Mass of Joy (just not too much) and Peace

In Fall 2016, my church in Cleveland (Our Lady of Victories) began using a new mass setting in addition to the previous two in regular “rotation”. The reason was pretty simple – the two we have include one that is great for stark services and simpler seasons (Missa Simplex) and one that is great for big formal celebrations (the much maligned at times, Mass of Creation). While both are nice settings, we were missing an element of liveliness and energy that the Mass so richly deserves. So along with the music director, the cantors began ‘trying out’ new settings privately, and we eventually settled on Mass of Joy and Peace.

Joy and Peace is a very upbeat setting, which (in my opinion) is much more fun to sing than either of the two others. Apparently others agree as well, giving rise to some very interesting arrangements online. My favorite being a contemporary arrangement by Daniel Houze. Moved into a rock beat, this version certainly hits the criteria for the concept of a “joyful noise”. The comments on YouTube, however, are less than positive. Several commenters lament the fact that it’s “too Protestant” or “liturgical abuse”. I find this quite ironic since the word “joy” is right in the title – apparently anything that sounds too joyful isn’t “Catholic” enough. Overall this makes me a bit frustrated as a young Catholic active in music ministry as a cantor. Apparently there is a very fine line somewhere that we are expected to hit – not too dirge-y and not too happy, or else our faith and reverence are called into question. Coupled with a widespread problem of participation in mass (In the past 20 years, I’ve only seen a handful of congregations that I would classify as “conscious, active, and full participation” as advised by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal), and you start to see the problem.

So what is the solution? Finding the middle line but broadening it with wide acceptance. If you don’t like the ‘energy’ of your mass setting, you can still participate, just not as loudly. If you feel sad during the mass rather than happy, speak up (and sing up). And if you find a church that has the right mix of traditional hymns with present-day worship, support it. In my case at OLV, I feel that many are supportive of the idea of energetic praise, we just need some of the ‘old guard’ to join in seeing the mass not as a simple ‘ticket punch’ (e.g., if I die this week, God knows I was here this Sunday, so I’m good) but as an expression of…. well… joy and peace!

Jerry Lewis, Under the Sea, and Idolatry

Last night at Delta Writer’s Group, I proposed a ‘speed writing’ challenge based upon 3 very random lists of prompt material that came off the top of my head. The lists were “People”, “Locations”, and “Conflict”. When I rolled the wheel, I got “Jerry Lewis”, “Under the Sea”, and “Idolatry”. Five minutes later, this appeared. Who says you can’t make a story out of the most random of things

Sebastian the crab dressed in his Sunday best
To worship the comedian revered above the rest

“Hey Mon, tis Lew day”
he screamed with delight

“We gonna follow tru day”
His psychosis bordering on fright

The chorus began its calypso serenade
As his likeness was erected and upright it stayed
In view of the crows, the mania, the glee
All praised the Lewis, under the sea

Registering a Car in the State of Mississippi

There are things in life that one just knows or assumes. Then there are things that are hidden, obscured, confusing, or that no good source on the Internet exists for. This is one of the latter.

So in case you don’t know…

  • If you buy a car from a dealer in the state of Mississippi, and you live in Mississippi, all you need to take to the tax assessor is your yellow bill of sale copy. Bring a check to pay the crazy taxes, and you’ll walk out with your license plate.
  • If you buy a car from a dealer OUTSIDE MISSISSIPPI, and you live in Mississippi, you need to wait up to 7-9 working days for that dealer to send the information to the tax assessor. You only have 7 working days (9 if out of home county) before crazy penalties apply.

If you live somewhere else, hopefully someone else wrote up this information for you somewhere.

Source: Personal experience, 2/22/2017

Frustration: Thinking that the dealer had to send information that they, do not in fact, need to send!


In August 1986 I started school. I was 2 1/2 years old, and I think my mother figured it was time for me to get out of the house and see the world, or at least the preschool at Thoreau Park Elementary School. In a few short months, that will have been 30 years ago. And while those first 3 years of pre-school (my mother really wanted me out of the house…) may have consisted only of half-days, they did run the entire length of the school year. This means that, as of Spring 2016, I’ve completed 30 school years, as either a student or a teacher.

Continue reading “Seasonality”

It’s our Friday (Joke) Secret…

So don’t tell anyone that I told you this, but sometimes I have a super special surprise Friday joke. And here’s today’s… A pilot, a know-it-all, a boy, and a minister are on an airplane. The engines fail and the plane begins to go down. There are 3 parachutes. The pilot grabs a parachute and yells “I have a wife and family, and a daughter who is expecting – I need to live to support them!” and jumps out. The know-it-all springs up, grabs a parachute, and proclaims “I’m the smartest man on the earth, I deserve to live”, and jumps out. The minister turns to the boy and says “My son, I’ve lived a long and meaningful life – take the last parachute and live”. The boy hands the minister the parachute as he grabs something from under the seat. “Turns out we both can live”, he says, “The smartest man on the earth just jumped out wearing my backpack!”

Still Alive

In case you’re wondering, I’m still alive and plan on blogging a bit now that A) that novel is done and B) I’m recovered enough to consider blogging a fun activity again!. Soonish you’ll see more here. Until then, feel free to comment with what types of content you’d like to see show up!

On Life and Loss, Thankfulness and Temptation

Today at 10:34 AM, my phone buzzed in class, while I was giving a lecture on Probability Sampling methods. The first message simply read “SCHOOLCAST: Emergency Alert:” and nothing more. I paused for a moment, figured it was either an error or a test, and continued on. About 5 minutes later, my students interrupted me – they’d gotten messages too, and began uttering the phrase “Active Shooter”. I checked my phone again, and saw the actual message, advising us to take immediate lock down action. I walked over to the classroom door, verified it was locked, and shut it.

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Over the next 3 hours, my classroom was the scene of a number of discussions and moments of both light joking and nervous quiet. Students comforted each other when they needed to, rumors flew as we all saw our phones light up from every conceivable app, and we kept each other as calm and collected as possible. My students didn’t panic. We waited until around 2 PM when we knew the building to be secure, and started letting students have limited bathroom trips, always traveling with a buddy or 3. Finally at 2:30 students were evacuated from my building, and I left shortly after to head home.

When I got in my car, I took stock of what had happened. I had started off a normal Monday morning, and it had ended in the mid-afternoon with classes interrupted and cancelled, students shaken, and a colleague dead.

Addressing the last portion, I knew Ethan Schmidt professionally, and slightly more in that we were Facebook friends, we would talk and joke at various meetings, and each knew about the other’s classes and work. I had met one of his sons, and knew of his family trips through last summer. We both shared a love of Baseball, and spoke of it when we’d see each other. My students all spoke highly of Ethan, and I never doubted what they said. It was clear to all who knew the man that he was a true gentleman, as another professor dubbed him during a Fox News interview. (I myself was asked for comment by news organizations, but felt that anything I was going to say, I wanted full control over – hence this post). First and foremost today, we should acknoweldge that a man died, and that the lives of his family, his students, his peers, and his institution will never be the same. Rest now Ethan, and know that you are missed.


About 20 minutes after we went into lockdown, with rumors flying, one of my students asked the group if they wanted to pray with her. Many of us did, and she gave a short, eloquent prayer that summed up what we all felt: Please keep us safe, keep our campus safe, and be with those who were injured. Over the next several minutes, students asked me questions – mostly what I’d heard through the official channels (Which was enough to know what to do, and information as it became available – contrary to what some have suggested, the administration played this one very well – my Dean and Chair were both in communication via email, and nothing was released that could cause panic or unnecessary alarm). They also asked what I was thinking and feeling. I responded that we needed to stay calm, because there was nothing we could do about the situation – we just needed to wait. As the minutes turned into hours, the mood lightened in the room (including jokes about who we’d eat once we got too hungry , since we’d missed lunch). We knew our building’s external doors had been secured (Professors have keys that can lock and unlock the external doors, and indeed, it was two professors who had manned the doors on the first floor while awaiting law enforcement). We knew that law enforcement from the surrounding area had converged, and that those whose job it is to take care of us, were indeed doing that job.

I’ll take a moment to thank the law enforcement community that responded to the situation. They were calm, measured, and professional, putting their lives on the line to protect ours. The ATF officers who evacuated us did not shout to us orders, they spoke to us calmly, instructed us on where to go, and answered our questions.

I’d also like to take a moment and thank my family and friends who “checked in” with me. On a day like this, one appreciates all of the support one has. I was truly moved by the number of people who reached out, and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to respond very quickly or respond individually to each query. My number one priority was keeping my students safe (us prof types get very protective of our students!), so my responses were pretty short and laggy!

It’s easy for us, in times like this, to search for answers that just aren’t available to us, or may never be. We don’t know, as of now, the exact motive for this crime. We don’t know who has done this, although a suspect has been named. We don’t know when classes will resume (although we suspect Wednesday). We are severely tempted to pursue rumor, conjecture, and half-truths. We are severely tempted to embrace a story that seems to make sense of tragedy. We are severely tempted to ignore the fact that violence is often seemingly the only answer for those who are angry, or mentally disturbed. We are tempted to grab at anything that can pull us away from this day. But we can’t fall for that temptation. We all possess the empathetic skill to imagine what it must be like for Ethan’s family tonight – we dare not do so because we recognize the immense pain they must be feeling. We want that pain to go away, but it will not without us first dealing with it, and working through it.

What we do know is that today, Delta State University pulled together as one true DSU family, and we mourn the loss of one of our members tonight. The Fighting Okra will step up to the fight again soon, but tonight he trades his sneer for a heavy heart.