Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Mass confusion. That's what music for Mass seems to be these days. Catholic liturgical music has gone from chant, to folksy, to rock 'n' roll, to chaos. Well, maybe chaos is too extreme a word. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned guidelines? Is it just assumed that we know what we're doing? If music is the least of the priorities of those who issue guidelines for the Mass, then something is seriously wrong, because there is an awful lot of music in the liturgy. There are at least four hymns and half a dozen sung responses.
Much is left to the discretion of the music director, which is as it should be, ideally. My question is, where does the music director turn for direction? As organist and music director for two small town rural parishes, which share one priest with a third small town parish, I have been searching for over a decade for guidelines in choosing hymns and settings for our services. I do the usual: read the readings, psalm and gospel, choose applicable hymns from the missalette and hymnal, try and be consistent with the music for the responses. With all the choices available, it can get overwhelming. In my youth, we had a teen group that would play for the teen Mass. I do believe we occasionally made some inappropriate choices in the music we played for Mass in the name of keeping it "upbeat and lively". I now have a totally different perspective of what kind of music is in order for our most sacred of services.
This is where I get lots of feedback. Even though most of our congregation does not sing no matter what type of music is played, some will not hesitate to inform me that the songs were: "wonderful as usual" (thank God you didn't notice all my goofs), "boring old hymns" (if the words to "Immaculate Mary" bore you, maybe you need a little focus and meditation), "songs we don't know" (really? This is the 100th time we've done "Be Not Afraid" out of the missalette and you don't know it?), "too much Spanish" (1/2 and 1/2, alternating, for a bilingual Mass), the Our Father is supposed to be said, not sung (still waiting for the final word on this). Yet the Diocese, for all its' concern with Safe Environment, annulments, fundraising appeals and the New Translation (overly hyped I think), does not seem to think liturgical music worthy of being addressed. Ah, so I guess this is just part of my personal spiritual journey.
So as I continue to search for answers to the all-pervading question of what to play for Mass this Sunday, I will read the blogs of other church musicians, occasionally check the diocesan website for information, and network wherever I can, to see what other music directors are doing. And in the end, I'll make sure and clear it with my pastor. Meanwhile, Holy Spirit guide me, and help me to choose music that will soften the peoples' hearts and lift their spirits.
Monday, January 16, 2012
China is a Communist country. Christianity is illegal and those who preach it are cruelly treated. If a family has one child already and is found to be expecting another, the mother is detained and the developing baby aborted. If the mother manages to escape and have her baby, enormous fines and other punishments are imposed. Bibles are confiscated and those who possess them are beaten.
When Brother Yun got his first Bible, he read it hungrily, memorizing everything he could, even sleeping with it. He immediately began proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in small villages across China. From that moment on, he experienced persecution, torture and imprisonment by the Chinese government. Brother Yun recounts his imprisonments, tortures and escapes in graphic detail. Although there are those who question the extent of his reported tortures, his message is clear: Jesus is love. Jesus is everything. Jesus' love is worth dying for. The way he handles his tormenters, never losing faith, is truly inspiring and heartrending.
In a country such as ours, where so many of us who call ourselves "Christian" are lukewarm at best, the mere thought of suffering torture, blood, pain and death for the sake of Jesus Christ gives pause. Would I? Could I? Or would I deny Him and hide, gradually losing what little faith I had? Not a dilemma I want to be faced with. However, Brother Yun's story causes me to question whether I am witnessing to Jesus Christ in my everyday life. Do I hunger for the Eucharist and the Word? When presented with the opportunity to attend Mass or read the Bible do I respond with enthusiasm? Out of duty? Turn my back? Is my faith and hope contagious? Do I radiate peace and love? Good questions to keep in the front of my mind on a daily basis. In the end, don't we all want to be greeted with those precious words, "well done, good and faithful servant. Now enter in and claim your reward."? Brother Yun concludes by challenging the Western Church to return to basics. As the theme of this blog suggests, I think that's a wonderful idea.
Christopher Jean gives a compelling reading as Brother Yun, with Jeannie Park as Yun's faithful wife Deling. The readers lend warmth and truth to their characters and the audiobook (copyright 2008 by Hovel Audio) is a joy to listen to. The Heavenly Man, by Brother Yun, with Paul Hattaway, (c) 2002, was originally published by Monarch Books.
I would like to thank Christian Audio, for providing me with a free review copy of this audiobook. No other compensation was received for this review.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
With all the wonderful gadgets we have available to us, it is easy to get lost in today's technology. I have experienced the mind-numbing addiction of staring at the computer screen for hours on end. I try to limit my computer, phone and other related gadget time so that I don't miss out on life. Gadgets also eat up precious creative and productive time.
Then I felt the need to return to a more detailed planner for the coming year, 2012, but could not find one on the market that would work for me and was within my budget. I tried designing my own, but felt like I was re-inventing the wheel. Before I proceeded to invest large amounts of time in this project, I decided to see what I had in my computer.
I have not previously used computerized planning systems because
(a) it is not convenient to carry the computer around with me and
(b) printing out daily, weekly and monthly schedules, and reprinting with changes and updates, uses an enormous amount of paper, which is also not convenient to carry around and
(c) computers crash and lose information.
Fortunately, I found that there is a calendar on my ipod which will sync with a calendar on my computer. The ipod is very convenient to carry around. I now have a backup drive to store my programs, so there are 3 locations for my information to be stored. I can also print out copies of my schedule, although I will probably just do this for the end-of-year archives, if this all turns out to work the way I hope it will.
For my weekly to-do's I am using the notepad on my ipod, which I can email to myself if I want to print out a list (my ipod does not sync with my current printers). Right now, I am just filing the emailed copies in case the ipod crashes.
Although it has taken me 3 solid days of my Christmas break to input everything and learn how to use this system so that it will make my life easier, it seems to be working so far. As long as everything is backed up where it can be retrieved and printed out if necessary, I should be fine. If nothing else, I can make a printout and go back to the pencil and paper style.
It's getting so complicated to keep it simple.