Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Beatification of Mons. Vladimir Ghika, Priest and Martyr in Romania

A reader from Romania, Viviana Dimcev, has sent us the following information about a Romanian priest, Mons. Vladimir Ghika, who will be beatified as a Martyr today, August 31. The Mass of Beatification will be celebrated in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, by Angelo Cardinal Amato, the prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

A descendent of a princely family, Vladimir Ghika was born on Christmas Day of 1873 to an Orthodox family. After studying in France and Rome, he became Catholic in 1902. (Today, Catholics of both Latin and Byzantine Rite together make up just over 5% of the population of Romania; most of them, however, are in Transylvania, which was not part of Romania in 1902.) After years of dedication to various charitable works, he was ordained a priest in 1923, with faculties to celebrate the liturgy in both the Roman and Byzantine Rites. He traveled all over the world in service to his countrymen and the Holy See; he was the founder of a hospital in Bucharest, and served as an envoy of Pius XI, who jokingly called him his "apostolic vagabond".  Despite continued service to his country in the trials of the Second World War, he was arrested by the Communist authorities in 1952; after 18 months of violent beatings, cold and starvation, he passed to eternal life on May 16, 1954. This day will be kept as his feast day.

A Romanian website to promote his cause has the following prayer to ask for his intercession:

Lord, Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest, you sent your apostles and disciples into the whole world to bring the good news of your love to all peoples. At the Last Supper, just before your supreme self-offering for the Salvation of the world, you prayed to your Heavenly Father that your church might become One.
Look with kindness upon the people of Romania from whose midst you chose Vladimir Ghika, noble by birth and noble by vocation. He was your witness throughout the world, confirming his faith in you through his martyrdom, with the zeal of an apostle. May his example of faith and love shine ever more brightly amongst us.
During his earthly life, he accomplished great deeds of charity through your power and brought East and West together in harmony. We pray for the grace that through the merits and the sanctity of his martyrdom, he may be recognized as a saint and that through his intercession, in the near future, all Christians may be united. We ask this for your greater glory, you who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.
Our reader also sent us a link to a video tour of a museum established by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bucharest in his honor, in which various liturgical garments and other objects owned and used by Bl. Vladimir. Beate Vladimire, ora pro nobis!

An Amazing Alma Redemptoris performance

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Visitation: More Modern Work in the Style of the School of St Albans

Here's some more work from the summer painting course I taught in Kansas City, Kansas at the Savior Pastoral Center Kansas. It was sponsored by the Diocese of Kansas City, Kansas which runs the center. I thought I would show some of the work done by students. This is unusual in that we focussed on 13th century gothic illuminated manuscripts from the School of St Albans. The original is shown top left and the work of the class below. Apologies to those whose work isn't featured -  I really haven't deliberately cut anyone out. For some reason I didn't arrive home with photographs of everybody's work.
We have already booked up to do two more courses next summer, so those who are interested might even contact the center now. This year the places went quickly and we could have filled the class more than twice over. The center website is here.
At group of about a dozen adults attended the course and the level of experience varied. Some were themselves teachers of icon painting classes (who were interested in learning about the gothic style); and some were complete beginners. What was exciting for me was that all took to this western form of sacred art very naturally and were enthusiastic to keep doing it and develop this as a tradition for today. As with the work I showed recently (of St Christopher) what strikes me is how naturally the students took to this Western style. Withing a carefully controlled palette, I allowed some range of freedom in the use of colour, and encouraged them to use different borders around the painting. The ornate border is a characteristic feature of Western styles of sacred art.
I do my best to teach people so that they understand the underlying principles of what they are doing, and then they can work out things for themselves. I do stress the need for critiques of work from teachers in order to keep making progress, but at the same time, I want students to have the confidence to be able to do something on their own afterwards. So, I always try to explain why they copy precisely in some instances, and change things in others, for example. I also tell them how to examined the original painting and worked out how the artist did the original. 

Here is the original again, and below that the painting I did during the class for demonstration

Thursday, August 29, 2013

In Honor of Msgr. Richard J. Schuler

I wrote this piece today in Crisis to honor the memory of Richard Schuler and also to draw attention to a very important event in St. Paul, Minnesota, October 13-15.

Several years ago, I received a note from an older man who had been battling much of his life for good Church music, particularly Gregorian chant. He did this in terrible times following the Second Vatican Council when the cultural ethos warred against any settled liturgical forms. He had plenty of scars to show for his work, but not much progress emerged until recent days.

He wasn’t writing to congratulate me on my more recent work for chant. Instead, he wanted me to know that my writing generally got on his nerves. He noted my own optimism about the progress we were making to restore chant to its proper place in Mass, to publish vernacular settings of sacred music, to train up choirs.

And all this bubbly optimism from my writing he generally found annoying simply because I don’t seem terribly aware of the contribution that an earlier generation made to even make this moment possible. Was I ungrateful for what he and others did? Was I completely blind to the terrible conditions that his generation faced in the 1960s and 1970s to make it possible for us to hear and sing great sacred music today?

I was obviously taken aback by his comments. And yet, in some ways, he was right. We are too quick to forget the past. Every generation just imagines that the world it inherits is as it should be and could not be any other. I see progress because I have seen the worst and it couldn’t but improved, and I’ve lived through that improvement. He lived through nothing but disaster from the 1950s through the 2000s. His world collapsed. It’s all a matter of perspective.

And yet there had to be a bridge between the depths and the recovery. He and his generation served that role. They kept the chant going during the worst of times. They trained whomever was willing. They maintained the handful of choirs that kept singing. They kept the faith as others lost it. And today, we are beneficiaries of their efforts. The flame was never extinguished and now it is growing again.

We are prone to forget the sacrifices others made to make our present moment better than it would otherwise be. This tendency to forget—to take all things given to us as some kind of birthright—is why Catholicism has made the study and reflection on history extremely important in education. This is a facet of the lives of the martyrs and saints. They allow us to broaden our minds and learn to have a more intense appreciation of the sacrifices of those who have gone before.

