Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mass "Attendance"

A dreary Tuesday has dawned here in Chicago. I remember my first year here, after having lived in Florida. At our parish's Thanksgiving Day Mass, the priest began his homily with these words, "One wonders why we are so thankful on a day like this. We haven't seen the sun in 29 straight days!" Ah, Autumn in the Midwest.

Thanks to those who commented on yesterday's post. As I reflected more on my experience at Mass on Sunday with Bishop Trautman, it dawned on my that—to use the cliche— "it takes two to tango." At Sunday Mass, even if the celebrant does all he can to pray the prayers with conviction, if the assembly is not actively listening, waiting for the words to sink in, then the meaning of the prayer can be lost. And if the assembly is actively listening and the celebrant moves through the prayers with little enthusiasm an with a mechanical style, the meaning of the prayer can be lost as well.

Active participation in the liturgy is a holy and a human partnership. I constantly remind Catholics to expect a miracle every time they attend Mass. We should approach the celebration of Mass "tingling," waiting for God to touch us, to shake us out of our stupor, and to speak to our hearts. This is often hard work, because Mass attendance can be just that: attendance. "I attended my son's graduation." "I attended the spring luncheon." "I attended the lecture on air pollution." "I attended the 9:30 Mass." 

For us, "attendance" means so much more than showing up. And this is where the real work comes into play. God's always at work; we know that. We just need to do our part to see and feel that work. Greeters, lectors, cantors, psalmists, choirs, instrumentalists, celebrants, deacons, extraordinary ministers of holy communion, and every member of the gathered assembly must realize that God is at work in every holy gesture, in every sacred word and action, in the assembly itself, in the transformation of bread and wine into Christ's body and blood. This takes work. But, at least for me, the benefits are plentiful.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bishop Trautman Prays and Inspires

Happy Monday everyone. Well, it seems that summer has come to an end in an abrupt fashion here in Chicago. Thunderstorms roared through during the night and high winds have brought us a chill. Farewell to a warm and wonderful September 2009.

Yesterday morning I had the privilege to play at a Mass at the gathering of the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference. It was held in a ballroom of the Hyatt here in downtown Chicago. Bishop Donald Trautman (pictured above), of the diocese of Erie, was the celebrant. I have heard Bishop Trautman speak on many occasions, but was never present when he was the celebrant at Mass. Bishop Trautman has always inspired me in his talks. He urges the Church to celebrate Mass well; to participate fully, consciously, and actively. He has been a harsh critic of some of the newly translated texts of the Missale Romanum, arguing that some are very difficult to proclaim well and equally—or more—difficult for the hearer to comprehend. He has come under biting criticism from many, some going as far as accusing him of being unfaithful to the Church, or of being a dissenter. Yet he has held his ground, calling those working on these texts to make them more intelligible for the proclaimer and the listener.

I can tell you one thing. Bishop Trautman prays the prayers of the Mass in a deliberate, beautiful, and inspiring manner. He sticks to every word in the Sacramentary and conveys the meaning in a way that is simple and straightforward. I found myself listening to the words of the familiar Eucharistic Prayer with fresh ears because Bishop Trautman so obviously deeply believed what he was praying. It was absolutely inspiring. All the musicians who ministered at this Mass commented in the same fashion. Here was a man, ordained for 47 years, who was praying the Mass as if it were the first time; as if he were in love with the words and the meaning that those words conveyed. Folks, it was a very powerful moment for me. This bishop is an inspiration to priests everywhere. Too often, the praying of these texts seems mechanical and routine. This is a sad reality in the church. When the new translation is permitted for proclamation, priests will need to do much preparation to convey the meaning. I hope that moment becomes a time of renewal within the priesthood; a renewal that helps priests embrace these texts and proclaim them in a similar manner to Bishop Trautman's proclamation.

I hope you have a great week.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Full, Conscious, and Active

Happy Friday to all. My apologies for not posting enough this week. We've been involved with lots of planning meetings here at WLP.

I've been asked to give a presentation in a few weeks at a suburban parish here in the Archdiocese of Chicago. It's an annual gathering—an evening of formation—for the parish's liturgical ministers. I've spoken at this parish several times. This year's focus is on the word of God. This has me reflecting on the realities of liturgical ministers and their relationship to the proclamation of the word.

I have a hunch that liturgical ministers often compartmentalize their ministry. Greeters can sometimes be completely engaged in their ministry before Mass and then feel like their job is over and then don't fully engage in the rest of the liturgy. Acolytes can be so focused on the "what should I be doing next?"syndrome. Cantors can mentally exit the liturgical experience if they are constantly worried about whether or not they will do well on the next piece. Celebrants can sometimes be so focused on running their homilies through their minds that they hardly notice anything else. Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion might be so caught up wondering about their precise location for ministering the Eucharistic bread and cup that they lose their concentration. I think what happens most often is that the proclamation of the word suffers because so few are really listening—even the liturgical ministers themselves. The irony of it all is that it precisely God's word proclaimed at the liturgy that is a great source of nourishment and strength for all liturgical ministers. 

I am most impressed in parishes where all the ministers are totally focused on the lector, deacon, and priest when the readings are being proclaimed. If the choir is up front and to the side of the sanctuary, choir members should physically turn toward the area where the word is being proclaimed. Celebrants should turn their heads and focus their attention on the readers and the psalmist. Acolytes should also be attentive. What this all does is model for those in the assembly a posture of good listening. The Second Vatican Council called us to "full, conscious, and active participation" in the liturgy. Perhaps we can reword that just a bit and work toward embracing the idea of "full, conscious, and active" listening at the liturgy.

I hope you have a great weekend. Gotta Sing. Gotta Pray.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Paschal Mystery, Plain and Simple

Happy Wednesday to you all.

It's been a fairly intense week here at World Library Publications. We've been engaged in a planning process and it has been wonderful to have all of our telecommuting staff members actually here on site. It's like having the whole family together for awhile, and it's been a good week for us.

Just a little personal news to share. And it is indeed good news. About nine months ago, my younger sister was diagnosed with cancer. A priest friend of mine found this out and gave her a phone call, telling her that she was being placed on his parish's prayer outreach to the sick. A deeply, deeply spiritual woman, my sister's relationship with the Catholic Church has had some unsteadiness over the years. She went to Mass at my friend's parish the weekend after her diagnosis, feeling lost, sad, close to despair. When the time came for the intercessions, she heard her own name being announced. She told me that the moment held a tremendous power for her; knowing that people were actually praying for her, a stranger to this parish. She and her husband have been attending Mass at that parish regularly and talking to the pastor. Married civilly, they began to talk about having their marriage convalidated. She mentioned this to me a few months ago and I thought that it was a wonderful thing. I know many of you feel sad, as do I, when our lives as Catholics are so full, so energizing, so blessed, and yet we see the siblings that we love so much not practicing the faith, not discovering week after week through the celebration of Mass God's abiding and comforting love made present in a parish community. My sister and her husband's return has lifted my spirit beyond measure. 

Earlier this week, I received an email invitation from my sister, inviting our family to the convalidation of their marriage on November 1, All Saints Day. What wonders God works in the face of serious illness. What wonders God works through the kindness of pastors. What wonders God works through a welcoming parish. And, most of all, we know clearly what wonders God continues to work through the death and resurrection of Christ. Folks, this is the paschal mystery plain and simple.

I know my sister reads this blog. I hope she knows how much I love her. I had to share this story with all of you because my heart just cannot contain my joy.

No wonder that we gotta sing. And we gotta pray. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Servant of All

"Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."

This past Sunday, our pastor preached on this particular portion of the day's Gospel reading. It was the "state of the parish" address and Father touched on the various ministries of the parish. He was telling us that God chooses us not because we are the best, the brightest, or the richest, but because we, as a parish, are precisely not these things.

During his report on the social outreach of the parish, he surprised us all when he announced that he had received a phone call this week from the staff at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, pictured here. The Despository collects food from all kinds of companies and then it is sold at pennies on the dollar to food pantries all over the greater Chicago area.

Father told us that St. James, our parish's food pantry, had been named the best food pantry in greater Chicago, as well as being named as the best quality food pantry. There was spontaneous applause from the assembly. And it was a sustained applause. It was ironic that it was in the middle of a homily about not necessarily being the best, the brightest, nor the richest, that we found out that our food pantry had been named the best. I guess if a parish has to be the best at anything, being the best at serving the hungry and the homeless is not such a bad thing.

Please say a prayer of thanksgiving today for all the people who work to feed the poor at St. James food pantry and places like it all over the country. God is good. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The "Sountrack of the Peace Movement" and the Development of Liturgical Music

Thursday has dawned; hope yours is a blessed one.

Heard on the radio this morning about the deaths of Henry Gibson and Mary Travers, who is pictured above. Brought back memories of growing up in the 60s and 70s. I remember well my sister and I singing "Leavin' on a Jet Plane" duets, with me sitting at the Lowrey Organ, like the one pictured here.

On this morning's news, the radio commentator called the music of Peter, Paul, and Mary, "the soundtrack of the peace, justice, and equality movement of the 60s and 70s." I liked the way this music sounded and there was something about the lyrics that resounded in me, like these:

If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land.
I'd hammer out danger
I'd hammer out warning
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land.

Well I've got a hammer
And I've got a bell
And I've got a song to sing
All over this land.
It's the hammer of justice
It's the bell of freedom
It's the song about love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land.

Why did this music and its lyrics touch me so deeply? Perhaps it was because we were part of the urban poor growing up. Perhaps it was because I watched my mother work hard for the poor people in our neighborhood. Perhaps it was the work ethic of my parents, especially my father, that was instilled in us.

I can't help but recall what a profound influence this folk-style had on the development of liturgical music here in the United States and beyond. What was happening with the peace and justice movement in the 60s and 70s was closely paralleled by the burgeoning of that same movement within the church. People were discovering scripture, many for the first time. And those early composers were setting the scriptures to music; embedding scriptural themes of God's peace and justice into the hearts of worshippers. This all had a definite influence as the liturgical movement unfolded. Many would argue that this was what has led to what they would term a downfall in the development of liturgical music. I disagree. The development of music for the liturgy here in the United States has been an organic process. It has borrowed from the "sounds of the times" as well as preserved the sacred treasury of chant and polyphony. There really is no turning back; there is only a move forward. Where will this organic process lead? I don't have a definitive answer to that question. As a publisher, we deal with these issues on a daily basis.

I'll go out today and either buy the actual CD or purchase the tracks to Peter, Paul, and Mary's albums. Need a shot of nostalgia.

Thanks for listening. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Liturgy: Whose Work Is It?

Hope you are having a good Wednesday.

Last night I attended the first meeting of the newly revamped liturgy and spiritual life committee at my parish. This is my fourth time around with a committee such as this in parish. Each time the group has kind of fizzled away. I have high hopes that this group will continue the commitment begun last night.

We were all asked to share a memory of a liturgy we attended that really drew us to the center; to a deep experience of God; to a deep connection with the paschal mystery. This was my memory.

In January of this year, one of my dear sisters was diagnosed with cancer. I was shocked and saddened by this news. When I went to Mass at St. James that Sunday, I just wanted to hear something that would address the pain and sadness I was feeling. The Mass went by and I didn't think anything had touched me. There was something about the Prayer Over the Gifts that caught my attention, but I quickly lost whatever it was as the Mass continued. A few days later, I opened the Sacramentary and found that prayer:

may we celebrate the eucharist
with reverence and love,
for when we proclaim the death of the Lord
you continue the work of his redemption, 
who is Lord forever and ever."

It didn't dawn on me until a few days after that Mass that this was exactly what God had in store for me. About 18 months ago I heard a lecture by a prominent liturgist who suggested that, instead of thinking that the liturgy is primarily the "work of the people"—as it is described in many liturgical circles—we should first think of the liturgy as the work of God. Look at that prayer again: "for when we proclaim the death of the Lord (the very definition of what we do at Mass) you continue the work of his redemption." God is always at work; working on each and every one of us and we experience this at Mass when we celebrate the Eucharist, proclaiming the cross and resurrection of Christ. But this is a holy exchange of work, for we must do our part, the necessary work that it takes to "proclaim the death of the Lord."

When I shared this with the members of the liturgy and spiritual life committee at our meeting last night, it dawned on me that this is a great stance to have when going to Mass: expecting that God will be hard at work on me, while I am doing the work of the liturgy. Sitting here at my cluttered desk at WLP, I find myself looking forward to Mass on Sunday at St. James. Wonder what God has in store for me?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This Path Is Love

Tuesday, Tuesday . . . Hope you are having a good one.

I read a snippet of Pope Benedict's recent Gospel reflection today. He was talking about the Christian faith not being a theory, but a way of life. Great line: "This path is love, which is an expression of true faith. If someone loves his neighbour with a pure and generous heart, this means he truly knows God. If on the other hand someone claims to have faith but does not love his brothers and sisters, he is not a true believer. God does not dwell in him."

I have been pondering these themes since Sunday, when we heard the famous "faith and works" section from the letter of St. James.  I looked around me at my own parish church of St. James and just knew that God dwells in so many of my brothers and sisters in that assembly. Their faith is alive and they show it by their works, especially to the poor and the forgotten sick and elderly.

This is an enormous personal challenge for me. Our pastor invited us to consider the regular work we do—our jobs—as having the potential of being the works that grow out of our faith. I always thought I needed to do the extra works, the things outside of my normal work, in order to be really doing Christian works. I guess it's all in the way we shape our attitudes and actions at work. It's tedious work here at WLP sometimes. But I pray for the strength to be a Christian leader here. Just can't leave my faith at home.

Here's a snippet from a wonderful concertato on Love Is His Word. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Serving the Needs of Priests

It's a new week and what a beautiful day we've been given in Chicago. God is good.

Here at WLP we are working on a great new catalogue that will be sent to priests. It includes materials that are designed to help priests in their ministries of presiding, preaching, and providing pastoral care. In this Year for Priests, we want to get the word out that WLP is a great place to go to find helpful resources for ministry.

Just a little commercial here, if you don't mind. Fr. Eugene Hemrick has written a book for us, which is soon to be released. Habits of a Priestly Heart is a terrific new book that helps priests face the challenges of this third millennium. I was privileged to do some editorial work on this book. Many of you know that I spent eight years of my life studying for the priesthood. Although I was never ordained, there is still that part of me that identifies closely with the ordained. As I read and edited this fine book, I found myself being spiritually fed. It's a helpful resource for anyone who is seriously interested in nurturing the spiritual life.

Very busy day here, so that's it for now. Thanks for listening to my little commercial. Thanks, also to those of you who have been leaving comments here. I shouldn't be surprised to see that the issues that raise the most comments are those that some would see as most controversial, i.e. Senator Kennedy's funeral, and my earlier blog about married priests.

Hope your Monday and your week are both blessed. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Prayer for September 11

We all have our memories of September 11, 2001. Shortly after the attacks, our company's president asked us in the music and liturgy division to create a prayer service for all our employees. Here's what we did at noon on September 11, 2001. Hope you find it helpful. Gotta sing. Gotta pray. 

Psalm 55  (ICEL translation)


Listen, God, to my plea, do not ignore my cry.

Listen and answer, I shake with grief

at the furor of my enemies.

They threaten and attack me; they shout out curses,

venting their anger against me.


My heart is pounding, I can feel the touch of death.

Terror holds me in its grip, trembling seizes me.

"If I had wings like a dove, I would fly far and rest,

fly far away to the wilds to escape the raging storm."


Confuse their speech, Lord!  I see violence and strife

stalk their city walls both day and night.


Evil and destruction live in their midst;

oppression and deceit never leave the public square.


If my enemy insults me, I can bear it;

if a foe rises against me, I can hide myself.


But it was you, my own friend, the one I knew so well.

With you I could always talk, even as we walked to the temple,

my companion amid the crowd.


God hears my cry, brings me to safety

when the battle is raging and my foes are many.


Give your burden to the Lord, who will be your support.

If you are faithful, God will not let you fall.


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.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Married Priests

Hope your Thursday has blossomed as beautifully as has this sunny September day here in the Midwest.

This morning I read a post on one of the Catholic web sites about a priest (now deceased) here in the Archdiocese of Chicago. "A 60-year-old woman who claims that she and a Chicago priest lived as husband and wife from 1994 until his death in 2007 has sued the priest's estate over the provisions of the priest's will. According to the current pastor many parishioners at St. James at Sag Bridge Church knew that Father Edwin Bohula and the woman lived together in the woman's home."

This story reminded me of something that's been churning up in me for years. Back in the mid-1980s at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Altamonte Spring, FL—where I served as director of liturgy and music—a new priest was assigned to our parish. He was only the second Episcopal priest who, with his wife and children, were received into the Roman Catholic Church under a new "pastoral provision" crafted chiefly by then Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. There was a lot of buzz in the parish about this and there needed to be much information and formation about the whole issue. I remember the first Mass that Father Larry Lossing celebrated at St. Mary Magdalen. I was seated at the organ waiting to accompany the memorial acclamation. What struck me when Father Lossing elevated the host and chalice was the glint of his wedding ring. I immediately looked out into the congregation into the faces of five particular couples whom I had grown to know and deeply respect over the years. What made these couples unique was the fact that each of the five men was a former Roman Catholic Priest who had left the priesthood and eventually were married. I know there are many who would argue with me about this, but the moment struck me as a deep injustice by the Church I love. My question is this: Why is the discussion about married Roman Catholic priests seemingly a closed issue while a "pastoral provision" allows for a married Episcopal priest to become a valid Roman Catholic priest? Am I missing something here?

Thanks for listening. And, even when I am confused by some of what goes on in this Church of saints and sinners, I still gotta sing, and still gotta pray.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Glorious Morning Along Chicago's Lakefront

Two posts in one day. The photo functionality was restored, so I wanted to share two photos of the bike ride along Chicago's lake front on Monday morning (mentioned in my earlier post today). Pictured here are two of my carpool colleagues. Keith Kalemba, in the neon, is a talented music editor here at WLP. Tom Gull is the spirited J. S. Paluch National Sales Consultant. The photos remind me of what a beautiful day it was here in Chicago and what a wonderful city Chicago is. (These photos are a bit less formal than my blog photo!) I hope you are continuing to have a great day.

Grateful for a Vibrant Parish

Happy Wednesday. My apologies for taking a few days away from blogging. Meant to write yesterday . . . did you ever have one of those days when one thing after another (planned and unplanned) just collided into one another? That was my yesterday. Hopefully yours was a bit less hectic.

Labor Day weekend was restful and relaxing for me. I did manage to take that bike ride along the Lake Michigan lakefront. Monday morning at 7:45, two of my carpool colleagues and I biked just under 25 miles as the sun began to break through early morning clouds. I was hoping to share a few photos, but there is some kind of internal error with the blogging service, so I guess that will have to wait.

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was Mass at my parish, St. James, on Sunday morning at 9:30. One of the women, whose name I don't even know, made it a point to come up to me at the sign of peace and tell me how much she missed me while I was away. She told me that she always prays for me. I was humbled and gladdened by her kindness. I told her that I miss St. James so much when I am on the road and that I tell everyone I can about our parish. Folks, I know that I am a blessed guy. St. James is a great place to be a Catholic. And I am so grateful for that gift.

 The parish is currently undergoing a commitment to stewardship campaign, which they have called "The Stewardship Express." This must have begun while I was away. After communion on Sunday, our pastor announced that after having heard about one car on the "stewardship express train," —the social care car— last week, this week we would be hearing about another car: the evangelization car. He then blew into one of those train whistles, garnering chuckles from the crowd. Our deacon then got to the ambo to talk about our parish's evangelization efforts and before beginning his talk, he donned an engineer's cap, again garnering laughter. Gimmicky? Absolutely, but pretty darn charming if you ask me. And if our commitment to stewardship were not at the center of our parish's mission, our doors surely would have closed years ago. In looking at some parish bulletins during the time I was away, I noticed a long letter from the pastor about the state of our church building. It seems engineers will be doing an intense study of the building, trying to determine if wood beams are actually holding the roof onto the rest of the structure. The Archdiocese of Chicago is taking care of the hefty costs of this study. Here's what our pastor had to say about the current state of affairs.

"Many have asked me why it is that the Archdiocese has been so generous to St. James. The reason is simple: they see that we are doing what we can to to be a vibrant church. They recognize our evangelization efforts that are leading to increased membership. They see your continued financial stewardship that allows Saint James to pay its ordinary bills. They observe that we were one of the parishes in the Archdiocese that met its pledge goal to the Archdiocesan Annual Appeal. They hear over and over about the good work of our Social Care Program. All of these and more are the reasons the Cardinal and his team is so committed to Saint James. That is why I say that during this difficult time in our parish life we can't allow what we can't do to keep us from doing what we can do. Doing what we can do is promoting Saint James! Let's keep on doing it!"

Please pray for Saint James, and for all parishes struggling with these kinds of issues. 

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Finest Choral Music

Happy Friday to one and all. The Friday before Labor Day weekend always evokes some mixed emotions in me. I recall those 20 academic years (8 years of Catholic grade school, 1 year of scary public school ninth grade, 3 years of public high school, 4 years of seminary college, and 4 years of seminary graduate theology school) when this day meant that the coming weekend was the last real free time for nine months. I also recall this day as a day of gratitude for the glories of summer. 

Today, I am excited that parish musicians are gearing up for a return to regular choir rehearsals and (of course), the teaching of new choral music. 

I sent an email to members of the music editorial staff here at WLP a few days ago after having listened to the CD that accompanied our August choral mailing packet, telling them how proud I am of their fine work. The August choral mailing is magnificent. I can say without hesitation that WLP is producing the finest choral music for parish choirs today. Many of the selections were music pieces for Advent and Christmas. Now is the time that choir directors are planning their repertoire for those seasons. And, being the associate publisher here at WLP, I am always fascinated to watch the sales of our choral pieces. Sometimes what we think choir directors will fall in love with doesn't sell well. Then there are the surprises; music that wasn't necessarily what we liked best becomes a best-seller. Usually our instincts are right on target, but some reactions surprise us. One piece for Christmas has become one of our most popular. The Holly She Bears a Berry is a great piece for choirs. Here's a snippet. Hard to believe that Christmas will be here before you know it. 

But for now, I hope you enjoy your holiday weekend. I am looking forward to Mass on Sunday at St. James (haven't been there in a few weeks, having been on the road), then a nice long bike ride along Lake Michigan on Monday morning with a few of my carpool colleagues. Below is a great photo of what the experience is like in this great city. Remember, bikers, always wear your helmets!

Gotta labor. Gotta rest.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

God's Mercy in Portland, Boston, and Chicago

It is a glorious Thursday here in the Windy City - bright sunshine and low humidity. Started the day with a vigorous workout at the gym, then joined my carpool colleagues, and arrived here at the buzzing publishing house.

I noticed the copy of AIM Magazine on my desk when I arrived. AIM is WLP's music and liturgy planning resource, edited by Alan Hommerding. A previous issue is pictured to the left. In the issue that arrived today (November 29 to February 14), the feature article is "The Entrance Rite: At Your Own Risk," by Fr, Ronald Raab, CSC. I found the article deeply moving. It parallels some of my own experience at my own parish of St. James. Fr. Raab is the associate pastor at the Downtown Chapel Catholic Parish in Portland, Oregon, pictured here.
The parish serves people living in poverty in the downtown area. Fr. Raab's immersion in the lives of the poor has shaped within him a unique and helpful perspective on the Church's liturgy. After having read the entire article, I know that my experience of the entrance rite will never be the same. 

Here's a brief excerpt:
"The reverent procession to God's altar is not only for the well-mannered, the prayerful, and the pious. This inclusive procession is a visible reminder that we all come home into God's kingdom, no matter the awkward lives we lead or the cumbersome sins we carry. The cross carried in procession during the entrance rite is the outward sign of the many crosses people carry deep within their lives. The sign of the Crucified leads us beyond our fears about whether or not we belong within the Church. The cross escorts us when we are sidetracked by worldly materialism, our own goals, and the dead end of our greed. The journey to the Kingdom encompasses those strangers who refuse to enter our parish as well as friends who sleep among our judgments and fears."

The entire article is well worth reading. As I read this article, which reminded me of my own judgments and fears, the funeral for Senator Kennedy came to mind. As you probably know, there were people voicing all kinds of judgments on Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley for both allowing a Catholic funeral for Senator Kennedy in his diocese and for actually attending the event. This, of course, was in response to the senator's strong support for a woman's right to choose an abortion. Here is an excerpt of what Cardinal O'Malley had to say about his critics.

"There are those who objected, in some cases vociferously, to the Church's providing a Catholic funeral for the Senator. In the strongest terms I disagree with that position. At the Senator's interment on Saturday evening, with his family's permission, we learned of details of his recent personal correspondence with Pope Benedict XVI. It was very moving to hear the Senator acknowledging his failing to always be a faithful Catholic, and his request for prayers as he faced the end of his life. The Holy Father's expression of gratitude for the Senator's pledge of prayer for the Church, his commendation of the Senator and his family to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and his imparting the Apostolic Blessing, spoke of His Holiness' role as the Vicar of Christ, the Good Shepherd who leaves none of the flock behind . . . At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another. These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church. If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. Jesus' words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us. Jesus loves us while we are still in sin. He loves each of us first, and He loves us to the end."

Cardinal Sean's words echoed what I read in Fr. Raab's article on the Entrance Rite. God's mercy is proclaimed and praised at the beginning of Mass for a reason. Using the Cardinal's words: "Jesus loves us while we are still in sin." I know that I would be lost in my own life without the assurance of God's mercy. This is what gives me hope; that even while I am still in sin, the Lord Jesus' love for me is still there. Every time I gather for Mass with other sinners, I acknowledge this love and ask the Lord to pull me closer and closer to him, and further and further away from sin.

I can think of no better reason to lift my heart in praise and thanksgiving. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Two New WLP Initiatives to Help the Singing and Praying Church

Hello everybody. It's a beautiful Tuesday here in Chicago. Hard to believe that September has dawned. I enjoy the summer months here in Chicago so much. Now, as the days grow shorter, we'll be readying ourselves for the beauty of autumn and the inevitable chill of winter.

Just wanted you to know about a few new initiatives we have begun here at WLP. One is what we are calling our "staff picks" monthly email. In some of our catalogues, we have included a "staff picks" section. WLP staff members make choral music suggestions for a given feast or season. We are finding that people appreciate this kind of advice from our staff, most of whom do music ministry in parishes on the weekends. So, given the success of this catalogue feature, we decided to do this electronically on a monthly basis. People who have signed in on our web site and checked the "contact me" boxes as part of the sign in form, will receive these monthly "staff picks" emails. Just in case you haven't created an account on our web site, why not do so now? Click here for the link to the sign in page. The "staff picks" monthly email includes suggestions for assembly and choir for each Sunday for a given month. Here is this month's edition, written by WLP's talented editor, Ron Rendek.

The other new initiative is a special quarterly service for those who lead contemporary ensembles. "Setting the Tone" has been created by one of our great editors here at WLP, Ed Bolduc (who is pictured to the left).

Ed is a musician to the core and he has a great ability to communicate his ideas with other musicians. When you click on the link for "Setting the Tone" above, you'll see how creative Ed can be with music of all styles. 

I am sure you will agree that these two new WLP initiatives will help serve the needs of many church musicians who gotta sing and who gotta pray. 

Thanks for listening.