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John Allen wrote an article on the happening at the USCCB debate on the new liturgical translations. He quotes Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco as saying

“It’s an imperfect sacramentary for an imperfect people, to be prayed by a celebrant who is also imperfect,” “I respect those who say let’s move forward and get a new sacramentary, before they all fall apart in the sacristy.”

Wow, with passion for excellence like that…
I really hope the quote means that the archbishop was merely suggesting that the bishops come to a consensus and not implying that errors and poor translations were unimportant.


Wedding Season is here. I have a wedding next weekend and I met with two couples this weekend. I am tired of the “traditional” wedding repertoire, but my attempts to persuade couples away from these tired selections is in vain. They all seem to want the soap opera wedding. I am often tempted to ask them if they also want what comes after. Yes, the soap opera or fairy tale wedding is lavish and some may consider it beautiful (I don’t), but how many couples ask for the soap opera marriage?

Most of the couples who come through my office hold the delusion that love will get them through anything. They are so much in love that nothing could possibly ever rock them. As great as that feeling is, it’s not reality.

We don’t know what happened after Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, or Snow White married the prince, but we do know that their courtship left much to be desired. They fell madly in lust and decided to marry. They know nothing about each other, but they marry anyway. Then Prince Charming carries his bride off into the sunset on his white steed. We never find out what happens next, but I have my suspicions that it isn’t happily ever after.

Couples getting married today do much of the same. The Church requires that couples participate in marriage prep classes and in my diocese they also must take the FOCCUS. Prospective brides and grooms tend to view this as an unfair hoop they must jump through to satisfy the Church. They never consider that this may help prevent future problems. The FOCCUS results are often frightening. Many couples have never discussed the simplest matters of faith, children, and finances.

I don’t understand how a couple can marry without knowing anything about the other party. I have even met brides who didn’t know what their fiances did for work! Still, they claim to be in love. They aren’t! Then are in lust, infatuation, excitement, anything you want to call it.

Many couples walk into marriage blindly and their plan their wedding Masses the same way.

Couples: Reconsider the “traditional” wedding that you want and ask yourself if it really sends the message you want to say. Consider walking into the church together. The bride and groom are equal partners in marriage, but are unequal during the wedding. The tradition where the groom stands near the altar while the bride walks down the aisle with her father goes back to the days when a woman was considered the property of her father or husband. It is literally a delivery and transfer of property. Of course, that isn’t how brides think of it. They see themselves as the princess. The center of attention. They are going to meet their prince at the altar.

When both the bride and groom walk in the procession together or with their parents, they demonstrate that they are equal partners. It’s not all about the bride and she isn’t becoming the property of the groom. They are entering to marriage as equals and are exercising their roles as the ministers of the Sacrament. Yes, a bride and groom marry each other with the priest there to solemnize and bless the bond.

Of course, that sort of wedding makes “Here Comes the Bride” sound a little ridiculous. The processional hymn which was played at my Nuptial Mass was also used as a processional at the Papal Mass in Washington DC. You can hear it here at 4:50. The hymn is “Go Up to the Altar of God” by Fr. James Chepponis. It was played at my wedding on organ, trumpet and tympani and it truly said how we intended to begin and live our marriage together.

Don’t want into marriage blindly and don’t allow your Nuptial Mass to be planned blindly according to traditions of questionable quality.

I have finished my second year of college. When I first started it seemed like it was going to take forever. It didn’t help that everyone in one of my first courses was a senior. Listening to them talk about graduation just made it feel like an endless process.

Now, here I am half way through. There is something about the halfway point that makes it seem like the end is coming too quickly. I am starting to check out grad schools and will be taking the GRE in just about a year. Wow!

I have two weeks off before I get back to school because I take summer classes, but I get the entire month of August off. I plan to spend the next two weeks reading things I actually want to read. So far, I have read two chapters of Archbishop Piero Marini’s latest book, A Challenging Reform.

Now that I have had some time to organize my thoughts I will write this post which was hinted at previously.

At this time two years ago I was writing a paper for a liturgy class on multicultural influences in the Liturgy. The Mass Papal Mass at Nationals Park proved the point that I made in my paper. Incorporating multicultural aspects into the Liturgy is fine and can even be applauded when done with moderation.

Scripture tells is “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:27-29). To parapharase in modern language: When we are at Mass we are neither Chinese, nor Mexican, nor Italian, nor Native American; for we are all one in the Christ Jesus. We are Catholics! That is one of the beauties of the Vatican being a sovereign nation. It is not subject or part of any nation.

As I watched the Mass I was struck by the classical beauty of the Mass of Creation. Ok, so that is an overstatement, but I think it makes my point. After listening to virtually every ethnic instrument known to man, I started to wonder where I was or what I was watching.

