Our Pastor’s Corner, April 12, 2015, Divine Mercy Sunday

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:19-20)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Brothers and sisters let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God.”During a penance service at St. Peter’s Basilica last month, Pope Francis surprised many when he took the occasion to announce an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. Inspired by Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” this marks only the third extraordinary jubilee in the last century: the previous two were in 1933 (to mark the 1900th anniversary of the Resurrection in 33 A.D.) and 1983 (its 1950th anniversary). This Year of Mercy begins later this year on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 2015, and will end on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 20, 2016. Mercy is a signature theme of Pope Francis’ preaching and, by announcing this Jubilee year, he hopes to reawaken our appreciation of how mercy impels us to follow Christ, “It’s a journey that starts with a spiritual conversion… I am convinced that the whole Church will find in this Jubilee the joy needed to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God, with which all of us are called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time.”

This second Sunday of Easter we anticipate this Jubilee Year as we celebrate the feast of the Divine Mercy. Rooted in Christ’s revelations to the Polish mystic and nun, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, St. Pope John Paul II established this feast worldwide according to the motto which is at the heart of the gospel, “Jesus, I Trust in You.” Pope Francis has continued to champion this devotion as the basis for overcoming fear. “God is always waiting for us, He never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence and hope — always!”

fear hopeYet fear is not easily overcome, for the forces of fear in our lives can be plentiful. We fear the loss of loved ones, the loss of employment, the loss of security and admiration. Such fears can paralyze. In the face of such fears, Pope Francis reminds us, “It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! … ‘Oh, I am a great sinner!’ ‘All the better! Go to Jesus: He likes you to tell him these things!’ He forgets, He has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, He kisses you, He embraces you and He simply says to you: ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.’ ”

Our God is a God who is more interested in our future than our past. He is a God who forgives and when we experience his mercy, trust grows in our heart. It is trust which extinguishes the fires of fear. The generosity of God’s mercy gives us the confidence to overcome our fear and trust in Him. In this Easter season, let us call down the full abundance of the Lord’s mercy on ourselves, our families and our community that we might always trust in his care and providence. ~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

Of Car Alarms

Happy Easter everyone!  HE. IS. RISEN!

The Novices are amazing.

They are so much more patient than I am.  I mean, truly.

10155138_10152027492846875_5874267704316541549_nSometime before Lent (wow, was it that long ago?), the community held Eucharistic Adoration in our house chapel.  I usually allow the Novices to have this time to themselves, but that evening, I felt called to be part of their prayer time.  Once we exposed the Blessed Sacrament, we heard a car alarm sound.  Imagine us chanting St Thomas Aquinas’ ancient hymn O Salutaris Hostia with a strange harmony of ‘car alarm’ going on just a few hundred feet away.

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And so we knelt.  And prayed.  And heard the car alarm.  And then it would stop.

…Sigh.

imagesYou could feel the brothers relaxing into the pool of wisdom and consolation of the Holy Spirit, calling them into the abyss of light and compassion. The novices, in their beautiful newer habits, folding their hands underneath their scapulars, looking intently at their God.  One of them with yearning eyes, piercing into the Mystery.  A few of them with heads bowed low, sighing in the contentment of their Savior.  All of them thankful for this time to discuss their day with their God.

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Oh, dear God.

And I watched the Novices pray while the alarm was going.

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One of them laughed uncontrollably.  Another sat down from his kneeling position, and sighed as he opened his book.  But the majority of them knelt still and calm as they communed with their Jesus.

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Eventually, one of the novices, overcome with curiosity, left the chapel to find where the car was.

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Eventually, I too excused myself and found where the car alarm was—

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–and of course, naturally, because this is how life is for me, the car is just outside Dominican property.  Here is this sedan, on the curb on Pierce Street, just on the other side where the Dominican Property line closes.  I grimaced an unsaintly grimace.  I thought to myself, I wonder if I can convince to Novices to pull the car onto the property just so that we can call the police to tow it away….

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Being the priest on call that night I took down the license plate and car model and called the local police precinct.

Now, here is the hilarious part about calling the police.  Their elevator music is straight out of 1976.  Though I barely recognized the music, I was hearing—

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–getting in tune with Stayin’ Alive and Brickhouse.  I was imagining a bunch of police officers in A-shirts and Afros, and everyone with a lava lamp on their desk.

Finally, dispatch answered my call.

“Oh yeah,” said the officer, a little annoyed, “we’ve gotten a few calls about that, Padre.  We’ll be sending a unit over there ASAP.  Anything else?”

Said I, “Do you mind if I tow the car onto my property so that I can call a tow truck?”

“Is that an official question or a joke?”

“A joke,” I said.

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“I think you know my answer, then.  Goodnight.”

Around ten o’clock, three plus hours after this adventure began, the car disappeared.  I don’t know if the owners came or the police waved their magic clubs, but the honking finally ended.

I’m thankful for the Novices’ rapt attention in prayer.  Sure, they, like any of us, were distracted, annoyed, or whatever.  But they still kept watch.  Jesus, despite the situation, nonetheless called them to spend time at the Altar of Salvation.

Truly, it is amazing.  I don’t need a car alarm to get me to stop praying.  I can listening to myself breathe and would be distracted from prayer.  But here are the youngest of the Order, teaching me yet again what it means to be a contemplative.  Sigh.  One day, perhaps, I’ll get there.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner, April 5, 2015, Easter Sunday

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChrist is Risen. Truly he is Risen. We all have days when everything we do turns to ash. The morning starts late and we struggle to catch up, the afternoon brings fresh frustration and aggravation; by the end of the day, we feel that tomorrow cannot come soon enough. The stormcloud over our heads has blotted out the daylight. Recently, I was in the midst of such a dark day, when I took momentary refuge in spiritual reading. As I began to read, a particular passage leapt off the page, “Something wonderful is about to happen.” It stunned me. It was as if God himself grasped my shoulders, gave them a shake and said: “Wake up! Let go of the darkness, open your eyes and ears because something wonderful is about to happen. Don’t miss it.”

Something wonderful is about to happen. This is the message of Easter. Jesus’ Resurrection reminds us that something wonderful has already happened. Death no longer has the final word; the grave is not our ultimate destiny. Love is stronger than death, and we are called to live in the hope of God’s blessings. Whatever struggle and challenge we face in our daily living, we can be confident that Jesus is eager to break through our darkness just as He emerged from the lifeless tomb. Christ’s Resurrection is not simply the historical belief that Christ rose from the dead, but that we, too, will share in the life he now has. Easter proclaims that we have a future, and this proclamation is the source of our hope.

But we can miss it. Something wonderful can happen and we can be indifferent or oblivious to it. In his first appearances after His Resurrection, it is remarkable that no one initially recognizes Jesus. Mary Magdalene assumes that he’s the gardener; the disciples on the Emmaus road suppose he is a clueless, if intriguing, stranger; Peter and the other disciples think he is a savvy fisherman who helps them haul an amazing catch from the Galilee shore. In the wake of Jesus’ passion and death, they are so blinded by their darkness they cannot recognize that something wonderful has happened.

So it is for us. When our life is dominated by our fears and failures, we lose focus on the one who is eager to enliven our lives with his presence. One of the most important spiritual abilities is availability. It is only when we are available and alert to the reality that Christ is alive in our days that we are able to recognize His blessings. Consider how the disciples come to recognize the Risen Lord. Though Mary Magdalene is initially mistaken about who Jesus is, still she is searching for Him and, when He speaks her name, she recognizes Him. The disciples on the road to Emmaus are clueless that they’ve been journeying with Jesus, and yet, they invite Him to dine with them, “Stay with us, Lord.” They were available, open, and thus, came to know Christ in the breaking of the bread. Peter and the other disciples don’t realize that the man standing on the seashore is more than merely a sage, but they listen to the advice given, and suddenly it becomes clear that it is Jesus who is calling to them. For those who are available to encounter Christ, something wonderful is about to happen.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” I invite you this Easter season to open the door of your life to Christ. Be available and ready to experience the wonder of the Risen Lord. Be mindful of his presence, alert to his inspiration, and share the hope of his blessings with others. Come and join us during these Sundays of Easter and Pentecost as we relive the most precious and powerful moments of our faith and discover that something wonderful will indeed happen.

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

Good Friday Approaches…

Well, here we find ourselves with Good Friday in view and the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on our minds. That arrestingly paradoxical image of healing and love is one that should always captivate us. It is an image of suffering transformed into a channel for God’s grace, a mystical source of empowerment. Let us be mindful of that this week and keep each other in prayer as we enter the Triduum.

Our Pastor’s Corner, March 29, 2015, Palm Sunday

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs followers of Christ, this is the most important week of the year. Beginning with the pageantry and processions of Palm Sunday and ending with the stark quiet of Holy Saturday, the Church gives us an opportunity, through a wide array of liturgical celebrations, to retrace the path that Christ himself traveled in his final days. All of our Lenten projects and penances have prepared us for this moment: for now we embark on a journey in which we encounter the power and presence of Christ’s unconditional love. As this week unfolds, we do well to reflect daily on the last events of Christ’s life, for it is by this reflection that we open ourselves to the graces of the season.

Palm Sunday The feast of the Passover is near. palm sundayJerusalem is bursting with all those who have come from far and wide to celebrate the remembrance of their Exodus from Egypt and to look forward to the coming of the Messiah. Amid the bustling of preparation, some wonder if the Teacher will come for the Passover. He does not disappoint. The crowds spot Jesus while he is still a way off, riding on a colt (as Isaiah prophesied – Is 62:11), and they give him a royal welcome: They spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut braches from the trees and strewed them on the road (Mt 21:8). And all the while they cried: Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord (Mt 21:9). As he enters Jerusalem, Jesus is acclaimed as the Son of David, the king who is to restore the prosperous kingdom that David enjoyed 1000 years earlier. But not all share in this joyful proclamation, and they try to silence the crowd. Jesus responds: I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out! The King has entered the holy city. But Jesus is not the sort of king that the people expect: he does not liberate them from the hated Roman occupation. This king comes to conquer sin and death with the weapons of service, obedience and love, love unto death.

Holy Monday-Wednesday: After his royal entry, Jesus spends much of the next three days teaching and preaching in the Temple, and he enters the Temple with a splash. Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in buying and selling there. He overturned tables, seats and even fashioned a whip to aid in this cleansing. My house shall be a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves. It was a direct attack against the Sadducees, the priestly class, who had a monopoly on all liturgical transactions and dealings. For the Sadducees this effrontery was the final straw. The chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him. The crowds are spellbound by his teaching and Jesus continues to teach them at length, to confound the traps of the Pharisees (the theologians), and even prophesy about his death and resurrection. But on Wednesday, the chief priests get a break: Judas Iscariot, who was disillusioned with Christ, conspires with them to betray his teacher. The scene is set for the end of the week.

 Holy Thursday-Saturday: Knowing that the hour of betrayal is near and as part of the Passover ceremonies, Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with his disciples. By washing the feet of the apostles, he reveals that his authority and his mission are rooted in the loving obediencTheTriduume of service. Further, in the institution of the Eucharist, he shows the depths of his love: for he never abandons his followers but is always present to us in this Sacrament. It is with this same love that Jesus allows himself to go through his Passion and Death. Amid the betrayal of Judas and the denials of Peter, amid the brutal scourging and the mockery, amid the pain and suffering of humiliating crucifixion, we see the horrors of sin and the love that Christ has for us in offering His life so that he can then offer us forgiveness and mercy. His mission is clear: to make all things new whatever the cost. By entering into the events of this Holy Week our lives are transformed: for those who perseveringly trod shoulder–to-shoulder with Christ through the joys and sorrows, the love and agony of this Holy Week find themselves transformed with him by the power of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

Lenten Awakenings

What does it mean for a Catholic to act well? I would say acting well for a Catholic means to follow one’s conscience in a state of faithful submission to what one honestly believes the teachings of Christ’s church indicate about the best action to take in a given situation. By the end of Lent, we should be better at doing this. As I have said all season, penance is meant to help us grow in virtue, which can aid the interior transformation Christ wants to perform in each of us. Do not be surprised if over the course of these forty days you experience remarkable awakenings of self-knowledge. This can happen because growth in virtue has a way of clearing our perception of why we do what we do, bringing into focus true motivations that were previously obscured when we were more dominated by vice. Consider as an example the seventh deadly vice of pride. Let us imagine I have been doing penance designed to help me grow in the corresponding Heavenly virtue of humility. At a certain point of successful death to pride, my conscience may start to recognize motivations of ego-gratification behind behavior of mine that up to that point I had perceived as humble. Such realizations can be startling but also exhilarating steps into greater freedom. As we progress toward clearer self-awareness we can see new possibilities for being better, happier, and closer to fulfilling our God-give potential.

Our Pastor’s Corner, March 22, 2015, Fifth Sunday of Lent

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. (John 11:3-45)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALife. Vitality. Vigor. In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ mission is to bring life. At the beginning of the Gospel, John says that it is the Word of God through whom all things are made and without the Word nothing has life. Flowing from God’s love, the Word becomes Incarnate, so that “all who believe might have eternal life.” When Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd, he reveals his divine purpose, “I have come that all might have life and have it more abundantly.” At the Last Supper, he tells Thomas, “I am the way, the Truth and the Life.” This weekend, in the face of the death of his friend Lazarus, Jesus tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.” Jesus lives to give us life, now and forever with Him.

Yet, there are many aspects of our existence which seem dead and lifeless. Like Lazarus, we are bound head to toe with our bad habits, sins and addictions. Moreover, the daily headlines paint a grim picture of world events. Just as the crowd wonders why Jesus didn’t heal Lazarus when he was sick, we might ask why God does not seem to intervene in the face of illness, suffering and death. Today we see Jesus’ response. He weeps in compassion, and then he restores in power. Raising Lazarus from the grave is a promise that Christ has conquered death itself and that he wants to share his life with us, even in this moment.

One practical way that we might experience the Resurrection in our daily lives is through a regular morning prayer. This past Tuesday we celebrated the feast of St. Patrick (the Great!). Tradition has given us a beautiful morning offering called the Breastplate of St. Patrick. This prayer has inspired beautiful music, and it opens our mind and hearts to the energy and vitality of Christ in our lives. As we arise each morning, we call the strength and vigor of Christ to empower us as we go through the day. I invite you to join me in this Morning Prayer (which I have abridged for your convenience).

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity. Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort me and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend or stranger. I arise…Amen.

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

5 Steps to Becoming a Happier Christian

What is happiness? Modern culture answers this question in many ways, but one popularly reduced answer seems to be the notion that happiness is being free to be yourself. Happiness in the general philosophical tradition of the Church is somewhat close to this idea. For a Christian, happiness consists in a person becoming the full actualization of who God made that person to be. By way of divine revelation, we believe that actualization will not reach its fullness until after our deaths, and the goal of this life is to actualize as much of that person as possible through faith and virtue. This means putting into motion our potential in a multi-faceted way that is ordered toward the ultimate aim of Christian existence in this life. So, what in this life can make us less free to become that person? The answer to this question usually falls into one of two categories – being dominated by desire for pleasure or dominated by fear of discomfort. Tomorrow I will give a talk called, “5 Steps to Becoming a Happier Christian” at St. Dominic’s Parish. These steps come from my experiences studying philosophy, living religious life, and working to overcome what stands in the way of achieving the authenticity and holiness necessary for being as happy as possible in this life. I hope to see all who are available and interested in attending the talk tomorrow evening. See you soon!
When: Thursday, March 19 at 7pm
Where: St. Dominic’s Parish hall

Our Brother’s Corner, March 15, Fourth Sunday of Lent

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Last week, I encouraged us to view Lent as a forty-day stay in a really good rehabilitation center for our souls – one with the best doctor in existence. I said the first step was to spend time with an examination of conscience to localize symptoms – sources of disharmony or pain in our interior lives caused by sin. As indicated last week, sin involves our passions having become dominated by vice. When this happens, our souls are not able to function the way God made them to function, which makes it difficult for us to do the most important thing God made us to do – love Him and love others as an expression of our love of Him for having loved us into existence. Being contrite for our sins gives us the disposition needed for playing the role the Divine Physician asks us to play in the care He provides. Primarily, that role is to seek forgiveness, which can be scary because it involves feeling vulnerable. However, the less reservedly we ask for that forgiveness, the more we can release to Jesus for the perfect transformation He wants to actualize in us. That actualization comes through the medicinal effects of Christ’s death and Resurrection undergone on our behalf.

Pacific-Campus-235x193pxGiven that Lenten transformation is a matter of healing for our souls, the proper aim of penance is to aid in that process of repair. Penance provides this aid by weakening the grip vice has on our passions through exercise of virtue. This is helpful because when our passions are dominated by vice, they have a tendency to obscure our vision. We are less likely to seek forgiveness for sins we have trouble seeing. And since we usually struggle with more than one type of sin, I recommend building a comprehensive penitential plan. The first step in creating this plan is to explore the different aspects of our lives in which we may be dominated by any of the Seven Deadly Vices of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. The next step is to create penances tailor-made for helping us grow in the corresponding Seven Heavenly Virtues of chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. Virtues are like muscles that make us more resistant to vice, better disposing us to act well and to notice more easily when we do not.

The Church classifies Lenten penance by way of the three categories of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. As an example of penance for the category of prayer, consider the vice of envy. Let’s say I struggle with envy toward a particular family member, friend, or coworker. Through time spent each week praying for that person’s intentions, God can begin to transform that envy into kindness, an ability to delight in the person’s good. For fasting, you may want to try a diversified approach I like meant to exercise multiple virtues. By a diversified approach, I mean choosing a combination of enjoyments from which to fast on pre-specified numbers of days each week. For example, let’s say you tend to eat too much of a certain type of food. Under this approach, you could determine a number of days each week to fast from that food, a number that would feel genuinely austere to you. The next step would be to explore other aspects of excessive consumption in your life. Do you find yourself addicted to Facebook? If so, select a number of days each week to also fast from Facebook. Perhaps you spend too much time listening to political talk radio, which enflames you in a way that causes you to be dominated by wrath. If so, reduce your consumption of talk radio using the method described above, and do likewise with other aspects of vice you would like to target. Almsgiving has classically been seen as any material favor done to assist the needy prompted by the virtue of charity. Perhaps consider donating money you save due to your Lenten penance to some deserving charity.

The treatment plans here in Lenten Spiritual Rehab may pinch at times. When they do, let us try our best to stick with the program, mindful of the spectacular party the Divine Physician has planned for when our stay is finished. In a special way, this time is really meant to make us better partiers – free to love in the way God made us to love, full of Easter joy.

~ Br. Andy Opsahl, O.P.

A Meditative Stations of the Cross by the Solemn Mass Choir

simonberryFriday, March 20th 2015 we have a special Lenten Friday musical devotion.

Starting at 7:30 pm we have a meditative service of Stations of the Cross which will be followed immediately at8:00 pm by a choral performance of a special Lenten cantata.

The Crucifixion is a ‘Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer’ by the Victorian composer John Stainer.   The text is by J. Sparrow Simpson and is drawn from the Bible and from his original writings.  They describe the Passion of our Lord as a journey from Gethsemane to Calvary and dwell on the thoughts and conversations along the way.

The narrative is in the voices of tenor and bass soloists with the choir acting as the crowd.  The congregation joins the story not only by listening but also by standing to sing some well-known hymns.  Thus Stainer continues the evolution of the sacred Passion composition alongside J.S. Bach in the 18th century who included Lutheran Chorales in his Passion settings, and in the 20th century by Michael Tippett who included Negro Spirituals in his oratorio A Child of Our Time  In this performance we include well-known Passiontide hymns that we hope you sing with full heart, spirit and voice;  Stainer’s original hymns, though fine composition, are largely unknown in 21st century California.

Stainer was born in London in 1840 and died in Verona, 31st March 1901.  He came from a family of amateur musicians; his father was parish Schoolmaster of St. Thomas Southwark and owned a small chamber organ on which John received early instruction.  At the age of eight he became a chorister at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and at fourteen he was the organist of SS. Benedict & Peter, Paul’s Wharf.  Two years later Frederick Ousley heard him deputizing at the Organ of St. Paul’s and made him the organist of his recently formed College of St. Michael at Tenbury.

Stainer’s university education at Oxford included four music degrees, and the posts of organist of both Magdalen College and the University.  He founded the Oxford Philharmonic Society and conducted its first concert in 1866.  In 1872 he succeeded Sir John Goss as organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral.  There he instituted many reforms to the status and repertoire of the choir.  Other work included being principal of the National Training School for Music.  Failing eyesight caused him to resign from St. Paul’s in 1888 (following a knighthood), and in 1889 he returned to Oxford as professor of music.

His output of compositions is almost all of sacred choral pieces, designed to be easily singable by parish choirs.  Like the majority Victorian composers, few of Stainer’s works remain in the repertoire, the exception being hymn tunes and two pieces which have always outshone the rest.  I Saw the Lord is a magnificent anthem for eight voices, and The Crucifixion.

The duration of this performance is 65-70 minutes.