Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday

Welcome to St. Mary’s! Welcome to Liturgical Notes!
You can find this column with music and links to the readings and songs can on the St. Mary’s website at and follow the banner link to Music (Liturgical Notes).

First a brief explanation of the what, who and why I write this column each week.

I write on the connection between the music and the day’s readings. It’s what I do.
From time to time, I add a little bit about myself, beginning with being an altar server at St. Mary Mother of Jesus parish in Brooklyn through nearly 40 years as a church musician. What I do makes up a large part of who I am.

Every one in a while, and sometimes for the period of a few weeks I get a little philosophical (Some might call it inspired. Others might call it preachy.)
Whichever it is, the scripture proclaimed each week moves me. This is the why, the Who does what he does. (My apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

Throughout all of this I wonder about you. What brings you to St. Mary’s today?
Is it a life-long faithfulness to Sunday worship or maybe even daily mass? Is it a persistent desire to deepen your connection with (or reconnect with) God?

Do you come relaxed and ready? Or have you just raced and ranted to make sure an entire family is dressed, fed and (close to) on time? Perhaps you are wishing that a family member who is not with you had accompanied you today.

I wonder about the twists and turns, the bumps and pitfalls that you have passed through on your way through the doors of St. Mary’s today.

So what about the readings?
If you are reading this during the Triduum (Holy Thursday, good Friday or Holy Saturday) you will have a deeper experience of what leads up to that Easter morning where Christ rises from the dead. If not, you can still look at these readings beginning on page 104.
In the first reading on Easter Sunday, (found on page 148) Peter preaches about Jesus’ death and resurrection. He exhorts the early disciples (and us) to testify to Jesus death for the forgiveness of sins.

As you take a look at today’s gospel (page 151) try for a moment to suspend what you know. Consider Mary of Magdala at the tomb. Mary is both literally and figuratively in the dark. She doesn’t rejoice and say, “Alleluia, He is risen.” Instead, she frantically runs to Peter and John saying “They have taken the Lord from the tomb and we don’t know where they put him.”

I suspect at times many of us fall somewhere between Peter and Mary of Magdala. The song that says it best for me: Resucito’ (#177) was composed by artist, philosopher, musician and founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, Francisco (Kiko) Arguello.

The song expresses our movement from the trepidation and uncertainty that we share with Mary of Magdala to the joy of witnessing to Christ’s resurrection that the first Pope has challenged the church to share since its’ very beginning almost 2000 years ago.

Blessed and Joyful to be at St.Mary's,


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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Palm Sunday

Welcome to my blog post.  What you are reading is an online adaptation of what I write in the weekly bulletin at church.  (For more about me and the church I serve, see the widget on the side of the page or go to the St. Mary's homepage.)

My goal in writing this weekly column is twofold: 

1. To highlight the connection between the readings of the day and the music that will be sung at St. Mary's.

2. To enhance your "take-away" from liturgy by encouraging you to to preview and ponder the week’s readings before attending liturgy.

“I tell you, if they keep silent
the very stones will cry out.
                                               Luke 19:40

Today, Christians around the world observe Palm Sunday, the day commemorating Jesus’ passion and death. 

One of the unique parts of the Palm Sunday liturgy is the proclamation of Luke's account of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem.  (Luke 19:28-40)   This additional proclamation of the gospel provides the historic basis for why we receive and raise our palm branches at the beginning of the liturgy. Click on the following link to see all of today's scripture. 

Our prelude, (He Is Exalted) entrance hymn (The Children of Jerusalem) and singing of the Gloria underscore Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

The tenor of the music quickly changes in Psalm 22 which foretell the words of Our Savior on the cross: "My God, My God, Oh why have you abandoned me?"

We then we hear the remainder of the story of Jesus’ passion, beginning with the agony in the garden and ending with His burial in the tomb.  During this second gospel passage we will intersperse the spiritual "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?"

Our participation in this yearly ritual affirms our “yes” to the question of the song.  

We are the crowd that greets Jesus with shouts of "Hosanna" and "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord." 

We also the ones who say "Crucify Him" as we affirm that Christ died for our sinfulness.

The offertory and communion song will vary depending on which liturgy you attend. You may hear Twila Paris' "How Beautiful." (You are hearing the composer as you open this blog.) 

You might also hear Gilbert M. Martin’s arrangement of Lowell Mason’s hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" or even Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu. 

My goal in picking this music is to capture the pathos of Our Lord’s crucifixion and to follow His command to we His disciples not be silent. 


It is wonderful that many Christians feel moved to return to church on Palm Sunday.

My prayer is that:
  • those who return will be made to feel welcome 
  • those who attend will be moved 
  • all will be inspired to return on the Triduum 
Liturgy times at St. Mary's Nutley

Blessed to be serving at St. Mary's, 


Palm Sunday Music at St. Mary's 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lent V: Downton Abbey

It’s Monday morning; the day that I write and submit what you are reading right now.  I take my first few sips of coffee and begin to reread the day’s scripture readings.  I then look at the music that I planned a few months ago. Then, a little walk around the living room.   One reason for this walk is related to procrastination, but the other is to allow the Holy Spirit (and the coffee) some time to do what they do.

As I walk, I recall something that came across my Facebook feed late last night.   It was a picture of some of the girls with whom I went to grammar school dressed up for a Downton Abbey Finale party.   Don’t worry I will not spoil anything for those who have yet to watch the finale. 

Despite the many friends who rave about it (including some staff members here at St. Mary’s) I have very little interest in Downton Abbey. 

I am however, very interested in how television shows capture our attention, stir our imagination and influence our daily lives to the point of dressing up and quoting the character’s lines.  (BTW I have 7 words for some of you who are smugly shaking your heads, thinking that the Abbeyer’s (or is it Abbots?) are crazy:  May the force be with you….NOT!

Today we hear part 5 of the Lenten story.  But first let’s look back to some recent “episodes.” (Click on the title to link to the days readings at the US Catholic Bishops homepage.)

The Baptism of the Lord 
                    (or, what I call the prequel) Jesus begins his mission.

Lent I:      Jesus goes into the desert to discern this mission and is 
                    tempted by Satan.  

Lent II    Atop Mt. Tabor with Peter, James and John, Jesus is 
                   transfigured while being blessed by the same 
                   voice heard from the clouds during the prequel. 

On Lent III, IV, and V we hear stories that tell us about God and God’s mercy. 

Lent III    The gardener obtains a stay of execution for the 
                    non-producing fig-tree.  

Lent IV    The moving parable of the prodigal son and his 
                    Father who responds with joy when the son who was 
                    dead to him returns.  

Many of you, particularly those of Italian descent will recognize the severity of the phrase “dead to me.” 

Today, Lent V we hear one more story of reconciliation and mercy; a story often referred to as The Woman Caught in Adultery.*   

Here is what our Holy Father, Pope Francis says directly about this gospel:

“The first and only step required to experience mercy….is to acknowledge that we are in need of mercy.  Jesus comes for us, when we recognize that we are sinners.”

Here are two of today's musical selections which speak to a God who calls us to a deeper relationship i.e. to "Come home."  

1.  Hosea is a gem written by Gregory Norbet OSB.  Click on the      link to see and hear a slide presentation using it as a background      posted by maryelizabethanne2.

2.  Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling is the song you are               listening to right now.  You can see and hear it by click on the         following link.  Softly and Tenderly (Gaither VEVO)

Lent V music at St. Mary's

I invite you pray the words while singing or listening to these preludes as you prepare to meet our God who becomes present in Word and Sacrament.

*    (note: At the 12 noon liturgy the cycle A gospel of the Raising           of Lazarus will be proclaimed.)


One last quote from a Downton Abbey fan as it relates to my work both here and on my blog (Which you can find by going to the parish website at .)

“It’s a little different at first but once you watch an episode or two and get to know the characters; you’re hooked.” 
What might happen if we were to read scripture similarly?

Blessed to be serving at St. Mary’s,



The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ's Paschal Mystery.   

Mark your calendars and commit to spending about three hours during holy week.

Thursday      March 24th   7:30 p.m.      The Lord's Supper
Friday           March 25th,  7:30 p.m.      The Passion of the Lord
Saturday       March 26th,  7:30 p.m.      The Easter Vigil


Softly and Tenderly

Friday, March 4, 2016

Lent IV

Be sure to have your sound on to hear "My Son Has Gone Away" 
a beautiful song written by Bob Dufford S.J. the composer of Be Not Afraid.

"God awaits us with open arms; 
we need only take a step toward him like the Prodigal Son.  
But if, weak as we are, 
we don’t have the strength to take that step, 
just the desire to take it is enough.”
    The Name of God is Mercy: by Pope Francis

The fourth Sunday of lent is known as “Laetare” Sunday because the opening prayer begins “Laetare Jerusalem.” (Rejoice Jerusalem)    As on Gaudete Sunday (Gaudete also means rejoice) the church reminds us that we are halfway through the season and calls us to press forward.

This week the Cycle A readings will again be proclaimed at the 12 noon liturgy.  These readings are recommended for masses where the catechumens, those who are seeking full communion in the church attend.  (To learn more about this go to 

The prelude “Enter the Journey” (#651) will be sung at the 12 noon liturgy on each of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays in lent.  It is an affirmation of our support of the Catechumens and their journey to initiation in the sacraments of the church at the Easter vigil.

The gospel is the story of the man born blind.  The irony of its ending contains an important lesson:   The blind man regains his sight and believes while religious leaders refuse to believe and are left in the dark.  Our offertory song, Open My Eyes (#391) directly relates to this gospel.  It was chosen as a prayer that our eyes, ears, hearts and minds be open to the presence of God.

Cycle C readings
The gospel for Cycle C is the story of the Prodigal Son.  In addition to the quote at the beginning of this article, Pope Francis makes two interesting observations about this gospel.  The first pertains to the son’s primary motivation which is his physical hunger. The second is the response of the father who on catching sight of the son “was filled with compassion (and)…ran to the son, embraced him and kissed him."  The Holy Father uses this and other parables to describe a God who is overjoyed when we accept His love and mercy.

If you come attend the 5:30 or 9 a.m. liturgy you will be in for a musical treat.  Our cantor John Luland will be singing and playing My Son Has Gone Away This song, written by Bob Dufford SJ (the composer of Be Not Afraid) is a most beautiful and haunting rendition which describes the sadness of the father prior to the Son’s return.  In the song, the father sings interchangeably to his son and “Jerusalem” which Jesus used as a metaphor for the people of God.   

See all of the music selections by following the links:
Lent IV (March 6) Music at St. Mary's

Lent V (March 13) Music at St. Mary's

Palm Sunday (March 20) Music at St. Mary's



Are you a high school or college age singer who would like to sing when Archbishop Hebda comes to St. Mary's? 

Follow the link for more info or e-mail me at

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