Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Feast of St. Catherine of Siena

~Prayer by St. Catherine of Siena

In your nature, eternal Godhead, I shall come to know my nature. And what is my nature, boundless love? It is fire, because you are nothing but a fire of love. And you have given humankind a share in this nature, for by the fire of love you created us. And so with all other people and every created thing; you made them out of love.

O ungrateful people! What nature has your God given you? His very own nature! Are you not ashamed to cut yourself off from such a noble thing through the guilt of deadly sin?

O eternal Trinity, my sweet love! You, light, give us light. You, wisdom, give us wisdom. You, supreme strength, strengthen us. Today, eternal God, let our cloud be dissipated so that we may perfectly know and follow your Truth in truth, with a free and simple heart.

God, come to our assistance! Lord, make haste to help us! Amen.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On the Other Side of Easter

We're well into the third week of Easter and I've been thinking through the lessons from Lent. I must confess that I'd fallen short once again of my Lenten ideals. But nevertheless, my Lent was fruitful in many unexpected ways, not from my striving to achieve the ideals, but because scales fell from my eyes and I saw grace everywhere.

Christ came to me as a beggarman and through him, I learned the lessons of what simple friendship means. He had a patience with me that I did not have for myself. And his intensity in prayer shed a new light to "pray without ceasing", even if a hundred children thunder past you, God is the object and therefore the din is irrelevant.

He has disappeared now that we are in the Easter season, the other side of the Lenten desert. Actually, I noticed his absence during the Holy Triduum. I expected him to be front row and his absence made me more acutely aware of the Passion of Christ. Strange timing.

So much was required at my job during Lent that I was burning the proverbial candle at both ends. This taught me a reliance on God's Providence. It's all too easy for me, in my prideful way, to be certain of my prowess with certain tasks. But Lent stripped that from me. People would appear at unexpected times to help me with my tasks. I am all too used to doing things my way. It's easier and faster, more efficient. Allowing others to help may have taken longer, but it was their offering for the body of Christ in their own small way. Because they did those tasks with eagerness and not resentment, it was ennobling to allow them a small part in the running of the parish.

I'm still very tired from the exertions of Passiontide and then Easter. Still, the life of our parish goes on with funerals and baptisms and weddings. We enter into the season of Confirmation and First Communion. Ah, the rhythm of church life. I need to enjoy it before we settle into the long green season of Ordinary Time, which is never ordinary when you see God's grace sprinkled throughout the day.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Soothe the Savage Beast

It is spring. But it felt more like midsummer, the haze in the air hanging over us like a gossamer curtain. Winter's chill that kept us captive in the arduous winter past is long a memory. The flowering season for shrubs and trees was pleasurably extended this year, blooms lazily hanging on to the boughs. The dullness of shades of brown metamorphed into a riot of rainbow colors.

I drove through the countryside today, our agrarian culture in full-bore activity. Fallow fields now furrowed deeply, in some, seedlings have already been planted. I was glad to be away from the concrete jungle of pavements and multi-storied buildings.

During the morning and early afternoon, I was in a farmhouse built in 1760 playing music of composers a century younger than the house. The scent of rising dough permeated the whole house. Smoke rose from the summer kitchen's chimney.

The piano stood next to a window and occasionally, the gentle breeze would rustle the leaves outside tracing a lacy shadow pattern on my music.

It's moments like this that make me think of an afternoon with the Faun, Mr. Tumnus, imagining a time of lost innocence. There were moments when the music was absolutely transcendent and I was lost in the wonder of creating such beauty with my own children. For so many years, the practicing of scales and etudes seemed like interminable chores. But with persistence, they've broken through the barrier and together, we create this sonic tapestry.

Under wooden beams older than our republic, we are conversing in this wordless language transforming black and white oval shapes into something that reaches down inside and says, "This is Beauty."

Even if we never reach the superb proficiency of a world-class ensemble, it is I and my children incarnating the notes, bringing to life the vision of a Mendelssohn, a Dvorak, and a Bruch. It is delightful.

Good Shepherd Sunday

Totally missed it in the Novus Ordo yesterday, but grateful that in the traditional Mass, we heard Ego sum pastor bonus. Bonus pastor animam suam dat pro ovibus suis. "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd giveth his life for His sheep."

Sundays like Quasimodo Sunday and Good Shepherd Sunday make me feel the jarring disconnect between the two sets of Sunday readings. When Sundays are known by the Introit, the rhythm of the Propers creates a certain remembrance of Scripture. And the yearly repetition really does foster a sense of familiarity with the Word of God. The chanting of the Psalms with each specific antiphon (Introit, Gradual, Offertory, Communion) has a way of amplifying the particular theme, if you will, of that Sunday's Mass.

All too often, we get bogged down in liturgical planning, or lack of, by arguing which hymns to sing and whether they are worthy or not. What about the Propers? They are prescribed for Mass, they've always been there but largely ignored. The vehement wars over hymnody should be moot in light of singing the Propers of the Mass.

In a set of questions regarding liturgical music at Mass, Hymns vs. Propers, Aristotle mentions "praying in the words Christ taught us", as in the Lord's Prayer, but also, Christ's constant quoting of the Psalms, even at his death on the cross.

In my own life, the Psalms figured prominently through the times of darkness and distress, and in the times of joy and contentment. When I'm in contemplation, it's the words of the Psalms that resonate in me. Snippets of them accompany me during the day.

More observations from an obscure church musician living both forms of the Mass.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Domine non sum dignus

All is still. I am the only one in the whole building and I am in the presence of Christ exposed in the Blessed Sacrament. It is Holy Hour in our Adoration Chapel. My partner for the hour came early and left early, leaving me alone with Jesus for the last quarter of an hour.

All the rustling and rushing about that was my day is long forgotten. All hour, my tongue could not utter words. My brain was empty, exhaustion from a long day teaching rendered me mute, at least in my mind, I had no words.

I stared at Christ, occasionally hearing myself breathing in and out. Tears would pool in my eyes. I made no attempt to clear them away, letting them fall silently down my cheeks. Somehow, my spirit was communicating something deeper than even I could understand.

Then a fragment came to mind, "Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity". It hit me with such force, such realization beyond words could express. I beat my chest with my fist: Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea.

I am so unworthy that I should even be under the same roof as My Lord and My God veiled in the Blessed Sacrament. What could I do but fall on my face prostrate before the the throne.

The many intentions of friends and family flooded through my head at that moment as if in an instant all those prayer requests were wordlessly communicated. Ah, the Holy Ghost groans and I am an instrument.

How inscrutable are your works, O Lord. How innumerable are your blessings! That you would come to me hidden in such a form as bread.

I am sobbing, pierced with a love so deep. For one brief moment, I am transported outside of myself. The hour is no longer an hour. Heaven lights my inner eye with a fraction of the weight of glory.

Have you spent time with Jesus lately? Consider a holy hour. Time wasted for God's sake.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cannonball Catholic Blog Awards

Just for pure fun, do go to The Crescat and take a look at the nominations for the 2009 Cannonball Catholic Blog Awards. Many of those nominated are friends at Z-Nation. Do have a peek here. Keep an eye on The Crescat to find out when actual voting begins.

A Pro-Life Weekend our parish. Fr. Peter West of the Priests for Life will be with us for the next three days preaching at all the Masses, including the traditional Mass. He'll meet with the CCD kids tomorrow and after TLM with the youth of the DTS. On Monday, he'll be at our school. This will be his second visit with us preaching the Gospel of Life.

And later this year, Dr. Alveda King will be coming to our town in August.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Shepherd

...guiding his flock. From the Confirmation Rite in the Extraordinary Form last Friday. Or why I fought traffic to get there and why others did, too. Hat tip to Philip Johnson.

Save Money. Save Liturgy. Save the World

~via The Recovering Choir Director. Our friend Brian Michael Page of Christus Vincit has created this promo for the Chabanel Psalm Project.

Here's a snippet:
Are you sick and tired of spending parish money on responsorial psalms from the major publishers that are either paraphrases of the official translation of the psalms, and/or musical settings of the psalms written in styles that are unfit for liturgical use?

Well look no more; we have your stimulus package right here.

It’s the Chabanel Responsorial Psalm Project.

Yes, psalms written in musical styles that are fit for liturgical use. Chant, traditional music styles accompanied by the organ, or sung a cappella. You don’t have to worry about those piano, keyboard, or guitar books here.

Click here to listen. Well done, Bri!

Properly Singing

Some personal observations on restoring the Propers to the Novus Ordo Mass...

It was logical, after months of re-enchanting the Mass with Gregorian chant during Communion, to restore the rest of the Propers of the Mass. We had been chanting the Introit since Advent and Psalm tones for the Psalm responsory, so the Offertory and Communion Antiphons were the ones that needed unveiling.

It was logical to begin with Passion Sunday. Why keep singing All Glory, Laud and Honor over and over again when there are the antiphons and Psalm verses already there for the Mass?

During Passiontide, we used some modified Psalm tones and some from Richard Rice's Simplified Choral Gradual. Our choir is in many ways very typical of most parish choirs with untrained singers.

The first thing that I told the choir is that chanting the Propers restores the internal structure of the Mass and elevates the dignity of the choir. They are not just an ornamentation to the Mass. They are integral to the offering of the Mass in praise of God. It's less important that they "sing pretty" as it is to sing the words with the heart of prayer.

Second, the words of the Propers, because they are specific to that Sunday or that Mass have a grandeur of their own, even with a simple choir. A chant with the words, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me" in a delivery devoid of drama focuses on the words in a way that is compelling.

Third, the pressure to find appropriate hymns is lessened because the Propers are there heightening the listener's appreciation for the Word of God. And because it's chanted, it's not entertainment and gradually detaches the person from an emotional approach to the Mass. The average person in the pew may not be able to articulate this. But I know that it's working in a more profound and secret way. People have become more still during the silences as the months have passed. There isn't the restless fidgeting that was there when I first started this job last fall. (Although we still need some serious work with people leaving church. That's another topic altogether)

Fourth, the Propers allowed Father to weave into his homilies the words of the Propers and bring attention to what the Mass of the day is conveying to us.

My choir can barely do two-part harmony. It will be long time before they can do polyphony. It's taking many months to break the singers of the metrical way of singing. Chant is making them listen to the internal cadences of the text, the rise and fall of the speaking voice and transferring that to chant. It's not easy. We're so ingrained to sing with a regular pulse.

One thing that my choir members did say about neumes, "They're a lot easier and make more sense than modern notation." These are singers who can't read a lick of music who struggle with phrasing and counting note values.

In many ways, learning the Propers for each Sunday is now giving more focus to our choir rehearsals. The priorities have shifted.

Anyway, just some observations by an obscure musician in the not-so-dusty loft of a small parish church in the Christ-haunted South.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Report on Divine Mercy Chant

I want to express my gratitude to Aristotle Esguerra for setting the Divine Mercy chaplet to Church Modes. Our parish schola and I didn't have much time to learn any more new music as immediately following the Divine Mercy observance at our parish was Missa Cantata. We were still recovering from the very intense Triduum and Easter Day Masses which saw the return of all the Propers and chants for each day's observances.

When Father asked that the Chaplet be chanted, my heart sank because I wasn't a particular fan of the popular one on EWTN. That's not to take away from what has meant much to many, many people. There's something daunting about chanting something that familiar. Lo, and behold, Aris had uploaded not only the pdf files of the settings but also the sound files of him chanting the three different settings.

Even though I personally loved Mode I, we chose Mode VIII since, as I said in the previous post, our parish had gotten used to this particular tone in the various psalm settings and Gospel Acclamations that I had set throughout the year.

Expecting the congregation to wait to join in the chant maybe after the first decade, I recruited a musician friend of mine to chant from among the faithful. Well, the congregation jumped in pretty much at the very beginning with the Sign of the Cross, chanted all of the Our Father setting by Dr. William Mahrt, valiantly chanted the Hail Mary, and Apostles' Creed based on a Psalm Tone.

They surprised me by chanting the whole of "Eternal Father" and "For the sorrowful Passion". Here we are chanting the last decade ending with the Trisagion. We did lower the "do" to accomodate the basses in the schola. I wish that I had remembered to turn the recorder on sooner to catch the "Eternal Father" chant. It's very similar to the Trisagion.

One really important thing to tell you is that the chant was simple and easy to learn so that the congregation was free to enter into prayer without being encumbered by tune. What Aris mentioned in his post about chanting in a simple way free of pop influences is more inviting for people to join in with the chant. Anyway, the people waiting in line for Confession were kneeling on the hard floor chanting along.

I highly recommend the Musica Sacra Forum and Chabanel Psalms for those of us with very limited budgets to find music that is dignified and a huge step toward recovering our musical patrimony.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Divine Mercy Sunday

Missa Cantata tomorrow at 6 PM closing the Easter Octave.

It will be preceded by a Holy Hour at 3 PM with the chanting of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Father will be hearing confessions during the hour.

We're using one of the settings by Aristotle Esguerra, The Recovering Choir Director. All three settings are set to church modes. Throughout the past year, I had set several responsorial psalms to Mode VIII so that one should be familiar enough to people's ears. As Aris suggested on the post, we'll use Dr. Mahrt's setting of the Lord's Prayer and a Psalm tone for the Hail, Mary. I'm sure people will be surprised, though, expecting the more popular rendition that they've come to know through EWTN.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Victimae Paschali Laudes

Just in case you didn't get to hear the absolutely transcendent Easter Sequence Victimae Paschali, here is the family schola chanting it yesterday. It is one of four Sequences that the Church has retained for the Liturgy of the Mass. (I apologize for cutting off the Alleluia.)

Victimae paschali laudes immolent Christiani. Agnus redemit oves: Christus innocens Patri reconciliavit peccatores. Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando: dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus. Dic nobis Maria, quid vidisti in via? Sepulcrum Christi viventis, et gloriam vidi resurgentis: Angelicos testes, sudarium, et vestes. Surrexit Christus spes mea: praecedet suos in Galilaeam. Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere: tu nobis, victor Rex, miserere. Amen. Alleluia.

May you praise the Paschal Victim, immolated for Christians. The Lamb redeemed the sheep: Christ, the innocent one, has reconciled sinners to the Father. A wonderful duel to behold, as death and life struggle: The Prince of life dead, now reigns alive. Tell us, Mary, what did you see in the way? I saw the sepulchre of the living Christ, and I saw the glory of the Resurrected one: The Angelic witnesses, the winding cloth, and His garments. The risen Christ is my hope: He will go before His own into Galilee. We know Christ to have risen truly from the dead: And thou, victorious King, have mercy on us. Amen. Alleluia.

The Easter Praise of Christ

~by St. Melito of Sardis

We should understand, beloved, that the paschal mystery is at once old and new, transitory and eternal, corruptible and incorruptible, mortal and immortal. In terms of the Law it is old, in terms of the Word it is new. In its figure it is passing, in its grace it is eternal. It is corruptible in the sacrifice of the lamb, incorruptible in the eternal life of the Lord. It is mortal in his burial in the earth, immortal in his resurrection from the dead.

The Law indeed is old, but the Word is new. The type is transitory, but grace is eternal. The lamb was corruptible, but the Lord is incorruptible. He was slain as a lamb; he rose again as God. He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, yet he was not a sheep. He was silent as a lamb, yet he was not a lamb. The type has passed away; the reality has come. The lamb gives place to God, the sheep gives place to a man, and the man is Christ, who fills the whole of creation. The sacrifice of the lamb, the celebration of the Passover, and the prescriptions of the Law have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Under the old Law, and still more under the new dispensation, everything pointed toward him.

Both the Law and the Word came forth from Zion and Jerusalem, but now the Law has given place to the Word, the old to the new. The commandment has become grace, the type a reality. The lamb has become a Son, the sheep a man, and man, God.

The Lord, though he was God, became man. He suffered for the sake of those who suffer, he was bound for those in bonds, condemned for the guilty, buried for those who lie in the grave; but he rose from the dead, and cried aloud: Who will contend with me? Let him confront me. I have freed the condemned, brought the dead back to life, raised men from their graves. Who has anything to say against me? I, he said, am the Christ; I have destroyed death, triumphed over the enemy, trampled hell underfoot, bound the strong one, and taken men up to the heights of heaven: I am the Christ.

Come, then, all you nations of men, receive forgiveness for the sins that defile you. I am your forgiveness. I am the Passover that brings salvation. I am the lamb who was immolated for you. I am your ransom, your life, your resurrection, your light, I am your salvation and your king. I will bring you to the heights of heaven. With my own right hand I will raise you up, and I will show you the eternal Father.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Christ is Risen!

~by St. Maximus of Turin

Christ is risen! He has burst open the gates of hell and let the dead go free; he has renewed the earth through the members of his Church now born again in baptism, and has made it blossom afresh with men brought back to life. His Holy Spirit has unlocked the doors of heaven, which stand wide open to receive those who rise up from the earth. Because of Christ’s resurrection the thief ascends to paradise, the bodies of the blessed enter the holy city, and the dead are restored to the company of the living. There is an upward movement in the whole of creation, each element raising itself to something higher. We see hell restoring its victims to the upper regions, earth sending its buried dead to heaven, and heaven presenting the new arrivals to the Lord. In one and the same movement, our Saviour’s passion raises men from the depths, lifts them up from the earth, and sets them in the heights.

Christ is risen! His rising brings life to the dead, forgiveness to sinners, and glory to the saints. And so David the prophet summons all creation to join in celebrating the Easter festival: Rejoice and be glad, he cries, on this day which the Lord has made.

The light of Christ is an endless day that knows no night. Christ is this day, says the Apostle; such is the meaning of his words: Night is almost over; day is at hand. He tells us that night is almost over, not that it is about to fall. By this we are meant to understand that the coming of Christ’s light puts Satan’s darkness to flight, leaving no place for any shadow of sin. His everlasting radiance dispels the dark clouds of the past and checks the hidden growth of vice. The Son is that day to whom the day, which is the Father, communicates the mystery of his divinity. He is the day who says through the mouth of Solomon: I have caused an unfailing light to rise in heaven. And as in heaven no night can follow day, so no sin can overshadow the justice of Christ. The celestial day is perpetually bright and shining with brilliant light; clouds can never darken its skies. In the same way, the light of Christ is eternally glowing with luminous radiance and can never be extinguished by the darkness of sin. This is why John the evangelist says: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never been able to overpower it.

And so, my brothers, each of us ought surely to rejoice on this holy day. Let no one, conscious of his sinfulness, withdraw from our common celebration, nor let anyone be kept away from our public prayer by the burden of his guilt. Sinner he may indeed be, but he must not despair of pardon on this day which is so highly privileged; for if a thief could receive the grace of paradise, how could a Christian be refused forgiveness?

Friday, April 10, 2009

By the Cross death was slain

~a sermon by Theodore the Studite

How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return.

This was the tree on which Christ, like a king on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord like a brave warrior wounded in hands, feet and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death, but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality, that shame should become glory! Well might the holy Apostle exclaim: Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world! The supreme wisdom that flowered on the cross has shown the folly of worldly wisdom's pride. The knowledge of all good, which is the fruit of the cross, has cut away the shoots of wickedness.

The wonders accomplished through this tree were foreshadowed clearly even by the mere types and figures that existed in the past. Meditate on these, if you are eager to learn. Was it not the wood of a tree that enabled Noah, at God's command, to escape the destruction of the flood together with his sons, his wife, his sons' wives and every kind of animal? And surely the rod of Moses prefigured the cross when it changed water into blood, swallowed up the false serpents of Pharaoh's magicians, divided the sea at one stroke and then restored the waters to their normal course, drowning the enemy and saving God's own people? Aaron's rod, which blossomed in one day in proof of his true priesthood, was another figure of the cross, and did not Abraham foreshadow the cross when he bound his son Isaac and placed him on the pile of wood?

By the cross death was slain and Adam was restored to life. The cross is the glory of all the apostles, the crown of the martyrs, the sanctification of the saints. By the cross we put on Christ and cast aside our former self. By the cross we, the sheep of Christ, have been gathered into one flock, destined for the sheepfold of heaven.

Via Crucis Meditations

~written by me during Holy Week of the year that I was received into the Church.
Preparatory Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, in perfect obedience to the Father's will, you walked the way of sorrow and pain because of Love Unbounded. Beloved Savior, forgive me my utter rebellion and help me to never forget the Passion you bore. In Your lovingkindness grant me a measure of grace that I may bear my own cross in joyful obedience. Grant me courage to look upon your sorrows that my heart may always grow in love for You. Help me to walk now this sorrowful way and make my heart ready that You may come to me.
+ + +

Stations One to Four
Stations Five to Nine
Stations Ten to Fourteen

Ecce Lignum Crucis

Crucem tuam adoramus, Domine: et sanctam resurrectionem tuam lauudamus et glorificamus: ecce enim propter lignum venit gaudium in universo mundo.

We worship you, Lord; we venerate your cross, we praise your resurrection. Through the cross you brought joy in the world.

Today's Stational Church: Santa Croce in Gerusalemme

Cloister Garden

Relics of the True Cross

Oratory of Our Lady of Good Help

The power of Christ's blood

~by St. John Chrysostom

If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish”, commanded Moses, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors”. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.

If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.

“There flowed from his side water and blood”. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolised baptism and the holy eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit”, and from the holy eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.

Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Just when you think all the world's screwed up is someone who does what is right. Is she heroic? No, just a person doing a virtuous act. If it seems heroic, perhaps it's because we don't have a culture that teaches virtues anymore that an act like this seems superhuman.

Blessed Triduum to you all. Sparse postings for the next few days as this always represents a marathon for church musicians.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wednesday in Holy Week

....a funeral. Life is fragile. Pray hard.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Chrism Mass for our Diocese. Highlights are the renewal of ordination vows and the blessing of the oils. Chatting with the seminarians is also something to look forward to. We'll see what the diocesan choir will be singing. Maybe my friend Edmund C won't be getting a cellphone call from me ranting about the music.

Monday, April 06, 2009


Just what I need. One more thingy to be addicted to: Thanks to The Crescat who Tweeted me and then I had to click on the link and soon, there I was on Blip being a DJ...

Earthquake in Italy

Please pray for the earthquake victims in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The death toll is rising and tens of thousands are homeless.

Watch this video from RAInews

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Hosanna Filio David

Hosanna filio David: benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Rex Israel: Hosanna in excelsis. Ps. Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus, quoniam in saeculum misericordia eius.

Hosanna to the Son of David, the King of Israel. Hosanna in the highest. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good for his mercy endures forever.

Pueri Hebraeorum, portantes ramosoli varum, obviaverunt Domino, clamantes et dicentes: Hosanna in excelsis

The children of Jerusalem welcomed Christ the King. They carried olive branches and loudly praised the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Least of My Brethren

The year was new and it was one of the coldest nights of the year. Lent was weeks away yet and almsgiving and penance were far from my thoughts. The work week had been long and what better way to celebrate the weekend than to go out to eat.

It was rush hour traffic with everyone on the road driving gingerly in the sleet and ice. The air was bitter cold. We were stopped at a light and up ahead, through the blurry windshield, I saw a dark shape. Our car soon came alongside this huddle which was a man holding a sign, "Homeless". His face was deeply lined, sorrow pooled in his eyes. Part of me suspected that he was in illegal alien. There was at first a sense of disgust and then an ephemeral fragmentary thought crossed my mind...."the least of my brethren."

Within a fraction of time, I knew that we had to give him something. I rolled down my window and placed a folded up twenty-dollar bill into his calloused hand. He looked at me in surprise and said a halting, "Thank you." I rolled up my window, grateful to have done my duty and relieved to put up my barrier. I watched through my side mirror as he opened his palm and saw the bill. He punched the air with his fist and turned toward us in salute.

I pushed away the niggling suspicion that he would spend the money on drugs or alcohol. It was duty done and now I could go on with my life.

Then a week later, as I was leaving the church after Mass, I spied our beggar man in our church yard. He was clutching old milk jugs filled with water. He mounted his bike and rode away. A sense of disquiet came over me.

Over the next several days, I saw him in the church in the back pew kneeling in deep prayer. Another time, he was clutching the icon of the Assumption. One bright afternoon, he was standing in front of the statue of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, his hand clutching the Infant Jesus' hand. He was again praying.

He looked up sensing my presence and smiled at me. I knew I could not escape him and so I struck up a conversation. My beggar man was no longer a faceless stranger, he was right there and I could not push him away. Money was not the answer this time. What was required of me was my time and charity. Did I see him as a human being, my equal in God's eyes?

Not only that, but he was a fellow Catholic with a devotion to Our Lady that I have rarely seen. The flowers and tributes to the saint statues around our churchyard were his doing.

One day, he asked if he could have a rosary that had been abandoned in the narthex. I said yes. He was everywhere in our church with that rosary in deep prayer. Who is this person? For now, he was an angel among us, teaching me that the least of my brethren had a name, had a story, had the desire to give and to love.

Slowly, God changed my heart from repulsion and turned it into a different kind of love that I had never experienced for a stranger.

One day, arriving at work with my arms full of things, he greeted me at the door. He helped me carry my parcels. I asked him if he had eaten, he answered in the negative. This time, I did give him money and he asked me where the nearest restaurant was. He kissed my hand, took his jacket off and turned around. On the back of his t-shirt was an image of Christ with the crown of thorns.

It was Friday. It was Lent. The day of remembrance of Our Lord's Crucifixion. I went to my office and wept. My Crucified Lord in the form of an indigent man. How much do I love the stranger? It is a question that echoes over and over in my brain.

This Lent has transformed my idea of what almsgiving is. Money is only part of it. There is the more personal and more dangerous side, the giving of my time and friendship.

The happy end to this is that my beggarman now helps with the yardwork at church. He whistles happily as he rakes the garden beds and wheels fallen limbs into a pile. He greets me with joy whenever he sees me.

In a way it is a resurrection. The faceless, nameless stranger has a name. And he is an angel among us.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A Thousand Papercuts

Nothing was going right. What could be dropped fell from my hands, what could be forgotten flew out of my mind, what thoughtless word could be spoken was spoken. And just to top it all, the sky was brooding and threatening. My attempts to offer up life's little crosses brought me no consolation, only a painful reminder of my frailties and failures.

It was Friday last week, usually my longest day at work. But it was teacher workday, so only half-day teaching. I looked forward to going home early. The series of mishaps happening at every turn it seemed had me close to tears. I'm usually not emotional, but something was preventing me from leaving work early.

The pagemaker program locked up and the automatic backup wasn't working. After almost an hour of trying to troubleshoot, I gave up and decided to start the document all over again. I was disgusted at my stubbornness leading to wasted time.

The copier machine decided that every document I had to run off should be ornamented by toner streaks. Didn't we just have this blasted thing serviced recently, I asked our parish secretary. Oh, yes, it's just you it doesn't like, she teased.

I could not reach my late-afternoon appointment to postpone our meeting since his phone number was private and I was not privileged to have it. The previous days' emails remained unanswered and so I was scrambling to think of a way to reach this remote person. Thankfully, a friend whose thinking was clearer than mine gave me an inspiration. After what seemed like an interminable time, I was finally able to reschedule the appointment.

By then, it was mid-afternoon, my hands were trembling from lack of food. I had not eaten all day. The phone rang with my husband on the other end. He listened to my rant patiently and then urged me to get something to eat. Out I went to the nearest sushi bar and it was raining. The rain did not fall softly. The sky dropped big, heavy, plodding mini-bombs. Soon the wind was whipping everything around. Of course, I had no umbrella. Just my luck. And it wasn't even Friday the 13th.

By the time I decided to leave work for home, it was time for rush-hour traffic. Oh, joy, to be on the freeway with all the working stiffs just like me, tired and cantankerous. Sure enough, traffic was snail's pace in the driving rain. The wind was brutally stirring up the rain, the wipers barely keeping up.

Slowly, traffic crept forward and soon it was evident that there had been a massive wreck ahead. I crested a hill and saw that both directions on the freeway were slowed to a crawl. Flashing lights of emergency vehicles pierced through the blinding rain. Thankfully, though at a creeping pace, traffic was moving and soon I saw the burned wreckage of a semi-truck on its side having missed going over the bridge...jaws of life had been used to pry the occupant from the cab. At my approach, an ambulance pulled away with its loud sirens and flashing lights. I sent a prayer up to heaven for the poor soul.

Then a thought occurred to me that all those thousand papercuts keeping me at work had kept me safe from the road. This was the second time in the week that little annoyances had caused me to be late only to come upon a wreck on the highway. I don't believe in coincidences. As I exited the freeway to the road leading closer to home, I thanked my Guardian Angel.


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