Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy St. Pat's Day!

Céad Míle Fáilte, and a Happy Feast Day to all!

Once upon a time, in a previous life and in a galaxy far, far away (a place called North Carolina), I worked at an Irish Pub for quite a long time. It was a very formative period of life, and I learned not a few lessons during those five years.

Most of all, I learned exactly how to celebrate St. Patrick's Day-- properly speaking, the festivities would have begun last weekend, and will end sometime next week, or whenever the Guinness runs out. That typically doesn't happen, though, because, let's face it, that's just poor planning.

Anyhow, that's neither here nor there. One thing that I miss terribly about the good ole days at the Pub is just the community and the goodness of those in the Irish community. Whether at a céili, or a sunday afternoon session of players, or an all out feis, what a great group of people the Irish are to be around-- and, Irish or not, you're always made to feel welcome. If you happen to be in North Carolina tomorrow, I'd highly recommend stopping in at this pub for the craic:


On a related note, our youth group met tonight, and we showed them a great video all about that great evangelizer of Ireland-- I though I would post it for your benefit:

Sláinte to you all, and enjoy a sweet pint of the Black Stuff today!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"One Day" About Catholic New Media...

I don't know whether you saw this or not, but today is the day! Happy Catholic New Media Day!

Today is the day we're supposed to get the word out about Catholic New Media... sooo-- do your part!

The request was that, as a part of Catholic New Media Day, we post our favorite three blogs.

Here are the three that I check every day, and always have good things on them (though, I must confess it's hard to choose three):

Fr. Z's blog is a mixture of things, but usually the posts revolve around the renewal of the Liturgy. The title of the blog comes from his regular contribution to the newspaper, "The Wanderer," where he takes a prayer for an upcoming Mass and gives a history of its use, as well as a "slavishly literal" translation of the Latin, then comparing that to the "lame-duck" ICEL translation.

The Archbold brothers write this blog together. Let me tell you, I laugh so hard when I read this blog. Sometimes I nearly spew my coffee, too. They are a good read for the latest in Catholic culture, and life. Sometimes they push the envelope on what my own Catholic senses tell me is "acceptable"-- but I think that serves me as a reminder of what it is to be "real" and Catholic at the same time. If I had enough guts, I'd write like that, myself.

Fr. Tim Finigan, parish priest in Black Fen, outside of London, is the blogger here. I met Fr. Tim when I worked at the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England. He is a very holy priest, and gives a phenomenal take on the issues of the day from the perspective of a parish priest. Very often, his posts revolve around what is happening in parish life-- what a beautiful witness to the lived traditions of our Faith! His blog title comes from Pope Benedict XVI's now-famous address to the Roman Curia on the occasion of his first Christmas as Pope. (found here). He has been blogging for quite a long time now, and probably one of the forerunners of Catholics using New Media in the UK. Now that I'm not living there anymore, it's also very nice to get caught up on the latest on the Church there.

Finally, I'd be remiss without mentioning two sites that scour the Interweb for the latest in Catholic blogging:, which is re-syndicated on NCRegister, and also
If you ever don't know where to begin with reading blogs, check these two out!

Right, well, there's my contribution for the day-- though I am new to blogging, I am trying to make my posts substantial; I do hope that you appreciate reading my thoughts on the various things I have written about!  Oh that I could be half the writer of any of the aforementioned bloggers! If you aren't aware of them, please visit their sites.

Stay tuned for some other things over the next few days-- I have one or two posts in the works!

God bless you, and... beware the Ides of March.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Extraordinary Lenten Penance-- offbeat

"And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward." Matthew 6:16

A very happy Ash Wednesday to all of you!

I do hope that with the beginning of Lent, you have solidified your plans for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. If you're still looking for ideas, I thought that, in the spirit of the scripture verse, I would offer a cheerful one:

Here is a gentleman who is doing a Beer-fast for Lent. Now, before you write him off, watch the vid:

God bless him-- I think it's a great aspiration, and I'll be following his daily progress to see how he's doing. Although he's not a Catholic (as far as I can tell), I have great admiration for his desire to keep a traditional Lenten penance in his own way.

As a homebrewer myself, I think the idea is intriguing, though I would not necessarily want to do that as my Lenten penance. Having done one or two extended fasts before (more than a day, but not a week), I have great sympathies for his endeavor-- it will be a difficult one, for sure! Please say a prayer for him, and if you want to follow along with his Lenten journey, visit his blog:

In fact, so as to be in solidarity with the gentleman, I think that I will brew a doppelbock this Lent. I wonder if they would share their recipe?

In the meanwhile, have a wonderful day, and God bless you all!

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Role of Music in the Implementation of the New Missal

A major effort is being made to ensure that, alongside of the proper implementation of the words in the 3rd edition of the Missal, the music to accompany the Mass is being given the same attention.

Much of this is owed to those who work tirelessly in parishes and dioceses, but also through organizations such as the Church Music Association of America, in order to bring about an authentic renewal of church music.

An example of this perceived "new" importance placed on music is in the layout of the new Missal: a departure from the current edition of the Missal in the fact that the chant tones for the Mass that the priest can sing will actually be in the "Ordinary" section of the new Missal, rather than as a seeming afterthought, stuck in an appendix to the current Missal.

Now, I'm sure that most of us realize that if there is anything in the Mass that resonates on such a subjective and personal level for the congregation, it is the music. For that reason, substantial change to the music in a parish almost always causes enmity and discord.

The aim of the Church in this area is to ask the question, "Is it one--does it convey the unity of God? Is it true-- does it well express the mysteries of God? Is it good-- does it elevate the soul toward virtue in God? Is it beautiful-- does it lift the heart to contemplate the perfection of God?" and, by asking these questions, to evaluate the music's suitability for the liturgy based on objective criteria. How do we work to change the stigma surrounding "traditional" music, alongside of the real challenge our pastors and bishops face in the shifting of such a paradigm?

My colleague in the parish here where I work, Mr. Francis Koerber, has written a book to help assist with the implementation of the new Missal. Entitled, "What Should we be Singing Now?" it is a free e-book (though, you can order hardcopies) designed to bring together all of the current legislation on music and the Mass, in order to propose an ideal toward which we should all be working in re-introducing the music so venerable to the Roman Rite back in to the celebration of the liturgy.

I think that it is a phenomenal contribution to the ongoing discussion of implementation, especially the rather wrong-headed notion of "inculturation" that we have seen in so many parish music programs since the Council. (Every time I hear "The Canticle of Turning," I can't help but think of the Irish drinking song from whence the tune was borrowed...)

In a truly pastoral way, Mr. Koerber uses quotes from such persons as Pope Benedict XVI, Francis Cardinal Arinze, and Msgr. Guido Marini to reinforce what the Church has consistently taught in the area of music and the Mass.

In addition to solid teaching on the purpose and orientation of sacred music in the liturgy, Mr. Koerber also shares a wealth of free resources which he has compiled from various authors, all free and in the public domain available over the Internet.

Utilizing these resources alone makes it possible for a music director in a parish to very easily implement the music of the Mass--the actual words of the Mass for a particular celebration--through the use of the Propers; and also to use an objective criterion for selection of hymns, and discern when they are and are not appropriate to use at Mass. These resources would be an invaluable collection, whether one be a volunteer musician in a small mission church or a full-time director of music in a cathedral. Indeed, our diocesan liturgy committees would also benefit from these resources in developing a unified pastoral plan to support the parishes of the diocese.

One of the more appealing aspects of this book and the resources, to me, is the fact they're all free to use and in the public domain. There has been quite a lot of contention surrounding the release of the new Missal-- specifically over copyrights and ICEL, and, as regards music, the seeming reality that three music publishers in the USA have a corner on the market, thus limiting the ability for others to write music as an alternative to what they publish, all because of the copyrighted nature of the words of the Mass in English.

The fact that, for no more than the cost of an Internet connection and some ink and paper, we can elevate the quality of the liturgy through the use of the music so venerable to our patrimony in the Roman Rite, seems to me a win-win-win scenario.

I highly endorse this new venture by Mr. Koerber, already a renowned composer, and now having written a book that will assuredly be of great assistance in the pastoral planning and direction of Catholic music in the implementation of the 3rd Typical Edition of the Roman Missal, and indeed, for the next generation of Catholics.

To download the book, please visit:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Catholicism and American Culture: A question of Immigration and Integration.

Rocco Palmo has some great coverage over at Whispers about the transition of Cardinal Mahoney to Archbishop Gomez over in L.A.-- I'd encourage you to go read it. What a tremendous day for the Archdiocese of L.A., and the beginning of a new era for the Church there. Read the articles here, here, here, and here.

In reading the last one, though, the quote particularly struck me, and I couldn't help but be really put off by it. Here it is:
"Este es un gran día para el Catolicismo Americano. Hoy ya los latinos no somos católicos de segunda -- ¡somos católicos americanos!"
"This is a great day for American Catholicism. Today, we Latinos are no longer second-class Catholics -- we are American Catholics!"

(Does this quote not have similarities to sentiments expressed by African Americans in 2008...?)

Stop right here for a second, and think about the implications of this statement, and just how wrong-headed it is...

Okay. FIRST, where in the world have latinos ever been considered second class Catholics? I can think of no place. In fact, latino culture is almost synonymous with "CATHOLIC"-- capital letters to show that they are actually the epitome of what it is to be described as a Catholic. Indeed, being latino is so closely associated with being Catholic, that even pop culture has got it nailed. Take Jack Bauer of 24, who gets a tattoo of Our Lady of Guadalupe as his sign of initiation in to a mexican gang in season 3. (let's forget the negative caricature here, and move on).

The problem I have with this statement is that it confuses religion with a secular national culture; the problems associated with this secular culture(i.e. American life and politics) do not necessarily equate with problems in a religious culture that happens to operate in the particular secular culture.

The individual making the aforementioned statement has made the foregone conclusion that being Catholic in America necessitates that the Church is implicated in the problems of the national culture-- indeed, in some way has to answer for the problem. For my part, I am a Roman Catholic who happens to live in America; I am not an American cathlick.

In America, there is definitely a political debate over how to solve the increasing problem of immigration. Undoubtedly, this is a problem that the Church has to address by coming up with creative solutions. However, the mission of the Church, whether to anglos living in South America, or latinos in the USA, is the same one: the salvation of souls. This mission simply needs to be adapted to the particular culture.

I would argue (and I think it's a sound one) that the Church herself does not discriminate against latinos. Although I do recognize there are probably prejudices in individual communities to greater or lesser extent, which affects parish life: why is that? Certainly, it's not because the Church labels them as "second-class Catholics".

So why this statement-- one with such a negative connotation of what the Church has done to/for Latinos living in America? Could we be seeing a distortion of the nature of the Church, perhaps influenced by the erroneous notions of liberation theology, so prominent in latino culture? The notion being one of an "immanent church," a church existing solely to give equal rights to the poor and marginalized, and build up the kingdom on earth?

I think that this quotation is actually not at all about being considered a "second-class Catholic." Aside from the question of politics and immigration, I think that the perceived injustices upon those in the hispanic community are a result of the same problem that is plaguing the anglo community in America. No vocations. Though, perhaps in this instance, the problem resulting from a lack of vocations is being blamed upon this non-existent entity, "the American church," who hasn't been doing enough for the latinos.

As a result of this vocations problem, the Catholic Church in America is dealing with an increasing shortage of priests, and then on top of the pastoral needs of the "anglo community," the hierarchy feels they have to take care of an entirely separate culture's needs as well. (Is it a separate culture, truly?) What we have here is a question of cultural integration, complex to be sure, but to which the Catholic Church historically is ideally suited to present a solution.

Based on my own experience, and solely my personal opinion, I'd like to present a few proposals for meeting the needs of the hispanic community, if they indeed desire to continue to exist as a separate community. These proposals are intended as an alternative to the current model, where the needs of the community are being met by those from outside the community. (warning, they may be "controversial"). They're in ascending order of short-to-long-term solutions.

The hispanic community as a whole, or representatives from that community, should consider:
1) learning English (is having a Mass in spanish integral to a Spanish Catholic cultural identity? It wasn't for quite a long time before the 70's); 2) bringing a priest with them; 3) encouraging vocations within the community; or 4)all of the above.

The problem is, from my perspective, that the Catholic Church in America has adopted the US government's response of accommodation of immigrants, without any expectation that they take on some of the responsibility of "being Church"-- something about that 5th precept comes to mind. In my own parish, there are zero hispanic parents involved in catechesis, despite my repeated efforts to recruit volunteers. And yet, our first communion class is full of hispanics. Granted, this is most likely due to a culturally different understanding of how catechesis is done, but if that is the case, we aren't seeing catechesis being done through the home or by any other means within the hispanic community, either. (This is not the place to get in to the Americanchurch catechetical model, but I am not a proponent of it, either)

In all of this, I have to wonder whether there is truly a spanish-language "need" to be met in the Church today, at least through the providing of the Sacraments.

I can't help but postulate whether or not the notion of "the American Church" wasn't furthered along by the de-railing of the desired liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. With the impetus of Mass entirely in the vernacular (which wasn't called for by the Council), we see also the segregation of what it means to be "Catholic". 

To be Catholic, one now has to know the language in which the Mass is said. One now has to attend a Mass in their own language, where the emphasis on gnosis is primary. Alongside of the emphasis on the immanent community experience, there has been an overwhelming loss of that which is transcendent in the Mass; namely, communion and relationship with God. (as evidenced by the overwhelming lack of belief in the Real Presence by Catholics today)

At least in the so-called "Tridentine" Mass, the "needs" of the latino population for Mass would have been met. Simply order a latin/ spanish missal to stock in the pews. Granted, there are still pastoral needs, hence the desire for priests who speak Spanish, but is that the responsibility of the anglos to provide? And on a related note, because this is the example brought up most often: does one "need" to understand the language to hear confessions and offer absolution? Is therapy what the Sacrament is about?

Please read: I'm not advocating that latinos shouldn't be able to have their pastoral needs met by someone whom they can understand and relate to with a common cultural experience and who speaks the same language.

What I'm suggesting is that, barring they don't meet any of the 4 proposals I made above, should it be the responsibility of those in America to provide a long term need for an entire community? It seems that, at some point the community, if it wants to remain a "separate" community, needs to start providing for itself.

The USCCB, or even the priests of a diocese, need not be "American." The simplest requirement for membership as a priest of the diocese or as a Bishop of the USCCB is that of doing ministry in the geographic location. If latinos want their separate culture, then perhaps we need to be thinking about how priests and bishops are brought in from other places.

But, as I said, I wonder whether this "need" is a legitimate one. I don't like the idea of "two communities" in one parish. It seems to me that a more pastoral approach, a more "Catholic" means of building unity, "a more perfect way," if you will, would be to have Mass in Latin, which would bring the whole community together to share in the one Mass as one community. This idea of bi-lingual Masses are an aberration, and only serve to make everyone annoyed. The Church's tradition already offers the perfect solution for unity: why not embrace it?

These are complex problems, but they needn't be. They are getting more complex, most likely because of our own actions, and these actions keep digging us deeper. At some point, we will have to embrace what it is to be Catholics of the Roman Rite, to further define what "rights" we have as Catholics who happen to live in America, and to come up with realistic solutions to these pastoral needs, so that we can sustain the system long-term (ex. I've already alluded to it, but do we have a "right" to Mass in the vernacular?). Integral to that, if latinos want to have their pastoral needs met in spanish, there has to be an increase in vocations from the community to support the community.

But maybe I'm wrong. Your comments/ opinions are most welcome-- God bless you!