Saturday, September 24, 2011

No pain, no gain

Father DeRosa was just telling me how much he and many of the other seminarians with him at the North American College hated it when they were forced to learn new music for the Mass. Hmm. I liked it – unless it was bad music. In fact, I remember when some music was introduced to the seminarians – over grumbling and complaint – that a few years later had become indispensable, essential parts of what all the seminarians at that time loved about the music in the chapel. Ah well; different experiences.

But I think both experiences are going to come into play for most people as we move to take up the new translation of the Mass. One of the things that Father DeRosa correctly observed was that it may be overwhelming to some when many things change at once. Sure, the hymns and chants that we sing at Mass will continue, but all of the sung Mass parts will change, along with many of the spoken texts. That will be disorienting, and may result in some frustration.

One of the steps we are taking to alleviate frustration is that we will introduce the new sung parts early – the weekend of October 16. This was actually the idea of the Bishops’ Conference. They correctly observed that First Advent is a terrible time to start new music – not least because we omit the Gloria during Advent! This will give us all time to come up to speed on the sung portions, and have them under our belts when the rest of the texts change (and you get “your Spirit” back!). Not only that, but we’ll all know the Gloria when it comes back with the angels and the shepherds at Christmas – and we will be able help the folks who have not been here since Easter.

Our music director, Richard Fitzgerald, and I just chose the Mass settings with which we will be starting. Already there must be fifty different settings available. The great thing is that the internet makes it possible to listen to them and review the scores without leaving my office! We picked chant-style settings that are fairly simple, but have enough character to them that they will hold up for bigger celebrations. We think they will be easy to learn and rewarding to master. After a while, we intend to broaden our range of settings. For now, though, I think one of each will be plenty.

Still, it will be a lot of work. I was much encouraged by your response last week to my exposition of the new translation. I think it is pretty clear that this is wildly exciting for me. That motivation will help me to get through the practical challenges of re-learning the Mass that is at the center of my day and of my life. I hope you, too, find the good in it that will excite you enough to energize you for the work of making the transition. I promise it will be worth it.

If you are interested in learning more, there are resources readily available. Last week I recommended the Catholic Standard – so every one we had was picked up. Great! But you can still find that online: Our Archdiocese has resources for you, compiled by my friend, Fr. Mark Knestout:; so does the Bishops’ Conference, at

Even Father DeRosa is willing to learn the new music, so eager is he for the arrival of this new translation. For my part, I can guarantee that there will be no bad music. And in a few years we will all be delighted to have what will be indispensable, essential parts of what we love about the Mass.

Monsignor Smith

Sunday, September 18, 2011


You get used to the summer. Most of it, I liked. The phones rang about one fifth as often; the doorbell, about a third. Evening meetings were a once-a-week thing. I got some reading done, and even watched some DVDs I had hoped to catch.

Other things, though I may not prefer them, I also got used to. Weekend Masses are emptier and quieter. But you get used to the summer.

Labor Day weekend I thought, wow, look at all the people here – I guess nobody went to the beach after the hurricane. But last weekend I was astonished. The crowds were amazing – the nine and the eleven seemed big as Christmas, with my summer-expectations still going. Five o’clock and seven-thirty were big too. It was great to see everybody. I hope you thought so too. Welcome back, everyone!

My mother’s family used to spend the whole summer at their lake house when she was a kid; I thought that was a thing of the past, since we got maybe two weeks. I am amazed at how many people here go away for all, or most, of the summer. What a privilege and gift to be able to do that.

Also, I couldn’t help but notice all the new faces. I could not keep up with them, much less the names. Welcome, welcome to you as well. Please remind me once or twice so I can learn your names, and if I missed you this time, please catch me some time soon.

I hope all you who have grown to love being part of Saint Bernadette will join me in greeting and welcoming our newcomers. You are one of the best things they will find about being here!

Not only that, but was it not great to have the choirs back? Richard and the cantor(s) of the day do an excellent job of keeping us singing even throughout the summer, but nothing can beat that rich, strong joy of the choir leading us and sustaining us in the power-prayer that is song. Thank goodness you are back, and thank you for your service!

Last week also marked the beginning of religious education, and what a crowd that drew as well. Our new Director of Religious Education, Richard Budd, had everything in place and a great crew of catechists ready to greet all the families and students. If that is how well things go his first time out of the gate, I cannot wait to see what happens when he really comes up to speed.

Now that we are all back to work and ready to get serious, this weekend marks the beginning of our preparation for another big upgrade in our life and worship here at Saint Bernadette, and around the world, in fact. Everywhere that Mass is celebrated in the English language, a new translation of the texts and prayers will be introduced. Everything we do will be just as you are accustomed, but some of the lines you say, and a lot of the lines we priests say, will be improved and enriched by changing some wording.

Change is hard. We will be talking about this lot over the coming weeks in anticipation of implementation on 27 November – First Advent, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. You can get used to anything, like we get used to summer. But when the time comes to step up and make it better, you will always be glad you did.

Monsignor Smith

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Word that vanquishes

Why celebrate the anniversary of an evil act?

On this tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we are surrounded by remembrances and reflections, and it is a worthy thing to mark this day with solemnity. “Lest we forget” is a common slogan, but like December 7, 1941, some dates live in infamy, and it can serve us well to recall the root of that infamy.

It was not the day, but the evil men did in it, that changed so many aspects of our lives and have colored every day since then. The war on terror, Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo, Threat Level, DHS, DNI, TSA and innumerable restrictions to be observed upon approaching air travel are commonplace this day because of what happened that day.

For many people the consequences were tragic, but it was no tragedy. Deliberate decision resulted in deadly action not by faceless forces but by human beings who were capable of and called to love. Their rejection of that call revealed anew to a society grown complacent that a free act is not simply by its freedom a good act.

Nonetheless, in the very instant of that incinerating denial of human dignity, there began a response, and a rebuttal. The selfless rush to aid the victims by first responders, and the informed sacrifice of passengers who refused to allow their plane to be used as a weapon, showed that when threatened by death, love will rear up and show its superior strength.

That was only the beginning. The whole nation stood and recognized what freedom is for. Sacrifice and service characterized the hours and days that followed, and in the wake of that sinister and selfish act, spread a renewed gratitude for every life and love that was left, intact or injured.

With time that diminishes. We remind ourselves now of the shock, the pain, the loss. We attempt to renew our resolve, but are distracted by the demands of this day. We see photographs and faces and feel for a moment that sublime bond of human kinship that was so strong when our weakness had been so plainly revealed, but that feeling quickly fades.

It is worth remembering the deeds of that day to pray for the souls who died, or suffered, or lost. It is worth remembering the evil of the day to recall that our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

For we are all vulnerable to evil, and we are all prone to sin. Not all human actions are good actions, just because they are freely chosen. Not all our free actions are good, just because they are ours. The scale need not be huge, nor the victims many, but when we choose selfishness, tragedy results.

We remember the day and its darkness to recall not the necessity, not the inevitability, but the possibility of light. We are capable of both, or either, but we must both choose and act. Sacrifice and service can transform acts of selfishness and sin into life-giving events. Love is stronger than death.

Why celebrate the anniversary of an evil act? The same reason each year we mark the day when men convinced of their righteousness killed God’s own Son. Not then, not now, does evil get the last word.

Monsignor Smith

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Exciting Times

I was up at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary this week, to meet our newly-assigned seminarian for the weekends of the upcoming academic year. It was a beautiful day for a trip to the Mount, and it was good to see all the energetic young seminarians setting about this year’s business of preparing for the Priesthood. That seminary is filled to capacity this year – around 150 men – and the faculty there were actually relieved that our Archdiocese is opening its own pre-theologate seminary this year, since by removing our men from their pre-theology program at the Mount, the seminarians there won’t have to double up in the rooms. That keeps everybody in a better mood!

I saw our summer seminarian, Rob Maro, after what seems like months, though he was here until mid-July. He was well, striding around the campus with the confidence of a returning student who knows his way around and what he is there for, as he begins his second year. He sends his fond greetings to the folks at St. Bernadette.

Now-Father Don Bedore served here for the past two years as our weekend seminarian. He is now happily laboring in his diocese of Dodge City (Kansas). This year, we have been assigned Deacon Nicholas Droll, who will be ordained a priest, God willing, at the end of the year and return to serve in his home diocese of Columbus (Ohio). He will be in the parish Sunday morning, so if you see him, say hello. If you miss him, he’ll start being here mid-September, most weekends until Thanksgiving. He knows the parish and is excited to be coming here. Watch the bulletin for more biographical information on Deacon Droll.

It is a great blessing for us to be able to participate with this excellent seminary in the preparation of young men for the Priesthood. It gives them a chance to learn about parish ministry and priesthood, and it gives us a chance to be reminded of the exciting and challenging work of entering into Holy Order and a life of ministerial service. Please, enjoy getting to know Deacon Droll as one of the new wave of men answering Christ’s call, and take seriously this chance to help teach and form him to bring Christ to the people he will serve.

This is an unusual Labor Day weekend around here, usually the last great run-to-the-beach weekend. I don’t know if the beach is in any condition to receive visitors! Be alert to refugees from hurricane Irene’s attack on Long Island: Father Nick will be back for a visit this weekend.

Of course, this holiday weekend is but a souvenir of a summer that is already over. School started this week for almost everybody, including here in our parish school. The kids were excited to be back, and many of the parents excited to be bringing them. As I visited the teachers the day before the students came, they were busily preparing their rooms and greeting one another with an air of purpose and excitement. I wished I could have walked people through the school at that moment, because who wouldn’t want their children to enjoy a school environment like that?

Many want to, but do not think they can afford it. $7200 is a lot of money (but still a steal compared to what private schools charge). I try to identify and help them with the resources at my disposal. If you want to help me help them, please, this is the time of year when I could really use a push to our tuition assistance fund. God bless you for your generosity and concern!

Monsignor Smith