Friday, April 28, 2017

Good Friday 2017 Photopost (Part 1)

One of the things I like most about doing these photoposts is how they show the variety of our Catholic liturgical life. For this one, we have a bit of the Byzantine Rite and the Ordinariate Use, as well as processions in Portugal and the Philippines. A second post will go up tomorrow; as always, thanks to all those who sent these photos in, for your help in the work of evangelizing through beauty.

St John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church - Fall River, Massachusetts
Good Friday Vespers

Paris of Bl. John Henry Newman - Irvine, California (Ordinariate)




Real Irmandade do Santissimo Sacramento - Mafra, Portugal

Solemn Mass in Honor of St Francis di Paola in Brooklyn, April 29

The American Delegation of the Sacred Constantinian Military Order of St George will be making a pilgrimage to the church of St Francis of Paola in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York on Saturday, April 29th. The Very Rev. Msgr. Joseph Ambrosio will be celebrate a Solemn High Traditional Latin Mass, beginning at 5:00 p.m, and preach; after Mass, there will be veneration of a very rare first class relic of the saint and distribution of souvenir holy cards.

St Francis of Paola was the founder of the Order of Minims, though he himself was never ordained to the priesthood. He was renowned for curing the sick, performing miracles, the gift of prophesy and his personal holiness. He died in 1507 and was canonized in 1519. He is the principal patron saint of Calabria, and a patron saint of both the city of Naples and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, one of the most revered saints in all of southern Italy.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Vestment Maker’s Birthday Present for Pope Benedict XVI

We are very grateful indeed to Mrs Clare Short of DiClara Vestments for sharing with NLM this account of her recent meeting with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI; on this occasion, she presented him with a new set of vestments as a present for his 90th birthday, which he celebrated on Easter Sunday, April 16th.


To have Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI hold your hand and thank you, and describe your vestments as “…wonderful, beautiful…” is something I never dreamed could happen 18 months ago when I started my vestments business - Di Clara.

With my husband recovering from long-term illness and unable to work, I knew I had to do something to provide our family with some income. And with 3 young children, I knew the only viable option was to work from home.

Running a small business from home wasn’t a new thing for me. I had experience of working from home before with a wedding cake business that I was forced to close due to the change in the marriage laws. And after a priest friend suggest I “have a go at making some vestments…” I realised that there was a need in the market for good quality, affordable vestments that brought beauty and reverence to the liturgy.

Making the front section of the chasuble.
I share Pope Benedict’s belief that beauty is a highly important and spiritual thing in the liturgy; as he once said, “Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendour.”

Beauty is something that draws us out of ourselves into an encounter with the transcendent. C.S. Lewis gets to the heart of the matter when he says that “created beauty provokes in us a longing to be united with, to receive into ourselves, and to enter into that infinite Beauty of which all created beauty is but a reflection.”

It was my aim with this 90th Birthday set of vestments to surpass anything I have ever made previously. For the design of the embroidery, I was inspired by one of Pope Benedict’s favourite Marian shrines – Our Lady of Altötting. On her dress you can see a sunflower, edelweiss and vines.

Our Lady of Altötting
I managed to incorporate these into my own design, which was then embellished with fresh water pearls and garnet. At the base of the back of the chasuble I embroidered his Papal coat of arms.




The full set includes a Roman style chasuble, spade end stole and maniple, chalice veil, burse and pall.


Choir Books

À propos of nothing in particular, just because I like these images and thought you might too. The first comes from Shawn Tribe, an old photo of a young monk at the monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla in La Rioja, Spain, looking at the Introit of the Assumption Gaudeamus omnes.


The second comes from Philippe Guy: antiphonaries and other choir books in the library of the monastery of St Mary in Paris.


St Mary’s Schola Issues Recording of Christmas Dawn Mass Lux Fulgebit

The Schola Cantorum of St Mary’s Church in Norwalk, Connecticut, and the St Cecilia Society announce the release of the CD Lux Fulgebit, a recording of the Christmas Mass at Dawn, featuring the premiere recording of the 16th century English composer William Rasar’s Mass Christe Jesu. The Schola is under the direction of St Mary’s organist and choir master David Hughes. 

Taking its title from the first words of the Introit of the Mass at Dawn, the CD includes motets by William Byrd, Alfonso Ferrabosco, and Walter Lambe. The entire CD presents a Mass “in context,” including all the Gregorian propers, as well as the Scripture lessons, Preface, Collect and Post-Communion.

“Not only is this the first recording made by the St Mary’s Schola Cantorum, to our knowledge it is the only William Rasar composition ever recorded. If not for the manuscript of his Mass, this gifted composer might have been lost to history. In addition, the Propers for the Mass at Dawn of Christmas Day are beautiful but not frequently recorded, and we believe they deserve a wider audience.

