Archive for Catholic

Canticle of the Turning

Christ Enthroned Book of Kells Trinity College Dublin

Christ Enthroned
Book of Kells
Trinity College, Dublin


I was feeling flat and tired one day when a Goshen college choir came on the radio to sing a rousing version of this hymn. The crowd roared their approval, and I too was energized. Turned around, if you will. The lyrics seem to me a curious mix of fury and tenderness, but not unlike the world itself. Perhaps that’s why people vary the tempo so much when they sing it. Meanwhile, I did find the creator’s blog and I’ll quote his thoughts below.

The idea of “turning” in the title was both a nod to the inner conceit of “revolution,” (derived from the Latin “volvere,” which means “to turn”) and to the message of Jesus’s preaching in all three of the synoptic gospels, the core message of which was, “Repent, and believe the good news.” “Repent” translates a Greek verb the noun form of which is metanoia, that is to say, a complete change of the self, of mind and heart, which might also be rendered as “turn around.”   — Rory Cooney


Canticle of the Turning
Author: Rory Cooney

1. My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight,
and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn!


2. Though I am small, my God, my all,
you work great things in me,
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past
to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame,
and to those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight,
for the world is about to turn.

3. From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
ev’ry tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
There are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn.

4. Though the nations rage from age to age,
we remember who holds us fast:
God’s mercy must deliver us
from the conqueror’s crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard
is the promise which holds us bound,
‘Til the spear and rod can be crushed by God,
who is turning the world around.

My Jesus and I

My Jesus and I cover


Sometimes I pick up a book and worlds open.

My Jesus and I is another educational work from the Salesian order, written in 1949 by the Most Rev. Louis LaRavoire Morrow to help elementary age children prepare for their First Communion. It was originally intended for use in a classroom with an instructional poster set, both of which are still in print.

The book is gentle and directly emotional. Each page has a line of a prayer with a question or commentary underneath it, and a picture from either a Bible story or from a child’s daily life as he or she is accompanied by good and bad angels, Mary, and Jesus.

A letter printed inside the back cover explains:

My Dear Child:

I have made this little book for you, because I want you to know Jesus better and better each day. He is a good Friend, who loves little children like you….

Jesus wants little boys and girls to know how He lived, and what He taught. He wants us all to be good, loving one another, and obeying our teachers and parents.


My Jesus and I is both sweet and strange. I find I’ve grown quite fond of the helpful little angels in these illustrations. They are so busy! Sometimes they are happy, sometimes dismayed, but always present, even if they are just tending the garden while you play.


Thy will be done sick


On another page, Mother Mary wakes a sleeping child while Jesus points the way to church. These are some of my favorite angels–one holding the ringing alarm clock (see the jagged sound lines!) and the other digging a shoe out from under the bed. Oh, that Sunday morning always brought such attendants!


Sunday morning


If you look at a lot of Christian children’s books you’ll find that many of them are written by women, but My Jesus and I was written by a Catholic Bishop. Who was he? I wondered.

Born in Weatherford, Texas in 1892, Louis LaRavoire Morrow grew up in Mexico (his double surname follows Hispanic custom) and, after becoming a priest, lived in the Philippines and India. He became bishop of Krishnagar in West Bengal, India and his ministry spanned World War II, the Bengal famine of 1943 and the Partition of India. He was also a Council Father to the Second Vatican Council. The Sisters of Mary Immaculate (an order which he founded) describe him as a “staunch believer and supporter of the Human Rights Programme of the United Nations; and also an ardent advocate of women’s rights.” He was a prolific writer of educational materials.

As I mentioned, My Jesus and I is still in print, and there is some discussion surrounding its depiction of evil. The current edition has apparently replaced several of the images of Satan with something more modern and less-affecting, but judging from the comments on Amazon, not everyone is in favor of the change. They are wild images, but no scarier than the Ghost of Christmas Future, and always presented within an atmosphere of calm.


Jesus temptation Hallowed be thy name



Sometimes temptation actually looks rather friendly. “Do you want candy?” The kindly devil has brought a chair to help the child reach that forbidden treat while the good angel gently pulls the child towards a picture book.




One final note: while she is not credited, many of the illustrations in My Jesus and I are signed by Anita Magsaysay (later Magsaysay-Ho), an important Philippine modernist painter. I imagine all the original images are her work.

Anita Magsaysay signature

In her biography (written by Alfredo Roces) Magsaysay-Ho said,

“In my works I always celebrate the women of the Philippines. I regard them with deep admiration and they continue to inspire me—their movements and gestures, their expressions of happiness and frustration; their diligence and shortcomings; their joy of living. I know very well the strength, hard work and quiet dignity of Philippine women, for I am one of them.” 



Every tongue confess

Five Joyful Mysteries

Five Joyful Mysteries
from Catechetical Scenes: Grace and Holy Baptism by Rev. M. Coerezza, S.D.B.
Salesian Catechetical Centre c/o Tang King Po School, Hong Kong, 1957.


Conversion of Saul

The Conversion of Saul
from Catechetical Scenes: Grace and Holy Baptism by Rev. M. Coerezza, S.D.B.
Salesian Catechetical Centre c/o Tang King Po School, Hong Kong, 1957.



These pictures come from a 17-volume series of catechetical pop-up books created in 1957 by the Salesians of Don Bosco, a Roman Catholic religious institute whose primary focus is on Christian education of young people. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the Salesian Society’s work this way: “In carrying out its principal work, instead of the old punitive or repressive system, it adopts the preventive one, thus promoting confidence and love among the children, instead of fear and hatred.”


Catechetical Scenes dust jacket

Dust Jacket blurb Catechetical Scenes



And while we’re visiting Asia, here’s a Christmas anthem from the Cheung Lo Church, Church of Christ in China.


Title: In Bethlehem A Babe Was Born (有一嬰孩生在馬槽)
Words / Music: John Carter
Chinese: 劉永生
Arrangement: 陳供生
Date: Sunday Service, December 23, 2012
Choir: Cheung Lo Church, Church of Christ in China (中華基督教會長老堂)



My Way, my Truth, my Life

The Call
George Herbert

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
such a way as gives us breath,
such a truth as ends all strife,
such a life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
such a light as shows a feast,
such a feast as mends in length,
such a strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
such a joy as none can move,
such a love as none can part,
such a heart as joys in love.

Inspired by Pope Francis’s call for Catholics to take to the streets in sharing the Gospel, Blackfriar Films hit New York City for this project. Scenes were filmed at the Brooklyn Bridge, Our Lady of Good Counsel parish, Grand Central Station, Columbus Circle, and the Staten Island ferry.

Vocals by Austin Litke, O.P.
Piano by Robert Koopmann, O.S.B.
Violin by Leah Sedlacek
Musical arrangement by Edward A. David

The video was shot by Blackfriar Films, which is the media division of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph. The crew is composed of graduates of the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU: Joshua Vargas, John Fisher, and Michael Crommett.

Seeing the Church from another point of view

I’m always interested to see how other Christians “do church.” It helps me retain some sense of the strangeness of God, and it keeps me from thinking that what I’m used to is normal and everything else is not-quite-right. I recently visited Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and here’s a bit of what I saw. (Click on the thumbnails to see the full image, then again for a larger image.)

Making the Sign of the Cross

For the most part, The Church is only now beginning to explore and understand the importance of the world wide web for ministry, hospitality, and outreach.  One of the early pioneers of online ministry is the Rev. Matthew J. Moretz, an Episcopal priest and creator of “Father Matthew Presents,” a series of light-hearted and informative video blogs begun in 2006.

Crossing oneself is a prayer for some, a reflex for others, and a superstitious gesture to many outside the tradition. It often appears in movies as shorthand for “this person believes in God” or “this person is reverting to their childhood belief” or “this person is really afraid.” No wonder that the video is one of the most frequently viewed on Father Matthew’s YouTube channel.


What if the next Pope were a nun?


E.J.Dionne gives us a thought experiment today:  what if the next person to head the Catholic Church were a nun? Dionne says that

handing leadership to a woman — and in particular, to a nun — would vastly strengthen Catholicism, help the church solve some of its immediate problems and inspire many who have left the church to look at it with new eyes.

Dionne makes an interesting case, and even if he is as he says “running ahead of the Spirit on this one” (by which he means the Holy Spirit not the Zeitgeist), his column is worth reading and thinking about.

The Catholic Church (and I would argue, the Church as a whole) is perceived as having two sides: the rigid hierarchical, doctrine- and rule-enforcing side, and the compassionate, do-justice-love-mercy working in the world side.  How can the Church become a more unified, integrated institution and overcome this dichotomy?  A Catholic who loves the Church deeply, Dionne asks us to step outside our usual processes and, just for a moment, imagine something different.

For the Church, for our lives, it’s important to perform these thought experiments from time to time: to let our God-given imaginations roam a bit in contradiction of the typical; to look at all kinds of issues and problems outside the constraints of what we believe is possible.

Something to think about as we move through Lent, pondering our sins and hoping for resurrection.


Just for fun


Joe Heller’s editorial cartoon for Shrove Tuesday.

Time Out From a Higher Calling

From The Lively Morguea peek at treasures from the clipping and photo library at the New York Times.


Jan. 20, 1994: “Time Out From a Higher Calling,” read a title on this photograph alongside a story about a group of East Harlem nuns originally from France. Sister Marie Chantal, leaping, and Sister Marie Francesca worked out at the Tae Kwon Do Academy at 828 Ninth Avenue. “The fact that we know tae kwon do doesn’t change anything,” Mother Marie Martha, the group’s mother superior told David Gonzalez, the reporter. “It’s just a sport.”

Photo: Jack Manning/The New York Times

Godzdogz blog



Yesterday while roaming the internet, I discovered something delightful:  The English Dominican Studentate at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford have created a snazzy blog with lots of lively and thoughtful posts, and a fun section on Biblical Beasts.  They have audio and video, explanations and sermons, and they’ll even take your questions via email.  It a website that’s well worth a visit.

If you’re not familiar with the Dominicans, the blog takes its name from a Latin pun.  Here’s how they explain it:

The name ‘Dominican’, although derived from the name of our holy father and Founder, St Dominic, is also a pun on the Latin phrase “Domini canes” which means ‘Dogs of the Lord.’

This was itself based on a dream which St Dominic’s mother, Blessed Juana de Aza, had in 1170 when she was pregnant: she saw a black and white dog with a torch in its mouth setting the world ablaze. This was interpreted to refer to St Dominic and his spiritual children, the Dominican Order – in their black and white habits – whose preaching brings the light of Gospel truth to shine upon and inflame the world with divine love.

And so, this site represents the ‘barks’ of this pack of ‘God’s dogs’, hopefully gathering all into the flock of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd!