Thursday, February 27, 2014

MacGreetings

Greetings from the Mid Atlantic Congress (MAC) here in Baltimore. It had been a quick few days thus far. I am planning a more extensive post tomorrow. Cold and windy here, but warmer than Chicago!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Reviews of WLP Mass Settings: Your Turn!

Monday greetings on another frigid day here in Chicago!



We at WLP are looking for some feedback from those who have used some of our Mass settings in their parish. On Facebook, we just posted this notice:

MUSIC DIRECTORS AND PARISH MUSICIANS:
WLP needs your reviews! We'd like to hear from you regarding WLP Mass settings, specifically "Mass of Wisdom," "Mass of Redemption," "Mass of Saint Ann," "Missa Simplex," and "Mass for Our Lady." Post your review below, send us a personal message on Facebook, or email your review to wlpcs@jspaluch.com.

I know many who follow this blog have used some of these settings. Would you be so kind as to send us your own review? Just click on the link above and review away!

Thanks so much in advance.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Parish Formation: Your Help, Please?

Friday greetings to all. We had quite a melting day here in Chicago yesterday. Watch this cool video of the Chicago river taken from above yesterday. (You will, of course, need to watch an advertisement first!)

This week's discussion regarding the RCIA prompted a friend and colleague to ask me this question:

In your work and travels, I am wondering what you are hearing in the way of parishes in the US or CAN where they are working on full parish formation/catechesis/apprenticeship as opposed to individual Sacramental preparation. 

Frankly, I could not come up with an answer for her, so I am asking you the same question. Any thoughts out there?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The RCIA: A Loftier Goal?

Thanks all for your comments to yesterday's post, as well as the comments on my and Gotta Sing Gotta Pray's Facebook page. If you haven't done so already, why not "like" the Facebook page?

I would like to continue with musings on the RCIA. When I was in Seattle presenting the "Rebuild Your RCIA" day, I asked the participants to complete this phrase: "The RCIA is . . ." Then, after we shared those responses, I asked them to reflect on this phrase: "The goal of the RCIA is . . ."

It was a helpful exercise. The responses to the second reflection went something like this:
- to deepen a relationship with Jesus
- to build community
- to foster relationships

I guess I was looking for more, so I asked if anyone had any loftier goals for the RCIA. There were three young adult men (all of whom had recently become Catholic through the RCIA in the past few years) present, sitting together in the back of the room. One raised his hand and said, "Loftier goal? How about salvation!"

That's exactly where I was hoping someone would take us in our discussion. The previous responses were all surely related to the loftier goal, but they seemed more like means to achieving the end.

In a society that is filled with messages telling us where we can find salvation (at Best Buy, at the Cadillac dealer, among many others), I think it is wise for us to be very up front about what the goal of the RCIA is: the joining of a long line of pilgrims marching from the baptism font here on earth to the banquet that is to come in the kingdom of heaven. And that pilgrimage, filled with joys and sorrows, marked by detours and redirections, characterized by signs of contradiction, is surely the only journey that really matters in this life. Just doesn't seem to me that you can get that point across in a series of lectures. We have to help people rehearse their pilgrimage steps as they head to font, oil, and eucharistic table. And, hopefully and eventually, to the kingdom of heaven.



Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Frustration and Hope: The Evolution of the RCIA or not-RCIA

Wednesday greetings.

A few weekends ago, I was asked to lead an RCIA training day for initiation ministers in the Archdiocese of Seattle. It was entitled "Rebuild Your RCIA." Kudos to the leadership in Seattle for this title.

I have been experiencing a sense of growing frustration with the way the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults has evolved here in North America. The Church's vision for the catechumenate was clearly articulated in the inspiring words of paragraph 14 of Ad Gentes, the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity:

14. Those who, through the Church, have accepted from God a belief in Christ are admitted to the catechumenate by liturgical rites. The catechumenate is not a mere expounding of doctrines and precepts, but a training period in the whole Christian life, and an apprenticeship duty drawn out, during which disciples are joined to Christ their Teacher. Therefore, catechumens should be properly instructed in the mystery of salvation and in the practice of Gospel morality, and by sacred rites which are to be held at successive intervals, they should be introduced into the life of faith, of liturgy, and of love, which is led by the People of God.

