Friday, September 19, 2014

Welcome to München Land (Or: My Lost Trip to Prague)

This post is a modified version of a story of mine that was published in the Santa Clara Weekly in December 2006. I'm reposting it here because a friend posted a story of her own today about being accused of being a bomber while she was in St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, and that reminded me of this story about my own misadventure when I was on my way to Prague to sing with the St. Ann Choir in September of 2006.  
After being a prisoner in the Munich (München) airport for 23 hours, I feel qualified to write the definitive guide to that airport as a travel destination.

I wasn’t planning to visit Munich. I was just supposed to be changing planes there on a trip to Prague with the St. Ann choir to sing at a music festival.
We had left San Francisco on Friday, Sept. 14, 2006, and got off the plane at 3 pm Munich time the next day. Although it was early morning for us, some of us went off for a beer (my first introduction to breakfast beer), and as we stood up to leave the bar after the beer, I realized I was missing the little black bag I use for airport necessities. Not only was my passport in that bag, but a credit card, a new cell phone, my license and cash. All gone.

When I told a Lufthansa Customer Service (LCS) clerk, Ruth from Sweden, that my passport was missing, she took my boarding pass (which I released reluctantly) and had my bags removed from the Prague flight.

Ruth tried to reassure me: "We'll send you on the next plane when we find your passport." I told her our first rehearsal was the next day, Saturday, at 10 am. "We'll put you on the 7 am flight. You cannot go to a hotel without your passport. You'll have to sleep here. We'll give you blankets and cushions (pillows)."

The clerk repeatedly called a department she referred to as "Cabin Lost” but the bag never showed up there. It gradually became obvious that the passport was not going to be found. She told me that the only thing that I could do with the copy of the passport I had in my luggage would be to go back to my point of embarkation. Somehow I learned that Octoberfest, which actually starts in September, was going on. There I was in Bavaria, stuck the airport, and with no way to get out and join the fun.

I was, naturally, distressed. Then I remembered that the previous week, I had gotten the sense that God was telling me not to go. I had thought at the time that it would be crazy to back out after I had prepared for months, attended all those rehearsals, studied Czech, and had paid for the trip. So I had prayed that if God didn't want me to go that He should prevent me. My friends’ reaction to this part of story has been to laugh and say, "You've got to be careful what you ask for." 

Chairs like the ones I slept on
After recalling that I had been warned not to go, I was pretty much resigned to my predicament when a border policeman named Walter came to escort me to get the passport copy out of my suitcase. Because the baggage area is officially in Munich, I wouldn't even be allowed in that part of the airport unescorted. Because I was too flustered to grab anything sensible while Walter was watching me go through my luggage, except for a change of socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste, I was stuck wearing the same clothes for three days.

Walter reminded me that I should not take anything with me that security wouldn't allow on the plane the next day.

“Oh no, I can't take my makeup.”

“You don't need makeup,” he said gallantly. Obviously, he was a nice guy. As we walked, he told me some things about his life and about his wife and two small children. Walter told me that when Pope Benedict had visted his own hometown of Regensberg in Austria the previous weekend, he too had gone there with his parents and the rest of his family, and he said how elated everyone had been. He brought my bags and me to a ticket counter to get my ticket booked onto a return flight to San Francisco. Before he left, he also told me, "Don't ever lose your smile.

Walter came back later to say goodbye after his shift was over and found me at another LCS desk. The clerks there had left the phone on for me to continue to use when they left at 11 p.m.

As I told Walter, when I called the US Embassy in Berlin and the Munich consulate, they told me that the only way I could get an emergency passport was at the consulate on Monday. The duty officers didn’t explain how I would be able to get to the consulate, since I wasn't allowed to leave the airport. If I hadn’t had the copy of the passport in my bag, I wonder if I would still be stuck there.

I didn’t see anyone all night. The only sign of life was the sound of a floor buffer, buffing away in the distance throughout the night. The next morning I was half-awakened from my sleep on a bench when the big screen TV overhead started a loop of advertisements whose core message was the joy of shopping at the airport.
Upscale Airport Shops
Nearby, a curly headed blonde moppet in green tights tootled randomly on a wooden flute while her mother looked on fondly. 

Ordering Breakfast Beer
At the Weiner Kaffe (Vienna Cafe) restaurant half an hour later, I told the waitress that I was surprised so many people sitting around me were having beer, only beer, for breakfast. "In Germany, this is normal." She had a diamond stud in her nose, and she left a cigarette burning in an ashtray while she rang me up.

I believe natives can always tell the Californians at the German airports. Californians are the ones like me, indignantly hacking and coughing as they walk past the smokers.

After breakfast, I followed the signs to an inter-denominational meditation room and read Morning Prayer in a small chamber dominated by a chunk of barkless tree wedged in between the floor and ceiling.  

Follow the signs and symbols to the nondenominational prayer room
On the floor, a painted compass pointed the direction to Mecca, and as I left, a young Muslim couple with a baby in a stroller came in, unfurled a prayer rug facing Mecca, and began to pray.

Object of meditation
After some souvenir shopping, and a sausage, beer, and potato salad lunch, I boarded the flight back to SFO, for the long uncomfortable flight home. 

On Tuesday, Lufthansa Lost Luggage department called me at my home in San Jose from Munich to tell me that someone had forwarded my lost bag to Prague, but it had come back. They then sent it back to SFO as baggage.  My passport was handed over to the American consulate.

When I called the consulate, an official told me to send the consulate an email describing what had happened, and he would investigate.

I wrote, in part, “Because I couldn't get a temporary passport and continue my trip, I lost not only the money I paid for the travel, I lost the priceless experience of participating in the festival with my choir. All I got for my pains was two uncomfortable 12 hour transatlantic flights, a night's sleep on a bench without a shower or change of clothes, and some marzipan and gingerbread souvenirs I bought for my family at the airport.”

The consulate general wrote me back that the duty officer had actually been correct. The embassy only issues emergency passports during regular business hours. The American consulate’s definition of an emergency is obviously not the same as mine.

After having studied Czech every spare minute for months, the only words I got to use were "Prossim" (Please) and " Dekuji" (Thank you), when leaving messages for the choir director at the Prague hotel. When I asked the fellow choir member who had arranged the trip what Professor Mahrt said when he heard that one of the altos had been left behind, he told me. "Oops."

When I later told my friend Regina that my bag had gone to Prague, I said, "I wonder if it sang while it was there." She said, "Yes it did" and what it sang was "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah! I got to go to Prague but you didn't!"

I had made a poster for the choir, which had been translated into Czech with the names of all the churches and all the polyphonic Masses they would be singing during the week of the music festival. The choir director told me later that the Masses had been well attended, that the last Mass had standing room only crowds, and that he gives the poster credit for the high attendance. Everywhere the choir went they saw copies of the poster, which festival promoters had plastered all over Prague. So my poster got to go to Prague without me too.

I met the choir at SFO upon their return. A few of the women had sympathetically bought me little souvenirs. The choir director did not say a word to me. As it turned out, it seems that someone had found my passport in the airplane we took from SFO and had handed it to someone in the flight crew on the connecting plane. As the choir left the plane when they got to Prague someone on the crew was calling my name and holding a passport. Just think, if the passport had stayed in the Munich airport, I might have been able to get it back and take the next plane to join the choir.  And I sometimes wonder if I would have been able to board the connecting plane without anyone asking for my passport if  I hadn't opened my big mouth. As it was, it appears the Lord had other plans for me. 

On a more humorous note, every time I told anyone in the Munich airport about my dilemma, that person invariably said, in Bavarian-accented English, "Like the movie Terminal!" That's the movie in which the Tom Hanks character was stuck in an airport for months.

I had seen the movie but had forgotten most of it, so I rented it on the way home from the airport and viewed it again when I got home. 

Yup, it is possible to be stuck in international transit area of an airport facing the possibility that you may never again get to leave. Life imitates fiction. A bit of a cliche but true.

Monday, September 15, 2014

How to Pray the Rosary and the Angelus in Latin

For my Latin tutoring of homeschoolers, I prepared a handout with the prayers of the Rosary and of the Angelus in Latin and English.  Here is a link to my handout.  I'm always finding things I want to change, and I update it pretty often, so each draft is dated. The most recent one is dated:  09/15/2014. If you like it, feel free to download a copy. I'm keeping a printed copy out on my front porch next to the porch swing where I usually pray the Rosary, because, I have to admit, I haven't memorized all the prayers in Latin, yet. Comment on this post if you see anything that needs to be changed, or if you find it useful, I would love it if you would tell me.

I had to make a few editorial decisions in getting the prayers together. You might be interested in why this amateur Latin sleuth felt the need to sort through multiple Latin names for the mysteries, to spend some time thinking through the controversies about Pope Saint John Paul II's addition of the Luminous Mysteries, and to rewrite some of the most commonly used version of the Fatima prayer. To keep this short (I'm trying to write like a real blogger), I'll make separate posts on the authentic Latin names for the mysteries, for the controversy about the Luminous Mysteries (Lucis Mysteriorum), and for the actual words of the Fatima prayer. I'll come back and make links on this page to the separate posts when I'm done. 

Deus te benedicat (May God bless you)!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Latin Tutoring Goals : Conversation, Rosary, Angelus, Ordinary Form Latin Mass

Yesterday I began teaching Latin again for the 2014-2015 school year at St. Joseph Homeschool Academy in Santa Clara. This year I have a tiny class of three 6th and 7th graders for 40 minutes on Thursdays and Fridays just before the school breaks at midday. I'm planning to write some blogs here about what I'm teaching and learning.

After my class is over at 11:30, the children pile into cars with their mothers and go to the noon Mass at Our Lady of Peace. During the afternoons, the students continue working with their parents at home. The school is a unique homeschooling co-op with parent involvement required every day. It is run by Sisters of the Virgin Mary of Matara (Serviadoras) who are part of the IVE family (Institute of the Eternal Word). The IVE is the order in charge of Our Lady of Peace Church and Shrine in Santa Clara. 

The young religious sisters who run the school are energetic, bright, and generally awe-inspiring. They put together a program that gives home schooling parents the chance to have their children learn from others who may have more expertise than the parents do. I don't know the details of the arrangement, but for most classes (Latin is one of the exceptions), St. Joseph Academy tutoring is coordinated with a homeschooling organization called Kolbe.  Grades are submitted to Kolbe at the end of each semester and at the end of the school year, and the teachers for subjects that are being taught using Kolbe homeschooling materials follow their lesson plans, and use their quizzes and tests.

Me, after following a textbook the first year, and developing materials for teaching Latin conversation and prayers for use while I substituted last year, I'm continuing to make it up as I go along, with the the full permission of the principal. Yesterday I started to tell the students that I would be teaching them conversational Latin, the Rosary, the Angelus and other prayers, and the Latin Mass in the Ordinary Form.  

You might ask, "What's the Latin Mass in the Ordinary Form?"I realize that a lot of people think that the term Latin Mass refers only to the traditional Latin Mass. To explain to my class yesterday what the Latin Mass is and how you can attend one in the Ordinary Form, I spun off into a partial history of the Mass since the Second Vatican Council that eventually filled the white board.  Even the mom coordinator  (who attends the traditional Latin Mass at the Oratory at Five Wounds) looked fascinated as she took notes, and one bright kid, the only boy out of the three students, showed me his own clear notes that he transcribed from the white board, which I really believe were an improvement on my scribbles  

I told them that with the introduction I was giving them, they will understand a lot more about the topic of where the Mass has been than most people around here (the San Francisco Bay Area) who are a lot older than they are. 

In one of my next blogs, I plan to write down what I told the students to help them understand what the term Ordinary Form Latin Mass means so that it will be available 
for anyone else who might benefit.  While singing in Latin Mass choirs and in researching articles I've written, I've picked up a lot  of facts and a constantly growing understanding of this topic

Weird Latin news. I just read that an "American social media star" named Gabi Grecko has begin studying Latin because she wants to improve her song writing skills and 'rhyme in Latin'." I'd post the link to this news in the Daily Mail of the UK, but I refuse to share  the images I saw on that page with anyone.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bejeweled

Computer game ads tout the game's addictive qualities -- as if addiction is a good thing. During the Bejeweled Blitz game I am hooked on, you drag together and destroy groups of three or more bright jewels of the same color, as many as you can in one minute. It's a rush of color, and light, and noise, a far cry from the early Tetris game with the repetitive background music that got a lot of us started. Never thought of that before, Tetris was a gateway drug …
Explosions and lightening flashes on the screen accompany the destruction of jewels. Destroyed jewels are replaced with new ones that cascade down as fast as you can explode the old ones. It's a heart thumping race with thrills, a mini drama with an adreline rush, and it is all over in a minute.  
The action stops and your score is totaled as a loud ticking adding machine sound accompanies the counting.
If you exceed your prevous  high score in the "Weekly Tournament." a throaty male voice whispers excitedly, "New. High. Score." The screen then lies quiescent, with the big PLAY AGAIN button waiting for you to push it and launch the thrill ride again.
Trying to reach higher and higher scores, you can get drawn into repeating that same minute of play over and over for hours. I've even in my worst days played twelve hours straight.

At first I set myself a goal of 100,000 points, and it took me months to get there, and  I thought then that at last I could stop. But no, as could have been predicted, my goals have risen. A friend of mine routinely gets scores in the 600,000s or higher, and I wonder, a bit enviously, "How does she do it?" Maybe she pays for extra "Boosts" and "Rare Gems"?

As I found out in the first couple of months to my frustration, skill can only get you so far.  Even though the game is free, the highest score ceiling you can reach without buying the extra helps is low.  You get a Free Spin every day that gives you some points you can use to buy some extra helps, but those soon run out. The boosts and rare gems seem to act like a Las Vegas controller behind the scenes. Only when they "loosen up the slots" do the higher scores come within your reach.

Even though I refuse to pay anything to play this or other computer games, there are lots of incentives to start. And I'm sure there are many thousands of people playing these games every day shelling out good money to try to reach  ever higher scores. How to get rich: Program a hit computer game, get a big following, and sit back and collect  the bonanza. The Bejeweled Blitz Facebook page has over 6,000,000 Likes. If only 2/3rds, maybe 4,000,000, play the game regularly, and maybe 10% of the regulars buy extra Spins, Rare Jewels, and other boosts, let's see, that's 400,000 people regularly paying for points.

