Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

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What I Did on Summer Vacation

September 3, 2012

I’ve been on a hiatus, obviously.

I’m still crossing my Rubicon.  I’ve just been writing other things lately.

I was informally commissioned last year to compose a Mass for my parish.  If you’re not Catholic (i.e. headed for hell) “composing a Mass” means that I set some of the weekly Mass prayers to music.  Theoretically, that music coordinates together as a suite.

I enjoy composing music—creating new melodies and playing them with ad libbed accompaniment for myself.  I’ll play in a stream of consciousness, or toy around with melodies or harmonies I’ve already written.  Adding constraints to the process—existing lyrics that must be incorporated or limits on singable ranges—somehow paradoxically makes the process easier for me.  An English writing analogy might be limiting a post to one hundred words, or writing a short story without using the letter “T.”  I’m more engaged when solving a complex problem than I am writing with no constraints at all.

Notating music, on the other hand, is a royal pain in the patooty.  I’m glad I was writing Rubicon before I started notating my Mass.  Blog posting has made me practice editing, adjusting layouts and polishing my output for public consumption.  In writing, the author strives to lead the reader to an idea through words, punctuation and paragraphs.  In music notation, the composer attempts to recreate his performance through another performer by handing him or her a sheet of paper.  Music notation, for me, has a lot more room for error than just writing words.  As an amateur hack musician, I don’t know exactly what I’ve written until I play it.  And I often don’t play what I’ve written, I play what’s in my head.

So I’ve been writing, rewriting, printing drafts and red-lining all summer long.  The project is almost complete.  My blog photographer Michelle Codarmaz-Booth created a fantastic cover for me.  When the Mass is finished, I plan to offer it for free online.  I’ve tried sending music to publishers before.  My submissions had no result, other than pummeling my frail ego. Like most industries—writing, art, engineering, etc.—music publishing is not about talent or ability. It’s about who you know and nearly limitless perseverance.

When the Mass is finished, I’m still going to be busy in musician mode. I’m playing for a cousin’s wedding in October.  I generally play weddings for our family.  I’m very opinionated about it.  But that’s another blog post.  After that I have yet another mixed media project that will limit my blogging output.

So, although I’m not producing many blog posts, I should have some nearly tangible alternatives to show you soon.

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More Hope Than We Can Handle

April 7, 2012

Monsignor Francis Tuohy was the Pastor of Christ the King Church in Indianapolis from 1995 to 2004.  Father Tuohy was an inspired writer and continues to be an inspiration to me.

At the Easter Vigil Mass in 2003, Father Tuohy’s homily made me want to stand up and cheer.  But he moved quickly into the sacrament of baptism for new members of the church and I lost the moment.  I requested a copy of the homily.  I reread it every once in a while and think of it almost every Easter.  When I started writing Rubicon, this was one of the first things I wanted to share.  I’ve finally posted it below.

The monsignor’s homilies were intended to be spoken.  He had a commanding voice, strangely nasal when he spoke loudly, but soothing like a double bass when he softened it to make his most important points.  I’ve made a few adjustments in the text for readability on the page.  I hope you enjoy it.  Happy Easter.

Easter – 2003

by Monsignor Francis Tuohy

Easter and the gospel account of Jesus rising from the dead always begins in darkness.  This is always how our discovery of the risen Christ begins—in darkness.

While it is still dark, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of the Jesus who healed her, who taught her, who accorded her respect and love when no one else did and which she never thought she was worthy of.  With his death, her hope died.  Our discovery of the risen Christ begins in darkness.

Just imagine, earlier this week, a single mom looses her job because of the brutal economy.  She cleans out her desk and packs away her hope and walks into darkness wondering what she will tell her kids.

Just imagine, earlier this week, a spouse receives devastating news from the physician about a life-threatening cancer forming in his beloved; darkness surrounds them.

Just imagine, earlier this week, someone heard the words, “I want a divorce; I no longer love you, maybe I have never loved you.”  That one’s life is plunged into darkness.

Earlier this week, someone’s hope was crucified and that person’s darkness overwhelmed them.  And they cried out with Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

No one is ready to greet Easter until he or she has spent time in the early morning darkness where hope cannot be seen.  In such darkness, Easter is the last thing we are expecting.  That is why Easter terrifies us.

