I have always been very taken with music as part of the liturgy. I grew up in Queens, NY and attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church and school. Vatican II came along when I was in eighth grade so I was very familiar with the Latin Mass and the many beautiful Latin hymns. I always enjoyed singing at Mass and greatly appreciate what music and singing bring to the Liturgy in creating that sacred space for worship. Later in life, I rediscovered Gregorian Chant and Polyphony both of which are a feast for the ears! This music will quickly take you to the ethereal realms.
This music brings an special awareness to the transcendent during Mass. The sound and sight of a choir of men and women from all backgrounds singing in harmony to God is a vocal manifestation of Jesus’ prayer to the Father that we all be one (John 17:21 – so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us..).
I was browsing for some chant music recently when a picture of Josquin Des Prez wearing a red hat caught my eye. I had not heard of him before so I began looking at videos of his music and came across the group The Brookline Consort.
I played the YouTube video of their performance of his Ave Maria – virgo serena on Catholic TV. I am at a loss for words but I can only say that their singing was so beautiful that it hurt! The prayer itself is very moving and is below in both Latin and English. The video is at the end.
I never thought that I would write something about music but sometimes things happen and I’m glad that they did. I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I do. Or, maybe it will open up a new interest in liturgical music for you. The peace of Christ to you!
Are you an adult (18+) Catholic who has not received the Sacraments of Eucharist and/or Confirmation?
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the normative way in which non-Catholics – those unbaptized as well as those baptized into other Christian denominations – enter the Church. It is also the way baptized Catholics who never received any catechesis and did not receive Eucharist and Confirmation, can complete their Sacrament of Initiation. The Inquiry Period is October 1, 8 and 15 when we will have weekly Thursday evening sessions for those who want to explore the process. To express interest or to learn more, please call the rectory office of St Peter Church, Danbury, CT at 203-743-2707. If you are not in the area, you can also contact CatholicsComeHome.org for information as well.
It is always interesting to see the connections between the readings of the Mass on any given day. On August 24th, the first reading is from Rev 21: 9b – 14 where John has a vision of the New Jerusalem from an angel where he sees the glorious beauty of the city based on a foundation representing the 12 Apostles.
The Psalm reading (145: 11-13 and 17-18) talks about “Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.” The friends, meaning his Apostles who spread the Word of His teaching. And, in the Gospel, Jn 1: 45-51. I always get a chuckle when Nathaniel first hears about whom”Moses wrote in the law” and then makes the pithy comment “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Despite this remark, it is Nathanael who was in for a surprise, since he ends up being the first disciple of Jesus!
I am always fascinated with the ways people come to Jesus and it always seems to be in a different way each time. I was listening to a convert to the faith who was talking about his initial experience. He was in his twenties at the time and had just completed his tour in the Marine Corp. He had been to a few Masses earlier in his life. On a whim, he decided to attend a local Mass and was following along quietly until the priest raised the Host high and said “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world“….. That struck him like a bolt out of the blue! This time he really HEARD what that meant and that started his journey to the faith.
Another time, I was listening to a woman talking about her journey in faith. She was telling the interviewer that she was explaining to a priest many years ago that she realized that she wanted to do “something more for God. Anything really but I don’t want to become a nun“. The surprise here was that this woman was standing before the interviewer dressed in the full habit of a Religious congregation of Sisters! So, you never know where your journey may take you.
Word Among Us wrote a fine meditation on the reading with Nathanael and it is included below.
DAILY MEDITATION: JOHN 1:45-51
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him. (John 1:47)
Today we commemorate St. Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, the central character in today’s Gospel. The story tells us a lot about conversion. Even more, it can show us that every day presents an opportunity for a new encounter with Jesus.
First, Nathanael is introduced to Jesus by his friend Philip. Philip knew Nathanael was hoping for the Messiah and was excited to introduce him to Jesus. And so it often happens for us. We encounter Jesus through another person, someone who has been touched by Jesus, who is excited about their faith, whose fervor might even call us to stretch our own way of looking at things.
Second, Nathanael’s expectations were jolted when he met Jesus. He had been pondering the Scriptures—a traditional interpretation of sitting “under the fig tree” (John 1:48)—and was convinced that the Messiah would not come from Nazareth. But after he spoke with Jesus, he was willing to consider that something good might in fact come from that small village. For us, encountering Jesus can shed light on a way of thinking or acting that needs to change. Maybe we don’t pay enough attention to caring for the poor or we feel too busy to listen to people who don’t agree with us. Jesus asks us to be open to rethink our ideas.
Third, Nathanael responded. He didn’t just say, “What a nice experience” and continue on his way as before. He professed Jesus as “the Son of God, . . . the King of Israel” and began to follow him (John 1:49).
You might experience a singular, spectacular conversion moment like Nathanael. But it’s more likely that the response Jesus wants from you is to turn your life over to him more, to say yes to him a bit more completely.
Expect to meet Jesus today. Be on the lookout for someone through whom Jesus might be reaching out to you. How might he want to upend your expectations or call you to take the next step in following him? Today is an opportunity to encounter him. Make the most of it!
“Lord, help me to meet you today. Shake up my expectations and help me to follow you more fully.”
I’ve gone back and forth, and back and forth about publishing this post. Because, let’s be honest, a lady’s not supposed to talk about politics, religion or money. But then, when have I ever followed the rules when it comes to that. But my final push to publish this post came when I was having…
Today’s readings are very cohesive in their message. Many times over the centuries, and in modern times as well, faith has been manipulated as a tool to divide people for political ends. This has never been the message of Jesus. The Daily Meditation by Word Among Us is a fitting description of God’s teaching spanning both the Old and New Testaments.
DAILY MEDITATION: ISAIAH 56:1, 6-7
My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (Isaiah 56:7)
All of today’s readings tell us that God’s salvation is meant for everyone. The prophet Isaiah speaks of foreigners who will join themselves to the Lord (56:6). The psalmist declares, “May the peoples praise you, O God” (Psalm 67:6). Jesus praises a Canaanite woman’s faith (Matthew 15:28). And Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, proclaims that God wants to “have mercy upon all” (Romans 11:32).
For the Jewish people in today’s first reading, this must have been difficult to accept. They had just returned from exile to discover foreigners living in their holy city, Jerusalem. Their covenant told them that they were set apart as a holy people chosen by God. So how could “impure” Gentiles be living on their land? They forgot that God had chosen them by his grace, not just for their own sake, but to bring his light to every nation.
This call became increasingly clear in the early Church. Initially, all of Jesus’ followers were Jewish. But as Gentiles came to believe in the Lord, the Jewish Christians began to understand that God’s plan of salvation was far bigger than they had expected. Learning to live and work and pray alongside Gentiles could not have been easy. But they, like us, had to allow God’s grace to help them love each other. The result? The diverse, beautiful, sometimes messy Church we know today.
Jesus wants his Church to be a house of prayer for all nations so that every person can belong to his family. He sees people who are searching for hope, meaning, and a place to meet God, and he is asking us to draw them in, to be the loving, welcoming face of the Church. May we always be open to everyone who is seeking the Lord, and through us, may God’s grace flow out to the entire world!
“Jesus, help me to show everyone the love that you have given me.”
Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8 Romans 11:13-15, 29-32 Matthew 15:21-28
The daily reading on Tuesday of this week includes one of Jesus’ most astounding and difficult teachings. In Matthew 5: 43-48, He tells us it is not enough to love our neighbors. Jesus tells us that we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us! And not only that but that we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect! People who are perfect!? How can this be? Just read a history book or even just the news lately. Perfect? We are only human hence my question as the title of this piece. Below is the meditation from Word Among Us ( June 16th) which actually addresses this question beautifully.
DAILY MEDITATION: MATTHEW 5:43-48
Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
According to the dictionary, “perfect” means “entirely without flaw or defect, meeting supreme standards of excellence, satisfying all requirements.” To which many of us would respond, “Really, Lord? I’m struggling just to hold my life together! Now you want me to be perfect? That’s impossible.”
