Cantoring & keeping the Sabbath?


#1

I have been cantoring (as a volunteer) at the 4pm Sunday mass every week for 7 years now. I have no musical training but I enjoy singing. I joined the choir and was coerced into being a cantor. I enjoy it but it’s recently become more difficult. In January, our choir director cut down on the masses he played as the accompanist. There are now two hired, rotating accompanists. I never know which one will show up until they arrive at church 30 minutes before mass and they have different musical styles/tempos. We practice together but 30 minutes isn’t always enough and their schedules do not allow us to meet during the week (one’s a nurse who works night shifts and the other is not available in the evenings - not sure why).

Last Saturday, a fellow cantor called me at 1pm to ask if I could cover that day’s 5pm mass. She said she had agreed to cantor the mass but forgot she had a paddling race that day. I told her I could fill in for her. As a result, I wasn’t able to get all my planned housework and yardwork done but I figured I would offer it up and deal with a messy house and weeds in the yard for a week.

Anyway, today I received an email from the same cantor stating that she realized she will be competing in weekly paddling races every weekend through August and could I cover all the masses for her? I can cantor, but I’m concerned because Saturday is the only day of the week when I have enough time to complete house/yard chores. I’m trying not to do any housework or chores on Sunday and I already squeeze in some chores during the week, but if I take this Saturday mass on (in addition to Sunday 4pm mass), I’m honestly not sure I can keep the Sabbath without my house and yard turning into a total wreck.

So, the question is, if I cantor at 2 masses every weekend and can’t get my household chores done, would it still be a sin to do some chores on Sunday which I would have otherwise been able to do during Saturday when I’m cantoring? Or should I ask the choir director to find someone else. For what it’s worth, I cannot simply show up and begin singing. Cantoring at mass (for me) requires about a 3 hour chunk of time, not including practicing I do on my own. We don’t have a physical church because the 2006 earthquake damaged our church beyond repair. I cantor in a large open-air tent and we have to pull out all the musical and electronic equipment (electric piano, microphones, cords, speakers, etc) and set it up with all the wires, etc before mass. Sometimes extra precautions are needed if it’s especially windy (which is rather often) - binder clips or bricks to ensure music doesn’t fly away. For some reason, all the choir members only attend the 7am or 9am Sunday masses. The only other choir member who attends my 4pm Sunday mass is the lady who cantors the 12pm Sunday mass because she enjoys singing Alto parts when I sing the Soprano/melody. She can’t cantor the 5pm Saturday mass because she’s going out of the country for 6 weeks.

Not sure what to do. Any advice?


#2

It sounds like you are a generous person who has taken on more resposnbility than is reasonable. You should only commit to those times that you can as it is important for your own sake to have a reasonable balance between home/work/church commitments.

At my local parish we have given up having a cantor at all but one mass, and guess what difference it has made? People now actually sing out much better. We use the simple English chant responses for the main parts of the mass, a few different mass settings and always have 3 or 4 hymns. At one mass - we do the singing completely acapella and that has been very liberating.

Perhaps part of the solution might be seeing if you could trial something like this at your parish? Good luck for the future.


#3

(Bold emphasis mine, quote cut for space)

[quote="efj803, post:1, topic:327487"]
So, the question is, if I cantor at 2 masses every weekend and can't get my household chores done, would it still be a sin to do some chores on Sunday which I would have otherwise been able to do during Saturday when I'm cantoring? Or should I ask the choir director to find someone else. For what it's worth, I cannot simply show up and begin singing. Cantoring at mass (for me) requires about a 3 hour chunk of time, not including practicing I do on my own.

...

** For some reason**, all the choir members only attend the 7am or 9am Sunday masses. The only other choir member who attends my 4pm Sunday mass is the lady who cantors the 12pm Sunday mass because she enjoys singing Alto parts when I sing the Soprano/melody. She can't cantor the 5pm Saturday mass because she's going out of the country for 6 weeks.

Not sure what to do. Any advice?

[/quote]

First may I off you a :hug1: ? You see, I am in a very similar situation in my life, except substitute companionship/care for my elderly mother in place of cantoring and substitute my siblings for your fellow cantors.

It is a hard place to be and a struggle. You want to help out. You don't mind - and probably enjoy doing it. But you have other obligations. However, you question whether those obligations are important enough to warrant inconveniencing others or even the risk of no one doing the job at all.

My experience (and poor balancing) has led to my household becoming completely out-of-control to the point of health and financial issues hurting myself and my children.

My advice - if others can have reasons for not being able to attend, then you are allowed to have reasons as well. And being able to rest on the Sabbath is a very good reason in my opinion - especially after getting myself in a position where it has been impossible for me to do so for months. Rest is necessary (telling myself this too!).

God is ultimately in control - and decisions made in unison with His will bring peace, not worry and frustration. Let Him have room to inspire someone else to step up or to have the congregation come up with a solution.

For me, it has been incredibly hard to step back from automatically filling in every time one of my siblings has something else they choose to do. But I need to care for myself and my family first or there won't be anything left for me to give my mom - and I'll end up needing help myself.

Again, I understand how hard this can be - wanting to serve, wanting to be able to do both, trying to figure out how to make it work. It's very hard. May God grant us both guidance and peace.


#4

I agree with liturgyluver, when you have (or perceive) a "moral dilemma," look for alternatives. Not cantoring a second Mass is a perfectly good option, and with God's grace it may bring about much good.

My friends and I joke half-seriously about "Catholic Guilt Syndrome," of which one aspect is not knowing how much to give. Yes, you should give to the poor and needy, but should you feel guilty if you do not give them everything you have? Keep in mind that you are already giving quite a lot of your time and energy to your church community.

To CradleJourney's comments, I would merely add that of the Two Commandments (Matthew 22:36-40), the first and greatest is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." So it is very good to keep the Sabbath holy.


#5

"No" is a perfectly acceptable answer to the cantor. It is a complete sentence and does not require any further information on your part.

Asking to substitute in an emergency situation is one thing, six weeks because of a paddling competition is another! That's the entire summer and the parish should make other arrangements or do without a cantor at that Mass for the summer.

And here's the important thing to combat "catholic guilt" -- that is not your problem! It's the pastor's problem to resolve. Don't let anyone MAKE IT YOUR problem, even you.


#6

I would suggest that if you want to help out the other cantor you tell them how many Masses you can sub for between now and August - zero, one, two, four, ten, whatever. Give the dates you will commit to and suggest she call other choir members to find additional help. Ultimately if she cannot find a sub for the other weeks, then she will simply need to choose paddling class or cantoring and if she will not be at the Mass then she should inform the pastor and he can either find someone or have no cantor at that mass.

Mass will go on without a cantor.


#7

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions! I guess I just needed someone else to tell me it's okay to say no sometimes. ;) As it is, I'm already covering a few extra masses for the cantor at 12pm Sunday mass who will be going out of town in a few weeks (which is fine since she also covers for me when I'm away). It can be exhausting enough being the cantor at 4pm mass every Sunday. Sometimes I just want to go to mass and participate in the congregation so I'll attend a morning mass and sit in the back of the choir. They even rope me into cantoring when I attend daily mass but I don't mind that so much since they don't sing the psalm, it's really more just helping lead the music.

I will also recommend some of the suggestions to our pastor because we only have a few cantors in our parish and I would love it if more people sang!


#8

[quote="efj803, post:7, topic:327487"]
Thank you all for your comments and suggestions! I guess I just needed someone else to tell me it's okay to say no sometimes.

[/quote]

;) As it is, I'm already covering a few extra masses for the cantor at 12pm Sunday mass who will be going out of town in a few weeks (which is fine since she also covers for me when I'm away). It can be exhausting enough being the cantor at 4pm mass every Sunday. Sometimes I just want to go to mass and participate in the congregation so I'll attend a morning mass and sit in the back of the choir. They even rope me into cantoring when I attend daily mass but I don't mind that so much since they don't sing the psalm, it's really more just helping lead the music.
You absolutely have the right to say now and to take on only what you feel you can do without overloading yourself or neglecting your domestic obligations. Also, I think most of us need a little time to "rest in God's presence" during Mass. A few summers ago, I was put on the schedule to either read or cantor every week during the summer except one (when I went out of town). Preparing each week in addition to working full time (often on Saturday night) and going to school began to drain me, and by the end of the summer I was pretty well burned out!

I will also recommend some of the suggestions to our pastor because we only have a few cantors in our parish and I would love it if more people sang

!
From experience I know that one way to get more people to sing is to back away from the microphone after you get them started on the hymn. If all they hear is you singing, people are less likely to sing. As the cantor who trained me once told me, the cantor's job is to LEAD the people, not ENTERTAIN them.


#9

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