About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark has served since 1989 as Music Director and Organist at Saint Cecilia Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. For the Archdiocese of Boston, he directed the Office of Divine Worship Saint Cecilia Schola. His compositions have been performed on four continents.
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“How can we enter into this interior disposition except by turning physically—all together, priest and faithful—toward the Lord who comes, toward the East symbolized by the apse where the cross is enthroned? The outward orientation leads us to the interior orientation that it symbolizes. Since apostolic times, Christians have been familiar with this way of praying. It is not a matter of celebrating with one’s back to the people or facing them, but toward the East, «ad Dominum», toward the Lord.”
— Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship (October 2016)

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Bill Belichick and the Liturgy
published 1 May 2015 by Richard J. Clark

HE NEW ENGLAND Patriots are universally hated in forty-four of the fifty United States. Furthermore, there is no head coach in the NFL more hated than Bill Belichick. There are many reasons that range from that little “Spygate” incident to Gisele. Furthermore, we still await with bated breath the results of Ted Wells’ investigation on the national tragedy that is “Deflategate.”

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, a Massachusetts native and former Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, is known for his playful sense of humor. He once joked at a Presbyteral Convocation in Boston (and I paraphrase), “What do Payton Manning and I have in common? We both only have one ring.” That gets big laughs around here. Not so much anywhere else. (Did I mention how much people hate N. E. Patriots fans? Andrew Motyka likely knows this pain.)

So what can we learn from Bill Belichick? Darrelle Revis, arguably the greatest cornerback to ever play the game, recently told the New York Daily News: “I think I’m better than I was before. I’m smarter and way more intelligent at the game. I had a great learning experience last year with Bill…” If the best can learn from him, so can we.


“DO YOUR JOB.”

Probably the most important liturgical advice we can get from Bill Belichick is his simple mantra: “Do your job.” Wow. That’s it? That’s perfectly obvious, isn’t it? It’s not to everyone.

A visiting priest once asked me how I know so much about the liturgy. Perhaps he was surprised that a musician would know certain minutia of the Roman Missal or a particular Rite. I was taken aback by the question because it’s a fundamental part of my job. Furthermore, if I don’t know something, it’s my job to know where to look it up or whom to ask. This happens frequently enough.

I recently wrote about five things that help the liturgy come together. In short, it is teamwork and everyone fulfilling their respective roles. As such, doing your job also means “it’s not about you or me.” It is about humility. It’s about God and serving the people. It’s requires humility to not take over the liturgy. Musicians, priests, and liturgists are guilty of this. I’ve been guilty of this.

Furthermore, when the priest and musician each do their jobs, it often appears that they collaborated all week. They probably didn’t as much as one might think. Both are focused on the scriptures (another reason to sing the propers.) Both know the rubrics and know what is coming next. Both put Christ at the center. As such, so do the people. It requires focus to worry about one’s own responsibility, and trust that others are doing the same.


PREPARATION

The most successful of athletes talk over and over about one thing: Preparation. The best catchers in baseball spend as much time studying the weaknesses of opposing hitters as they do on the playing field.

Even with preparation, things still may go wrong. No one is perfect. But fewer problems will arise. Without preparation, the liturgy appears sloppy. While this may not concern some, the liturgy becomes out of balance with emphasis or focus in the wrong areas. Reverent music seems out of place with a game-show style celebrant. Less than reverent music with problematic theology will be out of place with a well prepared celebrant and homilist.


“DISAPPEAR”

A very wise Deacon recently told me, that when preaching, it is his job to edify and then to disappear. Likewise, if I am playing a hymn or an accompaniment, it is my job to not draw attention to myself. This is not the same as being boring. There will be changes of registration, subtle reharmonization, and perhaps soloing of the melody to keep multiple verses interesting. But my job is to be at the service of worship—and then disappear.

Finally, the most important thing to remember is to do our work with humility and love. Do your job. Do it in the spirit of service. Do it with love.