We dread the darkness but we fear even more what is beyond it.  Sometimes the darkness we know is preferable to the darkness we do not know—we may have learned at least to function and exist in the darkness; we find a distorted solace in the fact that darkness means nothing more can disappoint or hurt us.

In our darkness, we are not ready for Easter’s dawn, Easter’s first light.  It illuminates those dark places we have become used to; it focuses our vision and attention on what we have never seen before; it dares us to imagine possibilities beyond our limited understanding of what is possible.

Easter is not about bunnies, eggs and candy, springtime and little girls’ pretty dresses.  Easter is about more hope than we can handle.

Easter calls us out of the darkness that shrouds our lives.  Easter calls us out of the darkness into the light of possibility, of healing, of re-creation.  In his rising from the dead, Christ enables us to bring into our own lives all that he taught and lived throughout his life—the love, compassion, generosity, humility, selflessness that ultimately triumphs over hatred, bigotry, prejudice, despair, greed and death.

The empty tomb is the sign of perfect hope—that in Christ all things are possible, that we can make of our lives what we want them to be, that we can become the people God created us to become.  May we live not in fear of Easter morning’s first light but embrace that light and the hope it promises in the Risen One who is forever in our midst, dispelling the darkness.

In raising His Son from the dead, God raises us up as well, above and beyond the fears, the cynicism, the dark hopelessness that prevent us from living the life that God created us to live.  We must believe in the depths of our hearts that we are always forgiven our sins and mistakes and be willing to start over again and again.  We must embrace the hope of Easter’s empty tomb, and live our lives in the joy and faith that the Easter miracle will one day be realized in our lives as well.

Hope is stronger than memory.  Salvation is stronger than sin.  Forgiveness is stronger than bitterness.  Light is stronger than darkness.  Resurrection is stronger than crucifixion.  Life is stronger than death.  Those are the contrasts that capture the message of Easter.  Hope, salvation, forgiveness, light and life burst from the tomb as Christ is raised.  The resurrection is for us.  The good news is that Christ is raised.

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Christmas Eve Traditions

December 24, 2011

It’s 6:00 PM Christmas Eve and I’m writing.  This is a strange combination for me.

When I was growing up, Christmas Eve was always with my mom’s family.  My grandmother hosted.  We didn’t have elaborate or formal meals.  We had barbecue or ham sandwiches, potato chips and cookies.  But most importantly, we had peanut butter fudge.  Every Christmas Eve, I can eat or drink any number of wonderful things; I still have a craving for peanut butter fudge.

After my mom’s parents passed away, only five of us were left to get together.  For a few years, I directed an ad hoc Christmas Eve choir at our church for the 7:30 Mass.  My mom’s family joined the choir, so we were all still together.  We had dinner after Mass and a couple of us went back to church to sing with the regular choir at midnight.

Organizing a choir in four rehearsals during December, if you haven’t tried it, is a highly stressful activity to add to the holidays.  So I handed the reigns to someone else.  It was suggested that, since I “didn’t have anything to do,” I could host Christmas Eve dinner between Masses.  That’s what I did the last two years.  I liked hosting dinner.  It created crazy chaos in my life, but if things fell completely apart in the kitchen, I always had frozen pizza to fall back on.

This year, someone else in both the 7:30 and midnight choirs asked to host dinner tonight; she recently remodeled her kitchen.  I’ve found myself with most of the evening free.

So it’s a little strange.  But fortuitous.  I’ve had a cold the last couple of days.  My house is only half decorated because the clients at work have gone completely mental.  I have one tree up in the family room and a bare artificial evergreen standing in my living room.  (Another hint to mothers out there: if your unmarried son puts up two Christmas trees, he’s probably gay.)

I’ve kept up some traditions.  I did get all my presents purchased and wrapped.  I practiced music to play at church and at gatherings tomorrow.  I sent cards.  (Christmas cards are about the only personal correspondence that ever comes through the mail any more.  I love them.)  I even put up my front door garland in the midst of editing this.

And today I dragged my tired, sick self into the kitchen.  After a thorough disinfection, I read off the instructions from a jar of marshmallow fluff, boiled sugar and butter, threw in peanut butter chips and poured the molten goodness over chocolate chips in a pan.

I may not have a voice to sing my Christmas carols.  My house may be half-decked with evergreen and holly until New Year’s.  I may not be able to stay awake all through midnight Mass.  But come hell or high reindeer, I’m going to have peanut butter fudge on Christmas Eve.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.