Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Children of Contraception

The following quotes are from a blog about the open dissidence of Canadian bishops to Humanae Vitea, the official prouncement of the Pope on birth control. I post them here because I agree wholeheartedly.

The children of the contraceptive mentality are many and depraved: adultery, fornication, venereal disease, homosexuality, pornography, radical feminism, sterilization, violence, child abuse, corrupt family life education, abortion and euthanasia.

[Ed: Condoning the separation of marital love from fertility (which is an intrinsic aspect of the union between a man and a woman) led to a full acceptance of non-fertile unions and hence of fornication, homosexual practice, and abortion. The pleasure of lust persued for its own sake leads to a disregard of the full humanity of the partner. It kills something in the soul of a person who lives to pursue his or her bliss. And it leads to greater and greater excesses.]

The Winnipeg Statement has been the occasion of many invalid marriages. "Follow Your Conscience" has meant to many "I have the right to exclude children by contraception for a time or until I am ready, or forever." To exclude the right to have children, whether for a time or forever, whether on the part of one or both parties, invalidates the marriage covenant. To concede the right to dissent from Humanae Vitae is to concede the right to enter an invalid

On the Liturgy, with Some Thoughts About Reforming the Benighted Past of the Church

[M]istrust is always in order when the greater part of living history must be tossed out into the dustbin of old misunderstandings now happily clarified. That is all the more true of the Christian liturgy, which lives out of the continuity and the inner unity of prayer based on faith. Adoremus article by then-Cardinal Ratzinger published 10/12/1996

The quotes in this blog are from "In the Presence of the Angels I Will Sing Your Praise: The Regensburg Tradition and the Reform of the Liturgy" by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. It was pubished in Sacred Music, the CMAA journal in 1996.

To illustrate the idea of liturgy as worship joining heaven with earth, then-Cardinal now-pope recalled a 1992 visit to the monastery at Mt. St. Mary (Marienberg) in the valley of the Etsch:

The real treasure of this monastery is the crypt (dedicated July 13, 1160) with its glorious frescoes . . .. As is true of all medieval art, these images had no merely aesthetic meaning. They conceive of themselves as worship, as a part of the great liturgy of creation and of the redeemed world in which this monastery was intended to join. Therefore, the pictorial program reflects that common basic understanding of the liturgy which was then still alive and well in the Church universal, eastern and western. On the one hand these images show a strong Byzantine influence while remaining at bottom quite biblical; on the other hand they are essentially determined by the monastic tradition, concretely: the Rule of Saint Benedict.


The risen Lord is not alone in these Mt. St. Mary's frescoes. We see Him in the images which the Apocalypse uses to depict the heavenly liturgy -- surrounded by the four winged creatures and above all by a great throng of singing angels. Their singing is an expression of that joy which no one can take from them, of the dissolution of existence into the rejoicing of freedom fulfilled. From the very beginning, monastic living was understood as a life lived after the manner of the angels, which is simply adoration. Entering or assuming the lifestyle of the angels means forming one's whole life into an act of adoration, as far as that is possible for human weakness.2 Celebrating the liturgy is the very heart of monachism [monastic life], but in that respect monachism simply makes visible to all the deepest reason for Christian -- indeed, for human existence!

As they gazed upon these frescoes, the monks of Mt. St. Mary surely thought of the 19th chapter of the Rule of Saint Benedict, which treats the discipline of Psalm singing and the manner of saying the Divine Office. There, the father of western monasticism reminds them, among other things, of the verse of Psalm 147 (Vulgate): In conspectu angelorum psallam tibi In the sight of the angels I will sing to Thee. And Benedict goes on: "Let us then consider how we ought to behave ourselves in the presence of God and His angels, and so sing the psalms that mind and voice may be in harmony ut mens nostra concordet voci nostræ."

It is, therefore, not at all the case that man contrives something and then sings it, but rather the song comes to him from the angelic choirs, and he must raise his heart on high so that it can harmonize with the tone which comes to him.

But one fact is of fundamental importance: the sacred liturgy is not something which the monks manufacture or produce. It exists before they were there; it is an entering into heavenly liturgy which was already taking place. Only in and through this fact is earthly liturgy a liturgy at all -- in that it be -- takes itself into that greater and grander liturgy which is already being celebrated.

And thus the meaning of these frescoes become completely clear. Through them, the genuine reality, the heavenly liturgy, shines through into this space. The frescoes are, as it were, a window through which the monks peer out into that great choir of which membership is the very heart and center of their own vocation. "In the sight of the angels I will sing to Thee." This standard is constantly present to the gaze of the monks, in their frescoes.


Let us descend from Mt. St. Mary and the wondrous panorama which those heights opened to us, and come down to the level of liturgical reality in today's world. Here, the panorama is much more confused and disordered. ...

A great abyss divides the history of the Church into two irreconcilable worlds: the pre-conciliar and the post-conciliar world. As a matter of fact, many believe that it is impossible to utter a more fearful verdict over an ecclesiastical decision, a text, a liturgical form or even a person, than to say that it is "pre-conciliar." If that be true, then Catholic Christendom must have been in a truly frightful condition -- until 1965.


[M]istrust is always in order when the greater part of living history must be tossed out into the dustbin of old misunderstandings now happily clarified. That is all the more true of the Christian liturgy, which lives out of the continuity and the inner unity of prayer based on faith.

[Ed: Amen!]

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Feast of St. Ann: Missa Canonica by Josquin Des Prez and Gregorian Chants Proper to the Feast

Are you going to be anywhere near Palo Alto, CA Thursday July 26?

All are invited to celebrate the Feast of St. Ann with a sung Mass in Latin Thursday July 26, 2007 at 8:00 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. In honor of its patron saint, the St. Ann choir will be singing Missa canonica by Renaissance composer Josquin Des Prez along with Gregorian chants proper to the feast.

To receive notifications about future St. Ann choir events, contact choir director Prof. William Mahrt (

If you are local and willing, please forward the following announcement to be submitted to your parish bulletin, local newspaper, or other publication.

---------- Start announcement -------------------------------
All are invited to celebrate the Feast of St. Ann with a sung Mass in Latin Thursday July 26, 2007 at 8:00 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Waverley at Homer, Palo Alto, CA. The St. Ann choir will be singing Missa canonica by Renaissance composer Josquin Des Prez along with Gregorian chants proper to the feast. To receive notifications about future St. Ann choir events, contact choir director Prof. William Mahrt (

The clip art is from an illuminated chant page for the feast by choir member, artist Susan Altstatt.

---------- End announcement ---------------------------------

If you would like a copy of the poster for yourself or for printing and distributing, you can get it here.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Thank you, Holy Father! from the Rector of the Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

The Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Santa Clara, CA, on Sunday July 8 celebrated the event of the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum (otherwise known as the Motu Proprio on the use of the traditional Latin Mass) as a “great occasion of thanksgiving.”

Since January 6, 2007, the oratory has been the only place in the diocese of San Jose allowed to use the traditional rite. The oratory’s Rector Rev. Michael Wiener (Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest) preached a sermon about the event, which was based almost entirely on a sermon on this topic by Msgr. R. Michael Schmitz, Vicar General and Provincial for the United States of America. Fr. Wiener intoned a Te Deum of rejoicing that was completed by the small choir and the congregation at the end of the 5:30 p.m. Sunday High Mass.

The sermon happily quoted Pope Benedict XVI,: “What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”

The history of the Oratory is interesting in the context of current events. Before it was an oratory, the traditional Latin Mass had been celebrated at all Masses at the little chapel near Santa Clara University every Sunday without the bishop’s permission for several years. At one point, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath sent a letter to all churches in the diocese of San Jose admonishing Catholics not to attend the chapel’s services because he had not given it canonical status.

Then a turn-around took place. Perhaps responding to requests from Catholics who desired to worship in the traditional rite, the status of the chapel was raised last January 6 to an oratory. The care of the oratory was placed in the hands of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and Rev. Wiener was appointed rector.

A letter was sent out around the same time to another Santa Clara Church, Our Lady of Peace. The founding pastor, Monsignor John Sweeny, had long ago begun the approved-by-the-bishop practice of offering Mass in the Tridentine rite on First Saturdays along with Latin Novus Ordo Masses on the other Saturdays of each month.

Choir members from St. Ann choir sang the Latin Masses at Our Lady of Peace for years under the direction of Stanford Professor William Mahrt and choir member David Webb. The monthly Tridentine Masses continued when Monsignor Sweeny retired. and the bishop gave the care of the parish to priests from the IVE order, but the Latin Novus Ordo Masses dwindled away. The letter from the bishop to the parishioners at Our Lady of Peace put an end to the remaining once a month Tridentine rite Masses.

Above: Some St. Ann choir members and regulars attenders of the Our Lady of Peace Tridentine Mass (with some family members) after the last Tridentine Mass sung at the parish in January 2007.

As noted in a Q and A at The New Liturgical Order, one effect of the Moto Proprio will be to do away with the either/or principle. Having a dedicated chapel like Our Mother of Perpetual Help will no longer mean that the traditional rites will be forbidden at other parishes.

Fr. Wiener's sermon did not mention the backstory I have here at all. He ending by thanking both the pope and the bishop.

“We feel very blessed that here, at the Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Diocese of San Jose our Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, in a profound pastoral understanding has anticipated the decision of the Holy Father by entrusting the oratory to the pastoral care of the Institute of Christ the King. ... Thank you, Holy Father! Thank you, your Excellency!”

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Liberty's Birthday 2007

Today the 4th of July is my son Liberty's birthday.

This morning, I was planning to start the day with a visit to a rehab center to visit Dorothy James, the 96 year old mother of one of the choir members (who is out of town and won't be visiting her mother this week). Mrs. James broke a hip around Easter and because she hasn't been able to bear any weight, the bone is healing slowly. At first she kept asking to come home. If she was only back in her own bed she would be all right, she thought. So far, that just has not be able to happen.

Susan Weisberg, another choir member, and I had planned to make the visit together. Around 9 am, I called Susan to tell her my throat is raw and swollen. We agreed that it would not be a good idea to bring germs into a place like that where the residents are so vulnerable.

Susan told me that she doesn't like 4th of July. Her mother died on that date. So, she thought, why not visit someone else's mother? I love the way she thinks.

While I was pregnant with Liberty, I was studying art at City College of San Francisco. I remember one sunny Spring afternoon I was walking down a sloping expanse of lawn on the campus in a long red corduroy dress and sandals, very pregnant. A young perhaps-drug-addled man came up to me and told me I looked beautiful with my long brown hair blowing in the wind, and he asked if I would hold him like I would hold my baby. I just laughed and kept walking.

Liberty doesn't like to plan anything. It's 11 a.m., and He is still in bed. I am prepared to put together food for a BBQ he was going to have at a friend's house and to make his favorite birthday pie.

He never liked cake. This pie is basically whipped cream, cream cheese, and sugar in a homemade crust topped with glazed red and blue berries in honor of the day. Strawberry, sometimes Raspberry, Blueberry, Cream pie.

I hope I have the energy.

For decades, almost all births were medical events, doctor-managed. While the mother was under anesthesia the doctor would do an incision at the vagina and go in with a forceps and drag the baby out. The woman would stay in the hospital for two weeks. The baby would be kept in a nursery and fed either by the mother or the nurse on a strict schedule.

Breast feeding was not supported and hardly ever practiced. Feeding a newborn entailed sterilizing glass bottles and preparing batches of baby formula using evaporated cow's milk, corn syrup or sugar and vitamins and pouring the formula into the bottles to be refrigerated. If the baby was hungry before four hours were up, the baby would just have to wait. Achieving success as a mother was like achieving success as an efficiency expert, preparing the right amount of "formula" as needed and training baby to live according to the routine.

There was a lot of between schedule crying going on in the nurseries. I always thought that it must be traumatic for the babies, to be born and taken away from their mothers right away without a hug or a kiss, wrapped and put in a hard little bed by themselves under bright lights, surrounded by other crying infants. What kind of a world have I been born into? wouldn't the poor newborn wonder?

Bottle feeding took away the intimacy of mouth to breast contact between the baby and its mother. Parents could feed the child without even holding it. It was very common for a baby to be laid on its back alone in the crib with a bottle propped up at an angle into its mouth.

I believe that vast amounts of psychological and physical harm was done because of those practices, and I have some stories I could provide as anecdotal evidence. Scientific evidence has now established the physical benefits of nursing are clear along with the bad health consequences of bottle feeding. (Oddly enough, the scientific demi-gods had proven to a couple of generations of mothers that bottle-feeding was a superior way to feed their babies. But that's a big subject I won't explore further here.)

Hippies and others who wanted to return to nature in many aspects of their lives championed natural childbirth without medications along with a return to nursing. The ideas made sense to me. Giving birth is a natural thing done with the help of midwives for all of human history. It's not a disease requiring medical intervention. And as for giving children formulas made from cow's milk: Calves grow big and bovine on cow's milk. Humans grow human on human's milk. There wasn't much soy formula around in the 70s, but I cannot imagine a human child thriving on a bean-based diet.

Two anti-anesthesia in childbirth books called _Childbirth Without Fear_ and _Thank You Dr. LaMaze_ were very popular at the time. Even so and even though I was living in San Francisco at the time, in 1970 I could find only one obstetrical office that offered natural childbirth, Miller, Moss, Wench, and Boyce. The hospital I picked, French Hospital, pioneered letting the babies stay in the rooms with the mothers, but you had to request "rooming in." And you had to be very firm in making sure the nurses knew you didn't want them feeding your baby with bottles to avoid waking you up or to save themselves the trips back and forth to your room to drop the baby off and pick it up again.

I had devoured the books about the method of breast feeding, and George and I had taken natural childbirth classes. We were supposed to practice the breathing methods they taught that were supposed to ease labor pains. But we worked so badly together as a couple that we didn't practice at all.

Liberty was due on June 22 two weeks before he was finally born.

The weekend before he arrived, we chanced to visit a friend of a friend, a school principal in her Forest Knolls Marin county home and stayed overnight. I remember sitting up against a tree in the backyard most of the night with heartburn. Around dawn, I was shocked from a doze by the sound of a donkey braying in one of the neighbor's yards.

One day a few weeks earlier, in San Francisco, a woman came up to me outside of the Palace of the Legion of Honor and said, "You are going to have twins. I know. I'm a doctor." What she didn't know was that because of scoliosis (curvature of the spine), I didn't have much room between my rib cage and my hips, so the baby bulge was much bigger than she was used to seeing.

On July 3, I had what I thought was an attack of indigestion as I was clambering up a sand dune after a picnic on a beach south of Santa Cruz.

I was surprised by back labor. I had never heard of it, but I had it. Maybe it was made worse by the spinal operations I'd endured as a teenager. I had a metal rod in my back.

I probably still have a photo somewhere of me sitting in a wheelchair at the registration desk, grimacing. Oh yes, another new fad was the taking of pictures during the birth. As video cameras became readily available, 20 years later, everyone was making movies of births. Sometimes I wonder, "Do people show these photos and videos at dinner parties?" That question has never been answered to my satisfaction. But moving right along . . . That was the only picture George took after all.

In the labor room, as I grimaced some more, George smilingly quoted me something I'd read him from one of the natural childbirth books, "The pain is only in your head." I was not amused.

I caved early. I ended up taking some pain medication after only an hour or so. I don't remember what kind they gave. All I remember is that this was the first step in the disintegration of my dream of natural childbirth.

After 24 hours of labor with little progress in the dilation of my cervix, the doctors decided to take an X-ray. The X-ray confirmed that the baby was in breach position and revealed that my pelvis had spurs extending at the point where the head would pass through.

During a normal birth, the baby's head is pushed into the birth canal gradually by the contractions. (Sometimes this results in some newborns having oddly shaped heads.) Since Liberty's feet would be coming first, his head would be coming last. It would not undergo the gradual compression that happens during a normal birth and could be stuck in the narrow opening for quite some time. The doctor explained to me that there was a good chance that the umbilical cord would be caught in the narrow opening along with the head, which would prevent the flow of oxygen to the baby. He could be born brain damaged from oxygen deprivation if I didn't have a C-section.

So I did, very reluctantly, because I had set my heart on having a natural birth.

I don't remember how I learned I had a boy.

When I awoke, he wasn't in the room even though I had asked for rooming in. The nurses were observing him in an "isolette" in the nursery. I was surprised when my friend Carol appeared from where she had been hiding behind a curtain so the nurses wouldn't see she was there. She had flowers for me. I told her I was upset that my baby was in the nursery in spite of my best-laid plans to spare him that trauma.

George came in jubilant with a bunch of orange roses for me. Orange was my favorite color. We had painted our VW bus that color in house paint before we had started out from Boston on the trip that had brought us to San Francisco 3 1/2 years earlier. I wore a lot of orange clothes.

A nurse found him a white plastic ice cream bucket, and George put the roses in the bucket on the windowsill.

George had been gazing for quite some time at Liberty with his hands cupped around his mouth pressed up against the glass nursery window. Our son lay in his little isolette with only his diaper on, serene and white skinned, his head perfectly shaped. George told me that the other babies around him, who had been through the birth canal had lumpy mottled red heads.

Contrary to how some say that the birth trauma is an essential part of human formation, George was now convinced that all babies should be born by C-section. Thinking about my incision, I said, "That's easy for you to say."

We had picked out the baby's name when we thought he would be coming on his due date on June 22. There had been no connection with the 4th of July. We liked what we'd heard about the Indian practice of naming children for qualities. And our hippy friends were calling their children a wide range of new agey names. Just to cover the first part of the alphabet, I remember three girls named Artemis, Branch, and Calliope. Carol's boy had been named Alaric until his repeated bad behavior caused her to rethink her decision and rename him Michael at 6 years of age. My friend Judy Delmar had changed her first name to Denali. And in a commune in Northern California, I'd run into two children, a boy and a girl, both named Buffalo. The name we chose, Liberty, stood for the highest good according to the philosophy we held then. Freedom above all! His middle name, Russell, was after the famous athiest philosopher Bertrand Russell, a favorite of his father. I had lost my Catholic faith as a freshman in college, and it would be six more years before I regained it, so I didn't mind naming my son after an atheist.

When I finally I held my new baby boy in my arms, my sister Joe-anne had arrived. She told me that she had seen George leaving the hospital on his way out to get the flowers. Normally undemonstrative, bearded long-haired George had been skipping across the parking lot on his way to our van.

I gazed at my darling little boy and I said, "I don't think I can name him Liberty after all. He is a person, not a concept." But my sister Joe-anne piped up that because he was born on the 4th of July that I had to name him Liberty. It was cosmic!

I couldn't argue that. So cosmically-named Liberty is 37 years old today.

He stopped using the name Liberty when he started in a new Catholic school as he was entering sixth grade. Legally a person can use any name as long it is not for fraudulent intent. When I was enrolling him, I told the religious sister who was the school's principal that I thought his choice of John was kind of boring. As the principal reminded me of the many great Johns, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, John Kennedy, a light bulb went on in my head. Oh yes, I chimed in, "Sister Mary John! John is a fine name."

Then when we all as a family started acting in the Minnesota Renaissance Fair when Liberty was 13 or so, he found that the other kids in the acting troupe thought Liberty was a cool name, so he started using it again. When he was 15, he went to Japan as an exchange student, and he took the name John back while he was there. He told me that to put yourself forward as unusual is so frowned on, that Liberty was looked on as a bad name. Then since his return to the US, he has been Liberty ever since.

Liberty is dark-haired and has a wonderful expressive handsome face, with a strong jaw and huge brown eyes and long eyelashes. Unlike some of the other family members I could name, he is always reasonable and never impulsive. I have seen him lose his temper perhaps twice in his whole life. He is intelligent, creative, funny, and kind. I thank God for the gift he has been to me with all my heart.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

More sights and sounds from the Sacred Music Colloquium

I'm posting an email here that I sent to St. Ann choir this week because I lack time to write anything more about the CMAA colloquium. Some choir members who have sung under the direction of Prof. WIlliam Mahrt for years were not aware of his involvement with the Church Music Association of America, until they read the email.

From: Roseanne Sullivan
Subject: Church Music Association Colloquium Photos and Sound Files
Date: June 26, 2007 10:22:11 PM PDT

As many of you know. Professor Mahrt is President of the CMAA (Church Music Association) and editor of its journal, Sacred Music. The CMAA held its yearly Sacred Music colloquium in Washington DC at the Catholic University of America last week.

I'm writing to give you links to photos I took while I was there and to sound files of the 140 voice choir made up of attendees singing the music we practiced and then sung at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and during a Tridentine Mass at old St. Mary's Church in Chinatown.

I also brought back about 40 free copies of two issues of the Sacred Music journal, which I'll bring to rehearsal tomorrow (Wed. night), first come, first served.

By what I believe is the grace of God, I was able at the last minute to take time off from work and get a place at the colloquium (even though registration has been closed for months due to unprecedented demand). The size of the event doubled from last year, and for lack of space the organizers had to turn away people for three months. Naturally, they are happily looking for a bigger space for next year.

Here is my photo gallery.

In my humble opinion, I was able to capture some great photos of Bill teaching, of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest church in the western hemisphere, and of the particiipants of all ages and backgrounds.

Links to my colloquium gallery, other photos and, most important, sound files are at the CMAA website. You have to scroll down the page a bit to find them. The Monteverdi Cantate Domino and the Bruckner Os Justi were so moving to sing that hearing them again brings tears to my eyes.

A lot of the works we performed are in the St. Ann choir repertoire, so take a listen to see how they sound when they are performed by 140 voices.
For example:
Kyrie from Missa o quam gloriosum and
Sanctus from the Croce Mass:

If you get a chance to check these out let me know what you think.

In the interest of musical fellowship,