Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Friday, 31 March 2017

When Promiscuity is Your Sacrament, and You're Terrified of Normalcy

I guess it's to be expected that those omalophobic souls who make a cult of despising virtue, or chastity, or even such a bourgeois habit as commitment, would be screaming on Those Interwebs about that strange, evil guy who, you know, does strange, evil things and set himself strange, evil rules of conduct, because he has these strange, evil notions about a strange, evil institution called marriage, and has this strange, evil superstition that there's such a thing as temptation, and he loves his strange, evil wife enough that he wants to avoid both it and the chance of giving people who delight in that sort of thing excuses to gossip, (not that the previously mentioned omalophobia sufferers have any particular affinity for dishing...)

Do you REALLY see in another person's fidelity or continence an inherent reproach to the way you've chosen to live your life?
Are ya maybe... projecting?

I wonder if there's the odd chance that any of such screamers read today's lectionary?
The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright:"Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;he sets himself against our doings,Reproaches us for transgressions of the lawand charges us with violations of our training.He professes to have knowledge of Godand styles himself a child of the LORD.To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us,Because his life is not like that of others,and different are his ways.He judges us debased;he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure.

Damon LInker on Those Who Have A Problem With Mike Pence's "Rules"

Learning new things, (and learning that I'm not learning some i ought... what's Storify?)
A columnist named Damon Linker created a Tweetstorm in response to the Mike Pence Actually Takes Steps To Help Insure His Marriage Is Never Imperiled And How Dare He? nonsense that's going on on Those Interwebs, (and even, i fear in some print media.)
And it's great and ought to be in a more readily readable form, (which I gather this mysterious Storify would do.)
About this surprisingly intense controversy about Mike Pence's marital habits.
The man currently VPOTUS said 15 years ago that he never dines alone w another woman, or attends an event where alcohol is being served.
The implication being that this could place him in a condition of temptation with someone other than his wife.
I'm a secular liberal & think it's a bit extreme, yet I don't find this scandalous. In fact, I consider it admirable.
But not many other secular liberals, who have been expressing unrestrained outrage, feel this way. The question is why.
I think it's because this difference is rooted in profoundly different, perhaps incompatible, anthropologies (visions of human nature)
For Pence, I surmise, human beings are fallen, prone to temptation and sin, in a state of moral degradation.
Place a man alone with a woman w no one around, esp if he's in a position of power, & he'll be tempted to be unfaithful to his wife.
Confronted w facts of human nature, there are 2 options: first, faith in God, which is real and powerful, but (given sin) unreliable.
Second option: act to avoid temptation. Don't place yourself in a situation where you'll be tempted to betray your marital vows.
The secular liberal outlook is very different. It is, broadly speaking, Kantian.
Despite obsession w sex, gender, etc., we believe morality involves overcoming bodily inclination/desires, which everyone is free to do.
So there's no reason not to immerse ourselves in sexualized culture, have (married) men & women work tog in all settings (dine w alcohol)
They might experience temptation, but there are internalized universalizable moral principles like "don't cheat!" to keep them in line.
One morality-abiding, bodily transcending subject should be able to have dinner w another w/o incident. Right?
This shld be possible, b/c as Kant says, it must be possible to do what ought to be done, follow principle, overcome nat inclination.
Pence's way of living denies all of this. It denies we're able to restrain ourselves with any reliability.
We need God's help, and we need to keep ourselves away from situations in which we will be tempted to cheat.
I could understand if secular liberal Kantians rolled their eyes at Pence. But why the anger about it?
I don't buy that it's because of a grand injustice to women. He could meet w a woman at the office with coworkers around.
Why isn't that an acceptable accommodation? Like how when I teach college, I'm told not to shut my office door with a student.
Isn't that the same kind of double standard? Yet there's no outrage. It's seen as a prudent measure to protect young women & male profs
The reax w Pence is disproportionate, even given the intensity of partisan rancor at the moment.
So what's really at stake? I think secular libs intuitively understand their Kantian outlook is being challenged by Pence's behavior.
And there is considerable, obvious evidence on Pence's side.
From T Kennedy @ Chappaquiddick, B Clinton & the blue dress to campus sexual assault, not to mention behavior outside modern West, …
Everywhere we see examples of people (esp men) NOT acting like good Kantians, ignoring universal principles, acting on desires.
The secular liberal response is invariably to implore the bad actors, "Act better! Do what's right!" And yes, wouldn't that be nice?
But what if this is a battle that can never be fully won on these terms?
What if it's *possible* to act morally w/o external social/cultural support, but more diff than most secular liberals like to believe?
What if morality requires more social & cultural supports & encouragement than secular liberals are willing to live with?
What if morality requires social & cultural supports that limit individual freedom & that secular liberals are unwilling forgo?
In that case, Pence's simple rules for marital living become an enormous challenge and provocation.
He's called the liberal bluff. Like saying: "If you want to make marital fidelity more likely, you might need to accept less freedom."
And that is simply an unacceptable proposition. Hence the anger, the mockery, the derision, the defensiveness.
It's the response of someone who's been forced to confront possibility that all good things might not go together as easily as hoped.
The freedom of atomistic individualism can be delightful, but it requires/presumes an awful lot from people.
Perhaps it requires far more than most of them can give, at least with any reliability.
Perhaps Pence's more morally traditional outlook has something in its favor—namely, realism.
That would mean the liberal outlook is more fragile, weaker in its foundations than most liberals are willing to accept.
And when you point that out to someone who's heavily invested in that outlook, response is what we've seen: anger and defensiveness.
FWIW, I think liberalism is better off being made aware of its weak spots, and incorporating norms/practices that shore them up.
Even if that req (modestly!) curtailing liberal individualism. In that sense, the (somewhat extreme) Pence example is salutary. //ENDIT
Does one correct spelling, fill out acronyms when one does this?
Not sure, maybe will fix later.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A "Game-changer" for Eczema Sufferers? Still can't play....