This paragraph envisions a parish catechumenate that is like a "dynamic novitiate," as a participant at one of my workshops said a few years ago. He was a Christian brother who, he said, "finally saw the light," embracing the vision of the council and rejecting what he had inherited in his pastoral practice, namely an RCIA program that was little more than an "expounding of doctrines and precepts" in a classroom setting.

Yesterday, as I do about every six months, I did an internet search, using the words "RCIA Program." Here are a few of the descriptions of the RCIA I found on various Catholic parish web sites across North America:
 

Are you interested in learning more about Catholicism? Do you have friends or acquaintances who are questioning what Catholicism is all about? Do you have Catholic family members or friends who have fallen away from the Faith? Invite them to investigate the truth about Catholicism by joining the RCIA group here at St. ------’s. Our group meets once a week for the length of the school year, beginning in September. Practicing Catholics are encouraged to join as well – you are guaranteed to learn things about the Church you never knew! We have room for all ages groups, elementary school through older adult.
The RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program is the process through which interested adults are gradually introduced to the Roman Catholic Church. Do you know anyone who wants to learn about the Catholic Faith? Or has it been so long since you have been trained in the Catholic Tradition that you would like a refresher course? Then please join us!

RCIA classes are Thursday evenings at 6 pm in the Parish Hall building. Anyone interested in learning more about the Catholic Faith may attend. Call 000-000-0000 for more information.

We welcome anyone who is interested in joining the Catholic Church. If you have never been baptized before, or have been baptized but still are in need of other sacraments, or would just like to learn more about the Catholic faith, we offer a series of classes to assist in discerning if God is calling you into full communion in the One, True Church.
The RCIA classes meet on Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM. We attend Mass as a group and then proceed to the SCS school cafeteria for our formal lesson.
 
We have both an English Program and a Spanish Program.
We teach two ways:
By Topic – for example, Creed, Trinity, saints, Mary, moral law
AND
By Sunday Liturgy of the Word – for example, we explain the Sunday Readings for the following Sunday in preparation for their attendance.
Our instructors are priests, deacons, religious, lay people with advanced degrees, and very experienced team members.
We meet only on Thursdays from the first week of September to three weeks after Easter.
The program is open to anyone – Catholics who want an update on Catholicism are welcomed.

 
Often used terms in these descriptions include:
classes
update on Catholicism
lesson
refresher course
school year
instructors
teach
series of classes

It would seem to me that in many Catholic parishes, the "RCIA" has morphed into something never intended by the Church. "RCIA Classes" is a term that is used to cover a multitude of educational opportunities, focused on teaching the dogmas and precepts of the Church. Now don't get me wrong. I am not anti-doctrine. I just think that these RCIA "programs" have simply missed the whole point. The unbaptized and baptized/uncatechized need doctrinal formation, no doubt. But when these classes become what the RCIA actually is in a parish, then I would argue that the parish simply is not doing the RCIA at all. You can definitely see this in those parishes that invite fully initiated Catholics to the "classes" so that they may update their faith through this "refresher course." How, pray tell, does this approach capture the originating vision, that the catechumenate is "a training period in the whole Christian life, and an apprenticeship duty drawn out, during which disciples are joined to Christ their Teacher."

There is a part of me that can slip into hopelessness with all of this.

Then I discover other parishes that describe their RCIA like this:

RCIA is a process, conducted in the context of learning about the Catholic faith and the spiritual life, through which a person is fully incorporated into the Body of Christ, the Church. People involved in the RCIA process are either catechumens (those who have never been baptized) or candidates (those who are baptized in a different faith tradition or baptized Catholics who have not received the Eucharist or been confirmed). It is a journey to see how gospel values and the truths of the faith may be lived out. Candidates and catechumens are mentored throughout the process by a team of catechists and sponsors.


Or like this:

Becoming Catholic - The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)
Welcome to our Faith community!
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the entry point for many into our faith community and goes back to the very beginning of the Church. In the first several centuries A.D., new believers entered into a type of apprenticeship for the length of at least a year. It is our hope that, much like those early apprentices, the RCIA process will let us grow as a community and be transformed by the person of Jesus Christ. Welcome to our Faith community!
Why RCIA?
Our lives are a journey to God until the day when we all join together in our eternal home and worship the Lord face-to-face. You are among friends. As we build community through our RCIA sessions, it becomes clear that we all have times of doubt, fear, and frustration. During RCIA, we come together to look at our lives in light of the Gospel so that we can embrace a fuller discipleship of our Lord, Jesus Christ. There are many reasons that people decide that they are interested in becoming a Catholic. It makes no difference if you have been raised in another denomination, have no church affiliation or experience or even if you were never baptized. You may have started out Catholic but never completed your initiation with the Sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation. RCIA is the process by which we welcome and prepare adults to enter the Catholic faith.

So, I live in hope of a slow and steady transformation from RCIA as classroom to RCIA as dynamic novitiate, a true apprenticeship.

Thanks for listening to my frustrations and hopes today!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.



 






Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Three Weekends in Three Cathedrals

Tuesday morning greetings from here in Franklin Park, IL.

It was a nice long holiday weekend for us here at WLP. I was grateful for yesterday's day off, because we received up to eight inches of new snow.

Here is a shot of the courtyard at my home this morning:


And when I arrived at work, I was greeted by a parking lot that is beginning to look like a bowl surrounded by snow:




These snow piles are easily over eight feet tall! And when I reached my office, well, you know the drill:


Beautiful sunshine and some melting occurring now, thank goodness.

On Sunday, I attended Mass at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral.



 Last weekend, I was at Saint James Cathedral in Seattle.

 
And the weekend before that, I was at Saint John's Cathedral in Milwaukee.




Each space is quite unique and beautiful, each in its own way.

As far as music goes, each cathedral offered an order of service to the members of the congregation, so it was easy to find hymns and acclamations. I would rate the singing in all three cathedrals as quite good. I am not used to what occurred at Holy Name here in Chicago on Sunday. The choir sang the Gloria and Sanctus by themselves. It was quite beautifully done, actually quite exquisite, but I really missed being able to sing these parts of the Mass. I know that this is clearly allowed in our Church's documentation; just seemed like I was more of a spectator at a concert than a member of a participating assembly. Kudos, however, to the musicians at each of these wonderful cathedrals. The baptism fonts at both Milwaukee's and Seattle's cathedrals are stunning, each fashioned to enable the immersion of adults and children for the sacrament. A substantial font is notably missing at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral.

Who knows, maybe next week I will find myself at yet another cathedral in the area!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Conversion to Christ

Saint Valentine's Day greetings to you all.

I am not sure if you happened to see the Cadillac commercial that is currently being aired during the Olympics.

When I am on the road, speaking with people about the RCIA, I often talk about the ways that our society and the media shape the way we think and how inquirers have been shaped by that message. I think this video portrays an all too pervasive attitude in our country, which I find profoundly sad. Is conversion to Christ needed? You be the judge.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Hymnal and Lent and the RCIA

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

I am feeling for those suffering from this winter weather in the southeast and east. We are expecting a few snow showers today, but nothing too serious.

WLP's plans for our new hardbound hymnal, One in Faith, continue to move along nicely. Here is the aftermath of yesterday's status meeting:


We have now posted a list of the mass settings and music titles on our web site. There are a few additions to be made to that list, including several Taize pieces, as well as The Summons.

The publication of a work like this involves so many people with so many different talents and abilities. I am so proud of the work of our team here at WLP; feeling so privileged to get up and come to work in such a creative environment each day surrounded by such wonderful and dedicated people.

I have been putting he finishing touches on Mary Birmingham's latest RCIA resource with us: Purified and Enlightened: RCIA Sessions for Lent.



It has been a complicated project, since the book will come with already formatted Powerpoint presentations and handouts, all on an accompanying CD-ROM. This will be an enormously helpful resource for RCIA ministers, all based on Mary's decades of experience coordinating the RCIA in her parishes.

It should be in stock in a couple of months.

Again, keep safe and warm out there!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.






Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An Aussie Invasion

Two degrees below zero here in Chicago. That about says it all about this winter.

A few days ago, we marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show; that occasion that marked the so-called "British Invasion" that had occurred in the 1960's when rock and pop music groups from the United Kingdom became popular in the United States.

Here at WLP, we have experienced an "Aussie Invasion" of sorts over the last several years as we have brought the music of Australian composers Michael Mangan and Andrew Chinn to parishes in North America. Both of these composers have extensive backgrounds in teaching and composition. While most of their music is written for children, much of what they write has crossover potential into adult worshipping communities.

