Personal Musings: October 2006 Archives

Buon Onomastico, Padre Abate!

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Today is the patronal feast of the Right Reverend Father Don Simone Maria Fioraso, O.Cist., Abbot of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome.

Don Simone a native of Milan, received the abbatial blessing on September 14, 2005. His abbatial arms bear the words of Saint Bernard, Respice stellam; voca Mariam, "Look to the star, call upon Mary."

O you, whoever you are,
who feel that in the tidal wave of this world
you are nearer to being tossed about among the squalls and gales
than treading on dry land:
if you do not want to founder in the tempest,
do not avert your eyes from the brightness of this star.

When the wind of temptation blows up within you,
when you strike upon the rock of tribulation,
gaze up at this star,
call out to Mary.


I leave today for The Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, Illinois where I will be giving a conference on — Are you ready for this? — the "theology of church acoustics."

The conference is entitled: Heaven on Earth: Building or Renovating Your Church. The Institute describes it as "a theological and practical conference about envisioning the church building as a sacrament of heaven. Includes sessions on understanding traditional architecture, choosing a church architect, finding craftspeople, acoustics and music, the nature of the image, fundraising, and a beginning–to–end walkthrough of a completed church project."


I will not be posting anything on Vultus Christi while in Mundelein. Here, though, is a bit of my conference for those of you who are wondering what I am going to say


Is there a theology of church acoustics? Acoustics, derived from the Greek akouo, to hear, is not all that far removed from the very first word of the Rule of Saint Benedict, ausculta, “listen,” or “give heed.” “Listen, my son, to the instruction of your Master, turn the ear of your heart to the advice of a loving father” (RB Pro:1). The sacred liturgy, insofar as it springs from the mystery of the Word, calls for a unique quality of listening and engages at the deepest level man’s capacity for hearing. Could it be then that church acoustics have more to do with hearing than with speaking, more to do with listening to the word than with projecting it, more to do with enhancing silence than with enhancing sound?

The Sound of the Church

Being a theologian and not an acoustician, I will not venture into the more technical aspects of how a church might best be constructed for the transmission of sound. I must, however, argue straightaway that the acoustical quality of a church must figure into the very construction of the building, into its materials, size, dimensions, proportions, shape, and furnishings and not be left as an afterthought. “Now that we have constructed our church, let us look into fitting it with a good sound system.” Wrong! The church building is, in itself, the primary sound system with the living Church, hierarchically ordered, providing the sound.

Space for the Resonance of the Word

The Cistercian artisans of the twelfth century understood that a church building is, first of all, virginal space for the resonance of the Word. The abbatial churches of the Cistercian reform had a certain Marian quality about them; they were constructed to be indwelt sacramentally by the living Word. They were characterized by a certain noble austerity and by what, for want of a better term, I choose to call “spatial chastity.” One engaged in designing a church does well to meditate the mystery of the Annunciation. The suitability of a church building is measured, first of all, by its capacity to provide optimal resonance for the Word of God.


On Saturday the family gathered to celebrate the 25th birthday of my eldest nephew, Sean Patrick Cable. Sean, or Sean—o as I call him affectionately, is the first–born of my sister Donna and her husband Wayne.

Pizza (or Apizz' as we say in New Haven dialect) was Sean's choice for the evening. Sean's sister, Lauren Elizabeth, made a delicious cake for the occasion and the birthday boy himself baked cookies for his guests.

Sean attended my ordination twenty years ago, entertaining himself very well during the long celebration and presenting himself afterwards for a first priestly blessing.

Sean is a graduate of Quinnipiac University. He teaches little ones in a pre–school in Woodbridge, Connecticut. The munchkins love him. Happy Birthday, Sean—o! May the next quarter of a century be rich in blessings for you.

So Sorry

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Our stblogs server was knocked out by a power failure last Friday evening. Take heart, we are back and running again! Father Jeff, I especially regret that I was unable to blog for the feast of your beloved founder, Saint Gaspar de Bufalo, on Saturday.

Much has happened in three days. On Saturday, my three year old nephew, Michael Colin Kirby, rode a two wheel bicycle for the first time. Yes, two wheels without training wheels! From the sidelines, little sister Mary (18 months) cried, "Me too! Me too!"

On Sunday, Benedictine Oblates Michael and Kerry Guidone received the blessing after childbirth — the Churching of a Woman traditionally given forty days after giving birth — in thanksgiving for their beautiful new son, Michael Mario. More on that later.

Today, the great–grand–niece of Blessed Columba Marmion came to Mass at the monastery and presented me with treasures from Dom Marmion's beatification: the Mass booklet, a green silk scarf with his image on it, a medallion, and several of his books. I have been devoted to Blessed Columba Marmion for many years and consider Mary Marmion's visit a sign of his continued intercession for me.

Blessed Encounters

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I had two encounters today that made me very happy. The first took place after Mass. I was in the sacristy removing my vestments when a smiling lady entered and, with a delicious Irish brogue, introduced herself as Mary Marmion. Yes, Marmion — as in Blessed Columba Marmion, the Irish Benedictine Abbot whose writings have so influenced me for the past forty years . Mary Marmion Corden, a native of County Louth, Ireland, now living in Connecticut, is the great–great–grandniece of Blessed Abbot Marmion. Irish Sister Mary Marcella, O.S.B. joined us for a chat. I had the privilege of blessing Mrs. Corden, invoking the intercession of Blessed Columba Marmion, of course.

The second encounter took place in my favourite neighbourhood bakery, Bread and Chocolate on Whitney Avenue in Hamden, Connecticut. Bread and Chocolate is owned and operated by Jaime and Alejandra Zapata. I was standing at the counter talking with Jaime when a woman sitting in the restaurant heard me mention Rome. She identified herself as Jewish and said that she had visited Rome, seen Saint Peter's, the Vatican Museums, etc. Susan Berman then introduced me to her mother, an absolutely radiant older lady who immediately said to me, "I am a Holocaust Survivor."


She related something of her story. Until the Nazis forbade Jewish children to attend non–Jewish schools, her parents sent her to a Catholic Convent School. Later, she was obliged to attend an all–Jewish school at some distance from her home. She remembers seeing a great synagogue destroyed. After the Krystallnacht in 1938, she and her sister were sent to England as part of the famous Kindertransport. Her parents and youngest sister perished near the Polish border. I was astonished at the vivacity and wisdom of this lady: she said that world still had not learned its lesson, even after the Shoah, and spoke to me of the situation in Darfur. "The Lord bless her and keep her: the Lord make His Face to shine upon her, and be gracious to her: The Lord lift up his countenance upon her, and give her peace" (Num 6:24–26).

Buona festa, Don Luca!

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Padre Luca Maria Zecchetti, O.Cist. celebrates his onomastico today. Don Luca, a native of Milano, is the prior of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. He possesses seemingly boundless energy and needs it as the director of the famous children's singing group, Le Matite Colorate. He is gifted with a magnificent voice and uses it well for the glory of God and the joy of all who hear him. Don Luca also looks after the abbey's postulants and novices. Recently he undertook a journey to our new foundation, the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Guadalajara, Mexico. Join with me today in praying for him and in wishing him a happy feastday.

Does Don Luca look unhappy to you? If you are interested in an expression of Cistercian–Benedictine life that unites the traditional monastic observances with the service of the Church, write to me.



Monday, October 9th, is my Mom and Dad's 58th Wedding Anniversary. They were married on Columbus Day 1948.

I didn't have a photo of them together to upload, so I had to use one of Mom with granddaughter Mary Elizabeth, and one of Dad with grandson Michael Colin. I am immensely proud of my parents and of the example of enduring, faithful love that they given over the years to all who know them.

Daniel Bernard Kirby and Emma Rose Barbato were both born in New Haven, Connecticut. Lucille Silvestro Zorena introduced them to each other more than sixty years ago at Saint Donato's Parish Festa. (They had probably gone for the fried dough and ended up with a lifetime of love.) Dan and Emma's marriage was the wedding of two cultures: Irish and Italian. A rich but sometimes challenging combination! They have five children: Mark Daniel, Daniel Joseph, Donna Marie, Michael Dennis (+ 1998), and Terence Gerard. They also have ten grandchildren . . . and one on the way.

Dad retired from the New Haven Fire Department as a Battalion Chief twenty years ago. Mom also retired from City of New Haven several years ago. They now live in Hamden, Connecticut with Dulcie, the sweetest pit bull in the world. They are members of Saint Mary's Parish in New Haven.

Feel free to leave anniversary greetings for them in Comments. Mom is a faithful reader of Vultus Christi and is always interested in seeing whatever comments are left by other readers.

The Joy of Letting Go

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My niece Mary Elizabeth Kirby (18 months) knows the joy of letting go. This photo reminded me of a line from the lovely Prayer for the Heart of a Child of Father Léonce de Grandmaison.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
preserve in me the heart of a child,
pure and transparent as a spring.

I baptized both Mary and her brother Michael Colin (3 years old) in Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Hampton, New Hampshire. This is not Mary's first appearance on Vultus Christi. You can be sure that it will not be her last.


On this feast of the Holy Guardian Angels my brother Terence and his wife Sandy celebrate their seventh wedding anniversary. Terence and Sandy have two amazing children: Michael Colin (3 years old) and Mary Elizabeth (18 months old). They own and operate My Dogs Mind, a comprehensive dog training service in Hampton, New Hampshire.

Let us pray.

Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord,
the home of Terence and Sandy,
and drive far from it all snares of the enemy:
let thy holy Angels dwell therein,
to preserve them in peace;
and let thy blessing be always upon them.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory