Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sixty-minute Plan for Eucharistic Adoration

Ever wondered what to do during a Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration? The Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction, #95, says:

During the exposition there should be prayers, songs, and readings to direct the attention of the faithful to the worship of Christ the Lord. To encourage a prayerful spirit, there should be readings from scripture with a homily or brief exhortations to develop a better understanding of the eucharistic mystery. It is also desirable for the people to respond to the word of God by singing and to spend some periods of time in religious silence.
Further, the liturgy of the hours may also be celebrated during lengthy periods of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

But what do you do if you're by yourself during your Holy Hour? Todd Flowerday, another Catholic blogger, has put together a minute-by-minute plan of things to do during your Holy Hour.

However, not all devotional activities might be appropriate during a Holy Hour of adoration, since the adoration itself is meant to "direct the attention of the faithful to the worship of Christ the Lord" (see also Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, #165). So not all the activities suggested by Todd might fit. But his list is a good start for those who might have trouble focusing their attention or who are new to praying in lengthy adoration.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Replenish your book shelves

Don't you hate it when your liturgy books go missing? Hopefully, it's because someone is actually reading them, and it's not because they're lost in the land of left socks.

Oregon Catholic Press (OCP) is having a huge book sale through the month of October. Now until October 31, 2006, you can get a great selection of books in English and Spanish for only $3 (10 cents for booklets)! Offer is only valid on selected books, while supplies last. Check out the sale books here. And see their other web specials here.

Migration Nation - October 22, 2006

Benefit Concert for Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform
and Community Links – Enlaces Comunitarios

Migration Nation
“If you’re not indigenous, You’re a migrant”
Sunday, October 22, 2006
5:00p to 7:30p

Arturo Ortega y Sangre Mestiza

Also featuring:
Odelia Albernez


Saint Julie Billiart Church
366 Saint Julie Drive, San José

For more information contact either
Daniela Santos at
or Jim Petkiewicz at

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Blessing of Animals

Sam at ChristmasParishes often use the Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi (October 4) as a day to bless animals. The Church says that “according to the providence of the Creator, many animals have a certain role to play in human existence by helping with work or providing food and clothing. Thus when the occasion arises, for example, the feast of some saint, the custom of invoking God’s blessing on animals may be continued” (Book of Blessings, #942).

Now anyone who has had a beloved pet knows that the role animals play in human life goes much deeper than “helping with work or providing food and clothing.” But the point of the blessing is the same. We give thanks to God for all those things that enhance our lives and help us live more joyfully and compassionately.

Don't torture your dog like thisIf you are looking for a blessing of animals, the Catholic Book of Blessings has a whole chapter devoted to blessing animals (Chapter 25). The rite of blessing may be led by a priest, deacon, or lay person. It can take place as a liturgy on its own, or it can be included as part of another celebration, such as Mass.

If your family wants to celebrate a blessing of animals at home, the Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers has a simple blessing that the family can do (pp. 174 – 177).

Here’s a prayer for your furry, feathery, scaly, warty companions.

God of all creation,
at the beginning of time
you gave us all the creatures of the earth to be our helpers.
And in your wisdom, these animals, like all good things from you,
became more than that. They became our friends.

After our long hours away from home, working or wandering,
in their barks and wagging tails,
we see the joy that you, our Creator, must have
when one of your own returns to you.
In our times of sadness and loneliness,
when human relationships become strained and broken,
in their gentle caress and quiet purring,
we see the faithfulness that you, our Companion,
offer to all your people.
And when we have become numbed by stress, worry, or boredom,
in their natural wonder and untamed majesty,
we see the awesome creativity that you, our Maker,
inspire us with that we may revel in the mystery of life.

We ask you then to bless these, our animal-friends,
that they may have a long and joyful life.
Keep them safe when we cannot be with them,
protect them from sickness and harm,
and heal their wounds.
When the end of their life comes,
grant them a peaceful death free of pain and suffering.
And bless us too, their human-companions, with your Holy Spirit
that we may care for them well
and be wise and gentle stewards of your creation.

We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus,
who is Lord of all, for ever and ever. Amen.

Cantor & Accompanist Workshop - October 4, 2006

don't cantor like thisDon't cantor like this! Learn the basics that will improve your singing technique and your leadership skills, and practice the habits that will make you a better leader of musical prayer.

New at this workshop will be an accompanist track for pianists or guitarists who accompany the cantor at Mass.

Participants who register will have the opportunity to cantor or accompany and receive immediate feedback. This master-class style workshop is free.

Cantor and Accompanist Workshop
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
7:00p - 9:30p
Most Holy Trinity Church
Free Admission

Learn basic singing and accompanying techniques
Study the roles of the cantor and accompanist in the Mass
Prepare litanies and Advent psalms
Practice cantor gestures and postures
Cantors and accompanists are encouraged to attend together.

If you want to cantor or accompany that evening
and receive individual feedback,
please bring an extra copy of your psalm.

Led by Diana Macalintal, Diocesan Associate for Liturgy
and Melissa Broome, Liturgy Director at Most Holy Trinity

Register with Bernard Nemis at
or 408-983-0126 or online here

Melkite Catholic Archbishop to Celebrate Liturgy - November 5, 2006

On Sunday, November 5, 2006, at 4:30p, Saint John Vianney parish (4600 Hyland Avenue, San Jose) will welcome Archbishop Cyril Bustros and their neighbor parish, Saint Elias the Prophet Melkite-Greek Catholic Church, to celebrate the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, the Byzantine-rite equivalent of the Roman-rite Mass. After the Divine Liturgy, Saint Elias parish will host a Middle Eastern banquet in honor of Archbishop Cyril in the Saint John Vianney Main Hall. Tickets will cost $35 and will be available through Saint John Vianney parishioners. Contact Fr. James Graham at 408-259-0259 to reserve your place at this delicious meal. All parishioners and friends are invited to participate in the Divine Liturgy, which will be concelebrated by Archbishop Cyril, Fr. James Graham, pastor of St Elias, and other clergy. All Catholics can receive Holy Communion and satisfy their "Sunday obligation" at this liturgy.

Clothed in Glory - Christian Funerals

This article by Diana Macalintal originally appeared in Pastoral Music, Vol. 30, No. 3. The issue focused on the "threshold rites," those celebrations in which the doorway of the Church is an integral element of the rite.

About one hundred of us stood in the abbey church’s vestibule which also served as the baptistery. The iron figure of John the Baptist stood guard at the font to welcome us. The monks of the abbey entered silently one by one from the various doorways, their brown robes forming an earthly womb encircling the font. Then they began to chant: “You formed me from the earth, you clothed me with flesh; Lord my Redeemer, raise me up on the last day” (Ps 139; Job 10:8-12; 19:25). Several monks entered carrying the simple pine coffin hewn by one of their own which held the body of their brother in faith. They laid their brother down by the doors leading into the main body of the church as the monk’s family followed close behind. “My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?” (Ps 42).

Taking water from the font, the priest showered the coffin with holy water, calling his brother monk by name, recalling his death and re-birth in those same waters. The monk’s family did the same, tracing wet crosses into the wood with their fingers. Several of the monk’s students billowed a white sheet over the coffin, clothing him once again in his baptismal garment. “You formed me from the earth, you clothed me with flesh; Lord my Redeemer, raise me up on the last day.”

Led by incense, Paschal candle, cross, and Gospel Book, the circle of monks processed into the church as the sound of the organ and the familiar refrain of the funeral hymn filled the space: “I know that my Redeemer lives, that I shall rise again.” As they crossed the main doors, they passed the body of their brother. Some touched the coffin as they walked by, others bowed low down before it, still others stooped to kiss it. “I went in procession with the crowd. I went with them to the house of God, amid loud cries of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival” (Ps 42). The choir’s verses danced around the refrain we knew by heart. As the last of the monks entered the church, we followed the family who lifted up the coffin to carry their brother home. “Open the gates of victory; I will enter and thank the Lord!” (Ps 118).

