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- 

Christ is Risen! Come over to to share the the rejoicing

Please click over to my latest blog post at for a wonderful YouTube video of a Serbian Easter hymn. It's full of singing, blossoming trees, Easter eggs, and children. And, hey, it's Bright Monday for the Eastern Orthodox.

You can't have too much Easter! Christ is Risen!

Friday, April 6, 2018

"Lower your nets"

In today's Gospel, the professional fishermen who followed Jesus caught nothing all night, but at His word they lowered their nets again and they hauled in huge numbers of fish.

Every pastor wants to fill the nets and gather in the sheep, by hook or by crook, but the question is, how is that done?

When we look at the data, some surprising truths emerge.

Researchers recently decided to study why young people become Christians, and one particular statistic seemed strange, because it pointed to the effect of Church architecture on young people.
Around 13 per cent of teenagers said that they decided to become a Christian after a visit to a church or cathedral, according to the figures.

The influence of a church building was more significant than attending a youth group, going to a wedding, or speaking to other Christians about their faith.

Jimmy Dale, the Church of England’s national youth evangelism officer, said his team had been “shocked” by the results. (More here.)
Some might say that visiting a Church as a tourist is not a very community-oriented reason for becoming Christian, but I disagree. Ecclesial art is very communal. It puts us in contact with other Christians who are our brothers and sisters, even though we may be separated from us from them by centuries of earthly life. They put their faith in stone, in a way that the Scriptures use as a symbol of the Church itself, with Jesus variously as the cornerstone or the capstone. "You too are living stones," the great cathedrals seem to say. At least, this is the message young people are receiving.

Problematically, however, the great cathedrals often obscure this message with various kinds of "updating." For example, some of the stunning early Gothic churches in Paris on the banks of the Seine have large cubes of stone standing in their sanctuaries as completely incongruous modern altars. Other churches have carelessly placed microphones and cords and digital pianos amid the pricelessly effective evangelical spaces of Europe. Worst of all is the practice of posting disposable flyers in the primary colors and cartoonish shapes of eurotrash art, advertising this or that expensive, ineffective, "pastoral" initiative.

There is room in the Church, of course, for new art. Some of those same early Gothic churches have layers and layers of paintings, either stenciling or figurative, and some better than others. It is not one generation that builds the great cathedrals. In the exceptional case of the Cologne Cathedral, the integrated work of the exquisite, unified building spanned six centuries.

There is always room for more great art.

Extended Early Registration for CMAA Courses at Duquesne

Yes, this is much better than turning up an old Easter egg under the sofa.

The reduced rate for the excellent CMAA courses this summer at Duquesne has been extended to April 14th!  So this would be a good time to get off the fence, register, and save some bucks.

You can find all the information and registration over at the CMAA web pagesdevoted to these courses.

Improve your own knowledge of chant, study with a monk of Clear Creek Monastery, or learn secrets of working with children. All courses taught by experts to congenial classmates - do come!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Sacred Miscellany

Lovers of Sacred Music are cordially invited to visit my blog at sacred miscellany for a taste of Great Saturday Lamentations from the East. Better yet, subscribe to the blog and never miss a moment of interesting and beautiful sacred a cappella music.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Listening to Young People

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Is the Vatican listening to young people? Part II

The young man who questioned whether the final presynodal document accurately reflected the concerns expressed by his fellow young Catholics online has appended this note to the relevant paragraph:
(Edit: for those into online conspiracy theories, we were passed the phrase ‘Extraordinary Form’ by the Synod social media team, and we changed it based on the above translation issue, an edit among many. No Vatican cover up to see here folks.)
"Conspiracy theories" aside, it is nonetheless apparent that there exists for the benefit of the Church's bishops a huge amount of raw data, written by young Catholics, explaining to the listening Magisterium exactly what is on their minds.

Fifteen THOUSAND young people took time to express themselves in Facebook groups.

Edit: According to interviews conducted by Crux, volunteers reduced the 1000+ responses from each of the Facebook groups into summaries of only one (Portuguese) to three (English) pages.

This is more information than can be summarized for a working group, drafting three versions of a final document, in one week.

Since the organizers of the presynodal meeting are eager that the Church be "a transparent, welcoming, honest, inviting, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive community," why not "listen," in a thorough way, to what these thousands of young people have said?

This would certainly be valuable information whether there were a synod or not. Shouldn't the Facebook groups'  input be given to an independent organization of sociologists, accustomed to transforming enormous amounts of raw ecclesial data into useful reports?

Edit 2: Crux reports today that the five volunteers who compiled the Facebook posts for their language groups mentioned "Extraordinary Form" 3 times in their summaries.