Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving: A Grateful Heart

Wednesday greetings to all.

Today, I want to talk with you about what it means for me to live my life with a grateful heart. This is deeply personal so bear with me as I open the book and move through some of the chapters of that book with you.

My first memories of living on this earth are pretty simple ones. The first thing that I can recall is a day in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the place where I was born. My grandparents (Memere and Pepere) had a wooden swing in their yard; you don't see these much anymore. It looked something like this:

The floor and seats were on runners, so you sat across from people sitting on the other side and you all simply rocked back and forth, back and forth. I believe that my heart began to take shape as a grateful one on days like that; simple days spent with grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins. I am grateful that my first living memory is of that swing upon which sat my extended family.

Our family (of four at the time; eventually there would be eight of us) moved to Burlington, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston) when I was a toddler. Vivid memories of playing with my Dad and sister in the yard; curling up on the floor of our small apartment where the forced hot air vent would warm my little body on those cold New England mornings; snuggling with my Dad in his bed when I was scared or afraid of the dark. My heart surely had to have grown more grateful as I was surrounded by such warmth and unconditional love.

To this day, I cannot wrap my brain around those Christmas mornings while the eventual six of us were growing up. Even though we didn't know it at the time, we were either at or below the poverty level. Yet those Christmas mornings saw us walking into that living room and gazing in awe at those presents under the Christmas tree. Never, ever was there any sense that Christmas for us was anything but abundant. Open the gifts, go to Mass as a family, visit the outdoor creche at Saint Charles in Woburn, Massachusetts, come home and begin to play with our new toys and gadgets, then spend a day eating and playing cards and board games and the French-Candian version of parcheesi with our extended family. My heart would have been bursting with gratitude.

There were some darker days in my own childhood and adolescence as I suffered abuse at the hands of a teacher. I withdrew into the world of music as a way of shielding myself from the fact that my childhood was being stolen right from underneath me. In those days, there simply were no open doors for discussions about these things. When I finally forced that door open, a flood of gratitude filled my heart for parents who deeply lamented with me and were finally able to provide the shelter and protection that I needed for too many years. And even now, knowing full well that the person who I am was deeply affected by the horror of all that had occurred, somehow I am grateful to have survived (mostly intact!).

Folks, we all have our stories; we all have the chapters of sheer joy and exulatation; we have those chapters of disappointments and the melting of dreams; we have those chapters of struggle with addictions and wayward ways; we all have many chapters during which we simply moved along with the flow of life. The book is certainly unfinished for me.

And, frankly, in the deepest part of who I am, there is only one thing that I know is certain and true: I have a grateful heart right here and right now.

And what I am most grateful for at this time of thanksgiving is simply that awareness. Thank you, God.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all and I hope and pray that yours is a grateful heart, too.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Who's On Your Desk - Update

One of my colleagues suggested that I also include a photo of my Mom and Dad, which I framed just today here at the office. This photo is actually on my credenza; it was taken a few weeks ago in Venice.

In four short days, these two will celebrate 60 years of marriage!

Gotta sing. Gotta Pray.

Who's On Your Desk?

Friday greetings to all.

I have added another framed photo today to my desk top here at the office.

Who's on your desk?

Have a great weekend.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Customer Care at WLP

Thursday greetings from Chicagoland.

One of the most gratifying things about working for J.S. Paluch and World Library Publications is when we hear from satisfied customers. We interact with the public hundreds and hundreds of times per day. Yesterday, one of our customers made it a point to call the supervisor of our Customer Care Team here at WLP. She did not need to do this, but did so because of her positive experience with one of our Customer Care representatives. I am deleting the names here, but just wanted to share with you what lifts my heart on a daily basis here in our work to serve the needs of the singing, praying, and initiating Church.

The customer left a voicemail message to the supervisor. Here is a transcript:

“Hello, N., my name is N., and I am calling from N. Church in Richmond, Virginia. And I am calling to compliment N., who assisted me with licensing inquiry and purchase and octavo purchases. And she was excellent in this day and age. Wonderful customer service and someone with patience and kindness is a wonderful thing. And I would like to compliment your company; and N., was a wonderful representative for World Library Publications. God bless you all in the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend and thank you again for such an excellent experience shopping with World Library Publications. And her name was N.. Thank you and God bless you.”
Have I told you recently how proud I am of the team here at World Library Publications?
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Shepherd

Wednesday greetings from the still-cold Midwest.

I was not able to physically attend nor virtually attend yesterday's installation of Archbishop Blase Cupich here in Chicago, so this morning I spent time reading his homily.

Here is a brief snippet, which I found to be consistent with my musings yesterday:

"The authenticity that comes in making our own baptismal calling the starting point for all we do is also demanded of me as your archbishop . . ."
It is all about baptism for Archbishop Cupich, who echoes the sentiments of Saint John XXIII, which I mentioned yesterday.
In preaching on the Gospel account of Jesus walking on the water, Archbishop Cupich conluded with these words, which brought me both a sense of comfort and a deep challenge:
"Finally, Jesus gets into the boat. I have always thought that it took more courage for Jesus to get into that boat with those disciples than for Peter to get out of it to walk on water. There was fear, doubt, jealousy even anger in that boat – a lot of unresolved conflicts as a therapist might say.

But, it is in the incomplete, the in-between and in the brokenness of our lives where Jesus comes to share his life in the Father with us. His coming to be with us, his communion with us is not for the perfect, but is for the salvation of souls, for the lost, the forlorn, and those who are adrift. His communion is not just a quick visit, but he wants to be with us to the point of making our lives the dwelling place, the home where he and the Father abide. After going to the mountain to pray, to be with his Father, he comes into our messy lives with his Father in hand, to share our lives where we are.

It is that grace of the indwelling of the Spirit, the love of the Father and the Son, which has always been the source of real, ongoing and sustainable conversion. It is the grace of mercy, totally undeserved and unearned, that brings about real lasting change and transformation and gives life."

Such a message of hope from my shepherd. Such words of challenge from my shepherd.

Just don't let the job diminish your zeal, my shepherd.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Celebrating Baptism on this Historic Day in Chicago

Tuesday greetings from Franklin Park, Illinois. This public transportation commuter is still trying to thaw out after the commute into work this morning.

Today, of course, is an important day in the history of the Archdiocese of Chicago as we welcome a new Archbishop, Blase Cupich.

When these large ecclesiastical events occur, I always remember what Saint John XXIII said when asked by a reporter something like, "What was the most important day of your life?" The reporter expected the answer, "The day I became pope." Instead, John XXIII answered, "The day I was baptized." So, today is a day to celebrate the baptism of Blase Cupich and to recall the day when each of us became adopted children of God in baptism.

Several weeks ago, while visiting Florence, Italy, I was once again in awe of the duomo in Florence.

The baptistery is undergoing major restoration. Here is a cool picture I took as I climbed the tower next to the cathedral. This is a shot looking down into the piazza and onto the enormous baptistery.

We spent lots of time inside the baptistery, where I once again gazed in amazement at the ceiling. Imagine being baptized in this space and then looking up to behold this image of the kingdom of heaven!

So, on this historic day here in the Archdiocese of Chicago, let's pray for all the baptized and, in a special way, for Archbishop Blase Cupich and the people of Chicago.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Music and Hospitality

Monday greetings from the frigid Midwest. Does anyone else think that this is way too cold way too early?

I went to Mass yesterday at a local parish. This is one of those places where I have been quite frustrated because the effort has not been made to let the assembly members know where to find the sung Mass parts.

I was delighted yesterday. Placed into the worship resource was a card that contained the music for the Gloria, Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Lamb of God.

The Gloria was one that I believe was newly composed for the new translation. It was refrain-style; I liked the refrain and sang it; I prefer through-composed Glorias, but this one was fine.

The Sanctus was a re-worked setting. I have never been quite able to grasp the new rhythm for the first line, until yesterday, because I finally had the music in front of me.

I have not been able to sing the re-worked setting of the Memorial Acclamation for this particular Mass setting either; that is until yesterday.

The Great Amen was part of this set of eucharistic acclamations and had not changed.

The Lamb of God was familiar.

Musicians, please, please find a way to let visitors and your parishioners know where to find the music for the Mass. Provide a card. Just do something. With the holidays approaching, you will have many more visitors and "occasional Catholics" in your pews. This is ultimately an issue of Christian hospitality. When was the last time you went to a new restaurant and there was no menu provided?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

One In Faith Has Arrived!

Thursday greetings from the cold Midwest. Was greeted with light snow this morning; we are expecting accumulating snow on Saturday. That should be interesting, since I will be flying home from Dallas on Saturday.

These have been very exciting days here at World Library Publications and J.S. Paluch. Our new hardbound hymnal, One In Faith, and its accompaniments have arrived. Yesterday, we had a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving here in our warehouse, presided over by Fr. Jim Marchionda, OP. Some photos from the event:

Our proud owner, Mary Lou Paluch Rafferty.

The hymnals (without readings version), ready for shipment.

Allow me to take some time to talk about One In Faith, and to share more photos.

The hymnal comes in two versions, with and without Sunday readings:

We have two styles of keyboard accompaniments, portrait and landscape.

We made the decision to use seven-ring super-sturdy binders for the keyboard accompaniment editions.

The reason why? We heard from many musicians (some of whom are part of the aging population), saying that they sometimes find it difficult lugging around these heavy accompaniment volumes. So, we decided to publish in the seven-ring format so that the music chosen for a particular Mass could be removed and placed in a smaller service binder, which we have produced in both landscape and portrait versions, for those who wish to take advantage of this feature. In this way, the binder is attractive for worship and much lighter to handle. Here are those beautiful service binders:

The guitar accompaniment is in a spiral-bound version.

While the hymnals and the accompaniments contain indexes, we decided to publish a smaller, spiral-bound book of complete indexes for the hymnal. Very cool, indeed!

In the production stage now is the choral edition. We have commissioned composers working on the B-flat and C instrument books; we expect the entire line to be complete in about 18 months.

This has been a long process and tons of work for our teams here at World Library Publications. I can't begin to describe my own pride over this accomplishment of our fine employees here.

At a meeting on Tuesday, I became distracted and began to thumb through the pages of the hymnal. You know how sometimes one does that with a hymnal and one can discover page after page of unknown hymns and songs? Well, I was so happy that I was turning page after page after page of hymns and songs that I know and love. This is a hymnal that will serve the needs of parishes with a wide variety of musical styles in place.

Please take a closer look by walking through the index yourself. And if you have any comments or questions, please share them here or email me at

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

An Angel from Alabama

Tuesday greetings from Chicago, where the rain is falling and the temperatures are plummeting.

Another Italy story for you.

A week ago Sunday, through the kindness of Peter Bahou of Peter's Way Tours, my parents and I were able to see and hear the pope's Sunday Angelus from a rooftop garden across Saint Peter's Square. Absolutely beautiful day.

As soon as Pope Francis began to speak, I felt the tears come to my eyes. So many emotions as I recalled the joys I have experienced as a Roman Catholic as well as the pains that many, including me, have felt. But there was one sense that was overwhelming to me as Pope Francis spoke: hope.

After the exhilaration of hearing the pope, we made our way to Piazza Navona for lunch. To say that Rome was mobbed with Italians and tourists alike would be an understatement. It was a holiday weekend for Italians and it seemed every Italian citizen was in Rome that day, by the hundreds of thousands! We sat outside, next to a delightful couple from Alabama, Connie and Herb. Connie was what my mother would call "a hot ticket." She just simply sparkled! They asked us if we were Catholics and we told them about the Angelus and they told us that they had been to Mass and confession at Saint Peter's that morning. We took up Herb's suggestion and drank some fine Italian beer and then parted ways with handshakes, kisses, and hugs.

On Tuesday morning, through the kindness of a wonderful friend who works at the Vatican, my parents and I were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our friend drove us around inside Vatican City, where we passed the Santa Marta residence, where Pope Francis lives. He then led us inside a side door and then we found ourselves in the sacristy of Saint Peter's Basilica. Our friend vested for Mass, then led us into the basilica. I could sense the fact that my parents were stunned as I heard then gasp as we turned the corner and there, before us, was the main altar. Father brought us to the altar of Saint Thomas. He summoned someone to bring two chairs over for my aging parents and he began to celebrate Mass for us. I was the lector and the day was November 4, the feast of Saint Charles Borromeo, the patron of our home parish in Woburn, Massachusetts. It was just one of those God-given moments when all time seemed to be suspended. In his homily, Father talked about my parents' marriage and what a sign it is for the Church.

I asked Father when it would be appropriate to take photographs and he told me we could pose for photos after Mass. So, there I stood, with my camera, taking photos of my parents with our dear friend. I began to lament the fact that no one was there to take a photo of all four of us when, out of nowhere, I felt someone tap me on the shoulder. I turned around and the woman simply said, "Jerry, I am here to take the photos of you and your parents, Henri and Yvette; now get up there." Since the basilica had not yet officially opened to the public for the day, Father asked the woman, "How did you get in here?" She replied, "Oh, never mind that, Father, I am here to take this photo of the four of you." Stunned, I walked up to the altar and stood proudly with my parents and our dear friend.

I came back down to retrieve my camera from Connie from Alabama, whom we had met among the hundreds of thousands in Rome two days before in Piazza Navona. Herb was sitting in a chair and simply smiled and waved. Connie gave me a huge hug and a kiss and just seemed to disappear. Thank you, Connie, our angel!

Two more photos. The first, of my parents at the main altar in Saint Peter's Basilica. The second, taken outside on that memorable day.

My heart is brimming with gratitude.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Saint John Lateran

Monday greetings from the "home office" here in Franklin Park, Illinois. Just about over the jet lag now and I find myself smiling a lot as I recall the memories of the past few weeks.

Today, I want to share some photos of one particular place. Last Sunday afternoon, I had some free time, so I took the Rome subway to the the Church of Saint John Lateran. It was wonderful to celebrate yesterday's feast of this church's dedication, having been there just a week before. As you know, this is the site of the first Church in the West and its baptistery is quite significant. It is the oldest batpistery in all of Christendom.

It was a glorious late afternoon in Rome. Here are a few photos of the exterior.

A late afternoon Mass was being celebrated inside, so I was able to take a few photos from the rear of the archbasilica.

Around the corner is the ancient baptistery. Too many people miss it. Here are some photos of the exterior.

The light was just beautiful inside the baptistery. Obviously there has been much added to this building over the centuries. It is breathtaking, especially when one considers its history.

I took a few photos looking up from the edge of the center section.

Along the exterior of the structure built above the font is an inscription. It goes all the way around, inscribed on all eight sides of the structure. You can see some of the inscription here, just below the burst of light:

Here is a translation of the inscription:

Here is born a people of noble race, destined for Heaven,
whom the Spirit brings forth in the waters he has made fruitful.
Mother Church conceives her offspring by the breath of God,
and bears them virginally in this water.
Hope for the Kingdom of Heaven, you who are reborn in this font.
Eternal life does not await those who are only born once.
This is the spring of life that waters the whole world,
Taking its origin from the Wounds of Christ.
Sinner, to be purified, go down into the holy water.
It receives the unregenerate and brings him forth a new man.
If you wish to be made innocent, be cleansed in this pool,
whether you are weighed down by original sin or your own.
There is no barrier between those who are reborn and made one
by the one font, the one Spirit, and the one faith.
Let neither the number nor the kind of their sins terrify anyone;
Once reborn in this water, they will be holy.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Home after a Wonderful Trip

Friday greetings from Chicago.

I returned from a wonderful, memorable, spiritual, and insightful trip last night. Spent the day today here at the office. I hope to post about the trip in the coming days.

For now, just wanted you to know that we had thirteen straight days in Italy without a cloud in the sky. Feeling so blessed. One photo here; more to share soon. I climbed top the top of Giotti's Tower in Florence and snapped this selfie with the Brunelleschi dome of the cathedral in the background. Breathtaking in more ways than one!

More to come soon. Glad to be home, but wish in a way that I were still in Italy.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.