I know I shouldn't ask this question out loud because every good liturgist, musician and pastor that I know has already completed or is just finishing up their Triduum planning for this year... ;) However, there are those who wait until about Lent 5 before they crack open their Roman Missal and start looking it over. This year, with the 3rd Edition firmly in place, it might be a wise idea for those who put off the inevitalbe to wait no longer and start looking for any and all changes NOW! Just reading over the new language for those prayers that only come around once a year is worth an earlier start but if a celebrant is planning on singing the Exsultet the words are VERY different than what most of us are used to hearing. Fitting them to the slightly altered chant tune may take a little work so better to start working on that now than the week before. Performance pressure is not pretty any time but during Triduum it's just down right ugly.

Since I am serving in the role of MC this year I'm just waiting to sit down with my Pastor and finalize our plans. Haven't been the "liturgical guidepost" for a few years so I'll be sure to check over everything twice before I put the servers through their paces. I believe that a good liturgist is like a good chef - it's all in the preparations!

May the Spirit be with all of us as we prepare our parishes and our hearts to once again enter this important season. I'm ready...are you?

As a musician, I am keenly aware that I have developed a musical soundtrack to my life based on both the sacred and non-sacred music I have encountered over my 52 years on this planet. Most songs have a positive, bittersweet memory while others can make me recall rough or even painful times in my life. With the advent of the Revised Roman Missal about to begin in our parishes next weekend, I wanted to take some time to say a proper "farewell, old friend" to a number of compositions that have served the Catholic Liturgy well over the years. These musical pieces have been a part of our liturgical DNA and will be missed by the assemblies they served. Mass of Creation Memorial Acclamation A - Christ Has Died Like Dorothy said to the Scarecrow - "I think I'll miss you most of all." Melodically easy and sung by mostly all in the English speaking Church for almost 30 years, this short acclamation will be noticeably absent due to the sad fact that it has no Latin equivalent, is not addressed to Christ, and was an addition to the English Sacramentary only. Yes, most of us are tired of playing "Massive Creation" but folks still sing it with full throat at most Masses I've participated in and I, for one, am glad that most of it has been reworked for the new translation (the Gloria, however, is a hot mess and I won't be using it). It is funny to note, however, that most folks I've spoken with at my presentations on the Revised Roman Missal don't even realize Christ Has Died is missing from the list until I point it out to them. Interesting…

Mass of Light Glory to God The next three are causalities of the drastic revisions to the Gloria and each one has a different good memory for me during my years as a pastoral musician. David Haas' setting was one that I used in both parish and school settings, with the latter really catching on to and actually enjoyed singing. The revision, like the Haugen above, just can't live up to the original in my estimation and I will miss not praying musically with it.

Peter Jones Glory to God A HUGE parish and cathedral favorite, I am a bit surprised this one hasn't been retrofitted - yet! I am hoping that Mr. Jones is getting lots of requests from folks over the globe to re-work his popular composition but if he chooses not to, I hope he realizes that many of us are grateful for this musical gift that we were able to use with our assemblies for many years. To quote Steve Jobs - "it just works" - and maybe it would lose its sparkle if redone. Still, one can wait in joyful hope…

Alexander Peloquin Gloria from Mass of the Bells Now this one is definitely an old chestnut and one that dates back to my childhood but has secretly been my all time favorite (perhaps because I'm a Southern New Englander who grew up with Peloquin influences). Yeah, it's a tad schmaltzy but harmonically tricky in places (both vocally and instrumentally - just try playing it at authentic tempo sometimes!) and always a joyous rendition of the angels' announcement of Jesus' birth. I was still using it in the last parish I served as a musician and will mourn that it will now only be heard in sacred concerts (hopefully) as an example of early compositions for the Vatican II liturgy.

Ok, those are my contributions to our liturgical music "wake" and I know there are many others out there. Do you agree or disagree with my selections? What are YOUR favorites that are going into quietly into that dark night? Let's share and discuss as we await the arrival of the new missal together.

Yes, friends, it's true! I have returned from the sidelines of blogging, thanks to some God-incidences of the past week (and a challenge I couldn't refuse), and I'm raring to go with a very timely topic.  Now, it will remain to be seen if I can keep up the weekly correspondence this blog and its great readers deserve but know that I will give it the best I can as I juggle my crazy life. 'Nuf said - let's get to it!

As all of us in liturgy have been dealing with the past year, the Revised Roman Missal is just about ready to become part of our liturgical DNA on Sunday, November 27th, which is the 1st Sunday of Advent. Choirs have practiced new or revised mass parts, missals and pew cards have been bought and are ready to be used; workshops, coffee 'n chats and small groups sessions have met, learned, pondered and practiced the new words with various degrees of comfort.  While it is true we humans don't like change, I believe that most of the folks I've encountered through the workshops I've conducted are willing to give this new translation a chance.  Hopefully that will be the case throughout the English-speaking world once all is said and done.

However, amid the hubbub and preparations for the introduction of the new missal, I feel that something is getting lost in the shuffle - mainly, the beginning of the new liturgical year and the upcoming Season of Advent itself.  Now, I realize that the translation change has been in the works for many years and that we as a church are trying not to repeat history (and histrionics) from a time gone by but - think about it - with all the rehearsing and preparation going into the missal, most of those who prepare for these seasonal changes might probably be jumping right from this to Christmas with nary a thought about the season which starts it all off.  We could be giving Advent the short-shift this year without really knowing or thinking about it!

It's bad enough that the secular world starts the day after Halloween (and sometimes even before that) to prepare for Christmas and gives no thought whatsoever to Advent or Christmas as separate and distinct seasons. While carols and songs permeate the airwaves from now until 6pm on Christmas Day (at least in my neck of the woods) stores are decked out in all their red and green finery, just calling to us to get an early start on finding that "perfect" gift for the one we love - as if retail therapy is the real reason for the season.  Where's the emphasis on the CHRIST part of Christmas? Won't find that out in a world that continually erases God from it's collective speech and thought. That type of awareness needs to come from us as Church and we need to be consistent in our thoughts and actions.

Now, if we have been too busy in preparations for both the revised missal and Christmas, are we going to be able to give the upcoming Season of Advent its proper due?  Those four weeks - which are a full four this year! - are crucial to bringing folks to a full understanding of the Incarnation (one of the new words in our Creed, by the way). From the first moments of the First Sunday of Advent, we need to be fully engaged in presenting and unfolding the mysteries of the first and second coming of Christ through Isaiah's rich imagery and Mark's "just the facts" gospel in this Cycle B year.  According to local custom, Advent wreaths get blessed and lit for the first time but doing this ritual after the homily (as prescribed in our Book of Blessings) shows both its proper place and importance in the liturgy (remember, the wreath is a worthy home activity for the season).

I feel very strongly that placing other rituals - from Rites of Acceptance to blessing the new parish missal - does not constitute smart liturgical practice and truly have no place in the opening liturgy of the Advent season. There will be those who will disagree with me on the premise of "new year, new things" but those extras truly dull the focus and impact the season deserves. Include in that misstep those who feel that decorating their Churches for the next season around the 3rd Sunday of Advent is a good thing! It is bad enough that rest of the world jumps Advent out of sheer ignorance - if we as a church join in and treat Advent in much the same manner, we are no better than our secular friends whose trees are put up on Veteran's Day and are tossed to the curb on December 26th.  The temptation to jump ahead to the "more important" season is there for sure and the distraction of the implementation is dividing our attentions further.  I pray that most liturgists, musician, pastors and other planners of Liturgy have seen to it that missal preparations end on the Feast of Christ the King - that's a great time to bless the new missals and say farewell to the old (even though we'll still be using our beloved Sacramentary through Thanksgiving) and are planning their "deck the church" activities for full week for December 25th (a Sunday this year).

On paper, our Church does extremely well in keeping the spirit and focus of our various seasons - in pastoral practice, lines get so blurred at times that the pew folks really notice that all is not well, yet can't always articulate their observations properly.  Let all of us responsible for planning and executing our sacred rituals take the advent of the coming new liturgical year to brush up on our understanding of the different seasons and what we should be about in celebrating them to the full.  In other words, before using that shiny new missal, take time to read the General Instruction at the beginning of the book.  Brush up on Sing to the Lord if you are a musician.  Even dust off the old Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy to help renew your weary spirit.  If you're responsible for helping others prepare, then prepare yourself as well.  Be a wise and not foolish virgin (hope you listened to today's gospel!) as you prepare for the coming of the first season of the new year.  May we all in humility continue to work to help all our parishes and assemblies transition from season to season, year to year the best we possibly can. Good liturgy IS the work of all the Church! Our God deserves no less from His people.