Death is the Doorway

For the Christian, the body is a primary symbol. It images Christ, the Head, the Church, the Body, and bread and wine as Body and Blood shared. At the beginning of the Christian’s life, this fragile yet resilient body is signed, washed, anointed, and fed. Throughout its lifetime, this body is forgiven, joined to other bodies, given a new identity and mission, and healed in sickness. It is through the body that we express and interpret meaning. It is our bodies that place us in history, allow us to relate and connect, and make us recognizable to each other. It is through our bodies that we encounter and embody Christ.

Yet “while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” (2 Cor 5:6), and in the “tent” of our bodies, “we groan, longing to be further clothed with our heavenly habitation” (2 Cor 5:2). Thus, our entire life is a pilgrimage with the Body of Christ on the way to its heavenly home.

This homecoming begins with the question, “What is your name and what do you ask of the Church?” With these words at the doors of the church, we greet infants and those to be catechumens. With great reverence we sign their bodies with the cross, marking them as the passageway for knowing Christ. However, the way we best know Christ is by doing what Christ did—die, and the way home is through death’s doorway—baptism.

In baptism, we are clothed in the eternal life of Christ precisely by immersing ourselves into his death. If we believe this, then “[t]he paradox of Christianity is that we are a people who have confronted death and survived it….What would it mean to live with death behind us? What would it mean to be already living life-after-death, the life of the world to come?” (Mark Searle, “Sunday: The Heart of the Liturgical Year,” The Church Gives Thanks and Remembers: Essays on the Liturgical Year, ed. Lawrence J. Johnson, The Liturgical Press, 1984, p. 26.).

It would mean that our life becomes a series of “passovers” in which we practice Christ’s dying and rising, each day leaning more and more how to die to ourselves so that others may live. We are daily becoming baptized, living a “continual conversion to Christ and an ongoing initiation into the celebration of the sacraments and the life of Church (National Directory for Catechesis, 35D).

Therefore, at the final “passover,” when a Christian dies and the body no longer has life in it, we gather again at the doors where it all began, to mark the completion of their baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ.

In the Order of Christian Funerals, the body’s sacredness and its consecration in baptism are particular elements in the Rite of Reception of the Body. We find baptismal reminders in the ritual actions of sprinkling with holy water (83), placing of the pall on the coffin (84), presenting the Easter candle near the body (85), and placing of the cross, Book of Gospels, or Bible upon the coffin (86).

These signs also recall that in life and death the baptized are one with the communion of saints, for “[t]he assembly that welcomes the body is the host community tracing its unbroken line to the assembly of the Apostles. Here, the communion of saints is made visible” (Richard Rutherford with Tony Barr, The Death of a Christian: The Order of Christian Funerals, The Liturgical Press, 1990, p. 181). Therefore the music that accompanies the entrance procession is truly a gathering song that unites all the faithful into the household of God. A litany of saints may be a simple way to gather a varied community in song. Other appropriate gathering songs may come from psalms that hearken to baptism (42, 63) or longing for God’s house (84, 118, 122).

Though the rubrics do not call for music during the reception of the body or for the gathering of the assembly at the doors, it may be comforting to the family to enter not an empty vestibule but one filled with song and the familiar faces of friends. For just as the church sings at the beginning of a Christian’s life and gathers to meet her at the doors, so too might it gather around that same body and sing its welcome at the end of that life.

The Empty Tomb

As important as the body is to our Christian life, death teaches us to let go of the body. Describing the passage of faith required of the disciples who searched for the dead Jesus in the tomb, theologian Louis-Marie Chauvet explains: “You cannot arrive at the recognition of the risen Jesus unless you renounce seeing/touching/finding him by undeniable proofs” (The Sacraments: The Word of God at the Mercy of the Body, The Liturgical Press, 2001, p. 25). In other words, we must let go of the corpse in order to recognize the resurrection of the body.

This final letting go begins at the end of the funeral liturgy with the final commendation and concludes at the place of committal with customary signs of leave-taking. This last ritual “passover” on the journey home is the final threshold that not only the deceased but also the living must cross. Here, “the community acknowledges the reality of separation and commends the deceased to God. In this way it recognizes the spiritual bond that still exists between the living and the dead and proclaims its belief that all the faithful will be raised up and reunited…” (OCF, 6).

One of the most significant moments of leave-taking is so profound that it must be sung. The song of farewell, one of the funeral rite’s most ancient texts, is the faithful’s communal “goodbye.” It is not a song of sorrow but of hope and a blessing upon the deceased’s final journey which she takes not alone but accompanied by the saints and angels. The significance of this song is best expressed by singing it as its own ritual action and not as an accompaniment to the sprinkling and incensing of the coffin. In addition, it should be a song that all the faithful can sing easily and well. Many settings of the various texts of farewell (OCF, 403) have been composed using familiar tunes, such as OLD HUNDRETH and LONDONDERRY AIR. Other settings, such as John Becker’s “Litany for a Funeral Procession” (Oregon Catholic Press), use a litanic structure to enable fuller participation by the assembly regardless of their familiarity with the music. Becker’s litany also works well as a song accompanying the procession to the place of committal. If the litany of saints was not sung earlier, it might accompany this last procession to the deceased’s final rest.

Waiting in Joyful Hope

We are a people who live constantly in that doorway between death and eternal life. We stand in the advent-time of the kingdom here but not yet. The baptism that clothes us in Christ is a foretaste of the day when we shall be clothed in the fullness of Christ’s glory. Yet the rituals that we lavish upon the bodies of the faithful in both life and death are not meant to keep us wrapped up in complacency. Rather, the finery we wear are the brand marks of Christ crucified that compel us to rise up in action, announcing what we have seen and heard and touched. In this, we shall become more like Christ, we who are “configured to Christ’s death and resurrection, formed in Christ’s likeness until the day when Christ is formed in us” (Lumen gentium 7).

Catechumenate Support Group - October 5, 2006

Wow! We had an amazing couple of days exploring the Rite of Acceptance and the Scrutinies. We also had a lot of dialogue about what parishes need to do to be able to go to the next level with their initiation process. Just about everybody said there were two key factors:
  1. Do a better job with mystagogy (here's mystagogy even your mother could do)
  2. Catechize the assembly about the rites to get them more involved.
If you were there, please come and share with the rest of us some of the excitement of the event. If you weren’t there, it’s not too late to get some great ideas. At our next Catechumenate Support Group meeting we will discuss:
  • The four primary symbols of the Rite of Acceptance and how to highlight them in the rite.
  • Three simple ways to catechize the assembly about the rite.
  • The bottom-line, must-know, essential things the sponsors must do in the Rite of Acceptance.
  • A simple method for doing mystagogical reflection after the rite.
Everyone who attends the meeting will receive a FREE copy-ready master of a bulletin insert that explains the Rite of Acceptance for the assembly.

Get some practical answers to these and your other questions at the next Catechumenate Support Group Meeting.

Catechumenate Support Group
Thursday, October 5, 2006
12:30p - 2:30p
Chancery Offices, Third Floor

Bring your lunch and your own questions to ask!

RSVP with Bernard Nemis at
or 408-983-0126 or online here

Other Catechumenate Support Group dates for the year:
Thursday, December 7, 2006, 12:30p – 2:00p
Thursday, February 1, 2007, 12:30p – 2:00p
Thursday, March 22, 2007, 12:30p – 2:00p
Thursday, June 7, 2007, 12:30p – 2:00p

If your parish would like to host one of these gatherings, please contact Diana Macalintal at 408-983-0136.

