Monday, November 17, 2008

An Apostolate In Our Midst

I am struck this morning with the treasure we have in our hands. The CMAA's work, publications, and educational programs are an active apostolate of the Church. The signs are making themselves evident. More than just education in a tradition, they are an active form of evangelization beyond anything we might have dreamed of. We are musicians and clergy who felt ourselves called, as individuals, to do the right thing. And we are now beginning to see the fruits of our labors in ways more grand every hour, every day.

When I entered into all of this work for the Church, almost ten years ago, my only thought was that this music needed to be heard. It didn't matter who cared about it at the time, who was against it, or how it would be received in our parish and parishes far and wide. I felt moved and responsible, as a musician, to learn about and sing the music of the Church, and bring its sublime beauty back to the liturgy, back where it belonged, so it could, on its own merit, do its work in the hearts and minds of all who heard it - the laity, the clergy: all of those who had been deprived of its beauty and graces for so long. Did I know what I was doing? No. Did it stop me? No. Why did I do it? No explanation anyone could understand.

Years later, after lots of mistakes and learning and education and reeducation and occasionally getting it right, I'm seeing things happen I never thought could be achieved in my lifetime. The line had always been that no one liked this material any more, that it was outmoded, that it wasn't hip, that it was just concert material or material reserved for monks in the most remote places, far from modern life. There were pockets of light, especially for those of you who had dedicated your professional lives the Church and its liturgy. But what about the rest of us?

I have now seen how things have flowered in our own parish. And regionally. And on a national level with the immense growth of the Colloquium and workshops. The Chant Intensive, which I pushed for last summer, was a huge hit. So why not do one in the Winter. Thankfully, Scott Turkington agreed. The time seemed right. And we have an every growing number on our team whose gifts and willingness and hard work make it all possible.

But moving CMAA activities from Washington across the country to Loyola? And now to the University of San Diego? Bringing our ideals to Catholic schools who, in many ways, are Catholic in name only? But herein resides our mission and what I believe is the secret of our continuing success.

My greatest suspicion, since I became involved in all of this, was that most resistance came not from belligerence from the other side, but from ignorance. Bringing these kinds of programs to these very places offer local communities and musicians, in an nonthreatening way, in charity, offers professional and volunteer musicians the opportunity to become exposed to the music and the kind of liturgy they had always dreamed about in their heart of hearts - but felt was beyond their reach. How can a local music director admit to lack of knowledge of the very thing he was hired to be an expert in? The first reaction, the knee jerk reaction, is to be dismissive, and argue against its merits. Why? For fear of exposure.

But the miracles keep happening. Just this morning I opened my email to find four members of the music team from the Immaculata Parish at USD having signed up for the Winter Intensive. Who would have thought this possible? What wonder is that that called us to do a program there in January? There is no explanation other than that clock said "do it," the players were all in place, the stars and moon lined up, and that the Holy Spirit is working through all of us in the most amazing ways.

The Winter Intensive is already three quarters of the way full. Imagine the bright future for liturgy in our country.

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