Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Traditionalist-Progressive Common Ground Your input requested, if you please. I'm mulling over these seven points of common ground between liturgical progressives and traditionalists. There was a point 8, but it's gone out of my mind. Can you think of something I've missed? 1. From the start, liturgy must be a higher priority in most parishes. Though educators and catechists might disagree, most liturgy people of both left and right agree that liturgy gets short shrift in their parishes. In too many places, building a school takes precedent over a worship space. Sadly, some bishops actively encourage this misalignment of priorities. If Sunday liturgy is to achieve its fullest potential for sanctifying the faithful, beautiful and well-built churches will need to be first on the building effort, not a second thought once classrooms, gym, and ball fields are provided. 2. More clergy support is essential. Closely following from number 1, most every liturgically inclined person wants the parish priest behind worship 100%. Poor preachers, bored presiders, and clock-watching pastors sap the energy right out of liturgy, regardless of style. Music and liturgy should be a higher priority in seminaries. More than that, liturgy should more deeply inform a priest’s prayer life in order that his spiritual example becomes something to admire. We might all agree that such a good example is vital to the young and serves as a model for the other parishioners. How many people complain because their priest is too prayerful? 3. Catholic church music deserves the highest professional standards. Some pastors and long-suffering parishioners might wince at the thought, but the liturgy is generally better off in the hands of a highly skilled church musician. Many open-minded musicians are able to appreciate quality across the lines of various styles, even in genres with which they are unfamiliar. When done with skill, even disliked music can still be respected. In such instances, dislikes become more a matter of taste than anything else. At their best, a fine organist and chant schola will win grudging admiration from a person of modern tastes. And ensemble musicians, especially guitarists, can never be harmed by diligent attention to the musical craft. 4. Strive for higher standards in musical performance or repertoire. Any serious choir director will find deficiencies in his or her choir. Not sure about that? Maybe the director needs some updating, too. More skill in the hired positions in a parish should trickle down to the volunteers: except for the lazy and self-satisfied, we can all likely agree on that. A folk group can sing plainsong; an ensemble or chant schola might tackle a bit of polyphony; a skilled choir might expand its repertoire with some of the modern sacred music coming from Eastern Europe, or even try pieces from the Orthodox liturgy. Good choirs are more than a collection of good singers. Groups, be they singers or instruments should work on collective performance skills. Finding the very best repertoire is a natural outgrowth of the desire to excel. 5. Insist on higher standards in music publishing. Are the Catholic music publishers doing their very best to develop the very best church music? Do parish musicians settle for less than the best because it’s easier to plug in selections from a known composer’s twenty-somethingth collection? 6. Ordinary laity need a deeper appreciation of prayer and liturgy. Sure, triangulate the discussion and blame somebody else. But apathy in the pew is a most discouraging reality for many liturgical ministers. The centerpiece of liturgical reform has been “full and active participation.” And even traditionalist-leaning Catholics would agree that a deeper interior engagement in the liturgy is an ideal worth working toward. Avoiding the extremes of browbeaten alienation and wishy-washy passivity, people can be encouraged with baby steps toward a fuller understanding and appreciation for worship well done. Sharing the success stories in making this happen might yield some mutual appreciation among music directors in parishes heading in different directions. 7. Beauty is a quality anyone can appreciate. Beyond music, the internal décor of a church is often a vigorous flashpoint in the left-right struggle. Is it too much to ask that art be of high quality? Do we have common ground in saying that mass-produced statues are an inferior idea? Or maybe the whole danged thing is hopeless ...

Monday, June 28, 2004

Don't you know a soccer town when you see it? Report from a Rochester NY sports columnist: "The 14,426 fans who saw Freddy Adu and the rest of the D.C. United play the Rochester Rhinos Wednesday night at Frontier Field was a bigger crowd than attended any of Saturday’s four Major League Soccer games: 9,891 in Boston; 10,188 in San Jose; 13,407 in Columbus; and 13,833 in Dallas (for Adu and the United; the Burn averaged 7,965 in its first five home games this season)." O yeah. If only they could get that soccer stadium finished and nail down a team in MLS. (I'd get to see them play twice a year at Arrowhead versus the Wizards.) If they can draw 14K for an exhibition game (outdrawing a weekend gate in Dallas), I bet they could top off at 25 to 30 thousand for a game that really meant something. Given these numbers, Rochester deserves an MLS team over the Burn, and certainly over any of the other possible candidates that are being touted for a new team in 2005.
Out to lunch ... and I've got company A parishioner invited me out to lunch today. I welcome these opportunities to get to know people outside the church premises. You'd be amazed at the number of parishioners who smoke, drive interesting cars, and have good to medium taste in restaurants. Since my parish inventory report is due Wednesday, I jumped at the chance to get off the computer and get some human contact. You would not believe where I was escorted. You would not believe it: a lunch meeting for a Political Action Committee. Imagine that: a Catholic flaming liberal in a room full of Catholic flaming Republicans. If they only knew, I would not have had so many smiles returned when I waved and smiled at them. If they only knew, the microphone wouldn't have turned up anywhere near me during the question/answer phase. (Don't worry, I was polite to my escorts and chowed down on chocolate cake instead of asking the tough questions.) I think I did notice the news guy turning the tv camera away from me when I didn't applaud for our thief-in-ch -- oops, our president and his God-guided policies. Nice grilled chicken salad for lunch, but I think Michael Moore and John Kerry were more grilled than the fowl on my plate. Why I felt I was in St Blog's, amazingly enough. Did you note Archbishop Burke is in the news again? (Do a Google search or something and find the article yourself, if you really need to be brought up to speed on it.) On another blog, someone was in a quandry: what if they don't give you a clear-cut choice and you have two pro-abort politicians to vote for? Is your moral obligation to abstain from voting at all? I have bad news for those who think that good citizenship and faithful Catholicism means believing everything bishops and politicians feed you. Very bad news. Are you ready for it? It comes on the heels of my stirring experience of a Republican PAC pep talk. Are you really ready? If there is no pro-life candidate on the ballot, a good Catholic must run for elective office herself or himself. No kidding. If you have a well-formed moral conscience, you are well-informed on The Issue, if not the issues, and are fully aware that the Party -- oops, I mean the two parties -- don't give you a pro-life choice, you really do have to provide your own choice, get off your duff, and go for it. I saw a handful of good Catholic Republicans running for state and national office today. A few of them were even sitting at the non-reserved tables with the spies--I mean the good ordinary citizens like me. Some even had their small children in tow. Nice people, I think. Nice just like you. Run for office and this way you heap burning coals on the heads of your ignorant immoral Catholic friends who will smirk at you and say, "The Republicans are just as pro-choice as the Democrats, so I can still vote liberal and go to Communion, nyah, nyah, nyah." (Trust me, some liberals still use the word "nyah.") If you give them the choice of Democrat, Republican, or you, they will have to vote for you. They will have to. The alternative, of course, is to attend luncheons like I did and expand your sensibility beyond the annual trip to the voting booth and the nightly dose of "news" from our corporate masters at ABCESPNNBCCNNMTV.com. Of course, one still has to look for the lighter side of life. And after a lunch like that, I have an urgent need to see a certain film documentary to get my head back on straight. Anybody want to catch a matinee on Friday?

