Sunday, March 30, 2008

Anniversary Mass

Our first anniversary... We sang for the Novus Ordo Mass yesterday at 5:30 pm. After that, we sang for the Extraordinary Form Mass at 7:00 pm. It took about an hour and 15 minutes (I am guessing, based upon when I looked at the clock in my car on the way home). It was a very good experience. I was very proud of the sound that emanated forth from the choir loft this time. We did learn a few things... for one, we took way too long on the first Alleluia... in future Missas Cantata we will not do any repeating of the alleluia and move a bit more quickly through the music so that Father doesn't have to stand waiting for us to finish up... I'll have to make notes about that so that I don't forget next time.

We will be celebrating together in April with the schola... and planning for Trinity Sunday. We have quite a bit of new music to learn before then, but I think plenty of time.

I'm attaching a photo of the altar at our parish that was taken by one of our schola members from up in the choir loft. He has a blog here... thanks!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Divine Mercy Sunday

Well... soon I'll be heading off to another schola practice. Tomorrow is a big day for our little group. One year ago (according to the liturgical calendar, that is) on Divine Mercy Sunday, our schola sang for Mass for the first time. It was a Novus Ordo Latin Mass, complete with most propers and all ordinaries. When I think back about how large an undertaking it was, I am amazed.

We started about the end of February last year. We had a couple of members who had sung Gregorian chant in their youth and who were somewhat familiar with the notation. The rest of us were complete novices. We began learning with the Jubilate Deo booklet that is available online. I had bought a book about learning Gregorian chant a couple of years before, so had a basic idea of the various clefs and how to figure out where the half-steps were in the music. Our pastor, Father Peter, had the most practical knowledge from singing in the seminary. As such, he was our director initially.

Our progress has been good over the past months. One year later, the entire group is pretty good at singing solfege (although our weekly exercises do always still require concentration). We have a number of chant hymns that we are all very familiar with... for the various seasons of the church year. We have learned not only the ordinaries from the Jubilate Deo booklet, but also the Mass XVII ordinaries and the extra Mass VIII ordinaries that weren't part of the booklet. We have learned a number of propers for the various times we have sung for Mass over the past year... revisiting those propers is like meeting up with an old friend...

Tomorrow we will sing for two Latin Masses. We'll sing for the Novus Ordo Latin Mass at the 5:30 pm time. Then, we'll also be singing for an Extraordinary Form Missa Cantata later on. It will be our first time to do so, and we hope it goes as it should. Prayers on our behalf would be much appreciated.

Friday, March 28, 2008

On a personal note...

Well... although we don't have orders (or even travel authorizations that allow us to get started with the home sale, etc.), my husband has received a 'report to work at the new job' date. The official starting date will be May 12th, although he has just let me know that he'll actually have to go over a couple of days in the previous week as well...

Just going through the calendar... assuming we got authorization to list our home for sale next week, it is very doubtful that we could possibly be in a position to all go at the same time. The way it works (with my not-so-great memory about how it went last time) is: after receiving authorization, we can list our home with a realtor... if it doesn't sell within 60 days, then the relocation package kicks in and they buy our home at appraised value. Although our home is (in my opinion) very nice, I am not confident that it will sell more quickly than in the 60 days allotted.

So... optimistically speaking, if we list the home April 1st, we have to leave it listed until May 30th, after which we probably would have to wait a few days to have the transaction completed... so if we did find a home to buy in the new place, we couldn't really plan to close on it sooner than about June 6th or so.

So... the packers would need to come to move us out around the 29th of May... we'd be in hotel lodgings until we could close on purchasing a home around the 6th of June (possibly later). If we are really good on scheduling, the delivery of our stuff could occur about the same time... that means the boys and I will be on our own trying to keep the house presentable for about the month before we get to the new place... that is my absolute favorite thing about moving (heh). Under normal conditions, my living room and dining room are always ready for visitors... venture in to the kitchen/den or (horrors) kids' room, and it could be a big surprise...

Yes, this weekend means much work around the place.

A Plan for next year's Chrism Mass

I just read Joanna Bogle's latest article on Inside Catholic here. I often think of the gratitude we parishioners feel toward our priests and perhaps the fact that they maybe don't hear about it often enough. The action of parishioners in her diocese was to show the priests their thanks by demonstrating it with placards and holy cards offered to thank the priests before the Chrism Mass.

Apparently, there had been a group of women protesting the lack of women priests annually at the event, which no doubt had been a really uplifting thing for those priests to see. In the past couple of years since the group of people showing their thanks has been there, it has been a great success. Ms. Bogle reports that the 'women priest' demonstrators didn't show up this year.

I don't know that there have been such demonstrators at a Chrism Mass in our diocese... but I do know that we probably don't show enough thanks for these holy men who have given their lives to the service of God. Wherever we are next year, I will try to see if I can get something like this going in our diocese...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wine and conversation

After schola practice this evening... as I was discussing the world problems with friends, it occurred to me that I have gotten a mite cynical in my (let's be kind) middle age. We spoke of politicians, Hillary, Obama, McCain... expressing our dissatisfaction with the entire group of them for various reasons. My opinion is that, no matter how high-minded and moral a person starts out, prolonged exposure to politics and other politicians is a very corrupting influence.

