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.



Psalm 72 - Blakesley!!!


Psalm 72 - Blakesley!!!

Recessional - Ready The Way -

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.


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

Processional - Emmanuel -

Psalm 122 -

Offertory - Steal Away To Jesus -

Communion - Taste and See -

Recessional - Soon and Very Soon -

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,

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