Does Music Help the Spiritual Life? 

As we’ve had discussions on books which have helped us know the Faith better, on spiritual reading books, and even blogged to share jokes, and as the Feast of St Cecilia, Patron Saint of Music approaches  (22 November), now might be a good time to reflect on the role – if any – of music in building our spiritual life.

There are people who misinterpret the exhortations of the great mystical saints who teach us to avoid seeking sensible consolation in prayer,  as meaning that any sense of uplift within the soul is a bad thing and to be avoided  This is nonsense.  Singing a devotional hymn should lift our mind and soul to God and so it is with other beautiful music.  I remember hearing a composer once explain her conversion to Christianity by telling a radio interviewer that, while she could explain how she chose the notes that created a beautiful melody, she could not account for, nor take credit for, the impact it had on the listener’s innermost being – the soul.  That set her thinking anew about the whole question of the existence of God and ultimately led her into Christianity. Unfortunately, I had switched on the radio halfway through the interview, and this was some years ago, so I’m unable to provide the name of said composer.  Anyway, it stands to reason that a composer may well have the talent to create a lovely piece of music, but is unable to foresee the impact it will have on individual listeners.  That recognising this fact has led at least one composer to seek Christ, is wonderful. 

So, in honour of St Cecilia, let’s share some of our favourite pieces of music, whether hymns or some moving pieces which may raise our minds and souls to God.  The two videos included in this introduction are among my own favourites … Enjoy!

Reminder – to post a video directly onto the page, simply find it on YouTube and copy the link from your browser.  Bring it back to the blog, and paste it into a comment box, with your own remarks, perhaps explaining why it is one of your favourites. No limits, either, feel free to post as many as you wish!  If you can’t find a video-presentation, just tell us what kind of music helps your prayer and meditation.  Of course, if you disapprove of hymn singing or of seeking any sensible consolation in prayer, let us know, but be aware that the saints were not banning sensible consolation – they were simply warning us against thinking that we are not praying well if we lack such sensible consolation. Over to thee!

25/10: Feast of the 40 Martyrs of England & Wales… So what? 

After King Henry VIII proclaimed himself supreme head of the Church in England and Wales, a violent wave of anti-Catholic persecution began – and lasted over a century. It started with the executions of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, but didn’t end there. Hundreds were killed between 1535 and 1679; the Church recognized the heroism of 40 martyrs from England and Wales in a canonization ceremony on October 25, 1970. (Later, a separate feast on May 4 was created to recognize the 284 canonized or beatified martyrs of the English Reformation.)

The group of 40 martyrs celebrated on October 25 contains a variety of Catholics. The group is composed of “13 priests of the secular clergy, three Benedictines, three Carthusians, one Brigittine, two Franciscans, one Augustinian, 10 Jesuits and seven members of the laity, including three mothers.”

The martyrs were gruesomely tortured before being hanged or killed, but remained steadfast in their faith, refusing to renounce their Catholicism.

Many of the saints were jovial at the prospect of death.

Cuthbert Mayne, a secular priest, replied to a gaoler who came to tell him he would be executed three days later: “I wish I had something valuable to give you, for the good news you bring me…”  Edmund Campion, a Jesuit, was so pleased when taken to the place of execution that the people said about him and his companions: “But they’re laughing! He doesn’t care at all about dying…”

One striking story of heroism under extreme torture comes from the martyrdom of a laywoman, Margaret Clitherow.

She was accused “of having sheltered the Jesuits and priests of the secular clergy, traitors to Her Majesty the Queen”; but she retorted: “I have only helped the Queen’s friends” … On Friday March 25th, 1588, at eight o’clock in the morning, Margaret, just thirty-three years old, left Ouse Bridge prison, barefooted, bound for Toll Booth … Her arms were stretched out in the shape of a cross, and her hands tightly bound to two stakes in the ground. The executioners put a sharp stone the size of a fist under her back and placed on her body a large slab onto which weights were gradually loaded up to over 800 pounds. Margaret whispered: “Jesus, have mercy on me.” Her death agony lasted for fifteen minutes, then the moaning ceased, and all was quiet.

Their resolve in the face of certain death is inspiring. They show us that our life on earth is indeed very short and what truly matters is our faithfulness to God. As St. Thomas More famously said: “I die the king’s faithful servant, but God’s first.”

Here is a list of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, whom we can invoke for their intercession in whatever persecution we may be enduring.

St. John Almond
St. Edmund Arrowsmith
St. Ambrose Barlow
St. John Boste
St. Alexander Briant
St. Edmund Campion
St. Margaret Clitherow
St. Philip Evans
St. Thomas Garnet
St. Edmund Gennings
St. Richard Gwyn
St. John Houghton
St. Philip Howard
St. John Jones
St. John Kemble
St. Luke Kirby
St. Robert Lawrence
St. David Lewis
St. Anne Line
St. John Lloyd
St. Cuthbert Mayne
St. Henry Morse
St. Nicholas Owen
St. John Payne
St. Polydore Plasden
St. John Plessington
St. Richard Reynolds
St. John Rigby
St. John Roberts
St. Alban Roe
St. Ralph Sherwin
St. Robert Southwell
St. John Southworth
St. John Stone
St. John Wall
St. Henry Walpole
St. Margaret Ward
St. Augustine Webster
St. Swithun Wells
St. Eustace White         Source 

Comment: 

So?  Our nearest cousins will be celebrating the Feast of the 40 martyrs of England & Wales on Thursday next, 25 October. So?  They suffered and died for the Faith during the Reformation – centuries ago.  What – if anything – do they have to teach us, today?  We’ve moved on from those days, when people were tortured and killed for their beliefs. We’re ecumenical now, we’re tolerant, we embrace equality and diversity… What on earth do medieval martyrs have to teach us enlightened folk today…  Shouldn’t the Feast days of martyrs be removed form the calendar, as a goodwill gesture, in the name of ecumenical progress?  Seriously?  Or, should that be “satirically”…  😀

The question for discussion really has to be: what is the most important thing the martyrs have to teach us all – north and south of the English border in this modern age? And if you have a particular favourite saint among the 40 martyrs, share that with us…

Mickey Mouse Martyr Minus Miracle: Is Argentina THAT short of Saints?

Francis Fabricates Martyrdom for Ultraliberal Bishop 

On June 8 Pope Francis declared Bishop Enrique Angelelli (+1976) of La Rioja, Argentina, a martyr, a step toward beatification without the need of a miracle attributed to Angelelli’s intercession.  

Even the pro-Francis La Nación (July 30) points out that this is “political-ideological” without “thoroughness of procedures”.

Angelelli had proven contacts to the terrorist organisation Montoneros, the leftist branch of the Socialist Peronist revolution movement.

He brought Marxism to the Argentinian Church and supported Liberation Theology. In Argentina “Angel-elli” was also known as “Satan-elli”.

He died in a car accident. The first police report concluded based on the autopsy, witnesses and experts that the incident was due to a mechanical malfunction of the vehicle.

A later constructed theory that it was murder could never be proven. According to this theory the government ordered an intentional manoeuvre by a vehicle that was following Angelelli provoking this way a rollover of Angelelli’s car.

Even if this theory were true, then Angelelli would have been murdered for the sake of Marxism, not for the sake of the Faith.   Source

 

Comment:

Pope Francis appears to have no regard for anything Catholic – neither Catholic dogma, discipline, established rules and procedures – nothing. To my way of thinking, he is, increasingly, bringing the Church into disrepute. What about your way of thinking?  

Who’s Your Favourite Saint… And Why?

Comment:

This year,  for reasons beyond our control, we missed out on marking the Feast of All Saints (1st November) so, better late than never, here we go…

Tell us the name of your favourite saint  (imagine you are forced to choose just one)  and explain why.  In what way does that particular saint help your spiritual and religious life. 

10 March: Feast of St John Ogilvie…

A LETTER FROM FR JOHN OGILVIE SJ

On 9 March 2015 an ecumenical vespers was held at St Aloysius church in Glasgow, on the eve of the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of St John Ogilvie SJ.

Fr Dermot Preston gave the homily, that you can listen to [here]… in which he read this letter: [extracts follow – click here to read the entire letter] 

St John OgilvieDear Fr Preston,

My name is Fr John Ogilvie. I understand that you will be preaching this evening as part of the celebrations of my 400 years. I’m sorry not to be there – well, I’m not actually… I’m in a far better place. And the weather is much better.

I hear that you are the Provincial of the British Jesuits. As a Scot in those days, having left Leith, I found myself entering the Jesuits in what you would now called the Czech Republic – ‘Bohemia’, as it then was. I came to London just once, but it was only a short visit. There was great persecution in England in those days and, as I was being trained, I met many brave English and Welsh Jesuit priests and brothers on the continent awaiting their mission. Impressive men; but like me, many of them didn’t live to old age.

As I look back I have been reflecting and, for what it is worth, I offer you a few thoughts for your homily tonight.

