Grosse Point Blank Sound Track (Music For Mondays)

John Cusack is Martin Blank

My wife has a theory: the sound track makes the movie. I’m not saying I agree with her 100% on this, but her point is well taken. Some folks know how to adapt music to films, but most don’t. This is the first in a series of posts where I can firmly say, “They got the music right on this one!” [Read more...]

I Hear Guitars…And Lot’s of Reverence.

The English version of the World Youth Day theme song…sing along!

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Thoughts on the Economy: Catholic, and Not

Ok, class. Today’s lesson is on a little thing called “regression to the mean.” That’s a fancy way of saying that when something gets out of whack, you know, like when one thing shoots for the stars while everything else is holding steady, see, well, it will move back to where it belongs. And usually suddenly. Like a bursting bubble, which by now everyone with a pulse and a 401k is familiar with. Right? [Read more...]

For Letters to Sons Like These by St. Stephen, King of Hungary

“My boy, at present you have the fun and I do the work; but your labors are on the way.”

Now, that sounds like something I would say. Today is the Feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, who wrote the words you see above. What follows are a few excerpts from letters he wrote to his son Emeric (who also was canonized on the same day in 1083). St. Stephen is known as the first Christian king of Hungary, and his life is celebrated there with due pomp and pageantry yearly on August 20th.

After learning of him from the good folks at Universalis this morning, I found excepts of his “Admonitions” in an unpublished thesis titled Notes On Parental Advice in the Middle Ages  by George Valentine Kendall. I promptly added them to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. First, take a look at this long sentence in the foreword to the ten letters to Emeric,

from the Forward,

Since I perceive that all things, founded at the nod of God and disposed by his most manifest preordination, both in the spaciousness of the sky and in those most spacious climes of earth, do subsist and thrive wholly in accordance with the rationality of intelligence; and since I am sufficiently aware that all things granted by the grace of God for the use and dignity of this life – to wit: kingdoms, consulates, dukedoms, counties, pontificates and all other authorities, are ruled, defended, divided and joined together, partly by divine precepts and regulations, partly by legal, partly by juridical, partly by civil, and by the counsels and advices also of nobles and of those advanced in age; and since I know for a certainty that all classes of the world, everywhere, of whatever authority they be, do instruct, counsel and advise not only their retainers, their friends and their servants but also their sons; therefore, most amiable son, companion in this life, it irks me not to prepare for you lessons, precepts, counsels and advices whereby you may embellish the character of your own life and of that of your subjects, in such time as, most high God willing, you shall reign after me.

Maybe Blaise Pascal was taking lessons on long sentence structure from this guy! You don’t have to be a royal though to see the worth of writings such as these being left to our children, not to mention to posterity. “Ich bin ein Ungar!” or is that “Magyar vagyok!?” 


And now for the excerpts, which are really timely given our coming election cycle in the United States.

Excerpts from the Admonitions of St. Stephen, King of Hungary, to his son Emeric.

On the Nobility

The coronation of Stephen I

“They (the various nobles) are the champions of the kingdom, the defenders of the weak, the conquerors of enemies, the enlargers of monarchies. They, my son, are your fathers and brothers. Of these, truly, you should reduce none to servitude, nor call any slave; they should serve you as soldiers not as slaves, rule all of them without anger and pride and envy, peacefully, with humility, gently, holding ever in your memory that all men are of one condition; and that naught elevates, save humility; and nothing casts down, save pride and envy.

If you are peaceable then you will be called a king and a king’s son, and you will be loved by all the knights. If you are choleric, proud, envious, disinclined to peace, and if you stick up your neck above counts and princes, without doubt the strength of the military will be the weakness of the regal authorities, and they will betray your kingdom to the aliens.

Fearful of this, direct the life of your companions with the rule of virtue, that captured by your love, they may inoffensively adhere to the kingly authority, and that your realm may be wholly at peace.Than these doctrines no noble could ask more liberal, no king more efficacious.

On Justice

Hearken to this, my son; if you wish to possess the honor of kingship, love justice: if you wish to be master over your own soul, be patient. Whenever, my very dear son, a cause deserving condemnation comes before you, or some one accused on a capital charge, be unwilling to deal with it impatiently or to resolve with an oath to punish him – which course of action must be weak and unstable, inasmuch as foolish vows ought to be broken – or to decide the question yourself, lest your regal dignity be dishonored by the usurpation of inferior business, but rather send business of this sort to the judges, to whom it has been committed because they decide the case according to its own law.

Fear to be judge, but rejoice to be and to be called king. Patient
kings rule, but impatient ones tyrannize. When, however, something comes before you which it befits your dignity to judge, with patience and mercy or pity judge it, that your crown may be laudable and seemly.

Concerning the Reception of Foreigners, and the Support of Strangers.

In strangers and men from abroad there is such great utility that it can be held worthy the sixth place in regal dignity. Why did the Roman Empire first grow, and why were the Roman kings exalted and glorious, except because many noble and wise men congregated there from diverse regions? Rome, in truth, would be a hand-maiden to this day, if Eneades had not made her free.

His incorruptible right hand

For as strangers come from diverse regions of the provinces, they bring with them diverse languages and usages, and diverse learning and arms, all of which not only adorn the royal palace and render magnificent the court, but also abash the arrogance of aliens. For a kingdom of one tongue, or of one custom, is weak and fragile.

Wherefore I bid you, my son, support those persons with a good will, and treat them fairly, that they may prefer to continue with you rather than to live elsewhere. For if you destroy what I have built up or strive to disperse what I have gathered together, without doubt your kingdom will suffer the greatest damage. Lest that be, augment your kingdom daily, that your crown may be held august by all.

Procession of the
“Holy Right Hand”

On Filial Loyalty

Ancestors ought to be imitated, and sons ought to obey their parents. My customs, which you see to befit the kingly dignity, follow them without the fetter of any uncertainty. For it is a hard thing for you to maintain a kingdom of this geographical position, except you show yourself an imitator of the usage of kings who have reigned before. What Greek would rule Latins with Greek customs? Or what Latin would rule Greeks with Latin customs? None. On this account, follow my usages that you may he held eminent by your own people and praiseworthy among foreigners.

On the Importance of Your Catholic Faith

St. Stephen’s Basilica

My dearest son, if you desire to honor the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all things to maintain the Catholic and Apostolic faith with such diligence and care that you may be an example for all those placed under you by God, and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of true Christian profession. Failing to do this, you may be sure that you will not be called a Christian or a son of the Church.

Indeed, in the royal palace, after the faith itself, the Church holds second place, first constituted and spread through the whole world by His members, the apostles and holy fathers, And though she always produced fresh offspring, nevertheless in certain places she is regarded as ancient. However, dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly planted; and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians less a benefit which the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your idleness, indolence or neglect.

Inside the basilica…

My beloved son, delight of my heart, hope of your posterity, I pray, I command, that at very time and in everything, strengthened by your devotion to me, you may show favor not only to relations and kin, or to the most eminent, be they leaders or rich men or neighbors or fellow-countrymen, but also to foreigners and to all who come to you. By fulfilling your duty in this way you will reach the highest state of happiness. Be merciful to all who are suffering violence, keeping always in your heart the example of the Lord who said: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”.

Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak. Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down. Be humble in this life that God may raise you up in the next. Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honorable so that you never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness that so resembles the pangs of death.

All these virtues I have noted above make up the royal crown and without them no one is fit to rule here on earth or attain to the heavenly Kingdom.

****

Tragically, St. Stephen’s son Emeric died in a hunting accident, and predeceased his father. The infighting over who would succeed him troubled him for the rest of his days. Upon his own death, St. Stephen was buried alongside his son.

Ludwig von Beethoven composed an overture in honor of this saint and king. Here it is played beautifully by the Motif Orchestra conducted by Chun-Lung Hsu. I bet St. Stephen got a kick out of this performance.

St. Stephen of Hungary, pray for us!

More on St. Stephen can be found here and here on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. 

Songs I’ve Never Heard (Music for Mondays)

Happy Monday! How much music have I never heard? A number that is very large, and pretty close to being represented by this symbol:  ∞ . So I’m probably in the same boat as you are, right? So I did a little exploring, looking for songs that I haven’t heard but that I just might like. That is a number considerably smaller than infinity.

Of course, there are as many musical groups as there are stars in the sky, or garages in suburbia. So in order to make the cut for this post, the artists had to be well known and the songs almost spiritual, if not certainly so. What follows is what I turned up on my first pass at this category.

Stevie Wonder, Jesus Children of America. From the year 1973, somehow this one wasn’t on the playlists of the radio stations near where I lived. That’s a pity, I’m glad I found it so it can be enjoyed anew.

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Willie Nelson, The Troublemaker Stirring up those folks, young and old, to the point where I never, ever heard it. That’s all it takes sometimes. That, and the fact that it’s a deep country kind of hit, which is an area of the radio dial I don’t turn to much.

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Queen, The Miracle. Lost amongst all their mega hits like Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions, etc., is this beautiful tune. Perhaps it’s a bit utopian, and there are a few misses among the miracles here, but all in all, not a bad effort. I can’t believe I never, ever, heard it.

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U2, The Wanderer. Johnny Cash actually sung this one after the boys from U2 wrote it. Either way, I only just discovered it. The video includes a neat introduction by Joaquin Phoenix, who played Johnny in Walk the Line. Bono and the Boys with another undiscovered gem (to me anyway).

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The Go-Go’s, Here You Are. Just in time for the Feast of the Assumption, the Go-Go’s from their 2001 album God Bless the Go-Go’s, which was their first new album after a 17 year hiatus. I was kind of busy in 2001, so maybe that’s why I missed this one. I hear their album cover caused a bit of a stir as each member of the group had their photograph taken as Our Lady, but I fear that was a bit of an overreaction.

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Happy Feast Day!

Food for Thought (Music for Mondays)

In the wee early hours today, a post built around thoughts of a “ghetto Church” was launched. Those thoughts of Karl Rahner, SJ, prompted me to build this little selection of tracks. I call it “food for thought.” Your mileage may vary.

Johnny Cash, No Earthly Good. Um, I’m not sure what the video spliced to this is all about, but this is the cleanest sounding version of this thought provoking tune from the “Man in Black.” This reminds me of a saying of the Desert Fathers,

The old men used to say: ‘if you see a young monk climbing up to heaven by his own will, grasp him by the feet and throw him down, for this is to his profit.

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Steely Dan, Home at Last. And so I am. I hope that you will join me, of your own free will. Hopefully a new generation will give rise to form more bands like this.

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David Gilmour, Wish You Were Here. David is/was the lead guitarist for Pink Floyd. A great rendition of this song. Something about the cello adds just the right touch of, I don’t know, “somberness” to the piece. And beauty.

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Seal, Get It Together. Left, right, center; up, down, sideways; East, West, North, South,

We got to keep this world together, got to keep it moving straight
Love like we need forever, so that people can relate
If you’re rolling to your left, don’t forget I’m on the right
Trust and forgive each other
A little love and we just might

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We aren’t called to stay inside a circle. We’re called to do much more than that. 

See you here next week.

Because The Earth and It’s Fullness Includes…

Heavy Metal?! That’s right. And it all belongs to the LORD. For you see, a very talented reader writes,

Hey Frank,

I saw your post about Dave Nantais’ book; it has great insights about the intersection of rock music and Christianity. Dave is a close friend of mine (we met after he answered my craigslist ad looking for a drummer)

Anyway, you might enjoy checking out music by my band Theandric. We try to integrate heavy metal/hard rock with aspects of the Church’s tradition, such as Gregorian chants and scripture!

Enjoy!
Paolo Tiseo

You know, Heavy Metal isn’t usually my cup of tea. But these two tracks by Paolo’s band Theandric? I could get used to it. Check them out:

Adoro Te Devote. A few weeks back, I shared the poem with this title by St. Thomas Aquinas. Paolo made a heavy metal version of it. Crank it and see if smoke comes out of your speakers! Help it go viral, because only 100 views is not enough.

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Veni Creator Spritus The awesomeness of this track cannot be denied. Seriously. If you don’t believe me, follow the lyrics below.

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In the beginning the earth was a formless void
And darkness covered the face of the deep
The Spirit of God hovered over the waters
(before the serpent’s crawl and creep)

Veni Sancte Spiritus
fill the hearts of thy faithful
Veni Sancte Spiritus
inside of them thy holy flame ignite

As the prophets foretold, in the fullness of time
An angel of God descended to earth
“Be not afraid, Highly Favored One!
This is no accident of birth”

Veni Sancte Spiritus
and they shall be created
Veni Sancte Spiritus
thou shalt renew the face of the earth

VENI, CREATOR SPIRITUS
MENTES TUORUM VISITA
IMPLE SUPERNA GRATIA
QUAE TU CREASTI PECTORA

A voice crying out in the wilderness
“Prepare the way of the Chosen One”
Spirit descending – a heavenly advice
“This is My Beloved Son”

When the hour had come
for Jesus to pass from this world
The right hand of God would be His throne
He said to the Twelve in the upper room
“I will not leave you alone”

“I will send another Advocate
Who will lead you to all Truth.
If you doubt His boundless Mercy
My Cross shall be the greatest proof”

DEO PATRI SIT GLORIA
ET FILIO, QUI A MORTUIS
SURREXIT, AC PARACLITO
IN SAECULORUM SAECULA
AMEN

I told you rock music and theology were compatible. Go check out Theadric’s website and buy an EP, or two. And then feel free to “like” them on Facebook too. Thanks Paolo!

A Gifted Guitarist You Might Have Missed (Music for Mondays)

Goes by the name of Prince. Oh you’ve heard of him, you just forgot how good a guitarist he is. This guy is a genius. Don’t believe me? That’s ok. Do you think he is still a pretender prancing around in frilly outfits? Let me tell you, and this is just my humble opinion, Michael Jackson is the pretender next to this guy. Have a look at these four selections for the proof.

Tom Petty & Friends, While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Tom Petty and his good friend Jeff Lynne and others from a VH-1 performance (I have no idea when. George Harrison’s induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame?). This is one of my favorite Beatles tunes “by George”. Everything rocks along nicely, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, this little dude with a red hat on appears and rocks out an epic solo on his pedestrian ‘lil Telecaster. He didn’t earn four Grammys and an Oscar for nothing!

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Everlasting Now. Why mess with success? I knew Prince was the real deal after seeing him in Purple Rain. This is from a live performance on the Jay Leno show sometime in 2002-03. Because it doesn’t get much more funky and alive than this. Oh lookee…Sheila E on percussion too. Nice! Check the lyrics out, because this is a gospel tune.

Don’t let nobody bring U down (Let nobody)
Accurate knowledge of Christ and the Father
Bring the everlasting now
Join the party, make a
sound (Join the party)
Share the truth, preach the good news

Amen!

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The Cross,  I Wish U Heaven. From the albums Sign O the Times and Lovesexy. What does Prince have over Jimi Hendrix? Pretty much everything. Vocal range, musical versatility, longevity. And then there is creativity and artistry. It’s all evident here,

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The Beautiful Ones. This is from just this past April. I’ve never watched the “George Lopez Show,” because it’s on waaay past my bed time. Putting down the guitar in this video, did I mention Prince can dance too? He’s the consummate showman. And a finder of talented team members. This video showcases all of this.

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You don’t have to like his work, but you can’t deny that he has been given a gift. See you next week.

The 27 Club (Music for Mondays)

Photo credit: Syzmanski 

This past weekend, the news out of the UK was that singer, songwriter Amy Winehouse died. I’m not sure what the autopsy will show, but the press says her death was possibly from a drug overdose.

I really wasn’t a big fan of hers because I never really got around to hearing her music. I do remember her being splashed all over the internet, and by extension I guess that means the tabloids too.

I was saddened to hear of her passing though. It’s heart-breaking to learn of the demise of anyone with a gift that delights the world. At such a tender age, she was catapulted to fame, and her reaction to it may have contributed to her undoing. It could happen to any of us. It has happened to many others in her line of work.

And so it is that the newest member of the 27 Club will be put to rest. And as a kind of requiem music post, I do not wish to celebrate her crossing over into the select group of deceased musicians who preceded her in membership of this “club” by dying at the same young age. But she does join the company of some rock n’ roll music legends and I’ll share with you a few of them today. I said a prayer for her soul, and for the souls of those who preceded her.

Amy Winehouse, Back to Black. I’m a horrible consumer of recently popular music. As I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to the latest stuff, I live under a rock. So I was surprised when I saw this haunting video from what the rest of you know as being from Amy Winehouse’s album that won five (5!) Grammy Awards. The imagery in this selection is all too prophetic. And in a way, this song may even help us remember those whose deaths have been eclipsed by hers in the news.

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The Rolling Stones, Paint It Black. A charter member of the “27 Club” is Brian Jones, the founder of the Rolling Stones. He died under “mysterious” circumstances (death by misadventure?!) a month after leaving the band on July 3, 1969, at the age of 27. On this particular song, he is playing the sitar, which is the signature sound on this hit that went to #1 both in the U.S. and the U.K. in 1966. It seems Brian could play almost any instrument he took a fancy to.

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Jimi Hendrix, All Along the Watchtower. Next on the club list, the innovative, ex-paratrooper, guitar genius named Jimi Hendrix. He died on September 18, 1970 from a combination of drugs and alcohol. Check him out as he covers Bob Dylan’s classic that he made his own in this live performance from the year he died. Hendrix could have played guitar upside down and sideways too. In fact, he did. He was a lefty, so he turned the classic Fender Stratocaster right-hand model upside down and strung it backwards for his purposes. He took the electric guitar to places no one even thought possible.

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Janis Joplin, Try (Just a Little Bit Harder). Janis Joplin had a lot in common with Amy Winehouse. A soulful voice, with a deep range. The ability to belt out tunes in a way that just made you realize that she poured every ounce of herself into it. Maybe so much that she thought there was nothing left. She died on October 4, 1970 of a possible heroin overdose. This is from a performance on the Dick Cavett Show on July 18, 1969. This song does not need a little more “cow bell,” if you know what I mean.

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The Doors, Break On Through (To the Other Side). July 3, 1971 on the second anniversary of Brian Jones death, Jim Morrison, the lead singer and lyricist of the Doors died in Paris, France. Cause of death? Heart failure is what the coroner came up with. Steve Huey, his biographer writes, he “would often improvise poem passages while the band played live, which was his trademark. He is widely regarded, with his wild personality and performances, as one of the most iconic, charismatic and pioneering frontmen in rock music history.” Val Kilmer played him in Oliver Stone’s movie. I’ll have to check it out.

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Nirvana, All Apologies. Aside from Amy Winehouse, I was too young when the rest of the members of this select group passed to remember a thing about their departures. Oh, I remember when Elvis died, but he wasn’t 27 years old. And he died when I was old enough to remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. But when Kurt Cobain committed suicide by a shotgun blast on April 5, 1994? I remembered thinking that it was just a sad and tragic waste; a loss not just to his band and fans, but to his recently started family. He personified the Seattle “grunge rock” genre.

This video is from an MTV Unplugged episode that aired 4 months before Kurt took his own life. Current Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl (who was the drummer for Nirvana) and guitarist Pat Smear, who Cobain added to relieve some of the pressure off himself, can be seen playing here as well.

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Would You Believe Because Rock Music and Theology are Compatible?

As regular readers know, I’ve shared music on the blog practically since Webster invited me aboard. I don’t recall how it happened, but I remember when he posted a YouTube video in a post and I thought, “wow, that is cool. I wonder if Webster would let me post some music videos too?” We did a post together in January of last year, and by then the fledgling project got off the ground in earnest.

Blah, blah, blah, Frank…whoop-de-do, right? Music for Mondays, big deal. I know, I know, I go over the top with it sometimes, and other times I barely even add liner notes. But the thing is, though I’m not gifted with musical ability myself, I really enjoy music, and respect it as an artform. And though the MfM posts published here run the gamut from Chant to Classical, the bulk of my posts have been written around popular music. And for the most part, rock n’ roll.

So why am I boring all of you about this late on Tuesday night? Because I just found out about a book that I simply must read, and I discovered a blog that I’ve just added to the “Cool Links” list and, à la Mark Shea at his Dark Lordly best, I will command that you all go investigate it at once. First the book.

No, I haven’t read it! I only just found out about it. It’s written by a fellow named David Nantais, a guy with a resume about a mile wide and two miles deep. David thought he wanted to be a Jesuit priest, see, and he studied at the seminary preparing to follow that vocation. He got married back in 2008 and, well, go look at his CV for all the details.

I saw a brief sketch of a review on his recently published book entitled Rock-A My Soul. Here’s what Fr. James Martin, SJ (author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything) had to say about the author and the book,

David Nantais is, hands down, one of the best young writers on Christian spirituality: inviting, inventive, and insightful. In Rock-a My Soul, he offers a fascinating look at how rock music, often thought to be a threat to faith, can actually support and nourish one’s spiritual life. If you’re a music fan, Nantais, a rock musician himself, will show you how the music you love can draw you closer to God. If you’re a believer, Nantais will serve as an experienced guide to modes of experiencing God that you might never have considered. And if you’re a music fan and a believer, well, then this book will, as the band said, rock you.

Operators are standing-by, order your copy today! This is exciting news for me, because I love rock, and of course, I love the Rock of our Faith even more. As my MfM posts will attest, I’ve always seen the complimentarity between the yearning of human beings, and how our deepest longings are often reflected in contemporary music. Jesus, indeed, goes mainstream through music.

And now, here is your next assignment me hearties: go check out this neat blog called Rock and Theology that I just happened upon. I would tell you more about it, but I’m too busy letting you know that it even exists to have spent much time there myself. It all started when,

a theologian friend sent me a link from “Whispers in the Loggia,” to a story about Notker Wolf, then the head of the Benedictines, a Catholic religious order. There was Wolf, strumming an electric guitar with right hand, left hand a-swashing the neck forth and back, face full of focus and a drum kit off his right shoulder. Oh, yes, that’s definitely an atypically liturgical shade of concert orange sidelight shining onto him and the kit, as well. And that cowl—so exceedingly metal! As a cohabitor of Catholicism, rock music, and theology, as a devotee of loud sounds shaken out of guitars under auburn lights, I could hardly breathe. What face of rock was this? I felt in this picture a strange, uncontrollable, entrancing, and consoling beckoning.

Whaat? The head of the Benedictines, Dom Notker Wolf is/was a rocker?! That alone is just another reason why I am Catholic. Then I found out that the blog is part of a project sponsored in part by Fordham University, etc, etc, and there is a boatload of contributors, including David Nantais, all of which have advanced degrees in music and are rockers in their spare time.

Look, I’d love to chat about this with you some more, but I have to head on over to Rock and Theology for a little bit of spiritual rock n’ roll therapy. Feel free to join me!

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