Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Holy Family

The value and importance that a family represents varies. It will depend a lot on the experience one has had. And so, we cannot compare it with the existential dilemma of what came first, the chicken or the egg. This is because the family can be better or worse, depending upon the value and importance given to the family by parents.

For example, there are times when young couples say that they do not wish to continue with the errors of their parents, “We will be different with our children so that they will be better that us.”

And so this is the beginning of different families beginning a better experience, breaking away with bad habits.

As we analyze the importance that parents represent we end up comparing them to the Holy Family.

The family is the cradle of society. Each new member has as their first experience a family that receives them with love. This experience begins their formation as to how they will live others.

The natural, common and important role of the father will help the new little being. He will give protection. He will provide. He will give love and affection in every possible way and will be a good example.

No one can erase these and many other good actions of the father. These experiences in the life of the son or daughter will surely help define who they are as they

The mother, without a doubt, is the closest person as life begins.

From the moment of conception, the mother must decide whether or not to accept the child.

As she decides to accept the child within with love, she also accepts all of the challenges that this implies. She will not only carry the child in her womb, but she will carry that child through all the chapters of his or her life.

The new little person will feel the warmth within the mother’s arms. The child will hear and recognize mother’s voice, will be nourished by her, and will even recognize and share in her moods.

All of these feelings create experience that will give security to the little person and will influence the future of that person.

This experience of family will give a certain security to the new little person and, in time, he will have a value that challenges his own reality: I want to be better; I can be better; I want better for my family; I want to be more just; I want a better environment; I want a better society; I want to give better, more to others; etc.

What we have analyzed here could be a family that is truly holy, where the plan of God is fulfilled.

The formation the parents will give their children is experiential and the parents will be consecrated to fill such a mission. Thus, their children will live a future that they may be able may be able to transform as they are able.

The Holy Family of the bible gives us the same example, the same structure. The only difference being the time in which they lived.

Let us briefly analyze…

The mother receives the child:

The Annunciation

Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” (Luke 1:30-31)

Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)

The father receives the child:

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.

Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.

Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. (Mt. 1:18-20)

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. (Mt. 1:24,25)

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. (Lk. 2:40,52)

The Initiative of Jesus

As is most natural during adolescence, Jesus took initiative even though there would be lack of understanding and inconvenience on the part of his parents. (Lk. 2:41-50)

This first action not only reaffirms his know-how and his experience, but also serves to deepen his awareness so to be able to fulfill his the mission given to him. (Lk. 4:18-19)

Until the ultimate consequence (Lk. 23:46-47)

The questions that remain are:

1. What was the mission of your parents?
2. What was your experience of family?
3. What is your mission?

The Angelus Prayer
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary. . .

Behold the handmaid of the LordBe it done unto me according to thy word.
Hail Mary. . .

And the Word was made Flesh. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary. . .

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let Us PrayPour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts;that, we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, Was made known by the message of an Angel, May by His Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Celebrations en Honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe

It is true that this blog entry is a little overdue. The fact of the matter is, I had many photos in my digital camera and I just kept putting off uploading them to my PC and doing the crop and irfanview thing. That’s the thing about digital cameras. One must really be religious about uploading them or you end up with a ton of photos!

These photos are from recent masses in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I had the great honor of serving as a pastoral musician for both of these celebrations.

The first mass was held in Dec. 11th at St. Alfred parish in Taylor. The procession began and went through St. Alfred school. You know, that school building is a lot larger than she looks from Telegraph Road! The school children had adorned the halls with "Ojo de Dios" and "Papel Cortado," as well as with other fine art work.

We processed through the halls with the parish’s deacon carrying the image of Our Lady. The community sang "Las Apariciones Guadalupnanas" and ended the procession with "Las Manañitas a la Virgen de Guadalupe."

It really was a wonderful celebration with the parish’s newly formed Spanish choir. Kudos to Teresa P. for organizing the choir. Congrats, Tere, on the parish’s newest little Guadalupana!
The second celebration I had the honor of serving for was held on Dec. 12th at Detroit’s Most Holy Trinity Parish. Located in Corktown, this historic church is one of the most beautiful in the City of Detroit. The acoustics are phenomenal. The stations of the cross are huge and beautiful paintings. Trinity houses many lovely statutes, including one of St. Patrick. (This parish is THE place to be for St. Patrick’s Day Mass!)

The organ itself is one of the oldest pipe organs in the city. . . .The couplers on that instrument can offer a challenging touch to those of use who are so accustomed to playing electronic organs! Yes, it’s a beautiful instrument indeed there at Most Holy Trinity!

The Guadalupe celebration at Most Holy Trinity was bilingual. And I must say, Fr. Russ really does have a way with bilingual celebrations as these can challenge even the best of presidors.
The thing is, I prefer a mass that is bilingual. I mean, for those of us who are 2nd and 3rd generation in the States, being bilingual is a very natural state of our being. We’ll flip flop between the 2 languages all the time. I realize that sometimes this can frustrate folks. . .especially when the not so well informed want to repeat everything about mass in the other language. Anyhow, my point is that Fr. Russ really has a handle on celebrating a good bilingual liturgy. The mass in Honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a perfectly good example.

The photos above show Our Lady in each of these parishes. The first iImage of Our Lady of Guadalupe is St. Afred parish in Taylor, MI. The other image is at Most Holy Trinity in Detroit, MI.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Personal Prayer for The United States

For California;
For those who have lost homes, possessions in the fire;
For those hurt in the blaze;
For firefighters;
For policemen and rescue personnel;
For hospitals, doctors, nurses and all who tend those needing medical care.

For Louisiana, especially for New Orleans;
For those who have lost homes, possessions in the flood;
For business that recently reopened after Katrina forced to close again after this flood.

For Georgia;
For Lake Lanier;
For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers;
For those forced to drill their own wells for water;
For rain.

For family pets and for wildlife lost or hurt in fire, flood and drought.

For Michigan;
For those who have left our state seeking employment, housing;
For those who remain hoping for a better tomorrow for our state;
For business to return to Michigan;
For Chrysler, Ford and GM;
For the UAW;
For Michigan’s Migrant farm workers as they end the harvest season and for their safe return home;
In thanksgiving for beautiful Michigan autumn colors.

For all who find themselves in a shelter;
For those who supply the shelter with food, blankets, with the work of their hands;
For our generosity when others find themselves in need.

For decent housing;
For those who have lost their homes to foreclosure;
For those who continue to struggle to keep their homes amidst rising interest rates;
For predatory mortgage lenders;
For predatory mortgage brokers;
For those forced to sell their homes;
For those buying a home, especially for first- time buyers.

For jobs for the unemployed and underemployed;
For just wages;
For pride in the work of our hands.

For the uninsured;
For the under-insured;
For the falsely insured;
For medical care for all who need it.

For toys that are safe for our nation’s children to play with;
For school that are safe;
For food that is safe for our country to eat.

For churches across the country;
For all houses of worship to be loving and welcoming to all;
For leaders who are pastoral and committed to service;
For parishes that will cluster, merge or close;
For healing.

For immigrants;
For the children of immigrants;
For laws that are just;
For laws that are humane;
For those seeking citizenship, especially those of my own family.

For an end to racial profiling;
For an end to apathy and complacency.

For military personnel, especially those stationed abroad;
For their safety and their safe return home;
For good medical attention when it is needed;
For their family, friends and all who love them;
For military personnel who lost their life seeking peace.

For a nation that cares for her elderly as well and for her young;
For a nation that cares for her natural environment;
For a nation filled with peace.

Hear this prayer, O Merciful One.
In Your time, Thy will be done.

Que así sea.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

God's Work of Art

This summer I had the opportunity to participate in a most wonderful event in the city where I live. Wyandotte’s Crafter’s Alley is an event sponsored by the Wyandotte Business Association and runs at the same time as the Wyandotte Art Fair. Although this event took place in July, I thought I’d share my experience as well as some photos here.

Artists and crafters lined the streets at Wyandotte’s Art Fair and Crafter’s Alley. The finest works of art I experienced during the festivities weren’t sold by any artist, crafter or vendor. The finest form of art I experienced was in the form of body art: tattoos.

Personally, I’ve never given tattoos much thought, however, I must say that it is an art form I admire. I am a musician and while I have never particularly cared for opera I appreciate and respect all of the preparation and talent needed to sing opera, to compose opera. In much the same fashion, I appreciate and respect the art and talent in every tattoo.

Words have power. If a mother yells at her six-year-old daughter, “you’re stupid. You’re ugly,” those words are not uttered without effect. Those words carry impact. But what if words are part of body art?

I met a young man at the event with a very elaborate and ornate tattoo. Amidst the designs of his tattoo was the word, “hate.” Another young person had the words, “infernal confusion” on her arm. I wonder how seeing those words every day effects these young people. I wonder how it is that they came to choose these particular words for their tattoos. The irony is that these young people were browsing the rosaries I made.

I have always had a great love for popular religiosity, those faith expressions that are born at the grass roots experience, born from the living experience of the populace. Quite often, these expressions of faith aren’t recognized by the church or are even shunned by the church. The tattoo has certainly not been widely accepted as the only “mark” or “seal” is the one given at baptism.
Personally, I have seen that popular religiousity finds expression in many forms. Popular faith truly finds expression in art.

I also had the opportunity to meet a young man who shared the story of how his father had a great devotion to Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos. As he embraced his young child he told the story of how his father had hopes of one day traveling to San Juan de Los Lagos to “pagar una manda.” In Mexican faith expression, a “manda” is where the faithful publicly thank God, Our Lady and the Saints for prayers answered. Pilgrims travel many miles, often doing the last stretch on their knees as they approach a specific sanctuary. Sadly, this young man’s father died before he could fulfil his “manda.”

He further explained that he was going to do what his father didn’t get a chance to do: publicly make a “manda” at Our Lady’s shrine. He said that he, too, had a great love and devotion to Our Lady. The procession to Our Lady’s Shrine that this young man will make in his deceased father’s honor will begin at Detroit Metro Airport. More specifically, the procession has already begun in his heart.

He then told me had Her tattooed on his back. Although the tattoo was still a work in progress, he permitted me not only to see it but also to take a photo. I never would have thought that a tattoo could be used for evangelization, but this young man taught me a lot that day. Now that was, without a doubt, the most affective and effective piece of art I witnessed during this particular event. In fact, that art witnessed to me!

A young lady who browsed and then purchased a rosary wore the fourth tattoo that caught my attention. Perhaps the rosary she wore as body art on her wrist and the back of her hand expressed her devotion to Our Lady much more than the rosary she purchased from me. This young person was also gracious enough to permit me to photograph her tattoo. Have you ever thought about how often you use your hands, about how you use your hands? Every time she pays a cashier, every time she shakes someone’s hand, every time she waives she has a prominent tool for evangelization available. Every time she uses her hand she gives witness.

My time at Wyandotte’s Art Fair and Crafter’s Alley was truly blest by those who not only had art on their bodies, but art in their heart. I’d like to thank these young people for what they brought to me. You, my friends, are God’s work of art.

Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos, Pray for us.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Welcome to Liturgy House

Hello and welcome to Liturgy House. Here I hope to muse, reflect and perhaps even challenge others, especially those of us for whom worship, liturgy, the bible, church life and ministry are a part of the very fiber of our being.

Liturgy is life. What’s more, Life is Liturgy. Liturgy, with a capital "L", should reinforce and lock in time in a public way and before God that which already is (life). If a young couple is in love and they choose to spend the rest of their lives with each other (and they choose a church wedding) they make it a public and formal ritual by celebrating the sacrament. That is to say, through the liturgy. In a sense, they were already about "the work" of the wedding liturgy by developing their relationship. Their life is a liturgy, small "l".

This hypothetical wedding, and indeed all Worship and Liturgy, cannot and should not be planned in a fashion that is disconnected from the lives of the assembly who gather. Liturgy is more than just ritual. I repeat what I stated in the previous paragraph: Liturgy is Life & Life is Liturgy.

Sometimes, however, a worshiping community can be disconnected from what is going on in their own neighborhoods, in their own backyards. . . .indeed, disconnected from "the work" that is life. This disconnect can cause a disconnect in the work of Liturgy, a disconnect in the manner and fashion in which Liturgy is celebrated. Slowly but surely I’ll expound on these thoughts through "the work" of this blog.

And so, I have created this blog because there are so very many thoughts dancing around in my head. Oh, and somewhere along the way I’ll surely write about dancing in the Liturgy. And art and environment. And Music. And I’ll surely write on one of my favorite subjects: Cultural Adaptation!. . . .and before anyone starts writing and commenting and calling me a heretic, let say publically here and now that I can barely imagine a Dia Doce celebration without Matachin. For those of you who don’t know what Matachin is, what Dia Doce is, well. . .you’ll just need to trust me and check in on this blog every now and again!

Having said all of the above, let me simply state that it is sometimes just plain cathartic to write, to just release the words from one’s mind!

And when, in fact, we release those words and place them on parchment (albeit, electronic parchment), they often return to us with ideas from others. And so, the dialogue begins.

And isn’t liturgy celebrated best in dialogue, when all respond, participate?

Welcome to my house, to our house, to Liturgy house.
Mi Casa es Tu Casa.
Peace to all who enter here.
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About the photo: I have a particular devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Can you tell? I've visited the Basilica in Mexico City several times and even had the honor of serving with my friends as guest choir. Yes, we'll surely discuss popular piety here at Liturgy House!