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"The Catholic Spiritual Life" by Dr Eric Johnston

Delighted to run across a wonderful blog by an old friend and classmate, Dr. Eric Johnston, a seminary professor living with his large family in Newark.

The Catholic Spiritual Life is a peaceful and informative blog, something like either liturgical spirituality, or spiritual theology–drawing theological truth from all those wonderful sources that we have available to us as Catholics. All of these sources of truth bear upon one another, and we can be caught up in their dynamism, and filled with the living Word of God.

A sample:

At last we return to our orderly reading of Matthew – and see how beautiful are the ordinary words of the Gospel.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Such words are like balm. They are really worth reading and hearing just to bathe in them. Such a beautiful reminder that none of our pious meditations can equal the healing power of God’s word.


But let us come to him, and learn! These words teach us even more when we read them in context. The Lectionary is good enough to give us the verses that immediately proceed.

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. . . . No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

The two halves of this paragraph illumine one another. Not by strength does man prevail. It’s not human wisdom that discovers the love of the Father. It’s a gift, through Jesus Christ.

And this is the deeper meaning of “take my yoke upon you.” The “rest” he gives us is precisely knowledge of the Father. This is the cure to our labors and burdens.
We have to take his “yoke” upon us. But this doesn’t mean hard work. To the contrary, it means being so assimilated to him that we let him be our all – let Jesus be the source of our strength, and learn from him to receive everything from the Father. That’s the true meaning of meekness.
And meekness is a “yoke” – a challenge to our self-sufficient ways, requiring a real change of behavior – but also “easy,” because what we learn is precisely that we don’t have to be self-sufficient.

DC Prayer Vigil for Iraqi Christians

A Vigil will be prayed tonight for the victims of the overwhelming anti-Christian violence in Mosul and other areas of Iraq during these difficult days.The Vigil will be held at St. Thomas Apostle church just off the Woodley Park / Zoo metro stop (red …

2015 Advent Calendar of Hymn Tune Introits

Wondering what to give this Advent to that Music Director who seems to have everything but propers? Know a pastor who would like to add a quiet solemnity to his Advent daily Mass routine but doesn’t know quite what to do about it?Well, look no further,…

7-7-07 at Seven

Today marks the 7th anniversary of the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, which gave priests and faithful wider access to Mass celebrated according to the 1962 Missal.Unfortunately, today in some circles will mark a renewal in the kind of complaining…

The 3Fs: Free, Frank, and Friendly

In an Italian communique about the most recent talks of the Council of Cardinals–currently the “gang of nine” closest advisers to the Holy Father–the Vatican spokesman suddenly broke into English to describe the talks as “free, frank, and friendly:” the 3Fs.

That’s something I’ve always liked about the atmosphere of the Church Music Association, that it is free, frank, and friendly. We can often add “funny” to the description, and sometimes we unfortunately have that artistic temperament thing that happens once in a while, but generally speaking the 3Fs describe our mutual dealings. This is not, in my experience, the norm for liturgists as a whole, who sometimes sadly communicate in ways that might be described as the 4Cs: Constrained, condemning, clannish, codespeaking, or even the 5Bs: Backbiting, boorish, baneful, baseless, and banal.

I suppose the joyful and free attitude among the CMAA comes mostly from drinking from deep wells full of rich beauty. It’s pretty hard to be grumpy and calculating in the midst of the sublime. Might as well just be happy.

For whatever reason, it is something to give thanks for.

Speaking of the 3Fs, I took a look yesterday at the current Magnificat over coffee with my after-morning-Mass friends, and was alternately pleased and disappointed by the two office hymn translations of mine in the issue. One is all about the 3Fs, and the 3Ss: Simple, sober, and smooth. Good one. The other is, like most English translations of Latin hymns, 3 other Ss: Stitled, stiff, and synthetic.

Here’s the free and friendly one, a translation of Dulci depromat carmine, a 15th c. hymn designated in our current Liber Hymnarius as the Office of Readings hymn for one virgin:

Let all the people join to raise
their sweetest songs of love and praise.
The solemn festal crowd combines
while in the heav’ns this virgin shines.

This virgin, resolute and strong,
stayed free for Christ her whole life long.
She spent her life in praise and prayer
and joins the saints in glory fair.

She conquered weak and fleshly sins,
with chastity the victory wins.
The flattery of earth she spurned
and to the steps of Christ she turned.

Through her, O Christ, watch where we go,
protecting us from every foe.
Correct our sins, save us from wrong,
and in the virtues make us strong.

O Jesus, Virgin-born, to you
be glory, as is ever due,
whom with the Father we adore
and loving Spirit evermore. 

To my ears, this translation sounds like normal English singing. It doesn’t follow every hymn writing “rule” in a strict way. For example, it uses inversions of normal English word order more than some editors might like. But overall the effect is clear and simple, I think, and people could easily sing it with understanding.

Here’s the more embarrassing translation, of the 10th century hymn for one confessor, Iesu, corona celsior.

O Jesus Christ, most lofty Crown,
O Truth surpassing all renown,
you give rewards eternally
to those who serve you faithfully.
O grant Your gathered Church, we pray
through Him we celebrate today,
remission of their sinful stains
by breaking their enslaving chains.
He kept all vanity away
in virtue through his earthly day,
and with a zealous mind kept free
he served you most devotedly.
Most loving King, O Christ most blest,
This priest continually confessed,
and with a manly strength he trod
the host of enemies of God.
In clear and faithful strength he stayed,
and with fidelity he prayed,
and kept to purity and fast,
and gains the heav’nly feast at last.
To God the Father glory be,
and to His Son eternally
whom with the Spirit we adore
forever and forevermore.

While the original of this second hymn is probably theologically richer than that above, to my ears the translation falls a little flat. It’s a matter of tone, and especially of simplicity, that is missing, and as I read it, I keep thinking that it needs one more draft to have quite the smoothness, flexibility, and candor that makes a text ready to be sung.

How the Eucharist Ended a Heresy and Restored Peace

Last week I spent some time in Orvieto, a city a couple of miles north of Rome. In the time of St. Thomas Aquinas’ residence there, it was part of the papal state, and St. Thomas had access to the Holy Father’s libraries and was often asked to give him…

The world vernacular is, let’s say it all together, English

No cafe in Italy is a Chant Cafe. Every. Single. Italian restaurant pipes in American style pop of one kind or another. Gratefully, this small cafe/souvenir shop in Orvieto plays the mellow British songs of longing styled by Paul Young. Just the ticket…

Joining in Fr. Walker’s Requiem Mass

From Littleton, Colorado, Rick Wheeler writes to graciously invite singers to participate in Fr. Walker’s sung high Requiem Mass on Monday, June 16th.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Littleton CO will be having a sung high Requiem mass (EF form) for Fr. Walker on Monday June 16th at 8:30am (call time 7:30 in the parish hall). I invite all singers that connect with the Chant Café to come and sing with us. 

Besides the Gregorian Requiem I’m planning the Victoria – Vere Languores Nostros as a communion or offertory hymn and either the Josquin – Ave Verum Corpus Christi or Victoria – O Vos Omnes as well.

Requiescat in pace. May Our Lord have mercy on his soul and may God heal Fr. Terra.

Rick Wheeler
Music Director
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
5612 S. Hickory Street
Littleton, CO 80120

If you can join us, you’re most welcome.

Solemn Vigil Mass of Pentecost in DC

On Saturday evening, the vigil of Pentecost was kept in a particularly beautiful way at the parish of St. Cyprian/ Holy Comforter in South East Washington, DC. Here are some highlights.

Amy Culbreath on Violin

At Colloquium, when the polyphony learning curve gets steep and the Mass at which your choir is singing is just around the corner, it’s best to find someone whose musicianship exceeds your own to sit next to and learn from.Last year, my unofficial ment…

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