That Liturgical Music Thing Again

Y’all, sometimes I just have to get things off my chest.  And I haven’t ranted about church music in a while.  So, for those of you who like such things, enjoy this mini-rant.
I sang in the choir at the 7 p.m. Mass at Georgetown all four years.  (We had Masses practically ’round the clock on Sunday, including a 30 minute one known as “[Father] Freeze’s Breeze” and a “last chance” one at 11:15 p.m.)
When I was a Freshman, the choir was student-led.  So when we were taken over by the University’s choir director the following year, we chafed a bit under her direction.  One of the things she did not like was our pianist’s habit of playing what she called “traveling music” at points where no talking was going on, like after the Offertory procession, for example.  We liked the pretty music and did not appreciate her point:  that there were times in the liturgy where silence is desirable.
Well, apparently the choir director at my parish doesn’t appreciate it either.  Because he’s instituted a bizarre practice of singing TWO Offertory songs.  As soon as we finish the first one, our cantor steals a quick look at the altar and if the preparation of the gifts is ongoing she quickly announces another song.  Which we dutifully begin to sing.
But there isn’t time for two songs at the Offertory, not really.  So one of two things happens.  We don’t sing the whole song (and y’all already know how I feel about THAT), or Father stands there twiddling his thumbs and frankly looking impatient to get on with things already while we finish.
This singing serves no liturgical purpose.  Especially since we never sing songs that are about offering our gifts or ourselves anyway.  It’s filler, pure and simple.  And why does the Mass demand filler?  When you run out of Offertory song, there are the optional prayers and responses:  “Blessed are You, Lord, God of all Creation . . . ” and “Blessed be God Forever.” (Did these get changed, I wonder?  In our parish, I’ll never find out.)  Then there are the quiet prayers as the priest washes his hands, which always fascinated me as a child: “Lord, wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sins.”
Everyone knows how much I love to sing.  Even when I can hardly stand the songs.  But can’t we just have some quiet time to pray?

