29 December 2010

On the Feast of Stephen

I know it isn't St. Stephen's Day (impeded) anymore, but it was when these photographs were taken. I didn't have time to blog until now because my husband's parents were here and we were entertaining them, but they've now gone home and all is quiet. Our little part of North Carolina doesn't usually get much snow--only one or two inches a year, and usually in January. Our St. Stephen's Day 7-inch snow was very unusual, and we have really enjoyed all of it! Brody had great fun, and everything looked so beautiful. The snow is nearly melted now, which is great, because the roads are clean and we didn't have to buy de-icer for our steps.

Yesterday was my 26th birthday, and today we saw "Voyage of the Dawn Treader," but I think those are subjects for another post.

10 December 2010

Prayers to St. Francis

If you read this, please say a prayer to St. Francis for our little dog. He was diagnosed with epilepsy yesterday. The disease is usually manageable in canines as it is in humans, and often with the same kinds of medications. Since he has only had two fairly brief seizures that we know of, we have chosen not to medicate him for now. We pray that there will be no major episodes. A

29 November 2010

A Dog

Since October we have been the pleased owners of a two-year-old poodle mix. He is a little insecure; he cries and trembles when we get ready to leave the house and he knows he's not going, and he very much does not like strange men. He likes women well enough, but we had our priest to dinner last night and it was more than an hour before the dog could be in the same room with Father without barking or growling and baring his teeth. I hope the dog was not abused by a man, but we don't know.

He is a cute little dog, pictured here with the much-beloved toy pumpkin sent to him by my husband's aunt.

24 September 2010

A House and Yard

We moved into our first house six weeks ago, and the landscapers have now come and gone. When we arrived, there was a shed and some trees in the backyard, along with the remains of some old landscaping. The lot our house sits on is on a corner, and one of the streets immediately winds around, so our lot is sort of like a peninsula with street on three sides. This means that everyone could look right into our backyard. Not anymore!

The landscapers put some quite large wax myrtles along the back there. Building a privacy fence was not really an option, because with the yard facing the street, it is considered to be a front yard by the city. That means the fence can only be four feet tall. Plus, solid fencing can be very expensive! So we have a deer fence, which will keep a dog in when my parents come to visit or if we get a dog of our own, and is almost invisible. The plants provide the privacy. Most of the plants that were put in flower, too! There are lots of daylilies (which are edible--you knew that, right?) and azaleas, along with gardenias and camelias and all sorts of things. There are also three very tall holly bushes, to match the holly that was already in the front yard. Free Christmas decorations!

The front yard, like almost everyone's front yard around here, has a couple of pine trees. Unfortunately, ours seem to be the only ones not producing pine cones. I guess we'll have to go rooting in the neighbors' yards if we want them, and we do want them. They're nice for decoration, but also useful as kindling for the fireplace. My husband occasionally makes candles, and pinecones covered in leftover beeswax are excellent fire starters.

16 September 2010

Papal Visit to Edinburgh

As I was watching the live video feed from thepapalvisit.org.uk I saw the His Holiness go out to meet schoolchildren in the street after arriving at the archbishop's residence. It looked like this was a spontaneous decision made by the Holy Father--the guards and his entourage appeared briefly confused and were almost running to catch up with him. It is wonderful that he went out to meet the school kids. Many of them were obviously tremendously excited about it, waving their Scottish and Vatican flags enthusiastically.

The live webcast is great because there is, at least at the moment, no commentary. The music they're playing right now while running highlights from earlier is kind of annoying, but since there is no commentary it's not a problem to mute it and add your own music.

Incidentally, I still love the Holy Father's red shoes. I like the combination of the white outfit and red shoes--it's what I wore at my wedding. I also love the new tartan made up for the papal visit to Scotland. I'd love to have a shawl made of that.

