Sunday, May 31, 2009

Musicians: A Changing Church with New English Translations

Hello everyone and I hope you are having a blessed Pentecost. Mine is not going as I had planned. I woke up this morning here in Miami, left the hotel with plenty of time to catch my flight to Washington, then on to Chicago. Unfortunately, I-95 is closed on Sundays for repairs. I took the detour, promptly got lost and thought I was south of the airport, so got back on I-95 north. Unfortunately for me I was in the express lanes, which took me another ten miles past the airport. I finally arrived (after trying to follow the whacky signs to Avis), only to miss my flight. This is a first in my life. C'est la vie! So here I sit at Miami International for five hours. Tried to find the interdenominational chapel, hoping to go to Mass for Pentecost, only to find it in a very remote location, empty, with no lights on. So I said a prayer and joined my heart to the hearts of all of you who have the privilege of celebrating this great feast with your communities. Veni Creator Spiritus!

At any rate, I had a wonderful experience here in Miami. The music conference at Barry University was focused on music ministry in a changing world and Church. I gathered with several musicians and one priest on Friday afternoon for three hours. We sang through some rough draft settings of the new Mass parts, including the dialogues. People generally felt that new musical settings of the Mass parts were preferable to some of the reworked versions of present musical settings, with some exceptions. We did sing portions of the ICEL chants and all unanimously agreed that these chant settings should be learned in every parish so that we could have a common repertoire across the United States and in English-speaking countries throughout the world. I found the session to be personally engaging and informative.

On Saturday, I presented the keynote to the attendees, giving a history of the "why" behind the new translation. I also focused some attention on change management as well as a good dose of baptismal spirituality. This was a prelude to an afternoon panel session. Among the panelists were Monsignor Terry Hogan, rector of the cathedral in Miami and head of the Worship Commission, Sr. Mary Francis Fleischaker, OP, D.Min. of Barry University, Fr. Juan Sosa of the Archdiocese of Miami, and yours truly. Monsignor Hogan shared the plans for catechesis for the Archdiocese in the coming 18 months, which will begin with catechesis for the priests, then liturgical ministers and those involved in forming young people in schools and religious education, then the lay faithful. Monsignor was honest and upbeat. We all expressed the hope that the feelings and attitudes surfaced during this time of catechesis would help all in the Church understand and appreciate the Mass more deeply. There were good questions from the musicians in attendance. We walked through some of the changes (texts available on the USCCB's web site). People were generally uneasy at first, but the more we talked, the more the uneasiness seemed to abate. I think that this is what will probably occur during the period of catechesis implemented by dioceses throughout the world in preparation for the changes.

I left this conference with a few impressions. I know that the changes will elicit some strong negative reactions from many priests, musicians, and the people in the pews. It will take careful and honest formation by leaders to address these issues. Musicians will be in a key position to assist in both the catechesis and in the implementation. Parishes will need to begin financial planning now for the purchase of the new Roman Missal and for the resources and music that will be needed for music ministers and for the assembly. I want you to know that, as a publisher, we are committed to providing the best, most affordable music resources for parishes. This has always been at the center of WLP's mission. We will serve this transition in the best way we know how.

Well, that's about it for now. I am refreshed and invigorated after this terrific music conference here in Miami. Again, I hope that your Pentecost celebrations fill you with the renewed power of the Holy Spirit. Gotta Sing! Gotta Pray!


Chironomo said...

If musicians will play such a central role in the implementation of the new translations, and if there is a major effort underway to provide English Language settings for the new translation with the intent that these settings be used widely...why is there no catechesis for parish musicians planned (or are they included under the term "Liturgical Ministers")?

It would seem to me that the greatest impact of the new translation will be on those parts of the Mass that are sung (Ordinary). I would think that clergy and musicians would be the first wave of catechesis if the hope is to encourage a uniform and integrated sung liturgy drawn from the liturgical books. Or is the hope that the new translations will be worked into the spoken parts of the Mass while the sung parts of Mass are developed independently by commercial interests?

There really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here to re-connect the liturgy and music, and if that opportunity isn't taken, the conflicts will continue until they are re-connected at some point in the future. For those who have never experienced a liturgy with truly integrated music, perhaps avail yourself of the Sacred Music Colloquium (June 21-28-Loyola University) and when that "Ahaa!!" moment hits you, the issue will be forever resolved for you....

Anonymous said...

Of course musicians will be included under "Liturgical Ministers" - that's what we are! It mystifies me why, when I have days of formation/reflection for parish liturgical ministers, the musicians ask if they're ever going to have one, too!

Scelata said...

"We did sing portions of the ICEL chants and all unanimously agreed that these chant settings should be learned in every parish so that we could have a common repertoire across the United States and in English-speaking countries throughout the world."
Amen, and amen, and amen! It is imperative, (and even more so in the current climate of closures and consolidations,) to connect with the larger Church, and get away from the "Parish-Family of Saint Thewaywedoithere" mentality.

"I presented the keynote to the attendees, giving a history of the 'why' behind the new translation."

Thank you, important work!

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Chironomo said...


The question isn't whether "WE" consider ourselves Liturgical Ministers (although I don't really like the term...) but whether the USCCB program will include musicians in the programs directed at liturgical ministers. Usually when that term is used, it identifies Lectors, Servers and Extraordinary Ministers. The liturgical issues presented by the new translations would be very different for those persons as for musicians, and it wouldn't really be practical to treat them as one. That's what I meant... will there be a catechetical program for musicians on the new chant based settings in the Missal.

Anonymous said...

Considering the unity between ritual and music, I'm curious why the term liturgical minister would not apply to musicians?