Cantate Domino in Ottawa!

Join St. Clement Parish in Ottawa for a Weekend of Sacred Music, November 22 – 23, 2019.

Featuring organist and chant director, David J. Hughes, the workshop begins at 7:30 pm on Friday, November 22 with Vespers, followed by an organ recital.

On Saturday, November 23, the parish will celebrate the Feast of St. Clement with a High Mass at 10:00 am, followed by a Chant Workshop beginning at 11:30 am. The workshop will culminate with 5:00 pm Vespers. Lunch is provided.

Pre-registration is required. Please call 613-281-3766 or email ottawachant@gmail.com to register. The registration cost of only $20/person includes lunch.

St. Clement Parish is located at 528 Old St. Patrick St., Ottawa.

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Seek always the face of the Lord

Fair souls arrive at home at last
Their trials and labors in the past.
What joys transcending joy amaze
When on the face of God they gaze.

The Ancient One upon His throne,
The Son of Man upon His own,
Between Them, Love Himself, the Lord,
Are not by faith, but sight, adored.

The elders praise the One in Three,
Their crowns thrown down upon the sea.
The thrones are borne on cherubim.
The hosts of heaven sound the hymn.

And when the trumpet fills the skies
The human body shall arise,
And eyes that once sought vanity
See, all unveiled, the Trinity.

That day, all mistiness will clear
From taste and touch, from eye and ear,
And those who lived by love and grace
Shall plainly see Him face to face.

c. 2019 Kathleen Pluth

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Franciscus, vir catholicus


Before October is out, here’s an office antiphon in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, sung in a church in northern Italy:

Franciscus, vir catholicus
et totus apostolicus,
Ecclesiae teneri
fidem Romanae docuit,
Presbyterosque monuit
prae cunctis revereri.

Francis, a man Catholic and entirely apostolic,
taught that the faith of the Roman Church be upheld,
and admonished that priests be revered before all.

It’s unusual in that it’s rhymed (aabccb, 887777): for more information about the source in a Franciscan antiphonary, see this page at Boston College Libraries.

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St. Ambrose on St. Agnes

We only have 4 hymns that we know conclusively come from the pen of St. Ambrose,  because the writings of his son St. Augustine attest to them by name. Many others bear his name but are not definitely Ambrosian in authorship.

However, I like to think that the beautiful tribute to an early virgin martyr, Agnes Beatae Virginis, usually attributed to St. Ambrose, is his. It has a certain clarity and declarative vigor that sounds like him. Here is my translation.

The blessed virgin Agnes flies
back to her home above the skies.
With love she gave her blood on earth
to gain a new celestial birth.

Mature enough to give her life,
though still too young to be a wife,
what joy she shows when death appears
that one would think: her bridegroom nears!

Her captors lead her to the fire
but she refuses their desire,
“For it is not such smold’ring brands
Christ’s virgins take into their hands.”

“This flaming fire of pagan rite
extinguishes all faith and light.
Then stab me here, so that the flood
may overcome this hearth in blood.”

Courageous underneath the blows,
her death a further witness shows,
for as she falls she bends her knee
and wraps her robes in modesty.

O Virgin-born, all praises be
to You throughout eternity.
and unto everlasting days
to Father and the Spirit, praise.

 

 

 

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Hymn Tune Introits: A First Step to the Propers for Hymn-Singing Parishes

As the new parish year is about to begin, I thought I would mention again my 2016 booklet published by WLP, Hymn Tune Introits: Singing the Sundays of the Liturgical Year.

Many pastors are aware of the benefits of “singing the Mass,” as opposed to simply singing at Mass. The Church opens the Scriptures to us in many ways at the liturgy, not only through the lectionary, but with particular generosity through the Propers of the Mass.

Over the last two decades the Church in the United States has experienced an historically important publishing explosion in English-language versions of the Propers for use at Mass for the benefit of the People of God. While the Graduale remains the gold standard for singing the Propers, composers such as Paul Ford, Richard Rice, Adam Bartlett, Jeff Ostrowski, Fr. Samuel Weber, Bruce Ford, Aristotle Esguerra, Andrew Motyka, and many others have worked out ways to bring the Proper texts closer to the people, making these wonderfully rich texts available for choir and/or congregational singing. Ben Yanke maintains an enormous database with links of these resources for singing the Propers.

The Hymn Tune Introits go one step further, making the Entrance Antiphon of the day accessible to every congregation in the English-speaking world. 

Every congregation knows at least one Long Meter hymn tune. And every text in this entire book can be sung to that tune.

If a parish knows All People That on Earth Do Dwell, they can sing each of these texts to that tune. They work equally well with the tunes for Creator of the Stars of Night, or Jesus Shall Reign. Or On Jordan’s Bank, Lift Up Your Heads, O Sun of Justice, When I Survey–many others. A lack of musical resources is therefore no obstacle for any parish.

Experience shows that the introduction of Propers can be unsettling for congregations, for two reasons. First, it offers something new, which always causes some initial resistance. Secondly, and this is important, it takes away something the congregation is used to. Of course, the point is precisely the opposite: making the riches of the Mass available to the congregation–but it will not be perceived that way initially, and this is the pastoral problem that the Hymn Tune Introits are designed to solve. Congregations that are accustomed to singing a hymn to begin the Mass, and would be unsettled by any chanted Proper, may much more readily make that transition by singing something that sounds just like a familiar hymn.

Imagine it is Sunday morning, and time for Mass to begin. The organ begins to play, the Entrance Procession begins, and as the musical introduction reaches its conclusion, the people think, “Oh, I know that song!” They pick up their worship leaflets and find the Entrance Chant, and without any rehearsal or fumbling they sing it straight through. The ministers have reached the altar, the organist improvises as the altar is venerated, and the priest reaches his chair.

Alternatively, imagine that a parish that is poor, and between organists, is ready to begin Mass. Someone designated as cantor, or the priest, sings out the first line of the Hymn Tune Introit. Once again, everyone “knows this song,” and all join in.

A “contemporary ensemble” of guitar/piano would have equal success.

For too long, the People of God have been deprived of some of their rightful meditations: those provided for them in the Proper texts of the Mass. I’m happy to be involved in some small way in helping to spread this banquet of the Word of God for the nourishment of all.

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St. John Henry Newman

A glance at some of the observances surrounding the canonization of St. John Henry Newman:

The London Oratory Schola Cantorum sang at Sunday’s canonization Mass in Rome, under the direction of Charles Cole:

Fr. James Bradley of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham appeared on EWTN (Great Britain) in a series of reflections about Newman’s life and importance:

And Mass at the Oratory itself was followed by a solemn Te Deum:

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Metanoia: “Change your mind.”

One can see why theological studies are considered propaedeutic to theology. First learn to think. Then think about God.

In our society at large there is a love of chaos and disorder that both stems from and perpetuates a sloppy philosophy of warmed over Hegel. It creeps into theological thinking. In liturgy studies and spiritual direction, for example, the Paschal Mystery is sometimes reduced to change agency. Dying and rising is applied to everything, including unchanging truths about God and human nature.

Likewise, in Scripture studies, the Old Testament liberation fulfilled in Jesus Christ is often reduced to the rule of the proletariat.

The question, as so often since the Council, is whether the Church is going to lead or follow. Leading does not mean being stuck in the past. The arrow of time moves forward. But leading does mean thinking better, not worse, than society. It means ascending by natural and supernatural means, rather than endlessly circling the drain.

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Pope Francis: take Gregorian chant “as the first model” of sacred music

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Address of the Holy Father Francis to the Scholae Cantorum of the Italian Saint Cecilia Association

Paul VI Audience Hall
Saturday, September 28, 2019

Dear brothers and sisters,

I welcome all of you, the president Monsignor Tarcisio Cola, whom I thank for his words; the Board of Directors, and you, cantors, choir directors, organists, who have come from the various parts of Italy.

You are part of the meritorious Italian Saint Cecilia Association, 140 years old from its foundation and still alive and working and desiring to serve the Church. The affection and esteem of the Pope for this Association are well known, in particular St. Pius X, who gave the people of God a synthesis of teaching on sacred music (cf. Motu Proprio Tra le sollecitudini, November 22, 1903). St. Paul VI wanted you to be renewed and active for a music that is integrated with the liturgy and draws its fundamental characteristics from it. Not just any music, but a holy music, because the rites are holy; adorned with nobility of art, because for God we must give the best; universal, so that everyone can understand and celebrate. Especially, it should be well distinct and different from the music used for other purposes. And he recommended that you cultivate the sensus ecclesiae, discernment of music for the liturgy. He said, “Not everything is valid, not everything is lawful, not everything is good. Here the sacred music must be joined with the beautiful in a harmonious and devout synthesis.” (Discourse to religious women dedicated to liturgical chant, April 15, 1971). Benedict XVI exhorted you to not forget the musical heritage of the past, to renew it and increase it with new compositions.

Dear friends, I too encourage you to continue on this road. To be an Association is a resource: it helps you to generate movement, interest, commitment to better serve the liturgy. An Association that is not the originator or owner of any music, but has love and fidelity to the Church as its program. Together you can devote yourselves better to song as an integral part of the Liturgy, with Gregorian chant inspiring you as the first model. Take care together for artistic and liturgical preparation, and promote the presence of the schola cantorum in every parish community. In fact, the choir guides the assembly, and with its own specific repertoire, is a skilled voice of spirituality, of community, of tradition, and of liturgical culture. I recommend that you help the whole people of God to sing, with conscious and active participation and in the Liturgy. This is important: closeness to the people of God.

The fields of your apostolate are various: the composition of new melodies, promoting chant in seminaries and houses of religious formation; supporting parish choirs, organists, schools of sacred music, and youth. To sing, to play, to compose, to direct, to make music in the Church are among the most things for the glory of God. It is a privilege, a gift of God, to express musical art and aid participation in the divine mysteries. A beautiful and good music is a privileged instrument for approaching the transcendent, and often helps even distracted people understand a message.

I know that your preparation involves sacrifices connected with finding time to devote to practice, with getting people involved, with carrying out feast days when perhaps your friends invite you to come and have fun. So many times! But your dedication to the liturgy and to its music represent a way of evangelization at all levels, from children to adults. The Liturgy is in fact the first “teacher” of catechism. Don’t forget this: the Liturgy is the first “teacher” of catechism.

Sacred music also reveals another duty, that of joining Christian history together: in the Liturgy resound Gregorian chant, polyphony, congregational song, and music of the present day. It is as though all the generations, past and present, were there to praise God, each with its own sensibility. What is more, sacred music and music in general builds bridges, brings people closer, even those far away; it knows no barriers of nationality, ethnicity, skin color, but draws in everyone, in a higher language, and always succeeds in bringing into harmony people and groups, even of very different origins. Sacred music brings people closer, even with brothers to whom we sometimes do not feel close. For this reason, the singing group in every parish is a group where there is an atmosphere of availability and mutual help.

For all of this, dear brothers, I thank you and encourage you. The Lord help you to be constant in your commitment. The Church esteems the service that you present in the community: you help it to feel the attraction of the beautiful, which detoxifies us from mediocrity, lifts us higher, toward God, and unites hearts in praise and in tenderness. I bless you and all the members of the Saint Cecilia Association. May our Lady protect you. And since he who sings prays twice, I trust that you will also pray for me. Thank you!

(translation by RC from the Italian original text, edited)

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