Liturgy Newsletter — Reviews
Edited by Douglas J. Davies with Lewis H. Mates.
Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2005
ISBN 0 7546 3773 5
Is this a book you need on your bookshelf? Quite possibly not, but it is going to prove an essential reference work that needs to be in College and Seminary libraries.
Cremation is a practice long condemned by the Catholic Church, at least for its own members, and even now treated with suspicion by some. Even so it is a practice which is now permitted by the Church and made use of with increasing regularity.
Yet we have perhaps not done as much thinking about the practice and its consequences as we ought. Little guidance is provided for those who ask for the cremation of the bodies of deceased members of the family or friends about how the cremated remains might be appropriately ‘disposed’ of, of enabling memorialisation and so on. Our customs in this regard were largely developed in the context of burial of bodies in coffins, and they have not translated especially well into the increasingly densely populated urban centres. Those customs are fit the circumstances of cremation even less well.
There is a task for the Church here, if her members are not to be drawn into the diverse practices of society at large, practices which if not actually contradicting Catholic theology are frequently in significant tension with it. The secularizing effect of, for example, the use of crematoria is something that merits further thought by the Church in England and Wales, as does the increasingly common practice of any final ‘disposal’ of ashes without religious service. As Catholics we should be especially sensitive to the culture-bearing nature of ritual. We surrender collective responsibility for our community’s rituals at our peril.
The Encyclopaedia provides brief but helpful entries on a wide range of topics — columbaria, gardens of remembrance, book of remembrance and death registration, for example. But the fuller articles are the reviews of national practice — both of modern nation states — Northern and Southern Hemisphere, East and West — and of historic cultures — the Norse, the Romans and so on.
The book will be invaluable for those who are taking the increasingly popular Death Studies courses in Colleges and Universities. It is a useful reference book for those with responsibility for cremation, cemeteries and burial practice. It is likely to prove a fascinating read for most anyone who picks it up.
Schola Cantamus (LCD 006)
Exsultet is the most recent in the series of CDs produced by The Music Makers to assist parishes sing the Church’s liturgy. Details of all the disks in the series, and how to order them can be found on the Music Makers website — www.themusicmakers.org — though this reference is not quoted on the disk or its packaging.
The Music Makers have a commitment to build up the repertoire of quality church music by creating new music according to the guidelines set by Vatican II, and drawing inspiration from the Gregorian tradition. They are perhaps best known for their work of trying to re-establish Gregorian chant itself in the repertoire of parishes.
One of the sad features about the liturgical controversies which have marred Church life over recent years has been the way that groups and individuals have effectively adopted either ‘Old equals good’ or ‘New equals good’ as their slogan and modus operandi. The blindness which follows frustrates the authentic renewal of the liturgy, and politicises it.
Perhaps old slogans are being reconsidered in many quarters - not least because of the stalemate that has been achieved with regard to liturgical translation and adaptation of rites. There certainly would seem to be a recognition that too much of the cultural tradition of the Church was effectively off-loaded during from the 1960s through to the 1980s. The consequent cultural impoverishment has proved debilitating, and the need remains for significant ressourcement, so that in any particular pastoral situation what is best might be chosen. And by best I mean what can be expected to draw the worshipping congregation most deeply into the prayer which is theirs — not simply on that occasion, and with a care to what they may previously have been familiar with, but with a care to the future, and what they might truly benefit from becoming familiar with.
This present CD offers chants for Holy Week. It will be most widely used, I suspect, by those who simply want to listen to these great songs. It was a pity the texts (Latin and English) were not included — they could have fed prayer. But potentially the most significant use of the CD will be to help choirs, cantors and clergy hear how to sing the pieces. Not all are proficient in reading plainchant notation, and the CD is a great aid.
But just how many parishes will consider that it is best to sing the Exsultet in Latin? Not many I guess. Likewise, even, with the Gloria, laus et honor and the Attende Domine. Where there are decent English translations, and especially where these allow the use of the plainchant, the advantages of the vernacular setting are likely to win the day in most parishes.
Even where there are not decent English equivalents, and when what is then put in place is not worthy and fitting, it may still be the case that those responsible will not feel able to use these Latin settings — the music group is not up to it, the congregation will not ‘take’ to the music, will not be able to pray with the texts. But if all this CD was able to do was to confront us with the poor standards of celebration that are still too commonly encountered, and challenge those responsible to consider seriously how they might move forward, it will serve a good purpose. There is much still to do to bring about the quality of sung liturgy urged by the Holy See, cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal (3rd edition) 39-41, and by our own Bishops, cf. Celebrating the Mass 75-77 and 80-90.
Compiled by Linda Jones.
CAFOD 2005 £5.99
ISBN 1 871549 87 6
As Chris Bain, Director of CAFOD, says in his introduction to this volume, ‘Images of Prayer is a different kind of prayerbook. We started with the pictures….’ And the pictures are drawn from situations all over the world, of people who CAFOD works with and the situations that are theirs’, every day.
The volume provides pictures and text related to five different themes: Livelihood; Emergencies; Conflict; HIV and Aids; and Economic Justice. The volume is a generous, almost coffee table, size, permitting the pictures to be large enough to be easily ‘read’, and there are a variety of texts — scripture, prayers, reflections — but none of them too long and all of them likely to provoke contemplation.
Prayer books rarely get reviewed for the Liturgy Newsletter, for they are not especially liturgical. However this one is being reviewed, and for two reasons.
The first is that it is valuable to have a prayer resource which can help us engage with the sorts of circumstances that we regularly see on our TV screens and are described in our papers and magazines. We are regularly bombarded with information, and this resource will enable us to slow down, and ponder on something which truly merits our deeper consideration.
A particular virtue of this volume is that the prayers and reflections derive from a considerable number of contributors — all of them either members of CAFOD’s UK staff, or from CAFOD partners overseas. These are people who have learnt to make the connection between their world, their work and their prayer. This connection is essential for authentic Christian living and for authentic Christian worship. It is a connection that can never be taken for granted. This book has the potential to assist those who use it to consider how they attend to the connection in the rest of their lives.
Secondly the relationship between the visual and text is something too often neglected in our liturgy. Maybe praying with a resource such as this will provoke people to think about how the visual might be enhanced in their times of public worship, be that the liturgy itself, or other times of public prayer.