Dec 252015
 

One thing about Mass at Christmas is that choirs suddenly remember that there were hymns written before 1960. Seriously though I so love the work that choirs put into the hymns for Mass at Christmas. Each year usually I give an A for effort, not for technical performance. They are giving up their time so I try to put away my hypercriticalness. Last year it was hard to do that since the choir consisted of a couple of really awful singers whose discordance felt like screeching chalk on a chalkboard to me.

This year we drove down to Orlando to the Basillica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe which ministers to Disneyworld tourists. First bonus is that the doors to the Basillica have been dedicated as Holy Doors for the Year of Mercy. Have been there several times and the performances of the hymns was usually excellent, but not done by a full choir. It was totally worth the 2 hour plus drive down and then back again. I was really blown away by the performance of the choir and partial orchestra. A couple of times it brought tears to my eyes in joy. They were of one voice and I could not discern individual vocalists. Plus there is something incredible about a live choir in a room with good acoustics. Sure I can listen to great technical performances on CD or streaming, but there is a sacramental quality to hearing these hymns performed live. The downside it that I will be comparing subsequent experiences. I certainly was thankful to God for this and prayed in gratitude for the members of the choir and orchestra (in lieu of clapping).

Over the years I have heard excellent solo performances at Mass, just not a choir acting as one. I realize how hard this is to do having spent four years in a High School choir where this goal is rarely met (especially my efforts).

The homily was a bit of a disappointment. Pretty much totally forgettable. A intro personal story was fine, but as is often the case had nothing to do with the homily other than as a warmup icebreaker. As with most homilies I see them as another opportunity lost. Sure personally I do turn to multiple homiletic sources via podcast or written to find something more substantial. So maybe for once the disappointment isn’t “all about me”. I guess I really do want other people to have something substantial to light the fire of their faith and the turning once again to the Lord. I know I need all the help I can get. Besides something is seriously wrong when you can’t preach on the incarnation, the birth of the Messiah. It is as if repentance is a landmine that must be stepped around and our desperate need for our Savior.

Still I am sure God can bring good out of even bad or mediocre homilies.

Oh and one other thing I found annoying. They usually have some patter regarding this not being part of the diocese and some fundraising pitch. Which is fine as far as it goes. But asking if there were any people from out of town? Sure this was asked rather humorlessly for a church that is almost entirely made up of tourists. It was kind of a meta joke regarding other parishes that ask this. But then they were actually asking people to raise hands and announce where they were from. Fortunately they only asked a sampling or I think we would still be there waiting for Mass to go on.

Otherwise the Mass was quite beautiful rising up my gratitude to God. Te Deum laudimus!

Still I wish they would return the “crucifix” from the set of Frozen.

frozen
Dec 162015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 29 November 2015 to 14 December 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

Dec 152015
 

I was somewhat aware of the various controversies surrounding Pope Pius XII who was the Pope during WWII up to 1958. I remember the book “Hitler’s Pope” which I once saw for sale at a retreat center. Since that book came out their have been various books defending the Pope and setting the record straight in regards to helping the Jewish people. I also knew how the Rolf Hochhuth’s 1968 anti-Pius play “The Deputy” did much to change what was previously a favorable view of the Pope during WWII. That the play might well have been part of a KGB-led disinformation campaign.

So I thought I had a pretty good grasp regarding Pope Pius XII efforts to save Jews during WWII, which was mostly a behind-the-scenes effort. Then I heard author Mark Riebling being interviewed on Al Kresta’s show regarding his book “Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler”.

When he learned of the Holocaust, Pius played his cards close to his chest. He sent birthday cards to Hitler—while secretly plotting to kill him.

Church of Spies documents this cloak and dagger intrigue in shocking detail. Gun-toting Jesuits stole blueprints to Hitler’s homes. A Catholic book publisher flew a sports plane over the Alps with secrets filched from the head of Hitler’s bodyguard. The keeper of the Vatican crypt ran a spy ring that betrayed German war plans and wounded Hitler in a briefcase bombing.

That the Pope actually plotted to have Hitler killed seems to actually be accurate and this book details this. That the Pope took efforts regarding this on his own initiative and worked to separate this as an official act for the Vatican. That in this case he thought Tyrannicide to be warranted. The book is just full of interesting details regarding this. One tidbit was the installation of a Marconi wire recorder in the Vatican to record conversations covertly.

One of the central figures in the book is Josef Müller. His story is one of those that would seem outlandish in a novel. A lawyer who defended Nazi opponents including Jewish people and was part of the Catholic resistance against Nazi Germany. He was a central figure in carrying out a coup and passing intelligence personally to Pope Pius XII along with British intelligence. How he achieved this is simply astounding considering the watchful eyes he was under. He was later arrested, imprisoned, tortured repeatedly, and scheduled for execution. That he survived all this is another amazing story. Especially considering his connection to the various plots to assassinate Hitler including Operation Valkyrie with Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg.

I listened to the Audiobook version and often I felt like I was listening to a Robert Ludlum novel. The book is just wonderfully descriptive and totally pulls you into the history. The mass of evidence is presented so integrally. This is likely a book I will listen to again as the story is just so amazing and so well told.

Initially I was going to buy the Kindle version of the book which is $16.99. Instead I bought the audiobook at downpour. The site downpour is a competitor to Audible and provides all their books without any DRM (Digital Rights Management) so that you can play they as you choose on any device. They have a $12.99 a month subscription where you can select one book a month along with buying extra credits at $12.99 (Audible forces you to buy 3 credits to add extra credits).

Dec 092015
 

Traditional Christmas carols have been a love of mine since I was a child. The beauty of them always just stopped me in my tracks. The secular Christmas songs never had the same pull for me. Sure they were familiar and comfortable and brought pleasant feelings for the season. A part of the seasonal vocabulary like drinking hot chocolate and sitting before a fire.

I had really no idea what traditional Christmas carols really meant. I had a vague awareness of Jesus and knew nothing of the theology regarding the incarnation much less anything regarding the Blessed Trinity. Still some subliminal message regarding they sacred hymns still stirred me.

You know you are getting old when you can remember singing sacred Christmas carols in a public school. I was always part of choirs and enjoyed nothing better than singing these sacred carols. Actually caroling was also a joy. My atheism was willing to dismiss anything regarding belief in God and to ridicule it. But the exception was for these traditional Christmas carols all about the birth of Christ.

So each Christmas I would turn on the radio to listen to my favorites. Every year though I was hearing less and less of my favorites and more and more of the “Christmassy” songs more about winter and a Hallmark sentiment of the season. This drove me to Protestant radio stations to get my fill. I was even willing to put up with the “Christian indoctrination” of these stations between songs. Many events in my life, especially my multitude of bad decisions, were for the first time opening me up to this “indoctrination”. Protestant radio was kind of the second movement of my conversion that I could detect.

So yes I love, love, love traditional Christmas carols and I could listen to them all month. Still over the last couple of years I have been trying to develop a more deeper advent of a time of expectation. Delaying this love of carols to a time closer to Christmas. This along with developing a deeper awareness of Christmastide and that these carols could be my joy through at least the Epiphany of the Lord.

As part of this I decide to explore music appropriate for Advent and this time of expectation and thinking about the various comings of Christ and his kingdom.

One thing that proved use for this was the “advent” of streaming music services where you pay a monthly fee for access to their catalog. So first I started to search around for traditional hymns for Advent and to build up a list of them. Then I would search for these hymns and add several versions that I liked of specific hymns to an Advent playlist that I could play and shuffle.

One of the surprises I found from doing this was that there were a bunch of traditional Advent hymns that I grew to love. Most of them I would never have heard before starting my Advent project.

I have used multiple streaming music services. Starting with Spotify, RDIO, Google Play Music, and now Apple music. So I keep rebuilding my Advent playlist. Still the catalogs for all these services are mostly the same with some exceptions so can usually find the same versions of hymns across all of them.

I’ve found though that there seem to be rather few albums available dedicated to the season of Advent, but that you could find a lot of the hymns individually mixed in with other hymns.

Of the albums I found so far these are my favorites:

Advent at Ephesus – Benedictines Of Mary, Queen Of Apostles – Pure perfection.
Advent Carols from St. John’s – Choir Of St. John’s College & Christopher Robinson
Gregorian Advent – Hubert Velten conductor Cantarte Regensburg
Advent Promise – Roger Wilcock & The London Fox Players
Music For The November Feasts – The Schola Cantorum of St. Peter’s in the Loop

So what are your favorite Advent hymns and Advent albums?

Dec 022015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 6 August 2015 to 30 November 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Homilies

Letters

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Mungu abariki Kenya! God bless Kenya!” @Pontifex 25 November 2015
  • “May my visit to Africa be a sign of the Church’s esteem for all religions, and strengthen our bonds of friendship.” @Pontifex 26 November 2015
  • “The world is witnessing an unprecedented migration of peoples. I want to thank Uganda for its generosity in welcoming refugees.” @Pontifex 27 November 2015
  • “Uganda has experienced the witness of Christian martyrs. May they help us spread the joy of the Gospel without fear.” @Pontifex 28 November 2015
  • “I have great hope for Africa, and for the harvest of grace that the Lord is preparing in your midst.” @Pontifex 28 November 2015
  • “I come to the Central African Republic as a pilgrim of peace and as an apostle of hope.” @Pontifex 29 November 2015
  • “Where there is violence and hatred, Christians are called to witness to the God who is Love.” @Pontifex 29 November 2015
Nov 282015
 

Ten years ago I decided to create my own Advent Wreath graphic instead of just using the normal animated gif that I had used previously. If you would like it for your own blog you can use the html code below. I will replace the graphic each week so that it correctly shows the number of candles that should be lit. On Christmas I will change it to another graphic I created for Christmastide.

<img src="http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester/wp-content/uploads/Advent/curtjester_advent.gif" width="170" height="189" />
Nov 262015
 

Robert L. Barile a Catholic blogger has a couple of posts on Thanksgiving Day in the two year run of his blog “Incipe, procurre, persiste!”. Yet has not mentioned once that Eucharist means Thanksgiving. No mention at all regarding the etymology of Eucharist from the Greek eucaristia. Other Catholic bloggers and blog readers have shown some surprise at this lack.

Exie Doolittle who is a convert to Catholicism and a heavy reader of Catholic blogs just kept waiting for Mr. Barile to make this connection of his blog. “I kept refreshing his blog today and still no mention of this connection. It is traditional for Catholic bloggers to remind readers of this on Thanksgiving Day. I don’t know what his problem is.”

Others have noted that not only has he failed to mention this but hasn’t even referenced once that the Native American Squanto who helped the Pilgrims was Catholic. Also he totally failed to mention that the first Thanksgiving actually took place in St. Augustine, Fl in 1565 fifty years before the Pilgrims arrived. A Mass was given which included the local native people (Timucuan).

Nick Hardwick who reads this blog says “I’m hoping that next year this will finally happen. If not I am giving up on his blog. Hopefully he will get the word that he is failing in his duties as a Catholic blogger.”

  • Note: I picked up the fictitious blog name from a post at Aliens in this world. It does make a good motto.
Nov 242015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 31 October 2015 to 23 November 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

Nov 182015
 

The Lafayette Diocese has created a new and easier way for outreach with the Catholic Church.

They’ve converted an old ambulance into a mobile confessional called a spiritual care unit. With a picture of Jesus and Bible verses on the side, the new unit is for spiritual emergencies, specifically remodeled for prayer and confessions.

“It’s a way that we can give some pride and public expression of our Catholic faith that is not just meant for the walls of the church, but on the streets,” Father Michael Champagne, a priest at Lafayette Diocese, said.

The unit is part of Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy that begins on December 8. Thanks to an anonymous donation, it took two weeks to complete the unit that Champagne calls a church on wheels.

“We need to go to where people are. People come to the church as a center of worship and pray, but we also have to do outreach,” Champagne said.

Not only is the vehicle a way to bring more people to the Catholic church, but it makes going to confession easier for people with busy schedules.

“Pope Francis is asking us to go out of to the peripheries of the church and now we have the means to do that,” Bishop Michael Jarrell said.

Inside the unit there are Bibles, rosaries and even holy water. It’s fully equipped to spiritually care for others.

“There’s no sin in the world that’s too big for God’s mercy,” Champagne said. “We want to extend and preach the gospel of mercy to our people.”

The spiritual care unit will make stops around Acadiana beginning on December 8, for the beginning for the holy year of mercy. Source

One of the things I love about this story is the direct connection between repentance and mercy. Often when mercy gets bandied about there is hardly a connection to sin. That mercy is a free-ride requiring no repentance.

Archbishop Chaput recently wrote for First Things a mentioned in the National Catholic Register.

“Ironically, a pastoral strategy that minimizes sin in the name of mercy cannot be merciful, because it is dishonest,”

I only hope I hear more regarding the Archbishop’s correct view of mercy than the false view of mercy often pedaled during this upcoming Year of Mercy. As Pope Francis wrote in Misericordiae Vultus

Mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe.

Now as to mobile confessionals this certainly not a new idea. I’ve seen pictures of one in Germany and another from France. No doubt there are many others.

Sadly the following image is not real as it was done by a hoaxster.

Nov 172015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 1 November 2015 to 15 November 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “As Christians, we are called to imitate the Good Shepherd and to help families experiencing difficulties.” @Pontifex 12 November 2015
  • “I am deeply saddened by the terrorist attacks in Paris. Please join me in prayer for the victims and their families. #PrayersForParis” @Pontifex 14 November 2015
  • “I am happy to pray today with the Lutheran community in Rome. May God bless all who work for dialogue and Christian unity.” @Pontifex 15 November 2015