Dominican Rite Mass

Last evening I was delighted to attend Mass in the Dominican Form of the one Latin Rite at the Priory of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. The Mass was sung by Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, OP. The missa cantata was the Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament.The fine homily was about Jesus, as both Lord and friend, and about what friendship with Jesus means.

The Priory is bursting at the seams, because this province of Dominicans been blessed with large classes of new Dominican friars year after year for the past decade. This house is their formation house, and by way of full disclosure, my alma mater, as a lay student in the licentiate program (the Dominicans’ school there is a Pontifical Faculty). An appeal for support for the student brother population was made at the beginning of the Mass.

I wasn’t able to see very well because of the (overwhelmingly young adult) crowds, so I cannot comment on the altar ceremonies. The singing was tremendous. There were motets at Offertory and Communion by Byrd and Victoria, very well done. Choirmaster Fr. James Moore, OP plays the organ beautifully. The Epistle was sung with authority and suppleness. And the choir’s chant shone. The friars chant together daily, and so the singing done on a day like this was unified in a way that choir directors only dream about. It was one voice, and many characteristic voices. The cantors were superb, and quite different, two men singing uniquely, together. As, with Dominicans, things ought to be.

The Mass moved along swiftly and the attendees seemed able to follow the program well, singing those chants that were printed, listening to the rest. Having sung at Corpus Christi Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman I was particularly interested in the variations between the chants of the Dominican and Roman forms, in the chants I know well, the Cibavit Eos and Quotiescumque.

Actually I had forgotten about the chant Quotiescumque, until that word was sung at the Epistle. I became aware of a liturgical resonance, a consonance between the Epistle and the Communio at that Mass, because of the way prior celebrations had formed my memory. A word, a likeness, a small poetic resonance became a liturgical help for me, enabling me to enter into the celebration more fully.

Before Communion, the friars made a full prostration in the main aisle, and quietly spoke the Confiteor together. It was a dramatic moment in an otherwise remarkably undramatic Mass, which overall was simply, beautifully, confidently, and well done.