Richard Chonak: March 2008 Archives

The preacher feature

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It took me a while to figure out why the fracas about minister Jeremiah Wright undermines Mr. Obama so thoroughly. It cuts to the most fundamental claims about the senator's character. Obama presents himself as a candidate who invites us to bridge ethnic, economic, and partisan divisions, and a man of great integrity who insists that his fellow campaigners adhere to high standards of conduct and demeanor.

However, he was willing to spend twenty years under the spiritual tutelage of a racist who espouses insane theories, in a congregation that made ethnocentrism and opposition to "middleclassness" its principles. He stayed in that congregation and subjected his children to the man's bizarre teaching, which he insists he doesn't believe, out of opportunism, in order to secure his status in Chicago black-community politics.

Six weeks ago, the Senator was entrancing crowds, and they were ready to make him emperor, but now the emperor has no clothes.

Holy Saturday

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O Lord and God, our Saviour Jesus Christ, grant spiritual and physical light to our minds and hearts that had been blinded with worldly errors; enlighten us as You enlightened the holy Marys and the holy women who came to your tomb with spices, so they could sprinkle your holy body, the source of life. Fill our hearts with your joy; fill our souls with your tranquillity, with your peace, with the happiness that comes from You. Since you have raised us up and delivered us from the stain of our sins and the darkness of our transgressions, make us worthy in your loving kindness to kindle our lamps with today's light, the symbol of your radiant and glorious resurrection.

--from the Byzantine liturgy for Holy Saturday

It's a point of pride, really.


Bert Sperling's Top 10 Most Difficult Cities to Navigate
1. Boston, MA
2. Washington, DC
3. San Francisco, CA
4. Baltimore, MD
5. New York, NY-Northeastern NJ
6. Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood-Pompano Beach, FL
7. Los Angeles, CA
8. Seattle-Everett, WA
9. Providence, Pawtucket RI-MA
10. Norfolk-Newport News-Virginia Beach, VA

Zenit reports a statement from the Archbishop of Tuam on the phony mystic Christina Gallagher:

Irish Prelate: "House of Prayer" Not OK'd by Church
Achill Center Founded by Woman Who Claims to Hear Virgin Mary

TUAM, Ireland, MARCH 3, 2008 ( The archbishop of Tuam clarified that the "House of Prayer," founded by a woman who claims to have been visited by the Virgin Mary, does not have Church approval.Archbishop Michael Neary released a public statement last week clarifying the Church's stance on the Achill Island prayer house, founded by Christina Gallagher, with other sites in the United States and Mexico.

Archbishop Neary explained the situation of the House of Prayer, saying that since 1996, he had established a diocesan commission to "investigate certain claims regarding and emanating from this work."

Gallagher claims to receive regular messages from Our Lady and to have the stigmata.

In 1997, the archbishop noted, "acting on foot of a report from the commission, I issued a lengthy public statement to the effect, in essence, that no evidence of supernatural phenomena had been observed but that the persons involved gave every evidence of good faith. Arising from that, I proposed a basic canonical structure that would gradually integrate the work of the house into the life of Achill Parish and the archdiocese."

However, Archbishop Neary stated: "While this was then attempted by the archdiocese, I became increasingly perturbed by an apparent absence of enthusiasm on the parts of Mrs. Gallagher and her associates.

"The relationship deteriorated to the extent that Mrs. Gallagher, in July 1998, closed the House of Prayer at Achill, expressing to the media at the time a sense of having been harshly treated by the archdiocese. In order to clarify the issue for the faithful I issued another statement, regretting the development and expressing grave misgivings as to the wisdom with which Mrs. Gallagher had been advised and had acted in the matter."

The 61-year-old prelate clarified that diocesan efforts to integrate the work ended in 1998, when Gallagher closed the house.

"Celebration of the sacraments and reservation of the Blessed Sacrament at the House of Prayer are not permitted," he continued. "Any work carried on since then has been entirely of a private nature and has no Church approval whatever. Neither, for reasons given above, does such work enjoy the confidence of the diocesan authorities. Nothing has been brought to my attention to indicate that I should change from this position in the future. Over the years since then, the Tuam Diocesan Office has clearly and consistently replied to enquiries in respect of this work, which Mrs. Gallagher recommenced."

"I respect the faith and devotion of many people who have been impressed by this work in the past, some of whom have expressed their sadness at my stance," the archbishop acknowledged. But, he concluded, "The House of Prayer has no Church approval and the work does not enjoy the confidence of the diocesan authorities."

Link: A timeline of previous events related to Mrs. Gallagher (Catholic Light, December 2006)

I figured Dom Bettinelli would be sending Twitter text updates from the maternity ward. However, the B's have exceeded my expectations, with fresh photos and Melanie Bettinelli live blogging her own delivery as well as Dom's live blogging.


What we heard at Mass today


Went to my suburban parish today for a Saturday 4 pm Mass. They had a pretty competent organist at the console today, which you can't usually count on at this church, so it was a good start.

Entrance Hymn: These Forty Days of Lent
Kyrie: plainchant from the Missa Primitiva

These first two pieces were a good start too. Have I been too critical of the parish's music? Are things actually improving? Maybe I should be willing to volunteer here.

Responsorial Psalm setting: Psalm 23, some contemporary setting in 3/4 time.

It didn't sound bad, but the composer took liberties with the text: "You give me the courage I need". What? I wish they wouldn't do that.

Today was Appeal Sunday, so some teens who didn't know how to genuflect came into the sanctuary and maneuvered a projection screen in front of the tabernacle. We saw a video by the Cardinal. It contained a good homily, so I forgave the intrusion of technology. Then the teens put the screen aside again.

Things went downhill from there:

Offertory: Precious Lord, Take My Hand

It's a classic black gospel song written by the great Thomas Dorsey (see the documentary Say Amen, Somebody), but was it suitable for Mass? Nope, nope, nope: (1) it's a syncopated text setting, and that's enough to rule it out: an above-average choir can sing something this rhythmically irregular, but congregations can't, especially with the loose tempo they used; (2) the text is soloistic: all about the Lord Jesus and Me; (3) it's a black gospel song, sung in a practically all-white suburb, which is pretentious. For probably all of those reasons, nobody in the congregation sang along.

Then things got better again:

Holy: something reasonably good and singable: it sounded like Proulx
Amen: a matching piece
Agnus Dei: plainchant from the Missa Primitiva

And then we went back to Protestant sentimentality:

Communion: Softly and Tenderly, Jesus Is Calling

You know the one I mean? "Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me" -- this time they decided to dip into the Baptist playbook and pull out this 1880 piece; another dramatic solo number, a little more bathetic than the previous one. Too bad the missalette publisher didn't respect the song's integrity, and took out the pointed expression: "O sinner, come home". Blah.

Second communion piece: The Old Rugged Cross (organ instrumental)

What's the deal here? Do these musicians think they're improving the Mass by pulling out this 1913 number? A lot of Catholic hymns from the period were kitschy music that doesn't belong in Mass, and -- guess what? -- so are a lot of the Protestant ones!

If the musicians in this parish wanted to bring in some Protestant music as an attempt at "inclusivity" or "inculturation", they should have noticed that we here in New England are not surrounded by revivalist tabernacles or black churches, so those songs don't reflect the local culture. They're a cultural pose. In contrast, New England has lots of congregations where you'll find Congregationalists, Methodists, and Episcopalians, and if only we'd stick to stealing their hymns, we'd have something much more singable!

Finally, as a relief, the music switched back to a perfectly acceptable hymn:

Recessional hymn: Lift High The Cross

The parish music is suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Richard Chonak in March 2008.

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