Friday, June 29, 2012

Mass for Fr. Daniel Ochiabuto

Today I attended a “memorial” Mass for Fr. Daniel Ochiabuto, SMMM (Congregation of Sons of Mary, Mother of Mercy). A funeral Mass and burial took place in Nigeria on June 22, 2012; today’s Mass was a commemoration of Fr. Daniel’s death by the parishioners of St. Bridget of Kildare Church in Nyssa, Oregon, who had been served by Fr. Daniel for a year in his capacity as a missionary priest to the Diocese of Baker.
Bishop Liam Cary presided at today’s Mass, and that was a little unusual for the Nyssa parish. Nyssa is a little town of about 3500 people in Eastern Oregon, near the Idaho border; one parishioner told me that she has lived there since 1995 and remembers a bishop visiting the parish only twice.
Bishop Liam Cary

In addition, about 17 priests, one deacon, and three nuns traveled various distances to be at the Mass.

St. Bridget church is small – it’s one of a number of “mission churches” built in Oregon in the 1900’s – and this one was actually completed in 1958. You can view some photos here. The church does have a little choir loft which is actually used! There’s also a “cry room”, which was also in active use by a number of young moms with their babies.

After the procession, Bishop Cary gave a few words of explanation before he led the congregation in the daytime prayer of the Office of the Dead. He noted that reciting this prayer of the Church would enhance our prayers for Fr. Daniel.  

During his homily, Bishop Cary noted that a funeral with the body present had been held in Nigeria a week previous, but suggested that because “the altar of sacrifice is present in all time”, we could consider ourselves there during this Mass, since our intention was to be joined in prayer to those who did so last week.

Bishop Cary described what the rite would look like if the body were present, noting that the funeral liturgy pays particular reverence to the body, because it is the image of God. During a funeral Mass, the casket is sprinkled with holy water, recalling the person’s baptism; the procession to the altar, Bishop Cary said, may remind us of the individual’s “journey through life” – he is baptized and then begins the journey towards death that leads to eternal life. At the end of a funeral Mass, the body (casket) is incensed, and the smoke of the incense represents our prayers ascending to God. Left below is the fragrance of the incense, reminding us of the good we experienced in the deceased.

Finally, at a funeral Mass, there is the burial at the cemetery. There, said Bishop Cary, we can remember the words of the Gospel read today (John 11:17-27; the death of Lazarus): “Your brother will rise.” His death has been conquered.

But this Mass, the bishop reminded us, was for a priest. A priest’s body is different, special; the priest has been anointed for a special work of God – “especially his hands,” said Bishop Cary. “St. Thomas tells us that the sacraments are the prolongation of the hands of Christ.  
The priests hands are anointed, consecrated, set apart to do God’s work.”

And what do the priest’s hands do? During baptism, the priest uses his hands to anoint the individual with oil and to pour the water over the individual’s head; at the end of life, the same hands anoint the sick.

And of course, those priestly, anointed hands to a most important work when they offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

“Jesus hands the bread of life and the cup of salvation to his disciples. How many received the bread of life from Fr. Daniel?” said Bishop Cary. “We are here to reverence that and honor his work. At a funeral, it’s clear that bodily life has come to death. But with eyes of faith, we see that ‘your brother will rise’.”

Biographical Information about Fr. Daniel Ochiabuto:

Fr. Daniel was born on June 15, 1973 in Umuahia, Nigeria. He attended Bigard Memorial Seminary in Enugu (1998-2002) and Seat of Wisdom Seminary in Owerri in Imo State.(2003-2007). He was ordained a deacon in 2006, and was ordained to the priesthood on July 28, 2007 in Umuahia Diocese. He arrived in the Diocese of Baker in October 2009.

Fr. Daniel served as associate pastor at Our Lady of the Valley Church in La Grande, Oregon, and in January 2011 he was made pastor of St. Bridget of Kildare in Nyssa.

Fr. Daniel became seriously ill with malaria in March 2012; he had been home for a visit, and returned to Oregon where it became apparent that he had not recovered. St. Bridget parishioners covered the cost of his return to Nigeria for treatment.  Tragically, Fr. Daniel was struck by a vehicle in Umuahia, Nigeria in late May, and died from his injuries on June 1, 2012 at the age of 39. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reports from Sacred Music Colloquium

The Sacred Music Colloquium is underway in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Chant Café blog has several updates about the talks and activities – be sure to take a look so you have some idea of what you’re missing!

Besides the chant classes and polyphony rehearsals, there have been some major talks and a concert. Here are some edited excerpts – please visit the Chant Café for the rest.

Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, Executive Director of ICEL, spoke about the Holy Father's vision of the liturgy, formed over the course of a long life of study. He spoke about the problems of implementing the vision of the dogmatic constitution Sacrosanctam Concilium of the Second Vatican Council. That document, Msgr. Wadsworth noted, is much more likely to find expression nowadays by celebrations of the Extraordinary Form than of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

The Chant Café promises a text version of the talk at some point, but for now you can listen to the recording here.

About the concert, Kathleen Pluth reports:

“In the silence between polyphony pieces, members of the audience turned to one another and simply mouthed ‘wow.’ The Choir School of the Cathedral of the Madeleine sang a generous program, of broad repertoire, showing precisely what young people are capable of when given the opportunity. Music samples here. Hopefully my fellow bloggers will have something to say about this extraordinary and beautiful accomplishment. Personally, I am speechless, and very grateful.”

And about the same concert, Jeffrey Tucker adds:
“There are no words to describe the concert last night by the Choir School of the Cathedral of the Madeleine. From the first notes, there was a giant gasp from the audience, and the sense of astonishment lasted for the full hour, as the choir sang music from the renaissance to modern times. The standing (leaping) applause at the end seemed to last ten minutes and it probably would have gone another ten had the choir come out for a curtain call.”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

St. John the Baptist and Gregorian Chant

A Homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Our Lady of the Presentation (St. Mary’s), Eugene, OR, June 24, 2012

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Today we celebrate the birth of the precursor, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, who announced the Messiah, even from his mother’s womb. When Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, heard the annunciation of his son’s birth, he doubted and was struck dumb. But at the birth and naming of John, the infant saint’s intercession brought about the restoration and suppleness of voice to his father. This is because the saint was given the gift of the Holy Spirit in the womb at the Visitation of our Lady to her cousin Elizabeth. The babe in the womb leapt for joy because he received the Holy Spirit and was born in a state of grace. The Church teaches that St. John the Baptist received the grace of baptism in the womb by that gift of the Holy Spirit. That is why he baptized others. But he was unable to give the gift of the Holy Spirit through baptism. It was a gift he had been given, but could not give. That is why he is the precursor. He knew that there was one to come that was greater than he. 

There is a famous episode associated with this feast. In the eighth century, Paul Warnefrid, the Deacon, a monk of Montecassino, and a member of the court of Charlemagne, was deputed to bless the Easter Candle at the Paschal Vigil. He lost his voice as he was preparing to sing the Exultet, which is proper to the office of deacon. He prayed to St. John the Baptist, who had loosened the voice of his father Zechariah at his birth. Paul the deacon prayed that his voice would be loosened as well. The saint heard his plea and interceded for him, loosening his voice to chant the Exultet. In thanksgiving, Paul the deacon composed a famous hymn to the saint which is sung in the Roman liturgy even to this day, in the Divine Office for this feast. The hymn is divided into three parts and sung at Vespers, Matins, and Lauds.
The hymn begins like this:

Since thy servants desire to sound forth,
with vocal chords well strung, thy wondrous deeds,
from all uncleanness free the lips of the guilty ones, O holy John!
(Gueranger The Liturgical Year. Vol. 12, p. 235-236).

This hymn is famous because it changed the course of music and the study of music for all time. In order to demonstrate how this change came about, we must look to the original Latin. The first verse then, goes like this: Ut queant laxis, resonare fibris mira gestorum famuli tuorum, solve polluti labii reatum, sancte Ioannes. Each strophe begins one note higher than the next. “The custom was afterwards introduced of giving to the notes themselves the names of these syllables: Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La. Guido of Arezzo, in his method of teaching, originated this custom, and by completing it with the introduction of the regular lines of the musical scale, he caused an immense stride to be made in the science of sacred music” (236). He changed the Ut to Do, then continued the scale up by adding Ti and finishing with Do again.
Music has long been associated with the divine. It is said that Pathagoras, a pagan Greek Mathematician and “mystic philosopher” (of the 6th century BC) was walking by a smith’s shop and “by a happy chance he heard the iron hammers striking an anvil, and rendering sounds most consonant to one another in all combinations except one. He observed in them these three concords: the octave, the fifth and the fourth; but that which was between the fourth and the fifth he found to be a discord” (Weiss and Taruskin. Music in the Western World. 3-4) So, he went home and experimented with weights hung on a string and he came to understand music as being mathematical. Since mathematics, as a science, studied the divine numerical order of the universe, so he concluded that music, being mathematical, therefore participated in the divine sounds of the heavenly spheres.  

Plato, another Greek, and a pagan, advanced the science of music even further. He identified that music could be holy, or it could be profane. There were hymns, which “consisted of prayers to the gods” (7); and then there were songs to express emotions; songs to tell stories, and unworthy songs that were insulting to men of virtue. He observed a “horror of disorder” (8) in that men of vice corrupted the holy forms of music by mixing holy sounds with profane words and holy words with profane sounds.
We have now looked at the pagans of Classical Greece. Let us not look to the covenant people of God. We see in the Jewish liturgies of the Synagogue that music was a participation in the heavenly song of the angels. “The words sung by the Seraphim entered the Jewish liturgy as the Kedushah” (19) from Isaiah chapter 6: Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus, Deus exercituum; Plena est omnis terra gloria eius. (Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of hosts. All the earth is full of His glory). These words again greet us in the book of the Apocalypse of St. John around the heavenly altar of God (4:8): Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus omnipotens…. (Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty). This song enters then from the divine liturgy of heaven into the divine liturgy of earth. The singing of the Sanctus at Mass joins our worship here on earth with the worship of the saints and angels in heaven.

It is fitting then to speak of the Sanctus on this feast of the precursor of the Lord. St. John the Baptist was the voice crying out in the wilderness, announcing the coming of the Lord. His birth signaled the end of the old covenant and the coming of the new. Christ is near, he seems to say. He is the patron of sacred music because first he loosened the tongue of his father to sing the praises of God. Then, eight centuries later, he loosened the tongue of Paul the deacon to sing the praises of the Easter Candle which represents the Light of Christ. Two more centuries passed and he loosened the tongue of Guido of Arezzo to created the musical scale. Because of the musical scale, human voices, unbounded by the centuries, could sing the same piece of music all over the world in every age. Today the members of the Church join their many voices in one voice to sing the Sanctus with the angels and saints in heaven, announcing the coming of the Lord on this altar. St. John the Baptist announced the coming of the Lord in the flesh. The Sanctus announcing the coming of the Lord on this altar.

Let us have a renewed devotion to the cultivation of sacred music, holy words joined with holy sounds. Let us purify our singing that nothing profane would accompany this most holy sacrifice, but that our singing would be entirely infused with an angelic sound, an angelic mind, an angelic spirit. Let us purify our senses too by purging our music collections of any music unworthy of a virtuous man or woman. Let us avoid listening to any music that is infused with the spirit of worldliness and profanity, whether inside the church or in our homes, our cars, our ipods, and phones. St. John the Baptist joins his voice from heaven with ours today in this church. Through his intercession, may our voices truly mingle with his voice and with all the saints and angels in their heavenly song to announce the coming of the Lord in the flesh on this altar.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Old St. Peter's in The Dalles

The Old St. Peter’s Church in The Dalles, Oregon, isn’t used for Mass any longer, and in fact is no longer owned by the Catholic Church.  It is now owned and managed by Old St. Peter’s Landmark Preservation, Inc. That organization has a nice little website with information about the old church; they also offer memberships which helps support the preservation effort.

The Old St. Peter’s group also has a FaceBook page which shares the following information:

Old Saint Peter's Landmark, commonly referred to simply as Old St. Peter's, is a historic building located at the corner of 3rd and Lincoln Streets in downtown The Dalles, Oregon. It was built in 1897 and dedicated on March 17, 1898 as St. Peter's Church, and served the local Roman Catholic congregation as its place of worship until 1968. It was saved from scheduled demolition in 1971 by a group of concerned citizens who formed Old St. Peter's Landmark, Inc., for that specific purpose, and which maintains the building as a museum and site for weddings, concerts and other cultural events.

The most noticeable aspect of the church is, of course, its steeple, which rises to 176 feet, with a 6-foot weathervane rooster at the top.

Here are a few photos; there are a few more here and here.

St Peter's Landmark
Photo by Dana Jensen

Rose window in St. Peter's Church

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Liturgical Reform: Fr. Jeremy Driscoll

There’s an informative video (below) and accompanying article provided by the June 15, 2012 edition of CatholicNewsService. (H/T Chant Café for the video)

The tag on the YouTube video says: “This week's Vatican Report features an interview with Benedictine Father Jeremy Driscoll, speaking about the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council.” 

I’ve provided a transcript below the video.

Here’s an excerpt from the article. Read more here.

Even among the vast majority of Catholics who have accepted the Mass in its current form, debates often occur over aspects of worship that include choices in sacred music, the correct manner of receiving Communion, and, in the English-speaking world, the revised translation of the Mass, which was introduced last year.

Yet according to one distinguished scholar, such disputes are largely rooted not in the liturgical texts themselves, but in contemporary misunderstandings about the very nature of Catholic worship.

Benedictine Father Jeremy Driscoll is a professor at Rome's Pontifical Athenaeum of San Anselmo and the author of a guidebook for non-experts, "What Happens at Mass."

A zealous debunker of what he regards as false dichotomies and oppositions, Father Driscoll rejects a common complaint that the reform has turned the Mass into a communal meal at the expense of its traditional sacrificial dimension, or that it places excessive importance on the faithful instead of focusing on God.

Transcript of the Video

The Liturgical Reform

We associate the reform of the liturgy with the desire of the Council expressed especially in its document Sacrosanctum Concilium. But the document in itself is not sufficient in indicating the reform or the limits of the reform I would say either one.

Because in fact the Church lives after a Council and continues to do its work; and the reform was indicated in broad strokes by the Council was continued under the pontificate of Paul VI.

A Loss of the Sacred?

The missal of Paul VI does not presume any less reverence at all than the Tridentine missal.

We Americans in any case rather have come naturally to think that in the liturgy we want to express ourselves, and if it doesn’t feel like us, then we don’t want to say it!

But the whole tradition of liturgy is not primarily expressive of where people are and what they want to say to God. Instead it is impressive. It forms us, and it is always bigger than any given community that celebrates it.

Mass Facing the People

I think the mass can be celebrated very beautifully and worthily in either direction. The question is what the priest understands his role to be, and how he expresses [it] in his style of celebration.

If he’s facing the assembly and the assembly is gathered around the altar, you’re making a kind of visual symbol, rightly, a symbol of the whole community united. The symbol is slightly tweaked if the priest turns toward the east…you hear it said, “turning his back to the people”. Well, that’s a misinterpretation of what the priest is doing, and it’s sort of like “that guy has turned his back on us.” No; it’s Christ, the priest, turns to face the Father, with his people behind him. That’s what it means.

People can feel offended by what they call the priest turning his back and you can’t see what’s happening. But in fact there is nothing to see! The mystery is invisible no matter which way you turn, so that’s why we shouldn’t fight about it – “I can’t see, I can’t see!” No! You can’t!

Sacrifice or Supper?

Sacrifices are meals. That’s a way in which one participates in a sacrifice.  Very close to that question that you’ll hear the same sort of worry or complaint is that the Tridentine Mass is focused on God, and the Mass of Paul VI is focused on the assembly.

Textually, that is not true, but in our talk perhaps we’ve made that mistake. But they’re inextricable. Christ is crucified, risen, sends the Spirit, for the sake of building the Church.  

You can’t have Mass without, in the end, noticing the Church, that is to say noticing the community. That’s the whole purpose of it. But that’s different from the community expressing itself. That’s a mistake! The community is impressed, indeed comes into being precisely because of God’s action. And precisely by focusing on God, the community comes into being.

So again, those are false opposites, those are not to be opposed.
Active Participation

Participation doesn’t necessarily mean doing something. Participation – the deepest participation – on the part of the assembly is following it. The missal of Paul VI is presuming that the people understand themselves – and are instructed in this way – understand themselves to be involved in the ritual action from start to finish. And that their very presence in the church is participation – to hear the Word, to sing the song, to stand now, to kneel now. To receive the Sacrament. That’s participation.

Criticism and the Reform

Basically the reason to be critical would be to say, is this working, was this a good move or not? And of course it can be changed further. As we look at things that were eliminated, and perhaps regret their loss, of course those can be put back in in a new form of the missal.

So I think it’s a living product that takes place under the guidance of Peter.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summertime Choir Suggestions from Wendi

Wendi has some interesting thoughts on the Proper care and Feeding of a Choir...summertime. Be sure to read the whole post – I’m just giving you a few tidbits here.

Don't let your choir loft be empty this summer!
This particular post is part rant, part suggestion.

First, the rant.

Why does the choir stop singing in the summer?

…."Summertime is when people are out of town so the numbers will be down anyway. We might as well recess until September."

Ok. So your regular members won't be there every week. But rarely do people go on vacation for three months.

Yes I admit it. It irritates me that summertime is treated this many churches at least as regards the music
Can you imagine the outcry if the priest were to leave parts of the Mass out during the summer to make it shorter, or drop down to only one Mass because "people go on vacation".

…Well...same thing for the music. The sacrifice of the Mass deserves our absolute best effort, every single week.

So here's my very direct statement to you music directors out's a vocation not a job. If you are treating your position like it's a job, trying to get away with doing the minimum, and looking from vacation to are in the wrong profession.

Now the suggestion part. [she offers a number of suggestions – read the post!]
Too many churches take the summer off. People go their separate ways and we all meet back at church in September.

This does not really foster a sense of community or family which is I think, partially responsible for the decline in parish life in general.

Besides...Jesus never takes the summer off. We shouldn't either.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bishop Vasa in the News

The National Catholic Register has an article (dated June 15) about Bishop Robert F. Vasa of the Diocese of Santa Rosa (formerly of the Diocese of Baker, of course). 

Here are some excerpts:

...In a recent interview, [Bishop Vasa] discussed current issues as well as his own spiritual life.

What is the difference between conscience and opinion?

There is a huge difference. Conscience is a judgment: What does the Church teach? An individual looks at a particular action: Is it consistent with the body of teaching? An opinion is how I think or feel, regardless of teaching.

How should Catholics act politically?

Politics deal with people’s relations with each other. Love your neighbor as yourself is the ethics of politics. Catholics have a right to intervene when rights are violated. “Thou shalt not steal” is a commandment; it’s a law. The law does enforce morality. If society or government determined theft was no longer wrong, there would be chaos. We believe killing is wrong.  Those who are innocent should never be killed. A baby in the womb is a person; the human entity exists prior to birth. There is a right, a true and a good.

How should Catholics reach out in a relativistic society?

All we can do is teach the truths of the faith consistently and charitably. Everything we say ought to be orthodox. There should be right teaching and right practice. The faithful lay Catholics need to make contact with them (non-Catholics/non-Christians). They need to find those opportunities. It’s a moment of encounter. In times of crisis, people will stop to say, “What’s really important?” They’re used to living moment to moment. The primary role of lay Catholics is to reach out to other Christians.

You recently spoke at the Napa Valley Men’s Conference. What did you discuss? What is men’s spirituality, and why do you focus on evangelizing them?

The spirituality of men is different from women. This conference gave men a chance to claim their own identity. Men are 50% of the population. There is a significant emphasis on women’s spirituality. We tend to focus a lot on Mary and not so much on Joseph. There were 300 to 400 men at the conference. My talk was “The Husband as Priest in the Domestic Church.” I gave a talk on fatherhood. The family is a domestic Church, according to the documents of the Second Vatican Council. There are prayers, rituals, a liturgy of meals. I talked about the importance of men stepping up and showing leadership, as well as the beauty and dignity of worship. I told men that the family is a parish entrusted to them.

What devotions are important to you?

I say Mass every day and have an hour in chapel. I keep God at the center of my life. I read Catholic magazines and books. I deepen knowledge of the Lord and his way. I try to say the Rosary each day. Prayerful devotion is a source of tremendous spiritual power. Devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is the summit, the high point in life.

How would you describe your spiritual life?

I recognize Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. It’s not excessively familiar. I deepen my knowledge of the Lord and his way. Czech tradition is a father-oriented society, so the primary relationship is with the Father. Mary is there as a constant source of encouragement. It is about living every day with the Eucharist. I want to lead in a quiet, strong way like St. Joseph.

What do you consider success as a bishop?

What really matters is the salvation of others. Helping others to lead holier lives is a single-minded goal. There is the heresy of numbers. The genuine measure is people faithful to the Gospel. The strength of the Church is the number of religious vocations; it’s a telling measure. It’s more about the salvation of souls than jumping through hoops. My apostolate is showing up. People want to know that they matter and you listen to them. It’s about living every day with the Eucharist.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

RIP Fr. Daniel Odinakachi Ochiabuto

A previous post about the death of Fr. Daniel Ochiabuto was removed by request.

The notice below was posted on the website of the Sons of Mary, Mother of Mercy Congregation:

With sorrows, and yet with steadfast trust in God's will; we announce the passing unto glory of our beloved brother and priest, Rev. Fr. Daniel Odinakachi Ochiabuto, SMMM. This sad event occurred today at about noon. [I do not know what day is referred to here.]

Late Father Daniel, who was ordained a Catholic priest on the 28th day of July, 2007, is the third son out of the seven children of Sir and Lady James Ochiabuto Nwagwu of Umuobia Olokoro, in Umuahia South L.G .A of Abia State, Nigeria.

The burial arrangements will be given later.

Do pray for the happy repose of the priest of God, Fr. Daniel Odinakachi Ochiabuto, SMMM. May his gentle soul rest in peace. Amen.

There will be a “memorial” Mass for Fr. Daniel at Our Lady of the Valley in La Grande, Oregon, on June 14 at 7pm.

There will also be a “memorial” Mass for Fr. Daniel at St. Bridget of Kildare Church in Nyssa, Oregon on June 29 at 11am Mountain Time (10am Pacific Time). That Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Cary. There will be a potluck afterwards.

Other priests serving in the Diocese of Baker who are from the Congregation of the Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy include:

Fr. Christopher Agoha, Our Lady of the Valley, La Grande
Fr. Gabriel Ezeh, St. Bridget of Kildare, Nyssa
Fr. Jude Nwachukwu
Fr. Francis Obijekwu, St. Katherine Church, Enterprise

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Holy Eucharist: John Chrysostom

Below is the ending section of a sermon on the Holy Eucharist by St. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople and doctor of the Church. I’d hoped to post something along these lines on Sunday, since most parishes were celebrating Corpus Christi on that day, but…well…a sermon on the Holy Eucharist is always timely!

In this section of the sermon, St. John Chrysostom gives some pointed counsel to his priests and deacons on the question of administering Holy Communion to those who are obviously unworthy of it. Today's prelates might do well sit up and take notice.

Except for the italicized Scripture verses, the italics are mine, added for emphasis.

The Eucharist: The Memorial of Christ’s Passion

… Think how strong is your own anger against His betrayer, against those who crucified Him. Take care lest you yourself should become guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ. They put that Sacred Body to death; but you, and this after so many kindnesses received from Him, receive this Body into an evil soul. It was not enough that He became man, that He was struck in the face, that He was slaughtered, but He also commingles Himself with us; and this not alone through faith. He has in very deed made us His own Body. Who should be more free from sin than one who partakes of such a sacrifice? As spotless as the sunbeam should be the hand that breaks that Body, the mouth that is to be filled with this spiritual Fire, the tongue that is stained by this awesome Blood! Consider with what honor you have been honored; at what Table you feast. That which the Angels tremble to behold, and dare not gaze upon because of Its flashing brightness. It is with This we are nourished, to This we are joined; made one Body and One Flesh with Christ.

Let us then not hold this honor lightly: we who have been held worthy of such honor. You see how eager infants are for the maternal breast, how thirstily they drink from it? Let us with a like eagerness approach this Table, and to the breast of the Spiritual Chalice. Let us with even more eagerness drink deep, like infants at the breast, of the love of the Spirit; and let it be our one grief that we should be deprived of this Food. These gifts set before us do not come from human power. He Who then made them at that Supper, the Same now makes what is here before us. We who minister, hold but the place of servants; it is He who consecrates, He who changes them.

Therefore let there be no Judas present; no lover of silver. If there be any one who is not a disciple, let him withdraw; the Table does not receive such as these. For He says: I make the Pasch with my disciples. And This is the same Table, and upon it there is no less than there was upon That. It is not as though Christ had wrought at that Table, and man at This. It is He has prepared this Table also. This church is that Upper Room where they then were; it was from here they went forth to the Mount of Olives. Let us go forth, to the hands of the poor; for there is the Mount of Olives: the multitude of the poor are as olive trees planted in the House of God, from which drops the oil that is profitable to us Above; which five virgins had, and the five others who had it not perished for want of it. Having it, we too may enter in, so that with our lamps burning brightly we may draw near to the Bridegroom. Receiving it let us go forth from here. Let no one who is inhuman be present, no one who is cruel and without mercy, no one at all that is unclean.

What I am saying, I say to you also who minister, as well as to those who are ministered to. For it is necessary that I also address myself to you; that you may distribute the sacred gifts with great caution. For your punishment is not light should you, knowingly, admit anyone to the Communion of this Table whom you know to be unworthy of it. His blood will be required at thy hand (Ezech. 33:8). And even though he were a general, or a governor, or even he who wears the crown, should he draw near unworthy, forbid him: for higher is your authority than his. For if a spring of pure water were placed in your care for your flock, and you saw a sheep coming, with its mouth smeared with mud, you would not let it put down its mouth to dirty the well. Now you have been given charge of a well, not of water, but of Blood and the Spirit; and should you see someone draw near who is soiled with sin, a more grievous thing than clay or mud, and you are not moved to wrath, and you do not drive him away, how do you deserve to be forgiven? It was for this God honored you with this dignity: that you might exercise judgment in these things. This is your office; this is your own security; this is your whole crown: not that you may go about clothed in a shining white habit.

And how, you may ask me, can I know about this person or that person? I am not speaking of those you do not know, but of those you do know. And shall I say something more serious? it is not as dreadful to be possessed by evil Spirits, such as those of whom Paul speaks, as to tread Christ under foot, and to hold the blood of the testament unclean, and offer an affront to the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29). He who has sinned, and comes to Holy Communion, is lower than one possessed by a demon. For those who are afflicted by an evil spirit are not on that account punished. But these others, should they come, unworthy, to the altar, they are handed over to everlasting punishment.

Let us drive away not these only, but all without exception whom we see draw near who are unworthy. Let no Judas receive, lest he suffer as Judas did. This Gathering is also the Body of Christ. Watch therefore, you who fulfill the office of deacon in these Sacred Mysteries, that you do not provoke the anger of the Lord by not purifying His Body: that you do not give a sword in place of food. And though such a one should approach the altar out of ignorance, exclude him, and be unafraid. Be in fear of God, not of man. For if you fear a man, you will be laughed at, even by him. But if you fear God, you will have the respect of men. Yet, if you do not dare to do this, then bring them to me. I shall not suffer that this be even attempted. I would lay down my life first, before I would present the Lord’s Blood to one who was unworthy of It; and pour out my own blood rather than give this Fearful Blood contrary to what is fitting.

But if you do not know who is unworthy, though exercising much care, then there is no fault on your part. For what I am saying is about those who are well known. If we correct those, God will soon disclose those we do not know. But if we do not disturb those who are known to be unworthy, why should God make the others known to us? I say these things to you, not to drive these away, not simply to cut them off, but that we may lead them to do what is right, that we may take care of them. For by doing this God will be gracious to us, and we shall find many who will then receive worthily. And for our own zeal, and because of our care for the souls of others, our reward shall be very great.

And to this may we all attain, by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bishop Cary Visits Our Lady of the Valley in La Grande

Bishop Liam Cary presided at Sunday morning Mass in La Grande, Oregon, at Our Lady of the Valley today (June 10, Feast of Corpus Christi). He administered the sacrament of Confirmation to a large group of young people, and a similarly large number of children received their first Holy Communion. This was his first visit to the parish.

The music, sung by the main choir joined by some of the outlying mission musicians, included a Gregorian chant ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei). There were a couple of traditional hymns which sounded nice, although if the piano could be transformed into an organ, it would’ve been much better!

