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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“Victoria not only made his professional debut as church organist: he also continued active on the organ bench until the very eve of his death. Indeed, during his last seven years at Madrid (1604-1611) he occupied no other musical post but that of convent organist.”
— Dr. Robert Stevenson (1961)

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The Difficulty of Cultivating a Prayerful Focus for Musicians
published 12 August 2016 by Richard J. Clark

AM NO EXPERT. Ironically, prayer can be a struggle for church musicians. Grueling schedules, juggling personalities, and navigating politics (as normal routine) can rob prayerful focus. Musical focus is challenging enough. Add to it the vulnerability of being on display and judged on a weekly basis by anyone and everyone. (When it comes to music, everyone is an expert.) Sometimes, this can be spiritually draining, if not edifying.

So where does prayer come in? It only comes in the quiet, and it may have to come when the Sunday Masses are over. Or we need to “block out the noise” during Mass—challenging to do over the course of seven or eight Masses per weekend for some.

I don’t have an answer, or good advice. However, I have found prayer in a few things I will list here. I need these reminders for myself. Perhaps this list may be of some help. What is on your list?

1 • Preparation is prayer. Every bit of it. Be forever mindful of this.

2 • Being patient with all kinds of people and personalities, including those who get on your nerves—is prayer. I am mindful that I get on theirs too. I ask for their patience as well.

3 • Expressing gratitude to God for the opportunity to serve Him week in and week out is prayer.

4 • Composing on scripture is wellspring of prayer. I have come to rely upon this to save my life.

5 • Bringing the scriptures alive for your choir (and hopefully all the faithful) is prayer.

6 • Teaching is nothing but prayer.

7 • Continuing to serve God cheerfully (and very often flexibly) in the midst of professional crisis or adversity is prayer. Since dealing with some level of adversity is the norm, there is great opportunity for personal sanctification!

8 • Remember we are deeply flawed sinners—a most humbling state. This reality calls us to greater compassion to those who may appear to be easy to judge. Mindfulness of this is mercy, and is prayer.

9 • In humility, seek strength and nourishment from the sacraments.

LSO IRONIC, PRAYING WITH FAMILY AT MASS is rather impossible when working for the Church. It is especially challenging with small children. Again, I have no easy answers, but to take every available opportunity to cultivate prayer with your children. Teaching your children is a powerful form of prayer, for there are no greater prayers than those that spring from children. They may take to prayer reluctantly at times, but at others, it pours forth with powerful innocence and purity.

Children are also far more sensitive than adults realize to the needs of those around them. They understand the need for prayer. Take every opportunity to encourage children to not only learn specific prayers, but to cultivate a personal prayer life by speaking to God in their own words. These are powerful words.

Finally, prayer that seems to have nothing to do with music, or prayer that is far away from our jobs, will make us better musicians. More importantly, it will make us better servants of God, his people, our families, and each other.

Oremus pro invicem
Pray for each other.