Can America Become a Christian Society Again? ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Bishop Chaput, who oversees a large Catholic school system, notes that most Catholic school children attend public schools and “only 3 percent of Hispanic Catholic children attend Catholic schools,” with the consequence that ”the freedom and ability of Catholic families “to raise their children according to Christian beliefs is also, in everyday practice, becoming more difficult.” But Bishop Chaput does not approach the subject with the passions of Dr. Esolen, and he takes a somewhat distant approach, letting various sources he cites make the more stinging comments. He makes no plea for Catholics to attend Catholic schools, no argument that his own Catholic schools offer an alternative, and gives no details about what a Catholic or Christian education would look like.
— Read on

Colosseum Books Poetry Series – Franciscan University Press | Franciscan University of Steubenville

Colosseum Books is an annual series of volumes of new poetry and poetry criticism that exhibit spiritual and intellectual depth and an understanding of verse as a craft guided by enduring tradition, metrical rigor, and a commitment to the well-made thing. Each Colosseum book will be published by the Franciscan University at Steubenville Press.

In the ancient world, the civilizational achievements of Rome were transformed and leavened by the spirit of Christianity. The Colosseum stood as a symbol of the struggle and suffering such a new birth entailed, but also of final victory and union, as Christendom emerged to take possession of the treasures of Athens and Jerusalem with Rome as its spiritual capital. In the modern age, the English writer Christopher Dawson edited the review Colosseum as a forum for the Catholic intellectual world to engage contemporary arts and culture. In its pages such great minds as Dawson, Jacques Maritain, and E.I. Watkin studied and discussed the literary achievement of T.S. Eliot, Sigrid Undset, and other writers of the Catholic literary revival and beyond.
— Read on

–James M. Wilson is an excellent poet, brilliant thinker, and good ally. Very happy to see him as editor of this new series.

A Tale of Holiday Pops

This week, as I’ve done every year since 1990 (with one notable exception*),  I’ll have my head, voice and heart immersed in the Grand Rapids Symphony’s annual Holiday Pops concerts, as part of the GR Symphony Chorus.  The Symphony, Chorus, Youth Chorus, Embellish Handbell Ensemble, baritone Justin Hopkins and conductor Bob Bernhardt come together for five shows (Thursday, & Friday nights, two shows on Saturday, a Sunday matinee) in DeVos Performance Hall.

This is always an enjoyable week for me — there’s nothing quite like knowing that the audience is already on your side!  Whether they’ve attended before or not, they’re looking forward to the familiar set pieces — a carol or two by British composer John Rutter, soundtrack excerpts from John Williams’ Home Alone, Santa coming onstage for some jokey byplay, Leroy Anderson’s swinging “Sleigh Ride”, and a big singalong.  It’s a time when our Chorus director, Dr. Pearl Shangkuan, reminds us that this is many folks’ only Symphony concert of the entire year — and our job is to blow them away, with the same precision and intensity we bring to Mozart, Bach or Mahler!

This isn’t to say the audience is only after a good time, with just the secular, sentimental side of the holidays.  Sacred carols are a major part of the mix every year (including the singalong), in solid arrangements by choral stars like Mack Wilberg, director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  And a few years back, the conductor decided to switch out Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from the program’s closing spot (where it had been since at least 2003) in favor of  “White Christmas.”  This well-intentioned change lasted one show; instant feedback from that Thursday’s opening night crowd brought Handel back to the finale slot, where he’s remained ever since.

And Holiday Pops in Grand Rapids consistently means more than favorites and fluff; for example, this year the GR Symphony’s Youth Chorus premieres two new pieces by their accompanist and director.  Leah Ivory’s The Star brings tantalizing West African vocal and percussive traditions to the West Michigan concert stage; and Sean Ivory’s setting of a liturgical poem for Hanukkah, Ma’oz tsur, is dedicated to the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting victims, inspired further by the words of the nurse who treated the shooter:

I wanted him to feel compassion. I chose to show him empathy. I felt that the best way to honor his victims was for a Jew to prove him wrong. Besides, if he finds out I’m Jewish, does it really matter? The better question is, what does it mean to you?

