Tuesday, March 30, 2010

a quote

I am (finally!) reading "The Spirit of the Liturgy" by our beloved pope, and I found a quote worth sharing in the chapter on "Music and Liturgy."

He is contrasting "Rock" music... "in opposition to Christian worship. People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the experience of being part of a crowd and the emotional shock of rhythm, noise, and special lighting effects."

hmm, I thought to myself, that reminds me a bit of the Easter Vigils of certain un-named churches, no?

Friday, March 26, 2010


Fr. Z writes a little rant about the latest abuse scandals in the Church.

One sentence in particular caught my attention... "The sins this man and others like him (committed) deserve eternal hell."

And I so badly wanted to respond in the comments (but they were off!) "The tiniest sins of ANY of us deserve an eternal hell!"

Not to excuse anyone's sins, but just keep that in mind when you are judging others of their heinous sins!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

bulletin article

Here's an article I'm planning for a few weeks from now. (Notice it is NOT official yet, and could still be altered from this present form.)
I am also posting it in order to receive input from people about it, so that I can change anything that should/could be changed BEFORE it is published! :-P

For those who regularly attend the 10:30 am Mass, can you believe that it has been nearly two years since we started chanting the Introit? Doing that, combined with some of the other changes that have been made, such as "ad orientem" worship, have resulted in a beautiful, sacred, and solemn liturgy. Father Gerald and I have received many positive comments, including from people who admit that these elements are the main reason that they are parishioners at Old St. Patrick!
Several people have also requested that these changes be incorporated into the 8:00 am Mass, since they would prefer to attend that Mass. This seems to make a lot of sense, since many can attest that the 10:30 am Mass is regularly packed to overflowing! To begin this process, over the next couple of weeks we will be teaching the Introit at the 8:00 am Mass, to help familiarize the congregation.
However, many of you are probably wondering: What is the Introit, and why is it better than a hymn?
The "Introit," sometimes called the "Entrance Antiphon," is a text that is proper to each Sunday that has been given by the Church as the first (and therefore, preferred,) option for the "processional" at the beginning of Mass. It is found as Gregorian Chant in the Gradual Romanum (which is the book of Latin chants for the Mass,) but we will be singing a translation of it as a congregation in English to a psalm-tone, so even though the words change every week, the music will stay the same and involves many words on the same note.
People often ask me if I get to "choose the music" for Mass, and while I do, it can be a difficult task because I try to match the text of whatever hymn is chosen for the entrance, offertory and communion, to the text that is found in the Gradual Romanum. This Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter or "Divine Mercy Sunday" is a perfect example of this. It is also occasionally called "Quasimodo Sunday," since (along with "Gaudete Sunday" and "Laetare Sunday") that is the first word of the Introit for that Mass.
The text of the Introit is always very rich, and even teaches and affirms theology. Compared to this, most hymns have a simple theme of "Praise the Lord," or even more shallow and having almost nothing to do with God and worship, a theme like "All are Welcome." In direct contrast to these relatively ambiguous hymns, an example of an Introit text from today (which begins in Latin with "Quasimodo,") is "As newborn babes, alleluia, desire pure spiritual milk. Alleluia. Rejoice in honor of God our helper, shout for joy to the God of Jacob." While it is short, one could literally spend hours studying and meditating on the theological references and implications of those sentences! In fact, it is taken straight out of the Bible, from 1 Peter 2:2. And I am certain that there are no hymns in our hymnal that have any reference to this text!
For the next few weeks, since we are in the particularly joyful season of Easter, many of the Introits do revolve around themes of "Praise the Lord," (like next Sunday, April 18,) but the Introits for Ordinary Time, which encompasses the majority of the year, are usually focused on themes of "Have mercy on me, O God, protect me..." And certainly all of Lent the Introits are based on this, for example as recently as the 5th Sunday of Lent, (March 21 this year,) the text was "Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly nation; from wicked and deceitful men deliver me, for you are my God and my strength." None of the hymns that we are familiar with even come close to expounding upon this particular image.
I hope that as we sing the Introits, you are able to meditate on the text as we prepare for Mass, and appreciate the richness and wisdom of our Church in giving us these beautiful, sacred, scriptural texts. For those who attend the 8:00 am Mass, it will take some time to get used to the tune that we are using for the Introit, but my hope is that as time goes on, you will become more comfortable with it and will be able to participate more fully in the worshipful tone that it sets for the liturgy.
As always, I greatly appreciate those of you who give me feedback on the music at Mass. It warms my heart when I know that the music is a blessing to others, and I am also thankful to those of you who may disagree with aspects of the music at Old St. Patrick but are willing to engage in dialogue with me, or those who just want to learn more and understand why we do certain things! I am privileged to work at such a beautiful parish with so many wonderful parishioners!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mara is...

having a musically interesting day.

This morning I (well, the church,) got offered a "like-new" Hammond B-3 organ. And this afternoon three of my piano students quit.

The former is particularly interesting b/c I get offered old, crappy, tiny, electronic organs all the TIME, and there just so happened to be someone in the room who knew that this kind of organ is actually worth something! (I know next-to-nothing about electronic organs.) And the later is notable b/c I don't feel like I could try to get more students right now, b/c at this point in my life I can't commit to being here for more than the next year.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

the volume of the organ

A parishioner told me recently that he was at another parish in the city, and that the organ was "so loud!" compared to my organ, I supposed.

Really, he doesn't know, but if I HAD a bigger organ (more than, ahem, a 3-rank Moller...) it would most certainly be louder than it is now!

I was planning on blogging on how interesting that was that people thought that this other organist played too loud...but then, I just happened to be talking to another person who goes to this other parish, and they are not necessarily musically inclined, but they told me that they did NOT think that their organist was too loud, (that in fact, they loved the postludes after Mass.)

So...is loudness relative? I wish my organ could be louder. How I long for a Trompette en Chamade for the final, rousing verse on Easter Sunday morning! But perhaps my parishioners have just gotten used to my organ being quieter than a much bigger organ in a much bigger church?

I've heard lots of stories about parishioners at other churches complaining about the organ being too loud. Apparently, mine don't complain b/c the organ CAN'T get as loud as I want it! (well, once I had someone tell me that. but they go to the least crowded Mass, so the sound isn't absorbed by the people, and there is no choir singing, just me, so I should just sing louder. Their actual complaint was that they can't hear ME singing.)

So the problem is, how can the organist tell how loud is too loud, since we are up in the loft, and can never test out the sound on a full church?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


during my previously-mentioned internship this semester, I have been able to make several interesting (although not earth-shattering) observations.

The first is that I am extremely impressed with how polite the seminarians all are. Someone has clearly been training them. (a friend of mine made an amusing comment about this topic...I wish I could remember what it was...but it made mention of a few older priests who apparently were *not* taught this in seminary...it seems the rectors are learning their lesson!)
Like, when I'm leaving for the day, and they're in choir or something, rather than just muttering "bye," I receive a chorus of "Thanks for coming!" "Drive safe!" When I was first there, *every single* one of them (who was in the class) came up to me and introduced himself!

Also, I was fishing around for some indication of the general trend of liturgical/musical preference among these young men who will be our future priests (and therefore my future bosses,) and of course while this is really a generalization and everyone is different, it was noted by a-well-aware observer that while they have many different preferences for musical styles, the general trend is that they all see the importance of "vertical" worship. That is, Christ-centered. Awesome.

Monday, March 01, 2010

"back in the good ol' days.."

well, actually this post isn't quite going to be about what you think it is....

It's really about...corporal punishment!

Every once in a while, I hear someone (usually over the age 60,) talking/joking about how when THEY were growing up, their teachers (nuns, usually,) would smack them for getting an answer wrong. Usually the story involves making the point that, however cruel and uncivilized this appears now, it actually *worked*, since the student never forgot that particular answer ever again! (and was even better at learning other answers for fear of the lash.)

now, of course I would NEVER do this, but everyone once in a while... I really want to smack a student. Only because I think that it is something like THAT which will make her (usually) recall the answer to a particular question, or at the very least, never forget it again!

A couple times recently I've had situations like this:

"(insert name of child,) what is this note/other musical question?"
(long period of waiting...)
no answer
(I attempt to be extremely patient, offering helpful hints, re-explaining things in different ways, trying to guide the thought process)
finally I say,
"this is a g/we call this a quarter note/whatever the answer is..."

recently, it happened that the student needed to know and could not remember the EXACT SAME answer to the same question a few minutes later, after ALL of that explaining... and that got me thinking of how the answer would probably not have been forgotten so easily after having been explained, had I had some instrument of corporal punishment handy!