Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Songs with Questions and Answers

Greetings during this Second Week of Easter.

On Sunday, I found myself in my usual "spot" at Old Saint Patrick's at the 8:00 Mass. No standing in line as I did for that Mass on Easter Sunday. My view:



We sang a contemporary song during the communion procession. I am not going to name it nor the composer. When one gets into the singing at Mass like me, I pay attention to what I am singing. This particular song had a basic refrain that summoned us to sing to the Lord. I was thrown by the verses, because they were all questions and to me, begged for an answer. When I returned to my pew after receiving communion, I didn't pick up the worship aid because I just didn't understand why the verses were asking so many questions.

When I came into work on Monday, I looked for the song in a hymnal and found that it was only at the end of the third verse of the song that the questions were answered. I shared my experience with some folks here who serve as musicians in their parishes on the weekend. One person told me that they had sung the same hymn at Mass on Sunday and "every single time we have sung it we never have gotten to that third verse." We did sing the third verse at Old Saint Patrick's on Sunday, and I should have followed along and sung the entire song for sure.

It got me thinking about hymns and songs that actually unfold a story line, or whose verses unfold a particular theological construct. I remember a Sunday a long, long time ago, Trinity Sunday as a matter of fact, when my parish sang the hymn O God, Almighty Father as the "recessional hymn." Only two verses were sung, so that Sunday we only recognized two personsFather and Sonof the Holy Trinity and by skipping the third verse completely omitted the Holy Spirit! And on Trinity Sunday, no less!

As an organist and pianist, I sometimes get lost in the accompaniment, or in my own interludes and flourishes or key changes and I can lose the meaning of the words set to that accompaniment. Sunday's experience reminded me again, as a "pew Catholic" to give the entire song a chance before making my judgments. Live, worship, and learn.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, April 21, 2017

"I Don't Leave Home Without It!"

Happy Friday of the Easter Octave.

During this past Easter Sunday's homily, Fr. Ed Foley invited us to ponder what "rehearsing the resurrection" looks like in our daily lives. How, for instance, how do we make the resurrection of Christ present to others?

Always on the look-out for ways to re-interpret what most would consider "nice" behavior, I discovered one of those little "rehearsing the resurrection" moments this morning and it came from one of our WLP customers.

This came from a woman who has a single subscription to our Seasonal Missalette. She had sent in her check with her recent stub from the bill. Our accounting department "upstairs" processes these payments quickly and efficiently, unless there is something out of the ordinary. If that happens, the payment and the stub are sent down to us here at WLP.

This morning, I was handed an "out of the ordinary" payment. Attached to the stub and the check, which was written for an amount that exceeded the billed amount, was a hand-written note. Here's a photo of the note:


The note reads:

10 April 2017
To whom it may concern:
Thank you for being so prompt in sending me my missalette!! I don't leave home without it. The balance is a small donation to your coffee fund.
God Bless -
Love -
(Name)

This woman brought joy into our hearts, as well as a little donation to a coffee fund that we should perhaps start around here! For me, at least, she accomplished a little "resurrection rehearsal."

Happy Easter!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Easter Sunday: On the Avenue

Easter greetings on this Thursday of the octave.

So, continuing with my different Easter Triduum . . .

Attending the Easter Vigil at my parish was just not possible for me this year.

I have not been at an Easter Sunday morning Mass in a parish since I left full-time parish ministry in 1999. I decided to attend the 8:00 A.M. Easter Sunday morning Mass, thinking that the later Masses would be close to impossible to attend, because of the crowds. I arrived at the parish at 7:40. The 7:00 A.M. Mass was still going on in the church. When I walked around the corner from the parking lot, this is what I saw.




The line of people waiting to enter the church for the 8:00 A.M. was over a city block long and wrapped around another city block! I wondered if I were even going to get into the building. Luckily, even though the church was nearly full, I was able to get a seat in the fourth pew.

Fr. Ed Foley was the celebrant and homilist; just superb all the way around. And the music was, in a word, awesome. The final communion hymn soared and the cantor ad libbed as it built and it was a taste of heaven for me. I was so grateful for my parish and the Lord was truly risen in my heart once again.

When I walked out of the church, the lines for the 9:30 Mass were even longer than those for the 8:00.



The city closes the street to vehicular traffic on Easter Sunday. As I walked back toward my car, I thought I heard Judy Garland and Fred Astaire's voices. Sure enough, the parish had placed a set of speakers on the sidewalk and "Easter Parade" was being played. Two horse-drawn wagons were close by for those families that wanted their own "on the avenue" Easter experience. Only here it wasn't "on the avenue, Fifth Avenue," it was "on the avenue, Des Plaines Avenue." What a parish! The whole thing was such a hoot!

So, my different Easter Triduum drew to a close. It was a wonderful experience in so many ways; the highlight for me was the Good Friday walk for peace with Cardinal Cupich. I am attending a gala this evening, a fundraiser for Mundelein Seminary. I will seek out Cardinal Cupich and thank him personally for leading us on Friday and for the ways the Archdiocese is addressing the violence in Chicago.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Way of the Cross in Chicago

Easter greetings on this Wednesday of the Octave.

I posted yesterday about my different experience of Holy Thursday this year. Well, Good Friday was also different for me as well.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know about my frustration with the lack of attention paid here in Chicago to the rising violence and the unfathomable amount of murders that occur here nearly each day. The Archdiocese of Chicago, under the leadership of our shepherd, Cardinal Cupich, has launched an initiative to address this critical issue. Many of you know that I wrote a letter expressing my own frustration to Chicago's mayor a few months ago. I wrote the letter in late December and have yet to receive an acknowledgment or reply.

Part of Cardinal Cupich's initiative was the Archdiocese of Chicago's sponsorship of an interfaith, intercultural walk for peace on Good Friday throughout the streets of Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, an area where many murders occur. So, rather than heading to a physical church building on Good Friday, I headed to the Englewood neighborhood, where I joined thousands of others who made up my Good Friday "church" that day. We prayed the Stations of the Cross, stopping at different points along the way.


Each station began with the traditional "We adore you , O Christ . . ." Then, at each station, a litany of names was read. These were the names of people murdered in the City of Chicago since January 1 of this year. So many were men between the ages of 18 and 32. We heard the names of children, some as young as two months, kids who were caught in the crossfire of gang violence.


At different times, we heard testimony from those whose lives are directly related to the violence that engulfs our city: a mother of a victim, a police officer, an EMT.


I was so moved when residents of the neighborhood came out on their porches or front stoops and waved at us as we walked by, thanking us for our support. We sang as we walked: blacks, whites, Hispanics, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Rev. Jesse Jackson walked the whole walk.



I walked with a prominent member of Chicago's Catholic community and I asked him why representatives from the city's leadership were not in attendance. "Where is the mayor?" I asked. He told me that Cardinal Cupich told him that he had invited the mayor, whose response was something like, "I don't think this whole thing is a good idea; it's just going to draw attention to the issue." This made my resolve to continue to do whatever I can to support the Cardinal's initiative all the stronger. Then I asked this prominent Chicago Catholic, himself a priest, if he was leading or attending a Good Friday service later in the day in a church in the city. He simply said, "No, this is my service for today."

Jesus falls three times. Jesus takes up his cross. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. Jesus is nailed to the cross. Jesus dies on the cross. All of these things are happening in this neighborhood, across the country, and across our fragile world every single day.

The Way of the Cross last Friday moved me deeply.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Different Holy Thursday

Greetings during this Easter Octave of joy.

My experience of the great three days this year was a little different for me. I had a very long delay in a late afternoon dental appointment on Holy Thursday and got caught in horrible Chicago traffic, so was not able to get back to the city in time to attend the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper. However, I did meet up with a colleague from WLP and his son, who were visiting the altars of repose in several downtown churches, particularly the Polish parishes. So my Holy Thursday observance this year included visits to four downtown Chicago parishes. Here are some photos I took of the various altars of repose in those churches, Saint Stanislaus, Holy Trinity, and Saint Mary of the Angels.




If you are ever looking for a pilgrimage during a future Holy Week, consider visiting Chicago. The areas around these churches on Holy Thursday night are loaded with buses; people from the surrounding suburbs travel from their own parishes to visit these city parishes. Some of the parishes provide information about the parish as part of their hospitality outreach during the night. Here's what the front steps of one church looked like as the folks came off their buses:


Tomorrow, I'll share what was a remarkable Good Friday experience with you.

Happy Easter!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

As Lent Draws to a Close . . .

Lent will draw to a close in just a few hours.

This has not been a particularly easy Lent for me. My family has been dealing with some serious health issues and early this week saw the passing of my cousin, Richard.

You know, when you are the only "kid" who moved away from the family, moments of crisis are doubly hard. You feel not only the pain of those who are suffering so far away and the grief that comes with death, but the distance makes it even more difficult.

As we enter these three days, may I ask that you keep my family and me in your prayers? We need to draw closer to the paschal mystery this Triduum. And we need God's healing and mercy more than ever.

Happy Easter to you all.

Jerry

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

For All the Saints by J. Michael Thompson: Every Parish Should Have This Resource!

Greetings to all on this Wednesday of Holy Week.

I am excited to announce that a new, very helpful, resource arrived in our warehouse here at WLP this week, J. Michael Thompson's For All the Saints: Hymns for the Saints of the Roman Missal in the United States. Click on the link and check it out, then click on "Sample Pages" to see some of these texts and their rich imagery.



Up until now, these marvelous texts have been only available to our WLP license holders on our web site. In order to be more faithful to our mission here, we wanted to find a way to make them more available to the singing and praying Church. We decided to publish all of these hymn texts in one volume. The book contains a CD-ROM, which allows for easy download of the text-only files. If, however a WLP annual license holder uses these hymns, we request that the use be reported.

A few paragraphs from J. Michael Thompson from his introduction to the book:

"The calendar of the saints makes present to us the 'great cloud of witnesses' that surround us, encouraging us to continue running the race of our faith until all have completed the course set before us, and we join that 'great throng beyond number' gathered before the throne of the Lamb."

"The relevance of these texts will be obvious for use in parochial grade schools, religious communities that have common celebrations of the Liturgy of the Hours, and individual parishes, which can find here a specific hymn to personalize for their parish 'feast of title.' "

Imagine, every saint honored in The Roman Missal has a freshly composed text for their feast day!



This is one of those occasions where I can safely and honestly say that every parish should have a copy of For All the Saints by J. Michael Thompson!

Thanks for listening to today's commercial.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Archdiocese of Chicago Addresses the City's Violence

Wednesday greetings. It's pouring rain here in Chicago. Supposed to get snow tomorrow? One word: Yuck!



I was so pleased to read about Cardinal Cupich's initiative to address the violence here in Chicago, blessed and supported by Pope Francis. You may remember a blog post I wrote in December about this issue. "Hope" is at the centerpiece of Pope Francis' letter of support.

Here's the article from America Magazine.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Dissent and Dissonance

Thursday greetings from a still cold and soggy Midwest. Our offices are not far from the Des Plaines River, which has been rising steadily over the past few days. We are all just looking forward to seeing some sunshine soon.

As a Catholic and as a human person on this planet, I am becoming more and more concerned with the decisions of the Trump administration, particularly regarding the protection, or should I say un-protection, of the environment. And I have been so proud of our bishops, pope Francis, and particularly Cardinal Turkson for not mincing words about the issue.

