I must take issue with W. Patrick Cunningham on a small point in his otherwise excellent article on the liturgy (Jul.-Aug.). Regarding “amen” he writes: “The good Semitic pronunciation is ‘Ah-men,’ and Catholics said it that way until the 1960s, when they went to see Sidney Poitier in Lilies of the Field and came out singing its catchy theme song, ‘Amen…see the baby, Amen, wrapped in the manger….’ We have largely mispronounced it ever since.”
Not so! I was born in 1921, attended Catholic elementary and high schools, two Catholic universities, and of course thousands of religious services. We always used “ah-men” when praying or singing in Latin and always used “a-men” when doing the same in English. Sidney Poitier had nothing to do with it
In my parish today, Latin is sung only during Benediction and our “a-mens” dutifully change to “ah-mens.”
James P. Zietlow
Sadness Alleviated at Christendom College
My ever-growing sadness over the state of the Catholic Church in America was alleviated one Sunday late last August My husband and I were privileged to attend the Mass of the Holy Spirit at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, celebrated in honor of the beginning of the 2000-2001 academic year.
Founded in 1977, Christendom is one of only about a half dozen Catholic colleges in the U.S. which are truly educating today’s young men and women in the tenets of their faith as well as in academic subjects. A high percentage of its graduates go on to pursue vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and many others will become the parents of the next generation of Catholics. With an atmosphere such as the one we found in the chapel of this magnificent institution of higher learning, the Faith will remain secure.
As the students filed into the beautiful chapel that Sunday morning, the young ladies all wore dresses and the young men wore coats and ties. There was not one sound heard from the congregation before, during, or after Mass. Following reverent genuflections, the students entered their pews and knelt in prayer, most of them remaining in that position until Mass began. Many prayed the Rosary and many buried their face in their hands. Several of the young women wore mantillas on their heads.
Moments before the start of Mass, a choir began singing the Veni Creator in Gregorian chant The organ began the prelude to the processional hymn, “Come Holy Ghost” The hymn numbers were posted so there was no distracting voice announcing the hymn, as there often is in parishes, and there was also no irritating “Good morning! Please rise!”
The celebrant for this special liturgy was Archbishop Paul Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. The priests from Christendom College were preceded in procession by five acolytes and the college’s lay faculty. Following the homily, the faculty stood up and took an Oath of Fidelity to teach the Catholic Faith in complete agreement with the Holy Father and the Magisterium as set forth in Ex Corde Ecclesiae. At how many other Catholic colleges does this happen?
The choir and congregation sang the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei in Latin. All genuflected at the Et Incarnatus Est. Eucharistic Prayer Number One (the old Roman Canon) was said. Incense was used liberally. At the Consecration, the sacred Species were incensed and the sanctuary bells were rung slowly for several seconds. At the same time, the bell in the chapel’s tower was also rung.
The congregation sang the Our Father and, mirabile dictu, there was not even an inkling that anyone might want to hold his neighbor’s hand! And at the Sign of Peace, words were exchanged between celebrant and congregation, fully sufficient without the vacuous grinning and gripping of hands among strangers which seems to pervade most Masses today ? this at the time when one should be preparing his heart to receive Our Lord.
Holy Communion. What a magnificent Supper of the Lamb it becomes in the chapel of Christendom College! It is distributed under one Species, which all receive kneeling at the altar rail. In the deep silence of that beautiful chapel, there is the profound and tangible awareness of the sacred Presence of Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. There were no bustling lay Eucharistic Ministers, no vapid modem hymns, no distractions of any kind.
The rather long ceremony passed like mere minutes. This was not the Mass of the average Catholic parish in America. This was not something that people attend under duress and then leave behind for another week. I saw no gum chewing, no short shorts, heard no giggling children. This was Mass as Mass is supposed to be, the Unbloody Sacrifice and Eucharistic Banquet of Our Lord Jesus Christ This special holy place in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia should be in every NOR reader’s prayers because it is from this place that tomorrow’s leaders of the Faith will learn and grow and receive their benediction.
Mrs. John R. Moore
Virginia Beach, Virginia
New York's Vocations Picture
After I received my September issue and read the letter from Steve Schwarz challenging a statement in my article (June) about the vocations situation in the Archdiocese of New York, I sent an e-mail to a friend beginning his first semester of study in the four-year theologate program at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York. I asked him to verify Schwarz’s claim that there were only 25 enrollees in the theologate. He responded as follows: “My first-year class [not counting the other three classes] has 21 candidates, 17 of whom are for the Archdiocese of New York. There are more than 25 here, take my word for it. [The first-year class] was 10 but it became 17 when Archbishop Egan canceled the spirituality year [the extra year of formation added by the late Cardinal O’Connor]. It is now the largest class since 1991.”
1 concede that when I wrote my article, my information was somewhat dated, and that the term “abundance” may not apply to the vocations picture in New York at present. However, a few days after receiving the e-mail quoted above, I called St. Joseph’s Seminary and again found that the situation is not quite as stark as Schwarz portrayed it. While it is true that the numbers of seminarians and ordinations in the past few years are down in New York, his portrayal of the downward trend as “inexorable” does not obtain under close scrutiny. Furthermore, it would appear that another of his figures is inaccurate. After I spoke with the registrar at St. Joseph’s, she sent me an e-mail with the following statistics for ordinations for the Archdiocese of New York: 1994: 12; 1995: 8; 1996: 11; 1997: 8; 1998: 4 (one should factor in the effect of the additional year of spiritual formation for this year); 1999: 8 (not two, as claimed by Schwarz); 2000: 5. By way of comparison, the numbers of ordinations for the years immediately preceding O’Connor’s installation were: 1980: 6; 1981: 11; 1982: 11; and 1983: 17 (the same number as the current first-year class which began in September 2000). It would seem that a more objective manner of describing the general trend would be “cyclical” rather than constantly decreasing. Moreover, the additional one-year spirituality requirement added by Cardinal O’Connor is generally not part of the priestly formation program of other dioceses. After this requirement was eliminated by Archbishop Egan, the total enrollment at St. John’s became 54, of whom 31 are for the Archdiocese of New York (not 25). Schwarz also mentions “attrition” without mentioning the opposite: persons who transfer in from another seminary (my friend at St. John’s being a case in point).
Larry A. Carstens
No. Hollywood, California
As a convert to Catholicism of five years, I’ve experienced the ills that have befallen the Church. I hope I’ve tasted them all, and need not taste any more. And it didn’t take me long to sicken of the tapioca pudding that some Catholic periodicals serve up for their readers. Still, the joy of conversion remains — the Church herself, the Mass, the other sacraments, the Tradition, and the Truth.
The NOR inspires me with hope. I’m grateful for the courage with which you address various issues. I’ve now developed my sea legs as a Catholic, and the waves of those who would sink the Ark of Peter no longer knock me over.
Dr. Joan McClure
Try a Different Approach
I’ve spent a year contemplating the problem of certain Catholic periodicals refusing to print your humorous — and accurate — ads. I’ve been enlightened by the Spirit as to what to do. Keep placing your humorous ads in the periodicals that accept them, but try a different, more informational approach in those periodicals that ban your ads.
Myself, I love sarcasm, and I love your “Bozo” ads. But people have different tastes. I am a teacher, and every one of my students is different I can’t expect them all to like the same thing or respond to the same challenge. It’s the same with ads. Make different ads to appease those periodicals that refuse your ads — without compromising the content of the NOR — and gain some subscribers from the very periodicals that fear you. Is this deceitful? No. It is wording ads to appeal to those who might just benefit from the fine articles you print.
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