Thursday, February 27, 2020

Lent I

Image result for jesus in the desert images

“Come, beloved, and rest your mind;  Leave the things of this world behind.  Here I will be your daily bread, all that you need.”
 From “Into the Desert” words and music Curtis Stephan

Today’s Liturgical note comments on the liturgy, readings and music in the order in which they occur on this First Sunday in Lent.

Prelude:         Into the Desert       Not In hymnal
This song guides us towards the focal point of the First Sunday in Lent.  Jesus is led into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  The first line (found at the top of the page) speaks to the first temptation - bread.  It also makes a subtle reference to Jesus as God’s “beloved” as found in next week’s gospel.

Chanted entrance antiphon and instrumental procession
The entrance antiphon (introit) is part of the Introductory Rite.  We chant it at St. Mary’s during lent to highlight the solemn nature of the season.  Today’s antiphon is taken from psalm 91, the source of both the devil’s temptation and Jesus’ words of resistance.  The instrumental procession creates space for personal reflection as the server carries the cross - the symbol of Christ’s sacrifice and ultimate victory over sin and death.

Sung Kyrie
One of the earliest prayers of the church translated from the Greek as “Lord have mercy.”  We sing the Kyrie during lent to highlight the penitential nature of the season.

Scripture readings
The compilers of the lectionary pair the Genesis story where Adam and Eve are tempted by the serpent with Matthew’s gospel where Jesus is tempted by the devil.  In the second reading, Paul explains the relationship between the two stories.

Brothers and sisters:
Through one man sin entered the world,
and through sin, death,
and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned—
                                                Romans 5:12

In psalm 51 we sing the psalmists plea for God’s mercy.

Chanted Prayer of the Faithful
The response; Lord have mercy and the music setting reflect the solemn nature of the season.

Offertory       Gracious God           #118
The refrain to this song describes God’s abundant mercy.

Mass of Christ the Savior  #912, 915, 916, 917
We sing this setting for both lent (where the Gloria is it omitted by liturgical rule) and the Easter season.  The Lenten Memorial acclamation speaks of Christ’s cross and resurrection as the way to salvation.

Communion                         On Eagles Wings      #436
A modern-day anthem based on psalm 91 and so connected to today’s gospel.  It was written by Fr. Michael Joncas as a prayer for strength during the difficult times of life’s journey.  

Recessional     Forty Days and Forty Nights          #127   
An important part of our musical and Lenten tradition and a reminder that Lent is greater than any one or even the sum of it’s parts.  I hope you will stay and pray the entire song.

Blessed to walk this Lenten journey once again with you at St. Mary’s,


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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