Thursday, October 21, 2010

Missa Cantata in Mayberry

Today's post is an extension of an article I wrote for my diocese newspaper, the Catholic News Herald.   If you are visiting my blog for the first time, welcome!  You may also be interested in the Rosary "Minute Meditations" series I'm writing for the month of October.  You can find them below this entry or in the Archives, at right.  If you would like to receive updates, please subscribe through the links on the right-hand column.  I always welcome comments!  You can leave one at the end of the post.

As a Vatican II-era child, I had no recollection of attending Latin Mass (known as the Tridentine Mass or Mass in the Extraordinary Form), so I was very curious about the recent revival of this ancient form of the liturgy.  I hoped for the opportunity to attend a Latin Mass and finally found one several years ago while on vacation.  I was instantly struck by the reverence and the formality of the Extraordinary Form.  As I followed along in the Latin-English missal, a simple question came immediately to mind:  Why on earth isn't the Ordinary Form a closer translation?  I think that the upcoming changes are a positive step in that direction.  In fact, I think it’s worthwhile to buy a copy of the Latin-English missal even if you never intend to attend a Latin Mass.  The beautiful prayers included in the booklet alone are worth the price.

Last year, my husband got a job in a little town called Mount Airy in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina.  I was surprised to discover that it was also known as "Mayberry" since it is Andy Griffith's boyhood home and the inspiration for that idyllic small town.  I was even more surprised to discover that Mount Airy was home to more Quakers than Catholics!  There’s a Baptist church on every corner, but only one small Catholic Church, named in honor of the Holy Angels. 

I knew I had found the right parish when I learned that Holy Angels pastor, Father Eric Kowalski, offers Latin Mass every Sunday at noon.  Once a month, a Schola (Gregorian Chant choir) sings the Missa Cantata (“Sung Mass”).  We occasionally attend Mass in the Ordinary Form, but even my children prefer the Latin Mass.  My non-Catholic husband notes that although he can’t understand the words, he has an appreciation for the solemn reverence of the Extraordinary Form.

When I was recently hired as a freelance writer for the diocese newspaper, the first article I proposed to my editor was one on the Latin Mass in our parish.  Father Kowalski graciously offered his assistance and suggested that I interview those who attend the Latin Mass regularly.  He even allowed me to take a few photographs during Mass.

Everyone I interviewed praised Father Kowalski to the skies, and rightly so, expressing sincere gratitude for his generosity and commitment to offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form every Sunday.  Not only does he have to pray the Mass in a language he doesn’t use every day, but he also has to prepare two separate homilies as the readings and Gospels are different for each form.

Father Kowalski had no idea that he would be offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form when he was assigned to Holy Angels in 2001.  One of his first projects was to renovate the beautiful granite chapel, built in 1921.  He discovered gorgeous hardwood floors under layers of carpet and tile, not realizing that he was improving the acoustics so that one day in the future the Schola could “make the walls sing.” 

Father often states that offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form has changed him personally.  “If you’re not careful, when you offer Mass [in the Ordinary Form], it’s very easy to make it about yourself.  With the Extraordinary Form, the ritual itself takes all of that away because you’re focused on the meaning behind certain gestures.  It’s not about the quip or the funny joke.  It’s about you offering the sacrifice In Persona Christi, standing before God and realizing your own unworthiness.”

The first group I interviewed was the Schola, led by Winston-Salem resident and attorney Robin Shea, who showed me the unique musical notations of the Gregorian Chant on her ipad.  Yes, there’s an App for that!  (It’s called “Liber Pro” if you’re interested.)  She was first introduced to Gregorian Chant when she was “volunteered” to learn it for the Latin Mass offered at the Wake Forest campus chapel.  Sue Harmer-Sommer, of Kernersville, also volunteered and serves as the group’s Latin pronunciation expert as she studied Latin and Gregorian Chant in school.  Patricia Donadio completed the group and jokes that the most difficult aspect is getting along with the other two ladies. 

