The sky won’t fall because of our songs

In the first portion of fellow contributor Nathan Knutson’s article “Renewal” commentor Jacob Flaherty addended to Nathan’s litany of anthrocentric hymn/song titles the Paulist Father Ricky Manalo’s “In these days of Lenten journey.” Mr. Flaherty quotes some lyrics and then opines:

Nowhere, in this entire text is a prayer of adoration, petition, contrition, or thanksgiving offered. It is merely a horizontal conversation between ourselves which begs the question, why are we telling each other what we’re going to do when the whole goal of our worship should be greater union with God through Jesus Christ.

Having just this last Saturday night accompanied Fr. Manalo in an impromptu recital of some of his songs (and my second occasion of having met and shared very pleasant conversations with him) I really have to say that Mr. Flaherty’s analysis is a prevaricated and unfortunate misunderstanding of the function and purpose of this and other fourth option songs that can rightfully be employed at Mass beyond as a “closing song.”

I would ask, in this particular case and song, what precisely is the difference between “we” hearing what disciplines we are called towards during Lent coming from a homily orated by an ordained cleric and the global “we” (of which the cleric is also numbered) singing those same mandates provided us by Jesus Himself and Tradition? Mr. Flaherty lists the absence of words of adoration, petition, contrition and thanksgiving as omissions necessary for a hymn’s efficacy, and thereby deficient towards “union with God.” Honestly, if the lyrics of Manalo’s song aren’t a clarion call towards that very union by exhortation to realize the Lenten disciplines and thereby act in persona Christi, and not as he characterizes it a “conversation among ourselves,” then one of us is seriously missing the connection between worship and missio.

By Mr. Flaherty’s deduction, should we then dismiss for use the Anima Christi prayer, despite its adorational nature, because it essentially exhorts the intercession of our Lord to compel the true “me” to abandon egoism? Doesn’t Fr. Manalo’s lyric remind us to abandon ego for the corporate good?

I’ll wrap this up. The obsession some of us display with problematic anthrocentrism, “Vox Dei” or open-ended theology in certain texts wearies this older yet no wiser church musician. It, to me, smacks of the incredibility of the boy who cried wolf, or Chicken Little’s prophesying “the sky is falling.” The problem, Chicken Little, lies not in our stars nor in the words of faithfilled priests writing good songs and good homilies, but in our prelates and ourselves for failing to act towards a neighbor in need next to you in the pew, or in the streets of a Filipino barrio as if s/he were Christ Himself. (Mt.25)

Missio- random thoughts

Spoiler alert: this article amounts to nothing but extemporaneous thoughts…..
Some who frequent here may recoil, others might think “Uh oh, he’s off his meds again!” Others will wander through and exit with a quiet “Ho hum.”

Reverend Father David Friel composed a lovely, tender yet powerful article about how all God’s singers are definitely not created equal, and many of whom gravitate towards church choirs who are clueless to that reality. His advice reflects a wisdom that his boyish visage betrays. Good priest, this Fr. David! He offers some very pastorally sound advice upon how we choirmasters can make the best of our often meager talent pool, and with utmost charity and dignity still work towards preserving the integrity of the choir and its art in a musically impoverished era. His article spurred a great deal of reflection within me about who we choirmasters are and how we go about our business.

Here I offer some of those occuring thoughts-
*Choirs are figuratively (and in Vivaldi/Mozart’s day quite literally) hospitals for minds, souls, hearts, egos and voices who are afflicted with either a talent they earnestly want to share with God and the people who worship Him, or some who have a portion of their being absent, or discomfited by some psychological or emotional desire to fill that hole by becoming part of a whole that is about wellness, progress, healing and success. Others are simply like the young prince in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who simply cries out, “But Father, I just want to SING!” Singers can’t help themselves most of the time in that way. So, what does that make directors? Both doctor and nurse, orderly and chaplain, social worker and CEO, an unknown visitor and a comforting friend.

*Choir directors of church ensembles have immense gravitational pull and power. As celestial objects, we come in all sizes, varying constitutions and often with purposes and behaviors that can both attract and detract, sometimes simultaneously. We can be the Sun in spring and autumn, or a dark star in death throes that pull others into spirals that end in disaster eventually. I think that if we try to remember to “come down to earth” (still a celestial object) we can emulate earth’s relationship to both the star which is the sun and the perfect, all encompassing light of the Son. We are in harmony with our solar system, both inwardly and with those folks who gravitate with us.

*We must be emissaries, ambassadors and advocates of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Himself the primordial Logos. This goal is no small feat. We need to intimately know the breadth of Holy Writ, and the vast body of texts and musical settings, that when truly married, will deliver the import of scripture readings that Holy Mother Church with the guidance of the Holy Spirit over centuries has parced into elegant tapestries that will inspire us to take the Word into our daily lives every waking hour. Even moreso, our well chosen song helps us become those tapestries for others to see and hear. For those who, for whatever reason, do not hear the lessons fully, who cannot enable us via homilies experience the “deep, deep down freshness” of our Sunday and Office readings, we can awaken the slumbering and wandering mind and heart with the well-chosen song, a Proper song, a blossoming lyric born from the Word, replete with melodies, harmonies and forms worthy of that task.
Perhaps this last analogy remains the most challenging for “directors (what a dry term!)” God is love, and love is at all times, even harsh times, beautiful as well as everlasting. Only by being faithful messengers enlivened by Grace are we then able to sing “Lord, Your Love is everlasting, do not forsake the work of Your hands.”

Some comfort here, CMAA’s on it!

I posted a link in an article I’ve since deleted,”CMAA’s been right all along,” in which the html code didn’t actually provide a direct path to the article. I’m going to try again and add another link from “Religious News Service” that posits fairly accurately why “choirs” are fading and failing in Protestant denominations. Hopefully these two URL’s will take you to the two articles. Here’s the one about “choirs”-

Religious News Service, Why choirs are dying

And here is the previous article, reprinted. A lot to consider. But, from my POV, our Church still promotes the official and beneficial rationale for the efficacy of “The Choir,” and in that I rejoice.

Author David Ryan Gutierrez over at RELEVANT BLOG argues forcefully for the “church as patron of fine arts” in the article linked below. What’s interesting is that his perspective addresses issues from the perspective of the megachurch, praise team, Hillsongs model of church.

RELEVANT Church can make fine art

Whistling Into the Wind? OCP responds.

As I’ve spent time offering two articles about whether the “grass roots” of RotR folk/CMAA/Progressive Conservationists (should I copyright that? ) could actually influence via direct dialogue with the “Liturgical Industrial Complex” of publishing companies, I feel obliged to share also the reply I received yesterday from an officer at OCP with the readership. I realize my second article, an attempt to provide a sort of template for others who might wish to also personally get involved in helping the Big Three (and others) towards paradigm shift, was a source of misunderstanding and mockery to some. It was not intended as such. But for the record, we should know the effect and result of such efforts. This is the letter I received from OCP:

Thank you for your email. Please allow me to reply at the request of John Limb. I am the Manager of Worship Publications; I oversee the publication process for our pew resources.

We appreciate your feedback on specific songs in our Breaking Bread and Music Issue publications. This comes at a propitious time as we are in the midst, as I think you know, of receiving input from our missal subscribers via the annual Music Issue Survey. We take this input very seriously. We read every survey and carefully note all specific song suggestions (whether additions or deletions). These titles are gathered and shared with our music selection committee, which reviews them before making recommendations for the contents of the following year’s missals. Even if a song is suggested only once by one subscriber, it is included on the list. Please know that the songs you suggested for removal here will be included on that list as well.

As you can imagine, it is challenging to produce a single-volume sacred music resource that meets the needs and satisfies the expectations of every subscribing parish in the country. The needs and expectations vary widely. Our goal is produce an annual resource that addresses the needs of most of the parishes we serve, knowing that not everyone will be entirely happy with the result. The music selection committee works hard every year to add and remove songs, with much debate and careful consideration of many factors.

We understand the importance of chant and have striven for many years now to include it in our publications. We also, as you know, offer specific publications that offer chant options together in single volumes. There is, of course, Laus Tibi, Christe, with more than 70 chant settings. The most recent example is the St. Meinrad antiphonary. These books are designed to be used in conjunction with our various missal and hymnal programs. In fact, our hymnals include a plastic pocket in the back cover to accommodate these supplemental publications. This provides a means for parishes to access additional music that better addresses their specific needs. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s the best compromise under the circumstances.

I note that the 2014 edition of Breaking Bread includes more than 45 chant pieces and Latin hymns. We continue to consider chant pieces for inclusion in our missals and have added several in recent years. That said, I will also forward to our committee your suggestion that we increase the number of Latin chant pieces. (emphasis mine)

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us and for using our publications these many years. God bless you in your ministry!


Wade Wisler

Worship Publications Manager

Well, my friends, what think ye?

O Salutaris Hostia by Peter Kwasniewski

Peter Kwasniewski’s setting of the devotional Eucharistic hymn, O SALUTARIS HOSTIA (from “Sacred Choral Works ©2014, Corpus Christi Watershed), serves very well for all levels of SATB choir proficiency and is a compact gem that is appropriate for virtually any Mass. This setting should be of particular interest to smaller and novice SATB Choirs and directors, perhaps in concert with those whose initial forays into four parts also use Richard Rice’s “Simple Choral Gradual ” (CMAA)  as pedagogical bridges to more sophisticated and complex pieces.

A memorable melody in the soprano voice, along with solid voice leading and intuitively easy interval leaps in the other voices, some of which have brief moments of “spice” in the chordal treatment make the argument for the accessibility of this piece. The first system is a purely diatonic and “sweet” exposition of the melody with a solid counterpoint in the bass. At the end of the second phrase, “pandis ostium (to us below)” Kwasniewski employs ascending parallel thirds in the trebles as if we were through that comforting harmony reaching up to receive, but he adds flavor on the third beat “-sti-“, by contrasting an established V chord cadence with a Vsus7 cluster. Just a taste. In the next phrase the altos and basses have a sort of voice exchange contrapuntal movement that is also sweet tension that resolves deceptively for the moment to the relative minor with an added 7th.  This sets up a nice melodic sequence in the soprano voice bridging two text phrases, “Bella premunt hostilia, Da robur, fer auxilium.” Kwasniewski deploys another “flavor” moment when he chooses to use I Major 7 on beat three of m.14 in the tenor voice leading, when he could have opted for vi7 as the relative minor is being established by the stanza cadence with the dominant 7th of vi leading to the da capo.

When reaching that same penultimate cadence, his “amen” is a sublime cascade from soprano descending scale motion through the alto into the tenor to the Picardy third major chord of what was the relative minor.

This is a lovely piece of purpose, clarity with enough little flavor gems to keep choral interest. Here is an mp3 recording featuring the incredible Matthew Curtis. In most browsers, you should also find a player bar at the top of this web page.

Okay, now we’re talking. Dear John,….

A few days ago I wrote about how we ought to give the big publishers some straightforward advice about the songs that aren’t worth reprinting for next year, and also about the songs and composers that deserve to be heard more.

Well, here’s what I would and will send to the editor at OCP. Feel free to use this as a template or reconfigure yours in any manner you like.

Dear Mr. Limb,

I have been a music director in three parishes and a cathedral since 1977 that have, without exception, utilized OCP resources exclusively as worship aides. Much thanks is due to the founders of the Oregon Truth and Tract Society that eventually evolved into Oregon Catholic Press, and was transformed through the efforts of fine folk like Owen Alstott into the pre-eminent supplier of musical and liturgical worship aides not only for the USA, but in many other English conferences.
As you likely aware from the adjustments OCP has made in its flagship products (Music Issue/Breaking Bread/Flor y Canto) over the decades such as the licensing and then ultimate acquisition of the former NALR catalogue, the agreements with other major RCC and other publishers for reprint permission for emergent repertoires of significant value to congregations, change as well as innovation is not to be unexpected in liturgical matters.

One of the most noticeable changes promulgated both independently and in concert with the infusion of the third edition of the Roman Missal and the earlier advisory document SING TO THE LORD from the USCCB has been a resurgence of interest in following through with the full spectrum of objectives and legislation clearly articulated in the conciliar documents, namely the CSL, MS and GIRM. These documents themselves owe a large measure of allegiance to the goals of the century old papal motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini of St. Pope Pius X.

As a Director of Music that has relied upon OCP for over thrity five years, what has become clear is that though the interest of an emerging and younger demographic that, as Catholic seekers, are very aware of the great heritage, unique and profound effect of what is generally called “Gregorian Chant” (for our purposes I’ll refer simply to “chant”) upon their worship experience as Roman Rite Catholics. OCP has not been remiss in accomodation of that demographic with specific publications, but as of yet has not evinced its commitment to inclusivity of that demographic in its flagship pew publications.

I would ask you to consider consulting with your editorial board and ask them, regardless of the standard methodologies of the annual survey and their editorial guidance, have they given a thorough and critical analysis of the content of the BB/MI/Heritage line of products as regards “chant?”

I would suggest that a significant portion of the subscription volumes have not only stagnant and unused repertoire that escapes attention year to year, but also some material whose textual content is clearly at odds with the needs of authentic worship with the rites. There are likely a substantial number of songs, hymns and ordinaries whose musical content has seen its sunset realistically and take up valuable page space that other much more vital and necessary content could resuscitate OCP’s waning perception as a viable, all inclusive and orthodox service provider.

The following examples of what I would consider as “defunct” pieces would likely not be missed by significant numbers of parishes:

WAITING IN SILENCE/Landry-both lyric and musical content is very pedestrian. The scriptural allusions are better set elsewhere in other songs.
ASHES/Conry- poor theology throughout the entire lyric that reflects a more anthrocentric impetus and modus operandi than a penitential expression.
ROLL AWAY THE STONE/Conry-inarticulate allegorical verses, overtly dramatic and combative by comparison to the psalms they paraphrase, and an oblique and obscure message in the imperative refrain text.
BREAD, BLESSED AND BROKEN/Lynch- even if for children, the lyric is so puerile that dilutes the Eucharistic theology to young minds. The single most damaging element is the naming of the Eucharistic host as a “symbol” of God’s love. That must be remedied by elimination, not alteration.
LOOK BEYOND/Ducote- incomprehensible verses in that there is no coherency between 1 to 2/3, 4 to 5. A stale mess of snapshot references.
BREAD OF LIFE/Cooney- again, massive anthrocentrism failing to expiate properly a solid Eucharistic theology. “I, myself, am the bread of life” is an augmentation of John 6 that is condescending to the Faithful, too confusing and self-referential to “us” as Eucharist.
SING A NEW CHURCH/Dufner- a well-intentioned but extremely flawed abstraction of ecclesiology.
GATHER AND REMEMBER/Alstott-another well-intentioned but inappropriate and didactic homage and paean to an ecumenical council, and some very incendiary assessments of church history and traditions. The Vox Dei component is poorly employed as well.
HERE I AM/Booth- another Vox Dei that has some indiscriminate notions, or inarticulate at best, added to the typical syncopation that dissuade participation rather than invites it.
HOLY SPIRIT/Misetich, SNJM- tired, dated, banal text and melody
THE SPIRIT IS A-MOVIN’/Landry- see immediate song above.
ALL I ASK OF YOU/Norbert/Weston- incredibly saccharine content in lyrics.
ANTHEM/Conry- of all the Conry pieces dropped (I will lift up my eyes…I will not die…”) in the past, the fact that this jarring, confrontive theology remains is a huge mystery. We are….not amused.
I WILL CHOOSE CHRIST/Booth-besides having some motivic elements that are too close to popular hits of the secular past, it can’t be really defended as viable to all cross sections of worshipping communities.
‘TIS A GIFT TO BE SIMPLE/Shaker trad.- a novelty that has no value in a Roman Rite context.
LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH/Miller&Jackson- tired, dated, a courteous nod and association with “God” that is minimalist. A commercial.
PEACE IS FLOWING LIKE A RIVER/Landry- have we checked the pulse of the world lately?

(interlude: You might notice I’ve avoided any of the major bogeyman titles that are commonly flogged horses here and elsewhere, OEW, MoC, GUI, IATBOL, etc., precisely because the psychological pushback would likely kick in immediately. Those are the golden eggs of the golden geese. One has to think strategically, tactfully and tactically.)

Mr. Limb, there are, as you likely know, many more titles that others have taken up as a cause celebre for post-conciliar examples of musical anathema. The “de gustibus” factor will always be in play in such critical discourse, deconstruction and deliberation. But I hope to move you to more attentively call your editors’ discretion towards the best and beautiful, not the easiest or most popular.
Please relieve this glut of ineffective and insufficient pieces from further occupancy in publications that are supposed to be responsive and responsible. You have given credence to the chants found in Columba Kelly’s collection and other chant books in your own catalogue. You have composers such as Barbara Bridge and others who’ve had chant-emulative pieces extracted from the hymnals. This is contradictory, in fact, to conciliar philosophy that encourages new compositions to flourish within our own traditions.

Thank you for your kind attention,
Charles Culbreth, Director of Music and Worship
The Catholic Church of Visalia (California)

Does this give you any ideas about your own advice for
OCP/GIA/WLP/TLP/ILP, etc.? What are you telling them to keep or toss?”

Can We Talk? With OCP?

About a week ago, there was a brief lull in my work day when I was reconfiguring an old laptop to serve as a supplementary computer in my school office. I needed something to do that wasn’t a real project as I needed to monitor the computer processes. So I decided to look at the upcoming issue of OCP’s “Today’s Liturgy” periodical. Normally the amount that we receive is parsed out to music leaders with about half remaining unused and round-filed. So I opened it up, skimmed through the pages looking for any title that might be interesting (self-fulfilled prophecy: none) and then noticed, “Oh, the annual survey is in this issue.” Over the years I’ve done due diligence and not only checked off boxes thoroughly, including my assumptions about what other leaders under my management are likely still using, but I’ve often exceeded the survey by attaching reams of attached notes of why do you cut this out and let this in, or what is the real process you use to create the next Frankenstein’s creature known as “Breaking Bread” or “Music Issue?”

In reaction to my excessive responses, OCP has always kindly sent a letter stating their appreciation for my “sharing” and will take them under consideration. Most of us who’ve had a job (outside of ecclesial) know that “appreciation” is 99% code for the exact opposite, though courteously mannered, reaction, i.e. the round file.

Personally, I don’t believe that OCP (the “Hidden Hand”) of the Liturgical Industrial Complex will soon disappear from the landscape of pew racks in any foreseeable future. If the books do, then the images from them will be projected upon walls and screens. Feh and meh, so what? Over decades I’ve dreamed of various schemes to get their attention, or someone else’s attention that they really need to pay attention and serious heed to the evolving reform of liturgical paradigms, particularly as regards musical responsibilities and repertoires of the Roman Rite. Those would include my grandest idea: the boutique hymnal, designed by local See’s and their music gurus, specified and forwarded to Portland, and mocked-up by the mainframe servers on East Hassalo Avenue within a day, printed and shipped like Amazon for arrival next Tuesday. This idea is premised upon the obvious “anything Bartlett/Ostrowski/Rice” can do, we can do bigger, faster, better!” I don’t want to debate that little bon mot.

So what am I now proposing that is of interest to a chant-inclined readership? How does the lamb expect to approach, much less to lie down with the Lion whose leash bears the inscription: Supply, meet demand?

Well, the readership of the Café, MSForum, NLMovement, CCWatershed and other like minded sites, though maybe no more than 10-15% of the demographic size of NPM, comparing Colloquium to convention, is still a very powerful and influential voice in the RCC sacred music community. And as is often mentioned, demonstrably growing in both clerical and lay constituencies. So, how do we flex muscle and influence to the seeming hard-hearted mercenaries (joke, people, joke!) of Big Three editorial boards?

Up close and personal is the answer. And nicely, by the way, not “in your face, talk to the hand” style.

What I propose is this- if your parish subscribes to any pulp hymnal product (save the new Missal I saw in Indy which Noel Jones first brought to my attention), consider allotting some time for a thorough auditing of its entire hymn/song/chant/ordinary/Psalter contents. Select at least 10 and perhaps no more than 25 titles that you know in your heart of hearts, mind of minds that fail the most basic criteria for appropriateness of use at worship. Then list them, each having just a minimum number of sentence descriptions of those failures. Use clinical and direct but polite rhetoric. Then, complete your list.

Compose a brief letter of introduction of yourself as an authentic, endorsed staff member in charge of music for your parish/cathedral, and what music resource of the publisher from which the list was culled. Then copy and paste in your list to the letter. Perhaps you might want to preface the letter after the introduction with some “happy talk” expressing your own appreciation for what the publisher does, and the dedication we all expend together in helping the Faithful, etc.

Then before summarizing, here’s the kicker- make sure you then suggest what specific items you would find most beneficial that would replace those 10-25 pages of “system-fail” pieces with items from resources already in the catalogue of the publisher. For example using OCP, if I were to list every song from Carey Landry or Tom Conry as defunct, I would offer that the space allotted those would be filled by the Entrance and Communion Propers by Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB already typeset in modern notation and, more importantly, in their mainframe servers! Or, the entire contents of “Laus Tibi,” OCP’s little pamphlet of round note chant greatest hits. If you are a little more daring, you could mention that so much chant (in Latin, English and increasingly Spanish) is now freely available in the Commons 3, that if they were so inclined, the editors could contact the author/composers for reprint permission that is already gratis.
Now, you put that into both an email and snail mail forms and forward it to the publisher first, in OCP’s case, John Limb, and then every other editorial board member and others (such as Bari Columbari) and even influential folks like Randy DeBruyn or Chris Walker with a heartfelt salutation, prayers and hope for fruitful consideration.
That’s it, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ve already done this. Perhaps some of you also have done something like it as well. But imagine if the entire readership of just the CMAA blogs were to send such “Dear John” letters…. The publishers would ignore them at their own peril I like to think.
If you’re pessimistic about all this, that’s okay by me. But I ask you before moving on and away from this proposal, try to imagine all around OCPLand parishes, when the musical Powers That Be open the next year’s “Breaking Bread” and find all sorts of chants mixed in among all the option four stuff that remains, IMAGINE the message that will subliminally be injected into their sensibilities. Can it possibly hurt? Do harm? I think not.

“God IS Not Dead” and “Chant is NOT dead” either.

Over at MSF I’ve reported that our parish quietly heard its first EF (Low) Mass via a funeral request. That was effected by a former vicar who’s now the pastor of a parish in a neighboring town who offers the EF every Thursday evening. I went to join a friend in the loft for the chanted hymns for the second time last evening. I’ll revist how this figures into the article in a while.