Here's an excerpt from a Reuter's news report today:

"This is a challenge for us," Cardinal Peter Turkson, the pope's point man for the environmental, immigration and development, when asked about Trump's executive order dismantling Obama-era climate change regulations and his immigration policies.

"Fortunately, in the United States, there are dissenting voices, people who are against Trump's positions," said Turkson, who is from Ghana and was one of the driving forces behind the pope's 2015 encyclical letter on environmental protection.

"This, for us, is a sign that little by little, other positions and political voices will emerge and so we hope that Trump himself will reconsider some of his decisions," Turkson told reporters at a breakfast meeting.

The pope and the Vatican, which has diplomatic relations with more than 180 countries and a permanent observer status at the United Nations, have strongly backed the international Paris Agreement in 2015 to curb world temperatures.

"We as a Church, are full of hope that (Trump's positions) will change," Turkson said, adding that he hoped "the president realizes that there sometimes can be a dissonance between reality and things said during the campaign."

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Why?

On Friday evening I participated (in a small way) in the performance of Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ at my home parish, Old Saint Patrick's here in Chicago. I was asked to give a two minute personal reflection on "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" The Haymarket quartet, a newly formed string quartet here in the city, performed the work. David Moss, viola, is a member of our parish and plays regularly at Sunday Mass. This was my view.


I wanted to share my reflection with you.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

For over two millennia, through the works of poets, authors, scripture scholars, and theologians, we have been drawn into the mystery of the incarnation. Simply put, God became human and dwelt among us.

Too often we candy-coat the incarnation by focusing on the fleshly existence of Jesus of Nazareth; he caught colds just like we do; he got sunburns just like we do; he got stomach aches just like we do.

The words from Psalm 22, uttered by Jesus as he hung upon the cross, however, for me at least, are at the heart of what God-becoming-human—the incarnation—is truly all about. For here, from the cross in his last moments of earthly life, Jesus joins the throng of humans who came before him and who would come after him as he utters the single most powerful word in his cry, a word that originates in the deepest recesses of our hearts: “Why?” In that utterance, he becomes as human as any human can become; he enters the everlasting why.

My God, my God, why did my youngest sister Joanne’s multiple sclerosis have to lead to such an early and untimely death? My God, my God, why are innocent children dying in the Syrian conflict every day? My God, my God, why have you forsaken us, your beloved children? Why?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Call From the USCCB About This Morning's Post

Monday afternoon greetings.

A few hours after my blog post this morning, I received a call from the publishing arm of the USCCB regarding my post. The person who called me was inquiring about the post. She was cordial and sincere, asking me about what I said in the post. I explained that the use of the term "program" to describe the RCIA can send a confusing message; the term can define the RCIA as programmatic, another parish program, something that begins in September and ends in April or May. I explained that this kind of terminology is not used in the Rite itself; the Rite is clear that this is about an individual's journey of conversion to Christ; a journey that can never be neatly fit into a program; "the rite is suited to a spiritual journey." She apologized for not realizing that. She told me that she was new to the marketing department and that others had said that Journey to the Fullness of Life could be a useful tool for parishes. She admitted that it was not a timely resource and that the email should have described that fact in more detail. I was blunt and said that I expect more from the bishops' conference. She agreed.

Folks, I honestly felt that this was a moment of catechesis about the Rite and I was so grateful for the phone call and for this marketer's openness to learn and to enter into a dialogue. That really is the only way that the implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults will be be furthered in our parishes; through an honest exchange and dialogue.

So, be kind in your thoughts about the USCCB; a new person is on board trying to do her best to serve the Church; just a little slippage this morning.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

USCCB and the RCIA "Program": Really?


Monday greetings. Cool and soggy in the Midwest; looking forward to seeing the sun!

I just received a rather odd email from the USCCB. The subject line reads: "Assess and Improve Your RCIA Program." Of course I bristled at the labeling of the RCIA as a "program," especially from our bishops' conference. But I was intrigued as well, wondering what kind of new RCIA resource the bishops are releasing. It was even more surprising when I opened the email and found an image of the cover of Journey to the Fullness of Life."



Beneath the image were these words: "A report on the strengths and weaknesses as well as areas for growth of the RCIA program in the United States." Then, of course, the yellow "Order Now" button.

Apparently the publishing arm of the conference is trying to get rid of some back titles. The email should have explained that this "report" was based on a study done in 1997 and released in the year 2000. So the information gathered is twenty years old and the report is seventeen years old. A bit of false advertising, if you ask me. Sure, there are still some useful things in the report, but if someone thinks this is new information, they are in for a rude awakening. The USCCB should know better, or at least warn potential readers.

Monday morning rant now concluded; thanks for listening.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.



Friday, March 24, 2017

No, I Didn't Sing

There I stood at the United Center here in Chicago last night, awaiting the start of the Blackhawks game against the Dallas Stars.

At these games, shortly before the national anthem is sung by a strong tenor, three United States servicemen or women are led onto the ice. Last night, there was a veteran of World War II in a wheelchair, and two young men in uniform. Cheers erupt wildly from the stands as they are introduced to the crowd, deservedly so. These are people who protect our nation from harm. Then the opening chords of the introduction to the anthem are played by the organist and the anthem begins. Several years ago, in May of 1985, before a particularly tense playoff game against the Edmonton Oilers, a new "tradition" was born in Chicago. Blackhawks fans clapped and cheered during the entire anthem, a tradition that continues to this day. The fervor in the arena is palpable throughout the singing of the anthem. I must admit that I have been caught up in that fervor.

As I stood there last night, several thoughts came to me. The first is one that has has gnawed at me for years. Why is the national anthem played or sung before sporting events that have nothing to do with any type of national pride or history? Why, for instance, are servicemen and service women paraded out before the crowds; what does any of this have to do with the fact that we are about to watch a hockey game? The other thought, of course, was the one about which I blogged yesterday. At a time when many of our country's leaders, including the president, are working for their own gain and neglecting the poor and disenfranchised, are turning their backs on those who seek a better life within our borders (many of whom are fleeing unimaginable horror in their lands of birth), are inciting fear, racism, and bigotry; why should I join my voice and sing an anthem that seems to celebrate the downward spiral this country is inexorably caught in?

So, last night, I stood there and I did not sing. I clapped quietly. Amid the cacophony that assaulted my ears, I thought about the good that people here in the United States still do, despite the direction our country is being taken. I thought about my family's struggle with chronic illness and the little kindnesses we extend to one another. I thought about the fact that I can worship freely at my parish, Old Saint Patrick's. I thought about the efforts many of my colleagues here at WLP have done to assist the refugee family from Afghanistan that we are trying to help resettle here.

I came to the conclusion that I cannot let this president and those who follow him define who we are as a country. In my own small worlds of influence and just sheer day-to-day living, it is my responsibility to define who we are as a country.

I hope, some day, to begin singing the anthem again.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I Just Can't Sing It Anymore

As many of you know, I am an avid hockey fan. I enjoy watching the Chicago Blackhawks and being at the United Center in person to watch a game is both thrilling and an emotional release for me.

On Tuesday evening of this week, I was at the United Center to cheer on the Chicago Blackhawks; they were hosting the Vancouver, Canada Canucks. When a Canadian team plays the Blackhawks at the United Center, the pre-game festivities include the singing of the Canadian national anthem, O Canada, followed by the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner. Truth be told, I just love the Canadian anthem and I get emotional each time I join in singing it. When I sing the words, "my home and native land," I recall my ancestors who emigrated to the United States from Canada. I am French-Canadian by ethnicity and ancestry through and through. I have come to love Canada, chiefly because of the marvelous people I have met and befriended in my many trips there in the last thirty years. They embody hospitality.

When the festivities on Tuesday evening turned to the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner, I began to join in the singing, just as I had done with the Canadian anthem. But then I stopped singing. I just couldn't sing it anymore. It was as if the entire election cycle, and the ensuing months since President Trump's election, came crashing down around me. I thought about the Afghanistan refugee family that we have helped sponsor here in Chicago. I thought about my ancestors who were welcomed into the United States as immigrants in the last century. I thought about the wonderful craftsmen, all Polish immigrants, who are currently remodeling my home; I thought about the great pride they have in their craft. 

I just couldn't sing it anymore. I thought about "the wall." I thought about the fear that our president has planted in the hearts of too many; a fear that is based on non-Christian principles of exclusion and alienation. I thought about relatives and friends who have been duped into believing in someone who treats women like trash. I thought about how proud I have been of this country and how quickly that pride has been eroded. Folks, I hate the fact that I have to say these things, and this blog is probably not the place to do so; I have rarely, if ever, "talked politics" here. For someone who's "gotta sing," I found my reaction on Tuesday night deeply troubling.

A few minutes ago, I came across the statement on immigration just issued by the bishops of the United States. It made me want to sing a song of thanksgiving for their prophetic voices, because I've "gotta sing" about something in these very troubling days for our country. Please read the statement and let's all do what the bishops ask us to do. Here you go:

The word of God is truly alive today. "When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt" (Lev. 19:33-34).

To live as a people of God is to live in the hope of the resurrection. To live in Christ is to draw upon the limitless love of Jesus to fortify us against the temptation of fear. Pray that our engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues may bring peace and comfort to those most affected by current and proposed national policy changes.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life. They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future. As shepherds of a pilgrim Church, we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: "We are with you." They may also be a family seeking security from an increased threat of extremist violence. It is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity.

Intense debate is essential to healthy democracy, but the rhetoric of fear does not serve us well. When we look at one another do we see with the heart of Jesus? Within our diverse backgrounds are found common dreams for our children. Hope in the next generation is how the nation will realize its founding motto, "out of many, one." In doing so, we will also realize God's hope for all His children: that we would see each other as valued sisters and brothers regardless of race, religion or national origin.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14), strengthens us to bring our words to life. How might we, as Catholics and in our own small way, bring our words of solidarity for migrants and refugees to life?

1. Pray for an end to the root causes of violent hatred that force mothers and fathers to flee the only home they may have known in search of economic and physical security for their children.

2. Meet with members of your parish who are newcomers, listen to their story and share your own. Hundreds of Catholic parishes across the country have programs for immigrants and refugees both to comfort them and to help them know their rights. It is also important to reach out in loving dialogue to those who may disagree with us. The more we come to understand each other's concerns the better we can serve one another. Together, we are one body in Christ.

3. Call, write or visit your elected representative and ask them to fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.

As Pope Francis said, "To migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey towards our heavenly homeland." 

If you are offended in any way by what I wrote today, please know that I respect your own opinions and ask you to respect mine. I just couldn't keep silent, since our bishops called us to "reach out in loving dialogue."

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Training, Last-Wording, and Being Fed and Challenged

Wednesday greetings.

The past few days have been busy ones here. One of my responsibilities here at J.S. Paluch/World Library Publications is to facilitate the corporate portion of the training of our J.S. Paluch Advertising Sales Executives. These are the wonderful people who sell advertising to businesses for parish bulletins. Parish bulletins are printed by the J.S. Paluch Company here in Franklin Park, Illinois and at our printing facilities in California and Florida. The revenue generated by these advertisements in parish bulletins pays for the printing and shipping of the parish bulletin, so the parish receives them from us free of charge. We had a great two days of training together.

I have been invited to be a very small part of a concert this coming Friday evening at my parish, Old Saint Patrick's here in Chicago. The renowned Haymarket String Quartet will be performing Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ. As part of the performance, they have asked seven of us to give a less-than-two-minute reflection on these seven "words." I was assigned these: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" I am a little nervous; two of the others offering reflections are Dr. Martin Marty and Fr. Ed Foley. I have been reflecting for a little over a week and wrote down my initial thoughts this morning. I will share them with you next week.

On Sunday I attended the 9:30 Mass in the lower hall at Old Saint Patrick's. I took a couple of photos.




It was standing room only in the church and the hall was packed; I would guess that another 50-70 were standing downstairs. Something's going right at this parish, for sure. I felt fed and challenged; a good "Woman at the Well" weekend for me.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.




Thursday, March 16, 2017

Saint Mary Magdalene: Right In My Office!

Yesterday, our owner, Mary Lou Paluch Rafferty, stopped by my office to talk about her parish mission, which was led by Fr. Richard Fragomeni. Richard is one of our authors, was a professor of mine at Catholic Theological Union, and has been a colleague and friend for many years. As a gift to the parish, he gave them a "first class" relic of Saint Frances Cabrini. This got me thinking about relics and the fact that I was given a relic many years ago.

When I was preparing to leave my first ministerial position at Saint Mary Magdalen in Altamonte Springs, Florida, one of our parishioners approached me. Bettye was a "small person," had sung in our parish choir, was on the liturgy commission, and participated in many other parish ministries and events. She never let her diminutive size get in her way; she drove a huge, specially-equipped van, and was always quite a presence.

She came into my office as I was packing and she said she had a gift for me, a relic of Saint Mary Magdalen. I was a little skeptical, but I thanked her for her gift. I have had it in every office in which I have worked since leaving the parish in 1990.

Well, yesterday, after my conversation with Mary Lou, I decided to do some investigating. Here are a few photos of the relic, which is housed in a metal case embedded in a small cross.



I suddenly remembered yesterday that Bettye also gave me a small gold and marble box, which I had in a cabinet here in my credenza.


I lifted the cloth piece and found a piece of paper hidden beneath.


I realized that this was what people who work with the authentication of relics call "the papers."


Since Fr. Fragomeni is, what many consider an expert in the field of relics, I decided to send him a scanned copy of "the papers." It looked pretty official to me and was written in Latin.

I received a response from him late last night:

Now, the relic about which you ask.
This is a Ferrante relic. He was the Redemptorist postulator for relics in Rome.
What you have is the document for a relic of St. Mary Magdalene, Penitent. It was sealed in Rome on May 3, 1975.
It is a first class relic ex ossibus . . . from her bones. I assume you have the theca with the piece of bone. This is a holy gift and a sacramental of a great woman: the apostle to the apostles.

I was floored. Even reading that again gives me chills.

I feel like I need to have some kind of ritual on July 22 each year, her feast day.

This is such an inspiration to me, as I try to do my best at this discipleship business. Having a relic of Saint Mary Magdalene close to me will surely continue to inspire.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.







Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lives Crossing Again

Wednesday greetings from the frigid Midwest.

Sometimes your life crosses another life for a brief span of years. Then time, distance, and new directions in both lives mean a sense of separation. Last night I experienced a reunion of sorts. When I first moved to Florida from Boston in 1985, I was terribly homesick and I was "adopted" by a family in the parish. Their oldest son was an avid runner and his enthusiasm was infectious, so I became a runner/jogger myself. This was a strong Catholic family, involved in our Catholic school and in many of the parish's ministries. I would head over to their home after Midnight Mass and wake up with them as the baby Jesus was placed in the creche and the gift-opening would commence. It just gave me that sense of being "at home" in a faraway place, distant from my own immediate family.


Last night, I had dinner with that oldest boy, now a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, his wife, and their four sparkling, witty, and just-plain-fun sons.  It was a marvelous evening and it was such a delight for me to see how dedicated this family is to their Catholicism. I had this sense of some kind of fatherly pride as I watched them all interact, wondering if perhaps I had some small influence on this man's life.

These opportunities are rare, but when they do occur, one is left with simply a good feeling. We led the family onto a train on Chicago's transit system so that the boys could see Wrigley Field. The sense of wonder in their eyes was so gratifying.

I am grateful to God for the encounter, which brought so many wonderful memories back to my mind and heart, accompanied by a sense that I had contributed in some small way perhaps, to the Catholic foundation of this family of six. Thank you, Lord.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Michael Marchal's Latest Manuscript

Tuesday greetings from a wintry Midwest. Took over two hours to drive to work this morning. "Lake Effect Snowbands" are not good things for commuters!

I received a manuscript a few days ago from Michael Marchal, who has written two books for WLP's Fountain of Life RCIA series, The Spirit at Work and Toward the Table. Mike's latest submission is a shorter work that develops some of the principles from The Spirit at Work. As I move through it, I am realizing how important this little book will be for RCIA ministers. Here's one of Mike's opening paragraphs:



"My purpose is to provide a useful road map for RCIA practitioners to use in guiding the participants in the initiation process to a more complete conversion to Christ and a richer life in the Spirit. My presupposition is that you, the practitioners, will need first to get in touch with where your own process of conversion has brought you so that you can be more effective guides. And so this book is a manual for self-reflection, an outline for team enrichment, and hopefully a source of insight about what is happening inside the conversion journey of the participants."

I am excited about publishing this book. Mike has decades of experience and a solid approach to the RCIA, catechesis, conversion, and ritual. Shouldn't take us long to move it through our processes here; perhaps it will be available in about six months. It has already been a good tool for self-reflection for me!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Prayer In a Time of Great Loss

Monday greetings from the snowy Midwest.

It's been a difficult weekend and I am searching for solace and comfort. My cousin and her husband were involved in a motorcycle accident in Florida on Saturday. Glenn did not survive and my cousin Joyce suffered only minor injuries.

They were struck from behind by another motorcycle, driven be their very good friends. I cannot imagine the kind of grief my cousin is experiencing and the heartache their friends must be feeling.

I'm at a loss for words. Please, if you can find some time today, pray for Joyce, who is a great-grandmother. This tragic death touches many across five generations.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Renovating Bathrooms, a Kitchen, and a Heart

Renovation.

I have some extensive renovations about to begin in my home. On the docket is a complete renovation of the kitchen, a half bath and the master bathroom.

For the past several weeks, I came to realize that renovation is more than welcoming the general contractor and workers at the door, who would then immediately dive into the various projects.

(These are not photos of my home!) But I think you get the idea!





In order for the renovation to begin, the contents of kitchen and bathroom cabinets and closets needed to be cleared, wrapped, boxed, and stored.

I had really no idea how much "stuff" was in these cabinets and closets.

And, of course, I began to think about how all of this relates to what we are all asked to do during the season of Lent. Sure, Lent is about renewal and restoration; all aspects of interior renovation. But before any of that renovation actually begins to take place, we need to, in a away, open the cabinets and closets of our minds and hearts and see what is of real use to us and what has been causing nothing but clutter for years, maybe even decades.

So, my major Lenten pursuit right now is focused on that de-cluttering.

How's it going this Lent for you?

Monday, March 6, 2017

First Sunday of Lent: Our Identity

Monday greetings to all on this Lenten weekday.



Yesterday at my parish, Old Saint Patrick's here in Chicago, I attended the 9:30 Mass "downstairs" in the parish hall. It's a more intimate space than the church and functions as an overflow Mass space, especially when there is a family centered Mass upstairs in the church, as was the case yesterday.

Fr. Tom Hurley, our pastor, was the celebrant and homilist. He preached one of the finest First Sunday of Lent homilies I have heard. As you may know, I am a proponent of the Second Vatican Council's impetus for a recovery of the "two strands" of Lent, the baptismal and the penitential. Too often, parishes and homilists focus solely on the penitential character of the season. Yesterday's homily was a great example of a focus on the baptismal, even though Fr. Tom never made specific reference to the baptismal character of the season. What he did do was remind us that these particular Sunday readings invite us to focus on our identity, of who we are as the Body of Christ. He pointed to the fact that just before the temptations in the desert, Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan, the skies opened, and the identity of Jesus was announced as the heaven's opened: "This is my beloved Son." The devil then tried to re-identify Jesus through the temptations, but Jesus remained steadfast in the identity announced from on high.

Lent, we were reminded, is about claiming our own identity, who we really are in the eyes of God. I so appreciated Fr. Tom's homily; it set me on the right track for this holy season.

I don't know about you, but I appreciate Lent each year. My path toward the heavenly banquet often takes some twists and turns, sometimes some detours, sometimes some unfortunate 180 degree spins. Fr. Tom helped remind me yesterday that Lent is all about refocusing on the "right path for his name's sake." By prodding us to consider our own identity (and I would name that identity as the identity stamped on our hearts at Baptism), we were helped to remember who we are and whose we are.

I was able to grab Fr. Tom for just a few seconds to thank him after Mass. I am hoping that the path continues to be a good one as Lent unfolds. I pray the same for you.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Not One More Child. Not One More Child.

Friday greetings. It is bright, sunny, and quite cold here in the Midwest.

I have been greatly dismayed in the last few days. This has to do with the resignation of Marie Collins, herself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a priest, from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Most disturbing to me is her description of what has been occurring at the Vatican, as reported in an interview conducted by Crux.




"Collins also said that she's 'totally disgusted' by the opposition the commission finds with the Curia, and with the fact that men working at this level within the Church would resist the work they're doing, which she said is for the protection of children and minors and for the care of survivors."

Apparently the commission has been given little by way of budget, staff, or the ability to bring experts in from outside the Church. Frankly, this should disturb Catholics right to the core. I am left with the question: "What is going on here?"

Pope Francis has made it clear that this commission's work is vital to the pastoral work of the Church, yet somehow he has not taken the appropriate measures to see to it that this commission has the resources needed to function according to his mandate?

I know there is that old expression that is often used to describe the speed at which processes move along in the Vatican; something like "The Tiber runs very slowly."

But, really? We are not talking about a stalled ritual book sitting for months or years on the desk in the corner office of some dicastery member. We are talking about ensuring the safety of children here. We are talking about the work the Church must do to protect kids. We are talking about the work the Church needs to do to reach out and offer victims the assistance they need. We are talking about punishing and sanctioning bishops and other leaders who have, by their silence and cover-ups, shifted abusive clergy to other potentially life-threatening pastoral assignments.

I do not use the term "life-threatening" here loosely. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse myself (not by a clergy member), I need to continue to communicate to people that childhood sexual abuse is life-threatening. Sure, it may not directly threaten a life like murder or serious disease, but it threatens the quality of the rest of the abused person's life; it threatens the fact that a piece of a person's life--namely a normal childhood--is, in fact killed.

So, today, I cannot not talk about this as a Catholic. I am deeply offended and ashamed that there are those in the Vatican who are not cooperating with the commission. I hope and pray that Pope Francis does something definitive in the coming days and weeks to address this failure.

Not one more child. Not one more child.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Los Angeles Religious Education Congress: Joyfully Serving and Inspiring . . .

Thursday greetings to all.

The Los Angeles Religious Education Congress was, once again, an amazing event. I had close to seven hundred people attend my two workshops. I was particularly happy with the workshop I presented on the conjunction of the principles in Sherry Waddell's Forming Intentional Disciples and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It was challenging for many of those who attended, chiefly because we talked about RCIA as a journey of conversion rather than solely a course in Catholic teaching. Send me an email if you would like a copy of the Powerpoint presentation (galipeauj@jspaluch.com).

Here's a photo taken about a half hour before that workshop.


It was so heartwarming to see so many people in our WLP exhibit booth. It was definitely a feeling of family as we fulfilled our mission to "joyfully serve and inspire the singing, praying, initiating Church!"


