Wednesday, February 21, 2018

This is not a test.

But.......I do like use the Socratic method of asking questions when teaching, learning or just clarifying my thoughts.

Consider the questions in italics that follow. It’s not a test. Think of it as a means of shifting the focus from where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing to participating in liturgy
(The work of the people. )

Did you notice a change in music last week?
What do you remember?
Did you find any of the music to be familiar?

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Lent. This brought about several changes in the liturgy as well as the music.

At St. Mary’s we replace the processional hymn with instrumental music during lent. The leader of song proclaims the entrance antiphon (today’s will be taken from psalm 25) and concludes with “Please rise.”

How would you describe this music?
Do you recognize it?

During lent the Gloria is eliminated. At St. Mary’s we underscore this change and the penitential aspect of lent by singing the Kyrie. The setting we use was written by Mary Haugen.  It is also what I play and improvise on during the procession.

During lent we chant the prayer of the faithful. One of the singers chants the intercession to which another responds, “Lord have mercy.” Please repeat this when the leader of song lifts his or her hands.

We will repeat "God of Mercy" at the offertory and change the communion song to Transfigure Us, O Lord, to reflect today's gospel.

Finally we have returned to the mass of Christ the Savior for the Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great amen and Lamb of God. Your wonderful participation in these “mass parts” affirms the investment St. Mary’s has put into its’ worship and music. It is why I often end these articles saying:

Blessed to be at St. Mary’s,


You are merciful to all, O Lord, and despise nothing that you have made. 

You overlook people’s sins, to bring them to repentance, and you spare them, for you are the Lord our God. 

                                     Wisdom 11:24, 25, 27 

For the past month I’ve thought a great deal about today’s music selections. 

My goal has been to pick just the right songs. 

Songs that connect the entire seasons five Sundays along with Palm Sunday and the remainder of holy week. 

Songs that highlight the readings that recur each year: Jesus’ temptation in the desert and transfiguration. (Today’s and next week’s gospels.) 

Lord, have mercy! 

The verses at the top of this page are the entrance antiphon for Ash Wednesday; literally the first words the church offers as lent begins. 

While God’s mercy (and our need for it) is an important element of every liturgy it is a primary focus of lent. We will begin each liturgy by singing it in it’s original greek. (Kyrie eleison.) 

It will be our response to the prayer of the faithful, and will be sung at masses where there are cantors. 

It will be found in “God of Mercy” (#509) our offertory song for the first 3 weeks of Lent. I love the images in the refrain of this new composition by Fr. Ricky Manalo and Bob Hurd. God who “pitches a tent among us with reconciling love” harkens to the covenant between God and Abraham. The heart and mind of Christ, which forms us into people of mercy and grace speaks to the transformation which is at the heart of the Lenten call to repentance. 

Praying that this will be a blessed lent,


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Being healed, being cured and changing one’s perspective.

 “You came to make us whole again.” 
Being healed, being cured 
and changing one’s perspective. 

PART 1    
If you read the first chapter of Mark’s gospel you will see that today’s story of healing took place shortly after last week’s gospel story.  Jesus taught in the synagogue, commanded the unclean spirit to leave the man and returned to Peter’s home where he healed Peter’s mother-in-law. By the end of the day “the whole town was at the door”. 

These stories along with next week’s gospel of the healing of the leper cause me to reflect on my own need to be healed, cured and to change my perspective. 

Think back to a time when you were sick. At some point you might have thought you were never going to get better. Then one day you wake up and are surprised that you are. You can breathe again or the pain is gone. You are like Peter’s mother-in-law. Your illness has been cured. 

On the other hand, perhaps you have felt like Job who laments of restless nights and months of misery. Perhaps an accident, chronic illness or simply the aging process leads you to wonder if God has abandoned you. 

While you or I may never be cured of every malady, Jesus offers each of us healing. 

This is where the change in perspective comes in. 

The first line of our offertory song “Jesus, You Are the Healing” (#400) highlights this fundamental part of our Christian understanding of suffering. 

It helps me see beyond my own day to day struggles and allows me to experience God’s healing.

 A Prayer by Elizabeth Anne Stewart 

All of us experience times of anxiety and anguish, but if “being troubled” becomes habitual, then we live in a state of captivity. Day after day, we allow ourselves to be shackled by negative thoughts and emotions; chained by resentments from the past, we are incapable of investing in the future. 

At the same time, we miss the present moment because we are too consumed by the care of yesterday and tomorrow. In short, we are prisoners of our own bad news. 

God invites us to be free, to let go of our burden and to trust in him. This does not guarantee that the stock markets will rally, the furnace will last another winter or one’s children will be accepted in the schools of their choice or that we will not experience suffering or pain. It does mean, however, that it is possible to live in freedom, regardless of the difficulties facing us. 

Faith allows us to find peace in the realization that God is with us, no matter what, and to believe that joy is an option, even when life is complicated. 

Set our hearts free, O God, that we may walk in your peace. Amen.

 part 2
Last week’s weeks readings (Job’s lamentation and the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law) prompted me to think about healing and being cured. Here are two conclusions:
  1. As the Son, God knows suffering first hand. As Father, God knows what it’s like to suffer when someone we love suffers.
   2. While God may not “cure” every illness, God’s desire to heal is ever-present.
Today’s readings center on a specific illness: leprosy.  I don’t know about you, but I’m reminded of one of those forms we are asked to fill out at the doctor’s office.  I quickly scribble an x in the box under the heading “not applicable” and move to the next malady.

I am reminded of the book I just read. “Wonder” is the story of Austin, a boy with a face so deformed he lives separate from other children.  Austin is home-schooled and chooses to wear an astronaut’s helmet whenever he goes outside.  The difference between Austin and the leper in today’s reading is that instead of Austin screaming “unclean” to warn others, others scream to keep him at what they believe to be a safe distance.  When he finally goes to school (in fifth grade) the children invent a game called "plague" to describe what might happen if they accidentally touch him.

Have you felt isolated, excluded, silenced or marginalized? Is there a part of your life that you want to cover in shame or pride? Don’t worry, these are rhetorical questions. I’m not asking you to check any boxes and hand this in.

For the second week in a row we are singing Stand By Me #633. A line buried at the end of the 2nd verse resonates with me.  It is also the title of today’s article.

As followers of Jesus we are called to be the healing power of Christ that reaches out to the suffering.  

Consider the words of Pope Francis:

“If this leper broke the law, Jesus did likewise by touching the man and cleansing him of the disease. The Lord’s example teaches us not to be afraid; to reach out and touch the poor and the needy in our midst.”

Capernum: The town of Jesus 

It is Saturday, Jan. 20th. I am writing while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Today we are riding around the Sea of Galilee visiting the sites of many gospel stories. 

The decision to get a jump on this week's article must have been inspired by the Spirit as we are currently heading to Capernum, the site of today's gospel. 

Capernum is where Jesus stayed when he wasn't traveling. The two major sights are the ruins of the house where Jesus stayed and the synagogue where today's gospel takes place. The house is owned by the Mother-in-law of Peter. The synagogue is as close to the house as the parish center is to our church. 

Looking back and forth from the house to the synagogue I think of the people of Capernum. While some follow Jesus and some do not, all remain faithful to the God who created the heavens and the earth. 

This comes to mind because we often focus on the differences between Christianity and Judaism. There is no doubt Jesus spoke this way to separate himself from the religious leaders of his time. Perhaps, however it is good to remember that the foundation of Jesus' understanding of His heavenly father was laid in his Jewish upbringing. 

For the third week in a row we will sing "Our God Is Here" (#305) as our processional hymn. The chorus; "and we cry holy, holy, holy" comes directly from the "Kedushah." This ancient Hebrew prayer remains in our liturgy to this day. 

Blessed to be in the Holy Land and returning to serve at St. Mary's,


A New Direction

A New Direction. (And a New Word.) 

Last week we heard John’s account of the calling of Simon/Peter and Andrew. 

Today we hear Mark’s perspective which includes Jesus calling James and John. 

Like Peter and Andrew; James and John abandon their nets and join Jesus in His mission to preach repentance. The gospel is paired with the story of Jonah preaching repentance to the people of Ninevah. 

The back story makes it clear that Jonah has also repented and taken a new direction in life. Imagine after being told to report to Montreal, you or I defiantly book a flight to Miami. That’s pretty much what Jonah did. God told him to go to Ninevah. Jonah responded by getting on a boat sailing in the opposite direction. 

After getting thrown overboard and finding himself in the belly of the whale Jonah repents and makes a 180 degree change in direction.

I selected our prelude, Change Our Hearts (#659) to set the stage for this call to repentance. 

I’ve also repeated several songs from last week including Come Follow Me (#505) which will be sung at the presentation of the gifts. 

Blessed to be serving at St. Mary’s 

In researching the book of Jonah I came upon a word of which I had never heard nor read. "Ineluctable" describes God’s inescapable call of Jonah. (And you and me) 

Here I Am Lord

Here I am. Lord......... 

Today is the first of 6 Sundays between the Christmas season and the Sundays of Lent. (Welcome to my world.) 

As I quickly look through the readings I see many stories of the call of God. In today and next week’s gospel Jesus calls Peter, Andrew and James to be disciples. 

These stories may seem familiar as we hear them every year about this time. I am reminded that despite our human desire for perfection and love of hyperbole; Christ calls the flawed and the ordinary to lead and to be His church. (Again... welcome to my world.) 

Today, however, I’d like to lift up the story of call of Samuel. As it begins Samuel is sleeping in the temple where he is awakened by the Lord. The problem is that he does not know that it is the Lord and Instead assumes that it is Eli, the high priest of the temple. Eventually Eli figures out what is going on and instructs Samuel to answer the Lord’s call. 

I have picked several songs to highlight this nature of call. Come Follow Me (#505) speaks directly to the lives of the apostles who left there homes, families and all security to spread the gospel. We will sing it for each of the next three weeks as either the prelude or offertory song. Today’s offertory song is Here I Am Lord (#379) also speaks to responding to God's ever-present call. While you may have heard this used as a song of comfort at a funeral mass I hope you will see it in a different (and more correct?) when coupled with the story of Samuel. 

If you go to my blog at the parish website you will find the prayer “The Work of Christmas Begins.” Perhaps the stories of call over these next few weeks will inspire you to step forward and answer the Lord’s call in a new way. Peace, 

PS This is a great time to join our music ministry


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