Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My Song

"The Lord is my strength and my song;" Psalm 118

This verse caught me this morning. It is from yesterday's Office. The Psalm is building up to a rousing affirmation that the Lord (Yahweh) is the Psalmist's savior in a very martial sense. The victory in verse fifteen ("There are shouts of joy and victory in the tents of the just.") is a military victory.

I asked myself how then is "song" the parallel equivalent of "strength?" The image must be a troop of soldiers going to battle singing as they march: their song feeds their will to fight; the words and the melody motivate their deeds.

In times past, songs unified men in work. This is how gangs of men build the rhythm to work in unison. Think of sea shanties! Each crew member pulled on the beat to heave the anchor.

We have lost something. In the factory, it is the discordant noise of machinery that divides us. We have mechanized the battlefield. The liturgists after Vatican II industrialized the mass.

In the liturgy, the role of chant is to join us in the rhythm of prayer: the common work of praising the transcendent God. We must relearn to pray like men.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

You Are a Blessing

My children are from that generation for whom their life was legally a choice. We have gone from the biblical "Honor thy Father and Mother to "Thanks Mom for not killing me."

Julia Gorin brings this existential poignancy to our hearts and minds with her column in the August 17th Wall Street Journal.

Read. Weep. Pray and say "Thanks."

Thanks to Grace and Generations for Life for this link.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Are the Shia and The Sunnis the Real Story?

Policy Making Toward The Mid-East

At the creation of Israel, U.S. policy in the Mid-East seemed dominated by drift and the demands of demestic politics. Over the next five decades our perceived self interest in the Cold War dictated our policy. Lately, terrorism, domestic politics, and the ideology of democracy have dominated our policy.

The time has come to understand the theological substance that lies beneath the vagaries of the region's politics. This would provide policymakers a much firmer foundation for understanding the dynamics of the Mid-East. This post gives you, my reader, a jumpstart.

The Reading List

Masood Farivar reviewed Vali Nasr's new book The Shia Revival in today's Wall Street Journal. The Iranian born Nasr teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. His father, Seyyed Hosein Nasr teaches at GW.

Vali Nasr has made quite a splash lately. He has briefed some of the movers and shakers in Washington (an event reported on the front page of the Wall Street Journal) and published a major article in Foreign Affairs. Sandro Magister, one of the keenest observors of international affairs and the leading vaticanologist, provides a helpful analysis and summary of Nasr's arguments.

Magister adds an useful analysis in Repubblica, "Iran's Hegemony" by Khaled Fouad Allam, translated from the Italian. He tells us that "Khaled Fouad Allam is an Algerian-born expert on Islam who now lives in Italy where he teaches at the universities of Trieste and Urbino. He is held in high esteem by the Church of Rome and what he has to say easily finds ears that listen."

I doubt that it has occurred to either the realists or the idealists that make policy in Foggy Bottom and on Pennsylvania Avenue they need to know theology. As professor Kirk exclaimed to the Pevensies, "What do they teach them in those schools these days?"

Will Liberals Go the Way of the Shakers?

Someone has now done the numbers: Liberals have fewer children than conservatives.

The data are based on the 2004 General Social Survey. Professor Arthur C. Brooks (Maxwell School of Public Affairs, Syracuse University) calculates a "'fertility gap' of 41%." Professor Brooks' statistical vision of the future is enough to give Howard Dean strategic nightmares.

There are more fundamental things than politics. The Survey classifies people as politically liberal or conservative, yet my hunch is that analyzing the fecundity of theologically liberal and theologically traditional Americans would produce a similar result.

Why the difference?

One explanation can be found in Professor Brooks' quote from San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Mark Morford, who opines, "Maybe the scales are tipping to the neoconservative, homogenous right in our culture simply because they tend not to give much of a damn for the ramifications of wanton breeding and environmental destruction and pious sanctimony, whereas those on the left actually seem to give a whit for the health of the planet and the dire effects of overpopulation." In his Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, Brooks does not attribute the quotation, presumably to protect the guilty.

Perhaps a better explanation is optimism. Dr. George Richmond was a dear friend and true neighbor of mine when we lived in New Britain. We agreed on virtually nothing having to do with politics or religion, but never had a rancorous word. George once told me that it was a great act of courage to bring a child "into this world." (Grace was born in New Britain.)

Two views from the shed

If you see this world now as the only garden the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve will ever have, the future may seem bleak and children a pollution of that garden. If this world is a play and God is the screenwriter however, there is cause for optimism. More importantly, there is a world that becomes more and real than this poor imitation, if only we have the grace to follow Aslan higher up and higher in and we have the will and the courage to accept that grace.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sacrosanctum Concilium and the Reform of the Liturgy

The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars’ 29th Annual Convention will be in Kansas City, MO Sept 22-24, 2006. Sacrosanctum Concilium and the Reform of the Liturgy is the title and theme of the 2006 meeting. It will be held at the Hilton Kansas City (MO) Airport Hotel. All sessions will focus on the liturgy: sacred music, art and architecture, liturgical texts and translation, and the theology and mission of Catholic liturgy.

It will start with mass at noon, Friday, with Bishop Robert Finn (Kansas City and St. Joseph) presiding and the principal homilist. Closing prayers will be 11:30 Sunday.

There will be an address by Malcolm Ranjith (it is not clear to me whether that is in person.) Among the other speakers are Hellen Hull Hitchcock, James Maroney (Executive Director of the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy), Russell Shaw, James Hitchcock, and Duncan Stroik. Duncan Stroik is my favorite architect. They are also recruiting a schola if any of you would be willing lend your voice.

You can find it all on the Fellowship’s website:

Kansas City was the site of the first Fellowship meeting. I felt privileged at the Arlington meeting a few years ago to kneel next to the Hitchcocks while Fr. Ronald Lawler, OFM Cap and 36 other priests concelebrated mass. That was one of the last times I saw Fr. Lawler. Monsignor George Kelly was too ill to attend. Both can now intercede for the Fellowship from a much better vantage point, nearer the Father’s throne.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Bishop Roche Reminds Us that the New Translation is Back-to-Basics

Amy Welborn ( ) points us to an article in the Tablet by Bishop Arthur Roche. Bishop Roche is the bishop of Leeds, England, and Chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. In the Tablet article, he tells us why we needed a new translation of the Roman liturgy.

Too many of the new translation's critics forget something: the original rendering into English which we have now used (and been abused by) these last thirty five years was a stopgap measure at best.

If you own your own place, you know how stopgap fixes work. A cabinet door breaks. You nail a board across it to hold it until you can get the proper stuff from the hardware store to fix it. One trip, two trips, three trips to your local hardware store and somehow there is always the one item you forget to get. Ten years pass and what was supposed to be temporary has literally become part of the woodwork.

Unfortunately these things get fixed properly when it comes time to sell the house. Thus it is someone else who enjoys the fruit of our labor. Or to borrow Jesus' even more rural metaphor: someone else reaps where we have sown.

Our children will prosper with the newer, more solemn, and more accurate translation, while we live with the ugly makeshift one.