“A Thanksgiving” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

A Thanksgiving by Blessed John Henry Newman
“Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”
Lord, in this dust thy sovereign voice
First quickened love divine;
I am all thine,—thy care and choice,
My very praise is thine.

I praise Thee, while thy providence
In childhood frail I trace,
For blessings given, ere dawning sense
Could seek or scan thy grace;
Blessings in boyhood’s marvelling hour;
Bright dreams, and fancyings strange ;
Blessings, when reason’s awful power
Gave thought a bolder range;
Blessings of friends, which to my door
Unasked, unhoped, have come;
And, choicer still, a countless store
Of eager smiles at home.
Yet, Lord, in memory’s fondest place
I shrine those seasons sad,
When, looking up, I saw thy face
In kind austereness clad.
I would not miss one sigh or tear,
Heart-pang, or throbbing brow;
Sweet was the chastisement severe,
And sweet its memory now.
Yes!let the fragrant scars abide,
Love-tokens in thy stead,
Faint shadows of the spear-pierced side
And thorn-encompassed head.
And such thy tender force be still,
When self would swerve or stray;
Shaping to truth the froward will
Along thy narrow way.
Deny me wealth; far, far remove
The lure of power or name;
Hope thrives in straits, in weakness love,
And faith in this world’s shame.

Thanks to Father Antonio Vivaldi, “the Red Priest”

Around this time of the year, my appreciation for classical music rises to the surface. I don’t know if it is because of the change of seasons, or whether it is the “fall back” move on our clocks. Perhaps it’s because the days are getting shorter and the nights longer now that “daylight savings time” is over.

I’m a simple man, and I would be quickly found a liar if I tried to buffalo you with the idea that I am a man who is a well-educated, and throughly cultured, connoisseur of classical music. No. I’m a poor hick who only knows what he likes. And I’ve always liked Vivaldi and his Four Seasons. I do know that his music came before Bach, Handel, and Beethoven, and that is about it.

But here is what prompted this post: yesterday morning, while preparing to head to Mass, I heard a snippet of a program on NPR where the announcer mentioned that Vivaldi had been “in the clergy.”

Whaat?! It didn’t take me long to determine that given the time frame, and the fact that he was an Italian, that Vivaldi was a Catholic priest. And due to his being a red-head, he was given the nick-name of “the Red Priest.”

A quick check of the internet later and sure enough, seemingly the whole world knows that Vivaldi was a Catholic priest, except me. Somehow I missed hearing about that in music class, and a part of me thinks this is the result of a cover-up. But as I always say, let the sun shine in.

Father Antonio was ordained in 1703 and it seems like he only performed his clerical duties for a short while due to ill health.  He suffered from asthma, among other ailments.

Here is the trailer of a movie based on Vivaldi’s early career. Truthfully, I don’t know if this film ever made it into the theaters or even if it ever hit the small screen instead. But, as you can see, he is wearing a collar throughout. And you get the distinct impression that the good looking red-head had a problem in common with modern-day musicians as well.

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Andante from Concerto In D Minor for 2 Mandolins. But instead of two mandolins, we get Yo-Yo Ma on cello and Bobby McFerran playing his voice box. This is pretty amazing.

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Double Concerto for Two Cellos. This is a beautiful piece Vivaldi wrote for cellos. And this is a very clever presentation with Rebecca Roundman “using multi-tracking. Rebecca plays the two solo cellos parts, the violin 1 part, the violin 2 part, the viola part (not shown), the section cello part and the bass part.” All I can say is, “bravo!”

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Vivaldi did a lot more than this too. Operas and concertos. Sacred and choral music. Like just about any other MfM post though, we are just scratching the surface of his work here. Do you believe he died a pauper? I haven’t read his biography yet (where do you start?) but maybe, just maybe, he wanted to die in that state.

YIMC Bookclub: Wise Blood

Wise_Blood_book_cover

I’ve been having a rollicking good time reading Flannery O’Conner’s Wise Blood. I’ve finished the first seven chapters and the cast of characters is setting us up for the the main event.

Did you know director John Huston, the voice of Gandalf the Grey in the animated The Hobbit, adapted this novel to film?.

So far we’ve met our “hero” Hazel, of Eastrod Tennessee (for sound effects, read this as Tannersee), and everyone he meets pegs him for a preacher. He hates that, by the way, and has a brilliant idea to be a preacher (after all) for “The Church Without Christ. As Hazel grapples with this idea though, his thoughts can’t seem to escape the impossibility of such a thing.

But look, I’ve been real busy lately and although I am enjoying this book (my first taste of Flannery), I haven’t been able to think much on it and write about it.

But I found that Roy Peachey, of The Catholic English Teacher blog has posted a link to a couple of podcasts he found given by Amy Hungerford of Yale University. So head on over to Roy’s blog and check out Ms. Hungerford’s lectures in the interim.

And while you’re at Roy’s place, see what else he has to offer. You’ll be glad you did. But absolutely do not watch the John Huston film until you’ve finished reading the book. I’ll know if you did.

After the dust settles around my area, I’ll punch out my impressions of Wise Blood shortly. I can’t wait to see what Hazel, Enoch Emery & company have in store for us.

Elvis Presley Sings “The Miracle of the Rosary” et al.

 

 

I missed commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the passing of the King of Rock and Roll. I was led to a startling discovery about someone known as the “Chinese Chesterton” on the same weekend that marked the passing of Elvis Presley (August 16, 1977). My humble apologies, because I love you Elvis Presley, and especially your gospel music.

Elvis, see, could sing any song well. Like, for example, Do the ClamAnd despite his fame, and fortune, he never forgot his love for the Lord. He was never ashamed to sing His praises. And as you will see in the first selection below, he had no problem singing Our Lady’s praises either. A post of that video by a friend on Facebook was my wake-up call for this belated appreciation.

Was Elvis a Catholic? I don’t think so. But just like he sent a letter to President Nixon, volunteering his services as a Federal Agent, maybe he sent a letter to the Pope at the same time? Only the Vatican archivists know for sure. Regardless, let me get out of Mr. Presley’s way, because these songs need no introductions, and let you enjoy his gospel side.

Elvis, thanks for singing the Good News. Requiescat in Pace.

Miracle of the Rosary.

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Oh Happy Day.

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The Wonder of You.

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He Is My Everything.

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Where No One Stands Alone

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Take My Hand, Precious Lord.

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How Great Thou Art

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First Lesson About Man (A Few Words For Wednesday)

I’ve been engrossed in exploring the life and work of my new friend John C.H. Wu. Is it any surprise to you that he corresponded with Thomas Merton? How could he not have, is what I say. And I found some evidence that he did, of course. Merton wrote the introduction to John’s book The Golden Age of Zen. In fact, John writes this about their friendship,

There is no telling how much the friendship of this “true man” has meant to me during all these lonely years of my life.

See, practically bosum-buddies! And I also posted a thank you to Pink Floyd this week. Working on that, coupled with the knowledge that my friends John and Father Louis were correspondents, jogged my memory of one of Fr. Louis’ poems.

First Lesson About Man (excerpt)

Man begins in zoology.
He is the saddest animal.
He drives a big red car
Called anxiety.
He dreams at night
Of riding all the elevators.
Lost in the halls
He never finds the right door.

Man is the saddest animal.
A flake eater in the morning
A milk drinker.
He fills his skin with coffee
And loses patience
With the rest of his species.
He draws his sin on the wall
On all the ads in all the subways.

I was getting the wrong number for a while too. How about you? Perhaps St. Anthony had something to do with helping me find the right number as well!

Take a look at this video for the full reading of the poem and a montage that works pretty well with it. The poster writes,

This surreal poem is from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. I thought the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico provided an interesting perspective (as it were) on the poetry.

I agree.

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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?


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