Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Painting In the Octave of Christmas

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas Octave. Sorry I haven't posted (in a week!). Sorry, alao, that I missed my installment of New Translation Tuesday yesterday. I'll be back on track next week.

I am taking this week off from my work at WLP and am heavily involved in a project here at my home. Basically, I am spending this week painting doors. For some reason, when this townhome was built, all of the doors were installed with the factory primer on them, but were never painted. The level that I am working on now has 26 doors in all. Needless to say, this is tedious and very time-consuming, but I enjoy it while I listen to some of my favorite classical music. The challenging part is painting the molded section, like the one you see in this photo. But, enough about door painting.

I enjoyed a peaceful Christmas. I hope you did as well. I went to Mass at 6:00 P.M. on Christmas Eve. The crowd was dissapointingly small, but the choir was terrific. I substituted at my parish on Sunday, because our music director went home after Christmas. When I arrived, people were bustling about shoveling the snow off the ramps and staircases. Inside, there was a flurry of activity, because it was very, very cold. The furnace wasn't working, and never did work the entire morning. It was in the low 20's outside, and probably in the 40's inside. My fingers just wouldn't do what they were supposed to do on the piano. And, I had decided not to wear a winter coat, just a sportcoat, to church. Needless to say, between the two Masses, I donned a warm winter coat and a pair of those wool gloves that don't have any fingertips. I played better at the 11:30.

As I sat there and ministered at St. James, it dawned on me that there are so many Catholics around the world (we number just a little above one billion at this point) who worship in much worse circumstances than did we at St. James this Sunday. I remember visiting shanty towns in Peru in the early 1980's and worshiping in shacks with dirt floors. The walls were painted by the local people and showed scenes of great struggle in the midst of their poverty. The music at that Mass filled the entire town. So, as we sat huddled together in the cold at St. James on Sunday, we were joining our voices--not only with the choirs of angels--but with millions of others around the world, celebrating in different places the Feast of the Holy Family.

I hope that you are well and that, as we prepare to begin a new year, you feel the call to unite your voice to so many others in praise and thanksgiving to God.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Blessings

Happy Wednesday to you all.

I will be taking a blogging break for the next several days in order to join family and friends in the celebration of the Incarnation of the Lord.

Wherever you are, my hope for you is that the music that lifts your heart and mind during these festive days will lead you to a more profound appreciation for the gift that the paschal mystery is to each and every one of us.

If these are difficult days for you for whatever reason, know that you will be held in my own prayer as these days unfold.

More than ever, gotta sing, gotta pray.

Merry Christmas,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Translation Tuesday: Some Scenarios for Implementation

I hope that this Fourth Week of Advent finds you in good spirits as we mark the final days before the celebration of the Festival of the Incarnation.

I know that there are newcomers to this blog, particularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays; days when the focus is on the new translation of the Roman Missal. Welcome, and I hope you find some enlightenment here. I urge you to leave a comment, remembering that "we are all in this together."

One comment before we move into our discussion for the day. Those of us who have ever worked in parishes always get a chuckle out of the many phone calls coming into the parish office. We invariably receive the question: "What time is Midnight Mass?" I have been in parishes where "Midnight Mass" has been celebrated at 10:00 P.M., 10:30 P.M., 11:00 P.M., and, of course, Midnight. My parish, St. James, ceased the celebration of midnight Mass a few years ago, due to the small crowds and the fact that the church is not in the safest neighborhood in the city. I am sure that some of you have heard that Pope Benedict XVI will not be celebrating Midnight Mass at midnight this year. Midnight Mass at St. Peter's in Vatican City will be celebrated at 10:00 P.M. this year, due to concerns about the pope's energy level, especially considering his age and the fact that his schedule is very full at this time of year. One wonders if there is someone working the Vatican phones, who is answering the age-old question: "What time is Midnight Mass?" Or, perhaps more appropriately, "A che ora viene messa di mezzanotte?"

A considerable amount of debate has been swirling around about the timeline of the implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal. I have heard lots of things floating around out there and I have a call in to the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship to try and get a pulse on all of this. Here are several possible scenarios, among many others:

1. The recognitio (official approval of the text from the Vatican) is received in April 2010. A "must use" date of the new texts is established for some time in April of 2011.

2. The recognitio (official approval of the text from the Vatican) is received in April 2010. A "can use" date of the new texts is established for some time in April of 2011, with a "must use" date established for a later time, perhaps the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011.

