Make Church Music Great Again

On Sunday I had a friend visit my Byzantine parish here in San Diego. It was her first time visiting an Eastern parish, so afterwards we spent some time talking about the music used in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. In case you have never visited an Eastern Rite parish, you should know that we don’t use instruments, relying instead on the human voice. If you’d like to have an idea of what that sounds like, you might like to check out this post.

This discussion after the Liturgy about music reminded me of this video by Brian Holdsworth, provocatively entitled “Make Church Music Great Again”. In his video he discusses the meaning and use of music, particularly with reference to the celebration of the Eucharist:

Getting More Out Of The Mass…in ten minutes (MP3)



As I mentioned yesterday, this past weekend I was in Dodge City, Kansas for SKYAC, the Southern Kansas Young Adult Conference.

During the afternoon, I gave one of the “FED Talks”. For those of you familiar with TED Talks, it was of a very similar format. However, whereas TED Talks are short presentations on Technology, Entertainment and Design, the FED Talks in Kansas were focussed on the subjects of Faith, Evangelization and Discipleship.

My own FED presentation was a version of my talk on “Getting More out of the Mass”. Preparing for a ten-minute talk was a surprisingly time-consuming process! It’s hard to clearly communicate something of value in a restricted time window! It completely validated the quotation which is commonly ascribed to Woodrow Wilson:

“If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation;
if fifteen minutes, three days;
if half an hour, two days;
if an hour, I am ready now” 

For those of you who would like to hear the full-length version of the talk, I should be giving it in San Diego sometime in May.

Getting More Out Of The Mass (Download)

Baptist visits a Catholic Church

Here’s a video of when a Baptist visited a Catholic Church and spoke to the priest. It’s actually much more constructive than implied by the title of the video:

At the name of Jesus…


bowIf you have ever visited an Eastern Catholic parish or Eastern Orthodox parish, you will have noticed that whenever the Trinity or any of the divine names are mentioned, the priest and people will cross themselves and incline their heads in a bow, even if only slightly.

This is a practice I really like and I’ve often wished that this would be more present at western parishes. Well, I recently found out that, at least in theory, it should happen there too…

The place where you discover this is the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), which is basically a commentary on the Missal, explaining how Mass should be celebrated:

A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.
– GIRM 275

How about that?! I did a little more digging and found out that this practice has considerable antiquity. For example, in the 13th Century, the Fathers of the Council of Lyons seem to have been inspired by the epistle to the Philippians where St. Paul talks about how “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on the earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:9-10). Here’s what the Council said:

Each should fulfill in himself that which is written… that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow; whenever that glorious name is recalled, especially during the sacred mysteries of the Mass, everyone should bow the knees of his heart, which he can do even by a bow of his head.
– Council of Lyons II, Constitution 25

So, even if it’s not common practice in your parish, I’d invite everyone to follow the guidance offered to us by the GIRM and to honour the Lord, His Mother and His Saints with this small gesture of reverence.

Divine Liturgy Bible Crib

One of my great discoveries upon engaging with the Catholic faith was that the Liturgy was saturated with Scripture. In my exploration of the eastern liturgies of the Church, I’ve found this to be no less true.

Below is a summary of the Scriptural allusions of the Liturgy which was compiled by V. Rev. John J. Matusiak from St. Joseph Russian Orthodox Church, OCA in Wheaton, IL.

Opening Doxology (“Blessed in the Kingdom…”)
Mark: 11:10; Luke: 22:29-30, Matthew: 28:19; Revelation: 7:12.

The Great Litany
Philippians: 4:6-7; Psalm 51:1 Luke: 18:13; John: 14:27; 1 Timothy: 2:1-2; Hebrews: 13:7; Psalm 109:26; Luke: 1:42.

The First Antiphon (“Bless the Lord, O my soul…”)
Selected verses from Psalm 103.

The Second Antiphon (“Praise the Lord, O my soul”)
Psalm 103.

The Hymn to Christ Incarnate (“Only-begotten Son…”
John: 1:1, 3:16, 17:5, 19:18; Luke: 1:35; Hebrews: 2:14; Matthew: 8:25.

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The Eucharistic Minister’s Words


Every now and then I have readers email me directly. Here’s one I received earlier this week:

“Last week my Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion was saying, “THIS IS THE Body of Christ.” It struck me as wrong. Is this ad-libbing, embellishing, inappropriate, or no problem?”


In case anyone is interested, here was my reply…

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Open hearts and sweaty palms


Today I would like to discuss briefly a liturgical question of our time: should the congregation hold hands during the Our Father? In 1963, the Beatles sang “I wanna hold your hand”. Well, that’s all fine and good, but there’s a time and place for everything…

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine sent me a link to an article which argues why the congregation should not hold hands during the Our Father. Broadly speaking, I agree with the arguments made in the article. However, when people bring up this subject, I often take a different tack to the explanation presented in the article…

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