Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Jesus is born, but have we found Him yet? ...Music for the 4th Sunday of Advent

Hello St. Francis,
This week's reflection is a prayerful response to an article I read by Dr. Chris Anthony of Catholic Online.  It speaks of the true hope of Christmas.  I pray that this message will remain with you throughout this season.

Christmas is a commemoration of God's coming into the world. He came for all of us - believers and non-believers alike. His birth should bring us hope and triumph which will dispel the sadness from our lives. But after years of celebrating Christmas after Christmas many of us are yet to see that triumph in our lives and our hopes may be giving way to despair. Has the Messiah really come? If He has where is He? Why doesn't He bring the triumph that dispels sadness? 

The real problem today is that we are waiting for God to literally come to us. Sometimes I think we can celebrate His birth just like that of any one of us - offering prayers, eating, drinking and making merry. Our world does celebrate his coming  but do we really welcome Him into our hearts and lives? 

Yes, He has come into the world and is very much in our midst but sometimes we do not recognize Him.  

By being born to poor parents, in an environment of extreme poverty, Jesus is telling us where He dwells - not in places of majesty and glamour but among the poor and the downtrodden, the sick and dying, the hungry, the oppressed and in those we love and even in those we hate. In short He is among those that are often seen only in quickly passing; the marginalized, the forgotten, the "unimportant".

Amidst our celebrations this Christmas, let us pause a while to look around us to recognize that Jesus who was born into the world two thousand years ago. He is among us in every person and in every trial and tribulation we encounter in our lives. Let us take a moment to look around to recognize Him in those who do not have joy and peace in their lives. 

Let us do the little within our means to alleviate the pain and misery in their lives. Let us do whatever we can to give them the hope that triumph will one day wipe out the sadness in the hearts. 

We too, like Jesus, must have the humility to come down from our positions of comfort and power to meet Him in the people around us. If we isolate ourselves from others by building a fortress around us with all our wealth and power together with greed, selfishness and pride, then we can keep waiting for Jesus all our lives but it will only be in vain. 

When our eyes and hearts are opened to those around us, our Christmas will begin to take on a deeper meaning.  It will not be just another day to celebrate, eat, drink and make merry. Instead, it will  become the day when hope, peace, love and community truly begin to be born in us.  On this day, we shall truly celebrate, we shall truly sing of the unimaginable love of the Incarnation of God and when that happens our hearts, our homes and our communities will be born again in the miracle of Christmas. 


See you soon,
Jim

Music for the 4th Sunday of Advent

Monday, December 5, 2016

SANTA IS THE MAN!!!!

Hello St. Francis,
I hope this message finds you stress free and spiritually prepared for the coming of Christ at Christmas!!!  Yup, me neither.  Still running around like my hair is on fire trying to make all of the last minute preparations.  As a Music Minister, this time of the year takes on a whole new set of stresses, but I would be naive to think that my stresses are more stressful than yours.  As a matter of fact, have you found yourself in that conversation yet?  Two people facing off to see who has the most to do!!!  "I have 73 people coming and I don't know where my tree topper is and I have to wait in a 14 hour line at the store and then it closed and....."  "You think that is bad well...blah...blah...blah..."  You know what, it's a tie!!! Everyone is stressed!!!  The good news is that regardless of whether you cook the very best Christmas roast of all time, or whether you remembered to send all 14,000 Christmas Cards or whether the neighbor has better lights than you do, in just a few days, Good Ol' Santa will be moseying his extra large bag of toys into town.  Thank God!!!  It's over.  

Not to sound judgmental but I don't understand how people can dislike Christmas or this time of year.  Is it busy?  Yes.  Does it drive you nuts?  You bet it does.  Are people who dislike this time of year afraid that they are on Santa's naughty list?  What would the big guy from the North Pole tell you?  Ho! Ho! Ho! Yes, I think he would laugh at our stress.  Does that statement make you hot enough to melt Frosty?  So let me give you this disclaimer before the following statement...No one cares how perfectly your packages are wrapped or whether your Christmas shindig is the best of ALL TIME!!!  So, why do we place our Christmas spirit in those things?  Shouldn't it just be...I don't know, FUN!!!!!

Our Jolly Old St. Nick may have the answer...indulge me here.

S stands for solidarity.  Stand together to serve others and appreciate the traditions of your family and faith.
A stands for appreciate.  More appreciation = Less scepticism
N stands for neighbor.  Tell them that you love them (or at least fake it till you make it)
T stands for Tears.  Let yourself be open to the true emotion of this time
A stands for adaptable.  Don't sweat the small stuff.

In the end, Santa Claus is coming to town and he won't leave coal in our stocking if his cookies are a little burnt or if those stockings aren't perfectly matched.  The only coal in our stocking are the pieces that we put in ourself.  Loosen up!!! Santa Claus Is Coming To Town!!!

MUSIC FOR DECEMBER 10TH AND 11TH





Monday, November 28, 2016

Away In A Manger...Music for December 3rd and 4th

Hello St. Francis,
I am excited to tell you that my home is officially decorated for the Christmas season.  Lights, wreathes, Christmas stuffed animals and a big tree right in the middle of my living room.  When I first got married, both of my grandmothers gave us as a wedding gift beautiful Christmas Manger scenes.  One, is crystal and quite frankly I am afraid of breaking it every time I open up the box ( I can be a bull in a china shop) and the other is a children's set with plastic and durable figures.  I appreciated these because as I grew up there was always a manger in just about every room.  I also felt like the "kids" set was a little premature as we had just gotten married and it was July.  To this very day, my grandparents amaze me with their wisdom.  The lesson that they were trying to give to me is one that I am just beginning to realize.

This year, as my kids were helping us decorate the tree, we got to those manger sets and my daughter began to talk about how she was learning about how much Jesus loved her because He came to earth to be friends with us.  My son asked me who was Jesus' mommy and daddy? And, who were all these other figures that we were putting near them?  And so, the conversation began.  It wasn't a conversation about what they wanted Santa to bring them or which decoration should go where, or, whose stocking got hung in the most conspicuous place.  It even wasn't about "Lucy", our personal "Elf on the Shelf".  The conversation was about Jesus.  As young as they are I felt as though they began to understand something about God and about Christmas.  They are still looking forward to Kris Kringle's annual visit but this year, they want to not just leave cookies and milk (and carrots for the reindeer) by the tree.  This year, they want to also leave a present for Jesus.  I told them that just by remembering how much Jesus loved them, they are giving Him the only gift He wants.  They were amazed!!!  All they have to do is love Jesus and that makes him happy?  I said, "That's it".  My son said "Do we love him the way we love you and mom?"  I said, "That's Right".  "So, I am going to love Jesus as much as I can"  he said.  Then my daughter said "and we should probably try to be nice to other people too since Jesus asks us to do that".