19 August 2010

The Tale of the Bells

My husband unknowingly opened up a can of worms when he used the organ's zimbelstern as Sanctus bells. The music director is asserting his authority--the organist is not to take any requests or suggestions from the priest that have not been cleared with the music director first. The young parochial vicar, according to the music director, has a big ego, cannot work within the parish's power structure, wants to dress up the liturgy with Tridentine trappings and bring the Church back to pre-Vatican II times. Yeesh. The music director is a very good musician, a decent composer, and has a lot of experience working with choirs of both adults and children. He's also a fairly nice guy. Unfortunately, this attitude is exemplary of a lot of folks of a certain age, generation, and experience. He lived through the changes of the '60s and '70s and as an active church musician was intimately involved in those changes. He has nostalgia for some of the music he sang as a choirboy, but he also has some issues with clerical authority. He remembers those 15-minute Masses because he served them, and he is afraid that 15-minute Masses are what happens when priests are allowed to plan their own liturgies without the assistance of professional liturgists and committees of lay people. He's not wrong about that, but he's not exactly right, either. I won't go over that issue now, since probably all four or five people who read this blog know the arguments and perhaps have dealt with these issues in the past.

The main point is, the liturgical laws of the Church as a whole and of the local church (the diocese has published norms about this) say that Sanctus bells are recommended. Also, priests have the right to request that these norms be followed. It is probably true that the parochial vicar should have brought this to the attention of the music director rather than making a direct request of the organist. It is also true that using Sanctus bells should not be a divisive issue that warrants a mention in an employee review. The fact that it has become a divisive issues tells me two things: first, that the music director is interested in asserting his authority, and second that there is a real division in the parish of which the Sanctus bell controversy is merely the latest manifestation. This whole thing feels like a cake that broke coming out of the pan, and someone has frosted it in hope that no one will notice. Unfortunately, the organist who didn't know about the crack put the cake under a bright light, and as the frosting warmed up the cracks started to show. Fortunately, as long as he keeps his head down, this should blow over without lasting consequences.

08 August 2010

Coast to Coast

The title does not refer to the oddball late-night radio show, but rather to my recent move. My blog partner, Lizzy, moved to the East Coast a few years ago, and my husband and I have now joined her on the Atlantic shores! Not only are we now living on the East Coast, we are living in the South. This should be interesting! My husband has his first full-time job as a church organist at a Catholic parish in the diocese of Raleigh (I won't be disclosing the parish name or the town where we live).

Today was my husband's first official day as the new organist, and he has already stirred up a controversy! The parish music director is in his sixties, and I think the pastor (Msgr) is too, but we and the parochial vicar (Fr. M) are in our twenties. Fr. M is a NAC grad and fairly conservative--for instance, he sang many of the dialogues, collects, and part of the canon today. My husband, noting the lack of Sanctus bells, used the organ's zimbelstern as makeshift Sanctus bells. The music director chewed him out for it after Mass and said that the pastor had decreed no bells would be rung, so for the next Mass the zimbelstern was laid to rest. After the second Mass, Fr. M (who is on for most of the Masses because Msgr is on vacation) said, "Why no bells? I liked them!" My husband explained that he'd been told not to, and Fr. M frowned. "I'll send an email to your boss," he said, "and you can use the bells at my Masses. I wasn't aware that Msgr had any opinion on Sanctus bells."

Obviously there is some kind of generational disconnect here. The music director also informed my husband that "None of the churches on the East Coast use Sanctus bells anymore" which I know for a fact is not true. I can name at least half a dozen in New York alone that use bells. The young organist and the young priest clearly have different ideas about how liturgy ought to go from the older music director and the older priest.

We will have Fr. M over next week to bless our new house (and it's an actual house, with a yard and friendly, quirky neighbors--I'm going to the neighborhood watch meeting on Thursday and planning my vegetable garden). We'll try to get him to stay for dinner, and talk about life at the parish. I know he can only be forthcoming to a certain degree, but maybe it will give us some insight into people and situations that we might need to be careful of. Wish us luck!

17 May 2010

Prayer Request

Would you please keep in your prayers S. and T., siblings who have just lost their father? They lost their mother several years ago. T. is 30, but S. is only 15. Their father's live-in girlfriend has run off and abandoned S., and T. does not have a stable enough job to support a younger sibling. It is hoped that S.'s godparents will be willing to step up to the plate, but so far they have been reluctant. Also, S. has not always made good choices in friends, possibly partly because of being motherless. Hopefully being totally orphaned now will not contribute to further poor choices.

This is a tough situation for S. and T. and we are all very concerned about them.

Please also keep me and my husband in your prayers. We are job-hunting, and if one or both of us get jobs we will be in the market for a new place to live as well (if jobs are not forthcoming, we'll have to live with family for a while).

19 April 2010

Good Homilies and Bad Music

Yesterday at St. Victor's in West Hollywood, frequent guest priest Fr. Vincent Lopez, OP (pictured) talked about the recent media coverage of abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church. He gave real statistics, pointing out that 4.2% of American priests over a number of decades have been the subject of credible accusations, but that the secular media makes it seem like 90%. He talked about how the protocols for dealing with cases have been tightened and and made clearer in the last several years. He ended with a fervent prayer that the percentage of all adults who abuse children, priest and lay alike, will soon be reduced to zero.

I am not sure whether the homily was an appropriate time to give this information--I would have preferred a typed letter. On the other hand, the congregation were very appreciative. One woman I spoke to after Mass said, "It's so good to hear the real statistics from a study, and what's really being done to protect children. My non-Catholic friends are very critical, and I haven't known how to respond to them. Now I feel like there's something I can say."

It's great that there is so much information online about protocols and statistics, but even in our hooked-up world, there are people who don't get their news online. The information must be made available in other media so that as many people as possible will be able to answer the secular media's falsifications. So thank you, Fr. Vincent, for speaking up. I do believe that you live up to your once-name in religion, Fidelis.

On another note, one of my friends was confirmed at Good Shepherd church in Beverly Hills last night. Congratulations, Cindy! I was unable to attend, since I had to provide music for Mass at St. Victor's, but I was able to go to the celebratory party afterwards. Amidst the congratulations were a number of complaints about the music at Good Shepherd. The general consensus was that the whole production was a bit of a circus. I don't want to sound like I'm tooting my own horn, but it was very gratifying to hear more than one person console Cindy about the music saying, "It's ok, you can go back to St. Victor's next week." When will the people who plan music for these events understand that badly-performed, 15-years-out-of-date pop music is not appealing to young people or most anyone else? The Church recommends the music it does because it is right, and it works. Learn this, or go the way of the dinosaurs.

04 April 2010

Terra tremuit!

The earthquake that rocked Mexicali about twenty minutes ago shook our building pretty hard for at least a couple of minutes. Even now the chain on my bedside lamp is still swinging, and I keep imagining swaying, but nothing fell off our shelves. I hope everyone in Mexico is ok, although it's such a big quake that it's unlikely everything is hunky-dory. We'll hear reports in a couple of hours, probably.

On the one hand, having an Easter earthquake is kind of nifty, given the connection to the Terra tremuit text. On the other hand, having a 6.9 earthquake is not at all cool.

A blessed Pascha to you all, and pray that those nearest the quake's epicenter will also have a blessed, peaceful, and safe Easter.

01 March 2010

Jane Austen Liturgical Allegory: My Take

Given that I and my blog-partner have taken our pen names from Pride and Prejudice, I could hardly be expected to let slide this post from Saint Louis Catholic and Fr. Z's post and comment thread on a liturgical allegory based on characters from P&P without comment.

The original argument, from Saint Louis Catholic, has merit but is flawed. He casts Elizabeth Bennet as "today's faithful Catholic, bright, hopeful and coming of age," Mr. Darcy as the Extraordinary Form, and Mr. Wickham as the Ordinary Form. As pointed out by several commenters on Fr. Z's post, Mr. Wickham is too bad a character to represent the Ordinary Form. The Ordinary Form is better represented by Mr. Bingley, who is essentially good but a bit naive, friendly but a little too chatty, monied but from a "new family" who has only recently entered society. Mr. Darcy is an excellent analogue for the Extraordinary form, being richer and handsomer than Mr. Bingley, more refined, quieter and better-educated, and of an ancient lineage--though he sometimes tends to be more proud than is good for him, and can seem unwelcoming to strangers (though his friends and servants love him dearly, and say there is no better man).

Rather than casting Lizzy Bennet alone as today's faithful Catholic, I would have her share that role with her sister, Jane. Together, they represent the best future of the Latin Church--Lizzy brings Darcy out of his shell, Jane helps Bingley grow up and find his feet, and with their respective marriages, Bingley and Darcy go from being merely friends to being brothers.

I like the suggestions offered in Fr. Z's thread as casting for Miss Darcy (the Anglican Use: of the same ancient lineage as Darcy, made a mistake in the past but came home to her beloved brother) and Lydia Bennet (LifeTeen Mass: lively and attractive, but ultimately causes trouble for her family). Mr. Bennet may be those bishops and priests who dislike the liturgical conflict and try to hide in the library to avoid it, coming out occasionally to make a wry comment, and rarely doing anything useful. Mr. Bennet does manage one tremendously useful thing in the story: he supports Lizzy in her refusal to marry Mr. Collins.