One reason that perfection can seem so unattainable is that it sounds like an either-or proposition: you’re either perfect or you’re not. But as Scripture scholars point out, the Greek word translated as “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 carries a more dynamic meaning. It indicates something you are always growing into—a process of becoming whole and complete. From this perspective, we can imagine Jesus saying, “Don’t stop! Keep working on becoming the person I created you to be. Don’t settle for anything less than the holiness that comes from wholeness!” The more you become the unique person God made you to be, the more you will resemble Jesus, the perfect One.
So how do you grow into this perfection? Self-improvement programs won’t produce the right kind of change, and neither will piling on acts of self-denial and spiritual calisthenics. It comes as you work on using your talents and gifts in a way that glorifies the Lord and lifts up the people around you. It comes as you focus on one or two roadblocks in your life and ask for Jesus’ grace to help you resolve them: a lingering resentment, an unhealthy habit, or a skewed way of thinking about life.
Today, ask Jesus how he wants you to grow into the perfection he has set aside for you. Let him shine the light of his love on your heart. Let him show you both the person you’re meant to be and the person you are right now. Then come up with one or two things you can do to help bridge the gap between these two visions.
Blessed John Henry Newman once said, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” As you seek to hear and follow Jesus, may you change—and often—day after blessed day!
“Jesus, I trust that you are leading me to wholeness and holiness!”
1 Kings 21:17-29
Psalm 51:3-6, 11, 16
My own comment is to remind you of the importance of receiving the graces of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist to help you in your journey. – John
Last week during prayer time, I was reading the Daily reading from the 2nd Letter of Paul to Timothy. The situation here is that Paul is in prison in Rome and he knows that his execution is not far off. He cares deeply for Timothy who he taught in Corinth when he was preaching there and is now writing to him to encourage him in preaching the Gospel.
As I was reading, this statement really struck a chord with me:
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control. 2 Tm 1: 3.
If ever there was a time when we needed to be the best version of ourselves, this is one of those times given the difficulties of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in our country and , most recently, dealing with the terrible death of George Floyd while in the custody of the police in Minneapolis. We will certainly need to rely on the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the short term in order to get through these difficulties and to help our brothers and sisters to do the same. And rely on the Spirit again to build a healthier and safer society for everyone in the long term. With God’s help, we can do this!
The excellent Meditation from the Word Among Us that was issued that day (June 3rd) is included below:
TODAY’S MEDITATION: 2 TIMOTHY 1:1-3, 6-12
A spirit . . . of power and love and self-control . . . (2 Timothy 1:7)
Do you ever feel a little anxious when you look at the state of the world? That’s probably how Paul’s young friend, Timothy, felt. It appears he was naturally reserved, since Paul advised the Corinthians to “see that he is without fear in your company” if Timothy came to visit (1 Corinthians 16:10). It looks like he might have been a worrier too since Paul counsels him to drink a little wine for his stomach ailments (1 Timothy 5:23).
But Paul’s best advice comes in today’s reading. He encourages Timothy to “stir into flame” the gift of the Holy Spirit that he received at his baptism (2 Timothy 1:6). That’s the same Holy Spirit that you received at your baptism. It’s the same Spirit who gave you the same gifts of power and love and self-control when you were confirmed. What do these gifts look like?
Paul reminds Timothy that this power comes from God. It’s not dependent on “our works but according to . . . the grace bestowed on us in Christ” (2 Timothy 1:9). And because it comes from God, this power can make us brave and unashamed: brave enough to offer to pray with a friend who is hurting. Brave enough to share our faith with a family member who is struggling. Brave enough to turn away from gossip and to change the tone of a negative conversation.
The Spirit also helps us to love. He helps us to lift up each child of God, not just the ones we find attractive, but also the ones who try our patience or who rub us the wrong way. That’s because the Spirit has poured the unconditional love of God into our hearts (Romans 5:5). As we believe in and experience that love, we let go of divisive thoughts, and we become more free to care for the people around us.
Finally, the self-control that comes from the Holy Spirit enables us to rise above our fears and to harness our inner drives. It helps us turn aside from harmful thoughts and overcome old habits that threaten to trip us up.
Power, love, and self-control. These are gifts from the Spirit to you. This is your heritage. Step out in faith and try them out!
“Jesus, thank you for the generous gifts you have given me through your Holy Spirit!”