Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Hurting Church Approaches the Triduum

Good "Spy Wednesday" to you all.

On my way to work this morning, I heard a report on NPR radio reported by Sylvia Poggioli in Rome. Here is the link to the story; click on the "listen to the story" on that page.

These are—to say the least—troubling days for the Church. Bishops and archbishops have been using their Chrism Mass pulpits all week to defend the pope. I can only imagine that there will be quotes from Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday homilies all over the media. This is a time of intense scrutiny.

I remember receiving a letter from an angry pastor around this time in 2003, at the height of the clergy sexual abuse crisis here in the United States. I had written an intercession in one of WLP's liturgy preparation resources, as a suggestion for Easter Sunday: "For those who have been sexually abused, especially by priests, that they will see through the veil of darkness and learn once again to glimpse the truth that Christ died and rose to set the world free from fear, we pray to the Lord." He told me that he did not have a chance to edit the intercessions because he was so busy during the Triduum, and that the parish secretary had put the intercessions together. He was appalled that we would suggest such a prayer for Easter Sunday. He told me that "it was time to get over all of this and to put it behind us." He told me that, through his preaching and teaching, he was helping his parishioners to leave the past behind. I remember thinking at the time—as I have said in the pages before—that what was being experienced in the Unites States was but the tip of the iceberg. I still think, to this day, that the intercession I wrote was more than appropriate. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal urges us to craft intercessions using the following guidelines (from #70):

"As a rule, the series of intentions is to be
a. For the needs of the Church;
b. For public authorities and for the salvation of the whole world
c. For those burdened by any kind of difficulty
d. For the local community"

Clearly, I was trying to formulate a prayer that focused on "those burdened by any kind of difficulty." If we cannot name our own sins as a Church when we gather as the Body of Christ, and pray for those who have suffered due to that sinfulness, where else can we do so?

Think about what we are about to celebrate in the next few days. Tomorrow night we will be washing feet. Some of the feet that are being washed will be those of people who have been sexually abused by members of the clergy. Some of the feet that are being washed will be the feet of clergy and bishops (current and former) who have perpetrated that abuse. On Friday, the pope, bishops, priests, and deacons will lie prostrate on the floors of countless basilicas, cathedrals and churches throughout the world in a sign of submission to the crucified Lord. We will proclaim the Passion according to Saint John. In it we will hear stories of betrayal and denial. We will baptize new Christians; we will celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in confirmation; hundreds of thousands will be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. Hundreds of thousands will also receive their first Holy Communion. The saving death and resurrection of Christ will be proclaimed, will be sung, will be chanted, will be danced. All of this will be done by a group of sinners who have been, and continue to be, redeemed by the Lord.

I, for one, am entering these days aware that this Church of ours is hurting to the very core. When I embrace the cross on Good Friday, I will ask the Lord to help us feel this pain every more sharply; to bring us through this pain; and to lead us through the cross to the glory of a new day. Being Roman Catholic these days is not easy; is it ever really easy?

Thanks for listening today. Feel free to comment. Entering the conversation is one way to help all of us move through this time of deep hurt.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Obedience School?

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Tuesday."

As many of you know, I am a "spinner." Three or four days a week, I am in a spinning class at the gym. This means that around 6:00 A.M. I begin the day in a dark room, on a stationary bicycle and, urged on by a trainer, spin the big wheel on the bike for 50 minutes. I described the experience on one of my posts last year. Here's the link. During the class, I usually pray the rosary, remembering those who are most in need. I go through my prayer list. For a few years now, I have been praying for the wife of a colleague here at WLP. Judy Novak, wife of WLP's own Michael Novak, lived with cancer for the last several years. Judy passed away ten days ago. Many of us attended a wake service for Judy on Friday night. Our hearts ached for Mike and his children.

When I got on the spin bike yesterday morning, I began my prayers and Judy immediately came to mind. I told Mike yesterday how frustrated it felt to have prayed for healing for Judy for so long. Mike simply looked at me and said, "Your prayers were answered." I wish I had that depth of faith. Mike's comment reminded me of a prayer we pray often at funerals: "Dispel the doubt that comes from grief."

This got me to thinking about the new English translation of the Missale Romanum. As many have said, the Mass itself is not changing; it is the translation of the texts that is changing. At the celebration of Mass on Sundays, it is God who is constantly at work on us, through the person of the Risen Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit. At Mass, God wants to work a miracle of transformation in each one of us. I know that there will be a period of time when I will stumble through many of the prayers, forgetting to say or sing "And with your Spirit," and feeling embarrassed when I slip into "And also with you." It's just my nature, but I know that I will be listening to opening prayers, prayers over the gifts, prayers after communion, and the eucharistic prayers with a critical ear. I'll enter into conversations with people, many of whom will lament the awkwardness of the new translation. There will be moments when all will agree that there are inspiring phrases in the new translation. It worries me that I will remain in this kind of critical stage for too long. Folks, I need the grace that God pours out at Mass. Life is too short and there are too many people suffering. The liturgy is, first of all, God's work. I don't want my critical methodologies to set up a wall around me, nor around my community of faith.

Sure, there will be a time of transition, a period of liminality. It will just be natural for many of us to get all worked up about the new translation. And, if the newly translated texts become a wall of impenetrability—if they truly become a block that prevents God's action in the liturgy from reaching our hearts and minds—we will need to speak up; we will need to talk with our pastors and bishops about this. The hope, of course, is that, in time, the newly translated texts will be assimilated into our "Catholic DNA." I don't know; I don't have any direct experience to which I can refer. I want to be honest. I want to be an adult with a brain and a heart. I don't want to be like a little dog at obedience school: "OK, Jerry boy, roll over; play dead; go fetch the toy; give me your paw; don't chase that cat."

I want to enter this very exciting and challenging time with all my senses at the ready. Why? Because I cannot go for an extended period of time without my faith being deeply nourished at Mass. There will be times in the coming years when I will be faced with the kind of things that Mike Novak and his family have faced in these last few years. I need to be open to whatever work God has planned on my own heart and mind. This is at the core of what it means to be Catholic, at least for me.

The prayer that I am praying these days comes from Psalm 95:

"If today you hear God's voice, harden not your heart."

I am praying very hard that I will, indeed, hear God's voice when newly translated texts are prayed. Please keep this servant in your own prayer.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Gospel Sitting

Happy Monday of Holy Week to you all.

Our celebration of Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion yesterday at my parish, St. James, went quite well. The music really served the many movements of this liturgy. It has been a long time since I have cried at Mass. But I did so this weekend when the choir and our two wonderful soloists sang Patrick Bradley's Only Love. The lyrics: "Only love held him there on the cross; he could have called ten thousand angels to come to his rescue; only love held him there on the cross." The verses are a variation on the verses of The Old Rugged Cross. This is a real gem. I was so proud of the choir for all the work they have put into their ministry. And I was proud that this fine piece is published by WLP.

I did have one uncomfortable moment at Mass. And this has happened to me before at St. James and at other parishes. We chanted a lovely unpublished Gospel Acclamation (duh, maybe I should submit it to WLP!). Then the deacon began, "The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke." We all responded and then he announced, "In order to properly meditate on the Passion of the Lord, please be seated." Now I completely understand why parishes do this. There are people who simply cannot stand for that long a period of time. But most Catholics can. This is a day of the year when one of the most important Gospel texts is proclaimed. Of all days, this is the day we should be standing. We stand because we honor the real presence of Christ in the proclamation of the Gospel. To me, it just seems too comfortable to sit during the proclamation. Besides the three readers, I was the only one standing, all by myself in a corner. Did my feet hurt? Yes. Was it uncomfortable after the first ten minutes? Yes. At one point I thought of the hours I have spent standing in lines at places like Disneyworld. I also thought about the years I spent as a kid at these liturgies standing through these long Gospels and developing an intuitive sense that because of the fact that I was standing for so long—much longer than at other Masses—there must be something extra special about Palm Sunday and Good Friday. What do you do in your parish?

Anyway, that's my rant for the Monday of Holy Week. Even though we all didn't stand yesterday at St. James, the presence of the Lord was so real, at least in my own heart.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Happy Friday to you all.

Last night, we had our final choir rehearsal before Holy Week. It looks like things are in good shape for the celebrations at my parish, St. James, where I am currently serving as interim music director.

With all that has been happening in the Church worldwide recently, I have had this growing sense of awareness of what I can only term "congregationalism" creeping into the hearts and minds of some Catholics whom I encounter on a regular basis. Take, for instance, a recent conversation I had with a colleague. He attends, say, a parish whose name is Incarnation Parish. He said, "When I look at all this stuff happening in the Church, i.e. clergy sexual abuse scandals, cover-ups by bishops, the money spent on all of this, the upcoming new 'silly' translations, I identify myself as an 'Incarnationite" more than I identify my allegiance as a Roman Catholic."

I have heard this kind of talk on more than one occasion recently. I have always said that Catholic life is squarely rooted in the parish. After having spent some time ministering as a diocesan director of music, working in a chancery office, that sentiment rang truer than ever in my heart. This is not to say that people who work in diocesan offices are not ministering in any less a real Catholic environment than those ministering in parishes; their work is obviously of great importance to the mission of the Church. It's just that the parish is the primary locus where faith sprouts, grows, and is nourished. Perhaps the sense of "congregationalism" is what is helping fuel some peoples' negative and visceral reactions to the upcoming new translation of the Missale Romanum.  Perhaps this is more of an ecclesiological issue than it is a liturgical issue; this has been my suspicion all along.

What do you think? Why not share your own reactions to this by clicking the comments box below. If that doesn't work on your computer, you can always email me directly here at WLP: I'll be glad to review your comments and post them to the blog.

I hope that your celebration of Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion brings you closer to the Lord.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Assemblies with "Their Own Musical Tradition"

Welcome to this edition of "New Translation Thursday."

I want to begin by referring to Adam's brief comment on my post on Tuesday of last week:

I'm a bit embarrassed to say- this hadn't occurred to me. That is- in my thinking of whether the text was "natural" or "easy," chant never entered my mind.
When I speak, "And with your Spirit," I feel like an idiot. When I chant it, it seems perfect.
Hopefully others will catch on to that trick and we'll start hearing chant as the new translations come into use.

Thank you, Adam, for this comment. It's your last line, Adam, that I think gets to the heart of the issues here. Perhaps the new translation will see us all realizing that the liturgy itself is intrinsically musical. Music is not an "add-on" that somehow makes the liturgy more pleasing to the ear. I am drawing upon my own pastoral experience, both as a musician and as a pew person. My pastor is a Benedictine monk from St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. He has not tried to turn our parish into a little monastery, yet when he does employ chant, there is a difference. He chants the preface dialogue every week. It has become absolutely natural to us. Now remember, I am in a predominantly African-American parish. We sing lots of uplifting music from the African-American tradition. During the high seasons of the Church year, Father chants the preface and a great portion of the Eucharistic Prayer as well. As a person in the pews, I am paying much closer attention to the prayer when it is chanted. Our response to the chanted preface is often a powerful spiritual setting of the Sanctus. Does this sometimes feel a but disjointed? Yes, but it is an expression of the spirit and piety of those gathered.

We'll need to be paying close attention to paragraph 131 of Sing to the Lord: Music in Catholic Worship:

In the dioceses of the United States of America today, liturgical assemblies are
composed of people of many different nations. Such peoples often “have their own musical
tradition, and this plays a great part in their religious and social life. For this reason their music
should be held in proper esteem and a suitable place is to be given to it, not only in forming their
religious sense but also in adapting worship to their native genius. . . .”

Does this mean that sometimes there is a sense that the music of the liturgy has an uneven style? A visitor coming to my parish might feel this way, but when one becomes a part of the community, this "uneven-ness" starts to disappear quickly, especially in a congregation like ours, which sings so heartily and with great conviction. In these past few weeks of directing the choir as the interim director, I have often walked over to "my usual side" of the worship area and told my friends that I want to hear them loud and clear. I also often tell the choir that our voices on "that other side" are often louder than the "choir side." This has everyone chuckling, but what a great testament this is to the pastoral and musical leadership of the parish. 

When the new translation comes into force, lots of decisions will need to be made. Adam refers to using chant more regularly as "that trick." Call it what you will, but we need to do everything we can with our parishioners to help music be a catalyst for this time of change. Of course, music cannot do it alone. There are texts that will appear awkward to the proclaimer and to the listener for many years to come. Just take a look at Fr. O'Leary's "grading" of just one of the newly translated prayers over on the "PrayTell" blog, as well as the comments. You can find that here

I am not sure if the chanting of these texts will help them be more intelligible to proclaimer and hearer alike. Time and experience will tell. This surely is an exciting and daunting time for us all, don't you think?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Master, To Whom Shall We Go?

Happy Wednesday to you all.

Sorry not to have posted yesterday; spent the majority of the day in airports and on planes. I got back to Chicago last night, a little before midnight; feeling "jet laggy" today.

So much has been happening in our Church here in the Unites States and abroad this week. The Church in Europe continues to struggle; this morning I read that another Irish bishop's resignation has been accepted by the Vatican; the pope has apologized to the people of Ireland; the Church in the Netherlands is beginning to address what appears to be a large number of sexual abuse complaints. Just this morning I read that the costs associated with the crisis have amounted to 2.2 billion dollars in the United States alone, with a cost of $104, 439, 629 in 2009.

I write a brief reflection on the inside covers of many of WLP's worship resources. At the height of the crisis here in the United States, I remember writing about how painful all of this is for Catholics in the pews. Remember, I am originally from Boston. I struggled as I watched the pain of my family members, some of whom were parishioners in places where priests were removed because of credible allegations. In my own pain, I turned to the scriptures and ended up pondering a section from John's Gospel. This is the section immediately following the "Bread of Life" discourse.

"Then many of his disciples who were listening said, 'This saying is hard; who can accept it?' Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, 'Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.' Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, 'For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.' As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?' Simon Peter answered him, 'Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'"

I know that many people have left the Church because of all of this. There were times when I wanted to leave. But, ultimately, I pondered the Lord's question to the Twelve, and I had to come to grips with their response and make it—and continue to make it—my own: "Master, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life."

Let's continue to pray for our suffering Church; for those who have suffered abuse of any kind; for those who committed the abuse; for those who have decided to leave.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Please Pause in Prayer Today

Good Monday to you all.

I am taking a day of rest here in the California desert, at the home of a good friend, a retired priest from the Archdiocese of Boston. Here are a few photos (I took a few minutes ago) of the area around where I am staying:

Can you see why I would love to stay here for more than one day?

The Los Angeles Religious Education Congress was exhilarating and a wonderful boost of faith for me and—hopefully—for the tens of thousands who were in attendance.

We at World Library Publications received some sad news yesterday. Please keep in your prayers the repose of the soul of Judy Novak, wife of WLP's editor Michael E. Novak, who died yesterday morning after having lived courageously with cancer for several years. Our hearts are breaking at WLP for Mike and his family. This is a difficult time for us as a publishing family as we move through this time of mourning. If you could, please pause at this very second and pray this prayer with me:

Judy, may the angels lead you into paradise; may the choirs of angels come to welcome you, and take you to the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.

It is at times like these, friends, that our Catholic faith is so important. It is at times like these that, more than ever, we gotta sing and we gotta pray.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Over 15,000 Young Catholics Gather in Anaheim

Friday greetings from Southern California.

Yesterday was a day of setting up the WLP booth at the Anaheim Convention Center. It was the first day of the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. The first day is dedicated to the youth. There were over fifteen thousand young people here yesterday for the day-long events and the Masses. Can you just imagine your diocese getting that many young people together? Something is going very right here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the surrounding dioceses.

WLP artist John Angotti led the music for Youth Day in the Convention arena. He was joined by Meredith Augustin and Gary Daigle. John wrote the theme song for Youth Day, I'm Just Sayin'. Here are some photos of the morning rally in the arena.

The arena was completely full:

As was the other area, Hall B, where WLP recording artists and composers, The Jacob and Matthew Band, led the morning rally:

These musicians had these young people on their feet, singing and dancing their praises to God. It was a beautiful sight to see, and such a sign of hope for the Church.

Finally, I wanted to show you what our great marketing team did here yesterday. Here is what our booth space looked like before we began our set-up at 8:00 A.M.:

And here is what it looked like at about 3:30 in the afternoon:

I hope you have a good day. More photos will be forthcoming.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Hoping to Find Helpful Resources here in Anaheim

Morning (very early) greetings from Anaheim, California. Woke up way too early this morning - still on Central Time, I guess. Looking forward to watching the sun rise from my hotel window—no sign of it yet.

This is "New Translation Thursday."

On yesterday's PrayTell blog, Fr. Anthony Ruff asks the same kinds of questions about the timing of the new English translation of the Missale Romanum as have been echoed here. When the clergy sexual abuse scandal began in the last decade here in the United States, I remember mentioning to a few friends that I believed that it was then only the tip of the iceberg. It is sad that this intuition has been played out. I appreciate Fr. Ruff's honest musings and was moved to prayer by the final line of his post: "Let us hold in prayer those parts of the Body of Christ suffering in pain."

In the next few days here in Anaheim, at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, tens of thousands of Catholics will join their voices together in prayer and song. To be here is to experience the great diversity of this Catholic Church. It is a great gift. I think about this same Congress in a few years, when the new translation will have taken root. Perhaps I will be sitting here in a hotel room, still writing these entries, analyzing how these Masses (and masses) have been affected by the new translation . . .

I am looking forward to walking around the exhibit hall, looking for hints as to how other Catholic publishers are dealing with the impending new translation; I'll be looking for ways that these publishers are helping Catholics through catechetical resources. I'll be sure to keep you posted. I'll have my phone/camera with me, so I hope to share some of this experience with you. Meanwhile, you can follow the Congress as it unfolds through their new live streaming feature:

Have a good Thursday.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Feeling Proud Today

Happy Wednesday to you all.

I am writing this entry, which I will post a little later, high above the United States, somewhere around 36,000 feet. I’m on my way to the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California. I think that every Catholic in the United States and Canada should try to attend this conference at least once in his or her Catholic lifetime. To be with tens of thousands of Catholics who share their love for Jesus Christ, as well as their interest in all things catechetical and liturgical is a real treasure.

Yesterday at World Library Publications where I am privileged to serve as the associate publisher, we had a modest kick-off luncheon for our staff, to celebrate all that we have done to prepare for Congress. As a publisher, we sponsor many of our musicians, artists, authors, and composers at the Congress. This is a special year for us, since we are sponsoring many musical events. For those of us who “work the floor,” staffing our WLP booth at the Congress, the next four days will be, in a word, grueling, but also very exciting. We know deep in our hearts that the resources we have for people to use in their parishes and in their own spiritual growth are among the very best. 

I told my teams yesterday about what it is like for me when I get on my hands and knees and begin opening shipping bin after shipping bin at the Congress. These bins contain our resources. We spend hours setting up our booth. As I look at the resources I am taking out of the bins, I begin to think of the staff at World Library Publications. I think of the people who establish strong relationships with our authors, composers, and artists. I think of the editors who work so hard to make sure that everything about the inside of the resources is as close to perfect as humanly possible. I think of those who listen to every note of a recording and work as hard as humanly possible to help shape recordings so that they touch the human heart and spirit. I think of the artists and designers who sit for hours in front of computer screens in a semi-lit art and production area, working on the design and typesetting of thousands of images, hundreds of thousands of words, and what always appear to me to be millions of notes on staves year after year. I think of the people in our marketing department—all of whom will be on their hands and knees with me in Anaheim—who look at our resources and get inside them, turning on their creative minds to find ways to help those we serve realize how valuable these resources are for prayer, music, initiation, and ministry. I think about the person who ensures that rights and permissions are secure so that our artists and composers are fairly compensated, as well as those whose work we cite in our own publications. And there is a special place in my heart for the women who make up our Customer Care department, who spend so much time making sure that our customers are served better than any other customer who deals with any other company in the world.

Tomorrow morning, when I begin to unload cases of books, CDs, music resources, art books, and all that we have to offer, I will know that these resources represent the work of so many people whom I am privileged to serve and lead in Franklin Park, Illinois.

Folks, thanks for reading this today. I know this doesn’t have much to do with liturgy, music, new translations, or Christian initiation, but it has everything to do with what gives me the energy and passion to get up every day and look forward to working with a most talented group of people, providing the singing and praying Church with the very best.

We’ve got very busy days from now until late Sunday afternoon. I’ll try my best to blog, especially tomorrow.

Here's a photo I took after arriving here. These are our terrific marketing department members. 

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Music as a "Make-or-Break" Determining Factor

Today has dawned bright and sunny here in Chicago. I am feeling for my family and friends on the East Coast with all the wind and rain they have been experiencing. I hope that wherever you are, your day is a good one.

Welcome to this installation of "New Translation Tuesday." And thanks to all of you who have shared comments. If you haven't had the chance to read through the comments from last Thursday's post: "New Translation Thursday: Is the Soil Ready for Planting? Sadly No" please take the time to do so. You will find a good cross-section of opinions there.

Since the First Sunday of Advent of last year, my pastor has been beginning every Mass by chanting the sign of the cross and the greeting. At first, it was accompanied, usually in the same key as the opening song. Frankly, as the parish musician in the past several weeks, I have forgotten about accompanying the pastor on these two "pieces." I usually just stand up at the bench after the opening song. I notice a little hesitation, and I know the pastor is probably looking over at me to see if I am going to "feed him" the opening chord. It's kind of embarrassing that it just slips my mind. So, he simply begins the chant a cappella and, folks, it is just lovely unaccompanied. Our parish is now in a great pattern with this moment of the Mass. For those musicians out there, he sings the words "In the name of the Father" on the tonic, "and of the Son" on the supertonic, "and of the Ho-" on the mediant, "-ly" on the subdominant, "spi-" on the mediant and the supertonic in succession, and the "-rit" on the dominant. The congregation responds "Amen" on the dominant. Then "The Lord" is sung on the mediant, "be" on the subdominant, "with" on the mediant and the supertonic in succession, and "you" on the tonic. The congregation's responds with "And al-" on the mediant, "-so" on the the subdominant, "with" on the mediant and the supertonic in succession, and "you" on the dominant. This "echo" of the melodic structure is quite natural and flows quite nicely. Here's my catscratch of this dialogue:

Notice that I have also included the new translation "And with your spirit." The new text flows just as nicely. I wondered at Mass on Sunday about the implementation of the new translation. If our parish decides to continue this laudable practice of singing this dialogue, would it be wiser to ask the people to change the words to their already familiar chant line or should we go back to square one and sing another chant setting. What is wonderful about our current practice is the fact that "with you" is sung by both celebrant and congregation on the same set of notes. Changing to the new translation will obviously mean changing those words of the congregation to "spi-rit." I must admit that it flows just as well. My hope for our parish (as for all English-speaking parishes throughout the world) is that the new ICEL chants for the dialogues will become party of our "Catholic DNA." You can find a helpful introduction about these chants on ICEL's web site here. I hope my friends at ICEL do not mind if I show you the ICEL chant for the dialogue right here (I just took this snapshot on my monitor from the ICEL web site I just mentioned).

This chant line is, in a word, natural. I am looking forward to singing it. As I have said before, good chant and good musical settings of the Mass are going to be the "make-or-break" determining factors for the implementation.

What do you think?

I am headed to California tomorrow for the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. Not sure about my commitment to blogging every day; I hope I can keep in touch. Please say a little prayer for the WLP staff and me, for our safety as we travel.

Thanks for listening and putting up with my less-than-savvy technology today.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, March 15, 2010

It Was Amazing Grace

Good Monday to you all.

It was such a pleasure to play at the two Sunday Masses at my parish—St. James—yesterday. The "closing hymn" was Amazing Grace. It was terrific to see every person in the place remain in their spots singing every word of every verse. We began in F major, then I modulated up to G major for the final verse. Sister Barbara of our parish staff came up to me after Mass and said that the singing "gave me goosebumps." I then asked her to hang around for a little while so that she could hear the choir sing a piece that we will be singing for Palm Sunday and Good Friday, Patrick Bradley's Only Love. Click here to find the piece on WLP's web site, then click the "Listen" button. The lyrics to the refrain are quite powerful: "Only love held him there on the cross; he could have called ten thousand angels to come to his rescue; only love held him there on the cross."

On Wednesday I'll be flying out to California for the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. They are doing some live streaming this year, so if you have some time on Friday and Saturday, be sure to visit their streaming site:

I hope your Fourth Week of Lent is a good one as you draw closer to the renewal of your baptismal promises at Easter.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Let's Watch Our Language

It's a warm and sunny Friday morning here in Chicago. I hope that wherever you are, your day has dawned as brightly and as warmly as this day has dawned here.

Thanks to all of you who have posted comments over the last few days. You know, being a regular blogger is sometimes difficult. I want to be able to share my own perspectives with those who visit these pages and sometimes, like yesterday, I can sound "down on the Church" or a "seer of doom." These are difficult times for the Roman Catholic Church. One of the commentators in the last few days expressed the hope that our newly translated texts would address the growing problems in the Church, using these words:

Gotta disagree about the timing, Jerry. I fervently believe that, with all the troubles in the Catholic world, we desperately need these stronger, more uplifting prayers. Who knows if things two or three or five years from now might not be even worse! What better way to jar some folks out of their complacency than to force them to learn better prayers at Mass.

I need to be honest here and ask those who espouse this commentator's views if you think it is helpful to use the kind of language used here: "force them to learn better prayers at Mass." Seems to me that this kind of language and the approach that undergirds the language is quite similar to what has occurred in the past (and in the present, as well). I don't mean to sound like a broken record here, but take the ever-unfolding clergy sexual abuse crisis as an example. The employment of language that includes a phrase like "force them" is consistent with the language of abuse. Let's be cautious with our words. Let me also say that I share this commentator's sentiment about the power of "stronger, more uplifting prayers." It remains my hope that the liturgy's prayers continue to change the hearts and minds of believers; I just hope that the people in the pews find the new translation to be stronger and more uplifting.

Time will tell.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and that your celebration of the Fourth Sunday of Lent brings you closer to the Lord.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Is the Soil Ready for Planting? Sadly, No.

It's "New Translation Thursday" once again. Thanks for all your spirited comments on Tuesday's blog posting.

Yesterday I had the privilege of driving Father Paul Turner to the airport here in Chicago. He had been giving some talks here in the Chicago area and had stopped by our offices here at WLP. He and I began a brief conversation about the state of catechesis with regard to the upcoming new English translation of the Missale Romanum. I told him about some of my recent experiences with this issue, as I have recounted on the pages of Gotta Sing Gotta Pray. I told him about something I heard just yesterday. The sister-in-law of one of my colleagues here at WLP is a choir member in a suburban Chicago parish. When my colleague asked her about how the parish is preparing for the new translation, the choir member said, "What are you talking about? What new translation?" When my colleague explained the situation, the choir member said, "Give me an example." My colleague said, "Well, instead of the Gloria beginning with the words 'Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth,' the new words will be 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.'" To which the choir member responded, "I'll never be able to sing those words." 

I am sure this choir member will, indeed, prove able to sing these words. The real issue here has to do with the level of awareness about these newly translated texts. When I shared this story, Father Turner wondered, since we have had the texts for at least the Order of Mass for a year and a half, why hasn't there been more widespread catechesis? Paul has been very, very closely involved with the entire translation process through his affiliation with ICEL. 

This got me to wondering. People like Paul Turner and me—people like you—are keenly aware of what has been going on with all of this. Let's admit that this has been for many of us a rather consuming issue for the past several years for a variety of reasons. But what about Jacob and Shirley McGillicuddy, who sit in the ninth row on the left hand side of the main aisle at Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted church? They don't read these kinds of blogs. They don't read their diocesan newspaper. They don't spend time on the internet searching for keywords like "new English translation of the Missal," or "Missale Romanum,", or Liturgiam Authenticam." Some would respond that "their pastor should get on this issue as soon as possible!" Well, what if their pastor is a roving sacramental minister, responsible for six parishes in an area the size of Delaware? What if their pastor simply doesn't want to "deal with all of this?" What if their pastor is so stretched in his ministry that he has honestly said to himself, "Oh, I'll deal with all of this when and if it actually happens."

I believe that this is the reality in many places in the United States, at the very least. And I would venture to say that this is the reality in other English-speaking countries as well. The sad thing is that, for Jacob and Shirley McGillicuddy, the awareness of all of this will most probably be filtered through the media here in the United States. Can you just imagine some of the headlines now? "New Mass divides Catholic Church members." "Tonight at 11:00 Anderson Cooper reports on a new development in the Catholic Church that has parishioners reeling; this is the most troubling issue since the clergy sexual abuse crisis." "Bishop of the diocese invites Catholics to embrace the new words at Catholic services with gratitude and humility; film at 11:00." "Catholics enraged over latest changes in the Church." "Local parish celebrates new Mass with strength and conviction." 

The catechesis on the new English translation of the Missale Romanum cannot be left to the media in this country which, by and large, is just waiting for the next opportunity to take jabs at the Catholic Church, given the media attention that the clergy sexual abuse crisis has generated. 

I want you to know that this is the fundamental reason why I believe that the release of the new translation is ill-timed, and not just here in the United States. Think about the Irish Catholic Church right now, suffering deep, deep pains over the abuse scandal. Church attendance in the Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts, is said to be somewhere between 18 and 20%. Don't get me wrong. I want us to have texts that clearly and beautifully express our faith. I just don't think that the soil is ready for the planting of this new translation. Yes, there will be places—many, I hope—where the soil will be well prepared for planting. But, in some places, rocks still need to be removed. In others, the weeds have grown too thick. In some places, the soil is so hardened that it is barely penetrable. In other places, the soil has no nutrients. It is painful for me—and some might say unhelpful— as a faith-filled and committed Catholic to say these things, but I truly believe that now is simply not the time. I am not an advocate of the reasons behind the "what-if-we-just-said-wait" movement. However, I am an advocate of a delay given the reasons I have cited above. Some of you will say that there will never be a "right time." My retort: "Is now the 'rightest' of times?"

Will I be proven wrong? I hope so, because, gang, it's coming, and God is God and I am not, thank God. We just need to to everything we can right now to catechize, catechize, catechize. Let the Church do the catechesis, not the likes of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and the Boston Globe.

Thanks for listening. As always, comments welcome.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Los Angeles Religious Education Congress: Heading West in One Week

I hope your Wednesday has begun on a good note. It is supposed to be sixty degrees here in Chicago today. It is rainy and overcast, but the temperature is wonderful.

One week from today, several members of the team here at WLP, as well as many of our artists and authors will be heading west for the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, one of the largest annual gathering of Catholics in the world. I have had the privilege of speaking at Congress in the past and, after a few years off, I will be speaking there once again. I am offering two workshops, one on the "learning-by-doing" approach to the RCIA, and the other on preparing and celebrating the three Lenten scrutinies. On Friday evening, March 19, in the large arena, WLP's very own artist and composer, John Angotti, will be presenting a concert. John will be joined by Clifford Petty and Meredith Augustin, as well as other Catholic performers. I am greatly looking forward to the entire experience. Check out the Congress web site here. Be sure to play the welcome video. Here's a dates photo of the Congress participants in the arena at the Anaheim Convention Center, the site of the gathering:

These are busy days here at WLP, preparing for Congress and preparing for the release of the recognitio for the new translation of the Missale Romanum. On tomorrow's "New Translation Thursday" post, I will share some recent stories that exhibit a wide range of the "state of the question" with regard to the new English translation. Stay tuned.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Budget Preparations: Facing the Realities

Welcome to this edition of "New Translation Tuesday."

I'd like to share bits of a long conversation I had yesterday with one of WLP's loyal customers. This customer, a woman who serves as music director for several parishes, called to ask me about the new translation of the Missale Romanum. She told me that she has "fallen in love with" Steven Janco's Mass of Redemption. She said that it is a setting that "works" in the parishes she serves. Where there is a full choir, the choir is able to sing the full SAB (Soprano-Alto-Baritone) version. In parishes with smaller resources, she has taught the SA (Soprano-Alto) version. In her smallest parish with the least number of music forces, the people in the pews have made the melodies of the various parts of the Mass their own.

She was calling to ask me what our plans were with respect to this Mass setting when the new translation is implemented. After having invested in the choir editions for the various parishes, she was wondering how she would deal with the new translation, particularly with respect to the parishes' various budgets. She asked me specifically about what we were doing with the Mass setting. I told her that we have asked the composer, Steven Janco, to rework the Mass of Redemption to reflect the changes in the translation. I sang the first line of the new setting of the Sanctus for her over the phone. She said, "Oh, that's an easy and very workable fix. Could I just use some Wite-out® and make the corrections in the choir editions?" I told her that she certainly could do this for the Sanctus, but many of the other parts of the Mass setting would be problematic. For instance, the Gloria has been completely re-written. The three memorial acclamations have needed to be fully revised. She asked if we could publish the changed parts in a separate edition. I talked with her further about this, asking her if it were the wisest thing to have the choirs moving from one edition to the other as they sang at Mass. I wondered aloud whether or not this would result in a confusing mess for her choir members.

This was a good conversation with a dedicated musician who is sensitive to the budgeting needs of the parishes she serves. I said that there were folks out there who are falsely interpreting this whole new translation issue as an opportunity for publishers to line their pockets. She said that this was certainly not her impression She was looking for ways perhaps to save some money along the way, but admitted that her solutions might indeed cause more confusion than assistance. I urged her to speak with the individual pastors and talk with them honestly about her needs once the new translation is implemented.

I bring this up because the financial issues raised by the implementation of the new translation need to be faced and I think the earlier the better. Parishes are going to need to purchase a new Roman Missal and, given the size and scope of the Latin edition, this will not be an inexpensive proposition. The Sacramentaries in most parishes right now are badly in need of repair or replacement. It stands to reason that the majority of parishes are waiting for the new translation and will need to purchase the newly translated Roman Missal. This is the first and most important purchase. Leading up to the implementation, parishes would be wise to invest in some simple catechetical resources as I have outlined in this blog before, i.e. WLP's Eucharistic Prayers I, II, III, IV as recorded by Bishop Sartain of the Diocese of Joliet, the various pamphlets on the new translation published by Liturgy Training Publications, among others. Also, the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship, in conjunction with the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, has 22 workshops for priests and diocesan personnel planned throughout the United States in the coming months. The registration fee for this workshop is $125.00, plus any travel and lodging expenses associated with these workshops. Publishers will undoubtedly be releasing other resources, scholarly and pastoral, to help everyone through the transition and beyond.

And we have not yet even begun to talk about music resources. As a former director of liturgy and music, and as someone who is involved in the liturgy preparation at my own parish, my gut feeling (and my hope) is that musicians will first take a look at the English chants that have been prepared by ICEL and make the decision to use that chant setting within the first year of implementation. If I were a music director, I would look long and hard at the settings currently being sung in the parish, examine the "re-working" of these settings and make a decision as to whether or not they should be jettisoned from the parish repertoire. Then, I would find the one setting that I feel "fits" the parish and its musical forces and purchase the editions needed to make it all happen.

Folks, the transition into a new translation will obviously not be one that comes about at no cost. I think we need to be prudent and careful as we approach "that day."

It amazes me, as a publisher, that, to this very day, parishes are continuing to purchase musical settings of the current Mass texts. There will undoubtedly be many, many settings from which to choose when the recognitio is received. And composers will continue to keep their ears to the ground and will produce marvelous musical settings of the newly translated texts for years and decades to come.

Once again, I want you all to know that we at World Library Publications will provide the very best resources to assist parishes in the transition. I say this because of the pride I have in the fine work of the many composers who have worked so hard with these new texts. I am also proud of the work of my colleagues here at WLP, all of whom have solid pastoral music experience. Our work has been constantly filtered through our "in-the-trenches" mentality.

Thanks for listening today. Please feel free to comment, as this is a somewhat thorny issue.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Grateful for Composers: Francis Patrick O'Brien and Paul Tate

Happy Monday of the Third Week of Lent to you all.

I spent Friday evening and Saturday in Orlando. On Saturday, about 80 RCIA ministers gathered at Nativity Parish in Longwood, Florida, for a morning workshop focused on RCIA Paragraph 75.2, 3, 4. We focused on the Second Vatican Council's vision for the catechumenate as a period of apprenticeship. I hope that my words helped those in attendance in their efforts to bring the RCIA more closely in line with the Church's vision that the catechumenate is "not a mere expounding of doctrines and precepts." Here are a few photos I took at the workshop.

I was able to catch an earlier flight back to Chicago and was actually in my home before sunset—praise God!

Yesterday, I played for the two Sunday Masses at Saint James, my parish. I want to mention two wonderful pieces of music that we sang. The first was composed by my good friend Fr. Fran O'Brien. Fran and I lived across the hall from one another at St. John's Seminary in Boston, pictured here:

And here's a photo of the chapel at St. John's, where Fran and I worked together as music ministers:

At any rate, Fran's fine piece, The Cross of Jesus, was embraced by choir and assembly alike. You can find this great piece on GIA's web site by clicking here. We also sang one of my favorite pieces that Paul Tate has written. Take and Eat This Bread  has become a staple at St. James. I love the verses of this song. Each verse begins with the words "Come before the table; come with all your heart." The singing of this piece lifted my own heart. 

I am grateful today to these two fine composers; grateful for their willingness to share their gifts with the Church; and grateful for their friendship.

I hope that this is a good week for you.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Preparing the Triduum: Fighting the "Disney Approach"

I hope your Friday of the Second Week of Lent has begun in good fashion.

Thanks to all of you who responded to yesterday's very long post.

I am headed to Orlando in a few hours to present a workshop on the RCIA tomorrow.

The National Association of Pastoral Musicians has undertaken a recording project. They are recording the ICEL chants in the newly translated Missale Romanum. Check out the Pray Tell blog here to find more information. We at WLP were privileged to be able to support this project financially. The more we can all do together to use music as a vehicle to help people sing and pray the newly translated texts the better.

Last night I led choir rehearsal at my parish, St. James. I arrived with a bit of anxiety, wondering how we would be able to prepare all the music for the balance of Lent and the Triduum. These fine choir members rose to the challenge and I left the rehearsal with a very good sense that all will be well.

This brings me to a principle about the Triduum that I have always espoused. When I was in Orlando, the liturgy commissions I worked with had developed what I used to call a "Disney approach to liturgy preparation."

You see, Disneyworld needs to change their big events (light shows, parades, etc.) on a regular basis so that they can attract people who don't want to see the same thing year after year. Many people wanted to approach the Triduum in the same way, i.e. "What can we do bigger and better this year?" It took some time, but we finally came to the conclusion that preparing the Triduum meant relying on time-tested ways of planning the music and ritual movements so that the Triduum changed very little from year to year. This is a thoroughly Catholic approach, I believe. It bore fruit last night. My own parish has had various approaches to the transfer of the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday's Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper. I always felt kind of jolted when "something new" was introduced year after year. Last night, we rehearsed the Pange Lingua/Praise We Christ's Immortal Body, which will be the only piece we sing when the procession to the place of repose takes place. It brought me back to my childhood, celebrating this procession at St. Charles Church in Woburn, Massachusetts. It brought me back to the seven Triduums I celebrated as a seminarian at St. John's Seminary in Boston. It brought me back to the parishes I have served over the years as director of liturgy and music. That chant, accompanying that ritual moment, is something that has become a part of my "Catholic DNA." I am greatly looking forward to this at St. James this year. As the choir sang the chant last night, I was transported to places and to communities I had known and loved over the years. That's really what is so wonderful about being Catholic and celebrating the Church's liturgy well.

I am sure you have those "Catholic DNA" moments as well. Please feel free to share those by clicking the "comments" tab below.

I hope that your weekend celebration of the Third Sunday of Lent brings you closer to your own communities and to the Lord.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Translation Thursday: My Experience with Those in the Pews

Welcome to this edition of "New Translation Thursday." I want to begin by letting you know that this post will be much longer than most. I hope you will bear with me.

On Tuesday night of this week, I was invited to present an evening of reflection at St. Mary Parish in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, about the upcoming new English translation of the Missale Romanum. There was a nice crowd in attendance, probably between 250 and 300. I would say that the majority of people who came were over 50 years of age.

I decided not to begin the evening by diving right into the discussion about the new translation. Instead, I laid the groundwork for an exploration of the meaning of the Mass. My aim was to bring the folks to a deeper appreciation that when we celebrate the eucharist, we "proclaim the death of the Lord." At Mass, I shared, we are drawn into the celebration of the paschal mystery and that, at every Mass, God works a miracle of transformation in the hearts of all believers. Using stories about the illness and death of my sister nine years ago and the more recent diagnosis of cancer for another one of my sisters, I shared with the people at St. Mary how these profound moments in my life were able to be transformed and put into a faith perspective through God's grace, coupled with my own engagement at Sunday Mass. My conclusion was this: even though the texts of the Mass will change, the Mass will not change. Whatever language or translation we use, the fact is that bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, and we become transformed once again into Christ's body for the life of the world.

Once I laid this foundation, I moved into a simple walkthrough of how we have arrived at this point. Here are the points I covered:

1. There was one set of rules (principles of "dynamic equivalence") that were in place when the Missale Romanum was translated following the Second Vatican Council. What we eventually received as English-speakers (after provisional translations) is what we have been praying now for forty or so years. I explained the principles of "dynamic equivalence" and felt that those in attendance were right there with me.

2. I then spoke about the third typical edition of the Missale Romanum promulgated by Pope John Paul II in the Jubilee year of 2000, an edition that added more texts (saints days, various needs, etc.). I told them that, with this new missal, the task of translating it into the various languages needed to take place.

3. I then described that the rules of translation changed in 2001, with the Vatican's publication of Liturgiam Authenticam.  I quoted the document, citing paragraph 20:
"While it is permissible to arrange the wording, the syntax and the style in such a way as to prepare a flowing vernacular text suitable to the rhythm of popular prayer, the original text insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses."
I explained that the new rules were intended to bring the English translation, which many felt had been too rushed, into more consonance with the the Latin text. The result, I told them, was that the work of ICEL (International Commission on the Liturgy) needed to be closely guided by the new principles of "formal equivalence."

4. We then prayed the new translation of the Gloria together. I simply used the new translation of the first line of the Gloria (Gloria in excelis deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis), showing them how the new translation (Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will) is much closer to the original latin than our current translation (Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth). I thought this would illustrate in rather simple and straightforward fashion how newly applied rules changed the way the text was translated.

5. We then sang through some settings of the newly-translated Gloria, the Sanctus, and one of the Memorial Acclamations. People joined in wholeheartedly. (You need to know that all copies of these texts were collected and destroyed at the end of the session.)

Then I asked for questions, reactions, comments, and concerns. Here is what happened. Please understand that these are not exact quotes, but my best recollections.

The first person to speak said something like this, "Well, Jerry, I came tonight with all kinds of anxieties and concerns about this issue. But I think that if our pastors explained all of this to everyone in parishes just like you just did, so much anxiety and fear will be alleviated. Thank you for this simple explanation."

Well, dear readers, I was feeling great!

Then a man in the choir said something like this: "When I was younger and the Mass was in Latin, I did lots of traveling throughout the world, and I had my missal with me, with the English on one side and the Latin on the other. Wherever I went in the world, when the Mass was celebrated in Latin, I was able to follow along in English. So, I think it would be best if maybe we returned to the Latin."

I commented that it has been strongly suggested (in several recent documents) that all Catholics should be able to pray the Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, Lord's Prayers, and Lamb of God in Latin, so that at international gatherings of people who speak many different languages, there could be a common liturgical language that would draw all into the celebration.

I looked out and asked if there were any more questions. An elderly man raised his hand and stood up and simply said, "Why is all of this happening?" I calmly explained that the first forty-five minutes of the presentation had already really answered that question; I then did a brief recap of what I had said earlier. He remained standing, raised his hand again and said, "Why is all of this happening?"

There was, to be sure, some tension growing in the church.

Then a woman raised her hand. In her other hand she held a stack of papers. She said that she had downloaded the newly translated texts and had them in her hand. She said that she just didn't understand why this was all happening. She commented that, as an intelligent woman, when she read through these texts she wondered why certain words were included, words that she did not even know the meaning of, words like "ineffable." She then mentioned the web site "what is we just said wait." She said that she thought that with the new translation, people would leave the church. Her husband, who was seated next to her said something like this: "I have always worked under the adage, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' I don't understand why these changes are needed."

I explained that I felt that the real question, the root of all these questions did not necessarily have that much to do with "Why the changes in texts?" The core question really is "Why did the translation rules change?" And to be honest, I believe that this is the question. I explained again that we had to look to the pontificate of John Paul II and try to put it all in context. The pope and others were keenly concerned with so-called "liturgical abuses" that they perceived were occurring all over the world; things like priests adding their own words to the Mass texts; priests using experimental prayers; priests experimenting with "inclusive language"; liturgy committees adding all kinds of strange things to the celebration of liturgy; a feeling that the sacred was being eroded because of these so-called "abuses." The Pope's reaction was to tighten liturgical control in a number of areas. I did not go into detail, but explained that Liturgiam Authenticam was the Vatican's definitive statement, set into context, that changed the rules of translation, so that the vernacular languages would be in much tighter and closer conformity to the original latin. This was consistent with the overall tightening of liturgical control; the issuance of liturgical directives that would directly address the so-called "abuses" during the pontificate of John Paul II. (As I was speaking, I was aware that a one-night session at a parish mission could not adequately address every issue. I feared that I was leaving the people with more confusion than clarity.)

A young woman, who I believe was the parish's youth minister, stood up and said that we really need to see this whole thing as the will of the Lord, and that if we accept the will of God, God will act in all of this.

The pastor then asked me to comment on the ICEL chants. I told everyone that a group of chant scholars had created chants that the entire English-speaking world could use to sing the Mass. I said that I thought it was a great idea, since the entire English-speaking Catholic world would have at least one common setting of the sung Mass in English. The man in the choir said that we should be singing these in Latin. Someone near the front said, "We are not chanters; we are Americans!" In response, I immediately intoned the commonly used chant setting of the Lord's Prayer and everyone sang it. When we finished, the person said, "Well, maybe we Americans can chant one."

A priest in residence at the parish (who has traveled quite extensively internationally) voiced his own concerns about the image of God embedded and expressed in the newly translated texts. He said that he was very concerned about what he perceived as a "turning back" with the new texts.

Dear readers of gotta sing gotta pray, all I can say is that I found the evening to be fascinating and exhilarating. I told the people that I thought that when the new texts are promulgated for use, there will be a percentage of people who will be angry. Some will reject the new texts and, sadly, some may even be driven away. I said that there would also be a percentage of people who will accept the texts gladly, with little concern. I then said that I thought that the vast majority of Catholics would be jolted by the new texts. And that jolt would provide an opportunity for exactly what we were doing that evening. I told them that I hoped that this jolt would provide the opportunity not to wallow around in anger, but to ask questions about the translation and, ultimately ask questions about the meaning of the Mass; ask questions about what God is doing as we celebrate the liturgy.

Readers, I told them that, at fifty-one years of age, after having lived through the death of one of my siblings; now living through the cancer diagnosis of another sibling; living through the trials that have been placed upon the path of my own life, I have had to ask myself where I stand in all of this. And frankly, I choose not to wallow in the anger. I told them that I am a Roman Catholic first and foremost, and an American Catholic secondarily. I can't spend the balance of my life as a bitter angry Catholic.

Does this sound like someone walking through life with rose-colored glasses firmly affixed to the head? Perhaps. But I know there is one thing I will not stop doing. I will not stop questioning. I will not stop urging others to question. I will not stop being a catalyst for honest dialogue. I will not stop believing that the Lord Jesus continues the work of redemption each and every time the Mass is celebrated. This is what keeps me alive as a Roman Catholic.

If the Church, through Cardinal Arinze and others in the past, could urge Catholics to report so-called "liturgical abuses" to their pastors, their bishops, and also to Vatican officials, we must also be able to report to these same ecclesial officials our own concerns as we begin to celebrate the Mass in a new translation. My understanding is that the foundational cause of the call to report the "abuses" was the belief that these so-called "abuses" were eroding the faith lives of Catholics. We must be bold enough to apply that same foundational cause to the experience of praying in the new translation. If my faith life is eroded, I have the right and responsibility as a baptized Catholic to not sit back, fold my hands, and accept it all as the will of God. God gave me a heart and a brain. I will use both.

Thanks so much for listening today. I think my experience at St. Mary parish is indicative of what is to come. Your feedback is most welcome. Simply hit the "comments" button below. Some people have had trouble getting their comments published on this blog. I am also open to hearing from you directly. I can always publish your comments myself on the blog. Feel free to email me at

As always, and especially now, gotta sing, gotta pray.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New Series at NCR and Orlando Soon

Wednesday has dawned cold and bright here in Chicago. They are saying we might reach the high forties some time this weekend. Bring on Spring!

I gave a presentation last night at St. Mary parish in Buffalo Grove, here in Illinois. The focus was on the new English translation of the Missale Romanum. I am going to wait until tomorrow's installment of "New Translation Thursday" to offer some extensive comments. Suffice it to say that the response was largely what I suspected. And I do think we are in for a rocky road.

I want to alert this blog's readers to a series of articles being published each day this week by the National Catholic Reporter. You can find today's article by John Allen, Jr. by clicking here.

I am flying to Orlando on Friday to give a workshop on Saturday to RCIA practitioners in the diocese. The focus is on RCIA paragraph 75, numbers 2, 3, and 4. You RCIA "geeks" who read this blog know exactly what that means. For others, find a copy of the text, and read this important paragraph that has as much to do with Christian formation and catechesis in general as it does with Christian initiation specifically. The workshop will take place at Nativity Parish in Longwood, Florida. When I lived in the Orlando area, Nativity parish had just built a new church. It seems the parish has really grown quite substantially since I left in the early 1990's. Here's a photo I found of the church's exterior:

And, here's an up-to-the-minute view outside my office window here in Illinois:

Hmm . . . comparing the two photos, sometimes I wonder why I chose Chicago over Orlando!

I hope you have a great day. Be sure to stop by tomorrow for the new translation post.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.