3. The recognitio (official approval of the text from the Vatican) is received in April 2010. A "must use" date of the new texts is established as the First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011.

4. The recognitio is not received in April of 2010 at all, and the English-speaking Catholic world simply waits and waits. Remember that there are other liturgical texts that have been languishing in Rome, waiting for a recognitio for a number of years. The Tiber runs slowly most often! If this is the case, then we obviously cannot guess at implementation dates.

You can just imagine the kind of angst that publishers of worship resources for the Church are experiencing with all of this. We here at WLP have been working on new and revised musical settings of the new texts for the parts of the Mass for a number of years. Remember that we publish our worship resources six to eight months in advance. If, for instance, scenario number 1 is the case, we will have two annual worship resources that will have already been published and will be in peoples' hands, for a year in which the translation will change mid stream. In this case, we will need to provide an additional resource with the new texts and new musical settings of the Mass for these loyal customers.

I'll be honest with you. I am hoping that, whenever the recognitio is received, there will be at least one year for publishers to produce the actual Roman Missal. I am also hoping that the implementation of the new texts for parish use occurs on the First Sunday of Advent following the actual publication of the Roman Missal. It just makes so much sense to me, as publisher, and as a parishioner, to implement the changes on the First Sunday of Advent. Parishes can spend those Sundays in Ordinary Time leading up to Advent teaching whatever musical setting(s) that is/are chosen. (I know that you will fall in love with both the official chant settings in English in the Roman Missal, as well as at least one of WLP's new settings or revised settings of our current Masses. Our composers and editors have worked so hard on creating these settings for the singing and praying Church. I am so proud of their work and look forward to the day when these new settings will become a part of my—and your— "Catholic DNA.")

As publishers, we will be obliged to place the official chant settings in English as the first option in the actual Order of Mass section in our worship resources. We are happy to do this. My personal hope is that, in a few years' time, every single English-speaking Catholic in the world will have learned these chant settings in English, so that we all share at least one setting in common.

Those of you who have followed this blog know that I see this time of preparation for and implementation of the new English translation of the Missale Romanum as a real watershed moment for the Church. There will be negativity about all of this—and I have to admit that I share some of that negativity. There will be those whose hearts will be exultant—and I have to admit that I share some of that, too. Wherever you land, try to see this as an opportunity to help people grow in the knowledge of and experience of the Mass. Pope John Paul II is quoted as saying this—and I have never been able to find a reliable source document for this: "If so many millions of Catholics around the world are receiving the Lord in the Eucharist each week, why has so little changed in the world?" This sentiment is what is at the core of our liturgical experience. I live in expectant hope that, when we have moved through all of this, Catholics will live their experience of the liturgy more fully; will see the exit doors of their church buildings as "service entrances" to world longing for the kind of transformation that can only come through being Christ for the life of the world.

Thanks for listening.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Theosis: The Journey of the Christian

Happy Monday to you all.  Nice light snow covers the ground here in Chicago. The Blackhawks won two games this weekend. Who could ask for anything more?

I would like to extend a warm welcome to newcomers to my blog. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, this blog focuses on the issues surrounding the new translation of the Roman Missal. On other days, I talk about other liturgical, musical, and initiation issues in the Church. I also try to speak from my perspective as a publisher of resources for the singing, praying, and initiating Church.

Those of you who follow this blog know that I often speak about my experience of the liturgy at my parish, St. James, on the near south side of the City of Chicago. As you know, during this Advent season, we have worked hard to make silence a part of the introductory rite. My pastor, the deacons, and the music director have done a marvelous job of leading us into a more deliberate, slow, and careful celebration of Mass. This has been one of the great gifts of this season for me. I noticed at yesterday's 9:30 A.M. Mass that this kind of slow and deliberate celebration has "opened" the Opening Prayer, or Collect, for me in surprising new ways. I find myself paying closer attention to what is being prayed. These Collects for Advent have been so rich. Yesterday was no exception:

fill our hearts with your love,
and as you revealed to us by an angel
the coming of your Son as man,
so lead us through his suffering and death
to the glory of his resurrection,
for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

