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,


You can find out more about the Social Mission of the Church at and be part of our social concerns team by emailing me at

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,


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