Our Lady of the Valley does not have a deacon, but there is an ordained permanent deacon at one of the missions, and he served today. OLV’s instituted acolyte – a very capable and reverent server – was on hand as well, joined by one of the diocese’s seminarians who lives in La Grande.

Bishop Cary had a wonderful episcopal presence! His homily was geared somewhat to the young confirmands and first communicants, but it was certainly not juvenile. He was gracious and pastoral throughout.

And Bishop Cary can sing the Mass! How amazing, in Eastern Oregon, to have a correctly and beautifully chanted Preface followed by a fitting Sanctus!

The First Communicants were all given First Holy Communion on the tongue (and by intinction as well). The Confirmands were given the choice as to how to receive, and I only noticed one young person receiving on the tongue.

After Mass, Bishop Cary stood on the steps of the church and greeted every single person who presented himself to be greeted. He did that with patience and attention, without seeming hurried or tired or overwhelmed. He exuded grace, confidence, gentleness, and interest in each person.

Here are some photos (mostly by a wonderful photographer from La Grande):

The church was packed.

Really, it is NOT required that we have banners!!!

Bishop Cary prays over the Confirmands.

A number of children and adults asked the bishop to bless an item.

Fr. Christopher with Bishop Cary

Corpus Christi Procession

Here are a few photos from last year's Corpus Christi procession at Our Lady of the Valley in La Grande:

Monday, June 4, 2012

St. Thomas on Corpus Christi

This selection below comprises lessons 4,5, and 6 of the Divine Office of Matins for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

From the Sermons of St Thomas of Aquinas

17th or 57th of his Opuscula, or Lesser Works.

The immeasurable benefits, which the goodness of God hath bestowed on Christian people, have conferred on them also a dignity beyond all price. "For what nation is there so great, who hath gods so nigh unto them, as the Lord, our God, is" unto us?”(Deut. iv. 7) The Only-begotten Son of God, being pleased to make us  “partakers of the Divine nature” (2 Pet. i. 4), took our nature upon Him, being Himself made Man that He might make men gods. And all, as much of ours as He took, He applied to our salvation. On the Altar of the Cross He offered up His Body to God the Father as a sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed His Blood as the price whereby He redeemeth us from wretchedness and bondage, and the washing whereby He cleanseth us from all sin. And for a noble and abiding memorial of that so great work of His goodness, He hath left unto His faithful ones the Same His very Body for Meat, and the Same His very Blood for Drink, to be fed upon under the appearance of bread and wine.

How precious a thing then, how marvelous, how health-giving, how furnished with all dainties, is the Supper [of the Lord]! Than His Supper can anything be more precious? Therein there is put before us for meat, not, as of old time, the flesh of bulls and of goats, but Christ Himself, our very God. Than this Sacrament can anything be more marvelous? Therein it cometh to pass that bread and wine are bread and wine no more, but in the stead thereof there is the Body and there is the Blood of Christ; that is to say, Christ Himself, Perfect God and Perfect Man, Christ Himself is there, under the appearance of a little bread and wine. His faithful ones eat Him, but He is not mangled; nay, when [the veil which shroudeth Him in] this Sacrament is broken, in each broken piece thereof remaineth whole Christ Himself, Perfect God and Perfect Man. All that the senses can reach in this Sacrament [look, taste, feel, smell, and the like, all these] abide of bread and wine, but the Thing is not bread and wine. And thus room is left for faith; Christ Who hath a Form That can be seen, is here taken and received not only unseen, but seeming to be bread and wine, and the senses, which judge by the wonted look, are warranted against error.

Than this Sacrament can anything be more health-giving? Thereby are sins purged away, strength renewed, and the soul fed upon the fatness of spiritual gifts. This Supper is offered up in the Church both for the quick and dead it was ordained to the health of all, all get the good of it. Than this Sacrament can anything be more furnished with dainties? The glorious sweetness thereof is of a truth such that no man can fully tell it. Therein ghostly comfort is sucked from its very well-head. Therein a memorial is made of that exceeding great love which Christ showed in time of His sufferings. It was in order that the boundless goodness of His great love might be driven home into the hearts of His faithful ones, that when He had celebrated the Passover with His disciples, and the last Supper was ended, the Lord "Jesus, knowing that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end" (John xiii. 1), and instituted this Sacrament; this Sacrament, the everlasting forth-"showing of His death until He come "(again, 1 Cor. xi. 26); this Sacrament, the embodied fulfillment of all the ancient types and figures; this Sacrament, the greatest miracle which He ever wrought, and the one mighty joy of them that now have sorrow, till He shall come again, and their heart shall rejoice, and their joy no man take from them.

Building a Choral Program with Wendi

Wendi has a “basic bare bones blueprint for building a choral program at your parish” that sounds ambitious, but do-able. I think it will also take a lot of patience and perseverance and vision.  You can read the whole thing at her blog; I’ve put the bare bones of her bare bones here, and she has plenty more details to share with you.

