Tuesday, March 28, 2006

An Open Letter to Liturgical Ministers

A few months ago, I noticed a couple of our EME's heading in the back to clean up before the recessional hymn had finished. It's happened a few more times and I took the opportunity of our parish's "Liturgical Ministry Day" to compose the following. I decided at the last minute against distributing it, and just asked our pastor to voice the concern to all assembled instead.

This is nothing profound; just something I whipped up in about a half an hour.


An Open Letter to the Liturgical Ministers of St. XXX

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for all that you do for this parish. Your contribution is greatly appreciated and we are very blessed at this parish to have so many volunteers willing to give of their time and talents. In the following, I have voiced some concerns I have in regards to music here at St. XXX. Please ponder these thoughts and discern how you may be able to respond to my requests.

1. I encourage all liturgical ministers, as representatives of St. XXX, to participate in all sung responses and hymns. We lift our voices in praise of God and each person that unites his or her voice with that of the worshipping community is said to "pray twice", in the words of St. Augustine.

2. If request number one is asking too much, I encourage each liturgical minister to open up their hymnal when everyone else is singing and to pray the text of the hymn with the rest of the community. Many of the texts of the hymns we sing during mass contain wonderful liturgical poetry that can enhance our understanding of God and His love for all creation. Please do not deny yourself the opportunity to participate in these prayers with the rest of the congregation.

3. If both of these requests are not likely to be heeded, I would greatly urge you, at the very least, to remain in your pews until the Recessional hymn has concluded. It has come to my attention that some of our ministers, for whatever reason, make haste to leave after the priest has passed by during the end of mass. Though it is your right to continue this practice, as persons of free will, I would highly discourage it for the following reasons:

--It sets a bad example for the rest of the community. As ministers that are visible to the rest of the congregation, you are seen to be persons of holiness, and therefore people that will be held to a higher standard than others, whether consciously or unconsciously. Therefore, when you do not participate in the singing at mass and even worse, leave during the singing of the recessional hymn to clean up or what not, you say with your actions that "music is not an important part of the Holy Mass, and therefore, my participation, as well as yours, is completely optional." This makes my job very difficult, as one who has devoted his life to the realm of sacred music and wishes to encourage the "full, conscious, and active participation" of the whole worshipping community, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council requested.

--Secondly, this practice encourages disunity among the congregation. It is a very frustrating experience, as many of you know, to be the lone person singing in a crowd of worshippers. The sung prayer that we lift to God seems less complete when only a percentage of the congregation is actively participating. Imagine your dismay if only 50 percent of the congregation every week actually spoke the Creed or the Our Father. Jesus prayed that "all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You." (John 17: 21) We strive as Christians to fulfill that hope of Jesus, one in prayer, one in love, one in song.

--Finally, this practice is disrespectful to me. I have trained very hard my whole life to hone my musical skills, and I work to better myself even still. Likewise, I choose the repertoire for mass with great care, trying to reflect the season and the readings in the music that I select. Though I sometimes fail, I always have the best intentions of providing music that is respectful of the Holy Mass and respectful of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am well aware that I do not please everyone all of the time with my choices as that is an impossible task; that being said, I hope that all of you understand that I try my best to fulfill my duties here at St. XXX.

So, when I notice people running for the doors during the recessional hymn, I take it as a personal slight, even though it may not be intended that way. Imagine your anger if you and I were having a conversation and in the middle of one of your sentences I just walked away from you, for seemingly no reason. I encounter that same frustration when the closing hymn is so blatantly disrespected.

I urge you as a fellow brother in Christ Jesus, to dwell on these words and contemplate them. It is not my intention to offend; as an employee of St. XXX, the staff here including myself is very grateful for the time and effort you put in to contribute to the liturgical life here at the parish. Please take these words in the way I meant to present them: with charity.

Sincerely yours in Christ,



At Tuesday, March 28, 2006 2:49:00 PM, Anonymous CastCantor said...

So, what was the result? I hope the priest was helpful.

At Tuesday, March 28, 2006 7:35:00 PM, Blogger PrayingTwice said...

He just mentioned briefly, in passing, but I think he got the point across.

Hopefully it won't be a problem anymore. If it is . . . well, I'm gone in a few months so, oh well:)


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