Reflections on the Border…Encountering the Traveler…Encountering Christ

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

Leviticus 19:33-34

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The ARISE ladies and Martin, our course leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there a solution to the Border?

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

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

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

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

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Praying the Stations at the Basilica in the Valley

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

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

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

CCC 2241

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

Mons. Charles Pope

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

Monsignor Pope puts it well in the above linked article:

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


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

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Jesus Carries his Cross

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

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

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


These are the wounds I wish for Lord…

“These are the wounds I wish for Lord…”

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

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

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

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

What wounds do you not want?

Fear?

Hatred?

Not being loved?

Told that you’re worthless?

Told that you’re not beautiful?

Abuse?

Physical?

Mental?

Emotional?

Vocal?

Passion?

Friendship?

Family?

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

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

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

These are the wounds I wish for, Lord.

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

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

From an instruction by Saint Columban, abbot

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

You, O God, are everything to us

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

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

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

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

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

If 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?

“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:

+++

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

“That All Might Sing” – My Paper on Pope St. Pius X’ paper on Church Music and the Chant Method of Justine Ward

For the Feast of Pope St. Pius X:

Originally written for Dr. Katharine Harmon’s History of the Catholic Church in America Class on 11-21-14.

690_Justine_Ward_Gajard_1949I enjoyed writing this piece on how Pope St. Pius X’ document Tra Le Sollecitudini was interpreted and engaged here in America, specifically by Justine Ward, who founded an amazing way of teaching Gregorian Chant to children. Justine started and held the first Congress for Chant in America. “What she wants above all,” wrote Dom Augustine Gatard, O.S.B., Prior of Farnborough Abbey, England, who was at the Congress, “is to put the faithful, all the faithful, in the position to participate actively, as much as possible … in the liturgy and in the chant of the Catholic Church.” (2) She especially encouraged girls’ choirs. (3) In a private audience in 1924, Pope Pius XI gave his Apostolic blessing to her work. (4) Thanks be to God for Justine Ward and the many others who assisted in the beautiful Liturgical Renewal we have had in the Church. May it continue to be renewed and may Justine Ward and St. Pius X, help teach us a little bit about walking the Way of Beauty to Heaven, more specifically through the Heavenly Liturgy.

That All Might Sing: American Catholic Responses to Pope St. Pius X’ Tra le Sollecitudini

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.” (Chase, 61) While Adams witnessed the beauty of the proper execution of “Romish” chant in October 9, 1774 he never could have envisioned what would one day take place in the country soon to be founded in regards to the proper execution, teaching, and use of Gregorian chant. Throughout the early part of the 20th century a response to Pope St. Pius X’s 1903 Tra le Sollecitudini (Instruction on Sacred Music) was carried out across the globe by Catholic musicians in different ways. Some, embraced the changes wholeheartedly, others chose to implement parts of them with and without proper catechesis. In the United States of America Pius X’s Motu Proprio was embraced particularly by Justine Ward a woman with little musical instruction, but with a passion for music and her new faith. Across the board, the training of the young in the church’s tradition of music was seen as one of the most important responses to Pius X’s instruction on Sacred Music. Ward and others took this to heart in developing programs, which educated the young in methods of chanting and ensured that all might sing.

From 1903 on into the 1920’s and finishing up around the 1950’s what could be called as the last “traditional” Catholic music movement occurred in response to Pius X’s Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini (hereafter referred to as “TLS”). TLS was written and promulgated by Pius X after a series of abuses in regards to music in the liturgy kept happening. Pius ordered that there be two particular types of music to be used in the Roman Liturgy. That is, Gregorian chant, which has been “inherited from the ancient fathers” (Pius X, II 3) and Classic Polyphony. The main reason for these abuses was that the music was becoming quite operatic and theatrical. Instead of being music, which by nature of its’ composition and execution lifted the congregation to God and was a prayer in itself; music in the Sacred Liturgy had become a show, detracting from the sacred action occurring.

As previously stated, throughout the early twentieth century there was a varied array of

Pope St. Pius X

Pope St. Pius X

responses to Pius X’s TLS, one of which was the action of Justine Ward. Ward, thought to have had no formal training in “vocal music, choral music, or pedagogy” (Brancaleone, 7) became known as one of the leading advocates of and promulgators of Gregorian chant in America. Due to her parent’s wishes for her to not pursue a musical degree in Europe, she was left with receiving private musical instruction. (Zuberbueler, 14) Ward, a Catholic convert started to fall in love with Gregorian chant due to her friendship with Fr. Thomas E. Shields and Fr. John B. Young SJ (Brancaleone, 8) and having attended a retreat given “at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Manhattanville in Harlem” (Brancaleone, 8) by another Jesuit she began to learn the basics of pedagogy (the methods and concepts of teaching) and formulate ideas on how to teach Gregorian Chant to children.

America in the 20th century was still largely protestant, no doubt due to the large number of protestant immigrants who settled the country early on. One has to wonder as to why in 1903 a church, struggling to become better recognized and understood in the mainstream (and mostly protestant) culture would continue to push the use of a language (latin) which was no longer spoken conversationally, in not only their worship but especially in their music. Robert Holzmer S.M. wrote an article about the people not “liking” Gregorian chant in the then-popular Catholic Music journal: The Caecilia. In his article he discusses a few reasons of why Gregorian chant is not liked by the majority of Catholic congregations. Pius X and his Motu Proprio is one of the first “authorities” on the subject that he quotes. Holzmer argues partially that because the pope said it, it must be true, but also from an informed knowledge and understanding of Gregorian chant. “Gregorian Chant is Church music while the other forms are also church music” (241) Holzmer reconnects his future points back to Pius X, reaffirming what he stated of Gregorian chant as having pride of place in the Roman Liturgy, but also acknowledging that other types of music (classical polyphony) can be used as well. Holzmer goes on to state that there are several factors at play with why people don’t like Gregorian chant. Factors such as an ill-trained choir, poor musicianship on behalf of the choir, conductor, and organist, and the basic element of people not understanding the reasons for the use of Gregorian chant or the language it is in. Holzmer closes his article by stating: The most important of all, and, unfortunately, the most neglected. It is the training of the young in music…” (241) Like Ward, Holzmer recognized that without the training of the young in the music of the church, there would never be a hope for “this venerable music…to come back to its rightful domain, when it will be supreme again in fact as it has always been by right?”

Dom G Mercure, a Benedictine Monk of the Monastery of St. Benoit-du-Lac, Quebec wrote in a 1935 issue of The Caecilia: “one of the reasons why Gregorian Chant is not more widespread in ecclesiastical music circles is because the public expect to find in Gregorian chant, or plain chant, the same element of sensible pleasure that is found in profane music or even in religious music other than plain chant.” (213) Pius X in his Motu Proprio TLS knew well the state of music in the church and world. For instance throughout the War Between the States (1861) Union and Confederate Soldiers used hymns as a way of rallying the troops and bringing them comfort from home. Hymns such as the Battle Hymn of the Republic, or Dixie would be heard across the battlefields as soldiers marched. Still others such as Amazing Grace, or It Came Upon the Midnight Clear were sung in many protestant churches at their services. Hymns in the spoken language of the people gathered, tended to have more emotional and pleasurable connotations associated with them. As people heard these hymns full of poetic and beautiful language they were attracted to them more and more. The chants of the church in a language unknown seemed distant and did not stir the emotions of the musically untrained ear. How were the Catholic musicians in America supposed to combat these feelings, which could not be ignored?

Justine Ward in her article for the Atlantic Monthly published in 1906 The Reform in Church Music puts it well: “church music is made up of two elements, music and prayer, and it cannot be judged by the value of one of its elements tested as a separate entity . . . “Lex orandi lex cantandi”… Prayer and music must so combine as to make one art; the music must pray, the prayer-must sing…This, then, is the true test of a musical composition for the church: Does it conform to the law of prayer?” (455) According to Justine music should not be judged as solely inspiring emotion or being judged on the music alone, rather music for use in the Liturgy is interwoven with prayer in such a manner that the two cannot be separated. For to separate these two things, which in a way are one, is to tear that work of art apart. To Pius X, Gregorian Chant is the primary music of the church. Holzmer, Ward, and Mercure all agree that there are certain aspects of Gregorian Chant which must be met in order to ensure that it is sung properly and can truly be that unification of “music and prayer” (Ward 455) The promulgation of Gregorian chant in the church as well as to provide the means necessary for its’ survival relied upon the teaching and training of the young in chanting and the proper execution of this tradition. Ward, working with Fr. Shields, Fr. Young, and eventually Dom André Mocquereau (founder of the Solesmes method of Gregorian chant) created a program that would do just that.

Early in her career, after her conversion to the Catholic Church and divorce of her husband (which left her considerably wealthy) Ward started working with Fr. Shields and Young while assisting at the Catholic University of America. After a short period there “in the summer of 1916, Mother Georgia Stevens asked Ward to come to Manhattanville” (Brancaleone 10) In 1917, she with the help of Mother Stevens created the Pius X Institute of Liturgical Music, a school devoted to training teachers and students in not only what was becoming known as the “Ward Method,” but also in other forms of Liturgical Music in the Church. Ward’s method of teaching chant to the young was unique in that it used body movements as a way of understanding rhythm. Through the Pius X Institute and her newfound friendships with Dom Mocquereau, and others Ward began to share her method of teaching Gregorian chant with others in other countries. “In 1925, Ward brought her method to Holland…Belgium, France, England, Ireland, New Zealand, China, and Italy.” (Zuberbueler, 16) For Ward teaching and singing Gregorian chant was a chance at learning, singing, and praying. It was a way of living the liturgical life of the church in a new way.

While Ward worked on the teaching of Gregorian Chant others in America took a different approach to the Pius X’s TLS. According to Paul Hume’s Catholic Church Music, one of the ways in which the objectives of the Motu Proprio were enforced was through the creation of a “White List.” “The “White List” is a list of music approved for use in church by the St. Gregory Society of America. The idea of having a “white list” comes from Pius X: “Still, since modern music has risen mainly to serve profane uses, greater care must be taken with regard to it, in order that the musical compositions of modern style which are admitted in the Church may contain nothing profane, be free from reminiscences of motifs adopted in the theaters, and be not fashioned even in their external forms after the manner of profane pieces.” (Pius X, II 5) This movement in the church away from music of a secular nature was led by Pius X and joined by Ward, the St. Gregory Society of America and others. Ward and the St. Gregory Society of America published hymnals containing chants and hymns, which followed the “Classic Polyphony” called for by Pius X. Pope Pius XII later in 1955, published Musicae Sacrae Disciplina an instruction on the usage of hymns for the liturgy.

In Musicae Sacrae Disciplina, Pius XII says: “We must also hold in honor that music which is not primarily a part of the sacred liturgy, but which by its power and purpose greatly aids religion. This music is therefore rightly called religious music. The Church has possessed such music from the beginning and it has developed happily under the Church’s auspices. As experience shows, it can exercise great and salutary force and power on the souls of the faithful, both when it is used in churches during non-liturgical services and ceremonies, or when it is used outside churches at various solemnities and celebrations.” (Pius XII 36) Granted the usage of hymns was already something that was customary in the church at the time. With the stipulations imposed on music by Pius X, hymns (note: vernacular hymns) were not to be used in the Liturgy, but instead could be used for prayers, gatherings, processions, novenas, etc. In short, they could only be used for celebrations outside of the Liturgy. Gregorian Chant was still the official music of the church and remains so to this day.

For some 60ish years the stipulations imposed by TLS stood and the Ward Method helped ensure its’ future survival. Though as the Church drew closer and closer to the middle of the 20th century the advent of the Second Vatican Council appeared on the horizon. Up until this point Gregorian Chant and Classical Polyphony were the only types of music to be used in the Liturgy. Ward’s method seemed to prosper, for decades, being spread throughout the world. With the end of the 1950’s and the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in sight, church music in America was once again something talked about. Gregorian Chant was the norm for music in parishes; even the smallest tried to create a choir, which would be able to chant the Propers of the Mass. Hymns were sung by Catholics in the 20th century (including some protestant ones) as long as it was for worship outside of Solemn Liturgical Functions.  The renewal of Gregorian Chant in the church was almost complete and there were many to thank for it. The movement of 20th century Catholic Church Music in America was one that will forever define the history of the church here and around the world. The impact of one woman who embraced the call of the Holy Father to return to the sacred traditions of music in the church through the construction of her teaching methods ensured that all, whether young or old could chant with a little effort. For Justine Ward chant could not be “listened to as music” rather through the “ears of faith”(Ward, 460) To her “the music must pray and the prayer must sing” (455) “For the carrying-out of the full ideal demands the co-operation of the entire people, who will no longer assist at, but take part in, the liturgy. This may not be accomplished in a day, but the Church works for the future, and already she is sowing the seeds. The little Catholic school child is learning to pray, not only in words, but also in song; not only in the Church’s language, Latin, but in her musical language,

Chant; and when these children grow up, our choirs will be the whole Catholic world. While the variable and the more elaborate parts of the liturgy will demand the great genius, the great artist, the simpler parts will be taken up spontaneously by the entire congregation; producing the superb contrast of, on the one hand, the perfection of art, and on the other, the majesty of numbers. This is, indeed, nothing new: it is thus that the liturgy is intended to be rendered; it is thus that it has been rendered in the past, and is still rendered in a few centres of Catholic life. It is simply a return to the true ideal, a “renewing of all things in Christ,” a revitalizing, through art, of the spirit of Catholic democracy and universality.” (Ward 462-463)

Justine Ward and others worked tirelessly, embracing the call of the reforms instituted by Pius X and catered them specifically to children. They worked for an idea that would be largely envisioned in coming years by the Second Vatican Council. They worked to ensure that all might sing.

Work Cited

Brancaleone, Francis. “Justine Ward and the Fostering of an American Solesmes Chant Tradition” Sacred Music Fall 2009: 6-26. Print.

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

Holzmer, Robert. “People don’t Like Gregorian Chant” The Caecilia May 1935: 239-232. Print.

Hume, Paul. Catholic Church Music Binghamton: Vail-Ballou Pres, Inc. 1956. Print.

Mercure, Dom G. “True Church Music Should Calm the Mind Not Minister to the Senses” The Caecilia May 1936: 213-214. Print.

Pius X, Pope. Tra Le Sollecitudini, Vatican City: Vatican State, 1903. Vatican.va

Pius XII, Pope. Musicae Sacrae, Vatican City: Vatican State, 1955. Vatican.va

Ward, Justine B. “The Reform In Church Music” The Atlantic Monthly January 1907:455-463. Print.

Zuberbueler, Amy. “The Ward Method: Chant from the Ground Up” Sacred Music Spring 2006: 14-17. Print.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beauty from the Fathers :: What is Beauty of Body? How Can We Tell if Someone is Beautiful?

beauty

“Attend, and let us learn what corporeal, and what spiritual beauty are. There is soul and body: they are two substances: there is a beauty of body, and there is a beauty of soul. What is beauty of body? An extended eyebrow, a merry glance, a blushing cheek, ruddy lips, a straight neck, long wavy hair, tapering fingers, upright stature, a fair blooming complexion. Does this bodily beauty come from nature, or from choice? Confessedly it comes from nature. Attend that you may learn the conception of philosophers. This beauty whether of the countenance, of the eye, of the hair, of the brow, does it come from nature, or from choice? It is obvious that it comes from nature. For the ungraceful woman, even if she cultivate beauty in countless ways, cannot become graceful in body: for natural conditions are fixed, and confined by limits which they cannot pass over. Therefore the beautiful woman is always beautiful, even if she has no taste for beauty: and the ungraceful cannot make herself graceful, nor the graceful ungraceful. Wherefore? Because these things come from nature. Well! You have seen corporeal beauty. Now let us turn inwards to the soul: let the handmaid approach the mistress! let us turn I say to the soul. Look upon that beauty, or rather listen to it: for you can not see it since it is invisible— Listen to that beauty.

Soul Carried to Heaven By: William Bouguereau

Soul Carried to Heaven By: William Bouguereau

What then is beauty of soul? Temperance, mildness, almsgiving, love, brotherly kindness, tender affection, obedience to God, the fulfilment of the law, righteousness, contrition of heart. These things are the beauty of the soul. These things then are not the results of nature, but of moral disposition. And he who does not possess these things is able to receive them, and he who has them, if he becomes careless, loses them. For as in the case of the body I was saying that she who is ungraceful cannot become graceful; so in the case of the soul I say the contrary that the graceless soul can become full of grace. For what was more graceless than the soul of Paul when he was a blasphemer and insulter: what more full of grace when he said I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7 What was more graceless than the soul of the robber? What more full of grace when he heard the words Verily I say unto you today shall you be with me in paradise? Luke 23:43 What was more graceless than the publican when he practised extortion? But what more full of grace when he declared his resolution. Luke 19:8 Do you see that you can not alter grace of body, for it is the result not of moral disposition, but of nature. But grace of soul is supplied out of our own moral choice. You have now received the definition. Of what kind are they? That the beauty of the soul proceeds from obedience to God. For if the graceless soul obeys God it puts off its ungracefulness, and becomes full of grace. Saul! Saul! it was said, why do you persecute me? and he replied and who are You Lord? I am Jesus. Acts 9:4-5 And he obeyed, and his obedience made the graceless soul full of grace. Again, He says to the publican come follow me Matthew 9:9 and the publican rose up and became an apostle: and the graceless soul became full of grace. Whence? By obedience. Again He says to the fishermen Come ye after me and I will make you to become fishers of men: Matthew 4:19 and by their obedience their minds became full of grace. Let us see then what kind of beauty He is speaking of here. Hearken O daughter and behold, and forget your own people and your father’s house, and the king shall desire your beauty. What kind of beauty will he desire? The spiritual kind. How so? Because she is to forget He says hearken and forget. These are acts of moral choice. Hearken! he said: an ungraceful one hears and her ungracefulness being that of the body is not removed. To the sinful woman He has said Hearken, and if she will obey she sees what manner of beauty is bestowed upon her. Since then the ungracefulness of the bride was not physical, but moral (for she did not obey God but transgressed) therefore he leads her to another remedy. You became ungraceful then, not by nature, but by moral choice: and you became full of grace by obedience. Hearken O daughter and behold and forget your own people, and your father’s house, and the king shall desire your beauty. Then that you may learn that he does not mean anything visible to sense, when you hear the word beauty, think not of eye, or nose, or mouth, or neck, but of piety, faith, love, things which are within— for all the glory of the king’s daughter is from within. Now for all these things let us offer thanks to God, the giver, for to Him alone belongs glory, honour, might, for ever and ever. Amen.”

– St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom

Walking the Way of Beauty: Speak lord, your servant listens

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In this period I have recalled several times the need for every Christian, in the midst of the many occupations that fill our days, to find time for God and for prayer. The Lord himself gives us many opportunities to remember him. Today I would like to reflect briefly on one of these channels that can lead to God and can also be of help in the encounter with him. It is the way of artistic expression, part of that “via pulchritudinis” — the “way of beauty”, of which I have spoken several times and whose deepest meaning must be recovered by men and women today.” – Pope Benedict XVI (31, Aug. 2011)

Usually I change my blog design in the Spring, something new, fresh, etc. This time, I took it a step further and changed the name and design of my blog completely. Those who know me will tell you that I love beautiful things. I love art, music, architecture, liturgy, woodworking, flowers, etc. For me, beauty has always been a lens through which I am able to see God in my life. Whether it be through the beauty of human achievement and the powers of the mind and intellect or a walk through nature smelling the scent of fresh lawn clippings or feeling the warmth of the sun on my neck through my window as I drive down the road I always find myself smiling and saying: “Thanks, God!”

Beauty is a very prevalent part of what I would define as my spirituality, how I experience God in my life. As I continue through seminary I am constantly amazed at the ways in which God works through our lives. His plan which covers everything down to the most minute detail leaves me speechless at times. In the first reading from 1 Samuel we hear at Mass today of the way in which our Lord called Samuel and the somewhat lengthy way it took for him to finally realize who it was who was speaking to him. In Seminary we listen to his call, we try to interpret it, with the aid of our Spiritual directors, formators, brother seminarians, Bishops, etc. For me, beauty is a way in which I hear Christ speak and call me. It’s no mystery that one of the major factors that drew me to consider a vocation to the priesthood was my involvement with beautiful liturgies growing up. To take something created by God, sometimes imperfect-ed by our human hands, and offer it back up to him in thanksgiving, love, and worship has such a powerful influence on me.

Pope Benedict continuing his address discussing the “via pulchritudinis”  explains how “A work of art is a product of the creative capacity of the human being who in questioning visible reality, seeks to discover its deep meaning and to communicate it through the language of forms, colour and sound. Art is able to manifest and make visible the human need to surpass the visible, it expresses the thirst and the quest for the infinite.”

He goes on: “May the visits to places filled with art, then, not only be opportunities for cultural enrichment — that too — but may they become above all moments of grace, incentives to strengthen our bond and our dialogue with the Lord so that — in switching from simple external reality to the more profound reality it expresses — we may pause to contemplate the ray of beauty that strikes us to the quick, that almost “wounds” us, and that invites us to rise toward God.

I end with a prayer from a Psalm, Psalm 27[26]: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and contemplate his temple” (v. 4).

Let us hope that the Lord will help us to contemplate his beauty, both in nature and in works of art, so that we, moved by the light that shines from his face, may be a light for our neighbor.”

At the end of the Gospel today we hear: “Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” May we be able to listen to our Lord’s call in our own lives, may we who discern his call to whatever vocation he asks respond with Mary’s humble “yes.” And may we who contemplate his temple see the beauty that exists in our world and walk this path, this way of beauty which leads us to him, to God, May the beauty that we create and experience always lead us closer to him, the source of beauty.

So this is the new design for my blog and hopefully more of the path in which I hope to take it. Let me know what you think. Pray for me and I will pray for you as we walk the way of beauty together.

Check out the above video for an excellent organ-based musical piece, from one of my favorite movies.