Selection Committee

This morning I received an email with the music selections for Sunday Mass. We’ll be rehearsing tonight.

Here’s the list:

Prelude: You Alone
Gathering: River of Glory
Responsorial Psalm: I Will Praise Your Name
Preparation: You Are Mine
Communion: On Eagle’s Wings
Sending Forth: Go In Peace

I’ve been singing Go In Peace in my head for the past two hours. And I think we’ll have to bring a box of tissues to Mass on Sunday.

PJJust about 6 months ago, a longtime friend passed away after a long and difficult battle with cancer. I’d known PJ since Big Brother was around a year old; at the time, I had a fledgling folk group at the 9:30 Mass and he brought his guitar, his voice and his commitment to choosing the best music available in a hymnal packed with questionable choices. Those were the Glory and Praise days. PJ played at the 9:30 and then came back at noon to play with the other folk group–the group I have since joined. PJ was also stage manager for Little Brother’s first community-theater production, a stage-crew mentor for Middle Sister, and a participant in an Advent Lessons and Carols event at another parish. In a way, PJ connected several of my worlds–and my kids’ worlds.

PJ had requested that our folk group sing at his funeral Mass. We invited some friends from Lessons and Carols to sing with us, and choosing the music became a group effort.  The choir’s seating area was filled to overflowing with PJ’s friends who had sung with him in several different parishes as well as in high school and at the theater. One friend in that group suggested that we learn Go In Peace, to be sung after the blessing of the casket. It very nearly did us all in. But it was perfect.

I’d read in the bulletin the other day that this Sunday’s Mass is for PJ. So when I got the list above, I emailed the folk group leader to ask if she’d known that.

She answered that she didn’t, and added “Makes you wonder who else might have a hand in choosing music.”

She and I have discussed that before. There are times when the homily is finished and we launch into an Offertory song (or Presentation, or Preparation, or whatever it is we’re supposed to call it now…I can never keep track)–a song that absolutely connects with the homily–and we just look at each other in amazement. Both of us have had enough years of experience selecting music for Mass to know that the Holy Spirit sits in on the selection committee more often than not.

This Sunday, PJ will be remembered in a special way:  not only in prayer, but in sung prayer. That’s fitting for someone who dedicated much of his time, energy and considerable talent to helping others pray through liturgical music.

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