Monday, November 23, 2015

The Art of Thanksgiving and New Beginnings... Music for the 1st Sunday of Advent

Hi St. Francis,

So, now that it is common knowledge that Parmesan cheese has more tryptophan in one teaspoon than is found in a pound of turkey which destroys my after dinner nap time on Thanksgiving, I guess I have to come up with something else to do.  Oh yes, I will be watching some football...after Thanksgiving Day Mass at St. Francis at 10:00 am!!!  I don't know about you but this fall has just flown by.  I am still thinking about the warm sunshine of summer and then BANG!!!  There are no more leaves on my trees and frozen turkeys abound at the local store.  I do love Thanksgiving.  It is a time to really spend with the family.  However, things certainly have changed since "back in the day" every night was family diner night.  I guess we can lament over that but life is just different than it was even a few years ago.

So often I hear it said that we need to remember what we are thankful for around this time of year. As a matter of fact, St. Ignatius called "lack of gratitude" one of the worst sins.  So, we put on our nice clothes, maybe even say a prayer before dinner, a dinner that took 5 hours to make and 20 minutes to eat and we act thankful.  Seems kind of shallow, but, nothing is meaningless when it includes Pumpkin Pie!!!  So, how do we go from acting grateful to actually being grateful?

In our churches, schools and places of business we are seeing lots of boxes to put some canned goods in.  It makes us feel good to help those in need.  But, what if we actually skipped the nap, the Macy's Parade or dare I say the football game and actually spent some time being grateful by serving those who have so much less to be grateful for.  Everyone knows about the "local soup kitchen" that serves Thanksgiving Dinner to the poor.  This is what I know, those folks who have so much less than I are so much more grateful for the little they have than I am for the abundance of blessings in my life.

On top of all of this, this weekend marks the beginning of Advent, the new beginning of the Church Year.  During this time we are called to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus.  Maybe its time we did some preparing.  I guess when your refrigerator and your wallet is empty, you learn to appreciate even the smallest thing when it's in there.  I know that as I mindlessly stare at my full refrigerator, I come away thinking, "There's nothing in here to eat".  Do you think that could work with our own sense of entitlement and our "right" to be in a place where we have freedom, prosperity, comfort and health?  I think that I want to be grateful because I see the true joy in the eyes and hearts of those who are truly grateful.  What is hard for me is understanding that in order to be truly grateful that I maybe have to recognize things that I am not entitled to or that I haven't earned and that I certainly do not deserve and then pray for the wisdom to have even a small idea of what my life would be like if I did not have these things.

So, when we go to that "Soup Kitchen" I guess the question is, who is really giving and who is really receiving?  When we realize how lucky we are, maybe we will begin to understand what Thanksgiving is supposed to be.  Maybe, our new beginning can be an epiphany of the abundant blessings we have and maybe with that knowledge, we will see God, ourselves and others in a whole new light.  For when we empty ourselves, we are filled with God's love and grace.  That is the way I want to start off my year.


Music for the 1st week of Advent!!!  Sing Away St. Francis.

Processional - Emmanuel -

Psalm 25 -

Offertory - While We Are Waiting -

Communion - Sacred Silence -

Recessional - Soon and Very Soon -

Monday, November 16, 2015

Centering Our Prayer...Music for The Feast Of Christ The King

Hello St. Francis,
This past week, our world was once again shaken by the darkness of evil as we watched in horror the events that took place in France on Friday but also throughout the week in other places where the media coverage was not as extensive.  Reading a newspaper, scrolling through social media and even in our daily conversations, we have been inundated with horrific news.  At the same time, during this time of the year, we are also called to support and remember those less fortunate than us on a local and global level.  We hear stories of the difficult crosses that people and families bear during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.  Sometimes, we are even called to arms when talking about Red coffee cups.   So much going on and so much to pray for.

I don't know about you but sometimes my prayer life imitates my real life.  When I am overwhelmed with a list of tasks I have to accomplish at work or at home, I sometimes feel defeated or at least I get that "What do I do first" type of feeling.  Usually, that means I get very little accomplished, not because of a lack of effort, but, because I run around doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that. There isn't really a priority, it's just whatever comes to my mind I try to do.

I feel that way sometimes when I pray too.  I have a list as long as my arm of things that all deserve my full attention in prayer but, because I have so many things on my list, none of my prayers really mirrors the sentiment in my heart.  I want to be wholeheartedly engaged with my prayer, but, what should I pray for first?  Am I asking too much?  And, Oh yeah, there are some things in my own life that I'd like to lift up as well.

When my life is overwhelming, I find it helpful to make a thorough list of things I have to do.  I don't just list the title, I develop a plan.  This thing must be done on this day and this is how I plan on accomplishing it.  For me, small successes, small goals and small actions, when focused add up to larger successes, larger goals and larger actions being accomplished.  The key...One Thing At A Time!!!

May I suggest to you, as we certainly all have a tremendous amount to pray for these days, that we practice that same model.  Today, my prayer was for a single individual whose life has been forever changed by the horrible events of the weekend.  I centered myself on being a prayer companion to one Father who lost a son.  I don't know his name, where he is from, or what he believes in, but I know what it means to be a father and I can not imagine the support I would need if I were in his shoes.  My prayer was focused, it was centered in solidarity, love and selflessness.  I have no doubt that God can put together the pieces of my prayer puzzle much better than I ever could.  I just really believe that in removing my list, my burdens and my self from my prayer, God will grant me the wisdom to know what to pray for tomorrow.  And, who knows, maybe the answers to our questions come in our faith that God will never need us to ask.  Maybe, if we just center our prayer on something simple, the complex won't seem so impossible.

If you would like, you may join me in my prayer for today.

Holy God,
I come to you today after once again witnessing pure evil as the tragic events in Paris unfolded.  I have so many questions and doubts, we ask Why?                     So many of my own wounds have been reopened as I think about the evil that     was carried out in our country, when our own hearts were broken.                   I may come to you seeking  justice. A justice that will rid the world of all           evil and convert the hearts of those who would be the cause of it.                      All of these feelings are valid and real in my soul that seek to be anchored in your hope. However, today, let me put aside all of my questions, all of my pain and all of my desires.   
Instead let me focus on the mother or father, the sister or brother, 
the son or daughter who at this moment has lost someone who they loved.  
Let me pray today for just one heart to be consoled, for one family to be healed and for one person to know that I love them and stand in solidarity with them, ready to help them carry their painful cross today.  
Today I am asked to put aside all of my intentions and journey with one person who needs to be brought out of the darkness of evil into the light of God’s compassion.  
Today, let me be their "anchor of hope".

We ask this through Jesus Christ, who has defeated evil by his Cross.  Amen.

Music for November 21-22 (Christ The King)
Processional - He Is Exalted -
Offertory - Shout To The Lord -
Communion - How Great Is Our God -

Monday, November 9, 2015

Are You In The Spirit? - Music for the weekend of November 14 and 15

Dear St. Francis,

One of the best things that can happen at any church is when a person or a congregation is moved, inspired, challenged and strengthened.  Very often we hear Jesus speak to us through Scripture and our hearts burn.  Sometimes, we really are engaged in the prayers over the bread and wine and realize the great miracle of love that happens in front of our eyes.  Sometimes, our minds and our hearts are fed by the incredible words of a homily, one that seems to speak specifically to us and sometimes, a beautiful song of praise or prayerful musical meditation really touches us and brings us to a place we call "In The Spirit".  As a Music Minister, those are the times when I thank God for blessing me with with the opportunity He has.

Let me suggest another way to get "In The Spirit".  We are all called to be ministers to our brothers and sisters.  That means, that every individual's role at the Liturgy is essential to the "Spirit" of the Liturgy.  There are so many ways to connect even more deeply to your parish family through ministering to them.  How?  Well, have you considered proclaiming scripture?  Have you thought about becoming a Eucharistic Minister or joining the choir or serving as a Minister of Hospitality.  Those are tangible ways to become the minister we are all called to be.  We hear about these things all of the time and they are all very important but, at the same time, they are not the only ways we can be a minister.  How about this...what if when you entered the church this week, you found a person or a family you don't know and sit next to them, shake their hand, introduce yourself and then...PRAY with them.  I don't know about you, but, that sounds like a ministry to me.

I want to share something with you.  I think I speak for all Music Ministers when I say that our ministry is our best prayer.  We have decided to sacrifice our time and share our talent to make music.  That music can be upbeat praise and worship music and it can be meditative and prayerful.  If you love your Music Ministers (and I hope you do) and you wish to show your gratitude for the inspiration they add to Liturgy, here is how you do it.

1.  SING!!! - Take a deep breath and let it fly.  When you sing with us, you connect to us, you pray with us.  That is our ministry!!!  We are a ministry focused on prayer and supporting the Liturgy.

2.  MEDITATE!!! - When the beautiful melody or inspiring words of a song moves you, that is God's gift to you through us.  It again is a part of our ministry to try to provide you with moments to reflect and find peace.

Now, at SFDS as you all know, we rock it out to Songs of Praise and Gospel tunes that encourage you to tap your feet and clap your hands.  When we are groovin', groove with us.  Sing, clap, be "In The Spirit".  We smile and we move because we are praising God!!!  What we are NOT doing is performing for you.  We are leaders of song not concert performers.  Don't get me wrong we want to be good...really good...but not to receive a standing ovation, but, to share our ministry.  We are so blest at SFDS to have a congregation who is incredibly appreciative and supportive of the music.  We can't thank you enough for that.  But, speaking for All Music Ministers, we will feel your love best when you praise God with us!!!  So, get "In The Spirit" and be a minister, thank those who have answered the call to ministry, invite others to our worship and then "Let The Spirit Move You".


Songs for  11/14-15
Processional - Table of Plenty -

Offertory Medley - Now Is The Time -

                           People Get Ready -

Recessional - Soon and Very Soon -

Monday, November 2, 2015

Give Till It Hurts - Music for November 7-8

Hello St. Francis,
One of the questions I get from students and parishioners alike is "Why does God need money?"
Interesting question.  Simple answer, God does not need money.  Never did, although, I'm sure Jesus made a few bucks as a custom carpenter.  If you have ever had custom cabinets put in, you know that they are not cheap.  So, why?  The concept of tithing (giving a percentage of your income to the church) is one that has long since been followed by the majority of congregations.  It can be uncomfortable to talk about especially since at least in most cases, every cent earned is necessary to live the life we have grown accustomed to.  Really, I have met very few people who just throw money away.  Most of us work hard and struggle to save enough for college tuition, weddings and maybe, if we are lucky, retirement.  Most of us spend a significant time "grinding" and it is a sacrifice being away from the family and the home that our work provides.  I have come to value the time I get to spend with my family because they are certainly the most important thing, but, at the same time, if I don't "grind" the amount of hours I do, we won't be able to afford the things that we want to have.  I'm not talking about extravagant things, I speak of a home in a nice neighborhood, dance lessons, sports, quality after school programs and maybe...dare I say...a vacation to spend time with them.
Yet, at every turn someone is asking us for something, someone wants me to dig into my pocket and give.

I don't think that most people have a fundamental problem with supporting organizations, including the church.  I think that at our core, most of us are quite generous with not only our treasure but with our time and talent as well.  For most of us, it isn't a selfish thing to want to keep at least most of what we earn.  If you ask most folks, if they hit the lottery, one of the top things they would do is donate money to people in need or to a cause that they care about.  I think we are  pretty generous.

So, why?

All throughout Scripture, Jesus challenges those who have much to give it away.  But, I never thought He wanted us to be poor.  He always showed kindness to the poor but I never thought He disliked the rich.  I think we find the answer in one of my favorite passages from Scripture.  Jesus lifts up the example of a woman who put a couple of coins in the 'basket" not because of the amount but because of the difficult choice she had to make to sacrifice.  I am coming to realize that there are some things in my life that are not absolutely necessary.  They are good things. The really good cup of coffee...and then a second, the $5, 10, 20 I spend each week on things that I don't need and that while they may be nice in that moment, never make it to my "Spending Log".  Maybe, God asks for money because He knows that we think about money more than we think about Him.  Maybe, if we challenged ourselves to be even more selfless, we will appreciate the things we enjoy doing even more.  "Money is the root of all evil" is a fallacy.  Money is neither good nor evil.  I think we have an opportunity to see God more clearly in our lives if we make the choice to think about Him every time we pull out our wallet.  God would never want us to be in a situation where we could not provide for the life we have dreamed of, I think he just wants to be a part of the dream.

See You Soon!!!

Here are this week's Tunes.
PS - We are going to be learning some new Mass Parts.  I have included recordings of them in the playlist.

Processional - Come, Now Is The time To Worship -

Psalm 146 -

Offertory - Precious Lord, Take My Hand -

Communion - Day of Peace -

Recessional - Our God Is Here -

Sound of My People Mass Parts -