August 15, 2016

The Journey begins with mercy


man sitting in church pew
 

I have high expectations for this Lenten season as we journey toward Holy Week. This “Year of Mercy” has set this Lent apart and brought a very specific focus for each of us in our spiritual reflections. When we look at the readings for Ash Wednesday - for what they might have to say to us as music ministers - we find that we need read only the first five words of the Gospel… “Take care not to perform…” Wow! I have heard these readings more than 50 times, and that is the first time I ever really heard those words. Jesus is admonishing us of our righteous deeds and how we are to act, but in our ministry these words take on a new meaning. I think this is one of the cruxes of our call as music ministers. When the music becomes about us and our ego gets in the way of being a selfless servant to the Liturgy, then what we do becomes less liturgical and more about: “Hey, look at me!” We need to guard that our focus is less about how well we perform, and more about how the music leads the congregation to pray.

I’m reminded of a phrase that is used in a book called “Preparing for Liturgy” by Austin Fleming. He encourages all ministers of the Liturgy to “Come to your ministry from your personal prayer.” I can always sense a difference in how I feel when I’m leading a prayer and have taken the time to “fill my well” before coming to minister. Too often I am distracted by the details of ministry that I need to remind myself to take a deep breath and not take for granted the moment of prayer that I am privileged to lead. I should be praying with the people myself and not just leading them in prayer. Have mercy on us Lord - when we feel too busy to take the time to fill our wells - so we can be more effective ministers of sung prayer.

Now I have a confession to make… and in this Year of Mercy, this might be something I can focus on.

I have a strong voice and I take my craft seriously, as we all should. I try to make every note the best I can make it and every word understood by everyone. This is part of our call as music ministers, but my confession is this: There are times when I sing and have the wrong attitude and focus. I sometimes want people to notice that I sing well and it does make me feel good when people acknowledge that I have a nice voice and they liked my singing… so there it is, I can’t believe I actually admitted that!!!

Lord, have mercy on me!!!

So for this Lent, maybe I/we need to ask God’s Mercy for those times when I/we did not take care of the important gifts we have been given - to care for and make sure that the prayer we lead is the most important thing - and that our role be “performed” as a servant of God. May God’s infinite Mercy overflow for us, in the way we live and sing this Lent.

Grace and Peace,

Paul Hillebrand

Paul Hillebrand

Paul Hillebrand, an OCP composer, works as the director of music at a large and vibrant Catholic parish in Scottsdale, Arizona, St. Patrick Catholic Community. They have 4,800 families and more than 120 ministries that serve the parish and the Diocese of Phoenix.

 

Paul, along with Kevin Keil, just released a new Mass setting for the Lenten season based on the hymn tune “Wondrous Love.” You can hear it and see a preview here.

Music for Lent and Easter

Explore these song suggestions for the Lenten and Easter seasons

 

Ash Wednesday:

Ashes to Ashes
Dan Schutte

Ashes
Tom Conry

With these Ashes
Gerard Chiusano

Open my Eyes
Jesse Manibusan

Ubi Caritas
Bob Hurd

 

Lent:

Christ in Me Arise
Trevor Thomson

Beyond the Days
Ricky Manalo

Now is the Acceptable Time
Barbara Bridge

Be with Me, Lord
Tom Booth

40 Days
Matt Maher

Loving and Forgiving
Scott Soper

Change Our Hearts
Rory Cooney

 

Easter:

I Am the Bread of Life/Yo Soy el Pan de Vida
Suzanne Toolan, RSM

Water of Life/Agua de Vida
Jaime Cortez

Alleluia! Love is Alive!
Steve Angrisano

This is the Day
Michael Joncas

Rise Up with Him
Janet Vogt