Monthly Archives: May 2009

And the scandal here is…?

Alberto Cutie (centre) with his girlfriend, Ruhama Buni Canellis, and flanked by priests at his ceremony to join the Episcopal Church. Photo: AP

Alberto Cutie (centre) with his girlfriend, Ruhama Buni Canellis, and flanked by priests at his ceremony to join the Episcopal Church. Photo: AP

Okay, I haven’t been following this story, but…

I remember years ago, Fr Fleming telling me he was once asked to go on a TV chat show in Adelaide to speak about his conversion to the Catholic Church from the Anglican Church. When he got to the studio, he found that he was to be put up against another priest – an Anglican priest who had been a Catholic priest but who “converted” so that he could get married. At one point in the ensuing interview, the Ex-Catholic Anglican asserted that “there really is no difference between you and me, we both did the same thing, just in reverse.” To which Fr Fleming responded, “Excuse me, there is a world of difference. I left the Anglican Church and became a Catholic because I was convinced of the truth of the Catholic Faith. You, on the other hand…”

Well, I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. However, I am strongly reminded of that here. Fr Cutie (please tell me that isn’t his real name…) clearly isn’t joining the Episcopalians because he is convinced of the truth of the Episcopalian faith (whatever that may be). While the consequence of renouncing his priesthood to marry in the Catholic Church would have been an end to his public radio show, I am sure that he could have found a way of continuing to serve God faithfully as a laicised man in the Catholic Church.

But the REAL scandal in this case is glaring at you from the AP picture above. There is something simply obscene about the gloating bishops and clergy in the picture above. They look like they’ve just snared the biggest fish of their lives while fishing on their monday off, and are posing with it (before tossing it back in the water or…?).

By contrast, Fr Fleming was a big radio personality in Adelaide at the time of his conversion also. But his reception as a quiet private affair in the Cathedral one evening. Associated Press were not invited.


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Swine Flu Pandemic: A “teachable moment”?

A good bishop knows that he is called to teach “in season and out of season” – even if that season be the flu season.

Swine Flu has hit Melbourne. At last count we have over two hundred cases in Australia, with more than 170 of those here in Melbourne. The prediction is that in the end, one in five of us will get it.

The response of the community has been everything from panic to amusement. The Age has been having fun – Michael Leunig especially – in its cartoon section.

From The Age, May 27 2009

From The Age, May 27 2009

From The Age, May 29 2009

From The Age, May 29 2009

But while our cartoonists are using the swine flu outbreak for a bit of fun (and seriously, the symptoms haven’t been serious – quite mild apparently, even in comparison with the ordinary seasonal flu), one still has to take one’s hat off to our local ordinary in excelsis, Archbishop Denis Hart, for finding a “teachable moment” in the current situation.

Archbishop Hart yesterday issued a statement to all priests of the Archdiocese of Melbourne with new protocols to be followed at Mass for the prevention of the spread of the H1N1 virus. I became of aware of these when our parish priest read them out at the beginning of Mass tonight. Here they are from the Archdiocesan website:

Statement by Archbishop Hart regarding human swine flu
Friday 29 May 2009

Dear Father,

Re: Impact of H1N1 Influenza (Human Swine Flu) on Liturgical Practices

You will be aware that the H1N1 Influenza (Human Swine Flu) is extending into our community.

My advice at this time is that currently confirmed cases of H1N1 Influenza are exhibiting mild symptoms of illness, typical of the usual seasonal influenza virus. My advice is not to be alarmed but to consider the implications of swine flu in your parish and communities and to keep up to date with the latest information on the outbreak.

If parishioners are unwell they should seek medical attention for the best possible advice and avoid public places and close contact with others.

I remind priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to practice good hygiene. Ministers of Holy Communion should be encouraged to wash their hands before Mass begins or to use an alcohol-based antibacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion.

During the Sign of Peace instead of shaking hands, kissing or embracing, as is practised in some parishes, it would be best to simply nod your head and avoid bodily contact.

When praying the Our Father do not hold hands, as may be practised in some parishes, but simply extend hands toward heaven or fold your hands.

Holy Communion should only be distributed under the species of the Consecrated Host and not the Chalice to limit the spread of germs during the H1N1 epidemic.

Prudence suggests that the reception of Holy Communion be on the hand but with respect for the freedom which the Holy See provides in this matter.

The manner of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is unique. The body and blood of Christ, along with His soul and divinity are truly present. (CCC n.1374) Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species. (CCC 1377)

Thus, to receive Christ present in the host is truly to receive the body and blood of Christ.

I encourage you and your parish community to pray for all those affected by Swine Flu and to join with me in doing our part to prevent its spread. We should accept the advice of the health authorities and wash our hands often and if we are sick, sneezing or coughing we should all stay home. Any other queries regarding H1N1 Influenza can be directed to:

The Swine Influenza Hotline – Phone: 180 2007
Nurse-on-Call – Phone 1300 606 024 – For expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
Your doctor (GP)
The situation will be kept under review and these guidelines revoked when the situation improves.

For those who are unable to attend Mass I draw your attention to the availability of “Mass For You At Home” telecast each Sunday at 6am on Channel 10.

The really neat thing about this statement and the recommendations (all which show a great deal of prudence and wisdom for dealing with the current situation as one would expect) is the way in which His Grace has skillfully used the present situation to teach priests and people a few things about the Eucharist and liturgy:

1) The order in which he names the Eucharistic ministers: The “ordinary ministers” (Priests and deacons) first, and THEN “extraordinary ministers”

2) The way he suggests the simple “nod” of the head as sufficient for the ritual of “passing the peace”. GIRM Australia (2007), while noting that “in Australia the most common form of the gesture of peace is the handshake”, also calls for “he sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner”. A good opportunity to discourage indiscriminate hugging and kissing (“as is practised in some parishes “) outside of family groups. One cannot get more “sober” than a respectful nod! No more personal-space invasions!

3) Another one of these personal-space invasions “as may be practised in some parishes” is the old seventies “let’s-all-hold hands-during-the-Our-Father”. Thanks to swine flu, that one’s out too – although the extending of one’s hands “toward heaven” gets approval. (Thank goodness. I do that.)

4) Then the biggy: Communion under one kind until further notice. I was a bit surprised at the school mass on Friday that it was only in one kind, contra usual practice (but sensible in the school context). I thought it was the decision of our new priest, but perhaps he had already received this notice. In any case, I think tonight was the first time in living memory that a Sunday mass was celebrated in our parish in one kind only. I am sure that most parishioners had forgotten that communion in the Latin Rite is still normally under one kind only (“didn’t that go out with Vatican II?”). His Grace quotes the Catechism not once but twice to assure the faithful that “to receive Christ present in the host is truly to receive the body and blood of Christ”.

5) The next one is interesting. Whereas the Archbishop declares that all communions “should be” in one kind only until further notice, he merely notes that “prudence” might lead the communicant to decide to receive the host in the hand. “What?” I hear most people in the pew asking, “There is another way of receiving communion?” Yes, indeed there is, and that “other way” must be treated with due “respect for the freedom which the Holy See provides in this matter”. Just making the point. (Nevertheless in deference to the Archbishop’s directive, I received communion in the “prudent” manner tonight).

Of course, when I was a Lutheran pastor, I spent endless hours explaining that one really couldn’t catch something like the flu from using the common cup (although the big fear back then was HIV/AIDS), as long as you were using alcohol and a silver or gold chalice and the extraordinary minister knew how to use a purificator properly. But then, I never had the option of distributing the sacrament in one kind.


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New Luther’s Works and a New Work on Luther?

Marco Vervoost (now blogging at Adventures in Jesus) alerted me to this post on Dave Armstrong’s blog: Untranslated German Works of Martin Luther (Including Two-Thirds of the Weimar Werke: “WA”) : 20 New Volumes in English Forthcoming. Good news for Lutherophiles.

But I also notice on Dave’s website an advertisement for his new book “Martin Luther: Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise”.

Has anyone read it and does anyone know anything about it?

I am usually a bit coy about Catholic books about Luther. There have been many good scholary works done (as a youngster I bought and still prize this one by Peter Manns), but polemical works by people who have never known Luther “from the inside” (as it were) usually tend to get the poor old fellow wrong one way or another.

For instance, I get thoroughly sick of Fr Mitch Pacwa on EWTN constantly citing the “dung heap covered by snow” analogy. I neveer heard such a thing when I was a Lutheran. How can Fr Mitch make it such a centre of his critique of Luther? A far more balanced approach is in this short article on the Catholic Culture website.

As far as I can tell, Dave Armstrong is a convert from US-style Evangelicalism, not Lutheranism. In general, Evangelicals get Luther as wrong as Catholics do, because they read him through Calvinist glasses.

So, my question is, is there any reason to suppose that this book on Luther by Armstrong is any more balanced than his previous work on the same subject (for eg. see this critique)?


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Some reflections on Church and State in “Deus Caritas Est”

A recent conversation with a Lutheran pastor and close friend on “the doctrine of the two kingdoms” (a standard Lutheran “principle” according to Carl Braaten) has led me back to Pope Benedict XVI’s first Encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” in which he touches upon the matter.

My main concern with the “doctrine of the two kingdoms” in the Lutheran system is that it does not seem to be a very scriptural. I do not deny that it is a beautiful and rather logical working out of Jesus’ statement about what belongs to God and what belongs to Ceasar (Matt 22:21); Pope Benedict himself acknowledges this distinction to be “fundamental to Christianity” (DCE 28). I just don’t find this same logic progressing through the Scriptures in quite the way that the Lutherans have traditionally expounded it.

So what does Pope Benedict suggest? In paragraph 29 of Deus Caritas Est, he explains that he needs to treat the topic to “determine more precisely, in the life of the Church, the relationship between commitment to the just ordering of the State and society on the one hand, and organized charitable activity on the other.”

He conducts this examination in paragraph 28. A close reading of that paragraphy will show that, while he regards “the Church’s Social doctrine” as “a set of fundamental guidelines offering approaches that are valid even beyond the confines of the Church” (27), he clearly asserts that “the just ording of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics” (28), not the Church.

Fundamental to Christianity is the distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God (cf. Mt 22:21), in other words, the distinction between Church and State, or, as the Second Vatican Council puts it, the autonomy of the temporal sphere [Cf. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 36.]. The State may not impose religion, yet it must guarantee religious freedom and harmony between the followers of different religions. For her part, the Church, as the social expression of Christian faith, has a proper independence and is structured on the basis of her faith as a community which the State must recognize. The two spheres are distinct, yet always interrelated.

So what is the responsibility of the Church?

He sees a problem with leaving the State entirely to its own devices in the aim of establishing justice.

The problem is one of practical reason; but if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests.

The problem is therefore two-fold:

1) a problem of practical reason, which, to be “excercised properly” must “undergo constant purification”; and
2) a problem of “a certain ethical blindness” caused by “the effect of power and special interests” upon sinful human nature.

In the discussion that follows, he repeatedly returns to the Church’s responsibility in addressing these two problems. I here group the various phrases he uses in relation to these two problems together and in the order that they occur in paragraph 28 so that the two threads he proposes for the Churches involvement in the “fight for justice” (a fight in which “she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines”) may be clearly seen.

1) “ways of thinking”, “purify reason”, “on the basis reason”, “to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice”, “the purification of reason”, “rational argument”, “openness of mind”.

2) “modes of conduct proper to faith”, “the acknowledgement and attainment of what is just”, “natural law”, “to help form consciences”, “through ethical formation”, “to reawaken the spiritual energy”, “openness of…will”.

These two sets of terms, closely related indeed, form a thread throughout the whole paragraph. Clearly the Holy Father is thinking that the Church – which in and of herself has no responsibility for political action – does have a responsibility to aid the State by purifying ways of thinking and forming ways of acting in order that justice may be promoted. Thus he concludes in paragraph 29:

The Church has an indirect duty here, in that she is called to contribute to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of those moral forces without which just structures are neither established nor prove effective in the long run.

Paragraph 29 also shows where the two realms – or “kingdoms” in Lutheran parlance – actually meet and overlap. “The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society” is not proper to the Church as such, but it

is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, they are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity.

He goes on then in the rest of the encyclical to defend the work of the “organised activity of believers”, which may indeed include agencies and groups officially organised by or established by the Church (such as Caritas International etc.).

I wonder if that is helpful?

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Swine Flu, DVDs and the Plague

Maddy has been home the last couple of days with a sore throat. Doesn’t sound serious. Probably isn’t. And certainly not in any way connected to the fact that in the last day or so, the first cases of “swine flu” have been reported in Victoria, occuring among children in school.

In line with the current themes, I am listening to an audio book recording of “This time of dying”, by Reina James, about a funeral director trying to cope with the outbreak of the Spanish Flu in England in October 1918. Quite sobering stuff.

This morning, after dropping sprog no. 2 off at school, I came home to find sprog no. 1 on the couch watching a TV program designed for 4 year olds. “There’s nothing else to do”, was the excuse.

Which brings to mind a comment made by a parent of the Victorian family who have been quarantined at home because their children have the Swine Flu:

The quarantine would give her the chance to do some cleaning, but it was difficult to keep her children entertained. “How did they do the black plague without DVD’s?” (“Swine Flu Goes Local”, Print edition of The Age, Friday May 22)


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The more things change…

Having spent a couple of days pondering the aversion which some express toward the use of hymnody at Mass, I have found these comments by Percy Jones in his 1952 introduction to the Hymnal of St Pius X most apt:

In the second part of the hymnal, the English hymns chosen are not intended to be exhaustive. The thorny question of English Hymnody will apparently never be resolved. In these circumstances, it is necessary to steer a middle course. We have around us only too many evidences of the blight of the mawkish sentimentality of several generations reared on the romanticism and self-satisfaction of the Victorian and Edwardian age. It was not confined to hymns; it was a plague infesting a whole civilization. But in reacting to vulgar taste, care must be taken not to go to the other extreme. In the reaction, we have been equally plagued by intellectual “puritans” in art to whom sentiment is abhorent. This approach can do as much damage as the mawkish. For this reason, particularly in hymns to our Blessed Mother, I have chosen words and music which have a certain dignity, but, more important, have the glow of filial love. “A lover must sing,” says St Augustine, and when he does, it is lyricism, not “four-square pomposity”, that will express his love.


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An Australian Charter of Rights? Great Opportunity in Melbourne!

An information session for all Christians.

Wednesday 27 May 2009
Auditorium, Crossway Centre
Vision Drive, Burwood East

The Commonwealth Government is examining the proposed introduction of a Federal “Charter Of Human Rights” and has appointed Fr Frank Brennan as Chairperson along with Mary Kostakidis, Mick Palmer and Tammy Williams.

They have been tasked with asking the following questions and reporting to the Government.

Which human rights and responsibilities should be protected and promoted?
Are human rights sufficiently protected and promoted?
How could Australia better protect and promote human rights?

Many Christians are concerned that such a Charter would limit Christian freedom. Should they be concerned?

As a service to the Christian community, this special session has been organised by The Australian Christian Lobby, the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and the Church & Nation Committee, Presbyterian Church of Victoria.

Key speakers:
Professor Greg Craven, Vice-Chancellor Australian Catholic University
Bob Carr, former Premier of NSW
Jim Wallace, Australian Christian Lobby

This event will include a panel based Q&A session with questions submitted in writing on the night.


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GIRM Australia on Singing and Hymnody

Here is the May 2007 translation of GIRM for Australia on singing in the Mass:

The Importance of Singing

39. The Christian faithful who gather together as one to await the Lord’s coming are instructed by the Apostle Paul to sing together psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (cf. Col 3:16). Singing is the sign of the heart’s joy (cf. Acts 2:46). Thus St Augustine says rightly, ‘Singing is for one who loves.’ There is also the ancient proverb: ‘One who sings well prays twice.’

40. Great importance should therefore be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass, with due consideration for the culture of the people and abilities of each liturgical assembly. Although it is not always necessary (e.g. in weekday Masses) to sing all the texts that are of themselves meant to be sung, every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people is not absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and on holy days of obligation. In the choosing of the parts actually to be sung, however, preference should be given to those that are of greater importance and especially to those to be sung by the priest or the deacon
or the lector, with the people responding, or by the priest and people together.

41. All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy. Other types of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded, provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful.

Since the faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is fitting that they know how to sing together at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, set to the simpler melodies.

And for the Entrance:

The Entrance
47. After the people have gathered, the Entrance chant begins as the priest enters with the deacon and ministers. The purpose of this chant is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical season or festivity, and accompany the procession of the priest and ministers.

48. The singing at this time is done either alternately by the choir and the people or in a similar way by the cantor and the people, or entirely by the people, or by the choir alone. The antiphon and Psalm from the Graduale Romanum or the Graduale Simplex may be used, or another song that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the season and that has a text approved by the Conference of Bishops. If there is no singing at the Entrance, the antiphon in the Missal is recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a lector; otherwise, it is recited by the priest himself, who may even adapt it as an introductory explanation.

121. During the procession to the altar, the Entrance chant takes place

And here are the directions for the Psalm and Gospel Acclamations

The Responsorial Psalm

61. After the First Reading comes the responsorial Psalm, which is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word and holds great liturgical and pastoral importance, because it fosters meditation on the word of God. The responsorial Psalm should correspond to each reading and should, as a rule, be taken from the Lectionary.

It is preferable that the responsorial Psalm be sung, at least as far as the people’s response is concerned. Hence, the psalmist, or the cantor of the Psalm, sings the verses of the Psalm from the ambo or another suitable place. The entire congregation remains seated and listens but, as a rule, takes part by singing the response, except when the Psalm is sung straight through without a response. In order, however, that the people may be able to sing the Psalm response more readily, texts of some responses and psalms have been chosen for the various seasons of the year or for the various categories of Saints. These may be used in place of the text corresponding to the reading whenever the Psalm is sung. If the Psalm cannot be sung, then it should be recited in such a way that it is particularly suited to fostering meditation on the word of God.

The following may also be sung in place of the Psalm assigned in the Lectionary: either the responsorial gradual from the Graduale Romanum, or the responsorial Psalm or the Alleluia Psalm from the Graduale Simplex, in the form described in these books.

The Acclamation before the Gospel

62. After the reading that immediately precedes the Gospel, the Alleluia or another chant indicated by the rubrics is sung, as required by the liturgical season. An acclamation of this kind constitutes a rite or act in itself, by which the assembly of the faithful welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak to it in the Gospel and professes its faith by means of the chant. It is sung by all while standing and is led by the choir or a cantor, being repeated if this is appropriate. The verse, however, is sung either by the choir or by the cantor.

a. The Alleluia is sung in every season other than Lent. The verses are taken from the Lectionary or the Graduale.
b. During Lent, in place of the Alleluia, the verse before the Gospel is sung, as indicated in the Lectionary. It is also permissible to sing another Psalm or tract, as found in the Graduale.

63. When there is only one reading before the Gospel:

a. during a season when the Alleluia is to be said, either the Alleluia Psalm or the responsorial Psalm followed by the Alleluia with its verse may be used;
b. during the season when the Alleluia is not to be said, either the Psalm and the verse
before the Gospel or the Psalm alone may be used;
c. the Alleluia or verse before the Gospel may be omitted if they are not sung.

64. The Sequence, which is optional except on Easter Sunday and on Pentecost Day, is sung before the Alleluia.

And on the Offertory:

139. When the Prayer of the Faithful is completed, all sit, and the Offertory chant begins.

74. The procession bringing the gifts is accompanied by the Offertory chant, which continues at least until the gifts have been placed on the altar. The norms on the manner of singing are the same as for the Entrance chant (cf. no. 48). Singing [the nature of which is not specified] may always accompany the rite at the Offertory, even when there is no procession with the gifts.

And at the Communion Chant/Hymn:

86. While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant is begun. Its purpose is to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the ‘communitarian’ nature of the procession to receive Communion. The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.74 If, however, there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion chant should be ended in a timely manner.

Care should be taken that singers, too, can receive Communion with ease.

87. An antiphon from the Graduale Romanum, with or without the Psalm, or an antiphon with Psalm from the Graduale Simplex, or some other suitable liturgical song approved by the Conference of Bishops may be sung at Communion. This is sung by the choir alone or by the choir or cantor with the people. If there is no singing, however, the Communion antiphon found in the Missal may be recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a lector. Otherwise the priest himself says it after he has received Communion and before he distributes Communion to the faithful.
88. When the distribution of Communion is finished, as circumstances suggest, the priest and faithful spend some time praying privately. If desired, a Psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the entire congregation.

164. Afterwards [after the communion], the priest may return to the chair. A sacred silence may now be observed for some period of time, or a Psalm or another canticle of praise or a hymn may be sung (cf. no. 88).

Nothing is mentioned (either by way of allowing or forbidding) about singing anything after the blessing and dismissal. There is complete silence on this subject, even in this final concluding regulation:

The Chants

366. It is not permitted to substitute other chants for those found in the Order of Mass, such as at the Agnus Dei.

367. The norms laid down in their proper places are to be observed for the choice of the chants between the readings, as well as of the chants at the Entrance, at the Offertory, and at Communion (cf. nos. 40-41, 47-48, 61-64, 74, 86-88).

And finally, about the Choir/Schola:

102. The psalmist’s role is to sing the Psalm or other biblical canticle that comes between the readings. To fulfil this role correctly, it is necessary that the psalmist have the ability to sing and a facility in correct pronunciation and diction.

103. Among the faithful, the schola cantorum or choir exercises its own liturgical role, ensuring that the parts proper to it, in keeping with the different types of chants, are properly carried out and fostering the active participation of the faithful through the singing. What is said about the choir also applies similarly to other musicians, especially the organist.

104. It is fitting that there be a cantor or a choir director to lead and sustain the people’s singing. When in fact there is no choir, it is up to the cantor to lead the different chants, with the people taking part.

From all this, I conclude that:

1) A hymn (text and nature unspecified) is explicitly allowed after the communion chant or after communion has ended.

2) Nothing is said regarding a recessional hymn, and therefore this remains an open option.

3) A great variety of options are open for singing at the entrance, with the use of the “antiphon and Psalm from the Graduale Romanum or the Graduale Simplex” given explicit permission, and the only restriction placed on the use of other songs is that they have “a text approved by the Conference of Bishops”.

4) At the offertory, the only option explicityly mentioned is the “Offertory Chant” (source not specified), although the statement that “Singing may always accompany the rite at the Offertory” seems to be more open and unspecified.


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“Sing like a Catholic”?

Yesterday, at the Anima Conference, I picked up a book from Mary Long’s bookstall (from the Catholic Bookshop next to St Francis in the City) called “Sing like a Catholic” by Jeffrey A. Tucker (the link, BTW takes you to a page where, for free registration, you can download a full copy).

It is a passioned piece intended to follow up where Thomas Day’s 1995 book “Why Catholics Can’t Sing” with a practical guide to the restoration of the “treasure of inestimable value” (Vatican II) which is the traditional sacred chant of the Latin Rite in our parish liturgies.

His modus operandi is Fr Zuhlsdorf’s “brick by brick” strategy. All it takes (all it HAS taken in the States) to begin a true revival of the true music of the Roman Rite of the Mass is dedicated and voluntary enthusiasts who have the support of their parish pastor to have a go and start learning and using the traditional chants in their liturgies. Get informed and experienced by attending training days, colloquiums etc. Download the music from the internet for free (he gives a host of sites that are now on the web, foremost of which is, form a schola of singers, and go for it. Of course there is more to it than that, but the first requirement seems to be the will to do something rather than nothing.

Nevertheless, I am in two minds about Mr Tucker’s project.

1) My first mind is to say “Yea and Amen”. It would be wonderful if Mr Tucker could come to Melbourne to give some lectures/training sessions on his ideas and skills (would there be support for this, do you think?) After attending Fr Lawrence Cross’s Byzantine liturgy at the ACU chapel last Friday at 12noon (something I do every now and again) I am reminded of how beautiful a liturgy can be when the music that is sung is an organic part of the liturgy itself. Although I won’t say a lot more about my “first mind” at this point, let the Reader understand that I see the restoration of chant in the liturgy as “a good thing”.

2) But then my second mind kicks in – primarily because my task today is prepare the music for the liturgy at our “mass centre” at the girl’s Primary School for next Sunday morning when I am rostered on as Cantor. This “second mind” is what I want to give some time to in this blog.

The liturgy in our parish has been on the up and up over the last four years or so. Two parish pastors ago, what happened at Sunday morning mass was so laid back it was almost horizontal. It was a valid Eucharist (more or less), but sometimes strained the definition of “liturgy” to breaking point. The pastor had been there for a dozen years, and this was “the way things were done” in our “community”. A change of pastor’s saw, as ever, a change in style of the liturgy, and it was a step in the right direction. Two years later another change of pastor has brought in another giant step in the right direction, and, thanks to the wise guidance of the intervening priest, the liturgical good sense of the new pastor has been widely accepted without comment.

That being said, music is still a problem. Many weeks the mass is spoken except for tape recorded songs. The groups who do provide music put a lot of effort and skill into leading the singing of the songs, but still the choice of song material is a little sad, and the emphasis continues to be upon the songs in the classic four-hymn sandwich rather than on the ordo or the propers of the mass. For eg. only at masses for which I am cantor is there a sung psalm and Gloria.

I myself am limited. I have tried encouraging others to join me to form a small choir, but with no success (keep in mind that the congregation at our mass centre is under 100 generally). I also have no musical backup – again, not through lack of trying. I have received criticism during the singing of the psalm because “no one wants to listen to your [ie. my] voice when they come to mass”. Fair enough. Why should they? So I am disinclined to use music that would have large parts of me singing solo.

So, here’s what I do.

I use a good quality keyboard with midi-file programs to provide the accompanying music while I cantor. I aim to have all the usual ordinary parts of the mass sung, although Kyrie and Lord’s Prayer continue to be said. I use modern settings generally rather than chant settings (although I would love to introduce the simple settings we use unaccompanied when I cantor at lunch time masses at the Cathedral). I chose three or four hymns that follow my guidelines for good hymnody for the procession, communion and recessional (the fourth being for the offertory). For the communion, I tend to favour the use of simple repetitive chants such as Taize or Michael Herry’s stuff so people can sing them without having to look at the overhead screen for the words while they are moving about.

In general visitors (rather than regulars) have commented upon my choice of music favourably, and it seems that the midi-file thing works very well in the circumstances (and yes, the keyboard can do a passable imitation of an organ).

So that’s the reality. I applaud Mr Tucker’s ideals and wish I could see them in my time and in my parish, but for the moment it seems like the hope of heaven rather than anything truly achievable.

And my one and only misgiving about the whole project of restoring the chant (which somewhat qualifies my “Yea and Amen” in my first mind) is that it seems that this is done at the expense of hymnody. I know we have had some god-awful songs thrust upon us over the last forty years, but the Church universal also has a treasury of hymnody which could be described as “of inestimable value”. The Sunday mass is about the only time when Catholics ever come together for worship, and if they don’t learn to sing hymns at mass, where will they get the value of this rich treasury?

Perhaps it is the Lutheran in me, but if Mr Tucker says he wants Catholics to “sing like Catholics”, why is it that what he seems to be proposing actually proposes that Catholics SING LESS in the liturgy, and LISTEN MORE to the choir or schola? Is this entirely healthy? At least in the Byzantine liturgy with Fr Cross, all those present joined in singing the choirs pieces. I don’t see it as a step forward in Catholic sacred music to silence the congregation to the point of being a prayerful audience. This isn’t an expression of some post-Vatican II “participation theology” at work in my mind here, it is the conviction that singing praise to God is an valuable act of worship for the soul and the Church, whether in the choir or in the pews. Of course they don’t have to sing everything all the time (I am in favour of good choirs singing a polyphonic Sanctus without the congregation jumping in to spoil it all), but they need to have an opportunity to sing to God – and hymnody provides that opportunity. Hymnody and chant ought not to be seen as enemies or as “either/or”. Lutherans after all (there I go again) are capable of doing both well.

Any way, over to you discussion.


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Doing a favour for the Brits in the fight against abortion

Okay, so I don’t usually do this sort of stuff, but the cause sounds a good one, so if you are motivated, and especially if you are a British reader, you might like to respond to Patrick’s request.

Dear Mr. Schutz,

I wonder if you could give a mention on your blog to an important campaign Family & Life is running?

The British government, as you may know, sees abortion as the solution to a range of social problems, including western Europe’s highest rate of teenage pregnancy. The latest manifestation of this is an attempt to change the rules to allow abortion providers advertise their ‘services’ on television and radio. We are particularly concerned because British channels are widely viewed in Ireland and, with the huge resources available to the abortion industry, they can be expected to target Irish women in particular.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (Broadcast), BCAP, is engaging in a public consultation as part of its review of the Advertising Standards Codes. In its consultation document, BCAP recommends that pro-abortion centres should be permitted to advertise on TV and Radio. We are organising a petition to persuade them not to change the rules:

Obviously, British signatures are particularly valuable, but others are useful too as the second prong of our campaign is to persuade other advertisers that having their ads run alongside ads for abortions won’t do their image any good.

If you can help at all, it would be much appreciated.

God bless,


Patrick Carr,
Family & Life,
26 Mountjoy Square,
Dublin 1.

(01) 8552790


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