Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pueri Cantores, Lee Gwozdz, and Pope Francis!

Thursday greetings on this final day of 2015.

Just checked Facebook and found these two photos posted by Lee Gwozdz, who is the president of American Federation Pueri Cantores. Lee headed the delegation of a thousand singers from the United States to Rome for the international festival. This must have been the thrill of a lifetime for Lee and these young singers. Check this out!

My heart is filled with joy for these music makers.

And don't you just love the lanyard around the pope's neck. I wonder if the name tag says "Pope Francis" or "Papa Francesco?" As if he needed a name tag for people to check to see who he actually is! This is hilarious, but what a moment, don't you think?

Be sure to read Paul French's comment on the previous post.

On that very bright note, I want to wish you all a very happy New Year. As the page of the calendar turns, my heart is filled with a longing for a lasting peace, for an increased dedication to dialogue, and for an outpouring of God's mercy for you, me, and our weary world.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Pueri Cantores in Rome

Tuesday greetings.

Thank you for your responses here, through email, and via the Gotta Sing Gotta Pray Facebook Page regarding my post yesterday. One of you thought I was the victim of a scam; most of you thought this was a moment where God's grace was at work.

Living in a large city with a substantial population that lives on the streets, I am always wary of those asking for a handout. Too many take the money and buy drugs or alcohol; it is always so difficult to discern, but the guy with the red gasoline can seemed pretty genuine to me. By the way, when we discovered that his car was no longer where he left it, he insisted on putting the gasoline we had purchased in that red can into my car's gas tank, which we did.

I was so pleased to see the announcement on the Vatican News Services web site this morning concerning the meeting of Pope Francis with the members of Pueri Cantores.

World Library Publications is proud to be in a collaborative relationship with the American Federation Pueri Cantores. We publish the music in our Pueri Cantores Choral Series. 

Let's pray for the thousands of young singers gathered in Rome this week, that they will be inspired by the music they sing and by the encouragement of Pope Francis.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Red Gasoline Can

Monday morning greetings to all during this festival of Christmas.

We are in the middle of a fierce ice storm here in Franklin Park, Illinois. Just took these two photos from my office window. This is not snow; this is accumulating ice. Ah, the Midwest!

I hope that you had a peaceful and wonderful Christmas. I left my home and walked to my parish, Old Saint Patrick's, at about 3:45, arriving at the church on Christmas Eve for the 5:00 Mass at a little after 4:00. I was standing in line, probably with 150 people lined up ahead of me, waiting for the four 3:00 Masses to conclude. Everything was orderly once those Masses concluded and some folks visiting me from Washington, DC and I got seats in about the eighth row.

I took this photo of my friend and her daughter as the portrayal of the nativity story by the parish's children was taking place. Kind of sums it all up for me:

I went downstairs at about 4:30 to find the men's room and noticed that the hall was filling up quickly for the second scheduled 5:00 Mass. People were just lined up outside and pouring into the hall. I later found out that the hall and church could not accommodate all those that had arrived, so a third 5:00 Mass was quickly arranged in another space. Thank the Lord there was an additional priest at hand.

It made me think of those places where priests are not readily available. I thought about our abundance at Old Saint Patrick's in so many ways, but also thought about the ways that this parish reaches out to those who have nothing.

I was at Mass yesterday with a friend and when we left the Church, we noticed a man in the street carrying a rather large red gasoline can. He was stopping people and my friend engaged in conversation with him. He said that his car had run out of gas on the expressway and that he needed to fill the can with gas so that he could get his car moving again. You know, when you live in a large city, you can become hardened to some of the folks who are looking for money seemingly on every corner. But this guy with the gas can seemed different. So we got him in the car, tried to get it warmed up for him quickly because he had obviously been out in the cold for some time. We drove him to a gas station and filled the can for him. For those of you familiar with Chicago, this is what happened to this guy. About three hours previously, his car ran out of gas on the Dan Ryan Expressway coming into the city. He pulled over onto the Roosevelt Road ramp and left his car there. He then somehow walked to Lake Street and Ogden Avenue in search of a car repair shop where he could borrow a gasoline can. This was a very long walk for this man. He then made his way downtown to try to get funds from people passing by so that he could fill the gasoline can. Another very long walk. This is where he met my friend and me.

Well, after we got the gas, we drove up onto the Dan Ryan Expressway and went to the exit beyond where his car was so that we could head in the right direction to find his car and put gas in it. Our hearts sank as he told us, "I left my car right there! I left my car right there! And now it's gone!" So we drove him to the car repair shop because he said he had promised the mechanic who let him borrow the can that he would personally return it into his hands once he had filled his gas tank. We arrived at the repair shop and the mechanic had stepped out for a little while. Our new friend refused to give the can to anyone else because he had promised to personally return it to the specific mechanic. We told him that we would take him to the train and pay for his way on so that he could get home and start the search for his car, which surely had been towed away.

He said, "No, you guys have done more than enough for me. I am so grateful." And then he went back into the auto repair shop to wait for the mechanic so that he could keep his promise to him.

Fr. Ed Foley's homily at Mass that day was all about how God becomes incarnate in our families; how God can break in and surprise us in our daily lives.

My heart broke for this poor guy with the gasoline can; I just hope that maybe he experienced the incarnation of God somehow in that encounter. I know I did.

Merry Christmas.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Christmas Goose

Tuesday greetings from the dreary Midwest.

I will be staying here in Chicago over the Christmas and New Year holidays, spending lots of time here at the office in between the days off.

I would like to re-post something that I have posted here over the years at this time, my "Christmas Goose" story.

It is even more poignant for me during this Jubilee of Mercy.

I hope you enjoy it.

The Christmas Goose

I served as director of liturgy and music at Saint Marcelline Parish in Schaumburg, Illinois from 1992 to 1999. A few days before Christmas, as I was walking to my car from the church, I heard a strange noise. It sounded like someone was coughing. I looked around and saw nothing but a group of pesky geese on the church grounds. A few hours later, walking back to the church, I heard the sound again. This time there was only one goose and as I drew closer, I could tell that the sound was coming from this goose. The goose was obviously in some kind of struggle. It was trying to flap its wings and it was emitting this kind of coughing sound. I found the maintenance man, Gil, and asked him to come with me to take a look. As we cautiously approached the struggling goose, we looked more carefully and saw that the poor creature had become entangled in fishing line. The line was wrapped around its wings, preventing it from flying. The line was also wrapped tightly around the bird's neck, which was probably the reason why it was emitting this coughing sound. Gil and I decided that we needed to do something for the poor goose. He phoned his daughter-in-law, a veterinarian, who gave us instructions on what we could do to save the poor bird.

