Monday, March 30, 2015

Semana Santa in Popayán: 1. Looking ahead to the festival

(The Chant Café welcomes J. Richard Haefer, professor emeritus of music, Arizona State University, for a series of articles. This week, Dr. Haefer is writing to us from Popayán, Colombia, where he is observing Holy Week and attending the 52nd year of the Festival de Música Religiosa.
Here he gives us some background on the event.)

For centuries Holy Mother Church has used and encouraged drama as a means of catechizing the people. Witness the recitation of the Rosary and the Via Crucis known to nearly all Catholics, though today rarely presented in dramatic fashion. Less well known are the mystery or miracle plays prevalent in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, and still practiced in many out-reaches of Catholic missionary territory. Musicians would know the “Play of Daniel” with its monophonic melodies, and Catholics in the Southwest of the United States may have participated in Los Pastorelas or Las Posadas (the latter encouraged by the Knights of Columbus throughout the U.S., though with little musical information). Also known in the Southwest and in northern Mexico are the Lenten festivities of the Yaqui and Mayo (not Maya) Indians where members of the cults of Phariseos and Chapayacas make promises or vows such as not speaking during the 40 days of Lent, as an offering of penance to Our Lord.

All of the dramas mentioned above and more owe their origin in the New World to the Hispanic missionaries of the 15th – 19th centuries. Such is Semana Santa in Popayán. The Holy Week processions and celebrations in Spanish cities such as Seville, Salamanca and Murcia are well known, featuring large floats of statues organized by fraternities portraying Passion Week in the life of Christ and offered as a penance each year. The priests who accompanied the Conquistadors and later colonizers brought this tradition to the New World which continue in many locations in one form or another. The town of Popayán in southwestern Colombia has presented the tradition of religious processions for more than 450 years. As the most developed of Holy Week activities in Colombia, the festivities were added to the UNESCO list of Intangible World Heritage in 2009.

Some five decades ago a festival of religious music was added to the Holy Week
The Teatro Guillermo León Valencia in
Popayán (credit: Telepacifico)
celebrations in Popayán, now one of the longest continual festivals of religious music. In the next few days I will review some of the musical activities of that festival for the readers of The Chant Café.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to reflect on the difference between “sacred” music and “religious” music. Holy Mother Church has given us not only distinct criteria to define such music, but also several centuries of examples in the treasury of Catholic sacred music, which unfortunately have been forgotten by most. There exist, however, many examples of religious music appropriate for concerts during Holy Week, which although not “sacred” might direct our thoughts and hearts to the Passion of Our Lord: for example, the music of Bach comes to mind. We will see in the next few days what Popayán has to offer.

One final thought for today refers to the music of the processions. Though not part of the music festival per se, it might be that the alabados and alabanzas sung during the processions may prove to be the most “sacred” music of the overall festivities.  The procession of last night, Viernes de Dolores (Friday of Sorrows), had only secular music, as two local bands led and concluded the procession that featured ten beautiful “pasos” with life-size statues, each carried on the shoulders of eight young men.     The religious significance of each Holy Week procession, the statues, and other elements, such as the flowers featured on each paso, indicate that more than 450 years of visual catechism has successfully developed a Catholic culture within this part of Hispanic America.

Musica Sacra Florida 2015 Chant Conference

Although it is Holy Week, we should remember that May will be here before we know it. And May 15th & 16th are the dates for the Musica Sacra Florida Conference at Ave Maria University.  This is a wonderful small conference that welcomes beginners learning to read square notes, as well as more experienced singers interested in semiology and the propers.

The keynote speaker will be Father James Bradley, a fascinating Ordinariate priest.  There are two liturgies, one Extraordinary Form and one Ordinary Form, as well as an accessible sung Lauds.  Faculty include Drs. Susan Treacy, Mary Jane Ballou, and Ed Schaefer.

New this year - a Saturday workshop on chant for children, led by Michael Olbash and a workshop for cantors (or would-be cantors) on bringing chant to their parishes.

Learn more and register online at Musica Sacra   Housing is available on campus at a very reasonable rate.

Join us!

Christus factus est: Holy Week is Upon Us

This text encapsulates one of the most important themes of this upcoming holy week: Christ’s willing sacrifice on the cross for His (and our) eventual glorification. We could all do well to meditate upon this text as we enter this sacred week.
Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis. Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum et dedit illi nomen, quod est super omne nomen.
Christ became obedient for us unto death, even to the death, death on the cross. Therefore God exalted Him and gave Him a name which is above all names.

This text is specifically from the Palm Sunday Mass, Good Friday Liturgy, and the Holy Saturday responsory for the office. It’s also used for the Exultation of the Holy Cross, and on Holy Thursday in the EF.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Omega Effect-wait for it.

I write this article to give encouragement to all liturgical musicians who also are actively engaged in planning the liturgical processes and future of their assigned parishes. Enlightenment, as you will hear and have likely already found, comes in a moment. Bring that seed to fruition is another story. This is ours....

Hi there! Been a while.

Indeed, good things come to those who wait. But a portion of that waiting must be a vigilance towards "carpe diem."

Years ago, I wrote an article whose inspiration came from one of the seminars in the New Orleans Chant Intensive through the genius and encyclopedic medium of Professor William Mahrt, grand and esteemed president of CMAA. In the advanced chant group the subject of whether there existed a strategy by which the Mahrt concept of "stuffing the Mass" could actually be accomplished. (This notion I must claim as providing impetus, as my local situation I foresaw as likely never being able to fully realize the good professor's mantra of "The Paradigm," essentially a Solemn High Mass sung in either an EF or OF protocol. "Stuffing the Mass" essentially means a compatible programming of the proper processionals and the versions of other propers (Gradual/Alleluia/Tract/Sequences) along with the now-customary expectations of fourth option hymns.

You can look it up here, but Mahrt (at the time) did seem to almost have a light bulb moment in NOLA when he came up with the tradition and solution, "Circumambulation." Readers of SACRED MUSIC will quickly recall his recent article in which he explicates the concept of enveloping the congregation through two processions, the Entrance and Offertory.

Well, I'm happy to report that after lo these many intervening years, we here in Central California were enabled to realize the feasibility, and more so, the beautiful viability of circumambulation at four of our Passion Sunday Masses in our mother parish (of four merged parishes.) We had prepared the congregation, or actually the whole parish, through articles in the bulletin even though the procedure would really only work at our mother parish. Our pastor and designated associate both were "bought in" at our liturgical committee meetings months before in which we considered options for Passion Sunday. And because the concept is actually quite simple to enact there was very basic preparation for acolytes and deacons to assimilate by instruction by our liturgical coordinator and myself over the course of the four Masses.

Simply, circumambulation literally means "walking around." Liturgically it means that the Introit begins not at the narthex doors into the nave, but from the sacristy, as commonly done at daily Mass. Instead of me (or some other musical leader) announcing the hymn and the invitation to stand, the crucifer rings the sacristy bell, everyone stands, the ministers assemble and reverence the altar and proceed down our north (stage left) aisle as the schola sings the proper Introit (in our case, chanted vernacular.)

Of course, on this Sunday under the second rite, the "In Nomine...collect...blessing....Gospel, etc." interrupts the full procession which was by design in our situation. And then as the Entrance procession was resumed the taking up of the hymn "All glory, laud and honor..." accompanied the entourage into the center aisle and sanctuary.

We had also planned to have the Passion chanted (three schola chanters from the GIA ritual settings) at these Masses only, so that the "solemn elevtion" of these particular "Sunday Masses" would coincide with the processions.

To complete the whole circumambulation process, the crucifer, light bearers and acolytes proceeded down the opposite south aisle to enfold the procession of the gifts to the sanctuary, thus enabling us to sing both the Offertorio and the hymn "O Sacred Head."

