altum - Put out into the deep'?

In the first place, by continuing to seek truth, and peace for the victims. One of the most striking things is that today so many inner wounds are coming to light, wounds that also date to many years (sometimes decades) ago, but evidently still open, Many victims do not seek financial compensation but inner assistance, a judgement on their painful individual experiences. There is something that we have yet to fully understand; perhaps we need a more profound experience of events that have had such a negative impact on the lives of individuals, of the Church and of society. One example of this, at the collective level, is the hatred and violence of conflicts between peoples which are, as we see, so difficult to overcome in true reconciliation. Abuse opens wounds at a deep inner level. For this reason, certain episcopates were right when they courageously resumed developing ways and places in which victims could express themselves freely, listening to them without taking it for granted that the problem had already been faced and overcome by the workshops established sometime ago. For this reason also, other episcopates and individual bishops were right to intervene paternally, showing spiritual, liturgical and human concern for victims. It seems certain that the number of new accusations of abuse is falling, as is happening in the United States, but for many people the road to profound healing is only now beginning, and for others it has yet to start. In the context of this concern for victims, the Pope has written of his readiness to hold new meetings with then, thus sharing in the journey of the entire ecclesial community. But this journey, in order to achieve profound effects, must take place in respect for people and the search for peace.

Alongside concern for victims we must continue to implement, decisively and truthfully, the correct procedures for the canonical judgement of the guilty, and for collaborating with the civil authorities in matters concerning their judicial and penal competencies, taking the specific norms and situations of the various countries into account. Only in this way can we hope effectively to rebuild a climate of justice and complete trust in the ecclesiastical institution. It has happened that a number of leaders of communities and institutions, through inexperience or unpreparedness, have not had a ready understanding of the protocols and criteria for intervention which could have helped them intervene decisively even when this was very difficult or painful for them, also because they were often surprised by the accusations. But, while civil law intervenes through general norms, canon law must take account of the specific moral gravity of an abuse of the trust placed in persons who hold positions of responsibility within the ecclesial community, and of the flagrant contradiction with the conduct they should show. In this sense, transparency and rigour are urgent requirements if the Church is to bear witness to wise and just government.

The formation and selection of candidates for the priesthood, and more generally of the staff of educational and pastoral institutions, is the basis for an effective prevention of the risk of future abuses. Achieving a healthy maturity of the personality, also from a sexual point of view, has always been a difficult challenge, but today it is particularly so, although the best psychological and medical knowledge is of great help in spiritual and moral formation. It has been observed that the greatest frequency of abuses coincided with the most intense period of the 'sexual revolution' of past decades. Formation must take account of this context and of the more general context of secularisation. In the final analysis, this means rediscovering and reaffirming the sense and importance of sexuality, chastity and emotional relationships in today's world, and doing so in concrete, not just verbal or abstract, terms. What a source of disorder and suffering their violation or undervaluation can be! As the Pope observed in his Letter to Irish Catholics, a Christian priestly life today can respond to the requirements of its vocation only by truly nourishing itself at the wellspring of faith and friendship with Christ.

People who love truth and the objective evaluation of problems will know where to seek and find information for a more overall comprehension of the problem of paedophilia and the sexual abuse of minors in our time, in different countries, understanding its range and pervasiveness. Thus they will be able to achieve a better understanding of the degree to which the Catholic Church shares problems that are not only her own, to what extent they have particular gravity for her and require specific interventions,and, finally, the extent to which the experience the Church is going through in this field may also be useful for other institutions or for society as a whole. In this context, we truly feel that the communications media have not yet worked sufficiently, especially in countries in which the Church has a stronger presence and in which she is more easily subject to criticism. Yet, documents such as the national US report on the mistreatment of children deserve to be better known in order to understand what fields require urgent social intervention, and the proportions of the problem. In the U.S.A. in 2008 alone, 62,000 people were identified as having committed acts of abuse against minors, while the proportion of Catholic priests was so small as not to be taken into consideration as a group.

The protection of minors and young people is, then, an immense and unlimited field, which goes well beyond the specific problem concerning certain members of the clergy. People who sensitively, generously and attentively dedicate their efforts to this problem deserve gratitude, respect and encouragement from everyone, especially from the ecclesial and civil authorities. Theirs is an essential contribution for the serenity and credibility of the education and formation of young people, both inside and outside the Church. The Pope rightly expressed words of great appreciation for them in his Letter to Irish Catholics, though naturally with a view to a vaster horizon.

Finally, Pope Benedict XVI, a coherent guide along the path of rigour and truth, merits all respect and support, testimony of which is reaching him from all parts of the Church. He is a pastor well capable of facing - with great rectitude and confidence - this difficult time in which there is no lack of criticism and unfounded insinuations. It must be said that he is a Pope who has spoken a lot about the Truth of God and about respect for truth; and he has become a credible witness of this. We accompany him, learning from him the constancy necessary to grow in truth and transparency, continuing to open our horizons to the serious problems of the world and responding patiently to the slow and gradual release of partial or presumed 'revelations' which seek to undermined his credibility, and that of other institutions or individuals of the Church.

This patient and solid love of truth is necessary, in the Church, in the society in which we live, in communicating and in writing, if we wish to serve rather than confuse our fellow men and women".

"Time was made for God and organists"

In packing, I come across so many unread what-the-devil-was-I-thinking-when-I-bought-that books, half completed why-did-I-imagine-that-was-worthwhile projects,still in the package who-was-I-kidding-that-I-would-ever-use-that cooking implements, no longer my size where-did-I-suppose-that-would-ever-be-appropriate-dress garments, and scraps of paper with illegible writing on them.

Notes to myself of thing I though I ought to know, or that struck me for one reason or another....
Music which accompanies worship should never be performed in a fast tempo.

Devotional music, whether vocal or instrumental, cannot be hurried without losing much of its prayer.

Charles Marie Widor, at present the oldest among great church organists, has often said, "Time was made for God and organists."

The spirit of worship is opposed to any hurried feeling.
A(lexander? loysius? lbert?lphonsus?) S(mith? chwietzer?keffington?)
M (arch?ay?usic?) '37

I imagine it was from the forward of some old and crumbling organ collection in some dusty loft.
Anyone recognize it?

(I do know WHY I copied it out, as I look back with no nostalgia whatsoever on the sniping about tempi that was such a large part of my life until recently)

Thursday, 8 April 2010

There'll always be, (faw faw faw,) an England...

...and also, apparently, there will always be lazy talking Americans.
Would [some revered Telly talking head, presumably,] [some other revered Telly talking head,] have urged his listeners to "take a look", rather than "have a look", at something? Unlikely. Is it possible thatwould have asked one of his interviewees if he planned to "meet with" someone? Hardly. And what about [a third revered Telly talking head,] – can you imagine him describing a difficult challenge as a "big ask"?

Of course not – which is why [a woefully inadequate, in the opinion of the editorialist, presenter,] (current occupant of [#3 above,] The World At One chair) prompted such irritation when she used the phrase "fess up" (rather than "confess") the other day. Not only is it lazy talk, it is Americanised lazy talk, and listeners do not like it. One of the BBC's roles is to act as guardian of the Queen's English, a responsibility that should not be tossed aside carelessly by presenters archly trying to sound like shock jocks.
Really, what could be more shocking than such vulgarity? "Meet with"??!?#?%??&???

(But sorry, this lazy American 'fesses up to ignorance -- a "big ask"?)

Wolves or Hirelings?

Which are these?

Pray for our Mother, the Church, the Bride of Christ, mystically the very Body of Christ, so abused by these men.

Built of Living Stones...

... yes, but also of other more or less permanent materials.
Scuttlebutt about St Blog's today regarding two envisioned new parish churches.
Concensus is not absolute on either edifice.
In Louisiana -

New church drawing

In Italy -

Am I the only one who thinks the second looks rather like a rib cage? (Some Body of Christ metaphor in there, I suppose...)

Kevin Allen

Very nice profile of the fine, fine liturgical composer Kevin Allen.
His inspiration comes from many sources, but his liturgical music is a direct expression of the ideals expressed in Pope Pius X's 1903 apostolic letter "Motu Proprio," which laid out how church music was to be performed.

"After reading (that letter)," Allen said, "I was faced with a challenge that has been my endeavor from that day until now -- 'to increase the beauty and splendor of the ceremonies of the church.'"

Kevin will be directing the schola for this June's Musician's Retreat at Mundelein, which makes me mourn, not for the first time, that so often, so many wonderful, IMPORTANT things are all scheduled for the same time!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Oprahfication of All Human Interaction

Yeah, that's it, you need the advice of this "life coach."

And she says, give the people what they want, and what they want is emotion.

Give'm the show they want.

Tell people you’re having nightmares over this. Tell them you’re in turmoil and that your public relations team is insisting you keep your feelings close to the vest. Take charge. Emote. You know why? Because it made great TV on Undercover Boss.

Heck, this lady would probably be glad to write your monologue for you, and then direct you in the little playlet the audience is entitled to...

A Minority Agenda

In Newsweek, the Rev. Richard P. McBrien "a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame", (and incidentally, but apparently insignificantly? a Catholic priest,) had a peculiar entry in the MSM's It's-Holy-Week-How-Can-We-Be-a-Thorn-In-the-Side-Of-Believers Sweepstakes.

Perhaps that's unfair -- I'm thinking of the bizarre, sensationalistic "documentaries" about angels, devils, exorcisms, the historicity of the Bible, Templar conspiracies, etc on stations of the ilk of the History channel -- is it fair to call basic cable "mainstream" media?

