Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Habits of a Priestly Heart

Happy Wednesday to you all. I am leaving later this morning for Atlanta. 

I wanted to share some news about a new book that we've just published. A little over a year ago, Fr. Eugene Hemrick, pictured here, the director of the National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood, gave us a manuscript for consideration for publishing. When I saw the dedication page, I knew that this was the right book for us to publish:

"To Mickey Paluch and Bill and Mary Lou Rafferty, for their undying dedication to promoting and supporting vocations to the religious life."

Habits of a Priestly Heart, is a wonderful book written by a terrific priest. I had the privilege of being the book's editor. Working with Fr. Hemrick, and getting to know his own priestly heart during this past year, has been a real joy for me. The chapters that identify the habits of a priestly heart that Fr. Hemrick shares with the reader are these:

1. Keeping Our Purpose Updated
2. Resisting Resentment, Careerism, and Clericalism
3. Refining the Habit of Contemplation
4. Study Is Ministry
5. What If We Were Healthier?
6. Solidarity at Its Best

As I moved through the editing process, I found myself drawn into Fr. Hemrick's stories and engaging style. I realized that this is not just a book for priests. I was moved and nurtured by Fr. Hemrick's challenges. Although the book's primary focus is a spirituality for the ordained priest, I think that any member of the priesthood of the faithful will find in this book a source of spiritual nourishment and guidance.

I am very proud to have Habits of a Priestly Heart on our shelf here at World Library Publications. A special word of thanks to Fr. Eugene Hemrick for his kindness to us and for sharing this great resource with the world.

I hope to connect with you all from Atlanta.

Gotta Sing. Gotta Pray.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

To Atlanta and Boston: "What Have I Written?"

Tuesday afternoon here in the dreary Midwest - overcast and cool. Gotta love autumn.

I am heading to Atlanta tomorrow to present a couple of RCIA workshops on Thursday, and attend a concert featuring WLP's own Ed Bolduc at his parish, St. Ann's in Marietta. Here's a photo of the exterior of St. Ann's. 

And here's a photo of the interior:

I return to Chicago on Friday morning, in time for WLP's Halloween party. This year's theme is "A Mad Hatter Tea Party." Our employees are great at potlucks and parties. We joke around here about WLP standing for "We Love People" or "We Love Parties" or "We Love Potlucks." this is a great place to work because of these fine people.

I am then off to Boston for family time on the weekend; trick-or-treating with my two young nieces on Saturday, then the convalidation of my sister's marriage on Sunday at St. Robert Bellarmine Church in Andover, Massachusetts on Sunday. I was asked to witness the marriage and am proud as a peacock about this—never been a best man before!

Just a little liturgical humor I heard over the weekend while in Mobile. Someone told me that on Good Friday in their parish, an anxiously zealous lector was really getting into the reading of the Passion of St. John. When the Gospel reached the part where the people ask Pilate to change the wording on the inscription on the cross, the lector got a bit confused. Instead of proclaiming Pilate's response as "What I have written, I have written," the lector shouted out: 
"What have I written? What have I written?"

Gave me a chuckle. Hope your week is going well.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray. 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Awkward Communion Procession

Hello everyone. Back at the office here after a wonderful trip to Mobile, Alabama. I was helping lead a three-day RCIA institute. We had a large number of clergy in attendance and a great group of laity. Once the institute ended, the team of presenters headed to the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Mobile) for the Saturday 4:30 P.M. Mass. Here are a few shots of the cathedral. Its interior has recently been restored.

Just a few observations. All of the music for the Mass was printed in the parish's weekly bulletin. The Gloria scheduled was the Latin chant (Vatican Mass VIII - de Angelis). I was looking forward to singing this, after having commented about the latin Gloria in an earlier blog posting. Unfortunately, when we got to the Gloria, it was recited. It struck me that it was like a group of people gathering around a birthday honoree and reciting—rather than singing—"Happy Birthday." The Gloria simply needs to be sung. The same thing occurred with the responsorial psalm. There was a musical setting for it printed in the bulletin, but the entire psalm was recited. There I sat, reciting the antiphon: "The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy." Frankly, there wasn't much that was joyful about it. There were two women in the sanctuary; one was the lector, the other the extraordinary minister of holy communion. Neither of them ever picked up the bulletin to sing anything. This was like being in another world for me. Minimal participation at best. There was no cantor, or was there? 

When it came time for communion, the organist—with a lovely voice—chanted the Latin antiphon "Laetabimur in salutari tuo" (Plainchant, Mode II). Then he played the introduction to the communion processional song. I immediately wondered why he didn't lead us in the Gloria or at least attempt to lead the refrain of the responsorial psalm earlier. 

I know that his intention here was to sing the chant appointed for this Sunday, but I've got to tell you, this was simply as disjointed as it gets. I felt like the musician wanted to "get the proper antiphon in," without regard for the liturgical action that was occurring. Here's what Sing to the Lord (the new document that helps guide our musical practice here in the United States) has to say:
"While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant [or song] is begun. Its purpose is to express the communicants' union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the 'communitarian' nature of the procession to receive Communion. The singing begins immediately and continues 'for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.' Because the Communion chant expresses the unity of those processing and receiving the Holy Sacrament, communal singing is commendable. The singing of the people should be preeminent."
"There are several options for the Communion song or chant, including the proper antiphon from the Graduale Romanum, a seasonal antiphon from the Graduale Simplex, an antiphon and psalm from a collection approved for liturgical use, or another appropriate liturgical song."

Where was the 'communitarian nature?' It looked more like the chant was sung to accompany the priest's reception of holy communion, and that the laity's reception was accompanied by the liturgical song chosen for that Mass, which was I Received the Living God. 

We at WLP are encouraging our composers, as directed by Sing to the Lord, to compose settings of communion songs using the proper antiphons. The hope here is that the song, which should begin as soon as we finish the "O Lord, I am not worthy to receive you . . ." accompanies the reception of communion by all. There is one song, not a chant in Latin followed by a song. 

I really had to work hard at this liturgy. The celebrant was Ugandan. His English was not easily grasped. The spoken parts that are usually sung sung irked me. The fact that the two women in the sanctuary were not interested in singing was disturbing. When I returned to my pew after having received communion, I belted out the refrain "I received the living God, and my heart is full of joy." And I really meant it, despite the fact that the liturgy simply missed the mark in so many ways. I always encourage people to look for the moment of transformation that God has in store for us at each and every Mass. Mine took place while I sang that refrain during communion. I had received the living God. That was the miracle for me at that Mass. 

That being said, however, I firmly believe that we need to work much harder as liturgical ministers to prepare places and times throughout the liturgy for these moments of transformation to occur for those entrusted to our care. God is God, and we are not. But we are given much responsibility when it comes to our ministry at Mass. 

Hope your week is a good one. Feel free to comment.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rome Opens Wide the Door

Happy Wednesday to you all.

Very interesting news yesterday with the Vatican's announcement apparently clearing the way for entire Anglican communities to come into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. This is quite interesting on a number of levels. First is the news that the Anglicans coming in will do so "while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony." I am looking forward to reading Pope Benedict's Constitution when it is released to more clearly understand this.

While I pray, as the Lord directed, for Christian unity, there are some troubling aspects to this announcement. Most, if not all, of the Anglican communities that would consider entering into full communion are marked by a sense of disenfranchisement over such issues as women's ordination, the ordination of gay clergy, among others. These are issues that are discussed in Roman Catholic circles today—although we are expressly forbidden to do so, particularly with regard to women's ordination. In an earlier post, found here, I shared my own experience of having had a former Anglican priest (then ordained a Roman Catholic priest) at one of the parishes at which I ministered. This new directive will open the door to more married Roman Catholic clergy, which is bound to open the discussion about married priests again and again. I wonder if the Vatican is concerned about the future implications of this decision. My mind is racing when I think about all of this. I'll look forward to watching this all unfold over the next days, weeks, and months.

Also, be sure to watch CNN tonight. One of WLP's recording artists, Noelle Garcia, will be featured as part of Soledad O'Brien's "Latino in America" special, airing tonight at 9:oo P.M. ET. I was present for the interview between Soledad and Noelle. Noelle's is a very compelling story. Here's a press release about the event.

Meanwhile, we are plugging along here at WLP, planning for future conferences and conventions, reviewing new music submissions, and working on our day-to-day tasks to bring the best resources to the singing and praying Church. I hope that you will visit our web site soon to discover what treasures we have available for you.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Preparing for Mobile, Alabama

Happy Tuesday to you all.

Busy, busy days here at WLP. I am preparing to fly to Mobile, Alabama on Thursday morning to assist in leading an RCIA institute for the North American Forum on the Catechumenate. It's always a joy to be with initiation ministers and help deepen our commitment to further the implementation of the RCIA. We'll be at Our Savior's Church in the Archdiocese of Mobile, pictured here.

I am hoping to have internet access while there, in the hopes of continuing to blog, but the schedule is tight. I'll try to do what I can . . . 

In the meantime, I hope your week is a good one.

Gotta sing.  Gotta pray. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

Saint Damien and the Current Health Care Debate

The week has dawned with sun and cool autumn air here in Chicago. Happy Monday to you all.

Our pastor preached a stirring homily yesterday, telling us the story of the life of Saint Damien de Veuster of Molokai. I remember, as a kid in Catholic grammar school, being told the story of Damien by the sisters, and being inspired by his selflessness and dedication to the most vulnerable. The pastor linked the story of Damien's extraordinary life with the current debate on health care in the United States. He outlined the US Bishops' three important principles with regard to the debate:
"1. Exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights. No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion . . . 
2. Adopt measures that protect and improve people's health care. Reforms should make quality health care affordable and accessible to everyone, particularly those who are vulnerable and those who live at or near the poverty level.
3. Include effective measures to safeguard the health of immigrants, their children and all of society. Ensure that legal immigrants and their family members have comprehensive, affordable, and timely access to health care coverage. Maintain an adequate safety net for those who remain uncovered."

The bishops have spoken clearly, taking a Catholic position that seeks to protect those who are the most vulnerable in our society, including the unborn. Our pastor further challenged us to remain open to the possibility that universal health care may mean more money out of our own pockets, but we would need to be generous in order for the health care needs of the most vulnerable to be met.

I must say I was quite moved by the homily and felt proud that our bishops have been so clear in articulating the Catholic position. Just as Saint Damien dedicated himself to care for the poor and the outcast, so, too, must we do the same.

I hope your week is a good one.

Gotta Sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Less Jarring Rite

Happy Friday to one and all.

I'd like to continue my comments about last week's blog I called "Jarring Rite." I commented about how schizophrenic the introductory rite seemed when we began with a strophic hymn, sang a Kyrie in Urdu, them moved right into a chant setting of the Gloria. When I substituted at the parish this past Sunday, the opening hymn was Now Thank We All Our God, followed by the sign of the cross, greeting, and the invitation to call to mind our sinfulness. After a period of silence, we sang the Lord Have Mercy in Urdu. The week before, the cantor jumped the gun and began the chanted Gloria before the celebrant had a chance to say, "May almighty God . . ." So, in essence, the reverberation of the Urdud Kyrie had not even faded before we heard the chant begin. However, this past weekend, the cantor waited for the celebrant to say these words, then we began to chant the Gloria. Just that few seconds of prayer, and our "Amen" made the whole experience less jarring for me. 

As far as the suggestion posted about singing the Latin as a way of being more inclusive . . . the way I read that document was that when Mass is celebrated in large international groups of Catholics from many lands, the Latin could be used a sign of unity. I have no argument against this; it makes perfect sense. This is why it's important for parishes to re-introduce, over time, the main sung parts of the Mass in Latin. But I am not sure that my tiny parish experience is the kind of gathering that the document intended to address. In a parish where many cultures are represented, but the dominant spoken language is English, singing in English most of the time makes the most sense. Peppering our liturgies with the Latin chants that we already know and re-introducing those that we don't know is simply a good idea for us. We'll see how our parish handles this as we move forward.

I hope that, wherever you are, that your weekend is a good one. Gotta Sing. Gotta Pray.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Living the Word - Drawing New Life from the Scriptures

Happy Thursday to one and all. It's cloudy, rainy, and raw here in Chicago. Reminds me of my first year in the Midwest, after having lived in Florida for eight years. During the first Thanksgiving Day Mass at my new parish, the homilist began with the words, "I don't know why we are so thankful today; we haven't seen the sun in 29 days!" Ah, Autumn and Winter in Chicago!

Every once in a while I offer you a brief commercial message. Today is one of those days. One of my favorite resources, a sleeping giant really, published here at World Library Publications, is a little gem called Living the Word. This is an annual resource that contains the texts of the Sunday and Holy Day readings, along with scripture commentary, a thought-provoking reflection, some discussion questions, and suggested actions for the week to help people really "live" the word of God. This content is written anew each year by some wonderful scripture scholars and pastoral folks who are truly "living the word." The authors for the new edition are Dennis D. Sylva and Rev. James A. Wallace, C.Ss.R. 

