Saturday, March 06, 2010

Spiritual Irresponsibility

A fellow blogger said something which inspired this entry. I am not sure if she'll recognize the relationship!

I have done a lot of work with adults in the parishes where I have attended Mass over the years. I have met some interesting and challenging (sometimes in the same person) people.

I've noticed that the Holy Spirit's name is often invoked, but not given much legitimate credit. Or I've seen enough to make me a bit suspicious when I hear someone frequently speak of the Holy Spirit.

I worked with an adult choir that nearly brought me to a nervous breakdown. The musicians (guitarists) were not well trained in music, never mind liturgy. And I don't think most of the vocalists knew what liturgical ministry was about. Or for that matter, what being in a choir was about. And some made it abundantly clear that they didn't really wish to learn.

In this group, there were some lovely people I really enjoyed working with most of the time. And there were a few who I enjoyed working with very little of the time. It was sad and scary. But it was one of the most prayerful times of my life.

In this context, I often heard that we (and usually the speaker meant ME) needed to let the Holy Spirit be in charge.

This meant: 1) That we didn't really need to practice much, as the Holy Spirit would take us through.
2) That musical training (ie. reading music) wasn't really important because it made the music less spirit-led. This translated into "We don't like your insistance on following the timing, key, etc. in which the song was written. Sometimes this even sanctioned lyric changes! It was made clear that reading music was actually a handicap to Spirit-led music.
3) That planning was unnecessary. I was called to task by someone who I know tried hard to live by the Spirit, but who was, I think, hampered by pride (and I say this without malice as pride is also my greatest challenge). I was told that I should not be scheduling music 6 weeks ahead (as was my practice, but I was never intransigent on choices) but should allow the Holy Spirit to make the choices. To this I replied that I prayed a lot over my music choices, and was the Holy Spirit incapable of working 6 weeks ahead?

The criticism was not pursued.

It irritates me greatly when people use one of our manifestations of God as an excuse for laziness, sloppiness, and poor planning!

This is not to say that the Holy Spirit cannot step in and call a change at short notice. I also know that the Holy Spirit can work far ahead of our finite knowledge.

Again in the context of choir...

Occasionally, as I sat planning the music, I would be called on to choose a piece that did not seem to have any connection with the readings or Gospel of a particular Sunday. Or a selection for one of the hymns needed would simply not come to me. Invariably, the odd choice for a given week would end up being very appropriate in that it responded to an event that had just occurred and for which I had no prior knowledge, or that it responded to something Father said or quoted in his homily.

The missing hymn also frequently allowed for a choice needed for a particular occurrence. Or it would provide the choir members a chance to choose something they wanted.

During this prayerful and challenging time, I eventually heard loud and clear that I was no longer to lead this group. It was like someone lifted a window-blind and let the light in. I do believe that the 'someone' was the Holy Spirit.

I acted immediately. It was so strange. Lent had already begun. We were planning for a Chrism Mass. It was not like me to 'just stop' doing anything. People noticed. I was sent flowers. I friend from the choir (who was well aware of what I'd been dealing with) stopped by that evening to see if I was okay. People phoned. It was as if someone had died.

But it was the right decision. Many lessons were learned. I learned that the parish did not need me quite as much as I seemed to think they did (Did I say I had pride issues?), but others learned how much I did in the parish. Over all, life went on. I had a quiet and prayerful Lent. More ora and less labora. I needed that.

I rested for a year.  Almost to the day, a year later, the same friend who knew what I'd been dealing with, and who was now in charge of liturgy preparation, called and asked if I'd form a children's choir.  I did, in fact, pray about it.  And I did it.  It was wonderful.

When we speak of following the Holy Spirit, we must make sure it is, in fact, the Holy Spirit we're listening to, and not a baser or even evil source for our "inspiration"

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