Maybe it was my grandmother's wisdom or maybe it was just the fact that the manger sits right next to our Christmas Tree just like they did at my grandparents house and as it always did at my parents house but I'm sure glad I got that gift.  Maybe, when my kids are all grown up and their grandmother's give them a manger they will remember this conversation that they had with their parents and teach their kids about how much Jesus loves them too.

PS - THIS SATURDAY THE 5PM MASS WILL BE CELEBRATED AS A FAMILY MASS FOLLOWING OUR PARISH RETREAT.  ALL ARE INVITED TO JOIN US WITH THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS TO SING WITH US AT THIS MASS.  REHEARSAL WILL BE AT 4PM IN THE PARISH HOUSE.  ONCE AGAIN, ALL ARE WELCOME!!!


MUSIC FOR DECEMBER 3RD FAMILY MASS

Psalm 72 - Blakesley!!!




MUSIC FOR DECEMBER 4TH


Psalm 72 - Blakesley!!!



Recessional - Ready The Way - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GGd6n5g8bo

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

To "Live" Thanksgiving or to Just Be Thankful

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 dinner 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.

Jim


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

Processional - Emmanuel - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFghkY6OwA0

Psalm 122 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-fob3QoxGY

Offertory - Steal Away To Jesus - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqvB0-9lJyg

Communion - Taste and See - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WzBnq_p4SQ

Recessional - Soon and Very Soon - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmGiu9JfbIs

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Inclusion...Making People Welcome Involves An Understanding Of Who They Are...Music for November 6th

Hello St. Francis,
What a beautiful week it is turning out to be.  I hope you got a lot of your favorite candy for Halloween and you are in the midst of celebrating the beautiful traditions of All Saints and All Souls. November is traditionally the month when we remember our loved ones who have passed on to heaven.  It is a great way to reflect and pray, especially when we can recall all of the wonderful traditions and life lessons passed on to us by those who have gone before us.

This week, I would like to speak about what some people feel is a difficult topic.  How do we as a parish and as a universal church create and nurture a community of inclusion, welcome and diversity? It is a question that has recently been posed to me a few times and over the past few weeks, I have really taken some time to think about it.  There are certainly many layers of this discussion, but, this week I would like to focus on one particular aspect; race, culture and the community parish.

First and foremost, I truly believe that the overwhelming majority of our churches seek to be inclusive.  It is easy when you can follow the lead of Pope Francis who calls us all to be more welcoming and inclusive.  Obviously, the first step in being welcoming is to be welcoming.  With open doors so many Catholic Churches have adopted a charism of smiling at people, saying hello, welcoming them to church and even engaging folks in conversation.  It is truly a wonderful sight to see people of different cultures, ethnicities and races sharing time, space and faith together.  I truly believe that God is so pleased with this.  Sometimes though, I think we stop there and what I have come to believe through my own reflection is that many times I, as an American of European descent can feel like that is all we can do in our church.  But, when I look around my parish during Mass, I don't just see people who look like me.  I don't just see people who grew up with the same traditions and the same experiences I have had at church.  Maybe the next step is to begin the process of creating liturgy that is multicultural.  Now, I am not speaking of Masses that are celebrated in different languages.  Many parishes have liturgies "specifically" for Spanish, French/Creole, Vietnamese. Polish speakers and these liturgies most certainly are an important and necessary aspect to parish outreach.  What I am speaking of is the predominantly "European" feel to the average "9am Mass" on Sunday.

So, here is the question.  If we are called to walk in solidarity with others, does that mean that we just introduce them to the way we do things and expect them to adjust to it?  Is it our expectation that Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans fully and actively participate in worship that relates very little to their culture?  It's a tough question.  There are a lot of variables.

1.  Will diversifying the culture of the liturgy in any way damage the beautiful and rich tradition of it?
In my opinion, it depends on who you ask.  Living in a culture that generally caters liturgy to "European Americans" would mean that some of the standard homily topics, music, etc. may be "nontraditional".  But, have we considered that we are "welcoming" people by asking them to conform to the culture of "European" Mass only.

2.  Aren't there "CHARISMATIC" churches that do that type of thing?
Maybe, but aren't we all called to be charismatic.  Doesn't charisma breed energy, passion, the very fire for God that we pray for?  This doesn't mean that every Mass, every day has to be fundamentally changed, it just means that we adapt the "adaptable" parts of our Mass to serve all.

3.  But what about the time honored traditional "hymns" that we all love?
Now, don't get me wrong, as a student and advocate of music, I love the beautiful traditional hymns of the Catholic Church.  These hymns absolutely belong in any liturgy.  Most people certainly do not feel as though a change in philosophy constitutes throwing to the side the many beautiful musical traditions of the church.  At the same time, I believe that if we only see these "hymns" as belonging in a church, we are looking at this from a very narrow perspective.  There are equally as prayerful, meaningful and traditional hymns of every culture that also belong in our inclusive church.  Songs that maybe I have not heard, but, maybe if we put the shoe on the other foot, we will recognize that many people and many cultures probably did not grow up with MY "traditional" standards.

So, what is the answer?  All I know is that in my 20 + years of doing this, I have witnessed people becoming connected to our faith by many paths.  I have witnessed people express their prayer and emotion while a traditional hymn was being sung and I've witnessed the same thing happen when an African American spiritual or Hispanic song of worship have been sung.  And, so many times, European Americans will approach me and ask "What was that beautiful song"?  It works.

Finally, an analogy.
Let's say I invite you over for dinner.  I will ask you what type of food you like, if you have any allergies, if you have a favorite food.  When you come over, I am pleased to prepare something that you really like.  At the same time, I will also make something that I really like and then we can both eat everything.  It's cordial, it's welcoming, it says to you that I care about who you are and want you to feel comfortable here.  Maybe, it's time for us as a church to really begin to consider how much more beautiful we could be if we just tried something new.  Maybe, what we need is to make our welcome and our inclusion intentional by experiencing the culture of the community we call our parish.

Thanks for listening,
Jim

Here are the jams we will praising God with at SFDS this weekend.

