Friday, February 14, 2020

Bless Those Who Hunger and Thirst For Justice


Bless Those Who Hunger and Thirst For Justice

Today is the fifth of six Sundays between the seasons of Christmas and Lent.  The Gospels for this period of Ordinary Time center on Jesus’ early earthly ministry.  The bulk this portion of Matthew’s Gospel consists of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus warns us not to be hypocrites, like the Pharisees, who follow the letter of the law but fail to live good and righteous lives.

At the heart of the Sermon on the Mount are the Beatitudes. I suspect you can remember many, if not all of them. One is at the top of this article.

I have selected “We Are the Light of the World” (#591) to be sung again this Sunday. The music and text were written by Jean Anthony Greif. Greif primarily played the organ at silent movies during the early 20th century.  One can see this influence in how the verses and refrain switch from d minor to its related major key (F major). 

What I really like about the song is the way the verses lend themselves to call and response singing.

            Leader:  Bless those who hunger and thirst for justice.                                     They will be satisfied.
            All:        Bless us O Lord, hear our cry for Justice.  
                           Bless  us, O Lord, our God.

The refrain points to last week’s gospel where Jesus calls us to be salt and light.  “Salt and Light” is the name of the U.S. Council of Bishops most recent writing on Evangelization.  Here is a portion for your consideration:

The Church teaches that social justice is an integral part of evangelization, a constitutive dimension of preaching the gospel, and an essential part of the Church's mission. The links between justice and evangelization are strong and vital. We cannot proclaim a gospel we do not live, and we cannot carry out a real social ministry without knowing the Lord and hearing his call to justice and peace. Parish communities must show by their deeds of love and justice that the gospel they proclaim is fulfilled in their actions. This tradition is not empty theory; it challenges our priorities as a nation, our choices as a Church and our values as parishes.  It has led the Church to stand with the poor and vulnerable against the strong and powerful. It brings occasional controversy and conflict, but it also brings life and vitality to the People of God. It is a sign of our faithfulness to the gospel.

Blessed to be in ministry with you at St. Mary’s,

Bruce

PS
You can find out more about the Social Mission of the Church at www.wearesaltandlight.org and be part of our social concerns team by emailing me at b.mauro1@yahoo.com

PPS
The bridge to today’s communion song; “to bring liberty to the captives and sight to all who are blind, we are sent in love empowered by your Bread of Life” connects directly to the bishops council’s writings.




Saturday, February 8, 2020

Musings on music


“Musings on Music at St. Mary’s”

Today’s “Liturgical Note” dishes dirt and talks smack. It diverts from my usual tack: writing about the scripture of the day, the liturgical feast and season, and how these inform the musical choices I make. For example how the recurring image of light influences recent musical selections.  (Had to sneak that in. :)

My thoughts have been prompted by a weekly editorial in the current Today’s Liturgy Quarterly Planning Guide.   It is written by Dr. Elaine Rendler-McQueeney, a composer, organist, Director of music, college professor and leading voice in the field of liturgical music for nearly 50 years.

Dr. Rendler describes an online podcast where a “youngish Catholic priest and two young men...thought it was quite humorous to make fun of Catholic Church music and the composers of the past 50 years.”  She laments the ridicule of songs cherished by a generation as they “celebrated the sacraments, buried their beloved dead, baptized their children, received their first Eucharists, and ordained their priests”.

Similar things pop-up regularly on Facebook. A church musician feels the need to assert that their style of music (and they themselves?) is superior to another style. The “other” style is deemed as inappropriate, worthless and deserving of ridicule.

It may not surprise you that (fueled by coffee and the Holy Spirit) I sometimes jump into the fray to voice my displeasure and “unlike” these non-constructive and polarizing posts.

The silver lining of these negative posts is that they challenge me to refine my position on liturgical music and reform my vision of music at St. Mary’s. 

Rendler’s quoting of Joseph Gelineau the Jesuit Priest, music scholar and composer best known for translating the psalms into the vernacular articulates this quite clearly:

“All judgment concerning suitability needs to be set in the context of the people who are celebrating together, not starting from the aesthetic and cultural criteria imposed by people who are speaking from outside the liturgical action. In order to receive a true impression, you have to be inside as an active participant of the rites and open to the dimension of faith within the church.” 
Liturgical Assembly, Liturgical Song
Copyright 2002 Pastoral Press, Portland OR, p 61

Blessed to be in ministry with you, at St. Mary’s,

Bruce




Thursday, January 30, 2020

Now Your Servant (Presentation of the Lord)


When Mary let Simeon take the Son of the Promise into his arms, the old man began to sing – celebrating a true “liturgy” – he sings his dreams.”           
                                               Pope Francis


This weekend the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2nd) takes liturgical precedence over 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time.  Listen carefully for references in today’s prayers and scripture readings.  


The Gospel reminds us that Mary and Joseph were devout Jews raising their Son according to the Law.  “When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.”  Luke 2:22. We are introduced to Anna and Simeon whose significance is highlighted by the fact that they are named.  Simeon takes the infant Jesus in his arms and sings:


“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”    Luke 2:29-32


After writing several different drafts of this Liturgical Note I read Pope Francis’ Homily for the Feast of the Presentation XXI World of Consecrated Life (2017).  While The Holy Father directs this homily to those living the consecrated life, his words extend to all people of faith.  His words make my heart sing. I hope they do similarly for you.


“Simeon’s canticle is the hymn of the believer, who at the end of his days can exclaim: “It is true, hope in God never disappoints” (cf. Rm 5:5)....Simeon and Anna, in their old age, were capable of a new fruitfulness, and they testify to this in song. Life is worth living in hope, because the Lord keeps his promise.  Taking up the dreams of our elders... will protect us from a temptation that can make our consecrated life barren: the temptation of survival......making..us reactionaries, fearful, slowly and silently shutting ourselves up in our houses and in our own preconceived notions. It makes us look back, to the glory days – days that are past – and rather than rekindling the prophetic creativity born of our founders’ dreams, it looks for shortcuts in order to evade the challenges knocking on our doors today. A survival mentality robs our charisms of power, because it leads us to “domesticate” them, to make them “user-friendly”, robbing them of their original creative force. It makes us want to protect spaces, buildings and structures, rather than to encourage new initiatives. The temptation of survival makes us forget grace; it turns us into professionals of the sacred but not fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of that hope to which we are called to bear prophetic witness. An environment of survival withers the hearts of our elderly, taking away their ability to dream. In this way, it cripples the prophecy that our young are called to proclaim and work to achieve. “

Blessed to be in ministry with you at St. Mary’s

Bruce

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Presentation of the Lord


When Mary let Simeon take the Son of the Promise into his arms, the old man began to sing – celebrating a true “liturgy” – he sings his dreams.”           
                                               Pope Francis


This weekend the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2nd) takes liturgical precedence over 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time.  Listen carefully for references in today’s prayers and scripture readings.  

The Gospel reminds us that Mary and Joseph were devout Jews raising their Son according to the Law.  “When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.”  Luke 2:22. We are introduced to Anna and Simeon whose significance is highlighted by the fact that they are named.  Simeon takes the infant Jesus in his arms and sings:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”    Luke 2:29-32


After writing several different drafts of this Liturgical Note I read Pope Francis’ Homily for the Feast of the Presentation XXI World of Consecrated Life (2017).  While The Holy Father directs this homily to those living the consecrated life, his words extend to all people of faith.  His words make my heart sing. I hope they do similarly for you.


Simeon’s canticle is the hymn of the believer, who at the end of his days can exclaim: “It is true, hope in God never disappoints” (cf. Rm 5:5)....Simeon and Anna, in their old age, were capable of a new fruitfulness, and they testify to this in song. Life is worth living in hope, because the Lord keeps his promise.  Taking up the dreams of our elders... will protect us from a temptation that can make our consecrated life barren: the temptation of survival......making..us reactionaries, fearful, slowly and silently shutting ourselves up in our houses and in our own preconceived notions. It makes us look back, to the glory days – days that are past – and rather than rekindling the prophetic creativity born of our founders’ dreams, it looks for shortcuts in order to evade the challenges knocking on our doors today. A survival mentality robs our charisms of power, because it leads us to “domesticate” them, to make them “user-friendly”, robbing them of their original creative force. It makes us want to protect spaces, buildings and structures, rather than to encourage new initiatives. The temptation of survival makes us forget grace; it turns us into professionals of the sacred but not fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of that hope to which we are called to bear prophetic witness. An environment of survival withers the hearts of our elderly, taking away their ability to dream. In this way, it cripples the prophecy that our young are called to proclaim and work to achieve. 


Blessed to be in ministry with you at St. Mary’s


Bruce

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Psalm 119:105

Psalm 119:105

January 1998:
I am the adult advisor for the youth group at Princeton United Methodist Church.  The teens have just completed a service project and are waiting for pizza to arrive.  I hear Jennifer calling out to the other dozen or so high school students; “Let’s have a sword drill while we’re waiting!”   “A sword drill?” I wonder to myself.  “I don’t see any long sharp.....”.  My thoughts are interrupted by Jennifer’s shout of “Psalm 119, verse 105”  and a dozen bibles being furiously searched. In what seems to be 10 seconds I hear Billy, “Psalm 119:105 - Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Jason hands me a bible saying, “Now you can play too”.  Billy gets the honors to call out the next verse. I hear Timothy 3:16.  My mind races: Timothy... New testament....Written by Paul...After the Gospels before Revelation.  Where in the heck is....Suddenly the room around me erupts.  Got it! Me too! Hey, I got it first!  Second Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for correction and for training in righteousness”.

Twelve years of catholic school,  Mass EVERY Sunday Mass, plus lots of daily Masses…and.... I didn’t hear Billy say SECOND Timothy because I didn’t know the Bible presents Paul’s words to Timothy into two books.  

Two thoughts come to mind: 
1. Sword Drill: A game where these kids cut the adult shreds. 
2. Where in the heck is that pizza???

I now realize that knowing the order of the books of the bible is a bit of a parlor trick. It’s like reciting Keats or Yeats or The Gettysburg Address from memory.  But what about when those people knock on your door or approach you in Times Square? Shouldn’t I? You? We? Catholics? Be more familiar with Scripture?  

Pope Francis has instituted this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time to be the “Sunday of the Word of God”. The title of his Apostolic Letter: Aperuit Illis comes from the Emmaus Story found in the 24th chapter of Luke’s Gospel.   Luke tells of an encounter after the crucifixion between two dejected travelers and the risen Christ.  

In the words of the Holy Father:  “This scene clearly demonstrates the unbreakable bond between sacred Scripture and the Eucharist.”

The U.S. Conference of Bishops speak to the role of Scripture in our relationship with God this way  “The Bible is the story of God's relationship with the people he has called to himself.” Here is to what they title 10 points for fruitful scripture reading: 

"Understanding the Bible" U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Blest to be in ministry with you at St. Mary’s,

Bruce

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Blessed to be in ministry with you, at St. Mary's

Blessed To Be In Ministry With You, At St. Mary’s

January is a time for lists.  

The Best and Worst Movies of 2019.  
Famous People Who Left Us......
The Top 5 News Stories Of....
My New Year’s Resolutions.

With this in mind I share a list that has been forming in my mind for quite some time:  
               
“Why I Am Blessed To Be In Ministry With You, At St. Mary’s”

Disclaimer:  I apologize in advance for any oversights, please don’t be offended.  There’s always next year’s list. :)

* Members of the music ministry:
John Luland - No member of the music ministry works harder than John.   What you see and hear on Saturday or Sunday is the result of hours of preparation.  John willingly and happily learns at least one new song for each weekend he sings.

The Guitar Ministry - Andrew, Bill, Jeff, John and Rob have faithfully served St. Mary’s for many years.  They bring a style and instrumentation that complements and balances the overall musical offerings at St. Mary’s and have graciously rolled with more than a few changes over the years.   

The Adult Choir - The members of the adult choir epitomize both “music” and “ministry”. Their willingness to sing whatever song, style or Liturgy that benefits the parish is a true gift to St. Mary’s. Their embracing of the young people who have joined our music ministry is inspiring and uncommon.

* My Kids:
The Children’s Choir brings a tremendous spirit, boundless energy and limitless potential.  Their sweet sound is music to my ears.

The Treble Choir is the realization of that limitless potential.   I am so proud of what they have accomplished individually and collectively this past year.  Take a look at the videos on the music ministry page at www.stmarysnutley.org to see what I mean.

The St. Mary’s Quartet - Apryl, Gabrianna, Aaron and Fred (as well as David and Michael who left their home in Nutley to venture to new places) have helped implement my vision for music and liturgy at St. Mary’s.  They are my kids who have grown-up and are now my colleagues, collaborators and friends.

* The Parish Staff:
Each and every member of the Parish Staff works tirelessly and diligently to make St. Mary’s the best it can be.  We do this because St. Mary’s deserves the very best! We are able to do this because of the leadership of our Pastor....

Fr. Rich.  
You may have heard the phrase:  “Don’t pick a job. Pick a boss.”   The reason I took the risk of leaving teaching and taking the job at St. Mary’s is Fr. Rich Berbary.  And that, to quote Robert Frost “Has made all the difference.”

I am blessed by you...
Those who I know by name and those I know by sight.  Those who made St. Mary’s the wonderful parish it is and those who are making it what God is calling it to be.  You, who minister at Mass as lectors, eucharistic ministers, altar servers and ushers. You, who minister to the community;  particularly our social concerns ministry and my collaborators: Bruce Segall and John Saar.

I am blessed by God ...
Who created, sustains and redeems and from whom all blessings flow.

Bruce

PS
Today’s offertory songs honor those who have struggled and those who continue the struggle against inequality in any form.



Turn The Other Cheek?