Vacation guilt
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,134
    I am a Yankee.

    I have not had a vacation since the last Colloquium I attended at Duquesne, unless you count the CoVID lockdown in 2020. I do not like taking vacations because it means that I am not working, and if I am not working, then I feel like I am not contributing anything to society. I have one day off a week from duties at the church that I usually spend working at home creating music lists, planning any upcoming big events (like the Advent Carol Service and Midnight Mass) or tweaking them, or typesetting worship aids, etc. I admire people who can take even a long weekend and not do any work, but I can't do that, let alone take a week or two off, without feeling guilty that I am not working and not being a useful member of society.

    The Office Manager has now insisted that I take two weeks off because she thinks that I am at the breaking point. But I can't, because I need to be there to direct the choir, at least at the Sunday Masses, because we have anthems that we have rehearsed, and if we don't sing them, I have wasted the choir's time learning these things, and wasting time is a pet peeve of mine, right next to people who don't work hard enough.

    How do you people take a guilt-free vacation without obsessing about work or trying to do as much work away from work as possible?
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • MarkS
    Posts: 276
    I don't!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,080
    at my previous previous post I played all the liturgies for four years straight without missing one including weddings (25 per summer) and funerals and I played all the feast days to boot (just because I thought music was important to have on those days... was not part of my job)... however, I lived in Teton National Park and was one hour from Yellowstone, so I considered that I was near to "living in a vacation" the entire time I was there...
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Elmar
    Posts: 466
    I know what you mean, but sometimes it is important that someone else reminds you that 'serving God' and 'being a useful member of society', while being related, are not the same thing. The episode of Mary and Martha comes to mind. One of my teachers liked to say, "liturgy is the most un-useful activity you can imagine."

    Contemplative orders are an important signpost to confront all of us busy people with this fact.
    Thanked by 1LauraKaz
  • SponsaChristi
    Posts: 356
    If you’re being told to go on vacation because you’re at your breaking point, that’s a nice way of saying you need to go on vacation and get some rest and relaxation because you’re behaviour towards others isn’t where it should be. You’re no good to anyone if you’re burned out.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 466
    Difficult question: whether this is told you out of care for you, or rather because someone thinks you are not being useful enough to them right now. The line between these can be slim.

    But feeling guilty for not being useful to society during a few hours/days/weeks is definitively a warning sign; try to be honest to yourself what this tells you.

    (There are many people around that need the feeling of being useful/indispenseble - sometimes, understandably, as a substitute for harsh working conditions or bad salary - which can make them difficult to cooperate with.)
  • Salieri,

    Employ the vacation-spot workers.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    I didn't have a Sunday off between 2007 and 2020 when I retired. I knew the parish would not hire substitutes and that would mean no music at all during the time I was gone. I admit to being a workaholic. I still work half time for the government agency from which I retired. I hate sitting around. Someone else can decide if I am useful or not. I don't care.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,437
    You have a nice office manager!

    What I've seen done is taking two weeks off the usual music as a parish. I don't recommend spoken Masses, but there's nothing wrong with a cantor singing alone or with the local piano teacher.
  • with the local piano teacher.
    as long as that piano teacher is skilled at playing the beautiful tracker organ you have in your choir loft.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • lmassery
    Posts: 359
    I was at Duquesne in 2010 and 11 with my wife. Did we meet?

    I take vacations ALL the time lol
  • francis
    Posts: 10,080
    A cappella is underrated and even more so, low Mass where no music can be a welcome change.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 856
    By taking a vacation and recharging, you can be much more useful to society when you return. Even contemplative nuns take recreation (yes, they can be happy and free behind the bars!). It's necessary for both the mind and the body.
    Thanked by 2Carol Elmar
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,134
    Sorry, not Duquesne. It was the St. Paul, MN, Colloquium at Univ. of St. Thomas, in 2017. I got my colleges mixed up.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 488
    Two things from Scripture (and I am on the road, so I think my quoting will be a mix of several translations):

    Jesus, to the disciples, inviting them to take a vacation, right in the middle of a long period of healing the sick and preaching:

    “Come ye apart into a quiet place, and rest awhile.”

    Psalm 46:
    “Be still then, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

    I take this to mean that while we all must glorify God by our actions and our lives, God’s glory, his salvific plan, and its accomplishment in the world does not depend on my efforts. God will be exalted; all nations shall see his glory, etc. If it were entirely my job to keep things going, he would not have invited me to pause and come to know him more fully.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,895
    Here's a story:
    This Lent, I went out to San Francisco for a concert with my music on it. I took the redeye back so I could be there for Lent 1, because that was my duty, I told myself. The choir could have done Mass on their own; indeed, I planned things that way, because stuff happens in the air. I picked up my car from the lot (after no sleep on the plane and shorted the night before), drove to Akron, did Mass, drove home...and nodded off at the wheel. I was fine, everyone else on the road was fine (thank God); the car was about 8K worth of not fine.

    In pondering this, I realized that what I thought was "duty" was actually pride. Somehow, something horrible would happen if I were not there. I am a mediocre performing musician (just more capable than my singers). I was adequately replaced when in the hospital with COVID. You are, by all evidence, a better performer than I am. But you are not indispensable. Someday, you will die, or worse. be injured to the point where you can no longer do your job. The chances of that happening increase if you do not take care of yourself.

    You'll have those anthems and probably most of those people next year. There's no such thing as wasted rehearsal time. This may be a sign that you're doing too much that is proper to the day, and that you may need some generic Eucharistic motets you can plug in on short notice. No matter how hard you work, that Mass will not be all it can be, probably for reasons beyond your direct control. You're going to have to wait for Eternity for that.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,134
    (Not that it matters, but for context, this isn't just Sundays, this is 8 Masses & a choir rehearsal each week, Tuesday thru Sunday, plus extra things like benediction, devotions, etc., and occasional extra Masses, like the morning Mass on July 4th or Memorial Day. I also need to unlock the church on certain days, and double as sacristan.)

    On a related note to Jeffrey Quick's comment, super: I wonder if/worry that my program is unsustainable. We sing the Propers (in English) and Latin chant Ordinaries, with supplemental hymns and motets/anthems. I am concerned that all of this hinges too much on me, and if I wasn't there it would end, which means that the past 16 years of my life was a collosal waste of time, which is a wonderful thing to think about, especially since that is what Bergoglio and Roche are telling me, too.

    I have been considering jumping ship completely and finding a new career for the past few years, with greater and greater seriousness. It might not just be that I need a vacation, but that I need to be doing something more worthwhile.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,080
    the past 16 years of my life was a collosal waste of time
    Your time is NEVER wasted if you are serving God. Remember your catechism! Know, Love and serve God here, and be happy with Him in the next.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,999
    Indeed: no time wasted. And even if the oasis in the desert eventually goes dry, at least it was an oasis for a while. Others failing to pick up the mantle after you doesn’t diminish the tremendous good you’ve done in the meantime. (Though, we need to be honest, the prospect of all the labor of love shriveling up is indeed a painful one.)

    I can count on one hand the number of masses I’ve missed in the last 5 years. Frankly, it’s exhausting, and I was mildly relieved, I confess, the one time I had to miss due to the flu. I enjoyed not being at church every day for the first time in eons. Sad, but true. Of course, I was riddled with anxiety the whole time, for all the same reasons you would be, but there was still something healthy about having a bit of distance.

    I’ve also found that, no matter the caliber of the sub (and at least in my case, I have a heckuva time finding decent ones) they never play quite the same as you do. Turns out: your absence can actually lead to gratitude. Both the time I was sick, and another time that I had hired a sub who proved less than worth his salt, people noticed and were grateful for my return, and told me so. Sometimes people don’t realize the talents (and necessity) of their musicians until they are faced with either silence or bad music.
    Thanked by 3Bri Carol LauraKaz
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,437
    And even if the oasis in the desert eventually goes dry, at least it was an oasis for a while.


    This.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,671
    A cantor can lead solid hymns (choose carefully) without accompaniment, and can likewise sing the psalm and Alleluia. It's important to have settings of the Ordinary that a congregation can sing a capella without more than a cantor to lead them. It's exceedingly do-able.
    Thanked by 1LauraKaz
  • davido
    Posts: 655
    I have worked instead of attending certain life/family events because I thought I needed the money, or because I wanted a certain level of music for a certain feast.

    In retrospect, I wish I had not missed the life events. They are unrepeatable, and your presence means more to your family than it does to any institution, even a church. And money just gets spent. The amount of money I have spent since that time makes the earnings of those few masses look like peanuts… not worth what I missed.

    I have also come to believe that program building is not a goal in the present church music climate. People frequently say to me, “I love your music” (or hate it, lol), and I’ve started to embrace that idea. The program you build is so that you can realize your musical vision for the parish. Your successor will have a different vision and will want to change things, even if they believe in traditional church music. You are creating an oasis for the present, don’t worry to much about legacy.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,999
    A similar thought to my oasis argument just popped into my head:

    Consider the case of good & poor priests. When you find a parish with a good priest, or a good priest is assigned to your parish, you delight in their presence and ministry as long as you're blessed to have them. When they are removed to another parish and another pastor comes in, often things change, and often those changes can be very sad if the priest lacks skills, charisma, or worst of all: faith. You find yourself reassessing your situation going forward, but that in no way diminishes how grateful you are for the good years that you did enjoy. If anything, you end up recognizing that time as a tremendous blessing even more clearly once you are confronted with the alternative.
    Thanked by 2Carol LauraKaz
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 8,258
    I recall that you posted a similar message a year or two ago. I think that you definitely need a vacation (and/or a monastic retreat) which would give you some peace of mind and to work out a solution to your distress. Taking a vacation may be seen not as a dereliction of duty but as a part of your work - undertaken to relax from the stresses of your work and come back ready to tackle your duties with a fresh mind and renewed spirit. Even priests take vacations, so you shouldn't at all feel that you are abandoning ship.

    Have you discussed these matters with your pastor?
    Thanked by 3tomjaw CHGiffen Elmar
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,999
    Even priests take vacations, so you shouldn't at all feel that you are abandoning ship.
    Isn’t it mandatory in canon law that they need to take an annual retreat?
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,743
    Isn’t it mandatory in canon law that they need to take an annual retreat?


    Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between a retreat and a rout.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,895
    That's A LOT of music, Salieri. Definitely a full-time job for which you're presumably being paid a full-time wage. It's at least 6 days/week, and contractually there probably isn't a way to subcontract any of the work, unless you take a vacation.

    Re sustainability: I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't know, but this is only sustainable when it operates as a well-oiled machine, which means finding ways to keep things simple while maintaining high standards. How many Ordinary setting do you really need? Is the music harder than people can really sing? Lately, I've been doing "difficulty patrol" in my compositions: does everything contribute to the effect in the easiest way possible? Are things efficient?

    You have been doing wonderful things, and some us need to believe that wonderful things are possible. In a way, you're taking the hit for people like me. I'll pray for you, and the rest of the over-challenged choirmasters.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,134
    So, I am on day three of my "vacation", and I can't say that I'm enjoying it. I spent most of yesterday sleeping.

    Can anyone give me any book recommendations, preferably something relatively mindless: I've noticed that my library mainly consists of things like "Tactus, Mensuration, and Rhythm in Renaissance Music" or "The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent". I need something to help me "switch off".
  • trentonjconn
    Posts: 365
    Read "A Canticle for Leibowitz" if you're into fiction.
    Thanked by 3WGS Jeffrey Quick Bri
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,999
    I just finished reading the entire opus of the original Sherlock Holmes series. 37 hours of reading and I loved it all.

    If you want a goofy laugh, look up the “Liturgical Mysteries” series by Mark Schweitzer. They are like Murder She Wrote but loaded with bad puns and liturgical music references left, right, and center. I’ve read the whole series but one. I have kept the last few for the week that I decompress either after Easter or Christmas. Mindless, but stupidly amusing.

    Then there’s Martin Setchell’s book of organist stories which is good too.

    Like you, my library is filled with rather serious tomes, but sometimes you just have to go through a period of decompression.
    Thanked by 1Bri
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,852
    Try P.G. Wodehouse or Robert Benchley.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • Something that I have done to "switch" my brain is dabble in field that are not related to my work as a musician. For instance; I took up bird photography and began reading about birds. I also began looking at microorganisms from pond water under a microscope. I had no reason to become interested in them other than just "trying" it. Speaking as a millenial, it's also fun to dive into nostaglia. Growing up I played a game called Roller Coaster Tycoon. You design a theme park and have certain objectives to meet. It helps me continue to feel that "accomplishment" satisfaction without me getting worked up. I don't play it often but sometimes when my wife comes home from work and she needs to rest I might fire up the game and play it. These things keep me from totally burning out and becoming a burden to my team at Blessed Sacrament.

    I have ADHD and so the tendency to hyper-focus on music for liturgy is real. It is my favorite thing to do and I can waste hour upon hours finding, learning, planning, arranging music. Sometimes so much time other more eminent tasks should have been done and are now getting the short end of the stick (ahem... the K-4 School Mass is a frequent victim....). Through trial and error, I learned ADHD medication was not right for me. I lost my "spark" so it took some counseling to get me to recognize my tendencies towards hyperfocusing and perfectionism.

    I do limit my reading of this forum as well to once every few days. I notice some participate on here everyday; but fasting from such things is a good spiritual excercise. The point I want to try and make is you'll never know if something else will be a meaningful past-time unless you give it a try. I will never become a professional photographer or microbiologist. These are just things I have enjoyed as a past-time.
    Thanked by 1Bri
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,671
    I'd strongly recommend getting away from papers, books and screens and getting into three-dimensional natural space with your body and senses. Using hands, feet, et cet. to do things that are at right-angles to how they are normally employed on workdays. (Creates space for contemplative prayer that is not about reciting, but paying attention to God through your senses - indeed, paying attention to "distractions" - rather than your intellect that otherwise may tend to put words into God's mouth, as it were.) Put nothing on a timer that does not *need* to be on a timer. When one has one week off, one will tend to fill it with tasks that are simply other forms of work; two weeks, especially after that middle "weekend" (Dowager Countess: "What is weekend?"), can offer more opportunity to avoid that fate.

    "Boredom" is an essential human experience, fruitful for prayer (boredom is one of the greatest spaces for experiencing Incompletion in the Ignatian spiritual sense, which is a profound form of God's presence - so much of modern consumer capitalism is about fleeing from that experience) and creativity. That's why it's vital for children and young adults to be given ample opportunities to experience it. (Smart phones and their device ilk are the enemies of this.)
    Thanked by 2Elmar Bri
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society (series)

    Thanked by 2LauraKaz Bri
  • Carol
    Posts: 773
    If you slept so much, you probably needed the rest. If you are staying home on your vacation, I agree that you should get outside and experience nature. If you are able to enjoy a change of scene, this will provide the recreation (re-creation as I once heard a priest say when discussing use of leisure time) you may be craving but do not realize. Do not spend too much time alone or on built up chore lists. The old Thomas the Tank Engine show had a line "a change is as good as a rest."
    Thanked by 2Elmar Bri
  • Elmar
    Posts: 466
    I don't dare yet going in the desert for 40 days, but a week in nature far away from civilization (including cellphone except for emegencies) is a real re-creation for me. Haven't done that in several years but this summer it's happening - I'm slowly starting looking forward to this!
    Thanked by 1Bri
  • You could visit your grand children.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,134
    CGZ: I'm 35 and unmarried, if I have grandchildren, I'm curious to know what alternate dimension they hail from.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,682
    Why aren’t you in Italy or something? Go somewhere. You’re gonna have to pay more since you didn’t plan in advance but go somewhere. Do something.

    Thanked by 1Jani
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,124
    Is there anything nearby such as a botanic garden or arboretum, even if you have no pre-existing interest: go round looking at flowers or trees, reading labels and really looking. Or if the weather discourages you from that, museums or art galleries, again looking at each exhibit.
    Failing that, any public libraries where you could read without borrowing? I used to like light detective stories set in remote cultures. Brother Cadfael stories by Ellis Peters were a favourite of mine, if they are still on the shelves, or Sister Fidelma ("Peter Tremayne"), but don't put much credence in their historical verisimilitude.
    Note that I am suggesting getting out of your usual surroundings and its distractions.
    Thanked by 2Elmar Jani
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 8,258
    A trip to colonial Williamsburg in Virginia is always pleasurable, informative, and enchanting if history is one of your interests.
    You have some extraordinarily beautiful terrain to enjoy in your New England - also lots of summer music festivals to visit.
    For a retreat, St Meinrad's Archabbey (former home of Fr Columba) has a series of themed retreats through the summer.
    Thanked by 1LauraKaz
  • Jani
    Posts: 434

    Why aren’t you in Italy or something? Go somewhere. You’re gonna have to pay more since you didn’t plan in advance but go somewhere. Do something.

    That’s what I was going to say- get out, get some sun, breathe the air, and most importantly, listen.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Salieri,

    Ok, so let me change my advice. On this "vacation"

    1) Find a wife.
    2) Have children.
    3) Have those children get married and have children of their own.

    So that, next time you're required to take a vacation, you can follow my first set of advice.

    On a more serious note, though, I'm not a fan of forced vacations, but I seem unwilling to take them, mostly, otherwise. We bought a replacement car recently, after God gave us the gift of a crash. C.S. Lewis (whose thought is more mixed than many people seem to believe) once commented that pain is God trying to get our attention. Listen more carefully, so it's less painful.
    Thanked by 3Jani Elmar LauraKaz
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 187
    @Salieri


    What did the church do before you came on the scene?

    Whatever will the church do after you leave the scene?

    There is only one person in the Catholic Church who is indispensable and that is Jesus. Even the Pope have been replaced over 250 times.

    If music at your parish cannot survive without you, you are doing it wrong. A good leader trains others to take over his duties if that is necessary. An insecure leader makes himself indispensable to those he leads.
  • trentonjconn
    Posts: 365
    If music at your parish cannot survive without you, you are doing it wrong. A good leader trains others to take over his duties if that is necessary. An insecure leader makes himself indispensable to those he leads.


    I don't agree with this as an absolute statement. While ideally a DM ought to train some of his musicians to take over if the need ever arises, the reality is that sometimes this is impossible. I lead a small music program at a small parish for six years. I couldn't even get one of my few choir members to cantor as a sub in my absence because they lacked confidence, know-how, and most of all INTEREST. I would have been glad to tutor someone else in the parish on organ and sacred music, but nobody (including members of the schola) was interested. Lack of leadership and direction in a music program once the DM leaves is not an absolute indication of a weak or unconfident director.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,999
    I agree with trenton... I've turned my schola around and they are all "on the team" so to speak (to the point that when I provided a modern note transcription of a chant, one alto sighed and asked quite earnestly, "can we just have the square note version?") but even then, no one can play the organ in my absence. No one has the schedule to permit them to be at all the masses in my absence. And while plenty of people are willing to sing with me playing, very few are willing to sing in front of a whole parish a cappella and totally exposed. That's daunting for all but the bravest of souls.
    Thanked by 1trentonjconn
  • Jani
    Posts: 434
    Changing my name to “Bravest of Souls”
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,124
    The Church has provided resources for singing in the absence of an organist and a well trained schola. It's called the Graduale Simplex, the cantor called for needs to be able to read square notes, but Sprechgesang would be sufficient for the voice, no need to worry about precise pitches. For myself I would much prefer to be unaccompanied when chanting, instead of worrying about timing or wrong notes.
    The same would be true in English for Fr Weber's simplest settings.

    So - unless you are in a large professional musical team, ensure that people can fall back on these simple resources, it is always possible to be involved in a traffic accident on your way to church, have a contingency plan which people know how to deploy.
    Thanked by 1Liam
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,773
    ^if you're in the normie world… a not-insignificant number of active participants (heh) here don't have that option and don't want to revert to Rossini propers or the like; the fact is that when you do that once, you open the door to doing it again and again.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,999
    AF, the issue isn't music that is comprehensible or even easy. The issue is willingness to sing a cappella in front of others alone. I assure you, everyone and their mother can sing Hyfrydol backwards, but not everyone is willing to try and lead 140 other people to sing it a cappella. You also have to figure in what happens when that lone person, nervous as all get out, starts singing and no one else joins in because they are also shy, in their own right, to sing without the organ. Then you have that already nervous cantor wishing to die an instant death because no one will join in. This has nothing to do with the music itself.

    Regularly, when choir is in session, I will work the organ down so that one of the verses of a hymn is a cappella. Even with a full choir leading the charge, people still drop out because they feel too vulnerable.
  • MDs and CDs are subjected to the pressures of The Relentless March of the Liturgy (the title of my envisioned book), and in time maybe we can't even imagine a pause for ourselves. Even a bow needs to be unstrung for a while to retain its flexibility, i learned on retreat. And the Holy Ghost Himself is called shade after heat. We're not machines; we are creatures.

    A lot of very wise advice in this thread,
    Just keep it simple. If you are working in the "EF", pick a Sunday that repeats (e.g., V Epiphany or XXVI Pentecost) - by then your schola should be well able to sing those propers without you (really!). Add some very well known chants (e.g., Adoro Te Devote) and you're set.

    when you come back, especially if you did some outdoor things (visiting an aging friend or relative / gardening / ziplining / sailing / going to a beach where you can see sunrises or sunsets, and ALL the stars in the night sky... ) you will be amazed at how restored, how resilient, you will feel.
    If you're an organist, you could even make a musical pilgrimage; locating some historic organ near you and lining up permission to play it.
    God bless!