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    A View from the Pew

    Christmas Day 2011

    Christmas Day, 2011

    Over these last few weeks, pastoral musicians across the country Facebooked, Tweeted and emailed messages about their Christmas music programs. Choirs, cantors and orchestras rehearsed scores that needed particularly attention this year because of the changes in the Roman Missal. The location of the Christmas Proclamation changed in the Roman Missal from before the Gloria in the Sacramentary from its past location before the Gloria to just prior to the Procession in the New Roman Missal, causing a bit of confusion and some angst to some who struggle with change. The Gloria prompted another bit of a challenge and worry for parishes about what setting of music to use so that all could participate in singing. New Mass acclamations presented another challenge for those folks who would hear the new prayers and music for the first time. But the messages that I continued to read and receive all resounded with grit determination that good pastoral ministers just make it work, no matter what.

    Music directors scored and selected what seemed to be the best pastoral approach to enable their assemblies to fully, consciously and actively participate in the celebration of the liturgy. Environmental artists gave up free nights to adorn their churches. Priests and deacons prepared homilies with particular attention to those who do not darken the door of churches except on Christmas, to insure that everyone could respond to prayers and new responses. I read messages from exhausted musicians who played for five, six and even seven liturgies over the weekend, including midnight, leaving their families and the comfort of home to ensure that the people of God lifted their hearts in beautiful music and prayerful song.

    My own household of four pastoral musicians covered four liturgies in different locations. After 45 years of providing music for Mass, everything in our household circles around the liturgical schedule. Sheet music takes precedence over wrapping paper (although we do manage to swathe our presents) and gift exchange always occurs after all liturgies conclude on Christmas day. My oldest son, the non-musician in our family, serves the public in his own way. He is a K9 narcotics police officer who works the midnight shifts for his department. He attends Christmas Mass on in his parish in the morning, as he usually does on Sunday when he goes off shift because he needs to hear tidings of Gospel joy after seeing really bad things all through the night (police officers see it all). This why we do what we do.

    For anyone who rehearsed for weeks, scored music, labored over changes, enticed naysayers into new language changes, gilded churches through heavy lifting, toiled over new texts and poignant homilies for the multitude whose hearts are broken or serve the broken, those who gave up free time to spend time learning new music and new prayers so that others could pray well and left hearth and home to work so that others could sing and pray, thank you. From what I read in the streamed messages of gratitude from the many who you serve, people deeply appreciate who you are and what you give. I admit that sometimes watching people in the pew happily celebrate one liturgy and then go home to ‘nest’ looks really inviting. We might be tempted to fall prey to that old demon envy, particularly when we feel exhausted, our families wait for us at home while we work and all holiday activity ceases until we shut down our instruments, close our liturgical lights off and finally go home.

    Just know that more than a few hungry hearts will continue to be fed through your diligent efforts and that God is pleased with you tonight. Well done, good and faithful servants of God.  Tidings of peace, joy and Christmas love to you all.

    Get some rest!