Friday, June 25, 2004

Cassini closes in on Saturn Go here to see what's up. I liked the analysis of Phoebe. I understand the science of how radiation (visible light, infrared, UV, etc.) reveals the substance of what is being viewed, but it's still marvelous to be able to say, "This is ice; these are carbon compounds; this is iron." Any ideas on why half of Iapetus is blacker than coal and the other half is like the Zamboni just finished with it?
On my bookshelf The Five Ages of the Universe by Fred Adams and Greg Laughlin Outstanding treatment of cosmology. The five ages, by the way, are: - the Primordial Era - the Stelliferous Era - the Degenerate Era - the Black Hole Era - the Dark Era And no, the first does not refer to pre-Vatican II, nor do the last three allude to the present state of the Church. Read the book for a fascinating and accessible description of what used to be, what's going on now (Era number 2), and what the next trillions of trillions of trillions of years have in store for the natural universe. In the on-deck circle: The Professor's House by Willa Cather
Wild Texts Chase John Allen’s wildly successful The Word From Rome seems to have inspired similar internet endeavors. Liturgy prof Edward McNamara answers a weekly question on ZENIT (scroll down for the liturgy feature). Lavinia Byrne of The Tablet now writes monthly for web surfers here. This month, Sr Byrne describes her "Wild Texts Chase," an attempt to hunt down the (in)famous Roman Missal II English translation that was deep-sixed by the curia a few years ago. Pointing out the wide (not wild) availability of the new Ordo Missae thanks to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, one of Byrne’s readers asked if the unseen ICEL translation of the second edition Roman Missal was anywhere to be found. Lots of stories on traditionalist web pages, Sr Byrne reports, but nothing beyond select quotes impaled on conservative swords – I mean pens. Any readers aware of internet copies of this? Anybody willing to post their working draft online? If you want to contact me with a link, I'll post it. And if you actually can download a full copy to me, I promise I'll upgrade my web site so as to publish a link here.
Catholic Response to "New Age" Challenges Earlier this month, the Vatican hosted a three-day conference on responding to New Age trends in modern culture. A brief CNS report is here. John Allen also weighed in on the topic in this week's column, The Word From Rome. Describing his visits to pilgrim sites in Spain, Allen wrote: "Having just completed a tour of Spanish Marian shrines, I can't help but feel they're onto something. If what contemporary seekers want is a mix of ancient wisdom with a lively sense of the angelic and the preternatural, places like Montserrat, Torreciudad and Pilar have it in droves. Perhaps rather than trying to reason its way out of the challenge posed by New Age movements, the church would do better to promote its alternatives." People don't drift from Catholicism for intellectual reasons. Most often it is some form of alienation or a recognition that the Church is spiritually inadequate in some way. Not everyone can afford a pilgrimage to Spain, or even domestic religious sites. But Allen's suggestion must be part of the Catholic response. Conference members also noted the blizzard of spiritual practices within Christianity as they conceded that even Catholics do not take advantage of the many fine opportunities within our tradition. Sadly, I find many parish priests ignorant of the distinctions and offerings of the Carmelites, Trappists, Benedictines, not to mention the various lay movements that have contributed to Catholic spirituality, especially in the last century. Parish clergy, in my experience, are often not the best advisors in this regard. Another piece of the problem is parish liturgy. Before people will commit to a pilgrimage or even an investigation of spiritual figures, they need to find inspiration in liturgy. Apologetics is nearly useless. If thirteen years of Catholic schools can't lasso in most of the crowd, believe me, the most astute Catholic intellect isn't going to do it, either. If a Catholic is concerned about New Age inroads, then I think these reform steps are self-evident: - Liturgy must replace grammar school education as the prime focus of parish ministry. Note this isn't an either/or proposition. It recognizes that Sunday Mass must, simply must be the first ministry focus for the leadership on out. That means building churches before schools. Without exception. - Religious Communities can do more to reach out to present their charism to the laity in parishes, not to mention in colleges and schools. - Dioceses should sponsor more events that encourage the liturgical arts, especially music. - Retreat centers can do even more to promote retreats of all sorts. - Parishes should regularly offer evenings of reflection and retreats, even when the initial attendance might be disappointing. - Every parish needs a well-preached mission annually. - Pilgrimages should be promoted, not just marketed for traditionalist-leaning Catholics, but revamped and revised for less experienced tastes, not to mention for progressive sensibilities. Despite the challenges and Catholic apathy, I'm convinced there has never been a better time to be a mystical Catholic.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

How To Reform Professional Sports Big topic, I know, but I just finished cutting the grass and my wife left me a pile of dishes to do ... 1. Every community gets a team in whatever sport they want. And unless the town burns down or slides into the ocean, the team sticks in place. "Expansion" teams start at the bottom and work their way up. No franchise movement whatsoever. 2. Introduce the notion of team relegation and promotion. Easy concept. If a city aspires to the major leagues, it must win the championship of its league and get promoted. As teams are promoted, last place teams in the upper league are relegated to the lower league. An owner wants to conduct a fire sale? No problem, chump; see you in the minors next year. LA wants an NFL team? Earn it the hard way, baby. 3. Unlimited free agency: a player signs a contract for a set period of time. At the end of said period, he or she is free to sign with the old team or any other team wishing his or her services. this would have the (hopeful) effect of keeping player salaries from escalating into the exosphere. Instead of two or three top free agents at a position, a club might opt for signing a younger pro or a lesser talent instead. 4. College athletic scholarships based on financial need only. Or academic ability. Put an end to the farce of NFL & NBA minor leagues on college campuses. If athletes want to go to college, great; if a carrot is needed, give them a bonus for education time when their pension kicks in. 5. Put a hockey team in Kansas City, for heaven's sake. Bobby Hull is talking about a WHA team in Cincinnati. They already have two minor league teams; what the heck do they need a third one for? This is just too much!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