So let me do propitiation for my smug optimism by discussing a man who did extraordinary things to bridge the gigantic gulf between the dark and the light. His name is Msgr. Richard J. Schuler, and he is most known as the man who persisted in building and running the nation’s most famous sacred music program following Vatican II. He was pastor of St. Agnes in St. Paul, Minnesota and the head of the Church Music Association of America. Even today the entire congregation knows the completely Kyriale of the music book of the Roman Rite. Even today, this is a parish where you can go to hear and experience the music that was recommended by the Council.

Continue reading

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Musica Sacra Scotland

A beautiful video -- a look at the thinking of the masters of our age.

Paraclete, Distributor of Solesmes books, picks up CMAA

Having been involved with the publication of many books from the CMAA over the years, I do consider it a hugely significant thing that Paraclete--long-time distributor of book from the Solesmes monastery--is now carrying CMAA books. They start with the Parish Book of Chant, 2nd edition. This book is a wonder and perhaps the most useful music book available today. It is the only small book of chant that contains the ordo for both the ordinary and extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, and it contains vast amounts of the musical patrimony, particularly in its complete Mass settings and expansive hymnody. In any case, to me, this moment really does represent a kind of leap into a new sector, and that's very exciting.

Try out Paraclete's interface, and let's get this first batch from the warehouse to your house in record time. A quick move like this will only encourage them to make greater capital investments on behalf of the newest liturgical materials designed to recapture our heritage for modern times.

In Honor of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

We cannot let this august (in every sense) day pass without some small tribute to one of the greatest Doctors, Fathers, Bishops, and Confessors of the Holy Catholic Church: Saint Augustine of Hippo. Below is a particularly moving chapter from Book XIX of On the City of God, where the author is speaking of the hardships of being a social animal. I could not help thinking of Saint Catherine of Siena's later remark that God made us dependent on each other in order to learn all the virtues, especially humility, patience, and charity, at one another's hands, as we suffer one another and bear one another's burdens. And I also couldn't help thinking about the tendency of orthodox Catholics, especially in this confused and confusing age, to fissure and fragment into factions when we should be banding together to fight our common foes. The opening prayer of today's Mass in the Ordinary Form gives utterance to what our prayer ought and our aspiration ought to be: "
Renew in your Church, we pray, O Lord, the spirit with which you endowed your Bishop Saint Augustine that, filled with the same spirit, we may thirst for you, the sole fount of true wisdom, and seek you, the author of heavenly love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Without further ado, here is the text from Saint Augustine.
Chapter 5
Of the Social Life, Which, Though Most Desirable, is Frequently Disturbed by Many Distresses
     We give a much more unlimited approval to their idea that the life of the wise man must be social. For how could the city of God (concerning which we are already writing no less than the nineteenth book of this work) either take a beginning or be developed, or attain its proper destiny, if the life of the saints were not a social life?
     But who can enumerate all the great grievances with which human society abounds in the misery of this mortal state? Who can weigh them? Hear how one of their comic writers makes one of his characters express the common feelings of all men in this matter: “I am married; this is one misery. Children are born to me; they are additional cares.” What shall I say of the miseries of love which Terence also recounts—“slights, suspicions, quarrels, war today, peace tomorrow?” Is not human life full of such things? Do they not often occur even in honorable friendships?
     On all hands we experience these slights, suspicions, quarrels, war, all of which are undoubted evils; while, on the other hand, peace is a doubtful good, because we do not know the heart of our friend, and though we did know it today, we should be as ignorant of what it might be tomorrow. Who ought to be, or who are more friendly than those who live in the same family? And yet who can rely even upon this friendship, seeing that secret treachery has often broken it up, and produced enmity as bitter as the amity was sweet, or seemed sweet by the most perfect dissimulation?
     It is on this account that the words of Cicero so move the heart of every one, and provoke a sigh: “There are no snares more dangerous than those which lurk under the guise of duty or the name of relationship. For the man who is your declared foe you can easily baffle by precaution; but this hidden, intestine, and domestic danger not merely exists, but overwhelms you before you can foresee and examine it.”
     It is also to this that allusion is made by the divine saying, “A man’s foes are those of his own household,”—words which one cannot hear without pain; for though a man have sufficient fortitude to endure it with equanimity, and sufficient sagacity to baffle the malice of a pretended friend, yet if he himself is a good man, he cannot but be greatly pained at the discovery of the perfidy of wicked men, whether they have always been wicked and merely feigned goodness, or have fallen from a better to a malicious disposition.
     If, then, home, the natural refuge from the ills of life, is itself not safe, what shall we say of the city, which, as it is larger, is so much the more filled with lawsuits civil and criminal, and is never free from the fear, if sometimes from the actual outbreak, of disturbing and bloody insurrections and civil wars?

Compendium of the 1961 Revision of the Pontificale Romanum - Part 15: Suppressed Blessings (1595 & 1961)

In its varying revisions over the centuries, the Pontifical has often had removed from it material considered obsolete or otherwise no longer necessary. To give just one example, the edition of 1520 contains in the second part, that with which this series has been concerned, the blessings of a thurible, of a ciborium, (i.e. a fixed canopy over an altar,) of a credence table, and of a baptismal font. None of these are included in the 1595 Pontifical of Clement VIII.

Likewise, the revision of 1961 saw the complete removal of the last four blessings of the second part: the blessing and imposition of a cross on a crusader, the blessing of armor, the blessing of a sword, and the blessing and consignment of a military banner.

The first of these has already been described in part 10 of this series, since it was reworked to serve as the blessing of a bishop’s pectoral cross. Each of the remaining three begins with the versicles “Adjutorium nostrum” and “Dominus vobiscum”.

