Letters to the Editor

A joyous ‘me too’ moment

I was struck by Heather King’s column on Caryll Houselander, “Diagnosing a disease of the soul” (April 8 issue), in...
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Kudos to ‘Sister Dede’

In regards to the nation brief in the April 8 issue “Nurse nun sues DC over vaccine mandate,” congratulations to...
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Heaven in Walt Disney Concert Hall

As someone who attended the LA Philharmonic’s recent performance of Mozart’s “Great Mass in C Minor” at the Disney Concert Hall, I found Stefano Rebeggiani’s review (“Music to move the soul,” April 22 issue) to be a proper and inspired response to voices and musicians who touched the heavens that night. 

The “Kyrie” especially fascinated me. I once sang in Haydn’s Mass, and the “Kyrie” in it feels angry, even tortured. The first syllable is almost spat out: “Ku!” (ryie). With Mozart, the “Kyrie,” which was sung at the piece’s premiere in Salzburg by the composer’s new wife, Constanze, climbs ecstatically like a fountain. The soprano’s solo climbs, too, delicately and pure, so much so that the “mercy” seems to have wings, taking over the Lord himself. Then women in the choir enter, and then the men answer, as both sides are joined in a complicated and gorgeous interweaving until the two words, “Lord” and “Mercy,” elide: kyri-eh/eh-lison. In the ear they become one.

When we hear the great plea of Mozart’s “Credo,” we feel inside how desperate we were the times we didn’t believe, how near we have come to losing it all, and how precious it is. And that is exactly why the “Sanctus” proclaimed with great voices of the giant choir that night is an utter, tears-inducing rescue — incomplete or not. 

The unfinished Mass was dedicated to Mozart’s new wife, whose home in Vienna was called “God’s eye.” Perhaps Mozart knew marriage is holy, no matter how it progresses or ends. (Constanze died nine years after they were married, four of their six children gone as infants.)

Incidentally, my own wedding day was Wolfgang and Constanze’s: Aug. 4.

Gregory Orfalea, Tarzana

Music that serves the Lord with fear and rejoices with trembling

My cousin invited me to downtown Los Angeles on a Friday evening (April 1, no less) to witness a performance of Mozart's great “Mass in C minor” with the LA Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale led by their Conductor Emeritus, Zubin Mehta.

In the 1980s, Maestro Mehta used to come back from his new gig in New York to work the orchestra for its summer Hollywood Bowl concerts, and I was a frequent observer of his rehearsals. (The Philharmonic's music director at the time, Carlo Maria Giulini, was not a fan of the more informal outdoor setting. For him, a concert performance was a sacred offering in itself.) I got to witness the maestro at the energetic and dashing peak of his career from not more than 10 yards away as he led his beloved ensemble through the repertoire. The bond between him and the musicians was obvious.

The Zubin Mehta of 40 years later is frail. He carefully watches his feet as he steps on and off the podium, and he sits while leading the orchestra. He no longer seems to care about being the one in charge; his concertmaster and principals carry the load of keeping the orchestra together. Yet, his presence seems almost greater in its frailty. LA still loves its Maestro Emeritus, and he clearly reciprocates that adoration. On this night it is more than enough.

Mozart's Great Mass is not, in my opinion, the greatest Mass setting ever composed — that honor goes to Johann Sebastian Bach and his “Mass in B minor.” However, it is my personal favorite. It carries Mozart's typical charm and innocence but is also endowed with power that reveals a composer who, despite his frequent characterization as shallow and immature, must have experienced the spiritual abyss, with its terrifying joy. This is music that serves the Lord with fear and rejoices with trembling.

This Mass is not a complete setting; the “Agnus Dei” is omitted, and the “Credo” truncates just before “Crucifixus,” ending with a sublime musical depiction of the One who is Light from Light, and True God of True God, coming down from heaven to become man in the womb of the Virgin Mary. From there one is led directly to the “Sanctus” which culminates in what I think is the most joyous “Hosanna” ever composed.

Nobody knows why Mozart did not complete this Mass, but I hesitate to call the work unfinished; for me, it is perfectly satisfying just as it is. The listener needs simply to love it and to accept the gift of its beauty. Maestro Mehta and his musicians provided everything needful on this night; his own weakness allowed the music to speak for itself — and when Mozart is allowed to speak freely, it is always more than enough.

Mike Malouf

A joyous ‘me too’ moment

I was struck by Heather King’s column on Caryll Houselander, “Diagnosing a disease of the soul” (April 8 issue), in which she quotes the author’s perception of the most striking feature of that age as being “psychological suffering.” 

Houselander names this condition “ego-neurosis,” calling it “a disease of the soul.” She goes on to describe this disease as being characterized by feelings of unhappiness, guilt, frustration, shame, inadequacy, embarrassment, and anxiety. “That’s ego-neurosis?” Heather King exclaims in response. “I thought everyone felt that way!”

It’s the kind of writing that captured me the first time I read Angelus as a new Catholic about six months ago. In two brief, humorous, and insightful sentences, she cleaves through the heaviness and isolation of the condition described by Houselander, opening me to the freedom and joy of the authentic human connection as my heart immediately leaps in exclamatory response, “Me too!” Moments like this are when I actually sense the presence of God. 

In the very earliest stages of rebuilding a life shattered by alcoholism, it is in these moments that hope penetrates (at least briefly) through the self-condemnation and fear, and I catch a glimpse of the possibility that there really may still be a seat for me at the end of the table. 

I have experienced more than one such moment while reading King’s articles. I love Angelus and enjoy reading it cover to cover, but I must admit that I always start with King’s column.

— T. George, Santa Barbara County Main Jail

Kudos to ‘Sister Dede’

In regards to the nation brief in the April 8 issue “Nurse nun sues DC over vaccine mandate,” congratulations to Sister Dierdre “Dede” Bryne for courageously insisting on her religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine. Does anyone seriously believe God created the human anatomy such that maintaining human health would require products that “have been tested, developed, or produced with cell lines developed from abortions”?

— David Walter, Downey

The real beneficiaries of a new abortion law?

The way I read the new law described in the April 8 issue local brief  “California moves to make abortion more affordable” is that it will not cut abortion costs, but instead pass around those costs by increasing insurance premiums. With additional insurance funds available, the abortion business will become even more profitable.

— Tina Garcia, Claremont

A story subject who walks the walk

The article in the March 25 issue, “Tied to a greater purpose” about Richard Grant was especially wonderful to read. It is a joy to learn more about fellow Catholics who spend their lives living the faith.

Sarah Cooney, Altadena

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