Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Am I Just Too Picky?

Tuesday greetings. I hope that your Labor Day Weekend was restful and enjoyable. I spent most of the time on my bike (a 45-mile ride on Saturday) and putting the finishing touches on a mansucript for a new book I hope will be published here at WLP. The working title? You Have Put on Christ: Cultivating a Baptismal Spirituality.

I went to a local parish for Mass on Sunday. When Mass began, I counted 21 people in the assembly; a few more joined as the Mass continued. I do not attend this parish regularly, so I am unfamiliar with the sung acclamations they use for the Mass. And, as has been the case at most parishes I have visited over the past 15 months, there was no provision made to alert any of us as to where we could find the acclamations. As a matter of fact, when the Gloria began, I looked around the church and there was no one singing. If I had known where to find the piece, there would have been at least one other voice added to the cantor's, the celebrant's, and the deacon's.

With the scores (pardon the pun) of musical settings of the Mass revised and newly-composed over the past several years, parish musicians have so many from which to choose. And I am sure this particular congregation was taught these new acclamations at some point in recent months. The singing was much better on the Eucharistic acclamations.

One of the first things announced at the beginning of Mass by the lector was a "special welcome for all who are visiting our parish today." Frankly, these words can sometimes simply be empty; this was my experience on Sunday. Part of music ministry is an extension of hospitality. If the Mass should be sung and if all are called into fully conscious and active participation, then it is a natural extension of hospitality to provide clues as to where to find the music. Providing words of a "special welcome" to me, a visitor, at the beginning of Mass is fine, but on Sunday, I found that this sense of hospitality was not followed through on.

Perhaps I am just too darn picky.

Still searching.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Jen said...

Hi Jerry,

I joined the Catholic church as an adult 2.5 years ago (we have many mutual friends - Debbie Walsh, Catherine Ecker and Fr Larry Leger) and one of my biggest pet peeves with parishes is how un-friendly they are in all of the little ways that make people feel welcome and relaxed. It's frustrating to not know what certain congregational responses are (for instance) and I wonder if people get discouraged because they feel stupid and then just stop coming to mass. Expecting people to "just figure it out" isn't a way to show hospitality.

If we really believe that hospitality is important, why do we put up so many barriers to full participation in Parish life?

I wish I had answers. I don't. But you're not alone in how you feel.

Jennifer in Ontario

Scott Pluff said...

We use Mass settings which are found in our hymnal or hymnal supplement booklet. At every weekend Mass, I post the number of the acclamations on our digital hymn board for the Gloria and at the start of the Eucharistic prayer. Most of the time I don't see a single person pick up a hymnal and turn to the acclamations. Perhaps a few do when we are learning a new setting, but even then just a few. And yet, I keep on posting the numbers every week just in case you should drop in on us! Or someone like you who would think to look for the acclamations. If one person benefits from this, it will have been worth doing the minor task of entering the numbers for display.

Thanks for sharing your observations as a guest in various churches. It's an important point of view for us to keep in mind.

jdonliturgy said...

No, you are not too picky. I have to admit, though, since our Mass setting is not in the missalette (different publisher) our parish is probably remiss in this too.

This might help explain why there were only 21 people there. Visitors are not likely to return if they feel "lost" unless there is some other compelling reason to come back, like outstanding preaching.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Thanks for the comments. Perhaps I will travel south one of these Sunday mornings, Scott!

Kate S said...

Jerry, I have been subbing at a variety of parishes this summer. At quite a few, the cantor announces at least some of the song numbers, sometimes including the psalm and service music. This is often in addition to a printed order of worship and/or number boards. It sometimes feels like overkill to me; it helps to have a visitor's perspective!

Fran said...

As I like to think, as far from perfect as it is, this diocese in many ways is like Catholic never-never land. We got a new bishop and all remains well, in fact very well, he is great. And the two parishes that I am associated with, one where I work, and one where I worship, are doing well.

If you were here you would find, at least at these two places, welcome and clarity. If you were at my worship parish you would also find a tight squeeze at mass, because we are growing like crazy! TBTG! And the music at both places is great in different ways, but I admit my home parish continues to amaze with many varied musical gifts from every age and variety.

Not saying this to brag, but to offer hope. I have been following this journey of yours and my heart remains saddened as you continue to search. You would be a gift for any parish. Blessings on your search! You remain in my prayers.

Terri said...

We moved to a different state this summer and spent a couple months visiting area churches. Plus we took two out of town trips that included Sunday Mass. At none of those churches did I get a clue about the music for the Mass parts. Finally, at the parish near home, they came out with a booklet for the fall season, and did announce that included those parts we've already been singing all summer. My experience as a visitor has certainly given me insight into the shortfalls of most parishes. And, by the way, I stood several times at the beginning of Mass to be "welcomed" as a visitor or new member, and I detest it every time. Usually I don't do it, but I wasn't sure if anyone would remember me later as a non-cooperator.

Paul said...

I find this with the Gloria and psalm response. People just don't sing well (or at all) if they don't have it right in front of them. It's not hard to produce a simple Worship Aid each week (even a basic one) and should be in the skill set of every Parish Musician or Administrative Assistant.

Kelly S. said...

My experience as Director of Music is that the Mass Settings available by our publisher are not all singable, or in a style that is appropriate for our parish. Perhaps I am also too picky, but I refuse to use Mass Settings which are awkward to sing, as I want to foster participation of the whole community. While I would like to try some settings from other publishers, we do not have the resources to gain the copyright permission for every publisher out there, nor to purchase legal copies for every person in the pew.

Our parish is working very hard to be as welcoming as possible to any person who walks in the door and we are re-looking at lots of areas to be more so....
What suggestions would you have for a parish using (or planning to use) a Mass setting that they do not have copyrights to print and distribute for the entire assembly?

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Hello Kelly S. Thank you for your comment. I believe there are some new and revised published settings that are not at all awkward to sing. Can your parish afford to purchase the Mass cards with the musical setting for your assembly? That way, you do not have to purchase a license to use the copyrighted setting. And please keep in mind that the text is copyrighted by ICEL and CCD and that the music is copyrighted by the particular publishing company.

Joseph Burgio said...

For many years and in more than one parish I have written a column for the weekly bulletin. Parishioners often comment on them, so I know that people do read them. When the acclamations change I include that information in the column for the first few weeks. I am fortunate to be in a parish (St. Bernardine, Forest Park) where the people do sing, and whenver possible, I compliment them. If the refrain for the Responsorial Psalm is a setting other than the one that appears with the readings, the cantor announces it.