On Thursday, I met Jesus…and his dog.

Last Thursday started off for me as a pretty normal day. I got up at 5:30 like normal. I watched the news, checked Instagram, then checked Facebook, prayed the Office of Readings, got showered, shaved, put my clothes on, tied my shoes, packed my backpack and was headed down the stairs, iPad in hand as I loaded the iBreviary app in preparation for Morning Prayer with the Fathers in the kitchen.

I ate some little chocolate piece I shouldn’t have, followed by some deliciously sweet cantaloupe, prayed Morning Prayer with the priests and was walking over to the Office to meet with Donna, my Pastoral Year Supervisor by 9.

It was still a normal day.

Donna and I chatted for a bit about ministry that week, what I was getting into after returning from a week on the Hill, what I needed to do with the First Communion and Confirmation retreat days coming up, etc. And before I knew it, my phone buzzed telling me that my 10am appointment had arrived and was waiting for me in the front office. As I walked to the front I looked down at my grey/orange sneakers I was wearing with my khakis, (Yes. I know, sneakers AND Khaki’s?? REALLY? Corey?!?) and thought to myself about how comfortable they were. (I knew I was going to be walking a lot that day, so I wanted comfort over style.) (ooh, Tyler Grant snapchatted me…)

It was still a normal day, and a pretty normal conversation to have with myself in my head.

I was happy to meet with a friend from my home parish of St. Ann in Morganfield and discuss some different things with her about starting a blog and catch up from when we had last met. It was a joyful visit and one that brought a big smile to my face. As I walked her to the door, I thought of what a nice surprise her visit had been and tried to remember what the readings were for Mass, which I needed to go and select music for.

I ran over and selected music relating to Psalm 32: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor,” an Easter hymn practiced and was good to go.

Still, it was a normal day. Still, I was doing what I normally did. Still, it was a normal Thursday.

After Mass, I played organ for a few moments, ran over to the house to eat some taco salad and return just in time for my 2pm meeting with a few of the staff about reaching out to parishioners who we hadn’t heard from in a while.

2 hours after that, I realized that I needed to figure out what I was going to be discussing with the Welcome-back Catholic group that evening, but as I could barely keep my eyes open, I decided instead to hand that off to the Holy Spirit temporarily, and go lay down for a quick 20 minute siesta. (And I had to check Snapchat…)

Still, a normal day.

After my siesta, I arose, read a little bit from a commentary on Holy Week and headed over to church to grab my binder and head to the Loft to accompany Vespers on the Wicks. I knew what direction I wanted to take the welcome back group in that evening. I finished the psalms, finished the recessional, changed my shoes and headed down to run over to the house for a book I left before going over for the Welcome Back group.

And then my day went from normal, to weird.

One of the parishioners came walking down the sidewalk when she saw me and I could tell that there was something she wanted to chat about. Oh no, I thought. She probably wants to say something about not knowing which Meinrad Psalm tone I was using for each psalm…again. I know I gave her a handout with them on it…

“Corey, there’s a man back there with his dog, he asking for a place to stay.” “I don’t know of anywhere in town that he can stay with a dog…hmmmm. If you tell him I have to grab something, I’ll be right out and speak with him, though I’m not sure there is anything I can do.”

Weird. I needed to move. I was now 6 minutes late to my meeting, and I don’t EVER like to be late. So, as I entered the house I ran into Fr. Jerry. “Oh, Hello!” he exclaimed. “Hello, I responded.” “What’s going on?” “Not too much, just have to run over for the Welcome back group. Hey, there’s a guy outside who asked _____ if we could put him up for the night. He has a dog. I don’t know anything about him, and I don’t think there are any places here that allow dogs in the motel. Anyway, I told her that I would go talk to him on my way over to the office.” “Well, I don’t know of a place either, but if you think he’s honest and really needs a place, let me know and I’ll cover the cost for the night for him.”

I ran upstairs, grabbed my book, ran back down, and thought, well this will be easy. I’ll tell the guy “there’s no place in town that allows dogs, sorry, I can’t help you, I’ll pray for you though. Bye.” Then as I rounded the corner of the Cathedral and was greeted by this large dog barking and sticking its’ tongue out toward me, a gentleman with a large unkempt beard, two huge canvas back packs and an interesting accent because he as missing some teeth it hit me.

“The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”

Gosh. What a ____ I was being. Here I was, running about doing the “Lord’s Work.” And I had no time to talk to and encounter this gentleman who was obviously uncomfortable and worn out. So, I said “Hi, I’m Corey, welcome to St. Stephen’s. How can I help you?”

homeless-dog-9-1

Pic from: http://www.peteearley.com/2012/11/19/what-i-learned-about-homelessness-walking-the-streets-of-georgetown/

Long story short, (because I’m already 1010 words in on this post) the gentleman was traveling from California to New York. (Yeah, big-red flags in my head.) And he needed a place to spend the night, with his big, lovable, terribly smelly but cute dog; Bear. I couldn’t help myself, this was not the normal me. I pulled out my phone, called a couple cheap motels we normally use and realized that I was right and that they did not permit dogs.

Crud. Here is this guy, who had come from Henderson that morning, took the whole day to walk over and I couldn’t do anything to help him. Then, I pulled out my phone, asked Google and sure enough there was a motel 3 miles down the road who’s manager told me they did accept dogs. The look on the man’s face as he scratched his dog’s head in the fading evening sunlight and said: “God’s blessed us again Bear, it’ll be okay” brought tears to my eyes. I told him that I had a two hour meeting, but that I would call down and reserve him a room, or I would meet him there when my meeting was done. I gave him directions like 4 times, because he was confused, said good bye, shook his hand, pat Bear on the head, and went to my meeting.

After a phone call to the motel and great welcome back group, breaking my normal routine I realized that I needed to go down to the motel and pay for this man’s room in person. So I turned up the radio, rolled the windows down and headed down Frederica. As I was nearing the motel, I saw this man with his dog walking on the opposite side of the 4-lane road. It had been an hour and fifty minutes and they still were not there. I figured at the rate they were going with the weight of his bags it’d be another 30 minutes before they got to the motel, so what did I do?

I, Corey Bruns, neat-freak, OCD, can’t handle nasty smells turned my car around and pulled over right beside them, got out said hello again, opened my trunk and said come on in, you can ride with me. WHAT THE HECK WAS I THINKING?!?!?! I don’t even let my Mom’s dog Rebel who goes to the “Spa” once a month in my car. Yet, here I was with a strange man on the side of the road, putting his bags in the trunk and letting him climb in my front seat with his smelly dog sitting on the floor-boards. This was definitely not a normal day.

So we went to the motel, the kind manager gave me a discount since the price had gone up since we talked on the phone, I signed forms, and of course the gentleman didn’t have any ID on him besides a rather wrinkled and torn piece of paper from a DMV in … California. “Dear God, I prayed. Don’t let him break things in the room, or steal things from them, and don’t let him be an escaped inmate that now knows where I live and what I drive.”

And then it came back to me:

“The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”

There I went, spouting off to God my prejudices and judgements, so instead of pulling out my company credit card so that Father could cover the cost, I pulled out some cash I received from a generous friend that day and paid for the room. As we walked out of the office, Bear, who had been barking up a storm wagged his tail and jumped up and licked the gentleman on the face, happy to see his friend again.

Then, breaking my normal-ness again, I asked: “Have you eaten? Let’s go put you and Bear in your room and then we can go get the two of you something to eat.

So, we went to Wendy’s. To a God-awful long line, where I had to step outside of myself, turn on my “normally” extra-extroverted side and make small talk for 17 minutes. (I have OCD, remember I count things.) After ordering food in the drive-up for my new friend and his dog (and discussing why bear couldn’t have the chocolate frosty) I thought, hmmm. Maybe he’ll kill me and steal my car when I drop him off. So for that, I upgraded his order to a large, to which he responded: “Lord, you always take care of us, thank-you for Corey.”

I could have smacked myself I was so angry that I had judged him…again. I slipped him my business card, and left my number on it, asking him to call me if he still has the card when he gets to New York, as I’d like to know that he made it safely. I told him that I would pray for him every day and I asked him if he would do the same for me. So I shook his hand, waved good-bye to him and Bear and drove off from the motel, wondering what the heck just happened.

It’s taken me about a week to process “what the heck happened.” I had no idea that this gentleman would come into my life on Thursday. I had no idea that my “normal-day” would be turned upside down from a large smelly hunk of fur who tried to climb up and sit in my trunk of my clean, pristine Volvo.

I had no idea that I would be so prejudiced and judgemental to a man who simply needed a helping hand on his journey to get a job that would provide for himself and his dog he had rescued along the way.

Just a few weeks ago we celebrated the Triduum. We celebrated the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, his walk on the long road to Calvary (New York), blistered feet, cuts, and scrapes, carrying his cross (2 huge canvas backpacks), and being assisted by Simon of Cyrene, who was pressed into service because others told him he was needed.

Thursday, of the Second Week of Easter was in no way a normal day for me. On Thursday, of the Second Week of Easter, I woke up and went through my day not connecting the Scriptures I had read and heard later at Mass with my life until this man entered it.

On Thursday I met a man created in the image of Jesus Christ, and his dog Bear. On Thursday, not just the Lord, but I was able to hear the cry of the poor. My Thursday was anything but normal. My Thursday caused me to grow and stretch myself beyond what I had ever done before. Why?

Because on Thursday, I met Jesus Christ and his dog.

 

Can I Be A Weak Priest?

“Can you be a weak priest?”

So ended a conversation I had recently with my mentor for my Pastoral Year. Both Fr. Jerry and I had stayed up way too late enjoying a drink, celebrating Easter and discussing different aspects of my time at St. Stephen Cathedral. The school year ends in just a matter of weeks and I was discussing my final evaluation with Father, talking about areas I have grown in and areas that still challenge me.

Since that conversation, I have taken the “rhetorical question” Father Jerry asked me to prayer, asking our Lord, what it means to me and in my discernment at this time. “Can I be a weak priest?” Maybe it would help a bit if I put this statement into some context.

I have been called many things in my life and during this Pastoral Year. I heard a new one on Monday; “Chief bottle-washer.” I honestly had no idea what that meant, so I asked some of our office ladies. They responded that it was the 17855438_1445955895454724_1865125997131649018_osame as when I say: “Im a jack of all trades and a master of none.” I’m a talented individual. I’m not bragging by this statement, but honestly acknowledging that God has blessed me with many gifts. I’m a musician, a woodworker, a photographer (amateur), I can fix plumbing problems, I’m a gardener, I’m a techie, I’m a decorator, I’m a extrovert, I’m a host, I’m an MC, I’m a cook, I’m a Youth Minister, I’m a graphics designer, I’m a team player, I’m a doer, I’m a leader, I’m a man of community, I’m a friend, I’m a tractor-driver, I try to be generous with my time, I’m many many things. God has blessed me abundantly, and for that, each day I am truly thankful.

With being a man of many talents I pray, and work that I will be a good investor, a good sharer, and user of my talents, like we hear Christ speak of in Matthew 25:14-30 in the Parable of the Talents. At the same time that I have and use all of these talents I like any other man am weak. I have weaknesses and challenges like anyone else, though I don’t always show them. This gets to the heart, I think of what Fr. Jerry was challenging me on and encouraging me to grow in. He also said: “I think that sometimes people like to see their priest mess up and make mistakes. They’ll talk about it for a long time after, not because they think it’s funny, or like to see someone do something wrong, but they want to see that their priest is human.”

In the Exsultet, which I was blessed to chant at the Easter Vigil at St. Stephen Cathedral this year, is an ancient hymn of praise, recounting the blessings and workings of God through man across the centuries, from the first fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, to the saving of the Israelites from the Egyptians in the Red Sea, to the coming of Christ, the Son of God and Man to redeem the world and draw it back to his Father. There are countless beautiful images of light versus 17904067_10212867266013332_7236651706856425136_ndarkness, with the light always triumphing and coming over the darkness, allowing the mercy, love, and strength of God to show. As I sang “the praises of this pillar, which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor,” I was filled with love. I made the chant my prayer, recounting how God was “leading them (the people) to grace and joining them to his holy ones.” As I sang of how “This is the night, when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld” I also sang of how the first sin of Adam and Eve was indeed a “happy fault, which earned for us so great and glorious a redeemer!” I chanted of how that happy fault, which wounded the world was necessary for salvation. I love that line: “happy fault.” Yes, sin is bad, yes when we fall we sometimes do so pretty hard, yet it is what comes after that defines us. It is what comes after that makes us into the better men and women God has called us to be.

I have a lot of gifts. I also have a lot of weaknesses. I have a lot of faults, which through the grace of God I continually try to turn into those “happy faults,” and use them to become a better man. I can be cynical, I can gossip, I can curse like a sailor, I can be angry, I can be selfish, I can make it all about me, I can be jealous, I can be lazy, I’m the king and first card-carrying member of the procrastination club, I can be a perfectionist, I can be overly OCD, I can judge others, I can be a lot things and do a lot of things that separate me from God, the church, and the community as a whole. Yet, like Venerable Bruno Lanteri I remember and act on: Nunc Coepi! Being again! I rise and turn my fault into a happy fault, I use it as a stepping stone into something greater that God has called me to do.

So. Can I be a weak priest? Can I let another see my wounds? Can I allow the Lord to not only work through my strengths and gifts, but also through my weaknesses? Can I let my weaknesses transform me more after the Heart of Christ into who he wants me to be and not just what I think I should be?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,* in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Father Jerry’s question will continue to be a challenge for this hard-headed, german-blooded, blessed seminarian who is just trying to make sense of what the Lord is asking of me each day. It is something that will take time to become more “okay” with. Bearing our wounds to another, letting another know that we are broken, that we have faults, that I have shortcomings, is never easy. But it is necessary.

As Christ hung upon the cross, stripped of his dignity, bearing everything from the weight of our sins, to his own human emotions had to be rough. But, the Resurrection, the story of new life doesn’t come easily. It is only through hardships, through trials, through faults-made happy, that we are able to glimpse and better come to understand the loving God who made us and calls us to be His.

IMG_5529Pray for me, as I continue to try to be okay with being a weak seminarian and hopefully one day a weak priest, for it is only then, that Christ will more fully be able to dwell with me. Pray that: “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ;…”*

” for when I am weak, then I am strong.” *- 2 Corinthians 12:9

Prayer Request

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Very Rev. D. Andrew Canon Garner, Mother John Mary CP, the newly professed Sr. Lucia Marie CP, and myself.

“I will attempt day by day to break my will into pieces. I want to do God’s Holy Will, not my own” – St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

I will be making my retreat this coming week at the Passionist Monastery of St. Joseph in Whitesville, KY.

I ask for your prayers that as I continue to seek to follow “God’s Holy Will” in my life, that I will have the courage to do so and to be able to follow after him, holding nothing back.

Know that you and your intentions will remain in my prayers this week. If you would like to send me any prayer requests before I leave. Feel free to do so through other means or the contact box below!

Behold the Lamb of God -A Reflection on the Incarnation 

 John 1:29-34. 

“John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. 

He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’

I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.”

John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.

I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ 

Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

“Behold the Lamb of God.” This line is one of my favorite lines of the Mass. Look! Behold! This is Jesus, the Christ! Look, see Him here hidden under the Eucharistic Bread and Wine! “Blessed are those called to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb!” “Blessed, special, Holy, thankful, are those who are called to receive him in Holy Communion.”
Each Wednesday I go and bring our Lord in Holy Communion with me to visit our parishioners in the Hospital. Each Friday I go and visit the home bound, always bringing Jesus along. I use a pyx which was given to me by my sister-in-laws mother who has since died of cancer. Each time I use it I think of Ms. Janet and day a prayer for her and ask her to intercede for me and those who I will visit that day. I also ask for the intercession of the others I have brought communion to, using that pyx who are no longer of this world but have passed away. 

There is a tradition in the Church to pray the rosary as you transport the Eucharist, asking our Blessed Mother to help us as she was the first to bring Christ to the world. I too pray my rosary and ask for our Lady to intercede for me and those I visit. I never know who, or even what I might encounter when carrying our Lord, but I do know that I always am filled with his grace and his love. Without which, I couldn’t go and bring Him to others. 

The people I visit are always thankful to receive our Lord; some will comment on how it is so nice to have received a visit and to be able to receive our Lord in Holy Communion. I too, am always thankful after having an encounter with someone and our Eucharistic King. 

At the end of the communion rite as I hold the host above the pyx and say: “Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him, who takes away the sins of the world, blessed are those who are called to the Supper of  the Lamb.” I am always filled with an immense sense of gratitude and wonder at Christ who comes to feed us and give us what we need under the form of this simple host I hold in my fingers. 

One of my visits to a person who died shortly thereafter involved me holding the host and saying those words like normal. As I did that, I noticed that the catheter bag was beginning to fill up. My first thought was one of shock and I began to worry about what I should do in this situation. I closed my eyes, took a breath, and began the prayer again: “Behold the Lamb of God.” As I said those words I opened my eyes and saw the person there behind the host. I saw Christ and looking through the host to the person I saw Christ in them. Christ, the all powerful God who became man including every aspect of our humanity. Including the need to relieve ourselves and the ability to do so even in a catheter bag, during a communion visit. Through this person, expressing a perfectly normal part of their humanity I recognized the Incarnation, I saw the humanity of the God-child born in Bethlehem. I saw Him who wanted to come to this person under the form of bread, the one who had died for them, and who now wished to bless them with his presence through this “Supper of the Lamb.”

Those words bear more of a special weight now. Each time I say them, I think of the person who is deceased and hopefully with God at his eternal Supper. I ask for her prayers. I find that the many different people who touch my life through my ministry at the Cathedral, or the parishes I have been at before leave my heart wounded with the love of Christ in unique ways. When I say different words, use different objects, see different pictures, my heart is filled with the love of Christ for his flock. I have a closeness with these people. I have a desire to serve them and love them more like Christ. And I am encouraged to constantly seek to find Christ through them. 

And as I say those words: “Behold the Lamb of God…” I, like the person on the receiving end, look upon the face of our Eucharistic King and see Him who has come to visit us, who has come to visit me in the “Supper of the Lamb.” And I think and I pray that I might always be blessed to be called there to the side of the Lords flock, looking and gazing together upon the Lamb of God. 

Adoration with the Cathedral Youth Group

On the Day I Called for Help – Reflection on Faithfulness in the Lord’s Prayer

 

In today’s Responsorial Psalm, we hear:

“Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.” – Psalm 138

Each and every time that we invoke the name of the Lord, he answers us. It might not DSC_5533always be in the way which we desire him to answer, yet he is always there and always answers. We read in Isaiah 55:8:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways.”

One of the things which Father Jason, my Vocation Director and I talked about recently was that at the end of our lives we will not be judged so much by what we have done wrong, our sins, yes those will be taken into account, but we will be judged by our faithfulness. Christ will not ask us why did you lie to your mother when you broke the vase? Why were you unfaithful to your wife? Why did you abort your child? Instead he will ask us, “How did you remain faithful to me?” “What did you do after you fell?” Christ asks each of us for our faithfulness. He is a loving and merciful God, if we pick ourselves up each time we fall, if we go and place our trust, our hope, our faith, our love in Him, nothing else matters. We always end up falling, sinning, but it’s in those moments of standing back up and re-orienting ourselves toward God that Christ extends his mercy towards us, calls us to Himself, and sanctifies us through his Blood.

How will we remain faithful to him? How each day can we give completely of ourselves to the work of the Lord in our lives?  In today’s Gospel, Christ teaches his disciples (us) how to pray. He teaches us through this prayer how we can remain faithful in the simplest way. Now, this is different from the normal Lord’s Prayer or Our Father that most know how to pray, as the one Christians normally use comes from the Gospel of Matthew, and not Luke. Luke’s version is a little shorter and is different yet very much the same at its core.

GospelLK 11:1-13

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Christ teaches us through the Lord’s Prayer and the parables after that what we ask will be given us by the Father, in his way, but still if we ask we shall receive, if we seek, we shall find, if we knock the door to Eternal Life will be opened up to us.

How do we remain faithful to Christ?

We go to him each day and we ask for our daily bread, we ask for what we need, knowing that it will be done as is in his kingdom, we ask for forgiveness of our sins,DSC_5536 knowing that we too must forgive others of theirs towards us. And we ask that God will not abandon us, that he will help us to stay faithful to him, especially as we walk through the final test, the temptations of the world, at the end of our lives, at every moment where we know we need God’s help.

May we pray the Lord’s Prayer with great fervor in our lives. May we give completely of ourselves to His will, towards the movings and calling of His Spirit, and may we through the grace of God always stand up when we fall, turn back to the Lord with all our heart, may we always stay faithful to him, who is first and always faithful to us. Then, we will know the mercy and faithfulness of Him like the Psalmist knows as he prays:

“Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.” – Psalm 138

 

 

“There’s a Power in the Blood” – A Letter and a Prayer for July.

“Eternal Father, I offer you the Body, Blood, soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son our Lord Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”

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The following is from a letter I wrote to those that are homebound here at Holy Spirit Catholic Church on the Month of the Precious Blood. Holy Spirit calls those that are homebound the “Ministers of Praise.” The church has long taught that when we suffer something we can unite that suffering to the Cross of Christ and win spiritual graces and merits for ourselves, intentions, and others. The phrase: “Offer it up” was commonly heard in my house growing up, as a way for my Mom to remind my siblings and I that we really didn’t have it that bad and that we should offer up the spiritual merits from doing something painful or that we didn’t like for the Souls in Purgatory or someone who was in need of our prayers. Here at Holy Spirit, we ask our homebound to be that spiritual backbone for the parish, to pray 3 times each day, morning, noon, and night for the intentions of our parish, the church, and the world. The letters are written by the staff each month as a way to keep our parishioners engaged and united to the life of the parish.

Dear Ministers of Praise,

In 1849 Pope Pius IX instituted July as the Month of the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. June, is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus who shed his precious blood upon the cross for us, for the remission of our sins, the cleansing of humanity, and a truly wonderful sign of how far the Lord will go to share his mercy and love with us.

The icon above is one of my favorites, as it shows the angels catching the blood, which is pouring from Christ’s wounds into chalices. If we think of the Mass and the Altar of most churches, we see that the Church is made in a cruciform shape with the Altar where the crossbeam of the cross would be. The Altar itself stands as that crossbeam at every Mass in every church around the world. It is where Christ comes, and his one, true, sacrifice is re-presented to us as he gives himself to us in His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.

There’s an old Baptist hymn: which states: “There’s a Power in the Blood.” For us, as Catholics the Blood of Christ truly has power. It is through the shedding of Christ’s blood that our sins are washed away; it is through the power of his blood that we are made new, that all of humanity raises from the ash heap of sin and into the glorious Son-light of the Resurrection. It is through the receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion that we receive the grace needed to combat the darkness of the world and to intercede on behalf of others to Christ. It is through our Baptism that we are cleansed with the waters of rebirth, the waters and our garments, which have been washed clean in the blood of the lamb.

As I think of all that has happened in our world this month and the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, I cannot help but to hear the words of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, who taught us the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, asking God for his mercy through the blood of Christ for ourselves and the whole world. And so, invoking the patrons of Divine Mercy, Pope St. John Paul II, St. Faustina, we pray this month for the following intentions:

  • For Peace in the world, especially within our country, that the Precious Blood of our Lord will wipe away the anger, hurt, and violence in our lives.
  • For those members of our parish who have died, that through the power of the Blood of Christ they might receive their eternal reward, especially: Carlene Witucki, Jeanette Adams, Vicki Lee Warych, Rose Dobernic, and Steven Allen Saul.
  • For the safety of all of our Public First Responders, that the Precious Blood of our Lord will protect them as they minister and help the vulnerable among us.
  • For all those who seek public office or currently hold office, that the Precious Blood of our Lord spilt on the Cross will encourage them in their fight for justice, and that they will seek to enact laws which honor the dignity of all human life, and serve the common good.
  • For the Intentions, health and wellbeing of our Holy Father Pope Francis, our Bishop William Francis, our Pastor Fr. John and Associate Father Timothy, that the Precious Blood of our Lord which they offer daily for the Salvation of the World at Mass will shower down it’s grace and mercy on us and our parish.
  • For all who are in time of transition, especially our former associate pastor Fr. Emmanuel Udoh, Stephany Nelson as she enters her Novitiate Year with the Ursilines, Corey Bruns as he starts at Saint Meinrad Seminary, and for all those who are starting college, school, seminary, and new jobs.

We offer these prayers and those we hold in our hearts, united to the Precious Blood of Christ as we pray: “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world! Amen.”

 

I remain yours in the Precious Blood of Christ,

Corey D. Bruns

Seminarian – Intern

Servants of Christ and Stewards of the Mysteries of God – A Reflection on Communion Calls

St. Paul says that we are to be regarded as “the servants of Christ and the stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1)

 

I’m reminded of one of the readings from the Liturgy of the Hours, I think it is from Romans, but the line says: “He whom you serve is the Lord!” I am always consistently amazed at the blessing that the Lord continually puts into my life. It’s not that I’m amazed that he would bless me or give me a joy, but sometimes in my own sinfulness, I think, “Who am I to be able to experience this?” I’m MLK-2832continually made aware of my own failings and lack of abilities, but when I place those in the presence of Christ at the foot of the cross, it’s amazing to watch and see how he will take something so small and turns it into something which I can experience his love and his mercy in my own life.

Part of my summer assignment at Holy Spirit is to join a group of faithful folks (called the Ministers of Care) each Friday morning to bring the Holy Eucharist and a friendly face to some of our shut-ins and homebound from the parish. I’m continually amazed at how the Lord never ceases to either smack me upside the face and bring me back to reality or how he humbles me through these Friday visits.

There are several people whom I have gone to see who are just sweet as can be, who love to sit and chat, ask about you and even remember your name and things you have spoken about even though you haven’t seen them for a couple weeks as someone else went. At the same time though, I am reminded of how much our world is hurting, how much healing is needed and how we need the presence and mercy of Christ more than anything in the world.

On one of my visits to the hospital, my first “communicant” if you will started talking ill of Muslim’s, RIGHT after he had received communion. The irony of having received the Sacrament of Charity, and some of the things he was trying to get me to comment on  was crazy! Another time, the spouse of a Catholic man would not permit us to visit him, due to her not agreeing with the Church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage. And then there was the time I got to visit and bring communion to a couple who had just welcomed their first child into the world. To think, I got to be the first person to bring Jesus to visit her outside of the womb!

This past week, one of the gentlemen that I visited was bed-ridden and had a huge pitbull and a boxer. As I went to see him the boxer hopped in bed with him and we began the Rite of Communion for the sick. It was a good learning experience for me of the need to be flexible. The gentleman was going in and out of consciousness and I was left praying a lot IMG_4958of the prayers like the Our Father by myself. I was reminded though in the moment, of the great “Cloud of Witnesses,” the “Communion of Saints” that were no doubt gathered around the bedside with me, adoring Christ and praying on behalf and for this gentleman.

When the priest celebrates a Mass by himself and not with anyone else he doesn’t say the responses to certain prayers. When he says: “The Lord be With You” or “Lift up Your Hearts” He doesn’t answer, because those present in the Communion of Saints answer them. We are always surrounded by those who having gone before us are marked with the Sign of Faith.

The gentleman, after receiving communion prayed the Hail Mary with me as a prayer of Thanksgiving. I always try to pray a Hail Mary after folks receive our Lord, that as Mary was the first to become a living tabernacle and bear Christ to the world, that as they become a living tabernacle will be able to bear Christ to all that they meet.

Immediately after receiving Communion, the gentleman said that he wished they made hosts for puppies and that I would give communion to his dog.

Oh my! I had to laugh and chuckle and remind him that only humans could receive the Eucharist, lest he try to take the host he was chewing and give some to his dog. It was amazing though that the dog in the cage stopped barking and the dog on the bed stopped moving and laid its head down when I brought the host out of my pyx and said: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the World…” Animals, being created by God have a sense of the holy. St. Francis of Assisi, my patron gave many wonderful examples of this.

As Christians, we are each called to be “Servants of Christ” as a man in formation for the priesthood, I hope one day to fully be able to be a “steward of the mysteries of God.” Until then, I get to have these small but beautiful encounters of the life of a priest, in bringing Christ’s healing love and mercy to the world, through the great Sacrament of Charity, the Sacrament of Unity, the Holy Eucharist.

I had a priest friend who told me that when I go on a Communion call, to help those I am bringing Christ to, to recognize that it indeed IS Jesus. So often, when we’re outside of the Sacred space of the Church building, and standing in the middle of a lysol-smelling hospital room, it can be easy to become lax, but the simple pauses, redirecting conversation back to the prayer, genuflecting to the pyx, before distributing communion, little details help to bring the Sacred to the secular. One of my favorite parts of Lumen Gentium is where the Council Fathers remind us that we are called to sanctify the secular. We are called to bring Christ to the world and remind them of his presence.

As I go on communion calls, as I spend those precious moments in the car, carrying Christ in my burse hanging upon my breast, over my heart I pray for those I am going to see. I pray for those that I drive by, that even if they don’t know Christ is passing them by, that he will touch them and bring them his love and mercy. Each time that I meet someone and get to bring Jesus to them in Holy Communion, I am reminded of the beauty of the Sacrament, and the great gift to be, at that moment, a servant of Christ and a steward of the greatest mystery of God.

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AMAZING New Vocation Video!

Friends, please check out this AWESOME new video on “Becoming Who You Are” a video about seminary, discernment, and what seminary really is all about. Check it out, because it TRULY is an amazing video that will hopefully inspire and give assistance to men who are thinking about the priesthood, or just what God is calling them to do in their lives.

This video was produced by some of my brother seminarians. It was spearheaded by Michael Trummer, Joe Herring, and Charlie Wessel and then I helped with interviews and lighting, and CJ Glaser assisted with some of the equipment.

“Beauty as Criteria for Choosing Music for Catholic Worship” – My Senior Thesis

The following has been long coming, but it is my Senior Thesis on “Beauty as Criteria for Choosing Music for Catholic Worship” In it, I examine how we define beauty, beauty as a thing of God, and then how we apply beauty as Criteria for choosing the music we use in the Liturgy. This paper was inspired by my love of beauty, of music, the Liturgy, and also of my desire to post things on my blog that will help us in more closely walking the Way of Beauty. For, “if ugliness is imprisonment, beauty is a kind of liberation.”

“Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendour.” – Pope Benedict XVI

Beauty as Criteria for Choosing Music for Catholic Worship:

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An attempt to liberate us from the ugliness of the world.

organ@stfrancisquincy

John Adams once wrote: “Went in the afternoon, to the Romish Chapel [in Philadelphia]. The scenery and the music are so calculated to take in mankind that I wonder the Reformation ever succeeded … the chanting is exquisitely soft and sweet.”[1]

A lot has changed in the Church since when John Adams first visited a Catholic Church on October 9. 1774. The dominant language used in the Liturgy has changed, the “scenery” has changed as well, with most churches resembling some form of puritanical white washed sanctuary, with altars and ambos made to look like anything from fancy tables to meteor rocks. Rock bands have replaced the choir and organ with piano and guitars. “Cantors” have been restored to the Roman Rite, active participation is the new cliché phrase and those young and old who do not hold a songbook or sing along to Lord I Lift Your Name on High, are immediately singled out and exiled by members of the community as traditional, Latin-loving prunes who just want to return the church to the dark ages where the people had no say and the Mass was sung in Latin with Gregorian chants abounding. Okay, so maybe that’s a little harsh, but think of it. Surely you can at least name two situations where you have experienced a situation like the above.

If not, what about this one: “You are sitting in church preparing for Mass and 48 year old Mark steps up to the microphone on the side of the Sanctuary, welcomes you and invites you to stand for the gathering song. The guitarists start strumming, the pianists starts playing and everyone joins in singing Here I Am to Worship. But wait, is everyone really singing around you? All you can hear is Mark and his cousin Betty harmonizing on “I’m coming back to the heart of worship.” The microphones at the cantor stand are turned up loud and the microphones seem to be surgically attached to Mark and Betty’s faces.

When did the music used for worship become a show? When did the music of Adams’ time disappear? Why did it disappear? Surely music in Catholic Worship is not meant to resemble a protestant service, is it? Oh, but they tell you that the music you’re singing now is actually based on scripture, it’s none of those weird things in Latin that no one could understand and which didn’t have any biblical basis. No one can sing without a cantor leading them. The organ? Pshaw! That old piece of garbage? Don’t you know how much it cost to keep that thing working? Besides, Sister Pam had explained how the organ and chants were part of a former clericalist culture in the church, a church that oppresses women. Mark, Betty, guitars, and piano, these provide real music. They provide a welcoming environment, and make people feel at home. THIS is the future of worship. THIS is the sad state of music in the Catholic Church in America… or is it?

When was the last time that you heard something beautiful? What was it? Now ask yourself: “What made it beautiful?” How do we describe beauty? Beauty, especially in Catholic worship has been an aspect that connects the people to the Liturgical rites being celebrated. We are a sensory people. When encountering Christ and the Church, John Adams gave reference to the idea of beauty. He mentions the music was so calculated that it’s a wonder anyone would want to be protestant. Beauty as noticed by an outsider was something, which draw him upward, made him feel the power of the almighty in a way that he didn’t experience before.

“Like the terms “true” and “good,” the term “beautiful” (kalón; pulchrum, beau, schön, etc.) is familiar to all. To reach a definition of it let us question experience. What do men commonly mean when, face to face with some object or event, they say, “That is beautiful”?”[2] Beauty is something, which unites everyone. We can look at a picture of DSC_4070the sunrise over the Grand Canyon or the fall foliage in Frankenmuth Michigan and call it beautiful. We look at Michelangelo’s Pieta or Beethoven’s Symphony Number 9 and almost everyone can agree that they are beautiful. But what makes all of these things beautiful? What makes them any different from something we would call “vulgar” or “ugly?” Thomas Aquinas writes that the first thing we need to note is that “the beautiful pleases us, affects us agreeably, while the commonplace or the ugly leaves us indifferent or displeases us, affects us disagreeably.”

In the Catholic Church in America there are undoubtedly, two main types of music. You have hymn or chant based pieces and then you have what can be called Praise and Worship. Both of these types of music cause different thoughts from people. To many, both types of music are beautiful, but what makes them such? Is it possible that we misunderstand what it means to be beautiful in our worship? Why should music used in Catholic Worship even be beautiful?

St. Thomas Aquinas says: “”pulchra sunt quae visa placent” “Those things are beautiful whose vision pleases us.[3] Vision in this sense is understood to be something wider than just seen with the eyes; it is contemplation, apprehension, and a way of connecting what we are taking in to our intellect, our intelligence. The two higher senses of hearing and sight are the closest to the intellect, thus whatever we call beautiful has to use at least one or both of these senses. That being said, the beautiful cannot be that which just please the senses. To smell the turkey as it comes out of the oven or to see the pretty dress the bride is wearing on her wedding day pleases the senses. We might say that the turkey smells delightful and that the bride is beautiful, but these feelings of sensible pleasures are not the same as experiencing the authentically beautiful. These “sentient states of agreeable feeling are mainly passive, organic, physiological; while esthetic enjoyment, the appreciation of the beautiful, is eminently active.[4] “Eminently active. Being active in this sense implies the use of the intellect, the connection, which is made between some idea comprehended, and an idea, which exists within the object being sensed. Peter Coffey says that in order for the act of contemplation of this beautiful thing to please man, “it must be in harmony with his whole human nature, which is both sentient and intelligent; it must, therefore, be agreeable to the senses and imagination as well as to the intellect.”[5]

Music in Catholic Worship: The Sorry Current State and How it Came to Be

Thomas Day in his legendary work Why Catholics Can’t Sing discusses many aspects of the problems with music in the current Catholic Church. “My experience is that the average Catholic congregation sings well when it goes backward, as it were, and returns to the primitive stage of development that is missed. Everyone lowers the expectations, the instrumental accompaniment, and the amplification to the point where people can hear themselves as an assembly. They sing simple music, perhaps an old-fashioned hymn, perhaps an unaccompanied dialogue with the priest – not all the time, but at least occasionally. This results in a sound that is quite homely, but often something profound and devout comes through in that singing. That sound can be more impressive than artistic excellence.”[6]

There is a problem with how music is viewed in the Catholic Church. I remember my IMG_3212Episcopalian voice professor asking my during my first lesson 4 years ago what my opinion on music in the Catholic Church was like currently. Not really giving him a firm answer, he said something, which has stuck with me. “Music in the Catholic Church died in 1967. It’s up to us to bring it back!” There is truth in that statement. Ask anyone who took part in the liturgical renewal and restoration of the Second Vatican Council and they can tell you horror stories of music in the 30+ years following the releasing of the documents. A spirit of freedom and anything and everything seemed to become the law of the land, when reality was far from it.

Music had been for the longest time one of the ways in which the church exercised immense control over its liturgy and rites. Hymns in the vernacular though occurring sporadically at Low Masses were only officially approved in 1958. Pope St. Pius X was a great restorer of chant and polyphonic pieces in the Liturgy as evidenced by his Motu Proprio Tra La Sollecitudini in 1903. Before then other popes had forbidden the use of anything other than Gregorian chant, because the music was becoming too secular in style and word usage. Music has a way of uniting everyone, and at the same time dividing them all based on aesthetical preference, emotional attachment, and a host of other technical factors such as errors, poor acoustics, or perhaps a flat tenor. Music is a language that everyone can speak in some way or another, which is why for so long the Church has exercised complete and total control over how it is used in her worship.

One of the four marks of the Church is that she is one. This oneness is a unity that is expressed primarily through her worship; for centuries the Church had different rites, different ways in which the Mass was celebrated, depending on where you were located.[7] Then in the 1500’s things started to be ironed out. Following the Council of Trent, which occurred post-reformation, the Church published the Missal of Pius V in 1570,[8] a Missal, which unified the Order of Mass and helped to promote unity of worship among the people.

For centuries the Churches were built in an elongated style, with the sanctuary at one end and the nave where the common people would be in the other. In between these two was the choir, where clerics would sit and participate in the Liturgy through chants and thus aiding the music. Since only males could be clerics, only males were allowed in the choir to sit and participate in the sacred chants. This went on for centuries even after most churches started to abandon the sanctuary-choir-nave style. Churches began to build choir lofts, which played with the building’s natural acoustics and carried the sound downwards, toward those gathered below. These lofts were sometimes large enough to hold small orchestras; and the creative genius of the musicians of the age began to soar.[9] March4Life-2792Pius XII’s 1955 Encyclical gave permission by indult for women to officially sing in choirs instead of Pius X’s 1903 mandate that if they must sing, they were to be outside of the sanctuary. The use of the female voice had long been established though, which is part of the reason why choir lofts were built outside of the sanctuary area.

As previously stated, the Church has always guarded her music and prayers like a hawk. Those who would seek to change them into something trivial or bane would be cast out and order would be restored. That is, until post Vatican II, or at least it can be seen like that to some extent. Music post Vatican II, was in a sense “opened” to a wider variety. Permission was granted for other styles, cultures, and such to be sung within the Sacred Liturgy but it was not given how it was received. To those who were involved in music within the Church, an “anything goes” mentality seems to have taken root and prospered for a good ten to twenty years or so. “One has remarked that, in some parishes, the liturgical reform was so hasty and so violent that one forgot sometimes the presence of some gratuitous beauty which came from the past and still could embellish celebrations today…The new celebrations were correct, but all beauty of the past was gone. The Latin language, for instance, was still proclaimed to be the official language of the Roman Rite, but there was no more singing in Latin.”[10]

In a matter of a few documents, mis-interpreted to some extent the Church seemed to gain some beauty, but exchange it for her wealth and tradition of beauty, which had existed throughout the ages prior. How could one declare that something of the past, which was practiced for centuries, was in a minute wrong, forbidden, out-of-place? It couldn’t be so, but in many ways it was. In many ways, the wealth and tradition of Sacred Music in the Catholic Church, like my voice professor said: “died in 1967.”

Beauty, what is it? How does it relate to Church Music?

Beauty is an aesthetical value. It is something, which as Thomas Aquinas states is a good. Pulchra, bonum est. Beauty is a good. The “goods” that Thomas refers to are perfection, things that do not detract from themselves, but which point to the “Supreme Good,” that is, God. Something that is beautiful and is a good shares in the sole goodness, which belongs to God and is thus one of many “goodnesses.” Aquinas writes that Socrates[11] calls God the absolute good, from whom all that is good is good by way of participating in God’s goodness. Beauty then, as an aesthetical value is something good, which makes beauty belong to God.

If beauty then belongs to God and receives its goodness from him, it must be something, IMG_3396which is inspired or created by him. We see in nature the beauty of Mt. McKinley soaring up into the clouds, the largest peak for miles around. Knowing that God created the world and designed it, we can trace Mt. McKinley’s existence back to God’s divine authorship. Nature can be easily traced back to its creator; music on the other hand is a totally different bird.

If someone, a man, creates music and the man is created in the imago dei, surely what he does can be considered beautiful can it not? Yes, in some sense we could come to that conclusion, but in regarding a case of murder, where a man murders another, the brutality of his act, his action itself is not called beautiful, yet man who, created in God’s image, produces it and is inherently beautiful. The same is true with music. Just because someone who shares in the goodness of God and is beautiful makes it is, does not automatically mean that their music is beautiful. Beauty has other parameters that must be met, especially when it comes to judging music aesthetically beautiful.

As Thomas and Peter Coffey have noted, beauty is not something passive. It exists with an action; it is as Coffey states, “eminently active.”[12] Beauty reaches and connects to man through his senses, but it must connect what is sensed with the intellect, with the mind, the use of reason, the ability to judge between good and evil. For Thomas, the active intellect is something in the soul, it is something, which takes and draws its power from a higher intellect, which because of faith, we believe to be God. Psalm 4:7 states this with: “The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us.” This union of the intellect with the creator God helps us to see how music, when created for a religious purpose, inspired by the Holy Spirit, can be created beautifully, in honor of beauty, himself.

Beauty, I have long argued is not just an aesthetical principle or virtue, rather it is a person, it is the very person of Jesus Christ, God made flesh. The Church is where Christ dwells, it is where beauty dwells, it is where we encounter the Living God in very real, sentient ways, which in turn feed our intellect and connect us back to the Father. Day states that gestures and things, which Catholics do, that might seem out of place in the secular world are really only “attempts to transcend the ordinary.”[13] They are opportunities in which by performing some action, doing something that is not of this world, we get a glimpse of Heaven; we receive a glimpse of the extraordinary or supernatural.

Beauty though can still be a matter of taste. One person’s idea of what the beautiful is, will differ from another, except for certain things, which, everyone can admit, are beautiful. These things, which transcend the ordinary, everyone can agree on as being beautiful. If you look at Notre Dame Cathedral, everyone can say that it is beautiful. If you listen to Bach’s Mass in B minor or Handel’s Messiah, everyone can agree again that it is beautiful. It may not be what their taste is all of the time, but it can be understood and agreed upon as being beautiful. “At its highest, taste–as seen especially in the sense of beauty and in the sense of sublimity – enters into the sense of God and the sense of good.”[14]These things that we call beautiful and are of God, are things, which are in a way “larger than life.” Music, which is large, which is transcendental and out-of-this-world is normally what everyone can agree upon as being beautiful. This will be important to remember later, that the larger, transcendental seems to be a universal beauty, unlike things which are imminent and more ordinary, of this world.

H.L. Mencken, in a poem once wrote: “The Latin Church, has always kept clearly before it the fact that religion is not a syllogism, but a poem.” Beauty like the faith has a poetic nature, it is something, which speaks on different levels to the listener and can cross boundaries that separate and divide. Music, like beauty has a way of unifying, of connecting, of creating a commonality among people of different race, creed, and background. The unity, which is created by beautiful music, is extremely important as the Church seeks to be one and unite all under the banner of Christ triumphant.

Unity of Voice: How can we achieve it?

IMG_3526“The mystery of the liturgy, with its hierarchical and communitarian characteristics, is more openly manifested; the unity of hearts is more profoundly attained by the unity of voices.”[15] Unity is an important factor toward deciding what is beautiful and fitting for use in worship. The Second Vatican Council called for the Full, Active, & Conscious Participation of all of the faithful in the rites and liturgies of the Church. In deciding what music should be used for the Liturgy the Church puts forth three judgments with one evaluation. All three judgments must be considered as a whole. You cannot consider one or two and forget the other.[16]

It is through these three judgments that the Church decides what is truly beautiful and fitting for use in the liturgy. The pride of place of Sacred Scripture, and the use of the human voice, which is found in scripture, is preferred in selecting music for the Liturgy. If we look at a common hymn that most parishes know: Here I am Lord written by Dan Schutte in 1981 we can try to apply the three judgments and see if it works. Normally in a parish you will have a cantor who will start the piece and then the congregation will join in. This piece is normally sung during the Offertory or Communion; taking this into mind, let’s apply the three judgments.

The piece is indeed scripturally based. It’s words come from Isaiah 6:8, Exodus 3:4; and 1Sam 3:4-6,8. It does meet the structural requirements of the point in the Mass where it would be sung, especially if it was related to the readings that were being sung that day. Pastorally, it speaks of God, drawing mankind to himself, letting them know that he will save them from their sins if they turn to him, but how does it fit musically? The piece is indeed beautifully composed. It has an easy to sing melody line, it might be a little harder to sing without accompaniment on an instrument, because of the rests and pauses, but it can be done. So it passes these three judgments we think, but we forgot how it would be sung. Most parishes would have the cantor start and the people would sing through it in its entirety. But if we look at the lyrics: “I the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard…my hand…I who made… I will make…” The verses are all God speaking to man, yet the whole congregation is singing them then they switch back to themselves singing: “Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?” The piece creates a weird, and slightly disturbing God-complex among the congregation as they switch from god to themselves. Musically and pastorally speaking, it would make far more sense for the congregation to sing the refrain, while the choir sings the verses and plays the voice of God. But can you do that in a parish today? I would say no. The parishioners have claimed this God-complex singing of Here I am Lord as their own and to ask them to change might create a riot. What then are we supposed to do, to use some sort of music, which is beautiful, fulfills the three judgments and fosters unity of voice and the use of Sacred Scripture?

“Music arises from silence and returns to silence.”[17] Music has a ministerial function in the Liturgy. It must serve the Liturgy and the prayers; the prayers do not serve it. It is better to not sing then to change the prayers of the Church and try to force them into DSC_2979music. Granted, some liberty is permissible, but the efficacy of the primary and actual text must always be fought for. The Church teaches that with the hierarchy of the roles played in the liturgy, there is also a hierarchy of which is more important to be sung. The dialogues and acclamations, integral parts to the Liturgy should be sung above all us, because of the unity that they create between the priest-celebrant and the congregation in worshiping together. Secondly the antiphons and psalms should be sung, as they are prayers from scripture, which connect us back to our tradition and promote unity of worship among the universal church. Thirdly, refrains and responses such as the Kyrie, Agnus Dei should be sung, as they are a response of the people of God, crying out to God in the form of intercessory prayer. Fourthly, hymns are the last thing, which should be sung during the Mass[18] their use originally belonged to the Liturgy of the Hours, though some hymns were sung in the early days of Christianity, hymns which were basically the psalms set to music.

There is definitely a lot of rules and guidelines which have to be followed for music to be able to be used in the Liturgy, there are questions which must be asked, and criteria that must be met, to do this for each and every piece though seems to take a lot of time, but music like the Liturgy is a work, in a way it can have a very salvific action that it performs, because it is through music done well and beautifully that Christ in a way is made present. Music, which accompanies the rites, helps to make Christ present among his people and he then leads them in worship to and of the Father.

If Hymns then are the last thing, which should be sung, how do we go about singing the other recommended parts properly? Pun intended, The Propers are original psalms and verses set to music, which are an integral part of the Roman Rite. If you ask those sitting in the pews and even most music directors, they either won’t know what the Propers are, or they won’t want to sing them because they have attached them in their mind to some form of Catholicism, which is long gone. But that is anything but the truth. As mentioned before, in a normal parish setting you have the 4-hymn sandwich: a piece for the processional, offertory, communion, and recessional (Which isn’t even a part of the actual Mass.). The Church provides an easier route than choosing different hymns to fit the mold each day. The Propers are psalms, that provide the text for proper parts of the Mass. Ie. Introit (processional chant), Offertory, and Communion chant set with refrain and verse. One of the most common forms of music in the Church, which is preferred, is the use of antiphonal or refrainal styled music. The congregation is easily able to join in on singing the refrain, usually set to a simpler mode or tune and the choir is then able to build on the verse and expound upon it with harder parts than what the normal congregation would be capable of. The Ministerial function of the choir within the Mass has long been an integral part of Catholic worship. The Propers enable them to exercise their ministry and for the congregation to be able to sing as well. It keeps Mark and Betty from having to have the microphones surgically removed from their faces and keeps the Mass oriented toward God, not a performer.

Hymns too though can continue to be used. To totally remove them from the Liturgy when they have become such an integral part over the past 50 years could be catastrophic, but in selecting hymns for use, the idea of beauty really should play an integral role. We’ve discussed how things, which transcend the ordinary, help us to encounter the extraordinary. This doesn’t mean that only transcendental hymns which talk of the glories and powers of God such as Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, or O God Beyond All Praising should be used. Other hymns like Here I Am Lord, or Center of My Life can be used as well as they are now part of our tradition, but they must be used properly and hymns must face the three-judgment test. I would argue that hymns should also be placed against the test of beauty. If a hymn has not lasted well for 50 years like Gather Us In, it probably shouldn’t be used for the Mass. The test of beauty is uniquely tied to the test of time. When people sing a hymn that they really like, like Here I am Lord, it is because the piece has struck a chord within them and the beauty of it has emerged. Here I am Lord will probably continue to stand the test of time at least for a while and during that while it will have a place within the Liturgy where it can be sung and used.

Recently a priest friend and I were discussing his preaching style. Several people in the parish would comment every once in a while that his homilies went right over their head. They could get bits and pieces, but he would lose them on some points and they would have to find out what he was talking about later. The priest told me that one of the reasons he didn’t lower his preaching style was because he was building the people up to that level of their intellect. I have yet to hear him preach a homily where someone couldn’t understand everything except for a few words or something, which they could take home and research. Father’s whole point of his sermons were to teach his parishioners and give them something to meet them where they were and then challenge them to grow and learn about their faith. This is the same way; we must be with music in the Church.

Music is meant to inspire. Music can bring someone to their knees in tears and it can infuriate and madden. Music touches us at every point in our lives in very intimate ways, much like Christ touches us. Music in worship then, unites us to Christ and adds a depth to our prayer; it connects us to the Liturgical actions, and brings us in communion with our tradition and heritage. Music must be beautiful. In the Liturgy, it must touch our souls and wound them with love for Christ.

Beauty did not die with Vatican II, beauty had to have been re-born! As Aquinas says: March4Life-2781“Beauty is that, whose vision pleases us.”3 Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, but: “To admit to the Liturgy the cheap, the trite, or the musical cliché often found in popular songs is to cheapen the Liturgy, to expose it to ridicule, and to invite failure.[19] Songs, which mimic the songs on the local pop radio station, can seem to cheapen the Liturgy. Here I am to Worship or even one of my favorites: Lord I Need You, sadly do not have a place within the Liturgy. They can be used for prayer, and other forms of worship, but they do not agree with the documents and the teachings of the Church, when selecting a musical piece for the Liturgy. One of my favorite memories is of singing the above two songs at our local Catholic youth camp during adoration. There in the middle of the dark, listening to the crickets sing outside and seeing Jesus in the Monstrance lit up by candles with the kids passionately pouring out their hearts in song before the Lord those pieces fit. In the ritual-rich, Liturgy of the Mass, they find themselves out of place.

So, beauty is that whose vision pleases us. It is that which connects and unites across barriers. Beauty is the connection of the sentient experience to the intellect, to the good, to Him, who created us. Beauty is an integral part of choosing music for Catholic Worship, because it is an integral part of recognizing the very person of Christ in our midst. Beauty is like a poem of the faith. It is attempts to transcend the ordinary of the world, to lose control, and to experience the extraordinary of Heaven. It is a chance to encounter love and to be love for those we meet.

“The singing of the Church comes ultimately out of love. It is the utter depth of love that produces the singing. “Cantare amantis est”, says St. Augustine, singing is a lover’s thing. In so saying, we come again to the Trinitarian interpretation of Church music. The Holy Spirit is love, and it is he who produces the singing. He is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit who draws us into love for Christ and so leads to the Father.”[20] Beauty is an integral part of the Church; it is a process by which Christ claims all for himself. “Beauty is the Christianized cosmos in which chaos is overcome; that is why the Church may be defined as the true beauty of existence. Every achievement of beauty in the world is in the deepest sense a process of Christianization. Beauty is the goal of all life; it is the deification of the world. Beauty, as Dostoievsky has said, will save the world. An integral conception of the Church is one in which it is envisaged as the Christianized cosmos, as beauty.’[21]

Beauty again is salvific. Musical beauty helps us to recall the redemption of man by Christ March4Life-2857on the Cross. It calls us to unite with those around us. And at the same time it calls us to the heart of the Christian message, one of recognizing the other. It is a way to free us from the ordinary and enter the extraordinary. “The Christian religion is all about a beauty that ‘saves’ us. For beauty is that quality in a thing, which attracts us towards itself, that calls to us. It calls us out of ourselves, towards something other. The aesthetic experience is thus one of self-transcendence. If ugliness is imprisonment, beauty is a kind of liberation.[22]

 

Works Cited:

Baldovin, John Francis. “A (Very) Brief History of the Mass.” In Bread of Life, Cup of Salvation: Understanding the Mass. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.

Brown, Frank Burch. Good Taste, Bad Taste, & Christian Taste: Aesthetics in Religious Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Chase, Gilbert. America’s Music New York: McGraw- Hill Book Company, Inc. 1995. Print

Day, Thomas. Why Catholics Can’t Sing: Revised and Updated with New Grand Conclusions and Good Advice. New York: Crossroad, 2014.

Deiss, Lucien, and Jane M. Burton. Visions of Liturgy and Music for a New Century. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1996.

Vatican II. “Sacred Music ,” Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Study ed. Collegeville, IN: Liturgical Press, 1987.

Footnotes:

[1] Gilbert Chase, America’s Music (New York: McGraw- Hill book Company, Inc., 1995), 61

[2] Peter Coffey, Ontology of the Theory of Being. 254

[3] Peter Coffey 255 “Ad rationem pulchri pertinet, quod in ejus aspectu seu cognitione quietetur appetitus … ita quod pulchrum dicatur id, cujus ipsa apprehensio placet.”—ST. THOMAS{FNS, Summa Theol., ia . iiæ., q. 27, art. 1, ad. 3. And the Angelic Doctor justifies the extended use of the term vision: “De aliquo nomine dupliciter convenit loqui, uno modo secundum ejus primam impositionem, alio modo secundum usum nominis, sicut patet in nomine visionis, quod primo impositum est ad significandum actum sensus visus; sed propter dignitatem et certitudinem hujus sensus extensum est hoc nomen, secundum usum loquentium, ad omnem cognitionem aliorum sensuum; dicimus enim: Vide quomodo sapit, vel quomodo redolet, vel quomodo est calidum; et ulterius etiam ad cognitionem intellectus, secundum illud Matt. v. 8: Beati mundi corde quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt.”—i., q. 67, art. 1, c.

 

[4] Peter Coffey. 258.

[5] Peter Coffey. 259.

[6] Thomas Day 134

[7] John Baldovin, Bread of Life, Cup of Salvation (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 37.

[8] Ibid. 57

[9] Ibid. 59

[10] Lucien Deiss, Visions of Liturgy and Music for a New Century (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1996), 17.

[11] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: First Part, Question 6. The Goodness of God (New Advent digital edition accessed December 15, 2015)

[12] Coffey, 258

[13] Day. 53.

[14] Frank Burch Brown, Good Taste, Bad Taste, & Christian Taste: Aesthetics in Religious Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 23.

[15] Vatican II. “Sacred Music” Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1987), 81.

[16] Sing to The Lord (From the USCCB: Pastoral document on Music in Catholic Worship)

[17] Sing to the Lord. 118.

[18] Ibid. 115

[19] Ibid. 136

[20] Joseph Ratzinger “The Spirit of the Liturgy“, (SF, CA: Ignatius, 2000), 142.

[21] Nicholas Berdyaev “Freedom and the Spirit” 332.

[22] Stratford Caldecott “Beauty will Save The World

The Woman Clothed with the Son

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The following is a paper that I wrote for New Testament Class on “the Woman clothed with the Sun” in Revelations 12. I argue that although others say that she can be multiple images, (ie. The Church, Israel, People of God) she is firstly the Blessed Virgin Mary, and only because of that can she also be seen as other images.

Written for Mr. Mark Reasoner, Ph.D. Marian University April 2016.

The woman, “clothed with the sun” in Revelation 12:1 has been identified in a variety of ways. Some interpret that she is symbolic of Israel or the Church, and still others say that she is the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Through a careful reading of Sacred Scripture it is obvious that the woman cannot be at one time, universally all of these symbols…or can she? In this paper I will highlight how the “woman clothed with the sun” in Revelations 12 is firstly the Blessed Virgin Mary, then how because of this fact, she is also able to be seen as Israel, and the Church as a whole. We will accomplish this specifically by highlighting what makes the woman appear to be Mary, and why that keeps being affirmed throughout history, specifically through the way the Catholic Church uses the text in it’s worship. Then we will highlight the woman’s role in Revelation itself, and how the Sacred Scripture leads us through the text to understand who she is and thus the ways in which those who object to the woman as an allusion to Mary, the Mother of God try to make their case. Finally we will close by examining all of these “attributes” of Mary that we have pulled from the Scripture, as well as the objections posed by others and identify whether or not the woman is indeed, Mary, Israel, and the Church at the same time.

If you ask any Catholic who has a small idea of the role Mary plays and will play in Salvation history, you will discover that most believe that she in the end will “crush the head of Satan with her foot.” This outlook on Mary’s unique role as co-redemptrix is too large a discussion for this paper, but for the purposes of setting up the idea of Mary in Revelation 12, it is necessary to return for a moment to Genesis in which is said: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (RSV, Gen. 3:15) This phrase is important to remember as it is because of a mistranslation of the Latin Vulgate from the Hebrew and Greek texts that “she” replaces “he.” This “translation error” has gone so far that even Pope Pius XI used it in his Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus to describe Mary as crushing satan with her heel. While, the idea lines up with Christian theology that anything Mary triumphs over is only through Christ, it has now made its way into how we look at the woman in Revelation 12, polluting in some sense the interpretation of the chapter.

The following is the text of Revelation 1:19-12:12 as it appears in the Lectionary for reading on the Solemnity of the Assumption. Those verses, which are not included in the Lectionary, I have italicized:

“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman* clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon,* with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days. Then war broke out in heaven; Michael* and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent,* who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night. They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them. But woe to you, earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury, for he knows he has but a short time.” (NABRE Rev. 11:19-12:1-12)

The reading of this text, without the italicized words on the Feast of the Assumption, works beautifully in describing Mary as the Mother of the Messiah and thus outlining the reason she was assumed into Heaven. Primarily by leaving out the text of the battle between Michael and the dragon, the battle or enmity of the woman and the dragon are left in limbo. So much, that no one knows from the text who will triumph in the fight. Insert the mis-translation of Genesis and you have your answer. Mary, of course will triumph, because she is the New Eve, and with the first part of Revelation 12:10 ending the reading from the Lectionary; the role of Mary as Mother of God is affirmed. Further, by being paired with the Gospel of Luke 1:39-56, Mary, the Queen of Heaven is “blessed among women” as she praises the God of Israel whose victory (over the dragon) has manifested his mercy and covenant with his people in the person of the Messiah.

Through identifying Mary as the woman in Revelation 12, no real theological error has occurred. Everything that Mary does always points back to God. In Luke 1:46 she states that she “magnifies the Lord!” Because Christ was born of Mary, and took his flesh from her, she was the first sharer in Christ’s victory over sin on the Cross. Thus through Mary every man, woman, and child also shares in Christ’s victory, in a sense, crushing the head of Satan with their own heel.

Throughout Revelation 12, the woman plays a specific role, everything about her, including the way she appears gives witness to interpretations of who she really is. Jerry L. Sumney in his 2001 work: The Dragon Has Been Defeated – Revelation 12 quotes Eugene Boring as saying: “She is not Mary, the Church, or Israel; rather she is the experience of the people of God at all times. So she is all of these, yet more than any or all of them.” (105) That final line stating that the woman is all of them, yet much more than any or all of them has profound depth to it. If we were to rearrange Boring’s quote and say that the woman is not just the Church, Israel, or the experience of the people of God at all times, she is all of these, yet more than any or all of them; because she is firstly Mary, the Mother of God.

Mary, is often seen as the daughter of Zion, because she is seen as the new Ark of the Covenant. Throughout the Gospels, typology is used, where different parts of them reference the Old Testament. This can be seen for example on the Cross in Mark 15:34 when Christ exclaims: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Christ was reciting Psalm 22, for a Jew reading the Gospel they would think back to the Psalm, for us as Christian’s we have lost some of that over time. In Luke 1 the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear a son, not just any Son, but the Son of God, thus a God, thus God himself. A Jew could read this and see how God came and made himself present to the Israelites by the Ark of the Covenant, which was his dwelling place when they would set up camp and as they moved around. Mary, then would receive God in the flesh inside of her, thus she is the perfection of the Ark of the Covenant, as God does not bind himself to breakable stone tablets, but to human flesh itself, impregnated within the womb of Mary.

In Rev. 11:19, John says: “Then God’s temple in Heaven was opened, and the Ark of the Covenant could be seen in the temple…” After this verse the 12th chapter starts, but for John who wrote Revelation, there were no chapters or verses until around the 12th century. For John, there was no division; the text was seen as a whole. If we look at it that way, then after John beheld the Ark of the Covenant in Heaven, he saw the woman clothed with the sun. Mary who is seen as the daughter of Zion, the people of Israel in Zephaniah 3:14-17 and as the Ark of the Covenant for Luke is now seen as the new Ark of the Covenant, a more perfect dwelling place for the woman who “was with child” (Rev. 12:2) “a Son…destined to rule the nations.” (Rev. 12:5) The Ark had been lost for 600 something years by the time John wrote Revelation and now, seeing the Ark again as the woman, bears new light on who she really is.

Mary is then seen as the new Ark, the daughter of Zion, a representative of the people of Israel. She is the New Eve, as she is seen delivering her child in pain (Rev. 12:2) a stipulation because of Eve’s sin in Genesis 3:16. The woman is also seen in Revelation 12:1 as wearing “on her head a crown of twelve stars.” The word for “crown” according to Joy A. Schroeder in her work: Revelation 12: Female figures and Figures of Evil is stephanos. (179) Stephanos, as they were called are used to “describe the reward given to those who are faithful unto death. (Rev. 2:10 & 4:4)” (179) The crown the woman wears then denotes victory, triumph over the enemy, a sign of her faithfulness to what God has asked of her. The crown denotes 12 stars, symbolic of both the 12 Tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles, a symbol of the Christian Church, just beginning their mission at that time. John, a Jewish-Christian, paints the woman as the continuity between the Jewish and Christian faith; “For John, Israel’s true children are the faithful Christians who are persecuted by the dragon… Satan, the ancient enemy of God.” (Schroeder 179)

The woman then is also seen as a symbol of the Church, the people of God as a whole (both Jews and Christians). Christ is often called the New Adam, with Mary being the New Eve; their children cleansed in the blood of the lamb are those members of the Christian church who are being persecuted by “the Roman imperial cult, which opposes the worship of the Lamb of God. (Into the World of the New Testament, Daniel Smith 192) The woman can be seen in some sense then as the Church, the people persecuted by Nero, or the “dragon”, and having to flee into a place prepared for them by God, where after staying true to him they will receive a stephanos of victory, but this argument doesn’t seem to be very valid. How could the woman, give birth to the Son of God, if she is the Church? Maybe it is supposed to mean in the sense of giving witness to Christ and to his message, but the argument seems to have several flaws and lapses in the ways with which to explain it properly. Truly, Mary was with Christ along each part of his earthly life. From his birth to the Wedding at Cana, and then to his death on the Tree, Mary walked beside him and said yes as she gave him repeatedly to the world, to the church.

Mary and Christ’s other “Brothers and sisters” then are the members of the Church, in Revelation 12:17, the dragon is seen as going off to fight against the other offspring of the woman. Mary was given to the Church and the world as their Mother as Christ hung upon the Cross. (John 20:26) her other offspring in Revelation can very well be seen as the persecuted Christians of John’s time who were being killed and persecuted for their faith.

What makes Mary then seem to be the first and best explanation for who the woman of Revelation 12 really is? We have seen a few examples now of how the Old Testament is perfected in the New. Mary is seen as the New Eve, the fulfillment and reclamation of the flesh of woman, tainted by sin in the beginning. Mary is the daughter of Zion, the one chosen by God in whom he would choose to come to dwell. Mary is because of that, the new Ark of the Covenant. She is the perfect Ark, which would not be lost as the old had been, but who would stay with the people. She is seen by John as the new Ark, and the imagery of her bearing a child, delivering him in pain, and the acknowledgement of the child’s opposition to Satan, the dragon are undeniable. Mary must be at least one of the images presented in Revelation 12 as the woman.

The woman’s role as the Church is believable as well. The church as giving birth to Christ, can be argued, but there does seem to be some faulty reasoning behind it, it would be safe to say that the woman cannot solely be the Church. There has to be someone or something else that she is as she cannot stand as an example of the Church only. Nor can she stand as Israel only as she is a perfection of Israel, which is revealed in and through the Church. Mary seems to be the only viable option of who the woman in Revelation is primarily. Yes, she can be seen as the Church, and yes she can be seen as Israel and thus the people of God as a whole, but she can only be seen as those things because of who she is first. Mary, the Mother of God, the New Ark of the Covenant, the daughter of Zion, the Mother and Help of Christians, the one who was assumed into Heaven as evidenced by her stephanos and the wings of an Eagle, which allowed her to fly to her place of safety and comfort.

There are many Marian dogmas and teachings, which are defined or at least described by Revelation 12 and the “Woman clothed with the Sun.” Yes, arguments could be and are made against the woman as being Mary, but it is only because of Mary, that the images take on meaning. According to tradition, after Christ gave Mary to John upon the Cross, John cared for her until she was assumed into Heaven. Because of that, John did not die the death of a Martyr. He lived his life with Mary, learning and being formed by her much in the same way Christ was. Mary was a person John knew and of whom he no doubt thought of as he wrote the Book of Revelation. For John, and for us, the Woman Clothed with the Sun can only and must be firstly Mary, the Virgin Mother of God from Nazareth who gave birth to the Savior of the World, Christ who has defeated sin and death and ended the reign of the dragon among the people of God.

Added for this post: The woman then is clothed not just with the “sun,” but with her “Son.” For Mary always leads us to Christ and points us to him. The Woman clothed with the sun in Revelation 12 is only seen as so many different images, because she is the Woman clothed with the Son.

Works Cited:

Ruiz, Jean-Pierre. “The Apocalypse of John and Contemporary Roman Catholic Liturgy.” Worship 68.6 (1994): 482-504. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 20 Apr. 2016

Schroeder, Joy A. “Revelation 12: Female Figures And Figures Of Evil.” Word & World 15.2 (1995): 175-181. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 20 Apr. 2016

Smith, Daniel Lynwood. Into the World of the New Testament: Greco-Roman and Jewish Texts and Contexts. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. Print.

Sumney, Jerry :. “The Dragon has Been Defeated—Revelation 12.” Review & Expositor 98.1 (2001): 103-115. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 20 Apr. 2016

The New American Bible: Translated from the Original Languages with Critical Use of All the Ancient Sources: With the Revised Book of Psalms and the Revised New Testament. IA Falls, IA: World Bible, 1991. Print.