East While researching my monthly column in Ministry & Liturgy, I ran across a small feature at the Catholic News Service (CNS) about bassist Nathan East. CNS touted his time with Eric Clapton, but I know East as a member of the jazz supergroup Foreplay. Which only shows that I don't read rock liner notes as carefully as I read the booklets that go with my jazz cd's. CNS reports: "(East) got his start playing bass in church. "When Raymond and David (two of East's brothers) were playing with the folk Mass at Christ the King Church in San Diego, where we all got started, there was a bass laying on the altar," East recalled. "I picked it up. I was surprised how easy it was. I could contribute from day one."" Starting the bass is fairly easy, but playing it well takes time and talent. I noted that Ray East, a contributor to the GIA African-American hymnals, is his brother. Today's lessons: - Read my liner notes more carefully. - If your guitar group doesn't have a pianist, you really need a bass player. Trust me on this one: you NEED a bass player. And even if you have a pianist, a bass player is still a very good idea.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Blogging will be at a low level for a few days And if it's not, you'll know I'm playing hooky. I have an article, plus my usual monthly assignment to turn in to my editor by next week. Top that off with two incoming clergy and a retiring pastor and real life will be busy the next few days. After Fr Bill retires, I have three days to complete the liturgy section of the parish insurance inventory. O yes, and the women's schola asked me if I knew of an equal-voices arrangement of O Sanctissima. Nothing on the choral public domain library, so guess who volunteered to scratch one together? I'm mulling over some "How to Reform" topics: baseball, college athletics, hockey, marriage, liturgy commissions/committees, parish choirs, confirmation, etc. Perhaps you have a topic for which you'd like to see me stick my neck out. I'll take all suggestions. My article is about "The Left/Right Controversy: Finding the Common Ground." So if you have any points you think worth covering, just let me know in comments below or e-mail me. I'm down to two choices for my SF novel. Once I choose between a scientific expedition of balloonists, sailors, and monks seeking to penetrate an impossibly high mountain range, or a strange inverted universe I dreamed about seven years ago, I'm going to keep to a 1000 to 2000 word per day discipline. Meanwhile, have a good week.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Happy Father's Day Things my dad passed on to me: love for music, seafood, sports, teasing children, family games, swimming, a competitive spirit Things dad didn't pass on: golf (never mastered the swing), billiards (never mastered the follow-through or position play), rooting for the Yankees After I finished college, we evolved our own Father's Day tradition. I would take him to one of the local restaurants that featured all-you-can-eat shrimp on the menu. Often, these were on the salad bar, so we would get three plates: two loaded up with the feast, and one for the shells. After I had moved away from Rochester, these feasts were often the occasion for catching up a little. I emphasize "a little" because dad, being born in 1913, was of the generation that didn't share or reveal much. Heartfelt conversations were minimal. A few months after Anita and I were married, we were heading out for some Saturday shopping. I mentioned I needed to check a gift store for a Father's Day card. My wife stopped in her tracks and looked at me strangely. "What," I thought, "It's not too early, is it?" Not exactly too early. But my father had died just six weeks before our wedding. Strange that my Father's Day routine was so embedded in my thinking: get a card early, make plans for a dinner, resurface good memories. I hear much of my dad in what I say and how I say things to Brittany. Mostly good, but I note my dad's occasional impatience from time to time. Mostly good, I hope. May your Father's Day's be complete with the good things of nurturing children. May God guide you with all the graces of caring for and protecting the weak, educating the innocent, consoling the sad, and sacrificing for the future. God help us all.
How to reform Catholic liturgical music 1. More schools for liturgical music are needed just about everywhere: a continuation and expansion of what NPM has provided for the past twenty years in training cantors, pianists, guitarists, ensemble musicians, and choir directors. 2. I leave out organists temporarily on the list above, because I've found that most organists do not lack for training once they have reached the college level. But I do think more should be done on the parish level to encourage organists in their musical infancy. Parishes should give organ teachers free access to parish instruments to hold lessons, then set aside rehearsal time each week for students. (One of my organists used to give all her piano students an optional sequence on the organ, then we crammed into the choir loft for a delightful recital. More people should follow this example.) 3. Most every parish needs a grand piano and a pipe organ, or minimally, one of the above. Ideally these instruments would be near each other and tuned for duets and ensembles. 4. Dioceses should foster composers' forums to get good new works circulating in parishes before they get published. 5. The USCCB should commission liturgical music from top-shelf composers. It should buy the copyrights for some music so it can be distributed free, especially to parishes that can't afford the resources available. 6. There should be more choir tours in one's own country and to the Third World. Beyond that, good choirs in a diocese could visit parishes too small to sustain larger choirs. 7. There should be more musical exchange between composers and liturgical musicians of different countries. 8. There should be more musical exchange between composers and liturgical musicians of different styles. 9. We should look upon the publishing glut as a good thing, given that liturgical musicians are up for the task of winnowing through large amounts of chaff to find that more good music is indeed being composed today than ever before. 10. Hire bounty hunters to strip unneeded carpet from churches. I probably haven't even covered all my soapboxes, but feel free to add your own.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

How to Reform the Catholic episcopacy Third installment of the popular "How to Reform" series ... 1. Local selection, if not election, returning to the most ancient practice of the Church. 2. A bishop's appointment to a diocese should be permanent at least ninety percent of the time, allowing for rare occasions when an experienced bishop would be needed to head a major see. I would not include most archbishoprics in this latter category. 3. A bishop should be appointed from the clergy of the particular diocese most of the time, giving leeway for unusual situations in which a local appointee would not be healthy. Religious priests might also provide a good source of candidates. I think a minimum of ten years as a proven pastor plus some advanced learning (spirituality, preaching, liturgy, or canon law, etc.) would be about right. Ideally, a bishop would be elected at around age 60-70 for about ten years of service. 4. Stronger national conferences. 5. Stronger regional conferences. 6. Smaller dioceses. A bishop should have fifty to eighty parishes, as a guideline: enough for one leader to visit about once a year, minimally. Dioceses with more than eighty parishes should probably be split. 7. As a corollary, most specialized ministry in the modern chancery (annulments, vocations, news media, liturgy, catechesis, social justice advocacy) could be maintained on regional levels and shared amongst neighboring dioceses. 8. Sell off all bishops' residences that have market value beyond the mean of the cathedral neighborhood. Correct to humble dwellings in the cathedral parish, or become a spiritual vagabond. 9. Strive to give an extraordinarily saintly witness so as to heal the Church from cover-up scandals. Anything missed?

Friday, June 18, 2004

How to reform Catholic architecture Since the first post on "How to reform" was so popular, I thought I'd make it a daily feature for awhile. 1. Acknowledge that in a three-dimensional universe, there are numerous ways to set up well for worship. No single form possesses totally superior qualities over all others. More forms are spiritually fruitful than they might have dreamed in 1950 or even 1970, but some styles have unique advantages for particular parishes depending on their worship sensibilities. 2. If only we had a handful (three to five) architecture schools in North America, each with a distinctive style and vision, each catering (at least in part) to Catholic worship, each involved in a friendly debate on form and style. 3. Baptism should be the first or one of the first things one encounters upon entering a Catholic church. An immersion font is ideal, and well within reach of any Catholic parish. If a parish feels a large font is unnecessary, it is a catechetical, not a liturgical problem. Build, then teach. 4. Seating arrangement in a Catholic parish must reflect the practices of all the sacraments. The Eucharist is at the center of our spiritual lives, therefore the altar must be placed at or near the center of the nave. An altar along a short wall (pre-conciliar) or on a long wall (70's half-circle theatre seating) is just misplaced. Substantial assembly seating on all sides (minimally three sides or both sides) is required. 5. The sacrament of reconciliation deserves a place of honor, something more worthy than a wooden closet with stop and go lights on top. A separate chapel with all the options, preferably including a window and liturgical art (one or two tasteful pieces not including a crucifix). Preferable exclusions: anything that speaks of secular counseling -- over-comfy chairs, a lamp, a bookrack beyond the minimal; and anything that speaks of utility or that encourages box office lines. 6. Except in the smallest parishes, a separate chapel for Eucharistic reservation and devotion. 7. A choir area clearly part of the assembly, but avoiding at all costs the appearance of staging a performance. The acoustics need to be first-rate within the area. 8. A presider's chair closer to the assembly seating (if not part of it). A priest or lay leader doesn't lead when seated. A chair in the front row of the assembly (nicely and distinctively appointed) allows a leader to make two or three steps away to lead prayer when standing. 9. Features a new parish should consider beyond the above: an ambulatory, devotional areas both inside the nave and outdoors, a pipe organ (even a small one), grand piano, a bell tower (even a small one), an ambry, a courtyard (weather permitting) and perhaps a hearth in the narthex (gathering area). 10. Features no new parish should consider: carpet in any great amount, padded seats, parallel walls, bowling alley or half-circle seating. Did I miss anything?

