April 23, 2018
Liturgical Music Patron Saints and Heroes


May 1

St. Joseph the Worker

St. Joseph the WorkerTo foster deep devotion to Saint Joseph among Catholics, and in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists, Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker in 1955. This feast extends the long relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers in both Catholic faith and devotion. Beginning in the Book of Genesis, the dignity of human work has long been celebrated as a participation in the creative work of God. By work, humankind both fulfills the command found in Genesis to care for the earth (Gn 2:15) and to be productive in their labors. Saint Joseph, the carpenter and foster father of Jesus, is but one example of the holiness of human labor.

Jesus, too, was a carpenter. Our tradition shares the stories of the carpentry work and that he learned the trade from Saint Joseph and spent his early adult years working side-by-side in Joseph’s carpentry shop before leaving to pursue his ministry as preacher and healer. In his encyclical Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II stated: “the Church considers it her task always to call attention to the dignity and rights of those who work, to condemn situations in which that dignity and those rights are violated, and to help to guide [social] changes so as to ensure authentic progress by man and society.”

Saint Joseph is held up as a model of such work. Pius XII emphasized this when he said, “The spirit flows to you and to all men from the heart of the God-man, Savior of the world, but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work.”

It would seem to me that the song of the praying Church is always about lifting up all who labor.  Music has a most intimate energy to our hearts – just like father and son, daughter and mother.  Let’s sing celebrating this blessed relationship, for that is where God can be found and where we can find ourselves.

Copyright © 2018 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.

May 2

St. Athanasius (ca. 297-373)

St. Athanasius (ca. 297-373)Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Athanasius life was placed front and center into the midst of what we have come to know as the “Arian Heresy,” which was a teaching that denied that Christ was one in being with God.  Athanasius devoted much of his life to combatting this most influential movement, though the fight was not always successful.  As an archbishop, he had to defend charges placed against him that ranged from theft and subversion to murder.  While his innocence was proven time and time again, he was banished five separate times from Alexandria, and spent seventeen years in exile, including several years spent in the desert.

He was, however, able to spend the last seven years of his life in relative peace in Alexandria, and lived to see the tide turn against Arianism.  He was later described by Cardinal Newman as “a principal instrument after the Apostles by which the sacred truths of Christianity have been conveyed and secured to the world.” 

Is this not central to our vocation as pastoral musicians?  We are to be instruments to proclaim and announce what is true for us, and for the people we serve.  Jesus is.  His dying and rising is our dying and rising.  This is not only a truth, but more deeply so, a promise for our lives in Christ – which most deservedly and honorably, should be sung and praised from the housetops.

Copyright © 2018 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.

May 3

SS Philip and James (First Century)

SS Philip and James (First Century)James, Son of Alphaeus: We know nothing of this man except his name, and, of course, the fact that Jesus chose him to be one of the 12 pillars of the New Israel, his Church. He is not the James of Acts, son of Clopas, “brother” of Jesus and later bishop of Jerusalem and the traditional author of the Letter of James. James, son of Alphaeus, is also known as James the Lesser to avoid confusing him with James the son of Zebedee, also an apostle and known as James the Greater.

Philip:  Philip came from the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida in Galilee. Jesus called him directly, whereupon he sought out Nathanael and told him of the “one about whom Moses wrote” (Jn 1:45).

Like the other apostles, Philip took a long time coming to realize who Jesus was. On one occasion, when Jesus saw the great multitude following him and wanted to give them food, he asked Philip where they should buy bread for the people to eat. Saint John comments, “[Jesus] said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do” (Jn 6:6). Philip answered, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit]” (Jn 6:7).

John’s story is not a put-down of Philip. It was simply necessary for these men who were to be the foundation stones of the Church to see the clear distinction between humanity’s total helplessness apart from God and the human ability to be a bearer of divine power by God’s gift.

On another occasion, we can almost hear the exasperation in Jesus’s voice. After Thomas had complained that they did not know where Jesus was going, Jesus said, “I am the way … If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (Jn 14:6a, 7). Then Philip said, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (Jn 14:8). Enough! Jesus answered, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9a).

Possibly because Philip bore a Greek name or because he was thought to be close to Jesus, some gentile proselytes came to him and asked him to introduce them to Jesus. Philip went to Andrew, and Andrew went to Jesus. Jesus’s reply in John’s Gospel is indirect; Jesus says that now his “hour” has come, that in a short time he will give his life for Jew and Gentile alike.

As in the case of the other apostles, we see in James and Philip human men who became foundation stones of the Church, and we are reminded again that holiness and its consequent apostolate are entirely the gift of God, not a matter of human achieving. All power is God’s power, even the power of human freedom to accept his gifts. “You will be clothed with power from on high,” Jesus told Philip and the others. Their first commission had been to expel unclean spirits, heal diseases, announce the kingdom. They learned, gradually, that these externals were sacraments of an even greater miracle inside their persons—the divine power to love like God.  This is most truly, the song that we announce at every liturgical celebration.  God is God.  We are not.  Our gifts, our music, originates with God. God is our song, indeed.

Copyright © 2018 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.

May 9

Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger

Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger“God’s cause is the only concern of our hearts.” May 9th is the day to commemorate Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger, foundress of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.  I want to send out a special blessing of gratitude to the wonderful sisters (the “SSND’s”) that I have come to know from Good Counsel in Mankato, Minnesota, especially: Sr. Kathleen Storms, Sr. Bridget Waldorf, Sr. Dianne Perry, Sr. Lynore Girmscheid, Sr. Kathy Bertrand, and Sr. Kathleen Bauer.  These women are true witnesses of God’s cause. 

Caroline Gerhardinger lived during turbulent times (1797-1879) in Bavaria.  At the age of fifteen, she was already a certified teacher in the school for girls in Stadtamhof near Regensburg. She was a very gifted educator whose enthusiastic and encouraging acceptance of the children soon made her a beloved teacher. She gradually recognized God’s call to found a religious community in order to respond to the needs of the times through education.

On November 16, 1835, Caroline professed her religious vows and took the name, Mary Theresa of Jesus. Her love for God, nourished and strengthened by her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, enkindled the burning desire of her life: to know God and to do God’s will. God’s cause was the only concern of her heart.  Blessed Theresa anchored her community in poverty and dedicated it to Mary.   

As foundress, she endeavored to give the new congregation a future. She sent her sisters in communities of twos and threes to small towns and villages where they taught girls who would have been deprived of an adequate education. This brought about the development of a new form of apostolic religious life whereby all the sisters and houses were governed by a member of the congregation, a general superior. As a result, the congregation experienced rapid growth and acceptance, but Blessed Theresa and her sisters also suffered great hardship and painful struggle. In 1865, the rule and constitutions of the School Sisters of Notre Dame were finally approved by Pope Pius IX.  Blessed Theresa then continued to govern the congregation as its general superior until her death in Munich on May 9, 1879. 

On November 17, 1985, Mary Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger was declared “Blessed” by Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

For pastoral musicians, our particular vocation is to instill God’s presence in the midst of our sung prayer, and to proclaim holiness and our dedication to the way of Jesus, in living the song that we sing.  Liturgical music is, yes, music to help support ritual action and prayer – but to what end?  All prayer and ritual are not ends in themselves, but pathways for all of us to know Christ and make that Christ known to all.  Well, Mother Theresa Gerhardinger provides wisdom for us in the wisdom of her teaching, found below in but a few of her wise sayings.  May these become our mantras and true center of our cause, which is God’s cause:

1) The love of Jesus sees into the future.

2) We want to use no other weapons against our enemies
but prayer and love. 

3) Without humility – no grace,
without gentleness – no peace,
without obedience – no holiness,
without love – no happiness.

4) God Is love and cannot do anything but love.

5) All the words of God proceed slowly and in pain,
but then their roots are the sturdier and their flowering the lovelier.
And of course, my personal favorite:

6) God’s cause is the only concern of our hearts. 

Copyright © 2015 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.

May 10

St. Damien of Molokai (1840-1899)

St. Damien of Molokai (1840-1899)

The meaning of the word “compassion” is, “to suffer with.”  As pastoral musicians, this becomes concrete and real when we lead prayer for the sacrament of the sick, for services of healing and reconciliation, and for funerals.  But our mission to sing the laments of grief and the songs of solace and comfort are at the center of all of our lives – no one escapes the mystery of suffering.   

Damien’s life is an embodiment of how Christ walks and lives and acts in the suffering of all the people of God, especially the most isolated and lowliest of humanity.  Born in Belgium in 1840, almost no one in the world had any real firsthand information about leprosy (Hanen’s disease).  But because of Damien, when he died at the age of 49, people everywhere knew about this affliction.  They all learned, because of Damien’s example, about the power of compassion to soften suffering and isolation.  After arriving at the government’s leper colony on the island of Molokai, he soon afterward volunteered to live there permanently to minister to the spiritual, physical and medical attention needed.  He was a stubborn annoyance to the government when they did deliver on promised support.  During his life many thought he was a hero; others believed he was crazy.  Now, he is a saint. 

Damien himself contracted the disease and yet continued tirelessly in his pastoral care. In his final years, he suffered terrible periods of depression and loneliness, and the isolation that denied him the opportunity to visit the mission headquarters of his order in Honolulu, or to receive absolution.  A well-known story is when a visiting bishop refused to leave the boat, Damien had to row out to meet him and go through the humiliation of shouting his confession up to the bishop.   He died of leprosy on April 15, 1889.  When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it selected Damien’s image as one of its two representatives in the US Capitol’s Statuary Hall. 

One of the constituent qualities of music in our life of prayer is that it communicates the compassionate voice and presence of God.  Damien was that voice and presence.  What about us?

Copyright © 2015 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry.  Used with permission. All rights reserved.  Icon by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM.  Available from Trinity Stores: Religious Icons and Art www.trinitystores.com

May 15

Peter Maurin (1877-1949)

Peter Maurin (1877-1949)Peter, who was the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement with Dorothy Day, believed that the problem with culture and society, and thus its politics, was that it became isolated from the gospel.  The end result is that the higher calling of humanity is lost.  Production and profits win out over personhood.  Rather than being seen as co-creators with God, humanity is reduced to spokes on a wheel.  Peter believed that the gospel was/is full of what he called, “dynamite,” but church leadership had chosen to keep it a secret.  Peter teaches us that we need to “blow the lid” off this dynamite.  In this regard, Peter was truly prophetic, as the disease over the years continues to grow exponentially in far too many directions. 

Peter Maurin had, in many ways, a vision of realized eschatology. In other words, he would say, “The future will be different if we make the present different.”  His famous book of writings, collectively called Easy Essays, are filled with real-life wisdom:

“The world would become better off
if people tried to become better.
And people would become better
if they stopped trying to become better off.”

His meeting and eventual partnership with Dorothy Day led to the beginning of the Catholic Worker vision, and he designed a three-part program, the first of which was the beginning of a newspaper for “the clarification of thought.” In addition, “houses of hospitality” needed to be developed for practicing the works of mercy (food, clothing, shelter); as well as “farming communes” that would help break forth a more decentralized economy (some believed him to be a communist).  To this day, the Catholic Worker movement has been “wind on the water” for the ongoing renewal of the social gospel and community life and action centered in Christ.  While many of his ideas started to take root, his health deteriorated, rendering him mute and disabled by a stroke that resulted in mental impairment.  He died at the age of 72. 

Like Peter’s Easy Essays, our sung proclamation of the life, deeds, and ministry of Jesus; his passion and execution, as well as the glory of the Exsultet, should be accessible, concrete, active and vibrant.  Like the Catholic Worker houses of hospitality, all should experience their praying community as a “hospital” where wounds are mended; where grief is poured out toward healing; where the daily “dyings and risings” of the terror and joy of life are celebrated; all directed toward the prayer to the Abba of Jesus.  Let us dedicate our sung prayer toward this vision made real in the witness of Peter Maurin. 

Copyright © 2015 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry.  Reprinted with permission.  All rights reserved.

May 26

St. Philip Neri (1515-1596)

St. Philip Neri (1515-1596)An Italian saint, Philip Neri is recognized as the patron saint of laughter, humor, and joy.  God knows we need to be more centered in joy and celebration as ministers of music, and we certainly need to have a sense of humor and relationships that we can revel in humor and laughter.    We are just so hard and serious – we need to break away from dwelling always in the most serious of things.  We need to laugh more.  We need friends who make us laugh.  Also, those of us in ministerial leadership need to weave humor in our pastoral work; it will add life to the years for those we serve, and will certainly do the same for us.   We have evidence that Philip was a wonderful and compassionate confessor, and would include jokes in his ministerial conversations. 

Pastoral musicians will be happy to know that Philip Neri understood the relationship of music to food.  He would lead pilgrimages to visit Churches, bringing a picnic and lots of singing as an important part of the package.  Philip was a great patron for musicians. One of his followers was Giovanni Palestrina, who composed music for the services that Philip helped to lead.  He was a troublemaker liturgically, as his services often had lay preaching, and wait for it – hymns that were sung in the vernacular! 

But most importantly in my view, Philip helps us to not take ourselves too seriously and challenges us to nurture sanctity that is accompanied with a laugh.  He understood that we needed to break down the distinctions between holiness and being fully human.  So, let’s chill out a bit.  Let’s exude a bit more joy when we sing and pray at liturgy, letting go of the concern that people might think we are “performing” and not being solemn enough.  We pastoral musicians are a fragile bunch, but let’s do less whining. Let’s be intentional at times, to getting off the cross – because we need the wood!  Let us find other ministers to get together with and laugh!  It will add years to our lives, and energy to our ministry. 

Copyright © 2015 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.

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