Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Reading at Mass

Jeffrey Tucker, How to Read Liturgically.
The problem is the manner in which people read the scripture in liturgy. The instruction books that are published by the major houses warn against reading plainly and solemnly with a steady tone. These manual urge them to bring some personality to the task, to elevate the voice on the important parts, make the reading more life-like and vibrant, and even to make eye contact with the people in the pews. They want long pauses between sentences and for every sentence to come across like a major declaration that sears itself into the ears and minds of the listeners. They try to make the text reach us in a new way.
I hope he does not want the text to reach us in the same old way. He has a point about "bringing some personality". I remember a priest reading the Gospel with a full range of voices. I was only able to confirm the passage (Jn 21:1-19) because I was able to remember the date precisely (4th May 2003, 3rd Sunday of Easter). Otherwise I only remember the tone.

Monday, February 25, 2013

"In the dusty, damp or dismal purlieus of second-hand bookshops"

Theodore Dalrymple usually writes pessimistic pieces on the corruption of modern society. As a prison doctor he cornered the market in vignettes of the prison infirmary which expressed contemporary abdications of personal responsibility, laziness, fecklessness and cruelty.

He also likes second-hand bookshops.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A winner for teetotallers

Late last year*  the William Bull Brewery of New South Wales won the Grand Champion trophy at the Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show with its India Pale Ale. It is described as a "limited release". So limited you can't buy it anywhere.

Mind you:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

On the usefulness of Latin

I am shocked at what I am about to do: post a link to something from an Australian newspaper – from the Sydney Boring Herald no less – and not simply to mock it.

Latin helps journalist get scoop on Pope

An Italian journalist who beat the world's media on Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign got the scoop on the utterly unexpected news thanks to her knowledge of Latin.
It's even a reprint from the AFP, bene ego nunquam.

At the end of the article, the journalist's boss remarks "This is a strong argument for culture in training future journalists". I'll say. Take the following story:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

From the Maronite Heritage Centre

I have been a couple of times to the Maronite Heritage Centre in the grounds of St Joseph's Cathedral in Redfern, the seat of the Maronite Bishop of Australia. However on both occasions the centre was being used for exequies: a mercy meal (held after a requiem) on the first occasion and a mahfil (condolence of the family before a funeral) on the second. I could not spend time poring over the displays. They hold a wealth of information on the history of the Maronites in Australia, but also a brief account of the history of Lebanon and its people. I transcribed the following from the display for that section. It may help to note the following two points: (1) Modern Lebanese – particularly Christians – often identify themselves as "Phoenician" in preference to "Arab". (2) Carthage – the toughest opponent of Republican Rome – was founded from the Phoenician city of Tyre, hence Punic (i.e. Phoenician) Wars.
For thousands of years, the Phoenicians lived in the area which is today Lebanon, and in surrounding areas, such as northern Israel, and adjoining parts of Syria. In addition, the Phoenicians colonized Cyprus and the Mediterranean, founding cities in Spain, France, and Italy and throughout Northern Africa.
They were a Cananite people. However, invasions fragmented the Canaanites from about 1200 BC. The Canaanites in cities such as Byblos, Beirut, Sidon and Tyre, and in the mountains behind these cities, became known as the Phoenicians. These active, industrious city states maintained trade routes extending overland through Turkey and Syria, and threading the Mediterranean in their ships. As far back as 3000 BC, the people of Byblos had traded Lebanese cedar with the ancient Egyptians.
It is no coincidence that 1200 BC is the approximate date of the Exodus. The invasions which fragmented the peace-loving (see below) Canaanites were by this lot. And I nearly forgot these two: here and here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chant Café has good word for promoters of Liturgical pop

Music that Broadens the Mind and Spirit
Over the years, I’ve had many people say to me, when discovering that I’m a Catholic musician, some version of the following: “I’ve learned to wince whenever I see that a chosen hymn was composed after 1965. I shut my book and try to brace myself until it goes away.”
I’m supposed to agree with this point of view, and I do sympathize with the feeling because I felt this way for years. But more and more, I find that these sorts of comments bother me. Most of the musicians singing post-1965 material are doing their best to make a contribution, and loathing their output can tend towards cultivating divisive antipathies.
Few of these musicians have any idea how many people are rubbed the wrong way by varieties of pop music at Mass. Plus, it seems like an odd demand that Mass should only have music written between, say 1850 and 1965. In the long history of the faith, that is a very small slice of time.
More substantially, the debate over hymns completely misses the essential point that has become more obvious over the last few years. The truth is this: the hymn war distracts from the core issue, which is whether we will sing what the liturgy is asking to be sung or whether we will sing something else. The Mass assigns texts throughout the year for the precise parts of the liturgy where hymns are often inserted.
The solution of course is the Roman Gradual (after all, this is the Chant Café) and use of the Mass propers, not the hymn sandwich.

[The Mass propers are those bits in the Mass which change from day to day. Here it refers to those parts sung by the choir or people (not the priest), printed in a book called the Roman Gradual. They are invariably replaced by a hymn or simply spoken.]

Monday, February 18, 2013

Life on Mars

Apparently not as easy as it might be.

"Absolutely, the astronauts can live in this environment. It’s not so different from what astronauts might experience on the International Space Station. The real question is if you add up the total contribution to the astronaut’s total dose on a Mars mission can you stay within your career limits as you accumulate those numbers. Over time we will get those numbers."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Assorted links on the resignation of Pope Benedict xvi

I don't want to keep putting up posts on this. It is a little depressing. I want people digging this out of some memory crystal of the first 100 centuries of the internet to say "why did he need to name the Pope in the title of this post? only one Pope in the third millennium resigned".

So this post will serve as the dumping ground for any more stories I come across.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Msgr Gromier and the Restored Holy Week

I have for years been pushing the conférence of Msgr Léon Gromier, a Master of Ceremonies for Pius xii, on the restoration of Holy Week from the fifties. That was all I knew about him. Fr Christopher Smith provides more information as well as discussing Gromier's arguments.

One of the more interesting parts of the talk is when [Gromier] takes issue with the adjective solemn as applied in the 1955 Reform.  He writes, “The solemnity of liturgical services is not an optional decoration; it is of the nature of the service … Outside of this, so-called solemnity is not an amplifying enticement, to impress and score the goal … we made a prodigious use of the word solemn even for necessarily or intrinsically solemn acts.  We use words, believing that we can put more solemnity into the Procession of Palms than into that of Candlemas, more solemnity into the Procession of Maundy Thursday than that of Good Friday (abolished as we shall see).  Always on the same slippery slope, we learn that the Passion of Good Friday is sung solemnly, as if it could be sung in another fashion.”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Scraping the barrel on Pope coverage

The last Pope to resign was Gregory xii who did so on 4th July 1415. But he did so when there were two other claimants (a Benedict xiii and a John xxiii, not to be confused with Pietro Francisco Orsini or Angelo Roncalli) and so it was not immediately clear whether the real Pope was resigning or was being eased out (as the other two claimants were). So far as I know the only other resignation was St Celestine v who did so on 13th December 1294. Pope Benedict visited St Celestine's tomb in July 2010, and left his Pallium there. Anyway those are some facts.

I thought factoids were trivial facts. I was wrong. They are things presented as fact but actually false – such as the sowing of salt into the ruins of Carthage (didn't happen, made up I believe in the 20th century).

Five factoids about Popes and their Appointment.

Edward Peters asks When will the Conclave start?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Pope and the PM: Compare and contrast

On 30th January 2013 Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia, announced that the next general election for the Commonwealth Parliament will be on September 14th.

That's a wait of 227 days.

On February 11th Pope Benedict xvi announced that he was renouncing the Papacy with effect from 8pm on 28th February (6am on 1st March in Sydney).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The fad of folk music

A while ago the Chant Café posted a link to an essay by Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo C.S.J. at the Catholic News Agency on Church Music and the Fad of Folk Style, the following week they published a sequel. The essays are rather disjointed: more like a collection of useful quotes for such an essay than the completed work. But they do contain some zingers.

‘Folk’ style in church music is amply represented in The Music Missal (OCP), a flimsy, unattractive, and disposable handbook, which enjoys widespread use and influence. It contains other music like Ordinaries of the Mass, Reformed Protestant hymnody, and Gregorian chants. In no way does this ‘folk’ style, a misnomer, resemble authentic folk music. Whereas genuine folk songs were written by the community and were transmitted by the oral tradition, this material has been written by individuals. Genuine folk songs have a simple, limited melodic range as well as simple rhythm with little or no accompaniment. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

MUSTARD in space

In 1957 Arthur C. Clarke published a collection of loosely related stories in Tales from the White Hart. From the blurb to a recent edition:
Although written, as the author informs us in his Introduction to the 1969 edition, in such diverse locations as New York, Miami, Columbo and Sydney there is something inherently English about these stories. London's famed Fleet Street district has changed dramatically in the five decades since the collection's first appearance as a Ballantine paperback original… and, of course, many of the regulars of the White Hart (based on the White Horse pub on Fetter Lane) are no longer with us. But the White Hart's most prominent raconteur  Harry Purvis can still be found propping up the bar and regaling us all once again with tales of quirky and often downright eccentric scientists and inventors.
Some sense of the atmosphere of Clarke's stories – and the real life organisations on which they were based – can be got from Poking fun at Britain's Moon Men at Tor.com.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The non-existent taboo against composing new Gregorian chants

It is obvious to anyone who attends a Catholic liturgy that despite repeated attempts by those in authority Gregorian chant is far from being "given pride of place in liturgical services". One problem is that it is not a form of music that can be easily and readily played by ordinary musicians. It requires specialist training. Another problem is that the chants themselves are complicated. Many of them can really only be sung by a choir. One way to overcome this was the Graduale simplex in usum minorum ecclesiarum. As its full title indicates, it was meant for the use of Churches too small to sustain a full Gregorian choir. Judging by the present situation that would be pretty much all Churches, including most Cathedrals.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"The more barbarous Latinity of a Rhabanus Maurus" : On Ecclesiastical Latin

When taught to translate English into Greek or Latin (something I was never very good at) I was told to use the idioms of a classical author appropriate to the genre of the text. For example, if the text prescribed for translation came from a speech of Churchill, one would go to Cicero or Demosthenes. In many cases any prose writer would do, but if a piece of grammar only occurred in the poets then it was not to be used.  At Merton we all had a terrible time with trying to translate something from Proust.

What would be the equivalent for somebody ordered to provide a translation into Latin of an extract from the works of Blessed John Henry Newman (for example) for his office? In other words what counts as Ecclesiastical Latin? Somewhere in volumes iii or iv of Liturgia Horarum is a sermon by St Leo the Great which uses a grammatical construction not found in classical authors. I'll track it down later but, for the purpose of this post, it is enough to remark that Cicero and co. need not be our only models for writing Latin now.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Where got'st thou that Geese Book?

Via the Chant Café, behold the Geese Book, a Gradual from 1510, prepared for a parish in Nuremberg and now in New York.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Life in the Russian wilderness

A family of Russian Old Believers, who fled to escape the Bolsheviks in 1936, are discovered by a party of geologists in 1978.
A helicopter sent to find a safe spot to land a party of geologists was skimming the treeline a hundred or so miles from the Mongolian border when it dropped into the thickly wooded valley of an unnamed tributary of the Abakan, a seething ribbon of water rushing through dangerous terrain. The valley walls were narrow, with sides that were close to vertical in places, and the skinny pine and birch trees swaying in the rotors' downdraft were so thickly clustered that there was no chance of finding a spot to set the aircraft down. But, peering intently through his windscreen in search of a landing place, the pilot saw something that should not have been there. It was a clearing, 6,000 feet up a mountainside, wedged between the pine and larch and scored with what looked like long, dark furrows. The baffled helicopter crew made several passes before reluctantly concluding that this was evidence of human habitation—a garden that, from the size and shape of the clearing, must have been there for a long time. It was an astounding discovery. The mountain was more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement, in a spot that had never been explored. The Soviet authorities had no records of anyone living in the district.
The youngest daughter of the family, Agafia Lykov, born in 1943, is still living there.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Breaking news: Australian federation abolished

In stunning news, the "indissoluble Federal Comonwealth under the Crown" of Australia has been suddenly dissolved by act of media. It has had the effect of making the Australian Senate subject to election by the Australian people as a whole. This can be shown by the announcement the Julian Assange is to stand for the Senate with no mention of in which state he will stand.

NB: If this is otherwise shown to be false then replace the previous paragraph with the following.

In boring non-news, the Australian media are thick and lazy and leave out important pieces of information.

Both Fairfax and News Ltd use the same unadapted AAP story.