Monday, May 4, 2015

Old Saint Pat's

Monday greetings on a warm Spring day here in Chicago.

For the past several weeks, I have been going to Old Saint Pat's parish for Sunday Mass.

I have a fairly long stretch of time without travel and it has been a delight to be kind of a "regular" somewhere. I have to admit that I have been checking their Mass schedule before each weekend; they publish the list of celebrants and I have been looking for the Mass at which Fr. Ed Foley is the celebrant. His preaching touches me so deeply.

I actually live in Old Saint Pat's parish; it's just a few blocks away from my home in the West Loop of Chicago. The music is quite fine (although I do miss a pipe organ; piano and other acoustic instruments only here). On Sunday, I was seated in the fifth row (you have to arrive quite early to get a seat that close to the front). At one point, I looked around me and I would say that nine out of ten people were singing. The acoustics are wonderful. When Ed Bolduc's Gloria from his Mass of Saint Ann is sung, the roof just about comes off the place.

There are some things about the Mass as celebrated there that are certainly not consistent with some of the finer points of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. But the celebration of the liturgy is so energetic. People sing and pray there with conviction and enthusiasm. The preaching and music is some of the best I have heard. The interior of the church is richly decorated and lifts my mind and heart in and of itself. Maybe I have at last found a home? Too early to tell, but we will see.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Year of Jubilee and Us

Friday greetings from the sunny Midwest.

The Jubilee Year of Mercy will begin in December. Here is a good article I just read about jubilee years in biblical and Church history.

A couple of paragraphs struck me in particular:

The Year of Jubilee is not an invention of the Catholic Church. Rather, it is rooted in the Old Testament. The Law of Moses, as presented in Leviticus 25:10-14, states that there should be a year of jubilee every 50 years.
It was a wonderful year, announced with great fanfare. Property was restored to its original owner. Slaves were set free and returned to their proper family. Debts were forgiven. The land was left uncultivated. Jesus Christ, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, announced the completion of the Jubilee according to the Law of Moses with its replacement and presented himself as being the new jubilee, not only to Israel but to humanity (Luke 4:19). He came down from heaven to redeem the world.

I wonder what a Year of Jubilee can mean for me? Is it a year in which I sit idly by, merely talking about Pope Francis, the mercy of God? Or is it something I am being called to take an active role in myself? What would it mean in my life to set slaves free? To forgive debts? To leave the land uncultivated?

Certainly lots to ponder. I hope your weekend is a good one.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Honolulu to Restore the Sequence of the Initiation Sacraments

Wednesday greetings from the sunny but cool Midwest.

I read with excitement a post yesterday about the bishop of Honolulu, Bishop Larry Silva.

You can read the article from their Catholic newspaper here. The bishop is inaugurating a process for the restoration of the order of the sacraments of initiation (Baptism-Confirmation-Eucharist). Many dioceses across Canada and the United States have done so, some with great success, others with limited success or even failure, resulting in a "un-restoration." The process to return to the original sequence of the sacraments is one that takes courage, lots of catechesis, and the bringing on board of an entire diocese, both clergy and the lay faithful.

The argument against restoration, which I hear so often, is that we will "lose the kids" if we confirm them at the time of the First Communion at the age of seven or eight. Bishop Silva's letter addresses this point:

Some may point out that we have been doing what we are doing for 100 years, so why change now? The reason is simple: What we are doing is not working very well. Confirmation is often experienced more as a graduation from the Church than as a free gift of God's grace. Pope Francis acknowledged this: "There was this experience: the sacrament of Confirmation--what is this sacrament called? Confirmation? No! Its name has changed: the 'sacrament of farewell.' They do this and then they leave the Church . . . Many young people move off after receiving Confirmation, the sacrament of farewell, of goodbye, as I said. It is an experience of failure, and experience that leaves emptiness and discourages us. Is this true or not?" (Sept. 22, 2013)

He goes on:

The challenge, though, is not just to put the sacraments into their proper order. The challenge is to provide a transformed youth ministry approach that empowers young people to live as disciples of Jesus in our world today, draws them to responsible participation in the life, mission and work of the Catholic Church, and fosters the personal and spiritual growth of each young person.

