Friday, December 28, 2012

With Gratitude

As the year 2012 winds down to its final days, I want to take this time to thank all of you who visit Gotta Sing Gotta Pray. I appreciate your candor and your comments. It lifts my spirits when, at a conference or when speaking in a parish or diocese, someone comes up and says, "Gotta sing, gotta pray." I hope these reflections have helped you grow in your faith. I know that your engagement here has enlightened my own.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Translation Thursday: "Invisible"

"New Translation Thursday" greetings to you all.

I have to admit that I was paying very close attention to the prayers at the Christmas Mass at my parish this week.

My pastor chanted Preface I for the Nativity of the Lord. I found myself getting caught up in confusion over this line:
". . . so that, as we recognize in him God made visible,
we may be caught up through him in love of things invisible."
Often, when I am listening carefully to the preface being chanted, the meaning becomes elusive. Of course, now that I read this preface, I "get it." But the placement of "of things invisible" caught me off guard, because I didn't have an instant recall of the previous phrase in the previous line "made visible."

The word "invisible" just doesn't resound with me; when I hear it at liturgy, I can't help but think of the way this word has been used in my secular experience, i.e. "the invisible man," etc. I guess I need to continue to develop a new way of liturgical understanding. Sometimes it's just hard for this 54 year-old Catholic!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Boxing Day

Happy Boxing Day to all.

It has been quite a few days at my parish, Saint James.

Here is a report from our local Fox station:

Very strange to be at Christmas Mass with cameras and reporters all over the place. It was a splendid Christmas Mass. The choir was, in a word, amazing and my heart was lifted in hope for our future.

I have come down with the bad cold that so many seem to have contracted; so I am putting in a part-time day here at the office.

I hope your Christmas was filled with joy.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hope for Many More Christmas Masses for My Parish

Merry Christmas once again. Keep neeeding to remind myself: The church building is simply a house for the Church.

Media hovering around during our Christmas Masses at Saint James.

A taste of the reporting:

This one quite inaccurate:,0,372672.story

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

The sun has set here in the Midwest.

A very Merry Christmas to all.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Christmas Goose

December 21, last day at work here for me at WLP until the day after Christmas. A few years ago I shared a story with you a few days before Christmas and wanted to share it with you again today. This is one of those memories that has stayed with me for years. For those who have heard it before, I hope it brings you joy, as it does for me each time I recall this event. For those who have never heard it, I hope it brings you some insight and wonder. Here goes.

The Christmas Goose

I served as director of liturgy and music at Saint Marcelline Parish in Schaumburg, Illinois 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.

May you and those you love have a very Merry Christmas.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Translation Thursday: Where Else?

"New Translation Thursday" greetings. A winter storm warning has been issued for Chicago beginning later this afternoon and through the evening. "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

This morning I happened to take a look at today's Prayer after Communion in the Missal:

Grant divine protection, O Lord,
to those you renew with this heavenly gift,
that to those who delight in your mysteries
you may give the joy of true peace.
Through Christ our Lord.

When I read the first line, I thought about the families of those little children killed in Connecticut last week and how the words "divine protection" would sound to them. This morning I also read snippets from an interview granted by the pastor at Saint Rose parish in Newtown, CT, where many of the funerals for these kids are taking place. This is part of what he said: "Where else but the church could we bring this unspeakable act? Where else but the altar could we find some resolution? People bring their wounded and shattered selves here for healing, mending and transcendence."

This pastor, Monsignor Robert Weiss, is a wise and pastoral priest for his people and, by extension, for all of us. Too often we (and I include yours truly here) forget to bring our "wounded and shattered selves" to the altar. I believe deep in my heart that God wants to work a miracle of transformation each and every time we "proclaim the death of the Lord;" each and every time we celebrate the Eucharist. And, even in the midst of the kind of unspeakable tragedy that occurred in Newtown last week, God is still there, reaching out to help us find "healing" and "mending." 

I pray that these families will some day and some how find "the joy of true peace" of which today's Prayer after Communion speaks. I remember well the time when my youngest sister died. I honestly felt that I would never get over it. In her last years, I remember well what Advent was like for me. When I sang "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," I asked God to truly come and take her; to relieve her of her suffering. And if that meant Christ's coming in glory at the end of time, so be it. My prayer was fervent: "Come, Lord Jesus. And please come now!" Advent has always been a bit difficult for me since her death, as I recall those days when I longed for Christ's second coming that would inaugurate a new era of peace and healing and comfort for this weary world and for my sister. Of course, the Lord did come for her and the Lord continues to come into my life every waking moment. At times I recognize the Lord's presence; at other times I am too busy or too self-centered even to notice that the Lord is near.

As I tell people who are grieving: After time, it still hurts as much; it just hurts less often. It will take much time for these families to travel the journey of grief. My hope is that they find at the altar a place where at least some resolution can be found.

"A branch shall sprout from the root of Jesse,"
and the glory of the Lord will fill the whole earth,
and all flesh will see the salvation of God."

Come, Lord Jesus.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Lost Art?

Wednesday greetings from a cold and overcast city of Chicago. We are currently under a "Winter Storm Watch." The first storm of the season is always accompanied by hype and excitement.

I have been watching and reading the news regarding Friday's tragedy in Connecticut. There is one thing that "we the people" seem to agree on: that something must be done. This is the case for so many issues in our country and, dare I say, our Church, these days. On so many issues, we all seem to agree: something must be done. The sad reality (which I hope will change in my own lifetime) is that we are so polarized politically and in our religious viewpoints that we simply haven't been able to agree on what the "something" is. We get so mired in our rhetoric that the problems of violence and injustice continue to escalate as "we the people" continue to argue with one another. The art of compromise appears to be a lost art.

This blog is really no place to air political viewpoints, so I am not going to do so here. I am the kind of person who, when I read a direct quote from an elected official, or listen to them speak, have no hesitation when it comes to sending an e-mail to him or her with my own reaction; positive and negative. I know that these e-mails are probably read by some staffer and never reach the elected official, but at least I have the satisfaction of knowing I did something to add my own voice.

Quite a few years ago, I sent a letter to a sitting president, critical of a policy he was espousing; I supported little of what this particular president stood for. I never received a single response, until a week before Christmas when, in the mail, I received an eight by ten glossy photograph of this president and his wife brightly smiling at me. The area beneath the photograph read, "Thank you for your support."
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Even Now . . . Gotta Sing Gotta Pray

Friday morning began in the usual way, with meetings here at the office, then a quick ride over to O'Hare. I was flying to the California desert to spend the weekend with my parents and a dear friend, a retired priest from the East Coast. I play piano at this priest's Christmas party every year. For the past several years, as I sat there playing and singing, I thought to myself, "Hmm . . . my mom and dad would have a great time at this party." So I was able to arrange for them to be there this year. They flew to California from Boston on Wednesday and, as I said, I was headed out on Friday to meet them there.

As I was in the air, the enormity of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut was unfolding. Like most everyone, what occurred was simply incomprehensible. I kind of had to put my own emotions on hold for the weekend, because of the fact that it was supposed to have been a fun weekend with friends and family.

At the Christmas party, my priest friend arranged for five students from the new Jesuit High School in the desert, Xavier, to sing a few carols at the party. Their director, Stephanie, is a Notre Dame graduate and had sung with the Notre Dame Folk Choir. The final piece they sang was Rosa Mystica, by the late Rev. Chrysogonus Waddell, OCSO. A hush fell over the room of revelers as the choir sang. I was seated behind them, so I was able to look into the peoples' faces as they watched and listened. These were parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. I couldn't help but think what was going through their minds as they watched and listened to these young people, thinking about their own young ones, remembering how their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren have grown and flourished. Not being a parent myself, I will never know those kinds of feelings. Later in the weekend, at another party, I listened to my Dad try to express his own feelings about the tragedy and he simply had to stop because his emotions took over. My mom and dad had six of us and they have five grandchildren. My two nieces are about the same age as those children killed in Connecticut. This is just unimaginable sorrow and pain.

On this "New Translation Tuesday," I feel like tragedy can help put other things into perspective. I did find solace in the celebration of the Mass on Sunday. I wasn't paying too close attention to the words; just remembering the Lord's sacrificial love was what I needed.

Let's continue to pray for these families. And even in the midst of all of this . . .

. . . Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

New Translation Thursday: Ritual Maneuvering

"New Translation Thursday" greetings from Chicago.

This afternoon, I will be presenting a webinar for NPM focused on the celebration of the initiation sacraments at the Easter Vigil.

As I prepared the presentation, it became apparent that celebrants and those who prepare the liturgy of the Easter Vigil need to consider two main sources, The Roman Missal and The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. There can arise some ritual confusion. For instance, the Missal directs that at the time of baptism (following the blessing of the water, the text of which should be prayed from the Missal) the celebrant should then turn to the RCIA text. So, in the RCIA text, the questions asked for the renunciation of sin for those about to be baptized differs from the text for the renewal of baptism promises later in the Vigil when the celebrant presumably returns to the Missal for that renewal of baptism promises (before then returning to the RCIA text for the profession of faith and act of reception for those baptized candidates (from another Christian tradition), who will be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. Just writing that sentence points to the challenge here.

My question to you: How did your celebrant maneuver through this moving back and forth between texts from the Missal and texts from the RCIA this past Easter?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our Lady of Guadalupe and Christmas in the City

Wednesday 12-12-12 greetings and a very blessed Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe to all.

My apologies for not having posted the last few days; lots going on in this publishing house. I spent a good deal of time last night putting the finishing touches on the webinar I am presenting tomorrow for NPM (National Association of Pastoral Musicians). The subject: RCIA and the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night.

Wanted to share some photos of my own experience of "Christmas in the city of Chicago." I have lots of visitors over Christmas week and, with such a small space, decided against putting a Christmas tree in the house, so I compromised and placed the tree on the balcony outside:

Should be especially nice when (if) we get snow over the holidays.

I also spent time at Marshall Fields (oops, Macy's!) on State Street here in Chicago over the weekend. Here's a shot I took of the grand Tiffany ceiling.

They don't build them like that anymore!

Well, off to my workday.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Five Popes Have Arrived

Greetings on this Friday of the First Week of Advent.

Our "Five Popes" poster arrived in our warehouse today. You may remember me talking about it last week. I know I shared photos of the proof from the printer last week; just wanted to do the same today with the real deal.

Brother Mickey McGrath did a great job with this poster, which is featured on WLP's web site's home page.

I am home here in Chicago this weekend: I am greatly looking forward to spending time in one of the best cities in the world!

I hope that wherever you are you have a blessed Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Second Sunday of Advent.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

New Translation Thursday: Deeper Questions

"New Translation Thursday" greetings from Baltimore. I am here for a planning meeting for the Mid-Atlantic Congress for Pastoral Leadership 2014. It is a sunny and chilly morning here on the East Coast.

There have been studies released recently, some scientific, some not so scientific about the effectiveness of the new translation of The Roman Missal, Third Edition. These studies are important as we continue our way through the implementation.

Once the dust settles, especially in light of the movements of the "new evangelization," I am hoping that we begin to ask deeper questions of clergy and laity: "What difference does your celebration of Sunday Mass actually make in your day-to-day life?" "How does the celebration of the Mass as a married couple affect your relationship?" "When you consider that Mass draws us into a deeper relationship with the Lord, who died and rose to save us from sin and bring us salvation, how does this reality have an impact on the way you treat other people--at work, at home, at school?"

I guess I am wondering if, with the focus on the "new evangelization," we as Church leaders will help the folks in the pews articulate their lived experience of the paschal mystery.

Just some Thursday morning musings from Baltimore.

Gotta Sing. Gotta Pray.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Virtual Community of Care

Wednesday greetings from chilly Chicago.

Last night, while on Facebook, I noticed some posts from a cousin of mine in Massachusetts. She was asking for prayers for my uncle, without much more commentary. There were lots of people among our family and her friends who responded with words of concern, expressing their heartfelt thoughts and prayers. I began to pray for my uncle. The posts continued and eventually we found out that my uncle needed more care and was placed in a Catholic care facility. The photo my cousin posted was so heartwarming, my uncle sitting in his new place, shuffling a deck of cards, playing gin rummy with my her.

I have been thinking for quite some time about the whole Facebook phenomenon. I know that last year, when a niece of mine was quite ill, my brother and his ex-wife (my niece's parents) posted consistently on Facebook and the outpouring from family and friends, near and far, was overwhelming. While these parents are not people of faith, I couldn't help but think that these Facebook posts ("I'm praying for your daughter;" "I hope she is well soon;" "Thoughts and prayers;" "Will be praying for her;" etc.) were coming from people who were praying and hoping for my little niece's recovery. What I saw was what looked like a small faith community being formed around my niece and her parents. And all of this was done in the virtual world, a "virtual church" if you will.

I experienced that same thing last night with all the posts about my dear uncle. Sure, Facebook has its drawbacks, and I have certainly seen those first hand, but in cases like my niece's and uncle's, it becomes a virtual community of care. Last night I posted that I was very grateful for Facebook.

I am leaving in a few hours, headed for Baltimore, where I will be meeting with other Catholic publishers and the Baltimore Archdiocesan staff to make plans for the Mid-Atlantic Congress for Pastoral Leaders 2014 in Baltimore. Maybe a Maryland crabcake for dinner tonight?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

New Translation Tuesday: "The Second Time Around"

"New Translation Tuesday" greetings to all.

This past Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, was obviously the first anniversary of the implementation of the new translation of The Roman Missal.

When my pastor prayed the Collect, I was surprised at how I remembered that text from when it was proclaimed last year. Of course, my ears were so attuned to the new translation last year on that Sunday; I was looking for ways to comment on the text for my blog. Well, on Sunday, there was a familiarity with this text that just seemed kind of settled for me.

My pastor preached an inspiring homily during which he pointed us to the end times. He quoted the Collect:
" . . . the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming . . ." and it fit quite nicely into his overall homily.

This just all felt quite right to me, and it surprised me somewhat. As much as I stand before the new translation with both critical and appreciative eyes, it all comes down to the text's ability to be a vehicle for God's redemptive action in our own lives. On Sunday, I experienced that action through the text.

What was going on inside you when you heard those texts "the second time around"?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, December 3, 2012

More of Saint James

I wanted to post an additional video I took yesterday, showing the interior of Saint James Church on Chicago's near south side, my parish church. It will be razed within the next several months. Here you go.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ringing in the Advent Season

Happy Monday of the First Week of Advent.

Yesterday morning, for ten minutes before the Mass for the First Sunday of Advent, I played the bells in our shuttered church's bell tower.

The bells are played using a small console in the front of the church.

And here is yours truly playing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. There are a few notes that just would not ring. The video is obviously from inside the church; outside the bells are much louder and stronger.

Here are a few shots of the interior, which I snapped yesterday. Notice that the historic Roosevelt pipe organ is shrouded in plastic.

The architectural details are stunning.

It will be very sad to see this historic building demolished in the next few months. But the parish has proven itself to be much more than a building. Still, there is sadness here.

As the bells rang throughout the neighborhoods on Chicago's near South Side, I hope that people understood that they were being rung as a sign of hope for the future in this Advent Season filled with promise.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.