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A humble suggestion regarding music and the new Mass translation August 27, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, North Deanery.
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I have read that many musicians in the Church, especially “music ministers,” are concerned that the new Mass translation approved for use starting November 27, 2011, will make much of the current worship music obsolete.  I believe this is true. Many of the all too commonly used, and often protestant-inspired, worship songs in seemingly unceasing use since the early 70’s will not fit the language of the new translation (praise be to God).  And so, the Catholic music industry, and make no mistake, it is that, is trying to rapidly gear up to provide updated versions of hymnals like “Rise Up and Praise,” “Glory and Praise,” and (uff da) “Journeysongs”. 

I know I am well known throughout North Texas for my mild ways and very meek suggestions.  If I may make one more humble suggestion, it would be this – for the love of God and for the sake of the cause of salvation for us all, let us please stop purchasing ANY hymnals from Oregon Catholic Publishing (OCP)!  This new Mass translation provides a truly glorious opportunity – a God given opportunity – to reinvigorate our Catholic identity, refamiliarize ourselves with our great patrimony in the Church, and to return to a practice of music that is far more distinctively Catholic, centered on Christ, and infinitely more transcendant and uplifting than much of what we have seen in the Church over the last several decades. 

Why do we not take advantage of the remaining 16 months until the introduction of the new Mass to try, very hard, to develop scholas in our parishes to sing Gregorian Chant from the St. Gregory Hymnal?  I know we have priests and others in this diocese, in the north deanery, who could lead a schola and provide training and practice sessions.  Gregorian Chant is challenging (at least at first), but it is such an august form of worship and so universally popular that any priest implementing this form of music in his parish would, I think, be extremely gratified with the results. OK, that might be hard – let us let that be a stretch goal.  For a reasonable goal of something that should be quite easy to implement by November 2011, how about the Adoremus Hymnal?  The Adoremus Hymnal is competitively priced with the hymnals available from OCP.  And it contains a treasure trove of traditional Catholic hymns that can be sung by all.  Another alternative is the New St. Basil Hymnal, also very competitively priced. 

My point is not so  much to pump for a given hymnal, as to encourage pastors and music ministers to think beyond the normal Haugen/OCP offerings.  Let us take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to not only renew the formal Liturgy of the Mass, but also the music!  This is such a glorious time, a time of true, authentic renewal – I pray that all my readers may consider passing this request along to their pastor or music minister at their local parish, if they, too, would like to see more transcendent, more beautiful, more timeless and glorious music in celebrations of the Mass.  And please pray that we may truly worship God and sing His praises with music that is both distinctively Catholic and centered entirely on rendering all glory and honor to God.

Some selections from the Adoremus Hymnal below:

Happy Belated Birthday, Mother Theresa! August 27, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, General Catholic.
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Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Theresa.  Remember, celebrations in honor of this auspicious occasion are ongoing at St. James parish in Dallas.  Via Orbis Catholicus, a wonderful side by side picture of Mother Theresa.  Who knew?

Fr. George Rutler slays ‘liturgists’ August 27, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, Latin Mass.
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Especially, those liturgists who have given us the current English translation of the Liturgy.  Fr. Rutler is a very erudite man with his own show on EWTN and is the Pastor of Our Saviour Parish in NYC.  Fr. Rutler, and writes today about the clamor over the updated and vastly improved English translation of the Mass (and Ad Orientem, and the whole New Order):

 A genius of the Latin rite has been its virile precision, even bluntness. Contrast this with the unsettled grammar of “alternative opening prayers” in the original books from ICEL (the International Commission on English in the Liturgy), whose poesie sounds like Teilhard on steroids.

They were much wordier than the Latin collects or their English equivalents, and gave the impression of having been composed by fragile personalities who had not had a happy early home life. So too, the Prayers of the Faithful cloyingly pursued “themes” usually inspired by an undisciplined concern for air pollution and third world debt.

I think there should be few options in the Liturgy, and no attempt to be “creative,” for that is God’s particular talent. As Vatican II taught in Sacrosanctum Concilium, “[T]here must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”

Unfortunately, we have not yet resolved the problem of the simply bad Lectionary texts. While the Jerusalem Bible and Revised Standard Version are licit, only the Revised New American Bible is accessible for parish use. The Jerusalem Bible is a tool for study but was translated with a tin ear.

I grew up with the King James translation and thus am stunned when Job 38:17 (“Hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?”) is given as “Have you met the janitors of Shadowland?” So Sheol becomes a theme park.

But none of this matches the torture of the trans-gendered RNAB which manages to neuter every creature except Satan who remains male. Our Lord sometimes sounds like the Prince of Wales: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world …?” and other times like a bored anthropologist: “Two people went up to the temple to pray….” But then the inevitable pronouns kick in and we find out that even after the liturgical gelding, these were men.

The Liturgy by grace changes lives. Any pastor who is blessed with an abundance of priestly vocations in his parish knows that they come in spite of epicene worship, demotic liturgy committees, and flailing song leaders. They simply join the chorus of the Greeks: “Sir, we would see Jesus.” I recall a prelate saying that even as a seminarian he hoped one day to be able to say Mass facing the people. It was a revealing statement, inasmuch as when he said Mass he seemed annoyed that the Lord was sometimes getting in the way.

While I am glad for the new and more accurate translation of the Mass, which is not perfection but closer to it than one deserves in an imperfect world, a far more important reform would be the return of the ad orientem position of the celebrant as normative. It is the antidote to the tendency of clerisy to impose itself on the people. When a celebrant at Mass stops and says, “This is not about me,” you may be sure he thinks it may be about him. It would be harder for him to harbor that suspicion were he leading the people humbly to the east and the dawn of salvation.

What a wit.  And, I think his diagnoses of some of the most egregious problems that have developed with the Mass are very well taken.  I think the change from Ad Orientem was huge in terms of radically redefining the popular conception of the Mass.  I think Versus Poplum has reduced the Mass immeasurably.  I think it’s a major reason so few Catholics take the Eucharist seriously anymore.

On the silence of pastors August 27, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, General Catholic, sadness, Society.
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A priest from the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, addresses the problem of priests refusing to challenge the culture and proclaim Truths of the Faith clearly from the pulpit:

One of the more consistent concerns I hear expressed here on the blog about priests and bishops is the problem of too much silence from us. There seems to be quite a hunger from many of you to hear from us more cogently and consistently on matters of the faith, moral law, and the cultural breakdown. There is frustration that more is not said about critical matters. Although I know of many heroic exceptions to this problem I will admit that the big picture does no always look too pretty. Too many Catholic preachers are content to speak in abstractions and generalities and fear offending with too many specifics. This has meant that important moral issues go unaddressed and that the faith has been poorly handed on for many decades now.

That said I also want to express a little frustration from the clergy side of the equation. While it is true that many people want us to say many things about many issues they still want Mass to be out in 45 minutes and the sermon to be 7-10 minutes. [Not this Catholic!  At the parishes where we attend Sunday Mass, the sermon is usually 20-30 minutes long.  I expect Sunday Mass to last around 1.5 hours – WOOT! – ED.] This presents a challenge in covering all the many issues of our day and it seems a little more time has to be taken to effectively address matters of the faith and the meltdown of our culture. Seven minutes a week to hand on the faith compared to dozens of hours per day of  exposure to worldly influence is hardly a good balance. I am not asking for interminable sermons but we do have to have more time than merely to present a ”thought for the week” if we are going to win this battle.

OK, the priest (Msgr. Charles Pope) then goes on to quote St. Gregory the Great and his exhortations to priests to proclaim the Faith boldly and repeatedly.  You should read all of those quotes.  He finishes with a call to prayer:

Well you know what you need to do. Pray for us who are clergy and leaders. An old saying is true, corruptio optimi pessima (the corruption of the best is the worst) or again, I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered (Matt 26:31). It is easy to criticize the clergy and well we deserve some of it. But realize this too, Satan has targeted the clergy, your bishop and your priests. It is easier for him to knock out the leaders than to go after the whole flock. Hence he targets bishops, priests and deacons. Send up your prayers as a hedge of protection around us. Pray for clergy who have become distracted and worldly. Pray for clergy who fear man more than God. Pray for clergy who have fallen under the burden of office. Pray for clergy who have been deceived by the evil one. Pray, pray, pray!

I agree with all of the above.  I think alot of priests are intimidated by the prospect of angry parishioners from speaking plainly on certain subjects, notably, divorce and remarriage, contraception, homosexuality, and, of course, abortion.  Some will discuss one or two of the above as a sort of touchstone, especially abortion, but ignore the others.  Priests are under all kinds of pressure, it is true.  I don’t think we can understand fully all the burdens they operate under.  So, we must pray for our priests.  At the same time, it is not inappropriate to challenge our priests to do their best to forget what the world (and their parishioners) think, and just proclaim the doctrine of the Faith.  Easy to say, yes, but also completely necessary to do.  God did not call them to the august priesthood in order to please people, or even to serve people, primarily – He called them to proclaim his Truth and offer the Sacraments for men’s Salvation.  That is their first and highest calling.

The death penalty August 27, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, General Catholic, Society.
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Bishop Robert Finn, the generally fine bishop of Kansas City, MO, has written an article entitled Divine Mercy and the Death Penalty, to be formally released during the USCCB’s Respect Life month in October.  In it, Bishop Finn lays out the Church’s position, expounded most recently in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae by Pope John Paul II, that the death penalty should not be used in virtually any case:

In January of 1999, Pope John Paul II made a pastoral visit to St. Louis. When he met with Governor Mel Carnahan of Missouri, the Holy Father asked him to commute the death sentence of Darrell Mease, who was scheduled to be executed in the next weeks. Carnahan granted the Pope’s wish, saying he was moved by the Pope’s appeal for mercy.

The Pope did not request a reevaluation of the merits of the condemned man’s case. Rather, he presented a simple and straightforward petition for mercy. The sentence was changed from death by lethal injection to life imprisonment without parole. The common good of society remained protected from the perpetrator. Justice was not confounded, but a higher purpose was served in putting aside the irreversible remedy of death.

The Church’s stance on capital punishment has always been based on the responsibility to protect society. St. Thomas Aquinas says that the legitimate civil authority is obliged to defend people from a dangerous criminal. At the same time, he cautions, “The execution of the wicked is forbidden wherever . . . the wicked are not clearly distinguished from the good.” (Summa Contra Gentiles V., Book III, c.146). Besides reminding us of well-known cases where innocent people were condemned to die, this should remind us that as Christians we are urged not to see anyone as irredeemably wicked.

An alternative to the death penalty

Prior to his intervention in St. Louis, Pope John Paul had laid out his case for the limitation of the use of the death penalty in his encyclical The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) (1995) and in his extraordinary 1997 modification of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). He still allowed for the application of the death penalty as a just choice that authority may make in its responsibility to safeguard society from the unjust aggressor. Yet the revised text goes on to say: “Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.’”

The sworn responsibility of authority to secure the common good is not easily laid aside. But here the Church, convinced that society can be protected without executing dangerous criminals, charges us to look to a less violent, less final remedy. The Catechism directs us to a solution that preserves the common good without definitively curtailing the individual good of the perpetrator, offering him the opportunity for redemption. Each man, no matter how sinful and flawed, has a final purpose and call to salvation, one that we ought not too easily or unnecessarily preempt.

The above is the “ought” for laying aside the death penalty: legitimate authority can fulfill its responsibility using lesser but sufficient means for protecting the common good. But we should add that the argument of Divine Mercy, while never violating justice, transcends the human “ought.”

I’m wondering what my readers think of this?  My own views of the death penalty have changed quite a bit to more conform with what the Church has revealed over the last several decades.  At one time, I was a big supporter of the death penalty, and now, I am almost entirely opposed, although I do think the Church, at least in articles like this and even in Evangelium Vitae, does not take into account the feelings of victims families sufficiently.  It may not be the highest virtue, but most victims families claim to receive great peace and closure from seeing the condemned put to death.  These families are possibly deficient in mercy, but, not being in their place, it is difficult for me to say to them that they are wrong to seek this form of justice.  This is the only area where I still struggle with the issue of the death penalty.

One other thought, and a rather odd one, perhaps – the Church as instituted by Christ is impossible without there having been a death penalty to cause Christ’s sufferings and to allow for His Ressurection. 

Is it possible to see in the case of the woman condemned by the pharisees to stoning for adultery a prohibition on death as a form of justice?