There is something very good and uplifting about spending several days with close to 2,000 people who are in musical and liturgical ministry in Catholic parishes throughout the country. This week I am at the annual convention of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians in Pittsburgh, PA. In addition to listening to and singing wonderful liturgical music, there is a spiritual component to the talks and workshops.
So far we have heard two wonderful addresses. The Keynote on Monday was by Fr. Ronald Raab, CSC. He spoke about finding holiness in our suffering and in entering into the suffering of others. Pretty powerful!
Tuesday's Plenum address was given by Fr. J. Michael Joncas, who I had the good fortune to have as a professor when I studied at Notre Dame. I also attended his workshop on the history of the Roman Missal yesterday. But his talk was like being on retreat. It was about connecting liturgy and life and he used the Gospel Antiphon for Evening Prayer on the feast of Corpus Christi as the jumping off point, connecting it with passages from Sacrosanctum Concilium. He had me mesmerized. I only hope the talk is made available so that I can reflect on it further.
Tuesday night was an evening of contrasts musically, but both were spiritually uplifting. First a concert of contemporary praise music by young composers and performers. I guess its distinct Catholicity is why we do not hear their songs on Christian radio. Following that was Taize prayer. I have always loved Taize prayer with its meditative chants. It was beautifully to be carried away in prayer by the voices of a few hundred people all singing in harmony while meditating on the cross of Christ surrounded by candles and icons.
This morning we heard another plenum address by Msgr. Kevin Irwin which was challenging but also a warning against making my participation in the liturgy all about me and my wants. He gave me much to think about.
Right now I am skipping the morning showcases and doing some work on my book. That would make my publishers, who are in a booth in the conference hall, very happy.
A conference such as this is tiring, and if I decided to do everything on the schedule I would be totally exhausted. But the time away from work and the mundane things of daily life is good. I have time for prayer (although haven't found my way to a Mass yet as it is a far walk), and the opportunity to connect with some people I haven't seen in awhile and to make new friends, all in an atmosphere where the worship of Jesus is the main topic of conversation. My voice is a bit hoarse from singing so much and I am walking about 6 miles a day between the hotel and the conference center, but all in all it is a wonderful and inspirational week.