What struck me about the prayer was the fact that it captures, in a nutshell, what this Catholic journey is all about.  I am currently reading a marvelous book, Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, edited by Stephen Finlan and Vladimir Kharlamov. Theosis is a theological term that roughly means the journey of attaining likeness to or union with God. A deeply incarnational principle, this union with God, for the Christian, begins at the moment of baptism, and continues until the Christian journey ends with complete union with God in the life hereafter. Yesterday's Opening Prayer was an apt description of the journey of theosis. Filled with God's love, made accessible through the coming of his Son, we are led, because of our likeness to Christ, through his suffering and death to the glory of his resurrection. Folks, this is what this Christian journey is all about. I like to tell people that, for believers, our lives are like one long procession from the font of baptism to our place at the table of the heavenly banquet. We move through life's journey, hopefully becoming more in union with and in likeness to our loving God. I also tell people that this is not a bad way to live! And it certainly makes a countercultural statement to those who believe they can find "salvation" through the things of this world.

I hope that this Fourth Week of Advent is one of grace and peace for you and your loved ones.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, December 18, 2009

So Much for Which to Be Grateful

Friday has dawned here in Chicago with cold wet weather - could have one to three inches of snow by tomorrow.

Our WLP staff celebrated Christmas as a group last evening at the home of one of our managers. We sang carols and a few broadway show tunes, and ate up a storm. Isn't it wonderful when you not only enjoy working with people but also enjoy having a good time with them? I am blessed to work with and lead such a great group of talented people here at WLP.

To be honest, it has been a particularly stressful and busy season for me, but there is something about the snow, and the decorations, and the lights, and the chocolates, and the baked goodies, and the appetizers, and the shopping, and the sending and receiving of Christmas cards that make all of the busy-ness so worth it. I am looking forward to celebrating the Fourth Sunday of Advent at St. James on Sunday. I am also looking forward to helping serve the Christmas day meal for the homeless at our parish. I did so last year. I was in charge of beverages. When the folks arrived, there I was with a tray of hot cocoa, coffee, water, and iced tea. It broke my heart when so many people looked at me and said, "I'll get something to drink later; what I really need now is some food." Having grown up with holiday tables of plenty, this experience helped me appreciate all the more the sacrifices that my mom and dad offered to make sure the six of us had plenty of gifts under the tree and delicious food on our plates. And it also made me realize that, as Catholics with grateful hearts, we need to reach out all the more to those who are in need.

It's back to the United Center for me tonight to watch the Chicago Blackhawks play the Boston Bruins. I fell in love with hockey as a kid because I grew up in suburban Boston, watching the Boston Bruins. I am planning to wear my Boston Bruins shirt tonight—we'll see how I am treated in the always interesting upper 300 level seating area in the arena.

I hope your weekend is filled with expectant joy.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Translation Thursday: How to Implement the New Translation

Hope you are enjoying a good Thursday, another "New Translation Thursday."

Just a quick comment and a question today. It has to do—once again—with the new musical settings of the Mass. We are not quite sure how the implementation of the new translation will occur. Will the BCDW (Bishops Committee on Divine Worship) issue a "may use the new translation" date, followed by a period of some duration before a "must use" date is promulgated? None of us is sure about this. If that were the case, how would you handle this in your parish? Some people have told me that they would begin using new musical settings, as well as all of the newly translated prayers and antiphons immediately upon a "may use" date. Others have said that they would use the "grace period," if there will be such a period, to introduce gradually the new settings and prayers in some kind of organized way. At least one bishop I know said simply that the people in parishes would be using the old translation one week, and then, the very next Sunday, all of the newly translated texts will be used.

I, for one, hope that parishes will teach the ICEL chant settings of the peoples' parts early in the process of implementation, as well as one setting that is either newly composed or one of the revised settings—as a start. How all this will play out will, of course, vary from parish to parish. You can trust that we here at WLP are working very hard to provide the singing and praying church with the very best newly composed and revised musical settings of the Mass.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Great Music Director

Happy Wednesday to you all.  Seven degrees here. Enough said.

Happy Birthday Beethoven.

I worked as the director of liturgy and music for extended periods of time in three parishes: St. Mary Magdalen in Altamonte Springs, Florida, Epiphany Parish in Port Orange, Florida, and St. Marcelline in Schaumburg, Illinois. When I knew that it was time to move on from these positions, it was painful to leave, because I had grown to know and love the people, as well as grown to know and love the sound of their voices joined together in song.

Last week I found out that our music director at St. James has made the decision to move on. This has been pretty heart-wrenching for me. For those of you who follow this blog, you know that I have often referred to him as our "great music director." What makes a "great music director?" As a pew Catholic, I think a great director is one who is sensitive to the make-up of the congregation; is someone who is able to provide a variety of music that makes the liturgy musical, music from the Church's treasury, as well as from the treasuries of other Christian denominations; is someone who obviously knows that the greatest sound that he is charged to produce is the sound of a singing assembly. With our music director, all of these things came together quite well. I will miss him dearly.

That's one of the the realities of being a pew Catholic. In my "professional" positions in parishes, it was I who decided when it was time to move on. Our current music director is the third since I have been at St. James. My allegiance is to the parish, obviously. Pastors and parish staff members come and go, yet we who are in the pews provide the steadiness that endures.

I've been asked and agreed to be a member of the search committee for a new director (my second time). I've been asked to bring musical and liturgical expertise to the search committee. Friends, please say a prayer for our work and for St. James parish during this time of transition.

Why? Because we gotta sing and we gotta pray; and St. James needs all the prayers we can get to find the next "great music director."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Translation Tuesday: Proclaiming the Death of the Lord

Happy Tuesday to one and all. The temperatures are plummeting here in the Midwest today. Looks to be a very cold night. Five degree drop just on my 45 minute ride to work!

It's "New Translation Tuesday" once again. The "What Is We Just Said Wait" site has garnered nearly four thousand signatures. Check out the site if you haven't had the chance.

This past weekend I spent some time with a retired priest friend of mine. I was the organist at his parish in Massachusetts in the late 1970's and early 80's. He will be 80 years old next year. His attitude about the new translation: "I'll never use it." It made me wonder how many of our older and retired priests have developed an attitude of simply having had enough with the Vatican's liturgical legislation over the past decade or so. It will be quite interesting to watch all of this unfold in the next few years. Even today, there are priests who still use the old Order of Christian Funerals!

I'd like to comment on one of the anonymous comments from last Thursday's edition of "New Translation Thursday":

While some advocates of the new translation may indeed be desiring to "stick it to their brothers and sisters", those same advocates have had to endure having it "stuck to them" for some 40 years now...whincing whilst saying the Gloria or Creed, knowing that what they're saying is not even close to the actual prayer, all for the sake of advancing an agenda that has turned out, for the greatest measure, to be seriously in error.

I know that this is a forum that attracts those whose lives are bound up with matters liturgical and musical, but I wonder how helpful this comment is to those—especially older Catholics like my parents—who have prayed the post-Vatican II texts for most of their lives. To say that "what they're saying is not even close to the actual prayer" directly diminishes the lived experience of that prayer for decades. And to say to my parents that this all has to do with a group of people "advancing an agenda that has turned out, for the greatest measure, to be seriously in error" would be an egregious statement. My parents have taken their lives, especially the heartfelt pain of having lost a daughter at the age of 38, into their experience of the liturgy. There they have found comfort and solace in the paschal mystery of the Lord. Would they put it in these words? Probably not, but the liturgy has been a source of strength, encouragement, and challenge to them in their nearly fifty-five years of marriage. To discount that experience—to say that the words that they have prayed are the product of a group advancing an agenda—is not helpful and, I believe, would border on the sinful. I certainly would not want "anonymous" to be the person catechizing my parents and their fellow parishioners about the changes in the translation.

Just a caution here, folks. Let's remember that the Catholic Church is made up of people like you and me, and people like my parents, people who strive every day to live the words "When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory." In the new translation, these same people will be striving to live the same mystery of our faith in these words: "When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again." Proclaiming the death of the Lord, and all the meaning that that phrase unfolds in the lived Catholic experience, is what this Catholic life is all about. Let's not forget that; let's not forget the center as these days, months, and years unfold.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"On the Ice" and a Full and Grateful Heart

Happy Monday to you all. I am back at the desk after four days off. Spent these days in the California desert, where it was cool and mostly cloudy, but relaxing nonetheless.

I've decided to give you just a small peek into my life outside of the publishing and church worlds today . . .

