Monday, November 02, 2009

Five Days of Learning and Prayer

I have received many letters detailing the intentions of seminarians as they look toward the future - as pastors and as musicians themselves. They recognize the urgent need for proper musical and liturgical formation. They are turning to the Church Music Association of America to supplement what is not being offered elsewhere - a solid foundation in the music of the Church.

In fact, an unprecedented number of diocesan seminarians from around the country have applied for assistance to participate in the Winter Chant Intensive in Charleston, South Carolina. These are our future pastors - those who will be making decisions about liturgy in our local churches over the next ten, twenty, or forty years.

Donations from you are necessary to make it possible for a good many of the seminarians who have written to me. And we'd like to get as many seminarians there as we can - with either full or partial scholarships. No amount is too small, but please consider a donation of $20, $50, $100, or the full tuition amount of $245.

Things are changing - mostly through the momentous efforts of websites such as NLM, passionate individuals, parishes and pastors with an ear for the eternal, and nonprofit organizations like the CMAA.

Weekend workshops for seminarians, priests and professional and amateur musicians are filling up at record rates. While these workshops do well to whet the appetites of those wishing to learn the chant in all its forms, it is not enough. They are an essential first step. Essential. But if you think about it a little longer, you realize that it took two thousand years to create the treasure we know as the Liber Usualis, not to mention the myriad liturgical books that might be ignored and sitting on dusty shelves in rectory attics, in chant enthusiasts' personal collections, or listed for sale on Ebay. The mysteries of these books cannot be unraveled in a day and a half. More extensive training is needed.

Priests today, newly ordained and veteran priests, are learning to sing the EF through the exhaustive efforts of week-long training workshops sponsored by the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in Chicago. Seminarians, priests, and church musicians, both professional and amateur who seek the eternal are applying in droves for scholarships to attend CMAA programs, especially the the Chant Intensive, a week-long program that does more than whet the appetite for chant, but allows participants to work with the chant in an intimate way - to grapple with its structure and render it vocally and prayerfully - and to learn to teach it to others.

The CMAA has of course already hurdled enormous obstacles by making many of these treasures available to the world via online publication of items in the public domain - but that is another story, and one avidly covered here on NLM.

But putting the books online is not enough. Nothing can replace real life instruction. In order to restore to full vibrancy the Church's musical treasures The effort must be complemented with within-reach educational opportunities and hands on practice in contemporary liturgical life.

The CMAA Chant Intensive doesn't come close to years spent in a monastery, but it does allow a seminarian or church musician to vibrate with the struggle, for at least five days, of a life of intensely focused learning and prayer.

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