Sunday, December 5, 2010

Exerpts from The Council of Trent

Doth it please you, unto the praise and glory of the holy and undivided Trinity, Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost; for the increase and exaltation of the Christian faith and religion; for the extirpation of heresies; for the peace and union of the Church; for the reformation of the Clergy and Christian people; for the depression and extinction of the enemies of the Christian name, to decree and declare that the sacred and general council of Trent do egin, and hath begun?
They answered: It pleaseth us.

That our own Catholic faith, without which it is impossible to please God, may, errors being purged away, continue in its own perfect and spotless integrity, and that the Christian people may not be carried about with every wind of doctrine; whereas that old serpent, the perpetual enemy of mankind, amongst the very many evils with which the Church of God is in these our times troubled, has also stirred up not only new, but even old, dissensions touching original sin, and the remedy thereof; the sacred and holy, ecumenical and general Synod of Trent, - lawfully assembled in the Holy See presiding therein, - wishing now to come to the reclaiming of the erring, and the most approved councils, and the judgment and consent of the Church herself, ordains, confesses, and declares these things touching the said original sin:

1. If any one does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he had transgressed the commandment of God in Paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice wherein he had been constituted; and that he incurred, through the offense of that prevarication, the wrath and indignation of God, and consequently death, with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam, through that offense of prevarication, was changed, in body and soul, for the worse; let him be anathema.

3. If any one asserts that this sin of Adam - which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propagation, not by imitation, is in each one as his own - is taken away either by the power of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of the one mediator our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath reconciled us to God in his own blood, made unto us justice, sanctification, and redemption; or if he denies that the said merit of Jesus Christ is applied both to adults and to infants, by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the Church; let him be anathema...

Canon I. If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord; or, that they are more, or less, than seven, to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that any one of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament; let him be anathema.
Canon IV. If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification; -though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.

Canon VI. If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law so not contain the grace which they signify; or, that they do not confer that grace on those who do not place an obstacle thereunto; as though they were merely outward signs of grace or justice received through faith, and certain marks of the Christian profession, whereby believers are distinguished amongst men from unbelievers; let him be anathema.
Canon X. If any one saith, that all Christian have power to administer the word, and all the sacraments; let him be anathema.

Canon I. If any one deny, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord esus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ: but saith that He is only therein ans a sign, or in figure, or virtue: let him be anathema.
Canon II. If anyone saith that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular conversion or the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood - the species only of the bread and wine remaining -which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation; let him be anathema.

...If any one affirm, that all Christians indiscriminately are priests of the New Testament, or that they are all mutually endowed with an equal spiritual power, he clearly does nothing but confound the ecclesiastical hierarchy; which is as an army set in array...

...It decree, that all those who, being only called and instututed by the people, or by the civil power and magistrate, ascend to the exercise of these ministrations, and those who of their own rashness assume them to themselves, are not ministers of the Church, but are to be looked upon as thieves and robbers, who have not entered by the door. These are the things which it hath seemed good to the sacred Synod to teach the faithful of Christ in general terms, touching the sacrament of Order.

Canon IX. If anyone saith, that clerics constituted in sacred orders of Regulars, who have solemnly professed chastity, are able to contract marriage, and that being contracted it is valid, notwithstanding the ecclesiastical law, or vow: and that the contrary is nothing else than to condemn marriage: and, that all who do not feel that they have the gift of chastity; even they have made a vow thereof, may contract marriage: let him be anathema: seeing that God refuses not that gift to those who ask for it rightly; neither does He suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able.

Canon X. If anyone saith that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity and of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema.

The holy Synod enjoins all bishops and others who sustain the office and charge of teaching, that, agreeably to the usage of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, received from the primitive times of the Christian religion, and agreeably to the consent of the holy Fathers, and to the degrees of sacred councils, they especially instruct the faithful diligently concerning the intercession and invocation of saints; the honor given to relics; and the legitimate use of images; teaching them that the saints who reign together with Christ, offer up their own prayers to god for men, that it is good and useful supplicantly to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid and help for obtaining benefits from God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is alone Redeemer and Savior; but that they think impiously, who denies that the saints, who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven, are to be invocated or who assert either that they do not pray for men; or that the invocation of them to pray for each of us even in particular is idolatry or that it is repugnant to the word of God; and is opposed to the honor of the one mediator between god and men, Christ Jesus; or that it is foolish to supplicate, vocally or mentally, those who reign in heaven. Also, that the holy bodies of holy martyrs, and of those now living with Christ... They who affirm that veneration and honor are not due to the relics of saints; or, that these, and other sacred monuments, are uselessly honored by the faithful; and that the places dedicated to the memories of the saints are in vain visited with the view of obtaining their aid; are wholly to be condemned, as the Church already long since condemned, and now also condemns.

...Wherefore, after the example of our fathers in the Council of Carthage, it not only orders that bishops be content with modest furniture, and a frugal table and diet, but that they also give heed that in the rest of their manner of living, and in their whole house, there be nothing seen that is alien from this holy institution, and which does not manifest simplicity, zeal toward God, and a contempt of vanities. Also, it wholly forbids them to enrich their oen kindred or domestics out of the revenues of the church... It would seem to be a shame, if they did not at the same time shine so pre-eminent in virtue and in the discipline of their lives, as deservedly to draw upon themselves the eyes of all men.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Morality or Conformity

Character education as defined by Kauchak and Eggen (2011) “suggests that moral values and positive character traits, such as honesty and citizenship, should be emphasized, taught, and rewarded” (p.339). The big question regarding if character education should be taught in schools is if teachers have the responsibility to shape or influence a child's private personal behavior. Those who object to the presence of character education in the classroom curriculum often laud fears that children will be indoctrinated in a certain, selective brand of morality. Others see the movement toward moral thinking as a rejection of traditional education (Fine, 1995, p. 126), and still others are suspicious of a conspiracy to subvert authority and create “anti-American” children (Fine,1995, p. 121). The most basic argument against moral education is the argument that schools are not obligated and, in fact, should not teach morality in school. However, in any realm involving the human person, existential and moral questions will arise. This is especially true in the classroom, where differences of experience will give rise to differences of opinion, and if students do not know how to properly handle conflict and differences of opinion, they will go off in life unprepared to handle conflict in the broader human community. Does any teacher wish to see the children in their classroom become a bully, be irresponsible or disrespectful? In loco parentis means more than the avoidance of physical harm. In loco parentis means that just as a parent has a serious responsibility to instruct their children and guide their moral development, so too do teachers have the ethical responsibility, and even the obligation, to take up the cross where the parents have entrusted it.

Character education, however, does not begin with regulated behavior. Children are not animals and should not learn merely to obey, but to become good persons with an upright character. For teachers to foster character growth in their students, they must first learn the basic reasons for good behavior, otherwise known as moral education. Moral education must be the basis for character education in order that students not only learn how to behave, but why behavior can be good or bad at all. Therefore, it is of great importance that teachers take great care to supplement the bare material knowledge of the curriculum with questions about broader human concepts, in order to help their students become more informed and critical thinkers. The goal can not be to indoctrinate children into a particular method of thought, but to give them the tools to come to their own decisions about what they believe. The goal of teachers should be to support the growth of intelligent and thoughtful individuals who think about their actions and their values. One of the key issues is teaching children morality and not conformity to a particular standard of behavior. Many critiques of moral education debate from the opinion that education should be focused on the basic components of knowledge. However, this viewpoint skirts a pivotal point of discussion. Human interaction are made up of existential questions, and the human experience is filled with complex questions of right and wrong. Moral and existential issues are at the core of all academic disciplines. Human knowledge has come into existence largely as the result of people pursuing answers to moral dilemmas (Simon, 2001, p. 2). Without examining subjects like history, philosophy and literature from the perspective of moral thoughtfulness, their vitality and meaning are drained to the point of impotency. In the classroom, there are always perfect settings for a discussion on the belief of an eternal human soul in literature. Or, in a history class discussing the Holocaust, questions of genocide should naturally rise to he surface. Even in math, when discussing imaginary numbers, students could investigate the nature of numbers themselves. What are numbers? Are they merely quantitative words to describe plurality? Education should never restrict itself to facts, for life is no a collection of facts, but an intricate web of facts, experiences, and choices.

Moral education seems to have many different dimensions. There is teaching personal moral ethics and values, such as kindness, generosity, tolerance, how to properly deal with anger, and other such individual virtues. Another kind is critical thinking, where teachers instruct students in habits of mind which better equip them to think objectively about and make informed decisions about their beliefs. Critical thinking skills are, therefore, the foundation upon which all character and moral education stands, for in order for children to make informed and intelligent decisions about moral dilemmas, they must be able to think clearly and logically. This is not only an integral aspect of character and personal development, but is also an academic and social necessity. Children must learn how to think, for they are not databases, but human persons, who must make choices about their lives, and must know how to make good and well reasoned decisions.

In practice, the issue of moral education is especially tricky when considering public schools, who have an obligation to refrain from sanctioning religion and any specifically religious code of ethics. In private religious schools there is usually no problem, for a moral standard is already in place to unify the perspective which teachers are expected to impart to their students. For example, in a Catholic school, teachers are expected to teach from a Catholic perspective, regardless of their personal feelings on certain issues such as contraception, abortion, and homosexual marriage. One would do well to note, however, that if the teachers do not hold synonymous values, any instruction about these issues will be awkward and highly ineffective for an in-depth inquiry which will still emphasize and uphold those standards. In public schools, it is of great importance to investigate techniques which teachers may use when coming in contact with issues of morality in order to avoid moral bias and facilitate an instructional experience.

The first is to avoid teaching any values at all. To do this, a teacher has to skirt existential and morally challenging issues altogether by answering authoritatively, deferring the question to an outside expert, ignoring the moral issue and focusing on only the facts, or hastily skipping onto another topic. The benefits of teaching from this perspective deserve some attention. It is quite tempting to imagine that one can separate moral and intellectual realms in this way, and avoid conflict in the classroom. Teachers never wish for their classroom to dissolve into chaos where nothing gets done, and skirting the issues which may cause dissension allows for a teacher to focus on helping his or her students learn the facts, which is what they are getting paid for and the criteria by which their effectiveness as a teacher is evaluated. From a purely utilitarian perspective, this is a highly effective method of instruction. However, if one wished to completely skirt moral issues, a dead end is quick to raise its ugly head. Simon quotes David Purpel (2001) in saying: "We cannot in good educational conscience avoid the serious and volatile disputes on religious and moral matters because they are controversial, complex, and outrageously perplexing. Quite the contrary: because they are so important and since they beg for awareness, understanding, clarification, and insight, they are central to significant educational inquiry. (p. 245)"

If schools completely banned everything which was controversial in order to avoid conflict, the list of banned material would strip school libraries empty. To ignore moral disagreement is to ignore a basic fact about human existence, that everyone has their own unique perspective and that it will be different from their neighbors. No two persons are identical, and teaching from this perspective limit's a child's ability to identify and investigate maturely their differences of opinion as an individual as well as a member of a community. This perspective, while well meaning, is ultimately impossible to attain and entirely undesirable as a modus operandi for the future leaders of society, who will have to deal with controversial issues on a daily basis.

Another perspective which many schools are very keen to accept is teaching universal human values, that is, values everyone agrees on. This premise is that basic moral principles should not illicit controversy, and that a moral life does not have to be engaged in debate or conflict. It also proposes that teacher should teach children how to behave morally before they can delve into moral dilemmas, or examine why the reasons for behaving morally are desirable. Basic universal human values reemphasizes sticking to the fundamentals of a discipline in schools, where it claims dissent cannot follow. This approach to moral dilemmas is very attractive, because it claims to have found a way to address moral questions without disagreement (Rice, 1995, p. 1). Most of the good behavioral norms that the universal perspective advocates are issues that everyone can adhere to and accept readily, such as being kind to one's neighbor, taking care of the environment, and solve problems by talking it out instead of using violence. Though a wonderful ideal, this view of human morality is, sadly, too simplistic and naive to effectively instruct children with. The morality of the universal human values are fine in the objectivity of an impassioned discussion, but in context, even the simplest of virtues, such as honesty, can become complex, moral dilemmas. Teachers cannot coddle children in the classroom and expect to send mature, critical and moral thinking young individuals out into the world.

Perhaps the solution lies, then in teaching everyone's values, so that children get the opportunity to hear all points of view from all sides of the equation. The benefits of this approach are immediately appealing, because teachers can avoid directly or indirectly imposing value judgments on points of view, which is a more academic and objective pursuit. However, the very benefits which make this approach to moral education so enticing are the reasons for its ineffectiveness. This method of teaching, while being very informative, tends to create in learners the idea of moral relativism, or the inability to make value judgments at all in topics of a moral nature. While some could argue that this is indeed the whole point, and that people should in fact not make judgments about morals and existential questions, this is contradictory to the whole aim of character education itself. If there is no right or wrong, if there is no better or worse, then how can there be good or bad behavior?

What is the solution, then? If no one can agree on a moral standard from which to teach, why teach character at all? In this, it must come down to either a state decided standard of moral citizenship, which will be taught and enforced in public schools, or schools who collaboratively work together as a community to create a moral environment, and agree among themselves what values and behaviors they will emphasize.
In the classroom, the practical application of character education deserves some attention. The implicit curriculum of a child's classroom and school does the most to effectively reinforce good character because it is an environment which actively nurtures and cultivates acceptable modes of behavior. Teachers must never forget the importance of role-modeling as an instructional technique. If children do not see real examples of the ideals they are being taught, then the instruction will be highly ineffective, being as it is, left without any reinforcement. The classroom standards of behavior are the guidelines which mold behavior and create a community with similar values. A school which encourages virtue is a rare find, but in such a school learning flourishes because cooperation is a standard part of the learning experience. How wonderful it is indeed when children do not value who has the most fashionable clothes or who can push everyone else down on the playground, but virtue and uprightness of character. This is a stigma of success in a school community, and must be implemented in the classroom, the school, and the greater community with consistent values and behavioral standards in order to be entirely effective. In this community, administrators, teachers, parents, and students all help to reinforce good and moral character in children. This is especially important in the elementary grades to lay the foundation for more complex existential dilemmas in the future. The explicit curriculum is no less important, though the effects are more subtle in developing a child's moral compass. As stated before, moral and existential issues will occur in the classroom on a regular basis, and because children bring their experiences in the world with them into class, discussing current moral issues in the curriculum is an effective tool to influence how they will deal with the complexities of their lives. For example, curriculum which discusses the effects of illegal drugs is a practical and relevant discussion which not only predispositions children against abusing drugs in their later years, but also allows children to become advocates against drug abuse to their friends, neighbors, and even to members of their family (Colker, 1994, p. 23).

One of the most effective ways to employ learning centered around moral questions in the classroom is through the use of seminar-based discussion. Seminar is the best way to do this because students not only discuss and learn about the issues about which they are discussing, but also they learn how to discuss with people with whom they may disagree. Children must learn to be good thinkers who have reasons for their beliefs, be able to defend their beliefs and respectfully disagree or agree with the beliefs of others on rational and critical grounds. In a seminar class, it is generally best to teach students through a historical perspective, delving into the literature and philosophy of the time period. For example, in teaching about American history students could read the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist papers, Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, The Red Badge of Courage, “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, “My Antonia and “Our Town” and the works of other American writers and thinkers over the course of American history. Students would then debate and write analytical essays on the issues they are reading about as well as being tested on the material. Teachers should be concerned with allowing students to be the main facilitators of discussion, while teaching good critical discussion habit and keeping discussion in the context of the material studied. A teacher, in this environment, serves as a guide, only intervening when the students get off track. As Andrews (1944) so emphatically points out, “When the questions come from the students, they find motivation for learning. When students work together, they learn respect, tolerance, and understanding. By learning democratically, students learn to be democratic.” (p. 62) . When discussing moral questions, they should be approached with an emphasis on intelligent rigor. In order to facilitate productive discussion, students should be discouraged from discussing their views on any particular issue based on emotion or subjective thought. Having text, therefore, on which to base discussion is of immeasurable aid. In staying grounded in the text, students must think outside their opinions and use facts to support their reasoning. Is it the goal of a school to create moral thinkers of a certain kind? Should they be concerned with with melding students according to what they personally think? If a teacher is concerned with helping their students become enlightened and critical human beings, the answer is an emphatic “No”. For this reason, Teachers must also beware of “thinking for the students” or giving the “correct” answer without allowing students to come to their own conclusions about moral issues.

In conclusion, character education is a controversial issue centered around the debate over whether schools should teach values, and if they should, whose values they should teach. Deciding which moral values to teach in the classroom is the truly decisive question, and many teachers focus their approach to moral and existential questions into perspectives which either avoid teaching anyone's values, teach only universal values, or teach all values while withholding judgment. All of these methods, however, proved themselves ineffective and philosophically misguided. The only apparent solutions to who decides which values to be taught is to either to have state-regulated moral standards, or to create a community of moral thinkers based at the school level. Teaching moral issues in the class is an unavoidable and beneficial occurrence, as it is a common human condition, and teachers have the opportunity to implement moral learning in the classroom daily. The implicit curriculum is the facilitator of character education which will be most effective in reinforcing moral character, and teachers must implement it on a classroom, school, and community-wide extent in order for it to be effective. The explicit curriculum of a school is also a tool for fielding frequent moral questions, and the most effective explicit technique is the use of the seminar. At the end, it is a philosophical decision on the role of education in the life of the human person which determines if moral education should be taught in school, and which values should be taught.

In my opinion, the current school system is the child of years and years of school reform in American history, whose birth pangs have been violent and painful for all involved. A valiant effort, but one which has perhaps missed the point of education itself. Education is that which gives men the freedom to recognize, understand and make well informed decisions about and concerning his life and the lives of others. If they do not know the issues that surround them, understand their significance, or be able to apply them, people can not decide for themselves, but must depend on the interpretations of others to form opinions for them. The goal of education is not so that people may learn facts, and the goal of human life is not knowledge. If that were so, Hitler was right to dispose of persons with handicaps, and the entirety of special education is completely useless. If education does not aid one's ability to become a more moral person, what purpose does it serve? It is true that knowledge is power, however, knowledge is not the end of man, nor is it the aim of persons to be of use to the state in which they live. The state exists for the people, not the other way around, and education should be for the sake of the entire human person, not just the intellect. The state is interested in developing knowledgeable individuals for the purpose of its place in the world, economy, military power, and other such utilitarian goals. With such a focus on education, it is no wonder that the entirely of most public school systems is focused on assessment and testing. Teachers find themselves more and more limited in the amount of time they have to delve into the depth of moral and existential questions because such topics are not valued in the current educational system. The focus on fact and pure knowledge is a focus on data, not on a true love of learning. As a teacher, one has to decide if they will teach children for the sake of knowledge, the state, or for the sake of the formation of the persons in their care. What good is knowledge if it does not serve to make humans more humane?

Mass Readings For November 29, 2010

Mass Readings For November 29, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Poem of the day

The Hollow Men
T.S. Eliot

Mistah Kurtz—he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.


Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom


This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.


The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Carmen, The Lyric Opera of Kansas City

This performance starred Sandra Piques Eddy as Carmen, Dinyar Vania as Don Josè, Alison Cambridge as Micaẽla, Marcelo Guzzo as Escamillo, Stephen Fish as Morales, Amy Cahill as Frasquita, and Christina Hager as Mercedes. The Concert took place at the Lyric Opera House of Kansas City at 8:00 pm on Saturday, September 25th, 2010.

As a viewer, I have to say that this was probably the very best rendition of Carmen I have ever seen, or hope to see. Carmen is the feminist of all feminists, the one who lives purely by her selfish, narcissistic values and uses her beauty as a means to control men. To Carmen, the world centered around her, and she expected the affections of all men to follow suite. But Sandra Piques Eddy did not leave the character of Carmen there, she created a real woman, spoiled and selfish, but who was not without depth. Carmen elevated her freedom as her god, much the same way as an atheist will defy God in order to exercise his own self-sufficiency, completely relinquishing his freedom in the process. Sandra displayed a Carmen who wished to mold a man according to her own wishes, and realized at the end that she had created a monster. Carmen tightened the rope around her own neck by demanding that Don Jose forsake virtue for her sake.

Don Jose was also masterful, displaying not just a man who was destroyed passively by Carmen, but a man with his own, preexisting vices, who let his infatuation with Carmen inspire lust and bring out the violence which was already in his character. This also reflects on the power of a woman to effect either virtue or vice in a man. Don Jose did everything that Carmen asked of him, bent to her every will, and in destroying him, she also destroyed herself. What a powerful dual message, that no man or woman can lead you into sin unless you give them your permission, but also how a foolish woman tears down her house with her own hands.

The Lyric took that extra artistic step when it hired a native French speaker, Bernard Uzan, to be stage director, and render Carmen in its original glory, with spoken stage dialogue. Not only was this Bizet's original intent for the opera, but it casts an additional helping of realism to the scene. Carmen was literally jumping off the stage and into our midst as a real woman. The music is ablsolutely masterful in its ability to mirror in our emotions the depths of the hole Carmen is building for herself, and the coquettish of her attitude. The temptation of absolute personal freedom from consequence is in fact a trap with a sickly sweet bait, a trap which too many Americans, especially the youth and young adults, believe and advocate with a dying finality. Carmen is a lesson for our time. There are consequences for our actions, that no one can lead another blindly into sin, and that wholesome relationships between men and women are drastically important for the preservation of virtue in each other.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Poem of the day


I believe
I Faith, Hope, and Love
Beads slip through my fingers as
words slip through my lips
No, not words, or else I do
not hold a Rosary
but a string of cheap beads
Rather prayer
ceaseless prayer
to make each of these orbs
a grand necklace of pearls
for the throat of
the Queen of Heaven
and Light
my gift before this alter

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Poem of the day


My heart is bursting
for cold fall days
rainy after-school
or Saturday mornings alone
outside a cafe
with a cup of hot liquid
warming my fingers
and burning in my chest as I sip.
The wind chases leaves along
the sidewalk; cars splash by,
the rain sprinkles my face
but I am kept warm
by this inside fire
fueled by hot chocolate
or tea
or frothed milk.
My heart is bursting
for such a simple mix of elements
like the nostalgic aroma
of wheat, water, and yeast
mixed in a bowl and heated.
I am baking scenes with my emotions
good ingredients
make good bread

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Quote of the Evening Prowl

"A true wife makes a man's life nobler, stronger, grander, by the omnipotence of her love 'turning all the forces of manhood upward and heavenward.' While she clings to him in holy confidence and loving dependence she brings out in him whatever is nobles and richest in his being. She inspires him with her courage and earnestness. She beautifies his life. She softens whatever is rude and harsh in his habits or his spirit. She clothes him with the gentler graces of refined and cultured manhood. While she yields to him and never disregards his lightest wish, she is really his queen, ruling his whole life and leading him onward and upward in every proper path. -JR Miller

Wow. I mean, what can I say?

Except, a woman can only have such a powerful love if she is first and foremost centered in God, and a fervent seeker of virtue. And of course, a man can only be responsive to her love if he is also willing to seek the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Well, as far as it concerns me, I shall chase after virtue with all my heart. Come on Ladies. Let's inspire our men to STAND and be counted.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Poem of the day

Send Me Not Away
-Semina L'Etoile

Send me not away
like the sun chases away the moon
like water chases away fire
like winter chases away summer
and sends the cold frost creeping over the tender buds
not yet bloomed
send me not away
like you were Hamlet
and I Ophelia
down to the water to drown in my loss
send me not away
bid me not part from you
as though we were two separate hearts
beating in separate bodies
how could lungs live without breath?
How could a heart beat without its blood?
how could a bird live without the sky?
or a fish without the sea?
send me not away
or I shall wither
as a flower withers without the sun
send me not away
but come down to sleep with me
in my bed of cinnamon
and entwine our arms about each other
passing the night in each others' breath
and heart beat
until the morning dew shall come stealing over the horizon
and bid us rise
send me not away
send me not away

Monday, July 19, 2010

Poem of the day

Indian Summer of Life

Katherine S. M. Bittner

A calm, a stillness
a rustling of leaves in the trees overhead,
the smell of raspberries on a neighbor's bush,
The smell of my rising bread dough
of a life which was once all I knew
and to which I have returned
like an Indian summer
Cicadas buzzing amid the chirps of birds
Towering trees, shade against a hot sun
I am home, but for how long
these peaceful days
are like a dream
a pleasant dream in which one knows
that dawn is coming
and they must wake soon.
Life is never the same, it is true,
but in my travels I have returned amid the swirling waters
to this bank
to this Indian summer
to sweet grass underfoot
to gardens and the laughter
of family
Birds, wood, flowers, water, sun and storm
Breathing it in
before I return to the water
Before I follow the birds south.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Poem of the day

A Beauty Lost

A beauty lost lies shattered like
a crystal goblet cast to earth
and crumpled lies against the stone
which once was parent of its birth.
My progeny lies mangled thus
which once my crowning glory was
and strewn about me trappings lay
and of my sordid past betray.

I clasp a fragment in my fist
and blood runs down my finger.
I cannot stem the flowing tide,
The heavy heart that lingers
in the shadow of my recompense,
where hims of sorrow do commence,
cries out in muted mourning
for it heeded not the warning
which was stamped across my childhood
and sung over my cradle bed
in muted tones of a mother's hum,
like whispered charms above my head.

Blessed be the ones who keep their faith,
blessed be the charms which keep them safe,
but I with all my charms are fraught
with the wages which my sins have bought.
My goblet holds no wine or water
for the thirsty ones who pass,
and I must stand alone and empty
on the withered, dying grass
where those with candles go a walking,
dancing, laughing in their talking.
Bright and joyful are their songs,
For which my soul secretly longs.

Is there no second chance among
the foolish virgins in the dark
outside the wedding party's door,
who did not heed their master's words and
hearkened to the their sloth instead?
Shall hey be left for dead
and hear the Lover-Master say
"I know you not, turn thus away"?
My stony heart needs a breaking
before my lantern shines again,
before I knock upon that door
and cry "wilt thou, Lord, let me in?"

O Precious Blood outpoured for me
upon the darkened Calvary,
I thirst for you, o bitter wine,
to lose myself and make me thine.
O purge begin and wipe my soul
of all that is impure and black
upon the heart which was always made
for whiteness with out spot or crack.

I long for Thee, O Precious Bread,
my life-line which shall life my head
above the waters of my sin
and send Thy graces flooding in.
My life, my breath, mold me anew
into that spotless image divine
and in the furnace of Your Love,
the metal of my heart refine.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Poem of the day

The World is Too Much with Us
William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us: late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. - Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tzol Learns the Double Reeds

Part 1: The Oboe

"Ahhhh, Tzol, good of you to show up. Finally!"
"You said that the lesson was at three."
"It's only 2:15."
"Well it's a good thing you got here then. Now sit down. No, not like that. The way to sit when you are learning about the oboe is to sit with your feet flat on the floor. Be squared on the seat and keep your back straight. Okay, here is the oboe."
"Wow, there are a lot of keys."
"Yes, and be careful with those keys. They are very delicate, and any bashing that occurs will result in MAJOR damage, and you will have to pay for repairs. Now, hold the oboe...NO! WRONG! Your left hand needs to be ABOVE your right one, not the other way around!"
"Oh. Um. Okay"
"Better. Now your right thumb should be here under, underneath the thumb rest. This thumb is going to hold up most of the weight of the oboe. Put your first three fingers of your right hand on these three main keyholes on the bottom joint. 1 -- 2-- 3, good. Your right little finger should be here, over these three long keys. These keys are C, D, and E flat. Good. Now your left thumb should be underneath these little keys on the underside of the top joint, the octave keys. The fingers your left hand should be on these three keyholes, and the pinkie should cover the two long keys over here, the A flat and the E flat keys.
"My hand hurts just from holding the thing."
"Well then relax! Your hands should be relaxed and curved naturally, poised and ready to play. There should be very little tension in the fingers when you play the oboe, and if your hands do hurt, so will your playing. You need to be relaxed so that you can play with better technique and facility. Okay, now bring the oboe about 30-45 degrees away from your body. Good. Op, watch your wrists, they need to be straight. Now keep your elbows at a healthy distance from your sides, but not too far. You are not playing a trumpet."
"Okay, now what?"
"Well, put the oboe down for now. take your reed and soak it for a while. Oboe reeds need to be extremely wet in order to vibrate properly. Do you know why?"
"Because it's a double reed?"
"Very good! Now I am going to tell you a little bit about the history of the oboe. The oboe is a very old instrument, though it has definitely not looked like this in the past. The oldest known ancestor of the oboe is the zurna, which is still played today in some music conservatories in nations that have not had a civil war recently, like we have. The next one, which you may be more familiar with because of its history in your country, is the shawm. Westenra has their own version of the oboe which they call the hautbois. But anyway, the oboe didn't get it's keys until the 1800's, and as the years went by, they kept adding more and more, and now we have this mess of a contraption that you see before you.
Now, there are several instruments in the oboe family. The oboe that you hold in your hands is the soprano voice of the oboe quartet. Then comes the oboe d'amore, which is in the Advas mode. It has a mellower sound, so a lot of folks use it at at weddings and in pastoral settings. I happen to like the more brass sound of the oboe better, but a lot of people like the oboe d'amore. Next comes the English horn. Why they call it English or a horn is a mystery to me, and it is in Fellde mode. The last instrument in the oboe family is the baritone oboe, which I have never seen, actually. Okay, I think your reed is ready now."
"Alright, what shall I do with it?"
"Oh, wait, keep it in the water for a minute. First, you need to know how to put the oboe together! Here." *pop*
"You broke it!"
"I did not! There are three parts of the oboe, not including the reed, of course. Here, now put it together!"
"Well, first, grasp this part, called the bell, with one hand, and the longest part, called the middle joint, with the other hand. Make sure that your palm is under the thumb rest so that your fingers curl over the rods, not the keys, so you don't damage them. Okay, now press the b flat key to open the bridge key and twist the two together. Be really careful that you do not bang the bridge keys together. Okay, that done, now take the top joint, again, with your palm on the wood and your fingertips on the keys, and twist the top joint onto the bottom joints. Be careful of the bridge keys again, and make sure that they are properly aligned. Ta-da!"
"So I am done?"
"No, not yet. You still need to put the reed on. Take it out of the water, but before you put it into the oboe, I want you to blow through it."
"Yes, go on. Great! That should be at about a B or a C. Okay, now grasp it at the cork, which you SHOULD not get wet, by the way.
"Thanks for telling me that now."
"Enough sarcasm. Now twist the cork onto the top of the oboe. Keep pushing, it needs to go in as far as it can for the proper pitch. Good. Now hold it like I taught you. Good, remember to sit up straight. Okay, now when you put the reed into your mouth, you need to keep your throat open and relaxed, as if you were saying 'aaaaah'. Say it with me."
"Good! Now keeping that feeling of an open throat, I want you to drop your jaw, just a little, good. Okay. Now form an O with your lips so that your teeth are far away from the reed. Your teeth should never touch the reed. Now curl the lips in over your teeth, as if you were making a cushion for the reed. Place the reed so the tip rests on the middle of the lower lip and close your lips around the reed. Hey, relax! Not that much, your muscles around your lips should still be taut, but not strained. Make sure that your jaw is still dropped comfortable. Okay! Now, you should probably have more of the reed in your mouth right now, but it all depend on if you are playing in a high register or a low register. In a high register, you need more reed in your mouth then in a lower register. Good, now blow!"
*much squeeking and squaking occurs*
"Okay, okay, stop. Um, I should probably talk about breathing before you go any further. First and foremost, the oboe is a wind instrument, so breath control is vitally important. Okay, put the oboe down on your lap for a minute, no, keys up. If you put the oboe keys down, all the moisture in the oboe will run down into the keys and pads and ruin them. Now about breath. I want you to fill up your lungs with a deep breath. Okay, what do you feel?"
"Good! Perfect. That is exactly what you should feel. But now I want to go a bit deeper into the mechanics of it all. There are three parts to filling up your lungs. The first begins with the expansion of the lower lungs, which pushes your tummy out, so you look fat."
"Hehehehe! Now, the middle section of your lungs should fill, which causes your lower ribs and diaphragm to expand. If you want to feel it, place your hands under your ribs and feel your diaphragm expand. Good, now on to the last stage, which is the expansion of the top area of your lungs. You should feel your sternum press forward. Now, proper oboe playing is a melding of all three of these steps, and sometimes, you only need to use one of the steps. Experiment with the different steps to see which gives you the best pressure behind the reed. Okay, now set your embouchure."
"Put the reed in your mouth."
"Okay, now remembering what I told you about breathing, set the three fingers of your left hand and the three fingers of your right over the key holes. Relax your fingers and straighten your wrists. Good. Now take a deep breath and blow."
"Good! For a start. That was a d. Now before we add any more notes, you need to know about tonguing. The tongue should not be what starts the tone, but rather you should think of it as a door which just lets the air escape through the reed. If you are not articulating, there are two different things you need to do for the registers. If you are in a high register, your tongue needs to be up to create greater air pressure, and in the lower register, keep your tongue low and back in the oral-pharyngeal cavity. Okay, feel for the bottom tip of the reed. To articulate, the top tip of your tongue should gently touch this place. Okay, now I want you to blow, but articulate some staccato notes."
"Hoonk. Hoonk. Hoonk. Hoonk."
"Very well done. Okay. I have one last thing to talk about, and that is the half hole. The top keyhole of your left hand has two holes in one. To play a half hole, you merely slide from the whole hole to the half hole and back. Simple movement, though it takes some getting used to. Try it now."
"Very good! Well, that will be all for the oboe. Now I want you to take it apart, reversing how you put it together. Now before you put it away, you should put the reed away in its case to keep it safe. Okay, now take out your swab and run it through the inside. Be careful that you do not bang against any of the interior mechanisms. As a note, I recommend only using silk swabs, not those silly fluffly sticks. Those will get caught inside, and leave feathers which will cake on the instrument. Okay, now wipe off the outside with a soft cloth. Good. Now put it back in its case. I want you to take good care of this instrument, which means making sure that the moisture is always regulated. In the winter, don't start playing before warming up the outside, or the inside will warm up faster and expand, causing the wood to crack. And keep it humid, but not moist. I find a great way to keep it nice is to put orange peels in the case."
"Orange peels?"
"Orange peels. Okay, we are done! Next the bassoon!"
"Can I get a face massage first?"

Friday, May 7, 2010

Where Restless Crowds Are Thronging

Where restless crowds are thronging
along the city ways,
Where pride and greed and turmoil
consume the fevered days,
Where vain ambitions banish,
all thoughts of praise and prayer,
The people's spirits waver:
But thou, O Christ, art there.

In scenes of want and sorrow
and haunts of flagrant wrong,
In homes where kindness falters,
and strife and fear are strong,
In busy streets of barter,
In lonely thoroughfare,
The people's spirits languish:
But thou, O Christ, art there.

O Christ, behold thy people
They press on every hand!
Bring light to all the cities
of our beloved land.
May all our bitter striving
Give way to visions fair
Of righteousness and justice:
For thou, O Christ, art there.

-Thomas Curtis Clark, 1877-1953

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Poem of the day

-Nikolaus Lenau

Frühlingskinder im bunten Gedränge,
Flatternde Blüten, duftende Hauche,
Schmachtende, jubelnde Liebesgesänge
Stürzen an's Herz mir aus jedem Strauche.
Frühlingskinder mein Herz umschwärmen,
Flüstern hinein mit schmeichelnden Worten,
Rufen hinein mit trunknem Lärmen,
Rütteln an längst verschloss'nen Pforten.
Frühlingskinder, mein Herz umringend,
Was doch sucht irh darin so dringend?
Hab' ich's cerraten euch jüngst im Traume,
Schlummernd unterm Blütenbaume,
Brachten euch Morgenwinde die Sage,
Dass ich im Herzen eingeschlossen
Euren lieblichen Spielgenossen
Heimlich und selig ihr Bildnis trage?

Spring's Throngs
Spring's children in colorful throngs,
dancing blossoms, sweet-smelling breezes,
languishing, joyful love songs
tumble on to my heart from each bush.
Spring's children swarm around my heart,
whisper therein with caressing words,
call therein with drunken noise,
shake against doors closed for so long.
Spring's children, surrounding my heart,
what do you seek there so urgently?
Have I divulged it to you once while dreaming,
slumbering underneath the blossoming tree,
brought to you the tale in the morning wind,
that in my heart's closed chamber
your loving playmates
secretly and blissfully carry your image?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Poem of the day

Die Nacht
-Hermann von Gilm

Aus dem Walde tritt die Nacht
Aus dem Bäumen schleicht sie leise,
Schaut sich um in weitem Kreise,
Nun gib acht.

Alle Lichter dieser Welt
Alle Blumen, alle Farben
Löscht sie aus und stiehlt die Garben
Weg vom Feld.

Alles nimmt sie, was nur hold,
Nimmt das Silber weg des Stroms,
Nimmt vom Kupferdach des Doms,
Weg das Gold.

Ausgeplündert steht der Strauch;
Rüke näher, Seel' an Seele,
O die Nacht, mir bangt, sie stehle
Dich mir auch.

The Night
Out of the woods treads the night,
out of the trees she gently steals,
she looks around in a wide circle,
now be careful.

All the lights of this world,
all flowers, all colors
she erases and she steals the sheaves
away from the field

She takes everything, whatsoever is lonely,
takes the silver away from the river,
takes from the copper roof of the cathedrals,
away the gold.

The shrub stands plundered;
come closer, soul to soul,
oh, the night, I am afraid, will steal
you from me, too.

Casting the First Stone

An examination of the connection between mandatory celibacy and the sexual abuses of the Catholic Church

The recent history of the Catholic Church has been scarred with the bright red marks of scandal and controversy. The sex-abuse scandal is the most recent, and perhaps the most damaging of all the scandals in modern history. According to CNN, “Allegations of church-based sex abuse are increasing across Europe, including in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. New abuse allegations have surfaced in Brazil, home of the world's largest Catholic population.” This is a grievous and terrible offense, made even more dastardly by the nature of the alleged crimes against children. The current leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has especially been under scrutiny with accusations of his involvement in scandals in his home country. The Church stands in a very dark light. Shrouded in mystery to much of the world, many have condemned the organization of the Church as superstitious and corrupt. History would seem to be on their side. The Catholic Church has never been free of controversy, and indeed, many Catholics seem to make it their aim to stir up as much social unrest as possible, as in the case of Guy Fawkes, or the Jesuits of revolution-era France. The popular solution to this controversy is for the Church to abandon her teaching on celibacy, which many laud as the reason for the abuse of priests. The psychologist Felix Schottländer claimed that “the source of almost every known form of neurosis lies in refusal to accept one or more of the three fundamental conditions of human life: having a body, having sex and being a social creature” (Görres 31). Nonetheless, as a religious organization, the Catholic Church has many virtues to speak for her, and in a spirit of mercy, one must pause before passing judgment on the Church as a whole. Regardless of one's personal religious opinion or affiliation, it would be a terrible injustice to make demands or accusations of the Catholic Church without a thorough analysis of the situation. For the Church to redeem herself, the result of this analysis will put forth sufficient reason and facts to believe that celibacy is not the cause of the sex abuses among the Catholic clergy. It is necessary first to scrutinize the history of celibacy in the Catholic priesthood. The next step is to allow the Catholic Church to defend herself by putting forth the reasons for the celibacy of her priests. After this, a logical and psychological examination of the relationship between the nature of celibacy and sexual repression must take place, of which an important questions to consider are alternate reasons for sexual abuse from members of the clergy.

