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:  6.5.6.5 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.






Friday, December 15, 2017

Advent Music

Church Music Association webmaster Richard Chonak and I were quoted in an article in the National Catholic Register this Advent.

The article explores the Church's Advent song--as distinct from that of Christmas.

It is indeed a blessed time, and so very brief!


Monday, December 4, 2017

July 2018: Sacred Music Symposium in British Columbia

News from the north:

Saints Joachim & Ann Parish, Aldergrove B.C., will be hosting the inaugural B.C. Sacred Music Symposium, July 20-22, 2018. 
The aim to bring together musicians of all skill levels, and all people of good will with a general interest in sacred music, for a weekend of instruction, collaboration and fellowship. There will be an opportunity to attend practical workshops (beginner, intermediate and masterclass) and lectures; and to experience the riches of the Church’s musical tradition in the celebrations of Mass (in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms) and the Divine Office.  
We are also very excited to announce that our keynote speaker and celebrant of the symposium’s principal Mass will be Bishop Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Early registration for the symposium opens January 2018. Please see the parish website for more information: http://www.stsjoachimandann.org/symposium .

Blessing of a Church; Dedication of an Altar (official texts)

A generous reader has sent in a document that came his way, comprising two rites excerpted from the Pontificale Romanum: the Order of Dedication of an Altar, and the Order of Blessing of a Church.

It's not often easy to locate a copy of this specialized liturgical book, so we are happy to share it. If anyone has a church construction or renovation project underway, it could come in handy for preparing those services.

This (partial) book (11 MB) contains the edition issued by Pope Paul VI in 1977, with instructions and text, all in Latin, for those two rites, and it provides the relevant chants for the psalms to be sung at the various stages of each rite.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Giving Tuesday

There are two great ways to give to the Church Music Association: Membership, and donations.

Often donations are given outright, and some for a specific purpose such as funding scholarships to the CMAA Colloquium or the Winter Intensive, or to support our publishing efforts that make high-quality liturgucal resources widely available to an international readership.

***

I thought I might mention another group that some of our readers might like to support, The Labouré Society.


The Society exists to help people who have discerned a religious or priestly vocation, but who have student loan debt that must first be discharged.

Some dioceses and religious communities have funding available, but many do not. So the Society gives them a way to raise funds.

It would be a shame if a genuine vocation went unrealized, simply for a lack of money.

Their biographies and giving opportunities may be found here.

Monday, November 27, 2017

FSSP chant recording featured on PBS News Hour

'Tis the season for some friendly media coverage of religion, and PBS is offering a sweet little feature today on their news show about the Fraternity of St. Peter's seminary in Nebraska, and the rather successful Gregorian chant album produced there. Enjoy:
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/gregorian-chants-are-a-hit-at-this-nebraska-seminary

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sancta Cecilia, ora pro nobis


Monday, November 20, 2017

Want a Youthful Church? Sponsor Children's Choirs!

One of the Christian denominations is struggling with rapidly decreasing attendance and involvement in parish life. What is the answer?

Some think--as I do--that the "silver bullet" for this and for many other problems in Church life is the widespread establishment of Children's Choirs.

This is not difficult to do but there always seems to be a more important program. Like youth ministries that cater to young people but never ask them to share their gifts. Or like some catechetical programs that only scratch the surface of Catholicism, and from which young people "graduate" and leave the Church behind as well.

In a classical choir, young people are immersed in beauty and liturgy in a way that will not easily be forgotten. They come in contact with treasures of Scripture, set to music, deeply informing their young souls to be accustomed to the things of God.

A recent article argues the facts of the case:
Choirs represent a “massive opportunity” for churches, he argues. “If you want to have a vibrant church ministry, then music is a really easy win. Children are keen to be part of it, and there is still a lot of talent out there in terms of leadership; it just needs a little bit of money thrown at it.” Through its outreach programme, Cathedral Sing, the cathedral is working with thousands of children every year.
 Most of the choristers at the cathedral come from unchurched families. The mother of one chorister baptised and confirmed last Easter is now exploring ordination; the parents of another were confirmed at the same time as their son’s baptism. “People come to the choir because they want music, but then subsequently find faith through that music,” he observes.
... He regrets the low expectations of children’s abilities. “Standards were so high, and people believed that children could achieve great things as musicians at an early age,” he explains. “Now, too many people dumb down music for kids. . . One school spent a whole term learning to sing “Amazing grace”, which is diabolical. You should be able to teach that in two minutes, and have them singing it from memory, frankly.”
... I get lots of requests saying: ‘We have an ancient choir: is there anything you can suggest?’ and I say, ‘Yes, create a children’s choir. “You need to find the money to pay someone to do it, and have enough money to resource it. If you don’t resource music in your parish, and have bad music, what do you expect is going to happen?”
Much, much more here. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Bishops' November Meeting

I've been following the USCCB's November meeting, and found much that was truly edifying: the order, the reverence with which the prayers were read, the Apostolic Nuncio's exhortation to show the culture "the good, the true, and the beautiful," and the priorities of the bishops all seem so strong. It's really an exciting time, or as the nuncio said, potentially "a Kairos moment."

One very interesting thing happened outside the meeting, at the press conference after the morning sessions. A press representative from America Magazine asked whether divisive, renegade, misrepresentations of Catholicism, especially in social media, were being adequately addressed by the bishops.

Currently America Magazine's social media is running a headline quoting USCCB President Cardinal DiNardo, who laudably spoke about resisting division caused by hot-button issues.

It strikes me that America Magazine as a promotor of irenicism on hot button issues is an unusual role, and also that their call for more stringent episcopal oversight of independent uses of media is perhaps unintentionally ironic.

It is indeed an interesting time!