I put together a quick video program with pictures of beautiful Churches and posted it over at Gloria.tv I hope this will be the first of several I intend to do. We have some very beautiful churches! The music in this video is Bruckner’s Locus Iste Here is the text and translation:
Locus iste a Deo factus est,
This place was made by God,
a priceless sacrament;
There was a movie from back in the late 1990s called “Blast From The Past” The Movie begins in the early 60s at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. An eccentric man and his pregnant wife have built and elaborate fallout shelter underground in their backyard. It is no ordinary bomb shelter but a large and well stocked one that even allows the growing of food and fish and has many amenities.
When a plane crashes nearby they think the country is under attack and that the Atom Bomb has hit. They run into the shelter and lock it behind them setting the automatic locks not to open for 35 years when the radiation had dissipated.
During this time the pregnant wife gives birth to their son, Adam whom they raise in that shelter. Adam receives the usual education one would expect in the early 60s, strong on reading, writing and arithmetic, American and world history. He also obtains a liberal arts college education from his father who was a professor. The education included Latin, Greek, French and German. Adam also learns all the usual social skills of that time such as basic manners, how to treat a lady, ballroom dancing, the meaning of life. He is also raised to reverence God.
In a way the family was frozen in time and preserved the values of that time of the early 60s. The film does not present that time as flawless. The mother has a bit of a drinking problem, the father is rather eccentric and xenophobic etc.
Suddenly it is 1997 and the locks come open. The family makes its first excursion since the “bomb” went off. The father expects to find that those who survived will show signs of radiation poisoning and that the world will surely manifest many signs of the destruction the bomb surely wrought so they go forth cautiously.
Now, you and I know that no atom bomb ever did go off. Or did it? As they emerge from the bomb shelter the once quaint neighborhood they lived in has become a red light district. They see shocking things. Not only prostitutes and adult book stores, but also drug addicts, trash-filled streets and signs of grave disorder. People are coarse in their behavior etc. They run back into the shelter concluding that things are worse than they thought. They send their son Adam out to get provisions and possibly to find a wife if he can locate someone who is less effected by the “radiation.” Then they will once again throw the locks on the shelter and wait for things to improve on the outsiide lest they be poisoned by it all. In this scene Adam emerges from the shelter and first encounters a drug addict who thinks Adam is God. Adam then goes forth and sees things and people outside for the first time.
As Adam goes forth he discovers that beyond the world of the red light district is less devastated but he still struggles with what he experiences. Families seem in disarray, people are coarse, cynical, and use God’s name in vain. The technology amazes him as do simple things like rain, the open sky and the ocean. In this scene he is troubled by some modern cultural trends and then sees the ocean for the first time:
It is quite clear to us who watch the movie that much has been lost. Adam is head and shoulders above the modern people who surround him. He is kind, respectful, polite, innocent in his interpretation of the world. He is much smarter than those around him as well, having quite an encyclopedic knowledge compared to the moderns around him. In this scene two things are illustrated: his superior educatoin and also his coming to grips with modern technology. How can a computer (giant in his world) be in a house?
And he can dance, really dance! Not just the gyrating common on modern dance floors but the flawless execution of 40s swing is natural to him since he was trained in every form of ballroom dancing by his parents. You can see the video of Adam dancing HERE (I can’t embed it due to audio issues).
He is befriended by a young lady named Eve and her brother. They think him to be strange and naive but come to discover he has much to teach. In this scene they ponder something he has taught them about graciousness, kindness and the blessing of strong family ties.
This movie is worth seeing. It is not preachy (like me). It gently suggests to us that we have lost some important things in the past 40 years. Things like kindness, optimism, the value of traditional education, the importance of parents teaching and raising their kids. In many ways the movie gently suggests that we have become coarse, cynical, even vulgar. Family ties have often been severed and culture has melted down to more base level. Education is less thorough and broad, simple things like learning to dance are lost. As I have already said, the early 1960s was not a perfect time. Many troublesome cultural trends were already well underway. These are not unreported in the movie. But still the point remains, some things of great value have been lost. A young man steps out the past and is bewildered by what he finds. Technology is impressive, but people seem lost and cynical. The world is hostile and disordered. But he brings with him some healing balm, some of the best virtues of the past, to remind us all that we have lost important things along the way. THe bomb did go off. Not the Atom Bomb but an even more devastating cultural bomb. Rebuilding will take time.
A second Statement has come from the Archdiocese of Washington today welcoming legisaltion introduced in Congress today to save the Opportunity Scholarship Program (School Vouchers). Here is the statement followed by some comments in red from very truly yours.
Archdiocese Welcomes Introduction of Congressional Legislation to Continue Opportunity Scholarship Program
The Archdiocese of Washington welcomes legislation introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Preserving D.C. Student Scholarships Act of 2009. This bill would continue the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program and permit low-income students in the District of Columbia to continue to receive a quality education at the school of their choice. Without swift action by Congress, this federally-funded program will end in 2010, putting the children’s education at risk.
This program is a lifesaver for children in the city. Not only has a Congressionally-mandated study found the Opportunity Scholarship Program to be successful in increasing student achievement, but we have seen its positive impact first-hand with students transformed into enthusiastic young scholars,” said Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, Ph.D., superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington.
Opportunity Scholarship students who graduated from Archbishop Carroll High School this year, for example, have been accepted at 30 colleges and universities, including St. John’s University, Syracuse University, Norfolk State and others. This follows the success of the two prior years, when 100 percent of the scholarship students graduated from this competitive high school and were accepted into college.
Of the more than 1,700 students who received Opportunity Scholarships this year, 879 attended Catholic schools in the District. The federally-funded scholarships provide low-income families with up to $7,500 towards tuition and some fees at participating non-public schools. The program was established five years ago as part of the three-sector initiative to strengthen education across the city that also has brought millions of new federal funds to the District’s public and charter schools.
The Archdiocese of Washington supports full and permanent funding of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program as part of comprehensive support for education in the District of Columbia. Visit www.dcopportunityscholarship.org for more information.
This issue isn’t that hard to understand. If the focus is on the children of Washington DC and what is best for them then Opportunity Scholarships (School Vouchers) should continue to be offered. If the focus is on politics and what union leaders and some bureaucrats want then it is the children who will suffer. The DC Public schools are broken and far from being fixed. Some reforms may have begun but things are still terrible. DC Children and their families need options. This is CLEARLY what is best for them. Why don’t we just keep it this simple: do what is best for DC children. Keep the opportunity scholarship program available for DC children and their families.
The following video indicates that the President has not yet taken a position on the matter. Since it was made he has taken a stand against continuing the program. He has proposed that the students currently in the system can continue until they graduate. But no new students will be allowed to enter. Thus he and others want the program to die. We need to continue to work with the President and Congress to change their minds on this matter.
The DC Catholic Conference issued a statement today in support of recent Congressional efforts to address the recent actions of the DC City Council recognizing same-sex marriages contracted in other states. The statement follows. Then after that if you will indulge me, my own remarks follow in red.
The D.C. Catholic Conference applauds efforts by members of Congress to support marriage in the District of Columbia.
The District of Columbia Defense of Marriage Act (H.R. 2608) was introduced by Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and more than thirty co-sponsors that recognizes in the District of Columbia, that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.
Marriage is a natural institution established by God and written in the very nature of man and woman and is therefore endowed with its own proper laws. The equality of men and women and the dignity of their coming together as husband and wife is not merely a fact of religious faith or a creation by civil authorities, but a fundamental reality rooted in human nature and experience. Marriage is not simply a union of two people who love each other and are committed to each other, but is reserved to man and woman because of their unique ability to bring children into the world. Civil recognition of marriage protects the rights of children to have both a father and mother, creating a stable and secure foundation for our society.
Earlier this month, the District of Columbia City Council voted to recognize same sex “marriages” from other states, and did so through an amendment process that prevented residents of the city from having a voice. The vote indicated a lack of understanding of the true meaning of marriage.
I think the most important wording in this statement is this: Marriage is not simply a union of two people who love each other and are committed to each other, but is reserved to man and woman because of their unique ability to bring children into the world. There has already been commentary on this blog that the procreation and rearing of children is an essential (not incidental) end of marriage (e.g. HERE) As long as we continue to think of marriage as only about the happiness of adults involved and only incidentally about children we will continue to see high divorce rates, and confusions like “same-sex marriage” proliferate. We will also fail to see why marriage deserves special protection or privileges if children are only thought of as incidental and secondary aspects of marriage. This statement goes a long way to recover that fundamental insight. Marriage is fundamentally about children. The happiness and wishes of adults are secondary (though not unimportant). The fundamental and traditional structure of marriage is oriented to the good of children. Get this point right and a lot of other things fall in place. Of course marriages need to be stable and divorce frowned upon, children need stability. Of course marriage deserves a place of honor and should be accorded special privilege. Not for the adults, but for the children. Of course marriage should be heterosexual, this is how children are concieved. Finally, as the statement also makes clear: Civil recognition of marriage protects the rights of children to have both a father and mother, creating a stable and secure foundation for our society. The best environment for a child to grow up in is a stable home with proper influence and example from a resident mother and father, both a male and female influence. even if this best environemnt is not possible in every case it remains best for children and should be enshrined and protected in law.
Pertinent to this discussion is teaching from the Church document The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons cf. in this video seven minutes and beyond:
Here is Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in F Major BWV 556. Bach wrote these in a collection of Eight Little Preludes and Fugues. Which was designed for organ students. This one is my favorite in the collection. The footwork of the Prelude is easy but the running triplets in both hands are a challenge to play well and at tempo.
By the way the organ used here is known as a “tracker” It works with an entirely mechanical action of levers and trackers much like the manual typewriters of old. Occasionally in this piece you can hear the mechanical action “clacking” in the background. Trackers usually require stronger fingers and a more certain touch of the fingers and feet, again just like the old manual typewriters required a stronger and more certain touch. (Are you old enough to remember manual typewriters?) OK, enjoy this short sample of the music of the pipe organ.
Here’s a Catholic take on the familiar Fiat Ad. As you may know “Fiat” in Latin means “let it be done.” Mary said to the Angel “Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum” (let it be done to me according to your Word). And thus Mary accepts God’s plan for her and all of us. Also in the Our Father are the words “fiat Voluntas tua” (Thy will be done). So, is Fiat about a car or a properly conformed will? You decide: Here is the Catholic Version of the Ad:
In this issue are some items related to the aftermath of the President’s Speech at Notre Dame. It looks like the former President of Trinity University here in Washington is rather upset with critics of the Honorary Degree Awarded to President Obama. At Commencement exercises she refers to these critics (which include a fairly large number of Bishops) as “Catholic Vigilantes.” Another interesting bit of news about the protests at Notre Dame is that among the “vigilantes” 🙂 present at the protest was Norma McCorvey (who was the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade). Most of you know that she converted to Catholicism in 1998 and has worked actively in the pro-life movement for many years now. It is a great and healing thought that she is now among us as a fellow Catholic and a pro-life advocate. God is good, very good.
Also in this edition of Gloria TV News is a strange and sad story about a Catholic school boy who wants to be a girl. There are also some reflections from Former Archbishop of Milwaukee Rembert Weakland about the Abuse Scandal.
We have already discussed how the Old Testament Reading, the Epistle and Gospel came to be in their place and how the number and variety of those readings varied over the years and even today in the various Rites and Forms of the Liturgy. Now we consider the Responsorial Psalm which has a history of its own.
In a way, if you were to walk into Mass for the first time you might find the presence of a sung psalm a bit odd. Here we are reading the Word of God and suddenly another song breaks out! What is going on here. Is it another reading, is it a prayer. What is its purpose? Well let us read and see.
The responsorial psalm or optional “gradual” comes after the first reading. The psalm is an integral part of the liturgy of the word and is ordinarily taken from the lectionary, since these texts are directly related to and depend upon the respective readings. The cantor of the psalm sings the verse at the lectern or other suitable place, while the people remain seated and listen. Ordinarily the congregation takes part by singing the response, unless the psalm
is sung straight through without response. If sung, the following texts may be chosen:
the psalm in the lectionary,
The Gradual in the Roman Gradual,
or the Antiphon or the psalm in the Simple Gradual
History – In the early Church there was a pattern to the psalm response much like our own today. That is to say, there was an antiphon or verse sung by all followed by extended verses of a particular psalm chosen for the day with the antiphon intervening every so often by way of a response. Many of the Fathers of the Church make mention of this format. St. Augustine makes explicit mention of the practice in his sermons; likewise, St. John Chrysostom and St. Leo the Great among others. In the early days, the psalm texts were sung in their entirety. This was true even of the lengthier psalms. (Today, there are usually selected verses of the psalm used. It is rare that a whole psalm be sung unless it be brief in itself). The responsorial psalm was seen as an integral part of the liturgy with its own significance. This is in contrast to some of the other singing we have previously discussed such as the Entrance Antiphon (Introit) which was sung originally to cover a movement or fill a space of time and set a tone. In this way it existed for a purpose beyond itself. Here the chant has an importance in itself and does not exist to cover motion etc. It was seen as a moment of pious meditation, a lyrical rejoicing after the word of God had been received into the heart of the believer. Originally the deacon was the singer of this psalm and versicle. Later the task moved to the subdeacon & later still to the schola Cantorum (Choir).
It is interesting to note that when the singer mounted the lectern (or ambo, or pulpit) he did not go all the way to the top of the platform but rather stood on one of the steps just below the platform.This was once again due to the reverence given the proclamation of the Gospel which alone was proclaimed from the top platform. Since the singer stood on a step (“gradus“, in Latin) the psalm came to be known as a “Graduale.”
Over time the responsorial psalm began to shrink in size and lose its responsorial character. This seems to have happened for two reasons.
First the music for these chants began to become more and more elaborate. We saw this tendency with the Entrance Antiphon. The simple forms slowly gave way to other, more elaborate forms. Thus, the antiphon which was intended for the people became more ornate and difficult and thus slipped from their grasp. Its execution fell more frequently to the schola. Likewise, as the antiphon became more elaborate it began to overshadow the verses of the psalm themselves which were sheered away slowly. Eventually only one verse remained along with the antiphon. This remained its form until the recent changes in the Mass at Vatican II.
A second factor seems to have been the dropping of the first reading from the Old Testament in the Sixth Century. By this time however the responsorial character of the psalm was well on its way out. Thus this effect may not be direct but may help explain that other factors were at work in the background.
Today the original responsorial format has been reintroduced as an option. This therefore returns to the more ancient practice and also makes the response once again a song or response of the assembly. However, the option still exists to use a Gradual in the from the Graduale Romanum which retains the format of the Traditional Latin Mass instead of a responsorial format. This would generally have to be sung by a trained schola.
Pastoral Reflections – It is true to say that the Psalm is “another reading” in the sense that the psalm, like the other readings comes from the scriptures, the written Word of God. However, a caution is in order. The psalm should also be seen to enhance the prayer and praise that is integral to the Liturgy of the Word. Thus, it is not merely a “listening event” but also involves prayer and praise in the truest sense of the term. The psalms were (and still are) the prayer book of the Jews and it is our prayer book as well. Hence, the psalm is prayer and not only “another reading.”
The title “responsorial psalm” is not given because there is a response or antiphon for the people to sing. The “response” referred to is the reflection of the assembly on the proclamation of the reading which just took place. The psalm is usually related in some direct way to the theme of the Old Testament reading (and by that very fact to the Gospel which is to come). Thus, the people “respond” to the Word of God, make it their own and proclaim it prayerfully. By its nature, the psalm is a song and should thus be sung if at all possible; especially on Sunday.
The option of using the gradual from the Graduale Romanum should not be forgotten. There is once again the need to remember that a glorious heritage of Gregorian Chants exists which belongs to faithful by their right. It is sad if this heritage is never heard or sampled. However, it will be admitted that these Chants are difficult indeed and require a skilled choir. This and the fact that they are in Latin can make them less accessible. This usually means that the Graduals are seldom if ever done in the average parish. Again, a sad loss that a little extra training might overcome.
OK, so bottom line is once again the same: YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO PRAY. The Liturgy is not just some ritual to get through, it is a time of prayer. The Psalm response or gradule is meant to invite you into a prayerful response. Are you praying? Next time you’re at Mass, don’t miss the main point here.
The following video is of a Gradual. In the place of the more common “Responsorial Psalm” it is always permited to sing the “Gradual” which is an elaborate antiphon and one verse of the psalm. The one in this video is from the Vigil Mass for Christmas here is the text in Latin and an English Translation:
Hodie scietis, quia veniet Dominus, et salvabit nos: et mane videbitis gloriam eius. Qui regis Israel, intende: qui deducis velut ovem Ioseph: qui sedes super Cherubim, appare coram Ephraim, Beniamin, et Manasse.
Today you will know that the Lord is coming to save us: and tomorrow you shall see his glory. Thou that rulest Israel, hear us: thou that leadest Joseph like a flock, thou that sittest upon the Cherubim – appear Thou to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasse.