Friday, December 28, 2012

Midnight Mass 2012 at the Mother parish

This year's preparations for music at service were challenging and, at times, daunting. I suffered two weeks of being laid out (that hasn't happened since the Swine flu around '73) which took me out for two solid weeks. In the midst of that will power muscled up to get through Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the School Christmas Pageant (2 performances.) All went well. By the time we got to our last rehearsal prior to Christmas, Wendy had taken ill (which she is still the worse for wear) with a cold, and our organist lost a precious pet to a vet's errant diagnosis and treatment. So, without our accompanist, we worked as much a capella and then left the rest to Spiritus Sanctus.
If one considers we offered up the Bach MAGNIFICAT and Vivaldi's GLORIA last year, the singing of about four Gustav Holst carols and a couple by Charles Giffen prior to Midnight seems like feast to famine. But in such humility can much joy be discovered. One of those was providing one of our basses the opportunity to sing O HOLY NIGHT at his John Raitt-like best! This gentleman (an attorney) was one of those fellows who always got the lead in the school musical (he also went to HS with my wife and sister in law, who also were leads) but he enjoys just being a bass singer in the choir for the most part. But when he solos, you can expect a truly memorable experience. In the singing of carols and choir pieces the congregation/audience remained politely reverent. But after he finished there was that moment where the breath is taken in unison, and they cannot help but applaud. It did not at all seem inappropriate in that moment.
On the other hand, just before midnight I went to the epistle ambo (a very modest, portable wooden pulpit) and delivered the Kalenda 2012 in Latin, all six pages of it. Because of having the providence of a couple of chant intensives and colloquia behind me, it kept rolling and moving off my tongue quite well, despite rebounding from bronchitis. But when I finished, I immediately (eyes down) repaired to my place in the choir, but the congregation starting applauding very unexpectedly! I was totally caught off guard and didn't acknowledge anything and started the processional carol immediately. (I thought chanting the Introit after the Kalenda might be chant-overkill.)
But why the applause? I know I chant well, but I certainly am not a great singer like my wife or our bass. I remember, in the moment, praying that their appreciation was for the unmitigated, unapologetic or gratuitous use of real Latin chant. We use a lot of chant now, but mostly in English.
Another thing might be something that my friend Todd Flowerday always brings into the efficacy of music equation arguments: worthy artistic performance practice. Yes, on the extremes from "Abba Father" to the Verdi "Requiem" the music does, of itself, matter. But later on, for Communion after Richard Rice's exquisite Choral Communio, we sang the pairing of "Silent Night" (in English only for the first time in over a decade) with Dan Kantor's "Night of Silence." When we finally partnered the two songs over all three verses (women singing Kantor, men the Gruber) it lead to the most peaceful sacred silence I think I've ever experienced in twenty years here. And of course, that reflection served up "Joy to the World" perfectly at the missio.
We also returned to the Jeff Ostrowski "Mass of St. Ralph Sherwin" Glory to God, which was chanted in unison at a pretty good clip. I'm glad the acolytes weren't instructed to ring the Sanctus bells this year. The people haven't learned it well enough to join in, but they voted for this setting earlier in the year, and they seem to recognize its apparent catholic ethos.
So, humble and honest this year. Nice.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

36...Nice number, but who are you folks, anyway?

I got phished over the holiday. The upshot, email contacts hacked, no major blowback yet, knock on wood. But in the amazing arcane process of trying to recover stuff, change stuff, make it all better, I, along with my ATT-Uverse, Internet Explorer, Google and Java pals human and borg, eventually got around to discovering I couldn't sign into my blog account. So, I randomly tried thinking like a toolbar, went into Internet Options and changed a few buttons. TaDa.
So then I find my dashboard and there are 36 of you people who've visited me today. And I haven't posted since Newtown. I've been rather quiet due to both the gig and a major bronchial infection. But, we (me and she who is to obey and who got a major cold the Night Before Christmas) got through the requisite four hour Midnight Mass and two others, and yet live to tell the tale. I'll get around to that.
Happily, I didn't in all this computer process cr*p didn't lose access to sites. So, one of my favorites is "CRISIS" which published the Holy Father's address to the College of Cardinals, Curia and the Governate. Here's the address:
I got through about half in which Papa reminds us all about the precipice humanity currently teeters at, and then moves onto the larger issue of what's Church got to do with it, got to do with it? This quote from the address stopped me dead in my tracks-

The Church represents the memory of what it means to be human in the face of a civilization of forgetfulness, which knows only itself and its own criteria.
 In my most truest and sometimes cynical moments I reduce the Church to the "splainer" of what we hope or fear is in store for us when we die. (Death comes before taxes, remember?)
The Catholic Church knows from death. Andrew Lloyd Webber and others may have made maudlin money aka "filthy lucre" off that adage that our hero and savior also knew from death and stared it down for three agonizing hours while never stopping to love ALL of us who mostly and mutely watched, like dumb rubber-neckers passed a nasty crash. Oh, and then what did He do before changing the Universe that first Easter morn? Oh yeah, went down to Georgia, I meant Hell, probably whispered in Lucifer's ear "We still love ya, bro', but you're still goin' down!" before gathering Abel, Moses, Abraham and the lot of 'em and transporting them through the pearlies.
"And became incarnate...." At once human and divine. And we aren't a hunnert percent sure that He passed His Word (He IS-The WORD!) onto to Simon Cephas? "Here's the keys, Rock, take care of Her best you can 'cause it's gonna run forever, dings or no dings, same here as in heaven. Do some good with Her, Pete, really."
We are a craven bunch, we humans. Within the skin and facade that holds the nastiness of pus, blood, waste, disease and decay still lies hearts that love and hurt, minds that know what is right to do and yet are self-disabled sometimes when choosing by themselves, and souls, some of whom can look in a mirror, and some who cannot. "Lord, to whom shall we go?" Indeed.
O come, O come.

O sweet mystery of life...."born to give us second birth."
If you 36 are among some of my buds at CMAA, yes you're right. Incoherent. rambling, pointless. And contrary to what my public persona jokes, I really don't enjoy being an enigma. I do like joking and messing with you, sometimes.
But when I forget, The Church will remember for me, remind me, remand me to her bosom, and help redeem me, so help me God.

I'll spill the beans about musical Christmas here in CenCA next time around.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Litanies of Dies Irae

Wednesday night, the eucharistic celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, after Communion and the collect...our pastor sprang an impromptu announcement and prayer about a local accident that happened very early in that day. At our mission church, a smallish crowd of adorers were in the midst of their procession celebrating OLOG at the 5am hour or thereabouts. In the foggy Central Valley at 5am it's pitch-black. Both they and a 21 year old driver of a dark car didn't anticipate the possibility of their collision; how could they. Six injured, no deaths. Pastor mentioned praying for the injured and their families and then, remarkably, reminded the packed convention center congregation to pray for (hence not condemn) the young driver as well. I expect that mandate was understood quite profoundly by those with ears to hear.

Friday. The "nation" is stunned by what the media shrink (whom I respect) Keith Ablow calls is another move of the red line of tolerance of gross, senseless violence by the shootings in Newtown, CT. presumably by a twenty year old troubled young adult. I don't disdain the hyperbole that explodes from the mic to satellite dishes of the media gathered there since, such as "We're eleven days from Christmas. The children were awaiting Santa Claus. But, instead the Devil visited here today." And such and such. I actually agree.
Evil has permeated this planet since we humans, whether you do the fundamentalist Adam/Eve meet the serpent storyline, or the Arthur C. Clarke proto human apes are revelated into doing the math that a femur can be both tool and weapon, and free will takes the dark choice at one specific moment.

Yeah, we've screwed ourselves from day one either way. And that doesn't equate to the fornication analogy at all. We're screwed because we've burrowed ourselves, from reptile or mammal DNA (like it matters), back into the muck from which we slithered with all our instinct and will to escape and "evolve." Character counts. Yes, when you're an amphibian or other sub-species who synapses into taking the risk to force your gills to breath in oxygen from a hostile source, and your kin REMEMBER your sacrifice.

But fast forward through Adam, Noah, Abraham, Elijah, David, Solomon, Job and Isaiah, John the Baptist to Yeshua N-zareth. And fast forward through the catechism 2000 years later based upon the profession that Jesus Christ is, was, and will remain for all time the Logos, not just the Word but the Meaning of all that we know, we want to know, we yearn to learn from, we want to BE, as in with the AM. And did He not say: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Well, yeah. B-but this DS/Xbox/Nintendo raised punk killed 20 kindergartners, many are likely thinking and saying in all possible manners and means. And, and, and, and, didn't you hear that Mommy Dearest was strict with him, and he shot her IN THE FACE, man? "Oh, I don't give a rat's hiney whether he checked himself out or a first responder got a kill shot, that punk is hanging with the worm that don't never die and the fires are never quenched; enjoy your day, punk." (Best rendered in the gravely whisper of Eastwood's Dirty Harry voice.)

This is no bleeding heart plea piece for Adam Lanza, or for the beneficent retreat from castigating anyone who may have been influences that caused his mind, spirit, heart and humanity to implode.  Winners become "I'm a loser" and losing in Bizzaro Life becomes winning. It's perverted. But we are senscient, we can conceive this dichotomy, even in comic books. But comic books are more tolerated as pedantical tools of learning in schools than scripture. It's just that way. This is no Hannity rant.

Jesus gave us, through His being Logos, the Dies Irae, which today certainly has been. But read the prayer in its entirety. And then gut check your Christian self to see if you can offer that prayer not only for the adults that died today, the adult suvivors who've lost their innocents, but also for yourself and everyone you know. Everyone of us face the Dies Irae, and we're obliged as Christians to offer it for every deceased soul.
Gehenna smells bad, but one keeps moving and praying through its ruinous, ultimate despair.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Open Letter to Katrina Fernandez and Fr. Erik

I have been a long time follower of the inimitable Katrina Fernandez, aka “The Crescat” blogger out of the beautiful city of Charlotte, NC. Among Gen X’r mackerel snappers, she’s the first publicly known person in blogdom whose brain synapses seem to align with mine. She is only among a few handful of renowned catholic bloggers willing to tell the truth as she sees it, and willing to share her own story, which can’t be called easy or pretty. But like those whom God touches particularly, she is blessed/cursed with the gift to temper her insight with humor in all its forms. And she knows that’s how “we” cope with stuff. And, she also is reckless, or I prefer fearless, enough to sometimes admit “Folks, I’m melting…..I’m melting.” We, by which I mean modern culture and society, cannot easily accept vulnerability, weakness, failure, regret or self-preservation by any means necessary comfortably. We would rather parce out people and problems with our own prejudicial diagnoses and our own self-righteous remedies as a comeuppance for people like Katrina and me, who let it hang out. (That is not to say people like us don’t know the love and support of true saints among us. I’m experiencing that right now.)

Kat posted a couple of days ago with this blatant headliner (which follows with excerpts from her article, to whit:

Hi. I’m Kat, your blog administrator. I’m also an a**hole…
I was all set to write a post mocking this…I had it all planned out, a magnificent post oozing with witty mockery and commentary suggesting the Church sell ad space on altar cloths and vestments to boost revenue. But half way through I just looked at that picture and felt tremendously sad. Sad for the priest and even sadder for myself. Where is the virtue in picking on an old man? The priest in the photo is 90+ years old. I should live so long...Really there would have been nothing to gain from that except a few chuckles and maybe a couple of shares around the old social media. The greater damage would be in giving the “if it ain’t Latin it’s a sacrilege” crowd more fuel to throw on their ever raging fire against the novus ordo missae.

The first person to comment was the well-know blogger Fr. Erik Richtsteig, who offered this response and encouragement: Kat, there are ass----s, but you're not one. The 90 year old Jesuit is. He is old enough to know better. The Progressive Catholic Collation looks to be full of them. Highjacking the Mass to advance their political agenda. The poncho gal is too; sacrilegious simulation of the Mass. Kat, don't go all wobbly on us.

Father, it’s undoubted that you meant to bolster and encourage Kat through this existential revelation of hers, but you’ve missed the mark and only revealed the weaknesses and inclination towards pride that betray the bottom line of your vocation and vows, not to mention allowing your emotions to be sway by the enemy so much as to deride a brother priest, no matter how much you disagree with his actions. Yeah, we know all of confident Catholic orthodoxy can’t wait for the biological solution to the ecclesial crises confounding us all. But invecting your disdain towards Fr. Brennan and the “poncho lady” in such a frivolous and dismissive manner (how ironic those words, they), you apparently left your Matthew 25 on the keyholder of your mind when you let those words leave the house of your lips. And to go further and exhort Kat not “to go….wobbly…), well, is there some sort of CatholicJungend Bund out there that she’s now in danger for apostasy for, what, realizing that most Christ-like of admonitions, look to the speck/log in your own eye before giving other heretics the death stare?

Katrina, my heart is gladdened and pained for you. There’s serious stuff out their skulking every day and night. There are wars and rumors of wars. Old men (at least me) are dreaming (not so pleasant dreams) and there’s always going to be people without feet show up when we’re moaning about holes in our socks or shoes. But this is an awakening for not just you, but everybody who reads, knows and loves you, even from places like the land of nuts and fruits. But the serious stuff, your soul, your health, the boy, your faith and trust in God, trust in your instincts at the same time you call out to Him in prayer. All of us, including Father, can do no better in this life. You are loved.