These Dominican brothers are releasing a folk album

December 12, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Dec 12, 2017 / 12:09 pm (CNA).- Folk music is known for its foot-tapping, hand-clapping, barn-raising style – but now, a group of Dominican brothers is giving the genre a theological twist.

Meet the Hillbilly Thomists, a group of Dominican brothers who have a new album coming out on Dec. 12, which they describe as an authentic human and religious experience.

“Music can be sacred, but it can also be simply human – which is also sacred, just in a less explicit way with lyrics and themes,” Brother Timothy Danaher, one of the vocalists, told CNA in an interview with four of the band members.

“The New Evangelization needs all kinds of music, both the sacred and the human, to get the attention of people going about their daily lives.”

The band consists of 10 members from the Dominican House of Study and St. Dominic’s Priory in Washington D.C. It began as a lighthearted project with a focus on traditional Celtic music.

“The band itself was started by a couple of friars in our province,” said Brother Jonah Teller, who sings and plays guitar in the band. It grew out of a group of brothers who would get together to play Irish tunes, he said.

At first, the project was a fun excuse for the brothers to get together weekly and enjoy music. But as it grew from Irish tunes to more folk and bluegrass, the band began to perform publicly, receiving gigs for Catholics venues outside of the house.  

The name “Hillbilly Thomists” comes from a line delivered by Catholic author Flannery O’Connor. After her novel Wise Blood was released, she said people had identified her as a “hillbilly nihilist,” to which she responded that she was more like a “hillbilly Thomist.”

The album is eponymous – named after the band – and consists of 12 songs featuring instruments including the guitar, washboard, fiddle, banjo, and the bodhrán, an Irish drum. Eleven of the songs are covers of old-timey spirituals like “Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” “Amazing Grace,” and “St. Anne’s Reel.” The album also includes an original song, “I am Dog,” written by Brother Justin Bolger.

When asked how music corresponds to evangelization, the band emphasized that humans are both spiritual and physical beings, and that their spirits are lifted by beautiful images and sounds, especially when accompanied by Scripture-based lyrics.

“I do think music can enhance evangelization if done right. We’re bodily beings, so beautiful images and sounds can be good for us, can help lift our minds to God,” said Brother Peter Gaustsch, who plays mandolin, piano, and guitar.

The Dominican order has released several albums of choir music, but the band hopes that this project reaches hearts of its listeners in a different way.

“There are so many great old songs in this tradition that speak of God’s love, his mercy, his grace, and our hope in him,” said Brother Justin Bolger, who sings and also plays piano, accordion, bass, and guitar.

Among the songs on the album is “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” – an American spiritual which has been covered by artists including Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris.

The wayfarer – or traveler – is an important image in Catholic theology, one of the brothers said, and cited examples from St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.

“The poor wayfaring stranger is all of us,” said Gautsch. “There’s a strong theme in the history of Christian spirituality of our lives as a kind of pilgrimage to our heavenly homeland.”

“There’s a loveliness and beauty that carries with it the longing for our heavenly home and the trials that can face us as we make our way towards the Lord, hopeful because of the promise of his love and mercy,” added Teller.

Gautsch said the song depicts the struggle that is part of carrying our individual cross and learning to rely on the graces Christ provides for the journey.

“Sometimes the way is hard and steep, as the song says – in fact, it inevitably involves the cross – but the path has already been trod by Christ, who goes before us to prepare a place for us.”

 

[…]

Pope: ‘La Guadalupana’ shows that everyone has a place in the Church

December 12, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2017 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis marked the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Tuesday saying the “mestizo” Virgin is a concrete sign that the Church is for everyone, especially the poor and marginalized.

Noting how Juan Diego, when Mary first appeared to him, had said that he was no one and wasn’t worthy, the Pope said this sentiment can often be felt today in Latin America’s indigenous and Afro-American communities, “which, in many cases, are not treated with dignity and equality of conditions.”

This feeling of shame and unworthiness, he said, is also shared by many women “who are excluded because of their gender, race or socioeconomic situation,” and by youth who “receive a low-quality education and don’t have opportunities to progress in their studies nor enter the field of work in order to develop themselves and build a family.”

It is also the feeling of the many poor, unemployed, migrants, and displaced people “who try to survive in the informal economy,” and is also the shame felt by young boys and girls who are subjected to child prostitution, which Francis noted is “often linked to sexual tourism.”

However, Mary, the Mother of God, is the image of the Church, he said, and from her we learn how to be a Church “with a ‘mestizo’ face, with an indigenous, African-American face, the face of a peasant,” just like Our Lady of Guadalupe, he said.

In her, we see the face of the poor, the unemployed, of the young, and the old, “so that nobody feels sterile or infertile, so that no one feels ashamed or that they are nothing.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica marking the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Veneration of Our Lady of Guadalupe dates back to the 16th century when a “Lady from Heaven” who identified herself as the Mother of the True God appeared to Saint Juan Diego, a poor Indian from Tepeyac, on a hill northwest of Mexico City.

She instructed Juan Diego to have the bishop build a church on the site of the apparitions. As a sign, the now-famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was imprinted miraculously on his tilma, or cloak. Both the image and the tilma remain intact after more than 470 years.

Pope Francis centered his homily for the celebration around the Gospel reading from Luke, in which Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the Annunciation.

The Pope noted how when Mary arrives, one of the first thing Elizabeth says is “how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Elizabeth, who had previously been marked by the sign of sterility, is now singing praise “under the sign of fertility and amazement,” Francis said.

He pointed to the two states of Elizabeth before and after her encounter with Mary: first her sterility and then her fertility and amazement.

The religious mentality at the time viewed sterility “as a divine punishment” for a personal sin or the sine of one’s spouse, he said, noting that it was “a sign of shame she carried in her own flesh because she considers herself guilty of a sin that she did not commit or because she felt like nothing since she was not able to live up to what was expected of her.”

This type of sterility, the Pope said, is one “that goes deep and ends up paralyzing all life,” and which takes on “the many names and forms of every time a person feels in their flesh the shame of being stigmatized or feeling like nothing,” much like Juan Diego.

However, after meeting Mary, Elizabeth becomes fertile and filled with wonder, he said. She is the first one to recognize her cousin as the Mother of God, and she also experiences in her own flesh the fulfillment of God’s word, because she now carries the “precursor to salvation.”

In Elizabeth, Francis said, we understand that “God’s dream is neither sterility nor to stigmatize or shame his children,” but is rather “to bring forth in them and from them a song of blessing.”

The same goes for Juan Diego, he said, noting that it was precisely he, and no one else, that carried the image of the Virgin in his tilma: “the Virgin of brown skin and a ‘mestizo’ face,” he said, referring to the fact that she was of a mixed indigenous race. The term “mestizo” was used at the time to describe the children born to Spanish and Aztec parents.

By appearing this way, Our Lady, he said, is a mother who is capable of taking on the various traits of her children “in order to make them feel part of her blessing.”

In thinking about the themes of sterility and fertility or fruitfulness, Francis said we can also relate these to the richness of the cultural diversity in Latin American and the Caribbean.

This diversity, he said, is “a sign of the great richness that we are invited not only to cultivate, but, especially in our time, to courageously defend from all attempts to homogenize which end up imposing – under attractive slogans – a singular way of thinking, of being, of feeling, of living.”

In the end, these efforts at uniformity end up “making either invalid or sterile everything inherited from our elders.” They make people, and especially the youth, “feel like nothing because they belong to this or that culture.”

Pope Francis said the diversity and fruitfulness of Latin America makes it a requirement “to defend our peoples from an ideological colonization” which seeks to cancel out what makes these cultures rich and unique, “be they indigenous, African-American, mestizo, peasants or suburban.”

On the contrary, everyone is called to be like Elizabeth and Juan Diego, feeling that they are “the bearer of a promise, of a hope,” but as one people, without canceling out the features of one or another.

The Pope closed his homily encouraging faithful to echo the song of Elizabeth, and, like so many who never tire of repeating it, say together: “blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.”

[…]

Cardinal Kasper: The controversy surrounding Amoris Laetitia has come to an end

December 11, 2017 CNA Daily News 8

Munich, Germany, Dec 11, 2017 / 10:00 pm (CNA).- The controversy regarding Amoris laetitia has come to an end, according to German cardinal Walter Kasper. What is more, he has affirmed that the admission of remarried divorced persons to the sacraments in individual cases is, in his view, the only correct interpretation of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

Writing in an op-ed for the German language section of Radio Vatican, the prominent prelate asserted that “with the official publication of the letter from Pope Francis to the bishops of the Buenos Aires region, the painful dispute over the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia is hopefully over.”

The “great majority of God’s people have already received this letter with gratitude and may now feel confirmed [in this stance],” Kasper wrote in the article published Dec 7. He accused critics of making the mistake of committing “one-sided moral objectivism” that does not do justice to the role that personal conscience plays in moral acts.

The admission of remarried divorced persons to the sacraments in individual cases, as the papal letter dated September 5, 2016 to the bishops of the Buenos Aires region of Argentina agrees with, according to Kasper, has its basis in traditional doctrine, “especially that of Thomas Aquinas and the Council of Trent.”

Therefore, the German cardinal continued, this interpretation “it is not a novelty, but a renewal of an old tradition against neo-scholastic constrictions. As proven experts of the doctrine of Pope John Paul II have shown, there is no contradiction with the two predecessors of Pope Francis.”

Cardinal Kasper accused the “critics of Amoris laetitia” of falling prey to “one-sided moral objectivism” that underestimates “the importance of the personal conscience in the moral act”.

To be sure, conscience must pay attention to the objective commandments of God, Kasper continued. “But universally valid objective commandments (…) cannot be applied mechanically or by purely logical deduction to concrete, often complex and perplexing, situations.”

Whilst not specifically answering the questions of the dubia, Cardinal Kasper emphasized that on his view, it was necessary to ask “which application of the commandment is the right one, given a specific situation.”

Cardinal Kasper further argued that this “has nothing to do with situational ethics that knows no universal commandments, it is not about exceptions to the commandment, but about the question of understood as situational conscience cardinal virtue of prudence.”

The prelate compared the question to the distinction, in secular law, between murder and manslaughter in cases of homicide.

Finally, Kasper wrote that Pope Francis stood “firmly on the ground of the Second Vatican Council, which has taught that conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 16).”

This article was originally published in German by our sister agency, CNA Deutsch. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

[…]

Australian Catholic Youth Festival draws tens of thousands

December 11, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Sydney, Australia, Dec 11, 2017 / 05:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church in Australia kicked off Advent with a Catholic Youth Festival in Sydney last weekend, drawing some 20,000 attendees and including the country’s largest Mass since the World Youth Day in 2008.

The event was also the opening of a “Year of Youth” meant to “open new horizons for spreading joy joy for the young Church and our communities.”  

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said that “our culture has messed up about life and love, justice and mercy,” at the festival’s Dec. 9 Mass, citing political challenges such as the recent legalization of voluntary euthanasia in Victoria.

“If ever we need new John the Baptists to call to people to repent and to believe, to offer some really good news amidst all the bad and to point people to Christ, it’s right now.”

The festival was held Dec. 7-9, shortly after Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, invited the nation’s youth to participate in the 2018 Year of Youth, which will last until Nov. 25, 2018.

The festival mostly took place at the Sydney Olympic Park. There young people attended workshops, Mass, faith-filled discussions, and even interactive games, such as a Saint John Paul II video game.

However, the highlight of the weekend was a pilgrimage through Australia’s largest city followed by the closing event. Depending on the desired length, people could begin the pilgrimage at either the St Mary Mackillop Shrine, Harbour Bridge, or St Mary’s Cathedral, but the pilgrims all converged for a concert and closing Mass at the Domain in the Royal Botanical Gardens.

The nearly three hour praise and worship concert included Matt Maher and tributes to the country’s aboriginal groups. A Saturday anticipated Mass soon followed the event, celebrated by Archbishop Fisher, who cancelled all other anticipated Masses to encourage attendance at the youth Mass.

“Episode Eight is coming,” said the archbishop at the beginning of his homily, referring to the new Star Wars movie which will be released this month.

He explained that he had first seen Star Wars during his last year of school nearly 40 years ago, and how it is now a cultural staple which has earned billions of dollars and spawned cultural phrases such as “I am your father.”

Although the series has a bizarre religious perspective, he said, it is still based on the theme of a struggle between light and darkness, adding that the movies include champions who fought on behalf of goodness.

“One thing is still clear, we still look for heroes,” he said, pointing to John the Baptist, an unlikely hero who ate bugs, honey, and smelled like camels.

“All together, JB (John the Baptist) is not the kind of guy your parents would want you to bring home from ACYF as your new boyfriend or new best mate,” he joked.

However, he said this saint aimed to bring people the good news, namely Christ, and stood up against the evils of the times, even if it meant losing his head to Herod because he denounced the king’s illegitimate marriage.

Archbishop Fisher highlighted the evils of euthanasia, which was recently legalized in the state of Victoria, and warned that people can no longer rely on the Christian presence within the culture, but will have to choose for themselves to believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church.

“Things are sliding in our culture, and going forward Christians may not be as influential or even welcome as they used to be. Christian’s won’t be carried by the culture any more. They will have to decide for themselves.”

The culture needs Catholic youth to be heroes and to proclaim the good amid the darkness of the world, he said, noting the example of Mary, the mother of God.

“There were many challenges for [Mary] and not just at the beginning. Accompanying Christ to the cross tore her Immaculate Heart,” he said.

But instead of despairing over evil, he challenged Catholic youth to respond as Mary did at the resurrection.

“Being held by him after the resurrection must have been the greatest joy a human heart, even an immaculate one, could ever have contained. Indeed she couldn’t contain that joy. The next time we see her in the New Testament she is praying in the cenacle of the Church as she awaits her new children to be over shadowed by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

[…]