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?

“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

Singing is a Lover’s Thing – Why I listen to Christian Music

“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.” – Pope Benedict XVI

Nota Bene: “I listen to all genre’s of music. While in the Liturgy I generally tend to prefer hymns and chant’s there is a proper and extremely important place for the beautiful use of good, solid Christian music. These are my thought…

Music of all genres can inspire us to think of God. Whether it be a beautiful violin solo, a barber shop quartet, a hymn, or another form of music, we cannot really define a form of music as not having anything to do with God, unless it has qualities which go against God or the laws he has ordained. What makes us think of God or worship God is not so much the  genre of music, but the beauty behind the instrumentation, lyrics, and voice of the singer. What is beauty? That gets into things too deep than in this post, though I have blogged about it before, here.

christian-music-I-love

Beauty is what lifts our hearts and minds to God. Now, I will argue that some types of music do not have a good message behind them and they definitely do not make us think of God or have a desire to worship him. In particular there are two types of music, which people generally associate with God and with worshiping him: Christian music and hymns. Both forms of music are generally seen by the listeners as giving praise to God the creator. Some would argue that Christian music does not lead the soul to Christ, as it only pertains to those who are already believers, I would disagree and here is why:

scripture

Almost all Christian music, is scriptural based. It is basically taking the psalms and other parts of scripture to music, much like when we chant the psalms for the Liturgy of the Hours or pray using scripture. The Psalms are the original songs, written by David for praising his creator. To sing them in another way is not to say that they no longer give him praise, rather it is to say that something has touched people’s hearts in it and it is a way of reaching out to them and bringing them to the faith.

Christian Music shares the message of the Gospel. That is not to say that Christian music doesn’t have it flaws. Like any other type of music it can fail in some circumstances. Some would argue that Christian music portrays a false sense of the sacrifice or cross required to live the faith. Yes, there is no cross without the resurrection, but does it hurt to have music which doesn’t always talk about pain and suffering? No. It actually can be a nice break. Christian music shares the message of the Gospel. That is, our hope in the Resurrection even in our somewhat broken and sinful human condition. And there are plenty of christian songs which do talk about the crosses we bear, but who really wants to intentionally listen to music about our failings? We want hopeful, vibrant music which again lifts our hearts and minds to God.

Christian Music is unique in it’s own way. Where did anyone ever say that Christian music was supposed to talk “subtly” about faith in Jesus? It has his name in it’s genre type for pete’s sake. The idea behind Christian music, is not to shy away and hint around at Jesus, rather to share the message of love, mercy, forgiveness, and more that can be ours if we embrace his call.

Sure, it’s fine if you prefer to listen to other types of music and discover God. There can be beauty in it as well, remember, music of all genre’s can inspire us to think of God. That is where the role of beauty comes into play. If you desire to listen to religious music, with a somewhat “pop” flare to it, without the meter of a hymn that’s great. That is your prerogative. Our goal is not to not give glory to God, rather to give glory to him in all that we do. Remember, singing is a lover’s thing. To sing to our creator in whatever fashion we choose, deepens our relationship with him and draws us close. So the next time you think about turning off that Christian song on the radio, leave it on and think of the way in which it can guide your soul to God. There’s a reason KLove calls it the KLove Challenge. Listening to music which serves a higher purpose and expressly talks about God, rather than shying away from it can deepen your prayer life.

Come to your beloved, sing to him in song. Remember that singing is out of love. We sing to the one we love and he sings to us throughout our lives. Singing is a lover’s thing.

I think that Gungor’s song using St. Augustine’s words: “Late Have I Loved You” fit well…

Late have I loved you,
O Beauty so ancient,
so new.

late have I loved you
you were within me, but I was outside you
it was there that I searched for you
it was there that I searched for you

Late have I loved you,
O Beauty so ancient, so new.
you were here with me
but I was not with You
it was there that you found me
it was there that you found me

You called and you shouted,
you broke through my deafness.
You flashed and you shone,
dispelled my blindness.
You breathed your fragrance on me
You breathed your fragrance on me
Late have I loved you

I drew in your breath
I keep on breathing
I’ve tasted I’ve seen
And now I want more
You breathed your fragrance on me
You breathed your fragrance on me
Late have I loved you

My Vocation Story

The following is my Vocation Story up to this point. Why do I say  up to this point? Because, it is a never ending process. Until the day I die I will always be seeking to discover and discern where/to what God is calling me to next. The following are just specific points along the way

All three of us in the Fall of 2013.

All three of us in the Fall of 2013.

that have stood out to me. Pray for me, that I may discern well, you are all in my prayers daily!

Growing up I was always encouraged to do whatever God wanted me to do. And no matter what my “ideal” job was in my mind my Mom used to always say that I should keep my options open incase God wanted me to be a Priest. Going through my life up until the 5th grade I wanted to be everything from a Construction Worker to a Veterinarian, but the thought of a being a priest was never that high on the list.

A little background before I start: I was born a triplet in the town of Quincy, IL to my parents Larry and Sue. I have one triplet brother, Brody, one triplet sister, Emily, and two older brothers: Adam and Nathan. (Both of whom are married with children now) In Quincy my family and I attended St. Peter’s which is where Servant of God Fr. Augustus Tolton, the first black priest in America was baptized and did some of his first ministry.(Because of our connection, I have a devotion to him.) My grandparents attend St. Francis Solanus in Quincy, which has had a big impact on my vocation, particularly through several of the Franciscans there.

My vocation story  really starts out in the little town of Beatrice, NE. We had moved to

Our family in Nebraska

Our family in Nebraska

Nebraska when I was in the second grade. My Dad had just got a job there and we moved to be with him. We made many friends, particularly ones from church. We attended St. Joseph’s and were blessed with two great priests. The then Fr. Mark Seiker and Fr. Finnian, who was a priest from Africa. Our faith really began to take off in Beatrice, not that we weren’t Catholic in Quincy or such, but too me it seemed to really take off. Mom was involved with the Ladies Sodality at the parish, which was blessing not only for her, but also for our family as it helped deepen our prayer life. My dad was involved with the Men’s group and we three kids went faithfully to CCD, and Mass with my parents. There is something unique thought about our time spent in Beatrice. I distinctly remember going to Holy Hours throughout the week. If memory serves, it seemed like we went each Saturday before Mass, as well as different points throughout the week. I remember Mom taking us there with her to pray, since Mom was a teacher she knew the value of good books and we were blessed to always have good Catholic books to read during adoration. We were particularly fond of books about the saints. They had a statue of the Infant of Prague in an alcove, with a basket of saint books under, that we would always peruse.

I remember even then looking at saints and praying about who I should choose as my confirmation saint down the road. (It was between John Bosco, Nicholas of Myra, and Francis of Assisi (Francis won, though I hold the others as patrons as well)) There was a statue of St. Theresé of Liseuix off to the left of the church in an alcove near the confessional, and for some reason I have always had a devotion to her since then. I remember dealing as a child with nightmares of hell, demons, etc. One time in particular I remember being at my grandparents and hearing a terrible voice saying that it was going to get me and that I was a sinner and that I was doomed to Hell. I ran out to the garage crying where my Grandma was and told her about it. Her words of advice have always stuck with me, she prayed a Hail Mary with me and told me if I ever heard the voice again to pray and ask Mary to defend me with the help of my guardian angel. Back in Beatrice I remember thinking about it and looking over at St. Theresé and seeing the shape of someone kneeling in front of it, facing toward the tabernacle, and they were shining with a white light. I asked Mom who it was and she didn’t see anything. I always took it as either a sign of my guardian angel showing that it too prayed with me and was there with me, or it was the trick on the eyes of a child, whatever it was it certainly deepened my faith.

I remember sitting and praying there in the church during the time, reading about the saints and falling in love with the Eucharist. My siblings and I received our First Holy Communion there by intinction. (sort of a neat fact) It was either at our First Communion, or our First Confession that I remember getting to sing the Alleluia and Alleluia verse prior to Fr. Finnian reading the Gospel. (I never thought that one day I would be leading the community as I intoned it at seminary years later!) The year we spent living in Nebraska was one of much peace, love, and happiness for my siblings and I. Sadly, I know my Mom and Dad struggled more than we did with being so far away from our family in Quincy, but I would have never known it.

Christmas came, and because all of our decorations were boxed up in storage, my Mom had the great idea to do an “old-fashioned” Christmas, decorating our real tree (I have yet to have a fake tree for Christmas!) with popcorn, apples, oranges, etc. I remember learning to ride our bikes in the park down the road without training wheels, the pet cemetery, the nature reserve across from our apartment where we got in trouble for catching grass hoppers for a class project. (If they hopped across to our side of the road we could keep them, go figure!) It was a time of much joy, spiritual growth, relying on Jesus in the Eucharist to console us as we missed our family and where I believe my vocation story really began. Thanks to my Mom, my siblings and I all have a great love, devotion, and sense of reverence to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and love to make Holy Hours.

After our year in Beatrice, we said good bye to our friends and apartment as we moved yet again to Marion, Kentucky where Dad had got a different job. I have lived in Marion ever since then, and while not having a Walmart or Kohls is a slight drawback, I wouldn’t change it for anything. It didn’t take long for us to get active in Marion, make friends and we had started attending St. William’s Catholic church down the road. Mom would still have us pray a family rosary, and during Lent/Advent my siblings and I got to choose devotions to do as a family each night.

Life was good and after one year of living there it came time to get a dog. We had a had

Maggie and the triplets

Maggie and the triplets

animals growing up in Quincy and because we had to put our Golden down shortly after we moved to Nebraska, Mom had promised that we would get a dog once we had lived in Kentucky for one year. So in May of 2003, my Grandma came for a visit and all of us went to Fancy Farm, Kentucky to look at Labrador Retrievers. One month later we returned to Fancy Farm and then home, this time with a growing yellow ball of fur who we named Magnolia (Maggie). Maggie was my joy, even though she had her temperamental qualities like nibbling on your back if you weren’t paying her attention, or digging up moles, wounding them, then leaving me to finish killing them. She was my best friend growing up, but I’ll continue on:

Later during the month of June St. William’s received a new pastor; Fr. Richard Cash. My family always went to the Saturday morning Mass at St. William’s and my brother and I had started serving for Fr. Bruce Fogle. Fr. Bruce is such a genuine man who really welcomed my family into the parish and was one of the first to show me that priests can have fun. (My siblings and I would have snowball fights with Father in the parking Lot after we left Mass on Saturdays.)

On the Saturday that I first met Fr. Cash I remember Mom and Dad were gone somewhere for something and an older couple from the parish who we called Grandpa Mike and Grandma Annie picked us up to take us to church. I remember Grandpa Mike pulling up in his white pickup, Brody and I sat in the bed with their dog Jake, Emily rode with them in the cab and we went to church early, so that we could welcome our new pastor.  I remember this “old man” driving up and getting out of the car and walking over to talk with all of us. Little did I know that Father was not “old,” rather he was in his 40’s and his hair was just turning grey. We all introduced ourselves and he asked if Brody and I were going to serve. We said yes, and proceeded to help him carry his things into the church. One of the things he handed us was a pillow that he told us to sit behind the Altar. Confused, my brother asked what it was for, Father replied: “Incase I get sleepy and want to take a nap during Mass.” (I later learned that Father used pillows as bookrests for the missal on the Altar.)

That day was the start of a great friendship between my family and Father Cash, one that has had a huge impact on my life. Father would come over with Aaron our organist at church to eat Easter dinner with us or come to our Mardi Gras birthday party for our grandma. He was a great role model and one whom I looked up to immensely. He taught my brother and I how to serve with the help of another dear friend: Jim Butler. Our Liturgies at the tri-parishes (of which St. William’s was a member) were always beautiful and steeped in tradition. We used incense, and torches for the procession and Consecration, we wore Cassock and Surplice, and we learned the proper ways to ring bells and polish the metal in the church.

Life was good. Then one day Fr. Cash announced that he was being moved. I remember going home and my whole family seemed sad. We knew that we would still keep in touch with Father, but we were definitely going to miss him. One of his last Sunday’s after Mass the five of us young boys who always served Mass, reverenced the cross, gave Father hand shakes for a job well done and then listened to him tell us some advice. It was in this moment that I learned so much respect for the priesthood and how to be humble. Father said something along the lines of: “Promise me that when you all get your new pastor, you will treat him with the same love and respect that you do me. He might not do everything that I do at Mass, and he may celebrate Mass differently, but instead of arguing or being angry I want you all to always remember to say “Yes Father” and do it. Every priest is different and that is good, he will bring new things that will help St. William’s to grow and you all will get to witness it, so keep serving, stay close to Christ, and thank you for always serving! You guys are the best!” These words have stuck with me and I have always remembered that even if I don’t agree with a priest he is still a priest and deserves my respect. Whenever I was asked to do something at Mass or to help the parish I would always say; “yes Father” and give glory to God.

During a Confirmation class at my Parish one day in 5th grade I had a talk with Fr. Cash about my plans in life, he said that after knowing me for awhile he thought that I might have some qualities that would be good in a Priest and encouraged me to ask God what he wanted me to do with my life. From that moment I began to have that question in the back of my mind saying: What would your life be like if you became a Priest? Throughout the years since I have always tried to ask God what he wanted me to do with my life whether it be with a secular job as a husband and father or as a Priest.

My family continued to attend St. William’s in Marion during this time until my 8th grade year, when we changed parishes to go to St. Ann which was located 45 minutes away. People always seem shocked with how far we drive to church each Sunday, driving 45 minutes, vs 5 minutes down the road, but moving to St. Ann was one of the best things we did for the spiritual health of my family and for my own vocation. (Note: When I’m home over break, I still go to St. William’s for Thursday Mass and still keep in contact with those there, as they are where I first felt called to the priesthood.)

Our pastor at St. Ann was Fr. Gerald Baker. Fr. Baker and Fr. Cash both have a love for beautiful Liturgy, something that I have inherited from them. A major part of my vocation story is from serving at the Altar and getting to interact with so many holy priests within the Liturgy. St. Ann not only had beautiful Liturgy, but they also had Perpetual Adoration. If you remember my family has a love for adoration, which started back in Nebraska when my Mom would bring us, continued to our weekly Holy Hour on Saturdays at St. William’s and continues to making time for it today at St. Ann.

I started serving at St. Ann with my brother and got to know Fr. Baker and the then associate, Fr. James Walling CPM. Fr. James and Fr. Baker loved Christ and preached his love from the pulpit each day. They increased our faith in the real presence, preached God’s mercy in confession and truly helped us to blossom and grow. My sophomore year in High School, Fr. Cash was named as our associate at St. Ann, so my family got to have both of our favorite priests under one roof.

Throughout High School, I was blessed to have several great teachers, who even though they were protestant they encouraged me in discerning seminary and the priesthood. My Ag Advisor, Larry Duvall always taught us his students what it meant to be a man of virtue, to give to others freely, and always help those in need. It was through my time in the FFA, that I gained so many valuable leadership skills and experience in leading others. Our Systems Engineer for the district Technology office, Don Winters became a close friend as I worked with him in STLP and running the school help desk in the mornings. His own ministry as a youth minister inspired me to seek to do more. Carol West, our librarian was always there ready to talk to us and encourage us to follow God’s calling. And lastly, all of my English

My new niece Winnie!

My new niece Winnie!

teachers, Mrs. Gavin, Quertermous, McCord, and Lacy always inspired me, as they read my English writings, several of which discussed what I was thinking of doing. Mrs. Quertermous even proof-read my application for seminary for me! I was blessed to go to a fantastic high school, which even though it was public, still retained it’s Christian roots and morals. The staff was always so supportive of each student in achieving our dreams.

Fr. Cash was moved my Senior year, but prior to that he helped me set up an appointment with Dr. Litke, the new Associate Director of Vocations for the Diocese and he had helped me in Spiritual Direction as well. I applied for Seminary the Fall of my senior year and was accepted right after graduation. I always joked about how it took almost 5 months to get my results back from my psychological evaluation. I would walk in the sacristy to serve Sunday Mass and Fr. Baker would alway say: “Well, Mr. Bruns have you found out if you’re crazy yet?” To which I would respond: ‘Well, I already know that!”

Pictures of myself and Fr. Cash and Fr. Baker, as well as my brother Brody.

Pictures of myself and Fr. Cash and Fr. Baker, as well as my brother Brody.

I graduated from high school as Senior Class President and the Vice President for the FFA, STLP, and Beta Club. Life was good. I drove up to seminary in August of 2012 and the rest is recorded on random posts throughout this blog. My vocation story is still developing. I am still discovering what direction Christ is calling me toward. I feel that I am called to be a priest, and that I am in the right spot for now in my life. I am engaging in spiritual and human formation and striving to become the man God created me to be. Whatever direction Christ takes me in my life, I know that he is always there watching, guiding, and guarding. I have had so many people who have walked alongside me in life thus far, and I know that there will be many more. God has blessed me abundantly and continues to do so each day, as he constantly converts my heart and calls me to himself. This is only fraction of my Vocation Story, there is a lot more to it, as well as a lot more people who have played a part. If I were to go in to everything, it would probably take triple the length of this post. So I will spare you the length!!

When was the last time that you thought about your vocation? When was the last time that you invited a young man to consider a vocation to the priesthood? When was the last time that you said yes to God’s will in your life and followed his lead? I encourage you to go, invite that

edited-3-2

young man at your parish to think of seminary! Pray for Vocations! Inspire Vocations by your own life and ministry! The Harvest is abundant but the laborers are few!

Pray, encourage, and invite others to think  about their vocations. Pray for them and please, please in your kindness pray for me!

 

 

 

The above piece, is one of my favorite musical pieces. Enjoy!

Gasper & Loucon – Praise Singing

Gasper & Loucon – Praise Singing

The Loucon Training and Retreat Center joined the Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center Staff for Lifeguard training this week. One of the things we do together that is sort of a tradition is to have our musical talent lead us in song each night. This year both the Loucon and Gasper musicians joined together to create a memorable experience for everyone. The musical talent of the two groups was astounding as we joined voices to sing praise to God. The link provided above is the recordings of the music. Please check it out! It might put a smile on your face, it did mine!

+In His Mercy,

Corey