1. I once visited the monastery of the Norbertine Fathers in California, but I didn't get to hear them chant. Now I have, and you can too: they've just released a new album, Gregorian Chant: Requiem. I received a review copy last week, and I've listened to it several times already because the music is so peaceful and soothing. The album was recorded during a violent storm, and so the sound of pounding rain can be heard at times, underscoring the chant. Sounds about right for the Mass for the Dead.
The requiem mass is very familiar, even to people who don't know much about chant: the Sanctus and Agnus Dei are the most commonly-sung Latin settings in American parishes. The Norbertine Fathers apparently use a form of chant exclusive to their order, but I couldn't tell the difference except for a few melodic quirks in the more elaborate pieces. The monks have outgrown their old quarters, but as their current monastery is built on geologically unstable ground, they'll have to start from scratch on new land. You can see and hear the monks at prayer in this segment from NBC News.
2. The undisputed queen of Catholic bloggers, Julie Davis, has given us Happy Catholic: Glimpses of God in Everyday Life.
Julie shares her blogging philosophy in the introduction:
After my confirmation, though, I was a given a Catholic book, and that began a reading frenzy. I began seeing a pattern of truth and beauty that I never knew existed. Soon, everywhere I looked, I recognized the pattern. Books I read, movies I watched, songs I heard were reflecting bits of the Truth that was God. I realized that this reality had been there all along. I just couldn't see it before. It made everyday things glow. I couldn't hold in my delight and began e-mailing friends with my discoveries. The e-mails turned into a blog, Happy Catholic, which reflected everything I loved about Catholic every day.Julie Davis has been recognized as one of the best Catholic bloggers, and her book stays true to her sharp, easy style -- she shifts effortlessly between spiritual reflections and pop culture, drawing insight from both. Happy Catholic is a series of blog-length meditations, each kicked off by a great quote (and now I'm wanting to go find the source material for the ones I didn't recognize). You can read it cover to cover, of course, but I enjoyed it best when I flipped it open at random and read a few meditations at a time -- much as I might go through someone's blog archives. It's pretty compulsively readable.
This book continues that sharing.
I can't wait until my girls are a few years older -- Happy Catholic would be great reading for a teen trying to make sense of the shifting patterns of the world.
You can get an autographed copy here, and Julie will include one of her favorite quotes that didn't make it into the book. Here's ours:
Life: how curious is that habit that makes us think it is not here, but elsewhere. -- V.S. Pritchett