Saturday, January 31, 2009

Kanon Pokajanen (Canon of Repentance)

The Kanon Pokajanen (Canon of Repentance) is a sacred composition written by famed Estonian composer Arvo Part. The text was written by St. Mathew of Crete who, among many capabilities, was a proficient hymnographer during his lifetime. Arvo Part set the text of the Canon to music in order to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. He is one of the greatest composers of sacred music that is presently living, and whose name will surely accompany the names of the best composers of the Renaissance.

Here is Ode I of the Canon of Repentance. You will either like it, or (more than likely) be repulsed by its heavy and sorrowful constitution (focus on the opening salvos from the choir). I, personally, find this piece magnificent and sorrow-stricken (I mean that in a good way- after all, it is a canon of repentance), as well as infused with a palpable sense of mysticism (listen to the choir oscillate between high and low notes at about 1:29). Musical operations of this type make me anxious for Lent and remind me that there is a true Mystery to be experienced.

Eight seconds into the piece the choir starts singing.

Ode l - Arvo Pärt

Paths of Glory

Have any of you ever seen the film Paths of Glory? It's one of Stanley Kubrick's directorial masterpieces and one of Michael Douglas' best performances. I must admit, however, that while I praise the film and strongly encorage you to watch it, I dispise it at the same time. It's so depressing that it can actually tempt you to lose all faith in humanity.

Please read this brief synopsis, remember the character names, then watch the trailer at the bottom of this post (then buy the DVD!).

From IMDB:
France, 1916. At the height of World War I, General Broulard (Adolphe Menjou), commander of the French armies on the Western Front, persuades the slightly mad General Mireau (George Macready), who's ambitious for a promotion, to launch a suicidal attack on an impregnable German position called the 'Ant Hill' located near Verdun. The unit to make the attack is the 701st Regiment, commanded by Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) who will personally lead the attack.

On a personal inspection of the trenches by Mireau, many of the men of the 701st are exhausted by earlier battles and their morale is moderate at best. Dax tries to persuade Mireau to not to order the attack for the men of the 701st are not ready, but Mireau insists that the attack be carried out.

On the day of the attack, under the cover of an artillery barrage and German counter-battery fire, Dax and his men go over the top and advance, many of them with difficulty, over the broken ground towards the Ant Hill. Some of the men refuse to leave the trenches. The crazed and desperate Mireau orders Captain Rousseau (John Stein), the artillery commander, to fire on the French positions, but Rousseau refuses. Meanwhile, the attack is a failure and Dax and his men fall back to their own positions.

Afterward, Mireau convinces Broulard that discipline demands a sacrifice: one man will be selected from the three companies to be court-martialed and Colonel Dax, a former lawyer, volunteers to defend them. The men are Privates Ferol (Timothy Carey), Arnoud (Joseph Turkel), and Corporal Paris (Ralph Meeker). Paris is chosen by the corrupt Lt. Roget (Wayne Morris) who is trying to prevent Paris from exposing him of murdering a fellow soldier during an earlier nighttime skirmish.

But the whole military trial is a farce: under the sinister and watchfull eye of Mireau, the prosecutor, Major Saint-Auban (Richard Anderson), tries to have the three men condemned to death as an example for the other soldiers in the regiment for cowardice and mutiny, while Dax throws up an impressive defense of the men's conditions and gets Paris to testify about Rogets' cowardice and of being drunk and disorderly during the battle.

But in the end, the panel judges (clearly intimidated by Mireau sitting nearby) don't buy any of it and quickly sentence the three men to death. That evening, Ferol, Arnound, and Paris in their cell talk about the insanity of war and their situation.

Dax tries to save his men by crashing a formal dinner party and informing Broulard of the order given to Captain Rousseau by Mireau to fire upon the troops during the battle. But Broulard takes no account of it and Ferol, Arnoud and Paris are shot at dawn the next day. Dax forces the cowardly Lt. Roget to be the firing squad captain as a means of further intimidating him.

Later during a meeting in a lavish chateau with Dax, Mireau, and Broulard, the clearly arrogant and psychotic Mireau shows no remose for the executions and is pleased with the results of the trial. But then Broulard reveals a plan: to have an inquiry opened on Mireau about the order he gave to Rousseau to fire on their own men during the attack. Mireau, in an unconvincing tone, denies ever making such an order, and leaves. Subsequently, Broulard offers to give Dax the promotion he earlier offered to Mireau (after a brief introduction and a few opening credits, the trailer begins with the scene in which Dax is telling General Broulard what he can do with that promotion). But Dax, disillusioned with the corrupt and incompetence of the entire general staff, refuses the promotion and rejoins his men of the 701st who are at a local bar listening to a German cafe-singer (Susanne Christian) perform.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What would you do?

Let me pose to you this hypothetical scenario: You are the head of a pro-life charity called St.Majella's Holy Innocents(after St. Gerard Majella). The main terminus of St. Majella's is to overturn Roe v. Wade, and promote the pro-life point of view by becoming politically and socially active. Your job as the head of this assemblage is to organize pro-life rallies, hold monthly meetings to disseminate information about pro-life related activities, such as political activism and fund raising. You also pray and attend mass together with your entire group at least once a month, and hold social functions that also include the attendance of family members.

Then one day a group calling themselves Rainbows Unbounded contacts you to inform you that they would like to throw their support behind St.Magella's pro-life efforts. They will assist your charity with fundraising, organizing rallies, making appeals to political authorities for support, meetings, and strategizing. This type of collaboration will inevitably demand that both groups intermingle when conducting activities related to promoting pro-life ideology. However, this group sounds vaguely familiar to you and after a little brainstorming - it hits you: this particular caucus is comprised of gay men who - aside from being staunchly pro-life - are passionately working towards legalizing same-sex marriages across the country. Will you accept their support in light of the secondary mission this group labors to promote?

Keep in mind that their involvement in your charity will make an appreciable impact. Your reach will double as a result of their presence, and your finances and political clout will increase as well.

Will you turn them back or welcome them in?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bad, Bad Little Pup

Does the Church sanction puppy exorcisms? I would like to perform one on Toby. This little daemon is as misbehaved as he is cute, and he has the whirlwind energy of that Looney Tunes’ character, Taz (Tasmanian Devil). One of the more annoying things about Toby that gets on every body's nerves is the fact that he likes to bite. He thinks human limbs are a plaything or one of those little plastic bones (doctor approved) we gave him so he could chew all he wants. I know he's teething, so the little guy has to alleviate himself some way. But he has to learn that biting people is off limits.

I've also thought about changing his name to Dopey. Oh, he's VERY smart when it comes to mischief, but not when it comes to eating stuff that doesn't taste very good (not to mention bad for him). I'm doing some serious work around my house right now, and I have to be perfectly sure that NOTHING remains embedded in the carpet, or he will surely swallow it. Bad, bad, little pup.

Anyway, we still love him dearly and protect him as he was a baby. Wait a minute. He is a baby!

I'll have more pictures of Dopey - I mean Toby - in the next few days.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What went through their minds??

When Obama was making his pitch for the White House last year, insane little groups like these crawled out of the woodwork to elevate him to a "dear leader" status. Apart from being completely banal and namby-pamby, I find listening to this song an exercise in psychology. I can't help but wonder what exactly is going through the minds of these Obama supporters that excite them so much about their "dear leader." This is sheer insanity.

This second video is even MORE disturbing:

I also want to state unequivocally that I stand opposed to abortion, but strangely enough, not on religious grounds. I think any one person can come to the conclusion that the right to life is a fundamental and inalienable right, without necessarily having been exposed to a catechism of any kind. As a matter of fact, as I have written previously, religionizing this issue may alienate potential supporters of the right to life movement who may not be religious or might find themselves at odds with the Church over a completely unrelated matter. Just my opinion.

This, however, does not mean I disregard my Church's standing and teaching of this cruel and barbaric procedure. It just simply means that you don't have to think about it too deeply before the truth hits you.

I'll write more about this on my next post.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I know that I'm falling into the cliche practice of writing about Obama on the day when he not only takes office, but many other bloggers - both in support and in opposition to his policies - are doing so as well.

Walking to my car from work this afternoon, I realized what an unbridgeable chasm exists between myself and those who voted for Barack Obama. Enthusiasm for his presidency is as unappealing to me as music I dislike, or some distasteful fashion fad that catches on with the general public, and the logic behind its success remains elusive to me. I know that the Obama presidency is the result of voter exasperation with the Bush administration. I know that the American people weren't drawn to Obama, but repelled by George Bush and his catastrophic decisions which took this country - if not the world - in a very dangerous and intricate path. But my goodness, was Obama really necessary? There are many things I find wrong with George Bush. But never, EVER, did I imagine we would replace him with someone who, in some aspects, is significantly worse .

In the streets of Washington, D.C. tonight, and in other parts of our country, people celebrate like it's the second coming of Christ. The man whose persona they have already mythologized and have infused with messianic qualities, has finally been sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. And in some cases, people celebrate not because Obama the man took office, but because a race they feel a special kinship to did as well. How shameful is that? To vote or advance someone because of his or her race is as wrong as to debilitate them or deny them the respect they deserve because of their race.

Let us pray for a speedy four years.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Miscellaneous Babble

Just like in many parts of the country, Las Vegas is getting hit hard by the current economic deterioration. Circuit City, Mervyn's, Dillard's, Wild Oats (this is a health food store, for those of you who have never heard of it), have shut-down completely, or have at least closed a significant number of stores nationwide. Obama and other lawmakers keep harping about implementing a stimulus package that will ultimately create millions of jobs over the coarse of a few short years. Years??? Why is the United States government waiting for this guy to take office before enacting legislation that will assist millions of unemployed American find work? I realize that Bush is on his way out and that at this stage in the game the strategy is to do nothing until the next president is sworn in. But are unemployed Americans less unemployed under Bush then they are under Obama? These folks who elected Obama are so obsessed over his inauguration that they and millions just like them have lost sight of the fact they and their families are sinking into poverty and homelessness.

Who's the Father?
I've noticed that many talk shows on television, as well as reality-based courtroom shows, are focusing their programs on conducting DNA tests to confirm who fathered the child of a former significant other. The people in these shows air their scandalous dirty laundry, and make some very disturbing accusations about one another. They also greatly distress when the father of the child is not whom they hoped would be.

Now, I don't know if the individuals who are featured in these exhibitions are instructed to aggrandize and sensationalize their stories, but I feel that the producers of these shows are capitalizing on this tragic indecency (if the stories are true), and objectifying the parties involved. It's simply sickening.

Divorce and the Church
In recent years it seems that the Catholic Church has been more accepting of the fact that some marriages are completely defunct and beyond recuperating. I'm not sure what the statistics are for annulments in the Catholic Church (I can find out), but I do know that in the past thirty years or so the number has increased significantly. Is this an honorable way out? No matter how you feel about divorce or annulments, would it be an injustice to insist that someone remain married to a spouse who is physically and/ or emotionally abusive?

Two years ago Sheila Rausch Kennedy successfully reversed the annulment of her marriage to Joe Kennedy after she appealed to Vatican authorities to review her case. Her 1997 book Shattered Faith is credited with ruining the political career of her current husband.

I can't help but wonder, however, if she did this out of retaliation or out of something more benevolent, and has she remained single since the separation?

And Finally...
Here's one of my favorite songs from the mid 1980's. This one goes out to you, my blogger friends, who have counseled me and elevated me when I've been at my lowest ebb. Jog your memory - you've heard it before. When I look at the video, I can't help but chuckle at the fashion pop and new wave artists sported in those days. I still like the song, nonetheless.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A long time ago, when I was in my teens, this song was performed during mass. I'm not sure what to make of it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sister Dorothy Stang (This post is rated PG)

Sister Dorothy Stang was a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur order, whose main charism is to provide education to the poor. Born on July 31, 1931 in Dayton, Ohio, Sister Stang traveled to Brazil where she fought against nefarious gangs who were attempting to crookedly take ownership of land that rightfully belonged to peasant workers. She was also educating those same peasants how to farm their lands without deforestation. Leaders of the gangs who were intimidating the peasant farmers had her murdered on February 12, 2005 because of the attention she was generating to her cause and subsequently to them.

The first video is an excerpt from the documentary They Killed Sister Dorothy, and you hear the voices and see the demonstrations of her supporters, as well as the bullshit of those who unsuccessfully tried to tarnish her image as an "agent of the North American government." The second video also discusses the murder of Sister Stang, and features interviews with members of her community.

I failed to mention the obvious: what upsets me most about her story is the fact that these cowardly murderers had the audacity to gun down a peaceful, elderly woman who - on top of being all those things - was unarmed. All she had with her at the time of her murder was a Bible.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Imagine a man in whom the tumult of the flesh goes silent, in whom the images of earth, of water, of air, and of the skies cease to resound. His soul turns quiet and, self-reflecting no longer, it transcends itself. Dreams and visions end. So too does all speech and every gesture, everything in fact which comes to be only to pass away. All these things cry out: "We did not make ourselves. It was the Eternal One who made us." ~ St. Augustine

The better friends you are, the straighter you can talk, but while you're on nodding terms, be slow to scold. ~ St.Francis Xavier

Give up yourself and you will find your real self. Lose life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day, and death of your whole body in the end: Submit with every fiber of your being and you will find eternal life. Keep nothing back. Nothing that you have not given away will ever really be yours. Nothing that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find, in the long run, only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay. But look for Christ and you will find him, and with him everything else thrown in. ~ C.S.Lewis

September 12. 1869. At 11:30 in the morning, the Lord granted me the grace of love for my enemies. I felt it in my heart. ~ St.Anthony Mary Claret

The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming. ~ Freeman Dyson

All things are simply God to you, who see God in all things. You are like someone who looks for quite a while at the sun, and afterwards sees the sun in whatever he looks at.
~ Meister Eckhart

I leave you with John Taverner's Song for Athene.

John Taverner: Song For Athene - Choir Of New College Oxford - Various Artists

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ladies & Gentlemen Toby.

This is him in the grass early this morning.

Someone else had to hold him while I took a picture of him at the vet's.

He is NOT a replacement, or a band-aid, or a temporary fix to a profound loss. He is a CONTINUATION of what we had before.

Things you should know about him:

1) He's notorious. He chews on just about anything, which has prompted me to take precautionary measures.
2) He likes to bounce up and down a lot.
3) He hasn't fully learned how to bark.
4) You have to be careful where you walk because he could be following you without you knowing it.
5) He's 3.7lbs!!
6) Has the energy of a jumping-jack fire cracker.
7) He is LOVED.

Again, I would like to thank all of you for your encouragement and for your support in acquiring a new pet. The Critter - in all seriousness - still missed.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Now I Turn to Lent

"Darling, I'm telling you: this life in the woods is IT.
It is the only way. It is the way everybody has lost.
...It is life, this thing in the woods. I do not claim
it is real. All I say is that it it the life that has
chosen itself for me." ~ Thomas Merton

Although Lent is over a month away, I can't avoid sensing the contemplative atmosphere that time of year evokes. I'm especially envious of those venerable monks, who will uniquely experience the Lenten season and the Easter Triduum within the cloister of their monastery.

Here is something you probably already new, but it's so amazing that it's worth repeating: When I was discerning a call to the priesthood, Father Tony, at the time the vocations director for the Diocese of Las Vegas, mentioned that some monks - namely hermits - had reached a level so profound in their prayer life that they no longer necessitated human interaction to remain sane (most people need human interaction to retain their sanity). God became so palpable through prayer and contemplation, that solitude was not lonely; silence was not vacuous. If you are at this stage in your prayer life, you truly have achieved what very, very few people have successfully accomplished. And now that I think about it, the words "success" and "accomplish" are wholly inappropriate to describe this level of profundity in one's prayer life. After all, when we discuss hermits and monks, we are talking about a vocation, a calling to a life that is an extension of who and what you are on the inside.

I anxiously await the beginning of Lent, the renewal of a new beginning, and the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On a lesser note, I have decided to get another pet. More on that in just a few short days. Thank you to all of you for your encouragement and, above all, for your prayers.

I leave you with "O Filii et Filiae" as a way to kindle your Lenten fervour. This version, although not in Latin, has a rich harmony and an echoey choir sound.

O Filii et Filiae (O Sons and Daughters) - The Cathedral Singers, Richard Proulx (conductor)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year/ Advice

I would like to wish all of you a happy and blessed 2009. Your words of consolation at the passing of our beloved pet were comforting and reassuring. Thank you and God bless you for being so kind and compassionate.

When the Critter passed away, it affected not just me, but other people in my immediate family as well. I have heard via some very wise sources that getting another dog significantly helps with the grieving process. While I'm inclined to do just that, part of me hesitates for a number of reasons. On the other hand, it seems cowardly not to proceed, especially if the main reason for not doing so is out of fear of facing the disheartening possibility of losing another pet. What would you do?

I keep going back to this quote by C.S.Lewis:
“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless -it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
~From the book The Four Loves.

I highly welcome your advice.