31 July 2003

A few of the blogs around town, and I think Rosa Mystica was the first, have posted a link to CorruptChristianMusic. Warning: this website is nasty, absurd, and anti-Catholic (as far as I'm concerned, those three are often packaged together).

Being partial to chant, I naturally morphed into a fire-breathing dragon when I read the following on the page about the band Delirious:
"Delirious has many ungodly associations - this includes having monks sing chants on their Glo CD, in their opening song, 'God Your My God' [sic]...A chant is an incantation which is an abomination in the sight of God. Chanting is done in many false religions. Buddhism, Paganism, Witchcraft, Druidism, Roman Catholicism, Muslims [aka Islam?] are just a few of the many types of religions that practice this pagan, heathen ritual!"

So. Chant is a pagan, heathen ritual, is it? Let's see.
Yes, many religions have chant. However, the types of chanting done in different religions are as different as jazz and classical music, and used for different purposes. In fact, the only links are really that they are unaccompanied religious music, and usually don't use the same scales that would be familiar to modern, Western ears. I guarantee you that no one who wasn't deaf would confuse Buddhist chant with Gregorian chant.

Chant was used by the Jews of 2,000 years ago. The Chosen People, remember them? Yeah, the ones God gave the Old Testament to, which you seem to like to quote from. You may also remember that Jesus was a practicing Jew. Which means he went to the synagogue and the Temple, and he heard the chant that the Jews sang in their religious rituals. It's even possible that he did some chanting himself. So obviously, not all chant is that bad, if Jesus did it.

But wait, there's more. Modern musicologists and chant experts (and not all of them those big, bad Roman Catholics) claim that Gregorian chant developed out of the chant used by the Jews at the time of Christ. Which means, in short, that Gregorian chant is the closest thing we have to the music that God himself might have sung during his time on earth. And you call it "an abomination in the sight of God?" I'm sorry, I must have missed the chapter where Jesus showed his righteous anger towards the people who were singing in the Temple.

Incidentally, please get your terminology straight. Chant is not, in itself, a ritual. At least, not the kind of chant that appeared on the CD you dislike you much. That kind of chant is music for a ritual. "Muslims" is not a religion--the religion of the Muslim people is Islam. And some Buddhists might take offense at you saying that they worship a different God from the one you worship; not all forms of Buddhism acknowledge a divinity. You have a problem with Roman Catholicism claiming to be the one, true Church? You yourself think that other religions are false, and if other religions are false, then logically you must believe the one you adhere to to be true. What's your problem?

Ok, I'm done now. I'll pray for the people who run that disturbing site.

29 July 2003

An article about Parish Shopping was posted over at Confessions of a Recovering Choir Director.

I know that his posting and the article has nothing to do with me, but somehow I suddenly feel a need to defend myself. (What was that Mr. Riley used to quote to us? "The wicked fleeth and runeth away but the righteous stands bold as a lion?") I suppose I'm justifying myself to myself.

The author of this article points out, quite rightly, that attending your neighborhood parish is not only a good idea, it's what you're supposed to do. There are geographical boundaries of parishes, and we're not supposed to go looking for a new church for just any old reason.

I went to the same church for 12 years, which is quite a long time, considering that I'm only 18 years old. I sang in the choir almost that whole time, and my mother was a lector, dad was in the Men's Club, etc. We watched three pastors come and go as well as numerous assistant pastors, supported the parish through two sex scandals and an embarassing financial situation. I made my First Communion and was confirmed there, my dad was received into the Catholic Church there, and my parents were married there. We're pretty entrenched in the community. We do not, however, live within that parish's geographical boundaries. We started going there when we moved to this town, because I was attending school there. (The school in our former hometown was full, as was the school into whose parish boundaries we eventually moved.) We left, as you know, because the way in which Mass is being celebrated on Sundays is terribly distracting to me. I didn't go looking for Gregorian chant or a Tridentine Mass, just someplace reasonably close by where I could actually focus on worship instead of thinking "what the heck is the music minister/deacon/altar server/extraordinary minister doing?" I didn't go to the church in whose parish boundaries we are, because I've been there and it's pretty much the same. The parishes in this town are not terribly different from one another. We went to the next town, which is a 15-minute drive and not really any further away from our house than any of the three Catholic churches in this town. It's a small community, and I already know four people who go there.

I don't think I was parish shopping. I am not driven by consumerist philosophy. I wasn't particularly looking for brilliant sermons (though I got them) or great music or a vibrant service-oriented community. Just someplace where Mass didn't feel like a circus. This isn't parish shopping, is it?

28 July 2003

Yippeeee! To any faithful readers that might exist, my humble apologies for not writing anything for two weeks. A week ago, I was involved in Irish Arts Week, which took up all of my time, and this past week my dad stole my laptop and stuck me with his Mac, which doesn't like Blogger very much at all. I tried to make and entry, but all my typing looked like ^^^^^^. Which is meaningless to most of us, though it may have some deapseated meaning for an alien race from a distant galaxy. The Klingon version of Cuneiform, perhaps?

There was an article in a history section of our local newspaper yesterday that I found very interesting. The article was about Hilaire Belloc's marriage to a woman from Napa in the late 19th Century. I knew he had married a woman from Napa, but what I didn't know was that they were married in my former parish. I can't say church, because the old church was torn down years ago to make way for the current architectural monstrosity, but the same parish. St. John the Baptist, established 145 years ago. Also, of course, many of the famous winery families from the area were married there, but who cares about them? Hilaire Belloc was married on the same plot of ground where I was confirmed and received my First Communion! I think that's pretty cool.

I finally broke down on Thursday, went to my local Catholic bookstore, and bought "Shorter Christian Prayer." We'll see how long I can keep this up.

Oh, and a bit more on the Letter:
I received a card from the pastor which said, " Dear Jane, On behalf of the entire St. John the Baptist Community, 'thank you' for all your support and ministry you give to the parish in sharing your musical gifts. You are generous and greatly appreciated. You and your familiy are in my prayers."
(Can you tell he used to be a CEO?) Now, I really am having a hard time figuring out what he is trying to say here. "Give" is in the present tense, so he is not saying goodbye, so what is he saying? My mom thinks that he just had to send an acknowledgement of having received my letter, but didn't really know what to say. That sounds likely, but does he have to not know what to say in such a confusing manner?

12 July 2003

Electric Candles

I'm back from Boston. Parents and I walked the Freedom Trail from the State House to Bunker Hill. Don't climb the Bunker Hill monument unless you're training for a marathon--the view's nice, but not that nice.

Across the street from Paul Revere's house is an Italian Catholic church called Sacred Heart, run by the Scalabrian Fathers, which I have never heard of, but I always welcome information about such things. It's a nice little church, not gorgeous or impressive but nice, and, well, inoffensive I suppose. The only thing I found weird was the "candles" in front of the statues. They are electric. You press a button and they light up and flicker. I don't know why they still suggested different donations for "large and small candles" because the light bulbs were the same size and they presumably use the same amount of electricity. Illogical, really. Anyway, while I had heard of the phenomenon of electric candles in churches which worried about fire hazards, or whose local fire-related governing body demanded no unattended candles, but I've never actually seen them before. They seem very odd, a little unnatural, I suppose. I've never heard anyone say that they couldn't be used, but I don't like them.

Another phenomenon that I don't like: the locked church. We tried to go to St. Mary's on Bunker Hill, but no luck. To be fair, there is a door with a doorbell that says "ring for assistance" which we probably could have rung if we were desperate to get in, but we didn't try. I understand that churches in heavily populated areas need to be locked to protect against vandalism and theft. It's very sad indeed. Still, I wish that they could do as my former parish does. One out of the way side door is left unlocked. If you don't go there regularly, you probably wouldn't know which it was, and as there are about 15 doors, you'd probably get sick of trying them before you got there. But you can get in if you want to. And of course, the Perpetual Adoration chapel is never locked. Locked churches have to be one of the saddest things in the world.

09 July 2003

Tomorrow, I leave for Boston to spend a few days looking around. I'll be back when I darn well feel like it!

07 July 2003

Our Lady of Knock Shrine

Yesterday, we went to Mass at Our Lady of Knock Shrine in East Durham, NY. For those of you who may not be familiar with the 1879 apparition in Ireland, see their website for information. First of all, the town of East Durham has a very high population of Irish immigrants and people of Irish descent among it's probably 500 permanent inhabitants, and it's quite the summer attraction for Irish Americans from the City. So it makes sense for the church here to be named after the only Irish Marian apparition that I'm aware of.
The church is quite a sight. The general impression is that too many people were eager to donate things. The walls are almost made of stained-glass windows with "In Memoriam" inscriptions, there is a huge statue of the apparition (which wasn't just Mary, it was the Lamb, St. John, and St. Joseph as well) behind the altar, and six sections of pews--only four of them don't have pews all the way to the back; the last four rows or so are chairs. The decor is, well, busy and a bit distracting. The EM's process in behind the altar boy (there's only ever one when I've been here, and almost invariably it's a redhead) and they wear some kind of off-white robes which are very unnattractive and seem a little, well, odd. Other than that, there has never been anything very remarkable about any of the services in the four summers that I've been here, except that, in the summer at least, the church is always packed to overflowing, with people standing outside the door. Nice to see.

One thing which really doesn't have much to do with the church itself but which is interesting to me, is the organist there. Specifically, his noticable sideburns. These sideburns always made me rather curious, as the style is very distinctive. After four years of wondering, I have finally solved the mystery. The organist of Our Lady of Knock Shrine in East Durham moonlights...as an Elvis impersonator!! It's true, I swear! He has a permanent engagment at a restaurant in the nearby town of Cairo; we drove by the restaurant yesterday afternoon and I recognized the name on the sign because I'd just read it in the church bulletin. I must say, I know some eccentric organists, but this beats all.

04 July 2003

Hehe...hehe...hehe. Um, nix what I said about the date formats offered by Blogger. Apparently I didn't look as closely as I should have.
I'd like to start off with a story from "A Treasury of Jewish Folklore."

An Author's Life After Forty

A young Talmudic scholar who had just completed a learned work came to Rabbi Elijah, the Gaon of Vilna, and begged him for a testimonial. Rabbi Elijah regarded his visitor with gentle compassion. "My son," he said to him,"you must face the stern realities. If you wish to be a writer of learned books you must be resigned to peddle your work from house to house like a vendor of pots and pans and suffer hunger until you're forty."
"And what will happen after I'm forty?" asked the young writer, hopefully.
Rabbi Elijah smiled encouragingly, "By the time you're forty you'll be quite used to it!"

And now, for something completely different: I went to Cooperstown, NY, on Wednesday. Papa and I drove around town looking at the lovely Victorian and Georgian architecture, walked around the Fenimore Art Gallery, and visited the Farmer's museum, where I learned all about growing hops, which is useless to me as I don't like beer. I also bought a set of dominoes, a game at which Papa always soundly trounced me when I was little, and apparently always will, based on the results of that evening's game. I also bought some postcards depicting the Baseball Hall of Fame, just so I could tell my baseball-fan friends that I went to Cooperstown and didn't go to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Don't get me started on why I'm so bitter in regard to organized sports. I shall say this: I'm a musician who always had the misfortune to attend schools with winning teams. If you don't understand that comment, I'm not going to waste my time on you.

Happy 4th of July! Please note that this is the only date on the calendar for which we Americans use th European order of dates--day, month, year. It's a sensible system that I use year-round, except that I don't like the options for that order that Blogger offers in its collection of date formats.

Date formats. Doesn't that sound like something that an internet dating agency would offer you choices of? Not that I'd know anything about internet dating, of course. Wink, wink, sweetheart. Care to share what date format you're interested in?

01 July 2003

The Letter, Part IV: The Response

Feast of Blessed Junipero Serra, dear to the hearts of all Californians, especially those who had California history classes at parochial schools.

The Saga of The Letter continues.

I got a letter in the mail from a member of the Liturgy Committee, which said roughly,
Dear Jane,
Thank you for your well-written letter expressing your concerns. TC and SD (the Liturgy Director and a member of the committee) have read your letter, and we will present it to the appropriate committees at the next meeting.
Yours in Christ,

I have to admit, I knew that SD was high on the list at the parish, and was on the Liturgy Committee, but I hadn't realized that she was going to be the first to read and respond to my letter. That leaves me slightly embarrassed. She was my Confirmation sponsor, is a good friend to me and my parents, and lives about three houses down. She defends the parish like a lioness defends her cubs. I hope this doesn't create friction between us, because it'll be really awful if I lose a friend over this.