Friday, December 31, 2010

Ending 2010 with Claps of Thunder and a Grateful Heart

What a strange weather day to end 2010 here in Chicago. I was awaked by thunderstorms moving through the city. It's 48 degrees here and the large amount of snow that has fallen here in the past few weeks is largely melted. Strange indeed.

There is some good news for publishers regarding the new translation of The Roman Missal. Yesterday we received the files we need (not the entire Missal) to begin constructing our worship resources for 2012, work that would have already been completed months ago had we had the texts. So, there is excitement around these parts, and a heck of a lot of work to do as well. We are grateful to the dedicated men and women at the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship, as well as to the folks at ICEL for their diligence and hard work. I cannot imagine what the past few months (and years) have been like for them as they shepherded this process through, with all its strange twists and turns.

So, I end 2010 with a grateful heart. And I look forward to 2011, a year that will see preparation for the reception and implementation of the new translation of The Roman Missal. I believe this will be the single most significant liturgical event in my Catholic adult life.

I am also grateful for each of you, the readers of Gotta Sing Gotta Pray. I hope my musings and the comments of readers have helped you in some small way.

Prayers and best wishes for a Happy and Holy New Year.



Gotta Sing. Gotta Pray.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Looking Back at 2010

Welcome to 2010's final installment of "New Translation Thursday." I want to share what I wrote nearly a year ago, in the first installment of "New Translation Tuesday" for 2010:



Welcome to the first "New Translation Tuesday" entry for 2010.




As you may know from previous posts, at my parish, St. James, our parish worship and spiritual life director is moving on to another position in mid-February. The search committee for his replacement met for the first time last evening.

One member of the committee kindly drove me home after the meeting. I was grateful, since the temperature was nearing the single digits—sure beat having to stand on a train platform in the cold! During our meeting, the issue of the implementation of the new translation of the Missale Romanum was discussed. This conversation was in direct relationship to the kind of liturgy and music minister we want to hire. It was expressed by everyone that we wanted someone who would not be presenting a negative view of the new translation to our parishioners; we are looking for someone who can help us navigate our way through what will undoubtedly prove to be a challenging time for our community.

On the ride home, my fellow search committee member began to talk about the changes in the translation. He began by talking about a parish west of Chicago he recently heard about. Apparently, the pastor there has "turned the altar back around" and is "saying Mass with his back toward the people." My friend began to wonder aloud about where the Church was headed. He admitted that he is not a big fan of Church hierarchy in general, especially given his perception that many bishops never admitted any culpability during the continually unfolding sexual abuse scandal. It was within the context of this discussion that he looked at me and asked, "Can you give me just one reason why the translation is changing?" At that very moment, it dawned on me that there will be many, many of us who will be asked this simple question. But, I believe, it is the context that is probably more important than the question. One can never excise context. And herein, I believe, is where what would perhaps have been an easier transition is muddied by context. Whether or not we want to admit it, we are living in a Church that is still reeling from the clergy sexual abuse scandal. Recent events in Ireland (if we believe we are, indeed, all one body) should be affecting every single Catholic around the world as much as if these instances of abuse and cover-up had occurred within our very own parishes or dioceses. I have heard of at least one bishop who has declared the scandal over, and that all we need do is move on. My question to him would challenge his very notion of what it means to be a Roman Catholic.

Friends, we have to remember that, when we begin to move into praying new words and singing new or revised musical settings to these words, that there is much more going on in our Church right now than a change of translation. And we have to be ready to deal with issues that go beyond changed words.

My response to my friend in the car last evening? I simply told him that, for a variety of reasons, Pope John Paul II changed the rules with regard to the translation of the original Latin texts of the Mass into English. I explained the principles of dynamic equivalence that were at work during the translation back in the late 1960s. I told him that these were officially recognized principles for the translation of liturgical texts. Then I told him about John Paul II's changing of the translation rules to formal equivalence; the new set of principles used to re-translate the Latin texts. He's a smart man. He listened and absorbed. After I finished my explanations, he asked why the pope had changed the rules. I told him that I believed that the rules were changed in order to bring English-speaking Catholics closer to the exact meaning of the Latin texts; that there were some deficiencies with the current translation using the old rules; that our English texts would be expressing the Latin texts more like other non-English language translations of the Latin; that it was a move to render a more exact translation of the Latin so that we would all be in closer unity.

He said nothing, but shook his head back and forth. He then changed the subject.

Many, many, many conversations like this have been occurring and will continue to occur. Frankly, I am not sure if there will be a general level of satisfaction with any answers, whether stumblingly expressed as were mine, or those that will be eloquently expressed in parish bulletins, books, catechetical programs, and from pulpits across the English-speaking world. And I truly believe that this has as much to do, if not more, with context as it does the translation itself.

We continue to work hard here at WLP to make sure that you have appropriate and beautiful musical settings for the new texts. As I have said before, I believe that it is music that will be the greatest single factor in the implementation of this new set of words for worship.



Well, folks, I found it interesting to read this year-old post. I have spent a good part of 2010 crisscrossing this country of ours, talking to liturgists, clergy, catechists, musicians, and people in the pews about the new translation. I have been in places where I have felt like the sheep among the wolves. I have honestly expressed my own disappointments with regard to the way the process of this translation seemed to unravel in its last months. I have shared new and revised musical settings of the new translation and have watched many peoples' deep concerns transform into anticipation as they begin to "practice" the new and revised musical settings. I have advocated for the singing of the dialogues at Mass. I have urged bishops and priests to see the implementation of this new translation as an advent of a renewal in their own celebratory style at Mass. I have cautioned them that old approaches—like not even practicing the texts before Mass—will need to be jettisoned. 

Here on the home front at WLP, I have watched a group of brilliantly talented composers, editors, designers, artists, music engravers, marketers, and customer service representatives serve the needs of the singing and praying Church. Good, solid, and beautiful musical settings have been composed that will address the various musical needs of the English-speaking world. First-class recordings of all these settings have been made. Hours have been spent researching appropriate art and photography for the covers of the various components of these Masses. Our customer service representatives have fielded countless calls from those we serve, fielding questions about the new translation and WLP's work to help the Church through the transition. Our marketing team has created ways to help make people aware of our new and revised Mass settings. Our rights and permissions manager has made sure that all notices are correct. Our editors have, at many times, agonized over all kinds of musical issues within these settings. We have all dealt with the frustrations associated with the last-minute changes to texts that had already received the recognitio—we have had to ask composers to re-compose parts of their Masses; we have had to go back into the recording studio several times to bring these recorded texts into conformity with the last minute changes.

As I look back at 2010, I am struck by what it really means when we say that our mission here at WLP is to serve the needs of the singing, praying, and initiating Church. It has certainly not been an easy year. Navigating a Catholic company like ours through these very challenging economic times has had its own challenges. It is our commitment to serving the Church that keeps us focused on the road ahead.

It is my hope that a year from now, the music that we have created here will be ringing in parishes across our country. I can't help but bring to mind a verse from one of my favorite hymns. This sums up this year for me:

Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear the music ringing.
It sounds and echoes in my soul;
How can I keep from singing?
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?


Happy New Year.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Giving Birth to Newly Translated Texts

I hope your Christmas week is going well. This is the first time in I don't know how many years that I have worked the week between Christmas and the New Year. Very productive time for me. I am editing a new book by Mary Birmingham, Formed in Faith: Sessions for Inquiry, Catechumenate, and Ongoing Faith Formation. Mary is a good friend and a master catechetical leader. This will be a great addition to the many RCIA resources in WLP's Fountain of Life series.

Thanks to those of you who commented on yesterday's blog post. Feel free to visit the post and offer your own comments as well.

A few years ago, Fr. Cyprian Davis, OSB, was the guest celebrant at my parish, Saint James, here in Chicago. Father Cyprian was ordained a priest in 1956, and has been celebrating Mass for 54 years. When Father Cyprian celebrated Mass at Saint James, it was one of the most significant liturgical experiences of my life. When Father Cyprian said "Let us pray" before beginning the Opening Prayer, he bowed his head in silence. When the Sacramentary was brought to him, he prayed that Opening Prayer with such prayerful reverence and with such a deliberate style, the first thing that came to my mind was a sense that he was giving birth to that text right there and then. He prayed that prayer as if he were sharing the best news in the world for the very first time. He was obviously overjoyed in his delivery; I had the sense that he was cradling the text like a new parent showing off a baby for the very first time.

And it didn't stop there. When Father Cyprian prayed the Eucharistic Prayer, that sense that he was birthing the text happened all over again. It was as if he had been waiting years to share that prayer with us at Saint James. It was as if we were people who had never heard it before and, knowing that, he prayed it for us as if it were what we had hungered for our entire lives. Sitting here at my desk in Franklin Park, Illinois, I am being moved to tears as I recall this moment.

The Church will give birth to the newly translated texts of The Roman Missal not when the musical settings of the Mass appear in printed form (as they even at this moment roll off the presses); not when blogs, diocesan newsletters, parish bulletins, books, and magazines contain portions of the texts and discussion and commentaries on the texts;  not even when the actual Roman Missal is published. The Church will give birth to the newly translated texts when they are prayed, spoken, and sung at Mass, hopefully beginning in Advent of 2011.

What will this birth be like? It is my sincerest hope that the birthing of these newly translated texts will be very much like what Father Cyprian Davis accomplished at Saint James a few years ago. These are high hopes that place enormous responsibility on bishops, priests, and musicians. There is also a great responsibility placed on the congregation as well. The success of any well-told story is dependent upon the open ears and open hearts of the listeners.



My prayers continue for a successful and exciting delivery. How about you?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Good Tuesday to all of you; Merry Christmas; and welcome to this edition of "New Translation Tuesday."



I want to use today's post to continue a conversation I am currently having with one of Gotta Sing Gotta Pray's faithful readers, my friend Chironomo. One of his comments on last Thursday's post was this:

I think this would be a good opportunity to consider seriously the question of WHY ours is (supposed to be) a sung liturgical form rather than a spoken one. If it is true that singing a text gets in the way of "conveying its meaning", then wouldn't a spoken liturgical form be preferable? But the Roman Rite is and always has been a sung form, and as such it would seem that comprehension is not the first priority in proclaiming texts... Perhaps things more elusive like "beauty" and "reverence" are intended as priorities?


I have been thinking a lot about this comment. Everywhere that I have been speaking about the new translation recently, I have tried to help people understand that—to use perhaps a too-oft used phrase—we sing the Mass; we do not sing at Mass. Singing the dialogues with people helps them to grasp this central truth about our liturgy.


I'd like you to weigh in on Chironomo's comment about comprehension, however. I thought about what he (and others) espouse with respect to the "beauty" and "reverence" that can come about when, say, the Collect is chanted. I thought about being in a place where the celebrant had a beautiful singing voice and chanted the text with reverence. Once the prayer was completed and I joined the rest of the congregation in a hearty sung "Amen," I imagined myself thinking, "Wow, this sounded so beautiful; it sounded so "Catholic." But what if that was the only thing I was left with; what if the meaning of the text was not conveyed; what if I did not comprehend the text itself? According to Chironimo (and others), it would seem that the "beauty" and "reverence" of the chanted text trumps the comprehension.


Perhaps I am one of only a few Catholics who actually try to let the meaning of these important texts sink into my heart and soul. When I look around at Mass sometimes, it seems that some people don't pay too much attention to the so-called "presidential prayers." 


I payed very close attention this past Sunday at Mass. The Prayer After Communion struck me:


Eternal Father, 
we want to live as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
in peace with you and one another.
May this communion strengthen us
to face the troubles of life.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.


I try to let the meaning of these prayers shape my own faith. I know that our beliefs are expressed in these prayers. Liturgy is a locus theologicus, a primary place where our theology, our belief, is expressed. I know in my brain that the the Eucharist is a source of strength. But when we are reminded of that fact as a prayer is being proclaimed, this meaning sinks deeper into my heart. When I hear the phrase prayed "May this communion strengthen us to face the troubles of life," I think about those things that weigh me down, things like illness in my own immediate family, things like the fact that my parish is faced with so many challenges right now; and I take a deep breath and pray that the Body and Blood of the Lord will indeed strengthen me and strengthen those sitting around me in the personal troubles of life, as well as in the troubles that we are experiencing as a community of faith.


If I am not able to comprehend the texts—even though I may be moved by their beauty and reverence when they are chanted beautifully—then why pray them at all?


I would appreciate your chiming in on this one, folks.


I hope your Christmas week is a good one. And for all those who are dealing with the recent blizzard on the East Coast, I hope you are safe and warm.


Gotta ing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Translation Thursday: This Publisher's Update

Welcome to "New Translation Thursday."

I am taking a few days off and will probably not post until Tuesday morning.

I wanted to draw your attention to the comment made by Lisa Tarker (of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions) on Tuesday's blog:

"The Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC) is working on recordings of the newly translated presidential prayers, spoken rather than sung. The team working on the recordings is trying to have a variety of accents represented to illustrate how the texts may be prayed effectively even by those for whom English is a second language."

Let's applaud the efforts of the good folks at FDLC for this work.

Just a little update on the reception of the new translation from a publisher's perspective, as this year continues to wind down.

We have not yet received the texts that we need to construct our worship resources for 2012. As each day passes without having received these texts, those editors responsible for the construction and editing of these resources grow more anxious. I know that the dedicated people at the BCDW and ICEL are doing their very best to get these texts ready for us. What we are expecting any day now are the proper entrance and communion songs (for Sundays and weekdays), the collects, the prayers over the offerings, and the post-communion prayers. These are texts that appear in a variety of ways in a variety of WLP worship resources. The fact that these are new texts and will need to be cut and pasted into existing InDesign files means another layer of careful proofreading and, in many cases, new layouts, which means more time will be needed than we usually spend with these texts. I am very confident that the staff here at WLP is up to the task. I guess I was hoping to have been able to sing something like this during Advent:

Rejoice! Rejoice, O WLP
To you has come Missale Romanum!

Wait we must.



Please accept my sincerest wishes for a Christmas Season filled with grace and promise.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gifts That Endure

A very foggy and dreary Wednesday has dawned here in Chicago. The weather folks are telling us that we may see the sun tomorrow, then it is more snow on Friday and Christmas day - winter has taken its grip here in the Midwest for sure.

For each issue of WLP's Seasonal Missalette, We Celebrate, and Celebremos/Let Us Celebrate worship resources, I write a short reflection that appears on the inside cover. I want to share the current reflection with you as these days of Advent slowly open the door to the festival of Christmas. The overwhelming sense that I carry in my heart these days is one of gratitude for God's abundant gifts. I want to thank you for your faithful following of Gotta Sing Gotta Pray. Now, the reflection. I hope you find it helpful as you prepare for Christmas.




Gifts That Endure

I grew up one of six children. Without a doubt, the high point of the year for our large Catholic family was Christmas morning. Even though my parents struggled financially, they were always able to have presents beneath the Christmas tree for us. I will never forget the Christmas morning of 1965.

It was the typical frenzy of tearing wrapping paper off of the gifts. We felt elated when we opened a package with a cool new game or toy in it and somewhat deflated when the packages contained the annual “socks and underwear” installment.

That year, toward the end of the unwrapping frenzy, I found a small present bearing my name. It could not have weighed more than an ounce. I shook it and was convinced that there was nothing inside. When I opened the gift, I noticed that my mother and father were watching me. In it was a handwritten certificate. It said that this Christmas gift was piano lessons with Sister Julie Maria at St. Charles School in my hometown, Woburn, Massachusetts. We had a little tabletop “Magnus Chord Organ” at our house and I had been teaching myself how to read music. This gift—these piano lessons that my parents found some way to afford—opened a world of music making to me that has endured to this day. It is, by far, the greatest Christmas present I have ever received.

During this time of preparation for and celebration of Christmas and these weeks of Ordinary Time, try to recall a gift you have been given that has been an enduring gift. I believe these kinds of gifts are few and far between. Do you even remember what you received last Christmas?

One thing we can be certain of is that we have been given—and continually are given—one enduring gift that makes all the difference in our lives. That enduring gift, of course, is the Eucharist. Each week we are given the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that consuming a small wafer of bread and a sip of wine is all there is to this experience of the Eucharist. Deep down we know that the Eucharist is so much more. This enduring gift gets us through the difficult times of illness and pain. The gift strengthens us to feed the poor and to work for peace and justice. It strengthens our marriages and families.

Let’s make this Advent, Christmas, and these weeks of Ordinary Time a time of deep appreciation for the greatest gift, a gift that endures for all time: the Eucharist.


Gotta Sing. Gotta Pray.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: International Priests

Another "New Translation Tuesday" has arrived. I arrived in Chicago late last night, in a snowstorm, but am safe and sound.



Many of you have undoubtedly read the reports about the priests in two vicariates in the Archdiocese of New York. They are petitioning the Archbishop to delay the implementation of the new translation of The Roman Missal. They have expressed the need to have more time to read the new texts and prepare to proclaim them. Their request is for a one year delay in the implementation.

This news item has surfaced a related issue. Many are now voicing concerns about the challenges faced by priests and bishops whose first language is not English. This is a legitimate concern. Those bishops and priests whose first language is English will need to spend much more time preparing to pray these newly translated texts. For those who experience challenges in English pronunciation, there will be much more work to do.

This issue was raised in the Diocese of San Jose, at a gathering of the bishop and the presbyterate a few weeks ago. The bishop and many of the priests of the diocese were born in a number of countries outside of the United States. This is an ethnically diverse presbyterate, serving an ethnically diverse diocese. The bishop addressed the issue of the praying of the texts by those priests for whom English is a second language. He said that people sometimes come up to him when he visits parishes and tell him how much they love their priest, but have a difficult time understanding him at Mass. The bishop told the gathered priests that the diocese is addressing this issue in seminary formation, adding programs to assist in the pronunciation of English. He also pledged his own and the diocese's support for programs to assist the priests of the diocese who have difficulty with English pronunciation, especially with the advent of the new translation of the missal. This is a laudable effort and one which would be wisely imitated.

In Father Eugene Hemrick's fine book, Habits of a Priestly Heart, the author shares some interesting statistics. "The 2007 study International Priests in America, estimates that we have approximately 5,500 international priests in the United States. Thirteen percent are religious priests, and 87 percent are diocesan priests. It is estimated that between 380 and 400 international priests enter this country each year . . . Other statistics of interest reveal that 28 percent of seminarians training for the priesthood are international students. One-third of the diocesan and religious international priests expect to stay in the United States more than five years, and a little more than 40 percent are uncertain whether they will stay or go home to their native lands."

These statistics show that the priesthood in the United States will continue to take on an international diversity as the years unfold. The implementation of the new translation of The Roman Missal will mean that these men, young and old, will need more training in English pronunciation. Someone remarked to me recently that it didn't really matter if the priest's English was up to par; "As long as he gets the words out, then the Mass is valid." I think this is a sad remark. The full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy, as The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy says, is a right and duty of the baptized. In order for the laity to engage in this participation, the texts must be clearly understood. These texts change hearts. If they cannot be understood clearly, the potential of the liturgy is diminished.

It is my own hope that dioceses take this issue seriously as they begin (or continue) their pastoral plan for the reception and implementation of the new translation.

Here at WLP, we discussed the possibility of recording the Opening Prayers, Prayers Over the Gifts, and  Post-Communion Prayers. There are already (or soon will be) available recordings of the musical chants of many of the celebrant's texts. However, I do not know if anyone has plans to record the spoken prayers. On a survey we conducted, 31 percent of respondents indicated that they thought this kind of recording would be of value. We interpreted this as indicating not enough interest to make the project worthwhile.

What are your thoughts about all of this? Do you know of plans in your own diocese specifically to help international priests with the new translation? I think this is an issue that needs more serious engagement.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Grounded in California and Order of Mass Booklets

Happy Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent to all.

Well, here I sit in Indian Wells, California. My flight yesterday was cancelled; basically not many flights are able to land here between the mountains. It's a treacherous approach usually, but with this very unusual rain and fog, basically none of the smaller jets are able to get in or out. So, I will be driven to the Ontario, California airport later this morning, then connecting through Denver, then to Chicago. But there is a winter storm advisory for Chicago for tonight. All of a sudden the song "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is beginning to look like a fading hope. Please pray for the safety of all air travelers.

Over the weekend, World Library Publications sent out an e-mail blast to our loyal customers, describing our new "Order of Mass" booklets. Basically these booklets contain the newly revised Order of Mass, with the texts of the celebrant and people included. The changes in the peoples' texts are in bold-face type, alerting the person praying them to the fact that something is revised. There are two musical settings embedded in the booklets: the official chants from The Roman Missal as well as Steven Janco's fine Mass of Redemption. As a Catholic company dedicated to serving the needs of the singing, praying, and initiating Church, our hope is that this resource will really help in the reception and implementation of the new translation. People who have hard bound hymnals can use this resource as a supplement to that hymnal. It is also a great catechetical tool for small groups in the parish who will want to see and practice the newly translated texts. Parishes that project their music on large screens will find these books helpful as well. Check out these at our web site: www.wlpmusic.com. I am not able to share images of these books with you today. Working remotely means that certain functionalities are disabled.

Well, folks, hopefully I will be posting "New Translation Tuesday" from home tomorrow.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Little Time Away

Friday greetings to all.

I am in the desert of Southern California for a few days of "getting-away-from-it-all," staying at an old friend's home here. Lots of stimulating conversation about things ecclesial, especially the new translation. Interesting to get the perspective from an 80 year-old retired pastor, my host.

Short post today. I hope your celebration of the Fourth Sunday of Advent finds you at peace.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Translation Thursday: A Little Less Hope Today

New Translation Thursday has rolled around again. Welcome.



As most of you know (because you read other blogs), the publishers have received the final version of the Order of Mass. I have had the chance to begin looking more carefully at the text. After all my months traveling around and sharing the musical settings of the peoples' parts of the Mass with lots and lots of people, you know that my own approach to the new text has shifted from anxiety to hope.

After having read some of the texts, I need to re-issue my own call that we begin to pray for our bishops and priests; those whose responsibility it will be to pray and proclaim these newly translated texts. Some of these prayers are close to impossible to convey. I have sat down with these texts, praying them aloud over and over again. Once I capture some of the new internal structure, for instance, the insertion of the words "O Lord, we pray" after the supplication (in the prayers over the people), I find myself being able to proclaim the meaning more clearly. This takes time and energy. Sometimes, though, once through this new construction, I get lost as I stumble over some of the English words used to translate the Latin. For instance, the word "compunction" appears in at least two of these prayers over the people; a word that is not in common use in our vocabulary. I fear that celebrants will avoid many of these prayers and choose ones that they feel they cam proclaim easily. And this is lamentable. What I had hoped would be a translation that would inspire celebrants may become a translation that celebrants avoid or change on their own in order to transmit the meaning. Of course, we do not yet have a direct experience of the praying of these texts. My hope is that bishops and priests will do their very best with these texts. There are some texts that will be too difficult, too awkward, and too confusing.

Some people have said to me, "Oh don't worry about those prayers. Catholics don't really listen to them anyway." Ug. Isn't one of the main driving forces behind this new way of translation a move to create a sacral vernacular that will be inspirational rather than banal, evocative rather than flat, beautiful rather every-day? If celebrants avoid the use of these prayers over the people, then what was the whole point of engaging in this project?

Folks, we have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us. I so sincerely want this moment to be one of renewal and rediscovery of the treasury that is the prayer of the Roman Rite. I am still hopeful, just a little less so today.

On a lighter note, some of us gather for an annual Christmas photo here at WLP. It began as an "East Coast" photo because, strange as it seems, four editors were working in cubicles on the east side of the building and we were all originally from the East Coast of the United States. So, here is the 2010 photo.


These editors are kind enough to invite me back to "Editors Row" for this photo. We post them each year and this is the tenth year. Maybe some time I'll post the 2001 photo; my how we have all aged so gracefully!

Let's keep one another in prayer as these Advent days wane. Please feel free to comment on my opinions above. I always find the conversation helpful as we move through this.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Christmas Goose

Is it possible that it is Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent? This holy season seems to be slipping by so quickly. I did manage to finish my Christmas shopping last night, got home, wrapped it all, and now the gifts are on their way to the East Coast. Need to tackle the Christmas cards soon . . .

I tend to become quite nostalgic during this time of year. This morning, as I came to work and saw a gaggle of geese huddled together on the icy Des Plaines River, I was reminded of something that happened about fifteen years ago on the grounds of Saint Marcelline Parish in Schaumburg, Illinois. Here a few photos, interior and exterior:



I served as director of liturgy and music there from 1992 to 1999. A few days before Christmas, as I was walking to my car from the church, I heard a strange noise. It sounded like someone was coughing. I looked around and saw nothing but a group of pesky geese on the church grounds. A few hours later, walking back to the church, I heard the sound again. This time there was only one goose and as I drew closer, I could tell that the sound was coming from this goose. The goose was obviously in some kind of struggle. It was trying to flap its wings and it was emitting this kind of coughing sound. I found the maintenance man, Gil, and asked him to come with me to take a look. As we cautiously approached the struggling goose, we looked more carefully and saw that the poor creature had become entangled in fishing line. The line was wrapped around its wings, preventing it from flying. The line was also wrapped tightly around the bird's neck, which was probably the reason why it was emitting this coughing sound. Gil and I decided that we needed to do something for the poor goose. He phoned his daughter-in-law, a veterinarian, who gave us instructions on what we could do to save the poor bird.

We went into the maintenance room and found some wire clippers and a towel. Gil and I very quietly and slowly approached the goose—they are very large that close up!—and we placed the towel over the bird's head and then we began our work. Wearing gloves, we both began to examine the areas where the fishing line was wrapped around the goose's body. We carefully began to snip the line, pulling pieces of the line away from the bird, who remained quite docile the entire time. To be honest, my heart was racing at this point. When we finally clipped the line around the bird's neck, we knew we had removed all of the fishing line. We then removed the towel and walked very quickly away from the bird.

The goose just sat there looking at us. It began to cough again and after a few strange noises, it rediscovered its own honk. It just honked and honked away.

Then it began to test its wings, flapping around a bit on the ground. We stood there transfixed by all of this. Then, without a moment's hesitation, the bird began to flap its large wings and lifted itself in the air. Gil and I watched as the bird soared higher and higher and farther and farther away.



Once the goose was out of sight, Gil and I just looked at each other and I noticed a tear in his eye, blurred by the tears in my own eyes.

Those of you who regularly read this blog know that very few things in my life remain unexamined. I am always looking for some deeper meaning in events that occur. When I thought about this encounter with the goose, a comparison came to me instantly. What Gil and I managed to do with that coughing goose was akin to what God has done for us through the incarnation of Jesus, our Messiah. Caught up in sin, we are freed by the mercy of God, who loves us so much that he sent his only Son to be our redeemer. And what does this freedom from sin offer us? The potential to fly free, to soar as God's redeemed people, to be lifted up for a life of service to God's people.

This "Christmas Goose" story serves as a yearly Advent and Christmas reminder to me; a reminder to be grateful for the greatest gift I have ever received, the gift of God incarnate.

I hope this Advent sees you soaring to new heights as a beloved child of God.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Changes in Attitudes and a Challenge for Celebrants

Welcome to this latest installment of "New Translation Tuesday."



While in the Dioceses of Orlando, San Jose, and Birmingham in the past few weeks, I have begun to notice that, as people begin to get used to the idea that the texts of the Mass will be changing within the year, a level of acceptance and, in many cases, excitement, has begun to be evinced. There are those who remain quite resistant to the changes, but I am seeing more and more people taking on an attitude of acceptance. When I share WLP's new and revised musical settings of the Mass, people sing these settings with interest and energy. People who are used to a steady diet of contemporary music at Mass are responding quite positively to the chant settings. In the sessions in which the majority of the people in attendance are regular "pew Catholics"—not musicians—they are stumbling over the new words when I use a familiar setting that has been revised. Over and over again, when I play the introduction to the revised Sanctus from the Proulx adaptation of the Vermulst People's Mass, and remind the people that they need to follow the music and the new words very carefully, they invariably sing it the way they already know it—the way that is in their Catholic bones. This has been quite eye-opening for me, for it has occurred in settings filled with musicians as well. Then, when we sing the very same new text set to, say, the Janco setting from his Mass of Wisdom, the newly translated text flows beautifully. And it is in these moments that I see people turn from a hesitancy about the new translation to an attitude of acceptance and excitement.

The implementation, accompanied by good catechesis and good pastoral leadership (by musicians, liturgists, clergy, and catechists) should happen—I believe—quite smoothly, largely due to the sheer beauty of the new musical settings of the texts. And this moment should not just be about teaching new settings; more importantly it needs to be about teaching about the liturgy itself and what we actually do when we celebrate the paschal mystery week in and week out.

So, as this season of hope continues to unfold, I remain hopeful that congregations across the United States, when well prepared, will accept the changes with perhaps just a small amount of frustration. Time and experience singing and praying these texts will tell, of course.

Everywhere where I have been in the past several months, I have urged the laity to pray fervently for their bishops and priests. This is the group, by and large, that has the greatest challenge ahead. The development of a "sacral vernacular," as Liturgiam Authenticam puts it, is not something that will necessarily happen overnight. Bishops and priests will need to spend much time preparing the newly translated texts for proclamation.



I am reminded of my own pastor who, week in and week out, chooses to pray Eucharistic Prayer III at Mass. With the Sacramentary open before him, he lifts his arms, his eyes, and his whole heart to God as he prays the text, word for word, by heart, without looking at the text once. I am drawn into the prayer. Some celebrants have trouble with communicating the direction of the Eucharistic Prayer. Some add gestures and glances toward the congregation, as if it is being prayed somehow to us, when it is clearly not. My pastor will have a challenge ahead of him when the new texts are implemented. My hope, of course, is that he spends the time committing these newly translated texts to memory so that he can continue to model the fact that this prayer is addressed to God. It may take some time, but I hope that all celebrants will see this moment as time to renew and, in some cases, correct their celebrating styles.

Feel free to comment. And I hope you have a blessed Advent day.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Orlando: A Full Weekend of Formation

A happy Monday to all.

I am sitting at the Orlando International Airport, waiting for my flight back to Chicago. It is very cold here (by Central Florida standards), but I am heading into the deep freeze in Chicago. Happy winter.

It has been a great weekend here in the Diocese of Orlando. On Friday evening, I met with a group of musicians from the diocese to discuss pastoral strategies for the implementation of the new translation of The Roman Missal. Since we are less than a year away from implementation, people are beginning to get serious about the approaches they will take. The diocese here has good leadership in their worship office. The office has a solid plan for diocesan implementation, which should help these musicians in their ministry.

On Saturday morning, at Nativity parish in Longwood, I met with over a hundred liturgical ministers from both Nativity and All Souls Parish in neighboring Sanford. Our focus was on Baptism as the foundational sacrament for ministry. It was a good morning and the people seemed to respond well. Here's a photo of Nativity's exterior.



Last night, I met with about 70 people from the parish to discuss the new translation of The Roman Missal. Most in attendance were positive about the coming changes. A few were not happy at all. These kinds of meetings are good, because people have the chance to voice their own fears, happiness, and frustrations. More importantly, it is good for people to hear that others have differing opinions and sentiments about the new translation. I don't in any way do these presentations to try to sway people in any direction; I simply present the history and the facts as clearly as I can. I ask people to read the materials I hand out and to think more about it in the coming months. And, as usual, I ask them to pray fervently for their bishop and priests, who will bear the burden of preparing and proclaiming the texts, some of which are very challenging, a few of which I find nearly impossible to proclaim with clarity.

I was able to celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent at Saint Mary Magdalen Church in Altamonte Springs. I was the director of music and liturgy there from 1985 to 1990. I always refer to this period as "my real schooling," since it was my first immersion in parish ministry. Here's a photo of the exterior of the church.



I'll be boarding the flight shortly. I leave Orlando with a sense of gratitude to the good Catholic people here, who are very excited as they plan to install their new bishop, Bishop John Noonan, on Thursday.



Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Diocese of Orlando: More on Catechizing Children

Friday greetings from the Diocese of Orlando. Got trapped trying to find a cab during a snow squall in downtown Chicago last night, so it is a relief to be here in relatively warm Central Florida.

I received an e-mail today from a Vicar General-Moderator of the Curia in a diocese here in the United States. Here is a section from that e-mail:

You mentioned in your December 2nd blog when you were in Birmingham, Alabama:

Have you thought, for instance, of what you would say to a precocious seven-year-old Catholic child when that child asks the question, "Why are they changing the words?" How would you respond?

During our January Catechist Formation Sessions in the Diocese, we are going to deal with the English Translation of the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal.  The question you posed on the 2nd in your New Translation Tuesday installment is very much the point at which we want to get.  You mentioned in later entries that music would be most important in responding to youth and engaging them in the “changes”.

Have you garnered any other responses/ideas/suggestions/strategies?


______

I did not receive many responses to my query that actually helped with ideas and strategies, so I am asking the question again; this time I wonder how you might actually set up a pastoral plan for your parish that includes children? I have decided to weave this question into my own presentations.

I do wonder if it might be possible to teach a small group of children the new responses (both sung and spoken) and then have them "teach" the assembly these newly translated words.

Might be something worth thinking about.

Comments welcomed and encouraged. Let's help one another.

More from my experiences here in Orlando when I post on Monday. Have a blessed Third Sunday of Advent.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Translation Thursday: A Publisher's Update

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Thursday."



Thanks so much for your comments on Tuesday's post. It seems that, for the majority of musicians, the newly composed settings of the new translation will be the most used, at least at first. It will be interesting to track the numbers here at WLP over the next several years.

I wanted to give you an update on where we stand from a publisher's perspective.

We are awaiting two sets of documents from the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship. The first is a document containing the texts that we need to use in order to begin to construct our worship resources for 2012. As you know, all of this work would already have been done by now, submitted to BCDW, ICEL, and CCD for corrections and approval. We are confident that we will receive these texts some time in the next few weeks. Then the work begins in earnest.

The second set of documents is the actual text of The Roman Missal itself. We are hoping to receive this text some time in the early Spring. World Library Publications will be one of several publishers publishing the Missal itself. I will share more information on this as the process unfolds.



Once we receive the texts from the BCDW, Father Paul Turner will be able to do his final polishing of his fine work, Pastoral Companion to the Roman Missal. Because of the number of changes to the texts made over the past several months, Fr. Turner will need to do a careful re-examination of his work, so that his pastoral commentary is consistent with the final final final version of the Missal. I know there is much excitement out there about this book. One lay person, who works in catechesis and liturgy at his parish in Alabama, expressed his own personal interest when he saw the proof samples (for the Season of Advent) that we provide in a flyer for this book. He told me that he was fascinated to see the kind of historical development of these texts through the centuries. As the project's editor, I read Fr. Turner's work with that same kind of fascination. To know that Christians have been praying these same texts for centuries really helps us connect with the treasury that is the liturgy.



Many of our new and revised musical settings of the Mass are now available. It is so gratifying to be able to share the actual printed versions of these with musicians. When I distributed eight choral versions to the musicians in the Diocese of San Jose on Monday night, it was a joy to see their obvious appreciation for all the work that has gone into these Masses. Our composers have done a fine piece of ministry for the liturgical reform.



The CD containing the spoken versions of the four Eucharistic Prayers (recorded by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of the Archdiocese of Seattle) has been re-recorded to reflect the changes in the prayers made over the past several months. We are holding back production of this helpful resource until we receive the final final final version of these texts.

So, that's a little update for you from our perspective here at World Library Publications.

Tomorrow I am headed to the Diocese of Orlando for a session to help musicians prepare a pastoral plan for the implementation of the Missal. I am also presenting a session on the new translation for the parishioners of Nativity Parish in Longwood, Florida. Please say a prayer for my own safe travels, as well as for all who are traveling during this busy season.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

San Jose: The Renewal of the Liturgy

I hope this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception finds you growing closer to Mary, the Mother of God.

I will be leaving for the airport soon to catch my flight home to Chicago. Raining here in the San Francisco Bay area this morning.

I had a chance for a private tour of the San Jose's beautiful Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph last night. Here's photo of the exterior:



Yesterday's meeting with the bishop and clergy of the Diocese of San Jose was a good one. There is a vision here in the Diocese that would well be imitated by other dioceses. San Jose celebrates its thirtieth anniversary as a diocese next year. Accompanying the implementation of the new translation of The Roman Missal will be a general renewal of the liturgy here in the diocese. The plan for that renewal was a major topic of yesterday's sessions. Results from a survey taken by priests and parish leaders in the various deaneries of the diocese were shared. People were asked to assess various aspects of parish liturgy and to name those things that need to be done to improve parish worship. Most in the room were in agreement that another survey needs to be taken, this time taken by the laity in the parishes. This is a smart move. It will help the diocese determine the paths it will need to take for liturgical renewal. Concerns were expressed about how to stem the tide of the exodus of faithful Catholics from regular celebration of Sunday Mass. Others urged diocesan leaders to get to the heart of the meaning of the liturgy—the celebration of the paschal mystery—as they prepare a pastoral plan for the diocese.

The first thing I said was how envious I was of this vision for the Diocese of San Jose. Many dioceses across the country are saying that the implementation of the new translation will be accompanied by liturgical catechesis, but, for the most part, it is the process for implementation that will take up most of the time and energy. Here in San Jose, the plan for the renewal of the liturgy will take place over a number of years, with the implementation of the translation being a part of the larger picture. I was so impressed that I told those gathered that there is a part of me that wishes that I could plop my parish—Saint James—into the Diocese of San Jose. (And the weather would certainly be an improvement!) All parishes could use the kind of continued renewal of the liturgy that will unfold here in the Diocese of San Jose in the coming years.

This diocese certainly has its work cut out for it. Please say a prayer for the general renewal of the liturgy, as well as those here in San Jose who will be hammering out the pastoral plan.

I am looking forward to getting home to Chicago for a day. I leave for the Diocese of Orlando on Friday to work with the musicians there and to help serve the people of Nativity Parish in Longwood.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Newly Composed Mass Settings: Your Opinion?

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Tuesday."



Last night, here in the Diocese of San Jose, approximately forty musicians gathered at Saint Martin of Tours Church to sing through musical settings of the new translation. Some had not yet seen the new texts. We moved through a variety of settings. It is always a delight to hear this music come alive. This was the first session at which participants sang from the actual choral scores for these Masses. You can see samples and listen to sound clips over at singthenewmass.com.

More and more musicians are telling me that they are deciding to use completely newly composed settings at first. They are saying that new settings will help the text become a part of the peoples' prayer, without the burden of re-learning an established setting. What are your thoughts about this?

Today I will be attending a session with the bishop and clergy of the diocese. I have been asked to give a kind of "state of the union" with respect to the implementation processes I have witnessed across the country. I am looking forward to this opportunity.

Well, I've gotta get on the move here. I hope your week is going well.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Alabama and a Tale of Two Catholic Worlds

A good Monday to you all.

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.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Translation Thursday: How Would You Explain This to a Seven-Year-Old?

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Thursday."

Greetings from Birmingham, Alabama. Arrived late yesterday afternoon and spent some time having dinner and great conversation with some members of the diocesan staff. I have never been here before; quite a lovely city.


In a few hours I will be leaving for St. Bernard Benedictine Abbey for a day and a half on the new translation. The days are being sponsored by the Diocesan Office of Religious Education. There will be quite a few religious educators and those associated with Catholic schools at the workshops. I am looking forward to this experience. I have been speaking, for the most part, to liturgists, musicians, and clergy. It is going to be interesting to hear from those whose job it will be to help parishioners—the young, especially—with the reception and implementation of the new translation.

Have you thought, for instance, of what you would say to a precocious seven-year-old Catholic child when that child asks the question, "Why are they changing the words?" How would you respond?

I am told that I will not have internet access at the abbey, so there will probably be no post tomorrow, unless I can sneak some time at the airport or when I return home tomorrow night. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you.

Please pray for those spending these two days together and for all who are working to find ways to receive and implement the new translation of The Roman Missal.


Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thank You to the Readers of Gotta Sing Gotta Pray

Wednesday greetings from snowy and cold Chicago.

I have had a very busy morning (I will share more about our latest discussions about the new translation on a post very soon). So, I cannot do a long post today, since I am readying myself to leave for the airport to head to Birmingham, Alabama.

What I do want to say to you is how grateful I am for your continued visits to Gotta Sing, Gotta Pray. Today is a celebration of you, the faithful followers.

Overnight, the "hit" count for this blog reached a milestone.


Thank you for making Gotta Sing Gotta Pray a place of conversation, challenge, and—hopefully—a place where solid information is shared.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray. Gotta fly!