Saturday, December 29, 2007

From the lips of a saint(?)

Me: Tomorrow is Sunday, so we get to go to Church! And I think you can go to Sunday school again.

Peter: I like Sunday school now. I always get hungry, and they give me food there!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Grinches of U-ville

Katherine Kersten writes:

For most Minnesotans, December is a festive month of merrymaking and good cheer. But at the University of Minnesota it’s the most dangerous time of the year.

A Dec. 5 article on the University’s website, “Reevaluating seasonal office parties,” sets forth the perils. Its authors, Dee Anne Bonebright of the U’s Office of Human Resources and Julie Sweitzer of the Office of System Academic Administration, exhort U employees to be on their guard.

The memo makes clear that the limits most of us have learned to put on our Christmas spirit in recent years — you know, catching yourself before you hum “Joy to the World” in public — are no longer enough at the U of M.

In 2007, the enlightened Grinches keeping watch over U-ville (with apologies to Dr. Seuss) are trying to keep the spirit of Christmas from coming at all.

December office parties of any kind are now suspect at our state’s flagship institution of higher education.

The problem, explain Bonebright and Sweitzer in their memo, is that “celebrations held in December tend to make people think of Christmas, whatever the theme.” And who knows where that could lead?
GASP! More...

Monday, December 17, 2007

New music for advent

My parish had an advent Evensong service last night. It was a quiet time for prayer and reflection with eight scripture readings interspersed with hymns or other pieces of music (violin, or soprano solo, or organ). I very much enjoyed it, particularly because of the fitting nature of the music chosen. Also very well performed.

A highlight was the final hymn we sung which was new to me, The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came, a Basque carol translated by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924). The meter is just irregular enough to be interesting, but not too random. It almost sounds like a solemn march, rolling on with an inevitability that matches the fiat our Blessed Mother speaks to Saint Gabriel.

The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
his wings as drifted snow, his eyes aflame;
"All hail," said he, "thou lowly maiden Mary,
most highly favored lady," Gloria!

"For know a blessed Mother thou shalt be,
all generations laud and honor thee,
thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
most highly favored lady," Gloria!

The gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said,
"my soul shall laud and magnify his holy Name,"
Most highly favored lady, Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
in Bethlehem all on a Christmas morn,
and Christian folk throughout the world will ever say:
"Most highly favored lady," Gloria!

Veni, veni Emmanuel

Beginning tonight at vespers and continuing through December 23, the O antiphons ring out in the prayer of the Church. These 7 antiphons are the latin text upon which O Come, O Come Emmanuel is based. Writes Br. Pius Pietrzyk, OP at

With this portion of Advent come the great “O Antiphons”. In the Liturgical Office of Vespers (Evening Prayer), from December 17th until the 23rd, the Antiphon for the Gospel Canticle (the Magnificat) begins in Latin with the vocative “O” and a title of the Lord Jesus: O Sapientia, O Adonai, O Rex, O Clavis, O Oriens, O Radix, O Emmanuel. These translate into: O Wisdom, O Adonai, O King, O Key (of David), O Dawn, O Root (of Jesse), O Emmanuel.

You can download a copy of a short program of all of the chants together with the tone for singing the Magnificat:

Booklet of Dominican Chants of the “O” Antiphons

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lost and confused

Gender switch roils United Methodist Church

When did it become controversial to affirm that self-mutilating surgery was wrong? Doesn't this seem like a no brainer? Cutting off functional breasts, sewing on a fake penis, and injecting foreign hormones is clearly seriouly disordered.

Finally, those who argue the "God doesn't make mistakes" and "Don't mess with creation" lines readily make use of medical procedures to change their bodies, Phoenix said.

"Think of all the vaccinations, medications and pharmaceuticals we take," he said. "We completely alter our bodies."

No, true medicine seeks to heal our bodies of faults and preserve our health. It does not seek to destroy the natural functioning of a healthy person. At least, it shouldn't. Birth control and sterilization were previously viewed by Christians as "unnatural" because they frusterate or destroy the ability a healthy person has to conceive a new human being. At the 1930 Lambeth Conference, the Church of England formally permitted the use of unnatural methods of birth control. This was the first time in history that an organized church body broke with the traditional Christian morality regarding contraception.

Now, few churches stand with the Catholic Church in affirming the immorality of contraception. But one can see where it leads. When the connection between sex and procreation is discarded it becomes difficult to appeal to the human body or "human nature" in support of other sexual norms. If we can ignore the natural meaning of the sexual union between a man and a woman, then what stops us from simply ignoring the meaning of maleness and femaleness itself? Isn't it just our body? Isn't it just accidental? Maybe God did make a mistake with some people and ensoul them it the wrong shape...

It reminds me of a blurb I read in the local paper this past week. A local public school will prohibit students from allowing undergarments to show during the school day. No more bra straps on the shoulder or sagging belt lines. Don't worry, though. The administrators aren't doing anything rash. The new commonsense policy won't go into effect until next year.

This is news? Shouldn't a principal be able to say, "You, put on a decent shirt or you have detention"? This is why I'm glad my school has uniforms. We fight with the students over tucking in their shirts, or whether the type of leather on their shoes is dark enough. We pick our fights here so that we don't have to wring our hands about whether thongs can show above the waistline.

It's too bad that so many Christians didn't put up a fuss earlier about exactly what is "natural". Now they have to debate whether that flap of skin sewn between her legs makes her a man.

EDIT: The blurb to which I referred referenced a district spokeswoman who said there has not been problems with boys wearing saggy pants and girls having bra straps showing, but "we are staying up with current issues and to make sure everything is covered." Ok. Then why did this make the news?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit

I've never seen anything like this before.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Cantate Domino

Thank you to Cathy_of_Alex for her supportive post.

Yes, the beginning chant group with which I've been rehearsing is singing at the 8:30 am Saturday mass tomorrow at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Minneapolis (directions). The morning begins at 7:30 with a holy hour before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Fr. Glen Jensen has been encouraging the people at St. Anthony's to learn the responses in latin by celebrating a beautiful liturgy in honor of Our Lady each Saturday. He's been kind enough to invite us to sing tomorrow, and perhaps more regularly in the future.

While we are beginners, we've been doing our best to prayerfully offer the following repetoire. The ordinaries are from Orbis Factor (Mass XI), and the propers taken mostly from the Solemnity of the Assumption of the BVM:

Introit - Salve Sancta Parens
Kyrie - Mass XI, B
Alleluia - Proper from the Assumption of the BVM
Offertory - Assumpta Est, O Sanctissima (hymn)
Sanctus - Mass XI
Agnus Dei - Mass XI
Communion - Beatam Dicent, Jesu Dulcis Memoria (hymn)
Recessional - Salve Regina (hymn)

Come pray with us! Sheets will be available with responses and translations of the propers.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A very present help in trouble

In the wake of the bridge collapse this past week, I found comfort in the words of Psalm 46 from Friday Vespers:

1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God will help her right early.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has wrought desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,
he burns the chariots with fire!
10 "Be still, and know that I am God.
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth!"

11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Pope John Paul II commented on this psalm during his general audience of June 16, 2004:

Psalm 46 is divided into two major parts by a sort of antiphon that rings out in verses [7] and [11]: "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge". God's title, "the Lord of hosts," is typical of the Hebraic cult in the Temple of Zion; despite its martial connotations, linked to the Ark of the Covenant, it refers to God's lordship over the whole cosmos and over history.

Hence, this title is a source of confidence, for the whole world and all its vicissitudes are under the supreme governance of the Lord. This Lord is therefore "with us", as the antiphon says once again with an implicit reference to the Emmanuel, the "God-with-us" (cf. Is 7: 14; Mt 1: 23).

The first part of the hymn focuses on the symbol of the waters and presents a twofold, contrasting meaning. Indeed, on the one hand, the foaming waters are unleashed; in biblical language this symbolizes devastation, chaos and evil. They cause the trembling of the structure of the being and of the universe, symbolized by the mountains shaken by the roaring outburst of some sort of destructive floodwaters. On the other hand, however, there are the thirst-quenching waters of Zion, a city set upon arid hills but which is gladdened by "a river and its streams." While he alludes to the streams of Jerusalem such as the Shiloah (cf. Is 8: 6-7), the Psalmist sees in them a sign of flourishing life in the Holy City, of its spiritual fecundity and its regenerative power.

Therefore, despite the upheavals of history that cause people to tremble and kingdoms to shake, the faithful find in Zion the peace and calm that derive from communion with God.

In manus tuas Domine, commendo spiritum meum.
     -In manus tuas Domine, commendo spiritum meum.
Redemisti nos Domine, Deus veritatis.
     -Commendo spiritum meum.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
     -In manus tuas Domine, commendo spiritum meum.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, July 22-28

Children are blessings, not burdens - gifts, not rights. Fr. Ubel, pastor, St. Agnes Catholic Church

This is NFP Awareness Week! I would like to pass on to all of you the truth of human sexuality that has so transformed my marriage and my life.

My wife and I were not Catholic when we were engaged or married, but at college my then-fiancee had Christian friends who decided to pracitice NFP. My wife's reaction was, "I guess they'll be having a baby soon!" After she learned that NFP can be practiced at the 99% effectiveness level, it appealed to her. When Amy brought it up to me on the phone my first thought was, "Are you telling me that even after we're married we'd have to not have sex sometimes?!" It was such a selfish reaction. I knew that sex before marriage was wrong, but my understanding went no deeper. I didn't have any idea what marriage was for, nor how the marital embrace related to it, nor did I have any moral compass to direct my actions as a married man. I thought that any kind of sex within marriage was fine. I felt angry that my future wife was suggesting that I have some kind of self control once we had wed.

Thankfully, God softened my heart and we took an NFP class from the Couple to Couple League. We learned what God created marriage for, and just what we were about to enter into. We learned that all Christian churches condemned contraception until 1930. We also had light shed on the tremendous good of human sexuality, and what the union of a husband and wife communicates about God and about love. We've enjoyed the blessing of NFP our entire marriage. First we used it to postpone pregnancy for three years, then to acheive pregnancy, then to space our children using total breastfeeding.

The most important fruit I see from our practice of natural family planning is the innoculation it provides against the "contraceptive mentality." There is a key difference between NFP and contraception.

While both may seek to limit family size:
- Contraception actively severs the God-given relationship between sex and procreation. It contradicts the meaning of sex, and thus the meaning of marriage.

- Natural family planning never interferes with the natural consequences of sexual relations at any time. It cooperates with the natural cylces which God has designed as part of a woman's fertility.

I know that this may seem subtle, but I cannot overemphasize how crucial it is. The difference is made apparent when a husband and a wife are asked how many children they would like to have.

Are children a burden which require us to consider how many we can bear? Do we have a right before God to have children when we desire them? Can we achieve true "birth control" by using contraception when we don't want to get get pregnant and then go off it when we feel ready? If so, then a couple might say, "We plan to have two kids spaced three years apart."

Are children a blessing from God on a couple's marriage? Is a child a gift given by God, created and cared for by the cooperation of a mother and a father? Must we respect the integrity of our bodies as the expression of our personhood and the image of God we bear? If so, then a couple might say, "We receive our children one at a time from God. We don't think God is asking us to be more open to another baby right now, but we'll prayerfully consider this every month as we are aware of the fertile time when we might conceive."

I was reminded of this difference last week as I listened to a radio broadcast of Focus on the Family. Dr. Dobson interviewed three women who had experienced surprise pregnancies. All three were Christian women, but all three were simply shocked that they had become pregnant while using "birth control." All three were afraid and thought about abortion to some degree, and one decided to go through with it. The tone of the whole show was somber. The show was entitled, "Hope in the Midst of Unexpected Pregnancies" (Part 1, Part 2).

If a child is treated as an unwanted side-effect of sex to be surpressed with a pill prescribed by a doctor, then there is no need to think about the chances of having another baby when a husband and wife have sex. Abortion becomes the logical, even if abhorred, next step when a woman is faced with a surprise pregnancy. This is the contraceptive mentality.

If a couple is reconsidering every month whether God is calling them to greater generosity in family size, and they are sacrificing by abstaining from relations during the fertile time, then an unplanned pregnancy should never be unexpected. That is was sex was designed for! The couple may of couse have many fears and questions regarding the future care of an
unexpected child, but they always remained open to the possiblity. They never closed their relationship to children by manipulating the language of their bodies.

I encourage everybody to learn more about NFP and the meaning of human sexuality within marriage. Your relationships to each other and to God will be transformed forever.

Further reading:
Marriage: A Communion of Life and Love by Bishop Victor Galeone

Monday, June 25, 2007

Spinning like a man!

No, not a cycling class at the gym. I'm thinking about taking up spinning wool yarn as a hobby and (small) business venture. My wife has been knitting and crocheting for many years and selling her fine wares at Ewebetcha. We've begun a mother's day tradition of attending a local wool and sheep festival as a family. So far, it's been my wife's thing, although I've been using all along various cloth diapers and wool covers for our children. But right now I think it would be fun to learn to spin. I get to use a cool-looking contraption and if I get good could have Amy sell the yarn as a semi-custom project.

This spinning wheel from Babe's Fiber Garden strikes me as particularly affordable, and the PVC (which most women spinners seem to hate) looks quite manly to me. I let you know if we get one and share my efforts to learn.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Ten Commandments of Driving

(Courtesy of The Curt Jester)
Cardinal Renato Martino's Pontifical Council for Migrants issued a “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road,” aka The Ten Commandments of Driving. Today the newly created Pontifical Council for Transportation jointly with Car-itas has issued a new document Driving the Gospels Home.

The following are some of the highlights of the new document.

  • If you are carjacked one mile, go with him two.
  • If yor are hit, turn the other signal.
  • Do not let your air bag become puffed up like the Pharisees
  • Let not the sun go down on you road rage
  • Carry your cross daily, or at least have one hanging from your rear view mirror.
  • When you enter a freeway that is backed up, go and move to the lowest place and not try to merge into the front. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
  • Do not talk about your Honda so that it can be said of you "That he did not say it of his own Accord."
  • Hydroplaning is not the same thing as walking on water, avoid it.
  • Before Jesus peformed the miracle at Cana, he appointed a designated driver.
  • Do not say "Are we there yet", but rather "It is good to be here."

We can look forward to new documents in the future from the Pontifical Council for Transportation. Another document called "Sacrificial suffering and airline food" is rumored to be in the works.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

This just in: USPS a bunch of dorks!

Star Wars stamp set announced by post office

This explains the R2-D2 mailboxes you may have seen.

I always knew the USPS was a bunch of dorks. :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Catholic Carnival 112

Posted by Shellie at Profound Gratitude.

Infanticide at home and abroad

I'm not sure what to make of it, but my heart aches reading each of the following articles.

Body of a baby found in the Mississippi River, the third in eight years

Mothers in Germany urged to drop off unwanted babies at hospitals after 23 known cases of infanticide this year

Three of my fellow teachers have given birth to their babies during the past few weeks, and to be reminded contemporarily of such cruelty elsewhere in the world is jarring. But reality often acts as a much needed call to prayer.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


My wife has revamped her business site. Check it out for all your hand-knit diapering accessories!

Friday, March 23, 2007

You know that creaking sound a rope makes just before snapping...

I think I hear it now:
Episcopal bishops rebuff demand from Anglican leaders

Of note:
The plan to put conservative parishes under an international "pastoral council" would replace local governance with "a distant and unaccountable group of prelates" for "the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century," the US bishops said in a written resolution.

Oh, the horror! Isn't that foreign "group of prelates" at least accountable to God. Surely He's up to the task.

Our consciences can err, the Church cannot

Michael J. Bayly, Executive Coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, has posted recently some of his Thoughts on Authority and Fidelity. Near the end, Mr. Bayly proclaims the "good news" that "the loving and transforming presence of God is not limited to the impoverished teachings and rules of the Vatican". The thoughts he shared follow closely his earlier post concerning the primacy of conscience. I excerpt from his earlier entry:

Our moral choices should be the result of an informed or “educated” conscience.

Yet some within the church insist that it is only the “official” church which can properly “educate” and “inform” the Catholic conscience.

Such Catholics are adamant that one knows if one’s conscience is rightly formed if it conforms with what the Magisterium, the official teaching office of the church, says about various moral matters.

Yet if this was really the case, why have a conscience? What’s the point of it when we have the Magisterium?

Also, if we relinquish our personal conscience in favour of the Magisterium , what do we do with statements like the following:

“Above the pope as an expression of the binding claim of church authority, stands one’s own conscience, which has to be obeyed first of all, if need be against the demands of church authority.”

Such a statement explicitly differentiates between one’s “own conscience” and “church authority”. Yet is this statement simply the ramblings of a dissident theologian, a “militant secularist” in a Catholic disguise?

Actually, no, it’s not.

They are, in fact, the words of Fr. Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), and he is explaining the authentic Catholic understanding of the primacy of conscience. The pope’s explanation is excepted from a commentary on “Gaudium et Spes” (“The Church in the Modern World”) published in Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II (Vorgrimler, Herbert (Ed.), Burns and Oats, 1969, p. 134.)

So, one can, in good conscience, dissent from the church’s official moral teaching. But, of course, one can only do so as a result of an “informed” conscience. Which brings us back to the crucial question: How does one go about properly informing one’s conscience?

Believe it or not, I think we should allow the church to inform our consciences, but I don’t limit “the church” to the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. In it’s broadest and, I believe, most catholic sense, the church is the entire people of God; the whole Body of Christ, in other words.

For instance, in forming my conscience on how I am to live as a gay man – a living that includes the expression of my sexuality – I am compelled to be open to the experiences and insights of the entire people of God, not just the teachings of the Magisterium. These experiences and insights are just as important as the doctrines of the church when it comes to informing my conscience. The tragedy is that the Magisterium itself, as the teaching office of the church, should be similarly engaged in such a universal, i.e. catholic, process of discernment.

Notice the quote from Ratzinger. He dropped the exact same text as a footnote of his recent post. Bayly uses the quote to justify his assertion that "one can, in good conscience, dissent from the church's official moral teaching." But is this Ratzinger's intention? Of course not! Let's look at some more context from the Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II where Ratzinger comments on Gaudium et Spes 16:

Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official Church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism. Genuine ecclesiastical obedience is distinguished from any totalitarian claim which cannot accept any ultimate obligation of this kind beyond the reach of its dominating will.


As well as the transcendence of conscience, its non-arbitrary character and objectivity are emphasized. The fathers were obviously anxious ... not to allow an ethics of conscience to to be transformed into the domination of subjectivism, and not to canonize a limitless situation ethics under the guise of conscience. On the contrary, the conciliar text implies that obedience to conscience means an end to subjectivism, a turning aside from blind arbitrariness, and produces conformity with the objective norms of moral action.


As regards the binding force of erroneous conscience, the text employs a rather evasive formula. It mere says that such a conscience does not lose its dignity. We must note here that the thesis emphatically asserted by J.B. Metz in particular, that Aquinas was the first definitely to teach to obligatory force of an erroneous conscience, is historically and objectively the case only to a certain extent and with considerable qualifications. Historically speaking, Aquinas here is following Aristotelian intellectualism, according to which only what is presented to the will by reason can be its object; and the will is always in the wrong if it deviates from reason. It cannot once again control the reason, it has to follow it; it is consequently bad if it contradicts reason, even if reason is in error. In reality, Aquinas's thesis is nullified by the fact that he is convinced that error is culpable. Consequently guilt lies not so much in the will which has to carry out the precept laid upon it by reason, but in reason itself, which must know about God's law. The doctrine of the binding force of an erroneous conscience in the form in which it is propounded nowadays, belongs entirely to the thought of modern times.

So, it is clear that Mr. Bayly has no ally in his dissent with then-Fr. Ratzinger. In general, Ratzinger affirms the necessity of obeying one's conscience taught in Gaudium et Spes 16 but is critical of the ambiguity of the text. In the end he notes how an erroneous conscience obeyed is still often culpable of guilt, since the judgement of reason can be due to one's previous neglect or prior sin. Instead of justifying us in our sin, conscience levels the playing field between man and God, for we all know the requirements of God and we all know when we do wrong:

For God shows no partiality. All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. (Romans 2:11-14)

Although Michael Bayly and others of CPCSM claim to be "Catholic, Liberal, Faithful", what they mean is "I self-identify as Catholic, but I am self-liberated from the rules of the Vatican, and I am faithful to what my own conscience tells me is right." Anybody who happens to think that "Catholic" should mean more than "I say I'm Catholic"; anybody who thinks the Catholic Church clearly teaches certain absolutes; anybody who thinks that the Pope has the authority to bind and loose the people of God, is stuck in "the ghetto of neo-scholastic thinking" which is a "narrow and abstruse way of thinking", resorts to "equating ecclesiastical fidelity with passive toadyism", and responds to reality with "distrust and fear".

I find it a bit ironic that St. Thomas with his "narrow and abstruse" scholasticism was the first one to teach definitely (with qualifications) that one's conscience should be obeyed even if in error, the very principle the Mr. Bayly holds up in justification of his dissent from the Magisterium!

In truth, while a person indeed must obey his conscience when it speaks of doing good or avoiding evil, we must acknowledge that conscience can err (CCC 1790). Christ, speaking through the Magisterium of his Church, cannot err (CCC 888-92). We are to inform our consciences with the truth of God by means of what we know is certain:

In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path, we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church. (CCC 1785, emphasis added)

Edit: Typo "Vorgrimler" changed in original, and reflected here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fred Thompson for president?

"He steered a fake aircraft carrier right into a fake conflict in The Hunt for Red October"

Well, I guess he's also a lawyer and former US Senator from Tennessee.

"Or Kiefer Sutherland. The guy has saved the country, like, six years in a row!"

Monday, March 19, 2007

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto

In my attempt to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, I'm doing a bit of work learning to chant.

My general goal for a while has been to develop greater discipline in daily prayer. A guiding principle I adopted has been to practice that kind of prayer that lots of other good and holy people recommend. I began with Fr. Thomas Dubay and his book Prayer Primer (highly recommended). He says to start with vocal prayer, suggesting the Liturgy of the Hours as an excellent way offered by the Church. This structure has helped me immensely over the past few months! It's also a wonderful source of scripture for meditation, the next highest kind of prayer.

The Church teaches - all evidence to the contrary in our parishes - that latin and Gregorian chant are to be given priority in the liturgy at mass. So, on a related note I've been trying to learn to chant and combining this with my practice of praying vespers every night. Here are some gems I've culled from internet slag:

Simple Way Lay Apostolate This site offers the single best resource for learning the LH and simple chant. Discovering Prayer is a free downloadable booklet with quick and easy directions for praying all of the hours, as well as reading neumes (chant notes). Included, or available as a separate download, is a Liturgy of the Hours Help Card that includes the latin for all the ordinary prayers (God come to my assistance, Glory to, Our father, Benedictus, Magnificat, Nunc dimittis, May the Lord bless us, etc.) as well as all eight psalm tones for chanting in english or latin.

Jubilate Deo A booklet of traditional prayers and hymns that were recommended by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship in 1974 as a "minimum repertoire of Gregorian chant".

An Idiot's Guide to Square Notes Not as trite as the title suggests. Very useful.

The Church Music Association of America "is an association of Catholic musicians, and those who have a special interest in music and liturgy, active in advancing Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and other forms of sacred music, including new composition, for liturgical use." MANY articles and chant sheetmusic for download.

St. Cecilia Schola Cantorum A parish schola with a great many pieces of chant and polyphony available for download.

Choral Public Domain Library Searchable database of free public domain compositions for download.

Vatican Radio Lauds, Vespers and Compline prayed daily in latin and available for listening.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Unworthy, yet sanctified in Christ

Vespers ended last night, the 3rd Sunday in Lent, with the prayer,

you have taught us to overcome our sins
by prayer, fasting and works of mercy.
When we are discouraged by our weakness,
give us confidence in your love.

It expresses something that I often feel - frusteration with my own faults and frequent sins, but trust in God for the hope and life he gives us in Christ Jesus. Also, from the prayer of St. Ambrose before mass,

Lord Jesus Christ,
I approach your banquet table
in fear and trembling,
for I am a sinner,
and dare not rely on my own worth,
but only on your goodness and mercy.

What an amazing revelation, that God has chosen to share his life with us sinners! Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man -- though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Rom 5:7-8)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Does science drive out religious belief?

Barton Swaim at First Things points out the erroneous assumption made by many athiest scientists - specifically Steven Weinberg - that scientific knowledge and religious faith are inversely proportional (as one increases, the other decreases). I am a fan of Stephen Barr on the topic of science and religion, he being a Catholic physicist who thinks deeply about the implications of what we have discovered through the methods of science. His article Retelling the Story of Science is a good summary of his argument that there is no conflict between religion and science, but rather one between religion and scientific materialism. This is the philisophical view that nothing exists besides matter, and everything in the universe - including the human person - is completely explained by discoverable laws of nature. Many materialists would have you think that this philosophy is required by the discipline of science, but it is not.

So here's my question: Do you think there is a contradiction between what you believe about God and what you believe about science? If so, what? Please let us know what religious perspective you hold.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Songs of victory

Fr. Baer's comments about singing songs of victory in battle reminded me of two things. The first is Psalm 118. A number of years ago I memorized a good portion of it after noticing that it is often quoted in the new testament. Verse 22 is a familiar messianic reference applied to Jesus: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." (cf. Mt 21:42, Acts 4:11)

1: O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever!
2: Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
3: Let the house of Aaron say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
4: Let those who fear the LORD say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
5: Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free.
6: With the LORD on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me?
7: The LORD is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
8: It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
9: It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.
10: All nations surrounded me; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
11: They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
12: They surrounded me like bees, they blazed like a fire of thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
13: I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me.
14: The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
15: Hark, glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: "The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
16: the right hand of the LORD is exalted, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!"

17: I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.

The second is a portion from J.R.R. Tolkien's Return of the King at the end of the chapter entitled The Ride of the Rohirrim. The riders of Rohan, led by King Théoden, have looked in despair at the great siege army besetting Minas Tirith:

The City was now nearer. A smell of burning was in the air and a very shadow of death. The horses were uneasy. But the king sat upon Snowmane, motionless, gazing upon the agony of Minas Tirith, as if stricken suddenly by anguish, or by dread. He seemed to shrink down, cowed by age. Merry himself felt as if a great weight of horror and doubt had settle on him. His heart beat slowly. Time seem poised in uncertainty. They were too late! Too late was worse than never! Perhaps Théoden would quail, bow his old head, turn, slink away to hide in the hills. ...

At that sound [of a great boom from the City] the bent shape of the king sprang suddenly erect. Tall and proud he seemed again; and rising in his stirrups he cried in a loud voice, more clear than any there had ever heard a mortal man achieve before:

Arise, arise Riders of Théoden!
Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!
spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!

With that he seized a great horn from Guthláf his bannerbearer, and he blew such a blast upon it that it burst asunder. And straightaway all the horns in the host were lifted up in music, and the blowing of the horns of Rohan in that hour was like a storm upon the plain and a thunder in the mountains.

Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!

Suddenly the king cried to Snowmane and the horse sprang away. Behind him his banner blew in the wind, white horse upon a field of green, but he outpaced it. After him thundered the knights of his house, but he was ever before them. Éomer rode there, the white horsetail on his helm floating in his speed, and the front of the first éored roared like a breaker foaming to the shore, but Théoden could not be overtaken. Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Oromë the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young. His golden shield was uncovered, and lo! it shone like an image of the Sun, and the grass flamed into green about the white feet of his steed. For morning came, morning and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed, and the hosts of Mordor wailed, and terror took them, and they fled, and died, and the hoofs of wrath rode over them. And then all the host of Rohan burst into song, and they sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible came even to the City.

Singing in victory!

Commented by Fr. Baer:
Among the comments made in the local newspapers and blogs regarding the events of the past two nights, there has been an interesting thread running through them, namely, comments about the singing of traditional chants and hymns.

At the Seminary, I teach the men that singing in the Scriptures is often associated with victory in battle. In particular, the "new song" of the Psalms and, especially, of the Exodus, is no willowy, but a triumphal song following the LORD's victory over the Egyptians and other opponents. Mary's Magnificat is a victory song, acclaiming God's triumph in raising the lowly, including His lowly handmaid, to glory, while casting down the proud and powerful of this world. In heaven the martyrs and saints will sing a new song, "the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb."
Are you in a fight? Cry out to the Lord. Are you victorious? Sing out to the Lord. This is how Catholics do it. And this may be an under-appreciated part of how Catholics are to do evangelization. People close their ears to our words, but they just can't ignore a good song.