We went into the maintenance room and found some wire clippers and a towel. Gil and I very quietly and slowly approached the goose—they are very large that close up!—and we placed the towel over the bird's head and then we began our work. Wearing gloves, we both began to examine the areas where the fishing line was wrapped around the goose's body. We carefully began to snip the line, pulling pieces of the line away from the bird, who remained quite docile the entire time. To be honest, my heart was racing at this point. When we finally clipped the line around the bird's neck, we knew we had removed all of the fishing line. We then removed the towel and walked very quickly away from the bird.

The goose just sat there looking at us. It began to cough again and after a few strange noises, it rediscovered its own honk. It just honked and honked away.

Then it began to test its wings, flapping around a bit on the ground. We stood there transfixed by all of this. Then, without a moment's hesitation, the bird began to flap its large wings and lifted itself in the air. Gil and I watched as the bird soared higher and higher and farther and farther away.

Once the goose was out of sight, Gil and I just looked at each other and I noticed a tear in his eye, blurred by the tears in my own eyes.

Those of you who regularly read this blog know that very few things in my life remain unexamined. I am always looking for some deeper meaning in events that occur. When I thought about this encounter with the goose, a comparison came to me instantly. What Gil and I managed to do with that coughing goose was akin to what God has done for us through the incarnation of Jesus, our Messiah. Caught up in sin, we are freed by the mercy of God, who loves us so much that he sent his only Son to be our redeemer. And what does this freedom from sin offer us? The potential to fly free, to soar as God's redeemed people, to be lifted up for a life of service to God's people.

May you and those you love have a very Merry Christmas.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Teresa of Calcutta: Sanctity Declared Even in the Absence of God

The news arrived today that Pope Francis has confirmed a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, paving the way for her canonization in 2016.

In a letter she wrote in 1961, she penned this:

"Darkness is such that I really do not see--neither with my mind nor with my reason--the place of God in my soul is blank--There is no God in me--when the pain of longing is so great--I just long & long for God . . . The torture and pain I can't explain."

I remember so well these words, and others that spoke of an emptiness, a darkness within her and how shocked many were that this living saint could have experienced such a prolonged "dark night of the soul." Yet, her closeness to Jesus led her to find Jesus in those to whom she ministered.

Canonization of such a person comes as a source of inspiration and solace for me, for I find myself sensing the total absence of God at times in my own life. I remember well a time in my life when my dreams were dashed and I felt so alone. I remember well another time when a loved one received a cancer diagnosis that was devastating, and I wondered where God was in all of it. I remember well a moment when I wondered if God had abandoned me in my own particular struggle at the time.

What brought me back each time was the inbreaking of Jesus Christ, sometimes in stunning ways, but usually in quiet ways; the kind of ways when the Lord creeps back in through another person or through a moment of experiencing sheer beauty.

I once sat with the Lord in the person of my sister, when she was in her final months of life fifteen years ago. I am so glad that I told her that I knew Christ more sitting with her than in any other setting in my whole life.

So, on a day when we hear about the upcoming canonization of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, I am taking comfort in knowing that even for a person who found God absent during significant stretches of time in her life, the Church still declares sanctity in all of it.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Eve Masses

Thursday greetings.

A very dear friend, her husband, and two children will be spending Christmas with their extended family here in Chicago. He has been deployed overseas for several months and has recently returned home. Several months ago she asked me if their young family could attend Christmas Mass with me at my parish. I used to stay over at her family's home in Florida when I worked in their parish; they were a second family to me. So, I was thrilled that she, her husband, and two children would be coming to Mass with me at Old Saint Patrick's, my new parish home here in Chicago.

This morning I looked at the Christmas Eve Mass schedule. There are FOUR three o'clock Masses! And there is an alert on the page where the Mass schedule is found:

"Please note: As Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses tend to be fuller than usual, we ask that you arrive early. Please be understanding of spacial constraints, plan ahead, and arrive early. Thank you!"

I can't even begin to imagine what the parking situation will be like.

So, I've decided that we will go to the five o'clock Mass, probably walking to Mass from my home. There are only two of those.

I guess I have been away from a "popular" parish for so long that I forgot what Christmas Eve is like in these kinds of parishes. This is so different from my experience growing up, when we would all get up at 5:00 A.M., open our presents, then all head to our parish church for the 9:00 A.M. Mass and our annual visit to the outdoor nativity scene. So relaxed and unhurried. Seems like the Christmas Eve Mass phenomenon in Catholic parishes has morphed into mimicking the frenzy of the season leading up to it.

Still excited to be spending time with members of my second family!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cherishing the Catholic Lineage

Tuesday greetings to all.

I don't know about you, but this time of year can make me wistful and nostalgic. A friend and colleague here at WLP researched my family lineage last year and what a gift that was for me.

I began to think today about all those Advents and Christmases that Galipeau's must have spent in France, in Canada, and in the United States over the years. My Galipeau line is traced back directly to Dissay, France, a small town near Poitiers. There is a plaque there that names my great grandfather, nine times over, Antoine Galipeau, who emigrated to "New France" from Dissay.

There are two parish churches in Dissay, St. Pierre, pictured here

and Saint Paul:

Just thinking today what it must have been like to walk to these churches in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to celebrate Christmas. I wonder what my forbears ate and what traditions and music they celebrated and sang.

Some day I hope to visit this place. Christmas has a way of moving our hearts and minds to times past. And I love it and cherish it.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sparking the Musical Fire

Monday greetings from the Midwest, where it is unseasonably warm.

When I was worship resources editor here at World Library Publications, I did a lot of writing. I wrote weekly scripture reflections that appeared in many of our worship resources. I edited and did lots of writing in Pastoral Patterns Magazine and had a regular column in AIM Magazine.

The only thing I am asked to write now on a regular basis is the material for the inside covers of our resources Seasonal Missalette, We Celebrate, Rejoice, and Celebremos/Let Us Celebrate; I really enjoy writing these "liturgical reflections on the season."

I want to share with you today the reflection I wrote this morning for many of our Autumn editions of these resources. So appreciative of all the work that you parish musicians do for those of us in the pews!

Liturgical Reflection on the Season

When I was in the fifth grade, after having taken piano lessons for two years, I was asked to play the grand pipe organ in my parish church for my Catholic school’s Thanksgiving Mass. It was an old pipe organ and it took quite a bit of pressure to press down on the keys to get the organ to play. The memory of the sound that filled that church and the voices of over five hundred children singing the hymn We Gather Together stays with me to this day. It was the first Mass at which I had ever been the minister of music.

“Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands:
                Break into song; sing praise.”

This is a verse from Psalm 98, which we sing on the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time this year. My life as a liturgical musician has been filled with glorious musical moments, like the one described above. It has also been filled with some less-than-glorious moments. The biggest source of woe for any church musician is a congregation whose musical sound is tepid at best. It has always struck me that 35,000 fans at a Chicago Cubs baseball game can lift their voices (and their cups of beer) and join in the singing of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, but those same folks won’t even open a hymnal or missalette at Mass on Sundays to sing hymns and songs that have the capacity to reach deeply into the hearts of believers. I remember a friend once asking me what my favorite musical instrument was. I responded, “Well, my favorite musical instrument is the singing assembly at Sunday Mass.”

It is good to remind ourselves that our parish musicians—pianists, organists, guitarists, cantors, psalmists, and instrumentalists—are not here to put on a show or delight us with their musical talents. They put their talents at the service of those of us in the pews. And the greatest way we can respond to their ministry is by raising our voices in song with those around us. I am a “pew Catholic” these days; I no longer am a minister of music at Mass. And I sing. It strikes me how many times children seated around me will simply stare at me as I sing at Mass. They look at me as if what I am doing is odd or out of place. Nine times out of ten, the parents of these children are not singing at all.
Music is an art form that can bring us to realms that the spoken word cannot. Many years ago, I played and sang a song at Sunday Mass whose theme was about not being afraid. After Mass, a woman approached me and told me that her husband had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that very week. She said, “I came to Mass today without my husband, who is hospitalized, for the first time in decades. And I just said to God, ‘I need to hear something from you today.’ And then, Jerry, you sang the words ‘do not be afraid.’ It was beautiful and it was God speaking to my heart. Thank you for your music.”

If you are someone who hesitates to sing at Mass, why not start singing today? It may surprise the people around you, maybe even members of your own family. Who knows? Maybe you will be the spark that gets the musical fire going! “Break into song; sing praise.”

Gotta sing. Gotta pray. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

This Angler's Bait: 1660 Years Later

Wednesday greetings on an unusually warm December morning here in Chicago.

For the past several days, I have been re-reading St. Cyril of Jerusalem's Lectures on the Christian Sacraments, which he wrote in the middle of the Fourth Century. Think about that. That's over 1660 years ago.

Surely, pastoral realities are much different today than they were then, right? In my conversations with RCIA ministers throughout the United States and Canada, I find some ministers frustrated with the reasons why many people come into the RCIA process. And studies bear this out as well. Many come because they are marrying a Catholic. I know some RCIA ministers who think that motivation is not a good one, since conversion doesn't seem to be at the core of the decision to follow Christ. My response has always been, "Grace builds on nature. Let God do God's work in that person's heart, despite what you think about their motivation."

In a catechetical session addressed to catechumens who were entering their final period of preparation for the sacraments, St. Cyril discusses the reasons why people came to the Church seeking the initiation sacraments. Remember, over 1660 years ago!

"Perhaps thou comest on another ground. A man may be wishing to pay court to a woman, and on that account come hither: and the same applies to women likewise: again, a slave often wishes to please his master, or one friend another. I avail myself of this angler's bait, and receive thee, as one who has come indeed with unsound purpose, but art saved by a good hope. Thou knowest not perchance whither thou wast coming, nor what net was taking thee. Thou art within the Church's nets, submit to be taken; flee not, for Jesus would secure thee, not to make thee die, but by death to make thee live. For thou must die and rise again; thou hast heard the Apostle saying, Dead indeed to sin, but alive unto righteousness. Die then to thy sins, and live to righteousness: yea, from this day forth, live."

Sure, a few things are different 1660 years later (e.g. the end of slavery). But it would seem that Cyril's words ring true today, don't you think?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Jubilee of Mercy Dawns: "It is he who seeks us!"

The Jubilee of Mercy has dawned.

Some images captured from the video feed.

Pope Francis:

"This Extraordinary Year is itself a gift of grace. To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them. It is he who seeks us! It is he who comes to encounter us! This will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God's mercy. How much wrong do we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy! But that is the truth. We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God's judgment will always be in the light of his mercy. In passing though the Holy Door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love, of tenderness. Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead, let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things."

When Pope Francis opened that Holy Door and crossed that threshold, he brought with him my own sinful heart, redeemed by God's infinite mercy.

Deo gratias! Thanks be to God!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Know Christ

Unusual second post of the day.

Know Christ.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

General Directory for Catechesis: Inspiration for the Jubilee of Mercy

Monday greetings from Chicago, which is wrapped in fog this morning.

From yesterday's First Reading from Baruch:

"Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery;
put on the splendor of glory from God forever . . .
. . . for God is leading Israel in joy
by the light of his glory,
with his mercy and justice for company."

On the eve of the Jubilee of Mercy, today is a day to announce that we've got company.

Mercy and justice are knocking at our doors.

Tomorrow, and over the next several days, doors will open all over the world, inviting believers and non-believers alike to pass through those doors and over those thresholds to join company with mercy and justice.

I have never, ever known a time in my life when mercy and justice were more keenly needed.

I have some concrete plans for the Jubilee of Mercy in my own life. If someone were to ask me what is  the most important thing to do during the Jubilee, my answer would be a simple one: know Christ.

I turned to the General Directory for Catechesis this morning for inspiration and, in paragraph 34, I found it.

"Jesus Christ was the first and supreme evangelizer. He proclaimed the Kingdom of God, as the urgent and definitive intervention of God in history, and defined this proclamation 'the gospel,' that is, the Good News. To this Gospel, Jesus devoted his entire earthly life: he made known the joy of belonging to the Kingdom, its demands, its magan carta, the mysteries which it embraces, the life of fraternal charity of those who enter it and its future fulfillment."

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Take the Time to Notice

It certainly has been a weary week for our weary world. Driving into work in my carpool this morning, one of my colleagues remarked about how all of these mass shootings just make him fearful for his three kids. Not having children myself, I can't imagine how parents must feel when random shootings occur. I would imagine, though, that parents are hugging their kids a lot tighter these days.

As I sat at my desk here a few minutes ago, I was struck by the sunlight piercing our morning fog here in Franklin Park, Illinois. I swiveled in my chair and noticed the way the sunlight was kissing my little Chicago Blackhawks shrine in my office; it was pretty stunning. And I thought, "Why not snap a photo?" Strange how one can find beauty in the oddest places. Just gotta look for it these days.

While we spend time mourning the loss of our brothers and sisters killed in California in the past few days and search for answers amid all this horror, we can't forget that beauty still peeks its head into our lives throughout the day. Take the time to notice.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Bloom Where You're Planted

On yesterday's blog post, I wrote this:

"I guess I have become accustomed to expecting bad news. I wake up each morning, check the news, wondering what latest atrocity has been committed by my human brothers and sisters upon one another."

Little did I know that just a few hours later, horror would again unfold, this time in San Bernardino, California.

News spread around our office as people accessed news sites as the information slowly began to be shared by the media.

What should our reaction be? One person's response was straightforward, something like, "I really can't do anything to address these atrocities in a specific way. All I can do is look at the world in which I live and be kinder and bring peace and work harder to do both."

This reminded me of an old Carey Landry song: Bloom Where You're Planted

Anyone else remember singing this in your younger years?

In the face of the turning of hearts to evil ways, why not take the time right now to turn our hearts to more peaceful and kinder ways, where we are planted?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mercy Here

Wednesday greetings on a cold and snowy morning here in the Midwest.

In an interview in the Italian magazine Credere, published today, Pope Francis talks about the soon-to-be-upon-us Jubilee Year of Mercy. Some excerpts.

"It is obvious that today's world is in need of mercy and compassion, or rather of the capacity for empathy. We are accustomed to bad news, cruel news and the worst atrocities that offend the name and the life of God. The world needs to discover that God is the Father, that there is mercy, that cruelty is not the way, that condemnation is not the way, because it is the Church herself who at times takes a hard line, and falls into the temptation to follow a hard line and to underline moral rules only; many people are excluded."

When I read these words, I felt as if the pope were speaking directly into my own heart. I guess I have become accustomed to expecting bad news. I wake up each morning, check the news, wondering what latest atrocity has been committed by my human brothers and sisters upon one another. Here in Chicago, the Tribune newspaper each morning lists those who were killed or wounded overnight. They choose that word "wounded" as if the paper were reporting on war casualties. And I think the word is appropriate because Chicago is a place where war is being raged on many levels. I hold such hope in my heart that this Archdiocese will take up the mantle of mercy and put God's mercy in dialogue with the atrocities that occur here each night.

Pope Francis goes on.

"The image of the Church as a field hospital after a battle comes to mind here; it is the truth, so many people are injured and destroyed! . . . I believe that this is the time for mercy. We are all sinners, all of us carry inner burdens. I felt that Jesus wanted to open the door to His heart, that the Father wants to show us his innate mercy, and for this reason he sends us the Spirit . . . It is the year of reconciliation. On the one hand we see the weapons trade . . . the murder of innocent people in the cruelest ways possible, the exploitation of people, of children. There is currently a form of sacrilege against humanity, because man is sacred, he is the image of the living God. And the Father says, 'stop and come to me.'"

In the past, when I would hear words like "the weapons trade," or "the murder of innocent people," I would think that these terms were being used to name situations and places in far-flung parts of the world, where cruelty has become institutionalized, often in the name of God. Yet, what I am slowly coming to realize is that Pope Francis is talking about what goes on in my own city every day.

The "weapons trade" to which he refers has lots to do with the easy accessibility of firearms here in the Midwest, not just some weapons trade going on in foreign countries. And "the murder of innocent people" happens here, too. Just recently, a child was murdered in by gang members in a Chicago alley, apparently as a retaliation against that child's father, who was a member of a rival gang. "The murder of innocent people."

Against the backdrop of all of this, we have the words of the Lord Jesus in the Gospel appointed for this Wednesday of the First Week of Advent:

"Jesus summoned his disciples and said, 'My heart is moved with pity for the crowd.'"

A Year of Mercy? Absolutely needed. In my heart and in yours. In my city and in yours. In my country and in yours. I am going to try to make a difference, the "mercy difference" as best I can. Thank God for Pope Francis.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent: Pray and Act

Tuesday greetings on this first day of December.

Lots of mixed emotions swirling around over the past several days. My last post "Disgusted in Chicago" touched on my deep feelings about the 13 month delay in releasing that horrible video of the shooting of Laquan McDonald. After a wonderful Thanksgiving on Thursday, Friday dawned and I decided I needed to do something more than sulk about what had occurred. So I joined about one thousand others and walked down Michigan Avenue in Chicago, a march for justice. It was a peaceful march in the cold rain. I wasn't there to block shoppers' entrances into stores; I just felt like I needed to do something. So I joined a diverse group of Chicagoans, among them Catholic priests and other clergymen and women and simply walked and joined in a call for justice.

Then, on Sunday at Mass came the final words of the First Reading: ". . . this is what they shall call her: The Lord our justice." The homilist asked us to pray for an end to violence and for justice in our world and particularly in our city. Then he said that it couldn't stop with prayer; we are called to act. So, in the middle of what was planned to be a relaxing holiday weekend with family and friends, I prayed and I acted for justice. Some have already told me that they thought the march on Friday was not a good thing because it caused some stores to lose some of their "black Friday" revenue and that the march accomplished nothing. The march itself lasted for a little under an hour and the media and Chicago Police Department made it clear that it would disrupt traffic. We had police presence and protection all the way along. I feel in my heart it was the right thing to do. I just couldn't sit at home on Friday.

So, Advent has dawned and I am looking for other ways to pray and act.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Disgusted in Chicago

Wednesday greetings on a bright and sunny day here in Chicago.

Chicago is not an easy place to live these days. Yesterday, as I am sure most of you heard, a dash-cam video was released, showing the murder of a young black man by a white Chicago police officer. The tragedy occurred over a year ago. The "machine" that is Chicago politics should be ashamed that this video was not released sooner and that justice has been this long delayed. Our illustrious mayor sat on all of this for months and months. Some say that had the video been released before his re-election, he surely would not have been re-elected. Frankly, this is disgusting.

Last night, I took my parents, who are celebrating their 61st wedding anniversary today and are visiting from Boston for Thanksgiving, to the annual tree-lighting in downtown Chicago.

And there this mayor stood, just hours after the video was released, gushing about how wonderful our city is for families. The hypocrisy slammed me in the face.

So, on this day before Thanksgiving, I am reminded that there are way too many people in my city and in our country for whom there is little to be thankful when fear and hypocrisy run rampant.

Sorry for this downer today.

On a lighter note, I am looking forward to spatchcocking my turkey tonight.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Brimming Gratitude

Tuesday greetings to all.

This year's celebration of Thanksgiving will be a special one for me. In a few hours, I will go to O'Hare to pick up my mom an dad, who will be spending the week here in Chicago. Tomorrow is their 61st wedding anniversary; so glad to have them here.

One of the traditions developed at the Thanksgiving table at my home over the years involves this contraption:

Obviously, it is a vase filled with very long stemmed champagne glasses. Before the meal begins, the glasses are filled with champagne and each person, in turn, tells everyone gathered what it is for which he or she is thankful. I am a sentimental guy when it comes to moments like this, so I always find myself getting a bit misty-eyed.

As I sit here thinking about what I will say on Thursday when I raise my glass, I am listening to the "chatter" outside my office. I am hearing our customer care folks helping people over the phone. An occasional laugh arises from one of our departments. And I am struck at how grateful I am to serve and lead my colleagues here at WLP. This is an amazingly talented group of dedicated people. Gratitude for them is brimming.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Intentional Hospitality Right Behind Me

Monday greetings from the Midwest, where Old Man Winter reared his ugly head over the weekend. A little too early in the season to be greeted by this scene this morning as I headed toward our front door here in Franklin Park,

At Mass yesterday at Old Saint Patrick's, something happened after the closing song that I wanted to share here.

First of all, you need to know that as Mass begins every week, we are all invited to stand and introduce ourselves to those around us. I don't usually attend the 11:15 A.M. Mass; I usually go to an earlier Mass. So, when I stood up, I introduced myself to Lois on my right and to Mary Ellen behind me, among others. I remembered these two names, so when the time came to exchange the sign of peace, I used their names. After the closing song, Mary Ellen, seated in the row behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was a parishioner at Old Saint Pat's. I told her I had joined the parish several months ago. She said, "Well I haven't seen you here before and I just wanted to welcome you." I told her I usually go to the 9:30 A.M. Mass and then she said how happy she was that I was a parishioner. I told her to have a great week and she did the same.

Folks, that is intentional hospitality. My heart was warmed as I headed out the doors into the frigid air.

I hope your celebration of Christ the King warmed your heart.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

No Choice

It's a bright and sunny, cool day here in Chicago.

There is so much "talk" on social media right now about the closing of our country to Syrian refugees that it is deafening. What did we do in the days before these social media outlets existed, when we were given more than a few seconds to ponder what was going on around us and express our thoughts, feelings, and pronouncements instantly?

So, after these days of turmoil, I thought I had decided to let it all simply rest in me. Just needed some time to let it all settle. Then I realized how Western and selfish that decision would be, because I have a choice to stop thinking about it all. So, I ask myself, what do refugees do when they have had enough of it all? They have no choice. They flee. They flee to safer places for their families. They want to protect their children. They don't want a bomb to destroy what is left of their lives. They don't have a choice. They've gotta keep moving. So, I guess I need to keep pondering, in solidarity with them.

This is difficult, isn't it?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Jerry, what am I supposed to do?"

Last night I gave a presentation, "Getting Ready for Advent" to a great group of Catholics at Saint Cecilia Parish in Mount Prospect, Illinois.

There was a man sitting in the group with his wife and teenage daughter. He was gruff-looking and was wearing a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt. He was following my every word quite closely.

When I came to the part of my presentation when I began to speak about the upcoming jubilee year of mercy, I found myself talking about the recent terror attacks in Paris. I talked about the fact that Pope Francis said that he simply didn't understand how a human person could commit such terrible acts. I shared about how much all of this has troubled me so deeply. I said that to talk of mercy in the face of all of this is such a challenge.

The man in the sweatshirt then simply blurted out, "It is really difficult and hard to be a Christian right now." He went on with such passion and gentleness. "I know that I am supposed to love, but for the past few days it has been so difficult to do so. I don't know what I am supposed to do. Jerry, what am I supposed to do? How should I feel?"

I looked him in the eyes and said, "I think what you are supposed to do is what you are doing right now; struggling like the rest of us with what our Christian calling is in these very difficult times. And I think that's probably enough for right now. Just remember that our pope is struggling with it all as well."

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Turn My Hardened Heart Around

Tuesday greetings from the soggy Midwest.

Last evening, after having had dinner with an out-of-town relative here on business, I drove him out to the Adler Planetarium here in Chicago, where one can find a fantastic view of Chicago across Lake Michigan. As I stood there, looking at buildings that have recently added white, red, and blue lighting to show solidarity with the "City of Lights," I couldn't help but ache for those who lost their loved ones in this senseless act of violence and hatred. Here is a photo I took last night.

Pope Francis yesterday called the fact that some of the terrorists shouted that what they were doing was in the name of God "blasphemous." Here are his words:

"Such barbaric acts leave us shocked, and we wonder how the human heart can conceive and carry out such horrific events, which have shaken not only France but the whole world. Faced with these intolerable acts, one can not but condemn such an unspeakable affront to human dignity. I wish to reaffirm strongly that the path of violence and hatred does not solve the problems of humanity, and to abuse God's name to justify such a way is blasphemy!"

In my search to try to understand all of this, all I can really do is fix my eyes on the Lord Jesus, a sure sign of hope in this moment in time. As Advent approaches and we take our deep, longing breaths to prepare to sing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, my hope is that somehow the Lord will be made present as that enduring sign of hope in our troubled times. I don't want to sound like I am walking through life with rose colored glasses on, but I feel like I have nowhere else to turn.

As Advent approaches and the Jubilee Year of Mercy dawns, I will be trying to figure out how God's mercy figures in all of this. This Christian life is often hard, because I look for answers where there don't seem to be any easy answers. As someone whose heart has been hardened over the past few days, I am hoping for an outpouring of God's boundless mercy to help turn my heart around.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Paris: Struggling With It All

Monday morning greetings on this day when we are all still reeling from Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. This is an unusually long post. But bear with me. On Saturday, I gave a mini-mission to a fine group of Catholics at Saint Maria Goretti parish in Madison, Wisconsin.

Here is a picture of the church's interior.

Frankly, I found myself struggling as I made my various presentations, because they were all colored by the recent experience of the terrorist attacks in Paris. When I got to the point of talking about the eucharist through the lens of "the table of reconciliation," I found myself deeply questioning what reconciliation and mercy really mean in a world marked by senseless acts of terrorism aimed at murdering innocent people, all in the name of religion.

At Mass at Old Saint Pat's yesterday, the children's choir led us all in singing Let There Be Peace on Earth after communion. The last time I recall singing that song at Mass was on the Sunday following September 11, 2001. "And let it begin with me."

I have always strongly held on to Blessed Pope Paul VI's remarks to the United Nations on October 4, 1965:

"Here our message reaches its culmination and we will speak first of all negatively. These are the words you are looking for us to say and the words we cannot utter without feeling aware of their seriousness and solemnity: never again one against the other, never, never again!
Was this not the very end for which the United Nations came into existence: to be against war and for peace? Listen to the clear words of a great man who is no longer with us, John Kennedy, who proclaimed four years ago: 'Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.' There is no need for a long talk to proclaim the main purpose of your Institution. It is enough to recall the blood of millions, countless unheard-of sufferings, useless massacres and frightening ruins have sanctioned the agreement that unites you with an oath that ought to change the future history of the world: never again war, never again war! It is peace, peace, that has to guide the destiny of the nations of all mankind."

"Never again war!" I find myself caught between this admonition and the justified anger I feel against those who perpetrate the kind of violence and hatred that was wrought against innocent people in Paris and in so many more places, all in the name of God. When we talk about mercy and reconciliation, are we to reach a point where we believe that God's mercy reaches into the hearts of those who would pick up automatic weapons and mow down innocent people; reaches those who would strap explosives to themselves and in an inconceivable act of suicide, murder all those around them who are simply living their day-to-day lives?

I saw this on Facebook on Saturday morning:

How are we to react when the Lord's clear command was to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us? Where do we turn?

Well. this morning, I sought out the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraph 2303 has this to say:
"Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. 'But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45).

Paragraphs 2307-2309 go on:
"However, 'as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.' [Cf. Vatican II Gaudium et spes 79, 4]
The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave , and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily on evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the 'just war' doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good."

It is so difficult to try to apply the "just war" doctrine to the contemporary context. This is not like bygone days when countries waged war on other countries. This "war" is all about religious ideology and extremism. Who is the nation here that is the "aggressor?" We hear various terms to describe these aggressors, yet their whereabouts and motives are so hard for me to comprehend. Surely, the damage they are inflicting is "lasting, grave, and certain." Whether or not "all other means of putting an end to it must be shown to be impractical or ineffective" remains open to question because this is not a traditional kind of war being waged. How do we even sit down and try to settle this as a political issue when the kind of religious extremism that motivates the aggressor is something that most human persons cannot even comprehend as a legitimate starting point? Do those who are bombing places targeting these aggressors have "serious prospects of success?" This is probably the most frightening aspect of all. If something like this could happen in Paris, or in Ankara, or in New York, or in Washington, or in Shanksville, one wonders where and when the next eruption will take place. What kind of prospects of success exist, if they do at all?

Pope Francis, speaking about the killings in Paris, had this to say:
"I am moved, and I am saddened. I do not understand--these things are hard to understand.
He went on to say: "War is madness. Even today, after a second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction."
Pope Francis called the attacks "inhumane" saying "There is no religious or human justification" for the violence.

Friends, I harbor hatred in my heart for those who killed my sisters and brothers in Paris. And for this I am not yet repentant. I am praying hard to believe that God's love and mercy is bigger than anything my limited brain can comprehend. The words of Pope Frances are my own on this Monday. "War is madness. I am moved, I am saddened. I do not understand." But I am trying. And struggling mightily.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, November 13, 2015

So Beautiful: J.S. Paluch Calendars

Friday morning greetings to all. Glorious cold Autumn day here in Chicago.

In the "did you know?" category of things, I wanted to share something with all of you.

WLP's parent company, J.S. Paluch, has another division, its calendar division. I must say that the calendars that are designed here are simply beautiful. Businesses (like funeral homes and car dealerships) often sponsor the calendars so that they are made available free of charge to parishes. You can check out the entire line here.

I was given a copy of the 2016 Vocation Calendar yesterday, and it is stunning. Vocation:Courage and Compassion features illuminated manuscripts from the Vatican Library and photos and quotations of Pope Francis.

The monthly grid contains all the Catholic feasts, memorials, optional memorials, and solemnities. I really like these calendars and am so proud of the team who works so hard to make them so beautiful.

If your parish needs a calendar for your parishioners for 2016, check ours out. Proceeds from the sale of J.S. Paluch calendars support vocation ministry across the United States. And our Vocations Division helps foster vocations in so many ways.

Thanks for listening to this infomercial, and may your weekend be a good one.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Feeling the Force: The Laity

News was released today that Pope Francis has written a letter to the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

In it, he states that lay people "participate, in their own way, in the priestly, prophetic, and royal function of Christ himself."

He goes on.

The Council, therefore does not look at lay people as if they were 'second class' members, at the service of the hierarchy and only executors of orders from on high, but as disciples of Christ who, by force of their baptism and their nature inserted 'in the world,' are called to animate in every space, every activity, every human relation according to the spirit of the Gospel."

And then . . .

Lay people bring "the light, hope, love received from Christ in those places that, otherwise, might remain unknown to the action of God and abandoned to the misery of the human condition. No one can carry out better than them this essential work 'to see that the divine law is inscribed in the life of the earthly city.'"

As I was inspired by these words today, I was struck particularly by his use (or the translator's) of the words "by force of their baptism." This "force," according to the pope, calls me to "animate every space, every activity, every human relation" in my own life and in my day-to-day activities "according  to the spirit of the Gospel."

You know, while these words are inspiring, they are deeply, deeply challenging, especially in our secularized world. I try my best to radiate the love of Christ in all the places I find myself, but often find myself not being honest with people who do not share my faith about the reasons why I am the way I am. For instance, I am a generally effusively happy guy (although my team members here at WLP might see otherwise at times!). When non-believing friends ask me why I am this way, I usually just respond, "Oh that's just the way I am." This, of course, is not the truth. The truth is that I feel the Lord Jesus walking beside me all the time, kind of hanging around and being an inspiring friend. That's why I am the way I am. Perhaps some day I can be more honest. What is it that causes hesitation in me? Fear of rejection? Ridicule?

Today, I am grateful for what happened right here:

Are you feeling the force of your own?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thanksgiving Table Prayer

Wednesday greetings to all.

I have been meaning to post this for awhile, and I hope you find this little commercial helpful.

Did you know that WLP publishes a lovely Thanksgiving Table Prayer Card, perfect for your parish, whether for parishioners' homes, the school, the rectory, the parish office?

Just took this photo:

The artwork is by Brother Mickey McGrath. Simple and elegant.

And the pricing is quite affordable. If you order over a hundred, the cost is only 25 cents per card. Maybe a little gift for your parishioners to be given away as they depart from your parish Thanksgiving Mass?

Thanks for listening to today's commercial!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Pope Francis: Semper Reformanda

Tuesday greetings on a clear Autumn day here in Chicago.

I just finished reading a report about Pope Francis' address yesterday to a national assembly representing the Catholic Church in Italy. Pope Francis spoke at the cathedral in Florence to about 2200 people gathered there from all over Italy. Before the address, he spent fifteen minutes in the baptistery of the cathedral. I stood in that baptistery just a little over a year ago and took a photo that graces the cover of my book You Have Put on Christ: Cultivating a Baptismal Spirituality. 

Here is a photo of the exterior of the cathedral, where Pope Francis spoke.

He was laying out a vision for how the Catholic Church must adapt and change. I found his remarks stunning and inspiring. Some excerpts.

"Before the problems of the Church it is not useful to search for solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism, in the restoration of obsolete conduct and forms that no longer have the capacity of being significant culturally."

"Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, interrogatives--but is alive, knows being unsettled, enlivened. It has a face that is not rigid, it has a body that moves and grows, it has a soft flesh: it is called Jesus Christ."

"The reform of the church then, and the church is semper reformanda . . . does not end in the umpteenth plan to change structures. It means instead grafting yourself to and rooting yourself in Christ, leaving yourself to be guided by the Spirit--so that all will be possible with genius and creativity."

Semper reformanda--always reforming. I remember learning this term when I was in the seminary back in the 1980's. Being immersed in the liturgical reform for most of my adult life, I have watched this reform unfold and fill the Christian people with a sense of hope each time we celebrate the paschal mystery at Mass. Frankly, however, there have been times when I felt that the reform had become frozen or, worse, reversed, moving toward what Pope Francis calls "obsolete conduct and forms that no longer have the capacity of being significant culturally." I realize Pope Francis was not speaking directly about the liturgical reform, but I can't help but wonder if this is at least part of what he was referring to in his address.

As I travel and see the face of the American and Canadian Church, I see a renewed movement to place Christ at the center of all our activity. Catholics in general, I find, have difficulty articulating who Christ really is for them; they have difficulty expressing what their own personal relationship with Christ is. I find the words of Pope Francis moving us in the right direction. His description of Christian doctrine inspires me because he roots it all squarely in Christ: Christian doctrine "has a face that is not rigid, it has a body that moves and grows, it has a soft flesh: it is called Jesus Christ."

I am reminded of paragraph 65 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
"In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father's one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything, there will be no other word than this one."

Pope Francis' words are drawing me closer to this Word.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Northern California Faith Formation Conference

Friday greetings from Santa Clara, California. I am here to speak at the Northern California Faith Formation Conference. The dioceses of San Jose, Monterey, and Stockton sponsor this conference. This year's conference theme is "Cultivating Disciples/Cultivando DiscĂ­pulos." My presentations will focus on cultivating a baptismal spirituality and cultivating disciples with intentional hospitality. After yesterday's arrival here I set up the WLP booth in the exhibit hall. Here are a few photos.

I am looking forward to spending time with colleagues and friends here in northern California. WLP is also sponsoring Fr. Jim Marchionda, OP, as a speaker. Fr. Jim, a seasoned composer, is a dynamic preacher and presents parish missions all over the United States. It should be an exciting and informative conference for those gathered here in beautiful Santa Clara.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Saint Charles: Vivid Memory of Cardinal Cushing

Today is the feast day of Saint Charles Borromeo.

I grew up and went to Catholic school at Saint Charles Borromeo Parish in Woburn, Massachusetts.

I was reminiscing about my early Catholic years recently. I asked myself the question: What is my most vivid memory of growing up at Saint Charles?

My answer would have to be the Mass celebrated in the early 1960's by Richard Cardinal Cushing, who was the archbishop of Boston. Our pastor had had the church completely renovated very, very shortly after the Second Vatican Council. A new altar was installed and the entire interior was painted and brightened up considerably. I remember as a little kid going to Mass there before the renovation and being sort of frightened by the darkness of the place.

Well, on the day that the new church was blessed and re-dedicated, my Mom brought me to the Mass at which Cardinal Cushing was the celebrant.

I couldn't have been more than five or six years old. We were sitting in about the second row in front of the elevated ambo. When the Cardinal mounted the ambo platform, I remember quite clearly how huge he seemed to me. His presence was simply enormous. He had a very strong and gruff voice and I remember snuggling next to my mother for some kind of protection, especially when he slammed his fist on the ambo to make his point. Here, clearly, was an impassioned man of the Church.

Funny how these early memories stay with you. I am grateful for our pastor's vision to renovate this church so seemingly instantly after the Council. He believed in service to the people. However, I think that commitment went a little overboard. Here was the Mass schedule throughout the 60's, through the 70's, and into the early 80's:
Saturday: 4:00, 5:00, 7:00
Sunday: 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 12:00 in English, 12:00 in Spanish, 5:00, 6:15, and 7:30

For us Galipeau kids, we just simply thought that Sunday Mass was no longer than 35 minutes anywhere. At Saint Charles, the parking lot needed to be cleared out pretty quickly for the next Mass. There was rarely any silence at Mass; it was like a stream of consciousness liturgy. When I entered the seminary in 1976, I was astounded that daily Mass could take nearly an hour, with extended silence scattered throughout. At first, I was a fidgety guy in the pews, but then realized that this was the way Mass was supposed to be celebrated.

Do you have a vivid memory to share of growing up in your childhood parish?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Light and Warmth: All Souls

While perusing Facebook last night, I marveled at how many posts from my friends in the fields of liturgy and music appeared. And all were focused on sharing the experience of their parish's All Souls Liturgy.

I remember well back in the mid-1980's when parishes really began to prepare these particular liturgies and celebrate them so well. At the parishes where I have ministered, we had a large basket of candles in the center aisle. As we recited the names of those who had died in the parish that year, their relatives and friends (we issued invitations to the surviving loved ones to the Mass) would pick up a candle, light it from the paschal candle, then place it in bowls of sand. Then people were invited to name those who had died, but had not been included in the list that we read. These people came forward after calling out the name of their loved one, lit the candle, and placed it in the bowl.

I will never forget the sense in the church once all candles had been placed in the bowls. The year that my sister died, I remember vividly the All Souls Mass at Saint Domitilla here in suburban Chicago. I was the substitute organist for the Mass and I had to wait until the end of the litany of the names, because I was playing softly as the names were read and spoken. So, the music stopped, I stood, and in the silence, my voice cracking with emotion, I quietly said "Joanne Gazzara." I lit my candle and found a place in one of the bowls, where so many candles had been placed. I will never forget the warmth I felt from those candles and the glow they produced.

I remembered Joanne and so many others yesterday, on our Catholic day of memorial. I hope that you know the light and warmth that memories of your deceased loved ones bring into your life.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Conversation, Instead of Condemnation

Monday greetings on an amazingly beautiful Autumn day here in Chicago.

A few days ago, I read a "conversation" on Facebook that began with someone posting that they had seen a Muslim woman in line at a grocery store wearing the burqa, which is the garment, usually black, that covers a woman's entire body, with only her eyes showing. Many Muslim women wear the hijab, which is the garment that covers the head and chest. One of the persons in the "conversation" had some harsh words for a woman who would wear the burqa, something like "If you want to be one of us here in the US of America, act like us!"

Now remarks like this are all over social media all the time. I am always taken aback by them, mainly because we are a country made up of immigrants from all over the world, with different religious backgrounds, cultural expressions, and customs. Tolerance and acceptance are highlights of this country's roots, but sometimes intolerance and hatred take their place.

While I was visiting my family last weekend in Boston, many of them told me that they were worried the entire time I was in Turkey a few months ago, fearing that I would be caught up in some kind of terrorist act. Since September 11, 2001, there is a feeling inside many people that anything or anyone having to do with the Muslim world, is somehow to be feared. This is certainly understandable on some level. I told my family members that, while in Turkey, I never felt a hint of danger anywhere. And when the flight from Istanbul landed at Logan Airport in Boston, my eyes were drawn to the CNN news feed on the screens in the airport, reporting on that day's shooting on the community college campus in Oregon, where so many were senselessly killed. Safe? Where?

Before going to Turkey, I had never been in a predominantly Muslim country and had never stepped foot in a Mosque. While there, I saw women in the hijab everywhere and women in the burqa as well. The burqa is a little unsettling at first. There is that part of me that thinks this is demeaning of women and sexist on the part of the husband, but I have done lots of reading on the various reasons and viewpoints about the covering, which has been helpful for me. While in Turkey, I kept cautioning myself to remember that my Western views need to be in conversation with other views, not condemnatory of those views and beliefs. Travel has a way of teaching like nothing else can.

While in Ankara, I was at the tomb of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. In the museum, I was walking around and enjoying the paintings as a young couple was doing the same. They were admiring the artwork and the various collections, as was I. I took some photos.

It just all seemed so regular to me as I made my way through the museum and mausoleum. I have to admit that when I used to see women dressed in the burqa on the television news, there was some fear that crept up inside me, but that was all melted away during my trip to Turkey.

I guess I am writing this today in the hopes that somehow we can, little by little, open our eyes to the differences that make this world such a wonderful place.

Thanks for listening.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Baptismal Spirituality and the Way We "Do" the RCIA: A Correlation?

Wednesday greetings on a warm but drizzly day here in Chicago.

Yesterday's post about the correlation between the way a parish goes about doing the RCIA and the retention rate among new Catholics kind of got me feeling low. For nearly thirty years, I have been talking about the vision for RCIA that the Church espouses. It can be clearly traced from the Second Vatican Council through the publication of the Rite itself, as well as in the General Directory for Catechesis from the Congregation for the Clergy at the Vatican through to the expression in our own country in our National Directory for Catechesis. Frankly, sometimes I feel like I have been banging my head against the wall with all of this.

I did have a bright spot yesterday. A friend and colleague, Fr. James Burkart, a priest of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, celebrated his birthday recently. We are Facebook friends and there was, of course, an explosion of best wishes and birthday greetings for Fr. Jim on Facebook. Then came his note of gratitude: "Thank you for all the birthday wishes. It was a beautiful day . . . Just like the day I was born [insert smiley face]. November 17 is the anniversary of my baptism, the day I was re-born. That is the day I received the promise of eternity. When is your baptismal anniversary?"

Some responses, like mine (May 25) pinpointed the day exactly. Others said that they didn't know but were definitely going to find out. What struck me was the correlation (perhaps) between the way too many parishes "do" the RCIA (all programmatic, all teaching and little else) and the development, or lack thereof more precisely, of an adult baptismal spirituality. If RCIA ministers would work on developing an appreciation for what baptism means in their own lives, then perhaps the way they do the RCIA would shift. Am I on target here, or off base?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, October 26, 2015

RCIA and Retention Rate

Monday greetings to all.

This past Friday and Saturday, I was privileged to work with the RCIA team at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Sudbury, Massachusetts. We walked through the various steps and stages of the Rite and were able to really "chew" on the many issues that arose.

One of the biggest challenges that parishes face is that moment when they come to the realization that a "one-size-fits-call" programmatic approach to the RCIA simply does not address the real spiritual needs of people. Questions abound. When RCIA team members have used the following words for decades when speaking about initiation, it can be even more challenging: teach, classes, program, finished, lecture.

I have been part of parish's RCIA team when we made the decision to move to a year-round process, welcoming people into the RCIA at any time of the year. It was difficult, at first, but after a few years, we wondered how we ever did it any differently in the past.

Doing the RCIA using a syllabus of topics to cover, with different people teaching the "classes" each week is a snap. Quick. Easy. I am haunted by what I believe is a very, very poor "retention"rate with these programs. And I find generally that RCIA ministers are fearful of that issue and will not ask the tough questions. How about you and your parish?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Joyful or Sour?

Thursday greetings on this feast of Saint John Paul II.

Just wanted to share what I found to be a rather funny photo taken during Pope Francis' papal visit to the United States.

In this photo, one can see the joy of the Gospel emanating from his Holiness. Not so much for the security agent . . .

Reminded me of Pope Francis' remarks about how Catholics sometimes can look like or seem like "sourpusses."

Look around you at Sunday Mass this weekend. Are you surrounded by joyful people or sourpusses?

I am headed to Boston later today for some family time and also to give a two-day workshop on the RCIA at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Sudbury, MA, pictured here. Doesn't this just look like the perfect New England church?

 I am looking forward to spending two intense days of study with my Massachusetts "peeps."

If you haven't yet taken a look at WLP's resources for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, please do so today. There has been much interest in these fine resources for parishioners and for those responsible for parish communications regarding the jubilee year.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.