Monday, April 28, 2008

The Hell with it (edited)

If being Catholic doesn't mean anything -
- If it's about us,
- If it's about our feelings, our egos,
- If it's about making us comfortable,
- If it's about making us feel good about ourselves,
- If it's just some pretty old traditions,
traditions that we can ignore or modify to suit ourselves,
- If it's about being entertained -
or having our emotional euphoria titillated,
- If it's about the convenient,
- If it's nothing more than "social justice" (because even an atheist can be just)
- If our core tenets and liturgical norms can be changed on a whim, meaning that they had no real meaning in the first place,
- If it's all about aesthetics -
- If it's really nothing different, or more, or better than Protestantism -
Then the hell with it.

I want a Faith that matters,
that demand something of me,
that means something bigger than I could create out of my own imagination,
that reaches into history and Eternity with equal power and authority,
that creates real saints,
that brings us Christ, and fits us to enter His Holy Presence -

Nothing else is good enough.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Musings on suffering

It's been a hard 72 hours. Something that I said in good faith, a criticism of a thing, hurt someone's feelings; she feels personally insulted. Her husband raked me over the coals. I feel attacked.

This could have been avoided if other people had followed a reasonable protocol for providing information. No matter, the job has been done, and I feel scraped raw in the process.

It's my nature to take such incidents entirely to heart, to assign for myself more than my fair share of blame. I used to believe (because I was told so by my parents) that if someone got upset, or was offended, or had their feelings hurt, it had to be my fault. Now I know that isn't always true; sometimes people are emotional, sometimes they look for reasons to be offended and upset. Another person on the committee I spoke to about this issue assured me that my comments were perfectly lucid and reasonable, and with that I am contented.

Of course, I had to wallow in my misery for a while. It's painful being alone on such occasions - not that a husband or sweetheart could "fix" anything for me, but even a smile on such an occasion (and I could go for a hug, too) goes far to affirming that one is not alone, that one's sorrow and distress matters to someone who loves us.

But after my habitual tossing and turning, I've found some peace in the matter. And I've had an odd experience of very rich intercession for other people in the midst of this. Sometimes I know things - and sometimes people just tell me things. Both have been my experience during this conflict, and it's been sweet to be in a position to be able to pray for them.

Am I possibly learning to "offer it up"? to look beyond my own wounded ego to a greater Truth? I hope so - if some of the complacent crust is crumbled so that I am more earnest and more real in my prayers, if my prayers are effectual, I'll be contented.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hi, Adrienne!

If there's anyone here who hasn't popped in to Adrienne's place, you should. I've been enjoying her series on the AA 12 Steps as an AlAnon person. And she's just cool -
Besides which, she makes me happy when she tells me to "preach on!"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It appears we were good -

Here's a review of our performance, Saturday, of the Verdi Requiem. Enough good cannot be said about our soloists; for the first time in mind, I've come from a concert not disappointed. The Mezzo, Christy Brown, particularly deserves praise - her range extended from a G below middle C all the way up to a high A, and she made it sound soooo easy -

Funny that the reviewer should mention the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" ("Va, Pensiero") from Nabucco and"Lament of the Scottish Refugees" from MacBeth; we just sang both a mere two weeks ago! (Indeed, we did!)

Spiritual warfare: within the ranks

It's understandable that we ought to expect to be at war with a secular culture, with a world that doesn't acknowledge the Ownership of the Creator and who is determined to have things their own way in flagrant defiance of the Creator's "terms of service," if you will -

But when we see the battles brought into the Church itself, it's shocking.

The Church - how do I begin to express the multiple dimensions of what it means to be Church? Bride of Christ, Deposit of the Faith, home of the Faithful, the place where God enters time and place in very specific ways, through the liturgy and very literally through the Eucharist - the training ground where we're supposed to be equipped for life in the world, the place where we're supposed to be prepared and shaped and made ready to face Eternity......

And so often it seems we're finding the Church to be on the side of the world. Well, particular priests, catechists, liturgists and other leaders - sad to say - have adopted practices in flagrant violation of the Rules of the Church. We hear of priests badly counselling couples about abortion and artificial birth control, sexual experimentation, divorce - too many priests even reduce the Holy Eucharist to mere symbolism.

Music and liturgy are seriously crippling the Faithful and retarding their growth in Grace. I've worked with a well-known (in my diocese) music director twice, and both times, in the pep talk he gave his choir, he told us all to "go out and have a good time, because it's all about you!" I wanted to stand up and shout, "IT IS NOT ABOUT US! IT'S ABOUT THE CREATOR OF THE COSMOS COME TO US IN THE EUCHARIST!!!" but I was a guest and I kept my mouth shut.

Have you read some of our most popular songs, lately? Frightening, the heresies we are injecting to the consciousness of the Faithful through horrid music! Music that is narcissistic (or "Isn't God so lucky to have us!"), that reduces the Eucharist to mere symbolism, that promotes a social activism divorced from theological grounding...

And that doesn't even take into account the lame, banal, trite and saccharine songs that were all I could find in Louisiana, seven, eight years ago (can anyone say "Glory and Praise Songbook"?)

We are in such a crisis, in this Nation - a crisis of Faith and of Culture. I'm not into politics, but you don't have to be a political scientist to see that our upcoming elections have far too much at stake to be taken lightly and unintelligibly. We Christians must be salt and light in the world, or the world is lost and without hope.

We must deliberately, intelligently engage in knowing our Faith, in entering the act of Worship and in living consistently as the sons of adoption.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tagged again...

Write a memoir of your life in just six words.
Post it on the blog.
Tag 5 others.

As seen on Digi's blog.
and Angela Messenger's -
Angie's memoir:


I think I'd have to say, hmmmmm -
1. When I failed, He abandoned not.
2. Not being loved, but loving, transfigures.
How's that?
Whoever wants can pick up the thread for yourself, okay?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cheers to Father Neuhaus

... for pointing out, during EWTN's coverage this morning, that the liturgists arranging the Mass at Nationals Stadium in Washington appear never to have read the multitude of articles, interviews, and other works of the Holy Father on Church Music.

It is also evident, nay obvious! as I am listening to the performance during Mass of that black gospel song that the person responsible for this music as also never troubled himself or herself to read Musicam Sacram or the GIRM or any other document governing music and worship -

This is such an embarrassment! The Holy Father deserves so much better than this - Our Eucharistic Lord deserves better -

Am I a selfish pig for hopinghopinghoping that this sparks horrendous mess results in some serious oversight and overhauling of American liturgy???

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Journey of the Magi - TS Eliot

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Il Papa has LANDED

He's here! Here on American soil at last - I was having my nails done when ABC News interrupted the broadcast of Oprah (Hallelujah!) to show the arrival of the Holy Father. I watched, enthralled, for several minutes after my nails were done and baked and dried - 

Did anyone else watch in awe as this 81-year old man almost trotted down the steps from that jet? 

What an amazing man! 

H/T to Eddy for helping me pull things into line to be able to stream EWTN's broadcasts for this historic visit -

Sunday, April 13, 2008

More Tanner artwork -

Well, Grace, you did it - you sent me looking for more of Tanner's work. This is Tanner's Two Disciples at the Tomb -

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tanner's Annunciation -

It's back. When I changed templates for the blog, the background painting, Henry Tanner's Annunciation didn't transfer, and it's taken SEVERAL tries to figure out how to bring it back!

I love this painting. Don't remember where I first learned of it - I heard about it through Fr Benedict Groeschel and my friend Matt at about the same time. Learned this week that it's in the museum of Art in Philadelphia, and got a very intimate glimpse into what it means to actually get to stand in front of the painting and look at it, from one who has done it numerous times, so often, in fact, that he came to refer to it as "his painting" to his sons. "Let's go look at Dad's painting...."

I love this painting. The setting is so simple, so homey. There's no opulence or grandeur here. The wall hangings and the rug are clearly homespun, the floor local earthenware tiles - it's a simple home. It's a believable home - the rug has been kicked up and doesn't lie flat on the floor - Mary (like me) has not made her bed yet that day -

I love this painting. Look at that angel! No anthropomorphised European males with chin-length, curled-under hair and incongruous wings sprouting too-thinly out of their backs. No! This angel is decidedly Other-Worldly, he conveys all the Mystery of those beings of fire and light whom God uses as His Messengers -

I love this painting! Look at Mary! - no beatific Arian, pale, anemic-looking, frail; this Mary is dark, young, strong; she fits Steve Ray's description of her as "a tough little Jewish girl with dirty feet!" She looks like a young teenager who might be undergoing all the trauma of changing hormones and the onset of puberty. Look at her hands, her face - incredulous - as Matt said, she looks as if she might be asking, "Are you sure you're at the right house?" But you can see in her face the coming of that great Fiat: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to thy word."

You know how this painting feels to me? It feels as if I might have been there, as if I might have just rounded a corner through one of those archways and witnessed it all for myself. I feel the reverence and awe of being an accidental witness to one of the holiest moments in all of human history.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

More on liturgy and music

This is too good not to share - and Thanks! to Matt for sharing -

Saturday, April 05, 2008


He could be anywhere between the ages of 25 and 60, possessing a yuthful appearance but such incredible presence and power, not to mention expertise, that defies youth. And he, Maestro Francesco Maria Colombo, is conducting an opera Gala with the Opera Company of North Carolina this weekend.

It is my first experience singing opera.

Odd business, this. I'm the descendant of the Puritans, almost 100% English (a little Dutch thrown in a few generations back), with that stiff upper lip and deeply ingrained reserve the English are noted for - not to mention the traditions of self-denial and constraint of the females of the American South. And here I am singing opera choruses by Italian composers, being instructed by this Maestro to emote, to feel in the music as I'm not "supposed" to feel in real life.

"More sex!" he commanded for the women's trio of the Triumphal March from Aida. "Ladies, put more sex into your voices - use hormones!" We laughed, a little nervously I noticed.... how does one put sex into the voice????? But we appear to have succeeded; maybe those among us who have sung opera before know what he meant.

He told us to put more soul into "Patria Oppressa" (the Lament of the Scottish Refugees from Verdi's MacBeth) "It is the saddest thing Verdi ever wrote," he told us (and I'll take his word for it) - "the audience should be in tears!"

Emotion! Unaccustomed, a bit frightening -

We rehearsed ... was it last night or is it still tonight? I got home at midnight, the cat woke me up at quarter til four... - here I am, posting - with the orchestra and soloists. Wonderful cast! (See here) Simply magic. I don't know Italian, and I don't know how a true proficient would rate these singers, but for my money (considerable with gas at nearly $3.30/gallon and that long drive to and from Raleigh) these men and women are outstanding - clear, impassioned, gifted...

The music touches something in me, and it's a bit scary. I found my thoughts going places I didn't want them to go, listening - places of such intense feeling that I am almost afraid of. I was taught to suppress feelings, to control them - but for me it's gone too far, I've lost the ability to cry even when it is appropriate and needful. During the rehearsal I felt frighteningly close to tears several times. I'm a little (!) concerned that I might break over and shed tears during the performance -

and, once begun, not be able to stop.

It occurs to me that there is something cathartic and therefore therapeutic about this music - I only wish I had a mentor to teach me how to use it well.