Processional - Come, Now Is The Time To Worship
Psalm - 17 - Lord When Your Glory Appears
Offertory - Every Time I Feel The Spirit
Communion - Day Of Peace
Meditation - Hiding Place
Recessional - Every Praise

Monday, October 17, 2016

It is our Grace that is Amazing

Hello St. Francis!!!
This week let us all live in the joy of God's Amazing Grace.  Sound Good?  I don't know about you but sometimes the "Grace Tank" feels like it is on empty or I just do not have the right amount of grace to be who I am called to be.  Just getting through the day sometimes can be a challenge in itself. Being full of life and positive energy is just too much to ask.  I spend a good deal of time studying the saints of the church and very often I am inspired but too often I come to my own realization that I am disconnected from their humanity.  "It can't be real"  I say.  I can't do what they did.  God must have chosen them for a special mission and armed them with some "extra" grace that we normal folks don't get or understand.  "If I only had what they have." I say to myself, 'Then, I would have what it takes to live more grace-filled".

So, there is a whole bunch that can be said about this.  But, let's keep it simple because life is too complicated already.  Here are two statements of truth that we often forget or deny.

1.  The grace that has been given to me and you is exactly what we need to live a life of positive energy and joy.  Serving others and being saints!!!

2.  God did not give Mother Theresa or Pope John Paul II or Pope Francis any more life giving grace than He has given to us.

That begs two questions that I ask myself and I hope you think about this week as you do what you do.

1.  Does that mean that God's grace is something that I already have and don't use all of the time?
2.  How do I find it?

Great questions if I do say so myself.  Here is my simple answer to this difficult question.  Remember when Jesus took 5 Fish and Two Loaves and fed 5,000?  Neat trick huh?  But what if he wasn't given the Fish or Bread by the young boy who had nothing else to give?  Was it a miracle of Jesus or was it the giving of what the boy had that made it possible for great things to happen?  I think Jesus would say it was the offering of what he had.  I believe that when we are not afraid to empty our "Joy Tank", or our "Faith Tank" or our "Help Someone Tank"  then we will realize that we have more than we thought we have.  Maybe the only reason we haven't felt more "Grace" is because we only use the small part we know we have and hold back the infinite part that we have to trust we have.  It is easier to know than to believe, that is true, but maybe the only difference between us and those great saints is that they just emptied their "Grace Tank" and believed that God would fill it up again.  Maybe, they believed that God would increase their grace, but, what I believe is that IT IS ALREADY THERE!!!  All I have to do is believe in it enough to see.  May we all see God's Grace this week at work in our lives in small and profound ways.
Jim

Music for October 23rd
Processional - Glory Glory Hallelujah Since I Laid My Burdens Down

Psalm 34 - Taste and See

Offertory - Bless That Wonderful Name

Communion - Amazing Grace My Chains Are Gone 

Recessional - Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What It Means To Be Intentional...Music for the Weekend of October 16th

Hello St. Francis,
I wanted to take this week's blog as an opportunity to share a vision we all have as a faith community. The term INTENTIONAL has become sort of a buzz word in the Catholic community over the last few years and it is certainly something that is a necessary part of a healthy and vibrant faith community, but, how do we become more intentional?

So often, I feel like we are somewhat called out by our church, school, or workplace to be intentional, and I think the average person, like you and I can often say that we are being intentional. We are committed to our work, our family and our church.  We give 110% to make sure that we are doing what we are asked to do.  In terms of our commitment to our church, we make an effort to go each week and we may even say hello to some folks that we have never met before.  We support the mission of being a welcoming church and we enjoy the time we spend there in prayer.  This is all great stuff, and may I add, more that a lot of places can say.  But, from time to time we are asked to do more than we may feel comfortable with.  This in turn can make us feel uncomfortable or even distressed.  I mean, we all have real and legitimate reasons why we can't do any more than we do. I get it, we all get it.  So, that's the end of that...right?

Well, I just have one question that I ask myself all of the time and maybe you do as well.  "If not me, than who?"  You see, the best part about making that extra effort to be intentional is that through that extra effort we become intentional.  If I only do what I am 100% comfortable doing than how do we grow into a deeper relationship with others, with our church or with God?  I believe that truly being intentional requires us all to take a leap of faith into uncharted territory.  So, when someone stands at the pulpit and asks for people to consider taking on a ministry, whether it be music, lector, Eucharistic Minister, Minister of Hospitality, Religious Education instructor, do we look around and hope that someone accepts the challenge or do we take that leap and make an intentional decision to support our community?

Here is the secret.  When you make that leap you are rewarded with a sense of pride in your community and a new vision of the love and grace of God abundantly flowing through your life.  The liturgy becomes yours to an even larger degree and your prayer, that at one point was done with words now is reinforced with intentional actions.

I want to extend an invitation to you to become more intentional.  If the music we pray at SFDS inspires you, join us in inspiring others.  The Music Ministry is having a Meet and Greet event on Monday, October 24th at 7pm in the Parish Office.  Come by.  Talk to the parishioners who are involved in this ministry.  Ask them how their intentional action has increased their faith.  And then, taker that leap.  Whether it be in this ministry or the many others at SFDS, be intentional and become the inspiration for others to take the same leap.  You know what they call that?  Being A Christian.

Thanks and See You This Weekend.
Jim

Music for October 16th
Processional - O Magnify The Lord
Psalm - The Mountain of God
Offertory - The Lord Is My Light
Communion - Stand By Me
Recessional - Go Out

Monday, October 3, 2016

Music From The Soul - Music for October 9th

Hello St. Francis,
It has been a while since I have written.  The good news is that the summer was wonderful and we in the Music Ministry have been hard at work over the past few weeks preparing songs of praise and meditation for our Liturgies.  I must say that working with the amazing people at SFDS is a true blessing in my life.  I enjoy every minute of it.

As you may know, we are continuously inviting anyone who has an interest in joining us in the Music Ministry to give it a try.  One of our goals this year is to involve more people in the Ministry.  I hear so many of you singing from your seats every Sunday (Thanks for that by the way) and whatever the reason is that is holding you back, let it go.  We are a "Come When You Can" Ministry.  I understand that making a commitment in this busy world is not easy, so we try to remove the commitment.  Every week, I send out links to recordings of the music we sill be singing as well as the sheet music.  There are NO REHEARSALS!!!  We get together around 10:00 on Sunday morning to go over the songs and then sing at 11am Mass.  If it is the 11am Mass that poses a problem, no problem.  We are also looking to expand our ministries at every Mass.  The bottom line is that whenever you can make it, we want you to.  If you can't, no problem.  The point is, having your voice, or instrument once a month or twice a month or every week would be a great addition to what we do.

To that end, we are having a Meet and Greet on Monday, October 24th at 7pm in the Church office for anyone who has questions or would like to spend some time with us.  It is an evening of prayer, music and fellowship.  No obligations, just a time to get together.

Finally, I would like to formally welcome Quincy Dover to our Music Ministry team.  Quincy will be the principle accompanist at the new 5pm Sunday Mass.  Quincy comes to us from Queens and is the Director of Music at St. Gregory's Church in Brooklyn.  He is an amazing young man and a fabulous musician.  You may want to check out our new 5pm Mass on Sunday to hear for yourself!!!

Talk to you next week.
Jim

Music for October 9th

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Is A Vocation Our Ultimate Calling...Music for April 24th

Hello St. Francis,
This week I would like to reflect on what most people, including myself have always thought to be the pinnacle of our religious, personal and professional lives.  I have heard it said and I have spoken myself many times about how we should seek a vocation in life.  My simple definition of vocation is that it takes what we do any transforms it into who we are.  I, therefore would strive not to do the work of a husband or a teacher but to actually be a husband and a teacher.  It becomes a part of your own description of who you are.   I have also heard vocation defined as the process by which we discover a love of God for the sake of God.  This is a great thing.  It is a self-giving thing.  When we choose to love God because we want God to know that we love him, it reminds us of the awe and wonder we have for the God who is so full of mercy, grace and love.

So, how is this not the ultimate calling?  Indulge me this.  I think that it is a whole lot easier to love God than it is to love myself.  When I think of God in that way, it is easy to miss the "feet in the mud" type of sacrificial love that we would need to show for another person.  I think that we can trick ourselves into thinking we love ourselves because we love God.  I mean, God created us, right?  So I would have to love myself by default then...right?  My vocation can easily become stagnant if it is centered only in a philosophy that I am living by "God's Plan".  So, what is the alternative?

Of course God wants us to love God!!!  But, even more important to God, I think, is that we love and appreciate His creation, especially ourselves.  So instead of loving God for the sake of God, I am challenged to love myself for the sake of God.  OK.  What does that mean? Well, that means that I can take that feeling of wonder and awe, I can take that duty to live out my vocation and turn it into something even more selfless, and dare I say even more fulfilling and life giving.  You see, when you love yourself for the sake of God, it challenges you to take that vocation (something that is inside of you) and turn it into a...MISSION!!!  So what is a mission?  A mission is the way I seek to live my vocation in the service of others and the glory of God.  My mission forces me to move beyond my comfort zone and take my gifts, my talents and my circumstances and use them to bring God's love to everyone.  So, when I wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror, I do not only see what "I Am", but also what the real "I AM" is calling me to.  Sounds like a challenge that will enrich me and my life.  Heed the call!!!

Jim

Music for April 24th:

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Let The Children Lead Them,...Music for April 17th

Hello St. Francis,

This week our parish family will be celebrating a very big day in the lives of six of our young people as they receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time.  I don't know about you but my 1st Communion memories have stood the test of time.  I remember with great fondness many moments of my own 1st Communion...(MANY years ago).  For me, I was blessed to have my entire family present and we celebrated this occasion as momentous day in my life.  Many things have changed in our church since I received my 1st Communion but, thankfully, many things have remained.  For example, I remember that we were asked to get dressed back up in our 1st Communion outfits for the next week's Mass so that the parish could see how handsome and beautiful we looked.  For some reason, I remember watching the congregation watch us receive Communion with big smiles on their faces.  I asked myself and to a certain extent continue to ask myself this question.  Why did they look at me with such reverence and joy when all of them were allowed to receive communion any time they wanted?

I think that one of the aspects of 1st Communion that we all cherish is the innocence and awe of the children who receive it.  We see a faith in them that does not question, that does not fear and that is filled with life and expectation.  There is a reverence and a joy about these children that not only bring us joy, but also bring us back to a time when maybe we felt the same way about it.  Where did it go?  Have we from time to time allowed this beautiful and traditional ritual of our faith become simply a part of a routine?  You know what I mean...we sit, we stand, we say Amen, we sing, we receive Communion and then we are off to continue life as we know it.  I think this type of pattern is easy to fall into.  I would like to suggest something to all of us.

This week, remember your own 1st Communion.  Remember the anticipation and the excitement.  Remember the joy and the reverence.  Remember the celebration and the family.  And then, when you process with your parish family to receive Jesus, think of these children who will receive Jesus in the way we are all called to.  It is true that taking the routine we have gotten into and transforming it back into the ritual it is will take some effort.  It will in some ways force us to be more engaged, more prayerful and more filled with wonder and awe.  But, when you think about it, isn't that what it should be?  Isn't that what will increase our capacity to truly appreciate the gift we have in Eucharist, in the Mass and in the community we call home?

So, this week, let the wisdom and faith of these small children inspire you to see this precious gift with the eyes of a child and with the faith to know that when we do receive Eucharist, we grow even closer to Jesus, and by being closer to Jesus, he will bless us with the grace to see all things with the optimism and innocence of a child.

God Bless...Please Pray for our young children who will receive Jesus for the first time this weekend.

Jim

Music for April 17th


Psalm 118

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Faith...The Final Frontier....Music for April 9-10

Hello St. Francis!

I was so blessed this week to have the opportunity to attend a convention of people from around the USA who work as ministers with young people.  There were so many amazing insights that were made by a group of dedicated servants of God that I felt in many ways overwhelmed.  If you've ever attended an event like this, as you know, it is easy to leave it energized and ready to change the world.  Thankfully, our experiences concluded with a reflection and prayer that quite frankly put in to focus all of the things we experienced.  This week, I want to share a perspective that I acquired during this event.

We find ourselves at a very exciting time in the evolution of our church.  Our call can often seem cloudy and we may not know exactly where we are supposed to be.  As people of faith, we are certainly called to evangelize, to invite others into a deeper relationship with God and a community of faith, but who? but where?  Here is a perspective.  We are called to be missionaries on the Frontier of our community, society and world.  Now, the interesting part about this is that I am not sure that means we need to leave our own building, let alone our city to find the frontiers of faith.  This time that we live in provides us with so many people who question faith, who believe in something different or in some cases, do not believe in anything at all.  For me, this is the next great frontier.  It is often said that the way you live and the attitude you possess is a much better advertisement than your words.  I certainly agree with that.  So what should the "billboard of our life" be?  Allow me to share my thoughts.

