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Fruits and Pitfalls of Repetition

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

During our recent parish mission, Bishop Madden shared some comments on what it means to be a practicing Catholic. Often people consider a practicing Catholic to be one who attends Mass regularly, but his comments suggested that a practicing Catholic would be more like a musician. Musicians practice in order to improve their skills, gain more knowledge, and learn new pieces. Any semblance of perfection for a musician is a fleeting fancy that may or may not appear the next time. Thus, musicians constantly practice.

Repetition is a form of practice. I’ve played passages hundreds (if not thousands) of times while learning a piece. Attending Mass on a weekly (or daily) basis is repetition for the practicing Catholic. While it is possible to learn and progress through simple repetition, advanced musicians find ways to make the repetitions different and even more challenging in order to maintain their focus and improve. Rote repetition can get the basics in place, but then it’s time to do something different so boredom doesn’t set in.

From today’s Palm Sunday liturgy through Easter Sunday next week, Holy Week provides an opportunity for practicing Catholics to break the routine and do something different. Each of the major liturgies this week has some aspect that sets them apart from the rest of the year. Today we wave palm branches. Tomorrow, Archbishop blesses the Holy Oils. On Thursday, feet are washed. On Friday, we hear the Passion and venerate the cross. At Saturday’s Vigil, we bless the new Paschal candle and welcome new members into the Church. On Easter Sunday, we are sprinkled with holy water to remind us of our own Baptism into the Church.

Musicians practice pieces slowly, quickly, in different rhythms, and even in different keys all in an effort to keep their practice focused and to improve. Holy Week is a chance for practicing Catholics to vary their practice routine. I hope you will take advantage of the differences this week to explore the fruits of practice and avoid the pitfalls of repetition.