Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lightning and Hail

My apologies for not having posted today. I was involved in all-day meetings and right now we are having a lightning array here in downtown Chicago the likes of which I have never seen. The hail is coming down now, pounding on the roof; just went up; definitely the size of quarters; unbelievable!!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CPA Awards 2011

Wednesday greetings to all.

It's early here in Chicago (just a bit before 5:00). I am headed to the airport shortly, then flying to Baltimore for a meeting to help plan the liturgies for the first Mid-Atlantic Congress for Pastoral Leadership, scheduled for next March.

Not much time to blog this morning. We did receive great news yesterday that the Catholic Press Association honored WLP with five awards this year. I will share the winning resources with you as the week continues to unfold. Congratulations to our authors and WLP staff.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New Translation Tuesday: You've Got Thirty Seconds

Welcome to another installment of "New Translation Tuesday."

Adam Wood, the blogger, musician, and composer, recently reviewed the newly composed settings of the Mass as published by OCP and GIA. This past weekend, Adam completed and posted his review of the new settings offered here at WLP. Please take a look and be sure to read the comments section; some interesting back story there offered by our own Alan Hommerding.

On Sunday, one of the older couples with whom I go to Mass at Saint James, asked me about the new translation about thirty seconds before Mass was to start. They were concerned and wondered "just what is going on." I had thirty seconds.

I told them that the English translation of the Latin Mass texts, the text the entire Catholic world prays, each in the translated language, was in need of improvement to bring it closer to the original. I said that Pope John Paul II felt strongly that this needed to be done, so that the texts that all Catholics prayed would be closer to the Latin, closer to expressing what we all believe. I said that this would mean changes for us and for Father. I assured them that they were really going to love the new music.

Then the opening hymn was announced and I sat down. I think these are the kinds of very brief opportunities many of us are facing and will face in the coming months. Given thirty seconds, what would you say?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Nothing To Do with Liturgy, Music, Initiation, New Translation

This rare Saturday post has nothing to do with liturgy, initiation, music, or the new translation. As many of you know, I am a Boston native. Well, this morning, while noodling around on the internet, I looked at fares to Boston for Thanksgiving, hoping to find a good fare so that I could spend some time with my family. I checked United Airlines from Chicago to Boston (departing Tuesday and coming back to Chicago on Saturday of Thanksgiving week), hoping to avoid the airport crowds.

The screen said $104.00 roundtrip plus taxes and fees. I figured it was a mistake on United's part. So, I continued through the booking process, fully expecting a "the fares have changed" screen, but lo and behold, I got the fare. Called my parents and told them I would be "home" for Thanksgiving. The total roundtrip airfare came to $125.40. You know I am a very frequent traveler. This is unbelievable. Reminds me of the old Peoples Airlines days.

So, anyone out there wanting to go to Boston from Chicago for Thanksgiving, book it now.

Feeling like singing today.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Frustrating World of Implementing a New Translation

Friday greetings to all.

I concluded yesterday's post (about beginning to sing the parts of the Mass in September) with a question:
And, frankly, when you realize that the official date of implementation is exactly five months from this coming Sunday, is a few months really such a big deal?

Well, apparently for some it is a big deal, particularly those who have carefully laid out a plan for implementation over the next several months. The bishops' announcement last week came as quite a surprise to all of us, and I am sure it was quite disconcerting to those who have a plan carefully laid out.  As much as I can sympathize with you, here's my response, "Welcome to the unpredictable world that is this whole Roman Missal process!"

When I was in New York on Wednesday, a parish music director came up to me and said, "We sing and pray from WLP's Seasonal Missalette with the Spanish insert in our parish of 2300 families. Now that the bishops are allowing us to sing the new texts in September, I am assuming that the new musical settings will be in the books that we receive in August?" Most people don't understand the publishing process. I told her that these books are either already printed or are in the process of being printed. She looked at my with eyes searching for a solution to her problem. To be frank, I stood there wondering why the bishops decided to take this long to make this kind of decision. For goodness sake, other English-speaking conferences around the world had decided on just such a plan. But they let people know about this decision more than a year before the actual missal's implementation date. Don't get me wrong; I actually think this is a good idea. It's just that we could have been so much better prepared as a Catholic publisher had we known further in advance that this decision was on the horizon. As I said before, we will do everything we can, most especially for our worship resource subscribers, to provide everything they need to begin singing the texts in September. It just gets frustrating sometimes.

And it is on a note of frustration, mixed with growing anticipation that I finish out this week.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and that Sunday's feast draws you into a deeper love for the Eucharist.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Translation Thursday: "I'm Singin' in September..."

"New Translation Thursday" has rolled around again.

Yesterday's session for musicians in the Archdiocese of New York was a good one. I snapped a few photos of the interior of Immaculate Heart of Mary parish church in Scarsdale, where the sessions took place.

There were approximately 150 people present, mostly musicians, but there were several priests in attendance as well. Monsignor Anthony Wadsworth gave two presentations, one focused generally on the reasons why we have a new translation. His style is simple and direct. His second presentation focused on music and the missal. His fundamental point is that this edition of the missal signals in a much stronger way that the celebration of the Mass is a musical celebration. Monsignor argues for much more singing of the parts of the Mass (the people's parts, the dialogues, prefaces, proper antiphons), but does not advocate just one style. I found his presentation to be refreshing and very pastoral.

Two local musicians then offered some tips on teaching the new musical settings. The first made an interesting point. He said that he would never rehearse music before Mass because he strongly feels that this is his parishioners' private time to prepare spiritually for Mass. He would consider a rehearsal an intrusion. Interesting. He also shared that he and his pastor are planning a big music night in the parish, a night when all the choirs (adult, contemporary, children, teen) will sing the parish's new Mass setting and invite those in attendance to sing as well. He plans to serve pizza and ice cream for the event. He also said that he will be hiring other musicians (brass and timpani) to really give the setting a boost. This sounds really cool to me!

The second local musician had about fifteen young girls from her Catholic school's children's choir there to help her with her presentation. Basically, she showed us how she teaches plainchant. She taught them (and many of us) the Gloria from the missal. No accompaniment; just a simple approach. I believe it gave those in the church a real boost, especially those for whom chant might seem daunting.

I was struck by a few things as the day progressed. There was a question and answer period that revealed an uneven-ness in peoples' awareness. One musician asked for clarification about whether or not these changes in the missal were mandatory. As I listened to his question, I wondered to myself, "What planet does he live on?" Then I had to remind myself that not everyone, not even all church musicians, have been living with the missal issues every single day as I have. Another person wondered when people in the parish should start hearing about the changes. Monsignor Wadsworth suggested that this very week might be the best time.

All in all, a good day in the Archdiocese of New York. I did find it interesting that several people stated something like the following: "Well, now that we can begin singing the new Mass parts in September..." There were no qualifications to these statements such as, "If the local bishop permits the early implementation." So, I am wondering what the general sense is out there about beginning the singing in September. I know for a fact that there are many parishes across the United States that have already begun singing the new Mass settings. And, frankly, when you realize that the official date of implementaation is exactly five months from this coming Sunday, is a few months really such a big deal?

Would be glad to hear your comments.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New York City Bound

Wednesday greetings to all.

Very early morning here in Chicago. I am headed to the airport shortly for a flight to New York City. I am attending a presentation being given by Monsignor Anthony Wadsworth, the executive director of ICEL. He is speaking to the musicians of the Archdiocese of New York. There are also presentations on music in The Roman Missal. I will be representing WLP later in the afternoon, talking with musicians about our new and revised musical settings of the Mass.

I fly back to Chicago this evening; looking forward to giving you a full report tomorrow.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Translation Tuesday: The Tough Question

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Tuesday."

At my parish's liturgy committee meeting last night, I did a presentation about the new translation; basically a "how did we get here" kind of presentation.

I had created PowerPoint slides, with some helpful quotes from both Comme le Prevoit and Liturgiam Authenticam, the documents that created the so-called "dynamic equivalence" (former) and "formal equivalence" guidelines to translation. The basic point of my presentation, of course, was to drive home the fact that the words we use at Mass do make a difference, because they express what we believe, pure and simple. I did a side-by-side comparison of the Latin text of the Gloria with our current translation, then did the same comparison with the new translation. Heads nodded in agreement as they saw how much closer and more faithful the new translation is to the Latin text. I then did the same thing for the Opening Prayer/Collect for the Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Again, heads nodded in agreement.

Then came the tough question. Someone pointed out the fact that my presentation was missing an important piece of the history, namely the thousands of changes that someone or some people had made to the texts that the English-speaking bishops had approved and then sent to Rome. This person said that several parishioners who read the Catholic liturgy blogs and read Catholic newspapers and periodicals have been asking pointed questions about these changes. They have read the opinions of some scholars who say that these changes have, in many cases, distorted or misrepresented the original Latin texts. "How," they ask, "can you say that this new translation is a better one, more faithful to the original Latin, a better expression of the truths of our faith (lex orandi lex credendi) than we have right now, when it is obvious that last-minute changes were made that actually made for a worse translation?"

I believe that a new translation was warranted. I believe that our current translation needed improvement. But I find it difficult to try to answer the questions posed by these parishioners. There is, I believe strongly, a satisfying answer to the question about why we needed a new translation. I just don't know if there is a satisfying answer to the questions posed by these parishioners. What I said last night in response to the question echoed what Father Paul Turner said in an address at this year's Southwest Liturgical Conference in Salt Lake City. He said something like, "I must work under the supposition that those who crafted these texts, as well as those who made the changes, have my prayer life in mind." Too simplistic an approach? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Basically I have a choice to make. I can do one of two things. I can spend the next few years, and perhaps the rest of my life, bemoaning the new translation; I can join together with groups of Catholics who will continue to express anger and frustration about the many thousands of perplexing changes. Or I can name my own frustrations, name the fact that I am still perplexed by all of this, but still do my best to try to pray the liturgy. I told those gathered last night that it will take a few years before this new translation is tested in the real lives of people like us. I also said that if I find that the translation hinders my own engagement in the liturgy, if it weakens or distorts my faith, then I have a right and duty by reason of my own baptism not to remain placid, but to voice my objections. And if the new translation strengthens my faith, I will share the ways that this strengthening is being accomplished. I cannot make any of these judgments until I have the actual experience of praying these texts in the context of the liturgy.

I am jumping into the new translation with my eyes wide open, with an open heart and an open mind. Frankly, it's a bit scary, because I do not know what my Catholic faith is going to look like in a few years, for it is the celebration of the liturgy, the praying of these texts, that fundamentally continues to shape and re-shape our lived Catholic faith.

On my way to work this morning, someone in my carpool asked me how long I was going to continue writing about the new translation on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I responded that this will probably go on for a few years. The most important work regarding the new translation remains to be accomplished: the actual praying and singing of these texts. And there must be reflection spoken and written about our actual experience of those texts. That is what I hope to do in the coming years, God willing.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Introducing a New Mass Setting at My Parish

Monday greetings to all. It's a stormy morning here in Chicago. Here are a few photos I snapped while waiting for my train in downtown Chicago a few hours ago.

With all this rain lately, Chicago is looking quite lush and tropical.

At Mass yesterday at my parish, Saint James, I found that our music director had the following to say on his usual page in the bulletin.

link to audio file:

I’d like to introduce the new Glory to God to you and invite you to go online and listen to it. Several weeks from now, we will begin to rehearse this before mass. Shortly thereafter, we will begin to sing it during mass. It would be pretty hectic to introduce several new mass parts all at once, so this will give us a headstart at familiarizing ourselves with the melodies and motives that Mr. Bolduc has so brilliantly composed.

Picking-up this melody should be a snap for most of you, but to help you, I have included the music below. Perhaps you can listen at the computer while reading the music, since I have also included the link above to the audio file. Enjoy your listening…call it a homework assignment from your friendly musical director!

The melody line is the top note throughout.

The bulletin article also contained the music and text for the refrain of the Gloria. I am looking forward to seeing if anyone is talking about this at Mass next Sunday; just curious to see if anyone actually listened to the recording.
At tonight's liturgy committee meeting at Saint James, I will be giving a presentation on the history of the new translation; a "how did we get where we are" workshop. The circle is growing ever wider at Saint James.
Before Mass yesterday, a man from the choir came to me to tell me how upset he is about the new translation. He told me that he just doesn't agree with the rationale behind the new translation. I told him that he will be given plenty of information in the coming months at various parish meetings. He walked away still angry, but at least I hope that he felt that he was heard.
I'll let you know tomorrow how tonight's meeting went.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, June 17, 2011

September Gradual Implementation and a Grand (Rapids) Night for Singing

Just read this on the USCCB web site:

USCCB President Authorizes Gradual Introduction of Musical Settings of New Roman Missal Starting In September

BELLEVUE, Washington—Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Divine Worship, announced that diocesan bishops may permit the gradual introduction of the musical settings of the people’s parts of the Mass from the new Roman Missal in September. Primarily this affects the the Gloria, the Holy, Holy, Holy and the Memorial Acclamations.

This variation to the implementation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, set to take place all at once on November 27, was authorized by USCCB president, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, and adopted by the committee to allow parish communities to learn the various parts of the new translation “in a timely fashion and an even pace.”

The Committee on Divine Worship made the decision in response to requests from several bishops, echoed by the National Advisory Council. Some suggested that the various acclamations could be more effectively introduced throughout the fall, so that when the full Missal is implemented on the First Sunday of Advent, the congregation will have already become familiar with the prayers that are sung.

“I ask you to encourage this as a means of preparing our people and helping them embrace the new translation,” Archbishop Gregory told the bishops. The announcement took place June 16, during the U.S. bishops Spring Assembly near Seattle.

We have been putting our heads together today to figure out how we will deal with this as a publisher. Fr. Anthony Ruff over at Pray Tell asked us about this, and this was our response:

WLP managers met this morning to consider the implications of some dioceses beginning to use musical settings as early as September. Our free downloads of assembly card materials will be helpful to many parishes, and all our print editions are available. Our worship resources will not contain the new settings as the fall issues are already at press. Accompaniment supplements with the new Mass settings will be mailed to subscribers in September as usual. If our customers call with a need for materials earlier than they would normally receive them, we will make sure they have what they need without additional cost.

Last night, approximately sixty musicians gathered at Saint Andrew's Cathedral in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a WLP choral reading session. We gathered in one of the transepts of the cathedral, below the Nativity window. The Boesendorfer was in place and the organ console was moved, so that it was near the singers.

It was obvious that solid music formation has taken place in the Grand Rapids diocese over the years. The sight-reading abilities were terrific. The musicians made a glorious sound as we moved through the various Mass settings and several WLP choral octavos. Here are a few photos I took (with their permission, of course!):

I hope that your weekend is a good one. Personal thanks to the great people of the Diocese of Grand Rapids for a grand night of singing.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Translation Thursday: Addendum: Singing the New Translation in September?

Hello folks. Word is leaking out of the Seattle USCCB meeting that, at the discretion of the diocesan bishop, parishes may begin singing the new texts of the Gloria, Sanctus, and Memorial Acclamations beginning in September. I haven't seen any official word about this; perhaps it will need to come from each (arch)diocese.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

New Translation Thursday: A Little Bit of Musical Heaven in Grand Rapids

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Thursday." First of all, a big congratulations to all the Boston Bruins fans out there; a job well done!

I am here in the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Last night, at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew, I delivered a talk at the annual banquet for the Grand Rapids Chapter of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.

What a delightful group of musicians! I am giving a plenum address at NPM's national convention next month in Louisville; I have been testing out some of my thoughts for the address as I speak to musicians. The talk seemed to go over well, so I am feeling more comfortable with putting the finishing touches on the plenum.

One of the things that I talk about with musicians is the sense that I have that we musicians really do have an edge when it comes to the new translation. We have art. Pastoral musicians, I find, rarely envision themselves as artists. During my presentations I share one of my favorite commentaries. This is a snippet of a speech given by Paul Tillich, "Address on the Occasion of the Opening of the New Galleries and Sculpture Garden of the Museum of Modern Art" in New York in 1964:

"The artist brings to our senses and through them to our whole being something of the depth of our world and of ourselves, something of the mystery of being. When we are grasped by a work of art things appear to us which were unknown before--possibilities of being, unthought-of powers, hidden in the depth of life which take hold of us."

Composers have created musical settings for the newly translated texts, many of which are beautiful works of art that have the potential to reveal and lead us to the mysteries we celebrate in the Eucharist. The chant settings, a kind of unique Catholic work of art, do this as well. In my travels I have found that those who are most anxious, angry, or doubtful about the new translation seem to be touched when we move beyond the changed texts to singing those texts. Don't get me wrong. There are texts that I believe have been translated poorly but, at least for the peoples' parts that are sung, the newly composed settings support the new text and, because we employ the musical arts when we play and sing them, there is the possibility that we are taken to a deeper level by the art of music.

One of the real gifts for me last night was the private tour I was given by the cathedral music director (and one of WLP's fine composers) Nick Palmer. In 2002, through the generosity of a donor and donations by the people of the diocese, three pipe organs were installed at the cathedral, one in the day chapel, one in the sanctuary, and one in the loft. For you organ enthusiasts, here's a link to the Letourneau Organs page describing these fine organs.

When Nick brought me to the organ loft, he invited me to take a seat on the bench.

I just sat there, awed by the four-manual, 72-rank instrument that was ready for me to play. I just began to improvise on some hymn tunes and Nick moved back and forth around me, changing the registration, suggesting that I play on one of the manuals for the next section, suggesting that I play a solo line on another manual. When he pulled out the true thirty-foot pedal stop, the whole gallery trembled, as did my soul. Folks, this was one of those rare moments that God gives in life. It was, in a word, glorious. After I finished playing for about ten minutes, I just looked at Nick and told him how incredibly blessed he is to be the musician at the cathedral. He is a fine, fine musician. What a blessing for the people in the Diocese of Grand Rapids.

Tonight, it's back to the cathedral for a WLP choral reading session. We will focus on new and revised musical settings of the Mass, as well as a few choral pieces. The piano I will be playing to lead the session is a concert grand, a Bösendorfer. This is one of the finest brands of piano in the world. And they tell me that they will be moving the organ console in the sanctuary to the area where the musicians will be gathered, so that I can lead some of the Mass settings from the organ. Folks, for a church musician, tonight sounds like it's going to be a little bit of musical heaven!

Thanks for listening today.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Translation Tuesday: Barbecue Today and Off to Grand Rapids Tomorrow

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Tuesday." Today, the Senior Management Team here at J.S. Paluch and World Library Publications were the "chefs" for our employee barbecue here on the grounds of the home office here in Franklin Park, Illinois. I was on sausage duty. A photo for you:

I know I have said it before, and it bears repeating. I am so proud of the work that the team at WLP/JSP does here each and every day.

I received a request this morning from our music director at my parish, inquiring about posting the refrain from the Mass of Saint Ann in this coming Sunday's bulletin. I am looking forward to seeing what he has to say about the Mass and discovering the context of the placement of the music in our parish bulletin; he has a page in the bulletin every week, where he shares his liturgical, spiritual, and musical musings.

Some of the subscribers to WLP's worship resources have asked about our Mass settings: "What if the Mass setting that our parish wants to use is not one of the ones that the editorial team at WLP chose to put in my worship resource?" We have solved this problem. Any parish that subscribes to a WLP worship resource and that chooses a WLP Mass setting that doesn't appear in the resource simply has to request Assembly Cards for that Mass and we will provide those, free of charge. We will provide the same number as the number of worship resource subscriptions. Anything we can do to assist in the implementation we are committed to do.

I am leaving tomorrow for Grand Rapids, Michigan. I am speaking at their annual NPM members dinner tomorrow night at the cathedral, then presenting a WLP Mass settings reading session Thursday evening at the cathedral as well. Another long road trip. Have I told you lately how much I am looking forward to November 27, 2011 arriving?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"I Love the Mass of Saint Ann!"

Monday greetings to all. I hope your celebration of Pentecost renewed your faith.

After Mass yesterday, I was sitting in our parish hall's basement having coffee and cake with some parishioners. One of the choir members came up to and said, "Jerry, I just want to tell you how much I love the Mass of Saint Ann!"

I found out a few weeks ago that our parish music director had chosen WLP's Mass of Saint Ann by Ed Bolduc as the first musical Mass setting to be used when the Advent implementation rolls around. Dan, our music director, soon joined us at the table and started to tell us about the process which led him to the choice. He said that he had spent quite a bit of time carefully listening to and reviewing the many musical settings that have been published in the past several months. After this careful pondering, he chose Mass of Saint Ann.

Mass of Saint Ann does make sense for our community. Scored for SAT choir, it is perfect for our parish choir; the men usually do not divide into parts, so the voicing should work just fine. And our parish has a history of choosing music that is lively and spirited; and this is what marks most of the music of this particular Mass setting. I believe in my heart that this choice will help facilitate a much smoother transition into the new translation for my parish. I know that all parishes are not alike. For some, a chant setting makes sense as an initial setting; this just wouldn't be pastorally helpful in my own parish, given its musical and liturgical history. I do look forward, some day, to the parish being taught a chant setting, but it just makes sense to wait until the new texts take a firmer root. And I have to say that I am so proud and happy that, as a pew Catholic, it will be this wonderful WLP/Ed Bolduc setting that will see me through the transition.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, June 10, 2011

NPM Silent Auction and Two New Must-have WLP Resources

Friday greetings to one and all.

I received a request the other day from NPM. They are looking for items for their very popular silent auction at this summer's annual convention in Louisville. The convention looks like it's going to be one of the best in years. At any rate, last night, while musing about what an appropriate donation might be, I turned to ebay and found a wonderful print. It's title? Gregorian Chant.

Here is a very fuzzy photo I just snapped. The original (by Walter Gay) was first displayed at the Columbian Exposition here in Chicago in 1893, so it has a connection to Chicago. Here you go:

So, for you NPM convention attendees, pack your checkbook, or that old jar filled with loose change, and get ready to begin the bidding wars!

I got quite excited the other day when two new WLP music resources hit my desk, Alan Hommerding's Feet Don't Fail Me Now: Organ Music for Manuals Only or Manual with Easy Pedal, Volume Two Lent and Easter (Now that's a mouthful!),

and Marshall S. Barnhouse, III's Piano Accompaniments for Traditional Hymns.

Sample pages should be posted to our web site shortly.

I'd like to comment on Barnhouse's book. There are two accompaniments written for each of the 14 hymn tunes in the book. The first is a simple accompaniment, the second more advanced. We get requests from piano teachers all the time asking for simple and beautiful hymn accompaniments so that their students can play at Catholic school Masses or at Sunday Mass. Now we have something to fill this need. And it's not just a "big note" version of hymns; these accompaniments are well-crafted and beautiful! I wish I had this book when I was teaching piano students back in the 1980's. Each of the accompaniments is also written in a higher key and a lower key. Kudos to Alan Hommerding for his editorial work on this fine resource.

I hope you have a great weekend.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Teaching Priests to Chant

Welcome to this edition of "New Translation Thursday."

I wanted to comment a bit more on my experience with the priests of the Davenport Diocese earlier this week.

On Tuesday afternoon, Fr. Paul Colloton and I led workshops on singing the chants of The Roman Missal. I was charged with focusing on the chanting of the orations and dialogues. This was my first time in teaching the solemn tone and the simple tone in the Missal. The priests engaged wholeheartedly in the workshop. I wanted to be sure to address the questions that had arisen earlier regarding priests who sincerely believe that they can not sing. These priests were honest enough to raise their hands when I asked the question, "How may of you sincerely believe, or have been told, that you cannot sing a note?" I asked for a few volunteers and asked them if they could share with us what we had referred to earlier in the day as their "one good note." Every one of these priests proved to the others gathered that they could find their "one good note" and then they demonstrated the ability to sing an oration using that note, and without wavering from the pitch. For others who sang that "one good note," I worked with them in suggesting that they mimic me as I started on their "good note" pitch, then moved to a minor third below the pitch, using the words "Let us pray." Those who tried this sang the interval perfectly. It was at this point that I told them that they needed to believe in their ability to chant on these two tones and that they would be able to chant the orations and the dialogues. This was a revelation to many of these men, some of whom had been told way back in grammar school that they were "tone deaf."

So much of chanting the prayers, for these priests, has to do with self confidence issues. They often feel vulnerable and sometimes enbarrassed because they believe that they just can't do it. I hope that our little workshops helped to boost their confidence.

One of the priests in attendance suggested that there be a decision made on a diocesan level regarding the tones. He thought that it might be a good idea for the diocese to decide on using the simple tone for the chants, at least for the first two years. That way, he explained, priests could work together on singing the tones and that at diocesan celebrations, the worshipping assembly would know the responses to the simple tone. I thought that this was an admirable idea.

I know I have said it before, but it does bear repeating. The clergy of the Davenport Diocese really worked very hard during those two days. They were critical of some of the newly translated texts; they were delighted at others; and they approached their work of preparation honestly and with lots of zeal.

It will be interesting to follow their progress as the implementation unfolds.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Davenport and Boston: A Tale of Two Cities

Wednesday greetings to all.

A Tale of Two Cities: A Tale of Two Dioceses

Davenport, Iowa

Boston, Massachusetts

I want to begin by expressing my thanks on this blog to Bishop Amos and the priests and deacons of the Diocese of Davenport for their kindness and hospitality over the past several days. It was so uplifting to be in a diocese with such a high morale among the clergy. What a sign of hope for the people of that area of the great state of Iowa. I will talk more about my experience teaching the chants of the missal in tomorrow's post.

My sense of hope was tempered this morning when I read some news about the archdiocese in which I grew up and was reared as a Roman Catholic; the Archdiocese of Boston. Here is the clip I read this morning from America Magazine:

"After millions in sex abuse settlements and a continuing decline in Mass attendance—only 17 percent of local Catholics now attend Mass—the Boston archdiocese apparently is ready for extreme structural change. The archdiocese reports that 40 percent of Boston parishes won't be able to pay their bills this year, and that over the next ten years the number of available priests will plummet from 316 today to 178."

17 percent of Catholics attend Mass in the Archdiocese of Boston. This is astounding to me. I have tried to put into words my own sadness about this but, frankly, words are failing me. I think we have all had those moments in our lives when we contemplate leaving the active Catholic life for one reason or another. This has certainly happened to me, especially during moments of the Church's leaders' utter failures in the past, and currently, with respect to the clergy sexual abuse crisis. But each time I contemplate the possibility of leaving, I find myself echoing the words of Saint Peter from John 6:

As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
Maybe I am naive or perhaps my faith is too simple, but I just cannot imagine what my life would be like without my active participation at Sunday Mass. I know, deep down, that I need God to keep working on me, and God works on me most poignantly at Sunday Mass. And I grieve deeply for those who, like me, could never have imagined their life without Sunday Mass, but have decided that they can now do without it. What drives good, Catholic, faithful people to come to this disastrous decision? Rather than inventing a new plan for downsizing in the Archdiocese of Boston and spending the all the money it will take to do so, why doesn't the leadership do one simple thing first: ask the tens of thousands of who have left the reasons why they left and do everything possible to bring these people back. This comes straight from my heart. I honestly believe this is a question of life and death for the Archdiocese of Boston, a place that has such a tender place in my own heart. I don't mean to be hyper-critical here, but these are my people; this is my homeland; this is my family. And it simply hurts.

Praying hard today for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New Translation Tuesday: Clergy Grapple With the New Translation

Every Tuesday is "New Translation Tuesday" here on Gotta Sing Gotta Pray. Welcome to this installment.

Here in the Diocese of Davenport, the clergy convocation began yesterday. I facilitated the afternoon sessions. There is a great spirit among the priests and deacons gathered here. Bishop Amos, their shepherd, is a warm and friendly man with a great laugh and an approachable style. I thought the afternoon went well. The highlight for me was the time the participants spent examining samples of the newly translated texts. The room was divinded into small groups and each group focused on the collect, prayer over the offerings, and pray after communion for a given Sunday. Other groups focused on some samples of the prefaces.

Each participant first spent time alone, quietly reading through the texts and jotting down notes. Then the small group discussions began. There was robust engagament in the discussions. Then I asked for feedback from each of the groups. I found the responses to be straightforward and honest. Many of the comments focused on the challenges that will be faced in praying this new style of English. Some participants worried aloud about how the average parishioner would or would not be able to grasp the meaning of some of the texts, especially those whose sentence structure seemed so awkward. Several times during the discussion, I asked one of the priests in the small group to pray one of the prayers out loud for all to hear. What became apparent, and what the priests began to name, was a difference in analysis and proclamation. After having examined the prayer, after having voiced concerns or praises about the text, actual proclamation of the prayer often eased those concerns.

At the conclusion of the discussion, I asked the participants to name any insights they gleaned. There was mutual agreement that priests and bishops would need to spend much more time preparing to proclaim these texts. Several said that it was important to pray the prayer aloud as part of this preparation. One priest commented about a rediscovery that what we are celebrating in the liturgy is mystery.

It was a good day; an honest day; hopefully a helpful day for these men.

Today, Fr. Paul Colloton is the presenter. The focus is on the ars celebrandi, music, and chant. The afternoon sessions will be hands on sessions. We will focus on chanting the orations, the dialogues, the prefaces, the eucharistic prayers. I am looking forward to the day.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Greetings from the Diocese of Davenport

Monday greetings from Iowa City, here in the Diocese of Davenport. The clergy convocation begins in a few hours. Please keep Bishop Amos, the priests, and deacons of this diocese in your prayers over the coming days.

Yesterday at Mass at my parish, Saint James, our pastor let the proverbial "cat out of the bag" as part of his homily. This was the first time that the new translation of The Roman Missal was brought up in a public forum in the parish. We have had a few bulletin articles, but this was the first time about which it was spoken publicy. The pastor outlined the ways our parish will approach catechesis and training over the next several months. He expressed some of his own trepidation and initial hesitancy about the new translation, telling us how much he has grown to love and become comfortable with the current translation. He said that he knew that there would be people in the parish who would be resistant; some would be angry; others would be anxious; still others would be glad. He told us that whatever our feelings, there would be plenty of opportunities for people to express themselves and to learn about why the Church is issuing a new English translation at this time in history.

