Easter Chants and the Gloria is Back! (Music for Mondays)

Though it says “Posted by Webster,” this post was written by Frank. We’re having technical issues. . . .

Here at YIM Catholic, we hope you had a Blessed Easter! I found a few chants that even a hillbilly like me can even understand. I hope you enjoy them.

First, one from Holy Thursday—
They have stripped me of my garments 
and clothed me in a scarlet robe

They have set upon my head 
a crown of thorns

And have given me 
a reed in my right hand

That I might dash them in pieces

like potter’s vessel(video ends here)
Today hell cries out groaning
I should not have accepted the man born of Mary

He came and destroyed my power

He shattered the gates of brass
as God he raised the souls that I had held captive
Glory to thy cross and resurrection O Lord

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The next one is long! It’s in English again and from the Candle ceremony from the Easter Vigil: the Exsultet. To follow along, you might want to open this in another tab.

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve been missing the Gloria! Here is Vivaldi’s version,

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Let’s back that up with Mozart’s version:

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Bach’s version? I thought you would never ask!

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Late breaking addition.  Gloria by U-2

Gloria…

I try to sing this song
I, I try to stand up
But I can’t find my feet
I try, I try to speak up
But only in you I’m complete
Gloria…in te domine
Gloria…exultate
Gloria…Gloria
Oh Lord, loosen my lips.

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See you next week!

Because I Am Usually Howling with the Mob

During these terrible days, when so many are saying so much so loudly against and in favor of our Church, and especially its leader, our dear Pope Benedict XVI, it is hard to stand apart from the mob—the one howling in protest, or the one trying desperately to shout them down. We are all standing along the Way of the Cross, jeering the scourged Christ or bewailing his persecution. How can we possibly be different? How can we change?

This is the question we have been addressing for the past two weeks in our School of Community (local membership of Communion and Liberation): Is it possible for me, as a Christian, to be fundamentally changed by my religious experience? Or is Christianity just something “added onto” me, like a picture in my wallet, or the leavings of a course I took in school years ago?

Can my experience of Christ be so convincing that I can resist even the pull of the mob—whether they are welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem with palms or goading him angrily up Golgotha? 

In his homily last night, Father Barnes addressed this question. He said memorably that the only thing that can prepare us for the sounds of Good Friday—the curses, the shouts, the lamentations—is the silence in the Upper Room and the three gifts Christ leaves us here. The gifts, he told us, are charity (symbolized by Christ washing his Apostles’ feet), the Eucharist, and the priesthood, which Jesus instituted among the Twelve at the Last Supper, or among the Eleven who stood by him, though even some of them fell asleep.

I sang with the choir at the beautiful seven o’clock mass, and then a few of us stayed behind, seated before the Blessed Sacrament. Finally, at a few minutes before ten, we stood with Father Barnes for Compline, then silently left the church.

I will be thinking more about Christ’s three gifts as Katie and I fly to North Carolina this morning to see our daughter received into the Church. Even tomorrow evening’s Easter Vigil, as beautiful and touching as it will be, begs the question—Does this have the power to change me? Or will I be shouting with the mob again on Monday morning?

From “Magdalen” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Mary Magdalene. Our two daughters are named Martha and Marian, and I privately hoped that we would have a third daughter, named Madeleine. It didn’t happen. I love this image by Alexander Ivanov (1806–1858). And then I came across this poem, “Magdalen.”

I found it (a fragment really) in a book Frank sent me last week: Flowers of Heaven: One Thousand Years of Christian Verse (Ignatius 2005). The mysterious thing is, I can’t find the rest of the poem on line. But then the author is a mystery too: Dunstan Thompson (1918–1975), a native of New England, who moved to Old England and became a hero of the homosexual underground—until he converted to Catholicism and renounced his old life. He even instructed his literary executor never to republish the poems of his early years.

Thompson’s story is told online by the Gay & Lesbian Review. I am not a regular reader; it’s just that this was the best account of Thompson’s life I could find, in fact the only account. If you look at the story through the other end of the telescope than that used by the writer, you might just see a male version of Mary Magdalene.

