Friday, May 26, 2017

Catching Up on my Register Blog

Just in case you haven't seen them, here are two posts I submitted to the National Catholic Register blogroll in the past two weeks:

In the first, May Traditions and the Blessed Virgin Mary, illustrated with this beautiful Maesta from Sienna by Simone Martini, I consider how traditional the month of Mary is, with all its events, and its Marian devotion. I am reading Yves Congar's book on The Meaning of Tradition, and I thought this passage explained the maternal aspects of these traditions:

In his book "The Meaning of Tradition", Yves Marie-Joseph Cardinal Congar summarized the role Tradition plays in Catholic Church doctrine, worship, and discipline. He explored the historical and theological aspects of Tradition (the magisterial teaching Tradition of the Church) and tradition (certain customs) in a two volume study published in 1960 and 1963—"The Meaning of Tradition", which is published in English by Ignatius Press, appeared in 1964.

In chapter one, “Tradition and Traditions” Congar offers us an insight into why May is such a maternal and traditional month. There is an intrinsic connection between the feminine genius, to use Pope St. John Paul II’s term, and tradition. As Congar notes, “We may even discern a feminine and maternal touch in the vital aspect of tradition. A woman expresses instinctively and vitally what a man expresses logically… The woman is the recipient, the matrix and fashioner of life. She creates the surroundings in which life will retain its warmth; one thinks of the maternal breast, of tenderness, of the home. She is fidelity.”

Congar goes on to note how important the home is to security and stability: graduating from high school to perhaps go to college; graduating from college to go into the working world, building a career and our own lives; progressing in our spiritual growth as Catholics as we receive the Sacraments. All of these transitions are supported by security of the home: “A home or milieu possesses a wealth of strength and certainly found nowhere else. Both provide security and with it the possibility of expansion that security affords.”

Looking at May as the month of Mary, I found this little-known encyclical of Pope Paul VI to be inspiring:

Blessed Pope Paul VI wrote a brief encyclical, “Mense Maio”, in 1965 to Catholic bishops throughout the world as the Second Vatican Council was meeting:
The month of May is almost here, a month which the piety of the faithful has long dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. Our heart rejoices at the thought of the moving tribute of faith and love which will soon be paid to the Queen of Heaven in every corner of the earth. For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration; and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God's merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother's throne.
We are delighted and consoled by this pious custom associated with the month of May, which pays honor to the Blessed Virgin and brings such rich benefits to the Christian people…
The escalation of U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War (with the possibility of using nuclear weapons), conflict between India and Pakistan, civil war in the Dominican Republic, and other conflicts led Pope Paul to urge prayers for peace:
So, Venerable Brothers, throughout this month of May, let us offer our pleas to the Mother of God with greater devotion and confidence, so that we may obtain her favor and her blessings. Even if the grave sins of men provoke God's justice and merit His just punishments, we must not forget the he is "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort," (Cf. 2 Cor. 1.3) that He has appointed Mary most holy as the generous steward of His merciful gifts.
He concluded by asking the bishops “to make provisions for special prayers in every diocese and parish during the month of May” and “in particular, on the feast of the Queenship of Mary” (August 22) for peace in the world and the success of the Second Vatican Council.

Please read the rest there.

And this week, the Register published this post on how to listen to Gregorian Chant or other liturgical music. I really appreciate the choice of illustration: the Angels singing from the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck. You can read more about that great altarpiece at The Getty Foundation website here.

I criticize the view that Gregorian chant, particularly, is music to relax to and even fall asleep to:

I try not to listen to Gregorian chant or other liturgical music as though it is background music. Readers might remember the “Gregorian Chant for Relaxation” CDs issued after the great success of the recordings by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silo in the mid-1990’s. Gregorian chant was promoted as calming and perfect for meditation, Christian or otherwise. One critic commented on an anniversary re-release of the CDs:
. . . this is music for reflection, calming down, re-fueling and getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life--which may be even more needed now than they were 10 years ago. Texts are not supplied and you won't need them; it's all about reverence and mood. Doing nothing but listening to this in 25-minute chunks will allow your breathing to slow and re-energize you. Each 55-minute CD will probably put you to sleep--and this isn't meant as a criticism.”(Emphasis added)
Since the Latin Biblical texts are the reason that chant exists, saying that they’re not necessary demonstrates a real misuse of this liturgical music. A listener should not be lulled to sleep listening to chant: she should be awakened and inspired to prayer and devotion.

On the other hand, I don’t want to respond to this music as though I’m in a concert hall, applauding a performance.

Please read the rest there.

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