Concluding Simbang Gabi 2010

That was fun. I need sleep.

By Day 9, we’d begun to learn some of the Tagalog songs. Hope the Filipinos near us can forgive our no doubt atrocious pronunciation. But enthusiasm seems to count for a lot in Filipino liturgy, and we were all over that angle.

In sum: doing a novena of Masses with a crowd of good-natured people full of Christmas cheer at 5:30 in the morning is a good, grace-filled and happy thing to do. Some of our kids made it at least a couple times. We’ll be back next year. Continue reading “Concluding Simbang Gabi 2010”


Simbang Gabi – Day 2

Wife and I made the 5:30 a.m. Simbang Gabi Mass today – 2 days down, 7 to go.  The Pastor from Parish A did the honors – he looked like maybe he’s not a morning person.

Skipped the breakfast delicacies today, but fully plan to partake tomorrow. Maybe I’ll develop a taste for chicken and rice soup with chunks of real chicken bones and gristle, ham cooked until stiff in sugar, fried Spam, and semi-sweet black baked goody of indeterminate hyle.  It could happen. I will do my duty.

Big Question: is this all bringing me closer to God, and more prepared for Christmas? Yes. God makes the most out of even our most trivial sacrifices – such as giving up an hour of sleep, and being around others who are also celebrating Christ’s upcoming birth with such obvious gusto is good for the soul.

Simbang Gabi – Advent with our Filipino Neighbors

Today marks the start of the annual Filipino Advent novena, Simbang Gabi. In Parish C, hundreds of Filipino American Catholics gather at 5:30 a.m. for Mass, followed by a breakfast of traditional Filipino delicacies – all intended to wrap up by around 7:00, in accordance with a tradition base on the need for  the peasants to be back working the fields at dawn. Continue reading “Simbang Gabi – Advent with our Filipino Neighbors”

Church Music and Children

Here’s the lens through which I view church music:

When I was quite little – say, 1962-ish – my family attended a large parish church with a Sunday Mass schedule something like 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12:15 – and all but the first couple were standing room only. The 11:00, which we often attended, had the choir.

The Latin Mass is a blur, but I do remember the choir. It was big and sounded great to my little ears. They sang some motets, and lots of hymns with the organ, and some Mass settings.

I loved it.  It was the best part of Mass to me. When I got to high school, by which time the Novus Ordo as implemented in my parish had managed to cripple what was now called the ‘adult choir’, I signed up for the school choir, started taking piano lessons, and joined the ‘folk’ Mass group – all, I think now, in an attempt to recapture the rapture I felt as a little kid listening to a big choir sing at Mass.  As the years went by, I indulged my music jones more and more in non-church music – sang in some big community choirs, was in a series of (poor to OK) rock bands. Did a little choir directing here and there, too, but I’m not really a good enough musician to pull that off well.

Apart from a couple years when I sang with a really good polyphony and chant group, little of this was really the fix I was looking for.

In high school, I even joined the adult choir at our church. By then, it had been reduced to mostly a small group of more or less disgruntled old people (more on that in another post).  But it wasn’t the same. To be fair, in the early 60s a couple new parishes were founded within the boundaries of what used to be our parish, so some of the drop off had to do with people simply attending Mass closer to home. “Where do we put him to minimize the damage?” – I was that problem, so I know how that feels. (I eventually learned to sing OK, it has been reported.)

2 of our kids are singers now. They never had the week in, week out experience of hearing a good big choir at Mass. I’m agitating to get us all – the kids and me – to join one of the choirs at Parish C. We’ll see.

In a way, I suspect these experiences have made my expectations of music at Mass somewhat unrealistic. But I’ll cling to this truth: it is possible to have a bunch of parishioners sing great music pretty well. I’ve heard it done.

Music at Mass Review: 12/12/10

Parish C this week with the boys (girls had theater gig, went to early Mass with Mom).

It being both the Happy, Holy and Blessed feast of Our Lady of  Guadalupe as well as Gaudate Sunday, they had the Tagalog choir singing, in lovely rose (well, pink) shirts.  Some Jebbie or Jebbies seem to have written most or all of the hymns in Tagalog, in a curious style – a little pop, a little show tune, a little I don’t know what. The choir clearly loves to sing them. But as a non-Tagalog speaker, it was a little rough. Plus, they didn’t hand out the music – trying to sing words phonetically to tunes you don’t know – well, I can’t. But is sounded good, and was sung enthusiastically by the choir, at least. Hard to speak to its liturgical appropriateness, as I have little idea what they were singing about.

BUT – they not only did the simple Latin Agnus Dei, but they did it unaccompanied – cool. For some reason, most of the time it seems the pianist or organist just can’t sit out, and chant with accompaniment is just, well, lame. The people didn’t need it – in Spanish, English, and Tagalog the Latin is the same.

All in all, the Mass was beautiful, mostly because the people were beautiful. The Lord can work with questionable music and falderall provided we give him a chance. These are people doing the best they can for God, and it shows and is infectious.