Friday, November 27, 2009

Alma Mater (Our Mother)

Looking for that perfect Christmas gift for your Catholic loved one? Look no more...
NOVEMBER 26, 2009 

Pope’s ‘debut album’ a surprising pleasure

‘Alma Mater’ mixes chant, classical music and papal prayers


It’s a strange concept on paper: an album of modern classical music featuring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome … and Pope Benedict XVI on lead vocals?

Things don’t get any clearer when you find out that the choir and orchestra were recorded in different countries — at St. Peter’s in Rome and Abbey Road in London, respectively; that the pope’s contributions — in Latin, Italian, Portuguese, French and German — come from prayers and speeches broadcast on Vatican Radio; that the composers of the eight tracks include an Italian Catholic, a British agnostic and a Moroccan Muslim; or that the album is being released on a label that also features Rob Zombie and Snoop Dogg.

But somehow it works. “Alma Mater – Music from the Vatican,” set to be released Nov. 30, is as eclectic as its background would suggest, both between tracks and within them. A mix of chanted Marian litany, orchestral music and spoken word, it’s almost certainly unlike anything you’ve heard before. And yet the juxtapositions are not jarring; in their interplay, the disparate elements enhance each other’s beauty.

For instance, track three, “Advocata Nostra,” begins with an upbeat “world music” section that builds in complexity for 80 seconds before suddenly giving way to a series of chanted invocations of the Virgin Mary in Latin; a minute later, it’s back to the music, which subsides just before the three-minute mark as the pope chimes in, praying in German over a cello line; soon the choir returns, followed by the strings; and the final minute of the 5:44 track returns to the opening theme.

It’s surprising, but pleasant, like the whole album.

The compositions are simple yet lovely, the orchestra and choir generally solid (though the singers leave something to be desired when they venture out of chant mode into harmony, which is rare). But the unexpected star of the show is Pope Benedict, whose verbal interjections do not seem out of place, but are always welcome and somehow comforting — his voice radiates warmth and love in any language.

The album would serve equally well as the soundtrack to a period of prayerful meditation or a festive family brunch. It deserves to be a popular Christmas gift for any Catholic or music lover.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Divine Grace

Grace is God's way of revealing Himself to each and every one us.

"God speaks in the silence of the heart. And we listen."

Grace stirred the soul of Augustine. Grace inspired the intellect of Aquinas. Grace was with Martin Luther King Jr. as he penned "I Have A Dream" and on that balcony in Memphis. Grace allowed Nelson Mandela to forgive. Grace drove the mission of Mother Teresa.

Grace is alive and well and living in all of our lives if we just open our eyes and our hearts.

U2 - Grace

She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

It's a name for a girl
It's also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she's got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She's got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

Music: U2
Lyrics: Bono

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Divine Revelation

The Word of God reveals itself to us in many unusual ways. Listen to the Gospel accounting of the betrayal of the "Son of man" in the lyrics of the U2 song "Until The End Of The World" in the attached YouTube video. The lyrics are below.


Until The End Of The World
Music by U2
Lyrics by Bono

Haven't seen you FOR quite a while
I was down the HOLE just passing time
Last time we met was a low-lit room
We were as close together as a bride and groom
We ate the food, we drank the wine
Everybody having a good time
Except you
You were talking about the end of the world

I took the money
I spiked your drink
You miss too much these days if you stop to think
You lead me on with those innocent eyes
You know I love the element of surprise
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You were acting like it was the end of the world

In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret, waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You, you said you'd wait till the end of the world.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Call To Faith Stewardship

I was asked by our parish Priest to give this weekend's witness talk as our church (Immaculate Conception - Our Lady Of Perpetual Help Parishes in Everett, Washington) begins its annual stewardship or giving appeal.  A witness talk is supposed to be about one's faith journey and why we commit ourselves to our faith and church community.   It's supposed to be about how God is calling each of us to give of ourselves.

I share it with you... 

 Witness Talk

My name is Dennis Kelly.  And I am humbled to be invited by Father Hersey to stand before you to talk about our faith.  And about how we can best support our faith.

All my life, I have felt God’s blessing.  And in thanksgiving do what I can to give back. 

I can still remember my first conscious conversation with God as a small child.  After being shunned by classmates in an elementary school P.E. class, I felt the warmth of God’s presence as I played by myself on a balance beam.

My childhood ended early as a result of two tragic events.  Both tested my faith in God.  When I was 7, my three-year-old baby sister Erin died of a congenital heart defect.  I was the oldest child in the family and she was the youngest.  Her death forced me to question God with, “Why?”  When I was 14, my father died suddenly.   Again, I asked God, “Why?”

I struggled with faith through most of my teen years and early adult life.  In fact, I went on quite a prodigal journey.  But I still continued to experience blessings.  Only now I foolishly thought it was luck or personal talent that opened doors to incredible life and career experiences.

I met the love of my life Mary in May of 1984.  We worked together at KING radio in Seattle.  She was an intern.  I was a newly hired news anchor and reporter.  In 1986, we were married.  The day after Christmas 1990, we had our first child, Sean while living in Little Rock, Arkansas.  In late May of 1994, our second son Connor entered our lives while we were in Portland, Oregon.  As I experienced marriage, childbirths, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, I heard God’s voice.

My professional career in Seattle began at the tender age of 23.  At 24, I was anchoring the news daily and served as a reporter for KING radio.  At 26, I found myself traveling to South Africa as part of a journalistic delegation invited to observe the start of the dismantling of Apartheid. 

Our group met with most of the major players in the country, except one.  Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu cancelled our scheduled gathering at the last minute after learning of our meeting with South African President P.W. Botha. 

But Tutu was far too important a figure to not hear from.  So, on Ash Wednesday, 1987, I took a cab to Tutu’s home church in Cape Town to hear his noontime homily and hopefully get an interview afterwards.  Tutu graciously accepted the interview opportunity even after I explained my connection to the American journalist delegation.  

During the entire interview, I felt God’s presence.  I felt God’s love in the man.  And as we ended the interview, he surprised me with an embrace and we shared a moment of God’s love.  I knew in my heart that God was the reason for my good fortune…  all of the good fortune in my life.  That moment sparked a conscious transformation in my thinking about God’s presence in my life.  It also started a lifelong process of asking God what He wanted in return for the many blessings bestowed on this life.

As I have increased my involvement in the church, I’ve found a deep sense of belonging and interconnectedness with our faith community.  As a lector, reading Sacred Scripture and the “Prayers Of The Faithful,” I feel a limitless passion of faith that words cannot describe; I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.  

We each hear the Lord’s voice differently.  Some listen closely to the voice of God in Sacred Scripture and find comfort, guidance and a call to action.  Others listen to fellow parishioners or friends and through these interactions experience God speaking.  Some listen to the voices of intuition in the quiet of prayer.  There is no right way or wrong way when it comes to hearing God’s voice.  There is just our own way.

I am so aware of God’s presence in the many gifts received throughout my life.  But I count even the simple gifts  like that breath we all just took… as a gift from God.  Life is a gift.  And when we live life to the fullest we want to share these gifts, these blessings with others.

As we heard in the Gospel, sometimes a little is a lot.  And sometimes a lot is a little (Mark 12:38-44).

I’m here to tell you today’s Gospel reading is alive and well.  Several years ago, I was helping at a holiday food drive.  As I stood out in the cold, I saw a man about my age approach us.  Most people were donating cans of food.  This man handed over several crisp hundred-dollar bills.  I thanked him for his generous donation.  He then told me his story.  He said he’d been unemployed for quite some time.  But he had faith.  And faith told him to give what he could.  The man told me he’d always operated from the understanding that what he gives he gets back ten fold in the many blessings in his life. 

The Gospel lives!

When we give, when is it enough?   We each answer that question differently.    Most of us start by counting our blessings and the many gifts we’ve been given by God.  That’s a good place to start.

So, I stand before you.  With this card in my hand.  And I encourage you the pledge your support to our parish.  Your annual contribution helps pay for simple things like the light and heating bills for this room here.  But your contribution does much, much more.  It helps fund scholarships for families in need who want their children to experience a Catholic education.  It pays for religious education and the other ministerial materials.   It pays for a variety of social justice work.  It pays for so many important things.

This is not a bloated budget mind you.  It’s a simple humble budget.  But it needs your support.

Will you join me?  Spend some time thinking about your contribution for the coming year.  Pray on it.  Talk to your family.  Then give what you can.  God will let you know when it’s enough. 

God Bless.  And thank you for listening.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Moment Of Surrender

U2 concludes each and every show on the current concert tour with the song "Moment Of Surrender" from its latest CD "No Line On The Horizon."  Read the lyrics (below) and see its message in light of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

It's pretty clear what Bono is saying here.  Personal salvation comes from understanding the selfless sacrifice was an act to restore man's relationship with the living God.  When the impact of this act sinks in, we are compelled to drop to our knees and pray.  And start to listen to God's voice alive in our lives.  Amen!

Moment Of Surrender (lyrics written by Bono)

I tied myself with wire
To let the horses roam free
Playing with the fire
Until the fire played with me

The stone was semi-precious
We were barely conscious
Two souls too smart to be
In the realm of certainty
Even on our wedding day

We set ourselves on fire
Oh God, do not deny her
It’s not if I believe in love
If love believes in me
Oh, believe in me

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

I’ve been in every black hole
At the altar of the dark star
My body’s now a begging bowl
That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
To my heart
To the rhythm of my soul
To the rhythm of my unconsciousness
To the rhythm that yearns
To be released from control

I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine
I could see in the reflection
A face staring back at me
At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way
Counting down ’til the pain would stop

At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me