Mass at the Jesuit Infirmary in the Loyola House of Studies: the Anointing of Sick Jesuits

I.  The Road to the Infirmary

Today is the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.  It’s 5:30 p.m. and I haven’t yet went to mass.  I am thinking of going to de la Strada, but it requires an effort.  I called my friend and she suggested that I go to the Jesuit Infirmary chapel at the Loyola House of Studies.  “Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J. is the celebrant,” she said.  I haven’t been there before.  So I agreed to go.

The Loyola House of Studies is a 5 minute walk from the Manila Observatory.  I walked downhill in a winding road until I reached a dead end marked by a pine tree; cars would have to go around it to go back to the Observatory.  I asked the porter where the Jesuit Infirmary is.  She pointed me to a narrow corridor, a tunnel through the hillside.

“Go straight, turn left, and climb the stairs to your right.  The chapel is in the second floor.”

I went inside.  It was gloomy.  And spooky.  I have played Dungeons and Dragons before and this is a real dungeon.  Oh, I have been here before.  That room in the corner is where I took my oral exams in Theology 131 on Marriage under Fr. Adolfo N. Dacanay, S.J, a canon lawyer who finished his doctorate from the Gregorian University in Rome.  My exam question is on the relationship of Fundamental Option and venial sins.  I took it an hour before the sun rose.  The corridor was as dark then as it is now.  I can still see in my mind Fr. Dacanay sitting behind his wooden desk under a lamp light.  Now, the door is closed.

I turned left.  On my left is a garden.  A little farther and higher is a church with its unmistakable stained glass windows, shining like precious gems in the setting sun.  I wished to be there but it is not the chapel I seek.

I opened the double door.  One stairway goes down to the right; another goes up to the right.  I went up.

When I arrived at the second floor, I turned right and saw the Infirmary.  There is the nurses’s station on the right and straight ahead is little chapel filled with people for mass.  An Indian priest greeted me before the door.  I asked if I can come inside.  He said yes and showed me an empty chair on the second row.  I sat.

II.  The Mass at the Infirmary

The celebrant is not Fr. Roque Ferriols; it is Fr. Jun Viray, the Rector (of Loyola House?). He is still young, in his 40’s.  Serious, soft-spoken, reserved–a figure of red and white against a background of a large IHS surrounded by the Latin words: ET VOCATEM NOMEN EIVS IESVS (I am not sure if I remember this right).  This translates to “And you shall call him Jesus,” the words the Angel Gabriel said to Mary during the Annunciation (c.f. Lk 1:31).

Fr. Ferriols is beside me wearing his characteristic slippers, his legs swollen from years of walking.  He does not wear his usual maong jeans.  Instead he wears a striped purontong or a half-pajamas.  Over his grey t-shirt is a blue stole embroidered with ethnic designs of crosses and zigzag lines.  His head droops.  His cheeks sag.  He is in his 80’s.

This is a sitting mass.  Everyone sits on chairs throughout the mass–no standing or kneeling.  I guess because the normal participants are old and sick Jesuits.  Some Jesuits even come in wheel chairs.

The chapel can only accommodate forty.  The first two rows are reserved as a rule for sick priests.  The next two rows are for the professors of the Loyola House of Studies who sings as the choir accompanied by a guitar.

During the consecration, I hear Fr. Ferriols mumble the words without opening his lips.  At the sign of peace, I shook hands with him.  This is a rare encounter:  I shook hands with the only priest in Ateneo who is called not Father but Padre.  Padre Ferriols spearheaded the adoption of Filipino in Philosophy in the 70’s.  I took my Philosophy in Filipino, but with a different teacher–Mr. Simon Gregorio.  And I agree with Fr. Ferriols:  the act of doing philosophy in the native tongue, enriches the language, as new concepts are formed, and the Filipino worldview is laid bare:

Meron.  May roon. May doon.  A state of having a place (in the universe).  There is.

Kalooban.  Loob.  Inside.  That which is inside of man, his innermost self..

Pagmamahal.  Mahal.  Priced high.  To love is to to put a high price to someone more than the golds of the earth.

Before the mass ended, the Fr. Jun Viray lays his hands on the sick priests and anointed them with oil in the forehead and in the hands.  There are three other priests who were sick, but they are in their rooms.  They too were anointed with oil after the mass.

There was a sign in the door saying that after each liturgy, we must pray the Hail Holy Queen for the recovery of the sick and the rich harvest of vocations to the priesthood.  I waited for Fr. Viray to lead the prayer; he did not.  I guess the prayer should be said in silence.  I prayed the Salve Regina.  When I left, I saw ten old priests inside the chapel still praying, half of them Americans and half of them Filipinos.   I do not know them, but they must have been legends, too, in their prime.  Now their eyes have grown dim and their backs are bent low.  Yet still they prayed.  Then I recall the words of Qoheleth the Seer:

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years approach of which you will say, I have no pleasure in them; before the sun is darkened. and the light, and the moon, and the stars, while the clouds return after the rain; when the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, And the grinders are idle because they are few, and they who look through the windows grow blind; when the doors to the street are shut, and the sound of the mill is low; When one waits for the chirp of a bird, but all the daughters of song are suppressed; and one fears heights, and perils in the street; When the almond tree blooms, and the locust grows sluggish and the caper berry is without effect, Because man goes to his lasting home, and mourners go about the streets; before the silver cord is snapped and the golden bowl is broken, And the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the broken pulley falls into the well, and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7)

Sta. Maria de la Strada Parish Church in Katipunan, Quezon City: the Hidden Tabernacle

My friend and I usually visit the Sta. Maria de la Strada Parish Church along Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City. It is only a 5 minute tricycle ride from Ateneo de Manila University. We usually go to de la Strada if we can’t make it to mass at the college chapel, especially if there are solemnities and feasts. We went to mass there once and we witnessed a solemn Benediction during a First Friday before the Feast of Corpus Christi.

The Parish Church is designed like a giant nipa hut, supported by strong corner columns. Instead of walls are grills, allowing a good view of the greenery outside, while letting the fresh air to rush in and rise upwards to the four large exhaust fans at the pinnacle. The wooden panels are of dark wood, except those of the sacristy which are light cream, in order to emphasize the stylized Crucified Christ on center wall. Beneath the crucifix is the altar supported supported by columns sculpted like sheaves of wheat. In front of the altar are the chairs for the priests–a rare arrangement which puzzles my mind.

But there is something missing: the tabernacle. When we first went inside the church, I cannot see the tabernacle. This can be awkward when you try to dip your hands on the holy water and kneel in the direction of the tabernacle that you cannot see. The words of Pius XII came to my mind:

A day will come when the civilized world will deny its God, when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted. She will be tempted to believe that man has become God. In our churches, Christians will search in vain for the red lamp where God awaits them. Like Mary Magdalene, weeping before the empty tomb, they will ask, “Where have they taken him? (thanks to Athanasius Contra Mundum for the quote)

After the mass, I asked one of the ladies in blue–probably a member of the Catholic Women’s League–where the tabernacle is. And she pointed us to the back of the church. We went there and found the most amazing sight: a small adoration chapel that feels like we are in the Spanish era, with the large chandeliers and antique-like wooden benches. The tabernacle is there, plain as a tombstone, but of gold, with a white circle painted outside to denote the host. A lamp is burning. At the side of the chapel is a life-size statue of Mary carrying the Christ Child. This is heaven on earth. The words of Jacob in Bethel came to my mind:

How awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven! (Gen 28:17)

We knelt down and prayed.

On the road to Cuneta Astrodome: a dialogue with a Jesuit aspirant who became a “Born-Again” Christian

Last night, I agreed to watch a Worship Concert with Tommy Walker held at the Cuneta Astrodome, featuring  Tom Hughes with special guests Jonalyn Viray and Donita Rose.   My colleague here at the Manila Observatory gave us free tickets; she was one of the organizers of the concert.  I know that this is a Protestant event, something equivalent to a Catholic Eucharistic Congress.  But I agreed to watch anyway, to see how things are done in other ecclesial communities.   Besides, I may get a chance for a dialogue of Faith.

We were suppose to meet at 5:00 p.m. at the Manila Observatory’s Lobby; the concert is at 6:00 p.m.  But Genie Lorenzo, our other friend, is still consulting with her thesis adviser.  Genie is making air pollution samplers and places them along EDSA avenue.   Genie is a Catholic who loves concerts.  We shall be late.

While waiting at the lobby, I met our other companion, a friend of Genie: JM.  He’s a shorter than I but stockier.  JM told me that he studies at the Marine Science Institute at the University of the Philippines.  He knows Loric Bernardo, my fried who also studied there.  But Loric is working on Oceanography; JM is with marine products.

Genie arrived at 6:30 p.m. together with two of her friends.  She apologized. She asked us to board her car.  It would take at least an hour to go to Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.  But considering that Filipinos normally start an hour late, we would still be on time.

Inside the car, JM and I continued our discussion.  The following dialogue is not from an audio recording, but the essence is the same:

Me: Are you Catholic?

JM:  Before.  That was three years ago.  I am now a “Born Again” Christian.

Me: That was very recent.  What made you jump ship?

JM: I was even thinking of joining the Jesuits at that time.  The Jesuits are organizing this Monday group and we meet in a place along Katipunan.  There they talk about vocation.  Our Jesuit mentor asked me, “When was the time that you feel that Jesus loves you?”  I blurted out some answers, but they do not come from the heart.  They are too mechanical.  I was restless.  I searched.  One day I found myself hearing a pastor preach.  His words touched my heart.   At last, I found what I have been seeking.

Me: So if you will hear a very good sermon by an excellent priest, will you go back to being Catholic?

JM: No.  There are also other reasons.  My prayers are being heard by God.  Even simple prayers like, “Lord, I need to be there on time.  I hope there is no traffic.” It is difficult to explain, but my relationship with Jesus now is with the heart, it is as if  He is really my friend.

Me: That is interesting.  It surprises me that your reasons for leaving the Church are subjective.  Usually, people leave the Church because of a particular dogma that they cannot accept.

JM: It is not like that.

JM: All Christians believe that the basis of truth is the bible.

Me: But who made the bible?  How do we know that the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Barnabas should not be in the bible?

JM: I don’t know.  These Gospels have in them that contradict what the four gospels say.

Me: The books in the bible were decided during the Council of Carthage in about the fourth century.  In this council, the bishops in the world gathered to make this decision.

JM: Can the bishops make a mistake?

Me: For Catholics, once the bishops gather for a council (ratified by the pope), what they decided as true is forever true.

JM: Our pastor said that the early Christians are Jews.  That is why in our church we read commentaries on the bible by Jews.

Me: The Talmud?

JM: No.  I cannot still handle that.

Me: But Jews generally do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah.

JM: That’s right.  But there are messianic Jews who do.

Me: Why not read instead the commentaries of Fathers of Church, the Christians who succeeded the Apostles?

JM: Like St. Auguestine?

Me: Yes, but St. Auguestine is already in the fourth or fifth century.  I am referring to the those who lived in the earlier centuries after the Apostles,  like St. Athanasius and St. Irenaeus.  In this way you will see that the Church was never destroyed from the time of the Apostles up to the present.

JM and I never get to talk at the concert.  It was a rock concert interspersed with preaching by pastors and testimonies of Christians like Donita Rose, the MTV host.  I stand when everyone stands and sit when everyone sits.  I clap at the end of the song, but I could not dance and wave my arms and sing.  This is a protestant worship service and I know the proper way to worship God–through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  But the Catholic Mass is fast becoming similar to that of the Protestant worship service.  I have seen many churches transformed to concert halls–even the Church of the Gesu here in Ateneo de Manila University.  But the wind is now changing, with more conservative clergy getting ordained.  As Fr. Z used to say, “brick by brick, folks!”

Rev. Leo A. Collum, S.J. on the Consecration of the Philippines to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Pres. Ramon Magsaysay in 1956

During the ceremonies of the Second Eucharistic Congress held in the Philippines on Dec 2, 1956 in the Philippines, against the protest of several non-Catholic groups, President Magsaysay read an act consecrating the Philippines to the Sacred Heart.  The non-Catholic groups contended that it violated the principle of “Separation of Church and State,” and that the president, who is a political leader, should not consecrate the whole Philippines in a Catholic ceremony using an exclusive Catholic formula.  Dr. Gumersindo Garcia, in his objection said,  “In accordance with the principle of separation of Church and State, the president of this country should not give any special preference or favor to any particular Church.”  In reply, Rev. Leo Cullum of the Ateneo de Manila said that the basic principle of Church-State relation is that the government may not establish a Church, i.e. sect or give preference to one religion over another and what is corollary of this, may not prevent or hinder the exercise of any religion.  The principle, however, does not say that the Church is deprived of a de facto preference it enjoys by the presence of its members in high positions who thus reflect prestige upon it.  In this respect, President Magsaysay did not act as President in his official capacity but as a Catholic layman who was prominent because he was President and is therefore a natural leader and spokesman for his fellow Catholics.

The consecration could be done by anybody, and that in this case, the one chosen to lead the religious rite is the President who would therefore be acting in his capacity as an individual Catholic without committing the State in which he leads.  The right of the individual Catholic to the external manifestation of his love for God, invoking such impressive things as constitutional tradition and fundamental democracy and in questioning the extent to which an individual may publicly display his love to God can hardly be disputed.  It is tradition which allows us whether in public office or not to display to the world our love for God.


Jorge Rioflorido Coquia, Church and State Law and Relations, 4th ed., p. 82

My prize in elementary storytelling contest: pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary

When I was a Grade 1 student in St. Rose of Lima School in Bacolod City, I was asked to represent the class in a storytelling contest vs. the representatives of Grades 2 and 3.  My story piece is “The Boy who Cried Wolf.”  When the results were out, the winner was Grade 3, followed by Grade 2, and I for Grade 1.  My prize: two one-inch pictures of the Sacred Heart Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary connected by a hinge.  The pictures are framed with ornate plastic painted with gold.

My mother was proud of my prize.  She placed it on our altar where we pray the rosary every night.  Me and my brothers and sisters were already trying to fend of sleep, but pray we must.  My mother and father were kneeling, and so must we till the rosary ended, complete with the Litany (I just noticed the number litany prayers is the same as the number of the rosary beads).

I don’t know what happened to my little prize.  I think it was kept in a cabinet together with my journal notebooks–my mother keeps little things about me and my other brothers and sisters.  My mother died about ten years ago, but her face lit by candles as she prayed on our altar I still remember clearly.  Before she died, she entrusted me to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  And Our Lady has become my mother.

On my present workdesk are two 20 inch by 20 inch pictures connected by a hinge: the pictures of the Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus is visble: aflame, crowned with thorns, mounted with a cross.  The Immaculate Heart of Mary is invisible, yet her hands joined in prayer and the flower on her dress above her hands suggests her Immaculate Heart.  I gazed and gazed and smiled.  The boy who cried wolf, now cries “Lord, Lord!” and “Mama, Mama!”  Thank you for making me win third place, so that I will place first in your hearts.

Archdiocese of Manila: Pastoral letter on Sunday celebration of the Eucharist

Last June 14, 2009, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales, Archbishop of Manila, issued a pastoral letter on the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist entitled, “Without Sunday we cannot live.” The full letter is 36 pages long (see pdf), divided into three parts.   I shall provide excerpts of the bullet points in the document, for they address many familiar liturgical issues (and problems) in the celebration of the New Mass in the Philippines:

I.  The Liturgical Assembly: “The Church: Assembly of the People of God”

Priest celebrant:

  • The presider at Mass should not appropriate the functions that the liturgical norms assign to lesser ministers, except in case of necessity.
  • The homily belongs to the office of the presiding priest.
  • When the presider invites the assembly to prayer with the words, “Let us pray,” he leads the assembly to some moments of silence in which they place themselves in God’s presence and make their own petitions.
  • Proper vestments should at all times be worn in keeping with the liturgical norms.


  • Lectors, especially those assigned for Sunday celebrations, are to come together during the week to study the Sunday readings
  • They need to prepare and familiarize themselves with the biblical
    text before they proclaim it to the assembly.
  • When there is no deacon, a reader may carry the Book of the Gospels in front of the presiding priest in the entrance procession and lay it on the center of the altar. When there is no deacon, the reader announces the
    intentions of the General intercessions from the


  • The choir is at all times a part of the assembly. It should not replace the assembly or dominate the assembly in songs that rightfully belong to them.
  • The music director, working collaboratively with other ministers, has a particular responsibility to help select musical settings that allow the worthy celebration of the liturgy, respecting the different nature
    of the texts and actions of the liturgy, the feast, and the liturgical seasons.
  • We strongly recommend that the members of the choir avail themselves of the formation programs offered by the Archdiocesan Music Ministry and the Institute of Music in the Liturgy.

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion:

  • We feel the need to commission other extraordinary ministers whose principal task is to bring Holy Communion to the sick and the home-bound.
  • Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should regard their ministry as essentially related to all the other ministries in the liturgical celebration.
  • There is a need to intensify parochial formation programs that will supplement the annual formation program given by the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission, so that the extraordinary ministers of Holy
    Communion will be continually formed both liturgically and spiritually for the exercise of their ministry.

Altar servers:

  • It is a proven fact that many ordained ministers developed their vocation to the priesthood because of their membership in this ministry when they were young. We therefore wish to continue the practice of reserving this ministry to young boys.
  • Programs that will suit their age need to be designed by pastors and those that are in charge of them….The young altar servers should
    be diligently guided and formed by competent and God-fearing persons.

Greeters and Collectors:

  • [Greeters] should remember that they exhibit the image of a welcoming and open Church.
  • Greeters may assist with the collection and with the offering of the gifts.

Liturgy Coordinator:

  • The person to be appointed to as liturgy coordinator should have received formation through the liturgy programs of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission intended for this position.
  • The liturgy coordinator should foster and promote team work and coordination among the liturgical ministers.

II.  The Sunday Eucharistic Celebration

Liturgy of the Word:

  • The announcement of Mass intentions either at the beginning or at any part of the Mass has been discouraged.  We reiterate this policy …. so as not to perpetuate the misunderstanding among our people that they
    pay for the Mass.
  • The readings are to be proclaimed from the ambo.
  • It is appropriate that a period of silence be observed after the readings and the Gospel proclamation.
  • The high point of the Liturgy of the Word is the proclamation
    of the Gospel. The liturgy expresses this through solemn and special gestures of reverence. Particularly on Sundays, solemnities, and feasts, the use of the Book of the Gospel is highly recommended.
  • It is preferable that the responsorial psalm be sung.  The singing of psalms may be done in various ways. The usual form is responsorial: the psalmist or cantor sings the verses and the whole assembly takes
    up the response. In direct form, which is also permitted, there is no intervening response and the cantor, or the whole assembly together, sings the verses consecutively.
  • In the homily, firmly based on the mysteries of salvation, the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of Christian life are expounded from the Scriptures that have been proclaimed, and as the
    need arises, also from the other texts and rites of the liturgy.
  • The minister for the intentions of the prayers of the faithful is the deacon or, in his absence, the lector.
  • The place where this is announced is the ambo.

Liturgy of the Eucharist:

  • “Pondo ng Pinoy” collections can be a regular element in this liturgical act (procession with the gifts), since it can concretely express the gift of self by the faithful in union with Christ’s offering of himself to the Father. We have designated the last Sunday of every month for this
  • On the occasions of installation of parish priests, birthdays or anniversaries, and the like, it is discouraged that personal gifts for the priests be brought in procession. These personal gifts should be given to the priests during the reception party.
  • We reiterate the instruction given in the past that the use of holy water to bless persons who brought the Eucharistic gifts is not in keeping with liturgical norms and therefore should not be done.
  • The collection of money and other gifts are deposited in a suitable place but away from the Eucharistic table.

“He said the blessing”:

  • The great importance of the assembly’s response and acclamation can be difficult to bring out in the short word Amen. This should be sung or at least spoken loudly both at Sunday and weekday celebrations. Musical settings that moderately prolong the Amen or repeat it, though not excessively, can help the assembly respond more adequately to the prayer.
  • Before the breaking of the bread, the entire assembly prays …. the prayer Our Lord taught us…. We recommend that each parish should choose one musical setting to be used in all Sunday Masses so as to help the assembly participate fully and devoutly in singing it.
  • The proper gesture for the Lord’s Prayer is raised hands.
  • The breaking of the bread is done with dignity and deliberation by the priest celebrant, if necessary with the help of a deacon or a concelebrant.  It should never be done during the words of consecration.
  • Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion who will assist at Communion should take their place in the sanctuary after the exchange of peace.

“He gave it to them”:

  • The faithful are not ordinarily to be given Communion from the tabernacle. Serious effort should be made to observe this norm as a regular practice in our parishes rather than as the exception.
  • Signs of unjust discrimination or social distinction  among persons at the Lord’s Table are to be avoided. When there is obvious intent of profanation, the priest and ministers should gently refuse to give
    Communion, avoiding the attention of the public.
  • Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion receive communion from the priest celebrant and receive the vessel of Communion from him.
  • The manner of receiving communion, whether by hand or in the mouth, is the prerogative of the communicant.
  • The purification of vessels after communion should be done at the side table and not on the altar.
  • Announcements should not interrupt the period of silence after communion. Novenas and other devotions and the collections should not be done during this time.
  • Announcements are done after the post Communion Prayer.

The part three on “Our Sunday Eucharist and Mission” does not concern liturgical norms.

Tantum Ergo in an elevator: a Filipino meets an Indonesian

Yesterday I was in Singapore for a conference on earthquake prediction using electromagnetic waves, one of the workshops of the Science Council of Asia.  (I was only asked by my boss to go in his stead, because he is busy at enrollment at Ateneo de Davao University.)  I left my room at the 11th floor of the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, while softly chanting Tantum Ergo; there are no churches nearby, so I tried to celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart in my own little way.  When I reached the elevator, a dark man with tuxedo and tie heard me and also hummed.  I smiled.

“Are you Catholic?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered.

“What country are you from? I asked.

“Indonesia,” he answered.

“So there are Catholics in Indonesia?  I thought Indonesia is a
Muslim country?” I asked.

“Not many Catholics,” he said.  “But there are.”

The elevator opened.  We both entered.  After a few seconds, we reached the ground floor and said goodbye.

St. Josemaria Escriva’s Opus Dei and St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Jesuits

January 08, 2002

Interview by Lola Galan, El Pais, Madrid

Javier Echevarria, 69, has been at the top of the Opus Dei hierarchy since April 20, 1994. He is currently preparing to celebrate the centennial of the birth, on January 9, 1902, of Blessed Josemaria Escriva, Opus Dei’s founder. The centennial will have its culminating moment in the canonization of Escriva, already announced by the Pope. Bishop Echevarria agreed to answer a questionnaire sent by this correspondent, whom he received at the Roman headquarters of Opus Dei.

Q. Opus Dei and the Society of Jesus are Spanish religious initiatives with their own personality within the Church. The Jesuits are considered liberal and Opus Dei conservative. How are their relations?

A. If you will allow me to make a clarifying statement, I would like to say that I discovered Opus Dei in 1948 and have been one of its many faithful ever since, but I have never seen this reality as something Spanish rather than universal. It was born in Spain, but it was planned by God for the whole world. Additionally, some words that are useful for simplifying matters – such as conservative or liberal – must be used carefully, because the effect they have is that many people, for fear of being labeled or pigeonholed, will not say what they truly think. What do I think? That the Society of Jesus has had and continues to have a great mission in the Church and in the world. The Society and the Prelature are different in nature and arose from different charisms. I would not interpret them with terms that are alien to their deepest ecclesial reality, nor would I dare to compare them. Josemaria Escriva had a great devotion to St. Ignatius Loyola. What a big embrace they must have given each other in heaven!

Source: Opus Dei Newsletter June 12, 2009

Fjordman’s Comparison of Christian and Islamic Science: Gregorian Chant and Muslim music

As for music, Greek theory on the subject evolved from Pythagoras before 500 BC. The Church was the dominant institution in post-Roman Europe and drew on Greek philosophy and musical theory. Some elements of Christian observances may derive from Jewish tradition, too, chiefly the chanting of Scripture and the signing of psalms, poems of praise from the Book of Psalms. Christians integrated music into their liturgy. In the Western Church, Gregorian chant and the development of polyphonic music was valued as decoration, a concept central to medieval art and architecture. According to A History of Western Music, Seventh Edition, by Donald J. Grout, Peter J. Burkholder and Claude V. Palisca, “Polyphonic performance heightened the grandeur of chant and thus of the liturgy itself.” This gave rise to a musical tradition which led to Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Nothing similar happened in the Islamic world, despite the fact that Muslims initially had access to much of the same material. I have described this in my essay Why Muslims Like Hitler, but Not Mozart.

Historian Bernard Lewis writes in The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years:

“Since Muslim worship, with the limited exception of some dervish orders, makes no use of music, musicians in the Islamic lands lacked the immense advantage enjoyed by Christian musicians through the patronage of the Church and of its high dignitaries. The patronage of the court and of the great houses, though no doubt useful, was intermittent and episodic, and dangerously subject to the whims of the mighty. Muslim musicians devised no standard system of notation, and their compositions are therefore known only by the fallible and variable medium of memory. There is no preserved corpus of classical Islamic music comparable with that of the European musical tradition. All that remains is a quite extensive theoretical literature on music, some descriptions and portrayals of musicians and musical occasions by writers and artists, a number of old instruments in various stages of preservation, and of course the living memory of long-past performances.”

There are those who are critical of Mr. Lewis as a scholar and consequently believe that he shouldn’t be quoted as an authority. You should always maintain a healthy criticism of any writer, but I know from other sources that the above mentioned quotes are largely correct.

Many forms of music are banned in Islam. The Reliance of the Traveller by Ahmad Ibn Lulu Ibn Al-Naqib and Noah Ha Mim Keller has been formally approved by al-Azhar in Egypt, the highest institution of religious learning among Sunni Muslims. It quotes a number of ahadith, authoritative sayings of Muhammad and his companions which form the core Islamic texts next to the Koran, among them one which says that “There will be peoples of my Community who will hold fornication, silk, wine, and musical instruments to be lawful …” Another quote says that: “On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress.” The scholarly conclusion is that “All of this is explicit and compelling textual evidence that musical instruments of all types are unlawful.” Another legal ruling says that “It is unlawful to use musical instruments – such as those which drinkers are known for, like the mandolin, lute, cymbals, and flute – or to listen to them. It is permissible to play the tambourine at weddings, circumcisions, and other times, even if it has bells on its sides. Beating the kuba, a long drum with a narrow middle, is unlawful.”

Source: “Fjordman: To President Obama: Regarding Islam and Science” in Jihad Watch. (The full essay is a very good read, especially for those interested in astronomy, linguistics, and optics.)

“Tumbukin Natin” blog: Catholic apologist Cenon Bibe answers questions from Balik Islam

As I thought before, the debate of the Catholic apologist Cenon Bibe and the members of Balik Islam will never push through. But Cenon has been receiving text messages on his mobile phone from those who claim to be members of the Balik Islam (Return to Islam) movement, a movement of former Christians who became Muslims.   (He also receives questions from Protestants.)  These questions he posts in his blog, “Tumbukin Natin” in the hope of converting the Balik Islam members back to Christianity.  So in this sense, he is starting the Balik-Kristiyano movement.   This is apt, since Christianity (AD 33) came first before Islam (AD 632), and many countries in Asia and Northern Africa–the provinces of the Old Roman Empire–were formerly Christian before the Islamic conquest.  The only problem, though, is that his blog is in Filipino. I hope he adds a Google translation widget, so that his blog would be read by more people all over the world.

Cenon has a fancy for sprinkling his writing with words in all caps. Some people may take offense at this, for all caps means shouting. Here, for example, is his mission statement, which I translated into English, with the words in all caps intact:

CATHOLICS and the CATHOLIC FAITH are being ATTACKED.  The ATTACKS are usually STRONG and FEROCIOUS.  The SAD thing is that their CRITICISMS  are ALL WRONG.




Here is a sample of questions or thesis statements  from Balik Islam that he answered:

  1. The bible has been corrupted because there are other scriptures that are not found in the bible such as  Gospel of Barnabas.  [here]
  2. Is the Bible confirmed by the Koran? [here]
  3. Jesus Christ is uncircumcised. [here]

Cenon is the only Catholic apologist studying Islam.  May he walk in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, the man of peace who went to the Sultan in Egypt to try to convert him.  Here is a Wikipedia entry:

In 1219 Francis left, together with a few companions, on a pilgrimage of non-violence to Egypt. Crossing the lines between the sultan and the Crusaders in Damietta, he was received by the sultan Melek-el-Kamel.[1][14] Francis challenged the Muslim scholars to a test of true religion by fire; but they retreated.[1] When Francis proposed to enter the fire first, under the condition that if he left the fire unharmed, the sultan would have to recognize Christ as the true God, the sultan was so impressed that he allowed Francis to preach to his subjects.[1][15] Though Francis did not succeed in converting the sultan, the last words of the sultan to Francis of Assisi were, according to Jacques de Vitry, bishop of Acre, in his book “Historia occidentalis, De Ordine et praedicatione Fratrum Minorum (1221)” : “Pray for me that God may deign to reveal to me that law and faith which is most pleasing to him.”.[16]

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.