Saturday, April 22, 2017

Wish you could play the organ as well as the piano? The answer may be here!
There is now available FREE OF CHARGE 30 video lessons designed to help the intermediate-level pianist learn the basics of organ service playing.

There are organs all over the country (maybe the world) that are silent for a lack of hands (and feet).

Some churches that just had a piano suddenly got a designated organ bequest.
Sometimes the pastor likes organ music and is thoroughly sick of the clavinova.

Could those hands (and feet) belong to you or someone you know?

Check it out at this link;
And remember - it's free!

PS: Organs are very cool because they can be very loud. Well, that's one reason I like them!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Musica Sacra Florida Chant Conference, May 19-20, 2017

Are you suffering from post-Paschal malaise? Would you like a little chant break that you're not in charge of?


From Friday afternoon, May 19th through Saturday, May 20th, you can sing, learn, pray, and enjoy the company of like-minded friends new and old. We'll be at St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Tampa.

The faculty will include Dr. Susan Treacy, Dr. Edward Schaefer, and Dr. Mary Jane Ballou (yes, that's me!).

There will be an Extraordinary Form Mass on Friday evening, Lauds on Saturday morning, and an Ordinary Form Mass on Saturday afternoon with music provided by the conference participants.

Friday evening's music will be sung by the Schola of the Epiphany of Our Lord Church in Tampa.

There will be a keynote address, two workshops, and three scholae - beginning/intermediate, advanced men, and advanced women.

You can learn all the details, see a preliminary schedule, marvel at the low cost, and nearby deal at the Holiday Inn Express by visiting 

Of course, you'll be able to register there as well!  And we look forward to seeing you.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Just a Little More Easter (Actually, A Lot More) From Georgia

The Easter Vigil (Resurrection Matins and Divine Liturgy) is a marathon that makes the Roman Catholic vigil resemble a walk in the park.

The link below comes from Georgia (the country, not the state), where John Graham, a historical musicologist, lives and leads cultural tours.  Click on different bits on the videos from this monastic celebration. It's really rough, "guy music," at its Caucasian best. Enjoy it!

Christ is Risen!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Newness of Life

On the 90th anniversary of Pope Emeritus Benedict's birth and baptism, as on every Easter, I find myself remembering his words about the mystery of the "new life" that is Christianity.

From among the many sublime quotations from his Easter public addresses that could be quoted:
 Baptism is something quite different from an act of ecclesial socialization, from a slightly old-fashioned and complicated rite for receiving people into the Church. It is also more than a simple washing, more than a kind of purification and beautification of the soul. It is truly death and resurrection, rebirth, transformation to a new life. 
How can we understand this? I think that what happens in Baptism can be more easily explained for us if we consider the final part of the short spiritual autobiography that Saint Paul gave us in his Letter to the Galatians. Its concluding words contain the heart of this biography: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). I live, but I am no longer I. The "I", the essential identity of man - of this man, Paul - has been changed. He still exists, and he no longer exists. He has passed through a "not" and he now finds himself continually in this "not": I, but no longer I. 
With these words, Paul is not describing some mystical experience which could perhaps have been granted him, and could be of interest to us from a historical point of view, if at all. No, this phrase is an expression of what happened at Baptism. My "I" is taken away from me and is incorporated into a new and greater subject. This means that my "I" is back again, but now transformed, broken up, opened through incorporation into the other, in whom it acquires its new breadth of existence. Paul explains the same thing to us once again from another angle when, in Chapter Three of the Letter to the Galatians, he speaks of the "promise", saying that it was given to an individual - to one person: to Christ. He alone carries within himself the whole "promise". But what then happens with us? Paul answers: You have become one in Christ (cf. Gal 3:28). Not just one thing, but one, one only, one single new subject. This liberation of our "I" from its isolation, this finding oneself in a new subject means finding oneself within the vastness of God and being drawn into a life which has now moved out of the context of "dying and becoming". The great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life into which, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced. To live one’s own life as a continual entry into this open space: this is the meaning of being baptized, of being Christian. This is the joy of the Easter Vigil. The Resurrection is not a thing of the past, the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that he holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak. We grasp hold of his hand, and thus we also hold on to one another’s hands, and we become one single subject, not just one thing. I, but no longer I: this is the formula of Christian life rooted in Baptism, the formula of the Resurrection within time. I, but no longer I: if we live in this way, we transform the world. It is a formula contrary to all ideologies of violence, it is a programme opposed to corruption and to the desire for power and possession. 
"I live and you will live also", says Jesus in Saint John’s Gospel (14:19) to his disciples, that is, to us. We will live through our existential communion with him, through being taken up into him who is life itself. Eternal life, blessed immortality, we have not by ourselves or in ourselves, but through a relation - through existential communion with him who is Truth and Love and is therefore eternal: God himself. Simple indestructibility of the soul by itself could not give meaning to eternal life, it could not make it a true life. Life comes to us from being loved by him who is Life; it comes to us from living-with and loving-with him. I, but no longer I: this is the way of the Cross, the way that "crosses over" a life simply closed in on the I, thereby opening up the road towards true and lasting joy. 
Thus we can sing full of joy, together with the Church, in the words of the Exsultet: "Sing, choirs of angels . . . rejoice, O earth!" The Resurrection is a cosmic event, which includes heaven and earth and links them together. In the words of the Exsultet once again, we can proclaim: "Christ . . . who came back from the dead and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever". Amen!

Mass for Monsignor Schuler

Join the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale and the Church of St. Agnes in Saint Paul, MN at a special Mass offered on the 10th Anniversary of the death of Monsignor Schuler.

When: April 23, 2017, 10:00 am.
Where: 548 Lafond Ave., Saint Paul, MN
Repertory: Franz Schubert's Mass in B-flat.

Make plans to attend!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Peter and the Other Disciple

Friday, April 14, 2017

"Make hay while the sun shines."

Priests know more about this sort of thing, but they can't talk about it.

I was in the confession line one Good Friday and the guy next to me seemed really nervous, so I smiled or said hi or something. Then he told me he hadn't been to confession for 30 years.

30 years--what the priests call, with every precaution for anonymity, catching a "big fish."

We cannot save ourselves. It is Catholic teaching that we cannot merit the "first grace" of conversion for ourselves.

However, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, we CAN, by prayers and sacrifices, congruently merit the first grace for others.

St. Monica is the obvious example, but there are countless, mostly anonymous others. You or I might have faith because of the prayers and sacrifices of our grandmothers, for example, nailed willingly on the cross with Him for the life of the world.

These are the golden days of opportunity to win souls for Christ in hidden, mystical ways, with love. Let's take advantage of these days of grace.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Entering into the Paschal Mystery--While Working

As a parish Director of Music, one of the downsides at times was the feeling that I was too "actively participating" in the Mass, I found it difficult to enter into the Mass in that quiet, meditative way that is possible when one is not concentrating on various responsibilities, or serving others.

Particularly for musicians, the creativity of the profession can overtake every attempt to meditate. If I found a Psalm in the Office for Holy Week particularly meaningful, for example, I would quickly jump to an idea about how to incorporate a motet on the Psalm into next year's Lenten programming. Such examples of the distractions of "good ideas" could be multiplied, particularly with all the details of the complex liturgies of Holy Week.

I would like to offer a few suggestions for profitably praying through Holy Week while working.

  • Take time out for personal prayer, preferably in a different church, when it is quiet. 
  • Keep a notebook handy, and when distractions almost inevitably come, write them down. Let the notebook "remember" to rehearse that difficult passage with the tenors, or what have you, while you gently recall yourself to your prayer.
  • Pray for the people in the choir and for your congregation, and for your clergy.
  • Use postures of prayer to involve your body in a wholistic way before God.
  • Consider letting one of your choir members lead prayers before rehearsals and liturgies, letting you off the hook and giving yourself a chance to respond for once, rather than leading.
  • Go to confession this weekend.
  • Ask the saints to help you to pray. The Pope Emeritus said in one of his books that when he starts to pray, he asks Sts. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Bonaventure to help him, because "they are friends of mine." The saints who are particular friends are ready and waiting to help, and we can rely on their good will.
  • Do a non-musical good deed for someone early in the week.
The key here is to let the love of God come first, as the heart and soul of our work for God. We don't want to be sounding gongs, or clanging cymbals, but true ministers of conversion. That always starts with myself. 

We never know. This might be my last Lent on earth, my last Holy Week, and it might be the same for others. I still remember a very ill man in my parish, must be 25 years ago now, who would die within a year, kneeling for the veneration, knowing full well that he would need help to stand up again, and looking nonetheless grateful for the opportunity to show his love for Christ. 

May it be the same for all of us during this time of grace.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Chant Workshop, June 27-30

Two wonderful Dominican Fathers and musicians, Rev. Innocent Smith, OP and Rev. Vincent Ferrer Bagan, OP, are conducting a Chant Workshop this June in New York State.

—Instruction in singing, teaching, and directing Gregorian chant
 —Daily Sung Mass and Divine Office in the Main House Chapel
—Communal meals and accomodation in the beautiful Wethersfield House
—Full tuition scholarship for each student; $150.00 fee for Room and Board

Details and photos of the beautiful Wethersfield Estate, the Institute where the Workshop will be held, may be found here.

Both of the teaching friars were accomplished musicians before entering religious life, and have contributed greatly to the liturgical life of the Church and their Order through composition, musicianship, and editorial work. I am so pleased to see that they are now offering to share their expertise in this way!

For more information, please send an email to

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Your Role in Promoting Our Musical Future

Preliminary design by Els Decker
Most of us agree that the training of future singers is of paramount importance for the continued revival of fine sacred music. The Ward Method is a proven system for developing young voices to sing with understanding and a beautiful tone.

Right now, the Church Music Association of America has commissioned a new songbook for use with the Ward Method. 


Any donations received by June 1, 2017 will be matched by a generous donor up to a total of $5,000. Every dollar you give will be doubled. No donation is too small. 

Why not head over to the CMAA website devoted to this project and learn more about "Now I Walk in Beauty"? And we hope you'll be able to help. If you've already contributed, many thanks!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hymn to St. Joseph

For those looking for a sturdy, manly hymn in honor of St. Joseph, Jeffrey Wisniewski and I would like to offer the following for any good purpose this year.

Mr. Wisniewski's fine original tune and setting may be found here, or the text may be sung to ST. ANNE (O God, Our Help in Ages Past).

Some of the verses are specific to the original congregation, seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, and to the life of the priesthood.

Please feel free to sing as desired in your home schools and parishes.

Hymn to St. Joseph
Hymn text commissioned by Kenrick-Glennon Seminary on the occasion of the dedication of the renovated St. Joseph Chapel

O Holy Joseph, you restored
King David’s house and line,
O guardian of King David’s Lord:
The Son of God divine.

When years at last their course had run,
And Mary’s “yes” was said,
God chose you for His only Son,
And by an angel led.

Like Joseph from of old you learned
In dreams God’s will to see.
From Egypt’s land His Son returned,
Fulfilling prophecy.

O most chaste spouse! O husband pure!
Whose name the demons dread!
You kept the infant Church secure,
In God the Father’s stead.

Make us true men to serve the Lord,
Obedient till the end;
Like you to give our lives outpoured,
Our guardian and our friend.

Like you to work with patient skill
To glorify God’s name,
Like you to do the Father’s will,
And hide from worldly fame.

O blessed guardian of the Church,
Direct us all our days.
Teach us to preach to those who search,
And lead God’s people’s praise.

O patron of a happy death!
When life at length is through,
May He be close at our last breath,
Who was so near to you.

To Father, Son, and Spirit be
All glory evermore.
St. Joseph, through eternity,
May we with you adore!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

All Those Obscure Musical Terms

This is, perhaps, old for some of you but I just saw it for the first time, and thought most of us could use, if not a laugh, a smile.