Mr. Collins might represent the "hippie" variety of liturgy. He is silly and ignorant, and trying desperately to find a young woman to help him carry on his legacy and appease his patroness. He tries to carry off Lizzy--today's faithful Catholic, remember--but she can't stand him and sends him packing. He ends up with the older and more practical Charlotte, who puts up with him, but only because she had little other choice. Charlotte Lucas Collins represents the long-suffering Catholics of the 70s and of modern liturgical deserts, who like the almost-spinster put up with hippie Masses because there's nothing else going. Charlotte is very happy that her younger friends, Lizzy and Jane, marry better than she did.

Mrs. Bennet is the poorly-catechized Catholic parent. She hopes her daughters will marry (go to church) but does not much care to whom (to which liturgy). She is well-intentioned but not always as refined as Jane and Lizzy could wish. Mr. Darcy is almost driven away by the combination of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and Lydia, but he loves Lizzy too much to go away forever. When he returns, and marries Lizzy, Mrs. Bennet is greatly surprised, but eventually declares herself in raptures that her daughter has found a good man.

If Mr. Darcy is the EF, and Miss Darcy the Anglican Use, then Mr. Wickham must represent (as others suggested) the Anglican/Episcopalian Communion. He grew up in the same region as the Darcys, was Mr. Darcy Sr.'s godson and given a gentleman's education, but he squandered it. He tried, in a last-ditch effort, to lead Miss Darcy astray, but she returned to her brother just in time. He is handsome and charming at first, but is deeply morally flawed. In the book, he elopes with Lydia Bennet--this is where the comparison seems to fall down, as I do not know what will happen to the LifeTeen movement.

There, I think my allegory is complete. Allegories are necessarily imperfect, and I cannot think of how to cast some of the other characters who loom large in the reader's imagination: to wit, Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Miss Caroline Bingley. I also cannot find any role for Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Sir William Lucas, or the middle Bennet sisters Mary and Kitty. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me can manage it.

P.S. Please notice how gracefully I have avoided the issue of the best film adaptation by using a watercolor image from a 1907 printing of the book.

30 January 2010

Pergolesi Stabat Mater

4th Movement: Quae moerebat et dolebat. Alto solo.

The women of our choir are planning to do the whole Stabat Mater during Lent, probably on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, at the end of the usual Stations of the Cross service that our parish holds on Saturdays in Lent. Two mezzos and two sopranos will divide up the solos, and on a few of the movements all four, plus one additional alto, will sing. No orchestra, just organ accompaniment. Thankfully, our parish's organ has some decent stops for baroque music.

23 January 2010

Late to the Party

I just found out that Bishop Patrick Ziemann died last October. He was Bishop of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, where I grew up, from 1992-1999. He resigned amidst much scandal, which also involved a priest who was stationed at my parish at the time. Bishop Ziemann died of pancreatic cancer, at the monastery in Arizona where he had been living for the last several years. He was also once an auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles, where I live now.

There are allegations of various sorts that cover his whole career as a priest and bishop. Probably at least some of them are true. I don't know. I do know that before we knew about all of that, he was well-liked. He was certainly very charismatic and friendly. I remember his visits to my grade school, and how he would quiz the kids on religious topics and give them a nickel if they answered correctly.

I hope that he repented of his sins, and that God will have mercy on his soul. May he rest in peace.

18 January 2010

New Link in the Blogroll

Our blogroll is in sad need of an overhaul--it represents about half the blogs I actually visit on a weekly basis--but I have managed to add one new one: "Modestia," a blog about being fashionable and modest. I have met the blogger "Catholic In Film School" in real life and she is indeed a well-dressed lady! Check out her blog.

Edited 1/29/10: The blogroll has been updated! Wow, I read a lot of blogs. Some of them are very well-known, others are read only by a few. I encourage you to check out some of the lesser-known ones to see the pretty pictures and thoughtful reflections and helpful advice that they provide.

04 January 2010


I saw Avatar tonight. Overall, I liked it. It was a little preachy, but at the same time it would be easy to take away any number of messages from it, if you wanted to. I chose to take a pro-life message from it: it's not ok to kill people because it's convenient for you or because you think it will make your life better or easier.

The special effects were pretty good, although I'm not sure I appreciated the full extent of them because we got there a little late and had to sit in the front row. The world-building was interesting. I don't think the second set of wings on those flying beasts would be very aerodynamic in reality. I'm also not at all sure how all of the blue people got onto the flying mountain. They can't all ride on the flying critters, and surely they don't all climb? Or was the special tree actually on the ground, beneath the flying mountains? I'm not sure.

Also, why do the creepy soldiers always have that accent, and why are they so hard to kill? And by the way, the whole "You're an impostor and you betrayed my people!" gag is a little overdone. Still, I thought it was worth the price of admission, and I would love to see a bunch of bioluminescent plants like that in real life.

02 January 2010

New Template

As you can see, I've finally upgraded the template. I hope Lizzy doesn't mind.

When Blogger instituted a new template system about two years ago, the links to our archives stopped working. I sort of ignored this, and soldiered on with the old template because I didn't think it mattered and I was too lazy to deal with getting a new template and making appropriate customizations. I've received a complaints from a newer reader (ok, that was about a year ago...) about the lack of access to our archives, though, so I thought it would be appropriate to upgrade our template.

I tried to make the color scheme of the new template match the old color scheme so that our blog is still recognizably ours. Unfortunately all the comments to old posts have been lost, since I can't figure out how to get our old Haloscan account to work with the new blog. The html bit that was added in to the old template gaks the new template, and I can't find a new tag from the Haloscan website: it keeps directing me to the newer JS-kit comment forms that require a login. I don't think that's necessary for this blog since we get so few comments and never have had a problem with either trolls or spam comments.

Let me know if you are aware of a fix for using our old Haloscan account, or if you notice any problems with the new template, spelling errors in the links, etc.
Christmas Gifts

My family members have always been very generous with Christmas and birthday gifts. Unlike my (much older) half-brother, whose birthday is today, I never had to endure the rounds of "this is for Christmas and your birthday!" when opening presents, although my birthday is even closer to Christmas Day than his.

There were a few presents that stood out from the crowd, though. My husband gave me slippers that look like cowboy boots. I always wanted to be a cowgirl, and now I feel like a cowgirl standing in the kitchen making coffee in the morning. Plus, my feet are warm! You wouldn't think this would be a problem in Los Angeles, but I often wear socks around the house even in summer (a sharp contrast to my childhood, when I was barefoot as often as possible). And because we had so much extra work at the church in December, we can afford a horseback ride in San Diego next week! I won't be wearing the cowgirl slippers for that of course, but it will be tremendous fun. I'll try to remember my camera so I can show you all pictures!

Another gift that really stood out, although it was not intended as a gift, was a check from our parish, handed to my husband personally by the pastor. It was payment for our work chanting Vespers for the nine nights before Christmas. We did not expect to be paid for it and did not include it on our time sheets. We were a little startled at first and wondered if it might be some kind of mistake, but then we did the math and worked out that it was compensation for the Vespers novena. Our pastor is not the talkative type and rarely smiles or gives compliments beyond "thanks" or "that was nice," so sometimes it's hard to tell what he's thinking. But, and I hope this doesn't sound mercenary, being paid for your work is one of the best compliments a musician can get. It's not that I mind being told that I "sing like an angel" or that my husband's organ playing is fantastic, or how sweet we look when we sing together, but it's nice to be told that in a way that helps pay the bills! It feels incredibly good to know that our pastor likes what we do and that he thinks we're worth paying for, especially since so many priests and parishes don't think they should have to pay their musicians.

and a prayer request...

If you think of it, please remember our pastor in your prayers. Part of the novena was Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction every night, even though our pastor has severe problems with his arms and shoulders and can hardly lift the monstrance (we got a special lightweight monstrance last year when the larger one became difficult for him, but now even the lightweight one is almost too much). We have Benediction five nights a week at our parish even in usual weeks, and on the first Sunday of every month. It is a tribute to Msgr. Murphy's prayerfulness and consideration of his congregation that he continues this practice even though it must be very taxing for him physically. Please pray that, if it is God's will, Msgr. Murphy will have renewed strength that will allow him to continue to elevate the Blessed Sacrament before his congregation, both at Benediction and at Mass.