28 December 2009

Birthday Blast from the Past

Today is my 25th birthday. Here, in celebration, is the archive page from December 2003, in the first year of this blog's life.

26 December 2009


Aunt: When was Baby Jesus born?

Little girl, thinking hard: Um...after Michael Jackson died.

Girl's father: What are they teaching these kids in catechism class?!

Later on...

Girl's mother: Baby Jesus's mom was Mary, and who was Mary's husband?

Little girl: The guy with the stick.

30 November 2009

St. Andrew's Day

Today is St. Andrew's Day! Visit a church named for him, participate in cultural activities of places under his patronage (Scotland, Russia, Greece, Ukraine, Romania, among others), and don't forget to start your St. Andrew Novena for Christmas!

Say fifteen times a day:
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment when the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayers and grant my desires, through the merits of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother.

21 November 2009

(page from a Latin grammar, copied c. 800)

There was a session on chant in the Carolingian era at AMS. All four papers were awesome. I very much enjoyed Peter Jeffrey's discussion of the dissemination of the Roman liturgy in France. Apparently, the gradual chant was not, in that period, sung from the steps from which it gets its name (gradus=step), but from the same lectern as the Gospel and Epistle; singing from the step was a Frankish innovation, and it stuck. I love details like that.

I have been musing a bit on the last paper read in the session, which dealt with the Carolingian principle of "correctio," that is, correcting errors and doing things in the right manner--from education to liturgy to singing. Textbooks tend to give the impression (at least to me; perhaps others don't read it this way) that the Carolingians were obsessed with standardizing things. Not so, says Susan Rankin. The Carolingians didn't spend much time talking about standardization or making everyone do things the same way--their concern was to do things the right way.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the obsession with standardization comes later, much later. Trent was somewhat problematic in the matter of allowing for growth in the liturgy, but it seems to me that things got worse in the 19th century. The Vatican Gradual might be seen as emblematic of correctness at the expense of legitimate variety. I do not mean to denigrate the monumental work of Solesmes--chant scholarship would hardly exist without them, and certainly the present sad situation would have been (if possible) even worse. Yet there are some small issues with the current Gradual that ought to be addressed, and I don't think that's going to happen any time soon.

I am straying from my main point. What I really wanted to say was that hearing about the Carolingian idea of correctio really rang some bells in my head in regard to the new English translation of the liturgy. In ninth century France, scholars and clergy were concerned about correct texts in prayers because they worried about transmitting incorrect ideas if the prayers were not correct. A change in wording might bring a different theological nuance--one that might be wrong. This was probably especially important in an era with relatively low rates of literacy, because people relied on hearing prayers said rightly. We supposedly have high literacy rates now, but so many in our society are accustomed to passively receiving information that they lack critical faculties for filtering out incorrect information. This makes having a better translation of the liturgy very important: if we do not pray rightly, we will forget how to think rightly about liturgy and theology.

We're not changing the liturgy, but like the medieval monk Gottschalk* who complained that a chant text for the feast of St. John the Baptist was not true to the actual scripture passage, we want to make corrections and improve things so that we can pray rightly. Incidentally, the next generation of students at Gottschalk's monastery did fix the chant text in the next manuscript copies.

*Please note that I in no way endorse some of Gottschalk's other ideas (he was an early advocate of predestination). But even a stopped clock is right twice a day, right?

16 November 2009


Over the weekend, I was in Philadelphia for the national meeting of the American Musicological Society. I heard some really excellent papers, and generally had a good time. The AMS is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and there were some special events involving people who had been members for 50 years. On Saturday evening, as the hotel elevator rushed downward toward the lobby (from whence I intended to head across the street for Mass), the one other person in the elevator turned around and looked at me. He was wearing clerics, and a red ribbon attached to his AMS name tag proclaimed him a 50-year member. The name tag read, "Rembert Weakland." I didn't say anything to him, and he didn't say anything to me, but I felt all the oddness of it.

I exited the elevator, and the lobby. Thankfully he was not also headed to the basilica for Mass--that would have been even more awkward. The beautiful Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul was directly across the street from my hotel, and had a Mass time that fit very conveniently with my schedule. (My flight on Sunday did, in fact, get me home in time to sing at the 5:15 Mass, but I was hedging my bets. And I wanted to see the church.) The service itself was Mass, more or less as you'd expect a Saturday evening Mass to be in any church across the country, although I was a little surprised that there were no altar servers. The music was unremarkable, but the organist and cantor rather better than you'd get in most places. Also, the organ was beautifully in tune--most organs, even some cathedral organs, suffer from sad neglect in terms of tuning.

There was an announcement before Mass about the USCCB bulletin insert regarding the healthcare bill. Apparently, the insert had been handed out the previous week, but they wanted to announce that for those who hadn't seen it, there were extra copies available. Mentions of healthcare access for all and protection of the unborn and the most vulnerable among us were included in the general intercessions. I also noticed that the Cathedral Basilica has its main Sunday Mass in Latin twice a month from October through June. I would have gone, if my flight time had not precluded it. Overall, I was quite impressed with the church. I wonder if Cardinal Rigali knew that Weakland was in town....

