CHALLENGE OF THE LITURGICAL calendar is that there is very little letup. There is no time for “coasting” along. Much of the beauty of our faith is the depth and richness of its liturgical life. This especially includes Ordinary Time (a name so vastly misunderstood: I once heard a priest from an order that shall not be named refer to it as “Regular Time.”) There is no time during the year to rest on one’s laurels. While unrelenting, I believe the richness of liturgical worship is what draws may of us in –- for life. As Goffredo Boselli observes:
“To live from the liturgy one celebrates means to live from what one experiences there: mercy invoked, the word of God heard, thanks given, Eucharist received as communion. If believers live from the liturgy, they will experience it differently, because it bears within it the spiritual energies that are essential for their growth in the spiritual life.” (The Spiritual Meaning of the Liturgy, pg. xi)
But this time of year, when church musicians are particularly busy, it is often difficult to attend to our interior prayer life and live from the liturgy—no less contemplate why we entered such a life of service. Most likely, we are navigating church politics, or if we are lucky, we are given the OK to slowly build a sacred music program over time. Even more likely, we are building a program in the face of adversity of all kinds. Yet we persist.
Why? Probably because it is not just love for what we do, but love of God and love for God’s people in the inevitable face of such adversity. Our work must be centered in Christ – not in our own wants and desires. Such work is service. Service is prayer.
ECENTLY, I REACHED TWO rather ignominious milestones: twenty-five years at St. Cecilia Parish in Boston and ten years at St. Mary’s Chapel at Boston College. Longevity is not a credential. In some ways, these milestones are a product of unusual circumstances and sheer tenacity to build upon my previous work (self-serving perhaps?).
However, I must also make a confession: I have thought about leaving this career—or at the very least, full-time parish work—most every day for much of the last decade.
But I am a fraud. I haven’t gone away. In fact, deep within, it is perhaps parish work that is the most rewarding. It is there that we truly can serve God’s people in the trenches—meet them where they are at and hope to assist in prayer and worship of God. Parish work does not insulate one from all that is challenging in human nature. In fact, parishes bring us closer to the beauty of God’s people most often because of our human frailty.
On another note, I didn’t attend the Berklee College of Music to study sacred music or the organ. (Interestingly, Berklee’s training has been key to my work – most notably, their excellent training in theory, composition, and counterpoint.) I have had vastly different ambitions in mind for my life and career. But God quickly had other plans: a lifetime of service.
It has taken a couple of decades for me to embrace that. God calls us to service at his pleasure. This often means doing much that we don’t want to do. But know that God’s beauty can be found there. For this I am grateful.
I am also grateful for the people I have met and served. Furthermore, I am grateful that I get to be their music director—doing it with wonderful musicians and for wonderful people. Along the way, there have been many to whom I truly owe my life and career.
Ultimately, it is God who sustains our work. When he calls, may we respond with joy.
Soli Deo Gloria