Friday, May 28, 2010

Gotta Score! Gotta Win!

Happy Friday to one and all. Thanks for your comments yesterday.

Let's make this a light day on this blog.

Many of you know what a great fan of hockey I am. In this town (Chicago), we are spelling the name of the sport just a bit differently: Hawkey—after our beloved Chicago Blackhawks, of course. The Stanley Cup championship begins tomorrow night here in Chicago.

Our Human Resources Department here at World Library Publications / J. S. Paluch sent a memo to all employees here yesterday, declaring today a day to support our Blackhawks. We were encouraged to show our team spirit.

Here's  a photo taken a few minutes ago of yours truly and a colleague here at the office:

I hope your Memorial Day weekend is restful and full of fun for you and those you love.

Go Blackhawks. Gotta score. Gotta win.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Translation Thursday: "Nearer My God To Thee"

Hello everyone. Welcome to this edition of "New Translation Thursday."

Recently I have been thinking about how the official prayer of the Church shapes our belief. I had a conversation about this issue yesterday with one of my insightful colleagues here at WLP.

The other night, during a fitful night of sleep, I wondered about this issue and began to think about how my own conception of God (Father, Son, and Spirit) has been shaped over the last forty-five (or so) years of having been a practicing Roman Catholic.

From most everything that I have seen, heard, and read, words like "elevated," "sacral," "loftier," and "nobler" have been used to describe the new translation. When prayed year after year, say, over the next five years, will my own conception of God experience a shift?

The question that kept coming to me as I tossed and turned that night was this: "Have you made my God more distant with your new translation—have these new words stressed the transcendence of God to the diminishment of the immanent?" In other words, as I am shaped by a re-shaped lex orandi, will my own belief, my own lex credendi be reshaped in such a way that I feel more of a distance from my God, who became flesh in Christ, and sent the Spirit as a companion on my life's faith journey?

Related questions arise. I think, for instance, of the son of one of my colleagues here at WLP— "Johann," I'll call him. "Johann's" dad is a talented music editor here at WLP and "Johann" shows much promise (at a very early age) of innate musical abilities. Say, for example, that this young man remains an active Catholic for the next twenty years and grows in his musical abilities. Eventually "Johann" chooses sacred music as a career path. He earns a masters in composition from a great music school, also earning a degree in theology, with a concentration in liturgical studies. "Johann" becomes a composer. How will Johann's week-to-week praying and listening to the official prayers of the Church—between now and twenty or so years from now—shape his creation of lyric, melody, and harmony? Will he paint images of God that will reflect a God far-removed?

This leads me to yet another question. Much Roman Catholic liturgical music (that does not "set" the Church's official texts) paint images of God for us. I remember sitting at a roundtable discussion a few years ago. When the musicians at the table were asked what piece of music they deemed "most beautiful," I was struck by two of the answers. One musician said that when he hears the Kyrie from Schubert's Mass in G, the music "transports him to heaven." Another musician said that as soon as he hears the introduction to David Haas' You Are Mine, he knows of God's immediate presence, knowing that the words "Do not be afraid, I am with you . . . I love you and you are mine" will soon be sung.

My question revolves around what may grow into a disconnect during our liturgies. Will there come a time when singing texts about the nearness of our God seem so out of step with the Church's official texts, that they will be abandoned?

I know there are some who would say that this is all easily fixed: sing the official entrance song, sing the official communion song, sing a motet at the preparation rite, have the organist play an instrumental recessional. In other words, bring no other texts into the liturgy other than the official texts found in the Missal.

There are others out there who would advocate for a continued support of composing and singing texts that paint a variety of images of God (Father, Son, and Spirit). These folks would argue that the lex credendi  of the Church must be shaped not only by the official texts, but also by the gifts of ingenuity, creativity, and inherent richness in musical art.

I think these are important, not easily answerable questions. Of course, time will tell. Does the ultimate question in all of this come down to whether or not these newly translated texts will mean a strengthening of our relationship with the living God? The liturgy is God's work; hopefully we have not crafted a translation that filters that work in such a way that God (Father, Son, and Spirit) is made less accessible.

I know my thoughts here are not as fully developed as I would like but, like most of you, this is all very new ground to me. Being a mystagog, I can't help but focus on the experiential pole; and that's tough right now, because none of us has an experience upon which to reflect just yet.

Thanks for listening today. I am keenly interested in your reactions to all of this. Please feel free to join the conversation with your own thoughts.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Facebook "PrayerBook"

Hello everybody.

There has been lots in the news lately about Facebook. I want to share something about Facebook with you.

This has been a difficult week for my family and me. My Dad has been in intensive care all week, suffering with pneumonia. The prognosis is hopeful, but the doctors have described the road of recovery that he faces as "very long."

When I heard the news about my Dad on Sunday, I mentioned it on Facebook. This was my request: "Pray that the Holy Spirit will send healing to my hero and solace to my mom." Within minutes, my Facebook "inbox" became flooded with an outpouring of concern. Here are a few of the many prayers I received:

oh Jerry. I am so sorry to hear!!! please know that he, as well as the rest of your family are in my thoughts and prayers. blessings.. xo

Sending lots of healing thoughts in your Dad's direction, Jerry. Today would have been my Dad's 84th birthday. I'll never forget what a nice send-off you helped us give to him 20 years ago.

Sending abundant blessings to him and to you as we speak...

Prayers from Texas!

PRAYERS for your father Henri.. we will keep him in our prayers as we sing Angotti's Veni Creator...

Prayers ascending, Jerry

My mom has extras. We're sending them his way.

prayers from Pittsburgh

Praying from 'down under'.

Please send them both my love. I'll keep them in my prayers as I know you are keeping my Dad and Mom in yours. sending love xoxoxo

These prayers poured in from all over the world. Say what you want about Facebook, but I found this to be so helpful. When I spoke with my Mom last night, she said simply, "Jerry, your Father and I can actually feel the power of all the prayers." I was filled with gratitude for my Facebook friends and for the gift of this viral prayer line. Perhaps we can re-name Facebook "PrayerBook" in these instances.

I hope that wherever you are, you are experiencing an outpouring of God's love in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Come, Holy Spirit!

Welcome to this post-Pentecost edition of "New Translation Tuesday."

I have heard that there are parishes somewhere in the world that have an interesting custom on Pentecost Sunday. As people leave the parish church, someone begins dropping red rose petals on the heads of the parishioners. The symbol here of course is the "tongues of flame" coming to rest on the heads of the disciples and the Blessed Virgin Mary on that first Pentecost. Yesterday, I discovered a video on another site. At the Pantheon in Rome, it is just awesome to see what happens. The petals are dropped through the oculus in the ceiling. I have only been in the Pantheon once. It was a very cold and very rainy day in November. The rain just fell right through the oculus and onto the floor of the massive building. Birds fly around the interior; it's quite an experience, but pales in comparison to what occurs on Pentecost Sunday. Have a look.

Pretty cool, huh?

I wanted to share some more of the responses to our survey about the new translation of the Missale Romanum. If you haven't had the chance to take the survey, consider doing so now by clicking here. I am doing this so that you can get a sense of what people are saying. Here are three comments:

1. I am part of the Roman Missal Task Force for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and I am close colleague with the Director of Worship for San Jose, CA. With the combination of the two resources, I hope to acquire appropriate, sound and helpful resources for this momentous occasions.
I also plan to think more positively of it, instead of groan. If I show more a positive reception, hopefully the assembly's I work for will catch on. It will take a while, but I have faith that the Spirit will be working.

2. We will continue to use some of the older mass settings where appropriate...I'm not going to re-teach Mass of Creation because one word has changed. This is foolish. We will use the old setting.

3. Until I am absolutely ordered by my ordinary to purchase a new Roman Missal book, in writing, I adamantly refuse to use the new translation.

I am noticing that there are many people who are beginning to take on the sentiments expressed in the first comment. Obviously this person had initial "groaning" about the whole issue, but it looks like now there is a certain amount of resignation, almost bordering on hope. I think that lots of people are finding themselves in this situation.

The second comment is quite interesting. It reflects a misconception, I believe. True, the first line of the Sanctus is little changed, but has this person taken a look at the new translation of the Gloria? And what if "Christ Has Died" does not appear in the missal? There are others who commented that they are simply not going to change musical Mass settings. Should be interesting . . .

And then there is the third comment. Folks, this person is not alone; several comments hint at this same sentiment.

I can only imagine some of the scenarios that will be played out in parishes. Parishioners will be hearing about the new translation because the media will undoubtedly make this the new big Catholic story. What happens in those places where the new texts are not being sung because the parish staff has decided to continue to sing the old texts? Parishioners will be confused. Arguments will break out.

What about those places where the pastor absolutely refuses to use the new translation? Do parishioners leave in droves? Does that parish attract people who think the whole idea of a new translation is foolish? Will there be parishes just a few miles (or blocks) where two different translations are being prayed?

Obviously, there is much, much work that needs to be done. The Church in the English-speaking world could be in big trouble.

I, for one, am joining my voice to the first commenter above, praying that the Spirit will be working, and working harder than ever.

Veni creator spiritus!

Comments welcome.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Spirit's Benefit

Happy Monday after Pentecost to you all.

I played the two Masses at my parish, St. James, yesterday. It was a delight. We sang a setting of the sequence that has been in the WLP treasury for years, Come, Holy Spirit, On Us Shine. It is set to the O FILII ET FILIAE hymn tune and worked marvelously. This setting is in all of WLP's worship resources (hint hint!).

One line from yesterday's Second Reading really struck me: "To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit." It got me thinking about my own life as a baptized and confirmed Catholic. What is that particular "benefit" in my own life? Many of you know that I keep a little piece of paper taped to the wall of my office, right here near my desk. On it are listed the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Right Judgment, Courage, Knowledge, Reverence, and Wonder and Awe in God's Presence. I keep them here because I think these are wonderful principles for Catholic managers. Perhaps the "benefit" is for me to remind myself to put these gifts to good use here at WLP and in my own life.

I hope that your celebration of Pentecost was a good one.

I'll end here with a stanza from the setting of the sequence mentioned above:

"Come, be our soul's most welcome guest,
Endowing us with all the best;
Be solace, comfort, and our rest. Come, Spirit, Come!"

In that Spirit, gotta sing, gotta pray.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sweet, Sweet Spirit

Happy Friday to you you all.

It is overcast here in Chicago, but it's supposed to be in the high 80's by Sunday. Planning the first bike ride along Lake Michigan for tomorrow morning at 7:15; hopefully the first of many.

I am filling in this weekend for our music director, who is getting married in Ohio tomorrow. I led the choir rehearsal last night and had a blast with my "peeps." Gosh, I miss this kind of ministry so much. This is a group of caring, dedicated people. We are singing Steven Warner's setting of Psalm 104 on Sunday. Here's a little snippet. It has a great tenor line!

We are also singing Sweet Sweet Spirit at the Preparation of the Gifts. This piece, by Doris Akers, is one of my favorites. I just found this video on YouTube, with Ms. Akers in the audience, then leading one of the verses—extraordinary! What a moment this must have been.

I hope that your celebration of Pentecost finds you delighting in the sweet, sweet Spirit that you carry within you through your participation in the Church's sacramental life. Veni Creator Spiritus.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Translation Thursday: "In these or similar words . . ."

Welcome, all, to this installment of "New Translation Thursday."

Several years ago, we at at WLP received a letter from a liturgical consultant to the archbishop here in Chicago. It concerned a few of our publications, which offer some suggestions, or patterns, for celebrants to use in those places in the Mass when the priest may use the proscribed text or is allowed to say something "in these or similar words." The theologian who wrote to us conveyed a concern of the archbishop: that the new translation of the Missale Romanum will include far fewer instances where the celebrant will be allowed to use "similar words." We are not talking about the core prayers of the liturgy; we are talking about the introduction/invitation to the act of penitence, the invitation to the Lord's Prayer, among others. I don't know about you, but I have always found it helpful when the celebrant is able to proclaim these invitations in his own words, words that draw from the rich imagery of the day's scriptures or general themes of the particular liturgical feast or season. It just helps me better connect with the whole of the Mass. I am not an advocate of the celebrant "ad libbing" his way through the Eucharistic prayers or the official "presidential" prayers of the Mass. You have heard me say this before.

When the new translation comes into use, I hope that the celebrant is not turned into a sacramental automaton. The General Instruction does allow for moments when there can be additional words added; for instance an introduction to the liturgy, an introduction to the liturgy of the word, an introduction to the eucharistic prayer. It gets my goat when I hear people quote the line from the General Instruction that states: "he [the priest] himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass." The implication here is that there is absolutely no room for any words other than those that appear exactly in the Missal or Lectionary. This is simply not true. In number 31 of the General Instruction, we read these words: "It is also up to the priest, in the exercise of his office of presiding over the gathered assembly, to offer certain explanations that are foreseen in the rite itself. Where it is indicated in the rubrics, the celebrant is permitted to adapt them somewhat in order that they respond to the understanding of those participating. However, he should always take care to keep the sense of the text given in the Missal and to express it succinctly."

Folks, we (at least I am not) in on what the rubrics will actually allow in this regard. The General Instruction in use before our current edition allowed more freedom. That freedom has obviously been reined in. We will need to continue to take a "wait and see" attitude with respect to the "in these or similar words" issue. Methinks most of these moments in the liturgy will disappear in the new Missal. I, for one, find this sad. I am sure there are lots of you out there who disagree. And much of that disagreement will be based on your experience of celebrants changing core texts of the Mass, or offering invitations that went on forever, or offering invitations or explanations that had some theological obfuscation associated with them. These are not the instances to which I am referring, obviously.

As always, comments welcome.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New RCIA Book and Greetings to the Touring Notre Dame Folk Choir

Happy Wednesday to you all. It is a gloriously sunny morning here in Chicago. Started the day in spin class at 6:00 and am feeling rejuvenated.

Thanks for your comments yesterday regarding my "leak" about Father Turner's new book with WLP, Pastoral Companion to the Roman Missal.

I'd like to share some thoughts about another book with which I have had the privilege of working. Part of our Fountain of Life initiation series, WLP has just released The Spirit at Work: Conversion and the RCIA. I have been reading articles about the catechumenate by its author, Michael Marchal, for years. Mike has brought together his many years of practical experience and careful scholarship to create this book. It is a helpful resource for RCIA coordinators, teams, pastors, and diocesan initiation ministers. WLP's description of this book includes these words: "Marchal provides suggestions and anecdotes that will assist RCIA team leaders in adjusting and adapting their programs for the different situations that arise throughout the entire RCIA process." Mike's work includes many stories of people who have experienced the initiation process in his parish. I like reading books like this; books that are solidly based in sound pastoral theology and liturgical theology, yet lead the reader into that theology through the lived experience of real people. This book is a must for the shelf of every RCIA minister. Find out more here .

Well, enough of my commercial. I want to give a big shout out this morning to the University of Notre Dame Folk Choir. They are currently on tour through the Appalachians. To their devoted director, Steve Warner, too, greetings from all of us here at WLP. If you have never had the chance to experience this fine group of singers and musicians in person, you can check out their recordings on WLP's web site. Here is one of my Notre Dame Choir favorites, taken from their newest album, Songs of Saints and Scholars.

As you know, I am a Chicago Blackhawks. I am feeling quite good this morning!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Begrudging Turned to Hoping?

Welcome to this week's edition of "New Translation Tuesday."

I have been fascinated with the responses to WLP's short survey about the new translation, which you can find here.

Here is one response, referring to the implementation of the new translation:

"If we have to do it, we might as well do it as well as we can."

This quite made me think about a possible parallel: "Well, I really have never liked great-uncle Mortimer but, after all, he is turning 100 in September and he has no one else who will plan a celebration for him. So, I guess I will, and since I have to do it, I might as well do it as well as I can."

Are you approaching the upcoming new translation with this kind of a begrudging attitude? There seem to be a fair number of people with this kind of approach.

I have to admit that this has been a large part of the way I have been approaching this for years. Very recently, though, something has occurred that has moved me away from the attitude.

Please, please don't see this as a commercial, but I have been bursting at the seams for the past week or so about a new resource that we will be publishing here at WLP. It will be called Pastoral Companion to the Roman Missal, written by our good friend Father Paul Turner. Paul takes the reader through each Sunday and Solemnity, giving background as to the history of each of the official texts (Entrance Song, Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, Communion Song, and Postcommunion Prayer). I am editing the manuscript and, to be honest, I found the book to be completely fascinating. I know you will think that I am an over-the-top liturgical "geek" when I say this, but there were moments while I was reading this book that I was moved to tears. An example: at one point, Paul is commenting on a particular text and he painstakingly takes the reader through the historical road upon which this particular text has traveled throughout liturgical and Church history. It's as if the text is a living thing, moving through a process of evolution; buried here, uncovered here, retranslated there, brought back to life here. Then he says something like, "And now, for the first time in Church history, this text will be proclaimed in English." This is the kind of "wow" that tickles a liturgist and historian. As you may know, Paul Turner served as secretary for the various meetings of the ICEL bishops as the process of translation moved along. That reality, coupled with the fact that he is both pastor and scholar, makes this manuscript helpful in so many ways. Folks, it got me excited about texts that I have not even seen!

The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding—the actual praying of these texts. But this scholarly and pastoral work has pulled me out of my begrudging attitude toward one that is more than fascinated by what is to come; moved to hoping even?

I am looking forward to sharing actual tidbits of this book with you. We cannot yet do that, because we have not received the actual text of the Roman Missal. It will be a pleasure to share some of Paul's fine work with you—then, of course, I will be doing a commercial :-). Seriously, though, this is one of those things that makes publishing so rewarding: providing helpful resources for the singing, praying, and initiating Church.

Hope your week is going along well.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A WLP Weekend in New England

Happy Monday to you all.

I'm back here in the office after a whirlwind weekend in Massachusetts. It's always great to connect with family.

It was also a World Library Publications type of weekend, strangely. When I arrived at my sister's home late Friday evening, I glanced at the Thursday edition of the Boston Globe and found a huge photo on the cover. Here it is:

The two ministers shown in the photo are each holding a WLP ceremonial binder! Yesterday morning I attended Mass with my sister at her parish, Saint Robert Bellarmine, in Andover, Massachusetts. When I entered, I was greeted and welcomed, and handed WLP's Word and Song annual worship resource. In it was tucked the assembly card for Steven Janco's Mass of Redemption.  Most of the songs that we sang, including the Mass parts, were WLP pieces. We sang Tom Kaczmarek's I Am the Bread of Life, Steve Warner's Make of Our Hands a Throne, Paul Tate's and Deanna Light's Jesus, Hope of the World. When the organist began to play the introduction to the Lamb of God from Steve Janco's Mass of Redemption, my sister leaned over to me and told me that this was her husband's favorite. It was wonderful being in a community that was singing the very best music for the liturgy. I was so proud of our composers and the staff here at WLP.

So, a weekend filled with family fun, clams, lobsters, and WLP music. Made my heart sing.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Grateful Heart

Happy Friday to you all. Special day in my own life today, and I am forever grateful to loving parents who brought me into this world and who, eleven days later, had me baptized. God is good.

I am headed to Boston later on today. Big family weekend; my sister turned fifty yesterday, I turned another year older today, my niece graduates from college tomorrow; just great family time all around.

Yesterday, while driving home with my carpool colleagues, we took a few moments to "stop and smell the roses." Actually, with all the rain we had here over the past few days, there was some minor flooding. We stopped in a parking area that had flooded and just watched the geese and their goslings as the sun filtered through the trees and the breezes rustled the new leaves on those trees; just a spectacular moment. Here are some photos I took while we were parked in that flooded lot:

With a grateful heart on this day, I say once again: gotta sing, gotta pray. Have a blessed weekend.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Translation Thursday: More on the Survey

Welcome to this edition of "New Translation Thursday." I am back here in a very rainy city of Chicago.

Here are a few more of the comments that have been entered into our survey about the new translation. If you haven't yet taken the survey, click here to access the survey.

Here are two comments from the survey:

1. I am ambivalent. My initial reaction to the revised, formally equivalent texts was anger and depression. It's taken me about two solid years to get over it and get behind it. I can appreciate some improvements, including the restoration of the litanic forms in the Gloria; at the same time, I'm livid about much of the awful and awkward English we will be speaking and singing. My greatest fear is that the new translation will not be implemented evenly from parish to parish. I also fear that, in this very uncertain time for the Church (especially with the rape scandals), many people find that this is the straw that breaks the camel's back and leave the Church.

2. I think there is a growing realization that how the changes to the Liturgy following the Second Vatican Council was done poorly and in the process hurt and alienated a lot of people. In response there is the a systematic and comprehensive approach that will be taken to implementing the new texts. I am excited for the next text because their literary quality is significantly higher that out current translation. It proves that English is a suitable vehicle for our worship and can rise to the level of the Latin. The biblical images where are woven throughout the texts, emerge all the more strongly. I find it difficult to wait for the implementation.

Well, it is amazing how divergent the thoughts and feelings are! I am finding that the responses are just about evenly split between the positive and the negative. About half of those taking the survey identify themselves as a "music director." I will be happy to share more of the responses over the next few weeks.

Please allow me to send along a little personal note. I want to send special birthday wishes to my sister Janet, who celebrates her fiftieth birthday today. Please take a moment today to tell a family member or friend that you love them. Life is good.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hockey and Art

Happy Wednesday to you all.

Just woke up here in Los Angeles; the weather is beautiful. I have a flight back to Chicago in a few hours.

Some of you know that I am an avid hockey fan. I grew up in Boston in the days of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, and the like. My passion about hockey has been re-ignited over the last several years and now I am a devoted fan of the Chicago Blackawks. They won a game last night, defeating the Vancouver Canuck's, and are now headed into another round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The game was not on TV here in my hotel room, nor at the lounge in the hotel lobby. I was able to find a nearby hotel where the game was being broadcast in their lounge. So, there I was, a lone hockey fan, cheering my team on. I finished "watching" the game here in my hotel room, listening via the internet, to the local Chicago radio station. It was a great night for Chicago hockey fans. Go Hawks!

Well, enough of that part of my life.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending a short period of time at the Getty Museum here in Los Angeles. It was a picture-perfect day. Here are a few photos taken yesterday.

It is a stunning set of buildings in an equally stunning setting. If you ever have the chance to visit southern California, don't miss a visit to the Getty.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: American Adaptations

Welcome to this edition of “New Translation Tuesday.” As I write this post, I am 35,000 feet above our planet, on my way to Los Angeles. Seated next to me is my boss, Mary Prete, the vice president for parish services for the J. S. Paluch Company. She is the former general manager of WLP. We have some important meetings in Los Angeles. I am returning to Chicago on a flight tomorrow morning.

WLP has been told that the so-called “American adaptations” to the Roman Missal that were submitted to the Vatican are still awaiting approval. There was some confusion last week, after the recognitio was received. There was at least one press report that indicated that the adaptations had been accepted, but this is still not the case; we are still waiting for word. The most important adaptation is the request that “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” be included in the U. S. edition of the Roman Missal as an official memorial acclamation. We were also told that the U. S. bishops are expecting the actual text, with or without the adaptations, “within weeks.”

So, we continue to wait for the final final.

Please say a prayer for our safe travel.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lettuce and Triduum Evaluation

Good Monday morning to you all.

I hope that your weekend was a good one. It was good to get back to Chicago after my days in Saint Louis.

I took a few photos of the window boxes at my home, which are placed on the rails of the balcony. Growing some lettuce and Swiss chard among the flowers. I take a salad to work every day for lunch and it's nice to have some home grown lettuce to add.

The liturgy committee at Saint James, my parish, held our Triduum evaluation meeting yesterday, which lasted about two and a half hours. It is quite a challenge to celebrate in a church hall, but all agreed that the Triduum was celebrated with dignity. We talked about some communication snafus, that will hopefully be cleaned up next year. All in all, it was a helpful meeting.

I will be flying to Los Angeles very early tomorrow morning. I hope to be able to post on the blog some time tomorrow.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Church's Current Crisis and Catholic Health Care

Happy Friday to all of you.

I am here in Saint Louis for the last day of this Health Care leadership conference. I have been working with this Catholic health care system for over fifteen years. Their commitment to quality and leadership is an annual source of inspiration from me. I take what I learn back to the employees at WLP and try to inspire leadership in every one of our employees.

One thing has struck me this week, which I haven't thought about very much. I have heard from more than one person here that any group associated with the Catholic Church these days struggles because of issues facing the Church today. The worldwide attention drawn to the clergy sex abuse scandal and the inability of some bishops and Church leaders to deal effectively with the crisis affects Catholic health care systems as well. There is a sense that "we are all in this together." I guess that's what we mean when we use the term "Catholic identity." While the quality of health care may be the best, there are those who are suspect of any organization that calls itself "Catholic." This is sad. We have a long way to go to recover from the stain that this crisis has marked on our Church. I know there are those out there who think that I spend way too much time mentioning the crisis, but it is real, and this week, with these wonderful people dedicated to Catholic health care, I have seen again how deep is this wound.

I am looking forward to returning home later today.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Enthusiasm and Dread

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Thursday."

I am still in Saint Louis. This healthcare system for whom I am working is a remarkable organization. They invited anyone who wanted to join a first-time choir to do so. We have about forty people in this group and they have been extraordinary. It's been quite a good experience for this musician.

As you know, WLP has posted a survey on Survey Monkey, with a few questions about the new translation. I will be sharing some of these responses with you. You can take the survey yourself by clicking here.

There have been many spirited responses to one of our questions: "What is your general feeling about and approach to implementing the new translation in your parish?"

Here are just three of the responses to that question:

1. I have a mixture of feelings, some excitement for something new, but also a lot of dread since I have seen the new translations. I have tried to say the Eucharistic Prayers out loud and it was very difficult. Too many commas. I feel like I am on the Kennedy Expressway during rush hour and with lots of construction. The traffic should be moving quickly, but it is stop and go. I am worried that my parishioners will feel the same way and opt for Metra, or another church!

2. Not excited. Afraid I won't do a good job. Afraid of the hostility about it that I will receive from parishioners. It will be hard to lead people prayerfully in an enthusiastic way if it is greeted poorly.

3. I am a strong advocate of the new translation, and insofar as I am responsible for the musical direction at our parish, I see this as a unique opportunity being presented. It is apparent that there is a strong desire to move in the direction of greater solemnity and towards a more "traditional" (i.e - chant based music) approach to liturgical music, and so I am resolving to use this time to reshape the music program at our parish towards this goal.

The answers to this question range from enthusiasm to dread. I was particularly touched by the second answer above. As I have said before, it is primarily the clergy and musicians (as well as catechists) who will receive the brunt of questions about the changes. This person obviously feels that he or she does not have the tools necessary to "do a good job." Hopefully, this person will spend time in the next many months to do what is possible to do as good a job as she or he can.

The fact remains that some (many?) of those entrusted to our care will disagree with even the finest answers that we provide them. This is at the root of the challenge that faces us. There are many people—who took the survey—who have offered some very sound pastoral advice about this. I will share some of those pieces of advice as New Translation Tuesdays and Thursdays continue.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Greetings from St. Louis

Greetings all.

I arrived in St. Louis late yesterday. The Catholic healthcare system, SSM Healthcare, for whom I am working these few days, put together a little volunteer choir and we just rehearsed for the first time, and they are wonderful.

Here are some photos I took after I arrived yesterday. I love "The Arch."

More to come. Please remember to read yesterday's post, and take the survey!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Please Take the Survey About the Roman Missal

Hello everyone, for the second time today.

My earlier post mentioned a survey we were working on here at WLP. It has now been posted. Please click here to be taken to the brief survey. Share the link with your friends. We are hoping that the information will help us better serve the needs of the singing and praying Church during this time of transition. It will also give people a vehicle to "sound off" about the new translation. I will be sharing some of these responses regularly on this blog.

Here is the actual web address for the survey: 

Thanks. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

New Translation Tuesday: Waiting Another Month

Welcome to this transmission of "New Translation Tuesday."

On Friday, Catholic publishing houses received a communique from the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship in Washington, DC. In it, we were given some solid information. We were told that the newly translated and approved English-language version of the Missale Romanum is now undergoing some final editing in Rome and that we can expect the final text in about a month. The BCDW told us that they still do not know exactly what is in the approved texts, especially with respect to the adaptations that our bishops requested for the dioceses of the United States. Because of this, publishers have been asked to "wait for further clarification before beginning to distribute or market any texts related to the new Missal, especially musical settings of the parts of the Order of Mass." As you can imagine, a critical piece of this is whether or not the memorial acclamation "Christ has died" will be included as part of the uniquely US adaptations. We heard strong rumors early on in the translation process that this would not be allowed because it is not in the Latin edition. Then, as the recognitio loomed, equally strong rumors surfaced that Rome did not want to delay the release of the missal any further and that this acclamation would be included in the US version. Hopefully, we will know soon. All of WLP's revised and newly composed musical settings of the Mass have needed to include "Christ has died," since we did not know if it would eventually be included in the US edition. If it does not appear, we simply remove it; if it does appear, then we have it to include. Stay tuned.

So, after such a long wait, we wait again, which isn't such a bad thing. I believe that most Catholics don't have this whole issue on their radar the way we in publishing and liturgical circles do. As a matter of fact, we will be putting a survey out there very soon (and I will provide you with a link here so that you can take the survey as well). The survey will be a kind of "taking the pulse" tool. Of course, those who receive the link will probably be more closely associated with music and liturgy, but I think it will be helpful anyway.

So, look forward to that in the coming days.

Later today I am flying to Saint Louis for the balance of the week, where I will help lead the prayer for a Catholic healthcare system's annual leadership conference. I plan to continue with the blog all week, so stay tuned.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sacred Jazz and Sacred Ground

Good Monday morning to you all.

It is a beautifully sunny morning here in Chicago. Here's a photo I took as I stood on the platform of Chicago's "Green Line" about an hour ago as I waited for my train.

This past weekend was a special one at St. James, my parish. On Saturday evening, the parish held its annual fundraiser for our food pantry. It's a jazz concert, which we call "Jazzin' to Feed." The pastor told us yesterday that they raised over forty thousand dollars for the pantry.

Each year, the Sunday Masses on the day following the event are Masses that feature jazz-styled music. Usually a group from Saint Peter's in the Loop here in Chicago lead the music. This year was a bit different. Our new music director happens to be an accomplished jazz musician. He invited two of his friends, a bass player and a drummer, to join him. We sang our usual selections of Easter Season music, but it all had more of a "jazz feel." After communion, the jazz musicians and the choir led us all in a meditation, Duke Ellington's Come Sunday. Here's a link to a youtube video with Mahalia Jackson singing the piece. I need to tell you that this piece was, in a word, sacred. My heart was lifted to the Lord as it was played and sung.

Can the jazz genre be classified as sacred? After my experience on Sunday, I came away with a resounding "yes."

After Mass, we all processed over to a patch of land next to our church building. There has been a small plot of land cleared. Eight parishioners and two clients from our food pantry will be planting gardens there. The pastor blessed the plot of land and invited us to sprinkle the land with holy water. Here are a few photos:

I hope your day is a good one and that the coming week is a fruitful one for you.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.