Panis Angelicus & our Priests

Two must-reads for you this morning: start with Max Lindenman’s intimate and fresh encounter with a bishop he was prepared to dislike, because our media-constructed bogeymen are almost as dear to us as our consciences, sometimes:

The final scene in Dumas, père’s Three Musketeers brings young D’Artagnan, the hero, face-to-face with Cardinal Richelieu, a man he judges a usurper of royal authority and (at several degrees’ remove) a murderer. Within a few short paragraphs, the cardinal’s commanding presence and generosity bring the swashbuckler literally to his knees, from which he swears lifelong fealty.

That scene is far from a perfect analog to the five-second audience I enjoyed last year with the Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix. To state the obvious, I am not a bonny brawler to match Dumas’ Gascon squireen. Olmsted, I am confident, does not dispatch branded floozies to steal diamonds or assassinate foreign dignitaries.

But the parallels are numerous and compelling enough to stick. At the time of our meeting, for reasons we’ll consider presently, Olmsted was as infamous among contemporaries as the Red Duke had been. Our brief encounter transformed my share in that disgust into something like a qualified affection. Exactly what that says about the human heart, its fickleness, and the role the common touch plays in tweaking it to the good are questions I leave to the reader.

Then head over to Heather King’s Shirt of Flame where she writes of her encounter with a 90 year-old, cigar-smoking priest with presence. I love this part:

And then this world-famous, globe-trotting, by all accounts universally-respected priest took time out of his day to tell a weary undistinguished traveler of celebrating Mass all over the globe: in submarines, the North Pole, little out-of-the-way spots, tropical, subtropical. But he won me over completely when he reported that in some shabby outpost with about three communicants, a bystander had once had the temerity to inquire, “Who are saying the Mass for?” Father had whirled around, stared the guy down, and replied: “The whole bloody world.”

(photo source) Our priests are so beset and besieged that we forget, sometimes, what they are made of and how they fight and die for the church (that’s us), the mass and the Eucharist, the Panis Angelicus, the Bread of Angels.

I wonder if we’ll see any heroic, presence-filled priests emerge from this effort; I hope so.

Heather ended her piece with a video and I am going to swipe it because I love it, and because it is a brilliant way for us to continue our attempt in this space to “quiet down” and reclaim Lent. And because people appear to be enjoying the lack of noise, I think comments will remain closed for at least one more day.

But enjoy this – Luciano Pavoratti and Sting in a very haunting performance of Panis Angelicus, which is made all the more touching for Sting’s endearing seriousness, and for how he holds and contorts his buff body to get the notes out purely, in order to keep up with the far-from-buff Pavoratti!

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  • Margaret

    I haven’t seen “There Be Dragons” yet (as it’s not out yet in the US) but– feedback I’ve heard from those who *have* seen it have spoken the most about what a strong, positive, REAL portrayal of the priesthood it provides.

  • Melody

    What an unusual, yet beautiful combination of voices. I wonder if Sting had any idea what he was singing?

  • Max Lindenman

    Reading about priests who serve in hard postings made me remember that Apostolic Delegate who was murdered in Turkey just about a year ago. It turned out that he was the second priest killed in just a few years, and that several others had been attacked or threatened with deadly weapons.

    Turkey’s Catholic population has got to be pretty small. There may be some native-born priests, but judging by the names of those who were assaulted, most are imports from France and Italy. Looking different from the natives and speaking Turkish with a noticeable accent, they’re bound to stand out. I’m sure they feel very vulnerable. Having lived in some places where the natives were not altogether friendly toward Americans, I’ve got to respect these guys for getting out of bed in the morning.

  • Bro. AJK

    Thank you for linking to the video. Sting’s intensity to stay on pitch and solid comes through in his face and his whole body. His desire to reach the higher pitches pushes him to engage in those “bounces” that Pavoratti does not need to do since he knows his voice. Sting’s humility also comes out as his voice becomes the harmony. It looks like Sting can’t believe he is singing this piece with such a legendary voice. Truly, much can we learn from this video.

  • Jeanette

    I fell in love with Panis Angelicus over 20 years ago when my then high school daughter was trying out for state band. This was the piece assigned to her for her try out. I asked the name of the song and she told me and I went out and bought a copy.

    I heard Pavarotti in person just once, but his voice was so pure and beautiful. A real loss to the world of music when his voice was silenced.

    Sting did a wonderful job in this version. Thank you so much for posting it.

  • MasterThief

    Long time reader, rare poster. But I just came across this piece and wanted to pass it along. File under “Sexual Revolution, Collateral Damage Of.”

  • newton

    When listening to Panis Angelicus, I said to myself, “I have never heard this before!… Wait… I have!” It’s on the instrumental CD (piano and violin) my little girls have in their room, which we play for them at bedtime. Since we had misplaced their baby Einstein CDs a long time ago, we played this one for them instead.

    Months ago, after we found the Baby Einstein CDs, we tried to change that CD with their BE stuff. They protested loudly. They wanted no Baby Einstein: they wanted their CD. They will listen to nothing else.

    It is very comforting to know that the “Bread of Angels” will keep them tucked in and safe at night.

  • Kate

    What a beautiful duet. What grace.