About this blogger:
Ronda Chervin received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University and an MA in Religious Studies from Notre Dame Apostolic Institute. A widow, mother, and grandmother, she currently teaches philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Write to her at chervinronda@gmail.com.
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“In the 17th century came the crushing blow which destroyed the beauty of all Breviary hymns. Pope Urban VIII (d. 1644) was a Humanist. In a fatal moment he saw that the hymns do not all conform to the rules of classical prosody.”
— Fr. Adrian Fortescue (d. 1923)

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Unexpected Illustrations of Truths
published 19 April 2013 by Dr. Ronda Chervin

TEACH A COURSE on The Nature of Love. In it we read The Heart by Dietrich Von Hildebrand. He has a chapter on tenderness in contrast to a kind of paralysis of the heart exemplified in doing ones duty by others but not with tender empathy.

In answer to a question of mine about tender emotions in their lives, an African minister in a Canadian parish wrote these words. They jolted me away from arguments about immigration policies to more of a response from the heart:

“Hildebrand seems to suggest that tender emotions are highly sensitive and are often compassionate, considerate and understanding of others and able to imagine the depth of another person’s feelings.

“When I first moved to North America the move was not an easy process for me as a single person. I came to Canada with very high expectations hoping for a greater life or as they say to peruse the American dream. But things turned out to be just the opposite and I found myself living just to survive to pay my bills. It reached a point where I experienced some depression but fortunately after living here for more than 10 years I have accepted the reality of living in North America. I work with many immigrants who struggle to adapt to the environments: economic and social institutions. Difficulties in overcoming these challenges have affected many immigrants’ long term prospects of adjusting to a different culture, learning a new language, and accomplishing in the labour market. For example, I know of many examples of skilled immigrants who arrive with a sense of adventure and optimism, only to be to be disappointed and sometimes overwhelmed by obstacles to meaningful employment. Some people that I work with have built up frustration to the point of depression and some have suffered from mental-health problems to point where it has affected their ability to deal with the daily challenges of life.

Being in depression is horrific. I always think how hard it is to adjust into a new environment. I often feel pain for their struggle especially those who come with large families. Out of my own experience, “I understand and feel the pain” of what these immigrants go through. I always try to share my own experiences of something that I have done in the past that may be helpful to them. Responding with tender emotions such as identifying with their condition is a wonderful thing to be able to do; the rewards are gratifying, to see those struggling with adaptation discover that the road to achievement often involves bumps, pitfalls, and setbacks. Adaptation is never out of reach, no matter how hopeless the situation might seem. Change is possible with the right treatment and support, and by having the right attitude and not giving up—even if you’ve tried and failed before. But by examining the problem and thinking about change, you’re already on your way.”

On another related question he responded:

“Most people in ministry do not like to be objectified but desire tender emotions from their spiritual leaders. For example, nobody would be amused if a pastor welcomes them, spent time meeting with them, or had a meal with them but later discover that it was only done out of duty or pastoral obligation. Such an action would be considered hypocritical or insincere. Duty without tenders emotions such as love and joy reflect that a person does not care and treasure the one they serve. When we love the ones we serve and treasure them, just the opposite happens where duty is not done out of obligation but out of love and joy.”

“One of the breakthroughs I have experienced in showing tender feelings is that it makes others less likely to resort to trickery and deception to get what they want or to get attention. When other people’s feelings have been uplifted and they know they are loved, is much easier for them to change or improve in their moral lives than if their lives have been taken for granted.”

The students had an option to “Describe key moments in your life when you were moved in your heart to respond in a new way to other human beings or to God.

He wrote: “High expectations can have a positive effect because at times help people meet their goals. Low expectations can lead to negative impact where people tend to underperform and may lose confidence in their abilities and show symptoms of dissatisfaction. I think it is important to have a good balance between the two in order to have a healthy church. Because of my personality type, I tend to have very high expectations for the people I serve to the point that it is becoming a problem to some. The expectations I have developed for the people have even caused me not to enjoy my congregation the way I should. I find myself disappointed because certain goals are not met. The end result of all this is that I am at the point where I am filled with ingratitude and unable to give thanks to God for the people he has entrusted me with.

The expectation I have for the people come from within me. Since I tend to be a perfectionist, I expect people to live up to my expectations. It takes much to be satisfied with what I do. I am beginning to realize that if I continue like this I am the one who will fail eventually. I need to remove the pressure from my shoulder.”

Back from my 2007 Journals:

At Mass, I meditated on poverty of spirit – I thought that fantasies of escape are ersatz riches.

Me, Speaking #5 Liturgy as Encore February, 2007

I took a new friend of mine, Amy, to a Mass. She was baptized in the Episcopal Church but not brought up to be religious. Watching her watching the liturgy, so familiar to me, I thought of this analogy probably because my priest is an organist and Amy is a cellist.

Suppose an organist started his daily practice each day with a favorite Bach piece and ended his practice with the same piece. Over time it would become “his song,” and he would never tire of it. It would become the framework of his time at the organ.

Similarly, the priest intones the words of the liturgy every day and on the weekend many times. He must experience it as God’s song. And think that if he sings it well enough to his tired flock, it will sing in their hearts as they go through their difficult week or day. It will become the framework of their lives.

I am thinking of a lovely way Catherine De Hueck Dougherty, of Madonna House fame, used to console the burdened. She would say, “everything happens between 2 Masses.”

The same might be said for the repetitious words of the rosary. Often boring for children forced to repeat them in family prayer, for devotees they become Mary’s song and we her choir.

After Vatican II there was a move to replace the simple rosary, thought to be said in too rote like a manner, with the Scriptural rosary, broken up on each decade and sometimes each bead with Scripture passages. I liked it at first, but then found it required too much effort. I was relieved to read in the book of some psychologist of religion, that the rosary, like prayers in several other religions, is like a “mantra.” the purpose is not meditation on religious mysteries, but letting them soak into the unconscious. Isn’t that true of our favorite songs, whether they be popular or classical? We have taken in the meaning of the song so that at the very first notes the entire mood of it infects us with glee or hope.

Praying in tongues is much the same, especially singing in tongues. An interpretation helps but we don’t want to hear more and more elaborate interpretations or variations. We want the meaning permeating the melody to lift us into another realm – the kingdom of heaven.

I think of daily Mass sometimes as keeping one foot in heaven – especially so that the other foot doesn’t get caught in the quicksand of my often compulsively anxious thought patterns.

It is considered to be a sign of success if at the end of the concert the people rise to their feet and yell “encore.”

Our whole lives of liturgy and rosary and praying of the psalms – what are they if not encores?

In heaven, I imagine that musicians get to play along with their favorite composers.”