I rejoice to hear of this, and I hope it brings many people back to the land of the living[normally].
U.S. regulators have approved the first powerful, injected medicine to treat serious cases of the skin condition eczema.
The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved Dupixent (dupilumab) for moderate or severe eczema, which causes red, fiercely itchy rashes on the face, arms and legs.
In three studies of the drug including a total of 2,119 participants, one-third to two-thirds achieved clear or nearly clear skin. About 4 in 10 had itching decrease sharply, bringing better sleep and reducing anxiety and depression.
That said, it costs more annually than our household AGI, so there's that...

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Reblog: "I'm not a Trad, but..."

I am in a very different place, (literally and figuratively,) from when I wrote this, and I'm coming to understand, and sympathize with, people on both extremes of this issue, the True Believers in the Liturgy Wars.
An Extraordinary Form Mass, a regular celebration of the Mass of the Ages has just become available to me, not too far away, and on a weekday so it doesn't usually interfere with either my parish duties, (voluntary) or my familial duties, (voluntary and yet on compulsion.)
But at the same time I am experiencing a reprieve from the sadly perfunctory and weird liturgies that are my usual lot with beautiful and careful Masses said by someone who is at about the furthest one can go in the other direction  from the EF while still being obedient and rubrically correct.
And thrown into the mix, a one-off Are-you-kidding-me Eucharistic celebration complete with off-the-leash pets, and a little labyrinth-induced game of Find the EMHC.
(Someone, PLEASE! what is with modern church architecture that encompasses aisles that dead end????!?@??)
But I think most of this, other than that dealing my employment, still holds true:
If I ...were free to participate where and when and how I would, the Extraordinary Form would not be my first choice.But now, praise Benedict and the motu proprio, I am at least entitled to ask for that, whereas I am not entitled to ask for the Ordinary Form with the Ordinary sung in Latin.Or the Ordinary Form with the priest facing ad orientem. Or the Ordinary Form with no jokes. Or the Ordinary Form without being asked to squawk Lord of the Dance. Or the Ordinary Form without a glad-handing rotary convention inserted where the Pax Christi is offered. Or the Ordinary Form where no adolescent in a football jersey will address me from the sanctuary. Or the Ordinary Form with no mention of Jambalaya or sports enthusiasms.So I am asking for the Extraordinary Form.And my aspirations are rightful.

Heroes Mourned


Monday, 20 March 2017

"Catholics, Look East, Look East, Look East..."

"...people, servers, deacons and priest!"
Deacon Greg Kandra had one of those moments so many of us have had regarding the liturgy, when, whether by accident or design we found ourselves engaged in a rarity that used to be routine. "Oh, THAT'S why it was done this way!"

And suddenly it all makes sense.

Save the Liturgy, and We Save the World.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Virtues Let Loose Do More Damage Than Vice

It is hard talking about vices and virtues, and Good and evil with children in a way that makes the Catholic Faith accessible.
(It's difficult with adults who disagree with us, too. of course, because while they object to our "irrational" absolutes, they refuse to see that they too come from a place of unquestioned and often ill-thought out principles, and I've said repeatedly that one of the silver linings in the glowering thunderclouds of our current political climate is the clear evidence that when push comes to shove very few parties or persons hold to their stated principles. Oh, they have principles -Freedom! Dignity of human life! Tolerance! Godliness! self-determination! Safety! - but the ones they use as talking points are not the ones they actually hold, when it comes to applying them to other matters than their pet causes. But that's another topic...)
With children the notion of positive and negative are often completely linear, and they struggle to comprehend how evil exists if a good God created everything, and they reject assurances that evil is not equivalent in power, that God is "All", that the demonic is not something they need to worry about if they hold fast to Him.
(And thanks in part to their age, and in part to the super-abundance of horror films, games, books and graphic novels, and mostly thanks to their society and families having left a vacuum where thought of God should be, they are fascinated by the devil. But that too is another topic.)
They need a different geometry through which to ponder God and Virtue and Goodness, Truth and Beauty, they need to see existence more multi-dimensionally,  they need to see that their is more than one direction away from the center, from home, from God; so that the nearer we draw to virtues, actual virtues themselves rather than the actions to which those virtues might prompt us, the nearer we find ourselves to God.
Because all else is Nothingness.
And they, WE need to discern the difference between abundance and excess.
“The modern world...is full of wild and wasted virtues...it is not merely the vices that are let loose...the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.”
-- GK Chesterton

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

“When people approach the Church, we must offer them beauty"

Let the Church say "Amen!"
Good article in the National Catholic Register about the foundation of Silverstream Priory in Co. Meath, Ireland.
Dom Mark Kirby is one of the most inspiring people I've ever met at a CMAA Colloquium, which is saying a lot because yearly the gathering takes on the aura of a retreat, and if it's possible for an event to be a "spiritual director," it is surely one.
“Dom Benedict [the other monk with whom Dom Mark founded the community at Silverstream] and I were conscious that, in God’s providence, we were called to rekindle the torch that blazed from the Benedictine abbey of Fore in County Westmeath until its suppression under Henry VIII in 1536.”
Oh, and all this makes it seem like the right time to remind my 3.2 regular readers to vote in Church March Madness.
Though I guess that ought, with a nod to liturgical use, to be "Procession Madness."

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The Man Who DOES Kneel Before God (edited)

As I said in another context, it's easy enough to google evidence.... ENOUGH with the calumny and detraction. (Unless you think all these are photoshopped...)

I don't know his life, I don't know his knees - and neither, I dare say, do you.

Is Putin Testing Me? Of Course Not.

Because, um.... "my Mother had me tested"?
Me too! or me neither... not sure

I'm kidding.
But did the leader of the free world really blather inarticulately like this?
"You know what uranium is, right? It's a thing called nuclear weapons and other things. Like lots of things are done with uranium, including some bad things. Like lots of things are done with uranium, including some bad things." 
Because I may read that a public figure has said something incoherent, or stupid, or contradictory, or even just plain (and seemingly deliberately,) false and realize... maybe not true? maybe taken out of context?
And I don't memorize press conference from weeks ago.
And having friends and colleagues and acquaintances spanning the entire spectrum, often as not someone will indeed claim that what the first someone said is a misrepresentation of the facts.

But  thanks to Those Interwebs, it's possible to track the truth down when the reports are inaccurate, or, to be charitable, misremembered.

But as I'm learning all too often with certain especially prominent persons proceeding with possibly poor plans by the power of their populist platforms, (thank you, guest columnist for pointing out to the NYTimes' readers what too many of us Catholics already knew, even if you don't think it means quite what it really does,) yup, it was that incoherent, or stupid, or contradictory, or false.

Sadly, Youtube provides the hard evidence.

More recently there has been a great brouhaha about what the leader of the largest communion of the largest faith in the world has said, and as usual, both sides (and yes, they are "sides,")  have cherry-picked phrases to either promote their ideas or express outrage over someone else's, without examinigng what he said in its entirety.
Which, is easy to do because... yes, sorry, he does tend to ramble incoherently when off script.
Same as the other guy.
Or maybe I AM crazy.. crazy like a FOX

"I Haz Met the Enemy & He Iz Me"

I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou hast made me JUST as other men are, and even given me the grace to recognize it....
I do know it, really I do. I just have trouble remembering that I know it.
Himself is off to a volunteer activity, one that requires real, make-you-bone-weary labor, and he is heading there early, in order to make it impossible for anyone to guilt him into staying late.
He explained who it was who indulges in the attempted lazy-shaming, and quoted the "tired of being left to finish this up all by myself" emails, and since I know the person, I surmise that being unpleasant pretty much guarantees the same outcome every time.
Himself then drew parallels to a subordinate of his in another charitable work he does - that guy refuses to acknowledge that his area of authority is under the umbrella of a larger program,  (Himself is fine with that, hates being in charge of anyone else in the first place,) except when he needs more help, which he constantly does, and then he expects Himself to scare up some minions.
The guy is always wailing that he is too old to be doing so much on his lonesome, he needs assistance, why is his load so great? more volunteers are found by my husband, the guy talks to them as if they are mentally disabled 5 year olds, bosses them, scolds them, yells at them, insults them in front of others; they quit, and he gets to wail again that he's too old to be doing so much, needs help, behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me!
"Which," says Himself, a light bulb going off over his head, "is what he actually wanted all along."
I think in the movie, "Last Days in the Desert," a very clever thing was done in casting the same actor to play both the human incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and the Evil One.
This is not some heretical dualism, but a visual representation of Christ the "high priest who is [not] unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way."
Surely in these tests, in these temptations to sin, one is often one's "own worst enemy."
Temptations aren't ugly, obviously evil possibilities that present themselves - they seem good and true and beautiful, THAT'S  WHY  THEY  ARE  TEMPTING.
And our sins are habitual because vices are habits we allow ourselves, even when taking actions putatively intended to produce virtuous, or at least beneficial to us, results.

See? I tried Y [solution] but it ends up that I have to do Z [sin]. It's not my fault, it's X's!!!!!! Why does this always happen to me?

It is amazing how often, and how blatantly we sabotage our own stated goals. And we don't need the Serpent to suggest it - no, the devil can take his ease, we're his Useful Idiots and will do all the work for him.
It's never my fault.
I think of the Islamists who resort to murderous violence because someone insulted them by saying they were prone to murderous violence.
It's the cartoonist's fault!
I think of the self-proclaimed "nice guy" who goes on a vicious rampage because women don't recognize his niceness, and so believes they "deserved to be dumped in boiling water for the crime of not giving me the attention and adoration I so rightfully deserve."
They didn't think he was nice, go figure...
So it's women's fault!

And yes, it's my fault. And Lent is about trying to remember that, and repent of that, and remedy that.

I think of that axiom about the government we have, and think perhaps, yeah, we all commit the sins we deserve.
It is God, against Whom we sin Who doesn't deserve them.


I have learned a new word.
(I have never told a dear friend that one of her favorite expressions, "you just watch, he'll fold like a ten cent cookie" doesn't seem to mean anything. Not that I've ever eaten a ten cent cookie. Although Save-A-Lot has some terrific crunchy, buttery chocolate chip cookies right now that work out to about that....)
(But since they're self-proclaimedly "crunchy" they, um.... won't fold.)

