A Song on Our Lips, A Prayer in our Hearts!

When Bishop Zubik assumed the chair in Green Bay, he made a few changes here, most likely influenced by his priestly tenure in the Pittsburgh Diocese. One of those changes was the implementation of terms for those who serve as pastor of Catholic congregations. This is new to us in this neck of the woods. In some cases – as I’ve referred to in earlier blogs -- some have remained as pastor in diocesan parishes for as long as 27 – 30 years. It seems as though that tradition -- here and across the nation – is coming to an end. In most dioceses today, a pastor is appointed to a local congregation for six years with the ability to ‘up the ante’ for an additional six. Such was the case when I was appointed to Old Saint Joseph Church – Saint Norbert College on the Feast of Saint James, 25 July 2004. Back then the Bishop, upon recommendation of the Abbot, asked me to serve here for six years. Whether or not that can be renewed has yet to be seen. Nevertheless, I can only address the first three of six years.

I have been very happy to serve as pastor of the parish and college community for three years now. As I have stated in earlier blogs, I much prefer serving as Associate Pastor! As an associate pastor, one can really respond to the pastoral / sacramental concerns of the parishioners without being so bogged down by so many administrative affairs. As such, the first year in the chair at Old Saint Joe’s was a bit overwhelming – balancing the pastoral/sacramental with the administrative – Old Saint Joe’s/Saint Norbert College with Vocations, Packers and GBCI.... It seemed a bit much early on!

These days life seems much more organized, even amidst the diocesan issues that have loomed including GRACE, Faith Alive, and Advancing the Mission. These are demands that I have not expected but, nonetheless, have been addressed with a certain degree of adequacy – and even fulfillment! Perhaps part of the success is due to having a ‘mission’ in mind.

When I celebrated my First Mass as Pastor at Old Saint Joe’s on 25 July 2004, I asked Dan Robinson and our choir to sing at the Preparation of the Gifts, a beautiful song – based in sacred scripture – written by David Haas entitled, “Take Up Your Cross.” Dan and the choir did such a great job with the song that you would think it was a clip from the professional CD produced by GIA Publications. No, it was the talented men and women of Old Saint Joe’s. The beautiful melody, coupled with the challenging words, has been echoed in our church on appropriate occasions ever since that First Mass back in 2004. The refrain acclaims:

If you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.
If you want to save your life, let it go.
Take up your cross, deny yourself,
Come follow me, follow me.

In my mind, those words captured what my patron, Saint James the Greater, tried to achieve in his apostolic ministry. I thought the words of that song / scripture passage might be a pretty respectable mission for someone on the threshold of pastoral ministry to a parish congregation as well. It’s all about “self-emptying” service, as the Norbertines would say! Each time I would hear that song – whether sung in church or played in the priory, I would think of our congregation and my pastorate, hoping that I would continue to give without looking for something in return. Those words, that song, is what has empowered me over these past three years. Never to abandon such a great mission-become-metaphor, a new song comes to mind as I embark upon the next three years in just a couple of weeks. Upon Dan’s return from vacation, I have a new song for him to consider. Written by the St. Louis Jesuits – not in the 80’s but in this new millennium – the song is entitled, “These Alone are Enough.” Without providing the musical notations here, I offer you the lyrics for your own prayerfulness / evangelical mission:

These Alone are Enough

Take my heart, O Lord; take my hopes and dreams;
Take my mind with all its plans and schemes.
Give me nothing more than your love and grace:
These alone, O God, are enough for me.

Take my thoughts, O Lord, and my memory;
Take my tears, my joys, my liberty.
Give me nothing more than your love and grace:
These alone, O God, are enough for me.

I surrender, Lord, all I have and hold;
I return to you your gifts untold.
Give me nothing more than your love and grace:
These alone, O God, are enough for me.

When the darkness falls on my final days,
Take the very breath that sang your praise.
Give me nothing more than your love and grace:
These alone, O God, are enough for me.

I realize that you are only reading words here. But when they are sung with the song’s beautiful melody, a whole new dimension is added. It’s my hope that as you read this – or eventually sing this – you will come to know the joys and fulfillment that comes with handing one’s life over to the Lord as completely as possible: sometimes taking one step forward, two steps back. Beginning another three years together, let’s focus on moving forward, knowing in our hearts and in our communal mission: “God’s flock is in your midst, give it a shepherd’s care!”

Father James Baraniak, O. Praem.


Anonymous said...

What powerful lyrics.......looking forward to hearing the melody.


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