A colleague of mine, who happens to be a liturgy professor here at Notre Dame, once remarked "the liturgy of the church is a continuous thing – it simply never stops." And it is true, evidenced so clearly by a campus which, while preparing for final exams and papers, is also in the midst of Advent, a transition into a new Roman Missal, a celebration of seasonal Lessons and Carols, and a huge mass on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe next Monday afternoon.
So it was, in the midst of all this Advent busy-ness, that I found myself requested to provide music for a memorial mass last Saturday. The liturgy had its own challenges, for it was bringing together congregants from the four corners of our country, and here we were in the middle of a pretty big transition, with new prayers, new dialogs, and new songs.
We had a few stumbling moments, but for the most part, the assembly that gathered in the Basilica Crypt to honor the departed did a really wonderful job of keeping with the new responses. They also sang the Mass for Our Lady – and were superb in their singing.
I played this memorial mass with two great seniors in the Folk Choir: Katie Klee, who cantored, is the current president of the ensemble. And Catherine Hackbarth has been a dedicated librarian who just so happens to play a phenomenal violin!
At the end of the liturgy, Catherine and I were walking back over to the Basilica with all the gear – the guitar, the music, the folders, the amp (half our lives, I swear, is about being your own roadie with the stuff you need to schlep from place to place). And out of her mouth slips this statement: "You know, Steve, I could make a career out of this."
Catherine might not comprehend this, but that kind of statement really defines the work of a minister and choral director. When someone steps up to the plate and says: "I think I want to do what you do!" – it says a lot about the joy you've tried to impart among your young collaborators.
Much of what we do in ministry is about walking along a path. Years ago in Campus Ministry, we were lucky to simply hold the walk together, week to week and season by season. But now, because of the support of wonderful benefactors and more than a generation of experience, we've had the grace and the stability to show and share this work with an ever-expanding group of students. And many of them are beginning to share this path as well.
It is a unique path, this career in sacred music. But for some of us, it is a path worthy of our time, attention and passion. For every time we sing, we tug at the veil that separates earth from heaven. And that is a very noble vocation.