Thursday, December 17, 2009

Just One Mom Reflecting on Catholic School

I’ve been thinking about Catholic Schools
for quite some time now.
I’ve graduated two sons from Catholic High school
and have a son in his junior year
at the same high school.

One wonders
why a family would pay so much
to send their child to such a school. . . .

. . . my reasons go back
many years.

When my eldest was going to start school
I was just shocked at some things.
We lived in a much poorer community at the time
and the school building was,
in a very bad state.

The roof leaked in various places.
There were large garbage cans throughout the building
collecting rain water that leaked in.

The fire alarms didn’t work.
Some of us parents tried to report this at the time,
but the fire marshal
was less than complacent.
One parent went so far
as to pull the alarm.
No alarm sounded.

Some of the classrooms
had bars on the windows,
bars which could not be opened from the inside.
In case of an emergency
these children had no way out but the door.

And the back door of the school building
was chained shut.

Apart from the safety issues at hand,
I really felt bad for these children.
This is the reality they faced every day.
Couldn’t we do better for our kids?

I needed to make a decision.
I could not keep my son in this school.
Neither the school
nor the fire marshal were responding.
I sent him to a Catholic School.
At the time,
it was more about safety
than about the faith.

When his younger brother started school,
I did the same.
I just felt like this was important,
to have them in a safe building.

There were many things
that I began to fall in love with
at the school.
I decided then,
when my second child started,
that if I could not send them to Catholic School
I would Home School them.
It just made sense to me.

after several years,
it was time to think about high school.
By then,
we were living in another city.
I went to the local public high school
and asked for statistics,
which they could not give.
I asked what percentage of Latino students
graduate and go on to college.
And you know,
it wasn’t that they couldn’t give me the stats.
It was almost as if
they didn’t even know how to go about
finding the stats.
At that time,
I knew the national drop-out rate for Latino kids
to be very, very high.
Even higher for the City of Detroit.
But what of the suburb where I lived?
This statistic was important to me at the time.

I made the decision to send my boys
to a Catholic High School,
a decision I would not regret.

I now live in yet another city
that really seems to have it together.
I live just behind the high school
and see a lot of what goes on.

at this point,
it just didn’t seem right
to pull my youngest
out of Catholic school.
A few more years
and he’ll graduate.
I have really come to value Catholic School.

It makes a difference to me
that the bible is required reading
throughout the school year. . . every year.
The bible is a required book.

It makes a difference to me
that the kids make a retreat every year.

It makes a difference to me
that the kids do required hours of community service
every year.

It makes a difference to me
that they have theology throughout high school,
that they study the faith beyond Confirmation class.
It makes a difference to me
that the Confirmation class is an extra class,
“also with” their theology class,
not “instead of.”

It makes a difference to me
that they pray every day at school.

Let me say that again:
It makes a difference to me
that they pray every day at school.

It makes a difference to me
that they attend mass as a school once a week.

It makes a difference to me
that through the course of things,
they have served as altar servers and lectors.

It makes a difference to me
that at appropriate times during the liturgical year
they pray The Stations of the Cross
and The Rosary.

I don’t particularly care for the uniforms,
but it makes a difference to me
that my son must wear a tie to school,
because school is a special place
and he should dress for special things.

It makes a difference to me
that sports teams
pray before a game. . .
. . .perhaps my best memory
of my eldest at football
was when the entire team,
dressed in full football gear for a game,
fell to their knees,
bowed their heads,
each with a hand on the shoulder
of the guy next to them
and prayed a “Hail Mary”
in the outdoor grotto near the church. . .
. . . .wow. . . I’m crying as I type this. . .
. . .what a powerful memory. . . .
High School Football Players
praying publically. . . .

And you know,
it makes a difference
when the pastor goes to your kids sporting events.

Please don’t read this wrong.
I am not anti-public school.
I just want something different for my sons.
I pay my taxes like anyone else,
fully acknowledging
that I am responsible
to help educate all of the kids in the community,
not just my own.
I pay taxes
I pay tuition.

I also support the fund raisers
of the local public school system.
When the kids in my community
knock at my front door
I buy the candy bars,
the coupon books, etc.,
because I should,
whether I want or need them or not.

I have made many sacrifices.
I have driven junkers
until just a couple of years ago.
Most of the furniture in my home
is second hand.
I don’t wear the finest clothing,
but I have clothes on my back.

In our home
you won’t find a big screen tv or a Wii.
And our computer is really pretty basic,
an hp pavillion.
Our cell phones have none of the extras.

Yes, our household has made some sacrifices.
But this is one thing
that I do not regret.

Earlier this week
my son had a test in his morality class.
He commented that it was very easy,
that anyone would get a good grade
if they just stop and think.
And then he commented
that the only person
who would have failed the morality test
is Tiger Woods
because he has no morality
and doesn’t think before he acts.

Thank you, Jesus.

It has been costly
and I’m almost finished.
My youngest has one more year
of high school.
It has been costly,
but my three sons
are well worth the investment.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent: Joyful Expectation

Well, we just celebrated Gaudete Sunday.
We lit the pink candle.
I don’t think we got it.
One child in the choir told me
that he thought the pink candle
didn’t get lit until Christmas.

we celebrated Gaudete Sunday.
Did we, in fact, rejoice?
how is our advent going?
I think we just don’t get the Advent Season.

As far back as I can remember,
Advent has been described
as a time of “joyful expectation.”
It is a time of looking toward
the Second Coming.
But you know,
we don’t often get that.

Several weeks ago,
as I was reviewing music for the Advent season
I went to the internet.
For those of you who don’t know me all that well,
I live on the internet.
I saw a liturgy planning website
that actually had song suggestions for Advent
that were really more Lenten.

A “joyful expectation,”
and sometimes we can turn it
all somber or even dismal.

there is a penitential character during this time,
but it is certainly not the penitence of Lent.
And you know,
even Lent shouldn’t be dismal.

And liturgy people
still challenge each other
over such things
as Purple or Advent Blue.
Perhaps we don’t understand
the color of Advent
because we don’t understand Advent.

. . .and, if may digress,
many don’t have a clue about color
and the power of color to begin with. . .
let alone, the reasons why
one liturgical season is one color
and other liturgical seasons are other colors. . . .

But back to the season of Advent. . .

Advent: Joyful Expectation.

During Advent we celebrated
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe,
for whom I have an ardent devotion.

Without detailing the whole story,
we can, at least,
focus on something in the Guadalupe story
that is so ultimately Advent:
Our Lady of Guadalupe
appears to St. Juan Diego pregnant.
What an absolutely beautiful image
for the Advent season:
Our Lady in Joyful Expectation!
It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
Our Church has a feastday built into the season.

Just think of a young couple
as they await the birth of their first child.
Will the child be a boy or a girl?
Will he be healthy?
Will she arrive on time?
Do we have all we need:
crib, car seat, stroller. . . .
Which hospital will she be born in?
Is my doctor the best doctor?
So many details,
and yet,
such joy as they wait.
For nine months,
the young couple waits.

This is joyful expectation.
This is Advent.

Joyful Expectation.
We can also liken Advent
to a surprise birthday party.
There we are,
in the dark,
awaiting the guest of honor,
to surprise him or her
on their special day.
The party isn’t here yet.
There won’t a party
until the guest of honor arrives.
But we’ve ordered the cake.
We have prepared the meal.
We have a variety of refreshments.
We’ve cleaned and decorated the house.
We are ready!
All we need is that special guest!
And there we are anxiously waiting
in the dark, but ready!

And such is Advent.
We are joyfully awaiting
The Second Coming.

When will He arrive?
What day and what time?
Will we be ready?
Will we fall asleep waiting for him in the dark?
Do we realize that while sometimes we walk through the dark
we are actually people of light?
And is our house in order?
Are we ready to embrace the moment?
Will we be ready to sing at that moment?
Are we aware of who is with us as wait?

But let us remember that
the joy does not culminate with Christmas.
The Nativity celebrates
Our Lord’s first coming.
But even after the Christmas season
comes and goes,
we should be living an Advent life,
full of expectation,
joyfully awaiting that day
when Christ Shall Come Again!

Happy Advent!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mary, Immaculate Conception, Pray For Us.

(a prayer that came to mind this morning. . . .)

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for our military personnel,
especially for those stationed in far away lands.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for our political leaders:
local, state and national.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for our religious leaders.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for those of us do who do not have employment.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for those of us who do not have health care.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for those of us who today find themselves homeless.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for those of us
who are immigrants in these United States.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for those of us
who are sons and daughters,
grandsons and granddaughters
of immigrants.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for those who defend freedom,
who give food to the hungry,
who give shelter to the homeless,
who help find jobs for the unemployed,
who care for the sick,
who welcome the stranger.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for the United States of America.

About the photo:
a picture I took a few years ago
Of Our Lady of Guadalupe
in Detroit at St. Stephen/Mary, Mother of the Church Parish

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Table Blessings

BLESSED THANKSGIVING Pictures, Images and Photos

I just read a rather wonderful article
and thought I should share it with you.
It's a collection of table blessings
from many cultures.

I must admit,
the one that most struck me
was the Pagan Prayer:

"Blessed be the earth for giving birth to this food.
Blessed be the sun for nourishing it.
Blessed be the wind for carrying its seed.
Blessed be the rain for quenching its thirst.
Blessed be the hands that helped to grow this food,
to prepare it this day and bring it to our tables,
that it may nourish our bodies, minds and spirits.
Blessed be our friends, our families
and loved ones who share in this meal today.
Blessed be."

Thanks to Helen Gray
of the Kansas City Star
for this wonderful collection of table prayers.

My prayers to all
for a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


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Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Ensoniq

Musicians have an attachment to their instruments.
Whether or not that is healthy,
I cannot say.
But we do.
We become so very attached to the instrument we serve with.

I am no different.
I have a particular love for my Ensoniq.
She’s not your everyday keyboard.
She is the Rolls Royce of keyboards.

You can lay tracks.
I can play the piano, and then layer over that. . .
. . .with bass, with guitar, with whatever instrument
I think may be needed.
But it’s really all the keyboard.
All of the instruments are in her memory.
Would I ever decide to do studio work,
the main bulk of the work would be, could be
done at home on this instrument.

She is midi.
I can play and then play back on computer.
I can print the music
to that which was just played.

She has an idea pad
where I can store bits and pieces
of musical information
while a new piece is being composed.

She has a transposer.

I could write and write and write.
She has all the bells whistles.

I must say that it is her “Perfect Piano”
that made me fall in love with her at the music store.
It was such a rich sound,
such rich sounding bass notes. . . . .
I was sold.
That “Perfect Piano”
is the sound for which Ensoniq
gained her infamy.

But you see,
I didn’t buy her.
Purchase of this instrument
was a group effort.

I belong to a group called
“Cántico de la Mujer Latina.”
We originally formed to do a one-time event
for the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.
The NPM came to Michigan
for a regional convention in Grand Rapids.
Virgil Funk called me
and asked me to do something “hispanic.”
I formed this group of Latinas
for a “Tarde de Alabanza”
(an afternoon of praise)
which featured music, poetry and theology readings
all written by Latina composers, poets and theologians.
It was to be a one time deal.
We’d rehearse,
do the event and that would be that.

after that event,
we were flooded with calls to take our program
to this place,
to that place. . .
. . .could we serve for this mass. . .
For this women’s retreat. . . etc., etc., etc.
Some 12 years later,
Cántico del la Mujer Latina is standing strong.

Cántico purchased this instrument,
the Ensoniq keyboard.
One of our members gave a rather large donation.
The rest of the funds were raised
by concerts, selling holy cards, etc.
The group purchased this instrument.

A group of my very best friends
worked hard
so that I could have a keyboard
that we could serve with as a group.
A group of women
are so dedicated to their ministry
that they decided to raise funds
and purchase
that which was necessary.
And that which was purchased
was left in my care.

At the time of purchase,
the instrument alone
cost us about $3,500.00.
Add the Roland amp,
the keyboard stand. . .and. . .
well you get the idea.
This was a huge undertaking
by some women who serve
in the inner city.

The keyboard recently suffered some damage
and I have been absolutely beside myself.

The damage was done
at the hands of someone
who doesn’t even know me
and who had no authorization to move my instrument,
which he did in an absolutely abusive manner.

But I have been absolutely beside myself.
Why do I cry over a seemingly inanimate object?

After crying and reflecting on this for several days,
for about two and a half weeks,
I can only liken it to my house.
I purchased a new home about 51/2 years ago.

I recall being at the old house
on the day the water guy was to come
and take the last meter reading.
It would be the last day
I would ever be in that old house.
The house was way too small for my 3 sons.
And it housed memories of a failed marriage.

But that old house
also housed Christmas memories,
tooth fairy memories,
memories of my son’s friends spending the night. . . .
I cried and stayed in the house
long after the meter reader left.

We had already purchased
and moved into the new home
several months earlier.
It took awhile
for us to sell this old house.
And yet,
after the meter reader left,
I sat there, on the floor,
for quite some time
as there was no furniture
in this old house,
and I cried.

I love my home in Wyandotte
and have nothing but praise
for the city and my neighbors.
But every time I drive by the old house,
especially now that the new owners
have been foreclosed upon,
well, I must admit a little tear wells up.
There are memories
attached to that old house
that helped to form
the person that I am today.

It is no different with my keyboard.
I have memories attached to her.
These memories have helped to form
the pastoral musician I am today.
What memory
(besides the electronic one)
does this keyboard have?

As already mentioned,
purchase of her was a group effort.
And so,
this instrument will always hold memories for me
of those very special women
so dedicated to this purchase,
so dedicated to our very creative ministry.

She has been there with us
through many a concert.
She accompanied us
when we sang the Divine Mercy.

She has been present
for many a wedding, funeral,
and Quinceañera,
not to mention regular weekend liturgies.

She was there when my sister and I
were “dueling keyboards,”
she on the baby grand
and me on the Ensoniq,
at the parish where she serves
for a Día Doce mass
that I will never forget.
(Yeah, both my sister and my brother
are pastoral musicians!)

The Ensoniq has accompanied such groups
Les Petits Chanteur,
a boy’s choir from France;
Cantores Minores,
a boy’s choir from Poland

She has accompanied
Marambistas Fantasticos,
a youth marimba ensemble
from Chicago.

She prepared us for many out of town events. . .
. . .North Park University in Chicago. . .
. . . .Southwest Liturgical Conference in Albuquerque. . . .
. . . Basilica of Our of Guadalupe in Mexico City. . .

You see,
I do have memories attached to this instrument.
It is very much alive to me,
and not just alive with song.
I don’t know that this would make sense
to anyone
unless you are a pastoral musician.
But so be it.
I have an attachment to her.
And right now,
she is not feeling so well.

You see,
someone moved her
by grabbing her from the buttons and knobs
an then
proceeded to drag her,
totally unaware
that she was being moved
without her stand. . .
had I not stopped him
the instrument would have ended up on the floor. .
. . .he was totally unaware
that the amp she was connected to
was connected to a few other instruments as well.

She now jumps from sound to sound.
She will always start off
with her Perfect Piano,
but then quickly jumps
through her other assortment of instruments.
These instruments should not make their presence known
unless and until I invite them.
since being moved so abruptly,
they are making their presence known,
and in no logical order,
and in no particular time frame.
The “C” just above middle c
is also way out of wack,
much louder than all of the keys,
regardless of which instrument
sneaks in.

It is not that easy
to find a repair person
for Ensoniqs.
The problem is
that Ensoniq went under a few years ago.
It’s very hard to get replacements parts
for this particular instrument.
What ends up happening
is that old keyboards
become “organ donors” for
instruments still in use.

I did finally find
who is about hours drive away
who can take a look at it.

The problem I see now
is financing this repair project.
I don’t think I should have to pay this repair bill.
I really don’t.
And I have sent a letter to that end.

It appears as though
the cost of repair may be covered.
So now,
we play the
“wait and see” game.
I take her to the tech tomorrow morning.
We must wait and see
what the technician tells us
about her condition.
And then,
we wait and see if the cost will, in fact, be covered.

You know,
it’s like watching an old friend die.
It’s like,
there may be a cure,
but the illness may just be too far advanced.

Yeah. . .
It’s like driving by my old house. . .
I sold it to a nice young family.
But now the house is empty. . .
. . .foreclosed. . .overgrown grass, etc.
Not exactly what I would have hoped
for that old gal. . . .

I don’t know how much damage was done
to the keyboard.
It may be a lot
or just something very small,
something very easy to fix.

But you know,
I have been fearing the worst.

I guess all electronic instruments
will die sooner or later.
But you know,
it would have been much easier
to watch her die of natural causes.
The irony is
that my instrument nearly died
at the hands
of someone who claims to be pro-life.

I did not volunteer countless rehearsal hours
to be prepared for an event
only to have my instrument damaged
by someone I don’t even know.

And even though
there are many who are supporting me
through all of this,
many who understand what I feel here,
the person who damaged my instrument
has yet to offer an apology.
And you know,
I really don’t think he ever will.
And to tell the truth,
I think that hurts me just as much.

My friend, Marcy,
always reminds me
that everything happens for reason.
I’m still praying
to see what the reason is,
what the lesson is for me in all of this.

You know,
I ended up in an urgent care facility recently.
I wonder what connection,
if any,
this has to do with my ailing keyboard. . . .

They say pets imitate and resemble their owners.
I wonder. . . .
Do pastoral musicians
resemble their musical instruments???

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reflections on the First Hispanic Women's Conference in the Archdiocese of Detroit - Part 2

After the extensive Rubi Rambling of yesterday,
(Reflections on First Hispanic Women's Conference)
my friend Marcy wrote out
some thoughts I totally agree with.

Rather than post as a comment,
I decided to post it to the Liturgy House blog.

Reflecctions on the First Hispanic
Women's Conference in the Archdiocese of Detroit
Part 2: Marcy's comments.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dearest Rubí:

I appreciate and value you as a Latina woman who, despite her hectic schedule as a pastoral musician, wife and mother of four, said "yes," as Mary did, to the call to serve in the music ministry of this first conference offered totally in Spanish. I respect you and consider you a blessing in my life.

As a member of Cántico de la Mujer Latina for the last twelve years, since its inception, and as a woman who also said “yes,” to the call to serve in the music ministry of the conference, I can say that yesterday was a very long day for all of us, and I agree the uncertainty of the day's events gave us a burden that could have been averted by having given all of the music ministry participants a copy of the day's plan, seeing that the published program did not include everything that was scheduled. Perhaps this year was a learning experience, and things may be different next year. Everything happens for a reason. I pray this conference becomes an annual event. I also pray that in the future I may be able to avail myself of the "pláticas," as this year I was either backstage or on the lower level during the "talks." I could not hear and appreciate what was being said from my backstage vantage point, and I could hear nothing while I was in the basement.

However, I was able to watch the play from the wings, and I was brought to tears on several occasions. I believe wholeheartedly that abortion is one of the worst things that the United States of America has allowed in this country. Another horrible thing I believe the USA did was to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Although I am in total accord with the sentiment and conviction conveyed in the play, I am quite disappointed in the actions of certain of the play’s actors before they began the "obra."

I feel obliged to comment on the "miscommunication" that occurred around the lunch hour with the group who put on the play. We had a lengthy rehearsal on Friday, overseen by the director of the musicians, and we were all informed that our instruments and seats had to be moved back "three feet" from their morning position in order to accommodate the play. As the program stated that the play would begin at 1:00 p.m., before sitting down to eat, we carefully did what we were told to do. We moved our things to the appointed position on the stage. However, before being able to eat, we were approached by Jessica, a woman representing the actors, and she told us we had to completely vacate the stage. We asked that she contact the director of the musicians, as we had been previously told that a three-feet position change would be adequate. She and her group were adamant that we needed to totally vacate, and one of the actors took it upon himself to drag off stage the keyboard, which belongs to the group Cántico de la Mujer Latina. In doing so, this actor damaged our keyboard.

In July, when we were asked to participate in this conference, we gladly said "yes," as María said "yes," and we took on rehearsals that amounted to 22 hours, over ten weeks, not counting untold hours of rehearsing at home to ensure that we would offer the best of our talents to God and the conference attendees, our goal being to touch people and nourish their souls, giving them a renewed spirit, and helping them to live their everyday life invigorated, knowing that they have value and can serve our God and their families with love, respect and, above all confidence. We did this with no expectation of remuneration.

I agree that the actor who took it upon himself to drag our keyboard did not respect Cántico’s property. His only concern was his goal of clearing the stage, and it is evident that he did not think beyond his goal. The actors’ reality is, the stage was cleared, the play went on as planned, and the group from Mexico has accomplished its goal. Our reality is that Cántico no longer has a keyboard that is in working condition, as it was prior to its unauthorized move by the play participant. How are we to accomplish our goals in our ministry, most timely, the Mass of Remembrance we have scheduled for November 1, 2009, at 3:00 p.m. at Ste. Anne de Detroit, Detroit, Michigan?

This October 18, 2009, conference, which was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Detroit, had many attendees who paid for their admittance. I assume that the caterers who supplied the sandwich box lunches were paid. The conference was advertised with flyers and radio announcements, which I can only assume someone paid for. I am unaware if the talented sisters from Florida were flown in by the Archdiocese. I can only assume that someone paid to bring in the group of actors from Mexico. It was fitting and just for the Archdiocese of Detroit to sponsor and put on a conference in the Spanish language, and I pray the conferences continue. I would hope that future events would be presented in a location that is more accessible to the majority of Spanish-speaking Catholics in the Detroit metropolitan area, and, furthermore, I pray that the Archdiocese of Detroit will continue to “do the right thing” and replace Cántico’s broken keyboard. We offered our best for the enrichment of the conference and its attendees, and we have suffered a huge loss to our ministry. What would Jesús do? Can anyone hear our plea and restore us to our pre-unauthorized moving of the keyboard state?

That said, I consider myself blessed and privileged to have participated in this conference. I was already aware of Doris Pérez’ talent as a composer, a musician and a dedicated Cursillista, and I am honored that she invited me to participate. Through my participation, I met many other Mujeres Poderosas whose voices are God-given gifts, and they serve as examples of how we can live our apostleship. Many people are talented, but so few offer their talents for the benefit of the Catholic community. Our rehearsals were long, but always uplifting. I left Holy Redeemer invigorated with my batteries recharged. I thank you all sincerely. Thank you for offering your compositions to the mass and during the conference. Thank you for offering to teach my right hand the ritmos caribeños. Even though my hand never learned, I appreciate your trying to teach me. I will always remember our harmonies and how I heard angels singing during our rehearsals. I will always remember you in my prayers.

Y a las mujeres poderosas de Cántico ¿qué les puedo decir? Gracias por seguirme ayudando en este ministerio, porque quiero que sepan que ¡me ayudan mucho! Me alimenta y me edifica cantar, servir y convivir con ustedes. Las quiero mucho, las respecto y les mando ángeles y mil bendiciones.

Seguiré meditando sobre los acontecimientos del domingo, en la espera de tener la oportunidad de asistir y/o participar en futuras conferencias.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Reflections on the First Hispanic Women's Conference in the Archdiocese of Detroit

The Archdiocese of Detroit just held the first Latina Women's Conference.

What did I learn from women's conference? Not much from speakers, whom I thought were mediocre at best. I must admit that I did not hear all of the talks. . .but what I did hear. . . well. . . I honestly expected so-o-o much more. . .

. . . might I dare suggest for the future: Dr. Ada Maria Isasi Diaz, Rosa Martha Zarate Macias, Sister Rosa Maria Icasa . . . . . Sister Nina Rodriguez. . . .

But. . . from my participation in music ministry I did learn several things. . . .and to appreciate even more. . . several thoughts here, in no particular order. . . .

I come to appreciate all of my friends, old and new. Not that I didn't before. But you know, I do have some wonderful, fabulous friends. And it's good to let them know that they are wonderful and fabulous every once in a while. I come to appreciate them more after yesterday.

I appreciate, respect and honor the talent of my friend Marcy. In our music we have come to almost have a psychic connection. And you know, that's a God thing. Marcy, I cannot imagine my life without your friendship and your music. . . . .I cannot imagine my life without our ministry to the community, our ministry to each other. . . .OK. . .now I am crying. . . .

I appreciate, respect and honor the talent of my friend Ana. In all honesty, you amaze me at how quickly and "on the spot" you fired up those interludes with the oboe. I am touched by all you are doing to make this special Mass of Remembrance a reality. I am impressed by your commitment to minister unto to those who have experienced such a huge loss. I may joke and call you "The Reverend Doctor Sister Ana," but it 's only because I wish to honor the oh so many things you have managed to do with the life our good and gracious God has given you. . . . .

Connie, you, my dear lady, could become a TV news anchor. How do you come up with some of those commentaries? I totally forgot about the rebozos coming from the women of Chiapas.

I come to appreciate Sister Nina so much more. A religious, an advocator, a teacher, a catechist, A Cantico Lady. . . and even a choreographer! Sister Nina, you just amaze me sometimes. And if I haven't told you lately, I love you and appreciate that you are a part of my life. And I thank you for all that you have done for the community throughout the years. . . . You, my dearest Nina, could, should and ought to be a speaker at this event next year. . . .

I appreciate working with the group of women called together to be a part of the music ministry for this event. I am particularly impressed by Carly, Mistress of the Vihuela. Carly, your musicianship is what kept me going on those Caribbean rhythms. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! . . . .So, Carly, when are you going to form The Mariachi Mujer de Michigan????

Jennifer, you were always so helpful. . . moving the piano at rehearsals at Holy Redeemer, helping me with cables the day of the event. I truly appreciate that. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to load and unload equipment. That you would stop and help me untangle extension cords and get all connected is something I truly appreciate. And Jen, you have a fabulous voice. Celebrate that gift, girlfriend!

Silvia. . . .you are planning on spending more time with that guitar, are you not? Silvia, you are very talented and I am grateful to have worked with you. . . . .I appreciate all of you who were a part of this music ministry. . . .

I know they already know this, but I'll say it anyway. I appreciate, love and respect my Cantico Ladies. You know, I enjoyed my participation with this other group, the group pulled together for this women's conference. But Cantico de la Mujer Latina is home. Your presence in my life has made a huge difference to me. Where would I be without you? Where would we be without each other?. . . .Can you believe that we have been making music together for about as many years as our youngest member has been on planet earth???. . . .

I also come to understand that while my public ministry is a music ministry, it's really something else. It is through music that I help others develop a confidence in what they are already so obviously good at, but sometimes don't believe or know that they are. Developing the music develops so much more.

And I learned something I should have already known: Don't assume anything. If you want to know something, ask. Isn't that so basic? "Ask and you shall receive." Yeah, I should have asked for the days schedule of events. I like to know things ahead of time. I know that things change at the last minute, but I like to have a plan of action to start with. It keeps me grounded. I mean, you can't have a Plan B until you first have a Plan A. I don't have to be involved in designing the plan. But if I'm in the plan, I'd like to know what said plan includes. . . .OK. . Rubi's Rambling again. . .But now I know and will ask for it next time. I take ownership on this one. Mia Culpa.

I also learned that not everyone will respect and honor those things that you value, even at an event for the faithful. My keyboard suffered some serious damage at the event at the hands of someone who claims to value life. Music is not only my ministry. It is my livelihood. My life, as it were, will be seriously effected and affected by the damage done to my instrument. As Marcy so often reminds us, "everything happens for a reason." Still, I do not know what I am supposed to learn from this. What is the reason that this happened? I do not know who will repair my instrument. I do not know how I will pay for repairs done. In all honesty, I do not think that I should be the one to pay for the repairs.

I thank God that Robyn's keyboard and Marcy's guitar did not also suffer damage as they were connected into my amp. I thank God that Doris' guitar and Andriana's mic did not suffer damage, as their amps were connected into my surge protector. . .All of these cables connected us all. . .But still, why my keyboard??? What do you want me to learn from this God?. . . OK. . .I'm crying again. . .

As we were taking things down at the day's conclusion, Beatriz told me that I was dangerous, commenting on the poem I wrote. . . .You know, despite all of my tears for my keyboard, I kinda needed to hear that. . . . Poetry is and always has been my first love. . . .Thanks, Beatriz. Because now I know that at least one person really, really heard what I said. . . .and thanks for reminding me that sometimes it's about a ministry to myself. . . .Why do women tend to forget that sometimes????

I continue to reflect on the day's events and encourage others to do the same.

Say a prayer for that young man who took it upon himself to recklessly move my keyboard. He respects life, but does not respect things that belong to others.

I would also ask that you say a prayer for my keyboard.
She is an Ensoniq ZR 76. . . .

I have started to post questions on forums in the hopes that some keyboard techie will be able to help. . . . but I begin to realize that, because Ensoniq no longer manufactures, my keyboard may actually go to her grave.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Amazing Miss Wendy

I’ve been officially directing the children’s choir at St. Gabriel
for one year now.
It was at the end of September of 2008
that I first began.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years,
it’s that one must constantly evaluate.
Set the goals and make the objectives.
And, during the course of the year,
make any necessary adjustments needed
to reach that goal.

After the first few rehearsals with these amazing children
I knew well that I would having them singing in parts
within two years.

There were some other kinds of things we needed to work on first,
like attention span
and discipline.
And though most of them speak Spanish
they do not read Spanish,
which makes reading music
and singing in Spanish a bit of a challenge.

And while some weren’t quite singing on pitch at first,
it wasn’t because they couldn’t.
It was just that they needed to learn how to hear,
learn how to listen to a particular note or musical phrase.
I had to and continue to
teach them how to listen.

But underneath it all,
I could see the diamond in the rough.
I knew from the beginning
that this group of children
was fully capable of singing in harmony,
of singing in parts.
I knew well that I would have them doing so
within two years.
But the fact is,
this is making itself manifest right now.
It’s messy,
but they get it.
They understand why
there is new special seating arrangement,
why we are now rehearsing
different groups of children on different days.

But one of the other goals I had
was one that I knew I would probably never see.
Not that it wouldn’t happen,
but that I probably wouldn’t be here
to see it happen.
That goal
is to have these children singing in the choir
as adults.

Since first coming to St. Gabriel
one of the things I have been saying to people
is that 80% of people who sing in a choir as an adult
sang in a choir as a child.
I heard that statistic quite some time ago
at a conference of
the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM).
I can’t remember the source of the statistic
or who quoted it.
I only remember what was said.
I find it so hard to believe
that more churches,
Roman Catholic or otherwise
aren’t doing more with music and children.

as I said,
I didn’t think I would see this come to life.
I didn’t think I would be here
to see the movings of the Holy Spirit
once these children got older.

But you know,
I didn’t have to wait.
One child in particular,
is showing me
that she has no intention
of ever leaving the music ministry.
Apart from her commitment to the choir,
this child truly understands
what is meant
by co-responsibility.
She understands stewardship better than most.

That child is Wendy.

Wendy and her family
attend the Spanish mass at St. Gabriel.
And there is an adult choir for that mass.

They also attend the Thursday evening mass,
where Wendy and several other children
serve in the music ministry.

Wendy is in the third grade
and has perfect attendance at choir rehearsal.

This past weekend,
Wendy was at the noon mass in English.
I didn’t see her until mass was over.
She came up to the choir loft to say, “hello,”
and then asked me where all the people were.
“What people,” I asked.
“The people in the choir.”
“I lead the music for this mass, Wendy.
Robyn has started to help recently,
but that’s all there is for this mass.”

“You mean
you don’t have a choir?”
“No, Wendy,
there is no choir for the noon mass.
I’ve asked some people.
I’ve invited several folks
to come to the music area
to help.
I’ve encouraged folks to come early
to come to choir loft
to rehearse a little before mass.
But so far,
it’s just me and Robyn.”

Wendy looked up at me
with eyes that told me she was serious
about what she was going to say
she put her hands on hips and said,
“What are we going to do about it?”

Wisdom from the mouth of babes.
It’s not just that she had this sense
of wanting and needing to see
a music ministry developed.
She included herself in the equation;
“What are WE going to do about it?”

Wendy gets it.
I have no doubt that she will continue in the music ministry
into her teen
and even into her adult years.
I have no doubt that she will be
actively involved in parish life in the years to come.

80% of people who sing in a choir as an adult
sang as a child.
Keep your eyes on Wendy.
Because she will be a part of that group.
Her parents would do well
to get that child a guitar and/or keyboard
and send her to private lessons.
She will have my job one day.

The Amazing Miss Wendy
has question that remains unanswered.
Can you,
will you
include yourself in the equation?
There is not a choir for the noon mass.
What are we going to do about it?

And that’s not just a question
for the people of one Southwest Detroit parish to answer.
It’s a question to be answered
by any parish that does not have a choir
or active music ministry.

What are we going to do about it?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Children's Choirs

Children's Choirs.
Why is it that more churches don't have them?
I have been wracking my brain on this one.

You see,
I've been trying to organize an event
for children's choirs:
A Children's Choir Festival.
I was hoping to invite several choirs
from the area
to participate in this event.
I was hoping to make it an annual event,
something the kids could look forward to.

There's only one problem:
I'm having a heck of time
finding churches in the area
(Catholic or otherwise)
that actually have a children's music ministry.

I've tried my Facebook friends.
I've made phone calls.
I've asked pastors
if they know of pastors of other churches
that might have children's choirs . . .

Most of the places and people
I have been in contact with
have a children's choir for Christmas.
But not much more than that.

Why is this?
I mean,
there's a ripple effect
in a children's music ministry.
Get the kids involved
and parents and grandparents want to be there.
And brothers and sisters
have no alternative
but to be in church.

Many years ago
at an NPM convention
a speaker
(I don't remember who)
was quoting statistics.
I can't remember the source
of the statistics either.
The only thing I remember clearly
is one of the statistics given:
80% of people who sing in choirs as adults
sang in a choir as child.

Like anyone else
who has attended an NPM event,
I went to many workshops and concerts that year.
But that sole statistic
was the most powerful part of the event for me.
How can one not but act upon that statistic?

Why don't we have more churches
with children's choirs?

Why aren't we teaching our children
the difference between
and decrescendo?

Why aren't we teaching our children
what a fermata is,
what a repeat sign is?

Why aren't we teaching our children
to sing the psalms?

Why aren't we teaching our children
to memorize the Eucharistic acclamations?

Why aren't we teaching our children
to sing in parts?
Why aren't we using the wonderful gift
that is Taize
to help us to that end?

Why don't more people see
that apart from all of the music stuff they will learn
they will learn and affirm the faith?

why don't more churches
have children's choirs?

I currently serve
in a Southwest Detroit Parish.
The children's choir I direct
sings mostly in Spanish,
but does have a few songs in English
in their repertoire
as well as some Taize in Latin.

It is about as inner city as it comes.
But you know,
of all of the ministries\I've been involved in over the years,
this one is the most life giving.
Perhaps it's because I'm at a point in my ministry
where I can see that statistic given at an NPM event
so many years ago
come into its own.
. . .and. . . yeah. . .
. . . I sang in a choir as a child, too!. . . .

And you know,
I would be amiss
if I did not send out kudos
to Oregon Catholic Press
for their collection,
"El Señor Nos Invita."
This work provided
a most excellent starting ground
with my work
with this particular group of amazing children.
I only hope OCP plans to do more work like this!

I would also be missing the mark
if I didn't mention how much the work
of Lee Gwozdz has inspired me.
I just thought you might like to know
that Patrick Star of SpongeBob Squarepants fame,
frequently attends our rehearsals.
I never would have thought of inviting him
if it weren't for you!

I will still most likely host an event
for the fabulous musical children this fall.
But it most likely won't be a choir festival.
But I'll continue to work on that.
I'll post info about the fall event
once I have it all in line.

In the meantime,
get busy
and get your children's choir started!
It only takes a spark. . . . . .

.. and hey, if you'd like to discuss this further,
feel free to contact me
via my Facebook!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Compás Center for the Performing Arts

It’s been quite a while
Since I posted something of substance to this blog.
There are a lot of reasons for that,
But I won’t go into that right now.
For now,
I want to tell you about
Another decision I made recently.

