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Posted by on Jan 22, 2015

James MacMillan — Music and Faith

James MacMillan — Music and Faith

James MacMillan - Wisconsin Public Radio

James MacMillan

James MacMillan is a Catholic Scottish composer from a working class town in the west of Scotland. He composed the Mass of Blessed John Henry Newman which was performed in Westminster Cathedral in London on the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s beatification of the 19th century Cardinal who converted to Catholicism. This was the first visit of a pope to the United Kingdom.

This is an interesting interview about his compositions for parishes and the simplicity underlying MacMillan’s Mass and other religious compositions.

Here is the grand “Tu Es Petrus” (You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.) which is the traditional fanfare for a pope rendered in a very modern tone.

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Posted by on Nov 15, 2014

Te Deum – Our Catholic Song of Thanksgiving

Te Deum – Our Catholic Song of Thanksgiving

Te_Deum_window_by_Whall - cc-by-2.0 license


Te Deum Laudamus — We Praise You O God — is a traditional song of thanksgiving in the Church that is used on special occasions outside of the liturgy or in formal worship.

The videos below are of the ancient chant version dating from the fifth century, followed by Mozart’s version 12 centuries later.

The Te Deum window by Christopher Whall, from the church of St Mary the Virgin in Ware, England is an example of a physical structure depicting the church community joining with the heavenly realms in praise and thanksgiving.

Text and translation of the Te Deum.

TE DEUM laudamus: te Dominum confitemur. O GOD, we praise Thee: we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur. Everlasting Father, all the earth doth worship Thee.
Tibi omnes Angeli; tibi Caeli et universae Potestates; To Thee all the Angels, the Heavens and all the Powers,
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim incessabili voce proclamant: all the Cherubim and Seraphim, unceasingly proclaim:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Pleni sunt caeli et terra maiestatis gloriae tuae. Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus, The glorious choir of the Apostles,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus, the wonderful company of Prophets,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus. the white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
Te per orbem terrarum sancta confitetur Ecclesia, Holy Church throughout the world doth acknowledge Thee:
Patrem immensae maiestatis: the Father of infinite Majesty;
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium; Thy adorable, true and only Son;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum. and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe. O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius. Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem, non horruisti Virginis uterum. Thou, having taken it upon Thyself to deliver man, didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo, aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum. Thou overcame the sting of death and hast opened to believers the Kingdom of Heaven.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris. Thou sitest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
Iudex crederis esse venturus. We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni: quos pretioso sanguine redemisti. We beseech Thee, therefore, to help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari. Make them to be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.
V. Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae. V. Save Thy people, O Lord, and bless Thine inheritance!
R. Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum. R. Govern them, and raise them up forever.
V. Per singulos dies benedicimus te. V. Every day we thank Thee.
R. Et laudamus nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi. R. And we praise Thy Name forever, yea, forever and ever.
V. Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire. V. O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
R. Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri. R. Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
V. Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te. V. Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.
R. In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum. R. O Lord, in Thee I have hoped; let me never be put to shame.



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Posted by on Oct 2, 2014

Holiness Throughout the Day – The Liturgy of the Hours

Holiness Throughout the Day – The Liturgy of the Hours

Many people of a “certain age” remember when priests would sometimes wander around the church yard holding a black leather bound book. It was called the Divine Office and was re-christened the Liturgy of the Hours after Vatican II.

The Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the Church. Many religious orders such as the Dominicans, Franciscans, and  Benedictines pray the liturgy of the hours in a formal church setting with chant. St Dominic’s Church in San Francisco has a wonderful series on the Liturgy of the Hours in their online newsletter. The Liturgy of the Hours can be shared at home by couples and the entire family in ways that are suitable for children, making it a happy experience. In the home church, example is everything. Many people pray two of the hours – morning (lauds or praise) and evening prayer (vespers). Night prayer also know as compline makes a beautiful ending of the day.

For the digital generation, the Liturgy of the Hours can be found on sites such as,, and You can open the Liturgy of the Hours on your mobile phone or tablet and click on the links as opposed to the marking of sections with colored ribbons in the printed version. If you are not praying with a monastic community, some people recommend the digital version as a way to get started. For a special treat listen to the daily podcasts by the Sisters of  Perpetual Adoration of the Liturgy of the Hours.

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Posted by on Sep 1, 2014

A Prayer for All Who Work

A Prayer for All Who Work


O God, who through human labor
never cease to perfect and govern the vast work of creation,
listen to the supplications of your people
and grant that all men and women
may find work that befits their dignity,
joins them more closely to one another
and enables them to serve their neighbor.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Collect For the Sanctification of Human Labor,
The Roman Missal, 2010

Image: Workers Construction on Road

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Posted by on Jun 23, 2014

Preaching and the Liturgy: Notes from Pope Francis

Preaching and the Liturgy: Notes from Pope Francis


The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis’ most recent Apostolic Exhortation, contains many wonderful and important topics for Christian living. One of the great advantages of the Pope’s exhortation is that it is easy to read and understand by the average reader. It is written in a clear, friendly, and non-technical manner. The only word that might need some explanation is “exhortation”. In Latin this is a type of speech given at a pep rally. It is a pep talk.

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis takes thoughts and ideas that can be complex and presents them in a clear way without watering them down. This review is the first in a series. We begin with the homily because it’s role is one of the least understood aspects of Catholic Christian life and liturgy.

The Homily

In sections 135 to 139 of The Joy of the Gospel, the Pope focuses on the homily. Technically, the homily is given by those to whom the Church has given the ministry of preaching — bishops, priests, and deacons. However, many lay people today give reflections on the scripture at prayer, scripture, and communion services in hospitals, jails, and labor camps. Some parishes have lay presiders for authorized communion services if priests are not available for Mass. Consequently, proclaiming the Gospel and preaching can happen, with the approval of the local bishop, in different situations outside the Mass by a wide variety of men and women who have been trained and approved. Sometimes, reflecting on the scriptures also happens in faith sharing groups and individual families.

So what does the Pope encourage us to do about homilies at Mass?

 137. It is worth remembering that “the liturgical proclamation of the word of God, especially in the eucharistic assembly, is not so much a time for meditation and catechesis as a dialogue between God and his people, a dialogue in which the great deeds of salvation are proclaimed and the demands of the covenant are continually restated”.[112] The homily has special importance due to its eucharistic context: it surpasses all forms of catechesis as the supreme moment in the dialogue between God and his people which leads up to sacramental communion.

 Pope Francis underscores the sacred sacramental nature of the homily as a “dialog between God and his people.” The homily is not entertainment, but it needs to give life and meaning to the celebration. In the context of the Mass the homily has to be short, according to Pope Francis, since it’s length can upset the “balance and rhythm” of the Eucharist. Preaching in the context of the liturgy becomes part of the offering to the Father and mediates the grace Christ pours out in the Mass. “This context demands that preaching should guide the assembly, and the preacher, to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist. This means that the words of the preacher must be measured, so that the Lord, more than his minister, will be the center of attention.”

“A life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist” seems like an impossible challenge. While the Pope makes it clear that this “life-changing communion” happens through the grace of God, how do we prepare ourselves to be open to such an experience as preachers and members of the assembly? Pope Francis recommends that preachers take a loving and maternal tone. Mothers are keenly aware of their children’s challenges, their strengths and weaknesses. The Pope assumes the ideal mother-child relationship of trust, happiness, and deep mutual love. Pope Francis characterizes the Lord’s teaching as a dialog. He defines dialog as “much more than the communication of a truth”. Dialog arises from the enjoyment of speaking and enriches people by the sharing of love for each other through conversation. In dialog persons share themselves. Talking with his people is something that the Lord enjoys. The Pope reminds preachers that their words and interaction should be focused on leading them to this same enjoyment of God’s people.

