Archive for April 2008

Catholic literary faire

April 30, 2008

Check it out here. It’s Ploughshares for Papists!


The importance of culture

April 30, 2008

Much of the reason behind this blog is to help remind fellow Catholics of the rich cultural heritage we have (often at the same time as I learn about it and gain more and more appreciation for it). But why is this cultural heritage important? What does culture have to do with faith?

Let’s consider Ireland and Poland for a minute. Of European countries, these are by far the highest in percentage of practicing Catholics. Why do you think that is? At the same time, the picture doesn’t look particularly good. They are going the way of the west.

The people of Ireland were under the yoke of England ever since the only English Pope authorised the invasion of Ireland by the Normans. More importantly for this discussion, the Irish suffered even fiercer oppression after the Protestant reformation, with the refusal to submit to heresy. Being Irish in many ways became synonymous with being Catholic. A culture of Catholicism (and Gaelic football) rose up. Now I know I’m oversimplifying things here, but such is the nature of a blog.

Let’s just think about Polish history this past century; I don’t want to get into the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom. Facing the threat first from Nazis, and then from the communists, the main way to hold on to Polish identity was to cling to the Catholic faith. And just like Barack Obama, I mean cling in a very good way. In order to survive in a world brutally opposed to your faith, you must express it inside and out. It must envelop your whole life. Pope John Paul II knew this in his early attachment to resistance theatre. Polish poetry and theatre were predominantly Catholic, and in this way, their faith and their way of life flowered in the spiritual desert of 20th Century Poland.

The challenges confronting us require a comprehensive and sound instruction in the truths of the faith. But they also call for cultivating a mindset, an intellectual “culture”, which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith’s vision to bear on the urgent issues which affect the future of American society.

Pope Benedict XVI

Orthodox vestments

April 30, 2008

While I was having a bit of fun in my earlier post about Salzburg, and art being important in healing the great schism, I did hear this fascinating true quotation from priests at one Greek Orthodox Church. They were quite excited about Pope Benedict XVI in general, and they specifically commented that he “had been wearing some really nice vestments lately.” 

Art does play a role.

One shade the more, one ray the less

April 30, 2008

The goal of the poet is to find all the right words, and the right number of words to convey the message such that an addition or deletion of a single word lessens the entire work. I won’t speak for novelists, but I would imagine if you could ask James Joyce, he would feel the same way with the possible exception that words could be expanded to include syllables and various mutterings.

And in music, consider the wonder expressed by the character Salieri in the play/film Amadeus: “And music, finished as no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall.”

As humans we long for that perfection, which ultimately can only be found in God. Music and poetry in their best forms, lead us to God as almost nothing else can.

This is why beautiful liturgy matters. 


Mozart, again

April 29, 2008

Could great Catholic art be the bridge between occident and orient? Is Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and Russia a fan of Mozart? You be the judge…

We attribute a huge significance to the development of friendly relations with the Catholic diocese of Salzburg. This is not just because your city has cultural and historical importance,” Alexy II said.

Which implies that the cultural and historical importance did play some part. 🙂 The full article is available from Interfax.

Ars Papa

April 28, 2008

From the Pope’s remarks at the end of a concert celebrating the third anniversary of his pontificate. 

But authentic art, like prayer, does not alienate us from the reality of every day, but rather enables us to return to our routine in order to ‘irrigate’ it and make it sprout to bear fruits of goodness and pace. 

The masterful itnterpretations which we have just heard also remind us of the value and universal importance of the artistic patrimony. I think especially of the younger generations, who by coming close to such patrimony, may always draw new inspiration to construct a world of justice and solidarity, by appreciating, in the service of mankind, the multiform expressions of world culture. 

I am also thinking of the importance that education must give to authentic beauty in the formation of young people. Art in its entirety contributes to refine their spirit and to orient them towards building a society that is open to the ideals of the spirit.

From the Papa Ratzinger Forum. See the complete text of the speech there.

Intro to the Introit

April 28, 2008

Some of you are undoubtedly already familiar with the Introit antiphon, but since we so rarely hear it in the Church in the US, I thought it deserved a post.

Almost every mass has a proper introit (meaning ‘entrance’) antiphon specified for it. Usually it ties into the readings for that mass, comes from the psalms, and it often sets a theme for the mass or the liturgical day. (For a fuller explanation and the nuances that I’m skipping over, see here)

In the United States, it has been almost entirely replaced by the entrance or gathering hymn, (such as, “We Gather Together”) which often has no specific bearing on the mass at hand, or relation to the Introit antiphon. But without the introit text, the mass loses something proper to it. 

Besides the Introit chants specified in the Graduale Romanum (the book that contains all the chants specific to indivdual masses of the year), there are modern, vernacular versions available. In fact, our parish has been using the introit antiphons throughout the Easter season (awesome!). And when our music director can’t use the introits, she tries to pick entrance hymns based on the introit for that Sunday.

For the finale of Intro to the Introit – here’s one of the most famous introits, that for a requiem mass, courtesy of Mozart and YouTube. Incidentally, the reason it’s called a requiem mass is precisely because the Introit begins with “Requiem aeternam”.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion, et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem. Exaudi orationem meam; ad te omnis caro veniet. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. A hymn becomes you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall a vow be repaid in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer; to you shall all flesh come. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.