Friday, May 6, 2016

Let's Sing the Seasons!

Last Friday, I attended a meeting with some of the members of our team here at WLP. It was our final meeting about our Sing the Seasons choral reading sessions for 2016. We have a dedicated web site for these events. Check out the cities to which we will be bringing the choral reading sessions this coming summer. I know they are impossible to read right here, so check out the web site!

It is wonderful to be able to bring our fine choral music to pastoral musicians all over the country. I will be the clinician for the sessions in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Archdiocese of New York, and will join a team of WLP clinicians for our Chicago West session.

The music is quite varied. We will be presenting music for SATB, SAB, two-part, and children's choirs. Styles range from strong music from the African-American tradition to chant-based pieces to strong choral anthems to contemporary pieces.

It's not too early to reserve your space, so register today.

I leave tomorrow to spend five days in New Jersey where I will be leading a parish mission at Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Mullica Hill. Please pray for the people of the parish!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Thank You, Canadian Friends

Tuesday greetings to all.

I spent Sunday and Monday in Newmarket, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto. I gave a presentation on Sunday evening at Elizabeth Seton parish. They were expecting 100, set up for 150, and more than 150 people came. That was pretty cool.

Here is an interior photo of the church and a few of the font.

We celebrated Vespers in the church to begin the evening. Boy, do these Canadians sing! And then we gathered in the parish hall for the presentation, entitled "Becoming One Body in Christ."

I enjoyed my time with these wonderful Catholics. Probably more than anywhere else on the planet, I feel so "at home" in Canada. My roots are French-Canadian and there is just something about the genuine hospitality I have always found there that warms my heart. The people in attendance seemed quite engaged as I spoke about baptism as the fundamental sacrament for becoming the people of God, the Body of Christ. I also used the metaphor of "conditioning the body" to talk about the ways that we become, build, and strengthen the Body of Christ.

Thank you, my Canadian friends, old and new.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Editing Away

I am currently editing a new resource for people working with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults as adapted for children of catechetical age.

Written by an experienced catechist, I am marveling at the way she approaches catechetical topics such as the Trinity, the parables of Jesus, and discipleship, among many others. It will be several months before we are ready for publication. I haven't ministered directly with children for quite some time now, so this is really a breath of fresh air.

The methodology is pretty straightforward. Each "session" includes lots of prayer time, icebreakers, scripture readings, activities, and rituals that are based on the topic. I am sure this is going to be a helpful resource for those ministering with children in the RCIA.

This is what is taking up lots of my time these days, and I am liking it.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, April 25, 2016

35 Years of the Notre Dame Folk Choir

What a marvelous weekend!

I left the office here on Friday and headed to South Bend, Indiana, where I spent three days attending the 35th anniversary reunion weekend of the University of Notre Dame Folk Choir. WLP publishes the recordings and music of the choir, most notably of composers Steven Warner and Karen Kirner.

We began with a banquet on Friday evening. I was asked to offer some remarks. The most impressive "remarker" was the current president of the Folk Choir, a young woman who told us that she really had no spiritual life before coming to the university and really had no interest in developing one. But that all changed when she joined the Folk Choir. She told us that her experienced helped shape a new soundtrack for her life, which will continue to be her soundtrack as she leaves the university after graduation next month.

If you have never experienced this choir, I can tell you that there is nothing quite like it. Their musical sound is wonderful, but more wonderful is their demeanor when they perform. These are young adults who are enthusiastic about sharing their faith through music. And this has been going on under Steve Warner's leadership for 35 years. Choir alums from past years were in attendance as well and they joined the current choir members for a concert on Saturday night and then again at the 11:45 Mass on Sunday.

Here is a photo from the concert.

And a short video of Chrysogonus Waddell's Jesus Lives. (I have been told that most of the videos I post on this blog do not play on Mac devices. Be assured I am working on it! For now, you can find the video here.)


This was the courtyard experience outside of the Basilica on the campus after Sunday Mass. Video link here.


It was a glorious conclusion to the weekend. Marvelous presiding and preaching, with a choir and instrumentalists numbering over 160. And a singing assembly rounded it all off.

Feeling so grateful to be part of this choir as its publisher.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"A Eucharist Abused"

For the past several weeks, I have been preparing a talk that I will be giving to a group of Canadian liturgists at the beginning of May. The focus of the presentation is on becoming one body in Christ. In my research I came across a catechesis given by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on December 10, 2008.

Here is an excerpt:

"The second important aspect of the teaching on the Eucharist appears in the same First Letter to the Corinthians where St. Paul says: 'the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the Body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread' (10:16-17).

"In these words the personal and social character of the Sacrament of the Eucharist likewise appears. Christ personally unites himself with each one of us, but Christ himself is also united with the man and the woman who are next to me. And the bread is for me but it is also for the other.

"Thus Christ unites all of us with himself and all of us with one another. In communion we receive Christ. But Christ is likewise united with my neighbor: Christ and my neighbor are inseparable in the Eucharist. And thus we are all one bread and one body. A Eucharist without solidarity with others is a Eucharist abused. And here we come to the root and, at the same time, the kernel of the doctrine on the Church as the Body of Christ, of the Risen Christ."

I have been pondering this last paragraph for quite some time, especially these two lines:

"Christ and my neighbor are inseparable in the Eucharist."

"A Eucharist without solidarity with others is a Eucharist abused."

I think about sitting in the fourth or fifth row at the 9:30 Mass at Old Saint Patrick's, my parish here in Chicago. Do I too often think that the Eucharist is only about "me and Jesus?" Am I there to get the nourishment I need for the week, kind of like stopping at the grocery store for some baby spinach? Does the Eucharist sometimes become a commodity for me?

What strikes me about those questions is that it is very difficult in my own parish to adopt that attitude about the Eucharist. I feel welcomed at Mass, I connect with those around me; the preaching challenges me to see beyond my own little world; the music--both in the texts themselves and in the way the assembly is drawn into the singing--"glues" me to those around me. And all of this is done in a parish that puts outreach to the poor at the very forefront of its gaze.

I realize that it takes two realities to become wedded together in order for the Eucharist not to be abused. The parish context makes all the difference; that's the first reality. The second is all about my attitude and posture. I need to see that "Christ and my neighbor are inseparable in the Eucharist." And, of course, what haunts me about this use of the term "neighbor" is that Gospel passage in Luke where the "expert in the law" asks Jesus the question:"Who is my neighbor?" And then unfolds the parable of the good Samaritan."

So, my neighbors are certainly those sitting around me at Sunday Mass. They are what I would call the "easy neighbors." But then there are those other neighbors, and you know the ones I mean here. That guy who badgers me outside of Walgreen's, looking for a handout. That person at work who never seems to have a good thing to say about anyone or anything. That person in my own life history who caused me such harm. That person on the train who has obviously just used drugs and sits next to me. The list goes on.

"A Eucharist without solidarity with others is a Eucharist abused." So, so challenging.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Inactive so Inactive

I make it a point not to be critical of my own parish when I write my blog posts. And this post is consistent with that policy, because my experience at Sunday Mass yesterday showed me how committed my parish is to the faith development of families and the young.

One Sunday per month, at the 9:30 Mass in the church, we have a more family focused Mass (we have two 9:30 Masses, one in the main church and one in the lower hall; both are absolutely packed) . The children's choir sings. Sometimes children, well trained as readers, proclaim the scriptures. Yesterday, the second graders preparing for their First Holy Communion, were in attendance at this family-focused Mass, with their parents, siblings, and as far as I could see, with other members of their extended families. Two adults, parents of two of these second graders, were the lectors, and they were quite fine. The child stood next to them at the ambo. The adult proclaimed the reading and the child leaned into the microphone at its conclusion and said "The word of the Lord." It was cute and appropriate at the same time. The intercessions were proclaimed strongly and beautifully by one of the dads and at the conclusion of each one, the young second grade son leaned into the microphone with his "We pray to the Lord."

There were three families that were in the sanctuary, behind the altar, for the entire Mass. The entire large group of second-graders joined them for the Eucharistic Prayer. Since these people were behind the altar for the entire Mass, I couldn't help but notice how disinterested they seemed. With the exception of one young man, and the catechist who was with the group, not one of these people ever opened their mouth to sing or pray aloud. And this is a community that sings and prays quite well; it was just a strange juxtaposition. There was a young family seated in front of me. Their son was the second-grader preparing for First Communion. His sister, probably a year younger, kept turning around and staring at me every time I sang with the rest of the community. The two children seemed to be in their own little worlds the entire time. Their parents hardly responded to any of the prayers and none of them sang a note.

I know that what I was experiencing yesterday is the reality in all of our parishes. We have parents who "enroll" their children in sacramental preparation programs, but do not come to Mass regularly, if at all. And I ask myself, "What is the point?" Then I remember that the point is that it is our hope that somehow these programs reach these parents and are tools of evangelization to help transform them into people who see the value of the Mass, of being part of the Catholic community that gathers each week.

For me, it was jarring to see inactive Catholics being so inactive at Sunday Mass, and right in my face and in the pew in front of me. It was a wake-up call, but also made me pray for all who, for whatever reason, do not taste and see the Lord's goodness regularly with other Christians. I am glad that my parish hosts this family-focused Mass each month. This is a parish with a liturgical life that is alive, with music that is accessible and beautiful, with preaching that reaches into peoples' hearts on all kinds of levels. I guess I just have to let God be God, and remember that I am not God. God is somehow at work in all of this.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, April 15, 2016

New WLP "Ceremonial Folders" Have Arrived!

Friday greetings from Chicago, where the sun has been shining brightly for three entire days!

We had a long-awaited arrival today here at WLP.

For many years, at various conferences around the country, people have been asking us if we have a particular kind of ceremonial binder for use in their parishes. As you may know, we publish three series of ceremonial binders in three-ring format, and another series that is designed to hold an electronic tablet. The folks at these conferences wanted something much simpler; an attractive folder in which can simply be slipped one or two single sheets, without any rings, so no need for hole-punching.

Well, we listened, we discussed, we decided, and then we designed. And today is the day of arrival. And, I must say, these are gorgeous.

Just snapped some photos for you. All four liturgical colors, plus black.

Here's is what one looks like opened up.

And more of a closeup.

You can see that an 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper simply slips into the corners, held in place by the beautiful grosgrain ribbon and fabric. People asked for this particular kind of folder for a variety of uses. One major use was for the lector; the intercessions could be placed on one side and the parish announcements on the other. Deacons asked for this, so that they could have the text for the Penitential Act on one side and the intercessions on the other. Priests and deacons wanted something they could hand to the bride and groom that contained the words of the wedding vows, so that the couple could exchange vows using a beautiful folder, rather than the "repeat after me" approach. Music directors asked if we had something they could slip the music for the psalmist into so that the psalmist held something more dignified and noble for the liturgy.

So glad that we were able to have these designed and manufactured. Look for these "Ceremonial Folders" on our web site. They will be posted there within a few days.

Thanks for listening to my little commercial!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.