Monthly Archives: December 2013

My five most popular posts of 2013

Thanks to Web search traffic, some posts get a lot of popularity over time. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s just one big surge. In some cases, views are obscured because someone went to the homepage or a category or tag search, thus not seeing the post by itself. Nonetheless, with the numbers I have, here are the posts that people checked out most this year. Continue reading


A merry and blessed Christmas to all!

My parish’s Christmas tradition: its own carol

This is a refeature of a post that originally ran December 19, 2012.

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.

My greatest Church-related fear

I want to take a moment to be very serious for a second and address something that, I suspect, crosses the mind of a lot of liturgical ministers and volunteers within the Church.

A few days ago, Archbishop John Nienstedt was accused of inappropriately touching a minor several years ago. Though, of course, [puts on reporter’s hat] we need to let the charges play out, the charges on their face seem really, really weak. [removes reporter’s hat]

But the damage has already been done. Even if Nienstedt is exonerated, there will be a subset of people who will never let him forget he was charged and insist that he, of course, did it. His bishop ministry, which was already on shaky ground because of the Minneapolis-St. Paul’s long history of bad dealings with the sex abuse crisis, is pretty much done for.

Why does this concern me? Well, I’m not a priest, so I’m not subject to the same rules as priests, in at least one sense. But I’m a single man in his 20s who at times works with children, which automatically makes me suspicious to some. I also understand that there’s nothing stopping someone from making a similar allegation against me.

It would be totally unfounded, completely false. I’ve never abused anyone, and I never will. I ensure parents are always at any kids’ choir I run, and I do my best to ensure that I’m never alone with kids, lest someone else misinterpret decide to cause trouble. But none of that may matter. Even if I’m cleared, I still will have that allegation attached to my name, and there’s little I can do about it. My church ministry could be effectively done for, through no fault of my own.

It’s a frightening prospect. It doesn’t stop me from my music ministry, especially because I take as many precautions as I can. But it sticks in the back of my mind from time to time, and I am forced to pray and trust in others to ensure the specter of a false accusation never happens to me.

Sight reading: when you’re fakin’ it

The other night, I was practicing with a choir for their Sunday Mass. We went through the stuff I’m doing with them, and after we finished that, the director had me play the accompaniments for their Christmas Eve stuff, though I’m not playing their Christmas Masses.

There was one little problem: I hadn’t actually seen any of the sheet music for Christmas Eve. I would just have to play it as best I could off the bat. Continue reading

Prayer request

The pastor at one of my parishes has suffered a heart attack. The word I have is that he should be OK; however, he’s known for working extraordinarily hard at the expense of his own health (and safety; he once took on the gangs of my city and had to wear a bulletproof vest during Mass).

He’s a very good man and now finds himself in the difficult position of having to let go for a while. Please pray for his full and complete healing.

Wait, you requested what? Oh, no, not that. Anything but that.

Both of my sisters are engaged, and the younger of the two gave me a call the other day, asking if I would do the music for her wedding. Sure, I said.

Her fiance “has a request,” she said.

OK, I said. She’s not getting married until next December, so I can handle pretty much any request she and he would make, right? Considering that we wouldn’t be setting all the music for probably eight months?

This was the request:

On sheet music, the first page of the piece, commonly known as Widor’s Toccata (the full title is a little longer), looks like this:

That, um, is probably as painful as it looks.

“I’m going to kill you,” I told the happy couple.

I have one year to learn the piece.