Monthly Archives: May 2013

On biking, close calls, and why I still ride

The recent death of a colleague, a bicyclist, in a bike-vs.-car accident has led me to mull over why I still ride my bike. I didn’t know Bobby personally, but in a few ways, I can identify with him. This might be a bit more rambling than usual, so bear with me.

On July 3, 2009, I was living in Chicago but had headed into the suburbs, because I was staying at my parents’ home for a few days thanks to the upcoming 4th of July. I was unemployed (including from church music, as this was during my hiatus), which gave me plenty of time to ride my bike through the streets and trails of Chicago, and ride I did. But during this weekend, I hadn’t brought my bicycle out with me to the suburbs, so I got onto my dad’s bike and headed out. 
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Urgent prayer request

Your prayers, please: A colleague in my department at the day job was killed in a car-versus-bike accident yesterday. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

Thank you.

Whatever you do, don’t tell people to “wake up”

Archbishop Charles Chaput has a point, and it’s a good one, about religious freedom (reprinted here at the NCRegister). He makes good points and basically lets the Obama admin have it for being dumb about religious freedom, which they are.

But then he says this: “The day when Americans could take the Founders’ understanding of religious freedom as a given is over. We need to wake up.”

Time to put on the editor hat.

Eh, close enough.

Bad, bad use of words, Your Eminence. Because using the phrase “wake up” is basically a code for “don’t take me seriously because I’m a raving lunatic.” It’s a phrase that people tend to only use when they feel something is remarkably obvious but no one is paying attention to them. And it ends up coming across as insulting.

Here’s the sad part: Chaput is basically right. A lot of Catholics don’t think there’s a problem here. They should be aware of what’s going on. But there’s certain language that shuts people down, regardless of whether the speaker is right. “Wake up” is one of them. I wish he had simply not used the last sentence.

Well, I can’t turn this down

One of the regulars at my main parish took me aside.

“My mother wants you to play her funeral,” she said. “And sing, too.”

I didn’t know she was dead.

“She’s not,” the woman said. “But she’s pretty sick.” But, she added, her mom may not pass for a while. While her mother was thinking of it, though, she wanted to make sure it could be arranged to have me there. (Which is something I can do on my end, because work lets me work from home once a week, and it’s a request the parish would accommodate.)

Remember this, organist kids, when you wonder whether your ministry matters. Yes, it does. Because you, like the priests, will be there at both the most joyful and the saddest moments of life. And when you get requested for something like this, it’s an honor that you better do your best to fulfill.

What I played last weekend: Trinity Sunday

Masses 1 and 2:

* Denotes something I’d never played at Mass before

The digital organ gets a fatal error

So in nearly 15 years of organisting, I never had an instrument simply quit on me … until last weekend.

One of my parishes uses a digital organ. A digital organ is a computer. Keep this all in mind as I tell this story.

I was playing the offertory hymn when the lights flickered. Power blink. A power blink means the organ goes off, of course, because it’s electrically powered. So I had a dead instrument in front of me. Which means… THE SYSTEM IS DOWN

At this point, you can tell who the professionals are in the room. The cantor, who goes back 20+ years with me, just kept singing. (Most people, unsurprisingly, stop.) And I quick-surveyed to recognized a few things.

  1. The organ would take a while to reboot, as it’s a computer. (This had happened to me with this organ before, just before a funeral started, and it took nearly 3 minutes while it ran its unexpected-turnoff diagnostics.)
  2. The piano is six feet away.
  3. The cantor is still singing, in tune, even.
  4. If I get to the piano, we can continue the song.

Did not have. Might as well have had.

OK, the previous section is pretty much untrue. Your instinct, as a musician, is to continue the song as long as there aren’t sparks flying out of somewhere. So I just grabbed the book, skedaddled to the piano, and was playing again in about 10 seconds, or 10 minutes, as it felt. And everyone just moved on.

I wish it were just a minor thing, but put simply, we don’t know. The organ wouldn’t turn back on, so I had to stay on piano. And we don’t know why it won’t reboot. My fear is that something got fried in the hardware, and that fix ain’t cheap. With any luck, it’s a simple circuit issue that can be fixed quickly, or with a lot of luck, the issue will have cleared itself.

Like a lot of instrument issues, it’s no one’s fault, but it’s everyone’s problem. And when something like that goes wrong, all you can do is grin, bear it, and keep on going however you can.

What I played last weekend: Pentecost

Mass 1:

Masses 2, 3, and 4:

* Denotes something I’d never played at Mass before