Having two distinct pastoral practices for the sequence of the sacraments has created confusion and theological obscurity. The "theology" of the sacrament of confirmation (that this is the person's turn to make their "adult commitment" to the faith) is simply a "made up" theology that was invented to somehow give substance to the separation of the sacrament from its original order and placed later in the person's life. Pope Benedict XVI, in Sacramentum Caritatis called the Church into a conversation about the practice:

The Eucharist, the fullness of Christian initiation
17. If the Eucharist is truly the source and summit of the Church's life and mission, it follows that the process of Christian initiation must constantly be directed to the reception of this sacrament. As the Synod Fathers said, we need to ask ourselves whether in our Christian communities the close link between Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist is sufficiently recognized. (46) It must never be forgotten that our reception of Baptism and Confirmation is ordered to the Eucharist. Accordingly, our pastoral practice should reflect a more unitary understanding of the process of Christian initiation. The sacrament of Baptism, by which we were conformed to Christ,(47) incorporated in the Church and made children of God, is the portal to all the sacraments. It makes us part of the one Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:13), a priestly people. Still, it is our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice which perfects within us the gifts given to us at Baptism. The gifts of the Spirit are given for the building up of Christ's Body (1 Cor 12) and for ever greater witness to the Gospel in the world. (48) The Holy Eucharist, then, brings Christian initiation to completion and represents the centre and goal of all sacramental life. (49)
The order of the sacraments of initiation
18. In this regard, attention needs to be paid to the order of the sacraments of initiation. Different traditions exist within the Church. There is a clear variation between, on the one hand, the ecclesial customs of the East (50) and the practice of the West regarding the initiation of adults, (51) and, on the other hand, the procedure adopted for children. (52) Yet these variations are not properly of the dogmatic order, but are pastoral in character. Concretely, it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the centre, as the goal of the whole process of initiation. In close collaboration with the competent offices of the Roman Curia, Bishops' Conferences should examine the effectiveness of current approaches to Christian initiation, so that the faithful can be helped both to mature through the formation received in our communities and to give their lives an authentically eucharistic direction, so that they can offer a reason for the hope within them in a way suited to our times (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

Kudos to Bishop Silva and the other bishops in the United States and Canada for responding to the call to examine the Church's pastoral practice and move toward a process to restore the sequence. Challenging, for sure. Your thoughts?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


World events unfolding in the past few days can suck the hope right out of us. The tragedy in Nepal is unfathomable to me. Ancient temples reduced to dust. Lives snuffed out in the night. Parents losing children. Children losing parents. People on the trek of a lifetime wiped out in an instant on a mountainside. And then there is Baltimore. Our own citizens fighting one another on the streets. Racial tension on the rise once again. One of our iconic U.S. cities under curfew. Where is the hope?

Well, I got a little ray of hope over the past few days. Usually I do not single out nor name the folks who work here at World Library Publications. I walk a fine line sometimes because I am "the boss" around here and also someone who loves and cares for his "people" so deeply. Ah, the Catholic manager!

At any rate, as many of you know, nearly two years ago, our marketing director, Jennifer Odegard, lost her husband, Charlie, to pancreatic cancer. Our little family here at work grieved deeply for Charlie and our hearts were broken for Jennifer and their families.

Keith Kalemba, one of our music editors, and a composer himself, has been working on a musical tribute to Charlie to mark Charlie's upcoming 50th birthday. The piece, still needing some minor tweaking, is now complete. It is scored for cello and piano. We had arranged for a marvelous cellist here in Chicago to play at Charlie's funeral Mass, so there are echoes from that day of celebration of Charlie's life in the piece. Keith posted a photo on Facebook last night, which I am sharing here, with his permission:

You know, it's stuff like this, the creation of a composition written at the piano in a small house in a village outside of Chicago, that pierces through the darkness of despair and bursts into a dazzling ray of hope in my own eyes. John 13:35 in action in our little corner of the world: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Look for the hope today. It's probably all around you, just waiting to be found.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, April 24, 2015

"What We Have Given Away:" The Funeral of Francis Eugene George

Friday greetings to all.

As I said in Tuesday's post, my plan was to pay my final respects to Cardinal George on Wednesday. So, after reading the schedule of events on the Chicago Archdiocesan web site, I rushed home, ran to the bus, then got on a train and arrived at the cathedral a few minutes after 6:00 P.M. The schedule of events had said that public viewing would take place until 6:30 P.M. I climbed the steps of the cathedral, only to be told that the doors were now closed and that a "ticketed event" would occur at 7:00. I calmly told the person that the Archdiocesan official schedule said otherwise, but there was no way that any of us were going to be allowed in. "You can come back at 9:00 when public viewing continues through the night." So, instead of paying my respects in the cathedral, I toasted the Cardinal with a glass of Cabernet at a local Italian restaurant not far from his residence and ate a nice bowl of mushroom risotto.

Late that afternoon, I had been asked by the owner of our company if I wanted to accompany her to the cathedral the next morning; she had an extra ticket for the funeral. So, at least I knew that I would be able to pay my respects more formally the next day.

I arrived at the cathedral for the Noon funeral at about 10:15, in order to stand in line. As I stood in line, I looked across State Street and saw a sign, indicating that that particular portion of State Street had been named in honor of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. Difficult to read, but here is the photo I took of that sign.

The memories of Cardinal Bernardin flooded across my mind. Two very different shepherds; two very different eras in Chicago, American, and global Catholic history.

When we finally entered the cathedral, we were fortunate enough to be seated in the seventh pew; the Cardinal's body was still in full view. I sat there and gazed at his remains and prayed hard for him and for his sister, Margaret, and his family.

The funeral was simple. There were cardinals, archbishops, bishops, ecumenical leaders, the governor, the mayor, the city council, the chief of police and the fire department commissioner; there were hundreds of priests and deacons; the cathedral was packed. Yet, it was a simple funeral. Archbishop Sartain's homily was moving and painted an accurate picture of Cardinal George. He quoted the Cardinal and this was the heart of the homily: "The only thing we take with us when we die is what we have given away." I think these words will stay with me for a very long time. I sat there and asked myself, "What is it that I have given away in my life here on earth?"

The music was superb; the congregation's chanting and singing filled the cathedral. Two very poignant moments for me: 1. The singing of the Pie Jesu from Fauré's Requiem. It was sung just before the introductory rites began. The single soprano voice coming from the choir loft was sublime. Very moving; 2. Following the final hymn, those priests whom the Cardinal had ordained the last time he was the celebrant at the ordination here in Chicago came forward to escort the casket down the aisle of the cathedral one last time. As the casket began to move, the choir sang Ecce Sacerdos. I had to catch my breath.

You can see the entire funeral Mass here, via CatholicTV.

After exiting the cathedral, I looked back and this was the view.

I am grateful for the life and ministry of Francis Eugene George. May he rest in peace.

Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem,
Dona eis Domine, sempiternam requiem.

Blessed Jesus, Lord, I pray in your mercy O grant them rest.
Blessed Lord Jesus, I pray in your mercy grant them everlasting rest.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Shepherd

It was a very cold day on November 21, 1996. I had been asked by colleagues at the Office for Divine Worship here in Chicago to help coordinate the liturgical rites at Mount Carmel Cemetery for the burial of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. I remember arriving very early that morning and being allowed into the "Bishops' Chapel" at Mount Carmel, where the Cardinal's remains would be laid to rest.

It was an eerie feeling as I stared into the open vault in the wall in which the Cardinal's coffin would soon be placed. I had never witnessed an entire city pour out its grief like Chicago did on that day; etched in my memory forever.

A few months later, I found myself in Portland, Oregon. I was there to interview for the position of director of the office of worship for the Archdiocese of Portland. After the lengthy interview, I was told that the Archbishop, Francis George, wanted to spend about a half hour with me; he did so with all the interviewees who were interviewing as potential members of his cabinet.

Here's a photo of Archbishop George at his Mass of farewell to the Archdiocese of Portland in April of 1997.

When I was introduced to the Archbishop and entered his office, I remember distinctly how friendly and cordial Archbishop George was. Simply, he was easy to be around. He spoke passionately about his hopes for a new era of liturgical catechesis once a new translation of The Roman Missal was received. I was a doctoral student at the time and remember how excited the word and worship faculty was at Catholic Theological Union as the new ICEL translation was being voted upon by the US bishops. The Archbishop said that, by and large, the Church had failed in its attempts to catechize the laity about the celebration of Mass when the Mass was first celebrated in English after the Second Vatican Council . The new translation, he said, would be a watershed moment for liturgical catechesis in the Church. The Archbishop spoke about his family; I spoke about mine. He asked if I had any questions and I asked him about the makeup of the Archdiocese of Portland. I remember this as if it were yesterday. There was a map of Oregon on the wall next to him in his office. He pointed at the map and said that the city of Portland itself was a center of liberalism. Then he pointed to the rest of the Archdiocese and said that from the coast to the Cascades, the rest of the people were "a bunch of rednecks." I was taken aback by this comment and I remember that right then and there, the Archbishop made it easy for me to decide not to take this position if it were offered to me, which it eventually wasn't.

Many of my colleagues here in Chicago knew that I had applied for the position in Portland. Just a few short weeks after my interview, it was announced that Archbishop George was to become the new Archbishop of Chicago. My phone was ringing off the hook, with friends and colleagues asking me about this stranger who was to become our new Archbishop.

So, my impressions of Archbishop George were mixed. When he came to Chicago, I was asked to coordinate the music for two of the Masses he celebrated. The first was for the consecrated religious brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese. I remember walking into the sacristy of the Basilica of Our Lady, Mother of Sorrows to speak with the Archbishop about what we would be singing at the Mass. When I walked into the sacristy, he looked up and, with delight in his eyes, said, "Jerry, how are you? How goes the job hunt?" Frankly, I was impressed that he remembered me at all and, once again, I was struck by his personal touch and genuine friendliness. We chatted for a little while and then he celebrated the Mass.

I have spoken with Cardinal George many times over the years. When the translation of The Roman Missal finally came around (distinctly different than the translation of which we had spoken so many years before), the Cardinal was clear that he was glad that our publishing house had decided to publish the Missal. He made it clear to me that we in Catholic publishing, particularly liturgical publishing, had a deep responsibility to God's people to see to it that the reception of the new translation was as smooth as possible. I remembered his passion years earlier when he talked about this being a watershed moment of liturgical catechesis.

A few years ago, when I was still a parishioner at Saint James Parish here in Chicago, Cardinal George came to our parish to announce that Saint James would live on and that property had been purchased by the Archdiocese for the building of a new church, which would replace the crumbling structure (now torn down). It was one of the happiest days of my Catholic life.

Tomorrow night, I will make my way to Holy Name Cathedral to pay my final respects to Cardinal Francis George, the man who has been my shepherd here in Chicago for the past 18 years. I will remember him as an absolute straight-shooter in my conversations with him. I will remember his kindness and genuine friendliness. I will remember some of what I would call the "odd ways" he would phrase things. Most of all, I will remember this man, who struggled physically for most of his life, as a man of the Church. The image I have of him is from the prophet Isaiah: "A man of sorrows, familiar with suffering."

May God grant him eternal life.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Rest in Peace Francis George

Masses for the Dead

For a Bishop

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that the soul of your departed servant Bishop Francis Cardinal George,
to whom you committed the care of your family,
may, with the manifold fruit of his labors,
enter into the eternal gladness of his Lord.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.