Quick Hits: Duruflé’s Requiem and more
Yesterday I was blessed to hear some of the most beautiful music ever composed in concert at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan (which happens to be the largest cathedral and the fourth largest church in the world, and a splendid place for music-making). The centerpiece of the concert was Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem, an astounding work which I had never heard before. Duruflé, a devout Catholic, also wrote my favorite version of Ubi caritas, the first of his four motets based on Gregorian chant (as is the Requiem). Both suites are stunning—do yourself a favor and take an hour to put everything else aside, sit down and listen to them.
I’ve also read two very good speeches on art, beauty and music recently. In 2002, Cardinal Ratzinger gave a Lenten address to Communion and Liberation on “The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty”. In it, he meditates on two seemingly contrary passages of Scripture: one which describes Christ as “fairest of the children of men” (Ps. 44:3) and another which says, “He had neither beauty, nor majesty, nothing to attract our eyes, no grace to make us delight in him” (Is. 53:2). Ultimately beauty and suffering meet in the person of Christ.
I’ve always been irked by the extraneous reasons people give for the study and appreciation of music. Learning music will improve your child’s math skills! Music fosters empathy and better social relations! It’s like we’re incapable of recognizing music as something that has value in itself. I’m not the only one who has noted this problem. Writing at the Future Symphony Institute, James Matthew Wilson explains why the modern age has lost a sense of what is good beyond what is useful, quantifiable or immediately pleasurable, and argues based on Aristotle and Aquinas that without understanding why things are good, we cannot understand them at all. Certainly, without recognizing the existence of intrinsic good we have little hope of properly valuing art.
Moving on to non-musical topics:
Boffins in the U.K. have developed a new MRI technology that can show unborn babies in astonishing detail, the Daily Mail reports. A 20-second video clip included in the article shows the baby’s penny-sized heart beating, its legs stretching and kicking, and its head turning toward the “camera.” Glory to God!
At The Federalist, Katy Faust aggregates the experiences of people who were conceived via surrogacy to gay parents, and the result is a powerful and heartbreaking testimony to the right of every child to be raised by its biological father and mother wherever possible. (This, of course, applies to all instances of surrogacy, not just with gay parents.) As usual, when the media reports on this topic, attention is paid only to the desires of the parents who are “commissioning” a child. The children often have to voice their pain anonymously for fear of hurting their parent’s feelings.
Fr. Gordon MacRae was imprisoned in 1994 on false charges of sexual abuse. He could have spent as little as a year in prison if he had confessed to doing something he did not do, but because he refuses, his sentence is more than sixty times that long. The late Cardinal Dulles and Rev. Richard John Neuhaus both encouraged Fr. MacRae to write about his experience, which he does regularly, advocating for greater restorative justice for prisoners at his award-winning blog These Stone Walls.
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