Current and Forthcoming: Laetare



Father of peace,
we are joyful in your Word,
your Son Jesus Christ,
who reconciles us to you.
Let us hasten toward Easter
with the eagerness of faith and love.


O God, who through your Word
reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way,
grant, we pray,
that with prompt devotion and eager faith
the Christian people may hasten
toward the solemn celebrations to come.



Father, you enlighten all who come into the world.
Fill our hearts with the light of your gospel,
that our thoughts may please you,
and our love be sincere.


O God, who enlighten everyone who comes into this world,
illuminate our hearts, we pray,
with the splendor of your grace,
that we may always ponder
what is worthy and pleasing to your majesty
and love you in all sincerity.

Dioceses Taking on the Missal Chants

Janet Gorbitz reports on this weekend’s workshop in Shreveport:

The Diocese of Shreveport, Louisiana’s Office of Worship sponsored a music workshop at the Diocesan Catholic Center this weekend (March 18-19). With presenters from GIA (Gregorian Institute of America, Rob Strusinski), OCP (Oregon Catholic Press, Louis Canter), WLP (World Library Publications, Alan Hommerding) and CMAA (Janet Gorbitz), the attendees had the opportunity to hear many new Mass settings for the new Roman Missal translation. Dianne Rachal, the Director of the Office of Worship, was the epitome of southern hospitality, welcoming us with graciousness, comfort and good food.

Bishop Michael Duca gave a short welcome to all attendees on Saturday morning, encouraging those present to embrace the new changes and asking them to work together with the priests to make it possible to sing more parts of the Mass. During the two-day workshop, about 50-60 attendees from the region had the opportunity to sing through several different settings from each of the publishers and were given sample copies of some of the new music that will be available.

The CMAA portion of the workshop was focused on the new Missal chants that are provided free of charge at the ICEL website, as well as musical resources for singing the Mass propers in English. The attendees sang through the new Mass ordinaries, including the Credo III, with ease. They also sang Proper antiphons that are part of the Adam Bartlett’s Simple Propers project and were able to also learn about Chabanel Responsorial Psalms, including one composed by Arlene Oost-Zinner.

A short discussion of CMAA’s efforts to aid church musicians in their quest to make the liturgy more beautiful included the use of the Parish Book of Chant. The attendees were given a very short tutorial on the reading of “square-note” notation and sang a couple of chant hymns in Latin from the Parish Book of Chant during the session.

With the new resources for the proper antiphons in English freely available, the new Missal translation implementation can mark a new era in parish liturgical music in the coming years. Once again, we can all be thankful for the generosity of our Catholic composers who are sharing their work with the Church. Workshops such as this one are great places to get information and music into the hands of more church musicians.

The Tides

In a topic thread over at MusicaSacraForum, “What did you sing/hear on Ash Wednesday,” it appears that within our own fairly insular community the “Pair o’ dimes” (chant and solemnity) continue to roll with ever-increasing momentum. From Portugal, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Dallas, Tucson, South Carolina, Ohio, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Australia, and many more locales, the shift is afoot and evident to me as never before. The orders of music indicate clearly that the efforts of CMAA and other such advocates have taken root, evidenced by citations of authorship in which, beyond the GR/GS standards, the works of Rice, Ostrowski, OostZinner, Bartlett, Weber, Page, Ford(s), Koerber are more frequently listed than those of Haas, Haugen, Farrell, Inwood and Walker. Add, of course, the great corpus of works by composers of antiquity also listed on these ordos for a weekday, non-obligatory Mass, and there’s a lot to read in those tea leaves. And I think this turn is likely best signified by the implied acceptance and participation of the faithful PIPs whose wagons are hitched to our own.

In this article I’d like to share my impressions of the pulse of my parish liturgies at this moment. As the DM, my reflection is surely biased, and I’m sure there’s folks here in our neck o’ the woods who’d just as soon panhandle me all the way to Oklahoma, but I’m optimistic of late. Optimism hasn’t ever suited me well, very little suits me well lately, but I digress. I always enjoy being a cheery sort of fellowe, but I’m feeling, well…hope-filled and optimistic!

As I mentioned, in our CenCA parish, I lead the music for our parochial school. On AW, for the second year, the school students and community, along with a goodly number of parishioners in attendance, sang and chanted all selections without accompaniment. Our Friday school liturgies certainly don’t aspire to the Cathedral School of the Madleine in SLC, Utah, but they’re done well by all, the repertoire isn’t narrow nor dumbed down. I make specific and strategic lesson plans that provide kids with a demonstrable understanding of the form and performance of chant as well as hymnody and song. But on AW I led from an ambo on the Epistle side rather than from my usual station in the music transept area. So, I could really see and hear the effect of a capella singing from all, especially the kids. Our pastor and principal vicar do chant their orations, and the kids are prepared to respond enthusiastically. So, should the celebrant or I sing a “curveball” of a simple Kyrie, no one’s thrown for a loop and what is presented to them is sung back naturally and with confidence.

And this was the “affect” of our AW “school Mass,” no matter whether what was being sung was Bob Hurd’s quite chantable “Out into the wilderness” or “Stabat Mater” which the kids would again sing in Latin for stations the following Friday. I think the view meter on my optimism began to approach the red zone when I taught the kids the new ICEL Gloria in English, and we employed it (shhh) on a feast day of a martyred saint.

Then, for a check of cognition, I had them read the corresponding Gloria in Latin from the Parish Book of Chant, and light bulbs appeared over all their heads, in each of the grades!

Now, I’d like to share with you how I’m reading the pulse of the parish at large after First Sunday, Lent. Unlike AW’s Mass, we weren’t going to sing a capella at either the schola or the ensemble Masses. However, I’d informed those choirs and the rest of music ministry leadership among our three parishes that Masses at which I direct music, the use of the PA system and any amplification (save that of the Rodgers organ) would be dismissed for the season. I didn’t mandate that for the other leaders and their choirs, I just begged their awareness of considering some sort of demonstrable “fast” for their operations during Lent.

Wendy had taken it upon herself, chant intensive veteran she now is, to teach and lead the schola with Mass XVII ordinary movements. I hardly ever “rehearse” a congregation on anything, but yesterday begged their indulgence to learn and respond with the “eleison” portion of the Kyrie. And, even though we normally sing Kyrie VIII through the year, it’s always been accompanied by the organ. Well, XVII is being chanted, period.

And it CAME TO PASS (that’s my Charleton Heston cybervoice.) When Wendy intoned the responsorial from Alstott’s R&A, we established its tempo to move more fluidly than the “okay” stoic 4/4 it’s set as. That worked nicely as well. And then, ahem, after the Epistle, as the celebrant stood, the people followed, yours truly chanted Aristotle Esquerra’s vernacular (based upon Qui habitat) tract as the deacon moved to the Altar, possessed the Book of the Gospels and processed to the ambo. B’bye to 1-1-2-2-3-3-3….2-2-3-2-1-1………….forevah, and evah….oh wait, it’s still Lent.

I won’t bore you, dear reader (should you’ve stayed with me thus far,) with more detail. The Sanctus and Agnus of XVII was heaven on earth. Next week we help the PIPs with “Miserere nobis.” We sang Rice’s SCG homophonic “Man does not eat upon bread alone” and “Attende Domine” during Communion, and concluded this Mass’s singing with a lovely arrangement of “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley.” Trust me, it worked fine. And after the chanted “ite Missa est” our vicar recessed down the center aisle to absolute, reverent silence. It was the loudest silence I’d ever heard in 17 plus years here. And no one scurried, yakked, bustled as soon as the processional cross and entourage passed them by. Something had happened, I thought as we all stood there in this magnificent silence.

Later in the day we held the Rite of Election for our deanery. We don’t bring out the special forces like we used to for this, just Wendy, our organist and myself. But with all of the catechumens and candidates, sponsors and others from two counties, the normal “catholic” buzz of white noise conversations hummed for twenty minutes prior. That is until I started chanting Bruce Ford’s TAG Introit, “He shall call upon me” (Invocabit me, Mode 8.) Again, I cannot recall that a disparate congregation has ever suddenly ceased and desisted their concerns so noticeably before, and took in the chanting with a respectful silence. The rest of the Rite was pro forma (Kingsfold Entrance…etc. psalm, a setting of the Lenten G.A. I composed, no dismissal music.

But I’m feeling very 7Up this morning. Hope you all are as well.

And may our prayers sung to the heights of heaven for the Japanese people struggling to hold onto their lives and well being, and for those souls who have passed through the veil to eternity, reach the ears of our God, our Creator and Father, who is all knowing, all mercy and is Love, through Christ our Lord, amen.

Julian Green, Liturgical Reform and Our Spiritual Combat

Like all American Francophiles, I love books written by expats living in Paris. So you can imagine my delight to discover, on my last trip to the City of Lights, the bilingual book simply entitled Paris by Julien Green. It’s the kind of travel guide which makes you beg for an auto-da-fe to cast Rick Steves and the Lonely Planet people headlong into, because it is the rare work, like Georgina Masson’s Rome, which is an experience and not just a series of lists with vapid sound-bites. Julien Green is not a household name for most Americans, not even for those of us who are connoisseurs of Catholic literature. This remarkable writer was born in 1900 in Paris to parents from Savannah, Georgia, better known for Flannery O’Connor (tip of the biretta at the Holy Name). He was also the first foreigner elected to the prestigious Academie Francaise – an American! Green managed to channel that languid Southern prose most of us know only via Pat Conroy into the crisp idiom of a modern French which made him a noted literary figure in Paris, where he lived most of his adult life. He also continued to use that delightful tense of passé simple long after it was cast into the oubliettes of history, and for all of that still managed to capture a very contemporary audience. (One wonders why he was not asked to collaborate to translate the Roman Missal into French!)

At 16, after his domineering and controlling mother died, Green followed his father into the Catholic Church. After a brief stint as a soldier during World War I, he studied at the University of Virginia. Shortly after, his star appeared in the French literary firmament. He abandoned the Faith for a brief period of time, choosing Buddhism as a means of escaping what he felt to be Catholicism’s rigid morality. But he soon came back to the Faith.

Like that other famous literary convert, Graham Greene, he will probably never be canonized. As one of those people who never left a thought unpublished, between his novels and his nine-volume journal, he engaged in a spiritual battle over his passions so intense that its very Gallic transparency strikes the most hedonistic Anglo-Saxon as frankly exhibitionistic. But unlike other bon-vivants of the 19th and 20th centuries with religious obsessions and sexual issues, he did not wait until the end to live as a Catholic, like Oscar Wilde, nor did he abandon himself to grotesque identity politics and thirst for ecclesiastical revolution, like Andre Gide. None of his novels will be part of a book club for homeschooling moms at an SSPX chapel. And I daresay no red-blooded American man could stomach reading more than a few pages of them.

Green remained, despite his perpetual spiritual and moral anguish, a convinced Catholic. Having read Pascal, he imbibed some of the rigorism of Jansenism which probably exacerbated a sensitive conscience. But he was always aware of the reality of the body and soul composite that is man, and realized the futility of dualist temptations to pretend that one can have purity of soul without purity of the body. He also knew that the “thorn in his flesh” was something which would be put to rest and healed only in the resurrected body in heaven, and that the supernatural life of the sacraments in the Church alone could get him there.

Green also realized that tremendous paradox of life in the Church, that its holiness is proved, not by its saints, but by its perseverance amidst sin. As he wrote in an ironically titled work, Pamphlet Against the Catholics, “It is not the saints that one has to talk about if one is to prove the sanctity of the Church. It’s bad priests and popes. A Church governed by saints continues on, that’s normal and human. But a Church that can be governed by villains and imbeciles, and still continue, that is neither normal nor human.” Green’s intensely lived struggles, lived openly through his literature, and his devout frequentation of the sacraments, caused Jacques Maritain to declare that he was a mystic. For Green, the true mystic, the true man, was St Francis, “God’s fool” as he entitled a book dedicated to the saint. That encounter with Christ, which was the true reality which allowed man to transcend the struggle between flesh and spirit, came through the humanity of Christ which gave man access to Divinity via the sacraments.

Green’s profoundly sacramental humanism, if we can call it that, conditioned his reaction to the way the sacraments came to be celebrated after the Second Vatican Council. One would expect that this master of the French language and celebrant of sacramental realism would have welcomed the liturgical reform. When he first heard French used for the Psalms at Tenebrae on Good Friday in 1956, he wrote, “Psalms mooed as if by cows in French . . . How can Catholics not revolt against such ugliness? One bitterly misses the Latin of former times”. As the reforms progressed and the liturgy took on what to him were more Protestant characteristics, he and his sister Mary, also a convert, suffered intensely. He once wrote to her, “Why did we even convert?”

Green’s biographer Anthony Newbury suggests that, for Green, the “solitude of the individual with his conscience as unique authority” that was Protestantism was simply untenable. Green needed a Church with “real authority” so he felt he actually had a place other than the tortured one of his own conscience. If Newbury is right, it indicates why Green suffered the apparent Protestantization of the liturgy as a real crisis of faith. But the Frenchman clung to his faith until his death in 1998, and continued to explore in his later novels the crass sexualization of a world in which conscience has been emptied of its ties to the sacraments and to true religion.

Green’s reaction to the liturgical reform is very instructive. He did not reject the post-conciliar liturgy because he was a decadent aesthete or a nostalgic stick-in-the-mud. He rejected the deformation of the liturgy because he foresaw its disastrous consequences in the moral realm. One of the byproducts of vernacular liturgy in the post-Vatican II Church has been a didacticism which borders on pedantry. At its best, the didactic liturgy becomes a vehicle for teaching which, while orthodox, preaches moral rectitude in conformity with the ethical teachings of the Church, but comes across as little more than moralizing and preaching at people. At its worst, it strips the real authority of the Church in the moral sphere of any imaginative ability to inspire people to live a life worthy of the Mystery to which the liturgy and faith call them.

The dramatic situation in which we find ourselves today finds orthodox Catholics calling out for clear teaching on sexual morality and life issues to challenge the hedonism of our day. But if the faith is reduced merely to the observance of a moral code, and liturgy to explaining how to observe it, that faith will not be able to dialogue with anyone except those who are already convinced and opens itself up to Pharisaism. (This is incidentally a point that Pope Benedict makes in his new book). A Julian Green could be inspired to struggle against his passions and cling to Christ, not because of moralizing from the pulpit, but by entering into those beautiful Prayers over the People from the Lenten liturgies of the Roman Mass, which gave him hope that he could, by prayer, fasting and works of mercy, create a space in his heart where God could take Him up into Himself, where Love would find him.

The restoration of the sacred in the liturgy is a must. Clear teaching on the moral life is a must. But if the way of the disciple is not to be highjacked by self-righteousness, that moral teaching must be expressed not by the lips of us sinners, but in the beauty and the transcendence of the sacred liturgy.

I have known many young men and women like Julian Green in my parishes. They come from a world which hates everything the Church stands for in the culture wars. They come because they think the Catholic Church will give them something more. That desire does not keep them from falling into sin, or being tempted. But they come. They want a real place where they can live besides the dreary world and their own weak consciences. A banal liturgy, clerical officiousness, and a poorly formulated moral teaching cloaked in crusader talk will extinguish the pale flame of faith that has been lit in them. But if we trust in the power of Christ acting through the sacraments, through a liturgy celebrated according to the real authority of the true religion and in all of its transcendent beauty, that flame will burst into a fire which will consume them with zeal.

His whole life, Julian Green struggled to master himself and convert to Christ in whom he found authentic love. He was not always successful in his quest, but he held fast to a faith which is real and true because it is not from mortal flesh and human spirit. He was able to do so because of his experience of the true religion, the power of the sacraments, and heavenly liturgy. His works are difficult reads, because they expose the deep fault lines of the spiritual combat. They are as uncomfortable as the Lenten penances which train us for that war against princes and principalities. But for all of that, they are also profoundly Catholic, not because they show the saint in the apotheosis of glory, but because they show what sinful humanity is capable of when assumed by the LORD of glory.

Winter Chant Intensive NOLA 2011 – A View from Upstairs…

The following is an article written by my wife, Wendy.
As tomorrow’s date includes the celebration of our wedding anniversary, I would like to take a moment to encourage all of us who assist the Faithful with their musical worship to also celebrate and honor our spouses and partners in life who generally do the “both/and” tasks of supporting us with our domestic and family concerns as well as often directly bolstering our musical enterprises with their amazing talents.

Many readers are familiar with my husband, Charles, who spends time with his colleagues here in the Chant Café discussing, with devotion, our Holy Mother Church and her liturgy. I am an estate administration paralegal by profession but have had the joy of working beside my husband in the ministry of pastoral music since 1974.

This year, after attending two Colloquium and listening to Charles’ experience at Chant Intensive in San Diego two years ago, I decided to join the many others this past week in New Orleans in the Beginning chant seminar offered by Scott Turkington. Approaching the seminar facility – a two story building nestled in the courtyard behind the rectory of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, it seemed only fitting that those of us beginning our study of chant, its history and performance, its prayer, ascended two flights of stairs to spend a week learning from our instructor and, often, being supported from below by the strains of chant melody sung by the Advanced seminar members led by Dr. William Mahrt (Charles included…). The week passed in that manner…ascending to learn, descending to reflect and to join with the other seminar attendees to share experiences and, finally, to sing at the solemn celebration of the Mass for Epiphany with Benediction and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. What a glorious week!

Our beginning group gathered from Canada to California, Minnesota to New Mexico, and was made up of professional directors and brand new volunteer directors seeking tools to use in locating repertoire and teaching their choirs; cantors and choir members (new members and experienced members); seminarians, deacons and priests, all there to invest themselves in the beauty of chant as clergy; together with new Catholics without musical backgrounds seeking the beauty of their new faith in the ancient chant of the Church…all of us, together, hoping to gain an understanding of the neumes and nuances of modes and the ictus, propers and ordinaries, solfeggio and lonely punctums, psalm tones and chironomy…word accents…all elements illuminated through Scott’s expertise and dedication.

Ascending those stairs for each session brought all of us into the presence of a master teacher…Scott saw each of us at our ability level and need and was able, in a room of 35-40 individuals, to gather us into the one voice of the chant melody with care and confidence, humor (“Oh…listen to the semiologists downstairs…” Scott would quip) and challenges! Each aspect of chant study was accompanied by authoritative references to Solemnes masters and historical writings, anecdotes offered by Scott from his personal experience of Gregorian chant study and his own writings which informed the instruction along the way. Scott conducted through our stumblings and rejoiced in our successes as we learned Mass IX, the Introit and Communion antiphon for Epiphany, the Te Deum Laudamus and other chants for the Friday celebrations.

Our Beginning seminar, now a familiar ensemble, descended the steps of St. Patrick’s last Friday to take up our journeys with and through Gregorian chant in our own communities. For my part, I have given up Sudoku to spend time with a pencil (with eraser!), my PBC (Parish Book of Chant) and Gregorian Missal, and the rules of chant worksheets now rough-edged and worn. There with me, as I pour over the 2s and 3s and liquescents, is Scott with his smile, lifted palate and pitch to voice the Great Song at the heart of our worship. Deo gratias!

Thank you, Scott, for everything. See you, and hopefully many of our Beginning seminar members, at Colloquium in Pittsburgh!

PS from Charles:

The blue skies above the Gothic beauty of St. Patrick’s, the Pro-Cathedral of New Orleans, attest to the notion of recovery and clarity, after tumult and devastation, both things that our liturgy and NOLA/Gulf States residents have experienced accutely over the last number of years. But as is stated in Chant Café’s mission statement excerpted from St. Augustine, “singing is for those who love.”
Happy Anniversary, my beloved Wendy.

The Secular and the Sacred in Alabama…

And for once an appropriate time for marching tunes and party music! Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, won the national college football championship this evening.

It doesn’t usually snow in Auburn, but it did this past weekend. Most of the town didn’t mind having to take a snow day, as everyone was preparing for the tonight’s game against the University of Oregon.

Auburn, for those of you who wonder what the connection is with the CMAA, lies smack-dab in the middle of the Bible Belt. It is just a charming town to live and work in: forward-looking, yet always grounded in gentility. A college town that loves its football team. The best of the old South thrives in Auburn, the city that hosts the CMAA programs office, and has one Catholic church – where the St. Cecilia Schola sings Gregorian and English propers weekly at the 7:45am Mass. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.

More from the City of Auburn website:

One of the City of Auburn’s most recognizable landmarks, Toomer’s Corner is at the intersection of College Street and Magnolia Avenue in the heart of the City of Auburn. With Toomer’s Drugs, an Auburn landmark since 1896, facing what has since 1856 been the anchoring corner of Auburn’s campus, Toomer’s Corner is the nexus of campus and city life. [Toomer’s Corner is about a block away from the CMAA office.]

The Toomer’s Corner webcam affords a view of the twin, century-old oak trees which have celebrated Auburn’s spirit with countless thousands of revelers who have engaged in the long-standing tradition of “rolling Toomer’s Corner”, a celebration occurring after every significant Auburn sports victory.

Here’s a link to the webcam. Take a look at our fair city this evening and enjoy – revelry is expected until the wee hours.

And here is what things usually look like at Toomer’s Corner:

War Eagle! Now back to Psalm setting, program planning, and the rest of real life.

National Catholic Youth Choir Auditions

The choir is currently accepting high school student applications until March 7, 2011.

About the choir. . .

The National Catholic Youth Choir was founded in 2000. The choir is sponsored by Saint John’s School of Theology·Seminary and meets on the grounds of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota. The choir began under the motto Spreading the Catholic Faith Through Great Music as a response to the call of Pope John Paul II for a “new evangelization.” The choir sings music of various Christian traditions, ranging from medieval Gregorian chant to twentieth-century music and is led by world renowned choral conductor, Dr. Axel Theimer. The primary focus of the choir is liturgical, and the choir seeks to implement the directive of Vatican Council II that the “treasury of sacred music” be preserved and fostered in the modern liturgy.

Up to 45 students entering grades 10, 11, and 12 from across the United States are selected to participate in the choir based on written applications, formal recommendations, and recorded auditions. The two week summer camp generally takes place the last two weeks in June and includes extensive choir rehearsals; repertoire–based classes in religion, music theory, and music history, recreation, recording a CD, daily worship and prayer (Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament). They worship together as a group with the Benedictine monks on campus and with the Benedictine sisters in nearby St. Joseph and conclude each day by singing Compline. The choristers also receive cantor training as encouragement for musical ministry in their home parishes and throughout their adult life.

Camp also includes a multi state concert tour. In past years the choir has sung in several cities in Minnesota and Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Michigan, Indiana, and Georgia.

For more information about the choir and to view photo galleries go here.

Music Workshop in the Diocese of Shreveport

Janet Gorbitz, CMAA Secretary, will be presenting on Saturday afternoon, February 5. The new translation and the music pertaining to it are the focus of the workshop, which is open to all. Other presenters include representatives of OCP, GIA, and World Library Publications. Janet will be discussing the missal chants and the CMAA’s Simple Propers project in particular. Here is the flyer.