As those committed to ministry through music, we sometimes place more focus on the music than the ministry, especially when we get busy! For me that is the temptation I face especially in the weeks leading up to Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.
There is music to choose and align with other preparations for the season. That may be coordinating acclamations with the RCIA team (if you’re lucky enough to have candidates or catechumens). Or it may be tucking extra rehearsals in around extra services such as Taizé prayer, Stations of the Cross, or communal reconciliation. And let’s not forget the need to offer our sweat equity at the Lenten fish fry or Lenten meal.
Just when I think I can’t do one thing more, there is one more thing I need — prayer.
Here are three simple ideas to help you make room for prayer in your schedule, your ministry, and your heart.
Make YouTube your prayer partner
There are so many renditions of liturgical music available on YouTube, both from professional recording artists and from parishes across the country. I add links to new or newer songs to the music schedule we distribute as both a teaching tool and a praying tool.
Sometimes they are songs we’ve not yet done – like “Into the Desert” by Curtis Stephan and Sarah Hart. I might share the link to the official OCP recording or one from a parish interpretation.
Sometimes, though, I’ll add a recording of a song we’ve done many times but offered in a different arrangement. The spiritual “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me” is one of those songs. This recording with the Alex Boye and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one of many powerful renditions. Another, by the acapella quartet The Group Music, is powerful in a different way. It joins the song to images from the narrative of slavery in America.
I recently stumbled on the award-winning Easter song by Christian Cosas, “Rise Again.” The version Cosas recorded with a virtual parish choir brought me to tears as I reflected on the pandemic journey we’ve traveled as Church and as music ministers. It adds a layer of meaning to the song’s insistent refrain: “we will rise again.”
All of these are opportunities for personal prayer, reflection, or journaling. Consider choosing a song from an upcoming liturgy and build that YouTube time and reflection into your preparation. It may deepen your experience of praying it at Mass as well.
Pray the psalm in monastic style
The psalter is the foundation of monastic prayer. I am lucky to have a Benedictine monastery in my city and make it a point to join their evening prayer at various times of the year. Within the chapel, the sisters and guests sit facing one another. Whether the sisters are chanting or speaking a psalm, they often will alternate from side to side. Consider adopting the same practice at the beginning of rehearsal using the upcoming Lenten psalm. You might divide the “sides” by men and women, or we often will stand in our risers and have the front row turn to face the back. You can also do this with as few as two people! If time allows, invite discussion of what emerges from the psalm in terms of personal connections or even the experience of reciting versus singing the words.
Start a morning or evening habit
I subscribe to Give Us This Day from Liturgical Press. It’s a monthly resource for daily prayer, but consistency is not my strong suit. Lent is a time that I can start over with a brief commitment to Morning Prayer (I’m an early bird) and hope that it sticks.
Some parishes offer take-home resources for Lent or Advent, but there are also plenty of free online resources. Some of my favorites are Pray as You Go, especially the daily 10-minute scriptural meditation guaranteed to clear your mind and lower your blood pressure, and Sacred Space. Both are Jesuit resources. I’m also partial to Monasteries of the Heart, a Benedictine resource available by signing up for a free account.
Whatever – or whether – you choose to start or supplement a prayer practice for Lent, know that I will be making this commitment: to pray for you.
Written by Kathy Felong, a CLEF supporter who has served in music ministry for most of her life. She currently serves as Director of Liturgy and cantor at Holy Cross Parish in Fairview, Pennsylvania.
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