Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Final Educational Offering of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate: In the Words of Jim Dunning

Hello folks. Pretty choked up right now. I wanted to share with you the words I used to end today's final webinar for the Forum. They are the words of Jim Dunning, from an article he wrote entitled "The Social Dimensions of Conversion," in the now out-of-print Paulist Press book Conversion and the Catechumenate. Jim Dunning, of course, was the founder of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate and was a mentor, friend, prophet, and inspiration.

"The good news is that the future is now--not the future of doomsday but our resurrection in Jesus begins now. We are a graced people now. The demons are more than private sins, but the Holy Spirit also is no private possession. The Spirit possesses us now, as a people. We are recreated in God's image by that Spirit, and nothing is more important than to know the kind of God in whose image we are created. Ours is a God of freedom, of exodus, of justice, of liberation. Ours is a God who makes all things new. In the Spirit of that God, we make all things new. Therefore, we hope."

And so, for initiation ministry in North America, I remain hopeful.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Chicago Blackhawks Lift My Spirits!

Life is certainly full of ups and downs, isn't it?

In the middle of my sadness over the impending closing of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate, last night for the city of Chicago, something wonderful happened.

Many of you know that I am somewhat of an avid Chicago Blackhawks hockey fan. And most of you know that I am originally from Boston. So, this Chicago-Bruins Stanley Cup Final has been just amazing for me. Just when it looked like we would be headed to the seventh and final game, one of the most amazing comebacks in hockey history occurred. Down 2-1, with less than 90 seconds remaining in the game, the Chicago Blackhawks scored two goals, fourteen seconds apart, and won the game and the Stanley Cup.

A self portrait before the game:

Just seconds after the win, I went into the streets of my neighborhood, onto Madison Street, a few blocks from the United Center. It was wonderful watching the fans celebrate in the streets. Even the neighborhood pets were into the Blackhawks.

And finally, yours truly, with a big grin for my home team.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Grieving the Loss of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate

Monday greetings from the hot and steamy Midwest.

Tomorrow, I will be presenting the final webinar sponsored by the North American Forum on the Catechumenate, which will cease operations at the end of the month. I am deeply, deeply saddened by the end of Forum and I hope I will at least be able to get through tomorrow's webinar.

I have been doing some housecleaning here in the office and came across my Forum books containing music for the institutes at which I served as musician and liturgist for over twenty-five years. Just feeling sad about it all.

Gotta sing. Gotta Pray.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Many Languages One Voice

My apologies for not having posted over the past few days.

On Wednesday I flew to Orlando, Florida, to speak at the Diocese's Liturgical Conference. The schedule is quite packed for me: three workshops, a WLP music showcase, setting up and "manning" the WLP booth of resources.

I feel badly that I have no time to visit family and friends here, but this schedule just won't allow it.

The theme of the conference is "Many Languages One Voice." Major speakers are Dr. Steve Janco and Fr. Paul Turner, as well as Fr. Mark Francis. My workshops: Conversion and the RCIA, Mystagogy: The Fifty Days of Joy, and Mystagogical Catechesis and the Formation of Young Catholics.

Just felt the need to check in with you and thank you for following Gotta Sing Gotta Pray. And greetings from Central Florida; 90's every day, lots of humidity and daily thunderstorms are the rule of the days here!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Supporting Cancer Research Funding

I very rarely ask the followers of this blog for personal favors, but today is an exception.

I have a friend, Charlie, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early January. Today is an important day in Washington, D.C.

Charlie's wife, Jennifer Odegard, our director of marketing here at WLP, sent this message along to many of us who have been holding Charlie in prayer these many months:

Today is Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day.

Hundreds of people will be in Washington, DC, to tell Congress to save the medical research funding that saves lives like Charlie's.

No matter where you are, you can help by making just a few phone calls to your senators and representatives.

Go here:

and enter your zip code and address and you will be directed to the numbers for your contacts and will be given some simple talking points for your call. If you want, you can mention Charlie's name during the call so that the person on the phone knows full well that this fight is about real people, real people like Charlie who have made our world a better place and who have people who love them dearly.
Pancan.org's slogan is "Know it.Fight it. End it." If you are reading this, you already have accomplished the first point. By adding your voice to Advocacy Day, you will be helping to do the rest.

Folks, I just made my calls. Just asking you to consider taking a few minutes of your day (perhaps right now?) and clicking on the link above and helping the cause. Thanks for whatever you can do.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Greetings and a New Twist to This Catholic's Worship Life

Monday greetings from here at the home office in Franklin Park.

Yesterday, I attended Sunday Mass at Notre Dame de Chicago, a parish close to my home. I am currently on a hiatus from my beloved Saint James for a number of reasons. I will be celebrating Mass at different parishes near my home over the next several months and will share my experiences with you.

Here is a shot of the exterior of Notre Dame de Chicago:

And a view of the interior:

It certainly feels quite different worshipping in a church, rather than an old Catholic School auditorium (as has been the case at Saint Sames for over four years). Yesterday was a warm day here in the city of Chicago and Notre Dame is one of those places that heats up pretty intensely. So the "archdiocesan fans" were blowing full strength. Very difficult to hear with all the whirring. The music was a real throwback for me; mostly older Saint Louis Jesuits and David Haas pieces. It was also the first time I was asked to sing the revised Mass of Creation Mass parts. All in all, I felt like this was a welcoming community. Not sure if the constant whirring of the fans is really worth it in the long run.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, June 14, 2013

I Hear Music in the Air

Friday afternoon greetings from a warm and sunny Chicago area! Where has this week gone? Well, I have an answer for you.

On Tuesday, I flew to Los Angeles for a meeting to be held on Wednesday. On my way to the airport in Los Angeles for the return trip to Chicago, was alerted to the fact that the flight was cancelled (weather in Chicago). It was postponed to yesterday morning at 6:00 A.M. Ah, the travails of Spring travel!

A nice surprise was just handed to me here at the office. The long-awaited book by Thomas W. Jefferson has arrived. I Hear Music in the Air: Gospel-Style Piano Technique, just landed on my desk.

I have been sneaking into our music room for months, playing examples from this book as it moved through the editorial and production process. Pianists and organists, this is a must for you. I am not a natural at playing in a Gospel style, but Thomas's teaching techniques that unfold in this book have helped me tremendously. I can promise you will have loads of fun moving through the book and playing the examples. Most of them are presented in a "straight" format initially, then are presented with Thomas' own arrangement, employing the techniques covered in the particular section.

Just had to snap a photo when the book arrived; can you tell I am excited?

Happy Father's Day to my own Dad and to all the Fathers out there! Enjoy your weekend, and get this book!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The "Shrine" of Allegiance

Monday greetings.

What a weekend for a hockey fan like me!

Some of you know that I am an avid fan of the Chicago Blackhawks. Here's a testament to that devotion, the "shrine" in my office here at WLP:

And many of you also know that I am originally from Boston and, while growing up, loved the Boston Bruins. As a matter of fact, I believe the Bruins won the Stanley Cup championship against the New York Rangers on the night I was confirmed.

So, many have asked me about where my allegiance will be aligned in the coming finals leading to the awarding of Lord Stanley's Cup.

Suffice it to say that there is no Bruins shrine in my office.

Hope your week is a good one.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Deacon Joe Marotta

Sadness grips my heart today.

Last night, I found out that my friend, Joe Marotta, died. He was with his young family on vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and drowned. I found out through a Facebook post, as the news slowly began to spread among colleagues and friends. I just stared at his photo on the Facebook page. I could hear his voice and his laugh and just sat in shock at this loss. Joe was thirty-nine years old. He and his wife, Katie have five young children.

I first met Joe several years ago in Richmond, Virginia. He and I were team members ministering at an RCIA institute sponsored by the Diocese of Richmond and the North American Forum on the Catechumenate. Joe had been involved in initiation ministry in his parish and his enthusiasm was infectious beyond words. I guess he kind of looked up to me as a mentor and RCIA "guru." It was so obvious to me that this man was an emerging second generation leader in initiation ministry in North America. At the time, I told him that one of my favorite television shows was "John and Kate Plus Eight," the reality show that followed a family that had a set of sextuplets and a set of twins. He gave me a smile, telling me that his wife's name was Katie, and that they loved the show as well, because they had a set of triplets and another child. There are people you meet in life (and don't we all wish there were more of them) who just exude a simple goodness. Joe was one of those people in my own life.

Joe and I stayed in touch since that RCIA institute. He would phone or email me with questions or for advice. About a year and a half ago, I was leading a parish mission at a parish in Lynchburg, Virginia. Joe was from another parish in Lynchburg and he sent some of his catechumens over to the mission sessions. He came to one of the sessions and we had a chance to go out for a drink and some conversation. Joe had entered the diaconate formation program for the diocese and was so excited about his future as a deacon. He told me also at that time that he and Katie were expecting their fifth child. Again, the encounter filled me with such hope. Joe just made you feel like this whole Catholic journey is so worth it every step of the way.

While I was in Europe last month, Joe sent me a message, saying that he was hoping that somehow he would be able to go on the pilgrimage I hope to lead in 2014, visiting significant spaces for baptism in northern Italy. Well, Joe, your pilgrimage has taken you home now. When showing people photos of the ceilings of some of the great baptisteries, like this one in Parma,

I tell them that we live in the hope that one day, our own image will be added to those of the saints painted on these beautiful ceilings. When one emerges from the font, signalling the beginning of the Christian journey, and looks up, what one sees is the glory of heaven, with Christ and his mother, the apostles, and the saints, all, in a sense, beckoning the new Christian to the heavenly kingdom. Joe, you have made that journey, and now yours is an image that is painted on the ceiling as the angels and saints welcome you to paradise.

Friends, please pray for the gift of eternal rest for Deacon Joe Marotta. He was ordained a deacon on October 12, 2012. And please join me in praying for his wife, Katie, his parents Tony and Marge, his infant son William, daughter Caroline, and sons Jack, Michael, and Christopher.

Joe, may you be welcomed by the choir of angels.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Love Story of God and Me

A beautiful Wednesday has dawned here in the Midwest.

At today's general audience in Rome, Pope Francis had this to say:

Cultivating and caring for creation is God’s indication given to each one of us not only at the beginning of history; it is part of His project; it means nurturing the world with responsibility and transforming it into a garden, a habitable place for everyone. Benedict XVI recalled several times that this task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to grasp the rhythm and logic of creation. But we are often driven by pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation; we do not “care” for it, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a free gift that we must care for. We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation; thus we are no longer able to read what Benedict XVI calls "the rhythm of the love story of God and man." Why does this happen? Why do we think and live in a horizontal manner, we have moved away from God, we no longer read His signs.

I find these words inspiring and challenging. The pope helps me to understand that the mandate given in Genesis--to care for God's creation--is still meant for me today. I strive as hard as I can to see what surrounds me each day as part of that wonderful garden of creation. I live in downtown Chicago and sometimes I have to look pretty intently to discover the beauty of this garden. Praise God, more often than not, I see the wonders, even in the little things.

As I read these words this morning, I was reminded of a parallel situation that I have come to understand more and more in my daily life. In Mark 16:15, the Lord issued the mandate to his disciples at the time of his ascension: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." In my earlier adult years, I kind of hid behind this message, thinking that Christ certainly could not have meant that mandate for me. He meant this for missionaries, people like Bl. Mother Theresa, or Bl. Pope John Paul II, or Billy Graham. These were people that I was seeing actually going out "into all the world." Slowly, I have begun to realize that, at least for me, the "world" to which Christ sends me is not the world "out there" waiting to be evangelized. It is the world that is the day to day reality of my life. The "world" to which I am called to "preach the gospel to all creation" is the world of my home life, the world of my carpool, the world of my circle of friends, the world of my family, the world of my colleagues here at World Library Publications and the J.S. Paluch Company, the world of the Green Line trains on Chicago's transit system, the world of the Eisenhower and Kennedy Expressways here in Chicago, the world of those sitting in front of me at workshops and presentations, the quiet world of those sleepless nights. These are the worlds in which I have been planted. And it is to these worlds that I have been summoned to preach the gospel.

So, when Pope Francis talked about the "today" of cultivating the garden of creation, it reminded me that this is also my job. And aren't the words he quotes from Pope Benedict inspiring as well: "the rhythm of the love story of God and man"? Pope Francis gives us much food for thought today. I have to ask myself, "How can I know better the rhythm of the love story between God and me?" And I guess at least part of that answer has to do with cultivating a deeper sense of wonder at the creation around me, a deeper awareness of the "worlds" to which I am called to share the good news.

Lots to think about today, folks. I wanted to end today with two short videos I took while in Verona, Italy, last month. These were "wonder and awe in God's presence" moments for me. Enjoy.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spring in the City of Chicago

Tuesday greetings from sunny Chicago.

After a tough day at work yesterday, I was able to grab some time on my balcony at home, enjoying a beautiful Spring evening. I hope you enjoy the video and its tranquility. Nothing like Chicago in the Spring.

I have a day packed with meetings today. I hope you enjoy your day.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Blessed Pope John XXIII, Pray for Us

Monday greetings from the Midwest, where it is cool and sunny.

Today, as most of you know, is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Bl. Pope John XXIII.

His pontificate was succinctly described by Rocco Palmo over at Whispers in today's post: "one that irrevocably changed the face and life of the Catholic world."

I have often looked to Pope John XXIII for inspiration and for intercession. I have a small icon of him right next to my computer screen here at the office:

One of my favorite quotes from him is this:
Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams.
Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential.
Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in,
but with what it is still possible for you to do.

Blessed Pope John XXIII, pray for us.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.