A hundred years ago today, Muriel Spark, my favorite Major Catholic Writer of the 20th Century,1 was born in Edinburgh. To celebrate, the Scottish literary magazine The Bottle Imp has published an issue devoted to her writing. Overall, the articles are interesting, readable and free of academese, though of course no substitute for reading Spark herself.
If you haven’t read Spark, do so. Before she was a novelist, she was a poet, and her prose is a pleasure to read. Her novels are precisely as long as they need to be and not one word longer. Her best-known, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, is a good one to start with, as is Memento Mori, a funny story about old people dying. (There’s more to it than that, of course.) There are also her short stories.
… Hawthorne couldn’t stand Emerson or any of that crowd. When one of them came in the front door, Hawthorne went out the back. He met one of them one morning and snarled, “Good Morning Mr. G., how is your Oversoul this morning?”
O’Connor may be the greatest Catholic writer of fiction of the 20th century, but the book of hers I most enjoy is a collection of her letters, The Habit of Being.
It was my good fortune half a lifetime ago to spend time around Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, who passed away recently. Cardinal Seán O’Malley, in his homily at Lorenzo’s funeral, tells some stories that illustrate one side of Lorenzo’s memorable personality.
It was also around that time when Lorenzo first met Cardinal O’Boyle the Archbishop of Washington. Lorenzo and I spent a lot of time at St. Matthews Cathedral where I was working with Rosario Corredera and the Hispanic community. Lorenzo used to drive me very often. One day, as he was wont to do, Lorenzo parked in the Cardinal’s parking space… (Any ‘no parking’ sign was an invitation to Lorenzo.) At that moment Cardinal O’Boyle was approaching and confronted Lorenzo: “who are you,” he asked. Lorenzo replied: “I am the Cardinal”. Cardinal O’Boyle, who was something of a curmudgeon, answered back: “I am the Cardinal!” To which Lorenzo said: “yes, you are the day Cardinal; I am the night Cardinal.”
It is no wonder that after his first Mass, Lorenzo’s mother asked me to bless her new apartment. I said, “But, doña Conchita, your son was just ordained.” She said, “Yes, padre, but I think he is joking.”
There’s more at the Cardinal’s site. (Scroll down to “Tuesday.”)
For those of you who use your computer to make noise, Native Instruments is offering a nice little compressor for free through the end of the year. NI’s Mikro Prism is another interesting freebie, a soft synth with a distinctive sound.
Something I came across this morning: Christian “popular” music that isn’t embarrassing. ((Although there are many good musicians who are seriously religious, the only one marketed as a “Christian” performer whom I enjoy listening to is Phil Keaggy, a superb guitarist and pretty good singer and songwriter.)) In 1976, Sister Irene O’Connor, a Franciscan nun in Australia, recorded the album Fire of God’s Love, playing every instrument and singing every vocal part. It wasn’t exactly a runaway hit in its day, and the vinyl now is a fabulous rarity. Here’s the reverb-drenched “Fire (Luke 12:49)” from the album:
Far more listenable than anything the St. Louis Jesuits and their ilk ever produced (faint praise, yes). You can listen to two more tracks here, but apparently that’s all there is of the album that’s online.
Sister O’Connor is still around and making music. There’s an interview with her here, and she has a facebook page.
The bishop administered Confirmation this Pentecost Sunday at the Cathedral this morning. While he was annointing the confirmandi, a string quartet in the choir loft played the “nocturne” from Borodin’s quartet. I would have enjoyed it under other circumstances, but this was the wrong place and time for the music. I suppose I should grateful that it wasn’t Marty Haugen or the St. Louis Jesuits.
A note on current events in the Catholic Church: everything you read in the secular press is complete and absolute BS. Don’t believe anything you read. I suggest checking in occasionally with Elizabeth Scalia if you want an informed perspective.
Our Latin Mass choir here has, counting myself and my husband, three men and eight women. The oldest person in the choir is about 40, or not much older, four of us are in our 20s, and four are teenagers.
In contrast, there is currently no one in the parish choir, that sings at the main English-language Mass of the day, who is under 50.