Monday, September 15, 2014

Viva San Antonio!

Monday greetings from the home office here in Franklin Park.

I spent the last three days in San Antonio, Texas. On Friday night, at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center, I presented a two-hour workshop on the link between the RCIA, particularly the period of the precatechumenate, and the Church's work of evangelization. I was able to share some of WLP's helpful RCIA resources as well.

The folks in attendance were excited about their ministry and seemed to appreciate the opportunity to come together. The Archdiocese of San Antonio is focusing on the new evangelization in a very organized way and their process kicked off this weekend in all Archdiocesan parishes as the diocese celebrated "Welcome Sunday." You can read more here.

On Saturday morning, I was at Saint Francis of Assisi parish, where I led a morning of reflection for their music ministers.

Approximately fifty musicians were in attendance.

Our focus was on our music ministry rooted in our baptismal call, as well as discussion about the relationship between the way that the musical arts function and the call to evangelization. After a lunch break, I then led another presentation for the parish's other liturgical ministers, based on the call to ministry rooted in our baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, using this section from Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium:

At the same time, a clear awareness of this responsibility of the laity, grounded in their baptism and confirmation, does not appear in the same way in all places. In some cases, it is because lay persons have not been given the formation needed to take on important responsibilities.

After a wonderful dinner with some of my San Antonio friends (some of whom I have known for 25+ years), and a good night's rest, I made my way to the 11:00 A.M. Mass at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parish. It was so heartwarming and hopeful to see a church packed with people, with folks standing along the walls and in the back of the church. Lots and lots of children. This has just not been my experience at the parishes where I go to Mass here in Chicago. The baptism font at the parish is intriguing.

Here's a short video clip.


After Mass on Sunday afternoon, I led another session, this time for 100+ liturgical ministers at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. What a wonderful afternoon spent with these dedicated ministers.

It was an exhausting weekend for me. Took this "selfie" on the plane on my way home; I guess I didn't look any worse for the wear! But I was tired, to say the least!

I am here at the office every day this week, which is such a blessing. Next weekend, it is off to Los Angeles for a WLP Sing the Seasons choral reading session at Loyola Marymount University.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Day of Mourning, Remembrance, and Prayer

Thursday greetings from the cloudy and cool Midwest.

We are in mourning today at J.S. Paluch and World Library Publications. Our Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Janice Pacilio, died late Tuesday night after a long and hard battle with cancer. Please keep Janice's parents, family, friends, and colleagues here in your prayers.

Janice, may the angels lead you into paradise.

On this anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I once again will share with you the prayer I wrote when we gathered our employees together on that horrible day in 2001.

Let us pray.

O God of mercy and forgiveness,
We stand before you in pain, in fear, and in grief.
We know you desire good for your people,
which is why we are stunned when we face terror of today's magnitude.
We cry out to you with the word that we share with one another:

In our fear and doubt, we still turn to you,
O God, and ask your presence.

Welcome those who were killed today
into your loving embrace.
Give them eternal peace.

Comfort the families of those who lost loved ones.
Give them strength.

Be with those who have suffered pain.
Heal them.

Guide those who care for the injured.
Be their strength.

Lead our country through this grief.
Comfort us.

Bring justice to those responsible for this terror.

And Almighty God,
we pray that you do not abandon your people
in their time of need.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.              

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Night of Music-making and Memory-making

Wednesday salutations from a very rainy Midwest.

The WLP Sing the Seasons choral reading session at Saint Francis of Assisi in New York City on Monday evening was such a treat.

Here are a few photos, taken by Christopher Ferraro (Thanks, Chris!)

So grateful to Meredith Augustin, the music director at Saint Francis, for her hospitality and her keyboard and amazing vocal skills. Two of Meredith's recordings are published by WLP, Deep River, and Come and Go with Me.

Here is a photo of Meredith as she sang one of the solo sections from WLP's Only Love. This is a wonderful piece from our "In Spirit and Truth" series. Listen to a clip.

One of the highlights of the evening for me came when we sang the WLP classic In the Breaking of the Bread by Michael Ward. Listen to a clip.

This is one of those pieces that captured my heart many years ago. And it was wonderful that Michael Ward was in attendance at the event in New York. Here is the email I sent to my staff here yesterday about that powerful moment:

Last night, at the New York City Sing the Seasons event, Michael Ward was in attendance (composer of WLP’s In the Breaking of the Bread, one of the best-selling octavos of all time for us).

When I was about 27 years-old, I was at an NPM convention in Long Beach, CA. I got lost one night trying to find the church where a concert sponsored by WLP was being held.

In the distance, I began to hear some music and, as I walked toward it, I said to myself, “What is this glorious music?” I entered the church and the choir and instrumentalists were singing In the Breaking of the Bread. It captured my heart. I bought the cassette and ordered the music. When I returned to my parish in Florida, I played the recording for my 50-voice choir and I watched their faces as their hearts were captured.

It has always remained one of my favorite pieces of choral music. I have played it and conducted it hundreds of times over the past may years.

Well, last night, I met Michael for the first time. I told him, before we got started, that he was one of my heroes, someone who has inspired me as a musician. I asked if he would play In the Breaking of the Bread at the choral reading session; it happened to be one of the pieces we were singing last night. He agreed.

When the moment came and he began that introduction, I could hardly believe it. God gives us these moments in our lives; I wish they happened more often.

It was a moment of musical clarity, when nearly thirty years of music-making just flashed before my eyes.

I conducted the piece in a glorious church with scores of talented musicians.

I watched many of them reduced to tears in that awesome moment.

When we finished the final measure, with the sopranos singing that high “G,” I was overwhelmed.

I walked to the piano and just held Michael’s hands.

This was a powerful evening for me and a delight to have so many fine musicians gathered to bring the music of WLP to life. I will leave you with a short video I took. Meredith is improvising at the piano and you can get a glimpse of this beautiful church.


Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Gearing Up: Sing the Seasons in the Big Apple

Monday greetings from New York City. I flew here this morning. Rehearsed with the wonderful Meredith Augustin here at the parish she serves, Saint Francis of Assisi, right here in Herald Square. We will be presenting WLP's Sing the Seasons choral reading session tonight; over 100 musicians have registered; should be "a grand night for singing!"

I completed a 45-mile bike ride yesterday, so I hope my stamina holds up tonight for two hours of singing.

There will be several musicians here whom I met at the Liturgical Music Institute at Immaculate Conception Seminary on Long Island in July. Kind of a reunion tonight for all of us; the plan is to go out to dinner after the session; I have to keep remembering that this is the "city that never sleeps." Unfortunately, I am not the "guy who never sleeps!" Should be a wonderful time.

Took a walk after the rehearsal this afternoon. No photo of a baptism font this time; just this amazing building.

I will try my best to take some photos tonight. Home to Chicago tomorrow.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Communal Celebrations of Penance: Your Experience?

Thanks so much for the continuing responses to yesterday's blog post. I think we all struggle with issues of welcome and hospitality in our parishes.

A question for you.

First some background.

Throughout my time at my parishes in Florida (1984-1990) and here in Illnois (1992-1999), we celebrated a communal rite of reconciliation with general confession and general absolution twice a year, once during Advent and once during Lent. The churches were packed, many times standing room only, for these celebrations. Everyone was told that if they were in a state of serious sin, they needed to confess their sins to a priest in individual confession. These were powerful liturgies of the Church. I enjoyed preparing them and leading the music for them; the choir always sang and I had a deep sense that God's mercy had been poured out on us sinners.

Of course, that was then and this is now. I don't believe there are many places in the Catholic world that regularly celebrate this form of the rite. I don't want to get into rubrical or theological discussions about that here, because I have a question.

Some people have suggested that the communal celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation in parishes is dead. At least here in Chicago, there is a sense that since general absolution is not employed any longer, people have just stopped going to these communal celebrations, or that they are simply no longer scheduled in parishes.

What is your experience? Please share it here or on the Gotta Sing Gotta Pray Facebook page. Thanks so much.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Am I Just Too Picky?

Tuesday greetings. I hope that your Labor Day Weekend was restful and enjoyable. I spent most of the time on my bike (a 45-mile ride on Saturday) and putting the finishing touches on a mansucript for a new book I hope will be published here at WLP. The working title? You Have Put on Christ: Cultivating a Baptismal Spirituality.

I went to a local parish for Mass on Sunday. When Mass began, I counted 21 people in the assembly; a few more joined as the Mass continued. I do not attend this parish regularly, so I am unfamiliar with the sung acclamations they use for the Mass. And, as has been the case at most parishes I have visited over the past 15 months, there was no provision made to alert any of us as to where we could find the acclamations. As a matter of fact, when the Gloria began, I looked around the church and there was no one singing. If I had known where to find the piece, there would have been at least one other voice added to the cantor's, the celebrant's, and the deacon's.

With the scores (pardon the pun) of musical settings of the Mass revised and newly-composed over the past several years, parish musicians have so many from which to choose. And I am sure this particular congregation was taught these new acclamations at some point in recent months. The singing was much better on the Eucharistic acclamations.

One of the first things announced at the beginning of Mass by the lector was a "special welcome for all who are visiting our parish today." Frankly, these words can sometimes simply be empty; this was my experience on Sunday. Part of music ministry is an extension of hospitality. If the Mass should be sung and if all are called into fully conscious and active participation, then it is a natural extension of hospitality to provide clues as to where to find the music. Providing words of a "special welcome" to me, a visitor, at the beginning of Mass is fine, but on Sunday, I found that this sense of hospitality was not followed through on.

Perhaps I am just too darn picky.

Still searching.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Picnic and Press Check

How did it become Thursday already?

I made a business trip to Madison, Wisconsin on Tuesday, then lots of catching up yesterday here at the office. Today was our annual J.S. Paluch/World Library Publications picnic in the parking lot. The senior managers of the company (I am included in that auspicious group) grill hamburgers, Italian sausage, chicken, and Polish sausage. My duties today including the grilling of those Polish sausages. Thank the Lord the weather cooperated, with the temps remaining in the 70s. But I reek of barbecue smoke and grilled sausage. But it was a wonderful day for all our employees here. We even arranged to have an ice cream truck in the parking lot, with that insipid ice cream truck music playing . . . and playing . . . and playing . . .

But I thought the ice cream truck's web site was interesting!

Believe it or not, no travel for me this weekend. I am going to try to enjoy a 45 mile bike ride on Saturday morning. I am training to bike a metric century later in September.

The real excitement for me happens next week when I will visit the printing plant that is printing WLP's new One in Faith hardbound hymnal. I am going for what is called a "press check," to make sure that all is well and that the quality of the printing is top notch. And it doesn't hurt that the printer is just a few miles from where my parents live in Massachusetts, so I hope to get some good family time in while in New England.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.