A corporal work of mercy.

A corporal work of mercy.
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Wednesday 30 August 2006

Mangled Liturgy older than Vatican II?

Well this is something which I have always believed, not that I have a great recollection of the Tridentine rite from my youth. I was about 8 or so when English was used and I served it as an altar boy a few years later. I conduct a choir now for the splendid Tridentine Mass said with care and dignity. I also love the Novus Ordo when said properly without shortcuts and improvisations. I simply love the mass.

Having conducted a schola and choir for the Tridentine since May, I can see that it too could have been open to abuse.  

Just follow my train of thought. I can't remember the saint, somewhere around the 12th century but he had doubts about the Real Presence and there was one person in the church. He thought the man a fool after he said the words of consecration and he was stunned to see actual flesh and blood on the paten. So my point is, with the Canon said in silence and the fact that all men are sinners and heretical or careless priests did not just come along in 1970; it is possible that he could be just saying yada, yada, yada and the faithful would never know. It's one advantage about the Novus Ordo--we can clearly see and hear the abuses!

Which brings me to a most excellent column on the Holy Eucharist by Benedict M. Ashley, O.P. and as Father Richard John Newhaus would say, "you're always considered a convert" as was Father Ashley.

Here is the first paragraph which you can click on to link.

We have all suffered at Mass from the intrusive, even sometimes heretical modifications of the liturgical texts by "creative" priests; from the banal translations of some of these texts; from the inaudible or mangled reading of them by lay readers; from fatuous hymns or badly strummed guitars, etc., etc. Should we blame this on Vatican II and its Novus Ordo and call for a return to the "Tridentine" Mass?

Sunday 27 August 2006

More Discovery of Gregorian Chant and a little something on Donnie and Marie

In the appropriately named town of Bethlehem in Connecticut the Abbey of Regina Laudis can be found. These are Benedictine Nuns following the Divine Office as prescribed by St. Benedict. The Office begins at about 2:00 A.M. with the nuns rising to sing the Office of Matins. Yes, that is AM! Going back to bed, they rise early to sing Lauds followed between their daily chores by Prime, Terce, Sext and None. At some time in late afternoon before supper there would follow Vespers and then just a few hours later before bed, Compline.

In its compromise to the modern world, the Church’s Liturgical “periti” renamed and restructured the Divine Office in the early 1970’s as the “Liturgy of the Hours.” This much reduced form of the Divine Office includes the Morning Prayer (Lauds), Evening Prayer (Vespers) and Night Prayer (Compline).

In yesterday’s Hartford Courant, writer William Weir discovers the nuns and their office and the Divine sounds of the chant. More and more we can see the secular world taking notice of this beautiful tradition, in no small way due to the election of Benedict XVI. Prior to his election as Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger’s views on liturgy, polyphony and chant were well known. At some point very soon the Pope must respond to last years’ Synod on the Holy Eucharist. The report from the Commission was received by the Holy Father in June. Presumably, he has been using part of his time at Castel Gondalfo to ponder his response.

Whether by accident or design (and in these matters, there are no coincidences) a convergence of issues all related to the liturgy is near.

The Vox Clara Commission must soon complete its work on the ICEL translation of the Roman Missal for the English speaking world. A translation more literal from the Latin original and poetic will be the result.

While Bishop Fellay of the SSPX has said just recently that there has been no action on the reunification of the Society and that it may take “years,” Benedict has made church unity a major goal of his pontificate. Where else to start than with traditional Catholics?

Can we hope that the “Reform of the Reform” so often talked and written about is not that far away?

The Nuns of Regina Laudis know something about Gregorian Chant and its relationship to prayer, contemplation and worship. Now the readers of the Hartford Courant know, we can only hope (and pray) that soon the Catholic in the pew will find out what these Benedictines never forgot.

Gregorian chant signals return to tradition
By William Weir Hartford Courant

BETHLEHEM, Conn. – On a recent Monday at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut, about 35 nuns gather in a dim chapel to chant, as they do every day at noon. Making their way through Psalm 118, the nuns sit or stand; some face different directions, while others bow steeply. Throughout, their voices remain in unison.

Pope Benedict XVI would approve. After a concert of 16th- and 17th-century music recently, the pope said he would prefer to hear Gregorian chant and other traditional types of music play more of a role during Mass. That’s good news for the cloistered nuns at the Bethlehem abbey, which is known around the world for its devotion to Gregorian chant and is one of the few places where it is sung with such frequency and intensity. The nuns sing seven times a day; some interrupt their sleep to chant at 2 in the morning.

But the pope’s comments also raise certain questions: What is sacred music supposed to sound like? And what’s wrong with new music in church?

It’s a debate that has raged since 1963, when Vatican II reforms brought contemporary music to Catholic churches. Just as the Latin Mass almost immediately disappeared amid attempts to modernize, chants gave way to guitars and snappy folk tunes. The new music helped fill pews, but it left church conservatives and formally trained musicians reeling. How could the church that brought about Gregorian chant, polyphony and musical notation – all profound influences on Western music – be the same one leading sing-alongs of “Love Is Colored Like a Rainbow” and songs from hit musicals?

What, bemoaned the purists, had the folkies wrought?

Going to church, critics say, should not sound like shopping at the mall or driving your car. They charge that “liturgical pop” is spiritually bereft and demands nothing from the churchgoer. It’s friendly, pleasant and easy, they say. They mean that in a bad way. Understanding God is hard work, the argument goes, and similarly, music in church should challenge us. A sermon that says only what people want to hear would lack moral authority. The same goes for music.

“There’s a sense of mystery and religious atmosphere that seems to be lost in the new days,” says Scott Turkington, the choirmaster at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Stamford. “The fact is that the older music is better. Ask any serious musician, and he’ll agree with that.”

The chants sung at Regina Laudis are more than 1,000 years old. But Sister Elizabeth Evans says “old” doesn’t mean “irrelevant.”

Sister Elizabeth, 46, was a corporate securities attorney and law professor before she came to the abbey in 1997. Each of the nuns is assigned certain responsibilities; hers are music and dairy. Sitting in a small room behind a wooden screen (which symbolically separates the nun’s world from the visitor’s, although there’s enough space to shake hands), Sister Elizabeth remembers stumbling onto the sound of chant when she was 14. To her, it was anything but off-putting. She played it for her friends, who were equally taken. “And I mean, these were 14-year-old gum-chewing delinquents like myself,” she says.

To the untrained ear, the unaccompanied chant named after Pope Gregory the Great can sound emotionally muted, droning at times and otherworldly. That it’s sung in Latin doesn’t help.
But to Sister Elizabeth, it sounds more recognizably human than any other music, down to earth and in tune to the rhythms of life. It’s based on the Scriptures, after all, which are filled with human foibles.

She says chant is like blues legend Muddy Waters – a comparison that conjures the improbable image of nuns chanting “Baby, Please Don’t Go.” She explains that both have a certain earthiness and deal with the nitty-gritty of life.

What they chant depends on the time of the day (the morning lauds, for instance, often celebrate beginnings and creations; at noon, they chant the sext, which deals a lot with chasing down noonday demons). Subjects also change along with the seasons. Lately, they’ve sung about taking in harvests, filling storage houses and other day-to-day concerns.

So if chant is like Muddy Waters, what’s contemporary Christian music?

“Donny and Marie,” Sister Elizabeth says, laughing.

© 2006 Journal Gazette and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.http://www.fortwayne.com

Wednesday 23 August 2006

Raymond Stephen Vincent Domet

Pardon me for a slight, though not total diversion from musical ruminations. Today is the 62nd anniversary of the birth of my late brother, Raymond, who died on December 31, 2004 from complications of Leukemia.

A few years earlier, Raymond's son, Christopher John Domet living then in Hamilton, Ontario with his wife and two little girls, died of cancer. In 2004, I composed a Christmas Mass titled "Mass of the Father's Love" based on Divinum Mysterium--Of the Father's Love Begotten---so this is not totally diverse from music. It was written for the Novus Ordo Mass and since I am now conducting for the Tridentine, it's not particularly usable. As well, with the changing coming to the texts in the Mass due to the "real" translation from the Latin, much of this composition, the Gloria in particular, is redundant. It will take some work to adapt it--perhaps some day.

The Mass was dedicated to Christopher and given to Ray as a Christmas present. Ray was planning to come to hear it at St. Teresa Catholic Church on New Years morning (where Christopher was baptized and he was married and we all grew up as a family). Raymond did not come to Mass that morning to hear the Mass and the music dedicated to his son, he died the night before. I think the hardest thing I've ever done in my life was telling his mother who was then 89, that her son was dead. I will never forget it.

Raymond's funeral was at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Mississauga. Other than the Gloria (not sung or recited in a Mass of Christian Burial) the Mass of the Father's Love was sung.

I like to think he finally got to hear it.

Raymond had a blog. I can remember asking him so many times, "what' a blog again?" Well, I figured it out. On his blog, he wrote what was then to be his "last post" and I've reprinted it below.

Requiescat in pace, dear brother.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Mass Of The Father's Love

My 12-year younger brother made me cry on Christmas Day. Not an easy task for a person who has no tears. Actually I 'cry' a lot with my situation the last few years. It used to be mostly pity parties, as some have termed the phenomenon, woe is me, why is God doing this to me, I do not deserve this.... I am generally moved beyond that, especially because useless and counter-productive emotion aggravates my breathing almost instantly, and that is not needed at all!

Most of my crying is at a close to the surface emotional engagement and intimate entanglement with event or person or art or entertainment. So it was last week when RadioBoy took CaraMia and I to see the film version of The Phantom Of The Opera. Yes, I commented right away that the Phantom did not have a powerful voice as one would reckon, recalling the two performers I saw at the Toronto stage production, and the original Broadway performer. But there I was shaking and hyperventing in my theatre seat nonetheless, at the majestic and captivating music of the night, and all the other pieces so fondly recalled.

My brother, whose interest in classical and liturgical music is long-standing, and barely short of professional, made all of us cry.

He has written A Mass For Christmas, Mass Of The Father's Love. It is being presented this season, and i will hear it either this New Year's Day, or the following Sunday, at his home Church, Where CaraMia and i grew up, where we exchanged our vows, hey, the basement of which is where the whole Roy Orbison Pretty Woman DJ Ladies' Choice thing began! It is also where our first-born, Christopher, (bearer of Christ) was baptized. And it is to the memory of our gone too soon son that LittleBro has dedicated his opus! There's more. In LittleBro's own words...

The title of this Mass...is a direct reference to the divine love of God, the Father.... Metaphorically it is an earthly reference to the "father's love" given to Christopher by his own father. This Mass composition is therefore dedicated to Christopher John, whom I never heard complain, and who suffered greatly in his sojourn with cancer: and to his father, who loves him.

Wow. Today we gathered at Mom's home, where LittleBro and his son live, with Mom. A fine turkey dinner was provided and a good visit, with the grandbabes seeing their Sitto and Uncles and charming us all again with their beauty and grace and intelligence. Much love to their Mom, M, who has had to raise them without her beloved Christopher at her side.

And a thought to my Dad, who wrote a song for Mom so many years ago. Where Did You Learn To Kiss? He also, after barbering coughed up a bit of money he could spend on himself, purchased an electronic organ, taught himself to play, and enjoyed a bit of his retirement. But consider, in my Family, our musical talent. LittleBro, he writes a Mass. MiddleBro, he like me, may not be able to carry a tune in a bucket, but his son is a professional musician, teacher, director, so talented. MySister's elder daughter has a most accomplished voice, and sends chills upon my spine when I hear her exquisite voice with Wind Beneath My Wings when she was sixteen, to the Ave she sang at her sister's wedding last year.

Thanks LittleBro. Thanks Dad. Thank you Father Almighty.

Posted by:
Ray / 9:34 PM (1) comments

Thanks Ray!

Wednesday 9 August 2006

Pray for the Land of the Cedars

While most of my BLOG commentary deals with sacred music and the state of the liturgy, at times like this it seems that even these important matters becomes trivial.

Over 120 years ago in 1886, my maternal grandfather, Domenic Haykel left the beauty of Mount Lebanon for an unknown future in Canada. Leaving Halifax his port of entry, Domenic made it as far as Fredericton, New Brunswick, became a British Subject and a few years later returned to find the love of his life, Naza (Elizabeth Deeb). They had one child in Lebanon and then returned to Canada's Maritimes and had 9 more. They were active at St. Anthony's Church in Fredericton. 

In 1910, Wadea Doumit (the family name means "Dominic") and his bride, Farida Francis (a first cousin) came to Toronto and lived in a walk-up tenement building on York Street where the new Toronto Stock Exchange now stands. For a short time they were members of St. Anne's Parish but eventually became part of St. Patrick's.

Both grandfathers became merchants. Three of Domenic and Elizabeth’s sons became millionaires and their Alma Mater was the school of hard knocks. Wadea and Farida never owned their own house but during the Great Depression Wadea fed the locals from the back door of his store at Queen and St. Patrick Streets and he later bought two houses for his young married sons one of which I now own.

My maternal grandfather must have been one of the first Lebanese to leave that beautiful land to come to Canada. At that time Lebanon was a province within the Ottoman Turkish Empire and not too many from Mount Lebanon were happy about that. The Maronite Catholics on Mount Lebanon were a faithful and brave lot. They kept their faith in Jesus Christ despite the Mohammedans and their ultimate victories against the Crusaders. But then like now their persecution was sometimes too much to bear. For almost 100 years it was the Druze that murdered thousands.

Yet, they prospered and like their Phoenician ancestors they explored the world. Originally they spoke Aramaic, the language of Our Lord, the same Jesus who walked in their cities of Tyre, Sidon and Cana, site of His first miracle. Eventually they became part of the Arab world but never Arab. That is why they are so resented; for keeping a focus outward to Europe and the Americas and Oceana unlike the Bedouin and Mohammedans.

After the Ottoman Turks crumbled came the French who rescued the Christians from the Druze and who helped to prepare the land for its independence in 1946, two years before another new land, the State of Israel.

So ironic today that Lebanon which other than participating in the initial 1948 conflict never, ever attacked Israel or joined in any of the middle-east wars since 1948 should be so brutalized.

But is this brutality solely the fault of Israel?

The Palestinian terrorists, even the name Palestinian has become synonymous with the “t” word, who first came on the scene in 1972 in Munich took the name “Black September.” Eleven innocent Israeli Jewish athletes were brutally murdered during the Olympic Games. The next few years would see more hatred and turmoil and loss of innocent life at the hand of Black September, Fattah and the PLO. Allied with other Marxist terrorist groups of the cold war period including the Beider-Meinhoff, IRA, Basque Separatists and the Red Brigade in Italy, terror reigned supreme.

A few years before Munich, Black September took place in Jordan. Trans-Jordan, the nation of the Hashemite Kingdom was under a British Mandate along with Palestine after the Ottoman Turkish Empire collapsed at the end of World War I. The new Kingdom of Jordon became home for thousands of Palestinians, most of whom got on with life and have become part of broader Jordanian society. Yasser Arafat, born in Egypt of Palestinian parents was the leader of the Fattah movement. With his followers they attempted to subvert the government of King Hussein in Jordan until in September 1970 they were attacked and deported for the treason they committed on a welcoming land. A treason that they repeated in Lebanon and Kuwait later.

The goal of the PLO has never changed. Israel must be wiped from the face of the earth. Not necessarily every Jew killed but every Jew killed if necessary.

And then they went to Beirut.

More preoccupied with developing a pluralistic, dynamic, prosperous society, the Lebanese then as today had not much of an army.

With thousands of Palestinian refugees in south Beirut, in Tyre and throughout the south, often in camps, Arafat exploited their poverty and suffering and upset a finely balanced government plunging Lebanon into chaos. He subverted the government, betrayed the Lebanese people and invoked the wrath of Israel and the disdain of the civilised world (well most of it, anyway).

All those years of suffering amongst the Lebanese people has begun again. Why?

Is it as simple as the Palestinians who can’t have their own land right now have to destroy the only pluralistic land in an otherwise intolerant region?

The Palestinians are suffering, no doubt; and tragically they have been deceived by their leadership and the Arab world and from the suckling at their mothers’ breasts have learnt nothing but hate.

They must reject Mohammad, join their few brethren who belong to the Melkite Rite and accept Jesus Christ as their LORD and Saviour. Then, they will have the peace they so long for.