To the future!

A few years ago I got together with some friends at my parish and the parish seminarian and we helped another friend, an older parishioner, move to his retirement home. It was a pretty fun day.

Fast forward a few years and the seminarian, now a priest, is assigned to a parish that needs some cantoring (canting?) help. Tonight I sang at his Mass, which was beautiful, and particularly beautifully sung. Later he told me that he was a member of the schola that sang on his seminary’s Vespers album, which has been mentioned here and on the NLM before.

Friends, this is the future.

In seminaries in the US, England, and Rome, singing the Mass is the new normal. I met seminarians from 3 English-speaking major seminaries last year in Rome, and in every single seminary, Reform of the Reform liturgy is considered the norm. The Simple English Propers are everywhere.

These seminarians are the pastors of the not-too-distant future, and then everything will change. What pastors sing in the seminary is formative for their future decisions regarding pastoral music. Reform of the reform musicians will be able to form cooperative working relationships with pastors who understand very well how sacred music is supposed to sound, and how the chants of the Mass are integral to Sunday liturgy.

Everybody hang on, ok? It won’t be long now.

21 Replies to “To the future!”

  1. Hooray! Attended a mostly sung mass tonight at a church in Williamsburg, VA ( not sure if I can me tigon the name). No Propers, but to hear the dialogues sung outside of a holiday was amazing!

  2. yep on SEP. It is the new normal. It amazes me every day. People can't even imagine a time when they didn't exist.

  3. When I came to my new parish, and sang "The Lord be with you" at the Gospel the first few Sundays, the congregation reacted with a deer-in-the-headlights look, but some sang the response. I am the only singing deacon here, but they have already dragooned me (kicking and scratching–no) to do next Easter's Vigil. So we make progress one Mass at a time. (And, yes, we also have a 1962 EF Mass that is a high Mass twice a month.)

  4. May I dampen this optimism just a tad? Some of us live in locales where seminarians, not to mention priests, have dwindled at an alarming rate. Attending a Mass celebrated by a young priest is really rare here in New England and if anything most local parishes are taking the sacro-pop route in a desperate hope of countering decline. (I also know two local musicians who have been ordered to discontinue singing from the SEP – so much for the "brick by brick" mantra.)

    I'm willing to share the enthusiasm of your observations, but to do so you must identify the diocesan seminaries that are producing these chanting clerics and project with some accuracy the geographical extent of their impact.

  5. I have to agree with Randolph. Outside London or places in England that are fortunate to have parishes run by Oratorian Fathers or the few very brave and dedicated priests that are around, the music picture is bleak. We made a concerted effort last year to introduce the SEP and the people revolted. They complained that it was too mournful and refused to participate. We are back to the four-hymn sandwich and most of those hymns are the "sacro-pop" type. We can't get our priest to even follow the new Mass texts (he makes up his own) much less sing. And dare we have a Latin Ordinary and the folk in the pews stand with crossed arms looking as though they would throw the books at us if they could. I can't understand why the bishops don't take more of a lead in all this. Oh yes, I remember why they don't. Most are of the the generation come of age in the 70s and 80s. Dare I say they don't know any better?

  6. I think there's a wide variation in both present situations and future possibilities. I recently attended a new priest's first Mass where his devotion (and that of all those present) was wonderful. He was even wearing an antique fiddle-back lent by the diocesan archives. The music was praise band all the way (and not necessarily the worst I've heard). However, our seminarians come from parishes dominated by praise/charismatic music and spend the pastoral placements with more of the same. So, it's a rara avis in the South who isn't trained to believe that's the best there is.

  7. In the heart of Kentucky (Louisville archdiocese to be exact), I am on my second newly ordained. ROTR is firmly in both of their minds and they were or are far ahead of the parish they came to be with me. As I see it, the future is very bright and they tell me that seminarians behind them are the same. So, i feel very fortunate.

  8. I complimented a young priest here on his arse celebrandi, asking where he went to seminary.
    He rolled his eyes and said, he did NOT learn that at seminary.

    On the other hand, the most recently ordained priest I know, from an order that is notoriously loosey-goosey liturgically, celebrates Mass as if every moment of what he is doing holds the fate of all mankind in its devout and proper execution, so yes, there is hope.

    (Who are YOU encouraging in his vocation to the priesthood?)

    Save the Liturgy, Save the World!

  9. That's wonderful G. Good news! Although make sure that it is "ARS celebrandi," not "ARSE celebrandi." That made me laugh, as it may indeed be an accurate description of a priest who celebrates the Mass poorly!

  10. I've seen that. The guys from the 1970-80s seem threatened by the new guys. My limited observations… I've also been ordered away from chanted Propers, at least on a weekly basis..

  11. I know that the Pontifical College of the Josephinum in Columbus, OH is putting out clerics like this. The best part is that most of our seminarians (from the Diocese of Alexandria, LA) are going there! I just started work at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in the diocese. Our priest is in his early 30's, and hired me on to teach chant and the diologues. We are in a 3 year transitional phase moving from the 4 hymn sandwich to the Propers (Simple English, and Simple Choral Gradual) and all sung responses. My priest also had some small time at the Josephinum. Not sure of any close to New England, but Ohio is definitely a great place to send them. Maybe put in a blurb to the bishop. I know we're sending them all the way from Louisiana, so maybe that can be an example if the bishop is concerned about travel/money. It's definitely worth the investment.

  12. The recently-installed archbishops of Portland, Oregon and San Francisco will undoubtedly very soon initiate similar programs for their seminarians.

  13. This reminds me of a little framed notice in the sacristy of a convent of Carmelite nuns:

    O priest, celebrate this Mass as if it were your first Mass, as if it were your last Mass, as if it were your only Mass.

  14. Professor,
    Have you heard anything regarding such "bi-ritual" training out of Lincoln, NB seminary affiliate under the successor to Bp. Bruskewitz?

  15. The new Rector of the English College in Rome (Mgr Philip Whitmore) is a musician who sings the mass and encourages others to do so.

  16. Nor should we forget the contribution of the Ordinariate, for whom singing the liturgy is the stuff of their patrimony. I had the privilege of attending evensong, much of it chanted, at Most Precious Blood, Borough (Archdiocese of Southwark) yesterday. The concluding Salve was most moving.

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