The blessing of armor consists of two prayers.
Let us pray. May the blessing of Almighty God, the Fa+ther, the + Son and the Holy + Spirit, descend upon this armor, and upon him that weareth it, that he may defend justice. We ask Thee, Lord God, that Thou protect and defend him, that livest and reignest, one God for ever and ever. R. Amen.
Let us pray. Almighty God, in Whose hand rests full victory, and who gave marvelous strength to David that he might subdue the rebel Goliath, we ask for Thy clemency in this humble prayer, that of Thy great holiness Thou may deign to + bless this armor, and grant to Thy servant who desires to wear it, that he may use it freely and victoriously for the protection and defense of Holy Mother the Church, of orphans and widows, against the assaults of enemies visible and invisible. Through Christ, our Lord. R. Amen.
The armor is then sprinkled with holy water.
The blessing of armor; illustration from a 1595 edition of the Roman Pontifical. (Permission to use this image, and the one below of the blessing of a military banner, has been very kindly granted by the Pitts Theological Library, Candler School of Theology at Emory University.)
The blessing of a sword consists in the following prayer.
Let us pray. Deign Thou to + bless this sword, we ask Thee, Lord; and with the guard of Thy holiness defend this Thy servant, who at Thy inspiration desires to receive it, and keep him from every harm. Through Christ, our Lord. R. Amen.
The bishop sprinkles the sword with holy water, then hands it to the person who is to receive it as the latter kneels before him, saying:
Receive this sword, in the name of the Fa+ther, the + Son and the Holy + Spirit, and may thou use it for thy defense, and that of the Holy Church of God, and to the confounding of the enemies of the Cross of Christ, and of the Christian faith: and as far as human frailty shall permit, may thou harm no one with it unjustly. And may He deign to grant this to thee, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit etc.
The Imperial Sword (Reichsschwert), part of the regalia given to the Holy Roman Emperor at his coronation. Believed to have been made for the coronation of the Emperor Otto IV in 1198, it is now kept in the Imperial Treasury of the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. On the cross-guard is written “Christvs • Vincit • Christvs • Reignat • Christvs • Inperat - Christ Conquereth, Christ Reigneth, Christ Commandeth.”
The prayer for the blessing of a military banner is as follows.
Let us pray. Almighty and everlasting God, Who art the blessing of all, and the might of the triumphant, look in mercy upon our humble prayers, and sanctify this banner, that is prepared for the use of war, with a heavenly bless+ing; that it may be mighty against opposing and rebellious nations, and surrounded by Thy protection, and be terrible to the enemies of the Christian people, the strengthening of them that trust in Thee, and certain confidence of victory. For Thou art God, that puttest an end to wars (Judith 16, 3) and grantest the help of heavenly defense to them that hope in Thee. Through Thy only Son our Lord etc.
The bishop sprinkles the banner with holy water, then hands it to the person who is to receive it as the latter kneels before him, saying:
Receive this banner, sanctified by a heavenly blessing, and may it be terrible to the enemies of the Christian people, and may the Lord give thee grace, that at His name, and to His honor, with it thou may pass in might both safe and sound through the bands of the enemies.
He then gives the man the kiss of peace, saying “Peace to thee”; he that has received it kisses the bishops hand and departs.
The blessing of a military banner; illustration from a 1595 edition of the Roman Pontifical.
This article concludes the descriptions of the various blessings of the Pontifical, and the changes made to them in the revision of 1961. The series will continue with excerpts from the official published notes of Frs. Bugnini and Braga on their work of revision, already referred to in the previous article in this series regarding the blessing of the bells.

Mass Propers, 15th Sunday After Pentecost

For musicians, and for everyone really, a beauty of the old calendar and traditional Latin Mass is its full coherence as a liturgical structure. The Missal is in lock step with the Gradual and the Kyriale, and there is no confusion about what belongs where. The ordinary form has been with us 43 years and this level of certainty and balance is still not there, though we are gradually working toward figuring it. What follows below are the sung propers that pertain to this particular day of the old calendar, this coming Sunday September 1.

To be sure, before 1963, average parishes were not singing these but cathedrals were and everyone understood the ideal and aspired toward it, even it was not possible. Psalm tones often replaced full chants in the high Mass, and even though the Low Mass was the norm, these sung propers were at least spoken by the celebrant even if the choir sang a hymn. What was normative and what was a permissable substitute was very clear. It was a structure that was widely understood and even taken for granted.

A combination of factors after the Council blew this up in more ways that anyone could have possibly intended. The main problems: vernacularization without preparation, populist ideology, the attack on professionalism and technique, the reshuffling of the liturgical calendar, the introduction of a vast array of options without any clear attempt to enumerate priorities -- all of these factors combined to create an atmosphere of chaos and confusion.

So one can only long for a restoration of the clarity of vision that yielded masterpieces such as these, some of which date from the 7th century and before and were preserved the oral culture and careful scholarship all through the the modern period. And it is particularly spectacular that now, for the first time in the long history of chant, we have a nearly complete set of videos that present the music and masterful performances that are accessible through any smartphone. Remarkable.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Brisbane Oratory

A new oratory is in formation in Brisbane, Australia, and I have a particular interest in this because I will be in Brisbane in late November and early December. How fantastic it would be to meet up with the priests involved? We have say it is small world but that's really wrong when you think about how far away Australia is. So far as I can tell from my tickets, I'm going to be in flight some 23 hours! Crazy stuff. And yet, the idea that I would meet some of the people involved in this project makes the place seem closer in my own mind.

Carillon Blessing at Holy Transfiguration Skete

In light of the recent postings on the blessing of bells, a guest report by Mrs. Lisa Knutson brings us news of the use of a blessing from a Ukrainian ritual book, which bears similarities both to the Pontificale Romanum (Clement VIII and 1961-2) and other Eastern forms of the blessing. Included in the report is the prayer of blessing which is similar to the Roman use and which was embedded in the longer ritual (not reported below) sharing more in common with the blessings of Eastern ritual books. Due to an unexpected illness in the family, the monks' bishop was unable to attend the Divine liturgy and blessing.

Blessing of Bells

In the beautiful Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan, on Sunday, August 25th, 2013, the Monks of Holy Transfiguration Skete in Jacob’s Falls, MI. marked their 30th year celebration of the Monastic Church of St. John the Theologian with a Blessing of the Bells and recital of a newly installed Carillon.  Present for the blessing were Very Reverend Nicholas Glenn (Hegumen, Holy Transfiguration Skete) and Reverend Hieromonk Basil Paris (Holy Transfiguration Skete).

 Crafted by the Verdin Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, the bells were cast in the Netherlands and then delivered to Cincinnati and tuned prior to installation in the bell tower of the monastic church.  After Divine Liturgy and the Blessing, a Carillon recital was given by Lisa Klinsky Knutson, while the listeners enjoyed a reception and walked the beautiful Lake Superior waterfront grounds and picturesque gardens of the Monastery. 

Holy Transfiguration Skete of the Society of St. John is a Catholic Monastery of the Byzantine rite, under the jurisdiction of The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago, and belong to the Ukrainian Metropoly in the United States of America, which is in union with the Pope of Rome.  They are located in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Marquette.  In addition to monastic life of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability of life according to the Rule of Saint Benedict and the traditions of the Christian East. (from their website:

Building His Kingdom through the Arts

In addition to a thriving bakery and unforeseen work of jam-making from local berries, the monks have an artistic apostolate, housing two 9-foot Mason and Hamlin grand pianos from the finest years of production in their parlor, a hand-crafted Spanish Guitar, a harp, and an over-arching plan for the addition of recital halls to promote the musical performing arts. 

The Society of St. John has also produced many new works of art, including sculpture, painting and icons, and are currently embarking on a restoration of the interior of their Chapel.  In addition to promoting the arts, they seek to form Liturgical items in future years.   “As our growth permits, we hope to serve as a resource for the training of church artists and the artistic education of religious and clergy.  Likewise, as our numbers and talents allow, we hope to devote our own work to the design and fashioning of liturgical objects and other elements which enhance the beauty of divine worship. In this way, in our small monastery at Jacob's Falls, no less than in the great monasteries of centuries past, we strive to work for the upbuilding of God's Kingdom through the arts.“ (

Excerpt from the Prayer of Blessing of the Bell Tower and Carillon

O Lord, our God, who ordained that all the faithful should honor and worship You, and who commanded Your servant, Moses, the Law-giver, to make silver trumpets and the sons of Aaron to be priests, who also ordained that at the time for prayer the trumpets be sounded, so that Your people upon hearing them may prepare themselves to adore You and to arm themselves for victory over their enemies – we humbly beseech You, hear our fervent prayer, and bless + and sanctify + these bells which are designated for the service of Your holy church and dedicated to Your most holy name.  Confer upon them the power of Your grace through Your heavenly blessing and the grace of Your All-holy Spirit, so that Your faithful servants, hearing their harmonious voices, may have peace in their souls and be strengthened in the faith, that they be inspired by their melodious sound to courageously resist all the assaults of Satan and overcome them by prayers and constant glorification of You, the true God, that day and night they may hasten to church to offer prayers and to glorify Your holy name.  May storm, hail, hurricane, thunder and lightning, foul and unfavorable weather, and all the tempests of mind and heart cease to be by the music of their ringing. 

For You, our Lord God, use not only spiritual living creatures for Your glory and our salvation, but also inanimate creatures like the staff of Moses and the bronze serpent in the desert.  For all things are possible to You, and to You nothing is impossible, hence, we give glory to You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever, and unto ages of ages.  Amen. 

The Bishop now sprinkles the tower with holy water, saying:

This tower and carillon are blessed and sanctified by the sprinkling of this holy water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Online Latin Classes

A new addition to the Living Latin Movement can be found in the work of two professors from Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, the FSSP's English-speaking seminary.  Drs. John Pepino and Sebastian Carnazzo are offering instruction in Latin and Greek using the TRP Storytelling method at the Academy of Classical Languages

The new session for Classical Latin begins Monday, September 9th.  

Fr. Bugnini et al. on the “Baptism of the Bells” (Compendium of the 1961 Revision of the Pontificale Romanum - Part 14.3)

My interest in the 1961 revision of the Pontificale Romanum began with the blessing of the bells. Several years ago, I was asked to serve as Master of Ceremonies for such a blessing; never having seen one before, much less served one, I turned to the tried-and-true Catholic Encyclopedia for more information. Its article on bells was written by Fr Herbert Thurston, S.J., better known, and by many disliked, as the reviser of Fr Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints. It contains an interesting discussion of the traditional term “baptism of the bells” for the ceremony by which they are blessed. (Emphases mine.)
Since the beginning of the sixteenth century, there has been much purposeless controversy over the … so-called “baptism” of the bells. Protestant critics, following the lead of Luther himself, have professed to find in the rite not only superstition but a profanation of the sacrament. But one might as well be scandalized at the ceremonial usually followed in the launching and christening of a ship. The phrase “baptism of bells” is merely popular and metaphorical. It has been tolerated, but has never been formally recognized by the Church. (Benedict XIV, Instit. 47, n. 33). Every Catholic child is aware that the essence of the Sacrament of Baptism consists in the form: “I baptize thee etc.”, but no properly authorized ritual for the blessing of the bells is known to have contained any phrase which can be regarded as an equivalent or parody of these words. … On the other hand, the ceremonial of the Church is often imitative. The rite for the blessing of palms closely follows the arrangement of the variable portions of the Mass. The order for the coronation of a king copies so nearly that for the consecration of a bishop that Anglican writers recently (i.e. in 1907) contended the king is a “spiritual person” invested with episcopal powers. Hence it would not be surprising that in the (blessing of a bell) certain resemblance should be traced to details in the ritual of baptism. Exorcisms are used, and water and salt and unctions with the holy oils; the bell receives a name, and formerly, at least, the name was suggested by a “godfather”. But for all the controversy the resemblances are really very superficial. … That the ritual for the blessing of bells, which has thus been in use in the Church for nearly twelve hundred years, was framed with any design of imitating the ceremonies of baptism seems highly improbable for many reasons. First there is no triple immersion, nor strictly speaking any pouring of water. The bell is “washed” by the bishop and his assistants, just as the altars are washed on Maundy Thursday. Further there is nothing whatever to recall the ephpheta ceremony, yet this is the one detail in the rite of baptism which would seem in place if the ritual were transferred to a bell.
(Apropos of the way different rituals imitate each other, it may also be noted that the traditional rite for the consecration of nuns has a number of very notable points in common with the rite of ordination of priests, and yet has never been mistaken for a priestly ordination.)

Three bells set into place for their ‘baptism’ in the church of Saint John the Baptist in Mollau, France, in 1949. Note that the name to be given to each bell is written above it on the decorated arch from which it is hung.
The revisers of the Pontifical, Frs Annibale Bugnini and Carlo Braga, published a series of notes on their work; both of them were of course very much involved in the creation of the Novus Ordo after Vatican II. The section on the blessing of the bells makes for an interesting contrast with what Fr. Thurston writes above. (Emphases mine.)
The rite has undergone no essential variants. … The seven penitential psalms, which opened the function, have been omitted. The washing of the bells, which was suggested by the medieval concern to structure the consecration of a bell like a baptismal rite, has also been abolished. There remains, on the other hand, the sprinkling of the bells, accompanied by the singing of Psalm 28, which is done responsorially.
The notes go on to mention that the oil of the infirm is no longer used on the bells, an element introduced in the Middle Ages because one of the purposes of a bell “is” (not “was”) to announce an impending death. No mention is made of the change to the blessing of the water, the shortening of the prayers, or the abolition of the Gospel at the end. The incensation of the bell is mentioned as if the manner of incensing it had not been completely altered in the 1961 revision. It may be further noted that the “seven penitential psalms, which opened the function” in the Pontifical of Clement VIII, were not in fact the penitential psalms, although two of them also are among the penitential psalms. It is difficult to see how the sprinkling of the bells “remains” in the ceremony, since it was not there in the first place.

Likewise, no mention is made of the reason why Psalm 28 and its antiphon, “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of majesty hath thundered, The Lord is upon many waters.” are sung during the blessing of a bell. They occur in this ceremony as far back as the Pontifical of Archbishop Egbert of York (732-66 A.D.), and always accompany not the washing, but the anointing of the bell, seven-fold on the outside, and four-fold on the inside. The seven anointings correspond to the seven occurrences of the words “vox Domini – the voice of the Lord” within this psalm; indeed, the 10th-century Pontifical of Mainz directs the bishop to make each one of the seven crosses exactly as these words are being sung during the psalm. The rubrics of subsequent Pontificals (Durandus, Piccolomini-Burchard, Clement VIII) are uniform in mandating seven crosses on the outside and four on the inside. Fr. Thurston does not overstate the case when he says that the ritual of the blessing of bells in its substance goes back twelve-hundred years. Unfortunately, the practice of mangling the source materials like this when revising the liturgical books would become even more common in future years.

An illustration of the blessing of a bell from a medieval Pontifical.
Because of work commitments, I was in the end unable to serve as MC or even be present for the aforementioned blessing of bells. While making his arrangements and asking the bishop, the organizer of the ceremony had not known about the 1961 revision, which was, after all, only in use for perhaps a bit more than a decade. Once he had gotten everything ready, set the date and made the announcements, the elderly bishop in question, a canonist, insisted upon the letter of the law, and would only use the 1961 Pontifical. Although certainly a good man and a friend of the traditional rite, he was quite deaf, and not very keen on taking orders. (On other occasions, he had been known to more or less throw his crook to the MC when he was finished with it, or thought he was. The crook should always, of course, be thrown directly at the crook-bearer.) As described to me afterwards by some of the people present, it was a total disappointment, although it may have been a bit of an exaggeration to say, “Rosaries have been blessed with greater solemnity.”

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Traditional Latin Mass in Hong Kong

Former St. Alphonsus (Baltimore) parishioner turned FSSP seminarian Joseph Mihm serving as sub-deacon for a Solemn High Mass in Hong Kong.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

St. Henry Catholic Church in Buckeye, Arizona

Wonderful things are happening at the St. Henry Catholic Church in Buckeye, Arizona. Pastor Fr. William J. Kosco is introducing a wonderful reform in liturgy and music and thereby attracting ever higher Mass attendance and support from the community.

Buckeye is a small, mostly hispanic, rural community southwest of Phoenix. Father Kosco is building a church, but as with most church building, he began with a hall, chapel, and is now in the planning stages for the offices and classrooms for catechesis, then will come the rectory and church. After attending the sacred music colloquium last year, he was inspired to learn to sing the Mass and is now saying Masses ad orientem.

Here are some images of the chapel.

A Stunning Setting of ‘O magnum mysterium’

Around this time of year choir directors tend to start thinking about December, choosing carols and planning Christmas music lists. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the height of the summer is always a strange time to be looking ahead to Christmas, and as I write, appositely enough from Bethlehem in the middle of a choir tour to Palestine, the dusty heat makes snow seem unimaginable. However, the idea of a cold and icy landscape still serves in a figurative sense, representing the world before Christ.

One of the most well-known Christmas texts, 'O magnum mysterium', has inspired many composers for centuries and there are several beautiful settings in the repertoire, notably by Victoria, Gabrieli and Poulenc. Another one which I recently came across is by Frank La Rocca, the Emeritus Professor of Music at California State University and a leading Catholic composer. His is a very powerful contemporary setting, immensely beautiful and of great integrity. There is a very strong sense in his music that his primary focus is to serve the text and illuminate its meaning, rather than use choral effects for their own sake, a route sometimes taken by other modern composers.

His paper The Apologetics of Beauty, which focuses on his 'O magnum mysterium', attempts to answer the question of what defines the concept of beauty in sacred music. He writes:

1. That which arouses in the beholder a longing for the transcendent; that which serves as a bridge from the material to the spiritual world to unite us to the transcendent.

2. That work of art which possesses attributes of harmony, integrity, proportion and clarity appropriate to its subject.

Ave Maria by Robert Parsons (excerpt)
In the same paper he goes on to talk of the kreuz motif which was used by J.S.Bach as a melodic representation of the Cross. This is a musical shape generally built around four consecutive notes, the second of which is lower than the first, the third rising above both, and the fourth returning to the original pitch of the first note. There are many variations of this musical shape, and a possible precursor to Bach's kreuz motif can be found in the extended Amen of the beautiful Ave Maria by the Tudor composer Robert Parsons. This contains a series of melodies which bear a cruciform resemblance, perhaps intended as a sign of the cross at the end of the prayer. La Rocca's use of this device in his setting is a very powerful way of turning our mind to Christ's ultimate purpose on earth. Below is the first page of his piece with the cruciform melodies marked:

You can listen to the piece beautifully rendered by the Artists Vocal Ensemble directed by Jonathan Dimmock in the YouTube clip below. This comes from a CD of works by Frank La Rocca entitled 'In This Place' which was described by American Record Guide as containing 'luminous sacred introspection, transcendental effect, and breathtaking beauty'. You can buy the CD from Amazon, and Frank La Rocca's website is here.

