This Sunday: Come Say So Long to a Great Musician

I was very saddened to learn that Neil Weston, our music director and organist at St. Stephen Martyr parish here in the Nation’s Capital, is going to be leaving us shortly.  Neil and his family are moving out to Ohio, which would obviously make the commute to St. Yuppie’s, as those of us in the know often call it, rather too difficult.  I wanted to mention his departure to encourage those of you who will be in the D.C. area this weekend to come along this Sunday, August 17th, to the 11:00 am Mass, so that you can hear why he will be sorely missed.

To get a sense of why we are going to miss him so much, you can visit my Chirbit site, which features surreptitiously made audio recordings of Neil and our choir at Mass over the past couple of years.  While the audio may not be fantastic, Neil and his singers and musicians most certainly are.  Several of the audio files manage to impart that, even in these less-than-stellar recordings.  And below this post you’ll find an embedded video, properly recorded by someone else, of Neil in action at St. Stephen’s.

When Neil first arrived at the parish, I realized immediately how very lucky we would be to have this educated, extremely gifted Englishman among us.  I was absolutely blown away by his abilities as a musician, his extraordinarily good taste, and his skills in directing our already very good choir to sound even more amazing.  He balanced out the tried-and-true with pieces both ancient and modern that were unfamiliar, but which quickly became new favorites, as I would note the name of the piece for future reference.  For a parish which is not very large, and a choir which is not very large either, the level of musicianship which I would hear on a weekly basis was simply extraordinary.

And of course what is even better, for those of us who are Catholics, is that the music has done its job beautifully.  It inspires us in moments of rejoicing, penitence, and contemplation, rather than simply being an add-on or an afterthought.  Unlike at a concert, the goal of the church musician is not to entertain, but to cause hearts and minds to be lifted up to matters Divine, as an aid to transcending the affairs of this world and focusing on the next.  In this, over the last several years, Neil has managed to bring me, and I daresay many others, into deeper prayer and a closer relationship with God, as we worship together.

In any case, Catholic or not, please do come along this Sunday at 11:00 am for Mass, and you will get to hear what I am rather poorly attempting to write in this post  St. Stephen’s is very easy to get to from anywhere in the D.C. area.  The Foggy Bottom Metro station is a 3-minute walk away, many Metrobus routes pass in front of the church itself, and there are a number of places to park in the surrounding neighborhood.  For more information on how to arrive, visit the “Directions” page on the parish website.

As of right now I haven’t heard who will be replacing Neil on the organ bench and in front of the podium up in the choir loft.  Hopefully it will be someone who appreciates the taste of the parish for the 11am on Sunday (no “City of God” or “And the Father Will Dance”, please.)  Whoever they are we’ll do our best to support them, I’m sure, but they will have very, very big organ shoes to fill, because Neil has been absolutely matchless. Godspeed and God bless, my friend.

 

 

 

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Thomism Goes Online

For those of you interested in philosophy, theology, and/or St. Thomas Aquinas, a friend from the Adler-Aquinas Institute is kicking off a program on the work of the Angelic Doctor which you may be interested in: an online graduate Thomistic studies concentration.

Dr. Peter Redpath, Rector of the Adler-Aquinas Institute and Chair of the new philosophy graduate concentration in Christian Wisdom.at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Connecticut, will initiate this concentration by offering a course on Aquinas’ teaching about “The One and the Many” for the Fall semester, starting the last week in August.  Students will be exploring the metaphysical teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas concerning the nature of the metaphysical principles of unity and multiplicity, and the essential role that these principles play in the existence of things and all other principles of being, becoming, and knowing, including those of experience, art, philosophy, science.

The course will be held entirely online, but there will be optional live, synchronous meetings on Tuesday evenings at 7:00 pm Eastern Time for those who can make them. The meetings will be recorded and made available later for those who wish to hear them. To register for this class online, you can visit the Holy Apostles web site linked to above, or email Prof. Heather Voccola (hvoccola@holyapostles.edu) in the online learning office at Holy Apostles College.

One of the great things of modern technology as a pedagogic tool, which I’m sure Aquinas himself would have appreciated, is its ability to bring experts like Dr. Redpath into contact with students who, for reasons such as distance, might not otherwise ever be able to study under him.  The number of students who crowded into the lecture halls of the University of Paris to hear Aquinas speak on metaphysics was far fewer in number than the number of those around Europe who would have loved the opportunity even to hear him lecture just once.  So if you are out of school and looking to continue learning and studying, take advantage of this and similar opportunities for your intellectual growth.  All you need is an internet connection.

Thomas Aquinas Teaching

St. Thomas Aquinas teaching a group of Dominicans Medieval Manuscript, 14th Century

 

3 Good Things for Monday

It’s Monday, it’s the dog days of summer, and…well, it’s Monday. So here are 3 good things I wanted to share:

1. HELPING THE HERMIT IS NOW TAX-DEDUCTIBLE!

Regular readers know that, along with my friends Kevin Lowry and Jon Marc Grodi, over the past few months we’ve been trying to help our friend Brother Rex Anthony Norris establish a permanent Franciscan hermitage up in Maine.  I’m pleased to announce that our project, Friends of Little Portion Hermitage, recently received 501(c)(3) status, meaning your donations are now tax-deductible!  Please consider helping out this great cause, whether you can give $1 or $10,000 or anything you fancy, and also please consider sharing the FLPH site with anyone you think may be able to help.

You can also check out Brother Rex’s daily thoughts on the project’s Twitter and Facebook pages, and leave him prayer requests via the website. He loves to pray for others and in fact that’s how he spends a lot of his day, in prayer.  Don’t hesitate to ask for him to remember your intentions, he is always glad to help.

2. UPCOMING BLOG TOURS (AND GIVEAWAYS)

Okay, so this might technically be more than one good piece of news, but let’s not quibble, shall we? I’m honored to once again be part of two upcoming blog tours, for some forthcoming books from Image Books, the Catholic imprint at Random House.  In September I’ll be part of the blog tour for “The Feasts”, the forthcoming book co-written by DC’s Archbishop, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, and well-known Catholic author, speaker, and broadcaster Mike Aquilina.  The book takes a look at the history and traditions surrounding many of the feasts of the Church, from Epiphany to Easter to All Saints, and everything in between. I’ll be tackling the chapter on Christmas, and you can check out my review on September 16th.

Continuing in the Christmas vein, this December I’ll also be on the blog tour for Scott Hahn’s forthcoming book, “Joy to the World”.  In this new book Dr. Hahn, the prolific writer and very familiar Catholic theologian and speaker, takes a look at the birth of Jesus from the perspective of a family story.  I’ll be sharing my review of his latest with you on December 9th,

And in both cases, gentle reader, thanks to the generosity of Random House, I’ll be offering a giveaway of each book once my review appears – so stay tuned.

3. ART EVERYWHERE, NOW UNDERWAY

The Art Everywhere project, which regular readers will remember my informing you about, has now begun in New York’s Times Square.  Soon it will be spreading to other cities around the U.S., and last through the month of August.  The goal is to encourage people not only to appreciate the rich history of American art, using some of the most popular images from our museums, but also to learn and explore more by actually visiting these great institutions.

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the over 50,000 billboards, train platforms, city buses and other public advertising areas around the country which will be featuring 56 works, selected by the public, to celebrate American art.  You can also follow the project on Twitter at @arteverywhereus, and use the hashtag #arteverywhere when you see some of the campaign’s billboards where you are.  I’m really looking forward to seeing where some of the images will be popping up around town over the course of this month.

Art Everywhere billboard in Times Square, New York City

Art Everywhere billboard in Times Square, New York City