September 26, 2011

All Slavic Children Are Cute (And Other Sunday Observations)

Mambo and I went to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for a very special mass this Sunday: a celebration of the 170th Anniversary of the birth of the greatest Czech composer Antonin Dvořák, and the 200th Anniversary of Saint John Neumann (who was born in Bohemia--modern day Czech Republic).  The Shrine choir sang Dvořák's Mass in D (The "Festival" Mass)--and sang it beautifully.  Presiding over and preaching the Mass was the Archbishop of Prague, a Dominican.  All this is part of an awesome festival here in Washington, celebrating Dvořák, and sponsored by the Czech Embassy.

His Excellency Dominik Duka, OP, the Archbishop of Prague, gave a lovely homily, touching on the difficulties of Communism and all the other "isms" which have had influence over the world, eliminating human dignity at every turn. What is crucial, in our Lord's eye, is the final action--in it we are free. Noting that the Mass was taking place in a church dedicated to our Blessed Mother, he concluded his remarks looking at her fiat.  He said in that one, free decision, when she says Yes to God, she gave up so much that was good--"her idea of a happy home"--and gained so much pain and sorrow, but also gained blessings beyond measure.  He also discussed how Dvořák's work was inspired by a great love of Christ and that he considered music God's greatest creation (the translation seems a little off on this sentiment).

The Crypt was filled with Czech-Americans--and lots of kids.  I always thought the cutest boys in the world were English choir-boys with their ruffled collars and mischievous grins.  But I was wrong.  Slavic boys are the cutest.  They have dark skin but fair hair and (often) light eyes, and big bones that make their cheeks super round without being chubby. (I should have known this--my brother was by far the cutest of us as a child. Plus there's always the boy in Kolya.)

Also, did you know that Saint John Neumann was Czech?  I think this is awesome.  He was, of course, the first bishop of Philadelphia, and one of America's early and great saints.  How cool to find that his heritage is the same as mine!  At the National Shrine there is a special Confession chapel which is dedicated to Our Lady of Hostyn, and has a large statue of St. John Neumann, as well as dirt from his grave, and the grave of Saint Wenceslaus. I always thought this was rather incongruous, but now it makes sense!

The festival is not over.  Check out these other Dvořák related events in Washington coming up:
-- Organist Pavel Kohout performing Dvořák selections at the National Cathedral, October 9 (free!).
-- D. C. Youth Orchestra performing Dvořák's 9th Symphony "From the New World" at the Kennedy Center, October 27th (free!).
-- The Cathedral Choral Society performing Dvořák's Te Deum, and Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass at the National Cathedral, October 28th ($25-$50).

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