Oddwalk Ministries

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Symbols of Justice, Continuing the Conversation

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Among other things which is giving quite a lot of Americans something I (Orin) might call “News Fatigue,” you have the issue of some NFL players protesting racial injustices by kneeling during the national anthem before their games. [Sidebar: I might suggest reading up sometime on why the heck the anthem is played at sporting events at all.]

Anyway, as some have noted, regardless of what the national anthem signifies, those who kneel during the anthem aren’t any more protesting a flag than Rosa Parks was protesting a bus. It’s not the object or the moment which is under protest, but rather a moment in time to show one’s dissatisfaction. The Black Lives Matter movement has been very active lately in St. Louis following what is seen by many as an unjust verdict a month or so ago. The group elicits a wide spectrum of reactions from folks; I don’t mean to get into that exactly, other than to note they do organize their protests for times and places which both get people to notice, and to realize something symbolic about that particular place and time.

The tricky thing about symbols, like, say, flags, is they can mean different things to different people, and no one person gets to tell someone else what that symbol ought to mean, or that their interpretation of it is incorrect. Perhaps a certain flag to one person might symbolize freedom, bravery, and sacrifice; to another it might symbolize a nation that even over 150 years after a civil war was fought continues to, by action or inaction, let a large percentage of its citizens down in a variety of ways.

And sure, the same aspects of interpretation of symbols holds true for, for instance, flags of former nations that oppressed or killed certain humans for merely being a certain race or creed. The difference is, I hope it’s apparent, is that those who erected those flags lost wars to those who erected ours so that people could, within constitutional reason, live and express themselves as they see fit. And, while such goals were explicitly forbidden for some people under certain flags, it is also true that under ours, not all feel as if what our flag represents to some is a reality for all.

And a small addendum – if you are among the people annoyed by all this chatter on the matter, especially if all you wanted to do on Sunday afternoon was “just watch football,” then I dare say the protests are working. Your minor irritation or perhaps inconvenience is a necessary part of these things, you know, as is conversation on the matter.

So, let’s actually talk. I certainly am aware that I have friends on any and all sides of matters like these. So, if conversation arises here, fantastic. Please, just be respectful, read comments for content, and double-check how entrenched your views are, how dug in your heels are. I will try to be and do those things, anyway.

Lastly, if all we want is unity, I think this is the way, the only way there. Uniformity as a means to an end (unity) will most certainly fail. So, let’s talk.

—Orin

Look for the helpers…

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It’s not a day one easily finds words of joy.

We can, however, continue to seek Christ, even in the most profound tragedies of life, the ones that make the least sense, the ones that shatter our hearts.

Mr. Rogers, of the well-known PBS show of many decades, Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood, was himself an ordained Presbyterian minister. He perhaps sums it up best in moments such as today.

Are You God?

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School is back in session at the parish where I, Orin, am music director. Sometime near the beginning of each school year, we gather the entire student body, PreK-8th Grade, in the Church to go over some music that we’ll be using at some upcoming Masses; that day this year was this past Thursday afternoon,…

Guardians of Hope

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“Our Hope, Our Everything”

Certain current events are understandably troubling and causing a bit of concern if you’re like us. Whether it’s the threat of war with North Korea or Venezuela, or the recent events in Charlottesville, many people have heavy hearts and some amount of anxiety about what the future holds.

At Sts. Joachim and Ann, where I (Orin) am the music director, each year the day school and the whole religious education program focus on a certain theme for the year.  And, for several years now, I have written a song to flesh out that theme and help it to dwell in the hearts and lives of the students and faculty.  One of these, “Alive in Love, Alive in God” is on our most recent Oddwalk CD.

This year’s theme at J&A is “Guardians of Hope” – which happens to tie in to an anti-bullying program at school as well.  As I pondered what the text could be for this new piece of music, I started asking myself what it meant to be a guardian of hope – how we do that in any practical way.  Especially framed by current events, the question took on particular urgency and relevance.

When it comes to recognizing hope, seeing it around us, offering it to others – all this, of course, begins and ends with God: God’s creating us in God’s own image and likeness, Christ’s self-sacrificing love, and how we recognize both of these things in those around us and what it then propels us to do.

If we truly saw each human being as created in the image and likeness of the One who created all things, and if we truly believe that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was for the redemption of all who choose to accept that amazing gift and is also our model for loving one another, we would never again be able to wage war, nor would we be able to see ourselves as superior to any other human being.

In short, being a guardian of hope means we recognize the Christian dignity in those around us (and in ourselves) and loving like Christ loved.  And, that’s what my new song tries to say.

Click the picture above – or right here – to view or download a PDF of it, and click here to listen to a demo recording quickly made one afternoon late last week at Church.  If you like, please feel free to use the song – for catechesis, for prayer, for any need it might fill.

And may we all be guardians of hope this year.

Ongoing Creation

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The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: 306 God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures’ co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God’s greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their…

We’re writing a book!

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Hey everyone! Shannon and Orin are excited to announce that… wait for it… we’re writing a book! If you had not guessed from the title of this post, seeing some news on social media that led you here, or from this super-cool graphic, we’ll say it again – we’re writing a book!

It will be published next July by Twenty-Third Publications, a division of Bayard which specializes in books and devotionals for nourishing your spirituality and celebrating the liturgical year, as well as the newest resources to help you lead and guide your parish community.

Our book has a working title of “Praying and Living the Faith Through the Year” and is a collection of twenty interactive prayer services on various Church themes and celebrations as well as other special times during a school year. Each service has suggested music, prayers, scripture, and interactive, prayerful activities to help bring faith to life. While the “target audience” for this book is middle-school-aged youth and those that minister to them, this collection should also be useful for other ages, as well as other situations, like youth ministry and family units.

Here’s the rundown (for now) on “chapters” the resource will have:

• Welcome to Teachers/Staff/Students (Community)
• For Grandparents (Generations, Wisdom)
• At a time of tragedy (Consolation)
• All Saints (Communion of Saints)
• All Souls (Deceased Family and Friends, Tradition)
• Thanksgiving (Gratitude to God)
• Christ the King (Dominion, Sovereignty)
• Advent (Waiting in Joyful Hope)
• Immaculate Conception / Guadalupe (Mary, Dignity)
• Christmas (Incarnation)
• Discipleship (Learning, Following)
• Before an Exam (Peace, Assurance)
• Ash Wednesday (Repentance)
• Lent (Returning to God, Conversion)
• Holy Week (Suffering, Obedience, Cross)
• Easter (Resurrection, New Life)
• Mercy (Divine Mercy)
• Ascension (Church and Our Mission)
• Pentecost (Holy Sprit, Gifts of the Spirit)
• At Graduation (Transitions)

Each chapter will also include some introductory material from us, for those putting together each service.

We feel this resource will pull together strongly many aspects of Oddwalk’s varied ministries – storytelling, humor, prayer, music, retreats – and hopefully be a welcome and successful resource for many folks helping to lead the young Church on their journeys to and with God.

Watch this space for more updates, especially as the project gets closer to completion! We can’t be more excited to be working with 23rd, and can’t wait for you to be able to hold this book in your hands – and use it!

Joy at NPM

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Hi all, Orin here, continuing his usual busy summer of acronyms: a couple weeks ago was YSP, this week is the annual convention for NPM, National Association of Pastoral Musicians.  (Next week is another YNIA which Shannon and I will do together, Shannon already told you about one of those.) Anyway, yesterday was travel day, which is why this Jesus-Justice-Joy post is a day later than usual.

Just as YSP brought me a certain joy (which a tired me told you a tiny bit about in a video), every year NPM brings me a joy as well. While of course I am a church music director in addition to my Oddwalk fun, I’m here this week also as a composer of music for the Church as well.

Here’s a photo from the exhibit hall last night of a book from GIA that both Shannon and I have songs published in, called Crossgeneration.

 

Knowing it’s selfish mostly, it does bring me a bit of joy to see that music that I and Shannon have written in print – but beyond my own ego, part of that joy is it being still available to the wider Church to help them pray in song. (I hope to sneak photos of other octavos in print with WLP and OCP later today!)

Another joy this week is being able to reconnect in person with so many other composers I have gotten to know over recent years. There is a certain fellowship and camaraderie in that particular group of people, with a particular ministry to and for the Church.  Here are a few of us out to dinner last night, photo credit to Kate Basi.

 

Sharp eyes will see my wife Erin in the photo. Another joy is being able to spend a chunk of this week with her, taking a little personal time here and there to just be us, away from home and most of the responsibilities and worries there.

All of these joys are rooted in Christ and my faith in him.  It is Christ who gathers, who forms community, and gives us talents to praise him in song.  St. Augustine purportedly once said that “The one who sings prays twice.”  If so – and I think that’s right – there’s a whole lotta prayin’ goin’ on in Cincinnati this week at NPM.  Thanks for reading!  —Orin

The Joy of the Scriptures

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Psalm 87

Hello all, Orin here.  One of my roles as Music Director at Sts. Joachim and Ann in suburban STL is to prep music for school masses.  One of the tasks for each mass is ensuring we have a responsorial psalm and a psalmist or two ready to go: both I and the pastor at J&A prefer to do the readings of the day, so I need to ensure that the psalms are easily grasped both by the psalmists from the different homerooms in school (on limited rehearsal time), as well as by the assembly.  Before sitting down to write this, in fact, I needed to create a new one for a school mass tomorrow, led by our 4th graders.  You can see an image of the simple music just over there…

By now, ending my 5th year at J&A, many such psalms are already written, and it’s rare I need to take a moment and create a new one, but this morning was such a time.  A quick count shows I’ve created over 130 of these in 5 years.  An unexpected joy of the role here at J&A has become getting to know the psalms in such a broad way.  Many of us know several of the more common Sunday responsorial psalms well, but the psalms at daily mass are much more diverse than at Sundays alone, and as a result, some unexpected poetry, theology, spirituality, and expressions of faith come to my attention over these few years.

This hymn of praise to Zion, for instance, responds joyfully to a reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which we hear how the early Church grew far past Jerusalem, partly because early followers of Christ were scattered to many places, avoiding persecution, and were bolstered and taught by the likes of Barnabas and Paul.  This passage ends, “…it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.”

There is a joy in the scriptures which only grows and blossoms the more deeply one knows, prays, and lives them.  As broad as the scripture passages are on Sundays, an easy way to encounter so much more is to attend daily mass – a practice which was not a significant part of my life before arriving at J&A, but is now.  When was the last time you attended a daily mass?  Perhaps it’s time to consider a new discipline in faith, and rediscover the joy of the scriptures, like I have.

Apostle to the Apostles

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Icon of Mary Magdalene and the Apostles

Easter greetings everyone. While pondering recently what to write about today, I noticed several pieces on social media, as we celebrate these early days of Eastertide, raising Mary Magdalene up as an important part of our faith owing to her role in life of Christ.

The first rightly observes that, without her preaching the risen Lord to the Apostles, Easter Day would have been, and would be, very different. She is often called “The First Apostle” or “Apostle to the Apostles” with good reason.

 

 

 

 

Seen retweeted a few times…

The second suggests at least a darker possibility: that because such an important role in the resurrection story fell to a woman, some unnamed unknown men of the Church attempted to devalue her worth by conflating her with adulterous women found elsewhere in the Gospels – a practice that lately has been found without merit.

So today, as our weekly articles turn their attention to Justice, let us turn our attention to women of the Church. I don’t wish to enter the fray at this moment as to the roles of women in the Church – liturgically or otherwise. I do wish to point out that, as such discussions occur, we should all be mindful to not devalue someone – anyone – by seeing them in such a limited capacity: that one’s worth is defined only by something amazing they did on their best day or by something horrible done on their worst day; that one’s worth is defined only by their capacity to give birth or their inability to; that one’s worth is defined merely by things we discern with our human senses.

Our value, our Christian dignity, comes from our creation by God in God’s image and likeness, and that God comes to dwell in us: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19) Notably, the scripture doesn’t delineate here based on gender or any other divisions.

This worth comes with two other important attributes. First, it can’t be taken away from us unless we so permit that to happen. As long as we remember who we are in God’s eyes, the opinions, the labels, the divisions that humanity creates matter far less, if they matter at all. Second, once we train ourselves to know this worth both in ourselves and in one other, the world becomes a very different place – a place of justice, love, and peace.

Continued Easter blessings, Oddwalkia. Celebrate the risen lord with joy and gladness in your hearts!

–Orin

Holy Week and Catholic Social Teaching

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Pope Francis Washing Feet at a Previous Holy Thursday Celebration

Our “Jesus Justice Joy” reflection this week is a little tardy, owning to two full days of Oddwalking on Monday and Tuesday…

As we approach Holy Thursday evening and the beginning of triduum, I’m struck by how, at Thursday night’s mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Gospel is not what it seems like it should be. One would think that we’d hear one of the evangelists tell about that Passover meal. Rather, we hear in the epistle Paul describe how the tradition of that meal was handed down to him. Instead in the Gospel, we hear a narrative unique to John – the humble washing of the feet.

John’s Gospel doesn’t even include a narrative about the last supper meal the way the synoptics do. Some see the significance of this – that the description of the meal is replaced with this story of the foot washing – as one which instructs the early Christian community to live lives of solidarity and service – both important tenants of contemporary Catholic Social Teaching.

In fact, the whole evening, if one listens from a certain vantage point, is linked to issues of justice: liberation, solidarity, service…

I have often wondered why foot washing didn’t “make the cut,” so to speak, as the Church finally focused in upon seven “Big S” sacraments. It seems like it would meet the usual requirements and definitions of one. Pause for a moment and imagine if, when preparing for first communion, young people also learned about and prepared for foot washing along side of that.

How much more linked then would we as a Church find our reception of Eucharist to the command we are given just a few minutes later: Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life. Eucharist, as much as it is thanksgiving is also service, solidarity, and our freedom. May we recognize it as such the next time we gather around the table.

—Orin

Don’t let the word get out, but…

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I’ve always been uncomfortable with – and also not so good at – self-promotion.  Whether it’s the various ministries Oddwalk offers, or perhaps a piece of music I’ve written for the Church, or most anything else, it’s difficult for me to be too forthcoming about it.  For me, it’s a number of factors that come…