Friday, August 30, 2013


After another tough week, I am surely glad that Friday has arrived.

Wanted to share a photo with you; perhaps you have seen it already; brought a big smile to my face.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this sure proves it on so many levels.

Happy Labor Day.

God bless Pope Francis.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Building a Future of Peace"

I have rarely, if ever, focused on political issues on this blog. But today I feel called not to remain silent on one issue affecting our world right now.

On October 4, 1965, the late Pope Paul VI, addressed the United Nations. Here is an excerpt from that speech:

And now We come to the high point of Our message: Negatively, first: the words which you expect from Us and which We cannot pronounce without full awareness of their gravity and solemnity: Never one against the other, never, never again. Was it not principally for this purpose that the United Nations came into being: against war and for peace? Listen to the clear words of a great man, the late John Kennedy, who declared four years ago: "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind." Long discourses are not necessary to proclaim the supreme goal of your institution. It is enough to remember that the blood of millions of men, numberless and unprecedented sufferings, useless slaughter and frightful ruin are the sanction of the covenant which unites you, in a solemn pledge which must change the future history of the world: No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and of all mankind. Our thanks to you, glory to you, who for twenty years have labored for peace and who have even suffered the loss of illustrious men in this sacred cause. Thanks and glory to you for the conflicts which you have prevented and for those which you have brought to an end. The results of your efforts on behalf of peace, including the most recent, even if they are not yet decisive, are such as to deserve that We, presuming to interpret the sentiments of the whole world, express to you both praise and gratitude.

This section of the late pope's speech has been resonating within me these last few days as the leaders of several countries of the world contemplate an attack on Syria. The UN has not yet completed its report on the alleged chemical attack and yet we seem on the brink of an attack on Syria. Certainly those who allegedly launched this horrific chemical attack must be brought to justice, but is an assault on Syria the answer?

I, for one, want to echo the words of Paul VI and, as a Roman Catholic, join my voice to the voice of Pope Francis, who is calling for negotiation:

To the international community, besides the pursuit of a negotiated solution to the conflict, I ask for the provision of humanitarian aid for the displaced and refugees, and Syrians who have lost their homes, showing in the first place the good of each human person and guarding their dignity. For the Holy See the work of various Catholic charitable agencies is extremely significant: assisting the Syrian population, without regard for ethnic or religious affiliation, is the most direct way to contribute to peace and to the upbuilding of a society open and welcoming to all of its different constituent parts. To this also the Holy See lends its efforts: to the building of a future of peace for a Syria in which everyone can live freely and express themselves in their own particular way.

"Building of a future of peace." I humbly submit that launching an attack on Syria is not the pathway to this future; my conscience on this issue is being guided by our Catholic tradition and our current pope. I am praying fervently that no attack occur. Human lives have become too dispensable in these conversations among leaders. Yes, something must be done, but do we need to kill more?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Let Freedom Ring

Last evening I watched the PBS special "The March" and was moved to tears as I listened to Dr. King's words.

That day, the March on Washington, August 28, 1963 was the day after my late sister, Joanne, was born. She would have been 50 yesterday; she died from complications from multiple sclerosis at the age of 37. Please allow me to reminisce a bit today.

When Joanne was brought home from the hospital as a newborn, our family had just moved into the first home that my parents owned, on Hovey Street in Woburn, Massachusetts. When I look back, I guess one could say that we were a poor family when it came to riches, but a rich family when it came to love. Hovey Street was an interesting place to grow up. It was a racially diverse neighborhood. There was a "slum" a few houses down in which lived impoverished Puerto Rican immigrants. My mom and our neighbor, Mrs. Queen, worked tirelessly to help the families there and eventually worked hard enough to ensure that the building was torn down. Many of our neighbors were recent immigrants from Puerto Rico. I remember, having studied Spanish, that I would help do some translating when they needed to speak to English-speaking doctors. Just on the other side of Hovey Street was Woburn's predominantly African-American neighborhood and we were friends with a girl whose name was "Marlene," who lived "down on Center Street."

When I look back, I realize that our parents taught us so much. I never thought that the Peurto Ricans who lived on our street nor the African-Americans a street over were really any different from any of us. We were all just neighbors, living in a poor neighborhood in a suburb of Boston. I have no recollections of racism or intolerance. And for that I have my parents to thank. When you grow up in a multi-ethnic and diverse neighborhood, racial difference, as least for us, simply did not amount to a hill of beans.

So, last night, when I heard the words of Doctor King once again, I dreamed his same dream, and was grateful that in 1963, in a tiny little neighborhood in a somwhat obscure suburb of Boston, there were kids of all shades of brown playing with one another and simply having fun together.

"From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Gotta sing. Gotta pray. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Eva Cruz

Late yesterday afternoon, I received word that Eva Cruz, a long-time colleague and friend, died after a brief illness.

I served with Eva on many RCIA institutes around the United States since the early 1990's. She helped people in Hispanic and Anglo communities understand what RCIA is all about and how to implement the rite in culturally diverse settings. I have such fond memories of Eva. Sometimes it's the smallest things about people that one remembers. I was always intrigued, believe it or not, with Eva's fingernails. She went to some kind of nail salon that actually affixed small pieces of jewelry to her laquered fingernails. They were so cool! She was a dedicated mom and servant of the Lord. Please keep Eva's parents, her children, and grandchildren in your prayers.

Her obituary says it all: Eva was a wonderful, caring, and loving person, always helping others, even in death she was a donor. Eva was very active in church ministry at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and previously at Sacred Heart Church in Aurora. She spent may volunteer hours working with the homeless at Hessed House as well as the many hours she devoted to the women at Mutual Ground. Her love of God, family and friends was amazing.

Que los ángeles te lleven este día al paraíso y que puedas hoy en plenitud ver el rostro de nuestro Dios.
Gotta Sing. Gotta Pray.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Busy Weekend and Busy Monday

Monday greetings from Chicago. After a busy weekend, which included a 37-mile bike ride and attending two street festivals (Taste of Greektown and Festa Italiana), the week here at the office opens with lots of activity.

I received an "On Call Jury Summons" a few weeks ago and had to call in last night to see if I was needed for the pool. I was grateful that they only needed people whose last names begin with the letters "I" through "S." I am grateful also to the team here at WLP for covering for me today, even though I am in the office. We have a webinar this morning for our J.S. Paluch Parish Consultants, a team of dedicated professionals who serve the needs of parishes across the country. Mary Beth Kunde-Anderson and Mike Novak are leading that webinar: "WLP: Serving the Needs of the Singing Church." Then this afternoon we are presenting our Chicago version of "WLP Sing the Seasons" choral reading session. Mary Beth is on again, with Alan Hommerding teaming up with her to present a great selection of choral music. Should be a great day.

Many of you know that I enjoy tending the flowers and plants in my flowerboxes on my balcony here in Chicago. The balcony overlooks a wooded courtyward, which is the outdoor area of Carmichael's Steakhouse. This lovely outdoor area is used for various functions throughout the summer months. It is a delight when a great band is playing at a reception out there; free entertainment! Well Saturday was a bit of a different story. I sat out there smiling and blocking my ears at the same time. Turn your volume down if you do not want others wondering what you are listening to!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Friday, August 23, 2013

"Hello, it's Pope Francis here . . ."

Yesterday I read with delight the story of the young man in Italy who, after having sent a letter to Pope Francis, received a phone call from the Pope himself.

Simple question for a Friday: What would you say to Pope Francis if he called you?

My first response would probably be "Grazie mille!"

How 'bout you?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wedding Masses and the Gloria


That about sums up how I am feeling this morning. Last night I drove the two and a half hours up to Grafton, Wisconsin to present a WLP "Sing the Seasons" choral reading session for musicians in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. And it was more than worth the drive up there. What a delightful evening of music making with a talented group of musicians. Bravo Milwaukee!

A few days ago, I received an email from one of the faithful followers of Gotta Sing Gotta Pray. I asked Mike's permission to reprint his e-mail here. He is asking for some pastoral wisdom, which I am hoping many of you will offer. Here goes:

My name is Mike Kiebel, and I am the Music Mission Steward at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Portage, MI.  We've come across a situation here, and I wanted to share it with someone with a wider experience than my own in order to come up with a correct solution.

The rubrics for the Wedding Liturgy in the Roman Missal, Third Edition, now call for the Glory to God to be said or sung at wedding liturgies.  This is, of course, a change from the previous rubric which did not require it.  We're wrestling with coming to a suitable pastoral response to this change, and I'd certainly welcome your input.

As we've all experienced, perhaps on a more regular basis than we care to admit, response from the assembly to the prayer and music of the wedding liturgy is often less than we'd like.  Many factors play into this:  the presence of a significant number of non-Catholics (or Catholics who seldom attend Mass), our secular culture that says that weddings are to be "watched" and not participated in, despite our best efforts, etc.  We wrestle with this regularly in our very large parish, where robust liturgical singing is the norm.  We go to great lengths to encourage participation by the assembly, and sometimes even the Amen at the end of prayers is a major effort.

The revised Roman Missal now calls for the Glory to God to be said at wedding liturgies (and by extension, sung, as a hymn really ought to be).  Glorias can be very difficult for congregations to sing, given the length and complexity of the form.  We sing the Gloria in our parish routinely at the prescribed times, and for the most part, our people do quite well.  But doing a Gloria at weddings is pretty risky in terms of participation.  And in our situation, where a sung Gloria is the norm, a recited Gloria seems more a "fulfill the letter of the law" proposition.

If this were placed on a spectrum, on the one hand there are the strict rubricists who would say, "It's in the book; do it!" with no regard to the efficacy it would have on the people.  Result:  the music (and  the prayer) fails for lack of participation.  On the other hand, the strictly "pastoral" person (I can't think of a better label) would say, "The people will never be able to do this, so just omit it."  Result:  not following what the Church requires.  Both positions are wrong, of course, and the best pastoral response, I think, lies between the two.  And I'm really struggling with where the answer lies within the spectrum, and how to implement this on a practical basis.

I suspect that many parishes have not "discovered" the Gloria requirement in the new Missal, so this may not have appeared on their radar as yet.  But I'm wondering if you've heard thoughts on how parishes have resolved this dilemma.  Thanks so much for your service to the Church!

Mike Kiebel

Music Mission Steward

St. Catherine of Siena Church, Portage, MI

So, folks, let's share some wisdom and practical pastoral experience with Mike.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

J.S. Paluch Vocations Seminar

Happy Wednesday to all.

The annual J.S. Paluch Vocations Seminar has been taking place this week at a nearby hotel in Rosemont, Illinois. This is one of those things that this company does that has really made a difference. Each year for the past 26 years, the Paluch company has brought together experts from all over the United States and Canada to focus on the cultivation of vocations to the priesthood, religious life, and married life. There are people here from the USCCB, from the various national vocations conferences and offices, Catholic seminaries and schools of ministry; the list goes on and on.

Yesterday's keynote presentation was given by Bishop Christopher Coyne, auxilary bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. When I found out that Chris was going to be the keynote presenter and celebrant at Mass, I was excited. You see, Chris and I went to school together at Woburn High School in Woburn, Massachusetts. We were actually in home room together in our senior year. Our families were quite close; his sister and my sister worked together at Sears for years. I even helped with the music at his sister's wedding. It was such a delight to re-connect with Chris yesterday. His presentation was excellent. Here he is in action at the seminar:

As part of our "thank you" to Bishop Coyne, we gave him one of our new ceremonial tablet cases, which you can see in the foreground. He immediately placed his iPad within it and thanked us publicly for such a "cool" gift!

After dinner last night, WLP artist Noelle Garcia, her husband David, and their band members presented a delightful concert. They are actually on their way to Dodge City, Kansas, their new home. So they had their children with them. Here is a shot of Noelle singing, with her daughter Lucia in her arms. Talk about a wonderful statement of the vocation to marriage!

All in all, it was a wonderful day.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Loving, Serving, Ever Be"

Tuesday has dawned warm and sunny here in Chicago, simply a beautiful day.

Yesterday the staff members here at WLP and the J.S. Paluch Company helped with the celebration of the life of Charlie Odegard at his Funeral Mass. What an honor it was to lead the music at this celebration.

Frankly, I just don't know how people handle death when there is an absence of faith. Yesterday's funeral Mass showed me once again the power that the spoken and sung word can have in times of extreme sorrow and loss. The homily, delivered by a close friend of Charlie, was inspiring and challenging. The homilist told us that when we have those "why" questions, when we just want to shake our fist at God, we should go right ahead and do so. As someone who has lost too many friends this year, these were words I needed to here. He talked about our God not as "rescuer" but as "redeemer." In the face of the mystery of Charlie's death, we rely on that redemption and can turn to our belief in Christ, knowing that we need not be afraid.

The funeral rites of the Catholic Church do not mince words. They speak to us about the doubt that accompanies grief; they speak to us of the hope that we have in eternal life; they speak to us of what happened to us when we were claimed for Christ in baptism; and they speak to us of that day when we will all be together again, in the everlasting kingdom of heaven. As we prayed, sang, and mourned, I couldn't help but be grateful for my Catholic faith; I couldn't help but be grateful to my parents who had me baptized and who nurtured my faith; I couldn't help but be grateful to the hundreds of people who have supported Charlie and Jennifer over these past seven months.

The song that we sang at the entrance procession was J. Michael Thompson's God of Love. Here is that stirring and comforting text, set to the hymn tune Beach Spring:

God of love, whose mercies daily Like the morning are reborn,
Look on us, your gathered people: Heartsick, troubled, weary, worn,
Who before you raise our voices, Naming those called from our sight,
Confident that each is precious And is present in your light.

Christ, who lived through earthly suff'ring, Loss, betrayal, fear and death,
Ever-faithful to your calling, Serving till your final breath:
In your name we make memorial Of those gathered at your hand;
Freed from pain, despair and sorrow, Risen Lord, with you they stand.

Holy Spirit, whose indwelling Makes a temple of each heart,
Paraclete of strength'ning power, Be with us and ne'er depart;
As we name each name before you, Fortify us with your grace
That we strive to live in wholeness Till in heav'n we see your face.

God of mercy, love and mem'ry, Give us strength to follow you;
Let us trust that our departed, Now at rest, their struggle through,
All are known and loved and counted; As we name them, so may we,
Joined with them in one communion, Loving, serving, ever be.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cherishing the Moments

Greetings on a beautiful Monday morning here in Chicago. Yesterday was certainly a busy, bittersweet day. I rode in a great 50-mile bike ride all morning, then after some rest, attended the wake service for Charlie Odegard, whose funeral Mass begins in two hours at Saint Giles Church in Oak Park. We will have a choir, two flutists, and a cellist at the Mass. It should be a fitting celebration of Charlie's life.

Times like this, when someone much younger is diagnosed with cancer and then passes away in a fairly short period of time, call forth some deep introspection and reflection on life. In the midst of the "why" questions, I want Charlie's death to have a deep impact on the way I live my life. Charlie is the third friend to die this year, so I guess all of these wonderful people, whose lives ended way too early, have me thinking deeply about the way I live my own life.

I know it sound like a cliche, but I am coming to realize that every moment is simply precious. Yesterday, while on this bike ride, we were in a rural area southwest of Chicago, about 23 miles into the ride. I was working hard getting up a hill. I looked up and there was a deer in the road ahead of me and I just stared at it, marveling at its beauty. It was gone in an instant. So much of what enters our lives is just like that; here one moment and gone in an instant. The problem is that too often we forget to cherish that moment. This is what I have been doing for these past several months: recalling the moments I had with these wonderful people and at least cherishing the memories. It has helped me. If you have a moment at 10:30 (CDT) this morning, please pause and say a prayer for the repose of Charlie's soul, for Jennifer, and for the many, many who loved Charlie Odegard.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Simply an Honor

Friday greetings from sunny Chicago.

It has certainly been an emotional week here at our offices. You know, the J.S. Paluch Company and World Library Publications, its music and liturgy division, adopt the culture of family as an organization. For 100 years (J.S. Paluch began in 1913), the same Catholic family has been at the helm of this organization and has cultivated a sense of care and compassion. I have seen thatin action in so many ways this week as we have assisted Jennifer Odegard in the preparations for the celebration of her husband Charlie's life. Charlie was 48 and died this week after living with pancreatic cancer for seven months. Today, I am so grateful to the members of the teams here at J.S. Paluch and World Library Publications. It is an honor to work here.

Please continue your prayers for Jennifer and for Charlie's extended family of friends, his colleagues of the Chicago Police Department, and for the many who were touched by his life.

Gotta sing. Gotta Pray.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Charlie Odegard "Among the Saints in Glory"

Our hearts are at the breaking point here at World Library Publications and the J.S. Paluch Company this morning.

I received word very early this morning that Charles Odegard, husband of our marketing director, Jennifer Odegard, died peacefully during the night. Charlie lived with pancreatic cancer for the past seven months. 

If you have a moment right now, please take the time to offer prayers for eternal rest for Charlie and for strength and comfort for Jennifer and her parents and Charlie's family members.

Lord, in our grief we turn to you.
Are you not the God of love
who open your ears to all?
Listen to our prayers for your servant Charles,
whom you have called out of this world:
lead him to your kingdom of light and peace
and count him among the saints in glory.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Reminder for God

Late yesterday afternoon, the skies opened here at our offices. Most people had gone home. Then the sun began shining brightly through the downpour. It has been a rough several days here. Yesterday's "sign" gave me a sense of hope and comfort.

From Genesis:

God said to Noah and to his sons with him:"See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark.I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth."

God added: "This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.

As the bow appears in the clouds, I will see it and recall the everlasting covenant that I have established between God and all living beings - all mortal creatures that are on earth." God told Noah: "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all mortal creatures that are on earth."

Isn't it interesting that God tells Noah that God is putting the bow in the clouds as a covenant reminder, not for Noah, but for God.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sunday at the Cathedral

Monday greetings from Franklin Park and the "home office" of WLP.

Yesterday, as my days of parish "shopping" continue, I decided to attend Mass at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral. It is a splendid place. Here's a shot I took after Mass:

 The celebrant, a priest who I would say is in his seventies, was a wonderful presider. He prayed the prayers of the Mass clearly and powerfully. He obviously prepares quiet extensively. But even with all of this preparation, I thought that perhaps he got a little mixed up when praying the Collect, but upon checking the text, found that he prayed it correctly. Here it is:

Almighty ever-living God,
whom, taught by the Holy Spirit,
we dare to call our Father,
bring, we pray, to perfection in our hearts
the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters,
that we may merit to enter into the inheritance
which you have promised.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

It was the placement of the word "whom" that through me for a loop. It sounded like our "almighty ever-living God" was the one who was "taught by the Holy Spirit." So odd that the "whom" comes before the "we," the ones to whom the whom refers. My mind was confused, so I really missed the rest of the prayer because I was trying to figure out what the first part meant. Sad.

