Saturday, February 25, 2012

Music Notes for February 26

      One of my favorite Lenten prayers is the Breastplate of St. Patrick, not only because St. Patrick’s Day falls during Lent, but because it boldly invokes the protection of the Trinity with the great signs of nature which mark the passage of winter into spring: sun, moon, snow, fire, lightning, wind, crashing waves. This prayer is the text of the hymns “This Day God Gives Me” and “Christ Be Beside Me,” sung to the tune “Morning Has Broken.” It is also the theme of Madeleine L’Engle’s story of the cosmic battle between good and evil, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, a moving tale especially intended for younger readers which predates Harry Potter by some 25 years.
       Each year, the scripture of our Lenten liturgies recounts the story of God’s love for humanity with its covenants and blessings. This week’s Genesis reading is the conclusion of the tale of Noah, with the rainbow as the sign of God’s pledge not to destroy humankind. Rainbows are fire and water, and our hymn during the presentation of gifts will be the “Song of Fire and Water,” a melodic meditation on the symbols of baptism. Paired with this hymn will be the third “Mystery of Faith” acclamation which we have sung before and which will be our theme during Lent and the Easter season: “By your cross and resurrection, you have set us free: Salvador del mundo, ¡sálvanos!”  This last Spanish phrase, which means “Savior of the world, save us,” is a translation of the Latin Salvator mundi, salva nos, an acclamation much used over the centuries in various litanies and set to music by the great English and Italian Renaissance composers.  It sums up in a nutshell the import of our epistle from I Peter, who sees baptism prefigured in the waters of the Flood and Christ triumphant at the climax of history with the heavenly hosts in bright array. Mark tells us those same angels were at his side in the desert as he waged war with Satan.
         Psalm 25 is a prayer for spiritual growth as nature awakes with its own new growth. This prayer to “guide me in your truth and teach me” is reflected in the communion song at 10:00, “Lead Me, Guide Me,” from the gospel-music tradition, and “Remember Your Love,” written by three Louisiana seminarians in the 70s. The entrance procession at 10:00 is accompanied by the “Kyrie eleison” from Robert Ray’s Gospel Mass, whose verses recap the story of salvation as told by our Lenten readings. I learned this setting from the composer as he wrote it in the early 80s. Since then it has since been widely performed by high-school and college choirs Another great theme of salvation history is the role of grace and mercy, and these are the subject of “Your Grace Is Enough,” our closing song at 10:00.  The organ Masses close with the traditional “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days,” which many of us used to sing as “These Forty Days of Lent, O Lord.”

Friday, February 17, 2012

Family friendly Lenten activities!

Please Come Join the students of St. Benedict School for our Lenten Activities

March 2 @ 1:45 March 16 @1:45 March 23 @1:45

in the Gym
The DreamWorks animated movie: The Prince of Egypt March 23 @ 6:30 RSVP by 3/14 Free! Snack bar will be open!

This is the extraordinary tale of two brothers named Moses and Ramses, one born of royal blood, and one an orphan with a secret past. Growing up the best of friends, they share a strong bond of free-spirited youth and good-natured rivalry. But the truth will ultimately set them at odds, as one becomes the ruler of the most powerful empire on earth, and the other the chosen leader of his people! Their final confrontation will forever change their lives and the world.



April 5 @ 12:45 in the Gym and Church RSVP by 3/23
Come join us as we come together as a school and parish community to celebrate the Passover Meal followed directly by the Stations of the Cross.

Music Notes for February 12

       Leprosy is epidemic in society today, not as Hansen’s disease, but as a variety of other spiritual and physical ills. Most of them derive their power from our tendency to judge, label and red-line people who do not conform to our expectations or who make us uncomfortable. The hymn “A Touching Place” calls us out on some of these issues: “Feel for the people we most avoid, strange or bereaved or never employed.” From time to time, Dear Abby publishes a letter from someone who has lost a loved one. The funeral long over, no one ever calls to talk or visit or invite the bereaved person out. We do not know how to deal with sorrow and loss. “Strange” might refer to any kind of eccentric behavior; labeling someone as mentally ill might be how we rationalize our interactions with such people. We harbor judgments about obesity and ADHD. Bullying derives its power from our power to label people “in” and “out.” Politicians push our buttons by calling adversaries “socialists” or “terrorists.” “Never employed”: the economy is testing our assumptions about maturity and independence as young adults postpone life choices because of debt and under-employment. The church community is on the front lines to listen and offer understanding and a quiet touch. There is an opportunity here for the church to grow if it can find ways for all its members to feel appreciated  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor executed by the Nazis, wrote in Life Together: “A community which allows unemployed members to exist within it will perish because of them. It will be well, therefore, if every member receives a definite task to perform for the community, that they may know in hours of doubt that they, too, are not useless and unusable.” Elizabeth O’Connor writes further: “No community develops the potential of its corporate life unless the gifts of each of its members are evoked and exercised on behalf of the whole community. . . . When I become aware of my own gifts and give my attention to communicating what is in me – my own truth, as it were – I have the experience of growing toward wholeness. I am working out God’s ‘chosen purpose,’ and I am no longer dependent on what others think and how they respond” (Eighth Day of Creation). 
      The hymn goes on to mention “the women whom men have defiled” and those who “fear that their living is all in vain.” Besides the abuse rampant in our own culture, these lines evoke the victimization of women common in Africa and South Asia by those who mistake custom for religion. The poem also alludes to our tendency to sort people by class or caste. An article in the March National Geographic highlights Christians in India persecuted because they oppose the caste system.
      Psalm 32 links healing of body with healing of soul, presaging next week’s story of the paralytic whose sins Jesus forgave. It is well worth praying all 11 verses of this psalm. The spiritual “Balm in Gilead” which “makes the wounded whole” also “heals the sin-sick soul.” In the words of another spiritual, we are all “standing in the need of prayer,” not just the “other guy.”

Saturday, February 11, 2012

US Bishops Renew Call to Legislative Action

This statement was released late Friday night by the USCCB:
Bishops Renew Call to Legislative Action on Religious Liberty
February 10, 2012

Regulatory changes limited and unclear
Rescission of mandate only complete solution
Continue urging passage of Respect for Rights of Conscience Act

WASHINGTON – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have issued the following statement:

The Catholic bishops have long supported access to life-affirming healthcare for all, and the conscience rights of everyone involved in the complex process of providing that healthcare. That is why we raised two serious objections to the "preventive services" regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in August 2011.

First, we objected to the rule forcing private health plans — nationwide, by the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen—to cover sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion. All the other mandated "preventive services" prevent disease, and pregnancy is not a disease. Moreover, forcing plans to cover abortifacients violates existing federal conscience laws. Therefore, we called for the rescission of the mandate altogether.

Second, we explained that the mandate would impose a burden of unprecedented reach and severity on the consciences of those who consider such "services" immoral: insurers forced to write policies including this coverage; employers and schools forced to sponsor and subsidize the coverage; and individual employees and students forced to pay premiums for the coverage. We therefore urged HHS, if it insisted on keeping the mandate, to provide a conscience exemption for all of these stakeholders—not just the extremely small subset of "religious employers" that HHS proposed to exempt initially.

Today, the President has done two things.
First, he has decided to retain HHS's nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients. This is both unsupported in the law and remains a grave moral concern. We cannot fail to reiterate this, even as so many would focus exclusively on the question of religious liberty.

Second, the President has announced some changes in how that mandate will be administered, which is still unclear in its details. As far as we can tell at this point, the change appears to have the following basic contours:

It would still mandate that all insurers must include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write. At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.

It would allow non-profit, religious employers to declare that they do not offer such coverage. But the employee and insurer may separately agree to add that coverage. The employee would not have to pay any additional amount to obtain this coverage, and the coverage would be provided as a part of the employer's policy, not as a separate rider.

Finally, we are told that the one-year extension on the effective date (from August 1, 2012 to August 1, 2013) is available to any non-profit religious employer who desires it, without any government application or approval process.

These changes require careful moral analysis, and moreover, appear subject to some measure of change. But we note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders—for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals—is unacceptable and must be corrected. And in the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer's plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer.

This, too, raises serious moral concerns.

We just received information about this proposal for the first time this morning; we were not consulted in advance. Some information we have is in writing and some is oral. We will, of course, continue to press for the greatest conscience protection we can secure from the Executive Branch. But stepping away from the particulars, we note that today's proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.

We will therefore continue—with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency—our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government. For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.

Friday, February 10, 2012

HHS US Bishops Studying White House Movement


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the following statement, responding to President Obama’s announcement about religious freedom that was made today (Feb. 10, 2012).   The USCCB statement is fully-endorsed by Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, and will serve as the statement of the Diocese of Buffalo.  The diocese will not have any further public comment on this issue until the U.S. bishops have examined the details of the President’s proposal. 

WASHINGTON - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sees initial opportunities in preserving the principle of religious freedom after President Obama’s announcement today. But the Conference continues to express concerns. “While there may be an openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of USCCB.           

“The past three weeks have witnessed a remarkable unity of Americans from all religions or none at all worried about the erosion of religious freedom and governmental intrusion into issues of faith and morals,” he said.            

“Today’s decision to revise how individuals obtain services that are morally objectionable to religious entities and people of faith is a first step in the right direction,” Cardinal-designate Dolan said. “We hope to work with the Administration to guarantee that Americans’ consciences and our religious freedom are not harmed by these regulations.”

Friday, February 3, 2012

Music Notes for February 5

      Almost from the beginning, Mark’s gospel highlights the time Jesus spends in solitude in “lonely places,” being tested by Satan and confronting demons (Mark 1: 12-15, 35, 45).  Job is similarly tested (Job 1: 6-12), losing everything he had.  His soliloquy, our first reading, describes one trapped in the belly of Jonah’s whale. His complaints sound very much like what we today call burnout. St. Paul finds himself similarly trapped, making himself “a slave to all.” 
      Psalm 147 provides the counterpoint to all this compulsion. A symphony in three movements, it is one of the last half-dozen psalms with “Hallelujah!” (“Praise the Lord!”) as their refrain. We sang the third movement on the feast of Corpus Christi last June.  Today’s passage is drawn from the first movement and emphasizes God’s justice: “God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. . . . The Lord sustains the lowly; the wicked he casts to the ground.” Jesus is of course God-with-us, confronting evil and healing by touch.
      As last week, “How Can I Keep From Singing” is the prayer of one whose faith is put to the test. The final verse sums it up: “The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing.” There is similar refreshment in “There Is A Balm in Gilead,” from the tradition of spirituals. The allusion is to Jeremiah 8:22, but we propose that the balm is not in biblical Gilead but in the melody of the refrain, which to us suggests the “precious ointment” which runs down the beard of Aaron in Psalm 133 and brings communal healing. The mission of the church as a healing and reconciling community is the theme of “A Touching Place,” with a text by John Bell set to a Scottish folk song with a haunting melody. The determination of Paul and Job are well-expressed by “I Say Yes, Lord,” a bilingual song from Donna Peña of Chicago. Our determination and perseverance are taken up in “I Will Follow” by Chris Tomlin and “Been So Busy,” by Grayson Warren Brown. The latter is based on the spiritual “Ain’t Got Time to Die” in a classic arrangement by Hall Johnson, which the choir will perform at 11:30. Note that the expression is simply a metaphor for being completely consumed by the Lord’s work, as St. Paul describes. It does not refer literally to death.