Friday, August 28, 2009

Dear Washington Post Editor

Well, I guess The Washington Post is not going to publish my letter to the editor, since the original letter to the editor it references is no longer available on their website. I thought I wrote a good letter, so here it is:

Dear Editor:

In a 16 June Letter to the Editor, Sophia Panieczko of Manassas wonders rhetorically "If the goal of antiabortion activists is to reduce or eliminate abortions, why aren't they enthusiastic advocates of the use of contraceptives?" Perhaps Ms. Panieczko is unaware of actual contraceptive failure rates. A June 2008 study published in "Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health" showed average contraceptive failure rates of 12% per year. This is "substantially unchanged" from other studies in 1995 or 2002. If half the undergraduates at a university of 10,000 students are sexually active, unmarried, and using contraception, then this results in approximately 300 children per year. All of these children are, by definition, unwanted, and most will be aborted. If advocates of "planned parenthood" really have "every child a wanted child" as their goal, why aren't they advocating for the elimination of contraceptives? Unlike Ms. Panieczko, I won't engage in idle and insulting speculations about what others' motives might be.

I hope The Post's readers eventually learn the truth about the ways in which contraception leads to abortion.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Best Mass Ever!

So, there was an interesting message on our parish website today:

A Message from Father Specht

Feast of the Assumption

August 15th is the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, the day that the Church celebrates the Blessed Mother’s spiritual and physical entry into glory. Because August 15th falls on a Saturday this year it is not a holy day of obligation for the faithful. This means that there is no requirement to attend Mass on the feast this year.
This feast is also one of a handful of feasts that include a proper Vigil Mass. A vigil is a Mass intended to be celebrated on the proceeding evening, and containing it’s own proper prayers and readings.
Over the last two years the choirs have spent a great deal of effort expanding their familiarity with “proper” musical parts of the Mass. Most people do not realize that each Sunday and Feast Day Mass also has assigned its own “proper” music, intended as an intimate part of that specific celebration along with the specific prayers and introductions (prefaces) to the Eucharistic Prayer itself. We have used the English translations (and sometimes the Latin originals) of this music during most Sunday noon masses.
Now that these elements are in place we are able to celebrate some masses in a more solemn way. The Vigil of the Assumption of Mary will be celebrated on August 14th at 7:30PM. This Mass will be fully chanted in Latin with the proper music parts. Mass celebrated in this way is likely to fullest expression of the reforms of the Novus Ordo, the Mass instituted by Paul VI. The Holy Hour normally scheduled for Friday evening will not be held on the 14th.
Please consider joining us for the celebration of this great vigil.

Intrigued, and alone for the weekend (my wife & kids are out of town) I went. I have two words to say: "Wow!" and "Yeah!"

Wow. This was one of the most beautiful Masses I've been to. Yes, better than Easter Vigil at the Abbey, although that was excellent. What was wonderful about this was it finally felt like we were doing Mass the way it was intended to be. This took us, our community, in many ways out of the mode of creative self expression, and instead into the mode of conforming ourselves to Christ. It's like in a marriage where it stops being an effort to accommodate the other person, and instead becomes natural to be the person your spouse needs you to be.

Yeah! This is the Mass I've been yearning for. This is the Mass that the Council Fathers promised us. The use of Latin ties us with the rest of the Church. The expanded collection of readings (in English) open up the Word to us more fully. The use of Gregorian Chant (and some polyphony) expresses the richness of our Western heritage. The audible canon with responses facilitates full, active participation. (I know some people won't like me saying that, but I really find the inaudible canon of the extraordinary form indefensible. )

I know I said before "Latin, I just didn't get it..." and I promised to go an Extraordinary Form Mass, which I did eventually do. Here's why the Mass this evening was so much better than the one I went to before:

1. Consistency of language. Except for the readings & the homily, the Mass was in Latin. There was none (well, maybe one minor mistake) of the random switching between languages as in the previous Mass I attended

2. Gregorian Chant. Singing or chanting everything gave me, as I predicted, the time to understand what was going on. Thank you, Fr. Specht, for chanting the entire canon. I know that's not easy for you, but it adds richly to the experience.

3. Pacing. Nothing seemed rushed about this Mass. (Yes, it took about 90 minutes, but it seemed shorter than many 45-minute Eucharistic-Prayer-2 rush-jobs I've attended because I was never distracted.)

A couple of things I appreciated:
  • Having the words of the Collect, the Gradual, the Offertory, etc. in English. I found that I could scan the English first, and be able to catch enough of the Latin keywords to both know where we were in the prayer, and let the beauty of the experience fully affect me.
  • Also, I really like it when the acolyte incenses the congregation. Indeed, we are all together offering ourselves as a sacrifice of praise. Talk about active participation! We are also gifts offered to God.
  • Ad Orientem. As I said in my previous post, once you've seen this, you'll never want to go back.
  • The Choir learning all the parts. They did a great job helping all of us navigate this somewhat unfamiliar territory. Sure, they were a little rough in some parts, but I don't think the Holy Spirit minded.
Now, maybe we could start having Mass Ad Orentem every Sunday at the Noon Mass, hey Father?

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Fr. Specht!