Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Catholic Youth Respond to Pre-Synod Document

So many young Catholics have fallen and continue to fall away because they were not spiritually fed. Whether they know it or not, all youth search for beauty, reverence and prayerful stillness which the modern world can not give them. While the Church should have been their sanctuary, it was unable to remain steadfast, and ultimately has become as loud as the world. This can be seen by the huge numbers of youth the Catholic Church loses every year in spite of her ongoing efforts to retain them by making the liturgy “relevant”. So many go through the classes and receive all their sacraments, only to fall prey in high school or college to the desires of the flesh or modern disdain for religion. We desire the beauty of the Church’s traditions, not out of nostalgia for lost beauty, but because we recognize both their inherent value and their strength as tools for catechesis and evangelization. We have unearthed treasures seemingly lost to us for so long, and we deeply desire to share them with the world, especially with fallen away youth. 
Much more here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Auctor perennis gloriae

Some of our readers may wish to include this Little Hours hymn in their Pentecost Novena.
O Source of glory without end,
Who with Your sev’n-fold graces send
Your Spirit to those who confess,
Defend us all in gentleness.

Expel the ills that bodies bind;
Remove all hindrances of mind;
Let sin’s strong powers vanquished be
And inner tears forever flee.

O keep our minds in quiet rest,
Perfect our work in righteousness.
Accept, O Lord, the prayers we give,
That we eternally may live.

The years, their seven days have run,
The age of time is nearly done,
For lo, the eighth and final nears,
When judgment day at last appears.

Redeemer, hear us, Lord, we pray.
Forget your anger on that day,
And let us not at your left stand,
But station us at your right hand.

So when in mercy you receive
The prayers of those, Lord, who believe,
Then may your glory ever new,
Blest Trinity, return to you.
 Translation c. 2013 Kathleen Pluth

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Gregorian Chant Retreat led by Dominican Priests

Among this summer's opportunities to learn Gregorian Chant, one of the most promising is also one of the most inexpensive.

The Dominican Fathers are once again providing a Gregorian Chant retreat on the beautiful grounds of Wethersfield Institute in New York State. The suggested donation to cover retreat expenses is just $200, and includes meals and lodging as well as classes, daily Mass, and the Divine Office, from Monday-Thursday, June 25-28.

Both friars are experienced organists, choral singers, and church musicians and have sung and led Gregorian chant together as Dominican friars for the past nine years. Their work can be heard on the four albums of sacred music (Christ Was Born To Save, Gaudeamus, Ave Maria, and In Medio Ecclesiae) produced by the Dominican friars during their time as students at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

More information and registration details may be found here.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Situational aesthetics

Friday, April 27, 2018

Music for Tomorrow's Solemn Pontifical Mass Announced

As many of our readers know, tomorrow there will be a Solemn Pontifical Mass  in the Great Upper Church of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. 

Archbishop Sample will be the principal Celebrant of the Mass. It is open to the public, and will be broadcast live on EWTN.
Here is the press release announcing the music, which promises to be sublime:

WASHINGTON -- A list of all the sacred music that will be sung during Saturday's solemn pontifical Mass in Washington, D.C., was announced today.

The traditional Latin Mass, which will be broadcast live and worldwide on EWTN, is open to the public to attend, at 1 p.m. on April 28, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception's upper church.

Two choirs will sing before the procession and Mass: one from the Lyceum School in South Euclid, Ohio; and another from Saint John the Baptist church in Allentown, N.J.

All of the Gregorian chant propers of the Mass will be sung by the men's schola from Saint Mary Mother of God church in Washington, D.C., directed by Mr. David Sullivan.

The choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, directed by Dr. Peter Latona, will sing sacred polyphony and motets from the Renaissance period, joined by instrumentalists from the Washington Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble. Pipe organ played by three organists from the shrine will be prevalent during the Mass, including J.S. Bach's "Fantasia in G Major," also known as "Pièce d'Orgue."

The polyphonic ordinary of the Mass will be "Missa Salve Regina" by Father Tomás Luis de Victoria.

After the schola has chanted the Offertory proper, the shrine's choir will sing "Ave Maris Stella" by Claudio Monteverdi.

After the Communion proper has been chanted by the schola, the shrine's choir will sing "Caro Mea" by Pierre de Manchicourt, "O Sacrum Convivium" by Thomas Tallis, "Beata Es Virgo Maria" by Vincenzo Ugolini and "Magnificat" by Luca Marenzio.

Additional details on the Mass can be found on the event page:
Donations are needed to help defray the expenses for the Mass, and can be made from here:

On the Application of Principles

I recently read a disturbing interpretation of a dangerous strain of postconciliar thought that rejects the use of principles in pastoral work.

Years ago in graduate school I remember hearing this interpretation described as "Aristotelian realism" by some of my fellow students; having studied Aristotle a great deal in college, I realized that this was a misuse of Aristotle, but I did not realize at the time exactly what the issue was, or how dangerous it is.

The background, to oversimplify, is this. Aristotle usually tried to see what was best in the philosophers who came before him, but when he disagreed, he said so. He thought that Plato was clearly wrong about one of his key ideas, and said so in several places in his works. Plato thought that one of the most important aspects of a thing, its form, has its real existence outside of the thing itself, in an elevated realm of ideas. In other words, Plato thought that reality was split between matter, which has a mundane existence, and form, which has a higher existence.

Strains of this idea have come down to us through various Gnostic heresies through the years, such as the Manichean heresy and the Albigensian heresy. Among the claims of these heresies is that the body--matter--is bad. We know that this is not true, because God saw what He had made, and it was good. In human persons, it was very good. All of these heresies have been rightly condemned by the Church.

What Aristotle believed instead was that the form resides in the matter, and the two have the strongest possible unity in things. The shape, or form, that makes wood into a chair is not easily removed from the chair. More importantly, chair-shape does not live in some celestial place, with only a tenuous connection to concrete reality. The form is part of concrete reality. (The separation of human souls after death is of course an important exception that we know about from Scripture--but even here, the body is destined to rejoin the soul that left it behind temporarily.)

And this, it seems to me, is where Aristotle really gets exciting. Although the forms of natural things such as chairs and plants and fireflies do not exist apart from the matter, the human mind was made capable of thinking about the forms. This process of abstraction, in Plato's thought, is a ladder of love. In Aristotle's thought, it is a labor of love. Each of Aristotle's major treatises begins with wonder at the world around him, and ends in God. He is groping; the mind simply cannot reach the Triune God without special revelation. But he could see something of God, by thinking about the natures of things, including about human ethical behavior. If we know what makes people happy, we can begin to see the happiness of the life of God. This was all part of Aristotle's project.

What I heard in graduate school and recently also is a misunderstanding of Aristotle, and as I said above it is very dangerous. The misunderstanding would say that there are no forms at all. What we have are only the concrete instances. The process of abstraction is illegitimate. We cannot think properly enough about the nature of things to develop general principles. If we make general principles, we cannot legitimately apply them in concrete situations. 

Nothing like this attitude could be more foreign to Aristotle. But more importantly, nothing could be more foreign to the mind of the Church throughout history. There has been an exercise throughout our history of something which might be called the priesthood of the mind. God could, easily, have made all of revelation perfectly clear. Instead, He made it necessary for human minds, working under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to develop the doctrine and to learn how to apply it. It has taken a long time to find out about His ways. We are like a middle aged married couple now, Christ and the Church. We understand our husband pretty well by now. And at our best, we try to do what pleases Him.

The misuse of Aristotle has many major implications, and two concern us as Church musicians. The first is a reaction against the use of principles. We will often hear that despite what Vatican II said about the eminent suitableness of Gregorian chant for liturgy, with polyphony in second place, and its insistence that new compositions for liturgy should follow these examples, instead it is congregational taste that must decide the selection of music. The Church has considered these matters thoroughly and has given us principles to apply--but we disobey. This is not Aristotelian realism. It is stubbornness and congregationalism.

The second problem is more subtle, but very real and often catastrophic. As human beings, we cannot actually help abstracting forms and natures, making principles, and applying them. So if we deny the legitimacy of these actions to the Church as our authority, we will find ourselves following esoteric doctrines, as ancient Israel did when it was lukewarm. In liturgical music, this is somewhat benign: we buy whatever music is supposed to be new and exciting. We are overcome by marketing. Parish staffs buy books promising the renovation of parish programming and great success.

That is pretty bad: wasteful and ephemeral. But what lies just beyond this is far worse. It is the danger of adopting new theological principles by looking not at the nature of human beings--what will make us happy--but instead imposing other principles, such as progressivism. Because I am convinced that it is never a case of having no principles, no abstractions. There will always be something. If we give up cruciform architecture, we'll adopt theater in the round. If we give up chant, we'll take up emotive ballads. We will not settle for formlessness. Our forms will just become much less indicative of the truth--much less realistic--if we refuse to think through our discernment. Great art will degenerate into bad, without the mind.

At this point in our married lives with Jesus, we understand Him pretty well. The sheep hear His voice. What if we decided we don't know Him after all? To whom would we go?

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Listening to Young People

A young Catholic pleads for clear teaching.
...Peers of mine who are converts or reverts have specifically cited teachings like Humanae Vitae, Familiaris Consortio, and Veritatis Splendor as beacons that set the Church and her wisdom apart from the world and other faiths. Now they’re hearing from some in the highest levels of the Church that these liberating teachings are unrealistic ideals, and that “conscience” should be the arbiter of truth. 
Young Catholics crave the beauty that guided and inspired previous generations for nearly two millennia. Many of my generation received their upbringing surrounded by bland, ugly, and often downright counter-mystical modern church architecture, hidden tabernacles, and banal modern liturgical music more suitable to failed off-Broadway theater. The disastrous effect that Beige Catholicism (as Bishop Robert Barron aptly describes it) has had on my generation can’t be overstated. In a world of soulless modern vulgarity, we’re frustrated by the iconoclasm of the past 60 years. 
In sum, many of us feel that we’re the rightful heirs of thousands of years of rich teaching, tradition, art, architecture, and music. We young Catholics increasingly recognize that these riches will be crucial for evangelizing our peers and passing on a thriving Church to our children...

Friday, April 20, 2018

Misal Romano - Spanish Resources & Recordings

The Domenico Zipoli Institute has prepared resources and recordings in light of the forthcoming Tercera Edición of the Misal Romano, for use in the United States.  

Three free resources include:
Printable/PDF study guides for clergy  
Congregational cards
Audio recordings  

The first use date is the vigil of Pentecost, 19 May 2018 with mandatory usage beginning Advent I.

Special thanks to collaborative efforts of many, in conjunction with the Institute of the Incarnate Word, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Dunwoodie Seminary of Yonkers, New York, as well as St. Charles Borromeo Seminary of Overbrook, Philadelphia.

A reminder of the Institute's upcoming 2-day conference on Apr 27-28 in Washington D.C. where these materials will be put into the hands of many.  Register today and plan to attend!

Pastoral programs

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hymn for the Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church

The redoubtable Mrs. Geraldine Hildreth recently suggested on these pages that I might write a hymn for the new feast on the Universal Calendar, Mary, Mother of the Church.

As it happens, I have just the thing.

I wrote this originally for the Immaculate Conception, and it's easy to see that great feast's influence here:

The first verse is taken from the definition of the Immaculate Conception, which I believe is paraphrased in the Preface of that day.

The second verse is taken from the Epistle of the day from Ephesians 1, which is also the Canticle for Evening Prayer on Mondays.

Verse 3 is the reason I thought it would be particularly appropriate for the new Memorial. I drew its ideas from the final chapter of Lumen Gentium, which speaks of the Blessed Mother's relationship of exemplarity for the Church as we travel through time. It has a special reference to the Alma Redemptoris Mater.

And the fourth verse is also drawn from Ephesians, and also from the very last page of the Bible, St. John's cry for the coming of the Lord.

I no longer hold the copyright to this text, but the book in which it is printed is inexpensive and the purchase of one copy includes permission to print all the hymns as many times as needed for a church or school. Details at

1. Free from all stain of evil,
From sin of any kind,
Our holy Mother Mary
Was born of lost mankind.
The Father kept her pure
To bear His Son, Christ Jesus,
The Savior of our race.

2. Before the world was fashioned,
Before the dawn of time,
The holy God eternal
Chose Christ’s beloved bride.
He chose the Church in love
To sing the praise of glory:
The riches of His grace.

3. Mary shows forth the beauty
Of God’s eternal plan,
She guides the Church to heaven
As stars guide ships to land.
We follow her, secure,
Though darkness seems prevailing,
To God’s abiding place.

4. Freed from all stain of evil,
From sin of ev’ry kind,
Christ’s Church before the Father
At the appointed time.
O come, Christ, haste the day.
O bring us home with Mary
Before the throne of grace.
Copyright © 2005 CanticaNOVA Publications. Duplication restricted.

Meter: Suggested tune: Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen

Bishops These Days

If Vatican I was largely about the papacy, Vatican II was largely about the episcopacy
Like all of the great mysteries of the Church, these hierarchical roles require re-examination from time to time. What does it mean to be a successor of the Twelve, now that there are many thousands more than twelve?

Interestingly, while at the same time strongly affirming an Ordinary's authority, the Council also organized the bishops in conferences, a kind of grouping that is in a certain tension with particular authority.

And since then, bishops have been blown back quite a bit. First, there is the inherent difficulty of not belonging with any political or social party on the planet. No more than Jesus did, can a bishop plant both his feet in a political movement.

Then came the still largely unexamined blame-game of what is usually called "the sexual abuse crisis," which singled out Catholic bishops among all the humans on the earth, for various reasons. Yes, one of these reasons is the unconscionable, reprehensible, opportunistic sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. And another was an overemphasis on bella figura. But let's not forget some of the other reasons. 1. The radical optimism of psychologists who assure bishops they could cure incurable disorders. 2. The deep-pockets structure of Catholic dioceses, in which a county's worth of property is held in one person's name, as opposed to many religions' less lucrative congregational structures. 3. The Catholic Church's perennial, unwavering stance on social issues that strong forces would like to revolutionize.

Sexual abuse is a human crime. It is not a peculiarly Catholic crime. Yet Catholic priests and bishops are nearly the only group, besides the tragically victimized whose blood cries out for vengeance, who are paying (and paying, and paying).

It's intriguing to me that at a time when bishops have been marginalized on so many fronts, that there is a new springtime of the Episcopal College in the air. This began, I feel, when the Pope Emeritus resigned his office. All bishops can resign--but the Bishop of Rome? Unheard of! I happened to be in London that day, and was walking through a Muslim neighborhood's open-air market, and this was what was being eagerly discussed. Not for centuries! The Pope resigned!

And now, his successor Pope Francis has begun an ongoing project of synodality. Of course this is just the sort of enterprise that might be manipulated by parties at its beginnings. There is a danger there. But isn't it also an exciting opportunity for the Holy Spirit, who may be trying to teach us more about the episcopal office? And if so, is this an opening to reconciliation with the East?

I've just been rewatching one of my favorite movies, Glory Road, about a national championship team from Texas that integrated college basketball. I don't know about the rest of the laity and priests, but these days I personally feel like one of the people watching helplessly from the bleachers or the bench. I feel the hints of new schism like a downward momentum towards an impending, momentous loss. There seems to be an antagonism and a climate of suspicion, and there's really not much we bleacher-folk can do but keep praying.

The Holy Father and the bishops are on the court, so to speak. The game is theirs, and they are protected. If they make the right moves, they may be able to work together to secure justice and hope for our time and for the future.

Go, team, go!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Under our roof

O God, who willed that your Word should take on the reality of human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, that we, who confess our Redeemer to be God and man, may merit to become partakers even in his divine nature.
-Opening Prayer of the Annuciation-