Tag Archives: catholicism

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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Catholic Moral Theology

Sacred_heart_vintage_graphic--graphicsfairy004b2

My brother John Berkman is one of a group of Catholic moral theologians who have a blog. Their mission statement:

We are a group of North American Catholic moral theologians who come together in friendship to engage each other in theological discussion, to aid one another in our common search for wisdom, and to help one another live lives of discipleship, all in service to the reign of God.  We understand our role as scholars and teachers to be a vocation rooted in the Church and so we seek to place the fruits of our training at the service of the Church, as well as the academy and the world.  We recognize that we as a group will have disagreements, but want to avoid the standard “liberal /conservative” divide that often characterizes contemporary conversation, as well as the bitterly divisive tone of so much ethical discussion (particularly on the internet). We therefore endeavor to converse with each other and others in a spirit of respect, charity, and humility.

It is a refreshing change from some of the polarized (and polarizing) discussion that is out there in the Catholic blogosphere.

Check them out at CatholiMoralTheology.com.

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy.

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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.

<Snip – click on link below for full version>

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.

<Snip – Click on link below for full version.>

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.

Thinking about Josephine: All Souls edition

This morning, news of the bombing of a Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad hit my feed reader via the Archdiocese of Toronto blog.  I directed me to the BBC report of the incident, where I read with horror of this targetted attack on the Eve of the Feast of All Saints.

My first reaction was to call my mother-in-law Josephine to see if she knew anyone in that parish.  She had contacts world-wide in the Syrian-Catholic community and elsewhere.  And then I remembered her passing almost three months ago.  It’s funny…Zouheir says that he keeps going to pick up the phone to call her and then remembers that he can’t.  Josephine made friends wherever she went, and even in the months before she died, she kept in contact with friends and family by phone.  She was also introduced to Skype in her final year and enjoyed seeing her grandchildren that way, even if she couldn’t see them in person.  And she was a prayer warrior, keeping us all close to her heart and the heart of Jesus.

Today, she would have been praying for the church in Baghdad, and I ask for her intercession for the repose of the souls of the dead, and peace to the injured and bereaved.

Sunday Choral Report

We are blessed with a terrific parish choir, comprised of a combination of professional singers, musicians, and keen amateurs. Our rehearsals are the hour and a quarter before mass, where we spend our time preparing the days hymns, choir-only pieces, and work on music for upcoming weeks with remaining time. We rehearse in a room in the lower level of the church building, and then in the quarter hour before mass, we have a break, robe, and head up to the loft at the rear of the nave during the organ prelude. 

Today’s rehearsal went quite well.  We prepared Francis Poulenc’s Salve Regina for the Offertory and Jesu, Dulcis Memoria (Tomás Luis de Victoria) for Communion.  I wasn’t completely firm on some of the difficult intervals in the Poulenc, but it was 98% good.  

Singing from the loft is such a pleasure.  The difference in the sound between our enclosed rehearsal room and the soaring space in the church is huge.  We also stand in a semi-circle around the organ console when we sing and the acoustics are quite different.  As a result, our efforts typically sound much better when we actually “perform”.  (I realise that’s not the correct word to use during mass….)  It was no exception this morning.  I joked to one of my colleagues that I got intervals in the Poulenc during mass that I hadn’t managed to get during the rehearsal.  It’s always a pleasure to finally hear ourselves singing from the loft.  

The presider spoke about the Church’s newest saint, the first male saint born on Canadian soil, Brother André Bessette, now Saint André of Montreal.  Father quoted Saint Augustine’s recommendation to “Pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you.”  I think that will be my maxim for the upcoming week.  I have a lot of catching up to do.

A Southern Baptist meets St. Anthony.

Jennifer at Conversion Diary is one of my favourite Catholic bloggers.  Her post today about her mother-in-law Yaya is one in a string of hilarious posts about this woman.  Here is the beginning, but you need to go there to read the whole thing:

My mother-in-law,Yaya, is Baptist. Well, currently she attends Joel Osteen’s church, but the official denomination that she would claim to be a part of (and in which she raised my husband) is the Southern Baptist church.

Friends sometimes ask if there’s been any tension between us and Yaya since my husband and I converted to Catholicism in 2007, but there really hasn’t been. Occasionally my husband will try to start a good-natured debate with her about doctrinal differences, but she’s never interested: “I love Jesus and y’all love Jesus and Jesus loves us and that’s all I really need to know,” she once said….

Like in every other area of life, the details of Christian doctrine are of little importance to her — in fact, I’m not sure if she notices them at all. She is so intensely focused on the big picture that she doesn’t have time to mess around with the small things. (For example, when she unloads the dishwasher when she’s visiting our house, she takes the silverware basket and just dumps the whole thing into the drawer. “I’m not gonna sit there and sort knives and forks when I’ve got grandchildren I could be hugging and kissing!” she says.)

Nevertheless, as a gesture of respect I rarely bring up the areas of Christian doctrine where Baptists and Catholics differ. In general, I figure there’s no need to wade into controversial territory and risk causing tension between us.

But then Yaya lost some important paperwork. And I decided to tell her about St. Anthony.

Go and read about Yaya’s experience with St. Anthony.