Monday, November 30, 2009

Attention to Worship

Happy Monday to you all. If you haven't had a chance to read the comments on my previous post, please do so, and feel free to contribute to the conversation. I would like to comment on two issues, the first has to do with something one of the commenters raised, the second is a comment about the clergy sexual abuse mess.

The first issue. It's an age-old argument that one of the commenters put rather well: "What would detractors say the appropriate position should be? So long as there are poor, so long as there are abused, so long as there is war, so long as humanity is, well, humanity then it's inappropriate to give attention to worship? Or should we don vestments made from rags and say Mass in a pre-fab portable building instead of a Cathedral?"

A Mass celebrated in a cathedral with the finest, most expensive vestments and vessels; a Mass celebrated in a shack in the slums of Lima, Peru, with hand-me-down vestments and vessels donated by a wealthy American suburban parish; a Mass celebrated on the desert sands of Iraq or Afghanistan with a priest in camouflage vestments around a makeshift altar constructed beneath a tent; a Mass celebrated in a poor inner city parish around a cross with an image of an African Christ; a Mass celebrated in a prison using a makeshift altar and vessels from the chaplain's "Mass kit"; a Mass celebrated in a wealthy suburban parish with the best of vessels, vestments, and music—friends, these celebrations of the holy sacrifice of the Mass are what contribute to making us Catholic. I take exception to the final question posed by the commenter above. There are many places that serve over one billion of us Catholics that simply do not have a choice when it comes to where and with what liturgical items the Mass is celebrated. The attention that is given to worship in these places has—by necessity—more to do with the people who attend Mass than the vestments and vessels used. And I think this perhaps gets us to the crux of the argument. Allow me to quote from the late John Paul II. This is a paragraph from Mane Nobiscum Domine, his Apostolic Letter that inaugurated the Year of the Eucharist.

"Can we not make this Year of the Eucharist an occasion for diocesan and parish communities to commit themselves in a particular way to responding with fraternal solicitude to one of the many forms of poverty present in our world? I think for example of the tragedy of hunger which plagues hundreds of millions of human beings, the diseases which afflict developing countries, the loneliness of the elderly, the hardships faced by the unemployed, the struggles of immigrants. These are evils which are present—albeit to a different degree—even in areas of immense wealth. We cannot delude ourselves: by our mutual love and, in particular, by our concern for those in need we will be recognized as true followers of Christ (cf. Jn 13:35; Mt 25:31-46). This will be the criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged."

We must do all we can to be sure that our liturgical celebrations draw people into the paschal mystery; into a deep encounter with the death and resurrection of Christ. Only then do we have the possibility of a real change of heart. I think the late pontiff hit the nail right on the head with regard to this issue. Perhaps the Pope Benedict's new pastorale (gold pastoral staff) will lead people to a concern for those in need. That is my hope about all things liturgical. If the liturgy ends at the door, and produces little in the way of creating mutual love and concern for those in need, then we must question the authenticity of the Eucharistic celebration itself.

Now, the second issue. The clergy sex-abuse scandal and the scandal of the cover-ups has shaped some of us lay folks into a less-passive stance when it comes to Church matters. Some of those responsible for presiding at Mass were sexually abusing children. Some of those who were (are) our shepherds were (are) covering up these crimes and shifting these abusers from parish to parish; from one group of innocents to the next. It is the liturgy that is our only hope for real conversion of heart, mind, and action. Unfortunately, it was precisely those who were responsible to lead us in that prayer that is "source and summit" who fell into this heinous activity, which has cost the childhoods of many thousands and caused, in many cases, irreparable psychological damage. This is a hard fact that must be faced. We cannot celebrate Mass around the altar without imagining the thousands who were abused gathered with us around that same altar. And—and this is very difficult—we cannot celebrate Mass around the altar without also imagining the many priests and bishops who abused these children, or covered up the crimes. This is the paradox of the Eucharist. If we believe that it is the preeminent sacrament of reconciliation, then all—saints and sinners—must be there in order for this font to overflow with reconciliatory grace. And if all this happens surrounded by the finest gold, or the filthiest rags, so be it.

Ah, I have gone on enough today. Please know how much I am grateful for my Catholic life, for the Mass, and for God's abundant grace. In this Advent time, my hope is that you will know God's grace and peace.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Day of Catholic Frustration

Hello everyone. I hope your Thanksgiving weekend is going well.

I am feeling quite frustrated as a Roman Catholic right now. The most predominant Catholic story right now is what is going on in Ireland, with the release this week of the "Murphy Report," outlining decades of sexual abuse of children and the subsequent cover-ups by Irish bishops and those in ecclesiastical authority in the Archdiocese of Dublin. In a poll in today's Irish Times, readers were asked if the Catholic Church has a future in Ireland. The results are 3-2, with the no votes leading. People use words like "shameful," and "despicable," and "deplorable" to describe what has gone on. I don't believe our language contains words strong enough to describe this appropriately.

Why am I feeling frustrated? Another prominent story in the Catholic world today is that at tonight's celebration of First Vespers for the First Sunday of Advent, Pope Benedict XVI will premier the use of a new pastorale, or a gold pastoral staff that was made for him.

Ours is a Church suffering at its core because of the sexual abuse scandal and the scandal of the cover-ups. People feel that the Church has lost credibility and its foundation on which to preach and teach about moral issues. In the midst of this appears a new golden pastoral staff. Are we back at the base of Mount Sinai?

Not feeling much like singing and praying today, but, even in the midst of the frustration, I gotta sing, I gotta pray.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Sanctity of Human Life: "Precious" and Bishop Tobin

Ah, the day before Thanksgiving. As is typical here in Chicago, the day is raw and overcast. Many people are away from the office today, so it is pretty quiet here on the home front.

I don't usually use this blog as a commentary on issues outside of liturgy, music, and initiation, but today I feel compelled.

This past Saturday, I saw the movie Precious. You can find the trailer here. This is not an easy movie to watch. The language is very rough; there are graphically violent scenes; the story is a difficult one to move through. Yet, I came away thinking that this was a movie that proclaimed the sanctity of human life. You see, "Precious," the main character in the story, is pregnant with her second child. The father of both children is her own father. Her first child is a Downs Syndrome child. Her second is a healthy baby boy. A victim of unspeakable physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, Precious does not give in to patterns into which so many around her fall. Instead, she seeks out an alternative education. She doesn't abuse the country's welfare system. And, despite the fact that her two children are the product of incest, she does not have an abortion. As a matter of fact, this movie is all about a simple motivation on the part of this young woman: she simply wants to protect and love her children. This is such a plain fact in this movie and it spoke so strongly to my own heart about the sanctity of human life. I guess this was because this was in such striking relief to the horrors of abuse and neglect that mark so much of this movie.

Why do I bring this all up? I have been closely following the recent news story in Rhode Island. As you may know, the bishop of Providence, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, has asked Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy "not to take Communion" because of the eight-term Democrat's "consistent actions" that defy the church's "clear teaching" on abortion. You may know that Bishop Tobin has appeared over the past few days on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews. Chris is a Catholic. He also appeared on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor. O'Reilly is a Catholic. You can find these "interviews" all over the web.  What I found striking was that these two Catholic men shared honest confusion about Bishop Tobin's actions in the public arena. The bishop was clearly not ready for the Matthew's interview. As I sat there and watched, I wondered if the bishop had ever actually seen Hardball. How could he not have anticipated what was to come? When I watched the O'Reilly interview, I expected the two men to completely agree on the absolute appropriateness of Tobin's actions. But this did not occur. O'Reilly expressed his own confusion and frustration with the inconsistencies in Tobin's remarks. 

I'd like to suggest that the movie Precious does more to make a statement about the sanctity of human life than do the remarks and actions of Bishop Thomas Tobin. I came away from the movie proud of my own embrace of the late Cardinal Bernardin's "seamless garment" approach to life issues. I was very proud to be a Catholic at that moment. I wish I could say the same about how I came away from the two interviews with Bishop Tobin. I was left with the question: Cardinal Bernardin, where are you when we need you? The absolutist approach espoused by Bishop Tobin, I believe, will do little to turn hearts toward a profound respect for the sanctity of human life. By denying Communion—the premier sacrament of reconciliation—to Rep. Kennedy, Bishop Tobin closes the door to the work that the Eucharistic Lord can accomplish in the heart of the representative. This simply does not make sense to me.

This is a heavy subject, especially on the eve of Thanksgiving, but I felt compelled to write about it. I am taking a few days off from blogging and plan to return to the blogosphere on Monday.

I am grateful for you who so faithfully read this blog. May your Thanksgiving be blessed. May your tables be surrounded by God's presence. And may your hearts overflow with gratitude to our loving God.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Translation: Will the Arguments Hold?

