I have a friend who once told me "There's nothing like planning ahead, and this is nothing like it." I imagine that he was quoting or paraphrasing someone else, but, Oh, was he right!
When I sing for an event or conduct a choir for an event or for a mass, I like to know ahead of time what's going on. I like to have a plan laid out and presented to me (or have planned things myself and present them to the presider, as the case may be). It eases the worry and nerves I feel when I am working. Honestly, I don't know a soul who prefers to always be flying by the seat of their pants. Yet, so often, that is what happens you are in charge of music for the mass. You are subject to the priest's whims, the cantor's whims, the unexpected can always happen....
But, somehow, when there is a good solid plan, those things don't seem to be so bad to handle.
When I go to Mass and I am singing or conducting, I have found that the better prepared I am to meet the Mass (in terms of the nuts and bolts of my work), the better I can pray the Mass, and hopefully, not distract the faithful in the process. If I am not prepared, then I am jumpy and unfocused and prayer falls out of the focus of the mass for me. At that point, I am not best able to assist others with their prayers (which is my job). It seems so simple to me to lay out all of the details of your Liturgy Planning in a sheet that encompasses 5 or 6 weeks and then everything is all set weeks in advance.
A brilliant friend of mine (a music director at a big parish here in town) always uses a Liturgy planning sheet. These sheets detail everything that gets done with music (or that COULD get done with music) in the mass. That way, she and Father can go over the minute details of the mass music before she ever starts rehearsing her choir, weeks in advance. Then everyone knows the plan. If something happens, rather than having stress added onto stress, you just have to handle the situation and get back to the plan.
I just came from a mass where it seemed that no one was in charge. I was told that everything was planned, all I had to do was show up and direct. Not so! The priest hadn't been told what to expect. I hadn't been told what to expect. There was no reader for the Psalm, but I hadn't been asked to sing it. And furthermore, had no way to get the words to do it. So, after the first reading, we all sat there for several silent moments of "reflection", while Father and I (over the the entire length of the church and 2 flights of stairs) tried to telepathically decide what to do. Finally, he got up and read the Psalm. This was all completely unnecessary! All that was required was a liturgy plan and then everyone would have known what was going on before we ever sounded the first chord of the opening hymn.
So here's the final analysis: