Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Christian Initiation of Children of Catechetical Age: Wonderful!

Last week, I shared a story of how one Catholic school's approach to Christian initiation in the Boston Archdiocese saddened me. 

Recently, I read a different kind of story about Christian initiation at Lebanon Catholic High School in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, 

and the neighboring parish in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Lebanon.

Please take the time to read the lead article in the Diocese's newspaper.

Now, this is how the Church envisions Christian initiation for children of catechetical age. Bravo to this Catholic High School and this parish. Wonderful!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Merit or Not? Please Help

Greetings on this Monday of Holy Week.

Thank you for your comments on my blog post on Friday, both here and on the Gotta Sing Gotta Pray Facebook page.

It seems that the new translation has been a cause of much joy for many and much disappointment for many. Could it be that for the vast majority of Catholics, it just hasn't made any kind of difference at all? So much for the great moment for liturgical catechesis.

At the Mass I attended yesterday, the celebrant did not use the Collect from the Missal; I do not know where his Collect came from. So, this morning, I looked at both the Collect for Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion, as well as the Prayer over the Offerings from the Missal.

Here are the two prayers:

Almighty ever-living God,
who as an example of humility for the human race to follow
caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering
and so merit a share in his Resurrection.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Prayer over the Offerings:
Through the Passion of your Only Begotten Son, O Lord,
may our reconciliation with you be near at hand,
so that, though we do not merit it by our own deeds,
yet by this sacrifice made once for all,
we may feel already the effects of your mercy.
Through Christ our Lord.

Does it strike anyone else that these two prayers present a contradiction when it comes to what is meant by "merit."

In the Collect, it seems to me that the prayer says that by heeding the lesson of our Savior's patient suffering, we somehow merit a share in his Resurrection. So, it is in the human action of patient suffering, done in imitation of Christ, that merits us a share in his Resurrection; and ultimately in our own salvation.

In the Prayer over the Offerings, after careful observation (because it was not apparent in the celebrant's praying of this text at Mass yesterday), I assume that the "it" in the third line refers to the "reconciliation" described in the second line. But what struck me was the phrase in which "it" is placed: "though we do not merit it by our own deeds." So, this prayer seems to say that we cannot merit this reconciliation with God by our own human actions.

Someone please help me. Aren't these two prayers in direct contradiction? Or am I just missing something or not diagramming the sentences correctly?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Roman Missal: Breaking My Silence

Woke up to snow falling here in Chicago on this late March day.

Some of you may know that the Roman Missal translation issue has once again surfaced, this time in the British Catholic magazine The Tablet.

Some interesting reading and commentary here.

You may have noticed that I have been fairly quiet about the new translation for quite some time now. The issue is a thorny one for me. I have a deep sense of responsibility as the head of a publishing house committed to serving the needs of the singing and praying Church. But I am also a practicing Roman Catholic with a lived experience of the liturgy. And frankly, as one who blogs and who has honestly struggled as a "pew Catholic" with words and phrases that I often simply fail to understand and who has expressed those struggles here, I have found it easier simply to avoid the issue here. But I wanted to break the silence, at least a bit, today.

I have a deep care and respect for God's people, who have, I believe, a right and duty by reason of their baptism to voice their own thoughts and feelings about the liturgy and the lived faith of the Church.

Throughout my years-long efforts to catechize about the translation as we prepared to implement it here in the United States, I had my moments of doubt about whether or not this new "sacral vocabulary" would help or hurt. I had my moments when I chided my colleagues about jumping to conclusions about the success or failure of the new translation before the words had ever been prayed officially in the liturgy. I had my moments when, after the translation was implemented, I sensed a beauty in some of the texts that I had not sensed before. I had moments of intense joy and satisfaction when priests, many of whom had never embraced the chanting of the dialogues at Mass, worked to make those chants a part of their own celebratory style. I had my moments when my heart would ache for priests who were trying their hardest to communicate meaning but got trapped in the awkward structure of a given prayer or preface. I had my moments when, as an international priest celebrated the Mass, I would have to tune out because nothing about the newly translated texts made sense as he tried to struggle, first of all in a second language, and secondly, with a structure and syntax that in and of itself was foreign to him. All of those experiences have been shared publicly on this blog for years.

I want to repeat here what Bishop Trautman said in The Tablet, the words Pope Francis used in his address to the bishops of Brazil in 2013: "At times we lose people because they don't understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and impart an intellectualism foreign to our people."

"Lose people." Folks, at times in the past few years, I have felt lost myself. But, frankly, there is a part of me that just doesn't want to engage in the conversation any more. We have what we have and, as much as I detest the phrase, the fact is that "it is what it is." But what disturbs me and makes me so want to help those who continue to struggle with this translation is kind of a turn on that phrase; perhaps "it isn't what it is supposed to be." While this may appear like a sad and critical commentary on my part, I am still filled with hope that the Church will work toward developing an approach to translation that brings us what the Church's liturgical language is supposed to be, something that is easy to understand, easily grasped by the congregation and, ultimately, something that leads us into a deep encounter with the Lord that impels us to go forth and live the Gospel by our lives. So far, my own (and many others' experience of the new translation) has been a disappointment by and large. Remaining silent is certainly one course of action. I, for one, am glad to see the kind of engagement that appears on the pages of The Tablet.

Thanks for listening. And a blessed weekend of the Passion of the Lord to you all.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Putting Things in Context

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

In yesterday's post I was lamenting over this cold I picked up and the fact that my prayer life hasn't been quite up to par during this particular Lenten Season. Sometimes I think a blogger like me can fall into the "blah, blah, blah" trap. Yesterday's comment from one of the readers of the blog helped me contextualize.

In response to the question I posed in yesterday's post-- "Last night, while turning to the Lord in prayer during what was a very restless and sleepless night for me, I sort of said, 'Hello, Lord, remember me?' before I started praying in earnest. Ever feel that way?" -- the person who commented said this: "Yes I feel that way every time I have Chemo, but then I remember something my mother used to say . . . God isn't going to let anything happen to you today that you and He cannot handle together. She was right."

So, here I sit, sniffling and sneezing and complaining. I need to remind myself that there are people undergoing chemotherapy right now. I need to remind myself that there are people whose restless nights have to do with the fear that accompanies a cancer diagnosis. I have to remind myself that my woes are like a grain of sand when compared to the terrible anguish like the families of the recent airline crash in Europe must be experiencing.

Maybe this is what God has in mind for me during this Lenten Season: "Jerry, turn to me with your whole heart, watch your complaining, and focus on the things that really matter; I'm not going to let anything happen to you that you and I cannot handle together."

Thank you for yesterday's comment. Helped me more than you know.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"Hello Lord, Remember Me?"

Wow, this cold I have is certainly hanging around; some folks I know have had this stuff for two to three weeks. Keep washing your hands, folks!

I am starting to think that this particular Lenten Season has kind of passed me by. After the first Sunday, at which I attended and spoke at four Masses for a parish mission, I have either been traveling and unable to attend Mass or, like this past Sunday, too sick to go. I have been at Masses, like at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, but I end up having to go to a Liturgy of the Word in one large location, then walk to the Liturgy of the Eucharist in another venue, because our sponsored musicians are leading the music and we want to support their ministry.

So this has been a scattered Lent for me. Last night, while turning to the Lord in prayer during what was a very restless and sleepless night for me, I sort of said, "Hello Lord, remember me?" before I started praying in earnest. Ever feel that way?

I am hoping that the coming week gives me the opportunity to get a concentrated dose of solid time spent at the Church's liturgies in the Church's most beautiful week.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

For Your Day's Enjoyment

Tuesday greetings from the Midwest, where we received nearly six inches of snow yesterday. Happy Spring!

I am a bit under the weather, was home sick yesterday and thought I was better this morning, so I headed to the office. Caught up on a few things, now I am headed home again; feeling pretty miserable.

In case you haven't seen this, here is something for your day's enjoyment.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

(Gotta get better!)

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Step Backward for Sure

Just read something in the Boston Pilot, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston. It was the headline that caught my attention:

"St. Columbkille throws 'out the net;' Baptizes 20 students"

Here's the article.

And here's one section:

"The two efforts in the context of the new evangelization intersected during enrollment, when the parish contacted the school to find out if any students wanted or needed the sacrament of baptism.

Having worked in partnership with the Archdiocese of Boston and Boston College since 2006, the school drew on the longstanding partnership with the parish to encourage the baptisms."

The article makes no mention of the celebration of the sacraments of Confirmation and First Communion.

So, apparently no catechumenate, no rites of acceptance into the order of catechumens, sending for election, nor scrutinies. No parish support or apprenticeship of these young people during an extended catechumenate.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, in its section on the initiation of children who have reached catechetical age (usually around the age of seven), is clear in two paragraphs:

305. 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.

U.S. National Statutes 14. In order to signify clearly the interrelation or coalescence of the three sacraments which are required for full Christian initiation (canon 842:2), adult candidates, including children of catechetical age, are to receive baptism, confirmation, and eucharist in a single eucharistic celebration, whether at the Easter Vigil or, if necessary, at some other time.

I have been trying to form parish and diocesan ministers of Christian initiation for nearly thirty years in the vision and practice of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. This journey has been a long one, filled with lots of joy, but many disappointments as well. I am sure this article was widely read and was read with great joy by so many; after all, who wouldn't be delighted that 20 students were baptized? And I can certainly understand that joy and enthusiasm. But how does a parish simply ignore the rites of the Roman Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law? Parents in hundred of parishes whose children of catechetical age were enrolled in the catechumenate should have every right to be totally confused by the practice at this parish.

This is so disappointing. I just hope that whoever wrote the article somehow missed the fact that perhaps these children were confirmed and received their First Holy Communion. But, sadly, the article says that the baptisms and one profession of faith took place "at a prayer service."

This is a step backward in the implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

After reading stuff like this, I feel like just giving up. More was thrown out here than just "the net" by this parish.

Boston friends, please feel free to chime in here. If I have misunderstood what occurred, please correct me.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

More from L.A. Congress

Friday greetings to all.

And Happy Spring!

Lots of work filling my plate as I settle back into my world here at WLP and at home here in Chicago.

A special thanks to Dan Houze, friend and colleague from Los Angeles, for forwarding me links to some of the moments at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, held last week in Anaheim.

Following the opening event, I was surprised to find myself in front of the camera for a quick "first reaction" to the event. Here is the link to the opening event itself and Sister Edith Prendergast's final opening speech. She retires soon.

And here is the short interview of the "first reaction." Others are part of this video, including David Haas, Cardinal Roger Mahony, John Angotti, Karla Carrillo, James Flaherty, and Harrison Crenshaw.

And here is a full-length video of the Mass that was called the "Australian Mass."

I hope you enjoy these snippets.

None of these can adequately capture the sense of universality and multi-culturalism that fills the large space, which holds nearly nine thousand Catholics. But I hope you get some flavor of the event.

I hope your weekend is a good one.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What a Congress in L.A.!

Thursday greetings from my desk here at WLP in Franklin Park, IL.

A thousand apologies for not having posted this past week. We were at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim and the time was packed with work, speaking, and activities. I spent a few days in the California desert after Congress and did not have internet access.

What a Congress it was! The most multi-cultural and faith-filled Congress certainly in my memory. WLP was well represented. I gave a talk entitled "You Have Put on Christ: Cultivating a Baptismal Spirituality in the Parish." Much material was drawn from my new book of the same name. There were about 300 in attendance and it seemed to go very well. It is always a treat to share some of my photos and videos of Italian baptisteries with Catholics; a real eye-opener for sure.

Here is what our booth space in the exhibit hall looked like when we arrived.

And, seven hours later . . .

WLP sponsored this year's art exhibit, which featured the art in Brother Mickey McGrath's new book, Dear Young People. Here is a photo of Mickey and me in front of one of the panels.

We were privileged also to sponsor Fr. Ed Foley, who gave two presentations focused on Eucharistic theology, drawn from his new resource we just released here at WLP, Encountering the Mystery: An Overview of Eucharistic Theology. Here is Fr. Ed in action.

We also sponsored James Wahl, whose delightful recording for children, Standing on the Rock, was a hit with many who attended his workshop.

We were so happy and proud once again to sponsor two Australian composers, Michael Mangan and Andrew Chinn, as well as Michael's wife Anne Frawley-Mangan. They bring such life to the celebration of the liturgy through music and movement. There was a much larger group from Australia at Congress this year, as one of the dioceses sponsored a group of young aboriginal people, whose dance, story-telling, and presence really made Congress feel so much more international. It was such a treasure to be a part of it all.

And, of course, WLP artist John Angotti wrote the theme song for the Congress this year; the composition was a team effort that included Meredith Augustin (whom WLP sponsored at Congress as well), Gary Daigle, and James T. Brown. To hear it sung by thousands in the Anaheim Arena was spectacular. It (See Through the Eyes of Love) is available on iTunes. John presented a workshop with Brother Mickey McGrath, focused on Pope Francis.

WLP author Mary Birmingham also presented two workshops, one focused on the Period of Purification and Enlightenment, the other on the training of catechists.

We also sponsored Rafael Moreno, who gave two workshops in Spanish. He is such a delight. His recordings are certainly worth a listen.

And we also sponsored the group formerly named "The Jacob and Matthew Band." The band has been reconfigured and now is known as WAL (We Are Loved). I attended the "Young Adult Mass" on Saturday night, at which they were the music ministers. It was so prayerful and exactly what I needed to become refocused on what really matters after a long and hectic day.

Just writing this re-cap reminds me of how blessed we are to have so many fine composers, artists, and authors in the WLP family. I am still on a spiritual high after Congress.

This was Sr. Edith Prendergast's (Director of the Office of Religious Education for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles) final Congress as the leader; she retires from the directorship in June. Her opening address, as usual, was inspiring and hope-filled.

Many thanks to Sister Edith and her fine staff for the amazing effort they expend to bring together over forty thousand Catholics for this event. I've said it before and I'll say it again, every Catholic, ordained and lay, involved in ministry of any kind, should attend the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress at least once! It is an experience one never forgets. I already can't wait until next year!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Co-Workers in the Vineyard of Tucson

Tuesday greetings. It has been a week since I have posted. I spent four days last week in beautiful Tucson, Arizona, speaking at their Co-Workers in the Vineyard Catholic Conference. I had not been there in many years and had forgotten how beautiful that area of our country truly is.

I had a chance to spend some time in their renovated Cathedral of Saint Augustine and, of course, took some photos. Here is a photo of the exterior:

Daily Mass was occurring while I was there:

Here is photo of the baptismal area and the font:

I found the gathering area/foyer to be most fascinating. Here is the carved wood relief above the main door of the cathedral:

How appropriate are the words in the center:

And the artwork along the inside walls is pretty remarkable. With the "Be doers of the word" quote, and these images, on either side of the cathedral's main exit door, one cannot help but sense that what happens inside this cathedral is meant to be taken outside, to make a difference.

The conference itself was wonderful; I enjoyed meeting the great people of the diocese of Tucson and the other dioceses represented.

Tomorrow I am off to Anaheim for the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. Seems like I am spending quite a bit of time in taxis, on trains, and aboard jets these days!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What a Morning!

Ah . . . just looked at my post yesterday and saw these words: "We are expecting heavy snow, ice, and freezing rain tonight into tomorrow morning; should be an interesting commute to work tomorrow morning!"

Well, I walked to my train in Chicago's West Loop this morning. The "Green Line" travels due west to Harlem Avenue, where my carpool colleagues pick me up for the rest of the trip into the office. Well, about a third of the of the way into the trip, the train lost power and slowly entered a station. No power. No heat. Ice had formed on the tracks, preventing the third rail from powering the train. And from the news reports, it looks like this was happening all over the city. Well, I was stuck for nearly two hours between stations on that disabled train. And I was one of the fortunate ones; others were calling into work and told that their pay would be docked because of the missed time at work. Others were meeting their kids. Some were trying to get to school.

Fortunately, they pulled another train up to ours eventually and it created a train long enough to walk through to reach a station.

Others weren't so lucky:

 All I could think of was what my mother used to say to us in similar situations when we were kids, "Offer it up."

It has not been a good transportation winter for yours truly. I hesitate to get into the cab at 4:00 A.M. on Thursday to head to the airport to then fly to Tucson via Denver. Today is one of those days when I ask myself, "Why did I ever move here from Florida? Why do I live in this God-forsaken tundra?!?"

Anyhoo, behind on my work now. And still . . . . .

. . . . . Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Tucson and Los Angeles

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

On Thursday, I am headed to Tucson, Arizona to speak at their diocesan faith formation conference. It will be good to get out of this cold. We are expecting heavy snow, ice, and freezing rain tonight into tomorrow morning; should be an interesting commute to work tomorrow morning!

We are gearing up for the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, which begins a week from Thursday in Anaheim.

WLP will be sponsoring the art exhibit, which is set up in the large hallway between the convention center arena and the exhibit hall. It will feature the art from Brother Mickey McGrath's new book, Dear Young People: Inspiration from Pope Francis for Everyone.

The display should be quite beautiful; some of the display materials arrived here today.

We are looking forward to sharing this art and the messages of Pope Francis with the thousands who will gather in Southern California next week. If you plan on being at Congress, please stop by the WLP booth (right inside the exhibit hall from the arena hallway) and say "Hey Jerry, gotta sing, gotta pray!"

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.