Paul Moore: Stepping in from the threshold of the door to make decisions
In My Father’s House / Paul Thomas Moore
I have a bit of a complicated relationship with decision-making. Sometimes I charge in impulsively (“where angels fear to tread,” as my Mom used to say) without sufficiently thinking — or more importantly, praying — things through beforehand, and must beat a retreat later. Other times I stand at the door dithering so long that the door closes.
The biggest decision commitment for me recently has been about pursuing U.S. citizenship. I immigrated here from Canada and established permanent residence more than three years ago, and for someone married to a U.S. citizen, one can apply after that time (five years otherwise).
I love my wife, and the fact that she is “home” here means a lot. As well, I love the welcome I have received here (not the least of which is the opportunity to write this column), and the ideals for which the United States stands. Over the years, I have thought on and off about whether I would apply for citizenship when the time came, and the main barrier has been simple indecision. To quote Scarlett O’Hara: “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
Citizenship does not overly affect my everyday life. I pay taxes. I can work. I even have Medicare, with God’s Grace (as a spousal benefit based on my wife’s work record). The only thing is, I can’t vote. As well, as a commentator, I feel a little more inhibited to “commentate” than if I had a horse in the race.
I felt this most keenly while writing my last column, which involved a discussion of pro-life and gun control (“First and second things,” July 10, 2022).
I still wrote what I felt compelled by conscience to write, but the thought struck me, “Hmm, I appreciate the freedom I have in this country to write about life and faith, but when the discussion veers into politics, as it sometimes must, shouldn’t I decide whether I’m in or out?”
FACING THE (MASS) MUSIC
I’ve been facing a different sort of commitment decision recently at church. Our new pastor at St. Mary of Lourdes, Father Bolek, wants to encourage more engagement with the liturgy of the Mass, and part of that involves us becoming even more of a “singing parish.” I thought that sounded like a wonderful idea. However, Father wasn’t content with it staying an idea. He asked those of us in the music ministry to start singing the Mass parts. All of them.
My challenge — I’m ashamed to say — is that I don’t really know all the Mass parts or how they fit together. I’m accustomed to simply filling in when the regular song leader isn’t there. With my wife playing the keyboard (and helping me learn the songs earlier in the week), I’ve been quite content to help lead the singing for the bare musical minimum: Entrance, Offertory, Communion, and Recessional.
Now, I was being asked to help play a more active role in weaving together the perfect puzzle that is the Sacrifice of the Mass with the gift of sung praise. I would have to really start paying attention (!) and become a true participant in the various liturgical elements, rather than being satisfied with more of a visitor’s attitude, passively permitting the chords of the Mass to wash over my spirit.
The Gloria, the Responsorial Psalm, the Gospel Acclamation, the Holy, Holy, the Lamb of God . . . and more — the Liturgy of the Mass is a grace-filled dance with many moving parts.
Furthermore, our music coordinator was asking me to take over a regular role in the singing rotation rather than solely as a fill-in. If I was going to wriggle out of this gig, now was the time.
ENTERING IN MORE COMPLETELY
Thank God, and with my wife’s infinite patience, I found the desire to try to learn. She helped me practice the various parts and map out the sequencing of what to sing when (though my first Mass after the change found me hopping up from bended knee during the Eucharistic prayer, as I should have been standing at the microphone leading the Memorial Acclamation).
Along the way I have learned a new respect for the people who have been doing what I have been benefiting from all my life as a person in the pews.
I see better now how hard it is to fully love either God or country hovering at the threshold of the door. With God’s Help, I have decided to enter in more completely — to apply for U.S. citizenship, and through music, to apply myself to a deeper participation in the mystery of faith “hidden in plain view” that unfolds in every Mass.
Paul Thomas Moore is a Catholic communicator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.