Thursday, August 18, 2016

Bishop Conley on Beauty, Liturgy, Mystery--and World Youth Day

The sacred liturgy at World Youth Day, organized for English-speakers by Polish and American Dominican friars, was an experience of beauty that touched my heart beyond my expectations. I have long known that sacred liturgy is an experience of wonder, as Pope Francis has described so often: a moment “to enter into the mystery of God, to allow ourselves to be brought to the mystery, and to be in the mystery.” 
But in Poland, I experienced thousands of young people entering into the mystery of God, through the power of beautiful liturgy. At World Youth Day, I was reminded how powerfully sacred worship can transform our hearts.
Much more here.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Polyphony and Chant and Latin at Mass -- at WYD????

No, not every Mass. But at those "in English"....
I don't know about you, but it was at a busy time for me, and I've never paid much mind to World Youth Days, and any time I did happen to turn on EWTN it sounded like a pop concert or a county fair was going on. It can be depressing. And being depressed by Catholic liturgies makes being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh [me] a reason of that hope which is in [me] more difficult, you know?
But I had forgotten reading this last spring.
Fr David Friel, (whom many of you will know from Colloquium,) has a report over at Corpus Christi Watershed to gladden the heart.
It was revolutionary. I am speaking about the music used at the major English-speaking catechesis sessions.... During the days leading up to the main weekend events with the Holy Father, WYD pilgrims attend morning & afternoon catechesis sessions.... Not surprisingly, one of the largest groups of pilgrims at every WYD comes from the English-speaking world, so there is typically one very large English catechesis center. 
Typically, these Masses feature pop concert-style praise & worship led by an on-stage band. This year, however, the preparations for these large-scale liturgies were entrusted to the Dominican Liturgical Centre in Kraków. Fr. Lukasz Misko, OP was invited to serve as Director of Music for the English-language liturgies, and he, in turn, invited fellow-blogger Christopher Mueller to serve as conductor for all of these liturgies (as he announced here). The result was an experience very different from the norm.
Notably, not a single hymn was sung during Mass. Praise & worship songs were used throughout the day at the arena, before and after Mass, but no garden variety metrical hymns or songs were sung during Mass, from the Sign of the Cross to the Final Blessing. This, in itself, is revolutionary. 
During the entrance procession, offertory, communion, and recessional, a variety of musical forms were used. Most of the music at these points were responsorial texts written in four parts. A Gregorian alleluia and the Pater noster were chanted each day, and the first piece during communion each day was in Gregorian plainsong. The polyphonic pieces included: Jesu, Rex admirabilis (G.P. Palestrina), Anima Christi (Stefan Stuligrosz), Lift Me Up, O Jesus (Jacek Sykulski), In Te, Domine, speravi (Hans Leo Hassler), Per Crucem Tuam (Piotr Palka), Salve, Mater Misericordiae (arr. Mueller), Adoremus in aeternum (Gregorio Allegri), and Totus tuus (Msgr. Marco Frisina).
The Mass setting used each day was the Missa Orientalis by Jacek Sykulski. This was sung in four parts, and the text (interestingly for the English-language catechesis center) was in Latin.
On the final day of catechesis, Chris and his wife, Constanza, led a breakout session entitled: “How to Promote Polyphony and Chant at Your Parish.” For many of the pilgrims, this was their first experience of chant and polyphony. One hopes that some of them have been energized to learn more and to bring the music of the Church back to their parishes....
This sea change is not insignificant. It means that the project of advocating truly sacred music within the present liturgical movement is bearing practical fruit. Even three years ago, at WYD 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, no one would have expected what transpired at the Mercy Centre in Kraków.
That the Dominican Liturgical Centre was placed in charge of the English-language liturgies is an enormously important step. That Christopher Mueller was selected to serve as conductor is equally important. These surprising choices would not have been possible some years ago. What graced decisions they turned out to be! 
Read the rest over there. Me, I'm going to go see what I can scare up on Youtube, etc.
Reason for our hope!

Hymn Tune Introits

As the new parish year is about to begin, I thought I would mention again my recent booklet published by WLP, Hymn Tune Introits: Singing the Sundays of the Liturgical Year.