About a week ago,
An old friend of mine came to mass.
I’ve known Ismael for years.
He used to work as the pastoral musician
At Detroit’s Holy Redeemer.

While I was yet at Ste. Anne,
He and I worked together with Dr. Norah Duncan, IV
To present Ariel Ramirez’ Misa Criolla.
. . and then there was the mobile music school
of the MOSES organization. . .
the Detroit Youth Symphony in the plaza. . .
. . .most recently Ismael helped to bring
the DSO youth to Detroit’s Cinco de Mayo Fiesta,
an event I’m so involved which each year. . .
yeah, Ismael and I go way back. . . .

He spent some time in Chile
(his native land)
and then returned to Detroit.
He quickly landed a job
As the Director of Compás Center for the Performing Arts.

I’ve seen Compás.
I drive by there all the time.
I’m sadden to say,
That until last week
I never ventured into the building.

Ismael came to see me.
He said he needed a piano instructor
For the summer program.
I don’t know what happened
To the instructor he had lined up.

I said I’d think about it.
Although I had thought about teaching,
I wasn’t sure that I was quite ready.
But you know,
When The Call comes,
Most of us aren’t.
And I do consider my musicianship
A Calling.
God gave me a mother
Who instilled in me a love for music
And she made sure I went to the Conservatory
Every week. . . even on summer vacation. . .
I consider myself Graced. . .
. . .also called by that same Grace
to share the gift of music. . .
But now???
At Compás???
Couldn’t it wait until the fall???
Yeah. . . .
. . .we always make excuses, don’t we?

The very least I could do
Is spend some time with an old friend
And see the center.
I had a meeting with Ismael over at Compás.
That building is amazing!
One would never guess such an amazing center
For the performing arts was right there
In the heart of SW Detroit.
A dance hall with mirrors and ballet bars,
Guitars, keyboards,
Concert hall. . . you name, they have it!

Once I saw all of the photos of inner city youth
All around that building,
I had no other alternative but to say, “yes.”

So, beginning tomorrow
(on Tuesday and Thursdays)
I will be teaching the piano/keyboard classes
At Compás Center for the Performing Arts.

Why would I write about this in a Liturgy blog?
Because Liturgy is Life
And Life is Liturgy.

I know Liturgy with a capital “L”
Is the public worship of the Church.
But liturgy with a small “l”
Is the stuff of our daily lives
That helps to build up church.
Sometimes the call to serve
Comes from places
other than on the church grounds.

Liturgy, as we all know,
Is the work of the people.
But it’s not just any work.
It’s a work done with the people,
For the people,
To build up the people and the community.
It’s a work
To make the community better.

I can sing my heart out on Sunday.
I can rehearse choirs.
But if I am not creating
The pastoral musician
Who will one day replace me
I am not doing the work
God commissioned me to do.

At mass last Thursday
I asked some of the members
Of the children’s choir
If they were taking any classes at Compás.
Many were.
I told them that I was going to be teaching.
It wasn’t hard to find new recruits!
Sunday morning I was passing out brochures
To the families that were interested.

The classes may not be in church
Or on church grounds
Or have anything to do with the parish. .
.. . but really, it does.
It affects and effects
The children of the community.
That, my friends,
Makes it liturgy with a small “l,”
Which can only serve to build
Liturgy with a capital “L.”

Life is a Liturgy.
And I am just delighted
That our good and gracious God
Is finding more and more ways
For me to serve in the inner city.
It is life giving beyond measure.

Check it Out:
Compás Center for the Performing Arts

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Cluster Monster is Back

The Cluster Monster’s back
and he has reared his ugly head.
The Cluster Monster’s back,
And he wants to be fed.

He is a fat and ugly Monster
and he hides under the pew.
And you may not even realize
that he is looking for you.

He only has one eye,
only one point of view.
He never uses logic.
Stay alert, for he is coming for you.

This Monster has devoured churches.
He has locked up their front doors.
If you are not standing watch
He will make your church be no more.

Cluster, merge, combine
It’s really all semantics.
People, please be careful
Of this deadly Monster’s antics.

Oh, he’s smooth. . oh so smooth.
He will ask you to dance.
Invite you to meetings,
you’ll think it’s sheer romance.

But then, he’ll trade up your dance partners,
Hokey pokey, turn your parish inside out,
‘Cuz, to date, that’s all he’s done here.
So, pardon me if I let my anger, frustration out.

He’ll ask for your opinion
for your point of view,
but then he’ll destroy what you have built
‘Cuz this Monster doesn’t have a clue.

The Monster discounts all your work
Cares not about community,
He doesn’t see your parish’s charisms,
For his one eye just doesn’t see.

And even if he couldn’t see
that would be no sin.
“But I see that this is how it all must be,” he states,
And into your church The Monster enters in.
(John 9:41)

He doesn’t answer phone calls, letters.
He does not listen at all.
He’s destroying his own kingdom
And yet,
somehow he thinks he’s standing tall.

The Monster confronts and changes plans
Of those who are most proactive,
And rewards those who refuse to work
Rewards those who are so very pastorally passive.

A Diaspora among us
The Schism now and real.
And The Monster’s locking doors???
Taking churches for his meal???

Hey, Monster, say “yes” when you mean “yes”
and “no” when you mean “no.”
For if you don’t than having all these meetings
Is nothing more than a time consuming
ecclesial big top circus side show.

Let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’
and let your ‘no’ mean ‘no’
Anything more is from the evil one,
at least, St. Matthew told me so.
(Matthew 5:37)

Monster, your actions illogical, uncompassionate.
Your actions shameful and immoral.
Cluster Monster, you are destructive
and so very unpastoral.

Hey, Cluster Monster!
I refuse to dance!
Hey, Custer Monster
with this poem I take my stance.

I offer prayers for all those
Wounded by your action
May they be healed and rise above
Your pastoral infraction.

I offer prayers for all those
Whose vocations are being discounted, ignored.
May you, amidst, against all the odds, rise
To serve God’s people, serve the Lord.

Pentecost is coming.
Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
Make that Cluster Monster know you!
To God’s will may that Monster succumb.

Come, Oh Holy Spirit!
Ruah, can you, will come with great force again?
Come, Oh Holy Spirit!
Amen and Amen.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Lord Is My Shepherd

I played for a funeral yesterday.
I received a phone call from the pastor
asking if I was available
to serve as musician.

When I arrived at the church
I learned that the deceased
was an uncle
to two of the children that sing
in the children’s choir.
They are sisters.

I knew that he had been ill.
The girls sometimes
didn’t make it to mass
or to a rehearsal
because they and their mother
were caring for him.

They told me that their uncle
looked just like he always does,
only as if he were asleep.
I walked with them to the coffin.
They told me was 52 years old.

I asked them how their mother was.
They said she was fine,
But did cry every once in a while.
I told them that sometimes
it’s just a sad thing when someone dies.
even if they had an illness,
like their uncle did,
and we know that they are dying,
It still is sad.

It's sad for us
because we won't see them anymore.
we know they are in heaven.
But still,
we are saddened
that they have died.

They asked me
if I needed them to sing with me.
Of course,
I welcomed them.
But I told them to check with their mother first
as she might need them
to sit with her.
I told them
that sometimes it just feels better
if you have your people with you
during moments such as these.

The girls decided to sing.
But once I started the psalm
little Chelsea broke down.

The power of music,
the power of the psalm
Just amazes me,
“El Señor es mi pastor
(The Lord is my shepherd. . .)
I continued the psalm
and the child buried her face in her hands,
trembling as she wept.
During the second reading
I walked over to her
and just hugged her.
I asked her if she wanted to sit with her mother,
and she said, “no.”

She wanted to sing.
She needed to sing.
She knew that this
is where she need to be.

I don’t know
if I’m about to explain this
so that others can understand.
But herein lies the difference
between being a musician
who works for the church
and serving as pastoral musician.
This wasn’t just about
giving a hug to someone who needed it.
It was realizing
that little girl
knew full well
that music is her ministry
and despite life’s struggle and pain
she wanted and needed
to sing for this mass.
And I knew
that she also knew this.
Does this make sense
to anyone else but me?
You know,
It really doesn’t matter.
I understood well
What was happening.
And I am all the better for it.

As mass was finishing,
The girls walked through the door
and down the stairs of the choir loft.
Chelsea ran back up.
She said, “Bye, Rubi,”
and then started down again.

These may seem like incidental things
that I write about here.
I think these girls,
especially the one moved to tears,
committed themselves
to the music ministry
in a very special way.

The Lord IS my shepherd.
And it just thrills me
That you can say the same thing.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How to teach a choir a new song

I know this sounds like a silly title
for a blog entry.
But you know,
there really are different ways to teach.
I'm not just talking about
different leadership styles.
I'm talkin' about how people learn.

I wanna write about how people
who don't read music
learn a new song.

First of all,
if you have many musicians,
I would recommend at least a once a month rehearsal
for musicians. . .apart from the choir.
If there is only one guitarist
and a pianist. . .well, that might work.
But really. . .if there are several guitarists
or other instrumentalists
I would recommend planning your liturgies
at least one month in advance.
Pass music out.
Let musicians look at music at home.
Now. . .I'm not saying
not to welcome them to a rehearsal.
But I really think that musicians
should rehearse as musicians separate from the choir.
Musicians should not be learning music
at the same rehearsal that the choir is.

Why do I say that?
It's not just about the musicians.
It's about the choir.

To put it simply,
people learn a new song best
voice to voice.
In other words, sing it and let the choir repeat it back.
No instruments.
Not even a basic accompaniment.
Just voice to voice.

There can be such a thing as too much music,
at least as far as learning a new song goes.
Too much music, too much accompaniment
can throw folks off.
They are searching for the melody or harmony.
Give them the whole score and it lengthens the learning process.
most of us rehearse 1 1/2 to 2 hours a week.
Time is precious commodity.
Don't we want to shorten the time it takes
to learn a new song?
And, again,
let me say that I'm writing here
about a choir whose members don't read music.

Another tactic,
perhaps even before the voice to voice approach,
is to recite the text in rhythm.
I do this ALWAYS
the children's choir I direct.
The thing is,
once you start,
once the choir knows that this is the process
they will begin to pay more attention
when you speak the text in rhythm.
Almost as if by some sort of osmosis
they will learn how to listen better.

If a syllable has more than one note,
stretch the note out with an "h"
as you recite that text in rhythm.
(This is the Day
the Lord - hord- has made.)
Speak it in rhythm a few times.
Then, pluck out the melody on the piano.
Just the melody.
Then, go voice to voice.

And, again,
speaking of the choir
whose members don't read music,
I would suggest rehearsing the song
for three weeks
(or 3 rehearsals)
before introducing it at mass.

Why do I say this?
Because even though the song may be very easy,
many of them will forget their part
once the return home from rehearsal.
They may remember that it was upbeat
or solemn.
They may remember that the men did something different,
or that the key was high or low.
But they might not remember their specific part.
And next week. . .
well. . .let's face the truth here. . .
some of them might come next week.
And then you'll some who come next week
who weren't there when you introduced the piece.
So. . .that's why I suggest three rehearsals.

I know, I know.
Attendance is important and people should come
to every rehearsal.
But that, my friends,
is another blog entry.

Just remember these two things,
if you don't remember anything else:
1) Speak the text in rhythm
2) Teach the song voice to voice.

Please. . .
. . it will save us all so much time and frustration. . . .

Monday, April 6, 2009

Easter Concert at Detroit's St. Gabriel Parish

A concert of of Easter Music,
including some original works by our pastor,
Fr. Jaime Hinojos.

This concert will feature the adult choir
as well as the children's choir.
The choir's will each sing selected works
and then will sing together.

I make no promises,
but the event may include
a piano solo by yours truly!

I've been directing the adult choir
at this church for about 1 month.
I've been directing the children's choir
since late September of 2008.

The music for this event will be in Spanish.
All are welcome!

There is no charge for this event,
only a desire to come and experience
the music ministry of Detroit's St. Gabriel parish!

Come and see where I've been serving
for the past few months.
You might just come to understand
why I struggled so much with a decision
to return to inner city ministry.
This really is a special place!

St. Gabriel Music Ministry

Concert - Saturday, April 18, 2009

St. Gabriel Church
8118 W. Vernor Highway
Detroit, MI

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Cluster Dance

Do the cluster dance!
Do the cluster dance!
dancing Pictures, Images and Photos
Even if you take a stance
It’s a game of chance.
we are forced
To do the cluster dance.
dancing Pictures, Images and Photosdancing Pictures, Images and Photos

Liz danced with Helena
The pair danced well and good.
A very short relationship
But they danced as best they could.

Then, Helena forced to dance with Stan:
Pastoral musical chairs.
Then, Good and Saintly Helena
was simply kicked down the stairs.

The music stopped for Helena.
The song was all askance.
Helen’s doors were locked.
No more cluster dance.

Now, Stan dances with Carmel.
Between them, hopefully, some romance.
For Stan and Carmel now
find themselves in the Cluster Dance.

So, Liz dances on with Francis.
In fact, Liz dances with two.
For Liz dances with Lourdes.
But now, she finds out Patrick stands in queue.
dancing Pictures, Images and Photosdancing Pictures, Images and Photosdancing Pictures, Images and Photos

At least,
that’s what the vicar said.
Is the dance step changing,
or is this all in the vicar’s head?

For Patrick danced with Joseph.
But, apparently, that relationship was scarred.
And now Patrick and Joseph
Rearranging their dance card.

Or is the dance now being changed
by some unseen force?
Rumors abound
about who will dance with whom
and who wants a dance divorce.

But rumors come and go.
For the fact is, cluster is no romance.
Still, we are forced
To do this illogical
energy draining
time wasting
clergy killing
Cluster Dance.

Meetings, meetings, meetings.
Then, phone calls not returned.
Some behave like jello.
This all has me concerned.

Put your right foot in.
Take your right foot out.

Do the cluster dance
and turn your parish inside out.

And through it all avoid the topic
That gave this dance her start;
The declining clergy numbers.
Rather, let’s just tear parishes apart.

Will we cluster and cluster again
until all clergy are gone?
Is there not a way
to change this morbid song?

And what of all the women
with their M.Div. Degree?
Could they not, somehow,
A parish shepherd be?

I’m not talkin’ ordination,
‘Cuz that’s another song.
I’m just talkin’ pastoral leadership.
Bishop Untener, how I miss your songs!

And what of all the married men
with a Master of Divinity?
Does having a wife
Make then unfit for ministry?

"Priest, Prophet and King."
That’s how all the faithful are baptized.
And yet, in this crazy cluster dance
The priesthood, in all forms, is compromised.

The body is just one
Many members there may be.
But I never knew that to be Christ’s Body
Church members must have a dance degree.
dancing Pictures, Images and Photosdancing Pictures, Images and Photosdancing Pictures, Images and Photosdancing Pictures, Images and Photosdancing Pictures, Images and Photos

Hoc Est Enim Corpus Meum
". . .my body given up for you," he said.,
I don’t think he meant to keep changing, adding partners
Until the clergy all are dead.

In fact, we commit a sarcedotal genocide
If we continue in this fashion.
Giving clergy 2, 3 parishes
Will kill them and/or kill their ministerial passion.

Archbishop! Archbishop!
I know you’re new and all.
But can you, will you wave your magic wand
And get some logic at this dance hall?

Oops! I mean your crosier.
But, seriously, and with all due respect,
Let me say that I am tired
And this cluster dance is wrecked.

I’m tired of semantics.
For if you look through my eyes
You will see that "cluster" means
Nothing more than an Ecclesial Downsize.

Mother, can you hear my cry?
Send us your flower song!
Create creative ministry!
Create a place where all can belong!

Ruah! Ruah! Ruah!
Come, O Great and Holy Spirit!
Let Your music play!
And may the faithful hear it!

May we dance the dance of Ruah!
And dance and dance again!
May we dance the dance of Ruah!
Amen and Amen!

(c) 2009, Rubi Martinez-Bernat.
About Rubi:
Rubi owns several blogs and websites, including Permission is given to post "The Cluster Dance" to your blog your website. It must be published in its entirety without edit and include copyright and the full contents of this "about" paragraph, including clickable link. All other use in all other media prohibited.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Whte House Goes Green

According to John Doyle of GlobeAndMail,
O'Bama is Irish.

". . ..You see, early last year,
Stephen Neill, an Anglican priest in Ireland,
was contacted by a researcher in the U.S.
about local parish records that mentioned Joseph and Phoebe Kearney,
and their son Fulmouth (also known as "Falmouth"),
who emigrated to the U.S. in 1850.
As the good Anglican priest later explained on his online blog,
he was initially reluctant to take on the task
because he gets many, many inquires from people in the United States
seeking their Irish roots.
But the researcher then mentioned
a possible connection with Senator Barack Obama and,
intrigued, the priest began his research in earnest.. . . ."

Here are the creative results of that research.

don't send me any negative comments
about where our new president is lacking
or what he should be doing.
you will be deleted.
just smile and laugh and have fun. . . .

Friday, January 2, 2009

Faith on the Edge - Reflections on the Christmas Season

“Faith on the Edge.”
That’s the title of a book
Written by one of my favorite theologians,
Leonardo Boff.
Faith on the Edge:
Religion and Marginalized Existence.

I can’t help it.
Leonardo Boff writes
As if he accompanied me in my ministry,
In my day-to-day life.

I know, I know.
He was the one silenced by
The then Cardinal Ratzinger.
To tell the truth,
I think that’s one of the things
That has made Boff so brilliant.
Tell someone “they can’t”
And they do it (whatever “it” may be)
Much more superbly.

My Advent reading this year
Included a reread of “Faith on the Edge.”
I spent Christmas in the inner city.

Boff writes:
“A point of view
is the view from a point.
Change the point
And you change the view.
There are various social loci
(commitments and practices),
and each affords
(and blocks out)
various views of reality. . .
. . .In the center
things are softer.
On the periphery
Things scream at you.
In the center,
Mechanisms of exploitation
Are invisible.
On the margins
You can see them
With the naked eye . .”
(Faith on the Edge, p. 40)

In the center
We tell a quaint little story
of Mary and Joseph
Seeking lodging.
On the margins,
We not only reenact the Gospel passage
With the Posada,
We live it, quite literally,
With fear of INS
Being in the parking lot
Across the street from the church
On Christmas Eve.
Yes, my dear friend, Leonardo,
On the margins you can see them,
These mechanisms of exploitation,
With the naked eye.

In the center
We use a doll for the Baby Jesus.
A doll:
Silent, predictable, passive.
This is, in no way, a criticism.
This is simply an observation.
The center uses a doll for the Christ child.
On the margins
We, quite literally,
Venerate the Christ child.
On the margins
We kiss the child of the nativity
(The baby Jesus from the church’s nativity),
that child who was born in a homeless shelter.
On the margins
We embrace the child
who would later become a refugee.
On the margins
We bless the child
Who would later be condemned
Simply because
nothing good comes from Galilee.

In the center
We sometimes behave as if
Writing a check will make things happen.
While our checks may buy Christmas poinsettias
To adorn our churches,
The check will not water them or tend to them.
On the margins
We sometimes have a better understanding
Of Laos ergon (the work of the people),
Picking up a broom
because petals are dropping to the floor
Or watering the flowers
simply because they need watering,
Not waiting to be asked for help,
Not waiting to be invited to participate,
But doing the work
Because the work needs to be done.

In the center
Our children’s participation in the liturgy
Must compete
With basketball, pom, dance, etc.
On the margins
It’s really not Christmas
Until and unless our children get involved.

And what is “Holy Family?”
In the center,
We favor the shorter version of the Gospel
And omit the section in brackets.
On the margins,
The elderly woman,
The prophetess named Anna,
Is not optional
but integral to the story being told,
to our story being told.

In the center
Epiphany means
We add three kings to the nativity set.
On the margins
Epiphany means all are welcome,
Even if we come from other lands,
Even if we speak differently,
Dress differently,
Worship differently.
In the center
We focus on
Gold, frankincense and myrrh.
On the margins
We understand that the magi
Made a long, arduous and necessary journey.
And we totally understand
Why the magi had to go home
By another route.
In the center
We will bless our doorways
With the initials of the three kings.
On the margins
We understand
What it means
When that same door remains closed.

In a later chapter
Boff writes of the two eyes of theology
(theologia ante et retro oculata),
One before and one after.
While writing this blog entry
I thought that my faith seeks understanding
With both eyes on the present,
With one eye on the center
And the other in the margins.
But after careful reflection
I realize that this is not the case.
The center,
It seems to me,
Tries hard to conserve truth
With an eye on the past.
And the margins
Celebrate truth
With an eye on the present.

The Good News
Is always alive, active.
The Gospels aren’t just historic documents,
They are living.
Theology seeks to understand
And this makes the Gospel
Alive and vibrant.
The Gospel
Isn’t either/or:
Either Historic
They Gospels are both/and:
Historic and Living.

The Church, too,
Is both Her Center
And Her Margins.

Theologia Ante Et Retro Oculata
Thank you to the Little Lamb of Christmas,
For now I see.

I remain ever grateful
To the Merciful One
Who grants me the opportunity
To walk steadfastly
Between and within both worlds.

. . and yet. . .
because I see
and because I walk easily
between and within both realities
(the center and the margins)
I also see the challenges before me. . .
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
About the photo:
My Nativity set
Made in Mexico of Corn Husks
About the book:
Faith on The Edge
Religion and Marginalized Existence
Leonardo Boff, O.F.M.
Translated by
Robert R. Barr
Harper & Row, Publishers, San Francisco