Donkeys, dreams, destiny

EDITPalms copyToday I bring you this reworking of a post from 5 years ago… The Donkey is a poem by G.K. Chesterton. It is a reminder of the place in our lives of faith that are occupied by donkeys and dreams. What donkeys, you might ask? What dreams? Just think – donkey! Yes, a donkey – not the most noble of creatures in the kingdom, is it. Ah, the humility of the lowly animal that carried the Lord Jesus on its back, as the people flung and waved their palm branches, shouting, “Hosanna! Hosanna!”

Also our dreams, our individual dreams and our collective ones. What collective dreams, you wonder out loud. The ones we share as people of faith following Christ, the dreams we dream whether or not we are cognizant of them or not. We should try to remember the need to be mindful of, and listen to our dreams, no matter where they may lead us.

6a00d8341bffb053ef01a5117a9ed8970c-450wiRemember Continue reading

How will you enter?

christs_entry_into_jerusalem_hippolyte_flandrin_1842Today we remember that Jesus’ entered Jerusalem to cries of  Hosanna, meaning  “save, we pray!” Hosanna is also interpreted to mean blessed as well. The messiah enters the holy city at the start of the festival of Passover to save and to bless – but not in any way that people might have imagined. We are also called to consider how we will enter into Jerusalem ourselves.

What are our hopes, dreams, beliefs, and prayers today? Do we cry out for Jesus to “save, we pray?” Do we cry out to be bless or be blessed?  Do we believe that Jesus will , or in fact, has already, saved us? Or are we just showing up because Continue reading

Change Our Hearts – Lenten book review and giveway

finaledit3A new book from Franciscan Media has entered the Lenten resource genre this year, written by liturgical composer and musician Rory Cooney. Named after one of his songs for Lent, Change Our Hearts, Daily Meditations for Lent is a fine addition to the list. Once again, we find a book small enough for a pocket or purse, yet big enough to help us journey towards the Cross with wisdom, courage, and strength. An autographed copy awaits the one who wins this, so see details about entry at the end of the post, but please read on first!

Many resources are meant to be used in a particular liturgical year, but this book begins each daily reflection with the lectionary readings for each year for Sundays, which I really like. The daily readings remain the same, but Sundays are different. If your parish RCIA program uses the Scrutinies, then it does not matter what cycle it is, the readings from Year A are always used. (It just so happens that we are in Year A, so there will be no difference this year.)

There is a reflection for every day of Lent beginning with Ash Wednesday and concluding on Easter Sunday. If you are familiar with Cooney’s work through his songs, this book will introduce you to the depth that is that is within every composition. Even if you think you are not familiar with his work, you most likely would be if you heard some of his songs at church. (See the end of this post, or should I say, hear the end of this post!)

This book is a bit more expensive, at $3.99 a copy, but as I said, it has a longer shelf life; I can see mine getting marked up with thoughts and folded back from use over the years. It would make an excellent companion to anyone on their annual Lenten trek, and to those in RCIA in particular. This book promises to be a well-loved resource for many Lenten season’s to come.

This book, is available at Franciscan Media. A slightly less expensive version, along with a Kindle edition are available at Amazon.

Book Giveaway Rules – You may comment as many times as you like, and on multiple blogs, but your name will only be entered once! (This blog is published in two locations, here and at the Albany Times Union blogging platform, and the reviews will also be posted on my two parish blogs, The Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor and Pastoral Postings of Immaculate Conception Glenville.)

Names will be randomly drawn and you will be informed by email if you are a winner. You will need to provide me with your full name and address in order to receive your book. On double book posting days such as this, I can not guarantee which book you will win. Thank you for reading and entering. Please feel free to share this post via social media!

And now, Change Our Hearts, written by Rory Cooney along with Gary Daigle and Theresa Donahoo, sung by Theresa Donahoo.

Resources for Lent – Book Reviews and Round Up Coming Soon

sign-for-lent-with-integrated-crossThis week I will post some reviews and a general round up of Lenten resources. Lent is only a couple of weeks away, and I am behind in posting this! You should still have time to order what you need, and you may even end up winning a copy of one of the books!

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Books that will be reviewed include, although not necessarily in this order:

Plus, I may have some other surprises for you! If you are not already a subscriber or follower of this blog, this may be a good time to do so. Also, you can follow me on Facebook,  “like” the blog Facebook page, or follow me on on Twitter, to get your updates in those places. Thank you!

Liturgy, incarnation and other messes of love

mess4I am posting daily over at Catholic Sensibility, which is such a liturgy blog, and I have said so little about liturgy. I’m in way over my head talking about liturgy over there! Make no mistake, I have the heart of a liturgist, but I feel a bit out of my league. After all, I’m an amateur liturgist. Don’t forget that amateur means one who does something out of love, not someone who can’t cut it.

Liturgist and musician, Rory Cooney put a post up on his blog this past Tuesday — it was called Liturgy and the mess of incarnation. I want to cut and paste some sections of it here, just to give you a flavor of why I am writing about it here today, but the whole post is so good, I do not know where to begin.

This could have been me at that age, pondering God. And wondering why I could not be an altar boy!

This could have been me at that age, pondering God. And wondering why I could not be an altar boy!

The post has Rory ruminating about liturgy, looking a the expansion of permission to use the Tridentine rite. I know that I have more than one friend with a deep affection for this liturgy, so allow me to be clear that I am not mocking this rite, or any Latin liturgy. Also allow me to be clear that I personally do not wish to return to this form of liturgy. (Note: I did love mass as a child, weirdly church-nerdy child that I was!)

In his post, Rory quotes a friend who speaks about the transcendent nature of the Tridentine rite as a means of rejecting the messy business of incarnation.

hocuspocus1Hmmmm…. I do kind of get that.

Rory goes on to talk about all manner of things, about bad presiders, annoying congregants, and all the rest. If you are a presider, a musician or a liturgist, even if you do not long for that Tridentine rite, you know what it means to live in the messy business of mass. People who can’t sing. People who let their cell phones ring. People who are looking at their phones. Crying babies. Snoring sleepers. Careless cantors. Lousy lectors. And of course – poor presiders, horrible homilists are part of it as well.

sleep-in-churchWhat a mess! Why bother?

Well, I will let you go back to Rory’s to read about that. The whole post got me thinking about how much happens at and around church and liturgy in the realm of the “I-can’t-stand-you” mode. It can be such a huge mess.

Rory, with the input of his friend, continues to ruminate, bringing forth losers and lowlifes, like ourselves!

And if that wasn’t enough, my friend insists that God continues to become flesh in losers and lowlifes to the present day, presumably including even me and my exaggerated opinion of myself, along with all the folks whose insouciance I lament and who drive me nuts Sunday after Sunday. It is in this world, in these people, the God is become flesh. That just about ought to stop me in my tracks, and make me think a little bit, right?

Those words have settled in my heart since Tuesday.  “God becomes flesh in losers and lowlifes “- which includes all of us.

I'm a loser. Which in this case is great news!

I’m a loser.

As someone who is more oriented to a horizontal style of liturgy, there is so much to think about. I am drawn to two points of view about the whole thing.

One thought is that if we are to get to the place of the transcendent divine, perhaps we do need a more, dare I say, formal liturgy? Oriented outside of ourselves? Literally – facing away?  (Did I really just say this?)

picture-17The other however, brings me right back where I stood in the first place. God entered the world as flesh, humanity, as it is. How does that place the transcendent divine right in our midst? And with that, a liturgy that celebrates the ordinary and extraordinary nature of it all? One that orients us outside of our own selves, but into others. You know, into the losers and lowlifes, which we are a part of. And once oriented so, finding Christ in the messy midst of it all.

This is why I tend to come down where I do. I happen to find God more in the mess that is all of us,  and it is as holy and divine as it can be.

As all of this rambled around my head and heart for two days, I did not get to write about it. And what did I find on Rory’s blog today? A guest post response from a priest friend of Rory’s.

So interesting. Read some of what his friend wrote:

Evangelical churches have made great headway here in Guatemala- mainly due to the funding send from the US and former governments here to lure people away from the Catholic Church (the government didn’t like the Catholics siding with the poor, and wanted to dilute Catholics’ influence by attracting its members into other churches that focused more on personal spiritual experience). From what I have read about the Church in Brazil, it seems that they have had some success holding onto members by switching to a more theatrical style of liturgy, drawing out emotions with a particular style of music and preaching. It will be interesting to see if this does the trick.

gps_god_personal_savior_bumper_stickers-r4343fc927ec6481083e25e7610a77594_v9wht_8byvr_512The loss of Catholics to spirituality which promises a more personal relationship to Jesus breaks my heart.  The loss of Catholics to worship that is more theatrical also hurts me. It is not just about “Jesus ‘n me.” It is about Jesus and me – but, there is more.  In the heart of liturgy, the heart of the Eucharist is all of us. Horizontal and vertical. And that is why we are liturgists, musicians, lay ecclesial ministers – it is about Christ and about all of us as one in Christ.

Anyway, maybe you will go read read Rory’s posts and think about what he and his friends say. Also think about the big messy mess of a mess that is life, and think about the work of the people, that is, the liturgy. It is beautiful and it can be a mess, but in Christ, the mess is transformed. Amen to that.

And yet here we are, so many of us in love with this, not knowing any other way to be.

What a mess.

Jerusalem, our destiny

Jerusalem+020We had our Hosannas on Sunday. With our palms we were with Jesus as he made his entry into Jerusalem.

Not exactly the mighty king that many were looking for, he entered the holy city while riding an ass; this was a most undignified way to travel. It must have been a disappointment for many, and a source of derision for those who already loathed this itinerant preacher. Yet there were many, cheering him on with their cries of “Hosanna!”

Dominus Flevit Church, Mount of Olives, Israel, photo credit: F. Rossi Szpylczyn,no unauthorized distribution.

Dominus Flevit Church, Mount of Olives, Israel, photo credit: F. Rossi Szpylczyn,no unauthorized distribution.

Before he went to Jerusalem, Jesus was across the valley on the Mount of Olives. It is said that in the very spot where he looked over and foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem, he wept. This church in the above photo was built on theret. The name of the church is Dominus Flevit; it means, Jesus wept.

Destruction was inevitable, the death of Jesus had to come; he knew this, yet he carried on. The same is true for all of us.

Is death inevitable? Yes. What about new life? New life ready for us in Christ. But we must “fix our eyes” on the city of Jerusalem, with all that it entails.

One of my favorite songs for this time of year is, Jerusalem, My Destiny, by Rory Cooney. I always think that the words that send us off into Holy Week in a most particular way. They are are the words that send us to death. These are the words that send us to new life in the Risen Christ. It is our destiny and our hope – and we do not go alone.

We cannot look away, as the song tells us, we cannot turn away. Holy week is upon us; our destiny is clear, so off we go…