Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Music Director Position in Cincinnati

Large, suburban parish in Cincinnati, OH seeking full time organist/choir director.
Position open immediately. Parish transitioning to more traditional liturgy so candidate
must have knowledge of and love for chant and sacred polyphony as well as traditional
hymnody. A sense of solemnity and beauty is desired in seeking a balanced
mix of old and new that is in keeping with the teachings of Benedict XVI.
Responsible for weekly choir rehearsal, Saturday vigil Mass and three Sunday
Masses, feast days, weddings, occasional funerals and liturgical events such as
40 hours devotion.

Interested parties should email their resume, letter of interest, and salary
expectations to

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Missal Chant Workshop, New York

Contact: Camille St. James

NEW YORK, NY -- Fr. Gabriel O'Donnell, O.P. and Fr. Columba Kelly, O.S.B., will present a seminar, We Lift Up Our Hearts: The Roman Missal and Its Chant on 7 October, followed on 8 October with a Master Chant Workshop led by Fr. Columba Kelly, O.S.B., both events will be held at The Church of Saint Catherine of Siena, 411 E. 68th Street, New York, NY 10065.

Father Gabriel O'Donnell is a spiritual master and a natural and enthusiastic teacher. Father O' Donnell will bring both of these gifts together as he demonstrates for us the real purpose of the Liturgy: praise of the Triune God and experiencing here on earth what we hope to enjoy forever in Heaven. In his talk, Heaven Wedded to Earth: The Importance of the Roman Missal and Its Implementation, Father O’Donnell will show his listeners what the Third Edition of the Roman Missal will accomplish and how very important it is for all of the faithful to embrace the new Missal with thought, prayer, understanding and without reservation.

Fr. Columba Kelly, O.S.B. shares his expertise in his talk, Liturgical Chant As An Icon In Sound: God Speaks and We Respond. He will discuss how the Church has always been clear about the importance of Gregorian Chant. Both Musicam Sacram of the Second Vatican Council, and more recently Sing to the Lord (USCCB, 2007) speak of the pride of place which is to be given to Gregorian Chant and to its unique suitability for the Liturgy.

"As a Dominican Parish, the Church of Saint Catherine of Siena places the prayerful and reverent celebration of the Church's Liturgy as its primary mission. Music is an essential part of that prayerfulness, and there is no more prayerful music for the Liturgy than Gregorian Chant," said Father Jordan Kelly, O.P., Pastor of Saint Catherine's. "To welcome to Saint Catherine's Father Gabriel O'Donnell and Father Columba Kelly, is a great privilege. Both priests are highly respected experts and men of prayer. Both their prayer and their expertise will help us understand the theology of the new translation of the Roman Missal and guide us to not merely ‘sing at Mass,’ but ‘to sing the Mass,’" said Father Jordan.

Registration is required by 30 September
Where: St. Dominic’s Hall
The Church of Saint Catherine
411 E. 68th Street, NY, NY 10065
Cost: Event is $30 for either session or $50 for both.
Cost covers lunch and materials.
Reservations and payment in advance by 30 September
Please make checks payable to: The Church of St. Catherine of Siena.
Contact or call 212-988-8300x182
For more information contact:
Paul Zalonski
212-988-8300 x182

Paraclete's Secret Sale

Just spotted on FB: "I have got an unusual set of of varied chant books such as Gregorian Chant - A Guide, Gregorian Semiology - Cardine, and others at 50% off today - also other resources at a 25% discount - end of year sale - give me a call if interested - Jim Jordan 1-800-451-5006, ext. 335 at Paraclete Press."

Vigor, Energy, Freshness in the Extraordinary Form

Wassim Sarweh plays and conducts from the loft.
Wassim Sarweh must be one of the most brilliantly innovative yet underrated organists and choirmasters in the English-speaking world. I say that because I just heard him play and his choir sing at the Church of the Assumption Latin Mass in Windsor, Ontario. If you have not been, it is worth a trip. It will redefine your understanding of the aesthetic potential of the extraordinary form.It is also a wonderful experience to join this community of happy and liturgically enlightened Catholics in this beautiful parish.

Wassim's singers are all first rate, and his approach to playing the organ was like nothing I've heard before in this context. Forget nostalgia and dated sentimentalism This is something completed different. The celebrant's voice is clear and his Latin diction is perfect. The singing is as precise as it is effervescent. If you attend on the right day, you can even hear the Gradual chant sung in organum with middle eastern musical accents.

Many people know that I'm no fan of accompanied chant, but Wassim took an approach that was enough to make me a new believer at least as regards the people's chants. He didn't use organ on the Mass propers -- all sung from the Graduale Romanum - but rather on the ordinary of the Mass and the credo in particular, since the rest of the Mass ordinary was sung according to a setting by Orlando di Lasso.

Wassim Sarweh with his books
When I first saw Credo III listed, my thought was: too bad that this parish uses this too familiar setting as a fallback. Accompaniment surely can't help. I was completely wrong. Wassim took off following the celebrant's intonation. The speed was vigorous and the text very clear. The harmonies he chose were not like anything I had heard. There unusual modal shifts. There were dramatic volume changes and interesting articulations that heavily informed the singing. There was real word painting going on. The drama ebbed and flowed throughout. As we approached the end, the intensity grew and grew, and my heart began to race. As we finished, I was left with a wild feeling of exuberance, and I wanted to look around and shout: don't we all share a fantastic faith?! I know it sounds silly but music is capable of inspiring such feelings. I never imagined that Credo III could do that.

I asked Wassim where he found such an amazing version. I should have known: he wrote it himself. It is not published. It should be. It should also be on youtube. It would be a revelation for many.

Wassim has an interesting life and history. He immigrated from Syria as a young man, and he fell in love with music, studying it formally for a good part of his life. He is a wonderful singer with a brilliant tenor voice that is capable of singing most alto parts it full voice, which he uses to read any chant in the Gradual right there on the spot. His organ playing is not romantic (there is no "19th century" in any aspect of this liturgical event) but edgy in medieval sort of way. It is confident and vigorous. Incredibly, he is not actually a full-time musician but rather a banker.

I'm equally impressed by the support community that has done so much to make this a wonderful place. The pastor is Fr. Peter Hrytsyk and he is clearly the driving force. But the community is otherwise packed with talent. You know the giant book of sung readings for the extraordinary form? It originated right here with the work of Mr. Michel Ozorak.

It was a great privilege for me and for Arlene Oost-Zinner to sing with the choir on the Sunday when we happened to be there following a parish workshop in Lansing, Michigan. I can't imagine what it would be like to have access to such a glorious liturgical event week after week. If you live anywhere near this parish, it is worth a drive just to see what is possible. More than any "old Mass" I've attended, this convinced me that this really could be the Mass of the future.

Congratulations to everyone involved!

Requiem for a Defunct Translation

A pastor suggests a Requiem for the old Sacramentary that was very long overdue to be replaced.

Proper Attire and the Marvels of Option Four

Let's say I have a restaurant and I hope for people to be dressed properly so I establish a rule.
To eat here, you can wear: 1) black tie and traditional evening wear, 2) a suit and tie or long party dress, 3) a very nice sport coat and tie or cocktail dress or suitable woolen pants, or 4) some other neat clothing that is suitable to the atmosphere and culture of this restaurant.
A couple shows up. He is wearing torn jeans and flip flops. She is wearing a bikini and sandals. They both claim option 4. The argument ensues. You can imagine the rest.

Now have a look at the description of the entrance rite for Catholic Mass from the General Instruction. Please read carefully.
When the people are gathered, and as the Priest enters with the Deacon and ministers, the Entrance Chant begins.... This chant is sung alternately by the choir and the people or similarly by a cantor and the people, or entirely by the people, or by the choir alone. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another setting; (2) the antiphon and Psalm of the Graduale Simplex for the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year, similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.
Now think of what happened this past week in your parish. Do you recognize any similarities between that and the description above? Oh yes, option 4.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Composition of a Mass Setting

With all the attention being given to new Mass settings, it is fascinating to listen to a lesser-known Mass from the chant books with fresh ears. Now, this is sheer brilliance. And many more recordings like this are available at ChoralTracks.

Wadsworth Interview on 3rd Edition of Roman Missal

This basic tutorial on the new Missal is worth listening to and sending around.

Chant Conference, Belgium, May 2012

The place of the propers - news story

The Catholic Review has published an interesting news story about the propers of the Mass and whether and to what extent they should inform music selections. I'm quoted and this is mostly because Jerry Galipeau of WLP suggested to the reporter that he contact me. I'm very grateful for that. That was a very fair and kind thing to do; otherwise the reporter would have never heard of this blog or the Church Music Association of America.

I had a 30 minute long discussion with the reporter and it went well. I'm not unhappy with what he quoted but of course I didn't write the story and there are some obvious problems with the overall take. One does not gain from the story the fullness of the issue here: the proper texts aren't just another source text for music at Mass; they are the whole basis of Christian liturgical music at Mass and have always been. How do we know this? By looking at the history of the liturgical books. Even today: when you hold a Graduale Romanum in your hands, you are holding the music book of the Roman Rite. This is a very difficult point to get across to people because it requires a complete re-arranging of how we think about music and the Roman Rite.

In any case, I'm thrilled about this story, which is the first that I can think of that deals with this very important topic.

Friday, August 26, 2011

László Dobszay, Requiescat in Pace

We have learned this morning from NLM that the great László Dobszay has passed away:
It is with great sadness that I must pass on the news to our readers that after a month long battle, Professor László Dobszay died last night.

Many of you will know Prof. László Dobszay from his two written works, The Bugnini Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform and more recently, The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite.

Prof. Dobszay was a Hungarian who was very active in the scholarly liturgical community, an active promoter of the liturgy generally, and particularly sacred music and the divine office.
Professor Dobszay was a preeminent advocate of the sung propers of the Mass and has enabled an entire generation in Hungary to sing the Mass propers in the Hungarian language. His most recent work, the Graduale Parvum, has sought to offer the fruits of this work to the English-speaking world, and has been expected to be published this Fall. The new Blessed John Henry Newman Institute of Liturgical Music of the Oratory Birmingham has placed the Graduale Parvum at the center of its cirriculum which will serve ordinary parish musicians in the U.K.

László Dobszay was 77 years old and will be deeply missed.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Singing forms the heart of the liturgy"

Fr. John Mayo, writing in the St. Louis Review, provides a beautifully compressed explanation of why singing in liturgy is important and what considerations must restrict its stylistic and textual components.

Missal and Gradual Propers

Among those who are curious about this topic, the various differences between the propers in the Missal and the propers in the Graduale Romanum have been a subject of curiosity. Steven van Roode, who typeset the Simple English Propers, posted on the MusicaSacra forum a beautiful summary of all the research that has gone into account for the differences that you will find, for example, in the OCP pew aide vs. the propers in the SEP. These paragraphs nicely sum it up.
OCP clearly prints the propers as they appear in the Missale Romanum:
Ant. ad communionem Ps 30,20 Quam magna multitúdo dulcédinis tuae, Dómine, quam abscondísti timéntibus te.

Vel: Mt 5,9-10 Beáti pacífici, quóniam fílii Dei vocabúntur. Beáti qui persecutiónem patiúntur propter iustítiam, quóniam ipsórum est regnum caelórum.
SEP however uses the propers as they appear in the Graduale Romanum:
Ps 70, 16-18 Domine, memorabor iustitiæ tuæ solius: Deus, docuisti me a iuventute mea, et usque in senectam et senium, Deus, ne derelinquas me.

Anno A: Mt 16, 24 Qui vult venire post me, abneget semetipsum: et tollat crucem suam, et sequatur me.
The Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum (April 3, 1969) explains why the Missal propers are sometimes different from the Graduale propers:
Quod reliquum est, licet textus Gradualis Romani, ad cantum saltem quod attinet, non fuerit mutatus, tamen, facilioris intellectus gratia, sive psalmus ille responsorius, de quo S. Augustinus et S. Leo Magnus saepe commemorant, sive antiphonae ad introitum et ad Communionem in Missis lectis adhibendae, pro opportunitate, instaurata sunt.

Even though the text of the Roman Gradual, at least that which concerns the singing, has not been changed, still, for a better understanding, the responsorial psalm, which St. Augustine and St. Leo the Great often mention, has been restored, and the Introit and Communion antiphons have been adapted for read Masses.
So, the Missal propers are intended for read Masses, whereas the Graduale propers are intended for sung Masses. That's why SEP adheres to the propers as they appear in the Graduale Romanum.

"Our liturgy comes alive when it is sung.”

“This missal contains more music that any other missal before it... Music is a way to express solemnity and the true nature of what is going on at that moment. So much of our liturgy comes alive when it is sung.”

Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth said this and much more about the Third Edition of the Roman Missal during his presentation in Falls Church, Virginia, as reported in the Catholic Herald.

Kids and Mystery, or Why They Are At the Mall

Inspired by events in Madrid and the fabulous work of David J. Hughes and the St. Mary Schola, author Kenneth Killiany has updated some reflections on Harry Potter, teens today, and the state of education for our Catholic youth.

Looking back across the last decade, one remembers how young people lined up for two monster hits of 2002, Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. The movies were different: Harry Potter is “serious fun;” The Lord of the Rings is based on one of the monuments of 20th Century Literature.

Yet they had three very important things in common: they reflected the Christian beliefs of their authors, they dealt with the spiritual world, and they were hits with the kids, especially boys. This should tell us something about the kids, and why our youth programs have so much trouble attracting them.

Teenagers were then losing themselves in the journeys of Frodo and Samwise--and Harry, Ron, and Hermione. We did not even know how Harry would make it to adulthood. The series began as a desperate attempt by a single mother on welfare to break free, and this American has to say simple “hats off” to J.K.Rowling’s success on that score. But it was thoroughly innocent writing. She came up with a great plotline, but the early books are merely fun and a highly realistic portrait of “tweens,” however odd the situation.

The magic was never more than a very fun plot device, and she never once fell into the trap of the Zen-like relativism of the frighteningly amoral “Force” in Star Wars. In Harry’s world, good people did good things as best they could and bad people did bad best they could. Rowling is a Christian, of the liberal Protestant variety, but serious in her thinking. She sought to add depth as her craft got better. She clearly knew Tolkien well by the end, and the last two books have the children, in an entirely believable way for their ages, debating every single important moral issue a parent could hope for. She has just one daughter, but Harry ended up being perhaps the most realistic boy in literature since Tom Sawyer, and that inspires more than a little respect. (I am particularly fond of the book where he is furious no one is telling him anything and is treating him like a child. "If we tell you," Ron says at one point, "you aren't going to start shouting again, are you?" Sound familiar, anyone?)

But Harry, alas, has passed on to be part of the cultural wallpaper, still there to be found, but not front and center anymore. When the last Harry Potter film hits DVD, that's it. He has been followed, for girls, by Twilight and now countless imitators, all of which have always struck me as emotional pornography. For boys, what is not actually pornographic is simply violent and degraded: games set in lawless worlds, or blood splattered movies whose “Medieval” themes are just backdrops. None of what enthralls kids these days seems to have any moral content whatsoever, and the spiritual content is the wrong kind. And really, weren't the Lord of the Rings movies and the whole Harry Potter phenomenon just a welcome respite in a long downhill slide?

At the age when our kids’ heads are filled with the grandest visions and most romantic ideas, when life to them seems like nothing so much as a string of endless possibilities, when they are straining to prove themselves worthy of the high calling that they feel deep within, we offer them lectures on...hygiene.

These are indeed the decisive years for moral instruction: teens are just beginning to understand the full reality of life, and they feel the tension. They are eager to spread their wings, but they want us there during the unavoidable crash landings. Adolescent life is almost nothing but “teachable moments.”

Yet to teach them, we must meet them as they are. Kids live in an eternal present. We cannot convince many youngsters that their actions have consequences because their experience is so limited. All they feel is the power of their growing bodies and minds. Even the best kid is going to feel most strongly the presence of those who are with him at the moment.

Our children often do not have very good company. Kid culture today is not the usual “running around time” that traditional cultures, in their wisdom, grant their children. Think of the ads now run by the once-conservative Coors, or how so many teenaged singers go so quickly from professions of traditional religious values to being just one more raunchy act. A kid party today is not something that can get out of hand. It probably begins out of hand.

The Apostle Paul began his letters with lengthy explications of mystical doctrine. This was not a mistake, nor was it “socially constructed.” The doctrine of the Incarnation was, as St. Paul says, a “scandal” to the ancient mind. It is true enough that no one “talks that way” these days, because no one has ever talked that way without the light of the Gospel.

John Paul II was the most successful youth minister ever. It is worth listening to what he says about moral education, in one of his greatest gifts to us, Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth.) “This effort (in moral instruction) by the Church finds its support—the secret of its educative power—not so much in doctrinal statements and in pastoral appeals to vigilance, as in constantly looking to the Lord Jesus...In a particular way, it is in the crucified Christ that the Church finds the answer.” (Section 84)

He reiterated this point in his beautiful Apostolic Letter on the Rosary. “Inasmuch as contemporary culture, even amid so many indications to the contrary, has witnessed the flowering of a new call for spirituality, due also to the influence of other religions, it is more urgent than ever that our Christian communities should become “genuine schools of prayer”. (Section 5.)

That powerful teaching was echoed by Cardinal Paul Poulard, in presenting a fascinating Vatican document on “New Age” spirituality. He noted, “People who adhere to New Age (thinking) have authentic spiritual thirst and the Church should ask itself why they are looking elsewhere.”

If you want your child to think about something other than what his friends, the culture, and his body are telling him at this second, show him Jesus. Parents cannot be there at every moment, but Jesus can. Far, far better that your child knows that he or she is accompanied by Jesus, the Lord our God who took the form of sinful flesh, yet without sin. “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (St. Matthew 28:20.) That is more comfort and security than even the most diligent parent can offer. Christian morality makes no sense without the person and the real presence of Jesus Christ.

Instead of mumbling embarrassedly about the rites of the Church, confidently fill the youth program with all the mystical stuff you can: Eucharistic adoration with lots of candles and incense, rosary recitations with Scripture readings and songs, frequent confession with serious priests, long evening Masses with beautiful music.

The music is very important. Why give them relentlessly chirpy, upbeat songs when they themselves are experiencing the full range of human emotions on such a grand and immediate scale?

And, most importantly, give them intensive Bible studies that concentrate on the mystical. As a troubled teen, I loved the combination of the heavenly and the practical in St. Paul’s letters. Who has caught the reailty of teenage—of human—life better than the he did in Romans 7 and 8? A child who struggles over the paradoxes in First John or James is a child who has had an introduction to life in Christ.

True enough, successful youth programs depend on dedicated adults who pray, in the words of the Liturgy of the Hours for Christmas Week, “that the mystery of the faith that glows in our spirit would shine forth in our works.” But children and youth workers are part of something larger, that is, the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. When children are growing into fully formed adults, they should be introduced too all of the great gifts that God has granted to His children.

Or we can give the kids lessons on personal hygiene and wonder why they are all at the multiplex.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

English Propers, 22nd Sunday of the Year

Sing the propers of the Mass with the Simple English Propers.

Tu es Petrus, by Domenico Bartolucci

At last we can hear a composition by the former director of the Sistine Chapel and current outspoken critic of...well, of most everything.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Roman Rite is a Sung Mass

I enjoyed this column enormously, so it is reprinted here courtesy of The Wanderer

From the mail, from The Wanderer
An estimated two million Catholics from around the world descended on Madrid for World Youth Day 2011, providing some “good news” for a weary world that seems to be spiraling into total chaos, with wars and plagues and famines proliferating. What a beautiful sight it was to behold!

For FROM THE MAIL, what set this World Youth Day apart from its predecessors was the showcasing of so much high quality Catholic music, an incredible demonstration that, finally, Catholics are learning how to sing.

In 1990, Thomas Day, chairman of the music department at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. published Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste, a book that won praise from every quarter, from the Jesuits' America magazine to Sacred Music, then under the direction of the late Monsignor Richard Schuler.

More than twenty years later, the state of liturgical music in Catholic parishes is still dismal, for the most part, though progress is continually made, as Wanderer columnist Jeffrey Tucker reminds readers every week.

This progress is significant, especially because – even before the introduction of Pope Paul VI's Novus Ordo, even before Vatican II – the state of liturgical music in the United States “is a sad one,” as Thomas Day pointed out in an article in Triumph magazine, January 1968.

* * *

While going through FTM's collection of Triumph a few weeks ago to find articles written by the late Dr. Warren Carrol, FTM came upon Day's article, “Must Church Music Be Bad Music?” and some of the observations he made then are as timely as ever, and questions he asked then should be answered by a new generation of priests and bishops now that the liturgical revolution is over and the time for clean-up has begun.

“The story of liturgical music in this country,” Day began, “is a sad one; in fact it has been and still remains something of a scandal. Today, while great urban centers like New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles have a few passable choirs, the music in most parishes is deplorable. Almost everywhere , Gregorian chant and polyphony are completely unknown. To the average Catholic, Gregorian chant means singing in a monotone, and practically no one has heard Renaissance polyphony sung in his parish, though this music received the high praise of Benedict XIV, Pius X and Pius XII. Our popular tradition of hymnody and Church music is one of Victorian sogginess, and whenever I want to treat myself to some of the Catholic Church's best music, I have to visit a remote monastery or a High Episcopal church.

“It is hard to explain why a Church that has placed so much stress on the beauty of worship tolerates such bad music in the parish. Some may have thought of music as a danger to devotion: Catholic dictionaries printed in this country usually claim that Canon Law somewhere prohibits the use of 'distracting' music, whatever that may be. Church music has too often been treated as a nuisance and a necessary evil; at best it has seldom been taken seriously, so that church organists are not uncommonly recruited from the ranks of eighth-grade girls who are just capable of playing a few chords on the piano.

“In the United States we therefore possess no background, no solid establishment, no proud tradition of Church music. The Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy presupposed a healthier situation; as things were, in unleashed among us any number of misconceptions, distortions and consequent resentments about the terrible music now permitted in our churches. If we are distressed by the recent lunacy in Church music, we must put the blame on our own scandalous neglect of it in the past....”

Day was prescient in predicting that “musical illiterates” with a “shocking disregard for quality” were coming to the fore and would dominate the arena of liturgical music, and he reminded Triumph readers then what most Catholics still do not know now, no matter how often Jeffrey Tucker reminds us: the Roman Rite of the Mass is to be a sung Mass.

“Consequently,” Day continued, “the Gloria and the Sanctus fall flat when dryly recited – they were meant to be sung. Nothing sounds quite so absurd as the dehydrated recitation of the Dies Irae in a funeral Mass: it can only make sense when sung. And how silly and short some of the Communion verses sound when they are recited; their meaning is enhanced by singing.

“Nobody would think of opening a baseball game with a recitation of the National Anthem: Protestant congregations would never tolerate the idea of reciting the hymns for a service. But today, those key items of the Mass which were intended to be sung are flatly spoken instead. What was meant to be a burst of song is now a perfunctory recitation. This isn't what the Church requires.

“A recent Vatican decree on the Eucharistic devotions and a directive issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites on Church Music both emphasize that the Mass should be sung whenever this is practical, even if this means having more than one High Mass on Sunday. It shows a curious response to this principle, however, when four revival hymns are sung at Mass, while the two great hymns actually in the text (the Gloria and the Sanctus) are given quick recitations....”

Day then turned his attention to the “musical freaks” – the “People's Masses” pushed by liturgical publishers and diocesan liturgical commissions, and the ongoing “liquidation” of quality choirs with a tradition of singing Catholic music, and offered this reminder, as relevant now as it was in 1968.

“H.L. Mencken, of delightful memory, expressed in his essay Holy Writ, a sincere admiration for the Catholic Church 'despite its frequent astounding imbecilities,' because it had always kept clearly before it the fact that religion is not a syllogism but a poem.' Mencken went on to say that 'a solemn High Mass must be a thousand times as impressive, to a man with any genuine religious sense in him, as the most powerful sermon ever roared under the big top....In the face of overwhelming beauty it is not necessary to belabor the faithful with logic; they are better convinced by letting them alone.'

“From those Catholics who eat aggiornamento for breakfast, Mencken's words will provoke a gasp of horror. But the truth in this sensitive observation is worthy of note, and we rightly surround even the simplest Mass with the 'poetry' of elaborate vestments, elevated language, candles, gestures and so forth. When it comes to music, however, anything will do – provided that it is not 'distracting,' in Latin, old, or sung by a choir....”

After a brief summary of the history of Church music and congregational singing, Day concluded with praise for Gregorian chant and an exhortation that it be given pride of place in parish worship:

“....Everyone from a Bavarian farmer to a Chicago school teacher – non-Catholic as well as Catholic –is bound to understand, and even to identify with, the deep religious expression of this music. Folk music appeals to few, and modern, avante-garde Church music appeals to even fewer; but somehow Gregorian chant is almost impossible to dislike after one has heard it well performed. A further reason, and by no means the last, for the place of honor given to chant, is its timeless quality. Although most of this music was written in the Middle Ages, it has a freshness and a beauty that men immediately understand in every century and in every generation. All of the folk music that is in such vogue today will be considered an embarrassing joke, something affected and dated, in twenty years. The sane thing has happened to those weeping hymns that were written in the last century. One generation sweeps aside the contributions of the previous one. But Gregorian chant has shown a remarkable ability to survive the centuries. If it were to be legislated out of existence or retired to the library shelves, the result would be the one of one of the riches musical languages we possess for expression our religious thoughts.

“Now: Among the best settings of the Ordinary of the Mass for congregational use are those which are based on the simpler chant melodies or the chant-like idiom. The vocal range is small, there are not difficult skips to sing, and organ is not always necessary, and the rhythm flows naturally from the words themselves. The simple chant idiom is suitable for large and small congregations. If music based on chant has so many advantages, who needs a People's Mass for mighty organ, bellowing chorus, and virtuoso congregation? We can do without the excessive breast-beating at the Kyrie and the crashing finale to the Gloria....

“In short, there are a number of plausible escapes from the aesthetic desert into which contemporary liturgists have led the Catholic Church. But if they are not taken, what can future musicologists be expected to conclude about this era of Church music, except that it was a time of senseless barbarism, destruction and impoverishment.”

Yes, indeed, the past 43 years have been a time of senseless barbarism, destruction and impoverishment, and one wonders how many parishes will continue to indulge in such habits when it is clear today – as it was not then, accept to a few such as Day – that the Roman Rite of the Mass is to be sung – chanted, by priest and people at their designated times.

* * *

Recalling Mencken.

Prompted by Day, FTM searched for, and found, Mencken's little essay Holy Writ, and the Sage of Baltimore packed a lot of wisdom that bears repeating today, especially to those who believe that what our Catholic people need today is better preaching by priests on Sunday morning.

What priests need to understand, wrote Mencken, is that the liturgy needs to speak for itself.

Here is the little essay, written in October 1923:

“Whoever it was translated the Bible into excellent French prose is chiefly responsible for the collapse of Christianity in France. Contrariwise, the men who put the Bible into archaic, sonorous and often unintelligible English gave Christianity a new lease on life wherever English is spoken. They did their work at a time of great theological blather and turmoil, when men of all sorts, even the least intelligent, were beginning to take a vast and unhealthy interest in exegetics and apologetics. They were far too shrewd to feed this disconcerting thirst for ideas with a Bible in plain English; the language they used was deliberately artificial even when it was new. They thus dispersed the mob by appealing to its emotions, as a mother quiets a baby by crooning to it.

“The Bible that they produced was so beautiful that the great majority of men, in the face of it, could not fix their minds on the ideas in it. To this day it has enchanted the English-speaking peoples so effectively that, in the main, they remain Christians, at least sentimentally. Paine has assaulted them, Darwin and Huxley have assaulted them, and a multitude of other merchants of facts have assaulted them, but they still remember the twenty-third Psalm when the doctor begins to shake his head, they are still moved beyond compare (though not, alas, to acts!) by the Sermon on the Mount, and they still turn once a year from their sordid and degrading labors to immerse themselves unabashed in the story of the manger. It is not much, but it is something. I do not admire the general run of American Bible-searchers -- Methodists, United Brethren, Baptists and such vermin. But try to imagine what the average low-browed Methodist would be if he were not a Methodist but an atheist!

“The Latin Church, which I constantly find myself admiring, despite its frequent astounding imbecilities, has always kept clearly before it the fact that religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. It is accused by Protestant dervishes of withholding the Bible from the people. To some extent this is true; to the same extent the Church is wise; again to the same extent it is prosperous. Its toying with ideas, in the main, has been confined to its clergy, and they have commonly reduced the business to a harmless play of technicalities --- the awful concepts of Heaven and Hell brought down to the level of a dispute of doctors in long gowns, eager only to dazzle other doctors. Its greatest theologians remain unknown to 99% of its adherents. Rome, indeed, has not only preserved the original poetry in Christianity; it has also made capital additions to that poetry -- for example, the poetry of the saints, of Mary, of the liturgy itself.

“A solemn High Mass must be a thousand times as impressive, to a man with any genuine religious sense in him, as the most powerful sermon ever roared under the big-top by a Presbyterian auctioneer of God. In the face of such overwhelming beauty it is not necessary to belabor the faithful with logic; they are better convinced by letting them alone.

“Preaching is not an essential part of the Latin ceremonial. It was little employed in the early Church, and I am convinced that good effects would flow from abandoning it today, or, at all events, reducing it to a few sentences, more or less formal. In the United States the Latin brethren have been seduced by the example of the Protestants, who commonly transform an act of worship into a puerile intellectual exercise; instead of approaching God in fear and wonder these Protestants settle back in their pews, cross their legs, and listen to an ignoramus try to prove that he is a better theologian than the Pope.

“This folly the Romans now slide into. Their clergy begin to grow argumentative, doctrinaire, ridiculous. It is a pity. A bishop in his robes, playing his part in the solemn ceremonial of the Mass, is a dignified spectacle, even though he may sweat freely; the same bishop, bawling against Darwin half an hour later, is seen to be simply an elderly Irishman with a bald head, the son of a respectable saloon-keeper in South Bend, Indiana. Let the reverend fathers go back to Bach.

“If they keep on spoiling poetry and spouting ideas, the day will come when some extra-bombastic deacon will astound humanity and insult God by proposing to translate the liturgy into American, that all the faithful may be convinced by it.”

What would Mencken, who died in 1956, have thought of the botch made of the English translation of the Mass foisted upon the English-speaking people of the world 40 years ago?

Likely he would have gone apoplectic with rage.

On the other hand, he likely would salute the new translation coming this Advent, even though he probably would prefer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Another great pew card

Aristotle Esguerra has done it again with a wonderful legal-sized pew card with the new Missal chants. He writes about this and here is a direct download of the item in question.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"We don’t need pop music to win children over to the beauty of our faith."

Another very exciting story on St. Mary's children's schola from Connecticut and their outstanding work at World Youth Day.

Lansing Workshop on English Chant

It is coming up this weekend. The organizers have said that if you would stay away solely based on price alone, you are free to email them to see about gaining admission. I'm excited about this because it will be the first workshop with a focus on what is surely the biggest selling music book in the Catholic world right now: The Simple English Propers. To understand why, you only need to glance at the Amazon reviews, which are absolutely over the top.

Beautiful Scene from Madrid

Jesu Dulcis

This is a beautiful hymn that should be part of the cultural life of every parish. It also makes a wonderful hymn to sing following the communion chant.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

More on the New and Improved World Youth Day

Responsorial Psalms for Weekday Masses

There are many outstanding liturgical resources available out there that do not receive the attention they deserve, and would be difficult to discover even if you need that you could use them. I just came across an outstanding example: Responsorial Psalms for Weekday Masses in Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. They are put together by Fr. Anthony Ruff. They are just wonderful. The antiphon is simple and dignified plainsong, and the Psalms follow a tone with a pointed text and there is a best option of all, in my own view: a choral version of the verses on the same page. This is just a great book that will dramatically enhance the experience of daily Mass. Congratulations to Liturgical Press for backing such great projects! It is $34 but worth every bit.

New Vocations, New Times

Br. Benedict Dyar
In the movie “Into Great Silence,” there is a scene where a new monk, after living in the monastery for several years, is formally received as a member of the order. It is one of the more memorable scenes in this unusual look at life in cloistered world. They leave their past behind and embrace a new life and new family, wholly devoted to prayer and work for God. We watch in awe, and perhaps why understand this special vocation for the first time.

It was a great privilege to see this very ceremony in person this past weekend at St. Bernard’s Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. The newest monk used to sing in my parish choir. The first time I had met him he was singing the office in English with a friend in the parish where no one else was present. He seemed to be at home most when singing and praying. Now he lives permanently in this home.

St. Bernard’s is a fascinating place. The Mass I attended had all of the monks and priests processing to the Gregorian introit Gaudete, customized for the feast of St. Bernard. The Mass ordinary was entirely Gregorian and not in a conventional way. It showed a great deal of sophistication. No more propers were sung, which I found regrettable, but the English hymn choices were solid. The readings were all sung and I’m pretty sure that this is the first time I’ve seen this in a setting that wasn’t organized by musicians!

This setting is not what one would consider “traditionalist” by any stretch. But there was the chant. And there were some 12 or so monks and another 6 to 8 priests. Most the brothers looked to be under the age of 40 or maybe around 30 years old. Many of the older priests and brothers probably remember the tumultuous years very well. I’m filling in blanks here based entirely on the experience of other such places, but I can easily imagine this place went through some rough times in the 1960s through the 1980s or later.

I have no evidence to back this up; I’m deducing this based on the experience of everyone else in these times. And yet here St. Bernard’s stands today, attracting young monks and it is very obviously these young monks who are pushing forward with the liturgical agenda of chant and solemnity throughout. The young are helping the young to rediscover what has been lost. It was actually very moving to see it all. There is a future here. Not all monasteries can say the same.

The very next day, our own full schola sang at Mass in my parish. We sang all three minor propers from the Graduale Romanum - only the second time we’ve done this. We sang them with mixed voices, which creates an interesting sound that it more like a parish than a monastery, and I’m starting to feel a draw to it. More and more I see the point to do a “suite” of propers in the same style to create a larger artistic arch for the whole liturgical experience. We also sang a gigantic and difficult piece by Thomas Tallis. We ended with a recessional that everyone knew, sung a capella in parts. It was all stunning, and all came about with the efforts of volunteers and no paid professionals at all.

Ten years ago, I could sense a feeling of some measure of controversy when we would sing these great music. It felt like an uphill climb, and there was a sense that the schola had to watch out for threats to our very existence. No more. It is now so normal and expected that the question of whether this music is right or now is completely absent. It is now regarded as the south of the faith.

Considering these two events back to back, I’m left with a strong sense here that we can get through this. The wrangling and bitterness of the past are receding in memory. The chant can be taken up with renewed vigor and without the fears and agendas of the past. In this sense, the freedom to progress is being purified of the mixed motives and politics that have held back the liturgical movement over the last decades.

Think of these young monks. The newest one was born perhaps 20 years after the close of the second Vatican Council. What does he know of the controversies of these years? Absolutely nothing. All he has known has been the instability and lack of seriousness of the liturgical framework of the 1990s and from here it was rather obvious where to go.

What had the Church done with all its beautiful sung liturgy? Where is the chant? Where is the polyphony? Where is the desire to sing what the Church has given rather than what someone has made up and tacked on?

This is how the enlightened young generation thinks. There is no where else to go but to beauty, because the attempt to purge it and replace it with groovy populism doesn’t come near satisfying the inner longings of the soul. It doesn’t come close to expressing the love and the holiness that the faith’s public worship otherwise inspires.

Clearly we need a match between the reality of the miracle on the altar and the art that accompanies that action. We need to stop thinking solely about how we might please people and start thinking about whether we are truly pleasing God, deferring to the ideals that the Church has given us that expressing theological truth. This union of faith and art provides the greatest and most solemn experience that can be had this side of heaven. Why should we eschew this in favor of a concoction of our own that is destined to fall short?

The controversialists and the agenda-driven ideologues haven’t completely vanished. They are still there and they are still in charge of many Offices of Worship at the chancery level. Publishers can still be uncomprehending about the changed times. There remain many people in positions of power who are still resisting, using every opportunity to ride their hobby horses. But it’s grown tiresome and dreary. The hope, the happiness, the willingness to work and sacrifice for the faith are coming mostly from the side that favors true progress, which, in our times, must necessarily mean recapturing the sights and sounds of timelessness.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Missal chant accompaniments available now

You can find them all at the ICEL chant website.

You need to send this link immediately to your pastor, your director music, any singers you know, or any other Catholic you know who is involved in the parish or monastery. Just trust me on this: this needs to be distributed far and wide and immediately. Thanks for your help here.

However, I can't post this without a warning. Accompaniment is not needed and not necessarily desirable. In real life, accompanied can slow down the chant to the point where it doesn't sound like chant at all. It can end up sounded schmaltzy and out of character. It is of course possible to accompany chant and not cause distortion but such ideal circumstances rarely present themselves. Indeed, accompanied chant can be the worst enemy of genuinely sung liturgy.

The new Missal gives all parishes and religious houses a chance to really sing - as in: use the human voice to produce the music. The voice alone! Accompaniment can too easily and too quickly become a crutch that prevents the development of authentic singing skill and conviction.

That said, these accompaniments are truly outstanding, adhering only to the mode of the piece. And there are indeed conditions under which they could be helpful and even essential, in particular when the acoustic of the space makes it impossible for the human voice to carry.

Salve Regina at WYD

Catholic culture lives!

Friday, August 19, 2011

10th Sunday after Pentecost

Normally this blog posts according to the new calendar but in honor of the wonderful extraordinary form Mass held in Mobile this week, I thought it might be nice to post the propers according to the old calender. And please pray for the day in which these calenders can be unified. If there are two forms and one rite, it would makes sense that we all have the same calender. If there is any lobbying going on in this process, let me add some pressure for the return of days after Pentecost (rather than ordinary time).

In any case, here are the propers for this Sunday, extraordinary form.

The changing forms of music delivery

It might have gone back a few hundred years to show what a revolution recorded music was. The same is true concerning sheet music. The days of package and mail are coming to an end.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Extraordinary Form Requiem, Mobile, Alabama

On July 29, 2011, the Cathedral in Mobile, Alabama, provided an extraordinary form Requiem Mass, sung by Musica Sacra, a local group of singers under the direction of Christopher Uhl.

The reports are in from the event, and perhaps you would not be surprised. After all, this was the first extraordinary form Mass in the Cathedral in many decades. Moreover, we've seen what happens dozens of times when this is done right, which is to say plenty of publicity (it was announced here), a High Mass with excellent singers (Gregorian chant and polyphony), a welcoming Bishop, a well-trained celebrant, and good organization.

Here is what happened. There was standing room only because every seat was taken. The lines at the confessional were impossibly long. The enthusiasm of the crowds was intense. The outpouring of gratitude toward the Bishop was overwhelming. The reporters who were present were amazed and in awe. One assumes that the collection that day was also very high.

These were extremely happy Catholics. Of course that is not surprising. We've seen this again and again over the last ten years. Offer the EF and the excitement and emotion and thankfulness spreads and spreads and bathes the entire Cathedral in light and warmth. It is a beautiful thing to see.

I suppose none of this should be surprising, unless you happened to be a reader of one of the thousands of books and articles that have put down the traditional Latin Mass because it is said to be dreary, exclusionary, clerical, incomprehensible, and contrary to the wishes of the people for God. Compare that litany of complaint to the actual reality: they are truly world's apart.

None of this is a commentary on the past. I recently watched JFK's funeral on youtube (a Low Mass of all things!) and I was saddened by the strong sense I had that the liturgy was just not taken seriously. Regardless of people's memories or high profile events like this, it is long past time to realize that the traditional Latin Mass is not really about going back to some version of the preconciliar past. It is a living reality in the lives of Catholics, more and more so. The discussion of this form of the Roman Rite is and should be about the future. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bernardino de Ribera: Vox in Rama

Vox in Rama, by Bernardino de Ribera (c.1520-?).

"A voice was heard in Rama, Rachael bewailing her children. . . and she would not be comforted, for they were no more."

This is the first performance of a new edition by Bruno Turner. One of the singers drew my attention to this and says that Ribera was a teacher of Victoria. I know nothing at all about him, and there is nothing I can find online (but someone else might find something). What I do know is that this is a very striking motet and probably the first time it has been publicly heard in 400 or so years.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Old Mass Is Not Old

It is absolutely new and present in the lives of many Catholics. Here is a beautiful report from a Solemn High Mass in Charlotte, NC, and a video to go with it.

Making Beautiful Liturgy Happen Everywhere

Fr. Martin Fox offers a beautiful post about a  Mass that he celebrated just as an experiment. He stripped away all the hymn singing except for the recessional and instead had the choir chant the propers in English. He faced the altar for the Mass. He reports an interesting thing: " I have to tell you, there is something tremendously powerful, for the priest, in offering Mass toward the Lord. For one, the architecture of the church makes so much more sense. As I offered the Sacrifice, I was aware of the beautiful sanctuary lamp over my head, I was gazing at the massive crucifix ahead of all of us, and above that, the Good Shepherd window in the apse. The light from the evening sun poured in through the windows, a dappled gold light."

The event was a great success. People reported having a sense of awe and mystery that is much intensified with these small changes. Of course I was curious about the musical resources that were used, though I intuitively knew in advance. The answer: The Simple English Propers and the Psalm by Arlene Oost-Zinner. These two resources are the things that are making this sort of change happen - not just in small outposts but in regular parishes, the Masses that ordinary people attend every week.

It has slowly dawned on those of us who live and breath this world of liturgy and sacred music that are are many obstacles to realizing the goal of beautiful liturgy, but a main one, and the one that has too often been overlooked in the past, is that we need good musical resources, readily available, that can be used in any parish environment to make a compelling case. That is arguably the first step because, quite frankly, such resources really haven't existed for a very long time. That is now changing, and the results are remarkable. We are singing the liturgy chanted in places where it otherwise would not have been. And we aren't just talking about small parishes either; cathedrals are using these now, realizing that they make an important contribution. You can add all the tympani and string players you want but if the music you are using is not liturgical, the Mass won't become more solemn or true to itself.

I'm not surprised (and no one should be) that the choice here was SEP, but I'm intrigued at the use of the Oost-Zinner Psalm. Of all the Psalms available today, it's long been my own view that these are the ones that best combine beauty of music and language plus ease of use. It really is a matter of print and sing. They are perfect every time. I gather that many others have figured this out too. But the problem: they are not completed and they are not in print in a single volume.

Please consider giving to this Chip In campaign to bring these Simple English Psalms into print. With this resource, every parish can have what it needs to get going on the right path toward the best music that the Church has to offer.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wolves and Lions and Sheep, Oh My and "et tu?"

Any of my met friends reading this, and many of you whom I’ve not had the pleasure of yet meeting, I hope would regard me as a “what you see is what you get” sort of guy. For some, I imagine, it’s a difficult visage through the bulk and bilge of my psyche and whatnot. For others, ye saints all, you see just another soul trying to make sense out of daily life, the universe and ever’thing while remaining steadfastly in love with our Lord God, and you forgive the rough edges. A dear priest-friend used to always quip: “Love me, love my dog.”

This post isn’t about me, though I have to start it by saying this morning I was at wits end, literally. Barreling, careening around the administration building getting this ordo done, that phone call made, reminding this priest of that, this staffer of that, all the while gasping for breath, flopped in sweat and singing “Bye, bye, Miss American Pie…..this’ll be the day….” But the pastor’s door was opened, I had business: make sure the General Intercessions for our 150th anniversary Mass were approved and/or revised and forwarded to the typesetter…..get the ordo done for the dedication of our fourth parish on Friday….decide whether we jump the gun on new Mass settings….

And I have to suddenly stop. “It’s all too much,” I say, “I just have to stop for a second.” My pastor’s seen it all, and more than “ALL” has recently taken up personal quarters in his large heart. But he calmly looked me in the eye and reminded me WHO this is all for. I’ve always been a crier, so he hands me tissue and I’m silent. And slowly, gently he talks with me and guides me to a sure, steady path of calm.

So, business concluded, for now, pick m’self up, dust m’self and boots off and back on my way to find a Spanish psalm setting.

And BAM, I get a phone call on the cell from “the man without a foot.”

A good friend, a new friend, a colleague, a peer….. “I called to let you know the pastor fired me. He just called me into his office with no notice and fired me. It was all so, like, political. It didn’t have anything to do with my performance.” BAM!

Our other good friend, Noel the Frogman, knows this tune. “When sheep attack.” Our friend, whom many of you met at colloquium this last June, a real gentleman and follower of the lamb, was eaten by his own in one of the most hallowed parishes of our region.

And here was I, bleating about it all being too much, as if I’d never been through the perils of parish predators, chapters one through seven before. “….(T)he pastor fired me.” Mine consoled me just moments earlier. Then we compared notes about the Zeitgeist. It’s not news that Fr. Zed’s been heralding the imminent presence of the roaring lion, the wolf in our midst, the snake not underfoot of late. But we Catholics, just as we’ve been parodied by the great likes of Monty Python sketches over the decades, are not Dispensationalists, we are above Mr. Lindsey and the “Rev.” Hagee and await, like virginal maids, the real Parousia. Nope, me and my pastor agree. The Enemy is taking huge strides right up the naves of our churches, into the hearts of the unwary and unsuspecting, and doing what it does best: divide and conquer.

Chant an “ave” for our now jobless friend and colleague on this most appropriate feast day. Sing his Mass setting if you have the opportunity. (We’ll open with it in our September re-boot.) And pray for our priests as they pray for us daily. And I say this to myself, more than to anyone else, fürchte dich nicht.

Assumption Music

Msgr. Philip Whitmore speaks about Assumption music at Excellent 6-minute talk about Palestrina, John Tavener, and more. Thanks Fr. Z.

Why Are Seminaries Afraid of the Extraordinary Form?

Personal Reflections

I had just entered the seminary when Cardinal Ratzinger’s book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, came out. I had an English copy expressed to me and brought it with me into the chapel as my spiritual reading during our daily community Holy Hour. One of the older men knelt next to me as I was engrossed in Ratzinger’s chapter on Rite and whispered, “Do you want to get kicked out of the seminary? Change the book cover now.” All of my attempts to not publicise the fact that I actually knew the Old Latin Mass had apparently been blown out of the water by this defiant act of wanton schism. Suddenly seminarians began to knock on my door and counsel me how to survive the seminary, and so I exchanged Ignatius Press’ book cover for one entitled “The Pastoral Letters of Paul VI.”

Apparently it was too late. I was a marked man. Not surprisingly, the superiors were made aware of my “problem,” but for the most part, they left me alone. I refused to be duplicitous about my love for the Latin Mass, and I also went along with the liturgical customs of the house without trying to reform or denounce them. I did from to time steal away from the house to go to a Latin Mass, carefully folding my cassock up into my overcoat and hiding my collar with a scarf, feeling all the while a little bit like Superman waiting for a small cubiculum where I could transform into my true self. Only once was I ever “discovered” as I was serving a Low Mass for a Curial prelate in the private chapel of a Roman noble family that was having an annual open house, as it were. Nothing was ever said.

My deacon year, however, I had a very strange experience which made me realize the odd dynamics that are often at work in seminaries when it comes to the Latin Mass. We had a Lenten tradition called “fraternal correction” in which any member of the house could call another member of the house on the floor for anything which he considered wrong. I had escaped four previous Lents without feeling the need to engage any of my brothers in this somewhat contrived version of what we did every day living together, nor having to feel the brunt of someone else’s issues at my expense. Not this time.

One of my confreres came up to me in the magazine room and expressed his concern over the fact that I was a Lefebvrist. My superiors were already content with the fact that I had told them I was more than happy being a priest in the contemporary Church, as she is today and not as she was at some mythical time in the future, so I was rather annoyed at this sincere desire to save me from my own schismatic self. I attempted to try to explain that not everyone who is attached to the pre-Vatican II liturgical tradition is a schismatic, but was apparently unsuccessful. One of my superiors attempted to come to my aid. He said, “You think Christopher is a Lefebvrist because he likes Latin and Gregorian chant. Well, then I am a Lefebvrist too. And so is the Church, because she made it very clear at Vatican II that we were supposed to have Latin and chant in the Mass.”

The problem was that I realized that neither my superior nor my confrere knew who Marcel Lefebvre was, or anything about the genesis and the complicated nature of the traditionalist phenomenon. Neither had any experience of what we called back in the day the Indult Mass, and they would not have known anyone who actually was a priest of the SSPX, if it had not been for one of our alumni who had just jumped ship to them a few years before.

The whole experience left me rather sad. It made me realize that there are many good men in the Church, who are products of and involved in seminary formation who do not understand why anyone, least of all a seminarian, would be interested in the Extraordinary Form. There is no knowledge at all, or only partial circumstantial and anecdotal knowledge, often negative, that they have of others who expressed an interest in that liturgy.

Shortly after the abortive attempt at fraternal correction, I had an exam with a famous Italian liturgist. He was famous for giving everyone perfect scores, and all he asked was that you come in and talk about one chapter from the books he assigned us to read in class. Five minutes, and you were done and had a nice advance on your GPA. There was a chapter in one of his books which compared the Ordinary of the Mass in the older and the newer forms. So I began to talk about that chapter. “How do you know anything about this?” he asked angrily. I replied that it was in the book, and tried to show him where it was in the book that he had told us to read in class, but he would not be moved. And so began a 45 minute oral exam in which he grilled me on everything in the books, which I had studied and knew. I was dismissed from the exam and given a barely passing grade. Imagine my surprise when he showed up at the seminary to give a talk to my class on the liturgical reform. He started off with, “Well, of course, none of you know anything about what the Mass was like before Vatican II.” My class knew about the exam from hell I had just had with him and started snickering. Looking for an answer as to why the giggling, I calmly said, “Well, I actually served the Old Latin Mass this morning before I came to your exam today.”

I would never counsel a seminarian to do the same. Nor do I offer anything I have ever done as a model! But what I gained from that experience was that I could not dispassionately engage a famous liturgist about the Old Mass with something as objective as what the differences are between the two forms.

So in my seminary experience I encountered two phenomena: a lack of knowledge and a positive hatred of one form of the Church’s liturgy. Since then, we have had Ratzinger elected Pope, as well as Summorum pontificum and Universae ecclesiae. The nature of the game has changed, even if there are some who are unwilling to admit it.

Reasons Why Seminaries Should be Afraid of the EF
But a question must be asked: Are there any legitimate reasons why a house of priestly formation should be leery of the EF? As far as most seminaries go, Ecclesia Dei adflicta has not landed, much less Summorum and Universae. The day to day liturgical life of the seminaries has changed very little since Pope Benedict XVI took office, even as seminarians in some parts of the world have done an admirable job of trying to educate themselves about the rite. Some seminaries offer a few Masses a year and some optional training in the old rite, but I am not aware of any diocesan seminary in which it is a normal part of the life.
Much to their credit, seminary rectors and faculty realize that they are preparing their men for ministry in a Church in which they will find a variety of liturgical expressions. Whether that pluralism is always legitimate or not is a good question, but young priests have to be capable of serving in parishes where the Good News of Pope Benedict XVI has not yet reached. Some might be afraid that emphasis on the EF might render them incapable of reaching the people in the pews.

Also, the more that curious seminarians delve into the EF, they will have a lot of questions, not only about the mechanics of the EF but about the whole liturgical reform itself. These are uncomfortable questions, and seminary faculty must have not only a wide learning to answer those questions, but much patience to accompany seminarians through their questioning.
Seminary superiors also are loath to divide the community in any way. There is a fear that encouraging the EF might split seminarians in their fraternity and cause them to break off into cliques of liturgical preference, and that this division would be magnified in parish life. Parishes, rectories, and schools would feel the weight of EF-happy clergy intent on changing how they “have always done” things until the biretta-wearing, Latin-talking upstart comes to town.

Seminary staff are also aware that the enthusiasm of youth is often not tempered by the virtue of prudence and seasoned by the practical knowledge that comes with experience in parish ministry. One of the phenomena that has come about is the seminarian who has taught himself all he knows about the EF. The autodidact often knows less than he thinks he does, and, with the best intentions in the world, annoys people unnecessarily. I was reminded of this recently as I was sitting in choir at a EF Solemn Mass. Although the clergy were seated in their proper order, a seminarian spent his whole time fretting about giving the signs to the senior clergy he thought were ignorant of when to sit, stand, bow, and use the biretta. As it happens, he was frequently wrong and I spent the whole Mass distracted by his trying to be a Holy Helper.

Many seminarians have a genuine love of the Old Mass, but the tradition has not been handed down to them in a living organic way. And when one tries to resurrect the tradition by way of books, videos, and self-help, there are too many holes in the fabric to make a rich vesture in which to clothe the Church’s liturgy. As most seminarians’ experience of the liturgy has been more or less exclusively the Ordinary Form, there is also the inescapable temptation to graft a Novus Ordo mentality onto a liturgy whose mens is quite different.

There are not a few people responsible for the formation of priests who see all of the above phenomena and think to themselves, “We don’t want to touch this with a ten foot pole.” And of course, what does a good seminary rector do when he knows that Tradition-unfriendly Bishops will pull their guys out of their seminaries if they begin to teach the EF?

Reasons Why Seminaries Should Welcome the EF

None of the above phenomena, which are real, should impede seminaries from a joyous welcome to the EF within their daily life. By this point, it should be patently obvious to everyone that a significant proportion of the men interested in the seminary are also, if not positively enthusiastic, at least not unfavourable, to the EF. Of course, this is true only in certain countries and in certain regions of those countries. But even where there is little or no interest, there are still reasons why seminaries can welcome the EF.

The most important reason is that the Magisterium has made it very clear that there are two forms of the same Roman Rite and that both are equal in dignity. If all priests of the Latin Rite have the right to celebrate both forms, it follows that seminaries should then form all priests in both forms. Then, they will be ready to fulfill the requests of those faithful who desire the EF and they will broaden their own pastoral horizon.

The enthusiastic welcome of the EF into seminary life will also unmask the tension that has been growing over EF-friendly seminarians in houses of formation. If they are not formed properly in the seminary to be able to offer the EF, many will embark on an auto-didactic parallel formation which will keep their minds, hearts and often their bodies out of the seminary formation environment. When seminarians begin such an autodidactic parallel formation, the tendency is to develop a form of duplicity to be able to engage in such formation. And given the state of the clergy in today’s Church, no seminary can afford to give seminarians a blank check to get their formation elsewhere.

A Plan for Integrating the EF into Seminary Life
But how can the EF be integrated into seminary life? First of all, all of those involved in priestly formation must come to accept what Pope Benedict XVI has done for the Roman liturgy: he has declared that there are two forms of one Roman rite, and every priest has a right to celebrate both. If that is true, the question must be asked: Why is every seminarian in the Latin Rite not trained in both forms? Some seminaries have offered some limited training to those who are interested in it, but that still makes it seem like the EF is a hobby for some priests, or some kind of eccentric movement barely tolerated within the Church, and not of equal value with the OF.

Yet before any seminary can integrate the EF into seminary life, seminaries must offer a comprehensive training in the Latin language and sacred music. These two subjects, which were once part and parcel of every seminary training, have been relegated to a few optional classes in many places, when they should undergird the curriculum.

Many seminaries, in an attempt to prepare their men for the reality of life in the parishes to which they may one day be destined, often offer Spanish Masses or folk Masses or other kinds of “Liturgical Styles” for seminarians to participate in. Whether or not this is a good type of formation is not the scope of this article, but it also brings up a question: If OF and EF are two forms of the Roman Rite existing side-by-side, for the universal Church, how can they not both be celebrated side-by-side in the seminary. For the community Mass of a seminary, one wonders why Low Mass, Dialogue Mass, Sung Mass and Solemn Mass cannot be part of the weekly rotation of types of Masses celebrated in seminary communities.

There are indications that, in many seminaries, the men themselves are pushing their seminary rectors and faculty to recognize the validity and the possibilities of the celebration of both OF and EF in their communities. There is open discussion of this topic, with much less fear than there was in my time, which was not all that long ago. The openness and transparency with which the liturgical questions can be asked, confronted, and resolved bodes well for the future. Far from producing one-sided priests who leave the seminary bitter liturgical Nazis bent on reforming their parishes to their liturgical opinions, the frequent celebration of the EF in seminaries can foster an atmosphere of serene liturgical formation in which men can better appreciate both forms and learn how to more effectively open up the riches of the liturgy for the People of God.

What Can Happen when the EF is integrated into seminary life
I was recently at a Cathedral down South on a weekday and I wanted to celebrate a private Mass. As I was vesting in my Roman chasuble and my altar server, a seminarian, was preparing the altar for my EF Mass on the feast of Saint Dominic, a newly ordained priest was vesting in a Gothic chasuble and a layman was preparing another side altar for his OF Mass on the feast of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney. My newly ordained priest friend has not yet learned the EF, but is interested. We both went to side altars at the same time to offer two forms of the Roman Rite, with clergy, seminarians and laity in attendance. It just kind of happened that way, was something not planned. Later that week, my newly ordained priest friend sat in choir at an EF High Mass that the seminarian and I helped to sing, and I concelebrated the OF in the same Cathedral where he was ordained. The Director of Religious Education for the Cathedral, a young woman theologian and student of liturgy, happened to be present at all of these occasions, and she commented on how, in our own way, we were making real Pope Benedict’s vision of the Roman Rite in two forms. No one was confused, no one was angry, no one was ideologically motivated to criticize the other.

The younger clergy have a tremendous opportunity to be conversant in the two forms of the Roman Rite, and in doing so, build bridges where previous liturgy battles had separated the faithful from each other. Seminary superiors are right to want to avoid at all costs further liturgical polarization in the Church. But continuing to marginalize a form of the Roman Rite which has been restored to its full citizenship within the Church will only continue to polarize people. Giving the EF its due in priestly formation will be the way forward beyond opposing camps into a Church where both forms can co-exist side-by-side in harmony.

More on Gregorian Chant at World Youth Day

The National Catholic Register has published a long, accurate, and inspiring article on the work of the St. Mary's children's choir at World Youth Day. Thank you to all benefactors who made this trip possible. It is getting just the right kind of attention! And congratulations, too, to director David Hughes and all the kids.

In some school districts in America, some lucky high-school students in language classes have gotten to go on trips abroad — French student to Paris; Spanish students to Madrid; Italian students to Rome.

Next week, a group of 25 students from the New York-Connecticut area will be practicing their newfound language at World Youth Day in Madrid. And according to those involved, the hundreds of thousands of young people they will encounter from around the world will have no problem understanding.

Spanish? No. Their language is music — the traditional music of the Church, sung in the Church’s mother tongue: Latin.

The Norwalk, Conn.-based St. Mary’s Student Schola is ready and eager to head to Madrid and share what they’ve learned and practiced: Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and parts of the Mass set to music by great composers such as William Byrd, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Josquin de Prez.

The group has already made such a name for themselves that they’ve been invited by Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez of Toledo, the primate of Spain, to sing at the Cathedral of St. Mary of Toledo.

From there, they will go to Avila to sing at Mass on the feast of the Assumption at the Monasterio de la Encarnación (Monastery of the Incarnation), where St. Teresa of Jesus entered the Carmelites. Then, in Madrid, they will sing for the solemn high Mass in the extraordinary form for WYD pilgrims.

Based at St. Mary’s Church in Norwalk, Conn., this schola of youngsters sings Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony so beautifully that the Sisters of Life and the Knights of Columbus invited them to be the choir for the main English-speaking Masses at World Youth Day at the Palacio de Deportes. The giant Madrid arena holds upwards of 15,000 and is expected to be full for WYD. Some of the Sisters of Life, who are based in New York and run a retreat house in Stamford, Conn., will join them for some of the singing in Madrid.

For the schola’s founder-director David Hughes, the invitations to sing in Spain “confirm that this is a good work to be done in the service of the Lord and the Church.” Hughes is choirmaster for all seven choirs at St. Mary’s, which have adult-professional and adult-volunteer divisions.

Read the whole piece

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Remarkable Dissertation on Sacred Music

I've just now be alerted to the existence of this 338-page treatise on all the stuff we care about: THE MUSICAL PRELUDE TO VATICAN II: PLAINCHANT, PARTICIPATION, AND PIUS X by Walter William Whitehouse. And here is the 145-page Volume II. Truly this looks comprehensive and very important.

Ave Maris Stella

Ave Maris Stella: I've heard before that this is among the oldest Marian hymns of the faith. Here is a chant/polyphony setting by Guillaume Dufay:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Musical Resources for the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal

Richard Chonak has very helpfully put up a page of resources for the music for the new Missal.

Latin Gregorian Settings

Resources for singing the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin are available at our Latin Settings page.

English-language Settings

The musical settings indicated here are for the Roman Missal Third Edition, which will go into use for Ordinary Form Masses in the United States in 2011.
All these settings are presented in accord with ICEL’s policy for the use of its approved texts.

Chant Melodies from the Roman Missal Third Edition

Here are some materials and resources for learning the chant melodies to be published in the new Missal. This music was provided by ICEL and adopted by the US Bishops Committee for the Liturgy. These settings will appear in the altar edition of the Missal and in worship aids.

Study materials from ICEL

Congregational booklets for the ICEL chant setting

  • The Sung Ordinary of the Mass: the principal parts in modern notation in two booklet formats: 4 pages, with the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Memorial, and Agnus; or 8 pages adding the Credo; both are designed by Rene Alvarez.
  • Order of Sung Mass, a 36-page booklet (5 1/2″ x 8″) in two formats: in chant notation (square notes) and in modern notation; designed by Aristotle Esguerra.
  • Order of Sung Mass in modern notation: the principal parts of the Mass Ordinary on four pages (8 1/2″ x 11″); designed by Aristotle Esguerra.

Practice audio and video recordings

Organ accompaniments for the ICEL chants

Accompaniments for some or all of the new Mass ordinary are available from the following sources:
(This list will be expanded as more information is available.)

Newly composed settings

And at the website of Corpus Christi Watershed: