If you used to be Catholic, have been re-baptized, are a protestant, etc. Read this!

A disclaimer: This is a hard subject. So first, please don’t just read part of what I have to say and then stop. Read it all. From top to bottom. Thank you!

I have friends and yes, even family members who have left the Catholic Church for one reason or another. I pray each day that they might one day return home to the folds of the One, Holy, Catholic (the word means: Universal), and Apostolic Church, which Christ founded.

Why leave? Each person will say something different. They each have different reasons. And while those reasons have a value to them and deserve to be honored, and discussed so that wounds and misunderstandings can be healed, there is one main reason they leave which they won’t tell me, and I’d even dare to say it’d be something that some of them would argue about and deny. But I know. I know what the answer is that is at the root of their leaving. Because even with all of the other problems they might have with the Church, if they knew. If they believed. If they would vouch their life upon this ONE thing. They never would leave. Because that which they don’t believe is the most precious thing, the most precious person, this side of Heaven. What is the root of them leaving?

They don’t understand the Eucharist. They don’t believe Jesus at his word, that “This IS My Body…This IS My Blood.”

And who can blame them? I mean, even in the time of Jesus, as he taught this in Capernuam, many of his disciples turned and left him. Jesus says: “I am THE Bread of Life…Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life…For my Flesh is TRUE food, and my Blood is TRUE drink.” As John 6:6o says: “This saying is HARD…who can accept it?” And then later in John 6:66: “As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” (full text provided below)

Mayan woman kneeling in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament during the Octavo of Corpus Christi at the Cathedral in Antigua, Guatemala 2018

Today. In the Church. In 2018, many, many, many leave the faith. They leave the Church for one reason or another, but altogether at it’s core: “Because this teaching is hard.” If we took Jesus at his word, if we believed what he said, we would work to forgive any fault and heal any wound, because being able to consume and receive the living Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a gift we would never, ever want to be without.

So they leave the Church. They leave the Eucharist, the very Body and Blood of our Lord, and they leave his Body of the Church on Earth to join a broken part of that Body. Yes, while many protestant religions fall under the category “Christian,” they are not fully united to the Body of Christ on Earth. These aspects of “differences of faith and belief” separate and break the Body of Christ. But there is one thing that does unite us.

Baptism. Through the saving waters of Baptism, through the invocation of the Holy Trinity: “N. I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” All are united to Christ and to one another. We as Catholics profess “One Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” Once you have been baptized, whether as a baby, or a child, or an adult, the door to a Life of Grace is opened to you.

I have to admit. It stings when someone leaves the Church. It literally breaks my heart. It breaks my heart as well to see those Protestant brothers and sisters who have not yet come to the knowledge of the truth. They have intimate encounters with our Lord in prayer, with the Holy Spirit moving through their lives, but they are part of that broken body. On Good Friday, during the Solemn Intercessions, we pray and chant the beautiful prayers, praying for the whole world. The 5th Intercession is a prayer of Unity for All Christians. In it, we acknowledge that we pray for all who believe in Christ, that they who have been consecrated by Baptism, might be gathered together and united in Christ’s One Church.

V. For the unity of Christians

Let us pray also for all our brothers and sisters who believe in Christ,
that our God and Lord may be pleased,
as they live the truth,
to gather them together and keep them in his one Church.

Prayer in silence. Then the Priest says:

Almighty ever-living God,
who gather what is scattered
and keep together what you have gathered,
look kindly on the flock of your Son,
that those whom one Baptism has consecrated
may be joined together by integrity of faith
and united in the bond of charity.
Through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

 

Many times, when someone leaves the Church, they are “re-baptized.” It’s as if they say that their Baptism didn’t work. Many say: “Oh, this time I chose it for myself.” Okay, real-talk-sassy, Corey is coming out now. When someone says that, do you know what an insult it is? I mean really. Saying that the faith your parents raised you in, that the saving waters pouring from the Side of Christ and opening the recipient to new life “didn’t work,” “didn’t take,” or “wasn’t your own decision” is a huge insult to the faith, the love, and the desire of your parents for you to be with them and more importantly, Jesus, forever in Heaven. By being “re-baptized” one is saying, that their parent’s desires of passing on the faith, of opening the Kingdom of Heaven and the Life of Grace to you through the saving waters of Baptism shouldn’t have been done. It’s not saying that it’s your own choice, it’s saying that Christ’s saving act wasn’t good enough for you the first time. He, the creator of perfection, the all-powerful God couldn’t do something right? I don’t think so.

It’s like when someone gives you a gift at Christmas, they thought you would love, and instead of taking and saying thank-you, you say: “Oh, I don’t want that, you can go return it.” Seriously. It’s a huge insult. Parents at baptism, give their children the second greatest gift they can after choosing life for their child. They give them the gift and hope of Eternal Life. That’s not a gift with a gift receipt. It’s not returnable. It’s eternal. *Sassy Corey, checking out…

NB: If you have been “re-baptized,” I’m not mad, and I hope that I didn’t offend you too much with my sassy-talk. There’s a reason though that re-baptism is a sting to the faith you practiced/were raised in. And the good news is that it’s just a sting. It’s not the end of the world, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Be happy that you have chosen Christ. Be happy and rejoice in your Baptism, and in the saving gift of Grace it offers you, but please read on and see why you shouldn’t go for that third “re-baptism.”

So, what does the Church have to say in all of this? She says, as long as Baptism has been performed through the Trinitarian formula, we acknowledge it and respect it for we are baptized once for the forgiveness of sin. Throughout my years of working with men and women coming into the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, I am always overwhelmed and overcome with joy when they learn that they don’t have to (nor can they) be re-baptized. The marks of Baptism form an indelible mark on the Soul of a Human person. They claim that soul for Christ. It is a mark that can never be washed away or erased. For someone who has had a long life as a member of another Christian denomination, to hear that those years of learning and growing in their relationship with Jesus mean something, that their choice to choose Baptism (or their parent’s choice to choose Baptism for their child) means something is always an overwhelming moment for those individuals.

The Church recognizes the unity and the joining into the family of God which Baptism initiates in the lives of the Christian. We respect that. We honor that. Because we honor Christ. Because we honor the faith. Because we honor and take him at his word.

St. Augustine put it beautifully in the second reading from the Office of Readings today (the full text is provided below): “Those then who tell us: You are not our brothers, are saying that we are pagans. That is why they want to baptize us again, claiming that we do not have what they can give. Hence their error of denying that we are their brothers. Why then did the prophet tell us: Say to them: You are our brothers? It is because we acknowledge in them that which we do not repeat. By not recognizing our baptism, they deny that we are their brothers; on the other hand, when we do not repeat their baptism but acknowledge it to be our own, we are saying to them: You are our brothers.”

You are our brother. You are our sister. That is what the Church says when she says that we recognize one Baptism for the forgiveness of sin. We recognize the unity of the Family of God, even though that Body might be broken, that Body is still one.

One of my friends has a very, very deep faith life. She has an incredible relationship with Jesus Christ, one which at times I could be a little envious of. She was telling me the other day about how she lives down the road from a Catholic Church. She said that when life gets stressful, when she doesn’t know what to do, when she is struggling in prayer she walks down to the Catholic Church because they have a “24/7 prayer room.” (her words) She said that when she is in that room, she can’t explain it but she has the deepest prayer experiences and the greatest amount of comfort and experience of peace she ever has. I had to laugh.

The prayer room she talks of is the Perpetual Adoration Chapel at this Church. It is the chapel where Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, our Savior and Redeemer, is exposed in the Monstrance upon the Altar. He the Lord of all, the King of Kings, the Creator of the Universe is hidden under the simple form of a piece of bread. The ultimate act of humility. God becomes man and not only does he become man to redeem man, he hides his flesh under the forms of simple food; bread and wine, which he gives to man to nourish him, restore and strengthen man’s relationship with God and bestow upon him grace upon grace upon grace. I laughed, because she experienced this peace,  the greatest sense of comfort she has ever felt because as she sits in that “24/7 Prayer Room.” She sits face to face with the Body, the very person of her Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. And slowly. Slowly she’s coming like the men along the Road to Emmaus to know Him in the Breaking of the Bread.

Whether they like it or not, those who are outside the Church are our brothers. And as our brothers and sisters, I promise you that we will strive to treat you with love, respect, and dignity.

To my brothers and sisters, my friends, my family members, come home. Please. I mean this with all of my heart. Whatever is keeping you, is separating you, is stopping you from remaining in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church that Jesus Christ founded upon the rock of Peter and the 12 Apostles, don’t let it have any more power over you! Don’t let Satan continue to deceive you and keep you from Him, the Creator, the Master Sculptor who created you wonderfully, and beautifully, to be his and His alone. Come home to Jesus. Come home to his Church. Take him at his word. If Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords said that: “This IS My Body, This IS My Blood” Why not believe him? Why not take his words and believe them completely?

If you have wounds. If someone in the Church has wronged you, if you don’t understand something, I’m sorry. I truly, truly am. And I extend to you the invitation to reach out, I won’t be sassy. I won’t be judgmental. I just want to listen, acknowledge and honor your wounds, misunderstandings, your past and I want to invite you to be healed. And I promise to stand by you and walk beside you as you explore, search, and consider coming home to Him who died for you.

We love you! HE loves you! Come home!

 

 

Full texts to both John 6:48-69 and St. Augustine’s words are provided below:

 

From a discourse on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop:

(Ps. 32, 29; CCL 38, 272-273)

Whether they like it or not, those who are outside the Church are our brothers

We entreat you, brothers, as earnestly as we are able, to have charity, not only for one another, but also for those who are outside the Church. Of these some are still pagans, who have not yet made an act of faith in Christ. Others are separated, insofar as they are joined with us in professing faith in Christ, our head, but are yet divided from the unity of his body. My friends, we must grieve over these as over our brothers; and they will only cease to be so when they no longer say our Father.

The prophet refers to some men saying: When they say to you: You are not our brothers, you are to tell them: You are our brothers. Consider whom he intended by these words. Were they the pagans? Hardly; for nowhere either in Scripture or in our traditional manner of speaking do we find them called our brothers. Nor could it refer to the Jews, who do not believe in Christ. Read Saint Paul and you will see that when he speaks of “brothers,” without any qualification, he refers always to Christians. For example, he says: Why do you judge your brother or why do you despise your brother? And again: You perform iniquity and common fraud, and this against your brothers.

Those then who tell us: You are not our brothers, are saying that we are pagans. That is why they want to baptize us again, claiming that we do not have what they can give. Hence their error of denying that we are their brothers. Why then did the prophet tell us: Say to them: You are our brothers? It is because we acknowledge in them that which we do not repeat. By not recognizing our baptism, they deny that we are their brothers; on the other hand, when we do not repeat their baptism but acknowledge it to be our own, we are saying to them: You are our brothers.

If they say, “Why do you seek us? What do you want of us?” we should reply: You are our brothers. They may say, “Leave us alone. We have nothing to do with you.” But we have everything to do with you, for we are one in our belief in Christ; and so we should be in one body, under one head.

And so, dear brothers, we entreat you on their behalf, in the name of the very source of our love, by whose milk we are nourished, and whose bread is our strength, in the name of Christ our Lord and his gentle love. For it is time now for us to show them great love and abundant compassion by praying to God for them. May he one day give them a clear mind to repent and to realize that they have nothing now but the sickness of their hatred, and the stronger they think they are, the weaker they become. We entreat you then to pray for them, for they are weak, given to the wisdom of the flesh, to fleshly and carnal things, but yet they are our brothers. They celebrate the same sacraments as we, not indeed with us, but still the same. They respond with the same Amen, not with us, but still the same. And so pour out your hearts for them in prayer to God.

 

Bread of Life Discourse:

John 6:48-69

48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”a

52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”53Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.54Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.57Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.b58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”59These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

The Words of Eternal Life.*60Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”61Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?62What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?*63It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh* is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.64But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.c65And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

66As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.67Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”68Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.69We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”a

52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”53Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.54Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.57Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.b58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”59These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

The Words of Eternal Life.*60Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”61Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?62What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?*63It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh* is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.64But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.c65And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

66As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.67Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”68Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.69We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

 

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?

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

 

In today’s Responsorial Psalm, we hear:

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

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

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

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

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

GospelLK 11:1-13

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

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

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

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

How do we remain faithful to Christ?

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

7-20-16

 

 

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

Dear Ministers of Praise,

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I remain yours in the Precious Blood of Christ,

Corey D. Bruns

Seminarian – Intern

“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

Seminaries are Full of Death and Dying Men

“Hey Cemeterian Corey!” is a phrase that I will never forget one of the kindergartners in Mrs. Stringer’s class at St. Joseph in Bowling Green shouting at me as they came back inside from the playground when I was visiting them a couple of years ago. Calling a seminary or a seminarian a “cemetery” is more common than you would think. Heck, even I slip up some times and say that I go to the cemetery, when I mean seminary

Fall at Crown Hill Memorial Cemetery

Fall at Crown Hill Memorial Cemetery.

For all the times that I and other brother seminarians have heard that, I wonder if it has ever really sunken in?

You go to seminary to die, in a multitude of ways. Your life is not really about you anymore, and that can really be a hard pill to swallow.

The cross that we encoutner in seminary is often carried and met in very simple ways: breaking out of your old routines, moving and pushing back your comfort zones, and pruning those areas of your life out that are detrimental to grace. The word “seminary” literally in Latin means “seed bed,” for this is where men go to become the fertile ground out of which one’s spiritual life can grow. Thanks be to God you’re not walking alone through this period of purification.

I had friends growing up and ones that I really enjoyed the company of in high school, but in seminary I finally encountered other guys wanting to be men after the heart of Christ, men who had a love of and devotion to Mary. This love of Christ saturated our conversations and guided our activities.

If you will permit me to use another analogy; seminary in a way is like a river. (And now the voice in my head is singing Peace is flowing like a river but replacing it with: “Seminary’s like a riiiivvver.” Such is my life!) IMG_0217The seminarians are the stones and the moving water is community life. Living in close quarters with 40 men is a plethera of purification. In seminary you get to learn a lot about your brothers. You learn their sleep schedule, the times of day (morning) when you don’t say anything to them lest you die. You quickly learn the patterns, peeves, and quirks (smells) of these men who you call your brothers. Like the stones in the river, community life tests and purifies you, hopefully smoothing out your rough spots, though not always. The grace is abundant though and the amazing ways in which the Lord works through your life in community can be incomprehensible.

So yes, you go to seminary to die. Seminaries are full of death. In fact every one of the men there is in the process of dying. But it is a beautiful death. A death which gives birth through Christ to a new life full of love.

In Conclusion:

Seminary life in many ways is like a cemetery. It is like a river. It’s a place where we are in a sense forced to die to ourself and our narcissitc desires and focus on others. It is in seminary that we learn the way we can love as Christ did and be able to give completely of ourself to the church. Priests marry the church. They marry the people of God whom they will serve (everyone else in the world.) As seminarians we start to be betrothed if you will to the people (the church) through our ministry experiences. We “date” the Church and decide if we are called to give of ourselves totally to her. Likewise, the people of God choose us and “date” us. At Ordination, God-willing as in a marriage when a man and woman marry one another and give their consent to marry each other. “I do.” So too, a man at his ordination standing before the Bishop and the people of God, is asked: “Do you know him to be worthy?” After which the Vocation Director responds and the people join in an affirmation of their consent by applause.

Seminary, a seed bed is a place of death. It is a cemetery of sorts, a place where we die to ourselves and our sinful desires so that we may love Christ more. Seminary is a river. It is a place where our rough edgs are made smooth and the good that the Lord has begun in us is finally brought to completion. Please pray for your seminarians. You want to have good priests? Pray for good and holy seminarians! Pray that we might be faithful to our Lord, that we may have the grace to completely surrender our will and ourselves to the process of formation. Pray for all of the new seminarians who are starting this Way of Beauty, that is seminary. Pray for us as we die to ourselves so that through Christ we might rise to give ourselves to you.

Bruté Seminarians attend the Right to Life Dinner - Indianapolis 2014

Bruté Seminarians attend the Right to Life Dinner – Indianapolis 2014

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

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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!

The flower of Jesse will blossom! :: Reflections on praying about my vocation at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth

“A shoot will spring forth from the stock of Jesse, and a flower will blossom from his root. The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him!

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord. This feast is one of my favorites especially since my pilgrimage to the Holy Land last December. One of my 3 favorite locations that we got to visit was the Basilica of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. The church even though it is quite modern is very traditional through the way in which it teaches the faith and teaches about the Annunciation.

I think that the first place to start is to go from the top down of the Basilica. The dome is made to look like a giant Lilly bud which is turned upside down, showing that it is coming down from Heaven. The Lilly is an ancient symbol for our Blessed Mother. One of my favorite Springtime flowers is the Lilly of the Valley which grows outside our house. I have many memories of bringing back tubs to my Grandmother’s house and taking sections of her Lilly of the Valley back to Kentucky with us each year. My dog Maggie, much to my mother and I’s dismay LOVED to dig the root-bulb systems up. It is such a sweet and pungent scent and we use them to decorate our May altar each year. Here at Bishop Bruté, the sisters planted them everywhere. So I am VERY happy!10858516_10205530775565656_285478047220799284_nThe story of the Annunciation is from Luke 1:26-38:

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
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The Cave where Mary gave her Fiat

Being in the place where Mary gave her “fiat,” her “yes” to God gave me such immense joy. I remember walking into the lower church where the Cave of the Annunciation is and just kneeling there crying. It was so immensely beautiful and peaceful. Being in seminary I spend a lot of time in prayer asking the Lord where he wants me to go. What he wants me to do with my life. Specifically if he is calling me to become a priest and bring his mysteries to Earth through the Sacraments. Kneeling there, praying the rosary I renewed my consecration to Mary through her Immaculate Heart. I asked her to draw me closer into her heart so that I could be closer to her son.
Inside of the dome of the Basilica. (Lilly)

Inside of the dome of the Basilica. (Lilly)

At the moment of the Annunciation, Mary gave her “yes” and the Holy Spirit came upon her, thus Christ was conceived in her womb. I asked Mary, who was the first tabernacle to draw me into her womb as Christ was there, that I could be closer to him and be able to let him work through me in my life.
The upper church at the Basilica of the Annunciation

The upper church at the Basilica of the Annunciation

When we arrived at the Basilica after celebrating Sunday Mass at the Church of St. Joseph next door (Another amazing church) we came to the Basilica to pray the Noon Angelus. You can find the video below. I was quite sad that I wasn’t able to capture the organ beforehand. It was BEAUTIFUL!

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The front of the Basilica of the Annunciation Front entrance. (Lower church)

On the front of the Basilica it reads: “Verbum Caro Factum Est Et Habitavit In Nobis” (The Word of God was made flesh and made his dwelling upon us) The Altar in the lower church reads: “Verbo Caro Hic Factum Est” (Here, the Word was made flesh)

This is one of my favorite feasts because it is the Feast of the Annunciation, the celebration of the Incarnation, a mystery and beautiful gift. For God so loved the world that he sent his only son to dwell among us, to sacrifice and die a horrible and excruciating painful death on the cross. What an amazing God we have! He loves us so much that even though we sin and turn away from him he always calls us back.

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On this great solemnity of the Annunciation I humbly ask that you pray for me, as I continue to discern the Lord’s will in my life. May the Holy Spirit guide me and may the Blessed Mother continue to draw me closer to her Son, so that when the moment is right, when he asks me to do what he desires of me, that I may give him my “yes” unreservedly and with full trust in his infinite mercy. Pray Lord, may it be so!

The Owensboro contingent in front of the Church of the Annunciation

The Owensboro contingent in front of the Church of the Annunciation

See my blogpost on our adventures in Nazareth at our blog from the trip: “We give our yes with Mary!” https://holylandtrip2014.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/we-give-our-yes-with-mary/ 

May God bring this good Seed he has planted to fruit and fulfillment!

O Mary, who gave your Fiat, help us to give our Yes to Christ when he asks it of us. Amen.