Can that repetition of a minute's intense pursuit of a high score, with only your mouse hand and your eyes moving for long stretches of time be good for a person's brain or body? Of cours not.

For one thing, the repetition leads to  a kind of meditative state during which you empty your mind. We all know the devil loves an empty mind.  He'll do his best to fill  it with his imaginings and broodings and worse.

The repetition  is also physically damaging. Remember that repetiton is behind RSI, repetitive stress injury, where nerves get injured and people get carpal tunnel syndrome?

Besides all this, I truly believe that playing computer games are a type of sloth, and I confess it that way.  All the hours that could have been used to do my duty, lost.

When I try to pray or go to sleep, the bright images of the jewels falling down the screen float before my eyes, and when I'm dreaming my mind is often frustratedly trying to match the combinations, to solve the puzzle of how they all fit together. I am only too well aware of the weakening of my body and my will …  After a long siege of playing, my attention span is pretty shot. I can only do any one thing for a minute at a time. After all those hundred and maybe thousands of hours, I've been programmed that way.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Taking the Eucharist to the Streets

Corpus Christi Procession Through the Streets of Rome
On June 15, 2014, Pope Francis invited Romans and visitors to join the upcoming Corpus Christi Mass and procession on Thursday June 19, on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi[1] . The observance of the Feast begins with a Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which is the Cathedral where the pope officiates as Bishop of Rome. A procession then follows the Mass with the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a gold and jewel-studded monstrance that is carried under a canopy. The procession wends its way a mile and a half to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where it ends with a final Benediction.  The Mass in honor of the feast and the procession through the streets of Rome between these two very impressive major basilicas take place in the evening, and those who have been fortunate enough to participate say the Mass is beautiful, and the candlelight procession is stunning.

Timing Is Almost Everything

In most countries, the Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated on the traditional date of the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, which is the first Sunday after Pentecost. In the United States, Canada, and parts of Spain, the bishops have transferred the Solemnity of the Feast of Corpus Christi to the following Sunday.

The official title of this feast is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (Sollemnitas Sanctissimi Corporis et Sanguinis Christi), but the feast is commonly referred to as Corpus Christi. Where it is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi is a holyday of obligation and it is also a public holiday in many predominantly Catholic countries, including “Austria, Brazil, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, East Timor, parts of Germany, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Panama, Peru, Poland, San Marino, parts of Spain and Switzerland, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago”[2].

At individual churches and oratories where the pre-Vatican II (pre-Councilar) rites are observed the Solemnity is often celebrated on the traditional date on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, but it also may be celebrated on the following Sunday by these groups, because of pastoral considerations. At a growing number of locations, Corpus Christi processions are being made after the Mass of the feast, whether the Mass is in the Ordinary or the Extraordinary Form, and whether the feast is observed on the traditional Thursday or transferred to the following Sunday.

Just in the San Francisco Bay Area alone, the following randomly selected examples illustrate some of the very different ways that the feast may be observed.
•    The Mass for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi is being celebrated as a sung High Mass in the Extraordinary Form without a procession at St. Margaret Mary Church in Oakland on Thursday the 19th. On following Sunday, the 22nd, the Solemnity will be celebrated with two Masses  at the same church, one in the Ordinary Form and one in the Extraordinary Form and both will be followed by Eucharistic processions.
•    Across the Bay, Star of the Sea Church in San Francisco had advertised a Solemn High Mass to be offered on Thursday the 19th, followed by a Eucharistic Procession on the “Streets of San Francisco.”
•    In Palo Alto on the San Francisco peninsula, the St. Ann choir will sing Josquin Des Prez’s polyphonic Mass setting, Missa Pange lingua, at an Ordinary Form Mass in Latin on Sunday, June 22, at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, followed by a procession of the Blessed Sacrament.

Why Does the Church take the Eucharist to the Streets?

Corpus Christi processions bring the Blessed Sacrament out from the church buildings into the world, because the Church wants to share this immense gift of God with everyone.  St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis’ namesake, had this to say about the Eucharist, “For one in such a lofty position to stoop so low is a marvel that is staggering. What sublime humility and humble sublimity, that the Lord of the Universe, the Divine Son of God, should so humble Himself as to hide under the appearance of bread for our Salvation!”

"The feast of Corpus Christi is one time when our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is exposed not just to faithful Catholics but to all the world. This is a time when Catholics can show their love for Christ in the Real Presence by honoring Him in a very public way. It is also a wonderful way in which we can show our love for our neighbors by bringing Our Lord and Savior closer to them. So many conversions are a result of Eucharistic Adoration experienced from inside the Church. How many more there would be if we could reach those who only drive by the church in worldly pursuits."--Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association

When in Rome Do As the Polish Do

In many countries elaborate Corpus Christi processions have been held for centuries and still being held today in cities and in towns. But for about a hundred years, in Rome, Italy, the center of Roman Catholicism, these processions were only held within the confines of St. Peter’s Square, which is within the boundaries of the autonomous Vatican state, not technically part of Italy at all.

In 1982, Pope St. John Paul II, remembering the elaborate processions through the streets of his native Poland, brought the Corpus Christi procession out of St. Peter’s Square and back to the streets and the people of Rome. His successors, Benedict XVI and now Francis continue the Roman Corpus Christi processions to this day. “Pope John Paul wanted the Blessed Sacrament carried into the city, where the people lived, as they did in Poland.”
Remembering Corpus Christi with Pope John Paul II--Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, "Today's Catholic News," posted May 28, 2013.

Polish Corpus Christi Procession with Infant of Prague Statue
Vatican II Did Not Downplay Eucharistic Adoration, Said Pope Benedict XVI

In a 2012 CNS article titled, "Vatican II did not downplay eucharistic adoration, pope says," Pope Benedict XVI clarified a mistaken impression held by many that "eucharistic adoration and Corpus Christi processions are pietistic practices that pale in importance to the celebration of Mass."

Celebration and adoration are not in competition, the pope said. "Worshipping the Blessed Sacrament constitutes something like the spiritual environment in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth. ...

"It is true that Christ inaugurated a new form of worship, one tied less to a place and a ritual and more to his person, but people still need 'signs and rites,' the pope said. In fact, without its annual Corpus Christi procession, "the spiritual profile of Rome" would change.

St. Thomas Aquinas and the Liturgies of Corpus Christi

When Pope Urban IV added the feast of Corpus Christi to the Church's liturgical calendar in 1264, he asked St. Thomas Aquinas to write the liturgy. St. Thomas wrote the famous Sequence (a poem that precedes the Gospel) for the Mass of day, the Lauda Sion Salvatorem (Sion, Lift Up thy Voice and Sing).  St. Thomas is widely fcknown for his brilliance, but he is perhaps less known for his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He was even seen levitating before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer.

Lauda Sion Salvatorum

Sion, lift thy voice and sing:
Praise thy Savior and thy King;
Praise with hymns thy Shepherd true:
Dare thy most to praise Him well;
For He doth all praise excel;
None can ever reach His due.

Special theme of praise is Thine,
That true living Bread divine,
That life-giving flesh adored,
Which the brethren twelve received,
As most faithfully believed,
At the Supper of the Lord.

Let the chant be loud and high;
Sweet and tranquil be the joy
Felt to-day in every breast;
On this festival divine
Which recounts the origin
Of the glorious Eucharist.

As described in Corpus Christi: Our Debt to St. Thomas Aquinas by Stephanie A. Mann, which was posted at Catholic Exchange on June 7, 2012: "St. Thomas also wrote a hymn for Vespers: Pange Lingua (Sing, tongue, the mystery of the glorious Body), from which we have the Tantum Ergo (Down in Adoration Falling) verses sung at Benediction. … His hymn for Matins, Sacris Solemniis (Sacred Solemnity), includes the great Panis Angelicus (Bread of Angels) meditation … From the third hymn, for Lauds, Verbum Supernum Prodiens (Word Descending from Above), we take the other Benediction hymn, O Salutaris Hostia (O Saving Victim).

"Finally, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote a hymn of Eucharistic thanksgiving, Adore Te Devote (Devoutly I Adore Thee)."

Adoro Te Devote

Godhead here in hiding
Whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows,
Shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at Thy service
Low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder
At the God Thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting
Are in Thee deceived;
How says trusty hearing?
That shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me,
Take for truth I do;
Truth Himself speaks truly
Or there’s nothing true.

On the cross Thy Godhead
Made no sign to men;
Here Thy very manhood
Steals from human ken:
Both are my confession,
Both are my belief;
And I pray the prayer
Of the dying thief.

I am not like Thomas,
Wounds I cannot see,
But I plainly call Thee
Lord and God as he;
This faith each day deeper
Be my holding of,
Daily make me harder
Hope and dearer love.

In his 2003 encyclical on the Holy Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope St. John Paul II praised St. Thomas Aquinas as "an impassioned poet of Christ in the Eucharist," and rightly so.

[1] EWTN has currently scheduled broadcasts of the three hour Holy Mass at St. John Lateran and the Eucharistic Procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major for Thursday 06/19/2014, 1:00 PM ET and Friday 06/20/2014, 12:00 AM ET. Click here for local times.
[2] Corpus Christi (feast), from Wikipedia

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Propers Not Hymns! Response to Does This Cartoon Sound Rude? By Jeff Ostrowski

The following quote and poster were copied from published 14 January 2014 by Jeff Ostrowski at Corpus Christi Watershed blog, with a suggested revision by me and an essay on the issues raised by the poster (with comments by Prof. William Mahrt, President of the Church Music Association of America) that follow.

"DOES THIS CARTOON come across as rude? What do you think?
If our tone is rude, we won’t win anybody to our cause … It was supposed to be a “lighthearted” way to point out that volunteer musicians shouldn’t have to be Theologians, but somehow the “humor” sounds snarky to my ear."
6229 Graduale Romanum 
I don't think the cartoon is rude, but I don't think it makes the point. Here is my first suggested revision of the wording. Also see the final revision below:
Hi, I'm Mike, and I'm the volunteer Music Director at my parish.
I choose the music that is played at Mass from the hymns in the back of the worship aid. Parishioners  seem to like the fact that the same hymns are played most of the time, except for Christmas and Easter, when we use seasonal hymns. I'm doing what the pastor expects, and it's the same thing that's done at all Catholic churches I've even been to. Are you saying there's another way to pick the music for Mass?
Hi, I'm Jeff, and I work a Corpus Christi Watershed, where we provide worship aids that promote reverent celebrations of the Mass, as they were actually envisioned by Vatican II in documents on the liturgy.
You don't have to pick the music any more!
After the new Mass was introduced in 1969, it took a long time for guidance to come from the Vatican about what music should be used, so most parishes got in the habit of using hymns during Mass.
Most people who pick music for Mass are not aware that the Church actually recommends that the Propers, which in the Ordinary Form Mass are the Entrance (formerly the Introit), the Offertory, and the Communion for each day, should be sung at their proper place in the Mass, and that hymns are extras. The Propers are Biblical texts, and they are an intrinsic part of the liturgy.  You can find the Propers in the Roman Gradual, the Simple English Propers, and in the recently released St. Issac Jogues Missal and Hymnal. Check them out.

My Comeuppance

I posted this at Facebook, and I was happy that Jeffrey Morse, former music director at St. Stephens, Sacramento, wrote a comment. He wrote that it's not a case of either hymns or propers. I can't say the propers should always be sung at Mass, since they are only sung by the choir.

In reply to his comment, I asked him the following questions: What should be the norm in Ordinary Form Masses? What if they only have a cantor? Where is a hymn appropriate to use in a low Mass when there is no choir? I'm assuming that the congregation should sing the Ordinary at any Mass, right? At a Mass without a choir, what should be done? I am bewildered. No answer yet.

Answers from Chant Scholar William Mahrt

Professor William Mahrt was kind enough to reply to an email I sent him with the above questions. I still need to digest what he wrote a bit more.

To summarize, I believe he is  saying that at a High Mass the Propers should be sung by a choir and the Ordinary (Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Kyrie) should be sung by the congregation (and the choir).  For various reasons spelled out in detail in the quote from his email below, hymns are "not a good fit" for the Mass. Their places is in the Divine Office. He's also suggesting  that at a Low Mass, the congregation should sing the Ordinary of the Mass but not the Propers.

Recap of my questions:

What should be the norm  for the use of hymns in Ordinary Form Masses? What if they only have a cantor? Where is a hymn appropriate to use in a low Mass when there is no choir? How about in a high Mass? I'm assuming that the congregation should sing the Ordinary at any Mass, right? At a Mass without a choir, what should be done?

Answers from Prof. Mahrt:
For a high Mass, the propers should be sung, preferably by a choir, which then can sing the authentic Gregorian melodies. This leaves the Ordinary to be sung by the congregation, if it is in Gregorian chant. Sometimes at such Masses, a recessional hymn is sung, but I think this is gilding the lily; moreover, congregations often don’t want to sing after the Mass; the celebrant leave, they want to also. Simpler settings of the propers may allow the congregation to sing them, but that poses difficulties, since the whole point of the propers is to have texts that change from Sunday to Sunday.
I believe that the Ordinary is in principle the domain of the congregation. If they can sing Gregorian ordinaries well, this is a lot of singing; there is little need for hymns, particularly if the choir sings the proper. This should not, however, rule out the singing of a polyphonic Mass. In my experience, our congregation sings the ordinary in Gregorian chants the Sundays of the year. For Solemnities, we sing a polyphonic  ordinary. Members of the congregation relate that when they have been singing the ordinary regularly, they are well prepared to hear the polyphonic setting, and they do not perceive it as having usurped the congregation’s role. One person in the last fifty years has objected to the polyphonic ordinary.
A cantor can sing the propers, especially if it is clear that they accompany another action, which should be the focus of the congregation’s attention. 
Hymns can be used at a low Mass in the ordinary form, but it still would be better if the ordinary were sung. The common observance is to use hymns to replace the introit, offertory, and communion, sometimes adding a “recessional.” 
There are a number of objections to the singing of hymns; briefly:
1) The texts of the hymns vary greatly in quality, the poetry is often quite trite and somewhat subjective. This is a striking contrast with the texts of the psalms, which are generally the basis of the propers. 
2) The number of hymns generally used is limited, and so they are repeated frequently; this does not fulfill the role of the propers in which the propers vary every Sunday in the year, giving each Sunday a unique character. 
3) The genre of hymn belongs to the Divine Office, where it has a place of being sung for its own sake, rather than being a substitute for a proper, which has the function of accompanying another rite. 
4) Hymns usually have a number of verses, which form a coherent whole; when they are used as proper substitutes, they take quite a bit longer than the ceremony they are supposed to accompany. This almost always means that only the first two or three verses are sung. 
5) The music of hymns is “four-square,” with regular meter and strong beat, features which make it time-bound, in contrast with the Gregorian chants, whose free rhythm is evocative of eternity.
In short, the hymn is not a very good fit with the Catholic liturgy.
Professor Mahrt explains it all to you

After reading Prof. Mahrt's remarks above and adding his insights to what I know about the requirements of Catholic liturgical music, I would change part of what I wrote above to the following (although I admit it is much too wordy for a poster):

You don't have to pick the music any more!  The Church has done it for you. After the new Mass was introduced in 1969, guidance from the Vatican about what music should be used during Ordinary Form Masses was a long time in coming, so most parishes got in the habit of singing hymns.
The fact is that Mass music should almost always consist of  Gregorian chant settings of Biblical texts, which are usually portions of the Psalms. The texts themselves are sacred because they are part of Holy Scripture, inspired by the Holy Ghost. The sacred texts set to sacred music have developed as part of the Mass over the millennia.  And the music is sacred because it is used only for worship.
To know what needs to be sung, you need to know a Proper from an Ordinary and a High (sung) Mass from a Low Mass. The Propers are the texts that change every day in the liturgical year. In the Ordinary Form Mass, the Propers are the Entrance (formerly the Introit), the Offertory, and the Communion.  The Propers are recited by the priest and should also sung by a choir or cantor at high Masses. The Proper texts are an intrinsic part of each day's liturgy, and logically singing of the Propers should not be replaced with hymns.
The Ordinary of the Mass consists of the texts that do not change, the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Credo, and Agnus Dei.  The Ordinary is recited by the priest and should be sung at High Masses by the congregation (and the choir).
Sacred polyphony, which is based on chant,  is also allowed at certain parts of the Mass, such as after the Offertory. Hymns may perhaps be allowed at the recessional, but preferably not at all.

You can find the Propers in the Roman Gradual, the Simple English Propers, and you can find the Propers and settings for the Ordinary along with liturgically sound hymns in the recently released St. Issac Jogues Missal and Hymnal.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

SF Couple's Prayers Answered After 50 Years

Traditional Latin Mass Returns to Their Childhood Parishes

Photos by Roseanne T. Sullivan unless otherwise noted

Here's a little story about how the traditional Latin Mass has recently become more widely available in San Francisco and how that gladdened the hearts of one long-time San Francisco family. This story also explains some of the back-story and the reasons this change is being made.

A few months ago, while I was preparing for an interview with Archbishop Cordileone and for an accompanying article that I finally submitted to The Latin Mass magazine this past Thursday, I spoke to Mary Richard, a homeschooling mother of seven, who was born and raised in the city of San Francisco, after we got out of Mass in San Jose one day.*

I told Mary some of the encouraging things I have been learning about initiatives the archbishop has been taking during the year and a half he has been in office to make the traditional Latin Mass more available in the San Francisco archdiocese and to promote more-reverent celebration of all liturgies.

One big piece of the news I told Mary is that Archbishop Cordileone had asked Star of the Sea pastor, Fr. Mark Mazza, to learn and celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. The result is that the traditional Latin Mass is no longer being relegated to being celebrated by only at out of the way locations on odd days of the week at odd hours, but instead it is now being celebrated once again in a centrally-located regular parish in San Francisco by a regular parish priest during regular Sunday Mass hours** (before noon). Fr. Mazza also celebrates the traditional Latin Low Mass at 7:30 a.m. Monday to Friday and on First Fridays at 6:30 p.m.

Fr. Mark Mazza celebrating an Extraordinary Form Low Mass on First Friday, January 2014

Archbishop Cordileone often participates in traditional liturgies, as shown in this photo of him in chorus*** at the Solemn Pontifical Mass celebrated by Fr. Mark Mazza in honor of his 33rd Anniversary as a Priest--Photo by Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco

I also told Mary that I had recently interviewed Fr. William Young, who also celebrates a traditional Latin Mass every Monday to Saturday at 12 noon**** at St. Monica parish not too far away from Star of the Sea parish. Mary already knew about him. Fr. Young has a unique history in what Archbishop Cordileone jokingly referred to as "the liturgy wars," since Fr. Young couldn't make himself celebrate the new Mass as a young priest and got himself in trouble by preaching against it from the pulpit at his first parish.
Fr. Young in his residence at St. Monica's Rector
The archdiocese's human resources director arranged for Fr. Young to get an out-of-the way assignment where he could continue saying the pre-Councilar Mass for a captive audience without causing any more trouble. In recent years, he has been allowed to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass in more-public chapels and churches, because restrictions on this form of the Mass have been loosened. (I plan to write more soon about Fr. Young and other Bay Area priests who managed to continue saying the traditional Latin Mass, sometimes under the diocesan radar.) His status as more of a floater is in contrast to Fr. Mazza's status as a pastor, so the unique thing about what's going on at Star of the Sea is that the traditional Latin Mass is being said regularly (but not exclusively) in that parish by its pastor.

At Immaculate Conception Chapel, also within city limits, Fr. Young also celebrates the traditional Latin Mass every Sunday at 5 p.m., after he celebrates another Mass in San Rafael, across the Golden Gate bridge in Marin county at 12:15 p.m.

Extraordinary Form Mass Locations in San Francisco City Limits

Archbishop Cordileone's Benedictine Approach

While researching several articles I've been writing on this topic, I also learned that Archbishop Cordileone's initiatives are intended to implement the liturgical directives of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict is the author of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum that was released on July 7, 2007, almost seven years ago, to the relief of many lovers of the traditional Latin Mass. After 27 years of ostracism, Summorum Pontificum defended the traditional Latin Mass as never having been abrogated, named it the “Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite,” affirmed it was just as validly a part of the Roman Rite as the Ordinary Form, and gave permission for the Extraordinary Form to be celebrated more freely with fewer restrictions.

Less well-known, but equally influential, is his book Spirit of the Liturgy, which was published by Ignatius Press while he was still Cardinal Ratzinger in 2000.

Spirit of the Liturgy by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 2000, Ignatius Press. A great read!

I think it's a fair summary to say that Archbishop Cordileone is encouraging seminarians and priests to learn how to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass**** and is making it more available in parishes because he agrees with Pope Benedict XVI that the beauty and majesty of the traditional Mass is an tool in the new evangelization. Here is his answer to one related question in the interview that I recently submitted to The Latin Mass magazine:
Q: What place do you see the Extraordinary Form Mass having in the archdiocese now and in the future?

A: I am trying to promote Pope Benedict’s vision: To make this form of the Mass more easily available for the faithful. Educate them about it.

I think it’s one useful tool of evangelization among others that we have. Some people are just naturally drawn to it and appreciate the beauty and majesty of it. Maybe not everyone will be, but there are those who will be. So let’s make it available to people and see how it goes.

So I would see it as more of being an organic growth. It needs to directed by the leadership, but it should happen in a more kind of organic sense. If it’s easily available to people, and they understand and are educated in it, we’ll see what effect it will have on the renewal of the Church.

When I told Mary Richard  what I had learned, she reminded me that her family had lived in San Francisco for many years and said that this was indeed great news. Her parents, John and Jane Schaeffer,  had been appalled by the changes made to the Mass in 1970. The family obediently but reluctantly attended the approved new Mass while they worked and prayed from within the Church for the restoration of the traditional form of the Mass for almost 50 years. Her father used to sputter after Mass, "That's a Protestant service!" and her mother used to try to hush him, "Don't say that!"

Super Mass Man

The name of another mutual friend, Doug Zeitz, came up during my interview with the archbishop. I told Archbishop Cordileone that I and many others are very happy that he is open to the traditional Latin Mass. "That reminds me," I said, "Do you know Doug Zeitz?"

"I know Doug."

It would be hard for him to miss Doug. Doug is a zealous Catholic, husband, and father of three daughters and two sons, who spends most of his spare time helping facilitate the traditional Latin Mass wherever it is being said in the Bay Area. At least it seems to me that's what he's doing, because almost everywhere I go to Mass around the Bay, there he is, and he usually has his sons in tow. For example, while Cordileone was still bishop of Oakland, he told Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, to start offering the Extraordinary Form Mass at his parish, St. Edward the Confessor in Newark, CA, near where the Zeitz family lives in Fremont, and Doug and his sons went to St. Edward's weekly to serve and help train the other serves. Doug and his two boys served at Fr. Keyes' first public celebration and many others since then.  Doug did the same for a fledging clerical association, the Contemplatives of St. Joseph, after Bishop Cordileone left Oakland to become Archbishop of San Francisco and told the contemplatives to learn and start celebrating the traditional Mass at Mater Dolorosa in South San Francisco.

I said to the archbishop, "When I told Doug that I was going to interview you, he said to say 'Thank you for all the Latin Masses in San Francisco.'"

The archbishop seemed pleased. I went on, "You know, I think of Doug Zeitz kind of as Super Latin Mass Man. Whenever there's a traditional Latin Mass being started in the Bay Area, you're going to see him and his sons there helping make it happen." He chuckled at that, and then we moved on ….


Many fervent Catholics, like Mary Richard's parents, who might have otherwise accepted the new Mass were turned off because many priests apparently thought the new Missal gave them permission--or even required them--to improvise*****. The impressive Catholic liturgy whose prayers and music had developed over the millennia into an advanced state of artistic and reverent worship had been changed into what I eventually began to think of as a weekly Catholic-lite version of Ted Mack Amateur hour. On a related note, I often think of how Mother Angelica once quipped that the Catholic Church is now the Electric Church, because, as she said, every time you go you get a shock.

In his letter to the bishops that accompanied Summorum Pontificum in 2007, Pope Benedict frankly stated his own observation that many fervent Catholics wanted to hold onto the old form of the liturgy, not because they are sentimentally attached, but because many uncalled for innovations were introduced into celebrations of the new form of the liturgy, innovations that deformed the new Mass and hid its merits.

The desire of at least some of those who wanted to recover the old form of liturgy "occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorising or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear ... caus(ing) deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.” 

Pope Benedict recommended more faithful observance of the Missal of Paul VI as the only way to prove that the new Mass could be as spiritually rich and theologically deep as the form of the Mass it had replaced: "The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal."


It is not only shocking but also baffling for me to look back at the past almost-fifty years and realize that those who loved the beauty and reverence of the pre-Councilar Mass were totally denied access to it and and were belittled for their preference for it. Priests were punished who wanted to keep on celebrating it. Father Young told me in an interview last month that even though he was happily assigned to an out of the way hospital ministry in which he was allowed to continue to say the pre-1969 Mass, other diocesan priests who continued to say it were removed by their bishops from their ministries.

I wasn't around for the change-over from the 1962 Mass according to the Missal of Pope St. John XXII to the 1970 Mass of Pope Paul VI, because I had left the Church in 1963 as a college freshman in an adolescent cloud of intellectual pridefulness. When I came back a humbled believer in the mid-1970s, after trying out just about every other competing set of beliefs along a spectrum from existentialist rejection of bourgeois mores to hippy LSD experimentation to Protestant fundamentalism, to my surprise I found that the Church I thought I was coming back to was practically unrecognizable. Even though I accepted the changed Mass in English with the priest facing the people along with more participation by lay people, I grew over the years to be uncomfortable with what Pope Benedict called deformations of the liturgy that I saw week after week. I began singing in the St. Ann choir that sang Gregorian chant and polyphony in Latin at Ordinary Form Masses, and then was drawn to the traditional Latin Mass when I started to help out with a new choir being formed at a diocesan-approved Oratory where only Extraordinary Form Masses were celebrated.

Even though I don't have space to go into much more detail, I want to mention that Archbishop Cordileone has started several other initiatives that not only make the Extraordinary Form Mass more available but also will help to remove the deformations in how the Ordinary Form of the Mass is sometimes celebrated. To that end, for example, he created the aptly named Benedict XVI Institute of Sacred Music and Divine Liturgy at the St. Patrick's Archdiocesan Seminary to educate interested seminarians in the Extraordinary Form and to form both future priests and any laity who perform ministries during Ordinary Form Masses so they can celebrate and worship at the Mass reverently in a manner consistent with actual Church liturgical directives and authentic doctrine*****.


It must have been heartbreaking for those who lived through the changes while they were made at one blow with no exceptions allowed. It makes me sad to hear about what happened to lovers of the traditional Mass, especially about the disdain that came their way. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the following about how people who loved the traditional form of the Mass were treated as lepers and how intolerant his otherwise tolerant "episcopal brethren" were being.

"For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church’s whole past. How can one trust her present if things are that way? I must say, quite openly, that I don’t understand why so any of my episcopal brethren have to a great extent submitted to this rule of intolerance, which for no apparent reason is opposed to making the necessary inner reconciliations within the Church. … I must say, quite openly, that I don't understand why so many of my episcopal brethren have to a great extent submitted to this rule of intolerance… ."
J. Ratzinger, God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald</em>, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002, 416.


To provide an alternative to the trend Mary's parents and their peers also perceived in Catholic education after the Second Vatican Council--away from the traditional doctrines of the Catholic Church--they supported the founders of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA in 1971 every way they could. Mary was a freshman during the first year the college was on the Santa Paula campus, she and her three sisters graduated from there, her oldest son graduated last year and is preparing to marry a lovely young home-schooled woman from Iowa who he met there as a fellow student, and Mary's two daughters are currently also students there. The following quote is from an article, John E. Schaeffer,  at the Thomas Aquinas website, which is a quite interesting account of the major contribution the Schaeffers made to the college, once they found out  it was going to be "genuinely Catholic."

One afternoon in 1968, Mrs. Schaeffer went in search of the offices of the small Catholic college she and her husband had read about in National Review. It was due to open in a year or two within Dominican College, and the Schaeffers hoped it would be the answer to their prayers. She learned firsthand about the proposed school from founding President Ronald P. McArthur , who asked if she thought her husband might be willing to help them with the project. Having been convinced of the genuinely Catholic and academic nature of the proposed college, her response was immediate: “Of course he will!”

Mary's favorite part of the news she heard from me is that the traditional Latin Mass is now available again at both Star of the Sea and St. Monica's churches in San Francisco. She is delighted because they are her parents' old parishes where they attended Mass and received the sacraments as children. Mary told me that her parents will be very happy their prayers were answered and their hard work bore spiritual fruit after such a long time. Her father is deceased, so "He knows," she said, with an gentle, ironic smile. Mary has since then tried to communicate the good news to her mother, who is in her nineties and failing a bit mentally, and Mary is pretty sure that her mother understands too and is glad.

* * After Mary Richard married, she later moved with her family to San Jose. When we spoke, we had just attended a weekday traditional Latin Mass, which is celebrated at beautiful Five Wounds Portuguese National Church five minutes from my home in the San Jose diocese, at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Oratory that was established by San Jose's Bishop Patrick McGrath this year.

**For how Fr. Mazza learned and began to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass, see my Regina Magazine article: After 50 Years, There’s a TLM in San Fran. Note: I tried to get the editor to change the headline she put on my article, since, as I told her, nobody around here calls the city “San Fran” (or “Frisco,” for that matter), and the traditional Mass had actually had almost continually been celebrated in said "San Fran" with archdiocesan permission by Fr. William Young ever since the new Mass was mandated, but I couldn't get her to change it.

*** in chorus. In traditional liturgies when a priest, bishop, or archbishop is present at a Mass celebrated by another priest, bishop, or archbishop, he usually assists in chorus (in choro) , except when he is a priest and is needed to fulfill the role of the deacon or subdeacon. The “choir” in this case is not the singers but the clergy who attend Mass seated in the sanctuary.

****Both Star of the Sea and St. Monica's are on Geary Boulevard, which explains the title of this related article from Catholic San Francisco "Geary Boulevard is new Latin Mass row".
***** For an example of improvisation liturgies of the kind that many find objectionable, see this
--> "video "Urban Fusion Mass" that ended the 2014 L.A. Religious Education Conference:
Above: Photo from the opening rite (not a Mass, but still)
Below, photos from the linked video of the Urban Fusion Mass.

***** Articles about some of the archbishop’s other related intiatives:
• “New Liturgical Institute in San Francisco” Regina Magazine. December 11, 2013.
• “The Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music,” New Liturgical Movement website, January 30, 2014.

• “New California Men’s Order Will Teach Roman Liturgy,” Regina Magazine, January 23, 2014.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sure and His Was a Wonderful Life: Part III

St. Patrick’s Vision of the Dimming of Ireland’s Faith

Since St. Patrick’s Day is upon us, there is only time for me to write one more post about him and his doings. (See Sure and His Was a Wonderful Life: Part I -- Magonus Succetus: The Boy Who Would Be St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland and Sure and His Was a Wonderful Life: Part II -- Did St. Patrick Drive the Snakes Out of Ireland? for two other related posts.) One simple rule I learned while teaching others how to write in the past has helped me make the difficult decision on what final topic I would choose to write about out of my copious notes about many compelling stories and interesting controversies about St. Patrick’s life and work in Ireland.

I learned this simple rule (abbreviated as WIRMI) at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis while doing graduate work on an MA in English with an emphasis in writing. (Students in that program would take courses in English along with courses in various genres of writing, and their master’s theses would be collections of their own writing; in my case my master’s thesis consisted of my own fiction, poetry, memoir pieces, and feature articles.) The head of the U of MINN MPLS composition department hired me and other graduate students, most of whom had never taught before, as instructors and put on workshops to coach them and give them support.

I had learned to write well by assimilating the authors I had devoured while reading constantly ever since I first learned to read. But I found out that for most students writing didn’t come naturally and that some skills could be taught. One of the things they taught us in the workshops was for instructors to tell students to ask themselves certain helpful questions before and while they wrote -- such as: “Who cares?” (It’s kind of funny, but "Who cares?" actually is useful to make a new writer think about what audience is intended for a piece of writing under construction and also give a thought to whether the intended audience would find the topic interesting.)

I also learned to teach students not to try to write a piece all in one sitting, but instead to write drafts with their inner critics turned off, to get their ideas flowing. Then I would tell them they should do the following after they wrote one or more drafts, “After you look at all the words you’ve gotten down, pretend you are starting your next draft with ‘What I really mean is . . .” I would write ‘WIRMI’ on the whiteboard.

WIRMI has often been helpful for me in my writing life. It has caused me to delete many a first paragraph or larger chunk at the start of a piece of writing that on second reading proved to be obviously a wind-up to what I really wanted to say. After I applied the WIRMI test to my wealth of the topics about the life of St. Patrick, the answer to what I really wanted to say with the time I have left came out as follows.

All the current speculation aside about whether St. Patrick really drove out snakes from Ireland, whether Ireland ever had any snakes, whether the snakes in the stories were really metaphorical Druids, or whether while escaping from slavery the saint was asked by sailors to perform a perverse bonding ritual, about which I wrote some things in my first two posts, not to mention the fascinating question of whether he ever used a shamrock to teach about the Trinity, which I never got around to, what I really want to make sure to write about are the alarming indications that the Irish are losing the faith that Patrick labored so mightily to enlighten them with. And then I want to tell you one of the stories from the life of St. Patrick that gives hope for a brighter future even though the light of the faith seems to be flickering these days in the Emerald Isle.

By the time he died, St. Patrick had baptized tens of thousands. As an old man, Patrick looked back on his life and wrote, “Those who never had a knowledge of God but worshipped idols and things impure, have now become a people of the Lord, sons of God." Within a century after his death, Ireland was predominantly Catholic, and the faith of the Irish was so strong that Ireland established monasteries and schools and sent out missionaries around the world. This preeminence of the Irish in Catholicism lasted over a thousand years. When I was a child, most of the priests here in the U.S. still were Irish, some born in America, some born and trained in Ireland.

When in 1898, Archbishop Patrick Reardon of the Archdiocese of San Francisco (where I now live) dedicated a seminary that he had built to train priests locally, to reduce the dependence on Irish priests, he said this at the seminary's dedication, "I have placed this work under the patronage of a great Apostle, St. Patrick, not indeed for personal reasons, but because he is the patron saint of a great Catholic race which has suffered more than any other for religion's sake, the most devoted, the most generous, and most priest-loving race within the fold of the Church of Christ."

Above: Two images from St. Patrick's Seminary of the Archdiocese of San Francisco

The Way It Was in the Early 60s

Until 1970, you couldn’t get a drink in Ireland for the life of you on St. Patrick’s Day. All the pubs were closed by law. It was a religious holiday, a solemnity, and holyday of obligation, which meant mandatory Mass attendance.

For example of what it was like before 1970, here’s this one account from a 2012 article of what it was like fifty-odd years ago for an Irish immigrant priest, Father John Lynes, when he was a boy: “Mobile area Irish faith leaders recall spirituality of St. Patrick's Day."

“When the Rev. John Lynes, pastor of Little Flower Church in Mobile, was a boy in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was a time of prayer and reflection.

"’It was a 100-percent religious holiday,’ said Lynes, 55, who grew up in Tipperary. In addition to going to Mass with his family, Lynes learned the story of St. Patrick — who converted the pagans of Ireland to Christianity in the 5th century. Places having to do with the life of St. Patrick, he said, were ‘sites of pilgrimage, all very penitential.’

“He described a high school excursion climbing Croagh Patrick — the hill of St. Patrick — going barefoot up 'the rugged, rough mountain. At the top there was an altar and cross, and prayers were said.’

“The American notion of St. Patrick’s Day as a party with green beer, leprechauns and ‘Kiss Me, I’m Irish,’ was in contrast to the day of holy obligation in the Irish Catholic Church.

“‘I never saw anything green on St. Patrick’s Day,’ Lynes said, ‘until I came to America.’"

Some say that blue is the true color of St. Patrick, but that's another story.

The Way It Was In 1979

This second clue about the state of Ireland’s religious beliefs from the more recent past is from Pope John Paul II. For years I would pray while driving around in my car listening to tape recordings of Pope John Paul saying the Rosary in Latin, until the tapes started to wear out. The tape on the Glorious Mysteries also included excerpts from a sermon that the pope gave at the shrine of Knock in Ireland in 1979. Here are some excerpts of his prayer to Our Lady on that occasion: “Help this land to stay true to you and your Son always. May prosperity never cause Irish men and women to forget God or abandon their faith. Keep them faithful in prosperity to the faith they would not surrender in poverty and persecution. Save them from greed, from envy, from seeking selfish or sectional interest. … Queen of Ireland, Mary Mother of the heavenly and earthly Church, a Mháthair Dé, keep Ireland true to her spiritual tradition and her Christian heritage. Help her to respond to her historic mission of bringing the light of Christ to the nations, and so making the glory of God be the honour of Ireland.”

Soon after the pope’s visit there in 1979, the Celtic Tiger phenomena of steeply rising incomes got loose to wreak damage across the land. From 1990s to the 2000s, Ireland experienced all the temptations of prosperity, followed by greed and envy. People went from trying to cash in on the technology boom to trying to strike it rich by selling houses to one another for higher and higher prices. The Celtic Tiger rise in prosperity in Ireland was short lived like other bubbles. The bubble broke in 2008. Many lost their jobs, many were left bankrupt because of job loss or speculations, and many lost their homes.

Prosperity may have lured many of the Irish people away from the old ways. But then the scandals about sexual abuse by priests rocked people’s faith some more.

The Way It Was in 2009

Attendance at Mass, the percentage of Catholic weddings and funerals, and Catholic piety began to decline.

By March 17, 2009, Cardinal Sean Brady, archbishop of Armagh and primate of Ireland, was asking the Irish people to rediscover the faith. In a St. Patrick's Day message, the cardinal wrote, "St. Patrick’s Day unites Irish people all over the world" due to the saint's image as a "symbol of Irish history and of Irish heritage." But he went on, St. Patrick’s Day is "not just to celebrate Irish culture and identity, but also to remember the man who described himself as an ambassador for God and who prayed that it might never happen that he should lose the people which God had won for himself at the end of the earth."

The Way It Was in 441

When reading the account of St. Patrick’s life from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1911, I realize there is great hope for the Old Sod yet. St. Patrick extracted a promise from God that although the faith in Ireland would dim for a while, it would shine bright once again and then never go out.

It all happened after St. Patrick undertook his famous Lenten fast on Croagh Patrick, where pilgrims are still climbing in his memory and visiting the place where he stayed. The Book of Armagh, a manuscript written in the 8th century, states that, like Christ and Moses, Saint Patrick fasted on the summit of a "Holy Hill" for forty days and forty nights and also built a church there. Also like Moses, St. Patrick bargained with God.

“His only shelter from the fury of the elements, the wind and rain, the hail and snow, was a cave, or recess, in the solid rock; and the flagstone on which he rested his weary limbs at night is still pointed out. The whole purpose of his prayer was to obtain special blessings and mercy for the Irish race, whom he evangelized.”
St. Patrick's Bed on Croagh Armagh.

He may or may not have driven out any snakes but he drove out a flock of demons. “The demons that made Ireland their battlefield mustered all their strength to tempt the saint and disturb him in his solitude, and turn him away, if possible, from his pious purpose. They gathered around the hill in the form of vast flocks of hideous birds of prey. So dense were their ranks that they seemed to cover the whole mountain, like a cloud, and they so filled the air that Patrick could see neither sky nor earth nor ocean. St. Patrick besought God to scatter the demons, but for a time it would seem as if his prayers and tears were in vain. At length he rang his sweet-sounding bell, symbol of his preaching of the Divine truths. Its sound was heard all over the valleys and hills of Erin, everywhere bringing peace and joy. The flocks of demons began to scatter, He flung his bell among them; they took to precipitate flight, and cast themselves into the ocean.

“So complete was the saint's victory over them that, as the ancient narrative adds, "for seven years no evil thing was to be found in Ireland."

St. Patrick felt that after the penitential purifications of his fast, he had the right to demand a lot of promises from God for the people he loved. “He had vanquished the demons, but he would now wrestle with God Himself, like Jacob of old, to secure the spiritual interests of his people. The angel had announced to him that, to reward his fidelity in prayer and penance, as many of his people would be gathered into heaven as would cover the land and sea as far as his vision could reach.” But St. Patrick demanded more, much more from God. “[H]e resolved to persevere in fasting and prayer until the fullest measure of his petition was granted. Again and again the angel came to comfort him, announcing new concessions; but all these would not suffice. He would not relinquish his post on the mountain, or relax his penance, until all were granted.

“At length the message came that his prayers were heard:
• Many souls would be free from the pains of purgatory through his intercession;
• Whoever in the spirit of penance would recite his hymn before death would attain the heavenly reward;
• Barbarian hordes would never obtain sway in his Church;
• Seven years before the Judgment Day, the sea would spread over Ireland to save its people from the temptations and terrors of the Antichrist; and
• Greatest blessing of all, Patrick himself should be deputed to judge the whole Irish race on the last day….

“He tells us in his ‘Confessio’ that no fewer than twelve times he and his companions were seized and carried off as captives, and on one occasion in particular he was loaded with chains, and his death was decreed. But from all these trials and sufferings he was liberated by a benign Providence…. The reward of his sufferings was an extraordinary vision that was granted him before he died.

“He saw the whole of Ireland lit up with the brightest rays of Divine Faith. This continued for centuries, and then clouds gathered around the devoted island, and, little by little, the religious glory faded away, until, in the course of centuries, it was only in the remotest valleys that some glimmer of its light remained.”

St. Patrick was not about to give up, after all that had come before.

“St. Patrick prayed that the light would never be extinguished, and, as he prayed, the angel came to him and said: ‘Fear not: your apostolate shall never cease.’ As he thus prayed, the glimmering light grew in brightness, and ceased not until once more all the hills and valleys of Ireland were lit up in their pristine splendour, and then the angel announced to St. Patrick: ‘Such shall be the abiding splendour of Divine truth in Ireland.’

Cardinal Brady expressed the hope that "more and more Irish people, who have lost their connection with faith, will rediscover it and rediscover what St. Patrick called 'the joy and love of faith.'" May it be so.

St. Patrick’s Prayer for the Faithful

May the Strength of God pilot us.

May the Power of God preserve us.

May the Wisdom of God instruct us. 

May the Hand of God protect us.

May the Way of God direct us.

May the Shield of God defend us.

May the Host of God guard us. 

Against the snares of the evil ones. 

Against temptations of the world
May Christ be with us!

May Christ be before us!

May Christ be in us, 
Christ be over all! 

May Thy Salvation, Lord, 
Always be ours, 

This day, O Lord, and evermore. Amen.