Monthly Archives: June 2012

I deserve a break today, but I’m not getting one until August

Here’s one thing you don’t do often when you work two jobs: taking vacation.

But I’ve scheduled it, and I’m gearing up for my first legitimate vacation in three years. (Drives to weddings out of town don’t count.)

In 2009, while still unemployed but living off my severance and unemployment checks, I went with friends to Lake Geneva, Wis., for five days (the trip was scheduled before I lost my job).

In this cabin, as it so happens.

It was relaxing. The relaxing would have lasted longer if I hadn’t gotten hurt the week after getting back home.

This time, I’m getting on the road. I have friends and relatives to visit from Illinois to Pennsylvania. It’s a lot of driving, but I’m breaking it up over several days to keep myself from tiring out. I’d like to visit my dad’s side of the family, a friend from an internship who will soon be ordained as a Lutheran minister, and a few ballparks (two for Cubs games, one for a Pittsburgh Pirates game, perhaps). It’s still early in the planning process, but I’m looking forward to figuring this all out.

Vacation isn’t the easiest thing to schedule when you have two lines of work. I have to coordinate with two parishes to ensure I’m not scheduled during the time I need off, and I have to make sure in one case that I can switch dates for one week. But there’s something to be said for not having to think about work for a week.


What is and what could have been

I recently agreed to serve as an interim Sunday musician at the church I play at a couple times a month (not my normal parish), as the kid who ran things there has stepped down to take work at another parish. Until they pick a new music director, I’ll be playing five Masses a week (two on Saturday at my normal church and three as a fill-in), starting in a couple weeks.

This isn’t the first time I’ve accepted an interim tag; I filled in for a few months last year at an Episcopal church after their kid up and quit. (He gave them no warning, however, so I was put into service right away.)

Don’t let this happen to you.

There was a time where I could have been one of those kids. Both are going to college for music — but I didn’t; I majored in journalism and political science (and I don’t really use either at my day job, though they help).

What if I (had gone to another college and) majored in music?

I’d probably be a full-time music director somewhere now. And I’d probably be better at organisting and pianisting than I am now. And maybe I would have averted unemployment that one year. And maybe there would be more people my age to meet at the parish (there aren’t a whole lot at my parish now).

But I probably wouldn’t be living in the area, and I’d be far from friends and family. My health care (which would come from the diocese) might eventually be at risk because the government is stupid. And there’s no guarantee that I’ll end up in a place where I’m happy or I get along with the pastor.

There’s also that little nagging reminder that I like my life and my job. Even if I’m sometimes working seven days a week. Even with the agonizingly long commute. Even with a little less social time than I’d prefer, I’m doing plenty of stuff that I love.

It’s an interesting thought experiment. But it’s a relief to reach the conclusion that at least in this department, I would do the same thing I’ve done.

Childlike faith ain’t that bad

Another in the series of things I would have blogged about if I were blogging at the time.

I was in the sacristy of church, where the priest and servers vest and where folks head after Mass when they need to register a child to be baptized or First Communioned or to register themselves for marriage. The families who head back there after Spanish Mass often have small, adorable kids, though they can be a handful.

This family had a little one, about 4 years old, though they were registering another child for religious education. They finished registering while the little girl stared at an image of Jesus hanging on the wall.

The image looks something like this.

She kept staring while the family called her away. Took a second for her to respond, but then she looked over. Then she looked back at the image of Jesus. She put her hand to her palm, kissed it, then flung her hand out and blew the kiss at the image of Jesus, ready to head out on her way.

Awwwwwwwwww. My cranky little corazon melted a smidge at this adorable sight. One would expect a 4-year-old to have childlike faith, but this was a good show of it.

I almost envy that little girl. It’s rough, in this day and age, to have childlike faith. The Church is challenged on all sides and from within, and I struggle with many of those challenges myself while trying to stay faithful. That’s why I hope for a bit more childlike (but not blind) faith — not that I want to check out of the challenges of today, but I have to remember that a little bit of trust and hope can go a long way.

The challenge of bilingual Mass

In an earlier post, I talked about using hymns of one language in a Mass of another. But how about Masses in two languages? How do you handle those?

There are many challenges here, but let’s focus on the similarities first. The Mass is the Mass in any language, so the structure will be the same. And at least some folks at bilingual Mass speak both languages and attend Mass in both languages.

But the first challenge is getting folks to come. More than a few at our parish go somewhere else and avoid the church when we have bilingual Mass. And it’s understandable. It’s tough to go to Mass where you don’t understand a chunk of what’s being said. That, however, isn’t my main concern here; my main concern is over the music.

A big challenge is the lack of usable music. Many hymns switch between English and Spanish lyrics in the refrain. I don’t recommend this. Like it or not, people won’t tend to sing what they can’t understand. A hymn with lyrics of one language and verses in both, I’ve found, is better. This Thanksgiving, I’m planning to use a hymn with the refrain in Latin (“Deo gratias, alleluia“) and the verses in English and Spanish but sung by a cantor. I suspect that will work a lot better.

Psalms tend to work a little better. For one thing, there are approved translations, so the lyrics tend to be better. For another, the refrains are often short enough that you can sing both the English and Spanish refrain quickly. There, we tend to have better response. Mass parts, you’re pretty stuck. Switching between languages within the same Mass part isn’t a good idea. Pick something people tend to know and go with it.

I don’t object to using a hymn without a counterpart in the other language. In fact, for Communion, I think one hymn in each language is a good idea. (Otherwise, all you got with English/Spanish crossover is “I Am the Bread of Life,” a wonderful hymn that nonetheless gets tiresome after 10 verses.)

So there are a few thoughts. Certainly open for questions on this.

I would like a re-do

They keep showing up in the mail and email. I’m invited, the messages say, to my five-year college reunion. C’mon down! Oughta be fun.

I’ve deleted or pitched all of them. Haven’t really read them. Not interested.

And I hate to say it, but if I had it to do over, I would have gone somewhere else. And it’s not because it hurt my career, because it didn’t. In fact, I got a great job out of college. On a professional level, even with one layoff, I haven’t done horribly.

It was because on a personal level, college sucked. I was far from the generally happy man that I am now. And it’s been five years out, but I realize now that I’m still recovering from the whole mess.

There was that traumatic freshman year. The inability to keep friends. The inability to connect with dormmates. The three bad roommates. The parade of unrequited crushes. The close friend whose continual attention-seeking and issues wore me out to the point that when our friendship ended (and she blamed me, of course), it was a relief. And the paradoxical feeling that this all was my fault, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Now, I have a close, dear friend left from college and a few others I see every so often. And I’m grateful to have them. But the lingering effects of college still show up every once in a while. Every once in a while, I face that self-doubt: Do people actually like me? You’re weird, you know. You’re just annoying. That’s all. Then I have to call someone to remind me that I’m a good guy, a good friend, a good listener, a day-brightener, someone they like to be around.

College shouldn’t have done that to me. Maybe it was my fault, maybe not. But it’s only been through my work after college and the friends I’ve made at my workplaces, not to mention the core corps of friends I’ve long had, that I’ve been able to reach a greater sense of self-acceptance.

Sorry, college. I see on Facebook how folks who went there get married, and they’re surrounded by a ton of college friends reliving the good ol’ days. I didn’t have good ol’ days, and I won’t have a wedding where I’m surrounded by college friends. And it’s OK. But that means, I fear, that you’re in the past. I may never step on campus again. And I think for both of us, it’s better that way.

“In Him there is no darkness at all…”

After lunching and getting a drink with a friend from college one day, I stepped into the Chicago Cultural Center to waste time and make the $34 I spent on parking anywhere near worth it. I looked around, walked up a flight of stairs, then looked up. This is what I saw:

chicago cultural center
If you’re not moved by that, friends, you have a hardened heart.

It’s now my Facebook cover photo.

I suspect this ended in disaster

Take a look at this.

You might need to zoom in.

This is, regrettably, choreography to do while singing the Our Father. I found this in an old hymnal, from the ’80s, that was in the choir loft.

Now, granted, there was a slight Wild West mentality after Vatican II when everyone tried to figure out how best to proceed. (Turns out following the guidelines of Vatican II was a good idea.) But as someone who wasn’t around during those years, I’m trying to figure out who thought designated bongo and clapping parts during a hymn were a good idea. As for this, I cannot imagine who in the world would do this.

Here’s a pretty simple rule: If there’s a good chance normal people will feel very stupid carrying out your liturgical stuff, DON’T DO IT. Save us all a lot of trouble, please.