Jun 212015

When we are away from home and need to find a place to go to Mass, MassTimes.org by phone is my normal method. Often this is because we are on a day trip around Orlando and just want to find the closest parish to wherever we happen to be. I named this “Mass Roulette” since you just have no idea what parish you might wind up with.

Yesterday Mass Roulette provided another interesting example that was even mostly positive.

This one like so many parishes built since the 70’s is the auditorium style clamshell. Certainly not my favorite style as it to me shouts secular and not sacred. The art is typical of seventies abstract trends, but there was also a very large wooden crucifix in the sanctuary. Unfortunately I had to play Where’s Waldo with the Tabernacle and I did not win. I now suspect it was possibly in the windowed-off chapel area. Still this is the first parish of this style that I’ve encountered that actually had a pipe organ and that the pipe organ was used. Mostly I was also pretty happy with the hymn selection. I was especially joyful with the selection of the recessional hymn which was appropriately – Faith of our Fathers. A hymn that I have heard only one other time during Mass in the last 15 years. Kind of a slam dunk for Father’s Day, but political correctness has probably censored it from most parishes or the lyrics have been modified (hich I have heard anectoctal evidence of). Not that I think any hymn is particullarly mandated for feast days or nods to the secular calendar such as Father’s Day. Contrary to popular understanding Ashes is not mandatory for Ash Wednesday, and for me not even welcomed in the slightest. Regardless I was thrilled and even a little choked up to be singing this hymn.

One trend I have noticed in the limited amount of Orlando area parishes I have been to is the use of projectors onto screens on either side of the sanctuary. A practice I have not been thrilled about generally and in one parish during Mass the screen fell back to the Powerpoint program. What surprised me is that I found that this parish incorporated this in a way that to me seemed more organic. Usually when I see this it is an afterthought with projections onto blank walls ending up looking rather tacky. Here there were two screens on either side suspended from the walls. The effect was rather clever visually. What also was done differently is that the screens were used throughout the Mass, while at time defaulting to a more generic view of landscape.

During the readings a graphic depicting the book of the Bible was used, plus of course the various texts were displayed of the Gloria, Nicene Creed, etc. The part in the Nicene Creed where you are suppose to bow was even annotated for that liturgical posture. Their use of these screens were rather thoughtful and the information presented rather tastefully. This does not mean that I believe this practice in general should be adopted. There are so many ways this can go wrong and I have seen some of them. For one you really need someone with solid design sense to make the slides. Imagine slides during Mass using Comic Sans? (Yeah I know the Vatican used that font for the ebook commemoration of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). Can you imagine what horrific Powerpoint animations someone might think appropriate via the consecration? Still I found that this parish did manage to find a balance that was that had me not reacting negatively as I have in the past.

Still I find it interesting that they had done all this work visually, yet did not ring the bells during the consecration.

There was one aspect of using screens that really threw me. The clamshell architecture had included a windowed off section separate from the main church. Probably meant for dual use as a chapel and cry room. Because of the placement of the pews in this chapel it would be difficult to view the sanctuary. So they had a video screen playing back the video of the sanctuary. This was really strange to be at Mass and to look over and see people with their attention on the screen in another area instead of towards the altar. Like it was a Mass Multiplex. Kind of like being at a professional sports game and watching the game on your phone instead. I can imagine opening up this chapel to increase seating, but the church was about half-full.

One thing I really loved was the way the Mass was said by the priest. So often you get the feeling as if this is just another recital of Mass. That the Mass had just been set on automatic. The way this priest said Mass really moved me and helped me to concentrate on the realities of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Deacons’s homily similarly moved me with its aspect of personal witness and love of Christ. I also got the feeling by the words he used that he had read Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples.

I already mentioned that the church was about half-full, so of course they had 20 Eucharistic Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC). Yes I counted them since it was rather easy since they were in a double row of people. I could jest that it almost took longer for the EMHCs to receive Communion as it was for them to distribute it. Still it did remind me of a parody I did on the subject.

Something else I found interesting is that they passed out a survey to be completed by the men. It is apparent they are also looking to better reach out to men as one of their outreaches. They even have an online version.

Mar 262015

TS reminiscing about “Stern ol’ teacher Sister Ruth”.

How she didn’t mind dull sermons because she knew someone needed to hear what was being preached. I recall being shocked by that notion; I thought only in terms of me, of course, and couldn’t imagine “liking” a homily for the sake of another.

