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Thursday, 15 March 2007 00:27

Written by Kathleen Lundquist

*Pant, pant.

I’ve been struggling to keep up with my life over the past week, but I need to add my voice to the very exciting conversation re: Keith’s post on Christian music. I apologize in advance for the length of this post; you might get yourself a glass or cup of whatever you like to drink and then settle in for a bit.

I have an extensive background in Christian music: I was born and raised a Baptist, and I’m well acquainted with traditional Protestant hymnody as well as the earliest CCM albums and artists. I became a charismatic Evangelical in my early twenties and am well versed in the praise chorus repertoire. I’ve always loved pop music, and my ear was trained by Top 40 radio in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I’ve played the piano since I was five and have been writing songs since I was fifteen. I have a degree in music theory and composition from a well-known East Coast college. I worked in Christian retailing and for a Christian record company in California in the early ‘90s, the heady days of Amy Grant’s and Michael W. Smith’s first CHR crossover hits. Finding myself dismayed and heartbroken over Evangelicals’ ambivalence toward music and other artistic achievements of Western culture, I began studying art history and iconography; from there I discovered church history and uncovered a truly Christian theology of art, and it was this (among other beautiful things) that led me to convert to the Catholic faith with my husband in 1999. I’ve sung with a gospel choir in a Pentecostal church, a Renaissance madrigal ensemble at Christmastime in a shopping mall, a Christian rock band in a church basement, and an experimental electronic vocal trio in a downtown punk club. Right now, the original piano/vocal songs I play in coffeehouses and at open mics are mostly Joni Mitchell/Carly Simon/Karen Carpenter-flavored, with liberal sprinklings of Enya, Tori Amos, and Sam Phillips thrown in.

And… I’ve been doing church music all – my – life. I can’t escape it. It pursues me; it dogs my steps everywhere I go. It’s not that I mind so much; it’s just that – well, my relationship to church music is a bit complex. Sometimes it seems to take the form of a beautiful wolfhound that trots gracefully beside me on the path; sometimes it’s like a springer spaniel puppy that keeps throwing itself under and between my feet, tangling the leash around my shins; sometimes it’s like a overcaffeinated Chihuahua who’s been cooped up all day and loudly, nervously, incessantly yaps at me when I step in the door.

Since I was in grade school, I’ve always sung in church. From the time I was 12, it was expected that when my family went to visit Grandma (2 hours north of us in Washington State) over a weekend, I would be prepared to sing “a special” for the Sunday service in her tiny Plymouth Brethren church. No one ever implied I had a choice in the matter; the question was always “What are you going to sing today?” rather than “Will you sing today?” As I landed in different churches according to the various twists and turns in my spiritual journey, when people discovered I was a singer and musician, it was never long before I was pushed up onto the platform to serve regularly in some musical capacity. In nearly every church I’ve attended, when people hear me singing in the congregation, they turn around and say, “You have a nice voice. You should sing in the choir.”

I know I sound horribly ungrateful for all this support; I appreciate the fact that I can be a blessing to people in church, but what I need to say is this: Being surrounded by this perspective, this idea that my musical gifts are meant solely for church use, that church music is the holiest thing I can do as a Christian musician, kept me from seeing God’s actual plan for my life for a long time.

Through years of struggle, study, prayer, and encouragement from trusted friends, I have come to the realization that my vocation is profoundly secular in nature. I do enjoy singing in church, and I know it blesses other people, but it’s not the true heart of my vocation. What gives me the most joy is being able to play a “somebody-done-somebody-wrong” song in a dimly-lit coffee shop late at night, that touches another human heart with sympathy and understanding, and shows a light on the pathway toward healing and hope – a pathway that I trust will lead ultimately to Christ. I see myself as a sower of seed, a “pre-evangelist” in that sense. A flashlight in a dark hallway. Something like that.

In order to have some credibility with nonbelievers, I’m compelled to do what Flannery O’Connor did with her writing – not to shy away from unsavory characters or violent endings, but rather to portray the whole of the human condition, to capture the sadness and despair of the soul without God, to acknowledge that “grace has to cut before it can heal”. The “shouting to the deaf” and the “startling figures” that must be drawn for secular audiences aren’t appropriate for church music, of course. When I realized and accepted the fact that these types of songs were coming out of my heart and prayers for a reason, for God’s reasons, I had to reorient myself in terms of my career.

That’s not to say that I think all Christian/Catholic musicians ought to be duking it out with Coldplay for an airplay spot on VH1 (though I think there should definitely be some of us doing that). I don’t mean to disrespect any musician or performer who senses a call from God to serve His people within the church, to challenge and encourage Christian youth, or to teach and enlighten folks using familiar Christian/Catholic language and symbology. God knows we need you, each one of you, and we surely need all the support we can muster for one another. I’m certainly not against church music ministry; I still cantor for funerals, weddings, and Taize prayer services, for example.