Friday, 10 March 2017

"King of the Friday"

Our pastor, who is, as they say, FBI, is wont to recite a poem or two he learned as a child at close of Mass or during the homily.
Often he will proclaim it in Irish as well and English.
I look forward to hearing this at least once every Lent
King of the Friday

O King of the Friday
Whose limbs were stretched on the Cross,
O Lord, who did suffer
The bruises, the wounds, the loss,
     We stretch ourselves
     Beneath the shield of thy might,
     Some fruit from the tree of thy pass
     Fall on us this night...
Beautiful, hopeful thought, is it not? that some Fruit from that tree might fall upon us?

Thursday, 9 March 2017

A Plot Against Pope Francis Not Wholly Implausible?

Or so says Fr. Alexander Lucie-Smith in the Catholic Herald.
I suppose that could mean many different things, mostly depending on how the good father would inflect the word "wholly" were he to speak his headline aloud.
One of the main intents of my partial Facebook/Twitter fast is to not comment on the Holy Father's words or actions, and more, to put a pause on my arrogant advice giving. I should say this up front, and I will avoid it, I hope.
But this struck me as wrong -
The fact that this “plot” has leaked could mean one of two things. It could be that the feeling the Pope should retire is now so widespread, that it cannot be kept secret – in other words there are too many people in on the plot. But it could mean something else entirely, namely that the plotters are very few in number and are airing their idea to see if it gains traction. Their idea might be to launch a snowball that then turns into an avalanche in the way of which nothing can stand.
I can think of a third possibility.
Could it not have been brought out in the open by one who does not wish its success, to make it less likely to happen?
I read somewhere once that Alan Sheperd was the first American astronaut because John Glenn had been selected to be.
What? you ask.
Apparently, President Johnson, who had some say in the matter, was so furious at the news having been leaked that he chose to rub the noses of the leakers or the media in it by making them wrong, even if it meant not doing what he had wanted to do in the first place. (Another axiomatic "nose" comes to mind, something about cutting and spiting, but I digress.)
And there is also the shining of light on cockroaches, who then freeze, in the hope that if they make no further moves they will remain unnoticed and safe.
Hmmm... I do not mean to insult those who might wish to compass the Holy Father's resignation, so instead of insects, let me instead compare them to valiant French partisans engaged in near-suicidal espionage against the Nazis under cover of darkness.
Shhhh... ne bougez pas un muscle. Le gardien vient de faire ses rondes, il va éteindre la lumière dans un moment et aller pour le café.
And even the "near-suicidal" may not bee so far-fetched... Guam, anyone?

Drat. I said I wasn't going to do that.

Your Cooking Tip For the Day

If you are not much of a cook and would like to oonch it up a notch, (not take a course/score exotic ingredients/master new techniques, in other words you'd like to be better without too much effort,) and if you're a fan of saving money, I'm going to do you a solid.
Buy a can of tomato paste. If you're in the US this should set you back less than a half buck.

The problem with tomato past is that while very useful, and is expressly called for in many recipes, it's mostly called for in small amounts, and then the rest of the can, even if you transfer it to another container, sits in the refrigerator until it turns brown and you throw it away.

Open the can now, while you're not making anything, and put the contents, (use a scraper to get into the corners,) into a freezer bag, (a quart zip lock should do.)
Flatten it, press out as much air as you can and freeze it.
Anytime you're cooking or heating almost any[savory]thing with more than 3 ingredients, break off a teaspoon-sized piece and add it. (Thaw if necessary, say, in hummus.)
It is compatible with a huge range of spice and flavoring palates, (is that the right "palate"?) and adds an often undefinable richness and depth to many foods.

If you don't believe me, add some to a chocolate cake batter some time.

You're welcome.

"Murder Most Frugal"

It's as if Clark Howard channeled Agatha Christie - the good folks of Arkansas are showing the rest of the patently not civilized world how to execute people thriftily.
Because the Heartland?
Eight men are scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Arkansas in the space of just 10 days, according to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's office. The state -- which has not put anyone to death for 11 years -- plans to execute the men in pairs between April 17 and April 27. 
You know why?
It seems that the lethal drugs they use to kill human beings have reached their sell-by date.

Let's just read that, and think about that, again, shall we? The lethal drugs they use to kill human beings have reached their sell-by date.
The execution schedule appears aimed at putting the inmates to death before another one of the state’s lethal injection drugs expires.
The state’s supply of midazolam lists an April 2017 expiration date, which pharmacy experts say is commonly accepted to mean the end of the month. The state’s supply of vecuronium bromide expires on March 1, 2018.
Making America Less Again.
God have mercy on us all.

And Today, I Am Reliably Informed, Is National Meatball Day

Told Himself I was sorry that I hadn't gotten anything for him, and that it was too late to change menu plans.
That's all right, he countered, I didn't get you anything yesterday for International Women's Day.
Well, you allowed me to celebrate it, and since you control the world I guess that's something.
I was being facetious, I shouted, you need to own your privilege, and be woke to my suffering,
Perhaps you should lie down, he murmurred, not even looking up from his computer, could  you get me a cup of coffee first?

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Few, the Proud, the Pervy

My Father would be so ashamed of his Corps

Monday, 6 March 2017


A Catholic journalist quotes a Catholic feminist in the msm.
"I don’t want to say that the pope is defeated by the critics, but this is making him vulnerable. What they are doing is almost schismatic."
Not sure that is even possible, "almost in schism" is like "almost pregnant."

Perhaps one could say it as a prediction?

But anyway, who has refused submission to the Pope's lawful authority?

I have not seen it.

It is a clever way to accuse the obedient orthodox, linking them to those who dissent from, not just the Pope's teaching, from from God's express words.
The Pharisees approached and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him.aHe said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.”But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment.But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her;and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
No.... is anyone not submitting to THAT whom you wish to call out, Ms Beattie?

Sunday, 5 March 2017

An International "Statement on the Current Situation of Sacred Music"

Reposted in full from The New Liturgical Movement. Full list of signatories to follow.


A Statement on the Current Situation of Sacred Music

We, the undersigned — musicians, pastors, teachers, scholars, and lovers of sacred music — humbly offer this statement to the Catholic community around the world, expressing our great love for the Church’s treasury of sacred music and our deep concerns about its current plight.


Cantate Domino canticum novum, cantate Domino omnis terra (Psalm 96): this singing to God’s glory has resonated for the whole history of Christianity, from the very beginning to the present day. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition alike bear witness to a great love for the beauty and power of music in the worship of Almighty God. The treasury of sacred music has always been cherished in the Catholic Church by her saints, theologians, popes, and laypeople.

Such love and practice of music is witnessed to throughout Christian literature and in the many documents that the Popes have devoted to sacred music, from John XXII’s Docta Sanctorum Patrum (1324) and Benedict XIV’s Annus Qui (1749) down to Saint Pius X’s Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini (1903), Pius XII’s Musicae Sacrae Disciplina (1955), Saint John Paul II’s Chirograph on Sacred Music (2003), and so on. This vast amount of documentation impels us to take with utter seriousness the importance and the role of music in the liturgy. This importance is related to the deep connection between the liturgy and its music, a connection that goes two ways: a good liturgy allows for splendid music, but a low standard of liturgical music also tremendously affects the liturgy. Nor can the ecumenical importance of music be forgotten, when we know that other Christian traditions — such as Anglicans, Lutherans, and the Eastern Orthodox — have high esteem for the importance and dignity of sacred music, as witnessed by their own jealously-guarded “treasuries.”

We are observing an important milestone, the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Instruction on Music in the Liturgy, Musicam Sacram, on March 5, 1967, under the pontificate of Blessed Paul VI. Re-reading the document today, we cannot avoid thinking of the via dolorosa of sacred music in the decades following Sacrosanctum Concilium. Indeed, what was happening in some factions of the Church at that time (1967) was not at all in line with Sacrosantum Concilium or with Musicam Sacram. Certain ideas that were never present in the Council’s documents were forced into practice, sometimes with a lack of vigilance from clergy and ecclesiastical hierarchy. In some countries the treasury of sacred music that the Council asked to be preserved was not only not preserved, but even opposed. And this quite against the Council, which clearly stated:
The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy. Holy Scripture, indeed, has bestowed praise upon sacred song, and the same may be said of the fathers of the Church and of the Roman pontiffs who in recent times, led by St. Pius X, have explained more precisely the ministerial function supplied by sacred music in the service of the Lord. Therefore sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites. But the Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship. (SC 112)

The Current Situation

In light of the mind of the Church so frequently expressed, we cannot avoid being concerned about the current situation of sacred music, which is nothing short of desperate, with abuses in the area of sacred music now almost the norm rather than the exception. We shall summarize here some of the elements that contribute to the present deplorable situation of sacred music and of the liturgy.

1. There has been a loss of understanding of the “musical shape of the liturgy,” that is, that music is an inherent part of the very essence of liturgy as public, formal, solemn worship of God. We are not merely to sing at Mass, but to sing the Mass. Hence, as Musicam Sacram itself reminded us, the priest’s parts should be chanted to the tones given in the Missal, with the people making the responses; the singing of the Ordinary of the Mass in Gregorian chant or music inspired by it should be encouraged; and the Propers of the Mass, too, should be given the pride of place that befits their historical prominence, their liturgical function, and their theological depth. Similar points apply to the singing of the Divine Office. It is an exhibition of the vice of “liturgical sloth” to refuse to sing the liturgy, to use “utility music” rather than sacred music, to refuse to educate oneself or others about the Church’s tradition and wishes, and to put little or no effort and resources into the building up of a sacred music program.

2. This loss of liturgical and theological understanding goes hand-in-hand with an embrace of secularism. The secularism of popular musical styles has contributed to a desacralization of the liturgy, while the secularism of profit-based commercialism has reinforced the imposition of mediocre collections of music upon parishes. It has encouraged an anthropocentrism in the liturgy that undermines its very nature. In vast sectors of the Church nowadays there is an incorrect relationship with culture, which can be seen as a “web of connections.” With the actual situation of our liturgical music (and of the liturgy itself, because the two are intertwined), we have broken this web of connection with our past and tried to connect with a future that has no meaning without its past. Today, the Church is not actively using her cultural riches to evangelize, but is mostly used by a prevalent secular culture, born in opposition to Christianity, which destabilizes the sense of adoration that is at the heart of the Christian faith.

In his homily for the feast of Corpus Christi on June 4, 2015, Pope Francis has spoken of “the Church’s amazement at this reality [of the Most Holy Eucharist]. . . An astonishment which always feeds contemplation, adoration, and memory.” In many of our Churches around the world, where is this sense of contemplation, this adoration, this astonishment for the mystery of the Eucharist? It is lost because we are living a sort of spiritual Alzheimer’s, a disease that is taking our spiritual, theological, artistic, musical and cultural memories away from us. It has been said that we need to bring the culture of every people into the liturgy. This may be right if correctly understood, but not in the sense that the liturgy (and the music) becomes the place where we have to exalt a secular culture. It is the place where the culture, every culture, is brought to another level and purified.

3. There are groups in the Church that push for a “renewal” that does not reflect Church teaching but rather serves their own agenda, worldview, and interests. These groups have members in key leadership positions from which they put into practice their plans, their idea of culture, and the way we have to deal with contemporary issues. In some countries powerful lobbies have contributed to the de facto replacement of liturgical repertoires faithful to the directives of Vatican II with low-quality repertoires. Thus, we end up with repertoires of new liturgical music of very low standards as regards both the text and the music. This is understandable when we reflect that nothing of lasting worth can come from a lack of training and expertise, especially when people neglect the wise precepts of Church tradition:
On these grounds Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the supreme model for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule: the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple. (St. Pius X, Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini)
Today this “supreme model” is often discarded, if not despised. The entire Magisterium of the Church has reminded us of the importance of adhering to this important model, not as way of limiting creativity but as a foundation on which inspiration can flourish. If we desire that people look for Jesus, we need to prepare the house with the best that the Church can offer. We will not invite people to our house, the Church, to give them a by-product of music and art, when they can find a much better pop music style outside the Church. Liturgy is a limen, a threshold that allows us to step from our daily existence to the worship of the angels: Et ídeo cum Angelis et Archángelis, cum Thronis et Dominatiónibus, cumque omni milítia cæléstis exércitus, hymnum glóriæ tuæ cánimus, sine fine dicéntes...

4. This disdain for Gregorian chant and traditional repertoires is one sign of a much bigger problem, that of disdain for Tradition. Sacrosanctum Concilium teaches that the musical and artistic heritage of the Church should be respected and cherished, because it is the embodiment of centuries of worship and prayer, and an expression of the highest peak of human creativity and spirituality. There was a time when the Church did not run after the latest fashion, but was the maker and arbiter of culture. The lack of commitment to tradition has put the Church and her liturgy on an uncertain and meandering path. The attempted separation of the teaching of Vatican II from previous Church teachings is a dead end, and the only way forward is the hermeneutic of continuity endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI. Recovering the unity, integrity, and harmony of Catholic teaching is the condition for restoring both the liturgy and its music to a noble condition. As Pope Francis taught us in his first encyclical: “Self-knowledge is only possible when we share in a greater memory” (Lumen Fidei 38).

5. Another cause of the decadence of sacred music is clericalism, the abuse of clerical position and status. Clergy who are often poorly educated in the great tradition of sacred music continue to make decisions about personnel and policies that contravene the authentic spirit of the liturgy and the renewal of sacred music repeatedly called for in our times. Often they contradict Vatican II teachings in the name of a supposed “spirit of the Council.” Moreover, especially in countries of ancient Christian heritage, members of the clergy have access to positions that are not available to laity, when there are lay musicians fully capable of offering an equal or superior professional service to the Church.

6. We also see the problem of inadequate (at times, unjust) remuneration of lay musicians. The importance of sacred music in the Catholic liturgy requires that at least some members of the Church in every place be well-educated, well-equipped, and dedicated to serve the People of God in this capacity. Is it not true that we should give to God our best? No one would be surprised or disturbed knowing that doctors need a salary to survive, no one would accept medical treatment from untrained volunteers; priests have their salaries, because they cannot live if they do not eat, and if they do not eat, they will not be able to prepare themselves in theological sciences or to say the Mass with dignity. If we pay florists and cooks who help at parishes, why does it seem so strange that those performing musical activities for the Church would have a right to fair compensation (see Code of Canon Law, can. 231)?

Positive Proposals

It may seem that what we have said is pessimistic, but we maintain the hope that there is a way out of this winter. The following proposals are offered in spiritu humilitatis, with the intention of restoring the dignity of the liturgy and of its music in the Church.

1. As musicians, pastors, scholars, and Catholics who love Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony, so frequently praised and recommended by the Magisterium, we ask for a re-affirmation of this heritage alongside modern sacred compositions in Latin or vernacular languages that take their inspiration from this great tradition; and we ask for concrete steps to promote it everywhere, in every church across the globe, so that all Catholics can sing the praises of God with one voice, one mind and heart, one common culture that transcends all their differences. We also ask for a re-affirmation of the unique importance of the pipe organ for the sacred liturgy, because of its singular capacity to elevate hearts to the Lord and its perfect suitability for supporting the singing of choirs and congregations.

2. It is necessary that the education to good taste in music and liturgy start with children. Often educators without musical training believe that children cannot appreciate the beauty of true art. This is far from the truth. Using a pedagogy that will help them approach the beauty of the liturgy, children will be formed in a way that will fortify their strength, because they will be offered nourishing spiritual bread and not the apparently tasty but unhealthy food of industrial origin (as when “Masses for children” feature pop-inspired music). We notice through personal experience that when children are exposed to these repertoires they come to appreciate them and develop a deeper connection with the Church.

3. If children are to appreciate the beauty of music and art, if they are to understand the importance of the liturgy as fons et culmen [source and apex] of the life of the Church, we must have a strong laity who will follow the Magisterium. We need to give space to well-trained laity in areas that have to do with art and with music.  To be able to serve as a competent liturgical musician or educator requires years of study. This “professional” status must be recognized, respected, and promoted in practical ways. In connection with this point, we sincerely hope that the Church will continue to work against obvious and subtle forms of clericalism, so that laity can make their full contribution in areas where ordination is not a requirement.

4. Higher standards for musical repertoire and skill should be insisted on for cathedrals and basilicas. Bishops in every diocese should hire at least a professional music director and/or an organist who would follow clear directions on how to foster excellent liturgical music in that cathedral or basilica and who would offer a shining example of combining works of the great tradition with appropriate new compositions. We think that a sound principle for this is contained in Sacrosanctum Concilium 23: “There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”

5. We suggest that in every basilica and cathedral there be the encouragement of a weekly Mass celebrated in Latin (in either Form of the Roman Rite) so as to maintain the link we have with our liturgical, cultural, artistic, and theological heritage. The fact that many young people today are rediscovering the beauty of Latin in the liturgy is surely a sign of the times, and prompts us to bury the battles of the past and seek a more “catholic” approach that draws upon all the centuries of Catholic worship. With the easy availability of books, booklets, and online resources, it will not be difficult to facilitate the active participation of those who wish to attend liturgies in Latin. Moreover, each parish should be encouraged to have one fully-sung Mass each Sunday.

6. Liturgical and musical training of clergy should be a priority for the Bishops. Clergy have a responsibility to learn and practice their liturgical melodies, since, according to Musicam Sacram and other documents, they should be able to chant the prayers of the liturgy, not merely say the words. In seminaries and at the university, they should come to be familiar with and appreciate the great tradition of sacred music in the Church, in harmony with the Magisterium, and following the sound principle of Matthew 13:52: “Every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

7. In the past, Catholic publishers played a great role in spreading good examples of sacred music, old and new. Today, the same publishers, even if they belong to dioceses or religious institutions, often spread music that is not right for the liturgy, following only commercial considerations. Many faithful Catholics think that what mainstream publishers offer is in line with the doctrine of the Catholic Church regarding liturgy and music, when it is frequently not so. Catholic publishers should have as their first aim that of educating the faithful in sane Catholic doctrine and good liturgical practices, not that of making money.

8. The formation of liturgists is also fundamental. Just as musicians need to understand the essentials of liturgical history and theology, so too must liturgists be educated in Gregorian chant, polyphony, and the entire musical tradition of the Church, so that they may discern between what is good and what is bad.


In his encyclical Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis reminded us of the way faith binds together past and future:
As a response to a word which preceded it, Abraham’s faith would always be an act of remembrance. Yet this remembrance is not fixed on past events but, as the memory of a promise, it becomes capable of opening up the future, shedding light on the path to be taken. We see how faith, as remembrance of the future, memoria futuri, is thus closely bound up with hope. (LF 9)
This remembrance, this memory, this treasure that is our Catholic tradition is not something of the past alone. It is still a vital force in the present, and will always be a gift of beauty to future generations.  “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (Is 12:5–6).

Saturday, 4 March 2017

"Words and Stuff....." and Maybe, Just Maybe... Silence?

Had a disturbing conversation, someone noticed I had traipsed through the nave with a gaggle of children in tow recently, asked me about it -
I told her, yes, it was partially to point out art and items of interest, and explain the liturgical and catechetical purpose of some of the architecture, but mostly to model behavior; cover my head in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, genuflect when necessary, maintain a reverent silence...
They don't know how to behave, do they....? she commiserated.
And I replied, how could they, most adults don't, the noise level before and after Mass, joking and trading recipes, and making golf plans -
But you must remember, it's a social event, too!
When other people are trying to pray?
But some people, that may be the only time they get out all week...
Now, understand,  our climate, weather and architecture are such that there is an embarrassment of riches for places to chat in comfort.
And I'm not an ogre - I am not condemning the wheelchair bound man who it takes two friends to get in to weekday Mass, or the senile and deaf-as-a-post babushka who shouts to ask, whadja say? at every squeak and sound.
And truth be told, the disabled man isn't among the offenders, he's impeccable - it's the Pick-a-little ladies who are heading to a meeting across the parking lot who are going to see each other all day but must start their kaffee klatsch konvo in the pew, and the wealthy retirees who want to make sure everyone hears their travel brag...
No, the simple fact is, many do not behave with reverence before and after the Liturgy, because the so often Liturgy itself transpires with precious little reverence, much less silence.
Fr Douglas Martis had a wonderful piece in Adoremus a few months ago about silence, different kinds, different dimensions. You should read the whole thing, (his words on the word, "mystery" are something I used in class,) but this descriptive phrase is a keeper -
"Invitation not Interdiction"
Again, something about which to talk with my gaggle of kids on Sunday, (in the classroom, not the nave.)
Silence as gift, not punishment. "A feature, not a bug," as the techie types say.
However -
I question his implication that speed and quiet reverence are a zero sum game, and to this end, (that of striking down such a notion,) I'd like to offer the neologism,
Frankly, having assisted at more than one Liturgy conducted by Fr Martis, I would say it is a virtue he himself already posesses.
And finally, wihtout getting into the, "Was Shakespeare a Catholic or not?" fracas, a quote from Much Ado always pops into my mind when Silence in the Liturgy is the subject-
Silence is the perfectest herald of joy- I were but little happy if I could say how much.

I Am Not "They"

I have only just noticed that Facebook, (where I am reading, sharing and liking but not posting for lent,) uses plural pronouns for me.
F'rinstance, "XXX changed their profile picture."
Is that because I needed to select from some long list of possibilities what "gender" I am currently "choosing"?
I am singular and female, but come April perhaps I'll do something silly - I've always liked the sometime-pretentious use of "one,"  or "ones" subbing for I/me/mymine... is that an option on FB?

I mean, now that feels trumps reals, and words have ceased to have meaning...

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Apostate Demon

It seems clear that at least SOME of the people involved think they are actually doing this.
Witches in the U.S. are offering a solution to those who say Donald Trump is not their president: cast a spell on him. It’s a planned monthly event that began Friday, Feb. 23 at the stroke of midnight Eastern Time.
Witches from around the country are casting a mass spell to drive Trump from office. The plan is to continue every night of a waning crescent moon until he is no longer president.
Organizers set up a Facebook page, called “A Spell to Bind Donald Trump and All Those Who Abet Him.” The spell is publicized on the Internet and includes a supply list such as an unflattering photo of Trump, a tarot card, a stub of an orange candle, and earth.
But I think one good Father quoted does not give adequate consideration to the stupidity and foolishness and failure to see how the dots are connected of too many of us, and even, in some cases, of the good intentions of  those engaged in the "binding" when he asserts,
"It’s not Trump they are against but Jesus... the devil is saying, ‘no way are you reigning in this country, we are coming out against you!’”
But one point Monsignor Esseff, on the degrees of demonic activity, and its progression rocked me back.
“Then, came the apostate demon,” Msgr. Esseff said, “that denies the sacrificial nature of human life is possible. We are told we will never able to achieve this kind of holiness or goodness or unity—it just can’t be done,” he said. “This is a real apostasy; not just in politics but also in churches, convincing people that holiness is unattainable.”
Can anyone read that who is aware of the Coccopalmerio Proposition, (which has succeeded, and one might say exceeded for sheer awfulness, the Kasper Proposal,) and NOT feel a frisson of recognition? Is that not precisely the degradation to which he is calling the Faithful?
Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts... says that a couple should have “absolution and access to the Eucharist as long as – I repeat – there is the impossibility of immediately changing the situation of sin.”
You know, 'cause we're hopeless sinners, powerless against sin, and cannot depend on God to be paying attention and give us the Grace necessary to... umm... NOT sin.

My Lenten Sacrifice Renunciation

I'm not sure one of my intentions is at all suitable for Lent, as one is called, if one so chooses, to forswear a good, not some vile habit one would be better off without anyway.
But in case any of my three readers is also a Facebook Friend, or a Twitter Tweeter, I don't want you to think I am either cheating now, or lied previously.
I will continue to read social media, (I have an extremely large and careless-of-communication family, and I could otherwise find myself ignorant of some health or matrimonial matter that I very much need to know,) and will "like" and "share" and "retweet."
What I have decided to eschew until Easter is... dialogue.
No, what I am really trying to cure myself of is not conversation but argument, and worse, snarking commentary.
So, I am around, but pledge to forgo saying anything unkind about presidents, popes or pinochle partners.

Hearken, O Lord, and have mercy, for I have sinned against Thee

Gregory DiPippo to the Rescue!

Do Sundays "count"?
Which "Forty Days" are we talking about?
Well, New Liturgical Movement has most interesting information on this very question.
It is a universal custom of all historical Christian rites not to fast on the day of the Lord’s Resurrection, even in Lent and Holy Week. The original Roman Lent of six weeks therefore comprised forty-two days, but only thirty-six days of fasting, which St Gregory the Great describes as “the tithe of the year.” (Hom. XVI in Evang.) The Roman Missal preserves a reminder of this in the Secret for the Mass of the first Sunday of Lent, which speaks of the “sacrifice of the beginning of Lent.”

Not long afterwards, however, perhaps by
[Pope Saint?] Gregory himself, the four days preceding the first Sunday were added to the fast to bring the number of days to exactly forty, the length of the fast kept by the Lord Himself, as well as by the prophets Moses and Elijah. This extension of Lent back to Ash Wednesday, once commonly known as “in capite jejunii – at the beginning of the fast”, is a proper custom of the Roman Rite, attested in the earliest Roman liturgical books of the century after St Gregory. 
And when a commentator reminds Mr DiPippo that Christ gave Himself no such break in the desert, he replies,
He had not yet risen from the dead, so there was as yet no need to observe Sunday. The sermon of Pope St Gregory the Great quoted above, in which he discounts the Sundays from the number of fast days, is from the end of the 6th century, but St Gregory was not much of an innovator, so we may safely assume that the idea was not a new one in his time.

Lent Is Upon Us.... or Almost Upon Us... Which 40 Days Are We Talking about, Exactly?

I haven't decided yet if I will give myself Sundays off - I don't usually, but I am more than usually annoyed with the Holy Types who sneer at those who do allow themselves a respite from what is VOLUNTARY PENANCE - you know, if someone is fulfilling his Sunday obligation, the daily communicant should not hold him in contempt?
When it was explained to a woman I know once that the rubrics no longer called for a double genuflection during Exposition she shot back to the person who had so informed her, "FINE.... SPARE your precious knees!"
(Of course, she also thought Heaven was going to be like my high school, with some tables in the cafeteria the property of the Kewl Kids, among which she hoped, by dint of her holierness, to be numbered. As if there were a perfecter version of perfect joy, and beatificer Beatific Vision.)
Anyway, I have a plan.
But alas, the "Three Pillars" are tilting... what do pillars hold up, a roof?... the "roof" of my Lenten practice.
Fasting? subjecting my privileged self to some sort of deprivation? check.
Prayer? something more than usual, something extra? check.
Well, planned at least.
Aye, there's the rub.
I'll figure it out.
I actually kind of love Lent. It gave me a little thrill to walk into church this morning and see the violet Tabernacle veil, and Father chanted the entire psalm. And after four years, (and with Himself in the congregation, a "ringer," with a VOICE,) the  early morning crowd finally sang the Gospel acclamation, et to attende domine, with gusto.
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

Isn't that a call to arms?
True Christians have cheerful faces and joy in their eyes…