EF Nuptial Mass - Matthew and Agnes Kutarna

Exciting! Another report of an EF nuptial Mass. From our reader: My wife and I were married on Saturday, August 3rd in Calgary, AB at St. Anthony’s Parish. Fr. Robert Novokowsky (celebrant), Fr. Antony Sumich (deacon) and Adrian Debow (sub-deacon) were the ministers for the Mass. The fathers are FSSP priests and Adrian is at the FSSP seminary in Nebraska.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Altogether Now - How Can We Sing Together When Singing for the Liturgy

7211744496_a94cd43bf1_zWhy singing in a choir is a demonstration of the three aspects of beauty - integrity, due proportion and clarity.
When I was at the Sacra Liturgia 2013 conference in Rome, we had two Latin Masses and two Solemn Vespers all with a wonderful choir leading the congregation in chant. This was a congregation that knew their chant. Many were experienced in leading and teaching and I'm guessing that pretty much all would be in accord with the idea that Latin is the norm for the Mass and that chant and polyphony are the highest forms in which it should be sung. Not surprisingly many people joined in. What was surprising though, given the company, was how poorly the congregational members (which included me!) managed to unify their voices with each other and the choir. We really were a fragmented collection of individuals, so much so that one of the speakers - a Benedictine - remarked upon it. One wonders if this is the reason that some communities request that members of the congregation request that guests do not join in the singing of the liturgy, even for which it would be generally encourage, say the Ordinaries of the Mass. 
So here are my thoughts on how one might achieve this in a congregation. This another reflection written originally for Catholic Education Daily, who sponsored me to go the conference. The full article called chant tips for colleges and parishes from a member of the congregation, is here.
It has since struck me how singing in a choir and aiming for a beautiful unified voice requires us to think about each of the three aspects of beauty -  due proportion, integrity and clarity - simultaneously and therefore is a discipline that will form us in an understanding of beauty very deeply. I have written elsewhere of how I believe that singing modal music develops our sensibilities, here; but I am talking now of an additional aspect that arises by virtue of singing with others.
Due proportion means that each part in in the right relationship to the others. In this case we work in unision to the singer must listen to the voices of those around him so that his voice blends. Even if he knows the piece perfectly he cannot blend unless he considers how his voice relates to the unified voice of the choir. This is true at any instant, but accross the extended time period of the piece sung, all parts must be in right relation to all others. 
Cleve_Four-monks-singingIntegrity is the degree to which the whole conforms to the purpose intended for it. In a choir even beyond the choice of the music and the words, there has to be a consideration of how it is interpreted. In order for this to happen, the director must decide upon an interpretation that all subscribe to. It would be hopeless if each singer interpreted individually and then sang accordingly. So aside from singing in unity, we must accept the authority of the leader to direct that unified voice to a purpose that is appropriate to the choir (this is also a good exercise in humility!). The choice of the piece is relevant here too. We may sing something perfectly, but if the piece is not appropriate in its setting, say it is not appropriate for the Feast in question, then it does not fulfill this criterion.
Claritas can be thought of as the radiance of truth. For something to be beautiful it must communicate to us clearly what it is. So this means a clear articulation of the words and music and it must be heard by congregation.
All these things are essential, I would suggest, when we sing in the liturgy...and probably a good idea everywhere else too!
coro origini

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Msgr. Charles Pope on Ad Orientem

Some years ago the theologian Fr. Jonathan Robinson wrote a commentary on the modern experience of the Sacred liturgy and entitled it, The Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward. It is a compelling image of so much of what is wrong with the celebration of the Liturgy in many parishes today.

While Fr. Robinson certainly had the celebration of Mass “facing the people” in mind, his concerns are broader than that.

Indeed, we have the strange modern concept of the “closed circle” in so many modern conceptions of the Mass. Too often we are tediously self-referential and anthropocentric. So much of modern liturgy includes long lists of congratulatory references, both done by, but also expected of the celebrant.

Instead of the Liturgy being upwardly focused to God and outwardly toward the mission of the Church (to make disciples of all the nations), we tend today to “gather” and hunker down in rather closed circles looking at each other, and speaking at great length about ourselves.

Read more

Australian Catholic Students Association - Annual Conference

A recent encouraging report from an anonymous reader:

OF Mass with Bishop McGuckin
The annual conference of the Australian Catholic Students Association (ACSA) took place this year in Brisbane on the 5th, 6th and 7th of July. The conference theme was Foundations of the faith, which was inspired by the current Year of Faith. The principle guest speakers were; Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Bishop McGuckin of Toowomba, Professor Greg Craven from the Australian Catholic University and Dr Ryan Messmore, the president of Campion College (Australia’s only liberal arts college).

In regards to the Liturgies of the Conference, the conference was opened by Bishop McGuckin celebrating a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, in the Chapel of Duchene College University of Queensland. The simple chant Mass from the Missal and the relevant simple English propers were chanted.

EF Solemn Mass
In the evening, Fr Paul Chandler, a Priest of the Archdiocese of Brisbane and Spiritual director of Frasasti Australia, celebrated a Solemn High Mass in the extraordinary form. Following the Mass, the Sacrament was exposed and ACSA formally spent one hour in prayer together before the Blessed Sacrament. This concluded with Compline and Solemn Benediction.

The following day was begun with Lauds in the College Chapel. Fr Adrian Sharp, who acted as the Deacon the previous night, celebrated an ordinary form, ad orientem Mass at midday. Again the Simple Chant Mass from the Missal and the simple English propers were chanted. Before the Mackillop ball in the evening, several of the Clergy and students gathered in the Chapel to celebrate Solemn Vespers.

One of the OF Masses, with properly vested
deacons, which is a welcome sight
Sunday began with Lauds as well. The Conference was closed by a Solemn Ordinary form Mass. The Asperges was chanted in English, the Creed and even the general intercessions were chanted at this Mass in addition to the Ordinary and Propers. Fr Gregory Jordan SJ, the ACSA national Chaplain celebrated this Mass at the High altar of St Ignatius Church Toowong, with two con-celebrants, a deacon and a tunicled Acolyte.

The director of Music and organist was Martin Hartley, a student from Campion College and he was aided by an Ad-hoc schola of Students. Several seminarians were in attendance at the conference. Frassati Australia (a peer to peer men’s ministry which has a server’s guild), generously provided the servers for all the conference liturgies.

"Mighty Conquering Warrior": The Queenship of Mary

Andrea di Bartolo, Coronation of the Virgin
Today, on the calendar of the modern Roman Rite, is the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, which we also bring to mind every time we pray the Fifth Glorious Mystery. It is worth our while to ponder why she is, and is called, our Queen. We will find, as well, that there is an intimate connection with the mystery of her Immaculate Heart, which we celebrate today on the calendar of the usus antiquior.

Always feeling much safer when relying on a worthy authority, in this case I am happy to lean on Blessed Columba Marmion, who writes in his Rosary meditations:
What is the purpose of all the mysteries of Christ? To be the pattern of our supernatural life, the means of our sanctification, the source of all our holiness. To create an eternal and glorious society of brethren who will be like unto Him. For this reason Christ, the new Adam, has associated with Himself Mary, as the new Eve. But she is, much more than Eve, “the Mother of all the living,” the Mother of those who live in the grace of her Son. And since here below Mary was associated so intimately with all the mysteries of our salvation, at her Assumption into heaven Jesus crowned her not only with glory but also with power; He has placed His Mother on His right hand and has given her the power, in virtue of her unique title of Mother of God, to distribute the treasures of eternal life. Let us then, full of confidence, pray with the Church: “Show yourself a Mother: Mother of Jesus, by your complete faith in Him, our Mother, by your mercy towards us; ask Christ, Who was born of you, to give us life; and Who willed to be your Son, to receive our prayers through you.”
Dom Marmion observes that Jesus honors His mother not only with glory, as we celebrated a week ago on the feast of her assumption into heaven, but also with power, as we celebrate on the feast of her actual rulership, sub et cum Christo, over angels and men and, one may dare to say, the entire created order.

It requires little experience with devotional books to lament the fact that, especially in the past 150 years, Catholics have tended to sentimentalize the cult of the Virgin Mary, in ways that make it rather difficult to imagine her as powerful. Yet she is our queen, our empress, a victorious warrior who has crushed the serpent’s head. Where Mary reigns as queen, her Son reigns as king, for they are inseparable in the plan of salvation; where she reigns not, where her reign is ignored or denied, His royal reign is hampered, for His very identity is obscured and negated. Whoever has a weak or tepid view of Mary and her God-given authority over creatures will have a weak view of her Son and his properly divine authority over creatures. If she is made into a shy, wilting, fearful maiden, her Son will become a teary-eyed, slightly effeminate man, a dishonor done to Him by far too many holy cards and religious paintings.

The fact that Our Lady stood under the cross when nearly everyone else fled, and in the darkness of faith offered up her most precious treasure, her own flesh and blood, to the heavenly Father, means that she must have had the strongest human heart in the history of the world, with the greatest supernatural heroism. There is no martyr, confessor, virgin, or anchoress, no wife, mother, or widow whose virtues the Blessed Virgin did not possess in superabundance, in accordance with the grace of her divine Motherhood, which is the root and perfection of all her privileges.

As our Eastern brethren proclaim in ecstatic prayer:
Mighty conquering warrior, Mother of God, thy servants whom thou hast freed from ills offer up to thee songs of thanksgiving, and with thine unconquerable power, deliver us from all affliction, that we may cry unto thee, hail Bride unwedded!
Fra Filippo Lippi, Coronation of the Virgin
These regal and militant images can, of course, become a false portrait if they are taken in an excessively worldly sense. The Virgin Mary is our gentle and gracious Mother, humble and self-effacing, attentive to God alone, a “little flower” of exquisitely hidden beauty. And yet, I would maintain that taking either set of images and using it exclusively, as Catholics have tended to do with the “Mother dearest, meek and mild” type of language, is to miss something essential about the awesome reality of the Holy Theotokos as the archetype of all of God’s creations, the most resplendently holy, noble, worthy, and powerful person God has ever made, one fashioned in his wisdom before all the ages and destined to reign forever over the Mystical Body of Christ, the innumerable hosts of angels, the vast throng of men and women saved from the jaws of death by the indomitable faith and unconquered fortitude of the Mother of God.

On this day, then, we venerate the might and power of her holiness—and the intimate virtues of her Immaculate Heart that made (and forever make) such might and power possible and real. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of heaven and earth, pray for us now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Books on Chant Accompaniment

Jeff Ostrowski has a superb collection of scanned books on Gregorian Chant which are available for free download to all. You will find the St Jean de Lalande Library of Rare Books at the Corpus Christi Watershed. This is an amazing resource which I am sure will be very useful for choir directors and singers.

In particular, there are a large number of Chant accompaniments available there. One of the main reasons that Chant sometimes fails to take off in parishes is a lack of written chant accompaniments. This collection goes some way to address that problem, and I know that it is one area which Musica Sacra Scotland hopes to address on National Music Day.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Solemn Vows at the Stift Heiligenkreuz in Austria

Just in time for the feast of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, our friend Sancrucensis has posted some photos of a ceremony of Solemn Profession of Vows recently held at his monastery, Stift Heiligenkreuz (the Abbey of the Holy Cross) in Austria, the oldest continuously occupied Cistercian house in the world. They are also quite well known for their very successful and well-regarding recording of Cistercian chants, Chant: Music for Paradise. The website of the abbey has several more photos available of the same ceremony. NLM is happy to offer our congratulations and best wishes to the whole community - ad multos annos!

Review: St. Edmund Campion Missal - Second Edition

Many may remember my review of the First Edition of Corpus Christi Watershed's Edmund Campion Missal and Hymnal for the Extraordinary Form. The entire stock sold out quite quickly, so Jeff Ostrowski took the opportunity to make corrections and modifications to make it even better for the next print run. Overall, it is very similar to the first edition, so for those not familiar with this book, I'd encourage you to follow the link above to see my review of the first edition. It took me a bit longer to write this than I expected, but it was nice to be able to use this multiple times at Mass to get a feel for it's actual ease of use. This new edition also keeps the page numbers the same, so the two books can be used side-by-side in the pews without issues.

