Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Vatican Liturgical Calendar

An interesting find while browsing the Vatican website...the Liturgical Year Calendar.

Other than being easy to use and full of useful information, it has a rather striking feature...musical selections for each season! No Haas-Haugen here...this is an all Chant-Polyphony program, complete with MP3's for the selections from the Sistine Choir and Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music and, get this, recordings of the Formularies for each Sunday for use by Priests. Wow!

Give it a look...

Benedictine Arrangement Sighting.....

Bishop Frank Dewane incenses the altar at the Cathedral of the Epihpany in Venice Florida...note the very prominent Benedictine Arrangement of the altar...

Truly beautiful....

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And Now...A Word from the Prophets

"At various times and in various different ways, God spoke through the prophets, saying I know the plans I have in mind for you: plans for peace, not disaster."

As we head into this new year, may all things tend towards peace!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Looking at some new information about an issue of great interest to me. It is causing me to question everything I'm hearing from conventional sources on this issue. I'm excited because it (at least partially) re-affirms my views on this issue, but then I'm suspicious because even though this information is literally, "from the source", it is a bit contrary to what I've heard this same source say in the past on this very same issue.

Making phone calls, sending e-mails and asking questions right now trying to figure it out.

The issue is a proposed "catechetical program" for Pastoral Musicians and Priests that could be part of the implementation program for the new translation of the Missal. If you have any information...heard any rumors...or know anything about this program (or perhaps another program out there?) and would like to share what you know, please feel free to comment.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Simple Solution

This appeared today in the Catholic World News summary:

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have warned members of Parliament that a pending “equality bill” could create a crisis for the Catholic Church, because the legislation appears to demand equal opportunity for women and homosexuals to become priests. The legislation would exempt the Church if priests could be shown to spend most of their time either leading acts of worship or teaching Catholic doctrine. Otherwise, priests would be considered “employees,” and covered by the terms of the act, which prohibits discrimination against women, homosexuals, and others. The bishops, in a briefing, said that the bill could make it “unlawful to require a Catholic priest to be male, unmarried, or not in a civil partnership.”

And so it says...The legislation would exempt the Church if priests could be shown to spend most of their time either leading acts of worship or teaching Catholic the solution would be what?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Ultimate Parish Council

This on Catholic World News...

In a newly published book, Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels advances a proposal for a “papal council”—a group of senior prelates who would advise the Pope on key issues. This council would not hold any juridical power, the cardinal proposes, but would have “great moral authority.”

Cardinal Danneels—who has long a favorite of liberal Catholics—makes the proposal in a book based on a series of interviews, in which he recalls his 30 years as the leading Catholic figure in Belgium. Cardinal Danneels released the book as he prepares to leave his post. Now 76 years old, he has submitted his resignation, and told reporters that he expects to be replaced early next year.

The cardinal’s book, Confidences d’un cardinal, carries a preface by Herman Van Rompuy, the former Belgian prime minister who took office this week as the first president of the European Union.

OK... is there anybody who thinks this would be a good idea? Does the term "Council of Elders" come to mind? Would we have to re-name all Catholic Churches worldwide something like "St. Mary's Catho-Methodist Episcopal Church"?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Why Contemporary Liturgical Music will Prevail

As we move forward as Church into the future, a future that will bring us a new translation of the Mass texts and all of the problems that will, no doubt be associated with having to accept new words to express our faith, a faith that has been eloquently expressed for the past 40 years in the cherished and beloved translation that has been used by an entire generation of Catholic faithful…as we move forward as Church into that future, no question is more important than what music will be used to express these new words of our faith, difficult and less eloquent though they be. Will there be a lurch back towards forcing the faithful to rehash the music of the past, in a language that they can’t understand without the accompaniments and instruments that they have come to expect and love? Or will there be a bold move to “sing a new Church into being” with a new music that expresses our aspirations as Church?

I am convinced that it will be the latter, and for strong and demonstrable reasons. Two reasons actually: superior texts and superior music. It’s as simple as that. Because the reason for considering this question at all is the upcoming translation that we will soon be made to accept into our worship, the question of musical texts should be considered as primary.

Although the music that had been used in Catholic worship for nearly 2000 years may seem to have at least some attachment to the liturgy (recall though, that this music was actually Contemporary music in the early Church!), there are some very obvious shortcomings that make it inappropriate for praising God today! Although the authors of many of these texts, even those drawn directly from scripture, are unknown to us, those texts for which there are attributions are most often known to have been composed by one of the so-called “Doctors of the Church” or other “Church Fathers”… men like Thomas Aquinas, Francis of Assisi and Cyprian of Carthage… certainly great men in their own regard, but men with little experience in living the faith as we do. Their Latin words may have a deep meaning for those who were in the Church throughout history, but what about for those who are Church now? For such people as we are today, we need texts that speak to us from our own experiences.

The music of our time, on the other hand, brings a refreshed spirituality and new sense of meaning to our common prayer. As the Fathers of Vatican II removed the barrier of Latin completely from the liturgy* a wealth of new texts were composed and continue to be composed, not by some Church Fathers from long ago who spent their days isolated from real life in a Monastery, but by real people who live the faith daily within our own experience. Text-writers who, like you and I, work for large commercial publishing companies and who experience the aspirations of the faithful in their travels around the country as they host workshops and attend sales conventions which bring this music within our reach.

Many of these text-writers have the added experience of having been Priests or religious Brothers and Sisters at one time, but who have gained the additional experience of living the life of the lay faithful by renouncing their vocations and going on to live lives of humble example, some as owners of their own Catholic publishing companies, others expressing their diversity through collaboration with their life-partners on new texts and music that bring their experiences into our prayer life. The difference that the sum of these experiences makes in the worthiness of texts can be clearly seen by comparison of two texts for the Vigil of Christmas, one an old worship text, the other a new worship text:

Old Worship Text:

Today you will know
that the Lord is coming to save us;
and tomorrow you will see his glory.

O Shepherd of Israel, hear us;
you who lead Joseph like a flock,
and who are enthroned upon the Cherubim;
we beseech you to appear
before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.

Tomorrow the sin of the land will be destroyed,
and the Savior of the world
will establish over us his kingdom.

O Princes! Lift up your gates;
be lifted high, O eternal gates,
and the King of Glory shall make his entry!

New Worship Text:

Who would think that what was needed
to transform and save the earth
might not be a plan or army,
proud in purpose, proved in worth?
Who would think, despite derision
that a child should lead the way?
God surprises earth with heaven,
coming here on Christmas day.

Centuries of skill and science
span the past from which we move,
yet experience questions whether,
with such progress we improve.
While the human lot we ponder
lest our hopes and humor fray
coming here on Christmas day.

Text: John L. Bell, b.1949
Tune: SCARLET RIBBONS, 8.7 8.7 English traditional arr. John H Bell b. 1949
©1987, Iona Community, GIA Publications Inc. sole agent

The relevance of the new worship text to elements of our lived experience – armies, derision, skill, science, self-doubt, surprise – these speak to us of the coming of Christ in ways that the older text cannot possibly hope to with its older, Latinate images. This is an excellent example of how a contemporary text can enrich our prayer lives and allow us to go forth from our community and “bring the word to all nations” as we are called to by the Spirit of Vatican II.**

But while texts are perhaps primary, it is the musical settings themselves which give voice to Word and make the texts our own. The bold proclamation of the Second Vatican Council to move past the musical constraints of Gregorian Chant have allowed the development of music particularly suited to the depth of contemporary texts.*** So unique and precious are these settings that an elaborate system of legal protections have been developed to avoid any detractions or modifications of them by less experienced but perhaps well meaning parish musicians, and to allow them to serve the additional purpose of recordings, concerts and other entertainment uses.

The old chant settings, of course, had no need for such protection as they were generally confined to Catholic worship and had no entertainment value. This duality of purpose highlights the greater suitability of contemporary music for worship.
A simple comparison of two examples, one of the old fashioned liturgical style and one of a more contemporarily relevant setting can easily demonstrate to the listener which sounds more like a meaningful clothing of God’s Word, or other words as is the case in the second more relevant example.

Old Fashioned Example:

Christe Redemptor

Contemporary Example:

Trading My Sorrows

It’s difficult to imagine how the contemporary ear would even be able to connect the first example to something sacred, let alone worship! The enthusiastic response of the audience that can be heard in the recording of the contemporary example also gives further credence to the argument that this is obviously the music more suited to prayer and reflection.

And so, as I asked at the beginning of this examination; which music is the more likely to remain with our faith into the future? As we approach with some hesitation, and perhaps some mild dread, the abrupt and unprecedented changing of our beloved worship texts, we can at least feel comforted that the musical style that will give voice to our aspirations, that will build our collective spirit as Church, will be contemporary. With demonstrably superior text-writing and clearly audible musical dominance, the contemporary “genre” will prevail…of that we can be sure!

*Many have made the claim that Sacrosanctum Concilium 36.1 – “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites” can be somehow interpreted to mean that the Latin language is to be preserved in our worship services. This can be easily shown to be false since no Latin is used in our worship, and as such it is wrong to claim that we celebrate a “Latin Rite”.

** Zeal for this particular mandate of the Council has been so great that many faithful, filled with the Spirit, now fight to get out to the parking lot first so that they may immediately begin living their faith, energized by the powerful message of contemporary texts such as that given in the above example.

***Again, many have made the claim that Sacrosanctum Concilium #116 – “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services” as meaning that Chant should be given pride of place in the Mass. This is obviously a misleading directive since there is no chant in the Mass, and so it apparently applies to other liturgical services such as the Sung Divine Office like you might hear at a monastery or other non-church location.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Watch for it...

The forces that want to stop the now-unstoppable forward motion of liturgical reform are in a panic. They have resorted to a hearsay "populism" (most people think...nobody wants...etc...etc..) to try and stop the movement now that the new translation is assuredly on its way and at least a tentative date has been given for the day when all parishes will begin using it.

The efforts have been targeted at the Bishops for the last several years. Now that has failed, and the final front in this lost war is with the Catholic faithful themselves...convincing them that they don't want a new translation which they know nothing about except what the opponents tell them. We will see polls about the lack of support for it. We will see polls about people's satisfaction with the current translation (who wouldn't be "satisfied" with a translation they've used for 40 years?). The effort will be made to appeal to the same principle as was demonstrated in Summorum Pontificum, where those who prefer the 1962 Missal are allowed to freely use the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. The cry will go out to allow the use of the old translation for those who are "attached" to it. Mark my words.

Our love of democracy runs deep in the United States, and one of the conflicts increasingly presented to American Catholics is the necessary realization that democracy has no place in faith, at least not in this way. We cannot "vote" on what is right, and it is not our "right as Catholics" to have a voice in forming Church doctrine. The Bishop, or Pastor or Priest that continues to appeal to "what the people want", whether it's about the new translation or any other facet of reform for that matter, will eventually find themselves trapped in a hole from which there is no escape... a hole that leads them, and their faithful, further and further away.

Friday, November 20, 2009

And the Survey Says....

This week saw the final passage of the last section of the new translation of the Missale Romanum by the USCCB at their Synod in Baltimore. There was some drama surrounding the final vote (see HERE), but in the end it was passed nearly unanimously and now proceeds to Rome for any final changes to be made by the Holy See, and for final recognitio. After that, it will be on its way to publishing houses and then on to Catholic parishes across the English speaking world. A “leaked” memo tells us also that the implementation date may have been moved up from November 2011 to April 2011.

In the words of Jerry Galipeau (WLP)…” So, folks, this is going to happen. No more ‘what ifs’ at this point.”.

But now begins the hard work – Implementation. Essentially, the drama we saw this week at the USCCB, Bp. Trautman vs. Cardinal George, will now be repeated in every parish across the country. The loud, whining voices of opposition will be raised to every Pastor and priest. “If we make these changes”…I can hear them already…”I’ll just have to LEAVE THE CHURCH!!”

I’m making light of this, but it’s really no laughing matter. This will happen. Once again, some people will think that they have a say in whether or not the Pastor implements the new translation, and they’ll use every tactic in the “Spirit of Vatican II” playbook to strong-arm the poor man into going against Church teaching and instead adopting a sort of tyranny of the whiny.

But just what is the Pastor thinking when he makes decisions based on complaints from what is, essentially, a very small but vocal minority of the faithful in a parish? There are many reasons, among them the desire to avoid confrontation and a sense of guilt over the rather authoritarian history of the Church that makes Pastors feel that they have to listen to what “the people” think on every issue, even if those thoughts are most often dissenting and rarely in support of church teachings. But whereas the “voice of the people” may have a legitimate role in some decisions at a parish…whether to take on a major capital campaign or perhaps to buy a new organ or not…there are other decisions for which “the people” have no legitimate claim to having a role. Among these are matters that have already been decided by the Church hierarchy, such as the implementation of the new translation. In such cases, even the Pastor’s decision is limited to how to implement these changes, not whether or not to implement them. The people out in the pews may have an opinion but they have no choice, and Pastors need to understand this distinction as we approach the day when they will have to face their parishioners and let them know this in no uncertain terms.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. During the past several years, we’ve seen a sort of “trial-run” of this with the movement towards re-introducing Latin and re-establishing chant and sacred music in the liturgy. Both of these are decisions that have already been made “higher up”, and which have been clearly and eloquently articulated in Sacramentum Caritatis at the very highest level, and in the USCCB document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship at the local level. And yet most parishes have been slow to adopt these “recommendations” regardless of how strong they are because of a few very loud complaints – “Oh Father, PLEEEZE… I’ll just have to leave the Church if we go back to using Latin!!” or worse yet the completely unfounded claim …”If we sing chant, then the people won't be able to participate” even though every study yet made as well as an overwhelming compilation of anecdotal evidence strongly supports the fact that people participate MORE in the singing of chant at Mass than in the singing of songs and hymns (try chanting the Our Father at Mass and see what happens…). Perhaps the Pastors of such parishes would rather wait until it becomes a “no-choice” mandate, thereby taking it out of their hands, but if this trial-run is any indication, we are in for a very rough road ahead in a year or two.

The solution, of course, is to have just such a strong, forceful and unequivocal mandate from the top…a sort of “offer you can’t refuse” from the Godfather himself. No option to continue using the old translation… for whatever reason. Recall all old books. Mandate that all publications of worship resources by all publishers use the new translation as of the date of implementation. Leave no choice for the Pastor, and they can offer no choice to the parishioners. The same solution would work equally well for the Latin and chant issues. Take the decision away in its entirety and leave only the desired option as the single possibility. If the Sanctus is supposed to be chanted in Latin, then prohibit the composition of vernacular settings and prohibit their publication. There will, of course be the die-hard dissenters (such as those parishes that allow liturgical dance, female homilists and the such) but by and large, the church will follow where the head leads us, even if it is kicking and screaming.

Will some people actually leave the Church? You bet. There are those who just don’t like to be told what to do, particularly if it’s something they disagree with. But that’s the price to be paid for espousing the truth with authority…it can’t be determined by survey and there will always be those who won’t accept it. Those who remain and completely submit to that authority are, and always have been, part of its domain. Those who resist it and leave never were.

So as we enter into this time of transition, we need to keep an open mind…so open in fact that we can understand clearly that "ours is not to question, but to submit".

Jesus asked his disciples “will you also leave?” and they responded “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

The church doesn’t need our opinion. Get over it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Bishop, The Antiphons, and the New Translation

This past week many Catholic bloggers and journalists have been following the drama of the USCCB Bishops Synod in Baltimore. Although there are a number of important and interesting issues being discussed and voted on, most of the attention has been on the final vote on the new translation of the Missal. This particular issue became even more dramatic with a last minute effort by Bp. Donald Trautman (Erie PA) to derail the final vote by bringing up an issue that had heretofore gone unnoticed. It seems that the Antiphons had been left out of the translation project, or rather, it had been removed and appropriated by the Holy See and the CDW.

Bp. Trautmann argued that the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concillium) specifically delegated to the Bishops conferences the responsibility for translations of texts that are to be used in the liturgy, and as such the Antiphons would have to be translated, amended and overseen by the USCCB before they could be submitted to the Holy See for recognitio. Cardinal George, the Chair of the USCCB, informed Bp. Trautman that the translation of the Antiphons had been appropriated by the CDW, and that they would be included in the final version of the Missal even though the Bishops would not have the opportunity to vote on them. Cardinal George noted that this was a legitimate action and well within the rights of the Holy See as outlined in Sacrosanctum Concilium.

In a bold and perhaps admirable move, Bp. Trautmann made a motion to have the translation of the Antiphons re-delegated to the Bishops conference, a move that would delay the implementation of the new translation for at least a year, possibly two. Many observers suggested that this was the actual motive, rather than any desire to be involved in the translation of the Antiphons… texts which are not currently used in most US parishes. The motion was defeated…roundly…193-20 against adoption. And so, the last stand to stop the implementation of the new translation apparently failed, and the final draft of the translation of the Propers for the Saints was voted on and passed, and the whole Missal project now goes to Rome to receive final changes and the recognitio by the Holy See. In a rather indicative moment, Cardinal George reminded all of the Bishops that this was the last opportunity for the Bishops Conference to have any input on the translation. And with that, the drama surrounding the new translation appeared to be concluded.

The media coverage of this particular issue focused on the efforts by Bp. Trautman to scuttle or at least stall the translation project, and most of the analysis looked forward to what would happen now and the timeline from here on in. But with the focus on Bp. Trautman’s attempts to stall the project, something important may have been overlooked. A very important piece of news (although it was not necessarily being kept secret) came to the forefront in a context that I hadn’t considered it in up to now. By Cardinal George’s own admission, the translation of the Antiphons had been appropriated by the CDW and the Holy See and would be included in the new translation of the Missale Romanum. Perhaps this was just a situation that Bp. Trautman was seeking to exploit as a way of stalling the project long enough to allow for more negative public commentary as he has been doing for a few years now. Or perhaps there is more to this news that could shed some light on what impact the new translation will have on liturgical music.

Turn back the clock to 2001 and the promulgation of Liturgiam Authenticam (LA), a document that is often cited in connection with the new translation, as well as a document that was strongly objected to by Bp. Trautman from the day it was issued. Although LA is a universally applicable document for the translation of liturgical texts, it is generally thought that it was specifically intended for the English translation, and even more specifically for the Church in the United States. There are a few passages in LA that seem out of place and give some credence to the suggestion that the document is even more specifically intended as parameters for this specific translation into English .

One such passage is LA 108:

108. Sung texts and liturgical hymns have a particular importance and efficacy. Especially on Sunday, the “Day of the Lord”, the singing of the faithful gathered for the celebration of Holy Mass, no less than the prayers, the readings and the homily, express in an authentic way the message of the Liturgy while fostering a sense of common faith and communion in charity. [78] If they are used widely by the faithful, they should remain relatively fixed so that confusion among the people may be avoided. Within five years from the publication of this Instruction, the Conferences of Bishops, necessarily in collaboration with the national and diocesan Commissions and with other experts, shall provide for the publication of a directory or repertory of texts intended for liturgical singing. This document shall be transmitted for the necessary recognitio to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

The bolded passage is significant. If LA is a general application document on translation, why is there a directive to complete this very specific task within 5 years from the publication of the instruction? That would be 2006. Such a mandate would be meaningless outside of the context of the proposed English translation. LA then further mandates that this repertoire of texts for liturgical singing shall be transmitted to the CDW for recognitio. Keep that in mind as we continue.

When LA was first promulgated, a few commentators asked a question that may have seemed obscure and maybe slightly laughable at the time. Why require the Bishops to compile a repertoire of texts for liturgical singing to be approved by Rome? Nobody then took seriously the idea that such a thing would even be possible given the stranglehold that commercial publishing has on the creation of ever new texts and tunes for church. And if such a repertoire of texts was a mere formality, then there was already a complete repertoire of such sung liturgical texts in existence. They are called the Antiphons.

But the Antiphons that were translated into English and included in the 1972 Missal were intended to be spoken, not sung…an omission that is thought to have contributed significantly to their sudden and thorough disappearance from the liturgy after Vatican II as they were quickly replaced with vernacular hymns or songs. What would have been needed then was a translation of the Antiphons from the Graduale Romanum set to either traditional melodies or perhaps Psalm-Tones so that they could be easily sung. Interestingly, that is exactly what was done with the Ordinary Texts that are now to be included in the new translation when published. Keep that in mind as well as we continue.

Move forward from 2001 to 2006…the deadline for submission of the repertoire of texts for liturgical singing. In November of 2006, the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy (now the Committee on Divine Worship) voted on and submitted a document called the Directory for Music and the Liturgy (DML), supposedly in fulfillment of the requirements of LA #108. Even on the surface, it was obvious to most observers that this document, a set of guidelines for approval of individual songs to be included in hymnals and worship resources, was not even close to what was called for in LA #108. The Directory was submitted to the Holy See for recognitio, but was never approved or acted upon in any way. The Bishops Committee on the Liturgy did not seem to be the least bit concerned. It began to look as though the DML was a stalling tactic to put off the mandated creation of a list of approved texts that would effectively restrict much of the commercially published music currently used at Mass. Keep that in mind as we continue.

And who was the Chair of the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy that proposed the Directory for Music and the Liturgy instead of an actual list of approved texts? That would be Bishop Donald Trautman. Definitely keep that in mind as we continue.

In early 2007, the USCCB rather unexpectedly undertook a complete re-write of Music in Catholic Worship at the behest of the CDW. Their stated reason for requesting this overhaul was to bring Music in Catholic Worship into conformity with the actual documents of Vatican II and their specific directives for liturgical music. From the beginning it was clear that MCW was so heavily flawed that a completely new document would be needed. The new document, Sing to the Lord-Music in Divine Worship (SttL) was far more comprehensive and detailed (110 pages vs. 10 pages) and contained some rather startling passages.

Among the more striking :

•Participation in the Sacred Liturgy must be “internal, in the sense that by it the
faithful join their mind to what they pronounce or hear, and cooperate with heavenly grace.” Even when listening to the various prayers and readings of the Liturgy or to the singing of the choir, the assembly continues to participate actively as they “unite themselves interiorly to what the ministers or choir sing, so that by listening to them they may raise their minds to God.” (SttL 12)

•The importance of the priest’s participation in the Liturgy, especially by singing, cannot be overemphasized. (SttL 19)

•Programs of diaconal preparation should include major and compulsory courses in the chant and song of the Liturgy. (SttL 23)

•Familiarity with a stable repertoire of liturgical songs rich in theological content can deepen the faith of the community through repetition and memorization.(SttL 27)

•The Second Vatican Council directed that the faithful be able to sing parts of the
Ordinary of the Mass together in Latin. In many worshiping communities in the United States, fulfilling this directive will mean introducing Latin chant to worshipers who perhaps have not sung it before. (SttL 74)

• Each worshiping community in the United States, including all age groups and all
ethnic groups, should, at a minimum, learn Kyrie XVI, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII, all of which are typically included in congregational worship aids. More difficult chants, such as Gloria VIII and settings of the Credo and Pater Noster, might be learned after the easier chants have been mastered. (SttL 75)

And then, there were these three passages that raised more than a few eyebrows:

• “The assembly of the faithful should participate in singing the Propers of the Mass as much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings.”When the congregation does not sing an antiphon or hymn, proper chants from the Graduale Romanum might be sung by a choir that is able to render these challenging pieces well. As an easier alternative, chants of the Graduale Simplex are recommended. Whenever a choir sings in Latin, it is helpful to provide the congregation with a vernacular translation so that they are able to “unite themselves interiorly” to what the choir sings. (SttL 76)

• The Entrance and Communion antiphons are found in their proper place in the Roman Missal. Composers seeking to create vernacular translations of the appointed antiphons and psalms may also draw from the Graduale Romanum, either in their entirety or in shortened refrains for the congregation or choir. (SttL 77)

• Proper antiphons from the liturgical books are to be esteemed and used especially because they are the very voice of God speaking to us in the Scriptures. Here, “the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them. And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life.” (SttL 117)

For many Catholic musicians, this was the first time they had ever heard of the Sung Propers or of Antiphons in general. To suggest that the Propers be sung by the assembly would be unheard of. The reaction was most often one of puzzlement: How can the Propers (particularly the Entrance and Communion Antiphons) be sung in English when there is no English translation of the Antiphons from the Graduale Romanum, and there are no vernacular settings? SttL does give the option of singing the Latin chants from the Graduale, but it clearly envisions the assembly singing the Antiphons in English at some point in the future. And these are directives coming from the USCCB at the behest of the CDW. Keep this in mind as we continue on…

And so we can make a brief summary:

1. LA mandated the creation of a repertoire of texts for liturgical singing within 5 years. The inclusion of this mandate in a document guiding the translation of the Missal would lead to the conclusion that this repertoire of texts was to be included in the proposed new Missal translation.

2. In 2006, the BCL under the leadership of Bishop Donald Trautman proposes a document, the Directory for Music and the Liturgy, ostensibly to fulfill this mandate, but more likely as a tactic to delay the creation of a restrictive list of texts for use at Mass. The DML was submitted but never approved or responded to, leaving it to the Holy See to either request a new document or to appropriate to themselves the creation of such a document.

3. In 2007, the CDW requests the rewriting of the music guidelines for Diocese of the United States to include instructions to begin the organized introduction of Latin chant at Mass, as well as directions for the use of Sung Propers and Antiphons in English, neither of which exists yet.

And this brings us to November of 2009…this past week. We learned that the Holy See and the CDW had appropriated the translation of the Antiphons to themselves, to be included in the new Missal. But it was clear from the discussion that the Bishops had never seen the Antiphons as part of the project, meaning that the CDW and Holy See had most likely appropriated them from the beginning of the project.

Remember that LA mandates that a repertoire of texts for liturgical singing be included as part of the approved texts of the Missal. The Bishops Committee on the Liturgy was charged with submitting this repertoire but instead submitted mere guidelines which were rejected. About this same time, the Holy See and the CDW apparently began work on translating the Antiphons, and soon after ordered the rewriting of the music guidelines for the United States to include the singing of the Proper Antiphons as a priority going forwards.

And now that the final actions are being taken on the new translation, word comes out that the Holy See and CDW have been in charge of translating the Antiphons all along, and that they will be included as approved texts. Since the Antiphons have to be translated, we might well suppose that these are the Antiphons from the Graduale, or perhaps they are new translations of the Missal Antiphons intended to be sung.

But the big question is this: Will this collection of Antiphons being worked on by the Holy See and the CDW be the repertoire of texts for liturgical singing required by Liturgiam Authenticam? Perhaps the answer to this question can be discerned by considering just who reacted most strongly to the news that the Holy See and CDW had approprited them: the same Bishop Donald Trautman who had sidestepped work on an approved repertoire just three years earlier.

Of course, we will have to wait to find out the answer to that very important question. At stake is whether we will have the status quo of vernacular hymns and songs based on unapproved texts, or setting of the actual Antiphons sung in the future. There may be some clues at the upcoming meeting of Artists and Musicians with Pope Benedict on November 21st. At that time, he is expected to discuss the need for a greater continuity with the past traditions of the Church in liturgical art and music. I for one will be listening closely to what he has to say on this topic. Stay tuned…

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Makes You Say "Hmmm..." - Part II

The Pope has been speaking a lot lately about historical instances of theological discussion within the Church and their consequences. He seems to be emphasizing that, historically, such discussions arise when things are unclear, or when there is no definitive teaching from the Magisterium on the issues being discussed. In such cases the point of theological debate is always to strike a balance between Revelation and reason (Tradition handed down and interpretation). Most interesting in the following example is Benedicts assertion that when such a balance fails or falls into error “ it is then up to the Magisterium to exercise that necessary service to truth which is its task".

Now what exactly might he be talking about?

My emphasis and comments

VATICAN CITY, 4 NOV 2009 (VIS) - Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis during this morning's general audience to the twelfth-century debate between St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Abelard, proponents, respectively, of the monastic and scholastic approaches to theology. [faith vs. reason]

The Pope began by recalling that theology "is the search for a rational understanding (in as much as that is possible) of the mysteries of Christian revelation, which are believed by faith, the faith that seeks intelligibility". Yet, "while St. Bernard places the emphasis on faith Abelard insists on understanding by reason. [notice that Benedict is building an example that becomes relevant to reflection on the issue of continuity (faith/tradition) vs. rupture (reason/modernism) but resists making the analogy….yet)

"For Bernard", the Holy Father added, "faith itself is endowed with an intimate certainty, founded on the testimony of Scripture and on the teaching of the Fathers of the Church [the definition of Tradition as the foundation of Faith]. In cases of doubt or ambiguity [here comes the setup] faith is protected and illuminated by the exercise of ecclesial Magisterium". [So…Benedict is saying that in instances of doubt or ambiguity, it is the role of the Magisterium to step in and clarify Church teaching so as to protect the Faith from error] Thus, for the abbot of Clairvaux, "theology has a single goal, that of promoting the living and intimate experience of God".

"Abelard, who among other things introduced the term 'theology' as we understand it today, originally studied philosophy then applied the results achieved in this discipline to theology"[so Abelard applied philosophic principles…reason…to theology and this led to problems] He had a "religious spirit but a restless personality, and his life was rich in dramatic events: he challenged his teachers (dissent) and had a child by a cultured and intelligent woman, Eloise. ... He also suffered ecclesiastical condemnations, although he died in full communion with the Church to whose authority he submitted with a spirit of faith". [Abelard submitted…to the authority of the Church…and so achieved full communion, unity, with her]

"An excessive use of philosophy rendered Abelard's Trinitarian doctrine dangerously fragile", said the Pope. "Likewise, in the field of morals his teaching was not without ambiguity as he insisted on considering the intention of the subject as the only source for describing the goodness or malice of moral acts, ignoring the objective moral significance and value of actions.

[Benedict now makes the analogy that he resisted making at the beginning]

"This aspect", Benedict XVI went on, "is highly relevant for our own age, in which culture often seems marked by a growing tendency to ethical relativism. Nonetheless, we must not forget the great merits of Abelard, who made a decisive contribution to the development of scholastic theology. Nor must we undervalue some of his insights such as, for example, his affirmation that non-Christian religious traditions already contain some form of preparation to welcome Christ, the Divine Word. [Abelard sounds quite a bit like Vatican II….while Bernard seems to represent Tradition…Hmmm?]

"What can we learn from the confrontation between Bernard[Tradition?] and Abelard [Vatican II?] and, more generally, between the monastic and scholastic approaches to theology?" the Holy Father asked. "Firstly", he went on, "I believe it shows the usefulness and need for healthy theological discussion within the Church [like some discussions that began in October?], especially when the questions being debated have not been defined by the Magisterium [like many of the issues arising from interpretations of Vatican II], which, nonetheless, remains an ineluctable point of reference". [IOW, the Magisterium will be the final word if and when it is exercised]

"In the theological field there must be a balance between what we may call architectonic principles,[Tradition] which are given to us by the Revelation and which, hence, always maintain their priority and importance, and interpretative principles suggested by philosophy [can you say “Spirit of Vatican II?] (that is, by reason), which have an important function, but only an instrumental one. When this balance fails, theological reflection risks becoming marred by error and it is then up to the Magisterium to exercise that necessary service to truth which is its task". [Ba Da Bing…there it is!]

"The theological dispute between Bernard and Abelard concluded with a full reconciliation. ... What prevailed in both men was that which we must have to heart whenever a theological controversy arises: that is, defending the faith of the Church and ensuring the triumph of truth in charity".


WOW! I have frequently commented on Pope Benedicts narratives, and it is often his method to use historical events to teach about the issues of today. I usually add a caveat though, and note that he seems to be talking about this or that, and that a particular story seems to be related to an issue being discussed today.

I am making no such caveat today. This narrative is about the discussions between the Church and the SSPX which began in October. It is a clarification of what these talks are about, and it very clearly defines how these talks will conclude. But everything is not as it seems. The analogy is a perfect one, but not necessarily an obvious one, and it reveals something very striking about these discussions and how Pope Benedict sees them.

Firstly, we have to ask who is Bernard, and who is Abelard in this analogy? We might first want to make the obvious and simple distinction…Bernard is “The Church” and Abelard is the “Dissenter” who reconciles and comes into full communion through submission. If we accept that, then Bernard is the Holy See, and Abelard is the SSPX in the recently begun discussions, the goal being to have the SSPX eventually submit to the Church teachings and return to full communion. It would be a neat analogy, but one which I believe to be wrong. I say that because I’m not entirely sure that the Holy See and the SSPX are really on opposite sides of the issues being discussed. There may be some nuanced distinctions in their positions, but it seems to me that both are in opposition to what Benedict refers to as the “Hermeneutic of Rupture”. I think the analogy is this:

Bernard is the SSPX (the reference to Bp. Bernard Fellay is a bit eerie), the defender of Faith and Tradition. Abelard is not Vatican II, as we might want to immediately assume, but rather he is the so called Spirit of Vatican II… the result of philosophy and modernity being used as lenses of interpretation. Like the Spirit of Vatican II, his work has led to some good…. the development of scholastic theology and the affirmation that non-Christian religious traditions already contain some form of preparation to welcome Christ, the Divine Word, in other words ecumenism. But, the over application of reason left Abelard’s concept of the Trinity “dangerously fragile”, much like the “Spirit of Vatican II” has left core doctrines of the Church dangerously fragile.

So, Bernard (The SSPX) and Abelard (The Spirit of Vatican II) engage in discussions, the point of which is to defend the faith of the Church and ensure the triumph of truth. And where is the Holy See in this analogy? It is (both figuratively and literally) the Magisterium…ready to exercise that necessary service to truth which is its task. And that is what the outcome of these talks will be. The truth will be discerned through the lens of Tradition, the Magisterium will clarify this truth, and Abelard (The Spirit of Vatican II) will give up his errors and wayward behavior and come into full communion with the Church through submission to the Magisterium.

I know that this leaves up in the air the obvious loose end… namely that the SSPX is NOT in full communion with the Holy See, while the “Spirit of Vatican II” is. That is true, for now at least. But what happens once the Magisterium has clarified the issues of contention? Who will be in dissent then? Who will represent the actual faith of the Church, and who will be in opposition?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Convergence of "Things"

Liturgiam Authenticam,
Chirograph on Sacred Music,
The New Translation of the Missal,
Cardinal Arinze’s Letter to the USCCB Bishops,
The Reformation of ICEL,
The Rejection of the Inclusive Language Proposals,
Pope Benedict XVI,
A New Master of Ceremonies,
Sacramentum Caritatis,
The Hermeneutic of Continuity,
The Rejection of The Directory for Music in the Liturgy,
Sing To The Lord: Music in Divine Worship,
Summorum Pontificum,
The Resurgence of Chant,
Critical Appointments to the Curia,
The Benedictine Altar Arrangement,
Ad Orientem Celebrations by Pope Benedict,
Ad Orientem Celebrations by Bishops around the World,
The Lifting of Excommunications of SSPX Bishops,
The Anglican Provision,
Formal Talks with the SSPX….

And this is just some of what has happened in the last 8 years.

What others can you come up with?

Got the feeling that something is up?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Benedictine Altar Update!

I have a picture of the Ordinations on October 24th at the Cathedral of the Epihpany, Venice Florida. In it, you can see the Benedictine Altar arrangement on full display!

This was a "first" for the Diocese at a major event such as this.

You can see the complete slideshow here.

If things can change here in Venice Florida, they can change ANYWHERE!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Makes You Say "Hmmm..."

It has been the case with Pope Benedict so far in his pontificate that he puts ideas "out there" in the form of history lessons...showing how where we are and what we are doing now can be guided by where we have been and what we have done in the past. I can't help but draw some interesting conclusions from today's General Audience. Why is he saying this right now...makes you say "Hmmm..."
(My emphasis)


VATICAN CITY, 28 OCT 2009 (VIS) - During this Wednesday's General Audience celebrated in
St. Peter's Square the Pope spoke about a series of events that, during the twelfth century,created a renaissance in Latin theology.

"During this time," he explained, "a relative peace reigned in Western Europe, which ensured society's economic development, consolidated political structures, and favored vibrant cultural activity thanks also to contact with the East. The benefits of the vast movement known as the Gregorian Reform were felt in the Church, which led to "a greater evangelical purity in the Church, above all in the clergy" and an expansion of religious life. As fruits of this development,figures such as St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure would appear in the thirteen century.

Benedict XVI affirmed that in this context two different models of theology arose: that of "monastic theology" and that of "scholastic theology". Regarding the first, the monks "were devoted to the Sacred Scriptures and one of their main activities consisted in lectio divina, that is, a meditative reading of the Bible". It was precisely the 2008 Synod of Bishops on "the Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church" that recalled the importance of this aspect.

"As monastic theology is listening to the Word of God", he said, "it is necessary to purify one's heart to welcome it and, above all, one must be full of fervor to encounter the Lord. Theology therefore becomes meditation, prayer, a song of praise, and the impetus for sincere conversion".

The Holy Father emphasized that "it is important to reserve a certain time each day for meditation on the Bible so that the Word of God will be the lamp that illuminates our daily path on earth".

Continuously referring to the method of "scholastic theology", the Pope pointed out that "it is not easy for modern mentality to understand. The quaestio, which consisted of a theme for discussion," was essential to its process.

"The organization of the quaestiones led to the compilation of evermore extensive syntheses, the so-called summae that were vast dogmatic-theological treatises. Scholastic theology sought to present the unity and harmony of Christian Revelation with a method, called precisely scholastic', that grants faith in human reason".

Benedict XVI concluded by emphasizing that "faith and reason, in reciprocal dialogue, tremble with joy when they are both animated by the search for intimate union with God. ... Truth is sought with humility, welcomed with wonder and gratitude: in a word, knowledge only grows if one loves the truth". today's news: Continuing discussions with the Eastern Churches...The Year for Priests...The 2008 Synod for Bishops...serious questions and discussions concerning theology with the SSPX...
Why is he telling us this particular story right he looking towards a second "Gregorian Reform"?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Benedictine Arrangement Comes To Venice!

Venice Florida, that is! The "Benedictine Arrangement" of the altar made it's first big debut here at the Ordination Mass on Saturday, October 24th at the Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. This date is also significant in that it is the 25th Anniversary of the Diocese of Venice. I will hopefully be able to post photos of the altar here as soon as they are available (I was in the choir, and so was unable to get any pictures).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Diocesan Music Committee

Sitting at our Diocesan Music Committee meeting right now... reminded about how inefficient anything involving a committee can be.

Confusion reigns regarding the workshops for the upcoming new translation...nobody seems to know what's going on.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Blended" Liturgy? An Excellent Image...

I was recently having a discussion with a fellow member of our Diocesan music committee about so-called "blended" liturgies. This term is most often now used to describe a Mass in which a variety of musical styles are made use of, for instance a Contemporary Christian selection for the procession, followed by a Taize style Kyrie and perhaps the Gregorian Chant Gloria. This kind of trade off would ostensibly continue throughout the Mass in an attempt to please everyone.

In fact, I imagine that Masses of this sort (they DO exist) please nobody, and for the following reason. The Canadian talk-show host Mark Steyn offered an excellent image to illustrate why such an idea will necessarily fail to acheive it's goal. He was speaking of bi-partisan political compromise, but the image actually works better for blended liturgy:

"Let's say, for instance, you mix a pint of gourmet macademia nut ice cream with a pint of, well...doggy doo-doo. The resulting mixture will not taste halfway like macadmia nut and halfway like doggy doo-doo. It will, in fact taste completely like doggy doo-doo because that's what happens when you mix crap with something that isn't. The total result is crap."

How true that is for liturgy. Admit anything that is crap and it brings the whole thing down.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The History of the Folk Mass Movement

Ken Canedo's latest book, Keep the Fire Burning: The Folk Mass Revolution, has made quite a hit at various altitudes in the liturgical blogosphere. For the Progressive, it is a tribute to the brave forebears and their wisdom and ingenuity at the dawn of the new liturgical age fostered by the Second Vatican Council. Ray Repp, The Dameans, Carey Landry... these are the Children of the Revolution who bravely fought off the efforts to establish vernacular chant as the new music and instead established a new paradigm founded on the revolutionary sounds of Folk-Pop stars like the Kingston Trio, Bob Dylan and Peter-Paul and Mary. To the Progressive, this book is a testament to their endurance and lasting indication of their permanence.

To the Traditionalist however, the same book is an important illustration of the price of dissent and the folly of what happens when ego-driven individuals set out to remake the liturgy in their own image. Canedo's account and examples put the puzzle together - what you make of the picture when he's done depends on where you stand on the issue.

Ken Canedo participated in a telephone interview for Catholic Radio 2.0 earlier this week and discussed the book and his views on the history of contemporary liturgical music. This is an interview worth listening to. Some of the musical examples will bring back memories for those of us who were there, while simultaneously making you cringe. I am the resurrection! (clap...clap) and the life! (clap...clap...clap...clap)..... hwooook! Almost didn't make it to the little room in time....
Seriously... listen to this interview and wonder at how this happened to the Catholic Church, and take heart in the fact that we are, as we speak, making our way back to where we were supposed to be going so many years ago.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Baby Steps

This morning (well...last night at the anticipated Masses actually...) we began our parish's discovery of chant at Mass. Humble, to be sure, but a beginning. And we at least have a plan...first the Agnus Dei, then the Mass XVIII Kyrie and the Agnus Dei. Next, the Sanctus will be introduced either this coming Spring (Lent) or the Fall of 2010.

It seems like such a dragging out of something that should be so simple, but I have come to realize the wisdom of taking time. Within this time, we will also begin forming a Schola, learning a Mass setting and perhaps a few Chant Hymns at first, and then maybe moving on to Introits and Communion Antiphons. All of this...probably in a period of three years or so. Maybe by the time the new translation is introduced they could be singing at Mass.

Perhaps within this time there will be some kind of reforms made from "up above" as well....if so, that will move things along that much faster, but even if not, things will be moving along. Perhaps the most important aspect of all of this is the support from the Priests. I truly believe they want better and more reverent liturgy. They have been led in all directions by liturgists, musicians and well meaning but misguided advice. It is time to "take the reigns" and lead in another direction.

I was speaking with another parish musician the other day, who cautiously commented ..."I think the days of bad music are starting to come to a close...". I would at least partially disagree.... I think they have already come to an end, but there are still stragglers who haven't kept up with the pack and are now so far behind that they can't see where we are now. The church has been led in a new direction these past several years; we need to follow that lead.

Monday, September 14, 2009

You Tell 'Em Ennio!

From The Catholic News Service

"Ennio Morricone, the Academy Award-winning composer who has written scores for more than 500 films, including The Mission and The Untouchables, has lauded Pope Benedict’s attempts to promote Gregorian chant in the sacred liturgy.

“Today the Church has made a big mistake, turning the clock back 500 years with guitars and popular songs,” says Morricone. “I don't like it at all. Gregorian chant is a vital and important tradition of the Church and to waste this by having kids mix religious words with profane, Western songs is hugely grave, hugely grave.”

Pope Benedict-- whom Morricone calls “a very high-minded Pope, a man of great culture and also great strength”-- “is doing well to correct it,” he adds. “He should correct it with much more firmness. Some churches have taken heed, but others haven’t.”

Two things...

First that it takes a FILM COMPOSER to point this out. Where is the head of the Pontifical Academy? Where are the Bishops? And I know that there have been some carefully worded statements, but where is Pope Benedict on this? Saying good things about using Gregorian Chant at Mass (which he has frequently done) is not the same as decrying and criticizing , and perhaps even forbidding the bad music that is still commonplace. Kudos to Ennio for putting into words what so many know to be true.

Secondly, I love the co-opting of the progressive's claim that the use of chant is "turning back the clock". Mr Morricone correctly points out the the infiltration of popular, secular and profane music, even so far as guitars and popular songs, was already done and gone 500 years ago. That is the real example of "turning back the clock". The difference is, one side wants to go back to something that actually works, while the other wants to go back to a short-lived and ultimately trivial experiment in melding popular and sacred music in the 1500's ...the only difference being perhaps that many of the Troubadors were supposedly incredibly skilled artists and still couldn't get the idea to work.

I think it is a very hopeful sign that this discussion has entered the realm of popular culture. This is something that people are beginning to talk about. Let the discussion continue...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

An Interesting Quote....

I came across this at the conclusion of Bishop Vigneron's address to the US Bishops on the new translation of the Missal. I had never heard this quote from Pope John Paul II, but I find it a beautiful image:

"The time has come to renew that spirit which inspired the Church at the moment when the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy was prepared, discussed, voted upon and promulgated, and when the first steps were taken to apply it. The seed was sown; it has known the rigors of winter, but the seed has sprouted, and become a tree. It is a matter of the organic growth of a tree becoming ever stronger the deeper it sinks its roots into the soil of tradition."

Chant Session #I This Saturday

This Saturday, September 5th at 10:30AM will be my first "Introduction Session" for all of our choirs and cantors to learn the Mass XVIII Chants. I've put together a brief introductory packet that presents relevant quotes from Paul VI, John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and the USCCB Document Sing To The Lord concerning the use of chant in the liturgy.

Part of me says "Mass XVIII is so simple that there's no way that this could be a problem".... and part of me says that the perception of chant as being "foreign" or "difficult" may be so ingrained during the past 40 years that there could be difficulty where there shouldn't be.

This is a separate issue from the ideological objections... those I expect.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Music That Never Was

The following has been prepared for a presentation to be given at our Diocesan Music Retreat in September. The presentation is on The ICEL Chant project and its development alongside the new Missal translation.

The Vision of Vatican II: The Music that never was…

As the new translation of the Roman Missal has come into being over the past several years, a related project has been underway that has not garnered as much attention but which is of considerable importance to church musicians. It is, in a sense, the fulfillment of the vision set forth in the documents of Vatican II for musical settings of the Mass texts, particularly the Dialogues and the Ordinary of Mass. To understand this new initiative, we have to look back more than 40 years to when this vision was articulated in Musicam Sacram:

54. In preparing popular versions of those parts which will be set to melodies, and especially of the Psalter, experts should take care that fidelity to the Latin text is suitably harmonized with applicability of the vernacular text to musical settings. The nature and laws of each language must be respected, and the features and special characteristics of each people must be taken into consideration: all this, together with the laws of sacred music, should be carefully considered by musicians in the preparation of the new melodies.

The competent territorial authority will therefore ensure that in the commission entrusted with the composition of versions for the people, there are experts in the subjects already mentioned as well as in Latin and the vernacular; from the outset of the work, they must combine their efforts.

55. It will be for the competent territorial authority to decide whether certain vernacular texts set to music which have been handed down from former times, can in fact be used, even though they may not conform in all details with the legitimately approved versions of the liturgical texts.

56. Among the melodies to be composed for the people's texts, those which belong to the priest and ministers are particularly important, whether they sing them alone, or whether they sing them together with the people, or whether they sing them in "dialogue" with the people. In composing these, musicians will consider whether the traditional melodies of the Latin Liturgy, which are used for this purpose, can inspire the melody to be used for the same texts in the vernacular.

57. New melodies to be used by the priests and ministers must be approved by the competent territorial authority.

58. Those Episcopal Conferences whom it may concern will ensure that for one and the same language, used in different regions, there will be a single translation. It is also desirable that as far as possible, there should be one or more common melodies for the parts which concern the priest and ministers, and for the responses and acclamations of the people, so that the common participation of those who use the same language may be encouraged.

Unfortunately, these directives were not given top priority following the initial translation of the Novus Ordo Missae in 1972, and unapproved and oftentimes amateur vernacular settings filled in the void created by the lack of an approved body of settings of the Mass texts during these critical few years. By the time Pope Paul VI issued Jubilate Deo, the official “minimum repertoire” of Gregorian Chants for use in the new liturgy in 1974, the cat was out of the bag and popular-tune settings of the Ordinary had supplanted the traditional melodies that were envisioned as being the primary music of the liturgy only seven years earlier. It would be another 30 years before the vision set forth by the council would be revisited and a major effort to restore the traditional melodies of the Roman Rite would be initiated.

The ICEL Chants

With the new translation of the Roman Missal well underway, the Bishops saw the coming implementation as an opportunity to revisit the council’s vision for liturgical music, and in 2006 began an initiative to create vernacular settings of the texts of the Mass based on the traditional Gregorian melodies…something like an English Language version of the Jubilate Deo of Pope Paul VI. Officially known as Music for the English Language Roman Missal, this project has come to be called The ICEL Chants after the committee responsible for the new translation. This project has been an integrated part of the translation project since 2007, and in the Spring of 2009, the Introduction material was released to the public on the USCCB website.

What is known about the ICEL Chants at this time comes entirely from the Introduction and from several letters issued by the USCCB to publishers of liturgical music. The Introduction begins with a straight-forward description of what the project entails:

For the forthcoming English language Roman Missal (sometimes called the Sacramentary), the International Commission on English in the Liturgy will offer to the Conferences of Bishops of the English‐speaking world chants for everything that is set to music in the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia (2002):

•The dialogues between the celebrant (or in the case of the Dismissal, the deacon) and the assembly such as the Sign of the Cross (“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”) and the Dismissal (“Go forth, the Mass is ended”);

• Tones for singing the presidential prayers (Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, Prayer after Communion) with all prayer texts pointed for singing;

• The chants before and after the readings such as “A reading from the book of…” and “The Gospel of the Lord”;

• Separate tones for singing the First Reading, Second Reading, and Gospel;

• The Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful;

• The Preface Dialogue and Prefaces, including a musical setting of every Preface;

• Full musical settings of Eucharistic Prayers I, II, III and IV, and the concluding Doxology;

• The Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and Lord’s Prayer;

• Chants for particular days and feasts such as “Hosanna to the Son of David” on Palm Sunday, the Universal Prayer and “Behold the wood of the Cross” on Good Friday, the Exsultet (Paschal Proclamation) at the Easter Vigil, antiphons for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2nd, and the Proclamation of Easter and Moveable Feasts for Epiphany.

• Some of the Latin chants will also be provided, including the Sanctus, Pater noster, Agnus Dei, and intonations for the Gloria and Credo. A chant setting of the Greek Kyrie from Mass XVI will also be provided.

This initial description of the ICEL Chant project is followed by a set of principles to be followed in their composition:

• To preserve and recover the tradition of unaccompanied singing in the Roman Rite, since the liturgy “is given a more noble form when . . . celebrated solemnly in song” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1963 [hereafter SC] 113);

• To facilitate “full and active participation by all the people,” which is “the aim to be considered before all else” (SC 14);

• To take full account of the accentuation of the English language, since “the nature and laws of each language must be respected” in the adaptation of traditional melodies (Sacred Congregation for Rites, Instruction on Music in the Liturgy Musicam Sacram, 1967, 54);

• To retain vernacular chants now in use where possible, since “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them” (SC 23).

These principles are, in fact, the foundation of the vision of liturgical music articulated in Sacrosanctum Concilium and Musicam Sacram. This return to the original directives of the council in composing the musical settings for the new Missal is significant: It signals a new commitment by both ICEL and the USCCB to restore the traditional musical forms of the Roman Rite for at least the Dialogues and the Ordinary of the Mass.

Examples of the Chants

The Introduction also presents examples of the actual chants and some specifics of how the English texts are being adapted to the Gregorian melodies. A good example of this is the setting of the new “Gloria” text, using the Gregorian melody from Mass XV (Dominator Deus).

The decision was made to use the melody from Mediator Deus rather than the much more familiar Mass VIII (Missa de Angelus) so that the more familiar setting will remain a uniquely Latin setting and gain wider use as such.

In the original version of the Introduction, it was said that a setting of the Creed would likely be proposed based on the Credo I rather than the more familiar Credo III, because “while it is true that the melody of Credo III is better known, it seems preferable to leave that familiar melody for use with the Latin text in the hope that it will remain in use or come to be used more widely in Latin.” In the latest update to the Introduction on the USCCB website, the setting based on Credo I has been completed and a setting based on Credo III is still being considered as an additional setting to be included.

In the case of both the Gloria and the Creed, there is an expressed assumption that there will be a greater use of the Latin settings alongside the proposed English settings in the future.

A fragment from the new setting of the Sanctus is also given, based on the Mass XVIII setting:

As with the Gloria and the Creed, an interesting insight into the future of liturgical music is revealed in the reason given for adapting the English text to the Gregorian melody in a way that maintains the two-note figure on the second syllable of the word “holy”. In this instance however, the language used is much more definite:

This setting follows the Latin melody closely. There would have been good reasons, based on natural English accentuation, for placing a single note A on the second syllable of “Holy,” as in the current setting:

But it was decided to imitate the Latin with its displaced accent more closely here, in part because the Latin setting is likely to be sung with great frequency by congregations in the future, which argues for similarity between the Latin and English settings.

One has to wonder why, given that the Latin settings have been nearly completely disregarded for the last 40 years, the Bishops and those working on this project would now predict that “the Latin setting is likely to be sung with great frequency by congregations in the future”. Such statements give added weight and impetus to the place of the ICEL Chants in the future liturgical landscape.

A Letter from the USCCB to Catholic Music Publishers

In July of 2009, the newsletter for the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship (formerly the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy) made known the following portion of a letter that was sent to publishers of Catholic music.

"With the exception of the popular setting of the Lord's Prayer by Robert J. Snow, the Committee is open to the inclusion of the new chants that have been approved by ICEL. It will also request that publishers make those chant settings in the Missal the first option provided in participation aids. Other settings could be used as well, but this approach is meant to encourage use of the chants."

An individual who is very familiar with this issue has said that this means the ICEL Chant settings will be published in all approved worship materials (hymnals, missalettes) as the Primary Setting for the Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, Memorial Acclamations and Agnus Dei. It has also been indicated that these will be the settings presented in the catechetical sessions for clergy and musicians leading up to the implementation of the new translation.

Going Forward

At this time, this is all that is known about the ICEL Chants and their place in the implementation of the new translation. There is, of course, speculation surrounding other new settings of these texts and how they will be related to the proposed settings, but at this time there has been no definitive position from the USCCB, ICEL or the music publishers on other settings. What is known is that there is a strong desire that the ICEL Chants become the “Common setting for all English speaking Catholics” that has been sought since the Second Vatican Council, and that this common setting will “preserve and recover the tradition of unaccompanied singing in the Roman Rite”.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

And a Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven

For the last few days I’ve been pondering the issue of musical styles for the liturgy…. OK, not exactly a new subject for me, but one that I’ve had to really think about lately. At some point, I think it was while pacing back and forth in my front yard enjoying a very nice Havana Reserva, I was reminded of a quote that appears in various forms in Church documents regarding sacred music:

“The musical tradition of the Universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.”

What stuck out for me here was the phrase necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy. What does it mean for music to be an integral part of the liturgy? This quote (from Sacrosanctum Concilium) seems to be saying, correctly I think, that the Church’s traditional music, Gregorian Chant, is pre-eminent because it integrates with the form and substance of the Roman liturgy as it is intended to be. It is a musical expression of the ideal liturgy that we should be striving for. You don’t “add” this music to such a liturgy… the music and the liturgy are one. They belong to each other. They are integral.

And so I kept thinking… if this is true, then what sort of liturgy would other styles of music be integral to? If they are to ever claim to be a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy, they have to be integral to some style of liturgy other than that which chant and traditional sacred music are integral to. In other words, if Chant, and perhaps polyphony are “one” with that ideal liturgy envisioned by the Church, and I don’t think it is going out on a limb to claim this (after all, the Church’s documents say as much), then these other styles of so-called liturgical music must be “one” with other styles of liturgy.

A number of years ago, I attended a Life Teen conference in Mesa, Arizona (I know… I will undoubtedly spend time in Purgatory for this, although I should get time served for several parishes I’ve worked at since then…). The music for the Mass was, well, Life Teen music. A Band (2 Electric Guitars, Bass, Keyboard, Drums and Lead Singer) cranked out the “Gathering Song” at a rock-concert appropriate volume while the Priest jogged up the aisle, stopping to shake hands and share “high-fives” with some of the assembly along the way… finally running up the steps and standing at the top as the band finished the opening number. “GOOD EVENING PEOPLE OF GOD!!” he yelled out to the audience. The audience broke out in applause and whistles. Perfect integration… Rock-Concert music for a Rock-Concert liturgy.

I also recall, though not as clearly, a Mass at my childhood parish of St. Anne’s in Prairie Village Kansas. It could have been 1971 or perhaps ’72…. they had begun offering a “Folk-Mass” in the parish hall and we, for whatever reason, went on this particular weekend (I’m sure it was most likely a Saturday evening). There was a single guitar player strumming chords softly as we came in. There were perhaps a dozen or so people there, already gathering in a circle around the card-table altar with their eyes closed, some holding hands. The priest came in, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt with a stole around his neck. I think we sang “Kumbaya” for the opening, although I also recall “Blowing in the Wind” somewhere during Mass. Again… perfect integration. This music belonged at that Mass.

Fast-forward 30 or so years to a Mass at a newly renovated Church in Brockton Massachusetts… the new “sanctuary” is a raised platform in the middle of a completely circular seating arrangement. It’s a bit awkward because no matter what direction the lectors or the Priest face, they can only face a small wedge of the assembly at any one time. And so the Priest and the readers engage in an ongoing dog-chasing-its-tail motion to be able to address the faithful. The Mass is reduced to a laborious conversation between the people in the middle of the circle and the people forming the circle, with God totally shut out in the confusion. We sing “Gather Us In” as we begin… a song with 30 iterations of “we” and “us” but not one mention of God. This music belongs at this Mass. Perfect integration.

Slick,loud,commercially produced music for a slick,loud,commercially produced Mass.

Shallow, improvised, and casual music for a shallow, improvised and casual Mass.

Self-glorifying, God excluding music for a self-glorifying, God excluding Mass.

Each style of music is integral to some style of liturgy. And so the question we have to ask isn’t whether these styles of music are appropriate for the liturgy, but do we really want the style of liturgy that they’re appropriate for?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Taking the Big Step

It may surprise some of you to know that the music program at my parish is what would be considered "mainstream" by most standards. Sure, you won't find such standards as "Gather Us In", "All Are Welcome" or "Sing A New Church", and instead will find solid hymns and Psalms set to psalm-tones....even an occasional Antiphon from the Simple Choral Gradual. Things were quite different when I arrived here nearly three years ago, and they will be quite different still three years from now.

This week, after discussions with the Pastor and meeting with the two choir directors, the decision has been made to take the BIG step...we will begin using the Gregorian settings for the Ordinary at the principal Choir Mass in October, and extend that to all other Masses in November. This is a moment that I was unsure would ever happen here, and now that it has there is a lot of PR work to do.

I don't know of any other parishes in our Diocese that make regular use of Gregorian Ordinary settings, other than the token "Agnus Dei" during Lent or a chanted setting of the Kyrie from time to time. There may be another, but at the very least this is new territory around here.

I'm going to post from time to time on how this "project" progresses. We had the meeting yesterday to let everyone know the plan... it might be disingenuous to say everyone is as enthusiastic as I am, but I didn't expect that. The next step is to work with the two choirs well ahead of time to open up this "whole new world" of Catholic Sacred Music to them. I am planning two sessions for all parish musicians in September, and am even considering inviting any parishioners who would like to learn more to attend, as well as our parish Priests. The Pastor has also asked me to put together several brief articles for the bulletins in September to introduce the idea to the parishioners.

On one hand, it's shameful that it is such a major production to sing chant at the Mass... it really shouldn't be. On the other hand, that is the reality and I'm grateful that I at least have this opportunity that so many other parish musicians can still only hope for.

I was there once...have faith! And stay tuned....

Friday, July 31, 2009

Dom Jacques Hourlier's "Reflections"

For those with relatively little time to catch up on reading but with a keen interest in Gregorian Chant, both its formal and spiritual aspects, there might be no better book to pick up than Dom Jacques Hourlier’s Reflections on the Spirituality of Gregorian Chant.It’s more of a “booklet” than a book…75 pages in a 7’x5’ format… a collection of 5 lectures given by the author during a Youth Seminar at Solesmes in the Summer of 1976. These were published as a collection in 1984 after his tragic death in an automobile accident.

Despite the diminutive size, this book covers a great deal of ground….melody, language, form, liturgical function, symbolism, aesthetics… and of course, as the title suggests, the Spirituality of Gregorian Chant. Although there is an assumption by the author that the reader has at least some knowledge about the Chant, the language is simple and accessible and the most recent edition has been edited and footnoted for a wider readership.

He speaks about the beauty of Gregorian Chant…

Beauty is without doubt the most commonly perceived quality of Gregorian Chant, even though some listeners, probably the majority, could not explain why they find it beautiful. Men and women from every walk of life, including the simplest, hear in the chant something which differs from what they call cheap music. As witness, recall the wide success of Gregorian Chant Masses, or of Gregorian chant records and cassettes, even though all of them do not achieve the same level of perfection. It is useless to try and explain away this success as some kind of passing fad or as the manifestation of a partisan spirit among Christians with conservative leanings. These factors have little or nothing to do with the matter. The simple truth is that when people are exposed to Gregorian chant, they react to a beauty which is capable of affecting even children.

Most amazing is that the words are as relevant today as they were in 1976…perhaps even more so. Any church musician today committed to the “cause” of Sacred Music restoration can take heart from Dom Hourlier’s words about the “authority” of the Chant:

The true authority of Gregorian chant rests not on rubrics or legislative decrees, but rather on the concensus populi (the common assent of the people of God) and the sensus ecclesiae(the supernatural sense of discernment of the church). Led by their Priests and Bishops, the faithful everywhere have always sung Gregorian chant. It draws its authority from a vast number of enthusiastic Catholic Christians. Throughout the ages, it has been the musical language in the Western Church. The authority of Gregorian chant is based on tradition.


The book can be purchased online at a number of sites.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mail-Order Misinformation- Liturgical Planning Guides

They arrive in the mail several times a year. They are given as “extras” in every package you receive from Catholic publishing companies. They are given out in gift bags at conferences and are posted online at company websites….they are liturgical planning guides and they are an ubiquitous fixture in parish music ministry. They promise to make easier the weekly task of selecting music for the liturgy with bullet-pointed lists of appropriate and exciting musical selections. For the more ambitious choirs, some suggest appropriate choral anthems or separately available Octavo versions of the songs found in the disposable music books. For those who are overwhelmed by the never-ending cycle of the liturgical year and the sheer volume of music in the ever increasing body of resources created by commercial publishers, these planning guides are impossible to resist.

For me, it would be easy enough to disregard these publications if they didn’t have real consequences for the sacred and liturgical music which they methodically expunge from the liturgies in every Catholic parish which makes use of them. And since these guides arrive in the mailboxes of nearly every parish in the U.S, that has to be a considerable number of parishes!

To begin, let’s consider what these publications aren’t, and what they actually are. They aren’t objective guides for preparing and selecting the most appropriate music for the liturgy – that is done rather handily in a very concise book called the Graduale Romanum. Admittedly, the selections in the Graduale Romanum are not always accessible to every parish, but the Graduale does provide us with the most appropriate selections and the selections therein should at least point us in the right direction in terms of what texts are part of the Mass. If the planning guides were actually an objective guide, they might at least suggest the selections given as the first option in the liturgical documents. Consider the instruction in the GIRM regarding the Entrance:

In the dioceses of the United States of America there are four options for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting; (2) the seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple Gradual; (3) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) a suitable liturgical song similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.

However, a planning guide might present us with something like the following (this particular example is for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time from Today’s Liturgy, Summer/Fall 2009)

Table of Plenty (Schutte) BB/MI 310 CP2 475 GP2 530 H 467 J 744
J2 793 NTY 75 SS1 163 UC 527 VOZ 786 OCP 9846TL

I Am the Bread of Life/Yo Soy el Pan de Vida (Toolan) BB/MI 338
CM 104 CP2 478 H 482 R2 196 UC 561

Alleluia! Give the Glory (Canedo/Hurd) BB/MI 902 CP2 164 GP2 70
H 24 J 520 NTY 3 SS1 5 UC 104 VOZ 113 OCP 9788TL

Now As We Gather (Castillo) BB/MI 309 J 700 OCP 9547TL

Ven al Banquete/Come to the Feast (Hurd) BB/MI 307 CP2 477 H 465
J2 795 NTY 80 R2 204 SS1 164 UC 512 VOZ 779 OCP 10336TL

In This Place (Thomson/Thomson) BB/MI 308 J 999 NTY 18 R2 302
SS1 122

For the Beauty of the Earth DIX BB/MI 624 CM 162 CP2 383 GP2 704
H 382 J 464 J2 642 NTY 139 R 24 R2 293 UC 741 VOZ 602

Praise to the Lord LOBE DEN HERREN BB 203 CM 156 CP2 356 GP2 686
H 360 J 338 J2 597 R 25 R2 253 TM 27 UC 726 VOZ 588

Gather Your People (Hurd) BB/MI 315 CP2 474 GP2 529 H 470 J 681
J2 798 NTY 10 SS1 111 UC 518 VOZ 782 OCP 9699TL

No mention of the Antiphon from the Roman Missal, or of the Psalm from the Roman Gradual, or of the seasonal antiphon from the Simple Gradual, or even of a song from another collection of Psalms and Antiphons approved by the conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. What we get instead is a list of selections from the 4th and last category, the “other suitable liturgical song” option. And in addition, all of the selections they propose are, not coincidentally, from their own publications (that’s what all of those abbreviations and numbers are) without even a pretense of objectivity. So what these publications actually are is rather obvious. They are lists of songs by the corresponding publisher that can be substituted for the actual texts and music of the liturgy by exclusively exercising the 4th and last option given for the Antiphons and Gradual of the Mass in the Church’s liturgical books.

Of course, I wouldn’t expect that a publisher would recommend selections from another publisher’s product… that would be bad business! But the Graduale Romanum, not to mention the vast body of settings of the Antiphons in Latin and in the vernacular that are in the public domain, are not competition. If a publisher sees them as such, then there needs to be an honest evaluation of whether music resource publishing companies are really serving the Church. Publishing companies most often claim that they are committed to serving the liturgy and providing parishes with the very best resources, or some variation on that theme. And yet there is no mention in the above list of a setting of God is in His Holy Dwelling (the Antiphon from the Missal) or of a setting of Psalm 68 (the Psalm from the Roman Gradual). None of the selections suggested on the list are connected in any way to the actual texts for that Sunday, and this is pretty much the norm across the spectrum.

Instead, the list we are given seems to support the contention that the options which the Church considers to be the least desirable are, in fact, the most desirable to exercise in every instance possible. From there, it isn’t that much of a stretch to conclude that the publisher’s intention is to expunge the actual Mass texts and musical settings in favor of less appropriate selections drawn from their own products.

With the USCCB document on music, Sing To The Lord: Music In Divine Worship, the Bishops have urged a restoration of the actual Mass texts found in the Proper Antiphons for each Sunday:

Proper antiphons from the liturgical books are to be esteemed and used especially because they are the very voice of God speaking to us in the Scriptures. Here, “the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them. And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life.”96 The Christian faithful are to be led to an ever deeper appreciation of the psalms as the voice of Christ and the voice of his Church at prayer.

And yet, more than two years after this document was promulgated, there has been no real effort to incorporate settings of the Proper Psalms into any of the major disposable missals, and no effort to even mention them as options for the Entrance, Offertory or Communion in the planning guides. Why not? Even the Bishops have come out and said “We need to be singing the Propers, not substituting other songs”, and yet the publishers have made no effort to respond to this call.

Of course, it’s easy enough to find settings for these Antiphons that can be sung by just about any choir. The Simple Choral Gradual is available online at no charge, and there are very good settings of the Antiphons in psalm-tone settings in the Anglican Use Gradual, also available online for free. Every day, there are more and more settings of these texts made available online, most all of them at no charge, and there are even some published sets appearing from major publishers (although these are not yet showing up in their worship aids). The question then is why are none of these suggested by any of the planning guides? Most of these settings are either copyright free or are published under creative commons and can be used and re-printed with nothing more than a request for permission and acknowledgment. Doing so would give at least some credibility to these guides insofar as they would at least appear to be making an effort to instruct the reader that there are actual designated selections for these parts of the liturgy.

As it is right now, those who would prefer to follow the instruction of the Church, whether that might come from Tra le Solecitudini, Musicae Sacrae Disciplinae, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Musicam Sacram, The General Instruction of the Roman Missal or Sing To The Lord – are going to have to turn to the actual texts of those documents for guidance and keep a copy of the Graduale Romanum (or the Gregorian Missal if their Latin is a little rusty!) on their desk. Such ambitious persons will essentially have to make their own planning guides from resources that they have determined are appropriate for the liturgy. This isn’t really as difficult as it might first seem.

At times, it might be possible to use the actual Gregorian Propers given in these books, maybe in place of an Opening Hymn or Communion Song, or even in addition to these songs. If this might be a bit ambitious for your abilities, these books will at least give you the texts and psalm citations for each Sunday’s Mass. From there, settings can be found from among the options that are available for free or perhaps it might even be possible to find a setting in one of those disposable resources, although If that’s possible, I can assure you that it will not have been given as a suggestion in their planning guide!

It would be an understatement to say that Catholic liturgical music is in transition at this time. There are obvious changes taking place and current liturgical reforms such as the new translation of the Roman Missal and recent liturgical documents such as Sacramentum Caritatis and Summorum Pontificum, even if not exclusively addressing the issue of liturgical music are encouraging a new way of looking at the issue in light of the Church’s musical traditions. These changes are inevitable, and are obvious to everyone it seems except the publishers of these planning guides, where the same handful of popular selections appear over and over again in place of those which might express the actual texts from the liturgy.

It’s my understanding that the Pope’s latest encyclical encourages industry to take seriously the call for environmental sensitivity, conserving valuable resources and avoiding wasteful practices that use them foolishly. Among these resources, I would include paper. Might we propose an excellent initiative by Catholic publishing companies to discontinue the printing and distributing of these Planning Guides? Such an initiative would go a long way towards helping the environment… and Catholic liturgical music!