On the ride home, I caught a few minutes of Michael Savage's show on talk radio... yes I do listen to him occasionally, although I am not sure I would qualify as a member of the Savage nation. He was speaking of the huge government defense contracts that are enriching many a senator and congressman. He claims Murtha (the marine who has turned on his fellow jarheads) is one of the biggest beneficiaries... in fact, his claim is that, now that Democrats are becoming as wealthy as the Republicans on all this defense spending, it is necessary to keep the war going and to focus our attention on the economy (it's the economy, stupid) instead.

One of my friends said that there is a bit of humor to be found in the political process... apparently in some states (Ohio being one, I think), the primary process allows members of any party to vote for candidates in the Democrat party... so, some radio show pundits have encouraged Republicans to get in and vote for Hillary (assuming she would be easier to beat in the general election). Some have even, reportedly, been named delegates for Hillary...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sacred Music issue arrived...

I just received my new issue of Sacred Music today... haven't had enough time to read through it entirely. I've been working on preparations for the schola Mass this coming Sunday, as well as trying to get my boys to do their schoolwork and instrument practicing.

However, I did get to read one article in the new issue... the one by Dr. William Mahrt, president of CMAA. He wrote a wonderful piece about (primarily) a Communion chant that I particularly like -- Passer invenit. It is not a particularly easy one, but one that our schola has used a fair amount during Ordinary time.

The Latin:

Passer invenit sibi domum, et turtur nidum, ubi reponat pullos suos: atlaria tua Domine virtutum, Rex meus, et Deus meus: beati qui habitant in domo tua, in saeculum saeculi laudabunt te.

English translation:

The sparrow has found herself a home, and the turtle dove a nest in which to lay her young: at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God! Blessed are they who dwell in your house, they shall praise you for ever and ever.

The archived Winter 2007 issue is also available online now as well here.

Easter week

It was a wonderful and busy Triduum! We had a wonderful Easter celebration... I was able to sing with the cathedral choir for Holy Thursday (cantor), Good Friday (at which we sang the Vittoria version of the Reproaches), the Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday (cantor) and Easter Sunday Mass at 11 a.m. (cantor).

Aside from a little mishap on Holy Saturday (I had forgotten to bring a light to sing by and found myself running around in the dark trying to find a light to use... to no avail... my contingency plan was to go and sing from the same place as the readers use... this plan was thwarted when the reader decided to stay up there during the psalm... finally Father Peter found me a light and I was able to jump in and join the choir in time for the first verse -- a little out of breath), all was well. I love the Vigil Mass. Sitting at the front, I was able to see the Baptism of two little boys and their Dad. What a great moment! After Mass, while I was talking to the younger of the two boys about Easter... he did tell me that the Easter bunny would be coming to his house sometime while he was sleeping. When asked, he did tell me that I wouldn't be getting any baskets or eggs because 'it is mostly for kids'.

Our pastor did an absolutely excellent job of singing the Exultet. I loved it! It is quite dramatic with the church dark except for the lighted Easter candle. The cathedral choir did a wonderful job of singing the Ave Verum (Mozart).

The church was full on Easter morning as well... our pastor's homily was especially good. He talked about the differences in faith exemplified in the Gospel by the way Mary Magdalene, St. Peter and St. John reacted upon finding the empty tomb... unbelief and suspicion, sincere doubt and immediate belief... he then spoke to those present about the differences in the way each individual's personal faith journey may vary from others'. Especially at Easter, there are often people at Mass who may not be very regular attendees during the rest of the year... I hope it touched a few hearts.

We sang the Easter sequence (in English)... next week for the Latin version! I'll be posting more updates on our plans for the Latin Mass at the cathedral next week later on...

Good Friday

Way of the Cross...

A few photos of our local Way of the Cross on Good Friday are here. I had never participated in it before... the weather was absolutely beautiful. There were a good number of people there from various parishes in town. I have to say that I wasn't thrilled with the musical selections (I grew frankly weary of "Were You There"), but aside from that and trying to keep up with my children amongst the crowd, it was very nice.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I am feeling very fortunate...

Catholic Traditions...

I was just browsing through a Catholic online forum and found a post asking the question: What Catholic traditions and liturgies do you miss from your youth (roughly paraphrased)? I was so surprised to see the responses...

Receiving communion at altar rails-
Altar boys (not girls) with patens-
Sanctus bells-
Priests actually preaching from the pulpit (instead of wandering around like a talk show host)-
The priest purifying the sacred vessels at the altar
The choir actually in the choir loft-
Extra priests coming out at communion time to help distribute-
Confessions offered immediately before Mass-
Pre-Mass rosaries-
Post-Mass recitations of the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel-
Post-Mass benedictions-
May crownings

Of this list, we have many at our parish regularly... Communion at the altar rails is not done at the Novus Ordo Masses, but we do have a portion of the original altar rail still in the church! As for the priest purifying the sacred vessels... I am thinking if the priest isn't doing this, it is an abuse. The (indult?) allowing it to be done by others has expired and wasn't renewed, as I understand it. I think it now must be done by either a deacon or priest. We don't have pre-Mass rosaries at our parish, but I think it would be allowed if requested by parishioners... the Angelus prayers and Prayer to St. Michael are done before daily Mass regularly.


This evening, after the Holy Thursday Mass, there was adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel separate from the main church... at 8 pm I attended my first Tenebrae service. I really liked it a lot... the sound of the wooden (clacker? -- don't know what else to call it) for the strepitus at the end definitely startled a few.

Good Friday Plans

The boys worked really hard on their schoolwork this week and were able to finish all five days' work in only four days... so tomorrow we'll be able to participate in the local "Way of the Cross" along with some other home schooling friends. I'm hoping for good weather...

New Musical Instruments

The boys are enjoying playing their new instruments. It has been a bit easier getting them to practice with the novelty of having different instruments (and that are their very own) to play. They are both progressing well... getting close to the end of the Suzuki Book 1 pieces. Another benefit is that I have pulled out my violin and gotten myself back into practice myself. I find that I often play their pieces along with them when they are first learning them... and also that I can use it to demonstrate a technique I am trying to get them to focus their efforts upon... much easier than trying to tell them with words. Prior to this, I probably hadn't pulled out my violin in 20 years or so... I had to have it restrung and a new bridge fitted for it before I could... now if I can just keep up with them as they progress, all will be well...

Seton Music Program

I don't know if I have mentioned how much I am liking the Seton Music books they provide as part of the curriculum for the kids before. Since we are a bit out of sync with the rest of the world on their schoolwork, I have to adjust the pages we use differently than they recommend in the lesson plans in some cases so that we are singing Easter songs at Easter... since my kids are a half-year ahead of their age group academically, we are always out of step with everyone else...

Anyway, back to topic... the music choices in the little books are great. They often give the solfegge hints for many of the pieces (which I make the boys sing alternately with the words). There are also many Latin pieces in chant notation in my older boy's book this year. It makes it easy for me to include chant notation reading (and Latin pronunciation) as a part of their normal singing and music education. I had a thought today, though, and was just wondering how many of the parents using the books know how to read chant notation... I wondered if a simple unaccompanied CD recording of the various pieces would be useful for those not really musically inclined. Perhaps it would make a good future project...

Political Notes...

It is late... I am hearing (in the background news report) more discussion about the problems Obama may be facing because of the radical nature of the church he has been a member of for the past 20 years. I can remember reading the website of that church several months ago and being a bit appalled at the blatantly racist attitude fostered there... That being said, I am wondering at the timing of this big media blitz. Usually, the timing of these things is no accident, I find. So... who was pulling the strings (either by keeping the big thrust of this story back earlier in the game or by doing it now instead of later on in the campaign -- say, after he already had the Democratic nomination). I am guessing this is an insider (i.e. Democrat) strategy... and who stands to gain?

I thought Obama was a total left-wing nut-roll (for whom I would never vote) way before now... so it has done nothing to change my opinion of him... but certainly it looks to me like a last-ditch effort on the part of Hillary to help her campaign efforts. I am glad the radical nature of his religious affiliation has finally been made public... I am not so gullible that I would believe a man could be a member of a church for such a long time with this type of preacher and never have heard the type of vicious rhetoric Wright spews... in fact, I would go so far as to say that I think Obama is being disingenuous to try to say that he doesn't agree with Wright's views. I suppose he senses that speaking the truth about such political and racial views would not work out well for him in his campaign... and, of course, he is probably right. His is a bit more politically correct packaging, but probably the underlying attitudes are similar, in my opinion.

But, I digress... Happy Triduum...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Holy Week

Today is the feast of St. Joseph... As I mentioned in my last post, this is a very busy week for all involved in the preparation for Holy Week liturgies... Last night was cathedral choir practice, which I actually was able to attend this week. We rehearsed the Popule Meus, which could use some more work, but which will be nice if we get at least one more good rehearsal of it... I plan to be working on the chant portion of it this week (while my boys are doing their schoolwork).

We've had strange weather around here... worries of tornados and rain and wind ["and the tiny ship was tossed]. It reminds me of a funny posting on the CMAA forum about the song written by Dan Schutte, Behold the Wood of the Cross. Apparently, more than one person has noticed the similarity of the piece to certain portions of the Gilligan's Island theme. One bit of humor... speculation about whether Palestrina would have borrowed this theme song to compose Good Friday motets if he had lived in an era with television...

Happily, we will not be using that particular piece at our parish this year... if you happen to be one of those lucky souls who does hear it this year... you really must listen to see if you, too, notice the similarity!!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Busy, busy

No postings this weekend... it has been busy around here... more either late tonight or tomorrow... we are in the midst of Holy Week and all the musical preparations for it...

We have schola rehearsal tonight, at which we'll be working on the Regina Caeli Jubilo for the first time.

I've also been practicing the chanted verses for Vittoria's Popule Meus (which I'll be singing alternately with the refrain sung by the cathedral choir). The schedule has me cantoring for three Masses this week... Holy Thursday, Vigil Mass on Saturday evening and early Easter Sunday morning... don't know when the boys will be able to hunt eggs... I may miss it this year, unfortunately.

I think they are beginning to suspect that Mom and Dad are the Easter bunnies...

One very cute (in my opinion) story about life with little boys... I was sitting on the back porch after all the new annuals (purchased from Lowe's this weekend) were planted in the flower beds... and was (with my youngest son) watching as my husband walked off. I mentioned to him that he has a very nice-looking Daddy. Without a moment's pause, he casually asked: "Is that where I get my charm and good looks?". Trying to keep myself from laughing, I answered that, yes, indeed, that is where all the charm and good looks originated!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Schola Night!

Schola night! We had a very good rehearsal, running through almost all of the music that will be used at our very first Missa Cantata... The group is sounding very good, although it would be so nice if Matt had some support from the other guys in the group... It is mostly a situation of schedules and busy lives, I think...

This morning I spent a couple of hours talking about the cues for singing a Missa Cantata with another volunteer schola director who will be singing for Low Sunday also. It was especially nice to discuss with him since we are both using essentially the same music choices. Since it will be my first time to lead one, I have been a bit nervous about attempting it on my own. With budgets an issue, and no hired professional to do the job, I'll be doing my best and hoping it will be good enough...

Our plan for the music is:

Prelude: Regina Caeli Laetare

Processional: Victimae Paschali

Introit: Quasimodo

Kyrie: VIII de angelis

Gloria: VIII de angelis

Alleluia: In die and Post dies

Credo: III

Offertory: Angelus Domini

O Filii et Filiae

Sanctus: VIII de angelis

Agnus Dei: VIII de angelis

Communion: Mitte Manum (with Psalm verses)

Closing Hymn: Regina Caeli Jubila (possible -- not yet determined)

My boys loved their babysitter... a wonderful daughter of a home schooling friend (with a beautiful soprano voice). She sings with the cathedral choir and recently sang a beautiful solo... she sings so clearly... she sang right up to the high Bb in the piece effortlessly (or at least it seemed so from my vantage point).

I did manage to get a lot of housecleaning done today... but I left some of the fun for tomorrow morning. It is late...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Musical Instruments and other thoughts

When we first started the boys with Suzuki lessons, we weren't really sure how it would go... whether they would like it and do well, whether we would like the program... so, we opted not to purchase instruments immediately. So... after 7 months (and that many months of rental payments, too), I think it is going to stick.

I ordered instruments for the boys from an online place. Many of the parents in the program have obviously spent a lot more for the kids' instruments than I did... I am thinking that it is craziness to pay big bucks for a 1/4 size violin, for example. I know (at least I am pretty sure) he is going to grow out of that size fairly quickly. I measured his arm length on the instrument he is using now to see if I could possibly get by with ordering the next larger size for him, but alas...

Especially with our upcoming move and the upheaval that will surely cause in terms of many routines, I wanted to be sure to have the instrument situation taken care of so that (along with the homeschooling) we can have our daily routine continue during the transition.

I was talking to a friend about our upcoming departure this morning and had a sort of 'aha' moment. I have a personal tendency to get overextended with activities, interests, etc. I volunteer or somehow get roped in to doing a few more things than I can comfortably do quite often... So... I do the things I agree to do, but things at home (like regular meals, housecleaning, tax preparation -- oh yes, that is upon me) tend to suffer.

This frequent moving thing because of my husband's job helps me scale back, catch my breath and begin again each time we move. Granted, the move itself is always a bit stressful... but the time after the boxes are unpacked, when we are still learning how to get around a new city and haven't yet joined any choirs or social groups or gotten involved in lots of kids' activities or met the new friends we will surely make in the new place is always a chance to rest and regroup for me.
I brutally sorted through my (stuffed to the gills) bookshelves and identified about 40 books I could part with and have them ready to give away. The motivation to begin in earnest to sort through and get rid of things hasn't really hit me yet... I keep thinking I still have plenty of time. Many more closets and cupboards await... not to mention the boys' room and the garage...
Also on my list of things to do is to find out how to plan a "fun run" fundraiser. I am not a runner myself, so have zero experience with this... but I am fairly good at planning things logically. I've got a couple of names to start with to ask the questions of... but the bulk of the planning is still undone...
Last year I also began doing some simple recordings of musical compositions written by a friend... we've never finished them up with the fine-tuning of my performance and the mixing... I'd really like to finish that before we leave the area, as it will be much more difficult from a distance.
Tomorrow is a major housecleaning day... everything WILL go in its place... dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, bathroom and kitchen shining... yes it will be done tomorrow in preparation for my husband's return. Perhaps I'll even have a fabulous meal planned in honor of his return from out of town...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

From the mouths of moms...

For any who (like me) didn't study literature and poetry beyond high school... you may enjoy the following poem written in Sapphics (named for Sappho). The first three lines of the verse has 11 syllables; the fourth line has only 5 syllables. I learned something while I laughed...

Terra Firma

Yes, you're right. I'm sure Armageddon's coming:

wars, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, locusts,

killer flus, et cetera. Yes, I'm awed by

all the destruction.

I concede your point that the world might end, and

all your puny labors will be as nothing.

Still, you can't go out with your friends until you've

folded the laundry.

by Julie Stoner

California home schooling mother

My children have not yet come up with such wonderfully aware reasons why they shouldn't have to do their chores... perhaps in years to come.

HT First Things, May 2006

Busy Tuesday

It is a busy week... lots of kid schoolwork to do and their normal activities... We went to daily Mass today along with some other home schooling friends. Afterward, the boys enjoyed their bag lunches with their buddies and had a bit of (that desperately needed thing) socialization!

Today was also my youngest son's first violin recital. Yes, he played Twinkle, twinkle in all its wonderful variations along with his seven other graduating classmates this afternoon. In his white shirt, tie, suit pants and church shoes, he looked pretty spiffy. I was very proud of him.

We stayed for most of the rest of the music (until the fidgety kids drove me to my limit -- the enjoyment I received listening was not enough to outdo the irritation of wiggling, answering loudly-whispered questions, etc.). The final performance we heard was an absolutely outstanding cello solo by the son of the director of the Suzuki program here in Shreveport - John Henry Crawford. He has an amazing stage presence for one so young... and his playing was superb!

I am busily trying to put together music for an early Saturday morning Mass... I need to learn three new chant pieces by then. They are:

Introit: Sitientes
Offertory: Factus est Dominus
Communion: Dominus regit me

Time to get the boys to bed and get to reading! So much time, so little to do -- wait, reverse that!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Holy Water during Lent

Probably about 11-12 years ago, at a parish that will remain nameless, I attended a Lenten parish workshop given by a very nice-looking and interesting Jesuit priest. As I recall, he was one of those who advocated emptying out the fonts (and perhaps filling them with sand to reinforce the 'dryness' theme) during the Lenten season. He also mentioned the idea of using dry branches, and sort of dead-looking things to decorate during Lent.

At the time, I thought it rather odd and a bit unusual, but he was supposedly a liturgist and spoke with such authority...

Here is a link that pretty well definitively nixes the idea of removing Holy Water during Lent and gives pretty darn good reasons why, too... Thanks to Father Z.

Expelled: The Movie

This movie looks to be quite interesting... I have admired Ben Stein's views on other things... among the books I recently received in my set of 54 great books are Darwin's The Origin of the Species and The Descent of Man. I think that volume is next on my list (after I finish up The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton).

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana Research Sources

OK, I watched the two YouTube clips in which Anne Rice discusses the research material she used for her books... They are:

Jesus the Christ and The God of Jesus Christ by Walter Cardinal Kasper.

In a review of this book I found, it was stated by one reviewer that Kasper seems to be a fairly liberal theologian, assuming that most infancy narratives are unhistorical and that the nature miracles were also legends. The books were also considered to be quite difficult for the uninitiated philosopher to tackle. He has been a leader in ecumenism in the Church.

Next we have three books by Anglican theologian and Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright, entitled:
The New Testament and the People of God, The Resurrection of the Son of God, and Jesus and the Victory of God.

According to one reviewer of the Book The Resurrection of the Son of God, "My favorite chapter was the one devoted to what Paul actually said about his encounter with Jesus. You might be surprised to learn that there was no falling from the horse in the road to Damascus, and that the narrative in Acts about a blinding light and a voice is only a biblical model to tell about an encounter with God's sphere. Tom Wright is more interested in what Paul himself said, not Luke. And Paul's words cannot be read in another way: he says that he saw Jesus."

In another review of the book The New Testament and the People of God, another reviewer writes: "I cannot understand his insistence that Jesus didn't really "know" know that he was the Son of God." Perhaps this helps explain why Ms. Rice takes this point of view in her depiction of a possible description of what Jesus' thoughts may have been.

In a review of Jesus and the Victory of God, a reviewer comments on this same point: "After hundreds of pages of argument, Wright rather abruptly asserts that "Jesus did not know he was God," at least not as one knows one "ate an orange an hour ago." He thinks such self-knowledge would be unbecomingly "supernatural." (Though he doesn't quibble with multiplied loaves or the resurrection.) At this point one gets the feeling that Wright's conclusion (or guess) is based less on historical evidence (which, as another reader points out below, ought to include John, Paul, and other Jewish Christians), but on a desire to keep a souvenir from the far country -- perhaps to show other scholars. Or maybe he just doesn't want to sound too conventional -- publish novelties ("discoveries") or off with your academic head. In any case, one wonders if his own dogmatically expressed opinion about Jesus' sub-divine mode of consciousness itself has a supernatural origin. He offers no other sources, in this case. " Another point made by the same reviewer gives a bit of general commentary that leads one to believe that his views may not be entirely orthodox, or at least that his sympathies lie with dissenters: "Wright seems less kind to his conservative Christian "elder brethren" than to younger (separated) brethren still sowing wild oats in the far country of historical speculation. This attitude troubles me."

Next we have a book by a Baptist who is a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, D. A. Carson entitled The Gospel According to John.

A few comments from a reviewer of this book : "I bought this commentary on John, and this is not a bad one, and Carson gives you several good insights, but he follows one of the routes of the protestant tradition, the worst one, the zwinglian. He tries to hide any sacramental sign of the Gospel of John: He says that the water and Spirit of Jn 3:5 is not about baptism. He says that water and Spirit is a reference only to the Spirit, and that we to understand Jn 3:5 as pointing to Ezekiel and the divine promise of the gift of Spirit and water. But Carson can't avoid the fact that Ez could refer to the giving of the Spirit via the sacrament of Baptism. Carson is a baptist, so he follows the bias of his tradition.

Carson tries to twist Jn 6, to avoid the obvius: that Jesus is the Bread of Life who must be believed, and Who can gives us life by eating His flesh and drinking His blood at Lord's Supper. Carson tries to convince the reader that Jn 6,53-58 isn't about Eucharist, and he fights against the clear meaning of the text and the reading of the first christians as Ignatius, but, Carson finally gives up and says, "well, this text is about the Eucharist as any other text of the Gospels". Even though he is a follower of Ulrich Zwingly, he at least admits that John 6 has an alussion to the Eucharist."

The above comments gave me pause... let's hope for better stuff to come...

Next comes The Gospel According to Matthew, by Leon Morris, another non-Catholic author who is another Anglican theologian. There wasn't much in the reviews I saw to indicate much about his particular perspective, although one reviewer said he leaned toward the conservative. However, I am not sure exactly what that means in the Anglican tradition relative to the Catholic and would hesitate to make any inferences from the statement.

Moving through the list of source material, we next have two books by the evangelical author Craig Keener, who is professor of New Testament at Palmer Seminary (Wynnewood, Pennsylvania), The Gospel of John: A Commentary, and A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. I didn't find any Catholic reviews of his books when I looked. They seemed to appeal primarily to protestant and seemed to be quite positively reviewed by protestant preachers.

A book entitled Birth of the Messiah by Raymond Brown, S.S., gives detailed analysis of the infancy narratives. One comment by a reviewer (who probably made it thinking to be a positive review) made me wonder about this when he said: "The book has the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur declarations that the book is free of doctrinal or moral errors (from the point of view of the Roman Catholic church), but Brown's Catholicism doesn't color the book excessively. For example, he admits that it is unlikely Mary took a vow of virginity, and also that the "brothers of Jesus" were probably his brothers in the usual biological sense. More generally, Brown openly recognizes the historical improbability of certain events (such as the visit of the Magi), and doesn't strain to impose dubious harmonizations on the infancy stories or to concoct interpretations meant to uphold the literal truth of the NT. The one place where he draws a line is on the virgin conception itself; he claims that it is unscientific to reject it as impossible a priori." I am finding it very hard to understand how the book could have a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur if, indeed, Brown supported the views about doubting Mary's perpetual virginity and supporting the idea that Jesus had other natural siblings. That being said, the reviewers were almost unanimous in their praise of his work on the infancy narratives and the completeness of his work.

Another Catholic theologian, Jesuit Karl Rahner was author of another source book entitled Foundations of Christian Faith. Well, this seems to be a very difficult book for a non-philosopher to grasp from what I can gather from the reviews. Apparently, his views were a bit off the main path of orthodox Roman Catholicism in some regards... here is an excerpt from a reviewer: "Rahner, in contrast to the entire catholic approach to theology of the past 2000 years does not start his understanding of Christianity by elaborating upon the tenets of revealed faith, but starts from 'below' ie. from mankind as a species which is open to the supernatural in its very essence and then goes on to show how 'faith' fills this need or 'spiritual vacuum'; the point of conflict here is whether faith is inherent in human nature or is an act of grace (a created spiritual reality which is granted to Man but is not part of his natural constitution). Rahner, amongst other things, even opens out to Eastern religious ideas by stating that 'purgatory' might even be worked out over a series of successive reincarnations - something which clearly has the 'traditionalists' tearing their hair out!! A further difficulty, for the traditionalists, is that he tries to make evolution an integral part of an aspect of his understanding of faith - here I think he's on shakier ground. Placing a/any scientific theory as an integral part of theology exposes it to the risk of collapse should the theory prove (over time) to be false or is replaced by another theory (look at what happened with Galileo!!)."

Her final source listed was a book titled The Priority of John, by John A. T. Robinson, an Anglican. This book is out of print, but I did find three reviews of it. Apparently, Robinson makes the case that the gospel of John was the first one written of the four and that it was written by John bar Zebedee.

Well, it is late and I have to get up early tomorrow morning... but I am looking over the list of source material and find that it is mostly non-Catholic authorship. And, of the Catholic writers, there seem to be a few comments that would make me a bit wary... I'll definitely have to give this list more thought -- but tomorrow!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Please Pray for Sister Cristina

Sister Cristina Angelini, of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, and also a valued member of our schola is threatened with deportation.

See the entire story about the issue at hand. Sister Cristina Angelini has been called the heart and soul of Shreveport's Renzi Center, an early child development center run by the Catholic church. It sounds like there has been some sort of major mixup or problem with her paperwork. Whether it is because of a bureaucratic mixup due to the after effects of Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans office of immigration, or something lacking in the paperwork, I ask for prayers on her behalf.

She is a true blessing to her order here in Shreveport, a blessing to the Renzi center, and, more personally, to our schola.

California Home Schooling at risk...

In Thursday's news, a ruling by the California 2nd District Court of Appeals is a big blow to the home schooling families of that state. From the reading I have done on the issue, the family against whom the initial case was brought has eight children. The mother, who is the primary teacher of the children, has an 11th grade education. From the accounts, the teaching her children were receiving was determined to be substandard. From what I can gather, this family wasn't actually doing the job in educating their children, so the state stepped in to try to force them to do it.

Now, not knowing all the details of the actual case, I certainly cannot say whether the state has just reason to intervene or whether this is a case of overzealous public officials. Regardless, the ruling the court has made will have effects on all home-schooling familes in the state. Rather than ruling on this one family's case, the court has taken the opportunity to legislate from the bench.

The number of home-schooled children is a very large number -- estimated at 166,000. Although I know the school system would dearly love the additional revenue that would be added to their budget from the infusion of that many more children into the system (not to mention how happy the teachers' union must be), I am wondering what the end result of this will be. I am guessing that many home-schooling families will not comply with this. Perhaps they will move out of state or find some other way around the most strict ruling.

Compliance with this ruling would be a heavy burden on individual families. Families would be required to prove that one of the parents has a certificate to teach the specific grades they'll be teaching. This is not required of teachers in private schools. It seems unfair that individual families (who are able to provide much more individualized attention to their children) be held to a higher standard than teachers in a classroom at a private school. For many parents, the option of sending their children to a private school is also not financially feasible since none of their tax dollars can be used to offset the costs.

Finally, at issue is the parents' right to determine how best to educate their children. Especially in California, the cutting edge of political correctness in terms of homosexuality, sex education, and alternative lifestyles, many parents may make the determination that the modifications to the curricula to accomodate these issues are in opposition to their own beliefs. So, does the state have the right to indoctrinate children against the will of their parents?

I plan to follow this issue as more information becomes available as to how this will play out in the actual enforcement of this ruling. As a member of HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), I am sure I'll be receiving updates on the class action appeal they plan to make in defense of the many HSLDA member families in California.

In Germany, homeschooling is not allowed. See these links to see news about the situation for families there.

This World Net Daily report gives an interesting overview of the situation in Germany.

It behooves all of us who do home educate our children to do the best job possible and to keep ourselves above reproach. The ruling in California shows how private actions of an individual family can negatively impact many others.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Book Review -- Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana

Only one day after receiving my copy of the book in the mail, I have finished it and begun to ponder several of the details in this book by Anne Rice. Many years ago I had read two or three of her books of the vampire genre and found them entertaining and very readable. This book was no disappointment in that regard. The story flowed well and was generally a very quick read.

At the outset, I was surprised to find it written as if in the words of Our Lord. The story tries to imagine what our Lord's thoughts were -- his doubts, his temptations, etc.

I'm still ruminating on several details that are not really questions anyone can answer in this life assuredly. Among those questions are the manner of the death of St. Joseph. Our Roman Catholic tradition indicates that St. Joseph died in the loving arms of the Blessed Virgin Mary and with Jesus present. I thought that was one reason he was the saint to whom many Catholics pray for his intercession for a happy death (and why he is often pictured holding a lily). In fact, in a book written about the visions of Ven. Anne Katherine Emmerich, Light on Light , Sr. Emmerich describes it in that way. From the Emmerich account:

"According to Sister Emmerich, when Jesus was thirty, Joseph, then about 75 years old, experienced a holy death in Mary's arms, with Jesus by his side and angels in attendance. As would happen to the body of His foster-son three years later, Joseph's remains were laid in a beautiful tomb provided as an act of charity by a good man."

In Anne Rice's version, she describes a different death, with Jesus not present (in her version, at the time of St. Joseph's death, Jesus was being tempted in the desert after his baptism in the Jordan). I am puzzled as to why she took this particular turn away from traditional accounts of this. Perhaps she had other apocryphal sources, of which I am unaware, upon which this was based.

Another interesting point in the book has to do with the 'brothers' of Jesus. According to what I had learned in my studies, the Aramaic word for 'cousins' was the same as that for 'brothers', so there wasn't a specific word to differentiate in the normal speech. Now, I realize that the Eastern Orthodox tradition holds that Joseph was married and a widower before he married the Blessed Virgin Mary. They apparently teach that Joseph had children from his first marriage, who would have been called his brothers. I was surprised that she chose to use the Eastern Orthodox thinking.

A counterpoint: from the same book by Emmerich, her visions seem to coinicide with the Roman Catholic tradition, in that all the near relations that were considered 'brothers' of Jesus were in actual fact cousins. From Light on Light:

"Sister Emmerich's visions confirm that Jesus had no natural or step-brothers or sisters. His nominal "brothers and sisters" were indeed what we would call cousins, related to Jesus through the Blessed Virgin Mary's older sister, Mary Heli, or more distantly through her mother, Anne, or her father, Joachim. Specifically, they were:

* sons of Mary Heli, viz., Sadoch, Jacob (or james), and Heliachim (all Jesus' first cousins, who followed John the Baptist before they followed Jesus);

* the daughter of Mary Heli, viz., Mary Cleophas (Jesus' first cousin);

* Mary Cleophas' sons and daughter by her first husband, Alphaeus, viz., James the Lesser, Simon Zelotes, Jude Thaddeus, and Suzanne (all first cousins of Jesus, once-removed); and

* Mary Cleophas' son by her second husband, Sabas, viz., Joses Barsabas (a first cousin, once-removed)."

Happily, she does not give credence to the many heretical teachings that Mary had other children born after Jesus.

Now, as these visions of Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich are private revelations and therefore, the Catholic Church has not taken an official position on whether they are worthy of belief or not, in some ways this new book of Anne Rice's may also seek to fill the desire to know more about the smaller details of Jesus' life.

The problem I see in some of the so-called spurious "Gospels" is that they were used by heretical sects of the early church. In fact, as one scholar [Philip Jenkins, The Hidden Gospels -- How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way] commented: "Far from being the alternative voices of Jesus' first followers, most of the lost gospels should rather be seen as the writings of much later dissidents who broke away from an already established orthodox church."

One last point... again not something we can know for sure on this side of heaven... Anne Rice's story shows Jesus living in very close quarters with a large extended family. Certainly that is at odds with Sr. Emmerich's writings and the traditional Catholic teaching that Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived alone in a humble home. Certainly this story gives a vivid picture of perhaps typical Jewish life at the time with a large extended family, and, if for no other reason, is very interesting.

I was very pleased that, at least in this book, she did not choose to give fuel to the crazies out there in the cult of Mary Magdalene. Much of the book seems to be completely fictional, although the intertwining of the young couple being married at Cana and their possible relationship to Jesus was somewhat plausible to me, it seemed such a huge step to make the leap to proposing Jesus' personal feelings toward the bride.

I enjoyed the book very much, although I was quite sorry there were no references to any of the sources of hers she used in her research. In fact, there were absolutely no footnotes or references of any sort. On the other hand, perhaps it is better this way, since it doesn't seem to make a case for this account being anything other than fictional.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Carthusian Monks

I absolutely loved the film Into Great Silence (Die Grosse Stille in German). Being such a whiz on electronic stuff, after several years as a netflix subscriber I discovered only yesterday that I could download many films onto the computer at home freely instead of waiting for the mail each time (Duh!).

The first download I attempted was this wonderful picture of the life of Carthusian Monks at the Grande Chartreuse Monastery, the head monastery of the Carthusian order, founded by St. Bruno in 1084. The film has very little dialog at all. The lives of the monks there were shown in film without much explanation or any attempt to make the film 'showy' or dramatic.

I did take issue with one of their translations... I believe the translation into English of one portion of the film to be not quite as good as it could have been... The German text was: "Du hast mich verfuerht, O Herr. Und ich, ich habe mich verfuehren lassen." I believe this should be translated as: "O Lord, you have seduced me. And I, I have let myself be seduced." The English subtitle translation was: "O Lord, you have seduced me. And I was seduced." In some ways, you may think I am being a bit nitpicky, but it does have a bit of a different meaning, not in a good way, with their English translation... I like mine better!

I heartily recommend seeing this film. I think, if you aren't familiar with the order, it would be helpful to check out the information online which describes the order a bit. It would have helped me to know that Carthusian monks don't live in community the way other orders do, but are more like a group of hermits that share some aspects of their lives and live under the order established by St. Bruno (not the rule of St. Benedict).

Here is a small excerpt from the Official Carthusian website:

The meaning of "being a Carthusian"
Among the religious families, there are those like the Benedictines and Cistercians, who live more in community. Others live in greater solitude. Camaldulites and Carthusians belong to the latter. The monks and the nuns of the Carthusian Order, while living separately in their own monasteries, share the same rule and follow a unique model in the person of their founding Father, Saint Bruno.
The Carthusian does not live alone as the Carthusian monastery is a community. Nevertheless, he will pass the greater part of his life in his cell where he prays, works, takes his meals, and sleeps. During the course of the week, he only leaves three times a days for offices and communal mass: in the middle of the night, the Night Office, the morning Eucharist and Vespers towards the night.
The Carthusian can be a cloistered monk or a brother, two different ways of living the same vocation of solitude.
This solitude is not lived for its own sake, but as a privileged means of attaining intimacy with God.
No one can follow this path if not called by God. The discernment of this call (
vocation) asks that we make a retreat of two weeks at the monastery. Other than this, Carthusians never receive retreatants.
Almost all our homes were built along the same basic principles: a grouping of hermitages (or "cells") linked to one another by a cloister which ends at the communal grounds: church, refectory, and the Chapter, separated by the entrance door by the workshops and the lodging of the monk in charge of the day to day running of the house. There are the "main" homes (like La Grande Chartreuse, with over 30 cells) and the "lesser" homes (like Portes, in the French region of Ain, which retains many primitive aspects of a charterhouse)
At la Grande Chartreuse the Museum of la Correrie allows one to have an idea of the Carthusian life.

After watching this very moving film, I did a bit of searching online and discovered there is a Carthusian monastery in the U.S (in southern Vermont) . Their site is: .

A word of caution: This film is pretty long... it shows an entire year in the lives of the monks at the Grande Chartreuse Monastery, complete with fabulous scenic shots of the surrounding mountains and the changing of the seasons. Many of the shots are of very mundane things associated with the daily requirements of living...

My thoughts after watching this film were that we are so very blessed to have these contemplative orders offering their prayers for the world.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cathedral of St. John Berchmans Altar

Here is a photo of the altar at St. John Berchmans. Unfortunately, since the photos were taken at night, you cannot see how beautiful the stained glass windows are. The five windows surrounding the altar are depictions of the sorrowful mysteries...
Another thing not quite visible in this photo is the bishop's seat that is directly behind the altar in the photo. Apparently when the renovations were done to allow for versus populum Masses, a portion of the altar rail was removed in the front, from which they constructed the bishop's seat. Unfortunately, they placed it directly in front of the tabernacle on the high altar. So, the tabernacle had to be moved to one of the side altars in the church. It doesn't seem quite right to make Jesus move to make room for the bishop, does it? Ah, well, so much was preserved in this cathedral, it is hard to complain...
The schola will be singing the entire propers and ordinaries on March 30th at the cathedral. It should be a great day!

Here is another photo of the beautiful altar at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans in Shreveport, Louisiana. This photo was taken this evening. I have more to post... but it will have to wait another day. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Alive and Young post... a must read!

Alive and Young has a great post paraphrasing a few of Jesus' parables in Cajun speech... enjoy!

This reminded me of some of the wonderful tales we would hear when we lived in Belle Chasse... Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes... just the rhythm of the speech. I know I was changed forever from living down there with those wonderful folks... I quite often find myself answering a question: "yeah, baby".