Thursday, 30 August 2007


hear me holy pilgrims
you dusty mongrel lot perpetually
mumbling and grumbling while you
devour the bread of angels and
the portion of the orphan and widow

seek while there is still finding
knock while the bronze brazen
doors are locked and silent

for He loves
and all things fade

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Musica Dei Donum

The excellent South African online shop recently had a sale on Naxos CDs, the overwhelming majority of which sell at ±R14 (±$2). That includes double CDs. Of course, I forsook all fiscal reason and ordered, ordered, ordered ...
I have so many musical delights to absorb I shall be commenting about them for some time to come. A few preliminary notes:
  • Oliver Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time does not appeal to me. At all. I do, in fact, enjoy some serialist works: Pärt's Collage über B-A-C-H is curiously pleasant once you adjust yourself to the dissonances. There seems to be an art to listening to dissonances much like there is an art to listening to severely threaded polyphony. Yet my perseverance peters out quite quickly with Messiaen, and I fear not even the unique place of its composition (a Nazi concentration camp) can redeem it for me.

  • The great tragedy of my musical life is that I have not been introduced to the organ works of Healley Willan. I listened to his Prelude & Fugue in C minor on the way to work this week. At one stage I feared for my speakers, but dared not adjust the volume. The usual cadre of pamphlet distributors fled before the blaze of full organ, and I swooned in sheer delight when the fugue plunged into the bass registers in the conclusion.

  • If the Introduction to Bach: Brandenburg Concerto's (sic) 4 & 5 is indicative of the series, then these audio guides of Naxos are truly exquisite, and my recommendation is warm, immediate and exuberant. The same goes for the Discover series, of which I obtained the Early Music version, whose accompanying booklet is superb, though the CD would be worth it solely on the basis of Léonin's Viderunt Omnes. The ethereal sound of that atavistic plainchant-based polyphony ... ah!

  • "Early music" continues to intrigue and fascinate me, and the CD "From Byzantium to Andalusia" is no exception. Two particular jewels are the startlingly Arabic Kyrie from Lebanon and the evocative hymn to Mary: Stella Splendens in Monte. The prior has as its everpresent base the Greek invocations one might expect, but its stanza's include Arabic which I cannot translate. I can only make out the words peace, Messiah, Mary, God. Mmm. Most of the tracks on this CD are fourteenth century and earlier, and a sizable proportion have a feel or style generally (though often erroneously) thought to be "Arabic" or "Middle-Eastern".

  • O Franz Josef! O Haydn! Forgive my doubt of your prowess! Your Die Schöpfung is glorious in so many ways I know not how to praise it enough. You surpassed even Händel, who inspired you to the oratorio.

Bad but Good!

I finished The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey & Song quite a while back. I have not enjoyed a book to such a degree for a very long time, and I can without the slightest tinge of deception say that I laughed out loud at least every second page.

The humour is exquisite, the history interesting, the theology enthusiastic and refreshing, and the anecdotes delightful. If someone asks me soon what I enjoy most about the Faith, I'll give them this book; It epitomizes the unaffected, delightful way Catholics (should) view life and faith. Yes, that does include the section which gives the variant version of that saccharine ditty "Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam" as "Jesus Wants Me For A Hailstone ... To Smite The Heathen and Heretic".

A delight on so many levels, and I am glad I decided, rather impulsively, to buy it after reading The Curt Jester's review (Alright, the cover clinched it even before I started reading ... ). My sole deprecation would be to note that almost all the recipes given in the book are rather high-brow and unlikely to be used.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

An Ever-Surprising Truth

I am amazed repeatedly.

Neither Confession nor the approach to it gets any easier.

At all.

Friday, 10 August 2007


While at a Catholic bookshop in Kensington, run by the Daughters of St. Paul, I came across a Thomas Merton "Book of Hours" which was essentially poetic pieces of work snippered into sections corresponding to the sections of the Breviary. I think he would have been appalled to see his creations supplant the Psalms in any person's life of prayer.

Do not mistake the target of my ire ... Thomas Merton's writings are as balm to my soul. But supplanting the Scriptural rhythm of the hours wholly with devotional writings, however great, is to me a profound mistake.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Uh oh. Not good.

Yet another parishioner asked me after Mass whether I am studying for the priesthood.

"Encore" is a terrible word for the spirit

How often are we not confronted with a sense of frustration when we feel the plethora of brimming reality before us in an "existential moment", and yet cannot pierce it, cannot absorb it, cannot bring it to fruition in the midst of our being?

Yet beware: It is more futile still to attempt to capture it by means of recalling your past experiences of it. Every moment is new, and you will dissipate yourself if you attempt to encircle each moment with that which came before it.

"For we have sinned, and grown old and our Father is younger than we." - GK Chesterton.