Thursday, October 31, 2013

Chili and Saint Gerald

Greetings to all on the All Hallow's Eve.

We had a little party here at the office today, with a chili contest. Here is a shot of "Scary Jerry" in the middle of the judge's table. Not sure why the miter was placed on my head. The seven chili entries were just delicious and a good time was had by all.

Each year at this time, I recall with fondness the very first All Saints Day in my memory. I was in the first grade at Saint Charles School in Woburn, Massachusetts, pictured here:

We all had to dress up as our "name saint." I remember my Mom fretting about this somewhat. I believe she took a white bed sheet and dyed it brown. She then made a monk's habit out of the sheet and had me memorize the following, which I obviously remember to this day:

"Saint Gerald was a monk in Ireland. Many miracles are attributed to him. He lived to be a ripe old age."

I think my first grade sister, Sister James Cecilia, SND, must have thought it cute that a precocious first-grader could actually say "attributed." So, when the "parade" began into every classroom of all of us first-graders in our saints outfits, I was asked to give my little speech in every one of those classrooms. Gosh, I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Grateful today for my Mom and for all those who formed me in the Catholic faith. Tomorrow we celebrate them.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Living the Word

Tuesday greetings from the home office here in Franklin Park, Illinois. The autumn colors are so beautiful here in the Midwest.

Every once in awhile, I do a little WLP commercial on the blog. We publish an annual resource here, Living the Word. It is written anew every year. This year's authors are Sr. Laurie Brink, O.P. and Deacon Frederick Bauerschmidt. The Sunday scriptures are followed by a scripture commentary "Undertanding the Word," a contemporary reflection "Reflecting on the Word," a series of questions to ponder or share in small groups "Consider/Discuss," and each section concludes with a prayer asking the Lord to help us in our quest for living the word "Responding to the Word."

This resource has many uses. I see it as a helpful resource for individuals to take the time after the celebration of Mass, perhaps some time during the week, to reflect back on what was proclaimed on Sunday. This is also an ideal resource for those in initiation ministry who lead "breaking open the word" sessions following the dismissal of catechumens (and candidates) after the liturgy of the word on Sundays. And, of course, this is also a great resource for those who gather in small groups in the parish to reflect on God's word.

Check it out and consider adding this to your resources to help you reflect on and live God's word.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Back from San Antonio

Monday greetings from the Midwest on a beautiful Autumn morning.

I spent the weekend in San Antonio, TX, where I did two things on Saturday. The first was a WLP "Sing the Seasons" choral reading session. My colleague and friend, John Halloran, helped arrange it at Saint Francis of Assisi parish. Here are some photos, courtesy of John. I really enjoy leading these sessions and sharing the best of what WLP has to offer for the singing and praying church.

The music session took place in the morning. In the afternoon, I led an "RCIA: Back to the Basics" session for initiation ministers in the Archdiocese. Again, I so enjoyed the afternoon, which I hope was helpful for those in attendance:

It was a long travel day yesterday, with a four hour layover in Houston.

When I finally reached my home, this is what awaited me in the courtyard; just breathtaking.

In a few minutes, I will be leading a webinar for our J.S. Paluch parish consultants from around the country, then a week chock-full of excitement here at WLP!
I do plan on attending a high Mass in the extraordinary form in the next few weeks. Looking forward to it and the conversation that ensues.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

RCIA Questions from a Priest-in-Training

A little breather from the extraordinary form conversation today.

Today I received an e-mail from a deacon, who is in the final stages of perparation for the priesthood. He had attended a session I gave last year to the clergy of his diocese, in which I talked about the RCIA and the model of apprenticeship formation espoused by the Church at the Second Vatican Council. Coincidentally, I am traveling to San Antonio, Texas tomorrowm his home diocese I found his questions to be right on target. So, today, I would like to share his questions and my responses with you. 

I am writing a paper on RCIA models and I want learn from him:

  • Apprenticeship model seems to be a better model to form Catechumens into disciples leadership of Jesus Christ but if it is a better model, why is it not being implemented in parishes within US?

This is a central question about initiation practice and there is no easy answer. From the RCIA’s very beginnings it seems that pastors believed that, instead of doing “instruction classes” themselves, they were being asked to invite others (deacons, catechists, and lay leaders) to learn about the RCIA and do the work that these “instruction classes” had done for years. Unfortunately, the apprenticeship model, espoused by the Second Vatican Council (Ad Gentes 14), was largely ignored or perhaps undiscovered. So, what has ended up happening in the vast majority of parishes throughout the United States and Canada is that the RCIA is nothing more than a series of classes on Catholic doctrinal elements, punctuated with the rites. Instead of placing the needed instruction squarely within a “learning by doing” model of formation, most parishes simply focus on handing on the doctrine, without paying attention to the other three elements of Christian formation outlined in paragraph 757 of the RCIA: formation in liturgical prayer, community, and apostolic service in an apprenticeship model.

I have heard from many RCIA ministers, who want to move their initiation processes more closely in line with the Church’s vision in Ad Gentes (and in the General Directory for Catechesis and the National Directory for Catechesis). Unfortunately in many cases it is their pastors who pressure them to stick with the “class model,” concerned that catechumens and candidates are not getting the “meat” of the doctrine.

  • If the model seems to be ideal, how can we implement it in our parishes to form good, active and fruitful Christians?

I do not think that we need to jettison all that we are currently doing in the RCIA; we are handing on the sacred word of God and the tradition quite well. But that approach must be expanded if we are to embrace and implement a model that more closely resembles what Ad Gentes and subsequent catechetical directories have directed. I urge those in RCIA ministry to begin to add some elements of the apprenticeship model to their current practice. For instance:
- teaming up the catechumens and candidates with those who are bringing communion to the homebound
- having them team up with ushers and greeters and greet and welcome people at Sunday Mass
- having the candidates and catechumens attend prayer services (liturgy of the hours, Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, etc.,) when these events are scheduled in the parish
- assisting with the various social service projects undertaken by the parish

The list goes on.

Catechumens and candidates, while learning the doctrine, need a place to put what they are learning into action. For many, this means in their own marriages and families, at school, at their places of business, in their social circles. But the parish needs to give them places where they can practice their ever-forming Catholic faith in practical situations, which is why adding “learning-by-doing” segments in the catechumenate is so important.

  • And how can we make the community prepared to practice this model?

It doesn’t take much to move into a new model. The community must be constantly made aware that this kind of apprenticeship is occurring in the parish. Various parish groups and organizations should be invited to connect with the catechumens and candidates on a regular basis. Perhaps they should know that there are “Catholics in training” in their midst and that it is part of their responsibility to help and assist in this training.


NB: I request his insights and some reliable resources that can help me break through these questions.


The General Director for Catechesis (67) characterizes initiatory catechesis with these points:
         A comprehensive and systematic formation in the faith
         An apprenticeship in the entire Christian life
         A basic formation centered on what constitutes the nucleus of Christian experience

 In its introduction, the directory names the current problem as this:
“It is necessary, however, to examine with particular attention some problems so as to identify their solutions:
- the first concerns the conception of catechesis as a school of faith, an initiation and apprenticeship in the entire Christian life of which catechists do not yet have a full understanding” (GDC 30).

 Our own bishops, in #29H of the National Directory for Catechesis got it right when they said:
“Learning by apprenticeship is also an important human element in catechetical methodology. It links an experienced Christian believer, or mentor, with one who seeks a deeper relationship with Christ and the Church. The relationship that normally grows between a catechist and a catechumen provides a workable model of learning by apprenticeship.”

 And, of course, Allan, Ad Gentes 14 is the “magna carta” in this respect:
“The catechumenate is not a mere exposition of dogmatic truths and norms of morality, but a period of formation in the whole Christian life, an apprenticeship of sufficient duration, during which the disciples will be joined to Christ their teacher. The catechumens should be properly initiated into the mystery of salvation and the practice of the evangelical virtues, and they should be introduced into the life of faith, liturgy and charity of the People of God by successive sacred rites.”

Terrific questions from one of our future priests!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mass in the Extraordinary Form and the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

I would like to comment on my experience this past Sunday at a low Mass in the extraordinary form vis a vis the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

I am doing something here that is not logical. I am using paragraphs from the Consitution on the Sacred Liturgy to place in a kind of dialogue with my experience of the low Mass in the extraordinary form I celebrated on Sunday. Illogical, because the constitution's main thrust was to call for a reform of the very form of the Mass I celebrated on Sunday.

This is purely a reflection on my own part; a reflection on my actual experience of the Mass. I am offering the questions that my experience raised, especially as that experience relates to nearly my entire Catholic life of having celebrated the Mass as called for in the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. These are serious questions for me as a Roman Catholic. Again, I am asking for your help as I humbly move through all of this; I want to know how my Catholic brothers and sisters who celebrate the Mass in the extraordinary form address the questions I am raising here.

From Chapter One of the Constitution come the following four paragraphs (or sections thereof).

11. But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.

It is simply a fact that there was very little about the Mass that called for any active engagement from me. Many have already commented that "active" engagement can mean different things. In a nutshell, the meaning that many would describe about the engagement in the Mass in the extraordinary form is summed up by a few sentences from Bl. Pope John Paul II (from a comment to this blog posted yesterday):

"Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active."

At my experience on Sunday, the only words I actually heard were the words of the epistle, the homily, the Latin spoken by the priest when I received Holy Communion, and the prayers that followed the Mass. There was literally nothing else to listen to. I cannot grasp what was calling me into any kind of active engagement.

21. In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.

My experience on Sunday was obviously of a Mass whose "texts and rites" were not touched by the Church following the council. And I guess this is where one of my basic questions arises. The Church clearly stated that what I experienced on Sunday was to be restored in a way to enable an ease of understanding and a taking part in them that would be full and active, "as befits a community." My question: if this was the expressed intent of the Roman Catholic Church, why does what I experienced on Sunday continue to be allowed to be celebrated? This is a very basic disconnect for me, and one with which I have been struggling mightily since Sunday.

30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.

My experience on Sunday included no taking part in "acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs." As far as actions go, I genuflected before entering the pew. I stood, knelt, and sat when everyone else did. I approached the sanctuary, knelt at the rail, and received the Eucharist. I observed silence for most of the 50 minutes I was in the church. And I did pray the prayers after Mass aloud (at least the ones I knew by memory).

34. The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.

There was definitely a noble simplicity to the celebration of the Mass, but all the moving around, the very many genuflections by the servers and celebrant, the synchronized bowing by the servers toward the center of the floor; these all seemed to be in contradiction to the call for rites that are "short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions." Again, I have to ask my basic question: if this was the expressed intent of the Roman Catholic Church, why does what I experienced on Sunday continue to be allowed to be celebrated?

There were two men sitting in the front pew of the church. It was obvious that one was very familiar with the Mass in the extraordinary form because, all during the Mass, he was pointing up into the sanctuary and whispering to his companion. I presume from the gestures that he was explaining what was going on. Frankly, there was a part of me that wished I was sitting next to him, so that it could have been explained to me.

35. 1) In sacred celebrations there is to be more reading from holy scripture, and it is to be more varied and suitable.

The Epistle of Saint James was read at the Mass I attended on Sunday. How does what I experienced fulfill the expressed intent of the Church regarding "more reading from holy scripture?"

Now many of you have said that my experience will be markedly different when I celebrate a high Mass. I would still like to point out that the low Mass I experienced on Sunday is still a valid and licit Mass, allowed for by the Church. I would think that there are those for whom a low Mass is their preferred Mass and, since the restrictions on its celebration were lifted, may be the only Mass celebrated by many people, week after week. Again, I have to ask my basic question: if the reform of this very form of the Mass was the expressed intent of the Roman Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council, why does what I experienced on Sunday continue to be allowed to be celebrated? This is just a very basic disconnect for me.

I am promising to attend a high Mass in the extraordinary form in the coming weeks. I am traveling quite extensively in the next months, but will revisit these same questions after the new experience.

Thanks for your patience with me.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mass in the Extraordinary Form: Part Two

Tuesday greetings from Chicago, where it is in the thirties and sunny, but not for long. The forecast is for rain and wet snow later today into tonight!

I want to thank those of you who responded to yesterday's post about the Mass in the extraordinary form. Many of you suggested that I attend a high Mass at Saint John Cantius here in Chicago; at 12:30 on Sundays. Well, in fact, that is where I went on Sunday and I did attend the 12:30 Mass and what I described is exactly what happened.

My "view from the pew" on Sunday:

My suspicion is that there was a shift in scheduling because it seems that the new pipe organ was dedicated and blessed some time during the weekend, with Cardinal George in attendance; perhaps there was an earlier high Mass and things were shifted around.

In yesterday's post, I asked for your assistance in helping me to understand the Mass in the extraordinary form. Thank you for sharing your own experiences and pieces of advice.

I did wonder why there was a bump in the number of hits on the blog yesterday and my analytic tools pointed to my friends over at Musica Sacra Forum. One of the risks that I (and anyone who writes anything for public consumption) take is that I am sharing my experience publicly. I have developed pretty thick skin over the years, although I do have my moments of vulnerability. I appreciate the civility with which those of you who chose to comment here on this blog showed. A very few others over at Musica Sacra were not so civil. Frankly, this is what makes me want to not attend another Mass in the extraordinary form. But people like Adam Wood balance things out for me. Thanks, Adam, for your kind words and call to civility.

One of the things that I have always told the people I am privileged to lead here at World Library Publications is that we embrace a mission to serve the needs of the singing, praying, and initiating Church. And they have heard me time and again say something like: "And that really means serving the needs of the entire Church, not some 'progressive' part of the Church with which my preference and experience resound; not some 'conservative' part of the Church with which my preference and experience resound; not some 'progressive' part of the Church with which my preference and experience have no resonance; not some 'conservative' part of the Church with which my preference and experience have no resonance. We serve the Church."

One of the reasons for my decision to attend the extraordinary form of the Mass on Sunday was to broaden my experience and understanding of that entire Church. Up until Sunday, as I mentioned yesterday, I would only refer to the pre-conciliar Mass in a kind of sweeping historical remembrance. I wanted an experience of the Mass in that pre-conciliar form so that I could share that experience with others. Sunday's was one experience of that form. And from what you shared on this blog, it probably wasn't the best (low Mass) first taste for one who is searching for meaning.

I have two things to say. First, the low Mass is celebrated with frequency. Many of you said that this is not the ideal. To quote one comment yesterday, "You happened to end up in a bad situation, but at Cantius you'll find what the rest of us love." Is it generally felt among those who prefer the extraordinary form that the low Mass is to be avoided?

Second, I will do my very best over the next several weeks to try the 12:30 P.M. high Mass at Saint John Cantius here in Chicago; it is less than a five minute drive from my home.

Tomorrow, I would like to talk about what "fully conscious and active participation" means. What, if any, influence does paragraph 14 of Sacrosanctum Concilium have when it comes to the celebration of Mass in the extraordinary form?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mass in the Extraordinary Form

Monday greetings, folks. Hold onto your seats . . . this is a long one.

As many who follow this blog know, I am a Catholic in search of a parish these days.

Yesterday, I decided that, after talking about the pre-Vatican II Mass for years, it might be a good idea to attend a Mass in the extraordinary form, a "Tridentine Mass."

I am going to spend the time on the blog this week talking about my experience. I hope that we can have a civil dialogue about this issue.

The parish's web site described the particular Mass as "Tridentine High Mass (Latin)." I was looking forward to a Mass filled with music and chant and the glorious sounds of the organ and choir.

Apparently, there was a change in the parish schedule and, from all accounts, what I experienced instead was a "Tridentine Low Mass (Latin)."

There were about 150 people in attendance. I would say that perhaps ten people were over 65. The rest were fairly young; people in their 30's, 40's and 50's. I have probably said hundreds of times over the years something like this: "The pre-conciliar liturgy was generally marked by a passivity by the congregation. The priest, for the most part, had his back to the congregation and prayed the Mass in a low voice, inaudible to the people. What was important was going on 'up there' in the sanctuary. People in the pews, for the most part, engaged in private devotions and at the ringing of the bells, knew to look up to see the elevation of host and chalice."

Yesterday's Mass fit my description to a tee, and more. There were two altar servers who assisted the priest at the Mass. They were robotic, mechanical, and militaristic in their movements. Whoever trained them for this trained them quite well. The many movements, all done with the precision of synchronized swimmers at the Olympics, was startling. When the Missal or a framed prayer card had to be moved by these servers from one side of the altar to the other, I sat there wondering why it looked like the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. I know it sounds as if I am poking fun here, but this was so precise and like a military drill each time these servers made a move that it distracted me beyond measure from what I was trying to see going on at the altar. But that was just the strange point about it; I couldn't tell what was going on at the altar. The Mass was being said in a small space "up there." All of the dialogues were between the priest and these two servers. I tried following along in the booklet provided. I could recognize the various parts of the Mass; at least I think I could. But I was guessing and second-guessing throughout, because I couldn't see what the priest was actually doing at the altar, and I couldn't hear a word.

After the priest said the Gospel (I think) at the altar with his back to us, he turned and faced us and approached the ambo. From there he read the Epistle from Saint James in English. He then told a story about a saint and the need for people to sign up for the 40 hours of devotion before our "Eucharistic King."

He then went back to the altar, with his back to us and continued with the Mass. As he began what I knew must have been the words of institution, a man in front of me left his wife and two children and walked to my left. I was distracted because I heard him speaking out loud. When I looked to my left, I realized that he was kneeling at a confessional and going to confession. When he finished, a young boy knelt at the confessional and loudly confessed his sins. This was all occurring as the servers, kneeling behind the celebrant, lifted up the celebrant's chasuble as he elevated first the host, then the chalice, while the bells were rung three times. Confessions continued as the eucharistic prayer went on, both next to me and at a confessional on the other side of the church.

Just before communion, the two servers mechanically approached the altar rail and again, with perfect synchronicity, unfolded several long white cloths that were hung on the inside of the communion rail, then draped them over the top of the communion rail. They then opened the central gate of the communion rail. People went to communion, kneeling at the rail, receiving communion on the tongue. Several young men in cassocks and surplices of lace assisted with the distribution of Holy Communion.

The servers then folded the long white cloths back up behind the communion rail and closed the gate. During communion, no one went through the open gate. After an extended washing of the vessels, the Mass concluded, or so I thought.

Up until this point, the only word I had uttered the entire time was "Amen" when I received communion. As the Mass concluded, the people knelt and were led by the celebrant into praying three Hail Mary's, the Salve Regina in English, another Marian Prayer, and the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel. These were the only prayers that the congregation prayed aloud during the entire time we were there.

I left that Church feeling perplexed. I had a much deeper appreciation of why the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council insisted on a reform of the liturgy; less repetition of words; less repetition of ritual movements; a move into the vernacular; a move toward fully conscious and active participation by the people, among other reforms. What I witnessed yesterday was (I think) what the Fathers at the council were asking the Church to reform so that the work of Christ in the liturgy could become intelligible and more fully nurture the hearts of the faithful.

Summorum Pontificum, the Motu Proprio allowing priests to celebrate the extraordinary form without having to seek permission from their bishops (as had been the case before this letter), included this statement:  "It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were 'two Rites'. Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite." What I experienced yesterday just didn't seem like another use of the "same rite," of what I have come to know as the Mass. It seemed like a different rite to me.

I understand that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were trying to be pastoral to those people who missed the pre-conciliar liturgy or who had somehow longed for the benefits of that liturgy, including the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X. Benedict was certainly trying his best to bring this group into unity. But 95% of the people at that Mass yesterday had never even experienced the Mass before the Second Vatican Council in their actual lifetimes, including me (at least not in my memory). The Motu Proprio treats this issue: "Afterwards, however, it soon became apparent that a good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite, which had been familiar to them from childhood." And again: "Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them." As I looked around that church yesterday, I wondered how the pre-conciliar rite had "become dear" to these people.

The Motu Proprio addresses this issue: "Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them."

The Motu Proprio continues: "This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church." I agree with Pope Benedict's assertion and diagnosis that there were certainly places where creativity led to liturgies that lost their way. But I wonder if the expansion of the allowance of the extraordinary form was really an answer to this situation. Surely we have come a long way with the post-conciliar liturgical reform and that these "deformations" have become less and less as the years have gone on.

Benedict draws this conclusion in Summorum Pontificum: "There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place. Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness."

As I said above, I left that Mass quite perplexed. It left me empty and full of questions. However, I do believe that the people in that church did find the spiritual nourishment for which they were seeking.

But, what I experienced was something that felt more like a museum piece. Many people around me were sitting there reading devotional material as the Mass unfolded up there. I found it so hard to enter into the experience because what was happening did not involve me at all. And I know there are those who would tell me that my silent assent and attentiveness to the mystery being celebrated is what participation is all about. Frankly, I find that argument to be hollow. I have a Catholic voice; I have a Catholic heart; I have Catholic vocal chords ready to sing God's praise. Unfortunately, yesterday's experience of the extraordinary form of the Mass never engaged this Catholic.

Folks, I would really like to hear from those of you who celebrate in the extraordinary form regularly. I need to hear how that form engages you and lifts your heart. I am desperately trying to understand how what I experienced yesterday is not a separate rite, but instead, as Pope Benedict said, another version of the same rite.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pope Francis in English

Just received this link from a friend at the Vatican. It's Pope Francis' first address in the English language.

Have a listen

I hope your weekend is a good one. Let's continue to pray for Pope Francis, our shepherd.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

To Teach a New Melody

Thursday greetings from cool and rainy Chicago.

In my preparations for my presentation on Saturday for the good RCIA folks in the diocese of Joliet, I came across a few quotes about conversion.

The first is one of my favorites:

"Conversion means Jacob-wrestling, a profound self-emptying and stripping. It is radical willingness to allow Christ, the choirmaster, to teach a new melody, a chant that promises resurrected life, but that now is mingled with tears. Metanoia and penthos, the gift of tears, always go together."

This was penned by my late friend and colleague John J. O'Brien in his article "Hearts Prepared and Renewed: Conversion in the Community of the Church," in Liturgical Ministry, Volume 15, Spring 2006, Liturgical Press.

The second was written by now Bishop Edward Braxton in one of my favorite books, Conversion and the Catechumenate, now sadly out of print. Writing about Christian conversion, Braxton wrote:

"Christian conversion is a personal appropriation of the paschal mystery. Jesus becomes not a stained glass window figure, not a holy card image, not an emasculated statue on a pedestal, not a coherent doctrine, but a living, pulsating, challenging brother and Lord who walks with you and talks with you and tells you that he loves you.”

One of my main points on Saturday will be to echo what the Church has been teaching about evangelization: that one cannot evangelize until one becomes evangelized over and over again throughout life. And this presenter needs to hear those words and take them to heart time and time again. My prayer today is that I can hear that "new melody" being taught by Christ.

Thank you John O'Brien and Bishop Braxton.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Your Busy Blogger

Hard to believe that it has been a week since I posted. My apologies.

I left Erie and the FDLC meeting quite invigorated; it's always a good thing for me to connect with those responsible for liturgical and musical leadership in dioceses across the country.

The days before Erie I spent in Lafayette, Louisiana, a city I had never visited. What warm and generous people these Louisianians are! I presented a day-long workshop there focused on the RCIA. There were over seventy people in attendance and they were quite engaged in the workshop.

At the FDLC meeting, I was privileged, as I mentioned in a previous post, to hear a keynote presentation by Archbishop Piero Marini, who is the prefect for Eucharistic Congresses for the Vatican. He was kind enough to pose for this photo.

We all attended Mass at Erie's beautiful Saint Peter's Cathedral. Here's a shot of the font, which is at the entrance, as well as a shot of the sanctuary.

When I returned home to Chicago, I did a 25-mile bike ride on Saturday morning and I visited the site where my former parish church, Saint James, once stood. Sad photo here:

While I no longer attend Saint James, the people there hold a place in my heart.

Well, folks, that's a quick update from your busy blogger. I head to the Diocese of Joliet here in Illinois on Saturday to give a workshop on conversion and discernment in the RCIA.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sacrosanctum Concilium: A Magna Carta - Archbishop Marini

"The Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, more than being a manual for reforming rites, is a magna carta capable of inspiring the renewal of the Church."

So spoke Archbishop Piero Marini at this morning's keynote presentation here at the annual meeting of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions in Erie, PA.

The archbishop delivered his address in his native Italian; the English translation was projected onto screens on either side of the stage.

He focused on the 50th anniversary of the release of the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium. His whole point, as noted above, is that the constitution informed and inspired every other document and aspect of the Second Vatican Council. The Archbishop spoke about the constitution not being a document that we look back upon with the nostalgic eyes of history. He told us that in many respects, the constitution precedes us, calling us forward toward deeper renewal.

He talked about the work of Pope Paul VI, a work of moving decentralization of the Church forward, but a work that the pope admitted he could not finish--in a sense that the Church wasn't ready for--; that this work would need to be taken up by someone in the future; a future pope. Archbishop Marini then asserted that with Pope Francis, that particular aspect of the renewal will now move forward.

I, for one, cannot wait to get a copy of this particular presentation; I will let you know how to obtain it as soon as I find out.

Well, at least for this blogger, the election of Pope Francis and the talk I just heard make me feel as if the windows that were thrown open at the Second Vatican Council are still open and the fresh air that is the Holy Spirit is breathing through our Church.

There will be a question-and-answer session with the Archbishop later this afternoon; I will keep you updated.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Archbishop Piero Marini

Tuesday greetings from the FDLC meeting here in Erie. I am sitting here waiting for the start of Archbishop Piero Marini's presentation on the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

Very excited about this. More later.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Thursday greetings to all.

It's been a very busy few days here at the home office.

I rearranged things on my desk today. Here you have Pope Francis, Jonathan Toews (captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, and the newly arrived - just now - 2014 edition of WLP's Word & Song annual worship resource, and it is just beautiful!). Lots of personal interests colliding in one spot on my desk!

I will be leaving tomorrow morning for Lafayette, Louisiana. Hoping that Tropical Storm/Hurricane Karen has minimal impact on the state and that everyone is careful and safe.

I am presenting a day-long workshop on Saturday for the RCIA ministers in the Diocese of Lafayette. Should be fun. I am French-Canadian by ancestry and there should be lots of folks in attendance who are of French descent.

I hope we will all be keenly watching and listening to Pope Francis as he makes pilgrimage to Assisi for tomorrow's feast.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Four Directors of Chicago's Office for Divine Worship: A Night to Remember

In 1992, I made the decision to begin looking for another ministerial position. I had been director of liturgy and music at two parishes in the Diocese of Orlando for about seven years and served a short stint as director of music for the diocese. There were three parishes at which I was interviewed and offered positions. One was in New York City, one in Seattle, and the other was here in the Archdiocese of Chicago. I chose Chicago, Saint Marcelline Parish in Schaumburg, Illinois, chiefly on the advice of the then director of the Office for Divine Worship here, Fr. Ron Lewinski, who had served at Saint Marcelline years earlier.

When I was interviewed in Schaumburg, the interview team asked me why, in heaven's name, would I move from sunny Florida to Chicago. I remember asking them in response, "Are you kdding? This is Chicago, the center of liturgical reform and growth here in the United States. I would be thrilled to be a part of it." They seemed surprised, except for the pastor, who simply nodded. When I was offered the position, I phoned the Office for Divine Worship here in Chicago and spoke to an "old friend," Mary Beth Kunde-Anderson, who was at the time director of music for the Archdiocese. I knew Mary Beth (now, of course, the editorial director of publications here at World Library Publications - and who hired me as worship resources editor here in 1999!) during my time in Florida. She had served the Archdiocese of Miami as director of music. She told me about Saint Marcelline parish, about the well-established choral program there, its thriving catechumenate begun by Fr. Ron Lewinski, and its history of good liturgy. She also spoke about the fine Goulding and Wood pipe organ in the space.

I moved to Chicago in 1992 and began my ministry at Saint Marcelline in July of that year. It was a tremendous time of growth and excitement about the liturgy here in Chicago. I helped lead our parish through a complete renovation and addition to our church building, adding nine thousand square feet of gathering space. We used the Church's liturgical documents as our "blueprint" and guide for the building and renovation project. I worked closely with the staff at the Office for Divine Worship through that challenging and exciting time. I was so proud to have members of the office present for the Mass of dedication, one of the liturgical highlights of my life.

Why all this memory-jogging this morning?

Well, last night, at Saint Clement parish here in Chicago, all four people who have served as the directors of Chicago's Office for Divine Worship, were brought together for a panel discussion. They reflected on their tenures as directors and shared with us their own "surprises" and memories of their stints. It was just fascinating. It was like a living liturgical history book unfolding before our very eyes.

Here's a photo I took last night:

Seated left to right are Father Dan Coughlin, Father Ron Lewinski, Sheila McLaughlin, and Todd Williamson, who is the current director. The moderator was the pastor of Saint Clement, Fr. Ken Simpson.

These are people who served the Archdiocese, the country, and really the English-speaking world throughout the time of the reform of the liturgy begun at the Second Vatican Council. Fr. Coughlin, who is nearly 80 years-old, spoke with passion and a sparkle in his eyes as he recounted the early days of the reform; the move into the vernacular, the implementation of the various new English translations of the liturgical books, the training of clergy and the laity. Fr. Ron Lewinski shared how the office grew to thirteen full-time employees and how, when Pope John Paul II visited Chicago in 1979, the Mass in Grant Park included the rite of acceptance into the order of catechumens; something which the majority (if not all) of the gathered bishops, priests, and lay people (as well as the pope himself) had never experienced. Talk about cutting edge!

Sheila McLaughlin went on to talk about her being the first lay person and woman to head the office; she spoke about the forward-thinking and inclusive approach of Cardinal Bernardin, who put his trust in Sheila. They each spoke of the close relationship between the Office for Divine Worship and its publishing arm, Liturgy Training Publications, and how the entire English-speaking Catholic world looked to these two closely tied entities for advice and for resources to help move the liturgical reform to its varied next steps.

Next up was the current director, Todd Williamson, who has led the office for over a decade under Cardinal Francis George. He spoke about his tenure as being filled with preparations for and implementation of The Roman Missal, Third Edition. He also spoke of the growing "politicization" of liturgical issues, the "camps" that became entrenched in the last decade. He shared that, during his tenure, the Archdiocesan leaders decided to restructure the way the various departments had been working, separating the work of the office and the work of Liturgy Training Publications. He also shared with us the decline in the number of persons in the office; down from thirteen and now at three.

Folks, it was an evening filled with hope and memory. I must admit, however, that I went away saddened by what has happened to this once thriving office of many dedicated ministers to the liturgy, many of whom were in the room last night. The office, like many across the country, has experienced budget cuts and cuts in program funding. Many offices of worship have been shuttered. As much as I love and respect our shepherd here in Chicago, Cardinal George, I was left wondering why more could not have been done to keep the office well-staffed. There is so much work left to be done in this post-conciliar age.

Pope Francis was mentioned several times. There was a palpable sense of hope in the room for the future, one which, if initial indications are correct, the panel members told us will be a future that will see a move toward decentralization of the structures and governance of the Church, as well as more decision-making moved back to the conferences of bishops around the world.

I was so grateful and felt so privileged to be in that room last night.

I will spend the weekend in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, leading an all-day RCIA workshop on Saturday. On Monday, I travel to Erie, Pennsylvania, for the annual meeting of the FDLC (the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions), which has also experienced a decline in numbers and membership over the past decade.

Folks, my heart is filled with hope for our Church and the continuation of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. I was inspired by last night's presenters and the passion they exhibited for the liturgy. One question that was submitted to the panel: "Is the liturgy relevant?" The answers challenged me to think about my own engagement in the liturgy and how the communal celebration of God's love, manifested in the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, cannot be but the most relevant thing in this Catholic's life.

I felt that, at least for the Archdiocese of Chicago, last night was a moment of historal importance.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

34 Years Ago - Pope John Paul II in Boston

Thirty-four years ago today, I was privileged to be one of the organists for Pope John Paul II's first Mass in the Unites States, in the rain, on Boston Common. The excitement of this young seminarian that day is a memory that will stay with me forever.

Here is a link to a video of that Mass. If you have the patience, look carefully at 44.48 in the video and there you will see a very young man, who is yours truly.

Here are a few photos of that day. This first one shows the 400-voice "papal choir" behind the Holy Father.

Here is an aerial view of Boston Common.

 This was my first glimpse of the Holy Father.

The pope spent the night on the campus of Saint John's Seminary and the next morning, we seminarians walked down to the field where the helicopter awaited to take the pope to New York City, for his address to the United Nations. I was standing about five feet from him when he looked at us and promised he would be back. He extended his hands to us and a photographer snapped the following photo. It was later re-touched and the background of the seminary grounds was removed.

Today, as I remember those feelings and the joy I felt about my Catholic faith, I must admit that that spark is alive once again through the person of Pope Francis. Who would have known?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.