Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Of Potlucks and Meaty Discussions

There is a Universalist Unitarian building, square and squat--quite tiny that can't have more than two rooms at most--that I drive by on my way to church. It has a marquee on the front lawn advertising what is happening or what is the topic of discussion at the weekly service.

For this coming weekend, the sign said: "Potluck and Ethical Eating". A couple of months ago, it was "Spirituality of Climate Change".

Hmm. Ethical eating. I wondered whether it would be a talk on the glories of veganism or vegetarianism. There flashed a memory of PETA protestors at a local lobster festival once.

Then I thought it would be a talk tying climate change and therefore the need for us to radically change our eating habits in order to alleviate the carbon excesses of massive food production....from reducing massive corporate fields, to supporting arugula production in the Chilean piedmonts.

Or it could be as simple as not overeating, eating moderately eschewing gluttony. But perhaps gluttony is too Catholic a word.

That the preceding word was "potluck" somehow seems to change the tenor, though. We Southerners can't resist fried chicken and biscuits. Where there's fried chicken, there's pulled pork.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Catholic Mass AD 155

In the Sight of Angels

A True Story

She is old and frail. But her physical state has not diminished her devotion to spiritual works of mercy, especially comforting the sorrowful, and praying for the living and the dead. Here, she is powerful. What people of health may see as confinement, she uses to pray and when needed, to call and comfort whoever she knows is in distress.

Praying with the aid of her rosary, she renders the Body of Christ one formidable service. At night, she slips her rosary under her pillow, and if perchance the Holy Spirit might waken her in the middle of night, she reaches for the beads and prays. The long years of practice had worn the beads and the links had gotten into a fragile state

One morning, she awoke to find her rosary all tangled up in a wretched mess. Not wanting a new one, her grandson tried to have it fixed to no avail. Even the local jeweler could not help.

After all the attempts, she tried one more thing. She went to bed, slipped the beads under her pillow, and went to sleep.

The next morning, she reached for them, and lo, and behold! The rosary was unknotted, the links polished, and the beads all shiny as if new.

She called my friend who is undergoing chemotherapy to let him know that she was praying for him. She related the story of her rosary.

I told my friend that he has one powerful intercessor whose angels could not bear that she should mourn the loss of weapon by which she battles for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Friday, July 23, 2010

May your Friday meditation help you bear the crosses in your life.

Láqueus contrítus est, et nos liberáti sumus
The snare is broken, and we are delivered.

From Seville Cathedral, a detail from a rood screen

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Birds of the Air

Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? (Matthew 6:26-27, RSV-CE)

A Carolina Wren has nested in the hanging pot of begonias. She perches on the flag pole looking this way and that, and when she deems it safe, she flies into the pot with a grub or worm. The little baby wrens chirp impatiently.

Next to the hanging basket is a hummingbird feeder. The reason why I had hung the basket there was to attract the hummingbirds to begin with. Begonias in their bright red flowers call out to hummers.

One side benefit to having the wren is that she has managed to control the hummer population. Battles for supremacy have not been a nuisance this year. Oh, there's the occasional braggadocio who thinks he's King Hummer. But Mama Wren, perched as she does on the flagpole, by her presence has subdued these unruly garden denizens.

I quite like not being dive-bombed by the little hoverers. Someday, the baby wrens will be big enough to fly away. It will be a treat to watch Mama Wren teach them to fly.

Image Source

Cloud of Witnesses III

From the Seville Cathedral, from the western wall

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cloud of Witnesses II

Two bishops guarding the western door at the Seville Cathedral. Notice the magnificent details on the bishops' vestments.

The Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It has the largest and richest altar in the entire world decorated by gold, the work of one single artist, Pierre Dancart. It is truly a splendid, splendid place of pilgrimage.

Finding the Madonna V

The Assumption of Our Lady, from Seville Cathedral

Cloud of Witnesses

From Seville Cathedral: How many saints can you identify?

The Lady in the Mirror

Twelve words. That was all there were. Terse. Impersonal and veiling what must have been an intense life lived. Dying just weeks short of her 91st birthday, this obscenely short obituary seemed to mock her. In a world that glorifies self in the living, and oftentimes after death, the eulogizing/canonization that is part and parcel of funerals, this notice in the newspaper indeed was perplexing.

She was not unknown to our parish. Our pastor visited her as one of the sheep in the fold to which he is entrusted; the Legion of Mary members visited her as part of the spiritual work of mercy to which they dedicated themselves.

