18 Nov

The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

The Catholic theologian Peter Kreeft has a very simple proof of God, which he calls 'The Argument from Aesthetic Experience." It goes like this: 

            There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

            Therefore there must be a God.

            You either see this or you don't.

Bach will not be the topic of our discussion.  Franz Joseph Haydn, a contemporary of Bach's, will be, however.  The Austrian composer, born in 1732 (Bach died in 1750), is known as the "Father of the Symphony." He ushered in the musical era known as the 'Classical Period,' while Bach was of the 'Baroque Period.'  Haydn was a devout Catholic.  He prayed daily, received the Eucharist, and relied on God for strength both in his work and in his life.  In fact, he once said about his relationship with Mary, "If my composing is not proceeding so well, I walk up and down the room with my rosary in my hand, say several Aves, and then ideas come to me again."

Haydn arranged 14 Mass settings.  The Missa Brevis in F is perhaps his most famous. His Missa in tempore belli (Mass in a time of war) is also worth a listen.

Mass settings in classical music are very different than the ones we hear today at Mass at a typical parish.  The five parts of the Mass set to elaborate choral and orchestral composition are the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Credo, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei.  Each part could be five to ten minutes long!

Now, one would think composing the Mass over and over again (the words do not change) would eventually grow boring and monotonous, but not for Haydn.  Each musical composition was a prayer for him.  And he made the glory of his profession add to the glory of God. 

11 Nov

A Short History of World War I

World War I ended one hundred years ago today.  There are many anecdotes relating to Catholicism from this cataclysmic event we could invoke to inspire us.  There are also lessons from the conflict, which took 20 million lives, which we could apply to the spiritual and moral life to help us grow. With this in mind, allow me to quote at length an insight about the Great War from the historian James L. Stokesbury in A Short History of World War I

04 Nov

Exercising Patience

An old eastern legend tells the story of a stranger who sought shelter for the night in another's tent. He awoke in the middle of the night and blasphemed God because he could not fall back to sleep. Awakened by the stranger's profanity, the scandalized tent owner drove the man from his home. In the morning, an angel appeared to the owner, exclaiming: "I sent a stranger to you for shelter. Where is he?" "I would not let him stay," explained the owner, "because he blasphemed God." "For forty years," replied the Angel, "God has been patient with that man. For one single night could you not bear with him?"