Category Archives: Reviews

“Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom”: Meh

Here it is, the new hymn for the World Meeting of Families.

I will say this at the outset:

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A lay Catholic man watches “The Sisterhood”

There are some spoilers in this review.

I’m a lay, single Catholic man, which is probably not the target audience of “The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns,” now airing on Lifetime, a network I don’t watch (I don’t even have cable). Still, my journalist instincts tell me I should watch this; it is an important show for Catholics for multiple reasons:

  1. It’s a mainstream reality show set in the Catholic world, and it appears there will be at least an effort to treat the subjects with respect.
  2. There are a lot of ways this could go wrong.
  3. There aren’t a lot of positive portrayals of Catholicism in the media, period, these days.
  4. The female religious life is struggling in the U.S. and could use a boost, especially in young women, as most orders are aging. Now, how many young nuns do you know? I know one (the lovely Sister Alicia Torres, ministering on the West Side of Chicago, where I really should pay her a visit). Most of you probably know zero. How many older nuns do you know? You may know a few. Some nuns who taught me in grade school are still alive, so there’s that.

So I [ugh] got the Lifetime channel added on my Roku (it doesn’t stream live, only offers on-demand episodes), and watched the first episode the day after it aired, then again after I said goodbye to my Thanksgiving visitors. Here are my thoughts — a note that one of the cast members, Claire, is a friend of one of my sisters and I’ve met her a couple times.

(Photo credit: Lifetime.)

(Photo credit: Lifetime.)


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It’s new hymnal season!

At my main parish, our hymnals are designed to be used in three-year cycles. The new cycle starts soon, so as soon as it was in, I picked up the new version and started perusing.

My main parish uses United in Christ, the bilingual three-year hymnal. So there is plenty in Spanish and English and at least a few changes. I quickly perused every page to see what I liked; fortunately, there is plenty. For example:

• New “old” hymns include “Adoro Te Devote” and “O God, Beyond All Praising,” which is one of my favorites.

• Other additions include an incredibly strong Advent litany and Tom Booth and Jenny Pixler’s “Sacred Silence.”

• There are now solid bilingual translations of “Christ, Be Our Light” and “Praise to You, O Christ Our Savior.”

But I do see some shortcomings:

• So many English translations of Spanish songs simply stink. I wish OCP would fix them; “Pescador de Hombres” is one of the notoriously awful versions. I know translating to fit a meter isn’t easy, but turning “Alabare” (literally “I will praise”) into “O Come and Sing” was just weird.

• The basic Latin Mass setting chants are there, but not the English versions.

Still, my parish has used this hymnal for a while, and it serves our needs fairly well. I’m cheered by the efforts OCP has put in to keep improving this, and I’m looking forward to another solid three years with the books.

Reviewing Mass settings, 3 years into new translation

As I play at multiple parishes and get exposed to more than a few different Mass settings, the last three years since the introduction of the new Mass translation have given me a lot to work with. Here’s a quick review of the settings I’ve come across since they went into effect:

Embed from Getty Images

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Book review: “Brightest and Best” by Fr. George Rutler

While shopping for a baptism gift for my godson, I wound up at a Catholic bookstore three towns over. The saleslady, upon figuring out I was an organist, recommended “Brightest and Best,” a book telling the backgrounds behind some of the best-loved hymns. So I went for it, thinking hey, good to know this stuff.

How disappointed I was. Father Rutler has done his research, and it appears solid and informative. But the attitude he brings to it is frustrating and sinks the whole enterprise.

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Thoughts on “The Third Way”

Let me start with this: I’m 29, straight, unmarried, and accept (somewhat begrudgingly and sadly) the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. That having been said, I live in a state with gay marriage and work at a company that is a cheerful proponent of gay rights. I have gay relatives and friends.

I think this film ultimately fails at its objective, which is to present Catholic teaching on homosexuality both realistically and positively. Though the film does pretty good at telling us the interviewees who are gay have pretty happy lives, it does a poor job at showing us, and that makes it ultimately unconvincing. I watched the film twice; here are my thoughts: Continue reading

“John the Rap-tist”: Just don’t.

The Voices as One compilation from WLP is not top-notch. One of my parishes draws heavily from it, and I’m afraid it hasn’t been a pleasure to play out of it. Too much syncopation, too many unsingable melodies, too much of a mess. (Think the first edition of Spirit and Song, then keep going.) It’s not a surprise that the third-biggest liturgical music publisher is kind of in a tough spot when it comes to coming up with contemporary music without having to pay for the better stuff OCP (and even GIA) can have.

But this is simply inexcusable. Continue reading