These few points do not even begin to scratch the surface of the Pope’s complete pep talk on preaching. What is remarkable are the themes of joy, enjoyment, and dialog. Very often the popular connotation of “preaching” is a negative, judgmental, and humiliating experience. Many times in the context of the Mass people are looking for a well articulated lesson about morality or Christian doctrine. The Pope and the Church, from the time of the Apostles, are calling us to something deeper, more radical, and very challenging. We are being called to enter the Divine conversation of the life of the Trinity, to hear the Divine Word and to be transformed both as speaker and recipient in the Holy Spirit’s dialog. Pope Francis urges us to take God at His Word.


The Joy of the Gospel – Apostolic Exhortation by Pope Francis,
United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, Washington, DC,
December 2013, also available at the Vatican web site.
Photo by CNS/Paul Haring

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Posted by on Dec 23, 2013

O Emmanuel – Come and Save Us

December 23 — O Emmanuel

“Our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.”

Where are you?
Can’t you come any faster?
Do you not see the innocent slaughtered?
Do you not see the hungry starved?

When will you come O God With Us?
Where will your forces land?
Where will you hold the war crimes trials?
When will you take the greedy who took our food and hope?

O God of Justice
When will we get our justice?
Surely you will come as our Warrior
And make them pay.

How can a child give us
Our revenge?
How can a maiden
Shake off our oppressors?

What good is it
To share our lives and our suffering?
Our drive-by crimes of casual slaughter
Our hopes dashed by greed and addiction

O Come God With Us
And soften our hearts
To know you have chosen to be one of us
To know our victory is in compassion

O Child of Grace and Comfort
O Child of Pain and Division
Show us the Star that leads beyond Calvary
and Lead us into peace.

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Posted by on Dec 22, 2013

O Rex Gentium – King of All the Nations

December 22 — O Rex Gentium

“O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.”

Dust thou art — to the Stars you are called
Leave the dark of agony
The cold of loneliness
Go out to welcome your King

King of All Hearts
King of the World
Line the runways
Announce His coming on the loud speakers

You have only your chains to shed
Your shackles to break
By your word of forgiveness
By exchanging your heart for His

Death has no more claim
Open the gates to the Stars of Grace
Welcome in the joy and peace
Of mercy given, mercy received.


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Posted by on Dec 21, 2013

O Oriens — Splendor of Eternal Light — Dayspring

O Oriens — Splendor of Eternal Light — Dayspring

December 21 — O Oriens

“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.”


The shortest day gives way
to the Unconquered Son
The darkness of wrong
Gives way to the Sun of Justice

The sun returns
A pale reflection of Eternal Light
On those in the darkness of
Addiction, greed, and fear

Darkness underneath the bright lights and
Colors of the Christmas tree
Shines in blurriness of the winter heart
Seated by the fire in 500 watts of dim.

In the bright Santa Cruz sun
Bouncing on the bright slate blue
Open our hearts to singing sails
Of salt breeze setting all of us captives free.


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Posted by on Dec 20, 2013

O Clavis David – Key of David – Key to the Gate of Heaven

December 20 – O Clavis David

“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.”

And lead us into Freedom
The promised land
Out of our darkness
Fear, anxiety, and certainty

Break down the prisons
of our making
Those with wall to wall carpets
Harboring unforgiven hurt

With swimming pools
and security cameras
with sweeping vistas
Fending off death with denial

O Sol Invictus, Unconquered Sun
Fade the street lamps
of our night
With your dawn O Risen Son.


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Posted by on Dec 19, 2013

O Radix Jesse – Flower of Jesse’s Stem – Not So Fast My Friend

December 19 – O Radix Jesse

“O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.”

Logged clean, the chosen people swept away,
Isaiah announced that even the stumps would be blown away.
Yet from the root God would restore His people,
The chosen ones the Cedars of Lebanon

But that flower of Jesse, David’s line,
Was lifted high on a tree
With the mocking sign, King of the Jews,
Proved true on the third day.

Your Kingdom come, O victorious one.
But maybe you should tarry – be fashionably late.
Things are pretty well handled.
We have no kings anymore.

Have another drink, watch some TV,
It’s all good.
Why should I be saved from my comfort?
Why leave Egypt when I can starve here?

This saving thing and your coming
Mess up my schedule.
Gotta pick up the kids and feed them styrofoam.
A disciple’s cross is too hard a price to pay.

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Posted by on Dec 18, 2013

My Soul in Stillness Waits – Truly My Hope is in You

December 18 – O Adonai

“O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.”

Be careful what you pray for.
The Lord Adonai is not tame.
The Fire that burns but does not consume,
That utterly calm voice that strikes our guts,
The One who sends us to the captive and oppressed,
No More Nice God;
Take off your shoes, you are in the shadow of the Holy.

Will Stoller-Lee on History Channel’s Upcoming Series, The Bible | Moses and the Burning Bush from Fuller Seminary in Colorado on Vimeo.

The following Burning Bush segment from the movie the Prince of Egypt is a beautiful and challenging theme. How will we recognize the coming of God if we have not been at the Burning Bush? We are the people we have been waiting for. We are Moses.

If you get an error message when playing this video, please refresh your browser.

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Posted by on Dec 17, 2013

The Week before Christmas – A Time for Stillness

Please join us in the joyful anticipation of Christmas during this time of stillness and waiting that is Advent. We remind ourselves that the celebration of Christmas begins on the Eve of the Nativity, the 24th. There are two weeks to celebrate this great feast of God with us. Leave the hustle and bustle and share the gift of peace with your loved ones.

The O Antiphons which are sung before the Magnificat at Vespers set the tone for each day of this special week.

December 17 – O Sapientia

“O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.”



What wisdom is this folly?

That God should come to share our death?

What Word of God, the Fullest Godself Expression on High

That governs all, would come for us in such lowliness?

O Wisdom? O Foolishness of Divine Love,

You seek us out, O Wisdom from on high.

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Posted by on Dec 14, 2012

“The New Translation of the Roman Missal” One Year Later

“The New Translation of the Roman Missal” One Year Later

Roman Missal

A New Translation for a Worldwide Faith Community

On the first Sunday of Advent in November 2011, English speaking Roman Catholics began using the new translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. New principles for translation were originally approved in 2001 and many years of work went into the development and distribution of the new Roman Missal. While updates to the Missal and to the book of instructions on how to use the Missal (The General Instruction on the Roman Missal) have occurred on several occasions since the original decision of the bishops at the Second Vatican Council to encourage use of the vernacular (the language of the people) rather than Latin in Roman Catholic worship, this update engendered more controversy than its predecessor.

The reason for the controversy was simple: the guidelines for translation had been changed to emphasize literal translation rather than the more interpretive, idiomatic, inclusive language that the earlier version had favored. As a result, in addition to the need to deal with a change of language patterns, people were being required to change from familiar formulations to newer, sometimes stilted or more ornate, and/or less inclusive ones. For example, in the new version of the Nicene Creed, the phrase “consubstantial with the Father” replaces “one in being with the Father.” When asked how to explain the word “consubstantial” to people in the pews, the response was to explain that it means, “one in being.” Such changes and explanations left many people scratching their heads in puzzled amazement that anyone would think the newer phrase was an improvement.

Nevertheless, the decision was made that a new revision was needed — if for no other reason than to update feasts of saints to include newly canonized ones. So a new revision of the Roman Missal was prepared and promulgated and the People of God began to adapt one year ago.