To sum up, both the associate pastor and pastor were quite taken with the simple elegance of Dr. Mahrt's brainstorm solution that had its genesis to this participant a number of years ago in NOLA. Though we all here are in his debt for this beautiful realization, the effect attests simple to 'soli Deo gloria."

I see this becoming normative for at least one or a few more Sunday Masses here in Central California . And, more hopefully, this watershed moment bodes well for whenever the construction of our 2500 capacity Church is complete and dedicated.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

On the Fifth Centenary of the Birth of St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Jesus, famous for her mystical treatises, is less well-known for her songs of "pious recreation." Like her daughter St. Therese and her father and brother St. John of the Cross, she had the gift of writing in the dense form of poetry. On feast days she would compose extra-liturgical texts that would be sung to familiar tunes, in procession or at recreation times.

The few lines to this song were not written as a "pious recreation" but as a personal reflection in La Madre's breviary, and have inspired many musical treatments. The music here was written by a Carmelite nun, and nuns from around the world join together from their enclosures to sing, "Let nothing trouble you, nothing frighten you. Everything passes; God doesn't change. Patience gains everything. The one who has God lacks nothing. God is plenty."

An invocation as we begin Holy Week

English translation:

Hear, O heaven, my words full of longing and suffused with joy.
Echo: I hear!

I beseech you,
tell me who is she that rises up, bright as the dawn, and I shall bless her.
Echo: I shall tell you!

Say if this lady, lovely as the moon and glorious as the sun, fills with gladness the earth, heavens and seas.
Echo: Mary!

That sweet virgin Mary,
foretold by the prophet Ezechiel, that eastern gate,
Echo: The same!

that sacred and joyful portal through which death was expelled and life renewed;
Echo: Thus!

who is always a trusted mediator between God and man for the forgiveness of sins.
Echo: a mediator!

Let us all therefore follow her, through whom we may with grace deserve to attain life everlasting.
Echo: let us follow!

May God the Father,
and the Son, and the mother whose sweet name we invoke, grant solace to the afflicted.
Echo: Amen!

Blessed art thou, virgin Mary, for ever and ever.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Stress is Contagious

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal cited a study that showed that a high-stress boss can communicate his own feelings to subordinates.  The person who is always rushing around makes others anxious (and "rush-y") as well.

What does this have to do with sacred music?  Well, what kind of director are you?  Insecure, easily threatened when someone asks a question you can't answer, always rooting around in your music, never quite prepared?  Is the result a nervous choir? I hope not!

However, wouldn't you love to feel secure in your understanding of chant?  Experienced with high-level polyphony?  Up-to-date on what some of the best and brightest have to say about the present and future of sacred music in the Latin Rite?

The Church Music Association of America (CMAA) is here to help.  The Summer Chant Intensive from June 23-26 at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh can make all the difference to a schola director's life!  You'll be grounded in the modes, familiar with the style and shape of Gregorian chant, and experienced in chant's role in the Divine Office and the Mass.

The Summer Colloquium is another saturation experience for church musicians - just about all the chant, polyphony, and liturgy anyone could hope for.  From June 29th to July 4th, beginning to advanced singers will have the opportunity to work with some of the finest musicians in the United States and Europe. Breakout sessions will also be available on topics from children's programs and chironomy to semiology.  Plenary speakers and a special course for priests, deacons, and seminarians, as well as a full complement of Ordinary and Extraordinary Form Masses make this a one-of-kind time.  And there's still ample opportunity for networking and just plain old conversing with old friends and new.  Also at Duquesne University this year.

You'll come away stronger, surer, and heartened!  So head on over to the CMAA website and get onboard! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

True Beauty; Beauty and Truth. The Beauty of Christ.

A message that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now the Pope Emeritus) sent to a meeting of the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation in August 2002. The group was meeting in Rimini, Italy.

Every year, in the Liturgy of the Hours for the Season of Lent, I am struck anew by a paradox in Vespers for Monday of the Second Week of the Psalter. Here, side by side, are two antiphons, one for the Season of Lent, the other for Holy Week. Both introduce Psalm 44 [45], but they present strikingly contradictory interpretations. The Psalm describes the wedding of the King, his beauty, his virtues, his mission, and then becomes an exaltation of his bride. In the Season of Lent, Psalm 44 is framed by the same antiphon used for the rest of the year. The third verse of the Psalm says: "You are the fairest of the children of men and grace is poured upon your lips."

Naturally, the Church reads this psalm as a poetic-prophetic representation of Christ's spousal relationship with his Church. She recognizes Christ as the fairest of men, the grace poured upon his lips points to the inner beauty of his words, the glory of his proclamation. So it is not merely the external beauty of the Redeemer's appearance that is glorified: rather, the beauty of Truth appears in him, the beauty of God himself who draws us to himself and, at the same time captures us with the wound of Love, the holy passion ("eros"), that enables us to go forth together, with and in the Church his Bride, to meet the Love who calls us.

On Monday of Holy Week, however, the Church changes the antiphon and invites us to interpret the Psalm in the light of Isaiah 53:2: "He had neither beauty, no majesty, nothing to attract our eyes, no grace to make us delight in him." How can we reconcile this? The appearance of the "fairest of the children of men" is so wretched that no one desires to look at him. Pilate presented him to the crowd saying: "Behold the man!" to rouse sympathy for the crushed and battered Man, in whom no external beauty remained.

Augustine, who in his youth wrote a book on the Beautiful and the Harmonious ["De pulchro et apto"] and who appreciated beauty in words, in music, in the figurative arts, had a keen appreciation of this paradox and realized that in this regard, the great Greek philosophy of the beautiful was not simply rejected but rather, dramatically called into question and what the beautiful might be, what beauty might mean, would have to be debated anew and suffered. Referring to the paradox contained in these texts, he spoke of the contrasting blasts of "two trumpets," produced by the same breath, the same Spirit. He knew that a paradox is contrast and not contradiction. Both quotes come from the same Spirit who inspires all Scripture, but sounds different notes in it. It is in this way that he sets us before the totality of true Beauty, of Truth itself.

In the first place, the text of Isaiah supplies the question that interested the Fathers of the Church, whether or not Christ was beautiful. Implicit here is the more radical question of whether beauty is true or whether it is not ugliness that leads us to the deepest truth of reality. Whoever believes in God, in the God who manifested himself, precisely in the altered appearance of Christ crucified as love "to the end" (John 13:1), knows that beauty is truth and truth beauty; but in the suffering Christ he also learns that the beauty of truth also embraces offence, pain, and even the dark mystery of death, and that this can only be found in accepting suffering, not in ignoring it.

Certainly, the consciousness that beauty has something to do with pain was also present in the Greek world. For example, let us take Plato's "Phaedrus." Plato contemplates the encounter with beauty as the salutary emotional shock that makes man leave his shell and sparks his "enthusiasm" by attracting him to what is other than himself. Man, says Plato, has lost the original perfection that was conceived for him. He is now perennially searching for the healing primitive form. Nostalgia and longing impel him to pursue the quest; beauty prevents him from being content with just daily life. It causes him to suffer.

In a Platonic sense, we could say that the arrow of nostalgia pierces man, wounds him and in this way gives him wings, lifts him upwards toward the transcendent. In his discourse in the Symposium, Aristophanes says that lovers do not know what they really want from each other. From the search for what is more than their pleasure, it is obvious that the souls of both are thirsting for something other than amorous pleasure. But the heart cannot express this "other" thing, "it has only a vague perception of what it truly wants and wonders about it as an enigma."

In the 14th century, in the book "The Life in Christ" by the Byzantine theologian, Nicholas Cabasilas, we rediscover Plato's experience in which the ultimate object of nostalgia, transformed by the new Christian experience, continues to be nameless. Cabasilas says: "When men have a longing so great that it surpasses human nature and eagerly desire and are able to accomplish things beyond human thought, it is the Bridegroom who has smitten them with this longing. It is he who has sent a ray of his beauty into their eyes. The greatness of the wound already shows the arrow which has struck home, the longing indicates who has inflicted the wound" (cf. "The Life in Christ," the Second Book, 15).

