Losing my religion?
  • Matilda
    Posts: 76
    I sometimes feel that the more time I spend at church as a musician the less devout I become. People grate on me and even music seems to lose its spiritual quality at times. I need to go home and sit in the yard and watch the trees. Is this a common church musician experience for others?
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 690
    I think it's a common Christian experience. The more time you spend in God's work, the more effort the devil makes to dissuade you, and at times God allows him to torment you more so you grow through the struggle. I do sympathize, as even after singing Gregorian chant at a Tridentine Mass I relish an hour in the park in silence, watching the trees and birds (I don't have a yard). People grate on me. Priests I know well enough to talk about these things say they go through periods of similar struggle. I live in a boisterous Latin American city, which is particularly difficult for introverts who love silence... ;)
  • I was just thinking about this the other day. I used to do two Masses on Sundays to avoid this problem, but it became too onerous. I’m in the habit of going to frequent daily Mass, and try to find more creative ways to “pray” during Mass on Sundays, namely by being in the habit of making the intention to offer my singing (which really is sung prayers of the Mass and scripture), and meditating on the musicality of whatever our organist plays.

    For years even before I joined our choir I figured this is probably a big problem for music directors, so I’ve also been offering my Sunday Mass graces and communions for music directors.
  • I think this is a common phenomenon among those who responsible for leading some aspect of the liturgy and rarely having a chance to simply be there (in a pew, perhaps!) and not be as responsible for what happens next and getting it right. Some self-care in this area seems essential: time off, or an alternative (Mass at another church where one is not employed or as active, etc.).
  • Matilda
    Posts: 76
    Yes it's true that going to another church and just being a quiet person there helps! Also it's good to know this is normal
  • Matilda
    Posts: 76
    Every church musician needs a yard, maybe that could go into the hiring contract.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,761
    I recently was feeling burnt out too. There was a special event at church on Saturday morning that I was invited to and I had to say no... I'm here more than 40 hours a week already. It's such a tough thing. It's your job, but you want to give it your heart as a parishioner, but it is all much more complicated than that. The 3rd time you've heard the Sunday sermon in less than 24 hours makes for a dull mass. You're certainly not alone. One of the reasons I attend the morning mass during the week is so I can "just sit in the pews" and actually pray and make spiritual offerings without all the other fuss that normally accompanies mass. It helps, although I still wish I was afforded more time away from the physical church structure at times. My office is in the church basement so I literally spend my whole week here which sometimes makes it feel long in the tooth. I recognize this is a failing on my part, however. I try to be very grateful to be so close to the Blessed Sacrament every day. At 3:00, for instance, I can turn to the tabernacle and say Divine Mercy prayers, and while a floor separates me from the Blessed Sacrament, I'm really only feet away which is a blessing to be sure.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,821
    A few thoughts, from someone who has been on the roller coaster of devotion more than he cares to think about:

    -Interior prayer. Make this your friend. Ten minutes a day works wonders. I find the quality of my devotion during Mass (especially when singing) improves in correlation to how much time I've taken to reflect on the text of the music beforehand. (If you don't have a copy of it, buy The Soul of the Apostolate. This is a great book at encouraging interior prayer. Can't be recommended enough.)
    -See if there's a parish nearby with Perpetual Adoration. This is a great place to incorporate the ideas I mentioned above.
    -Learn to appreciate the little things. I was in a funk for a few weeks when, right before mass, a young man whom I know fairly well said that it was nice to see me again. Nothing huge; but for whatever reasons this lifted my spirits out of that rut and I came away from that service immensely thankful.
    -Remember what Aquinas said: love is an act of the will. Just because you don't "feel" it doesn't mean you still can't love it.
  • Matilda
    Posts: 76
    Thanks you guys
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,058
    I recall the then (40 years ago) head sacristan at Westminster Cathedral saying that he could not worship in the Cathedral. He always went elsewhere to fulfil his obligation, and when he otherwise needed to recharge the spiritual batteries.
    In regard to his job, he was a member of Equity, as a stage manager.
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • >> Every church musician needs a yard, maybe that could go into the hiring contract.

    was that a yard, or a yardarm.... :-)
  • It might be worth trying to negotiate a paid week off each year for a yearly retreat. It shouldn’t come out of your vacation time. I believe there is something somewhere that says pastors are to ensure the spiritual needs of those who dedicate their service to the church are met. Burnout is a real thing.
  • >> -Remember what Aquinas said: love is an act of the will. Just because you don't "feel" it doesn't mean you still can't love it.

    Amen, and amen.
    I think anyone who has a complex and difficult work to do will feel a bit burned out from time to time. We're just human beings.
    Retreat is a GOOD plan.
    Also, how many are planning to combat these down feelings by going to Colloquium for a change of scenery, creative rejuvenation, and a lot of time spent near the tabernacle?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    W.C. Fields once said, "I am free of all prejudice. I hate everyone equally." I have often wondered if he had a side job in church music. Some days you feel like that, I guess.

    It is very difficult to do any kind of worshiping when you are working.
  • Matilda
    Posts: 76
    Yes I have been an equal opportunity hater lately.
  • I'll second the idea that a week-long (or at least multi-day) spiritual retreat should be part of any church musician contract. Maybe we should all ask for that - I have never seen it on a job posting/description. Part of the problem with Catholic workers is that the Church simply copies and pastes the HR book from the secular business world, usually with no attempt to create anything uniquely Catholic. But if you think about it, surely a Catholic job should have built-in time for spiritual rejuvenation. Why on earth wouldn't an employer want that for church employees? Even from a utilitarian perspective (i.e. a perspective that has no place for caring for the employee as a human person), surely a serious spiritual retreat could only improve the efforts and productivity and success of a church employee.

    Taking personal time for spiritual retreat means I short my family our already limited time with our extended family (and each other). Sure, it's possible, but not likely to work for us. It's not just about choosing spiritual time for myself - it's about choosing that my wife and kids don't get time to travel or do things together as a family. After I already leave her alone with the kids every single Sunday at Mass because I'm in the loft.

    I think it's an ugly and even scandalous reality facing those who work in the church. Maybe it can change, though! Maybe it will take more of us being honest and admitting that we need the spiritual retreat time.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,098
    I've been on the verge of losing my faith a number of times--more than I'd care to acknowledge, frankly.

    YMMV, but I find the Novus Ordo frustrating from a devotional stand-point. Yes, it's wonderful that we have a 'High Mass' every day at my parish, and that the chant helps the meditation and prayer of the people, but when does the organist/precentor have time to pray and ponder when whenever he isn't playing or singing there is the constant blah-blah of word-salad coming from the reader or celebrant over the sound-system? I can't pray with a volley of verbiage bombarding my ears. What has kept me going over the past few years is a wonderfully providential TLM that I've fallen into. And lately, I have had the privilege to serve Low Mass for a priest almost weekly: that half-hour of near perfect silence makes me feel human again. Honestly, the most beautiful sound in the world is the silent Canon.
  • With all his many conflicts with the Rector of St Thomas, I bet that Bach went home and "watched the trees", also.
    Thanked by 1Matilda
  • Ken of Sarum
    Posts: 405
    With as many children that Bach had, it wasn't trees he was watching! LOL
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,821
    it wasn't trees he was watching!


    A little aside: This is why I think the genre of Baroque should properly be called "Romantic", according to the popular sense of the word. I mean. Bach had 23 children and half of them by a babe half his age (whose middle name was Magdalen, I might add!) Dude understood passion.

    So if people ask me what I think is 'baby-making music', I'd say Bach, hands down. I, for one, can never listen to Kathleen Ferrier's rendition of "Erbame Dich" without being reminded of how physically attractive I find the opposite sex.
    Thanked by 1Paul F. Ford
  • In answer to Salieri's concern above here, I always think of the music that we musicians make and offer at mass as a form of communication of the divine and a lovely treasure, an icon in sound, which is both offered to God and is for the aedification of his people. Such music is, I believe, divinely inspired, and, as such, is a profoundly prayerful act. Every note sung or played is, to me, an act of worship, a precious gem offered to God. Thus does my music making intensify, not distract, from prayer and worship. If one's music, movements, and thoughts are truly attuned to and 'in synch' with the ritual action they are definitely a part of that action. If ever I am 'just playing notes', that time is, indeed, the time to quit. For me the mass is so exciting, my music such an integral part of it, I am so caught up in the ritual, that I could never feel that my worship was compromised by it - rather, it is consummated.

    A beautifully crafted music is like unto an Holy Icon written in sound:
    Of Realms unseen it offers a Glimpse,
    Whilst Those seen it casts in a Light more Profound.
    - From my diary

    (In common with several above who wrote of their 'challenged' faith. Mine has not always been without doubts. Most of the time it feels secure, but there are times when I must fight for it - and, in fighting for it it becomes more precious, more firmly founded. Like a broken bone, it is stronger after it heals. I think that this is a form of growth which God allows us to go through.)
  • Matilda
    Posts: 76
    But this brings to mind one of my chief discouragements - the devil whispers in my ear, saying, you're just Matilda, why would God need what you have to offer when He has Bach? And about the millionth time slogging through Eagle's Wings it gets so easy to lose track of the prize.
    But sometimes there are those wonderful moments when everything seems in tune...
    Thanked by 3Carol Elmar CHGiffen
  • this is why retreats are so needed. When you are discouraged, that whisper you hear is not your angel guardian. Turn away.

    God made only one Bach, one Palestrina, one de Victoria,
    and one Matilda.
    But note well: He was pleased to make all of them, knowing what music they in turn would make for His honor and glory.
  • Carol
    Posts: 760
    Having just suffered a bout of poison ivy there is a reason the term "yard work" exists! Maintaining a yard is also time consuming and unrelenting. Perhaps there is a parallel between church work and yard work. I thanked Matilda's comment about "those wonderful moments when everything seems in tune..." because that is what keeps us coming back for more of it all.

    Would that we all would feel as MJO describes "worship consummated" by the music we make.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 464
    I have always felt that activity in church music helps me in times of weakening faith. Even when it does not help me directly in my own devotion, the idea that it helps people in the congregation (at least some, and I was lucky that there were always at least a few) is a consolation.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    the devil whispers in my ear, saying, you're just Matilda, why would God need what you have to offer when He has Bach?


    Yeah, but Bach was Lutheran and you are not. Maybe that devil doesn't know as much as he thinks.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,821
    you're just Matilda, why would God need what you have to offer when He has Bach?


    That's the beauty of it. God doesn't need Bach. God doesn't need me. He doesn't need you. He doesn't need a single atom of creation. He could've been perfectly content throughout eternity conversing with the Holy Trinity. But He didn't! He created us out of over-abundant love. Just think about that. GOD CREATED YOU - AND I MEAN YOU, MISS MATILDA - BECAUSE HE LOVED THE IDEA OF HAVING SOMEONE UNIQUELY LIKE YOU EXISTING IN THIS UNIVERSE! You are an object of unique, endless Love. Think about that over and over until it sinks in.

    And above all else, you deserve an Internet Hug.
  • Where would the driver of a race car be without his pit crew?

  • Matilda
    Posts: 76
    Thanks guys. I feel better about this.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • CatholicZ09
    Posts: 167
    I felt this especially as a sacristan. It was hard for me to enjoy Mass whenever I had to be “on watch” before, during, and after. I’d sit in the pew wondering if everything was set properly, the servers knew what they were doing, ushers remembered the second collection, etc.

    Being on constant alert like that made me miss the point of Mass. As others have said, I would go to an additional Mass at a different church on the weekends I had to be a sacristan because I wanted to just sit and enjoy Mass and offer my own prayers and petitions. I just couldn’t do it when I had that role in the Mass.

    There is something about going to a different church where no one knows you, and you can just sit there and pray and enjoy.
    Thanked by 2Matilda Elmar
  • One thing that doesn’t seem to have been brought up yet is that, as church musicians, you’re fulfilling one of the duties of you state in life, and there is merit in that even if you’re distracted throughout Mass and aren’t as devote as you would regularly be at Mass. It’s like parents at Mass having to attend to their children and take them out during Mass. Objectively speaking, there’s more merit in taking out your unruly child during Mass than staying there and letting little Johnny scream to high Heaven and cause a chain reaction with the other children in the back of the church.

    the devil whispers in my ear, saying, you're just Matilda, why would God need what you have to offer when He has Bach?


    Doesn’t matter what you’re doing. The devil is like that, particularly with women. It goes back to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Why else do you think the serpent went after Eve and not Adam?

    I’d sit in the pew wondering if everything was set properly,


    I’m not even a sacristan, and I sit in my pew at daily Mass checking if everything is set correctly and if the candles are lit before Mass starts. Sometimes it’s not, and all I can do is sit there and wait for the issue to manifest itself during Mass (ie: someone forgot to put the Tabernacle key in the Tabernacle, someone put the Last Gospel and Lavabo altar cards on the wrong side, etc)
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 690
    Glad to see I'm not the only one who sometimes relishes going to Masses where nobody knows me!
    Thanked by 1Matilda
  • Elmar
    Posts: 464
    There is something about going to a different church where no one knows you, and you can just sit there and pray and enjoy.
    Definetely! Or on a different side, it is a real blessing to work in a church remote from the parish where you live (in spite of the long driving)!
  • Carol
    Posts: 760
    I used to teach in the Catholic school that was attached to my home parish. My children were attending the same school. I also was cantor at Mass each Sunday and so I saw my students and their families on the weekend. Most of the time I enjoyed the focus of my life, it felt seamless and it was all my vocation. Occasionally I did wish there was a little more separation (such as being recognized by my student and his father at the local salon when I had a headful of hair dye). Now that I am retired I have more energy for the little things and time to visit my mother, but I don't feel as connected to my life. I guess "the grass is greener..."
  • cesarfranck
    Posts: 138
    Dear Matilda, You are certainly not alone and your honesty is refreshing. There are many excellent ideas above. For several years, I went to an 8am Mass and then drove twenty miles to my church position. That was an excellent practice. I also attended at least one evening liturgy in the course of the week. My situation has been vastly different since moving from a downtown community in a fairly large city to a small city where there are no options for liturgies aside from my parish. Most Sundays, I try to leave as soon after Mass as possible and avoid any conversations except for singers. This allows me to keep a reverent and thankful spirit for the remainder of my Sabbath which I keep very simple and quiet. We must regain an appreciation for the Sabbath, even if it means moving it to another time. If people need to talk with me, I am very accessible for remainder of week.
    Thanked by 3Elmar Carol Matilda
  • ...an appreciation for...
    This is one of the truly great challenges for Christians in this 'post-Christian' era: 'remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy'. This biblical admonition has been under assault my entire life. I can remember when the 'blue laws' did not permit stores to be open on Sundays. Or when liquor was not allowed to be sold on Sundays. I can even remember my mother questioning me as to whether I was sure it was alright for me to go to the cinema on a Sunday. We are very lax in really really keeping the Sabbath holy. We could take some lessons here from our Orthodox Jewish brethren.

    This, like keeping Advent Advent and keeping Christmas Christmas, is becoming a great challenge to our Faith. (How many here refrain utterly from attendance at 'Christmas parties' and other celebratory stuff during Advent?) I sometimes say to people that if they take 'Christ' our of 'Christmas' they are still left with 'mas(s)' - which they would most likely like even less. Have we not all lived to see that Christmas, which was some years ago greeted by all, believers or not, with their heartfelt and cheeriest possible 'merry Christmas' throughout Christmastide? - and now that greeting is met with frowns, wrinkled faces, and stony stares. When thinking that one is losing his or her religion, it is good to contemplate what life is really like outside of it! As the apostles said to our Lord: 'Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life'.
  • KARU27
    Posts: 184
    The worst part of that, MJO, is that often it is our own parishes and schools celebrating Christmas parties during Advent!
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,058
    "Merry Christmas" at least gets some recognition round here (Isle of Man) until Jan 1st. "Happy Easter" unfortunately does not last a week, even in church - AAGH!
    Thanked by 2Matilda CHGiffen
  • Hawkins,

    Surely the proper greeting is "The Lord is Ris'n", and its reply is "He is Ris'n indeed, Alleluia!."
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,058
    CGZ I agree entirely, but round here it only seems to work with Cypriots or Romanians.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • KARU27
    Posts: 184
    The church where I play on Easter has a new young wonderful pastor. He stood at the lectern and proclaimed "Christ is Risen!". The congregation mumbled confusedly in reply. So what did that wonderful young pastor do? He instructed them, and then tried it again. The second time they knew better!
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,058
    I have been around Orthodox and 'Greek Catholic' folk for around 45 years, so I am no longer sure - but is 'Christ is Risen' a traditional Latin rite thing?
  • Hawkins,

    It's my wife (a cradle Catholic) who tells me it used to be, but that few remember anymore.
  • It's alive and well in the Ordinariate - - - and amongst high church Lutherans.
  • Maybe they're remembering what comes after the Regina Coeli

    V. Gaude et laetare, virgo Maria, alleluia
    R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,921
    The Paschal hymn "Exsultemus et laetemur" (Cantus selecti #56) ends each strophe with "Alleluia, resurrexit Dominus".

    But I do also have the impression that the invocation "Christ is risen"/"Indeed He is risen" is a borrowing from the Byzantines.
  • The accepted Latin is V. Surrexit Dominus. Alleluia! R. Surrexit vere. Alleluia!
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,921
    But where, MJO? Is it in the Office? The Office has the brief responsory:
    "Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia, alleluia"/"Et apparuit Simoni, alleluia, alleluia".

    Is there a liturgical source for the V/R as you cite it? (Or is it a non-liturgical custom, e.g., based in preaching?)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    But I do also have the impression that the invocation "Christ is risen"/"Indeed He is risen" is a borrowing from the Byzantines.


    Yes, it is traditional with us. I couldn't swear no one else uses it since they may very well do so. However, our eastern churches are the only places I have heard it. It is the traditional greeting when we greet each other during the Easter season.

    Christmas: Christ is born. Glorify him.
    Baptism of Christ: Christ is baptized. In the Jordan.
    Regular time: Glory to Jesus Christ. Glory forever. Or Slava Isusu Christu! The reply is Slava Na V'iki! in Slavonic.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Matilda
  • Chonak -

    Sorry. Perhaps I spoke too boldly. I really do not know of any 'official' version of this, or of its appearance in any ritual books. I was taught it in my youth as 'an ancient Christian Easter greeting'. Thanks to Charles we now have the authoritative last word on this greeting.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Matilda
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    Those are great ways for Christians to greet each other. If they spread beyond eastern churches I would consider it a good thing.