Greetings from the Diocese of San Jose, here in California's Bay Area. I flew here from Chicago this morning. It was eleven degrees in Chicago; needless to say it is far from that temperature here.
I am here to present a music reading session tonight for musicians in this area; we'll cover revised and new Mass settings published by WLP, as well as several octavos. Tomorrow I will be speaking to the priests of the diocese about the new translation, as well as the opportunities that the advent of the translation affords for the various chanted parts of the Mass.
Well, my experience in the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama last week was quite wonderful. For a day and a half at St. Bernard's Abbey, a group of about seventy religious educators, liturgists, musicians, deacons, and those working in Catholic schools gathered for a focus on the new translation of The Roman Missal.
Every time I travel to other dioceses, I am reminded of the diversity of the Catholic Church here in the United States. One woman related that she is from a parish of ten families; and they have no musicians currently in the parish, so there really is no music for Sunday Mass. There were others from rural areas where Catholics are far and few between. Still others were from parishes of well over two thousand families.
There was some rather lively discussion about the new translation. Some people arrived not having seen any of the newly translated texts. Others were familiar with the changes and arrived with a less than positive feeling about it all. My aim was to share as much knowledge as possible about the history of the translation process, as well as share some of the newly translated texts. Those in attendance really stuck with it throughout the whole process. It wasn't until we began to sing WLP's musical settings of the new texts that people started to see some real possibilities for their parishes. Many work exclusively with young children and they agreed that music will play a key role in the reception of these new words in the hearts of young Catholics.
I applaud the efforts of the leaders of this small diocese. They told me that the Diocese of Birmingham is very much "mission territory." The setting was beautiful. We were able to pray Vespers with the monks in the Abbey Church, as well as celebrate Mass with them. Here's a photo of the interior of the Abbey Church:
And a close-up of the image of Christ hanging above the altar:
Thanks to all in the Diocese of Birmingham that made this event such a success.
I also wanted to share what amounted to a pretty painful moment for me while in Alabama. While being driven back to the airport, there was some time to visit Mother Angelica's property, specifically the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament, as well as the bookstore on this massive property. Here is a photo of the interior of the shrine:
and an exterior shot of the "Nuns Gift Shop," which is located directly across from the shrine:
I was stunned by all of this, especially the gift shop, which is filled with medieval armor. My guide told me that Mother Angelica had a fascination with medieval times, chivalry, and the like, which is why the gift shop is designed the way it is. One word came to mind: excess. I actually shed a few tears as I walked around this enormous campus. All I could think of was Saint James in Chicago, my parish that struggles to worship in a less-than-desirable location because our church building is closed (and it's probably going to take six million dollars to make it structurally sound); my parish that struggles with its own financial future; my parish that feeds the poor and cares for those that society has simply thrown away. The contrast between the reality of Saint James' Catholic world and the Catholic world I saw portrayed at this location in Alabama was enormous. I know we are a big Church (and the great people of the Diocese of Birmingham helped me see that once again), but I just couldn't find a place in my heart to welcome the excesses I witnessed on the Blessed Sacrament Shrine campus.
Don't get me wrong. I know that EWTN's global outreach helps sustain the faith of many millions and that is a good thing. But there was something about the stark differences between Saint James and this campus that made me think that there is just something not right about the imbalance that this all portrays. Maybe I am naive about all of this, but I couldn't help but think that just a little bit of the gold (the real stuff, I was told) in the shrine could have gone a long way in helping my parish back home.
Thanks for listening to my story today.
I'll look forward to sharing more tomorrow, on "New Translation Tuesday."
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.