Monday, June 29, 2015

The Lost Sheep on Chicago Streets

Monday greetings from the rainy Midwest.

Last Thursday, I flew to El Paso, Texas, then drove over to the Las Cruces, New Mexico, to give RCIA presentations at the Southwest Liturgical Conference's Hispanic Musicians Conference. It was wonderful to be with approximately 200 musicians who are serving Hispanic communities so well in the Southwest and across the United States.

Here is a photo I took of the beautiful Organ Mountains near Las Cruces.

A highlight of my visit was reconnecting with two of my favorite people, the beautiful daughters of WLP's own Peter Kolar. Here I am with Chloe and Karla Kolar:

I arrived back in Chicago on Saturday night, took a nap for a few hours, then at 1:00 A.M. on Sunday was a part of Chicago's annual "L.A.T.E. Ride," a 30 mile bike ride through Chicago neighborhoods during the wee hours. I rode with WLP's own Keith Kalemba.

Unfortunately, about 150 of us (there were over two thousand riders) somehow missed a turn early on in the course and we ended up several miles away from the other riders. Keith came to the rescue and, like a good shepherd, led us safely through some not-so-friendly neighborhoods to an area where we met up with the other two thousand riders. He snapped this photo of #91 (that's me) at the end of the ride, just as the sun was beginning to rise.

I have to admit that I was tense during those several miles when our little group was separated from the larger group. They were under police protection at intersections and their ride was being monitored by course marshals; we were simply alone at 2:00 A.M. on a Sunday; not the best time in a big city like Chicago. And of course, I tried to make some connections to our faith as we tried our best to reconnect with the main fold. Sometimes it is simply unnerving when you lose your way, don't you think? But then there is inevitably someone in whom we can place our trust. I think the "lost riders" were grateful for our shepherd!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

WLP Wins Three Paul Revere Awards

Just so proud today of the team here at WLP. Not only are we serving the needs of the singing, praying, and initiating Church, we are doing so in an award-winning fashion.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Order of Mass: Side by Side Latin and English Version

Greetings on this first Monday of the Summer season.

When I arrived at the office this morning, I found two books in my mailbox. A few years ago, following the release of the new translation of The Roman Missal, several parishes asked us to publish the Order of Mass (Novus Ordo) in a side-by-side format in two languages, English and Latin. This was a painstaking process for our editors, music engravers, and designers, but their work has really paid off. These two books are quite beautiful. The one with the green cover has the Latin chant with modern notation. The one with the red cover has the Latin chant with traditional square-note notation. Both editions use modern notation for the chant for the English. On each page spread, Latin is on the left, English on the right.

Here's a sample page with the traditional notation for the Gloria in Latin.

And the contemporary notation for the Gloria in Latin.

All of the chants for the English language are those from The Roman Missal, Third Edition. All of the chants for the Latin language are those from the Missale Romanum.

For parishes that are celebrating the Novus Ordo Mass in Latin, these are excellent books from which members of the congregation can follow along and sing. I think they are also useful for people who might want to see the Latin as the English is being sung and prayed.

At WLP, we serve the needs of the singing, praying, and initiating Church. I believe that these books make a contribution to serving those needs. What do you think?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Re-Charging the Ministerial Batteries

Wednesday greetings. Here in the Midwest, we received a one day reprieve yesterday from the incessant rainy weather. Now, of course, it's raining again.

I wanted to share with you one last appeal for musicians to consider attending the Liturgical Music Institute to be held at Immaculate Conception Seminary on Long Island this summer.

Chris Ferraro, the institute's director, recently let us know that there are currently 20 musicians registered and that most are from outside of New York State. This should make for a wonderful mix of musicians from different pastoral situations around the country. I wrote extensively about the institute in an earlier blog post.

Summer is a great time for re-charging our ministerial batteries, so to speak. Tomorrow and Friday, I will be attending a gathering of RCIA practitioners and leaders from around the Midwest, "Christian Initiation Gathering: Re-imagining the Implementation." This is an invitation-only event and about thirty of us will be gathering at Saint Julie parish in Tinley Park, Illinois. The event is being sponsored by Liturgy Training Publications. I am looking forward to re-connecting with folks with whom I have had the privilege of working with and learning from over the past thirty years through our shared work with the North American Forum on the Catechumenate.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

All for Me! The Blackhawks' Greatest Fan

Tuesday greetings from the greatest city in the world.

As many of you may know, I am an avid, sort of over-the-top hockey fan. Having grown up in Boston and having the likes of Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito of the Boston Bruins as my heroes, hockey has always been in my blood. Then I moved to Florida where, at the time, there simply was no hockey. Then came the move to Chicago, where the team here was dismal at best. I went to a few games through the years in a half-empty stadium.

Then, about seven or eight years ago, I began walking down to the United Center, not far from where I live, about ten minutes before the games. I would pay ten dollars at the ticket window for a seat way, way up in the "300 level" and began to watch two very young nineteen year-old kids play hockey like I had not seen in Chicago: Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. In the past six years, counting the great win last night, "my" Chicago Blackhawks have now won three Stanley Cup Championships in six years.

You know, in our world of Church and publishing, and all the joys and disappointments that accompany that work, sometimes it's just good to stop and enjoy something that brings so much excitement and joy to life. For me, that's Blackhawks hockey.

Today, I am basking in it all; just grateful for the opportunity to have gone to some games this year and to have cheered on a group of guys who impress me by their skill, their humility, and their love for me, because I am their greatest fan.

Thank you, Chicago Blackhawks.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Keeping the Flock Protected

Monday greetings on this rainy Monday morning here in the Midwest.

We all awoke to the news this morning that Archbishop Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Anthony Piche of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis have resigned. Earlier this month, the Archdiocese was charged as a corporation for "turning a blind eye" to a string of reports about a priest who was later convicted of sexually abusing two boys.

I remember well waking up on that December morning in 2002, and tuning in to the "Today" show and saw the news report of the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. Who among us had ever experienced or could imagine the resignation of such a highly placed prelate? And, of course, I remember just a few years ago, waking up and turning on the local WGN news here in Chicago and watching a newscaster fumbling for the words to describe what had just occurred in Rome; that Pope Benedict XVI had announced his resignation. Talk about a highly placed prelate!

My reaction to the Nienstedt resignation? When shepherds can no longer protect the sheep and can no longer keep them all in the fold, it's time for a new shepherd. All kinds of other things run through my mind, especially as one who is himself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Protection is something that those who suffer abuse of any kind desperately seek. I thank God today that parents and most who care for the young are educating kids at a very early age about what is safe and what is not safe when it comes to encounters with adults. This kind of thing was just not talked about in the 1970's when I was growing up. While I find the fact that these bishops "turned a blind eye" to reports of children being harmed reprehensible, I think that resignation is the only course of action. And it simply makes sense that, in addition to punishment by the civil authorities, that the Church will levy punishment as well. We've seen this most recently with Pope Francis' newest tribunal which will deal with these bishops.

This can all be quite confounding, especially on the cusp of a Jubilee Year of Mercy. But we cannot deceive ourselves. Mercy does not mean ignoring the sin. Mercy does not mean turning some kind of blind eye toward injustice. We all know that God's mercy reaches the hearts of the repentant ones. Perhaps what we are seeing is the beginning of that repentance.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Intentional Hospitality: Old Saint Pat's: Wow

Friday greetings from the soggy Midwest; looks like another dreary weekend, weather-wise.

Last night I attended the new members event at my new parish, Old Saint Patrick's here in Chicago.

I had no idea what to expect. The email invitation I received asked that I meet Bridget in the church for the church tour at 5:30. Wasn't sure if there would just be a few of us or not. When I arrived, there were two others waiting in the church for the tour. By the time the tour started, there were over thirty of us. I found the tour to be fascinating and led by a well-informed parishioner who not only loved talking about the history of the parish and the artwork and design in the structure, but he also told us how much he loved the parish. A few photos I took during the tour:

Once the tour was completed, we were all led through a door behind the sanctuary into the rectory. There was a table there as we entered. Name tags, with our names already printed on them, were waiting for us. I thought this showed care for us. There is a difference between, "Please fill out a name tag" and "Please find your name tag on the table as you enter." This showed that there was planning and forethought. For me, this is a sign of intentional hospitality.

