Saturday, February 28, 2009

What are you doing for Lent?

We are all familiar, no doubt, with the tradition of taking up some penance for Lent -- i.e. giving something up. This is a beautiful tradition, and to be encouraged.

Another good practice is to pick up some good spiritual practice, be it a devotion, daily spiritual reading, or otherwise.

Perhaps one might read The Ladder of St. John of Climacus for instance or some other saintly writing of particular Lenten merit. Perhaps you might read Dom Prosper Gueranger's The Liturgical Year each day during the Lenten season. You might choose to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a devotion which is particularly focused upon the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Or you might choose to somehow tie the Seven Penitential Psalms into your day to day Lenten practice. Maybe reading and meditating upon one psalm, each of the seven days of the week.

Of course, while all of these things are of great merit, given the primacy of the liturgy in our life of prayer, I cannot but help recommend some practices which are even more directly related to the liturgy of the Church.

Perhaps you might consider praying the Divine Office to some extent. Perhaps pray Lauds (Morning Prayer), Vespers (Evening Prayer), or Compline (Night Prayer), or some combination thereof.

Another liturgical consideration would be to read from and meditate upon the day to day entries found within the Roman Martyrology.

Another possibility is take up the idea of Lectio Divina and undertake slow and meditative reading of the Propers of the Masses during Lent, or the various readings from Mass of the day.

There are many possibilities. Perhaps some of our readers would like to share what they are doing, or their own recommendations and considerations. (Please use the comments.)

Msgr. Guido Marini Speaks Again on the Liturgy, Its Forms and Its Importance

The following rather interesting interview with Msgr. Guido Marini, the Papal Master of Ceremonies, has recently appeared on the site of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations for the Supreme Pontiff. (Original Italian) It touches upon themes such as the proper orientation of the liturgy, the primacy of Gregorian chant and renaissance polyphony a a "permanent criterion" for sacred music in the liturgy; it touches upon the forms of the liturgy, on sacred art and architecture, on receiving communion kneeling and upon the tongue; upon the hermeneutic of continuity, of silence and many other nuances.

The translation is an NLM translation. Thanks to both Fr. G.S. and John Sonnen for looking it over and confirming a few details for me.



Without words before the greatness and beauty of the mystery of God

by Maddalena della Somaglia

The Holy Father seems to have the liturgy as one of the basic themes of his pontificate. You, who follow him so closely, can you confirm this impression?

I would say yes. It is noteworthy that the first volume of the "opera omnia" of the Holy Father, soon to be published in Italian, is that devoted to those writings which have as their object the liturgy. In the preface to that volume, the same Joseph Ratzinger emphasizes this fact, noting that the precedence given to the liturgical writings is not accidental, but desired: in the same way as Vatican II, which first promulgated the Constitution dedicated to the Sacred Liturgy, followed by the great Constitution on the Church. [Lumen Gentium] It is in the liturgy, in fact, where the mystery of the Church is made manifest. It is understandable, then, the reason why the liturgy should be one of the basic themes of the papacy of Benedict XVI: it is in the liturgy that the renewal and reform of the Church begins.

Is there a relationship between the sacred liturgy and art and architecture? Should the call of the Pope to continuity in the liturgy be extended to art and sacred architecture?

There is certainly a vital relationship between the liturgy, sacred art and architecture. In part because sacred art and architecture, as such, must be suitable to the liturgy and its content, which finds expression in its celebration. Sacred art in its many manifestations, lives in connection with the infinite beauty of God and toward God, and should be oriented to His praise and His glory. Between liturgy, art and architecture there cannot be then, contradiction or dialectic. As a consequence, if it is necessary for a theological and historical continuity in the liturgy, this continuity should therefore also be a visible and coherent expression in sacred art and architecture.

Pope Benedict XVI recently said in an address that "society speaks with the clothes that it wears." Do you think this could apply to the liturgy?

In effect, we all speak by the clothes that we wear. Dress is a language, as is every form of external expression. The liturgy also speaks with the clothes it wears, and with all its expressive forms, which are many and rich, ever ancient and ever new. In this sense, "liturgical dress", to stay with the terminology you have used, must always be true, that is, in full harmony with the truth of the mystery celebrated. The external signs have to be in harmonious relation with the mystery of salvation in place in the rite. And, it should never be forgotten that the actual clothing of the liturgy is a clothing of sanctity: it finds expression, in fact, in the holiness of God. We are called to face this holiness, we are called to put on that holiness, realizing the fullness of participation.

In an interview with L'Osservatore Romano, you have highlighted the key changes since taking the post of Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations. Could you recall and explain what these mean?

I was just saying that the changes to which you refer are to be understood as a sign of a development in continuity with the recent past, and I remember one in particular: the location of the cross at the centre of the altar. This positioning has the ability to express, also by external sign, proper orientation at the time of the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy, that the celebrant and the assembly do not look upon each other but together turn toward the Lord. Also, the unity of the altar and cross together can better show forth, together with the "banquet" aspect, the sacrificial dimension of the Mass, whose significance is always essential, I would say it springs from it, and therefore, always needs to find a visible expression in the rite.

We have noticed that the Holy Father, for some time now, always gives Holy Communion upon the tongue and kneeling. Does he want this to serve as an example for the whole Church, and an encouragement for the faithful to receive our Lord with greater devotion?

As we know the distribution of Holy Communion in the hand remains still, from a legal point of view, an exception [indult] to the universal law, granted by the Holy See to the bishops conferences who so request it. Every believer, even in the presence of an exception [indult], has the right to choose the way in which they will receive Communion. Benedict XVI, began to distribute Communion on the tongue and kneeling on the occasion of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi last year, in full consonance with the provisions of the current liturgical law, perhaps intending to emphasize a preference for this method. One can imagine the reason for this preference: it shines more light on the truth of the real presence in the Eucharist, it helps the devotion of the faithful, and it indicates more easily the sense of mystery.

The Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum" is presented as the most important activity in the papacy of Benedict XVI. What is your opinion?

I do not know whether it is the most important but it certainly is an important document. It is not only so because it is a very significant step towards a reconciliation within the Church, not only because it expresses the desire to arrive at a mutual enrichment between the two forms of the Roman Rite, the ordinary and extraordinary, but also because it is the precise indication, in law and liturgy, of that theological continuity which the Holy Father has presented as the only correct hermeneutic for reading and understanding of the life of the Church and, especially, of Vatican II.

What in his view the importance of silence in the liturgy and the life of the Church?

It is of fundamental importance. Silence is necessary for the life of man, because man lives in both words and silences. Silence is all the more necessary to the life of the believer who finds there a unique moment of their experience of the mystery of God. The life of the Church and the Church's liturgy cannot be exempt from this need. Here the silence speaks of listening carefully to the Lord, to His presence and His word, and, together these express the attitude of adoration. Adoration, a necessary dimension of the liturgical action, expresses the human inability to speak words, being "speechless" before the greatness of God's mystery and beauty of His love.

The celebration of the liturgy is made up of texts, singing, music, gestures and also of silence and silences. If these were lacking or were not sufficiently emphasized, the liturgy would not be complete and would be deprived of an irreplaceable dimension of its nature.

Nowadays you hear, during the liturgical celebrations, very diverse music. What music do you think is most suitable to accompany the liturgy?

As the Holy Father Benedict XVI reminds us, and along with him the recent and past tradition of the Church, the liturgy has its own music and that is Gregorian chant, and as such, it constitutes the permanent criterion for liturgical music. As well, a permanent criterion is also the great polyphony of Catholic renaissance, which finds its highest expression in Palestrina.

Beside these irreplaceable forms of liturgical music we find many manifestations of popular song, which are very important and necessary: so long as they adhere to that permanent criterion by which song and music have a right of citizenship within the liturgy, to the extent that they spring from prayer and lead to prayer, thus allowing genuine participation in the mystery celebrated.

Some of the most quotable quotations from the piece are as follows.

On the Importance of the Liturgy:

" is in the liturgy that the renewal and reform of the Church begins."

On Continuity in Sacred Art and Architecture and their Relation to the Liturgy:

"There is certainly a vital relationship between the liturgy, sacred art and architecture. In part because sacred art and architecture, as such, must be suitable to the liturgy and its content... Sacred art in its many manifestations, lives in connection with the infinite beauty of God and toward God, and should be oriented to His praise and His glory. Between liturgy, art and architecture there cannot be then, contradiction... if it is necessary for a theological and historical continuity in the liturgy, this continuity should therefore also be a visible and consistent expression in sacred art and architecture."

On the Relation of Outer and Inner Aspects of the Liturgy:

"The liturgy also speaks with the clothes it wears, and with all its expressive forms... The external signs have to be in harmonious relation with the mystery of salvation in place in the rite. "

On the Sacrifical Dimension of the Mass:

"...the sacrificial dimension of the Mass, whose significance is always essential, I would say it springs from it, and therefore, always needs to find a visible expression in the rite."

On the Manner of Receiving Holy Communion:

"Benedict XVI, began to distribute Communion on the tongue and kneeling on the occasion of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi last year... perhaps intending to emphasize a preference for this method. One can imagine the reason for this preference: it shines more light on the truth of the real presence in the Eucharist, it helps the devotion of the faithful, and it indicates more easily the sense of mystery."

On Continuity:

"...that theological continuity which the Holy Father has presented as the only correct hermeneutic for reading and understanding of the life of the Church and, especially, of Vatican II."

On Sacred Music:

"...the liturgy has its own music and that is Gregorian chant, and as such, it constitutes the permanent criterion for liturgical music. As well, a permanent criterion is also the great polyphony of Catholic renaissance, which finds its highest expression in Palestrina. Beside these irreplaceable forms of liturgical music we find many manifestations of popular song, which are very important and necessary: so long as they adhere to that permanent criterion.. to the extent that they spring from prayer and lead to prayer, thus allowing genuine participation in the mystery celebrated."

(By way of credit, the Italian language interview came to my attention by way of the Polish site, Nowy Ruch Liturgiczny.)

Italian Conference on Liturgical Reform of Benedict XVI

It is encouraging to see the conversation about the liturgical reform of Benedict XVI taking on a wider spectrum, for it is a necessary discussion to be had.

Accordingly, I was interested to read about this Italian conference on Rinascimento Sacro which I share here simply as an FYI, and as an attempt to track the discussions that are occuring:

Juventutem News

The Faederatio Internationalis Juventutem is reporting that they recently held their 2nd international meeting in Switzerland.

Here are the relevant excerpts.

Report on the Second gathering of the International Federation Juventutem in Bern, Switzerland, February 21-22, 2009 (

For the second time, representatives from Juventutem groups in various countries have met in Bern, Switzerland, on February 21st and 22nd, 2009.

The schedule was similar to the one last year. Over twenty Juventutem members had travelled to Switzerland for the occasion. They came from France, England, Ireland, Slovakia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Spain, of course Switzerland, and even Russia. Like last year, the aim was not to have many people, but rather to ensure diversity of representation.

The gathering officially started with Holy Mass at 3pm at the Villa Maria. Juventutem Ecclesiastical Assistant Fr Armand de Malleray offered a votive Mass of Saint John Bosco, Patron of Catholic Youth. In English and in French Fr de Malleray drew a parallel between St John Bosco’s time and ours, reminding us that the great apostle of Turin had had to overcome all sorts of suspicion and of opposition as the government accused him of working for the Vatican against the new regime set up by the Piedmont-Savoy sacrilegious monarch. King Victor-Emmanuel of Piedmont-Savoy had indeed invaded the Pontifical States, putting all Catholic clergy loyal to the Sovereign Pontiff in a very delicate situation. Despite the most obvious value of St John Bosco’s apostolates for the education of the youth and of the clergy, shaping young men into good and trustworthy subjects when so many others were falling into illegality and vices, these worthy initiatives were often hindered by civil authorities. This did not prevent the saint from working wonders at the service of God. Fr de Malleray said that current anti Catholic prejudice could sometimes discourage us in the XXIst century. However he added, we should be certain that God’s almighty grace could help us bare abundant fruit and achieve great things for his Reign - if only union with God was our essential and constant goal. Thomas Balsis from Lithuania served the Low Mass, which was concluded by the singing of the Marian antiphon “Ave Regina Coelorum”.


We then went back into the chapel for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and adoration, served by Damian Barker, from England. It was a wonderful moment, all of us gathered before the Lord, fulfilling a very essential dimension of Juventutem’s spirituality centered on Eucharistic devotion, both through the Mass and through adoration, as depicted in our logo. After having exposed the Blessed Sacrament, Fr de Malleray recessed in the sacristy to hear confessions while we adored. He then came back and led us in praying a decade of the Rosary asking for strength and protection for the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. He reminded us of the fact a novena was currently being prayed all over the world for the Holy Father, ending the day after, on the Feast of the Chair of St Peter. We also presented to God the intentions of all Juventutem groups and supporters all over the world.


On Sunday morning 22 February we all met again at Holy Trinity Church for Holy Mass. Like last year the Secretary to the Papal Nunciature attended our Mass in choir. Mgr Ruiz Mainardi had been assigned at the Papal Nunciature in Cuba, but his successor was equally pleased to pray with us. Unlike last year though, for want of available clerics, we had a Sung Mass and not a Solemn High Mass. It was served by male members of Juventutem from various countries, while others – boys and girls alike – joined in the schola to sing the Gregorian kyriale and proper of the Quinquagesima Sunday. Fr de Malleray offered the Mass and preached on Juventutem. He quoted Pope Benedict’s homily at Randwick on the last WYD in Sydney, and also Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos’ letter of support to the International Juventutem Federation last year.


Watch for photos on this, either in this post as an update, or in a different post.

This raises the matter again of Juventutem. It would be very good for priests (or local laity) to consider starting a local Juventutem chapter.

This is particularly so for a situation where the usus antiquior is being offered at a chapel (i.e. outside a parish setting), as it can be a way to help build up groups more akin to what would be found within a normal parish setting, and one particularly directed toward young adults.

But it would also be good for parishes which have started to offer the usus antiquior, in order to provide a good outlet for young adults to come together in a parish. This not only provides a good social outlet which youth often particularly desire, but is a venue to pursue liturgical catechesis, organize pilgrimages, and promote our venerable Roman liturgical traditions and so forth. It can also be a means to help that group take an active role within the life of the parish. Give it some consideration.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Fr. Ralph March to Instruct at Colloquium

Fr. Ralph March, O.Cist., of the University of Dallas, has joined the faculty of the Church Music Association of America for teaching at the XIX annual Sacred Music Colloquium, June 22-28, 2009.

Fr. March began his life as a young monk in Hungary, but was forced to flee the
country when the Communists took over the monastery. He served as the Cologne Cathedral Kappelmeister for two decades. He was editor of Sacred Music for years, and has consistently inspired students at UD with his knowledge of chant and amazing stories from his travels and teaching.

He will be directing the men's advanced singers. It is a great honor to have him.

In addition, Cardinal George of Chicago will celebrate Mass with the Colloquium choir mid-week.

Needed: A Forward Look for Sacred Music

Here is my introduction to Sing Like a Catholic, now on Amazon:

In 1995, Thomas Day published a book called Why Catholics Can’t Sing. It was daring and brave, and it shocked many Catholics out of their stupor.

He wrote that Catholic music is in dreadful shape. Our hymns are pathetic. Our Mass settings are uninspired. Our singers are weak and egotistical. Our parishes don’t pay musicians and don’t reward excellence, and we are paying the price for this. Our celebrants don’t sing. Even our hymnbooks are an embarrassment. We’ve lost our traditions, he continued, among which even simple plainsong and chant.

Some cheered him; some condemned him. But it did get attention. It was a wake-up call.

The book wasn’t filled with new revelations about the particulars. The revelation for many was that the problem was not limited to their own parishes. It was a pervasive problem, one that defines the whole.

As a columnist and daily blogger in Catholic music, I have to admire the courage it took to say what he said. I can’t even imagine what kind of abuse he must have dealt with from the Catholic music establishment (for lack of a better term), which until then was a self-satisfied lot. To say, as a professor of music at a Catholic college, that the Catholic Church had been led into a pit of bad taste and shoddy practice must have caused the ceiling to crash in on him.

That was fifteen years ago. Today we are fortunate that something is being done about the problem. There is a new debate, and, more importantly, there are new solutions being put into practice in our parishes.

This new debate is what this book is about. It chronicles how we are moving from the world of Professor Day, one in which Catholics can’t sing, to a world in which singing like a Catholic is considered a glorious thing. It is the fulfillment of a brilliant heritage of singing that began in the Apostolic age with chant, continued through the middle ages with the invention of the musical staff and the Renaissance with soaring heights of the polyphonic idea, and all the way through the later centuries with orchestral and organ Masses.

Now, a bit about me. My father was a church music director, and I sang under him as a kid. Today I am director too, with an unpaid position as director of polyphony for a local Catholic parish choir, the St. Cecilia Schola, in Auburn, Alabama. Indeed, I’m a complete amateur who dropped out of music school because I couldn’t stand the secularity and arrogance that seems integral to the craft. I turned to economics as a vocation.

Later in life, I discovered Catholic music and after some years of study and practice, I jumped back in. I now write monthly, weekly, daily columns on the topic, and lecture, and teach as time allows I’m also the managing editor of Sacred Music, under the mentorship of editor William Mahrt of Stanford University. The journal, which has been around 135 years, provides a publishing venue for Catholic musicians to share insights, debate, communicate, offer results of research, and explain the seemingly infinite variety of spiritual and intellectual implications of music for liturgy. Its specialization is sacred music, which is not just any music but music especially suitable for liturgy, which leaves time and strives to touch eternity. I also serve as the publications director, and was involved in the production of The Parish Book of Chant (CMAA, 2008).

I’m also involved in the workings of the Church Music Association of America. These are the training grounds of the new epoch. The crowds and its programs are too varied to characterize simply. The average age is 40 or so, and most people are parish music directors or musicians. There are also many priests who come to learn to chant their parts. We divide into polyphonic choirs and chant choirs. We prepare propers and ordinary settings for Masses, as well as Motets for Holy Hour, and Psalms for Vespers. We also hear lectures on theology, conducting, resources, singing technique, as well as critical discussions of the chant repertory. It is rigorous, fun, and spiritually life changing.

This is one new trend. Another is the rise of Praise and Worship music. There is a difference between “glory and praise music” of the 1970s and the new trends in pop Catholic music, just as there is a difference between the tango and the salsa. But neither style partakes of the marks of sacred music: holy, universal, beauty of forms.

The change from G&P to P&W strikes me as part of a changing fashion, like the width of ties. This book argues that what we need is a paradigm shift that takes seriously the long teachings of the Popes: the Roman Gradual is the book for the choir, the Kyriale is the book for the people, and the Missal is the book of music for the celebrant. The music most appropriate to liturgy, I argue, is either that music or an elaboration on that music.

It is not just the text that matters but also the music and its cultural context. Liturgical music is a special sort of music, one that lifts our hearts and minds ever upwards to the Heavens. The whole push is not so much for “restoration” (that word bugs me a bit) but rather for an ideal, which is what Catholic musicians lack and desperately need.

We need to get away from the week-to-week chart picking that characterizes the typical approach. The ideal we should seek is rather well presented by the Second Vatican Council, consistent with musical ideals established very early in the Christian centuries.

What sacred music offers is perfect integration between art and faith, a music that is wedded to the liturgy: textually, stylistically, theologically, and historically.

Yes, it is a challenge. It takes work. It takes training. It calls on all our efforts and prayers. In this way, it is like the faith itself: simple in form but infinitely complex in its meaning. No one expects an overnight change, but once the ideals are in place, the work of the people to achieve the ideal becomes more clearly laid out. Most of the musicians in Catholic parishes haven’t been exposed yet to the ideal, but the time is coming. I hope that this book makes a contribution to the cause.

Absolution at the Catafalque

Being as I always enjoy showing news from Ss. Trinita, a video by John Sonnen of the absolution at the catafalque for the recent Requiem there.

Three Important Upcoming Masses in the Usus Antiquior

Our friends at announce three important Masses which will be celebrated according to the usus aniquior in Italy in the coming months.

First, Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, will celebrate Pontifical Mass and ordain five priests for the Franciscans of the Immaculate (FFI) in the church of St. Francis in Tarquinia (a small town in Latium) on the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March 2009) at 10 a.m.

Then the Superior of the FFI, Fr Stefano Maria Manelli, will celebrate Solemn Mass in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran on the occasion of the Octocentennial of the Approbation of the Rule of St. Francis on 16 April 2009, also at 10 a.m.

And lastly, Cardinal Cañizares, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, will pontificate in the same Archbasilica of St. John Lateran on the following 21 April 2009, again at 10 a.m.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

George Cardinal Pell to Visit Oxford, Sung Vespers at Merton, Mass at the Oxford Oratory

Some good friends of the NLM sent this in for posting:

George Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, will be visiting Oxford University next week to deliver the Newman Society’s inaugural Thomas More Lecture. As part of his visit he will be the celebrant at Vespers according to the 1961 Breviarium Romanum in Merton College’s medieval chapel on Thursday, 5th March, at 6.00pm. All are welcome to attend.

Sospiri, a choir specialising in liturgical music, will lead the singing of the office in Gregorian chant and will sing the Ecce sacerdos magnus and the Magnificat to settings by the great Spanish composer, Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548-1611). After Vespers there will be a drinks reception in the Ante-Chapel, to which all attending Vespers are welcome.

On the following day (Friday, 6th March) Cardinal Pell will deliver the Newman Society’s inaugural Thomas More Lecture on ‘Varieties of intolerance: religious and secular’ in the Divinity School, Bodleian Library, at 4pm. Anyone wishing to attend this can reserve a place by e-mailing: Following the lecture His Eminence will Pontificate at a Solemn Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI in intercession for the beatification of John Henry Newman at the Oxford Oratory at 6.00 pm.

Further information can be found at

(Cardinal Pell at Ss. Trinita in Rome)

St. John Passion, Sung in English

Fr. Samuel Weber prepared this sung version of the Passion of Our Lord, according to St. John, in English, sung with optional accompaniment. It is most excellent and easier than many versions you might see. Start practicing now! But please email Fr. Weber if you are using it.

The Stational Churches of Rome by Fr. Scott Haynes

Fr. Scott Haynes of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius sent in news to the NLM of his piece, Roman Stational Churches - A Spiritual Guide Through Lent which is also published in the present edition of the Adoremus Bulletin.

I haven't had a chance to do anything more than simply skim the piece at present, but it looks of interest. Do take a look.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What We Learn from Music

At some point in my studies of Catholic liturgy, I concluded that you can't really understand liturgy without understanding or being exposed to the music of the Mass -- that is, without the music, you miss important information that forms our tradition and faith. The text alone does not provide all. Critical signals and knowledge are embedded in notes and forms of notes. This is lost when we fail to sing what the Church's liturgy asks us to sing. We are missing out on the whole of the liturgical structure and the experience of the faith that liturgy provides.

(This, incidentally, was a major problem with the outlook of Annibale Bugnini, the chief architect of the reformed Missal: he was hopelessly uninterested in music; in fact, he knew nothing at all, as his autobiography reveals.)

Lent is a fantastic example of this, and this Sunday in particular, when the propers intrigue us with their form and structure. The Introit is joyful, and the Tract is too, but it is shockingly long, while the Gospel itself is short. The propers are uniformly from Psalm 90, which his highly unusual, and this happens to be the same Psalm that the Devil quotes during the period of temptation.

What to make of all of this? I present to you William Mahrt's commentary on the propers for Sunday:

The Sunday which heads the Lenten season takes its theme from the paradigm of all Christian fasting: Jesus’ forty-day fast in the desert and his temptation by the devil there. In tempting Jesus to show his divinity by casting himself down from the parapet of the temple, the devil quoted Psalm 90, “He hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.” This quotation is such a powerful memory of the event of the temptation that the psalm is the source of all the Propers of the Mass for this Sunday. Rarely are Mass Propers so unified; moreover, the place of this psalm is even more emphasized by the fact that the tract for the day comprises most of the verses of the psalm.

The tract is direct psalmody—the singing of successive verses of a psalm without refrain, and it is sung in alternation by two halves of the choir. By replacing the alleluia sung in the normal seasons, it represents a kind of fasting from the wordless jubilation of the alleluia. While the tract normally comprises three to five verses of a psalm, the tract for this day has thirteen verses. Only two other days have these long tracts: Palm Sunday and Good Friday. On these days, the Passions are sung, and the tract serves as a long preparation for these extended Gospels. Today, however, the long tract simply stands by itself, and its function could be seen as an intense entry into the Lenten Season, a turning to God as refuge and protector. Throughout the Lenten season, the tracts can be the point of recollection in the liturgy and a meditative preparation for the hearing of the Gospel.

Ash Wednesday from Santa Sabina, Rome

Other commitments prevented live coverage of the Papal Mass from Santa Sabina this Ash Wednesday, but a few press photographs, as well as a few photos taken from the Mass which was re-aired on EWTN this evening.

The Mass was at today's stational church of Santa Sabina, the Dominican Church in Rome, which was originally founded in the 5th century. A brief history of the basilica, as provided by the website of the General Curia of the Dominican Order:

"The church and convent of Santa Sabina on the Aventine hill in Rome have been home to the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) since the 13th century.


"Many wealthy and noble Roman families made their homes on the Aventine hill during the time of the Roman Empire, two thousand years ago. The hill which rises some 50 metres above the Tiber was home to many magnificent Roman buildings. Among these was the home of a Roman lady named Sabine, who had embraced the Christian faith.

"According to many accounts she was martyred around the year 125, during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. Her home became a shrine to the faith she professed. In 422, after the destruction wrought by Alaric and the Goths in 410, a church was built on the remains of Sabine's home. That is the same church Honorius III handed to the Order of Preachers in 1219, the same church which has weathered the crises of centuries, the same church you see here.

We begin with the papal procession:

(Skipping ahead now to the Gospel)

Blessing and Imposition of Ashes

The Offertory, Canon and Communion

(One can just see the confessio beneath the Altar, where the relics of St. Sabina are found)

As an aside, I could be wrong, but I am fairly certain I saw Martin Mosebach, author of "The Heresy of Formlessness", receiving Holy Communion from the Holy Father.

Matthew Alderman (and More) at Thomas More College

I'm heading up to New Hampshire this Friday to give a presentation on what one might term the decline and rise of liturgical architecture in the United States at Thomas More College, the home of an excellent sacred art program we profiled some time ago, as well as writer-in-residence and Catholic bon vivant John Zmirak. Bring your friends, fellow clergy, and anyone else who might enjoy it:

The Collapse and Restoration of Sacred Architecture in America

In the last half-century, Catholic churches have become proverbially ugly. But today, young Catholics crave not ephemeral plywood and shag carpeting but the timeless signposts of beauty and mystery. Is this a mere shift in taste, or is a deeper cultural conversion at hand?

Join Matthew G. Alderman, New York-based architectural critic and liturgical artist, as he explores the traditional Catholic quest to create the ideal sacred space, what went right, what went wrong in recent years, how Pope Benedict is fixing it, and what you personally can do to help. He will give special attention to the history of the Liturgical Movement, the significance of the Western tradition of iconography and sacred geometry, and the prospects for renewal.

Thomas More College Humanities Room

6 Manchester Street, Merrimack, NH

Friday, February 27, 8 pm.

All are welcome.

Also coming up is a lecture entitled The Restoration of Gregorian Chant in the 20th Century, given by Dr. Sam Schmitt (Ph.D. in musicology from CUA), March 20th at 8:00pm at the College.

Critiquing the critics

It was just a matter of time until the academic liturgical establishment took notice. Reforming the Liturgy: A Response to the Critics is a recent title from Liturgical Press (Collegeville, MN). (See the recent post in which this book is mentioned.) Its author, John F. Baldovin, S.J. (Boston College), has "tried to listen to the many voices that in various ways have criticized the Vatican II liturgical reform," and expresses his hope that he has "treated them with the respect they deserve" (p. 156). He has indeed. This is no scathing attack on the critics of the reform, but a soberly critical (and at times even sympathetic) look at the big tent known as the new liturgical movement.

The first four chapters outline the philosophical, historical, theological, and anthropological approaches taken by the critics of the reform. The rest of the book focuses on the issues arising from these approaches: liturgical language, music, orientation, architecture, and finally Summorum Pontificum of 2007. His treatment of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI's contribution to the debate is, as Bill O'Reilly would put it, "fair and balanced." To wit: "Ratzinger has no desire to return simply to the pre-Vatican II liturgy. He certainly appreciates the Liturgy of the Word in the language of the people and is critical of the 'Tridentines' who want to freeze the liturgy of the sixteenth century. At the same time he criticizes the Missal of Paul VI (1970) as a creation of professors rather than a liturgy that grew organically out of praying communities" (pp. 79-80).

Father Baldovin nicely captures the typology of the new liturgical movement, distinguishing the "reform of the reform" agenda from that of "recatholicizing the reform." Both camps recognize that the pre-Vatican II liturgy needed reform (to be fair, so do many traditionalists) and that the postconciliar reform yielded some good fruits; but whereas the reformers of the reform advocate a revision of the novus ordo liturgical books in order to establish greater continuity with the usus antiquior of the Roman Rite (Baldovin enumerates the various proposals found in the appendices of my 2003 book, The Reform of the Reform?), the recatholicizers (as represented, for example, by Msgr. M. Francis Mannion) are primarily committed to "a deepening of the spirit of the liturgy, the inculcation of a liturgical spirituality" (p. 8) rather than rewriting the liturgical books. The author's own views, he admits (p. 135), come closest to those of the latter group: the major issue is not structural revision but the need to understand the liturgy as primarily God's work.

In his response to the critics of the reform, Baldovin cautions against making too much of the principle of organic development:

Understanding liturgy by way of biological metaphors clearly has limits. The liturgy is not an organism in the same way that a plant or animal is. The question really comes down to the nature of tradition. Is it possible to see a misguided trajectory in certain of the developments, e.g., the silent recitation of the Canon of the Mass, infrequency of reception of holy communion, the retention of Latin? To capitalize on the biological metaphor, is it not possible or necessary that broken limbs must be reset to become useful again to the whole organism? (p. 6).

One might counter that resetting broken limbs is precisely what the reform of the reform is about. And of course, just how much is "too much" is open to debate. The context of the above passage is a treatment of Dr Alcuin Reid's thesis on the development of the Roman liturgy up to Vatican II; in my opinion, Baldovin wrongly ascribes to Reid (and Msgr. Gamber) the same romantic view of the older liturgy that many traditionalists seem to hold. Devotion to the traditional rites does not necessarily betray disdain for the ideals of the classical Liturgical Movement.

Then there is this caveat against comparing apples to oranges:

[I]t is very important when comparing the pre- and post-Vatican II liturgy to try to make the comparison as fair as possible. Of course one can easily see the flaws in a fifteen-minute pre-Vatican II Low Mass said entirely in Latin when compared to a carefully prepared post-Vatican II eucharistic liturgy in which all the proper ministerial roles have been employed and the people have learned to participate with mind, heart, voice, and body. At the same time it is easy to ridicule a poorly prepared, self-congratulatory post-Vatican II liturgy in which very few participate actively when compared to a beautifully sung and aesthetically powerful example of a pre-Vatican II Solemn High Mass. All too often that is the level at which comparisons are made. (pp. 156-57)

That Baldovin would refer to the extraordinary form as "Mass" and the ordinary form as the "eucharistic liturgy" is not insignificant: discontinuity has been the name of the game for some time. More important than a hermeneutic of continuity is "the painstaking and patient work of translating and creating texts and fashioning and preparing liturgical services that truly nourish the people of God today" (p. 157). Liturgical fabrication arising from pastoral necessity: Sounds familiar? To make the principle of organic development the supreme criterion of liturgical reform is to idolize tradition, so Baldovin suggests. Vatican II, he says, was "a change in Roman Catholicism that transcends the documents themselves" (p. 12).

When he does register personal disapproval of certain aspects of the reform, it is usually along the lines taken by the French historian and specialist in Gregorian chant, Denis Crouan, author of The Liturgy Betrayed (Ignatius, 2000): there is nothing inherently problematic about the reform; rather, the reform was poorly implemented. (But then, if the "spirit of Vatican II" transcends the documents, as Baldovin says, what standard is there for judging whether or not the reform was implemented well?) Baldovin will have no truck with the likes of Msgr Klaus Gamber, Alcuin Reid, Fr Aidan Nichols, Laszlo Dobszay, and Yours Truly. For him, there can be no "going back" of any sort. Even a general return to celebrations ad orientem is inadvisable: Does the cosmic symbolism of the East (the rising sun) make much sense in a world flooded with artificial light? Can it be that the "turning of the altars" was accepted so quickly precisely because of the chief accomplishment of the reform, namely, the recovery of a corporate sense of worship?

