Friday, March 20, 2009

An Awesome Feast For Ears & Palate

Fr. P. has slowly been making our parish his own. His first steps were to bring our liturgical practices into conformance with GIRM. Not harshly, but firmly. He then went to work on the music.

He's a priest in the mold of Benedict: well-schooled theologically with a love of music. He brought back chanting to the Mass, especially during Christmas and the Triduum. He's encouraged our choirs to expand their repertoires and include some traditionally hymns and more vocally challenging pieces.

But his big project was restoring the organ in our church. He not only succeeded, he also enhanced it by adding more pipes that became available from a synagogue in San Francisco (which I find rather fitting, in a "completing the circle" kind of way).

Last night, the Bishop Emeritus came to bless our new organ, on the feast of the patron saint of our parish. A noted organist was brought in and we were treated to thirty minutes of music as he put all the pipes through their paces, demonstrating the range and the possibilities. That was followed by Mass.

DD#2 was one of the acolytes. Her primary job was to hold the Bishop's mitre and crosier. The Knights of Columbus were also there, swords, capes, and plumed hats. And I was reminded that singing with an organ is definitely not like singing with a piano! Organs can hold a note, so the pace of some of the familiar hymns was slower than usual, notably the Gloria. Which means my breathing had to change to match, something I had learned waaaaay back in the '60's.

And then there was the Recessional. The first few bars played and I laughed, unfortunately out loud. The organist chose Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, my all-time least favorite hymn. And we sang all three verses.

(Perhaps an explanation is in order. Growing up, in my pre-Vatican II parish, only one recessional hymn was ever sung: Holy God. In fact, Holy God was just about the only hymn sung in English. Now, I only know of about three people, not in a choir, who can actually sing this hymn without squeaking. I am not one of them.

(Just for the record, my other least favorite hymns are Come Holy Ghost, again because no one I know can sing it properly, and Faith of Our Fathers because I find the melody somewhat whiny. Come Holy Ghost was practically required at Pentecost and Confirmation, as was Faith of Our Fathers.

(I know, I know... all three are "classics." Frankly, I prefer Kumbyyah to any of them, especially when the congregation gets behind it!)

After Mass, we had a "St. Joseph's Table," an Italian tradition that I somehow missed. Basically, there was a table of food set up in the Parish Hall, all day long. And each family was encouraged to take a loaf of bread to bring home to share. The tradition started much like Thanksgiving: a village in Italy, facing famine, prayed to St. Joseph for a good harvest. Their prayers were answered, so they had a communal meal where all could share the bounty and celebrate. This was a wonderful way to end the day, talking and laughing with friends and fellow parishioners. I hope our Parish is able to carry this tradition forward next year.

On a funny note: the sanctuary was decorated with cala lilies. It took me twenty minutes before I made the connection between the lilies and St. Joseph. D'oh!

I can't wait to hear the organ during the Easter vigil.