Friday, November 30, 2007

The End of the Church Year

St. Andrew

If you would like to celebrate his feast, have bread and fish for dinner, since Andrew, Peter's brother, is the one who in John 6:8-9 says to Jesus

There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?

He is also remembered for having called out this prayer (in Latin called O Bona Crux), when he saw the cross upon which he would give his own life as his witness to Jesus Christ:

O GOOD CROSS, made beautiful by the body of the Lord!
Long have I desired thee, ardently have I loved thee, unceasingly have I sought thee, and now thou art ready for my eager soul.
Receive me from among men and restore me to my Master, so that He, who redeemed me through thee, shalt receive me through thee. Amen.

Advent Eve

We have no particular festivity for the end of the church year; we look forward to the first day of Advent instead. But the Jewish people from whom we inherited our liturgical year, observe it in a lovely way in the Simchat Torah.

Since they read the Torah straight through each year (where we follow the life of Christ), they get to the end of the roll. On Simchat Torah, in temple, they ceremoniously and festively re-roll the Torah back to the beginning, singing and marching around the temple. Little kids get flags or banners to wave, to add to the festivity. During the re-rolling, the empty Ark is filled with candles because God is the True Light. They sometimes read the last verses of Deuteronomy

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great and terrible deeds which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel.

and the first verses of Genesis

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.

one right after the other, to signal that the reading of Scripture is never at an end.

I'm jealous, frankly. We just take the Year I Lectionary to the sacristy and get Year II off the shelf.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Let there be peeeeeece on uuuurrrrrth....

Jesus says to those who seek him,
I will never pass you by:
Raise the stone and you shall find me
Cleave the wood, and there am I.

(- G Dearmer)


The subject of gaggy lyrics in the hymns chosen in Catholic churches is all over the internet. There's even an entire website dedicated to two of the greatest offending composers: The Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas. The best part of the site is the parodies, including:

Gather Us In

Here in this place, a bad song is starting,
Now will the altar turn into a stage.
All that is holy is slowly departing,
Making a way for the coming New Age.

Gather us in, though we are like captives.
But to miss Mass on Sunday, that would be wrong.
But Lord hear our plea, regarding M. Haugen:
Give him the courage to put down that bong.

The Church has two thousand YEARS of music to fall back on, but too many of our "liturgical directors" choose music from one of several categories:

1. folksy, twangy, three regular chords plus a major seventh for the thrill. There's usually a place for a really exciting guitar strum solo, and these songs never sound good on a church organ. Example: They'll Know We are Christians By Our Love
2. artistic, with at least three time signature changes so that nobody gets the rhythm straight. Men usually sulk silently after their second loud mistake and wait until the song is over. Women wrinkle their foreheads in the Earnest Singing Look and sing more and more quietly as they wander among the uneven patterns. Example: "For You Are My God" (the St. Louis Jesuit version - link is NOT complimentary)
3. wonderful old hymns, but with revised lyrics. This especially gripes me when the revision reflects a reduced opinion of sacraments. Example: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.

Original lyrics:
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,
the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him,
for he is your health and salvation!
Let all who hear
Now to his altar draw near,
Join in profound adoration!

Today's Kontemporary KatholiK lyrics replace the last two lines with
Now to his temple draw near,
Join us in glad adoration!

A small point, I suppose, but why, why, why????? I know why, actually; because somebody, somewhere in the 1960's decided that we were stupid and being too exclusive. Here we are, the most educated generation in the most educated country on earth, in a church with the most complete historical theological trail of scholars, and apparently we can't be trusted to be profound. And we'd better get rid of that altar, too, or our Protestant friends will be offended. Like they even care.....

So yay for Pope Benedict XVI. Quietly beautifying and re-beautifying the liturgy, encouraging greater use of Latin, especially for the parts of the Mass that are prayed together (how wonderful it would be to go to a foreign country and be able to pray the Eucharistic section of the Mass together with the local speakers in a common tongue!). The media, boneheads that they are, say that the Pope is "forcing" a change. Nonsense. His very brief speech is linked below. These days, anybody, parent, teacher, police officer, minister, who encourages a change in behavior is accused of forcing someone, abusing their "rights."

He's only asking for a more careful choice of music. He spoke briefly earlier this month to the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music (us Catholics got an Institute for EVERYTHING, let me tell you!). Last June, when he quietly reinstated the music director of the Sistine Chapel, who had been displaced because he was reluctant to use the more modern music preferred by Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict spoke at more length about it, and the money quote that ruffled the too-easily ruffled hair of journalists was "An authentic updating of sacred music can take place only in the lineage of the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony.”

Bad, bad Pope. Gosh, I can't wait for more of this bad to come my parish's way. To move the drum kit and guitars away from the altar, back to the choir loft, or at least onto the floor with the pews at a level with us, not the altar. To get rid of the badly-written, hard-to-sing songs that make US God, instead of loving children of our Father. To sing songs that our predecessors sang hundreds of years ago, nearly a thousand years ago. We can only increase our knowledge of our heritage, our communion with those who have gone before us, our reverence in worship.

NOTABLE CAVEAT: There ARE contemporary church songs that fill the bill, and my blogsister's church is really excellent at performing and composing these, even using a band way off to one side, so I will let her choose a couple of wonderful examples. But MY parish, loaded with enviable musical performance talent, still veers between one annual selection of Ave Verum Corpus and multiple choices of Let There Be Peace On Earth - the distance between those two is enough to snap your neck. We never sing Marian hymns in May, we don't sing the good old tear-jerkers ("Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" or "O Sacred Head Surrounded") in Lent; we are truly cheated of a unifying and inspiring experience.

Mass is Mass is Mass, after all. Our music is only a type of prayer and secondary to those prayers we pray together in union with the whole Church, the prayer of the priest, to which we join ourselves without words, during the Consecration. The weekday silent Masses I attend are profoundly holy.

But garbage in, garbage out, and eliminating the worst offenders in modern music will narrow our focus and place it where it belongs: upon Jesus, Victim and Priest, the Lamb of God, upon His Altar in His Church.

I say again: yay for Pope Benedict! Long may he wave!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The bottom line is, how do we know?

I was talking to a friend about Church authority the other day. (I've been looking forward my whole life to opening a paragraph with that statement. Usually I talk to friends about baseball or where to find a really good lipstick.)

The authoritative aspect of the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and the authority of the Pope (let alone the mysterious doctrine of infallibility) is a sticking point for many Protestants and a number of cradle Catholics. I tripped over it myself as I was considering my return to the Church. What if I re-upped, and then a pronouncement was made that I in good conscience couldn't agree with? What if the Church said something that was wrong? What if it was right but I was unable, for whatever reason, to join in with a resounding "hear, hear!"? What should I do about this dilemma?

Like so many truths, the teaching authority of the Church is descriptive rather than prescriptive. The emphasis is not on "You have to believe this, so get with the program." Instead, we are reassured that the Holy Spirit, who promised to be guardian and steward of Christ's body until the end, will reliably preserve that body from serious error that would send it off the rails into disaster. The teaching authority of the Church draws its nature from the promises of God, not the wisdom of men. If we want to know what God thinks, he has given us Scripture and has guided our understandings throughout salvation history. That's good news, not a source of foreboding.

The doctrine of Papal Infallibility (which is much more nuanced than popular summaries make it) was codified at the First Vatican Council. As blogger Hieromonk Maximos puts it: "The pope does not, of course, by this charism manufacture truth. He recognizes it."

The real miracle is that Christ keeps a bundle of miserable sinners (and a bureaucracy!) on track in spite of ourselves and the potholes we dig for ourselves along the way. Well, he turned gritty well-water into sumptuous wine at Cana, and he hasn't stopped his work of transformation yet. We are in good hands.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

And a tip of the headdress to Tom McMahon.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Calling for a recount

Note to the blogfamily: I've been caught in that tangle of "so much has been going on that I can't separate any one thread to write about". We went to Italy in October, truly a wonderful experience in many ways. Hopefully I'll leave breadcrumbs here and there of the riches we found. Today, though, I offer you something else.

Psalm 96:3 says "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples." This is one of the easiest commandments of Scripture to obey, because when God does wonderful things, it is an amazing experience to tell, recount, recall and praise.

When I married my first husband, he was at risk of being deported from the United States for one of those offenses that were common in the hippie culture of the '60s and '70s. Our desire to remain was more than simple preference; Dave felt a specific call from God to serve in Ann Arbor, where I continue to live to this day. We were prepared for a years-long legal battle, up to and including the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. However, through a series of events that had God's fingerprints all over them, the cause for deportation was spontaneously dropped by the government several months after our marriage and (wonder of wonders) the bureaucracy of the Immigration Service put his permanent visa in our hands a mere 2 days after the decision was made.

Thereafter, every April 24 in our family was "Visa Day". Each year, we had a special dinner and recounted the story of how God had shown mercy to us and displayed his power on our behalf. As one of the Allied commanders stated in his report after the Battle of Leyte Gulf in World War II, the positive outcome was attributable to the "definite partiality of Almighty God." We never forgot it.

I remember a retreat day I went on with a longtime friend. We took our Bibles, spiritual reading, notebooks and pens to an apartment in the woods for a day of prayer and reflection. What ended up happening, though, is that we began talking about the action of God in our lives, past and present and never quit. It was an amazing experience of being inspired, drawn into Christ's love, being filled with gratitude, and giving God glory. From time to time, as we spoke about our children, our hopes, our disappointments, we would move into praying for those things or expressing our heartfelt thoughts directly to God. Then we would continue with recollections. It was one of the most wonderful retreats I've ever been on.

In Joshua, chapter 4, God commanded the Hebrews to erect 12 large stones on the bank of the Jordan where the ark had rested as a memorial of his great work of bringing them into the Promised Land. "Proclaiming his marvelous deeds" serves as a visit to the memorial stones of our lives.

Let's never forget.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Christian living 101 (That's 101 AD)

From The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus:

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither
by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe....
[but] they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life....

They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.
They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.
They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives.
They love all men, and are persecuted by all.
They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life.
They are poor, yet make many rich;
they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all;
they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified.
They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified;
they are reviled, and bless;
they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour;
they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers.

When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life;
they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks;
yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

from Chapter 5 - Read the whole thing. (And it's a great website too, with extra-Scriptural writings about the early, early EARLY Christians.)

- Hat Tip to The Shrine of the Holy Whapping

Is there any word of this that needs changing? I don't think so. It touches me somewhere, where patriotism and love of nobility live.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bad Reasoning from Oz?

The world is full of "love comparison" statements:

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make
- the Beatles

If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were
- Richard Bach (or should we say "Richard Bleccch?")

Over the weekend, I was watching the Wizard of Oz for the umpty millionth time. It's like picking through a box of chocolates; you only look up for the your favorite, special parts. I'm a "Lollipop Guild" fan myself, although I also enjoy watching Judy Garland's hair get longer, then shorter, then longer in mismatched takes.

The Wizard, when awarding the "heart on a chain" to the Tin Man, says to him "You judge a man's heart, not by how much he loves, but by how much he is loved by others."

At first hearing, that seems like a decent-enough statement. But think about it: it comes perilously close to becoming a popularity contest. Loving in hope of the return of love is certainly not what we believe as Christians, nor as modelled by Jesus or taught by St. Paul. We should instead give without hope of gain, we invite to dine without hope of return, we give freely without counting the cost.

I know that there is a way of interpreting that statement, that our own lovableness, when credited to our walk with the Lord, will grow. But even famous old Technicolor movies can be unreliable philosophical guides. They all seem so clear-cut: good conquers evil, hard work breeds success, honesty is the best policy. But you see a movie a hundred times, and only on the 101st seeing does something strike a cracked note....

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Using up those blessed candles

Catholics over a certain age can remember when every house had a Sick Call Set on the wall in the hallway. I will be grabbing the one off my mother's wall after her death, a pretty walnut crucifix with the requisite candles, holy water bottle, and prayers. Candles play a big part in the arrival of a priest with the Blessed Sacrament - you meet him at the door with a lit candle, to greet the Light of the World.

Keeping "sick call equipment" around the house strikes many people as morbid: the idea of Anointing of the Sick is often terrifying - lots of people think if they get anointed and blessed they will die, right then and there, Amen and Plunk. But it's quite comforting - I was anointed a few months ago for a long-standing problem, which is still a cross to me, but I understand that God blesses us with purifying suffering. It's probably scarier when you're on your way into surgery.

But I had a bright idea related to it. I have a pair of blessed candles I got at church on Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of Mary in the Temple. Nice long beeswax candles. I'd stashed them with my other candles, but wondered what to do with them. They are blessed and I'd feel funny using them for a dinner party, but I don't want to be superstitious or idolatrous and be afraid of using them for any but a "holy purpose."

I had a friend come for breakfast this morning, who has a world of trouble in her family life: multiple deaths, current dying relatives, wayward children, legal problems with foster children, etc, etc. Even her new couch showed up in the wrong color after a two months' wait. I made a nice meal, and duded up the place a little, and I put the candles on the table and lit them when we sat down to breakfast.

She isn't religiously minded, and I didn't tell her, but I silently thought "These candles will remind me to be Christ to her." And it worked - when I was tempted to push a subject away, or gossip, or be mean about someone else who is playing hell with her life, I looked at those burning candles and shut my mouth a little longer and listened with more of my heart.

They will last a long time, because they're beeswax, and I now look forward to lighting them whenever I need a visual reminder to remember Who lives in me.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Feast of All Souls

- 1910, Aladar Korosfoi-Kriesch, Budapest

A sad day right after a happy feast. So logical. First we celebrate the saints who stand before the Throne of the Lamb, chanting "Holy Holy Holy Lord, God of Power and Might" and then we remember and intercede for those souls being purified by the fire of God's Love, so they will be clean before God, a joyful pain we can only faintly imagine.

I was lecter at Mass this morning, and this is one of those "multiple-choice" reading days. Any of the second readings and Gospels for the Masses for the Christian Dead can be used. But the first reading is required, and it always chokes me up:

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
they shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the LORD shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.

- Wisdom 3:1-9

(I hear my Protestant friends flipping through their Bibles, thinking "this is where?" Sorry, you don't have this beautiful book in your version.)

Then, as if any tiny sniffle was about to be successfully beaten down, we get to hear and pray:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff that give me courage.
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.

- I don't have to tell you that's Psalm 23, slightly chopped and changed so that it can be used as a responsorial prayer

God's Mercy is just as terrifying as His Justice, sometimes. But this is a tenderness we should hold onto for dear life.

I always feel close to my Jewish friends in issues of birth, death, family, and our turning towards God in those times, so I looked up the Jewish traditional prayer said in remembrance of the dead, the Kaddish:

Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

Remember your dead today, and commend their souls to God's Mercy and Love. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

For All the Saints...

Happy All Saint's Day! All Hallow The Saints! Have a Snickers Bar! Or even some of that nasty orange- and black-wrapped candy....

See, when you embed our daily round into the liturgical calendar, it makes perfect sense for a feast today!

Thank you, all my saints and friends, Triumphant and Militant.


Sample Text

We are grateful ladies with a point of view and a sense of humor. Like-hearted people are welcome. Others, too.

For a glimpse at our lighter side, hop over to In Dwelling.

E-mail us.

Sample text

"There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

Pres. Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2009