Most people raise an eyebrow when I let them know that I am an avid hockey fan. "How could such a  mild-mannered liturgist/musician be a fan of such a violent sport?" they often ask. Well, I grew up in Massachusetts during the era of the likes of Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, two tremendous Boston Bruins players. I remember well listening to hockey games on the radio when my parents would pile all six of us into our "Country Squire" station wagon (the kind with the fake wood on the sides) and head back to the Boston area from our bimonthly visits to relatives in southeastern Massachusetts. I loved listening to those games and watching them on TV. That interest waned over the years and has been rekindled over the past five years here in Chicago, where I have become a huge fan of the Chicago Blackhawks. I attend many of their games, sitting a few rows from the last row in the upper level. Last night was a little different. Through the generosity of a friend, I found myself sitting in the first row "on the ice." It was thrilling, to say the least. I have great respect for these athletes who, unlike in any other sport, perform their sport on ice, skating with ease and precision. Folks, I had a wonderful time, and wished the game could have gone on and on. Incidentally, we won 4-0! Here's a photo. I look a little weary—I had been on airplanes most of the day!

Thank you for your comments over the past week. I hope your Advent continues to be a hope-filled one and that these remaining days are marked with joy and peace. Tomorrow, another installment of "New Translation Tuesday." Stay tuned.

After my experience last night, I was filled with lots of joy and had a full and grateful heart. I guess this is how a Catholic has to approach a gift like seats "on the ice." I kept thanking God up and down all night long.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Waiting in Joyful Hope

Happy Wednesday to you all. Snowy and raw here in Chicago. Temperatures expected to plummet into the single digits tonight, with wind chills somewhere near 40 below. Welcome to almost-winter in the Midwest.

Just a short post today. I was reading an author's manuscript yesterday here at WLP. She had written a catechetical session for inquirers and the topic was Christian hope. She was quoting Benedict XVI's encyclical on hope, Spe Salve. This all got my mind focused on a great phrase for believers during this Advent season, "waiting in joyful hope." And this brought me to recall a moving poem by John Keats that I once read. It's called To Hope and here's an excerpt:

When by my solitary hearth I sit,
When no fair dreams before my “mind’s eye” flit,
And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head.

Whene’er I wander, at the fall of night,
Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,
Should sad Despondency my musings fright,
And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,
Peep with the moon-beams through the leafy roof,
And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof.

Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,
Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;
When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,
Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:
Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,
And fright him as the morning frightens night!

Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear
Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,
O bright-eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;
Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:
Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

My own hope for all of you is that, even when life becomes difficult and challenging, that you cling to the hope that comes through faith, especially during this Advent and Christmas season.
I'll be taking some vacation time for the next four days. I'll try to post, especially tomorrow. If I don't get the chance, I pray that your Second Week of Advent ends with an outpouring of grace and that the Third Week dawns with renewed hope.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Translation Tuesday: It's Heating Up Out There!

Welcome to another edition of "New Translation Tuesday."

You have probably heard about the article in the current issue of America magazine by Fr. Michael G. Ryan. Here is the link. If you have the time, please read Fr. Ryan's article about the new translation. Reading the comments to the article on America's web site will also give you insight into what a hot button this issue is and will continue to be. Personally, I didn't find Fr. Ryan's article to be a launch of dissent, as some of the commenters argued. This is a seasoned pastor speaking from the perspective of a pastor. He is not arguing for a wholesale rejection of the new translation. He is inviting people to consider more pastoral experimentation, testing, and evaluation before the text is finally mandated. Frankly, I don't think there is much chance of this happening. However, as of right now, nearly 1200 people have signed the statement of concern on the web site "" that Fr. Ryan has begun. You can find that site here.

There has also been at least one person (a fellow blogger) who has created his own survey. You can find that here. Clearly you will see the marked differences in tone. Folks, why all this argument? We are talking about the heart of Catholic life here. You can't do something that touches that heart without all kinds of emotions being stirred. It saddens me that this will inevitably continue to escalate further polarization within the English-speaking Catholic world. The texts of the Mass draw us into a real live experience of the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ. If the new translation thwarts that movement toward Christ, then it will need further revision down the road. We will have no choice.

Thanks for your comments over the past week. Please feel free to comment here as well.

As more snow approaches Chicago, I hope that, wherever you are, you stay warm and safe.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Open Our Hearts in Welcome"

Happy Monday to you all. We had another lovely snowfall over night. It looks like we are going to get walloped with a snowstorm tomorrow into Wednesday. Probably going to be a white Christmas in these parts. Pictured above is a sculpture in Chicago's Millennium Park. It is called "Cloud Gate." We Chicagoans affectionately call it "the bean." Here's another photo to help you see it in context:

I hope you had an inspiring celebration of the Second Sunday of Advent. Our parish's approach to the use of silence, particularly during the introductory rites, continues to go well. I noticed yesterday that with the "space" that the silence provides, I was much more tuned into the opening prayer:

God of power and mercy,
open our hearts in welcome.
Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy,
so that we may share his wisdom
and become one with him
when he comes in glory,
for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The "open our hearts in welcome" stayed with me for the better part of the day. As I cleaned the house and did some decorating, I was struck by what it really means to have a heart that is open in welcome. It made me see that God is constantly breaking into our days in all kinds of ways; we just need to be open to these discoveries.

I hope that as Advent continues to unfold, your heart will be open in welcome to the ways that the Lord is trying to break into your life.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Reworked Musical Settings of the Mass or New Settings?

Friday has arrived. Christmas tree purchase and decorating begins tomorrow. This morning, we woke up to a light dusting of snow here in Chicago. This is a beautiful city year-round, but there is something even lovelier during these first few snowfalls. I'm sure my tune will change by mid-January!

I'd like to address one of the comments from yesterday's post. Chironomo wrote this:
When you speak of "revised" settings, are you speaking of current settings with the new words fitted in? I thought that idea was rejected initially by a number of composers. Is it now back on the table? 

For several years, I have asked parish musicians what their gut instincts were when it came to this issue. At first, the majority of musicians said that they wanted the Masses that they loved simply reworked. Some said things like this: "I could never give up my Mass of Creation." Once I began to share some of the reworked WLP Mass parts with them, their tune began to shift. More and more thought that the new settings were the way to go, so that there wouldn't need to be the process of unlearning and relearning.

What have we done here at WLP? We have several newly commissioned musical settings of the Mass that will fit the needs of parishes with a wide variety of musical resources. The new ICEL chants will be included in each of our worship resources. What about our most popular Mass settings? We have gone back to the composers about these. The Sanctus has proven to be a rather easy fix, since the changes are minimal. For the Gloria, the composers decided on complete rewrites, but kept with the genre and general musical sense of the entire Mass. They needed to do the same with the Memorial Acclamations. We are fairly certain that only the three Memorial Acclamations that appear in the Order of Mass will be approved by Rome, and that "Christ Has Died" will be gone forever.

The composers of several of our Masses are deceased. With these Masses, we enlisted the help of a prominent composer to work with these settings.

None of us knows how all this will work itself out. I'd like to ask you a question. When you do decide on which Mass or Masses you will be teaching your assembly, would it be helpful for you to have a CD recording of that Mass? Just wondering. Feel free to comment.

I am looking forward to celebrating the Second Sunday of Advent at St. James. I hope that wherever you are, your celebration is marked with expectant joy.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The New Translation: Musicians and the Implementation

Happy "New Translation Thursday" to one and all.

One of the questions floating around out there regarding the new English translation of the Missale Romanum has to do with how parish musicians will approach the implementation. Having been a director of liturgy and music for many years myself, I have wondered about just how I would approach the introduction of the new translation into parish life. In the past, when introducing a new musical setting of the Mass, we would follow a carefully laid out plan. We would begin working on the setting at choir rehearsals a few months in advance of teaching the congregation. We would spend time with our parish cantors, coaching them on the way we would slowly introduce the setting. Usually, the teaching of the new setting would take place over a period of weeks. When the appointed "release" Sunday arrived, we would usually begin by teaching the assembly the new setting of the Gloria. The people would have been given a copy of the Mass's musical setting (we printed our own worship aid). We would move through the Gloria (sometimes that meant just a refrain; sometimes that meant a refrain and other congregational parts scattered throughout; sometimes that meant a through composed setting). We would then use the next few weeks to teach the other parts of the Mass.

What will be new, of course, with what is to come is that not only will the music change, but in most cases, the words will change as well. I think that good musical settings will help carry the implementation along. And WLP, of course, will have wonderful new settings and revised settings to assist the singing and praying Church.

But, in the past, we didn't have to worry about people remembering the words when we taught them the new musical setting. Now, it's going to be new (or revised) music and new words. I can hear some musician friends now, "This whole thing wasn't my idea; please don't shoot the parish musician!" I believe that musicians and priests are going to be the ministers that people will go to with their complaints or their kind words of encouragement. As I mentioned on Tuesday, as much advance catechesis that we can do about all this, the better.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Biblical Songs Illuminated

Good Wednesday morning to you all. I hope this first week of Advent has been a time of grace for you thus far.

You know by now that every once in a while, I will do a brief commercial to let you know about one of
WLP's great resources. Today, I'd like to share a wonderful art and prayer book with you. I do this now because it would make a great Christmas gift. The book is titled Canticle: Biblical Songs Illuminated. 

This book contains the texts to over twenty biblical canticles, illuminated by the well-known artist G. E. Mullan. The renowned theologian and master story-teller, John Shea, offers a reflection on each of the canticles. This book is a gem. For anyone who is interested in taking a deeper look into the biblical canticles, this is a must-have. I have a Mullan lithograph hanging here on a wall in my office. I've always enjoyed the covers he designs for WLP's ¡Celebremos! Let Us Celebrate! worship resource.

And I have known the work of Jack Shea for many years. Jack wrote a wonderful Stations of the Cross resource for us: Stopping Along the Way.

His reflections on the canticles in the latest book will make you laugh and make you cry. The texts, Mullan's art, and Jack's reflections combine to bring the reader into a closer relationship with God.

Obviously, I could go on and on about this resource. Suffice it to say that it is one of my personal favorites.

Thanks for listening today. We are expecting our first snowfall tonight here in Chicago. I guess winter has arrived!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Translation Tuesday: Silence at Mass

Happy Tuesday to you all.

It's "New Translation Tuesday" once again. I've been doing some checking of parish web sites and parish on-line bulletins and am finding that catechetical material concerning the forthcoming new English translation of the Missale Romanum is continuing to surface. And this is a good thing. We need to be doing everything we can to prepare the people for the changes about to come. Liturgy Training Publications here in the Archdiocese of Chicago has published a series of pamphlets designed to instruct Catholics about the upcoming changes. You can find those materials here. Fr. Paul Turner is the author of these texts. He provides a wonderful balance in the areas of history, liturgical theology, and pastoral practice. Fr. Turner authored WLP's popular resource for priests and those ministering in the sphere of Christian initiation: Celebrating Initiation: A Guide for Priests.

With a possible April date for the reception of the recognitio, we are working hard to finish the work on both the revised and new musical settings of the Mass. Our fine team of editors has been hard at work for you, the singing and praying Church.

I did want to share my experience at Mass this past Sunday at Saint James, because it relates to the opportunities the upcoming changes will offer to parishes. The liturgy committee (a board on which I volunteer), has been spending quite a bit of time studying the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and the General Instruction on the Roman Missal. We have been focusing our attention on the introductory rites. When we looked at the vision of those documents and compared that vision to our pastoral practice, we found some areas that needed improvement. Our introductory rites have seemed rushed and kind of mechanical in the past, as if we are trying to move through them to get to the "real stuff." Well, this past Sunday saw a marked difference. Before Mass, our great music director told us that we would be experiencing more silence during the introductory rites. He told us that when Father invited us to call to mind our sins, there would be a longer period of silence for us to ponder that reality. He also told us that once Father said "Let us pray" before the opening prayer, we would be given a period of silence to focus on what we were bringing to the liturgy in our hearts and minds. Then Father would collect all of that in the Opening Prayer, also known as the "Collect."

We were told that silence can sometimes make us feel uncomfortable at Mass. When there is silence, sometimes we think that someone has forgotten to do or say something. We all chuckled at this, since it rang so true. We were then asked to enter a period of silence and were also told that during that silence, the first candle of the Advent wreath would be lighted. After a few moments, one of the sisters on our parish staff ceremoniously approached the wreath and lit the first candle. No words, no blessing; just the simple lighting of that first candle. In my own heart, I knew that Advent had begun. We then rose and joined in singing the opening hymn.

Once the hymn ended, Father chanted the sign of the cross, to which we chanted our "Amen." He also chanted the greeting. I thought it was wonderful; it sounded Catholic. After the introductory to the penitential rite, we did enter into silence. To be honest, I was more preoccupied with how long the silence would be (O, that liturgist inside me!) than in calling to mind my sins. I know this won't happen next week because, in fact, the amount of silence felt "just right" to me. The same thing happened after "Let us pray." Folks, the silence into which we entered was deliberate and "heavy." This was a good direction for us, praise God.

These are the kinds of intentional changes to bring us in line with the Church's vision for liturgy that I hope the introduction to the new translation will engender. I am so looking forward to the Second Sunday of Advent at St. James. Even though this introductory rite may seem to some to be "traditional" or, God forbid "conservative," we still maintained a high spirit of engagement in the rite. Our closing song was Soon and Very Soon. We lifted the roof off the place! It was as Catholic a moment as the introductory rites had been.

O come, Emmanuel

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.