Do we want Catholic men to sing? Give them a chance to fight for Christ, give them a chance to celebrate our victory in Christ, and then give them chants and anthems, ancient and new, whose words and melodies and spirit befit an unconquerable band of brothers in Christ.

Do that, and we will have thousands of everyday Catholic men around the Twin Cities, including men who have hated to sing the insipid songs foisted upon them previously, singing with ardor a new song to the Lord. I guarantee that observers and protesters who pay no attention to mean-spirited and tiresome shouts of protest will take notice. That's what a song of victory does. Always has, always will.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Manly men

I was able to get to the U of M last night (Saturday), arriving about 7:30. I went around to the side of Rarig facing away from the street where students most often walk by between classes. I lived in Middlebrook Hall on the West Bank, so I had pictured the protest being held on that side. But nobody was there! I saw theatre-goers inside having drinks, but no one outside. I thought perhaps I was too late, and the group was asked to move or something.

But I walked around to the other side to find a dense wedge of people praying the Rosary and singing, mostly seminarians. I have no idea how to estimate the size - definitely more than 50 and probably less than 100. It appeared identical to the descriptions I had read about Friday night.

I crossed in front and took up a position near the back corner. We finished the last three Glorious Mysteries and then prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Lots of people walked by on their way into the theatre for the 8:00 show, and most just passed by with a glance. Praying out in the cold reminded me of my childless days when I would get up Saturday mornings and go with a few friends to pray outside an abortion provider in Robbinsdale. We were led by Father Dufner, rain or show or shine. It's something that sounds really radical when you talk about it -- "Yeah, I was outside in the snow praying for and hour to stop abortion..." But it actually ends up being much easier to do than expected and eventually becomes a routine. Last night was the same way. I was a bit nervous walking to the theatre, but there was nothing to fear once I was there in prayer.

I'm glad I went. It was clearly the SJV guys' show, as they seemed quite used to praying and singing together. I've decided that learning about the protest got me so excited because it wasn't some cranks standing outside the theatre with signs and yelling, "GO TO HELL LIBERAL ARTIST SCUM!" It was our seminarians (led by their rector Fr. Baer) standing up to say - This is not right. Catholics should not put up with this kind of insult and blasphemy. We will pray in reparation, trusting to God and His perfect justice. I'm so grateful that these men are answering God's call to serve His Church.

Oh, as for these "manly men". Their deep voices rang out with confidence in prayer and song (much better than my students' singing at school). After Fr. Baer's blessing, the SJV men shouted their motto: "Men in Christ! Men of the Church! Men for others! Saint John Vianney - Pray for us! Holy Mary Mother of God - Pray for us!" There was more, but I forget. It was like a team getting psyched for a game. Way to go, guys! Fr. Corapi doesn't call the Rosary a powerful weapon for nothing!

*Shout out to Cathy_of_Alex whom (who?) I greeted after the praying. She was there the whole time and nearly took over when the seminarians were a few minutes slow showing up. Good to see you!

Other posts about the evening at Veritatis Spendor (pics) and Adoro te Devote.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Show up and be counted!

Ray from MN also attended last night's play and records the sight of the "alien" SJV seminarians praying at the U of MN here.

SJV men will be there again tonight beginning at 7:15 and lasting about an hour! Click the above link for details. I'll be there in support of our future priests and in protest of "The Pope and His Witch."

Faithful witness in the face of insult

The insulting play "The Pope and the Witch" opened last night at the U of M to a small crowd inside the theatre (about 250/460 seats filled) but a surprisingly large crowd outside the theatre. Around 70 to 80 people, many of them seminarians from Saint John Vianney, stood outside praying the rosary and singing hymns in protest of a play that reportedly mocks the Pope specifically and the Catholic faith generally. Praise God for their public witness! I can't tell you how encouraging it is to me to hear that so many men discerning priesthood have the courage to stand up without embarrassment and be counted in support of Our Lord and His Church.

The Star Tribune reports on the play here. Cathy_of_Alex, author of The Recovering Dissident Catholic saw the play last night and gives her thoughts here and here.

I left a voicemail at Fr. Baer's office asking him to pass on a "thank you" to the men who prayed outside the play for their strong public witness for our Lord and his Church. It'd be great if others could do the same, or email:

Fr. William Baer, Rector-President - 651-962-6825

Friday, March 02, 2007

The barbarian hordes

There is a good article titled Leo the Great and Benedict the XVI over at Catholic Exchange. While Leo the Great faced down the barbarian army of Attila the Hun as it made its way towards Rome in 452, Pope Benedict XVI is poised to challenge the "seductive ideologies and cultural pathologies" that seek to undermine the Church's moral authority, the dignity of the human person, and thus modern civilization.

(I'm keen on Leo the Great. My son's name is Leo. :)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

What is in the womb?