Love. That’s why I did it. Love as an action is more powerful than words, and love in the face of evil gives others hope. It demonstrates humanity. It reaffirms why we’re all here. The meaning of life is to give meaning to life, and love is the ultimate force that connects all living beings. I could care less what [the shooter] thinks, but you, the person reading this, love is the only message I wish instill in you. If my actions mean anything, love means everything.

Love deeply. Love blindly. Love faithfully. Love selflessly. Love unexpectedly. Love without question. Love with every breath. Love so that even when the world seems as dark as it did in Pittsburgh, love casts light.

And Symphony Chorus gets in on the serious fun as well, performing the thrilling, highly syncopated setting of Gloria in Excelsis from Dan Forrest’s new multi-movement choral suite Lux – The Dawn from On High:

So, all in all, I’m thinking this should be another week to remember!  If you’re anywhere near Grand Rapids, Michigan, come on down to DeVos Performance Hall for a beautiful concert of holiday music that will furnish both high spirits and rich nourishment for your soul!  Details and tickets here.


— Rick Krueger

* I took a sabbatical from Symphony Chorus the year I got married.  My wife approved — but she also let me go back the next year!

“Savior of the Nations, Come!”

Among his numerous contributions to the Christian church, the hymns of St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan (340-397) have pride of place.  Veni redemptor gentium (Come, Redeemer of the Gentiles), indirectly attributed to Ambrose by St. Augustine, remains in the Roman Liturgy of the Hours to this day, as the hymn for the Octave before Christmas.

Veni, redemptor gentium,
ostende partum Virginis;
miretur omne saeculum:
talis decet partus Deum.

O come, Redeemer of the earth,
and manifest thy virgin-birth.
Let every age in wonder fall:
such birth befits the God of all.

Particularly popular in medieval Germany, Veni redemptor gentium was one of the initial hymns Martin Luther (1483-1546) adapted for congregational use in the wake of the Reformation.  Translated into German as Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland with a metricized melody, it first appeared in the Erfurt Enchiridion of 1524.   Swiftly, it became the Hymn of the Day for the First Sunday in Advent in Lutheran churches; over the centuries, it’s been set for organ and/or choir by numerous composers.  Of course, the cantata and chorale prelude settings by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) stand out:

But the legacy of this ancient hymn continues into the modern day, with organ settings by modern composers such as Paul Manz (1919-2009) …

… and its numerous English translations, including the composite version found in 2006’s Lutheran Service Book.  In the video below, the hymn begins at 1:57, following a Luther quote spoken over a chorale prelude by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707).

Savior of the nations, come, Virgin’s Son, make here Your home!
Marvel now, O heav’n and earth, That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood, By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh—Woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.

Here a maid was found with child, Yet remained a virgin mild.
In her womb this truth was shown: God was there upon His throne.

Then stepped forth the Lord of all / From His pure and kingly hall;
God of God, yet fully man, His heroic course began.

God the Father was His source, Back to God He ran His course.
Into hell His road went down, Back then to His throne and crown.

For You are the Father’s Son / Who in flesh the vict’ry won.
By Your mighty pow’r make whole / All our ills of flesh and soul.

From the manger newborn light / Shines in glory through the night.
Darkness there no more resides; In this light faith now abides.

Glory to the Father sing, Glory to the Son, our king,
Glory to the Spirit be / Now and through eternity.

— Rick Krueger



Manifest Destiny and the American Nimrods ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Whatever one wants to label it, American expansion has led to the habit of empire, expansion, and war. As Americans, we might very well cover our actions and deeds in fair, liberal, and republican language, but these adornments cannot change the essence of imperialism, by whatever name. The repeated government removal of American Indians is certainly one blatant example of this imperialism in the 19th century, which often failed even to discriminate against those Indian tribes hostile to American interests (such as the Sioux) and those in admiration and alliance (the Nez Perce).
— Read on

Why Are We Still in Afghanistan? –

Cultural interventionism v/s Guns

“There is ‘more power in blue jeans and rock and roll than the entire Red Army’ said French philosopher Régis Debray”

Soviet Denim Smuggling – The History of Jeans Behind the Iron Curtain

Spirit of Cecilia

Our options have fallen into two categories: bad and worse.
— Read on

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Music, Books, Poetry, Film

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