Rejoice, O Jerusalem; gather round, all you who love her!

“Rejoice, O Jerusalem; gather round, all you who love her!”

This weekend, we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent, which is also known as Laetare Sunday. Within the Penitential season of Lent, this Sunday has traditionally been a Sunday of celebration. Our Introit antiphon calls us to rejoice and “gather round.” This weekend, Father will wear rose vestments instead of the normal violet that is characteristic of Lent. With Christ’s arrival to Jerusalem only two weeks away, we’re starting to see the city’s outskirts.

As I started to talk about last week, we have been singing Rory Cooney’s “Jerusalem, My Destiny” for the entirety of Lent. Our music team makes great strides to sing all of the verses of our closing hymn. (Many parishes skip the closing hymn or do “just enough” to get the priest down the aisle – which leads to all sorts of theological conundrums.) This Lent, you have noticed that we’re only singing one verse. No, we are not doing this because it’s Lent, and we wanted it to be simpler. We’re only singing one verse because, in Liturgical Cycle A, which we started with the First Sunday of Advent over Thanksgiving Weekend and will conclude with Christ the King this coming Thanksgiving Weekend; the lyrics to Mr. Cooney’s music follow the set of Gospel readings of this cycle.

Last week’s Gospel, for the Third Sunday of Lent, was the Woman at the Well. We sang verse three, which stated, “In my thirst, you let me drink the waters of your life.” In this week’s Gospel, Jesus and His disciples pass a blind man prompting the question, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus cures the blind man, and the Gospel continues. This week’s verse from our closing hymn is all about vision.

This hymn is a perfect example of how the Scripture readings and the prescribed antiphons from the Roman Missal (which are English translations of the Church’s “official” hymnal, the Graduale Romanum) dictate what we sing. A few weeks ago, I wrote about my role in selecting music as the parish’s Music Director. The music at Mass is not, and should not, be my personal favorites, or Fr. Cam’s personal favorites, or your personal favorites. Unlike Evangelical (and some mainline churches of) Protestantism, the music we sing at Mass is not always required to “lift up” our moods or make us “feel good.”

Just like we fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, or abstain from meat on Fridays, the way we celebrate Mass challenges us to deepen our faith by virtue of our Baptism. Just like a priest’s homily that sometimes leaves us unsettled, music can and should act as a catalyst for deepening our faith. But remember, just as the refrain to “Jerusalem, My Destiny” concludes, “This journey is our destiny. Let no one walk alone. The journey makes us one.” We’re all in this together.

Speaking of that, this weekend marks the first time we celebrate Laetare Sunday in Cycle A together since 2017. The Fourth Sunday of Lent was our first streamed weekend Mass. Celebrating that first streamed weekend Mass was + Fr. Sam Falbo with Fr. Bob and Fr. Sebastian concelebrating. There were six of us in the Church for that Mass: the three priests, Joni (cantor), Steve on the equipment, and myself as organist and lector. It was one of the strangest experiences of my life. In the three years since that Mass, and as of this writing on Monday, March 13, we have had 680,300 views and grown to around 3,000 subscribers. We have viewership all over the United States. The United Kingdom, Indonesia, India, and Germany make up our top-watched countries. Nearly 50% of our total viewership is in the 25 to 44 years of age demographic; the 65+ range is the runner-up.

There have been literally dozens of people, especially those in the 25 to 50 age range, that have credited our specific YouTube streams of Masses, para-liturgies, catechesis, and concerts for bringing them (and their families) back to the Roman Catholic faith. There are families that drive over an hour just to attend our Masses. What started out in our minds early in the COVID-19 pandemic as a way of keeping the church family together with all of the restrictions placed upon us as we “Let no one walk alone. The journey makes us one” has resulted in something so much more. Like the lyrics of “Jerusalem, My Destiny” convey, “Though I [we] cannot see the end for me [us], I [we] cannot turn away!”