We were led into the front room of the rectory. There was a beer, wine, and soft drink bar set up there. Volunteer parishioners staffed the bar area and others came around with delicious appetizers. There was lots of conversation happening in the room; a great sense of just being comfortable. Here's a shot I took during the cocktail hour.

What struck me the most was the age of those in attendance. I would say that the median age was 31. Two couples brought their infants with them, a few of the women were expecting their first child. Most people there were either married or engaged. A couple I met was there because they are in an interfaith marriage (Jewish and Catholic) and Old Saint Pat's has programs just for interfaith couples.

After about an hour we were asked to move into the dining room, where four large tables were set for dinner. Beautiful centerpieces adorned every table. We ate on real plates, with real silverware, stemware, and cloth napkins. I just felt like this parish went out of its way to make me feel special. It was like being at a modest wedding reception. At each place setting was a menu. Here's a photo I took of that menu:

The pastor, Fr. Tom Hurley, circulated among us during the cocktail hour then, just before dinner, he welcomed us. He told us some of the "lore" about the rectory, including the fact that there had been a break-in and a murder in the early part of the twentieth century in the very room in which we were gathered. He is very easy-going and has a great sense of humor.

He told us that there had been a parishioner who was a local chef who had volunteered to prepare these monthly meals of welcome for a number of years but that he had recently moved out of the city. When "Zahra," a parishioner who had attended one of these welcome meals, heard that there was a need for a new chef, she stepped up and she and her mother (who is Muslim) began preparing these meals. Fr. Hurley then said the prayer of blessing over the meal and he joined our table for dinner. When he reached out to introduce himself, he did a double take at my name tag and asked if I were the Jerry Galipeau. I was a little embarrassed and the others at the table looked at me and said, "OK, Jerry, spill it. Who are you?" So I just told them a little bit about who I was and how much I have grown to feel comfortable and well fed as a "pew Catholic" at Old Saint Pat's. Happily, the conversation moved on from there.

The dinner was absolutely delicious. Not sure if you can read the entire menu, but the words at the bottom were most important, because what they conveyed is what I surely felt last night.

I was "lovingly served."

After dinner, Fr. Tom introduced Zahra, her mother, and the volunteers who had made the entire evening happen. Lots of applause and "thank you's." He told us that these monthly welcome dinners usually average between 35 and 50 people. He gave us a little more history about the parish then asked each one of us to stand, say who we were, and share a little about our connection to Old Saint Pat's. Most people had recently moved into the neighborhood. Others came to Old Saint Pat's when they were interviewing for jobs in the city and when they moved here, just gravitated to the parish because of the sense of warmth, hospitality, and energy they found here. A few had attended a retreat sponsored by the parish and felt drawn to worship here because they had made such good friends who worshiped at the parish while they were on the retreat. When my turn came, I told the folks where I worked and what I do. I told them about the blog and how there were many people anxious to read about my own experience of the evening. I asked for their verbal permission to include the photos I had taken (they all agreed). And I said what an extraordinary evening it was. "Look," I said, holding up the menu,"This is a Catholic parish and they had menus for us!"

I would imagine this was not an inexpensive affair. I guess I was waiting for some "hard sell" about sacrificial giving or about giving of our time, talent, and treasure, but there was none. Just a place that opened up its arms wide in welcome. I was made to feel like we in that room were the most cherished people in the parish. I plan to follow up with Bridget today to ask if they need any more information from me and if I will begin receiving my parish giving envelopes in the mail.

Almost every person who introduced themselves said how grateful they were for this special meal. Some had only been to Mass there a few times. Others expressed their gratitude for the music, for the way they felt welcomed on Sundays.

Intentional hospitality? I don't think it gets much more intentional than this.

Here's what I came away with:

1. A heart filled with gratitude for Old Saint Pat's

2. That intentional hospitality is just that: intentional

3. That intentional hospitality takes work but, more than that, it takes hearts and minds convinced that reaching out and throwing a banquet of welcome is worth every penny, every minute of time, and every ounce of energy expended by those great people last night

4. A tremendous sense of grace and relief that, after two years of roaming, I have finally found a new Catholic home

5. That, even though I am not actually a "prodigal son," I felt like I was right in the middle of Luke's Gospel last night: "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."


Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

How Does Your Parish Welcome New Members?

Thursday greetings on this King Kamehameha Day!

A few weeks ago, I decided to register at Old Saint Patrick's Church here in Chicago.

They have an area on their web site where a prospective parishioner can fill in some preliminary information, which I did.

A few days later, I received an invitation, via email, to attend a new parishioner gathering, which will take place tonight. It begins with a tour of the historic church at 5:30, then there is a cocktail reception and dinner with the pastor. I am looking forward to the evening and sharing my reflections with you.

It got me thinking. When I was growing up in the Boston Archdiocese, I don't ever remember seeing any overt signs of welcome for new or prospective parishioners. As a matter of fact, I knew some families that lived closer to a neighboring parish but their home address was actually in my own parish. It was an unwritten rule back then that people could attend Mass at another parish but that their envelopes needed to go to the parish in which their home was situated. And people that I know actually did this! It was "just the way it is."

My, how things have changed. When I arrived as music and liturgy director at Saint Mary Magdalen Parish in the mid-1980's in Altamonte Springs, Florida, I was surprised and gladdened to see how intentional that community was at reaching out to prospective members.

There was always a little movable "welcome cart" that was staffed by a person on the parish's welcome committee. It was situated in the covered walkway in front of the church, where most people gathered to chat before and after Mass. People who registered in the parish were invited to monthly welcome receptions. For a New Englander like me, this seemed kind of like something "those Protestants" did. Thank God for the experience in that parish because I became convinced that this kind of intentional hospitality and welcome is critical for growing parishes today.

Over the past two years, as a visitor to many parishes here in the Archdiocese of Chicago, I have seen little of this kind of intentionality. Most parishes where I have offered my tithe as a visitor did contact me via mail (because my address was on the check I left in the collection).

One parish (Saint Peter's in the Loop) continues to send me monthly newsletters, with an envelope included to donate to some organization or cause, but no invitation to officially join the parish.

Another (Holy Name Cathedral) sent me a solicitation for more funds.

A parish I was on the fence about - regarding joining - and attended pretty regularly (Notre Dame de Chicago) never once reached out in any way; one of the reasons, among others, why I decided not to join that parish.

Old Saint Pat's did send me a mailing about every six months, communicating some things and happenings in the parish.

I do not usually name parish names like this, but maybe our Chicago city parishes might need a bit of a push when it comes to intentional welcome and hospitality.

My question to you: how do you reach out to prospective parishioners? Visitors? How intentional is your parish about hospitality and welcome? What happens when someone officialy registers in your parish?

I am looking forward to tonight's session at Old Saint Pat's and will report tomorrow.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"He Has No More to Say:" Apparitions?

Wednesday has dawned sunny and warm here in Chicago. Got a new pair of "progressive lens" glasses last night; still trying to get used to this new world of head-moving at my computer.

I don't know if you read the recent reports about a soon-to-be-released statement from pope Francis about the purported apparitions at Medjugorje. Yesterday, he made some interesting statements during his homily. Here's how the Associated Press reported it:

In his homily, Francis dismissed those "who always need novelty in their Christian identity" and say: "But where are the visionaries who tell us today about 'The letter that the Madonna will send tomorrow at 4 p.m.?'" 
"This isn't Christian identity," he said. "God's last word is called Jesus and nothing more."

I remember hearing a bishop speak several years ago; his topic was focused on apparitions. Apparently there was a so-called "seer" in his diocese who could predict exactly when the Blessed Virgin Mary would appear to her in her backyard. The bishop quoted the eleventh chapter of Hebrews:
"Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen."  He went on to explain to us that these so-called "apparitions" were not in keeping with our understanding of faith, for faith is all about what we hope for; the movement toward believing in something or someone we cannot see." His conclusion was that those who "see" Mary are exhibiting something that is not of the faith at all.

This has stuck with me over the years. I think this is what Pope Francis was squarely addressing in his homily yesterday. The Pope was using the Catechism of the Catholic Church quite poignantly in his address. Here's what the catechism has to say:

65. . . . 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. St. John of the Cross, among others, commented strikingly on Hebrews 1:1-2:

In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in his sole Word - and he has no more to say . . . because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty

The Catechism continues by speaking about "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by Church authority, but that these do not belong to the deposit of faith nor do they "improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation."

I was at a Catholic conference recently in the American Southwest and there was a woman who had a booth in the exhibit hall. She receives daily messages from the Blessed Virgin Mary and shares these messages with people. I was surprised to see so many people at the booth. It makes me wonder when people seem to want some sense of complete surety when it comes to their faith lives, some "novelty," as Saint John of the Cross and Pope Francis put it.

I have often thought, or dreamed perhaps, of a day when God will speak directly to me; some booming voice to give me some new direction or some answers to my life's many questions. That bishop I referred to earlier said that when this happens, faith disappears. So, when I think about it further, I realize that God has spoken directly and that speech included just one Word. I just need to remember to try to live my life in a way that gets closer to that Word each and every day. This is tough sometimes, because in a world where we can find just about any bit of information through our on line searches, in a world where money seems to be able to buy just about any convenience, we've got to to realize that nurturing this relationship with Christ is something that takes work. And these "novelties," to me at least, just get in the way.

Any thoughts out there about Medjugorje and what you think the Pope will have to say? What do you think about these so-called "visionaris" and these "apparitions?"

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Living the Word: A Yearly Treasure

Tuesday greetings from Chicago; there is a haze settling over this part of the Midwest, apparently caused by the smoke emanating from wildfires in Canada.

While in Baton Rouge over the weekend, I led a "breaking open the word" session with four of the participants. Since this is not something I do regularly, I needed some help in my preparations. I turned to one of WLP's resources to help prepare for the session.

Living the Word is a book that brings the reader through the Sundays and Solemnities of the Church year. All three scripture readings for each day are included, followed by a short and accessible exegetical section "Understanding the Word." The current year's "Understanding the Word" section is written by Sr. Laurie Brink, O.P, Ph.D, who is an associate professor of New Testament Studies at Catholic Theological Union here in Chicago and the "Reflecting on the Word" section is by Deacon Frederick Bauerschmidt. For the 2015-16 edition, Sr. Laurie is joined by Fr. Paul Colloton, OSFS, D.Min. A series of questions is then posed to those reflecting on the word. Each Sunday or Solemnity's entry concludes with "Living and Praying with the Word." Each year, the material is freshly written. This is one of WLP's greatest and most helpful resources for the Church.

I have been perusing a proof of next year's book and am really delighted - and challenged - by the fine writing.

We had enough copies of the current year's edition in our warehouse here in Franklin Park, so I was able to give a free copy to everyone who attended the "RCIA Days" in Baton Rouge. I loved watching the delight on the faces of these initiation ministers as they scanned the book. "Wow, this is going to be really helpful for me as I prepare to share the word with my catechumens and candidates. I've never heard of it." Of course, the "I never heard of it" is what prompted me to share this post with you today. This book is simply a yearly treasure, perfect for these sessions with catechumens and candidates, for small Christian communities, for individual reflection, really for everyone looking to enrich their lives with the sacred Word of God.

Thanks for listening.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Baton Rouge: Simply Wonderful

Monday greetings on a bright and sunny day here in the Midwest.

Simply put, I had a wonderful weekend in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I presented a parish mission at Saint George Parish in that diocese a few years back and so appreciated the warmth and hospitality of the people. And I felt that same thing over the weekend. The "RCIA Days" event was held at their beautiful diocesan pastoral center.

This is a diocese that had sponsored an RCIA institute every other year for the past two decades, presented by the now shuttered North American Forum on the Catechumenate. Like many (arch)dioceses, Baton Rouge is looking for ways to train new RCIA ministers and sustain the training for seasoned initiation ministers. These days this past weekend was the spark to get that new impetus going.

The folks in attendance were so eager to learn. Some had decades of RCIA experience and several were brand new to the process.

We began on Friday night with a "light supper," Louisiana style! The Jumbalaya was simply scrumptious! Then I launched into two presentations, one on the history, principles, and structure of the RCIA, then one on the Church's vision for the catechumenate as espoused by the Second Vatican Council. Discussion was quite lively when we talked about the sequence of the initiation sacraments for children of catechetical age; I knew from this discussion that this was going to be a great few days with people unafraid to ask questions!

The Diocese wanted an experiential component to our days together so, on Saturday morning, we celebrated the Liturgy of the Word for Sunday's Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, with Fr. Tom Ranzino, a dear friend and Vicar General of the Diocese, presiding and preaching. After the homily, four "model catechumens" were dismissed with me, the one who would lead a reflection on the scriptures. We did this in a "fishbowl" set-up in the meeting room. After the reflection and a "blessing of catechumens" within the group, the entire group of participants reflected on the entire morning. It was quite effective, showing people this kind of hands-on experience.

After lunch, we talked about what the four pillars of catechesis can mean in a catechumenal setting; my hope was to get people thinking outside the "teaching" box in a more expansive view of catechesis and Christian formation. Then we spoke about the formation of catechumenate teams, then it was time for final discussions and questions.

This process really worked quite well; kudos to the RCIA core team for the diocese and to the diocesan leaders for creating this opportunity for their dedicated people. Any diocesan folks out there who would like to talk about something like this for your diocese, please contact me!

When the weekend work was concluded, I really felt exhilarated; I get such energy and hope from these kinds of gatherings. Seeing the RCIA so alive in a diocese really shows me that the spirit of the Second Vatican Council is alive and well.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

NPM Convention in Grand Rapids: No Better Place for a Pastoral Musician

It was April 23, 1980. I was a senior at Saint John's Seminary College in Boston. I was the principal organist for the college seminary and I was looking forward to graduating in a few weeks and moving on to theology school to continue my seminary studies.

Another musician, David Costa (now Fr. David Costa in the Diocese of Fall River, MA) and I were invited to attend a convention that was being held in Providence, Rhode Island from April 23 to 25. I didn't know very much at all about the sponsoring organization for the convention. David and I headed to Providence for what would be my very first convention of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM). It is so hard to believe that this was thirty-five years ago!

I was twenty-one years old. I had been studying organ at Saint Paul's in Cambridge, MA, and piano performance at Boston College. I had been playing at Masses since I was in the fifth grade. My family had a rich musical heritage. It was always a struggle for me when I was in the seminary, wondering if I was being called to be a musician or a priest. At that NPM convention during those Spring days in 1980, I knew I was a musician at the core, still trying to figure out how all of this stuff in my life would eventually fit together.

I remember vividly the convention's opening event in a large auditorium. I remember singing with more musicians than I have ever seen in one place. One of the most vivid memories was singing at the magnificent Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence. The organ had been installed to the left of the sanctuary. I remember Alexander Peloquin playing that beautiful instrument at the convention. Some photos I grabbed from the web:

At that convention, there was a new collection of liturgical music that was premiered. It was the collection "On Eagle's Wings" by Father Michael Joncas. David and I were commuting back and forth from the seminary to the convention and we hurried back on the final day so that we could get back to the seminary in time for Mass at 5:30. After communion, I sat at the piano and David stood next to me and I played and he sang "On Eagle's Wings." It was one of those rare musical moments; everyone in that chapel was transfixed by the simple beauty of the piece.

Folks, I know that I would never be the musician I am, would never be in the position I find myself in, if it hadn't been for my attendance at NPM conventions over the past 35 years. Each and every one of these conventions helped me as a pastoral musician, helped shape me as a theologian, and gave me the confidence I needed to pursue my musical and theological studies. Having now presented three keynote presentations at NPM conventions, I feel honored to be a part of this organization; I am still a dues-paying member.

For those of you who have not attended in awhile, please consider joining your musical colleagues in Grand Rapids this summer for the annual convention. Here is the information. And if you are or know someone who is new to the ministry of sacred music, please urge them to attend. There simply is no better place for a pastoral musician than an NPM convention!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When We Sing

Tuesday greetings on a beautifully sunny day here in the Midwest.

Here in the Catholic music publishing world, these months leading up to the annual convention of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians are exciting in so many ways.

Many resources to assist parish musicians, some worked on over many years, are now arriving from the various printing houses WLP works with to produce the best for the Church.

One of those resources arrived in the past few days, Christine Jordanoff's When We Sing: Simple Techniques for Conducting Children's Choirs.

The description on WLP's web site says it all:

"For almost 30 years, Christine Jordanoff has been shaping the voices of young singers of the Children's Festival Chorus of Pittsburgh. Now, much to the delight of children's music school teachers and directors everywhere, she releases this new book. Through practical and time-tested lessons and examples, this book focuses on the musical, vocal, and liturgical development of children and includes video demonstrations with actual chorus singers. Intended for children in grades 3-6, this book is an absolute treasure for anyone who works with children's choirs."

Several months ago, I had the chance to take a look at the video clips of Christine working with her singers; the resource includes these videos I only wish I had had this book and the included DVD when I was conducting children's choirs. I know now that the sound they produced would have been so much better. I would have been a better conductor and they would have known more of their own musical potential. This is a much needed resource in our parishes and schools today.

Thanks for listening to this little WLP commercial today.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The "Joining Journey" Begins

Monday greetings from the home office here in Franklin Park.

Yesterday morning, when I checked the presider's schedule on the web site of Old Saint Patrick's Church, I noticed that Archbishop Blase Cupich was listed as the celebrant for the 9:30 A.M. Mass. I found it odd because at the previous Sunday's Mass, there was no mention of a visit from our new Archbishop.

I arrived about twenty minutes early to a nearly packed church. As a matter of fact, later at Mass, the pastor told us that there were over 200 people in the hall in the basement, where the Mass was being live-streamed.

Our pastor told us that he received a text message from the Archbishop's secretary on Wednesday, saying that the Archbishop's schedule had suddenly opened up on Sunday morning and he was wondering if he might celebrate the 9:30 Mass at Old Saint Pat's. Kudos to the parish for pulling all of this together on a few days' notice.

The choir was quite large and the music was superb; I just love having lots of people around me singing away. And it didn't hurt that much of the music was published by WLP! And to watch Archbishop Cupich enthusiastically singing Ed Bolduc's setting of the Gloria from his Mass of Saint Ann really made this publisher smile!

The archbishop is a strong celebrant. When he chanted the prayers, he did so with conviction; he has a pleasing and strong singing voice. He prayed the preface (which, at least to me, is worded more like a theological treatise than a preface, but this is one of those so-called "idea feasts," isn't it?) quite well. His preaching was challenging. Do you ever have those experiences when it seems that the homilist somehow knows the nitty-gritty of your life and he seems to preach right into your own situation? Yesterday was one of those days. I am struggling currently with ways that the Lord is calling me to embrace what the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy will mean in my own personal life. Archbishop Cupich helped me along that challenging road yesterday and for that I am grateful.

I did receive an email from a member of the parish staff this week, inviting me to a new parishioner information evening, which consists of a tour of the historic church, a cocktail reception, then dinner with the pastor. And I am free that evening; certainly a nice way to reach out in welcome to those who are interested in joining.

I will keep you all posted as this "joining journey" unfolds.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.