Friday, December 31, 2010

Midnight's First Song

Are your vocal chords ready? You should know the words by now. If not, here is the complete poem penned by Robert Burns:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wandered mony a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidled i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
May God, Who holds all time in His hands, grace the coming twelve months with abundant blessings. May you draw closer to He Who loves without end. May He shine through you brightly.

Happy New Year!

Another Yearly Wrap-Up

In my life, 2010 will simply be known as "The Year of Chant".

Just three weeks defined the other forty-nine, but those three were very memorable. The three trips I took this past year--to Charleston, SC; Pittsburgh, PA; and Houston, TX--to be introduced to Gregorian Chant and its rightful place in the liturgy are the obvious highlights of what was just another year of holding my own. While discovering this art form in more detail was rewarding, the new relationships I forged with people from around the country made it even more worthwhile.

What have I gained from my sojourns? As an amateur musician, I have found a welcome challenge which forces me to continue to improve my skills. As a lay person who volunteers to help with the liturgy, I continue to gain insight into how to reverently give proper worship to God. And as one on a journey to meet God face-to-face, I have another avenue in which to encounter Him, one which seems to suit my personality.

There are questions of prudence, since I still struggle with limited financial resources. But God did provide the means necessary at the right time. This is a blessing from Him; His grace helped find the way. It was a small act of faith on my part, but one I perhaps was ready to make.

And now, as I prepare to enter my sixth decade of living, I have to wonder what the future will hold. What opportunities will 2011 bring? Which ones will I seize? Will I be able to take a larger step as I "Go Forward"?

More prayer. Much more discernment. Even much more exercising of my will in accordance with His. These are the paths I must take to answer those questions.

"Come grow old with me. The best is yet to be."

Until tomorrow.

Until the new year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

2010 Christmas Card

"Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!" As we celebrate the Word becoming flesh this day, may the Christ Child bless you and those you hold near and dear. May His throne be your heart and His reign bring life, peace, joy, and love.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Different Birth Announcement

Again this year at Midnight Mass I will be intoning the Proclamation of the Birth of Christ.

However, befitting The Year of Chant, I have more than a few options.

It will not be the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' official text.

I found three other sources. The first is the Vatican Edition in Latin (the date according to the lunar calendar will have to be adjusted). The second is a literal rendition in English done by John Birchfield of the St. Teresa's Gregorian Schola, again with the lunar date needing updating. (Fedora Doff to Jeffery Tucker, lead 'blogger at The Chant Cafe, for the information.) The third is a combination of the USCCB's official text with the Latin chant, done well by Aristotle A. Esguerra, who 'blogs at The Recovering Choir Director.

My plan is to use the English rendition of Mr. Esguerra. With only last night and today to work at it, its repetition should make it easy for me to use for tonight.

St. Cecilia and St. Gregory the Great, pray for me.

2010 Christmas Eve Reflection

Personally, I would have to call 2010 "The Year of Chant". As I have delved into the wonders of Western Plainsong from both technical and spiritual angles, I have been exposed to a pedagogy that is slowly deepening my understand of God and how loving He truly is. I am learning more about my faith in a way which supplements the study I undertake in what little spiritual reading I do. The fruits of this remain to be seen; hopefully, a seed has been planted in good ground.

Part of the repertoire of Gregorian Chant are the Propers of the Mass. They are the Introit, the Graduale, the Alleluia or Tract (used during Lent), the Offertory, and the Communion. These antiphons used in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass have been replaced in the Ordinary Form by the Processional (Entrance) Hymn, Responsorial Psalm, Gospel Acclamation, Offertory Hymn, and Communion Hymn. 

This is not the time and place I wish to enter debate on the merits of what is better for the liturgy and all the tangled web that has been woven since Vatican II. I would like to present for your meditation some thoughts using the Propers for the Mass of the Nativity of the Lord celebrated at Midnight. Since the Propers are usually in Latin, I will use the English translation.
The Lord said to me, "You are my son; this day I have begotten you."
Psalm 2:7b
This verse is used for both the Introit and the Alleluia. It is the Father speaking to the Son. While Christ has always been with the Father and the Spirit from all eternity, these words take on a different meaning tonight. Rather, one should say "this day", "today". Hodie. For when this is chanted in its rightful places, as the priest processes to the altar, figure of the Christ Child in hand, ready to be placed in the Nativity scene, and when the book of the Gospels is processed to the ambo, the Word in Its many words and forms, the magnitude of what has and will happen comes to the forefront. The Babe, the Son of Mary is placed in the manger; the Word is among us. The story of His birth as told by St. Luke (2:1-14) is made flesh by the proclamation of that Gospel; the Word, in that sense, is among us.

We have waited for the coming of Jesus for four weeks. Now, His Advent into the world is here. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we have seen his glory,..." (John 1:14a). Now, Emmanuel--God is with us. Now. The only time God sees--past, present, and future all at once. The infinite has made His way into the finite. We humans cannot wrap our finite minds around this mystery; the choirs of angels, less so. All we mortals can do is join in their heavenly song and give glory. We stand in awe. It is really the only proper response to such a great act.
Yours is princely power in the day of your birth, in holy splendor; before the daystar, like the dew, I have begotten you.
Psalm 109:3
This verse is used for both the Graduale and Communion (only the second half). Again, note the similarity of theme. "The King of Glory comes, the nation rejoices." In its place between the First and Second Readings (Isaiah 9:1-6 and Titus 2:11-14), it also speaks of the manifestation of the Savior. As we proceed to receive Him in the Precious Body and Blood, we are made aware of another manifestation.

Born in "the house of bread," the Word made flesh, through the words of the priest, in the act of consecration, in a sense another begetting, manifests His Real Presence and fulfills the promise He made before His crucifixion. Again, another mystery beyond our comprehension. Bread and wine trans-substantiated into His Body and Blood. While the heaven hosts are able to eternally gaze upon Him as He truly is, we only have this shadow, Real as He is.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;...before (the face of) the Lord, for He comes.
Psalm 96:11a, 13a
This is the verse use at the Offertory. Again, He comes. Only this time, it is not Mary who carries Him within, not quite ready to be born. We, like Mary and Joseph, he of the house of David, in a sense "travel to Bethlehem", to a sanctuary and, while there, completes our days of confinement through the hands of the priest, who finishes the knitting of earthly and heavenly natures in the consecration.

"Let heaven and nature sing" about this new joy to the world. The angels certainly did. The shepherds were muted, but must have been glad. The Magi understood, but had to keep their song quiet. Simeon and Anna rejoiced forty days later. We as well join in with our "Gloria". Emmanuel. God is truly with us. He has come.

Hodie Christus natus est.

Final Preparation

The four weeks have passed. Only a few hours remain to prepare our hearts for his coming. In 1736, Charles Coffin penned these words; they were translated by John Chandler in 1837. They set the tone for this last day of Advent:
The advent of our King
our prayers must now employ,
and we must hymns of welcome sing
in strains of holy joy.

The everlasting Son
incarnate deigns to be;
himself a servant's form puts on
to set his servants free.

Daughter of Zion, rise
to meet thy lowly King,
nor let thy faithless heart despise
the peace he comes to bring.

As Judge, on clouds of light,
he soon will come again,
and all his scattered saints unite
with him in heaven to reign.

Before the dawning day
let sin's dark deeds be gone;
the old man all be put away,
the new man all put on.

All glory to the Son
who comes to set us free,
with Father, Spirit, ever One,
through all eternity.
Ero Cras.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Countdown To "O"

This Advent season has really flown by for me. It is hard for me to believe there are only eight days left until Christmas.

Once again I offer my series of meditations on the "O" Antiphons. As is my wont, I continue to add to what I have done in the past. This year, along with the meditations of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf from his 'blog "What Does The Prayer Really Say", I introduce to you Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, OSB. I met him at the CMAA's Colloquium XX, where he presented a series of talks on how the Propers of the Mass provide a theme to the liturgy that day. His 'blog, "Vultus Christi", will be the source of those additional thoughts.

The "O" Antiphons are sung during Vespers and are also the Gospel Acclimation during Mass the next seven days. Seemingly my most popular posts, I once again hope you enjoy this "something old with something new, some things borrowed, all things true."

Come back this evening. Let us continue to "wait in joyful hope".

Monday, December 06, 2010


At this time of the year one can wander across stories about how a fourth century Catholic Bishop became the symbol for the Christmas season.

I wondered as I wandered over this (PDF file).

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reason For This Season

So, what will your Advent be like this year?

His Excellency, the Most Reverend John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, offers his thoughts as the season gets under way. His pastoral letter to the faithful of the diocese, "Waiting In Joyful Hope!", provides a reflection on how we should prepare for the next four weeks. (Link is PDF formatted letter.)

His opening paragraphs set the tone:
Few would disagree that we live in a busy and rushed society. We rush from one thing to the next; in the end, many of us are restless and tired, yearning for stability and peace in our community and family. You may have noticed that in our hurried society many stores have already decorated for Christmas, radio stations are sneaking in a Christmas song here and there, and even some of our own parishes have begun preparing for Christmas parties for early December. In the midst of all this hurry, the Church teaches us to slow down, to be patient, and to wait.

What is the rush? Are we really so eager to get to all the decorations up, celebrate the event, and quickly dismantle all the decorations so we can move on to the next event? If we truly believe the Church is the sacrament of Christ in the world (Editor's Note--Reference is made here to Lumen Gentium, sections 1, 9, and 48), then we must authentically celebrate the story of salvation as it unfolds in the liturgical year so that we can witness God's profound love and mercy to the world....
While Advent comes once a year, Christ continues His advent into the world.

We prepare to meet Him again and always.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Veni, Veni

Nightfall comes.

But tonight's sunset is important to the Christian community.

It is the Sunday vigil nearest the feast of St. Andrew.

Thus begins Advent and the start of a new liturgical year, featuring the Gospel of St. Matthew.

With Christmas Day falling on a Saturday this year, we have the second longest season the calendar can afford.

27 days of watching, waiting, preparing, praying.

Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, the days of our confinement are almost complete.

We celebrate His first coming into the world as one like us, save for sin.

We anticipate His second coming into the world to return us to the Father.

We long for Emmanuel.

In four weeks time, as well as the blink of an eye, He will be here.

Be ready.

Become ready.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Day Thought

In the dialogue between priest and congregation before the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer there is an acknowledgment of the rightness and justice of giving thanks to God. Then the priest continues with that affirmation:
Father, all powerful and ever-living God,
We do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
(Through Jesus Christ our Lord).
While we should have this mindset every day, it is the fourth Thursday in November, a secular holiday, that brings to the forefront our reliance on our Creator for all we have, no matter how insignificant it may seem.

It is a time to pause and reflect upon His many blessings which are graciously bestowed on us. It is a time to marvel in wonder and awe upon His majesty. It is a time to truly lift our minds and hearts in grateful praise for all we have received.

It is a time to give thanks.

Take a moment during your celebration of this holiday to show your appreciation to God.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Make We Music

With today being the feast day of St. Cecilia, I present a litany used by various members of the Church Music Association of America, using it as a novena every month (beginning on the 22nd.), saluting her martyrdom and asking her intercession "for liturgical music that is beautiful, holy, and universal."


Litany of St. Cecilia

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, wise virgin, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, whose heart burned with the fire of Divine love, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, apostle by thy zeal and charity, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, who converted thy spouse and procured for him the crown of Martyrdom, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, who by thy pleadings moved the hearts of pagans, and brought them into the true Church, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, who didst unceasingly see thy guardian Angel by thy side, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, who didst mingle thy voice with the celestial harmonies of the virgins, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, who by thy melodious accents celebrated the praises of Jesus, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, illustrious Martyr of Jesus Christ, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, who during three days dist suffer most excruciating torments, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, consolation of the afflicted, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, protectress of all who invoke thee, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, patroness of holy canticles, Pray for us.
Saint Cecilia, special patroness and advocate of all singers, musicians, authors, and students, Pray for us.

We salute thee, O Virgin, who didst give thy blood for the defense and faith of Jesus Christ.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.

God glorified Saint Cecilia,
And He crowned her virtues.

Let us pray: O Eternal God, Who didst give us, in the person of Saint Cecilia, a powerful protectress, grant that after having faithfully passed our days, like herself, in innocence and holiness, we may one day attain the land of beatitude, where in concert with her, we may praise Thee and bless Thee forevermore in eternity. Amen.


My other posts for the day:

Musical Quotes And Thoughts (2005).

Quotes About Notes (2006).

Quotable On Notes (2007).

Canto; Ergo Sum (2008).

Mechanical Musicianship (2009).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Chanting I Will Go

My continuing self-study of Gregorian Chant takes a more formal route for the next three days.

I will be in Houston, TX for this event.

Looking forward to learning more about this musical form and how to perform it well.

Also looking forward to meeting new people and re-establishing recent acquaintances.

I'm leaving on a jet plane in less than two-and-a-half hours.

Back late Sunday afternoon.

Prayers for safe travel and success are welcome.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Red Hat Report

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI has announced the names of 24 prelates to be elevated to the rank of Cardinal.

Among them are two Americans: Cardinal-designate Raymond L. Burke, former Archbishop of St. Louis, MO and current head of the Vatican's highest tribunal, the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, and Cardinal-designate Donald W. Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, DC.

The appointments truly represent a Universal Church:
"The universality of the church is reflected in the list of new cardinals. In fact, they come from various parts of the world and fulfill different tasks in the service of the Holy See or in direct contact with the people of God as fathers and pastors of particular churches," the pope said.
These princes of the Church will be formally installed on November 20.

UPDATE: A letter of thanksgiving from Archbishop Burke.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Five Year Review

With this post, I launched myself into the world of 'blogging.

Five years later, I'm still posting.

What a long, strange trip this has been.

This has been a blessing for me. As one who naturally is introspective, it has helped bring out things and let me examine my life and the world around me with a touch more thoughtfulness. In my world, seemingly full of paradoxes, I have gone from Socratic contentment to Thoreauvian despair, everywhere in between, and back again. You who have perused my words have shared that wide and sometimes wild range of contemplation and the emotions connected to it.

And I thank you for allowing me to share that.

The Good

Some things I have enjoyed writing more than others. The series of reflections on the "O Anthiphons" and the "Seven Last Words of Christ" I still hold are my most popular posts; hence, they have been a staple of Advent and Lent since this 'blog's inception. The images and words of Independence Day, also an annual staple, are a reminder of where we as a country have been, where we are, and where we are going. My reflections on Christmas Eve, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, Good Friday, and the feast of St. Cecilia act as mileposts as well about those subjects.

These are a few of my favorite things. I hope some of them have been yours, as well.

The Bad

According to Blogger, this will be my 527th. post. I would have to say that number is actually lower because of the re-posting of many articles. Averaging less than a hundred posts a year is a low figure; I am sure there are 'bloggers whose output per month is more than that. While I have never been about quantity, I do regret not posting on a more consistent basis. My frequency is a reflection on my indifference more than my inspiration. My appreciation of professional writers has increased a hundred-fold since undertaking this.

I know I don't have the greatest writing style in the world, either. My words are simple and simplistic. Sometimes I come off very trite. Again, I am not a professional; I am one of a myriad who think they have something to say. Some times I do OK; others, I fall flat.

Yet, I will keep using my keyboard.

The Ugly

I have not wanted this to be a "what's going on in my life" on-line journal, but it has partially become that. Which brings me to what is the most paradoxical thing about me. I find it so easy to let complete strangers know about my every fault; yet those who are close to me find it very difficult to get me to be open. Put that in context of my relationship to God and it becomes even more stark. He absolutely knows me; yet, He is still somewhat a stranger to me.

My small readership know about the trials and tribulations I have had the past six-plus years. (Remember a recession is when your neighbor is unemployed and a depression is when you are.) With only two exceptions totaling fourteen months, a regular paycheck has eluded me since March 2004. Not to say I have not been without income during this time (worker's compensation, unemployment insurance, officiating fees), but the fact is I have not been able to sufficiently support myself for a while.

This is my dark night of the soul. The doubts of whether I will find anything in this current economic condition grow with every rejection of an application. The ache caused by my tendinitis is a reminder of how limited are my options. There are times I wonder if my economic shelf life has expired. It is amazing Satan hasn't exploited this idle mind, let alone this troubled spirit.

A Still, Small Voice

Yet, God is with me. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

He has shown His mercy. I have written about the proof of that.

Because of this 'blog, because I was able to establish an honest presence, because I was found to be trustworthy, I was able to get through the toughest two weeks of my life.

Because of this 'blog, someone took me into her home when I seemingly had no where else to go.

Because of this 'blog, I have met (some in person, most still virtual strangers) those who inspire me to "be perfect(ed) as your Heavenly Father is perfect."

Because of this 'blog, perhaps I will become more Christ-like.

Perhaps, because of this 'blog, I have helped a soul or two, out of the over 34,000 visits to date.

All because I wanted to expand my infinitesimal corner of the universe.

The welcome mat is still out.

My invitation from five years ago still stands.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Honorable Ads

Anheuser-Busch has been a strong advertiser during the Super Bowl. Their angles for their commercials range from stupid to cute to silly to humorous. On this day, however, these two are so appropriate. (And, in my very humble opinion, their best.)

It is reported this commercial only ran once during Super Bowl XXXVI. Judging by the snow on the ground, it had to had been made during the winter shortly after the atttacks:

There weren't a lot of worthwhile ads during Super Bowl XXXIX. This one struck the most appropriate timbre:

9/11 Plus Nine Years

New York, New York.

Washington, District of Columbia.

Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Three communities. One destiny.

Nine years ago today, the United States lost whatever innocence it had.

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and some unknown target (if others wish to speculate, let them) left this country visibly shaken.

One year short of a decade later, the physical, psychological, and emotional scars still remain.

We will never be the same. The question which still lingers is how will it change us, as individuals and a nation. The answer is still not within our grasp.

"Peace on earth" now really seems like a pipe dream. Humanity doesn't want it badly enough. Satan chortles with glee at this.

For those who believe in Jesus Christ, Who, as St. Paul said, has given us the victory over sin and death, Who is the true Prince of Peace as foretold by Isaiah, this incident strikes at the very root of our faith.

Do we trust that out of this act of evil a greater good will prevail?

All we can do is persevere. All we can do is hope. All we can say is, "My Lord and My God."

The prayer intentions I suggested in my 2007 post Remember Again are still valid.

Let us not forget. While I'm sure there will be more added this year, the following videos suggest we haven't:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Great Deal Of None

It is a few minutes before midnight when I write this.

It is just to keep a streak in tact.

I have never failed to post something in every month which this 'blog has existed.

That is the only purpose for these words.

I also noticed it's been since my birthday since I have said anything.

The status quo is still status quo: job opportunities are few and far between, the high school sports season is under way, the first church choir rehearsal is Thursday.

I do have things I wish to say.

New posts are forthcoming.

I am still here.

Just to let you know.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Sixteen Candles Thrice

Yes, it is that time.

Thank you, God, for allowing me to see this day.

Despite the doubt and worry (and, sometimes, not a small measure of bitterness at times), I am truly grateful to be alive.

I really think that is why we celebrate birthdays. This day has a way of focusing one's attention on how benevolent and generous God is to you, because you focus on the very first gift He has bestowed: coming into being. It is a way to "share your Master's joy" just because you now exist. It is a way to remind yourself that despite "all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams," you are made in His image and likeness and are "very good".

I really only have one wish:
One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek: To dwell in the LORD'S house all the days of my life, To gaze on the LORD'S beauty, to visit his temple.

Psalm 27:4

May the following days bring me abundant blessings.

Say a prayer for me.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Resurection Renevation

It is one of the most impressive religious statues in the world.

A $4 million restoration is a small price to pay.

The history of this work of art is found here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gone Chanting

I had a wonderful time during my working vacation at the Church Music Association of America's 2010 Winter Chant Intensive in Charleston, SC. It was what I expected and more; it has whetted my appetite for sacred music and chant even more.

Along with meeting in person Anastatia Crosswell, the 'blogmistress of Kyrie Eleison Me (while registered to be in attendance, had to withdraw for personal reasons), I also introduced myself to Mary Jane Ballou, whose 'blog Sacred Miscellany I have visited a few times. I found out later that Richard Chonak, one of the co-'bloggers at Catholic Light, was also there; I didn't get a chance to meet him. (And it was no one's fault but my own; we were sitting beside each other during the workshop.)

Self-study is a wonderful thing; I am proceeding along those lines. Continuing my education, I will be attending this. I am looking forward to it.

The plane leaves at 7:00 AM tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Of Square Notes

I haven't added a new 'blog in a long time.

I found one which, as a church musician, makes me think.

I hope it will do the same for you.

A very charming name to a wonderful 'blog: The Chant Cafe.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Ancient Humor

Another e-mail forward from Catherine Garcia. Grin if you like it.


A senior citizen drove his brand new Corvette convertible out of the dealership. Taking off down the road, he floored it to 80 mph, enjoying the wind blowing through what little hair he had left.

"Amazing," he thought as he flew down the interstate, pushing the pedal even more.

Looking in his rear view mirror, he saw a state trooper behind him, lights flashing and siren blaring. He floored it to 100 mph, then 110. Suddenly he thought, "What am I doing? I’m too old for this," and pulled over to await the trooper's arrival.

The trooper walked up to the Corvette, looked at his watch and said, "Sir, my shift ends in 30 minutes and today is Friday. If you can give me a reason for speeding that I've never heard before, I'll let you go."

The old gentleman paused. Then said, "Years ago, my wife ran off with a state trooper. I thought you were bringing her back."

"Have a good day, sir, " replied the trooper.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bead Work

For a number of years, in a separate chat room on the website, the rosary has been prayed on-line nearly every Wednesday at 9:00 PM Eastern Time. The person who leads uses a script to "cut and paste" the prayers while the rest read along and meditate on the mystery at hand. While the attendance is small (anywhere from 2-8 people), its impact is tremendous.

There have been three main people who lead the recitation, each with their own format. For about the last four years, I have been the third of that trio. My variation is simple--while Wednesdays are traditionally the Glorious Mysteries, I use the other Mysteries during the liturgical cycle: Joyful during Advent and Christmas, Luminous before Lent, and Sorrowful during Lent and Holy Week.

While I keep Wednesday nights open on my schedule, sometimes conflicts cause me not to be there. Right now, I am the only one who does this. There are times I would like to share this privilege, but no one seemingly is interested in sharing the role.

About a month ago, I received this e-mail from one of the regulars (edited for clarity). It is a reminder to me that what I do is not a burden:
I was speaking to a friend. I was a little depressed right now, with the second anniversary of my wife's death approaching. He sent me this. I read it a short time after the Rosary last night; it filled me with a happiness and a sense of awe. I hope you can pass it on to others if you ever see a time it is needed.

Another testimony to the grace this devotion bestows:


The Rosary: Simply Amazing

Jim Castle was tired when he boarded his plane in Cincinnati, Ohio, that night in 1981. The 45-year-old management consultant had put on a week long series of business meetings and seminars and now he sank gratefully into his seat ready for the flight home to Kansas City, Kansas. As more passengers entered, the place hummed with conversation, mixed with the sound of bags being stowed. Then, suddenly, people fell silent. The quiet moved slowly up the aisle like an invisible wake behind a boat.

Jim craned his head to see what was happening and his mouth dropped open. Walking up the aisle were two nuns clad in simple white habits bordered in blue. He recognized the familiar face of one at once, the wrinkled skin, and the eyes warmly intent. This was a face he'd seen in newscasts and on the cover of TIME. The two nuns halted and Jim realized that his seat companion was going to be Mother Teresa!

As the last few passengers settled in, Mother Teresa and her companion pulled out rosaries. Each decade of the beads was a different color, Jim noticed. "The decades represented various areas of the world," Mother Teresa told him later and added, "I pray for the poor and dying on each continent."

The airplane taxied to the runway and the two women began to pray, their voices a low murmur. Though Jim considered himself not a very religious Catholic who went to church mostly out of habit, inexplicably he found himself joining in. By the time they murmured the final prayer, the plane had reached cruising altitude.

Mother Teresa turned toward him. For the first time in his life, Jim understood what people meant when they spoke of a person possessing an "aura". As she gazed at him, a sense of peace filled him; he could no more see it than he could see the wind but he felt it, just as surely as he felt a warm summer breeze.

"Young man," she inquired, "do you say the rosary often?"

"No, not really," he admitted.

She took his hand, while her eyes probed his. Then she smiled. "Well, you will now." And she dropped her rosary into his palm.

An hour later, Jim entered the Kansas City airport where he was met by his wife, Ruth. "What in the world?" Ruth asked when she noticed the rosary in his hand.

They kissed and Jim described his encounter.

Driving home, he said. "I feel as if I met a true sister of God."

Nine months later, Jim and Ruth visited Connie, a friend of theirs for several years. Connie confessed that she'd been told she had ovarian cancer. "The doctor says it's a tough case," said Connie, "but I'm going to fight it. I won't give up."

Jim clasped her hand. Then, after reaching into his pocket, he gently twined Mother Teresa's rosary around her fingers. He told her the story and said, "Keep it with you, Connie. It may help."

Although Connie wasn't Catholic, her hand closed willingly around the small plastic beads. "Thank you," she whispered. "I hope I can return it."

More than a year passed before Jim saw Connie again. This time her face was glowing. She hurried toward him and handed him the rosary. "I carried it with me all year," she said. "I've had surgery and have been on chemotherapy, too. Last month, the doctors did a second-look surgery, and the tumor's gone. Completely!" Her eyes met Jim's. "I knew it was time to give the rosary back."

In the fall of 1987, Ruth's sister, Liz, fell into a deep depression after her divorce. She asked Jim if she could borrow the rosary; and when he sent it, she hung it over her bedpost in a small velvet bag. "At night I held on to it, just physically held on. I was so lonely and afraid," she says, "yet when I gripped that rosary, I felt as if I held a loving hand."

Gradually, Liz pulled her life together, and she mailed the rosary back. "Someone else may need it," she said.

Then one night in 1988, a stranger telephoned Ruth. She'd heard about the rosary from a neighbor and asked if she could borrow it to take to the hospital where her mother lay in a coma. The family hoped the rosary might help their mother die peacefully.

A few days later, the woman returned the beads. "The nurses told me a coma patient can still hear," she said, "so I explained to my mother that I had Mother Teresa's rosary and that when I gave it to her, she could let go; it would be all rosary in her hand. Right away, we saw her face relaxed. The lines smoothed out until she looked so peaceful, so young. A few minutes later, she was gone." Fervently, the woman gripped Ruth's hands. "Thank you."

Is there special power in those humble beads? Or is the power of the human spirit simply renewed in each person who borrows the rosary? Jim only knows that requests continue to come, often unexpectedly. He always responds though, whenever he lends the rosary, "When you're through needing it, send it back. Someone else may need it."

Jim's own life has changed, too, since his unexpected meeting on the airplane. When he realized Mother Teresa carries everything she owns in a small bag, he made an effort to simplify his own life. "I try to remember what really counts - not money or titles or possessions, but the way we love others," he says.


To Jesus through Mary.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

2010 Easter Card

"Why do you search for the Living One among the dead? He is not here; he has been raised up."

Luke 24:5b-6a

May the Living One bring you abundant live, eternal love, and everlasting peace.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Echoing The Mighty Song

I already have my inspiration, thanks to EWTN. I saw and heard the deacon at the Easter Vigil Liturgy at St. Peter's Basilica. (The Latin is so much more poetical.) I saw and heard the deacon at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. By the time of this post, I will have intoned once again the Exsultet.

Enjoy the official English version:


(If chanted by someone other than a priest or deacon, the words in brackets are omitted.)

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes forever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

[My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,
that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And also with you.]
V. Lift up your hearts.
R. We lift them up to the Lord.
V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R. It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God,
the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin
to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night when first you saved our fathers:
you free the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night when the pillar of fire
destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin
and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night when Jesus Christ
broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?

Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave
you gave away your Son.

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God
to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day;
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night
dispels all evil, washes guilt away,
restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father, in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on us all,
your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

R. Amen.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Another Reminder Of Mercy

Today begins the Divine Mercy Novena.

This post provides the information.

Mercy began this day.

It continues until the Last Days.

Hearing Voices

If you attend the Celebration of the Lord's Passion this Good Friday, the proclamation of the Passion according to St. John may be presented in a "choral" form. This form has a Narrator (usually a deacon or another lector), Christ (a priest speaking the words of Jesus), the Crowd (the congregation), and a Voice (usually a lector). After proclaiming the other readings in the Liturgy of the Word, I will have the role of Voice today. In preparing my part of the Passion Narrative, I discovered I will be the voice to three different people. They are, in order of appearance, Simon Peter, a temple guard, and Pontius Pilate. While Pilate will have the vast majority of the sentences, each person will have something to say to us.

We start with our first Pope. The night before, having boasted he would never deny Jesus and hearing the prophesy he would, he was challenged three times to profess his discipleship. Twice, we hear the exact same words from his mouth: "I am not." It is the same number of times Jesus said, "I AM" in the opening section. It has never been easy to proclaim "Jesus Christ is Lord" in any age. In our time, it is just as difficult. "Fear is useless; what is needed is trust." How much fear was there in the Chief Apostle at this time? Seemingly much more than fidelity, as he wept after the third denial and the cockcrow. How much fear is in us? To proclaim Him the center of our life, much less put Him there, takes all the courage the Holy Spirit can provide. We can always become perfected if only we take that stand.

Then there is the temple guard. While his words (and action) were not the most violent rejection of Jesus (that would come later), it does come to symbolize how much of a negative reaction some of the world has to the Word. To some, it is a threat which calls for a swift response. But you cannot deter the Hound of Heaven. The Word dwells among and within us, a never ending echo. Do we have ears to hear, eyes to see, a heart which is open? Lent is to help us empty ourselves so to be filled with Him. How much success was there?

Now we come to Pilate. John has much dialogue between Christ and Pilate. But, there are three short statements made by Pilate which draw my attention.

"What is truth?" The question of our time. Relativity rules. Subjectivity is supreme. Any claims to absolutes are arbitrary. Yet, Pilate stared right in the face of Truth. Somewhere deep inside, he had to know the answer, else why would he repeatedly attempt to get off the hook?

"Behold, the man!" Helping to fulfill the words of Isaiah, Pilate presents the Suffering Servant. Somewhere deep inside, he had to know there much more to Him than meets the eye.

"Behold, your king!" Not as bold as Peter's confession, but Pilate realized what other would not. Somewhere deep inside, he recognized the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He saw the Savior. I think he wanted to believe. Do we? Is our faith in Him growing? Conversion is an ongoing process. I think we can all honestly say, "I do believe, Lord; help my unbelief."

Today, the most somber day of the liturgical year, we reflect on these people as they reflect a little of what is in all of us. "If we die with Him, we shall also rise with Him."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Last Words X 5

I didn't think I had done this as long as I have with my meditations on the "O Antiphons," but my records proved me wrong. Both series have existed as long as this 'blog.

Once again, I humbly present my meditations on the "Seven Last Words," the sentences Christ spoke while hanging on the Cross. While the "O Antiphons" anticipated His birth, these anticipate His death and lead us into His resurrection.

Reflect. Remember. Rejoice.

Look for them at the hour of mercy.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


My busy liturgical schedule is winding down.

And all those "To Be Determines" have been determined:
  • April 1 (Holy Thursday)--Choir and Cantor
  • April 2 (Good Friday)--Lector
  • April 3 (Easter Vigil)--Choir and Co-Cantor: Exsultet
  • April 4 (Easter Sunday)--Choir
Plus I had to switch with another Lector on March 14 so I could be with the choir as we sang at another parish that day.

If you're a church musician, this is the most wonderful time of the year.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Double Duty

Normally, if a lay person has a formal role during the liturgy (i.e. cantor, lector, acolyte), that is the only duty which is performed.

At the 11:15 AM Mass today, normal had to be thrown out an open stain glass window.

When it came time to proclaim the readings, everybody realized what was never apparent during the procession.

There was no lector.

It was rather awkward moment.

What to do?

Well, the priest looked around, seeing who may have been there to cover. When he glanced over to his left, where the choir loft was located, he had his answer.

I was the cantor. I made eye contact with him and mouthed, "I'll do it." I gathered the book I use for the Responsorial Psalm and Gospel Acclamation and went to the ambo.

Fortunately for me, I had four things going for me. First and foremost, the Spirit was with me. Second, I assisted at a Vigil Mass in another parish, so the readings were still fresh in my mind. Third, I have had plenty of practice proclaiming "cold", doing it sometimes as many as three times a week during two cycles of Advent and Lenten weekday Masses a few years ago. Finally, I had done this unexpected "double" before, so I was not in unfamiliar territory.

I finished my parts of the Liturgy of the Word. After the proclamation of the Gospel, I went back to the sacristy and retrieved the General Intercessions and announcements. When the Liturgy of the Eucharist began, I went back to the cantor's podium for the rest of Mass.

I think everybody was grateful I did volunteer. I received a few compliments afterward; nice strokes to the ego, but I was just glad to have done it. Believe me, I wasn't looking for praise.

I thank God for giving me the ability and the courage to assist in worshiping Him on such short notice.

I hope it doesn't happen again for a long time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lent's Tripod

Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving.

On these actions the season of Lent is built.

Once again, Ash Wednesday is upon us. We begin 40 days of spiritual introspection, repentance, and renewal. The Church creates a time for us to seriously and sincerely focus on our relationship with God and how we can grow closer to Him. What we do and how well it is done can only be measured by how willing we are to use the graces He gives us. While grace can come through any means, it is these three acts which are the main conduits for the next 6+ weeks.

These acts have a common thread. They require us to empty ourselves, to become open, to be able to receive and be filled. They ask of us to have nothing between God and our hearts. They demand an honest accounting of what is within us so that God can remove what barriers there are to Him.

And it starts with a conversation.

Is that not, at its most elementary level, what prayer is? But, how deep is that conversation? God is continually revealing Himself to us and our selves to us. How are our listening skills? Is it more "Thy will be done" than "my will be done"? When we ask Him to "teach us to pray," are we docile? Are we able more and more to hear the Word? Are we malleable clay in the Potter's hands? Are we becoming what we were made to be--children of God?

Once that conversation is in progress, this on-going dialogue between Creator and creature, a response can come.

Enter fasting. It is a realization that God is our all, the "pearl of great price". In order to have Him, we must begin to make room. Closed fists can never hold anything but the fingers curled against the palms. While the finite can never hold the infinite, there cannot be "no room at the inn". We begin to carve a hollow for the He Who is hallowed. We make space to be filled. We create a place for this Guest at our table so the fasting now is worthy of the feasting later.

Now we have true abundance; again we must respond.

Enter almsgiving. It is true we can't give what we don't have. Now, we have it. Because He has shared, we must as well. And we must give as abundantly as He did; we must follow the example of the widow's mite. Love is not love unless it is given away.

And then we continue the conversation with Him.

And then the process starts anew.

Beyond Lent. Into Easter. Into the rest of our lives.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Month Of Sundays

Did I mention I was going to be busy during the 11:15 AM (and other) Masses at St. Olaf the next few weeks?

I made a mental review of my liturgical duties until Easter (including this past Sunday).

This is the list:
  • January 24--Choir and Cantor
  • January 31--Cantor
  • February 7--Choir and Cantor
  • February 14--Lector
  • February 17 (Ash Wednesday)--Choir
  • February 21--Choir and Cantor
  • February 28--Cantor
  • March 7--Choir
  • March 14--Lector
  • March 21--Choir and Cantor
  • March 28 (Palm/Passion Sunday)--Choir
  • April 1 (Holy Thursday)--Choir (Cantor TBD)
  • April 3 (Easter Vigil)--Choir and Co-Cantor
  • April 4 (Easter Sunday)--Choir (Cantor TBD)
There is a remote possibility I may be a Lector for April 2 (Good Friday), but that schedule has not been made.

No excuses for me not assisting at Mass!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

We Shall Gather

Another January 22 is almost over. For the 37th. time in our nation's capital the Culture of Life and Culture of Death clashed in their annual ritual of marches marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the two decisions made by the United States Supreme Court legalizing abortion on demand. The passion and zeal on both sides of the issue are as strong as ever.

The past 365 days were witness to some remarkable events which continued to fuel the fire and fan the flames. The current administration placed key poor-(pro-) choice supporters in critical cabinet positions, among other actions to support this overtly poor-(pro-) choice president's policy. A leading practitioner of abortion services was murdered. A Catholic nun was discovered to be an escort for an abortion clinic. There are plans in the works for building the largest abortion clinic in this country. And the passage of health care reform in this country seems to hinge on whether or not federal funding for abortions will be provided. There's never a dull moment, is there?

At times I wonder if battle fatigue is apparent. I wonder if arguments for and against are falling on deaf ears because they have been repeated so much and perhaps are sounding like empty rhetoric. Has everything been said about the subject? Is there nothing new under the sun? Or does our society wish this topic would just disappear?

Not in my lifetime. Especially since, for the first time, polls indicate those who are "pro-life" now have the majority viewpoint, albeit by a slight margin. The tide of popular opinion seems to be in our favor.

So, the battle will continue. Today is the day when batteries are recharged, the banners will fly high and proud, and each side will continue to make its case in the public forum. Tomorrow, the grassroot efforts and behind the scene events will continue, each side seeking an advantage.

I may not live long enough to see this issue resolved. But, I still need to continue doing what I can to bring it to closure. I still need to choose life.

Our Humanity, Our Future

The adage goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

Mark Shea add a few of his own to a photo of his granddaughter and the resulting post is a reminder of what the day is about.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hide And Seek

Krush reminds us today is National DeLurking Day. This annual event in the 'blogosphere is designed for those who read 'blogs to leave a comment and let us know they have visited. With some affection these guest are called "lurkers", just hanging around. (Groupies for 'bloggers?)

My comment section is open. I welcome you to leave your remarks and suggestions on what could make this infinitesimal corner of the universe a better place to be. Speak the truth in love else it will be deleted.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Working Vacation

In my own small way, I am part of the "reform of the Reform". With my educational background in music (both at the undergraduate and graduate levels), I want to hear meaningful and worthy song in liturgy. This, at times, has put me at odds with some of my lay colleagues at a local level in terms of taste and appropriateness; but, not being in any kind of leadership position, I have had to "go along to get along". I can say I am very pleased with what we attempt to do at St. Olaf, as the music director and I are of the same general mindset.

But, as the saying goes, I have to be the change I want to see. To that end, I will be here. While I have had a minimum amount of exposure to chant, this will be an wonderful opportunity to learn more. I wrestled with the decision of whether or not to go, but I opted to take advantage of the opportunity. (The only drawback is I am taking "red eyes" through Denver and Atlanta to get there.)

A fedora doff to Anastasia Crosswell, who posted this on her Facebook page. As this is in her backyard, hopefully we will be able to meet each other in person.

Back late Saturday night. Time to me to fly.