So I played zero Masses last weekend, out of town to visit a friend. That meant that for the first time in months, I was a mere person in the pews when I attended Mass.
It was so weird. But I sat back as the Mass, which had a choir, went on. They did a hymn specifically written for that church by one of the relatively well-known composers, though I didn’t care for the hymn, and neither did the congregation, who wasn’t singing it. They did a very pretty meditation piece after Communion. I didn’t, as it happened, know any of the hymns, though one I could fake because it used a common hymntune. The Mass parts, though, I knew well, as I’ve done them at another parish.
Except, of course, I really shouldn’t be analyzing all that during Mass. I should be a person in the pews! Intent on what was happening at Mass. Praying the prayers. Not doing the things I normally do.
But it’s tough. When you have a calling to church music, it’s incredibly hard to turn off organist brain. I have hymns we could sing stuck in the back of my head all the time. I’ve sat up in bed before and had a thought about doing something one way. And I often trawl through all our hymnals and choral books, looking for something new that I could do.
And every once in a while, I get rewarded, as later that Sunday, I stumbled into the music of Luke Mayernik via the OCP catalog. I loved his Holy Thursday polyphony:
And I’m going to use his “Lisbon Carol” next Christmas, because I’ve listened to it some 20-odd times already in about two days and still love it.
This is how you discern a calling from a job, I suppose. I like my day job, but I think it would be a stretch to really consider copy editing a calling for me, even though I’m good at it. But in my church work, the bad stuff, whenever it pops up, doesn’t matter as much. I keep thinking of new ways to do hymns and look for new pieces to play on the organ. And I relish the challenges and rewards of organisting and, now especially, can’t imagine my life without it.
If that doesn’t define a calling, nothing does.