Sunday, December 05, 2010


Local Television Report and Obituary
click link above

Bishop John Steinbock, leader of the Diocese of Fresno, died this morning at 3:15 a.m. at St. Agnes Medical Center in Fresno surrounded by family and friends, said Msg. Ray Dreiling at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Visalia. Steinbock was diagnosed in August with Stage 3 lung cancer.
"He went very fast," Dreilng said.
On Saturday afternoon, Dreiling went to Fresno to say his goodbyes to the Bishop.
Although he was unconscious, Dreling said he spoke to him and offered a blessing.
"I told him that I loved him," he said. "I told him 'You're the best Bishop a priest could ever have.'"
Steinbock came to the Diocese of Fresno 19 years ago from Los Angeles, Dreiling said. He was last in Visalia to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation in the spring at St. Mary's.
Memorials for the Bishop and Mass times have not been scheduled yet, he said.
His successor will be appointed by Pope Benedict XVI following an investigative process, he said. In the meantime, a priest will be elected by a board of diocesan priests to run the day to day operations of the diocese which stretches roughly from the coastal mountains to the Nevada border and from Mariposa County to Frazier Park.

Bishop was clearly, from day one, a man of and for El Pueblo de Dios. The one affectation of his that I'll always remember was ironically related to another thread going on now about English diction: bishop said the word "believe" always with one syllable- "b'leve." It was an endearing oddity. As a believer, however, he appeared the genuine article. And as faithful a pastor and shepherd in as convoluted, geographically and demographically challenging diocese that one could imagine. He restored fiscal integrity that had eroded. And though not being a particularly interested liturgist, he did always celebrate with evident joy and with, again, genuine faith evident to all. Like all bishops in this era, any detractors fomented secretly and sometimes anonymously on the net and in small, "when sheep attack" cabals to no avail. He always preached and practiced reconciliation and redemption first and foremost, for his people and, when needed, for his priests that needed his counsel, direction and encouragement. If his liturgical savvy wasn't everyone's cup of tea, he more than compensated for that with his unwavering commitment to social justice and gospel values. His tastes were of the people as well. I think that as much as he would love to have presided over one more Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, what the Rock now has dubbed "American Catholicism's primary holiday," he seemed quite prepared to celebrate her feast in her presence personally if that was God's will. And he, even in the last few days, kept a conscious interest in calling some of his pastor priests from his bed and checking up on local projects and interests, which in some cases proved disconcerting for the priest on the other end of the line! But that was typical Bishop John.

He "b'leved" in His Lord and savior Jesus, the Holy Spirit and his Heavenly Father with a ever present smile during his homilies. He also "b'leved" in the essential inclination of his fellow humans towards goodness and charity. And he lived as he "b'leved."

This morning's Masses heard Lloyd-Webber's "Pie Jesu" as a prelude, the Introit Antiphon "Requiem" and a congregational singing of "In paradisum" in Latin at the dismissal and recessional of the pastor.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

 Interesting week thus far in St. Blogs-

While being corrected and rebuffed (or “re-Ruffed©,” which I will copyright!) for the umpteenth time at PrayTell, the good (I mean that) monk referred me to a rejoinder earlier in the combox in which he ‘splained his admonition towards those who can’t keep their respective liturgical and gospel values in proportion:

“And for those traditionalists who are too easily offended: there’s really no reason, from a Christian standpoint, for putting down where someone was in the past, or where the Church was in the past.”

It actually occurred to me that, after admonishing me to “calm down,” he was referring me to that post and quote as if it was SOP, Standard Operating Procedure, to typify my objectionable (to him) commentary as justification for plopping “Charles Culbreth” right down into the bin labeled “traditionalists.”

And on the heels of that realization naturally rose within me the obvious, “He don’t know me vewy well, do he?” Ergo,


*A Christian believer who tries to yield always to God’s will, rather than my own…
*An artist who believes that God endowed to me particular talents…
*A leader of other talented Christians who desire to thank God
  with use of those same talents given them.
*That leader who, over many years, tries to be both
*An example and witness to Christ’s two ultimate commandments and
*An intentional, obedient disciple to Him and the Church He founded
*A failure on numerous, incalculable occasions to manifest that discipleship
*A soul who rejoices in God, My Savior and
*An instrument, like our Virgin Mother Mary, which magnifies Him
*A sinner who is called to repent of misdeeds and ill thoughts
*A joyful spirit, who accepts forgiveness,
  offers reconciliation with confidence in God
*A seeker in mind, heart and soul; who recognizes strangers first as friends
*A singer of songs, a composer of melodies, an instrumentalist in God’s service
*A fellow traveler towards salvation, a host to those in need,
  a listener more than orator
*Not alone, but am of free will to enjoin with other souls in communion with His will.
*And not a category, a diminution, a reduction, a type, a belligerent, an adversary.
*And certainly not whatever another, for good or ill, 
  would make me, save Christ my Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria, Amen.

I suppose I could have employed dynamic equivilency for all of that:
"Don't Fence Me In!"

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What you need to master...
if you want to chant or sing

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

O Quam Gloriosum-
Tomas Luis de Victoria
Dear Schola Members,
Now and then we can thank God for "modernity" when it serves beauty from of antiquity!
Enjoy and learn....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Over at the Musica Sacra Forum, I alluded to the LA Guitar Quartet's virtuosity. I've also shared there the encounter I had one summer workshop with Paul Salamunovich, where I gave him a CD containing the following version of his protege, Morton Lauridsen's famous "Dirait on" from Rilke's Flower Poems. Here is a YouTube performance that has the LAGQ version with some shadow imaging.
I would like to dedicate this post to our bishop, John Steinbock, who is ailing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

November 21, 2010
From our pastor, as well as some published news sources:
Bishop John's blood clotting issues have both presented in his legs, but more urgently in his lungs. By what was said, I infer he is not intibated, but is receiving oxygen constantly in the ICU via mask delivery. He cannot receive any visitations, apparently even from our Vicar General. 
I realize that in the narrow, earth-bound bandwith of the web (apt term, that) that is Satan's playground, there are many who have leveled criticism at our bishop, other bishops as well as the priesthood in general over the last generation for various earned and presumed reasons. But all that aside, we cannot fail to be Christians toward any soul in need of comfort, and particularly those of our ordained clergy.
Who among us has not injured others as well as having been injured? It's very simple, everyday 24/7- we are to love one another as He loved us.
Pray for Bishop John, because he has prayed for us, and we will need the prayers of others as we are put to the test. It is our measure, make no mistake.  

November 15, 2010

Bishop John Steinbock has been hospitalized in critical, but stable condition. A spokesperson for Saint Agnes Medical Center confirmed he is being treated there, but would not say why he was hospitalized. The Bishop for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno announced in August that he had lung cancer.

As we look forward to this potentially momentous week as our bishops convene, one of their brothers will not be in attendance. Bsp. John Thomas Steinbock was diagnosed with a st.3/4 level of lung cancer just over a month ago, and is currently hospitalized at St. Agnes Hospital due to blood clotting issues. He has, according to all sources, remained upbeat and confident that he will come out of this current hospitalization, get in a round or two.

Though he'd likely not describe himself as a particularly liturgically savvy celebrant, he has always demonstrated an obvious love of the Lord as a celebrant, and an ardent advocate for social justice, right to life, youth ministries, R/E and a myriad of ecclesial concerns.

When you have a moment....

Through Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

How Do You Solve a Problem Named "Marty?"

This is in response to a new poster over at the Musica Sacra Forum who's taken a DM position and is definitely a Reform of the Reform kind of director, as is his pastor that recently hired him. He has a a program that includes a small, but proficient traditional choir, cantors and.....

However, there is a small group in the choir that forms an "ensemble" that performs once a month at mass. This is a group of four people...three guitars and one bass guitar. They play Haugen and other songs in the same style and only want a piano as an embellishment (sic) to their guitars.

What is the best approach to begin "converting" this group over to more traditional forms of music and get them to accept my wishes for the music program without offending them and having them leave the choir? The prior music coordinator was there for over 20 years and was very loose with her ensembles and allowed questionable practices. I don't want to be the big bad new director who is trying to create emenies.

Has anyone else experienced this problem, and what have you done to slowly move away from this kind of polarization?

Could you provide some additional information? Some questions will follow this response.

I would suggest that the notion of “conversion” is a misnomer. People do “convert” by persuasion or coercion, but mostly people “evolve” as they survive and/or thrive. I also would ask whether you mean to accept your influence and leadership by your credentials as the “coordinator,” or by your taking the time to integrate (take it or leave it, you are now part of the “body” that is your parish and its ministerial groups) your talents as musician, leader and liturgical resource? Two things indicate that your influence might be welcomed, your skills as a keyboardist, and that the pastor supports and shares your “vision.” Whatever you’ve heard inferred about the previous coordinator’s legacy remains a moot point; you are simply on track if you really want not to emerge onto the scene like Moses with some smokin’ new commandments. First of all, you’ll need to remember that these four people likely regard themselves as just as much family, or fellow travelers than just a long-lived ensemble. Whether their musical chops are decent, great, static or insufficient is irrelevant to what your job is: you’re called to help them evolve in their skills of choosing, preparing, leading and performing worship music that is in concert with the mind and laws of the Church, and to lives as prayerful and faithful Christians. So, are you prepared to greet and meet them at their level, and then offer your skills to augment their modalities successfully, and gain their trust, respect and interest in your influence?


*Has either the former coordinator or the leader of the ensemble kept a decent catalog of their “Orders of Music” for whatever number of years? You must have a much more thorough knowledge of their repertoire choices for Ordinaries, Psalters and (presumably) songs/hymns that have comprised the majority and preferences of that repertoire. Typifying this aspect as “Haugen” isn’t beneficial. You might find that certain pieces performed regularly are musically, liturgically and textually a cut above, and be able to show them appreciation for those choices with some sort of “attaboy.”

*If there are no such records easily accessible, make the time to meet with the ensemble (leader) and do a thorough inventory of what they have “in stock” based upon the hymnal or worship aide that is used.

*What is that primary music source? GIA Ritualsong, Gather; OCP MI/BB?.....

*Informally assess if they’ve ever ventured, as Kathy suggested, beyond the genre of the sacropop song? Have they interpreted hymns, or even chants with their plucked/strummed guitars and bass?

*Are they first and foremost, competent and capable vocalists and leaders of the sung text? Do they work on basic skills of blend, balance, good tessitura choices for the congregations they lead, etc. Do they insure that the melody voice is pre-eminently necessary without being over bearing? Do they obscure the melody by an inclination towards incessant harmonization or vocal improvisation?

*Are their performance skills relatively similar? Do they all strum? Do they arpeggiate either with flat picks or finger picking? Do they obviously demonstrate that notated chord inversions are observed, if not understood? Does the bass player also understand that such note movement is important towards the artful rendition of such songs; a.k.a. not always playing the root of a given chord? Do the guitarists prepare each song with a variety of interpretive methods: transposition via capoing that adds to the sonorities that support the song melody in wider registers?

*Have they demonstrated interest in expanding their repertoire and modalities, even if only for their own benefit, if not the parish’s?

*Can they read new material off the page, or are they dependent upon recordings?

*Have they attended any skills improvement events sponsored by their diocese or NPM or such?

These sorts of “information gathering” tasks might provide this group and other musicians the notion that you don’t regard “them,” prima facie, as a “problem” but an opportunity. Polarization is a problem, but not a normal state of being. It is a human reaction to conflict between intractable parties. There is nothing inherently wrong with allotting sufficient time to the task called “getting to know you, getting to know ALL about you.” And that works two ways.

Monday, October 18, 2010


With full disclosure, our Advent/Christmas Annual Concert title is a misnomer, though it’s meant as a quaint and humble homage to our founder. Though it’s hard to imagine, Christmas music, carols especially, have proven not to be the centerpiece of sacred seasonal concerts of a hundred-years yore.
We have endeavored to reconstruct a facsimile of “American” Roman Catholic music as it was practiced and heard during the years of Fr. Dade’s formation and service in Philadelphia, and what of that repertoire might have eventually emigrated with him to California, Visalia and St. Mary’s. In addition, we have researched period catholic hymnals of the mid to late 19th century for carol texts, Spanish-language “villançicos” and other song forms that would have likely been sung during Fr. Dade’s tenure as Visalia’s pastor.
Virtually the only musical forensic evidence in Fr. Dade’s biography, THE APOSTLE OF THE VALLEY, denotes that “entertainments” that included music and dance benefited the building of the second church building in 1872 and that the parish did have an organist/music teacher for the parish school children. Speculation about exact musical pieces is all that remains from that. However, the book states “, “Music was provided by a quartet who went in a special conveyance from Visalia; they rendered ‘Peter’s Mass in D’ ‘ in a beautiful and impressive manner.”
Thanks be to God, the very pleasant agents of the Library of Congress and the University of Louisville, we were able to locate that very Mass setting and secure copies. Before discussing this work and others, I must also give great appreciation to my colleagues Ed Teixeira (Organist/Director-St. David’s, Richmond CA), Dr. Doug Shadle, (Musicologist at the U. of Lousiville), and Dr. Mike O’Connor, (Musicologist of Palm Beach Atlantic University), for providing veins of sheer gold for me to mine.
The “Peter” of the “Mass in D Major” was composed by Williams Cummings Peters, whose personal history is associated with the great Stephen Foster. Peters was a noted Catholic choir director who also compiled and published a number of catholic hymnals that bore striking resemblance to the forms of denomination hymnals of that era, using the terms “Harmonist” and “Harp,” as in the famed “Sacred Harp” school of shape note singing used for worship and music literacy. Peters’ Mass is grounded in a sort of Hadyn meets Mozart European style. The two movements from the Mass that we will perform are the Gloria (most appropriate as it is the hymn the angels sang to the newborn Christ at His Nativity) and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God.) The Gloria contains a pastiche of melodic “scenes” which could lightly be called “text painting.”
Another great “find” was an emigrant German Philadelphian composer, Albert RoSewig (b.1846) who had many Victorian-era hymns, carols and motets. The choir will sing my arrangement of his setting of the AVE MARIA, as well as his setting of a Communion motet “O Salutaris Hostia” and another period piece for Christmas.
An amazing piece that we will feature is yet another Philadelphian, J. Remington Fairlamb’s “Great” TE DEUM, a hymn of praise sung at the New Year and at great feast days. This piece is significant in that Fairlamb uses English rather than Latin (unusual for the era) and for some compelling musical harmonic devices that are unique to my ear. Fairlamb was designated by Abraham Lincoln to be a consul to Switzerland as well!
More traditional carols such as “Adeste Fideles” and “What Child is This?” we have located in the “Young Catholic’s Hymnal” circa 1870 that contain verse lyrics that are stunningly different than those we sing today. We will enjoin the audience in the singing of these “discovered” texts.
As mentioned earlier, the choirs will also sing Christmas “villançicos.” These are a hybrid form of European polyphonic motets with native (Nahuatal) folk idioms of the post-conquisition and missionary era in Mexico. They are incredibly beautiful Spanish “carols.” Though there is no evidence that this music was sung in St. Mary’s, there is plenty of evidence they were sung daily across the central coast range in the Franciscan missions in this era.
And we will be joined by our own Gregorian Schola of St. Francis, led by Ralph Colucci, for a selection of Advent, Nativity and Epiphany proper chants that were hopefully sung by the children's choir in those pioneer times.
We hope the entire Visalia music-loving community will join us at 4pm, December 18th for our “antique” concert celebrating our history.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Stephen Hawking, Dies Irae and
Lux Aeterna
A Disordered Universe

What do you, me, Stephen Hawking and Christopher Hitchens have in common with every other sentient biological being on this or other planets? We all know not for whom the bell tolls at any given moment, and that at one singular moment that bell will toll for our mortal lives.
What of the differences between Professor Hawking and Mr. Hitchens and most other humans on the planet? Is it their respective contributions to the sciences and literary arts that attest to lives fully lived despite profound encumbrances and virtually intolerable challenges? Is it their shared resolve that “G*d” can be totally dispensed with once and for all; reduced to the status of a frontal lobe or an appendix? Just incise them from the body and we’ll all be the better for it.
Rail on, Dr. Hawking! Rant on, Mr. Hitchens. And more power to both of you if power of thought is the prime mover in your self regard and existence. And when your respective bells toll (none too soon I hope), I pray you greet Carl Sagan, Mark Twain and René Descarte with salutations from the rest of us.

The highly publicized excerpt from Dr. Hawking’s forthcoming

"Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing," the excerpt says. "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to ... set the Universe going."

I wonder if anyone (as I’m too lazy to google and find out actually) noticed that someone capitalized the word “universe” in this excerpt? I am happy to not contend whether there is some specific intent or agenda, either on Hawking’s part or whomever edited the excerpt. But it is likewise difficult to ignore that capital “U” as signifying a mere semantical substitution of one entity, the personal entity that is the invoked “God,” for the impersonal, substantial and observable entity known as the “universe.” But, whether it is mere wordplay, Hawking’s words reverences the laws of his universe in an absolute manner that is not much different than the processes of prayer and ritual. Or so I think.

To Diane Sawyer, he continued “What could define God ... as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people would think of that God," Hawking told Sawyer. "They made a humanlike being with whom one can have a personal relationship. When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible."
When Sawyer asked if there was a way to reconcile religion and science, Hawking told her, "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."

At first I thought Hawking was confusing the existence of God with the meaning of religion. Silly me. He linked the two by invoking human industry and authority as being the original creator of “God.” We needed a superior, nee supreme being to made in our image, for what purpose Hawking only implies: because humans have always innately realized “how insignificant an(d) accidental human life is…..impossible…” even. That is some disordered thinking there, yes?! But if religion fails because it is founded upon a human invention, institution and, to Hawking its worst failing, authority, where has science succeeded and won when it, too, is dependent upon human observation, reason, deduction, and (surprise) authority? In the accidental universe, the self created Universe, science may indeed work, but to what end? The ultimate unified theory that explains it all once and for all, amen? And what if whichever scientist, a physicist, a molecular/neurological biologist, an anthropologist, a chemist, a mathematician, whomever lays it all out for us and posterity, where in all that is the meaning of it all? Or is that disordered, flawed human longing disguised as thought and reason, and thus irrational?

As Christians, we believe and profess that our own salvation and sanctification is our sole purpose in life. On so many levels, that revealed truth has ordered human existence and conduct: throughout history, among all societies and peoples since the proto-human creature had developed the capacity to comprehend that he did stand alone among all other creatures, and that he also understood that he couldn’t have been self-created. He was not alone, or an accident. There was, for him, Another. A Greater. A Creator. And in most of human hearts throughout time, that compelled a longing within the human creature. To be united with his Creator.

But likewise, there have likely always been a few human “hearts” a lack of longing that can only be filled by that which will ever remain a mystery while those hearts beat. That mystery must be explained only by what can be observed, tested, proven to the best of the intellect’s capacity. In the good professor’s circumstances, it is surely sensible and lamentable that given the genius and brilliant intellect with which he was endowed, to overcome the ironic gaol of his human condition and share his gifts with his profession and the world, he would also feel it necessary to finally choose to travel a path to his destiny alone. If that is his comfort and succor now, finally, we should bid him God’s speed and safe journey. It has been said that Mother Teresa said that God presents to each of us daily someone who is disfigured, but remains the very image of Christ. And we are thus daily provided with a sacred time to minister to that soul and its disorder as if it were Christ. By accepting that discipline daily we prepare ourselves for our own, ultimate and real encounter with the Risen Christ. In encountering those who reject us, we are provided the opportunity to receive God’s grace by our response to them, or to likewise lose His grace if we squander or ignore that opportunity in that very moment.

We believe that creation is ordered in, among other things, time. We have recognized the sacral nature of time in the rituals God has revealed and articulated for us. But within that order remains free will and randomness. Mark those moments with small professions of humility, the saints have told and shown us over centuries. “I love You, Lord Jesus….have mercy on me a sinner, Lord Jesus…….I thank You, Lord Jesus, for my life….” Keeping our “eye on the prize” means knowing we ultimately and only desire salvation and sanctification before our Maker, our Creator, our God.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam;
ad te omnis caro veniet.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
A hymn becomes you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall a vow be repaid in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer;
to you shall all flesh come.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them

Libera Me

Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna, in die illa tremenda:
Quando cæli movendi sunt et terra.
Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem.
Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo, dum discussio venerit, atque ventura ira.
Quando cæli movendi sunt et terra.
Dies illa, dies iræ, calamitatis et miseriæ, dies magna et amara valde.
Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Deliver me, O Lord, from death eternal on that fearful day,
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved,
when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
I am made to tremble, and I fear, till the judgment be upon us, and the coming wrath,
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved.
That day, day of wrath, calamity, and misery, day of great and exceeding bitterness,
when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.

In paradisum
In paradisum deducant te Angeli:
in tuo adventu suscipiant te Martyres,
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem.
Chorus Angelorum te suscipiat,
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem

May Angels lead you into paradise;
may the Martyrs receive you at your coming
and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.
May a choir of Angels receive you,
and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.

To me, that is the “stuff” of stars. Amen.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

In the solemn recreation of the ancient traditions and rites of the Hebrew Passover, the Christian Church integrates the chronicle of God’s creation of the universe, time, our earth and, of course, His people and the Covenants He established with us, and the progress of salvation history in much the same manner as the ancient Jews marked time during Passover while in exile, namely the re-telling of those sacred stories from what we now call the Old Testament. The night before the pre-eminent holy day in the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday, we celebrate the Great Vigil, in which moments of God’s interaction with His Chosen People are sequentially ordered and re-called from the scriptures. And this accounting begins with Genesis, chapter one, a virtual timepiece of our creation. The Great Vigil of Easter proceeds from this sacralized recounting of epochs of time to other liturgies (“works for the people”.) But I mention this to make crystal clear that ritually “marking time” has been integral to God’s plan of salvation from day one.

On September 8, 2010, the Catholic Churches of Visalia will mark the occasion of the birth of the mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patron saint of our parish, by celebrating a Solemn Vespers Service in the evening. This ritual event will also serve to initiate a year-long observance of the 150th year since the founding of St. Mary’s Church in Visalia by Father Daniel Dade. The Solemn Vespers Service will be an occasion when not only Roman Catholics, but Christians of all denominations who profess the ancient Christian creeds are most welcomed to attend and join in full participation. In the modern era, this service will also restore a practice of marking the hours of the day that Jesus himself, His apostles and followers of the Way practiced in apostolic times. Most adult Catholics of our times might only have a slight knowledge that our clergy: bishops, priests and deacons mark certain hours of each day by the recitation of the office, or the Liturgy of the Hours. But more and more laity are coming to know that this practice is not, in any way, restricted to ordained clerics through the spreading of information in media like EWTN Television, Immaculate Heart Radio, periodicals such as “Magnificat” and internet and smart-phone applications. And the daily office of hourly prayers isn’t a uniquely Catholic enterprise as well.

The order of worship of a vespers service is in union with this account from Acts 2:42- those baptized in Christ, after his resurrection “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the community, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” And from whom did this devotion proceed? From Jesus Christ, the very model and ideal of prayer to God. He provided us with the epitome of prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, as well as commanding us throughout His Ministry to “pray, ask and seek.” He taught us that not only is prayer necessary, but that it should be humble, vigilant, persevering, confident, single-minded and in conformity with God’s nature. In so many words, we Christians are called by our Savior to integrate prayer into each and every day’s regular activities, and consecrate our time and actions to the glory of God. This also serves to recognize Christ as both bridge and fulfillment of the Old Covenant with that of the New. The apostle Simon Peter, or Cephas, to whom Jesus entrusted His Church and three times exhorted to “feed my lambs, tend my sheep,” is also documented in Acts as having “went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour.” This practice evolved among the early apostolic Churches with traditional and common practices, including the custom of assigning common prayers to particular times, e.g. the last hour of daylight when lamps were lit and the daystar waned. The testament to this ancient Christian practice was documented by the Roman, Pliny the Younger, at the beginning of the 2nd century, where he speaks of liturgical reunions of the Christians in the morning and in the evening: "coetus antelucani et vespertini" (Ep., x, 97). Vespers is, therefore, together with Vigils, the most ancient Office known in the Church.
Vespers opens with the singing or chanting of the words. “O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen. Alleluia.” It is interesting to note that along with the ancient Greek, Phos Hilaron, which declares Christ as God’s eternal light, the Trinitarian “Glory be…” is also one of the most ancient hymns of the primitive church. After that a hymn pertinent to the holy feast day, in this case, the birth of Mary, is sung by the congregation. It is important to note that this exaltation of the mother of the Lord has never, nor does constitute worship of her person. It is in concert with the essential creed of belief in the sacred communion between souls awaiting Christ’s Second Coming (in heaven, for example) and those of us alive on earth in this moment. Then two psalms and a New Testament canticle or song are then sung or recited, which then concluded with the doxology (Glory be to the Father….). The psalms are preceded and followed with an antiphon, a common scriptural refrain sung or recited by all as well. After the psalms, there is a reading from the Bible. Then a short responsorial consisting of a verse, a response, the “Glory be…” follows the scripture reading. Then the congregation sings the Magnificat — the canticle from the Gospel of Luke I:46-55. Prayers are then offered, followed by the Our Father, and then the closing prayer.
It is clear to see that the Solemn Vespers, as do all liturgies, have as their source, Holy Scripture from both Testaments. The community of Christian-Catholic believers of Visalia hope to see people of all traditions on September 8th filling the pews of St. Mary’s in Christian solidarity.

Friday, July 09, 2010

What I’ve found ironic and interesting is that both here and on the MS Forum we’ve engaged in a fair amount of chatter about……what? Chant? Polyphony? Orchestral Masses? Nope, the ironic part is that due to the “FIRST THINGS” Casey Kasem Top Ten article, we’ve bandied about a large amount of discussion about so-called “Contemporary Worship Music.” As regards that specific article, I’ve said my peace.
However, in light of continued discussion in other threads, I’d like to offer some suggestions for DM’s who must wrestle with the yearly concerns of subscription missal/hymnal publications, and also who are charged with overseeing the programming responsibilities of subordinate musical personnel, such as organists,cantors, ensembles and choirs, to whom license is provided to make their own weekly decisions as to repertoire.
First of all, as a relatively still new member of CMAA, (with four decades of service under a very oversized belt) I absolutely recommend those obvious strategies outlined by Dr. Mahrt, Fr. Keyes, Jeffrey Tucker, Mary Jane Ballou and others have addressed at colloquia, intensives and in “Sacred Music” articles. Namely, hold sessions for musicians and other interested parties (like PRIESTS) that clarify the necessity of familiarization with liturgical legislative documents; prioritize and disseminate information about the role of the proper processional antiphons; clarify the variety of roles that the constituent parties engage in at Mass, such as the responsibility of celebrants to sing their orations versus recitation whenever possible, or which portions of the liturgies have options as to who, what, where, why and how a choir or cantor should be the primary performer of select “movements” and which demand total active participation by the whole congregation. This is Liturgy 101. We can all think of other aspects that must be in place prior to engaging your colleagues with your expertise and direction as advice worthy of their consideration to put into practice.
In another thread I mused that there’s another dimension in the universe where we DM’s could dial in our hymnal content to THE BIG THREE and they would obligingly, gleefully print our boutique annual hymnals. Well, that’s likely not going to happen soon. So, if you are a DM or responsible for choosing repertoire from a subscription or seasonal newsprint hymnal I suggest you get used to this notion: You must plow through that book with a fine toothed comb not only when the first perusal copy hits your mailbox, but virtually each week. Much that I’ve garnered through anecdotal and direct observation is that second-tier music leadership relies upon- A. a personal stable of favorites that they simply trust will always be in each year’s issue; and B. the publishers’ shill periodicals that enable the musician to do the Chinese Restaurant menu choice method of programming. Neither of those strategies benefits a parish’s growth towards enhanced music that is sacred, beautiful and universal.
So, in my case, two years ago, when our parish merged with three others, I created a basic informational tool for my musical corps- a spreadsheet review of literally every enumerated musical item in the OCP Breaking Bread Hymnal. In addition to the fields of title, composer/hymn tune, seasonal/general assignment, etc., I applied MY own overall grade of worthiness to each selection using the A to F curricular adjudication. I then had another field in the spreadsheet if I felt a need to explain the grade. If I wanted to push a tune with an A grade, I would give short phrase reasons, the same for poorly graded pieces. This is a fair amount of work, but it accomplishes a few obvious goals, and some others that are oblique. Obviously, such a document provides your crew with benchmarks that clearly state how the DM values or regards the hymnal content, piece by piece and in toto. If I grade “Blest Be the Lord” as a “D” with a small mention that its genre is dated or simply hokey, a cantor at least knows that if s/he employs it, it is not in concert with what I consider ideal. A more subtle benefit is that by providing a comprehensive, simple review, a DM is communicating to all, “I know this book and this publisher backwards, forwards and in my sleep. Elaine R. McQueeny and Fred Moleck have their tents in Portland and Chicago. Charles’ office is next to the church.” All the CD/Itunes recordings done in studio or cathedral environments for demonstration purposes have all sorts of lipstick and façade product slathered within that won’t be there with the lonely guitar player or lead-sheet pianist looks at a cantor’s choice and says “How does this go?” Your musical staff must know that you know your stuff and are willing to place a tangible value upon some of their “favorites” that will discomfort them, or more hopefully encourage them to expand their “stable.”

Another strategy is scheduling parish reading sessions open to musical staff and parishioners in general. Scheduling is a real problematic issue, not just because of personal issues, but seasonal demands. But, OCP (for example) ships in annual hymnals well in advance of Advent I. Even if you have tremendous rehearsal or administrative demands preparing for Advent/Christmas/Epiphany, I believe the DM review process can be accomplished as soon as perusal copies come in advance of the shipment. And then try to schedule the public reading session for items in the mid-autumn with about an hour and a half of selections that are new to the yearly issue and most worthy of consideration; it doesn’t matter what genre of style. Worthiness (sacred, universal and beautiful) is the highest priority. If this cannot be accomplished in autumn, then it must happen in the first weeks of Ordered Time prior to Lent. I also recommend that you use the most basic of accompaniment instruments, no frills in the exposition. Personally, I never listen to demo recordings. I don’t ever read the keyboard accompaniment scores. I make my decisions after simply auditioning text and melody alone, period. So, the DM can then determine whether it is most appropriate for a piece to be accompanied solely by an organ, a piano, a guitar or combination of those three.
Then, after you’ve premiered these, your selections, poll your musical personnel as to which selections of their preference they would like “demonstrated” at a subsequent reading session. And have another session, perhaps post Pentecost through Trinity Sundays into summer ordinary time.
In both types of reading sessions, it is of paramount necessity for the DM to articulate in much more detail the aspects of each selection that make it either worthy or unsuitable for common usage. If you are diplomatic, no one will huff and puff at these sessions over your pronouncements because time is at a premium. They want to get through reading all the items on your program. And, of course, within your explanations, there must be the constant and consistent threads of how each selection adheres to “the paradigm” in terms of theological orthodoxy, relationship to the psalter and to propers, aesthetic issues inherent in both text (“Yeah, Your Grace IS ENOUGH, yeah…) and music (Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo, Oob la dee, Oob la da, life goes on…*, oh nevermind, let’s not go there.)
I’ll be doing my summer session soon, and one thing I will do is measure my own enthusiasm with my comportment. I will likely strive to deliver the direction of the session more with the quiet surety of Professor Mahrt, rather than the blowhard “Vince, the ShamWow Guy- You Gotta Hear Dis Great Song, You can’t live wit’out it!”
And remember rule number one: don’t talk too much. Keep them singing 95% of the time.
In the next installment of this article, I’ll demonstrate my approach to selecting pieces for reading sessions.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Do You Want a Moonroof and Satellite FM With That Hymnal?

More pragmatist than philosopher, I let an itinerant thought take root in m’ noodle and according to one’s POV, this thought is ovulating or metastasizing.
It’s likely that a vast majority of parishes either make the one time investment in a hardbound hymnal, or they subscribe to seasonal and yearly newsprint hymnal/missal products. The vast minority of parishes choose to self-publish weekly orders of music or “permanent parish hymnals” culled from various copyright-governed, common license or public domain sources. Some others make use of the “overhead projection” of power-pointed lyrics, licensed or, uh, otherwise.
So, let’s backtrack to the vast majority and focus upon the subscription-based parishes, such as mine. Here’s the germ idea: We are fortunate to live in a world where if you leave your 50 page, three color, glossy pictured proposal in the cab, you can use your smart phone and have one waiting for you by the time you arrive at the corporate reception desk, at least according to the advert I saw on the TV.
Okay, stay with me. For a modest surcharge, couldn’t the major RC American corporate publishers offer their core market parishes/dioceses a premium offer that allows the crafting of, essentially, boutique hymnals whose content is drawn from the publisher’s existing repertoire holdings, public domain sources and the creative commons sources that are sprouting like dandelions?
Still with me? Okay, let use our parish as a model and I’m the local editor. I’ll try to cut to the chase. First, I lose items in the ordinaries, psalter section (not from the missal section) and the hymnal that, after “pastoral consultation” among my peers and clergy, we concede to be dead-weight. We communicate those itemized decisions to the publisher’s agent and agree upon how many pages of content are now made vacant with a certain percentage of margin for error. Let’s say that I know that I want to include a number of additional chants from the publisher’s stand-alone product that contains such, ie. OCP’s “Laus et Tibi.” Let’s say that over the years the parish has purchased and maintained octavo versions of choral hymn concertatos, liturgical songs and ordinaries that once were included in former yearly editions of their missals, all of which have congregational version plates archived. Couldn’t they be accessed easily and added to the vacant pages? Let’s say that we still have a surplus of pages and we desire to include hymns, psalms, propers or whatever from either public domain sources such as the ICEL resource hymnbook, or the hymns found in the commons listed on the Musica Sacra website, or other sites similar to the Choral Public Domain Library (a wiki source) of works we find worthy of inclusion that the composers or license holders put “out there” gratis. Once content and layout are finalized, the publisher adds their surcharge to the amended yearly product, and the parish signs on the dotted line, and the publisher sends the master to their printer, and the custom hymnal shows up, bill gets paid, everybody happy!
I realize that all of this could simply be mounted at the parish level. But, I’ve been there. Once. One time. Back in the Seventies. I don’t care how accessible license permission can be obtained now, self-publishing is not in my future. But the Biggies have their protocols and printing companies already tooled-up. If I can order my Chevy Malibu with a heavenly host of options on Monday and it’s ready for delivery the next Monday, can’t the publishing market consider re-tooling for a still lucrative boutique hymnal market. I don’t see a downside for the publishing houses. Now, if I opt not to include Sebastian Temple’s “Take My Hands” in our boutique parish hymnal, maybe there will be a miniscule loss of royalty revenue to his heirs. If I take out all of one composers’ songs, such as that goofball Charles’s tunes, would the revenues lost by our parish subscription amount really affect Charles’ yearly income drastically. Doesn’t Charles have to churn out new product to keep building the profit pyramid? And if that’s good product, won’t my parish want that included in next year’s boutique hymnal?
I’ve been made aware by a publisher’s representative there are many complexities that seriously would apply specific problems to this proposed idea. The pioneer publisher Friends of the English Liturgy (FEL) once had a program wherein parishes could purchase loose-leaf versions of select songs culled from their library in large amounts that would constitute a “parish hymnal.” Also in the early 70’s. Can you say “Edsel?”
But if we cannot ever reach consensus that either a national hymnal (with its own set of issues) will supplant the free market publishers, or that the Graduale Romanum or Gregorian Missal will be mandated by the USCCB/FDLC/BCL – PTB’s, then cannot there be a reasonable, affordable and profitable (in many ways) alternative to the narrow monopoly of options with which we currently contend?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


As Wendy and I are preparing to adjourn from our jobs and attend this year's CMAA Colloquium on Sacred Music in Pittsburgh next week, I've been meeting with some of my musical associates who will assume "leadership" roles for the next two Sundays. In casual conversation with one of our cantors/accompanists, it was mentioned that my associate had a friend who heard from another parishioner that when our schola choir sings the Introit and Communio Propers (generally in English), that in this parishioner's opinion "the choir's just showing off, and the people can't join in."
Now, in charity, I don't know if that's totally a true representation of what was said, and were it true, that doesn't bother me. But it provided me with a reason to post on our parish website the following memo:

Some of our parishioners who regularly attend the 4:00 P.M. Vigil Mass, 8:30 A.M. and 10:00 A.M. Sunday Masses at Saint M’s might have wondered over the last two years: “What are those chants that the choir or cantor sings just before Mass begins with the Entrance Song, and the one right before the Communion procession?”
It’s also just as probable there are folks who have figured out the answers to that question without having asked myself, or another music minister or priest, and found the answer lies right in the Missal and the Breaking Bread Hymnal.
Those chants are listed, in bold print, as-
1- The Entrance Antiphon
2- The Communion Antiphon
The latter group of folks are more likely to attend daily Masses at our parishes, wherein they recite, not sing, those antiphons in place of an Entrance or Communion Hymn. So, they are aware that those “antiphons” are, if nothing else, prescribed elements of each Mass. In other words, they’re meant to be there.
What I would be willing to wager is that most parishioners, if asked, would not be able to identify the source term for these “antiphons.” That term is known as the Mass Propers. And what exactly does that mean and where did they come from? Well, actually, they’ve been an integral element of the Mass, in one form or another, since the very foundation of the Mass at the Last Supper and when Christ designated St. Peter to lead His Church, and the birth of the Church formally at the Feast of Pentecost.
There are many authoritative and legislative documents that provide all priests and the Faithful all the formal canonical “rules,” or rubrics, that are necessary to the celebration of Mass and other liturgies. One of the most important is known as “The General Instruction of the Roman Missal” or the “GIRM” in short.
The following is a brief excerpt from that Curial (Official Roman) document pertaining to singing at Mass:

The Importance of Singing

39. The Christian faithful who gather together as one to await the Lord's coming are instructed by the Apostle Paul to sing together psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (cf. Col 3:16). Singing is the sign of the heart's joy (cf. Acts 2:46). Thus Saint Augustine says rightly, "Singing is for one who loves."48 There is also the ancient proverb: "One who sings well prays twice."

40. Great importance should therefore be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass, with due consideration for the culture of the people and abilities of each liturgical assembly. Although it is not always necessary (e.g., in weekday Masses) to sing all the texts that are of themselves meant to be sung, every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people is not absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and on holy days of obligation.

In the choosing of the parts actually to be sung, however, preference should be given to those that are of greater importance and especially to those to be sung by the priest or the deacon or the lector, with the people responding, or by the priest and people together.49

41. All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy. Other types of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded, provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful.50

Since faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is fitting that they know how to sing together at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the Creed and the Lord's Prayer, set to the simpler melodies.51

Those portions of the excerpts from the GIRM instruction (#39…) that I’ve highlighted provide a fundamental insight into how music directors, cantors and celebrants are provided options that can be applied to local situations and customs, but that are legally valid within other prescribed documents guiding our worship practices. The one aspect of which most parishioners remain unaware is that liturgical document options are listed using hierarchical priorities. In other words, in an ideal celebration of a Roman Catholic Mass, the first option of what should be sung when would always be chosen. For example, in the above excerpt #41, the GIRM states the Lord’s Prayer should be sung when we have Masses with a diverse ethnic/linguistic congregation. Where does that come from? Another document, “Musicam Sacram (On Sacred Music)” 1967 actually states that of the portions of the Mass that rightly should be sung (or owned) by the assembled congregation, first and foremost comes the Lord’s Prayer! Who would have thought that the case in most American Roman Catholic Churches over the last two generations?
But I’ve illustrated that point to get to the explanation of the term “Propers.” As the Holy Father has said and written hundreds of times in his lifetime, the “song” of the Church is found in the Book of Psalms, period. Most of the Proper Antiphons, the Introit (Entrance), the Offertorio (Offertory), and the Communio (Communion) are from the Psalter, or the musical “calendar” of liturgical Psalms. Think of them exactly as you do the two and three year cycles of scripture readings. There are actual psalm (or scriptural) texts that are assigned to each and every Mass celebrated throughout the year to be sung, or at least spoken at every Mass.
As I mentioned earlier, however, the Church does provide a prioritized hierarchy of options for those three processional moments in Mass. The first and most ideal is the singing of the assigned Proper texts for the day or the ferial celebration. Then come two other options that involve substituting other psalm texts (which cannot be paraphrased versions, by the way, but approved text versions.) And the last option is known as “Another suitable hymn or song.” (In Latin, “Alius cantus aptus,” a different, apt/appropriate song.)
This last option has been acknowledged over the period of time since the Second Vatican Council as the pre-eminent musical expression of the Church, not only here in the U.S., but virtually around the globe.
Back in the day, when bishops, pastors and parishes initiated the “big switch” from the so-called “Traditional Latin Mass,” more appropriately named 1962 Roman Missal of Bl. John XXIII, to the “Novus Ordo,” or vernacular Mass of Paul VI, 1970, the singing of congregational hymns that were common at devotions such as Benediction, Novenas and Rosaries, were the convenient vehicles to engage Catholics in “active participation” through singing. Of course, portions of the Mass Ordinary, the Kyrie to the Agnus Dei (Lord have mercy …. Lamb of God) were also to be sung by the congregation.
The main point of this blog post is to let parishioners know that when the Entrance and Communion Proper Antiphons are sung, this is the practice that is most in keeping with the directives of the Church documents on liturgy. They are not regarded by the choirs, their directors or cantors, as opportunities for musicians to display their musical skills and prowess in front of a captive “audience.” The Proper Antiphons, sung, is a realization of thinking with the “mind” of the Church. And the way they have been reinstated into use here at St. M’s is in combination with the Entrance and Communion hymns.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

H/T 2 Fr.Z
As if nothing else matters...
Jesus was just riffing when he upbraided Simon the Pharisee and his guests for failing to properly receive and recognize Him, and then contrasted their non-chalance with the antics of a "working girl" who crashed the shindig, maybe in a last ditch effort, to invest the last shred of any personal dignity, her desperate tears and whatever treasure she sequestered on perfumed oil to annoint the feet and hands of someone she knew to be her Savior. Yes, of course, Jesus counted a few beats and then guffawd "Just messin' wichyouse, fellahs. This girl is whack!" A hearty huzzah and a round of applause from the lounging sycophants ensues.
Seriously, in what way is it ever appropriate to applaud at Mass? After a choir renders a "Miserere mei"? When a parishioner publicly vows to pray for vocations? When converts, reverts and newbies are sacramentally initiated into the Great Commission of the Church?
"Sometime it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble."
Does anyone actually think that there's applause in between sets of the heavenly choirs' "Hosanna's"? Like "Wow, God, You did a great job with the whole creation, redemption thing! And let's hear it for Jesus and the Paraclete, too! Hey, and don't forget, Mary in da House, folks, give it up for the BVM, people...."

Will the Silly Season ever be OVER?!?

From George Weigel's GOD'S CHOICE (p.169)"Divine worship, (Ratzinger) wrote, is 'a matter of life and death' for the Church. 'If it is no longer possible to bring the faithful to worship God, and in such a way that they themselves perform this worship, then the Church has failed in its task and can no longer justify its existence.'"

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Order of Music
Saint Mary's Parish
June 13, 2010
11th Sunday, Ordinary Time

Introit Antiphon: S "Consider, O Lord, and hear me…." Anglican Use Gradual
Entrance: SE #551 STAND BY ME 500 (Kendzia)

Opening Rites: S Misa Oecumenica Kyrie /Gloria(Proulx)
E Kyrie (Sleeth Mass)/Dancing Day Gloria (P.Ford)

Responsorial: SE Respond & Acclaim

Gospel Accl.: S Mode VI Alleluia-chanted
E Alleluia (Sleeth Mass)

Offertory: S #532 HOLD ME IN LIFE 243 (Huijbers) cp
E #526 DWELLING PLACE 136 (Foley)

Eucharistic Accl.: S Misa Oecumenica (Proulx)
E Holy/Christ/ Amen /Lamb (Sleeth Mass)

Communion Procession: SE Antiphon: "One thing have I desired…" Anglican Use Gradual
SE #400 THIS ALONE 552 (Manion)

Communion Anthem: S GOD OF MERCY (Monteverdi)
E #567 SACRED SILENCE 449 (Booth/Pixler)

Recessional: S #705 HEALING RIVER OF THE SPIRIT 206 (Beach Spring)
E #611 IN THE DAY OF THE LORD 259 (Ridge)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What can I do?
What should I do?
What will I do?

This last week Jeffrey Tucker posted a thread a the Musica Sacra Forum concerning an organization founded by a Jesuit priest some decades ago that offers parishes their evaluation and revitalization services. This post is not about that.
In the discussions that followed one of our colleagues typified what, only out of convenience and not literally, those folks who "dissent" from orthodoxy and orthopraxis in liturgy and other ecclesial concerns by this characterization: "aging hippies." That didn't settle well with me and I responded with my frustration over the issue of unnecessary stereotyping in this case, and in general. Of course, a major dustup followed. The thread went tangential and haywire. Other colleagues debated the merits of (as the original colleague named it) the "epithet" and its validity of use, and then aligned themselves in camps over the issue of what constitutes "true charity" in discourse. Though I remain steadfast in my objections to using course stereotypes to advance a point, I was saddened that I had a major hand in initiating diviseness among a body of people whom I so admire as faithful and dedicated Christian/Catholics. I apologized to my colleage for my part publicly on the thread, though neither of the two of us renounced our positions.
But of course, this happens to all of us daily. It is neither simple nor easy to avoid the sin of pride that orders us to castigate individuals and groups of people with convenient terms, names or phrases that ironically lowers our dignity, when in fact we falsely believe in dismissing the humanity of those we demean, we can feel superior or better that "I'm not like those people."
Another aspect of the dustup centered around generational issues. The "aging hippies" once were represented thematically by THE WHO, among other great bands of the sixties, specifically in the song "My Generation," inwhich the Daltry/Townsend lyric exclaims to the old fogies, "Why don't you all just....f-f-f-f-fade away?" (Of course we all knew then the "f" stutter was a ruse for another verb of the George Carlin variety. But it occured to me that this youthful hubris has always existed, see "Son, Prodigal." And ultimately, the frustration, resentment and conflict inherent is summed up by the great Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us!" Great truths in comic strips. But we are our own enemies because the real ENEMY knows that "free will" has been in our DNA since the Fall.

"Blessed is he who has become magnanimous and kindhearted and not enslaved himself to untamed vehemence or wicked wrath; he will be magnified by the Lord.
Blessed is he who has been exalted in love and stands like a city built on a mountaintop, from whom the enemy withdraws with terror when he sees him; for he fears a man who is firm in the Lord.
Blessed is he who has shone forth with faith in the Lord like a bright candle on a tall candlestick, and has illumined the souls of those in darkness who followeed the teaching of the faithless and the irreverent.
Blessed is he who ever loves truth and does not let his lips arm dishonor with lies, for he fears the commandment that forbids even idle talk.
Blessed is he who does not foolishly judge his neighbor, but rather, as befits a reasonable, spiritual man, tries first to cast our the beam from his own eye.
Blessed is he who has consciously exercised restraint, and who has never been seduced, neither in thought nor in his senses, by skin and flesh which soon pass and putrefy.
Blessed is he who keeps the day of his departure ever before his eyes, and has learned to hate arrogance before our inherent worthlessness is to be revealed by putrefaction in the grave.

St. Ephrem the Syrian (+373)

My wife offered that to me on our way down to meet CMAA friends in San Diego.
I will be ever grateful and in her debt, because these "beatitudes" speak to me most profoundly. I must memorize them, set them like a seal, and pray for St. Ephrem's intercession on my behalf, because he's talking to me! (You talkin' to me? YEAH, culbreth, I'M TALKIN' TO YOU!!!)

From this Sunday's Gospel-
"Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not annoint my head with oil, but she annointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little."

Amen. Is that not liturgy at its finest hour?

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Spoiler Alert!

I've borrowed this image from THE CRESCAT, Lord knows where Kat found it.If you're at all familiar with that blog, Kat's gestalt stands alone in the universe. She'll populate her DennisMiller-esque rants with the gamut of artistic expressions-from the sublime to the....well.
One can easily imagine what commentary now crowds the combox of her post unveiling this image: LDS this, LSD that, SDA this, JDub that...etc. Others marvel over the quaintness of the image's style, the depiction of a bygone era, etc.

I wonder if the image provides us an opportunity for some self-examination? If we're personally secure within our Roman Catholic skins and accept that within that the organs of the Body cooperate with each other naturally and with total respect, then how come we so easily molt ourselves from that skin occasionally to make mirth and merry at others' expense? Does that affirm our internal comprehension of the tenets of the four pillars (One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic)? Or does it suggest we are just as susceptible to ridiculing others at a chaotic level not too dissimilar that cartoonists who need to draw images of Islam's Mohammed for no other reason than to demean the tenets of the religion? What was the second part of Christ's answers to the rabbis about the greatest of I AM's commandments again?
Okay, reverse roles when I say "go." Your best means of articulated communication is as a visual artist, but you're not particularly a brilliant artist. Your vision tends to be didactic at best, but you're okay with that. Your task: depict the dormition of the BVM, and then her assumption into heaven; depict the Immaculate Conception; depict the encounters of the BVM with Juan Diego or the children at Fatima and moments in those narratives- the roses falling from the Tilma or the spinning whirly gig Sun; depict the flying St. Joseph of Cupertino, or the bi-locating of St. Pio; depict the resolution of having three popes claim the ring of St.Peter simultaneously....
Now, let's switch gears and look for something nobler in the above image. Sure, there's no altar. But isn't there something very catholic, if erroneous (and it's not about heresy)about the central notion of a communion activized between heaven and earth in the moment of worship? Or did I read Scott Hahn's "THE LAMB'S SUPPER" insufficiently? (Don't answer that.) Isn't there something that still rings very true about the disposition of the congregation's posture and dress that calls our generation of worshipping catholics to repentance and reparations?
I'm not an aesthete, but I play one at cocktail parties. But if we can accept C.S. Lewis' Aslan and Screwtape as worthwhile depictions, or even just tolerate the lamest of catholic kitsch, what is there to gain by dissing other RELIGION's kitsch and then retreating back into our catholic skins?
On the other hand, should an innocent lamb of an LDS kid or JDub posse knock on my door with a picture of Bernini's magnificent sculpting of "The Ecstacy of St. Therese," I will be most happy to try to craft my verbal response to their puzzlement about that subject matter that disrespects neither of our predispositions.
Your mileage may vary. Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear.GO!

Saint Mary’s Parish
Order of Music-June 6, 2010
The Most Holy Body and Blood/Corpus Christi

The first number references the Breaking Bread hymnal; the next number is the accompaniment page; the last number references the Choral Praise hymnal.

Introit Antiphon:S “The Lord fed His people…” Simple Choral Gradual/Richard Rice
Entrance: S #315 WE GATHER HERE TO WORSHIP 923 (Joncas) new

Opening Rites: S Misa Oecumenica Kyrie /Gloria(Proulx)
E Kyrie (Sleeth Mass)/Dancing Day Gloria (P.Ford)

Responsorial: SE Respond & Acclaim

Gospel Accl.: S Mode VI Alleluia-chanted
E Alleluia (Sleeth Mass)

Offertory: SE #333 IN THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD/Cuando partimos 258 (Hurd)

Eucharistic Accl.:S Misa Oecumenica (Proulx)
E Holy/Christ/ Amen /Lamb (Sleeth Mass)

Communion Procession:SE Antiphon: “Whoever eats my flesh…” SCG/R.Rice
S #340 I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE/Yo soy… 235 (Toolan) cp
E #335 AMEN: EL CUERPO DE CRISTO 33 (Schiavone)

Communion Anthem:
E THIS IS MY BODY (Culbreth)

Recessional: S #578 LAUDATE, LAUDATE DOMINUM 287 ( Walker )
E #602 WE ARE CALLED 589 (Haas)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

I normally don't do this sort of thing, but the Roc had this photograph posted at Whispers today:

Says It All!
Simply one of the most beautiful and reverent representation of our Cathoic faith I've ever encountered.
That's all. Don't need a backstory. Don't need to know much 'bout biology,
What I do know is that I love you....and if you love me too? Christianity!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


A CMAA friend and colleague posted this question at the Musica Sacra Forum:

Let's just imagine a bishop is looking for ideas as to how to get the people of his diocese interested in Gregorian chant. He has one, maybe two very busy musicians working for him directly. Though amenable to such a broad project, it is unlikely that they'd be able to add any more to their workload.

This bishop- like several I imagine- desires authentic liturgical renewal and recognizes the beauty and primacy of Gregorian chant. He'd prefer the incremental approach, and he's working at ground zero in all but a handful of parishes.

As we privately communicated, she expressly wanted my $.57 worth of advice, so this is what I offered:

*Avail the DM/Organist of the cathedral (and his rector) with what others have called a mandate from bishop, along with timetables and benchmark assessment points that eventually culminate with the weekly Sunday scheduling of an Ordinary Form Mass wherein virtually everything, save the homily, is chanted, whether in English (or another vernacular) or Latin. I would not advocate within this “mandate” the goal of scheduling an EF Mass, as there are parishes in proximity that offer that form weekly. This articulated mandate, chronology and methodology must also be published in the diocesan newspaper, and all diocesan parish bulletins initially, with updates published over time in the same organs.

*Have diocesan personnel (HR, arggghhh) staff prepare a census of parishes within the diocese that have: 1. Full time DM’s and/or Directors of Liturgy; 2. PT Ministers of Music/Choir Directors; Pastors/Administrators; other interested clergy/laity with experience and interest in chant. Have the diocesan Director of Lit/Worship, or the chair of its Worship Commission (if that’s the case) prepare, review, print and mail/email a document that expresses the bishop’s will to establish an ad hoc commission in which he charges members to assess their own parish practices in relation to the curial legislation, the USCCB document STtL, the bishop’s rightful obligation and authority to lead the Faithful towards greater orthopraxis, the scholarship and catechesis provided in these concerns by the Holy Father in many published books and letters, and any/all pastoral concerns these reorientations would put into action at the parish level.

*If the diocese already has a number of highly experienced DMs/organists and pastors who are prominently known associates of CMAA, NPM and/or certain publishers. They could be convened to meet with the cathedral DM and the bishop himself, for a face to face sharing of their experiences with “re-forming” whole parish liturgical/musical practices, whether towards chant, other traditional forms, or contemporary/multicultural forms. The bishop, if an extremely gifted listener as is the Holy Father, would thus demonstrate his collegiality as a gateway towards engaging the likely diverse philosophies of these prominent DM’s to accept their responsibility to faithfully and completely serve the Church and her faithful through collaborative consultation and actions, rather than conflict and divisive disagreement.

*Have the DM of the cathedral and other DM’s where chant and polyphony is normatively employed at service cull an agreed-upon library of chant repertoires, in both vernacular (most likely English and Spanish) language(s) and Latin, and in both square-neume and modern, stem-less notehead typesets (ie. American Gradual) that will be used in the cathedral program, and eventually in parishes in deaneries that have the musical personnel resources to initiate the regular, systematic use of chanted Propers and ordinaries at Sunday Mass(es.)

*If the diocese engages in producing televised Masses for shut-ins, encourage the management of the production company invite more scholas or chant capable choirs to provide music for those. In a similar vein, cathedral and parishes that use podcasting their services should make concerted efforts to integrate heavily chanted Masses into their podcast rotations on the web.

*If the diocese has a strong tradition of celebrating “multiculturalism,” the bishop should make known his desire to integrate the native culture of chant into diocesan liturgical and devotional events. Orders of Worship should reflect this so that the bishop can exemplify the chant tradition in his cantillation of collects and prayers, in Latin or not.

*The bishop should also entreaty the advice of his fellow ordinaries in the metropolitan as to these efforts, so that he can be regarded by his brothers as leading by example, rather than a pastor who defers responsibility upward.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hey, She's at least not Solicitor General Kagan!

Short of ordaining HELEN MIRREN or FRANCESCA ANNIS as a prelate,
the C of E could have done a lot worse on the PR front. Of course, I'm a sucker for women with nice smiles and glasses.
Well done, good and faithful servant.

He reminded me of Fr. Solanus Casey. It seemed everytime I saw George Cooke he was entering the church side door as I was leaving from the prior Mass; memory says he, therefore, was always surrounded in light when we encountered each other. His smile would put those of the Cheshire Cat, Sarah Palin and Louie Armstrong in hiding.
George, I've heard, left the Church for a significant period of his life. But when I met him years ago, he was back in her arms as a loving child. He eventually entered the Third Order Franciscans, and with some of his younger, much younger confreres founded a garage schola (Gregorian Schola of St. Francis) long before the movement really got moving. George always said he couldn't really sing, but he would don the cassock and surplice over his brown habit and lip sync or sotto voce the chants in earnest with his fellows. He could always be found at food giveaways with friends of our service organziations. And at our last seasonal concert (Christmastide) he read the translations of the 4th Sunday Advent, Christmas Day and Epiphany Introits before the schola guys chanted them masterfully.
His passing was a surprise, though he'd been in ICU on a ventilator for a while, gradually being weaned from it and we all thought he'd walk with us for a while more. But God smiles, too. And smiled upon his good and faithful servant George at about 6:30pm last evening. A saint (in waiting?) God knows. In my heart, no doubt.
God bless you, George, with eternal Light, Peace and Joy in His Presence. Now sing with a glorious voice.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

What Does This Image Mean to You?
First Impression.....

Sweetly benign, set apart?
Its wearer called beyond the banalities of the world? Its wearer sacramentally mandated to be both and at once the human presence of Christ's authority and His (and God's) "mandatum" to be a servant to God's disciples and faithful, putting at odds every man's longing for humility and his need to dominate?

Is there a tension that necessary requires its wearer to lean towards God as an unyielding arbiter of total subserviance to unwavering principles and values of behavior, not to mention obedience and cowering love, and who demands such under penalty and promise of purely black and white eternal judgment?

Is there an unavoidable inclination in our post-modern world that while our BIG BROTHER accessibility to information about anything and anyone informs our regard for those who wear the "collar," that such men cannot integrate the spectrum of expections of their public and personal world-views without resorting to natural fall-back behaviors of denial, egotism, clericalism or denial, naivite and accomodation for its own sake, and such?

For myself, I am convicted that humanity needs the eternal surety of leadership that best represents both the God of justice and mercy. I am likewise convinced that humanity can no longer afford to be passive if that leadership transgresses or deifies either of those qualities via a personification of either that portrays the priests as a sole arbiter.

Simply stated, for none of us, lay or cleric, can it ever be "ALL ABOUT ME."

No, that is NOT "The Way." Look at this man's eyes! When he was ordained and endowed with the privilege and poverty of donning the collar, pride and power were removed by more than the number of dimensions of the universe, so that he could reflect both justice and mercy to all who knocked upon his door.