When the Wake Forest Latin Mass was discontinued, the trio kept practicing, hoping to find another venue for their talents.  They discovered that Father Kowalski was offering the Extraordinary Form in Mount Airy and quickly volunteered to bring the Missa Cantata to Mayberry, much to Father’s delight and relief.  As he stated, “When the Schola is singing, I’m offering my prayers.  It fits seamlessly, unlike the Ordinary Form where everything is blocked.   It flows and it’s a very intimate moment with God.”  

Robin agrees. “The music is really beautiful and adds so much reverence to the Mass. I’ve been praying the whole time and didn’t even realize it.”  Robin would love to add more members to the Schola.  (If you're interested, you can talk to her after Mass.)

If you do attend the Latin Mass in Mount Airy, you’ll likely be welcomed by Sid Cundiff.  He drives from Winston-Salem every Sunday to serve as an usher.  He’s also the informal “communications officer” and keeps an email list to update anyone interested in the Extraordinary Form in the state of North Carolina.  You can add your name to his list by emailing  

Sid points out that Mass in the Extraordinary Form has three important characteristics.  It is serious, it is a solemnity and it is holy.  He is quick to add that he is not opposed to the Ordinary Form or that it lacks these characteristics, but that the Extraordinary Form is more focused on these three aspects of liturgy and “that something out of the ordinary is being done.”

Ron and Libby Boyd attend Latin Mass every Sunday, driving nearly two hours from Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, because it reminds them of their childhood.  As Libby stated, "We were raised in the Latin Mass.  It is solemn and respectful.  It's quiet and you can pray.  We like that atmosphere." 

Holy Angels parishioners Paul and Joan Zomberg attend daily Mass in the Ordinary Form where Paul is a lector.  Paul says that they prefer the Extraordinary Form because "it's more spiritually satisfying."  Joan adds, "We praise God because He is good.  Latin Mass is more about praising God that petitioning God."

Robert and Doris Cross are also Holy Angels parishioners who attend both the Ordinary and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  Robert, as a convert, had only seen Latin Mass on TV and was curious about it.  Doris, on the other hand, grew up with the Latin Mass.  She says that she likes the wider range of Scriptures in the Ordinary Form, but the Extraordinary Form "is very focused on being prayerful and quiet and you focus on Jesus.  You can kneel for Communion like we used to do back home."

Gerald and Billy Healy drive from Yadkinville because "they were raised with the Latin Mass and love it."  Billy, a convert for nearly 60 years, declares that at Latin Mass they are "home again."   Their grandson, Patrick Healy, is a Greensboro resident and a grad student studying Chemistry.  He became an altar server for the Latin Mass over 15 years ago and fills in when young trainee Michael Kafant is not available.  Patrick is grateful that Mass in the Extraordinary Form is "close by with a regular schedule." 

Winston-Salem resident Emmanuel Kafant is a convert from the Greek Orthodox Church.  His six adorable, well-dressed children behave perfectly and are so reverent.  Emmanuel drives his family of eight to Latin Mass every Sunday because it expresses "the faith of Catholicism-- what we believe about the Mass, what we believe about the Eucharist-- without any ambiguities.  It's distinctly Catholic."  He's a Belmont Abby College graduate and has been attending Latin Mass since 1991.  His son, Michael, an altar boy, says that Latin Mass and serving in Latin “just feels normal” as that’s all he has known.

Michael Long, also a Winston-Salem resident, found a Latin Missal several years ago in a thrift shop.  He said it's the best dollar he ever spent.  He doesn’t mind the drive to Mount Airy every Sunday because he feels that he “has gone the extra mile and that God has brought me to a very holy time and place.”  Opening his missal, he reads, “Send forth your light and your fidelity to lead me on and to bring me to your holy mount.”  Michael thinks that there is no coincidence that he is driving to Mount Airy.  As he points out, “God has richly provided for this faith community…  Father had the inspiration to restore this chapel and brought back the altar rail [not knowing] that we would bring back this liturgy… The choir members had an inspiration to start studying Gregorian Chant.  I’ve seen the altar boys and where they got their training, and it’s very good training.  God was preparing all these things to happen, and who knew when the time was going to come when the pope would say, ‘Let’s make this more available.’  God had even prepared me through finding this [Latin] missal.”



There will be a special Missa Cantata in honor of All Souls Day on Tuesday, November 2nd, at 6:30 pm at Holy Angels Catholic Church in Mount Airy.  During the Mass, the new black vestments will be blessed.