You may have heard about baby Amellia. She was born at only 21 (nearly 22) weeks of gestation, the earliest known preemie to live. Now there's Millie McDonagh born in Enlgand only one day later than Amellia. Apparently the UK prohibits abortion after 24 weeks, the age of "viability" after which a baby born premature has a non-negligible chance to survive. Millie has inspired a new bill in parliament lowering the restriction to 22 weeks, since now there's some hope that a baby that young may survive a premature birth.

The British law has at least some reason to it: A "fetus" is worth protecting if he or she can survive outside of the mother's womb. Not a very meaningful line to draw, but I think it gives the appearance of reason compared to the U.S.: baby inside mother = nothing, baby outside mother = person.

Let's set aside any policy decisions for a moment. What is in a mother's womb? If one believes that there is a human being worthy of protection in a mother's womb as long as that baby can survive on its own, then you are going to run into the current problem of better technology enabling earlier premature delivery survival. Does it make sense that a person's existence and thus protection depends upon our current level of medical knowledge?

If Amellia was born a miracle baby at 21 weeks, what was the nameless baby who was aborted today at 21 weeks? Just a choice? Just a terminated pregnancy?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Training the mind and the will

I teach science at a Catholic school. Our motto is "Faith, Knowledge, Virtue". A common phenomena to all teachers is the student who is very bright. He understands the material quickly and can perform well on tests. However, he constantly neglects homework assignments. As a result, he earns a grade of perhaps a C or even a D when he could easily make an A with simple effort. Many of us say, "He COULD earn an A, but he just doesn't try."

I've come to realize that he really CAN'T get a better grade on his own. Just like another student who really exerts himself but struggles to understand the material really CAN'T get a better grade on his own. BOTH require significant effort on their part and significant guidance on the part of teachers and parents.

The reason is that a person has two spiritual faculties of his soul: the intellect and the will. By his reason, [the human person] is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. (CCC 1704) A student who really works hard and scraps it out all quarter to earn a C+ is struggling particularly with a fallen intellect. I often recognize this struggle in students and council extra effort and practice for them to achieve a better grasp of a given concept. Another student who immediately understands a topic but fails to do his homework is struggling particularly with a fallen will. But, I have a default attitude of "Just get it done!" with this second student.

I'm realizing more and more that the second student needs to exert additional effort and practice (along with external structure and monitoring) just as much as the first. The will must be trained just as hard as the intellect. There is no switch to flip from "slacker" to "on the ball". Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. ... The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts. ... Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God's help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. (CCC 1804, 1810, emphasis added)

I'm starting to get the "Faith, Knowledge, VIRTUE" thing a little better. Now, how do I teach it?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Praying the morning psalms

I've completed the links for Lauds (Morning Prayer). You can find them here.

Now I have to actually read all of them! :)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Praying the psalms

Over the course of this school year, I've been acquainting myself with the psalms as prayed in the Liturgy of the Hours. I struggle with consistency in my prayer life and I find that the LH provides a necessary resource for praying each day, particularly Evening Prayer after the boys are asleep. (As my good wife remarked while paging through the prayer book, "It's just like a choose your own adventure book!") The nice thing about it is that the whole Church is invited to enter into this prayer together. So if the circumstances of life tie me up for a day and I miss praying, I know that the LH goes on around the globe and I can re-enter that channel of grace.

Christ has taught us the necessity of praying at all times without losing heart (Luke 18:1). The Church has been faithful in obeying this instruction; it never ceases to offer prayer, and makes this exhortation its own: ‘Through him (Jesus) let us offer to God an unceasing sacrifice of praise’ (Hebrews 15:15). The Church satisfies this requirement not only by the celebration of the Eucharist but in other ways also, especially through the Liturgy of the Hours, which is distinguished from other liturgical actions by the fact that it consecrates to God the whole cycle of day and night, as it has done from early Christian times.
(General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, 10)

I've admitted to myself that I'm a beginner in prayer (no heights of contemplation yet). So I'm working on the basics: regular vocal prayer. Father Thomas Dubay especially recommends the Liturgy of the Hours for this purpose in his book Prayer Primer. The LH also offers many gems for mediation from the scriptures which I find helpful in learning that next highest form of prayer. However, I've never studied the psalms before and needed some help understanding them.

Pope John Paul II began a series of catechesis on the psalms from Morning and Evening Prayer in 2001. After his death, Pope Benedict XVI completed the series, ending in 2006. All of the pope's audiences can be found online (great!), but only sorted by date, not topic (not great). While there is a book which compiles some of the talks, I searched in vain for an online compilation of the entire catechesis.

So, I did it myself. Here are the links to all the audiences during which the Holy Father (John Paul and Benedict) taught through the psalms for Evening Prayer. I'm working on Morning Prayer next. I hope you find it useful. Please let me know of any problems with the links.

God bless!

Vespers Psalms catechesis by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI

The Liturgy of the Hours online at

*****EDITTED 2/21/2007*****
The links for Lauds (Morning Prayer) are now finished. God bless!