Friday, April 18, 2014

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John

I'm sure most readers are familiar with the normal Roman Rite passion tones. Recently, I have discovered the dominican tone, which is more melismatic.

Have a blessed Good Friday.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Vast Majority of Younger Priests Appreciate New Roman Missal - Why I Like It too

Recently, I received the findings of a recent study that the CMAA sponsored (along with a few other organizations), which finds that 72% of young priests (under 50) like the corrected translation that we are now using. I am very heartened by this news, and I am happy to see it.

I have been likewise very encouraged by the heightened sense of awareness and reverence for the sacred mysteries, brought about by so many of these wonderful young priests and the new missal, particularly the new emphasis on sacred music that I have been seeing in many places, focusing on a new dignity, upon the singing of the prayers of the celebrant and the congregation, and the proper antiphons of the Mass being more frequently sung, as the council intended.

Often when I hear the prayers of the Mass, I am appreciative of their newfound dignity, with a style which elevates them above our everyday speech (which is what singing the prayers also does, by the way), making clear to us that we are not just talking to a buddy on the street, but that we are engaging in worship of the omnipotent creator of the universe.

One of the texts in the new missal that I think has been particularly improved is the Exsultet, the Easter Proclamation. Take a good look at this section below:

New Old
The sanctifying power of this night dispels wickedness,
washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen,
and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred,
fosters concord,
and brings down the mighty.
The power of this holy night dispels all evil,

washes guilt away,
restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred,
brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, accept this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants’ hands, an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar, which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor, a fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light, for it is fed by melting wax, drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.
O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human
Night truly blessed
when heaven is wedded to earth

and man is reconciled with God!

Do you see that whole paragraph that got skipped? Look at this beautiful wording: "this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and your servants' hands [...]  for it is fed by melting wax, drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious." The language of worship has always been elevated and beautiful, separating it from our everyday speech, which the Exsultet does particularly well.

Some have said that the old ICEL translation is superior because it is simple and people can understand it. I'm not here to discuss those right now, they can be discussed in other places, or maybe in a future post. Right now, I'm trying to point out the superiority of the new translation by pointing out how the old translation left out many of the concepts in the Latin texts in many cases, but also in more than a few cases where they simply omitted entire paragraphs! This is not the only example, it also happened in the prayers for Ash Wednesday, and quite possibly many other cases.

What are your experiences with the new translation? Has your quality of music improved at your parish, or your have you noticed a change in people's attitudes toward the Mass since the new translation? Talk it up below!

Singing the Mass Antiphons: At Home and in Rome

If you have been around the conversations within the Church Music Association of America for any length of time have, you have surely encountered discussion of an issue that manifests itself most often in the following question:

Why don't the antiphons in Simple English Propers match the antiphons in our missalettes in the pews, and the ones in the Roman Missal?

(If I had a nickel for every time I have answered this question, I surely could be enjoying a comfortable retirement on a distant tropical island right now!)

The simple answer to the question is this: Simple English Propers sets to music the antiphons of the Graduale Romanum in English translation, while most popular publications (such as Magnificat, various hand missals, the ubiquitous disposable pew missals, etc.) usually print the antiphons of the Roman Missal. The antiphons of the Roman Missal and Graduale Romanum, while they are often the same, are in various cases different sets of proper texts. A neutral translation of the Graduale Romanum (from the Solesmes Gregorian Missal) was used in SEP, which could be freely shared online without copyright restriction, and as an unfortunate result, the Roman Missal translations were not used where the Missal and Graduale are in fact the same.

There are numerous further explanations and speculative analyses of the phenomenon of Roman Missal vs. Graduale Romanum propers, all of which can easily be found through a quick web search, and most of which are beyond the grasp, care or interest of those who are working in real-world, parish settings.

The conventional answer, common practice, and liturgical law

The conventional conclusion that the CMAA has maintained at for many years now is that when the 1969 Roman Missal was promulgated, the antiphons of the Roman Missal (including only the Entrance and Communion Antiphons, not the Offertory Antiphon) were intended to be spoken when the antiphon of the Graduale Romanum or Graduale Simplex was not sung. This distinction is clear in the rubrics of the universal law of the GIRM to this day.

The same rubrics, however, stated that "another suitable song" could be sung in place of the antiphons of the Graduale Romanum or Graduale Simplex, and we all know that this is the source of the proliferation of singing just about any kind of hymn or song at the Entrance, Offertory and Communion processions of the Mass in place of the antiphons that are appointed by the Church to be sung at these times.

Since we have never been given official, approved English translations of the Graduale Romanum, in practice, those who wished to sing proper antiphons in English defaulted to singing the approved translations found in the Roman Missal, and this practice has gone on for more than 40 years in certain locales in the English speaking world. In no way was this ever illicit, since the antiphons of the Roman Missal are perhaps among the best "other suitable songs" that can be imagined!

Because of the success of this practice, the Bishops of the United States of America voted to include the singing of the Roman Missal antiphons as part of the first option in the Roman Missal, Third Edition (see GIRM 48 and 87).

Thus, in particular law (which canonically trumps universal law) in the United States of America today, the antiphons of the Roman Missal form a part of the first option for the sung texts of the Entrance, Offertory and Communion processions, along side the antiphons and psalms of the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another musical setting.

This is binding liturgical law for all faithful and obedient Catholics in the United States of America.

Roman Missal antiphons in Rome

It is striking to observe an unconventional but illustrative development in the papal liturgies in Rome this year: The Entrance Antiphon that is being sung in this year's Chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica is not the antiphon prescribed in the Graduale Romanum (which is Dilexisti iustitiam), but is the antiphon of the Roman Missal! Further, it appears to be in a newly composed, "neo-Gregorian" musical setting:

H/T Steven van Roode,

It is interesting to note that the GIRM in force in Rome, and in every other diocese of the world outside of the US, does not list the antiphons of the Roman Missal—strictly speaking—as sung texts, but as spoken texts when the antiphons of the Graduale Romanum are not sung. It seems that Msgr. Guido Marini and Fr. Pierre Paul, among the other planners of papal liturgies, agree that the most suitable alternative to the antiphons of the Graduale Romanum and Graduale Simplex are the antiphons of the Roman Missal.

This raises another question for us to consider: Is it within the Church's mind and within the bounds of the authentic spirit of the liturgy for additional proper antiphons to be added to the Church's corpus of Gregorian chant? 

"Neo-Gregorian" chant propers have been composed throughout the centuries, and many exist in the Graduale Romanum today (such as the chants for the more recent feasts of Christ the King, Corpus Christi, the Immaculate Conception, among others). This idea was heavily frowned upon around the time of the council, when the work and research of Dom Eugene Cardine and the Semiological school was coming to an end, which brought the 100-year chant restoration project of Solesmes to point of near completion. 

Today, however, chant scholarship is in a place of stability and scholars are in virtual agreement across the globe on what constitutes the authentic Gregorian chant tradition. Is the time right for a slow, gradual and organic development of the chant tradition, as we are perhaps seeing happen in St. Peter's Basilica this year—one that would in no way supplant the authentic Gregorian chant corpus, but would enrich and expand it, taking its secrets and genius and applying it to new compositions both in Latin and in various vernaculars?

I think that the answer is yes. And I am not alone in thinking this.

The successor to Simple English Propers

In fact, in a particular way, this effort is taking form in a brand new English chant resource that will begin shipping in two weeks.

It is the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual, edited by myself, and published by Illuminare Publications (learn more here). This resource is the true successor and fulfillment of its predecessor, Simple English Propers (which also composed and edited by myself).

There is no other resource like this. It will be available in both Assembly and Choir editions, and it contains the fully sung Order of Mass in English, eighteen Mass Ordinaries in English and Latin chant, and a complete repertoire of simple English chant settings with texts that are drawn from the Church's primary sources for the sung liturgy—the Graduale Romanum, Roman Missal, and Graduale Simplex—and arranged for successful parish use, according to prescripts of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Musicam Sacram, and Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The source translation that is used is the Roman Missal, Third Edition, and new translations have been made where they are needed (e.g. the Offertory Antiphons, among others), and approved for liturgical use by the USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship and by episcopal imprimatur. This assures the greatest textual continuity between the texts of the Missal and Graduale, and accords with the requirements of Liturgiam Authenticam.

It is arranged with the needs of todays parishes in mind, and it builds not only upon the experience of the past 5 years, but also upon the wisdom of the past 50 years. The musical settings that the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual contains already form a part of the core repertoire of numerous parishes across the English-speaking world, and early online releases have helped hone and perfect the chant settings and their arrangement over the course of the past three years.

Accompaniment editions are currently in preparation, and pre-publication digital editions are now available online every week for free download.

This is the next installment of the ever-developing Lumen Christi Series, which is a complete parish sacred music program. Be sure to sign up for updates and future announcements here.

I'm very excited to be able to present this new resource to the Church, in addition to the growing, organized effort that is developing behind, it to the parishes of the English speaking world. More information will soon follow on other exciting developments and initiatives. For now, let us look forward with hopeful anticipation of the future of liturgical renewal that lies ahead!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Magnificat Monday: Orlando de Lassus

Happy Monday! Yet another from Orlando de Lassus, using gregorian tone IV for the chant verses.

Love your mother! Don't forget: if you have suggestions for future Monday Magnificat compositions, feel free to send them to me by clicking here.

We are already participants in the life of the new Jerusalem, the Church

A homily by Fr. James Bradley of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
We join with shouts of ‘Hosanna’ today because we are citizens now of the Jerusalem to come. Jerusalem is the place in which God brings about his saving acts, and it those very same works which are made present in the life of the Church. As members incorporate of the mystical body of Christ through baptism, we are already participants in the life of the new Jerusalem, the Church, and so rightly come to enter the worship of that place in the banquet of sacrificial love which is the relationship of the most blessed Trinity, glimpsed by us in our Eucharistic offering.
More here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Monsignor Guido Marini Confirmed as Papal MC

Papa Francesco ha confermato il reverendo monsignore Guido Marini nel suo attuale incarico di Maestro delle Celebrazioni liturgiche pontificie.
Tanti auguri, Monsignor Marini!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Christus Factus Est

This text encapsulates one of the most important themes of this upcoming holy week: Christ's willing sacrifice on the cross for His (and our) eventual glorification. We could all do well to meditate upon this text as we enter this sacred week.

Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis. Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum et dedit illi nomen, quod est super omne nomen.

Christ became obedient for us unto death, even to the death, death on the cross. Therefore God exalted Him and gave Him a name which is above all names.

This text is specifically from the Palm Sunday Mass, Good Friday Liturgy, and for the office as well. It's also used for the Exultation of the Holy Cross, and on Holy Thursday in the EF.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Singing Priest at Wedding: well beyond the liturgical problems

You've no doubt seen the video or heard the story about the priest who sang Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah!" at a wedding.

Praytell blog makes a good point and asks a thoughtful question.

On Facebook, I have many friends who are liturgists, music ministers, youth ministers, and clergy. There, I’ve noticed that those who are liturgists mostly cannot stand what this priest did in the video. Those who are youth ministers tend to be much more enthusiastic about this. Music ministers and clergy seem to be on both sides. Yet most all agree that the priest has a lovely voice and sang this song very well. And almost everyone I know loves the original song by Leonard Cohen.

I’ve already tried to explain to my Facebook friends why this is not an example of good liturgy. But the arguments I hear back from those who are overjoyed at what this priest did are not about what constitutes good liturgy but about what brings joy to the assembly. I lament that we’ve gotten to the point where for some, “good liturgy” equals joyless liturgy.

The social media conversation around this video is very telling. Liturgists (myself included) have not done ourselves or others any good by beating people over the head with rubrics. Yet rubrics do have value, as does human emotion. How can we bridge the divide?