Oh, and as a kind of side note to his main premise, McBrien tells us that:
Benedict... hoped to ... promote eucharistic adoration (a devotion outside of Mass that focuses one's attention and prayer on the consecrated Host.)
Hmmm... okay, he's writing for a secular, predominantly non-Catholic audience, I can see where he'd feel the need to explain his particular bete noir (he has contempt for, perhaps hates Adoration, writes to that effect often.)
But in that case, wouldn't you think he owed it to his audience to explain that we Catholics think that what we are "focusing [our] attention and prayer on" is the actual Body and Blood, Soul and Divinty of Jesus Christ truly present in that "consecrated Host"? that it's not worshiping a chunk of bread as it would be, (by their own beliefs,) were most other Christians to do likewise?

And I'm not sure about the accuracy of this description of the intent or result of VC II:
Second Vatican Council's reforms of... the way authority is exercised in the church, from the bottom up rather than the top down
And this made me giggle: the pope's forceful personality.

But what really struck me was his fretting about "widespread indifference" and "outright opposition" to the Pope's initiatives, which represent a, (wait for it....,) "minority agenda."

I think he actually means that description to disparage the Holy Father's goals. What a foolish criticism. Is Right determined by majority vote? Is Truth to be found in polls?

Oh, Richard, Richard, Richard... open your eyes. Look at the world. Look at the actual practice of the putatively Faithful.

Catholicism is a "minority agenda."

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Not to focus on trivialities, but...

Congratulations to the people of Lose Angeles on their new co-adjutor Bishop, congratulations to the new bishop and congratulations to the soon-to-be-out-gong Cardinal,

I refuse to agree with bloggers and commentators, (over at Fr Z's for example,) who chortle that this is not a "win" for Mahony.

Nonsense - for starters, this is not a game with winners and losers.

But more significantly, if Gomez is a good bishop his appointment is a "win" for all men of good will, whether he is the choice they would have made or not.

But here's my huh?, from Cardinal Mahony's own blog --
The first four Bishops of the Los Angeles territory were Hispanic Bishop, to be followed by five Bishops/Archbishops of Irish descent, and myself of German and Italian background.
With a name like that, he's not of Irish extraction?

Monday, 5 April 2010

Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People

I received a catalog from Leaflet Missal today and on the cover was the wonderful book by Jeff Pinyan, an often interesting blogger, Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People.

Well done! hope it helps sales.

Incidentally, Jeff's website allows one to search the Catechism, the Lectionary, and numerous encyclicals and other magisterial documents.

What a gift to the online Catholic community!

A Blessed Easter!

Wishing my 1.67 readers a wonderful and prayerful Octave of Easter.

Asked, spur of the moment, to chant the Litany of Saints for the baptisms at our Easter Vigil, (which I was both proud and humbled to do.)

We had more baptisms and full receptions into the Faith this year than in recent years. I wonder what national stats show.
Attendance was down for Thursday and Saturday, but Friday held, (I'm told, couldn't attend,) so I think disaffection with the Church through the efforts of various haters was not much of a factor -- the attitude of the PIP to the approach to the liturgy taken by TPTB because of demographic considerations, on the other hand? now that's disaffection.
Sung Morning Prayer for the Triduum was well attended, and I think reasonably fervently sung. (I'd like to destroy all the microphones in the world, however...)

And yesterday was simply a blessed, blessed day.

Because of Himself's schedule, if we were to be able to see each other at all, I could not sing at my parish, so feeling not a twinge of guilt I found myself a pew-sitter at an Ordinary Form Mass in Latin with sung Gregorian ordinary and propers, and utterly thrilling organ music, I mean thrilling.
I mean, every bone in your body thrilling to it, and thinking surely that will be the underscoring when Judgement Day arrives.

And then another Mass (orchestral,) and the Divine Mercy novena chanted, and sung pontifical Vespers, and...
(and then....? Well, by that time I didn't care that I was stranded in the rain for a few hours waiting for a ride.)

Himself sometimes, when he's at a Latin EF Mass, say, or some LotH he doesn't know, will say, when I worry that his lack of comprehension will lead to lack of interest, no, I just sit there and let the sacramenty goodness wash over me.

And you know, I discovered that that can be a wonderful thing.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

This is the night...

On this, your night of grace, O heavenly Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
the gift from your most holy Church.

Our Exultet started off well enough, (though not as well sung as I would have expected from the fine voiced deacon,) and then made some weird turn into performancey modulations and sequence and big -- buttoned -- ending.

""Who will roll away the stone for us?"

One worries about so many things as one travels through life -- how will.....? why can't...? what does....? who can....?
But when the moment comes, how often He has already taken care of it!

Myrrhbearing Women

My liturgical life has been all but schizophrenic this week, hell, every aspect of my life has, I may blog about it later, but for now, I just want to stop keeping score, and rejoice in the fact that He is risen.

He is risen.

He is risen.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Answer Him

"My people, what have I done to you....?"