Although I disagree with Baldovin's contention that it will do no good to try to retrieve certain elements of the tradition (even if they were unwarrantedly abandoned), I nonetheless recommend Reforming the Liturgy for the way it presents the substance of the various critiques launched against the postconciliar liturgy as a whole. And it's always good to know what those on the other side of the aisle (or liturgical spectrum) are saying about "us." While the author is very much at home with the revised liturgy and its development since 1970, his tone is respectful and non-polemical. "I would not have written this book," says Baldovin, "if I had thought the critics had nothing to offer" (p. 12). And he recognizes that the critics "have the good of God's people at heart" (p. 156). This is a far cry from the unreflective condescension that has characterized the liturgical guild for so long.

Dr. Alcuin Reid at the Toronto Oratory

Dr. Alcuin Reid, the well known liturgical scholar, author of The Organic Development of the Liturgy recently spoke at the Toronto Oratory this past Wednesday, February 18th, as part of their "Wednesday Evenings at the Oratory" series.

The setting for the talk was a filled to capacity hall at the primary church of the Toronto Oratory, Holy Family. Approximately 150-200 people filled the hall, which included the presence of the Archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Collins, and Fr. Jonathan Robinson, provost of the Toronto Oratory and author of The Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward. Also present were a number of seminarians, religious, and many laity, young and old.

The paper delivered was Continuity or Rupture: The Second Vatican Council’s Reform of the Liturgy - Some Preliminary Questions. The basic question approached is as follows: "Was the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council a rupture or was it in continuity with the liturgical tradition of the ages?" The question is not new, but it is one which has stirred some quite strong responses both for and against in recent decades and not always where one might expect. Consider for example the thought, quoted by Reid, that

The real radicalism of the 1960’s was represented by the revolutionary reforms of Vatican II. Breaking with a tradition that stretched back almost 1300 years...

This quotation does not come from a traditionalist or reform-of-the-reformist critic, but rather from a commentator in a "progressive" liturgical journal who is quite favourable to the whole idea. Similarly, Fr. John Baldovin, S.J., in his recent work, Reforming the Liturgy: A Response to the Critics, suggests that it is his view that what occurred was a “radical reform of the liturgy” which represents a “radical shift in Catholic theology and piety” and that this was desirable. (One is also put to mind of the now famous sentiment of another Jesuit writer, Fr. Joseph Gelineau, where he suggested that the Roman rite as it had been known had been "destroyed.") All this simply suggests, of course, that this idea is not the sole preserve of only one side of the liturgical spectrum or another, and this might be something that will be otherwise assumed.

Some might find the question of continuity or rupture rather uncomfortable to approach lest one, as Dr. Reid noted, be accused of denying the Second Vatican Council. Fortunately, times are slowly but surely changing, and more earnest, penetrating questions might begin to be asked with less fear of such reactions -- though as recent events have shown, it is still a very central issue to some parties who wish to defend a, heretofore, monopolized interpretation and implementation of Vatican II.

We sit now nearly half a century from the close of the Council, and while these penetrating questions will challenge some indeed, they are quite necessary as part of the exercise of taking stock. As Reid notes, is necessary that the liturgical reform be examined critically, for if we are to make progress with the reinvigoration of the liturgical life of the Church―and with its correction where necessary―we must do so on the basis of a clear understanding of what the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council in fact was, for good or ill.

To pursue this critical examination, Dr. Reid examined the following questions in his paper:

What competence or authority does an Ecumenical Council of the Church have in respect of the reform of the Sacred Liturgy?

What may be said about the principles of reform in the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium?

What may be said about the specific reforms ordered by the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium?

To what extent, if any, did the work of the Consilium exceed the wishes of the Council, and on what authority?

What is to be said of the liturgical books promulgated by Pope Paul VI in the light of the above?

It was in the context of this framework that Reid's paper was delivered; these form the basis of his preliminary considerations of the subject -- considerations that are forming the basis of a forthcoming book on this same subject.

It is important to note first, however, that these are preliminary considerations on the part of Alcuin Reid, and so they should be taken in that light.

With that caveat aside, the first significant question raised in the paper was that of the authority of a Council in relation to the reform of the sacred liturgy. After a consideration of the various activities of Councils in relation to the sacred liturgy down the ages, Reid noted that their "authority is not positivistic: Councils do not re-make the Sacred Liturgy in their own image and likeness or indeed in that of some ‘straw modern man.’" What they have done, he suggests, is correct abuses, make prudential decisions about the correct manner of its celebration, and adjust the liturgical tradition proportionately for serious reason. He proposes that this aligns to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which makes note of the fact that even the supreme authority of the Church may not arbitrarily change the liturgy. (para. 1125)

How then does this mesh with the principles enunciated by the Second Vatican Council? Reid notes that Sacrosanctum Concilium identifies a number of very sound liturgical principles, such as the idea that the liturgy is “culmen et fons” (source and summit); the principle (whose source is to be found in the teaching of St. Pius X) surrounding “actuosa participatio” (active or actual participation); it also generally sought to promote a liturgical piety, taking its cues from the 20th century Liturgical Movement. All of this was primarily “to be achieved by means of the improvement of the liturgical education and formation of the clergy and the laity.” In each of these, there is no rupture to be found, and Reid proposes that these principles are of fundamental importance to properly understanding the rest of what Sacrosanctum Concilium proposes; they are, as might be said, interpretive keys.

One point identified as problematic, though not so much in its own regard as by how many post-conciliar liturgists have interpreted it, is article 21 of Sacrosanctum Concilium which notes that there are changeable elements in the liturgy which may and ought to be changed if “they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it”. Reid notes that Pius XII made a similar distinction (though without the “ought”) in his liturgical encyclical, Mediator Dei, but he also notes there is something of a post-Tridentine positivism that undergirds it. Still, the entire context of the document, as well as the articles which follow article 21, make clear that this was not a license for rupture, nor the arbitrary changing of the liturgy for the sake of “pastoral expediency”. A further point comes up from this matter of article 21 and the “changeable” parts of the liturgy, which is the matter of an interpretation which diminishes the importance of the outer aspects and forms of the liturgy:
Behind various interpretations of this distinction lurks a large issue in sacramental and liturgical theology: what efficacious role to these ‘non-divine’ liturgical elements have? Are they “mere externals”?

Reid’s response:
There is much more to be said about the efficacy of all elements of the liturgical rites, and therefore about the probity of their being changed: in Catholic theology they cannot be regarded as “mere externals”!

A further point which Reid wishes to emphasize is that we must also be clear that these principles are theological in nature rather than dogmatic and accordingly, one can put forward prudential disagreements with them, without, in point of fact, denying any doctrine of the Church, and without any necessity of damaging communion with Her – though he is also careful to point out that they must be given serious consideration, and further, even if one disagrees with certain particular reforms, one must always act in accordance with liturgical law.

Continuing on in a consideration of Sacrosanctum Concilium Reid also made note of a point that Aidan Nichols, O.P. raised, which is that through the means of some rather innocuous language in Sacrosanctum Concilium might be found “the seeds of its own destruction” – that is to say, the openings which allowed things to happen which can be understood as contrary to the will of the Council Fathers, using their very own document. This of course leads us to the ever-controversial (though ever more frequently asked) question of the “Consilum” – the body that was charged with the post-conciliar implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy – and whether it went beyond its mandate. Reid proposes that in addressing that question, study is needed of these activities effected by the Consilium :
- the wholesale vernacularisation of the liturgy
- the radical reordering of the Ordo Missae when the Council Fathers had been assured both verbally and in writing before voting on article 50 that “The current Ordo Missae, which has grown up in the course of the centuries, is to be retained.”
- the introduction of new Eucharistic prayers: a substantial innovation which the Council had neither discussed, considered nor approved
- the revision of the formula for the consecration of the Chalice.
- the theological reordering of both the proper prayers of the Mass formularies and to parts of rites such as the offertory at Mass.
- the abolition of the ancient Octave of Pentecost and of the season of Septuagesima
- the radical recasting of the calendar of saints, rather than its simplification
- the substantial reforms to the rites of the Roman ritual

A substantial list of considerations to be certain; one demonstrative of just how extensive the revisions of the Consilium were -- and thus, indeed, why there is such an urgent need for a critical appraisal.

Beyond the matter of the Consilium however, Reid further proposed that it is necessary that there be consideration of the limits of the power of the papacy to introduce substantial reforms, something Benedict XVI himself made note of on May 7th, 2005:
The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope's ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.

So then, with all of these matters put forth, what then is to be made of the post-conciliar liturgical books? To return to the original question, was the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council a rupture or was it in continuity with the liturgical tradition of the ages? The question, as one would expect given that these are simply preliminary considerations, is left unanswered for the present moment, and equally up in the air is what should be done to address the matter if it is found to be so. What is not left unanswered however, and Reid is very clear on the point, is that the present rites, whatever else might be found, do have the approbation of papal authority and are most certainly valid.

But of course, it must be said that mere validity is not the only important matter. In concluding, Dr. Alcuin Reid urged that “I hope that you will agree that it is indeed urgent and necessary to address [these questions]. I hope also that you can see something of the complexity of the task. Simple answers do not suffice: many necessary distinctions must be drawn and I would encourage you to further their study and discussion.”

Dies Cinerum: Lent

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion
Have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ranjith on the Ars Celebrandi

The following address of Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, which was presented at the Gateway Liturgical Conference in St. Louis in November 2008 is now available off of the website of Adoremus: Toward an Ars Celebrandi in Liturgy

The piece itself is quite lengthy, so just a few highlights:

Liturgy Is “Given”

Liturgy thus should be considered a treasure “given” to the Church, not created by it. The fact of the steady growth of liturgical traditions along its bi-millennial history, and the surprisingly harmonious and natural way in which it has happened, is proof of the work of the Holy Spirit and the surpassing nobility of its contents. It is like a tree, which continues to grow, at times shedding its leaves, at other times being pruned to become stronger and straighter, but always remaining the same tree. Sacred Liturgy has undergone a similar process of growth but never a new beginning, right from the earliest times even until now — and so it will be even in the future because it is Christ Himself who through His Mystical Body, the Church, has continued to exercise His priestly office.


Ego Pampering

Let us face it, all of us priests, bishops, and even cardinals, are human beings and so the temptation to place ourselves at the center makes us feel good — what I call “ego pampering”.

None of us is exempt from this, and now with the Missa versus populum [Mass facing the people], that danger is even greater. Facing the people increases chances of dis-attention and distraction from what we do at the altar, and the temptation for showmanship. In a beautiful article written by a German author, the following comments were made on the subject:

"While in the past, the priest functioned as the anonymous go-between, the first among the faithful, facing God and not the people, representative of all and together with them offering the sacrifice … today he is a distinct person, with personal characteristics, his personal life style, his face turned towards the people. For many priests this change is a temptation they cannot handle … to them, the level of success in their performance is a measure of their personal power and thus the indicator of their feeling of personal security and self assurance."

(K.G. Rey, Pubertaetserscheinungen in der Katholischen Kirche [Signs of Puberty in the Catholic Church] Kritische Texte, Benzinger, Vol 4, p. 25).

The priest here, as we can see, becomes the main actor playing out a drama with other actors on a platform- like place, and the more creative and dramatic they become, the more they feel a sense of ego satisfaction. But, where can Christ be in all of this?

Sense of Awe

The true ars celebrandi thus requires from all, first and foremost, a sense of profound faith and veneration toward the nobility and celestial dignity of all liturgical acts that are to be celebrated. A sense of awe at what is being done requires one to be cultivated in the way the surroundings of the celebration are handled in its preparation, its celebration, and even in the atmosphere that follows from this. These are never to be equated with any other ordinary activity of the day. These inner spiritual dispositions, as well as the co-natural physical postures, gestures and actions, should be fostered even before any such celebration begins. A silent and prayerful atmosphere should be cultivated in the Church as a preparatory posture; the celebrants should be seen by the faithful at personal prayer at the altar before such celebrations even begin; this would stimulate the faithful, to, in turn, be recollected and prayerful. The noble and prayerful way of vesting in the sacristy, too, becomes important; those vesting prayers should return to the sacristy.

There should be a strong sense of liturgical correctness and dignity in the way the celebrations are carried forward — the piety and intense sense of communion with the Lord and the entire Church which the priest displays in his concentration on what he does at the altar. The moments of silent prayer, and the intense spiritual atmosphere, the feeling of gratitude for the eternal gifts received, in re- collected thanksgiving after the celebration, are all part of the powerful language of the presence and action of God in these celebrations.

Ecclesial, Hence Not According to Our Whims

In addition, liturgy is always the public prayer of the Church, and each time such is celebrated it is the actio Christi which the entire Church performs. Indeed the Church is Christ in His mystical presence in time and space, and so, what we do is what He Himself does mystically. We, as the Church, have received this from Him. It is this that places the rite above the authority of the celebrant. It is Divine Liturgy, as the Christian East calls it, and not just liturgy.


Ars celebrandi should at the same time “foster a sense of the sacred and use of outward signs which help to cultivate this sense, such as, for example, the harmony of the rite, the liturgical vestments, the furnishing and the sacred space” (ibid). Besides “attentiveness to the various kinds of language that liturgy employs: words and music, gestures and silence, movement, the liturgical colors of the vestments” (ibid) are also equally important.

Sancte Deus among the Carmelites

A correspondent (Peter from Boston) sent me an interesting point I hadn't known. In the Carmelite Rite, from the 1959 Antiphonale, the Sprinkling chant is change from Asperges to a chant that is unique to this order: the Sancte Deus (Trisagion of the Eastern Rite). And look at the tune. It begins very much like Vidi Aquam and then it begins to sound like Asperges, though with a completely different text. How glorious this is!

By the way, our own schola is singing a setting of this text by Thomas Tallis during Lent, and Good Friday in particular.

Sing Like a Catholic on Amazon

Many people suggested that my book be made available on Amazon. Now it is. At the same time, Byrd Celebration is also available.

Thank you again to the all the commentators and bloggers here, who ideas I've shamelessly looted for years.

Clear Words of Msgr Ranjith on the Flaws of the Postconciliar Liturgical Reforms and the Need for a Reform of the Reform

Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the Secretary of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has written a foreword to a book by Msgr. Nicola Giampietro (True Development of the Liturgy, due to be published by Roman Catholic Books in September) based on the diaries and notes of Cardinal Fernando Antonelli OFM, who was the Secretary of the Liturgical Commission of the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1964 and went on to be Archbishop Ranjith's predecessor as Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites from 1965 until 1969. With his unique insight, then Fr Antonelli was very critical of the modus operandi of the Consilium, the body charged with preparing the liturgical reforms, and wrote a famous Nota sulla riforma liturgica (note on the liturgical reform) in which he deplored many of the symptoms of decay which we still observe today, such as a rampant disregard for liturgical norms or a lack of love and veneration for Sacred Tradition. Based on Antonelli's observation, Archbishop Ranjith finds some very clear words about the problematic genesis and the results of the liturgical reforms after the Council. Speaking of the influences on the work of the Consilium, he writes:

An exaggerated sense of antiquarianism, anthopologism, confusion of roles between the ordained and the non-ordained, a limitless provision of space for experimentation-- and indeed, the tendency to look down upon some aspects of the development of the Liturgy in the second millennium-- were increasingly visible among certain liturgical schools.

And regarding the result of the reforms, he observes:
Some practices which Sacrosanctum Concilium had never even contemplated were allowed into the Liturgy, like Mass versus populum, Holy Communion in the hand, altogether giving up on the Latin and Gregorian Chant in favor of the vernacular and songs and hymns without much space for God, and extension beyond any reasonable limits of the faculty to concelebrate at Holy Mass. There was also the gross misinterpretation of the principle of "active participation".


Basic concepts and themes like Sacrifice and Redemption, Mission, Proclamation and Conversion, Adoration as an integral element of Communion, and the need of the Church for salvation--all were sidelined, while Dialogue, Inculturation, Ecumenism, Eucharist-as-Banquet, Evangelization-as-Witness, etc., became more important. Absolute values were disdained.

Such an unblinkered look at the liturgical reforms can, Msgr Ranjith writes,
help us to be courageous in improving or changing that which was erroneously introduced and which appears to be incompatible with the true dignity of the Liturgy.

This is nothing short of a manifesto for a true Reform of the Reform, issued by a prelate handpicked by the Holy Father for the competent Congregation, and ought to fill us with great hope. You can read the entire article about the foreword at Catholic World News here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Solemn Requiem from Ss. Trinita for Fr. Adrian Ckuj

From John Sonnen at Orbis Catholicus, some photos of the a recent Solemn Requiem Mass at Ss. Trinita in Rome.

More photos are available over at John's site.

Events backlog

I've gotten behind in noting upcoming events in Catholic music:

Qui Habitat: Tract for 1 Lent

How many Catholics know the part of Catholic liturgy called that Tract? Precious few, I suspect. It is the verse that follows the Gradual and precedes the Gospel reading in Lent. The Catholic Encyclopedia calls it a supplement to the Gradual chant. It appears in place of the Alleluia and its verse.

In the ordinary form, it is usually replaced with what is called the "Gospel Acclamation," but the current practice of singing a short text upsets the balance of form in the Roman Rite. For this reason, even today, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal still recommends the Tract in 62b.

The Tract for this weekend is Qui Habitat from Psalm 91. It is famous for being one of the most extended and elaborate chants in the entire Gregorian repertoire. It lasts as long as eleven minutes. Even celebrants have been known to complain of its length. One theory I might offer is as follows.

The first Sunday of Lent has an entrance that is exuberant and filled with hope for salvation. Nothing yet occurs aesthetically that might signal the beginning of Lent. But the Gospel changes everything. Jesus goes into the desert. John is arrested. Jesus announces that "this is the time of fulfillment…repent."

The eleven-minute Psalm occurs just before, as if to remind us that salvation comes at the price of a massive and complex ordeal of suffering: first in the dessert in a period of temptation that mirrors our own plight in this vale of tears, and following this, the Son of God slaughtered at the hands of man.

Even if you knew no text and could follow no narrative, and could only hear notes, the signal is presented very profoundly that the time has arrived. As the weeks proceed, the Gospel grows longer, but in this first week, the extended quality of the liturgy in Len—its seriousness of what it requires of Christ and of us—is subsumed in this one chant.

I'm looking now at the Missalette and I see fully two sentences in the "Gospel Acclamation": Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, King of Endless Glory. One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God."

Now, compare to the Tract.

I will try to present a miniaturized graphic of it to give you an idea. There are probably whole dissertations written on this, and, if not, there should be. By the way, you can also sing this according to a Psalm tone (AUG or Chants Abreges) or even in English (Abrogast).

Lee Lawrie, Architectural Sculptor

Lee Lawrie was one of the finest sculptors of the first quarter of the twentieth century, and a major force in the Art Deco of the period. He is particularly connected with some of Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Goodhue's various works, having sculpted the masterful reredos of St. Thomas Church and some of the exterior work on St. Vincent Ferrer, both in New York. Largely and unjustifiably neglected by scholars until recently, he finally has his own group, so go have a look round.

Taking a Look at Liturgical Catechesis


o, why do we genuflect and bow, again?" "Why does the priest wear different colours at Mass?" "What does a sacrifice have to do with the Mass and the worship of God?"

These are only but a few basic questions that I have been asked about the sacred liturgy over the years. They may seem like simple questions, however, knowing the answers to them can have a profound impact on how a Catholic is able to have a deeper encounter with God and the sacred mysteries during Holy Mass. The answers to such questions come through liturgical catechesis which is also an important part of the new liturgical movement.

What is the purpose of liturgical catechetics? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "liturgical catechesis aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ (It is "mystagogy.") by proceeding from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to the thing signified, from the "sacraments" to the "mysteries."

Also, the Holy Father addresses liturgical catechesis and how to approach it in Sacramentum Caritatis. He states that "the Church's great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated, offering one's life to God in unity with the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the whole world." He further explains that it is a "mystagogical approach to catechesis, which would lead the faithful to understand more deeply the mysteries being celebrated."

In a more detailed explanation of the mystagogical approach to catechesis, the Holy Father gives guidelines in Sacramentum Caritatis. There are three elements mentioned that should be followed in learning and teaching about the sacred mysteries: 1) "Interpreting the rites in light of the events of our salvation, in accordance with the Church's living tradition." 2) Presenting the traditional meanings of the signs, symbols, and gestures contained in the rites. 3) Bringing out the significance of the rites for living a Christian life.

Let's further look at the details of these three elements found in paragraph 64:

The first element:
a) It [mystagogial catechesis] interprets the rites in the light of the events of our salvation, in accordance with the Church's living tradition. The celebration of the Eucharist, in its infinite richness, makes constant reference to salvation history. In Christ crucified and risen, we truly celebrate the one who has united all things in himself (cf. Eph 1:10). From the beginning, the Christian community has interpreted the events of Jesus' life, and the Paschal Mystery in particular, in relation to the entire history of the Old Testament.

Many Catholics are often amazed when they learn of how God has interacted with His people in the same ways throughout salvation history from the Old Testament right through to this day. In learning and studying the Old Testament many are fascinated by the typology or foreshadowing of the Holy Catholic Church, the Sacraments, Holy Mass, the priesthood, and so forth. It's important for Catholics to learn and realize that such things, as well as others, are not merely man-made. St. Augustine's quote comes to mind here: "The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed."

As an example: The sacrificial nature of the worship of God is continuous. In the Old Testament, God commands His people to worship Him with a sacrifice, and so it is today that we worship God through the unbloody re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice, the most perfect sacrifice, in the sacred liturgy.

The second element:

b) A mystagogical catechesis must also be concerned with presenting the meaning of the signs contained in the rites. This is particularly important in a highly technological age like our own, which risks losing the ability to appreciate signs and symbols. More than simply conveying information, a mystagogical catechesis should be capable of making the faithful more sensitive to the language of signs and gestures which, together with the word, make up the rite.

Everything that is prescribed by the Church in the sacred liturgy matters, and nothing should be seen as useless. All of the authorized texts, gestures, postures, signs, symbols, vestments, etc, are rich in meaning and importance. It is through knowing what these visible realities signify in terms of the sacred mysteries that the faithful can draw into the invisible mysteries being celebrated.

Some examples are: genuflecting is a gesture of adoration to Our Lord substantially present in the Holy Eucharist; red vestments signify martyrdom; and the Sign of the Cross signifies and reaffirms the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and our salvation that comes through the Cross.

Today, unfortunately, there seems to be a loss of Catholic sensibilities in recognizing traditional Catholic "language" both in the spoken word and the unspoken "word" through the recognition of traditional Catholic signs, symbols and gestures. This lack does indeed affect ones ability to actually participate in the liturgy and ultimately it is a barrier to the faithful being transformed by a profound encounter with Christ through the sacred mysteries. This is why it is necessary to re-build these traditional Catholic sensibilities.

At times, in an attempt to make the Mass more "creative and meaningful", people will add signs and symbols to the sacred liturgy which are foreign to Catholic tradition and sensibilities. For instance, at one Mass there was a popsicle stick house placed in front of the altar and it was explained to the congregation that this was to represent the poor and how we need to help them to find proper shelter. This, of course, should not happen.

The third element:

c) Finally, a mystagogical catechesis must be concerned with bringing out the significance of the rites for the Christian life in all its dimensions – work and responsibility, thoughts and emotions, activity and repose. Part of the mystagogical process is to demonstrate how the mysteries celebrated in the rite are linked to the missionary responsibility of the faithful. The mature fruit of mystagogy is an awareness that one's life is being progressively transformed by the holy mysteries being celebrated. The aim of all Christian education, moreover, is to train the believer in an adult faith that can make him a "new creation", capable of bearing witness in his surroundings to the Christian hope that inspires him.

In further delving into the sacred mysteries one should understand their significance and how they play out in living life as a Christian each day. Here are only a couple of examples: 1) A further understanding of the Paschal mystery and how Christ died for the sins of all mankind because of His profound love for each and every single person, should move us to imitate this in our lives by loving and protecting all people, born and unborn. 2) In further understanding the mystery of Christ's love for His Bride, the Holy Catholic Church, one can better understand how a husband should love his wife.

In Conclusion

Of course, one does not need to know and understand everything about the sacred mysteries before beginning to be able to enter into them in the liturgical rites. In other words, one should not worry that they "don't know enough." Often, the mysteries are more and more deeply understood over one's lifetime.

There are various ways and means by which mystagogical catechesis -- which should be ongoing -- can be taught and learned; some of which are:

- parish websites
- homilies
- parish bulletins
- pamphlets made available
- parish catechetical emails
- books
- videos
- blogs
- Facebook
- Podcasts
- CD's and DVD's

The need for mystagogical catechesis is absolutely necessary in being able to fully enter into the sacred mysteries in the liturgy; mind, body, heart, and soul. Often, once one begins to understand and conform to the mysteries within the Mass they are further drawn to learn more and more since it is through the mysteries that one learn's more about God. And, the more one draws closer to God, the greater the desire to further know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.
An excellent example of mystagogical catechesis can be found in this video that was made at St. Elias Ukrainian Catholic Church in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Norbertines building a new abbey

They are raising money doing one of the things they do best: sing! The chant is fantastic, and very valuable for anyone who loves the Gregorian tradition, because the Norbertine books offer a slight variation on the Roman chant. They sing beautifully, based on their last CD of Christmas propers (a CD which I just adore), and this one appears to offer a broader range of music.

The CD is available on Amazon.

Here is a youtube about the order and this new recording:

What does it mean to sing like a Catholic?

Several readers have already taken offense at the title of my new book Sing Like a Catholic. This doesn’t surprise me, since even the core assumption is widely disputed that there is anything in music that is distinctively appropriate for Catholic liturgy.

For several generations, what was originally permission to sing “other suitable songs” apart from the ritual itself has mutated into a kind of musical nihilism that denies that anything should be called universally appropriate or inappropriate. It is widely believed that so long as people more or less like it, it can and should be sung or played.

What this has led to is not universal satisfaction with music at Mass—as one might except in the abstract—but rather the opposite. One never knows for sure what one will get at Mass. Catholics are good sports, so they do their best to make a game out of it. Will it be the aging hippy Mass, the breathy teen pop Mass, the pseudo-broadway Mass, the lone cantor plus guitar Mass, the ethnic parade? The instability of it all becomes a kind of point of bonding between us.

The fun lasts a while but inside Catholics have become terribly despairing about the subject. The nearly universal reactions you can expect from talking to any practicing Catholic about music at the parish are rolled eyes, shrugged shoulders, and waves of the hand if to say “it’s a disaster but what can I do?”

The musicians seem to take themselves very seriously as performers, but what precisely are they attempting to achieve besides badgering people to like the same music they like and getting people to affirm their musical selections by joining in?

The thesis of my book is that what is missing here is a lack direction and a lack of any fixed ideals.

I recently received an email that said the following:

“I’m a musician who has been asked by the pastor to lead the music in my parish. I’m a Catholic but I find that I’m thoroughly confused about what to do, and the more I look, the less I seem to know. What hymns should I program and how do I know what is right? Which of these Mass settings is suitable? Other people in the parish tell me they want to play instruments. Should we do this? What is allowed and what isn’t? What parts should be sung and what parts spoken? I’ve asked the pastor, but he is unclear too, and he seems to be looking to me for guidance. I look forward to any information you can provide.”

There is no sense in being amazed at the confusion here, since the only thing distinctive about the note is that the person is sincere and seeking answers.

I’m looking now at the latest issues of the most widely circulated music publications designed for Catholic parishes, and there are essentially no answers to be found in here. If you followed the advice herein, you would be establishing drum corps, unleashing electric guitars, investing in overhead projectors, spending many thousands on the latest goop from the mainline publishers, and flitting around from thing to thing until the end of time.

Speaking bluntly, this is the blind leading the blind—except that there does seem to be a consistent theme to all this floundering around. Those who are giving the advice are also selling music, and they are strongly recommended their music. This isn’t so much a conspiracy but a working out of capitalist marketing techniques, and there is nothing necessarily unethical about it within certain parameters. The problem is that the parameters have been lost, and the marketing has become completely unhinged from the overarching purpose of the liturgy itself. These companies could serve the Church very well by drawing attention to the music that is part of the structure of the ritual itself, and by encouraging creativity within that framework.

Let’s say you took at class on Catholic theology, expecting a detailed explanation of the Catechism and Creed, the faith and morals that define the parameters of the Catholic religion. You sign up and instead you find that the professor never mentions the Creeds or Catechism or morals known from all ages. Instead, he encourages the students to make up their own religion based on their own subjective preferences, interests, likes and dislikes, and lifestyle. Once one is completed, another begins, since one of the rules is that nothing must ever be fixed. The most important determinate of right and wrong is whether people like the results.

Would you really be learning anything? Or would you feel ripped off?

This is the problem with Catholic music today: a loss of fixed ideals. And, yes, people feel ripped off, and rightly so. What’s remarkable to me is that this is wholly unnecessary. The music of the Roman Rite has been part of the structure of the Mass for as long as 1,500 years, and the roots trace to Apostolic times. It still would be part of our practice were it not for the fact that we have lived through one of those periodic ruptures that afflict the Church. The disorientation is palpable and the confusion is ubiquitous.

However, there is no reason for it to last. The beginnings of clarity come from looking at the actual music attached to the Mass, which you can do by looking at the Gregorian Missal. You can see the Mass settings and hymns and receive guidance for how to sing them from resources like the Parish Book of Chant. This is the starting point, the foundation, the first round of parameters.

From there elaboration is encouraged. This is essentially the message of the Second Vatican Council that said that Gregorian chant has primacy of place. This has been the consistent message of Popes through all ages, reiterated again and again by Pope Benedict XVI most recently. We need only have ears to hear, and then we must believe.

In my own view, resistance to this idea is not as strong as people suspect. Most people feel a sense of relief, because chant means the end of feeling manipulated. The real problem is not so much intense opposition but rather a rather plain but pervasive lack of understanding.

I also received another message from an old-timer in the Catholic music world, who was aghast that I would write a book the essential point of which is that the core music of Mass is in the Graduale. He told me that he thought this was a waste of time and a waste of everyone’s time.

I would agree with this if this knowledge were widely known and understood, but, so far as I can tell, it is known only by a small fraction of Catholic musicians. Hence the hope of my book Sing Like a Catholic is to draw attention to old truths. It’s true that I have contributed nothing to the body of knowledge of the ages. I hope it makes some contribution to bringing that knowledge to a new generation.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Voice of Leo XIII

Not liturgy related, but I thought some of our readership, who are quite interested in Church history generally, would be interested in this audio recording of Pope Leo XIII reciting the Ave Maria:

Confession Makes a Comeback

A very nice story in the New York Times on confessions at St. John the Evangelist in Stamford, Connecticut, which which also be hosting a training session on the sung extraordinary form in April. This is probably the fourth piece I've read recently in the Times that was informative and respectful, while of course getting some details wrong. Oh, and of course they must always quote Fr. Richard P. McBrien who gladly and predictably plays the role of the village atheist. Someone should do a random quote generator based on what he tells the press.

In any case, a good story.

1484 Missale Romanum

If any of our readers has about $10,000.00 USD laying around, you might be interested in buying yourself or your institution this original 1484 Missale Romanum available on eBay.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Liturgical Formation, Training and Re-Enchantment: Do Not Forget Your Altar Boys


ear brother priests, I would ask you, among other initiatives, to show special care for altar servers, who represent a kind of “garden” of priestly vocations. The group of altar servers, under your guidance as part of the parish community, can be given a valuable experience of Christian education and become a kind of pre-seminary. Help the parish, as a family made up of families, to look upon the altar servers as their own children, like “olive shoots around the table” of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life (cf. Ps. 127:3)." (Source: Letter to Priests, Holy Thursday 2004, John Paul II)

Often in pursuing the reform of the reform, we tend to think primarily of what the priest and the choir need to accomplish, but we should never forget the importance of properly trained altar servers either. They not only lend to (or distract from) the sacred mysteries, it is also a "garden of vocations" as John Paul II put it, and more generally, it is a school for learning to love the sacred liturgy. In all these regards then, it is an area that we should not overlook -- particularly as we build for the future.

While it has been a number of years since I last saw it, one of the best guidebooks for training altar servers "in continuity" in relation to the modern Roman liturgy is Ministry at the Altar: A Manual for Servers, Acolytes, Clergy, Sacristans, Teachers, Masters of Ceremonies, and all involved in the Ceremonies of the Church, by (then) Msgr. Peter C. Elliott. (The book may be purchased from the Australian site of the Archconfraternity of St. Stephen for 7.50 AUD.)

(Update: Thanks to Fr. Scott Haynes for pointing out that the original edition for the usus antiquior is also available.)

Of course, these considerations of the importance of serving at the altar (and serving well) apply also to the usus antiquior. In view of both forms, and as one part of this formation of servers, may I offer for your consideration again this piece: Reclaiming the Sacristy as a Place of Prayer and Preparation (Nov. 8, 2008).

Let us begin then, at a young age, to inculcate a sense of awe, reverence and love for the sacred liturgy in all its aspects and details, and in so doing, help to give that valuable Christian education in the very source and summit of our Faith. This builds a strong foundation in so many regards, including a foundation for our future priests.

Photo credit: Detail from photograph by Dott Kellerman

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