Litany of Saints for the Diocese of San José

As you're preparing for November and All Saints Day, don't forget about this Litany of Saints which name all the parish patrons and other important saints connected to our diocese.

Litany of Saints for the Diocese of San José

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sample Intercessions for October 1, 2006

26th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B
October 1, 2006

Things, events, and news items to keep in mind:

  • Click here for the readings of the day.
  • Thousands of retired reservists are called back to active military duty.
  • Suicide bombings continue in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Wildfires continue to blaze in southern California.
  • October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
  • Muslims continue to observe their holy month of Ramadan.
  • October 1, 2006, at sundown, is the beginning of Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement,” the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. It is a day of sabbath—for observing a 25-hour fast, prayers, and refraining from work in order to atone for one’s sins.
  • October 6, 2006, at sundown, is the beginning of Sukkot, the seven-day Jewish “Season of Rejoicing.” It commemorates the Israelites’ forty years of wandering in the desert as well as the harvest.
  • Celebrating their patron’s feast day this week are the parish of Saint Francis of Assisi (October 4), the community of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, founded by Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher (October 6), and the community of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7), part of the parish of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
The following are just samples meant to inspire your work. Use them as ideas for your own assembly's intercessions. Read 10 Principles for Writing Intercessions and How To Write Intercessions to help you write your own.

In humble faith, let us lift our prayers
for our sisters and brothers in need.

For the Church: [pause]
For all who speak with the power of the Spirit,
for bishops, priests, and deacons,
for religious and lay women and men,
for mighty deeds of faith to overcome all who follow Christ.
We pray to the Lord.

For peace among all peoples of faith: [pause]
For lasting reconciliation among Muslims, Christians, and Jews,
for an end to war in the Middle East,
for the Spirit of compassion to break down the boundaries
that keep us apart.
We pray to the Lord.

For those caught in the middle of conflict and war: [pause]
For our military and their families,
for firefighters, police officers, and rescue workers,
for innocent victims of violence,
for safety, courage, and a swift return home.
We pray to the Lord.

For those who lead others to stronger faith in Christ: [pause]
For parents, teachers, and pastors,
for saints, both recognized and unknown,
for those who use their gifts of wealth, service, and presence
to lift up the poor,
for the reward of eternal life for these holy men and women.
We pray to the Lord.

For the sick and suffering: [pause]
for those living with cancer and those who await test results,
for the terminally ill, the homebound, and the hospitalized;
for their caregivers, doctors, and nurses;
for the cup of God’s healing mercy to quench their thirst,
especially for those we now name….
We pray to the Lord.

For the dead and all who wait in hope
to enter the kingdom of God: [pause]
for those killed by war, jealousy, or hate;
for those who died afraid and alone;
for the Spirit of resurrection to raise their bodies to eternal life,
especially those we now name….
We pray to the Lord.

Lord God,
nothing can confine your Holy Spirit, nor can anyone control it,
for you are the God who drives out our demons
and sets our tongues on fire with your Word.
Unleash that same Spirit upon us
that we may proclaim your mighty deeds
and work together, across boundaries, with all people of good will
to make this earth a sign of your kingdom.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Yes, but can the Cardinal code?

The bishops are now blogging! And a Cardinal, no less! Cardinal Archbishop Seán O’Malley began his own blog to give the people of his diocese a glimpse into his visit to Rome, his first as a Cardinal. It appears that this was completely the Cardinal’s idea, taking his lead from other public figures who use the media to reach out to people. During this experimental phase, the Cardinal hopes to do a post a day during his trip. Welcome to the bishops’ newest blogger!

Check out Cardinal O’Malley’s blog

Now if a Cardinal can do it, you can too. Start a blog for your parish. Find out why those who blog are blessed here, 10 things a blog can do that your bulletin can’t here, and how to start a blog here.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Music Ministry - Tip #3: Be Silent or Sing with the Assembly after Communion

Here is one simple thing you can do to make your parish’s celebration of Mass even better: Don’t do a meditation song after Communion. Instead, observe silence or sing a communal song of praise.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI already know that some of you will not like me for saying this. So I won’t even try to sugarcoat it. The “mediation song” is the bane of good music ministry. Until we stop doing it, music will always be seen as a nice-but-not-necessary element of liturgy, and liturgical musicians will continue to be regarded as entertainers instead of ministers of sung prayer.

To explain, let’s start with what the Church documents say about this.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 88:
“When the distribution of Communion is finished, as circumstances suggest, the priest and faithful spend some time praying privately. If desired, a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the entire congregation.”

Music in Catholic Worship, 72:
“The singing of a psalm or hymn of praise after the distribution of communion is optional. If the organ is played or the choir sings during the distribution of communion, a congregational song may well provide a fitting expression of oneness in the Eucharistic Lord. Since no particular text is specified, there is ample room for creativity.”

Liturgical Music Today, 10:
“At other places in the liturgical action the sung prayer itself is a constituent element of the rite. While it is being prayed, no other ritual action is being performed. Such would be: the song of praise, which may be sung after communion....”

The GIRM and Music in Catholic Worship are very clear: The optional song after Communion is sung by the entire assembly. Further, the song is one of praise. Liturgical Music Today, which footnotes the GIRM, explains that when it is sung, the song after Communion is itself the assembly’s prayer; it is not background music to accompany another action. It is the action.

Okay, confession time: I am a product of the 12:00p Mass Contemporary Choir meditation song. Some weeks, I lived just for that moment when our choir could perform that one piece we had been working on for weeks, or when I could sing a duet with my friend, or when we could do a really heart-breaking rendition of “By My Side,” “Do They Know It’s Christmastime?” or “Let It Be.” No offense to Godspell, Bob Geldof’s BandAid, or the Beatles, but, “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”

Now, I know that the meditation song has come a long way since the early 80s when I was doing them. Many mediation songs I hear today have something to do with the day’s readings, many of the texts are Scriptural, and most are done well. Some of them are even great works from our Catholic music tradition. Don’t think that meditation songs only come from folk/contemporary choir-types. I’ve heard and done meditation songs such as “Ave Maria,” “Panis Angelicus,” and “Locus Iste.” But do these songs fit the criteria for the song after Communion?

If we follow the documents cited above, the criteria for the song after Communion are:

  • it is a psalm or canticle or hymn

  • that speaks of praising God

  • that is sung by the entire assembly

  • and serves as the primary and only action of the assembly (sung prayer) at that time in the rite.
If we look at the meditation songs I mentioned above, none of them really fulfill all these criteria. “Ave Maria” and “Let It Be” are addressed to Mary. We should sing songs to Mary, but not after Communion. What about “Panis Angelicus”? C’mon, “bread from heaven.” It’s perfect! Yes, perhaps. But unless you have the whole assembly singing it, it’s not perfect for after Communion. Same for the other songs I mentioned.

The point is, if we are to be assembly members first, music ministers second, and never entertainers who make the purpose of the rite secondary, then we have to select music that fits the criteria outlined by the documents.

First step is to practice silence (and stillness) after Communion. The norm after Communion is silent prayer by the assembly. The option is to sing a communal song of praise together.

Second step is to stop calling it a “meditation song.” There is no meditation song in the Roman Rite. Also, the term suggests that the assembly is to meditate while the choir or soloist sings. The documents are clear: if a song is sung, it is to be the assembly’s prayer of praise to God for the sacrament they have just shared together. If you sing after Communion, call it a “song of praise.”

Third step is to use the song of praise sparingly. Every week is too much. Perhaps just use it on all the Sundays of Easter or maybe just on very solemn feasts during the year. Remember, the song of praise is optional. (You might even consider omitting the closing song if you do a song of praise. We’ll talk about this in another Music Ministry Tip.)

Last step is to go over the criteria again and make sure that the song fits all of them, especially the criteria that it be one of praise to God (not supplication, not petition, not to Mary, not to the saints, not a song about the Gospel reading) sung by the entire assembly. The psalms and canticles from the Bible work very well and can be done in responsorial fashion. Also litanies of thanksgiving are very good. Finally, this is the perfect place for hymns since the assembly is not distracted by walking or watching a procession at this time. Save the songs that don't fit the criteria for preludes, postludes, or perhaps the song during the preparation of gifts.

'Worship Leader' Used with permission of

So why did I do a meditation song all those years? Probably the same reason you might do it—because it works. It gets to people. It moves them. Sometimes they cry (hopefully in a good way). And they will probably compliment you and remember that song for a long time as a highlight of the Mass, because, honestly, there is so much emotion in the choir and in the assembly whenever the meditation song hits just the right spot.

But is this what the liturgy and liturgical music are about? Feelings? I stopped doing the meditation song because, first, I learned the documents, and second, because I learned that feelings are not enough. And besides, there is enough emotion already in a well-celebrated Mass without my trying to elicit more of it in an inappropriate place in the ritual.

I’ll end this tip/exhortation/rant with two quotes which speak about the power of good ritual, Sunday after Sunday, year after year. It’s a power more potent than feelings. Feelings are necessary, but they do not ultimately serve the purpose of liturgy which is action—praising God and doing the work of Christ in the world, not by myself, but together as the Church.

Feelings are great liars. If Christians only worshiped when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship that went on. Feelings are important in many areas, but completely unreliable in matters of faith…. We think that if we don’t FEEL something there can be no authenticity in DOING it. But the wisdom of God says something different, namely, that we can ACT ourselves into a new way feeling much quicker than we can FEEL ourselves into a new way of acting. Worship is an ACT which develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God which is expressed in an act of worship. When we obey the command to praise God in worship, our deep, essential need to be in relationship with God is nurtured.
--A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, Eugene Peterson


Liturgy is not about how we feel. It is about who we are and whose we are. Much is made today of feelings and of the individual’s great importance. When Christians enter upon their liturgy, however, all of that must be balanced with something else. The liturgy is what the church does. If I do the liturgy, I do it as a baptized member of this community of baptized persons. In a sense, I play a role that is only partly mine now, the role of a member of God’s reign. The liturgy does not exist so that I can get my feelings expressed. Rather, it rehearses me in the feelings I ought to have.

We speak of folded hands, peace greetings, loud acclamations, gestures of penance like kneeling, and all such things. It is never a matter of: Do this if you feel like it. Hard as it may be for persons of this culture to accept, the liturgy would have us do things whether we feel like it or not. At liturgy, we play like we are in God’s reign, as we are but only a little. This is true not only of the Eucharist, but of Morning and Evening Prayer, the seasons, the sacraments. When we praise God in the morning it’s not because we feel that praise but because we are baptized people, and in the name of all creation we are here to praise God.

All that being said, we can begin to glimpse how the liturgy is filled not simply with emotion but with passion. Look at the words we sing in the psalms and hear in the scripture, look at the lives we celebrate on feasts, look hardest at the very core of the Eucharist. In the Eucharistic Prayer we speak as passionate people about creation and sin and God’s relentless love. The climax of Catholic liturgy is the eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood, a deed that holds and little by little reveals a multitude of human passions.
--Hymnal for Catholic Students: Leader’s Manual, ed. Gabe Huck, LTP and GIA.

Hopefully, to all this, we can sing Amen!--“let it be, let it be...” but just not after Communion.

Enjoy Mass. Eat Out More Often.

Steven A. Shaw, executive director and co-founder of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters and author of Turning the Tables: The Insider’s Guide to Eating Out, penned (keyboarded?) this essay on dining out.

His thoughts about how to have a fine dining experience could be easily tranlated into how to have a fine eucharistic experience. Click here to find out how to enjoy Mass more often.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pope's Message to First Communion Children and their Parents

At a recent celebration of Evening Prayer, the Pope addressed parents and their children who were preparing for first Communion. His homily is a wonderful little liturgical catechesis on not only Communion but also Baptism, going to Mass as a family, and the power of liturgy to teach.

Below is an excerpt. Click here to read the full text.

Dear parents! I ask you to help your children to grow in faith, I ask you to accompany them on their journey towards First Communion, a journey which continues beyond that day, and to keep accompanying them as they make their way to Jesus and with Jesus. Please, go with your children to Church and take part in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration! You will see that this is not time lost; rather, it is the very thing that can keep your family truly united and centred. Sunday becomes more beautiful, the whole week becomes more beautiful, when you go to Sunday Mass together. And please, pray together at home too: at meals and before going to bed. Prayer does not only bring us nearer to God but also nearer to one another. It is a powerful source of peace and joy. Family life becomes more joyful and expansive whenever God is there and his closeness is experienced in prayer.

Dear catechists and teachers! I urge you to keep alive in the schools the search for God, for that God who in Jesus Christ has made himself visible to us. I know that in our pluralistic world it is no easy thing in schools to bring up the subject of faith. But it is hardly enough for our children and young people to learn technical knowledge and skills alone, and not the criteria that give knowledge and skill their direction and meaning. Encourage your students not only to raise questions about particular things - something good in itself - but above all to ask about the why and the wherefore of life as a whole. Help them to realize that any answers that do not finally lead to God are insufficient.

Dear priests and all who assist in parishes! I urge you to do everything possible to make the parish an "spiritual community" for people - a great family where we also experience the even greater family of the universal Church, and learn through the liturgy, through catechesis and through all the events of parish life to walk together on the way of true life.

These three places of education - the family, the school and the parish - go together, and they help us to find the way that leads to the sources of life, and truly all of us, dear children, dear parents and dear teachers, want to have "life in abundance". Amen!

Feast or Famine - November 18 and 19, 2006

More than 852 million people in the world go hungry.
In developing countries, 6 million children die each year, mostly from hunger-related causes.
In the United States, 14 million children live in households where people have to skip meals or eat less to make ends meet.

That means one in ten households in the U.S. are living with hunger or are at risk of hunger.

The Hunger Action Advocacy Program of the Presbytery of San Jose,
The Santa Clara County Council of Churches,
The Diocese of San Jose,
and Bread for the World
invite you to learn about Bread for the World:

Feast or Famine:
A Thanksgiving Supper and
Forum on Hunger In Our Midst

Special Guest: David Gist
California Organizer of Bread for the World

Saturday, November 18, 2006
6p to 9p
Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church


Sunday, November 19, 2006
Trinity Presbyterian Church

Meal: $10 per person.
We will share a simple but hearty meal of
soup, salad, bread and dessert;
coffee, tea and water
(Proceeds be yond the cost of dinner will be donated
to the work of Bread for the World)

To sign up or for more information, contact:
Pat Plant at 408-737-7370, patplant [at] comcast [dot] net

Gather Faithfully: Inviting Teens Into Liturgical Ministry

Gather Faithfully: Inviting Teens Into Liturgical Ministry
by Laure Krupp
Saint Mary's Press

Here's a nice little resource to help you train and form teens in liturgical ministry. There are two books: a small book for participants, and a larger book for the leader. Each chapter looks at a different liturgical ministry, has some reflection questions that the participants can discuss together, gives some spiritual formation for that particular ministry, and provides some basic tips for doing the ministry. This is a very good, solid resource for teens and also adults.

