Monday, June 16, 2008

A new blog

It's a kind of "What does the Latin hymn really say?"-type blog. I call it Hymnos Debitos Canamus. Please visit and look at the first post to find out what that means.

For a long time I have tried to pray the Latin psalms with the eventual goal of being able to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in Latin--with understanding.

I moved toward my goal in stages.

Of course the psalms I know well enough in English to be able to figure out three-fourths of the Latin, even having studied much vocab.

Next came the antiphons, but most of those come from Scripture, many of them from the text of the Psalm itself. But I was still stumped by some antiphons, so I took the time to copy them from the English version and place them under the Latin.

The prayers I was able to handle the same way, since the Latin is more or less translated in the English version. Fr. Z's work on the collects really helped me raise the standard for understanding. His meditations on the prayers are outstanding, uplifting and a great work of scholarship, in my layman's amateur opinion.

The prayers of the faithful were a low priority, since I skipped them a lot, due to time and interest. Fr. Z says they are a recent innovation in the Breviary, which has led me to take them less seriously. The content of the these Preces is sometimes profound, sometimes laughably 60's in orientation, but usually general enough that if I just substitute my own spontaneous prayers for people in my life who need prayer, I get the same effect.

This leaves the Hymni. Until the Mundelein Psalter came out last year, good translations of the Latin hymns found in the LotH (and the Liber Hymnarius) were hard for me to find. Purchasing that wonderful resource will eventually happen (it is down the priority list). But until then, I hope taking on the labor of this blog will force me to learn more Latin.

The idea is that I will feature a hymn every few days on the blog. I will provide, not a smooth or even literal translation, but rather an attempt to capture the flavor of the poetry by looking up the words in the few lexical instruments I possess (unforntunately not the great Lewis & Short dictionary Fr. Z is constantly effusing about) and writing a very rough indication of what we are singing when we sing the Latin hymn.

One question I immediately had was what tune to use to sing the hymns. Finally buying a copy of the Liber Hymnarius was essential for this. But I have since learned that other tunes for these Hymni exist. A Dominican priest who will soon be stationed at the school where I teach assured me that the Dominican melodies he knows of are even better than the Benedictine ones they sing at Solemnes. I am anxious to learn these hymn tunes.

But others have blogged about the melodies, like this girl. If I figure out how to post mp3's or sound files, I will record myself singing so we can sing hymnos debitos together.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

St. Barnabas

Today is the feast of a saint I have liked ever since I was an evangelical. I love to encourage people, and I love to be encouraged. The book of Acts talks about St. Barnabas (his name was actually Joseph, but the Apostles gave him the name which means "Son of Encouragement") having sold a field and laying the money at the Apostles' feet. Then Barnabas is the one who has the guts to accept Paul at his word when he tries to come to Jerusalem and join the Christian community there. He brought Paul to the Apostles in Jerusalem, telling them the story of his conversion.

Then later, when the Jerusalem community is scattered after the stoning of Stephen, Barnabas is sent to Antioch to shepherd the Greeks who have accepted the gospel of Christ. He exhorts them the best he can but ultimately decides he needs more help, so he goes to Tarsus and brings Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, back to Antioch. That is where believers were first called Christians.

Apparently somewhere in there, Barnabas was anointed and proclaimed an apostle, because the Church now celebrates him as such. Paul and Barnabas seem inseperable, risking their lives to preach the gospel all over Asia Minor. But then they have a disagreement over a fellow apostle called John Mark who apparently deserted the crew earlier and Paul and Barnabas end up parting ways over it. Barnabas goes off to the island of Cyprus where he was apparently born and we don't hear of him in the book of Acts. The Catholic Encyclopedia has more about him here.

I always think about how important it is to encourage one another, as we so easily lose hope in this life. I can't fathom where I would be without the encouragement of my wife, my family and my co-workers who share my faith.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Corpus Christi & Memorial Day

"Vengeance on the nations" related to the Corpus Christi procession I participated in yesterday.

I had the privelege of leading the Divine Mercy chaplet while we were walking up the hill from the Science Museum to the St. Paul Cathedral. The annual Archdiocesan procession is a beautiful public testament to the faith. Archbishop Nienstedt gave a wonderful talk and said twice that Corpus Christi should not be celebrated without a procession. (Hats off to Fr. Z for this photo I stole from his blog.)

I said yesterday that actions we perform individually and together that are prayerful works of mercy and charity constitute "vengeance on the nations." This is because we are proclaiming a higher authority than mere civil or national power. We are proclaiming Christ as King of the Universe! Despite all appearances to the contrary, we have the best handle on the actual reality of the situation. The powers that seem in charge right now are only temporary. Christ will reign for all eternity. Any unjust governments who rule us now will blow away like dust in the wind.

Even the just governments will fade away. Is the USA just or unjust? In spite of a lot of mistakes the US government has made over the years(many of them acknowledged), I think the freedom we experience here makes justice possible for the greatest number most of the time. That's why I celebrate Memorial Day as well as Corpus Christi.

For Memorial Day today, I took my family over to Glenhaven here in Crystal, where the McReavy family has organized a fabulous tribute to our war vets, living and dead. Last year I attended the dedication of the largest privately funded War memorial in the state of Minnesota--right here at Glenhaven. Both last year and this year the program included:
  • Dorothy Benham (Former Miss America) singing patriotic songs
  • Minnesota Brassworks
  • current and past military heroes speaking and being honored
  • 21-gun salute
  • dove release
  • crowd reciting Pledge of allegiance to the flag and singing patriotic songs
  • Christian prayers for justice in our country and for all warriors living and dead

Before last year I have rarely done anything with my family to recognize Memorial Day. Last year I put my foot down and insisted that we all go and honor the warriors. In spite of much resistance, I think everyone was glad that we went, especially since we went to Coldstone for ice cream afterwards. But my reasons for insisting my family do something to honor our war dead were based on this excellent article by Jody Bottum in First Things. He says that "we create true communities only when we have shared dead."

Some may wonder at my good will toward the US given the injustice they have perpetrated on my ancestors the Ho-Chunks (or Winnebagos as most non-Indians call us). Well, my people have a long history of honoring our warriors. In the last one hundred years all of those warriors have fought for your freedom and mine in wars involving the US against foreign powers. We have been on the same side for some time now. It just feels natural and right for me to honor all of my people comrades in those wars.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Vengeance on the nations

Here is a passage from Psalm 149, the third psalm in Morning Prayer for Sunday Week 1, which Holy Mother Church prays today on the Feast of Corpus Christi:

Exultabunt sancti in gloria laetabuntur in cubilibus suis
Let the faithful rejoice in their glory, shout for joy and take their rest.
Exaltationes Dei in gutture eorum et gladii ancipites in manibus eorum
Let the praise of God be on their lips, and a two-edged sword in their hand.
Ad faciendam vindictam in nationibus increpationes in populis
to deal out vengeance to the nations, and punishment on all the peoples;
Ad alligandos reges eorum in conpedibus et nobiles eorum in manicis ferreis
to bind their kings in chains, and their nobles in fetters of iron;
Ut faciant in eis iudicium conscriptum gloria haec est omnibus sanctis eius
to carry out the sentence pre-ordained; this honor is for all his faithful.
Why does our Mother the Church place this passage before us on such a joyful feast? Even in the Grail translation given here, it is a pretty violent and forceful passage. This "vengeance" is not just a police action here, to be carried out by priests or civil authorities, but "this honor is for all his faithful," which sounds like it means us ordinary 'citizens' of Israel.

I don't pretend to know the complete mind of the Church, which is the mind of Christ, but this is what I thought of this morning when I read this: The "two-edged sword" is the Word of God, as Paul says in Ephesians 6:17: "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." We "wield" that sword whenever we perform some act of charity or mercy, whether corporal or spiritual, especially acts of penance or reparation.

So how are such meek and mild acts to be seen as "vengeange...punishment...bind(ing) fetters?" These acts, individually and in concert with others, have an real effect in the world. God answers prayer. When people perform these actions, it brings healing, order, and peace to their own lives and the lives of those around them. This is a rebuke to "kings and nobles" who supposedly rule the nations and make us all miserable because it restores the Kingship of Christ to the disordered rule of corrupt human governments.

One might even argue that these prayers and works are the ordinary ways for peaceful change to happen when injustice reigns. I recall peaceful change during the Marcos regime in the Phillipines brought about dramatically by prayer and action of ordinary Philipinos.

This does not mean I oppose legitimate military actions by duly constituted governments if they are just and defensive. Those are not addressed here by this psalm.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Catholic, Native and Proud

I just posted a (probably too long) response to a post on a great Catholic Blog OrbisCatholicus written by John Sonnen of St. Paul. Like many others, I was led to the blog by Fr. Z at What Does the Prayer Really Say?

He was lauding the many great Catholic bona fides of the Twin Cities and Minnesota. I just felt really left out when, by omission (but probably not by intention) he made it seem like American Indians never existed or were never here. It implies that we have disappeared or have been absorbed into the vast melting pot of the Americas and don't exist as a people anymore.

I'm not bitter about this, I just want people to know that we can talk about the painful history in ways that promote understanding and harmony. It doesn't have to be an occasion for leftist diatribes against the Church or against "white" European culture in general.

First read his post here, then read my response, which is below.

Please allow me to gently take you to task for studiously avoiding mention of the aboriginal inhabitants of this wonderful “Northwest Territory (a region which once belonged to Catholic France)” in this post. I happen to have significant heritage in a tribe who has lived in and around Minnesota since before 1680.

Acting as if we never existed is not only contrary to dignity and charity, it is historically lazy and inaccurate. Perhaps you are not aware of the roots of the many place names you grew up with if you lived in the Twin Cities in your youth. The “most unique name” Minneapolis is not unique by accident, but because it borrows the Lakota word for water “mni” and combines it with the Greek. Minneapolis was not “discovered” in 1680 by Fr. Hennepin, because it did not exist as a city with that name until centuries later. If you want to say that the place around St. Anthony Falls was discovered by Fr. Hennepin, that would only be from the perspective of Europeans. We knew it was there all along.

Now I suspect that your heritage is European in origin and in your defense, you would be expected to speak from that perspective. But as someone who sees the many races of the world on pilgrimage in Rome, the headquarters of the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church, you probably are aware of the error of being too Euro-centric, especially these days when the official government of Europe is so stridently anti-Catholic or at least agnostic towards religion and morality in general.

Let me tell you something else about that “old American military outpost established at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.” That place was as sacred as a place can be for the Lakota, something akin to St. Peter’s in Rome for Catholics. They called “Makoche Chokaya Kin” or “the center of the universe.” Building a military establishment there was, while probably good military strategy, was an abomination to the indigenous people who worshiped there. It would have been something similar to Muslims, having taken over Rome, making St. Peter’s not a mosque, but a warehouse to store armaments.Now please be aware that I don’t mean clobber you over the head with this information. If I sound harsh, please know that I bring you this information in the hopes that your impulse to be a more holy Catholic may also include care and concern for the least of God’s people, the American Indians, and respect for their history as well as your own. Perhaps you were just not aware of this history which was understandably “subliminated” until recently, in order that the progeny of the conquerors would not see themselves in the light of these monstrous and unjust deeds.

I don’t see the Church as complicit in these injustices for the most part, as most of the priests and missionaries, Father Hennepin foremost among them, came here not to build a great civilization, but to bring the love of Jesus Christ and his Church to the likes of lil’ ol’ me and my bro’s. For the large part they opposed unjust treatment of Natives, but the overwhelming culture of death (“manifest destiny”) which pervaded early America usually drowned out the truly Catholic voice in the public square.

Please receive my words in the fraternal charity with which I mean them.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Touched by a tragedy

The horrific bridge collapse here in Minneapolis has touched my family in many ways.

First, Julia Blackhawk is my cousin's daughter. You can find a lot in the media about her, but not as much as some of the other victims. This is because Julia's mother is trying to protect her family from the jackals in the media. Can you believe that reporters started calling her at her house at 6am? I know they have a job to do and news gathering is a dog-eat-dog world, etc., but can't they save that treatment for the the politicians and celebrities? Why can't they be more sensitive with the ones who are in the spotlight by happenstance, not to mention tragedy? My poor cousin had finally gotten a few hours of exhausted, greiving sleep when the phone started ringing non-stop.

I would appreciate your prayers for Julia, who died a sudden, unprepared death. Ray Marshall over at Stella Borealis sent me an email from an acquaintance on a listserve to which he belongs who happens to be a Dominican priest in San Francisco. His community is saying a mass for Julia! Fr. Francis Goode, O.P. from St. Dominics said that an older priest in the community has been praying everyday for the victims and the rescuers. I love the Dominicans.

Then Monday they buried Pat Holmes, who coached little kids' sports teams. My brother Brad coached with him and his daughter Summer was on the soccer and baseball teams with Pat's kid.

Sherry Engebretsen worked in the Thrivent building where my other brother Bryan's wife LouAnn runs LouAnn's Coffee Shop. Sherry often stopped in and my sister-in-law knew her.

Lord have mercy on all the souls of the faithful departed.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Monday morning

It's the 8th Monday in Ordinary Time. We have just come off of 50 days of wonderful celebration in the Easter Season, culminating in the fiery feast of Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit.

When I was younger, I participated in Charismatic Renewal gatherings, and this was our big feast to get together at the Basilica or Cathedral here in the Twin Cities and really whoop it up. I spoke in tongues, raised my hands, sang and sang and sang at a 2- or 3-hour mass, I listened to amatuer prophets trying their hand at spontaneous prophecies after communion, I even tried a little spontaneous dancing in the aisles. I used to love it, and I wished everyone could experience the heady joy and excitement of participating in mass this way - at every mass. thanks. Not for me anymore. Too much us, not enough God. It's not just that I'm older (although I am) but that I always had the true voice of the Holy Spirit nagging me during these things, saying, "Quiet, listen." Some of those things simply did not belong at mass (like the dancing). It's not that it was never quiet at the Charismatic masses. Actually, because of the all the hubbub, the silences seemed all the more profound and reverent when they occured. But the more of them I attended, the more I sought that profound and reverent silence all the time, without the need to "express myself" bodily through all that activity.

Thank God for growth and change. I am thankful for those experiences, because I think they taught me a lot. But my kids are truly not interested in having similar experiences. They crave the profound silence without first experiencing the hubbub. They see Charismatic behavior as embarrassing and unneccesary. They actually dig a Mozart mass at St. Agnes more than a "Stuebenville Conference" mass.

Back to Ordinary Time

I work at a wonderful Catholic school which teaches the faith in all its fulness. But one beef I have is that the Board (who decides the calendar) feels the need to drag us back to school on Easter Monday. After the intense experience of Lent and then the even more intense Triduum, we finally break through to Easter. Easter is all alleluias and trumpets and lillies and candy and new hats and family all day long, and I love every minute of it. Well, maybe it's just because I am a church musician, but I feel the need to breathe a bit after all this intensity. I should probably just take Easter Monday off for myself, but as you teachers know, it feels like more work to be gone than just to show up and teach.

I feel a similar way about the return of Ordinary Time after the great feast of Pentecost. I know we get to celebrate Trinity Sunday, followed by the glorious feast of Corpus Christi with its beautiful processions and all. But I would love to stretch out the actual celebration of Pentecost for just a few more days! The Pre-Vatican II calendar had an octave of Pentecost. I don't attend an indult mass (mostly because they are only held on the other side of town) but I would love to go this week because they celebrate the Octave of Pentecost.

We don't give the great feast of Pentecost its due by celebrating it for only one glorious day. The next day it feels like we are pretending it never happened. We just pick up Ordinary time where we left off in February.

I have heard the line that we are supposed to look at all of Ordinary Time as a "celebration" of Pentecost. I understand that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church and celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit, which in turn sends us out to work in the harvest of souls. It just feels a little abrpt, that's all.

Memorial Day

Well, at least I have a day off school to ponder this, as it happens also to be Memorial Day. I am looking forward to showing my kids how we honor the dead and how we honor our military men and women this afternoon. Maybe we'll visit Grampa Leo's grave at Fort Snelling (my wife's dear father who left us last November.

I am also listening to Fr. Richard John Neuhaus on EWTN celebrating a mass honoring military chaplains past and present. He says that the chaplains, and all of us believers are part of a "conflicted sovereignty." We believe in the sovereignty of Christ over all of us, but the principalities and powers of the age are in rebellion, they attempt to contradict his sovereignty over all of us.