Here’s a selection from “Magdalen.” If anyone finds the whole thing on line, please let me know:

High in the noonday sky,
   His arms thrown open wide,
Love is about to die,
   With a thief on either side.

One He has welcomed home,
   The other prefers to hate,
Like the Pharisees, who roam
   In packs and wait and wait.

The soldiers there below,
   Bored and ashamed and blind,
Rattle the dice and throw
   Their lives away like rind.

The mocking scholars toss
   Their beautiful white heads
Far off; but at the Cross
   Who reads?

His mother, calm in pain,
   Adoring, and John,
The youngest friend, remain:
   Fair weather friendships gone.

And one other. She,
   Whose sins have had their share
In blossoming that tree,
   Offers her sorrow there.

Those tears are now for Him,
   Not for herself; she weeps
Outside her life; eyes swim
   Up from their own deeps.

His gift of sacrifice
   Opens her rusted heart:
With Him she pays the price
   Of love, that suffering art.

And so triumphant grief
   Makes her the fourth to stay:
Two innocents, a thief,
   And a whore, together pray.

Because the Mystery Can Never Be Extinguished

My friend Bill has been AWOL from church for months. We used to sit side by side at Adoration and exchange signs of peace at daily Mass. But Bill has been out of work since late 2008, and I’m afraid that he is disconsolate, home alone much of the time. Every so often, though, Bill sends me a sign that his love for The Mystery is not extinguished. Today he sent me a video.

You may have already seen this video of an “empty space” between galaxies taken from the Hubble Space Telescope. The caption says the clip was made last August, but the story it tells is some 13 billion lights years old. So I guess Bill’s video is relatively up to date. And Bill’s sending the video is reason to hope. Pray for him, won’t you?

Check out the video here.

To Root for West Virginia in the Final Four

Why would a Catholic cheer for West Virginia against Duke, Butler, and Michigan State in the NCAA basketball championship? I am trying to be objective here. I am setting aside my intense dislike for Coach K’s #1-ranked unit from Duke. (My daughter is concluding a stellar career at UNC, last year’s champion and Duke’s bitter rival.) No, I am looking at this from a strictly Catholic perspective, with rosary beads entwined in my fingers.

Think about it: The Dukies are the “Blue Devils.” Please! You really gonna root for Satan’s minions?! Michigan State is a good ol’ Big Ten team, and I am a Big Ten fan. But coach Tom Rizzo’s men are “The Spartans.” Pagans! Plus, they defeated Tennessee and Frank is still smarting from the loss. (Frank quote: “Free-throws—sheesh!”)

That leaves Butler and West Virginia. With the last name of Bull, I can see taking a look at the Butler “Bulldogs.” But finally, I have to go with the lads from Morgantown, WV, “The Mountaineers.”

Ever heard of Mt. Sinai? The Sermon on the Mount? I predict West Virginia will do an angry Moses on Duke in the semifinal Saturday, and then wallop the pagans beatifically on Monday night. And Frank likes ‘em too because he is a hillbilly. ‘Nuff said.

So, West Virginia all the way! You heard it here first.

Because of Minor Miracles III (zzzzz)

At the beginning of January, I started a series of posts about this blog, how it began and evolved. I wrote three pieces about it, this one, this one, and this one. Then I went to sleep. Maybe you did too. But with Allison joining Frank and me this weekend, and with a new format up and running (spiffy, no?), I think this blog has finally reached a form to stick with for a while. So let me wrap this up.

I think I left off with:

Chapter 5 — The Crazy Marine from the Old South Who May Be An Angel or Something
That would be Frank Weathers. As I’ve written somewhere, YIM Catholic was only a couple of months old when I started receiving e-mail blasts from somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon line. When I paid attention, I was vaguely aware that they were from a “retired Marine” living in Tennessee. I figured “retired” meant ancient and “Tennessee” meant too much moonshine. Wrong on both counts. 

It turned out Frank was in his mid-40s, very knowledgeable, a convert like me, and a good writer to boot. I asked him to write a guest post and he wrote two, in an hour. About this time (Thanksgiving 2009), I was looking for help, divine or human, it didn’t matter. I felt tired writing alone each day and lonely (exposed to my own ignorance and readers’ reactions to it). I’m only half joking calling Frank an angel. I’m not sure what his former Drill Instructor would have said and don’t care.

The chemistry of the blog changed at once when I asked Frank to join and he agreed. It was fun again, and readers were picking up on the fun. I learned a whole new vocabulary. Frank was “covering my six” as YIMC’s co-pilot. He called me “Mav,” I called him “Merlin,” both “Top Gun” references. And he peppered me with the occasional “Bravo Zulu!” and “dumb civilian!”

Was this why I had started YIM Catholic? Absolutely not. Except that I had come to two conclusions: (1) I had run the table on all the reasons why I had become a Catholic, and (2) if this blog was going to continue it would have to transcend “Webster Bull.” I’m not the only Catholic in the world with good reasons to be one.

Chapter 6 — Building a Community
I read a piece on successful blogs about this time. It made several important points. One was, you’re better off finding people to help, especially writers. Check, I had Frank. Another point was, build a community. Interact with your readers. Comment on their comments. Understand what they want to see on your blog, or rather what they expect to see from your blog because only you can do it best, then do that.

I think we’ve been periodically successful sticking to this theme. We still fire off in all directions, and I suppose that’s one of the charming things about this space. But we definitely have made friends (and maybe a few enemies), and the friends have formed a community, at least in our own minds. When Warren Jewell doesn’t comment—or guest post—for a few days, we wonder where and how he is. When I get up in the morning, I look for Maria’s comments, because she seems to be up all night and very often has valuable things to say. We have friends with strange monikers, like Mujerlatina, EPG, and newguy40. I wouldn’t recognize any of them on the street, but we’d miss them if they didn’t come around now and then.

Blogging takes me outside my parish, outside my demographic, into the Universal Catholic Church (how about that Moses in Malaysia or Rose in India?). Come to think of it, the Universal Catholic Church is probably the first worldwide virtual community, dating to the year 33.

Chapter 7 — Yikes, It’s a Girl!
Which brings us to this weekend, when Allison Salerno has agreed to join Frank and me in a sort of unholy trinity of Catholic bloggers who love being Catholic. As the line at the top of this page suggests, this blog sometimes has had the sound and smell of a men’s locker room, what with all the towel-snapping and Bravo Zuluing and whatnot. Allison dared to barge in. What a fine writer! She is a cradle Catholic, unlike Frank and me. She is the mother of boys. I am the father of girls. Frank is father to both. We balance each other in many useful ways.

Furthermore, we all agree that there are more than enough Catholic blogs that obsess over politics, and we don’t want to be another. We all agree that what we do here is unlikely to make any of us a penny richer, and we agree that we don’t care. We agree that we love being Catholic—in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Tennessee, or wherever we happen to be going to Mass—and we want people to share the love. Furthermore, we’re all in the Eastern Time Zone.

Personally, I believe that the best thing a Catholic can do to evangelize is not to argue with anyone but rather to pray, go to Mass, aim for holiness, and smile along the way. That’s what we seem to be doing here, with maybe some question about the holiness. Hang around, won’t you?

FOOTNOTE: Pardon the seemingly presumptous image of the Holy Family at the head of this post about Allison, Frank, and me. No, Allison is not Mary, and I’m not Jesus. But I have learned that you can’t go wrong with St. Joseph.  May the Holy Family bless our efforts here below.

Because the Catholic Liturgy is More Evocative than the Most Graphic Film

Once you love a book, you’ll seldom like the movie based on it. That’s why I am impressed with Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films: they are surprisingly close to my own imagination of them! That’s also why I was moved by the liturgy for Passion Sunday today. Because I had seen “The Passion of the Christ” again on Friday evening, and the film pales in comparison with the liturgy. Sorry, Mel.

It helped that I experienced today’s liturgy twice: once at 8:15 as a reader of the Passion according to Luke and at 10:30 as a singer in the choir. And it probably helped that I am on the brink of geezerhood—tired of graphic violence and with a heart opened, now and then, to the presence of Christ, not in history, not up there in every bleeding pixel on the IMAX screen, but here, now, in my church, in my life, in my heart.

Christ was present at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church today.

The Passion (Palm) Sunday liturgy may have been enacted in your church as it was in mine, with the priest at the rear saying the opening prayers, followed by the Gospel reading about Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. Then there was a procession up the aisle, reenacting that moment awesome to think of, when the people who would scream “Crucify him!” only a few days later knelt and laid cloaks in the mud before Him, as He rode in. Willingly He came, knowing the destiny that was riding to meet Him. It is a vignette with so much to ponder, to digest, to be grateful for—and here it was, being enacted, incarnated in our midst: with little girls in bonnets clutching bunches of palm fronds and old serious men looking seriously on.

Even the fact that we had our frequent guest priest, Father Hennessey, at 8:15 and our pastor, Father Barnes, at 10:30 made the reality of Christ’s presence more vivid. There are always differences of presentation when you change priests: one has a deeper voice, the other speaks more quickly—like watching two different film versions of the Passion, one with James Caviezel as Christ (above), one with Max von Sydow (below). These differences are irrelevant to the story, the reality, the Presence of Christ.

Two years ago right now, I was on the verge of being received into the Church. Ferde was become my big brother and unofficial sponsor in the Church. Today at 8:15, just two years later, don’t ask me how or why, I was reading Luke’s story of the Passion with Ferde. I was reader #1, Ferde reader #2, and Father Hennessey read the words of Christ.

Then at 10:30, with Father Barnes presiding below, I was wedged into the rear left corner of the choir loft singing Isaac Watts’s “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” with my fellow choir members.

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

And so on for two more verses. Hollywood doesn’t write scripts like that. They steal them and turn them into bludgeons for the blind, deaf, and dumb, meaning you and me, brothers and sisters. When all they really have to do is to say that Jesus, knowing he faced mortal danger, rode straight toward it, and for us. It happened today, in the center aisle of St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, and probably in your church as well.

Thanks Only to the Embrace of Christ

I continue to write about Communion and Liberation (CL) because it continues to be central to my life as a Catholic Christian. The monthly magazine of CL is Traces, and the April issue carries a powerful editorial on recent revelations of abuse in Ireland and the Pope’s response to them. If you have not yet read the Pope’s letter, it is here. What follows is the response in Traces:

Greater than Sin
There would be much to discuss about the events that led Benedict XVI to write his Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, and we could do this by starting from the facts, the numbers, and the data which, if looked at attentively, reveal a reality much less enormous than appears from the ferocious media campaign. Or we could start from the contradictions of those who, in the same newspaper, denounce certain wicked deeds, but after a few pages justify everything and everybody, especially in matters of sex. We could do this, and perhaps it would help to understand the context of a Church really under attack, whatever its errors may be. Only the Pope’s humble and courageous gesture pointed attention toward the heart of the question.

Clearly there is a wound, a very serious one, one of the kind that provoked Christ (and his vicars, too) to use fiery words (“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”)

There is filth in the Church. Joseph Ratzinger himself said so during the Way of the Cross at the Coliseum five years ago, shortly before being elected Pope and, realistically, he has never stopped recalling the fact since. Sin is there, grave sin. Evil is there, along with the abyss of pain that evil carries with it, and everything possible has to be done, and with firmness, to stem the evil and to make amends for that pain. The Pope is already doing this, and his letter reiterates it strongly when it asks the guilty to “answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals.”

This is precisely why the true heart of the question, the forgotten focus, lies elsewhere. Alongside all the limitations and within the Church’s wounded humanity, is there or is there not something greater than sin, something radically greater than sin? Is there something that can shatter the inexorable weight of our evil? Something that, as the Pope writes, “has the power to forgive even the greatest of sins, and to bring forth good even from the most terrible evil?”

“This is the point: God was moved by our nothingness,” Fr. Giussani said in the phrase quoted on the CL Easter Poster. “Not only that. God was moved by our betrayal, by our crude, forgetful, and treacherous poverty, by our pettiness. . . . It’s compassion, pity, passion. He had pity on me.” This is what the Church brings to the world, and certainly not because of its members’ merit, goodness, or even less because of their coherence: God’s compassion for our pettiness, something greater than our limitations, the only thing infinitely greater than our limitations. If we don’t start from here, we cannot understand at all; everything goes mad, literally.

We, too, have had moments when we have dodged that compassion, and run away from it. At times, it is in the Church itself that faith is reduced to ethics and morality is reduced to an impossible lonely recourse to laws, as if the need of that embrace were something to be ashamed of. But if we forget Christ, if we do away with the wholly different measure that He introduces into the world now, through the Church, then we no longer have the terms on which to judge the Church.

Then it becomes easy to mistake attention for the victims and regard for their history for a conniving silence, and prudence toward the guilty parties, true or presumed—perhaps accused on the basis of rumors emerging after decades—for the will to “cover up” (sadly it has sometimes been the case). Then it is almost inevitable to keep arguing about celibacy without even touching on the real value of virginity. And it becomes impossible to understand why the Church can be hard and motherly at the same time with the priests who go wrong. It can punish them severely and ask them to serve their sentence and make amends for the evil (it has already done so in the past, and will always do so), but without snapping, if possible, that thread that binds them, because it is the only thing that can redeem them. It can ask its children to “be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect, not so as to demand of them an impossible irreprehensibilty, but so as to remind them of a tension to live the same mercy with which God embraces us (“be merciful as your heavenly father is merciful”).

This is why the Church can educate, which, in the end, is the real question being challenged by those who are accusing it (“See, even the priests do wrong, and badly wrong. How can we trust them with our children?”) as if the Church’s being teacher all depended on the behavior of her children, and not on Christ, on that presence which—amidst all the errors and horrors committed—makes possible in the world an embrace like that of Chagall’s Prodigal Son which appears on the Easter Poster. There, alongside Fr. Giussani’s phrase, there is another, by Benedict XVI: “Conversion to Christ ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need—the need of His forgiveness and His friendship.”

This is the embrace of Christ, in our wounded and needy humanity, far greater than the evil we can do. If the Church, with all its limitations, had not this to offer to the world, even to the victims of those barbarities, then we would be lost. Because the evil would still be there, but it would be impossible to overcome it.

The Bat is Out of the Bag

OK, that didn’t take long. Our big announcement scheduled for 0500 hours on Sunday has already been scooped—by commenters, by EWTN, by Fox News—golly, the whole world knows. Someone even preempted our press schedule and posted a picture in the column to the left. (Who could that have been?) Yes, Allison Salerno, a.k.a. Batgirl, has joined the YIMC team, making us an unholy trinity. We thought we’d share our first official team picture:

Because We Don’t Sing Alleluia and Then We Do

Post by Allison  
My parish choir’s alto section – all two of us – came a half hour early Thursday night to rehearsal to work with our music director on Georg Friedrich Händel’s Hallelujah Chorus. As we sang, with our church enveloped in darkness and the world outside dark too, I realized being able to sing Alleluia – which means Praise God – is one of the reasons I am Catholic.

This Lent has been a long and lonely time for my soul. We Catholics do not sing or say Alleluia during this penitential season. Some Christian friends who attend non-liturgical churches do not understand why Catholics observe 40 days of Lent and then the 50-day Easter season. The rhythms of the Church’s calendar help me to understand the drama of salvation.

As for Händel’s Messiah, I’ve been singing and hearing it since childhood. I think of it as one of my personal theme songs. It was almost an anthem for my public high-school chorus and my parents sang Messiah in various choral groups. How I am looking forward to singing it with my fellow choristers at Easter Vigil after we have traveled together through Lent! Easter, in which we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, doesn’t makes sense without Lent. Without understanding deprivation, we cannot understand salvation. Without the sorrow of Christ’s suffering, our Easter joy is meaningless. Our church was dark Thursday night except for a light in the choir loft. As I surveyed the darkened sanctuary below, with its veiled statues and crucifix, I could see only the candle burning in front of the tabernacle. The light of salvation like this, too.

When we are unbelieving, our world can be dark and desolate. Yet God is always with us. We are heading into the most solemn and holy week in the Christian calendar. We journey with Jesus to Calvary and we do so with the assurance He is risen. For a sneak peak at what will be celebrated next Saturday evening at a Catholic church near you, check out this clip

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