Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: Music

Happy Friday!

Okay, I think this individual is serious and very sincere. While I found it slight disturbing it brought brought a smile to myself. Enjoy, Happy Friday!

Divine Music

Music lovers and disciples of St. Cecilia, I thought you would enjoy this:

Those who read music are familiar with the C that may appear after the clef sign. It’s often that this designation for 4/4 time stands for “common.” Not true. This C is not even a C. The most common time, in the morning of music, was “perfect” time, have three beats to the bar. This trinity of beats was considered analogous to the three Persons of the Trinity. Naturally-or symbolically-a complete circle, with the connotations of God’s completeness and perfection, was used as its sign. 4/4 time, on the other hand, was not perfect and complete, and so its symbol was an incomplete circle…the C that is not a C.[1]

[1] Peter Klein, ed., The Catholic Source Book: A Comprehensive Collection of Information about the Catholic Church, 3 ed. (Dubuque, Iowa: ACTA Publications, 1999), 473.

Christmas Chant

Here is a fantastic Byzantine (Antiochian) Christmas chant for the fifth day of Christmas:

Cartoon: Sacred vs. Secular Music at Mass

Music is a touchy subject for anyone to discuss. By its very nature, it moves our hearts and minds to love, it incites anger, reinforces depression and spurs us to great movements of joy. It expresses and inspires the whole range of human emotions…and we live in a culture that demands us to express ourselves.

Music within the liturgy can be just as volatile a subject as discussing any Pro-Life issue – even though the subject matter is worlds apart. I grew up with folk music during the liturgy which had its good days and some really bad days. Attending Franciscan University for my college education, I experienced liturgical music that used the same instruments but I would not call it folk. It was definitely Praise and Worship music played in such a way as to inspired worship and draw us into the sacred of the Living God.


The music that I went to school with is not the same music that they have used for a number of years – it unfortunately fell victim to the culture as well. On the up-side, they have corrected that issue and moved towards scholas and traditional sacred music.

Present Day

The music that I hear during the liturgies currently, seems to have moved beyond folk and that is definitely not a compliment. In an effort to draw young people, musicians have adopted the current secular music style ( a seemly British alternative with American flair) or whatever the latest Protestant Praise and Worship leaders are utilizing; regardless of theology or appropriate allusions to God. To be honest, it has deviated more and more from what the Church desires sacred music to be or how it should effect us.

Sacred music is unique. Just because it mentions God or sings about Him does not make it sacred. The vast majority of the orthodox and beautiful music using common band or entertainment instrument(s) will disappear in four to five years. It will be forgotten and musicians will have moved on to the latest top 40 Christian hits. That being said, sacred music is not just a style but has an enduring quality about it. Gregorian chant and polyphony have been used and sung for well over a 1000 years. Seems to me that it qualifies as enduring and it subject matter is certainly sacred. It also has one other aspect that sets it apart, it is what the asks for.

I am still reflecting on the wisdom of the Church desiring a more exclusive use of the organ. Regardless, she requires my obedience which is the sign of love our Lord taught us. The following cartoon is well done, albeit a little snarky. It does present what the Church teaches about music within the liturgy and common objections.

A final thought: Musicians – you have a tremendous gift that you share with us every week. Why is it necessary to receive a direct order from the Pastor or the Holy Father to change and conform to Church teaching…or at least move towards it. I thought our Lord’s question, “Do really love me?” would be enough since it is He that directly linked obedience to love. For those who are not the directors of your choirs, saying, “It is not my decision” is a cowards way out and demonstrates a lack of integrity. You do not have to sing with them. Am I calling for a revolution? No. I am saying that we are all held accountable and if we are not with Him we are against. Let’s have enough integrity to at least start to integrate it into our repertoire.

Truth is symphonic. Thoughts?

Witness to Holiness…First in Speech

We are all called to be witnesses for the Gospel, it is the Gospel mandate. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in paragraph 2472 says it this way:

The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. Witness is an act of justice that establishes the truth or makes it known.

All Christians by the example of their lives and the witness of their word, wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest the new man which they have put on in Baptism and to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at Confirmation.

As I continue to prepare for my God-willing Diaconate ordination, I am drawn to meditate on the following prayer that the Bishop admonishes the newly ordained Deacons to incarnate as he hands on the Book of the Gospel to them:

Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become.

Believe what you read,

teach what you believe,

and practice what you teach.

I think this admonishment is something we all need to inculcate into our daily lives. At the core of the prayer is the simple demand of becoming who we profess to be. St. Paul even gives a blueprint for success to the young (I pray I am still considered that):

Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Hopefully, we remember that St. Timothy was about 17 when this was written to him. So, we could say that he is a young adult or adult due to the culture and time in which he lived. The first step towards become a witness to those around us, according to St. Paul, is speech. St. James in his epistle, rather pointedly shares with us the importance of our speech:

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain. (James 1:13)

In fact, because of the sins of speech, he actively discourages those who want (or quickly volunteer) to be teachers (verbal witnesses) by proclaiming that if you cannot control your tongue, then you have no hope of controlling the rest of your conduct (Notice speech precedes and drives conduct):

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, for we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies. It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes. In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna. (James 3:1-6)

Most of us think that this is just what we say. As every saint has taught, sins of omission are usually worse than sins of commission. This reminds me of Edmund Burke who once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” We need to speak up,

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Today’s society uses words as  a tool. The very fact we have the sayings, “Words are cheap” or “I’ll believe it  when I see it” should scandalize the Christian. Remember what Michael Card wrote in his song, The Final Word?

When the Father wanted to communicate His love, He expressed it in one final word. The Final Word was Jesus, He needed no other one…

We live in a world of broken promises, trite comments and conversations that really communicate nothing. Oddly enough, the only words we typically trust in are those in our music. For some reason we many times allow them to manipulate our emotions into believing that somehow the artist understands us, what we are feeling, or where we are – I thought that was the definition of friends and family. From the beginning, the Lord intended words or speech to express who we are and to communicate His holiness and presence.

The greatest offenses of speech today is blasphemy. The Modern Catholic Dictionary defines blasphemy as:

Speaking against God in a contemptuous, scornful, or abusive manner. Included under blasphemy are offenses committed by thought, word, or action. Serious contemptuous ridicule of the saints, sacred objects, or of persons consecrated to God is also blasphemous because God is indirectly attacked. Blasphemy is a grave violation of charity toward God. Its gravity may be judged by the capital punishment in the Old Testament, severe penalties of the Church, and in many cases also of the State for blasphemous speech or conduct. In order for a person to sin gravely in this manner, he must use blasphemous expressions and realize the contemptuous meaning of what he says or does.

To toss our Lord’s name around casually, or using His name as an exclamation in a text or IM would be grounds for being stoned in the Old Testament. Today, the penalty is well, hell (deliver us oh Lord!). We also need to remember that we participate in another person’s sin by choosing to ignore, confirm and/or allow the sin to continue. In other words, we incur the guilt as well. Example, what was the language like in the last movie or television show you watched? Did you encourage others to watch it and tell them it was a good/great movie if you just “overlook the language?” As a good priest friend also shared with me, being desensitized is not an excuse. It just means you choose to live with terminal cancer unless, of course, you take radical action.  For those who have no idea how to discover what is in a movie before you contribute to the profit: – fantastic service.

Let’s commit ourselves to recovering holy speech. To help us this Friday in our meditation on the Passion, the following is a quick list of offenses against truth that deal with speech- CCC 2463-2487.

Offenses against truthfulness:

  • False witness and perjury. When it is made publicly, a statement contrary to the truth takes on a particular gravity. In court it becomes false witness.276 When it is under oath, it is perjury.
  • [R]ash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor
  • [D]etraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them
  • [C]alumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.
  • Every word or attitude is forbidden which by flattery, adulation, or complaisance encourages and confirms another in malicious acts and perverse conduct.
    • Adulation is a grave fault if it makes one an accomplice in another’s vices or grave sins. Neither the desire to be of service nor friendship justifies duplicitous speech. Adulation is a venial sin when it only seeks to be agreeable, to avoid evil, to meet a need, or to obtain legitimate advantages.
  • Boasting or bragging is an offense against truth. So is irony aimed at disparaging someone by maliciously caricaturing some aspect of his behavior.
  • [L]ie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.
    • Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man’s relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord.

Have a great weekend and may the Lord bless you and your endeavors in recovering, rediscovering and building a Catholic culture for the glory of His name.

More Music…Since it is Chant Week

Today we are featuring Mozarabic chant.  At its roots, it is originally in Visigothic and has never used the Arabic of Romannce tongue for its words.  It is heavily influenced by the conquest of the Moors. After Vatican II, it began heavily using Castillian in its chant.

Medieval Music to My Ears

Now, my wife did not like this form of chant which finds its origin in the Middle Ages.  Of course, our opinions are different in a number of areas. Among my friends, they would trust her musical tastes way over mine. My only saving grace is that this is sacred music. Thanks again to the Hermeneutic of Continuity blog for posting this.

The style being used here is called Organum which is a plainchant technique developed in the Middle Ages to enhance harmony. This was the style was a marked forerunner of polyphony and eventually our modern choral ensembles. Wikipedia defines it as:

Organum (pronounced /ˈɔrɡənəm/, though the stress is sometimes placed on the second syllable, from Ancient Greek ὄργανον – organon “organ, instrument, tool” [1]) in general is a plainchant melody with at least one added voice to enhance the harmony, developed in the Middle Ages. Depending on the mode and form of the chant, a supporting bourdon may be sung on the same text, or the melody is followed in parallel motion (parallel organum) or a combination thereof. As no real independent second voice exists this is a form of heterophony. In its earliest stages, organum involved two musical voices: a Gregorian chant melody, and the same melody transposed by a consonant interval, usually a perfect fifth or fourth. In these cases often the composition began and ended on a unison, the added voice keeping to the initial tone until the first part has reached a fifth or fourth, from where both voices proceed in parallel harmony, with the reverse process at the end. Organum was originally improvised; while one singer performed a notated melody (the vox principalis), another singer—singing “by ear”—provided the unnotated second melody (the vox organalis). Over time, composers began to write added parts that were not just simple transpositions, thus creating true polyphony.

Coming to a Church Near You? I Wish!!

I must first thank The Hermeneutic of Continuity blog for bringing this schola, Exsurge Domine to my attention.   They provide the music for the usus antiquitor every “Sunday and Holy day at the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Cagliari by Monsignor Dante Usai.” He shares that:

Their style recovers some of the connection between the western and byzantine traditions of chant and reminds me of the schola which sang at the Masses I celebrated in Estonia last year. Here they are rehearsing the singing of Kyrie “Cunctipotens” of Mass IV.

So, close your eyes and imagine hearing this during the Kyrie in your Church this Sunday:

Or how about hearing the Stabat Mater during Lent:

Oh, may this be coming to a Church near you!

Music to My Ears

Truth is symphonic…

For more go to CMAA Colloqium XX 2010.

Public Policy through Music – Glee

Teens and a few of those in youth ministry continue to encourage me to watch an up-and-coming show called Glee – even if only to hear the talent of the actors.  So, I thought I would do some research and then watch a few episodes.

What did I find? Turns out this popular musical comedy-drama was ranked the eighth best television show of 2009 by James Poniewozik of Time commenting:

…when Glee works—which is often—it is transcendent, tear-jerking and thrilling like nothing else on TV. […] It can be a mess, but it’s what great TV should be: reckless, ambitious, heart-on-its-sleeve and, thanks especially to Jane Lynch as drill-sergeant cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, gaspingly funny. When it hits its high notes, nothing else matters.[i]

Sounds exciting.  What else… The show is enormously popular with teens and young adults.  There are even a number of adults who have succumbed to the sirens’ song.  It has amazing musical performances and is reminiscent of High School Musical. David Hinckley of the New York Daily caught my attention who commented that the target audience of Glee is teens. Sounds good. He complimented the show by likening it to the 1980’s cult-classic Porkey’s (Huh?!?) saying,

The new musical-comedy drama “Glee” dresses like “High School Musical” and has the heart of “Porky’s.”

That’s a compliment.

For those under 28, which is most of the target audience for “Glee,” “Porky’s” was a low-budget, early-’80s teen classic that seemed to sell raunch, but whose real appeal was suggesting outsiders with good hearts could beat all the jerks who had none.[ii]

Now, maybe it is me, but I feel like we cannot divorce the storyline from the story that is told.  My English professors taught me that how something is said is just as important as what is said.  They taught me that the how and what together provide a good picture of the intent and beliefs of the storyteller.

Admittedly, I must confess, as a stupid 12 year old over at a friend’s house I have seen clips of Porkey’s – and my Pastor was happy to hear my confession. Again, why do we want to subject our children to this low-brow entertainment that is not good for the soul? As you know, Porkey’s has also been associated with the introduction of mainstream smut into society. A good story line – I’ll take his word for it. The review did not win me over. I decided to ask for some help and committed to watch the season finale.

How does one look for an example of the best parts of the show? I went to the music aficionado of the family, my wife, and asked her.  It just so happens that she had pulled up on YouTube a few of the musical numbers that she enjoyed immensely.  Since Glee is a television show, we thought it was just as important to watch as well as listen and we were SORELY disappointed and frankly angered. Here is what I watched:

The Wind-up

Case in point. Children are a gift and a blessing of God the Father regardless of the manner in which the child was conceived – it is neither the child’s fault nor concern (let’s avoid the extreme situations at the moment). The latest numbers reported by the National Center of Health Statistics is that 38.5 percent, roughly 1.64 million children are born out of wedlock.[iii] Considering the present view of marriage and statistics (1 in 2 marriages fail in the United States); it is not surprising. Should we be surprised that society as a whole has become utilitarian and tends to love things and use people – all with sincerity? Probably not. But would you ever, in all sincerity, relate the birth of a child to being handed over to Beelzebub? No? That’s what Glee did.

The Pitch…a Swing and a Miss

During the Season 1 finale, Episode 22, Journey to Regionals the producers coordinated the Glee Clubs regional performance of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody with the onset, labor, birth and recovery of Gwen and her newborn daughter. It caught me by surprise that the producers chose to coordinate the onset of labor and the rushing into the hospital with the following lyrics,

Mama just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead
Mama, life has just begun
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away

I guess I could somewhat understand for a teenage mother – even though that train of thought reduces the child to an object that is disposable and a leech.  My eyebrows raised when, as the father was being berated, he looked on with a painfully glance to the birth and the following lyric was sung:

He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity

But, most alarmingly was the music and acting associated with the birth of that beautiful gift of God. They sang, with the line,

Beelzebub has the devil put aside for me, for me, for me!

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye
So you think you can love me and leave me to die
Oh, baby, can’t do this to me, baby
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here

The reference to “gotta get out” – nothing to do with the baby wanting to enter the loving and maternal embrace of Gwen. What message was just communicated to the target audience of teens and young adults? Well, you know the old saying; faith is more caught than taught.  Fact: They are hearing some rather great musical performances. Fact: They are also hearing, and we all know that music is the most effective means of teaching, that pregnancy=a life thrown away and a baby=Beelzebub handing us over to the devil himself.

Hmmm? So of course there was a happy ending right? You know, the one where the new mother sees the child and smiles, cries, hugs the child and then refuses to give the child up for adoption. Nope! This is reality television. She smiles, hugs the child and without blinking an eye or reservation says that she has no intention of keeping the child (Wait, I think I have a small tear in the corner of my eye – oh, that is a tear of disgust).


Since we are discussing childbirth, have you ever noticed that Hollywood portrays childbirth as if the mother was being drawn and quartered? Ladies, my wife had four difficult labors and births but she did not carry on like a wailing Banshee all the while dressing me down in a low guttural voice exclaiming, “Look what you have done to me!” There are many women that have challenges in their deliveries and I am sure that more than one hates their child for the pain that they had endured or the new-found stretch marks the child caused. In my house, those are the badges of the sanctity of life and the reward for being a tabernacle. But seriously, the majority of births are not like what you see on television or the movies. It is or can be a joy-filled experience and time of intimacy with your husband. The last three births of our children, we played Scrabble.

Romans 12:9

Back to the topic at hand. We who value life need to start making hard decisions about what we choose to support and fills our ears and hearts.  We also need to not check our minds at the door when listening to an artist. I am sure that I will receive a number of complaints telling me to lighten up because this is entertainment and we need something to enjoy.  I will, if you remember to avoid Rome where so many of the early martyrs were killed because they refused to tolerate that ages version of entertainment. At least the Romans were open about it and didn’t try to subversively win hearts and minds with psychological slight of hand.

Oh, by the way…the ability to have the Church Baptize in public, that is a result of their gift of intolerance. The Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. (Tertullian)

[i] Poniewozik, James (December 8, 2009). “The Top 10 Everything of 2009″. Time. Time Inc..,28804,1945379_1944142_1944160,00.html. (Retrieved July 2, 2010)

[ii] Hinckley, David (September 9, 2009). “On ‘Glee,’ sex is the keynote at musical high school in Ohio”. (Retrieved July 2, 2010)

[iii] CDC. 2006. Unmarried Childbearing. (Retrieved July 2, 2010)