Monday, July 28, 2014

Comical and Disappointing

Monday greetings to all. It is in the 60's here in Chicago; feels much more like a September morning!

I want to share a comical moment that occurred yeterday at the 9:00 A.M. Mass at Saint Peter's in the Loop here in Chicago.

When the opening hymn was announced, the elderly woman seated in front of me turned around and, with the hymnal open, said to me, "Isn't this one of those electronic book things?" as she pointed to the title of the hymn:

I chuckled and, as I sang the first stanza of the hymn, the second line struck me as well:

"God, whose purpose is to kindle;
Now ignite us with your fire . . ."

Kindle. Fire.

Made for a humorous beginning of Mass for me, for sure.

Since I have been attending Saint Peter's, one thing has struck me, since it is outside my own liturgical experience. For the most part, at communion time, after a long silence after the priest has consumed the Body and Blood of the Lord, followed by the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion receiving, a strophic hymn is announced; a hymn without any kind of refrain. No one takes the hymnal with them to receive communion so, for the most part, it is the organ and cantor one hears.

Yesterday's communion hymn was "Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether." It is a rather short hymn and was concluded before half of those going to communion had received. At the end of the hymn, there was a brief period of silence, then the organist improvised until the celebrant was seated at the end of communion. This simply could be "the way we have always done it here," but it just seemed so disjointed and uninviting to me; there was no sense that the communion procession was cohesive.

It is often challenging for me to be in the pews Sunday after Sunday. I try so hard not to put my "liturgical reviewer" or "liturgical music critic" hat on. I am there to worship God. Sometimes it's just very tough.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, July 25, 2014

We Celebrate Has Arrived!

Friday greetings to all.

WLP's 2014-2017 editions of the We Celebrate Hymnal are now in our warehouse. I have always wanted to see what this hymnal looked like in a deep red with gold foil. Our team here at WLP decided on those colors for this upcoming hymnal. Well, it is simply beautiful:

The We Celebrate worship resource program pairs a three-year hymnal with our We Celebrate missalette. The hymnal can also be ordered by itself for a three-year subscription. You can find the hymn index here. The hymnal contains the musical settings of the Mass that have risen to the top in popularity in parishes here in the United States: Mass of Wisdom, Mass of Saint Ann, Mass for Our Lady, Mass of Redemption, Missa Simplex, among many others such as Praise and Thanksgiving Mass and the People's Mass. For parishes that are J.S. Paluch bulletin subscribers, there is the possibility of using WLP credits that may be a part of your bulletin agreement toward the price of the subscription. Adding the We Celebrate hymnal to whatever is currently in your pews will bring you the music of Steven Warner, John Angotti, James Marchionda, Paul Tate, and Ed Bolduc, as well as favorite hymns and songs from other publishers such as Hope, GIA, and OCP. Also included are many of Christoph Tietze's Introit Hymns, as well as Charles Thatcher's chants for Communion. This is simply a fine three-year hymnal. Contact WLP Customer Care at 1-800-566-6150 or email us at to order a sample!

Thanks for listening to that commercial. Ever wonder what several hundred thousand We Celebrate hymnals look like in a warehouse being prepared for shipment?


On a completely different note, I don't know about you, but my heart is aching for those wounded and killed in the Middle East and their loved ones as the conflict escalates. I thought this morning: What is it like to live in constant fear? What is it like to wonder if your children are safe from one second to the next? Does this kind of fear lead to a deeper hatred or can it lead to an inner longing for resolution and peace? The more I read about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its history, the more I come to the conclusion that it may be years or decades more before a resolution is reached. And all of this in the holiest of places on our planet. Prayers continuing.

I hope that your weekend is one that is filled with grace and that our world will one day know the fulfillment of the promise of peace.

Gotta sing. Gotta Pray.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

New WLP Project on the Eucharist

Thursday morning greetings from Chicago, where it is dry and cool and breeze and sunny. My view this morning as I waited for the train:

And last night, around 6:00 P.M., the temperature downtown had dropped into the 60's. I couldn't resist sharing a little video with you. These are my flower boxes on the balcony of my home; my oasis really:


It feels kind of strange this week here at WLP. This is my first full week at the office (and at home) in fourteen weeks. And it actually feels wonderful. I miss my colleagues here when I am on the road. Of course, living in the digital world allows us to be in constant contact, but there is nothing like real life and real time collaboration and communication.

Yesterday afternoon, I made my way to Catholic Theological Union, my alma mater, here in Chicago. WLP is working on a project there with Fr. Ed Foley, Capuchin, who is Duns Scotus Professor of Spirituality and Professor of Liturgy and Music at CTU.

It is a ten-session DVD (which will also be available in audio CD format) entitled Encountering the Mystery: An Overview of Eucharistic Theology. I was present for the videotaping of the tenth session on the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist. I was captivated by Ed's thirty-minute presentation. This resource is going to be so helpful for so many, from students of sacramental theology to parish adult faith formation groups to those wanting to plumb the depths of Eucharistic theology, including those who minister in Christian initiation. It will take several months of editing to complete the project; look for it on WLP's web site soon.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, July 21, 2014

NPM Convention: A Retrospective and a Question

Monday morning greetings from "back home" here in Chicago.

I wanted to spend some time sharing memories and photos of last week's NPM convention with you.

Sunday evening, at sunset, I walked down to the "Arch" in Saint Louis, just a beautiful spot.

On Monday morning, we began setting up the WLP booth in the exhibit hall. We had some cool new crates that had been constructed by our warehouse team here in Chicago. Here's WLP editor Keith Kalemba next to the new huge crate.

After spending time in the exhibit hall helping our team set up the WLP booth, it was time for me to find a quiet place to prepare for my keynote address. I went into the convention hall and this was my view from the speaker's platform. Probably shouldn't have gone in there before the presentation!

At any rate, the time arrived for the keynote. Here I am, nervously awaiting the introduction. Something happened in the building just before I was to speak; someone opened a dock door somewhere, causing a massive shift in air pressure in the building. I could hear things behind me being knocked down and then the wall behind me began to buckle forward and small pellets of styrofoam began falling from the ceiling; just like it was snowing! Anyway, there I sat, waiting.

Then the time came and I mustered all my energy to deliver the keynote address, certainly one of the most challenging moments of my life: Good News for a Wounded People.

About halfway through the keynote, I said this: "Several years ago, when the topic and description for this keynote presentation was formulated, we were in a very different place as a Church. When I accepted the invitation to speak with you today on this topic, there was one thing in our Catholic life that had note yet come to the surface. And this factor has apparently begun to make a significant difference in our world."

It was at that moment that I flashed an image of Pope Francis up on the jumbo screens. I took my next breath, expecting to go on with the talk when the crowd erupted into applause. And that applause went on, and on, and on. It was a powerful moment.

I focused on the pastoral musician's need to embrace the phrase from Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi: "We exist in order to evangelize." Here was a centerpiece of the keynote:
"Each and every time you open that responsorial psalm as a cantor, take your breath, and begin to sing the sacred words, yours is no less a deeply ecclesial ministry of evangelization than the ministry of Pope Francis. Each and every time you pick up your flute, your oboe, your guitar, your drumsticks, your violin, your handbells, as you prepare to inspired God’s people with the gift of music, yours is no less a deeply ecclesial ministry of evangelization than the ministry of Pope Francis.  Each and every time you work for hours on end to shape a choral sound that brings beauty and dignity to the liturgy, yours is no less a deeply ecclesial ministry of evangelization than the ministry of Pope Francis. When the hymn is announced and you are at the ready with your hands and feet positioned to begin the introduction at the organ or piano, what you are about to do is no less a deeply ecclesial ministry of evangelization than the ministry of Pope Francis."
My feelings when it was all over? Humble. Relieved. A heavy sense of respnsibility. Grateful to so many for so much powerful feedback.
Tuesday afternoon and it was time for WLP's choral music showcase. A photo of the rehearsal for the showcase, capably and gracefully led by our own Mary Beth Kunde-Anderson.

And of course it is not all serious all the time. Here is a selfie I took with Paul French as we prepared to begin the showcase.

I had kind of dreaded what the weather was supposed to be like in Saint Louis in the middle of July. But the polar vortex had other ideas and the daytime temps were in the 70's, which made walks in the downtown area comfortable and relaxing.

On Wednesday evening, WLP sponsored two events. One was held at the Shrine of Saint Joseph, "Music She Wrote," which featured works by WLP's fine women composers. It was a delightful one hour. Here is a shot of the interior of the church.

An hour later, we sponsored a musical event featuring WLP's composer, artist, arranger, and editor Ed Bolduc and musicians from his parish, Saint Ann's in Marietta, Georgia. Again, a delightful one-hour of music making in a contemporary genre. Here's a cool shot I took of Ed at the piano.

I was overwhelmed all week with the pride and gratitude I feel for the many people here on the WLP staff, our composers, workshop presenters, artists, and musicians. It was a wonderful week.
There is only one disappointment about the week; there simply were not enough people in attendance. We work so hard and it has been getting more disappointing each year as the numbers don't seem to grow. We have lots of confidence, however, in Monsignor Rick Hilgartner, the NPM new president, as he begins his leadership position. This is an open forum, so if you are one of those who did not attend, I would love to hear the reasons why. Thanks for any comments you want to share.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray. 

Friday, July 18, 2014


Thursday morning greetings, friends, from beautiful Saint Louis. My apologies for not having posted much this week of the NPM convention here. It has been exhilarating and exhausting and humbling all wrapped together. This is very simply an event filled with moments of inspiration.

I have been so grateful all week for the many of you who have thanked me for my keynote presentation. God is good.

I have been so appreciative to those of you who have let me know that you read this blog faithfully.

My heart is overwhelmed with sense of support and genuine love.

Music touches all of us in places that run so deeply through our hearts and souls, bringing us closer to one another and to God. I am profoundly grateful for the moments when my heart has been touched this week.

Playing just a small part in the ways that music serves the singing and praying Church fills me with joy.

Feeling kind of sappy today? Absolutely!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Deep Breaths and Here We Go: NPM 2014

In a few short minutes I will be heading over to the convention center for NPM's opening event and then I will deliver the plenum address. These moments are always a bit daunting. I am just asking God to help me and to let the Spirit breathe through me.

I hope to be able to blog throughout the convention. I have a workshop to present after the keynote, then a welcome reception then I am part of a Pray Tell panel at 10:00 p.m. And then the late night exhibit expo lasts until midnight. I am excited about this full day and all it holds.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

St. Augustine in South San Francisco and Bound Now for Saint Louis

Saturday greetings from soggy and muggy Chicago. Home for a day of cleaning, laundry, and packing for the trip tomorrow to Saint Louis for the NPM convention.

Yesterday, J.S. Paluch and WLP presented seminars on building a better bulletin and rebuilding the RCIA at Saint Augustine Parish in South San Francisco, CA.

Here is a photo I took of the exterior of the church, which is built on the side of a hill looking out over the San Francisco airport and water beyond.

And here is the view from the front steps of the church:

Talk about looking out at the world to which God calls us to proclaim the Gospel!

Here a few shots of the interior, and the baptism font:

It was great meeting and hearing from so many RCIA ministers from such culturally diverse communities.

I have sent most of today putting the finishing touches on a workshop I am presenting at NPM on Monday afternoon: RCIA Forty Years Later: Where Are We; an Honest Assessment.

After packing tonight and, hopefully, a good night's rest, it is on to Union Station here in Chicago in the morning for the Amtrak train to Saint Louis; "Clang, clang, clang went the trolley!"

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.