Thursday, June 17, 2004

How to reform the clergy My friend jcecil (see side bar) has some good ideas for reforming the Church. I thought I'd tackle my favorite ideas for reforming Holy Orders. 1. Abolish seminaries. Train guys in a monastic setting to live as a secular priest, mostly in an eremitic setting of some comfort? I think it's a good testimony that more of these guys aren't going off the deep end. Candidates for priesthood should be trained in a Catholic university alongside the lay people they will serve in parishes. Why the duplication of professors for separate lay and clerical institutions? 2. Prior experience. Before the candidate enters the seminary, there should be a work history that clearly demonstrates an aptitude and ability working with people as a minister does. How long? That might be up to the bishop. But I think five to eight years minimum would be about right. A bishop and lay review boards should have leeway in discerning good candidates. 3. Age. Ideally, a pastor should be fifty-ish, with grown children, a stable marriage, and personal maturity. Though I've known good young priests, most don't blossom until their forties, and an ordained priest younger than 35 remains a pup in training. 4. Optional celibacy. I think a person's state of life should be set at ordination, though. Perhaps a bishop might give a dispensation for an already ordained priest to marry, but seriously, if a stable, mature person hasn't married by age 50, celibacy is likely not to be a problem. 5a. Parishes need some kind of veto power over incoming pastors. I have no idea how. 5b. Should parishes hire their own pastors? I doubt it, but it could be a workable notion some places. 6. Women, obviously. There's probably more, but that's enough for today.
What's playing/reading now Hovhaness' Symphony #2, Mysterious Mountain, Seattle Symphony, Delos 3157. Close my eyes: instant prayer. Before my vacation, I read Keith Kachtick's Hungry Ghost, which I thought was just outstanding. I tried LeCarre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy but for some reason, I just can't get into espionage fiction. I liked Le Carre's writing: it surprised me. Brought the book with me to Branson, but I had little time for reading. Maybe another time. Picked up two promising SF books at the library yesterday: Adam Roberts' Polystom, favorably reviewed here. The story follows a spoiled aristobrat through personal tragedy and immaturity in a universe in which an atmosphere exists in between the planets, permitting aircraft and zeppelins to travel through the solar system. Good writing so far. I gambled on a new writer whose name escapes me at the moment, but the book's name is Phobos. Can't go wrong with a moon, especially these heady days. I'm still pondering three good possibilities for a science fiction novel of my own, but my own standards will be exacting. Having read a lot of good SF this past year, plus reacquainting myself with Cather, Wilder, and other classic American authors, I'm not going to settle for just any ol' pulp. Whether something I can write will ever see publication, well that's another matter. I have enough unpublished liturgical music in my files to choke a David Haas, so the notion of sitting for hundreds of hours writing a novel that might never see print is not particularly scary. My wife would read it. But she does insist that any romance within would have to have a happy ending. And that could be a problem, because my sense would be to write tragedy. The thing about SF is that a New Idea can be hard to find. And I'm not going to be the 6352nd SF author who puts alternate Nazis or ice piracy at the center of their ... pulp. Meanwhile, I wonder if the new KC symphony conductor will program any Hovhaness. If I were on the search committee that would be my one and only question. And if the answer is yes, then we'll really be playing.
Post number 200 Site Meter tells me people who comment are only a fraction of the total number of visitors. If you have never commented on my blog before, feel free to take a moment to do so on the 200th entry here. E-mail and homepage are optional, and if you prefer to use a pseudonym, that is fine. Say a quick word, or just submit a blank comment: whatever you wish. Update from your host: while certainly all comments are always welcome, I had intended this thread to be just for people who have never yet commented on my blog, or perhaps had never commented on the net at all. Let's have a little contest: men vs women, or if you prefer, progs vs tradi's. One point for a first post here, one bonus point for a first post to any blog. Ready, set? Go.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

This business of refusing Communion is a distraction Michael Novak weighs in: "If the bishops allow those political leaders who help make abortion a major institution of American law, politics, and culture to make a show of being faithful to the teaching and sacraments of Jesus Christ, they have emptied the Catholic Church of moral seriousness." And I would ask, haven't the bishops already emptied their office of "moral seriousness"? Does Cardinal Law's new post "make a show" of being faithful? Who does that leave to take up the anti-abortion fight? Parish clergy, but mostly lay people. Why are so many Catholics wringing their hands and waiting for something from bishops? Do you want to take a public pro-life stand? Then do so. Object to a politician's position? Make it known. Focusing on who's not going to receive Communion is a distraction from the real issue of abortion. If the real issue is abortion, don't get caught up in the periphery. If the real issue is worthiness to consume the Sacrament, then advocate a more serious examen for all Catholics, not just the ones you don't like, and not just in an election year.
A bit of elaboration on the contrast of approaches in liturgy In one of the posts below, my good friend John describes a bit of the "tradi" approach to liturgy. While I would be nervous about applying the images of a human institution (namely monarchy) to liturgy, I can certainly concede Christ's kingship as a benevolent and just one. As such, bowing my will to Christ (though not always easy in practice) is something I can do as much as is humanly possible. This would be in stark contrast to my sense of the rule of an earthly monarch, or even the Catholic hierarchy. Big time nervous there. My caution, though, would be that earthly monarchy is a derivation, not the root metaphor driving the image of liturgy. Monarchy in liturgy: good as it goes. Monarchy in society, even in ecclesiastical society: not the best we can do. I think John has scratched at one important difference between a modern progressive approach and the traditional approach to liturgy. I think in principle, we each acknowledge the primacy of God in liturgy, both as the object of human worship and as the agent of grace for the faithful. We might differ in a shaded degree with our expectations of the human role. We might each say it is important to bring our best to liturgy: our best intentions, our best music and preaching, our best art, etc.. Speaking for myself, I also think it important to bring creativity and inspiration. New songs not for the sake of new songs, but because we can compose them inspired by our prayer experiences of today. New architecture not for the sake of tossing out the old, but to explore a different mechanism for praying together. (Today, perhaps a non-monarchical one.) New prayers not for their own sake, but because the present age needs an expression of the modern culture and language. Liturgy for an agrarian society with layers (or castes) might fail the test of an urban, more egalitarian people. It's not that suddenly all the old prayers are bad, or that nobody can pray or understand them any more, but true creative genius can and should be put to work to bring new expressions, ideas, and images to the fore. Sometimes I sense a passivity in Catholics. (Just sometimes, someone might ask?) Personally, I cannot abide a fatalism that suggests no response we can make to God is adequate. I had a young friend once, very devout, very holy guy ... but he seemed too willing to allow the winds of grace to blow him where he should go. Little initiative. Little energy. What he was given was enough for him, but I thought, "What a waste!" Others thought of him as lazy, not detached. Christ promised his followers would do "greater" works ... if only they had faith. Quiet obedience to a hierarchy just rubs me the wrong way: my personality as well as my spiritual life. No question that without God human works are doomed. But for the Christian, the supposition is that God is with us, working through us to achieve communion in the world. If Catholics took more initiative, would more efforts miss the mark? Sure they would. But since when are spiritual people concerned about being perfect, or rather, not wrong, all the time? Speaking for myself, I'm willing to attempt new things, make mistakes, learn from these errors and move on. I wonder how many Catholics are all too satisfied to be "not wrong" (instead of "right") by not striking out on new paths? The errors of liturgical reform were not the mistakes themselves, but the refusal to learn from missteps as well as the fear of making new mistakes. The former would be those who have taken root in Vatican II with initial enthusiasm, but have withered for not striking out new roots and pruning branches. The latter would be the current liturgical backlash as evidenced by the CDWS: for fear of making mistakes, being "not bad" is even more important than being "good."
Capitalists and Republicans thoroughly fisked; Dems too, and who's living in the suburbs? Go here and read Robert Waldrop of the Catholic Worker movement reply to this quote from Malcolm Berko: "In this business of investing, it's the bottom line that counts while kindness and goodness isn't worth a pickled herring ... If you and your broker want to be socially conscious people, donate money to a charity or various charities of your choice. Investing is for making money not for appeasing your soul by making feel-good choices." Mr Waldrop's blog is far more hard-hitting than most I've read. He recommends Mr. Berko give up WalMart for meth labs -- it's about on the same moral plane and far more profitable for investors. "What's that you say? These are illegal drugs? They do terrible things to our communities? Well, what does that matter? You plainly say in this column that all that matters is return on investment; social issues -- such as how a corporation treats its employees -- count for nothing. So who should care how much evil they do with their money by investing in methamphetamine manufacture? You are missing out on great returns by not advising your readers to start making methamphetamine in their bathtubs and selling it to high school students. Yes, it's illegal, but when has legality really mattered to big business in this country?" This thinking fits with my experience of those who work directly with the poor: an aggressive and relentless abjuration of our secular culture. (He eviscerates with the skill of a velociraptor.) I agree with Mr Waldrop's sense that many Catholic Republicans have settled in the suburbs of Sodom, satisfied with lukewarm lip service from their own party on abortion, as they condemn the entire populace of the Gomorrah SMSA, and mark any bishop who doesn't shout it out their way to be a spineless heterodox weakling worthy of no less than a fiery purgation. I don't even think I can any longer consider voting for Kerry just to annoy Sodom suburbanites. As my late father would say in one of our many election year discussions, "I think you just wasted another presidential vote, son." Anyone want to join me in the wilderness?

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Yet more clarifications on the 1962 Rite John correctly notes he personally has never questioned my use (or others' use) of the 1970 Rite. I considered my use of examples (St Joan's, a streetcorner evangelical church) and I would expand that to most any parish that worshipped in ways I would not approve of: parishes that persistently gave Communion from the tabernacle, parishes with poor music or weak homilies, parishes without a sense of social justice. In other words, places at which if I were hired to serve (by some wild stretch of the imagination), I would be urging them to substantial change. John also notes the 1962 books are the only ones available to Tridentine worshippers. I'm sympathetic to this situation. I'm not sure I grasp the reason for it, though I'm sure that the CDWS of 1984/1988 had some explanation. It seems to me to freeze these parishes into a moment before the Council, unable to access the riches of what are acknowledged to be positive reforms. It has the malodorous whiff of authority for authority's sake lacking a degree (or lions' share) of good sense. The simplest solution would be to just hand Tridentine liturgists SC 21, 23, etc. and say, "You think we screwed up? Fine. Show us how *you* would remain faithful to the Council." Or perhaps the 1988 Indult was not only for loyal Catholics, but also to hide a schism under the rug, rather than deal directly with the issues. I would reject the notion that only traditionalists feel the sting of unjust authoritarianism, but I'd rather not get into a p***ing match over whose heroes have been battered by more arrows. Andrew's comment that I could say across the board, "You can do better" is spot on. My own parish is first on the list. I think I would reject Mr Brandt's notion of the Tridentine Rite being equal to the Byzantine, the Mozarabic, the Ambrosian, etc.. It is a rite of the Roman Church, not of an ethnic group. As a separate entity from the Roman Rite, it has a history of less than a half century. That it is permitted by indult implies it is celebrated by way of exception to the rule, not as a concession to its own merits. As usual, Liam seems to be able to communicate accurately what I wished I had said. I would also appeal to the notion that liturgical reform is only the first step. What is most needed now is liturgical *renewal*, a stronger effort to make the liturgy more meaningful for the bored, the disengaged, and the indifferent. And regarding the quibbles about who's pouring when and what? Not getting the job done.
Some clarification on rites 1962, 1970, etc. Sensible guests Liam and John P challenged me on my criticism of the indult usage of the 1962 Rite. I took serious time to examine my views, which each of these good people considered uncharacteristically harsh. Perhaps we each hold fast to an ideal of completely prayerful and appropriate worship. And perhaps a flawless expression of this prayer is impossible in the Pilgrim Life. I still believe that we are obliged to correct errors and not rely on the good intent of either mortals or God to allow us to say, "We did our best," without making some effort to improve either outward signs or inner attitudes. The use of the 1962 Rite is a problem for me. It's a problem to the extent I think parishes like St Joan's are a problem, or even that non-Catholic worship is a problem. In all these cases though, I'm a non-participant. So to that extent it's none of my danged business what the indult parish, St Joan's, or the evangelical Church down the street do. It's not at all likely that any of these three will ever hire me, or that I will choose to join any of them as a parishioner, so for the rest of my life, personally, what they do isn't any concern to me at all. It is conceivable that I might be in any or each of the three as a guest, but it would be for one liturgy, during which I would try and temper the clucking of the inner liturgist and simply pray. But then I would go back to my own parish. Let's turn to the area of immediate concern, the indult Mass. I read SC 21: "In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself." and "In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify ..." and SC 23: "That sound tradition may be retained, and yet the way remain open to legitimate progress." and SC 25: "The liturgical books are to be revised as soon as possible; experts are to be employed on the task, and bishops are to be consulted, from various parts of the world." and SC 34: "The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions ..." and SC 35: "That the intimate connection between words and rites may be apparent in the liturgy ... In sacred celebrations there is to be more reading from holy scripture, and it is to be more varied and suitable." and the whole of SC 50: "The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved. For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance; elements which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are now to be discarded; other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as may seem useful or necessary." and SC 51: "The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years." While it is true that some, if not most liturgists play loose with SC 116, and other choice passages, papal permission notwithstanding, the unreformed 1962 Rite remains a problem in theory for the Catholic Church. People who know me know I'm not shy about being critical of the pope, curia, or bishops. The reasoning that the pope said it's okay to ignore SC 21, 23, etc. carries no weight with me. The good news is that unlike the present curia, I'm not ever likely to strong-arm indult parishes into doing it My Way, whatever that way might be. Keep doing as you please regardless of the yammering on this web site. Be assured that St Joan's and the Most Holy Apostolic Charismatic Church of God's Holy Word on the next street corner will do as they have done. I think the potential balkanization of Roman liturgy is a problem. I think the approach of the CDWS to inclusive language Lectionaries parallel to the Ecclesia Dei indult is sheer hypocrisy. I think fussbudgetting about who pours chalices and when belies a naive, if not criminally negligent approach to liturgy. I think most everyone these days, many progressives included, are scared by the prospect of real liturgical reform, and most of the Church is hiding in comfortable tradition of its own making or interpretation, especially in areas where Mass attendance is sinking under the Barque. So if you worship by the 1962 Rite, don't take my criticism personally. Let me rephrase and say, "I think you can do better, but lucky for us all, I flunked the terrorist sequence in liturgy school."

Monday, June 14, 2004

Of bishops in Rochester NY and elsewhere For a good profile of the current bishop, a favorite of mine, click the link. More episcopal reflections ... Fulton Sheen was bishop of my home diocese 1966-69. When I worked in the Sheen archives during grad school, I learned he was one of the first to publicly criticize the Vietnam War. He was also a strong advocate for the inner city poor and tried to cultivate better race relations. Rochester is a fairly conservative city, so Sheen's time there was not completely smooth. He did advocate for a local pastor to be named bishop, so for the period of 1969-79, Joseph Hogan was head of the Rochester church. Bishop Clark was the first bishop I had ever met. We got him from Rome, and there was much nervousness about him the first few years. I was deeply impressed when he did the first confirmation for St Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in our converted railroad depot in Hamlin NY. He seemed so prayerful and personable. He remembered my name as I appeared at various diocesan liturgies, and even inquired of the progress of my theological studies. I was very moved by his approach to the local listening sessions (1986-88?) for the now-scuttled USCCB pastoral letter on women. When my former home parish went into schism in 1998, I followed events via the net for months. But I had a dream about Bishop Clark, not my friends at Corpus Christi. I was exiting a stadium alone down some concrete steps, and he was sitting next to a landing with a radio at his side. I mentioned I was sorry for my parish causing him so much distress. He looked tired and bone-weary. (I'm sure he was so in real life.) But he said "thank you." I've known many other bishops through the years. Walter Sullivan of Richmond sat in on my interview at the parish where I met my wife. I sang in a choir next to Arthur O'Neill of Rockford. Jerome Hanus of Dubuque is my wife's favorite (and one of mine, too), as she cornered him at a lunch a few years back and had him talking about his racquetball and gardening hobbies. I criticize bishops on my web site often. But I also try to keep them in my prayers, even (or especially) the ones I consider incompetent, weak, misguided, or otherwise below average. I think the quality of bishops in the US has trailed off in recent years. New bishops seem to lack (as Clark did in 1979) real parish experience. Personalities are fine. Orthodoxy on issues is undeniable. But except in rare cases, leadership is really lacking, especially that quality that inspires followers. I don't think the USCCB needs a shot of radicals such as Tom Gumbleton as much as more moderate and strongly pastoral leaders who have parish experience, advanced education, and a deep spiritual life.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

A face only a geologist could love ... and I'm loving these pictures. Click on one of the full image options on the left and gawk. Already have it up as wallpaper. What I wouldn't give to be the electronic brain on Cassini watching it all, taking in the view! O yeah, thanks to the internet, I can do that.
New church in my area Dragged the family out to Evening Prayer at the "new" Visitation Parish in Kansas City. They dedicated this past Thursday night. A choir member told me at the reception tonight they've been singing and feeding off reception food for four days straight. Time for a rest, well earned, I'm sure. The pictures don't really do it justice. But look 'em over anyway. I think I could spend a month on retreat in the building and not plumb the depths. I like the centrally located altar and seating on three sides. I like the ambulatory. This place also has three separate chapels, and a gallery encircling above the main level, not just a shelf of a choir loft. The octagonal font is substantial and not burdened with a "separate but equal" infant birdbath. Brittany easily figured the three interior "steps," infants two inches deep on the periphery, adults in the deep middle, and children on the shelf in-between. That's my kid! Anita elicited a laugh from the design consultant when she said it was a great place for playing hide-and-seek. This afternoon the parish hosted prayer and a party for church staffs and chancery. Nice organ, children's and adult choirs, good cantors. Acoustics are outstanding, but of course you'd expect that in a thoughtfully designed church without a stitch of carpet. One of the cantors told me at the reception he didn't think songleaders needed mics. I concurred. I'm not sure I like the choir in the gallery above and behind the altar and reredo, but the overall sound is undeniably outstanding. To be sure, it was a test against the sin of envy, one of my very weakest points. I confessed as such to my friend Peg who is on staff at Visitation. I could easily have needed a napkin during prayer instead of at the reception, especially their organist's Magnificat setting. Tomorrow morning I have to call our piano tuner again to get our stubbly studio piano ready for another two or three months of liturgy. Thankfully, I found the cord connection for hearing assistance that was knocked askew in the sacristy last month -- saved a service call. Water leaks in the parish office have given us a lovely mildew smell, and the humidity futzes up the duplex unit on the copier. Nothing like taking three hours to run Eucharistic Ministry schedules copy by copy when the normal job can be dusted off in 30 minutes. As Fr Bill Amann, my first employer once said, it is most important to build the Church with people first; the building will come later, in its own good time. I remember fondly my times at St Edward Parish in Waterloo, Iowa and our 1996 effort to renovate and renew. It was a golden time for me personally (the first year of my marriage) and in ministry (with a wise pastor and a welcoming parish who trusted me). The sweeter memory there were the changes we allowed God to work in our parish, though the renovation itself wasn't too shabby. On second thought, perhaps I have precious little to be envious about. After all, my spiritual director would remind me of my sense of dissatisfaction, and that we are all on pilgrimage. The final earthly result is not the end, and even beauty is merely a means to achieve the Gospel of Christ. And if for today, this year, and the next few or several years beyond, I will try and trust in the imperfect tools at hand and hope the Master can make something of them and his imperfect worker. If that means out-of-tune toy pianos and loose wires hanging from the ceiling, so be it.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Redesigning money The comments below on Reagan, Grant, the Charter Oak, etc. got me thinking on a topic I have strong opinions about: more suitable subject matter for American money. My suggestion would be to retire the presidents. Beyond that, any artistic rendering of most any subject or non-political person would be welcome. Might I suggest Emily Dickinson, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Henry David Thoreau, Amy Beach, or Frank Lloyd Wright as suitable persons. American landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Yosemite, the Gateway Arch, the Empire State Building, or the Natural Bridge? American achievements such as the moon landing, the transcontinental railroad, the Erie Canal, or the invention of baseball? Any other ideas?
Following the Reagan tributes while on vacation ... ... and I have to say I didn't follow them in the depth that many others in St Blog's did. A cursory watching of various tributes struck me as respectful and non-partisan. Ronald Reagan seemed to be a nice man. He was greatly admired by millions, and grudgingly respected by many of those who did not consider him their hero. He was unfortunate to surround himself with a good amount of corruption and incompetence in his administration. (Many, many more felons worked for him than for Clinton, for example.) His political opponents grossly underestimated his personality and savvy. His rabid opposition, especially in the later years of his term, has probably colored the current political landscape in the US. Not for the better, I think. And while many attribute Cold War victory (and a safer world) to his policies, we are left with the legacy of his support for Saddam and bin Laden. Were they needful allies against Communism? I think not. As for the money question, it's too early to say if we should replace FDR on the dime or Hamilton on the ten dollar note. Personally, I'd like to see Grant disappear from the $50, and I'll easily concede Reagan is an improvement there.
Vacation in sum Glad we went. Glad we're back. I've got some laundry in the dryer, so I have a moment to summarize a bit. I have a mostly low opinion of the poor saps who fumbled in trying to get us to buy into a time-share condo. They did have a very flexible program which allows owners to use vacation time at other locations. Also attractive were the huge discounts in travel items: airfare and accommodations amongst other things. I was very tempted. Of course, they wanted us to sign up with them on the spot. I wasn't about to plunk down a $7000 commitment without driving home and thinking about it. Result? The last person we saw on Tuesday insulted my wife, and the last person we saw on Thursday showed us the back door. That tells you a lot when these folks are ashamed of people they couldn't talk into being owners. "No question; we made the right decision," said my wife, who was also amazed that our usual financial soapboxes were reversed: I was thinking, "Hey this is a good investment," and she, "Let's be sensible about our current and potential obligations." We three saw a terrific show on Tuesday night, a two-hour circus of acrobats. Brittany was glued to the front of her seat. That saved the Branson leg of vacation. Wednesday, we went to Silver Dollar City, a massive theme park with lots of food and crafts, a live Veggie Tales show (I napped through it) and the usual suspects of amusement park rides. It began in near disaster. We stood in line to do the Marvel Cave tour, but the warning for heart conditions knocked Brittany out of consideration. (My wife wouldn't have done well on those 200 ft of ascending steps either.) Then we went to the Wildfire, the big roller coaster. Brit missed the height requirement by an inch. Lip puckered, tears near: thirty minutes into our big fun day and a meltdown was coming. Fortunately, we found other rides (Dad getting soaking wet in Brittany's favorites). I did get a spin on the Wildfire, and I have to say that as much as my daughter likes coasters, she would have been scared spitless on this one. My second time through was much better. I can't remember how many times we went on the Waterboggan ("That was great! Let's go again, Dad.") I think my sandals are still drying out three days later. We were happy to leave Branson behind on Thursday, driving through northern Arkansas on our way to Tulsa. The original plan had been to see the art museum that afternoon, then hit the zoo on Friday. We ended up enjoying the motel pool instead, and after two humid hours at the zoo, decided to come home early. So this is what I have to say about what we saw and did. If not for the circus show, we would have been better off just going to Tulsa and Wichita for two days each and toodling around the zoos and museums, maybe taking in a ballgame. I don't need to go to Branson for amusement parking; we have two substantial places here in KC. Maybe when I get older, I'll think about buying into this time share vacation thing, but I want to check out some different companies first. I don't see us returning to Branson. Not when we have so many other options with less road congestion, fewer clueless salespeople, and more variety. PS Just my luck: LeAnn Rimes sang in Branson the night before we got there, and Allison Krauss sang the night of the day we left. I can't say the rest of my family would have enjoyed either of those events, but if they really wanted me to buy a time share, they should have added either of those fine singers in the deal.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

So why are you blogging if you still have to pack?! Just habit, I guess. Got the prey (my wife's three rabbits, two guinea pigs and one hamster) off to their vacation in Leawood KS tonight. The predators (three cats and one dog) await their sitter tomorrow. Grass mowed, gas tank filled, ATM depleted, fridge emptied of leftovers and perishables, phone numbers to the parish secretary, trip itinerary printed out, hole-punched, and in the binder. In an hour, I hope my wife will be in bed, so I can be in bed on my way to sleep for an early rising tomorrow. First stop: Springfield zoo. This week's national lay ministry workshop is now behind me, and a feeling of relief settling in. I enjoyed working with Susie, an outstanding parish musician from a nearby parish and her various singers. Our local committee was also great to work with. Attendees and bigwigs alike seemed pleased with the conference liturgies. It's always a pain to attempt good worship in hotel ballrooms: carpet, carting stuff from the parish, more carpet, dorky seating arrangements, still more carpet ... you get the idea. A panel of six theologians did a great tag team on Saturday. I'll be blogging on some of their insights lensed through my own reflections. For now, I'll just say that when I get back from vacation, look for posts on priesthood, seminaries, lay ministry, and probably the usual suspects: liturgy and spirituality.
It's a big week in astronomy, so please don't miss it. Leading off for Planet Earth, now batting ... number one ... June 8th ... The Transit of Venus. If you're living in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, or on a houseboat in the Atlantic Ocean, your only excuse might be if its cloudy on Tuesday. East Coasters of North America can catch the hind end of this event at sunrise. Set your alarm clock for dawn. If you're an astronomy buff living on the West Coast, why didn't you plan your summer vacation for this week? The last transit was 122 years ago. I'm not going to review how you can use a telescope to be able to safely project the solar disc on a white board. Go to an astronomy web site for that. Better yet, attend your local astronomy club's 5AM party and let the pros do it for you. If you're going it alone with your own telescope Tuesday, your sensitive optics should be safe, but if it melts your mirror while on African safari, please don't send me a bill. I will caution all readers about looking directly at the sun. Just don't do it. I don't trust it even when on the horizon; it sets a bad example for less savvy persons who can't tell when the viewing is done with a several hundreds of extra miles of atmosphere guarding the human retina. When the 1970 solar eclipse clipped off 90% of the sun over Rochester NY, my mother called us three kids in from playing and closed the curtains. It might have been for the safety of the neighborhood kids as much as my little sister and brother. Likely her eldest son would have conducted a streetcorner astronomy lecture and the temptation to squint up at the sun might have been too much. Not owning a telescope at the time, I had to watch coverage on TV. Hitting in the number two spot ... June 11th ... the Cassini fly-by of Phoebe. And no. It's not some Lisa Kudrow song in syndication. Go here for the only good peek we'll get of Saturn's mysterious backwards moon on this mission. Phoebe could be a captured Centaur, one of a class of outer solar system bodies icy like a comet, yet bulked up to the size of a planetoid. As Cassini passes near Phoebe, scientists can determine composition and fine-tune the known mass of the satellite. Some astronomers will wax poetic about this being yet another chance to glimpse back to a fragment of the early solar system. If Phoebe is responsible for polluting one hemisphere of Iapetus, I think planetary astronomers might find this little moon somewhat less than pristine. Small moons in the outer solar system have had the habit of turning scientists into psoriasis imitators. Interesting stuff could be found here. As soon as we get back from Tulsa Friday night, I'm heading down to the computer to check the results. Batting number three ... the Mars Rovers. People forget about these little dudes now that they've achieved their mission goals, but I like to follow their progress here just the same. I think NASA would be far wiser to emphasize our science exploration efforts. When successful, these missions really appeal to the human imagination, much more so than construction in low earth orbit. I really think we're going to have to wait for the arrival of elevator technology before space becomes a viable outlet. Don't strike out on these opportunities.

Friday, June 04, 2004

It's always good to know what the neighbors are up to. From the web site of the Latin Mass Society: THE TRADITIONAL MOVEMENT: What is it about? PRESERVATION of the ancient Roman rite of Mass in the form in which it has been celebrated for centuries throughout the world. RESPECT for the Church's sacred traditions as a vital link with the traditional Faith regarding the nature of the Mass, and as a secure anchor and guarantee that we do not drift away from that Faith. NO COMPROMISE with the spirit of the world or adaptation of the Mass to the lifestyle of our desacralised age. RESTORATION of a sacred atmosphere where God comes first and in which we give Him the worship that is due to Him. APPRECIATION of the Church's treasury of sacred music especially Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphony. PROMOTION of the use of Latin, the Church's own language, in her worship, teaching and administration. PROTECTION of our altars from destruction and our sanctuaries from being re-ordered, none of which was authorised by the Second Vatican Council. One must point out that the liturgy of the Church (not "my" liturgy, not "their" liturgy) was in bad shape before the second Vatican Council. Chant was not sung in parishes. Liturgy lacked the potential it does today for formation and evangelization. The world's bishops voted 2,000-some to 2 to revise the Mass. Why don't traditionalists just accept that the 1962 Rite has an outdated Lectionary, tacked-on externals, and an exaggerated sense of the performance of the clergy? Peripherals do not contribute to the sense of mystery and reverence they yearn for, rather they obstruct the core intent and meaning of the Mass. I like the "no compromise" line. That tells you right off the bat where you stand. All too often such words give a convenient excuse to demonize people who just do things differently. They certainly suggest that the speaker is absolutely, infallibly correct, and every other Catholic celebrating by the Roman Missal in the vernacular is just a profane heretic slob. "Sacred" polyphony was once criticized and repressed as modernist innovation. I enjoy singing and listening to polyphony as much as any other music enthusiast, but applying the adjective "sacred" to such a modern development (ca 1500) seems downright heterodox to me. Whatever happened to "Chant or bust!"? I wonder how one says "Clergy sex predator" or "Bungling bishop" in Latin. It is true that architectural renovations were not authorized explicitly by Vatican II. The Council placed the responsibility for liturgical reform locally in the hands of each bishop. Bishops authorized the renovation of churches so that the reformed rites would have an appropriate home. I appreciate the prayerfulness of good liturgy. My readers know I do. I have no problem with a Latin language Mass -- celebrated according to the revised Roman Missal in accord with the documents of Vatican II. At such Masses, traditionalist-leaning Catholics can support classical church music with all the smells and bells ritual they can muster. More power to 'em. However, I question the continued use of the 1962 Rite under a Catholic umbrella, a use indistinguishable from the worship of schismatics who have rejected their Church's council, pope, and local bishop. Someone wants to pray by the 1962 or 1570 Rite whenever or wherever they want without the oppression of the local bishop or the chancery liturgy office? No problem, really, except when they want to consider themselves Roman Catholics and do so. There is no question that Catholic liturgy has a long way to go to achieve the ideals of Vatican II and the Liturgical Movement. But the answer is not to balkanize the Church and succumb to the modern secular notion of "a choice for everyone." I look forward to the day when a true sense of catholicity imbues the Church, and various Catholics can look with accomplishment at their own parish's worship without resorting to sniping at those who worship in a different, or even a less adequate way.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Vacation packages What have been your experiences of those vacation deals in which you get a free or substantially discounted trip in exchange for sitting in one of those 90-minute pitches? I've declined on general principle -- I never take something for "nothing." Branson came calling a few months ago (actually, they've been calling since we moved to Kansas City) and I took a three-night hotel stay there for a good price. I doubt I would have gone to such a commercial and developed location on my own initiative. (We might ditch the town for a day and drive into Arkansas to get back to nature, and for me, add state #34.) I was talking with one of their representatives, and I mentioned my ideal short vacation. Not Branson. Not Universal Studios. Not DisneyWorld. What about a train trip to St Louis? Two, three nights in a city hotel. Tickets to the game (preferably the Blues, but Cubs-Cards would be okay for a summer's day). Catch the zoo, the botanical gardens, maybe the symphony. I know, I know; they probably couldn't make money on things like that. I just hope they don't try to talk me into buying a time-share condo in the Ozarks or something. Added a night's stay in Tulsa. AAA stars the zoo as a good attraction. Gives us a good excuse to add state #35 to my travel list. Plus my wife didn't want to come back till Friday night. Until I get to Australia, I'll keep enjoying these four, five-day trips. Anybody else have good vacation plans? Anybody else been to Branson? What can I expect?
Pilgrim life One of the things my spiritual director and I discussed was the nature of Christian life as a pilgrimage. He encouraged my dissatisfaction as a virtue (as did my previous director). A Christian should indeed be dissatisfied with the way things are, realizing that this life is a mere transition before eternal glory. Meanwhile, my wife has begun to complain about the early heat waves in Kansas City. Hmm. Southern woman longs for the temperate north. If money were no object, I can see a summer home in Vermont or the Upper Peninsula. Somehow, I think several annual yards of snow might alter her opinion on the other end of the year. I had a good notion in my mind about settling in KC for nine years minimum (getting Brittany through grade school) and maybe thirteen. On the other hand, kids are troopers. "Dad, you know what I like best about my life," she said several months ago. "Exploring new places." Ah! Another pilgrim. She was reading aloud some story or other about a family on vacation yesterday. After flubbing a word, she confessed, "Oh, I'm just too excited about going to Branson next week." I asked my director how he reconciled the stability of monastic life with the notion of pilgrimage. I realize, of course, that geographical stability need not equal spiritual self-satisfaction. I look back upon my various parishes in a different way these days. Heaven knows ego-tripping is more difficult for me when I have to turn over liturgical progress to others. I hope it keeps me on the good path.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Interpreting Vatican II's call for sacred music This is like an essay question on those college tests I used to so dread. (Then I had them as orals for my MA comps.) Paul Rex at Rex Olandi Rex Cledendi lobbed this my way: Addressing the central issue of "sacred" music, as well the twentieth century liturgical documents on music in a general way, would you be able to provide a condensed overview of how a thoughtful progressive would approach liturgical music in light of those documents? I would keep an eye on the big picture first. The council documents call for full, active, and conscious participation. They concede sacred music was in need of reform, both in content and execution. They set the stage for a sung liturgy, rather than singing tacked on at low moments in the liturgical celebration (i.e., the four-hymn sandwich). Sacrosanctum Concilium 116 calls for Gregorian chant to be given pride of place in Roman liturgy with a qualifier, "other things being equal." The most advanced liturgical communities are places that pray the Hours and Mass daily -- usually the monasteries and most religious communities. Those I've visited achieve the traditionalist ideal of SC116, namely, plainsong (mostly vernacular) as the core repertoire of a daily sung liturgy. Hymnody (Catholic and ecumenical) of the past five centuries occupies the next circle. If guitar and other instruments are used, they are usually in the classical sphere. Conception Abbey, with which I'm more familiar, uses modern plainsong compositions in the vernacular to the same degree the average suburban parish uses contemporary music. The fit with traditional chants seems seamless to me. Personally, I find this style of liturgy extremely conducive to my own prayer. If I were a liturgist in a monastery, my progressive side would surface in encouraging various instruments to supplement the organ, and the use of original compositions in the style of the main body of the repertoire. Traditionalists would probably find little evidence of things being amiss from SC 116 and their sensibilities, unless they were adamant about no guitars, dulcimers, flutes, violins, etc.. The average parish is nowhere near the advanced sensibility one finds in monasteries. My own parish, founded in 1964, never knew the pre-1962 Tridentine Rites, and the transition period (except for twenty years of worshipping in a school cafeteria) is a dim memory. We are by no means equal to our mother parishes, the cathedral, or a monastery with hundreds of years (or at least decades) of tradition. Our mother parishes were much like those in other cities: mixed good and bad in liturgical music, a common experience of Low Mass with tacked-on hymns. Introducing chant today is like introducing a new style of music here. Unlike the jazz and pop stylings of Spirit and Song, plainsong makes no connections with the heard experience. So it has much to overcome. I would tend to doubt that it will ever have an adequate foothold so as to gain a satisfactory "pride of place" in the minds of traditionalists. And our parish's traditionalists would view "traditional" sacred music as the hymns they sang in the 60's and before, hymns for Marian events, Benediction, and the core dozen "golden oldies." So that leaves me in a substantial quandry if I were inclined to adhere to an optimistic and literal approach to SC 116. Paul suggested that "when it comes to liturgical music, alternative views seem to have left us at an impasse, since there seems to be disagreement firstly on whether liturgical music needs to be "sacred" at all (i.e. some believe "celebratory" music is adequate); and even when agreed, there is disagreement on what constitutes music that should be called "sacred" (i.e. holy, set apart, not profane)." "Impasse" might be a pessimistic view. It could be that we're still in a fertile period of creativity, struggle, testing, sorting, and settling in, and that it will take quite a bit longer to see more of a sense of monastic "stability" take root in ordinary parishes. Paul stated that "... given that traditionalists seem to have come to a consensus that those documents demand a return to the books of Solesmes, the Graduale Simplex, or at the very minimum, some form of vernacular chant, how does a progressive interpret those requirements that a typical traditionalist would see as obvious?" I interpret the mainstream parish's music ministry as a work in progress. I would not agree with the consensus stated here, though if I worked for a traditionalist parish, I would see no need to move them to popular forms, only an improved execution of music at Mass and other sacramental celebrations. Most parishes would not tolerate a thoroughly plainsong liturgy. The onus is them placed on the clergy and musicians to best determine nudging them to a greater openness to a mindful and prayerful liturgy. Would such a liturgy exclude pop and jazz-influenced music by Booth, Angrisano, or Mattingly? Not necessarily. Could it live without this style if it preferred others? Certainly. A side note ... I would divide music into four categories: liturgical, sacred, inspirational, and secular. The first category includes musical settings of liturgical texts: the psalms, antiphons, litanies, acclamations, and canticles. I'm assuming that a well-composed piece of liturgical music is sacred by definition. Widening out would be music that is sacred, but not liturgical: Ave Maria or Panis Angelicus settings, plus hymnody and various songs. Inspirational music would be "religious" or "religious-leaning" music that might not be liturgical in some, most, or all settings. Popular crossovers such as "Wind Beneath My Wings" or "Stand By Me" strike me as the most well-known examples of these. People who dislike contemporary music might quibble over the placement of such favorites as "Gather Us In" or "Ashes" in the category of "sacred" or "inspirational." But we can agree that none of these songs are "secular" or "profane," and at least some segment of the Catholic population has accepted them as religious song, if not as sacred or even liturgical. Paul, I hope this helps answer your question.

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