Firstly I am delighted that so many people and ministers of so many Christian denominations can come together for such an occasion. At the end of my trial, after I had been condemned to death, I made a point of going to shake the hands of all the judges: this was not some stunt – I sincerely meant it. Certainly some annoyed me greatly by their petty mindedness, and some were so caught-up in their own issues they couldn’t see beyond the skin of their own noses, but despite our formidable differences, I quite liked a lot of them and held them all as beloved children of the living God. It fills my heart with great joy that companionship is possible in your day…

Secondly, I would hope that in your homily you do not dwell on the past and please do not focus on me. I have a name and you know some things about me and my life – perhaps not as much as you think, as actually not one of you is certain of the year in which I was born! – but through the 2000 years of the history of the Church, I am just a single raindrop in a Glaswegian thunderstorm. Thousands, perhaps millions of human beings have died violently in Christ’s name over two millennia. Many of these people have never been named; for some, their story of martyrdom is forgotten by history and known only to the heart of God. They are the heroes of the Church.

In your own time there has been an unprecedented upsurge of persecution of Christians across the world. According to one secular Human Rights group based in  Germany, 80% of all acts of religious discrimination in your world today are directed at Christians. Statistically speaking, that makes Christians by far the most persecuted religious body on the planet.

Notice I don’t say ‘Catholics’ because now the struggle has changed: if truth be told, the complex discussions about the differences in Christian theology which brought about my death are a luxury which is irrelevant for many people of your day. Look around you, Father Provincial: in Africa, in Asia, the Middle East, parts of Europe and central America, just to stand in the Shadow of the Cross automatically marks you out for torture and death. Faith and belief are distilled to the very basics; Presbyterians, Methodists, Salvation Army Pentecostalists, Baptists, Anglicans, Orthodox and others stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Catholics in announcing their faith not with any complex declaration of creed, but merely by indicating that Christ, the Son of God came down upon this earth for the salvation of humankind, and they have styled their life on that belief. It is important to emphasise what unites Christians rather than focussing on what divides.

Finally, perhaps it would be important to tell the people tonight about what it means to be a martyr. This is especially true when the word itself might be used to describe a man or woman who wraps himself or herself in explosives and devastates a Church or a Synagogue or a Mosque. A Christian can never be someone who brings destruction on others in the name of Christ. A Christian martyr is someone who acts as a witness – a person who gives up their life, that others might live…

There is so much fear and uncertainty and greed in people’s daily lives that it is so tempting to lash out at other people – to inflict fear on others, to use physical violence or the deadly weapon of a gossipy tongue to drag them down. It can give a moment of pleasure, but ultimately it is a futile action. The cycle of vendetta and recrimination which you can see spiralling-down through families and nations through the centuries, draws the life-blood from all that is human.

In my own small way, I tried to do as Jesus did. I did not trade insult for insult. Instead I looked at Jesus before his persecutors and took him as my example; he absorbed their hatred, he absorbed their anger, he absorbed their misunderstanding and somehow – shockingly – he stopped it dead in its tracks.

Every act of human kindness, every fragment of LOVE contributes to this redemption of the world, whether it is a hand of friendship or a bitten-tongue holding back an insult. No act of witness goes to waste.

So, work for the time when people might come to you and ask you to show them a martyr, a faithful witness to the faith; work for that time when you no longer need to point to my painting or shrine – but you can point to yourself and the congregation that surrounds you.

Your devoted Jesuit Brother in Christ,

John
Firstborn son of Walter Ogilvie of Drum-na-Keith. 

Comment:

A Happy Feast Day to one and all! 

But, hang on…That’s not REMOTELY the letter that St John Ogilvie would be writing, were he to communicate with us today.   He would begin, no question about it, by lamenting the fact that the Mass for which he had sacrificed his life’s blood was no longer in “ordinary” use, but dubbed “extraordinary”, with those who love it, as he had loved it, treated like village idiots, even at the highest level in the Church.  That’s one topic which St John Ogilvie would certainly include in his letter today – can you think of any others?

As well as spending some time discussing “that letter”, however, we are also invited to  post our favourite prayers, poems and hymns  in honour of the Saint, and –  in the interest of enjoying some Good Clean Fun – we may post jokes and comical stories, as well. Just go easy on the mean Scots jokes… Athanasius tends to take those personally.  He once wrote a letter to an English newspaper where he said:  “If you print any more jokes about mean Scotsmen I shall stop borrowing your paper.” And he took to the streets a few weeks ago there, with an empty glass in each hand when the weather forecaster said there would be a nip in the air…

Happy Feast of  St John Ogilvie!