I thought it was a good, honest beginning that addressed the pastoral reality in our parish. More about this and what is happening here at the Davenport clergy convocation tomorrow.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Singing Celebrant

Friday greetings to all.

On Monday and Tuesday of next week, I will help facilitate a clergy convocation in the Diocese of Davenport. One of the things I have been asked to do is lead the participants through some portions of Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, especially those areas that pertain particularly to the celebrant.

Here are two of the sections I will be sharing:

21. The priest joins with the congregation in singing the acclamations, chants, hymns, and songs of the Liturgy. However, the priest does not join in the singing of the Memorial Acclamation or the Great Amen. To the greatest extent possible, he should use a congregational worship aid during the processions and other rituals of the Liturgy and should be attentive to the cantor and psalmist as they lead the gathered assembly in song.
21. In order to promote the corporate voice of the assembly when it sings, the priest’s own voice should not be heard above the congregation, nor should he sing the congregational response of the dialogues. While the assembly sings, the priest should step back from a microphone, or, if he is using a wireless microphone, he should turn it off.

Some of what is contained in these two paragraphs is fairly obvious, such as the fact that the priest should not be singing the congregation's responses to the dialogues. I must admit, however, that I have been in places where the priest forgets to turn off his wireless microphone and his own singing voice dominates the singing of the congregation.

I also have to admit being part of larger cathedral or diocesan liturgies where the celebrant (most often the bishop) does not carry a worship aid, does not sing a note, and just sort of stands there while all the glorious singing is happening around him. This has always irked me. And then there are other times in these same kinds of celebrations when the bishop does hold the worship aid and joins in the singing. Practice is eneven at best.

Just thought I'd share those musings as I continue to prepare for next week.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

New Translation Thursday: The Halls Are Thrown Open

Welcome to this installment of New Translation Thursday.

My nose has been in the new translation of The Roman Missal for much of the past week. I am preparing for a clergy convocation in Davenport next week. The convocation is a "hands on" approach to the newly translated prayers, with lots of opportunities for those in attendance to practice praying and chanting the prayers. While sifting through the various prefaces yesterday, the Second Preface for Easter struck me as quite strong, beautiful, and inspiring:

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
at all times to acclaim you, O Lord,
but in this time above all to laud you yet more gloriously,
when Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.
Through him the children of light rise to eternal life
and the halls of the heavenly Kingdom
are thrown open to the faithful;
for his Death is our ransom from death,
and in his rising the life of all has risen.
Therefore, overcome with paschal joy,
every land, every people exults in your praise
and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts,
sing together the unending hymn of your glory,
as they acclaim:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts . . .

At first, I struggled somewhat with the phrase "the halls of the heavenly kingdom are thrown open to the faithful." I asked myself, "How does one throw open a hall? Shouldn't it be 'the doors of the heavenly kingdom are thrown open to the faithful,' or 'the gates of the hevenly kingdom are thrown open to the faithful'?" Still, after sitting with the text for some time, there is something striking in the actual wording as it appears in the preface. The halls being thrown open to the faithful captures something larger, something more grand, something more wonderful than the words "door" or "gate" might imply.

I can see so much possibility for a mystagogical homily that helps unpack the meaning of the theology expressed in this preface. For instance, wouldn't it be wonderful for a bishop, priest, or deacon to help the faithful at Mass grasp what it means to be "overcome with paschal joy"?

Let's hope that preachers will feel more and more comfortable focusing on these texts in their homilies. Perhaps the attention given to these texts will draw more people into a mode of active listening when the texts are prayed at Mass.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Challenges, Problems, and Solutions?

Wednesday greetings to all.

Yesterday, at a meeting of those involved in various aspects of Catholic publishing, I posed the question: "What do you see as the biggest problem or challenge facing the Church and what would you offer as a solution to that problem or challenge?"

The answers were quite varied. Some called for a new dawn of transparency and accountability for the Church's bishops. Others named the exclusion of women "from the table of decision-making" as a challenge. I shared my concern that for far too many baptized Catholics, the Church has simply become irrelevant.

The solutions were far harder to articulate than the problems, as is often the case.

How would you respond to my question:
What do you see as the biggest problem or challnge facing the Church and what would you offer as a solution to that problem or challenge?"

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.