Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Church Musician's Musings

Today is the feast of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr. She is the patron saint of musicians; thus, as I claim to be a church musician, she has an important role in my spiritual life. (And if anyone needs her intercession in this matter, I sure do.)

At the end of 1992 I wrote a brief position paper as part of a contest involving music in one's life. At that time, I was just starting my seventh year "making a joyful noise unto the Lord", albeit primarily as a volunteer in my local parishes (although I did have a two paid positions on my resume). This was a great opportunity to put down on paper my own thoughts and beliefs about the subject.

While I had made very minor edits over the years, it really hasn't changed much until a few months ago when I added a new section. As my yearly tribute to the second most important female saint in my life, I present those thoughts and beliefs to you (edited for format):

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ON BEING A CHURCH MUSICIAN


INTRODUCTION

Music has complimented religious actions since earliest times.  Examples abound:  the myths of Orpheus, the psalmody of David, the chants of cultures throughout the world, the plainsong of the medieval church.  Because of its ability and potential to express the inexpressible, the role of music in spiritual activities has helped to shape the worship relationship of human beings to divine beings.

As some religions became more formal and institutional, so did the role of those who provided the music.  As if in response to a divine directive, people took up the task of praising their god through the inspiration of song.  This tradition, this mission, this vocation has found its way into many Christian churches in past history.  Other than being called as ordained clergy, there is no more significant role in the church than of church musician.  This is reflected by the quote attributed to Augustine of Hippo, "He who sings prays twice."

The gifts are different but the results are the same.  Whether as vocalist/chorister, instrumentalist, organist/pianist/keyboardist, composer/arranger, or conductor, the contribution of good music in the church enhances and elevates an act of worship.  It is a calling as noble as the art, as worthy as the individual, and as dignified as any position in the service of God.

THE CHURCH MUSICIAN’S TRUE ROLE

A church musician is more than a person who just provides appropriate music during a liturgy. The true role of a church musician is one of not only aiding prayer, but also one of being a pray-er (one who prays).  It is to assist the congregation in finding its collective voice, to help raise minds and hearts to adore and contemplate what is being worshipped, and to supplement and compliment the action and words of the rite.

Today, music has a vital role in a church's mission.  It is not something that can be use or discarded as one pleases. It has observable functions to those within the church.  There are three areas which music serves to enrich the life of a congregation.

INSTRUMENT OF LITURGY

Music's first and foremost duty is to be an integral part of the act of worship.  The use of music helps signify something out of the ordinary is happening, suggesting something other-worldly or supernatural is occurring.  While it helps to raise the awareness of the whole person, music, like candles, incense, and vestments, must blend with the whole of the liturgical experience.  For those who have sat through any kind of liturgy void of music and found it dry and uninspiring, the point is made.

A concern when using music is keeping the focus on the act of worship (and therefore God) and not putting on a show (and therefore not focusing on God).  While artistry is necessary, it must be play a supporting role.  An act of worship is itself a ritual and therefore could be thought of as a performance (meaning acting according to form).  While it is satisfactory that it is done to worship God, it is more pleasing when it is done to the best of the musicians’s/worshiper’s ability.

INSTRUMENT OF MINISTRY

Congregational members are invited and encouraged to give of themselves in service to their church. By formally participating in a church’s music program, an individual is given the opportunity to develop those talents God has given them and be of service.  They can utilize this resource for the benefit of the congregation as well as their own personal and spiritual growth.

Like the parable of the talents, this gift must not be selfishly buried within the walls of the church building.  Rather, it should be shared with others outside the congregation and used as a means of evangelization.  The enrichment of lives through this means, however imperceptible, is immeasurable.

INSTRUMENT OF FELLOWSHIP

A church recognizes the social dimension of its congregation.  Human beings are social creatures; the need to simply be with other people is maybe the most overlooked. Performing groups and concerts are ways where this gathering with others can be accomplished.

To be united in a common effort can create a bond between people and a synergy from them. When there is a common denominator, activities take on a meaningful, focused purpose.  When the goal is the glorification of God through music, the activity becomes a prayer.  When done with God's blessing, it has a sanctifying purpose.

CONCLUSION

This paper is not a definitive statement, but rather a personal reflection.  As maturity comes spiritually, personally, and professionally these views will be enlarged and refined by that better vision.  This definition shall continue to evolve.