It was such a treat finally to meet Blessie La Scola, author of WLP's new book on Christian initiation for children, Children of the Light: Precatechumenate Sessions for Children and Families. Here's a photo of Blessie with WLP's own Tony Casper, who "discovered" Blessie at last year's Congress.



I enjoyed my annual meeting with the good folks from LEV, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 





I am certainly glad that the last eight weeks have come to an end. I have been on the road every single week, experiencing the Church throughout the United States. It has been a whirlwind, but so worth it for me personally and, hopefully, for those who attended my presentations.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

From 37,000 Feet

Here I am at 37,000 feet, flying over the Sierras on my way to Anaheim via San Francisco.

The Los Angeles Religious Education Congress begins tomorrow.  I am giving two presentations, one on Baptism and the other on the confluence of the principles in Sherry Waddell's "Forming Intentional Disciples" and those we find in the RCIA. This is going to be quite challenging for me and those in attendance. But I am excited about diving right in!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

People Gotta Sing; People Gotta Pray

Tuesday greetings to all.

I am gearing up to leave for Baltimore tomorrow morning. Mary Birmingham and I are doing an RCIA Intensive at the Mid-Atlantic Congress there on Friday and Saturday. This is a bit of a different kind of model, kind of a "conference within a conference." There are close to 50 people registered for the intensive and Mary and I have been working for months on our five one-hour sessions. Should be fun!

I received a few photos from the folks in Tyler, Texas, where I led a workshop on Saturday. Here are some folks singing WLP's fine hymn God, Who At the Font Once Named Us.


We sang this piece after everyone had a chance to come to the water to renew their baptism.


And here's yours truly in action!


Looks like I am trying to figure out what to say next!

January and February have been focused on so much ministry training and retreat work for me. Following the Congress in Baltimore and a few days back here in Chicago, we'll be heading to Anaheim, California for the annual Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.

You know, people really do gotta sing and people really do gotta pray. I've met hundreds of them in my travels just these past several weeks!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Who We Are and Whose We Are in Tyler, Texas

Monday greetings. It's sunny and beautiful here in the Midwest.

I had a wonderful time in the Diocese of Tyler, Texas over the weekend. I believe Tyler is the smallest (number of people) diocese in the lower 48 states. On Saturday over 90 people from across the diocese came to the chancery office to spend the day focused on cultivating a baptismal spirituality in our hearts and in our parishes. A few photos.



Across town, the same presentation was being given in Spanish. I was told that over 60 people were in attendance at that location. They really know how to get the folks out in this diocese!

As you know, baptismal spirituality is one of my favorite topics, around which I have lots of passion. A day like Saturday is, for the folks gathered--and for me--a day "to remember who we are and whose we are."

One woman at the session told us that she always thought that her baptism was something that happened to her way in the past, when she was a baby. She said that the day helped awaken in her the importance and enduring power of the sacrament. I just smiled when she said this.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Our Common Home by Brother Mickey McGrath

Another exciting day has dawned in the world of Catholic publishing.

About an hour ago I received an email from our shipping department, alerting me to the fact that Brother Mickey McGrath's latest book just arrived in our warehouse. Within a few minutes, the book's editor, Christine Krzystofczyk, was in my office with the very first copy of Our Common Home: Visual meditations of Pope Francis' Encyclical Laudato Si'. 

I couldn't resist snapping a photo of the book's proud editor.


Brother Mickey was inspired to create these images while reading Pope Francis' encyclical. Just as in his similar book with WLP, Dear Young People, in this new book Mickey takes Pope Francis' words, this time from phrases in Laudato Si' and beautifully creates art for the quote or turns the quote itself into a piece of art.

This conjunction of art and text helps illustrate the pope's inspiring and challenging words. Here are a few examples. They don't do the book justice, but you get the idea.




I am so grateful that we are in collaboration with Brother Mickey, whose work always touches my heart.

Please, please, order your copy of this book and be inspired by Pope Francis in a new way.

Thanks for listening.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

WLP and One License

Wednesday greetings from our offices here in Franklin Park, Illinois.

For the past several months, we at World Library Publications have been faced with a choice. This has to do with the licensing of our music.

Many of you know how this works, but for those who don't, here goes.

When a parish, diocese, or institution wants to reprint or project a piece of music onto screens for use by the congregation, they have to obtain permission and secure a license to do so. Many of these entities purchase what we call a publisher's "annual license." These licenses cover the use of that publisher's music for a period of one year. During that year, the parish, diocese, or institution is required to report the use of that music in whatever form it has been distributed. The publisher receives those usage reports and maintains a database throughout the year to track that usage.

At the end of the year, the money received from the entities through the purchases of their annual licenses is distributed to the composers whose compositions were used and that usage reported during the year. The publisher retains a portion of that licensing "pool" to cover administrative and other expenses.

Licensing can occur in other ways as well: one-time usage, usage for a liturgical season, etc.

Several months ago, we at WLP learned that OCP and GIA (the two other large publishers of Roman Catholic liturgical music) had formed a new licensing company: One License. GIA had their own licensing arm, "One License," and OCP had its own, "LicenSing," each with its own set of member publishers. That new company would be the place that those who want to license music published by OCP and GIA and these other member publishers would go, kind of a "one-stop shop" for people who want to use music from those publishers.

Up until this point, parishes, dioceses, and institutions that wanted annual licenses to use music from WLP, GIA, and OCP had to purchase three annual licenses, one from each publisher. The reporting and tracking systems were separate as well. We at WLP have resisted joining either one of the original separate licensing arms of OCP and GIA simply because we wanted to make sure our composers were receiving the maximum portion of the licensing dollars through our own WLP annual license, without diminishing their portion through payment of an administrative fee to the licensing administrator.

With the "merger" of OCP and GIA's licensing arms, the picture changed considerably.

We had to take a good, long, hard look at this new picture. The driving force behind our decision was our clear mission statement here at WLP:

WLP serves and inspires the singing, praying, initiating Church.

We ultimately came to the decision to become a member publisher with One License precisely because doing so would help us move our mission forward; this was a decision made to better serve our customers, to better serve the singing and praying Church.

So now, those who hold a One License annual license will be able to have one place to find the music they need, download assembly versions of pieces, report usage, and listen to sound clips. Licenses are also offered for rehearsal tracks and pod casting and live streaming.

My largest concern throughout all of this has been for our WLP composers, many of whom I personally consulted as we pondered our decision. It is my hope, and I am truly optimistic about this, that because many, many more people will be exposed to the finest liturgical music published today by us at World Library Publications, the music of WLP's composers will be licensed, used, and reported much more often and by a much larger pool of Catholic and mainline Protestant parishes. This is a good thing.

So, beginning on March 1, 2017, WLP will be a member publisher of One License. Letters announcing our decision have been mailed to our composers and to our WLP annual license holders. The arrangement with One License is non-exclusive, which means that parishes can continue to hold a WLP annual license if they so choose and they can still come to us for all of the rest of their licensing needs.

A caution. Far too many parishes and parish musicians who purchase annual licenses simply do not report usage. Far too many times I have heard music directors say, "Oh, I have an annual license, which permits me to use any music from that publisher; reporting is a hassle; we've already paid our money, so what's the difference?" Folks, the difference is that if we don't know whose compositions you used, how are we to distribute those licensing dollars to that composer so that he or she can pay the mortgage or put shoes on the feet of their children? This is as basic as it gets. Please, please do not deprive those who create music that lifts hearts and souls to the Lord of the compensation to which they are entitled. It is not only a legal issue (annual licenses are legal contracts which require reporting), it is a justice issue.

Thanks for listening today.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Presence and Absence in Atlanta

Monday greetings. I know it has been awhile since I last posted; time seems to be flying by these days, especially with my own travel schedule.

I spent all day Saturday in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, leading an RCIA day focused on conversion and discernment.


This has become one of my favorite topics. I begin with an exploration of the meaning of baptism. We talk about the Christian journey "from the font to the banquet of heaven" and what this journey means in the area of our own conversion. I then focus our attention on the Church's understanding of conversion, by looking at Paul VI's Evangelii Nuntiandi, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These documents provide jumping off points to examine our own conversion; our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

One of the questions I use to help the participants examine their own journey of conversion is this one: "When did Jesus Christ turn from an idea, or a person to study, or a figure in history into much, much more for you?" I love watching the faces on most Catholics when I ask this question. At first, they have quizzical expressions. Then, when they reflect further and start sharing with one another, you can see how they begin to realize how important the articulation of their relationship with the Lord actually is.

Catechumens and candidates in the RCIA process need to meet Christ in the real lives of RCIA ministers. I am becoming more and more convinced that that cannot meet Christ on a handout.

Here are the good folks in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, conversing with one another.



I try to tell my own story of the discovery of Jesus Christ in my own life, describing that personal relationship. But you know, I have reached a point in my life when I am not afraid also to talk about those times, sometimes long stretches of time, when the Lord has seemed absent in my life.

I think people need leaders like me, who are people unafraid to talk about faith, to also talk about the struggles to find God, and to name times when God seems absent.

It was a good day in Atlanta.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, January 30, 2017

They Should Be Ashamed

I am outraged and deeply, deeply worried for the United States. Tomorrow, several of us are going to visit the refugee family from Afghanistan that we have been supporting. Read more about it here. We partnered with Exodus World Service to reach out to "our family." This is Exodus' statement of response to the executive order signed by President Trump. Please read it and educate yourself about the plight of refugees and the process they go through to legally enter the Unites States and become part of the collective "we."

The president and those who support that executive order should be ashamed. And I do not say this as a political statement of any kind. This is a statement that is rooted in the biblical values of hospitality and welcome to the stranger.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Mobilizing the Christian community 
to welcome refugees.

January 2017



Our Response
Today the U.S. President signed an executive order
that changes refugee resettlement as we know it.

The executive order limits refugee admissions and
restricts travel to the U.S.
from a number of countries
that are predominantly Muslim.

We stand strong with our refugee friends
 and sense God's call on our hearts
to remain steadfast in welcoming refugees with love.


IMMEDIATE QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE

Aren't these changes for our protection?

The security of our country is important. But we believe
that safety and compassion 
are not mutually exclusive
for the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program.

Refugees are among the most rigorously vetted
people who enter our country.
 The refugee vetting process is lengthy and arduous.
God reminds us repeatedly in Scripture
not to live in fear. As Christians,
we must ask ourselves if fear justifies
restricting refugees, some of the
world's most vulnerable people
who also long for safety and security.

Why should we be concerned?
We are concerned about delays for resettled refugees
who seek to reunite with their families.
Hope dims for parents
and children who wait for reunification.
We also grieve for the
well-being of refugees overseas who wait,
 often in the poorest of conditions,
to find refuge and safety in America.

We believe that refugees from all nations and religions are
courageous survivors who contribute much to our communities. 
Please join us in steadfastly welcoming the stranger.

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
Sign or Share a Statement of Solidarity
Learn More about Refugee Issues
Volunteer as a New Neighbor to a Recently Arrived Refugee Family
Invite a Speaker to Your Church or Small Group to Learn About Refugees
Give Now to Ensure that Refugees Here Receive Help



PRAY WITH US
God of grace,
Watch over all refugees,
Embrace them in the pain of their partings.
Into their fear and loss, send love.
Open our eyes that we might
See You in them.
Open our hearts that they might
See You in us.
Open our arms that we might
Welcome refugees to new homes,
As you stretched out your arms
And invited everyone home.