WLP is sponsoring both composers at workshops at the 2014 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim next month. We are featuring two of their newest collections, Andrew's In Joyful Hope and Michael's This We Believe. Here's a photo I just took of the two collections:


Readers of this blog will be delighted to see that one of the pieces in Andrew Chinn's collection was inspired by this blog itself:




Andrew tells me that his choir just loves this rendition.

Both collections will be available on the WLP web site soon.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.




Monday, February 10, 2014

Music and the RCIA in Seattle: Splendid Days

Monday greetings on yet another sub-zero day in Chicago. When will it end? After two hours here at the office, my feet still haven't warmed up!

What a wonderful whirlwind of a weekend in the Archdiocese of Seattle. On Friday afternoon, I did a presentation to about 30 pastoral musicians who were part of a two-day certification program. My topic: The Pastoral Musician: Three Judgmenst: One Evaluation. Then it was a break for a wonderful dinner hosted by the NPM Chapter leadership, then a two-hour WLP choral reading session: Sing the Seasons, in the chapel of Saint Ignatius on the Seattle University's Jesuit campus. What a blast! Wonderful singers. Gotta love the Seattle church.

Then on Saturday, it was a full day with over 100 RCIA ministers from around the Archdiocese. I gave four presentations (1. The Vision of the RCIA: Overview of the Catechumenate; 2. Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Forming a Parish Culture to Welcome Seekers; 3. Apprenticing Disciples in the Parish: The Role of Team, Sponsors, Assembly in Initiation; 4. Pastoral Issues: Adapations for Children, the Baptized, Canonical Concerns) to this spirit-filled group of people, which included several young adults; always a delight to see younger people taking up the ministry of Christian initiation. I then gave another session to the musicians: Music and the Rites of the RCIA. Then we all went to Saint James Cathedral next door to celebrate the 5:30 Mass, which included a combined rite of welcome and acceptance into the order of catechumens.



Splendid cathedral liturgy and our celebrant was one of my heroes, Fr. Michael Ryan, rector of the cathedral. Here are some photos I took of the interior of this magnificent space:






After the celebration, which included the acceptance of two new catechumens and five folks preparing for reception into full communion, those catechumens and candidates, as well as their sponsors, and the group of RCIA ministers then met together and I led them in a reflection on the rite. I was so pleased that the catechumens were so willing to share the power of the ritual experience with the entire group.

Needless to say, I was exhilarated and exhausted all at the same time. And a surprise awaited us as we left the cathedral: rare heavy snowfall in Seatle. Here was a photo I took yesterday morning near Pioneer Park in Seattle. This is a waterfall park right in the city:





Since the closing of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate, dioceses and archdioceses across the United States and Canada have had to step to the plate to continue the implementation of the rite. Kudos to Andrew Casad, director of the office of liturgy in Seattle for his fine work in putting this weekend together. I am always willing to come to dioceses to do days like this one; feel free to contact me any time to help your diocese put a day like this together. And because I bring WLP's helpful RCIA resources, we help underwrite the cost of the event. (A little commercial!)

Thank you, Seattle!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Baptism in Rhode Island: Too Much Was Lost

Folks, after my post yesterday, I read a news report about an unbaptized ten year-old boy at a Catholic school in the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island. It also appeared on the pages of Catholic News Service. After learning about the importance of baptism and eucharist at his religion classes, he made the decision to become a Catholic. So, as part of a Mass for Catholic Schools week, he was baptized at the school Mass and received his First Holy Communion. He was not confirmed.

This just helps underscore a disconnect at the parish level (or at least at this particular parish level) with the rites of the Church and with the "eucharistic direction" supported by both Pope emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis. While I am thrilled that this young man decided to become a Catholic, I wonder why this particular path was chosen for him, especially since it is in direct conflict with liturgical law.

This is clearly a child of catechetical age and, according to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, his path to the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist, and in that order) is clearly spelled out:

"Also as with adults, their [the children of catechetical age] initiation is marked by several steps, the liturgical rites of acceptance into the order of catechumens (nos. 260-276), the optional rite of election (nos. 277-290), penitential rites or scrutinies (nos. 291-303), and the celebration of the sacraments of initiation (nos. 304-329); corresponding to the periods of adult initiation are the periods of the children's catechetical formation that lead up to and follow the steps of their initiation."

The rite is also clear that when initiation is celebrated, all three sacraments of initiation are celebrated:

"At this third step of their Christian initiation, the children will receive the sacrament of baptism, the bishop or priest who baptizes them will also confer confirmation, and the children will for the first time participate in the liturgy of the eucharist" (RCIA 305).

And again:

"If the bishop has conferred baptism, he should also now confer confirmation. If the bishop is not present, the priest who conferred baptism is authorized to confirm" (RCIA 323).

And finally, in the "National Statutes for the Catechumenate" for the United States:

"Since children who have reached the use of reason are considered, for purposes of Christian initiation, to be adults (canon 852:1), their formation should follow the general pattern of the ordinary catechumenate as far as possible, with the appropriate adaptations permitted in the ritual. They should receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and eucharist at the Easter Vigil, together with the older catechumens" (#19).

This is simply the way the Roman Catholic Church initiates people, beginning at catechetical age. The articles about this particular young boy's baptism and First Communion portrayed the delight of his classmates, who witnessed the celebration of these two sacraments. And this is a good thing. But far more was lost, in my opinion, when the parish took the avenue it did.

Talk about a teachable moment; talk about an opportunity for catechesis that was lost. Imagine that entire set of classmates being drawn into supporting this young boy as he moved through the catechumenate process. Imagine how wonderful it would have been for the pastor, teachers, and catechists to let these young Catholics know that there is wonderful "treasure" in Catholic tradition that has been recently revived; a treasure that is designed to celebrate the faith journey of this young man. Imagine having the classmates present for the various rites of the catechumenate. Imagine them traveling together to the diocesan rite of election. Imagine them attending the Easter Vigil, during which their young friend was baptized, confirmed, and received hid First Holy Communion amid the signs and symbols so lavishly poured out on that night of all nights. As I said, in not following the rites of the Church, much here was lost.

And I think it is sad that a major Catholic newspaper and Catholic News Service would print this story without pointing out that this was something very out of the ordinary and should not be seen as a recognized and laudable practice to be imitated.

I am presenting an entire day's worth of workshops in the Archdiocese of Seattle on Saturday, including a segment on the RCIA as adapted for children of catechetical age. I just hope that the work that I and so many others do to fully implement the catechumenate will change the kind of pastoral practice exercised in this parish in Rhode Island. Things have changed since before the Second Vatican Council; isn't it time that pastoral and liturgical practice reflect that?

Thanks for listening. Again, I am so happy for this young man, but so sad that a great opportunity for catechesis was lost.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

An Authentically Eucharistic Direction: Benedict and Francis

A source at the Vatican shared Pope Francis' recent remarks about the Eucharist:

"And we go to Mass every Sunday because it is the day of the resurrection of their Lord. That is why Sunday is so important to us. And with the Eucharist we feel this sense of belonging to the Church, the people of God, the body of God, Jesus Christ. We will never fully grasp its value and wealth. Let us ask Him then, that this Sacrament continue to keep His presence alive in the Church and to shape our community in charity and communion, according to the Father’s heart. We continue to do this throughout our lives, but begin doing it the day of our First communion.  It is important that children be well prepared for First Communion and that every child makes it, because it is the first strong, strong step of this belonging to Jesus Christ, after Baptism and Confirmation."

"We will never fully grasp its value and wealth." When I give presentations about the Eucharist, particularly when I speak about its power for reconciliation, I often tell people that we can never really grasp the power of the Eucharist; the power of God's mercy and love poured out in this sacrament.

I find Pope Francis' last line interesting; he obviously places the three sacraments of initiation in their appropriate order: Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion. I am wondering if I will ever see the Church universal return to the original order. Pope Benedict, in Sacramentum Caritatis, tried to help us move this conversation along:


The Eucharist, the fullness of Christian initiation

17. If the Eucharist is truly the source and summit of the Church's life and mission, it follows that the process of Christian initiation must constantly be directed to the reception of this sacrament. As the Synod Fathers said, we need to ask ourselves whether in our Christian communities the close link between Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist is sufficiently recognized. It must never be forgotten that our reception of Baptism and Confirmation is ordered to the Eucharist. Accordingly, our pastoral practice should reflect a more unitary understanding of the process of Christian initiation. The sacrament of Baptism, by which we were conformed to Christ, incorporated in the Church and made children of God, is the portal to all the sacraments. It makes us part of the one Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:13), a priestly people. Still, it is our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice which perfects within us the gifts given to us at Baptism. The gifts of the Spirit are given for the building up of Christ's Body (1 Cor 12) and for ever greater witness to the Gospel in the world. The Holy Eucharist, then, brings Christian initiation to completion and represents the centre and goal of all sacramental life.

The order of the sacraments of initiation

18. In this regard, attention needs to be paid to the order of the sacraments of initiation. Different traditions exist within the Church. There is a clear variation between, on the one hand, the ecclesial customs of the East and the practice of the West regarding the initiation of adults, and, on the other hand, the procedure adopted for children. Yet these variations are not properly of the dogmatic order, but are pastoral in character. Concretely, it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the centre, as the goal of the whole process of initiation. In close collaboration with the competent offices of the Roman Curia, Bishops' Conferences should examine the effectiveness of current approaches to Christian initiation, so that the faithful can be helped both to mature through the formation received in our communities and to give their lives an authentically eucharistic direction, so that they can offer a reason for the hope within them in a way suited to our times (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).
 
I agree with Pope Benedict that the order of the sacraments of initiation need to have an "authentically eucharistic direction." Sadly, in most dioceses across the Unites States (with some exceptions in those dioceses that have restored the order of the initiation sacraments), the sacraments of initiation have a distinctly "confirmation direction."
 
Anyone out there in a diocese that has restored the order? Your experience?
 
By the way, nearly a three hour commute for me in this latest snowstorm this morning. The view from the driver's seat:
 
 
And an adorable mini-snowman:

 
 
 
 
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Little Things

Late Tuesday greetings from Chicago, where the snow has begun to fall.

As winter wears on, it can become increasingly more difficult to see the beauty in all of this, but God had a little surprise for me yesterday.

When I arrived at the transit station to catch the subway train to my neighborhood, I rushed up the stairs to the platform and just as I arrived, the train pulled away. Grrrr! And it was very cold. After uttering a silent curse, I happened to look up at the edge of the overhang that protects the commuters from the rain and snow. Here you go:


The icicles, seemingly so neatly arranged, with the setting sun as a backdrop really took my breath away. So my mumbled curse turned into a short prayer of gratitude for the little things.

I hope you find and appreciate the little things in your own day.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Milwaukee and This Fulfilled Catholic

Monday greetings from Chicago, where it was just below zero when I left the house this morning. For some reason, it just didn't feel that cold. Perhaps my blood is growing thicker by the day!

My weekend in Milwaukee was wonderful. Kudos to the Archdiocese for successfully bringing together over five hundred people from southeast Wisconsin for their liturgical congress. Fr. Ricky Manalo was the keynoter and did a wonderful presentation on liturgy and culture. I gave a workshop in the morning that was repeated in the afternoon, "RCIA: What Happens after the Easter Vigil." Here are two photos I took from the loft of the chapel at the Archdiocesan Center during morning prayer. The morning hymn was Lucien Deiss' classic All the Earth. It was simply glorious.




I ended up spending the entire weekend in Milwaukee, as a snowstorm whirled its way through the Midwest. Yesterday morning I went to the Cathedral of Saint John for Sunday Mass for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. I have been to Mass several times there and have given talks at the cathedral on a number of occasions. The liturgy there is noble, simple, and beautiful. Michael Batcho, the music director, has done a wonderful job building an excellent music program. The renovation of this cathedral was not without controversy right after the turn of the century. I find the renovated space a place that helps me focus as a worshipping Catholic. Here are a few photos I took of the altar and of the sculpture above the altar. The winter sunlight streaming in was just beautiful.


 
 



The celebrant preached and presided well, with simplicity and care. The readers proclaimed God's word with conviction. At the end of each reading, a cantor sang "The word of the Lord" and the congregation responded "Thanks be to God" with full voice. The psalmist rendered the text beautifully and with great strength. The choir was superb. The organ playing supported our singing so well. The Mass began with the blessing of candles at the rear of the cathedral. The choir, with lighted candles in hand, was part of the procession after the blessing.




It was great to sing Richard Proulx's Gloria Simplex. This was the setting of the new translation I took with me all around the country for those years leading up to the implementation. Take a listen.

Being a baptism font "geek," I must say that the font in this cathedral is stunning.



So I was a happy and fulfilled Catholic over the weekend in Milwaukee. I will be flying to Seattle on Thursday to give some presentations to musicians and RCIA ministers, which will lead to the celebration of the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens at Seattle's cathedral on Saturday afternoon. This is also a recently renovated glorious space. I will be sure to take lots of photos there for your enjoyment.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.