So, without recourse to "It's against the rules," what is a helpful way of explaining why this is so inappropriate?

Well- I think you have to toss out all the liturgical explanations, and questions of style, or even questions about secular music in church in order to get at the root of it. Those things are all important, but the atrocity being committed here is much deeper than that, I think.

Let's even lay aside questions about the theology of the song (which is a bit sketchy), since people don't tend to care about that sort of thing (and God can withstand stupid things being said about Him).

The first big problem is that the wedding liturgy is about the couple, not the priest. (It's about God, first. But, whatever, right?) The singing drew attention away from the couple and directed it toward the priest. This is selfish and narcissistic, and robbed the couple of what is rightfully theirs.

Priests tend to forget how a wedding functions in the life of the couple. For a priest - he may preside at hundreds or possibly thousands of weddings in his lifetime. A couple gets married only once. It doesn't matter if the priest is bored, or has heard all the prayers before, or has to do this same thing again tomorrow. Each wedding is a unique event in the life of a couple, and a priest should not impose his own personality onto that.

Which brings me to the second point, the really disturbing one.

In singing this song in particular, the priest is not just intruding on the wedding celebration, but is intruding on the couple's relationship. If the song has little meaning for them, the intrusion is only annoying. If it has real meaning to them (which, according to the social media advocates of this nonsense, it does for many many people), the intrusion is profoundly disturbing, even creepy.

Does anyone listen to lyrics anymore?!

It’s really a profoundly moving song, but its not even remotely appropriate to a wedding. It’s about the ways that lovers hurt each other and the glory that can be found even in that pain.

Love is a lot of things, including sometimes a cold and broken “hallelujah.” But a wedding is specifically about the “victory march” of love.

Because of its focus on the private aspect of love (hidden pain and secret joy), and not the public aspect (celebration) it is a remarkably intimate song, with the speaker of the song addressing it to his (or her, I guess) lover.

From a liturgical standpoint, you could fault the lyrics for their vagueness. But that misses the point. The mystifying and pseudo-biblical imagery allows any couple with a shared history to write their own meaning into it, to put fleshy details into the cosmic and romantic poetry. Any couple who finds this song specifically meaningful has a meaning in it that is unique to them.

It is really beyond inappropriate for a priest to publicly insert himself that way into a couple’s private story, taking on the vocal role of one of the lovers. Honestly, it creeps me out a bit, and makes me wonder about that priest's personal life and his own private longings and struggles in a way that the public should not ever be privy to.

More than a violation of rubrics or good taste or even theology, it is a violation of the sacred rites and private stories that bind lovers together, like a confused idiot stumbling unaware upon two people sharing their first kiss, and not knowing enough that he should turn back around and let them be.

The priest apparently did not sing the original text of the song. I didn't know this because I honestly could not bring myself to listen to it.

The problem with that is that everyone already knows the original lyrics. The song is embedded into our culture, and the story that we each associate with it- whatever that story is - cannot be separated out just by making it more "optimistic."

Either the song is meaningless to the couple, in which case there's no point in doing it, or the song has meaning to them, in which case this is an intrusion into their story. Changing the lyrics just makes it worse. And, since the priest didn't ask the couple ahead of time, or give them any indication it was going to happen, he had NO IDEA whether the song was meaningful or not to them, no sense of whether he may have been intruding.

The people who advocate a "liberal/progressive" (for lack of a better term - I know it's not a good term) liturgical paradigm, and/or the people who promote creative adaptations to liturgy and bemoan adherence to rubrics, those people tend to scream about sensitivity, about personalization, about the needs and longings of the individuals. This event, and all events like it, are contrary to all those values. It is ham-handed and awkward. The couple in the video may have been delighted, but the next couple may be appalled, embarrassed, hurt, or just annoyed.

It isn't the violation of rubrics and theology that primarily bothers me. It is the potential violation of the couple's relationship that I find so appalling.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

It's not about "awkwardness." It's about theology.

For the last two USCCB meetings, no proposal from the floor has received less support from the bishops than any suggestion that the recent translation of the Roman Missal should be reviewed or challenged in any way.

The most recent tiresome proposal from a liturgist suggests that only the presidential prayers--admittedly the most challenging aspect of the translation--be changed from the current translation, to an earlier, completely inadequate work of ICEL.

The reason it was inadequate had very little to do with syntax, something to do with vocabulary, and everything to do with theology, and specifically the theology of the presence of God.

The world has very little faith in the presence of God on earth, and since 1973, there has been precious little in the English-language prayers of the Mass that would challenge this prevailing view. There is much presence-specific language in the Latin of the prayers, however, and this is adequately rendered in the 2011 translation of the Missal.

Two major soteriological moments follow directly from the presence of God.
  • Divine help is an intimate, ongoing gift.
  • This help is powerful to change people, making their actions, although limited, truly meritorious.
One of the major reforms of the new translation is a recovery of the expression of both this sense of the presence of God, and of these two results of God's presence that mean so much in our daily lives: help, and transformation.


In the collect for the First Sunday of Advent, for example, the 1998 working group completely failed to adequately render the "help" aspect or the "merit" aspect of the collect. The prayer's very first word is "give," "Da." The word "give" does not occur in the 1998 draft. Instead, the word "strengthen" is used:

Almighty God, strengthen the resolve
of your faithful people
Whereas the 2011 correctly renders the sense of absolute gift:

Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve
According to the draft of 1998, God helps us, some. This inadequate prayer asks God to strengthen what is already there, as though we had any good--any being--beyond what God our Creator gives us. The truth is that all that we are, God gives us, beginning with our very existence. Certainly the resolutions of our will are God's gifts to us. We are not self-standing beings sending a memo to tell God to help us, some. We are ourselves God's gift to us. "Every gift and every perfect gift is from above."

There are other problems in this first section of the collect, including a major inaccuracy of the basic surface meaning of the text, but as I will emphasize again, in my opinion the key improvement of the 2011 translation concerns presence, and what follows: help, and merit.

Regarding the divine help, we are a Church that begins every hour of the Office by asking God's assistance to even begin praying. The 1998 draft definitely changed the wording of this prayer in this important aspect of theology.


Likewise, the 1998 draft omits the word "merit," a key soteriological expression, and unavoidable in any accurate translation. Like the opening "Da," it is just there, right in the prayer, inarguably. But the 1998 draft changes this precise theological term to the rather proforma image of "calling":

he may call us to sit at his right hand
and possess the kingdom of heaven.

Whereas the 2011 again gets the translation pretty much right; although frankly I would prefer the clarity of the theological word "merit," it might fly pretty much over peoples' heads, and the word "worthy" is rather striking here and might well hit home to the worshipper. Me, worthy? Could this happen to me? Yes. And it is about time we as Catholics remembered the promises of our religion.

gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy
to possess the heavenly kingdom.

Personally I think merit is such an important category that once I wrote a rather silly song to make it even more accessible than the above. It's written to be sung to the tune of the old Frank Sinatra song Love and Marriage:

Grace and merit, grace and merit,
God's so great He just can't wait to share it,
'Specially with His mother; you can't have one without the other.

Grace and merit, grace and merit,
The cross is heavy but you'll have to bear it.
Let me tell you, brother: you can't have one without the other.

Try, try, try to separate them. It's an illusion.
Try, try, try, and you will only add to the confusion.

Grace and merit, grace and merit:
It's a legacy we may inherit,
With the blessed mother. You can't have one. It's just not done. You can't have one without the other.


Note how extrinsic the 1998 draft made God to the whole salvation process, as the one who "calls" us into heaven--a sentiment completely missing from the Latin text. Yes, the calling of God as to one outside His kingdom is an important moment of the life of grace, but that is not the kind of moment that the collects are about. We are already God's faithful, in the prayer. God's presence to us--actually, in us, by the sanctifying grace of Baptism--is certainly a strange doctrine. But it is true, and our liturgical prayers should go all the way. They should express the full boldness of our radically hopeful faith.

Update: Rev. Mr. Dr. Fritz Bauerschmidt faults the above for using just one collect as an example. I should mention that it is simply the collect mentioned in the blogpost to which I'm responding here. In other words, it's from my point of view a random example--and yet it doesn't surprise me to find the theological problem in it, because that problem is pervasive throughout the draft translation.

The aesthetic issue he raises is another matter, and frankly I believe that the 2011 translation is much more beautiful and reflective, much more reposed, than either the draft or the 1973. I wonder if it sounds foreign because we are used to a certain rather assumed style, formed as our ears have been for forty years of desert living. But that is another issue.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"The group that was most resistant to the idea of revising the hymnal are those under 29 years of age. They are the most resistant by a large percentage."

Not sure how we at the Café missed this at the time, but a couple of years ago, a very large study was undertaken, involving 9,016 Episcopalian congregation members, 2,575 clergy, and 1,139 music directors, representing 3,060 congregations, as well as 55 bishops and 102 seminarians.

The subject? Revising the 1982 hymnal.

As this article explained, those of us involved in parish music at the ground level will not be surprised by one of the elements of the survey. Young people are much less likely to want the hymnal to be revised. This pattern holds even more true for those clergy who are 29 and younger.

A quick glance at the charts throughout the study shows that music directors generally value new music much, much more than their congregations do, including the wide variety of contemporary styles such as worship, multicultural, and praise music.

One of the study's conclusions:
Perhaps most significantly, there is no pattern in which youth correlates with a particular movement towards new forms of musical expression. To revise the Hymnal must in some way be a project that is a gift to the next generation. Gaining some clearer sense of what the worship music of that generation will look like will require a longer and more careful period of discernment.
The entire report is certainly worth reading!

 Thanks to Michelle Klima

Monday, April 7, 2014

Verdi's Requiem - Support Needed

A reader recently sent in this note about an upcoming performance of Verdi's Requiem:
I represent the Community Chorus of Detroit. In a labor of extreme love and passion, we are performing the Verdi Requiem in mid-May at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit. I have initiated a Kickstarter project with a goal of only $6,000 to help cover the expenses of the orchestra and staging. We are commemorating the 16 performances of this great work by the victims of the Holocaust at Terezin in World War II. Please take a look at the project and the video and consider being a backer.
Click here to support them on Kickstarter

Wyoming Catholic College Seeks Full-Time Chaplain

Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming, seeks a full-time chaplain to care for souls at our growing institution. We are a faithfully Catholic college that combines a classical Great Books liberal arts education with an innovative outdoor leadership program. The College places at the center of its campus life the reverent and beautiful celebration of the liturgy in both forms of the Roman Rite. In keeping with the teaching and example of recent popes, liturgies and devotions are celebrated in a manner that stresses continuity with Tradition, with treasures such as Latin and Gregorian chant widely employed.

The College has a well-established program of sacred music. Each Sunday there is a Missa Cantata in the usus antiquior, with the schola chanting the full propers and the choir providing polyphony and hymnody. The choir also sings at the Wednesday all-school Mass and the schola provides chant for daily Masses. The chaplain should therefore be comfortable with chanting the parts of the Mass proper to the priest.

The chaplain’s duties include offering Mass in both Forms of the Roman Rite, hearing confessions daily, conducting spiritual direction, presiding at Benediction, organizing and leading processions, and promoting other devotions from time to time, in keeping with the liturgical year. To serve this community well, he should be energetic in working with young people, ready to preach in a way pertinent to students’ needs, and comfortable with offering spiritual direction. Interest in outdoor adventures (hiking, camping, rock climbing, kayaking, canyoneering, skiing, etc.) is a definite plus, but not absolutely required.

The chaplaincy is intended to run all year long, with a lighter summer schedule. The College employs two chaplains in order to allow one or the other to go on outdoor trips or personal trips as well as to have appropriate time off. The incoming chaplain would join our current chaplain.

If interested, or to ask any questions you may have, please contact Dr. Kevin Roberts, President ( For more information on the College itself, please visit the website.