Give Chant a Chance

A new school year is just around the corner, and the bright young children will soon be sitting in their uniforms in our Catholic schools.

Now is the time to give them access to their hereditary music as Catholics: Gregorian chant.

Mary Ann Carr Wilson has surely taught two hundred young chanters this summer in her hugely successful summer Chant Camps, and although not everyone can travel to California for this experience, everyone can do something.

  • Begin with the presidential chants, even if only a recto tono (sung on one not) “The Lord be with you/ And with your spirit.”
  • From there, sing the simplest chant ordinary, the Jubilate Deo Mass, which, as Pope Paul wrote, should be learned by all Catholics.
  • From there, sing a Psalm at Communion instead of a hymn. And from there, the sky is the limit.

Meanwhile, in classrooms, teach the children how to sing and how to read Gregorian chant. It will be good for them in every way, from posture to general liberal arts learning to contemplation.

It’s always easy to think that kids will like the easiest music. But the single-voiced unharmonized music of chant, besides being perfectly age-appropriate, is genius composition, and will foster a love of music that will last a lifetime.

Reflections on the Most Blessed Trinity

At a First Mass of Thanksgiving this past Sunday, the homilist, a Professor of Homiletics, joked to the new priest, “This is the last homily you will ever hear.” While that is a slight exaggeration, the fact is that most priests rarely enjoy the interactive learning experience of hearing other priests preach.

Until now, that is. The digital age makes access to excellent preaching easy and free.

For the last three evenings, a parish priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Fr. Christopher Pollard, has preached stunningly beautiful–and true–exemplary homilies on the sign of the cross.

Links are listed below in order, and the whole set, and more, can be found here.

Authority of Faith
Courage to Hope
Fire of Love

Sacred Heart Mass

Here in the greater DC area, you could hardly open a car door last night without bumping into a Missa Cantata for the Feast of Corpus Christi.

This, however, is unique to my knowledge–and will be wonderful! Here is the music list.

“A Revival of New Catholic Initiatives”

I attended a fascinating lecture the other day about a junior naval officer, later an admiral, who really knew how to make waves. (¡Hagan lio!) The solution was simple and obviously important, a technological and tactical improvement that would revolutionize the accuracy of naval gunnery. The trouble was, how to make a change in a bureaucracy?

It’s always the same in war, isn’t it? Generals fight today’s battles with tomorrow’s technology–and yesterday’s tactics. Ranking officers would prefer not to hear suggestions. Junior officers are afraid to speak. Losses due to a simple lack of candor can be astonishing.

In the Church, since apostolic times, there has been a tension–often ultimately fruitful–between structure and charism. Both structure and charism are God’s will for the Church and the work of the Holy Spirit. In fact, administration is itself a charism. And Jesus Christ personally instituted the hierarchy.

In light of these structural realities, it is often necessary to take deliberate steps to open up listening processes. New initiatives will at first seem impractical or even impossible, and due to the inertia inherent in institutions, quite likely undesirable.

In his interview book Light of the World with Peter Seewald, Pope Benedict spoke in a way that might at first glance seem more, shall we say, Franciscan:

“Less clearly but nevertheless unmistakably, we find here in the West, too, a revival of new Catholic initiatives that are not ordered by a structure or a bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is spent and tired. These initiatives come from within, from the joy of young people.”

Ironically enough, one of the first things that can happen with a fresh initiative is that it can become a new rule, a new codified structure. This is what has happened with ecclesial music, for example. Once the first fellow got out on stage with his guitar, it was basically all over for chant.

And thus today’s fresh new initiatives are often recovery efforts, finding the best kinds of service and evangelization, the best sources and methods of Catholic teaching, the best kinds of art, architecture, and music, and bringing them to new life. Often this happens with a certain struggle. A parish or diocesan initiative having to do with chant will have an infinitely more difficult time getting started than one involving a guitar and piano combo, despite the obvious failure of Elvis-era outreach, and despite the clear teaching of the Second Vatican Council on chant’s primacy in our Liturgy.

So the way forward, it seems to me, has a lot to do with thinking. We want to do what is best and most appropriate for both “vertical” and “horizontal” reasons, without a lot of inertia.

What are the next steps?