Tag Archives: Ooh Shiny!

Re-charging one’s “batteries”

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One of my friends asked me the other day if I meditated. I asked for what purpose would I meditate? She said she didn’t know, if I ever needed some peace of mind or something. I said that if I need quiet time, I go someplace beautiful and spend time there. Pretty churches work best because then I’m surrounded by beauty and by God’s presence.

I discovered over this past year that I really, truly, desperately need to be regularly exposed to lots of beauty. The Catholic Center on campus is a little… well, it’s kind of drab and boring, like many Catholic Centers of secular universities. And while the Sacrifice is the same wherever you go, as a fallen human being, I often need external stimulation. My way of doing so is enjoying beauty.

For others, they may have different ways of “re-charging” and “re-focusing” whenever they need it. My theory is that so long as you’re within the Transcendentals–Goodness, Truth, or Beauty–you’re in good shape. So if your “thing” is working at a soup kitchen (Good) or reading up on apologetics (Truth) or spending time surrounded by icons (Beauty), or any variation thereof, you’ve found your way to talk to God.

A gorgeous German Gothic church from my home diocese

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Welcome to the Third Edition of the Roman Missal!

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I’ve been going to the Latin Mass for a couple years now (I can’t remember exactly how long) and I must admit that these new English translations have made me ecstatic.  It reads almost exactly like the right-hand side of the Latin-English Missal!  It’s beautiful.  I admit that today was a little slow–all of us are adjusting, so we’re sort of stumbling through the Mass–but it will eventually be beautiful.  And maybe the chant will encourage churches to do more of the propers IN LATIN.  I’m such a sucker for a Latin Credo.  Or Sanctus.  Or Agnus Dei.  Or… you get the idea.  (Actually, my personal favourite–and my sister’s–sung Credo is Palestrina’s Credo from Missa O Magnum Mysterium.  Liturgical music nuts, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it is a polyphonic tune for… four voices?  I think four.  But can be done with more.  Don’t quote me on that, ask a liturgy nerd.  My normal go-to liturgy nerds are at Mass right now.)

I’m not going to post a whole list of the changes–you can find those online, or at your local Catholic church now that it’s Advent–but I would like to remind everyone to respond, “And with your spirit”!  (Maybe it would be easier if we just switched back to Latin?  I don’t know.)

Also, something lovely I noticed–I can still sing the Sanctus in Latin.  And the current English setting of the Holy, Holy, Holy is the plainchant for the Latin.  This makes me happy.  Now I need to learn the Credo…

Oh!  One more thing.  To anyone who says that changing “We believe” in the Creed to “I believe” ruins the community identity, a few things:

1. “Credo” is first person.  Looks like Spanish, doesn’t it?  “Tengo,” “hablo,” etc.  Spanish (like French, Portugese, Italian, and Romanian) is a Romance language–it is derived from Latin.  So the Latin is saying “I believe.”

2. I really don’t see how you can say that the community identity is ruined when a hundred voices all say the same words together.  The Pledge of Allegiance is in first-person too, and schoolchildren all over the nation say that in unison. “I pledge allegiance to the flag…”

3. It’s kind of pretentious, in this day and age of modernistic relativism, to assume that everyone believes what you believe–even at your own church.  I’ve run into too many dissenters in the past to say, “Well, WE believe X, Y and Z” and have switched to referring to myself alone for the simple fact that many “Catholics” don’t understand the True Presence.  (I know not all, but I’m from Rochester.  Sadly this kind of an experience can make a young Catholic a bit jaded, I’m afraid.)

Anyway, enjoy the beautiful new translations!  Maybe you want to invest in a new Roman Missal… or a Latin-English missal.  You never know when someone may decide to switch it up on you! 😉

Bad Monks

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Some time ago, I had the chance to meet Kevin, owner of Theatre of the Word, Inc.  I now consider him a friend (and hope he considers me the same, even with the age difference).  Something he said in one of our conversations stuck with me, and I will do my best to repeat it here:

“Actors are basically bad monks.  Monks devote themselves fully and completely to one subject–prayer.  Actors do the same thing for theatre, but they have strayed from their path along the way.  That’s why they’re all so messed-up.”

This is normal. Desks were made for naps.

I would like to make the same case for architects.  I am frequently here in studio till all hours of the night, working, talking, laughing–always in studio.  And many of my classmates are here with me.  We throw ourselves headlong into our work and only come up for air when a project is over, at which point in time we promptly fall asleep on the nearest horizontal surface.  This is entirely normal and expected of us.  We live like ascetics–cloistered in studio, often eating only one meal a day (and even then, only because we decided as a group that we ought to get out of studio and eat something real which didn’t come from the cafe downstairs).  All we talk or think about is architecture, or studio this, or studio that.  Dorms are like locker rooms for us–we use them to shower and change and then leave.  Our official roommates (“official” meaning it is on the housing record) consider our presence in our rooms an occurrence about as frequent as Christmas–or, sometimes, a mere myth, comparable to Bigfoot.  As a large group of 100+, we strive towards the same goal (becoming professional architects–though, right now, simply surviving project to project).  I have slept in studio.  (Not overnight–just a nap–but still.)  I frequently eat in studio.  My friends are in studio.  I chat with lots of people here.  And I work, and work, and work, late into the night.

So, Kevin–I think architects just might beat actors in terms of “bad monks.”  Minus the universally accepted norm of “messed-up is okay,” of course (though we still do have our weirdos).

Excerpt taken from Memoirs of a Bad Monk, a book as of yet unwritten by Ink.

Searching for Beauty

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So I’m in university now.  Fancy.  A big girl.  And my favourite building on campus is the fanciest one there.  It’s old, and beautiful.  Don’t get me wrong–I totally appreciate and respect the steel-and-glass structures of modern buildings.  But I have the biggest soft spot for anything old, tall, fancy, and imposing.  And stained-glass windows are even better.

I think I’m one of the few in my class who loves old stuff this way.  I’ve always loved vintage things–especially when they have good stories behind them.  I’m bad at history, but I love things with history.

Many people hear “old” and think “run-down,” “dysfunctional,” “outdated,” “impractical,” etc.  I hear “old” and I hear “antique,” “historical,” and “classic” (and yes, I do know that in terms of wooden boats, those are age categories).  “Vintage” doesn’t mean “retro” in my mind–it’s the real deal.

Frequently, I find it much easier to find beauty in old buildings or things or customs–or things which are “call-backs,” in a sense, to things of the past.  The details, symmetry, and elegance of old buildings always cause my face to brighten.  Some “antiquated” customs such as chivalry (which Quill can ramble insightfully about ad infinitum, if anyone lets him) are caring and thoughtful, even if they’re “in-bred” or whatever.  Old dances make me smile with their formalities and mannerisms–such a radical difference from the “dances” of today.

As I go around on my day-to-day life of drawing, erasing, re-drawing, and attempting to make my lines straight (still working on that), I try to find beauty wherever I look.  The small details and intricacies in older buildings (or buildings modeled after older styles) intrigue me.  However, things in the natural world are eye-catchingly beautiful, too–the latticework of tree branches, dappled lighting along a path, a wall covered in climbing ivies or flowering trumpet vines.

If I’m ever lucky enough to catch a sunset, it catches me off-guard with its loveliness.  Sunset is, quite possibly, my most favourite time of day.  The brilliant, dominant beauty of the star of the day is receding to allow for the subtle and mysterious beauty of the stars of the night.

I guess I’m just concluding this ramble with a point: in a world where “art” does not necessarily constitute beauty, and loveliness is often considered “cost-prohibitive,” the Big Man Upstairs still has the right idea.  He made flowers, which are beautiful.  And stars.  And sunsets.  And you know what?  They’re FREE.

Incensed About Incense

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I’m like a magpie–I like shiny things.  And I like fire.  (And funnily enough, I’m not overenthusiastic about diamonds… ba-dum-kssh.)  And I swear that these weaknesses of mine are not the only reasons I love being Catholic.  Honestly.  They’re just part of it.

Starting a post like that, you’d imagine I’m going to start talking about something related to candles–maybe the Benedictine setup of the altar, with six shiny candlesticks with lit candles and a beautiful crucifix in the center.  Nope!  As the title says, I like incense.  A lot.  I didn’t, so much, when I was little… or in the days when I used to be an altar server (this is NOT a discussion about girls on the altar) and held the position of thurifer and had to breathe in the smoke at close quarters.  But as I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve grown in my appreciation for the beauty of incense.

Many people claim that incense is symbolic in that the smoke, like our prayers, rises up to heaven and reaches God.  This is backed up by Revelation (where the Mass is described as “heavenly worship”): the prayers of the saints ride upon the smoke of incense.  I’ve also heard that the scent of incense pleases our Lord, as referenced in Leviticus when frankincense was part of a cereal offering–an offering of grain.

The Judeo-Christian tradition has a very long and rich history of incense.  Because Catholicism is, basically, the completion of Judaism–the New Covenant, as compared to the Old–it is vital to understand just how much tradition comes to Catholicism from the Old Law.  Incense is part of an Old Covenant sin offering, which is not only a burnt offering of an animal but also of incense.  Frequently in Leviticus is it mentioned that something is burned “because its scent pleases the Lord.”

Traditionally, incense is primarily frankincense, a resin extracted from a particular tree, much like sap.  Some forms of incense are pure resin, others can be ground into a powder.  Still others are simply pieces of wood soaked with the resin.  Frankincense has always been a symbol of a sacrifice–hence its importance when the Magi presented it to the Christ child upon their visitation.  The etymology of the word “frankincense” adds to its symbolism: it is from Old French–franc encens, or “pure incense.”  Additional scents and ingredients may be mixed into incense–traditionally between four and thirteen extra ingredients.  These seemingly random numbers originate in the Old Law of the Jews.  Sometimes myrrh will be added to the mix: this is doubly symbolic, as myrrh was used for embalming during Egyptian times (representative of Christ’s death) and also because it calls back to both the Old and New Testaments.  Myrrh was part of the consecrated incense in the Old Law.  In the New Testament, it is another gift from the Magi to the Christ child.  If additional scents are added, they are commonly floral.

The Eastern Rite tends to use more incense than the Western Rite.  Why this is, I don’t know–I do know, however, that our prayers are carried upon the smoke of incense.  And why on earth we would not take advantage of that beautiful method of prayer is beyond me.  So, I say to all my fellow Western Rite Catholics–burn, baby, burn… incense, at least.

——-TL;DR?——-

– Incense carries our prayers to God and the scent pleases Him

– Incense mix recipe is a carry-over from the Old Law

– Used in the heavenly liturgy described in Revelation

– Usually primarily frankincense and myrrh but can have additional ingredients and scents