The 8 Gregorian Modes: A Tour with Wassim Sarweh

I find Wassim Sarweh's interpretation of chant to be most compelling. It is highly unusual but without affectation. I sense in his understanding some of his own Syrian heritage plus a natural musicianship with a distinct liturgical character. This is why I'm excited about his Kickstarter campaign to do high-quality recordings of chant in all eight Gregorian Modes. It's a creative idea and with funding he will surely produce some spectacular and revealing.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Q & A with Dom Mark Daniel Kirby on Silverstream Priory

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, prior of Silverstream Priory, recently gave NLM some Q & A that might might be of interest to our readers here. I'd encourage you to read below about their community.

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, prior of Silverstream
Father Prior, could you briefly describe for us the origins of your community?

The seed of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, now known as Silverstream Priory, was planted in my heart during the Year of the Eucharist (2004-2005).  Profoundly moved by Bl. John Paul II's apostolic letter Mane nobiscum Domine, I resolved to live the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist with a special intensity and to preach that mystery (insofar as possible) every day during that year.

The death of Bl. John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI coincided with a trial affecting my health.  That trial turned out to be (in effect) a grace, because it obliged me to enter more deeply into the designs of God upon my life, as a monk and a priest.

Providentially, I was able to spend the Feast of Corpus Christi 2005 in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.  I understood then that Our Lord was calling me to a "vocation within a vocation": not only to the pursuit of the traditional Benedictine life, to which I had made profession as a monk of the Order of Cîteaux many years before, but also to adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, in a spirit of reparation and intercession for the sanctification of priests.

A series of opportunities (orchestrated, I think, by the Holy Ghost) led me to begin very humbly living this "vocation within a vocation", in the company of a few good men, under the protection of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa.

An indult from the Holy See dispensed me from my obligations to the abbey of my profession, and freed me to renew my vows, under the Rule of St Benedict, into the hands of Bishop Slattery in view of a new monastery dedicated to adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

How did it come about that your community moved from Tulsa to Ireland? 

Another series of providential circumstances led our embryonic community from Tulsa to County Meath in Ireland, where we found a property and buildings suitable to our particular expression of Benedictine life.  Although we had looked long and hard for suitable property within the Diocese of Tulsa, we found nothing corresponding to our needs and to our limited means.

It was while speaking at an international conference on Eucharistic Adoration (Adoratio 2011) in Rome, that I encountered several Irish priests, seminarians, and layfolk who suggested that what could not be found in Tulsa might be readily available in Ireland.

This invitation to consider Ireland touched me deeply, because for several years I had felt a growing desire to respond to the needs of the Church in Ireland with a humble love, principally by prayer, never thinking that I would be led to implant a new monastery there.

How did you find the property of Silverstream in County Meath? 

In our search for a suitable property, we made a novena to St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, and also prayed confidently to Blessed Columba Marmion.  To my astonishment, upon arriving at Silverstream, I discovered in the sacristy hanging above the vesting cabinet, a framed document in Latin attesting to the dedication of the little church and its altar to St Thérèse!  The dedication of the little priory church to St Thérèse took place during the tenancy of the Brothers of St John of God, previous owners of Silverstream.

On October 19, 2011, I met with His Lordship, the Most Reverend Michael Smith, Bishop of Meath, and laid our monastic project before him.  His Lordship graciously and magnanimously welcomed us to the Diocese of Meath.  And so, upon His Lordship of Meath's invitation, and with the fatherly blessing of Bishop Slattery, Dom Benedict Andersen and I set out for the Isle of Saints and Scholars.

Silverstream House, built 1843
Tell us a bit more about your "vocation within a vocation" as you described it? 

Essentially, our goal is to implant traditional Benedictine life at Silverstream.  This means a close adhesion to the letter and spirit of the Rule, and a commitment to the traditional forms of the sacred Liturgy, celebrated worthily, in Latin and Gregorian chant.  Like all Benedictine monks, we open the sacred Scriptures daily, in lectio divina, to discover there, shining through every page, as if through the "lattice-work" of the text (Cant. 2:10), the adorable Face of Christ.

Our "vocation within a vocation" flows from the discovery of the Face of Christ that illumines the sacred Scriptures.  Just as the disciples, on the road to Emmaus, passed from the opening of the Scriptures to the recognition of the Risen Christ in the Breaking of the Bread, so too do we pass continuously from the hearing and chanting of the Word, notably in the choral celebration of the Divine Office, to the contemplation and adoration of the Face of Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

This particular focus on the radiant Countenance of Jesus, both revealed and concealed in the Eucharist, is rooted in the expression coined Blessed John Paul II in the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, wherein he enjoined the faithful to tarry before the "Eucharistic Face of Christ."

At Silverstream Priory, we do this in relationship to the Liturgy, source and summit of the adoration that flows out of the Mass and returns to it.  And we do it specifically for the sake of those men whom our Lord called "not servants, but friends" (John 15:15), his priests, and in particular for those priests who, for one reason or another, are unable or unwilling to linger in the company of Our Lord in the Sacrament of his Divine Friendship.

St Nicholas in Palestine

St Nicholas of Myra
The Palestine Choral Festival takes place 22-31 August and features a large number of local and international choirs giving a number of concerts of Sacred Music and associated events taking place in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and many other towns. One of the highlights of the festival will be a performance of Benjamin Britten's St Nicholas in Beit Jala. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) and there are a number of events taking place worldwide in celebration of this major British composer. It is particularly appropriate that a performance of this cantata about the life of St Nicholas should take place in Beit Jala, as the saint lived there for a number of years in a cave over which a Greek Orthodox church now stands. Inside there is a most unusual icon of him appearing over Beit Jala and protecting it from bombs during the 1948 war, when against all odds and heavy attack the town and church escaped destruction.

Benjamin Britten
I am fortunate enough to be involved in the performance which takes place at the Latin Church in Beit Jala and some other events too. I hope to manage a visit to the Greek Orthodox Church to see the cave and the icon and will post photographs if I succeed. Below is a YouTube of Britten's St Nicholas (audio only) in a live performance from 2011. Stephen Layton conducts the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, the Holst Singers and the boys of the Temple Church Choir. The part of St Nicholas of Myra is sung by tenor Allan Clayton who will reprise this role in Beit Jala next week. You can buy a very fine recording by the same forces here.

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