Category Archives: catholicism

Choral Report: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

I am reminded today of why I love to sing, and choose to sing in my parish choir.

During the offertory, we sang Byrd’s Surge Illuminare Jerusalem, normally an Epiphany motet but just as beautiful for today’s feast.

Latin: Surge, illuminare, [Jerusalem], quia venit lumen tuum, et gloria Domini super te orta est. Quia ecce tenebrae operient terram et caligo populos. Super te autem orietur Dominus et gloria eius in te videbitur.

English: Arise, shine [O Jerusalem]; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. 

During communion, we sang Victoria’s most thrilling Jésu, dulcis memoria which is simply heavenly and possibly one of the most beautiful pieces I have sung.

Latin: Jesu dulcis memoria
Dans vera cordis gaudia:
Sed super mel et omnia
Ejus dulcis præsentia.

English: Jesus, sweet remembrance,
Granting the heart its true joys,
But above honey and all things
Is His sweet presence.

Just shut your eyes and listen.


Image: By Nheyob (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunny Sunday

We’re battening down the hatches here in Vancouver, expecting some cold weather and snow this week, so we decided to take advantage of the sunnier-than-average day and head out on the town.

Today is the Solemnity of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the Catholic liturgical year, and so we walked over to Holy Rosary Cathedral for the 9:30 mass. It’s a lovely neo-gothic church, small for a cathedral (in my limited experience). The women’s choir sang with the Assistant Organist Catherine Walsh and they were joined by a violist whose name wasn’t printed in the bulletin. (At 11:00, trumpeter Katherine Evans was to be present with a number of Telemann pieces on the program.)

After mass, we wandered over to the Vancouver Centre Skytrain station and purchased a Compass card, the transit payment system here in Vancouver that recently launched, and then rode south to the King Edward station. We grabbed a coffee at Starbucks until Pronto opened at 11:30, where we had lunch.

pronto lunch

It’s across the street from the Park Theatre (our ultimate destination) and had good recs on Yelp. Zouheir had an excellent sandwich and so-so soup. My pasta special was dry. Seemed like leftovers, put in a bowl, topped with cheese, broiled, then some tomato sauce spooned on top. But my glass of wine was just fine.

But then we saw Brooklyn at the theatre, and all was forgotten. Based on a novel by Colm Toíbin and with screenplay by Nick Hornby, it was a lovely film, beautifully shot, great cast, and a heartbreaking story. While I had read the novel some time ago, the film particularly resonated with my husband, an immigrant multiple times and familiar with the pull of the old (and the new.)

 

I missed my book club meeting in Toronto today. I had suggested that we read an aboriginal author this month, and chose Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese. This was before I knew that I would be in Vancouver, so I sent in my comments by email last night. I started:

This book is as close to a “10” as I can imagine. From a structure, story, and writing perspective, I find it pretty much perfect. I read Indian Horse, his previous novel and rated it 4/5 on Goodreads. I recall that it sat inside me for days after I finished reading it and I suspect this one will too….

Wagamese has received multiple honours for this novel, and they are well-deserved. Highly recommended.

Finally, a petition has been initiated to ban battery cages (used in raising chickens) in Canada. Please visit this link to find out more and sign the petition.

Fall Friday recipe

Vegan? Catholic who abstains from meat on Fridays? Or just looking for a hearty fall recipe?

From Toronto Star
From Toronto Star

The Star posted a recipe for Old Style Pinto Beans the other day from a cookbook called Decolonize Your Diet: Plant-Based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing (affiliate link), and if you’ve got a reasonably stocked kitchen, you probably have everything you need.

There are instructions for both slow cooker (yay!) and stove top cooking, and uses dried beans with no pre-soaking required. (Well, they have to cook for a long time, but with a slow-cooker, that’s no problem.) I didn’t have pinto beans on hand so used my stash of romano beans instead.

There’s a facebook group and website that can help you find other ways to pump up the health factor in your diet. I’ll be checking them out.

All Saints and All Souls

All Saints Day 2010 at Skogskyrkogården in Stockholm. Holger Motzkau 2010, Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons (cc-by-sa-3.0)

Better late than never.

These feast days happen on the 1st and 2nd of November respectively. I never celebrated or even knew about them until I became Catholic almost 10 years ago. But they are days to remember the saints and all the dead (respectively) and much has been written about them, in particular, some important music.

My parish hosted a concert on the evening of All Saints featuring some of this music. Our baritone soloist sang Allerseelen (All Souls Day) by Richard Strauss (words by Hermann von Gilm.) Here is a lovely version by Jessye Norman. The translated text:

Bring in the mignonettes’ fragrant spires,
the last red asters on the table lay,
and let again us speak of love’s desires,
like once in May.

Give me your hand in furtive, sweet advances –
if people see it, mind not what they say:
Give me just one of your delighting glances,
like once in May.

Today the graves are full of lights and flowers,
one day a year the dead shall hold their sway:
Spend on my heart again those lovely hours,
like once in May.

Every time I attend a concert with art song I promise myself to read more poetry.

Our choir did a number of pieces, but I particularly enjoyed Justorum Animae by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, based on the text from Solomon 3:1-3: “The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of malice shall not touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die, but they are in peace.” (Hear it here.)

This space in the liturgical year to remember those who have gone before us has been usurped by Hallowe’en. But there is a need to honour the spiritual bond between those of us on earth and those who have gone before. Catholics believe that there is efficacy in prayers for the dead, and at this time of year, we are reminded of our obligations to those who have gone before us.

Our concert Friday night ended with a rousing sing-along of For All The Saints by R. Vaughn Williams.  The fourth stanza perhaps gets at what I’m trying to say about the unity of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant:
Oh blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia.

Finally, I particularly liked this item from my Facebook feed this week and leave you with it:

all souls

Jack’s First Communion

I haven’t been to many First Communions. I became Catholic as an adult, as did my brother John, so I didn’t grow up with the sacrament, nor did I have many Catholic friends whose children passed through this stage. From this limited experience, I understood that this typically occurs outside of a regular Sunday mass. Not so at Our Lady of Perpetual Help here in Toronto. The children receiving for the first time did so during mass with their families, with no other to-do than an acknowledgement of the importance of the day in the homily, a brief assembly at the front of the church, and a request that the children process out of the church first for photo op immediately after mass on the front steps of the church. The priest spoke about the reason for this: that the children are becoming part of a larger community and that while this is an important step in their lives, it is something that they do together with the body of Christ in the Church. John’s eldest son Jack went through this with his classmates this morning. After the service we convened to their home for lunch with family and friends. A snap of Jack with my men:

Alex, Jack, Zouheir (his godfather), Michael
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Vox Cantoris: The Somerville Letter

Originally blogged by Vox Cantoris, but worth reproducing.

Father Stephen Somerville is well known in Canada. A priest of Toronto, many will sing his New Good Shepherd Mass and his Responsorial Psalms in Canada and other places using Catholic Book of Worship II or III. Father Somerville was active for many years at St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto before moving into parish ministry. In his later years he was “suspended” from active ministry by the then Cardinal Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic. Father Somerville had celebrated the Usus Antiquior (1962 Missal) without an “indult” which we now know was never necessary and unfortunately, he did so in the Toronto chapel of the Society of St. Pius X. He is now long retired and living in New York State.

With the corrected translation of the Roman Missal coming this November, it is worth reading the repentance of one who assisted in giving us such a wretched forty years of liturgical banality and theological weakness.

The letter below is presented as a reference and as a historical curiosity; the recommendations made are those of its author–Vox

An Open Letter to the Church
Renouncing my Service on I.C.E.L.
By Father Stephen Somerville, STL.

Dear Fellow Catholics in the Roman Rite,

1 – I am a priest who for over ten years collaborated in a work that became a notable harm to the Catholic Faith. I wish now to apologize before God and the Church and to renounce decisively my personal sharing in that damaging project. I am speaking of the official work of translating the new post-Vatican II Latin liturgy into the English language, when I was a member of the Advisory Board of the International Commission on English Liturgy (I.C.E.L.).

2 – I am a priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto, Canada, ordained in 1956. Fascinated by the Liturgy from early youth, I was singled out in 1964 to represent Canada on the newly constituted I.C.E.L. as a member of the Advisory Board. At 33 its youngest member, and awkwardly aware of my shortcomings in liturgiology and related disciplines, I soon felt perplexity before the bold mistranslations confidently proposed and pressed by the everstrengthening radical/progressive element in our group. I felt but could not articulate the wrongness of so many of our committee’s renderings.

3 – Let me illustrate briefly with a few examples. To the frequent greeting by the priest, The Lord be with you, the people traditionally answered, and with your (Thy) spirit: in Latin, Et cum spiritu tuo. But I.C.E.L. rewrote the answer: And also with you. This, besides having an overall trite sound, has added a redundant word, also. Worse, it has suppressed the word spirit which reminds us that we human beings have a spiritual soul. Furthermore, it has stopped the echo of four (inspired) uses of with your spirit in St. Paul’s letters.

4 – In the I confess of the penitential rite, I.C.E.L. eliminated the threefold through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault, and substituted one feeble through my own fault. This is another nail in the coffin of the sense of sin.

5 – Before Communion, we pray Lord I am not worthy that thou shouldst (you should) enter under my roof. I.C.E.L. changed this to … not worthy to receive you. We loose the roof metaphor, clear echo of the Gospel (Matth. 8:8), and a vivid, concrete image for a child.

6 – I.C.E.L.’s changes amounted to true devastation especially in the oration prayers of the Mass. The Collect or Opening Prayer for Ordinary Sunday 21 will exemplify the damage. The Latin prayer, strictly translated, runs thus: O God, who make the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant to your peoples (grace) to love that which you command and to desire that which you promise, so that, amidst worldly variety, our hearts may there be fixed where true joys are found.

7 – Here is the I.C.E.L. version, in use since 1973: Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise, make us one in mind and heart.

8 – Now a few comments: To call God Father is not customary in the Liturgy, except Our Father in the Lord’s prayer. Help us to seek implies that we could do this alone (Pelagian heresy) but would like some aid from God. Jesus teaches, without Me you can do nothing. The Latin prays grant (to us), not just help us. I.C.E.L.’s values suggests that secular buzzword, “values” that are currently popular, or politically correct, or changing from person to person, place to place. Lasting joy in this changing world, is impossible. In our desire presumes we already have the desire, but the Latin humbly prays for this. What you promise omits “what you (God) command”, thus weakening our sense of duty. Make us one in mind (and heart) is a new sentence, and appears as the main petition, yet not in coherence with what went before. The Latin rather teaches that uniting our minds is a constant work of God, to be achieved by our pondering his commandments and promises. Clearly, I.C.E.L. has written a new prayer. Does all this criticism matter? Profoundly! The Liturgy is our law of praying (lex orandi), and it forms our law of believing (lex credendi). If I.C.E.L. has changed our liturgy, it will change our faith. We see signs of this change and loss of faith all around us.

9 – The foregoing instances of weakening the Latin Catholic Liturgy prayers must suffice. There are certainly THOUSANDS OF MISTRANSLATIONS in the accumulated work of I.C.E.L. As the work progressed I became a more and more articulate critic. My term of office on the Advisory Board ended voluntarily about 1973, and I was named Member Emeritus and Consultant. As of this writing I renounce any lingering reality of this status.

15 – I thank the kindly reader for persevering with me thus far. Let it be clear that it is FOR THE FAITH that I am renouncing my association with I.C.E.L. and the changes in the Liturgy. It is FOR THE FAITH that one must recover Catholic liturgical tradition. It is not a matter of mere nostalgia or recoiling before bad taste.

16 – Dear non-traditional Catholic Reader, do not lightly put aside this letter. It is addressed to you, who must know that only the true Faith can save you, that eternal salvation depends on holy and grace- filled sacraments as preserved under Christ by His faithful Church. Pursue these grave questions with prayer and by serious reading, especially in the publications of the Society of St Pius X.

17 – Peace be with you. May Jesus and Mary grant to us all a Blessed Return and a Faithful Perseverance in our true Catholic home.

Rev Father Stephen F. Somerville, STL.

This is important reading for Catholics of good faith. If learning from the past helps us move forward, go to the link to read the entire letter (and introductory remarks by the blogger).

Thanks to Vox Cantoris for reproducing this letter in it’s entirety.

In the search for the Voice of God…

…some believe Gregorian chants are preferable to folk music

  Apr 22, 2011 

Aaron Lynett/National Post

Brother Brian holds his rosary as he, along with Frater Stanislaus (centre) and Frater Herman Joseph (right) rehearse for their choir specializing in Gregorian Chant at the Holy Family Church in Toronto

When Philip Fournier sings a line of Gregorian chant, it hangs like a puff of smoke in the air before it slowly dissipates above the empty pews below.

The sound, listening to it live from a distance of just several inches away in the choir loft at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Toronto, is ancient, elemental. The sound originates in his abdomen — a line of text that flows out like a wave, sung in tones that are dark and rich. The words are in Latin. It is not a song so much as prayer that is sung.

Mr. Fournier, with his ragged sweater and perpetual five o’clock shadow, is part of a small cadre of traditionalists for whom singing Gregorian chant is an attempt to restore what they see as the real music of the Catholic Church — sounds that go back to the time when King David sang psalms in the temple. 

If they had their way, they would storm the parish churches and hurl all the guitars and drums into the street because they believe substituting modern music for ancient music has eroded worship.

Philip Fournier

Read the rest at the link above.

I’m a huge chant fan, although realize that to encourage congregational participation in the novus ordo mass, we need to sing familiar hymns and (re-)inroduce these more traditional forms slowly. Both of the parishes I have belonged to since I became Catholic moved to Latin mass parts for Advent and Lent, and my current choir uses a lot of renaissance (and some medieval) music during the offertory and communion periods. We are also (apparently) ordering the Parish Book of Chant and this should go a long way to including more chant in the liturgy.

The Saint’s Name Generator

I used some of my holiday free time to create a little program that will choose a saint’s name at random.

Why would you want to choose a saint’s name at random?

I got the idea from the “saint for the year” devotion, where people have a patron saint for the new year chosen for them at random (usually by a priest or religious, who prays over each choice). I’ve had saints chosen for me this way before, and it’s always been a great experience. E.g. In 2007 St. Maximilian Kolbe was picked as my patron for the year. I wasn’t familiar with him before that, but his life ended up inspiring me tremendously all throughout the year, and I still ask him for prayers for all sorts of matters. He’s become one of my favorite saints.

You can check it out here.

Thanks to Jennifer at “>Conversion Diary

I do this every year. My patron saint for 2011 is St. Nicholas and among the information provided by the program, he’s the patron saint of boys….just what I need to get through another year with two teens of that persuasion. Let me know what you get in the comment box below.

Middle East Prayer Service in memory of Syriac Christians killed in Iraq

Last Thursday’s Prayer Service for Christians of the Middle East was a powerful evening of prayer and support for a community suffering. More than 600 people came together from across the Archdiocese with faith leaders from 15 participating to demonstrate their support.

For those who were not able to join us at the Cathedral, Salt & Light Television will be airing the prayer service this Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 8:30 p.m. with an encore showing on Sunday, November 21st at 1:30 p.m.

It’s an opportunity to hear the gospel proclaimed in Arabic, reflections from the Syriac Catholic Bishop of the United States and Canada, Bishop Yousif Habash, as well as our own Archbishop Thomas Collins sharing his own thoughts on the current plight of Christians in an increasingly violent region.

Charles Lewis also has an interesting piece on Holy Post regarding the Prayer Vigil and its broader significance. You can access the story here.

Thanks to all those who worked so diligently in a short time frame to organize this special evening of prayer and communal support.

We continue to offer our thoughts and prayers for all those Christians who continue to suffer in the Middle East and around the world.

Photos: Bill Wittman

Sadly, we were unable to attend, but our hearts are with all those who are suffering.