Bishop Sample’s Pastoral Letter on Sacred Music

This morning, Most Reverened Alexander Sample (Bishop of Marquette, MI and Archbishop-Elect of Portland, OR) released a Pastoral Letter on Sacred Music in Divine Worship entitled Rejoice in the Lord Always.

In this letter Bishop Sample outlines the Church’s mind on the sacred music of the liturgy as it is represented in current documentation and legislation, and in the Church’s perennial understanding of sacred music. It is written to the Priests, Deacons, Religious, Musicians and Faithful of the Diocese of Marquette, but should have something to say to all Catholics in the United States, especially considering Archbishop-Elect Sample’s recent appointment to the metropolitan see of Portland, Oregon.

Here is the introduction:

In any discussion of the ars celebrandi (the “art of celebrating”) as it relates to the Holy Mass, perhaps nothing is more important or has a greater impact than the place of sacred music. The beauty, dignity and prayerfulness of the Mass depend to a large extent on the music that accompanies the liturgical action. The Holy Mass must be truly beautiful, the very best we can offer to God, reflecting his own perfect beauty and goodness. 

Because the place of sacred music is so important, I am issuing this pastoral letter on the nature, purpose and quality of sacred music. This is an important discussion to have, since so often the music selected for Mass is reduced to a matter of subjective “taste,” i.e. what style of music appeals to this or that person or group, as if there were no objective principles to be followed. There are indeed objective principles worthy of study and proper implementation, as will be shown. 

At the outset, it must be acknowledged that Church musicians have labored long and hard in the wake of the Second Vatican Council to help accomplish the Council’s goals as it concerns the renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Mass. Indeed, many have made it their life’s work to provide music for the Sacred Liturgy. The Church, including both clergy and laity, is grateful beyond words for their dedication and service. It must also be said that the principles and practical applications which follow will come as a real change in focus and direction for many of these same dedicated musicians. What is attempted here is a faithful presentation of what the Church has taught as it regards sacred music from the time before the Council, at the Council itself, and in the implementation of the Council’s thought in subsequent years. Although much of what follows may contravene the formation that many have experienced over recent years, this is in no way to be interpreted as a criticism of those dedicated Church musicians who have offered their service with a generous heart and with good will. 

Change can be difficult, but this can also be an exciting time of rediscovering the spirit of the Liturgy and exploring new horizons of sacred music. Through education and formation, the Diocese will attempt to provide all the support, encouragement and assistance it can to musicians in implementing the Church’s vision and norms for sacred music.

The rest of the letter can be found here.

We’ve noted that Rejoice in the Lord Always refers to an appendix that lists resources for the singing of the Proper of the Mass, but this appendix does not seem to appear in the document that has been released online. Hopefully this will be added soon!

2 Replies to “Bishop Sample’s Pastoral Letter on Sacred Music”

  1. What happened to the comments previously posted here? Why should people bother to comment if their opinions aren't respected?

  2. Most survived but some were lost. It is a technical issue, as with most all things on the web. No disrespect intended

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