Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Catholic Christian

A glorious Wednesday has dawned here in Chicago. This makes me forget how long and cold the winters are here in the Midwest.

Thanks for all your comments yesterday. Please, if you haven't had the chance, read through the comments. I would like to address one, made by my friend Diezba. He wrote:

"Being Catholic is about giving up my own opinion and submitting in humility to the Magisterium. As someone who had to give up my own theological, liturgical, and ecclesiological opinions upon my conversion to the Church, I recognize in you, Jerry, someone who (despite reservations about the translation itself) has a deeply Catholic understanding of what it meant to be a Catholic Christian."

I want to be clear about my own understanding of what it means to be a Catholic Christian. Diezba states that, upon his conversion, he gave up his own opinion. Merriam-Webster defines "opinion" as "a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter." If being a Catholic Christian means that I have given up my own opinion and submitted in humility to the Magisterium, then I really don't want any part of this Catholic experience, so defined. God has given me an intellect and free will. I spent years and years studying philosophy and theology. My mantra, which still gives me life, is Saint Anselm's "fides quaerens intellectum," faith seeking understanding. I interpret this to mean that I am free to use my intellect to form views and judgments that I place in conversation with my faith (the most important conversation partner I have within me), always seeking deeper understanding. Do I sometimes reach an opinion that is in contrast to the expressions of the Magisterium? Absolutely! Do I then jump on a soapbox or write an article slamming the Magisterium? Absolutely not! Because I am a human person, baptized into the Catholic faith, I continue to think, to pursue understanding in conversation with the teachings of the Magisterium. Do I give up my own opinions? No, and I don't believe that this is what I am asked to do as a Catholic Christian.

Recently Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna, was chided by Pope Benedict for remarks (opinions) he posited about a certain remark by a cardinal in a Roman dicastery. I have met Cardinal Schonborn and have followed the development of his career and his thought. I have a great deal of respect for him. While I disagree with some of what he has done (particularly with regard to Medjugorje), I did agree with his assessment—his opinion—of the remark made by the Roman cardinal, for which he has apparently now had his hand slapped. I believe that blind submission to the teachings of the Magisterium—or to the interpretation of remarks interpreted themselves by the Roman Pontiff—without the ability to offer an opinion is not consistent with the fides quaerens intellectum approach. Are there not ways that the Church itself is always reforming? Reform cannot happen without dialogue and dialogue cannot happen without the positing of opinions.

Gosh, I've gone on much too long here. I hope that I haven't expressed any heresy. If so, please point it out to me. I am still on the road here. As I say to people who minister with catechumens and candidates, particularly those who have a tendency to over-catechize, who feel that a catechumen must know everything Catholic before Baptism—I say to them, "Are you 'done' yet?" The answer is always the same, "Of course not." So. I am definitely not "done" myself. So, I'll still posit my own opinions and feel 100% Catholic along the way.

Thanks for listening. And please, please weigh in here. Sometimes I need all the help I can get!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray. Gotta opine!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: What If We Just Say "No"?

This "New Translation Tuesday" has dawned bright, sunny, and dry here in Chicago; just a beautiful day.

I had a rather interesting call from one of our J. S. Paluch Parish Consultants last Friday. These consultants spend lots of their time visiting parishes, making sure that the parish bulletin service is of the highest quality. As you can imagine, these consultants get to know the pastoral staff quite well over the years.

This particular consultant was calling from California. He told me that he had a question for me, a question that had been asked by the leaders in two of the parishes he visits. I may be paraphrasing here, but this is pretty close to what he said: "Jerry, I have two parishes who are not happy about the new translation. They said that it has not gone over well in Europe and they don't want to use it when it comes out. They were wondering if WLP was going to continue to publish our worship resources in an edition that uses the current translation for parishes that don't want to make the switch to the new translation."

Of course, my answer was "no." First of all, I am sure that the "Europe" to which these parishes referred was the mess that occurred in South Africa when the new translation was implemented without any catechesis. But beyond that, I was kind of floored by the question. This is moving beyond the "What if we just said wait" posture. This is the "What if we just say no" posture. Added to that, I was named a "conservative" yesterday by a dear old retired priest friend of mine who simply stated that he would never succumb to "and with your spirit" at any of the Masses he celebrates. He implied somehow that I was the super-advocate for the new translation. He said, "Doesn't the Church have enough to deal with without having to throw something so silly out there right now?"

I am ready to throw my hands up in the air about all of this. I have been saying over and over again that the central issues raised by the implementation of the new translation will not be liturgical issues; they will be ecclesiological issues. What theology of the Church, what ecclesiology is being expressed by the two parishes cited above? The very fact that a parish would believe that it has the choice to wholeheartedly reject the new translation says so much about the understanding of Church espoused by those who lead these parishes. Perhaps I am way off here. Perhaps these people have taken a good long look at the new translation (which I have yet to see) and made the decision that these new texts will cause the faith lives of their parishioners to suffer deep harm. If this is the case, then these leaders have the responsibility to complain to their bishop. And I believe this is a very legitimate course of action.

On the other hand, perhaps the sense of congregationalism that many have talked about in the past has really taken root in some parishes here in the United States. The erosion of the credibility of the Vatican and the bishops in general may have inadvertently led to this growing sense of congregationalism: "The bishops and Rome aren't going to tell us what to do!"

Folks, as a Catholic publisher, owned by a dedicated Catholic family, today I am inclined to look out at someone and cry, "This is a fine mess you've gotten us into." Only I don't know toward whom my frustration should be directed. Frankly, there is that hesitant part of me—the brutally honest part, really—that  believes that this frustration should be directed beyond the grave to the one that many are trying to call "the great." For all that Pope John Paul II did for the Church, I wonder if his lasting legacy will be a more divided, more polarized Church. Only time will tell.

A few days ago, my friend Father Anthony Ruff, OSB, over on Pray Tell, asked us to pray for our bishops during the implementation of the new translation. You can find that post here. I had expressed a similar sentiment about our priests last year on this post. I, for one, am redoubling my prayers for our leaders. They have some very tough landscape to maneuver in the next few years. As I have said in the past, I love being a Catholic; I love my parish; I love the liturgy. I just don't know what awaits us on the other side of the "implementation."

Feel free, especially today, to comment.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mass in Thirty-seven Minutes

Monday greetings to you all.

My parish, St. James, here in Chicago, does not celebrate a Saturday vigil Mass. I decided to find a parish in my neighborhood with a vigil Mass on Saturday afternoon. Having found a parish nearby, I drove into the neighborhood at about 4:50 for the 5:00 P.M. Mass. When I walked to the front of the building, the priest told me that it was really hot in the church and that I should find a seat near a fan. It was pretty warm in the building, but not stifling.

The music consisted of these pieces: Sing to the Mountains, (no Gloria), Psalm from the hymnal, A Gospel Acclamation,  The Summons at the Preparation of the Gifts, Eucharistic Acclamations from Janco's Mass of the Angels and Saints, Only This I Want at Communion, and City of God at the closing. The opening song, song during the preparation, and the closing all made me feel like it was 1979 again. The homily was very brief. The entire Mass lasted exactly thirty-seven minutes. At the conclusion of Mass, the celebrant apologized for rushing through the Mass, but he did so because it was so hot. He said that he had hoped for Mass to be under thirty minutes and promised that if it were this hot next weekend that the Mass would definitely be under thirty minutes.

Honestly folks, I felt so detached from the celebration. I recalled that Sunday Mass the weekend before at Saint James lasted nearly an hour and a half. Too long? Yes, but due mostly to a very protracted homily. Did I feel totally connected at that liturgy at Saint James? Absolutely.

I was left feeling sorry for the people at the Saturday parish. My hope was that their usual experience of the liturgy is so much better than what I experienced. It did leave me thinking about people who attend Mass in parishes where the liturgical life is just like what I experienced on Saturday. It just seemed to me to be the kind of place where you get your card stamped saying you attended Mass and then you came the next week and did the same.

Do you have experiences like these? In your own parish? When you are traveling or on vacation?

Lastly, I had the chance to sit on the roof deck last night and do the Sunday crossword and watch the sun set. Here you go:

Thanks for listening, and I hope you have a great week.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Embezzlement: The Next Scandal?

I hope your week has been a good one thus far. It is a gloriously sunny morning here in Chicago.

I've been meaning to talk about an issue on this blog for some time. It is a delicate one that no one really seems to want to talk about. I believe this is the next potential scandal that will hit the Catholic Church, as well as other denominations. This is the issue of embezzlement of church funds.

There is a story reported in this week's edition of the Boston Pilot, which is the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston. The article, "Three Accused of Embezzlement from Parishes," can be found here.

The press has been periodically dotted with stories like this for several years. Any Google™ search will take you to a number of press stories. At the parish at which I worked in the Diocese of Orlando, one of the parish secretaries was recently charged with embezzling an extraordinary amount of money. I spoke with a pastor friend of mine about this issue last year and he told me how easy it is for people to steal money from the parish collection. I know in my own parish that as soon as the collection is taken up, all of the cash and envelopes are placed in some kind of official bag, which is immediately sealed. I asked my pastor about this and he also told me that it would be very easy for someone to steal, even from the sealed bag.

Folks, I know that we are a church of saints and sinners. But surely there must be something more that can be done about ensuring that the money collected at Sunday Mass is safeguarded against theft. I know that on the Web site of the Archdiocese of Chicago, there is an area where one can report suspected financial misconduct. Look here. I think this is a good thing.

There are far too many people out there who are in need of the financial support of parishes. We need to do everything we can to put safeguards in place so that our funds are kept safe. Also, we know that there are those among us who suffer addictions to things and activities that cost more than we can possibly afford ourselves. Placing these people in positions where taking money is easy is simply misguided.

If any of you have any thoughts about this issue, please feel free to respond.

Thanks for listening to me rant and rave a bit today. I hope your weekend is a good one.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Heritage Musical Settings and New Musical Settings

Welcome to another edition of "New Translation Thursday." The storms that whipped through Chicago last night were quite violent. Several people here dealing with flooding, downed trees, and lost power. Please say a prayer for my "peeps" here at WLP who are dealing with all of this.

If you are a regular follower of this blog, you will know what an exciting week it has been here at World Library Publications. Tuesday's edition of Gotta Sing Gotta Pray featured an announcement about our new and revised musical settings of the new translation of the Missale Romanum. is our Web site dedicated to sharing samples of our new settings with the world. I've been monitoring the progress of the editing and production of these settings and the recordings of them for many, many months. It's been great all week to be able to visit the site every once in a while and just listen to the newly translated texts set to music. Personally, I am finding my earlier instincts about all of this to be on target. The music is helping me appropriate the texts.

I really am drawn to our new settings. These composers have worked hard to set these new texts to music in a variety of styles. I am also surprised by the fact that I am also particularly drawn into three of our "heritage" settings: People's Mass (Jan Vermulst, with Richard Proulx's "reworking"), Sing Praise and Thanksgiving Mass (J. Michael Joncas), and Mass for Christian Unity (also Jan Vermulst, with Richard Proulx's "reworking"). They can be found on this page. The Sanctus from the Mass for Christian Unity is the setting that was sung at every single funeral in the parish in which I grew up. I was an altar server there and served at least one funeral a week for a number of years. Listening to this Mass brought all of that back to me, especially when I heard the "Hosanna in the highest" sections.

It is going to be very interesting to see whether it is the newly reworked "heritage" Masses or the completely new Mass settings that draw people more successfully into the praying and singing of these newly translated texts.

Meanwhile, we wait for the Missal text itself. You can imagine how antsy we in the publishing world are about this. We will be required to include the new texts in our worship resources beginning with Advent of 2011, if all remains on target. Believe it or not, now is the time that we are usually constructing these files for these resources. All of these texts, once formatted, must be submitted to the Bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, to the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and to ICEL for proofing and approval. This is a long process and we need to begin this process soon in order to provide the new texts to those who pray and sing with our resources. Patience is a virtue. Waiting in hope . . .

Please visit and tell your friends as well. Thanks so much.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Prayer for Father Jim Field

Happy Wednesday to you all.

Severe weather is threatening us here in the Chicago area once again. Skies are very dark. Hopefully we get through this in better shape than we did last Friday.

I was at my spin class this morning at the gym and praying the Rosary and thinking of my friend, Fr. Jim Field. Jim is a terrific pastor in the Archdiocese of Boston. He's also been on the board of directors of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate. Jim has been writing for us here at J. S. Paluch and WLP for a number of years. I received word yesterday that Jim is probably at the end of his journey in this life. Jim has lived with cancer for several years. When I first heard of his diagnosis, he was added to my spinning class prayer list. So, Jim, this morning you were front and center once again. I prayed, through the intercession of Mary, Regina Cleri, "Queen of the Clergy," that you will know the presence of God.

Folks, I love being a Catholic. Despite all the problems that plague the Church, this is still my family. Today I am reminded of Saint Paul's words:

"But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. Now you are Christ's body and individually parts of it."

Friends, I invite you today to join me in praying for Fr. Jim Field, one of God's suffering servants. Let us offer our own sufferings to the Lord in solidarity with Jim's suffering. Let's pray that one day all members of Christ's body will be gathered at the table, will there will be no more tears, no more suffering.

Please consider listening to my song, Help Me, Lord, as we pray together.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: This Is the Day! Sneak Preview of Musical Settings for the New Translation

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Tuesday."

On Sunday, I received word from Father Rick Hilgartner of the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship (BCDW) regarding musical settings of the new translation of the Missale Romanum.

The BCDW, in response to the fact that music publishers (like WLP) have been asking about ways to share our new musical settings of the new translation through music showcases (like at NPM next month in Detroit) as well as through the world wide web, has allowed the following:

1. They are "happy to allow some limited presentation of preview copies of selections from the Order of Mass."
2. Publishers can not take orders for new products until the final text of the Missal has been issued.
3. Publishers must make clear that these musical settings are for preview only and are not yet approved for liturgical use.
4. Publishers may not share complete settings of the Mass; we can only share samples or excerpts from a variety of settings.

Well, folks, as you can imagine, we have been waiting for the opportunity to share the fine work of our composers with you. That day has arrived.

You can now visit the web site and you can see sample pages of our new and revised Mass settings, as well as listen to sound clips. We have clearly followed the guidelines of the BCDW. Spend some time maneuvering through the web site. Try to do so with a good set of speakers attached to your computer. The sound files are high quality.

I hope that what you find on will be helpful to you. After so long long, it is refreshing to hear these newly translated texts set to music in a variety of styles.

Please feel free to share your own comment about these settings here on gottasinggottapray.

My heart is joyful this day. So many years of work now able to be shared with you.

Thanks for listening.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Beautiful Chicago, Thanks to John Angotti, Remembrance of Jim Dunning

Happy Monday to you all.

After some of the worst weather I've seen since living here in Chicago (moved here in 1992) on Friday, we did enjoy a wonderful weekend. 23 mile bike ride along the lake on Saturday morning, then some time at the beach in the afternoon. Just what the doctor ordered! Here's a photo of my two colleagues here at WLP/ J. S. Paluch with whom I enjoy these bike rides. Doesn't Chicago look wonderful?

Yesterday, John Angotti, one of WLP's composers and artists, attended Sunday Mass with me at my parish, Saint James. John is studying at Catholic Theological Union here in Chicago, working on a Masters Degree. John played and sang after communion. He sang his version of Unless a Grain of Wheat Shall Fall. You can listen to it here. I was so pleased to be able to bring John's talent and ministry to the parishioners at Saint James.

I also had an interesting moment at Mass. When the introduction to the choir piece for the Preparation of the Gifts began, I thought it sounded quite familiar. After a few bars, I realized that it was my own piece, Help Me, Lord. I wrote this piece for the funeral of one of the father figures in my own life, Father Jim Dunning, the founder of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate. Jim was a mentor and friend. How appropriate (at least for me) that this was sung on Father's Day. You can listen to a snippet of the piece here.

I hope your week is a good one.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Love One Another

Friday greetings to one and all.

As you know, every once in a while, I present a brief commercial on this blog. Just a short one today. WLP has just released our new wedding music collection, called Love One Another. It is a collection of music that has been published in different collections over the years, as well as several new pieces. There are three components: 1. The keyboard/guitar/vocal edition; 2. The C-instrument edition; 3. The CD. This is a must for every musician who ministers at weddings.

I have a weekend coming up that is free of talks and workshops and subbing at Masses. I'm looking forward to some nice down time. On Sunday morning, one of WLP's composers and artists, John Angotti, will be accompanying me to Mass. John is in Chicago where he is working on his Masters Degree at Catholic Theological Union. John's been kind enough to agree to playing and singing something for us after Communion on Sunday. I am one of John's biggest fans. I am so happy to be able to introduce him to the people of Saint James.

I hope your own weekend is a good one and that your own celebration of Mass brings joy to your heart.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Renewal

Another "New Translation Thursday" has dawned. Welcome.

Thanks very much for your comments on Tuesday's post.

I want to share with you another comment placed on WLP's survey that is focused on the new translation. If you would like to take the brief survey, click here.

Commenting on how to approach the musical settings, one respondent had this to say:

My original plan was: learn one or perhaps two settings of the new texts, continue to sing what we already know (former text). 

Then I learned that the "extended preparation period" would preclude such a grace period, that the former texts are not to be sung anymore after the new texts are implemented. Fixing that idea in my head, I decided our parish could learn 2 new settings per year for a few years. 

Then a colleague suggested that, unless the archbishop was at my parish, who would know whether we were "grandfathering" in the former texts during an un-sanctioned grace period.

So I'm back to waffling.

If you regularly follow this blog, you know that I have commented on the issues raised in this response several times in the past. I post this particular response because I believe it is where many music leaders find themselves right now as they think about the implementation of the newly translated texts.

I think that the implementation will be uneven at best. Some directors have stated, for instance, that they do not have any intention of changing the current settings of the Sanctus used in their parishes. One person said, "this would be silly and foolish" since the changes are so minor in the new translation. Others are carefully measuring the ways they will phase out the old and phase in the new. Others are searching for cues from their pastors, only to find a certain level of ambivalence. Some are saying that they will deal with it all when it comes to that point when they will be forced to face the issue. Others are chomping at the bit to implement the new translation as soon as they can.

I think it will take several years for English-speaking congregations to finally land on some kind of field of uniformity. Here in the United States, we are more concerned about rules and regulations, for the most part, than in some other English-speaking countries. We are committed to strong catechesis. We have developed some very solid processes and models for adult learning. Our chief problem, of course, will revolve around the fact that what we are teaching, what we are catechizing about, is not something that many people, I believe, will find of any real significant value.

What do I mean? I think, for instance, about my own work in catechesis. I am so passionate about sharing my own relationship with and knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ. I jump up and down when I am teaching people new models for forming others in the image and likeness of Christ. When I stand before a group of elderly parishioners and I talk about the true meaning of their baptism and then find many of them weeping because of the power and difference that sacrament has made in their lives, I am filled with awe. When I catechize every-day Catholics about the many facets of the Eucharist—sacrifice, nourishment, reconciliation—I see eyes and hearts opening in new ways. These core elements of the Catholic sacramental life need to be catechized with passion because these are the elements that make the most difference. I just don't see how the catechesis around a new English translation of the Latin Missale Romanum can engender the same kind of passion. I hope that the new translation is a means to getting people to know what is actually happening at Mass and to grow in their love for the Eucharist and the Eucharistic Lord. But I just don't see the majority of every-day Catholics seeing the value and importance of the new translation, in and of itself, as having an impact on their faith.

Of course, in five years time, I hope that my own intuitions about this are proven wrong. We certainly need Catholics that are committed to the practice of their faith. And there are those who read this blog who have said in direct fashion that the reason why faith is luke-warm today is because of the deficiencies in the current English translation. (By the way, I find this reasoning quite misguided; it's like saying that several generations of English-speaking Catholics have somehow not been able to be touched as deeply by the work of the Holy Spirit as have others in countries where the translation of the Mass was more faithful to the original Latin in grammar, syntax, and word order—somehow suggesting that a translation of liturgical texts can limit our God's love and power just doesn't make sense to me.)

I hope that the new translation will be the catalyst for a renewal of the Catholic Church in the English-speaking world. Might that renewal come about through a period of further and deeper polarization? Quite possibly. Might it come about because there will be people who simply say, "I've had enough with the movements toward centralization of authority and I'm going to work for the recovery of the principle of subsidiarity." Also quite possible. Might that renewal come in the form of a much smaller Roman Catholic Church (at least in the English-speaking world) where those who remain are completely in accord with Rome and do not have an inclination to question Church authority? Might be possible. Or might that renewal come from the baptized and messy and sinful and redeemed mob that we Catholics seem to be?

And what is that renewal exactly? I think this is the heart of the question. And there is an answer to that question for as many as would try to answer it. My answer is firmly rooted in my own parish life, where I encounter the Church every week. Do we at Saint James stray from official liturgical rules sometimes? Yes. Do we sometimes not sing or say the exact words of the texts of the Mass? Yes (see yesterday's post). Are we on the path to discipleship? Yes. Are we feeding the poor? Yes. Is the neighborhood on the near south side of the city of Chicago a better place because Saint James Parish exists? Most definitely. Is this a faith community of welcome and hospitality that seems on fire with the love of the Lord Jesus Christ? Only you can be the judge if you visit us (I certainly think so). Do I feel that my journey from the baptism font to my hopeful place at the heavenly banquet is nourished and strengthened because of the Catholic life of prayer, worship, catechesis, community, and apostolic witness at Saint James? God, I hope so.

That's what I think Catholic renewal is all about. You?

This was a long post today. Thanks for listening and as always . . .

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Liturgy and Emotional Expression

Happy Wednesday to you all.

I had guests in from out of town (Pennsylvania) over the weekend. We went to my parish, Saint James, for Sunday Mass. It has been a longstanding tradition at Saint James to sing the Albert Hay Malotte setting of the Lord's Prayer (except in Advent and Lent). Before coming to Saint James, I was not a big fan of the hand-holding ritual that takes place in many parishes during the reciting or singing of the Lord's Prayer. But, parishes have a way of forming us in different ways, don't they? At St. James, as the introduction is played, everyone reaches out to those around them and we lift our voices like no other parish congregation I've ever heard. We pause before the "For thine is the kingdom . . ." so that the priest can pray the embolism. I know that many of you would say that singing this setting is simply wrong, because it is not the official text of the Lord's Prayer for the celebration of Mass. And sure, there is a part of me that says the same thing. I would not introduce it in a parish that has a few settings (including the Snow chant) under its belt already. The Malotte just happens to be what has been sung at St. James for as long as most people I talk with there can remember. And I can't imagine it not being a part of Sunday Mass.

As a matter of fact, when we finished, with arms raised high, my out of town guest put her hands to her face and began to weep. It is an emotionally charged moment, for sure, especially for those who have a somewhat staid experience of musical liturgy. I almost don't want to continue here, knowing the kinds of comments that this will engender. But I will anyway. Don't out parish liturgies need to have a certain amount of emotional expression so that peoples' hearts are drawn into the Mass? The Malotte does that for me each week. Chanting the Pange Lingua this past Holy Thursday did it for me. Chanting the Salve Regina with the priests and seminarians of the Archdiocese of Chicago at a recent fundraiser did it for me. Being drawn into a closing song with drums, guitar, and piano—knowing that I was sent forth after communion to be Christ for others—did it for me. And I am not talking about a sentiment like "the liturgy made me feel good" here. What I am talking about is a deeply personal and communal emotional experience that draws my heart and the hearts of those with whom I worship closer to the sacred heart of the Lord Jesus. This is why I don't think I could be one of those people that likes the early Sunday morning so-called "quiet" Mass (of which I do not think there is such a thing anyway). I need music to lift me out of myself. I need music to acclaim the work that God is doing in my heart. I need music to connect me with the millions who have gone before me. I need music to help me grieve. I need music to help express my lament. I need music to connect me to my billion plus Catholic brothers and sisters all over the world.

How about you?

Comments, as always, are welcome.

More than ever, gotta sing and gotta pray.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: What Are They Thinking?

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Tuesday."

Over at WLP's new web site that focuses on our musical settings of the new translation and other resources (, I added a little news page yesterday. It's just a brief note stating where we are right now with the reception of the new translation. I do have more information in addition to what I posted there.

We are in a very strange situation right now. The texts for the ordo missae (the order of Mass) that were given Rome's recognitio some time ago —and were allowed to be used for catechetical purposes and for composers to work with—will apparently come to us in the final approval with some changes. This is, in a word, a nightmare. Catechetical resources have been developed using texts that had been approved by Rome. Texts have been set to music. I was left with the sentiment: "What are they thinking?"

I guess it just proves that this is an organic process, but why issue a recognitio for something and then backtrack? This undermines the force of the recognitio. Publishers, in good faith, moved forward and created resources based on an officially approved text that we (and the rest of the Church) were told would not be changing. This is quite frustrating.

I believe that we are talking about minor changes here. Rumors abound, and this is what I have heard from those rumors:
Changes to the introduction to the Penitential Act
A reversion back to the present text that begins "May almighty God have mercy on us . . ."
Three insertions of "I believe" into the Nicene Creed
Some changes in the Apostles' Creed
Some not significant changes in Eucharistic Prayer I
Three or four changes in Eucharistic Prayer IV

I've also read elsewhere that there are changes to prefaces as well.

So far, we believe that the only changes to the so called "peoples' parts" of the Mass (from the texts that have been published on line and that had received Rome's recognitio) are to the two creeds.

So, as of this moment, that's where all of this stands. And remember, everything you read here is complete conjecture. We will not have definitive answers until the final text is released and received.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Getting Back to Normal

Happy Monday to you all.

Well, it was quite a weekend. I was privileged to be among over two million people who filled the streets of Chicago on Friday to celebrate our Chicago Blackhawks. It's always been a dream of mine to see the Stanley Cup and I was not disappointed. Stood in the blazing heat for four hours, but it was well worth it. Photos can't do justice, but in this one you'll see that I was about 200 feet away from the stage.

Thank you for your comments on Thursday's post. If you haven't had the chance to follow the thread of comments, please do so.

I hope your week has begun on a good note.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Lord Stanley Comes to Chicago and The Church May Lose a Young Adult

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Thursday."

Allow me to begin this post with a big triple whistle for our Chicago Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup championship last night by beating the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime. I was watching the game at my home in Chicago's West Loop, where the United Center, and many Blackhawks "establishments" are located. It was just a wonderful celebration. Here's a photo taken a few minutes ago of yours truly here at the "home office."

As you know, WLP's survey about the new English translation of the Missale Romanum has been up for quite a few weeks now. If you haven't yet taken the survey, you can do so by clicking here.

There was a rather long comment left there, which I want to share with you for your reactions. It's from a twenty-eight year old Catholic from Texas. This is long, but worth reading:

I am a 28-year-old parishioner at a suburban parish in Texas, and a "cradle Catholic."

I have been aware of the impending changes in some way ever since Liturgiam Authenticam debuted 9 years ago. When I read its instructions I was filled with a mixture of surprise and dread, but those negative feelings were tempered by some degree of hope that LA's directives either would not be implemented, or, if they were, that the changes to the liturgy would not be too hard to deal with. Regrettably, neither has been the case.

I do not speak Latin, but I am a fluent speaker of Spanish, after having studied it as my second language in one way or another for over half my life. That said, I have a "reading knowledge" of the Latin language. While I can certainly appreciate that the new translation is indeed truer to the Latin, but I am a strong believer in the principle that liturgy must be accessible to the people in order to move their hearts. I realize that there are some who do not see things that way, instead believing that the sacral nature of the language befits the worship of God more than does common speech. However, in mandating the use of the new texts, I believe the Vatican is trying to "homogenize" the faith of all Catholics by forcing us to use precisely the same terminology the world over, with limited or no adaptations for the nuance of individual languages.

Further, this whole development seems to underscore what may be a Roman tendency to see the Latin texts as "perfect," something which they most certainly are not. Take, for example, the Nicene Creed. In its current English rendering, it is a series of sentences which clearly delineate each article of belief. "We believe in one God... We believe in... Jesus Christ...", etc. In the new translation, the "believe" is not repeated, forming the Creed into one jumbled run-on sentence. I am infuriated that Rome will not allow simple additions of verbs that are not in the original for the simple purpose of clarifying the meaning without changing the Creed's content at all. And why must "consubstantial" be rendered so literally? Why not say "of one substance with the Father"? That is what "consubstantial" MEANS, in the most precise way possible, so why can't we say it that way? One does not have to use exactly the same words to convey exactly the same meaning.

The same thing can be said for the institution narrative, specifically the verbiage referring to the cup. "This precious chalice"? First of all, the word in Greek clearly means "cup," drinking vessel," etc., without the connotation of "chalice." Just because Latin USES the word "chalice" does not mean Jesus used one. The same can be said for the word "this." The cup is, quite clearly, not the Holy Grail, so it makes perfect sense to replace "this" with the definite article, "the."

I recently obtained a copy of the rejected 1998 sacramentary, and almost cried in frustration when I began to look through it. The changes were tasteful and brought the prayers into closer harmony with the Latin than our current translation, but the language remained immediately accessible. If we want accuracy, by all means, do it. However, great care must be taken to ensure that the language employed at least respects the target tongue's grammar and structure. English is not Latin, and it should not sound as if it is.

I am also petrified to see the effects this will have on the ecumenical scene. When the Episcopal Church updated its liturgy in the 70's, it directly adapted ours. Lutheran, Methodist, and other Christian groups quickly followed suit. What will happen now? I think there is something to be said for allowing both translations to be used. The Episcopalians do it, and admittedly, their "old rite" is much more true to the Latin. Rome seems to want blind control and refuses to think about the interests of the people in the pews.

I hate to say it, but the new translation is the last straw for me. Once it takes effect, I will probably convert to Lutheranism, or at least attend Sunday liturgy at a Lutheran parish. However, I am also planning on pursuing the priesthood in the Old Catholic movement, a calling I have felt for many years. I would no doubt use the old translation--or a minor adaptation of it--exclusively. It must be kept alive, and part of me would not be surprised if there is some kind of schism on the Roman Church because of this whole Liturgy War. The Church seems to be obsessed with centralized, iron-handed control over liturgy and practice, and in insisting on such an approach, it is losing sight of its mission--to bring people to God through Christ. As one of your previous respondents said, many people will see the new translation efforts as a waste of time and energy when the Church is suffering worldwide because of the sex abuse scandals and other issues.

I am sharing these comments with all of you who read this blog so that you can get a sense of what a small sample of opinions is on the issues surrounding the new translation. I found one particular section of this young adult's comments to make much sense for me: "If we want accuracy, by all means, do it. However, great care must be taken to ensure that the language employed at least respects the target tongue's grammar and structure. English is not Latin, and it should not sound as if it is." There are those—closely associated with the current translation process that produced the new English translation—who argue strongly that this new translation does indeed respect the "target tongue's grammar and structure." However, I have not heard one of these people say that there are not places where the translation has some structural flaws in English. The translators were working with rules from Liturgiam Authenticam that needed to be strictly followed. This process was more painstaking because these rules needed to be followed. I have searched my brain for an analogy here, but I am coming up empty.

I respect the position of this young adult. I think this person is a solid critical thinker. This is the kind of person the Catholic Church needs. His last paragraph, however, greatly saddens me.

Please feel free to comment.

Blackhawks win!

Gotta sing! Gotta pray!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

WLP Wins Prestigious Award and Offers You a June Promotional Special!

Wednesday greetings to you all. Big day in the sports world today. I am, of, of course, hoping for a Blackhawks win and a Stanley Cup victory tonight. We shall see . . .

Thanks for your comments in the last few days. I do appreciate them. Some people have told me that they can now not comment on this blog since I switched one setting that has allowed more people to comment - yeesh! Shoot me an e-mail if this is the case for you and I will see what I can do:

Every so often on this blog, I will speak solely about our work here at World Library Publications. Yesterday, we received the news that we won a prestigious award from the Catholic Press Association. WLP's 2009 Fall Catalogue won first place in the catalogue division.

Click here to see this this winning catalogue in its entirety.
Special congratulations to WLP team members Chris Broquet and Gina Buckley. I am so proud of the entire staff here at WLP. They work so hard on your behalf. It is nice to receive recognition for this work.

I also want to let you in on a great opportunity. If you are a member of Facebook, please consider logging on to the WLP page and "like" us. You can do that here. We are running a special promotion, just for our FaceBook friends. Once you indicate that you "like" us on Facebook, you can receive 50% off of one WLP item through the end of June. You need to go to Facebook to find out how this all actually works. This is a great opportunity because this special promotion includes our instrument books; (our C-Instrument Companion) is one of my favorites. These instrument books are not inexpensive, so this is a wonderful special for you.

Thanks for listening to my expressions of pride today, as well as my little commercial for our June Facebook special.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: "Contemporary" and "Traditional"

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Tuesday."

I want to share three comments from WLP's survey about the new translation of the Missale Romanum.

In the survey, we ask this question:

What type of help would you like WLP to provide during this time of change?

Here are three responses to that question:

I think it would be helpful for WLP to extensively market the more contemporary mass settings for the new liturgy. One of the comments that I read on Jerry's blog talked about how one parish was using the new liturgy as a way to bring the liturgical music more in the direction of chant. I think that helping parishes keep their current music style with the new liturgy will help make average parishioners less bothered by the changes.

I would like WLP to market three or four of the best Latin settings of the ordinary which might function in both the ordinary and extraordinary forms. Finally, I would like to see WLP market the best English Chant propers (introit, graduale, offertory, and communion).

I would like WLP to take a leadership position in developing new Mass Settings that while rich in tradition and true to the revised texts are vibrant, energetic, and "vocal friendly" or singable. Support contemporary artists like John Angotti who have a deep Catholic faith and resonate with the young/youthful Church - the Church of the future.

We receive comments such as these each year when we ask our worship resource subscribers to complete a survey. The comments about "contemporary" and "traditional"—and I am not quite sure what those words actually mean any more—are usually split right down the middle. For those offering comments, half want more "traditional" and half want more "contemporary."

I'd like to post one of yesterday's comments on this blog that represents where I am on these issues:

I think as you have said that the Church has room for both. The problem that I keep seeing is that most Catholics seem to want everything to be homogeneous within the Church, as long as it is like them. I see a Church where both the Tridentine Mass and a Life Teen Mass can be celebrated in the same community and afterward both groups come together for the Parish festival.

Whether it be Chaplets of Divine Mercy or John Angotti's Billy Joelesque music, whatever brings us to Christ is good!

Of course, in the middle of all of this stands this Catholic publisher. Our mission is to serve the needs of the singing, praying, and initiating Church. We do our best to provide  music and resources of the highest quality to serve those needs. Our mission is not to dictate those needs.

I am always proud of our staff when I see their expertise, coupled with their enthusiasm about working in a publishing house that is dedicated to bringing people closer to God.

I believe our new Mass settings will serve the needs of the wider Church. You can find descriptions of our new and revised Mass settings at this web address:

Thanks for listening. As I mentioned yesterday, I have adjusted the functionality of this site, opening the possibility, I hope, for those of you who, in the past, have not been able to comment, to now do so.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Catholic Young Adults: A Shift in Piety?

Happy Monday to you all.

Blogger has been down most of the day. To be honest, I just didn't know what to do with myself this morning between 8:15 and 8:45! But now it's all back up and running.

I had a very busy weekend; not unlike most parish musicians and clergy. I have been playing at liturgies at Catholic Theological Union here in Chicago for their "Catholics On Call" conference. You can learn more about this program for vocational discernment aimed at Catholic young adults here.

I have been involved with this program for a number of years and it has been interesting to watch the subtle shift in piety with these young adults. A few years ago there was a request for a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament. This was not a request that we had anticipated. We celebrate Eucharist, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer regularly at these conferences. This year, I noticed one member of the conference praying the rosary during the various liturgies. I heard that one young adult confronted one of the vowed religious, asking her why she was not wearing a habit. One young woman wore a head-covering during the celebrations of Mass. I must admit that I haven't seen one of those since I was a teenager. These were all young adults who exhibited varying levels of a deep and committed faith. Simply attending one of these conferences is an exercise in vulnerability for them. In a world that pushes young adults into a lifestyle of consumerism, to take the time to pause and reflect on where the Lord's calling is, is a great sign of hope for the Church—and for the world!

I guess I am softening up as I grow older. The kind of pious practice I have seen with these young adults would have made me cringe several years ago. But, I have grown—I guess—in my own appreciation for how wide our Church is, as well as how wide the arms of the Lord are. I am always cautious, though. I remember reading all about Saint Faustina and this whole Divine Mercy devotion several years ago. While I thought that some of her writings exhibited—at least to me—a certain off-centeredness, I did think that the literature on the Chaplet and the cult of Divine Mercy was right on target with the emphasis on the works of mercy. The problem is that—and this is sad—for many people involved in praying the chaplet and embracing the piety, there is little commitment to the real work of mercy. And this is always the catch for me. The world needs changing and we Catholics have the power to inaugurate so much change. We have to wed prayer with action, don't we?

Well, I am usually less controversial in the mornings; my mind has been working all day so I am all juiced up; so thanks for listening today.

By the way, I have heard from a few people who have never been able successfully to post their comments on this blog. I did some snooping and I think I fixed the problem in my "settings" area on blogger. So, if you have tried before and failed to post, please try again. As always, comments welcome.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Implementation of the New Translation: A Perspective from Ireland

Friday greetings to you all.

My apologies for not posting yesterday. The day just ran away from me. Lots of driving around to various meetings and, with the Chicago traffic, I ended up in my car for nearly five hours!

I want to share one of the comments from our survey about the implementation of the new English translation of the Missale Romanum. This comment offers a perspective that we haven't probably heard here in the United States. It comes to us from the west of Ireland. Brace yourselves:

I'm a foreigner, living in the west of Ireland.

The church here is totally not in the right place to begin liturgical change:
- Structural reforms following from the abuse scandals are still to occur. 
- There is virtually no awareness of the new translation, and there has been no preparation (that I can see - and I've looked) for the changes. 
- Catholic newspapers are not even available in most parishes: there is simply no vehicle for most people to be given information, except from the pulpit.
- Virtually everyone see the Mass as individual prayer: many many older people are in the habit of muttering the entire Mass, including the priests' parts along with him. The changes will be VERY obvious, and the culture here is to resist change.

I would think that they should delay implementation by some years, because energies need to be focussed on healing abuse scandal issues. However I know (from a liturgical magazine, not generally available to parishioners) that the bishops invited composers to produce settings of the new mass, with the view of choosing four that will be adopted nationwide. I don't know what the response from composers has been and what - if any - formation they received for the task. I do know that they were asked to email a named individual to obtain copies of the text to be used.

So how do I feel, and what is my approach? The only phrase I can some up with is "yeah, right".

I don't even know how to begin to respond to the issues raised in this response to our survey. For those of you who have bemoaned my own past attempts to try to address the relationship between the clerical sexual abuse crisis and the timing of the implementation, I think this Irish perspective might help you see where I was coming from.

Comments welcome. I hope you have a great weekend.

You can take the survey by clicking here.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Signing: St. Cecilia's Orchestra

Wednesday greetings to you all.

Last night, at Anderson's Bookshop in Downer's Grove, here in Illinois, Brother Mickey McGrath and Alan Hommerding had a book signing event, highlighting their new book, Saint Cecilia's Orchestra . Here a a few photos of the event.

It was a delightful evening. Alan and Mickey shared their experiences of working together on the book. Alan read some of his poetry and Mickey described the process of creating the artwork. This book is a real gem. At the NPM convention this summer, WLP will be sponsoring an event featuring the art and poetry, augmented with some wonderful video clips, music, and more. You won't want to miss this. Have you registered for the NPM convention yet? If not, you can do so here.

Well, tonight the Chicago Blackhawks play the Philadelphia Flyers in game three of the Stanley Cup finals. Want to see a sign of just how excited Chicago is about our Hawks? Take a look at this photo I snapped in my neighborhood on Monday night:

This is the LaSalle Bank Building, probably standing at about forty stories. There are other buildings in the city displaying similar images. Exciting times around here. Let's Go Hawks!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Altering Texts

Happy "New Translation Tuesday" to you all. Friday's post was entitled "Gotta Score, Gotta Win," referring, of course, to the Chicago Blackhawks. Score they did, and win they did. What an exhilarating weekend for Chicago "Hawkey" fans. But, as they say, "it ain't over 'til it's over." Should be an interesting week in Philadelphia.

I have made it my own personal rule not to offer any criticisms of my own parish's liturgy on this blog. Many from the parish read this blog and I don't want to appear as a critic of my own parish. I am a "pew Catholic" at Saint James. I love the people of this parish and would do anything for them. However, something occurred on Sunday which does merit comment; so I am going to break my own rule. I make the comment not to direct a criticism at the parish, but to bring home a point on this "New Translation Tuesday." I don't want the good people of my parish to think I am sitting there week after week, looking for things to write about in the blog. But I honestly feel that what occurred on Sunday is a systemic challenge for many parishes, especially as we anticipate the upcoming new translation of the Missale Romanum.

First, some background. A few weeks ago, after a choir rehearsal for which I was filling in, a young twenty-something choir member approached me and said something like, "I'm not sure you're the appropriate person to talk to, but I have a question." I told him I would do what I could to answer his question. He said something like, "Why all the inclusive language at this parish?" I asked him what he meant exactly. He responded, "You know, like changing the word "his" to "God" in the refrain of the Gloria." I told him that this was something that had been a part of the parish's heritage for many years—at least as long as I had been attending Mass there. I then told him that the new translation of the Gloria would not include the phrase "and peace to his people on earth," so things would soon be changing. And, besides, the practice of changing the readings to inclusive wording had ceased in the parish a few years ago. So,  I left the conversation with this young man at that. I was tired; it had been a long day and a long rehearsal. I didn't have the energy to engage in a long conversation about the whole issue of inclusive language. And, I honestly thought that he was overreacting just a bit to this change of one word. 

Until Sunday. The choir has sung the traditional spiritual Come Let Us Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness for a couple of years. Here's a Youtube video of a Presbyterian choir singing this piece. As the choir began singing it on Sunday, it started to dawn on me that the words had been changed. The references to God as "him" had all been changed to "God" or something like "the one." I was totally distracted by this. When I looked in the worship aid, I noticed that, following the name of the composer of this piece, there was an additional phrase added in parenthesis, which read "New lyrics by . . . ," with the name of a choir member inserted there. Granted, I am a firm believer in creating texts that do not refer to God exclusively in the masculine, nor refer to God's people as "brothers" or "men." But I wonder how far, when dealing with established texts, is too far?

Of course, this brought me back to my days in the 1980's. I am being honest here. In the parish where I was music and liturgy director, we had the "inclusive language committee" of the liturgy commission that painstakingly moved through the Lectionary, with Wite-Out® and black pen in hand, purging the readings of any masculine pronouns referring to God. This group added "and sisters" in places and changed "man" to "human," etc. Frankly, it all seemed perfectly acceptable at the time; "everyone was doing it." When I think of some of the awkward phrases in the readings that resulted from this activity, I now cringe. What were we thinking? Followers of this blog know that I am not an advocate for "adjusting" the Church's official texts. Hearing the same readings and prayers as my parents do, as my siblings do, as my friends in other parishes do, as Catholics all over the world do, is something that helps identify us as Catholic. I believe this is a treasure. I regret having entered the practice of "altering" texts in those early days of my ministry. And what happens to the collective lex orandi lex credendi when parishes all over the world are hearing and praying altered texts?

What will happen when we implement the new translation of the Roman Missal? I have heard some pastors say that they will painstakingly move through the Missal, altering the texts so that they make better sense for them and for their people. I certainly hope that this doesn't occur. The Church in the English-speaking world needs to work together to make this new translation our own. And we need to work together, if need be, to make concrete suggestions to improve this translation. If what is being prayed proves to be awkward and unintelligible, it is our right and duty by reason of our baptism to address the issue. 

I want to tell you again how much I love being a part of my parish. I believe that what happened on Sunday was done with the best of intentions. 

Thanks for listening today. And, as always, comments welcome.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.