Many pastors are aware of the benefits of "singing the Mass," as opposed to simply singing at Mass. The Church opens the Scriptures to us in many ways at the liturgy, not only through the lectigh onary, but with particular generosity through the Propers of the Mass.

Over the last decade the Church in the United States has experienced an historically important publishing explosion in English-language versions of the Propers for use at Mass for the benefit of the People of God. While the Graduale remains the gold standard for singing the Propers, composers such as Paul Ford, Richard Rice, Adam Bartlett, and many others have worked out ways to bring the Proper texts closer to the people, making these wonderfully rich texts available for choir and/or congregational singing. Ben Yanke maintains an enormous database with links of these resources for singing the Propers.

The Hymn Tune Introits go one step further, making the Entrance Antiphon of the day accessible to every congregation in the English-speaking world. 

Every congregation knows at least one Long Meter hymn tune. And every text in this entire book can be sung to that tune.

If a parish knows All People That on Earth Do Dwell, they can sing each of these texts to that tune. They work equally well with the tunes for Creator of the Stars of Night, or Jesus Shall Reign. Or On Jordan's Bank, Lift Up Your Heads, O Sun of Justice, When I Survey--many others. A lack of musical resources is therefore no obstacle for any parish.

Experience shows that the introduction of Propers can be unsettling for congregations, for two reasons. First, it offers something new, which always causes some initial resistance. Secondly, and this is important, it takes away something the congregation is used to. Of course, the point is precisely the opposite: making the riches of the Mass available to the congregation--but it will not be perceived that way initially, and this is the pastoral problem that the Hymn Tune Introits are designed to solve. Congregations that are accustomed to singing a hymn to begin the Mass, and would be unsettled by any chanted Proper, may much more readily make that transition by singing something that sounds just like a familiar hymn.

Imagine it is Sunday morning, and time for Mass to begin. The organ begins to play, the Entrance Procession begins, and as the musical introduction reaches its conclusion, the people think, "Oh, I know that song!" They pick up their worship leaflets and find the Entrance Chant, and without any rehearsal or fumbling they sing it straight through. The ministers have reached the altar, the organist improvises as the altar is venerated, and the priest reaches his chair.

Alternatively, imagine that a parish that is poor, and between organists, is ready to begin Mass. Someone designated as cantor, or the priest, sings out the first line of the Hymn Tune Introit. Once again, everyone "knows this song," and all join in.

A "contemporary ensemble" of guitar/piano would have equal success.

For too long, the People of God have been deprived of some of their rightful meditations: those provided for them in the Proper texts of the Mass. I'm happy to be involved in some small way in helping to spread this banquet of the Word of God for the nourishment of all.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Rev. Joseph T. Nolan (1921-2016)

[Randolph Nichols offers a recollection of the priest and liturgical writer.]

Given a choice, most of us would ask that death come after a fulness of years untouched by diminishment of mind and spirit. Few are granted that wish, but when it happens for others we rejoice. Upon learning this past Monday that my friend and mentor Fr. Joseph T. Nolan, age 95, had returned to God, feelings of thanksgiving triumphed over sadness. Having just read earlier in the day his latest reflection, entitled “Alive in God and for God” from his daily e-mail journal Thoughts for the Journey, I could only marvel how his life’s passion persisted to the very end.

You may have encountered Fr. Nolan’s English translations of Christus Vincit and Ubi Caritas in the St. Pius X Hymnal, texts later retained in Theodore Marier’s Hymns, Psalms and Spiritual Canticles. As a graduate student he had sung in Marier’s schola at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts before becoming a prominent early advocate of liturgical reform who implemented at various parishes in the mid-West, with his bishop’s consent, many changes that would become the most identifiable features of the post-Second Vatican Council rite.

Fr. Nolan had an interesting career before becoming a priest. Winner of the coveted Fulton prize in debate as a student at Boston College, he joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation upon graduation in 1942 and was assigned as an agent in Arkansas. Later he was “invited,” to use his wording, by the FBI to serve as an officer in the navy during World War II. At war’s end he was reassigned to the New York bureau. It was in New York that he met Dorothy Day, an experience that would fuel a desire to become a priest and inform his growth as a theologian. (At the 50th anniversary of his ordination, when asked by a Boston College student why he left the FBI for the priesthood, he replied, “It was easier to get confessions.”) Before solidifying his decision to become a priest, however, he completed a graduate degree in history at Boston College.