The music was simple and quite beautiful. The parish bulletin (a J. S. Paluch bulletin, by the way) lists the music that is sung at Mass. I was so grateful that everything was laid out for me; the bulletin directed me to the Mass setting, which was found on a participation aid in the pews. The cantor was excellent. Participation was good, considering that many of the people in the congregation were obviously tourists visiting our great city.

The bulletin also described the great pipe organ: "The West Gallery Organ Flentrop Orgelbouw's 2th anniversary of installation will be celebrated in 2014. Installed in 1989, the organ was given to the Glory of God by Alice O'Malley Robinson in Loving Memory of Her Husband, William Dunwoody Robinson. It was first heard on her 100th birthday with Mrs. O'Malley present for the new sounds gracing the cathedral."

Here's a photo I took yesterday:

It was a wonderful liturgical experience all in all. With the cathedral nearly filled to capacity, I had a great sense of the Archdiocese of Chicago and its welcome and outreach to those who were there to celebrate Mass.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Emptiness in August

The month of August has been somewhat of a tough month for me ever since my youngest sister, Joanne, died in 2001. She lived with Multiple Sclerosis for half her life and the disease finally took her in February of that year. Augusts are tough because it is her birthday month and this year she would have turned fifty. As many of my friends have celebrated their fiftieth birthdays this year or in the last few years, I couldn't help but think of my sister. What would she have been like had she lived to see her fiftieth birthday?

I remember well the months before her death, when it was becoming more and more apparent that there would not be much time left for her on this earth. I remember my prayers at that time. I remember praying that God would take me suddenly, before she died, so that I would not have to live through the pain and anguish her passing would bring to me. When I look back now, I see how misguided and selfish, but understandable, that prayer was.

This reminds me of the frustration that we can often feel when our prayers don't seem to be answered. A colleague of mine here at WLP is going through a very, very painful time as her husband battles cancer. My heart breaks for her and my prayer has been so fervent; a prayer for healing; a prayer for comfort; a prayer for a miracle. Yet it seems that God is not responding. I know deep in my heart that this is not the truth, but it just seems like there is an emptiness right now. And I guess that my life as a believing Catholic has been marked by moments like the one I am experiencing now; moments of emptiness. And as I look back, I realize that those moments were times when I felt the absence of God more acutely because my prayers seemed to fall into a vacuum. But as I look even deeper into these times, I know that they have shaped me into the person I have become, and that has meant some very positive traits and also some that I perceive as negative.

This is the kind of "in-between-ness" that has characterized much of my own life: moments when I have felt the love of God and the friendship of Christ so strongly that it overwhelmed me to moments when I have felt no love and no friendship at all.

Perhaps this is the paradox of the cross from which these words were uttered: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" This is One who trusted in the Father beyond measure, yet at the moment of human suffering and death, perhaps knew the same kind of emptiness I and others are feeling now.

Sorry for the "downer" of a blogpost like this one. It's August.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

In Celebration of Our Priests

Thursday has dawned bright and sunny here in Chicago. As August unfolds, I am more and more grateful for the warmth and light of these days of summer in the Midwest.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a priest whom I have known since the 1980's. He was recently re-assigned as pastor of a new parish, a poor parish in the city. The new parish has been in a steady decline for the past ten years or so. He told me there were many reasons for the decline: poor pastoral leadership, bickering among the members of the parish staff, poor decisions made in the areas of liturgy and music, among others. This priest is a man I have respected over the years; his drive and zeal are infectious. He was calling me to ask about purchasing 350 Voices as One Volume Two hymnals. He and his music director feel that the students in the parish's thriving Catholic school need music like the music found in that hymnal. They feel that the students need to have an experience of the liturgy that is filled with life and engages them on many levels.

Two things struck me about the conversation. The first is a reminder of just how hard our priests work to bring new life into communities that may have experienced decline. Going from a vibrant parish to one that seems lifeless is such a daunting task, but this priest has decided to be "all in." What a tremendous gift this man will be to this parish as the years unfold.

The second thing that struck me was the fact that the parish staff is focusing on serving the youngest among them through a renewal of their liturgical life and their singing at Mass. Starting at the heart of Catholic life seems to me to be a good starting point, don't you think?

We are doing everything we can as a company to help this priest with his request. It is so gratifying to work in a place that doesn't look at every request from every parish in the same way. I am so proud of my staff for figuring out ways to support this poor parish and this great priest. Good way to start the day.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Coming Back to Life

It is a beautiful day here in the Midwest. While on vacation several weeks ago, I neglected to ask someone to water the flower boxes on my balcony. I fretted about that while I was away because I knew that the daytime temperatures in Chicago that week were in the 90's. When I returned, I discovered I had lost quite a bit, but also saw that there was still hope for some of the plants and flowers. I began immediately to do what I could to save what remained. I had someone taking care of them while I was at NPM last week and I have been watching and tending them carefully since I have returned. Here are the results:

I was thinking a lot about this re-invigoration on my balcony as I sat out there last night, enjoying the evening breeze. Sometimes my own spiritual life has mirrored what happened in the last several weeks on that balcony. I am currently on an indefinite hiatus from the parish where I have worshiped for the past ten years. There are a number of reasons for this, which I am not ready yet to share. But it has been a deeply sad time for me; I must admit feeling like what those flowers looked like several weeks ago. I have been parish "shopping" for some time now and will continue to do so until a clear direction emerges for me. But I do feel like I am coming back to life as I slowly let go of the past and look to the future of my local Catholic life with hope. Not sure yet where I will be "planted," but I am approaching this search with wide eyes, alert ears, and an open heart. Please pray for all who search for a spiritual home.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

New RCIA Resource for Lent

Yesterday I was catching up on emails after having returned from NPM in Washington, D.C.

Several weeks ago, Mary Birmingham, an expert in Christian Initiation, forwarded me a new manuscript:

This is a resource to help RCIA ministers lead those entrusted to their care through the Lenten Season, the RCIA's Period of Purification and Enlightenment. The manuscript is 248 pages and there are also Powerpoint slides for each of the sessions, which I printed out yesterday. Here are the two sets:

I am quite excited about this new resource, and it will, of course, take some time to begin the editorial process. Mary has two books with us already, Formed in Faith (Sessions for Inquiry, Catechumenate, and Ongoing Faith Formation), pictured here:

and Confirming Adult Catholics (Five Sessions for Preparation and Reflection):

Mary and I have been talking about this new resource for Lent for many months. She has re-worked an original manuscript to be more user-friendly for the leader of these sessions. This will become a valuable resource for parishes. Look for it (still untitled) sometime during 2014.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Home and Inspired

Monday morning greetings from Chicago.

So sorry to have not posted the last few days of the NPM convention last week. The days were packed; early starts and very late finishes.

Our WLP music showcase was Wednesday evening. Here are a few photos I took from the stage as the participants sang our music:

All in all, I felt that the convention was a good one for the participants. These musicians are real troopers, let me tell you. They begin their days early and each evening they were riding buses all over the city to attend various musical events.

I was so proud of our staff, musicians, clinicians, and composers who really are the heart and soul of WLP. They work so hard to provide the very best for the singing, praying, and initiating Church.

Yesterday I went to Mass at Old Saint Pat's in my neighborhood, pictured here:

Fr. Ed Foley was the celebrant and homilist. Fr. Foley prayed the prayers from the Missal so beautifully and prayerfully. I was drawn in, especially during the collect:

Draw near to your servants, O Lord,
and answer their prayers with unceasing kindness,
that, for those who glory in you as their Creator and guide,
you may restore what you have created
and keep safe what you have restored.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Fr. Foley has an easy and unpretentious style as a celebrant; this helped make these prayers sound so genuine and inspiring. In a word, praying these prayers with Ed Foley was a delight.

I hope that your Sunday experience was as rich.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.