Sunday, September 26, 2010

Confessions of a Disgruntled Music Minister

I've always said that I would never post anything online that I wouldn't want broadcast on the news, and the same holds true for this blog, at least to a certain extent. But at the same time, a lot of the reason why I write here is to work out both my triumphs and my face plants.

Today was a big, fat face plant.

The short version of it is that I stumbled into Newman an hour into music rehearsals because I was at a birthday party for my baby cousin. When I got there, seven pairs of eyes were on me. There's only so much you can accomplish without a pianist, after all. The predictable knot of anxiety tightened on cue in my stomach.

I'm not going to lie -- I hate this job. It fell into my lap as our old pianist fell out with the group and left unexpectedly. I've never had more than a year of formal lessons, and the 15 years I've been playing piano has been by ear and sight reading. Thankfully, I can read music, which has helped immensely in this process.

But then there's the issue of dealing with eight singers, a clarinet player and a flute player, the majority of whom don't read music, learning about what makes a proper liturgy, dealing with the priest's opinions, suggestions, and last minute changes. I know a fair bit of my home church's hymnal from Mass, but often the songs that are chosen for me are totally unfamiliar. Of course, on top of my classes, the newspaper and my freelancing gig, I'm expected to learn all of these songs by Sunday, supply the propers for Mass, and get the congregation singing.

Some days it goes down pretty well, but on days like today we just fall flat on our faces. One month from now, we're going to be moving to the local parish, where I'm naturally going to be playing for the student Masses.

...I can barely hold together a Mass while hiding in a dark basement chapel, let alone a church!

Couple that with having to abstain from Communion because I couldn't leave rehearsal to confess, and leaving my purse in the car, forcing my parents to drive it all the way back up here from home, I'm about ready to curl up in a ball and forget tonight happened. :P

The most that I can do on days like these is take a long, deep breath and trust that this job wouldn't have fallen to me if God didn't find me capable of it. Sometimes, I wonder if He's thinking of the right person when He does these things. ;) But hey, I've gotten this far. And I can take the good with the bad, too. Serving others is worth it in the end...but man, sometimes it's frustrating.

Better luck next week, I hope.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Benedetto, Britain, and Media Bull

So the Holy Father has been spending the weekend over in the UK. Good stuff going on over there. (It's refreshing to hear him actually speak in a language I can understand, too.)

Of course, the Church being in the state it's in, anything the pope says is going to be met with fierce opposition, which to some extent is fair and justified.

Though I have to admit tonight that, as a member of the media, watching the coverage of this trip is torturous. That is, when it's even being covered at all. The prayer vigil with Benediction from Hyde Park earlier this evening wasn't broadcast in English secular media.

It's been a huge talking point on most of the major news programs on this side of the pond, but predictably, they completely miss the point.

"Pope speaks to victims of sexual abuse," the headline reads on my AOL homepage. Brian Williams tells me tonight that this trip comes as the Church is still reeling from the most recent scandal. And 6ABC showed plenty of video footage of angry mobs. Never mind the incredible joy and love so obvious in the cheers of thousands at the vigil.

"But tell me what ELSE happened!" I complained at the TV. Part of me can guess what the response in the media would be to that: Nobody cares what else happened. Priests molest little kids. And we're supposed to be the world's watchdogs. Anything else Benedict has to say is unimportant.

Both the Catholic and the reporter in me are frustrated tonight. I know it, the Pope knows it, we all know it...the Vatican screwed up big time. They've apologized over and over and over again, making both spiritual and financial reparation for the sins of that 1% in the clergy who have shamed us. Will the media ever let the Church move forward?

The pack mentality drives me insane. Could we not actually suspend our judgments long enough to do our jobs and cover all sides with fairness? Charity, even?

I guess not.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

On Vulnerability

I'm a reporter. It's a part of my job to ask people questions about themselves, to dig deep and find out their stories. Sometimes, I have to make people uncomfortable.

It's a little bit ironic, then, that when it's me in the hot seat, I just can't handle it.

It's something that I've been thinking about for the past few weeks, as my campus lost one chaplain in favor of another at the end of last semester. Now we have a new priest, someone whom we're all getting to know for the first time. At the same time, my parish at home is in the final stages of a merger process that will shift both the staff and congregation around. Both situations are far from comfortable, and in a way that's almost predictable for me, I find myself setting up walls. I deal with change by being stubborn and refusing to go with it.

As a rule, I am way too chatty and don't listen well enough. But at the same time, there are select few people to whom I actually show my true colors. That's not to say that I'm fake -- I'm about as real and honest as it gets -- but I can count on one hand the number of people that get to see me actually ... vulnerable.

Too often, I'm an open book. That has come back to bite me more than once, and in other circumstances I've given away pieces of myself that I can't take back now (emotionally and otherwise). So I suppose that it's fair to say being distant at first is my defense mechanism.

Opening up is so hard. In a way, if I open up to you, a bond is formed. Showing tiny parts of my heart and soul, that's so intimate and so scary. And more often than not in my life, those bonds have faded through time, distance or trouble. Sometimes, it just seems easier not to open up at all.

God has done so much to teach me humility and to accept that I need people. But it doesn't mean that allowing myself to be vulnerable is any less painful. More than anything else, I hate my neediness. The more I need people, the more I'm going to get hurt in the end.

How do I deal with that?

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Another gem to go on the list of a million reasons why I love Fr. Corapi:

"Who knows. Maybe on their deathbed that person that you love says 'Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner' because you were the one that cried for them and prayed for 40 years for them to come home. Truth brings a sword, that's the proximate effect of it, but its ultimate end is unity. So have a little patience! Be at peace! Be still and know that He is God! I'm sure that we put more people into hell than the amount that ever actually gets there."

Really, what can I say to that? Holy cow.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


There is something both torturous and insanely gratifying about copy editing with an exhausted brain and fingers stained with ink. Purple ink.

The newsroom on campus is winding down for the night. All of our regular staff members have gone home, nowhere near brave enough to work into the wee hours. Only the editorial board, about ten of us, are still here; we'll stay here until the paper is done. The first issue will be printed in time for tomorrow morning, and every single page passes my desk for approval before the final draft is sent out. My advisor tells me I have the good mentality for a copy editor with the hours I keep (this morning's bedtime was 4:30 a.m.)

No pressure. Deep breath. The only things keeping me awake and sane through this process are caffeine, adrenaline and of course, grace.

It's a tedious job, but I love it. Really, I'm loving this whole year already. The atmosphere is almost tangibly different from last year. My roommates are friendly, sociable, and not wild partiers. There has been no anonymous vomit on my living room carpet as of yet. Then again, anything better than that is a huge step up.

We've been excited by the addition of several new freshman to Newman. This includes not one, but two pianists at around the same level of experience as me, and one girl who's cantored for three years. I asked God for help with the music ministry, and once again, He's provided.

The editors at the school paper aren't always my kind of people, but I've been doing this long enough to learn how to bite my tongue and act with charity. This year is definitely shaping up to be a lesson in patience and humility, which is good ... I need lots of both if I have any hope of surviving in this field.

More than ever, being on campus feels like being at home. My out of shape calves are readjusting to walking everywhere after a summer behind a desk, I've been going out more than I could have ever anticipated, and am doing my best to take every opportunity that is sent my way.

Now and then, I remember that when May comes, I have to go home for good. I have to leave my second family behind. I have to ... be an adult.

That's the future threatening to rear its ugly head on me. But I'm prepared now. I know where my hope is, and besides, the only thing I can control is today.

On that note, back to work. I have some ideas brewing for future posts, it's just a matter of finding the time to sit down and do it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Keeping it simple...

I'll be back with the school update this weekend, if I have time.

I told myself that I'd get more sleep this year. (I swear that half the reason I was in such bad shape emotionally last semester was because I ran on 4-5 hours of sleep for weeks at a time.) At almost 3:30 a.m., I'm not off to a good start. *snort*

Actually, I'm cleaning my room. Mama says that I tend to leave a tornado of papers everywhere I go, and without her to nag me up here, it's ten times worse. So every now and then I clear the place out. I do feel less scattered when I'm done.

In the process, I was thinking about old friends ... and something that Justin taught me a long time ago. It's not necessarily a Wiccan thing per se, but it serves them and us well:

If it's broken, fix it. And if you can't fix it, ditch it. Keep what works. God helps those who help themselves.

I threw that saying out a long time ago because I thought it smelled too much like relativism (Sorry, hon. I know it was stupid.) and I was scared to follow through. But look at what I did this summer. I cut out all of the petty things that wasted my time or caused me to stumble ... even though it hurt ... and look at where it's gotten me. =)

You guys are rarely ever wrong about these things. Maybe I should listen more often. ;)