27 June 2012


I've moved house recently, and I've decided that it's time to move blogs, too.  This blog has served us well for the last nine (!) years, but my blog partner hasn't written any posts in a long time and my posts these days are more individual and much less about the two of us as friends and partners.  I won't take this blog down any time soon, so the archives will be here if anyone is interested.

Please join me at my new blog, Sancta Maria ad Nives.

23 May 2012

What the heck...?

I'm sure that Father Gabriele Amorth has done many good things in his life. However, I really wish that someone who has authority over him would duct tape his mouth shut. Please? I know that the news outlets which, like HuffPo, have titled their stories "Emanuela Orlandi Was Kidnapped for Vatican Sex Parties" are outright lying. That implies that cardinals were having orgies with underage girls, and that's not at all what Fr. Amorth said. What he said was that foreign diplomats and a Vatican gendarme (not exactly who you think of when you hear "The Vatican") were having sex parties. Also, how does he know this? In what capacity is he authorized to comment? Yes, his statements were distorted in the headlines. But he's not a young priest, he's 87. He's been around the block a few times. He should not be so naive as to think that the media won't twist his statements to make them look as bad as possible for the Church. Yet, he does this anyway. Please, someone, make sure he's not interviewed by the press anymore. PLEASE.

29 February 2012

I Know I Said I'd Be Gone a While...

...but this opportunity was too good to pass up. Take a look at this:

A name has been stricken from the photo to protect the (sort of) innocent. Does it remind you of anything? If you're a Star Trek fan, it might remind you of this:


The top photo is in fact a proposal for a baptismal font and not a crude, early prototype of the USS Defiant.

To my mind, this is further proof to back up my theory that Modern American church design is heavily influenced by Star Trek sets. I have previously given the example of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Spokane, WA:

You can't tell me that cathedra doesn't look like it was torn straight from the Original Series sets.

Detroit has the same problem.

(Photo by Balthazar Korab, on Archdiocese of Detroit website)

The phenomenon of the square altar is an issue as well. I don't know any priests who like square altars: even the ones who have fairly modern taste recognize that there's a much smaller percentage of useable space on a square altar.

Of course, you all remember what the Curt Jester had to say about the furniture for the Pope's 2008 visit: Pope Kirk I. The pictures aren't in his post anymore, but you could find them online if you searched for them.

I don't know when the modifications were made in Detroit and Spokane. They might have been before Star Trek appeared on the scene. Still, it's clearly the same aesthetic that spawned the original Captain Kirk's chair (not to be confused with the chair in the alternate-reality Star Trek from the latest movie, the aesthetic of which is pure Apple Store). If they're really into that, why don't they just buy a replica of Kirk's chair? I'm sure the buttons could be re-wired to work the cathedral sound system and lights, or a call button to the sacristy, and one to the choir loft, for those awkward moments when there's so much incense smoke that the organist can't see what's going on at the altar. *blinking orange light* Time to wind down the improvisation! That would be useful. The replica probably isn't more expensive than what's in the photos above, and the upholstery has the advantage of not being orange.

One more before I go. This, as you probably know, is the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, CA:

(Photo copyright SOM LLP)

This is Starfleet Headquarters, which is supposed to be in San Francisco in 2372:

Clearly, when they build Starfleet Headquarters, the architecture will be in tribute to the style of an almost 400-year-old cathedral in the neighboring city. Or something.

27 February 2012

Just Checking In...

...to say that my blogging will be even scarcer than usual over the coming months. We are moving to Alaska! My husband will be music director at a parish in the Archdiocese of Anchorage. We're so excited!

This was the view from our hotel room when we went for his interview. The first day it snowed terribly the whole time, and I was fairly miserable. But on the second morning, when I saw the pink sky and the mountains, I suddenly felt that everything would be ok.

I'm preparing myself for some of the challenges of life there. Fortunately, the Anchorage area has a fairly mild climate, as Alaska goes, with less extreme seasonal changes in daylight and darkness than you'd get further north. I spent four winters in Spokane, which isn't actually that much better in terms of temperature and average snowfall, and a lot worse in terms of actually getting the snow off the streets and sidewalks. I think I can handle it. I'm glad we'll be moving in just as spring begins, though, and that I won't have to face my first Alaskan winter at the same time as trying to make new friends and find my way around a strange new city.

Moving is a big challenge. We've got our fingers crossed that we won't run out of money, and that the moving company estimates will be accurate. We're arriving in mid-April and we don't yet know where we're going to live. Private owners of rentals listed on Craigslist haven't always emailed or called us back. Two moving companies have promised to send people for in-home estimates and both stood us up (and only one called to give an excuse and reschedule). But we have started a novena to St. Joseph for a house, and I hope anyone who's still reading this blog will pray for us, for safe travels and an easy time settling in to a new place and new responsibilities.

14 January 2012

New Translation, and Teaching of English

I'm enjoying the new translation of the Roman Missal, what I hear of it. The sound system in our church isn't great, and from the choir loft I don't always hear everything clearly. We went to daily Mass at our cathedral last week, and could hear much better. I think we have the smallest cathedral in the country, so it's easy to hear the priest from pretty much anywhere in the building, plus they've actually maintained their sound system...*cough*

As far as I can tell, there is only one real downside: it's difficult for non-native speakers. As I've mentioned before, our current parochial vicar is a native Spanish-speaker. His conversational English is very good. The old translation was, well, pretty conversational in tone and so it wasn't a problem. But language-learners these days don't spend a lot of time learning the more literary type of English that pervades the new translation. In the days when school boys learned a lot of Latin, I think that some of the sentence structure and word order of literary English was influenced by Latin structure in the way that our new, more literal translation also is. The sentences can be very long and there are a lot of subordinate clauses. Many of Dickens' sentences are as long as one of my paragraphs here, and some are longer than the page of a paperback of ordinary size.

For a native English speaker like me, who had very good English teachers and parents who supported my youthful impulse to devour all reading material within arms' length (Dad, an avid reader himself, made sure that the library and local bookstore were often within arms' length), this is not a problem. On the other hand, classes in modern foreign languages don't usually teach literary language, at least, not unless you take really advanced classes. This is very practical; a child learning his first language starts with The Very Hungry Caterpillar and doesn't get to Oliver Twist until about twelve or thirteen years later, at least. The adult learning a new language follows a similar pattern, and of course many foreign language learners stop taking classes when they reach a certain level of fluency. I know I did--I can get the gist of newspaper articles in French, but I certainly will not be reading Les Miserables in the original anytime soon.

Father R., I suppose, will continue to practice the texts of the new translation, and it will become as easy, in time, as the old one was. In the meantime, I will try not to wince when he stumbles over a clause, or reads aloud in a way that makes me think that he doesn't know where the sentence is going. After all, Msgr. is a native English speaker and a well-educated man, and he has had a few of those moments too.

I don't suppose Fr. R. will be interested in reading Dickens to improve his English, although it would amuse me a lot if he were.

As for native English speakers who are having trouble understanding, or who fear others might, may I suggest reading more old-fashioned literature?

07 December 2011

Teaching Music

My job as a music teacher is to tell my student what is wrong with her performance, make sure she understands how to correct it, and then send her away to drill on her own, or supervised by her parents or nanny. Later, I will see her again, and find out whether her practicing has been fruitful.

My job is NOT, contrary to the opinion of the mother of my newest student, to supervise her drilling a song for half an hour. Especially not when the student is barely seven years old, is only having a few lessons to learn ONE song to sing for a special occasion, and can already sing the song perfectly. I made a decision to cut the lesson short, even though the nanny was there and I couldn't talk to the mother. Irate mother called me later and asked why I didn't give her child the full half-hour as agreed. Because I was paid to teach her one song, and she learned it! Why punish her by making her repeat it until she hates it?

Said mother also thinks that half-hour lessons are awfully short. Not for a one-on-one lesson with a small child, they're not! When you're seven, half an hour is a really long time. I'm glad that I will not be teaching this child for long, even though I could use the money. The kid is great, but the mother...yeesh!

06 December 2011

Project Vegetable, Day 2:

Breakfast: Veggie omelette (2 servings vegetables)
Lunch: French Onion Soup (1 serving vegetables)
Dinner: Chicken stir-fry (2 servings vegetables)
Dessert: Banana, peach slices and yogurt with honey (2 servings vegetables)

I tried something new in the chicken stir-fry: beet greens. I prefer to buy golden beets rather than the purple/red kind. I know they probably lack the nutrient that gives purple beets their color, but the golden ones taste the same and don't stain my fingers. The only golden beets available here are organic, and they come with long stems and leaves. I knew the leaves had to be edible, I just...wasn't sure what to do with them. So after throwing away the leaves of two bunches of beets, I decided to cook the leaves from the third batch. I just sautéed three leaves (they're pretty big) and added them to the other vegetables. They are delicious! Fairly mild, and a bit like spinach once cooked. I followed the advice of several on-line recipes and cut out the stems and cooked them first, adding the leaves once the stems had been in for a couple of minutes.

Even my husband, who eyes all unfamiliar vegetables with suspicion, gave them a try and said he'd be happy to eat them again, as long as they were mixed in with other things. Yay! Now I don't have to feel guilty about throwing away perfectly useable greens.

I also realized that the golden beets at our grocery store are sold by the bunch, not by weight. All bunches have three beets, but the beets seriously vary in size. There are some bunches with three tiny beets and some with three huge beets. So, of course, I try to buy the huge beets.

The beets themselves are for dinner tomorrow night. They and a turnip will be roasted in the oven with some pork chops. If the pork chops are defrosted in time. *sigh* Nothing seems to defrost overnight in my fridge, and I always forget to take things out earlier. Maybe we will be having bacon and pasta tomorrow night and pork chops on Thursday.

05 December 2011

Project Vegetable

I've looked over all the diets and examined how what I eat and what my husband eats relate to each other, and also what our food budget looks like (important because sometimes healthier foods cost more--sad, but true). I've figured out that the easiest thing I can do is eat more vegetables. If I eat more vegetables, I won't be so inclined to reach for desserts. I was also kind of inspired by watching a TEDx talk by a doctor who has MS talking about her vegetable regimen and what it has done for her. I'm not, at this point, going to be able to eat 9 cups (!) of vegetables a day the way she does, but I am aiming for 5 servings of vegetables and 2 of fruit per day.

Today I had vegetable quiche for breakfast. 1 serving of veg (broccoli, squash and carrot). A large salad (2 servings) and peach slices (1 serving) with lunch. Small salad (1 serving) and broccoli (1 serving) with dinner. Peach (1 serving) and yogurt for dessert. And probably a gingerbread cookie as well.

My husband keeps teasing me because I have been eyeing Paleo Diet websites, but I know I can't give up grains and starchy vegetables entirely. I couldn't do something that radical unless he went along with me, and he won't. The day he gives up eating Nutella is probably the day he dies. But I can look at websites for other kinds of diets for hints. I am fed up with looking at a lot of low-carb diet sites because so many advocate alternative sweeteners, which I'm just not going to do. There are enough chemicals in food these days as it is without deliberately seeking them out.

So begins Project Vegetable. I'll let you know how it goes!

ETA: I didn't have peach slices and yogurt for dessert last night. I had a banana-Nutella milkshake. It was delicious.

03 December 2011

The Chant Guerrilla

Today, for the first time in a year, I helped plan the music for a Mass as well as execute it. It was a retreat day, with a visiting priest whom we know and who is fond of chant. We knew we'd never be able to get away with a chant-only Mass, but we did the best we could. We sang an actual Graduale Romanum chant, the Kyrie was chanted, the Psalm used an actual chant psalm-tone for the verses, and the Introit was a Proper text in camouflage. We waited until the last possible moment to tell anybody what the music for the Mass was going to be. We were like Gregorian guerrillas, firing off a few surprise rounds and then disappearing back into the forest. And you know what? We made a couple of hits.

Being First Saturday, we had a Votive Mass for the Blessed Virgin.

For the introit, we sang the hymnodized version from "Introit Hymns" by Christopher Tzietze. When we bought that book, I didn't think we'd ever actually use it. But here we are. I don't like a lot of the hymn tunes chosen for that book, but this particular one was set to the tune of "The Angel Gabriel Came Down," which is cute and seasonally-appropriate

Psalm was the Magnificat, in a setting from the Chabanel site (of course). The Ordinaries were from the Mass of St. Frances Cabrini, which was chosen as the setting for all diocesan liturgies, and we've been using it in our parish since September. It's one of the few things that all the parish musicians, guitar-lovers and chanty-types alike agree on: we all dislike it. Oh well. It could have been worse.

Offertory hymn was "The God Whom Earth and Sea and Sky." A nod to using the parish hymnals, but as solid a hymn as you could choose: a translation of a 7th century text, with a 17th-century melody harmonized by Bach. And although it's not a proper text, it does at least say all the same things as the Offertory options from the Common of the Blessed Virgin. Finally, for Communion, I sang the actual Graduale chant, Ecce virgo concipiet. It felt SO GOOD to sing that.

I have to share what one of the congregants said to me about the Communion chant. "It was beautiful and peaceful and so meditative to be able to receive without being expected to sing, without all the clutter of trying to prepare and also find the page in the hymnal. And if I hadn't experienced hearing the chant, I never would have realized that the other way was clutter."

You should have seen her face when I told her that the parish Liturgist didn't want me to sing that chant. Not that he voiced his displeasure to me; he took it out on the lovely lady who organized the retreat day, who didn't have anything to do with the music other than asking us to plan it. She told us about it later. I don't think the Liturgist would ever confront me. I suspect he is secretly a little afraid of me. If he weren't, he probably would have asked me long ago not to wear a veil when I am a cantor and not to kneel at Communion, or told me off when I refused to announce the hymns at a funeral because the words and music were all in the worship aids anyway. But he didn't do those things. When I said I wasn't going to announce the hymns, he just said "Ok" and scurried away. Ha!

The Liturgist is a menace. I'm not sure if he's worse than the Business Manager, but they both need to go. We're losing one of the best staff members because of their behavior, and the parish will lose three more as soon as other jobs can be found. People are refusing to pony up their pledged money for the new building project because everything has been so mismanaged. The place is falling apart, and it could be fixed so easily. The pastor could fire the Business Manager, Liturgist, and Music Director. He could hire an accountant, a part-time sacristan, and a secretary for the other two music staff and save the parish tens of thousands of dollars and a lot of grief. But he won't. He'll just watch the rest of the staff leave, and be sorry to see them go but not in a hurry to rectify the problems that are causing them to leave. He's a good priest, but an awful manager, and it's sad. He could take some lessons from his parochial vicar, a take-no-prisoners type who might run over some toes but would ultimately have a tightly-run ship that better fulfilled the spiritual needs of the parishioners. I guess they all need prayers.

I hope some of the people who heard our music today will go to the pastor, write to the music department and to the Liturgist and tell them how much they liked it, and exactly WHY it was so great.

22 November 2011

Happy Feast of St. Cecilia!

Since we're musicians around here, this is a special feast day for us. Let us do as St. Cecilia recommends, and also exemplified:

Dum aurora finem daret, Caecilia exclamavit dicens: Eja, milites Christi, abjicite opera tenebrarum et induimini arma lucis.
As dawn was fading into day, Cecilia spoke with a loud voice, saying: Arise, O soldiers of Christ, cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Cecilia, famula tua, Domine, quasi apis tibi argumentosa deservit.
O Lord, your servant Cecilia served you like a busy bee.

Aren't these lovely? We certainly lost some treasures in the new Office, including the image of the bee in that antiphon. Sad. Incidentally, can any one tell me about the word "argumentosa" here? It's being translated as "busy," but none of the dictionaries I have translate it that way. Maybe I am looking up the wrong stem?

Anyway, a bit of encouragement, brothers and sisters: this morning, arise, put on the armor of light, and be bee-busy serving the Lord!

St. Cecilia and her husband Valerian from the apse mosaic in the basilica of St. Cecilia in Rome.