First, and this may be the most difficult part, is that there needs to be a true surrender of self to God's will.  I think that most people with the very best intentions, do not find the answer because they can not or will not allow God to ask the question.  We seek to answer the question we want answered, not necessarily the one that God is calling us to answer.  Our PURPOSE, our MINISTRY is not our own.  Instead, in our surrender to God, we receive our purpose and our mission.  Surrender, is a difficult concept so let me offer this definition.  The true definition of the word is this...HOPE.  I can measure the hope that I have, in God, in myself and in others by the amount of myself that I am willing to surrender to God.  Powerful statement!!!  The foundation of hope is surrender.  Hope, should be at the center of our billboard because as much as anything that a person can possess, Hope attracts others.

Second, when we get people's attention, what do we do?  We share the most love filled message that we can.  We share the Catholic Ministry of Reconciliation. That is who we are.  We are a people of forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation.  I believe that our frontier just may be an invitation to reconcile the estranged.  Who are the estranged?  Where do you start?  There are so many that have turned away or have been turned away from faith for so many reasons.  I know that I can not answer their questions or solve their problem.  What I do know is that I can tell them that there is Hope and that what is now at our center is reconciling all to God and to their faith.

Here is my conclusion for what it is worth.  Our frontier is a fractured world.  Religious Ideologies, Politics, Liberal/Conservative.  Maybe instead of discerning who we agree with and who we don't, we should just assume that the intention of both sides are pure and that even if we are incredibly opposed to the belief or ideology of the other, they come to the table with the same HOPE we do.  Maybe, instead of raising a banner for one side, we should be the ones that hold the hand of those on both sides.  If we do that. aren't we the link?  If we are between them, can't we begin to erase the dividing line that separates them and begin our mission to the frontier of reconciliation.

Have a great week St. Francis.
Jim

Thursday, March 31, 2016

the History of Divine Mercy...Music for April 2nd and 3rd

Hello St. Francis,
This week I want to present to you an article about the history of the feast we celebrate this week.  Divine Mercy Sunday.  During this Year of Mercy, I think we should all take a few moments to discern the limitless mercy of God and then attempt to imitate that love.

Music for April 2-3
Processional - Alleluia Let The Holy Anthem Rise
Psalm 118
Offertory - In Christ Alone
Communion - Day of Peace
Recessional - Bless That Wonderful Name

Why Catholics Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday
By Rev. Alfred McBride, O.Praem.




On the Second Sunday of Easter of the Jubilee Year 2000, at the Mass for the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul II proclaimed to the world that “from now on throughout the Church this Sunday will be called Divine Mercy Sunday.”
Pope John Paul had actively promoted the message of St. Faustina. In his 1980 encyclical on God’s mercy, Rich in Mercy, he developed a scriptural and doctrinal basis for our faith in the mercy of God. By linking the revealed truth about God’s mercy to one of the most solemn Sundays after Easter itself, he illumined the fact that the liturgy already proclaimed the divine mercy. The truth has been embedded for two millennia in the worship of the Church. Once again we see an illustration of the ancient saying, “The law of faith is the law of prayer.”

From Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday to the Eighth Day of Easter, the divine love song of mercy is chanted amid abundant alleluias. For centuries in liturgy the Church has proclaimed the mercy of God through the Word of God and the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. The tables of Word and Sacrament are heaped with the promises of Divine Mercy and its grand effect in the lives of millions. The liturgy is the storehouse of the wisdom of God and a treasure chest for all the worshipers.
‘I spoke as a brother’
A TIME magazine issue in 1984 presented a startling cover. It pictured a prison cell where two men sat on metal folding chairs. The young man wore a black turtleneck sweater, blue jeans and white running shoes. The older man was dressed in a white robe and had a white skullcap on his head. They sat facing one another, up close and personal. They spoke quietly so as to keep others from hearing the conversation. The young man was Mehmet Ali Agca, the pope’s attempted assassin; the other man was Pope John Paul II, the intended victim. The pope held the hand that had held the gun whose bullet tore into the pope’s body.
In the cell, unseen in the picture, were the pope’s secretary and two security agents, along with a still photographer and videographer. John Paul wanted this scene to be shown around a world filled with nuclear arsenals and unforgiving hatreds. The Church has always used paintings, sculpture and architecture to communicate spiritual meanings. This was a living icon of mercy.
The Church was celebrating the 1,950th anniversary of Christ’s death and Christian redemption. The pope had been preaching forgiveness and reconciliation constantly. His deed with Ali Agca spoke a thousand words. John Paul’s forgiveness was deeply Christian. He embraced his enemy and pardoned him. At the end of their 20-minute meeting, Ali Agca raised the pope’s hand to his forehead as a sign of respect. John Paul shook Ali Agca’s hand tenderly.
When the pope left the cell he said, “What we talked about must remain a secret between us. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.” This is an example of God’s divine mercy, the same divine mercy whose message St. Faustina witnessed.

St. Faustina Kowalska: Apostle of Divine Mercy
The story of St. Faustina Kowalska reveals the inspiration behind the Divine Mercy devotion. Helena Kowalska was born in Poland on August 25, 1905. She was the third child of a devout Catholic family. As a small child she reported seeing bright lights during her night prayers. At age 16 she went to work as a servant in a neighboring city. She soon resigned after a fainting spell, even though a doctor said she was healthy.
Helena told her parents that she wanted to enter religious life but failed to obtain her father’s permission because he felt she was too young. She took another post as a servant and made friends with a circle of young women. At a dance, she experienced a vision of Christ suffering that touched her conscience and revived her desire to be a nun. She soon left her job and sought entrance in a religious congregation.
In 1925, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, taking the name Faustina. She served as a cook, gardener and doorkeeper in Krakow and several other community convents. The sisters liked her but did not appreciate or understand her deep interior life, which included visions and prophecies. On February 22, 1931, Sister Faustina experienced a new and life-changing vision of Christ. She saw him wearing a white robe and raising his right hand in blessing with his left hand resting on his heart from which flowed two rays of light. Jesus told her, “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the prayer, Jesus, I trust in you.”
Faustina could not paint, and struggled to convince her incredulous sisters about the truth of her vision. Ultimately she persuaded her spiritual director, Father Michael Sopocko, that the vision was real. He found an artist to create the painting that was named The Divine Mercy and shown to the world for the first time on April 28, 1935.
Father Sopocko advised Sister Faustina to record her visions in a diary. At one point she wrote that “Jesus said I was his secretary and an apostle of his divine mercy.” She devoted the rest of her life to spreading the message of divine mercy and the growth of popular devotion to it. Her mystical writings have been translated into many languages. She died of tuberculosis at age 33. Pope John Paul II canonized her on April 30, 2000.
The revelations experienced by St. Faustina were of a private nature, which are not essential to anyone’s acceptance of the Catholic faith. These types of visions and revelations are described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history” (#67).
In another section, the Catechism describes popular piety, which helps us to put St. Faustina’s revelations into a broader context: “The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc. These expressions of piety extend the liturgical life of the Church, but do not replace it....Pastoral discernment is needed to sustain and support popular piety” (#1674-76).
So we see that devotion to divine mercy in no way replaces any of our rich liturgical traditions. The Divine Mercy devotion fosters the virtue of trust in God’s mercy that finds its fulfillment in the liturgy of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. Popular piety animates the faith attitudes that make participation in the sacraments more vital and fruitful.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

To Know God's Love...Music for Palm Sunday and the Triduum

Hello St. Francis,

So, we have made it.  It's almost time for the Easter Bunny to come and relieve you for your Chocolate deprivation...or whatever else you gave up for Lent.  I hope that these few weeks have been ones filled with digging deeper into your faith and finding God more clearly in all things.  Lent is a time of preparation that allows us the time to discern what Jesus' gift of the Eucharist, his passion and death, and resurrection mean to us and how seriously we take our call to discipleship and to carry our crosses with grace and dignity.  We know how the story ends, triumphantly!!!  But, the only thing that makes a happy ending better is when we understand the struggle that had to be overcome to reach that ending.  This week we will hear about Jesus' return to Jerusalem and how he was betrayed, (not just by Judas, but by all of his disciples) and the suffering he had to endure on his road to the cross.  For many years, I thought of this story in a pretty dark and dim way.  I felt (and was told by some) that it was my sins that caused Jesus to suffer.  There was guilt, sadness and a real sense of disconnection from God.  I mean, if I did this, than how could he love me?  I would have a hard time loving anyone who caused me such pain.  To be honest, I find it hard to love some people even if they haven't caused me pain.  The question is, did Jesus die because of my sins?

The simple answer is NOPE!!!  Jesus did not die because of my or yours or anyone elses sin.  He died because he loved me...and you too!!!  If you listen to what the church has provided for us in the scriptures over the past few weeks, you remember that Jesus describes the love of a father for his "Prodigal Son" and that Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in sin.  What did he do?  He loved them.  So when you look at it then, this story is not just the "Greatest Story Ever Told", it is the "Greatest LOVE Story Ever Told"  I believe that not for one second did Jesus think about my sins, or your sins or anyone elses sins as he carried his cross.  I do believe that Jesus did however think about me and you and everyone else and just loved us...even more.  In a strange sort of way, it was our love for Him and His love for us that allowed Jesus to bear all of the pain he did.  Simply, he just loves us that much.  Pretty humbling and inspiring...huh?

So, this week, make a real effort to come to your parish home as we remember this Love Story.  Let the words, the scriptures, the music and the community itself open our minds, and our hearts to know how much God really loves me and you.  REALLY KNOW IT!!!  Let there be no doubt, Jesus did not do all of this because of me, he did it for me.  He just loved me that much.  If we all seek to know God's love, it is in the celebrations of the this week that will make it most clear.  Know God's Love and celebrate it with our community this week.

Blessings!!!  Pray for someone this week!!!
Jim

Palm Sunday 
Processional - Ride On King Jesus
Processional #2 - We Sing Praises 
Offertory 1 - You Alone
Communion 1 - Jesus The Lord
Communion 2 - Above All
Recessional - Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross

Holy Thursday
Processional - Pan De Vida
Washing of Feet - Jesus Is A Rock
Offertory - Taste And See
Communion - We Are One Body
Communion Meditation - In Remembrance
Transfer of the Eucharist - Pange Lingua

Good Friday
Veneration 1 - Calvary
Veneration 2 - Power of the Cross
Veneration 3 - Were You There
Veneration 4 - Just For Me
Communion 1 - Only Love

Monday, March 7, 2016

Do We Perceive It?...Music for the 5th Sunday of Lent

Hello St. Francis.

I must say that I am a big fan of the readings coming up for us this week.  In the Gospel, Jesus refuses to condemn the "sinful" women saying: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone".  That kind of pumps me up.  I love the times when Jesus puts people in their place.  I often tell students that the only time I can remember Jesus getting angry was when he was dealing with hypocrisy.  He never got mad at "sinners", he welcomed sinners and ate with them.  I just love when Jesus puts those kind of people in their place.  They deserve it!!!

I am also a fan of Paul's reading.  He talks about righteousness and he says that true righteousness (like all things good) come from God.  He tells the people that he is continually growing in his faith and righteousness, not his own but the faith and righteousness of God.  That's interesting.  As we know, if it weren't for Paul, so may would have never even heard of Jesus.  It seems odd that he feels he has not reached righteousness and maturity, but toils everyday not looking back but with his eyes fixed on Jesus.

And then, it all made sense.  I read a bit of the reading from  Isaiah and it all fell into place.  It is a simple statement and probably one that I have heard but not listened to multiple times.  He says " I am doing something new...do you not perceive it?"  Of course I perceive it.  I am a Christian, I am a good person, it is my job to help all of those people see God.  I invite them to church and I pray a lot.  Of course I perceive it...or as they say "Not so fast".

Here is what I perceive now.  The lesson isn't as much about how Jesus made those "hypocrites" walk away as it is about how I too walk away sometimes.  I think we sometimes hold our signs up high making sure people know just how righteous we are and wonder why people do not recognize it.  I am not saying that I am a hypocrite, what I am saying is that if Paul sought maturity and righteousness and the apostles looked to Jesus for righteousness, how can I think that I fully understand what it means.  I perceive that even though I attempt through prayer, study, Mass and countless other ways to be the best version of myself, I am only my best self when I allow God to be my righteousness, my faith my love and my life.  I perceive that although I may applaud Jesus for putting those people in their place, I too, even if I was silent, may have considered that "sinner" less righteous than I.  I perceive that the answer is...I don't know the answer...but, God does.

Isaiah said it best.  If we seek righteousness, maturity and peace, maybe we too need to try something new.  The question is, do we have the eyes of faith to perceive it.

Have a great week.  Pray for someone.
Jim

Music for 5th Sunday of Lent

Communion: Stand By Me
Recessional: Rain Down

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

It Never Gets Old...Music for the 4th Week of Lent

Hello St. Francis!!!

It is certainly an exciting time at St. Francis as we journey through Lent in anticipation for Holy Week and Easter.  As you can imagine there is a whole bunch of preparations being made all around the Parish to make this year's celebration of the center of our faith as inspiring and beautiful as possible.  This week, I want to talk to you a little bit about the most important preparations being done.  If you attended the 11:00 or 12:30 Masses on Sunday you saw a group of unbelievable people who are making their final preparations to receive the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist).  It is a tradition of our faith that during these last few weeks before the Easter Vigil, these folks go through what is called the Scrutinies.  Before the Prayers of the Faithful, our "Elect" are prayed for and over by the celebrant and the parishioners.  It is a beautiful testament to our faith and an even more profound reason to recognize the blessing we have all received to know and love Jesus Christ.

It never gets old.  I have witnessed many people proclaim their faith and become fully initiated members of the Catholic Church but as many times as I see it, it never fails to inspire me.  I know that before I could ever make my own decision about faith, before I had the ability to discern fully the commitment necessary to live my Christian faith, it was chosen for me by my parents.  I think many of us fall into this category.  We certainly are all continually learning more about our faith and our God but the nature and the scope of our faith formation occurred when we were children.  For these people, when I look at them, I see someone who has made a profound decision in their life to live as a Catholic Christian.  I see someone who with everything that is going on in life, has decided to make their relationship with God and the practicing of their beliefs a paramount priority in their life.  I see in so many ways, what we are all called to be.  One who passionately hungers for a closer relationship with God and with a faith community.

You see, they chose us.  They chose to walk with us in the most intimate and powerful of ways.  Where as our path has been forged for us and we faithfully walk through that door that has been opened for us, these amazing models of faith have recognized the door that they have been called to and then blaze their own path down the road of faith.  They walk with us, and for me, they lift me up.  They make me want to know and love Jesus even more.  They encourage and inspire me by their courage and their commitment to look at our faith with renewed and amazed eyes.  When the Easter Vigil arrives and the graces of these Sacraments are opened to them, they will become what we all should long to be; awestruck, grateful and empowered.  And that, never gets old!!!

Pray for them this week.  And pray for all of us that we may cherish our faith just as much as they do.

Jim

Music for the 4th Week of Lent

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Profound Moment...Music for February 28th

Hello St. Francis,

As I sat and listened to the homilies at Mass last week, I found myself wishing and praying for a moment like was described.  A moment of profound meaning that the apostles got when they saw Jesus transfigured.  I sometimes get discouraged that these moments don't occur so often and that from time to time I feel as though "Jesus is NOT my copilot".  Like most, I guess, discouragement can happen most intensely when I feel like I am alone.  It's not that Jesus leaves my side or that He is not listening to my prayers, it's just that when moments of profound faith, grace and love envelop me, it is easier to live in the way I know I have been called to.  As I thought, I didn't really question my faith or my intentions, I just felt like I needed something to embrace me and help me, even if just for a few minutes to relieve me of something (and to be honest, I don't even know what it was that I needed relieved).

For a time, I felt almost guilty of having this unrealistic expectation that God was just going to infuse me with some sort of special grace.  Maybe I was asking God for too much in needing the profound moment, maybe God was busy carrying the cross of someone whose burden is much greater than mine.  Who was I to want something more, something special?  And then I heard the word...HOPE. In that moment I did not receive a special grace, what I did realize in that moment is that just like we ask for profound moments from God, God also gives us the opportunity to be profound in our faith.  He allows us to tap into our hope and when we do this, I'd like to think that we give God a profound moment.  We show him that whether we are the center of attention, deeply faith filled, or questioning everything, we still follow.

Peter was right.  If I were him I'd want to build a tent and live in that profound moment forever.  Why?  Because faith and even life is easy when we are surrounded by the profound grace and wisdom of God.  Something interesting happened then. The words I needed were given to someone else.  These were the words. "If our hope is centered in God's Love and if our hope is centered in the Resurrection than our hope must also be centered on the cross."

So my friends, I have come to this conclusion.  Our hope, our life, our love and our faith can only be made profound if we truly embrace those times we feel alone, just like Jesus must have when He carried His cross.  When we seek a moment of grace and don't feel like we have it within us, it is then that we truly surrender ourselves to God and it is in that surrender that we find that profound moment. I was empty.  I felt alone.  And then at the cross I found Him.  But you know what, I think He was there all along.  That's pretty profound.

Jim

Music for February 28th
Processional - Somebody's Knockin' At My Door - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djpKcdqdfKM

Psalm 103 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfZzhxqt90A

Offertory - How Great Is Our God - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKLQ1td3MbE

Communion - The Heart of Worship - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeAwBmb_x28

Recessional - A Rightful Place -  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvpGNesfWa4

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Difference Between "Nice" and "Great"

Hello St. Francis,

This week I hope to share with you an "Industry Secret".  Here it goes.  Sometimes, Music Ministers, Choirs and Celebrants lack the energy to feed the congregation.  Yes, sometimes it is difficult to "get up" for Mass or Concert or Homily.  I can tell you that because I know we all get it.  Life is sometimes draining and it seems impossible to put on the smile, clap or sing with energy and enthusiasm or speak from the heart with passion.  In those moments of struggle, we look to others to affirm our effort and sometimes even to be our inspiration and our energy.  A great example of this was this past Sunday.  In case you don't remember it was COLD!!!  I was honestly struggling to think about anything except the draft that was chilling my bones.  But then, something pretty cool happened.  You sang!!!  You clapped!!!  You became the energy we needed to "heat up" the church.  As someone who does this for a living, I can not tell you how appreciative I am of folks who express their appreciation through participating.  It means more than anything else and we feel so blessed when you so graciously share your energy with us.

This is what is incredible about being a part of the St. Francis community.  As generous as you are in all ways, you are most generous with your willingness to lift up everyone who ministers with and for you.  Do me a favor, never be afraid to sing a little louder or clap a little more passionately.  Never be afraid to say in full voice "Amen"  You see, that is what makes us who we are.  More than anything, we mean what we do at St. Francis.  Our prayer, our song and our community is an intentional one.  Welcome to 21st century church, where we mean what we say and back it up with our passion and enthusiasm.  So, even when it is COLD or HOT or anything else, at St. Francis, all of the things that could cause us to lack energy goes away and we do what we do; love Jesus and support each other.

Jim

Music for February 21st

Processional - Hold To God's Unchanging Hand - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=navP_n3mtH0

Psalm 27 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Zu4XRFvI6g

Offertory - The Lord Is My Light - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6rVDleho-s

Communion - Refiner's Fire - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lBhvTAfmIk

Recessional - Go Make A Difference - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDjQEoItGzQ

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

I've Got That Joy!!! - Music for the 1st Week of Lent

Hello St. Francis,

So, Lent is upon us.  40 days to prepare for the most important happening in the history of the world, Jesus' Resurrection.  Today, I am thinking about one of my favorite passages from Scripture.  "The Road to Emmaus".  In the story, two travelers leave Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified.  They were downtrodden and felt somewhat hopeless.  As they walk, I assume contemplating what was next in their lives and in their world, they are approached by a man that they do not recognize.  During their walk, the man speaks about scripture and about all the things that have been happening.  They did not recognize him.  For some reason, they felt a kinship with him though and when they completed their day's journey, they asked him to stay with them, to share a meal, to continue the conversation.  While they were eating Jesus took the bread and broke it and immediately they recognized him.  They ran back to Jerusalem and told Jesus' friends that they had seen and talked to the Lord and that he certainly is risen from the dead.  At the end, the scripture says that Jesus was made known to them through the scripture and the breaking of bread.

Awesome!!!  Yet another story of how people didn't recognize Jesus for who he is.  I'm sure glad we always do...well maybe not all of the time.  In this statement lies what I believe is the essential aspect of our Lenten practice.  I think we all seek to "do something" or "give up something" for Lent.  I don't know about you, but, this sacrifice really doesn't enlighten my relationship with God and depending on what I give up, I can be a little more grumpy to other people.  So, how can we prepare for Easter this Lent?  Let's use the story of the Road to Emmaus.  Here are some facts about the story.

1.  Although these travelers knew where they were headed, they didn't know where to go.  They were lost while walking a familiar road. - I feel lost in my familiar world all of the time.  I recognize that I have a much clearer vision of my path when I am the "co-pilot" and I allow Jesus to lead me where I need to go.

2.  They did not travel alone. - I really believe that it is in friendship and in taking the chance to allow someone to journey with you is so important.  Choose a friend to pray with, to talk to, to bring to church.  We all need support and we are also called to support others.

3. The scriptures were opened up to them and their hearts were burning. - Consider a thorough reading of one of the Gospels or any one of the books of the New or Old Testament.  Many an epiphany was fostered by reading and praying over scripture.

4.  It was at the breaking of the bread that they recognized him. - Mass is at the center of our prayer experience. It is when we focus ourselves, allow the love of God to overwhelm us in the gift of the Eucharist, that we too, recognize him more clearly.

5.  They ran back to Jerusalem to share the good news - We all are stewards of good news.  The good news of our salvation, the good news of our relationship with Jesus and the good news that we journey together, encouraging each other, never alone.  The best kind of good news is the kind you can share and then participate in the revelation of this good news to others.

So, maybe instead of our regular Lenten routine, we may consider walking the Road to Emmaus.  Whatever you choose to do, may your practice bring you to know Jesus even more deeply and love him with an even more complete love.

Jim

Music for the 1st Sunday of Lent

Processional - What A Friend We Have In Jesus - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-KPU21y3TA


Offertory - Down At The Cross - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnAnPBNfzKU

Communion - I Must Tell Jesus - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmPtHOYufSs

Recessional - God Never Fails - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_B4ogg0duk

Monday, February 1, 2016

Have you received your call? Music for the Weekend of February 7th

Hello St. Francis,

So, we are just a few days away from Lent which is quite amazing.  Yes, it is going to be an early Easter this year.  Hopefully spring will come early too.  But, as God often does, there is a challenge placed before us.  This week's gospel is one of my favorites.  Jesus' call to Peter to be "fishers of people".  We are told that Peter left everything behind and followed Jesus.  What a beautiful message.  Boy, that Peter sure does know how to make a splash.   So, other than the really nice "example of faith" what is this challenge thing?

As our church evolves to be an open door welcoming community and we all try to make each other feel as though our church is our second home, I think sometimes we get caught up in the fluffy kumbaya type stuff and sometimes forget that living the Christian life requires sacrifice and consistent leaps of faith.  Isn't that one of the reasons we come to church?  To be strengthened in our conviction and made courageous to live as we are called to.  Also, isn't our time in church one that we are instructed and inspired in what that call is?

The Christian word is vocation.  Put quite simply, a vocation is who you are not what you do.  Our vocation has been given to us as a gift.  For some, their vocation is a life devoted to God as a priest or religious.  To others, its being a spouse and a parent.  For some it is a career and for all it is a life centered in God's love.  Peter, I think was one of the lucky ones.  I like fish and if I was hungry and someone helped me catch more than I could bring to shore, I'd definitely want to be around him.  Who knows, the next guys he impresses might be fishing for oysters or lobster.  I'd want to be around for that.  But, Peter saw Jesus, listened to his words and did as he asked and look what happened.

Being a Christian is a radical, challenging and sometimes frustrating thing. So often we think that we are doing the right thing and the door is closed.  So often, our prayers seem to go unanswered and so often, people who want the hearts full of joy and life full of love and laughter fall away when the reality of our world sets in.  I know that to leave everything behind and follow Jesus is a "metaphor" but, isn't it true when we focus more intently on Jesus and less intently on the pleasures of this world that we receive more pleasure?  It's almost like a surprise gift, you know the one you really need but would never get for yourself.  The more radically I live my faith, the more willing I am to leave everything behind and follow Jesus, the clearer my life becomes.  When my vision is clear, it is easier to see the person who is struggling who needs someone to help.  When my vision is clear, it is easier to take the jumbled up things in my life and organize them into priorities. When my vision is clear, that is when I recognize the radical call and the road that I must travel.  Because my vision becomes God's vision and that road only leads to good things.

So, be challenged, be frustrated, try and sometimes fail.  It is all part of radical vocation we are called to.  May we, like Peter, jump out of our boat and cling to Jesus.  And, just remember, sometimes when you are afraid to jump, Jesus will be there to tell us not to be afraid and then push us into the water.

Jim

Music for February 6-7
Processional - A Rightful Place - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvpGNesfWa4

Psalm 40 - http://www.ocp.org/products/30119595

Offertory - Can't Nobody - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rP1a-JxyTwQ

Communion - Lord, You Have Come - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xVskCCWtUk

Recessional - Go Make A Difference - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDjQEoItGzQ