KITCHEN TABLE CHATS

Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter

Monday, July 31, 2006

Where do you fall in the parenting spectrum?

Marc Fisher has a terrific article in this past weekend’s Washington Post Magazine. Entitled “Are You a Toxic Parent?”, this provocative piece explores the spectrum of parenting when it comes alcohol and other substance abuse. There are so many subtopics within this piece that it is hard to know where to start any commentary so do read the whole article. However, the opening paragraph sets the tone:

True or False:

·Kids are going to drink anyway, so they might as well do it at home, under adult supervision

·Restricting teenagers makes no sense when they'll be on their own in college soon enough

·You'd rather be your child's friend than an authority figure

If you answered 'true' to any of the above, you are not alone.

But that doesn't mean you're right

Mr. Fisher chronicles the great divide between those parents who set firm limits and those who turn a blind eye to their kids’ indiscretions. The parents who ignore or even enable their children’s drinking have a variety of justifications:

-- My time with my child is limited. Why waste it with arguments about drinking and parties?

-- If I clamp down too hard it will make my child rebel even more

-- I want my kids to think I am a cool parent

--There is really nothing to do. Kids will be kids.

Unfortunately, these approaches can have deadly consequences as this all too familiar description of a teenage tragedy reveals:

Before she lost control of her family's Ford Explorer on a hilly stretch of Colchester road in Fairfax Station; before she flipped the SUV and smashed into a car driven by her friend, who suffered minor injuries; before the horrific end to that Friday night a year and a half ago, Lauren Sausville, a 16-year-old junior at Fairfax High School, drank. She drank a lot -- at least six beers and four shots of vodka, enough that when the authorities found her, the level of alcohol in her blood was 0.13, well over the legal limit of 0.08. Lauren got the beer from an older guy she knew from the neighborhood. She was buried in a beautiful white-and-pink casket.

However, the comments by Lauren Sausville’s stepmother, Debbie Sausville are also very telling.

"I ALWAYS SAID I'D NEVER BE ONE OF THOSE PARENTS who goes out and gets their kid a car when they turn 16." Debbie Sausville laughs, shakes her head, gives me a sheepish smile. "You know what?" When her daughter, Shannon, turned 16, "I bought her a car. You know why? Because I was sick to death of going out at 11 to go get her."…

The quest for perfect parenting, Sausville believes, has led to a ratcheting up of expectations to unreasonable, absurd levels, creating pressure for parents to be hyper-involved in their children's lives, to be that much more deeply aware of their kids' activities than the next parents. She sees a gulf between mothers like her who work and mothers who have quit work and committed themselves entirely to child-rearing.

"In this area, you have to have two incomes to get by. And then the schools call you to come in for a conference at 1 p.m. And you're supposed to be like the moms who have no other life: 'Oh, let me just take the cookies out of the oven and hang up my apron and I'll be right over!'"


Well, Ms. Sausville, I live in your neck of the woods. I am not judging the choices you made as a mother, but don’t belittle those of us who have put parenting up front and center in our lives. I gave up my career as a physician to be there for my kids. We get by. We don’t have fancy cars or big screen televisions. We don’t take extravagant family vacations. Nobody is sporting expensive designer clothes. I don’t have a housekeeper. Three of my children are now over sixteen and we haven’t purchased a car for any of them. In fact, so far no one has gotten their driver’s license on their sixteenth birthday. I still go out at 11:00 on Friday and Saturday nights to pick up my high school daughter.

I am not taking cookies out of the oven. I am talking with my kids, learning about their friends, saying “no” when it is hard to say “no”, and on my knees in prayer. It is only by the grace of God that I have not lost a child as you did. I have several more years of having high school age children in front of me. There are no guarantees. I am not an over-involved helicopter parent. I am a loving parent doing the best I can to shape the character of my children so they can make the right choices. Sometimes it is inconvenient, unpleasant, and very “uncool”. God entrusted me with these lives. I will let him judge how I did.
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Friday, July 28, 2006

Rescuing St. Therese

Let me say right up front, Catholics do not worship statues or icons. I know this and believe this. However, I also know that certain pictures, statues, or icons move me more than others. Think of photographs of your children. Every picture of your child represents someone who is near and dear to your heart. However, certain photographs are magical. They capture the personality and spirit of your child. They make your child present to you even when he or she is physically absent.

