Mashley’s “Untitled” Cover!

Nothing exists without music, for the universe itself is said to have been framed by a kind of harmony of sounds, and the heaven itself revolves under the tone of that harmony. — St. Isidore of Seville

For those of you who don’t frequent Obstat, this is Maria (my daughter) and Ashley singing. I post their work here, (1) because I’m a dad and (2) because this blog is dedicated to allowing beauty to save the world.

Oh, Maria makes up those harmonies — since she was very little, she says, she could ‘hear’ harmonies in all monophonic music she’d hear.

Orthodox Lay Saints

The internationally renowned Eastern Orthodox theologian, Fr. Andrew Louth, came to speak at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans about the rift between Eastern and Western Christianity. Twenty years ago, I wrote my Masters Thesis using his work as a primary source, and so meeting him was a big deal for me.

I include below the public lecture.

I brought him to the airport Monday, and before he got out of the car, I asked him two questions. First, “What do you think is most important thing to be aware of for those who study or teach theology?” He answered immediately, “Prayer. If you don’t pray, it’s all really a waste of time, isn’t it? And quite dangerous, really. I mean, this is God we’re dealing with.” Then I asked him, “Father, what do you tell Orthodox laity who aspire to sanctity, whose lives are fully immersed in marriage, family life, secular professions, civic life, and so on?” I whipped out my old iPhone and recorded his answer, for you all. Enjoy:

Mashley, in video

The Friends section! (Maria’s sister Catherine on the right)

Seminarian Big Brothers, Dr. Jennifer!

As I share Ashley and (my daughter) Maria’s Saturday night concert video, I thought this letter by author Kurt Vonnegut was a perfect way of expressing what, for me, was the greatest part of this night — their leap in soul-growth as artists performing live, raw, real, one-take…


This is Maria’s edited selection of clips of footage taken by Ashley’s grandfather (he did not get everything). It was recorded in the middle of the crowd so there’s lots of mixed-in sounds, but you will catch the vibe!!

Enjoy! ❤

Red Red Wine

Miracle of Water into (red red) Wine at Cana.

[An easy post. Happy Mardi Gras!]

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.” ― W.C. Fields

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino! ― Hilaire Belloc

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.” — Isaiah 25:6

They have no wine. — The Virgin Mary

“A wedding feast lacking wine embarrasses the newlyweds – imagine finishing the wedding feast drinking tea? It would be an embarrassment! Wine is necessary for the feast.” — Pope Francis

No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. — 1 Tim. 1:23

“We do not encourage underage drinking.” — Ashley and Maria

You make the grass grow for the cattle
and plants to serve mankind’s need.
That he may bring forth bread from the earth
and wine to cheer the heart. – Psalm 104:14-15

Festschrift for Ashley

A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter:
[she] that has found one has found a treasure.
There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend,
and no scales can measure [her] excellence.
A faithful friend is an elixir of life;
and those who fear the Lord will find [her]. — Sirach 6:14-16

“One can make a rather easy transition from human friendships to friendship with God himself” — Aelred of Rievaulx

I’d like to honor Ashley today. She is, of course, lead singer in the indy cover band, Ashley and Maria (or Mashley, as I call them), whose work I have featured here for the last 2 years. She’s a remarkable young woman. My daughter Maria became friends with Ashley soon after we arrived in New Orleans in 2012, and it was not long before they stitched together their unique melodies into a new and fresh harmony.

After my first son was born, an older gentleman gave me this advice on raising children well, “If you cultivate in your children a love for good books, good music, good friends, along with your good marriage, you’ll give them a rock solid foundation.” What’s become clear over the 21 years since then is this: while my wife and I have had a good amount of say over the books, music and our marriage, it’s friendships that contain the real uncertainty variable.

Friendship is immensely powerful, for good or for ill. Our greatest goal in this regard over the years has been to instill in our children standards of good judgment that would help them sift the wheat from the chaff and choose people of character for friends. And we prayed (and still pray) each of our children would find and maintain good, faithful and worthy friends. Without exception, we believe that our children have each chosen well.

Ashley is an especially exceptional example of such a friendship. She, like Maria, is filled with joie de vivre. She’s a normal teenager, but not ordinary. She stands out. She is kind and creative, hip, deeply faith-filled, willing to go the extra mile, sensitive to beauty and attentive to others’ suffering. She has moral integrity and — key! — her parents love her enough to hold her to high standards. Her parents rock.

And Ashley longs to know God. When I was in high school, I would not have had the foggiest idea what that meant. But she does, and it’s a way of life she shares with Maria; and with anyone who comes close to her. In fact, Ashley and Maria’s friendship reminds me of the friendship between Sts. Gregory Nazianzen and Basil the Great, which Gregory described in his homily at Basil’s funeral. I will substitute “music” for “philosophy”:

The same hope inspired us: the pursuit of [music]. This is an ambition especially subject to envy. Yet between us there was no envy. On the contrary, we made capital out of our rivalry. Our rivalry consisted not in seeking the first place for oneself but in yielding it to the other, for we each looked on the other’s success as [her] own. We followed the guidance of God’s law and spurred each other on to virtue. Different men have different names, which they owe to their parents or to themselves, that is, to their own pursuits and achievements. But our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians.

So that’s my take, but don’t just believe me. Let me allow 6 of her friends to weigh in:

Ashley keeps her cool in everything she does and is able to see things from a long term perspective.
Ashley never lets anything bother her, and she does everything with love.
Ashley has a good heart and selflessly puts others’ needs above her own.
Ashley is level headed in tough situations and always just wants what is best for her friends
Ashley has the amazing and unique ability to place all of her needs aside when she sees someone she cares about in pain.
Ashley would do absolutely anything to protect the people she loves, and that selflessness reminds me a lot of Jesus.

Ashley, you’re loved by Mrs. Patti and me. You have an awesome family, extraordinary gifts, great friends and a bright future in God’s plan. And you are a great friend. We look forward to watching you bloom with even greater beauty in the Garden of God. Remember, “a dark world waits for a splash of the sun.” For you to sing a new song with your life.

Let me leave you with two of my favorite Mashley music videos:

Mashley, out of Nowhere

I’m not able to post this week, but (my daughter) Maria and Ashley made time to sneak away to City Park in New Orleans on this Labor Day, with their sisters (who wielded camera and mic), and put out a new Beatles cover. Yeah! Finally! Enjoy…