Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What we're doing for Lent

I've been meaning to give an update on our music program for some time. As regular readers will know, I've taken an interest in the quality of our parish liturgies, particularly trying to have an appropriate dimension of catholicity--being part of the whole Catholic tradition, not just what has been current in recent decades.

So, we have incorporated some prayers and hymns in Latin, precisely as Vatican II called for; for my part, I try to chant the prayers as I can; we make full use of all our Catholic, "special effects" which add so much meaning to prayer, such as candles, incense, carefully executed ritual, and so forth. The music director for the two parishes I pastor has been an eager and inspiring leader in this effort; he has called together a schola which is focusing on Gregorian chant and polyphony, and it is growing; he has more men than women, and participants of all ages, including a couple in high school.

There have been some objections, and I've handled it several ways. I've given explanations, in the bulletin, from the pulpit, in conversation and letter. I gave a series of talks on Sacramentum Caritatis, the holy father's exhortation on the Eucharist, which seemed as good a setting as any to address any neuralgic issues such as chant, incense and Latin. I've included exerpts from the U.S. bishops recent document, Sing to the Lord, while having some unevenness, nonetheless strongly recommends the very things we've been doing and therefore makes clear this isn't just my wild hare.

But, in the end, sometimes it's necessary to compromise, so I let it be known that folks who would not abide Latin, could go to three of the Masses, and no Latin, just as we do with incense. (In fact, I put a "smoke alert" in the bulletin letting people know when we will include incense in the Mass.) There was a period in which we used only a little Latin.

A funny thing happened--I began getting feedback that folks were disappointed: we like using Latin, why aren't we doing as much? I told this story in the bulletin.

Anyway, here's where we are now in the overall project, which isn't about Latin but essentially about trying to celebrate the sacred liturgy as intended:

> For Lent, we've used an English introit from the Psallite collection. The English text closely, but not exactly, matches the English antiphon in the Missal. We provided them on a handout, with all five weeks' antiphons on it. People are singing it, and they can listen to the cantor sing the psalm text that goes with it, it's very prayerful, people can actually observe the procession, which is important, and it's nice not to hear all the song-books being shuffled around as I lead the sign of the cross. Today I discussed with the music director the possibility of using a handful of them during Ordinary Time, or at least, for part of it, and see how that goes.

> We are using the confiteor, followed by a kyrie, composed by our music director, based on a familiar Gregorian chant; last Sunday, the choir sang it, and I found it transcendant. Unfortunately, due to resistance on the part of some to any Latin (nevermind the Kyrie is Greek), we don't use it at the 4 and 5 pm Mass, and 7 am has no organist or choir. But we do use it at 9, 10:30 and Noon.

> The responsorial psalm is chanted sans accompaniment. People are singing it with more confidence each week; it's a prayer, not a song. Occasionally we have a cantor proclaim the psalm from the pulpit, which is very appropriate, but they don't often like to do that, and it's hard without the music director handy; and of course, if he's singing it, he does it from the choir loft.

> We introduced a new Sanctus (in English), which is on the backside of the introit handout. It's not new, really--it's from the Missal, and people are picking it up. My goal, of course, is to have an English Sanctus we can use more than during Lent. One reason I wanted to try a new English Sanctus is this is sung the weakest of any of the prayers the people sing. Actually, they often sang the Latin Sanctus better; but even so, we still want to have an English Sanctus people will sing.

> Our mysterium fidei for Lent is "Dying you destroyed our death; rising you restored our life; Lord Jesus, come in glory." When I arrived, it was always "Christ has died..." and I thought we should use the others, particularly as I think, given the choices, they are superior--they address the Lord present, rather than speak of him in the third-person. For Easter, we'll use, "Lord, by your cross and resurrection..."

> The Schola did a splendid job for Ash Wednesday. I'll quote my music director, from his blog (see links to the right of your screen): "We sang a new English version of the Proper Introit, an original Kyrie which I composed, and some motets that we've been learning - O Bone Jesu, O Esca Viatorum, O Vos Omnes(which we will use again on Good Friday), and a Peloquin piece, In Memory of You/Ave Verum." In addition, we sang the Latin Sanctus and Agnus Dei.

> For Sundays at the 9 am Mass, they have been singing the Latin communion antiphon, after which we use something in English. For those who think that's not enough: baby steps.

> For Holy Week, we'll have two processions -- one the principal Mass at each parish -- and we'll have solemn liturgies throughout; the choirs have been working on it since January. We hope to do the reproaches on Good Friday at the more solemn, day, liturgy. For the Vigil, we'll proclaim all the assigned readings.

> For Easter Season, we'll use the Sanctus from the Missa de Angelis at the 9 and Noon Masses. We'll have incense at those Masses as well.

> In addition, the schola is developing a number of Latin motets, which they are including more frequently at the 9 am Mass, occasionally at 10:30 am. And we occasionally use the Agnus Dei in Latin, which seems no longer to be an issue; but again, only at 9, 10:30 and Noon.

Some may fault me for compromising, and not using any of this at some Masses. However, if I'm correct about the wisdom and power of this, then that will, in time, become evident; who knows but down the road, folks will say, "how come we don't do that nice stuff at this Mass?" And if enough people ask for it, we can include it. In the meantime, only the most unreasonable person objects to other people enjoying what they don't enjoy.


TerryC said...

While there are subjects that you and I disagree upon, I have to say that I would feel lucky to be the member of a parish of which you were the pastor.
We see all too little of priests actually following the teachings of Vatican II, as opposed following what some people think or wish Vatican II had said.
I pray that more follow your example, and you can be sure that if I find myself in the neighborhood on a Sunday I will make a point to attend Mass in one of your parishes.
Bless you father.

marymezzo said...

Father, I'm a church musician who sings and loves chant and polyphony. Thanks for being a ray of hope in your parish. Now: you piqued my curiosity. What is the name of your music director's blog?
Mary W.

Anonymous said...

Hi Father, this is very encouraging and i think you are being more than reasonable, gently leading folks along. I wish we had some of that leadership in my parish, where we seem to be stuck with nothing but guitar music, applause....Latin is out of the question. I asked our priest (pastor) and he basically said it would NEVER happen saying that the people don't like Latin. Hummmm. So unfortunately I have to travel to find a mass where there is some tradition and homilies that are challenging.

Father Martin Fox said...


If you scan the links, you'll see something like "St. Mary and St. Boniface Music Ministry" . . . that's it.

marymezzo said...

Father, thanks for the link.

Paul said...

..... When I arrived, it was always "Christ has died..." and I thought we should use the others, particularly as I think, given the choices, they are superior--they address the Lord present, rather than speak of him in the third-person. For Easter, we'll use, "Lord, by your cross and resurrection..."

We have the same issue in our parish (in LA, CA): every week it always "Christ has died...", why is that? I have heard the same from friends both in CA and other states and it seems to happen too often to be coincidence.



RAnn said...

In the meantime, only the most unreasonable person objects to other people enjoying what they don't enjoy

Even if what is being discussed is Haugen and Haas or praise and worship music?

Jennifer said...

I think I will drive my family up to Piqua for Mass for Easter! We sang cheerful songs, danced and clapped. I forgot it was lent really.

We have danced for the past three masses. Oh well, wish the Bishop had set up guidelines for this. They forget to bow to the alter on approach and exit. Doesn't help to point to the mystery.

If anyone has info for Santa Maria/Lompoc in Cali. That's our next stop. Especially schools - it's a sacrament year for our first.

Hope to meet you before we move Fr Fox! you're about 1 hour and some minutes away. Would be an Easter pilgrimmage.


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