My mother and I were poking about an antique mall. There was a white resin garden statue of St. Therese of Lisieux. She carried her identifying cross and roses. Now St. Therese is one of my favorite saints. Her “Little Way” reminds me that nothing I do is too insignificant to be offered for the glory of God. This particular statue attracted me. It was not great art, but her serene face was very calming. As I looked at the price tag I saw this lovely piece was labeled as a statue of the Virgin Mary. I felt so sad for St. Therese I was compelled to purchase the piece.

I suppose there is nothing wrong with being mistaken for the Virgin Mary. I am sure St. Therese does not take offense at being so identified. Still, it is like looking at a picture of my grandmother in a photo album and seeing her identified as her sister. I had to make it right.

So now St. Therese will join the communion of saints in my garden. She will join St. Joseph, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Francis, and St. Fiacre. Pulling weeds, sowing seeds, and harvesting flowers, herbs, tomatoes, and peppers bring me great joy. St. Therese will be a steady reminder to offer these labors for the Glory of God.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A taste of home

I am back! After a lovely three weeks of flitting about the Southeast USA, I am home in Virginia again. My internet access was extremely limited by my parents’ very old computer (original version of iMac still using operating system 9.2) and dial-up internet service. Since I wasn’t carrying a laptop, I couldn’t even take advantage of the high speed service in the hotels. In all honesty, it was an inconvenience at times, but overall, it was probably good to break the connection for a little while and rediscover life outside of cyberspace. I think it will take a few days for me to get my writing back on track, but I am looking forward to catching up on the news and happenings in the blogosphere.

The lack of internet access was more than compensated for by my parents’ steady supply of Bluebell Ice Cream. Bluebell Ice Cream is what keeps me thinking we will have to eventually move from our Virginia home. We began the visit with the family gold standard for great ice cream, Bluebell Cookies and Cream. We then branched out to the Bluebell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Bluebell Buttered Pecan. On our second day in Houston, I noted an article in the paper about a limited edition Bluebell flavor that was only going to be available until the end of July: Chocolate Covered Strawberries. The Bluebell web site describes this flavor as “smooth, creamy vanilla ice cream blended with succulent strawberries, chocolate strawberry hearts and a rich, milk chocolate sauce swirl”. The quest was on.

Every time my mother and I were in a grocery store I searched for this dreamy sounding variety. Krogers was sold out. Randalls was sold out. It was nowhere to be found. When my daughter and I flew to Greensboro, North Carolina for her soccer tournament we were a bit dejected since we had not found this new taste of heaven. Little did we know that Greensboro is part of Bluebell Country. We popped into the local Walgreens for moleskin and there in the freezer section was an inviting pink half-gallon treasure. We could barely contain our excitement. I am sure the store clerk thought we had lost our minds.

I will tell you this ice cream is everything it promised to be. It did not disappoint us in any way. Bluebell’s perfect homemade tasting vanilla held rich ripe strawberries coated in the creamiest tasting chocolate shell. Chocolate sauce ribbons were swirled throughout.

I guess I can hold out in Virginia as long as I keep traveling to Bluebell’s distribution area one or two times a year. North Carolina may become a more frequent destination. I will be smiling on Interstate 95 as I enjoy a sweet reminder of my Texas home.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Road Trip Update

After frantic last minute packing I did make it out the door for our road trip. Of course, soccer fans that we are, we had to stop around 2:00 and find a restaurant with a television so we could watch the World Cup finals. We managed to find a Max and Erma's outside of Charlotte, NC that was not very busy at that time of day so they were happy to seat us in the bar in front of the television. The bartender said they are supposed to keep the television on ESPN unless they have a customer request so our request allowed the staff to watch the World Cup. We were very happy to oblige. We had lunch cheered on the Italians for three hours. Of course it went to overtime then PK's. It set our schedule back a bit, but then we found that our Google Map time estimate was about three hours too long so we arrived in Atlanta much earlier than expected. We are off to check out Georgia Tech tomorrow. I am curious what Child #3 will think of it. She is just starting to do some serious college searching.

After our Georgia Tech adventure we will continue south towards Houston. Keep all of us summer travelers in your prayers!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Road Trip!

I expect blogging to be very sparse over the next few weeks since I will be traveling most of July. We will be looking at colleges for Child#3 and making a trip to Houston to visit family and to get Child#2's belongings there for his freshman year at Rice this fall. In addition to Rice, Child #3 is looking at Georgia Tech and Clemson on this trip. Pray for safe travel and I will do the same!

Blast from the Past

Let’s do the Time Warp again! Last night I took my teenage daughter and two of her friends to see Journey and Def Leppard in concert. She and her buddies are ardent classic rock fans. She had been begging to see Journey since the concert was first announced. Unbelievably she won free tickets from the local radio station so we had to go. It is kind of fun, but also kind of eerie that the musical soundtrack to my daughter’s high school years sounds a lot like mine: Boston. Kansas, Journey. Queen.

This was an outdoor concert at Nissan Pavilion and we had a blanket on the lawn. There was a smattering of teens but the primary fans in attendance were my age. It was pretty comical to see these middle-aged moms and dads, often helped by a few beers, revert back to their teenage years and “rock on”. Of course my kids got a few looks too because they were dancing, waving their arms, and singing all the words just like the old folks. I don’t think many of the old folks knew that another generation had claimed their music.

Journey was the opening act and stuck pretty much to their classic repertoire. They sounded great and took me right back to my plaid skirt days at Bishop Kelley High School. They also seemed to acknowledge they were a bit older now so there were not a lot of hip gyrations and the big screen video didn’t do a lot of zoomed in ultra close-up shots of the band.

Def Leppard on the other hand hasn’t aged quite so gracefully. They tried some new updated techno sounding music that didn’t work too well. One of the guitar players who I am sure is nearly as old as my father insisted on performing without a shirt. The lead singer has put on a few pounds over the years but was still “strutting his stuff”. The video shots of the band zoomed in so close we could appreciate every wrinkle. A little less reality would have been better. However, they did their classic 80’s music as their encore so my group was happy.

Nissan Pavilion gets an F for traffic management. After the concert we couldn’t move from our parking space, much less get out of the parking lot for over an hour. It took us a full two hours to make our way out of the parking lot. The time did afford us the opportunity to talk about what we heard and saw. It was a great lesson on the perils of alcohol. Since the teens and I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol we were watching with stone cold sober eyes. I made sure to point out that all these loud, obnoxious, drunks who smell bad really think they are being funny, clever, and entertaining. Mostly, though, we talked about the music—what we liked and what we didn’t. We plugged the iPod into the car stereo and sang along to so many of my old favorites as we waited for the sea of cars to begin to flow. All in all, it was a good time made even more special because it was shared with my child.

Friday, July 07, 2006

St. Maria Goretti Prayers

Dilexitprior has a lovely set of prayers asking for the intercession of St. Maria Goretti. My children are now all teens or pre-teens. I am not sure my sons or daughter will actually pray these before they go to a dance or on a date, but I want them to understand mindset of chastity. These prayers are a perfect illustration of a chaste demeanor. Please share them with your teens!

Prayer Before a Dance


Dear Saint Maria Goretti! The world teaches that we must please others in order to be popular. Conscience demands that I please God more than one who asks an evil thing in the name of false love. Teach me by your example to instill into others a real respect for modesty and purity. Through your powerful intercession, help me to make of this evening an occasion for helping others to become spiritually stronger. Grant that others may see in me reason to change their ways, if that be necessary, and that I may have the courage to resist any temptation to sinful conduct. Let others be led closer to Jesus and Mary by my example. Oh Little Saint who wanted to be popular only with your Divine Master and His Blessed Mother, help me to imitate you. Amen.

Prayer Before a Date

Dear Little Saint Maria Goretti! Teach me that God must be my first love and that all other love is based on Him and Him alone. Obtain for me the grace to cease toying with the occasions of sin and to remember that my body and the bodies of all in grace are temples of the Holy Spirit, destined someday for a glorious resurrection. Through your beautiful example teach me the value and dignity of Christian modesty. Grant that I may never be the occasion of dragging others into Hell, by suggestive words or evil deeds of any kind. Through the merits of your Martyrdom, obtain for me the grace to turn aside from sin, no matter what the cost, so that one day I may enjoy Heaven with you and all the other saints. Amen.

H/T to Fr. Tim for the link.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dueling Ideologies in Richmond

Amy Welborn noted that there are two competing blogs covering Catholic happenings in the Richmond Diocese. This is in my backyard, so to speak, so I took notice.

The first blog is Richmond Catholic. This blog supports the orthodox Catholics in this beleaguered diocese. Until two years ago they were guided by one of the most liberal voices in the Catholic Church. The second blog , A Voice in the Diocese of Richmond supports those bemoaning the hint of orthodoxy that has appeared since Bishop DiLorenzo took over two years ago. Believe me, it is only a hint. I travel to this diocese frequently and never know what I will find. Read my description of the ”power point” Mass or the ”Yee Haw” Mass to get a flavor of what is a regular occurrence in this diocese.

Not every orthodox bishop is a Bishop Finn or even a Bishop Carlson. I know that Bishop DiLorenzo is well aware of the heterodoxy he has inherited. He is using his best judgment to gauge the most appropriate course of action to bring orthodoxy to his diocese. We must pray for him as we must pray for all our bishops.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Lord's Bounty

Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty

The Lord’s bounty has certainly been good to us these past few days. Saturday morning I found myself with no soccer games, Scouting activities, or committee meetings. So I availed myself of the local farmer’s market. The farmers come from Virginia and West Virginia to purvey their produce. There are also a few bakers with fresh baked loaves. The beekeeper from the National Zoo offers local honey. A nearby dairy sells fresh cheese.

I was literally overwhelmed with the variety and abundance. It took great self-restraint to limit myself to what our family could realistically consume within a week. I ended up with a few pounds of perfectly ripe peaches, a mess of green beans, a pint of blueberries, a pint of the biggest blackberries I have ever seen, and a dozen ears of sweet corn. I also treated my husband to a baguette of jalepeno-sundried tomato bread.

The tomatoes on my deck are ripening so Saturday night we indulged in the first home grown tomatoes of the season. I also plucked a bell pepper from its stem and had it sliced and on the table within fifteen minutes. Those peaches became a luscious peach pie. The corn had been picked Friday night so it was less than twenty-four hours old when I cooked the first six ears. Garrison Keillor says fresh sweet corn is better than sex. I’ll make no such comparisons but I will say this corn was so naturally sweet and tasty it needed nothing but a dash of salt to be perfect.

I do appreciate the convenience and variety of my local grocery store. But there is something reverent and holy about farm fresh food. God’s blessings are so visible when I buy directly from the grower or harvest my own little garden. God bless all the farmers who bring this little piece of heaven to us on earth.

Pray for our military

Our nation dusted off its flags and sprayed fireworks across the sky in honor of America’s birthday. We grilled hot dogs, marched in parades and wore red, white, and blue. I hope we also prayed. My family attended Mass yesterday morning, primarily because my youngest son was scheduled as an altar server. He takes this task very seriously and appreciates the moral support he receives from having the rest of the family in the pews. However, I think I will make a point of trying to get the family to Mass on July 4th in future years as well. It seemed so right to be in church acknowledging God’s many blessings to our nation and praying for his continued grace.

My husband is still on active duty, but has not served in Iraq this time around. He did fly many combat missions during the Gulf War of 1991. My oldest is beginning his junior year in college on an Army ROTC scholarship. He hopes to pursue a career as an Army infantry officer. It was comforting to have our priest remember our military in the prayers of the faithful.

Today’s Washington Post had a poignant essay by F. John Duresky, an Air Force Captain stationed in Iraq. It is entitled The Forgotten Sacrifice. Captain Duresky reminds us that most of our citizens feel no direct consequences of the war on terror and the conflict in Iraq.
The day before that, in America, a 15-year-old's incredibly rich parents planned the biggest sweet 16 party ever. They will spend more than $200,000 on an opulent event marking a single year in an otherwise unremarkable life. The soon-to-be-16 girl doesn't know where Iraq is and doesn't care. That same day an American soldier died in Iraq.

Two days earlier, a 35-year-old man went shopping for home entertainment equipment. He had the toughest time selecting the correct plasma screen; he could afford the biggest and best of everything. In the end, he had it installed by a specialty store. He spent about $50,000 on the whole system. He has never met anybody serving in the military nor served himself, but thinks we should "turn the whole place into a parking lot." That day, another American soldier died in Iraq.

Unlike previous conflicts, there are no shortages, rationing, or fear of conscription. It is very easy to push this war out of sight and out of mind. Unfortunately, the truth is our country is at war. Men and women are serving our country and dying for our country. We dishonor them if we choose to ignore or forget.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Just a wee nip for the kitty

My daughter agreed to “cat sit” the neighbor’s cat while they are away on vacation. The job sounded unremarkable. Every morning go let the cat out of the house. Every evening go back, call “nummy, nummy” and the cat will come running to the front door. She lets it in, gives it food, and leaves him in the house overnight. Repeat this for the next seven days. No problem!

Except this is the epitome of the arrogant, uncooperative cat. “Nummy, nummy”, indeed. This cat has absolutely no inclination to come when called. Picking the beast up elicits the prototype for a hissy fit. He transforms himself into a hissing, spitting fur ball with claws.

Yesterday evening the cat was ensconced beneath a ledge behind a large bush. He was hissing and swiping a claw at us every time we peaked in on him. We couldn’t have reached him with our hands if we had wanted to. Our solution involved a little feline pharmacology. I have a small catnip plant growing in the garden. I occasionally offer a few leaves to our own elderly cat to perk him up a bit. I took a long stick and thoroughly rubbed the tip with catnip leaves. I then reached into his hiding place with this drug laced stick. The transformation was instantaneous. The cat slavishly followed the tip of the stick out of the bushes and onto the lawn. He then rolled over on his side and begged for more. He wouldn’t stand up and he still wouldn’t let me hold him. However, as long as I kept the stick rubbed in catnip he would squirm towards it like an inchworm. Little by little we coaxed him to the front door. We left him plenty of food. I am not sure if catnip will give him the munchies.

I am not really that pleased that we had to resort to drugging the cat even if it was a “natural” high using catnip. However, it seemed easier than explaining to our neighbor that we couldn’t get the cat in the house so we left him to sleep outside and deal with the neighborhood foxes. I hope my catnip plant grows vigorously enough to supply plenty of leaves for the next week.

St. Teresa of Avila supports "Mother Jesus"?

Today’s Washington Post carried a front page story about the ongoing discord in The Episcopal Church after the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the denomination’s presiding Bishop. Bishop Jefferts Schori has long alienated the conservative members of the Episcopal community with her vote to approve the election of the openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson as well as her support for the blessing of same-sex unions. However, what really got people talking is her use of the term “Mother Jesus” in her first homily after her election.

That bloody cross brings new life into this world. Colossians calls Jesus the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn from the dead. That sweaty, bloody, tear-stained labor of the cross bears new life. Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation -- and you and I are His children. If we're going to keep on growing into Christ-images for the world around us, we're going to have to give up fear.

The Post gives this account of her response to the controversy she created with this phraseology.

To those who accuse her of heresy for referring to a female Jesus, she responds with a typically learned disquisition on medieval mystics and saints who used similar language, including Julian of Norwich and St. Teresa of Avila. "I was trying to say that the work of the cross was in some ways like giving birth to a new creation," she said. "That is straight-down-the-middle orthodox theology."

Yet she acknowledged that she likes to shake people up a bit.

"All language is metaphorical, and if we insist that particular words have only one meaning and the way we understand those words is the only possible interpretation, we have elevated that text to an idol," she said in a telephone interview. "I'm encouraging people to look beyond their favorite understandings."


Is she really saying that there are no fixed meanings for words? Such an elastic approach to language is beyond my comprehension. It gives me an “Alice in Wonderland” state of confusion.

However, what really raised my hackles was her reference to St. Teresa of Avila as justification for her description of Jesus as “Mother”. I know Julian of Norwich was given the title blessed by popular acclaim. I do not believe she was ever formally beatified by the Church. She did claim that her visions revealed a female side to God and is often cited by those who wish to use female pronouns in reference to God. St. Teresa of Avila, on the other hand, is named a Doctor of the Church. Did she really refer to Jesus as a feminine persona? Was she a proponent of a female deity? I have never heard such a thing, but admittedly, I am no scholar of St. Teresa. I would be grateful to anyone who could enlighten me as to how St. Teresa of Avila supports the depiction of Jesus as our “mother”. I invite Bishop Jeffert Schori to read Saginaw Bishop Carlson's catechesis on The Naming of God.

Members of the Episcopal Church need our prayers. Some of their orthodox members may be motivated to “swim the Tiber” and join the Roman Catholic Church. Others will stay with the undying hope that their church will reverse course and return to the fold of orthodoxy. As parishes or even diocese try to leave the Episcopal Church there will be many spiritual and legal battles. This is no time for Catholics to be smug or gloat over the battles that loom for our Episcopal brethren. The McBriens and Doyles of our own faith will lead us down the same path if we don’t stand firm in our obedience to the Magesterium. Let the trials and tribulations of the Episcopal church stand as a warning. There but for the grace of God go I.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

My Deprived Kids


Some might say my children are deprived. For most of their childhood we have not had cable television. In the last two years I subscribed to the bare minimum of cable television in order to get a cable internet connection. (Our current home is not eligible for the phone company’s DSL service) We do not get MTV, Nickelodeon, Disney, or a host of other cable channels. For this reason we have avoided a large chunk of the ridiculous drivel that passes as television entertainment. Recently, I was listening to mothers discuss one of the latest reality shows that engages their daughters, MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen.

This show documents the “travails” of wealthy teen girls as they plan their over-the-top sweet sixteen parties. Of course, each of the girls is presented with a new car for her birthday. The parents tolerate pouting and ingratitude as the gross materialism fails to satisfy these spoiled divas’ expectations.

Unfortunately, I am beginning to see these excesses creep into the lives of the not so affluent. My daughter was recently invited to a “sweet sixteen” party that involved a Hummer limo transporting twenty girls to a dinner theater for an evening of food and entertainment. I walked into a convention center hotel recently and encountered a bevy of young girls in formals and young men in suits. I thought it might be a high school prom. No, this was another sweet sixteen party. Soon the honoree showed up in her limo complete with a sparkling tiara in her perfectly coiffed hair.

The good news is my own daughter turned sixteen a few months ago. Her birthday was a gathering of a few girls for a sleep over and rented movies. I made her birthday cake and decorated it with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra guitar motif. The girls were all modestly dressed. There were no excessive piercings or tattoos. There were simple gifts, classic rock on the stereo, and plenty of laughter.

How did I get away with such a modest affair? I guess we have never indulged in excessive material celebrations so there was no reason to expect anything different now. Not having cable television, attending Mass every Sunday, expecting children to speak to adults with a respectful “yes ma’am” or “yes sir” impressed on my children that we set our own standards and do not march to the drum of society at large. This family resistance to lower cultural norms has helped the kids resist the individual pressure of their peers.

My kids are not perfect. However, with a great deal of prayer and vigilant parenting we are getting through our third teenager without a significant rebellion or behavioral crisis. I do wish their rooms were neater. I wish the boys would drive a little slower. But for the most part, I really enjoy my teens. They have not turned into monsters. They have grown into young adults that are interesting to talk to. They cherish their faith. They seek to serve. Maybe a little “deprivation” is a good thing.

Papa Ratzinger and the Spirit of the Liturgy

My reading list is growing far faster than I can finish books. Right now my summer reading list may very well last until Christmas! Pontifications has posted excerpts from The Spirit of the Liturgy by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. (Now Pope Benedict XVI) Before anyone passes judgment on the new English translation of the Mass or frets over Pope Benedict’s lack of enthusiasm for “folk” Masses, they must read this book. Once again, Pope Benedict the teacher clearly explains the what’s and why’s of the liturgy. Listen to this:

…The importance of music in biblical religion is shown very simply by the fact that the verb “to sing” (with related words such as “song”, and so forth) is one of the most commonly used words in the Bible. It occurs 309 times in the Old Testament and thirty-six in the New. When man comes into contact with God, mere speech is not enough.

…In the West, in the form of Gregorian chant, the inherited tradition of psalm-singing was developed to a new sublimity and purity, which set a permanent standard for sacred music, music for the liturgy of the Church. Polyphony developed in the late Middle Ages, and then instruments came back into divine worship — quite rightly, too, because, as we have seen, the Church not only continues the synagogue, but also takes up, in the light of Christ’s Pasch, the reality represented by the Temple. Two new factors are thus at work in Church music. Artistic freedom increasingly asserts its rights, even in the liturgy. Church music and secular music are now each influenced by the other. This is particularly clear in the case of the so-called “parody Masses”, in which the text of the Mass was set to a theme or melody that came from secular music, with the result that anyone hearing it might think he was listening to the latest “hit”. It is clear that these opportunities for artistic creativity and the adoption of secular tunes brought danger with them. Music was no longer developing out of prayer, but, with the new demand for artistic autonomy, was now heading away from the liturgy; it was becoming an end in itself, opening the door to new, very different ways of feeling and of experiencing the world. Music was alienating the liturgy from its true nature.

…Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attractiveness fades quickly — it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation.


The Pope is singing my song. Or maybe I should say I am singing his. In any case, we need to shed the idea that the Mass is supposed to be entertaining. Inspiring, instructional, reverential, prayerful—yes. Entertaining—no. Perhaps The Spirit of the Liturgy would make a good gift for your parish music director, liturgist, or pastor. I hope to soon have a copy join the stack of books at my bedside. It will probably move close to the front of the queue. I'll let you know.

Pizza Dough Spirituality

Michelle at the Rosetta Stone asks, “What is your New Month resolution?” As she points out, we don’t have to wait for New Year’s Day to make changes and our changes don’t need to monumental. This reminds me of my “pizza dough” spirituality. If you have ever made pizza dough you know it has to be treated gently. If you stretch it too fast it just tears. So to fit my blob of pizza dough into my pizza pan I have to carefully push and nudge it little by little until it covers the bottom of the pan. It is a slow, steady, patient process.

Shaping my spiritual life requires the same slow, steady approach. I can visualize an ideal state for my prayer life. I would make time for the rosary every day. I would attend Mass every day. I would read scripture every day. I would set aside a time for contemplative prayer and reflection every day. I would remember to examine my conscience and say an act of contrition every day. I would go to confession at least every two weeks. The list goes on and on. Okay, I am nowhere near this ideal. If I tried to leap from where I am now to where I think I should or could be I am doomed to failure. However, I can make little changes. If I don’t say a full rosary every day, maybe I can say one decade. Okay, maybe I can say one extra Hail Mary. Can I increase my daily Mass attendance by at least one day per week? Can I read the daily Mass readings first thing in the morning, whether or not I attend Mass?

As I start July, my New Month resolution is to try and stretch my prayer life just a little bit. If I keep stretching day by day, month by month, I will grow closer to my ideal. Hopefully, I will also grow closer to God.