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    A View from the Pew

    Out of the blue

    Out of the blue

    Out of the blue, a radio station that broadcasts from UCLA Riverside and playing my tunes from my CD Invitation to Prayer for twenty years wrote and asked for more material for their broadcast. I had no idea the radio station still existed, much less continuing to broadcast my music. I'm a California girl and I didn't even know it.

    Out of the blue, a former student from Stonehill who recently earned a Master of Divinity degree who will begin a new blog on spirituality and everyday living with a colleague asked me for a written piece to help them launch the site. I'll let you know when their site is up and running. Look for my piece, Crossroads. Writing the piece really helped to put some life changing matters into perspective.

    Out of the blue, a woman who worships where two of my children minister music on Sunday morning wrote in and asked for the music and CD for Come Follow Me. She wants to use the piece for her prayer group. I reworked the piece on the new release Tell Them About Me at my daughter's urging. She sings the solo on the new release, joined by a choral ensemble and some great instrumentation. Written in 1979, this piece just never gets old. People still ask for it out of the blue.

    Out of the blue and the middle of a conversation with my producer about Tell Them About Me, he suggested out of nowhere that we consider shooting short videos on several of the new pieces in the collection and putting them up on YouTube. "I didn't plan to say that," he said. "The idea just came to me." After I left him, I pondered the practical matters of the project and thought to myself, "Are you nuts, taking on one more project?" Out of the blue that same day, I received a Twitter follow from a movie company that creates Christian films. Alrightee then.

    Out of the blue, my dad decided to stay at Sacred Heart Home, where he is well cared for, safe and very comfortable. Earlier this week, he very much wanted to come home.  Yesterday and quite out of the blue, Dad made his own decision to remain at Sacred Heart. After many conversations with his family, his health care providers and God who speaks to his heart and steers his course, Dad is at peace with his decision. I fully expected to care for him at home until his death, as I did for my mother. That will not be the case. Out of the blue, I'm okay with life's surprising outcomes.

    Out of the blue, I received some really interesting responses from last week's blog post Eight Months In. Number 6 prompted a couple of readers to write in. I asked them if I could share their thoughts with you and they agreed. If you want to comment, please post them directly on the blog. Thanks a million.

    Below those comments, you'll find a question that surfaces quite often in conversations with liturgical practitioners. I asked permission from its author to post the question and provided my response as well.

    I hope you enjoy a beautiful week ahead, full of God's out of the blue moments. They keep life really, really interesting. Remember Aurora, CO and Damascus, Syria in your prayers this week. The broken hearts in those communities can be felt worldwide. Let's pray for some 'out of the blue' moments for all of them.           

    From Eight Months In with responses

    6.  Sung Mass parts still present a conundrum. Do you use a revised Mass or did you begin anew with something fresh? I still cannot get a 'read' on this; there seems to be no common denominator with regard to what pastoral musicians choose. I've heard the revised Mass of Creation, the revised Cheponis Gloria, the revised Mass of Glory and the revised Community Mass. Other than those staples, not one new musical setting stands out as the all-time winner. Thoughts?

    Comment 1

    Reading your most recent blog & reflecting on what you shared, I too have experienced many of these same issues.  My thoughts on this issue deal with the time constraints of the implementation, when it happened (during Advent) and the quality of “new” mass settings.  Most of the new mass settings were mediocre and very few stood out as inspiring.  The only new mass setting I considered was Steven Janco’s Mass of Wisdom. I think most music directors used revised mass parts of familiar settings because it made sense to keep the familiar with the number of changes that were happening all at once.  When you reflect on what really changed in the mass settings, the most changed were the Gloria & the Mystery of Faith.   The Sanctus had one minor change.  The Kyrie, Great Amen & Lamb of God were not affected.  

    After listening to the recordings of the new mass settings, common sense told me to use the familiar.  We are a ritual people that embrace tradition. As you stated, people are still fumbling over text changes seven months after the changes were enacted.  I worship at a church that sings the Gloria every Sunday.  They sing the Heritage Mass Gloria (Owen Alstott). The people will sing the beginning and the ending because they are somewhat thematic. The rest is solely sung by the cantor and few valiant people who attempt to sing the whole piece. The result is a non-participating assembly.  It’s not their fault! They want to participate but they haven’t had the time to grasp the new text.

    In my opinion, most of the new settings of the Gloria don't help to make this problem go away. Unless a recurring antiphonal Gloria is sung, the people will never sing through this prayer.  That’s why Chepponis‘ Glory to God makes sense and other revised antiphonal settings like the Peter Jones Gloria and Mass of Hope.


    Comment 2:

    As you know not only did we have the changes of the Roman missal but a new hymnal to work with at the same time. Regarding Mass parts we learned the Mass of Renewal and also the revised Mass of Creation. The assembly seems to be doing fine with both. The Youth Choir uses the revised Heritage Mass setting and doing fine with that.

    I agree with your last paragraph. I too lose a lot of the Mass prayers because I get stuck on a phrase. But I feel the God I know and love will not condemn me at the end of the least I tried. :


    What is the thinking by our liturgists about a family Mass once a month, complete with a theme and a gimmick that is devised to get families to church. Shouldn’t the Eucharist be the focus of all our liturgies? Is a once a month "gimmick" sending a wrong message?

    My response:

    Every celebration of Eucharistic presents an opportunity to break open God's word, sing our response in psalms, canticles and hymns and share the banquet table that marries heaven and earth. When pastoral ministers who serve the liturgy put every effort to celebrate well, the collects, prayers and readings of the celebration create the 'theme.' Prayer postures and robust ritual action serve as an impetus for the sacred to speak; no gimmick need be added. No contrived theme or gimmick that any pastoral ministers create can replace what the liturgy already gives us - a place at the table as the body of Christ. When pastoral ministers who serve the liturgy (presiders, preachers, musicians, liturgical ministers, etc.) do their best work in every way possible, the liturgy is served. That's the goal. Build it well and they will come.

    That said, I understand that parishes struggle with 'marketing strategies' as pastoral ministers attempt to draw people into celebration. The challenges face everyone who serves the church. How do we invite people to come? When this question comes up, my answer is always, "Make what you do so wonderful that they cannot stay away!" All aspects of liturgy act on behalf of the whole. Magnificent preaching and presiding (including postures) that breaks open the Word that speaks to people in this time and place. Well executed and prayerful music that lifts hearts to God and that they remember and draw upon throughout the week. Symbols so rich that the best restaurant in town begs for the secret 'recipe' of wonderful bread and sweet wine. Great parish community and the finest hospitality second to none. If pastoral ministers who serve the liturgy put their heart and soul into every single celebration, the result is a full church, a fuller feast, a well prayed, well celebrated and ultimately satisfying liturgy.

    Depending on your parish's target audience, the liturgy actually gives us a lot of practical help with regard to how to draw people in. Has the parish explored initiating Children's Liturgy of the Word? A 'family mass' would be the perfect time to consider this option. Has your parish considered the beauty and depth of the Rites of Initiation? They can transform a parish when well celebrated. Does the parish offer liturgical faith formation in the way of small discussion groups and live stream them so people who may not be able to attend can participate? The options are endless. But the bottom line is that well celebrated liturgy maximizes the potential to draw people like bees to honey because they migrate to what is robust, beautiful and speaks to them in their lives as grace flows through the 'source and summit' of our faith. That beats out any gimmick or theme, which, in my opinion, belong in amusement parks. Well intentioned pastoral ministers try to recreate the proverbial wheel when there is no need. All we have is at our disposal within ia Eucharist if we make it truly worthy of the paschal mystery that we celebrate.