Another "New Translation Tuesday" has rolled around. The weather is still raw and miserable here in the Midwest. This is the kind of weather that soaks deeply into your bones. But, it is Thanksgiving week, so the upcoming holiday helps buoy our spirits.

For those of you who have yet to visit the US Bishops' special web page on the new translation, you can find it here.

I've had a nagging question floating around in my brain over the past few weeks. This has to do with current musical settings of the Mass being sung in parishes across the country. I think, for instance, of David Haas' Mass of Light. The refrain for the Gloria is this: "Glory to God in the highest, Sing! Glory to God! Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth." For over twenty years (the copyright date for this Mass is 1988), Catholics who sing this setting have not been singing the words of the Gloria as found in the Church's liturgical books. In my own parish, there are some settings composed by a well-meaning musician that change the words of the Gloria and the Sanctus, so that they are more gender-inclusive. Texts like these have become a part of the fabric of the Catholic worship life in parishes. And they are not slavishly faithful to the texts in the current liturgical books. I guess my question here is this: If Catholics have been singing "variations" on the official texts for years, why will they feel obliged to sing new musical settings of the official texts that slavishly follow the newly translated texts word for word?

Now granted, publishers have been submitting settings to the bishops for review for years, and apparently, there has been some allowance for slight "variations" (a la Haas' Mass of Light). Obviously this will change with the new translation. But the fact remains that there are "composers" out there in parishes setting the texts of the Mass to their own music. I am reminded of this when I visit my parents' parish in Massachusetts. The parish music director wrote a musical setting of the Mass parts which, when I first heard them, sounded completely un-singable and were completely unmusical. Yet the parishioners sing them very well, like they are singing "Happy Birthday" at a family celebration. I wanted so much to go up to the music director and sit down and play and sing Steve Janco's Mass of Redemption, just so that person could hear a great musical setting.

How will Catholics in the pews react to the new translation? When told that these new texts are more faithful to the Latin original, will they care? Since many have not sung the official texts for years, why would they see the logic in the argument about fidelity to the Latin? We shall see. Please feel free to comment. You can do so by clicking on the comments button below and following the prompts from there.

Hope your Tuesday is going well.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Jesus: The Center of My Joy

Good Monday to you all. The day is overcast here in Chicago. This is obviously a short work week, one of my favorites of the year. Bought the turkey yesterday. Looking forward to cooking on Thursday.

Yesterday at the 9:30 A.M. Mass at my parish, St. James, we celebrated a joyful feast of Christ the King. The choir was in fine voice. They sang a piece after communion that I had never heard before: Jesus, You're the Center of My Joy. Here's a link to a YouTube video of the piece, performed by a choir in Brooklyn. The St. James choir did a wonderful job on this piece, which opened my heart to the love of the Lord. As this Thanksgiving week continues to unfold, I am so grateful for my Catholic life; for my parents who had me baptized; for a parish that continues to preach and teach the love of God.

Our music yesterday ranged from the strophic hymn Rejoice, the Lord Is King to Soon and Very Soon. As usual, we sang up a storm. There has been significant work done to determine the stability of our church structure. It was closed by the City of Chicago in late winter of this year due to concerns about its structural integrity. I must say that I miss worshipping in the church, but the church hall has provided such a warm and vibrant space for our worship. I don't have many photos of the interior of St. James, but found this one today. It's a photo of our historic Roosevelt pipe organ.

Well, folks, I hope your week has begun on a good note. Again, let's spend the week remembering all the people and events for which we are grateful. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Grateful on this Friday

Friday has dawned with some actual sunshine here in the Midwest, praise God!

Yesterday I took a peek at my schedule for the weekend and found nothing listed for Saturday and nothing listed for Sunday. These little gifts of time at home are real treasures. Chicago lights up the "magnificent mile" with a Disney parade on Saturday afternoon, followed by fireworks on the Chicago River. I've been before and to see fireworks in between skyscrapers is a unique experience, as you can see by this photo. I'm looking forward to being back at St. James on Sunday for the celebration of Christ the King.

Thanks for your comments about the new translation of the Missale Romanum. I am hoping that the BCDW (Bishops' Committee on Divine Worship) will try its level best to be sure that the implementation date is on a First Sunday of Advent. That will make life a whole lot easier for publishers.

Well, as we begin to prepare for Thanksgiving, let's all call to mind the people and events for which we are thankful. It has been a good, but challenging year for me personally and professionally. But I have learned to go through life with a grateful heart, which is not a bad way to live; it's actually a good Catholic way to live, don't you think? I hope your weekend and your food shopping over the next few days provide you with opportunities to give thanks. Until Monday, remember that we gotta sing and we gotta pray.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Translation: Excited and a Bit Apprehensive

Happy Thursday everyone. It is another miserably dreary day here in the Midwest, but with Thanksgiving just a week away, spirits are buoyed.

Welcome to New Translation Thursday. The US Bishops' approval this week of the new English translation of the Missale Romanum has me excited and somewhat apprehensive at the same time. You see, as a publisher of worship resources for Roman Catholic parishes, we do publish a variety of these resources. Seasonal Missalette® and Celebremos/Let Us Celebrate® are published quarterly. The We Celebrate® worship resource is published three times per year. Word & Song and Liturgy of the Word are published annually. So, wrap your brains around this, dear blog readers. If the recognitio from Rome is received in April of 2010, with a mandatory implementation date of April of 2011, imagine what we publishers will be going through during that time. This means that annual resources for 2011 will need to contain both the current translation and the new translation, as well as musical settings for the current translation and the new translation. It would be so much better if the bishops (or Rome, as the case may be) would delay the mandatory implementation to the First Sunday of Advent following the one year from recognitio date.

I know that many people will be clamoring to use the new texts right away, as soon as the recognitio is received. It will take (best guess) just under one year for the actual Roman Missal to appear in printed form. People will need to be patient as we move through this initial implementation phase. I want to assure you all that we at World Library Publications will serve the needs of the singing and praying Church in the best way possible. Remember, nearly everyone who works here is a practicing Catholic. We will be publishing materials and, at the same time, will be moving through the new translation process in our own parishes.

Many of you have asked about which Mass settings we have revised. You have also asked about new Mass settings that we have had commissioned. I need to tell you that we are not allowed to advertise, market, nor sell these new settings until the recognitio is received. So, I need to refrain from using this blog to talk about these kinds of specifics. Sorry about this; but I need to keep on the up and up.

Should be a heck of a ride, folks, for the next few years. I'll keep you updated on New Translation Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Well, There You Have It

Happy Wednesday to you all. Dark, dreary, cool, and rainy here in the Midwest. Ah, Autumn in Chicago!

Well, as I am sure you heard, the US bishops completed their work on the new translation of the Missale Romanum yesterday. Now the texts are off to Rome. There was some kind of "leak" that indicated that we would be receiving the recognitio in April of 2010, making implementation around Easter of 2011. So, folks, this is going to happen. No more "what ifs" at this point.

That's it for now - just a recap of what is one of the biggest liturgical news items since the Second Vatican Council here in the United States.

Gotta Sing. Gotta Pray.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Translation Tuesday: Musical Mass Settings

Happy Tuesday to you all. The workshop in Merrillville, Indiana last night went well. I always enjoy spending time with parish musicians. We had organists, pianists, guitarists, cantors, and choir members. A nice panoply of music ministers.

Tuesday is new translation time. I am sitting here at my desk with a live feed of the US bishops' meeting in Baltimore. You can find this video feed by visiting:

The "vote" on the new translation is scheduled to occur this afternoon. Today, obviously, is a pivotal day in the whole evolution of the new translation. Archbishop Aymond of New Orleans was elected as chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Divine Worship. He becomes the point man as this process unfolds.

In a previous post I spoke about how we have been working for nearly eight years here at WLP preparing for the day when the new translation becomes a reality. For musical Mass settings, we began a process of listening to musicians and liturgists in parishes. This was done on an informal basis. As for my experience, I began to ask people whether they thought it would be more helpful to rework current settings or to commission completely new settings. At first, the majority of people I spoke with wanted the old settings redone. As I began to share some of the newer settings that we had commissioned, I believe that peoples' minds began to shift. Many thought that retrofitted settings of the Gloria and the Sanctus seemed awkward and stilted in places. When presented with new settings, there was no musical memory of a previous setting that was causing these kinds of problems. So, we at WLP have taken a "both/and" approach, commissioning new settings, as well as having composers rework their settings. I would love to share some of these results with you but, unfortunately, copyright laws don't allow this at the moment. We have been told that we must wait until the US Bishops receive the recognitio from Rome before we can market, sell, or publish these settings of the new translation.

Suffice it so say that this kind of undertaking is quite enormous for a music publisher. We are doing everything we can to be sure that the singing and praying Church is well served.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Travel: RCIA, Evangelization, Liturgical Spirituality

Happy Monday to you all. Just returned from Albany about an hour ago.

On Saturday morning, I was awakened by a prompt emanating from my cell phone, with this text message:
I had no idea what this meant and went back to bed, then realized what the message actually said, that Bishop Jerome Listecki had been named the new Archbishop of Milwaukee - duh! And, lo and behold, I was scheduled to speak to RCIA ministers in Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon. It was great to see these good and dedicated people all abuzz about their new Archbishop. Let's keep Bishop Listecki and the people of the Milwaukee Archdiocese in our prayers during this time of transition.

I had about 70 people in attendance for the workshop on apprenticeship and the RCIA. It was an engaging time. I always walk away enriched by these workshops. There is so much need out there for solid RCIA training and accessible sacramental theology. The workshop was held at the Cousins Archdiocesan Center in Saint Francis, WI. Here's a photo of the center:

Sunday morning, I was at O'Hare Airport here in Chicago for my flight to Albany. John Angotti and I spoke to the New York State Catholic School Administrators Association. Our focus was on evangelization. The group was receptive to our message. I always enjoy these talks with John because I am so moved by his singing and playing.

And now I am back at my desk for a little while here at WLP. I leave shortly for the Diocese of Gary, to lead their musicians in a presentation on liturgical spirituality. It's being held at Our Lady of Consolation Church in Merrillville, Indiana. Here's a photo of the interior of the church, where I'll be speaking:

And a photo of the exterior view, with the statue of Our Lady of Consolation:

I hope your week is off to a good start. As always, thanks for visiting this blog. I hope you find it helpful and hopeful.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Milwaukee, Albany, Gary and Apprenticed to Christ: Here We Go!

Friday has dawned here in Chicago—another cool, sunny, crisp Autumn day.

I've got a whirlwind three days ahead of me. Tomorrow, I'm heading to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to give a three-hour workshop on Apprenticeship and the RCIA. Here's a link to the information. Then on Sunday, I fly to Albany to co-present an evening keynote address to the Catholic school administrators of the state of New York. John Angotti and I will be giving our talk: "The Doctor and the Rocker Agree: We Exist to Evangelize." This is the fourth or fifth time that John and I have been asked to do this presentation. We weave stories, Church teaching on evangelization, and John's powerful music to do this presentation. I fly back to Chicago on Monday morning, then head to the Diocese of Gary, Indiana later that day for a presentation to musicians in the diocese. My focus is on spirituality for music ministry. The Milwaukee and Gary events are part of WLP's new "WLP Ambassadors" program. Basically, we provide the speaker or clinician free of charge to the (arch)diocese. In exchange, we ask for some time to talk about WLP's great resources. We make them available for purchase for the folks who attend these sessions. It's a win-win situation. Given the realities of the struggling economy, we wanted to help out dioceses with their programming, as well as provide an opportunity for people to see and hear about our resources for music, liturgy, prayer, and Christian initiation.

Since I am doing an apprenticeship talk tomorrow, perhaps this is a good time for a short little commercial message. I spent two years writing my book on apprenticeship, Apprenticed To Christ: Activities for Practicing the Catholic Way of Life. I take all the Sundays and solemnities of the three liturgical years, pull out a scripture passage, then offer a suggestion for a Catholic apprenticeship activity. I also offer some suggestions of primary catechetical material that can be used as a catechetical follow-up after the activity. This is a mystagogical approach to formation and is consistent with the Church's vision for the catechumenate, as well as a vision for all catechesis. You can check out this resource here.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Translation Thursday

Happy Thursday everyone. This is the first installment of "New Translation Thursday." I am going to tell you that this needs to be a shorter entry than I would have liked, due to workload issues here at the office.

First of all, thanks for your comments over the last few days. I believe they generally reflect the state of affairs. Some people think the new translation is one of the the greatest things to happen in the Church ("Every sample I have seen makes me thank the Lord we are finally getting better prayers"); others think this is one of the worst things to happen ("Better Prayers? We'll need dictionaries in the pews so people can look up some of the words in this new translation"). If these comments are any indication of how polarizing the response to the new translation will be, I think we are in for a very rough road, folks.

So the question becomes: How do we pastorally lead our people through the transition with honesty and integrity?

Frankly, I think there will be many pastoral leaders who will simply tell their people that they think the whole thing is a grand mistake, but there is no choice, and that we have to do the best we can with what we've been given. Others will simply say that this is what the Church says, and as Catholics, we simply do what the Church says. Some will painstakingly take their people through the entire history behind the new translation and try to persuade their people that this, indeed, is a good thing for the praying Church. Others will reject the new translation (There are still priests using the old form of the Rite of Christian Funerals). Even our bishops are not in agreement about this translation. See this article from the National Catholic Reporter.

The bishops will be meeting next week (November 16-19 in Baltimore). I think this meeting with regard to "the vote" to send the translation to Rome will be one of the most interesting discussions in recent US Catholic history. Let's pray for our bishops; for wisdom, understanding, right judgment, knowledge, reverence, and wonder and awe in God's presence.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray. Gotta get back to my desk!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pie Jesu and the Advent Wreath

What a beautiful Wednesday morning here in Chicago. Sunny and crisp.

Last evening, I played for the annual Memorial Mass for the Knights and Dames of Malta at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii here in Chicago. A few photos of the shrine here:

I was privileged to work with two fine musicians, Mary Prete, the Vice President for Parish Services for the J. S. Paluch Company (Mary's my boss!) and Michael Doyle, a fine cellist whose improvisational skills make my heart sing when I play with him. Mary sang the Pie Jesu from Faure's Requiem during the preparation of the altar and gifts. It sparkled in this wonderfully reverberant space. I haven't been able to get it out of my head since she sang it. I was playing a less-than-pleasing old Rogers electronic organ. The rector of the shrine, Fr. Richard Fragomeni, told me that they will be installing a new Italian pipe organ some time in the future. That should be glorious!

After Mass, I drove to my own parish, St. James, for a liturgy committee meeting. We were focusing on the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, as well as the section focused on the Introductory Rites from the General Instruction on the Roman Missal. We then listened to the first readings from the four Sundays of the upcoming Advent season, and asked ourselves about the shape of the introductory rites at St. James for Advent. We had an extended discussion about the ever-popular Advent wreath. As you may know, the Advent wreath isn't really a central Advent liturgical symbol, but you would never know it when you visit parishes during Advent. We've always started our Advent liturgies at St. James gathered around the wreath and it has become central for us over the years. Well, now we are in a small parish hall for Mass, and there really isn't much room for processions and the kind of focus we've had on the wreath over the years. Frankly, I'm glad. I think Advent wreaths belong in our homes as a way of marking the days and weeks until Christmas—as a home custom. I'd rather us focus on the more important things about the liturgy during Advent in the parish. We talked extensively about taking full advantage of the opportunities for silence during the introductory rites. At St. James, these rites often seem so rushed. Personally, after the priest says "Let us pray" before the opening prayer, I need time to collect myself and focus on where my heart is as I enter the liturgy.

Too often in too many parishes, there is no time given for this, even though the General Instruction is clear:
"Next the priest invites the people to pray. All, together with the priest, observe a brief silence so that they may be conscious of the fact that they are in God's presence and may formulate their petitions mentally. Then the priest says the prayer which is customarily known as the Collect and through which the character of the celebration is expressed."

These nuances, which can be so easily introduced into the liturgy, really make a difference in the shape of liturgical prayer. I'll keep you posted about how successful we are with all of this at St. James as Advent begins to unfold.

I hope your Wednesday is a good one. And thanks for the comments on yesterday's post. If you haven't taken the time to read "New Translation Tuesday," please do so and feel free to comment. I'll address some of those comments tomorrow during the first installment of "New Translation Thursday."

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Translation Tuesday: Let's Begin

Happy Tuesday to you all. And welcome to the first (of many) installments of "New Translation Tuesday." I'll be spending time each Tuesday and Thursday offering commentary on the upcoming new English translation of the Missale Romanum.

I am doing this for a number of reasons. The first has to do with the fact that many people are wondering how publishers are handling this issue. Secondly, I am concerned about the people in the pews, so many of you who visit this blog on a regular basis. Thirdly, as always, you'll hear my own personal opinions as all of this unfolds. Those opinions will be based on my own understanding of the Church's liturgy, the reactions I hear as I travel around North America, my experience as a person in the pews myself, my experience here at WLP as an editor and publisher, and my experience as a liturgist and musician.

My plan is to create a plan for the coming months, plotting out topics that I hope you find helpful. To that end, I'd like to ask for your feedback. What would be most helpful for you to read on these pages on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Any feedback you provide would be most welcome.

I'd like to start by telling you that we at WLP have been preparing for this change in translation for approximately nine years. Shortly after I began working here in 1999 as the worship resources editor, I began to compile what I named "Roman Missal Source Files." Basically, I put together a number of electronic files of the following materials from the current Sacramentary:
Entrance Songs
Opening Prayers
Prayers Over the Gifts
Communion Songs
Prayers After Communion
My hope was that, once the new translation was approved, we could move through the current files and make simple adjustments where the translation had changed. After completing this work, I happened to mention my plan to someone closely connected with ICEL (The International Commission on English in the Liturgy). This is the group whose responsibility it has been to actually do the new translation. That person told me, "Jerry, just throw all those files away. The new translation will be markedly different; not just a few adjustments here and there." This was my first "wow" moment in the entire process. I realized then that what we are talking about here is more than a few changes here and there. And, after having seen the new translation of the Order of Mass, that "wow" has been confirmed. Just take a look here, if you haven't done so already. The USCCB's excellent web site on the Roman Missal is a great place to explore. You can find that here.

So, what I thought was going to be a very simple process has developed into a much more complicated one, from a publisher's standpoint. As you know, the US bishops will be voting next week on the completed translation, and, hopefully, sending it to Rome. Then the waiting game begins. We wait for Rome's recognitio, or really Rome's approval of the new translation. How long will this take? I've heard everywhere from one month to several years. There are texts in Rome awaiting recognitio that have languished there for many years. But, we are also told that the pope is keenly interested in having this new translation approved as quickly as possible. So, we wait and see.

I hope you can appreciate the impact that all of this has on a publisher of resources for praying and singing the liturgy. On the Tuesdays and Thursdays in the weeks and months to come, I'll share more with you. For now, let's remember that what is being re-translated from the Latin is what draws us all together in Christ.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray. And don't forget: you gotta provide some feedback and ideas focused on what you would like to see on these Tuesday and Thursday pages!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Singing with Gusto

Happy Monday to you all. Remember to scroll down and read Friday's post about upcoming changes to gottasinggottapray.

At Mass yesterday, I was struck by how terrific the congregational singing is at my parish. I was seated next to a man who was singing as energetically as was I. I chuckled a few times when the music itself moved into the upper voice range. The man simply dropped his voice an octave and didn't miss a beat in the process. It's great to sing at Mass and not feel like you are the only one singing with gusto.

This reminded me of my Dad. When we were kids, my parents would take all six of us to Sunday Mass. And, truth be told, my Dad was a person who sang at Mass with gusto. And he was the only one who did so. I reflect back with embarrassment now when I think about how awkward I felt at those Masses standing next to my Dad. I was so self-conscious—that people were staring at us because he sang so loudly. I remember children turning around and looking at him as he sang. I also remember saying to myself, "Why can't he just sing softer, or not sing at all, like everybody else?" It brings a smile to my face now, of course, as well as a tremendous sense of gratitude for the example my Dad set for me. When I am at Mass—either at St. James or elsewhere—I sing with gusto. And now I am the one who gets the looks from others around me, especially children. Isn't it amazing how we change with time? Here I am—the guy who used to cringe because my Dad sang with gusto—now leading a Catholic music publishing company and writing a blog that is entitled Gotta Sing Gotta Pray!

God is good. Music is such a great gift. My Dad's a great gift to me. Hope your week is a blessed one. Let's remember in prayer all our friends on the Gulf Coast bracing for Ida.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Changes Coming to Gotta Sing Gotta Pray

Happy Friday to one and all.

A few weeks ago, at an event held here in the Archdiocese, I was approached by a wonderful music director in one of the Catholic parishes in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. She was expressing much anxiety about the musical settings of the new translation of the Mass. She said that her pastor had announced this at the previous week's staff meeting: "Folks, this new translation is going to happen. As a parish staff, even if we don't agree with what's going on, we have to put on a good face and make this as positive a transition as possible for our parishioners." The music director was almost in a panic about this. She asked me if we had started to consider this issue, and if we had planned to publish new musical settings. I allayed her fears. But it did dawn on me that clergy, musicians, and parishioners across the country are at varying levels of knowledge about the whole thing, which has led me to make a decision.

Beginning next week, you'll notice some changes with gottasinggottapray. Each Tuesday will become "New Translation Tuesday" and each Thursday will become "New Translation Thursday." I've been asked both by my colleagues here at World Library Publications, as well as by many people seeking information about this ever-evolving issue, to focus on the new English translation of the Roman Missal more regularly and predictably. I want to address specific issues as the entire process unfolds. For those of you who do not pay close attention to this issue, I'll share information as I find and receive it. I'll also offer reflections on the process, as well as directives found in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal and other pertinent documents. I'll share as much as I can from a Catholic music publisher's perspective. And, of course, you'll hear my opinions. I look forward to delving more deeply into what promises to be a time of turmoil and grace for the Church in the English-speaking world.

I hope you have a terrific weekend. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Singing the Dialogues

What a beautiful Autumn day here in the Midwest. I hope that wherever you are, you are enjoying fine weather as well.

At the NPM convention planning meeting in Louisville on Tuesday of this week, there was lots of conversation around the issue of the sung dialogues at Mass. As you may know, the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, as well as Sing to the Lord stress the importance of singing the dialogues: "The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.", etc. Many musicians wondered how they might coax their priests and deacons into singing the dialogues. They also mused about how successful they could be with parish lectors who would be asked to sing "The word of the Lord" at the end of the readings. Recently, in my own parish, we had a newly ordained deacon serving at Sunday Mass. He's a Benedictine Monk from Glenstal Abbey in Ireland. Granted, he happens to have a degree focused in Gregorian Chant, but he did sing the greeting before the Gospel, as well as the "The Gospel of the Lord" at the conclusion of the Gospel. While we had never seen or heard this done in our parish before, we all responded quite well. It, in a word, made the moments more sacred. How I would love to see our lectors begin to do this at the end of the readings.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this and how you would approach the issues of the sung dialogues pastorally. Why? Because we gotta sing and we gotta pray, of course!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ed Bolduc and Friends

Happy Wednesday to you all.

Yesterday morning, Alan Hommerding of our WLP editorial staff and I flew to Louisville, Kentucky for the planning meeting for the 2011 national convention of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM), which will take place in Louisville that year. It was a day of dreaming and lively discussion. The convention's focus will be on the implementation of the new English translation of the Missale Romanum. One issue particularly struck me. Several people referred to that moment as the time when we will be celebrating the "new rite." I found this terminology odd. There is no new rite. It is the Mass, which is not changing; it is the translation of the Latin that will be changing. Not sure what people are thinking . . . 

I wanted to share with you some photos of the concert event at St. Ann's Church in Marietta, Georgia on Thursday evening of last week. The concert featured Ed Bolduc, one of WLP's great music editors. Ed is a composer, arranger, and recording artist. He is a pastoral musician at St. Ann's church. 

Ed recently began a series of planning ideas for musicians working in the contemporary Catholic music context. It's called "Setting the Tone" and can be accessed through WLP's web site here. The concert was wonderful. 

Ed has a great rapport with the people of his parish, made evident by their wholehearted singing during the concert. When they stood and sang with Ed, it touched my heart deeply. These parishioners are well served by a caring, humble, and talented musician.

Notice the age range of those in attendance:

John Angotti made a special guest appearance. He brought the crowd to their feet:

It was a wonderfully spirit-filled evening. I was so proud of Ed, his wife Karen, pictured with Ed above, and all of the musicians. If you've never experienced Ed's great music, be sure to search for it on WLP's web site:

It was an evening that made us all feel that we gotta sing and we gotta pray.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Home for the Journey of Faith

Whew, what a wonderful whirlwind weekend! I returned from Boston late last night after two jam-packed days with family. I hope your week has started off wonderfully.

Yesterday, at the 11:00 A.M. Mass at St. Robert Bellarmine parish in Andover, Massachusetts, my sister and brother-in-law's marriage was convalidated (which means that their marriage was "blessed" by the Catholic Church—they are both baptized Catholics who chose to marry outside of a Catholic ceremony fifteen years ago). Photos of the interior and exterior of the church can be seen above.

I was very proud to be the "best man" at this ceremony. The pastor, Fr. Rick Conway, preached a moving homily and told my sister and brother-in-law that they were signs of God's call to holiness. 

This is a unique parish. When you walk into the foyer, there are hundreds of name tags hanging on hooks, all in alphabetical order. When the people arrive, they find their name tags and don them. And the vast majority of parishioners do this. The feeling of hospitality here is overwhelming, and, in my own experience, quite unusual for a suburban parish. I am so grateful that my sister and brother-in-law have a newfound Catholic community like St. Robert's. 

We were asked to stand in the rear of the church after Mass and I was amazed at how many people greeted my sister and her husband. When I left yesterday, I had a strong sense that their faith journey is in good hands.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.