Review: Mass of St. Philip Neri, part the second

Paul Jernberg


In the second installment of my review I have to remind any readers that our employment of Mass of SPN is also mitigated by some omissions of various movements. Paul’s Gospel Acclamations are one of those, as well as his Amen. I have an affection for our friend Chuck Giffen’s “Ascensionis” settings of those movements.
One of the aspects that I’ve noticed in larger, more orchestrated Mass settings and musician-rich parishes is an inclination to employ grandiose instrumental introductions to the Sanctus, and to a lesser extent the Memorial and Amen acclamations. The key word to remember is acclamation. One of the best changes in MR3 was the last imperative word of the Preface,  “acclaim!” That means “Better  start PDQ, Mr. Bach, it’s an ACCLAMATION!”  So, whether by a simple hum by the dirigent, a brief chordal iteration of Tonic F via organ, or the first half phrase of the Jernberg “Holy” by organ, that propulsion or momentum I mention in the “Glory” is even more present here. I believe the richness of the “orthodox-ian” homophony is found more in the rhythmic movement that’s glove-in-hand tight. And even without time signatures but with traditional note values, to me the phrases come off the tongue more like chant than hymn. The same harmonic construct between relative Major to minor is used with precision nearing perfection. I suggest that the tenors in the first phrase and last phrase use the high F because it enhances a closed position triad very effectively. And  if you have enough soprani, or a few children trebles, there’s a pedal C hum (or “ooh”) that craftily enters on “est” of the first “highest,” and it glides over the Benedictus so sweetly until the last “Hosanna.” And, of course, the director can use different rubatos for the final cadence with that lovely suspension/release in the altos.

For the Memorial acclamation, again it should start immediately after “in memory of me.” We use Accl. “C,” “Save us…..”  It is compact, and the terrace effect from phrase one to two to final three (“You have set us free”) is easily acquired. But the most wonderful effect is adding just a bit of detaché before cueing the word “free” with a tad of cres/decres. or even another lowering of volume.

We do not generally sing the Our Father in our parishes, pastoral edict. But the setting in this Mass is one of the most beautiful and worthy to replace either the MR3 Gregorian, the Snow or the Pater Noster.

Lastly, that paradoxical effect of sweet tenderness that seems the natural ethos of so many Agnus Dei settings is certainly operating in this Mass. The simple chordal progression of “vi (Dm) – V/vi (A)- V (C)- I (F  on “world”) with the reply “ii- V/visus4-V (As-A on “us”)  is introduced, and then again terraced upon for the second phrase, but with the phrase ending using the suspended V of I (Cs-C) as essentially a deceptive cadence. Then the third phrase still uses the same rhythmic assignments, but starting on tonic I (F) moving to a somewhat dramatic unprepared suspension in the tenors (“God) to V/vi (A) which leads to “vi” which abets the final statement of “sins of the world” via the minor tonality. Then comes the reward, “Grant us peace” with old standby “ii- Vs-V-I.” And the same affect if you stretch or have a whit of space after “us” to “peace” is simply heavenly.

James Michael Thompson
Again, the audio CD/download is an even better way to audition this most worthy of Masses in decades, and post MR3, as every sacred word including the lections is sung, and some choice classic polyphonic motets adorn the proper processions. Bravo, maestro’s.

 

Review: Mass of St. Philip Neri by Paul Jernberg (Part one)

Image result for Mass of St. Philip Neri Paul Jernberg image

I don’t know if it was God’s master plan or God inspiring Jeffrey Tucker years ago, but I’ve been blessed a number of times by a number of composers to review their works at the Café. In many a combox I’ve touted many Mass Ordinary settings which I’ve vetted (a very risky, personal choice) by the real process of having them sung by our schola and the congregation/ministry at our 8::30am Sunday Mass. Our schola’s nucleus membership is two decades along. I’m, at heart, a choral guy and they are chorally inclined. We have sparingly employed Gregorian Masses, or simile settings by folks like the great Ostrowski in unison. But choral floats our boat.

After one of those toutings at MSF or somewhere, Paul Jernberg (and his cohort, my old friend and greatest choir director of my era, J. Michael Thompson) took notice of my exuberance. So Paul honored me by asking for a review. It’s been a weird summer, total staycation, lots of physical injuries to me and mine, yada. But I promised Paul I would review what I know after at least one year’s use (according to Wendy) that I’d give a personal, seasoned look-see.

MASS OF SAINT PHILIP NERI

First of all, for those who’ve not only purchased the score but also listened to JMT’s inspired recording (complete with real canting lectors, deacons and celebrant), Paul Jernberg’s setting is probably the most ideal setting according to the intents and purposes of the three principal documents of the Vatican II liturgical documents, and for that matter the 1903 motu proprio of St. Pius X, Tra le sollecitudini. By that I mean not only is the sole instrument of worship is the human voice, but that the entire ritual in the ORDINARY FORM is rendered with the same ideal and intent of the Solemn High Mass in the EF. Simply, this is the embodiment of the latest exhortation “Sing THE Mass (not sing at Mass.)”

That said, in full disclosure I have to confess that though my group can render this and other similar works (the choral settings by Richard Rice come to mind) a capella, blessed with an extraordinary organist, we sing the Jernberg with organ. Secondly, I’ll only comment upon exactly what portions of the setting we’ve employed as we’ve not a celebrant whose talents could enable us to realize the piece as intended (tho’ I am working on that!)

For the last year we’ve used Paul’s “Lord, have mercy II” after the Confiteor. Wendy intones the first iteration, the choir enjoins the second in SATB, and we’ve chosen to nine-fold it with a second repetition. The elegant factor about that choice resulted from the deliberate upward terracing of each of the intonations. The congregation can clearly hear the shift per invocation moving up a third by the cantor, but we’ve found that in addition we’ve noticed the subtle ability of the congregation (in all movements for that matter) to sing ad hoc what they perceive as the choral harmonies. It’s quite something.

The cadence of the Kyrie  we’ve  chosen to “imperfect” so as to have the tenors end on a Bb. (Mea culpa.) But that sets up a simple invocation for the celebrant or cantor to intone the “Glory to God in the highest” in a descending scale from Bb4^ to tonic  F to which the congregation and choir respond “and on earth…” We take this response at about allegretto, or q=104. The fairly close-voiced homophony (eastern emulating ala Proulx’s Oecumenica) allows the altos and tenors to add some sweet jelly passing tones to the bread and peanut butter of the bass and soprano lines, all of which are, again intuitively learned and taken up by an aware congregation. Jernberg adds a quarter-note triplet that moves downward in all voices from “heavenly” to “King” and which serves to set a transition to the reverent allargando “Lord Jesus Christ” which eventually leads to the relative D minor with some carefully prepared secondary dominants in the alto voice, with an abbreviated cadence at “Son of the Father” ending on Vs4-/V (As-A) which then resumes with an a tempo (or accelerando) “you take away” still in the relative Dminor. There is simply very well planned propulsion which I believe is precisely what “Gloria” settiings must employ. Remaining in Dm, the altos are repeatedly featured with the prepared suspended fourth of the dominant AMajor, which they must crescendo over 2 beats at repeated cadences before relief on the third beat of a semi-cadence. And then the propulsion reappears at “For You alone….” which then emphatically prepares, via two quarter-triplet figures, the declaration “Most High, Jesus Christ.” Just brilliant. And the final cadence uses the Dminor to set up via Gminor 2^  to I6/4-V to “home,” F on “Father” sung at a forte (full, not loud.) Then we drop to piano for the Amen.  I can hear Officer Marge Gunderson from the great film “FARGO”  saying “Easy as pie!”

The balance in Part II

Is this part of the Francis Effect?

No names, no affiliations will be mentioned here. Perusing FB, this photo popped into my timeline:

The poster simply invited any readership to “caption” the portrait. Commentary was flying in by the second. The first chunk of samples will be found below. Now, for the record, I have no problem with proper vestments within the context of the particular cultural needs a parish/cathedral requires. I don’t think this is about vestments, these comments below. I ask (fear) that under this pontificate, we may have crossed a bridge too far in terms of basic common decency and respect. We don’t just tolerate offense, we offer the other cheek. Presuming anyone offering a “caption” such as those below has an interest in things liturgical, I’m led to believe that among our very own, many “feel” it appropriate to demean the integrity of fellow Christians, and even those ordained to clerical office.
If any of the folks who offered captions are DM’s, they’re neither “Pilots” nor “Pilates” (referencing my other article.) However the image of the mob chanting “Give us Barabbas” comes to mind.
YMMV.
The captions (note to administrator-Richard, feel free to condense these into a “more” window:

Where’s Gladys?
3 little maids from school ar.. hang on, 1,2,3,fo. . ah poop!
Oh it was black berettas today. Damn.
I’m delighted to reveal the autumn collection for 2015. You’ll all be wearing this.
The Spice Girls getting ready for their upcoming reunion tour…
how many blinds nuns did it take to make your lace?
In the middle: Someone has nicked my pompom.
On the left: I borrowed this cope.
The committee members of the Society for the simplification of vesture and liturgy – SSVL.
Must all be from the Diocese of Fon du Lace!
Fiddle diddle dee… Fiddleback is back
The church likes red heads too!
Ministry of Silly Dresses waits for John Cleese from Ministry of Silly Walks ,to hold a course for them
Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters.
“We are the very models of Traditional Ecclesia” (sung to a Gilbert & Sullivan tune)
psst Cardinal, it’s supposed to be prayerful position with left thumb over right, remember
We are the knights that say “Ni”.
Which one of these is not like others
I don’t care if your a Scotsman you wear something underneath, we kneel for prayer here!
and our 3rd runner-up is………”
The boys truly wished that Martha hadn’t left her ‘Come as you are’ party invitations on the altar
Is this the new series of The Borgias?
real men wear lace
The latest in chic from the men who wear dresses.
three out of five ain’t bad
Tangoed
They look cute
The one second from the left must be cooking lunch since he has the apron on.
lads in lace
Cardinal Sins!
Red is this years Black
What does this have to do with the Living God?
Well we brought gold, frankincense, myhrr, and these other two guys. I hope that’s ok.
No.3. Something crawling on my head.
Personal Ordinariate on parade
The three on the right had me thinking “three little maids…”. Gilbert and Sullivan in the air
The Mickey Mouse club welcomes you.
Ok…who farted?
OK, if you think Crazy Hat Day is a hoot, you shoulda seen us on Dress Like Your Mom Day.
We’re all in the same branch of service, right? How come our uniforms are so different?
Please, please, please let us wear fire-engine red next time.
T…s in Hats
No… I have more lace than you do!!
You know what they say, “Lace is more”…
The third annual convention of the Albus Dumbledore Fan Club was a huge hit.
red guy in apron incarnates service ministry to the berobed and belaced.
…and the 2015 vestiest padre award goes to:
My man-lace is better than your man-lace!
No one pictured smells like the sheep.
I’m the cherry on top!
Almost had a straight to beat your full house…
The guy with the red hat has the most relaxed posture, so I guess that mean he’s the boss.
4 prayers and one hugger
Soldiers in their dress uniforms…be afraid, be very afraid. I feel very safe.
Wallflowers?
Men in skirts with lace?
Lace, anyone?
“Get on with it man, we haven’t got all day!”
Trying my best to be respectful and it’s not easy.
“Berettas? I thought the Boss said wear your birettas!”
Please share this pic with Papa Francesco and get his reaction.
pick the odd one out
Heavens! I still have my running shoes on!!!
Renaissance Fair losers
You shaved your mustache for the photo.
Eucharist and old lace.
Ok now, just like we teach the First Communion kids…hands in “Prayer position”!


Which kind of “Pīlət” are you to your music ministry? Part One

Just musing over this homonym pairing: “pilot” or “Pilate.” Raise your hand if you knew this already from the article title? You there, Ben Yanke, put your hand back down! Only Kathy and Geri got it off the bat.

Among the spectrum of definitions of the term “pilot” I found this one particularly apt to serve as an analogue to our profession: “A person with expert local knowledge qualified to take charge of a ship entering or leaving confined waters.” In other words, someone who has the helm, the wheel, the knowledge and qualifications to steer a vessel from harbor to harbor. And it occurs to me that “expert local knowledge” also presumes that a pilot must also possess qualifications and understanding of the universal, or global body of knowledge pertinent to being successful. Presuming we have expertise, do we operate from both local and universal perspectives? Or do some of us navigate from instinct, personal preference and convenience?

Pontius Pilate served as a prefect under Tiberius, and of course presided over the “trial” and effected the crucifixion of Yeshua bar Yusef. A cursory look at the definitions of “prefect” bear little resemblance to its holdover meaning of those prelates at service to the Church now, in point of fact most of the descriptors have its meaning focused in military control and terms. In that light, he could be compared to Union General McClellan who, almost at every turn like Pilate, was hesitant to decide or pull the trigger so to speak for reasons only known to themselves. Before we look at the more serious factors of this particular Roman prefect, I have a couple of anecdotal thoughts. First of all, this “Pīlət,” like many of the historical, institutional officers of our Church past and present, absolutely did not listen to the counsel of his (their) closest female advisor(s) and confidante(s), Claudia-in Pilate’s case his wife. Let’s presume our modern ecclesial clerics don’t have wives whispering and wagging towards their ears, but her fears were prescient. Maybe if Pilate has listened to her earlier in his careerism, he might not have ended up the chump he became in Judea. Then, after the debacle of the crucifixion he might not have “lost the juice of his mind” as a former bishop used to quip. Anyway, how many of us are unable, or have been disabled for whatever reasons, the credibility of our office and resources out of fear from above and below? How many of us, under the pretense of popularity, trendiness, unjust sanctions or sheer resignation, are held sway by the principles and opinions of others, and have no personal convictions that we would stand for and defend? From Wikipedia: “In all four gospel accounts Pilate lobbies for

Jesus to be spared his eventual fate of execution, and acquiesces only when the crowd refuses to relent. He thus seeks to avoid personal responsibility for the death of Jesus.” My problem with that characterization is whether Pilate actually “lobbies” for Jesus. Lobbyists, as I understand them, are advocates for their own personal interests first, and for lawful recognition of those preferences second. The prefect Pilate lobbied only for the sake of his reputation and stature among the disparate elements of Jerusalem. “How’m I doin’, folks?” How’d that work out for you, Pontius? Like the prefect, we also serve at the pleasure of higher officers and laws particular to our Church institutional, but we also aspire to serve to the highest authority, the One whom Pilate tried to distance himself from condemnation. Whom do we first serve? (To thine own self be true!) If you are disciplined, you must presume that your superiors vouchsafe the same values upon which you stand. And if that becomes difficult to discern, or seems actually to be at odds, then you have a choice: 1. Advise towards consent; or 2. Retreat to simple compliance. Or is there a third way? To be continued…

Two guys, EF and OF, walk into a bar…I mean sacristy….

After getting and perusing the July/Aug. issue of the New Oxford Review, I read a lovely little piece of parabolic fiction by Deacon W. Patrick Cunningham of San Antonio. Deacon apparently attended the Indy Colloquium in 2014 and was moved to imagine what a conversation the characters OF and EF would have (with moderator.) It’s clever, not at all excessively scholarly or protracted. The central focus of the article regards how each rite “informs” the other, as Cunningham was invoking PEmeritus B16’s motu of ’07. I hope to have the Review’s permission to link this forum and the Café to the entire article within a couple of days. The good deacon assiduously avoids the snark that often attends such compare/contrast discussions, and actually the article could serve as a bridge not only for RotR, but perhaps actualizing the pastoral choice to celebrate the Vetus Ordo.

I would like to credit Mr. Pieter Vree and the staff of the “New Oxford Review” for their kind courtesy in allowing early release of the article.

Here is the article

An Open Letter to Colloquium 25 Colleagues at Duquesne

My dear CMAA sisters and brothers at the 25th Colloquium,

Eight years ago I sat in some auditorium at Catholic University in D.C. and listened to Professor William Mahrt lay forth the the blueprint for what we now call by a number of names: the Reform of the Reform, Progressive Solemnity, Brick by Brick, et cetera. I am unable to be with you all this year, particularly as I love Pittsburgh and Duquesne with special affection and despite having separated my shoulder on her city streets after the second colloquium.

But with a special, almost burning joy, I want to let you all know that the prophetic remedies for the liturgical and musical sorrows and desert that Dr. Mahrt has provided all within ear and eye shot through his whole life, these are and will continue to bear great fruit. It’s dinner time back in Pennsylvania as I type this. I just came home from the latest in a series of tutorials for one of our associate pastors. Essentially, when he came to the parish not even a year ago as a fairly new priest ordained only one year, he had no essential chanting skills that would enable him to negotiate all the celebrant’s orations in the Missal. By rote memory he would intone a “Per ipsum” that he’d acquired in seminary. After a few months, he asked if I would be willing to help him learn to sing the Mass. Sing the Mass. Well, now as I type, he can chant the whole Third Edition from the “In Nomine…to the Ite Missa est.” Indeed, Deo gratias! I come from every one of these sessions fully of holy joy, for the Lord has sent this priest to us, a sign of His care for His people and their worship of Him in holy and fit manner.

This associate pastor is also now competent and has celebrated the Missa Lecta in the Usus Antiquior, and we are now talking about moving towards both the celebration of a fully sung Novus Ordo in Latin, and a Missa Cantata in the Traditional Latin Mass. So, it can be done. Anywhere, by anyone (like our new priest) who will devote themselves to the simple disciplines laid out for us in our documents, and in study volumes such as Professor Mahrt’s MUSICAL SHAPE OF THE LITURGY will experience my joy. If this is your first colloquium, and you’re going to return this weekend to a parish stultified by mediocrity, do NOT despair. In time, with learning, experience and repeated practice, the things you are doing this week become a real possibility at your home parish.

Fare thee well, my colleagues.

What is it that we want, exactly?

Initially I intended to frame this article from the perspective of “being in the twilight” of my career as a church musician. Typically myopic, I’d forgotten about mentors such as Professor Mahrt, Maestros Salamunovich and Wagner, and Msgr. Schuler. Careers span multiple generations. And I wonder if our mentors had a slight sociological advantage in the formation of fundamental values necessary to their calling as church musicians? Mahrt’s famed anecdote about a pastor asking him to start singing English settings of the Mass , hymns and such, to which he replied “I will, when someone writes something worthy of the Mass in English” illustrates that liturgical confidence instilled in him so early in life.

Right now in our situation in Central California, I think we’ve managed the “brick by brick” strategies fairly well and without resistance from any quarter. That said, many might say if they visited all of our 15 Masses over the weekend, that my assessment requires an asterisk. Sure, our 22 year schola/choir has always sung Latin motets, some Latin Ordinaries since day one, and we now have infused SEP/Simple Choral Propers/Choral Communios (Rice)/Weber and Kelly Propers, Kevin Allen’s collection, Noel Jone’s Anthologies, Heath Morber’s English Communion motets into weekly rotation while singing Masses by Mueller, Jernberg, Nickel, Ostrowski and others since MR3. What’s the asterisk for? We offer this RotR at one of those 15 Masses only.

We underwent a complete pastoral change of clerical staff a year ago, and it’s taken a year for things to settle into “smooth functioning.” Our newest associate, a late vocation, is taking weekly tutoring in chanting all the collects from MR3, and he’s already capable of offering the Missa Lecta in the EF, with the goal of moving up to Cantata, Solemn and Requiem. He’s a voracious student which astounds me. Our other associate chants collects, prefaces and the prayers of consecration fairly regularly, and now prefers the “Circumambulation” method of entrance. Even our pastor, who is possessed of fine voice but rarely chants, offered his gratitude to the schola for maintaining the use of Latin at English Masses, reminding the congregation that “Latin is still the mother language of the Church,” direct quote. He then proceed to offer the final blessing in Latin (spoken) flawlessly.

At this point I’m happy to have assisted getting the “sacred, universal and beautiful” maxim ensconced (or at least a foot in the door) in a very diverse parish of four churches. But, what I have not tried to do is shift my managerial style for subordinate leadership from “example, suggestion, catechesis etc.” to mandatory and unilateral change.

The newer voices among us now, Pluth, Ostrowski, Leung, Yanke, Motyka, Woods and many others are now afforded a much larger audience eager to hear and put into practice their advice and strategies to revive liturgically/musically malnourished and impoverished parishes. However, I wonder if their motus operandi’s occasionally have a sort of Marie Antoinette attitude when practicality occasionally conflicts with philosophy. “I want to eat my cake, and have it too” when it comes to programming styles and forms of music that clearly do have pride of place at liturgy, namely chant and polyphony (in the Roman sense) and newer works that are clearly generated in those models?

Over at CCWatershed, Andrew Leung’s methodology involves negotiating three “battles.” The first of these is Theocentric Vs. Anthropocentric textual/lyrical content as regards the theological consonance with RCC tenets/ethos. That is an easy sell here, MSF, NLM and other RotR sites. And this consideration ought to be the first priority of pastors and musicians if they’ve gotten lazy or convenient. But I’d wager that musicians who program “Gather Us In” aren’t much concerned with either of those battle stances. They choose it because they aren’t at all interested in quality of worship, or upsetting a status quo, or they simply don’t want to “learn new stuff.” And if the pastor and congregation provides no evidence of rejecting “Standard Operating Procedure” no battles at all will ensue unless some brave muckraker wants to upset a lot of apple carts. You could solve the poetic hymn versus assigned Proper processional problem with a hymn setting by Pluth, Tietze, Woods and many others, but a reactionary opposition may insist that strophic hymnody belongs to Leung’s second battle: Liturgical Vs. Devotional.

“Hymnody” per se is relegated by liturgical purists to the Liturgy Hours and Devotions. That would likely include Latin metric hymns that are set in chant form. Well, are we prepared to revise the culture of the last half century (and longer actually) by insisting on chanted Propers only? Are we going to then bend to the numerous resources of vernacular chanted Propers rather than going all in with the Liber, Graduale, Gregorian Missal, Graduale Simplex Latin Propers in the OF?
One could then slide over to the Ordinary and ask the same questions. If your congregation has successfully acquired Bob Hurd’s Missa Ubi Caritas in Latin, are the only other settings you can move to are the Gregorian settings? Or if your choir and congregation can sing the Proulx Missa Oecumenica or the Jernberg Neri, should you next shoot for the Schubert in G, or Lord help us, the Vierne? If you sing a Kevin Allen polyphonic Sanctus in Latin, should you regularly program the Hassler Missa Dixit Maria? I want all these cakes! They’re all sacred, universal and beautiful!

I’m not inclined to deliberate Leung’s third battle, “Revolution Vs. Reform.” I think perhaps his premise is that the Church’s post-conciliar “song” devolved (or gravitated to what Tom Day called the “sweet song” option) into misappropriation of secular, idiomatic musical styles and forms. I don’t believe that’s wholly incorrect. But I think that contemporaneous genres often defy simple categorization, and that it is not a fait complite that some “classical” Latin Masses heard in the last fifty years belted out by Cappella Sixtini are of a higher nature, or more simply put, more worthy in terms of beauty than some Masses by Joncas, Schiavone or Janco.
These observations won’t sit well with many of my friends like Dr. Kwasniewski who argue well for the narrower, clear cut with less “options” method, that, prioritized or not, still make room for the “My Little Pony” sort of setting as licit under the GIRM. But I think a lot of our contentiousness is because we simply want to have access to all our cakes, and to eat them too. What do you think?

And the hits just keep on coming, below the belt.

Hat tip to Brian Michael Page of Providence, though I suppose I could have averted my eyes and ears.
The clip appears to have been posted around June 3rd, so it’s not unreasonable this is a recent occasion. There’s speculation among FB commentary whether this is an RCC or Anglican Nuptial Mass. My blog buddy G (Scelata) borrowed an old double entendre of mine for a post: “Be not a-phrayed.” But between Fr. Chuck’s guitar homily and now this, one has to wonder if for every new tapestry that eventuates at events like the Sacra Litugia conference last week, there are hundreds more “real life” experiences that indicate a great unraveling. The ragged sleeves of Il Papa’s alb are one thing, but the “oob la di, oob la da” DaDa of this “liturgy” simply leaves me stunned and speechless.

Che simpatico prete…

Posted by Aurelio Gentile on Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Did Jesus draw a line in the sand?

“3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and no more.”

I have reservations about expressing the following thoughts just I as have reservations about jumping down a subway platform and grabbing the third rail. But I think what has developed and occurred between Dr. Romeri and Abp. Chaput needs some consideration beyond what is clearly a matter of, among other things, justice. As clearly articulated by the tenets of our faith and religion, Abp. Chaput is ordained and imbued with the Holy Spirit to literally be “in persona Christi” and “Alter Christus” to his flock. But one has to consider whether his actions and words in response to Dr. Romeri’s performance place the archbishop both as one of “the teachers of the law” at once with his duty to represent Christ in all matters.

Corresponding that to the scripture, what was our Lord “saying” by twice writing something in the dust? We cannot know. Was it akin to a line in the sand that he challenged the accusers to cross and exact their justice? Couldn’t have been, as “He wrote in the dust.” For myself, the message was contained in the act of communicating in the most temporary of mediums, dust, sand, dirt, whatever. Perhaps, and we’re not privy nor should we be, Abp. Chaput may well have drawn lines in the sand directly for Dr. Romeri, and then advised him to “go and…….change.” Unfortunately, the public testimonies don’t point to that type of just intervention at this stage.

But my thoughts are not about the Philadelphia story. I believe that there’s a much larger lesson for all of us to consider with the remainder of our tenures as DMM’s, choir/schola masters and such- if we musicians reverse roles from “the accused” to the “teachers of the law” we may very well end up morally wanting and bankrupt, and walk away because “our principles” and, more importantly, our concerns and charges that we drew in the sand- “Reform the Reform…..Abandon the Novus Ordo…..burn the guitars, drums and pianos……pour boiling lead onto all the microphones….let the people sing the Ordinary, WE’LL handle the Propers, thank you very much……and you better believe it’s the Chant and Polyphony Channel in the gallery, 24/7, deal with it!– this sort of stricture-driven mentality may not prevail going into the next centuries, particularly with little influence being exerted by the American prelates, the disturbing inclinations of the European prelates, some of whom preside over vacant Sees, and the emergent, burgeoning Church in Africa and Asia. I know that orthodoxy in those regions is valued much more than in the western Church right now. But we will not be the arbiters of their emerging liturgical traditions.

My advice to young, dedicated musicians who want to serve the Church in any capacity: Be knowledgeable first and flexible second. I know that is precisely how Dr. Romeri was perceived in both St. Louis and Philadelphia. I heard his name more associated with NPM than practically anybody else’s including Virgil Funk. Dr. Romeri was neither strict nor intransient. It seems that his concept of “sacred, universal and beautiful” was at a level that his archbishop, for whatever reason, couldn’t appreciate and then somehow decided Romeri was the immovable object.
The wind’s gonna blow the figures drawn in the dust, and it will break the trunks of the oldest and strongest of trees if it wills. Can we bend and not break? Can we accept a call to diversity and turn that into a beautiful asset and not an onerous chore? I think these and many more questions will face the next sequence of generations of church musicians as a grave concern.