The Catholic Church holds that celibacy is something which Jesus himself condoned, and is, in fact, a practice in the imitation of his virginal life. However, the roots of celibacy in the priesthood have been under much scrutiny, as to if celibacy in the priesthood is rooted in suppression and denial of the self. In order to draw a conclusion as to the connection between Catholic celibacy and the sex abuses, the history of the practice of priestly celibacy should be examined Much of the historic abhorrence for the sexual act has its source not in true Catholic theology, but in the heresies of the early Church, such as Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, and Manichaeism. These dualist doctrines taught that the body was evil and interfered with the soul's ability to attain a more holy union with God, especially sexual intercourse. Their influence subtly made its way into the thoughts and writings of many doctors of the Church, including Saint Augustine who was so convinced of the inferiority of sex that he viewed Marriage as a lenience for sinfulness. Saint Jerome also considered a married bishop who had children while serving as bishop was guilty of adultery, supplanting his dedication and his vow to serve God with earthly concerns. There was even an antimonian heresy, Nicolaism, in the first century which taught that as long as one abstained from marriage, clergy were allowed to exercise their sexual desires as they wished. However, though celibacy was held in high favor, it was common practice for bishops to be married until the fourth century. Various councils, including the council of Elvira in 306, The Council of Nicea in 325, and the Council of Carthage, contain statements in their canon forbidding the marriage of those in clerical offices. In 1123, the first Lateran council forbade priests from entering into marriage and that marriages in which priests were already involved were null and void, and sixteen years later, at the second Lateran council, all priests who refused to comply with the measures enacted by the Nicean and the Lateran councils were to be stripped of office, and their masses to be declared invalid. However, these councils were legitimate as far as the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church was concerned. The Eastern and Byzantine Rites, which are both in full communion with the Pontiff in Rome, understand celibacy in the following sense: “Neither our Lord, nor the apostles, nor St. Paul, expressed a command that the ministers of the word and the community of believers in Jesus be unmarried or abstain from the sacrament of marriage or its rightful use” (Bilaniuk 32). There has been little change since, and today in the Catholic Church, celibacy is mandatory for priesthood in the Latin Rite, and in no other. Thus, celibacy seems not to be a necessary factor of Catholic priesthood, and was in fact a more recent addition to the canon of Church law. Nonetheless, the history of the virginal priesthood is not a forceful suppression or a denial of the sexuality of a priest, for the option still remains for a man to become a priest within full communion with the Catholic Church, and be married as well. It would seem, then, that the Catholic Church is not responsible for the repression of the sexuality of men, but that any repression which takes place is the free decision of the individual, and thus the sexual abuses of the clergy cannot find their source in an institutionalized repression. In the view of the Theologian, R. J. Bunnik, however, “optional celibacy does not only mean that every priest is free to choose his own state of life; it also means that we leave the Holy Spirit to show us the variegated forms of tomorrow's ministry” (Bunnik 86). Essentially, according to Catholic theology, some are called by God to a life of life-long virginity, and others to the married state, whether or not within the context of the priesthood. The next step, therefore, must be to examine why the Catholic Church holds celibacy to be a venerable, life-long condition.

The Catholic Church, though its foundations are not rooted in a tradition of mandatory clerical celibacy, nonetheless holds that virginity for the kingdom is a completely valid, beneficial, and beautiful way of life. The reasons for priestly celibacy are many and varied, though the some that come foremost to mind are the principle of availability and the complete dedication to God. As to availability, priests must be attentive to the people in a way which is impossible for a married man to do so. A single priest can be supported by the rectory of a Catholic parish, and it would be impossible on such a meager budget as is the majority of Catholic churches to provide house and care for a family, keeping in mind that the priest is not meant to have any other occupation than his clerical profession. A priest can also go into instances of famine, natural disaster, social upheaval and disease where it would be a great failure as a husband and father to bring his family. It is also a great offense to the family of such a supposed priest to consider his obligations to his parish, which he is under oath to fulfill, and would leave his wife and children in a state of almost single-parenthood. In the words of Ida Görres, “It is something quite different for a girl to decide for the sake of 'free' motherhood, to condemn her child in advance to being half-orphaned from birth” (Görres 52). It is indeed so that much of the reason and motivation behind the mandatory celibacy of the priesthood is the confused notion that sex is a license for evil. However, this is not, and never has been the understanding of the marital union. The Catholic Church in fact teaches that the union of the spouses in Marriage is an image of the divine Trinity, a divine oneness that is inseparable and holy. In like manner, the priesthood is a marriage, of the priest in the person of Jesus, and the Church, the Bride of Christ. Therefore, according to the Church, “both ways of life, marriage and virginity, are two different realizations of the sacramentum on different planes of the mystery of the Union” (Görres 24). Even in the perspective of all these reasons for celibacy, none of them can nor should stand on their own without considering the priesthood in the light of the virginal priesthood of Christ. The very nature of the priesthood is action in persone Christe, in the person of Christ. The priest is the idea of the angelic man who offers his entirety to following the example of Christ in every measure possible. Celibacy is not denial, but a free offering of the sexual self for God and for mankind. In this offering, men and women do not lose their sexuality, it flows out in a continual replenishing which cannot be exhausted. In fact, the call to be chaste is a universal call which every Catholic is subject to in different measures, such as chastity in marriage, otherwise known as faithfulness, or the chastity of children and unmarried persons. The Catholic Church in her theology bases her commitment to upholding the value of celibacy on the foundation of a spiritual and almost reverent understanding of human sexuality. In one sense, the Church regards sexuality with much greater serenity and sanctity than most of the world, which would reduce sex to a biological function. In this way, it is difficult to consider the Catholic Church at fault for the sexual abuses of her ministers, due to the reverence and purity with which she treats sexuality. It is the personal theological, emotional, or psychological defect of the individual which is the root and propagator of any error which may occur in the setting of the priesthood.

There are many myths concerning the priestly sex scandal, one of which is that a large percentage, sometimes even the majority, of Catholic priests abuse children. Sadly, this view of the issue is based more on rumor and prejudice then on fact. According to a variety of research, ( Loftus and Camargo, 1993; Jenkins, 2001; W. V. Robinson, 2002; Goodstein, 2003) only 2% of Roman Catholic Priests abuse minors The sexual abuses that have occurred in the Catholic priesthood are at the same or less percentage of the clergy as percentages of other men in religious positions of other faiths and generally at a lower percentages than non-religious men in close contact with minors. Another misconception is that all priests who are abusers are pedophiles, and a similar myth is that those priests who do abuse minors are homosexual and that they sexually-abused hundreds of victims. While it is indeed true that a vast majority of priests who do violate children choose boys, 90% of abuses occur with adolescent males, and not pre-pubescent boys, and are thus not pedophiles. The stereotype of the priest who abuses innocent alter-boys is a perverse and disturbing fabrication. The majority of those who abuse also do not affiliate themselves as homosexual, but heterosexual, and cite ease of access, decreased chance of exposure, and fear of pregnancy as the main reasons for their choice of victim. The sentiment that priests who have abused children have abused vast numbers of victims is the result of a few select cases which dominated the press in 2002, in which the offenders had over one hundred victims each. However, current data suggests that those priests who have offended have abused no more then 8.6 victims, of which the majority of cases have been fondling, not penetration. More evidence for the integrity of the Church versus the individual is the data which suggests that 66% of sexually-abusing priests were victims of sexual abuse themselves in their youth. According to Kenneth M. Adams of Royal Oak, the main reasons behind troubled sexuality in priests are insecurity about family of origin, incest, or other abuse, interruptions in the ability to attain relationships and form emotional attachments, identity crisis in the realm of sexual maturity, or addictive or compulsive sexuality, often under the influence of shameful sexual notions. He is also of the opinion that the priesthood attracts those with such complexes as an escape or relief. Thus it is, that the person, and not the institution, has the defect, and must seek change and treatment through the proper means, including psychological counseling.

The most prevalent beliefs, however, are that the Catholic Church has not done enough to counter the instances of clerical sexual abuse, and that sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated successfully. This is the basis behind the current attacks on Pope Benedict XVI and the demanded removal of all priests and bishops who have dirtied their hands in the mess in the past. However, this is not an accurate portrayal of the Church's efforts, which include the preventative measures taken by psychological testing prior to admittance to the ministry, and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. While it is true that many bishops have been lax in their addressing of sexual abuse among their peers, the vast majority of dioceses in America have been vitally effective in the removal and treatment of offenders. With regards to the successful treatment of abusers, in studies conducted by the Saint Luke Institute in Maryland, only 4.4% of priests who were treated for sexual abuse relapsed into destructive behavior. Thus, the removal of all priests who have offended in the past based on the notion that all sex offenders who have offended in the past will offend again is misguided and unjust. In this light, the Catholic Church does not seem the offender, but the 2% of her priests who are in great need of psychological help.

In conclusion, it is not the case that there is sufficient evidence to believe that the Catholic Church, and even less so that celibacy, is the cause of the sexual abuse which has been unveiled internationally. Nor has it been evidenced that the Catholic Church blatantly ignores or dismisses instances of sexual abuse as a rule. The facts do not support such an accusation, and instead, such factors as childhood abuse and psychological abnormalities in the individual are to blame. However, one of the most pressing questions to consider now is why the abuses of the Catholic clergy have been made such an subject of public outcry when the abuses of men who are husbands, fathers and high-school coaches have a much, much higher percentage of occurrence, and are usually far more brutal. Why is it the case that the Catholic Church has been an object of slander and revulsion, when pornography is a multibillion dollar industry and has claimed the innocence, bodies, and lives of thousands of young women? Why is there no spotlight on this, or other, social corruptions? There seems to be an imbalance of weight in the scales of public justice, a weight which seems to make the Catholic Church a scapegoat for anger and mistrust. The Pope's aid was indeed correct when he likened the attack on the Pope to the anti-Semitic propaganda of pre-war Germany, where Jews were made out as villains and amoral persons, becoming the whipping-boy of Germany's rage and poverty in the aftermath of the Treaty of Versailles. Public opinion is a dangerous thing, which may do much good and much harm in the same blow. It is important, therefore, not to condemn when injustice calls for action and not to wound when scars call for healing. It is time to help those who have fallen to stand back up on their feet and continue on, not smear their faces further into the mud. Let he who has never sinned cast the first stone.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Little Bird in a Gilded Cage

Language is the collection of symbols and sounds used to convey meaning from person to person, whether it be written or spoken. English, Hebrew, Japanese, and all such linguistic codes are one kind of language, a language of cultures, but there are other, more subtle uses of language. Calculus is a language, using the complexity of numerals, integrals and differential equations to convey the concepts of fractals, imaginary numbers, and the splendor of the Mandlebrot set. Art is a language, and perhaps one of the most controversial, speaking across political and social boundaries. Likewise, music is a language, a language of notes, phrases, beauty and silence, which conveys messages, stories, and knowledge. Music is a powerful language and the most profound of all musical dialects is the singing gesture, in which the human body is the instrument. Vocal music is the language of the unbiased soul in the body, the expression of the self as an instrument of beauty. When one sings, it is the heart and the mind, not the society, not politics nor religion, gender or race which phonates the air and spins the currents of sound to reach far off and distant ears, to touch hearts and move minds. Peoples of completely different backgrounds, ethnic boundaries and cultures may be bound together in the magic of O la che buon Echo, or swept together in the sorrow exuding from Bach's Cantata 106. The pure grandeur of Beethoven's Choral Fantasia elevates all to new heights of majesty, while the simplicity of Gregorian chant has served for thousands of years as a bridge to the divine. The Ragas of India serve in like manner for all its many cultures, whether Sikh, Muslim, or Hindu, as prayers of beauty and encompassing truth. Thus, it is that the language of vocal music crosses the boundaries between peoples of different ethnicities. Vocal music can create a shared experience among persons by nature of the universality of its emotive prowess, such as in Nobuo Uematsu's The Promised Land. Vocal music can also cross ethnic lines by nature of its commonality, such as in folk or popular songs. Lastly, vocal music can bring differing ethnicities together through the power of assembly in the form of a choir.
Music has been an integral expression of man's nature since ancient times. Indeed, one source claims that “In all probability, man was gifted primevally and throughout an endless span of time with a singing voice which he possessed long before he was able to speak” (Husler 214). Singing, therefore, is a natural and integral form of human communication. Vocal music crosses the boundaries between peoples of different ethnicities by nature of it's emotive prowess, tapping into the complex emotional subconscious of both singer and listener. What music communicates between persons delves deep into the secret resources of the heart and conveys intimate feelings and ideas of such concepts as life, death, love, and beauty. A Requiem is a mass for the dead, a treatise to the awe and fear man has held for death over the centuries. It is a shared fear or the unknown, a common fact that man must die, no matter who or what he is. Bach's Cantata 106, a requiem cantata, gravely states “Es ist die alte Bund, Mensch, du must sterben.” It is the Fate of everything, man you must die! How sharply this contrasts to the In Paradisum, the seventh movement of the Faure Requiem. The listener is raised to new heights of hope with the soaring, angelic soprano line, and one cannot cling to the hope of eternal life. All men and women must interract with the questions which good music confront them with as universal dilemas of life, death, sin and redemption, regardless of age, sex, or race.Music demands of man his subjectivity, sweeping him along into realms of feeling inside his person that he cannot escape. Vocal music connects with man on an intimate level, even moreso then instrumental music can because of the integral nature of the vocal mechanism to the person. The very human body is the instrument which creates beauty in this situation, and thus it is the human person, body as well as soul, which is active in the creation of Beauty. When one listens to a vocal performance, whether in a concert hall or in a church, they are sharing an experience with every person in that concert hall. Every performer and every listener is swept together in the intricate, emotive harmonies of Whitacre, the splendorous magnitude of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, or brought to tears of mourning at the tender, heart-broken conclusion of David's Lamentation. Through the common experience of emotion in great works of beauty, vocal music tears down walls between individuals, stripping the heart bare in the seizure of objectivity. Person to person, the human soul is all that is left once creed, dress, culture and background have been washed away in the rush of emotion which vocal music demands of its listeners. The emotional prowess of vocal music creates a common experience for all who listen and thus, the language of vocal music crosses the boundaries between peoples of differing ethnicities.
The foundations of high culture rest on the cultivation of the aesthetic, a vital part of which is the growth and cultivation of music. Indeed, no culture would be complete without musical identity and every people, race and nationality expresses their unique characteristics through music.Vocal music, being the simplist form of musical expression for humans, has had a leading role in captivating the sensibilities of cultures around the world. Thus vocal music dispells racial boundaries by nature of its commonality in culture.Der Erlkönig by Schubert is a prime example of the German aesthetic. It conveys not only the terror that one feels at the approach of Der Erlkönig, or Death, for the little boy, but also the German romantic sensibilities and nationalistic poetry, in this case Goethe. Through der Erlkönig, a piece of Germany is presented for those who wish to listen and hear the sounds of pounding hooves and terrified cries, the passion of German Romanticism.Likewise, the music of A. R. Rahman convays beautifly the voice of the Indian people. In his vocal pieces, one can smell the spices on the air, see the lush green of the Indian forests or the barrenness of the Indian deserts, and drift within the swirling, smoky tendrils of the sensuous musical lines of the singers. The folk music of country villages and the pop songs of modern metropolises also tell the story of the peoples who sing them. The songs of peoples are a voice crying out for those who would stop and listen, hearing the thoughts and hearts of a race in the gentle, angry, sorrowful or joyful swell of sound. Vocal music is a window into the hearts of nations and cultures across the globe, and thus, a method of communication between peoples of different ethnicities or racial backgrounds. Vocal music crosses bariars wetween peoples of different ethnicities due to the intimate position it holds in cultural identity across space and time.
The concept of man as an image of the Living God does not leave the expression of the aesthetic to the individual, but demands more. Just as God exists in an eternal community of three persons, thus, to be a true expression of the goal of human existence, singing must be a communial expression. Choirs are the collaborative efforts of individuals working together as one voice, creating a community between the individuals, but also between all the cultures of the individuals in the choir. Vocal music brings different ethnicities together through the power of assembly, in which all different backgrounds and cultures must come together and make music. The Agape Choir is one such example. Consisting of men and women from all different races and backgrounds, their mission is to spread the message of peace to all races and countries. Their brightly colored costumes and expressive performance style convey their philosophy that all colors and shapes, all men and women, no matter where one comes from singing brings people together in the creation of beauty. In like manner, choirs can also serve as a method for spreading understanding and peaceful intentions across races. One such example is a youth chorale in Lebannon. The choir was made up of both Jewish and Muslim boys, who through their communal offering of beauty were able to make peace between their warring parents. Likewise, many cultural festivals feature choirs from across the globe, as in the Cantus festivel, held in Salzburg, Austria. The David Jorlett Choralle from America, the St. Peter's Preperatory Orchestra from Australia, the Naple's Civic Orchestra from Italy, and the Verrinshav Folk choir from Latvia all lent their instruments and voices with one accord to aid Armenia orphans. Due to the communal efforts of all the choirs and orchestras, the assembly was able to offer medical and educational supplies to impoverished children. Not only did four cultures come together to offer a common sacrifice of song, but they were able to cross another ocean, and touch the lives of the youth of a fifth race. In this way, vocal music has the ability to transcend cultural barriers through the formation of choral groups.
The human person is an entity continuously seeking to know and to make itself known, and the expression of this desire is language. Vocal music is a language which conveys the secrets of the human person in a unique and stunning way, for music takes part intimately in the expression of beauty of the natural world, and the music of the human person is the singing gesture. Because vocal music is common to all peoples, the language of vocal music destroys barriers between peoples of different ethnicities, cultures and races. Singing creates bridges between ethnicities by nature of its emotive prowess and ability to connect intimately with the individual, bonding person to person. Vocal music also destroys ethnic boundaries through the expression of cultural identities, which bring together races which would naturally be far removed from each other. Lastly, vocal music crosses barriers between races through the collaborative efforts of choirs. As a young girl once said: “you're never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there's always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out”(Lorde 80). Music is a part of the human person, a part that their very bodies were meant to play and that their souls quietly yearn for. If each person does not let out that part of themselves, they are keeping bound a bird inside their hearts. However beautiful or large the cage, the hidden bird who has never seen the sun or felt the rain, never twittered its own melody, will grow gray, once bright feathers molting and shedding to litter the floor of the human heart. Singing must be a part of human interaction, for without it, an integral part of human expression is cut off. We must not be birds in cages. Humans must soar free in uncontained skies, with a song in their breast.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Poem of the day

A thing of Beauty is a Joy forever
-John Keats

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old, and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.

Nor do we merely feel these essences
For one short hour; no, even as the trees
That whisper round a temple become soon
Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite,
Haunt us till they become a cheering light
Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast
That, whether there be shine or gloom o'ercast,
They always must be with us, or we die.

Therefore, 'tis with full happiness that I
Will trace the story of Endymion.
The very music of the name has gone
Into my being, and each pleasant scene
Is growing fresh before me as the green
Of our own valleys: so I will begin
Now while I cannot hear the city's din;
Now while the early budders are just new,
And run in mazes of the youngest hue
About old forests; while the willow trails
Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails
Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year
Grows lush in juicy stalks, I'll smoothly steer
My little boat, for many quiet hours,
With streams that deepen freshly into bowers.
Many and many a verse I hope to write,
Before the daisies, vermeil rimmed and white,
Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees
Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas,
I must be near the middle of my story.
O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,
See it half finished: but let Autumn bold,
With universal tinge of sober gold,
Be all about me when I make an end!
And now at once, adventuresome, I send
My herald thought into a wilderness:
There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress
My uncertain path with green, that I may speed
Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Even more about the Saxophone!

Tuning a Sax
Pitch accuracy is vital for a saxophonist, because of the great flexibility of this transposing instrument. As a result, a good saxophonist will perform intensive ear training to help increase their ability to stay in tune with their accompanying instruments. To tune, remember these guidelines
  1. Pitch is more easily lowered then raised
  2. Notes with longer tube lengths or closed keys have less flexibility
  3. The higher register is more flexible then the lower register.
Lowering the pitch center by pulling out the mouthpiece will generally help the high register, which is often sharp, while unaffecting the lower register. Remember this, when your upper register is sharp and your lower register is flat.

The sum of its parts...

The mouthpiece
The mouthpiece affects every aspect of sound production, and should never be taken lightly. I recommend that every student make a good purchase of a high-quality mouthpiece, and one should never buy a mouthpiece without playing on it first. Most mouthpieces are made out of hard rubber, although those tenor Jazz sax players like their metal mouths. There are many different sizes and shapes of mouthpieces, and many different organizational categories which may be disheartening for the new saxophonist. Here is a general guideline.
The number on the mouthpiece indicates the size of the mouthpiece opening at the tip, with a larger number meaning a larger opening and so forth. Selmer corporation, however, uses letters, and not numbers to indicate size, with a C as a medium, and D larger, and so on. An asterisk (*) after a number or letter indicates a longer facing, so more reed will vibrate. Thus, a 7* will play louder than a 7, because of the longer facing. There are also some brands which include S, M, and L as indications of the chamber size of the mouthpiece. A good guideline to remember is that the larger the chamber, the darker the tone will get. I recommend trying out all sorts of different mouthpieces until you find the one that suits you best.

The reed
As with all wind instruments, the saxophone is at the mercy of the reed, which has a huge effect on the quality of the tone. A used, or overblown reed will produce a harsh, thin tone, and extreme notes of the registers will suffer. A reed that is too soft will produce an flat, unfocused tone, while a reed that is too hard will give an airy, dull tone, so getting and keeping good reeds is a must.
In buying a reed, most companies will use numbers to indicate the strength of the reed, although some use the labels "soft", "medium", and "hard". The beginner saxophonist will want to start with a #2 reed, and then will progress to the standard #2 1/2 reed fairly quickly. Advanced saxophonists may use a #3- 31/2, because of the increased strength of the reed, but mostly, the strength of the reed should depend on the player's experience, personal preference and facial structure.
Saxophonists do not generally make their reeds, as good reeds can be found at almost any instrumental shop. However, one should make an effort to keep your reed in good condition as long as possible, if only to cut back on the cost. Here are some steps to keeping your reed in good working order.
  • During the break-in period of one week, limit the amount of time playing a new reed to no more than five minutes per day, and be gentle with the registers and how hard you tongue.
  • Polish the flat side of the reed before playing it.
  • soak the reed briefly in purified water
  • Allow the reed to dry for a few minutes after playing, then store it in a protective container that lets light through.
If you take good care of your reed, it could offer you weeks of good use!

The Care and Keeping of a Saxophone

A saxophone is a really good instrument for kids because it is a fairly easy instrument to care for. After playing, all you have to to is swab out the inside of the neck and body with a soft, dry cloth. A pull through weight can be used, but be careful to use one that is the right fit for your instrument. The mouthpiece should be washed occasionally with a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water to keep it sanitary and in good working order.
If you have sticky pads, clean them with ungummed cigarette paper, and not with any powdery non-stick stuff. Non-stick powder will eventually build up on the pads and ruin them. To clean, simply place the cigarette paper between the pad and the instrument, press down gently, and slide the paper out. After a few goes, the pads should work just fine! Nonetheless, pads will eventually need to be replaced, and a good indication is when the pads are dry, brittle, look dark brown or black in color, and may even split open. A complete overhaul of the saxophone may need to take place every few years, and should be done by a trained professional, don't spare the expense. A cheap price means a cheap fix.
The exterior of a saxophone can just be wiped down with a cotton swab and soft cloth, making sure to get the nooks and crannies of the instrument, and to reduce the key and joint noise, use some light key oil.

A beautiful tool of the more advanced saxophone player is vibrato, which should be used to enhance a rich tone, rather than to cover up a poor one. Saxophone vibrato is produced using a slight chewing action of the jaw, using the teeth to transfer variations of pressure to the mouthpiece. Make sure, when learning vibrato, to aim for evenly placed, controlled vibrato, as this is better technique and creates a cleaner sound. The best way to learn is to listen to professionals who play with good technique. Find a vibrato that you like and emulate it, being sure to focus in on how clean the sound is.