Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Saddened, But Not Surprised

I was willing to accept what many said, that that hand wringing by the more Catholic Than Thou sect over much bruited about poll results, (were they Gallup?,) that were purported to prove that most Catholics don't believe in the Real presence was uncalled for, that the questions were so phrased that it was possible to have a very good, (if not very profound,) understanding of Eucharistic theology and have answered the survey question "wrong, that it was badly confusingly phrased.

Well, the Church in America can now breath a sigh of relief, it is NOT a majority of us who don't believe in the Real Presence.

It is only about 45%.
Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively.

Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.

On questions about Christianity -- including a battery of questions about the Bible -- Mormons (7.9 out of 12 right on average) and white evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) show the highest levels of knowledge.

Jews and atheists/agnostics stand out for their knowledge of other world religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism; out of 11 such questions on the survey, Jews answer 7.9 correctly (nearly three better than the national average) and atheists/agnostics answer 7.5 correctly (2.5 better than the national average).

Atheists/agnostics and Jews also do particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life, including a question about what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.

These are among the key findings of the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, a nationwide poll conducted from May 19 through June 6, 2010, among 3,412 Americans age 18 and older, on landlines and cell phones, in English and Spanish. Jews, Mormons and atheists/agnostics were oversampled to allow analysis of these relatively small groups.1

Previous surveys by the Pew Research Center have shown that America is among the most religious of the world's developed nations. Nearly six-in-ten U.S. adults say that religion is "very important" in their lives, and roughly four-in-ten say they attend worship services at least once a week.

But the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey shows that large numbers of Americans are uninformed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions -- including their own. Many people also think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are stricter than they really are.

More than four-in-ten Catholics in the United States (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the body and blood of Christ.
(I would have flubbed the Jonathon Edwards question.)

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Although I Would Not Mind Seeing Msgr. Ganswein ...

... competing in gymnastics, swimming, diving, running, equestrian....

But no, Stephen Fry informs us that that the Vatican does not field a team, and apparently this is very significant, impinging as it does on whether or not the Holy Father should be making a "state visit."

And Mr Fry is a very intelligent individual, so it must be so.

(I have no means of seeing or hearing any of said visit, at least for a week or so, so I must content myself with such snarking.)
(Which may be a violation of a recently renewed resolve to detach myself from sin, it's certainly putting myself in harm's way.... well, I am who I am.)

(Hey, and I guess the conceit behind the whole post, or at least the title and explanation of the title is another occasion of sin.... well, see above.)

Sunday, 12 September 2010

I have just returned from Mass, (an aside, it scares me goofy to plan on attending a "last chance Mass", but we did arrive in plenty of time, and there was a Mass,) brimming with hope for the future of the Church.
If the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is both the source and the summit of our Faith, it bodes well for us all when the Mass is this well celebrated.

It was in the Extraordinary Form.
This young priest apparently attended a training session of the Canons regular of St John Cantius half a continent away, and then, by studying DVDs, immersed himself in the EF sufficiently to celebrate it very beautifully and very precisely indeed.

(Do I say "indeed' too much?)

He subtly raises his voice exactly the right amount to prompt what I believe is called a
dialogue Mass."

What struck me was how well, how thoroughly this priest, (whom I have assisted at Masses in the OF in years past,) submits himself to the Liturgy, of either Form.

It is so utterly NOT about him.

And you must understand, he is a witty charmer.

But he disappears in the Mass.

Because he decreases, He increases.

Sheer chance, because of the day, his excellent homily was about humility, and the "safety" it affords us.
Marvelous coincidence.

God send us many holy priests!

This icon (egg tempera and gold leaf on wood panel, 28” x 22”) is “based on a fifteenth century Greek prototype; here Christ is shown in Latin Rite vestments with a gold pelican over His heart, the ancient symbol of self-sacrifice. The borders contain a winding grapevine and altar prepared for the celebration of the liturgy of the Mass; in the borders are smaller icons of Melchizedek and St. Jean-Baptiste Vianney.” Incidentally, it is St. John Vianney whom Pope Benedict XVI, with the announcement of this special year, has declared the Universal Patron of PriestCzarnecki explains: “I wrote the icon about seven years ago [for seminarians and priests] to be able to see Christ in themselves, and themselves in Christ. We often hear that the icon is called a window; in this case, it’s also meant to be a mirror.” The Good Shepherd reminds the priest that he is to “lay down his life for his sheep” (www.seraphicrestorations.com).

Only the Dead Can Not Change Their Minds

We, the quick, (well, I'm of the sloooow quick,) can learn and grow.

Interesting interview with a filmmaker

The making of this film has been something of a voyage of discovery for me. I can’t be the only Catholic in the world who had major apprehensions on April 19 2005 as the conclave made its decisive choice to elect the first German pope since the 11th century (I don’t count Adrian VI, born in Utrecht in 1459, part of the Holy Roman Empire). I was worried about whether the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith might be just a little too polarising. I am no expert of conclave arithmetic, but my hunch was that he simply had too many doubters inside the College of Cardinals to get the required votes. Wrong. And I have been wrong about him, too. It is not that he has changed radically since taking up the papacy; it is simply that when you have to make a one-hour programme on one of the most clever and gifted people on the planet you have to look behind the headlines and the angry rants on the blogosphere. In short, you have to do justice to the man as best as you can.

Something similar is going on with Pope Benedict at the moment as has been occurring with John Henry Newman in recent months. Recognising the brilliant intellectual acumen of an individual often leads to wings, sections of the Church, staking their claim. They want to possess them as “their own”. I can understand why. But there are occasionally rare moments when these drives towards colonising the output of a gifted mind simply fail on account of the sheer dynamism and multi-facetedness of the individual concerned. So Pope Benedict’s uncompromising language on homosexuality, his disciplining of liberation theologians and 2007 Motu Proprio on the Old Rite of the Roman liturgy all have conservatives ticking their boxes and approving. But how then to deal with some rather contradictory evidence, not least of all his championing of workers’ rights in Caritas in Veritate and his uncompromising critique of neo-liberal economics?:

“I would like to remind everyone, especially everyone engaged in boosting the world’s economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity” (italics from the text).

Similarly, those who complain of the betrayal of Vatican II and have this pontificate down as unreservedly restorationist and insular have some explaining to do. How is it that such a man commands the respect of a towering figure and atheist intellectual such as Jürgen Habermas, so much so that they are prepared to engage in a dialogue in public? How is it that such a man devotes his first encyclical to a profound discussion of human love and ponders on the potential for Eros and Agape to be a bridge between the human and the divine? Furthermore, how is it that this pope has taken every opportunity to emphasize that care from the environment is not some woolly-minded aspect of New Ageism, but an integral part of his theological outlook? So much so that in January His Holiness called in many of the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See and berated them for the “economic and political resistance” that resulted in the failure of last December’s climate summit in Copenhagen....

That Joseph Ratzinger has not quite lived up to his predictable billing is a point well understood by the Italian senator Marcello Pera, with whom Pope Benedict wrote a book on Europe and culture called Without Roots. When I met Pera in the heart of Rome earlier in the year he told me of the reaction of his fellow legislators.

“There was a huge prejudice,” Pera said. “Everyone was expecting the Rottweiler. I had invited him to address the Senate: this was the first time a cardinal had ever set foot inside the building and they were amazed. He really charmed them.” What exactly was Pera doing, as a godless man, engaging with the Vicar of Rome?

“I wanted these secularists to reflect. They talk about the absolutist nature of human rights, but they have no idea of the basis of where such an idea comes from – namely, that everyone is made in the image of God and deserves respect and has an integrity based on that.”

Pera makes a further point: “Let’s look at this question from a historical point of view. What happened to Europe, when it denied Christianity? We had Nazism, Fascism, Communism, anti-Semitism. That means that when Europe tried to avoid its own roots and so the culture of rights, specially the respect of the human person, Europe finds itself in dictatorship.”

Good for Pera. Can you imagine this from the archpriest of atheism, Richard Dawkins?

But the real delight for me has been in engaging with the writings of this 83-year-old man. The encyclicals have been given deserved space and attention. Yet you have to go back to 1968 for his classic, Introduction to Christianity, a work in which it becomes abundantly clear that, for this gentle and determined Bavarian, that man does not create his own truth through effort and endeavour, but, as he writes: “To believe as a Christian means in fact entrusting oneself to the meaning that upholds me and the world, taking it as the firm ground on which I can stand fearlessly… to believe as a Christian means understanding our existence as a response to the word, the logos, that upholds and maintains all things.”

I indulged in a long rant one night at dinner during the Colloquium this June (I have always depended on the manners of strangers... how I impose!) Does NO one understand the difference between primary and secondary sources any more?!?#?$%? I whinged.

But my pet peeve is warranted, I believe. How many of us in this country form our political opinions about someone based solely on what his enemies have said about him?

How often does someone want to operate based on the knowledge of a document which he has received from the "hand-out" given by a "facilitator" from a "workshop" -- rather from the easily accessed document?

How many hate the Church for what they just KNOW She believes --- and about which they are utterly mistaken? (Asbp Fulton Sheen had a famous thought on that...)

Excellent column in the paper a week or so back, (sorry, can't credit it,) warning us to beware of believing secondhand information that supports our prejudices and preconceptions.
Very wise words.

The sweet man who we are so blessed to have as pope right now has been a real victim of that sort of thinking.

"....because She loves."

(H/T to Dad29, via Domine, Da Mihi Hanc Aquam, via Mark Shea)

"The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle because they do not believe; they are intolerant in practice because they do not love.
-- Pere Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

When I was small I tried unsuccessfully to explain my vision of the Church, as (the best my inarticulate self could do,) "lots of rules, little enforcement", and why that was just as it should be.

Thankfully, there are brilliant theologians to put things into words.

Friday, 10 September 2010

"Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis..."

This morning the priest/confessor absolved me and blessed me in Latin.

I almost forgot to perform my penance, i was so startled...

To the best of my knowledge this priest never uses a word of Latin or Greek in the Mass, nor does anyone else in this parish, (though their practice is generally old-fashioned,or at least in a style I am assuming is old fashioned, since i don't recognize so much of it but it all has a whiff of "Flowers of the Rarest.")
(Except, strangely for the actual music, which emits the odor of a more recent but equally stale epoch.)

Saturday, 4 September 2010

"Ideally, the cantor should have an average voice"

"Let My People Sing" in US Catholic back in July by one Fr Phillip makes some good points (vis a vis silencing the song leader, re-orienting the choir,) but is pretty uninformed ( too much music pitched for "altos and sopranos, whose range is beyond the reach of ordinary voices" -- although I will grant that treble voices of whatever fach, when "leading" congregational singing are said, by some studies, to be more difficult for possessors of changed voices to follow or tune with.)

And his suggestion to "lower it a half note" betrays his misunderstanding of even basic vocabulary to discuss music; but he does have a point, (Although I think the problem is generally not key but range...)

'Here Is something a pastor will never hear in the back of the church after Mass: "I wish the people around me didn't sing so loud!"'

No, but those of us wont to sing out DO hear it, Father, and when people are too "polite" to actually say it within earshot, we still get "the look."

"Ideally, the cantor should have an average voice that by its ordinary sound encourages others to sing."

The jokes write themselves, ladies and gentlemen.

"I have seldom heard the congregation singing. The people may be singing, but I can't hear them. And I doubt if they can hear one another. What we all hear is the cantor or choir and organist or musicians, whose sound is well amplified throughout the church

I would venture to guess the fault is not the musicians', who are indeed amplified, but whoever had the place carpeted; and perhaps the musicians but just as likely the priest, liturgy committee or the congregation plumping for certain "contemporary" styles of music.
Both of these unfortunate situations positively REQUIRE amplification.

"If a parish has a trained choir, they could gather together to sing a hymn about five minutes before the start of Sunday Mass. This helps to set a prayerful mood. Then I suggest that they fan out into all sections of the congregation, sitting with family or friends, and assist the congregation in singing from the pews."

This may be a good temporary solution if you have limited congregational participation, or a great technique to use for special events, (I always loved it when one of my cantors who was a terrible cantor but terrific congregational singer assisted at Masses when was not leading the singing, because she, unlike every other cantor, sat toward the BACK. The entire congregation benefited and sang out more lustily, especially during communion, when at almost any Mass I've ever attended it was obvious that for the most part the people who are EAGER to participate audibly gravitate toward the front of the nave so that within a few moments for the beginning of the Communion of the Faithful congregational singing, for all intents and purposes, ceases.

But no, the real solution is to return to (or begin?) a true understanding of progressive solemnity (dialogues, anyone?) and of the differing vocal roles of the congregation and the choir/schola.
Repeat after me:

Asking the congregation to sing a bunch of hymns lessens the probability that they will sing that which is more important. Decades ago now, the no-one-would-possibly-accuse-it-of-being-conservative-or-traditionalist Notre Dame study of parish life noted that the more they are asked to sing within a given liturgy, the less the people WILL sing.
It stands to reason.
The recent emphasis by some liturgists on congregational singing "as long as" (bad translation of "dum", BTW,) the communion procession is patently absurd -- Billy Bigelow's notoriously long "Soliloquy" hasn't the duration of the vocal effort many parishes expect of their pew-sitters.
So, all the verses of three to five hymns, a psalm response, a Kyrie, a Gloria, an Alleluia (or other acclamation,) a Sanctus, a Memorial Acclamation, a "Great" amen, an Agnus Dei... and that list doesn't even include the Dominus vobiscum, Verbum Domine and preface dialogues, the dismissal, or the Lord's Prayer -- all of which should take precedence over The Church's One Foundation or Gather Us In.

(Why don't priests know that? forget music per se, what exactly is the liturgical training they receive in seminary?)

"have those waiting in the pews sing the words of a hymn while those walking in procession simply hum the melody. Humming can be very prayerful."

Omm..... okay, given the doggerel we are sometimes asked to sing humming might actually be preferable, but PLEASE - do you hear what you are saying?#?$?%?
Such an approach de facto elevates the tune to the point where it is not just equal, but superior to the text!
Do we think music is more important than the Word?
(That of course is another huge problem that, in the average Liturgy, we are just singin' words instead of singing the Word , but I digress.....)

"A parish grade school provides an ideal setting for teaching new acclamations, responsorial psalms, and hymns throughout the year. Once the children are taught a new song, they should be instructed to bring it home and let their parents hear what they learned. The students in the parish religious education program should also take part in learning new music. The children need to know how important they are in helping the congregation to sing on Sunday."

Amen, but said music needs to be selected by liturgical musicians not catechists who are mostly uninformed, (or worse, grossly misinformed,) about both liturgy and music, and appropriate praxis.

"Most parish congregations at Sunday Mass are made up of a wide variety of ages. That means that the music selected needs to include a wide variety of styles. Some music will appeal to young people, other music is more to the liking of seniors, and still other music will fit the tastes of folk enthusiasts or classical music lovers. If the music selection is all of one style (the favorite music of the director), it will soon bore many who can't relate to it. "

Nonsense. Smorgasbords are for cruises, not the gathering of the Mystical Body of Christ.

What anyone "likes", (including, no, especially the music director,) is almost irrelevant.

"In churches that are long and narrow, I recommend that people turn and face the center aisle for the gathering hymn. This way they can see the faces and hear the voices of those gathered across the aisle and get the feeling of being united in community. "

Right prescription, wrong reason -- IF you choose to forgo the Introit in favor of a congregational song, at least let the people SEE the procession.

"I would like to see the day when the priest, the lectors, the eucharistic ministers, the musicians and singers all face the congregation at the end of Mass and clap for how well they, the assembled faithful, sang and participated. "

Aside from the icky self-esteem-trophies-all-around! odor of that kind of patronization, umm... aren't these "singers" whom you want to clap for the congregation just PART of the congregation in your ideal ?

And come to think of it, if THEY are, why aren't the lay readers, (not "lectors",) and the Extraordinary (not "Eucharistic",) Ministers?

Friday, 3 September 2010

Saint Gregory the Great,
defend us in liturgy committee meetings;
be our protection against the silliness and snares of the Liturgical Industrial Complex.
May God rebuke them, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O patron of the heavenly chant,
by the power of God,
thrust into the dumpster their "planning guides" and all the insipid earworms
that prowl about the worship space perhaps not seeking but nonetheless compassing the stultification of souls.