Sid Cundiff provided the following links for more information on the Mass in Extraordinary Form:
Sancta Missa is a highly informative site that is well worth your time to read if you are planning to attend a Latin Mass (or even if you aren't).  You can read the English-Latin Missal online at this link

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Transfiguration

When I reflect on the Fourth Luminous Mystery, The Transfiguration, I think not only of Jesus changing His appearance to strengthen the resolve of the future leaders of the Church, but also of my own transformation through the power of the Rosary.  I was not always a devout Catholic, despite my solid Catholic upbringing in a very devout family.  I made many mistakes as a young adult, and I mourn for those lost years.  Yet the one relative constant in my life is the Rosary.  I often think of the words of St. Louis de Montfort in his must-read book, The Secret of the Rosary:  

“... Even if you are now on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil, sooner or later you will be converted. Heaven will amend your life and save your soul if you say the Rosary devoutly every day of your life.” 

I can definitely attest that heaven WILL amend your life if you are devoted to the Rosary.  Over the past few years, I have become aware of sinful practices in my life and have worked to eliminate them, one by one.  Some have come fairly easily and others were fierce battles, but I am slowly but surely trying to live a holier life.  I still have a long way to go, but the Rosary is a powerful weapon. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Proclamation of the Kingdom

John the Baptist was the first to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2), and he was also known as the "Voice crying out in the wilderness," (Matthew 3:3) fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3.  I often think of these two Scripture verses while meditating on the Third Luminous Mystery, The Proclamation of the Kingdom.

I reflect on how I can proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand through my actions, words and deeds.  I resolve to act as a true Christian and treat all people as brothers and sisters in Christ and pray for them, even when they are rude or insensitive or just plain sinful.  It is a difficult task, and I often fail, but I continually pray for the grace to accomplish this.

I also want to be a "voice crying out in the wilderness."  In our secular society, too often we Catholics are reluctant to speak up for what is right.  Sometimes we just don't know what to do, but we can pray that God will show us. 

As an example, a few weeks ago, I read an article in a local church bulletin about the 40 Days For Life campaign.  A group would be praying daily outside an abortion clinic in a nearby city during the campaign.  The next week, I had a hair appointment in the city but didn't feel comfortable joining the group.  I was afraid of being arrested or accosted or any number of other possible negative consequences.  Later that day, I wrote a blog entry which had nothing whatsoever to do with abortion or praying outside an abortion clinic.  Then two people wrote comments on the entry about praying outside an abortion clinic.  I instantly knew that God was telling me to go.  I had to drive to the city twice that week to get my car repaired, and both times I prayed outside the abortion clinic.  I wept as I prayed the Rosary, overcome by emotion at what was being done to the most innocent human beings.  I was not arrested or accosted.  Instead, I met several wonderful people and felt that I was at least doing something to end this horrible abomination in our country.

Pray the Rosary today and ask for the courage and the resources to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Wedding Feast at Cana

I often think of Mary's intercessory powers when meditating on the Wedding Feast of Cana, but I also reflect on the institution of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1613):

The Church attaches great importance to Jesus' presence at the wedding at Cana.  She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ's presence.

My own wedding was one of the happiest days of my life, and I am blessed that God sent me such a wonderful husband.  Yet sadly, the sanctity of marriage is quickly eroding in this country and around the world.  It's easy to target the acceptance of gay "marriage," but as Catholics we must also pray and act to end other mockeries of marriage such as fornication, cohabitation before marriage, "trial" marriages and divorce.   We must be charitable but firm in expressing our beliefs that marriage is sacred.

As Jesus Himself stated in Mark 10: 7-9

"Jesus said to the Pharisees, 'God made them male and female.  For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become as one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no man must separate...'"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan

When I meditate on the mystery of Jesus' Baptism, I often think of the book of Exodus.  The journey of the Israelites to the Promised Land parallels our lives today.  They first passed through water (the Red Sea), which prefigures Baptism.  Next, they wandered in the desert for 40 years (a generation), which parallels our time on earth.  Only then could they reach the Promised Land, or heaven.  In order to reach the Promised Land, they must cross the Jordan River, led by Joshua.  Joshua is a "Christ figure" who leads the people through the Jordan River, prefiguring the Baptism of Jesus who will lead us to eternal life.