It was as though they were so concerned that every culture needed to be included that the Liturgy was forgotten. Catholic culture took a back seat as divisions rather than unity were shown.

When Placido Domingo sang Panis Angelicus, the look of joy and relief on the Holy Father’s face was clearly visible. If the music was painful to listen to on TV, I can’t imagine what it was like in person.

Needless to say, I am much more hopeful for the music at Sunday’s Mass.

Fr. Erik posts on the many horrific items he has found in his church have amused me greatly because I have found many similar items in the churches where I have served, but today I found a real treasure amidst the items destined for the dumpster.

The choir loft at my church has two closets which are filled with everything from 70’s hymnals to old door frames. This morning I was clearing out some of the 70’s hymnals when I found a thick black book covered with a homemade covering of black fabric. I opened it and found page after page of Gregorian chant. Real Gregorian chant, Latin, complete with 4 line staff and square notes!

I flipped to the front of the book and read the title: Antiphonarium Romanum. I have never seen one of these before, but its fascinating. Now I have to find a way to use it. I wish I knew how to read real Gregorian Chant. Time to learn, huh?

Update: Brian helped me with the first part of reading chant: identifying the key. From there I took my newfound knowledge and found a few good pages online. The first is very simple and explains the different neumes and groupings of neumes. The second is more technical and in depth.
It’s official, I’m hooked. I still can’t get used to the idea that notes placed one over the other to mean to sing the bottom one first and the upper one second, but I am getting it.

I don’t have a picture of the vestments which will be worn by the clergy at the Papal Masses in New York, but I know where they are coming from.

They are being made by Stadelmaier, a company which is known for their…ummmm…unique designs. Expect more of the same. Also, the owner of the company which is providing all the liturgical supplies has announced that the Holy Father will be wearing his own vestments.

The Rhode Island Catholic interviewed a few liturgical musicians from around the diocese. There were a few interesting comments both good and bad.

The good:

It is important, Berbercik asserted, that choirs and cantors not try to steal the show. The music they perform is meant to be inviting, “we try not to turn that music into a performance, it’s a presentation or a participatory song,” she said. She is wary of any choir or cantor that is too invested in their individual performance. She compared liturgical music to the national anthem, which at many public events has become an opportunity for one singer to showcase, or showboat, their individual talents, rather than a communal experience for everyone to participate in. “We lose our love of the song because we detach from it,” she said, “we’re distracted by somebody going overboard.” (Unfortunately they failed to mention that first and foremost choirs and cantors should not try to steal the show because the music is worship, not a concert. God should be the focus of the Mass, not the muscians.)

The bad:

“I don’t go too contemporary because most of the parishioners like their old chestnuts,” said Stott. But, he added, it is important not to rule any music out, the selections “should be a mixed bag because that’s what the tradition of church music has become.” Others see putting an emphasis on contemporary music as a chance to bridge generations and reach out to younger audiences. “You want to keep people coming to church and I feel that if you want the young people you really have to do the contemporary music,” said Labréche. Berberick said that when choosing music at her parish she tries to “touch upon each generation” and “keep in mind other cultures.” (Sometimes music does need to be ruled out. As for contemporary music, all the guitar strumming that was done when I was a kid sure kept my generation at Mass. @@)

Finally, a comment I can agree with:

In the end, everyone agrees that music adds too much to the Mass to be ignored. “Music gets inside you in a different way that spoken word does,” said Rashed, “If you want the Liturgy to enter people’s hearts and minds, you better use some music.” (Yes! And it’s all the more reason to be careful when selecting Liturgical music.)

Read the article here.

It seems that most Catholics have forgotten about the ministry of the congregation. We have become so obsessed with “doing” something at Mass that just being at Mass is seemingly considered insignificant.

Last night my husband and I had dinner at a very nice little Portuguese restaurant. It is a family owned place where the tables are placed as close as possible to each other in order to fit as many people as possible into the restaurant. Towards the end of our dinner a party of four was seated on the side of us. They entered into a long, and loud conversation about a funeral. Apparently the mother of one of the women had recently died. While I did not try to listen on their conversation, given that she was sitting close enough for me to touch her, it was hard to not overhear. A few of the quotes that caught me attention were, “It was so nice, every grandchild had something to do during the Mass. I didn’t want them to just sit there.”

But that isn’t why I am writing this post. The next quote is, “My grandaughter sang for the Mass. I couldn’t believe it when I heard her. I knew she had a nice voice, but I didn’t think she could really sing. I was shocked that she was so good. I only asked her because I didn’t want her to be the only one without something to do”.

Comment #1) Simply having a “nice voice” doesn’t make someone qualified to sing at Mass.
Comment #2) If you didn’t think she was good, you shouldn’t have asked her to sing.
Comment #3) What’s wrong with being part of the congregation?
Comment #4) No one is supposed to “just sit there” at Mass. They are supposed to pray and respond.

Yes, it is nice when family members can perform certain functions during the Mass, but I don’t understand the obsession families have with getting everyone involved. Especially when they are putting them in roles where they are unprepared and unqualified. Personally, I am tired of funerals where “my sister’s friend’s daughter’s friend’s cousin with a really nice voice” comes to sing. Usually the person doesn’t have a nice voice and many times they can barely sing on key. In addition, they seldom know the hymns and sometimes ask me to teach it to them. Add to that the “singers” who are close family members such as grandchildren who start crying in the middle of the hymn and it’s a recipe for disaster.

My advice to everyone is: leave the funeral music to the professionals.

I am lucky that my parish has a policy on visiting musicians. They MUST be employed as liturgical musicians in a Catholic parish, and I MUST get a bench fee. Oh, and I do check up on them. However, even with that policy, a few still slip by. People claim to be employed in parishes when they are not and I have even had priests lie and tell me that certain people are employed when they are simply substandard choir members or not even attached to the parish in any way.

So, what is the deal with the obsession with “doing something”? I think we have focused so much on the ministry of lector, cantor, EMHC, etc, while we ignored the ministry of the congregation. In essence we have set ourselves up to literally preach to the choir. The congregation does not just sit there. They have an active role in the Mass. They sing the hymns which are appropriate to them, they respond to the prayers of dialogue, the proclaim the acclamations, most importantly they like everyone else in the Mass, they worship the Lord in Word and Sacrament. So much for just sitting there.

To all of you who make up the congregation, you are needed. Don’t let anyone think you are just sitting there.

I came across an interesting post at Rubrics and Ritual about the Zaire Use Liturgy. I had never heard of the Zaire Use, but I was familiar with some of the different liturgical practices of various countries.

I wonder what a Mass according to these rubrics would look like. It seems, at least on paper, to be a rather reverent celebration of the Eucharist, but I realize that theory and practice are very different things. While I cringe at the idea of the priest dancing around the altar, dance is often an important part of african sacred celebrations. I can respect that if it truly is an element which is of great importance to the people. Better Catholics dancing around the altar truly worshipping God, then not worshipping the one true God. The problem lies when liturgists assume that because something is acceptable in one culture that it is acceptable in another. Dance is not an essential part of European (yes, as Americans we have been inculturated into what at least used to be European culture) culture.

No matter your opinion, it’s an interesting liturgy.

I returned to one of my former parishes today as a substitute funeral organist. What I encountered there nearly made me cry. Twelve years ago, when I was the assistant music director, we constructed a small choir area in the nave of the church. Many pews were removed, a small riser was installed, and a new Rodgers organ was purchased. Playing that organ was pure joy! There was also a very old pipe organ which was in poor condition, but I made a point of going into the loft a few times a month and playing the old organ in a vain attempt to prevent further damage from disuse.

The church has since been wreck renovated and the new organ is in horrendous condition. The choir riser was removed so the movable chairs are now on the tile floor. There is now nothing to keep the choir members from moving their chairs into the side aisle (where I found a few when I arrived). In addition, the choir area was an absolute mess. Books and papers were everywhere. Also, the amplifiers, instruments, and microphones for the “youth band” were strewn everywhere. The organ looked more like a glorified book rack as it was covered with hymnals, Christmas cards, photos, and business cards from various “music ministers”.

I am not known for keeping a neat choir loft, but I have that luxury because I have a LOFT! My mess is not visible. Whenever I have worked in a parish with a visible choir area I have made a point to keep it as neat and clean as possible. The last thing the congregation needs is the distraction of looking at a mess.

Now to the organ! The music director at this parish only begrudgingly plays the organ. He makes it very clear that he is a pianist, not an organist. First, he changed the presets to some of the strangest I have ever seen. Then, the volume of the organ was set so loud it probably blew out the ears of the congregations. I left with a headache and I was very far away from the speakers. Therefore, it only makes sense that the expression pedal was non-functioning. Also, the crescendo pedal was useless, since there were only about two stops attached to it.

Oh the beautiful music that used to come out of that organ! With some difficulty I was able to make it sound decent, but with the volume set at the decible level of a Guns N’ Roses concert it was difficult.

My one victory: To the dismay of the parish secretary, I successfuly nixed Wind Beneath My Wings from the request list. Unfortunately, it was replaced by On Eagles Wings. What’s the fascination with wings? The secretary even asked if I would play a CD with Wind Beneath My Wings. NO!

I didn’t make it to the choir loft, but I expect that the pipe organ is no longer there – another victim to the renovations. One thing that did fall victim was the old confessionals, where I used to store my sheet music and microphone stands. There are gone, all in the name of progress. One bright spot: the reredos and old altar still remain. I guess there is still hope, and the changes to the organ aren’t permanent. Still sad though.

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