In Which TIME Magazine Channels Its Inner National Enquirer

Inquiring minds want to know . . . does that woman on the cover of Time Magazine REALLY nurse her kid in that position?  And did she REALLY think she was furthering the cause of extended breastfeeding by posing for that controversial cover shot?  And did it ever occur to her that she was exploiting her kid and her relationship with him for personal gain?
I hate to give this any more attention than it has garnered already. (Good job, Time; your tactic worked!)  I haven’t even read the article and don’t intend to.  But if anyone ever doubted that the sources we once counted on to inform us of the news are now in the business of CREATING the news, look no further than this stunt.  Time doesn’t care to inform us about the truth of extended breastfeeding and the benefits of attachment; they wish to inflame us and create a controversy where there doesn’t need to be one.
The reason I’m responding instead of ignoring is because I’m an expert on extended breastfeeding.  And in the interest of my passion for the truth, I want to share my experiences so that the cover of Time won’t be all that rises to your brain when the subject comes up.
Just like anyone my age, I grew up seeing babies fed mostly with bottles.  For a variety of reasons having to do with the culture of the times and poor advice, four months was the longest my mother nursed a baby.  My impression of breastfeeding, even when I was first pregnant, was that it was something you did for a few months and then you switched to bottles.  I saved the formula coupons I received in the mail while I was pregnant.
But, as you know, I love to read.  It was inevitable that I would do a lot of reading while I was pregnant and a few books I read at that time changed my life.  Emily never had a bottle of formula and I nursed her for 26 months.  I nursed Jake for 38 months (and yes, that means I nursed him throughout my pregnancy with Teddy, and nursed the two of them together until they weaned when Teddy was 26 months old).  William nursed at least until Lorelei was born (which is 42 months) and I don’t remember exactly but I know Lorelei was past four when she stopped.  (Yes, I nursed babies for 13 years.  Give me a medal.)
When Emily was born, the above would have sounded just as weird to me as it may sound to you.  But it’s different when it’s your own kid, your own baby.  Sure, you look at a four-year-old next to a newborn and the contrast seems extreme,  But when you are in the middle of mothering, there’s little difference between nursing your four-month-old or your six-month-old, your one-year-old or your eighteen-month-old, and so on.  It’s a seamless transition.  Do you think anything about letting your ten-year-old sit in your lap?  Would you think it was odd if he wanted to climb into bed with you if he had a nightmare?  Is it strange that my eighteen-year-old son likes to hug me and say, “I love my Mommy?”  I don’t know, maybe you will think it’s strange, but whatever.  You probably have your own sort of strangeness in your house.
I didn’t stand around in the kitchen with my kid on a step stool.  I didn’t pose for any cameras.  I lay down with my preschoolers and bedtime and naptime.  We cuddled on the couch.  They wanted to nurse for comfort when they were hurt or upset.
There are many benefits to extended breastfeeding.  The nutritional and health benefits don’t go away as the child ages.  I have the healthiest children I know, bar none.  Emily has not visited a doctor for illness since she was TWO YEARS OLD.   We’ve had one earache per kid.  No strep throat.  One or two antibiotic prescriptions apiece throughout childhood.  My two younger kids slept with me from birth.  There were no sleep issues or problems.  I never had any difficulty getting anyone down for a nap or to sleep at night or back to sleep if they woke up (once I stopped stressing about solving sleep problems, which I may post about another time).  If someone was hurt or sad, I could comfort them easily.  And my kids are not clingy at all.  Having their needs fully met as infants, toddlers, and preschoolers helps them feel good about themselves, helps them feel secure and safe.  We live in a society that pushes independence on little kids and denies it to big kids.  We stick babies in their own rooms and expect them to sleep through the night and then we monitor our teenagers’ homework and grades and go with them to college orientation and tell them what classes to take.  That’s BACKWARDS, people.
And you know what?  Extended breastfeeding is NORMAL.  It’s  NATURAL.  Around the world, 50% of babies are still being nursed at the age of 20-23 months.  In many countries the figure is much higher.  The WHO recommends children be nursed until the age of two or beyond.  If you don’t want to, that’s fine.  But biologically it is not strange, not weird, not abnormal.  It’s what women’s breasts are FOR, and even though Time meant to be provocative, it’s pretty damn pathetic that people can be whipped into a fury over a woman using her breast for its intended purpose on one magazine cover while not saying a WORD about all the synthetic almost-bare breasts adorning the covers of all the other magazines.

extended breastfeeding
Courtesy of Mama Fresh (www.pusteblumenbaby.de)

What Is the Mass For?

The main altar at Immaculate Conception Church, decorated for Palm Sunday

Today is Holy Thursday, the day of Holy Week on which we remember that Last Supper Jesus shared with his Apostles, the birthday, as it were, of the Mass itself. We’ll hear the story tonight at church, and some of us will have our feet washed in commemoration of Jesus’ actions that night. At the end of Mass, the altar will be stripped and we will follow the Blessed Sacrament to the Chapel of Reservation. Tomorrow, Good Friday, is the one day of the whole year on which no Mass will be celebrated.
So it seems like a good time to address the question with which I entitled this post: What is the Mass for?
Except I’m not going to, because if you really want to know you can go read the Catechism (it’s online and searchable right here, folks) or you can look at this entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia (if you are feeling really scholarly). Because this post is not meant to be educational; it’s just a mini-rant.
I know exactly zero about how this week’s celebration will be affected by use of the Roman Missal, Third Edition.  And I’m not worrying either, because the whole thing has turned out to be a tempest in a teapot, if you ask me.  Sure I’m still smacking myself about half the time for saying, “And also with you,” instead of “And with your Spirit,” but big deal, you know?  Yes, I still have to look at the pew card to say the Nicene Creed, but that does have the effect of making me PAY ATTENTION to what I am actually saying instead of just chanting along like a parrot.
What inspired this particular rant?  Oh, you know me, it doesn’t take much.  Seriously, though, I am so tired of people whining about this.  Get over it already.  The comment that got me going this time was a Facebook commenter complaining about the changes because, “The Mass is for us.”
Without denying at all that I suspect we are supposed to derive some benefit to our immortal souls at the very least from participating in the Mass, I object to that simplistic and self-centered comment.  Disclaimer:  I’m not a theologian, and I’m not doing any research today because I’m already overdue to start work.  But given that Catholics are OBLIGED to attend Mass, obviously it’s not just “for us,” is it?   The reforms of Vatican II made it more accessible and participatory for the faithful, but the Mass was still the Mass when it was all in Latin and partly whispered at the altar while the faithful sat quietly in the pews and prayed.
For crying out loud, God made the whole world.  He sustains it–and us–in existence every second by the force of His will.  He sent His Son to DIE for us!  Like I tell my kids when they complain about going to church, is it too much to ask that we devote ONE HOUR each week to praising Him?
If the new translation is a source of such suffering to you, I’ve got a good Catholic suggestion for you:  Offer it up.

Straight from the Horse's Mouth

I think the Internet’s pretty awesome, really I do. It’s great to be able to settle dinnertime arguments and answer children’s millions of questions with a click of an iPhone button. It’s way convenient not have to travel down to the library to check out a book or look in the encyclopedia when I want to learn something new. And it’s great to be able to go into greater depth on the issues I care about without having to rely on only the nightly news or the daily paper.
Do you sense a “but” coming? You are right, and it’s a big one.
BUT a lot of what you read on the Internet is–NEWS FLASH–not true. Or it’s incomplete. Or slanted. Or out of context.
My freshman year at Georgetown my history professor introduced us to an idea I had never considered before. He said that you can’t take the accuracy of historical accounts for granted. He said you have to consider who wrote the account and when, and what personal or cultural biases might have influenced what he chose to include, what he left out, what conclusions he drew. For our final paper, we had to pick a controversial historical figure and read several sources for information, picking from different eras. We were to discuss why each authority presented what he did, and then reach our own conclusion about our subject.
I had grown up thinking–most of us did, I imagine–that if I read or watched the news each day I pretty much knew what was going on in the world. If Tom Brokaw or Peter Jennings said it, you felt like you could trust them. Remember little Virginia O’Hanlon, who asked the editor of The New York Sun about the existence of Santa Claus, because her papa told her: “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so”?
Distrust of the mainstream media started before the Internet, of course, but has accelerated since. Now everyone can be an expert, and no one has to give up any cherished opinion because, after all, one can fine website after website to support any position or point of view. Far from educating us, it’s actually entrenching us further in willful ignorance.
I am that obnoxious person who will actually write you back to refute the email you just sent me saying that President Obama canceled the National Day of Prayer or that President Bush has the lowest I.Q. of any president in the last 50 years. I’ll send you the link from snopes.com to prove it. I’ll post it in the comments if you put it on Facebook and I might just blog about it too. That’s because truth is important and in the days of instant information overload, it’s in short supply.
Essentially, most of us are intellectually lazy.  And also we are accustomed to thinking that if we read a published account, especially if it’s on a mainstream website like AOL, it’s true.  Few of us realize how the very issues of importance are decided upon for us by the media.  We read what they want us to read, how they want to present it, and they are no longer driven by a quest for truth but rather by a quest for page views.  Any time I read something that is stirring up a lot of comments and controversy, I am immediately suspicious of it and start to delve further.
A good example is a story that made the rounds a few months ago that Pope Benedict said that “Gay marriage is a threat to humanity’s future.”  Long story short, that’s not what he said.  Creative reuse of one or two comments he made in a long speech created the impression that not only did he say that, but it was all he said or cared about.  But even in these deceptive stores, they include hyperlinks that can lead to the truth if you try hard enough.  Eventually I was able to find out when and to whom the remarks were made, and then I went to the Vatican website and read the whole speech myself.  That way I did not have to rely on AOL to tell me what to think.  I could think for myself.
(Side note to my Catholic readers: Do I seriously need to tell you that Huffpost News isn’t the best source for the facts about Catholicism?  Might I suggest the USCCB website, or the Catechism, or the Vatican website, or at the very least that you read the original source material for yourself before allowing your view of your own faith to be influenced by the media, which is at best ignorant and at worst hostile about religion?)
Same thing with the recent talk about how 98% of Catholic women use birth control.  That figure comes from a study, supposedly.  Much back-clicking finally yielded that study itself, so that I could see that the much-bandied statistic is inaccurate.
Or there was the whole Kirk Cameron-is-a-bigot “scandal,” which looks a bit different if you actually watch the interview in which his remarks were made or read the entire transcript, as I took the time to do.
Or there’s the perception that people with children need to keep them under perpetual lockdown because of all those people stealing kids out there? (As I told my mother yesterday, “If it happened all the time it wouldn’t be news.”)
Or there’s the email I received yesterday containing allegations that President Obama is a Muslim, or a Marxist, or both.
I cannot say this often enough:  consider your source.  Consider your source.  CONSIDER YOUR SOURCE!  What bias does it have?  Can it speak authoritatively to the topic?  What advantage does it gain by portraying the “facts” in a certain light?  Wherever possible, read the speech yourself (the whole speech).  Watch the video yourself (the whole thing).  Check a reputable, fact-checking site.  The Internet helps lies to spread like wildfire, but don’t forget that it also provides the tools you need to refute them.
There are always going to be stories that cannot be confirmed this way–ones in which, for example, eyewitnesses give conflicting accounts.  Or maybe you don’t have time to read the entire Affordable Care Act (although I am seriously considering making the attempt).  In such cases you should read several sources.  Factcheck.org is a good choice if you want to avoid bias.  I find it helpful to read sources with opposing viewpoints so I see both sides of the story before forming an opinion.
Does this sound exhausting?  Sometimes it is.  Sometimes I see an inaccuracy or misrepresentation on Facebook that I know is going to take more than a quick trip to Snopes to investigate but I still do it.  You can make it easier for me and other truth-seekers if you do the same, BEFORE you post that interesting article that supports what you were thinking already.  You can check Snopes, or look at Factcheck.org.  You can take a few minutes to click back to that article’s original source and read it and THINK FOR YOURSELF.  And if you are too intellectually lazy to do those things, you can choose not to forward or repost.

Voting's Not a Game–or It Shouldn't Be

I have to tell you, I am pretty disgusted with some of my fellow Tennesseans this morning.
No, NOT because Rick Santorum won our primary.  Let’s be honest–the pickings are slim in the Republican field.  You’ve got to vote for somebody, right?
It’s not the Republicans I’m disgusted with today–it’s some of the Democrats whose comments I read on Facebook last night.
Tennessee has open primaries.  That means if you are a Republican you can choose to vote in the Democratic primary and vice versa.  President Obama having no challenger, many Democrats chose to vote in yesterday’s Republican primary.
Full disclosure:  I did not vote yesterday because I did not take care of getting my address changed in time.  I believe I am registered as a Democrat.  Had I voted yesterday, I would indeed have crossed over, and would likely have voted for Mr. Gingrich because 1) He is smart; 2) He is against abortion; 3) He doesn’t want to ship all the illegal immigrants back to Mexico; 4) Mitt Romney doesn’t stand for anything but Mitt Romney; and 5) Rick Santorum doesn’t know what “preferential option for the poor” means.
I may have mentioned before that we are politics junkies in this house.  John majored in International Politics at Georgetown.  He really gets into this stuff, and we talk about it all the time, even with the kids from the time that they were all small.  And we’ve always thought the open primary was a neat opportunity to get to have a say in picking the very best nominee from the other side.  Last election, for example, we were excited to cast primary votes for Hillary Clinton.
What an open primary apparently is for a lot of other people, though, is a big joke.  These people make a mockery out of the democratic process.  Voting is a right, a responsibility, a sacred trust.  People have fought and died for this right.  It’s a right many people in the world still don’t have.
I wonder what Susan B. Anthony and company would have to say about Democratic women who voted for Rick Santorum, whom they characterize as a lunatic and worse, with the goal of ending up with a weak nominee whom President Obama can beat in the General Election?   All these people were chortling over their supposed cleverness on Facebook last night.
Yes, I am sure there are Republicans who would have done the same.  So what?  Does that make it any less morally reprehensible?
There’s no room for levity in the voting booth, people.  This partisan bullshit is getting out of control.  If you can’t bring yourself to cast a serious vote in the other side’s primary, stay on your own side and remember what you are doing–or supposed to be doing–when you pull that lever.  Then you can look at that waving flag with a little pride.

Drowning in a Sea of Responsibilities

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by life?  Have you ever had one of those days–or weeks, or months–where you just couldn’t get on top of everything you needed to do?  Have you ever felt like you were drowning, or being crushed by the weight of your responsiblities?
Of course you have.  That’s modern life, isn’t it?
I’m having one of those weeks, and since this is my space, I get to vent about it here.  Will it help, or should I spend this time doing the work instead of writing about it?  I’m going with writing about it. 🙂
Where to begin . . . a few weeks ago I thought I would try to get organized by making lists of “the next right thing” to do in various areas of my life.  Only what do you do when your “next right things” occupy about 15 pages of a yellow legal pad?
I’ve had Emily calling me multiple times each day to remind me that the FAFSA was due today.  But to do the FAFSA I had to at least take a stab at the taxes.  We are self-employed and I’m trying to do this myself with the help of H & R Block At Home.  Not easy.  Not fun.  The records all burned in the fire.  I guess that’s a plus if they audit us.
Two days this week were completely consumed by a client matter I had to help with.  Spent most of yesterday going to court with John.  Most of the day before that writing pleadings and making copies.  I have a stack of time to enter that’s about a foot high.  A stack of new files to set up.  A two-foot high stack of files to write closing letters on.  At least two cases to bill.  To-dos that I have fallen behind on.

Two out of three cars were in the shop this week.  The cat had to be spayed.  William’s birthday is coming up.  Income fluctuates when you are self-employed, and things are tight right now.
The house is a disaster area.  After doing so well for so long at keeping it neat, I’ve really let it go the past couple of weeks.  There’s just not time for more than cooking, dishes, laundry, and the occasional sweeping right now.

John had blood work done last week.  It came back positive for diabetes.  I haven’t even had time to process this.  They just want him to take more pills.  I have a sneaking suspicion that there are other things he could or should do as well–like change his diet.  I now need to become a diabetes expert.  I’ll pencil that in for this weekend maybe.
I have some ungodly amount of grants I am supposed to be preparing proposals for this month.
I am trying to “grow” my blog which really requires attention to social media.  I have about 20 windows on three browsers open at all times so I can keep up (or try) with that, plus all my work stuff.  I’m supposed to blog every day during Lent and I missed two days this week because I had to be gone during my morning blogging time.
I don’t have time to clean the house, order gifts, make a cake, or plan a party, so poor William has to wait until after his birthday to celebrate it.
I’m worrying about William.  He needs to go to school next year.  He has some specific learning issues I want to see about having him tested for.  I need to continue investigating schools for him.  I’ve been trying to give him some assessment tests this week, and he is very resistant to that.  I need to make appointments to visit some of the schools.  I need to make calls.  I did buy him shoes last night, so I can cross that off his “right things” list.
I’m worrying about Jake, who thinks he’s grown up but has a few important things he needs to do before he REALLY is, like graduate from high school, learn to drive. and get a job.
I’m spending hours each day in my car.  Every time I have to leave the house it fractures my concentration and makes it difficult to get back to work.
It seems to be more or less springtime now and thank God I at least have a window.  What I’d really like to do is go dig a garden.

There are 1082 messages in my email inbox.
You know, this is not nearly all of it.  Not nearly.  But I am going to stop because it’s actually not helping.  I think I’d better just keep plowing through it instead of trying to analyze it.
Thank God I at least gave up Farmville for Lent.