Wednesday, May 30, 2018

June 3 The Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him, says the Lord.
                                                          John 6:57

Last Saturday I was part of a group of parishioners at the ordination of nine men the priesthood. After mass several people shared how deeply moved they were.  Thinking that this might be a subject for “liturgical notes” I began to inquire as to what in particular moved them.

Most of the group began to speak about grandeur. They commented on the magnificence of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.  One person described how it appears to rise up as you approach the city.  I recalled my heart racing and being choked up as the organ, brass quartet and tympani cued the opening procession.

For many the highlight was the ordination itself. The candidates pledged their obedience and then came one by one to kneel before Cardinal Tobin. The Cardinal invoked the Holy Spirit as he laid hands on each man consecrating him to the priesthood. Following this, each priest present laid hands on the newly ordained in what is known as the unbroken chain of the priesthood.  After the new priests were vested the Cardinal anointed their hands with chrism to prepare them to fulfill their sacred duties. 

It was the humility of the next moment that took most of us by surprise. Cardinal Tobin knelt and received a blessing from each of the newly ordained priests. As each priest blessed him, the Cardinal reached out, took and kissed their anointed hands.

One person who attended the ordination described this dualism of grandeur and humility as “heaven on earth.” 

What a fitting way to speak about the mass in general and in particular on this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.

This great feast (also known as Corpus Christi) calls us to focus on two manifestations of the Body of Christ: the Holy Eucharist and the Church.

Consider how today’s music connects with and speaks to the Body of Christ:

  • The refrain to “Table of Plenty” (#310) is an invitation to come to the feast of heaven and earth. (This is one of 2 songs we will sing which were used during the weeks our children received their first holy communion.)
  • The sequence for Corpus Christi is sung after the second reading. Its was written by St. Thomas Aquinas specifically for Corpus Christi by St. Thomas Aquinas.
  • As the bread and wine to become the body of Christ are brought forward we will sing Curtis Stephan’s “Bread of Angels” (#367.) This is a contemporary setting of the traditional text: “Panis angelicus” (bread of angels.)
  • We Are One Body is an affirmation that we are united in Christ and are the body of Christ.
Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Trinity Sunday - Memorial Day Weekend

Image result for memorial day images old fashioned

This week’s article begins with a personal confession: I love going grocery shopping.  Whether it’s fresh fish to cook for dinner, stocking up on sale items or just satisfying a craving for.....whatever, I go to the grocery store about four or five times every week.

For the past year, my preferred grocery has played patriotic music in the entranceway of it’s locations. I won’t mention the chain’s name but I can Shop at locations near my home as well as rite by St. Mary's.

On a visit about a week ago, I entered to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” Something about the music made me pause…..I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.... take notice…. and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.... and stand a taller and prouder.

A few days later I played a funeral mass at another parish, where the deceased was a veteran of World War II. In the front of the chapel sat an urn, a picture of Ed, a WWII helmet and an American flag folded into a familiar triangle shape.

Ed’s funeral was lovely. Family members shared brief but poignant stories about their uncle. The priest spoke eloquently about a parishioner of almost 60 years.  But, the highlight came at the end. Right before I was about to start the closing hymn the funeral director came running up the stairs to stop me. That’s when the honor guard came into view. One couldn’t help but be moved as they slowly unfurled, refolded and presented the flag to Ed’s nephew. During this entire time the priest stood quietly, respectfully and attentively. And I’ll gladly stand up next to you.....

I’m sure of my legalist musician colleagues will quote all the liturgical rubrics and guidelines that were broken at Ed’s funeral.  Allow me use the rest of this paragraph to respond to their silliness.

OK, now that I’m done responding, here’s a Pop Quiz:

What war was the impetus for Memorial Day? Don’t worry. I failed the quiz, too.

Here’s are a few hints:  This war was fought principally by Americans; sometimes brother against brother. Like many, if not all wars, it was fought over political ideology, justice, economics and race.

The answer is: The American Civil War.  While you might see the sad irony in the fact that our nation continues to struggle with the same issues, that is not the purpose of this article.

Decoration Day, the forerunner of Memorial Day was first proclaimed in 1868, shortly after the civil war “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” Over the years, this day was expanded to honor all men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Military.

As you walk into the church all weekend you will hear selections from “The Patriotic Songs of America.” The following is a beautiful explanation of the origins of one of these songs inspired by the events that laid the seeds of Memorial Day.

- To have implicit trust in God's faithful care and protection is never easy in times of danger or strife. Yet even in the midst of the terrible Civil War between the Northern and Southern states, a remarkable woman named Julia Ward Howe proclaimed her confidence in God's triumphant power in this inspiring text.

Deeply anguished at the growing conflict between the two sections of the country, Mrs. Howe watched troops marching off to war singing "John Brown's Body," a song about a man who had been hanged in his efforts to free the slaves. Julia felt that the catchy camp meeting tune should have better words. In a desire to phrase her own feelings about the dreadful events of the time, she "scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper." The national hymn first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine in 1862, as a battle song for the republic. Before long the entire nation became inspired by her text and united in singing the new words with the old tune.

Mrs. Howe's hymn has been acclaimed through the years as one of our finest patriotic songs. At one time it was sung as a solo at a large rally attended by President Abraham Lincoln. After the audience had responded with loud applause, the President, with tears in his eyes, cried out, "Sing it again!" It was sung again. And after more than a hundred years, Americans still join often in proclaiming, "Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on!"

Taken from [Name of Book] © Copyright [insert date] by [Author]. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Blest to be in ministry at St. Mary’s...and grateful to those who served,

This Sunday at 2 p.m. St. Mary’s will host The Township of Nutley POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony to remember the sacrifice and honor the service of those who were prisoners of war as well as those who are missing in action and their families.  All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Same Old, Same Old: What My Mother Rally Wanted for Mother's Day

Many of us know the story. We’ve heard it every year on Pentecost. We’ve seen artwork depicting dancing flames on disciples heads. We’ve seen it in movies. It may be even be one of the bible stories we remember from our childhood.  “Same old, same old.”

It would have been easy for me to follow the same old process I have followed for almost five years. I sit at the computer on Monday morning to write an article due on Monday night for publication the following weekend. This writer’s version of the “same old, same old.”

But this article is different. It is early Mother’s Day morning and my eyes open well before the alarm clock. No sooner than I get out of bed, an idea comes to mind. Then another. And another. The thoughts come so rapidly I race to the computer to type the outline, which quickly becomes the first draft of what you are now reading.

What sparks everything is the realization of what Mom really wants for Mother’s Day. She’d like for things to be the way they used to. My dad still alive and the two of them, doing lots of nothing - together. They would face the same problems and concerns; but they’d face them together. Mom longs for the “same old, same old.”

In the passage preceding today's Gospel John writes of Mary sitting by the tomb. She is weeping because Jesus; her master, teacher and friend is dead. It’s hard to describe the ministry of Jesus as the same old, same old but could a part of Mary be longing for just that?

In the days after Jesus rose and ascended to heaven the Apostles must have had shared the longing that many of us feel when our partner/leader is no longer present to guide, comfort and strengthen us.

This longing for the same old, same old is not limited to the disciples or to those among us who have lost a long-term partner. We all long for the same old, same old. Some people call it “the way things used to be.” Yet at the same time we long to live, grow and move forward in confidence.

This seems to be a conundrum.

But isn’t that what Jesus was talking about when He said that he would send the Holy Sprit?

Could this be why Jesus told us that He is the vine and we the branches?

Consider what my friend Greg, a wise and wonderful priest said at my Dad’s (and many other) funerals: “If our beloved Vincent is with Jesus, and we can be with Jesus in Holy Communion are we not still connected to Vincent?

Could it be that the Spirit connects us to the comforting same old, same old while at the same time breathes new life into it?

I believe that the Holy Spirit is not “either/or” but “both/and”. Thus the same old becomes the foundation for the possibilities and newness the future brings.
Pay special attention to our offertory song “Holy Spirit” by Juie Hoy (printed in today’s bulletin.) Its simple lyrics, melody and accompaniment could be described as the same old, same old.  Yet, they make it possible for rich and beautiful vocal harmonies.

Congratulations to our confirmandi. I pray some of you will find your way into the ministries of our church.

Blessed to serve at St. Mary’s,


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mother's Day

"When YOU become a Mother....."

Whenever my brother or I got particularly rambunctious, Mom would put us in our place with the phrase at the top of the page.

Despite having a good dad, mom often served as both mother and father.  This childhood plus having spent the better part of 2 decades raising children of my own allows me to claim the title Mom predicted.

What about God?

Some religious thinkers try to make a case for God being both mother and father.   Let me be clear:  That is not the intention of my writing.  If it were, the quote at the top would have read; "When God becomes a mother."  Instead, I am interested in how the metaphor of motherhood can be used to describe God’s love and protection. 

Today we will be singing Christopher Walker’s beautiful composition:  “Like a Child Rests.” (#455)

Below are the simple, yet profound footnotes on psalm 131 (on which the text of the song is based) from the U.S. Council of Bishops:

A song of trust, in which the psalmist gives up self-sufficiency (Ps 131:1), like a babe enjoying the comfort of its mother’s lap (Ps 131:2), thus providing a model for Israel’s faith (Ps 131:3).

With love and affection for all of our mothers living and deceased and those who have mothered us.



Welcome to our first communicants who are singing with our children’s choir for the first time at the 10:30 liturgy.

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