May 26, 2018
Liturgical Music Patron Saints and Heroes


May 30

St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431)

Joan is considered to be a heroine of France for her passionate role in the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War, and is the patron saint for France, all martyrs, captives, military personnel; people who are ridiculed for their piety; prisoners, solders, and the Women’s army corps.    

There are not enough words and paragraphs here to adequately tell her story.  Joan was born in a very real area of eastern France, and she herself testified that she experienced at the age of 13, her fist vision while in her father’s garden, where she encountered sightings of St. Michael, St. Catherine and Saint Margaret – who in this vision, told her to drive out the English from her country and bring the Dauphin to Reims (the ruler during that time) for his coronation.  She was in tears when the vision left her.  At the age of 16 she petitioned to join the army under what she said was the direction of God, and they took her seriously after she revealed important information that would work toward their advantage.  She disguised herself as a male soldier – and while today we could consider her to be a “cross-dresser,” for that time, it was simply a normal precaution.  She provided counsel to both the military and monarchy of the time, serving as a source of hope when collapse was most certainly near. 

The stories, twists and turns of her military leadership are of supreme legend, and historians for the most part agree that the army enjoyed remarkable success during her brief time of leadership within it. 

Later, especially from those who were threatened by her power and influence, she was declared to be a heretic, and she was tried for heresy, mostly politically motivated.  The tribunal was composed entirely of pro-English and Burgundian clerics, and the ministration of the trial was filled with corruption.  There was a considerable lack of evidence to use against her, and the trial was very much stacked against her.   One section of the transcript from her trial contains a most famous exchange – a common scholarly trap.  When she was asked if she knew she was in God’s grace, she answered:

“If I am not, may God put me there;

and if I am, may God so keep me.”

She knew the net that they were trying to overthrow her.  If she would have answered yes, then she would have been charged with heresy.  If she would have answered no, then she would have confessed her own guilt.  Later, one of those present at the trial testified, “those who were interrogating her were stupefied.”  Against the norms of these times and circumstances, the English kept her in a secular prison guarded by their own soldiers.  Her many appeals were denied, even those coming from the Pope.  In addition to the accusation of heresy, Joan was also indicted for “cross-dressing” and so she agreed to wear feminine clothing during parts of the trial.  Previously she was reported to have been wearing male military clothing in prison because it gave her the ability to fasten her chosen, boots and tunic together to deter rape.  A few days after adopting the dress, she reported that an English lord had approached her and tried to take her by force.  This led to her resuming back to male attire either as a defense against molestation or, as it was testified by some, her dress had been taken by the guards and she was left with nothing to wear.  This caused quite a furor in the midst of a most complicated and corrupt trial proceeding. 

She was burned “at the stake” on May 30, 1431.  She asked two of the priests who were present to hold a crucifix before her.  After she died, they burned her body twice more, to reduce it to ashes and prevent any collection of relics, and then they cast her remains into the Seine River. 

Many years later after the war ended, a new trial began, and after a panel of theologians examined the original testimony, they summarized her innocence and she was then described to be a martyr, and was declared officials “innocent” on July 7, 1456.  She continues to be a legendary figure since her death, to this very day. 

Her appeal is and continues to be, vast.  She is seen by some to be a demonic fanatic; and for others she is a spiritual mystic. She is an adored heroine and saint.  She was and is believed to be have been guided by the many voices of God.  Many believe that she was most certainly, mad.  Others still choose to see her as a powerful witness of courage and holiness.

Is it not the same for us – while not as dramatically so, perhaps. Those of us who are possessed and driven to sing, dance, and celebrate the presence and reality of God, are seen by many to be irrational, delusional, and at the least, misguided.

Maybe we are.  But just maybe, we too have seen a vision or two, that reveals to us that our cause, the cause of God’s presence and mercy, is stronger than any other power or force of human will.  Perhaps how we dress, how we look, whom we choose to love, and how we all may creatively differ in our patterns of holy witness – is not the point.  For in the end, the greater vision and reality of God being the ruler of our hearts should be the focus of our concern.  And also – the focus of our sung prayer.  Many believe that some of the music that we praise and worship with these days is heretical (certainly many people think that of the song-prayers that I and some of my heretical friends have created).  Well, I hope not and I do not think so.  God’s grace will endure.