Sadly, few Catholics study the Bible, let alone the Old Testament.  The rewards to those who do are priceless.  The entire Old Testament shouts out that the Savior is coming, but you must study it and reflect on it.  The Rosary Mysteries are a perfect place to start.  Pick up a Scriptural Rosary booklet as a good resource for Old Testament passages that relate to the Rosary mysteries. 

For a more in-depth Bible study, check out The Great Adventure Bible study program.  If you can't find a study group or seminar near you, look into bringing it to your parish.  It literally changed my spiritual life, and I can't recommend this program enough.

Speaking of Bible studies, it was such an honor to be a guest on Marcus Grodi's EWTN Radio program, Deep In Scripture.  We discussed several Bible verses that relate to exercise and healthy eating. I recorded the show on Wednesday in Ohio after filming The Journey Home.  Since the radio program was videotaped in the studio, you can watch/listen at the Deep in Scripture website.  It will be on the main page until the next episode airs on Oct 20th.  After that, you can access it through the archive link on the left side of the page.  The date of the show I recorded is Oct 13th. 

My Journey Home segment will air on Monday, Nov 8th on EWTN.  If you can't catch the show, it will be posted on EWTN's youtube channel.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Short Break for Minute Meditations

I will be taking a short break from the Rosary Minute Meditations as I'm  leaving today for Ohio to tape an episode of EWTN's The Journey Home.  It will air on Monday, November 8th.  I'll also be taping an EWTN radio program called Deep In Scripture.  It will air on Wednesday, October 13th at 2 pm eastern at this link.  It will also be archived on the website if you can't listen on Wednesday.

Wednesday is the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, so I've been praying a novena to Our Lady of Fatima.  Please pray for me! 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple

I'll never forget the time we lost our daughter briefly at a very busy night at the county fair. She was only about two years old, and one moment she was at my side and the next she vanished. Panicked, my husband and I quickly searched through the crowd as I silently prayed Hail Marys. We found her a few minutes later, trustingly holding the hand of a kind older woman who was helping her to find us. Thank heaven she was found quickly and unharmed!

When I meditate on The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, I can relate to Mary and Joseph's distress while searching for their beloved child. My frantic search lasted only about 3 minutes but seemed like an eternity. Imagine Mary and Joseph's panic after 3 DAYS spent looking for the Son of God! Then imagine their relief and joy in finally finding Jesus in the place where they should have looked for Him first.

I compare this distress followed by joy to the times in my life where I have been searching for Jesus but could not find Him. Sometimes I was not physically aware that I was searching, but my soul longed for something greater than the lukewarm faith that I was practicing at the time. At other times, I experienced spiritual dryness and felt abandoned and lost. There's nothing quite like the joy at finally finding Jesus when you thought He was lost. Of course, like Mary and Joseph, I always find Him in the obvious place, every time-- in His Father's House (Luke 2:49)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Presentation

Although it's not written in the Bible, Catholic tradition states that Mary was a consecrated virgin who lived in the Temple from childhood until she was betrothed to St. Joseph.  Simeon and Anna, both mentioned in Luke's gospel account of The Presentation in the Temple, were Mary's teachers during her time in the Temple.  When I think of The Presentation, I imagine Simeon hitting himself on the forehead and thinking, "Why on earth did I not realize that this holy young woman, right under my nose, would be the mother of the Savior since I was to see Him before I died!"

Take a better look at those people you see every day.  Consider that they are instruments of God's Divine Plan and may be destined for great things.  Treat them accordingly!

I posted the video below on this blog a few months ago, but it's worth repeating during the Month of the Most Holy Rosary.  I hope it will inspire you to pray the Rosary today.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Nativity

When I think of the mystery of The Nativity, I like to think of the day when each of my two children was born.  Along with the day I married my husband, those two days are my most memorable.  There is nothing quite like finally holding the child who grew in your womb for nine months, looking into the tiny face with wonder and delight.

Yet the wonder and delight can turn to frustration and helplessness when the tiny baby cries inconsolably or demands to be fed at 3 a.m.  There is also the process of working through selfishness as a mother.  The baby's needs must come before the needs of the mother and sacrifices are required which are not always met with joy and acceptance.

I then reflect on the perfect love between the holiest of all mothers and her Divine Son.  Since Mary was conceived without Original Sin and Jesus was God Incarnate, there were no barriers of selfishness to interfere with that mother-son bond.  I think of my own love for my children and multiply it a million times.  Then it occurs to me that Jesus has the same love for me!  How can I not devote 20 minutes a day to pray the Rosary as a small return of that enormous, unfathomable love?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Visitation

In honor of the Month of the Most Holy Rosary, I'm running a series of "Minute Meditations" on the 20 mysteries of the Rosary. 

When I contemplate the second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation, I like to think of the great joy Mary must have experienced as she hiked to the hill country to visit her cousin, Elizabeth.  Mary was around 14 years old and must have been full of youthful energy.  Add to that the joy of being chosen to become the mother of the Messiah, and she must have been literally bursting with joy.  I wouldn't be surprised if she even skipped and danced a bit on the long journey.

When Mary arrives at her cousin's home, she proclaims her beautiful canticle, The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).  A canticle is a song, and I imagine Mary had the loveliest singing voice. 

Every time we pray the Rosary, we fulfill the prophecy in Mary's Magnificat that all generations will call her "blessed."  When you pray your Rosary today, ask Mary to share her great joy with you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Annunciation

In honor of the Month of the Most Holy Rosary, I'm going to post a series of "Minute Meditations" on each of the 20 mysteries.  I'll start this week with the Joyful Mysteries.  These are just short little thoughts on a particular mystery that I hope will inspire you to learn more and to try to pray the Rosary every day during October (and beyond, if you can!).

The Annunciation is truly one of the most pivotal moments in human history.  Imagine!  God became a man for us!  He took on a human form and human weakness and suffering so that we might have eternal life.

I've always been fascinated by the stories of Greek and Roman mythology, but their gods are so petty.  They usually take on human form so that they can seduce some beautiful maiden.  They certainly do not suffer or humble themselves.  Yet our God, the One True God, became flesh through a miraculous conception, AFTER He asked a humble Jewish girl if she would be the God Bearer (Theotokos, in Greek).  Of course this Jewish girl was far from ordinary, yet she thought she was less so.  A humble God incarnate chose a humble woman to be His mother to teach us that humility and serving others is the way to heaven, not glory and riches.

This blessed moment of The Annunciation is literally shouted from the pages of the Old Testament, if you know where to look.  Study the Bible devoutly, and you will see types and precursors of Jesus and Mary throughout the Old Testament books.

Related links:

I found this terrific article about how to deal with distractions while praying the Rosary.

I'm thrilled to be a part of the wonderful Catholic Vitamins podcast.  My regular segment, "Fitness For Faith" starts with the Vitamin A podcast, posted today. (Click on the "Podcast" link and then the "Vitamin A' link.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy Feast Day St Therese and Happy Month of the Rosary

Today is the feast of one of my favorite saints, St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as The Little Flower.  I really admire her approach of offering up all the "little things" that grate on one's nerves during a typical day.  Annoyances like rude people, slow drivers, overly chatty acquaintances and bad hair days can be turned into blessings by offering them up.

I also like her analogy of souls to different types of flowers:

Jesus set before me the book of nature. I understand how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understand that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers. So it is in the world of souls, Jesus' garden. He has created smaller ones and those must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God's glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be. 
- from Story of a Soul
St. Therese is also known as "St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face."   That is the name she took when she entered the Carmelite Monastery due to her devotion to the infant Jesus and her fascination with the image of Jesus' suffering face imprinted on Veronica's veil.

My mother recently gave me a holy card with the image of Jesus' face, at right, and I always carry it in my purse.  It was created by NASA using the negatives from the shroud of Turin.  I love His eyes in this image.  They are so gentle and loving yet they stare straight into your very soul.

October 1st also ushers in the Month of the Most Holy Rosary.  It's a perfect opportunity to begin (or renew) a devotion to the Blessed Mother's favorite prayer.  Try to pray the Rosary every day this month.  Ask St. Therese to help you.