I'm making the assumption that you are starting from scratch. If you have some elements in place and can skip ahead...GREAT. Start wherever you are in the process.

I am also making the assumption that the Director of Music (DM) and the Pastor are on the same page in terms of the direction they want to take the parish. [And that’s an important point. If they’re not, you’ve got an uphill battle.]

Year One:

1. Set up a training program for your cantors…

2. Assess the music currently being used in your parish. If what you use every week is all GIA, OCP stuff...recognize that it's going to take some time to change, and that people will complain.

Decide what music you would like to use and start introducing it a little at a time…And please for the love of Saint Cecelia, rehearse it well. People are FAR more receptive to something new that sounds nice, as opposed to something new that sounds bad.

3. Assess your choir. Do you have one voice or thirty?...Is it a recruiting issue? …Is it a time commitment issue? …Is it a rehearsal issue?

4. For year one, everyone is starting at the beginning. Recognize at the outset that this is a years-long process. The idea the first year is to get your choir to listen to each other.

For the first month, have them rehearse singing unison hymns and concentrate on listening to each other.

Make sure you tell your choir that you'll be singing in unison for just the first few weeks, and why. If they know what you are trying to accomplish they'll concentrate on listening to each other and it may not take a month.

As soon as is practicable, start rehearsing hymns in parts…
Try very hard to foster a spirit of cooperation.

That starts with YOU. Be pleasant and helpful and welcoming, no matter how bad your day is going. Praise every little improvement in how they sound. Positive reinforcement works wonders.

You can also start in September, teaching them the basics of Gregorian chant. There are a number of written resources that you can use…There is a nice selection here...
Books on Chant
Consider asking your parish
 to invest in this.
Shoot for rehearsing the chants for the Christmas season and introduce them then.

That will give your singers time to learn how to do chant WELL. Badly done chant will turn people off, so don't be in a rush to actually sing it at Mass.

A major feast is a great time to introduce the congregation to something new, it fits the idea that it's a major feast so we have something special.

If this sounds really is. "Slow and steady wins the race" as the tortoise said to the hare.

Plan some really nice pieces for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

…Have a Christmas party for the choir members and their families...after midnight Mass has gone splendidly.

If at ALL possible the pastor should be there to thank and praise the choir.

He is the "father of the family" so to speak and if he expresses his appreciation and approval it's very likely to motivate the choir to try even harder for holy week and Easter.

Try it and see if I'm not right.

Ok, we're halfway through year one. I'll post tomorrow about what to start working on after Christmas.

Read Wendi’s entire post here.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Athanasian Creed and the Holy Trinity

On the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, in the Divine Office of Prime, the Athanasian Creed is said.  And it leaves no doubt as to the unity of the Holy Trinity!  It has been used by Christian churches since the sixth century, and is the first creed in which the equality of the three persons of the Trinity is explicitly stated. There’s an interesting article at Wikipedia.

Canticum Quicumque (Athanasian Creed)

Whosoever willeth to be saved, * before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith.

Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, * without doubt he shall perish eternally.
Now the Catholic faith is this, * that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.
Neither confounding the Persons, * nor dividing the substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, * and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is one, * the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, * and such is the Holy Ghost.
 The Father Uncreated, the Son Uncreated, * and the Holy Ghost Uncreated.

The Father Infinite, the Son Infinite, * and the Holy Ghost Infinite. * The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, * and the Holy Ghost Eternal.

And yet they are not three Eternals, * but one Eternal.
As also they are not three Uncreated, nor three Infinites, * but One Uncreated, and One Infinite.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, * and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties, * but One Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son God, * and the Holy Ghost God.
And yet they are not three Gods, * but One God.
So the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, * and the Holy Ghost Lord.
And yet they are not three Lords, * but One Lord.
For, like as we are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, * so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be three Gods or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, * neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone: * not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and the Son: * not made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is One Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; * one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity is nothing afore or after, nothing is greater or less; * but the whole three Persons are Co-Eternal together, and Co-Equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid, * the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that willeth to be safe, * let him thus think of the Trinity.
But it is necessary to eternal salvation, * that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The right Faith therefore is, that we believe and confess, * that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.
God, of the Substance of the Father, Begotten before the worlds: * and Man, of the substance of His mother, born in the world.
Perfect God, Perfect Man, * of a reasoning soul and human flesh subsisting.
Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, * inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood.
Who, although He be God and Man, * yet He is not two, but One Christ.
One, however, not by conversion of the Godhead into Flesh, * but by taking of the Manhood into God.
One altogether, not by confusion of Substance, * but by Unity of Person.
For as the reasoning soul and flesh is one man, * so God and man is One Christ.
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, * rose again the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, * from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, * and shall give account for their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life eternal, * but they that have done evil into eternal fire.
This is the Catholic Faith, * which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be safe.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, * and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Ant. Glory be to thee, O equal Trinity * one Deity, from before all ages, so now and for evermore.