Sometimes I read something I really don’t like. Especially when it makes me see something true. I share his rebellion at the idea, but then at my own selfishness.

As they say “read the whole thing”, since his post is an excellent piece of writing (as usual). His blog Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor has continued truckin’ on since 2001.

Mar 242015

Did you ever have one of those transitory freak-out moments at Mass where you are praying and then something brings you out of it?

Well I had one of those incidents last Sunday at Mass. I was knelling prior to Communion and for a change during the middle of a distraction I might have actually been praying. Then all of a sudden I had a face full of hair. The women in front of me stopped kneeling and sat up in the pew. So for a second there was this experience of having a face full of hair, wondering what just happened, finally realizing what happened, and then rapidly returning to sit down.

Now usually I am prepared for such a contingency when the line to Communion is getting close enough that it would be time for my row to form up. What surprised me was that there was still some time until this was going to happen. Still no big deal and this is was not my first occurrence of this hair-esy.

Still there should be a much more developed form of pew etiquette. Perhaps a Miss Manners style booklet of what is expected. If I was to write such a booklet it would include:

  • Putting your kneeler in the upright position when going to Communion. Most people are pretty good about doing this. Others I guess expect that you have feet as the result of Chinese foot binding. Although not that big of deal since sliding it up for them is easy enough. Strangely one of the skills not taught at RCIA is the skill of toe-lifting a kneeler up with minimal noise.
  • Then there is the fascinating way people populate pews. Often you have a distribution with one or more people sitting on each side of a continual length of pews with much of the middle abandoned. So of course this results in the awkward sideways shuffle if you need to occupy the neutral zone of pew space.
  • You just have to love the chatterers who whisper what is no doubt liturgical catechesis to each other all through Mass. The close species of this are the love-birds who show signs of affection to each other all through Mass. I take comfort in knowing that eventually there dreams will be crushed and they will act like other couples at Mass instead. Okay that last was rather tongue-in-cheek (well appropriate regarding the affectionate couple).
  • My personal favorite is the hair adjuster. The person who keeps adjusting their hair all through Mass flipping it from side to side along with other movements. Still I am a bit more lenient about this than St. Paul “For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off.”
  • The gum-chewer during Mass is rather rare in my experience. I was rather dumbfounded noticing this once and so of course the rest of the Mass I didn’t think about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but “Is that person really going to chew gum all through Mass?” The answer to this was yes and at subsequents Masses also. Although people who have to clean pews might find that the gum chewer is less rare than I have visually experienced based on the amount of gum stuck under a pew.
  • Then of course there is the etiquette regarding leaving Mass. Sometimes I think I would be safer in a movie theater after someone yelled “fire.” Apparently “The last will be first” does not apply to the parking lot.
  • Getting back to my original point there should be some etiquette regarding sitting down if you know someone is kneeling behind you. Accidents will happen in this regard, but some people don’t seem to concern themselves at all regarding this and expect you to just get out of the way.

Still regarding Mass etiquette there is one thing that does not annoy me at all. The crying baby is just fine with me. I say down with cry rooms and let’s have the joyful noise of the crying baby, plus maybe it might just drown out the guitars and drum kit.

Now I am not going to be the one to write such a style booklet as I have certainly transgressed Mass etiquette causing disturbances during Mass or afterwards. Especially regarding sitting on one of the ends.

Once during Mass the Rosary I was just holding in my hand decided to come apart and so many beads came off and started rolling noisily on the floor. To my mind the sound of it was as if I had released bowling balls to roll down to the sanctuary.

Once after Mass I was kneeling in front of the Tabernacle at the Communion Rail (yes amazingly it hadn’t been removed). After some time apparently my legs had fallen asleep and when I got up to keep from falling over I grabbed the Communion rail. The top of it came off and I was on the ground with about 50 pounds of marble Communion rail on me. Talk about embarrassment as people came to help me.

Mar 112015

Well since pretty much every Catholic blog has already linked to the Crescat’s post Denied Communion on the Tongue at My Grandmother’s Funeral… I might as well join in. What happened to her is just totally inexcusable. While you sometimes hear stories of this kind, fortunately they seem to have become fewer except I guess in this Spirit of Vatican II parish locked in a 1970’s stasis.

This scenario has been in the back of my mind when I receive Communion. Since I receive on the tongue while kneeling there is always the possibility of some reaction to this (oddly). Thankfully the only thing that as ever happened was a dumbfounded EMHC who didn’t’ seem to know what to do as if nobody had ever received on the tongue before. Still the mental scenario regarding what I would do has been partially thought out. That is I hope I just wait until after to deal with the situation in the manner spelled out in Matthew 15 after Mass.

Another aspect to the story was the fact that Pita bread was used. While it is possible that the use of Pita bread could be licit it almost certainly was not in this case. It was actually Pita bread from Trader Joe’s which contains honey and sea salt along with a chemical used as a dough conditioner.

As Jimmy Akin summarizes:

In the Latin Rite of the Church the bread is to be made with wheat and water only. Nothing may be added to the recipe, and the introduction of materials such as baking powder, salt, and honey render the bread that is used illicit. In the Eastern Rites, leaven may be added to the bread

See his post for references to Inaestimabile Donum. and Canon Law

So it is one thing to be such a jerk in forcing the way for someone to receive Communion it goes beyond mere jerkdom to deprive people of the Eucharist. Jesus asked the rhetorical question “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?” Well here is a father who would give bread instead of the Eucharist.

On a final note please pray for the Crescat’s grandmother. Most funeral Masses are instant canonizations and actually praying for the repose of the soul is left behind.

Mar 032015

Oddly I wish the Church had more liturgical seasons.

The reason is that I want the Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles to keep releasing albums. Thankfully they haven’t yet run out of liturgical seasons to tie releases to and I am very pleased to see their new release today Easter at Ephesus.

These pitch perfect recordings get the most play out of my sacred music collection more than anything else. I can almost put their CD’s on repeat for the extent of the related liturgical season.

Not that we need any encouragement for wishing Lent to be over, but this makes me yearn even more for Easter.

  1. Anonymous: This Is The Day
  2. Aichinger: Regina Caeli (Aichinger)
  3. Köln Jesuit: The Clouds Of Night
  4. Wipo: Victimae Paschali
  5. Traditional: Alle Psallite Cum Luya
  6. Anonymous: Christ the Lord Hath Risen
  7. Ravanello: Haec Dies (4 Part)
  8. Ravanello: Pascha Nostrum
  9. Anonymous: Jesus Christ Is Ris’n Today
  10. Kichengesäng: Regina Caeli Jubila
  11. Palestrina: Alleluia Ye Sons
  12. Palestrina: Sicut Cervus
  13. Tisserand: O Sons And Daughters
  14. Benedictines Of Mary, Queen Of: Regina Caeli (Original)
  15. Saint Venance de Fortunat: Salve Festa Dies
  16. Gallus: Haec Dies (8 Part)
  17. Anonymous: Exultemus Et Laetemur
  18. Benedictines Of Mary, Queen Of: Her Triumph
  19. Carturan: Ascendit Deus 1:30
  20. Anonymous: Sing We Triumphant Hymns of Praise
  21. Lassus: Oculus Non Vidit
  22. De Corbeil: Concordi Laetitia
  23. Benedictines Of Mary, Queen Of: Queen Of Priests
  24. Herman: Veni Sancte Spiritus
  25. Ravanello: Confirma Hoc Deus
  26. Ravanello: Veni Creator
  27. Lambilotte: Come Holy Ghost
Mar 022015

I always wish for more silence during Mass and so on the plus side I got it this weekend.

On the other hand the silence was due to the perseverance in stupidity.

The occasion was an attempt to display a video during Mass. So projected on the back of the sanctuary I saw first the glow of the projection than nothing. A minute or so later I see the Windows desktop and the mouse cursor opening up VLC. More clicking goes on. VLC is closes. Start menu comes up and more attempts to play video. Several more times VLC makes an appearance with more clicking. Than attempts to play video using Windows Media Player. Than VLC once again. Than a couple of instances of opening Task manager and some troubleshooting.

This took somewhere between five and ten minutes, although it felt embarrassingly long. I was just stunned that they just kept trying and trying amidst the uncomfortable silence. The priest after a while punctuated the silence with some jokes about what was going on. I kept hoping that he would just tell the deacon playing the video to just give up. Finally he did and the video was never played. Our Diocese has started having annual Eucharistic Congresses and that was the occasion for the video.

This episode of course played into my bias regarding any multimedia presentation during Mass. It always seems so clumsy and out of place. Plus projections on the sanctuary wall leave a bad taste for me.

I remember another episode of video during mass that could have made an outtakes reel. This time it was a portable projector screen which they moved out and extended just before the video was to be played. While displaying the video the screen slowly started to collapse back down so it was slowly shrinking. Somebody would come out and extend it again, but it would happen again. It was really quite funny in a perverse kind of way and their was sporadic laughter during the whole attempt.

Videos that get displayed during Mass are all from the Diocese and are usually confined to just the annual Bishop’s appeal. Unfortunately they usually just replace the homily in most instances because of their length. I can certainly understand the appeal of the video message instead of just reading from some document to disseminate the same information. It is just that the whole thing has always feels clumsy to me and out of place with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

One of the problems is that since parishes are rarely actual communities any more, the Mass becomes seen as the only mode of disseminating information to parishioners. A captive audience. People aren’t even expected to read the bulletin since most parishes have the “Liturgy of the Bulletin” at the end of Mass where sections are read out. Than there are the speakers disseminating information about some apostolate also appended towards the end of Mass. In the age of so much social media, this is hardly used and everything must be presented during Mass.

Even as a geek I am a bit of a Luddite when it comes to the Mass and the intrusion of technology. Especially as what should be a dead-simple task of playing a video has gone awry in so many attempts I have seen — even with something as simple as a DVD attached to a television. Really there are larger problems that must be solved regarding diocesan communication. In the meantime though should be given to video presentations and the mode of them. Plus “If at first you don’t succeed”, please give up and let the Mass proceed.

Jan 142015

This story involves the renovation of the Cathedral in my diocese.

Where were you on Feb. 22, 1966? A few people can say that they were in the Cathedral of St. Augustine placing a time capsule inside the main altar.

Brian Baker, whose company, Baker Liturgical Art is overseeing the renovation of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine said, “It was not a surprise to find a time capsule in the altar of sacrifice. It is a tradition to leave a time capsule in the main altar during a restoration.”

That time capsule – a cardboard box – was found yesterday (Wednesday, Jan. 7) as workers disassembled the marble altar in the main sanctuary of the church. Among the items found inside include newspapers from the day, a few pictures, a note from one of the painters and a two medallions of Pope Paul VI.

“Some money was also discovered,” said Father Thomas Willis, rector of the Cathedral. the “The small change amounted to about a dollar! But there were also eight Morgan silver dollars with dates ranging from 1882 to 1900,” he said.

“Based on a quick search of the internet those dollar coins could be worth a few thousand dollars – if they’re considered in mint condition,” Father Willis added

The two pictures included in the box were a general picture of St. Peter’s Square in Rome and the second, a similar picture of Msgr. John Burns,” Father Willis remarked. “He was the rector of the Cathedral during the 1960’s renovation. The writing on the back of each paper was his, too. I could tell by the looping style of his cursive handwriting. You can tell he was definitely taught by nuns!”

I don’t think I was aware of this practice of placing a time capsule in an altar. I was aware of using relics from a saint being being placed under an altar. So is this really a wide spread practice regarding restoration of altars. I couldn’t find any information in that direction as all links pointed to this one.

The current interior of the Cathedral is interesting and beautiful in parts and a nod to the Spanish discovery of St. Augustine in 1565. Which was of course named because that was the feast day they sighted the land. The murals on the wall created by German mural artist Hugo Ohlms that show a history of the diocese are also interesting, although I am not a fan of the interconnecting vines. I wonder if any other Cathedral in the United States has Conquistadors painted in them? One mural shows “Pedro Menendez de Aviles First Mass.” This one is cool since it shows the first Mass in the United States along with showing the Timucuan Indians. In recent years the story of a Thanksgiving episode before the Puritans arrived has become better known. So overall I like the interior even though the style is not my favorite. The pipes from the pipe organ prominently displayed in the sanctuary is a bit odd to me, but I have learned to just be thankful they still have a pipe organ at all. They have a side chapel where the Tabernacle resides and in this case it is quite proper to do this. There is a lot of foot traffic in the Cathedral from tourists exploring “America’s oldest city.” I’ve found it a good place to pray without the distraction of tourists and photo taking.

I admit to having negative reactions when I hear the word renovation regarding Catholic churches. So I of course looked up Baker Liturgical Art. It looks like they are actually doing a restoration and even adding a choir loft. This is quite promising. As I have quipped before “Unlike children, choirs should be heard and not seen.”

Now as to the time capsule they also found two papers which were editions of “The St. Augustine Record” and “The Wanderer.” I found it rather funny that there was a copy of the The Wanderer in the altar of the Cathedral. Although I have to admit that the cover of the issue found was filled with the usual joy and optimism of the few volumes I have seen. Still I liked that the banner had “No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true Socialist” from Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (which is still part of their banner). The front page also included an article by Msgr. R. G. Bandas titled “Ecumenism – The Problem.” The Monsignor had apparently attended every session of the Second Vatican Council and was a Peritus. He was also apparently not a happy camper about the Council. After his death three years after this article a friend of his said “that in a very real sense Vatican II brought on the early death of Msgr. Bandas—a brilliant, holy priest who died of a broken heart over the Council.” You won’t be surprised that I found that tidbit in The Remnant. So no doubt there is an interesting story behind how this paper became part of the altar’s time capsule.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the copy of the The Wanderer made its way to the trash bin. Father Thomas Willis, rector of the Cathedral is rather known to me from his resistance to Summorum Pontificum as Director of Liturgy for the Diocese. When he was pastor of Most Holy Redeemer he oversaw rebuilding of the parish. I visited the parish afterwards and never returned. The altar was placed in the middle of a circle of pews so of course the priest would spin around to talk to everybody kind of like a lawn sprinkler trying to cover the whole lawn.

Dec 182014

I know this is a bit overdone, but I felt like overdoing it seeing so many “Reasons for the Season”‘s that forget we are sinners and Jesus came to us to save us from our sins. When we look at the child wrapped in swaddling clothes we should not forget Jesus wrapped in a shroud dying for our sins.





Dec 162014

My Advent hymn listening is about to wind down as I start listening to Christmas carols on the 4th Sunday of Advent. Since traditional Christmas carols played a part in my conversion I am really looking forward to this. Listening to Advent music only for most of Advent is only a couple year tradition for me, but partly I find for myself the delay in listening to my favorite carols lets me appreciate them even more. Plus I have found that Advent hymns are also pretty awesome especially as performed on Advent at Ephesus.

I have a fairly good collection of these carols once on a CD and now living in the cloud. Unfortunately the production values on too many of them are not very good. Especially ones involving choirs. I remember being disappointed after buying the “John Rutter Christmas Album” for the Cambridge Singers. While the hymn selection was excellent, the sound is low and just not that sharp.

So I am always on the lookout for a higher quality collection of Christmas carols that mixes the familiar with the lesser known. I received Christmas in Harvard Square for review and was happy to find it perfectly fulfilled my requirements.

The album is performed by [The Boys of St. Paul Choir School][http://stpaulchoirschool.com]. This is the only boys’ choir school in the United States of America and students attend full time between the forth and eighth grade. I just looked at the information regarding this album on Amazon and found that they used John Rutter & Sir David Willcocks arrangements and that the schools is based in Cambridge. So after I just complained about a specific album I found this a bit ironic.

Now I only gave this album one listen or else my personal Christmas carol embargo would have fallen and I would be playing them 24/7. One listen was certainly enough to make me love it as the boys voices come shining through with high production values. The majority of hymns on this album are the lesser known, or at least the lesser played. Still all of these selections should be better known. All I know if that I am going to give this specific album a listen daily just before and during Chrismastide.

Another polished well-produced piece of sacred music is O Day Of Resurrection! – Liturgy of the Hours for Sunday by the [New Camaldoli Hermitage][hermitge] a group of Benedictines located at Big Sur. These recordings of the Liturgy of the Hours in plainchant is captivating. I found it to be perfect background music while doing spiritual reading.

On another note (pun always intended) I sometimes hear complaints about Christmas carols being played early in stores and shopping centers. Now normally this is a complaint I could appreciate, but I have been thinking that perhaps we shouldn’t really grumble about it. At least Christmas carols are still being played in public and political correctness has not yet wiped it out for fear of offending the ear of the non-Christian. Sure the mix of these songs in public lean more towards the Christmassy secular songs, but actual carols slip through repetitions of “Grandma got run over by a reindeer.” So I have decided to enjoy this while it lasts.