13 August 2016

Summer vacations

Just a few photos of our summer trips.

The road between Wawa and the Sioux.

Aguasabon Falls, Terrace Bay.

Looking for Amethysts, near Nipigon.

Terry Fox memorial, Thunder Bay.

Ouimet Canyon.

Giant Indian Head, said to be Ouimet himself.

View of the canyon in the other direction.

Possibly some more later.

11 August 2016

Feast of St Clare

St Clare, frightening away the Saracan mercenaries with her monstrance.

Ora pro nobis.

5 August 2016

Til we meet again

Today is the twentieth anniversary of my Father's death.  As you can probably tell, I think of him from time to time.  In his honour, here's his favourite musician and bandleader performing "Good-Bye"

Something for Everyone?

I received a note in my mailbox the other day.  Attached was an article about the new hymnal, CBW IV.  It fills me with dread.  I'll make a few comments in blue, and talk a bit more at the end.

But, before I begin, let me point out the obvious: this is a hymnal, it will not have the propers.  For those who are unfamiliar, the Roman Rite has rocommendations for  the kind of music that is to be sung at various points of the Mass. The options are, in order of preference:

1. The proper antiphon of the day.
2. The seasonal antiphon.
3.  A psalm
4. Some other suitable hymn.

This is a hymnal. They are aiming straight for option four.  Now on to the article.

Catholic Book of Worship to get some fine tuning
By Michael Swan
The Catholic Register
TORONTO (CCN) — What you sing and how you sing it on Sunday mornings is about to get a little more fine tuning. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a search for hymns, songs, chants and mass settings to include in a new national hymnal.
The CCCB plans to replace the Catholic Book of Worship III some time in 2018. Composers have until Nov. 30 to get their hymns, psalms and mass settings into the National Liturgy Office in Ottawa.
The thick green CBW III is now more than 20 years old, having first hit the presses in 1994. It has been made obsolete by two separate changes to the liturgy in English-speaking Canada.
Shortly after CBW III was published, Canadian parishes began using the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible for all the liturgical readings, including the Psalms. This change had been approved in Rome by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 1992, but in 1994 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith objected. The conflict over Roman approvals was only finally resolved in 2007.
The result has been that all the psalm settings in CBW III are a different translation from the psalms as translated in the Canadian lectionary.
The second change was the new translation of the Roman Missal into English ordered by Rome and put into practice the first Sunday of Advent, 2011. This change rendered all the CBW III mass settings, including acclamations and responses, obsolete.
All this is true. This is the justification for a new hymnal, and I have no issue with it. The article then goes on to explain why we will be getting this particular hymnal.
New hymnals are always controversial and the committee selecting music for the new book has already noticed some grumbling.

I'll bet they have.  A year or so ago, the committee sent out a questionnaire to people involved with their parish music program, asking if we thought we needed a new  hymnal, and if so, what should be done with the new hymnal.  My answer was, in short: 'no need for a new hymnal, the old one is bad enough.'  My wife made an even more tart response, which I won't repeat here.

“When we said a new hymnal, they who is this they? erroneously thought we’re just throwing all traditions out the window and we’re just going all brand-spanking new,” said P.E.I. diocesan music director Leo Marchildon who chairs the hymnal selection committee. “I’ve always believed myself in a blended liturgy — bringing some of the best of the old as well as looking forward to the new.”
As for thinking they were going to toss everything out the window: shortly after the promulgation of the new translation,  the CCCB released an addendum to the CBW III entitled Celebrate in Song, which contained a few Mass settings and a hymn section.  Almost none of the hymns were from before 1980, and one of those very few, Dona Nobis Pacem, often attributed to Mozart himself, was rewritten and butchered by Haugen, so that belief was not entirely unfounded.  As for this guy's qualifications: My wife looked this guy up. He's a theatre music director and composer- broadway type, mostly- as well as PEI diocesan music director.  He says we're keeping some old and some new.  Let's see where he goes with that.
Marchildon’s selection committee is aiming to please the whole range of congregations and choirs with everything from plainchant to guitar-based hymns.
Oh, really? First thing: per the Vatican documents on music, guitars are not to be used in the Roman rite, and the music most suited for the Roman Rite, stated again and again and again, is plainchant. So, from the get go, he is announcing they will be ignoring very plain, very clear directives on music and putting that which has been banned on an equal footing with that which is held up as the ideal.  Furthermore, I doubt this will be an equal footing.  The CBW III had about a dozen plainchants. They seemed to think that was enough then. There  may be more this time around.  We'll see, but I am betting there will not be parity between the two.
“What’s great about this is my youth group can use a subsection of the book for the songs that pertain to them, and the traditional choir has all the traditional stuff and I mix and match,” he said. “I want the book to be very useful for all, regardless of what your musical forces are in your parish.”
"Traditional stuff"?  Oh brother. Actually, 'brother' is about to come up again.
The St. Michael’s Choir School graduate is aware that, 22 years after first published, there are still some unhappy with CBW III.

That's putting it mildly, but fair enough.

“I believe some of the hymns within CBW III were not met uniformly with appreciation,” Marchildon said. “Some of the stuff didn’t catch on. There was some stuff in CBW II that was dropped and shouldn’t have been — just for a few words here or there, inclusive language for instance.”
Some didn't catch on because it was too bad even for the guitar bands.  But now he raises the spectre of inclusive language.  Watch how it goes...
The L’Arche Hymn (Lord Jesus, You Shall be My Song), translated from French by Toronto’s Rev. Stephen Somerville in 1970, was dropped because of a reference to “brothers.”
“It’s a beautiful hymn, but just because it talks about brothers,” said Marchildon. “Well, there’s no need to talk about brothers. You just have ‘our neighbours’ and change it and you get that wonderful hymn back.”
...straight down the rabbit hole.  Two things, the second of which I will discuss at the end.  But for now, there's this: either we have the archaic meanings of the words, or we don't.  It's one or the other, and not one when you want it and the other when you don't.  He is rejecting the old meaning of 'brothers' for it is not inclusive enough, so he replaces it with the bland 'neighbours'. Brothers meant we were, all of us, family.  Neighbours, on the other hand, means the people we happen to live next door to.  You may argue that Christ spoke of neighbours (even as you ignore the fact that he also spoke of brothers), but that is the old sense of the word, which you rejected when you rejected the word 'brother'.  Don't try and play that game now.
As long as we're on this particular hymn, a later line states "For You alone are man's joy and his peace, etc" Inclusivity demands the male possessives be dropped, and about the only word that can replace it would be 'our', which would mean we would have the absurdity of singing 'are our.'  One more, and we're all a bunch of pirates.  But continuing.
In a digital age and despite the fact many parishes project lyrics onto a screen during mass, hymnals are still relevant, said Marchildon.
“We’ve already become a very screen-dependent generation. We’re stuck to our laptops, to our iMacs, to our phones, to our iPads,” he said. “This is supposed to be a time when we’re actually interacting organically with live people. The fear of having everything up on the screen, it might make us more passive — like a television audience.”
I actually think this is a good point.
The CCCB hopes for something uniquely Canadian.
They should be more concerned about making something that is good and pleasing to God.

“Regarding Canadian content, this is always desirable,” Msgr. Murray Kroetsch, consultant to the National Liturgy Office on the new hymnal, wrote in an email.
“However, when it comes to the composition of liturgical music, Canada has not produced a large body of hymnody. . . . All of the responsorial psalms will be Canadian. The collection of Canadian settings of the NRSV psalms (as in the Lectionary for Canada) has been completed and will be included. Several of the mass settings will likely be by Canadian composers and, hopefully, many of the acclamations.”
As I said: they should be more concerned about being Catholic and pleasing to God.

Back to what was said about the L'Arche hymn and inclusive language, and the project as a whole. They begin by saying it will be a blend of the old and new, but, as we saw in the example of the L'Arche hymn, they have no compunction about changing the words of the old.  Which means they are no longer old. Which means the claim to be making something for everyone is a farce.

It goes like this: you have two groups, X and Y.  X likes the new, Y likes the old, things as they were.  You put in the new to please X, then you put in some of the old, but change its words in order to also please, or at least not offend, X. Can you not see, then, that the project is either slanted heavily or entirely aimed at pleasing X and not Y?  Can you not see that the old hymns are no longer old, no longer as they were?  Can you not see that your claim that you desire to give something to please Y is a lie?  And don't get me started on the dubious theology and the absolutely muddled (and frequently nonsensical) language that results from meddling with the words of the old hymns, or even the almost universally inferior quality of new hymns.   I'll let Anthony Esolen explain all that, here and here and here 

Who knows? I may be  wrong. They may do something decent despite themselves.  They may even include Holy! Holy! Holy!, even though will be tough to rewrite the line "Though the eye of sinful man/ Thy Glory  may not see." They might.  But I am not holding my breath. Whatever they may claim to the contrary. this  hymnal is not aimed at me.  It is, judging from this article, aimed at those who want the new, despite their claims otherwise.  Not the good, but the new.  That is the chief virtue of this new music: its newness. But new is not a theological virtue.  It isn't even a virtue at all, except to advertisers.  And, even if it were accepted as a virtue, it is not a virtue known for its longevity.

2 August 2016

This cracks me up

I imagine a new ordinary taking over his new seat and having a conversation with his rector:

New bishop: Y'know, I think it may be a good idea if we were to change our Mass times here at the Cathedral.

Rector: I am sorry, your grace, but that is not possible. The Mass times are carved in stone.

1 August 2016

It's Simcoe Day

It was on a Simcoe Day twenty years ago that my father died. 

I sometimes joke about how his last words shall live forever in my heart.  Here, with a little background, are those last words:

The cancer was destroying  him from within, and he was in pain. The hospital had absolutely snowed him on morphine to make him comfortable.  He was aware of us- when we held my daughter, who was a year old at the time, to kiss him goodbye, he turned his head towards her and kissed her in return- but he was too out of it, in too much pain to say anything. It took my sister to rouse him enough to utter his final words.

She was constantly hovering over him, patting his forehead and repeating over and over and over "It's okay, Dad. We love you.  We're all here.  We love you.  You can move on.  it's okay.  Don't worry about us. We love you. You can continue on your journey. It's okay. We're all here.  You can go."

Over and over. Pat pat pat. We love you.  You can go.  After I don't know how many repetitions Dad started moving his head to get away from the endless patting and rasped out what were his last words:

"Shut. Up."

I had to stifle a laugh. My poor sister- those were the last words he would ever speak to her.  But if he didn't tell her, I would have.  That was getting on everyone's nerves.    And really, if you knew the man, these were the perfect last words for him.  Of course he would say that.  Knock it off, he was saying.  I'll go when I am bloody well ready.  How perfectly typical of the man. 

31 July 2016

Lundy"s Lane

Last week had the 202nd anniversary of Lundy's Lane, the bloodiest single day (or night) battle of the War of 1812.  Here's  little background information.

About a mile due north of the mighty cataracts of Niagara Falls is a cemetery. Among the stones stands an unusually large monument, raised in honour of the many who died close to that spot all those years ago. It was raised in memory of the Battle of Lundy's Lane, one of the final battles of the War of 1812, and one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on Canadian soil.

After their defeat at the Battle of Chippawa on July 5th, the British retreated to their forts along the Niagara, and attempted to contain the new American invasion. The Americans lacked the guns and naval support to attack British entrenched positions. After a few weeks of unsuccessful skirmishing, the American commander, Major General Jacob Brown, fell back to Chippawa to gather and secure the supplies necessary to launch an attack on Burlington. As Brown retired back to Chippawa, the British general Phineas Riall moved to Lundy's lane, about 4 miles from Chippawa, which allowed his light infantry to harass Brown. When Riall heard Brown was marching in force on Lundy's Lane, Riall prepared to return to Fort George. His order was countermanded by the new Governor General of Upper Canada, Gordon Drummond. Lundy's Lane was to be held against the Americans. The Battle was on.

The British position was on a long slow ridge which gave a good view of the field below. Their artillery was positioned inside the cemetery at the highest point on the ridge. The first American attack on the ridge was carried out around six o'clock in the evening by Winfield Scott, who was the victor at Chippawa a few weeks earlier. On this day, however, his brigade was badly mauled by British artillery. The brigade made some gains, but the British still held. More Americans advanced on the British. The armies came to within twenty yards of each other before firing. Bayonets were fixed and charges were sounded in the gathering dusk. The Americans pushed the British off the ridge, and the British pushed back. Men fired their guns muzzle to muzzle.

As night fell chaos reigned supreme. In the confusion of the night each side repeatedly shot at its own men. So complete was the chaos that, when Riall fell wounded, his stretcher bearers carried him to the American surgical area, where he was taken prisoner. Drummond ordered attack after attack to re-take the guns captured by the Americans. By the end he was gathering what men he could find, no longer organised into units, and ordering them to attack.

With the dawn Drummond, wounded in the neck, stood at the heights of the cemetery, once more in command of the field, awaiting another attack. It never came. The Americans had suffered heavy casualties that night, including two generals wounded. They had about 700 men still capable of fighting out of 2500, and those men were spent from the battle. Their supplies low, they began a withdrawal back to Fort Erie, and from thence back across the Niagara River and America. Drummond, his own forces badly depleted that night, was content to let them go. He withdrew his own forces back the British forts to await reinforcements.

As is typical of the war of 1812 as a whole, it is not clear what effect this battle had. Both sides claimed victory, though it was a Phyrric one for both. In the aftermath, Drummond awaited for his reinforcements, and proceeded so slowly that the Americans had time to prepare for the defence of Fort Erie, and this is partly the reason why the Battle of Lundy's Lane is really only the second bloodiest battle on Canadian soil. The Siege of Fort Erie, soon to come, was bloodier.

24 July 2016

And farther down we go.

I saw a few links to this article entitled "I'm a baby hater and I'm not sorry". The most obvious comment to make is to point out that if you were to replace "baby" with any other identifiable social, racial, ethnic, gender or religious group, this article would be a stunning example of racism, sexism and so on. However, it is only directed at babies, and  therefore it is an  acceptable lead article at a major liberal periodical with pretensions of being intellectual.  Despite out society's claim to tolerance, we have what may be called our acceptable hates . Babies are among them.

That's the first point.  Then second point is more complicated.  This article is an indication of how far we have descended down the slope, and how close we are to the terrible conclusion.

Before the latter half of the last century, it was held that it a virtuous to accord to people and things the respect each deserved.  A large part of the liberal education was to train people in how to appreciate each thing as was proper.  It was  for this reason that philosophers argued over the difference between the sublime and the beautiful.  Does this work of the hand of Man or Nature deserve to be appreciated as a thing of beauty, or should we feel the awe and humility we are meant to feel before the sublime?

The modern argument against this is simple, backwards, and completely misses the point: who decided that we should honour this more than that? Who decided how we should feel about anything?  What they  are missing is this: no one decided that, just as no one decided that 1+1=2. These were logical conclusions derived rational applications of first principles.

CS Lewis touches upon this (and, not incidentally, the  question of liking or not liking children) in his Abolition of Man:

Those who know the Tao can hold that to call children delightful or old men venerable is not simply to record a psychological fact about our own parental or filial emotions at the moment, but to recognize a quality which demands a certain response from us whether we make it or not. I myself do not enjoy the society of small children: because I speak from within the Tao I recognize this as a defect in myself — just as a man may have to recognize that he is tone deaf or colour blind.

Like the author of the Salon article, Lewis did not care overmuch for the society of children. Unlike the author, he regretted it, and herein lies the rub.

We have rejected the old premises and in so doing we have bound ourselves in a world of uncontrolled appetite, desire and will.  We recognize no bounds, no obligations, no givens.  What we say goes. But, at the same time, we do not allow for others to tell us we are, from their point of view, wrong, and eventually we do not allow the other point of view to exist at all.  In this case, it  goes like this:

It is good and just to find children delightful. (good is good)

I don't find children delightful, and I am sorry. (I recognize that I lack a good, and I regret it. C.S. Lewis' position.)

I don't like children, and I am not sorry. (I deny the good exists in my case You may not tell me otherwise.)

I hate children. (I run contrary to the good.)

Hating children is right and just.  (Evil is now good.)

I hate children, and I deserve to be praised for so saying. (I say evil is good, and I demand you praise me for so saying.  The Salon author's position.)

This is where we have gone in a relatively short span of time.  Naked hatred, directed at those who by definition are utterly helpless and most in need of protection, in a major 'respected' publication, brought to us by an author who courageously faces the applause of her peers for her daring to embrace the very lowest and worst of our passions, and claims it to be the highest of goods. I'm the one whose right, she is saying, my feelings are right and just and you're the one who is wrong and who is deceiving yourself, and she resents those wrong with a burning hatred not for anything they have done or could do, but simply because they exist. She desires that they be not.  History has shown this has never lead to a good place, but you will never be able to tell her that.