The 2009-2010 edition is the 25th anniversary edition and we've done some great work here giving the book a new look. Folks, this is one valuable resource. Every time I am speaking with RCIA ministers, I tell them that this is a "must have" for their resource shelf. It's perfect for those who "break open the word" with catechumens and candidates Sunday after Sunday. Small faith sharing groups use the book in their scripture sharing sessions. Some choir directors make the resource available to their cantors and choir members so that their music ministry will be more firmly rooted in the word of God.

When I was in Hawaii presenting a parish mission earlier this year, I noticed a copy on the rectory's dining room table. The priest with whom I was staying told me that it is his indispensable resource for preparing his Sunday homilies. We know of many parishes that purchase this book in bulk, making it available, either free or at a nominal charge, to their parishioners for personal preparation for Sunday Mass or for use in Scripture groups meeting during the week in peoples' homes.

Just this week, we received an email from a parish that had purchased 400 copies. What a wonderful testimonial they offered us:

"Pope John Paul II, in his 1998 pastoral letter, Dies Domini, said that 'If Christian individuals and families are not regularly drawing new life from the reading of the sacred text in a spirit of prayer and docility to the church's interpretation, then it is difficult for the liturgical proclamation of the word of God alone to produce the fruit we might expect' (#40). When our leadership team read that, we said, 'we have to get the Sunday scriptures into folks' hands.' We now provide Living the Word free of charge to any household in our parish who desires it. Not only does it provide the texts of the Sunday readings, but a thoughtful commentary and reflection, as well as thought-provoking questions and challenges to help us bring the word to life. Thank you for this wonderful resource for our assembly; WLP is helping us make the Liturgy of the Word what John Paul II envisioned: 'a dialogue between God and his people, in which the wonders of salvation are proclaimed and the demands of the covenant are continually restated.' "

When I read this testimonial, I was thrilled that this particular parish found Living the Word to be so helpful in their mission and ministry. Please consider purchasing the 25th Anniversary edition to help inspire your own living of God's word. There is bulk-pricing available, making the resource very affordable for parishes. You can find more information about Living the Word on WLP's web site. The link is right here.

Thanks so much for listening. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Funeral Mass for Mickey Paluch

Tuesday has dawned here in Chicago; crisp and cool.

Last night, at St. Paul of the Cross church in Park Ridge, Illinois, family and friends gathered to celebrate the
Funeral Mass for Margaret A. (Mickey) Paluch. Two bishops and scores of priests were in attendance. We had a fifty voice choir, made up of staff members here at WLP and J. S. Paluch, representatives from the Notre Dame Folk Choir, including their director, Steve Warner, several seminarians from Mundelein Seminary, good friends from other publishing houses, as well as a core contingent from the parish choir. In my own parish experience we are currently without a pipe organ (since our church building has been closed for several months now). The singing was tremendous, supported by the fine pipe organ at St. Paul's parish. I was especially grateful for the choir members from the parish who sang their hearts out for Mickey. She had been a music minister there for many, many years. 

This morning, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude to the Paluch family, whose company has served the Church since 1913. 

Mickey, may the angels lead you into paradise.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

(Gotta get to work!)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Marathon Weekend and Duns Scotus Chair

Hope your week is off to a good start. A very happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends. 

Here at WLP, we are preparing the music for Margaret Paluch's funeral, which will take place tonight at 7:30 P.M.

I had the privilege of "subbing" for our parish musician yesterday. I played at the 9:30 and 11:30 Masses. It was Chicago Marathon day yesterday and, believe me, it is a real challenge to get to St. James. The numbers are usually low because of this. At the 11:30, when Mass started, there were six people in the choir and seven in the congregation!

About half way through the second Mass, I found myself wondering how I played at five or six weekend Masses for so many years. I developed a renewed appreciation for musicians out there, especially in large parishes, who minister at so many Masses. Take the time to thank your parish musicians for their dedicated work! We had a visiting priest—a Redemptorist—whose preaching was superb. He really captivated all of us. Every time I hear the Gospel story of the rich young man, I wonder what the challenge really is for us today. (I was feeling particularly challenged yesterday, especially because I had inadvertently left my offering envelope at home!)

I also was privileged to play at the granting of the Duns Scotus Chair in Franciscan Spirituality at Catholic Theological Union to my friend and mentor Fr. Ed Foley, Capuchin. It was a delight to make music with an excellent Franciscan harpist, a flutist, some handbells, and a terrific cantor. Vespers was lovely. It's so gratifying to be able to share God's gifts with such an appreciative, praying assembly. Here are a few photos from the event. Here's the new holder of the Duns Scotus Chair in Franciscan Spirituality at Catholic Theological Union here in Chicago:

And here's another photo of Ed and his friends.

Hope your week is a good one. Please continue to pray for the members of Margaret Paluch's family.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Margaret Paluch - May She Rest in Peace

Friends, this world has lost a great woman this morning. Margaret Paluch died early this morning after suffering a stroke yesterday afternoon. 

A pioneer, leader, benefactor, beloved mother and grandmother, and a dear friend to all of us here at World Library Publications and the J. S. Paluch Company, she will be missed.

We had the privilege this past summer of her presence at WLP's music showcase at the NPM convention here in Chicago. The photo was taken at the convention; this was the last time most of us had the chance to visit with her. What a wonderful memory of a great woman.

May Margaret Paluch's soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fully Conscious and Active Listening

Wednesday has dawned beautifully here in the windy city. Crisp and cool. After my morning spin class, got stuck in lots of traffic, but arrived here safely to my desk.

I'm at St. Edna's parish tonight in Arlington Heights, IL, to give a talk on living the word of God (exterior of St. Edna's shown above). This is a great parish with lots of activity. I'll be speaking to those in music and liturgy ministry there. I'm planning on giving them a good dose of some inspiring church documents, including snippets from Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass, a bit from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and even something from the General Directory for Catechesis. I find that most Catholics do not even know of the existence of some of these documents. As a liturgist, I find that both the General Directory for Catechesis (the document that guides and inspires catechesis in the Catholic Church worldwide), and the National Directory for Catechesis (the document that guides and inspires catechesis here in the United States) are well worth reading. There has been a general dissolution of the wall that has existed between catechesis and liturgy over the past few decades, due mainly, I believe, to the restoration of the catechumenate worldwide. This has been one of the major gifts that the restoration has been to the Church. 

My plan for tonight is to do a little adjustment to this section from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:
"Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy."

My rework:
"Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active listening in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy."

My hope is to talk to these ministers about what active listening is in the liturgy; and not necessarily just listening to the readings. I'll share some stories about how active listening has shaped my own experience of the liturgy and how that has helped transform my own life. I think Catholics in general need to shake off the malaise that can creep into the worship experience. There is such rich fare every single time we celebrate the Eucharist. Please say a prayer for the dedicated ministers at St. Edna's tonight.

Gotta sing. Gotta Pray.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

World Library Publications: Dedicated to Serving the Singing and Praying Church

Thanks to those who sent in comments yesterday. I hope your Tuesday is going well. 

A few weeks ago the staff here at World Library Publications spent some time reflecting on our future and ways we can move forward as a publishing company. I'm attaching a photo taken during that time. I want you all to know what a privilege it is to work with and lead this group of talented people. They work tirelessly to serve you, the singing and praying Church.

This week the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions is holding its annual meeting in Michigan. Mary Beth Kunde-Anderson, our director of publications, is representing us at that important meeting. Undoubtedly, the topic of the upcoming new translation of the Missale Romanum will be at the center of many a discussion. Please pray for the work of the FDLC and for worship office directors who assist their bishops with the continued reform of the liturgy.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Jarring Rite

Happy Monday everyone. It has dawned beautifully here in Chicago, but rain is supposed to move in later tonight and into tomorrow.

I had an interesting experience yesterday at the 9:30 Mass at St. James. We were taught a new setting of the Kyrie. It was in Urdu, a language spoken primarily in Pakistan and parts of India. We have many international students in our assembly during the school year, since we are surrounded by several universities. I appreciate the efforts made at inclusion. The liturgy began with the strophic hymn All Creatures of Our God and King. Then we sang this new setting of the Kyrie, with the men on a perfect fifth drone throughout. It was haunting. But then, just as it finished, the cantor intoned the Gloria, which was set to a lovely chant tone. I was struck at how disconnected the entire introductory rite seemed. It seemed a bit schizophrenic to me, especially the move from the Urdu Kyrie right into the chant. 

What I wondered was whether or not the good principle of inclusion overshadowed a more basic liturgical principle here. That more basic principle has to do with the integrity of the rite itself. Should those who prepare music for the liturgy take a look at the integrity of the particular rite first and then plan music accordingly? I think we do a good job with the Eucharistic Prayer, choosing music for the Sanctus, the Memorial Acclamation, and the Great Amen usually from the same musical setting. This lends a certain consistency to the rite itself. Should the same be done when we look at the Introductory Rite? Just a question from this inquiring mind . . . 

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Correction to Today's Blog Post

Sorry for some confusion, which a family member (thanks, mom) just pointed out. The Papal Mass on Boston Common was on October 1, 1979, not October 2, 1979. Here's what my mother just wrote: 

Hi Jerry,
Wasn't the Papal visit on October 1st? A day etched in our memory too. We stood with all the nuns. Remember how we got our tickets? A nun was buying shoes in the same shoe store as we were, and we were lamenting the fact that our son was playing the organ and we did not have tickets. Well, this nun said that it happened that they had 2 extra tickets, and would we like them? Well, these tickets were for a space in front of the Papal Choir, so we heard the Pope and also you and Father Strahan and the beautiful choir. In my heart, I'm still shivering from the experience, and my body is shivering remembering the cool rain that fell all day. No VCRs then, but we still have a scratchy tape of the Mass. What memories!

Thanks to my 70-something year-old mom's sharper memory than her fifty-something son's!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

A Mixed Bag of Memories on an Anniversary Day

Happy Friday to you all. This is an important day here in Chicago, as you all well know. The "decision" will be made in a few hours in Copenhagen regarding the site for the 2016 summer Olympic Games. Many people have asked me what my position is on this whole thing. I am hoping that another city is named. Our transit system (which I use on a very regular basis) is quite poor. Too many neighborhoods are not safe. Too many children are killed by gang violence. Our city's political structure is riddled with cronyism. We have a city council that is paralyzed because of its members' fear of confronting the mayor on any serious policy decisions. Chicago, which I believe is one of the great cities of the world, is just not ready for this kind of event. And, frankly, I don't want to pay for this. Taxes are too high as it is. I simply don't trust the leadership. My two cents.

Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's first visit to the United States. He's shown above being driven through the streets of a very rainy Boston on October 2, 1979. I was a seminarian in Boston at the time and had the privilege of being one of the organists for the Papal Mass on Boston Common. Here's a link to a YouTube video of the homily. I was a bright-eyed, naive, young man of the Church at the time. I remember being interviewed on one of the local television stations and saying "This is incredible; this is incredible." I was super excited and was not disappointed when the moment arrived. I was playing the opening song, "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty," and I looked up from the music and saw the pope turn the corner of the platform and look right at me. It was exhilarating. 

As I reflect back on the last thirty years, I remember this man with very mixed emotions. He put into place liturgical legislation that, I believe, has restricted the flourishing of Spirit-inspired creativity in the Church's liturgical life. Under his leadership, many bishops were appointed who, in my opinion, lack the intelligence and pastoral sense to be true shepherds. This is perhaps his most lamentable legacy. He certainly thrilled young people wherever he went, as he did me on October 2, 1979. But what went on behind the scenes, especially in the appointment of bishops, leaves me with a deep sense of disappointment. So today is a day of mixed emotions for me. But I still hear his words deep in my heart as I recall them echoing off the sides of the skyscrapers in Boston on that rainy day: "Follow Christ!"

I hope you have a terrific weekend. I am headed to a parish in Hammond, Indiana tomorrow morning to offer a morning of reflection for the parish's liturgical ministers.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Good Conversation

Happy Thursday everyone. This week is just flying by.

Last night I attended a banquet at the annual ANSH conference. ANSH is the acronym for La AsociaciĆ³n Nacional de Sacredotes Hispanos, EE. UU. or The National Association of Hispanic Priests of the USA. This is a group of priests who gather once per year for formation and fellowship. Cardinal Francis George, archbishop here in Chicago, was in attendance and gave a stirring speech that included some great comments about the Church's commitment to care for immigrants. He said something like this: "As a Church, we don't look at someone and make judgments about their immigration status. As a Church, we look at a person as a person." It was refreshing and he had me "Amen-ing" all over the place.

Before the banquet I got to spend some time chatting with the Cardinal. As you may know, he has been at the center of the process for the re-translation of the Missale Romanum. I have not always agreed with Cardinal George's position on matters liturgical, but I have respected his viewpoints. He asked me what we were doing as a publisher to address the issues surrounding the impending approval of the new translation. I explained to him that we have been approaching all of this carefully over the past three years. I also told him that the various focus groups of musicians with whom I have worked generally like the new ICEL chant settings. I also told him that, generally speaking, reworked—or, better yet, retrofitted—current settings of the Gloria struck people as stilted. Completely new settings were much preferred. I told him that I thought that music was going to play a huge role in the success of the transition, to which he agreed. He also said that he felt that the Church has some great composers now and he thought that we should have excellent new settings for the Mass. It was a great conversation. I was more convinced after the conversation that this is a man genuinely concerned with the quality of the prayer and song of the Church.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.