Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hip Hop Mass?

Vatican II document on the Mass: "The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations," (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 116)

Someone might say - ah...other sacred music is allowed!
Answer: poyphony is harmonized chant

So the Church says you can chant or harmonize chant.

On the organ: " In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things.  But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority, as laid down in Art. 22, 52, 37, and 40. This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple." (SC, 120)

Guitars?  Harmonicas?:  " In permitting and using musical instruments, the culture and traditions of individual peoples must be taken into account. However, those instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music only, are to be altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions." (Musicam Sacram, 63)

Some would say that an instrument can be made to sound holy.  But the Church teaches above that instruments can be OBJECTIVELY UNSUITABLE to Mass.  Some people desiring or preferring an instrument be played at Mass does not in fact mean that it IS suitable for Mass.

Our music tells others what we think is going on at Mass.  Hollywood gets that - they don't play folk music when someone is giving their life for others, nor do they play blues music when the movie reaches its climax.  We need MUCH more of this if we want people to understand what we believe as Catholics when they attend our Masses:

Friday, May 22, 2015

"So you are poor and need should call our priest"

I sometimes wonder if we're really listening, as a Church, to everything Pope Francis is saying, or just to the things that we like to hear.

We hear all the time, and rightly so, that the laity are called to exercise a type of priesthood in the world.  We are reminded by Pope Benedict and John Paul II that "it is not the ministers who are the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, but the saints."  Priests are told, more loudly in some circles than others, "don't forget that we laity and you are on equal footing in the Church."  And I say that we SHOULD be reminded of that, and it is true.

However, one area that this "we're all equal and we're all priests" mentality has not sunk in, at least in the parishes I've been in, is with helping the poor.

To my great frustration, I can't tell you how many times some poor person has asked a parishioner for help and that parishioner has said "well, here's our priest's number" or "you should call our parish office" etc.

Folks, that's not Catholicism.

Help the poor people yourselves.  Engage in the Gospel of encounter that Pope Francis is calling us to.

The Holy Father's challenge to go to the margins, to engage the poor, to care for those in need is NOT JUST FOR PRIESTS

I'm ALL for the laity taking on more of what, in times past, may have been tasks and duties that were unnecessarily reserved to priests...but the laity have to live out that responsibility when it is convenient AND when it is inconvenient.

We have to stop outsourcing the care for the poor to someone else because we are busy.

The type of person who says "someone else can take care of this poor person" is the type of person Christ condemned in the parable of the good Samaritan.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The King's Singers and Negro Spirituals

A few months ago I was able to attend a performance by the King’s Singers.  I’m not very cultured, but I have been told by people in the know that the King’s Singers are one of the preeminent vocal groups in the world.

The performance featured pieces from throughout the history of the US, and so several songs were “negro spirituals”.  As I took in the performance, I had a revelation that I feel is VERY important to us Catholics.

The King’s Singers were British, had fancy polished shoes, sports coats, hair gel, etc. – they looked like they were airlifted in from the campus of Yale or Harvard.

And they absolutely nailed every note of every song and the harmonies were amazing and it was worth every penny to hear them. 

However…them singing negro spirituals just didn’t work.

You know why – because negro spirituals didn’t come from the dorm rooms of ivy league schools, nor did they come from cocktail parties...they came from cotton fields and oppression and heat and abuse and suffering.

The “King’s Singers” sang negro spirituals better than the originals but it didn’t work one bit. 

"Working in cotton fields is tough work...we would know!"


1) You learn something about the place of origin when you hear the music and
 2) You learn something about the music when you know its place of origin

The Catholic Mass has a type of music that grew out of it and leads back to it. 
1) When you hear chant, you learn something more about the Mass from which it came, and
2) When you know the Mass you learn something about the music that it spawned

Folk music came from a certain time and place

Hip hop came from a certain time and place

Death metal comes from a certain environment

Praise and worship music comes from a certain environment

And yet, for some reason, some people try to go against what the Church teaches, and they decide that they are going to bring music into the Mass that was
1)  Not something that came from the Mass
2) Does not lead people back to the Mass
3) In fact leads people to some much different place of origin than the Mass

I love folk music, I enjoy clean hip hop, even the occasional “metal” song catches my ear.

A folk Mass doesn’t point people to Transubstantiation because folk music wasn’t born from transubstantiation.  Hip hop doesn’t enhance one’s appreciation for Transubstantiation because hip hop music wasn’t born from an environment of Transubstantiation.

Dylan's genre of music didn't come out from the Mass so it shouldn't be brought IN to the Mass

Having folk songs at Mass is no different and no less absurd than a bunch of proper British chaps singing negro spirituals. 

Let’s stop overcomplicating the issue (and let’s stop sabotaging our own efforts to bring people to Christ) and just do music at Mass the way the Church asks, and in the style of music that was born OUT OF the Mass.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Stop Flirting with God and REMAIN in God's Love!

A couple of alternatives for confession

Part of me hesitates to write this because some already fear confession, and so me pointing out a suggestion to keep in mind will only make them more nervous.

HOWEVER, I feel that the benefit to those who go to confession will far outweigh the negatives


There are two ways to confess the same sin:

1) So I talked with my cousin Stephanie the other day and she was telling me about the trouble that she's having with her kids and I know that she struggles with her kids and I tried to be Christ like to her and listen to her problems and then my spouse came home and he was stressed out from a busy day of work and he hit his head coming into the house and the dog was barking and then the kids were running around and the house was a mess and I hadn't made dinner yet and then my neighbor came over and she needed to borrow a couple of eggs and then I opened the fridge and got some out, but I dropped two of them on the floor.  When my six year old came in and asked for help on his homework, I muttered under my breath but I ultimately sat down and helped him.  I did end up yelling at my husband because he didn't help with dinner, so I guess I'd like to confess being impatient.


2) I'd like to confess the sin of impatience


Sometimes people talk because they are nervous, and that's totally understandable

I write this not to complain, but because there are a couple of realities to keep in mind

1) usually someone else is waiting to go to confession.  If everyone rambles, then every confession is 10 minutes longer and that means that fewer people are able to go to confession

2) ALSO, and this is really why I write, when a person rambles in the confessional about every sin, I have no idea which sin they really struggle with, and thus I have no idea on what sin to offer feedback to them about.  When every sin is 4 minutes, although I'd like to offer feedback, I have no idea where the particular struggles are for a person.


A confession that will truly help a person the most, in my opinion, is something like this

Father, I'd like to confess the following sins
I've been greedy the past few weeks
I've been overly prideful
I've been short with my wife and kids...
And Father, the sin I'd really like some feedback on is ___________ and here's just a brief explanation of the situation

Maybe there aren't any sins that a person needs feedback on that week, and that's obviously great
Maybe there are two or three

But... if a person rambles on about each sin, there's no real way for the priest to know what to do with that.

It is the Year of Mercy, and I pray that everyone grows in devotion to this great sacrament!  If you haven't been in a while, come home and be freed of your burdens!

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day - AWESOME video!

Happy Mother's Day!
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Monday, May 4, 2015

Why Pro-lifers Should Be Jacked About the New Environmental Encyclical

This is a post I've been wanting to write for a while, and when I saw Mr. John Allen's article today in the Boston Globe, this seemed like a good time to put this together.

John Allen's article today is titled "Pro-life anxiety over Pope Francis’ looming ecological manifesto."  This is not a critique of Allen's piece at all, because there is a huge contingent of people who ARE pro-life and who ARE worried about the pending encyclical.

This fear is understandable. I also think it is misplaced.

I note two sources of this fear among pro-lifers, and the two sources are, in my estimation, of different weight.

1) The first source of this fear is political.  The fear is understandable because so often in our political discourse today, the "climate change" argument is put forward by "liberals" and those from politically conservative camps typically attack the climate change.

To counter this fear, it is important to again remember that the Church is not a political party.  Political parties can be more closely and less closely aligned with the "Catholic World View" but the Church is not a political party.  Neither is the pro-life movement.  Pro-life Catholics (which is what ALL Catholics are supposed to be) shouldn't fear an encyclical on immigration, just because, in their estimation, anti-life politicians are more vocally supportive of immigration reform.

2) The deeper fear of a papal encyclical is, as Allen notes, a fear that talk of addressing the environment and taking steps to be better stewards of the Earth will ALSO be extended to justify population control.  Again, there is, on the surface, evidence for this fear.  A lot of people who talk about climate change in the world today put forth, as one of their top solutions for "saving the environment", population control measures (greater access to abortion, sterilizations (forced if necessary), artificial contraception, etc.).

But here's why I (as a "pro-life Catholic") am jacked for the encyclical.  We need Pope Francis to go in and show the world that it is possible to advocate for greater care for the environment WITHOUT saying we need to "figure out ways to keep poor people from breeding"

Look, it is no mystery that at times human beings radically abuse the environment.  Tolkien said himself that one of his main motivations behind the "Lord of the Rings" was to illustrate that modernism, capitalism, etc. always are accompanied by a temptation to treat the environment simply as a thing to be pillaged for all the resources we can strip from it.  

The Church and the papacy is at its best when it takes partially true world views and corrects them and shows the world their complete and authentic manifestation.

It is pretty clear to me that the Pope is going to do that in this encyclical.  I feel confident that he is going to talk about the dignity of creation AND correct the idea that the way to better protect God's creation is to contracept, sterilize, and euthanize God's HIGHEST creation - the human person.

I can't wait for the encyclical!

Pope Francis Comes to North America(n College)

Dead Vines Look Alive for a While