Monday, September 30, 2013

April 27 Canonizations

Word just in from Rome. April 27, 2014 will be the day when Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II are canonized. Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II.

Gotta Sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Padded Pews and Resignation

Thursday greetings from the sunny Midwest.

A few days ago, while driving home from work, I was listening to a local talk radio station.

The host apparently had attended a wedding in a Protestant church over the weekend and was sharing with the listeners how wonderful it was to be in a church building with lush, padded pews and no kneelers. He himself is a Catholic, as were his two "sidekicks" on the radio show. And all admitted to being regular Sunday church-goers. He lamented the fact that his own Catholic parish church has no padded pews and the kneelers are tough on the knees.

What struck me were the answers he received when he asked his "sidekicks," "Hey are you Catholic? Do you go to Mass on Sundays?" The tone of the answers sounded more like resignation that affirmation. "Yeah, I go." Of course, a large radio audience (and this is a huge radio station with a very large Midwest following) may not be a place for expressing excitement about our Catholic faith, but the responses to his questions just seemed so blasé.

How do you respond to questions about your Catholic faith?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pope Francis and Caravaggio

Caravaggio has always been one of my favorite painters. Back in the late 1980's I was privileged to be in Rome for a few days. It was a rainy, miserable January day. Three of us were led on a private tour by an art historian. Our objective simply was to visit Caravaggio paintings. We walked the streets with our umbrellas shielding us from the driving rain and wind. The tour guide would lead us into ancient and cold churches. He would then approach a niche or a side altar. There were no lights on in these cold buildings. Then he would put some lira coins into a small box, which would then illuminate the Caravaggio before us. This was one of the most magical days of my life.

I will never forget our visit to San Luigi dei Francesi and its Contarelli chapel. There are three Caravaggio canvases hanging in this chapel:

The Inspiration of Saint Matthew

The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew

The Calling of Saint Matthew

Pope Francis, in his interview last week, spoke about his own love of Caravaggio's paintings, particularly The Calling of Saint Matthew.

I always stayed in [the neighborhood of] Via della Scrofa. From there I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, and I went there to contemplate the painting of ‘The Calling of St. Matthew,’ by Caravaggio.
“That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew.” Here the pope becomes determined, as if he had finally found the image he was looking for: “It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.” Then the pope whispers in Latin: “I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.”
These words of Francis cut right to my heart, especially "he holds on to his money as if to say, 'No, not me! No, this money is mine.'"
It's not the money thing that cuts to my heart; it's just the tendency I have to hold on to stuff that really doesn't bring me or anyone else any life or goodness. What pastoral and comforting words Francis continues to speak in this short section. "I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ." For me, reading this was a moment of true evangelization. The Lord was looking right at me through Francis and challenging me to let go of the things that do not bring life to the world nor to me. But at the same time, Francis assures me that Christ's mercy and patience are infinite; mercy and patience for me, too.
As I was looking at these paintings again, something comical came to mind. On that day in Rome nearly thirty years ago, the historian guide was doing some of his own theological interpetation. Scroll up and look at the first painting again. Notice the angel, who extends his left index finger. I will never forget the guide saying, "Look at the fact that the angel extends the ONE finger, as if to say to Saint Matthew, 'When writing your gospel, tell the world that the Church is ONE, holy, Catholic, and apostolic." He spoke English with a thick Italian accent and when he reached that final phrase, he lowered his voice and in an emphatic whisper, said "ONE, holy, Catholic, and apostolic." The sibilance echoed in that cold church for several seconds.
Grateful today for a sense of humor and for the marvels God is working through Pope Francis and through the gift of art.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, September 23, 2013

"A Web of Relations"

Monday greetings from a sunny and cool city of Chicago.

At Mass yesterday, the celebrant chose to pray the "Eucharistic Prayer for Use in Masses for Various Needs III." I had not heard this particular prayer prayed at Mass until yesterday.

I was much more attentive as he slowly and carefully prayed the text. Of course, I had been thinking about the words of Pope Francis in the interview earlier in the week while I was at Mass. A particular section of the eucharistic prayer really shined for me:

Grant that all the faithful of the Church,
looking into the signs of the times by the light of faith,
may constantly devote themselves
to the service of the Gospel.

Keep us attentive to the needs of all
that, sharing their grief and pain,
their joy and hope,
we may faithfully bring them the good news of salvation
and go forward with them
along the way of your Kingdom.

I couldn't help but think of this paragaph (4) from Vatican II's Gaudium et Spes:

To carry out such a task, the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel. Thus, in language intelligible to each generation, she can respond to the perennial questions which men ask about this present life and the life to come, and about the relationship of the one to the other. We must therefore recognize and understand the world in which we live, its explanations, its longings, and its often dramatic characteristics.

In last week's interview, Pope Francis called the Church "a community, a web of relations." As I listened to the words of the eucharistic prayer, I was struck by the words "Keep us attentive to the needs of all." I think that this is what Pope Francis is asking all of us to do; to keep ourselves attentive to the needs of all and to be unafraid to voice our own needs. His words are a summons to  "recognize and understand the world in which we live." In this respect, we are all caught up in this "web of relations."

These are more than just a few nice papal words. This is a real challenge as we find new ways, new roads, to live out our Catholic life. Truly this is a moment to look "into the signs of the times by the light of faith."

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pope Francis and This Refreshed Catholic

Greetings to all on this Friday.

I have been trying to digest the words of Pope Francis from yesterday's published interview. There are posts galore commenting on his words.

Here's a section of the interview that particularly touched me:

“How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.
“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”
When I read this, it immediately brought to mind the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.  You might think this odd, but there is a small rubric contained in the rite of acceptance into the order of catechumens that relates directly to what Pope Francis is talking about here. Here's the rubric, at number 48 of the RCIA:
The candidates, their sponsors, and a group of the faithful gather outside the church . . . As the priest or deacon, wearing an alb or surplice, a stole, and, if desired, a cope of festive color, goes out to meet them, the assembly of the faithful may sing a psalm or an appropriate song.
"Goes out to meet them." For me, these words are some of the most important in any liturgical text. You see, there are still parishes who have developed and still use a warped approach to this rubric. For convenience sake, instead of anyone going to meet the inquirers, everyone in the assembly, including the ministers, simply wait inside the church building, listening for a knock at the door. Someone opens the door and the inquirers and sponsors then enter. What does this say about the activity of welcoming? The activity that is evangelization? The activity that is the Church? What it says is that we simply wait for people to come to us; and this waiting is ritually passive in the scene I just described. Listen to what Pope Francis said: “Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent."
I think that what he is getting at here is found in those five words from the RCIA: "goes out to meet them." "Let us be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself . . ."
I am a refreshed Catholic these days. How about you?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Pope Francis Interview

A frenzied Thursday filled with meetings.

I am leaving you with one link, the Pope Francis interview. After perusing it (I will take more time to read it more fully later), let me say that this may probably be the most significant Catholic turning point in my lifetime, second only to the Second Vatican Council.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Tuesday greetings from the home office here in Franklin Park, Illinois.

I have three sisters, two living and one deceased. Each was diagnosed with a different auto-immune disease while in the prime of life and each has lived with these diseases for decades. My youngest sister died from complications brought on by a very aggressive form of multiple sclerosis; she was in her late 30's. My remaining sisters are struggling so much now.

I bring them up today because, as a Catholic, I believe that the Lord is closer to these two women now than he has ever been in their lives. I believe this right down to the core of my being. During one of my last visits with my younger sister before her death, I remember telling her that when I was with her, I felt closer to the Lord Jesus more than any other time or moment in my life.

I guess I am just feeling the paradox of the cross right now quite acutely. You see, while I know that the Lord is present in times of sickness, there is that lingering question: "If you are present, why can't you do more by way of healing?" Do you ever find yourself lost in this paradox?

I remember a time back in the mid-1980's when I was struggling to find the answers to where God might be calling me, I spent hours in a chapel just staring at the large crucifix in the sanctuary. I didn't say much in my prayer; I just gazed on the cross and sought direction. The irony, of course, is that I was staring at the answer to my question.

I understand the theological concept that what we do at Sunday Mass gives us a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom, where every tear will be wiped away. In my own life right now, I guess I am looking for more tears to be wiped away here on earth.

Yesterday's senseless mass shootings in Washington brought me once more face-to-face with the cross. People kissed their spouses good-bye yesterday morning for the last time; they simply went to work at their jobs and were killed. My heart reaches out to those surviving spouses and family members. My own pain pales in comparison to what those loved ones are going through right now.

Not to worry about me; just a time of faith-testing right now. I am comforted by the words of Saint Peter, however: "Lord, to whom shall we go. You alone have the words of eternal life."

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The J.S. Paluch Company: Celebrating 100 Years of Service to the Church

Thursday morning greetings from the Midwest, where the heat and humidity has finally abated. Sunny and dry today, which happens to be the day of our company-wide picnics at our facilities throughout the United States.

Here's a photo of a fellow Senior Manager, Dan Shrader, and me at the barbecue. Dan and I are the "sausage guys."

It is a special day for all of us here at the J.S. Paluch Company and World Library Publications.

Today is one of our celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the J.S. Paluch Company.

The company was founded as Merchants Press, located on Chicago's north side, in 1913 by John S. Paluch, the grandfather of our current owner, Mary Lou Paluch Rafferty. In 1936, John Paluch's company was printing religious materials for local Catholic parishes, including baptismal and marriage certificates, as well as devotional pamphlets.

In 1952, the company's work had expanded to the production of parish bulletins, supported by the advertising placed within those bulletins. In 1954, vocations booklets were added to the comapny's published works. Mary Lou's Dad, Chester Paluch, assumed the leadership of the company in 1955, upon the death of his father, John. In 1956, Mass booklets containing the Latin responses were printed by our company.

In 1965, following the Second Vatican Council, the company first published the Monthly Missalette, to help Catholics engage in meaningful and active dialogue in English at Mass. Our company history states the following regarding what occurred in 1967: "With the new liturgical guidelines of Vatican II, J.S. Paluch holds a country-wide search for a new sung Mass that will provide quality and ease of singing for the Monthly Missalette. The mass chosen was David Kraehenbuehl's Mass of the People of God/Missa Plebs Dei."

In 1969, Paluch publishes the new monthly Celebrate, which later expands into the We Celebrate worship resource. And then, in 1971, in an effort to expand the company's music repertoire, Chester Paluch purchases World Library of Sacred Music, which was located in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is when the division which I am privileged to oversee, World Library Publications, the music and liturgy division of J.S. Paluch, was born.

Several new publications followed in the 1970's: AIM magazine, Misalito Parroquial, the Spanish inserts to the missalettes, the We Celebrate missal and hymnal program.

Chester Paluch died on September 14, 1980 and at that time Margaret Paluch assumed leadership of the company. In 1983, Paluch published the first Catholic Family Calendar and in 1985, the Monthly Missalette becomes Seasonal Missalette, published four times per year. The following year saw the publication of the first Paluch Vocation Calendar.

In 1994, Mary Lou Paluch Rafferty and her husband, Bill Rafferty, purchased the J.S. Paluch Company. In 1998, WLP's Word & Song and Celebremos/Let Us Celebrate worship resources were published, as well as the first edition of Liturgy of the Word. Margaret Paluch died in 2009, and in 2010, Mary Lou and Bill presented Pope Benedict XVI with a special edition of the Treasures of the Vatican Library calendar.

In 2011, WLP published the Roman Missal, Third Edition, which won several major awards for layout and design and music engraving.

100 years of service to the Church is celebrated in 2013. I am so grateful to have been a part of at least 14 years of this 100!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Day of Memories

September 11 has arrived once again.

It was a somber ride in this morning with my carpooling colleagues. We were listening to Chicago's classical radio station, which was playing music appropriate for this day; not much conversation; just a stirring of memories for me.

On that day, I wrote a prayer, which we used here for a company-wide prayer service.

Let us pray.
O God of mercy and forgiveness,
We stand before you in pain, in fear, and in grief.
We know you desire good for your people,
which is why we are stunned when we face terror of today's magnitude.
We cry out to you with the word that we share with one another:

In our fear and doubt, we still turn to you,
O God, and ask your presence.

Welcome those who were killed today
into your loving embrace.
Give them eternal peace.

Comfort the families of those who lost loved ones.
Give them strength.

Be with those who have suffered pain.
Heal them.

Guide those who care for the injured.
Be their strength.

Lead our country through this grief.
Comfort us.

Bring justice to those responsible for this terror.

And Almighty God,
we pray that you do not abandon your people
in their time of need.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, September 9, 2013


Monday morning greetings from hot and steamy Chicago, where the temperatures today and tomorrow are supposed to reach the mid-90's.

Yesterday morning I went to Mass at Notre Dame de Chicago parish. Two things occurred, which bear mentioning. When the lector arrived at the ambo for the second reading, instead of saying, "A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to Philemon," he confidently proclaimed, "A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to Philomena." I quietly chuckled.

The second and main thing that stood out for me was the homily. The homilist explained that instead of delivering his own homily, he wanted to heed Pope Francis' call to pray for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the war-torn areas of the world. He brought it home by inviting us to pray for peace in our own Chicago neighborhoods where, each weekend, people are being murdered on our city streets. Then he told us how moved he was by Pope Francis' homily during the Angelus the Sunday before in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. I posted that text last week. He then asked us to listen to those words. The priest then spoke Francis' words as if they were his own; he spoke with eloquence and passion as he read the pope's address. Hearing it "live," so to speak, really touched my own heart as I prayed fervently for peace.

During the homily, I happened to glance up to the ceiling just above the altar, and this is what I saw:

Here is a closeup:

There it was, one simple word: PAX.

After Mass, when I took these photos, I couldn't help but remember a day back in the late 1970's, when I was privileged to join in with a group of Pax Christi members in a peace march in New York City. There were leaders from all of the world's religions in that march. We listened to prayers lifted up by Buddhists, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, and Protestants as we moved from one house of worship to another, praying for peace. It was a day forever etched in my memory and Catholic consciousness.

Let me echo Pope Francis' words from Saturday's prayer service for peace:

“Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world!”

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dona Nobis Pacem

As promised, we completed the crafting of a Prayer Service for Peace in Syria and very shortly it will be up on WLP's web site. J.S. Paluch bulletin parishes will also be able to find it on the Subscriber Resource Center on the J.S. Paluch web site.

Please check your diocesan and archdiocesan web sites for information about prayer sites and services for Saturday's day of prayer and fasting. The Archdiocese of Chicago posted a helpful site today.

As it looks more and more like the United States will be launching some kind of attack on Syria, my heart sinks more and more as well. Why does the answer always seem to be the use of weapons? I know this is a very delicate and complicated situation, but these things kill people and they usually end up killing innocent people; people just like you and me. When will this stop?

Wherever you land on the issue, please take the time to pray for victims of war and violence.

Dona nobis pacem.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"May the Plea for Peace Rise Up"

Tuesday geetings, friends.

I can think of no other words to post today other than those of Pope Francis. As you may know he has called for a day of prayer and fast this coming Saturday. I am currently crafting a prayer service for peace that we will be posting on our WLP web site, hopefully today. Let us make our prayers for peace more fervent than ever.

I know this is a rather long quote, but it is well worth reading. I found much inspiration here.

Pope Francis at the Angelus on Sunday:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Hello! Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry, which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.

I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal, which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions, which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake.

War begets war, violence begets violence.

With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict. With similar vigor I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.

May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries. May humanitarian workers, charged with the task of alleviating the sufferings of these people, be granted access so as to provide the necessary aid.

What can we do to make peace in the world? As Pope John said, it pertains to each individual to establish new relationships in human society under the mastery and guidance of justice and love (cf. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, [11 April 1963]: AAS 55, [1963], 301-302).

All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity!

I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.

May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and be let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter's Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God's great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world.

Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.