Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Hail Holy Queen may not have been written by today's standards

Blessed Herman the Cripple
Memorial - September 25
My favorite saints include St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Jerome, St. Anthony, and St. Therese the Little Flower.  My favorite "venerable" is by far Venerable Fulton Sheen.  Who is my favorite "blessed" you might ask?  Blessed JP II?  Blessed Mother Teresa?  Blessed Pius IX?  Nope.  It has now officially become Blessed Herman the Cripple.  If you agree that he is your new favorite "blessed" after reading this blog post (or at least near the very top of your list), leave a comment in the combox!  Let's give Blessed Herman some love shall we?

Click this link to find out more about Blessed Herman.  Some people have touted Blessed Herman as the pro-life saint of our modern day.  Herman was born with a cleft palate, cerebral palsy, and spina bifida.  By today's standards, poor Herman would have had a good chance of being aborted due to the inconveniences that would have been imposed on the parents from his disabilities.  He studied and wrote on astronomy, theology, math, history, poetry, Arabic, Greek, and Latin.  He also built musical instruments and astronomical equipment.  He later became blind and had to give up his academic writing.

What most people don't realize about Blessed Herman is that he gave us two beautiful poetic prayers that are still recited to this day.  The first is the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) which is commonly used as the concluding prayer to the Rosary:

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy. Hail my life, my sweetness and my hope! To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve! To you do we send up our sighs; mourning and weeping in this vale of tears! Turn, most gracious Advocate, your eyes of mercy toward me, and after this, our exile, show to us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus Christ! Clement, loving, sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.

Next time you recite the words "mourning and weeping in this vale of tears", remember the conditions that Blessed Herman was born with and you will have a much better appreciation of the author's sentiments when writing this poem.  This was not a man that was angry at God for his shortcomings, but thanked God everyday for each moment of his life.  

The other prayer that he wrote was the Alma Redemptoris Mater (Loving Mother of Our Savior) which is commonly prayed at the end of the office of Compline (before bed).  Here is the English translation from John Henry Newman:

Kindly Mother of the Redeemer, who art ever of heaven
The open gate, and the star of the sea, aid a fallen people,
Which is trying to rise again; thou who didst give birth,
While Nature marvelled how, to thy Holy Creator,
Virgin both before and after, from Gabriel's mouth
Accepting the All hail, be merciful towards sinners.
From the first Sunday of Advent until Christmas Eve:
V. The Angel of the Lord brought tidings unto Mary
R. And she conceived by the Holy Ghost.
Let us pray.
Pour thy grace into our hearts, we beseech thee, O Lord, that as have known the Incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by His passion and cross, we may be brought to the glory of his Resurrection; through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.
From First Vespers of Christmas until the Presentation:
V. After childbirth, O Virgin, thou didst remain inviolate.
R. O Mother of God, plead for us.
Let us pray.
O God, Who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary, hast given to mankind the rewards of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech You, that we may experience her intercession for us, by whom we deserved to receive the Author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen.
It is sobering to realize that this wonderful man who influenced so many people during his life might not have received a chance at life by today's standards.  As a result, the whole Catholic world would have been deprived of the Salve Regina and Alma Redemptoris Mater for the past millenium.  Too many people are looking for the perfect child, but sometimes God has something else in mind.  Reflecting on the life of Blessed Herman and the crosses he bore daily should help us to look at our own lives and be thankful for all that we have.  Just as God can use sin for good (e.g., the crucifixion of his Son), he can use ugliness to create beauty.  Blessed Herman, ora pro nobis! 

DISCLAIMER:  I am not sure what the deal is with the creepy violin woman in the beginning of this video.   

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Scientist Pope

Statue of Pope Sylvester II in
Aurillac, Auvergne, France.
Whoever said the Church rejects science!  This has to be one of the coolest things I have come across in a while.  Pope Sylvester II (or Gerbert d'Aurillac), who reigned from 999-1003, was held in high esteem for his learning as one of the most brilliant scientists of his time.  He is considered by some to be the leading mathematician and astronomer of his day.

In fact, legend has it that some people later believed (mistakenly) that he was a magician in league with the Devil because of his scientific understanding.  He is also credited with introducing the use of Arabic numbers to Western Europe (1,2,3 instead of I, II, III), and is credited with inventing the pendulum clock (also see here).  He also reintroduced the abacus and armillary sphere to Europe.

Cum studio bene vivendi semper conjunxi studium bene dicendi. (I have always combined the study of how to live well with the study of how to speak well.)
-Gerbert later Pope Sylvester II (Letter to Ebrard,  Abbot of Tours.)
Delegimus certum otium studiorum, quam incertum negotium bellorum. (We have opted for the certain leisure of study, rather than the uncertain business of war.)
-Gerbert later Pope Sylvester II (Letter to Monk Raymond.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

I love the satire

Kresta In The Afternoon: From First Things' Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine:

Dramatic Changes in Music Rubrics for New Missal

The Chant Café: Dramatic Changes in Music Rubrics for New Missal

Check out the above article on sacred music in the new GIRM. Ironically, I wrote most of this post a few days ago before attending mass this last Sunday at St. John Cantius.  After hearing the sacred music at this Mass done appropriately in the context of the liturgy, it sparked a brief conversation between the wife and I on the topic of music.  I figured I would finish this post and provide some thoughts.  As always, I find it extremely difficult to come off as charitable when writing a blog post about a topic that you are passionate about.  So please rest assured that I write this post not as an attack on any specific church, but I am writing this to provide some insights on what I would consider best practices for a church that is looking to embrace traditional sacred music.

This is a topic that gets people fired up as people have strong opinions about music at Mass. What I state in this post is not only my opinion and preference, but is the norm of the church laid out in the GIRM. The problem is that people don't know what the GIRM says, or simply don't care (but that is a whole different issue).

There is a difference between "chant" and "song" when it comes to liturgical music. The new GIRM is very clear that "chant" should be used in the liturgy. I know this will be ignored by the majority of churches across America as the status quo is going to be difficult to change. Sacred music at Mass should not be "anything goes" (cue bongo drums and tambourine). Our minds should be elevated to God during the liturgy where the church militant and church triumphant meet in the eternal realm of the divine liturgy. Playing God Bless America is not what the church has in mind. There is a time and place for everything, and as much as I love praise and worship the old-fashioned Newman/Koinonia way, I think it is best suited outside the context of the liturgy. Here is what needs to happen to get back to a sense of sacred music:

1. Put choirs (or "bands" which is what most of them really are) up in the choir lofts or at least away from the sanctuary if there is no loft. This will heavily bruise their egos since they are no longer the focal point of Mass, but so be it.

2. No clapping after Mass. If people clap for the choir, then the choir has failed. They are not there to put on a show and get applauded like they are at a night club.  They are there to lift our souls to heaven with beautiful, transcendent music.  Instead of clapping after Mass showing that we were entertained by the music, the music should instead leave us sitting in awe as we meditate on the sacred mysteries that we have just encountered.  The music should assist us in this meditation instead of distracting us from it.  By the way, we don't clap for the priest or servers who played the most important roles at Mass, so why clap for the choir?

3. More polyphony chant (see article at the top). Like I said, most churches won't go for this since they view music as purely a form of entertainment. If you can't tap your toe to the song, then it is too boring, churchy, pre-Vatican 2, etc. This mentality will have to change before we see chant make a valiant comeback.

4. Finally, SILENCE during and after communion. Since when do we need a dozen communion songs when people are trying to communicate with the Lord? Sacred silence, especially right after communion, is something we need to bring back. There is too much daily noise all around us. A couple minutes of meditative silence isn't too much to ask.