However, it’s my fervent hope that we can continue this conversation about Christian music, church music, and artistic charisms in general, broadening its scope to include the myriad ways in which God uses art and artists in His plan of redemption – not just of the entire person, but of the entire culture and temporal order in which we live. I strongly support Keith’s idea of forming some sort of formation network, taking into account the different spheres of the Church and of culture in which we as Catholic artists are called to minister.

Here’s a link to my website. It was actually built in 2005, so hopefully it won’t bother Keith with memories of 1997. ;^) There’s streaming audio of my professionally-produced Christmas album, as well as music from some previous custom recordings and links to published articles, pictures, and biographical info. I have a new EP of originals that I haven’t got up on the site yet; I’ll be sure to keep you posted when that’s done. I also have a press kit available (through SonicBids, highly recommended); hit me with your email address, and I’ll send it out.

Here also is a link to a piece I wrote a while back in response to my friend Michael McNamara’s question regarding Catholic contemporary music: Is it getting any better? Those of you who do Catholic-themed pop or rock music should contact Michael and see if he’ll have you on his radio program, Cross Signals (just picked up by the new Catholic satellite radio station out of New York).

And God bless you, Nick Cardilino (in the earlier comments thread – can’t figure out how to link to your comment) – I attend a Christian songwriters’ group under the auspices of an “Emerging Church” congregation that desperately needs a more solid focus, and your ideas are just perfect. I hope they respond with courage to the challenge to take what we do more seriously, to write better songs and help each other do that, rather than continuing down the ego-centered path of the “mutual admiration society”.

Looking forward to your comments!

Baptizing the Pagan Organ PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 14 March 2007 16:16

In light of the vigorous discussion of the dilemma of contemporary Catholic praise and worship here over the past two days, I found this interesting:

From the July, 1996 issue of Speculum, the journal of the Medieval Academy of America comes this fascinating review of The Organ in Western Culture, 750 - 1250 by Peter Williams (Cambridge University Press)

"The organ's status as a fixture of western churches, Catholic and Protestant alike, is centuries old. . . this situation ranks among the more remarkable, even ironic accidents of history. Direct ancestors of the modern organ . . .were known to the Mediterranean world long before the birth of Christ. But the social settings for those instruments in Roman times were those the early Christian Church was most determined to reject: wedding feasts with their suggestive dancing; night serenades, games, and imperial ceremonies."

so "How did the organ become accepted by the Church?"

William's answer: it is very complicated and much "common knowledge" on the subject is anachronistic and without foundation.

As has happened throughout history, secular gifts can and are adapted for use by the Church in her worship and mission in remarkably creative ways. After all, as Wesley famously quipped: "Why should the devil have all the good music?"

Oswald Sorbino's response:

"How interesting! The excerpt sounds like a description of the way many rigorists describe why the guitar or the piano or the drums should never be used in the liturgy. What happened to the sensual, pagan organ? It was baptized!

No surprise: Christ came to transform all things, and so He did and does. That is why the Church makes no hard and fast prohibitions as to musical instruments but leaves the decision to the discretion of the bishops based on the evolving standards of common opinion and usage, which are, obviously, by their very nature changeable.

Newman noted (my paraphrase) that to be immersed in history was to cease to be a Protestant. To read history is to cease to be a fanatical rigorist when it comes to liturgical musical instruments. I think the two mentalities: the historically Protestant and the rigorist mentalities are indeed related--both tend to deify and reify one partial aspect that they have abstracted from a complex reality, as the Donatists schismatics combatted by St. Augustine in the fourth century, did. "

Oswald is currently a student at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. I have been invited to speak to the students in the New Evangelization program at Sacred Heart this fall. Perhaps I'll have a chance to meet a fellow blogger there!
Catholic Quote of the Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 14 March 2007 16:12
"We need to rediscover that we Catholics are the original evangelicals, the original evangelists, the original experts in evangelization"

- Oswald Sorbino

Lay Communities to Evangelize Gypsies PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 14 March 2007 07:37
Here's an interesting piece from the AP:

The Vatican's office for migrants issued a set of guidelines for priests, nuns and lay groups on preaching Catholicism to Gypsies. Gypsies are also known as Roma and live predominantly in Europe.

"The document said that Gypsies are by nature religious but that they often adopt the main confession of the country in which they live: Lutheran, Reformed, Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim or other. It said Gypsies often turned to non- mainstream Protestant groups, which the Vatican calls "sects."

"This constitutes a rather urgent call to open our arms to a population that, despite everything, constantly yearns to meet God," it said. Since Gypsies are spread out and often move around, the guidelines recommended that lay Catholic communities, rather than traditional parishes that are responsible for specific territorial areas, be mobilized to try to invite Gypsies in."

It is fascinating to see evidence of how seriously the Vatican now takes the laity as responsible for significant portions of the Church's life and mission. In the not so recent past, the unquestioned assumption would simply have been that religious orders would evangelize the Roma.

Of course, it probably also reflects that for several decades, the real impetus for evangelization has come from lay groups such as the charismatic renewal which has sponsored many schools of evangelization or the NeoCatechumenate or the Emmanuel Community which sponsors its wonderful English language School of Missions in Rome. Most religious orders (not all) have placed the proclamation of Christ at the bottom of their priorities since the 1960's.

It is only in the past 10 years that the Congretation for the Evangelization of Peoples started to publish global figures for the 2.7 million "Catechists"in the world as well as priests, bishops. seminarians, and religious.

I'd love to know how they arrive at that figure and who it includes (every volunteer CCD teacher in the world?) but I don't imagine it's very exact.
To Be a Witness PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 14 March 2007 02:03

To be a witness is not to engage in propaganda. . .

To be a witness is to live your life in such a way
that it would not make sense if God did not exist.

- Cardinal Suhard

It's a Mountain Thing PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 14 March 2007 01:35
It's official:

As of yesterday, Rocky Mountain High became the official second state song of Colorado. While Take Me Home, Country Roads is already the official second state song of West Virginia Wouldn't you know, we're holding Making Disciples this year in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia.

This John Denver connection thing is way scary. It is keeping me up nights. But you know, the last time we were driving to the retreat center in West Virginia and the sun was setting over the Blue Ridge mountains and we crossed the Shenandoah and darn it if I didn't find myself humming "Almost heaven, West Virginia . . ."

Nurturing Converts PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 13 March 2007 22:36

Written by Keith Strohm

Over at Catholic Answers forum, their is a thread about why some converts feel like they have been "duped" by the realities of a typical catholic parish and how to help those newly-intitiated ground themselves in the catholic community.

Since we have spoken a bit about this topic, I thought that it would be good to bring it to the attention of the enlightened readers here at ID. :) So, go check out the thread by clicking here, and participate in the discussion if you feel so moved!

Apologia PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 13 March 2007 20:00

Written by JACK

First, I want to apologize for not being around Intentional Disciples much recently. I've been really busy with things, trying to get a head start on tasks, knowing that I am going to be out of town for about five days starting next week.

Well, out of the country...

See, I'm going to Rome.

(And the chorus of the world's smallest violins begins to soothe my stress after learning of its cause.)

I can't promise much posting between now and when I return from my trip. But I will return bearing pictures of CL's papal audience and of Rome and Vatican City. Sherry, I'll bring pictures of Sopra Minerva when I return.

In the meantime, I will try to pop into the comment boxes more frequently and maybe a post or two. (Although I probably will devote whatever time I've got for blogging to get up the next two entries in my series at Integrity on Giussani's The Religious Sense.)

How Has the Eucharist Changed Your LIfe? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 13 March 2007 11:29
The way lay Catholics contribute to the development of doctrine is by sharing with the rest of the Church our experience of applying and living the teaching of the Church in our unique personal circumstances. In that way, we help the whole Church see more clearly the riches of the faith.

The Pope's new Apostolic Exhortation raises an important existential question: How has the Eucharist *really* impacted your life and faith?

Not at a intellectual or theological level - at a lived level. How has your encounter with Christ in the Eucharist changed you? healed you? enabled you to forgive, to love, to hope, to create, to live your vocation(s)?
I Win... PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 13 March 2007 11:06

Written by  Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

....the contest to be the first ID blogger to post on the Pope's new apostolic exhortation, SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS. Didn't know this was a contest? Too bad. :) Here is a snippet:

And because the world is "the field" (Mt 13:38) in which God plants his children as good seed, the Christian laity, by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, and strengthened by the Eucharist, are called to live out the radical newness brought by Christ wherever they find themselves. (219) They should cultivate a desire that the Eucharist have an ever deeper effect on their daily lives, making them convincing witnesses in the workplace and in society at large. (220) I encourage families in particular to draw inspiration and strength from this sacrament. The love between man and woman, openness to life, and the raising of children are privileged spheres in which the Eucharist can reveal its power to transform life and give it its full meaning. (221) The Church's pastors should unfailingly support, guide and encourage the lay faithful to live fully their vocation to holiness within this world which God so loved that he gave his Son to become its salvation (cf. Jn 3:16).

Read the rest here.

What Evangelicals Owe Catholics PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 13 March 2007 09:31

There's a lovely appreciative post at The Evangelical Outpost on the subject of what Evangelicals Owe Catholics. The author isn't about to convert but he is serious and a very nice conversation is ensuing. Three areas that he highlights:

Marian devotion (surprising, no?)

"Our complete renunciation of Marian theology, however, often causes me to downplay the importance of Mary herself, indisputably one of the most incredible humans who every lived. How can we not be in awe of this woman when we realize she held God in her womb? Our Catholic friends remind us that Jesus wasn’t just the son of God; He was Mary’s son too.

On the sanctity of life

"For nearly thirty years, evangelicals have been working to catch up to our Catholic brothers and sisters on issues of the sanctity of life. Even today, the Catholic Church is more consistent in its application."

Ecclesiology (now this is very interesting)

"One of the first principles of Reformed ecclesiology is that there is but one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Because this principle is difficult to square with the existence 10,000+ different Protestant denominations, we claim that this refers only to the invisible church. But what about the church that is visible? After all, it is Jesus desire to “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” (John 11:51-52)"

My question for ID readers. Can we return the favor? Around St. Blog's, we spend a lot of time lamenting the pervasive evangelical influence in the US and the number of Catholics who fill evangelical churches. But is there another side to this?

In your opinion, how have we as Catholics benefited, directly or indirectly, from the strong evangelical presence in this country?

Hat tip: Mark Shea
Powerhouse Parishes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 13 March 2007 07:47
As we travel, we often come into contact with dynamic parishes, pastors and lay apostles that are seldom if ever discussed around St. Blog's.

One such place, where I have taught, is St. Marie's Church in Manchester, New Hampshire. St. Marie's is a lovely, 19th parish that was originally established for the French speaking community of Manchester.

How different is St. Marie's?

They have two "evangelists" on staff. In their Office of Evangelization. (This is the only parish I've ever worked in that used the title "evangelist")

They sponsor a School of Healing Prayer that offers continuing eduction for the New Hampshire Nurses Association.

Their local Secular Franciscan group requires that you do a year's Novena before joining. Which you can easily do because the church has perpetual adoration.

The parish also has its own Catholic bookstore.

The pastor. Fr. Marc Montminy, is a dynamic man who has mentored half the pastors in his diocese.

Do you know of other stand-out parishes? Please encourage the rest of us by telling us about them.
Perinatal Hospice PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 13 March 2007 07:28
The New York Times has a moving article and video on a little known program: perinatal hospice. Twenty to forty percent of families who are told that their unborn child has a fatal condition choose to carry the baby to term rather than abort. Often in the face of pressure from the doctor to abort:

“Some have been told they’re wasting their time for a baby that would be dead anyway,” “Some have been told they’re wasting the doctor’s time.”

In such a situation, perinatal hospice is a new and most welcome alternative. There are at least 40 such programs in the US now but most parents in crisis don't know about them. In Minnesota, a law was passed last year that called for women to be informed about perinatal hospices.

It is interesting that the featured parents in the article are described as "pro-choice" Catholics who nevertheless choose to care for their baby, however long she lives. They were told she would die within 24 hours of birth. Twenty weeks later, she is still living and may live for years.

Check it out. Let your friends know about it. Pray for all involved.
Christian Music PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 12 March 2007 13:59

Written by Keith Strohm

While I've got music of a spiritual nature on my mind, I wanted to make a quick comment about "Christian" Music. Normally I resist categories like Christian Music or Christian Politics because, of course, there really isn't such a thing--there is music and there is politics. We are called, as lay men and women, to render all areas of human endeavor more authentically just and truly human, bringing the presence of Christ to the areas of secular life in which we live.

Fostering and supporting categories of "Christian" endeavor leads to a kind of enclaving, where Christians only support or inhabit "Christian" areas, and the rest of the world avoids those areas because of their specifically Christian topography.

And yet, I cannot dismiss the profound effect that "Christian" Music has had on the faith of millions of people. It has been a powerful tool for evangelization and encounter with Christ and shouldn't be "tsk-tsked" out of hand.

Many Catholics look down their noses at "Christian" music, pointing out that it is highly reliant upon a "me and Jesus" theology and overly emotional. And yet, the Catholic Church, for all its traditional success in music and the arts, simply hasn't made the inroads into the surrounding culture that our protestant brothers and sisters have in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. I can think of, perhaps, a handful of specifically Catholic musical artists whose work has the depth of musicianship, production quality, and marketing muscle routinely given to "Christian" musical artists.

To be sure, utilizing the culure to transmit the gospel message carries with it some dangers. Looking in to the Christian music scene, it is clear that sometimes the medium has co-opted the message. And yet, bands like Third Day, Jars of Clay, and Switchfoot make their mark--leading hearts and minds to Christ through music.

As Catholics, we can learn a great deal from our protestant brothers and sisters on how to more effectively support and promote the fullness of the gospel message using contemporary forms of music. Note that I am NOT talking about guitars in the sanctuary, but rather, I'm highlighting a specifically secular medium in which we have not lived up to our potential.

And it's a shame.

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