Calling It Quits
  • Though at age 76 I still run daily with my border collie and maintain healthy habits, signs of decline are there. It’s not so much diminishment of physical endurance than a waning of mental resilience. Before I retire from church work, however, I would like to share some acquired wisdom with younger forum readers. Others may wish to augment or question my recommendations.

    (1) It’s so easy to get caught up in the mechanics of organ playing, singing, directing, thinking about what you have to do next during Mass, that you fail to take care of your own spiritual needs. Set aside time removed from the work place for prayer and reflection.

    (2) It is not uncommon for a music director to be the only person on the parish staff with any musical expertise or even an interest in music. Being a very lonely job, it’s crucial therefore to make connections with outsiders who share your passions and concerns.

    (3) Consult a financial advisor early in your career. Most musicians assume that by being in a low-paying profession professional financial guidance doesn’t apply to them. The opposite is true. Diocesan pension plans are woefully inadequate to sustain most recipients thru retirement and only someone trained in the field can help you make prudent choices.

    (4) Don’t beat up on yourself when things go awry since such moments are often beyond your control. Wallowing in disappointment serves no purpose so focus rather on the good you have accomplished.

    (5) The parish secretary and janitor are often the most important and loyal allies.

    (6) The greatest joys are often the least expected. (I never aspired to direct a children’s choir, yet doing so brought the most lasting satisfaction.)

    (7) Never be lured into accepting a music director position based on salary alone (unless personal circumstances absolutely compel it). The biggest mistake in my music career was doing just that.

    (8) It is said the primary virtue on which all others rest is gratitude. Never forget that when working with volunteers.

    (9) Exercise and stay physically fit. I’m ever amazed at the number of priests and talented church musicians, personnel we most need for as long as God will allow, who put themselves on a fast track for disease.

    (10) Not every good musician has the temperament for parish work. Few of us do everything well, be it singing, playing, conducting, teaching, motivating or organizing, but one quality you must possess is joy in collaborating with others.
  • All excellent points, especially number 5!! Thank you!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,885
    Though at age 76 I still run daily with my border collie and maintain healthy habits, signs of decline are there. It’s not so much diminishment of physical endurance than a waning of mental resilience.


    I agree with everything on the list. I am 71 and don't notice any physical decline. Years of weights and other forms of exercise have kept me stronger than many of my younger acquaintances.

    What I do notice is that I have days when I think the old refrain, who will rid me of these troublesome people. It is possible to stay in a job so long you really begin to dislike some of those around you.

    I don't know that I have gained much in my own spirituality from working in church music. It is, even when enjoyable, still work.

    I do remember those days when I put priests on pedestals and looked up to them. While still respecting and supporting the good ones, many priests are basically idiots who have gone into the wrong profession. Those do immense harm and I try to not let them affect me.

    Don't get me started on church politics.

    Agreed on the secretary and janitor. These are often the best people in the parish, as well as part of the few who actually keep things running.

  • dad29
    Posts: 1,685
    It is possible to stay in a job so long you really begin to dislike some of those around you.


    I think you meant "IM-possible."

    The underlying problem there is that it is remarkably easy to dislike those around you.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,885
    There is always that, but I think you come to realize that behind the smiling faces are agendas that work to no one's good.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • The best thing about being decidedly past the assumed midpoint of one's life is the insight gained from cumulative experience. RN's list exemplifies this beautifully. Godspeed on the next phase of life!
  • I am 71 and don't notice any physical decline. Years of weights and other forms of exercise have kept me stronger than many of my younger acquaintances. What I do notice is that I have days when I think the old refrain, who will rid me of these troublesome people. It is possible to stay in a job so long you really begin to dislike some of those around you. I don't know that I have gained much in my own spirituality from working in church music. It is, even when enjoyable, still work. I do remember those days when I put priests on pedestals and looked up to them.


    I must admit, I have noticed you speaking poorly of your singers on this forum, and you also have an awful lot of bad things to say about priests. Time and again, I find myself wondering whether you have chosen your profession properly. I'm sure there are bad singers out there, but so many volunteer Catholic singers are fantastic people with much to give.

    While still respecting and supporting the good ones, many priests are basically idiots who have gone into the wrong profession. Those do immense harm and I try to not let them affect me.


    Many hundreds of times, you have indicated you are a (non-Uniate?) Orthodox Catholic. Why, may I ask, do you work in a Roman Catholic church? In general, I get the impression you are deeply unhappy. Of your 9,445 posts, almost every one I've come across is a criticism or complaint. Why so little positive?

    My professors who taught me music always seemed excited and happy about music. Something to ponder.
    Thanked by 1Heartfeltsong
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,885
    No, l am Byzantine Catholic. Much of what I say about my singers is said in a humorous way, or at least, that's how it is intended. They are quite funny but don't always intend to be. Some of them sing well, and some may have deteriorated a bit because of age. I suppose laughing at these things is better than getting angry - something I refuse to do because I have seen too many temperamental musicians do it. One of my predecessors used to throw hymnals at singers who sang wrong notes. He has passed on, and we are not sure where he went. Some do have hopes about that.

    For the record, music has never been my primary career. I worked for the federal government for years and after retirement, taught school. Music is now a post-post-post retirement activity since I have retired three times.

    I am one of the happiest people you could ever meet. My associations with the parish go back to the sixties. There were no Eastern Catholic churches in the area, and the Latin pastor welcomed us with open arms. Now we have grown to two Eastern Catholic parishes and the number of Orthodox parishes has tripled.

    Glad your impressions are not backed up by facts. Music does have its trials and tribulations along with some joys.

    Maybe your professors were doing a little drinking on the side.



  • I think it's pretty apparent from the way Charles grumbles about his choir that he loves them for what they are. They are probably lucky to have him.

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,885
    Jackson, whether or not they are lucky is for them to determine. No one else wants the job since the parish is deeply in debt, and the salary is small. Grateful I don't really need the money.
  • For the record, music has never been my primary career. I worked for the federal government for years and after retirement, taught school. Music is now a post-post-post retirement activity since I have retired three times.

    I am one of the happiest people you could ever meet.


    I am sure you're correct; but those 9,445 posts…

    While still respecting and supporting the good ones, many priests are basically idiots who have gone into the wrong profession.


    I was not aware that being a music director was more of a hobby of yours. I am going to ignore your statement about most priests being "basically idiots who have gone into the wrong profession" (your words).
  • Randolph Nichols, I think your post is pure gold.
    Thanked by 1Randolph Nichols
  • I always took Charles the Easterner's comments about his choir like the relationship between an old married couple. They don't make outlandish declarations about each other, and they've probably been together so long that they know each other's warts thoroughly. Still doesn't mean that they don't care for each other. A lot of it is shown in actions that can almost be taken for granted. Come on -he's been there for 17 years. They must be doing something right.

    And don't get me started on priests.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,885

    I am sure you're correct; but those 9,445 posts…


    You can't have read them all. Get a life, really!

    Priests, I would say true for many. They are bred and developed from a young age, have no real experience at dealing with the world, and some seem to not have developed much since early adolescence. The best priests I have known have been a bit older when they attended seminary - and I do know plenty of them. They were in the world for a while and learned greatly about human nature and activities. They were part of the world, not shielded from it. Those are the priests everyone should be lucky enough to have.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,885
    re that being a music director was more of a hobby of yours.


    Don't kid yourself too much on that. I have a Master's in music. Music has never been a primary means of support. I do it because I want to, I don't have to.
  • Carol
    Posts: 447
    There is much wisdom in the original poster's comments. I was a bit put off by some of Charles' comments when I first started reading the forum, but I think Stimson got it right, with his old married couple analogy. I didn't realize how universal that caricature is of those married for many years, including mine. Sometimes I wait for MJO and Charles W. and the other Charles to comment because I know it will be pithy. Stimson will respond with razor sharp wit.
    Thanked by 3CharlesW CHGiffen Elmar
  • I am going to ignore your statement about most priests being "basically idiots who have gone into the wrong profession" (your words).


    Ignoring this? All should take this to heart!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,885
    Agreed, Noel. It is at the root of many scandals and bad behaviors that make the press nearly every day.

    Let me add a bit more to this. I read something by a psychologist - wish I could remember his name - who maintained the priest/altar boy scandal was driven partly by the sexuality of priests which formed in adolescence and never matured. Perhaps? Maybe partly responsible? Form your own opinions, but some of it makes some sense.
    Thanked by 2Elmar Matilda
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,685
    I had the better experience with priests, I guess....many of them were, ahhhhh.....less-than-learned, true. But they knew what they did NOT know and deferred to people who DID know.

    On the flip side, I've had two real stinkers in the last 10 years, too. Law of averages, I think.

    It would be fun to be a baritone in CharlesW's choir. Sit in the back row, make sotto voce wisecracks, sing a few wrong notes just to see if he's paying attention. Heh.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,885
    If you were like some in that section, I could threaten to hide your hearing aid batteries until you straightened up.

    I am fortunate in that most of my priests have been good. Some of my local Catholic musician friends can tell some real horror stories. Our priests have tended to be long term with the pastor of nearly 40 years passing away in 1997, his successor retiring after 17 years and the current pastor now in his 4th year. They have all been decent guys. However, there are some in town I wouldn't work with.

  • dad29
    Posts: 1,685
    Fooled ya, Bert!! I don't have hearing aids. Threaten my BEER supply...well...that's another thing.
  • henry
    Posts: 206
    Randolph Nichols - I enjoyed your post. God bless you and keep working!

  • (5) The parish secretary and janitor are often the most important and loyal allies.


    I'd add the sacristan, if your church has one. Also - if your church is fortunate enough to have a group of ladies who say the rosary before or after Mass, join them occasionally to pray. These are the movers and shakers in your church - on multiple planes of the spiritual combat.

    (9) Exercise and stay physically fit.


    This one is definitely the toughest. (Although part of me is amused at the idea of CharlesW and his weight-lifting program; I'm imagining him on the beach kicking sand in the face of some Marty Haugen pipsqueak.) Maybe I just need to get a dog like you have, Randolph - although my pet goose Toby gives me plenty of strife.
  • Those are the priests everyone should be lucky enough to have.


    Amen and amen. There were two priests I really got to know when returning to the Faith. One was a former opera singer who owned a pet bird named Gilligan. The other was a tour guide at the Henry Ford who gave his blessing to me one Easter when I gave him a bunny basket with Marlboro Menthols hidden in the fake grass. Both were late vocations, and both were universally beloved by their flock. And it's because they had enough experience of people in the real world to know how to treat them with real charity.

    This, actually, is one of the reasons why the general rule of prohibiting vocations over 35 in a lot of the more traditional orders worries me. It's like Charles says - they will end up being stunted in a lot of ways, and it's easy for such young men to fall into the trap of becoming liturgical automatons. I feel like it's because they make the false analogy that denying one's self and taking up Christ means suppressing your personality. It doesn't. (Canon Hesse and Fr. Montgomery-Wright come to mind.) It means purifying yourself from sin and its near occasions so that Christ may more clearly shine through your personality and make you more human. You become like the facet of a diamond, thoroughly polished, so that the prism of light might shine through you.

    It would be fun to be a baritone in CharlesW's choir.


    Let's just organize a flash choir mob and surprise him at mass one Sunday.
  • Carol
    Posts: 447
    Our parish had a priest who was ordained AFTER he had been a NYC cop for 20 years. As an associate priest, he was humble, patient, and really understood service to the flock. We were fortunate to have him in our parish while we still had a school. He stayed and served and was a tremendous example to our parish during his diagnosis, treatment, and eventual death due to a brain tumor.

    On the other hand, we also had a young man go through our school and eventually be ordained a priest. He recognized his vocation from an early age and is a real blessing! Just what the Church needs!
  • While still respecting and supporting the good ones, many priests are basically idiots who have gone into the wrong profession. {…} Priests, I would say true for many. They are bred and developed from a young age, have no real experience at dealing with the world, and some seem to not have developed much since early adolescence. The best priests I have known have been a bit older when they attended seminary—and I do know plenty of them. They were in the world for a while and learned greatly about human nature and activities. They were part of the world, not shielded from it. Those are the priests everyone should be lucky enough to have.


    The CMAA forum rules specifically forbid attacking another person, so please notice I am speaking of the idea you have put forth. I am not attacking you as a person in any way.

    It would be difficult for me to imagine a more idiotic statement than what you have said.

    The last four priests I knew who were "late vocations" were all defrocked; one for baptizing a dead baby; another for problems with the 6th commandment; another for, let's just say, daddy issues; and another for sexually abusing an altar boy (accusation, and he never fought it).

    I am sure there are some truly fantastic late vocations; but I find your statement utterly absurd. The best priests I know entered religious life in their teens—and come from different continents, so this is broader than just USA.

    Forgive me if your statement was not meant seriously. I've noticed a certain irony in some of your comments. What do I mean by irony? Oh, I don't know … maybe like somebody who's posted 9,445 times telling somebody else to "get a life."

    In any event, remember one thing: the "real world" is the Spiritual World and the Spiritual Life. It may not seem that way to the "foolish" (as the Book of Wisdom says), but it is. This world will pass away: Full Stop. See St. Paul on this.

    I normally do not respond to posts by CharlesW. To be frank, I have responded to less than .003% of his 9,445 posts. But I felt this reckless allegation on good, holy, young, smart priests should not go unanswered.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,885
    Clearly, we have been around different priests. Our older vocations have been spectacular priests, much loved, and appreciated. I think one of the problems with some younger ones, not all, some, is that expectations don't become realities. Probably why half the teachers I have known who have gone into education left the field in their first five years. Those are difficult jobs, burnout rate is high, and the real world can be really harsh. That real world is not spiritual but every day hard work. I have noticed my pastor outside after mass and it is a constant stream of people asking for help and prayer with illness, marriage issues, financial woes, and the list goes on. Good reasons for burnout. Young people are often not experienced enough to handle these issues requiring maturity. However, in this diocese we have been extremely lucky and our parish has been blessed with its priests.

    If you don't like my posts, has it occurred to you that I might have been talking to someone besides you?

    9,000+ posts? I wasn't counting but I have been here many more years than you, so there should be more posts.

    You do realize some of us are friends and we chat back and forth.

    Now go start fights with someone else.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,063
    Thank you Randolph for your words of sage wisdom. I already do many of them and will endeavour to do more.
  • A recurring question in first year philosophy is whether there is such a thing as progress. An example of an argument that progress is a chimera might very well be the demise of clarity and focus in social media communications. When my wife, an administrator of a large urban public school system, feels the need to discipline a faculty member it more often than not concerns some misuse of e-mail, Twitter or Facebook since these formats seem to have evaporated boundaries defining appropriate private-versus-public speech.

    Though sites like the Musica Sacra forum are invaluable, an example of what I was trying to say in the second point of my original post, they have inherent dangers and limitations and we all need to be aware of them. Having to type LOL to show you are being facetious or witty demonstrates this point. Once at a CMAA colloquium I met a gentleman who had frequently commented on the forum. On-line I found him unpleasantly harsh and unyielding but in person he was a soft-spoken sweetheart. How could I have so misread him?

    The answer is that on-line you don’t see facial gestures or hear tone, inflective clues clarifying intent and meaning. Another factor is that social media demands immediate response since interest in an original post often passes quickly. Unlike handwritten communication, we don’t have the luxury of musing over alternative ways to say things.

    So if I might add an eleventh little commandment to my original list, be clear about what you have to say and be aware of your audience before you click the “submit” button.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,885
    Exactly! I am rarely serious about much and those around me see that quickly. One gentleman who posts here comes across as stuffy, curmudgeonly, and aloof. He is none of the above and is a genuinely lovely person. Print has great limitations in conveying such things.

    Of course, it is true that no one holds the chamade of mass destruction against anyone's head and threatens to blast them if they don't read all the posts on the forum. If you don't like someone's posts, don't read them. Purchase a gurgling fountain, fix some tea, get a mantra and bring some Zen into your life. It's too short you know for any angst over anything here.

    Randolph, we have never met in person, but I have heard good things about you. Have a wonderful and I hope, carefree retirement free of stress and annoying choristers.
  • Heartfeltsong
    Posts: 21
    CharlesW--What I like about you is you aren't politically correct. Keep those honest thoughts and feelings going. It's like a breath of fresh air.
  • Heartfeltsong
    Posts: 21
    Like any other group, there is an assortment of the good, the bad and the ugly. Priests are no exception, unfortunately, though we hold them to a higher standard. We look to them for so much the burden can be overwhelming and I think Charles has a point there.
    Because of the shortage of priests, young men are thrown into running a parish without what used to be a good length of time as a sort of apprentice--sorry I forget the exact term--to a more experienced pastor. I don't think dropping the standards we apply to them should be an answer. I do think having a vibrant support structure within the parish can help but then you do have the problem of those who feel because they have been entrenched for years that they are the ones most qualified to steer the new pastor in the right direction which isn't always the case. The new pastor has to be ready to discern the spirits!
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • It has been my privilege to work with some wonderful priests, good holy men. It has been my cross to work with some less than holy priests. There have been no idiots in the bunch, and the first group outrank the second by orders of magnitude.
  • OraLabora
    Posts: 141
    I think we have to remember that priests are human like everyone else and bring a lot of personal baggage, good and bad with them just as we all do. I knew a priest who was a real pain to deal with but when I heard he had been through serious trauma when he was young, I was able to cut him considerably more slack and embrace his humanity.

    What priests do lack is a caring wife to help point out their foibles and keep them in check ;) . At least my wife is really keen on pointing out my flaws, LOL! When I became a Benedictine Oblate I fancied myself as the "abbot" of our family. Mother Abbess soon put me straight...

    I'm by no means a pro at this; I just sing in a volunteer all-men's Gregorian schola. Our choirmaster (also volunteer) is the one who has to deal with all the nonsense. However we are a roving troupe, different parish every month. Our choirmaster is the one who phones around looking for a place to sing every month. When we find welcome, we happily sing for that parish, otherwise we shake the dust off our sandals and move on. We are fortunate to be free of parish politics for the most part.

    God Bless all of you music leaders who must put up with a lot, not the least of which is starvation wages, to embellish our liturgy.

    Ora
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,043
    One of the worst and most unproductive things we can do on this forum is to criticize and judge other posters when we have never even met them in person, and often the person doing the clay slinging is totally in the dark about someone's motives.
    Let's not fall into the same behavior that we so decry from the higher ups that we work for.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,129
    I don’t know about worst and unproductive, but it’s time to takeoff the gloves when it comes to fighting the fight for the church militant and for the truth of sacred music. Sometimes Truth Hurts. No I take that back... Usually the truth offends. Take Jesus Christ for example... Abandoned, rejected, and ultimately put to death in ignomy. I’ll probably be following in his footsteps.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 104
    Take Jesus Christ for example... Abandoned, rejected, and ultimately put to death in ignomy. I’ll probably be following in his footsteps.
    I probably could not say anything about myself coming even close to this; however it is a good relinder that we are ALL called to holiness.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,685
    put to death in ignomy


    What.......you got dirt on Hillary Clinton?
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • Ack!! Calling Christopher Wray!!
    Thanked by 1CharlesW