EVERYONE loves the sound of his own voice. The only point of those home tape-recording machines is to gratify this pleasure. And that ritual squeal of embarrassment given when some recorded cliche thuds into a crowded room is, as Nanny used to say, "pure affectation".
All that was caused by a new CTS pamphlet costing 35p and called "The Lector's Handbook". Fr J. D. Crichton (who is one of the sanest men in Britain on the liturgy) has written on the reader's task. Fr Reginald Fuller has written a practical guide to the outlandish names in Holy Writ. Mrs Marie Anderson writes about reading aloud.
Just a few points then. Fr Crichton tends to make the lector's job a scholarly and spiritually exigent ordeal. We would not get many on his [terms. He says inier anti: "He may direct the singing of the people and stimulate them to active participation."
Except over my dead body, he may not, I dislike those churchly conductors who wave their arms as if they were angels crossed with drum majorettes trying to take off only as much as the guitars they temporarily favour.
He tells the reader to look up "from time to time" at the people. This is pure ham, and you'll lose your place. Even the Pope keeps his eye on the book
in the preliminary to Urbi es OrN. Despite Fr Crichton, the reader must be encouraged to drop his voice at the end of major sentences. To raise it is parsonical.
He writes that volunteers should be asked for. This is the Priestly Fallacy. No one volunteers in England — and if they do they are the wrong sort of people. They must be invited. He recommends two readers at a Mass. In our parish we find four barely enough. He is right that the over-emphasis on prepositions is a bad Catholic habit. I'd go further. The proper public pronunciation of "to" is "terand of "for" is "fer". More than that, "a" is pronounced "Cr", and should be swallowed.
Mrs Anderson says: "Reading aloud is a great art". Of course it's not. It's a civilised accomplishment, Lectors should be natural. They are not performers. Tell them to watch out for the commas, for the illconstructed and tonguetwisting sentences in the lectionary left by translators from the Latin who thought that Latin was lord. Tell them to read it through, if necessary during the opening hymn, and tell them to speak up and not smack their lips.
The guide to the pronunciation of words is the greatest fun. Fr Fuller says, when in doubt, follow the Protestant tradition. They have been at the vernacular longer than we and we used to use names like Noe, Osee, Abdias for Noah, Hosea and Obadiah.
If you find any difficulty with words like Lycaonia, Lysanias, Philemon, Put and Zarephath, this is a must. Though I think that in some words "th" is pronounced "t", and I disagree with several of his accentuations. For example, he recommends Ecbatana and Attalla and Baruch. Dear me, No!
I indulged myself writing that. Hand on heart, it is a most enjoyable and useful and sensible little book. Never judge by appearances. In fact, I thoroughly and enthusiastically recommend it.
P.S.: After writing that piece I was invited to read the first lesson at last Sunday's Mass, It contained this melodious phrase, "together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolaus of Antioch, a convert to Judaism". I used the pamphlet in advance — and won.
Hymns Ancient and Protestant
CHARLES WESLEY (170788) must have been the most prolific hymn writer in history. He wrote more than 6,000, beating both Frs Faber and Caswell. Which is all right with me.
He was the younger brother of John Wesley and together, at Christ Church, Oxford, they started a group which met regularly to study and pray according to a plan. Derisively, at first, they were called Methodists. We were called "Roman" Catholics to the same end, though "the Italian Mission" was both wittier and more malicious.
They were sons of a Lincolnshire rector. John, ordained, came to believe in the communion of the individual with God without priestly intervention. He underwent the conversion experience. He was an Arminian and believed that God bestows forgiveness and salvation on all who repent and
He preached where he could. The Church of England repudiated him and his somewhat early Franciscan methods. He appealed especially to the poor and the Celts of Wales and Cornwall who were beginning to lose touch with the privileged Anglican Church.
Very austere in ritual, indifferent to bishops, he is said to have preached 40,000 sermons. While riding circuit on horseback, he used often to read the Jesuit, Robert Bellarmine, Cardinal, Bishop, ascetic saint and a great theological controversialist.
The plain "classes" with which his organisation began were enriched by fervid hymnsinging. All this was dismissed by the cool and sophisticated as "enthusiasm", then regaded as an ill-bred emotion.
Charles Wesley. He would once have had 18. And his highest is only number six on the chart — "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling."
Catholics have lately recognised the universality and verbal splendour of some of Charles Wesley's hymns. The Westminster Hymnal (New and Revised Edition, 1952) has none of his work.
In the Parish Hymn Book ("Compiled by a Committee of Priests and 'Laymen, 1966") there are six of his hymns. The New Catholic Hymnal of 1971 has seven. Praise the Lord (Melody Edition, 1972) has six of his hymns. The only hymn common to all of these is "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling", and I cannot say that I know it.
This inter-denominational hymn-poaching is now an accepted practice. We sing "Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands" by Martin
Luther. Anglicans sing "Faith of Our Fathers" by Fr Faber of the London Oratory. I think "Full in the Panting Heart of Rome" remains exclusively ours.
The Praise the Lord collection has an elegant and practical harvest hymn by my neighbour, sports commentator John Arlott, which does not make him a Catholic or his hymn heretical.
Facing the facts of death
IT IS prudent to plan for your old age, though the way things are, it is unlikely to make such difference. It is helpful to make your will, but you can get by without one. But do people still plan their obsequies?
There was a time when quite ordinary men went to extravagant lengths and when the poor scrimpecr and suffered to leave enough to give themselves a proper send-off.
Popes usurped large corners of St Peter's and got their tombs made while they were still alive to supervise. They have sobered up since then, and Pius XII and John XXIII lie in decent sarcophagi deep in niches in the crypt of St Peter's. No Bernini skeleton raises a gilded hour glass to them there; no marble angel urges them to heaven.
City merchants used to leave the most elaborate instructions for their burial. Apart from details about the plate and the beds, a rich man's will tended to specify details about candles, professional mourners, hatchments and funeral bakemeats.
Literary gentlemen were pleased to write long epitaphs which endured longer but were less reliable than obituaries in The Times. Suitable sums were left for chantries, almshouses, parish virgins, gentlefolk on hard times, and poor scholars, Henry Vlif asked for a thousand Masses. President Kennedy probably got more than any man in history. Now it is "no flowers by request" and far too much money left for an
There is something vulgar about planning your own false apotheosis. You cannot even buy posthumous fame. Nor can the formalities of death delight you. The second silliest phrase in English is "he would have liked it that way." The awful truth is that he couldn't care less.
Anyway, the disposable coffin is in. In Washington you can get make-it-yourself coffin kits, or pine boxes, rectangular or mummy-styled, which can be used as Early American fur
niture until their time comes. You can also get them in sturdy cardboard. And just now they are painting their coffins in meaningful colours. It is unsettling. I should like the Berlioz Requiem for myself,
but our church is small and there must be room for a few of the family. I would like the sort of procession that stops the traffic and annoys the police. I would like the church hung in black in the French manner and all the shops in the village shut.
I would like a black edge to the Catholic Herald and then print all smudged with grief. But I am a reasonable person, and when the time comes will behave in the usual manner.
Another batch of sinners
THE FRONTIERS of sin seem to be changing unaccountably. Most forms of sin may be explained away or at least diminished in the current fashion — except gluttony. And gluttony used to be the most lovable of the Seven Deadlies.
The Oral Roberts University, an institution of the lowest prestige and fundamentalist tenets founded by a noisy revivalist radio preacher in America, now sacks fat students.
A Frances Hunter has written a book, "God's Answer to Fat". Whatever question was posed, the answer appears to be "Less calories". There is another book called "More of Jesus and Less of Me". This lady writes "I can't imagine Jesus coming out of the supermarket with 12 bugs of chips, one for each apostle". Neither can