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    A View from the Pew


    I am a pastoral musician and minister. In December 2010, I left my position as a campus minister in a small Catholic college in the Northeast and began the strange journey as a patient on long term disability for chronic spinal injury. After 45 years of teaching and ministry in a variety of locations with a plethora of job descriptions, long days and nights and endless weekends with very little ‘down’ time, I now find myself in the curious position of choosing where I want to celebrate Eucharist on a Sunday morning. 

    In the past, I carefully researched where I wanted to worship when I vacationed with my family, selecting parishes, basilicas and centers that I knew would ‘feed’ us. If a parish hired me as a pastoral consultant to give seminars and workshops, I already knew that there would be at least the potential desire for good liturgy, simply because that parish or faith-based organization invited me to raise their bar by speaking or teaching on a particular liturgical topic or by bringing beautiful music to that parish in a concert setting to those who ministered and worshiped there. So when I hear of the myriad of poor worship experiences that so many people share with me, my heart sinks. What’s really happening ‘out there’?

    Additionally, my own diocese invited me to sit on the worship commission once again, to assist musicians with the implementation the musical portion of the changes for the new Roman Missal in Advent 2011. As I gathered my subgroup together, inviting veteran pastoral musicians to assist me with the upcoming summer workshops, it occurred to me that I need to get to know these musicians before I can really understand what they need. Many of the pastoral musicians working in my diocese are ‘youngsters’, born after the implementation of Vatican II and raised with the liturgy that they now know and serve. To my knowledge, many of them haven’t pursued pastoral academic degrees in the areas of music, liturgy and theology or advanced in their understanding on matters of liturgy and music in the church. I will even bet money right now that if I asked some pastoral musicians about the Three Judgments[i], most of them would guess that I was speaking about the end of the world.  I do not profess to hold all of the answers to their questions, but I can help them to network, connect them to those who can help them grown in their ministry and in their spiritual development. In my opinion, that’s part of the work of ‘veterans.’  

    Most pastoral musicians, young and not so young, responded to a call to become pastoral musicians because they love music and the liturgy. And (dare I say it?), they supplement their regular income by doing pastoral music ‘on the side’. Dependent on Catholic publishers, local seminars and their own presbyters to guide them, many pastoral musicians do the work without a whole lot of liturgical training; they learn their work ‘on the job’.  How can I serve them if I don’t know them, what their liturgical settings may look like or how well they’ve been trained in the field of ministry? How well do their assemblies participate? What do the other ministries look like where they serve? What kind of preaching and presiding feeds and inspires them to continue to serve the church?  

    What an opportunity! My disability offers me the ability to seek out these workers in the vineyard, to discover who they are, where they serve and what they may need to better serve the liturgy, “ the source of the Church’s prayer and action, and the summit by which our lives and all our ministries ascend to the Father.” [ii]

    Every place that I visit will remain anonymous (unless you receive a ‘five star rating’!).  I invite you to comment on my Pew Visit postings and offer your own thoughts and opinions regarding my weekly reflections. I look forward to connecting to the ministers of music who inspire others to sing God’s praise, as well as other ministers and the people they serve.  Look for me in your pews!


    [i] Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship. IV. Preparing Music for Catholic Worship, D. Judging the Qualities of Music for the Liturgy, The Three Judgments: One Evaluation.

    [ii] Sing to the Lord: Foreword.