Thursday, April 30, 2009
Good morning to all. I am in Washington, DC this morning for a meeting. I want to thank everyone for their comments on this blog over the past few days. I am crushed for time today and don't have the time for a lengthy blog. Just wanted to keep connected. As this Easter Season continues to unfold, I offer you this snippet from the work of the late Chrysogonus Waddell, OCSO. This piece, The Earth Feared and Was Silent, includes these words in its refrain, "The earth feared and was silent when God arose for judgment, Alleluia." Sample pages of this octavo can be found on WLP's web site here. Waddell's works have a luminous quality and lift my own mind and heart to the heavens. I pray that his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, may rest in peace. I invite you to take a moment out of your busy day today to pray for those among your loved ones and friends, who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again. Today I particularly bring to mind my own sister, Joanne, who died in 2001. This season of joy buoys my Christian hope; my prayer is that it does the same for you.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
"In wonder and gratitude,
we join our voices with the choirs of heaven
to proclaim the power of your love
and to sing of our salvation in Christ:"
This is the conclusion of the preface when, at Mass, the priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I. It precedes, or introduces the singing of the Holy, Holy, Holy, or the Sanctus. I have always been drawn into the concluding phrases of the prefaces. When we hear words like "we join our voices with the choirs of heaven," I wonder what those heavenly voices sound like. We all know and believe that the celebration of the Eucharist here on earth is but a foretaste of the banquet in the heavenly kingdom. I know as a publisher, we try our best here at WLP to encourage composers to echo the heavenly song when they compose settings for the acclamations sung during the Eucharistic Prayer. Here's a sample of the Holy Holy from one of WLP's contemporary composers, John Angotti. John's Holy has a definite "rock" feel to it. Here's another example, taken from Ed Bolduc's Mass of Celebration. Steve Janco offers us this setting. Godfrey Tomanek gives us this from his Missa Brevis. Rory Cooney's Mass of St. Aidan includes this Sanctus. Peter Kolar's Misa Luna, a Mass setting that can be sung in either English or in Spanish, or in a bilingual fashion, can be found here. I found this setting of Ambrosian Chant for the Sanctus on YouTube. Finally, here's a Gregorian Chant setting of the Sanctus.
Why listen to all of these settings? It's a way to show the variety that exists within the song of God's people here on earth. Frankly, I grow tired of hearing people say that "Chant is the only way." I also grow weary of hearing others say, "The Mass has gotta rock if there's going to be any life or meaning in it." If we believe that the Mass is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, I think we need to stretch our imaginations a bit here. Do we not believe that those who have gone before us in faith are somehow part of that heavenly chorus? If we are indeed joining our voices here on earth with the saints who gather at the heavenly banquet, we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that there is only one kind of "sound" peculiar to heaven. I know that I have been "taken to heaven" when a chant setting of the Sanctus is prayed. I have been taken there as well when the brass choir introduces a setting of the Sanctus like Steve Janco's in his Mass of Redemption and the assembly enters that song with full voice. I have been lifted up even in a small community when we are singing the Sanctus from Jan Vermulst's People's Mass or Marty Haugen's Mass of Creation without any accompaniment. Call me naive, or even childish of faith if you will, but I think all of the various stylistic expressions used in creating the musical settings for the Mass offer us a unique opportunity. We may or may not like a particular style of music, but I think we need to open ourselves to the immensity of God's love. God’s love was expressed most definitively when God sent his only-begotten Son to be our redeemer. Jesus Christ is the "song" of the Father. I am an incarnational kind of Catholic and I search for Christ whenever and wherever I can. I listen for that "song" all the time. I hear that song in the lives of members of my family, especially when there is great suffering or great joy. I hear that song when I look out across the expanse of Lake Michigan here in Chicago. I hear that song when I see what my parish does for the poor. And specifically when music is played or sung, I hear the song that is Jesus Christ. Sometimes it's embodied in chant; sometimes in rock; sometimes in the splendor of full orchestra; sometimes in the song of a few huddled together, singing without any accompaniment. Whatever the style, I firmly believe that we are hearing the eternal song of God. And for this, folks, we gotta sing and we gotta pray.
"In wonder and gratitude,
we join our voices with the choirs of heaven
to proclaim the power of your love
and to sing of our salvation in Christ."
Monday, April 27, 2009
Happy Monday of the Third Week of Easter. I wanted to take some time today to share some information about my parish, St. James, which is located on the near South Side of the City of Chicago. The parish is over 150 years old and has a rich history. To get a sense of that history, click here. What this description of the history of St. James doesn't tell is what has been happening at the parish recently. As many of you know, Holy Name Cathedral here in Chicago had a fire in the attic earlier this year. After the fire, Chicago city officials decided to visit churches that had been designed by the same architect that had designed Holy Name. One of those churches is St. James. The officials arrived, examined our church, which has a few cracks on the ceiling of the south transept, and then ordered the church closed after the following Sunday's Masses. This all happened shortly before Ash Wednesday. My friend Rochelle, sitting behind me in church the day this was announced, began to cry, telling me that she had gone to grammar school at St. James and was a parishioner her entire life. It was a very sad day for St. James. We have been worshipping in our parish hall ever since. We are also in the middle of a capital campaign, "Towering Into the Future," aimed at raising funds to repair St. James' tower. I am proud to say that the parishioners of St. James, who total a mighty 250, are a resilient group of Catholics. What drives us the most, I believe, is the outreach that we provide to the local community. Our food pantry is serving over 2000 persons per month. Check out the photo of our food pantry above. The elderly in the area's homes and nursing facilities are well cared for by our Social Care ministry. St. James is indeed a parish that has its eyes fixed firmly on the poor and disenfranchised on the near South Side of Chicago.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Happy Friday. I am writing this entry while flying to Los Angeles. I departed Chicago on a 6:30 A.M. flight and, after a meeting in L.A., will return to Chicago on a flight later this afternoon. Even though I travel quite extensively throughout the United States and Canada, I am still in awe at the speed with which we can move around on this continent and beyond. I’m also grateful for the technology that has developed to make this all happen.
Last night I attended a fundraiser for Mundelein Seminary here in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Funds raised during the event will enable seminarians to travel for an extended period of study in the Holy Land. I was able to catch a brief conversation with Chicago’s shepherd, Cardinal Francis George. I talked with him about WLP’s plans for assisting in the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal. As on previous occasions, he became quite impassioned about this issue. He feels strongly that this particular juncture in the history of the reform of the liturgy presents us with enormous possibilities and responsibilities. He said, “We’ve got to get this thing right.” From my previous conversations with him, I know that he feels that this moment of transition will provide Catholics in the English-speaking world a unique opportunity for good liturgical catechesis.
You may know that the bishops in South African jumped the gun on releasing the translation of the Order of Mass and mandated that the new translation be immediately implemented in their parishes. Reaction was swift and, in a word, brutal. People were not prepared and their negative reactions were certainly understandable. Even with preparatory catechesis in other countries, I firmly believe that Catholics will tend to react negatively to the new translation. Change is not easy and people will not be satisfied with reasoning that goes like this: “The English translation of the Latin we have been praying was constructed using one set of rules for translation. The new English translation soon to be put into effect uses a different set of rules that mandated that the translation be more faithful to the original Latin.” I know that many Catholics will find this reasoning hard to swallow. While I resonate with this sentiment, I believe that any opportunity to provide liturgical catechesis is an one that we must seize. All you need do is read the previous posts on this blog about the power of the sacramental life. My central question is this: Do Catholics really believe in the power and potential of baptism? Confirmation? Eucharist? Perhaps I am naïve, but I have been called worse. I am going to move through the transition to a new translation with a careful optimism. We will need to deal with the negativity head on, but my hope is that leaders—on the national, diocesan, and local levels—will help people move beyond the negativity to a deeper understanding of the work Christ does every time we gather at liturgy. Folks, when these things unfold, we gotta sing and we gotta pray more than ever! A little bit of J. Michael Thompson's Exultet. Enjoy.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I agree with Rory's assessment. I think that many preachers in the past focused a little too heavily on sin. I remember going to parish missions when I was a kid at St. Charles Church in Woburn, Massachusetts, pictured here. I remember the focus being almost exclusively on sin. I left those mission sessions scared to death. I was sure that I was going straight to hell. With the advent of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, and the opening up of the scriptures, preachers began—for the most part—to shy away from talking about sin. I guess I have fallen into the pattern of expecting homilies to uplift me, rather than challenge me. That is why Paul Turner's comment, posted on yesterday's blog, was a real eye-opener for me.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Last night I drove to St. Anne's Parish in Barrington, Illinois to present the baptism and confirmation session to their intergenerational catechetical gathering. One of the stories I shared was about an experience I had several years ago. The good folks at the North American Forum on the Catechumenate had invited me to help lead a pilgrimage through Italy. The focus of the pilgrimage was a bit out of the ordinary: we were going to Italy to visit places with significant baptism fonts or baptismal spaces. It was an amazing trip. Two particular places stand out in my memory. One was the baptistry beneath the Duomo in Milan, pictured below. This archeological find is believed to be the original baptistry, which means that this is most probably the site where St. Ambrose baptized Augustine. We pilgrims stood around the font and sang baptismal hymns.
The second place that stands out in my mind is the baptistry of St. John at the Duomo in Florence. This was our first stop on the pilgrimage. The baptistry in Florence is a separate building that is situated in the plaza in front of the cathedral. It is a stunning octagonal building. It is perhaps most famous for its bronze doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Actually these bronzes are copies of the originals, which are stored in a nearby museum for safekeeping. I don't think our tour guide grasped the fact that we were keenly interested in visiting baptismal sites. She was going on and on about these famous doors. All we wanted to do was go into the baptistry building itself. When she finished her description of the doors, she motioned for us to leave the area. When I told her that we had traveled from the United States and Canada specifically to visit baptistries, she found a way (with the help of a several thousand lira) for us to gain access. When I walked into the baptistry with my fellow pilgrims, I was filled with disappointment. The actual font had been removed years earlier and the tour guide rambled on about the fact that a famous Italian princess had been married in the building. Standing there feeling dejected, I suddenly felt a poke in my side. My mother, who happened to be on the pilgrimage, had elbowed me and when I looked at her, I noticed that she, and most of the rest of the group, were staring straight up. When I looked up, I was stunned. The ceiling was adorned with a huge mosaic. The image of Christ dominated the scene and there had to be hundreds of saints and angels there as well. I could only imagine what it must have been like to be baptized in this building. After having been baptized—having "put on Christ"—the newly baptized would have risen from the font and looked up. What that person saw was what awaits the baptized: a place in the kingdom of heaven; their own spot on that ceiling! I told the people at St. Anne's last night that our Christian journey is a pilgrimage from the font to our place on the ceiling. All along the way we strive to become more and more like Christ. I can only imagine that moment when (hopefully) I arrive in the kingdom of heaven. I live in the hope that God the Father will recognize me because he recognizes his Son when he sees me. And for this blessed hope, today is a day that I gotta sing and I gotta pray!
Monday, April 20, 2009
Happy Monday of the Second Week of Easter to all. I spent the weekend in Kansas City and Saint Joseph, Missouri, presenting two WLP choral reading sessions to the fine singers in the diocese of Kansas City/St. Joseph. The first session took place at the diocesan cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which has recently undergone a wonderful renovation, pictured here (second photo). The second took place at St. Francis Xavier parish in St. Joseph. This diocese has obviously had good musical leadership over the years, given the fact that all who attended the choral reading sessions were terrific sight readers. What a blessing for me, the "stranger in their midst." We were able to sing through twenty-five pieces of music and all were impressed by the breadth of choral music we publish here at WLP. YOu can always contact Sister Joan Thomas here at WLP to request a WLP choral reading session in your area. It was a heart-warming weekend. I was able to spend time with Sr. Claudette Schiratti, who directs music for the diocese. She took me to the World War One Memorial Museum, which was a great experience, worth a visit to Kansas City. We also spent time at Visitation Parish, one of the finest new churches I've seen in North America. It is pictured here (first photo).
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
On many mornings I walk from my home in downtown Chicago to the "UIC-Halsted" stop on the Chicago Transit Authority's Blue Line subway. After boarding the train, I travel to Oak Park where I meet my carpool colleagues here at WLP and J. S. Paluch, and then we are off to the office.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
As some of you may know, I am a New Englander by birth. I was born in the "whaling city," New Bedford, Massachusetts, and grew up in the Boston area, spending many summer days at Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester. Today's Boston Globe featured two stories, one about federal money being used to clean up New Bedford Harbor, and one about the citizens of Gloucester, who have signed a petition to have the famous "Gloucester Fisherman" statue become an image on quarters minted in the US in the coming years. The photo shown here is of that statue in Gloucester (courtesy of Keith Kalemba, one of our talented music editors here at WLP.)