Friday, December 30, 2011

Ben Breedlove: Perspective

Friday greetings to you all. It's raining and dark and miserable here in Chicago; a place that has seen no real measurable snow yet this winter. I am not complaining; just tired of the dreary skies.

So much was put into perspective this morning when I read the story about the life and death of 18 year-old Ben Breedlove. This is a video he posted on Youtube just before his own death. If you have lost a loved one recently, this might bring you comfort. It is worth watching every single minute of this video. May he rest in peace.

Happy New Year.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Translation Thursday: A Look Back and a Heart Filled with Gratitude

"New Translation Thursday" greetings to you all.

I have something interesting coming up in a few weeks. I am leading the music for a retreat for Roman Catholic Army Chaplains. While I was putting the worship aid together, I needed to include a musical setting of the Mass parts. I chose Steve Janco's Mass of Wisdom, chiefly because of the fact that it is intuitive and just sings so well.

Then I thought to myself . . . what about the rest of the assembly's responses? You see, only one of the 70 priests in attendance will be the principal celebrant; the rest of the priests will be in the assembly. Wondering what it will be like for them on the other side of the altar? I am especially wondering about the "Lord I am not worthy . . ." Should be interesting.

As usual at the end of the year, I get nostalgic. I want to share with you what I wrote on this blog on the final "New Translation Thursday" a year ago, as 2010 came to a close:

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.

Well, folks, as 2011 comes to an end, I still feel a tremendous sense of gratitude to be working here at World Library Publications. This year was a dramatic one for me, as I transitioned into the Senior Management Team of the J. S. Paluch Company (WLP's parent). Even more dramatic were the many, many more trips to places throughout the United States to continue preparing people for the new translation. I guess it all came together for me at Midnight Mass last weekend when I was in an assembly which indeed did sing a WLP musical setting of the new translation, Steve Janco's Mass of Wisdom. As it rang out in that church, I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride as I leaned over to my nephew seated next to me and said, "That's one of ours!"

So I end this year of blogging with a huge thank you to Jennifer, Michele, Mary Beth, Deb, Israel, Norma, Mary, Marcia, Mike, Denise, Tejal, Chris E, Chris B, Geovanni, Steve, Raquel, Lisa, Gina, Ellen, Jude, Kathy, Didi, Patty, Ed, Peter, Alma, Tom, Pedro, Alan, Christine, Ron, and Keith. You are simply the best people to work with and to lead. Your contribution to the work of the Church can never be measured.

Happy New Year.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Prayers for Deacons and Prayers for Catechists

Wednesday of the Octave of Christmas greetings to you all.

It's WLP commercial time.

We have two new little prayer books in our Pray Today series, one for deacons and one for catechists.

Servant of the Lord: Prayers for Deacons is written by Deacon Peter Hodsdon. I met Peter at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress a few years ago and asked him to write this book for us. This is a must-have for the deacons in your parish.

Here's a sample from the book:

The Triduum – Thursday of the Lord’s Supper

Celebrating Diaconia

Do you realize what I have done for you?

John 13:12

Servant God, more than any other liturgical celebration, Holy Thursday is the feast of diaconal identity. In the midst of the eucharistic feast, we pause and reach out to others in a dramatic, symbolic way—by washing their feet.

As I prepare to assist the celebrant on this special day, let me take a moment to consider all the people I’ve served in the past year: lives I’ve touched in small ways, lives I’ve touched in major ways, both known and unknown. I thank you for this privilege. More importantly, though, I consider all your people who have served me in my ministry, who have washed my feet, and I thank you for their presence in my life. Together, as Peter so eloquently puts it, we are washed head to foot!
The second book, our newest in the series, is Sweeter than Honey: Prayers for Catechists, by noted author, Elizabeth McMahon Jeep. It is cleverly written in poetic sense lines, using punctuation and capitalization only rarely. I love this little book and (of course) think it is a great gift for parish catechists and catechetical leaders.
Here's the sample prayer for Christmastime:

Flight into Egypt

Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod. (Matthew 2:14–15a)

Sometimes you just have to move on, Joseph,
leave the life
you worked so hard to build
the client list
the easy chair
the Sabbath routines
that give a man shape in his community
today the dream changes
the Lord asks more:
join immigrants on their dangerous road
take only essentials
urgency overcoming inconvenience
retrace the path your namesake
followed centuries ago
seek safety for your wife and child
among a people
who have not forgotten how to dream

merciful God
you have called me to be a teacher
bearing Christ safely to a new generation
you alone command my destiny
you alone my goal, my path, my guide
be light to my journey
for I cannot see beyond the next turning
strengthen my courage and give me peace
in the name of Jesus your Son

Two wonderful little books that can really inspire our deacons and catechists. Thanks for listening.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Translation Tuesday: Christmas Mass

"New Translation Tuesday" greetings to all.

Safely back here in Chicago after the Christmas weekend in Florida with family and friends.

I attended Christmas Mass at Midnight at Saint Mary Magdalen Church in Altamonte Springs, Florida. I was the director of liturgy and music at the parish from 1984 to 1990.

The parish was well-prepared for its many visitors at Mass. Before Mass, the pastor welcomed everyone, made a financial plea, then did a short catechesis on the changes in the Mass texts, inviting us to watch the large screens during the Mass, where the new texts would be projected.

He chanted the sign of the cross and greeting. Unfortunately, it was just text that was projected, so those of us who had not been there during the Advent Season had no way of knowing how to respond musically. But kudos to the parish for encouraging the chant. At the end of each of the readings, the cantor chanted the concluding acclamation and we all sang "Thanks be to God" and "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ." There was only one awkward moment during the creed. The person moving the slides hesitated too long at one moment and the creed just stopped, but we were soon all back on track. Before the creed, the pastor invited us to kneel during the moment when we proclaimed our faith in the incarnation. It was beautiful and dignified. I was so happy to see that the parish had chosen Steve Janco's Mass of Wisdom. The choir, brass, and timpani led us beautifully with these acclamations.

I was disappointed that the choir sang a "musical" from the evangelical protestant tradition for the forty-five minutes before Mass. There was no involvement by the assembly and each piece ended with a Cecil B. DeMille-esque finish that called for applause. The narration was strange; it was a mix of the actual Lucan infancy narrative and commentary on the birth of Christ. It was odd that the Gospel narrative was done before the actual Mass, the highlight of which is usually the Lucan Gospel proclamation of the birth of Christ. The choir obviously worked very hard on the music and I appreciated their work. It just didn't sound or feel very Catholic to me. I wanted to sing, but was prevented from doing so. Oh well.

The pastor prayed the new translation beautifully. He obviously was very well prepared. He prayed Eucharistic Prayer I. I found myself listening carefully, but felt that the language created some distance between God and me. This will all taking much more getting used to on my part.

The parish did an excellent job, over all, with the new translation this Christmas. I was proud of their work.

Well, I am one of the few here at WLP at work this week and I love it. No meetings; just time for doing catch-up and planning for 2012.

I hope that your Christmas Octave is filled with grace and peace.

How did the new translation "land" at your parish at Christmas?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Boxing Day

Happy Boxing Day to all.

I am still in Florida and plan to be back in Chicago tomorrow. Looking forward to sharing my Christmas liturgical experience with all of you and hearing about yours. Eucharistic Prayer I was interesting!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Blessings

Wishing all of you a blessed Christmas.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Translation Thursday: Who Is His?

"New Translation Thursday" greetings to you all.

Last Christmas, at "Mass at Midnight," those gathered in English-speaking countries heard this opening prayer:

you make this holy night radiant
with the splendor of Jesus Christ our light.
We welcome him as Lord, the true light of the world.
Bring us to eternal joy in the kingdom of heaven,
where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

This Christmas, "At the Mass during the Night," those gathered in English-speaking countries will hear this Collect:

O God, who have made this most sacred night
radiant with the splendor of the true light,
grant, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries of his light on earth,
may also delight in his gladness in heaven.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

I have spent quite some time with the new text. In my opinion, the new text, which does not directly name Jesus Christ as the true light, becomes confusing when it refers to him twice later in the prayer, using the pronoun "his." Of course, theologically, we understand "the true light" as a descriptor for Jesus Christ but, without naming him as such (as did the previous translation), the prayer makes little sense.

I think this is a case where strict adherence to the Latin has resulted in a poor prayer, simply put.

I will be listening very carefully at Christmas Mass at midnight.

Your thoughts?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Showing Up

Wednesday greetings to one and all.

Last night, I joined other members of my parish's liturgy committee, as well as some volunteers from the choir, to decorate our parish hall (our worship space) for the Christmas Season.

This brought me so much joy! At first I thought that there were too many "cooks" and not enough chef's helpers, but we eventually worked together as a team. I brought a couple of bottles of wine and some pretzels, so that helped us gel all the more! Angels, hand painted by our parishioners last year, were hoisted along six section of walls between tall windows. The creche was nestled among evergreen trees and bales of hay were placed next to the creche, upon which were placed the three kings, who will slowly make their way closer to the Holy Family. This is all set up on our "stage," which is rarely used. We gather on the main floor of the auditorium for Mass.

When I was a full-time director of liturgy and music, I remember hoping that enough people would show up for the decorating of the church. Now I am one of those volunteers to whom the parish leadership looks, in the hopes that I "show up." Strange the way life turns itself around sometimes.

At any rate, I will not be at my parish for Christmas; I am headed to Florida to spend time with family members there. I will be worshipping at the parish where I had my first full-time ministry position. It's always great to return there.

Hope this final week of Advent has been a graced one for you.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Translation Tuesday: Christmas Hospitality

Ah, the final "New Translation Tuesday" before Christmas 2011.

I know that there is some anxiety out there regarding the throngs who will appear at our doors for the Christmas Masses. Some will know that changes in the Mass texts have occurred; many will not.

As I have traveled around the country over the past two years or so, I have asked people to consider seriously the commitment to hospitality during the Christmas Masses of 2011. For the majority of "regular" parishioners, picking up a worship aid has become a habit over the past four weeks. Those who are not "regulars" will not have developed this habit and will certainly be a little more than confused as they come to Mass this coming weekend. In order to be a welcoming parish, we'll need to be sure that these folks know that there have been changes. We'll need to ask them to use the worship aid for the entire Mass. Perhaps at Mass the First or Second Sunday of Advent, your parish priest reminded people to pick up the worship aid at various pivotal points during Mass. I believe that practice needs to be put in place for all the Christmas Masses as well. Greeters might remind people who enter to pick up the worship aid and take a look at the changes in the texts. Remember that the majority of these non-regular parishioners will not have had the benefit of months of catechetical preparation. Is there a simple announcement that can be made before Mass that simply outlines the reasons why the texts have changed?

Have you ever attended Mass in a parish that used a musical setting of the Mass with which you were completely unfamiliar? Most parishes simply do not give any indication to visitors regarding the musical setting. Perhaps it is in the parish's hymnal or missal; perhaps not. Being a frequent Catholic "visitor," I always think that there might perhaps be something at the doors of the church alerting visitors to the place where they can find the musical setting. It's so uncomfortable for me, a singer, to sing the hymns and songs at Mass in a parish but to remain silent for the acclamations. Perhaps this is a good thing to remember as Christmas approaches. Let's do everything we can to be sure that our visitors are given everything they need to celebrate the incarnation of the Lord.

Have you made additional plans for extending hospitality to your visitors this coming weekend?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mystagogy Monday and the Chicago Sun Times

Our Fourth "Mystagogy Monday" has arrived.

How'd it go in your parish yesterday? Are the "And also with you's" slowly but surely morphing into "And with your spirit's?"

On the plane flying to California on Thursday, I happened to catch this editorial in the Chicago Sun Times concerning the new translation. I was enjoying the piece until I got to the section about the nuns. I thought this was irreverent and insensitive. While I can understand attempts at Catholic humor, this went over the line for me.

Thoughts anyone?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, December 16, 2011

An 81 Year-old Retired Pastor, the New Translation, and Preaching

Friday greetings from the California desert. Each year I help out a dear friend, a retired 81 year-old priest, with a Christmas party at his home. I play the piano for the Christmas sing-a-long for a group of people I have grown to know and appreciate over the past eleven years of my friend's retirement. This is a beautiful area of the country and I feel blessed to be here.

It has also been quite interesting to be in conversation with this retired priest. He no longer presides at Mass in a parish, but does "say Mass" here in his home. I have sent him copies of our worship resources so that he can use the newly translated texts. His major complaint is not the texts themselves. He complains that the church has not done enough to address the real issues that affect peoples' (especially young peoples') attitude toward the Mass. He consistently complains that most preaching is poor and does little to draw people into the power of the paschal mystery for everyday life. He told me that it would have been so much more effective if the Church in the United States had spent as much time, energy, money, and catechesis on training those who preach, instead of what the Church has done with respect to the new translation.

Interesting points, for sure. As usual, what do you think?

Hoping your weekend and the celebration of the Fourth Sunday bring you closer to God.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Back in Action

Wednesday greetings from soggy, wet, dreary, dark Chicago! Yes, it is one of those days here in the Midwest. Makes you want to crawl back under the covers.

My technology problems here seem to be fixed, so I will be getting back into the swing of things in the next few days. I am traveling to California tomorrow for a few days in the desert and will surely have a "New Translation Thursday" post tomorrow.

Thanks for your patience. Lots to catch up on now that I have my computer again.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Couple of Infections

Hello folks. It is late in the evening of this "New Translation Tuesday." Got back yesterday from L.A. with a bad cold, only to find my computer infected as well.

Looks like I am back in the swing of things, technologically, at least.

Will try my best to post in the morning.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Light Dusting

Friday greetings. Chicago got its first trace of snow overnight; just a very light dusting. It is very, very unusual that we have not had a measurable snowfall this late. However, I am not complaining.

I wanted to say a special word of thanks to many of you who ordered WLP's Daily Mass Intercessions, by Bryan Cones, which I mentioned in Wednesday's post. I think this is a wonderful and helpful pastoral book.

I will be flying to Los Angeles early Sunday morning to meet with some of our artists and composers in southern California and I am looking forward to attending Mass at one of the parishes in the L.A. area. That is one of the benefits of travel; seeing and hearing the way Catholics pray and sing in other areas of the country.

I hope that your weekend celebration of the Eucharist brings you joy and the promised peace of thsi Advent season.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Translation Thursday: Out of Breath

Welcome to "New Translation Thursday."

At this past Sunday's Mass, I noticed that my pastor was trying his very best to deal with the length of the sentences in Eucharistic Prayer III. He told me that he chose the third prayer as his focus at Masses this Advent season. At one point in the prayer, I was listening closely to the way he was trying to connect the phrases in a particularly long sentence. When he got to the end of the prayer, he was clearly out of breath. I spoke with him afterward and he said that, because he was concentrating so heavily on trying to proclaim the prayers well that "his voice hurt."

When I mentioned this here at the office, someone came up with a comical image that I haven't been able to get out of my mind. The person said that perhaps there should be an overhead compartment above the altar with a control switch just under the altar. When a celebrant reaches a point of losing his breath, he could press the control switch and, presto,

an oxygen mask drops down for his use, so that he can muster the energy to tackle the next long sentence!

Folks, I think we need to mix in a bit of humor as we continue the implementation of these newly translated prayers.

If you are one who presides at Mass, let us know how you have handled these long sentences.

There is one section of Eucharistic Prayer III that I have found just lovely:

Listen graciously to the prayers of this family,
whom you have summoned before you:
in your compassion, O merciful Father,
gather to yourself all your children
scattered throughout the world.

It's a rather short section and I find it to be inspiring.

Are there passages that you have found particularly inspiring?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Daily Mass Intercessions

Wednesday greetings to all.

Followers of Gotta Sing Gotta Pray know that every so often I share some news about a helpful pastoral resource that we publish here at World Library Publications.

One resource that I believe every parish and religious institution should have is WLP's Daily Mass Intercessions.

Written by Bryan Cones, this is a great resource for those looking for inspiring intercessions for daily Mass or for daily celebrations in the absence of a priest. This year, we have changed the binding to a spiral binding, so that the book lays flat for ease of use.

So, faithful followers, before any more of the current liturgical years slips away, check this book out on our web site or call our helpful Customer Care team at 800 566-6150.

Thanks for listening to my little commercial and I hope yours is a pleasant day.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Translation Tuesday: Our Catholic DNA

"New Translation Tuesday" greetings to one and all.

Just a few words today; sorry that the day ran away from me without taking the time to blog.

Many of you have heard me talk about what the new translation means for our "Catholic DNA."

So I want to share this photo with you; me standing next to one of our whacky Christmas trees here at the office. Enough said.

How is your "Catholic DNA" during these days of translation change?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Just another Mystagogy Monday . . . week two.

How did it go in your parish over the weekend?

Well, at Saint James, I thought it went fine for the second week. About half the people are responding "And with your spirit" at those particular moments. The response at the sign of peace is the most challenging.

We have a particular challenge at Saint James. Our pastor is a Benedictine monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. For his entire priesthood he has used the "Saint Meinrad Tones" for the prefaces and for those times when he sings the Eucharistic Prayer. These tones are really an ingrained part of his own "Catholic DNA." Apparently Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB, of Saint Meinrad, is working to set the new translation to the Saint Meinrad Tones, but he has not completed this work. So, my pastor is trying his best to use the chants as they appear in the Missal. I feel for him. For me it would be like trying to sing "Happy Birthday" in a different mode, or with a different melody, or in a minor key. Let me tell you what happened yesterday.

At the preface dialogue, the music director played a few cue notes for the chant as it appears in the Missal. And it went beautifully. The pastor then began to chant the preface from the Missal, only to discover that he had turned to the wrong page and was chanting a preface for Ordinary Time, which he had not prepared. It kind of fell apart. So, he simply stopped, looked at us and said, "Well I am still having some trouble finding my way around in this book, so let's start that again." It was an honest liturgical moment and I thought that his stopping and explaining was quite appropriate. I felt like the congregation was saying, "It's OK, Father, we understand; don't worry about starting again." So, he started again, only this time he reverted back to the Saint Meinrad tone for the preface. Before we had the chance to respond, the music director interjected, "Let's start that again." Then he played the cue notes again for the Missal chant and we were back on track. It all seemed very natural to me; just honestly moving through something very new for all of us.

As I said, I feel for my pastor, who not only to learn a new translation, he also has to learn these new chant tones. I have lots of confidence that we will eventually all get on the new translation highway.

As for me, I am having difficulty spiritually entering into the liturgy. I find myself too aware of what the next thing is to happen (Oh, I need to pick up the worship aid now to pray the next set of responses), and I feel I am not paying enough attention to what is happening in the moment. I know this will pass as I become more familiar with the new translation, but it is pretty frustrating right now.

So, I have two questions for you:
1. How did it go in your parish over the weekend?
2. How is it going for you spiritually?

Thanks for listening.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Translation Thursday: Looking Forward to the Second Weekend

"New Translation Thursday" has arrived once again.

I don't know about you, but I am finding myself looking forward to the second weekend of implementation.

From what I have heard from others around here, the parishes that had periodic accouncements made during the Mass last weekend ("Before we begin the Eucharistic Prayer, please refer to your card for the new responses," etc.) had much more success with the new responses. In my own parish, an announcement was made at the beginning of Mass, asking that people refer to the worship aid throughout the entire Mass. However, when I looked around about half way through Mass, more than half the people didn't have the resource in their hands. And they simply used the old words. Not sure if this means anything more than they just simply forgot to pick up the worship aid.  This is probably why I am looking forward to this coming weekend; want to see if people will have more intentionality about all of this.

Did you have periodic accouncements during the Mass in your parish this past weekend?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.