In just a few days my “busy season” will begin. Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week…. and the start of the most high-pressured week of my liturgical life. As a cantor at two different churches each weekend, I have much to both celebrate and stress over as we Catholics observe the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord once again.
Yes, I said two churches per weekend. One is a small inner-city, ethnically diverse parish with a single priest in residence, the other a large suburban, multi-priest parish with a more homogenous congregation. Why two places of worship? Well, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” taught us that the worldly wealthy often have two homes, so I justify my dual affinities as an investment in my spiritual wealth. I need both halves to make me liturgically whole.
The secret to this double musical life is careful organization. I set one of two distinct alarm settings on my SuperCellPhone, depending upon the location of the church at which I will sing the earliest Sunday Mass. I’ve even labeled the settings “Turn Left” and “Turn Right” so my weary pre-coffee brain knows which way to steer my car at the end of my street. My choir music tote bags, one for each parish, are always packed and ready so that I’m prepared for anything that’s posted on the hymn board. (In non-musical terms, it’s akin to those old Japanese monster movies. Whenever Godzilla arrived in town, stomping bridges and breathing fire, remember how the shrieking villagers ran out of their houses in mere seconds but carrying fully-packed suitcases? Well, that’s me on the way to my two different churches, except with less architectural damage and better breath.)
Since I’m a musician, there always seems to be a soundtrack playing in my head (which I guess is a little less frightening than voices speaking in my head.) Lately, the music that is internally broadcasting as I hurriedly drive between my two churches is from the classic late 1960s television show “Mission: Impossible”. That high-octane, staccato opening sequence impels me to drive faster and practice the music more diligently, but it doesn’t seem to fit for the more reverent, contemplative Holy Week series of liturgies.
I’m going to change my mission this week, long lit fuse and incinerated tape recorder notwithstanding. This Holy Week’s mission, and I DO choose to accept it, is to turn off that inner soundtrack altogether. I’ll do my best to slowly savor each unique mass, Passion, Morning Prayer, Tre Ore, Veneration, and Vigil as we move together towards Easter and new life in the Savior. Hmm, peace and oneness with the risen Lord: a worthy mission, and quite possible. Good luck fulfilling your mission as well.