Rev. Joseph T. Nolan,
with his mother
I had a long association with Fr. Nolan. After his seminary training at Conception Abbey in Missouri he became a priest in the diocese of Wichita and was assigned as pastor of three small parishes, one of which was in my home town. When I left for college study in the Northeast, years passed without any further contact until he phoned me one evening at my apartment in Winthrop, Massachusetts (which, by coincidence, was Fr. Nolan’s hometown), asking whether I could play carols for an upcoming Christmas Eve Mass. Being a professional classical pianist who had never touched the keys of a pipe organ, I was understandably hesitant. Fr. Nolan would not take no for an answer: “If you can play Beethoven sonatas you can play Christmas carols.” I didn’t know it then, but my life was about to change, radically. Besides providing the impetus to a career in church music, Fr. Nolan would later hire me as a staff writer for Good News, his homiletic service read by priests throughout the English-speaking world, and would be instrumental in my completing the Master of Theological Studies program at Harvard Divinity School. He would later joke, “You shouldn’t have answered the phone!”

Fr. Nolan remained a diocesan parish priest for only 14 years. Given permission to do graduate work in theology at Harvard, he blossomed as a writer, poet, teacher of theology (Boston College) and popular seminar director on liturgy and preaching. He had a special gift: blessed with a mind capable of grasping complex theological concepts, he could express those ideas in direct, eloquent speech understood by all. Another unusual trait, especially for an academic, was his effusive, passionate conviction of the presence of God. When dining with him you knew the conversation could very likely become one-sided. It wasn’t egotism or self-centeredness, but simply a mind and heart on fire. He was irrepressible because he saw God in everything and everyone. His theology, if I dare compress it into one sentence, stressed the fullness of Eternal Life and the Reign of God as alive and active in the present. In other words, be it only a foretaste, we need not wait until death to experience Resurrected life. It is understandable why in so many of Nolan’s writings he credits art and music, capable as they are of transcending the confines of space and time, as confirmation of this fuller living reality. It is also no surprise that two dedicatees of his autobiography, A Life in Liturgy: Rediscovering the Mass, were Theodore Marier and the Rev. Joseph Collins, the pastor of St. Paul Church during the formative years of its famous choir school.

Make no mistake, Fr. Nolan was a true progressive. To him, the old rite didn’t express the theological fulness of Resurrection faith. When at the end of Mass he said, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” he meant all the social engagement and responsibility those words imply. But he was also acutely aware that the post-Vatican II rite fell short, particularly in music, language (oh, how he could groan over hymn texts) and preaching. Being more sympathetic to the old rite, I would suggest to him that his expectations fell short because most priests simply don’t have his skills to bring off the reformed rite as he envisioned it. Undeterred, he would remind me of the old horrors: the auctioneer’s speed often adopted at Mass, the emphasis on guilt at the neglect of God’s love and mercy, not to mention the disregard of Scripture and the presence of Christ in others as components of Real
Presence. Such back and forth exchanges instilled in me an important lesson that one’s love of tradition must never preclude an openness to criticism, self-examination, and growth.

I will greatly miss Fr. Nolan’s intellectual prodding and irrepressible Christian witness. He kept me honest and there is no adequate way to measure the value of such a friend.
[Randolph Nichols is an organist, pianist, and choir director, and sang in the men’s schola at St. Paul Church in Cambridge.]

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sistine Chapel Choir wins Echo Klassik prize

The choir's album Cantate Domino won in the category of Choral Recording of the Year.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Iste Confessor (ROUEN)

From the Common of Pastors
Holy confessor of the Lord eternal,
whose feast the people through the earth are singing,
joyfully merits to ascend in triumph
to hidden heavens

Righteous and prudent, humble, chaste, and sober,
calm through the hours and days of earthly living,
such was his manner while the mortal spirit
livened his members.

So now our chorus on this day sings gladly,
chanting this hymn of praises in his honor,
that by his merits we may be supported
throughout the ages.

To Him be strength and honor and salvation
who dwells above the highest peaks of heaven,
God, one and triune, governing the vastness
Of the creation.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Year of Mercy: How to Go to Confession

One of the very practical efforts that might be made during the Year of Mercy is providing resources for simply the mechanics of going to Confession. (A simple and good guide may be found here.)

Although fortunately many parishes already have thriving use of this wonderful sacrament, in many places it might not be used as frequently as possible. There are a number of possible reasons for this (I've written about some of them here and here).

But I think another reason that people don't go is that they simply don't know how.

We professional Catholic types can forget how important it feels to regular folks in the pews to just not do anything wrong at Mass. As an example, I remember my first time going to Mass at a Dominican priory that has wooden seats that flip up, and feeling very self-conscious about how loudly they would slam if I made a mistake about lifting or setting mine down. A lot of people are probably like that in church, just wanting to do "the right thing" without disturbing the peace.

Imagine having the weight of this kind of fear of making a mistake, when considering approaching the sacrament of Confession, in addition to the normal inertia having to do with admitting sins, and everyone's busy weekend schedules, and everything else that impedes frequent reception. Months and even years might pass, with God's people carrying needlessly heavy burdens.

Fortunately this particular issue is very easy to fix. Most parish priests have already coached people through the process of going to Confession, both with schoolchildren and with adults entering the Church through RCIA. It wouldn't take much to adapt the written resources to be referred to parish-wide in the bulletin, or to make an RCIA discussion into a homily where the benefits of Confession are discussed and the steps of going to Confession are outlined.

It might even be nice to have an "open house" for the confessionals, so folks could see the placement of chairs and screens, before attempting to go on their own. And written resources for examinations of conscience and the order of the sacrament are highly useful to have available.

It would be wonderful if in the Year of Mercy every barrier that gets in the way of sacramental reconciliation were removed as much as possible, so that people could avail themselves of the beautiful graces of this sacrament of mercy.

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Feast Day for the Apostle to the Apostles

Monday, July 18, 2016

How to Introduce Ad Orientem to Your Parish

The Ordinary Form celebrated ad orientem at Prince of Peace, Taylors, SC:
photo credit, James Honker Photography

Robert Cardinal Sarah’s landmark address to Sacra Liturgia UK this month has pastors all over the world wondering how they might introduce ad orientem worship to their parish.  Particularly given the controversy that has erupted as a result, I am sure there are some of the brethren who may be thinking the time is not ripe for moving in this direction in their parishes.  On the contrary, I think the controversy may provide the perfect opportunity to explore how to implement this change of liturgical direction in the parish, and to do so by Advent 2016.

First of all, since news of the controversy is already all over Catholic and secular news, it provides the occasion for the pastor to explain to his people what all the fuss is about.  In a homily and bulletin column series, go back to Ratzinger’s famous Hermeneutic ofContinuity address to the Roman Curia.  Then, provide the faithful with quotations from both Sarah’s address as well as the communiqué from the Holy See and Cardinal Nichol’s letter about the matter.  You can explain that this current battle in the liturgy wars is a clear manifestation of the hermeneutic of continuity vs. continuity of rupture.  You can then provide the current legislation of the Roman Missal as well as the Holy See in which the people can see for themselves that the Missal presumes the ad orientem direction and that Bishops do not have the power to forbid it.

Then, the months leading up to Advent can be a powerful time for catechesis.  Father Jay Scott Newman of St Mary’s, Greenville, has an excellent set of bulletin columns by which he introduced the idea, along with a series of sermons, to his parish.  Excerpting and integrating these into bulletin columns and pastoral letters to the faithful can introduce the idea to the faithful.

In my own parish, we put into the pews a resource, which explains to visitors and parishioners why what they may see, hear and experience at our parish may be markedly different than their experience in other American parishes.  That resource is given to all new families when they register and is excerpted in the bulletin on a regular basis.  We also invite people at Christmas and Easter to take home the booklets to learn more.

It is a great time to do a book study on Michael Lang’s seminal work TurningTowards the Lord.  Send a personal invitation to your highest donors, heads of ministries, school faculty and staff, parish employees and members of the finance and pastoral councils. 

These months of catechesis leading up to Advent may be geared towards the implementation of ad orientem worship, but can also be used to address some of the lack of catechesis and liturgical confusion all around.  In my own parish we did a book study on Ronald Knox’s Mass in Slow Motion as well as a sermonseries to which I go back from time to time. 

It is important during this time to avoid polemics over the versus populum stance.  Attacking a position that the vast majority of the faithful have come to expect as the norm for worship in their time will bear scant fruit.  We can, however, emphasise the ad orientem posture, not as evidence of “turning back the clock to before Vatican II” or even “turning our backs on the people”, but as exercising a legitimate option that is part of the creative diversity of the Church, and of uniting priest and people on the same side of the altar.  It is also important to underline that this position in the Novus Ordo is generally taken up only at the Liturgy of the Eucharist, when the prayers are addressed to the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit, with the Cross on the Altar as a focal point for the entire assembly.  You can also mention that, in St Peter’s in Rome, Mass is celebrated in both directions every day: at side altars with the altar against the wall, with priest and people facing the same direction, as well as behind the altar towards the people, in the case of the Altar of the Chair and the Papal Altar.  If it’s good enough for St Peter’s in Rome, it should good enough for your parish, too.

Pope Francis celebrates the Ordinary Form ad orientem at the Altar of St John Paul II at St Peter's, Rome

 As far as the actual implementation goes, there are various theories about the best way to do this.  Some feel that using the so-called “Benedictine arrangement” of six candles and a more or less prominent altar cross on the altar is an important first step.  Parishes like St Mary’s went ad orientem at all their usual Sunday and weekday Masses after the catechesis occurred.  In my parish, for several years there were experiments with the new position: for brief periods of time, for holy days, for school Masses. 

Here is a way that the position can be gradually introduced:
1.    Daily Mass.  Often your daily Mass crowd can give you a very good read on the temperature of reactions in the parish.  Doing the position at some or all daily Masses, while tailoring catechesis to those Masses is a way to start.
2.    School Mass.  Catechizing school faculty, staff, parents and children through workshops, classes, and letters.  It also means that children will grow up in an environment where the position does not carry the same baggage as previous generations carried about it.
3.    Principal Mass.  After 1 and 2, maybe during Lent, is a good time to do the position at the principal Mass.  Especially if the Mass tends towards the “High Mass” variety with choir, incense and a serious complement of altar servers, it introduces the idea to Sunday worship while still giving options to those faithful who are not ready for the transition.
4.    Holy Day Masses and Holy Week.  Doing the position for those days highlights their solemnity by making them different, and the position can always be brought into the homily on that occasion.
5.    All Masses.  Repeat all of the catechesis again before doing this, and still keep a safety valve Mass, particularly the one where the oldest crowd, that might have more trouble receiving this change, go. 
6.    Keep Masses with the Bishop or visiting celebrants versus populum.  Instead of making an issue out of the contrary position, it can be presented as making the celebration special when someone comes like the Bishop or as an act of hospitality to visiting celebrants who might not be used to it.  The occasional reversion to versus populum will cause people to reflect on the differences between the two positions and want to explore the reasons for them, as well as their own reactions more. 

Some prelates legitimately fear that it will cause division and strife in the parish.  That is why priests must be prepared to know and exercise their rights in the matter, and to account for the gentle and firm way in which they have prepared the parish for the change.  Building up a culture of support for the change within the parish will also be important when the priest is criticized for doing so.

It is also important that parochial vicars or assisting priests prudently forego their right to celebrate ad orientem when the pastor has reaffirmed the versus populum position.  Creating division between priests in a parish will unsettle the faithful and provide them with ample opportunity to recreate that divide amongst themselves.  The young priests will get their chance, and it will be easier for them when their older brothers have blazed the trail.  If, after all of this, the Ordinary insists, then he is then in the position of having to explain to the faithful and his presbyterate why he insists on denying to some priests the right to exercise those rights which are instilled in the law itself.  A priest should always be obedient to his Ordinary, and God will reward that obedience and patience.  As more parishes experience ad orientem worship and more Catholics see that Vatican II is not undone and the sky does not indeed fall, ad orientem will move from the fringes of the life of the Church, where it has been unjustly exiled, back to the heart of the Church.          

The Coming of the Son of Man, Matthew 24:27

For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Where the Lord Stands to Face the Nations, Zechariah 14:4

In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

OT, Beauty in Sacred and Profane Arts

Apparently a pop singer wore this gown for a television appearance this past week.

The designer is one Michael Cinco, a Filipino, and the images he used are drawn from and inspired by the windows of Paris's Sainte Chapelle: