Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Saturday, 28 April 2012

CNS on the "Old Rite"

My only quibble with this story, (and I remain someone whose druthers are for a well celebrated NO,) is the oft-repeated falsehood that "most Catholics" "embraced or at least accepted" the liturgical changes in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

No, "MOST" Catholics' reaction was to "embrace" their pillows or their golf clubs or their bloody marys and brunch forks of a Sunday morning.

"MOST" Catholics stopped attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

"MOST" no longer found what they saw and heard in Church compelling enough to bring them back on a regular basis.
It was, mind you, it was compelling. The central truths had not changed and they were and are more compelling than any other facts of existence -- but those truths were so often robed in trivialities and easiest options and outright contradictions that their beauty was obscured.

So let's stop pretending that "most Catholics" are okay with how things are.
Of all the Catholic Church's modernizing reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council, none was more evident to ordinary members of the faithful than changes to the liturgy. Latin gave way to local languages, women ceased to wear veils in church, and Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony and 19th-century hymns were replaced by devotional music in popular contemporary styles.

Most Catholics embraced these changes or at least accepted them without dissent. But a minority persisted in their devotion to the traditional Tridentine Mass, and eventually the church accommodated them.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI lifted practically all restrictions on celebration of what is now known as the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. In the near future, the Vatican is expected to announce results of reconciliation talks with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, which broke from Rome almost 25 years ago in protest against several elements of the legacy of Vatican II, including the liturgical reform.

According to Father Joseph Kramer, pastor of Rome's Church of the Most Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims, the enduring appeal of traditional worship is in large part a matter of aesthetics.

Classical liturgical music has an "uplifting, energizing effect, it really moves people to prayer," he says. "Both Gregorian chant and polyphony highlight the texts of the liturgy. When you're listening to them, you meditate on the words and internalize their meaning."

"Disband Canonically and Regroup"


Speaking of writers with whom one might disagree, and to be filed under Even-A-Stopped-Clock-Is-Right-Twice-A-Day, Sr Joan Chittister, former prez of the LCWR thinks that "there is only one way to deal with [the attempts of the Church to reform religious women who dabble in heresy] : to disband canonically and regroup as an unofficial interest group."

Stop pretending to be that which you are not.

There's nothing wrong with choosing a vocation as a social worker.

Useful Words and Phrases...

... I have learned.

"mourning sickness."

"professional umbrage-taking"

"post-religious spirituality"


One of the great pleasures of reading good writing, even from those with whom one usually disagrees.

I love them interwebs...

Some blogs which because I am oblivious and self-centered have hitherto escaped my notice but which I intend to read from now on...




A Desire to Restore The Church's Liturgical Identity

When I have more leisure and more internet access, it is both comforting and heart-breaking to surf for news from hitherto unknown outposts in the great struggle in which I and other Catholic musicians find ourselves. This fellow seems to have shared some of my experiences in his previous post, (although there is more good news for him from the place he has left, and he seems to have landed someplace more ... amiable?)
[News from a former parish] is bittersweet, however. I struggled the entire time I was music director .... to raise the awareness of sacred music's important roll in the liturgy and was met with ridicule and sometimes outright uncharitable antagonism....

But, a word of caution: if this introduction of Latin polyphony and chant are nothing more than a novelty (what the writer called "balance" between contemporary and Latin), or an attempt to appease the more serious-minded musicians in the choir and select people in the pews, rather than being built on a foundational understanding that this particular music is, in the final analysis, the only music exclusively proper to the liturgy, it will eventually fail. It ceases being a function of the liturgy and what the Church calls for, and becomes an attempt to appeal to tastes or preferences.

The re-introduction of this music for me is not just a hat-tip to nostalgia or a way of pleasing the "traddies", but is at it's core driven by a desire and commitment to restore to the Catholic Church's unique identity what has been horribly lost over the last 40 years.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Characters Count

When I was young I acquired an (utterly undeserved,) reputation as a wit, by telling someone who inquired after what-I-wanted-to-be-when-I-grew-up, "a character."
Now THIS is a real "character":Italic
Alan was a society man, a gentlemanly figure who frequented affairs like the Petroushka Ball at the Waldorf and the Military Ball at the Plaza. He was an expert waltzer and a wearer of white ties who spoke with an accent — the Palm Beach Lock-Jaw — I had heard only in Preston Sturges films.
...He wore top hats....he was from a family of Austrian bluebloods transplanted to New York. There had been, he said, a family fortune once; but, he added wistfully, “Mother lived too long.”