After returning from Mass and having dinner, we decided to “rent” a movie from UVerse and this week’s releases included “Divergent” and “God is Not Dead.” Having tried to view the first “Hunger Games” installment years ago, I realize I don’t really do dystopia in this era. Once you’ve survived “Blade Runner” and “Twelve Monkeys” you’ve pretty much seen the best of that genre of film making. But the other night’s choice, “God is Not Dead,” is clearly from the “faith-based” production school that is slowly upping its game. Earlier this summer we took in a film about a young Christian teen breaking away from the plans her Contemporary Christian Music star father had laid out for her, and that film was, predictably, so two dimensional it almost qualified for a Flat Earth Society award. So, watching another film of that genre is a bit of a gamble, not so much with budget, but with time.

I’m happy to report that “God is Not Dead,” though certainly flawed here and there, is a very worthwhile endeavor. It’s not “The Passion” or “Babette’s Feast” but it had just as much content and interest as did the blockbuster “Noah.” Set in a bucolic elite college, it weaves the stories of a young Christian student at the beginning of semester having to decide to enroll in a philosophy course so as not to get off-track with his accumulation of credits for graduation. He’s warned by a fellow student that this particular course is instructed by a professor somewhere to the right of Emperor Nero and will likely become Christian fodder with the negative grade as the bow on the top. The Christian commits to sticking it out.

At the first class the professor (Kevin Sorbo, a former TV “Hercules“) somewhat startles his 80 students by demanding they expedite the process of acquiring the wisdom of Nietzche and Hume et al by writing a simple contract stating “God is dead” and signing it. Anyone unwilling to do so, he warns, will be the object of some ugly academic sausage making. Well, you can figure the rest. The Christian kid cannot and will not betray his convictions, and the professor lays out for him the consequences. Woven into the fabric of the story line are characters like the student’s Christian girl-friend who abandons him because his decision contradicts her “plans” for both of them, a student from China fascinated with his first encounter with the conflict of faith at odds with reason, a Muslim student who struggles with her father’s strict adherence to orthodox Islam, and the professor’s live-in girl friend, who is a repressed Christian resigned to leaving her faith at the front door. Long story short, the student’s exegetical response to the professor’s suppression is compelling stuff, but not stiffly delivered or didactic at all.

As the Cafe is about both chant and life, I offer these reflections: 1. We are dismissed from each Mass with the admonition to “serve” God in the interim between that moment and the next we gather for Mass; 2. If there was a movie titled “Chant is Not Dead,” how would that story line best be told?

Yesterday before leaving the office, I scoured the MS website for pre-conciliar daily Missals without finding a usable source to prepare for the EF Mass. But before leaving I also searched my library and found a 1951 St. Joseph’s Missal. I felt so “Eureka!” and stuck it in my bag with the GS and PBC. As I said over at MSF, most of my EF experiences have been of the Missa Solemnis or Requiem rites. So, last evening, going through the Low Mass with the old Missal I realized the experience was yet another unveiling to my almost child-like visceral response to each EF Mass I hear and sing. I am God’s child, I am learning the faith of all time in a manner not unlike children in the First Grade with “My Little Red Book” of stories (“See Jane run. See Spot run after Jane.”)

To wrap up this little soliloquy- from reflecting upon both “events” last night it occurs to me that we all could probably risk a lot more in the public square to witness to Christ, His Gospel and Kingship over our lives. That shouldn’t be news to any readers here, nor am I suggesting any deficiencies in doing so among us. But yesterday’s gospel in the EF (from Matthew, I think) mentions that if we’re more concerned about our “rainment,” we need to consider the lilies, not even Solomon in all his glory was so adorned.” And as regards “Chant is Not Dead,” I’m mulling over (I’m an idea guy, and a bit of an anarchist) about how we locally could do things like “chant flash mobs?” Maybe at the next season of the symphony in the theatre during admission. Maybe at the St. Paddy’s Parade. Or like a few of us did at Indy before dinner at Buca de Beppo’s (fabulous) restaurant, chanting the blessing before the meal.

Pope Saint John Paul II almost hammered this scripture into the collective catholic conscience in so many addresses- “Be not afraid.” In these troubled times perhaps we should amplify that by capitalizing the “e” as well, BE not afraid. It is an awesome joy to chant our praise and prayer to God. We should share it not only in our parishes but, just maybe, in our daily lives….somehow.

Are our Homilists “actively participating?”

Well, someone has to ask this question now and again occasionally. Being long of tooth and a born curmudgeon, I’ll take the blowback. But I don’t expect much to actually come my way in this life, at least.

To be brutally frank, I’m done, exhausted with, recoil from even reading or hearing this clumsy phrase, “active participation.” Expiating it in Latin ain’t any better, just sayin’.

I’ve never suffered from this malaise personally since crossing the Tiber over four decades ago. I don’t carry a bag of angry cats that, when I walk through the doors of a church, I display as a reason not to take up my responsibility as a worshipper. If in a foreign parish and someone announces a hymn or ordinary setting is to be sung now, I sing it. What else am I supposed to do? I chose to come to church, to worship, in the manner prescribed and fully because I like God, quite a bit actually, and love Him as Christ and enjoy the Spirit’s breath expelled that becomes both text and song in that most sublime of arts.

I noticed young Mr. Yanke’s article published today just before this one, I also saw it on Fr. Keye’s FB entry, so this Fr. Gismondi’s interview must be quite something. I’ll get around to it. Or maybe not.

Because, I’ve disavowed my own personal culpability for other folks’ bag of cats that keep them from full engagement in the greatest act, or drama that we humans can re-create that provides us with true succor and hope in this despairing world.

Besides, if a groaner/moaner about the sorry state of “singing in church” want’s to point a bony finger of indignation towards THE responsible party, I direct them toward the guy in the alb and chasuble. If the celebrant upon at the “presider’s” chair cannot or won’t manage to intone the “In Nomine Patris….” or any other orations as he is virtually disciplined to do in Musicam Sacram, well, I’d be surprised if the entrance hymn sung prior to that moment was lustily taken up by the congregation. (And have all of us who frequent here also had the recurrent thought “Thank God for the choir, bless their hearts” for taking up that slack, such as they are!”?) Because the equation of that mandated wisdom from 1967 (!) is pure simplicity in action, a physics truism even- for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction!

If Father, OTOH, chooses to lead and no matter how humbly or magnificently he chants his proper portions, and the response he receives is the chirping of crickets, Father should grab the processional cross and clear the temple of the rabble who are there for “other” purposes, lock the doors (keeping a server or two) and sing a private Mass honorably.

And, at long last, to the point of the title of this little rant, John I, 1. “In the beginning there was the WORD…..” The homily remains almost a sacrosanct vestigial remnant of a time when people actually had something to say to one another. Whether it was in antiquity with Cicero or St. Paul, St. Francis or Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards or John Adams, or in our lifetimes with names like Churchill, King Jr., Sheen, Ghandi, and their ilk, the act of one inspired soul’s words crafted with conviction and purpose to remind large gatherings of other souls’ to listen, to savor, to digest and to transform themselves through those noble thoughts bravely spoken seems to have all but disappeared from our ambos and pulpits.

From what I know of the historical Jesus, he wasn’t a song and dance sort of guy. He didn’t attract crowds of listeners like Cagney in a top hat crooning “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy.” In the current cycle of Gospel readings we are reminded again and again of the unimaginable power of the story, the parable, the spoken word from a sage to the masses.

So, if we musicians must fret about something as it seems we must always, let us worry about how we can gently and firmly remind our clerical brothers that we choose our repertoire for a reason, we rehearse it thoroughly for a reason, we literally pray that it be taken up or listened to with intent that is pure and unabated by banality or poor improvisation and padding.

Just as every Sanctus sung is literally prefaced with the anamnesis that we are conjoined with choirs of angels IN THAT VERY MOMENT, every homilist ought to re-approach the ambo after the gospel reading as if he is to give the Sermon on the Mount.