Thursday, July 28, 2016

Asking for Your Take on the State of the RCIA

So grateful to all of you who entered the various discussions about cantors and music during communion this week. Two words: practice varies.

I was saddened by some of the comments from musicians who lamented the fact that sometimes they are simply forgotten at communion time, with no one coming to them to give them the Body and Blood of Christ. This is a practice that needs to change.

Yesterday, I spent the day with initiation ministers from around the country (and one from Canada), discussing plans for an LTP-sponsored gathering of initiation ministers that they plan to hold next year here in the Chicago area. It was wonderful interacting with initiation pioneers and newbies alike. Some of these folks are people I have worked with in Christian initiation leadership since the late 1980's. I strongly felt the presence of Christiane Brusselmans and Jim Dunning, the two prophets who set the course for the implementation of the Rite in North America.

Here's a photo taken of the group at the end of our deliberations yesterday.

Kudos to LTP for bringing this group together and to the ACTA Foundation for its support.

One of the issues discussed was a general feeling of a recent spark in interest in the implementation of the RCIA; that in too many places the RCIA has lost its originating vision and people are looking for a re-grounding in the Church's actual vision of the Rite. In too many places, the Rite has morphed into nothing more than a course in Catholic teaching leading to the celebration of the sacraments, with the initiation sacraments being seen as some kind of "graduation" at the end of the course. And there is a sense that leaders are beginning to think that this is the wrong direction for the RCIA.

My questions to you: In your own parish experience, how close to the center of parish life is the RCIA? Do you celebrate the rites? With vigor? Mechanically? Something to "get through?" Do you sense a re-invigoration of the RCIA in your parish or (arch)diocese?

So interested in hearing from you. You can respond here or over at Gotta Sing Gotta Pray's Facebook page.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

When Does Music at Communion Begin?

Thanks to all who continue to voice their opinions and preferences about the cantor's gesture. This, from Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship:

"At times, it may be appropriate to use a modest gesture that invites participation and clearly indicates when the congregation is to begin, but gestures should be used sparingly and only when genuinely needed."

It's that last phrase, "only when genuinely needed," that should guide the use of gestures.

OK, folks, putting another question out there for you. I know it has been asked before; just trying to get some feedback once again, especially in places where the practice has been changed or adjusted.

I often notice a complete lack of uniformity when it comes to when the piece of music sung during Communion begins. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal couldn't be any clearer:

"86. While the Priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion Chant is begun, its purpose being to express the spiritual union of the communicants by means of the unity of their voices, to show gladness of heart, and to bring out more clearly the 'communitarian' character of the procession to receive the Eucharist. The singing is prolonged for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful."

At this point in the Mass, we all, priest, deacon, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, other liturgical ministers, musicians, and members of the faithful in the congregation are "one" in the Body of Christ. The music sung during Communion begins when the first person receives Holy Communion, namely the priest.

So often, there is no music when the priest receives Holy Communion. Sometimes the music doesn't begin until right after he has consumed the Body and Blood of Christ. Sometimes the music doesn't begin until the deacon has received Communion. Sometimes the music doesn't begin until the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion receive. Sometimes the music doesn't begin until the musicians receive Communion.

At at least two parishes where I have worshiped in the past year, the cantor sings a solo that begins after the priest consumes the Body and Blood of Christ, continuing to "cover" the reception of Holy Communion by the extraordinary ministers. Often this solo continues well into the reception of Communion by many in the congregation. Then, while the congregation is in the middle of the Communion procession, the solo ends, there is a silent pause, then the cantor announces the "Communion Hymn."

How do these practices express, as the GIRM says, the "communitarian" character of the Communion procession. These practices mitigate against a sense of communion, don't you think?

So, my question, when do you begin the music that will be sung at Communion in your parish? What is your reasoning?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Why Do Cantors Raise Their Arm/s at Mass?

Monday greetings from Chicago, where the worst thunderstorm I have ever experienced rolled through last evening. Some damage to assess up on the roof of my home.

This is just one of those "musings" posts.

After having experienced liturgy in various places (and countries) over the past month, I have a question that has been bugging me.

Why do cantors at Mass extend their arm/s or hand/s when it is time for the assembly to sing?

I've noticed in some places, for instance, that a cantor can keep a hand raised for the entire length of the refrain for a responsorial psalm, even one with a very long refrain. My question: Don't we already know that we are supposed to repeat the psalm refrain after the cantor sings it once and after each verse?

Also, when there is a nice, strong introduction to a hymn or song and the organist, or keyboard player, or ensemble musicians actually breathe at the end of the introduction, signalling all of us to breathe and begin the hymn or song, why does a cantor need to lift up a hand to signal that we are to begin singing?

I have shied away from the hand-lifting in the past several years when I am a cantor which, admittedly, is a rare occasion. I simply memorize the first few lines of whatever it is that the assembly is supposed to sing, I look out at the assembly, I breathe, and I think by my body language and eyes, that I am giving them the signal to begin.

Also, if there is a strong introduction, and the hymn or song is well known, does a cantor really need to be anywhere near a microphone? Does the cantor even need to be alone "up front?" Does a cantor need to sing into the microphone at all?

I'll be interested in hearing your take on all of this.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Glorious Day in Hamilton and Guelph, Ontario: Two Magnificent Basilicas

Wednesday greetings from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

At yesterday's third day of the Summer School for Musicians and Initiation ministers, we were asked to reflect on the movements of conversion in our own lives. The participants entered into some serious discussion about the ways that they have experienced conversion in their Christian journeys.

I went to a skill session in the afternoon led by Janet Loo, and it was just wonderful singing for a director who is so capable and sensitive. A highlight for me was the singing of Chrysogonus Waddell's Jesus Lives.

In my afternoon session, we focused on the celebration of the scrutinies. Then we climbed aboard a motor coach for the trip to the Basilica of Mary Immaculate in nearby Guelph, Ontario. A few photos of the exterior of this magnificent basilica.

And here is a photo of the interior, taken from the choir loft with its magnificent Casavant organ, ca. 1919, which I had the privilege of playing for a few minutes. The basilica organist played a brief piece, introducing us to the colors painted by this glorious instrument. 

The sun flooding through the stained glass windows was breathtaking.

In a recent restoration of the basilica, the font was moved to the front of the church in a new baptism space. It used to be in a corner in the back of the church, in a space upon which a sorely needed bathroom was added. One can still see the tiles forming a square in the floor where the font used to be located. (Now, resting on that space is a toilet in the new bathroom!)

Here is the font in its new location.

Speaking of fonts, here is the baptistery in the cathedral church, The Basilica of Christ the King in Hamilton.

And the Door of Mercy at the cathedral basilica.

I have been so happy to be spending time with former team members of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate here, who have been presenting the sessions for those involved in initiation: Catherine Ecker, Fr. Larry Leger, and Debbie Walsh, colleagues and friends. I have learned so much from them over the years of our shared ministry.

At the basilica in Guelph, beginning at 8:30, as the sun was beginning to set, we all prayed a Taize prayer. It was just wonderful and moving in that grand space.

It's been a real honor for me to be here. As I have led the sessions, I know that Holy Spirit is touching my heart in new and real ways, and for that I am so grateful.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Summer School Begins in Hamilton, Ontario

Monday greetings from Hamilton, Ontario. Let me start by saying that I just love being in Canada, and am so grateful for so many wonderful friends and colleagues here.

Last night we gathered for dinner and a warm welcome by Bishop Crosby, the ordinary here in the Hamilton diocese.

This summer school includes musicians, priests, and deacons, as well as those ministering in Christian initiation. After dinner, we gathered in the Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King for vespers. This cathedral is absolutely stunning.

We then moved into our main meeting space for my first keynote presentation focused on becoming the one Body of Christ.

After a festive evening with wonderful Canadian friends, old and new, it was time for bed. This morning we celebrated morning prayer and then I presented the first keynote of the day. The week takes as its morning focus paragraph four of the RCIA:

"The initiation of catechumens is a gradual process that takes place within the community of the faithful. By joining the catechumens in reflection on the value of the paschal mystery and by renewing their own conversion, the faithful will provide and example that will help the catechumens to obey the Holy Spirit more generously."

