Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Chant: Pride of Place, part 2
Liam and others have good questions and comments on part 1. Clearly, the ideal parish will sing somewhere between all or none where chant is concerned. How much is enough to satisfy "pride of place?" The Vatican doesn't tell you. I won't really tell you, either, but I'll narrow the range a bit. You might visit some of my internet friends on the sidebar over there, and they'll program chant to the extreme. They'll certainly tell you. If their people sing it and deepen their holiness through their worship of God, then their ministry of music is undeniably effective, and more power to 'em. My first experience of singing chant was in a Trappist monastery, Our Lady of the Genesee. When on retreat in college, we joined the monks and sang the Liturgy of the Hours. At Mass, it was a mix of acclamations, psalms, and hymnody. In the early 80's, the instrumentation was organ, guitar, and violin with mostly a cappella monks. I recall everything being well done, and more than appropriate to the setting. I could pray, and I didn't find myself asking, where are the SLJ's or the steel string guitars. It simply wasn't an issue. In my travels and experiences, I've encountered chant, both Roman and Eastern, and in every place it was done a lot, it was done well. Again, there is no issue. Practically every monastery or religious community I've visited has used chant to bear the major burden of the liturgical repertoire. That makes sense. Monasteries were practically the only communities to keep musical tradition alive over the past few centuries, if not since St. Gregory the Great himself. This is what I think the average American parish should know as a minimum. - One plainsong Mass setting for ordinary time, not Lent (necessarily). - Two or three alleluias for the Gospel, as a baptism acclamation, or whatever use is needful. - Two or three psalm refrains, and a raft of parish cantors who are able to chant verses to psalm tones. An advanced cantor should be able to make up a good psalm tone on the spot. - If the parish does liturgy of the hours, a good portion of the psalm and hymn repertoire thereof. - The Lord's Prayer, obviously. - Seasonal/liturgical repertoire, a minimum of one each for Advent, Lent, Holy Thursday (obviously), Good Friday, Easter Vigil, Easter season, Marian feasts (Salve Regina plus one other, I'd say), and funerals, and if you can manage it, Christmas, weddings, and anointing of the sick. - One or two communion antiphons in regular use. - A few sturdy hymns for general use. Questions you didn't ask: Have you ever actually accomplished this in a parish? No. Why not? Time, mostly. Plus I never thought about quantifying "pride of place" with specific numbers or repertoire before a year or two ago. I've always thought a funeral choir needed to know In Paradisum. The Holy Thursday choir needs Pange Lingua. Advent needs Creator of the Stars of Night. A ML pitcher needs a good pickoff throw. Some things are a given. You just don't question it. What about Latin? What about it? The Church's prescription on Latin is another issue. You can sing chant in any language. If you want to tackle Latin and the people aren't used to it, go slow and easy. Are you a purist when it comes to chant? Probably not. I'm more of a pragmatist. I'll adapt what I use to best suit the primary goals: worship of God and holiness of the people. I don't see the need to always sing it without accompaniment, especially in the beginning. Unaccompanied voices unused to chant will tend to slow it down intolerably. Piano, guitar, organ, or any combination will be useful. I'd be amazed any non-directed, non-accompanied parish chant choir (and I know a few attempts are being made out there or touted, i.e. "We don't need no stinkin' director") will actually be able to pull it off artistically. There is no magical theology about chant. If you butcher it, it will have no redeeming value. None at all. My parish is already doing your minimum list and more. What next? Keep it up, obviously. Make sure your acoustics (not amplification; I mean your natural acoustics) are as good as they can get. Visit monasteries and other choirs to see how the pros are doing it. Take back and learn the repertoire. I would also say that any classically-leaning Catholic music program (your average SATB+organ set-up) should have chant as a bigger part of the repertoire than what I've listed above, with an emphasis on developing good unison singing. Probably a part 3 is coming, but meanwhile, any more comments?
Chant: Pride of Place or the Only Place? Part 1
Vatican II says it; you can't get around it: "The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30." But in the usual St Blog's music discussions this week, Sacrosanctum Concilium 116 is tossed about without regard for what it doesn't say. It doesn't say chant is the only acceptable kind of music. It doesn't say that given a choice, one must always prefer a chant over another style of music. So what exactly does SC 116 say and how does a Catholic church musician interpret it? Gregorian chant is specially suited to the Roman liturgy. Why? Because Rome says so? No. Because the genre has proved itself to be suitable over a period of many centuries. Why is chant specially suited? The reasons are not theological, but pragmatic. 1. Chant makes the text primary. It does so in two main ways. First, that the melody serves the text, not the other way around. If you're composing chant, the primary object is the words the people will sing. A Scripture passage, a poem or reflection on some theological or spiritual aspect of our faith--this is a given. The melody is worked from there. Second, that the melody, when completed, moves to the forefront of presentation, above the considerations of rhythm and harmony, the other two components of Western music. Without rhythm and harmony on a more equal footing, the literal text is emphasized in a single dimension: the movement of the vocal line in terms of pitch (how high or low it sings) and tempo (how fast or slow it moves). 2. Maintaining the integrity of the text maintains the integrity of the liturgy. Singing the given texts of the liturgy steers worship along a safe course close to Scripture and (some cynics might add) close to doctrine and uniformity. Is it a surprise this emphasis is coming from conservative quarters? Not when one considers the overall climate of crackdown. 3. Chant is also well-suited simply because of its pedigree. We have 1400 years of repertoire to choose from. Every psalm, every liturgical text has been set dozens, if not hundreds of times. Odds are that one in a hundred works, and that the ninety-nine others have been gradually weeded out Therefore, chant should be given pride of place, with a provision: other things being equal. What does that mean? It means church musicians have been given considerable room to wiggle on this. You have a choice between a Communion Song people know, let's say "One Bread One Body" or "Gift of Finest Wheat," or even "On Eagles Wings" and a chant (which they might or might not know). Is the Communion antiphon based on Psalm 91 (like On Eagles Wings) but the chant not? Even if people know the chant, it's not quite an equal playing field for your music. A sensible planner goes with the contemporary song. Suppose your chant is based on some Eucharistic text, but the people don't know it. Does the parish prioritize the people singing at Communion or the choir? That gives you another clue: an uneven playing field. SC 116 refers back to SC 30, which reads, in part: "To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs ..." The proper focus for liturgical music is singing the liturgy (note the listed priority in SC 30: "songs" are in last place) not singing at the liturgy. Even the much-reviled David Haas has preached this for over twenty years: trust me, I know; I attended one of his workshops before he became famous. The "treasury of sacred music" must fit into these guidelines for active participation of the worshipping assembly. Most alienated music directors I know are focused (over much, I would say) on the classical or performance repertoire at the expense of the liturgical repertoire. This is wrong. And where pastors or liturgists have called them on this flaw, the correction has often been apt. Part 2 on getting back to basics on chant still to come. Meanwhile, any comments?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Responding to Iraq
While I believe the reasoning behind our engagement in Iraq is terribly faulty, the truth is that many good people respond in heroic ways to that challenge. Reader Fred sends this from the Kansas City area, a feature on a parish priest, Peter Jaramillo, who leaves pastoral ministry stateside for a tour of duty with his National Guard unit, soon to be heading to Iraq. I had a phone call today from a parishioner. Her husband is doing contract work in Iraq. She asked, why don't we ever pray for non-military personnel. Good question. It was the first time anyone had asked us. No, she replied, I asked (the former pastor) and nothing happened. I asked that new priest, and he said I should talk to you. You should have done that, I thought, but I assured her that I always took input from parishioners for prayer of the faithful. She further suggested we have a display for people to sign names or place photos of loved ones serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Great idea, I replied. Would you be interested in leading an effort like that? Then she explained that with her husband gone and her children moved away, she was leaving the area to move nearer her kids. She'd be gone the next week. CS readers and friends of mine know of my profound opposition to war, but Father Jaramillo's quote seemed apt, “The church is everywhere. I answered the call to do God’s work and to serve his church. I go where the work is.” I can accept that wholeheartedly. My views of the war are irrelevant when it comes to my role to serve and be with my parishioners. They want to pray for the soldiers? That prayer is my prayer. They want to pray for civilians in harm's way? That prayer is my prayer. My new, but now departing friend didn't know anyone else in the parish who might want to put together a display. But it's a fine idea, and I'll be looking out for people who need to express their prayers in this way.
New Orleans As I write, the AP reports that the mayor of New Orleans says that the city might need to set up a temporary morgue, "food and water are scarce and an atmosphere of lawlessness has set in as police and other emergency resources are dedicated to rescuing people still stuck in their homes after Hurricane Katrina." Three levees have broken, a water main under City Park is cut, the main trauma center is inaccessible, the Municipal Yacht Harbor has burnt down, and power is running out at the Superdome. The mayor says, “Rescue workers are not even dealing with dead bodies. They're just pushing them to the side.” Please pray for New Orleans and the damaged areas in Mississippi and Alabama. Please also donate whatever you can. Here are links to Catholic Charities, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and the Red Cross. This afternoon, Senator Mary Landrieu said, “What I saw today [flying over south Louisiana] is equivalent to what I saw flying over the tsunami in Indonesia. There are places that are no longer there.” The Mayor of Biloxi has said, "This is our tsunami." Perhaps then we can also remember some of the Archbishop of Canterbury's words at the Service of Remembrance for the victims of the tsunami: In a famous poem, Philip Larkin said, ‘What will survive of us is love’; but this is true not only in the rather wistful sense that the memory of love survives when other things about us have been forgotten. It is true in the sense that love can continue to grow even on the soil of the worst pain and the deepest doubt. When we stretch and torment our minds over the problem of evil in the world, we should not forget that the survival of love is just as much of a mystery. ... It is generous and creative, self-forgetful, capable of doing what sometimes seem very small or ineffectual things simply because they are worth doing for the sake of honouring other human beings. Religious believers will say that these ‘unreasonable’ responses are in fact the most reasonable of all – actions that echo the fundamental act of divine love. Despite all the ways in which we train ourselves out of it by selfishness and busyness, love is essentially the most natural thing for us. And because it is rooted in God’s action and doesn’t depend on the way things happen to turn out in the universe, it will be battered and hurt, crucified and abused – but not finally destroyed. ‘What will survive of us is love’*; because what is most real and active at the very roots of our existence is the unceasing action of God. As we once more face and feel the depth of grief, as we face again our anger or doubt, we also recognise the bewildering mystery of the fact that the ruined landscape can still be made into a place of human dignity and hope. We confront not only the problem of evil but the problem of good, the challenge of love. And we thank God for that challenge; because he is there for people in and through the chaos, we can find the strength to go on building with him a future where such dignity and hope can take root and flourish. In the midst of all of the horror and loss, there might be at least some small signs of "what will survive of us."
Another Tribute to Brother Roger
The fine weekly Australian sacred music program, For the God Who Sings, included a tribute to Brother Roger this past weekend. You can get the feed until late next weekend, if you care to listen in. This show always has excellent programming, but if you want only the Taize bit, scroll forward in the program to about the fifteen-minute mark to get host Stephen Watkins' introduction. Then you'll hear a Taize piece, some brief comments from Brother Roger (in about four languages, I think), then a Panis Angelicus setting. The music-talk-music segment is about nine minutes, total.

Monday, August 29, 2005

God Behind Barbed Wire The current Christianity Today has an article by Phillip Yancey on the German theologian Jürgen Moltmann, who converted to Christianity in the desolation of a prison camp after World War II as he became aware that God "was present even behind the barbed wire—no, most of all behind the barbed wire." I myself am not familiar enough with Moltmann's works enough to venture any sort of judgment upon them. But perhaps you will find the last few paragraphs of Yancey's article worth reading, especially today: Through all of Moltmann's dense theological works run two themes: God's presence with us in our suffering and God's promise of a perfected future. If Jesus had lived in Europe during the Third Reich, Moltmann noted, he likely would have been branded like other Jews and shipped to the gas chambers. In Jesus, we have definitive proof that God suffers with us, as Moltmann explains in The Crucified God. (During the war in El Salvador, someone sent Moltmann a picture of one of six Jesuits murdered by a death squad, and next to the body in a pool of blood lay the Spanish edition, El Dios Crucificado.) At the same time, Jesus gives a foretaste of a future time when earth will be restored to God's original design. Easter is the beginning of the 'laughter of the redeemed … God's protest against death.' A person without faith may assume from the suffering on this planet that God is neither all-good nor all-powerful. Faith allows us to believe that God is not satisfied with this world either, and intends to make all things new. Only at Christ's Second Coming will the kingdom of God take shape in all its fullness. In the meantime, we establish settlements of that kingdom, always glancing back to the Gospels for a template. Moltmann notes that the phrase 'Day of the Lord' in the Old Testament inspired fear, but in the New Testament it inspires hope, because those authors have come to know and trust the Lord whose Day it is. In a single sentence Jürgen Moltmann expresses the great span from Good Friday to Easter. It is, in fact, a summary of human history, past, present, and future: 'God weeps with us so that we may someday laugh with him.'

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Freddy the Pig
Brittany and I were talking about books over lunch today. She's been reading books from a few mystery series. Last week she borrowed seven books from the library and has already finished five ot them. I told her about the first mysteries I read, various adventures of Freddy the Pig. I discovered, of course, that Freddy has his own home page, and you can now buy all his books. Honestly, I cannot tell you what I remember about this series. I read it in fourth grade. I recall being attracted to the title Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans, and from there I read about one a day till I had exhausted the series. Today I discovered that Walter Brooks, the author, attended my alma mater and was a fellow Upstate New Yorker. When I went exploring further on the web site, I found this commentary from Adam Hochschild of the NYT Book Review interesting: "Poking fun at generals, realtors, bank presidents and the like was unusual fare for children's books of the 1940's and 50's. Other volumes make a few digs at the space program and at the FBI - Freddy's bumbling Animal Bureau of Investigation often misses the evidence right under his snout. In a subtle way the books even prefigured the spirit of the 60's.

In "Freddy and the Bean Home News" the animals start their own paper because Mrs. Underdunk, the rich, haughty newspaper owner, and her editor, Mr. Garble, distort the news. When the evil Mr. Condiment hits Freddy, Freddy thinks: 'He slapped me because I am a pig….If I were a boy or a man he wouldn't have done it.'

Small wonder, then, that some of the children who grew up on these books went on to found alternative newspapers, to march for civil rights and to become ardent environmentalists. Still, you don't have to be in the 60's generation to appreciate Freddy. As with all books that last, their attraction is broader and deeper. Essentially, they evoke the most subversive politics of all: a child's instinctive desire for fair play. Brooks speaks powerfully to his young readers' moral sense without ever overtly moralizing. The local sheriff, for example tells Freddy's sidekick, Charles the rooster, that he will get much tougher penalties for pecking the face of a rich man than that of a poor one. Truer words were never spoken. But how can a reader feel preached at when it's someone talking to a rooster."

Time to get some reading in before bedtime.

Pray for New Orleans
I (Neil) am writing this on Sunday night. If anyone should chance to read this, please say a prayer for - and in solidarity with - New Orleans:

For Fair Weather. For use at times when the prayer for Fair Weather in the Book of Common Prayer seems less suitable.

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who art the author and giver of all good things; Look, we beseech thee, in thy loving-kindness upon us: thine unworthy servants, and grant to us at this time such fair weather that we may receive the fruits of the earth in their season, to our comfort and the glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

(Scottish Book of Common Prayer, 1912)

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Mars Rover Spirit has reached the top of a hill. Operating well over a year past their planned mission end, each rover continues to explore the surface of Mars. Check out JPL's Mars page to get the latest photos and video, including some movies of dust devils. By the way, ignore those internet and other rumors about Mars appearing as big as a full moon. Mars' closest pass to Earth was two years ago, and being 34 million miles away, it was still visible only as a bright pink star in the sky. If you have a decent six-inch reflector telescope, you might make out a polar ice cap and the dark depressions near the equator. If you don't have such a telescope, check out your local astronomical society, and attend one of their observing nights. Most astronomical people are friendly with hobby newcomers, especially kids. Watching celestial objects is a much finer sight than what you can catch on tv, too.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Athens and Cologne (Or, The Remarkable Lesson of Professor Ratzinger)
(from Neil Dhingra)
The Italian journalist Sandro Magister’s latest dispatch is titled (in English translation), “After Cologne: The Remarkable Lesson of Professor Ratzinger.” Unlike a certain bishop-catechist who tried to win over the young people at World Youth Day by reciting Jack Kerouac (!), Magister writes, “Benedict XVI … challenged everyone’s attention span with a difficult explanation of ‘the different nuances of the word ‘adoration’ in Greek and in Latin. The Greek word is proskynesis. It refers to the gesture of submission, the recognition of God as our true measure. [...] The Latin word is ad-oratio, mouth to mouth contact, a kiss, an embrace, and hence ultimately love. Submission becomes union, because he to whom we submit is love.’” All too often, we think of the University and the Church as competitors, and Church-related institutions as potential battlegrounds between cold-blooded episcopal claimants to juridical control and the individualistic devotees of academic freedom. It is then very easy to fetishize either the rigidity of church discipline or the romanticism of rebellious critique. And, theologically speaking, we forget either that the Holy Spirit is the patience of abiding and reconciling, or that the same Spirit is for “building up the body of Christ” (1 Cor 12) instead of some sort of splendid isolation. Perhaps the professor-pope, unafraid to speak Greek and Latin in public, will let us see how the University and the Church might, so to speak, save each other. “Can the University and the Church Save Each Other?” is the title of an article by Mike Higton, author of a recent book on another professor-prelate, Rowan Williams. Dr Higton suggests that the University can save the Church from becoming imprisoned within an “instrumental vision” that can only see everything as “fuel for a practical purpose” so that the “disruptive strangeness” of the Gospel is “in danger of being hidden in the rush to use.” The University “can even, at its best, point to the vital uselessness of God.” And, in return, the Church provides an essential wisdom about the spiritual formation that is necessary for any real learning. This might sound rather cryptic (or impossibly utopian), so we’ll look more closely at four keywords – the “contemplative,” “literal reading,” “responsibility,” and “spiritual formation.” Higton defines the “contemplative” over against the “instrumental.” The “instrumental” refers to “processes of learning that simply fill in the gaps within a structure we already possess – perhaps providing information to fill in the details in a picture we have already drawn, perhaps providing skills to enable us to carry out a task we have already formulated.” On the other hand, the “contemplative” “places us before some subject matter that we do not control, and for which our current categories are inadequate.” A good deal of the Church’s activity will be “instrumental,” because bills do need to get paid, but the Church needs to be “contemplative” if it is to be the sacrament of God, for God cannot be the result of a “quest for mastery.” The experience of prayer is actually more like being “overmastered” – “Batter my heart, three person’d God,” says Donne. But the Church can remain sadly imprisoned within the limited horizon of the “instrumental,” thinking only in terms of institutional hygiene or church growth, or defining itself through its “usefulness” to society. Higton suggests that the University can help the Church recover contemplation, for the University (at its best) still preserves “an ethos of learning ‘for the subject matter’s sake’: attention to the difficulty, the awkwardness, the intransigence, the questionability of the subject matter under consideration: useless learning for delight’s sake.” The “instrumental” suffocates spiritual life if it corrodes our patience for difficulty, or suspiciously queries the uselessness of delight. The University can also help the Church recover its reading of the Bible. Higton distinguishes between a “literal reading,” which pays attention “to the ways in which the Bible resists use – the ways in which it is awkward, diverse, and difficult,” and a “spiritual reading,” which “has to find the Bible useful or tie it into the framework of already-known truth.” Now, ideally, the two forms of reading work in partnership, as a “spiritual reading” is the discovery of “strange strands of subterranean connection” that weave a text “back into edification” after it has been found unpalatable or compellingly strange by a “literal reading.” But a Church imprisoned within the “instrumental vision” that only sees everything as “fuel for a practical purpose” will impatiently leap to the “spiritual sense” to find what is useful in the here and now. This is the sort of reading that looks only for proof-texts. This reading leaves little patience for the “questing attention” of the learned exegete’s historical context or hermeneutics, and even less for the monk’s patient meditation – “The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God,” as a Benedictine writes. The University often pays more serious attention to texts, providing long and arduous training in disciplines like philology and history. This sort of attentiveness can teach the Church to recover the “literal reading” that “pays serious attention to the strangeness of the text,” and that is the starting point for a more authentic “spiritual reading.” Much talk in Church circles is about “responsiveness” to the present. We are deeply concerned about the attendance numbers at World Youth Day, which dioceses are attracting how many vocations, and where certain spiritual books rank on Amazon’s lists. This is not really a bad thing, but an exclusive accountability to the present (and the measurable) can come at the expense of a wider “responsibility” to tradition - the “allowing [of] what happens here to be called into question by a community which stretches in time and space far beyond the local.” Now, it is easy to argue that “responsibility” and “responsiveness” are always yoked together, but an authentic “responsibility” will remember those “forgotten aspects” of the Church’s past. This is not easy; it might even be disruptive. But we should be unfaithful to the legacy of John Paul II if we fail to realize that “because of the bond which unites us to one another in the Mystical Body, all of us, though not personally responsible and without encroaching on the judgment of God who alone knows every heart, bear the burden of the errors and faults of those who have gone before us." (Incarnationis Mysterium,11). Or if we imagine the history of the Church to be anything less than a polyphony. This is true even if, as a result, we fail to sell as many books. And, as Higton writes, “It is in the University … that the complexity – the deep horrors and occasional joys – of Christians’ historical relationship with Judaism can be uncovered; it is in the University that the strange but powerful struggles of the early Church to affirm the goodness of creation can be explored; it is in the University that the detailed historical context of the division between denominations can be examined.” The University can teach us “responsibility.” But this is only true if the University works ideally – if the professors receive a formation in humility and patience. Higton points out, “Good academic study is a form of spiritual formation – in the sense that (at its best) it is a process in which one is stripped of illusions of control and mastery, and overwhelmed by a subject matter that does not fit neatly into one’s life.” This is hardly automatic, and the Church’s wisdom in spiritual formation might be necessary for the University’s mission. The University just might need some analogue for the Benedictine “workshop” and its practices of transparency (making one’s thoughts known to a spiritual father or mother lest you become trapped in your fantasies), peacemaking (lest communal relations be reduced to rights and reparations), and accountability (a true discernment of persons instead of an destructive oscillation between absolute control and anarchy). Otherwise, the University itself will turn into a place of ideology, personal agendas, and money grubbing that is of no use to the Church at all. So it is probably a good thing if Benedict XVI is also Professor Ratzinger. What do you think?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"What's going on with Tobit??"
Glad you asked. Seven songs are done. I have scored the vocals for the duets, including Tobit's and Sarah's simultaneous prayers for death, and Tobiah and Sarah's song (8:4-9) in their wedding chamber. The canticle (all of Tobit 13) has really eluded me. I've had two or three ideas, but I've trashed each of them. There will be three to five other songs, but I'm not completely happy with them at the moment. They either have music and some lyrics, or the lyrics are set, but the music's undone. This Fall, I'm hoping to get some new ideas and finish them off. My friend Sandy made a brilliant suggestion: have a concert of just the songs and music. I grumbled about it to myself at first, for I was hoping to talk her into singing one of the roles. But when I woke up the next morning, I realized it would be a good step for a tyro musical composer. I can further polish the songs with the input from the singers and musicians. So sometime early next year, we'll have it at the parish. There are eight roles, backing choruses for a few numbers, and I'll keep it simple music-wise: piano, bass, drums, clarinet, trumpet, and maybe guitar. I'll schedule it once I get Tobit 13 finished. I think if I had someone interested in working on staging it with me, the impetus to polish up those last few songs would come pretty quick. The next project is an opera based on the Book of Ruth. Been looking at that one for a few years now.
Blog Commentary
In yet another stimulating exchange on a blog somewhere, I was again challenged, " .... when I find you commenting on liturgy and leaving people the impression that you are orthodox, I'll call you every time. Because that's the ROOT of the topic and the disagreement as far as I'm concerned. People need to know where you stand as a whole." It shouldn't take much strain to discern my views. I've mentioned a few times, but for the benefit of new readers and occasional visitors ... If you have a suggested topic for me to embarass myself--I mean produce sensible commentary on, just e-mail me at tf1212(at)kc(dot)rr(dot)com, and I'll be happy to cobble together a few sentences. Obviously I prefer topics I know something about (or can make it sound so) such as liturgy, sacraments, or church gossip--I mean church politics. Science is cool, especially astronomy. Music of any kind. Sports. Theatre or cinema. Secular politics on a good day. Food. Parenting, especially adoption (I have a lot of strong opinions on that one). Books, especially good ones. Topics I don't know much about (nor do I care to): Dan Brown, NASCAR, network television, lifestyles of the rich and celebrities, well, you get the idea. If you contact me, either through e-mail or a comment box on this thread, I'll assume it's okay to quote you in part or in whole in a blog post unless you tell me you'd prefer I don't do that. You can be anonymous, or I can reveal your name, address, phone number, and all your credit card numbers and access codes. In about a week, I'd like to begin an examination of the thirty-three sections of the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity. Originally, I had planned to look at the decree on Priestly Training, but perhaps it's time to take a break from the heady matters of the ordained. Hopefully, there will be more commentary as we look at the laity. I think I'm going to post occasionally on school liturgy this Fall, as the fit hits me. And we can count on Neil Dhingra to provide one or two posts a week here. When I locate my own access codes for Blogger and send them to him, his commentary may appear in a more timely fashion. If any other person has something sensible to contribute to this blog, e-mail me and I'll consider it. A few of you out there know you have carte blanche to post on CS at any time. Just send me something and I'll post it unedited and in widescreen format. Meanwhile, my lunch hour is now over and I need to get ready for a children's choir practice in about three hours. My director tells me we have over sixty kids signed up this year, excluding most of last year's kids who seem to think they're automatically in (which they are) and the fall volleyball team, which will be gathered in in a few months. Their 2005-06 debut is at the parish picnic Mass in three weeks. I already told our business manager I need a new church by September 10th. Or at least another 500 square feet of music space, minimum. Cheers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

School Liturgy Planning: The Involvement of Children
Over the past seventeen years, a lot has changed. In 1990, I made a deal. I had been spending two years teaching "Liturgical Music" to school kids as a "special," a supplement to their regular music class. Forty minutes every two weeks for grades 1-5. Then I would get the pre-adolescents (grade 6-8) every week. All ninety of them. One teacher would sit in the back and "assist" with discipline, but believe me, it was a pretty crummy time. The principal objected when I began playing musical games and adapting youth ministry activities for them. "Just teach them liturgical music and leave the religion to our staff." You can imagine how that went over. One of the seventh graders, perceptive girl, told me, "The only reason we have to go to you is so our teachers can have a coffee and cigarette break." So as I said, I made a deal. With maybe two exceptions, the faculty dreaded "planning" liturgy. If they ended the sham of learning liturgical music (I didn't call it a sham to their faces) I could teach all the music they needed 3 minutes before Mass, I would take over all the liturgy planning duties. If the principal denied me, I think she would've had a revolt on her hands. So starting the Fall of 1990, I worked with a volunteer committee from each class: six or seven kids. We worked together to plan their Masses. Sink or swim, each committee was responsible. It was a much happier year for all concerned. The first Masses, planned by the 8th and 7th grade: pretty routine. But the younger kids were more enthusiastic and as I went down into 6th, 5th, and 4th grade, it began to have a faint whiff of competition. "The 7th graders just asked three moms to sing, but we could get our whole class to do it." On the second rotation, the older kids had responded in a good way: they took it almost as seriously as the eight- and nine-year-olds did. The fourth graders talked their art teacher into helping them with a massive Thanksgiving mural based on Deuteronomy 8:7-18. The fifth graders wrote a rap song, "Take advantage of times to pray; ask the Lord to get you through the day." More kids played their instruments for preludes and preparation. I thought it was dawning on them they really had a say in the Mass and what went on. Whatever your comfort level with kids' involvement, be you a teacher, priest, liturgist, or whatever, the goal of getting kids excited about Mass can indeed be part of the ministry thrust in your parish. The kids I've known respond to adults that give them serious music, serious readings, and serious challenges to tackle. Those first kids are all in their twenties now. I wonder how they're doing these days. Still involved, I hope.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Parallel Universes
Do you know the concept? Some historical incident went differently than it did, and a science fiction author goes to town on the possibilities opened up from it. Ward Moore's time traveller from a 1950's science commune in the impoverished US gets his butt caught during Gettysburg, resulting in an argument in which a confederate officer gets killed. He escapes the scene, only to realize the dead Rebel's great grand-daughter invented his time machine. To the historian's shock, the North emerges triumphant from the War Between The States and Everything Changed. Great book, by the way. I was thinking about that during my busy day today. Drive Brit to school, then drive my wife to school. Back to school myself to catch up on our four school liturgies in the pipeline. Lunch with a colleague, back for a staff meeting. After Brit gets out of school drive to my wife's school to pick her up, in the process, forgetting about my ten-minute appointment in church. Off to Target to pick up extra school supplies for my wife's botany course. Needless to say the Liturgical Chef prepared a simple dinner of grilled tuna sandwiches with vanilla pears. No gratins. No tasty stir-fry. No brownies for dessert. Then I noticed a simple comment on another blog about the Tridentine Mass surfaced the usual suspects with the usual fussing. I repeat it here for y'all: "The limited use of the 1962 Rite is a boon in disguise for traditionalists. A universal permission for that Rite would guarantee a significant drop in quality of those Masses where prayed. As it is, in large cities, all eggs can be put into one basket, as it were. If you had the Tridentine Mass groups splintered into various sympathetic parishes, it would weaken these groups and dilute the witness they try to provide." I thought about another alternate timeline. What if some time travelling RadTrad knocked off Father Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli the day after his ordination in 1905. Vatican II never happened. What would I be doing now? I wouldn't be worried about missing that meeting at 3PM today. I wouldn't be concerned that I received identical music lists from the two music teachers for the school Masses tomorrow (grades 6-8) and Thursday (grades 2-5). I wouldn't have had that heart-to-heart at the Jerusalem Cafe. I would be preparing bits of chant for the student choirs of the school. I'd be thinking how my musical resources of the parish are otherwise mostly concentrated in on High Mass on Sunday, and I wouldn't be much concerned about the other five Masses. Maybe I'd be putting together a Requiem setting for a funeral choir. My life would be lots simpler. More music. Less thinking. My family would've had a more substantial meal on the table tonight. The upshoot of it all is this: traditionalist Catholics can bemoan their losses and yearn for the day when the world will be Tridentine. I think they should be pleased with what they have: a surefire formula for success. Most indult communities don't have to worry about schools, funerals, weddings, daily or Sunday Masses. Plural, that is. One per week. That's it. If Kansas City Catholics had five or six parishes and priests sympathetic to their worship sensibilities, instead of one community of two to three hundred, there would be a half-dozen Masses populated by forty to sixty people. It would be divided along old lines: northside, plaza, south city, north suburbs, east suburbs, etc.. They'd have to actually find six musicians and six choirs that knew Latin, not to mention six priests who could pull off the 1962 Missal prayerfully. Were I a cruel person, I'd say, "Sure. Let 'em have all the 1962 Masses they want." Then I'd wait for all the little Tridentine boats to sink. We have the present God gives us. There is no what-if. What-if is a fiction, a diversion. At its worst, it draws our energy and seduces our attention from the tasks at hand in the here-and-now: doing our very best for Christ and the Gospel with what we have at hand. There's no time to bother wishing ill fortune on people. Nor harboring grudges that make us ponder, "What if ..." and imagining the worst for our adversaries. It's a busy time, but I'm glad I'm in it. I should have substantially more time tomorrow to do something nice with chorizo, rice, tomatoes, and maybe even some brownies.
Christus Dominus 44: The Last Word

"This sacred synod prescribes that in the revision of the code of canon law suitable laws be drawn up in keeping with the principles stated in this decree. Due consideration should also be given the observations made by the commissions and the council Fathers."

Delegation. Love it or hate it, the council indeed left many specifics to the future work of bishops, commissions, and experts in particular fields. Note the importance given not only of the text of Christus Dominus, but also "the observations" of council participants. Presumably, somebody kept notes on all that. I'm not aware of any such resource that might include such observations. Is anyone?

"This sacred synod also prescribes that general directories be prepared treating of the care of souls for the use of both bishops and pastors. Thus they will be provided with certain methods which will help them to discharge their own pastoral office with greater ease and effectiveness."

I'm aware of some of the these directories being prepared, catechesis is one example.

"There should be prepared also a particular directory concerning the pastoral care of special groups of the faithful as the different circumstances of individual nations or regions require."

No idea if any "particular directories" have ever been prepared. Anyone?

"In preparing these directories, special attention should be given to the views which have been expressed both by the commissions and the council Fathers."

Ah! More unofficial input. By way of extension, one might say that continuing views of committees, bishops, clergy, religious, and lay people should be taken into account when preparing to move the Church in a particular direction.

In conclusion, we can see where the follow through has been spotty in regard to Christus Dominus, especially in contrast to the constitution on liturgy. Leadership on the episcopal level, though not usually impacting the daily life of Catholics, nevertheless has a trickle-down effect that alters the path of the Church and directly affects its fruitfulness in preaching the gospel. Don't count on the USCCB to take a serious look at it, though.

Some questioned the purpose of even looking at this document. I think there is one. I confess I'm a frequent critic of bishops. But is my criticism based on personal likes and dislikes? Is it based on the quirks I see or read about in a bishop? Is it touched by my distaste for the harboring of sexual predators? Perhaps this is so for many, if not all of us. But to be a responsible critic of a bishop or bishops in general, we have the opportunity to weigh their service against the ideal presented in Vatican II. We can read Christus Dominus, and hold up our favorite or detested bishop and see for ourselves: Is it something personal, or does it have an objective basis in fact and church teaching?

Final thoughts?

Outside Usual Channels

"Since pastoral needs require more and more that some pastoral undertakings be directed and carried forward as joint projects, it is fitting that certain offices be created for the service of all or many dioceses of a determined region or nation. These offices can be filled by bishops."

Christus Dominus 42 says it. Number 43 continues by strongly suggesting a military vicariate in each nation, if possible.

"Both the military vicar and the chaplains should devote themselves unsparingly to this difficult work in complete cooperation with the diocesan bishops. Diocesan bishops should release to the military vicar a sufficient number of priests who are qualified for this serious work. At the same time they should promote all endeavors which will improve the spiritual welfare of military personnel."

Even a pacifist agrees this is a necessary ministry.

Church Mapmaking

Vatican II wasn't a completely head-in-the-clouds experience. Christus Dominus 39-41 speaks of "fitting boundaries" for dioceses and ecclesiastical provinces. National or regional episcopal conferences are to work out details, then submit "suggestions and desires" to Rome.

Bishops in Synods, Councils, and Conferences
Those who see the USCCB as a candidate for bureaucratic downsizing, consider Christus Dominus 36: From the very first centuries of the Church bishops, as rulers of individual churches, were deeply moved by the communion of fraternal charity and zeal for the universal mission entrusted to the Apostles. And so they pooled their abilities and their wills for the common good and for the welfare of the individual churches. Thus came into being synods, provincial councils and plenary councils in which bishops established for various churches the way to be followed in teaching the truths of faith and ordering ecclesiastical discipline. This sacred ecumenical synod earnestly desires that the venerable institution of synods and councils flourish with fresh vigor. In such a way faith will be deepened and discipline preserved more fittingly and efficaciously in the various churches, as the needs of the times require. Another "needs of the times" reference. I wish I started keeping count when I began this enterprise. Anyway, the presumption is that associations of bishops exist to do some good. They have the potential to do so. CD 37 picks up this theme, suggesting that bishops are more effective working with their brother bishops in episcopal conferences. The goal? Nothing less than "a holy union of energies in the service of the common good of the churches." I'm not too interested today in getting into a discussion on the tug of war between the curia and bishop's conferences. The bishops are more than capable of sticking up for themselves in that kind of dogfight. And the one who aren't are probably on promotion road anyway. CD 38 makes six statements about episcopal conferences: 1. A conference is defined as a national or regional association with the intent to "promote the greater good ... especially through the forms and methods of the apostolate fittingly adapted to the circumstances of the age." 2. Members include ordinaries of every rite, plus auxiliaries, co-adjutors, and titular bishops. Roman legates are not included. Each conference can determine rules about the "voting power" or consultative role of auxiliary bishops. 3. Conferences draw up their own rules, subject to approval from Rome. 4. "Decisions of the episcopal conference, provided they have been approved legitimately and by the votes of at least two-thirds of the prelates who have a deliberative vote in the conference, and have been recognized by the Apostolic See, are to have juridically binding force only in those cases prescribed by the common law or determined by a special mandate of the Apostolic See, given either spontaneously or in response to a petition of the conference itself." This item has been changed recently by the curia, which requires unanimity. But as we've seen in the case of one ordinary with the sex abuse directives, any bishop is more or less free to do as he wishes. 5. Nations may merge conferences, and single national conferences should maintain communication with each other. 6. "It is highly recommended that the prelates of the Oriental Churches, promoting the discipline of their own churches in synods and efficaciously fostering works for the good of religion, should take into account also the common good of the whole territory where many churches of different rites exist. They should exchange views at inter-ritual meetings in keeping with norms to be given by the competent authority." Hopefully we'll finish up this document in the next day ro two; there are only three more posts to come. I might alter my plan and focus next on the Decree on the Laity rather than on the one devoted to priestly training. We'll see. Comments on episcopal conferences?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Christus Dominus: An Evangelical View from Neil Dhingra

“Bishops should dedicate themselves to their apostolic office as witness of Christ before all men.” – Christus Dominus, 11

What would a Protestant make of this statement? This should not be a meaningless question asked out of mere curiosity. Regarding ecumenism, the then-Cardinal Ratzinger said in 1993, “To live unity in separation, in difference, we must learn to accept others in their otherness and precisely in this accomplish communion. We must learn to understand the objection of the other as our own problem. When this and similar things occur, when we can turn toward each other in our differences and let ourselves be refined by each other, as it were, then division can in its way be fruitful - more fruitful than superficial unity.” We might better understand Christus Dominus if we pause for a moment to turn toward a Protestant theologian.

John Webster, a self-consciously Protestant Anglican, now of the University of Aberdeen, would seem to be a likely source of help if we really are willing to “let ourselves be refined.” In a 2001 article, he outlined an “evangelical theology of episcopacy” – one “determined by and responsible to the good news of Jesus Christ,” proceeding by “dogmatic description, not by historical defense.” There is no reverent appeal to “from the earliest times” here. But Professor Webster also has little patience for a reflexive individualism and anticlericalism. Vague archaeological gestures to “from the earliest times” are no worse than a simplistic declension narrative of charismatic Pauline communities fading into a compromised “early Catholicism.”

In other words, there is no evading the question: What is the place of the church in the structure of the gospel? Professor Webster tells us that the God revealed by Jesus Christ is the God who elects, sustains, and perfect a particular human society “for the praise of his glorious grace that he granted us in the beloved” (Eph 1:6). So, there is no God without the church that manifests who he is. But, on the other hand, there is no church without immediate reference to this God whose action constitutes it. If we can happily speak of the church in the language of institutional forms and human intentions, we have lost sight of the true nature of the Church’s existence as creatura verbi divini (“creature of the divine word”). To be sure, we should never bifurcate divine and human action, but we must always give priority to the gracious action of the triune God. “Divine action is sheerly creative, uncaused, spontaneous, saving and effectual; human, churchly action is derivative, contingent and indicative.”

Does this mean that Professor Webster is left with an invisible, “spiritualized” church that is left “incapable of sustaining a coherent historical and social trajectory”? Not really. While Webster does wish to distinguish between “the gospel and its human representations” – perhaps spending sleepless nights worried by the “danger of collapsing Spirit into structure,” he claims that the gospel’s action will always realize in a concrete human representation. The “converting power and activity of Christ present as Spirit” will always form a social shape that we can call church order (and argue over endlessly). Jesus Christ is the minister of this church. Our Lord doesn’t eventually take an emeritus position, succeeded in his retirement by younger human representatives, but, in the words of Calvin, “he uses the ministry of men to declare openly his will to us by mouth, as a sort of delegated work, not by transferring to them his right and honor, but only that through their mouths he may do his own work – just as a workman uses a tool to do his work.”

We must have bishops in a visible church, then, but their ministry always “points beyond itself to the action of another.” Episcopal ministry is a “showing” of Christ’s self-bestowal in the Holy Spirit, and the bishop’s task, as Karl Barth wrote, “is simply to serve this happening.” This “showing” might be distinguished by tireless activity – teaching, presiding at the sacraments, exercising discipline - but it is always in service of a greater passivity, so that (Barth again) “all encroachment on the lordship of the One who is alone the Lord is either avoided or so suppressed and eliminated in practice that there is place for His Rule.” Jesus Christ is the “bishop of our souls” (1 Pet 2:25), and, to Webster, the local bishop’s “showing” of Christ’s more universal bishopric is simultaneously the refusal of the role of mystagogue.

Unity lies in this refusal. “The ministry of the church can neither create nor represent this unity, but only make it visible through the fact that it points unmistakably away from itself and toward that which it serves – the present action of Christ in the proclamation of the Gospel through word and sacrament.” “Episcopocentric” is a very dirty word indeed. Even Ignatius of Antioch, who might seem “episcopocentric” at first glance, wrote to the Ephesians, “I do not command you, as though I were a great person … For now I am making a beginning of discipleship, and I address you as my fellow-disciples.” Ignatius grounded his own authority in the “manifest will” of the Father to which the bishops were to promote obedience, “since the bishops, established in the furthest quarters, are so by the will of Jesus Christ.” The only ground of what we might call apostolicity is in this sort of claim, Webster says, “because it is not capable of being embodied without residue in ordered forms.”

In conclusion, the only authentic ministry is the “ministry of a herald” (Barth, for the last time). Bishops only perform the “delegated work” of Jesus Christ. It is a necessary implication of the gospel to create a church order with a ministry of oversight, but this ministry must be self-conscious of the contingency of its particular orderings before the action of the Spirit. Our strivings should never be directed towards the recovery of the ideal forms of a self-sufficient “official Christianity,” but towards the self-questioning that asks whether we are practically “attentive to word and sacrament, docile before the gospel, above all, prayerful for the coming of Christ and his Spirit.”

As Catholics, we would want to question Professor Webster’s suspicion of “ordered forms,” and his strong distinction between the bishop’s “representing” the unity of the church and his “indicating” this unity (Webster can commend only the latter). But we should also, in the then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s words, try to “understand the objection of the other as our own problem.” If we wish to suggest that certain forms are more than contingent and that the bishop can “represent” the church’s unity without diluting its Christology, we will have to show that these forms and representations intensify our “attentiveness to word and sacrament, docility before the gospel, above all, prayerfulness for the coming of Christ and his Spirit.”

Can we do this?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Bishops and Religious
Christus Dominus 33-35 deals with the relationship between bishops and religious. CD 33 says nothing new: religious are to cooperate in ministry for "the particular churches." They pray, perform acts of penance, and give life example for others. "With due consideration for the character proper to each religious community, they should also enter more vigorously into the external works of the apostolate." CD 34 informs us that priests of religious orders "can be said in a real sense to belong to the clergy of the diocese inasmuch as they share in the care of souls and in carrying out works of the apostolate under the authority of the prelates." Non-clergy "also belong in a special way to the diocesan family and offer great assistance to the sacred hierarchy. With the increasing demands of the apostolate they can and should offer that assistance even more and more." CD 35 lists six principles for bishops and religious to follow in their shared ministry: 1. Respecting an order's particular charisms, a bishop may call upon religious to assist actively in diocesan or parish ministry. Religious superiors should encourage this. 2. Those religious active within a diocese should maintain the observance of traditions in their order, and bishops should reinforce this obligation. 3. "The institute of exemption, by which Religious are called to the service of the supreme pontiff or other ecclesiastical authority and withdrawn from the jurisdiction of bishops, refers chiefly to the internal order of their communities so that in them all things may be properly coordinated and the growth and perfection of the Religious common life promoted." 4. Religious are subject to their bishop's authority in matters of liturgy, preaching, catechesis of all ages, and moral formation. A bishop also oversees institutions the religious in his diocese conduct, including schools. 5. Cooperation between clergy and religious is essential ... 6. ... as it is between bishops and religious superiors. Thoughts?

Brother Roger from Neil Dhingra

(Note: I had not been checking my home e-mail, so I missed Neil's essay, which was sent Wednesday -- Todd)

I’ve just heard that Brother Roger of Taizé has been murdered. The Associated Press reports, “A woman wielding a knife killed silver-haired Brother Roger, witnesses said, during Tuesday night's prayer service at the tranquil Taizé community in Burgundy, known worldwide for its devotion to peace.” May he rest in peace.

Brother Jean-Marie of Taizé wrote that there was never a “Taizé model” of prayer at the ecumenical community, but the brothers consistently discovered two fundamentals: singing – “There’s a fullness to sung prayer, an element of wholeness,” and silence.

Brother Jean-Marie said, “It’s impossible to imagine a time of prayer at Taizé without that long moment of silence in the middle. It’s a time of listening, a time to leave things before God, a time to be before God, to have one’s soul open for God.” Brother Roger’s gift to us is a space in a secularized Europe where we can still be attentive to God through the profundity of simple and ancient litanies and then discover the silence by which we can fully open ourselves before his mystery.

And, as Cardinal Godfried Danneels has written, answering the question of why so many young people were drawn to the community, "At the heart of Taizé, like a hidden wellspring, there is the community of brothers, silent and discreet, undemonstrative, entirely turned toward God and open to every guest, with unbelievably limited resources and with no pretension to making themselves stand out in the concert of the churches. Day after day, they sing the praise of God, give thanks, intercede. That is the final secret of Taizé: the exemplary force of the monastic life so ancient and so new." Brother Roger always reminded us of this “final secret.”

What is Taizé? The answer is at once simple and complex. Douglas Hicks wrote about the Taizé community in 1992. It was then a half-century old. Roger Schutz had founded the community in 1940, when, already a student of monasticism who had lived in community with friends, he decided that he could not stay in neutral Switzerland while others suffered during the war. He went to France and decided to live at the village of Taizé, which was close to the medieval monastic village of Cluny and even closer to the line separating occupied from unoccupied France. He opened a house which became a refuge to those fleeing from the Nazis into the safety of Switzerland. During his activity, Roger kept praying three times a day and found friendship with Pierre Souvrain and Max Thurian, who would become an important ecumenical theologian. The neighbors, however, were fearful of his activities. When he was finally denounced to the Nazis, Roger retreated to Geneva and returned to Taizé in 1944, after the Liberation.

Then the community cared for orphans and even shared their food with former German soldiers at a nearby prisoner-of-war camp. By 1949, the Taizé community had nine members, and the brothers took a life vow to the experimental monastery. Roger also composed a very brief and simple rule. By 1952, Taizé was forming small “fraternities” of brothers in areas of need – two became “priest-workers” in Montceau-les-Mines, and, since then, there have been fraternities in places such as Algeria and “Hell’s Kitchen” in New York. Besides a commitment to “engagement,” Roger was also dedicated to ecumenical reconciliation. The “Rule of Taizé” states, “Never resign yourself to the scandal of the separation of Christians, all so readily professing love for their neighbor, yet remaining divided. Make the unity of Christ’s Body your passionate concern.” Roger, a Protestant pastor, attended all the sessions of Vatican II.

During the 1950’s and 60’s, the brothers were all Protestants, albeit from many different denominations, but Roger would not accept Catholics until they were cleared to join by all the ecclesiastical bodies. The first Catholic brother was a Belgian doctor who joined in 1969. Roger and Max Thurian also visited Constantinople several times and have since accepted Orthodox believers into the community.

The community was dedicated to “engagement,” and, rather unexpectedly, it discovered a ministry to many young people – “searchers,” often disillusioned with the institutional churches, who began to visit Taizé to participate in study, discussion, work, and perhaps prayer. Some brother worried that a monastery was really no place to take care of thousands of people and wanted to remove to a more secluded location, or at least keep the visitors at a retreat center some miles away. Roger instead allowed a tent city to be set up on the hillside of Taizé. Ten years before, hardly anticipating the rush of visitors, he had written in the Rule: “In each guest it is Christ himself whom we have to receive; so let us learn to be welcoming and be ready to offer our free time.” And so, by 1970, the community was holding “Councils of Youth.”

Brother Roger recognized the youth’s increasing dedication to the struggle for justice, but did not want them to abandon contemplation – he showed them how to unite prayer with solidarity with the oppressed. In 1973, he wrote, “In the struggle for the voice of the voiceless to be heard, for the liberation of every person, the Christian finds his place – in the very front line. And at the same time the Christian, even though he be plunged in God’s silence, senses an underlying truth: this struggle for and with others finds its source in another struggle that is more and more etched in his deepest self, at that point in which no two people are quite alike. There he touches the gates of contemplation.” In 1979, he would travel to Chile with a delegation to show Taizé’s support for solidarity with the suffering of Latin America.

Through the 1980’s, the brothers would hold meetings for youth all over the world. The community has evolved, but some things have been held constant (including singing and silence). Decisions have always been made under the influence of regular community prayer. And we can see continuity in the Rule. This Rule tells the brothers to live in the spirit of the Beatitudes – joy, mercy, and simplicity. Part of simplicity is to live in a community of goods and to give away all excess – for the Rule counsels, “If for God there is the generosity of distributing all the good things of the earth, for man there is the grace of giving what he has received.” The brothers are also celibate, grasping that this celibacy “can only be accepted with the aim of giving ourselves more completely to our neighbor with the love of Christ himself.” Most importantly, they continue to pray together three times a day.

This life of prayer is not an escape from the world, but a re-centering of it. Why pray when there is so much to be done? Brother Pierre-Yves Emery tells us, “Life itself scatters man’s attention, even when it more obviously has meaning only in relation to God.” As Hicks says, “Prayer,” by drawing life’s tensions and struggles together, “becomes the heart of life.” The Church of Reconciliation at Taizé helps one’s attentiveness with many icons and candles – the principal icon is Christ on the cross with two disciples beside him. Those disciples are us. The music is a simple song and chant, a psalm is sung, and brief scriptures are read (in ten languages). Then there are five to ten minutes of quiet, for God speaks to us in this silence. Roger writes, “Could God’s apparent silence be concealing a communion, the kind of communion where ‘deep calls to deep’? The human spirit is unfathomable, an abyss! But God is there already.” There is no end of the service, because prayer must not be so easily separated from life. The brothers come out of the silence chanting, moving from contemplation to the day’s work. They do not stop chanting as they leave the church, for the church must not be so easily separated from the world. The Rule says, “Your prayer becomes total when it is one with your work. Hour by hour pray, work or rest, but all in God.”

The community of Taizé has changed, but precisely because of the faithfulness to Christ and Christ in the neighbor that has drawn it to ecumenism, refugees, the world’s youth, and other unexpected strangers who must always be received as Christ himself. Roger writes, “If [the Taizé Community] were not deeply rooted in the Body of Christ, if it reached the point of considering itself self-sufficient, it would be turning its back on its own vocation: to make that love which is communion a living reality.” As John Paul II said about that vocation, “I do not forget that in its unique, original and in a certain sense provisional vocation, your community can awaken astonishment and encounter incomprehension and suspicion.” May we remember the imperative of making “that love which is communion a living reality” wherever we should find ourselves in this world.

And let us pray with the Taizé community. (That) morning, the following was read at the morning service at the Church of Reconciliation:

“Christ of compassion, you enable us to be in communion with those who have gone before us, and who can remain so close to us. We confide into your hands our Brother Roger. He already contemplates the invisible. In his footsteps, you are preparing us to welcome a radiance of your brightness.”

New Digs for the KC Indult Community
The Catholic Key announced the other day that the Latin Mass community in our diocese will be getting its own church. "Old St Patrick's" was "suppressed" as a parish in 1959 and the church has since been an oratory operated by the cathedral. The immediate downside is that some interior renovations and repairs will be necessary to prepare the church for the 1962 Rite. "Bishop Finn told the Latin Mass community that Old St. Patrick is in sound condition. The cathedral has recently completed tuckpointing and roof repairs, and a small maintenance fund for Old St. Patrick will be transferred to the community. Old St. Patrick also has a monthly income of approximately $2,700 from the lease of its parking lot during the business week.

But Bishop Finn told the community that most of the expense of renovating the building as well as future maintenance will be the community's responsibility.

'The work will be demanding and costly,' he said. 'There will be sacrifices involved.'"

A few people were concerned about leaving Our Lady of Good Counsel, which I know is a favorite because of its look and feel as an aesthetically traditional church. I know very little about the Institute of Christ the King, who will be providing a priest for the community. Their seminarians certainly have experience in getting down and dirty. Few diocesan clergy I know have experience cleaning a moat as these guys do. Whether the Tridentine Mass people realize it or not, having a limited indult is the best of all possibilities for the 1962 Rite. A wider use would certainly mean a drop in the overall quality of how the Rite is celebrated. One might argue particulars about liturgical theology, but I've never heard complaints about contemporary Tridentine Masses that I do about Mass before the Council. I could only dream of having one Mass a week in which I could muster all my liturgical resources that I currently spread out over a whole weekend schedule, plus school Masses, funerals, weddings, and other celebrations.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Bishops and their Clergy
Christus Dominus 28-32 details the relationship between the bishop and the clergy of his diocese. Religious priests also are "constituted prudent cooperators of the episcopal order," but diocesan priests hold "first place" because "they have fully dedicated themselves in the service of caring for a single portion of the Lord's flock." Bishops should be free to oversee their priests, making assignments as needed to ensure the continuation of effective ministry.

"The relationships between the bishop and the diocesan priests should rest most especially upon the bonds of supernatural charity so that the harmony of the will of the priests with that of their bishop will render their pastoral activity more fruitful. Wherefore, for the sake of greater service to souls, let the bishop call the priests into dialogue, especially about pastoral matters. This he should do not only on a given occasion but at regularly fixed intervals insofar as this is possible."

I've had very little witness to this, naturally. I do know that my archbishop in Iowa took a very public stance in meeting with clergy and laity. I know from experience he was an excellent listener and had an excellent memory for people and facts. My wife remarked that he remembered our adoption hopes from one encounter to the next. Did this make him a wise collaborator? I can't say. But there's no doubt that for a bishop to be involved in substantive dialogue, he's going to have to be a good listener, or at least pretend to be.

"Furthermore all diocesan priests should be united among themselves and so should share a genuine concern for the spiritual welfare of the whole diocese. They should also be mindful that the benefits they receive by reason of their ecclesiastical office are closely bound up with their sacred work. Therefore they should contribute generously, as the bishop may direct and as their means permit, to the material needs of the diocese."

I had one pastor who dropped a collection envelope in the basket each week. The priests I've known have been generous with their giving. It's probably harder to effect a unity amongst themselves, given the demands of parish ministry.

Priests "charged with a pastoral office or apostolic organizations of a supra-parochial nature" are "closer collaborators" with the bishop. A nod is also given to priests who serve in non-parish apostolates.

Christus Dominus 30 continues:

"Pastors, however, are cooperators of the bishop in a very special way, for as pastors in their own name they are entrusted with the care of souls in a certain part of the diocese under the bishop's authority."

CD outlines this more deeply in three ways.

1. Pastors and their assistants fulfill the bishop's role in "teaching, sanctifying, and governing" the faithful. In doing so, pastors are to cooperate with one another and other priests involved in non-parish apostolates. Why? Unity and better effectiveness in ministry. What CD calls a "missionary spirit" might be seen as the apostolate of evangelization. Check out this quote:

"Moreover, the care of souls should always be infused with a missionary spirit so that it reaches out as it should to everyone living within the parish boundaries. If the pastor cannot contact certain groups of people, he should seek the assistance of others, even laymen who can assist him in the apostolate."

Even lay people. Imagine that.

"To render the care of souls more efficacious, community life for priests-especially those attached to the same parish-is highly recommended. This way of living, while it encourages apostolic action, also affords an example of charity and unity to the faithful."

Another good point, and note the emphasis here. Community life for priests is highly recommended. And not just for those attached to the same parish. This is one area I think bishops have been very lax: in attending to the living needs of dicoesan clergy. My experience in rural Iowa tells me this would have been very difficult for pastors responsible for whole counties, but even so, priests would benefit from more social reinforcement from their peers, if not in living arrangements, then in more frequent gatherings. My pastor in rural Iowa lived about thirty miles from the nearest priest, but he had a healthy social life, and frequently vacationed with a friend or two in the priesthood. Bishops should be more vigilant about ensuring this happens.

2. Pastors are responsible for preaching and teaching. They are also entrusted with the bishop's duty of sanctifying, seeing "to it that the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the center and culmination of the whole life of the Christian community. They should labor without stint that the faithful are nourished with spiritual food through the devout and frequent reception of the Sacraments and through intelligent and active participation in the Liturgy."

Even in a document on bishops, we see the conciliar emphasis on "active participation." CD 30 also underscores the important of the sacrament of Penance, and that pastors "should always make themselves available to hear the confessions of the faithful."

"In fulfilling their office as shepherd, pastors should take pains to know their own flock. Since they are the servants of all the sheep, they should encourage a full Christian life among the individual faithful and also in families, in associations especially dedicated to the apostolate, and in the whole parish community. Therefore, they should visit homes and schools to the extent that their pastoral work demands. They should pay especial attention to adolescents and youth. They should devote themselves with a paternal love to the poor and the sick. They should have a particular concern for workingmen. Finally, they should encourage the faithful to assist in the works of the apostolate."

A mission statement every priest should frame and hang on his office wall. CD 30's point three advises "assistant pastors" cooperate with the pastor, do the things the pastor does, and provides a "united" front in ministry to the parish.

CD 31 deals with the suitability of a priest for the office of pastor. Does your pastor measure up in "knowledge of doctrine but also his piety, apostolic zeal and other gifts and qualities which are necessary for the proper exercise of the care of souls?" Assorted administrative pieces are discussed, including the priority of the parish for the "good of souls" above other previous rights which might have existed previously, the ideal of the stability of the office of pastor in a parish, the suggestion that procedures for moving pastors should be simplified, the retirement of pastors, and the need for the bishop to provide for the support of resigned pastors.

Finally, this pertinent quote, CD 32 in its entirety:

"Finally, the same concern for souls should be the basis for determining or reconsidering the erection or suppression of parishes and any other changes of this kind which the bishop is empowered to undertake on his own authority."

Whew! Any comments, or are you as tired as I am after sifting through all that?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Who Advises the Bishop?
Christus Dominus 27 tells us. The most important office in the diocesan curia is that of vicar general. However, as often as the proper government of the diocese requires it, one or more episcopal vicars can be named by the bishop. These automatically enjoy the same authority which the common law grants the vicar general, but only for a certain part of the diocese, or for a determined type of transaction or for the faithful of a determined rite. Among the collaborators of the bishop in the government of the diocese are numbered those presbyters who constitute his senate, or council, such as the cathedral chapter, the board of consultors or other committees according to the circumstances or nature of various localities. These institutions, especially the cathedral chapters, should be reorganized wherever necessary in keeping with present day needs. Priests and lay people who belong to the diocesan curia should realize that they are making a helpful contribution to the pastoral ministry of the bishop. The diocesan curia should be so organized that it is an appropriate instrument for the bishop, not only for administering the diocese but also for carrying out the works of the apostolate. It is greatly desired that in each diocese a pastoral commission will be established over which the diocesan bishop himself will preside and in which specially chosen clergy, religious and lay people will participate. The duty of this commission will be to investigate and weigh pastoral undertakings and to formulate practical conclusions regarding them. Anyone ever participated in diocesan organs such as these? My experience of their parish corollaries is that the membership attracted to them corresponds to the seriousness a pastor takes their counsel. The last paragraph strikes me as a sound approach to parish councils: investigation and prioritization of pastoral undertakings, plus offering practical conclusions. Parish council members, do you find this to be so?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Finding Neil
Guests to this blog looking for Neil Dhingra's post on sevetneenth century bishops may find it under Wednesday the 10th. Neil contributes a good deal of scholarly insight to this blog and is polite and generous in responding to commenters to boot. Take the time to read every post of his; it will be well worth your time.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

How to be Insecure
from Neil Dhingra

I just got around to Cynthia Jarvisreflections on the Gospel reading for August 7 (I moved this week, you see). Jarvis, a Presbyterian minister, explores the fear that “strikes the hearts of Jesus' disciples when they see him walking toward them on the water.” The Lectionary associated this fear with the “emotions of Joseph's brothers, who fear and hate their brother's favored status.” We fear anything, Rev Jarvis says, that seems to anticipate our own powerlessness and defeat, and so “we make life an exercise in securing ourselves against our insecurities.” And, as she quotes Miroslav Volf as saying, "Others become scapegoats, concocted from our own shadows as repositories for our sins and weaknesses [and fears] so we can relish the illusion of our sinlessness and strength." Because of the clear danger of this illusion, the Church must cultivate a sense of insecurity. Jean Vanier says, “The poor are at the heart of the church, the poor are at the heart of humanity. They are not meant to be pushed aside. And of course this revolution means a complete disordering of the order. It's the breaking down of the fortress of prejudice, it's bringing humanity into one, it's breaking down the walls, and of course all these walls that have been created are the walls of security. It's the security of prejudice: I know who I am and I'm powerful. But in some way Jesus is breaking all this down to bring us into the insecurity of communion, the insecurity of love, the insecurity where God is present and calling us all forth. ...” So it is the hidden presence of Jesus in the poor, broken, and suffering that leads us past our fears of powerlessness and defeat - now exposed as quite literally Godless - into the loving insecurity of a communion formed by the self-emptying of the Son of God’s broken body on the Cross. And the New Testament is not at all subtle in its placing of the poor, broken, and suffering within the eschatological communion of the Church. But it is easy to miss this “disordering of the order.” An article in the most recent Journal of Biblical Literature by the Baptist exegete Mikael C. Parsons can help us reexamine the healing of the lame man in Acts 3-4 to better grasp the “insecurity of communion.” Dr Parsons begins by reminding us that “In the ancient world, it was commonplace to associate outer physical characteristics with inner moral qualities; it was a world in which it was assumed that you can, as it were, judge a book by its cover.” The pseudo-Aristotelian tractate Physiognomica told its readers that “soul and body react on each other; when the character of the soul changes, it changes also the form of the body, and conversely, when the form of the body changes, it changes the character of the soul.” This “physiognomic consciousness” would not bode well for a lame man, who would inevitably be seen as, in Volf’s words, a repository “for our sins and weaknesses [and fears].” But, apart from Acts 3-4, we see St Luke undermining the traditional understanding’s scapegoating to show the admission of the physically imperfect – a bent woman (Luke 13), the notably small Zacchaeus (19), and an Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8) - into the eschatological community. When reminding us that it is membership in this eschatological community that is “the true basis of an imperishable dignity, a dignity which also resists the defeat of death," John Paul II had to note that “Many handicapped people who are frail and frequently embarrassed by the consciousness of their disability, feel that their difficulties are ignored, and they are forced to lead a de facto life of marginalization.” But the disabled were even more marginalized in antiquity. Luke specifically tells us that the lame man’s “feet” and “ankles” were in need of healing (these terms, incidentally, explain why earlier exegetes thought he was a medical doctor). The tractate Physiognomica claimed, “Those who have strong and well-jointed ankles are brave in character; witness the male sex. Those who have fleshy and ill-jointed ankles are weak in character; witness the female sex.” A later text (Physiognomonica) said that “Perfect solid ankles belong to a noble man, those which are soft and smooth to a more unmanly man and those which are very thin to a cowardly and intemperate man. All those who have thick ankles, thick heels, fleshy feet, stubby toes and thick calves are for the most part stupid or mad.” There are similar comments about feet – the lame man’s handicap would have been seen as evidence of a weak character, an outer sign of the cowardice and effeminacy that all males desperately fear characterize themselves. When Peter refers to the lame man in Acts 4:9, he calls him what the NAB renders as “a cripple,” but what literally means “weak man.” But an ancient audience wouldn’t even have needed that sort of cue. They were used to seeing the disabled as subjects of ridicule. Dr Parsons quotes the work of Robert Garland, “Crippled dancers feature prominently on Corinthian pots, as, for instance, on an alabastron which depicts a padded dancer with clubbed feet who is about to have his leg pulled away by another danger – to the side-splitting laughter no doubt of the drinkers witnessing this prank” (but you knew this already from reading Homer’s accounts of Hephaistos and Thersites). The lame man might have been excluded from the first-century temple – he seems to have been placed in a marginal area “at the gate of the temple” (4:2), and the Septuagint rendered the end of 2 Sam 5:8, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house of the Lord.” In the surrounding pagan world, to be sure, admission to the priesthood was often reserved in Pausanius’ examples to “the boy who won the beauty contest” and the young man “who was himself good-looking and strong.” This is how an illusion of “sinlessness and strength” is preserved. But then the marginalized lame man is healed. In fact, “He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with Peter and John, walking and jumping and praising God” (4:13). St John Chrysostom noted that he shares in the “boldness” that the Apostles would later show before the leaders, elders, and scribes. His healing is nothing less than a sign of the establishment of the coming of God – Isaiah had prophesized that “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; the lame shall leap like a deer” (35:6). Now, Parsons cautions us, “If this were the whole story, then it would appear that Luke had followed the conventions of physiognomy to a tee. The lame, morally weak man becomes a whole, morally bold man. But this is not all there is to Luke’s story.” We need to pay more attention to the formerly lame man’s deeply subversive leaping. The truly masculine just didn’t leap about. It wasn’t done. As one physiognomist wrote, you could detect the effeminate quite easily - “his loins do not hold still, and his slack limbs never stay in one position. He minces along with little jumping steps.” Later Christian texts actually continue this theme – Clement writes, “A noble man should bear no sign of effeminacy upon his face or any other portion of his body. Nor should the disgrace of unmanliness ever be found in his movements or his posture.” The lame man has been given the faith that makes him a member of the Body of Christ – he “praises God” (see Lk 17:18-19) – but then he immediately acts in a rather unmanly way. St Luke is telling us that outward signs of masculine character do not matter. The lame man has faith, and, in a symbolic way, the miraculous strengthening of his feet and ankles will let him be on the “Way” that is Christianity (Acts 9:2). If we had judged him poorly because of his handicap earlier, we were wrong – our scapegoat has a place in God’s kingdom. If we judge him poorly because of his effeminate leaping, we are still wrong – he still has the place in God’s kingdom that gives him, as John Paul II said, an “imperishable dignity.” He has left us behind. Physiognomy is relativized by faith. That process described by Volf – “Others become scapegoats, concocted from our own shadows as repositories for our sins and weaknesses [and fears] so we can relish the illusion of our sinlessness and strength" – is revealed as a sham. The Kingdom of God is a community of bent women, small men, eunuch, and those who walk and jump as they praise God. But can we move past our fears to embrace the insecurity of this blessed community?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

The Alliance for Moderate, Liberal and Progressive Blogs

Join | List | Previous | Next