I didn't have my camera, but for those who don't know the church, I found a couple of pictures online. Note the tabernacle shrine behind the altar, made relatively recently by St. Jude Liturgical Arts.

01 November 2009

How I Killed That Hour I Gained Tonight

DomoNation.com: Domo and the Bat-that-Wasn't by greenharpist

Like it? Create your own at DomoNation.com. It's free and fun!

Not too bad, eh? Some of the transitions are a little abrupt, but I think I did pretty well. Now run along to the website and animate your own, and be sure to leave a comment here with the link. I've got term paper deadlines soon and need as many procrastination aids as I can get.

24 October 2009

Footnotes, Anyone?

I love footnotes. My love of footnotes is not confined to those glorious sorts of articles, thrust upon the world by medievalists as often as not, in which the text of the article occupies only the top third or so of each page, the rest being taken up by footnotes. No, even some of my favorite fictional books have footnotes; the epic Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell has some of the most beautiful footnotes I think I've ever read.

When doing research, however, it is easy to become mired in the footnotes. I believe I have referred to this before as the "footnote spiral of death." The footnotes in a book chapter lead you to an article, which leads you to another article, which leads you to a further book, which leads you to the composer's collected works, but the collected works notes are all in German, so you cling to the only thing mentioned in English, which leads you to a book that will take two weeks to arrive through inter-library loan...

And so on.

I had that problem last weekend, when I entered a footnote spiral of death centering on Thomas Becket, the Holy Innocents, Chaucer's "Prioress's Tale" and a grain of wheat. Maybe I'll explain some time, or maybe you've already heard that one.

Today I saw Andrew Cusack's lovely post on Joost Swarte. At first, I saw the picture with the car and trailer full of books and thought, that looks like me when I go on vacation. Then I saw this:

And I thought, I wonder if Joost Swarte was ever mired in a footnote spiral of death. Because that's what it feels like.

19 August 2009

Liturgical Weirdness from Before the Council

My university library happens to have a copy of the St. Gregory Society's 1954 White List of approved liturgical music--it also contains a short black list. While mostly it's all the stuff you'd expect, including things I (and the present pontiff) would disagree with (they exclude everything by Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, and Weber!), there was one particular paragraph in the black list that amused and horrified me:

"The attempt of certain publishers to 'hoodwink' a gullible public by using in an indiscriminate manner the caption 'In accordance with the Motu Proprio'* deserves the condemnation of every friend of liturgical art. A flagrant example of this attempt to pull wool over the eyes of the innocent is found in the publication of the popular song 'Silver Threads Among the Gold' as an 'Ave Maris Stella' under the caption 'In accordance with the Motu Proprio.'"

Seriously? "Silver Threads Among the Gold?" I can't even imagine how that would work as an "Ave Maris Stella." Do the syllables really line up? If anyone has access to this side-show curiosity of liturgical music, please will you scan it and send it to me?

For those of you who don't know the popular song:

*The Motu Proprio mentioned is, of course, that of Pius X, which in the 1950s was still THE Motu Proprio when it came to sacred music.

18 August 2009


What do you all think about the recent spate of folks openly carrying guns outside the Town Hall meetings?

I'm of two minds on it. First of all, disregard this man:

He is obviously well beyond the bounds of charity or good taste, and is advocating the shedding of blood. He is not the kind of person I mean. I am talking about the man in Arizona carrying a rifle (which, when there was a federal definition of "assault rifle," would not have fit that term--that's just scare-mongering on the part of the media), and the others like him. They are well within their rights to open-carry, and carrying a weapon with you doesn't mean that you intend to fire it or that you're trying to scare people.

However, most of us are not accustomed to seeing people openly carrying guns, and whether or not the gun-owner intends to look intimidating, some people will be intimidated by the sight of a gun. The gun-carrier needs to be aware of this, and to be aware that he or she will likely cause a stir (except, perhaps, a very few places). The gun-carrier ought to evaluate whether openly carrying his weapon in any individual circumstance is likely aid or harm his cause. Personally, I think that if the cause, as stated by the gentleman with the AR-15, is to accustom people to seeing guns openly carried and to encourage others to exercise their constitutional right, perhaps he ought to have considered that some guns look scarier than others, and it might be better to start small. Perhaps leave the AR at home, and bring, for example, a Marlin lever-action (totally classic Americana)?

That's Annie Oakley with her Marlin, by the way. See? Just as good for self-defense in the right hands, but not so scary-looking to us 21st-century types.

01 August 2009

My Nephew Fights a Bull

Ok, it's just a baby really, and more likely pulled in from the field rather than a bull that's trained to fight. Still, he stepped into the ring and was charged by a beastie larger than himself! He's obviously having an even more exciting vacation in Peru than I had in New York. (Yes, there are two men in the ring in drag, and one of them is in blackface. It's apparently traditional, and they have different ideas of political correctness than we do.)

26 July 2009

Sunset Canoeing

My husband and I were visiting my parents' place in New York last week. While there, we cleaned out our neighbor's canoe and took it out on the lake. The second picture was taken from my folks' back deck--what a view! There's been a lot of rain in the Northeast this summer, so everything is green and lush. Not like L.A.--we were sad to return to the dry heat and palm trees.

30 June 2009

Urgent Prayer Request

A very dear friend of ours, who lives in our building and hitches a ride to Mass with us almost every Sunday, was mugged and shot in the chest last night, about half a mile from where we live. She was house-sitting for a friend, and had gone out to run an errand. She is in the hospital in critical care--the bullet punctured her esophagus and one of her lungs. Pray for her speedy return to health, and for the man or men who perpetrated this crime against her.

Women and girls--I beg you, do not go out alone at night! We live in a good neighborhood. A lot of people walk around at night. Children live here. But it is not safe, especially for a petite young woman who was alone after dark. We were with her just an hour before--she could have asked us for a ride, but she didn't. Again, I beg you, no matter how safe you think your neighborhood is, do not go out alone at night!

Our friend's name is Rosario. It might be appropriate to ask her patroness, Our Lady of the Rosary, to intercede for her faithful daughter.

27 June 2009

Free Things Are Cool

Archery lesson: free
Equipment rental: free
Changing Facebook status to "has learned archery. +2": priceless.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, you should definitely check out the Rancho Park Archery Range. Every Saturday there is a free lesson for beginners, along with a safety course mandatory for all archers new to the range. After you've completed the safety course, you can come any weekend on Saturday morning (about 9:30 to noon, when the safety course finishes) or Sunday afternoon (12-2) and use the range and their equipment absolutely FREE. Parking is also free. The range was built with money from the Olympics (can't remember what year--early 80s?), and is maintained by the volunteer instructors and donations from users. The instructors were really friendly and helpful, and it is kid-friendly (children must be at least 8 years old and accompanied by an adult). It is probably also handicap-accessible, although the path to the range is not paved.

Unlike with the rifle, my husband shot better than I did today. All 16 of my shots were on the target, though, and three were, well, in the vicinity of the bullseye. We will definitely go back and do it again! It was very fun. As I said, if you live in Los Angeles, you have no excuse not to go! Do be on time, though, because once class has started they won't let you in--you have to be there for the whole safety lecture. Seriously--go! How cool is it to be able to say you can shoot a bow?

21 June 2009

Brick by Brick

First of all, some congratulations are in order to a dear friend of both Lizzy's and mine. Our former schoolmate Joe is now Father Joe. You can read an interview with him here. Even before he entered the seminary, we called him "Cardinal" because he knew so much about the faith. (Seriously. Should Fr. Z ever retire from blogging, I think Joe could fill his shoes.) May God be with you, Father Previtali!

Second of all, last night my husband and I went to dinner at the rectory. We discussed Friday night's Solemn High Mass with our pastor. He was very impressed by how beautifully the visiting Norbertines said the Mass, and also by how well-attended it was. (This is the second time we've had a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form, and we had a packed house both times.) Monsignor expressed an interest in learning to say Low Mass in the Extraordinary Form, and asked one of the Norbertines, who was at dinner, how long he thought it would take to learn. Please keep this in your prayers, that Monsignor will follow through with his interest in learning the Extraordinary Form! It can only be a good thing for more priests to learn it.

20 June 2009

Prayer Requests

I had breakfast with my half-brother this morning, and he had some bad news: he's been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The diagnosis was a big shock for a couple of reasons, mainly that he is twenty years younger than most people diagnosed with this, and that there is absolutely no family history of cancer of any kind. Virtually everyone in our shared background (Dad's side) has had diabetes, and there is some heart disease, but no cancer. It's perhaps doubly scary because his wife has a chronic health condition (which isn't currently making her sick, but could at any moment), and they have three children under the age of nine. Fortunately, his lymphoma is not currently causing symptoms, and the long-term prognosis is pretty good: highly treatable, and even a chance of being cured, provided that it has not spread to his bone marrow yet (they are testing for this next month).

My dad's younger sister is in the hospital. She had a stroke earlier this year, and for a while was doing well, but she has been back in the hospital for a couple of weeks now. She had pneumonia, and they anesthetized her to drain the fluid from her lungs. She has not been responsive since then (although no one has said she is in a coma), and her kidneys are failing. Relatives who have been able to visit her in the hospital have said that she does not seem to be fighting for her life--she seems to have given up.

Please pray that if it is God's will, my aunt will pass peacefully and be taken swiftly to heaven. She is not Catholic, but she has always been a good and kind lady. Please also pray for my brother's peace of mind; he feels a bit as though he is waiting for the axe to fall.

17 June 2009

Never Thought I'd Say This...

...but I went to a shooting range today, and shot a gun. Two guns actually: a Ruger 10/22 (a common, inexpensive .22 caliber rifle, the sort of thing a hunter might use to shoot rabbits), and a very pretty six-shooter that belonged to a nice gentleman down the line a bit. He saw us taking turns with the rifle and asked whether we'd like to try his six-shooter. He's been part of a cowboy quick-draw group for a few months now, and I guess he likes showing off his weapons, or he liked the look of us, or something. I didn't see him make the same offer to anyone else.

I didn't do that well with the six-shooter. It had a significant kick-back to it that surprised me every time (I shot it ten times), and I think I was nervous handling what was obviously a very nice and very expensive gun. I wasn't exactly shooting wildly--every shot made contact with the paper target, at least--but only two of ten shots were in the orange center-section of the target. This was at pretty close range.

The Ruger was much easier for me. It has almost no kick, and with a scope it was a piece of cake to aim. I shot about 80 rounds through it, at both a paper target and some metal targets placed at different distances. At the larger metal targets at 50 yards I landed about 7 out of 10 shots! I got about 4 out of 10 shots at larger targets at 65 yards. Not at all bad for my first time--in fact, I did slightly better than my husband, who has Boy Scout badges for both rifle and shotgun, and has been shooting on a couple of occasions more recently.

I'm quite pleased with myself, a bit surprised at how well I did and how little afraid I was. I'm also pleased that everyone at the range was really nice and normal. I think because of what I've seen on television or in the media, I grew up with a notion of gun-owners as oddballs, and shooting ranges as potentially very scary places. Well, the Angeles Gun Range isn't any scarier than anyplace else in Los Angeles, and the people there aren't any weirder than anyplace else in Los Angeles. I've discovered something new that I'm pretty decent at, and I had fun. I'll probably go again.

15 June 2009


My husband and I went hiking last Saturday. To those who know us, this may seem a little odd--we are not known to be the outdoorsy type. Hiking is a relatively new thing for us, at least in our adult lives. My husband was a boy scout as a child and went on lots of hikes and camping trips, and I participated in a fair number of short hikes and camp-outs myself as a kid. But I haven't walked more than a few feet into a forest in the last six or eight years, and my husband about the same.

On Memorial Day, we thought it would be fun to rent some bicycles and ride up and down the broad paved path that runs along the beach in Santa Monica. We didn't realize that the entire population of Los Angeles County also wanted to go to the beach that day. In despair of finding parking, we abandoned our beach plans and decided to go a bit further up the road to Topanga State Park. That was gleefully uncrowded, and we hiked about a mile and a half on a circular trail--quite enough for a warm day.

We liked it. A lot. So we made plans to hike again. This time we drove up to Angeles National Forest. I have to admit, I always laughed about Angeles National Forest, because the only part of it I had seen was the part that you drive through on Highway 5, which has no trees. Lots of little scrubby shrubs, but nothing more than four feet tall. "Angeles National Forest?" I'd say, "What, exactly, makes it a forest?"

Well, there are plenty of trees further east. We paid $5 for a daily parking pass (cutely called an "Adventure Pass"), and found the entrance to the Switzer picnic area--not as easy as it sounds, because the mountains were shrouded in a heavy fog and we couldn't see more than ten feet in front of us.

See? Fog! In June!

We parked the car and hopped out, with our little backpack in tow. (We didn't have a backpack before, so I'd made a quick trip to K-Mart and bought the cheapest one they had--it is now the only thing we own with a sports team's logo on it.)

The hike is about 4.5 miles round trip. My husband tried to tell me it was 6 miles, but I looked it up when we got home and it's 4.5. A lot of it is up- and down-hill, though, so it feels like 6 miles! The waterfall at the end isn't spectacular, but it's very pretty, and a nice little payoff for the trip.

We're a little out of shape, and were both sore the next day, but it was a fun trip and I'm sure we'll go hiking again soon. Exercise is a lot more fun when there are pretty trees to look at and streams to pick your way across.

11 June 2009

Sweet Cherry Cobbler

Summer, for me anyway, always brings thoughts of summer fruit. I buy apples, oranges, bananas and grapes all year long, but cherries can only be had at my local grocery store during the summer. It's just as well, because although I love fresh cherries, I hate pitting them. I probably wouldn't buy them very often even if they could be had all year round.

Last week I bought a bag of fresh cherries. We had some with ice cream the first day, and I had some on my cereal the next morning. I was staying with my parents and grandfather, and though they happily ate the cherries I pitted, no one else was eating the cherries unless I served them. Cherries are a fragile fruit and don't keep for very long--if any of them are bruised they are likely to get moldy, and mold spreads quickly. So by the third day of the cherries sitting in the fridge, less than half of them eaten, I began to get worried and decided to take drastic action--time to bake!

I made the following cobbler, and it turned out so well that I decided to make it again today (fortunately, we in Los Angeles have something called "June Gloom," meaning that it is cloudy and cool for most of the day for a good portion of the summer--perfect for summer baking).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

1-1 1/2 lbs fresh sweet cherries (I used Bing cherries), pitted
4 tablespoons of sugar (or your preferred sweetener, to taste)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon orange pips or 1 teaspoon orange juice
2 teaspoons brandy (grand marnier or rum would also work)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until the cherries all appear to have a bit of the liquid and spices on them. You can use more sugar if you like it sweeter, but cherries are naturally fairly sweet and I prefer to let the fruit speak for itself. A lot of people will pour a mixture of cornstarch and water over the fruit in a cobbler, so that the fruit juice thickens into a nice sauce, and I sometimes do this. It wasn't necessary for the cherries though--they were fine on their own.

Coat the inside of a medium-sized shallow baking dish with butter. Yes, use butter; unless you have a serious health problem that precludes it, life is too short to use Pam Spray or shortening or whatever in your baking. It doesn't taste the same.

Pour the cherry mixture into the buttered baking dish.


I am lazy, and do not like to make cobbler topping from scratch if I don't have to. I generally use some kind of pancake or general baking mix. For this one I used Bisquick. You can substitute any baking mix you think will work.

1 1/2 cups Bisquick
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange juice
Some milk--I didn't actually measure it (yay for intuitive cooks, huh?). Slowly alternate adding milk and stirring until the mixture is slightly on the runny side but doesn't immediately drip off the spoon. It should be about the consistency of pancake or waffle batter--runnier than biscuit dough, but thick enough not to run down into the filling too much.

Stir in a bowl until all ingredients are blended. It might be slightly lumpy--this is ok. Pour the contents into the baking dish on top of the cherry mixture. Don't worry if a few cherries stick up through the topping, or if the topping doesn't quite cover the cherries around the edge of the baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes, or until the topping is cooked through and slightly brown on top. Serves 8.

29 May 2009

Happy Birthday, G.K. Chesterton!

Fun fact: fantasy/science fiction authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman dedicated their collaborative novel "Good Omens" to the memory of Chesterton. (I haven't read "Good Omens" but I've read many of Pratchett's "Discworld" novels and do recommend them--most of them are even suitable for young teens, which is more than can be said for many science fiction/fantasy novels written in the last 20 or so years.)

Celebrate Chesterton's birthday. Have a beer, read something witty, become a distributist (join a guild! or form one!).

17 May 2009

Kudos Msgr. Parnassus, Again

The regular cantor for the 5:30 Saturday Mass suffered a car break-down in Santa Barbara yesterday morning, so I was called in to sub. I always have a funny experience subbing for that Mass. I don't feel the freedom to choose my own repertoire that I feel for the Sunday Mass, because I have to work with an organist I don't know very well and the congregation's expectations. But I love hearing Msgr. Parnassus's homilies. Yesterday he talked about Obama at Notre Dame. The basic gist of it was that the President's views are not in line with Catholic teaching, he should not be honored, the President of Notre Dame is willfully disregarding the (totally appropriate) recommendations of dozens of bishops, and if we as Catholics compromise our beliefs for the sake of political correctness, then when Judgment comes, we will be found wanting.

He actually said that, "will be found wanting."

I love Msgr. Parnassus. I don't know if he's always been this way, or if there's something about being old and frail that makes you unafraid to speak the truth. He has been looking pretty frail lately, using a walker instead of his more usual cane. Please pray that he lives a good long while yet, and that he continues to be able to walk far enough and stand long enough to say Mass. We need him desperately.

Msgr. Murphy is pretty cool, too. He told us last week that since the Friday-night EF High Mass went so well a couple of weeks ago, he wants to have an EF Missa Cantata at some point in the future at the time of our regularly-scheduled Sunday evening Mass. Our choir would be super excited to sing for that, and I think that congregation would respond well. They seem to be a flexible group, with fairly marked traditional inclinations.

Last night at Mass, we prayed during the general intercessions for Msgr. Murphy's aunt, who is very ill (possibly dying). Pray that if God chooses to take her soon, that her death will be full of grace and peace.

13 May 2009

Semester is Over

It's probably time to talk a little bit about how my semester went. I re-took my M.A. comprehensive exams. I did well enough last year that the professors would allow me to leave with an M.A., but the exams also serve as screening for PhD candidates, and they thought I wasn't ready for PhD work. So I asked to take the exam again, and this time they said they were pleased with my work and thought I was ready to go forward to PhD work.

I had three classes this semester: a survey of music in the 19th century, a course on Renaissance performance practice, and a seminar on postmodernism and concert music. The Renaissance class was relatively easy for me, since I've done a fair amount of coursework in that area before with both that professor and her husband (they have similar teaching styles). The 19th century stuff was kind of hard for me because I'm not fond of symphonic music, and the Romantic sentimentality gets on my nerves after a while. The postmodernism course was also difficult, because at first I was unfamiliar with the vocabulary of postmodernism, and later because it prompted a lot of self-searching about how I am and am not postmodern. I think the problem is that I like a lot of the aesthetic end-products of postmodernism, but I don't agree with the ideology that leads to them. That might be a post for some other day.

The semester is over now. It was unusually stressful. Difficult classes, the comprehensive exams, being sick and having my car in the shop, and then the loss of my grandmother. As I told my dad yesterday, I feel like I've been through the forge. But I also have a greater sense of accomplishment than I ever remember feeling at the end of a school year, and that's good.

I only have one more year of course work to go, then it's all dissertation. We might move out of Los Angeles then. My parents have been helping us, but probably won't be able to help anymore after next school year, and unless we get better jobs we won't be able to afford living in L.A. Too bad--we really like our parish, and are not likely to find another place where we can direct our own choir and have so much leeway to do the music we like. But I think my husband won't miss the warm weather, and neither of us will miss the traffic and the roads that so badly need repair.

08 May 2009


...and if J.J. Abrams made a series with this cast, with this close feel to the Original Series, I would be a very happy bunny.

But the timeline stuff is threatening to make my head explode.

18 April 2009

Music for the Funeral of M.M.B. Fitzgibbons, Sts. Peter and Paul Parish

Introit: Requiem aeternam
Psalm: Chabanel setting, with refrain "Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me."
Alleluia: to the tune of "O Filii et Filiae"
Offertory: Ave Maria (Rheinberger)
Sanctus and Agnus Dei: Requiem Mass (chant)
Communion: Pie Jesu (Fauré)
Recessional: In paradisum

There was no organ in the church, so my husband played the piano for the things that were accompanied. We got a lot of compliments afterwards. I was just happy that I managed not to cry. Crying makes singing very difficult, and I think my grandmother would rather that I sang for her than cried. I did almost break down once, though, when I saw my grandfather covering his face with his hands. My uncle and aunt and cousins cried a lot, but my mother and I are not really the crying sort when it comes to funerals. I think it may be because we know that though my grandmother is gone from us, her existence hasn't ended, and we have the hope of seeing her again someday. My uncle and his family are agnostics or atheists, and don't really believe in an afterlife as far as I know, so to them this is truly the end. I grieve, but grief is overshadowed by hope in the Resurrection.

Christ is risen!

12 April 2009

Sadness in Joy

A damper has been put on my Easter joy. My mother called to tell me that my grandmother passed away this afternoon. It was not unexpected; she had been ill and steadily declining for the last two months. I have no fears for her in the afterlife, as she had been receiving the Eucharist almost daily since she'd been in the hospital, and had the Anointing of the Sick about a week ago. I am sad for two of my cousins who had not seen her since Christmas, and for my grandfather. He is a fairly resilient person, cheerful and outgoing by nature, and he is in good health and has many friends and activities to keep him going. Still, they were married for more than sixty years, and he is 89 years old. The transition to living by himself will be difficult and lonely.

Please keep in your prayers the repose of the soul of my grandmother, Margaret Mary Barnett Fitzgibbons, and the consolation of her widower, Kenneth.
Christos Voskrese!

My husband and I are lucky to live within 20 miles of one of the few Russian Catholic parishes in the country. We've been going to Vespers there on Saturday evenings occasionally, and decided that we really wanted to spend Pascha there. Last night we went to the Easter Vigil at our parish, which was somewhat abbreviated because our pastor is old and does not have much stamina. Afterward, we brought five of our friends with us down to St. Andrew's in El Segundo. We got there a bit late--they'd already read the whole of the Acts of the Apostles beginning at 10p.m., had Nocturnes at 11:30, and were partway into the procession at the beginning of Matins when we arrived.

We stood through Matins. The choir sang continuously, and the three priests took turns incensing the altar, the icons, the congregation, and each other, and proclaiming "Christ is risen!" to which we all enthusiastically responded "Indeed, He is risen!" They also said "Christos voskrese!" and "Christos anesti!" Occasionally, one would say "Cristo ha recucitado!" or give the greeting in another language which I did not recognize (given that the church building is shared by a Melkite community, it might have been Arabic)--but these occasioned some giggles because no one knew the response. It didn't matter.

At the end of Matins, we all kissed the crucifix, the icon of the Resurrection, the Gospel book, the priests, and each other. The Russians kiss three times--right cheek, left, then right again. "Christ is risen!" "Indeed He is risen!" Kiss, kiss, kiss. "Happy Easter!" "Christos voskrese!" "Voistinu voskrese!" Kiss, kiss, kiss. "Blessed Pascha!"

Then Divine Liturgy began, and things were a little more serious and subdued...until we all broke out again into "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the graves bestowing life!" Finally, we have nearly reached the climax to which we have been building: "I believe, O Lord, and confess that Thou art truly the Son of God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first...of Thy Mystical Supper, accept me as a communicant, for I will not speak of Thee to Thine enemies, nor will I give Thee a kiss as did Judas..."