“Pre-Reformation English composers are widely recognized as having produced extraordinary music,” said Charles Weaver, associate director of music at St Mary’s  and a Schola musician. “The Tallis Scholars and other ensembles, for example, have popularized music from English composers such as John Taverner and Robert Fairfax. We believe Rasar’s Mass deserves to be ranked among pieces by the great composers of this period.”
The Schola: Front row -- Elizabeth Baber Weaver and Judith Malafronte.
Back Row -- Terrence Fay, Charles Weaver, David Hughes and Richard Dobbins.
The cover art of Lux Fulgetbit.
Lux Fulgebit captures the musical splendor of the traditionally-oriented liturgical life at St Mary’s, recognized as a leading parish in renewing the worship of the Church. The Schola Cantorum is the heart of a multi-faceted sacred music program at the parish, that includes a children’s choir, adult volunteer choir and Spanish-speaking ensemble. All are geared toward enhancing the many Masses at the church, done in English, Latin and Spanish, and all at the High Altar, facing East.

St Mary’s pastor, the Rev. Richard G. Cipolla, believes the recording will not only be appreciated by those who are music lovers, but help open up the traditional form of the Roman Rite to those who might not be familiar.

“One of the most important ways of restoring beauty to the Mass is through the use of music. The music of the Mass must be sacred music, not merely religious music, because the Mass is the icon of the worship of God in heaven. At St Mary’s, we offer Mass adorned with music written specifically for it by some of the greatest composers in history. Lux Fulgebit will help more people experience the beauty of Rasar’s music and the ancient and venerable Tridentine Rite.”

The St Mary’s Schola Cantorum is a professional ensemble of five talented musicians, proficient in singing the most complex polyphony in the canon of Western sacred music: soprano Elizabeth Baber Weaver, mezzo-soprano Judith Malafronte, countertenor Terrence Fay, tenor Richard Dobbins and bass Charles Weaver. The St Cecilia Society is the support organization tasked with funding the program, and is under the chairmanship of Thomas B. Heckel.

The release of Lux Fulgebit was celebrated Sunday, April 23, with a reception at the church. It can be purchased by logging onto the church’s website, www.stmarynorwalk.net/cd, and through Amazon.com and iTunes. The package includes a complete text of the Mass in English and Latin.
For further information, contact the church at www.stmarynorwalk.net.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tenebrae Photopost 2017

This year, we begin our Tenebrae photopost with something quite special, part of Gregorio Allegri’s famous Miserere used in the service at the Shrine of Christ the King in Chicago, run by the Institute of Christ the King. The special polyphonic setting of Psalm 50, whether by Allegri or another composer, was traditionally done for the repetition of the Psalm at the end of the service, after the Christus factus est was sung, and the Lord’s Prayer said silently. In the 1955 Holy Week reform, the repetition of the Psalm was abolished; it is here sung as the first Psalm of Lauds. The clergy and choir of the Shrine are very much to be commended for continuing the use of the great gem of our Catholic liturgical tradition.

Shrine of Christ the King - Chicago, Illinois (ICKSP)



Ss John the Baptist and John the Evangelist - Vilnius, Lithuania

Registration for Fota Conference in July Now Open

St Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy is pleased to announce that the Fota X International Liturgy Conference will be held in Cork, Ireland, July 8-10, 2017.

The subject of the conference is Resourcing the Prayers of the Roman Liturgy: Patristic Sources, and will be explored by a panel of experts drawn from the United States, Germany and Ireland, among them Prof. Manfred Hauke (Lugano), Prof. Dieter Boehler (Frankfurt), Prof. Joseph Briody (Boston), Gregory DiPippo (New Liturgical Movement), Dr. Johannes Nebel (Austria), Fr. Jao-Paolo Mendanca Dantas, (Fortaleza, Brazil), and Fr. Kevin Zilverberg (St. Paul, Minnesota.)

Registration for the Conference is now open and may be made through the attached form.


Note from the editor: I had the great pleasure of attending the conference last year, and delivering a paper, and as you can see above, I will be doing so again this year. It was in every way an excellent experience; the talks were all quite interesting, and followed up by very fruitful discussions, and I was able to meet and speak with a number of lovely people. The liturgical ceremonies at the nearby church of Ss Peter and Paul were done at the highest possible level, full Pontifical rites accompanied by absolutely superb music by the great Lassus Scholars. (sample below). If you are able to make it to Cork to attend, you will certainly not be disappointed.

Concerts of Newly Composed Work by Frank La Rocca in Galway, London and San Francisco

As mentioned in passing in yesterday’s article, a new composition by American composer Frank La Rocca will be premiered later this week. For the benefit of those who might wish to attend, but didn’t make it to last paragraph... Ne irascaris Domine will be performed in Galway, Ireland, and Oakland, California on April 29th. This means that because of the difference in time zones, Ireland has the privilege of offering us the world premiere! It will then be performed in different locations in London and California on May 7th, 13th and 14th. For details go to his website: www.franklarocca.com/concerts.

You can hear examples of his music on his website here: www.franklarocca.com/cd-recordings.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Holy Thursday 2017 Photopost (Part 2)

As always, our thanks to the many readers who sent in photos of their liturgies. I apologize for the delay in getting this up; last week turned out to be very busy indeed, but this week, we should be able to cover most of your photographs of the Triduum, and get to Easter soon enough. Evangelize though beauty!

St Joseph Oratory - Detroit, Michigan (ICKSP)



St Mary’s - Norwalk, Connecticut


Bridging the Gap - Music for Entertainment That Speaks of the Liturgy

If we are to evangelize the culture, we need creative artists in all disciplines who connect with people today. This is the primary and achievable aim, in my opinion, of the study of the arts as an academic discipline. It is not so much to develop the consumer’s taste and create a market for the traditional approach, as it is to form the creators of new works that participate in the traditional principles in new ways. The goal of these newly-formed creators is then to connect with “the many” - to use the phrase of Benedict XVI in this context - through the power of beauty expressed in such a way that even the untutored may respond to it.

This is, as far as I am aware, the way it was always done. The number of people who formally study Christian culture in school or college is not great today, but it is still probably far greater in number than ever before. How many of those who converted to Christianity in the days of the early Church within the Roman empire had a liberal arts education, I wonder? I do not know, but I’ll bet it wasn’t many. Yet once it was given freedom to flourish, a Christian culture emerged from a pagan cultural foundation, just as it can emerge again from the neo-pagan cultural background that predominates in the West today.

If those who animate, design, direct, paint, sculpt, write and compose get it right, then their work will engage people today and stimulate their receptivity to God. Ultimately that most likely happen in connection with the artistic forms that are used in the liturgy, and in an encounter with God in the Eucharist, but it might also happen via intermediary aspects of the culture that derive from and point to the liturgy. This is like the layers of an onion, or the spheres in an Aristotelian universe, in which the outer ring directs us to the next inner ring, and so that by degrees we arrive at the center.

To illustrate with the example of music, we still need composers of three-minute popular ditties as much as we need composers of highly elevated music or liturgical music. In today’s fragmented culture, we need a whole variety of different forms that will appeal to different types of people at a superficial level, and which in turn stimulate in them the beginnings of a desire for something greater. At the heart of the diagram below, at the end of the Christian’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, is the Eucharist. Christ is the node through which we pass and which connects us to the outer Prime Mover from which all of this originates. (Incidentally, I would say that looking from where we sit right now, the earth is the center of the universe, as it is quite reasonable to consider the place of the other heavenly bodies relative to where we view them from...but that’s another debate!)



The measure of such modern creativity’s quality is the power and nature of the effect it has on those who hear it. The best music will be accessible to its intended audience, which not be all people, but most likely a particular section of the population, and stimulate in them a desire for something higher. The highest forms are those which are connected to the liturgy, and the function of these is to lead people to God Himself in the Blessed Sacrament. This is why, however popular Christian “popular” music might be, and however many people might attend Masses with such music in the context of the liturgy, there is no place for such musical forms. (In fact it usually isn’t really all that popular, despite what people may say; see my article here on the subject.) Just because people are listening to something and enjoying it, doesn’t mean that it is doing the work of directing people to the Eucharist as powerfully as it should.

We need exclusively liturgical forms, with chant having preeminence, which have the highest potential to open hearts to God in the context of the worship of Him. Even here we must have new compositions too. I would not want to displace the canon of chants for the Mass, but there must be, I believe, newer compositions that participate in this tradition, for the overall impact to have real power with the greatest number of people.

As mentioned, while there is no place for superficiality in the liturgy, superficiality does have its place outside the church! There is a place for superficiality, and that is to engage people on a superficial level and prime them to engage with something deeper. Therefore we need inspired composition and creativity across the whole spectrum of entertainment in wider culture too.

The argument applies to all art forms, not just music, even to those art forms that have no direct place in the liturgy, such as film and video. Creativity in these areas ought to stimulate the potential for receptivity of the forms that are in the liturgy. The drama of movies, for example, will prime the viewer to be receptive to the presentation of the human story of redemption which is realised in the Mass, as explained here. Movie-makers who do this will not only do the greatest service to mankind, but will also make the most popular and lucrative films!

Recently, I was sent this video of a performance of Schubert’s Ave Maria for the Italian senate by the Italian trio, Il Volo (h/t Gareth Genner, President of Pontifex University).


Here is evidence that beautiful music can be very popular if performed well. By all accounts, these three young men (whose pop-star good looks no doubt draw in a few additional admirers) speak without inhibition of the importance they place on family values. It is a good thing that such music is still popular, but we can not rely solely on the good music of the past to do this..

While Schubert can be heard occasionally in the context of the liturgy, it is not, I suggest, genuinely liturgical music. Rather, it is highly elevated profane music that bridges the gap between the sacred and the mundane; its true place is the concert rather than the liturgy. This particular piece of music was not originally written for the Latin prayer at all, as it happens; it was a setting for the German translation of a poem by Sir Walter Scott, beginning with the same words, “Ave Maria.” For all the power which it still has, it will have been most powerful in fulfilling its function with the original text and for the ears of its original intended audience, the Austrians of 1825.

We need Schuberts for today too, who will compose this “bridging music” for us today in the concert hall. To my mind, such a person is the American composer Frank La Rocca, whose music has its place in that first concentric ring outside the strictly liturgical. Unlike Shubert’s Ave Maria, much of his music is inspired directly by sacred texts and themes, and so is certainly not out of place as meditative or devotional music in the context of the liturgy; but it is as likely to be as effective, and therefore popular, in the concert hall. May there be more like him!

Frank has a newly composed piece, Ne irascaris Domine (“Be not angry, O Lord”), that premiers in a variety of locations in Europe and the US in April and May. There are concerts in Galway, Ireland, and Oakland, California on April 29th, and in London on May 7th. Judging from the regularity of concerts of his music taking place, as indicated on his website, Frank is steadily gaining ground in connecting with people today.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Problem of “Spiritual Illiteracy”

If you cannot read, every book is a closed book: you cannot see the meaning. Someone who cannot read Arabic or Cyrillic just sees a bunch of swirly shapes that convey no message, except perhaps: “What interesting designs! Ah, but they mean nothing to me.”

Is it not striking, and frightening, that it is quite the same with the majority of mainstream Catholics, when it comes to most of the 2,000-year heritage of the Church—in her liturgy and devotions, her theology and magisterium? After the great purge and superficialization of the teaching and practice of the Faith that took place ca. 1965–1975 and that has never been seriously challenged or supplanted in the majority of parishes and schools, we are facing an ever-increasing obstacle to the restoration of the traditional Faith, namely, what might be called “spiritual illiteracy.” Once the language of symbols is abolished, the people cannot read the symbols any more, and are therefore cut off in principle from access to the riches of the Church. It’s not like someone who knows how to read but is lazy or distracted or too busy to do so. It’s much more like someone who is incapable of reading, and therefore has no idea what he is missing, or what he could be gaining. Is this too pessimistic a comparison? I do not think so. The evidence is not hard to come by.

Those who are fortunate to be literate, to one degree or another, must first of all be grateful to the Lord for having deigned to bestow this grace of knowledge. It is given in order to support and increase our charity—first and foremost for Him and then for our neighbors. We exercise that charity in a special way by teaching spiritual literacy to catechumens and fellow Catholics. This is the educational work most demanded by our times, and, not surprisingly, least appreciated. It is not appreciated for the very reason given above: the awareness of the need for it is utterly lacking. A person born blind will never know what it is like to see colors, and if other people around him were not constantly talking about colors, he would never know they existed. In a community of blind people, without input from the outside, color would never be a subject of conversation; indeed, if one of their number invented the concept and shared it, the others would probably laugh him down.

We could also think of our situation this way. We learn, as rational animals, through hearing and speaking language. If we grew up like a feral child in the woods, raised by wolves, we would never have learned how to think and speak like humans; our very intellectual growth would have been stunted. Or if we grow up hearing only one language, it’s no surprise that we will be greatly at a disadvantage when it comes to moving in other linguistic circles, picking up their languages. (Contrast those Europeans who, because of the history and location of their countries, learn several languages from the time of their infancy.) Up until quite recently, Catholics grew up with the language of the Church — her pageantry of symbols, her liturgical rites and special music and cycle of feasts and fasts, her catechism. A few, namely the clergy and religious, acquired some proficiency in the more demanding language of theology. But now most of this is absent from the majority of Catholics, including the clergy. We have several generations of Catholics who have grown up speaking only the language of the world, the secular speech, with a feeble smattering of Catholic phrases, comparable to those one would find in a Berlitz guide: “Good morning,” “Thank you,” “The bill, please.”

Are we then amazed that, when we start speaking the language of tradition again, when we struggle hard to learn it and practice it and teach it to others, there will be many who cannot comprehend it at all, who are offended when they hear it spoken, or who cannot be convinced that it is worth the trouble to learn it? People who will say: “Stop talking that foreign language—I can’t understand it. Talk only in my language. Nobody speaks your old-fashioned language any more. It’s obsolete. We’ve moved on. You’re on the wrong side of history.”

The sad thing is that they are stuck, in a way: they cannot understand the beautiful stories, the lyrical poems, the potent prayers, the sweet secrets, that centuries of Catholic culture have bequeathed to us in a language once universal, and so they truly have no clue what they are missing, nor can they realize that what they are missing is the bulk of Catholicism’s legacy—like the part of the iceberg under the water, as compared with contemporary Catholicism’s tip of the iceberg. If they don’t know it, how easy is it to fling it aside contemptuously: “It’s not worth it, because I can still serve God and save my soul without it.” That’s what they think, even though it is not true: eventually the loss of the language and literature of Catholic tradition will allow the domination of a mixture of primitivism, emotionalism, and communal narcissism that will end either in idiocy or lunacy, total bankruptcy or volatile ideology. Catholicism is not incidentally but essentially based on tradition; therefore those who are not vitally and deeply united with the tradition will end up on the outside of it. One could call it schism in slow motion. As the world awoke to find itself Arian in St. Jerome’s day, so are huge sectors of the Catholic Church awakening to find themselves secularist, liberal Protestant, and modernist.

It will take Catholics a special grace of conversion to believe that there is something wonderful they are missing out on, to trust in those who can teach it to them, and to make the effort demanded in learning any new language. Traditionalists have their work cut out for them: to build up communities in which a sufficient number are, to so speak, fluent in tradition and have created, with God’s help, a small society, a microcosm of the Church of all time, where the unchanging truth and the immense interior beauty of the Faith can flourish outwardly. This will happen most of all by the worthy celebration of the traditional sacred liturgy (Mass and Divine Office) and public devotions. It also needs to happen in social events, catechetical offerings, and a network of friendships, families, and businesses. Those who are aware of something missing, a nagging sense “there’s got to be more,” and who begin to search will then be able to find the wealth that can heal their poverty of meaning.

A final thought. Languages considered to be “dead” have been revived by those who sufficiently cared, the most remarkable instance being the revitalization of Hebrew as the national language of Israel. Something analogous can and must be done in the Catholic Church with Latin and the entire theological, cultural, and liturgical patrimony embodied in this mother tongue of Western Christianity. If this seems an impossible project, be assured: it is. But the Lord who multiplied the few loaves and fishes will do the same with our efforts, if we are not unbelieving but faithful. As it says in Scripture, in the more literal translation of the Douay-Rheims: “No word shall be impossible with God” (Lk 1:37).

Restoring the Sacred in Catholic Art

Members of the Catholic Art Guild 
touring the Art Institute of Chicago
An organization dedicated to the restoration of the Sacred in the visual arts has been established at St. John Cantius Church in Chicago, a parish known for its renaissance in Catholic faith and culture.

“We want to support artists in offering their gifts for the greater glory of God in an effort to harness the power of Beauty and its necessity in the work of evangelization,” says founder and president Kathleen Carr.

The Catholic Art Guild will achieve its mission by presenting speakers, workshops, and networking opportunities for artists and students in the visual arts.

The guild hosts monthly events to explore the philosophy of aesthetics and the power of the visual arts for evangelization, as well as offering skill-based training in crafts such as gilding, illumination, stained glass, and traditional drawing techniques, as well as a juried exhibition.

The first annual conference, “Beauty and the Restoration of the Sacred,” will be held be this October in Chicago. This full-day presentation will feature English philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, well-known for his BBC documentary “Why Beauty Matters,” as well as architect Duncan Stroik, artist Anthony Visco, and art historian and educator Dr. Denis McNamara.

The Church has always seen art as an integral part of its liturgical worship and recognized the power of Beauty to evangelize. The visual arts flow from the wellspring of the Sacred Liturgy, and both the Church and her artists flourish when this is understood and embraced.

Father C. Frank Phillips, C.R., pastor of St. John Cantius, saw the need to foster the visual arts. As a student of Msgr. Martin Hellreigel, an early leader in liturgical renewal, Father Phillips first experienced the power of the liturgy to evangelize through the sacred arts.

“We have had many organizations that enliven our vibrant parish, particularly in sacred music, liturgy, catechesis, youth and young adult ministry. It was time to establish a program for the visual arts and the training of artists,” says Fr. Phillips.

Kathleen Carr, an award-winning, classically trained painter, illustrator, and designer approached Fr. Phillips with her inspiration:

“We want to bring together artists and the Church as partners to proclaim the Gospel to all who enter our doors or will hear our message. I was inspired by the Catholic vision that all art flows from the altar. It seemed natural to form an artist guild with the support of a religious community that lives and breathes the liturgy,” says Carr.

