An Improbable Vocation Story

My vocation like any vocation began in the heart and mind of God long before I was born (cf Jer 1:4). But I became aware of it only in my early college years.

I was not a particularly religious child. I never thought of the priesthood, I hated going to church and things religious held no interest for me. I went to Church because I had to. My mother insisted I must go if I was going to live in her house. My Father too would have none of this “I don’t feel like going!” stuff.

In high school I was made aware of a Church choir that was forming for High School kids. I didn’t like church music, I was a Rock ‘n’ Roll fan only. I couldn’t sing. But I did notice that there were some very pretty girls singing in that High School Church Choir. So, in my sophomore year of High School I joined. This would be a good way to meet those girls and have a chance to date them. And sure enough, I was able to date several of them! (I even learned to sing). Now going to Church was far more interesting. I still didn’t love God all that much but the young ladies were a real draw. And through it all God was preparing me to meet my bride. Not necessarily the bride I expected, but my bride nonetheless.

Through the remainder of my High School years and into college I moved into musical leadership. I became a cantor, an organist, and eventually, in early college became the director of that Choir. Now I was planning music and pondering the spiritual message of the lyrics, learning more of the faith.  I favored the spiritual classics over the modern but I got to know all the genres. One day my pastor said to me, “Charles Pope I think you are called to be a priest!” I laughed and asked if he’d like to meet my girl-friend. But something started that day. A seed was planted. No one had ever said that to me before and it touched a nerve.

At first I was unsettled and alarmed. I was coming to the conclusion of a computer science degree, I was already working for the Army Corps of Engineers, I was dating a girl I thought I’d like to marry. That old priest really rocked my world. How could I be a priest? But I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It seemed strangely attractive to me and yet I was also well situated to go the traditional family and career route. “All right,” I said,  “Lord, if you want me to be a priest you’re going to have to give me a pretty clear sign!” Two weeks later my girl-friend announced that we were “over.”  It was my fault. You don’t need the details but God had acted. I was rather depressed for a while but also saw an open door. I knew I had my sign. I walked through and have never turned back. There were a few rocky moments in seminary, a few less than stellar evaluations but in 1989 I was ordained to the priesthood.

So  there it is. I joined the choir to meet the girls and “look for my bride.” Well, God did show me my bride. She is a beautiful bride, demanding, but so beautiful. She is the Church. I am no bachelor. I am a family man and have quite a large family too. Many call me, “Father.”  I love my bride and my family. You never know where you will find your bride or who she will be. But if you’re faithful, God will show you.

Here is a beautiful video on Vocations. Some of the Lyrics are quite moving. Keep searching,  young people. God will show you your spouse. Consider, as I did not that your spouse might be the Church if you are a man, and might be Christ himself if you are a young woman destined for religious life. They are brides of Christ.

Bearing Witness to all that is good and true

Pope Benedict’s trip to the Holy Land is a great lesson in  the Church’s commitment to inter-religious dialogue. Catholics have two very different relationships with Judaism and Islam and if you follow the papal trip to the Holy Land you will learn quite a bit. 

Pope John Paul II liked to speak of the Jews as our older sisters and brothers highlighting our shared roots.  With regard to Islam, Pope Benedict highlights our common values.

We often think that dialogue is meant to highlight what we share in common and while that if often a good starting point, dialogue is also understanding our differences in order to have a better understanding of the other and a better understanding of ourselves. I had a professor who once said that good dialogue helps us learn more about ourselves and more about our partner in dialogue.

Pope Benedict in a speech in Jordan speaks of Islam and Christianity as “natural allies in defense of common values and a positive role for religion in society.” He added that Muslims and Christians must also “bear witness to all that is good and true, especially the common origin and dignity of  all human persons.” This foundation offers many possibilities for collaboration. In his speeches though, he also raises the areas in which the two faiths have quite different perspectives. He affirms that Christianity rejects extremism with regard to religious freedom.  Pope Benedict would like to see more freedom for Christians living is Islamic countries both with regard to worship  and civil issues like employment.  He will speak of this often during his trip.

This trip to the Holy Land will both highlight the beauty of these three major faiths whose home is the Holy Land and the differences in the answers we have to life’s biggest questions.


The Mass in Slow Motion – The Gloria

 So we have gathered, acknowledged God’s presence in several ways (hymn of praise, incense, veneration of the altar and the greeting of the celebrant). We have examined our consciences and asked God to give us pure hearts and minds to praise him. At most Sunday Masses what comes next is a kind of outburst of praise called the Gloria (Glory to God in the highest!) Knowing and experiencing God’s presence and mercy brings forth joy and a desire to praise him. And so we sing:

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King,  almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world:  have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father:  receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One,  you alone are the Lord, You alone are the Most High,  Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,  in the glory of God the Father.  Amen.

The Gloria is a very old and venerable hymn sung by which the Church. It is sung by the congregation, or by the congregation alternately with the choir. If it is not sung it is to be recited by all in unison or alternately. It is sung on Sundays outside the Advent and Lenten seasons, as well as on solemnities and feasts and at special, more solemn celebrations. The text of the Gloria echoes the song of the angels at the Nativity. Further it praises and invokes both the Father and Son and concludes with a brief doxology to the Trinity.

History – The Gloria was not created originally for the Mass. It is and heirloom from the treasure of ancient church hymns. Indeed it is a precious remnant of a literature now mostly lost but once certainly very rich. These hymns imitated and borrowed from biblical themes. Indeed they may even be said to take after the tradition established by Mary who proclaimed her Magnificat by borrowing heavily from the biblical themes with which she was so familiar. So too Zacharia in his Benedictus. Few of these early hymns of the Church remain however. One other hymn which does remain is the Te Deum and it, unlike the Gloria has retained its existence apart from the Mass. The roots of the Gloria may be found as early as the 4th Century where a text very close to our present text is found. Likewise another text from the 7th Century is also very close. Again, this hymn was not originally part of the Mass but was probably sung as the Te Deum is today, as a thanksgiving hymn for feasts and celebration. It was sometimes included in the Mass as a hymn as early as the 6th Century and perhaps even earlier by some accounts. But definitely by the 6th Century Pope Symmachus permitted its use on Sundays and feasts of martyrs but only at a mass presided over by a Bishop. Pope Gregory allowed its use at the Easter Mass even if the Celebrant be only a priest. It was not until the 11th Century that the distinction allowing it only for Bishop’s masses was dropped. This was due to continual requests that it be allowed. Today, the Gloria is said at all masses of a festive character outside of penitential seasons.

A full analysis of the hymn could be a course in itself. However suffice it to say that it is understood to be a hymn of praise which is almost ecstatic in quality. This is not as well brought out in the present English translation for use in this country. However, a look at the Latin text (see appendix 2) is helpful. Lastly, it is well that the Gloria be sung if possible. Reciting the Gloria is comes in a very poor second. It is kind of like reciting the National anthem. We just don’t do this because the very festivity and honor of the song requires it be sung. The Gloria is like this. If at all possible it should therefore be sung. However this is not always possible and it ends up being recited. It should at least be recited in a vibrant and pious manner to avoid the possibility of the text becoming wooden and dull.

In the end, these introductory rites of procession, penance and praise all serve to establish the fact that we are in the presence of God. Casting aside our sin and sorrow we enter God’s presence with reverence, confidence and joy. Next we will pause to pray before we sit to attentively listen to God speak to us.

The following video shows the opening the movent of Vivaldi’s Gloria in D Major. Church music for the Baroque era became very elaborate with the use of orchestras and large choirs. Sometimes the Gloria and Credo of a Mass could last 20 Minutes or more. Also, the text of the Mass had become so well known and popular that it was not uncommon for settings of the Mass to set by the great composers as concert pieces sung outside of Mass. This was an era when the Church influenced the world much more so than today. Enjoy this festive opening movement of the Gloria in D by Vivaldi, a Catholic priest and composer from the early 18th Century.

How is Mary our Mother?

We Catholics often call Mary our Mother and rightly so. But how is she in fact our Mother? Granted, Jesus announced her as our Mother when he said to John from the Cross, “Behold your Mother.” (John 19:27) John represents every disciple and hence when Jesus declares Mary to be his Mother, he also speaks to us” Behold your Mother. But still the question of how is she our mother. Jesus does not simply declare her to be so in some arbitrary way, as a sort of nice thought.

As you might suspect there is something more at work here. The most straight forward theological answer is simply this: Mary is our mother because she is the Mother of Jesus and we, by baptism are incorporated into Jesus. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.  (1 Cor 12:27) . Jesus is the head of the body, the Church. (Col 1:18) But if Mary gave birth to the head of the Body of Christ she also gave birth to the rest of the Body of Christ (us). What mother do you know who ever gave birth to the head of her child but not the rest of that child’s body? So if Mary is the Mother of the head of the Body, she is also mother to the members of the body. Why? Because of Christ is one and we are one in Christ. Hence Mary is Mother of Jesus, we are in Jesus, Mary is thus our Mother. It is not some mere sentimental thing. It is a real motherhood.

Happy Mother’s Day Mary!

Mother’s Day Weekend

What is the best gift you can give your mother on Mother’s Day? Scripture surely gives the best answer: Let her who bore you rejoice. (Proverbs 23:25) In other words the best gift we can give our mothers is to live a life that would make them proud. The Blessed Mother has told us what she wants: Do whatever he (my Son) tells you. (John 2:5) 

 So the flowers may be nice, the dinner, a phone call, all nice but the best gift for our mothers is a beautiful and holy life.

Enjoy this beautiful video which is a tribute to our mothers:

Gloria TV News

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