Truly Common Ground

flag handshakeOne thing about Americans: we love a moral imperative. We care what our candidates think about taxes and economic policy, but we care more about their views on abortion, birth control, gay rights, religious freedom. Whether you subscribe to the catchphrase “Family Values” or “Marriage Equality,” we all expect our political theater to provide a moral compass. It’s a defining feature of our society of which we should be justly proud.

But it’s also deafening.

All you have to do is mention that someone’s rights might be in peril, and the decibel level of American voices instantly increases. Rights have been infringed; the law must intervene; justice must be done! Yes. Exactly. The problem is, when both sides see themselves holding the banner of Right, both sides raise their voices. Loving moral imperatives has given us quite a taste for shouting matches, too.

If you watched the parade of headlines about the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision, you know what I mean:


Hobby Lobby ruling shows Supreme Court gives corporations, not people, more rights (Christian Science Monitor)

Hobby Lobby Case: Religious freedom’s worth more than $35 (Fox News)

Hobby Lobby win at the Supreme Court could lead to more anti-gay laws (Huffington Post)

The Left Can’t Stop Distorting the Hobby Lobby Decision (


When Americans get worked up about rights, semi-automatic verbal strafing clamors through our streets until it’s tempting to rename our parties the Crips and the Bloods. It is hardly a new phenomenon (go read the headlines from the Lincoln-Douglas debates), and every time it happens, some well-meaning voice of reason whimpers the same plea: we are all Americans, let’s find the common ground. What common ground?, I always wonder as I cover my ears.Positions so diametrically opposed cannot both be enshrined in law. We might try (Americans have a long history of convoluted compromise), but in the end, one side or the other must fall. We all know it. That’s why we care enough to shout.

…Which is the beginning–the outskirts, the hinterland–of truly common ground.

We care enough to shout.

What would happen if, instead of seeing each other as enemies to be vanquished, both sides found a way to see their fellow Americans–better yet, their fellow human beings–as people who care enough to shout? What if, no matter how ludicrous we find the other side’s supposed moral footing, we at least gave them credit for wanting to be moral? It would not make an opposing position seem any more right; the folks at Hobby Lobby still would not want to violate their religious beliefs, and the federal government still would not see sufficient grounds to excuse them from its healthcare laws. But might the timbre of public discourse change if both sides’ supporters found the courage to say, “You’re wrong, but I respect that you truly believe you are right”?

I know. You are not picturing mutual respect right now, but frozen hellfire and flying pigs. I am jaded enough that my own hypothetical scenario boggles my imagination. So forget trying to cram that sentiment into a presidential candidate’s mouth and try this instead:

What if you–yes, you–tried speaking those words? What if, the next time your old college roommate posts an article on Facebook with one of those inflammatory headlines, you resist the urge to run the debate through its same old gerbil-wheel circles and comment with, “Susie, you know I think you’re wrong, but I’ve got to hand it to you that at least you’re not shy about what you believe.” After all, what do you stand to lose except the protective armor of your own pride?

…Which leads me to the epicenter of truly common ground. It is, very simply:

Nobody is perfect.

One hundred percent. Unequivocally, it’s a description that fits every person–every nation, every party, every organization–on planet Earth. It’s an axiom we trot out frequently to excuse our mistakes. Even politicians are not afraid to use it when they need justification for some past wrong or change of heart. But what if, instead of waiting until we’re caught with a hand in the cookie jar to admit our weakness, we started all our debates that way?

My name is _____. I am not perfect. My party is not perfect. I do not have all the answers, but what I believe, I believe from my heart, and I am willing to act in the interest of justice. I am willing to learn.

Yes, the pigs outside my window are cavorting like the Blue Angels right about now. But if we do not have the courage to dream the impossible, it will never come to pass.

I am proud to be an American, to live in a land where we have the right to shout about our rights. Let us never be silent, or even soft-spoken, in the name of keeping the peace, for a peace without open discussion is not worth keeping. But I would suggest that it’s time to temper our American pride and become pioneers of another great virtue: American humility.

What might our headlines look like then?



Big Changes Coming Soon

I’m excited to report that there are some big changes coming soon to Dappled Things.

As editors, we are committed to making DT an ever more effective medium for enriching and thinking about the culture at large, and to this end we wish to make the magazine as accessible, interesting, and enjoyable as possible. Therefore, during the coming weeks, we will be introducing three important initiatives that we are very excited about:

1) Dappled Things for your tablet and smartphone: thanks to a generous grant from Our Sunday Visitor InstituteDappled Things will be available as an app on the Apple iTunes Newstand, as well as for all other major platforms through the Pocketmags app. Digital issues of the magazine will feature the same excellent writing and art that appears in our printed editions, plus added bonuses such as video and audio. The SS. Peter and Paul 2014 edition, due out next week, will feature Joseph O’Brien reading his poem “Twelve.”

2) A redesigned website: we want to make DT’s website more beautiful and friendly to readers. We are putting together a new design we hope will immediately declare to visitors, in a visual way, the values that animate our work. You can expect a bigger role for our blog Deep Down Things, as well as more fresh content every week.

3) A non-fiction prize: our fiction prize was such a success, that we are following up with a prize for non-fiction, paying $500 to the winner. We have yet to iron out some final details, but we will be announcing it officially in the coming weeks. The prize will mean more opportunities and recognition for our writers, and even better content for our readers.

Visit us next week to experience the new DT. Please let us know what you think when the new design is unveiled!

Taking the Eucharist to the Streets

On June 15, 2014, Pope Francis invited Romans and visitors to join the upcoming Corpus Christi Mass and procession on Thursday June 19, on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi[1] . The observance of the Feast begins with a Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which is the Cathedral where the pope officiates as Bishop of Rome. A procession then follows the Mass with the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a gold and jewel-studded monstrance that is carried under a canopy. The procession wends its way a mile and a half to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where it ends with a final Benediction. The Mass in honor of the feast and the procession through the streets of Rome between these two very impressive major basilicas take place in the evening, and those who have been fortunate enough to participate say the Mass is beautiful, and the candlelight procession is stunning.

Corpus Christi Procession Through the Streets of Rome

Corpus Christi Procession Through the Streets of Rome

Timing Is Almost Everything

In most countries, the Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated on the traditional date of the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, which is the first Sunday after Pentecost. In the United States, Canada, and parts of Spain, the bishops have transferred the Solemnity of the Feast of Corpus Christi to the following Sunday.

The official title of this feast is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (Solemnitas Sanctissimi Corporis et Sanguinis Christi), but the feast is commonly referred to as Corpus Christi. Where it is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi is a holy day of obligation and it is also a public holiday in many predominantly Catholic countries, including “Austria, Brazil, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, East Timor, parts of Germany, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Panama, Peru, Poland, San Marino, parts of Spain and Switzerland, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago”[2].

At individual churches and oratories where the pre-Vatican II (pre-Councilar) rites are observed, the Solemnity is often celebrated on the traditional date on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, but it also may be celebrated on the following Sunday by these groups, because of pastoral considerations. At a growing number of locations, Corpus Christi processions are being made after the Mass of the feast, whether the Mass is in the Ordinary or the Extraordinary Form, and whether the feast is observed on the traditional Thursday or transferred to the following Sunday.

Just in the San Francisco Bay Area alone, the following randomly selected examples illustrate some of the very different ways that the feast may be observed.

  • The Mass for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi is being celebrated as a sung High Mass in the Extraordinary Form without a procession at St. Margaret Mary Church in Oakland on Thursday the 19th. On following Sunday, the 22nd, the Solemnity will be celebrated with two Masses at the same church, one in the Ordinary Form and one in the Extraordinary Form and both will be followed by Eucharistic processions.
  • Across the Bay, Star of the Sea Church in San Francisco had advertised a Solemn High Mass to be offered on Thursday the 19th, followed by a Eucharistic Procession on the “Streets of San Francisco.”
  • In Palo Alto on the San Francisco peninsula, the St. Ann choir will sing Josquin Des Prez’s polyphonic Mass setting, Missa Pange lingua, at an Ordinary Form Mass in Latin on Sunday, June 22, at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, followed by a procession of the Blessed Sacrament.

Why does the Church take the Eucharist to the Streets?

Corpus Christi processions bring the Blessed Sacrament out from the church buildings into the world, because the Church wants to share this immense gift of God with everyone. St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis’ namesake, had this to say about the Eucharist, “For one in such a lofty position to stoop so low is a marvel that is staggering. What sublime humility and humble sublimity, that the Lord of the Universe, the Divine Son of God, should so humble Himself as to hide under the appearance of bread for our Salvation!”

“The feast of Corpus Christi is one time when our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is exposed not just to faithful Catholics but to all the world. This is a time when Catholics can show their love for Christ in the Real Presence by honoring Him in a very public way. It is also a wonderful way in which we can show our love for our neighbors by bringing Our Lord and Savior closer to them. So many conversions are a result of Eucharistic Adoration experienced from inside the Church. How many more there would be if we could reach those who only drive by the church in worldly pursuits.”–Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association

When in Rome, Do As the Polish Do

In many countries, elaborate Corpus Christi processions have been held for centuries and are still being held today in cities and in towns. But for about a hundred years, in Rome, Italy, the center of Roman Catholicism, these processions were only held within the confines of St. Peter’s Square, which is within the boundaries of the autonomous Vatican state, not technically part of Italy at all.

In 1982, Pope St. John Paul II, remembering the elaborate processions through the streets of his native Poland, brought the Corpus Christi procession out of St. Peter’s Square and back to the streets and the people of Rome. His successors, Benedict XVI and now Francis continue the Roman Corpus Christi processions to this day. “Pope John Paul wanted the Blessed Sacrament carried into the city, where the people lived, as they did in Poland.”
Remembering Corpus Christi with Pope John Paul II–Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, “Today’s Catholic News,” posted May 28, 2013.

Polish Corpus Christi Procession with Infant of Prague Statue

Polish Corpus Christi Procession with Infant of Prague Statue

Vatican II Did Not Downplay Eucharistic Adoration, Said Pope Benedict XVI

In a 2012 CNS article titled, “Vatican II did not downplay eucharistic adoration, pope says,” Pope Benedict XVI clarified a mistaken impression held by many that “eucharistic adoration and Corpus Christi processions are pietistic practices that pale in importance to the celebration of Mass.”

Celebration and adoration are not in competition, the pope said. “Worshipping the Blessed Sacrament constitutes something like the spiritual environment in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth. …

“It is true that Christ inaugurated a new form of worship, one tied less to a place and a ritual and more to his person, but people still need ‘signs and rites,’” the pope said. In fact, without its annual Corpus Christi procession, “the spiritual profile of Rome” would change.

Corpus Christi Procession
St. Thomas Aquinas and the Liturgies of Corpus Christi

When Pope Urban IV added the feast of Corpus Christi to the Church’s liturgical calendar in 1264, he asked St. Thomas Aquinas to write the liturgy. St. Thomas wrote the famous Sequence (a poem that precedes the Gospel) for the Mass of day, the Lauda Sion Salvatorem (Sion, Lift Up thy Voice and Sing). St. Thomas is widely known for his brilliance, but he is perhaps less known for his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He was even seen levitating before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer.

Lauda Sion Salvatorum

Sion, lift thy voice and sing:
Praise thy Savior and thy King;
Praise with hymns thy Shepherd true:
Dare thy most to praise Him well;
For He doth all praise excel;
None can ever reach His due.

Special theme of praise is Thine,
That true living Bread divine,
That life-giving flesh adored,
Which the brethren twelve received,
As most faithfully believed,
At the Supper of the Lord.

Let the chant be loud and high;
Sweet and tranquil be the joy
Felt to-day in every breast;
On this festival divine
Which recounts the origin
Of the glorious Eucharist.

As described in Corpus Christi: Our Debt to St. Thomas Aquinas by Stephanie A. Mann, which was posted at Catholic Exchange on June 7, 2012: “St. Thomas also wrote a hymn for Vespers: Pange Lingua (Sing, tongue, the mystery of the glorious Body), from which we have the Tantum Ergo (Down in Adoration Falling) verses sung at Benediction. … His hymn for Matins, Sacris Solemniis (Sacred Solemnity), includes the great Panis Angelicus (Bread of Angels) meditation … From the third hymn, for Lauds, Verbum Supernum Prodiens (Word Descending from Above), we take the other Benediction hymn, O Salutaris Hostia (O Saving Victim).

“Finally, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote a hymn of Eucharistic thanksgiving, Adore Te Devote (Devoutly I Adore Thee).”

Adoro Te Devote

Godhead here in hiding
Whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows,
Shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at Thy service
Low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder
At the God Thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting
Are in Thee deceived;
How says trusty hearing?
That shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me,
Take for truth I do;
Truth Himself speaks truly
Or there’s nothing true.

On the cross Thy Godhead
Made no sign to men;
Here Thy very manhood
Steals from human ken:
Both are my confession,
Both are my belief;
And I pray the prayer
Of the dying thief.

I am not like Thomas,
Wounds I cannot see,
But I plainly call Thee
Lord and God as he;
This faith each day deeper
Be my holding of,
Daily make me harder
Hope and dearer love.

In his 2003 encyclical on the Holy Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope St. John Paul II praised St. Thomas Aquinas as “an impassioned poet of Christ in the Eucharist,” and rightly so.
St. Thomas Aquinas from  by Carlo Crivelli

[1] EWTN has currently scheduled broadcasts of the three hour Holy Mass at St. John Lateran and the Eucharistic Procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major for Thursday 06/19/2014, 1:00 PM ET and Friday 06/20/2014, 12:00 AM ET. Click here for local times, go to
[2] Corpus Christi (feast), From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,

Baseball and Blaise Pascal

New RosenblattJune 14, 2014

It’s Opening Day at the College World Series, and I am heartbroken because my LSU Tigers blew a four run lead in the eighth inning of the NCAA Regional and they are not in Omaha. I will have to settle for cheering on our fellow SEC schools, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, because for a die-hard fan like me, not watching is not an option. I don’t make it to the stadium quite as often as I’d like these days, but in college, I was “that” kid, the lone soul toughing it out in the student section through two-hour rain delays against Nobody State. However, LSU’s early exit from this year’s tournament has left me more reading time than I really like to have during the postseason, which I have occupied with Blaise Pascal’s Pensées. That is how my brain happened to slam with the force of a Babe Ruth swing into this:


Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal

How does it happen that this man, so distressed at the death of his wife and his only son… seems so free from all painful and disquieting thoughts? We need not wonder; for a ball has been served him, and he must return it to his companion. He is occupied in catching it in its fall from the roof, to win a game. How can he think of his own affairs, pray, when he has this other matter in hand?…

The only thing which consoles us for our miseries is diversion, and yet this is the greatest of our miseries. For it is this which principally hinders us from reflecting upon ourselves… and leads unconsciously to death.


Time out, Umpire. Did he just say that baseball is killing me?

If Pascal was speaking of spiritual death, then I admit being a sports fan can be the near occasion of a host of sins. Drunkenness, for one, or the temptation to exhaust one’s savings on tickets, parking passes, fan merchandise, etc. Gluttony finds easy prey at my alma mater on game day; there is no culinary experience on earth quite like an LSU tailgate party. However, the acts of eating, drinking, or buying a ticket are not inherently sinful. A little temperance can allow one to enjoy an evening at the ballpark guilt-free, nor is it the sinfulness of sports and other diversions that Pascal objects to. Rather, it is the fact that they “hinder us from reflecting upon ourselves.”

He goes on to explain that “our first interest and our first duty is to enlighten ourselves” about the immortality of the soul, and neglecting this exercise for the pursuit of vain diversions is “monstrous.” No Christian can, in good conscience, disagree with that assertion, and in a society that has turned proliferating distractions into a global economic force, Pascal’s words ring truer than ever before. The screens and speakers that surround us, flashing and screaming for attention everywhere we go, are destroying our ability to focus. We cannot contemplate what to eat for lunch without our minds drifting toward virtual realities. Are such brains even capable of pondering things immortal and divine? Distraction is deadly, and in more ways than Pascal could possibly have understood in the seventeenth century.

I know this. I recognize my own susceptibility, and I strive not to be one of “those who pass their life without thinking of [its] ultimate end.” But I still love baseball, and reading Pascal has not changed that.


First, because baseball–or any sport–is a form of theater. It is a play whose end even the actors do not know. A battle unfolds that pits skill against skill, where elements beyond human control (wind, sun, rain) sometimes intervene to turn drama into comedy or victory into defeat. A story unfolds, and we immerse ourselves in sympathy with the players: a kind of pretending the benefits of which I have discussed on this blog before. There is catharsis in winning, and a genuine lesson in living through a beloved team’s defeat.

Sporting events can, however, offer more. There are only two places I know where people go with the intention of chanting in an assembly: a sports stadium and a church or synagogue. There are liturgical echoes in the way sporting events unfold, and there is real communion–not the heavenly, Eucharistic kind, but human communion–in joining one’s voice to thousands of one’s fellow creatures, in sharing each other’s shouts of joy and groans of disappointment. There are no Republicans or Democrats in a stadium, no Christians or atheists. The only “left” and “right” are on the field. When a homerun sails over the wall, no one asks the person in front of him about his ideology; they just smile at each other and trade a high five. It is this that I love most about baseball. Communion builds community, and it is important, especially in a society as fractured and contentious as ours, to find opportunities to shed our labels and become one.

Of course, communion that is not heavenly holds the danger of fooling us into believing we have found fulfillment in earthly pleasure. This is the danger of all good earthly things, the old Augustinian problem of failing to see the Creator within the created. I suspect this danger is at the root of Pascal’s disdain for all diversions, but is avoiding entertainment really the solution? A cloistered, diversion-free life is a good one, for those who are called to it, but such singular focus on holy things is impossible for most of us. Can you imagine trying to raise children without any way to keep them entertained? But why would you even want to try, when children learn things like empathy, teamwork, and problem solving by playing games?

I do not think “diversions” are the problem, but rather the distorted pride of place we sometimes give them in our lives. Pascal was right that it is incumbent upon us all to reflect soberly on the human condition, to face the hard reality that we are mortal, and not to divert ourselves from the work of the soul. However, I would add that much of the work of the soul is experiential. We choose our diversions because they satisfy at least partially some intrinsic need, and it is important not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Whatever you choose to do with your time, the question to ask is, “Why?” If your entertainments are merely substitutes for things that could lead you toward holiness, then it is time to set them aside. But if they still have work to do within you and the people you share them with, then carry on.

Warren Morris

Now, let’s play ball!

Can a Poem Be Theology?

I am currently reading St. Edith Stein’s book The Science of the Cross. It is a masterwork of Carmelite theology and I am truly amazed by the depth of her spirituality and her intellect as she elaborates on the writings of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. As a man who is heartily and often sinfully attached to worldly desires, I am in awe of the theology of the Cross, which Stein compares to the Dark Night of the Soul. The Cross, much like a Dark Night, strips away from us all that comes from the senses and leaves us completely reliant on faith. Because of the subsequent lack of spiritual consolation in the senses, often this feels like abandonment. It is also quite difficult to explicate in the traditional language of philosophy.

Mystical Theology seems to be a struggle to communicate to others because it does not lend itself to discursive knowledge. It is the mystery inside of the form that holds it, the essential reality towards which theological language points. How does one communicate the process of union with the divine? After a mystical experience while celebrating the mass, St. Thomas Aquinas famously declared that everything he had written up to that point was like straw. Not wrong, necessarily, but insubstantial, not adequate to describe his communion with God in the mass.

So, as I was reading Stein’s book, I thought about the fact that St. John of the Cross always begins his writings with a poem. It is only after reading the poem that the reader is treated to an interpretation. Stein considers this, too:

“The heart of the poet must sometimes have revolted against the procedure of the interpreter. His assurance that through his own interpretations he had no intention of inhibiting the breathing of the Spirit in the soul of the reader may, at all events, be taken as a request that one concentrate above all on the poem itself.” (238)

These poems from St. John must have cost him dearly, suffering as he was in physical confinement at the time of writing. There was an ongoing dispute amongst the reform minded Carmelites and those who preferred to preserve the status quo. St. John, as a leader of the reform movement, was seized and imprisoned in a rival Carmelite monastery. It was during this time that he wrote much of his poetry. Stein writes,

“With wonderful images and enchanting sounds the world outside, the world from which he is cut off, invades the cell of the prisoner, who is a poet and sculptor, one susceptible to the magic of music. Of course he does not pause at the picture and sounds. They are for him mysterious hieroglyphics that express—and in which he himself is able to express—what transpires concealed in a soul…They contain such a fullness of meaning that it seems impossible to the saint himself to find the right words in order to explain all that the Holy Spirit sang within him ‘in inexpressible groaning.’” (234)

The poems are essential to the theology, and through them St. John struggles to impart to his readers how wonderful it is to know God. In fact, they are more important than the interpretations that follow! This is because they not only tell us about the reality, but somehow begin to actually mediate that reality. Stein goes on,

“Because of the Holy Spirit, we have these stanzas; we owe them to him…for that reason the author declines from the very start to explain everything…the mystical wisdom…need not be understood distinctly…in order to cause love and enthusiasm in the soul.”

Of course, theology very much needs form and structure. It very much needs dogma and creed in order to contain the mystery. But the point is, underneath all of the discursive, rational discussion of the academic theologians there is the center of everything. Here at the center is the communion of the lover with the beloved. At this level, St. John of the Cross and St. Edith Stein both seem to think, poetry is the natural language of theology.

The Block That Builds Character

ViribusUnitisSinking“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
― Ray Bradbury


Writing can be intoxicating in the very best of ways.  Some days, a current of words courses from my fingers, gushing brilliance onto microchips with passion, zeal, and ease.  My ship of story sails upon the winds of wonder, and I just sit back and steer.

Then the anchor thuds without warning.  The breezes die.  The characters refuse to answer my SOS.  Not another inch, another sentence will they move.  The story stalls upon a stagnant sea, and I start throwing my hair overboard in violent, bushy tufts.

I am currently moored in the doldrums of writer’s block.  Again.  I will do anything to avoid looking at my novel-in-progress, including writing this blog post during my designated writing time, of which there is precious little.  Those inebriating sentences I loved so dearly days ago have left me with a seasick hangover.  They only serve to remind me that the mainsail is torn, the mast splintered, and I alone have the duty to make repairs.  Again.  It is the same procedure every time.  When the story stalls, there is only one place to look, and it is the hardest place to go.  I have to descend into the maelstrom of the human heart; I have to get to know my characters.

Of course, I thought I already had.  A writer does not persist in telling a story for twenty-something chapters without believing he or she knows the people who inhabit the pages.  But it often turns out there is a question I forgot to ask, or an answer my characters hid from me because the truth is painful and ugly.  Just now, one woman refuses to tell me how her first husband died.  I think she may have some kind of psychosis that altered her memory, but how can I write about it unless she tells me the truth?  I wasn’t there!  I don’t know!

This sounds like madness, of course, and if you have already given me up for crazy, well, stop reading.  It’s only going to get worse.

God does, at least, grant writers a superpower He denies to the rest of the human race.  We can time-travel.  We have the opportunity to move backward, change the course of history.  The problem is, we cannot change it just to suit our current needs.  There can be no blithe undoing of wrongs in the style of Quantum Leap.  Any writer who molds the past with an eye toward solving current problems will soon find himself swimming in a very shallow sea.  We have to use our superpower not like dictators, but like archaeologists: dig deeper, uncover new layers, discover an understanding that enlightens the present moment.  We have all read that enlightened moment, the one that is both completely surprising and completely inevitable.  It’s when Hamlet doesn’t kill Claudius, when Boo Radley emerges to save “his” children, when Snape Avada Kedavras Dumbledore.  That moment stuns you to your core, but, slowly, you realize it hadto be that way.  It was the only genuine choice that person, in that moment, could have made.  That moment is the reason we read fiction; it unravels for us one tiny string in the mysterious knot of human nature.

Fortunately, writers do not have to be Shakespeare or even J.K. Rowling to experience that moment for ourselves.  Every character I write is (for a while, at least) my Hamlet, the soul I have to follow into its darkest struggles.  A fictional widow is reticent for real reasons, and the slow, painful process of unknotting her psychosis helps me untangle real human motives.  Every moment–when I finally get it right–becomes that moment.  That is why I persist, even when I have to stare down my own literary shortcomings.  Even when I have to excise large chunks of hard-wrought prose to replace them with the truth.  Even when I have to play psychotherapist to a widowed villain.

If only conveying that moment to an audience were not a thousand times as hard…

So, now it is back into the doldrums I go, where I shall attempt to paddle my way out of a hackneyed sailing metaphor into something beautiful and good.  Can beauty involve sending fairies to un-alter tainted memories?  Please…?

If you see something that looks like a dead animal floating by, don’t worry.  It’s probably just my hair.



Queen of Heaven Rejoice, Alleluia!

Regina Coeli

Part 1: Beyond “Salve Regina”


The Coronation of the Virgin, Enguerrand Quarton

Many Catholics know how to sing the hymn, “Salve Regina” but are less familiar with three other great Marian hymns that are sung throughout the liturgical year: “Alma Redemptoris Mater,” “Ave Regina Caelorum,” and “Regina Coeli.”* Each of these hymns is sung in a different liturgical season. Since we are currently in the Easter season, it is fitting to begin what I hope will eventually be a four-part series of posts about these great seasonal hymns with the “Regina Coeli,” because that is the Marian hymn that the Church sings during this part of the liturgical year.

The traditional Latin Masses that I attend usually end with the congregation singing the appropriate Marian hymn for the season while the priest and servers are leaving the altar at the end of Mass. In the Divine Office, the Marian hymn of the season is always sung after Compline, but it is sung at the end of every Vespers service I’ve attended.

So, What’s an Antiphon?

The seasonal hymns to Our Lady are usually referred to as Marian antiphons, antiphons to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or antiphons to Our Lady.

Explanations of some of the liturgical terminology are probably needed, but because I can’t explain everything here, I’ve linked many terms that may not be understood by everyone, usually to articles in The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913. If you see a term that you don’t understand, click on it, and you can read up about it on your own, if you are so inclined.

The text of an antiphon typically consists of one or more verses from the Psalms or from other parts of Holy Scripture, but occasionally the text is not from Scripture. In The Catholic Encyclopedia, the article about the “Introit” of the Mass gives this example of a rare case where the antiphon was taken from a poem: “‘Salve, sancta parens,’ from the Christian poet Sedulius, is the antiphon used in the Tridentine form of the Roman Rite for common Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

The antiphon is typically either chanted or recited before and after a Psalm or a Canticle. During most of the Hours of the Divine Office, antiphons are usually prayed before and after complete (or almost-complete) Psalms and Canticles.

Each Mass also has Antiphons for the Introit (Entrance), the Offertory, and the Communion, but the Mass antiphons are commonly prayed with only one or a few Psalm verses.

Introit Antiphon Example

The Introit (which means “he enters”) can serve as a good illustration of some of the changes over the millennia to how the Mass antiphons were prayed. In the early Church, Psalms of David were sung before the start of Mass while the priest was processing towards the altar, and the antiphon was sung after every verse of the Introit Psalm. Eventually, the rubrics were changed so that the antiphon was repeated after every second, third, or fourth verse, and ever since the Council of Trent, the antiphon has been usually sung only twice, before and after the Psalm or Canticle.

Currently, the Introit is made up of an antiphon and single Psalm verse that are sung together at the beginning of the Mass. Note that in the Ordinary Form of the Mass that was introduced in 1969, the Introit is called the Entrance Antiphon, but the rules are the same.

All antiphons sung during the Divine Office and the Mass are “Proper” to the season, which means that they change according to the feast or the season of the liturgical year. The thoughts and emotions expressed in the words of an antiphon — and in its melody (when it is chanted)– evoke the liturgical and mystical meaning of the verses that the antiphon accompanies.

The beginning antiphon can be seen as a kind of prelude that prepares the hearers to understand the meaning of the verse or verses in the day’s liturgy, and then when the antiphon is repeated afterwards, it also serves as a kind of summary.

Another interesting thing to realize is that many Masses are referred to by a name that comes from the first word of the Introit of the day. This ancient naming convention is derived from how documents were identified before titles were used. This method of naming continues in how the names of papal documents, such as “Dei Verbum” and “Summorum Pontificum,” are taken from their first few words in Latin.

For one example of how Sundays are named, Laetare Sunday, the fourth and middle Sunday of Lent, is so named because “Laetare Jerusalem” — “Rejoice, O Jerusalem” are the first words in the Introit for the day. Both the Introit and the name of the Sunday match the tone, because the Church celebrates that Lent is halfway over by relaxing some of the Lenten restrictions, such as changing the color of the vestments from violet to rose, and allowing organ music and flowers on the altar for that one Sunday.

Example Introit/Entrance Antiphon

Let’s take a look at the Introit for the 3rd Sunday after Easter (Extraordinary Form), which in 2014 falls on May 11, to see a good illustration of several of these concepts. In the liturgy for the Sundays after Easter, the Church is continuing the celebration of the Easter Resurrection, and so all Introits of the Pascal season begin with joyful acclamations. The antiphon for the 3rd Sunday after Easter begins with “Jubilate Deo,” which means, “Shout with joy to God.”

From the first word in the Latin antiphon comes the name “Jubilate [pronounced Yoo-bee-LAH-tay] Sunday.”

The theme of rejoicing is also emphasized by the three alleluias that end the Introit antiphon. The word “alleluia” (from Hebrew הללו יה) is an exultant cry of joy, with a literal meaning of “Praise ye Yah,” or “Praise ye the Lord.”

Because all of the Roman Church abstains from alleluias all throughout Lent, the return of the alleluias is in itself a cause for joy. In the Extraordinary Form, the fast from alleluias starts even earlier on Septuagesima Sunday, three Sundays before the first Sunday in Lent. (See “Singing Goodbye to the Alleluia | Living the Septuagesima Season.”)

The Easter Introit breaks the alleluia fast with three alleluias, and the veritable feast of alleluias continues in the Introits for all the Sundays in Eastertide, which is also called Pascaltide), until Pentecost.

On the 3rd Sunday after Easter, the antiphon and its three alleluias are followed by verse 3 from Psalm 66 (identified with Ps. at the start of the verse): “Say unto God, How terrible are thy works, O Lord! in the multitude of thy strength thy enemies shall lie to thee.” The minor Doxology is then prayed.

Minor Doxology

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, both now, and always, and to ages of ages. Amen.

And then the antiphon is repeated.

Antiphon: Jubilate Deo, omnis terra, alleluia: psalmum dicite nomini ejus, alleluia: date gloriam laudi ejus, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. –
(Psalm 65:3) Dicite Deo, quam terribilia sunt opera tua, Domine. In multitudine virtutis tuae mentientur tibi inimici tui.
(Doxology) V.: Gloria Patri . . . Antiphon: Jubilate Deo, omnis terra . . .
Antiphon: Shout with joy to God, all the earth, alleluia: sing ye a psalm to His Name, alleluia: give glory to His praise, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. — (Psalm 65:3) Say unto God: How terrible are Thy works, O Lord! In the multitude of Thy strength Thine enemies shall lie to Thee.
(Doxology) V.: Glory be to the Father . . .
Antiphon: Shout with joy to God . . .

In the Ordinary Form, the feast is called the 3rd Sunday of Easter (instead of the 3rd Sunday after Easter). The Entrance Antiphon for the 3rd Sunday of Easter may be found in Latin in the little known Graduale Romanum, which provides the chants for every day of the year in the Ordinary Form calendar, in Latin with English translations. (This book is used by the St. Ann Choir because they accompany Latin Gregorian Masses in the Ordinary Form.)

Usually, Ordinary Form Masses are celebrated in English. Recently, a lot of excellent work has been done by various Church musicians and groups to create books that make available approved English versions of the texts and chant for the Propers in the Ordinary Form, including Adam Bartlett’s Simple English Propers.

On that same praiseworthy line, on May 14, 2014, Corpus Christ Watershed will be releasing the St. Issac Jogues Illuminated Missal, Lectionary, & Gradual, which the authors assert is the “forgotten book” of the Second Vatican Council (see the Introduction, in which they state their convincing reasons for this assertion). From the examples in their promotional video, the St. Isaac Jogues Illuminated Missal, Lectionary, & Gradual is beautifully and intelligently designed; it is a pew book that provides the prayers of the Mass and theologically sound hymns, and it includes both the Ordinary and Proper of the Mass, in both in Latin and in English. The goal of CCW seems to be to provide the liturgy aids needed for a more-reverent celebration of the Ordinary Form Mass so that the liturgy actually conforms to what many scholars assert was spelled out in Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium of 1963 from Vatican II, and the subsequent General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).

Following is the Entrance antiphon for the 3rd Sunday of Easter from the Simple English Propers:

Shout Joyfully to God all the earth alleluia;
sing a psalm to His name, alleluia;
praise him with magnificence, alleluia,
alleluia, alleluia

Say to God:
“How awesome are your deeds, O Lord!
In the greatness of your power,
your enemies will be convicted of lying to you”

It may be obvious that my preference is for the Extraordinary Form and for Latin chant over English. If you want to hear and compare for yourself, here are links to two random Youtube videos of the Entrance Antiphon in English and the Introit in Latin.

When is an Antiphon Not an Antiphon?

Strictly speaking, the Marian antiphons aren’t really antiphons because they are sung alone. The antiphons of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Alma Redemptoris Mater”, “Salve Regina,” “Ave Regina Coelorum,”and “Regina Coeli,” were originally sung in connection with psalms, but they have been sung as detached chants since the year 1239, when Pope Gregory IX ordered that they be sung, each according to its season, at the end of the Divine Office.

Seasons for the Marian Antiphons

The seasons for each Marian antiphon are as follows:
• Alma Redemptoris Mater (Advent through February 2)
• “Ave Regina Caelorum” (February 3 until the Easter Vigil)
• Regina Coeli (Easter until the Saturday after Pentecost Sunday)
• Salve Regina (Trinity Sunday – which is the Sunday after Pentecost Sunday — until the Saturday before Advent)

The chants for the Marian antiphons come in two versions, a simple tone and a solemn tone.

Regina Caeli, The Words and the Music, Finally

From Easter Sunday until the Saturday after Pentecost, the Church sings this antiphon to the Queen of Heaven. We joyfully tell Our Lady to rejoice, and we remind ourselves too, that Christ, her Son, He who she alone merited to bear, is risen — as He said.

Regina Caeli, laetare, alleluia; quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia; resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia; ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia; for He whom thou was chosen to bear, alleluia; has risen as He said, alleluia; pray for us to God, alleluia.

Regina Caeli, Simple Tone

To listen to this simple tone sung by the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, click here.

Regina Caeli, Solemn Tone
To listen to this solemn tone sung by the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of Saint Maurice et Saint Maur de Clervaux, click here.

Saying the Regina Caeli Instead of the Angelus

Between Easter and Pentecost, the “Regina Coeli” also replaces the Angelus.

Instead of the Angelus, which is usually recited three times a day, at morning, noon, and evening, sing or recite the hymn Regina Coeli, and then repeat the Versical (V.), the Response (R.) and the Collect as shown in the following quote from the Roman Breviary.

REGINA, caeli, laetare, alleluia:
Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia,
Resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia.
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

O QUEEN of heaven rejoice! alleluia:
For He whom thou didst merit to bear, alleluia,
Hath arisen as he said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
V. Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia,
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. Because the Lord is truly risen, alleluia.

Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum laetificare dignatus es: praesta, quaesumus; ut, per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Let us pray
O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; grant, we beseech Thee, that through His Mother, the Virgin Mary, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Mark Twain Relates A Slightly Garbled Version of the Regina Coeli’s Creation Legend

Mark Twain in The Innocents Abroad (which was published in 1869) wrote a bit of satire that includes the legend of the origin of the “Regina Coeli.” Twain quoted the account from an unnamed book published in New York in 1808, written by “Rev. William H. Neligan, LL.D., M. A., Trinity College, Dublin; Member of the Archaeological Society of Great Britain.” Twain poked fun at what he believed to be the incredulity of the author, who in spite of his string of degrees, wrote seriously about miraculous occurrences.

Twain wrote, perhaps wistfully: “Still, I would gladly change my unbelief for Neligan’s faith … .

“The old gentleman’s undoubting, unquestioning simplicity has a rare freshness about it in these matter-of-fact railroading and telegraphing days. Hear him, concerning the church of Ara Coeli:

‘In the roof of the church, directly above the high altar, is engraved, ‘Regina Coeli laetare Alleluia.’ In the sixth century Rome was visited by a fearful pestilence. Gregory the Great urged the people to do penance, and a general procession was formed. It was to proceed from Ara Coeli to St. Peter’s. As it passed before the mole of Adrian, now the Castle of St. Angelo, the sound of heavenly voices was heard singing (it was Easter morn,) ‘Regina Coeli, laetare! alleluia! quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia! resurrexit sicut dixit; alleluia!’ The Pontiff, carrying in his hands the portrait of the Virgin, (which is over the high altar and is said to have been painted by St. Luke,) answered, with the astonished people, ‘Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia!’ At the same time an angel was seen to put up a sword in a scabbard, and the pestilence ceased on the same day. There are four circumstances which ‘CONFIRM’–[The italics are mine--M. T.]–this miracle: the annual procession which takes place in the western church on the feast of St Mark; the statue of St. Michael, placed on the mole of Adrian, which has since that time been called the Castle of St. Angelo; the antiphon Regina Coeli which the Catholic church sings during paschal time; and the inscription in the church.”

The Current Statue of St. Michael Sheathing His Sword atop the Castel D'Angelo in Rome

The Current Statue of St. Michael Sheathing His Sword atop the Castel D’Angelo in Rome

My own research indicates that the icon believed to have been painted by St. Luke that was carried by Pope St. Gregory the Great in procession is actually the image known as Salus Populi Romani, Health (or Salvation) of the People of Rome, which Pope Francis venerated the day after his election.

The author that Twain quoted seems to have been wrong about the church where the image resided, because the image was not and is not in the Ara Coeli Church but in Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major).

The mention of the procession and also of the church having been St. Mary Major is corroborated in part by this quote from Butler’s Lives of the Saints, “The great litany is sung on this day to beg that God would be pleased to avert from us the scourges which our sins deserve. The origin of this custom is usually ascribed to St. Gregory the Great, who, by public supplication, or litany, with a procession of the whole city of Rome, divided into seven bands, or companies, obtained of God the extinction of a dreadful pestilence. … The station was at St. Mary Major’s, and this procession and litany were made in the year 590.” Butler’s Lives of the Saints as quoted here.

The account that Twain quoted says that St. Gregory the Great’s miraculous procession took place on Easter, other accounts place the procession during Eastertime, and others specify April 25, which is the feast of St. Mark. Even Twain quotes one supposed proof for the miracle as the then-current procession on St. Mark’s feast day, without explaining the connection. One possible explanation that makes all of these versions possibly correct is that April 25 may occur on Easter or afterwards. However, the feast of St. Mark didn’t get assigned to April 25 for many centuries after the miraculous procession is said to have occurred in the year 591.

Dom Guéranger, O.S.B in The Liturgical Year wrote that a procession on which the Great Litanies were prayed existed as far back as the fourth century, and that April 25 is a Rogation Day, and that the procession predated the assignment of that day to the feast of St. Mark.

“This day is honored in the Liturgy by what is called Saint Mark’s Procession. The term, however, is not a correct one, inasmuch as a procession was a privilege peculiar to April 25 previously to the institution of our Evangelist’s feast, which even so late as the sixth century had no fixed day in the Roman Church. The real name of this procession is The Greater Litanies. The word Litany means Supplication, and is applied to the religious rite of singing certain chants whilst proceeding from place to place in order to propitiate heaven.”

Salus Populi Romani, traditionally said to be painted by St. Luke, this image is also said to have been carried by Pope St. Gregory the Great in the procession when the Regina Coeli was first sung, St. Michael sheathed his sword, and the plague came to an end

The icon Salus Populi Romani, traditionally said to be painted by St. Luke, this image is also said to have been carried by Pope St. Gregory the Great in the procession when the angels sang the Regina Coeli, St. Michael sheathed his sword, and the plague came to an end

The Golden Legend**, which was compiled around 1260, relates the story this way. The people of Rome were walking in procession and chanting the litanies to ask heaven to remove a plague that was killing 90 men an hour, while Pope St. Gregory walked with them holding a perfect likeliness of Our Lady that had been painted by St. Luke. “And lo, the poisonous uncleanness of the air yielded to the image as if fleeing from it . . ..” Angels were heard around the image singing the first three lines of the Regina Coeli, “Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia: Quia quem meruisti port are, alleluia, Resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia.” Pope Gregory added a fourth line that is slightly different from the version we sing today: ‘Ora pro nobis. Deum rogamus. alleluia’. When the pope then saw St. Michael standing on the top of the castle/mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian sheathing his sword, he knew that the plague had ceased.

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (Guercino), St. Luke Displaying a Painting of the Virgin, oil on canvas, 1652-53

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (Guercino), St. Luke Displaying a Painting of the Virgin, oil on canvas, 1652-53

The tomb of Hadrian became the Castle of the Holy Angel (Castel Sant’Angelo), which later became a residence of the popes and then a prison (the Golden Legend calls it the Castle of Crescentius for a famous Roman aristocrat named Crescentius who was imprisoned there in 974). Castel Sant’Angelo now is a museum.

At the head of the procession, St. Gregory the Great sees St, Michael atop the castle putting his sword into its scabbard

At the head of the procession, St. Gregory the Great sees St, Michael atop the castle putting his sword into its scabbard

* Regina Coeli is also spelled Regina Caeli.

** The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints, Volume I. Jacobus de Voragine. Translated by William Granger Ryan. Princeton University Press. Pp. 173-174.

More Signs of the Literary Renaissance

Guest post by Peter Atkinson

My friend, Kristen Liffrig, once said to me, “My education seems to have given me cocktail conversation, but not much else.” Her words humorously struck upon a common experience: the apparent irrelevance of our education to our lives. Why then are we still studying today if we do not know our purpose? Father Luigi Giussani once wrote that if we were to run around hurriedly without knowing where we were going, we would rightly be considered mad. It seems that our current education leaves us mad—both at our incurred debt and in our spirit.

For this reason, among others, we started the creative journal Contraries at Ave Maria University: to discover the purpose of our education and to start a conversation about our culture, life, and faith. In proposing to ourselves and our peers the work of creative art, we are attempting to formulate a vision of life, “bringing form to, and out of, the tumult of our experience,” as one of my professors said. Our experience, of which our education is a part, needs to make sense. Contraries is one pathway by which we are attempting to meet this need by fashioning and sharing our undergraduate experience in creative form.

Below, please find one of our pieces, recently published in Contraries. Also, please visit to read more.



Monica David

First published in Contraries, at Ave Maria University.

As expected, the sun rose punctually over the respectable roofs of Olympus City. In Bowen’s Eatery, the two girls who constituted the entire staff just as punctually entered and tied tidy white aprons over their bright print dresses. Selma went to the kitchen and began to make coffee, while Jean wiped the counter and pulled back the curtains. Looking outside, Jean noticed that the gas station across the road had changed the display in the small window where they flaunted their merchandise. Now those who walked by were tempted by jelly beans and Photoplay instead of peppermints and Modern Screen.

Selma called to her friend from the kitchen.

“Jeannie, where’s the rag we used for the dishes yesterday?”

“Under the sink. It was too dirty to be used again. Better get a new one.”

“All right.” There was a brief silence as she disappeared again and Jean dusted the soda fountain. The handle on the front door turned, but the door was locked. Whoever who was trying to enter knocked three times, rather sharply. Selma abruptly came out of the kitchen and the two girls looked at each other with surprise.

“Gee, an early bird. And I was hoping we could have a few minutes to just have a cup of coffee before the usual stampede. Don’t bother—I’ll get it.”

Selma strode to the door, unlocked it, and opened it with a flourish. A tall man in a dark coat and hat accepted her apologies and sat down at the counter, ordering coffee before the girls could properly prepare the shop or themselves for the arrival of a stranger, and one so particularly worthy of notice. As she went back to the kitchen, Selma silently arched her eyebrows at Jean.

“Must be someone’s lucky day,” she whispered.

Jean smiled and turned back to the customer. With a great effort, she composedly served him, and decided to give the shining counters another good scrub, so as to give herself a definite occupation. She had no sooner begun this than Selma came back in, adjusting her hat with as much girlish charm as she could rustle up at a moment’s notice.

“Oh, Jean, I’ll just run out and get some gum before we get really busy.” She glanced at the stranger with apparent absence of mind, and left through the kitchen door, only to return with a last question.

“Jean, will you take the money down to the bank when I get back or shall I do it now?”

“Oh, I can do it later.” Why couldn’t Selma shut up and leave?

The kitchen door hadn’t even finished swinging when they both heard the back door slam. There was a moment’s silence, and then Jean looked up through her eyelashes at the man—he was looking at her too, one hand on his coffee cup. She smiled nervously. Quite suddenly, he got up and walked over to where she stood wiping the counter next to the cash register.

“Alone at last. What luck,” he said. And then she observed the way his slender fingers looked, clasped around the handle of a revolver. Looking up in amazement, she encountered an engaging smile and ironic eyes. With his other hand, he indicated the cash register.

“Come on, honey, hand it over—don’t scream. You don’t want the cops coming here, do you?” He smiled and reached for the open drawer of the register. “Thanks. Take a guess — how much is in there, do you think? Fifty dollars? Forty?”

With smooth assurance, he picked up the little pile of crumpled green bills and flipped through them with one hand. “Not a heck of a lot. Still, it’s something. Probably more than you make a week.” He glanced up at her. “Never been held up before, have you?” They looked at each other for a moment in silence. “Well, have you?” he asked again. She shook her head and answered quietly.

“No. No, we’ve never been… It’s a small place, you know, not an awful lot of people come through here.” The clock ticked with lazy insistence as a fly buzzed over the sticky doughnuts which reposed majestically on a dusty plate further down the counter. A car door slammed outside and the early sunshine danced with bright abandon over the chipped counter and on the curtains faded by years of neglect. All at once she leaned forward.

“What are you going to do with it?”

Again a smile answered her. “Blow it on something I don’t need. What else?”

To her horror, yet not to her surprise, she smiled back at him. Just then Selma walked past the side window on her way to the back door, complacently humming to herself as she casually adjusted her hair. Both of them saw her. He was the first to move. Shoving both gun and money into his pocket, he backed towards the front door, and paused with his hand on the handle. “Good-bye, lady. Here, have a song on me. If I wasn’t in such a hurry, we’d dance it together.” He tossed a coin onto the counter, touched his hat, grinned, and was gone.

The door from the kitchen swung open and Selma came into view, frowning furiously as she attempted to open a pack of gum. “Hey Jeannie, you know what that fresh kid at the drugstore said to me? He– ” She suddenly looked up. “Jean, what’s wrong? Jean!” She rushed over to the cash register and pulled out the empty drawer as far as it could go. “Dear Lord, what happened? Jean— ”

“We’ve been held up, Selma. At least, I guess I was. I don’t know where he went. I don’t know.”

Selma acted with all the agitation and hysteria appropriate to such a situation. Supporting herself with an elbow on the counter, she pressed her hand to her heart, screamed, exclaimed, rushed out to the corner to see if she could catch a glimpse of the thief, rushed back in, clasped Jean, inquired if she was all right, and finally, remembering the proper procedure in a case of this sort, flew to the telephone and spent a delighted few minutes calling the police and Mr. Bowen. These duties having been enthusiastically fulfilled, she hurried towards her friend.

“You poor, poor thing! Did he threaten you? What did he say? What did you do? Oh Jeannie, you poor thing! The police are coming, and everybody. Oh my Gosh, I can’t believe this happened, and me not here! How scared you must have been! If it had been me, I’d — Why Jean, what in the world are you doing?”

Jean turned from the jukebox, into which she was slipping a coin. “He didn’t take everything, you know. He left me a nickel. Said to play a song with it. So I am.”

And as the agitated citizens and constabulary of Olympus City fell over each other in their eagerness to enter the scene of the crime, they were greeted by the loud, brassy notes and acidly triumphant tones of a popular song, whose waves filled the place with sentiments and atmosphere which, as they all agreed afterwards, had absolutely nothing to do with what had happened. It was, as a matter of fact, embarrassing for all concerned. There was a certain decorum which should have been preserved, and this fool of a girl had broken it by a hysterical gesture. As a matter of fact, she became thoroughly ashamed of it herself, once her friends had spoken to her about it.

What García Márquez Meant to the Macondians

Gabriel Gracia MarquezDappled Things president Bernardo Aparicio García weighed in about the death of the most beloved writer from his native Colombia, Gabriel García Márquez.

Colombia of the ’80s and ’90s contained within itself Hell and Paradise all at once, each in its full force, neither diluting the other. This point is essential to understand why so many of us have taken to calling our beloved Nobel Laureate, the late Gabriel García Márquez, the most important Colombian who ever lived.

Read more at The Millions.

The Dying of the Light

Tenebrae begins in a darkened chapel with fifteen candles burning on a candelabrum. As the choir sings sorrowful Psalms and the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the candles are extinguished one by one . . .

Tenebrae begins in a darkened chapel with fifteen candles burning on a triangular candelabrum. As the choir sings sorrowful Psalms and the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the candles are extinguished one by one . . .


TENEBRAE is Latin for shadows or darkness, and Tenebrae is the apt name for a dramatic celebration of Matins and Lauds that used to be commonly held throughout the Western Church during the last days of Holy Week. Thank goodness, Tenebrae is still publicly celebrated in some places. For one example, the following announcement is from the St. Ann Choir of Palo Alto, California, which sings a Tenebrae service every year on the Wednesday of Holy Week.

TENEBRAE, Wednesday April 16, 2014, 8:00 p.m. Anticipated Matins and Lauds of Holy Thursday. Lamentations of Jeremiah by Victoria. St. Ann Chapel, 541 Melville Ave. (at Tasso)
Palo Alto, 94301.

When I used to sing with the St. Ann Choir. I became acquainted with Tenebrae and learned to love it, and now that I sing with another choir that doesn’t sing at a Tenebrae service, I try very hard to keep on attending the St. Ann choir’s Tenebrae every year as a member of the congregation. The funereal singing of mournful psalms, the haunting polyphonic Lamentations of Jeremiah by Renaissance composer, Tomas Luis de Victoria (c.1548-1611), and the dramatic diminishment of the light and the growth of darkness during the ceremony that is enacted during the service, all set the tone for the last three days of Holy Week, when the Church solemnly meditates on Christ’s Passion, death, and burial.

St. Ann Choir Tenebrae Rehearsal 2013

St. Ann Choir Tenebrae Rehearsal 2013

Matins and Lauds, and Anticipation

Some definitions may be helpful. Matins and Lauds are first two liturgical “hours” in the traditional Divine Office from the Roman Breviary (Breviarum Romanum) that are “sung” (chanted or prayed) each day. Matins used to be sung after midnight and Lauds was sung in the morning, but both of these hours began generally to be “anticipated” the evening before. The 1962 rubrics said that Tenebrae should not be anticipated, but because this change made public Tenebrae services unlikely, it is often ignored.

The St. Ann choir sings a shortened version of the two liturgical hours. As Stanford Professor William P. Mahrt, the director of the St. Ann Choir explained, “We use an order that has been customary in parishes: we sing one Nocturn of Matins and then Lauds.”

Lamentations of Jeremiah

The Lamentations of Jeremiah that are sung during Tenebrae are songs of lament composed by the prophet Jeremiah after the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Babylonian captivity. They begin:

“And it came to pass, after Israel was carried into captivity, and Jerusalem was desolate, that Jeremias the prophet sat weeping, and mourned with this lamentation over Jerusalem, and with a sorrowful mind, sighing and moaning, he said.”

The destruction of Jerusalem was similar in the enormity of its importance to the Jews as the destruction of Troy was for the Trojans and the destruction of Carthage was for the Carthaginians, but it was even more of a blow to the Jews because their beloved temple was destroyed and most of them were taken into captivity.

The Lamentations have received a peculiar distinction in the Liturgy of the Church in the Office of Passion Week. If Christ Himself designated His death as the destruction of a temple, “he spoke of the temple of his body” (John 2:19-21), then the Church surely has a right to pour out her grief over His death in those Lamentations which were sung over the ruins of the temple destroyed by the sins of the nation.” “Jeremias.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. Link.

Fifteen Candles and Then There Was One

The service begins with fifteen candles lit on a large candelabrum, which is called a hearse. After the choir sings each Psalm and Lamentation, one candle is extinguished, until only one candle is left burning.

The remaining lighted candle is then hidden. After a pause, anyone in the church who wishes to participate can help create the “strepitus,” which is a loud noise made by banging on the pews with books or hands. As Prof. Mahrt, noted, “This is the only time in this liturgy in which a noise that is not musical is made.” After the strepitus, the candle is brought back, and the service comes to an end.

Prof. Mahrt wrote, “The service represents symbolically the death of Christ, the light, in the decrease of lighted candles and the disappearance of the last candle; the strepitus represents the chaos of His death; the return of the candle, His ultimate Resurrection.”

Without a doubt, the Tenebrae service of solemn music with its dramatic interplay of darkness and light is an evocative and moving way to prepare for the commemoration of the events of the Triduum, the last three days of Christ’s life during Holy Week.




From Dom Prosper Gueranger’s commentary on Tenebrae from The Liturgical Year Volume 6: “There is an impressive ceremony peculiar to this Office which tends to perpetuate its name. There is placed in the sanctuary, near the altar, a large triangular candlestick, holding fifteen candles. … At the end of each psalm or canticle, one of these fifteen candles is extinguished; but the one which is placed at the top of the triangle is left lighted. … Then the master of ceremonies takes the lighted candle from the triangle, and holds it upon the altar, on the epistle side, while the choir repeats the antiphon after the canticle: after which he hides it behind the altar during the recitation of the Miserere and the prayer which follows the psalm. As soon as this prayer is finished, a noise is made with the seats of the stalls in the choir, which continues until the candle is brought from behind the altar, and shows, by its light, that the Office of Tenebrae is over.

“Let us now learn the meaning of these ceremonies. The glory of the Son of God was obscured and, so to say, eclipsed, by the ignominies He endured during His Passion. He, the Light of the world, powerful in word and work, Who but a few days ago was proclaimed King by the citizens of Jerusalem, is now robbed of all his honors. He is, says Isaias, the Man of sorrows, a leper (Isaias 53:3,4). He is, says the royal prophet, a worm of the earth, and no man (Psalm 21:7). He is, as He says of himself, an object of shame even to his own disciples, for they are all scandalized in him (Mark 14:27) and abandon Him; yea, even Peter protests that he never knew Him. This desertion on the part of His apostles and disciples is expressed by the candles being extinguished, one after the other, not only on the triangle, but on the altar itself. But Jesus, our Light, though despised and hidden, is not extinguished. This is signified by the candle which is momentarily placed on the altar; it symbolizes our Redeemer suffering and dying on Calvary. In order to express His burial, the candle is hidden behind the altar; its light disappears. A confused noise is heard in the house of God, where all is now darkness. This noise and gloom express the convulsions of nature when Jesus expired on the cross: the earth shook, the rocks were split, the dead came forth from their tombs. But the candle suddenly reappears; its light is as fair as ever. The noise is hushed, and homage is paid to the Conqueror of death.”

NOTE: If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you might be interested in the whole Holy Week schedule here. You can also follow the St. Ann Choir on Facebook or at their website.

Holy Week Schedule for the St. Ann Choir

Holy Week Schedule for the St. Ann Choir