Sunday, August 13, 2017

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time How Firm a Foundation

“How Firm a Foundation, 
you Saints of the Lord, 
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!”
                                  From the hymn in Rippon’s “A selection of Hymns”

    What is the first song at mass called?                                                                                 
 Is it an entrance hymn?  An opening hymn?  A gathering song?         A Processional? 

    What is its' function? 
To signify the beginning of mass?  To unite the people in sung 
prayer? Traveling music for the priests and ministers?
While we're at it.....

    What should one do in preparing for mass?

Now if I were writing to a group of church musicians I’d receive a deluge of comments and arguments for simply posing these questions.  Perhaps you are formulating a few for yourself.  One caveat before you read on; my purpose is neither to criticize complain nor tell you you how to spend your time in church before the mass begins.*  I offer these thoughts simply for your consideration.

Today’s first hymn; “How Firm a Foundation” (#715) might point us in the right direction.  Consider Peter trying to imitate Jesus by walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee.  He steps out of the boat promptly sinks like a rock.  Maybe that’s why Jesus called him “The rock on which I will build my church.” (Just a little scriptural humor.)  Peter is saved when he takes the hands of Jesus; his firm foundation).   Take a moment and think how today’s other hymns might connect to this scripture.

In addition to this our first hymn serves as the foundation of our participation at Sunday liturgy by helping us transition from :   
        daily stresses (i.e. the house chores, getting our kids and 
        ourselves up and ready for mass etc.) to worship.
      private devotion (i.e. meditation, quiet prayer, the rosary etc.), to 
      communal worship.

Take a moment today to consider how participating in our gathering might gently lead us towards meeting Christ in Word, Sacrament and in the faithful gathered.

Blessed to be serving at St. Mary’s,


*   I would, however, argue that it is hard to fully participate in 
     anything without adequate preparation.   
    (Oops, did I say that out loud?  J)

Please welcome Tricia Blanchard, the director of music at Vincent United Methodist Church who will be playing the organ and piano on Saturday night. 

           This weekend’s music

Gathering                  How Firm a Foundation  #715
Offertory                   Precious Lord,  Take My Hand 685
Communion              We Remember, We Believe (bulletin)
Recessional                Stand By Me #631

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like....

The Kingdom of heaven is like…..

Today we will hear more examples of Jesus teaching about the Kingdom of heaven.   Matthew’s gospel is once again paired with readings that describe the King.  Last week the Book of Wisdom described a heavenly king who’s might is a source of justice and who judges with clemency.  Today’s reading from the Book of Kings describes an earthly king; Solomon.  You will notice similarities between these as the writer of the Book of Wisdom drew upon his knowledge of Solomon to describe the heavenly king.   

Note:  While we as Christians, acclaim Christ as King; the Book of Wisdom and Kings were written before Christ’s birth.

The word wisdom is virtually synonymous with Solomon.  Today’s reading from the Book of Kings is one major source of this association.  Instead of asking for riches and power, Solomon asks God for an understanding heart to judge God’s people and know right from wrong.  

The text of today’s gathering song “Holy Wisdom, Lamp of Learning” (#520) puts a similar desire for God’s wisdom on our lips and in our hearts.  The title contains just 2 of the names for God of the composer; Ruth Duck.  

Ruth Duck is professor of worship at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, where she has been on the faculty since 1989.  She was president of the North American Academy of Liturgy, an organization of liturgical scholars.  She has written numerous books and articles about Christian worship.  Her hymns are included in the hymnals of 14 different denominations.

I had originally planned to use Holy Wisdom, Lamp of Learning as our recessional hymn but changed my mind.  It is exactly what a gathering hymn needs to be:  a gateway to meeting God in Word and Sacrament.  I was also concerned that if left to the recessional hymn this essential text might go unsung and unnoticed.  

By no means am I denigrating our recessional song “A Rightful Place” a contemporary composition by Steve Angrisano based on the confessions of St. Augustine.  Steve is  also the co-composer (along with Sarah Hart) of today’s communion song; We Remember, We Believe.

Blessed to be serving at St. Mary’s,


Today’s Music Selections

Gathering            Holy Wisdom, Lamp of Learning      #520
Offertory             Amazing Grace   #431
Communion        We Remember, We Believe            In bulletin
Recessional        A Rightful Place                                 #632

Monday, July 17, 2017

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today we hear three parables from the 13th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.  Last week we heard the first of these:  The Parable of the Sower.   Be sure to read the entire portion of today’s reading as you may only hear the short version at mass.  The agricultural metaphor Jesus used was readily understood by his listener.  Some of its impact, however, may be lost on us.  Do not underestimate the impact of a poor or ruined harvest to a community in first century Palestine.  

I’ve chosen to repeat the song Parable to as a means of connecting these two weeks of hearing this portion of Matthew’s gospel.  

Fr. Albino’s homily last week brought to mind something that has been at the center of several recent conversations with friends and family.  Despite being raised in the church by parents who still attend church, many of our children no longer do so.   My take away from Fr. Albino’s words was to consider the seed planted rather than its current state of dormancy.   

Reconsider the words of Archbishop Romero's prayer: 

This is what we are about.  We plant the seeds that one day will grow.  We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise… We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.                          

Perhaps you will find the idea of allowing God to be the master builder (or in this case the master gardener) as freeing as I.

Blessed to be spending this season of my life at St. Mary’s,



The composer of Parable; M.D. Ridge passed away on June 5th of this year.  Born in 1938 in New York City, Meri Dell was the daughter of a show biz couple who found her own passion in church music.  M.D. was a liturgical composer, musician, writer, and editor. For 45 years she wrote music for Catholic churches and was a pastoral musician for parishes around the country.   Her compositions will continue to bear fruit for generations to come.  

Requiescat in Pace

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

There is an appointed time for everything

     There is an appointed time for everything.

                                                Ecclesiastes 1a

Our gospel over the next two weeks comes from the thirteenth chapter of the gospel of Matthew.  The entire chapter consists of four parables.  Today, we hear the first: The Parable of the Sower.   

I've chosen the song Parable, by M.D ridge as our gathering song both this week and next.  It will create a connection between the weeks and allow you to become familiar with this very beautiful composition.  

The verses of the song speak directly to the parable of the sower.  The verses come from a familiar scripture from the Book of Ecclesiastes that we will not hear today. 

Consider the idea of everything in God's time when you hear each of today's readings proclaimed.  Think of how long a seed remains dormant in the ground before a sprout appears.  Remember that Isaiah was writing to a people who had been held captive for generations and Paul to a Christian community who thought that the second coming of Christ would occur during their lifetime but  instead faced persecution.

My hope is that these reflections and the words and music of Parable will be like the rain and snow that creates a fertile place for the Word of God for you today.


This would be a great time to suggest Parable as an appropriate song for funeral liturgies.  I often add it when people choose Ecclesiastes 3 as one of the scripture readings.

Blessed to be serving at St. Mary's,


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What are we celebrating?

"Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me 
receives the one who sent me.

                                     Matthew 10:40

I’ve always struggled when planning music for weekends such as this.  My training tells me that we celebrate the 13th Sunday of ordinary time.  My heart tells me that patriotism is an important part of our cultural identity.  In the past I have found songs of patriotism and challenge.  Our hymnal provides several appropriate options.  As I first thought of this weekend’s music a different tack began to emerge. 

Today’s readings speak of welcoming the stranger.  The second Book of Kings tells a story of a woman and husband who are rewarded for welcoming the prophet Elisha.   In today’s gospel Jesus is clear about being welcoming and hospitable to those who come our way.

Let me share a little about the composer of two songs I have chosen for this weekend.  Isadore Israel Baline came to America when his family fled Russia to escape persecution in the late 19th century.  While you may not recognize his given name, you will most certainly know many of his compositions which include White Christmas and Alexander’s Ragtime Band.

Today we will be singing what is arguably Irving Berlin’s most famous songs; God Bless America.  I’ve chosen it because it is easy to sing, inspiring and unabashedly patriotic.  I’ve also chosen one of his other songs as a prelude.  The words were inspired by the very same persecution that brought Irving Berlin’s family to America.  You may be familiar with the ending as it is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

"The New Colossus"

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, 1883

This week's music:

Gathering:   Lift High The Cross 713
Offertory:   Many and One 415
Communion:   Like the Bread
Recessional: God Bless America

Here is a link to a wonderful article about our new Cardinal  

Wishing you a wonderful and safe holiday,



19th Sunday in Ordinary Time How Firm a Foundation

“How Firm a Foundation,  you Saints of the Lord,  is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!”                      ...