One of the great inspirations for music is the Gospel.  The message and the medium fit together well. Music can be use by God to enhance our relationship with Him and others.  Its mystical power speaks to the heart and soul as little else can.

It is said music is a universal language.  Music can be considered the language of the church. God's presence is sometimes aural.  Perhaps music is His voice.

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The paper, like me, is still a work in progress. Both, with the grace of God, can mature spiritually, personally, and professionally. May my voice give Him glory.

St. Cecilia, pray for us.

All you choirs of angels, pray for us.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day Acknowledgement




My two brothers were veterans of the Air Force. I have other relatives who have served in various branches of the military. I personally owe them a debt of gratitude for their service to the country. To all other veterans, that gratitude, while not as personal, is nonetheless heartfelt.

Our active military personnel take the following oath (those in the National Guard take a similar oath which includes obeying orders from their state's Governor):
I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
For those who preserve our freedom, we salute you!

NOTE: I gave a Fedora Doff to a Facebook friend who posted a video on my wall which I had placed here in 2010. I no longer have that link.

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Originally posted 11/11/2010.
Re-posted 11/11/2011.
Re-posted 11/11/2012.
Updated and edited 11/11/2013.
Re-posted 11/11/2014.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

The Church Suffering


Le Jour des Morts by William Bougueareau

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; they shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the LORD shall be their King forever. Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.

Wisdom 3:1-9

The last on the list of the seven Spiritual Works of Mercy is to pray for the dead. The month of November is devoted to doing that, as many parishes have a "Book of the Dead" and remember "those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith." Fish Eaters also has an article describing other practices to free souls from Purgatory.

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Requiem aeternam dona ei (eis) Domine; et lux perpetua luceat ei (eis).
Requiescat (Requiescant) in pace. Amen.

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Eternal rest grant unto him/her (them), O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon him/her (them).
May he/she (they) rest in peace. Amen.

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Originally posted 11/2/2006.
Re-posted 11/2/2008.
Re-posted 11/2/2009.
Re-posted 11/2/2010.
Re-posted 11/2/2012.
Re-posted 11/2/2013.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Today's Hymn

The words are from the pen of William Walsham How; the tune to which this is sung, Sine Nomine, was composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Note how well this compares to all of today's Readings.

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For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the apostles' glorious company,
who bearing forth the cross o'er land and sea,
shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
is fair and fruitful, be thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
and seeing, grasped it, thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
and win, with them the victor's crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
we feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
the King of glory passes on his way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
and singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

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All you holy men and women, pray for us.

Where they are, we hope to follow.

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Originally posted 11/1/2006.
Re-posted 11/1/2009.
Re-posted 11/1/2011.
Re-posted 11/1/2012.
Re-posted 11/1/2013.

November 2014 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:
Universal Intention - Lonely people. That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others. 
Evangelization Intention - Mentors of seminarians and religious.  That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Scary Quote

From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us! 
Anonymous
Happy Hallowe'en! Save some candy for the kids, OK?

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Originally posted 10/31/2007.
Re-posted 10/31/2008.
Re-posted 10/31/2009.
Re-posted 10/31/2010.
Re-posted 10/31/2011.
Re-posted 10/31/2012.
Re-posted 10/31/2013.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tribute To A True Reformer


Fr. Benedict Joseph Groeschel, C.F.R.
July 23, 1933 – October 3, 2014

As a tribute to this saintly priest, a shining example of what it truly means to be altus Christus, whose Mass of Christian Burial is occuring now, the poem which was his earthly inspiration:

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"Hads't thou stayed, I must have fled!"
That is what the Vision said. 
In his chamber all alone,
Kneeling on the floor of stone,
Prayed the Monk in deep contrition
For his sins of indecision,
Prayed for greater self-denial
In temptation and in trial;
It was noonday by the dial,
And the Monk was all alone.
Suddenly, as if it lightened,
An unwonted splendor brightened
All within him and without him
In that narrow cell of stone;
And he saw the Blessed Vision
Of our Lord, with light Elysian
Like a vesture wrapped about him,
Like a garment round him thrown. 
Not as crucified and slain,
Not in agonies of pain,
Not with bleeding hands and feet,
Did the Monk his Master see;
But as in the village street,
In the house or harvest-field,
Halt and lame and blind he healed,
When he walked in Galilee. 
In an attitude imploring,
Hands upon his bosom crossed,
Wondering, worshipping, adoring,
Knelt the Monk in rapture lost.
Lord, he thought, in heaven that reignest,
Who am I, that thus thou deignest
To reveal thyself to me?
Who am I, that from the centre
Of thy glory thou shouldst enter
This poor cell, my guest to be? 
Then amid his exaltation,
Loud the convent bell appalling,
From its belfry calling, calling,
Rang through court and corridor
With persistent iteration
He had never heard before.
It was now the appointed hour
When alike in shine or shower,
Winter's cold or summer's heat,
To the convent portals came
All the blind and halt and lame,
All the beggars of the street,
For their daily dole of food
Dealt them by the brotherhood;
And their almoner was he
Who upon his bended knee,
Rapt in silent ecstasy
Of divinest self-surrender,
Saw the Vision and the Splendor.
Deep distress and hesitation
Mingled with his adoration;_
Should he go, or should he stay?
Should he leave the poor to wait
Hungry at the convent gate,
Till the Vision passed away?
Should he slight his radiant guest,
Slight this visitant celestial,
For a crowd of ragged, bestial
Beggars at the convent gate?
Would the Vision there remain?
Would the Vision come again?
Then a voice within his breast
Whispered, audible and clear
As if to the outward ear:
"Do thy duty; that is best;
Leave unto thy Lord the rest!" 
Straightway to his feet he started,
And with longing look intent
On the Blessed Vision bent,
Slowly from his cell departed,
Slowly on his errand went. 
At the gate the poor were waiting,
Looking through the iron grating,_
With that terror in the eye
That is only seen in those
Who amid their wants and woes
Hear the sound of doors that close,
And of feet that pass them by;
Grown familiar with disfavor,
Grown familiar with the savor
Of the bread by which men die!
But to-day, they knew not why,
Like the gate of Paradise
Seemed the convent gate to rise,
Like a sacrament divine
Seemed to them the bread and wine.
In his heart the Monk was praying,
Thinking of the homeless poor,
What they suffer and endure;
What we see not, what we see;
And the inward voice was saying:
"Whatsoever thing thou doest
To the least of mine and lowest,
That thou doest unto me!" 
Unto me! but had the Vision
Come to him in beggar's clothing,
Come a mendicant imploring,
Would he then have knelt adoring,
Or have listened with derision,
And have turned away with loathing. 
Thus his conscience put the question,
Full of troublesome suggestion,
As at length, with hurried pace,
Towards his cell he turned his face,
And beheld the convent bright
With a supernatural light,
Like a luminous cloud expanding
Over floor and wall and ceiling. 
But he paused with awe-struck feeling
At the threshold of his door,
For the Vision still was standing
As he left it there before,
When the convent bell appalling,
From its belfry calling, calling,
Summoned him to feed the poor.
Through the long hour intervening
It had waited his return,
And he felt his bosom burn,
Comprehending all the meaning,
When the Blessed Vision said,
"Hadst thou stayed, I must have fled!" 
"The Theologian's Tale; The Legend Beautiful"
From Tales of A Wayside Inn (1863)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
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Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

Requiem In Pace.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Lepanto

Battle of Lepanto (c. 1572), 
by Paolo Veronese (1528-1588)

Today's feast commemorates this battle.

Dr. Thursday's favorite poet published this work in 1911.

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White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run,
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross,
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.
Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young,
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold.
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world.
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain - hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.
Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri's knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunset and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees,
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.
They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be;
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,-
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, 'Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done.
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces - four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not 'Kismet'; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey at the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth.'
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still - hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.
St Michael's on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes,
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.
King Philip's in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial, and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John's hunting, and his hounds have bayed -
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.
The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man's house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives, sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that swat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings' horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign -
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate's sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Vivat Hispania! Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!
Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight forever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade...
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)
G.K Chesterton


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Originally posted 10/7/2006.
Re-posted 10/7/2010.
Re-posted 10/7/2011.
Re-posted 10/7/2012.
Re-posted 10/7/2013.