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.