Postage for Pakistan and other parts of the planet

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New York Times blasts founding of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music

Let's travel back in time 100 years and see what the Tired, Worn-out, Old, Grey Lady would have said about the founding by Pope St. Piux X of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music, which today officially marked its 100th anniversary ...

January 3, 1911

VATICAN CITY--In a move detractors say is sorely out of touch and which far right traditionalists say does not go far enough, Pope Pius X today ordered the formal foundation of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music. Announced through a statement by the Vatican's press office, the move comes in the wake of revolution in Mexico, Pneumonic plague in China, and the abolition of the monarchy in such places as Korea and Portugal. One detractor called it "insensitive."

The Institute's creation, said the Vatican's press release, is intended "to teach liturgical-musical disciplines from the standpoint of practical, theoretical ,and historical awareness and promote dissemination of traditional heritage of sacred music and encourage artistic expression appropriate to the current cultures, and lend a service to local churches worldwide to train church musicians and future teachers in the field of sacred music."

This reflects, says Vatican insiders, an abiding "preoccupation" on the part of the current pontiff with the extraneous trappings of the church's liturgical life to the detriment of what one observer called, "our gospel-given mission to transform the world by how we care for the poor."

"One concern I have," said Fr. Jonas Biese, SJ, an American Jesuit widely reputed to be an expert on all manner of issues relating to the Catholic church, "is what this will do to inculturation of the liturgy. Does this signal less respect for American or Mexican or Angolan or any other culture's liturgical customs and music? I suspect it does, and I think that is an ominous development."

"This is just one more example of the hierarchical, insitutional church imposing its questionable will on the people of God and thwarting a movement of the Holy Spirit," said Sr. "Doris," an American superior working in Rome at the headquarters of her Italian-founded order who asked that her name be changed because of her support for women's ordination. "Three months after the Pope's election, he ordered -- arrogantly ordered -- that no more 'tunes' be sung at Mass. Who is he to tell us what kind of music we can and can't have during the celebration of the Lord's Supper? I happen to like tunes. What about me?"

Dr. Clem Anders Hohrenschtuff, a professor of sacred music at Fordham University, says he supports the pontiff's move. "The Holy Father," he says, "has to protect the depositum fidei, and that includes preserving the precious patrimony we have been given of Gregorian chant and polyphony, which has been sadly lost over the last few centuries. Music is supposed to serve the liturgy, not us. For this reason, it must be elevated, just as the liturgy can't become something that is workaday or simply functional. As the saying goes, 'In the Mass, everything matters.' The 'interminable musical compositions,' as the Holy Father has called them, may have the ability to get our feet tapping or our hands clapping or our hips swaying. They do not, however, have the power to move our souls heavenward to God."

This is a reference to a statement made by the pope just three months after his coronation, where he called most music in Catholic churches "interminable musical compositions on the words of the psalms, all of them modeled on old theatrical works, and most of them of such meager artistic value that they would not be tolerated for a moment even in our second-rate concerts." This led by a sustained protests and calls for his resignation, with many liturgical composers and musicians claiming in a statement their "feelings have been hurt with no hope of healing."

"It feels bad to know that the work at which you labor so mightily is so little valued by someone who is supposed to be the Vicar of Christ. It's insensitive," said one such composer at the time. "Jesus didn't come to the world to make people feel small and puny and to hurt their feelings. He came to bring people together. I don't know that the current pope understands that."

One observer who has his fingers on the pulse of several high profile bishops says, "God bless the Pope for trying at something that's close to his heart and all, but the bishops I've canvassed have told me to a man they really don't care what the Holy Father does here. It's won't have much impact on their plans."

"What we need right now," said retired Italian priest Rev. Filipo Tellardini, a Vatican observer and expert, "is a focus on bringing social justice to workers and families who sorely need it. How does this push for castrated boys singing arias and cloistered monks singing obsolete chants help that? Don't get me wrong. Chant in its day -- 1,500 years ago, mind you -- was fine. It had its place. But now, when there are so many other things that need our pressing, urgent attention, this just seems so out of touch. God bless the Holy Father, but he really seems to have missed the mark."

Traditionalists, on the other hand, feel the Institute's creation does not go far enough.

"Why not are the heads rolling?" asked the retired Polish bishop of Lodz Andrzej Lechowiczski. "The pope has clearly said we must restore the sacred music that is beautiful. This is part of his plan to 'restore all things in Christ.' This is his motto! And yet go into any Catholic church in any diocese in any place in world, and what you find? People musically thumbing noses at very vicar of Christ and forcing laity to endure the most awful caucophony of noise imaginable. Why this allowed to happen? Why won't Holy Father take more concrete actions?!"

Many think that the bishop is simply grumbling about a disagreement over the direction his successor Bishop Stanisław Wiktor Wojtus -- who is seen as more pastoral than Lechowiczski -- has taken his former diocese.

Most lay people interviewed for this article say they support what Pius X is doing and that they're tired of listening on Sundays to what they say is bad music. But Agnes Rariden of Oneida, Ill., who works as a pastoral associate at St. Dignitata Parish in Brewer, Ill., says, "I think the liturgical music we have now is just fine. Honestly, I don't see why some people make the big deal they do. And I have a master's in theology from Trinity Lutheran College and one in femine studies from Wesleyan University, mind you, so I think I'm qualified to make that statement."
Now, again, this was a parody. This article never appeared. Ever.

However, let's review:
  • Three months after taking office, Pius X issued the motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini. It got rid of second rate music and restored the legacy of great liturgical sacred music, such as chant and polyphony, which had largely been lost.
  • When he founded the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music roughly seven years later, there were no storms of protest. No one uttered a word of detraction -- at least like the above and certainly not in public -- because a) most people probably saw the sense in what he was doing and b) back then, well, he was the Pope! You didn't argue with the Pope. And that, I believe, was a good thing. He is given the charism of infallibility, not us. When he makes a decision in terms of faith and morals -- and liturgical music certainly impinges on the faith (after all lex orandi, lex credendi) -- we can trust that the direction in which he is taking us is sound. Not so for the average lay person, person engaged in the apostolate, seminarian, theologian, man or woman religious, deacon, priest, or even bishop (necessarily).
  • Unfortunately, these moves had only a temporary effect. While it's true the Second Vatican Council called for giving Gregorian chant "pride of place," this was ignored very, very quickly. It got so bad, that in 1974, Paul VI issued through the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship the letter Voluntati Obsequens, and with it sent the booklet Jubilate Deo to every bishop in the world.
  • However, St. Pius X did succeed in reviving the almost dead art of chant, and if you've ever heard it done really well in a liturgical setting, you know how powerful it can be. Why aren't more parishes taking advantage of this force on Sundays? Some pieces are tough, granted, but it's not so difficult that they can't be mastered by people without master's, i.e., average lay folk.
  • Another point: Back then, we would never have seen the sort of emotional hand wringing witnessed in the above parody because people somehow understood that social justice and good Church discipline and doctrine all go hand-in-hand. They are not opposed to each other. Indeed, to be fully realized, each is wholly dependent on the other two.
  • All but the modernists would also have realized that the Pope has primacy in these matters (cf. Matt 16:18-20 and 18:18 and John 21:1-17), and they would have followed his lead.
  • And anyone who sniveled about hurt feelings would have been lynched (especially if they would have presumed to do so behind the sheer curtain of what Christ supposedly would or would not have done).
  • Finally, while you can't imagine these sorts of sentiments in a similar article back then, you sure can today, can't you? Hardly any voice given to those who support the Pope. Very little focus on what the actual action in question is intended to accomplish. An overabiding focus on the politics and sensitivities at play.
Yep, to paraphrase those geniuses behind the old Virginia Slims campaign, "We've come a long way, baby." The current pontiff is trying to support a return to good sacred music, often with much resistance. Let us pray that these efforts come to the fullest fruition possible. And let us pray for good Pope Benedict.

I'm interested to know: What do you think?

Book review: A Catholic Woman's Book of Prayers

Review of A Catholic Woman's Book of Prayers, by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle (Huntington, IN, Our Sunday, 2010, 80 pp., $7.95)

I should say at the outset that Donna-Marie is a friend of mine. Even were she not, however, my review would be no less glowing. How is it possible that so much spiritual wisdom resides in one woman? How fortunate we are to have such a gem of an individual in the Church today to help us focus on that which is truly important.

After all, there is no dearth of books on all the things wrong with the Church, whether it be on politics or teachings or scandals or anything else.

Yet in this tightly written, compact, and attractive book (it would make a terrific gift item), Donna-Marie has given us a book that focuses on the one thing that will cure the above problems and so many more: prayer, deepening our relationship with God, giving ourselves up to Him and His ineffable will, not in spite of our daily duties, but precisely in the midst of them.

My wife, who also looked at the work, did have an issue with the layout of the text. She thought it could have stood some more thought before publication.

But that has nothing to do with the treasure Donna-Marie has created for us. Now the only question remaining is: Who will come out with such a book for us men?

Get this book, read this book, and then get this book again to give away this book. It deserves dissemination far and wide.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The poor you shall always have with you

Currently, I'm reading Our Oriental Heritage by the incomparable Will Durant. In it he writes, "Slowly the increasing complexity of tools and trade subjected the unskilled or weak to the skilled or strong; every invention was a new weapon in the hands of the strong, and further strengthened them in their mastery and use of the weak."
If the above is true -- and it certainly has the ring of truth -- what I draw from this is the following:
1) You cannot stop progress because man being man will always seek to create, build upon whatever foundations are laid before him, and invent;
2) In general, such progress will always be to the benefit of some to the exclusion of others;
3) Such progress will also typically enable the poor to find ways to keep themselves poor (e.g., spending money on an iPhone when a TracPhone will do, and then spending untold sums on various aps and downloads);
4) Therefore, it should not surprise us that the gap between rich and poor is widening. As Durant wrote back in the mid-1930s, "So in our time that Mississippi of inventions which we call the Industrial Revolution has enormously intensified the natural inequality of men."
Indeed, in a time of creative revolution such as we've seen over the last 50 years, it would be a surprise and indeed alarming were this not to happen. What is certainly surprising is that it surprises us that the gap is widening.
These things, it seems if we look at history, are cyclical. They ebb, they flow. Such will it ever be. It simply reinforces what my college professor, the great Dr. Ron Rietveld, once told us, and which for 20+ years has run in my ears ever since: "The only thing we learn from history is that we don't learn from history."
It's absolutely true. We don't care about it. "Ahhh, old hat. Yesterday's news, pal. Who cares what happened back then?" And then we get surprised when what happened back then happens to us for precisely the same reasons it happened back then.
None of this, of course, excuses us from taking care of the poor and -- if we are rich -- using our surplus as a blessing upon the poor. That's why God gives us surplus: Not for our own use but so that we may be His loving hands toward others (just like Moses was His hand at bringing water to the Hebrews or the priest is His hand of Divine Mercy in the confessional).
Still, Jesus said, "The poor you will always have with you," and it makes an awful lot of sense.
I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Some things to pray about

Please pray for the following intentions:
  • For the repose of the soul of Eric Blackwood, who committed suicide
  • For the graduates of Thomas Aquinas College and Christendom College, who matriculated this past weekend
  • For a young woman named Olivia, who is trying to find her way in this world
  • For a young woman named Angela, who is discerning her vocation
  • For all Catholic politicians that they would uphold all gospel values in their public avocations and be a witness in their vocations to the splendor and beauty of truth
  • For all parents whose lives are being disrupted, either by kids coming back home after graduation or other life changes, or for those who are broken hearted now that their grown children are leaving the nest to start their lives
  • For all who travel this summer, that they would get to and return from their destinations safely.
  • Finally, for those who are actively trying to live lives of holiness, but who are find that effort difficult beyond imagining, that God would give them the courage, stamina, and grace to persevere in their efforts to be saints

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Recent happenings

This morning, I saw Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. He doesn't know me from Adam, but I walked up to him, shook his hand, and told him we were praying for him, the Irish people, and the Church in Ireland. From all I've read, he's the only bishop who has any confidence from the people in his country. That's really sad. I was struck by how thin he is. In pictures I've seen of him, I expected an almost fat man (or at least one who was certainly a tad pudgy). He's not at all; he's thin, almost rail thin, although not in an unhealthy way. And I also expected him to have some dark hair. Nope. All gray. He looked slightly older than I'd seen in recent stock images, too, almost weary. Then again, I suppose that's what happens when an ancient and venerable Church in a land with a history of Catholicism such as Ireland is imploding all around you, and you're the one seen as being the only person capable of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

I've also learned from a reliable source that a bishop in a Midwestern diocese is thinking about making his See's finest church into the new cathedral. The city in question is crumbling. It's terrible. Driving through it recently for the first time in almost 10 years, I was struck -- struck in the heart in the saddest of ways -- by how nothing was better, only worse. The one fast food restaurant in the city center has closed. Indeed, there are very few retail businesses left in the city center. All the business growth is on the outskirts of town. So it's understandable that the bishop does not want the current oh-so-chic-for-1950 cathedral as the place for his episcopal chair. It would be like the archbishop of San Francisco having his cathedral in the Tenderloin or the bishop of Pittsburgh having his amidst a bunch of crumbling steel factories.

The problem with this plan to take the diocese's finest church and make it the cathedral is that he would likely take immediate steps to make it the formerly-finest-church in the diocese. The church still has its beautiful altar rail (I know a couple who are married with several children precisely because of that altar rail, actually) and its beautiful marble high altar. Were His Excellency to come in and make this his cathedral, those things would automatically go out. That's the considered opinion, in any event, of the source with whom I spoke. Apparently, the bishop likes nothing that smacks of traditionalism. Brings up bad lingering tastes from his childhood, apparently. Thus, evidently, hating the traditional things -- in terms of practices, liturgies, and disciplines, NOT doctrine or orthodox teaching, mind you -- is basically an instinctive, habituated reflex on this man's part. He can't abide it.

It's too bad. In that same city in which I was recently, I had the opportunity to go into this church, and it was more beautiful than before, not less. It seemed to glow, and they'd even turned the old baptistry back into a baptistry from a storage closet. Magnificent! It looks like a cathedral should. I only hope that will still be the case after -- and if -- the bishop to make this move.

Finally, I got around to reading some old clippings at long last. One was on a proposal by the UK's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to reform the House of Lords. Judging by the article, it seems like it's high time. There are 792 peers in the House, and it's such a large number, many don't even have offices or even desks. When the House is in session, peers actually fight over seats because there isn't enough space in the chamber for them all.

But here's what struck me almost dumb: According to the article, "The Prime Minister is said to favour the idea because he is determined that the House of Lords is not turned into a secular institution and that it retains a link with faith-based organisations." Later in the article, a Tory (i.e., ruling party) insider is quoted as saying, "We must have a spiritual element to the Lords."

OK, first a little background: In the House of Lords, you have peers such as the Duke of Essex, but you also have -- and have had since time in memorial -- the "Lords Spiritual." Bishops, in other words, and they sit as full voting members in the upper house. It would be like Cardinal O'Malley having a seat in the US Senate. In the proposed reform, they're considering bringing in Lords Spiritual for other faiths: Catholics, Methodists, and black Pentecostals (and possibly even imams).

Now there are two ways of looking at the above quotes:
  1. They're going to be getting rid of a bucket load of seats in the House of Lords, and in the process, they want to ensure that, if the bishops' seats are amongst those lost (Anglican bishops currently hold 26 seats there), then they'll simply bring in those of other faiths.
  2. Or the Anglicans have become so secular, that part of the rationale for reform is driven by bringing in those who are thought to have not caved into the ways of the world so keenly as Their Excellencies (or Graces, if you prefer) in the established church. That's my suspicion.
What do you think?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why Islam cannot prevail

In preparing last night's post, I came upon this website. (Warning: Do not attempt to go to the original site; be content with Google cached site, as pulling up the original site initiates what it calls a "virus scan.) Undoubtedly, some of what you see on this list is due to the depopulation of Christians. However, if you know anything about how governments in majority Muslim countries do business -- even in officially secular countries such as Turkey -- then you know that just as undoubtedly many of these churches were confiscated. It is quite sobering to see this. Islam cannot prevail. Pray, do penance, fast, and commit yourself to living an ever more perfect Christian life and bringing others to do the same.

Otherwise, it will.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Persecution of Christians in the Middle East

The Turkish government plans to destroy the world's oldest monastery, which was built at the end of the 4th century. Never mind they have stolen 24 hectares of the monastery's land, now they want to destroy the buildings.

A friend was in Turkey on Divine Mercy Sunday. She posted pictures on her Facebook page of her and her pilgrimage group attending Mass at an abandoned church in secret. She wrote of how their Muslim guide stood guard outside the church. Looking at the pictures, it was all so surreal.

I encourage you to contact His Excellency Namık Tan, Turkish ambassador to the United States at:

The Hon. Namık Tan
Ambassador, Republic of Turkey
2525 Massachusetts Ave
Washington, DC  20008
Website URL:

Tell him it is odd that his country cries "discrimination" about not being let into the EU or its citizens being "discriminated" against in Germany, when this is the exact same thing. Cheeky buggers. Hypocrites. This is why we all should fear Islam, folks. This is what life under Islam would be like. Disagree? Show me one majority Muslim state where Christians have it good. Go ahead. I have all the time to wait.

Beatification and canonization cause news from the last month

Currently, there are 33 Doctors of the Church, and there is a proposal before the Vatican to make St. Juan of Avila, whose feast is May 10 and whose writings were very influential at the Council of Trent, number 34.

On April 25, Donald Cardinal Wuerl formally opened the beatification cause of Mary Virginia Merrick, foundress of the Christ Child Society and a remarkable woman.

Diocese of Monterey Bishop Richard Garcia has formally opened the beatification cause of Cora Louisa Yorgason Evans, a Mormon who came into the true Church at age 30. She was a mystic, visionary, and stigmatist.

Next Thursday, May 12, Norberta Cardinal Rivera y Carrera of Mexico City will oversee the transfer of the remains of the Servant of God Luis Maria Martinez, late archibishop of the Federal District, from the crypt to a chapel in the city's cathedral. Archbishop Martinez served as the ordinary for Mexico's capital from 1937-1956, a time of great upheavel in the wake the tumultuous Cristero War.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints has approved an examination of the Servant of God Teofilo Camomot's life. The late auxiliary bishop of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, was forced by ill health to simply function as a simple priest in the Archdiocese of Cebu. Bishop Camomot is sometimes called "the Philippine Padre Pio," because he reportedly had the gift of bilocation and there was this mystical scent of roses, and levitation. When it was exhumed for the purpose of transferring it, his body was completely intact.

In other Philippine sainthood news, Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu has dismissed a flury of rumors that Visayan martyr Bl. Pedro Calungsod has been proclaimed a saint.

The Holy See has approved the opening of the beatification cause for the Servant of God Paul Xu Guangqi, who lived from 1562 to 1633. He was a Chinese scientist, astronomer and mathematician and collaborator of Italian Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, himself a candidate for beatification.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has officially approved the opening of the beatification cause of the late Msgr. Bernard J. Quinn, who was a tremendous servant to the black people of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Jamaica, NY.

The beatification processes for both Audrey Stephenson and Audrey Santo could begin early next year. Audrey Santo, of course, is the young woman who became bedridden and incapable of communication after falling into a pool at age 3 and then being given incompetent medical care. She died at age 23 with a reputation as a miracle worker. Audrey Stephenson is a little girl who died at age 8 of leukemia who was a little St. Therese. She possessed more holiness at age 4 than most people attain in a lifetime. While it seems Santo’s cause is still in the beginning stages, Stephenson’s beatification effort simply lacks a postulator. They thought they had one, but his superior thought him too busy to take on this additional work.

Pope Benedict XVI has approved beatification for Catholic economist and sociologist Giuseppe Toniolo. He made it safe for Catholics to reenter public life, kept the Masons from gaining complete control in Italy , and his scholarship paved the way for Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum.

Later this month, Peoria Bishop Daniel J. Jenky will present the Holy Father with the positio summarizing Abp. Fulton Sheen's life and holiness.

On April 2, His Holiness approved decrees of beatification for 5 people through the regular process and 23 through martyrdom (one from the French Revolution and the rest from the Spanish Civil War). One of the new beati is Ven. Clemente Vismara, a PIME priest who died of natural causes in 1988 and who lived 65 of his 91 years in the jungle of Burma. Pope Benedict also issued decrees making six individuals Venerable.

Finally, on April 2, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church canonized the thousands of men, women, and children massacred by the Ottoman Turks during the failed 1876 April Uprising in that country.