Monthly Archives: December 2012

12 thoughts about 2012

1. This was a year where a noncrazy work-life balance remained a tricky thing to achieve. The good news: I still had time to hang out with friends. The bad news: Many of them no longer live nearby, making it trickier to visit with them. And it’s difficult for me to turn down any organisting assignment, because, frankly, I can use (read: need) the money. So this will be something I have to really watch in 2013.

Continue reading


7 quick takes: Snow kidding

— 1 —

We finally have snow! It’s been, no kidding, somewhere in the neighborhood of almost ten months since we last had snow. So when I woke up this morning to see this:

I wasn't even willing to go outside to take this. It wasn't that cool.

I wasn’t even willing to go outside to take this. It wasn’t that cool.

Actually, I was kind of underwhelmed, because we were promised 3-6 inches. Didn’t get that.

— 2 —

I took the week off the day job. And this is OK. I got some long-neglected cleaning done, bought the rest of my Christmas gifts, took mom out to lunch at a local restaurant chain, visited with my grandmother (who was recently in the hospital but is fine now), went to the gym a lot, and quite a bit more. I had to put in in May to get this time off, and I’m more than OK with it. And I won’t be back in the office until the day after Christmas, so a full 11 days off is good with me.

— 3 —

I had to cancel the kids’ choir for Christmas. I feel bad about it, especially considering how well they sang at Thanksgiving, but they weren’t at practices for Christmas. I could just let them do badly at Christmas, but I won’t — especially, admittedly, because it would reflect badly on me. But it’s not a good idea to set the kids up for failure, anyway.

— 4 —

I just want this to be heard again:

I posted about this the other day, but I would like this to get out as much as I can — it’s a Christmas carol penned by a member of my main parish in the 1950s and sung at our parish every year. (If the embed doesn’t work, click here.)

— 5 —

It’s been a weird week of being recognized. I had to visit the dentist on Monday, and one of the receptionists said she was the mom of one of my cantors at my other church and complimented how I played. Then the dentist, working on my filling, also complimented me on how I played. OK, that happens from time to time. NBD. Then Wednesday, I took Scarlet the Overenergetic for Her Age Dog (she’s 7) to the vet because she was whining a little more than usual, and it was a weird whine. The vet found nothing wrong, and the vet’s assistant asked me if I played the piano at my main parish, which, uh, I do. She was cute; I should have kept the conversation going. Alas. But Scarlet will need to go to the vet again at some point.

— 6 —

I found this in my local bookstore:

The Brits have to be annoyed with this.

The Brits have to be annoyed with this.

Now, the “Keep Calm and…” meme is tired, old, and irritating. But this takes it to new heights.

— 7 —

Hey, wait a minute, wasn’t the end of the world supposed to be today? Let’s check in with Skeeter Davis for the forecast:

And now a moment for station opinion, from R.E.M.:

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Big city after dark

One of the things about working in Chicago but not living there is that I don’t really get to enjoy the city as much as I’d like. I have to get to work and I have to get back home in a certain amount of time, or I get very worn down. So when I get to be like a visitor in the city, it’s a lot of fun.

A friend and I stopped by the Christkindl Market to see what all was going on at the ol’ German market at Daley Plaza. We got some chocolate-covered stuff and hot chocolate and nearly bought some German chocolate, then after a little wandering around, ended up at the Chicago Cultural Center, which I’ve written about before.

My friend and I eventually wandered back to her train station,  she headed out, and as I headed back to my car, I passed the Christkindl Market again. This is what I saw:


My city is beautiful at night, especially during the holidays.

My parish’s Christmas tradition: its own carol

I suspect very few parishes have this sort of tradition during the Christmas season: a hymn, composed by a member of the parish, that is sung every year. And at my main parish, we sing this carol every year as a tie between the church as it stands now and the church throughout its history.

The hymn writer, Deneen Ashley, was a longtime member of the parish, I am told. (Also, despite the first name, Deneen was a guy.) He wrote this in 1951 and apparently renewed the copyright (?) in the 1970s. It’s a testament to this man that we continue to sing his carol every year — a carol that is sung nowhere else (though I wouldn’t complain if it were picked up worldwide).

Here’s the carol, with my variation on his accompaniment and my own singing:

If the embed isn’t showing up, click here.

Handy organist tip #3: On “Ave Maria”

Is it a Marian feast? Then always have a copy of both the Schubert version (y’all know that one) and the Gounod one (you might not know that one as well) at the ready. Because if he or she knows it, your cantor will want to do it.

And this is the book I use, with a bunch of good settings for different voices.

Praise music from the past: “Mary, Did You Know?”

Here’s the issue I have with this song: The answer is, um, “yes,” to many of the questions posed in the lyrics. Doubtless Mary knew something about the promises in the Scriptures about the Messiah. Also, the Scriptures tell us that the angel informed her of at least some other stuff here.

But here’s the loophole that can be used to make these lyrics make a little less weird: Luke’ s gospel also notes that she did a lot of pondering. A-ha! See, now we can take guesses at what she’s thinking.

The song’s lyrics are written by Mark Lowry, a signer and Christian comedian (?). (I guess that’s a thing.)  Normally I’d do more of a bio section, but I just don’t think this guy is that interesting, so, sorry.

Mark Lowry. If this is Christian comedy, get me far away from it, please. (Promotional photo.)

Anyway, here’s the big question: Can/should this be used at Mass? (I’ve played it once for a choir, if memory serves, and I have a copy of it in case someone wants to sing it.) Turns out there’s a diversity of opinion on this topic. Now, I’m not a theologian, so I cannot vouch one way or the other as to whether these lyrics are heretical. (There are claims floating out there that the writer deliberately wrote one line to counter the Catholic teaching on the Immaculate Conception, but I cannot find anything to substantiate these claims, so Lowry gets the benefit of the doubt.) But these lyrics, to me, don’t pass the stupid test. Based on the things I know about the Visitation and the Nativity, I would feel stupid singing it. I know the answers to some of these questions. So for my money, I can’t recommend doing it at Mass. Do a Magnificat or a better Christmas carol instead. If you want something Marian-related, do “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.”

Pope Benedict XVI and his character in 140 characters

These are the pope’s first five tweets:

Nothing particularly controversial or groundbreaking there, I would argue. Let’s check in on how his non-fans are viewing this:

Sigh. But take heart, folks. Remember that those who are firing off tweets like that have neither the ability nor the will to actually discuss what the pope has written or said. They cannot address the underlying philosophy behind Catholic teachings. All they can do is snipe and smart-mouth. Call them on it. How they react will be telling. And keep educating yourself on the philosophy behind Church teachings.

As for me, I suspect we won’t find any earth-shattering stuff from the pope here, at least for those who are familiar with Catholic teaching. But the guy’s smart, continuing to dig into areas he considers ripe for evangelization. And the cesspool of the Internet’s a pretty good place to work. Keep it up, your Holiness.

And give the guy who’s looking through those replies a raise, too.