Posts Tagged ‘G. K. Chesterton’

In Memoriam, Rev. Stanley R. Rudcki

Friday, May 24th, 2013

My soul, give praise to the Lord;
I will praise the Lord all my days,
make music to my God while I live.
Psalm 146

As the conductor’s baton urged them briskly forward in a swift Allegro with the simple, direct movements learned from noted Chicago Grant Park Symphony founder Thomas Peck, a dozen or more professionals began Handel’s chorus in B flat major, His Yoke is Easy, and His Burden is Light.

First sopranos, then tenors, then altos, then bass squarely hit each others’ mark. Glances and smiles shot around the chorus as if to say, “This is great tempo, great rhythm, great pacing; I’ve never sung or heard Handel this way before; This conductor really knows his stuff; I’ve never had so much fun.” Each singer then took off–together–with confident abandon, and let the music dance and ripple, or if you prefer, rip. His yoke is indeed easy, they sang–and meant with all their hearts–and His burden indeed light. Despite having sung Messiah a hundred times before, each sang as if seeing the notes in first light.

The date was Sunday, May 22, 1994, at St. Michael’s Church in Orland Park, IL, the parish where the conductor began his first priestly assignment in 1953. And on May 22, 2013, nineteen years from the very date of that memorable concert of Messiah, in the sixtieth year of his Roman Catholic priesthood and in the eighty-sixth year of his life, Rev. Stanley R. Rudcki met the Lord he had served so faithfully and so creatively.

Rev. Stanley Rudcki, M.A., S.T.L., M.Mus. was a graduate of the Chicago Archdiocesan Seminaries and the Chicago Music Conservatory, with studies at the University of Chicago, DePaul (1958-60, in music), and Loyola (1960-61, in English) universities. Ordained in 1953, he served at St. Michael’s Church in Orland Park, Quigley Seminary (1957-1961), for a time as organist at Holy Name Cathedral and as a part-time faculty member at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, where he completed his musical graduate studies (1960-65), and from 1961 until its campus closed in 1994-5, Niles College Seminary, then the Chicago archdiocesan college seminary, where he taught Music and English Literature.

In 1964 Fr. Rudcki organized the Niles College Seminary Concert Choir and the Niles Symphony, whose members were professional musicians drawn from the Lyric Opera Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony. Among the many works performed during the 1960s through the 1990s by the Chorus and Orchestra at a number of Chicago locations including Orchestra Hall and Holy Name Cathedral, St. Mary’s Riverside, St. John Cantius, St. Thecla, St. Andrew the Apostle, St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, were Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem (Chicago Premier, 5/20/1968), John Rutter’s Requiem (U.S. full orchestra premier, 10/5/1986, St. Mary’s Church, Riverside, IL, with orchestrations sent personally to Fr. Rudcki by the publisher in close cooperation with the composer [John Rutter had reportedly completed the orchestration just a few days earlier; I’ve been told that the ink was still wet when the parts arrived in Chicago two days before the concert]), Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms (Chicago Symphony Hall Premier, 5/11/1967), Poulenc’s Gloria, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (May, 1972), Verdi’s Requiem (5/8/1966), a fully dramatized version of Honegger’s Joan at the Stake, Mozart’s Requiem, Berlioz Te Deum, Mahler’s Veni Creator Spiritus, and many other major choral symphonic works in dozens of performances. Rev. Rudcki directed the Hillenbrand Sacred Music Project for the former Hillenbrand Institute of Niles College at the time of the 1994 Messiah Concert, and conducted community concerts at St. Alexander Church in Palos Heights, IL (where he served as Associate Pastor in 1995 until his retirement from active ministry in 1997), and elsewhere in the Southwestern suburbs of Chicago, where his orchestra was named the Palos Symphony. He retired from conducting in June of 2011.

Stanley Robert Rudcki (6/13/1927-5/22/2013) was the son of the Polish and Bohemian owners, Stanley Martin Rudcki and Bessie nee Salak, of a past and noted South Side Chicago bowling alley, the Archer-Kedzie Bowl formerly at 4300 S. Kedzie, and grew up in a bungalow at 6501 S. Albany Avenue in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. His gentle demeanor blended somehow with his absolute confidence in several arenas, including bowling, water polo, music, literature, and theology.

He began his musical studies in second grade at the former St. Agnes School (Pershing Road). His talent as a young pianist was so exceptional (playing Rachmaninoff by 8th grade) that, at the behest of his teacher Sister Jane Elizabeth, the very structured Quigley Seminary of his 1940’s high school days allowed him to walk downtown after school to Chicago Music Conservatory, where he studied with Dr. Edgar A. Brazelton and Dr. Bernard Dieter, anointing the young Rudcki thereby a “grandson” by tutelage of Franz Liszt.

Stanley Rudcki played Schumann’s A Minor Concerto to mark the end of his high school days (“Watch out for that third movement, kid,” a member of the Chicago Symphony had advised him). Rudcki’s father had promised him that if he could learn Chopin’s Heroique A flat major Polonaise his father would let him use his car to drive to Mexico as a graduation gift (the war had just ended), and young Rudcki memorized it in a week. At the major seminary, young Rudcki organized an orchestra of fellow students, and performed the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor in a school concert. Humble to a fault, Fr. Rudcki sometimes stated that Cardinal Edward Egan, a Chicago seminary near-contemporary ordained four years after Fr. Rudcki, was a better pianist.

When given the chance to formally study Gregorian chant in Rome, Fr. Rudcki chose instead to continue his musical studies in Chicago, and to master conducting and composition. Among other works, he crafted a Mass in Honor of Chardin (1966), and A Symphonic Fantasy on the Salve Regina (1993), and served from time to time as an arranger on other’s musical projects.

Along the way, he deepened his knowledge of literature, especially tragedy and comedy, Shakespeare, G.B. Shaw (Fr. Rudcki was a regular Niagara On the Lake, Ontario, Shaw Theater Festival attendee), Dostoyevsky, and G.K. Chesterton. As a Chestertonian, Fr. Rudcki suggested to his fellow scholars that the dozens of Chesterton’s Illustrated London News articles be hunted down and published (they were by Ignatius Press). Fr. Rudcki also penned a number of Chestertonian plays that were performed at the seminary, and established an annual Chesterton Lecture for invited upper-level Niles Colleges students to give on weighty topics (very few volumes of these lectures remain). Few of his students will forget Fr. Rudcki’s stirring lecture on the Grand Inquisitor scene from the Brothers Karamazov, or his course on tragedy.

After Niles College affiliated with Loyola University, Fr. Rudcki was named Loyola faculty member of the year in 1969. In 1970, the Zoltan Koldaly Academy and Institute made him an honorary member in recognition of his promotion of the musical arts. In 1993, he was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary, as well as Professor Emeritus at Niles College.

Fr. Rudcki also taught music appreciation to Chicago seminarians, many of whom had no background in classical music whatsoever, and gave a few of them private lessons. (He also kindly gave my oldest daughter a few lessons, gratis, and she continues to teach others the ways of excellent music). The performance Fr. Rudcki mounted of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis to enthusiastic press reviews at Holy Name Cathedral in 1972, sung by dozens of seminarians, parishioners, and professionals along with members of the Chicago Symphony, was in many ways a high point of Catholic culture in Chicago. But such culture, according to Fr. Rudcki, was possible to experience within any Catholic parish church, where indeed Fr. Rudcki brought his musicians.

Fr. Rudcki’s view of art was bound to the Thomistic distinction between prudence as the recta ratio of acting (agibilium) or doing, and art as the recta ratio of making (factibilium). But Fr. Rudcki’s Thomism was living, dynamic, and poetic, witness his nuanced 1987 article in the journal Thought, entitled “The Loss of Art: A Cultural and Theological Perspective,” for the beauty of his written expression.

Fr. Rudcki’s Christmas music during the late Advent prayer service at Niles College was a memorable annual spiritual ascent that realized his vision of art in service to the Gospel. But it didn’t hurt that legendary Chicago Symphony trumpeter Adolph (Bud) Herseth rang out the Gabriellic downward run from high A in the Hallelujah Chorus. Fr. Rudcki combined community musicians with just the right spike of professional excellence. He knew that inspiring music required great composition and musicianship, not simply good intentions. He also had a discerning ear for new music, and very early on performed the works of John Rutter. Chicago soprano Sarah Beatty was a regular soloist at Fr. Rudcki’s concerts for a musical association of forty-one years.

Fr. Rudcki also humbly sweat the small stuff. He would plan his concerts for weeks, and personally lay out the music for each symphonic position. He worked closely with the Chicago Federation of Musicians and the Recording Trust Fund of the American Federation of Musicians which supported many of his concerts, and with Robert Rushford, who contracted his orchestras for a period of years. (Throughout his teaching career, the Chicago seminaries also provided support for Fr. Rudcki’s concerts.)

One day, Fr. Rudcki decided to give up smoking, cold turkey, after decades, and simply did. Another day, Fr. Rudcki asked how to lose weight, and then lost twenty pounds. He very much liked Robert M. Hutchins’s joke about lying down and resting whenever he had the urge to exercise.

And who could forget Fr. Rudcki’s wit, especially his irony? See his 1992 letter to the Chicago Tribune about a critic who tried to juxtapose the Murphy Brown TV show / Dan Quayle controversy with famous characters from Shakespeare.

Fr. Rudcki could not abide Wagner’s Parsifal (“Even Wagner’s religious music is profane,” he said, echoing Chesterton), nor could he stand it when the 1960’s seminarians sang “Rambling Boy” at Mass. For his own 50th priestly anniversary, he chose Mozart’s Coronation Mass, K. 317. The last movement of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony Number 6 in B minor moved him so deeply he could barely listen to it.

It was Fr. Rudcki who proposed the name “Niles College” to end a faculty impasse on the question of the name of the new Chicago Archdiocesan Seminary in the early 1960s, a decision he later regretted. With his colleague Fr. Martin N. Winters, Fr. Rudcki taught at this college seminary at the time of its rise, and of its fall, of which he wrote in a 1995 New Oxford Review article, “The Tale of a Dead Seminary.” (See my earlier post on the bad old days of Niles College).

One friend and colleague described Fr. Stanley R. Rudcki as the last of the true liberals, meaning not a New York Times editorial page political true believer, as the word has come to mean, but liberal in the sense of a humanist educated in the liberal arts freeing the human spirit to hear the Divine and to fully realize the authentically human.

Chicago’s former Quigley Seminary had an expression, “Days of the Giants,” to describe a past era of manly, spiritual commitment and accomplishment. In Fr. Rudcki, quiet giant is who we’re talking about. He was a gentleman when the word meant something.

Fr. Rudcki will be waked at St. Alexander’s Catholic Church in Palos Heights, IL on the afternoon and evening of Wednesday, May 29, 2013, with a funeral at that same church at 10:30 AM, Thursday, May 30. Funeral announcements are here.

I understand that Fr. Rudcki’s friends are quickly working to assemble the musical forces to sing and pray Rutter’s Requiem at the funeral.

May Fr. Rudcki’s soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in the Lord’s peace.

I regret I will not be able to sing the Salve in person on May 30th, but I will be singing it in my heart. Later that day, I’ll play a Mazurka or two for Fr. Rudcki.

[At a priest’s funeral in Chicago and in many places, at the very end of the service, the clergy gather at the side of the remains and lead all in singing the Salve Regina.]

[I wish to thank Mr. Paul A. Knez, a long-time supporter of Fr. Rudcki’s efforts, for some of the fact-checking. Any errors are entirely my own.]

© Copyright 2013, 2016 Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Science vs. Religion vs. Fornicating and Going on the Internet

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

In the science vs. religion debates, how few people who claim to base their lives on either science or religion actually do so!

Instead, we as a society follow politically correct, symbolic, faux science and religion.

If we did base our lives upon real science and religion, we as a society would, for example–

  • Eat right and exercise to avoid disease, and structure our homes, schools, and work environments to help us do so;
  • Treat alcohol and addiction as diseases in terms of public health and homeless assistance policies instead of politicizing “the homeless” to be used as a partisan footballs each election cycle, without actually healing their ills;
  • Treat sexually transmitted diseases in order to cure and to eliminate them, without regard to political correctness that instead enables and thereby spreads them;
  • Follow proper agricultural conservation principles;
  • Consistently focus educational resources based simultaneously upon ability and aspiration and achievement, and not simply upon one or upon another;
  • Maintain our roads, bridges, transportation, utilities, and communication systems in a self-sustaining manner using scheduled preventative maintenance;
  • Run our businesses, our charities, our government, and our bureaucracies based upon established scientific quality control measures to advance better customer service and achievement of mission and purpose;
  • Better match sources of funds with uses of funds in public policy decisions, e.g., pay for alcohol treatment with the alcohol tax, tobacco-related illness with the tobacco tax, instead of funding every other use of funds with a mishmosh of every other source of funds;
  • Regularly measure and test the effects of government action and taxation on a municipal, regional, national, and international basis (political parties are terrified of an unbiased, third entity measuring their actual achievement);
  • Educate prisoners while in prison, since abundant research shows that the more a prisoner is educated, the greater the reduction in recidivism;
  • No longer build homes or businesses in flood plains (which politicians allow generation after rebuilding generation; e.g., please see Ian McHarg’s 1969 book, Design with Nature, for a prediction of exactly where in New Jersey and Staten Island, New York, not to build because of the flooding potential of these locations; McHarg’s predictions were borne out by Hurricane Sandy);
  • No longer build homes, businesses, government projects, schools, or laboratories without adequate safety (especially fire) and without adequate security provisions.
  • But we are no more a scientific society than we are a religious society. We are instead really neither. Our familiarity with science and technology usually ends with the tips of our fingers. Our trust in God too often ends with the mottoes emblazoned on our coins.

    After lip service to both science and religion, when it comes to very important issues of human organization, we as a human society fundamentally ignore both.

    We are instead the uninformed and selfish inertia society, propelled by unenlightened self-interest pointed in the same direction that we may deny we have long been pointed: toward ourselves.

    But even there we miss the mark. Hamartia, for the Classic Greek author the hero’s tragic flaw, for the Christian the New Testament word for sin, literally means “to miss the mark.” We are indeed both a tragic and a sinful society that does not even act effectively in our own self interest:

    “A single sentence will suffice for modern man. He fornicated and read the papers. After that vigorous definition, the subject will be, if I may say so, exhausted.”

    Albert Camus, The Fall

    In her 11/11/11 talk at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture annual conference entitled, “Forgetting Jerusalem: Has the West Lost Its Way?” University of Chicago scholar Jean Bethke Elshtain updated and paraphrased the Camus quote above as: “We [Modern Man and Woman] fornicated and went on the Internet.”

    In her same presentation above, Prof. Elshtain mentioned hearing Julian Huxley confidently predict many years ago a scientific, non-violent, non-religious society “by the year 2000.”

    Julian Huxley apparently forgot that for scientific principles to be applied to address society’s problems, a certain amount of social altruism is needed.

    But scientific reason has heretofore not been the principal fountainhead of human cooperation and unselfishness. It is religion which has steadily, despite notable failures, urged its adherents to think and to act with the well-being of others in mind. The reason of science follows the altruism of religion.

    Catholicism in particular specifically recognizes not only Rome (Church teaching) and Jerusalem (Scripture), but also Athens (Reason).

    Science needs religion-based altruism in order to implement society-wide its best findings in the human interest. Religion needs science in order to separate altruism from self-centered self-deception.

    Both science and religion require a lifetime of study and work in their pursuit, which may explain why both science and religion–to expand G. K. Chesterton’s famous usage about Christianity–are “found difficult and left untried.”

    The greatest threat to religion is not atheism, but consumerism and one of its effects: weekend sports scheduled during times of worship.

    The greatest threat to scientific advance in society is not religion, but the scientifically-verified fact that approximately 25% of the collegiate population is abusing alcohol to the point that it interferes with their studies.

    The search for scientific truth and the pursuit of religious truth are compatible pursuits which spring from a human hunger for truth.

    Those who search for the truth of both the body and of the Spirit need each other in order to implement the best of their gifts of knowledge and wisdom to positively change our world.

    Otherwise, just fornicating and just going on the Internet will continue to shape society according to both tragic and sinful human inertia.

    Science is needed to prevent and to recover from tragedy, and religion is needed to prevent and to recover from sin. Both tragedy and sin stand in the way of human progress.

    Because the world thirsts for both an end to tragedy and an end to sin, science and religion can work together to more quickly advance a better humanity and a better world.

    © Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
    All Rights Reserved


    Encomium Moriae, in Praise of More

    Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

    In my preceding post on the BP – Gulf of Mexico mess, I had some critical things to say about impractical Ivy League lawyers.

    It is only fitting then, that this post sing the praises of a very practical lawyer, St. Thomas More (1477-1535), in honor of his feast day, June 22, in the Catholic calendar. He was executed on July 6, 1535.

    Rowland Lockey after Hans Holbein the Younger, The Family of Sir Thomas More, c. 1594

    Of More another very clever Englishman, G. K. Chesterton, wrote:

    “Thomas More is more important at this moment than at any moment since his death, even perhaps the great moment of his dying; but he is not quite so important as he will be in about a hundred years’ time. He may come to be counted the greatest Englishman, or at least the greatest historical character in English history. For he was above all things historic; he represented at once a type, a turning point and an ultimate destiny. If there had not happened to be that particular man at the particular moment, the whole of history would have been different.” (Chesterton, A Turning Point in History, 1929).

    Reading More’s Utopia again 42 years after my first serious encounter with it, I am amazed at More’s prescience and and clever intelligence, his combination of book smarts with street smarts. He was what we today call “scary smart.”

    More was among the earliest critics of punitive criminal codes, and was one of the first to champion the education of women. He understood how to lay out a city to reduce contagion and disease, negotiated an important peace treaty, was a critic of indolent and corrupt clergy, and himself personified the bridge, as many have written, between the medieval and the Renaissance. His history of Richard III influenced Shakespeare’s play, and his description of “Shore’s Wife” has sparked over 200 works of art, literature, poetry, and drama. His Utopia taught civilization to put imagination to work in conceiving better forms of government and human ecology.

    (In an earlier post I dealt with the question of More’s involvement in the burning of heretics.)

    When More’s Utopian chronicler Raphael Hythloday stated, “There is no place for philosophers among kings,” More’s own persona within Utopia responded:

    “‘Yes there is,’ I answered, ‘but not for that academic philosophy which fits everything neatly into place. There is, however, another more sophisticated philosophy which accommodates itself to the scene at hand, and acts its part with polish and finesse. It is this philosophy that you should use. Otherwise, it would be as if, while a comedy by Plautus were being acted, and the slaves were joking among themselves, you were suddenly to appear in a philosopher’s garb, and recite the passage from the Octavia where Seneca debates with Nero. Would it not be better to take a part without lines than confuse tragedy with comedy? You ruin and subvert a play when you introduce irrelevant material, even though the lines you brought be better. Give your best to whatever play is on stage, and do not ruin it merely because something better leaps to mind.'”

    “‘The same advice holds for the commonwealth and the councils of kings. You do not, simply because you are unable to uproot mistaken opinions and correct long-established ills, abandon the state altogether. In a storm you do not desert the ship because you are unable to control the winds. Nor should you, on the other hand, impose unwelcome advice on people you know to be of opposite mind. You must try to use subtle and indirect means, insofar as it lies in your power. And what you cannot turn to good, you must make as little evil as possible. To have everything turn out well assumes that all men are good, and this is a situation I do not expect to come about for many years.'” Utopia, Book I, translated by John P. Dolan, from The Essential Thomas More, James J. Greene and John P. Dolan, editors, Mentor-Omega, 1967.

    Also notable is More’s own advice to his sometime nemesis, Thomas Cromwell, who followed More not only in office, but in being decapitated by Henry VIII:

    “Master Cromwell, you are now entered upon the service of a most noble, wise, and liberal prince. If you will you will follow my poor advice, you shall, in your counsel giving unto his Grace, ever tell him what he ought to do, but never what he is able to do. So shall you show yourself a true faithful servant and a right worthy councillor. For if a lion knew his own strength, hard were it for any man to rule him.”

    If you are looking for a good biography of More, Peter Ackroyd’s (1998) is among the best, both in terms of scholarship, historical depth, and style (see my earlier review). Richard Marius’s (1983) biography, while fact-filled, and often cited by critics of More, is dated in its now rather strained, if quaint, Freudian bon mots, and is marred by repetition.

    By the way, someone with a good magnifying glass has apparently ascertained that all of the women in the More household depicted in the replica of the Hans Holbein picture featured above were reading Seneca.

    The extended More family household prayed together, and among their fondest prayers of consolation were the “Seven Psalms,” a medieval practice that might well be worthy of a rebirth.

    June 22 is also the feast day of St. John Fisher, late bishop of Rochester, who joined More in martyrdom near the Tower of London. Of him it was memorably said, “The head was off before the (cardinal’s) hat was on.”

    © Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
    All Rights Reserved