Author Archive

The Passing of a Woman of God

I was very sad to hear of the passing of Helen Hull Hitchcock, the indefatigable foundress of Women for Faith and Family and one of the founders of Adoremus, which has done so much great work for the Liturgy, particularly the implementation of Liturgia…

Thanking God for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family

The Synod has just wrapped up its work, with a positive message, and although there is obviously a lot more ink to be spilled, I personally believe its greatest work has been accomplished.At the time of the midterm report, an attempt was made to draft …

A Welcome Correction

 Declaration of the Director of the Holy See Press Office on behalf of the General Secretariat of the Synod: The General Secretariat of the Synod, in response to reactions and discussions following the publication of the Relatio post discepta…

(The other) Aeterne rerum Conditor

A 15th-century office hymn for the Feast of the Guardian Angels, my translation, in rhyming Long Meter.

Eternal maker of all things,
you govern everything as King:
the sea, the sun, the heavn’ly vault,
and pay each one for good or fault.
To ruination you condemn
the arrogant and all like them;
they shall receive what is their due,
but help us, Lord, who call on you
With ever-growing confidence
we pray for heavenly defense:
our champions in armies send,
to us, through them, may grace extend.
O may they visit, cleanse, inspire,
and gently teach us to aspire
to noble paths of good and right,
and may they end  the demons’ might.
O angels’ Glory, safely lead;
by paths secure make us proceed.
Give us these guards, your gifts of grace,
that we may come to see your face.
O Lord of angels, let us raise
unto your honor songs of praise,
whose wondrous ordered working brings
both us and them to heav’nly things.

The Polyphonic Mind

In just a few minutes the second in a series of lectures on Philosophy and Music will begin at Catholic University in Washington, DC. The first was a fantastic discussion of Kierkegaard’s writings on the figure of Don Juan/ Don Giovanni.I’ve been atten…

By the Waters of Babylon

This Sunday’s Offertory chant is one of the true marvels of the Graduale.  And here are Jeffrey Tucker’s wonderfully curated polyphonic treatments, from the Chant Cafe archives.And here as an update is Philippe de Monte’s version as recorded by Th…

Revolutionary appointments

Today at room noon, the Holy Father appointed the new International Theological Commission. Its members include 5 women, bringing the total representation of women on the theological commission to 16 percent.As a longtime theology student, I find this …

The Holy Father at Vespers in Albania

There are many problems that you encounter every day. These problems compel you to immerse yourselves with fervour and generosity in apostolic work. And yet, we know that by ourselves we can do nothing: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain” (Ps 127:1). This awareness calls us to give due space for the Lord every day, to dedicate our time to him, open our hearts to him, so that he may work in our lives and in our mission. That which the Lord promises for the prayer made with trust and perseverance goes beyond what we can imagine (cf Lk 11:11-12): beyond that which we ask for, God sends us also the Holy Spirit. The contemplative dimension of our lives becomes indispensable even in the midst of the most urgent and difficult tasks we encounter. The more our mission calls us to go out into the peripheries of life, the more our hearts feel the intimate need to be united to the heart of Christ, which is full of mercy and love.

Two Very Different Futures

There seem to be two very different ideas in the air about the goals of parish ministry. One idea, which we might call the St. John Vianney school or the St. John Chrysostom school, or the Pope St. John Paul the Great school, is the conviction that God calls each person to be holy–to be a saint.

The other idea, and we should probably call it both the dominant and competing model, rests on an apparent conviction that God wants each person to have “just enough Catholicism” to not lose contact with the Church entirely.

This “just enough Catholicism” model is minimalist and inadequate for a number of reasons. And it is not the fault of the people. Almost everyone comes into the Church with a “just enough”attitude towards belonging in a parish. Frankly it is a lot to ask, in our culture, that a person crosses the threshold of a parish church on any given Sunday, much less wakes up an entire family, including children and fathers with many opportunities to be elsewhere, organizes dressing and grooming, packs everyone into the SUV, turns off all the cell phones, and gets to church on time. There is something heroic about a family’s presence in church on Sunday morning and we don’t say that enough.

The aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 10)

But the Catholic life does not end there. Getting in the door is just the beginning. Getting everyone in the door is the beginning. And from that point, everything can soar–or not. And it truly must soar.

It is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.

The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one—that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. These people follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory. Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity. (Lumen Gentium 40-41)

“Just enough” Catholicism has goals that stop at a certain fairly low level of the life of faith. In some cases, pastors do not even challenge the faithful regarding matters of serious sin. But what is particularly wonderful about Catholicism, as seen from the above quotation from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, is that the level to which we are to aspire is not that set by the limits of our imaginations but by the model of Jesus Christ Himself. In other words, the sky is the limit. The Holy Spirit, active in the lives of the faithful, blows freely, and not by measure. Freedom from sin is only the beginning. Pastors who wish to cooperate with the Holy Spirit will foster an open-air, open-ceiling atmosphere in which ever-increasing prayer and charity can have room to grow.

“Just enough” Catholicism has a soundtrack. Somewhere between John Denver and Enya and the Kingston Trio, this music calms and soothes without fostering recollection. Its message can be summed up by the catchphrase, “I’m okay, you’re okay.” It is far too moderate for the Christian life, which ought to be a life for heroes. Young people in particular seek to live meaningful lives. Should our music then be meaningless?

 Rather our music ought to be inherently rational and breathtakingly beautiful, like the beauty of a soul that is even now beginning to participate in glory.

The Saint Benet Schola

I’m sort of amazed at the rapid development of a fantastic new initiative I’m delighted to be involved with, the Saint Benet Schola, named in honor of our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict.

This group of 12 (and growing) women sang the proper chants in English for the opening Mass of the Ordinariate parish of St. Luke’s in its new location, in the heart of downtown Washington DC. There are actually 2 choirs, and the other group is singing wonderful polyphonic motets and ordinaries while we take care of the propers.

Here is the plan for this Sunday’s feast day, Sunday September 14:

After last Sunday’s Mass I ran into Skip West, who runs the Suspicious Cheese Lords:

Me: So, how did the schola sound?
Skip: You sounded like nuns!
Me: Um, what kind of nuns?
Skip: Benedictines! French Benedictine nuns!

It felt pretty good too, the way music is supposed to feel when a singing group is doing well. The church that hosts the Ordinariate parish is a large and beautiful church called Immaculate Conception, and takes a certain amount of vocal power to fill it.

This is what the National Catholic Register had to say:

The St. Benet Schola, named in honor of the Benedictine tradition with a nod to Pope Emeritus Benedict, is composed of women and specializes in plainchant.

“Alongside our polyphonic choir, who sang a Mass by Hans Leo Hassler and a motet by Victoria during Holy Communion, the schola sang the Propers,” said Father James Bradley, an ordinariate priest from England, who has been involved in establishing the schola, referring to the parts of the Sept. 7 liturgy that were specific to that day’s Mass. Father Bradley added, “The Propers are integral parts of the liturgy, and we are using the ancient chants of the Roman Gradual as set to English by the sisters of Wantage, who are now part of the Ordinariate in England. The result is music that is at once Catholic in origin and Anglican in flavor; [it is] universal and particular.”

The rest of the article is here, and if you are in the DC area, the Mass is sung each Sunday morning at 8:30 am. Immaculate Conception is just 2 blocks north of the Mount Vernon Square metro stop at 1315 8th Street NW.

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