Saturday, June 23, 2018

On Being a Bishop

One suggestion that has been made after this week's ecclesial timebomb explosion is the reduction of the authority of the local bishop.

I don't agree.

Local ordinaries must be sovereign in their local churches, subject to canon law and in union with the Holy Father. As an alternative, I would like to suggest several actions that, from the outside, seem to me to be possible ways to do that.

1. Accept more transfer seminarians despite negative recommendations from their home diocese, on a case-by-case basis. I have met a number of former seminarians, who still believe they are called to the priesthood, who cannot fulfill their vocations because they didn't pass the ideological or behavioral litmus tests of their original sponsoring bishop or vocations office. They cannot get a positive diocesan recommendation despite good grades and seminary recommendations and positive psych evaluations, and so they haven't been able to land in a new formation situation. To not give them a hearing is, I believe, to give too much of one's own authority away. The bishop who dismissed the seminarian is in charge of his diocese, not all of them. Each bishop should make his own decision.

2. Understand the undertow of consensus-building. Bishops since Vatican II have had to balance their local authority with an extra super-authority that their predecessors did not have to attend to. There is a delicate balance in the communio of the Church, in which papal and episcopal authority both share full concern for a local Church. As the subject of the last two Councils, the science of this harmonic relationship is still new. And yet it is also in tension with the development of the national Bishops Conferences. No doubt the Conferences were organized as a means of enhancing  episcopal authority, but do they? Do they increase the authority and candor of the individual bishop, or do they guide him to conformity? I think it would be best to envision the Conferences as a tool to be used.

3. Close all sessions of USCCB meetings. As much as I enjoy tuning in--and by the way, it was great to hear a digital organ rather than a piano at Morning Prayer--it's none of my business. That is because it is serious business. Serious business cannot be conducted in front of TV cameras. Real transparency is a matter of candor and open debate, not livestream and on-demand.

4. Have the smell of the sheep--all of them. As a conservative Catholic, I'm aware that conservative Catholics can be a trifle annoying. And in today's "gotcha!" social media culture, some conservatives can be egregiously unkind. I'm not sure what to do about that, but I do know what could end what is sometimes called the "alternative magisterium," and that is a robust exercise of the authentic magisterium. For God's sake, teach us. Conservative Catholics can seem like they're organizing a coup, but if you talk to us, you'll realize that we're mostly just huddled together for warmth. What do we ask of God's Church? Faith. Faith is the door, the candle's glow, the way to charity and hope. You owe it to us. Not a shadow of it, not a NY Times/ WaPo - friendly version of it, but the real mind of Christ, revealed to the Church.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Really New Evangelization: Learning How to Lead a Chant Camp

Whenever I teach children Gregorian chant, I make a point of mentioning that back when I was their age, there was no one to teach me how to sing Gregorian chant. Their eyes widen: to these privileged few, having chant teachers is something to take for granted.

In an ideal world, every Catholic child could say the same.

Gregorian chant is native territory for children. It's simple rather than harmonic--nothing but one melodic line. It's beautiful. Every once in a while I will hear an absence of singing, and look over to catch one of my students looking off into the distance, absorbed in contemplation. And, it is united to the sacred text, with a power to speak to the Christian soul the song of salvation.

I suggest to the children that maybe when they grow up, they can teach chant too.

For those who would like to pass on this art to children, there is an opportunity to learn from an expert. Under the patronage of the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, Mary Ann Carr Wilson will be presenting a four-day workshop that trains music teachers and choir directors to conduct chant camps.

A chant camp is a multi-day learning experience, something like a choir rehearsal, and something like a musical Vacation Bible School. This intensive learning experience, which includes plenty of recreational time as well, is a way to instantly form a children's choir for a parish or school.

Putting on a Chant Camp, or any week-long event, is a daunting prospect, which is why this workshop is such a brilliant idea. Mary Ann, who has masterminded chant camps in several cities for nearly a decade, will teach people how to hold these revolutionary events in their own settings.

Children remember everything. The other day I saw a child whom I'd last taught a year ago, and he began singing this Alleluia for me--and then we sang it together. Just like the Church should be.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Extraordinary Form Captures the Imagination

From Commonweal (!!)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Listening to Young People

Archbishop Chaput turns over his weekly column to a college-age Catholic, to hear about his experience of living a life of faith.
It’s in listening to God with the ears of our hearts that we’re given the opportunity to say yes to God’s call. It’s by our personal yes that we embark on our own “decisive missions” — our vocations — and it’s our mission that makes life with Christ such a wonderful pursuit to be shared with others. This is how authentic, nurturing Catholic community is built, and this is how, with renewed focus and zeal on the part of the Church, young people can claim their faith and set off on faith’s great adventure.

More here.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Prayer for Korea

After the Angelus
Dear brothers and sisters,
I would like once again to bring to the beloved Korean people a particular thought in friendship and prayer. The talks that will take place in the coming days in Singapore can contribute to the development of a positive path, which will ensure a peaceful future for the Korean Peninsula and for the whole world. This is why we pray to the Lord. Together, let us pray to Our Lady, Queen of Korea, to accompany these talks.
["Ave Maria…"]
--Pope Francis, today.


The Korean peninsula expresses its unity in a simple but hauntingly beautiful song of longing, the Arirang.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Guest Post: The devotion of a bygone time

Musician Randolph Nichols offers reflections on a work of art that depicts the Kingship of Christ among the lowly:

A year ago this Corpus Christi Sunday I listened to Fr. Michael Kerper, pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Nashua, NH, develop his homily around a painting of the Irish artist Aloysius O’Kelly (1853-1936). Until that moment I was unaware that Ireland had produced any prominent painters. I suppose one can be forgiven that lapse given that O’Kelly’s work in question, “Mass in a Connemara Cabin” (1883) - the only painting of an Irish subject ever to be exhibited at a prestigious Paris salon - vanished at the end of the nineteenth century and remained missing for a century before turning up in a rectory in Edinburgh. That painting now resides in the National Gallery of Ireland.

"Mass in a Connemara Cabin" by Aloysius O'Kelly (1883)

As a painter, O’Kelly doesn’t demonstrate any of the breakthrough developments of his more famous contemporaries like Monet, Manet, or Degas and the religious subject of the aforementioned painting was by then out of fashion. There is something about “Mass in a Connemara Cabin,” however, that compels. It successfully captures the mood and atmosphere of a particular time, place and people and the viewer senses the religious, political and economic repression without having to know the details of 19th-century Irish life.

Looking closely at the painting, many factors come into play: the claustrophobic feel of enclosure, the women’s well-worn yet evocative shawls and scarves, the kneeling bodies directed toward the focal point - the young white-clad priest (even the cupboard dishware leans toward him); and of course, there is that dramatic gesture of the woman in the lower right corner.

As its title suggests, the painting reflects the deep piety of parishioners crowded into someone’s home as a young priest says Mass. Others see more, particularly since the priest seems to be giving the final blessing and that Aloysius O’Kelly and his family were steeped in revolutionary politics. His three brothers were Fenians and his sister married into the family of James Stephens, founder of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. After the failed Rising of 1867 two of the artist’s brothers were exiled to New York and during this period Aloysius moved to Paris to begin studying at the École des Beaux-Arts.

After O’Kelly returned to Ireland in the early 1880s, he began to visually capture the bleak existence of working class people on the west coast during very turbulent times. Against the backdrop of the struggle between tenants and landlords, the celebration of Mass was often a precursor to social and political gatherings. The significance of O’Kelly’s Mass may not be the Mass itself but what comes after, the unseen but anticipated.

However you read this painting, I find painful irony contrasting recent events in Ireland with this scene of devotion from the early 1880s.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Lux Aeterna for Memorial Day 2018

Come on over to my blog at Sacred miscellany and enjoy this thoughtful arrangement by Eriks Esenvalds.

Subscribe to my blog or try to come by regularly if you like. Always a cappella and always sacred!

Wishing you all the best! Mary Jane

Saturday, May 26, 2018

See You in Chicago? Come to the CMAA Colloquium!

There is still some time and still some places available for singers who want to have a ripping good time singing chant and polyphony, networking and hanging out with lovers of sacred liturgical music, working with some of the “best of the block” in the field, and taking their own skills and experience up to another level.

From June 25 to June 30, 2018, there will be beautiful music at the lakeside campus of Loyola University, with  Masses celebrated in the Madonna della Strada chapel. Extraordinary Form, Ordinary Form, Latin and English, and now Spanish! Head over to the CMAA website and see all the opportunities to sing music you love.

If you’re a beginner at singing, fear not! The basics of chant are taught and there is a special choir to introduce you to the intricacies of polyphony. There’s no “karaoke choir” here. Instead you have a chance to work on skills with a welcoming community. Everyone was a beginner once upon a time; the best of us remember it!

Put the kitchen remodel on hold, see if the car won’t hold out one more year, whatever! Come to Chicago and discover the joy of great liturgical music that YOU are a part of.

Your spirits will be lifted and your faith strengthened. What more do you want?

See you at Loyola in June!

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