But there remains so much more to the story. Give it a read.

Our Autistic Society

Yet another person has noticed what some of us have been saying for years, (although she doesn't use the word "autistic"):
We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection....

Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are.

We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party...

we can end up hiding from one another, even as we are constantly connected to one another.
Yes, we are changing who we are, we are becoming a species without affect.
As a society we are not just losing our ability to read others emoticons, we are losing the facial wherewithal to express our own.
Over-indulgence in botox will cease to be a handicap to actors attempting to portray "real" people, as non-chemically-induced Face Freeze becomes universal.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Signs of hope and progress, and signs of SOSO

I had an interesting... peculiar? Triduum, well, actually, all of Holy Week.
Morning Mass at the beginning of the week saw a celebrant who twice announced his choice of EP to us, with a criticism of their "convoluted English," of which he would "try to make the best."

Holy Thursday, no mandatum, lots of back-ground instrumental music, fairly random song choices, (except for several different settings of Ubi Caritas,) and Christ born away for reposition in two stacks of ciboria that looked for all the world like a bento box.
Friday, efficiency was the name of the game, a celebrant who is already addressing the next communicant before the current one has possession of the host. (I was seated in a front row of chairs where either standing or kneeling would have put me very much in the way, so I couldn't help but notice the rhythm of the two processions.) Jam-packed church, less than an hour.
None of that "let us kneel, let us stand" nonsense for us at the intercessions, I think we say, IIRC; though there was a deacon, the priest just said everything straight through.
Were You There, a kind of random communion song, and an awful psalm, (which I could not "get" for the first three iterations.)

Glad you asked.
For the "Solemn" Vigil, fewer in attendance than for any weekday Mass in ordinary time.
No music ministers.
This is understandable, as they had already HAD a (presumably non-solemn,) "vigil" in broad daylight, for which I believe they used the Easter morning Mass.
No assigned young servers, an elderly gentleman, (the sacristan, i think,) took care of things, a non-singing deacon.
Three readings only, psalms spoken straight through by all, some confusion about order and the Gloria.
One supremely random hymn at cl0sing, (Now Thank We..., or Praise to the Lord, cant remember which.)

The celebrant sang the unfamiliar, (new translation, ya know?) Exultet very nobly indeed, led and sang the gospel acclamation, (rising in pitch for each Alleluia, I have NEVER heard that done properly before,) and chanted the dismissal beautifully...

And he gave a stirring sermon that had to do with the women "making the effort" going to the tomb, when everything 'was over'; and how we're all old, and try to pretend we're past all that mission stuff.... I'm not giving the right impression of it, it was wonderful.

I feel, somehow, (I've been watching too many period pieces...) like a doughboy laid up by an inconsequential injury, who is guilty about enjoying the fact that no one could possibly expect him to return to "work."

I mean really, I can't, can I?
And even if I could, there's no place to do it, right?
Except there is, there's always a way to contribute.
I have to find a way to get back into it, (trying to avoid saying, "get back into combat.")
And although I have no confidence that matters will improve locally, things are looking genuinely hopeful in the wide world, are they not?

On one liturgy forum, a music director who, judging from her terminology, would lean toward... what's the PC way we in the music and liturgy trenches have chosen to differentiate now that we know liberal/conservative, progressive/traditional, orthopractical/ephemeraphilic aren't helpful? I digress... anyway, a music director who talks about "ensembles", "gathering songs" and "contemporary arrangements" has this to say: "I moved the ensemble from singing a gathering song to a contemporary arrangement of the introit text [including] all the alleluias–even when matched with other texts that initially seemed reflective rather than triumphal. The result for us has been the frequent use of “alleluia” throughout the season (always in the entrance song, frequently in a communion or offertory song)"

But on another we find this snarky, thinly-veiled insult:
"Beautiful selections ... but as for me, I would not want all that Latin every week. I'm guessing your parishioners travel for this concert style and are not all locals. To each his/her own style of worship I guess."

Oh, and this programming condemned as
"concert style" , and adjudged to too much Latin"?

It consists of English congregational hymns in place the entrance and offertory antiphons, an English responsorial psalm, congregation-friendly Latin chant Gloria and memorial acclamation, an English, (and Hebrew, of course,) a Gospel/alleluia from Respond and Acclaim, and a rousing English-language congregational recessional/sendingforth hymn.