Interested visual artists, designers, architects, art educators, and art lovers looking to join a community centered around the ‘restoration of the Sacred’ are welcome to join the Catholic Art Guild.

Further links: more information, the 2017 event calendar and membership.

Introducing the Metropolitan Catholic Chorale

I am delighted to share with readers of the NLM in the New York metro area and beyond a little bit about a new initiative.

The Metropolitan Catholic Chorale (MCC) is dedicated to singing the Catholic Church’s treasury of sacred music—Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony—in the context of the sacred liturgy in the New York metropolitan region, and to helping others discover, understand, and love the Church’s sacred music. In keeping with the purpose of sacred music, our aim is to glorify God and sanctify and edify those who hear us.

The MCC desires to serve well both the parishes we visit and the singers who join our ranks. Following in the footsteps of the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale in Minnesota, we also hope this project will serve as a model for those looking to promote the renewal of sacred music in their own communities.

The Metropolitan Catholic Chorale will sing for Mass for the first time during this, our inaugural season, on Tuesday, April 25th, the feast of St. Mark, at 8:00 p.m. at the Church of St. Rocco in Glen Cove, New York (18 3rd Street). All are cordially invited to attend. The MCC will sing the Missa Tertii Toni by Rodrigo de Ceballos (1525-1591), motets by John Stainer and William Byrd, and Gregorian chant Mass propers. The Mass will be followed by a traditional rogation procession which includes chanted Psalms and litanies. This Mass at St. Rocco’s follows a successful workshop on the basics of reading and singing Gregorian chant that was held at the parish on April 1st. The workshop was attended by about 30 singers from the parish and area music directors.

The next Mass this semester for which we will sing will be a Marian votive Mass on Tuesday, May 16th at 7:00 p.m. at the Church of St. Barnabas (Bronx, New York), at which we will sing Gregorian and English propers, motets by Allegri and Byrd, hymnody, and the Missa Che fa oggi il mio sole by Gregorio Allegri.
What is the MCC?

The MCC is a mixed choral ensemble under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Donelson, Director of Sacred Music at St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie). Members of the auditioned ensemble are singers from around the metropolitan New York region who want to sing Gregorian chant and sacred polyphonic works, developing both their skills as choral singers as well as their understanding of the Church’s teachings on sacred music.

Rather than singing the Church’s sacred music in concert settings, our aim is to learn how better to pray at the Church’s sacred liturgy through singing its sacred music. To do this, we pursue musical excellence in tandem with a deeper understanding of the theological content, historical context, and liturgical meaning of the texts and music that we sing.

How often and where does the MCC rehearse and sing?

We rehearse weekly at St. Barnabas Church in Woodlawn (Bronx, NY) on Tuesdays from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. throughout the academic year. Each semester, we accept two invitations from parishes in the metropolitan area to sing a solemn Mass. The Masses are arranged according to the schedules of both the host parish and the singers of the MCC. Masses are usually on a weekday evening so that music directors do not have scheduling conflicts with their weekend responsibilities.

What sort of outreach does the MCC do?

We strive to help other people encounter Christ through beautiful sacred music and the graces that flow from the Church’s sacred liturgy. In addition to the MCC singing for a Mass, the ensemble’s director is able to offer talks and/or workshops on sacred music and Gregorian chant in the host parish in preparation for a visit of the MCC. These talks and workshops can be tailored to a general parish audience or a smaller group like the parish choir or youth group.

Especially for parishes with limited financial resources, the MCC desires to serve as a resource to help parishioners better understand the Church’s teachings on sacred music. The singing, talks, and workshops of the MCC can also serve as a catalyst for growth in a larger program of development of a parish’s sacred music program, educating members of the choir, and inspiring ideas for the advancement of a program.

What is the MCC’s repertoire?

We focus mostly on Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony (masses and motets), but we also sing choral works of excellence from all eras, including works by living composers, as well as chant in the vernacular (Spanish and English) and excellent hymnody. The MCC also places special emphasis on singing classical choral music from the great cathedrals of Latin America.

How do I join the MCC?

Our roster of singers is already set for the spring 2017 semester, but we'll be holding auditions again in August 2017 for the 2017-2018 season. Stay tuned for more information at our website or Facebook page. We'd love to have you join us!

How do I find out more information or invite the MCC to my parish?

More information is available here. There is no fee for hosting the MCC in your parish.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

1909 Dominican Rite Breviary Available for Download

I am happy to announce that, through the kindness of the author of Breviarium S.O.P. and Mr. Richard Chonak, I am now able to make available for download pdf versions of the edition of the Breviarium juxta Ritum S. Ordinis Praedicatorum published at the direction of Bl. Hyacinth Cornier, Master of the Order, in 1909.  The download links for the two volumes are found on the left sidebar of Dominican Liturgy.

This edition was the last printing of the Dominican Breviary in its medieval format with the original Psalter.  Later editions of the Breviary reflect the new Psalm arrangement mandated by Pope St. Pius X and have other modifications.  This edition is especially useful because the layout of the text parallels that in modern Pre-Vatican-II Breviaries, something that makes it much easier to consult than the earlier versions.  In his History of the Dominican Liturgy Fr. William Bonniwell, O.P. described this edition as "the finest edition of the Dominican breviary ever published."

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tenebrae at Wyoming Catholic College

For the past seven years, the Wyoming Catholic College community has participated in the traditional Tenebrae service for Maundy Thursday on Wednesday of Holy Week. This year, with the enthusiastic agreement of the Schola, we added the Tenebrae service on Friday night for Holy Saturday. Both were well attended. It was for me a profound experience to get to know the Holy Saturday Tenebrae -- what an incredible example of lex orandi, lex credendi! The Faith would be far better known and loved if such liturgies as Tenebrae were a consistent part of the experience of the faithful.

Here are some photos, from both nights.

Tenebrae of Maundy Thursday






Friday, April 21, 2017

The Readings and Solemn Prayers of the Novus Ordo Good Friday Liturgy

Previous articles in this series:
On the Mass of the Presanctified.
On the 1955 “Solemn Liturgical Action” of Good Friday.
On the ceremonial aspects of the Novus Ordo Good Friday Ritual.

The Gelasian Sacramentary has two prayers for the Mass of the Catechumens on Good Friday; the first of these is the one found in the Missal of St Pius V, “Deus a quo Judas…”, also said at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. (The use of the same Collect on both Holy Thursday and Good Friday emphasizes once again an important theme of the ceremony, the union between the Last Supper and the Sacrifice of the Cross.) The second prayer, “Deus qui peccati veteris”, had mostly dropped out of use by the time of the Tridentine reform, although it was still included in a small number of local missals even at the beginning of the 16th century. It was added to the beginning of the rite in 1955, but with a ritual different from that of the Mass, and different from what is attested in the ancient sacramentaries and later missals.

In the Novus Ordo, the ancient prayer “Deus a quo Judas…” is entirely suppressed from both days, and “Deus qui peccati veteris” is given as the second of two options on Good Friday. The first option, “Reminiscere miserationum tuarum…”, is in the Gelasian Sacramentary as the Collect of Holy Monday. The 1955 Holy Week had incorporated it as one of the three Post-communion prayers of the Solemn Liturgical Action of Good Friday; when the decision was made to return to a ceremonial order more in keeping with that of the Mass, the prayer “Reminiscere” was moved to the beginning. By some miracle, the text of both of these as given in the Missal is very close to that actually found in the Gelasian. The post-Conciliar reform specifically suppresses the word “Oremus” before the opening prayer, whichever one is said, and ends it with the minor conclusion, an unfortunate carry-over from the 1955 reform.
Folio 47r of the Gellone Sacramentary, of the Gelasian type, ca. 780-800. The prayer “Reminiscere” is here given as the Oratio super Populum of Spy Wednesday. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 12048)
The ancient lectionaries of the Roman Rite are uniform in assigning two readings, Hosea 6, 1-6 and Exodus 12, 1-11, before the Passion of St John on Good Friday. It is supremely ironic that the two readings on this day, together with those of the Wednesdays of the Embertides, of the fourth week of Lent, and of Holy Week, were routinely cited as evidence for the incorrect theory that the Roman Rite anciently had three readings at every Mass; ironic, because not a single one of them was left in its traditional place in the new lectionary.

St Jerome begins his commentary on the Prophet Hosea by saying “If we need the Holy Spirit to come to us when explaining any of the prophets, … how much more must we pray the Lord (to help us) in explaining Hosea… especially since he himself attests to the obscurity of his book at the end, where he writes, ‘Who is wise and shall understand these things, intelligent and shall know them?’ ” Such a mysterious book is eminently appropriate for a day of such ineffable mysteries, when the Church stands present at the death of the Creator Himself.

“... He will revive us after two days: on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. We shall know, and we shall follow on, that we may know the Lord. … For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice: and the knowledge of God more than holocausts.” This is explained by the words of the Tract which follows, taken from Habakkuk 3 according to the Old Latin translation of the Septuagint: “O Lord, I heard Thy report, and was afraid: I considered thy works, and was amazed. Between two living creatures Thou shalt be known”; the “two living creatures” were first understood by St Augustine to be the two thieves crucified alongside the Lord. Thus the Tract shows us that we attain to “the knowledge of God” in beholding the Crucified Lord. And likewise, as Hosea says “For I desired mercy…”, the Tract says, “in wrath Thou shalt remember mercy,” an expression of the idea, “a scandal to the Jews, and foolishness to the gentiles,” that God’s supreme act of mercy was to undergo His Passion, in the very midst of which He prayed for the forgiveness of those who inflicted it upon Him.

The Prophet Habakkuk, by Girolamo Romanino, from the Sacrament Chapel of the church of St John the Evangelist in Brescia, Italy. (1521-4) The quotation on the banderole, of the opening words of the canticle, follows the Old Latin text, which was translated from the Septuagint, rather than the Vulgate version of St. Jerome.
All of this is, of course, far too subtle for the taste of the modern reformers, who very much preferred a blunt-force approach to redesigning the lectionary, taking it for granted that Modern Man™ is incapable of grasping such weighty matters. The reading from Hosea and the Tract from Habakkuk were therefore replaced by the prophecy of Isaiah 53, the famous poem of the Suffering Servant, and the Tract from Psalm 101 “Domine, exaudi orationem meam”, both recovered from the wreckage of the Mass of Spy Wednesday. The responsorial Psalm said virtually everywhere in place of the tract proposes the refrain “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” with verses of Psalm 30 (31), from which it was taken by the Lord Himself. (Hosea 6 is removed to a rather obscure corner of Lent, accompanying the Gospel of the Publican and the Pharisee on the 3rd Saturday.)

The second reading from Exodus 12 describes the slaying of the Paschal Lamb under the Old Law, which was of course taking place in Jerusalem even as Christ was undergoing His Passion. This choice is grounded in the Christian understanding of Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, of whom St Paul writes, “Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed”; but also in the very nature of the ancient Good Friday ceremony, the vivid representation of the death of Lord, for which we are truly present. In the new lectionary, this passage is removed to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, an expression of the equally important point that the Lamb was sacrificed not merely to be sacrificed, but to be consumed. It is replaced on Good Friday by a passage from Hebrews, 4, 14-16 and 5, 7-9, on the priestly offering which Christ makes of Himself in His Passion. The first part of this is read at Tenebrae of Good Friday; per se, it is a perfectly reasonable choice as an Epistle, though also a very obvious one.

Traditionally, the reading from Exodus is followed by a Tract from Psalm 139, a text long associated with the Passion of Christ. In the official Ordo Cantus Missae, it is replaced by the famous Gradual Christus factus est, formerly sung on Holy Thursday and at all the Hours of the Triduum, another very obvious choice. The fact that the new order of the chants, tract before gradual, is completely contrary to the tradition, is mostly beside the point. It is impossible to escape the impression that the reformers felt a strong need to make everything as obvious as possible for the “benefit” of a Catholic laity which they saw as otherwise completely uneducable, unable to endure anything mysterious, complex or lengthy, even when celebrating the deepest and holiest mysteries of our redemption.



The Passion of St John is left undisturbed; blessedly, an alternative shorter form of it is NOT given, as was done for the Synoptic Passions read in the three-year rotation on Palm Sunday.

In regard to the Solemn Prayers of Good Friday, no less a figure than Abp Bugnini himself expressed in his memoire trepidation at the idea of altering such an ancient and venerable series of prayers (La Riforma Liturgica, 1948-75, p. 130), although this did not in the least stay his hand from altering them; they are simply too laden with ideas that Modern Man™ finds unpalatable. A single example may suffice to demonstrate the tenor of the changes. The first invocation traditionally reads in the Missal of St Pius V, “Let us pray, beloved unto us, for the Holy Church of God, that our God and Lord may deign to grant Her peace, unity and protection throughout the world, subjecting to Her principalities and powers, and grant us, as we live a quiet and peaceful life, to glorify God the Almighty Father.” (These texts are substantially the same in all the ancient sacramentaries.) In the 1970 revision, the words “subjecting to Her principalities and powers” are of course suppressed. All of the prayers now end with the short conclusion.

Two very peculiar and wholly unnecessary ritual changes are also introduced. The invocations, which were always sung by the celebrating priest, are now to be said by a deacon or layman. This is contrary to the universally attested tradition of how the prayers were done, but wholly in keeping with the modern rite of Mass. Where each invocation was traditionally followed by “Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate.”, “Oremus” is now suppressed, and “Flectamus genua. Levate” are made optional. The blight of optionitis must cover all things, and this rubric is followed by another which gives local episcopal conferences the possibility of adding their own intercessions, while another permits the same “in case of grave public necessity” (undefined) to individual bishops.

The tedious subject of the prayer for the Jews has been rendered all the more tedious by the bad-faith efforts to use it as a weapon against Pope Benedict XVI and the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, and I have no intention of addressing the matter here.

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