Instead of burning the creative spirits at the stake – maybe we need to burn in another way – and ignite a communal fire of discipleship.  That fire is the one that should rage in the midst of darkness.

Joan, regardless of whether or not you were heretic or saint; mad or very sane – you were wronged.  May God make all things right as we remember and honor you.

St. Joan of Arc, pray for, with and through us. 

Copyright © 2016.  David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry. Used with permission.  All rights reserved.

June 1

St. Justin Martyr (100-165)

Because Justin’s early life is steeped in antiquity, there are not many details at all about him or his life.  Most of his written works are lost, but he is held in very high esteem as one of the greatest early Christian apologists, and is regarded as one of the most important theologians in the ancient church. 

His first and second “Apologies” are among his most famous, and are seen as very key documents for those who study the liturgy.  Justin’s theological explorations include examinations of the conception of God, of free will and righteousness, of the nature of redemption and grace – greatly influenced the Greek pagan world of the 2nd century, which was highly wrapped in the philosophy of Plato and Stoic discipline.  Justin was known to have a strong opposition to Judaism – which was common among theologians of his day – but he is not seen to have been anti-Semitic.  His Christology was and remains, highly developed, and all of his writings and teachings were deeply grounded in both the importance of both the Old and New Testament.  There is not any adequate room and space here to even scratch the surface of the contributions Justin has made to the study of theology.

For those of us engaged in the study of the liturgy, an important section of his “First Apology” is central:

“And this food is called among us [the Eucharist] … For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”

To be called an “apologist,” it to be seen as who defends the faith.  Justin was most certainly that, and for being so, was beheaded in Rome in 165.

For Justin, philosophy was “pedagogy” to come to Christ.  For those of us who take on the vocation of pastoral musician – we are the same.  Our sung prayer, our leadership, our “defense” of a full-throated, singing and praying assembly – is a pathway and open door to knowing the Lord, the Risen Christ – vibrant and stirring in our midst. Our songs, hymns, psalms, litanies, and acclamations are to introduce Jesus, not as a historical figure to be admired, but as the living Christ.  Our ministry of music is to echo what Paul tells us in the second reading for mass today:

“I remind you to stir into flame

the gift of God that you have

through the imposition of my hands.

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice

but rather of power and love and self-control.

So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord …

but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel

with the strength that comes from God.”   (From 2 Timothy 1: 1-3, 6-12)

Let us join Justin in announcing such a defense.

St. Justin Martyr, pray for, with and through us.

Copyright © 2016 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

June 3

St. Kevin (498-618)

I want to dedicate this reflection to one of my dear “sons” – Kevin Keith from Denver, CO (originally from my home Diocese of Saginaw, MI): passionately and insanely talented percussionist, singer, pianist, guitarist, composer/arranger, teacher, pastoral musician – and more than that – truly a marvelous young man of God!  Love you, Kevin!

David Haas and Kevin Keith

A Celtic saint and ascetic for whom we do not know so much in terms of his actual life story, is the source of the “Kevin and the Blackbird” story. It is said that Kevin would pray every day with arms outstretched, and on one day, a blackbird supposedly landed in his palm, and then built a nest – right there! Kevin knew immediately what was going on, and so he knew that he could not pull his hand away – knowing that a new life was about to be “hatched.”  So he patiently waited for the eggs to be laid (many days, even weeks), then hatched, and set them free to fly away.   

This story is a story about surrender.  Surrender is a tough thing – it means letting God be in charge. It means “getting out of the way,” and letting other life-forces enter and re-set our agendas.  In this legend, Kevin “gets out of the way,” and sacrifices his own comfort to be an agent of radical hospitality.  Now, that is love. 

For those of us who serve in the ministry of pastoral music – we all have goals, don’t we? – and we most certainly do not want things to get in the way of those goals, and we certainly always think that we do all of these things under our own will and determination.  I can remember many times over the years, that after a liturgical celebration feeling as though my voice sounded like crap – someone coming up to me and saying, “thank you – your leadership and singing was beautiful and it really helped me to pray today.”  Truly an experience of having to recognize – even while being amazed and bewildered – that a power greater than I is at work.  This only scratches the surface in expressing so many such holy gifts that I have unexpectedly received and been a vessel for – while expecting and having other goals, as John Lennon would say: “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

So for all of us to ache to serve – let us be open to God’s “other plans” for us – both big and small.  My brother, Kevin Keith – certainly is an ongoing life-journey of new discoveries, new “plans” and adventures being placed before him.  I love how he always seems to be open to saying “yes” and “bring it on” to all of those invitations.  Thanks for that Kevin – keep showing me how to do that.  Next time you pick up your guitar, play Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” for me … and for all of us.

St. Kevin of Glendalough, and St. Kevin of Michigan – pray for, with and through us. 

Copyright © 2016 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry.  Used with permission. All rights reserved.

June 7

Blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter (1943) Martyr

Born in St. Radegund in Upper Austria, Franz lost his father during World War I and was adopted after Heinrich Jaegerstaetter married Rosalia Huber. As a young man, he loved to ride his motorcycle and was the natural leader of a gang whose members were arrested in 1934 for brawling. For three years he worked in the mines in another city and then returned to St. Radegund, where he became a farmer, married Franziska and lived his faith with quiet but intense conviction.

In 1938 he publicly opposed the German Anschluss (annexation) of Austria. The next year he was drafted into the Austrian army, trained for seven months and then received a deferment. In 1940 he was called up again but allowed to return home at the request of the town’s mayor. He was in active service between October 1940 and April 1941 but was again deferred. His pastor, other priests and the bishop of Linz urged him not to refuse to serve if drafted.  In February 1943 he was called up again and reported to army officials in Enns, Austria. When he refused to take the oath of loyalty to Hitler, he was imprisoned in Linz. Later he volunteered to serve in the medical corps but was not assigned there.

During Holy Week he wrote to his wife: “Easter is coming and, if it should be God’s will that we can never again in this world celebrate Easter together in our intimate family circle, we can still look ahead in the happy confidence that, when the eternal Easter morning dawns, no one in our family circle shall be missing–so we can then be permitted to rejoice together forever.” In May he was transferred to a prison in Berlin.

Challenged by his attorney that other Catholics were serving in the army, Franz responded, “I can only act on my own conscience. I do not judge anyone. I can only judge myself.” He continued, “I have considered my family. I have prayed and put myself and my family in God’s hands. I know that, if I do what I think God wants me to do, he will take care of my family.”

On August 8, 1943, he wrote to Fransizka: “Dear wife and mother, I thank you once more from my heart for everything that you have done for me in my lifetime, for all the sacrifices that you have borne for me. I beg you to forgive me if I have hurt or offended you, just as I have forgiven everything – my heartfelt greetings for my dear children. I will surely beg the dear God, if I am permitted to enter heaven soon, that he will set aside a little place in heaven for all of you.”

Franz was beheaded and cremated the following day. In 1946 his ashes were reburied in St. Radegund near a memorial inscribed with his name and the names of almost 60 village men who died during their military service. He was beatified in Linz on October 26, 2007. His “spiritual testament” is now in Rome’s St. Bartholomew Church as part of a shrine to 20th-century martyrs for their faith.

Franz Jaegerstaetter followed his conscience and paid the highest price possible. In December 2008 his widow and three daughters were introduced to Pope Benedict XVI in connection with the presentation of a new biography, Christ or Hitler? The Life of Blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter. Many people first learned about him from Gordon Zahn’s book In Solitary Witness: The Life and Death of Franz Jaegerstaetter.

In his homily at the beatification Mass, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins quoted Giorgio La Pira, a 20th- century mayor of Florence, who wrote: “The holiness of our century will have this characteristic: It will be a holiness of laypeople. We encounter on the streets those who within 50 years may be on the altars-along the streets, in factories, in parliament and in university classrooms.” Cardinal Martins noted that after long internal struggles, Franz arrived at an extraordinary life of Christian witness. “Saints and blessed have always given an example of what it means and signifies to be Christians, even in particular, concrete historical moments.”

Ultimately – the life that is born in the Spirit, and truly “given away” for the sake of others – this is the kind of life that we are baptized into, and it is the song that is the everlasting music of discipleship, service, and holy witness.  We could say that while Franz went down in the spirit of lament – his life was raised up in the revelation that the resurrection is not an elusive hymn of naive spirituality and hope – it is, rather, the ultimate psalm of praise.  Franz sang this song with the entirety of his life – through the integrity that he could never surrender.  This is our song. This is the victory canticle of the love of Christ, and the promise of God.  There are many today, who like Franz, who are still singing this song.  Will we join them? 

Copyright © 2016 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer, and Ministry.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved. The song, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” by David Haas, Copyright © 1989 GIA Publications, Inc. Used with permission.   

June 7

Chief Seattle (1786-1866)

A most prominent man among his native people and having grown up in a Suquamish village among the Puget Sound, Seattle lived when the arrival of the first whites came to the Northwest, and he sought to find paths of reconciliation and cooperation to these settlers.  The name of the city of Seattle was named after him.  He was a passionate advocate of ecological and climate responsibility and sought to bring about justice for the Native Americans in that area in regards to land rights. 

Seattle constantly rejected violence as any path or answer to any conflict or problem.  His life was dedicated to peaceful dialogue and partnership.  Seattle converted to Christianity in 1830 and worked tirelessly to integrate his new found faith alongside the beliefs of his native ancestors.  For his white detractors, land was a commodity to be manipulated.  For Seattle, the land was sacred and a trust to be reverenced and honored, as he said: “We are part of the earth and it is part of us”

There is much to share about this life – some of it is most definitely, historically factual, and some of it is in debate.  But his life was a passionate witness of one who found the earth and its people to be holy, and how that holiness must be honored and nurtured.  In 1855 he was one of the key signers of a treaty that transferred the Indian lands to the federal government in exchange for a sacred reservation in the Northwest.  He is well known for a letter that he then wrote to President Franklin Pierce:

“One thing we know,

which the white man may one day discover –

our God is the same God.

You may think now that you own Him

as you wish to own our land;

but you cannot.”

We do not own the land – it belongs to God, as Psalm 24 sings and announces so powerfully:

God owns the earth and all its riches.

All living things belong to God,

who set the land over the sea,

who anchors it in the deep.

Who is worthy to climb God’s mountain

and stand in this holy place?

Whoever lives with integrity;

not seeking shadows, or living lies.

God will bless all people,

our Savior will bring justice!

We who long to see the Lord,

will see the face of God.  (from “Reach Toward Heaven,” by David Haas)

We do not own the land.  And we do not own the people – any group of people – that lives and dwells upon the land.  If we are to sing a praise to God we must do so, “with integrity; not seeking shadows, or living lies.”  Our song must be true.  It must have integrity.  It must celebrate and honor the earth.  It must celebrate and honor all people on the earth. 

Chief Seattle is chief for all of us this day – and for every day.  As he said, “our God is the same God.”  Let us offer our voices and instruments and praise with this sentiment and commitment, and lift each other up – no matter what our differences – to bless all people of this God, who unites us and sustains us. 

Copyright © 2016 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry.  Used with permission.  Psalm 24, “Reach Toward Heaven,” by David Haas, Copyright © 2003 GIA Publications, Inc.  Used with permission.   

June 9

Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Memorial)

2 Timothy 4: 1-8 / Psalm 71 / Luke 2: 41-51 (Homily/DH)

I would like to dedicate this reflection this morning, to my dear friend and a true heroine – Sr. Andrea Lee, IHM; former president of St. Catherine University here in St. Paul, presently the president of Alverno College in Milwaukee; and a member of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Monroe, Michigan.  Happy Feast Day, Andrea!

It can be difficult for us to wrap our brains around the concept of someone, or some thing, being “Immaculate,” especially since all devotions to Mary had at their historical and spiritual origins – a real sense of “accessibility,” meaning, that while God, and yes, Jesus – were often seen as distant – Mary was and is one for whom we can feel a certain closeness and intimacy.

Why is it that Mary holds such a special and honored place in our life of faith?  Well, to begin with, we can relate to her role as parent and mother. She “worries.” All good mothers worry about their children.  All parents worry about their children may be losing their way, about losing their faith and values, and about losing their compass for striking out in life.  That is part and parcel of their job in being parents.  These are the so-called “family values” that parents, and most of the time, especially mothers – cling and hope to for their children.  The worry of a mother can easily become one of panic – and this can only begin to describe the anxiety that must have filled her “heart” – and Joseph’s as well – when they thought Jesus was “lost.” The panic and absolutely feeling of terror of “losing” one’s child is not just the worry of where they might have gone, but also, where they might be actually “going.”

Luke presents us with an interesting choice of words to describe what Mary and Joseph felt when they had finally located their son.  The text does NOT say that they were relieved. It states that “when his parents saw him, they were astonished …”  They were “astonished” – amazed at what they saw, and Mary immediately tries to impress upon Jesus the anxiety he has caused, with a tinge of guilt attached, “Son, why have you done this to us?”

Jesus – he was not anxious at all – was never worried, even a little bit.   We might even think of him here as a typical 12-year-old boy, acting a bit petulant. He is where he wanted to be.  He is doing what he wanted to do.  One could imagine that Mary, while keeping these things in her heart, was attempting to discern how Jesus would have to suffer some consequences for his acting on his own, for his not being sensitive to the worry and fright that he caused his parents. Some who have reflected upon this gospel passage have humorously suggested that the reason why we have no further stories about his growing up from this point, is that his parents grounded him – for 23 years!   

But her response in our lectionary translation, which is the conclusion of this gospel passage, is that she “kept these things in her heart.”  The NRSV (New Revised Standard Version), translates it differently – she “treasured all these things in heart.”  There are yet other similar images that we can tether together:

She pondered.

She protected.

She held.

Regardless of what image may stir in us – “keeping, treasuring, pondering, protecting, holding” – they all speak of discernment.  Maybe today’s feast should be referred to as “The Discerning Heart of Mary,” or “The Treasuring Heart of Mary,” or the “Pondering Heart of Mary.”  These qualities, these attributes are what makes her heart, her very life – immaculate.  The best parents are those who give direction, who “worry” and pray for us – but also recognize and get out of the way – so that their children can freely choose, accept. and chart out their destiny, their call.

Mary holds and keeps what has happened. She ponders and waits for a deeper understanding that has not yet been revealed.  Her whole life is a witness of “keeping, holding, pondering, protecting and treasuring.” It began when Jesus was born; when the visitors from the fields and from the star came to see her – filled with astonishment and amazement.  She does not fully understand – but her trust is unyielding, in a power greater then herself.  It continues in her witness and trust that she shows at Cana – and completely all the way to standing under the wings of the cross – the instrument of death that brought execution and destruction to her son.  But Mary knows better, I believe.  In all of those horrendous steps of the journey toward Jesus’ death – she continued to keep and hold and treasure and ponder and protect – because that is what mothers do.

Mary’s heart is our heart. As she holds these things tightly to her heart – the Spirit opens the way for all of us to receive these as treasures for us to ponder as well, in our heart.  As Mary discerns – we too are called to discern.  And while our “head” may provide the rational corners that can guide our choices and destiny – it is our heart – that keeps, holds, ponders, protects, and treasures – the true path of discernment, of listening and following God’s voice in our lives.

For those of us who sing, play, and dance our lives as a song of praise – that is what we do when we make our holy sounds – we bring our heart to the everlasting hymn of God’s glory … for it is our hearts, filled with faith and true discernment of God’s direction – that help all believers find clarity in our journey into the great canyon of God.

Let our hearts be immaculate as Mary’s was and continues to be.  May our hearts be the place where we keep, hold, ponder, protect and treasure the holiest and most grace-filled of things. 

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

Copyright © 2016 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.

June 9

St. Ephrem (306-373)

Deacon and Doctor of the Church. The “Harp of the Spirit.”

Of the many comments and titles that Saint Ephrem has received through the centuries, “Harp of the Spirit” is the one closest to us as pastoral musicians. It speaks of two beautiful pictures. On the one hand, Saint Ephrem’s beautiful hymnography is a harp in the sense that he was a docile servant of the Lord, who allowed his whole life to be an instrument in the hands of God. On the other hand, being a Harp of the Spirit, what was wrought by Saint Ephrem was pure beauty and truth of the Spirit – he was a source of music in the pure sense of being that which muses our whole being on God.

Here we find an archetype for all of us on the journey to be ministers of sung prayer with integrity. We are the instruments for God to play upon; to make the holy “known” to all creation. This section from the first reading assigned for this feast day (Colossians 3: 12-17) announces it so well:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly,

as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,

singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs

with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

In many indigenous cultures, when one is in distress or in pain, or seeking healing – they do not go to therapists and psychological professionals (as wonderful as they are!) – rather, the tradition for many is that one who is suffering goes to the artist – the musician, the poet, the painter, the dancer, the storyteller – for it is through the arts; it is through the many “harps” of the heart – where we find wholeness and healing. The artists are called to be “spiritual guides” who help us discover the songs, the art, and the stories that lie within us, usually hidden. They help us to see ourselves as Paul tells us in Ephesians, that we are “God’s work of art.”

For pastoral musicians, St. Ephrem gives us all much to ponder. We are “instruments” (and you can interpret this image musically) for God’s song to be proclaimed to those in need of hearing good music … we are not talking about aesthetics here in terms of musical craftsmanship (though that certainly never hurts!) – but the subject and source of our song – which is Christ. A song of the “paschal mystery” being told: death and suffering, yes – but hope and resurrection not too far away. It is not so much the particular repertoire choice that we make (but please, make good choices in this regard), but more importantly, the fact that we surrender ourselves to become “harps of the Spirit” that will allow God to become the song we sing, and the rhythms that we dare to dance to. Then the specific choice of song does not matter, but rather, that we give our lives over totally to become “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”

St. Ephrem, pray for us.

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

June 11

St. Barnabas (First Century)

St. Barnabas is one of the earliest missionaries in the church, and while not a member of the original twelve apostles, he is named in the Acts as an apostle who received a unique calling from the Holy Spirit, and is also identified as the cousin of Mark, the Evangelist (Colossians 4:10). He was a close partner of Paul (and introduced Paul to Peter), and he helped to calm the fears of the early Jewish Christians who were still suspicious of Paul because of his earlier persecution of the church.  As a result of his preaching in Antioch, Barnabas and Paul together helped to nurture a growing church, and it was here in Antioch where “the disciples were for the first time called Christians.” Barnabas and Paul together served the first overseas missionary journey to Cyprus and the mainland of Asia Minor. 

While their partnership in ministry went through many disagreements and differences, Barnabas and Paul are attributed together with the building up of the Gentile church.  Barnabas is characterized as being a very generous leader in the midst of a very poor Christian community in Jerusalem, as described in chapter 4 of Acts: “Now the whole group of those believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.  With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.  There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.  They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.  There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”).  He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4: 32-37)

This generosity of spirit is what ministry is concerned with.  As ambassadors of God’s lavish love, we, like the example of Barnabas, are to “give away,” so to speak, our talents with great generosity.  In leading our sisters and brothers in our sung prayer, we should feel a wonderful, positive sense of exhaustion that will re-energize us.  When we give generously, we receive generously.  Like Barnabas, may we give our assent to become “sons and daughters of encouragement, for full throated and full hearted participation in not only the liturgy, but in the life and way of Christ.  May we not hold back.    

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

June 13

St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231)

If one were to attempt to sum up Anthony’s presence, it would be the call to leave “everything behind” and follow Christ.  It seems as though God asked new things of Anthony many times, and Anthony is said to have always responded with passion to serve. This would seem to be the reason why is the patron of so many causes and peoples!  Most recognize Anthony as the patron of lost items or people, but he is also the patron of amputees, animals, the elderly, fishermen, harvests, horses, mariners, the oppressed, pregnant women, shipwrecks, starvation, sterility, travel hostesses; as well as being the patronal saint for Brazil and Portugal, and the custody of the Holy Land. 

Anthony was considered a man of prayer and a scholar in scripture and theology.  He was active as a teacher and preacher in Portugal and France, and ultimately in Italy.  His primary identity as the patron of lost things and people, and for that he is venerated throughout the world.  When one studies his life in greater detail, we are convinced that Anthony himself was lost, meaning, lost in his love of God and the serving of God’s people. 

All ministers of music have become “lost” in similar ways.  For all of the beauty we want to create with our music, we have to recognize as a colleague of mine has often said, that the sound of the singing congregation is the most beautiful of all sounds.  We have to seek out this “lost” voice that is often the case in passive assemblies at prayer.  We need to seek and ache to “find” that marvelous sound of voices and hearts lifted in prayer, lament and praise.  Many of our congregations are lost.  May the intercession of Anthony help us to find and celebrate those seeking the Lord in their lives. 

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

June 15

St. Vitus (d. 303)

St. Vitus is the patron for many different causes and professions, but the two most notable for me personally, is that he is the patron of dancers and over-sleepers. Originally from Sicily, the patronage for dancers comes from the practice in the middle ages of celebrating his feast day by dancing in front of his statue in various cities throughout Europe. We need to remember that dance is most definitely a ministry of music, and that while liturgical dance seems to be so very controversial among many, we cannot deny its presence and even prominence at times, in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, and in the early church.  

Vitus was a martyr for the church, and is also the patron of actors, comedians and epileptics.  He is often invoked against chorea, which many refer to as “St. Vitus Dance.”  What a marvelous foundation for us to see dance as an activity and agent of healing! This feast day is also the source of a popular piece of poetry found in almanacs about the weather: “If St. Vitus’ Day be rainy weather; it shall rain for thirty days together.”

For musicians, there is much to glean from patronage of St. Vitus, as his recipients all seem to be groups of people are typically “outside the box” (dancers, actors, comedians, etc.) and seen by many to be a little strange.  Like us! 

I want to dedicate this reflection to my favorite liturgical dancer in the world, Betsey Beckman from Seattle.  God bless you, Betsey!  (Read more about Betsey and her wonderful ministry here on this website:

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

June 24

“La Festa di San Giovanni Battista!”

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Just to lay some groundwork: this guy wore camel’s hair and ate bugs.  Heard enough?  Sounds like a hippie musician if there ever was one.  The political leaders of the region thought he was crazy.  He kind of was!  He was also homeless and spent most of his time in the hot desert.  He caught the attention of many because of his outrageous behavior and for his cutting and piercing words of judgment. 

All this being said, Jesus teaches that this crazy man is greater than all those who preceded him.  “I tell you, among those born of a woman, no one is greater than John.”  However, Jesus follows this statement with a clarification: “Yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”  (Luke 7:28)

Because his mission was to prepare the way for Jesus, John the Baptist was a “pointer.”  After he gets our attention (and he certainly does!), he keeps pointing beyond and away from himself: “He must increase; I must increase” (John 3:30).  As dramatic and charismatic as he seems to be in the gospel accounts, John is always using his celebrity to invite and challenge all to see who and what is really important.  And while Jesus exalts John, he exalts even more, the “least of all.”  Now that is ministry.  That is something to sing and rejoice about. 

John is a prototype of what ministry and prayer leadership is.  We need to get the attention of those who come to pray and celebrate, yes, but what do we do after we have gotten their attention?  What do we do?  We point.  We point to the presence of Jesus not just in history, and not only the presence of Jesus with his Abba in heaven. We point to the Christ that is present in the eyes, the faces, the singing voices, and the lives of all who come to worship; all who ache for meaning and presence and salvation and hope.  Like John, our music points and prepares not only the way of the Lord in our remembrance of history, but it also should prepare us to receive more passionately and intentionally, not the “presents,” but the “presence” found in each other.  This presence is sacramentally experienced in our common song. and lived in the music of our lives.  Through our hymns, songs, psalms, acclamations and litanies, we point to Jesus Christ, and are believed to be crazy to do so.  And that should be totally OK with us. 

Copyright © 2014 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry.  Used with permission.

June 27

St. Cyril of Alexandria (c. 366-444)

When we usually think of saints, we think of demure, sweet, submissive “angelic-like” people with eternal halos around their heads.  We need to get over this notion, because Cyril was anything but this.  In his early years as a bishop he caused much violence and suffering in his actions, which included pillaging of villages, confiscating property, and persecution of Jews who attacked Christians.  At the center of his legacy, is how he is a leading figure in the many controversies regarding Christology, proclaiming Mary to be truly the “God-bearer” (the mother of Jesus who is both truly God and truly human), in contrast to the belief that Mary was “Christ-bearer” (presenting Christ has possessing two distinct persons – divine and human).  As most theological controversies tend to be, this one was no different, leading Cyril to be imprisoned, later to be heralded as a fierce champion against Arianism. 

Why then, is Cyril a saint?  We have to remember that we look to the saints not only to honor their more admirable actions and qualities, but to also identify their demons and their brokenness; which leads to a humility acknowledging their need for God.  This is what holiness truly embodies.  Often when I present workshops to liturgical musicians and talk to them about being “ministers,” often their response is that they do not see themselves as worthy, because of behaviors they have been plagued with, or decisions that they regret.  They would be right.  We are not worthy.  Worthiness is not the issue.  If it were, there would be no ministers!  We need to stop beating ourselves up for not being worthy, and embrace the fact that our amazing God still chooses to use us as instruments in proclaiming the reign of God, in spite of, or rather, because of our frailties and faults.  This is the source of our resurrection song: God loves sinners!  God calls sinners to be the presence and ambassadors for the cause of calling all to the heavenly banquet!  What a joyful and new song this is!

Copyright © 2014 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry. Used with permission.  All rights reserved.

June 29

SS Peter & Paul (First Century)

After Jesus, Peter and Paul are the most featured characters in the New Testament, which may be why this combined feast yokes them together.  It is an interesting paring when we discover that they definitely had a volatile relationship at times.  Peter, who actually knew the earthly Jesus, has a sense of stature, and Paul, at the same time, while not knowing the earthly Jesus at all, claims a most special relationship with the resurrected Christ.  This resulted in variations of theology and leadership for the early church. When one digs into the Acts of the Apostles, one can glean from this text that things were not always rosy between them. 

For musicians who serve in the Church – we can certainly relate!  The “organ-choral-chant” people shoot their venom and the more contemporary pastoral musicians and styles as being the presence of the anti-Christ; and the “folky-guitar-contemporary” people often believe that the “organ-choral-chant people” are fuddy-duddy’s, who have absolutely no Spirit! Notice the three images here of Peter and Paul.  The first one – look at it – they are looking at each other with contempt.  The second one, they seem to be in a “tug-of-war” trying to pull the Church to their particular way of thinking.  And the third image – they surrender their fear and embrace one another.   My song of pastoral challenge to liturgical musicians comes from wonderful song from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!: “the cowhand and the farmer should be friends!”  How ‘bout it, Church?

Copyright © 2014 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Payer and Ministry.  Used with permission. All rights reserve

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