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    A View from the Pew

    Rich fare or fast food? 

    Rich fare or fast food?

    I love Julia Child. She would have turned 100 years old this year. The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. met their goal and once again restored Julia’s Cambridge, MA kitchen on August 15, 2012, complete with her copper pots from E. Dehillerin in Paris. Hundreds of bloggers posted throughout these last weeks in anticipation of Julia’s 100th birthday. The music group Guns and Roses (honest!) created a really great YouTube that integrates Julia’s wit and wisdom in one of the most creative videos that I’ve ever seen. View the YouTube here, just for fun. Even if you’re not a Julia nut like I am, the video rocks.

    I learned to cook with my French mother and grandmother. In our household, fast food was not an option; we cooked from scratch each day. The culinary arts interest me because cooking is creative and the outcome always feeds people. Who doesn’t love to gather around a table full of good food, fine wine and good conversation?  I enjoy feeding people; that makes me happy. Julia taught me to perfect my culinary skills.

    My mother and Julia both used pegboards to hold some of their batterie de cuisine; so do I. A bookcase inside my butcher block holds a testament to my esteem for Julia; an entire shelf is devoted to Julia’s cookbooks. I reveled at her feet watching The French Chef, Julia and Company and the subsequent shows that followed. My husband and I still watch the reruns. Affirming what I learned from my grandmother and my mother, Julia insisted on the freshest ingredients to create sumptuous meals. I visit different markets often during the week to purchase fresh food and cook up a storm. Often, you can find me immersed in one of Julia’s cookbooks or one of the many ensuing books written during Julia’s lifetime or posthumously.  I could write volumes as large as her Mastering books on my ‘Julia moments.’ The Fish Stock story still holds pride of place in my family’s group of favorites; it’s a hoot.  But today, I want to draw upon Julia Child as a wisdom figure.

    I sometimes wonder at the wisdom of basing pastoral, liturgical and musical choices from the publications that offer suggestions based on the Sundays and feasts of the liturgical year. The music choices often depend on the hymnals used by the parish. Parishes, worship centers and schools that publish their own worship aids may employ the assistance of more than one liturgy planner and enjoy a more diverse and wider music program. However, others may feel stuck in the mud with limited resources. Moreover, parishes experiencing mergers or those that find themselves caught within the polemics of left-verses-right liturgical theology may depend on music to bridge the proverbial tug of war that inevitably comes with change. Wise decisions matter in all of these venues.

    Additionally, some liturgical planners only promote their own music. One liturgy planner resource offers the broad spectrum of music that encompasses all liturgical music publishers; this resource may be the most beneficial for those musicians who publish their own worship aids. However, this still begs the question of how pastoral musicians arrive at their music choices when they employ one or more published resources.

    Herein is the question: How do you arrive at wise musical, pastoral and liturgical decisions when you choose music for worship that will feed and nourish the people of God around the banquet table at the celebration of a Sunday Eucharist? How much of yourself do you invest in the practice of prayer to create a repertory of pungent music that your people sing and savor throughout the week that carries them into the market place? Will they address one another “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord” because you’ve made wise choices in music selection? Or will they leave the banquet hungry and wanting because you’re served them a diet of ‘fast food’ choices?  

    In addition to using liturgical music planners, do you take the time to pour and pray over the collects, antiphons and readings to select music for Sunday worship and particular feasts? “I don’t have access to those prayers,” you may reply. Yes you do. Even if you don’t own your copy of the Roman Missal, your parish or school does. World Library Publications now distributes a hand held edition of the Roman Missal; you might want to consider purchasing a copy as a resource. If you use online liturgy planners, publishers issue those prayers in the planners. Do you read and pray with them before you begin the work of planning and selecting music that your people will sing and pray? How else will you expect to be “filled with the Spirit?”

    What additional reading do you take time for during the week to cull your skills? Julia Child instructs cooks to sharpen knives every time before using them. She’s right; a dull blade is useless in the kitchen. So I take the time to sharpen the blades I use each time I cook. The result is a well-honed knife gallery. Why would I do less to prepare the feast of pastoral music for the feast of life, our source and summit, than what I do to prepare the best meal I can offer my family and friends? Service withholds nothing particularly when it involves ministry. Lady Wisdom calls her children to the table; you participate as one of her servants. How much of yourself do you devote to the effort so that the mead is sweet for the community that you serve?  

    If your practice of preparation includes browsing through a liturgical resource and simply checking off the music that your assembly knows and sings well, you may want to consider a change of practice. That’s a ‘fast food’ choice; we all know what a steady diet of fast food does to good health. Does your liturgy planner dissuade you from delving into a fuller understanding of the prayers and readings because they provide ‘quick choice options’?  Or do the liturgical resources prompt you to sit with scripture and plunge into God’s word with more intentional purpose? Do you savor, taste, sample, chop, stew, chew, swallow and digest the scripture passages, the collects and prayers of the liturgy? That takes deliberate and persistent practice, like any good chef who masters culinary art.

    When did you last break open scripture to pour over a line that caught your heart? Where did the insight lead you in your planning and in your performance of musical worship? You may be surprised at the different outcomes in your own spirituality that always affects the assembly that you serve. Preparing a great meal requires patience and practice on the part of the chef. If you’re the one cooking and serving the meal, would you think to prepare something without first tasting and seeing how good the food can be before serving it to your guests?

    This morning’s reading from Proverbs 9:1-6 serves as a rich resource for prayerful praxis for musicians who feed musical manna to people in the public act of thanksgiving - eucharistia. Wisdom invites her people to leave foolish ways behind to feast on words that are worth more than the finest gold or silver. She invites human beings into the creative and full banquet of life that she prepares as an architect of beauty and rich fare. Wisdom is a magnanimous host. St. Paul piggybacks on Lady Wisdom to lead us straight into Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse. This opulent triptych of readings along with the opening prayer of today’s liturgy summons us into a more human place, a fuller feast of alluring and satisfying fare in text and tune. Did your musical ‘fare’ satisfy the hungry hearts who came to dine? When you prepared your pastoral music for this weekend’s liturgy, was it a result of your own preliminary prayer as you discerned music with the help of your planner? Was your table set with a well prepared feast? Or did you serve fast food?

    Bon appetit. Thanks Julia. J

    P.S. Follow this link to hear Fr. Michael Joncas’ musical setting of today’s first reading from Proverbs, Wisdom is Calling from his Like a Deer collection. A gorgeous setting of the refrain from Proverbs twinned with verses from Psalm 19.

    Take five minutes to read Fr. James Martin, S.J. from his Facebook post this morning on today’s gospel. Rich fare indeed.