How Shall I Praise You? #1 – Pastor’s Reflection (May 8, 2016)
As we move to implement the new Mass schedule, and to define the music program that goes with it, I would like to reflect on some of our hopes for this new arrangement. I have written to you already about the financial economy and pastoral presence these arrangements will facilitate.
We also seek to offer the parish a wider palette of worship. In both churches clergy and laity have worked hard in recent years to develop the choral Solemn Mass and to place it at the heart of the parish’s life. This practice accords with the mind of the Church and serves two of her core concerns. Most evidently, at Solemn Mass we give maximal scope to the arts of the organist and the singers. Such a liturgy places virtuosity at the service of prayer. At Solemn Mass, music elevates and focuses the prayer of the individual and unites the prayer of the group. It enables each person to join the song of the whole and so experience vocally the nature of the Church herself. Worshipping this way serves the needs of those who want to place the life of the senses under the governance of the life of the Spirit.
Solemn Mass also reveals the Church. At Pentecost we recognize her as the Holy Spirit’s work of orchestrating human gifts in the harmonious and pleasing service of God. At Mass this truth takes flesh in the profusion of ministries. At Solemn Mass we hope to see the priest, the deacon, the reader, the cantor, the choir, the varied ranks of servers, the sacristans, and the ushers. These are not functionaries putting on a ceremony. Each of these persons fulfills a particular task in God’s presence. What each does can be called a liturgy, or a ministry, or a service. (Here is the origin of calling what happens in church a service – “nice service, Father.”)
It follows that the Solemn Mass takes pride of place in the parish’s round of worship. The initiation (baptism of adults, first communion, confirmation, reception into the Church) of the members takes place in this context, and we use this mode of worship to mark the Lord’s Day, the principal feasts of the year, and essential moments in the life of the parish. It will be fitting then for solemn ordinarily to be celebrated in the parish church, St. Vincent Ferrer, at the high point of the Lord’s Day, Noon on Sunday. At times though we will want to celebrate Solemn Mass at St. Catherine of Siena, as on her feast day, on the processional feasts of the Church, such as Palm Sunday, on feasts related to the health care ministry, such as St. Gianna Bretta Molla. Solemn Mass ought ordinarily to last from sixty to seventy minutes.
As a regular practice Solemn Mass challenges many because of the time it takes. This applies in a particular way to those with children. For this group we need to connect liturgical beauty and active participation with expeditious practice, and accessible repertoire. Such are our hopes for the 10 AM “High Mass” at St. Catherine’s. We would like for those with children, or with time constraints, to have a fine experience of liturgical music, the opportunity to sing God’s praise, connect with other committed people and be out within an hour. We are confident that during the September to May “Parish Year” we can serve this pattern of worship with our time of Bible Stories with Mrs. Getcher (“Miss Dolores”). For those who do not know, Dolores welcomes 4 -6 year olds at the beginning of Mass and keeps them until the offertory, when she and all the children present the gifts. St. Joseph’s Hall at St. Catherine’s will now provide an incomparably warm and well-equipped setting for this service. Dolores says she will be ready to go on September 18.
St. Catherine’s also possesses St. Dominic’s Hall which will enable us to round out Mass in fine style with parish coffees in a light-filled, inviting room, with all the conveniences. Blessed we are to have fine and distinctive spaces that serve the life of the community so very well.
Of course, it is easy to write well of dreams. There will be much to do to make these two Masses a thriving reality. A principal determinant here will be what people decide to do. As we offer choices, we also put people in the position of having to make a choice. It seems that often the discernment of this will demand weighing location against ambience, and vice versa. Perhaps working through this calculus may yield a deeper awareness of Catholic worship, and of one’s capacity to engage it at a particular time in one’s life.
I would like to continue reflections like this over the next few weeks, so that when the Sunday schedule changes on July 3, we can come to that moment with the consideration and charity that have marked our merger to this date.
I hope that this day we will have the chance to be in contact with our mothers and grandmothers and that we will count the precious medium of memory as a real connection.