The beautiful wounds, but this is exactly how it summons man to his final destiny. What Plato said, and, more than 1,500 years later, Cabasilas, has nothing to do with superficial aestheticism and irrationalism or with the flight from clarity and the importance of reason. The beautiful is knowledge certainly, but, in a superior form, since it arouses man to the real greatness of the truth. Here Cabasilas has remained entirely Greek, since he puts knowledge first when he says, "In fact it is knowing that causes love and gives birth to it. ... Since this knowledge is sometimes very ample and complete and at other times imperfect, it follows that the love potion has the same effect" (cf. ibid.).

He is not content to leave this assertion in general terms. In his characteristically rigorous thought, he distinguishes between two kinds of knowledge: knowledge through instruction which remains, so to speak, "second hand" and does not imply any direct contact with reality itself. The second type of knowledge, on the other hand, is knowledge through personal experience, through a direct relationship with the reality. "Therefore we do not love it to the extent that it is a worthy object of love, and since we have not perceived the very form itself we do not experience its proper effect."

True knowledge is being struck by the arrow of Beauty that wounds man, moved by reality, "how it is Christ himself who is present and in an ineffable way disposes and forms the souls of men" (cf. ibid.).

Being struck and overcome by the beauty of Christ is a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deduction. Of course we must not underrate the importance of theological reflection, of exact and precise theological thought; it remains absolutely necessary. But to move from here to disdain or to reject the impact produced by the response of the heart in the encounter with beauty as a true form of knowledge would impoverish us and dry up our faith and our theology. We must rediscover this form of knowledge; it is a pressing need of our time.

Starting with this concept, Hans Urs von Balthasar built his "Opus magnum of Theological Aesthetics." Many of its details have passed into theological work, while his fundamental approach, in truth the essential element of the whole work, has not been so readily accepted. Of course, this is not just, or principally, a theological problem, but a problem of pastoral life that has to foster the human person's encounter with the beauty of faith.

All too often arguments fall on deaf ears because in our world too many contradictory arguments compete with one another, so much so that we are spontaneously reminded of the medieval theologians' description of reason, that it "has a wax nose": In other words, it can be pointed in any direction, if one is clever enough. Everything makes sense, is so convincing, whom should we trust?

The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes, so that later, from this experience, we take the criteria for judgment and can correctly evaluate the arguments. For me an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas triumphantly faded away, we looked at each other spontaneously and right then we said: "Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true."

The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer's inspiration. Isn't the same thing evident when we allow ourselves to be moved by the icon of the Trinity of Rublëv? In the art of the icons, as in the great Western paintings of the Romanesque and Gothic period, the experience described by Cabasilas, starting with interiority, is visibly portrayed and can be shared.

In a rich way Pavel Evdokimov has brought to light the interior pathway that an icon establishes. An icon does not simply reproduce what can be perceived by the senses, but rather it presupposes, as he says, "a fasting of sight." Inner perception must free itself from the impression of the merely sensible, and in prayer and ascetical effort acquire a new and deeper capacity to see, to perform the passage from what is merely external to the profundity of reality, in such a way that the artist can see what the senses as such do not see, and what actually appears in what can be perceived: the splendor of the glory of God, the "glory of God shining on the face of Christ " (2 Corinthians 4:6).

To admire the icons and the great masterpieces of Christian art in general, leads us on an inner way, a way of overcoming ourselves; thus in this purification of vision that is a purification of the heart, it reveals the beautiful to us, or at least a ray of it. In this way we are brought into contact with the power of the truth. I have often affirmed my conviction that the true apology of Christian faith, the most convincing demonstration of its truth against every denial, are the saints, and the beauty that the faith has generated. Today, for faith to grow, we must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to enter into contact with the Beautiful.

Now however, we still have to respond to an objection. We have already rejected the assumption which claims that what has just been said is a flight into the irrational, into mere aestheticism.

Rather, it is the opposite that is true: This is the very way in which reason is freed from dullness and made ready to act.

Today another objection has even greater weight: the message of beauty is thrown into complete doubt by the power of falsehood, seduction, violence and evil. Can the beautiful be genuine, or, in the end, is it only an illusion? Isn't reality perhaps basically evil? The fear that in the end it is not the arrow of the beautiful that leads us to the truth, but that falsehood, all that is ugly and vulgar, may constitute the true "reality" has at all times caused people anguish.

At present this has been expressed in the assertion that after Auschwitz it was no longer possible to write poetry; after Auschwitz it is no longer possible to speak of a God who is good. People wondered: Where was God when the gas chambers were operating? This objection, which seemed reasonable enough before Auschwitz when one realized all the atrocities of history, shows that in any case a purely harmonious concept of beauty is not enough. It cannot stand up to the confrontation with the gravity of the questioning about God, truth and beauty. Apollo, who for Plato's Socrates was "the God" and the guarantor of unruffled beauty as "the truly divine" is absolutely no longer sufficient.

In this way, we return to the "two trumpets" of the Bible with which we started, to the paradox of being able to say of Christ: "You are the fairest of the children of men," and: "He had no beauty, no majesty to draw our eyes, no grace to make us delight in him." In the passion of Christ the Greek aesthetic that deserves admiration for its perceived contact with the Divine but which remained inexpressible for it, in Christ's passion is not removed but overcome.

The experience of the beautiful has received new depth and new realism. The One who is the Beauty itself let himself be slapped in the face, spat upon, crowned with thorns; the Shroud of Turin can help us imagine this in a realistic way. However, in his Face that is so disfigured, there appears the genuine, extreme beauty: the beauty of love that goes "to the very end"; for this reason it is revealed as greater than falsehood and violence. Whoever has perceived this beauty knows that truth, and not falsehood, is the real aspiration of the world. It is not the false that is "true," but indeed, the Truth.

It is, as it were, a new trick of what is false to present itself as "truth" and to say to us: over and above me there is basically nothing, stop seeking or even loving the truth; in doing so you are on the wrong track. The icon of the crucified Christ sets us free from this deception that is so widespread today. However it imposes a condition: that we let ourselves be wounded by him, and that we believe in the Love who can risk setting aside his external beauty to proclaim, in this way, the truth of the beautiful.

Falsehood however has another strategem. A beauty that is deceptive and false, a dazzling beauty that does not bring human beings out of themselves to open them to the ecstasy of rising to the heights, but indeed locks them entirely into themselves. Such beauty does not reawaken a longing for the Ineffable, readiness for sacrifice, the abandonment of self, but instead stirs up the desire, the will for power, possession and pleasure. It is that type of experience of beauty of which Genesis speaks in the account of the Original Sin. Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was "beautiful" to eat and was "delightful to the eyes."

The beautiful, as she experienced it, aroused in her a desire for possession, making her, as it were, turn in upon herself. Who would not recognize, for example, in advertising, the images made with supreme skill that are created to tempt the human being irresistibly, to make him want to grab everything and seek the passing satisfaction rather than be open to others.

So it is that Christian art today is caught between two fires (as perhaps it always has been): It must oppose the cult of the ugly, which says that everything beautiful is a deception and only the representation of what is crude, low and vulgar is the truth, the true illumination of knowledge. Or it has to counter the deceptive beauty that makes the human being seem diminished instead of making him great, and for this reason is false.

Is there anyone who does not know Dostoyevsky's often-quoted sentence: "The Beautiful will save us"? However, people usually forget that Dostoyevsky is referring here to the redeeming Beauty of Christ. We must learn to see him. If we know him, not only in words, but if we are struck by the arrow of his paradoxical beauty, then we will truly know him, and know him not only because we have heard others speak about him. Then we will have found the beauty of Truth, of the Truth that redeems. Nothing can bring us into close contact with the beauty of Christ himself other than the world of beauty created by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints, through whom his own light becomes visible.

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Night Set Afire

On March 21 at 7 pm, the Dominican friars are once again holding a candlelight event at St. Dominic church in Washington, DC.

The Lenten candlelight prayer service, which is followed by a light reception, follows upon a similar event held during Advent, of which a beautiful photo set may be found here.
The Dominicans of the U.S. Eastern Province are having a busy Lent. This coming Saturday, eleven of the friars will be ordained to the transitional diaconate. They are on retreat right now, and ask our prayers.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


One of the wonderful things about the expression "Reform of the Reform" is its realistic acceptance of the forward motion of history. Where are we now? it asks. Where should we be? How do we get there from here?

One sees this attitude reflected in the inexhaustible liturgical resources provided here and here by the Church Music Association of America. While keeping in mind the heights of glory to which we are called--an earthly liturgy that almost seamlessly unites the People of God with the sublimity and splendor of the heavenly liturgy which it truly joins--these resources are above all practical. They allow parishes to move forward, step by step, into a new and more abundant liturgical life.

Some years ago I heard a bishop who is very much attached to the liturgical reforms of the last century speak in an academic context. His refrain throughout his lecture surprised me very much. He said over and over, "We do not need a reform of the reform!"

I couldn't help wondering why this particular aspect of the Church's life--its source and summit, according to the Second Vatican Council--should alone be exempt from the rule Ecclesia semper reformanda est. Is there one particular moment in our swiftly moving time, either in the sixteenth century or the twentieth, at which the Church completes its self-examination and stops growing?

The Lord said, "By their fruits you shall know them." And this seems to be a good rule of thumb as we move forward in the liturgical reform in the new generation, some of whose young leaders of my acquaintance were barely alive yet in the twentieth century, with all its upheavals and revolutions, and perhaps something of an attitude of self-sufficiency.

What are the liturgical forms that best express the truths of faith and the relationship that the Church has with God? What are the forms of liturgical expression that lead right back into secularism? What forms accurately reflect the relationship that we enjoy with God? What liturgical expressions encourage ecclesial vocations? Is liturgically contemplative prayer possible? Is conversion? What musical atmospheres truly enhance the sacred  texts, so that the living and effective Word of God can be heard afresh by the human heart?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Daylight Savings Time

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ecclesiastical gossip

My favorite place to have lunch in Rome was actually a pleasant little Chinese place across the road from my parish church. One memorable day while studying St. Thomas Aquinas on a particular point, after praying at the little shrine to St. John Paul, I realized exactly what Thomas was doing. Emperor's chicken never tasted so delicious as on that day.

When near the Vatican I used to have a different chicken dish, the roasted chicken at Da Roberto's. I think it might have cost 7 or 9 euro, which is great on a student budget. There, as everywhere, it was obvious that food in Rome is really only an excuse for a good conversation. However, the chicken was good--although not as good as the "tram chicken" at Sant'Anselmo.

Rome is a place of talking. One morning I had run out of espresso at home and so was waiting for my first macchiato of the day at a little tourist bakery, but it was very slow in coming because the man who was making it was much more interested in arguing with another customer who was standing on the other side of me about something. Politics, I think it probably was. It was a loud and long conversation, and probably seemed even more so because of the wait for the coffee, which again tasted very good, once it came.

Knowing something juicy, some news, tastes very good in the mouth. Telling it seems for a moment to show power, knowledge, control. This is particularly true for us German-Irish Americans, for whom words, used sparsely, mean something definite, permanent, and enduring. It's perhaps less important in cultures where language is a means of exploring ideas, not only expressing them.

All in all, I think something ought to be borne in mind: No leader will appreciate the suggestion that he has been manipulated. Besides being often untrue, and almost always concerning matters that are much more complicated than one thinks, it's insulting and divisive.