All posts tagged: music

Benedict XVI Beyond the Liturgy Wars

Long before he assumed the Petrine Office, Benedict XVI wrote frequently on the important role occupied by music in the life of the Church. His love of music began with a childhood he himself described as “Mozartian.” Joseph Ratzinger grew up in a musical family; his father sang tenor and played the zither, and his mother frequently sang Marian hymns, often while washing dishes. Joseph himself studied piano beginning around the age of ten and counted Beethoven, Bach, and especially Mozart among his favorite composers. Although he later left the formal study of music to his older brother Georg, Joseph never lost his enthusiasm for the beauty of music, nor his reverence for its power to open a person up to an encounter with the divine. His writings speak eloquently of the connection between music and theology and the implications of this connection for the liturgical life of the Church. For many in parish music ministry today, the “style” question remains a hot-button issue: Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, hymnody, and praise and worship are not simply …

The Point Where the Ugliness of Our Individual and Communal Lives Is Transfigured

Throughout its long history, theology has certainly seemed more comfortable understanding itself through its claim to truth or goodness than to beauty. It is not that the connection between theology and beauty has never been notarized. One simply has to recall the early Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, and the Dionysian tradition to realize that this is not true—even if beginning with Tertullian and proceeding through the iconoclasm controversy and on to the Reformation, faith in the Cross made it difficult to think of theology and beauty being anything other than bitter rivals, when it came to allure and existential pledge. Of course, throughout the long histories of Catholic, Orthodox, and even Protestant theologies, there have been internal corrections. The Catholic theologian Matthias Scheeben might  represent a correction within the late nineteenth-century form of Neo-Scholasticism, with its forged alliance between propositionalism and moralism. And, of course, in the Reform tradition no theologian showed a greater openness to beauty than Jonathan Edwards, without succumbing in the slightest to the emerging temptation to elevate beauty while essentially dethroning God. Pace …

The Catholic Imaginings of Jimmy Buffett

This little song sort of combines a hangover cure and fourteen years of Catholic education into a song; it’s a little bit weird, but it sort of works out.[1] Jimmy Buffett, the king of “drunk Caribbean rock and roll music,” may seem like an unlikely person to be an example of the Catholic imagination. In his music, merchandise, restaurants, and resorts, Buffett revels in escapism and pleasure, giving license to hedonsim and letting it run amok. He has accrued a tremendous amount of wealth through these endeavors and cultivated a devoted following, known as Parrotheads. Indeed, he would seem to be the Evangelist for just the kind of leisure recently criticized by Paul Griffiths. Buffett peddles the side of leisure (otium) decried by St. Augustine too in his City of God as delight in “lazy inactivity” (iners vacatio).[2] Buffett’s incredible success, however, bespeaks in his fans an instinctual dissatisfaction with the demands of modern work and a desire to get away, to escape and have a good time, to have fun. Jimmy Buffett has been …

The Digital Displacement of Transcendence at Concerts

Not too long ago I attended a concert put on by some Latin music stars I enjoy (and some I do not) at a massive stadium in South Florida. I had a general idea of what to expect: I had been to large concerts before, and I knew how crazed fans can become at these shows. After all, they adore these artists, these stars: absorbing their lyrics, studying their personal lives, following the gossip, and playing their music as the soundtrack to sundry events in their lives. Being a fan myself, I was quite excited at the opportunity to see some of them live. But the show did not meet my expectations because the stars I expected did not fully appear. I do not mean physically—the performers were there, of course, in the flesh. Yet that flesh—once so sacrosanct in that most religiously charged of secular gatherings, the music concert—seemed unable to carry the weight of glory that it used to. It now had to share that glory with digital representations carried on the sea …

Musical Mystagogy: St. Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart

October 16th marks the feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–90), a Burgundian nun who experienced a series of visions from 1673 to 1675 that ultimately resulted in her petitioning Church authorities to institute a feast in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 8th. In addition to the feast itself, St. Margaret Mary promoted acts of devotion in honor of the Sacred Heart, chief among which was the reception of Holy Communion on the first Friday of every month, a devotion many still practice to this day. It is for her devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and her untiring efforts to spread that devotion to others that Margaret Mary Alacoque is honored as a saint, and so today’s musical piece will focus not on the saint herself, but on the object of her unwavering devotion: the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The devotion to the Sacred Heart is twofold: on the one hand, we honor the physical heart of Jesus, the pulsing heart of muscle and blood with its valves and …

The Month of Mary and Music

Editorial Statement: During the month of May (Mary’s Month), Church Life Journal will celebrate the month of Mary by consider the nature of the  Marian imagination in art, music, folk customs, private devotion, and ritual action. The dedication of May as Mary’s Month is attested by several traditions, rather than by one definitive tradition. The earliest mention of it is from King Alfonso X of Castille in the 13th  century. The king speaks about honoring Mary on various dates in May in his Cantigas de Santa Maria.  However, the dedication of the full month only developed sometime between the 17th and 18th centuries. If that explanation is not precise enough for you, then here’s Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetic attempt at one in “The May Magnificat”: MAY is Mary’s month, and I Muse at that and wonder why: Her feasts follow reason, Dated due to season— Candlemas, Lady Day; But the Lady Month, May, Why fasten that upon her, With a feasting in her honour? Is it only its being brighter Than the most are must delight her? Is it opportunest And flowers …

Medieval Rites and Contemporary Dying

Medieval Rites The scribes lived over 700 years ago, but their documents give us insight into the monastery’s practices when a brother became seriously ill: The leader of the community, the prior, came to the brother’s sickbed to hear his confession. The others gathered and processed to the infirmary with oil for anointing, incense, the communion host, a cross, and candles. They assembled in the room, singing antiphons and psalms as their sick brother was anointed. The gathered brothers sang songs of petition, using words from the Gospels: “Lord, come down to heal my son before he dies,” and songs of hope: “Jesus said to him, Go, your son lives.”[1] After the anointing, the brothers arranged a schedule so that at least one person remained always at his bedside. Prayers were said for him at the daily public Mass. If the brother did not regain strength, but instead seemed to be nearing the end of his life, the entire community gathered again. In their brother’s presence, they sang a litany, naming members of the heavenly …

Stations of the Cross 13-14: This Is Ground Zero, Emptiness and Space

Throughout this Holy Week, we are going to be sharing a series of poetic meditations on the Stations of the Cross by Malcom Guite. An Anglican priest-poet currently serving as Chaplain of Girton College at the University of Cambridge, Guite has published eight books of his poetry, with two more forthcoming. His collection Sounding the Seasons comprises sonnets composed for various feasts and seasons throughout the liturgical year, including this series. We are grateful for Guite’s kind permission to share these sonnets on Church Life Journal. The pregnant silence of the Cross becomes the heavy silence of the tomb. Love lies buried, encased in the coldness of stone. Yet death’s weight cannot hold him, for his body has been sown into the earth as the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies. We have only to wait with patience and with hope for the seed to bud, and blossom, and burst forth from the tomb in newness of life. XIII. Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross His spirit and his life he breathes …

Stations of the Cross 11-12: His Final Breath Breathes and Bears Us

Throughout this Holy Week, we are going to be sharing a series of poetic meditations on the Stations of the Cross by Malcom Guite. An Anglican priest-poet currently serving as Chaplain of Girton College at the University of Cambridge, Guite has published eight books of his poetry, with two more forthcoming. His collection Sounding the Seasons comprises sonnets composed for various feasts and seasons throughout the liturgical year, including this series. We are grateful for Guite’s kind permission to share these sonnets on Church Life Journal. At the moment of Jesus’ Death during the proclamation of the Passion, the Church bids us kneel, silent in the face of so great a mystery. With silent hearts, then, we ponder the Light that darkness cannot overcome, the Love that gives unto the end, the Death by which death dies. “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.” XI. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross See, as they strip the robe from off his back And spread …

Stations of the Cross 9-10: In the Cold Hell Where You Freeze

Throughout this Holy Week, we are going to be sharing a series of poetic meditations on the Stations of the Cross by Malcom Guite. An Anglican priest-poet currently serving as Chaplain of Girton College at the University of Cambridge, Guite has published eight books of his poetry, with two more forthcoming. His collection Sounding the Seasons comprises sonnets composed for various feasts and seasons throughout the liturgical year, including this series. We are grateful for Guite’s kind permission to share these sonnets on Church Life Journal. Whereas Jesus’ first and second falls were followed by moments of tenderness in the encounter with his Mother and the women of Jerusalem, this third and final fall is followed by the beginning of the end as Jesus is stripped by the soldiers who prepare him for his Crucifixion. And yet, this end, this Death toward which Jesus draws ever closer, is not the end; rather, it is the beginning. For though the soldiers strip Jesus of his garments and his tunic, they cannot strip him of his identity—even …