Reflections on the Border…Encountering the Traveler…Encountering Christ

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 19:33-34

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land…” Thus began my scripture passage I had found during my Lectio time the morning we began our journey to the Rio Grande Valley aka…the Border Trip.

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For those who don’t know, I was blessed to spend 2 weeks with my Second Theology Classmates in San Antonio, Texas completing a workshop and cultural immersion on Hispanic Ministry in the 21st Century at the Mexican American Catholic College (MACC). Our time in San Antonio was extremely blessed and I truly treasure those memories and the bonding experiences my classmates and I had there. Besides our 5ish hours of class each day the middle of the trip included a visit to the Rio Grande Valley, known as the Border Experience Trip.

We began our journey to the border with a morning of reflection with one of the MACC faculty members on immigrants, refugees, and the experiences she had working in refugee camps for a very long time. We read and reflected on Scripture passages…one of which was that poignant passage from Leviticus that had graced my morning prayer time. After lunch we packed up, boarded the bus and drove south to the Basilica Shrine of our Lady of the Valley, where we would stay in their pilgrim hotel for our few nights there.

I am a huge fan when traveling of not judging others, their culture, their experiences, and the experiences I have while there with thoughts and preconceived notions from back home. I like to immerse myself in a place and experience life as a “local” of sorts. So, I prayed. Thanks to the great idea of my classmate, Brother Simon, OSB, we had a Holy Hour on Wednesday evening to pray for our experiences. And so we prayed!! I prayed that the Lord would bless this experience, that he would bless my classmates and I with open hearts, eyes, and ears, that we might listen to what the Lord was asking of us on this trip and that we would be able to leave the largely politicized language, and stories of the Border behind so that we could see what it truly was like. As I shared that Levitical text on my Facebook and Twitter, it so happened that President Trump was on his way down to the Valley at the same time and that our time there would overlap. Sure enough, I had a group of folks who began to comment and reply back about “pro-wall this” and “that.” As I responded to some of the claims being made, I found that I had to remind myself to be patient…quiet…kind…and to not let my ideas and pre-concieved notions get in the way. That was hard. My german-blood pressure was rising and I wanted to speak, but instead I chose to be silent…mostly.

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. Each of us no matter our walk in life, our relationship with the Lord, etc. is in need of daily, personal conversion. I experienced a conversion of sorts at the wall, and since that’s the point of this post, I guess I should get to it!

We had what I would call five “main” experiences at the Border. The first consisted of home visits with ARISE, (a group of immigrant women or others assisting them and working to make better, safer, and cleaner communities there in the Valley), several visits to pray and visit the Border wall, volunteering at a Respite Center, Mass at the Basilica, and a conversation with Bishop Daniel Flores, of Brownsville Texas.

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The ARISE ladies and Martin, our course leader

The Arise visit gave us the opportunity to hear from local immigrant families about their experiences and lives in both the USA and wherever they came from in South/Central America. My home visit brought me back instantly to my time in Guatemala. I got to practice my spanish, enjoy the wonderful hospitality of an Abuela, and hear of the struggles, joys, and faith of a woman who was deeply invested in her new home, city, and country. It was a wonderful experience.

We also got to hear from a young woman who was a DACA recipient about her journey, the fears of being brought as a young girl to this country by Coyotes, the fear of losing her family…we cried with her as she shared with us the pain of not being able to go home for her Grandmothers funeral, her Uncle’s funeral, not being able to see family members who were instrumental in her young life ever again. I can’t begin to imagine what my life would be like if my parents had taken me and my triplets siblings as children to run to a foreign land just so we could have food on the table and a chance at a life of peace and joy.

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When we went to the Border wall, I was struck by how unnatural it was. I was struck by the fact that beyond the wall was a beautiful texan/dessert America at times for several miles, but I as an American couldn’t go there because the wall prevented me. I was struck by the humor and the kindness shown by those we encountered there, the border agents getting into their vehicles to go home to their families after a long day. The ones who waved at us and smiled. This dichotomy of welcoming, hospitality, and refusal, denial was stark. The fence was cold. It was concrete, metal, and the top was covered in freshly installed barbed wire. It felt surreal. Almost like a war zone of sorts. I couldn’t wrap my mind around all of the emotions and feelings that I was experiencing. It just didn’t make sense.

As we saw a ladder fashioned crudely out of 2×4’s on the American Side of the fence, I thought of and I prayed for whomever used it the night before to climb the wall and come to America. I prayed for their family, for their peace, safety, for their faith. As we continued our walk around the border wall I couldn’t help but be grateful. Grateful for the life I’ve had, the privileges (and believe me… they are privileges) I enjoy as an American, grateful for being born in the family I was, in the land I was, the faith I was given. Let there be hope. Hope. HOPE. We just celebrated the birth of our Savior at Christmas into the world. We remembered the message of love of hope that he brought. For those families we visited with the USA stands still as a beacon of light, of freedom, of safety, of peace, and the one thing EACH person said: “of HOPE” for them, for their loved ones, for the world. And Hope I felt. Hope I encountered in the women working at ARISE. Hope, I encountered in the girl crying as she shared her story of seeking freedom. Hope, was found in the Stations of the Cross we prayed our first night at the Basilica. HOPE, was found in almost every moment, because our HOPE was not based in just our country, in just our world, but in the Hope of a Life eternal, where there will be no division, no sadness, no pain, no fear…a future of Hope, as Isaiah the prophet spoke. Christ, Jesus Christ brought, was, and IS that Hope.

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Our visit with Bishop Flores was one of the highlights of the trip. He is a captivating speaker, doesn’t mince words, and was great at challenging us as future pastors to speak for those in need in our midst. He said many challenging things to us, two of which stood in my mind:

“The Church does not ask for legal documentation because Christ did not ask for it before helping the stranger. She asks Are you hungry? Are you cold? Do you need shelter? She asks and she provides care. She asks and she acts. She asks and is the feet and hands of Christ”

“Your job as future pastors is to invite to the Eternal Banquet everyone, in a society which sadly prefers to eat alone.”

I’ll reflect on these in a couple paragraphs at the end…

After our visit with the good Bishop, we headed to a Respite Center to volunteer. This center was opened by Catholic Charities to assist those who have come into the Rio Valley seeking asylum with food, showers, clothing, and help in boarding their bus to wherever they are headed. Each person (except for the children) has a tracking device locked around their leg. That was unnerving. I understand the reasons the Government had placed it on them, (so that they could make sure they show up for their immigration court date) but it seemed cruel, cold, and inhospitable.

As I walked at the back of the line through the old Nursing Home turned respite Center I came outside the back door where my classmates were walking around handing out “carritos” “Hot-wheels” and stuffed animals to the little children. I started to cry. Seeing these men, my brothers many of whom don’t speak a lick of Spanish besides “Hola” reaching out and encountering these people filled my heart with such joy. I remarked later to them that in that moment I saw them each as priests and I was filled with such joy thinking of the good they were going to do in the future as pastors to a world so in need of the Lord’s love and mercy.

I met a gentleman who was my age. MY age. 24 who had brought his 4 year old son from Guatemala…left his wife and daughter behind so that he could live without fear and danger with the hope of one day having them reunite and be able to live in peace. We laughed. We joked with one another. And we reflected on the beautiful country and family he was pained to leave. I spoke with several other gentlemen there about life in the states, their lives and families they left behind, and gave them weather updates for where they were going. One of them asked me where I learned to speak Spanish. I explained my summer immersion in Guatemala. With tears in his eyes he thanked me. He a non-Catholic (who was quite surprised when I said I didn’t have a girlfriend or wife) thanked me for taking the time to learn his language so that I could share with him the love of God in that moment and bring a moment of peace and joy to him and the others there.

That made my entire summer worth it. To encounter one man and be able to listen, to joke, to share with…That made my entire summer experience and the struggles of learning Spanish incredibly, wholly, worth it.

I prayed for those folks every day I was in Texas and I still pray for them now. The words of thanks on their lips to Catholic Charities for reminding them of their dignity, of their creation in the image and likeness of God, of sharing compassion, food, comfort, with them broke my heart. Listening to children…little children under 8-11 years old tell you thank you for a hot wheel car, tell you how glad they are to have food, warm clothes, and to be with their families in a warm place after being detained in the giant “refrigeradores” (refrigerators) for days touches you and it moved my heart with pity and love. Misericordia, the sorrow of the heart was felt. But yet, there was HOPE. And for that I am grateful.

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At Mass on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Rector invited some of my brothers who are instituted Acolytes to assist with the distribution of Communion, after the Prayer after Communion, welcoming us again, he and the parishioners and visitors applauded for us as they promised prayers for our Vocations, and the communities we will one day serve.

Is there a solution to the Border?

You might be wondering what my thoughts on the Wall and the border and immigration are. I’d like to go back to the two comments Bishop Flores made that stuck with me:

Bishop Flores reminded us of our job as pastors is to invite ALL to the Eternal Banquet table. I don’t get to choose who I invite to the Heavenly Banquet. I as a future priest of Jesus Christ HAVE to serve ALL. Specifically, like Christ, I have to serve those in need. I, like the Church do not ask for legal documentation before helping someone in need. I ask, what do you need? Food? Shelter? Clothing? And I strive to meet that need. No questions asked. Why? Because my job is the care of souls. I am called daily to make Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross my own. I am called to deny what I want, for what Christ asks of me. I am called to daily conversion. Which for me, includes welcoming the stranger and seeing them as friend. I am called to be the hands of Christ to a broken world, to help each person to know that they are loved, that they are valued, in whose image they have been created, and by who’s blood they have been purchased and redeemed.

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Omar assists a youth in picking up leaves in a yard.
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My job, my role, my calling is to welcome the stranger-for in the Church, ALL have a home. Not just a select few. Not just those born in this land. Not just those with a passport or green card. Not just those who have a job. ALL. EACH and EVERY person has a home and is welcomed in the Church as if they’re Christ-himself. Because… they ARE. Our Theologies of Incarnation, elevate the human person. Because Christ, the living-God humbled himself and became man, he raised our human flesh to the dignity and honor due to God. We are the people he has claimed as His own. And because of that we MUST strive to always uphold the dignity of every person.

It’s common knowledge that we have a broken immigration system. It is under-funded, under-staffed, and does not always honor the dignity of each human person. At the same time, neither does our healthcare system, education system…the list goes on and on. For us…this side of Heaven we have to strive to build up a better world each day. That means a lot of reforms. Our country is incredibly blessed and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but…but that doesn’t mean that we still can’t and still shouldn’t do better!

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Praying the Stations at the Basilica in the Valley

Should we have a wall? I honestly don’t know. Part of me says yes. Part of me says no. I don’t think it is my place to get into that argument in depth here. If you want to know, feel free to ask me my mixture of thoughts in person. However… as a Seminarian and God-willing future priest I think, I believe, I know that the Church has the ability, authority, and mandate to speak on the basic topics of immigration and immigrants. Her job is to safe guard and help us recognize the dignity of others.So what does she say? The Catechism lays out two main points on this topic meant to balance each other.

The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

CCC 2241

“So, the Catholic view is that a prosperous nation such as ours should be generous in receiving immigrants, especially refugees and the poor, but that there are legitimate limits the nation can apply. In particular, the receiving nation has a right to expect things of immigrants: that they follow its laws, respect the country’s way of life, and contribute to the shouldering of civic responsibilities. (A nation also has the right and duty to defend and promote the common good of its citizens — see CCC 1910.)”

Mons. Charles Pope

Yes, that’s right it’s the good old Catholic “Both-And.” Nations have the right and duty when able to assist those in need, to require something of them, and to defend themselves. It’s a balance and truthfully, it will be very hard to find a solution that fits both perfectly. But we must try to do such.

Monsignor Pope puts it well in the above linked article:

“Do you want the wall to be built? Fine, but be sure that your support is based on national security and the common good of our citizens rather than a rejection of the generosity required of a prosperous nation such as ours.


Do you oppose the building of the wall? Fine, but be sure that you can articulate the conditions on the right to immigrate so that “the common good” is protected. Be certain that your plan ensures that immigrants fulfill their “duties toward their country of adoption” (“respect[ing] with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, … obey[ing] its laws, and … assist[ing] in carrying civic burdens”).”

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Jesus Carries his Cross

My experience at the Border was one of joy. One of sorrow. One of hope. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. There’s a lot of humility that needs to be received by both sides of the discussion. And there’s a lot of conversion of our hearts that needs to take place…mine included! May the Lord bless us with the grace to welcome the stranger, the immigrant, those in need as if we were welcoming himself…the Christ child, into the world on that Christmas night. May he, the child of immigrants, who showed us in his lowly birth how he came for ALL, help us to serve all, to love all on this walk of beauty, so that at the end forever we might be with Him in Heaven.

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We’re all on this journey together. The immigrant walking their own way of the Cross to a better life. The natural born citizen walking toward racial equality. The woman walking toward equal pay. The man walking to find a job to put food on the table for his family. Our life can be a living set of the Stations of the Cross if we let it. If we let Christ in… If we let Christ walk with us… IF we let Christ lead us to Calvary with him, will we have the courage to stand up, to speak peace, love, mercy, and forgiveness as he did? Will we have the courage to defend the widowed, the orphan, the stranger, the naked, the hungry? If we won’t be the hands and feet of Christ on this walk of ugliness, of sin, but yet of beauty, of human fleshiness, of messiness, who will?

It’s up to us as future pastors to deal with the care of souls. To welcome all to the Eternal Banquet of Heaven, to build community among a culture which prefers to be detrimentally-individualistic, and to help others to see the face, the hands, the feet, the heart and body of Christ in each person we encounter.


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The Ancient Hymn of Christ the King: Laudes Regiae

Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ Commands! 

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

The ancient hymn: Laudes Regiae is sung at the Installation Mass of Popes, Coronations of the Holy Roman Emperor, etc. AND on today’s Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

It’s a beautiful text, check it out! After the text, there are a few links to different versions and a the history of the Liturgy and naming of today’s Feast!

Latin text
Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat
Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

Exaudi, Christe
Exaudi, Christe
Ecclesiae santae Dei salus perpetua
Redemptor mundi, tu illam adiuva
Sancta Maria, tu illam adiuva
Sancta Mater Ecclesiae, tu illam adiuva
Regina Apostolorum, tu illam adiuva
Sancte Michael, Gabriel et Raphael tu illam adiuva
Sancte Ioannes Baptista, tu illam adiuva
Sancte Ioseph, tu illam adiuva
Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

Exaudi, Christe.
N., Summo Pontifici et universali Pape, vita!
Salvator mundi, tu illum adiuva
Sancte Petre, tu illum adiuva
Sancte Paule, tu illum adiuva
Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

Exaudi, Christe.
Exaudi, Christe
Episcopis catholicae et apostolicae fidei cultoribus,
eorumque curis fidelibus, vita!
Salvator mundi, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Andrea, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Iacobe, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Ioannes, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Thoma, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Iacobe, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Philippe, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Bartholomaee, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Matthaee, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Simon, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Thaddaee, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Matthia, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Barnaba, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Luca, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Marce, tu illos adiuva
Sancti Timothee et Tite, vos illos adiuvate
Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

Exaudi, Christe.
Exaudi, Christe
Sancti Protomartyres Romani, vos illos adiuvate
Sancte Ignati, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Polycarpe, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Cypriane, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Bonifati, tu illos adiuva’
Sancte Stanislae, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Thoma, tu illos adiuva
Sancti Ioannes et Thoma vos illos adiuvate
Sancte Iosaphat, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Paule, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Ioannes et Isaac, vos illos adiuvate
Sancte Petre, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Carole, tu illos adiuva
Sancta Agnes, tu illos adiuva
Sancta Caecilia, tu illos adiuva
Omnes sancti martyres, vos illos adiuvate
Sancte Clemens tu illos adiuva
Sancte Athanasi, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Leo Magne, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Gregorio Magne, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Ambrosi, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Augustine, tu illos adiuva
Sancti Basili et Gregori, vos illos adiuvate
Sancte Ioannes, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Martine, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Patrici, tu illos adiuva
Sancti Cyrille et Methodi, vos illos adiuvate
Sancte Carole, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Roberte, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Francisce, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Ioannes Nepomucene, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Pie, tu illos adiuva
Omnes sancti potifices et doctores, vos illos adiuvate
Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

Exaudi, Christe.
Exaudi, Christe
Populis cunctis et omnibus hominibus bonae voluntatis:
pax a Deo, rerum ubertas morumque civilium rectitudo.
Sancte Antoni, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Benedicte, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Bernarde, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Francisce, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Dominice, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Philippe, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Vincenti, tu illos adiuva
Sancte Ioannes Maria, tu illos adiuva
Sancta Catharina, tu illos adiuva
Sancta Teresia a Iesu, tu illos adiuva
Sancta Rosa, tu illos adiuva
Omnes sancti presbyteri et religiosi, vos illos adiuvate
Omnes sancti laici, vos illos adiuvate
Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

Ipsi soli imperium,
laus et iubilatio
per saecula saeculorum.
Amen
Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

Tempora bona habeant! Tempora bona habeant!
Redempti sanguine Christi.
Feliciter! Feliciter! Feliciter!
Pax Christi veniat!
Regnum Christi veniat!
Deo Gratias!
Amen
English translation[8][9]

Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands
Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands

Hear, O Christ
Hear, O Christ
Perpetual safety and welfare to the Church of God
Redeemer, Savior, Come to her aid
O Mary blessed Mother. Come to her aid
The Holy Mother of the Church, Come to her aid
Queen of Apostles, Come to her aid
Saint Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Come to her aid
Saint John the Baptist, Come to her aid
Saint Joseph, Come to her aid
Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands

Hear, O Christ
Life and health and blessings to Pope [Name of Pope], our Holy Father, Come to his aid
Saviour of the world, Come to his aid
Saint Peter, Come to his aid
Saint Paul, Come to his aid
Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands

Hear, O Christ
The bishops of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith,
faithful to their worries, life!
Saviour of the world, Assist and strengthen him
Saint Andrew, Come to their aid
Saint James, Come to their aid
Saint John, Come to their aid
Saint Thomas, Come to their aid
Saint James, Come to their aid
Saint Philip, Come to their aid
Saint Bartholomew, Come to their aid
Saint Matthew, Come to their aid
Saint Simon, Come to their aid
Saint Jude, Come to their aid
Saint Matthias, Come to their aid
Saint Barnabas, Come to their aid
Saint Luke, Come to their aid
Saint Mark, Come to their aid
Saint Timothy and Titus, Come to their aid
Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands
Hear, O Christ
Saint Ignatius, Come to their aid
First Martyrs of the Church of Rome, Come to their aid
Saint Polycarp, Come to their aid
Saint Cyprian, Come to their aid
Saint Boniface, Come to their aid
St. Stanislas, Come to their aid
Saint Thomas, Come to their aid
Saints John and Thomas, Come to their aid
Saint Josaphat, Come to their aid
Saint Paul, Come to their aid
Saint John and Isaac, Come to their aid
Saint Peter, Come to their aid
Saint Charles, Come to their aid
Saint Agnes, ‘Come to their aid
Saint Agnes, Come to their aid
All ye holy martyrs, Come to their aid
Saint Clement, Come to their aid
Saint Athanasius, Come to their aid
Saint Leo the Great, Come to their aid
Saint Gregory the Great, Come to their aid
Saint Ambrose, Come to their aid
Saint Augustine, Come to their aid
Saints Basil and Gregory, Come to their aid
Saint John, Come to their aid
Saint Martin, Come to their aid
Saint Patrick, Come to their aid
Saints Cyril and Methodius, Come to their aid
Saint Charles, Come to their aid
Saint Robert, Come to their aid
Saint Francis, Come to their aid
Saint John of Nepomuk, Come to their aid
Saint Pius X, Come to their aid
Church fathers and doctors, Come to their aid
Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands

Hear, O Christ
And to all men of good will to all peoples:
Saint Anthony, Come to their aid
Saint Benedict, Come to their aid
Saint Bernard, Come to their aid
Saint Francis, Come to their aid
Saint Dominic, Come to their aid
Saint Philip, Come to their aid
Saint Vincent, Come to their aid
Saint John Mary,, Come to their aid
Saint Catherine, Come to their aid
Saint Teresa of Jesus, Come to their aid
Saint Rose, Come to their aid
“All ye holy priests and religious, Come to their aid
All ye holy lay people, Come to their aid
Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands

To him alone be authority,
praise and rejoicing,
endless ages of ages.
Amen
Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands

May they have favourable times!
May those redeemed by the Blood of Christ have favourable times
Happily! Happily! Happily!
May the peace of Christ come!
May the reign of Christ come!
Thanks be to God’
Amen

A very unique version:

From Rome:

From St. John Cantius in Chicago:

From the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC:

On Organ:

From our Passionist Nuns in Whitesville:

The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism, a way of life which leaves God out of man’s thinking and living and organizes his life as if God did not exist. The feast is intended to proclaim in a striking and effective manner Christ’s royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations.

Today’s Mass establishes the titles for Christ’s royalty over men: 1) Christ is God, the Creator of the universe and hence wields a supreme power over all things; “All things were created by Him”; 2) Christ is our Redeemer, He purchased us by His precious Blood, and made us His property and possession; 3) Christ is Head of the Church, “holding in all things the primacy”; 4) God bestowed upon Christ the nations of the world as His special possession and dominion.

Today’s Mass also describes the qualities of Christ’s kingdom. This kingdom is: 1) supreme, extending not only to all people but also to their princes and kings; 2) universal, extending to all nations and to all places; 3) eternal, for “The Lord shall sit a King forever”; 4) spiritual, Christ’s “kingdom is not of this world”. — Rt. Rev. Msgr. Rudolph G. Gandas

CHRIST THE KING AS REPRESENTED IN THE LITURGY

The liturgy is an album in which every epoch of Church history immortalizes itself. Therein, accordingly, can be found the various pictures of Christ beloved during succeeding centuries. In its pages we see pictures of Jesus suffering and in agony; we see pictures of His Sacred Heart; yet these pictures are not proper to the nature of the liturgy as such; they resemble baroque altars in a gothic church. Classic liturgy knows but one Christ: the King, radiant, majestic, and divine.

With an ever-growing desire, all Advent awaits the “coming King”; in the chants of the breviary we find repeated again and again the two expressions “King” and “is coming.” On Christmas the Church would greet, not the Child of Bethlehem, but the Rex Pacificus — “the King of peace gloriously reigning.” Within a fortnight, there follows a feast which belongs to the greatest of the feasts of the Church year — the Epiphany. As in ancient times oriental monarchs visited their principalities (theophany), so the divine King appears in His city, the Church; from its sacred precincts He casts His glance over all the world….On the final feast of the Christmas cycle, the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, holy Church meets her royal Bridegroom with virginal love: “Adorn your bridal chamber, O Sion, and receive Christ your King!” The burden of the Christmas cycle may be summed up in these words: Christ the King establishes His Kingdom of light upon earth!

If we now consider the Easter cycle, the luster of Christ’s royal dignity is indeed somewhat veiled by His sufferings; nevertheless, it is not the suffering Jesus who is present to the eyes of the Church as much as Christ the royal Hero and Warrior who upon the battlefield of Golgotha struggles with the mighty and dies in triumph. Even during Lent and Passiontide the Church acclaims her King. The act of homage on Palm Sunday is intensely stirring; singing psalms in festal procession we accompany our Savior singing: Gloria, laus et honor tibi sit, Rex Christe, “Glory, praise and honor be to Thee, Christ, O King!” It is true that on Good Friday the Church meditates upon the Man of Sorrows in agony upon the Cross, but at the same time, and perhaps more so, she beholds Him as King upon a royal throne. The hymn Vexilla Regis, “The royal banners forward go,” is the more perfect expression of the spirit from which the Good Friday liturgy has arisen. Also characteristic is the verse from Psalm 95, Dicite in gentibus quia Dominus regnavit, to which the early Christians always added, a ligno, “Proclaim among the Gentiles: the Lord reigns from upon the tree of the Cross!” During Paschal time the Church is so occupied with her glorified Savior and Conqueror that kingship references become rarer; nevertheless, toward the end of the season we celebrate our King’s triumph after completing the work of redemption, His royal enthronement on Ascension Thursday.

Neither in the time after Pentecost is the picture of Christ as King wholly absent from the liturgy. Corpus Christi is a royal festival: “Christ the King who rules the nations, come, let us adore” (Invit.). In the Greek Church the feast of the Transfiguration is the principal solemnity in honor of Christ’s kingship, Summum Regem gloriae Christum adoremus (Invit.). Finally at the sunset of the ecclesiastical year, the Church awaits with burning desire the return of the King of Majesty.

We will overlook further considerations in favor of a glance at the daily Offices. How often do we not begin Matins with an act of royal homage: “The King of apostles, of martyrs, of confessors, of virgins — come, let us adore” (Invit.). Lauds is often introduced with Dominus regnavit, “The Lord is King”. Christ as King is also a first consideration at the threshold of each day; for morning after morning we renew our oath of fidelity at Prime: “To the King of ages be honor and glory.” Every oration is concluded through our Mediator Christ Jesus “who lives and reigns forever.” Yes, age-old liturgy beholds Christ reigning as King in His basilica (etym.: “the king’s house”), upon the altar as His throne.

Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

 

These are the wounds I wish for Lord…

“These are the wounds I wish for Lord…”

The statues of Mary and the Crucified Christ in the Church Escuela de Cristo in Antigua, Guatemala

Wounds. We all have them. Some we don’t want. Others we try to hide and still others we can’t help but recall from time to time, if not every day.

Wounds make us who we are. Wounds cut. They hurt. They go shallow and they go deep. Yet, they also can transform.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Pope Benedict XVI, in an idea that he takes from some of the Fathers. The idea that we must allow ourselves to be wounded by beauty. We must allow the beauty of God, the love of God to pierce our heart and to make it beat and bleed for love of God.

What wounds do you not want?

Fear?

Hatred?

Not being loved?

Told that you’re worthless?

Told that you’re not beautiful?

Abuse?

Physical?

Mental?

Emotional?

Vocal?

Passion?

Friendship?

Family?

The list could go on and on. But what happens if we allow the Lord to have that wound? What happens if we allow he Lord to take that wound and join it to his 5 most glorious and precious wounds? What if we allow the Lord to crucify that wound in our life to the cross with himself? What then?

How might our lives be changed? How might they grow? How might we be transformed by our wounds?

“Inspire our hearts, I ask you, Jesus, with that breath of your Spirit; wound our souls with your love, so that the soul of each and every one of us may say in truth: Show me my soul’s desire, for I am wounded by your love.

These are the wounds I wish for, Lord.

What if we allow our wounds to be replaced with new wounds? What if we allow Christ to wound us with his love?

The Abbot St. Columban put it beautifully in the Office of Readings this morning. Read his words below and imagine what would happen if you and I allow our wounds to be transformed by love? What would happen if we allow ourselves to be transformed by Him who loves us more than anything else he has created? What if?

From an instruction by Saint Columban, abbot

(Instr.13, De Christo fonte vitae, 2-3: Opera, Dublin 1957,118-120)

You, O God, are everything to us

Brethren, let us follow that vocation by which we are called from life to the fountain of life. He is the fountain, not only of living water, but of eternal life. He is the fountain of light and spiritual illumination; for from him come all these things: wisdom, life and eternal light. The author of life is the fountain of life; the creator of light is the fountain of spiritual illumination. Therefore, let us seek the fountain of light and life and the living water by despising what we see, by leaving the world and dwelling in the highest heavens. Let us seek these things, and like rational and shrewd fish may we drink the living water which wells up to eternal life.

Merciful God, good Lord, I wish that you would unite me to that fountain, that there I may drink of the living spring of the water of life with those others who thirst after you. There in that heavenly region may I ever dwell, delighted with abundant sweetness, and say: “How sweet is the fountain of living water which never fails, the water welling up to eternal life.”

O God, you are yourself that fountain ever and again to be desired, ever and again to be consumed. Lord Christ, always give us this water to be for us the source of the living water which wells up to eternal life. I ask you for your great benefits. Who does not know it? You, King of glory, know how to give great gifts, and you have promised them; there is nothing greater than you, and you bestowed yourself upon us; you gave yourself for us.

Therefore, we ask that we may know what we love, since we ask nothing other than that you give us yourself. For you are our all: our life, our light, our salvation, our food and our drink, our God. Inspire our hearts, I ask you, Jesus, with that breath of your Spirit; wound our souls with your love, so that the soul of each and every one of us may say in truth: Show me my soul’s desire, for I am wounded by your love.

These are the wounds I wish for, Lord. Blessed is the soul so wounded by love. Such a soul seeks the fountain of eternal life and drinks from it, although it continues to thirst and its thirst grows ever greater even as it drinks. Therefore, the more the soul loves, the more it desires to love, and the greater its suffering, the greater its healing. In this same way may our God and Lord Jesus Christ, the good and saving physician, wound the depths of our souls with a healing wound—the same Jesus Christ who reigns in unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

If I don’t preach the Gospel, what can I ever hope to do?

We are bound by love, by the commission of our Baptism to proclaim Christ, crucified, resurrected, and alive to each we encounter! Here’s a great reflection on our duty as Christians from Blessed Paul VI, Pope.

How have you proclaimed Christ today? Have you? What’s holding you back? Don’t wait!

From a homily by Blessed Paul VI, pope

(Hom. Maniliae habita die 29 novembris 1970)

We proclaim Christ to the whole world

Not to preach the Gospel would be my undoing, for Christ himself sent me as his apostle and witness. The more remote, the more difficult the assignment, the more my love of God spurs me on. I am bound to proclaim that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of him we come to know the God we cannot see. He is the firstborn of all creation; in him all things find their being. Man’s teacher and redeemer, he was born for us, died for us, and for us he rose from the dead.

All things, all history converges in Christ. A man of sorrow and hope, he knows us and loves us. As our friend he stays by us throughout our lives; at the end of time he will come to be our judge; but we also know that he will be the complete fulfillment of our lives and our great happiness for all eternity.

I can never cease to speak of Christ for he is our truth and our light; he is the way, the truth and the life. He is our bread, our source of living water who allays our hunger and satisfies our thirst. He is our shepherd, our leader, our ideal, our comforter and our brother.

He is like us but more perfectly human, simple, poor, humble, and yet, while burdened with work, he is more patient. He spoke on our behalf; he worked miracles; and he founded a new kingdom: in it the poor are happy; peace is the foundation of a life in common; where the pure of heart and those who mourn are uplifted and comforted; the hungry find justice; sinners are forgiven; and all discover that they are brothers.

The image I present to you is the image of Jesus Christ. As Christians you share his name; he has already made most of you his own. So once again I repeat his name to you Christians and I proclaim to all men: Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, Lord of the new universe, the great hidden key to human history and the part we play in it. He is the mediator—the bridge, if you will—between heaven and earth. Above all he is the Son of man, more perfect than any man, being also the Son of God, eternal and infinite. He is the son of Mary his mother on earth, more blessed than any woman. She is also our mother in the spiritual communion of the mystical body.

Remember: [it] is Jesus Christ I preach day in and day out. His name I would see echo and re-echo for all time even to the ends of the earth.

Pray God that we might preach our Lord even with our final breath!

Christ should be manifest in our whole life: how to achieve Christian perfection

As I sit here on the shores of Lake Atitlan this morning, the Office of Readings this morning had provided another gem to chew on and mull over.

From a treatise on Christian Perfection by Saint Gregory of Nyssa, bishop

(PG 46, 283-286)

Christ should be manifest in our whole life

“The life of the Christian has three distinguishing aspects: deeds, words and thought. Thought comes first, then words, since our words express openly the interior conclusions of the mind. Finally, after thoughts and words, comes action, for our deeds carry out what the mind has conceived. So when one of these results in our acting or speaking or thinking, we must make sure that all our thoughts, words and deeds are controlled by the divine ideal, the revelation of Christ. For then our thoughts, words and deeds will not fall short of the nobility of their implications.

What then must we do, we who have been found worthy of the name of Christ? Each of us must examine his thoughts, words and deeds, to see whether they are directed toward Christ or are turned away from him. This examination is carried out in various ways. Our deeds or our thoughts or our words are not in harmony with Christ if they issue from passion. They then bear the mark of the enemy who smears the pearl of the heart with the slime of passion, dimming and even destroying the luster of the precious stone.

On the other hand, if they are free from and untainted by every passionate inclination, they are directed toward Christ, the author and source of peace. He is like a pure, untainted stream. If you draw from him the thoughts in your mind and the inclinations of your heart, you will show a likeness to Christ, your source and origin, as the gleaming water in a jar resembles the flowing water from which it was obtained.

For the purity of Christ and the purity that is manifest in our hearts are identical. Christ’s purity, however, is the fountainhead; ours has its source in him and flows out of him. Our life is stamped with the beauty of his thought. The inner and the outer man are harmonized in a kind of music. The mind of Christ is the controlling influence that inspires us to moderation and goodness in our behavior. As I see it, Christian perfection consists in this: sharing the titles which express the meaning of Christ’s name, we bring out this meaning in our minds, our prayers and our way of life.”

Some questions for reflection:

Does my life bear witness to the marks of our Savior, crucified?

Does my life lead others to Christ through my thought, word, deed, and action?

“Our lives are stamped with his thought” we’re created in the very image of the living God. Do our lives reflect the beauty and love of our creator?

“The inner and outer man are harmonized in a kind of music.” Are we healthy? Do we know ourselves? Who we are before God? Who we are before our brothers and sisters? Does our inner life and outer life live in harmony, reflecting the beautiful work of His hands that we are?

A Life Well Lived: The Radical Hospitality St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi has been my patron saint for as long as I can remember. I have always had a devotion to him, the simple, humble aristocrat-turned beggar of Assisi. His radical ways of living have always touched deeply at my heart, as they have at so many others across the ages. Francis, was ordained as a Deacon. Never a priest. And he LIVED his Diaconate in every sense of the work Diakonosservice. Francis lived a life of radical hospitality. He welcomed all, stranger, muslim, Christian, woman, child, etc as Christ. Ever since his encounter with the poor beggar man, wherein Francis gave him his cloak, Francis lived a life for others. He lived his life as an alter Christus (another Christ).

Francis had a great love for the Church, he had a great love for the people of God, a great love for the Liturgy in all its splendor, and he had a great love for beauty. Francis lived the radical hospitality, which the Gospel demands with such fervor that he saw God’s presence in the beauty of each part of Creation. Whether it be Sister Moon, Brother Wolf, Sister Breeze, Brother Leo, Sister Clare, or even Sister Death…from whom no mortal can escape. Francis saw the presence of God, the incarnation of Christ in every living being. He lived the mystery of the Incarnation, because he honored Christ’s presence, wherever and whenever he found it.

Francis was joyful. There’s no doubting that. Read any commentary you ever could on him, watch Bishop Robert Barron’s The Pivotal Players episode on him (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING SO) and you will see a man, faced with trials, with sin, with struggles, yet as he walked he sang. As he received he gave. As he lived, so he loved.

Francis abandoned the pleasures of the flesh, the pleasures of the world, because he had seen that only Christ, could provide what he needed. He had fallen deeply and madly in love with the Bridegroom of the Church, and sought to offer his own life with Christ to the glory of God the Father. Francis embraced his trials. He received the Stigmata. He founded religious communities. He created the first “living” Nativity Scene. He rebuilt physical church buildings. He prayed often. He went away to quiet places for retreats. He stirred up the ardor of faith in men of no faith. He loved without being loved in return. Why? Because he embraced the Radical Hospitality of the Gospel. He embraced a life of joy. He embraced Christ, present in all of humanity and creation, with all of its boils, warts, pimples, scars, etc. because he saw the beauty of the Creator within.

St. Francis of Assisi, lived a life of radical surrender to the workings of the Spirit. He lived a life of radical hospitality and love. He lived a life of joy as he embraced the cross.

May we have the strength and courage to do the same.

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for me and for us, that we might be made worthy to share the light of Christ in Heaven with you. Amen.

 

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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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“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

Masquerade (The Masks We Wear)- Reflections from Candletime and Phantom of the Opera

alw-s-phantom-of-the-opera-movie-alws-phantom-of-the-opera-movie-19662319-1012-425

As most of my friends know, my favorite musical is Phantom of the Opera. In it, we find a masquerade ball that is held in the Opera Populaire to celebrate the first year of success by its’ new owners, Monsieurs Firmin and André. All of the cast, workers and patrons come and perform a dance on the steps leading into the theatre. During it they sing the following song, of which I have provided the text from. You can watch/listen to it here:

Last night we talked in candletime about masks. We had learned throughout the day about the masks that we wear, and encouraged to come up with ways to take them off. More after, the following:

Masquerade!
Paper faces on parade . . .
Masquerade!
Hide your face,
so the world will
never find you!

Masquerade!
Every face a different shade . . .
Masquerade!
Look around –
there’s another
mask behind you!

Flash of mauve . . .
Splash of puce . . .
Fool and king . . .
Ghoul and goose . . .
Green and black . . .
Queen and priest . . .
Trace of rouge . . .
Face of beast . . .

Faces . . .
Take your turn, take a ride
on the merry-go-round . . .
in an inhuman race . . .

Eye of gold . . .
Thigh of blue . . .
True is false . . .
Who is who . . .?
Curl of lip . . .
Swirl of gown . . .
Ace of hearts . . .
Face of clown . . .

Faces . . .
Drink it in, drink it up,
till you’ve drowned
in the light . . .
in the sound . . .

RAOUL/CHRISTINE
But who can name the face . . .?

ALL
Masquerade!
Grinning yellows,
spinning reds . . .
Masquerade!
Take your fill –
let the spectacle
astound you!

Masquerade!
Burning glances,
turning heads . . .
Masquerade!
Stop and stare
at the sea of smiles
around you!

Masquerade!
Seething shadows
breathing lies . . .
Masquerade!
You can fool
any friend who
ever knew you!

Masquerade!
Leering satyrs,
peering eyes . . .
Masquerade!
Run and hide –
but a face will
still pursue you!

Read more: Phantom Of The Opera – Masquerade Lyrics | MetroLyrics

It was a beautiful moment watching these young men share their struggles, share their emotions and a little bit more about themselves. Some talked of how they are not very outgoing and ways that they could try to make new friends, others about how they can be less annoying, others talked of hiding behind masks of distrust or failure and how they were planning to build up their self-esteem. It was a beautiful moment of growth for all of us to share a little of our burdens and work toward becoming those better Men, which god is calling us to be.

The group presenting to the campers talked of how we can better realize the simple fact that we are all beloved Sons and daughters of God. Our Program Director, Jessy Bennett, her husband Ethan, and baby daughter, Lillian Rose talked about the love that a parent has for their child. They asked the campers to consider that if their parents love them so much, how much more does their heavenly Father care deeply and love them? If you check out our Gasper River FB page here, you can see the photos of these kiddoes that we are blessed with this week. Look at the close-ups of them. (We take a lot!) They are most definitely beautiful Sons and Daughters of God. The joy in their faces, the smiles upon their faces, the laughter in their eyes, the moments of surprise. God had and did a beautiful job in creating each one of them. He made them in his beautiful image and likeness. Will you join me in praying for these young men and women, as they walk their Way of Beauty? Join me in praying for them as they continue this week and the rest of their life? Pray that they may know of their beauty. Know of the love God and their families have for them, the love that the camp staff have for them. May they come to know that the masks we wear aren’t important, but the beauty that lies underneath (Love Never Dies, reference) is what is important. Let us pray for them that they may come to stop the dance and the masquerade and be true, virtuous, and holy for the sake of the kingdom of God. Amen.

This is from last year, but aren't they just beautiful?

This is from last year, but aren’t they just beautiful?

A light in the Dark – Reflections on Candle Time at camp & the Paschal Candle

Well, tonight we started our first ever duo-camp! We are running two camps at once this week. Expedition (7th-8th grade), and Quest (5th-6th). I’m working the Expedition camp and also being a staff counselor (living in the cabins with the campers) this week.

It’s a camp tradition that every night after campfire we close with candle time, a time to be candle-in-the-dark-reporter_087897with each other as brothers, share a little about the day and encourage each other to grow. In the past we have actually used candles during candle time, normally though due to a problem a few years back we don’t though some staff like myself, do like to pull out a candle every once in a while if a group is doing well.

The boys (still not men or young men, but getting there) did excellent tonight. They shared their Holy Spirit moments from the day, talking of how it was so good to be accepted by other boys their age, when they are not always accepted at school. We talked of how the smiles on everyones face made them want to be here at camp and how they were so happy to see glimpses of the fun we would have together this week. Many of them shared how this was some of the happiest few hours of their lives thus far and how they couldn’t wait to see what would come tomorrow. Others saw the Holy Spirit in the storm which seemed to pass by over us without much thunder and no rain. One said: “a real sign of how God’s hand is protecting us and guiding us here at camp this week.”

Our second question we prompted them with was if there was anything they were nervous or worried about for camp this week. One boy shared of how he worried for his grandmother, recently diagnosed with cancer. Still, another worried about his parents celebrating their 20th anniversary and hoping that they had as much fun as was going to this week. Some worried about what their mom’s would do without them this week. Others were scared for the weather and what we would be able to do if it rained all week.

We closed candle time like we opened it with one of the boys leading us in prayer. The camper who did the honor said a beautiful spontaneous prayer he prayed from the heart. (It’s his first time as a camper too! 🙂 )

As we began candle time I invited the boys to come sit around me on the floor so that they could be close to the candle. It was one of those simple inserts that we use for the Sanctuary lamp, that I had placed in a cut crystal bowl with a clear cylindrical globe. Easter-Vigil-CandleThe light danced across the room and across their faces, which you could tell were filled with wonder, nervousness, and awe. I was brought back to the glorious Vigil of Vigils; that is, the Easter Vigil, where we bring the single lighted paschal candle (a symbol of Christ, the light of the world) into the church for the first time. There in the closed space, the light dances off of the walls and stained glass, as well as the priest, congregation, and other ministers faces. It too is a moment of rejoicing for the church, as we welcome Christ, the risen savior back!

So too, like the Paschal candle being carried into the Church, we, the staff are called to bear Christ into the world, especially to these campers and everyone we encounter this summer. We are to pour ourselves out Eucharistically, give of ourselves in charity, love one another and help each other get to Heaven. I pray that we may continue to be that beacon of light in the dark for the campers, here this week and the rest of the summer. Will you join me in praying that that may be so? May we take the beauty we experience on this journey; this walk, and share it with those who so desperately need it.

Here’s a short poem on the Paschal Candle, I found and thought I would share:

The Paschal Candle
Burns brightly in the darkness
Light conquers darkness.
Death is banished forever.

The Christ Candle
A symbol of the Risen Lord
The victory of life over death
Heaven over the grave.

The Easter Candle
The Alpha and the Omega
The beginning and the end
The omnipotence of God.

The White Candle
Christ, yesterday and today
The Light of the world
Forever present amidst His own.

The Tall Candle
A pillar of strength day and night
All time belongs to Him
All ages under His power and rule.

The Cross bearing Candle
Five grains of incense ingrained on it
The five wounds of our Lord
The sacrifice once and for all.

The Vigil Candle
A celebration of the first Easter
To the one who merits
All praise and glory in every age to come.

Maria Franco

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Gasper Summer Staff 2015

Now, if you will please excuse me, I have to go wrangle some of the boys who can’t sleep and keep going to the bathroom. Oh my, I’m so thankful for my parents, (especially my Dad and the priest-fathers in my life on this Father’s Day.)

Let us continue to walk this way of beauty to God together. Oremus pro invicem!