Liturgy Snapshots from A Sunday Pew

Whew! Back from a weekend in the Twin Cities. The young miss should be enjoying her first evening under the pine trees of central Minnesota as I type. Before I forget, I thought I’d relate some Sunday liturgy observations from the pew, since I so rarely get that perspective.

Three blocks from our hotel, I found St Olaf Catholic Church. The family and I were wandering through the downtown Skywalk Saturday evening and we spotted the sandy colored exterior. 10AM Mass seemed to work best, and I seated myself in a pew near the organ console. As I paged through the bulletin, I noted that I landed in Lynn Trapp‘s parish. I figured I’d not be finding much amiss in the liturgy. And I was right. The order of worship was printed on the back page of the bulletin. I was looking around for the Carl Daw text on the Opening. I needn’t have bothered; it was projected on the white spaces on the interior balcony. It’s not a great text by Prof. Daw, but I generally turn my nose up at “gathering” texts. Too darned preachy.

The psalm settings, Liturgy of the Word and during Communion, were my first exposures to these settings of Psalms 23 and 107 from the Collegeville Composers Group. Very nice. Interesting. The Psalm 23 “went on forever” in the estimation of the organist and cantor (private conversation, post-liturgy). I didn’t mind. The refrain was  longish, and two lines (of the four) were repeated interspersed with the psalm verses. It was better than random, and it engaged the congregation in a way that probably requires more attention than a sung-through hymn setting of a psalm. It was definitely not an idle time of musical reflection. It was about the most active I’ve felt after the first reading in my life, even including times when I might have played two instruments on one piece. Every week, something like this would get tiring. Like I said, for Psalm 23 and as an occasional thing, this was okay for me.

Good homily and well-structured. A young pastor who spoke fast like people of his generation, but he paused often to let the thought sink in. I had to concentrate to follow him, but it was no worse than following an African-accented associate at my current parish. He had three points in the homily. I stuck with two, a mention of the Ignatian practice of a twice-a-day examen, and being open to the opportunity of being waylaid by ministry or service opportunities.

I was having a very hard time placing the verses of the Communion Psalm. No wonder. The 107th.

Interesting harmonization on “City of God.” I will have to utilize that. I note that the advantage of throwing the music up on the wall is that they were able to pick and choose verses–in this instance, they cut the third verse. I didn’t miss it.

You know, it’s very nice to get exposed to new music, especially psalm settings, and be able to pray them. My experience of this Mass bordered on delightful. The people sang pretty well, and they were quite willing to participate in the new stuff. The musicians started when they should for Communion. I might quibble that the psalmist didn’t sing from the ambo, or that they sang all three verses of preparation, even though the ritual action was complete after refrain-verse one-refrain. But when the overall sense of liturgy is excellent, one doesn’t mind trivial problems.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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One Response to Liturgy Snapshots from A Sunday Pew

  1. Jimmy Mac says:

    From one who knows Dan Schutte very well:

    “Dan wrote “City of God” while he was studying at JSTB. Its inspiration came from the social justice work he and fellow Jesuits were doing in the (San Francisco) Tenderloin at the time. The first time Dan played it was on the southwest corner of Union Square where they had done a small concert to raise money for work in the Tenderloin – very 60 ish, idealistic setting if you can imagine. Later, when it was published, it became well a known standard.”

    It often helps to know some of the background for something that we have taken for granted for many years.

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