Perspective of a Translator and Anthropologist

In the interest of transparency, I will note here that as an anthropologist and professional translator, I was not thrilled with the new translation. I do not speak Latin, but I speak Spanish and read enough Latin to recognize familiar prayers and liturgical usages. The new translation, in my professional judgment, is too literal. As a result, its phrasing is sometimes awkward and confusing. The ornate feel of some of the prayers is foreign to our cultural experience, making them almost seem like parodies of an older time and sensibility. As a translator, the works for which I have been most seriously criticized have been those in which I was more literal in my approach. Even technical bio-medical translations, instructions for patients, and informed medical consent forms require a certain degree of  freedom from the literal and conversion into idiomatic, more culturally-based constructions. Pastoral letters, poetry, fiction, and essays require use of poetic and culturally specific phrasing and word selection. In fact, word choice will even vary based on the national dialect of the target audience. An American in Southern California, for example, may well be puzzled at hearing that guests entered the room and were seated on the chesterfield. An individual from Alberta, Canada will immediately know that the item of furniture in question is what the Californian would know as a sofa and someone from Eastern Washington might call a davenport.

The idea that one literal translation will meet the needs of all English speakers in the world, or even of all English speakers in a country the size of the United States, fails to recognize the impossibility of expressing the inexpressible in any one set of words. Of course, no words can really capture the reality of God and our personal relationships with the divine, but literal phrasing can make it more problematic. Since words are both based in cultural understandings of reality and formative of them, words do not always convey the same idea when used in different languages or cultural contexts. The words used may also be indicative of a different emphasis or understanding of the same event from one language to another.

I appreciate the effort to make clearer reference to biblical sources for the prayers of the Mass (e.g. the “Lord, I am not worthy” before Communion is taken from the words of the Centurion whose servant was healed by Jesus [Mt 8:5-13]). However, in this and other instances, the “new” version is a return to the earliest translation we had immediately following the Council. That one was replaced for pastoral reasons: it was too literal, tended to be confusing to the faithful, and was non-inclusive in its gender references at a time when the position and status of women in societies around the world was changing towards greater inclusivity and equality! We have come full circle and the original  version’s limitations have not gone away.

Enough of Theory, What Actually Happened?

Despite the reservations felt by many as the transition date approached, the first day using the new translation arrived in parishes around the world and we all stumbled through the new wordings. We learned new music to go with the new words. We found ourselves reciting the old words when our attention strayed or when we were deeply into the ritual and its mystery. Sometimes the celebrant forgot the new wording. Sometimes we did.

We’ve now had a full year to experience the new translation. How has it gone? I have visited parishes in California, Oregon and Washington state and seen some common patterns.

  1. The first insight is one I originally heard many years ago from Professor George Foster of the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Berkeley. “People are pragmatic.” If we have to learn new words, we might as well start learning them as new songs; and so we did. If there’s an option regarding which prayer to use, we choose the more familiar or the less awkward one. The Apostles’ Creed is now much more commonly used, for example, in the parishes I’ve visited than the Nicene Creed with its “consubstantial with the Father” and “incarnate of the Virgin Mary.”
  2. No one worries if a celebrant or participant in the liturgy gets something wrong. We just smile and go ahead with the celebration.
  3. Perhaps the most reassuring thing I’ve seen is that so very few people have left the community in a huff over the new translation. I remember when we first began to use English. There were a lot of people who left because in their view it was no longer a Church that was faithful and unchanging. What we have learned is that revelation is on-going. Christ is still present in His Body. The Holy Spirit still breathes life into each of us and our communities. And God’s glory shines out into the world as we gather for worship and then go forth in service in our daily vocations. We are, all of us, faithful and faithfully Catholics. Awkward translation or not, we aren’t going away. We’re going forward!

What have you noticed in your parishes? How has the new translation been introduced and put into practice? Are you seeing a deepening of understanding of the liturgy? Have you experienced new efforts to offer classes or workshops to help the people of your community participate more fully in the liturgy? Has there been a resurgence or deepening of faith in your community in the past year?

Please share your experiences here or visit us on Facebook. We’re looking forward to hearing from you as we move into this second year with “the new translation.”


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