Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Pivot of the School Year

This is the week that our children have been working toward all year. Every parent recently received a phone call from the elementary school principal emphasizing that every student should get a full night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast. We were advised to speak words of encouragement to our children on these very important days.

Yes, this is the week when every school-age child in the village must submit to the state assessment.

It sounds ominously Orwellian when stated in those terms, but I don’t think that I’ve been inaccurate in my description. I didn’t even need to resort to hyperbole. Once upon a time, these were called state aptitude tests, and then achievement tests. Apparently, the word “test” didn’t test well, because now the official moniker is the Ohio Achievement Assessment.

The entire school year pivots on this week. Even though there is still a month of school left, the last four weeks are consumed by an abundance of field trips, class parties, and rewards for good behavior. Once test (oops, there’s that nasty word!) week is over, there is definitely a relaxation of academic rigor.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Joy

Alleluia! He is risen!

I know that I should say something about Easter, but others have said everything that needs to be said. The sorrow and penance of Lent has given way to the joy of the resurrection.

I made it to 2/3 of the Triduum this year, missing Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper. By happy coincidence, that also means that I get to avoid the whole question of whether either of the parishes in our cluster included women or children in the foot washing.

At St. Augustine on Good Friday, I regretted the omission of the “Let us kneel . . . Let us stand” after each of the solemn intercessions, and there was some minor confusion during the recitation of the Passion. Like on Palm Sunday, the Good Friday Passion features the celebrant (if that’s the right word for a non-mass liturgy) reciting the words of Jesus, with a lector reading the narration, a speaker reciting the words of individuals like Pontius Pilate and Peter, and the congregation serving as the chorus of voices with lines like “Crucify him!” and “We have no king but Caesar.” St. Augustine parish, however, no longer has missals. With this year’s change in the English translation, all of the readings for Sundays and solemnities are now in the back of the hymnal, and the passion gospels are not annotated by speaker. We (i.e., the folks in the pews) did remarkably well, but there were occasions when it wasn’t clear whether the line belonged to the “speaker” or to the “chorus.” I still think that separate worship aids should be printed for the Triduum services, even if only to help people know when to stand, kneel, and sit (directions which are completely absent from the hymnal).

I attended the Easter Vigil mass at St. Joseph in Egypt. The vigil is always a little shorter there, if only because the whole town is already Catholic and there are never any catechumens or candidates. It was nice to sing the Gloria again, but they’ve chosen an extremely difficult musical setting. The notes are all over the place with absolutely no flow. It’s much easier to sing in other parishes I’ve been to, even if I haven’t sung it since before Lent. Overall, though, it was every bit the high point of the Church’s liturgical calendar.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

An App for the Hours

Up until last week, we had two computers in our home: a new one, running Windows 7 and an older Windows XP box. The old computer started getting temperamental this year, and last week it finally gave up the ghost. We had a lot of files on that computer that we’ll have to try to salvage from the hard drive.

One of the first things that it became necessary to do was to install iTunes on the new computer, so that I could continue to listen to all the latest podcasts. One consequence of switching computers was the need to rebuild a library. In this case, all our old apps (for those of you in Rio Linda, app is short for application, a small program designed to run on smart phones, tablet computers, or, in my case, an iPod Touch) went out the window – goodbye, Angry Birds, you won’t be missed!

And that’s how I discovered the most amazing app that didn’t cost me a penny. It’s the iBreviary. The iBreviary puts at your fingertips all of the prayers for the Liturgy of the Hours (aka the Divine Office aka the Breviary), the readings and prayers for the mass of the day (including antiphons and Collect), and various lectures, prayers, and rites.

I’ve discovered that, given a choice between praying the Hours with my iPod or my prayer book, I’m opting for the iPod. With the book, I have to shuffle across ribbons and flip back pages to re-read antiphons. With the iBreviary, all I have to do is scroll.

It’s simply wonderful, and I have the death of a computer to thank for it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Praying the Hours

We’ve make it to Holy Week. Ash Wednesday was six weeks ago tomorrow. Lent, the season that we’ve been in for the last six weeks, is a period in which the Church places particular emphasis on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It’s typical, for me at least, to reach Holy Week with a degree of regret that my prayer life didn’t reach mystical heights, my fasting was far from ascetic, and my charitable giving was next to nonexistent (it’s tax season, and Caesar is taking a big bite this year).

One of my goals for Lent 2012 was to pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily. The Hours is a way that I can unite myself to the daily public prayer of the Church from my own home and in my own time (within limits). I’ve done pretty well praying Lauds (Morning Prayer) before work, Vespers (Evening Prayer) before bed, and the Office of Readings some time in between. I’ve not included Mid-day Prayer or Complline (Night Prayer). On at least one occasion when I neglected to pray one or more of the Hours, I had to ask myself why and admit that I had no good reason. It’s a practice that I will try to continue even after Lent has given way to Easter.