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“Ready to take a chance again…” – Catholic Media Promotion Day 2012

One of the good things about Catholicism is that forgiveness and starting over are a vital part of our spiritual DNA.  It is in that spirit that I take keyboard to electronic ink and once again revive my blog with renewed purpose.  However, I will be deviating from the “all liturgy” format in this post in order to participate in the annual Catholic Media Promotion Day by relaying my experiences from my day of silence yesterday, May 23rd, from all social media.

So, how did I fair in my self-imposed silence?  In a word: Semi-FAIL.

Let me explain.  The overall objective grew out of the spirit of Pope Benedict’s topic for World Communications Day – Silence and the Word: Path for Evangelization.  My friends over at the New Evangelizers website asked all of us involved in Catholic new media to refrain from participating in any form of social media for one day and then to write about our self discoveries the next.  I can proudly say that I did really well most of the day not commenting on any Twitter or Facebook posts — until evening came and instead of letting morning follow, I gave into my growing frustration with a certain reality singing competition (yes, I’m looking at YOU American Idol) and ran to Twitter like a drunken sailor looking for another drink to register my displeasure with this year’s winner.

It was right then that I realized something very important about my social media behaviors: since I’m not one to post about things like where I’m going or what I’m eating, I seem to turn to connecting with others online when it is either something of real importance or something I am completely passionate about. My inability to keep my own blog current is also a prime example. Instead of keeping up with writing on a daily, weekly or even monthly schedule, I sort of drive by and post when I find something I really want to talk up or share with those of you willing to follow my erratic posting style.  So I would say that this two-day experience has given me some focused and needed food for thought.  I thank the New Evangelizers for one again leading the way in getting those of us who are in the ministry of evangelization to stop and take a good, hard look at what we are doing and why.

To fulfill the second part of this double layered experiment, we were asked to answer the following question after our day of silence: “What in Catholic Media has had an impact on you during the past year?”  For me, it will be in the form of “friend”-promotion — Bishop Christopher Coyne, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis (@bishopcoyne), maintains a daily Twitter and Facebook feed that not only gives a brief synopsis of the readings for the day’s Mass with personal insight from his Excellency, but also includes links to interesting articles from the secular press or maybe some amusing YouTube content.  In whatever content he chooses to bring to our attention, Bishop Chris’ clear intent is to get us to reflect about who Christ is in our lives and if we aren’t sure, to go and find out more about Him.  I’m glad to see the Bishop taking on this important mission and look forward everyday to reading and taking in what is communicated.

To conclude, I am posting below the draft copy of my article on World Communications Day that I wrote for my monthly column on Ministry and Technology in Ministry and Liturgy magazine.  Written earlier this year, I talk about the importance of a balance between silence and word for lay ecclesial ministers. Let me know what you think and maybe it will give me the boost I need to write more often on my blog.

Oh, and if you really want to know what I think about the finale of American Idol, leave a comment and I will definitely give you my opinion on THAT subject… 😉

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(reprinted with permission – Ministry and Liturgy magazine, volume 30 number 4 May 2012)

Sunny and Sox, my two Carin Terriers, love to get out of the house and stretch their four legs everyday with a brisk walk.  As their human, it’s my job to ensure that they get their daily exercise (and it doesn’t hurt me to get my butt out of the office chair and do the same).  Our usual routine as we make our way through the neighborhood includes me catching up on the many podcasts I have stored in my iPod (podcasts are audio/video files that can be downloaded and played on either a computer or a portable media device).  Sometimes I’ve used these walks to pray along with an audio version of the church’s Liturgy of the Hours (you can find that for free at divineoffice.org or pay $14.99 for the mobile application – I highly recommend it!) or listen to some fine programming on the Catholic Channel (Channel 117 on Sirius/XM satellite radio) on my iPhone.  Lately, through, I’ve found myself not wanting to accompany our outings with a continuation of the sounds I surround myself with at other times of the day.  I seem to be becoming content, to my BIG surprise, with simply taking in the sounds of my sneakers brushing the pavement and the rhythmic jangling of the girls’ tags flopping on their collars, replacing the noise of my techno-crazy life with the calming sounds of silence.

It is because of this new found revelation on the importance of silence that I find it strangely apropos for Pope Benedict XVI to choose the topic of ‘Silence and the Word: Path for Evangelization’ for this year’s World Communications Day address (the day is celebrated on Sunday May 20th this year but the written message is published in late January/early February each year).  In his letter he states that “…social networks have become the starting point of communication for many people who are seeking advice, ideas, information and answers…If we are to recognize and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive.” (click for full document)

Think about it – we have a constant audio accompaniment to our lives that is more than capable of drowning out any and all of our own thoughts if we allow it.  It can even deafen us to the small, whispering voice that God sometimes uses to get our attention (see I Kings 19: 11-13).  While it’s easy to throw up our hands in frustration and blame technology or the culture or the hectic pace of the life we lead, it really is up to each of us to exercise a bit of self control and “pull the plug” on the cacophony of noise that commands our attention each and every day. Knowing when to step back from technology is just as important (if not more so) as learning how to use it effectively to witness Christ to the world.

The Pope understands fully that we need to use every means of communication necessary to spread the Gospel in this third millennium: “Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God.”   However he also reminds us that “…in silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves…”  That’s why websites such as 3-Minute Retreat  or Online Ministries (which includes an online version of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises) can be useful in helping us begin to balance our competing worlds of sound and silence.  Those of us who minister musically and liturgically need to remember to build silence back into our liturgies. From personal experience I know that we love to cover every action with music from start to finish (and yes, it can hide a multitude of liturgical sins) but when we forget to give silence its do we inadvertently create a atmosphere of “words, words words” and not unlike Eliza Doolittle, we drown in the spoken and sung and don’t allow for God to truly dialogue with us.  Those in catechetical ministry would do well to begin and/or end every session with moments of silence so that the restless hearts of those in faith formation may settle down before offering their prayers to God.  It’s a good practice to pass along to our young charges. Returning silence to its rightful place in these and other areas of our spiritual life can only have a positive influence in every other aspect of our life for “silence is an integral element…; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist.”

Time for me to take my own advice.

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“Living La Vida Lenten” (thanks to IC Church, Malden, MA)

Yes, friends, I’m back and what a way to start Lent! If you didn’t catch my tweet yesterday (and why AREN’T you following me on Twitter – @Ritualdiva), my Lenten discipline for 2012 is to decrease my social media consumption and increase my social media output. You see, I’ve spent lots of time teaching and encouraging others to embrace new media in an effort to contribute to the New Evangelization but I haven’t exactly been a shining example of producing content. My usual excuses have been a chorus of “too much going on at work” “taking care of elderly Mother” or “haven’t seen my husband yet this week.” After feeling a little nudge from the Holy Spirit – well, it was more like a cold shower of realization – I decided that Lent would be a good time to take on production and ease off of simply reading everything I can get my hands on.

Here’s what I’m planning:
1) Being the card-carrying Liturgist that I am, I will re-start this blog which will focus solely on Catholic Rites and Liturgy (and all the goes with that). Since where in the Lent/Easter part of our Liturgical Year topics will be plentiful but I’ll also try and connect them to our everyday life was Catholic Christians. Liturgy don’t mean a thing if it doesn’t connect back to real life!

2) I will launch a separate website that will connect to my new column on Ministry and New Media that I’ve started writing for Ministry and Liturgy magazine. Entitled “Fear Not!” I hope to share my foibles and successes in incorporating technology into my work as a Director of Faith Formation, Musician and Liturgist. And, no, I will NOT be suggesting we project music on the walls of our churches. That’s what iPads are for… 😉

3) Even with these two blogs, I want to vary up the game a bit by trying out different types of media – audio, video, whatever. This gives me a chance to really see what I like, what I can become good at and not get bored by only sticking to one medium. That might mean you’ll have to follow me around a bit but I’ll include links to wherever I plan on being on any given day.

I will need your help with all this, gentle readers. First of all, pray for me. I feel the Lord trying to lead me in a new direction and all of this is part of the discernment process. Second, I’ll need feedback to know how I’m doing so please be gentle and generous with it. And last, if you like something I’ve created, share it with your circle of friends because I would like to increase my readership and we all know that’s the way it’s done!

Happy Lenting and remember – no MEAT for YOU tomorrow! (if you’re over 14, that is…)

We interrupt this missal preparation for an important message… Prepare ye the way for ADVENT!

Yes, friends, it’s true! I have returned from the sidelines of blogging, thanks to some God-incidences of the past week (and a challenge I couldn’t refuse), and I’m raring to go with a very timely topic.  Now, it will remain to be seen if I can keep up the weekly correspondence this blog and its great readers deserve but know that I will give it the best I can as I juggle my crazy life. ‘Nuf said – let’s get to it!

As all of us in liturgy have been dealing with the past year, the Revised Roman Missal is just about ready to become part of our liturgical DNA on Sunday, November 27th, which is the 1st Sunday of Advent. Choirs have practiced new or revised mass parts, missals and pew cards have been bought and are ready to be used; workshops, coffee ‘n chats and small groups sessions have met, learned, pondered and practiced the new words with various degrees of comfort.  While it is true we humans don’t like change, I believe that most of the folks I’ve encountered through the workshops I’ve conducted are willing to give this new translation a chance.  Hopefully that will be the case throughout the English-speaking world once all is said and done.

However, amid the hubbub and preparations for the introduction of the new missal, I feel that something is getting lost in the shuffle – mainly, the beginning of the new liturgical year and the upcoming Season of Advent itself.  Now, I realize that the translation change has been in the works for many years and that we as a church are trying not to repeat history (and histrionics) from a time gone by but – think about it – with all the rehearsing and preparation going into the missal, most of those who prepare for these seasonal changes might probably be jumping right from this to Christmas with nary a thought about the season which starts it all off.  We could be giving Advent the short-shift this year without really knowing or thinking about it!

It’s bad enough that the secular world starts the day after Halloween (and sometimes even before that) to prepare for Christmas and gives no thought whatsoever to Advent or Christmas as separate and distinct seasons. While carols and songs permeate the airwaves from now until 6pm on Christmas Day (at least in my neck of the woods) stores are decked out in all their red and green finery, just calling to us to get an early start on finding that “perfect” gift for the one we love – as if retail therapy is the real reason for the season.  Where’s the emphasis on the CHRIST part of Christmas? Won’t find that out in a world that continually erases God from it’s collective speech and thought. That type of awareness needs to come from us as Church and we need to be consistent in our thoughts and actions.

Now, if we have been too busy in preparations for both the revised missal and Christmas, are we going to be able to give the upcoming Season of Advent its proper due?  Those four weeks – which are a full four this year! – are crucial to bringing folks to a full understanding of the Incarnation (one of the new words in our Creed, by the way). From the first moments of the First Sunday of Advent, we need to be fully engaged in presenting and unfolding the mysteries of the first and second coming of Christ through Isaiah’s rich imagery and Mark’s “just the facts” gospel in this Cycle B year.  According to local custom, Advent wreaths get blessed and lit for the first time but doing this ritual after the homily (as prescribed in our Book of Blessings) shows both its proper place and importance in the liturgy (remember, the wreath is a worthy home activity for the season).

I feel very strongly that placing other rituals – from Rites of Acceptance to blessing the new parish missal – does not constitute smart liturgical practice and truly have no place in the opening liturgy of the Advent season. There will be those who will disagree with me on the premise of “new year, new things” but those extras truly dull the focus and impact the season deserves. Include in that misstep those who feel that decorating their Churches for the next season around the 3rd Sunday of Advent is a good thing! It is bad enough that rest of the world jumps Advent out of sheer ignorance – if we as a church join in and treat Advent in much the same manner, we are no better than our secular friends whose trees are put up on Veteran’s Day and are tossed to the curb on December 26th.  The temptation to jump ahead to the “more important” season is there for sure and the distraction of the implementation is dividing our attentions further.  I pray that most liturgists, musician, pastors and other planners of Liturgy have seen to it that missal preparations end on the Feast of Christ the King – that’s a great time to bless the new missals and say farewell to the old (even though we’ll still be using our beloved Sacramentary through Thanksgiving) and are planning their “deck the church” activities for full week for December 25th (a Sunday this year).

On paper, our Church does extremely well in keeping the spirit and focus of our various seasons – in pastoral practice, lines get so blurred at times that the pew folks really notice that all is not well, yet can’t always articulate their observations properly.  Let all of us responsible for planning and executing our sacred rituals take the advent of the coming new liturgical year to brush up on our understanding of the different seasons and what we should be about in celebrating them to the full.  In other words, before using that shiny new missal, take time to read the General Instruction at the beginning of the book.  Brush up on Sing to the Lord if you are a musician.  Even dust off the old Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy to help renew your weary spirit.  If you’re responsible for helping others prepare, then prepare yourself as well.  Be a wise and not foolish virgin (hope you listened to today’s gospel!) as you prepare for the coming of the first season of the new year.  May we all in humility continue to work to help all our parishes and assemblies transition from season to season, year to year the best we possibly can. Good liturgy IS the work of all the Church! Our God deserves no less from His people.

“Hit Me With Your Best Shot…Fire Away!” – Catholic Media Promotion Day 2011

Some of the best ideas in this life start out as throwaway asides – you know, the “yeah, like that would really work” or “wouldn’t it be funny if we could…” type of statements made casually to friends or colleagues. However, it takes a lot of chutzpah to actually follow through with what seems like a cockamamie notion and turn it into something that could help others find Christ and His Church. Well, folks, about 10 days ago Greg Willits of The Catholics Next Door fame (Sirius 159/XM 117 — gregandjennifer.com) started musing about a day set aside to have everyone who possibly could promote Catholic New Media across the vast Internet universe. What may have started as an off handed comment on their radio show has now turned into a full-fledged media event complete with a contest to win a free iPad 2 (how totally New Media/Internet-ish!). Seriously, on this day 3/15/2011 all of us who either produce Catholic Media, consume Catholic Media or desire to know more about Catholic Media are being commissioned to “use Facebook, Twitter and blogs to promote all the great Catholic content that is out there on the internet.”

Tall order? You betcha! But according to Greg, “there’s strength in numbers – let’s get the word out on one day about Catholic New Media.”

Ok, Mr. Willits, you have thrown down a mighty heavy gauntlet but as someone who is not afraid of a challenge, I am picking it up and running with it! The assignment is to “list their favorite 3 blogs, 3 podcasts, 3 other media, 3 random Catholic things online, and their own projects” (and the number 3 is very Trinitarian, Greg – good touch!). I tried to think of sites and media that are not as well known but then I suppose what will be very common to some may be very new to others. No matter – it’s the “getting the word out” part that important so here are my selections with a little bit of commentary on the side:

Blogs —
Let Us Walk Together: Thoughts of a Catholic Bishop – this is a relatively new endeavor by an old friend who recently was ordained auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Bishop Chris Coyne, a definite overachiever, has also started a podcast to go with it – how many bishops do YOU know would even try something like that in their first few weeks?

Gotta Sing, Gotta Pray – Dr. Jerry Galipeau from World Library Publications shares reflections on current events in the Church and in the world that may be of particular interest to those serving the Church, including a focus on the upcoming translation of the Roman Missal every Tuesday and Thursday.

Whispers in the Loggia – who doesn’t love a good Vatican insider? Rocco Palmo has kept us all informed about the goings on in Rome and at home here in the US for quite some time. His blog was my first taste of Catholic New Media and one I read constantly.

Podcasts — (can all be found at iTunes)
The Break with Fr. Roderick (www.sqpn.com) – my first and favorite Catholic podcast!

Busted Halo Cast (www.bustedhalo.com) – Fr. Dave Dwyer, Brittany & the intern du jour answer questions from young (and not so young) faith-seekers.

Word on Fire (www.wordonfire.org)- one of the best preachers on the planet, Fr. Robert Baron, explains it all for you! Best 15 minutes of your week!

Other Media
The Catholics Next Door (Sirius 159/XM 117 The Catholic Channel from 10am – 1pm EDT daily) – I signed up for Sirius Satellite Radio just to hear them on the Catholic Channel after discovering their Rosary Army podcast. Best money I spend every month, that is, when I can find the time to listen. Darn parish job… 😉

The Catholic Guy Show (Sirius 159/XM 117 The Catholic Channel from 4-7pm daily) – I must admit I didn’t like Lino Rulli at first but he has grown on me (hey oh!). Best surprise I discovered on the Catholic Channel (it’s a celebration!). Maybe someday I’ll call in and take on Fr. Rob at “Do you watch more TV than a Catholic Priest?”

Grace Before Meals – Fr. Leo Patalinghug is reaching families through their stomaches – sorta like Jesus did. Check out his website, buy his cookbook, invite him to your parish. You won’t be disappointed – we certainly were’t!

Random catholic things — since I’m a Mac girl then how about APPS!
My 3 must have apps would be:

Divine Office – an audio with text version of the daily Liturgy of the Hours beautifully done and great for half hour commutes.

iCatholic – Catholic TV’s Digital Magazine complete with series listings and informative articles (do YOU have Catholic TV on your cable system? If not, sign their petition!)

iMissal – all the readings for everyday of the liturgical year and now includes Mass videos from Catholic TV! (looks really great on the iPad)

Now, I’m supposed to toot my own horn as well so toot I will! The Rite Stuff is a new blog dedicated to all things liturgical, ritual and sacramental — including and particularly the upcoming changes to the Roman Missal. I’ve also toyed with the idea of a podcast to go along with it (“anything you can do, I can do better…” – inside joke) but for now, given my real life restrictions, I think the blog will be all I can handle. If you’d like to see where I minister and what we do then point your browser to sstandctiverton.org and check out the dual parishes of St. Theresa and St. Christopher in picturesque Tiverton, Rhode Island. We’re neighbors to the iPadre himself, Fr. Jay Finelli (ipadre.net or holyghostcc.org) so go and check him out as well!

Well, I’ve certainly done my part – it’s up to you to check out some or all of my suggestions. Good luck and God Bless! (and ya’ll come back now, ya hear!)