To me, she was the lady in the mirror. She never failed to draw my attention, sitting as I was on the organ bench with my back to the altar, her actions reflected in the mirror on the organ console. The mirror is necessary for me to know where Father is at all times in the liturgy. My object is to see Father, but, dressed as she always was in white, she became part of my pre-Mass preparations.

On Sundays, ten minutes before the Principal Mass, she would enter the side door, push her walker across the front aisle, and stand in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary. Slowly, she would light a votive candle, pause in silence, then make her way back to the Joseph and Epistle side of the church to sit in the front row. Her perfectly coiffed white head occupying the bottom third of my organ mirror. At the Readings, she would turn her body toward the Lay Reader, and at the Gospel, she would struggle to rise to her feet, but rise she did. And at Holy Communion, Father would head toward her on the front row to feed her Christ's Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. And by virtue of her being on the front row, everyone else on that row received Jesus, everyone in the church in silence, in reverence, awaiting for his turn to receive. The only sounds that accompanied her reception, was the schola chanting the Communion verse, and sometimes, a fussy baby's pleas.

Once, after most everyone had left the church after Mass, she was standing on the ramp waiting for the nursing home's bus to pick her up. For whatever reason, it was late and there she stood, alone, seemingly fragile. The neighborhood where our church is, is not exactly safe.

A friend and I decided to stay and wait with her. What followed was a fascinating conversation wherein her life story emerged...not particular details, but the tenor and shape of it. What we heard was a life of estrangement from a family that was not particularly devoted to her, children that were in conflict with each other. Her daily existence was punctuated by battles with health insurance. But I learned what an iron will she had, what a feisty spirit she had and to whom one could really say, she suffers not fools.

When Father called me to plan her funeral, the first thing he noted was that the family did not care what the liturgy should be like. Father then left it to me to choose the music and the readings, though he changed the Old Testament reading to the 2nd Maccabees passage about the worthiness of praying for the dead. He worried that we would be the only other Catholics there besides himself and the altar boy. So he requested that my sons, the schola, receive at Holy Communion. Usually at Funeral Masses, the cantor(s) do not receive as there's music to be sung. In the congregation, there is always a large percentage of non-Catholics who do not know the liturgy or music, hence the need for strong cantors.

After my conversation with Father, I set about producing the bulletin and realized that Father had not given me the dates of the span of her life. The obituary was silent, so I called the funeral home. Sadly, they had no idea either.

A friend who could not attend the funeral due to a previous engagement urged all the Legion members to attend. I feared that there would only be a handful of people there multiplying the stark loneliness expressed by the terse obituary.

A few minutes before Mass began, I looked down from the loft and saw the Legion there, a neighbor and her family, and one other person unknown to me. Twenty people who took the time to come to grieve. When the family arrived, I descended to the narthex to meet them. Only one member was Catholic, so there was expressed discomfort with the procession. The Lady in the Mirror was cremated and her family did not wish to carry the urn of her remains. Perhaps it was due to the tension and emotion of the day. There was no room for judgment, there was only the service to be done for her--to pray for her immortal soul.

The funeral music was full of chant. From the Psalm to the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. The schola chanted Ave Verum Corpus. And at the Ablutions, they played a two-violin arrangement of Caccini's Ave Maria. The Mass ended with the chanting of In Paradisum. Each Legion member came up to us afterwards and commented on how beautiful and how God-glorifying the music was and the beauty of the Mass, because it was done according to rubrics with no room for sentimentalizing actions.

After Mass, the only child who attended, gave some brief remarks. From it, I learned that she was born in 1919 the youngest of Polish heritage. Other important dates in her life, her marriage, the birth of her children were mentioned. And woven throughout this narrative, was the acknowledgment of the estrangement among the family members, the sometimes strident and judgmental words that the Lady in the Mirror said throughout her life that her children carried with them in their hearts, bruising them and continually wounding them. But now, she is gone, and acceptance must come. Two of her great-grandchildren were there, children of the son who came.

In that painfully almost-empty room, life and death met. The legacy of our fallen nature perpetuated in the strife between loved ones. Yet there was hope, too, that reconciliation is possible.

But one memory will stay with me...and that was her devotion to Mary and her faithfulness to the Eucharist. She was there every Sunday, rain or shine, heat or cold, carrying with her the wounds of her heart and the fragility of her body. I cannot know the graces that God has poured into her. What I know is that she responded to Him. When many stronger and more cherished people have fallen away from the Faith, have abandoned the Church, she was a witness to the enduring and compelling need to be within Mother Church's bosom.

Rest in peace, dear Lady in the Mirror. May light perpetual shine upon you. May angels greet you at your coming. Rest eternally in the mercy of Our Lord and the gentle pleading of Our Lady to whom you showed such devotion.

Image Source

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Obama Bumper Sticker Removal Kit

There are a couple of neighbors and, surprise, surprise, some in the parish parking lot that could use this!

Cistercian chant - In Timore Dei

Monday, July 19, 2010

Paganini Cantabile

Played here by Leonid Kogan

Monday humor

How depressing is it that this website says I write like Dan Brown...

Though with two other different samples it said I wrote like David Foster Wallace, and then James Joyce.

The bit that I've read of Dan Brown's is wretched stuff. Can I blame my writing professor in college? I suppose there's no money back for reparations. Sigh!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Monte Carmelo

From the Convent of St. Teresa, Avila, Spain

Happy Commemoration of Our Lady of Mount Carmel!

Introit for today's Mass:

Gaudeámus ómnes in Dómino, diem festum celebrántes sub honóre beátæ Mariæ Vírginis Regínæ: de cujus solemnitáte gaudent Angeli, et collaudant Fílium Dei. (Ps. 44: 2) Effundit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego carmen meum Regi. V. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a feast in honor of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary: at whose solemnity the angels rejoice and join in praising the Son of God (Ps. 44: 2) My heart hath uttered a good word; I speak my works to the King. v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Today's hymn from Matins:

Quem terra, pontus, sidera
Colunt, adorant, praedicant,
Trinam regentem machinam,
Claustrum Mariae bajulat.

Cui luna, sol, et omnia
Deserviunt per tempora,
Perfusa coeli gratia,
Gestant puellae viscera.

Beata Mater munere,
Cujus supernus artifex
Mundum pugillo continens,
Ventris sub arca clausus est.

Beata coeli nuntio,
Foecunda sancto Spiritu,
Desideratus gentibus,
Cujus per alvum fusus est.

Jesu tibi sit gloria,
Qui natus est de Virgine,
Cum Patre, et almo Spiritu
In sempiterna saecula.


The God whom earth, and sea, and sky
Adore, and laud, and magnify,
Who o'er their threefold fabric reigns,
The Virgin's spotless womb contains.

The God, whose will by moon and sun
And all things in due course is done,
Is borne upon a maiden's breast,
By fullest heavenly grace possest,

How blest that mother, in whose shrine
The great artificer divine,
Whose hand contains the earth and sky,
Vouchsafed, as in his ark, to lie.

Blest, in the message Gabriel brought;
Blest, by the work the Spirit wrought;
From whom the great desire of earth
Took human flesh and human birth.

All honour, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born to thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Finding the Madonna IV

From the Cathedral of Seville

The Shrine of the Annunciation

How can one not love Our Lady, sinless creature that she was, created to bear Our Lord by the will of the Father? Whenever I visit a place of pilgrimage, the images of her that are there never fail to help me apprehend more deeply just how beautiful she is, how much in need of redemption the human race needed, and how God in His Infinite Wisdom and Love, provided this way, this path for our restoration. Through her, her simple "Yes" to the Father, the way was opened for us to become adopted sons through Our Lord's Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

The more I learn to love her, the more I grieve whenever she is disparaged. She, a creature of God's perfect will, as an object of scorn because of man's folly and dim understanding. I teach the RCIA people that the dogmas of Mary are revealed Truth about Our Lord, about God's way of Salvation. To ignore them or to reject them is to reject or ignore some deep Truth about God and about Man.

Teach your children to love her as Christ entrusted her to the Beloved Disciple. We, each of us, are that Beloved Disciple. Pray the Rosary, ponder on Christ's Mysteries revealed through Our Lady. When you do, your knowledge and love of God will increase. Your heart will swell with love for her and you will come to a love of God that is deeper and higher everyday. That is the simple promise that is behind the practice of the beads.

Oh, and fill your house with images of her. Your home will be richer for them. You will come to love what obedience stands for....not servility, but freedom.

Finding the Madonna III

From the Cathedral of Seville

The Sorrow of Our Lady so beautifully etched on her face. Her vestments are strikingly beautiful.

A Della Robbia, Our Lady holding a pomegranate

The Seat of Wisdom

Finding the Madonna II

From the Cathedral of Seville

Finding the Madonna

From the Cathedral of Seville officially known as Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede, Cathedral of St. Mary of the See

If you click on the image for a larger resolution, you'll see the tabernacle is the Face of the Passion of Christ

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Noli Me Tangere

Detail of the retablo of the Cathedral of Seville

Noli Me Tangere..."Stop Clinging to Me" said Our Resurrected Lord to Magadalene.

Someone once said to me that the reason post-Vatican II churches had little embellishment was that the Baroque accoutrements were a distraction. Statuary and sacred art detracted from pure worship.

This is a view tragically held by many, and dangerously so if taught by catechists for it is at the very heart iconoclastic, a view held dimly by the Church. John of Damascus wrote in On Holy Images:
"For the invisible things of God since the creation of the world are made visible through images. We see images in creation which remind us faintly of God, as when, for instance, we speak of the holy and adorable Trinity, imaged by the sun, or light, or burning rays, or by a running fountain, or a full river, or by the mind, speech, or the spirit within us, or by a rose tree, or a sprouting flower, or a sweet fragrance.

Again, an image is expressive of something in the future, mystically shadowing forth what is to happen. For instance, the ark represents the image of Our Lady, Mother of God, so does the staff and the earthen jar. The serpent brings before us Him who vanquished on the Cross the bite of the original serpent; the sea, -water, and the cloud the grace of baptism.

Again, things which have taken place are expressed by images for the remembrance either of a wonder, or an honour, or dishonour, or good or evil, to help those who look upon it in after times that we may avoid evils and imitate goodness...

...Of old, God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was never depicted. Now, however, when God is seen clothed in flesh, and conversing with men, I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter, I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake, and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. I will not cease from honouring that matter which works my salvation. I venerate it, though not as God. How could God be born out of lifeless things? And if God's body is God by union, it is immutable. The nature of God remains the same as before, the flesh created in time is quickened by, a logical and reasoning soul.

I honour all matter besides, and venerate it. Through it, filled, as it were, with the divine power and grace, my salvation has come to me. Was not the thrice happy and thrice blessed wood of the Cross matter? Was not the sacred and holy mountain of Calvary matter? What of the life-giving rock, the Holy Sepulchre, the source of our resurrection: was it not matter? Is not the most holy book of the Gospels matter? Is not the blessed table matter which gives us the Bread of Life' Are not the gold and silver matter, out of which crosses and altar-plate and chalices are made? And before all these things, is not the body and blood of our Lord matter? Either do away with the veneration and worship due to all these things, or submit to the tradition of the Church in the worship of images, honouring God and His friends, and following in this the grace of the Holv Spirit."
Ah, the wonders of being human, both body and soul, matter and spirit united.

The works of sacred art affirm this. The folly of the argument that these works detract and distract diminishes us.

The Deposition and Lamentation of Christ

Detail from the retablo of the Cathedral of Seville

The Deposition and Lamentation of Christ

The Institution of the Eucharist

Detail from the retablo of the Cathedral of Seville

The Last Supper

Betrayal and Scourging of Christ

Details of the retablo in the Cathedral of Seville

The Betrayal of Christ

The Scourging of Christ at the Pillar and the Crowning of Thorns

Retablo of Seville Cathedral

The work of Pierre Dancart depicting scenes from the Life of Christ

Click on the image for a larger resolution. Pictures can't capture the magnificence of this masterpiece. But you can at least get some idea of its splendour.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Facilitating the Crossing of the Tiber

Fr. Dwight Longenecker suggested this:
An AngloCatholic priest and his remnant congregation who want to come over should immediately be offered hospitality in a local Catholic parish. The Bishop should assign a priest (preferably an already established Catholic priest who is a convert Anglican priest) to train these men while their cause for Catholic ordination is processed. At the same time the people should be catechized and all of the should start attending the Catholic Mass. Once they are received the Catholic parish should provide them an altar and time for the Anglican Rite Mass to be celebrated.

Once the congregation is established they can begin working together to obtain their own building. It might be a dis used Methodist chapel which they do up. It might be an Anglican Church that is redundant. It might be a Catholic Church that is redundant. It might be an old village hall or some other suitably ecclesiastical building that can be converted.

What will be needed is a positive, missionary mentality. This is a fresh opportunity for Anglo Catholics to do what they have (traditionally) done best--to step out in faith and do something beautiful for God--to proclaim the gospel with vigor and zeal and simplicity and to do so with the graces provided by being in full communion with the Holy See.


Last night, a young couple visited our parish with a friend who is a newly-ordained transitional deacon. This couple were formerly Anglican now forging the life in communion with the Holy Father and Holy Mother Church. So we had a jolly time reminiscing about the "final days" and what tipped us over into crossing the Tiber. And! the not so easy time bringing our Anglican liturgical sensibilities into the state of Catholic liturgy that is in our town. How hard it was to finally be doctrinally home, but be faced by a liturgical wasteland. But, in persevering, how God, in His never-ending mercy and grace, has brought us to where we are, the gift that is the Traditional Latin Mass, which nourishes us and helps us to bear what we must bear for the sake of the spread of the Kingdom.

I had no idea what was going on in the larger Anglican world, being a parish musician, I can't keep up with everything or I will be a blubbering mess. So reading this article today makes me sad for a lot of reasons (the title invokes that, no?). The answer is staring him in the face.


Catholic Culture has this little bit of news:
Seventy Anglican clergy met with Catholic Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham on July 10 to discuss the possibility of converting to Catholicism under the provisions of Pope Benedict’s 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. One Anglican cleric estimated that 200 Anglican clergy are considering conversion.

Postcard from the Edge

...the loonies are overtaking.

Godblock: “GodBlock is a web filter that blocks religious content,” states the company’s website. “It is targeted at parents and schools who wish to protect their kids from the often violent, sexual, and psychologically harmful material in many holy texts, and from being indoctrinated into any religion before they are of the age to make such decisions.”

Yet it's okay and desirable to teach fisting in elementary school. Yes, what an enlightened society we live in.


The organ at the Cathedral of Seville.

Choir Stalls

In the Cathedral of Seville. While I was there, the organist was practicing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in d minor.

The Evangelists

Rose Window from the Cathedral of Seville depicting the Gospel Writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John with their respective attributes. Matthew with the Winged Man, Mark with the Winged Lion, Luke with the Winged Ox, and John with the Eagle.

From the Cathedral of Seville

Blessed is the Man

From Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vespers.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ending Abortion Webcast

Today! Register to listen for free. There are some great speakers lined up. Right now, at 10 AM EDT, is Gianna Jessen, abortion survivor. What a great way to learn about the pro-life movement. Why it's worth doing everything you can to end this terrible scourge on society.

What can be done? First, pray. Second, pray. Third, pray.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Garden Statuary

While perusing the internet for a Sacred Heart statue for the garden, I landed on this site offering this:

Create a Barack-buzz with your very own life-size president statue! Your home or business will be the talk of the town as family, friends and customers stop to pose for photos next to their new best friend a sculpture of President Barack Obama seated on an actual park bench of wood and metal! Our life-size President statue is authentically sculpted, cast in quality designer resin, and painstakingly hand-painted to create a political buzz in restaurants, law offices, retail stores or wherever an Obama figurine is sure to grab the limelight. Our President Barack Obama life-size statue is available only at Design Toscano! Even suitable for sheltered outdoor areas.

It can be yours for only $895.00, marked down from $995.

Imagine that! Get yours now!

What we should see in the liturgy

~A Catholic musician's take on the whole liturgy debate. Here Gary Penkala, of Cantica Nova Publications (bookmark the page and order stuff from them and get unplugged from the giants of OCP/GIA drek) outlines what he would like to see happen with music in liturgy.
Catholics of the Roman Rite need to be less concerned with hymns and more concerned with propers. Hymns as such are almost entirely foreign to the Roman Rite Mass. They're indigenous to the Divine Office [the Liturgy of the Hours] where each hour begins with a hymn. They're borrowed from Protestant worship. They're not our tradition at Mass. Gradually, with measured pace, let go of at least some of the hymns at Mass. How about a simple Entrance Antiphon with psalm verses [see CNP Mass Propers] once in a while? Further, there's no need for a closing song — the rubrics don't even call for one. Let the priest and then the congregation exit to a rousing organ recessional. It really can work — I have practical and popular substantiation on this!
Yes!! How much richer will liturgical celebrations be when the Propers are truly properly restored and the faithful hear them. It is a rare thing to hear them nowadays. Most people don't even know what Propers are. Do you know how much time I waste in planning for a hymn that closely matches the Proper that it replaces? Introit, Offertory, Communion antiphons? There are no hymns that can truly replace these.

What I would like to see is a parish that is familiar enough with psalm tones so that the psalms prescribed with the antiphons can be chanted by the faithful. Do you know how much more powerful it is to chant psalms than be titillated by a stupid ditty like "Sing of the Lord's Goodness"? If you are able, try to attend a Sung Vespers, how much more prayerful, how much more one is transported to the heavenly courts with the antiphonal psalm verses chanted alternately. It is a beautiful marriage between song and words so that it truly becomes sung prayer.

What's all the fuss about the Latin Mass?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Month of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Thou hast redeemed us, O Lord, in Thy Blood, out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made us to our God a kingdom. The mercies of the Lord I will sing for ever: I will show forth Thy truth with my mouth to generation to generation.
~Introit from the Mass for the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