Each morning we will be focusing on different aspects of this paragraph. This morning I talked about "reflection on the value of the paschal mystery." Sometimes it is a struggle for Catholics to take a theological concept, as central as the paschal mystery is, and make the connections between the movements in our daily lives and this central mystery of our faith.

For the next several hours, the participants here are involved in skill sessions:
Advanced Organ
Other Singers
Initiation Ministers

Then I return to the scene and we spend a good long time focusing on the theology and practice of the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens.

Tonight we head to a nearby parish, St. Paul the Apostle in Burlington, Ontario, for a session and ritual that I am leading called "Rediscovering the Power and Potential of Baptism." Afterward, we celebrate Night Prayer, then we return to Hamilton.

The group of participants are excited to be here and I am so appreciative of the leaders of the Ontario Liturgical Conference for their vision in putting all of this together.

More as the week unfolds.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

From Houston to Hamilton

Sunday greetings from beautiful Hamilton, Ontario, where I will be teaching most of the week for the Summer School for Liturgical Musicians and Parish Initiation Leaders here in the Diocese of Hamilton.

The NPM  convention last week in Houston was inspiring, uplifting, and definitely exhausting, all at the same time. I led three workshops, played two little mini-concerts in our WLP exhibit booth, helped with two industry lab sessions, rehearsed and sang in our great WLP choral music showcase, helped set up and tear down our exhibit booth, met friends and colleagues old and new, and helped people find the resources they needed for their ministry.

Here's the before and after of our booth:

I was so proud of our WLP staff on site and back at home for their hard work in creating these resources and in setting them up for display.

The opening event of the convention:

I have to say that I was so disappointed in the number of attendees at NPM this year. We work as hard when 4,000 are in attendance. Estimates ranged from 1000 to 2000; in my own personal opinion, it seemed there were closer to one thousand. Just being honest. Way too often the exhibit area was nearly empty; in stark contrast to years gone by. Hopefully the leadership of NPM, as well as publishers like WLP, will find ways to boost attendance for what is a GREAT convention!

Here are photos of John Angotti and Mary Beth Kunde-Anderson leading terrific workshops:

And yours truly practicing for my performances of Ed Eicker's piano works:

WLP sponsored two major events. Lee Gwozdz brought his choirs from Corpus Christi, Texas and they sang a wonderful concert in Houston's co-Cathedral. At the very same time slot, we sponsored many of our contemporary artists in a concert in the main ballroom at the Hilton Hotel.

It was wonderful to be able to sponsor these quite distinct events.

All in all, a good week in Houston.

Now I am gearing up for the summer school here in Ontario. We will be located on the diocesan grounds where the cathedral and chancery are located. Scoped out the area this morning when I arrived:

More as the week unfolds.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, July 11, 2016

NPM Convention Begins in Houston

Monday greetings from the NPM (National Association of Pastoral Musicians) national convention here in sweltering Houston, Texas.

Ah . . . for me, life on the road for a week begins with several hours of therapeutic ironing. Here is the result:

This morning we began the task of constructing our display materials and setting up our resources for the musicians, clergy, and liturgists gathered here this week. Here are the before and after photos:

Got a chuckle when the "Vice President and Chief Publishing Officer" banner was hoisted: "Lift High the Veep!"

After a delicious lunch with some of my exhausted, hardworking, and delightful WLP colleagues . . .

. . . I attended the opening event of the convention, which was a wonderful celebration of the diverse cultures of this area of our country.

I have been coming to these conventions, either as a pastoral musician or as a representative of WLP, since the late 1970's. It filled my heart with joy to be among so many colleagues and friends in this ministry as folks from all over the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia were warmly welcomed.

Tonight I am leading an "Industry Lab Session" where I will be talking about the wonderful RCIA resources that we publish at WLP. We have exhibit time tonight from 9:30 P.M. until Midnight.

As the week unfolds, I will be leading four workshops, playing two fifteen-minute piano sessions showcasing the compositions of Ed Eicker, assisting with another lab session focused on WLP's One In Faith hardbound hymnal, and lending my voice to the choir for the WLP choral music showcase.

It promises to be an exciting week filled with work, prayer, and music-making.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.