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    A View from the Pew

    A Really Good Start

    A really good start…..

    My brother Marc died very suddenly in a car accident 34 years ago today. He fell asleep at the wheel of his car returning home from work, playing jazz in a band in Newport, RI. 23 years old at the time of his death, Marc simultaneously balanced his business degree studies with two other jobs. Exhaustion depleted his ability to stay attentive. Consequently, my brother consequently lost his life. A state trooper on highway patrol that night watched Marc’s head go down into his chest, saw the car fall off the ramp and crash and watched as the body of my sleeping sibling exit the car, break his neck and die instantly. One moment in this world and in the blink of an eye in the next. Marc left a wife, a three year old daughter, two heartbroken parents who had already lost their oldest son at birth and my younger brother Paul and me. Two years ago, we buried my mother. My Dad survives her and his two deceased sons.

    Today, when I realized that Emmanuel’s chapel would be closed for morning worship because of Thanksgiving break, I could celebrate the First Sunday of Advent wherever I chose. I elected to begin the new liturgical year and pray with the new Roman Missal in my own parish and worship with my Dad, a retired 91 year old deacon. My husband Pat and a dear friend of many years, Chris, serve as pastoral musicians. I felt as though my Dad would appreciate company today and my daughter Martha, who usually cantors for the 11:00 AM Mass at Emmanuel, accompanied me to sit with her Gramps. So I write today’s blog from home turf today, Our Lady of Fatima in New Bedford.

    My parish did its homework to prepare for the coming of the New Roman Missal. Comprehensive inserts on the new missal changes went into the parish bulletin beginning this past summer. We hosted friend and colleague Joanne Mercier for her evening presentation on the changes of the New Roman Missal in October and summarized Joanne’s excellent presentation with another insert in the bulletin for three consecutive weeks. The pastoral musicians of the parish all attended one of the summer workshops on the music changes, collaborated on what Mass parts to use and when, ordered the music and went to work. Pat began to teach the new musical acclamations       before the parish liturgies five weeks ago, introducing sound principles and simple explanations regarding the text changes so that people could comprehend them without struggle. No one whined. No one complained. No drama occurred. Change without whimpering. What a novel idea.

    Today, pew cards that contained the new translation for the assembly accompanied the new worship aid and greeted us neatly from their rack. Before Mass began, Chris, the principle cantor and a seasoned teacher greeted the assembly with a beautiful welcome. “We begin using the New Roman Missal today!” she exclaimed warmly. “You’ll find pew cards with the revised language changes with your hymnals. As we rehearsed these last weeks, we’ll continue to sing the revised Mass of Creation with appropriate changes. They may be found in your hymnal at numbers 888-889, as indicated on the hymn board. Today is the day when I cease to sing the Mystery of Faith antiphonally; you now know it and we’ll sing it together. Let’s do our best and praise God together as we begin this new journey in the life of the Church.” Brilliantly done. I almost applauded (I practiced restraint).

    Once Fr. Ozug reached the sanctuary after the procession song ceased, he briefly reiterated Chris’ preparation for the latecomers and added a line that made us chuckle. “Just in case anyone feels tempted to complain, take a look at your pew card. Those are your changes. These are mine,” and he held up the new Roman Missal for everyone to see. “This is my third Missal,” Fr. Ozug commented. “May this new Missal be a profound source of prayer and as we discover the Holy through its use. So pick up your pew cards and away we go!” And away we went indeed, together, the Body of Christ, to seek the living God within fresh verbiage.

    During the homily, Fr. Ozug seized the day and a moment in history to liturgically catechize the people in his care by connecting the proverbial dots between the new prayers and the readings of the day. In a rehearsal of the Preface Dialogue, the pastor pondered the words ‘right’ and ‘just’ and reflected on our watchfulness and constant attention on how we attend to those words in our living and dying in Christ Jesus. I sat up a bit straighter when he said, “You can’t take a power nap in between the homily and hymn of praise and expect to know the new responses by rote anymore. Here’s an opportunity to pay attention to who and what we are as God’s people, to welcome this advent of beginning in a fresh way, with a new mind and heart and stay alert, pray well, to rightly and justly give God thanks and praise.”

    When we snooze, we lose, as the saying goes. Perhaps the result of falling asleep at the proverbial wheel won’t exist in a sudden death, as it did with my brother. But if we fall asleep at the switch and become numb to our life of faith, particularly in repeated acts of liturgical worship, the result can result in comatose religious practice and become as dangerous as the loss of one’s life, because for lovers of God, faith is life. We forget why we do what we do when we forget to pay attention. Think back to today’s Gospel:  “May he now come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!” Today presents us with a really big opportunity to stay alert, watch, to keep awake and delve deeper and more thoughtfully into what we do and what we actualize as the Mystery of Faith.

    Today, I prayed thoroughly, more deliberately and with alert attention. Thanks to all the ministers and parishioners of Our Lady of Fatima Parish for their due diligence in all matters Catholic and for this morning’s celebration. Everyone’s hearty participation and earnest prayer assured me that “all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich)

    May these mysteries, O Lord, in which we have participated profit us, we pray for even now, as we walk amid passing things, you each us by them to love the things of heaven and hold to what endures.” First Sunday of Advent, Prayer after Communion, New Roman Missal 2011.