ICHARD NIXON COMBED his hair the opposite way growing up because as a child he sustained a head injury falling from a horse-drawn buggy. You heard me correctly: Richard Nixon—a man who would live to see the moon landing, the fall of the Soviet Union, and even the advent of the internet (before his death in 1994)—could remember pre-automobile days. This is a reminder to us: “Truth is stranger than fiction.”
Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction: What will future generations think when they consider our age? Vatican II said “choirs must be diligently promoted” (SC §114), yet virtually none of the spirit of Vatican II parishes promote choirs—instead, they have a single cantor with a microphone. Vatican II said Vespers should be “celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts” (SC §100), yet the spirit of Vatican II parishes ignore that. Vatican II said Gregorian Chant “should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (SC §116) with special emphasis on polyphony and organ music, yet most spirit of Vatican II parishes promote goofy, secular, undignified songs. Vatican II said the Latin language must be preserved in the Latin rites; yet we know what has happened. The list goes on and on. The strange thing is, my parish (which is “Extraordinary Form”) is doing all the things Vatican II wanted!
Injustice Is Real: I suspect anyone who has ever tried to be a faithful Catholic choir director in today’s environment has suffered hardships and injustices. Each of us could probably “write a book” about such experiences. In the United States, it has been particularly painful to observe how the USCCB gives special advantages to composers who (publicly) lead immoral lives and deny Church teaching on various issues.
Mass in a Barn: It is helpful to consider the life of Father Adrian Fortescue, the preëminent scholar of his time. The word “polymath” does not begin to describe this man, who earned three doctorates and was a specialist in a fantastic amount of sundry fields. Fortescue could have had a brilliant career as an Anglican, which is the state-sponsored religion in England (meaning Anglicans have access to luxurious benefices, huge churches, and choirs paid for by the secular state). But Fortescue was only interested in the church founded by Christ—viz. the Catholic Church—therefore he accepted miserable conditions. When he first arrived at his parish, there was no church, so he had to offer Mass in a barn until a church could be built.
Only One Thing: Fortescue also died young—which from a worldly perspective seems such a “waste” of all that education—yet faithful Catholics realize that our time on earth is like “the blink of an eye” and only one thing is necessary (Lk 10:42). Indeed, people who have everything quickly find out that worldly joys do not endure, and many end up committing suicide: Elvis Presley, Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Anthony Bourdain, Michael Jackson, and so forth. Shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer, Fortescue put the parish papers in order for his successor, preached his last homily (“Christ our Friend and Comforter”), and entered his little church for a long and final farewell. Fortescue’s biographer says: “He was seen to kiss fervently the altar on which he had so often offered the Holy Sacrifice, about which he had written so profoundly.”
Patron Saints: Catholic church musicians know what it is like to face serious obstacles year after year. I would suggest that the very best patrons we can have are the Jesuit Martyrs, who are the patron saints of North America (Patróni Sáncti Boreális Américae). I say this because these brave men left the most civilized country in Europe to bring the Catholic Faith to the people of the New World, and experienced daily hardships beyond anything we could possibly imagine. Their bravery and faith in JESUS CHRIST was truly heroic—and they remained joyful despite very heavy (daily) crosses. Their EF feast-day is 26 September; their OF feast-day is 19 October. Here is a very brief chart which gives an “overview” of each Martyr:
* PDF Download • EXPLANATION CHART
—Explaining how each martyr was murdered.
Below, you will find images of each martyr.
Some pictures with all the (canonized) Martyrs of North America together: