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    A View from the Pew

    A Very Interesting Week from the Pew 

    What an interesting week! I received a hard copy of my first official column in Ministry and Liturgy Magazine with the article entitled Out of the Depths: A Practical Approach to Music for Lent. If you do not subscribe to Ministry and Liturgy Magazine, you can purchase their download edition for a minimal fee on their website at If you read the column, I hope you find it interesting and useful.  

    On Thursday evening, I visited St. Mary’s Parish for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at 7:00 pm and I anticipated a remnant assembly and a liturgy with no music. I happily found the organist, cantor and choir warming up when I arrived. When Mass began, more than half of the church that holds 800 people began to worship. The assembly followed their pew cards to pray their dialogues and honestly, I thought the responses sounded stronger and more deliberate.  Funny how change can make us sit up and pay attention to responses and prayers that we may often take for granted. Thanks to the pastor and musicians at St. Mary’s for their evening liturgy on a weekday feast, the third one of the day for the pastor of St. Mary’s. At the end of a long day, celebrating well really takes diligent effort and a faithful love of the liturgy to show up and sing lead worship and deliver a stirring homily. So thanks to the musicians and pastor St. Mary’s for making my feast day prayer a beautiful event.

    On Saturday, I spent the morning with about 30 permanent deacons who gathered for a day of education and formation at St. Anthony’s in Taunton. Invited to offer a presentation on Music and the Deacon, we reviewed, practiced and discussed their opportunities for sung prayer throughout Mass. I suggested that before they attempt to sing the big hymn of the church year, the Exsultet, they might want to practice singing simple invitations, a Penitential Rite, the Universal Prayers, an invitation to the Sign of Peace and/or the Dismissal before heading into the deep end of the pool. Let me put it this way: would you tell a singer to be silent all year and not practice one note either privately or publicly and then put them at the Metropolitan Opera in a leading role on opening night? Singing the dialogues require a minimum of two notes and even just two notes place the musical liturgy at the disposal of the heart verses the head. I very much enjoyed my morning with these servants of the church who willingly entered into the experience of singing with enthusiasm and an open mindedness that I very much appreciated. If you’d like a PDF of the handouts that I created for the deacons with supporting documentation from their norms, the GIRM and STL, just send me an email and I’ll send them to you.

    I’m writing this from Emmanuel’s campus tonight, on a break in between an 11:00 am Mass, an afternoon first profession for Sr. Barbara Guitierez who took her first vows as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur this afternoon in Emmanuel’s chapel. Stuffed with family and friends and her community of religious women, a group of us got together and implemented the music for that liturgy. I studied with these dedicated women in high school at Bishop Stang from 1966-1970 and a lot of the musical skills that led me to the work of pastoral music began because the sisters who staffed Stang encouraged many of us to develop and hone liturgical and musical skills throughout the early days of the Vatican II Council. I owe them a lot and felt profoundly moved by serving the Sisters of Notre Dame as a music minister. I suspect that the students from Notre Dame High School in Lawrence, MA, where Sr. Barbara works, will find themselves reflecting on this day in years to come and appreciate the vocational and boundless gifts of these vowed women who give their entire lives to service in Christ’s name. ‘Gratitude’ sums up my experience of the afternoon, a really rich joyful Gaudete Sunday experience. If you go to my Facebook page, I posted a few pictures of the event.

    Winding up the day with the 8:00 pm Mass at Emmanuel, I enjoyed making music with a small but very good ensemble that included four part harmony and a lovely violin. The student body participated well, despite this hectic time of year in their semester. Exams  begin on Monday. Still, students took time to worship God and enjoy a lively liturgy with melodies that people usually associate with Christmas but creatively use Advent verses to meet the needs of the liturgical calendar. If you use Print and Praise (OCP), I highly recommend What Feast of Love (GREENSLEEVES) that center on the gift of Eucharist. The song works great as a Communion Processional. We used Nations, Hear the Prophet’s Word (TEMPUS ADES FLORIDUM, a.k.a. Good King Wenceslaus), and added orchestra bells to accompany the hymn to give a little foretaste of the coming season of Christmas. Michel Guimont provided the psalm from his collection Psalms for the Church Year, Cycle B (GIA). I added a tambourine on the refrain and gave the psalm a Middle Eastern flavor.

    The word of my week? Hope. In my opinion, the church is alive and well and living among us,  giving me great joy and causing me to sing with full voice ‘