Arts

Can't find a chant choir? Well, start your own

Surinder MundraTORONTO - Looking for a choir to join, Surinder Mundra couldn’t find what he was looking for. He went to one Mass where the choir was singing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” during the homily. In contrast, during the drive home from Mass, he was listening to Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, a composer of sacred music in the Renaissance.

“It was backwards,” the concert pianist, piano teacher, organist and music director at both St. Patrick’s Church in Toronto and St. Georges Anglican Church in Pickering, Ont., told The Catholic Register. “I was listening to secular music in a Church. I had to leave the Church, go into my car and drive home to listen to liturgical music.”

Disillusioned by this, along with the emphasis that many parish choirs have on performance instead of spirituality, Mundra decided to start his own choir. In 2006, he founded St. Patrick’s Gregorian Choir, which specializes in Gregorian chants in its proper liturgical context. One of the only of its kind in Toronto, the choir currently has 15 members.

Bell drops EWTN from digital service

Thousands of loyal and faithful watchers of Eternal Word Television Network across Canada are losing their favourite station as Bell TV will drop EWTN from its digital satellite television service as of Feb. 27.

“EWTN had a low viewership and Salt + Light (Canada’s national Catholic television channel) is a strong alternative. This channel capacity is needed for new and high-demand channels,” said Bell spokeswoman Marie-Eve Francoeur in an e-mail to The Catholic Register.

For Toronto EWTN fan Glen Burke, the network is a big part of his TV habit.

Good intentions lost in political correctness

Politically correct booksWhat does Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jackson and Malcolm X have to do with teaching children about the Catholic faith?

According two new books for Catholic students, teaching kids about Catholic saints and traditions means teaching them about multiculturalism and social justice, while skimming on details about the Catholic Mass.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with introducing children to the hot-button issues of our time like combating racism. In fact, it’s crucial to make the connection between faith and how it is lived out in society.

But in trying to be all things to all people, Jeanne Hunt’s Celebrating Saints and Seasons: Hundreds of Activities for Catholic Children (St. Anthony Messenger Press) and Lisa Freemantle and Les Miller’s Words for the Journey for Kids: Ten-Minute Prayer Services for Schools (Novalis) may be taking kids on a detour that falls short of teaching kids what their faith is really about.

John Paul II's army was greater than the most powerful armies of his time

Pope John Paul IIOn Oct. 16, 1978, the day that a relatively obscure Polish cardinal named Karol Wojtyla stepped onto St. Peter’s Square and announced himself as Pope John Paul II,  Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn was living in exile in Cavendish, Vermont. Informed that a Pole, a man with firsthand experience of communism, had just been chosen to lead the world’s oldest and largest Christian church, Solzhenitsyn said: “It’s a miracle! It’s the first positive event since World War I and it’s going to change the face of the world.”

How right he was! Solzhenitsyn and John Paul ll are now both dead, but each man irrevocably altered history: Solzhenitsyn, by his heroic witness to truth amidst the freezing darkness of the Gulag Archipelago and Karol Wojtyla — “a man from a far country” as he called himself — by the 27 years of his papacy.

George Weigel, the Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Centre in Washington, D.C.,  is a leading authority on Catholic matters and the author of the definitive (and bestselling) 1999 biography: Pope John Paul ll: Witness to Hope. Weigel has now returned to this subject in The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul ll, the Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, and the Legacy (Doubleday, 2010).

Poems of Christmas

magiWe weren’t sure what to expect when we launched our Poems of Christmas contest. But three dozen readers took the time to send us rhyme, and what splendid creativity poured forth from the nativity.

Entries were received from the young and the old, and we had one wonderful entry from a 66-year-old woman who forwarded a poem written when she was 17.  

Every entry stayed true to the example of Msgr. Tom Raby, the former Register columnist whose annual Christmas poem was the inspiration for this contest, by focussing on the peace and joy of the true meaning of Christmas.

A 'Joyful Noise' rocks the season

messiah rocksMISSISSAUGA, Ont. - This Christmas season, Handel’s Messiah is going to rock the Toronto area.

George Frideric Handel’s musical oratorio on the life of the Messiah has been updated, adding some modern-day flash, to produce Handel’s Messiah Rocks: A Joyful Noise. It will be performed at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, Dec. 16 and 17.

Photographer-priest makes viewer present in Dene land

Way Down NorthWhat makes Fr. René Fumoleau’s photography worth looking at is just where the missionary priest from France took his photos.  

Fumoleau showed up in the Dene lands straddling the Arctic Circle in 1953. He bought his first Pentax 35 mm camera in 1956. Without training or direction, he created a body of images that document the land and its people over 40 critical years of history for the Dene, all captured in a new book.

Jesuit author makes atheist arguments against God look silly

New ProofsNew Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy, by Robert J. Spitzer, (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 319 pages, softcover, $30.99).

Post-Newtonian physics has put philosophy and theology in the curious position of having to turn back to the Middle Ages. Suddenly what the scholastic theologians had to say about metaphysics and ontology is au courant.

When the apple fell on Newton’s head he came up with laws of physics which described a fully functioning closed system. Those laws could keep the whole thing going forever and had no absolute need for God. St. Thomas Aquinas’ “uncaused cause” argument thereby fell into disfavour. Metaphysics lost credence and was replaced at the centre of philosophy by epistemology — the question of how we know what we know. Ontology, the study of being, which had been the main preoccupation of medieval Western metaphysics, was bypassed.

Film remembers beloved son, soldier Marc Diab

Trooper Marc DiabTORONTO - He was a beloved son, youth leader and Canadian soldier who wore his faith and patriotism proudly as he served in Afghanistan.

So much so that a rosary was found inside the helmet he wore that was recovered after the roadside blast that took his life last year.

On Remembrance Day, the story of Trooper Marc Diab will serve as an “active remembrance” of the sacrifice of all Canadian soldiers, says the director of a new documentary about Diab and the impact of his death upon his family.

Fr. Lewis aims to connect Scripture with people in the pews

Father Scott LewisTORONTO - Members of the Holy Rosary parish choir in Burlington, Ont., really need Jesuit Father Scott Lewis’s new book, if only to clear the clutter of old programs piling up at home.

Music director Vicky Chen has been reprinting Lewis’s weekly Catholic Register column about the Sunday readings on the back of her weekly music programs for years. A former student in Lewis’s Scripture classes at Regis College, Chen feels the column gives choir members a context for the hymns and songs they sing Sunday mornings.

Young singer to debut new pro-life song

Carly TaylorMilton, Ont. - At the age of 14, Carly Taylor already had her self-titled country music album in stores. At 16, she is now preparing for the release of her second album, Delirious. And on Nov. 5, Taylor will be debuting a new pro-life song at Halton Pro-Life’s 2010 Respect Life Fundraising Banquet in Oakville, Ont.  

“It’s actually a song that my sister wrote,” said Taylor, a Grade 11 student at Milton, Ont.’s Bishop Reding High School. “I’m very excited to sing it.”

Suffering, death, survival, history and fiction interwined

The Queen of UnforgettingThe Queen of Unforgetting by Sylvia Maultash Warsh (Cormorant Books Inc., 284 pages, $21).

The Queen of Unforgetting is a masterfully written book, with an engaging protagonist and a thought-provoking exploration of the themes of suffering, death and survival. It is well worth the read.

As the child of Holocaust survivors, Sylvia Maultash Warsh grew up listening to her mother’s stories of fleeing from the Nazis in Poland and surviving the horrors of the labour camps. These stories sparked Warsh’s interest in history — an interest that has shaped her fiction. To date, she has written three well-received historical mystery novels. In her fourth novel, The Queen of Unforgetting, she departs from the mystery genre with great success.

Only justice will bring Mideast peace

Jerusalem TestamentJerusalem Testament by Melanie A. May (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 190 pages, softcover, $24.99).

Ecumenical statements can be dry. Words of consensus crafted by many minds, from many different traditions, are thoughtful, often insightful, but can lack the emotion that comes from one voice. Not so in Jerusalem Testament, a compilation of 20 years of statements from Palestinian Christian leaders. Their emotion is palpable.

As the narrative winds through the events of the Holy Land between 1988 and 2008, and progress towards peace rises and falls, an array of feelings come through: anguish at the lives destroyed, joy at glimmers of possibility, frustration at calls unanswered, determination to persevere. What also comes through is a sense of steadfast hope, a firm and deep faith in the child Jesus, who was born in the Bethlehem of their struggle.