Click here for details.

Andres Sinohui and Blessed Miguel Pro

Quo Vadis Theatre Company, a Catholic theater group in San José, will be presenting:

¡Viva Cristo Rey! The Story of Father Miguel Pro

October 5 - 8, 2006
October 12 - 15, 2006
October 19 - 21, 2006

Historic Hoover Theatre

General: $15
Students/Seniors: $12
Groups of 6 or more: $10

Our very own Andres Sinohui, from the Institute for Leadership in Ministry, will be starring in the lead role! Click here to download a flyer (pdf).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sample Intercessions for September 24, 2006

25th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B
September 24, 2006

Things, events, and news items to keep in mind:

  • Click here for the readings of the day.
  • Controversy and violence have erupted in the wake of references made by Pope Benedict XVI regarding Islam. Read the entire text in question here. Read the Vatican’s official response here. Read the Pope’s statement of September 17, 2006, here.
  • This weekend, the Diocese of San José prays for its lay ecclesial ministers.
  • September 23, 2006, at sundown, is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and time of introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and praying for a sweeter, better new year.
  • September 24, 2006, as sundown, is the beginning of Ramadan, the holy month in the Muslim calendar dedicated to increased fasting, prayer, and good works.
  • Celebrating their patron’s feast day this week is the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (September 27).
The following are just samples meant to inspire your work. Use them as ideas for your own assembly's intercessions. Read 10 Principles for Writing Intercessions and How To Write Intercessions to help you write your own.

In humble faith, let us lift our prayers
for our sisters and brothers in need.

For the Church: [pause]
For the Pope and all Church leaders;
for humility, steadfast faith, and sincerity of heart;
for continued commitment to peace, healing, and reconciliation.
We pray to the Lord.

For all Christians, Jews, and Muslims: [pause]
For those who have been hurt by people of faith
and those who have been reviled, tortured,
or condemned for their beliefs;
for merciful wisdom and the cultivation of peace.
We pray to the Lord.

For lay ecclesial ministers and all servants of the Church: [pause]
For married persons and religious brothers and sisters
who humbly dedicate their lives to the people of God;
for single people who minister night and day;
for constant and sincere support and encouragement;
for strengthened commitment among all the faithful to their baptismal vows.
We pray to the Lord.

For the weak and vulnerable in our midst: [pause]
For children, the ill, and the aged;
for those caught in the crossfire of war and conflict;
for those who stand patiently amid persecution;
for loving arms to embrace and protect them.
We pray to the Lord.

For those sick and near death: [pause]
for the terminally ill, the homebound, and hospitalized;
for their caregivers, healers, and comforters;
for the mercy of God to defend and deliver them from their suffering,
especially for those we now name….
We pray to the Lord.

For the dead: [pause]
for those killed by war, envy, selfishness, or hate;
for those who died peacefully in the embrace of loved ones;
for God to receive them into the eternal peace of heaven,
especially those we now name….
We pray to the Lord.

God, our Father, our helper and sustainer,
set our eyes before you and purify our hearts by the wisdom of our Spirit,
that we may ask these prayers with sincere humility
and receive your mercy with complete joy,
for you alone uphold our lives.We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Blessing for Confirmation candidates at the start of their preparation

Your parish might be starting to prepare candidates for Confirmation. Here's a short rite of blessing (Word doc) you could use at Sunday Mass to pray for those starting their preparation for Confirmation.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

John Chrysostom's message to Liturgists

Saint John Chrysostom - www.iconmotif.comWe, liturgists, are a unique bunch. If you’re like me, the details of liturgy are very important to you. It also helps to be somewhat obsessive compulsive. (Don’t get me started with the “liturgist-terrorist” joke. It’s not funny.) I know I’m this way because I really do believe the old axiom we all learned in Liturgy 101—lex orandi, lex credendi—basically interpreted, “as we pray, so we believe.” The way we pray forms our belief.

But any good liturgist will know that liturgy is not the end-all, be-all of our lives as disciples. Yes, it’s rightly the source and summit (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 10). But it’s not the entire activity of the Church (CSL, 9).

Today is the Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, the “golden-tongued” late 4th-century preacher and bishop of Constantinople. He gave us, liturgists, a good reminder about the end-purpose of liturgy. It’s about lex vivendi—forming us in how we live. Sixteen centuries later, Karl Rahner, SJ, would develop this when he wrote about the “liturgy of life”—how the liturgy of the altar is intrinsically, primordially present and part of the living and dying, the “breathing of death and sacrifice,” found in all of human history (“Considerations on the Active Role of the Person in the Sacramental Event,” in Theological Investigations, vol. 14, trans. David Bourke, Seabury Press, p. 169). The Holy is present and celebrated first in human life. Praising God in our worship makes no sense unless we also recognize God’s presence in everyday life, especially in the darkest depths of human life.

Scripture constantly reminds us of this (Mt 25:31-40; Is 58:1-9), and so does Saint John Chrysostom today. Thanks to Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia for giving me this reminder today by sharing Saint John Chrysostom’s meditation on Matthew 25.
Would you honor the body of Christ? Do not despise his nakedness; do not honor him here in church clothed in silk vestments and then pass him by unclothed and frozen outside. Remember that he who said, “This is my Body”, and made good his words, also said, “You saw me hungry and gave me no food”, and, “in so far as you did it not to one of these, you did it not to me”. In the first sense the body of Christ does not need clothing but worship from a pure heart. In the second sense it does need clothing and all the care we can give it.

We must learn to be discerning Christians and to honor Christ in the way in which he wants to be honored. It is only right that honor given to anyone should take the form most acceptable to the recipient not to the giver. Peter thought he was honoring the Lord when he tried to stop him washing his feet, but this was far from being genuine homage. So give God the honor he asks for, that is give your money generously to the poor. God has no need of golden vessels but of golden hearts.

I am not saying you should not give golden altar vessels and so on, but I am insisting that nothing can take the place of almsgiving. The Lord will not refuse to accept the first kind of gift but he prefers the second, and quite naturally, because in the first case only the donor benefits, in the second case the poor gets the benefit. The gift of a chalice may be ostentatious; almsgiving is pure benevolence.

What is the use of loading Christ’s table with gold cups while he himself is starving? Feed the hungry and then if you have any money left over, spend it on the altar table. Will you make a cup of gold and without a cup of water? What use is it to adorn the altar with cloth of gold hangings and deny Christ a coat for his back! What would that profit you? Tell me: if you saw someone starving and refused to give him any food but instead spent your money on adorning the altar with gold, would he thank you? Would he not rather be outraged? Or if you saw someone in rags and stiff with cold and then did not give him clothing but set up golden columns in his honor, would he not say that he was being made a fool of and insulted?

Consider that Christ is that tramp who comes in need of a night’s lodging. You turn him away and then start laying rugs on the floor, draping the walls, hanging lamps on silver chains on the columns. Meanwhile the tramp is locked up in prison and you never give him a glance. Well again I am not condemning munificence in these matters. Make your house beautiful by all means but also look after the poor, or rather look after the poor first. No one was ever condemned for not adorning his house, but those who neglect the poor were threatened with hellfire for all eternity and a life of torment with devils. Adorn your house if you will, but do not forget your brother in distress. He is a temple of infinitely greater value.

Connecting Liturgy and Justice - Sunday Scripture reflections

Many of you in San José will know Elizabeth Lilly from liturgical, catechumenate, justice, and pastoral circles. She is now more actively working with parishes to help them foster and support their justice activities through her role with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County. Because she is a liturgist at the core, she has been working on helping parishes make the connection between liturgy and justice clearer. Part of her motivation comes from the United States Bishops’ 1993 document, Communities of Salt and Light: Reflections on the Social Mission of the Parish.
The most important setting for the Church’s social teaching is not in a food pantry or in a legislative committee room, but in prayer and worship, especially gathered around the altar for the Eucharist. It is in the liturgy that we find the fundamental direction, motivation, and strength for social ministry. Social ministry not genuinely rooted in prayer can easily burn itself out. On the other hand, worship that does not reflect the Lord’s call to conversion, service, and justice can become pious ritual and empty of the Gospel.
Below she offers us some bulletin reflections that you can use each week that connects God’s story found in the Sunday readings with our story found in the real-life events of a person affected by the work of Catholic Charities and gives information on how you can become part of this story by proclaiming the Gospel in concrete ways in Santa Clara County.

Here is the same text as a Word document that you can download and reprint.

Thanks go to Elizabeth Lilly
Director, Community and Parish Partnerships
Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County
elilly [at] ccsj [dot] org

Sunday Reflections and Social Ministry
Fall 2006

For weekly bulletins, faith sharing groups, prayer at meetings, bible study, lectors, outreach actions, anywhere the word of God calls us to act with charity and justice.

October 1, 2006
“Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets.” Numbers 11

Catholic Charities story: A 17-year-old orphaned refugee girl from Iran found a loving foster family, is learning English, attends high school, and is a big sister to the family’s very excited 10-year-old daughter.

Catholic Charities opportunity: Become a foster parent for an Unaccompanied Refugee Minor. Click here for information, or contact Coleen Gulbraa, 408-325-5159.

October 8, 2006
“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10

Catholic Charities story: Children in the after school intensive literacy program (CORAL) conducted by Catholic Charities in the Franklin McKinley School District have advanced two grade levels.

Catholic Charities opportunity: Assist after-school program staff with activities for elementary school students including academic assistance, recreation, sports, arts, music, exercise, theatre, dance, supervision, and being a great asset builder. Contact America Aguire, 408-283-6150.

October 15, 2006
“Go and sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.” Mark 10

Catholic Charities story: Samuel, one of the 55 young men from war-torn Sudan whom we helped to resettle in our community five years ago, graduated from Stanford University in June 2006.

Catholic Charities opportunity: Unrestricted gifts and donations help Catholic Charities meet needs in our community that lead to wellness and self-sufficiency. For information contact Magi Young, 408-325-5225.

October 22, 2006
“The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.” Mark 10

Catholic Charities story: Very low-income seniors attending our neighborhood centers told us that our nutritious hot lunches, health education classes, and nurse’s care had improved their health and sense of wellness.

Catholic Charities opportunity: Help with the Brown Bag Program every Wednesday from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the John XXIII Center in downtown San Jose. Unload large boxes of food delivered by Second Harvest Food Bank, organize it, put it into brown bags or boxes, and help clean up afterwards. Contact Mui Sam Le, 408-282-8606.

October 29, 2006
“Behold I will bring them back …they departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them …” Jeremiah 31

Catholic Charities story: The Board of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County has made a commitment to advocate for policies that will benefit our clients, bringing Gospel values to the issues of our time and place.

Catholic Charities opportunity: If you would like to learn more about advocacy to influence social policy in the areas of immigration reform, access to quality education, health care reform, affordable housing, or budget priorities to end poverty, contact Tim Hellmann, Social Policy Consultant for Catholic Charities, 408-325-5258.

November 5, 2006
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12

Catholic Charities story: Ruby, a teenager from one of San Jose’s poorest neighborhoods, learned how to set goals so she could succeed in school, and was recently offered a full scholarship to Harvard when she graduates from high school.

Catholic Charities opportunity: Assist in providing youth a safe and fun learning environment. Supervise tech lab and engage with youth in a positive way. Many of the activities require different levels of interaction and commitment. Be creative with technology and help us develop assets in youth. Contact Rodrigo Garcia, at the Washington United Youth Center, 408-938-6731.

November 12, 2006
“A poor widow also came and put in two small coins.” Mark 12

Catholic Charities story: Naomi, a recent high school graduate who was raised by her grandmother, learned the skills she needs to live as an independent adult, and now attends the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

Catholic Charities opportunity: Are you raising a grandchild or another relative? Find understanding and support by contacting Marina Hurtado at the Kinship Resource Center, 408-325-5164.

November 19, 2006
“Those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” Daniel 12

Catholic Charities story: Dana, who was homeless and survived a brutal beating near the creek where he was living, now has housing, disability income to which he was entitled, ongoing medical care, and mental health treatment to help stabilize his life.

Catholic Charities opportunity: In our Navigator Program social workers help our clients navigate the system to receive the treatments that they need to move off the street. New socks and toiletries are needed year-round. Contact Ruben Solorio, 408-325-5129.

November 26, 2006
“Jesus has made us into a kingdom.” Revelation 1

Catholic Charities story: A group of gang-impacted young men attending Del Mar High School in San Jose graduated from a special program that teaches them to respect themselves and others, and to look for ways to avoid the gang lifestyle.

Catholic Charities opportunity: Connect with youth in a safe and fun environment at the Washingtom United Youth Center on First Street in San Jose. Activities include basketball, handball, indoor soccer, futsal pool, ping pong, foosball, PS2, boxing, special events, intervention programs and food distribution. Contact Tony Rodriguez, 408-938-6731.

American Piety in the 21st Century

The Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion, part of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, has compiled findings from an extensive survey on religious beliefs in America. They assert that previous surveys have presented religion in America as predominantly homogenous or "monolithic." That is, we all believe in God in the same way. However, their survey tries to dig deeper into the complexity and uniqueness of American religion in the 21st century, including even data from our pop culture habits, such as The DaVinci Code, paranormal belief, and Joan of Arcadia. It's an interesting study with lots of graphs and charts for the visually-minded. Check it out here. Click on the (somewhat scary) picture on the right side of the web page to download the PDF document of the survey data.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Exploring the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults - September 22-23, 2006

  • Are you stumped about how to do the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in your parish?
  • Do you need a boost and some new ideas for your rites and catechumenal gatherings?
  • Does the word “mystagogy” scare you?
  • Do you want to learn how to unpack the initiation rites for your catechumens, sponsors, and parish?
Then make a plan to attend a fall gathering for Catechumenate directors, teams, and ministers. This event is for:

  • Initiation and catechumenate directors, teams, coordinators
  • Faith formation coordinators and leaders
  • Liturgy coordinators
  • Music ministers
  • Priests
  • Deacons

We will focus on the Rite of Acceptance and the Scrutiny Rite and use these rites as the foundation for catechizing on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

  • We will show how to unpack these rites and catechize from the liturgy.
  • We will model how to do an extended catechesis.
  • You will have a chance to share your successes, your struggles, and get some support, insight, and answers.
  • However way you are involved with the RCIA, you’ll get some food for thought and food for your belly as well!

Exploring the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
September 21-23, 2006
Santa Teresa Church
794 Calero Avenue, San José

To register:
Contact Bernard Nemis, 408-983-0136, or
register online or
download this flyer and registration form (PDF)

Thursday evening for catechumenate directors: Free
Pre-registration for Friday: $25
Pre-registration for Saturday: $25
Registration at the door for Friday: $29
Registration at the door for Saturday: $29

Sponsored by the Diocesean Catechumenate Committee.

We encourage you to attend all three days, if possible, since the discussion from the previous day will be expanded during the next day. But you are welcome to attend as many days that you can. Please do pre-register so we can plan for enough food.

Schedule for the days

Thursday, September 21, 2006, dinner for Catechumenate directors
Avila Hall, Santa Teresa Parish

6:00p – 6:45p: Gathering and appetizers
6:45p – 8:00p: Dinner and conversation
8:00p – 9:00p: Group discussion on the large issues of the RCIA in our diocese
9:00p: Wrap up and closing prayer

Friday, September 22, 2006, for all ministers
Santa Teresa Church
Pre-registration: $25
At the door: $29

8:30a – 9:15a: On-site registration, check-in, and hospitality (Church)
9:15a – 9:30a: Welcome and preparation of assembly for rite
9:30a – 10:30a: Rite of Acceptance
10:30a – 10:45a: Break
10:45a – 11:30a: Mystagogy / Walk-through of Rite
11:30a – 12:00p: Small group discussion
12:00p – 1:00p: Lunch (Avila Hall)
1:00p – 2:00p: Table discussions (Church)
2:00p – 3:00p: Sharing our wisdom to address our challenges
3:00p – 3:15p: Wrap up, preparation for Scrutiny on Saturday, and closing prayer

Saturday, September 23, 2006,, for all ministers
Santa Teresa Church
Pre-registration: $25
At the door: $29

8:30a – 9:15a: On-site registration, check-in, hospitality (Church)
9:15a – 9:30a: Welcome and preparation of assembly for rite
9:30a – 10:30a: Scrutiny Rite
10:30a – 10:45a: Break
10:45a – 11:30a: Mystagogy / Walk-through of Rite
11:30a – 12:30p: Model of extended catechesis on the Scrutiny
12:30p: Wrap up and closing prayer

Music Ministry - Tip #2: Receive Communion with the Assembly

Here is one simple thing you can do to make your parish’s celebration of Mass even better: Share in Communion when the Assembly is sharing Communion.

walkLong ago, when I was still a baby music minister, our choir would finish the last note of the Lamb of God, then we would start to line up at a side aisle to receive Communion before we began the Communion song. The assembly spoke their response “Lord, I am not worthy…” and we’d be up there first in line to receive Communion. So the Communion song didn’t start for quite some time until the whole choir was back in its place.

More recently, I’ve seen the opposite happen. The choir would start singing after the assembly’s response (right away, we would hope) and finish the Communion song as the last of the assembly shared in Communion. Then the entire choir would line up for Communion, receiving Communion from the ministers who came to them. Most of the time, there would be silence while the choir received, or a lone musician would remain behind to play an instrumental, or a soloist would sing a “mediation song” (we’ll talk about this next week).

Are these efficient ways to distribute Communion to the choir? Yes. Are they effective ways to do the Communion Rite well? No. Here’s why.

Delaying or stopping the Communion Song while the choir receives Communion teaches three things that we might not want taught:
  1. It teaches that the ministry of music does not belong to the assembly but to the choir. Thus, when the choir is occupied with another action, for example, receiving Communion, music does not happen;
  2. It teaches that the choir is a separate group from the assembly since it receives Communion apart from the time the assembly receives; and
  3. It teaches that one cannot walk and sing at the same time.

Let’s look at these three things more closely.

To whom does the ministry of music belong? According to Liturgical Music Today, the US Bishops’ 1982 companion document to Music in Catholic Worship (1972), “The entire worshiping assembly exercises a ministry of music” (LMT, 63). Therefore, even if there were no choir, no cantor, or no song leader, there should still be music at Mass, even a cappella. The assembly is not exempted from exercising their ministry of music simply because a choir is present. Therefore, especially during the Communion song—whose purpose “is to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the ‘communitarian’ nature of the procession to receive Communion” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 86)—it is the assembly who sings while the choir “adds beauty and solemnity to the liturgy and also assists and encourages the singing of the congregation” (Music in Catholic Worship, 36). When the choir delays or stops the Communion song in order to receive Communion, they subtly communicate that the assembly’s voices are secondary to theirs.

Liturgical Music Today goes on to say that

the church musician is first a disciple and then a minister. The musician belongs first of all to the assembly; he or she is a worshiper above all. Like any member of the assembly, the pastoral musician needs to be a believer, needs to experience conversion, needs to hear the Gospel and so proclaim the praise of God. Thus, the pastoral musician is not merely an employee or volunteer. He or she is a minister, someone who shares faith, serves the community, and expresses the love of God and neighbor through music. (64)

(Wow! Every music minister needs to tape that quote to their bathroom mirror, their guitar case, their music stand, their choir folder, and pray it every day!)

So, if the assembly is the primary music minister, and if we are first assembly members and musicians second, then we need to do what the assembly does—that is, receive Communion when the assembly receives Communion, not before or after. We are not a separate group apart from the assembly at this moment.

Finally, the GIRM says, “The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful” (86). If we, music ministers, are members of the faithful, the singing continues while we, ourselves, are receiving Communion. We cannot lament that the assembly doesn’t sing the Communion song if we don't model it for them as we share in Communion.

Okay, you might be thinking that I’m encouraging bad manners and advocating that we chew, drink, and sing all at the same time! Not so. Common sense always rules. All I’m saying is that we, music ministers, can certainly sing while we walk in procession for Communion. If we need to be glued to our sheet music in order to sing, then we’re probably singing a poorly chosen Communion song, because it should be one the assembly can sing simply, by heart, even if only the refrain. And, if it’s a really good song, it could be one that can be sung without accompaniment, at least for a few moments while the accompanists also share in Communion.

The assembly at the Santa Clara Mission a couple of Sundays ago did this very well. The music ministry chose a song that obviously the assembly knew very well. As the choir was receiving Communion toward the end of the assembly’s procession, I expected the assembly to stop singing. But no! The assembly continued quite strongly with another verse of the song, all on their own! It was a nice moment when we in the assembly heard and supported each other with our voices.

At diocesan liturgies, I send the choir to the closest Communion station in the middle of the song. The choir director, cantor, and instrumentalists remain to support the assembly’s singing. All the while, the choir is encouraged to sing during their Communion procession. Once the choir has returned to their places, the choir director goes to a nearby Communion minister to receive Communion. She returns and leads the choir while the cantor receives Communion. Toward the end of the distribution of Communion to the assembly, we might sing a few refrains a cappella while the instrumentalists share in Communion. This process has worked very well for these liturgies.

Experiment with your own logistics, and see if you can improve this moment of the Communion Rite.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Music Ministry – Tip #1: Start the Communion song immediately

Here is one simple thing you can do to make your parish's celebration of Mass even better: Start the Communion song immediately.

lah dee dah dee dahWhen I first became a music minister, our choir didn’t want to begin the Communion song until “after Father did his Communion.” Twenty-five years later, most music ministers are still waiting for Father. The “Lamb of God” ends, the priest says, “Behold the Lamb of God...” and the assembly responds, “Lord, I am not worthy....” Then...there’s a span...of silence...while priest...take Communion. (You get the picture.) Sometimes, this silence continues even longer as we watch the priest distribute Communion to the Communion ministers.

I go to many different parishes in our diocese for Sunday Mass, and if there is a constant liturgical weakness in our diocese, it is how we do the Communion Rite. One reason for this is because almost every choir I have witnessed waits to begin the Communion song until after the priest and all the ministers have finished receiving their Communion.

Often I think maybe the reason for the pause is that the music director or the accompanist is not ready. But that’s never been the case. It has always been because the music director or leader is simply waiting. And no matter how much of the Vulcan Mind Meld I try to do from my pew, I simply cannot get the music director to start the song.

Please, please, please, I beg all of you music ministers, please start the Communion song immediately after “Lord, I am not worthy….” This is the correct practice according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 86, which says: While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant is begun.

I hope you don’t see this as liturgical rubricism on my part. There really are better reasons for following the documents, and here are the reasons every music minister needs to follow this rubric: Delaying the start of the Communion song breaks down the flow of the Communion Rite and immediately puts the assembly into a passive mode—watching—at the very climax of the Mass when they should be expressing their “union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices” (GIRM, 86). Further, and perhaps more harmful, delaying the start of the Communion song subliminally teaches that “Father’s Communion” is different and perhaps “more special” than anyone else’s. Yet, Communion by its very definition cannot be individualistic, nor can it make distinctions among the members of the faithful. There are not two Communions—the priest’s and mine, or even yours and mine; there is only one Communion—ours with Christ.

just start the song already!The reason I plead is because this is such an easy thing we can all fix that will make our celebration of the Mass so much better. You don’t even have to go to a workshop to fix it! Just start doing it!

If you still feel queasy starting the song as the priest is taking Communion, at least begin the introduction to the song earlier. The parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in San José does this very well. As soon as the assembly finishes responding, “Lord, I am not worthy…,” the accompanist begins the introduction while the song leader announces the song’s title and hymnal number. By the time the introduction is over, the Communion ministers are in place, and all begin singing the song.

The Communion song accompanies the action of sharing Communion. This action formally begins after the invitation to the table: “Behold, the Lamb of God….” Thus, the Communion song must begin immediately after the assembly’s response to that invitation: “Lord, I am not worthy….”

Oasis of Prayer - Mini Retreats

Oasis of Prayer is a monthly free “spiritual mini-retreat” for those who work in the Diocese of San José.

Oasis of Prayer
For Parish and Diocesan Staff Members
Presented by SpiritSite
The Catholic Spirituality Center for the Diocese of San José

Theme for 2006: “Mystics for Ministers”
Readings from Light from Light: An Anthology of Christian Mysticism
edited by Louis Dupré & James A. Wiseman
(New York: Paulist Press, 2001)

First Oasis: Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Presented by Fr. Kevin Joyce, Director of SpiritSite
“Eros and the Spiritual Journey” by Origin (185-253 A.D.)

Daily Schedule
10a: Presentation and group sharing
11a: Hour of personal prayer
12p: Lunch (provided by SpiritSite)

Location: Saint Clare Church

There is no cost for the Oasis of Prayer – your participation is all we desire.

Come and enjoy a few quiet hours each month to reflect on how and why you are called to serve God’s people, to gain strength from one another, and to nourish your spiritual health and wellbeing. The sessions include a presentation, an hour of personal prayer, and lunch. The presentations will focus on the teachings of the great Christian mystics and how they may be applied to the lifestyles all who labor in the vineyard of the Lord.

Topics for 2006
October 18, 2006: Desert Fathers and Mothers (4th Century)
November 15, 2006: Gregory of Nyssa (335-395)

Save the 2007 dates:
January 17, 2007
February 14, 2007
March 21, 2007
April 18, 2007
May 9, 2007

For more information call SpiritSite at 408-237-9237 or visit our website at

Click here to download a flyer for this series (PDF).

Eucharistic Prayer for September 11

Because of the nature of the day, you might consider for your Masses this weekend using the Eucharistic Prayer for Masses of Reconciliation II, found in the Sacramentary on page 1128.

Here is an excerpt:
In the midst of conflict and division,
we know it is you who turn our minds
to thoughts of peace.
Your Spirit changes our hearts:
enemies begin to speak to one another,
those who were estranged join hands in friendship,
and nations seek the way of peace together.
Your Spirit is at work when understanding puts an end to strife,
when hatred is quenched by mercy,
and vengeance gives way to forgiveness.

Sample Intercessions for September 10, 2006 - Anniversary of September 11

23rd Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B – Anniversary of 9/11
September 10, 2006

Things, events, and news items to keep in mind:

  • Click here for the readings of the day.
  • The country observes the five-year anniversary of September 11, 2001.
  • Immigration issues still pervade the news.
  • Mexico works toward a peaceful resolution to their presidential elections as they prepare to celebrate their Independence Day on September 16.
  • September 10, 2006, is national Grandparents Day.
  • September 13 is the anniversary of the death of Jim McEntee.
  • Parishes in our diocese celebrating their feast days are Holy Cross (September 14) and Saint Cyprian (September 16).
  • Middle East peace is still tenuous.

The following are just samples meant to inspire your work. Use them as ideas for your own assembly's intercessions. Read 10 Principles for Writing Intercessions and a Step by Step Guide to help you write your own.

The Lord says to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Therefore, let us lift our voices in prayer
for the world and those most in need.

For the Church: [pause]
For renewed commitment to the poor;
for the eradication of distinctions that lead to judgment;
for eyes opened to see the dignity of every person.
We pray to the Lord.

For the world: [pause]
For Iraq and Afghanistan and all countries in conflict;
for cities and homes where terror and fear reign;
for rivers of peace to burst forth in the desert of hatred.
We pray to the Lord.

For our nation as we remember September 11: [pause]
for those who died and those who still mourn;
for our military and relief agencies;
for freedom from fear and release from the bondage of war;
for mouths opened to proclaim God’s mercy, justice,
and reconciliation.
We pray to the Lord.

For our families: [pause]
For grandparents and grandchildren;
for sons and daughters far from home;
for single persons and those who suffer loneliness;
for ears opened to hear words of friendship, love, and joy.
We pray to the Lord.

For the sick and the suffering: [pause]
for those whose bodies are failing them;
for their caregivers and companions;
for hope, healing, and strength, especially for those we now name….
We pray to the Lord.

For the dead: [pause]
for victims of terror and acts of violence;
for those who die frightened or alone;
for those killed by war, poverty, or disease,
especially those we now name….
We pray to the Lord.

We praise you, Lord, for you have done all things well.
When our human limitations bind us, you free us with your word,
making the blind to see, the deaf to hear,
the mute to speak, and the frail to leap for joy.
Open us now to the healing word of your Son
that the thirsty ground of our lives may become springs of water
for those whose hearts are frightened and parched by fear.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reflections, Intercessions, and Liturgy of the Hours for September 11, 2006

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has put together some liturgical reflections for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 10, 2006) and for September 11, 2006, the five-year anniversary.

Here is a prayer from their collection that might be used as an opening prayer for liturgies, prayer services, and gatherings during this time. Click here to see all their resources for this event.

Rembering 9/11

Five years have passed, O Lord,
five years of mourning and of tears,
of struggling to make sense and to go on.
Five years since crashing planes, collapsing building,
rivers of smoke and ash and fear brought death and fear.

Give us the courage to hope again, Father.
To pray even for our enemies, and for ourselves.
Give us the grace to be freed from hate
and unbound from the paralysis of fear.
Give us the freedom of the children of God:

Awaken in our hearts a firm resolve
“to reject the ways of violence,
to combat everything that sows hatred and division
within the human family,
and to work for the dawn of a new era
of solidarity, justice and peace.”i

We ask this through the Prince of Peace,
our Way, our Truth, and our Life,
Christ the Lord. Amen.

i Pope John Paul II, on receiving the credentials of the new Ambassador to the Holy See from the United States of America, September 13, 2001.

The Priests of September 11, 2001 - We Were There

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a new free publication that recounts some of the stories of the priests who were witnesses to the events of September 11, 2001. Read an excerpt here. Download the entire booklet titled We Were There here (PDF) here.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Donations Available

Fr. Ignatius DeGroot, OFM
Our Lady of Guadalupe has these items available to donate:

Vestment Case
Easter Candle Stand

If interested please call Fr. DeGroot at (408) 258-7057.