Then, of course, after singing "Christ is risen" about a dozen more times, the Pascha baskets are blessed and we eat! The food is good, and the company is better. I'm half afraid that we'll lose some of the Romans we brought with us to the Russians, but it's all good--we're all Catholic. My head hit my pillow at about 5:15 this morning, which might be the latest I've ever stayed out. My poor husband had to be at the Methodist church at 9:45 this morning, but he didn't seem too fussed as he went out the door (although he put on the same shirt and tie he wore last night, instead of the shirt I spent 20 minutes ironing yesterday).

I didn't have a very good Lent this year, but despite that, I really feel the Easter joy. As they said at Liturgy last night (this morning?), let those who came at the first hour rejoice, and those who came at the sixth and the ninth, and those who did not keep the fast--let all rejoice.

Tonight we go back to our Roman parish for dinner in the church hall--those of us who can't get together with family will celebrate with friends. A little bird tells me that there will be a bishop and a cardinal (not from our diocese) dining in the rectory with our two beloved monsignors. I'd better dress up, in case they decide to look in on us.

Now I must run along and pick up my lamb shanks from Whole Foods, so they'll have enough time in the crock pot with the cherries and onions before dinner time.

08 April 2009

Sad Events, and Reflections Prompted by Them

Please remember in your prayers two elderly ladies of my parish who died recently, and the men who are responsible for their deaths. One lady died of her injuries after being struck by a car while walking to church. The driver fled the scene, but was later caught; hit-and-run is a very serious crime, and he will likely spend time in prison for it. The other lady was killed by her brother, who is mentally ill. The brother is aware of his actions, though probably not culpable. This is very difficult for the lady's children and friends.

Please pray also for a man named Charles who has left the Church. My husband and I met Charles at a Bible study group last fall. We ultimately stopped going to the Bible study, partly because of the long drive to get there, partly because our needs for socialization with other Catholics were now being met by people we attend Mass with, and partly because of Charles. He had an obviously Protestant view of Scripture, verging on sola scriptura, and virtually every meeting of the group included an argument with Charles, whose insistence on reading Scripture without recourse to the Catechism or the writings of saints and orthodox theologians was both annoying and disturbing to the rest of us. I am a little sorry that we did not try harder to help him see the importance of Tradition, but he was very insistent on his view, and I am not sure that it is possible to change his heart at this point. We were not surprised when friends who still attend the Bible study told us that Charles was now going to a Baptist church, but we are saddened that a soul has moved further away from Christ and the truth.

This prompted me to think about a few things. My husband and I have decided that disaster preparation would be a good thing, since we live in a big city in an earthquake zone, and you just never know. We're slowly assembling our disaster kits with food, water, a good sturdy knife, and various other useful things (we will be sure to follow Sam Gamgee's advice and bring rope, as well). I have been thinking that, if there is room, I ought to have one book in my pack. I suspect that many of the people I know, if asked which single book they would want with them in a disaster scenario, would answer that they'd bring either a Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These are good answers. I, on the other hand, would bring my Liber Usualis.

Yes, I know, it's all in Latin and my Latin is rather poor. But I have gone through the liturgical year twenty-four times now, and I remember the texts of the Mass well enough to recognize them in Latin and know what they mean, even if I couldn't provide an exact translation. I should probably also get an up-to-date Liber, since mine, which I got for free, is from the 1930s, rather than being for the Extraordinary Form as it currently stands.

Still, it is more important for me to have access to the liturgy of the Church than scripture or doctrine. The Mass and Divine Office contain enough scripture to get me through, and I learned as much of the Catechism as I need for daily life when I was a kid. If I were flung into a circumstance where I might not be able to attend Mass or receive the sacraments for an indeterminate amount of time, I would desire the connection to the Church's liturgical life that praying the Divine Office and reading the texts of the Mass would bring.

30 March 2009


Since my very modest (and oft-silent) blog partner, Lizzy, probably won't blog about this, I will. Lizzy attended a Ukrainian egg-decorating workshop with Lauren of Cnytr. Lauren has the details, and pictures of the eggs she and Lizzy made! I think they're both very pretty, but I hope Lauren will forgive me for preferring Lizzy's egg.

23 March 2009

You Might Be a Music Nerd If...

...you hear a symphony on the radio that causes you to war with yourself trying to guess who wrote it. You know that the harmonies and melodies are absolutely Mozartean, but something just sounds off, and ninteenth-century-ish. But the harmonic language is just not ninteenth century! You are driving yourself crazy wondering what it is.

Suddenly you realize it is Mozart, and the thing making it sound nineteenth-century-ish is that the recording is of a large orchestra using modern instruments. You have become so accustomed to recordings using period instruments in period-sized orchestras that an alteration in the shape and number of violins makes even the well-known Jupiter Symphony sound weird and unfamiliar, at least until you hear that thunderbolt figure.

17 March 2009

And Just for Good Measure...
...St. John the Baptist Church in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, where my grandfather's grandfather was baptized.

A Blessed Feast of St. Patrick to You!

10 March 2009


The title of #114 is a little bizarre, but check out the title of #116. I am at a loss to explain how a search for "renaissance organ" produced that particular result.

04 March 2009


I tend to watch episodes of "House" online a week after they come out. Tonight I watched the episode "The Softer Side." Leaving aside the story dealing with the patient, the story dealing with the doctor himself was very interesting. For those of you who aren't familiar with the series, Dr. House suffers from chronic pain, for which he pops Vicodin like candy and which makes him chronically bad-tempered. (spoilers in next paragraph)

In this episode he was cheerful, which made everyone suspicious. It was revealed that he had started a dangerous new course of treatment for his chronic pain: methodone. At first, his friends pleaded with him not to take it, because it could cause him to stop breathing. He refused, because he was free of pain for the first time in years, which made him happy. But at the very end of the episode, he realizes that his happiness caused him to be willing to capitulate to other people, and his willingness to capitulate almost killed a patient. For House this is unacceptable, and he decides to stop taking the methodone, resume his cranky persona, and continue to help people.

It is possible that this is an entirely selfish decision. Cuddy remarks that he needs to have his intellect, because he believes he is nothing without it. However, the lesson remains: House's willingness to suffer in order to better practice his profession means that other people's lives are saved. This is a very Catholic message, and particularly good for Lent. I have noticed other rather Catholic messages in episodes of "House" before--so has Thomas of American Papist, who blogged about "House" for a while, as I recall.

In other news, it took me more than a week to recover from whatever made me sick, and I am still sniffling a bit, but mostly I am none the worse for wear. Also, my grandmother was very ill after her fall, and we were all terrified yesterday when the doctor said she had pneumonia in her left lung, but today she was feeling much better. My mom said she wanted to perform basic hygiene tasks herself, like brushing her hair, and she complained that her food arrived late, which means she is hungry again. Also, she was asking when she will leave the hospital, and what her choices were for an assisted living facility where she will receive physical therapy and aid before she is ready to go home. (Thanks for your prayers, Fr. Z!

20 February 2009


On Monday morning I woke up with a very bad sore throat and body ache. I immediately thought that it wasn't the flu--I had flu in November, and a cold last month, and this was a much worse sore throat, not accompanied by post-nasal drip. I saw the doctor Tuesday morning, she instantly diagnosed strep throat, did a throat culture (which I never heard the results of), prescribed amoxicillin and suggested a pain reliever/fever reducer as well.
Wednesday, the sore throat started to go away, but I started to have a hacking, dry cough, and by that evening my nose was running as well. Today I have a horrible cough, insistently congested nose, and on-and-off mild fever. I know it's not exactly the worst illness ever, but it's weird because I was really sure I didn't have flu and now it looks an awful lot like flu, except that it's progressing much more slowly than most flus I've had. I mean, not getting a stuffy nose until three days in?

On Tuesday evening, my 86-year-old grandmother fell and broke her hip. She's had surgery, and seems to be recovering ok, but I'm having trouble getting any more information than that out of my parents. My mom actually admitted that she and my grandfather had never spoken to the surgeon--which indicates to me how upset they are by this situation. They must be really worried if they're not up front demanding answers.

To top it off, on Wednesday evening, my husband got into a minor fender-bender in my car. And I have comprehensive exams in six weeks.

It's all pretty minor, everyday stuff in the long run, but it's combining to stress me out. Prayers would be much appreciated.

12 February 2009

Musicology Quotes Part 15 (or thereabouts)

"The rondeau: the earliest-known 'green' musical form!"

On the excesses of postmodernist musical pluralism:
"It's like the bad school cafeteria, where chicken, bell pepper, onion, and rice can become Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Hawaiian, or Indian food just by adding one more ingredient."

30 January 2009

Society for Catholic Liturgy Conference

I'm here in Omaha, freezing in the 1 inch of snow (L.A. has made me wimpy), sniffling because I have a cold, and rejoicing because I went to my first FSSP High Mass (complete with FSSP seminary choristers), heard awesome presentations today, and am having dinner with Fr. Rob Johansen this evening, among others. Fr. Johansen has been very kind, giving me rides back to the hotel from St. Cecilia Cathedral, because I am without a car (it's only a mile, so I could walk, but it's cold and I have a cold...so I bum a ride). He also gave a thought-provoking presentation on the liturgy as inspiration to cultural phenomena, taking the Dies Irae as his primary example.

I am cold, I have a cold, and I wish my husband were here with me because I know how much he'd enjoy it. Still, I am enjoying myself immensely. I have to go now, because I'm going to spend a little time revising my presentation for tomorrow, but I hope to have time to give a full report on the conference later. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, so there won't be pictures. I wish you could all be here--it is wonderful!

20 January 2009

Prayer Request

Please pray for K., who has been struggling with emotional and mental health issues for over a year now, and to cap it all off has now lost her job. She has great trust and confidence in the Lord, but her faith is definitely being tested. Pray that she will have fortitude, patience, and above all, joy.

Please also pray for Bernard, the father of a friend of mine, who had a massive heart attack on December 23 and is still in the ICU, and for his family who are very worried about him.