Thursday, February 22, 2018

The morning call of the rooster

One of the wonderful things about translating Latin hymns is seeing their daring use of biblical imagery.

I doubt many writers would characterize the prophetic voice as a rooster, but Jesus did, and so St. Ambrose does too.

Of course the rooster simply tells of the morning, whose Sun is the true Source of light, a light that darkness can never overcome, and Whose word is worthy of trust.

Aeterne rerum Conditor

Eternal maker of all things
Of day and night the sov'reign King,
Refreshing mortals, You arrange
The rhythm of the seasons' change

The rooster sounds his morning cry
--Throughout the night he watched the sky--
For travelers, a guiding light
To tell the watches of the night.

The morning star that hears the cry
Dispels the darkness from the sky.
The demons, hearing the alarm
Abandon all their paths of harm.

The sailor hears and he is brave;
The sea becomes a gentle wave.
The rooster's call reached Peter's ears:
He washed away his sins in tears.

Our wav'ring hearts, Lord Jesus, see.
O look upon us, make us free,
For in Your gaze no fault can stay,
And sins by tears are washed away.

O Light, upon our senses shine.
Dispel our sleepiness of mind,
That we may sing Your morning praise,
Then, vows fulfilling, live our days.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Get Ready for the 2018 Summer Colloquium!

Make your plans now to join dedicated singers, directors, and conductors at Loyola University in Chicago for this year's Colloquium, June 25th to 30th.

  • There will be a distinguished faculty. 
  • There will be beautiful Masses in the splendid Madonna della Strada chapel! 
  • Couses in chant for beginners to advanced. 
  • A choice of polyphony choirs. 
  • Plenary speakers of note.
  • Breakout sessions on topics pertinent to the musician and lover of sacred music.
  • A chance to share strategies, successes, and ideas with colleagues at meals.
  • Reasonable rates for dormitory housing (with a hotel option for those who prefer it) 
  • Theory and practice meet here in six wonderful days.
  • An opportunity to step into a wholehearted immersion in the best music of the Latin Rite.

Better than my words, watch this video:

Why am I talking about this in February?

Early registration for the Colloquium ends on March 1st.

Why register now? You'll save money, of course!
Pay in full now for early registration and you save $50.
If you're a member, you'll also get your $50 member discount.
Do the math.

And of course, if you're not a member, you should be!

Visit the Colloquium pages for all the information on courses and choirs, meal plans and lodging, registration, and more.

We look forward to seeing you in the Windy City in June 2018!


Monday, February 19, 2018

The Liturgical Generation Gap and "Authenticity"

The following article is reprinted from 2014.

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to the fact that more formal worship styles appeal to a surprising demographic: the young. 

While many youth liturgical outreaches continue to focus on the casual and the near-secular in order to attract young people, this type of pastoral programming seems to be doing less well in many cases than those using more traditional forms. 

Not long ago I visited a parish that within a couple of years had built up a large group of young servers and a sizable youth schola for the traditional Mass--celebrated on a weekday evening. And this is hardly a unique case, just in the parishes I've personally visited.

There was a time, a naive time, when it seemed there was a desire among the young for an authenticity that had as its heart a certain casualness and spontaneity. In the 60s and 70s, it was the fashion to speak one's mind, follow one's heart, and go with the flow. 

I believe that it is likely that today's young people are likewise interested in authenticity--but in authenticity that has a much different character. Spontaneity is wonderful, in its place. Casualness, chattiness, hanging out--these are activities as popular among young people as they have ever been. But there seems to be a growing sensibility that not every place is the same. Mass is not the place for relaxed, casual activities. The true liturgical joys can be found by going deeper, by being more quiet, and by experiencing more and richer beauty.

When I was young there was no leadership in the Church of my experience for this kind of liturgical experience, which leads to a second and more practical reason that young people are enjoying good liturgy: it is available. If a teenager would like to attend a polyphonic Mass on a given Sunday, and if s/he is willing to travel a bit, it is available. If a family has been singing chant at home and would like to join a schola to improve their skills, it is possible--not always at the local parish, but somewhere.

I sometimes wonder why there was this enormous temporal gap in leadership of the sacred liturgy. I suppose some of the reason was political, some was a misunderstanding about the aims of the Second Vatican Council, and some was a skill vacuum of a kind that we are thankfully not likely to see again soon, if all the young people now involved in liturgy continue to persevere and serve.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Two Spanish Chant Conferences - Washington DC area

In April, the United States Bishops will publish the Third Edition of the Roman Missal in Spanish. To encourage seminarians, clergy, congregations and choir directors to learn the music, the Zipoli Institute will be offering a two-day conference in Spanish Sacred Music:

Fri, Apr 27 - Seminarians and Clergy
Sat, Apr 28 - Congregations and Choirs

Immediately following these conferences, and a mere 10 minute drive, Archbishop Alexander Sample will be celebrating a Solemn Pontifical High Mass on April 28 in the upper church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.  The Paulus Institute is sponsoring this event as the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum.

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Free Spirit Heresy

Studying Church history is like reading medical textbooks--one sees symptoms everywhere.

There aren't really any new heresies. Heresy is the original recycling movement. You run into Arianism in every age, for example.

Well this really bizarre heresy came out in the late 12th century, because of the delusions of a poor fellow named Amalric, who was so wrong that even though he had taken back his heresy during his lifetime, his body was exhumed and burned after his death. This is because his whacky ideas became influential, and became even stranger in the different versions believed by his followers.

Part of the problem with his teaching was the garden-variety pantheism that some people involved in the New Age buy into. People believe that they are divine, and all creation is divine.

It's thankfully hard to fool anyone with even a minimum of catechesis that this is true. As the 4th Lateran Council taught in its 2nd Canon, "We also reject and condemn that most perverse doctrine of the impious Amalric, whose mind the father of lies blinded to such an extent that his teaching is to be regarded as mad more than as heretical."

As with a lot of heresies, however, the Free Spirit heresy was more pernicious when it was more "spiritual." When put into terms that are religious--in this case, following the guidance of the Holy Spirit--all sorts of mayhem can follow.

You can see how this happens. Instead of blatantly claiming "I'm divine, so I know all," which everyone will realize is a psychosis, what if instead I said "The Holy Spirit is inspiring me to say or do such-and-such." In that case, I might still be appropriating infallibility to my thoughts, words, and actions, and because of the "spiritual" language, I might get away with it.

This has been a frightfully divisive issue in the Church since St. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in response to it. As in Corinth, the late medieval variations of the Free Spirit heresy often resulted in the countenancing of licentious behavior, because, after all, each individual is a law unto him or herself. Other effects are a reaction against priests and sacraments--presumably because I can commune with God all by myself.

You can see how this plays out in daily parish life too. Musicians can be subject to this fallacy. I might think that the Holy Spirit is inspiring me to sing a certain motet at offertory, and anyone who opposes the motet is opposing the Holy Spirit. This sounds crazy but people act like this, in a lot of different ways.

It's tricky, isn't it, because in fact we are given the Holy Spirit with the sanctifying grace of baptism. But how do we cooperate with that gift?

I suppose this is one of the reasons that humility, obedience, and sacred Tradition are emphasized in the Catholic faith, because my own "power" and "wisdom"--to use St. Paul's words--should be both subjected and in service to the community.

As St. Paul says in another place, "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect."

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Large Crowds Drawn to Venerate St. Francis Xavier

Those who are interested in understanding what Catholicism means must be prepared to incorporate this mysterious phenomenon into their views of what moves the hearts of the people.

The crowds attracted to the relics of St. Francis Xavier are reminiscent those who flock to visit his fellow Patron of the Missions, St. Therese of Lisieux.

The right arm of St. Francis Xavier, which baptized tens of thousands, has been on tour in Canada throughout the past month.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Two Basic Requisites in an Artist

In His Holiness' famous encyclical, Musicae sacrae disciplina, Venerable Pope Pius XII emphasized the need of two basic requisites in an artist, namely, an artist who will create true religious or sacred art. 
  • The artist must possess skill in the techniques of one's discipline, as the very title of the document points us.  
  • The artist must have faith in God which will give him/her the interior vision needed to perceive what God's majesty and worship demand.
Music, art and architecture form the Sacred arts with skill and Faith.
+Monsignor Richard Schuler (1920-2007) and his mighty legacy wrote prolifically on this very subject (c.f. Sacred Music, Vol 107, No 3, Fall 1980).  He said so eloquently:
"The work of art that the Church seeks will come from the trained and talented craftsman who has a vision of faith, is humble before the creativity of God in which he shares, and who has conceived in the depths of his soul a concept that he expresses in the material, but in which shines for the majesty of God."
May our Faith and skill bring honor and glory to God, as well as holiness to mankind.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

New Choral Scholarships at Christendom College

Christendom College offers $4500 in tuition reduction and free voice lessons for students starting in the Fall of 2018.

Starting next fall, there will be two one-year scholarships: one for a man (tenor or bass), and one for a woman (soprano or alto).  The scholarship will consist of $4,500 in tuition reduction and $1,500 toward voice lessons throughout the year.

Specifics can be found at this link: Christendom College Choral Scholarships 2018

The recipient is expected to attend sectional and full rehearsals throughout the year, sing at the Sunday Mass, the First Friday Holy Hour, help out at weekday Masses, sing in the Palestrina chamber choir and perform other duties that will be discussed at the interview.

Students will need to submit an audition video of one piece by March 1, 2018 and, if selected, will come to campus as a finalist to audition in person on Saturday, April 7.  If there are any questions, you should contact Dr. Kurt Poterack at:

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A New Basilica in Alexandria, Virginia

The elevation of the United States' latest Minor Basilica was announced today by the Ordinary of Arlington, Bishop Michael Burbidge.

St. Mary's Catholic Church in Alexandria was founded in 1795. One of the main sponsors of the original church building at the intersection of Church Street and the George Washington Parkway was Colonel John Fitzgerald, an aide during the Revolutionary War to General George Washington, who is said to have donated to the church's construction. That site continues to function as the parish cemetery, and the parish school is nearby, while a new church building is closer to the city center on Royal Street.

St. Mary's is an historic center in the region, the first Catholic church in Virginia and the "mother church" of a host of missions.

The sanctuary of the church was restored in 2010 with some of the original features that had been removed in the 20th century. A symposium featuring a discussion of the renovation was held at the Catholic University of America.

The music at the parish has recently been renewed as well. Today's announcement, for example, followed the singing of the Alma Redemptoris Mater, the seasonal Marian antiphon for this time of year. The parish sponsors a host of learning opportunities and a large number of active groups.

At the same time, St. Mary's is active in the corporal works of mercy. The parish partners intensively with a homeless shelter in the area called Christ House. Members of the parish serve weekly at a nearby Missionaries of Charity soup kitchen, and the parish, like other parishes in prosperous neighborhoods, is routinely (perhaps exhaustively) asked to support good causes in the Church.

One of the many lovely things about today's elevation is that the effort was spearheaded by a lay woman, Mary Petrino, who saw the reasonableness of the project and, as is her custom, worked tirelessly to accomplish it. Arlington is a uniquely blessed with a strong, young, often conservative presbyterate, and the combination of supportive and innovative lay people whose cooperation is welcomed by the pastors promises well for the future, as does the large number of men and women from the diocese pursuing priestly and religious vocations.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Adoration of the Magi

At the Lord’s appearing in His virgin birth,
Sudden grace and glory rush around the earth,
From the heights of heaven where a new star shines
To the Eastern Wise Men, to their rev’rent minds.

Who shall see His glory and His holy face?
Ev’ry time and country lie beneath His grace.
For this tiny Baby is the Lord of all:
Ev’ry knee shall bend and ev’ry throne shall fall.

Four and twenty elders cast before Him crowns.
Little children greet Him: “Blest is He who comes!”
What can bring the Gentiles to acclaim His praise?
Purity and wisdom and the light of grace.

Through the snares of Herod, past the envious foe,
Trav’ling past all wisdom that the mind can know,
Moving ever onward, into Bethlehem,
Where the Babe and Mother wait to welcome them.

Praise to God the Father for His Holy Son.
Praises to Christ Jesus, shining only One.
Praise the Holy Spirit for the gift of sight,
Guiding human footsteps to the Blessed Light.

 Kathleen Pluth
Copyright © 2005  CanticaNOVA Publications.  Duplication restricted.

Meter: D Suggested tune:  King’s Weston, or others: Une vaine crainte

Sunday, December 31, 2017

With thanks to Almighty God for the blessings of AD 2017

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Last-minute musical gifts

For those searching for the perfect gift during the Twelve Days of Christmas--perhaps for a Director of Music, organist, or priest who is working what amounts to a triple shift this weekend--I have a few suggestions that will not only fill your world with uplifting song, but will each in its own way support Church vocations.


William Wilson is an in-demand classical guitarist in my hometown of San Diego, who besides being an all-around great guy is also married to beloved CMAA Colloquium presenter Mary Ann Carr Wilson. When he isn't homeschooling their four sons in Latin and logic, he is making music.

Mr. Wilson's latest album is a collection of lullabies called "Berceuse pour bébé: Guitare classique" available on iTunes.


The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, are a monastic community of nuns who support themselves in part by making beautiful albums on various topics related to their vocation, such as the seasons of the liturgical year, and different types of prayer as well.

The available albums may be found on the monastery's website, as well as on Amazon.


In a departure from their usual annual liturgical album, the brothers of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph released what has become an astonishingly successful bluegrass album. 

From a spiritual point of view, the album preaches very directly about the perspective which life takes on from the reality of death. "What if today God should call you away? What would you give in exchange for your soul?" There are other subjects, including a brilliant original apologia for the life of an itinerant friar preacher written by one of the brothers, but as a whole the album functions as a paradoxically joyful memento mori--a calling to mind of death, and the serious questions that arise from death about the priorities one should have in life.

The Dominicans announced today that thirteen of their brothers will be making final vows in February 2018--obedience unto death. With successive class sizes of this size or nearly so, the expenses of their training and education must be enormous.

But so is the benefit to the Church, when people dedicate themselves to the life of the Gospel. We support them, and their lives benefit us. The Dominicans, for example, have begun a project of providing solid Catholic teaching at Ivy League and other universities in order to reach students at that important time of life.