Thursday, July 30, 2015

Never Too Late, I Guess

Thursday greetings on this warm summer day in the Midwest.

Please pardon the fact that I haven't posted since my "WOWed" post on Monday.

So, when I went to Mass on Sunday at Old Saint Patrick's here in Chicago, I decided to more actively seek the presence of Christ at Mass.Gosh, this is something I have been "training the trainers" to do for many years; training those who train RCIA ministers how to allow the liturgy to catechize; how to instill in people a sense that the Lord is actively seeking them out when we gather for Sunday Mass; how to become people with "mystagogical minds and hearts," open to that presence.

And so, there I sat and knelt and stood and sang and prayed and listened. And "my friend," the Lord Jesus became most present to me in the proclamation of the Gospel and in the preaching of our pastor, Fr. Tom Hurley. I stood there during the Gospel of the feeding of the five thousand, grasping the fact that the Lord Jesus has multiplied what little I feel I have in this life five thousand-fold. Even tired from all his preaching and teaching and healing, "my friend" had the time to continue to teach through his actions. He taught his disciples (and me) that even when we are tired from it all, we are still given all we need to continue to make a difference in our little worlds. At the conclusion of the homily the cantor very serenely sang a few verses of Liam Lawton's The Cloud's Veil. The words that kept resounding in my mind and heart were "You are by my side, You are by my side."

Frankly, as the week has unfolded, I find that presence waning as the pressures of my job and life come crashing in at times. And that's when I realized again how much I need Sunday Mass, how much I need that community of believers to help me to actively seek out and find "my friend" again and nurture that ongoing relationship.

At 57, I am just discovering this? What the heck is going on? I guess it's just never too late.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, July 27, 2015

WOWed at Mass

Greetings on this Monday summer morning.

I had a huge "wow" at Sunday Mass yesterday at Old Saint Patrick's here in Chicago.

Those who follow this blog know of my recent struggles to articulate who the Lord Jesus is in my own life and what that relationship is like right now. My ancillary struggle has to do with how to train catechists and those in initiation ministry in naming this relationship in their own lives and how to help others do the same.

Well, yesterday at Mass, I made the conscious decision to open my eyes, my ears, and my heart as widely as possible. My questions: Who is Jesus Christ in all of this? What kind of portrait of the Lord Jesus is painted by the texts prayed by the celebrant; in the sacred scriptures proclaimed; in the preaching; in the texts and textures of the music sung; on the faces of those in liturgical leadership and those around me; in the sacramental and ritual actions?

Like I said, WOW! My friend became more and more real to me yesterday. This Jesus Christ, the miracle multiplier, gave me more fish and bread than I could possibly consume yesterday. 

It's a Monday here with lots of tasks, so I will save some of my discoveries for posts in the next few days.

" . . . like those come before us, we listen and learn. We remember the promise and await your return. So without hesitation a new generation proclaims the salvation of God!"

These were the words of our opening song yesterday, Gathered As One. These words opened my heart and mind; all hesitation was gone. And what happened next surprised me and brought me to tears. 

More later.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Grateful for a Special "Thank You" to WLP

Friday greetings on another beautifully sunny and warm day here in Chicago.

My heart was lifted this morning when the participants at this year's Liturgical Music Institute on Long Island sent us at WLP a simple message of gratitude.

You can find it on Gotta Sing Gotta Pray's Facebook page. While there, please "like" the page.

This has been quite a week for me, spiritually. As I gear up for an RCIA presentation a week from tomorrow for the great folks in the Diocese of Lafayette, Indiana, I am praying that I will be able to help them not only find ways to move their RCIA processes away from a strict teaching model, but also to help them grasp onto the fact that what the Church is asking them to do is help people meet Jesus Christ. Frankly, my experience of this tells me that this is a very tall order; it is so much easier just to teach the tenets of the faith than it is to talk about what that faith means, what that relationship with Christ means in our day-to-day lives. Maybe I am discovering a renewed mission in my own life. But, in order to do that, I have to be more and more aware of and be able to articulate my relationship with Christ as well; also a very tall order!

I hope your weekend is a grand one.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Greetings on this beautifully sunny and warm Thursday in the Midwest.

I've been thinking more and more about what I wrote yesterday. The "Cone of Silence" is something we used to watch on the old Get Smart TV shows.

I remember as a kid always laughing when the "Cone of Silence" was summoned for use. It was supposed to guard against anyone outside the cone from hearing the top secret conversations occurring within. But it just never worked. Agent 86 and the chief simply couldn't hear one another when the cone came down on top of them.

I bring up this iconic television image because I think it has something to do with the way many Catholics have imposed their own "cones of silence" on their spiritual life. And I would often count myself among those Catholics. Too often we will do everything we can to talk about our religion, or talk about the issues in which the Church engages, or talk about the ways that our parishes manage to or don't manage to live up to our expectations. Frankly, I think these are the easy things to talk about. And we can hide behind them. What we need to be talking about is our own personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. And that is something that makes us just a little frightened and we call down the "cone of spiritual silence." Once we cross the line from talking about religion to talking about who Jesus Christ is in my own life and in the life of my relationships and family, somehow we hesitate. Why?

I wonder if it is because we simply do not have a strongly cultivated relationship with Christ; that maybe we have been hiding behind our texts and strongly held religious convictions for so long that we have lost the core meaning of what this is all about in the first place.

In order for RCIA ministers, and others in catechesis, to help seekers and seasoned Catholics come out from behind the great "Cone of Silence," what needs to be done? How does one help Catholic catechists first name their own relationship with the Lord and then help them remove the cone and freely share that with others.

For me, I have a very vivid memory of the very first time the Lord Jesus actually became real for me. I had spent eight years preparing for the diocesan priesthood in Boston, from the age of eighteen to twenty-six, a big chunk of my life back then. Then, shortly before ordination to the diaconate, my dream was thwarted. No need to go into the details here. The fact was that I was despondent, lost, and searching for what God had in mind for me.

For years, morning after morning, day after day, and evening after evening, I had sat, stood, and knelt in prayer at our seminary chapels. I returned at that time to the college seminary chapel and just sat there and looked up at the crucifix I had seen for so many years. And, quite suddenly, the paschal mystery burst into my heart and, for the first time, I was introduced, really introduced, to Jesus Christ. He, who hung on the cross and rose from the dead, was my Lord and Savior. And on that day, I had the strongest sense--which has never left me--that the Lord Jesus was my friend who would always walk with me through doubt and sin, through times of being lost and frightened, and through whatever the Father had in store for me.

Faith was awakened in me that day, as it never had. And I am now actually grateful for that particularly scary and bleak time in my own life; it was a gift that brought me to Jesus Christ.

How do we, as leaders, help those entrusted with the ministry of Christian formation, first recognize their relationship with Christ, then help them lift the cone of spiritual silence and articulate that clearly with those who are seeking such a relationship?

That's where I am today.

Jesus Christ as "friend." What is your description of Christ in your own relationship with him?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Finding the Lord Jesus

Wednesday greetings.

Permit me to take a plunge into some personal sharing here for a moment.

I had an extended conversation with a loved one last night, one who as been living with cancer for over six years. She is one of the great heroes in my life. I am grateful to those in the medical field who have cared for her and helped her manage her pain. She lives with lots of pain these days, but her spirit is stunningly bright, warm, and filled with humor.

I share this because I have been struggling lately about the difficulties I have with expressing what my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ is all about. In preparation for a talk I am giving in a few weeks, I have been reading Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell. This book has given me loads of food for thought. Weddell talks about the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" mentality that she and her colleagues have discovered while working with tens of thousands of Roman Catholics. Generally speaking, Catholics just don't talk about their relationship with God; they hesitate to talk about the journey of this relationship. This really hit home for me.

In my own presentations to those in initiation ministry, I often tell them that far too often catechists in the RCIA hide behind their notes, their handouts, their Powerpoint presentations, etc. What I mean by this is that, while teaching is certainly an important component in Christian formation, what seekers are really looking for and what we are charged to provide is a place and space where they can find the Lord Jesus and develop a living relationship with him. No amount of lecturing or handouts or Powerpoints is going to provide that. What provides that is living witness; is another person revealing who the Lord Jesus is in their own life.

I have been saying this for years. Last year, while saying these words, I noticed that my Powerpoint slides looked great and that people were following along on my beautiful handouts. It hit me then and there; I was doing pretty much what I was telling them to avoid. So I stopped my presentation and grabbed a chair and took a very deep breath and I waited. They all looked at me, probably wondering if I had taken ill.

I looked at them, and with tears in my eyes and with a hesitant voice, I said that I wanted to no longer hide behind my presentation about faith formation; I wanted to tell them about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only the words didn't come easily. I think, now having read Forming Intentional Disciples, that I have been caught up in the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" movement as well.

This has all been quite a turning point in my own life and I am struggling mightily with this.

And I know that I have landed somewhere in all of this, and that came up quite strongly last night as I spoke with my loved one.

You see, about fourteen years ago, as I sat at the bedside of my youngest sister, who would die just a few short months after that visit, I met the Lord Jesus in a way that was so, so strong to me. I found him in my sister. And I told her that, "Joanne, I know this seems weird, but I feel closer to Jesus when I am with you, when you are so sick, than I do or ever have felt in any other time of my life." Not being being people who talked about these things (Don't ask, Don't Tell), I thought she might bristle at my remark. But she just looked at me and smiled. And I found him right there.

Jesus Christ is most present to me in the suffering and I knew that presence again last night. I know that there is all kinds of theologizing that we could do in the examination of this blog post. And I am always tempted to do that. But I don't want to right now. I am just glad that I was able to share this with you.

Do you know the Lord Jesus? Are you able to talk about that relationship?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bishop-elect Robert Barron

Just read that Fr Robert Barron, currently rector of Mundelein Seminary here in Chicago has been named as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, July 20, 2015

WLP's Sing the Seasons!

Monday greetings on this beautiful summer day here in the Midwest.

As the latter portion of summer approaches, I wanted to alert you to events coming up in the next few months that are sponsored by World Library Publications.

Our annual Sing the Seasons Choral Reading Sessions are scheduled to take place across the country in the next several months. They all begin with me presenting one for the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana on Friday evening, July 31. I gotta tell you; these sessions are not only excellent opportunities for parish musicians to discover new choral and assembly music, they are, in a word, FUN!

We hold a raffle-prize drawing at each event. You know, we do loads of work here at WLP once a particular piece of music is accepted for publication. Our music editors collaborate closely with the composer to work on editorial suggestions. Since these editors are all part of pastoral music ministries in parishes here in the Chicago area, they know what "works" and what can "work better" for parish assemblies and choirs. We are proud of the evolution of WLP's contribution to the world of choral music for Catholic (and non-Catholic) parishes throughout the world.

This year, we created a new web site just for the Sing the Seasons events. is the place to discover where these events are happening, as well as the place to register up to three musicians from your parish. This year, we will be holding these events in Lafayette, IN, Chicago (north and west), Milwaukee, San Antonio, Phoenix, Boston, Charlotte, Denver/Colorado Springs, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Saint Paul, New Orleans, Saint Louis, and New York.

Please consider attending or, if you are not a musician, urge your musician friends to visit the web site and sign up!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.