Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mass Settings for English Martyrs

[From Jeffrey Ostrowski at Corpus Christi Watershed]

On 25 October 1970, Pope Paul VI canonized the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. The English saints are truly remarkable and have set a extraordinary model for our imitation. We should also ask their intercession.

Composer Jeff Ostrowski has included four complete Mass settings in the Vatican II Hymnal, and each is dedicated to one of the English Martyrs (see below). Also of note: a video production company called Mary’s Dowry Productions has recently come into being, and is primarily dedicated to producing fantastic videos about the English Martyrs.

With regard to musical settings of the Mass, the parts of the Mass Ordinary are very short and do not represent a serious challenge for the composer, with the exception of the "Glory To God," which is a longer text and requires structural considerations. In particular, the new ICEL translation of the "Glory To God" has proven to be very difficult for many modern composers to set if they do not choose the Gregorian settings as their model. Included below are five examples of the "Glory To God" taken from the Vatican II Hymnal.

A talented classical scholar, St. Ralph Sherwin was ordained a priest on 23 March 1577 by the Bishop of Cambrai. In 1580, he was imprisoned, and on 4 December severely racked. Afterwards, St. Sherwin was laid out in the snow. The next day he was racked again. He is said to have been personally offered a bishopric by Elizabeth I if he converted, but refused. After spending a year in prison he was finally brought to trial with St. Edmund Campion. In 1581, he was taken to Tyburn on a hurdle along with St. Alexander Briant and St. Edmund Campion, where the three martyrs were hanged, drawn and quartered. This holy man's last words were, "Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus!" The Mass setting in his honor is relatively short, bright, and not too challenging for the average congregation:

St. Edmund Arrowsmith joined the Society of Jesus in 1624. In 1628, he was arrested when betrayed by the son of a landlord he had censured for an incestuous marriage. Having been convicted of being a Roman Catholic priest in England, his sentence was death, and he was hanged, drawn and quartered on August 28, 1628. His fellow-prisoner, Father John Southworth (afterwards a Martyr) absolved him as he went forth to undergo the usual butchery. The Mass in honor of St. Arrowsmith is a slightly more difficult than the St. Ralph Sherwin Mass, but more in the Gregorian style:

St. Edmund Jennings was ordained priest in 1590, being then only twenty-three years of age. He was arrested while saying Mass in the house of St. Swithun Wells on 7 November 1591 and was hanged, drawn and quartered outside the same house on 10 December. His execution was particularly bloody, as his final speech angered Topcliffe, who ordered the rope to be cut down when he was barely stunned from the hanging. It is reported that he uttered the words, "Sancte Gregori, ora pro me," while he was being disembowelled. St. Swithun Wells was hanged immediately afterwards. The Mass in honor of St. Jennings, although modal, is a metrical Mass. It was written for congregations who are not used to singing Gregorian chant:

St. Anne Line was the daughter of William Heigham, an ardent Calvinist, and when she and her brother announced their intention of becoming Catholics both were disowned and disinherited. When Father John Gerard established a house of refuge for priests in London, St. Anne was placed in charge. On 2 February 1601, Fr. Francis Page was saying Mass in the house managed by Anne Line, when men arrived to arrest him. The priest managed to slip into a special hiding place, prepared by St. Anne, and thus escape. However, she was arrested, along with two other laypeople. She was tried on 26 February 1601, but was so weak that she was carried to the trial in a chair. She told the court that so far from regretting having concealed a priest, she only grieved that she "could not receive a thousand more." She was hanged the next day. The Mass in honor of St. Anne Line is a very simple setting that might be nice for weekday Masses when there is no organist:

The Vatican II Hymnal also contains the ICEL "Missal chants," and organ accompaniments for these chants can be freely downloaded here. The ICEL "Glory To God" is an English adaptation of Gloria XV from the Gregorian Kyriale:

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