Archive | August, 2011

Get Ready. Get Set. Praise!

29 Aug

God calls us, and we answer. We get ourselves ready by coming together and singing.  

We set ourselves in right position before God, noting our need for God’s mercy and God’s divine desire to save us.

And then, with a renewed appreciation of God’s greatness, raising our bowed heads, as if in a rush to praise God, we sing with excitement the song that the angels sang in Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” We fall all over ourselves and one another, stumbling and fumbling and searching for adequate words, five times trying to find the right words to praise God, translating the original, melodic and dramatic Latin text – Laudámus te, benedícimus te, adorámus te, glorificámus te, grátias ágimus tibi propter magnam glóriam tuam – with our new English translation of praise: We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory.

Our breath taken away in awe before God, and out of breath from praising, we sit down to allow the Spirit of God to fill us with new breath in the proclamation of the Scriptures. Sunday Mass has begun.

Here at St. Andrew our first step in welcoming the new English translation of the Roman Missal is becoming comfortable with singing the Gloria in a Mass setting composed by Steven R. Janco. Listen here to the Gloria from the Mass of Redemption.

Get ready. Get set. Praise!


No Storm Can Shake My …

27 Aug

Irene arrived at the beach in North Carolina today and, apparently, has been up to no good ever since. Ironically, the name of the Hurricane comes from a Greek word, Ειρήνη, meaning “peace.” Irene has not said, “Peace be with you,” to the people of North Carolina, and she does not bring peace to the hearts of those up the coast who are wondering whether she will visit them.

Is it easier for the people in the storm or for us who are away from the storm to believe that Jesus rides out every storm with us?

Our faith can be a rock or a stumbling block, depending on how we factor in suffering.

At the end of last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus gave St. Peter a star on his report card for “active participation” and “excellent comprehension.” Jesus had asked him a question, “Who do you say that I am?” Right after Peter answered, “You are the Christ who saves us,” Jesus said to him, “And you are the rock on which I will build my Church.”

In this Sunday’s Gospel, as Jesus starts to tell him about suffering, Peter blurts out, “God forbid that you would suffer.” This could be understood to extend to him and the other disciples, “God forbid that those of us who believe in you would ever suffer.” This is where Jesus gives St. Peter a checkmark on his report card for “needs improvement,” and calls him a stumbling block.

In verse 18 St. Peter and his faith are a rock. By verse 23 he is stumbling block.

Our faith can be a rock to which we cling (and to which other can cling) or a stumbling block over which we trip (and which can trip others up). It depends on what we believe about our suffering, and what we say to others about their suffering.

Can You Come Out and Pray?

25 Aug


When I was a kid, in the days before cell phones, we got on our feet or on our bikes, and went in person to the home of our friends. Instead of ringing the doorbell, we stood outside and sang, without musical accompaniment, using just two notes, the higher note only for the name of the person and for the last word before the question mark, “O Steve, can you come out and play?” I do not know why we did it that way. We just did.  And it worked. If the kid didn’t come out himself, his mother appeared at the door, and told us why he was not coming out to play.  

That distraction came to me when I was at a chant workshop for priests. We were learning the chants of the Roman Missal. When we begin to use the new English translation of the Mass on the First Sunday of Advent, we will be singing more than we have been. The new Missal, we are told, will have music printed all through the text. The music will not be tucked away in the back of the book in an appendix, as if singing were an afterthought or is an option. It is the Church’s way of saying, “Sing.” So, we priests have begun to learn how to chant the prayers and the dialogues of the Mass.

Chanting is singing a single line of music, that is, without any harmony line being sung at the same time by someone else, just one single line of music. It is usually just two, three or four notes repeated in rather predictable patterns. It is usually without any musical accompaniment. All that is heard is the human voice. It is simple and straightforward, not complex. Yet when a dialogue or a prayer is chanted, not just spoken, the words are raised to a new level and reach a deeper place in us. Listen to this prayer from Epiphany Sunday as it is chanted: Prayer over the Offerings.  

Here at St. Andrew, come November 27, we will begin slowly and gently, for the sake of the priests and the people. We will begin with the dialogues, those places in the Mass when the priest and the people are responding back and forth. Maybe the priest will also chant the prayers at the beginning and at the end of Mass, the ones he prays at his chair by himself, as the server holds “the big red book” (the Missal) for him.

So, soon we will have not only some new words, but also more singing, oops, I mean, chanting. It will be simple. And it will help us raise our minds and hearts to God, as we fall in love with the Mass all over again.  

Two Hours before Mass

20 Aug

In every Mass we pray for three living human beings by name.

After calling forth a profession of faith from Simon Peter, Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church.” He did not say, “On this rock you will build your church.” He said, “On this rock I will build my church.” It is the Lord’s church. He will build it. And He will protect it and preserve it.

In order to build, protect and preserve His church, Jesus entrusted to Peter, the chief apostle, and to his successors, the Popes, we believe, the keys to the kingdom, the power to loose and bind, and the authority to speak in matters of faith and morals.

It is the Lord’s church. He will take care of it.

Spiritual writers often mention a humble and humorous prayer that Pope John XXIII said when he was going to bed, no doubt feeling tired from the work of the day and overwhelmed by what remained to be done, “Well, Lord, it’s your church. You take care of it. I’m going to bed.”

With that same humility and trust, parents sending their children off to school, especially those sending their child off to college, pray a similar prayer, “Lord, I have taken care of your children that you have entrusted to me, trying my best to teach them by word, discipline and example. As I send them off, they will no longer be under my watchful eye, and will be out of the reach of my control, my influence and my protection. So, I give them back to you. They are your children. You take care of them.”

Oh, the three names, we mention at every Mass: Benedict, Dennis and Joseph. When we do that, we are reminding ourselves that we are a part of something bigger than us and our gathering, we are being grateful that the Lord is protecting and preserving His Church, and we are praying for our pope and our bishops who have a unique role and responsibility in the Lord’s church, of which we are a part. Perhaps our prayer for them, if nothing else, will help them sleep better.


I ♥ the Roman Missal

19 Aug

For a dozen months a priest friend and I have greeted each other, “I love the Roman Missal,” emphasizing the word “love” with a tone of voice that puzzled those who overheard us. “Are they being serious or sarcastic?” people wondered. With this playful exchange, I have been helped to make my way through some of my initial resistance to the changes in the Mass prayers that are coming soon. Yesterday my friend called me, using my cell phone number and finding me in Costco, as he knew he would, since it was a Thursday, “Do you know what tomorrow (meaning Friday, August 19) is?” When I admitted defeat, after making a couple guesses, he announced, “100 days until the new Roman Missal.” Of course, my response was, “I love the Roman Missal.”

The English words that we use at Mass today are the same ones I have used since I celebrated my first Mass in 1975. Now I must learn to pray anew, with new words. And you know what? That might be exactly what I need right now, after 36 years of hearing and speaking the same words at Mass.  

Those of us in the parishes have not replaced our weary and worn Mass books, because were told, again and again and again, for years, that a new English translation of the Mass was on its way. We kept asking, “When?” Now we know: in 100 days!

I ♥ the Roman Missal.

Simon, You Rock!

19 Aug

The readings for Mass on Sunday, August 21, 2011 can be found here: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Please help God help me. Read the Scriptures for this weekend. Suggest to me a thought from your mind, an emotion from your heart or an example from your life, so that I can speak to the people of St. Andrew something that might connect with their minds, hearts and lives. 

This is what I am thinking thus far …

As school begins for many students, we have Jesus quizzing the disciples. When he asks his question, Jesus finds out that some are saying that he is Jesus the Baptist or that he is Jesus the Prophet. Rightly, Peter says that he is Jesus the Christ. (BTW, Christ is not Jesus’ last name, like I am Rob Waller. He is Jesus the Christ, like me being Rob a Christian. He is the Christ. I am a Christian.) In saying that Jesus is the Christ, Peter got it right, well, almost. He knew that Jesus is the Christ, that is, Jesus is the Anointed One, Jesus is the Messiah, and for that answer the teacher gave him a star, “Simon, you rock!” Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ. He just didn’t know what it really meant. In next week’s Gospel, Peter says that it obviously means that Jesus will not have to suffer. Oops. He should have quit when he was rock. This week he gets a check mark for “participates well.” Next week he gets one for “needs improvement.” This week he is a rock. Next week, he is a stumbling block. Sounds like us, doesn’t it?

Now click on “comments” below, and tell me what stirs in you when read Isaiah, Psalms, Romans and Matthew.

Falling In Love All Over Again

18 Aug

It is long overdue, but is coming soon. For forty years we have been using an English translation of the Mass prayers that has been in need of improvement.

Soon you will see a red booklet in the pews at St. Andrew. The “Revised Order of Mass with Additional Mass Settings,” with the new English text from the Roman Missal, Third Edition, has been published by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for use in our local parishes. This booklet will help us transition into some new words and music. We will move in slow, measured steps, beginning gently on September 11, and moving forward with more gusto on the first Sunday of Advent, November 27.

The new translation will do two things for us. It will make the English closer to the actual Latin in the original text, and it will help us hear the Bible more clearly. The words we hear and speak will be more closely connected to the Scriptures: “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof” and “from the rising of the sun to its setting.” The words will connect us more closely to our tradition – “And with your spirit” replacing “And also with you” – and to the content of our faith, using words like “consubstantial” and “incarnate.”

Yes, it will take some getting used to. Some will welcome and cheer the change. Some might find it bothersome and awkward. But we will count on each other doing more growing than groaning.  

Overall, the new translation is quite lovely. It is lofty, yet modest and humble. It is going to be a very good opportunity for us to renew our appreciation of what we believe God does for us at Mass every Sunday, and for us to fall in love with the Mass all over again.

And With Your Spirit: the words 1.3

17 Aug

At the very core of his being, a priest is a priest, ordained to stand in place of Christ at the altar and to act in the person of Christ at the sacrifice of the Mass. When the priest greets the people, they respond, “And with your spirit.” The people are, in a sense, speaking about the spirit that he received at ordination and the Spirit that is in him because of his ordination. In their response the people are saying, “Be a priest for us like Jesus would be a priest for us, if he were standing where you are standing right now. In fact, remember that you are standing in his place right now. Be a priest for us. God will be with you – and your spirit – to help you do well what you do now.”

This “Et cum spiritu tuo” is addressed only to an ordained minister: bishop, priest or deacon. So, it must have something to do with ordination. And it appears in the Mass at points where the bishop, priest or deacon is preparing to do something that is very closely related to his ministry as a bishop, priest or deacon.  

This is how it will sound if the dialogue is chanted: And with your spirit.


And With Your Spirit: the words 1.2

16 Aug

As it was for Moses, Joshua and Gideon, so it was for Mary. “The Lord is with you” indicated that God was asking the person to take on a significant task, and that God was promising that He would be with them, so that they could do what God was asking them to do.

So it is for the people whom God gathers for Mass. The priest greets them, “The Lord be with you.” In this opening greeting the people are given a mission and a promise, “You have found favor with God. God’s grace is in you. Be God’s people. Celebrate this Mass. The Lord is with you now and will be with you until the end of time.”

To the priest the people respond, “And with your spirit.” They are remembering, and they are reminding the priest, that he has been ordained a priest for them, to represent Christ and to do what he is about to do: to celebrate the Mass with them.

In this exchange of greetings – “The Lord be with you … And with your spirit” – the priest and the people recognize their relationship with each other, and they declare that they both have roles to play in the celebration of the Mass. In effect, they are saying, “You are God’s people …. And you are our priest.”   

This is how it will sound if the dialogue is chanted: And with your spirit.


And With Your Spirit: the words 1.1

15 Aug

 When you are speaking to someone who knows you well and who is in tune with how you think, you might start to say something, and that person will complete … your sentence. If you are in relationship with that person, you find it to be a bit endearing, “Yes, we are one in what we are and in what we do.” 

The exchange of greetings between the priest and the people at the beginning of Mass can be enjoyed in that context. In writing to Timothy in his second letter, Paul greets his friend, “The Lord be with your spirit.” Knowing Paul well and being in a good relationship with him, Timothy could have completed Paul’s sentence. Paul begins, “The Lord be …” and Timothy continues, “… with your spirit.”

As a priest, I like the feel of thinking that the people and I could say the same thing to each other. Since the Holy Spirit is at work in both of us, I could rightly speak to them, as Paul spoke to his congregations, “The Lord be with your spirit.” And they could rightly respond to me, as Paul spoke to Timothy, “The Lord be with your spirit.” But at Mass, instead of saying it twice, we say it just once, splitting it in two parts, each of us speaking half of it. It is like we are so connected and are so joined in what we are about to do that I begin and they complete … the sentence, “The Lord be [with you] … [and] with your spirit.”

From the very first words spoken at Mass, and at very key places in the Mass when something real important is going to be done, the priest and the people establish clearly that they are dependent on each other, as together, and together with Christ, they offer the sacrifice of the Mass.

This is how it will sound if the dialogue is chanted: And with your spirit. 

%d bloggers like this: