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Articles on this Page
- 02/11/16--05:24: _Sacred Music Sympos...
- 02/11/16--08:26: _First Sunday of Len...
- 02/11/16--11:06: _Free Franciscan Pub...
- 02/11/16--19:11: _Latin-English Domin...
- 02/12/16--05:00: _Customary of Our La...
- 02/12/16--11:00: _A Reader’s Home Ora...
- 02/12/16--19:18: _A Beautiful Byzanti...
- 02/13/16--11:11: _T&T Clark Interview...
- 02/13/16--19:23: _The Charterhouse of...
- 02/14/16--02:56: _The Benedictus Resi...
- 02/14/16--19:26: _Catholic Children's...
- 02/15/16--19:53: _The Unlikely Prophe...
- 02/16/16--06:35: _The Devil Hates Lat...
- 02/16/16--20:20: _A Roman Pilgrim at ...
- 02/17/16--01:57: _Lenten Musical Orat...
- 02/17/16--05:00: _Fr. Samuel Weber’s ...
- 02/17/16--09:00: _Veterum Sapientia L...
- 02/17/16--20:24: _Rioting Over Jonah
- 02/18/16--08:51: _Signs of the Holy O...
- 02/18/16--20:40: _A Religious Process...
- 02/11/16--05:24: Sacred Music Symposium, Los Angeles, 29-31st May
- 02/11/16--08:26: First Sunday of Lent: EF Polyphonic Mass in Grand Rapids, Michigan
- 02/11/16--11:06: Free Franciscan Publications
- 02/11/16--19:11: Latin-English Dominican Rite Hand Missal Available for Download
- 02/12/16--05:00: Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham Available in the US
- 02/12/16--11:00: A Reader’s Home Oratory
- 02/12/16--19:18: A Beautiful Byzantine Chant for Lent
- 02/13/16--11:11: T&T Clark Interviews Dom Alcuin Reid
- 02/13/16--19:23: The Charterhouse of Milan
- 02/14/16--02:56: The Benedictus Residential Summer School 2016
- 02/14/16--19:26: Catholic Children's Choirs
- 02/15/16--19:53: The Unlikely Prophet Jonah as a Model for Us in Lent
- 02/16/16--06:35: The Devil Hates Latin, Says Exorcist
- 02/16/16--20:20: A Roman Pilgrim at the Station Churches 2016 (Part 1)
- 02/17/16--09:00: Veterum Sapientia Latin Conference in DC, July 31 - Aug. 6
- 02/17/16--20:24: Rioting Over Jonah
- 02/18/16--08:51: Signs of the Holy One: Part II
- 02/18/16--20:40: A Religious Procession in Macau, China
For further details see the poster below or go to: www.ccwatershed.org/symposium/
Dr Calabrese will be having a busy May! The previous weekend in Dallas he is organizing a conference at his parish in Dallas, Texas, St Rita’s, on beauty and the liturgy, which will culminate in the world premiere of Catholic composer Frank La Rocca’s new oratorio, A Rose in Winter on the life of St Rita.
If you click the poster below you can see it at a greater magnification...
Sacred Heart Parish offers the Traditional Latin Mass as a Missa Cantata every Sunday and major feast day. A number of school and college choirs are presenting settings of the Mass Ordinary at this Mass as a way to experience the works of great composers of Latin liturgical music in their authentic setting. Father Robert Sirico is the pastor of Sacred Heart; Daniel Bennett Page is the director of Sacred Music.
Our college library has received donations of many boxes of journals over the years, and as we are running out of space on our shelves, we have to simplify our collection. As the College's librarian, I will be happy to send the following journals and convention publications to anyone who is simply willing to cover the media-mail shipping. If interested, please contact me at my email address on the NLM sidebar.
Vol. 10, No. 1, 2, 3, and supplement
Vol. 11, No. 1, 2
Vol. 12, No. 1
Vol. 14, No. 1, 2, 3, and supplement (2 sets)
Vol. 15, No. 1, 2, 3, and supplement (2 sets)
Vol. 16, No. 1, 2, 3, and supplement (2 copies of no. 1, 2, 3)
Vol. 17, No. 1, 2, 3, and supplement (2 copies of no. 1, 2, 3)
Vol. 46, No. 3, 6
Vol. 47, No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (2 sets plus an extra copy of No. 6)
Vol. 48, No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (2 sets plus an extra copy of No. 3,5)
Vol. 49, No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (2 sets plus an extra copy of No. 2,3,4)
Vol. 50, No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 (2 copies of No. 1,2)
Vol. 51, No. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6
Vol. 52, No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Vol. 53, No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Vol. 54, No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Vol. 55, No. 1, 2, 3
The Conventional Franciscan Friars
General Chapter--Assisi 1983
Rome, Christmas 1991
Roma, Christmas 1993
Rome, Lent 1996
Rome, Lent 1997
Rome, General Curia OFM Conv. 1998
Rome, General Curia OFM Conv. 1999
Rome, Pentecost 2002 (2 copies)
Saint Dominic Missal: Latin--English (New York, 1959). This hand missal contains all the changes and reforms from the 1950s and so represents the Dominican Rite as of 1962, which is the form in which it is to be used today. I regret that Dominican Liturgy Publications cannot reprint this book as it is over the 800 page limit for our books-on-demand printer (Lulu.com).
The missal PDF can also be downloaded from the left sidebar of Dominican Liturgy under "Dominican Rite Texts--Downloadable." You might want to take a look at other publications at Dominican Liturgy Publications.
Thank you to reader Justin Legault for contacting me with this information. If any are having trouble getting hold of the Customary of Our Lady of Walshingham (as described recently) at a reasonable, then it is available from the bookdepository.com. The link is here.
“This easy project began by creating a niche between two tall bookcases. The set up involves:
- a corner-leg table
- a curtain rod
- a pair of curtain panels for the Lenten array
- dark red/navy fringe and/or matching fabric paint or embroidery thread
- strip of linen for the fair linen
- a pair of candlesticks
- a Crucifix
I spaced the bookcases so that there are a few inches on either side to fit the table between.
A corner-leg table where the legs come right to the edge serves best to create block works. The Lenten array is made from a pair of curtain panels. One entire panel forms the dossal, which can be painted, embroidered, or left plain.
The frontal is made by matching one edge of the remaining panel to the table and measuring the width so that the panel will cover the front with a seam allowance. I ironed the seam and sewed the entire piece the length of the panel. A frontlet can be made by measuring the height from floor to table top, adding about 4-6 inches, and cutting the panel horizontally into two pieces. If any sort of embellishment is desired, it can be either painted or embroidered onto the body of the frontal. It can be very helpful to make paper cutouts and pin them to the cloth to get a sense of scale and the effect of the final design. The fringe is sewn on the bottom of the frontal and the bottom edge of the remaining piece.
To mark the placement of the frontlet required a little trial and error, so I laid the remaining piece over the top of the frontal to get the overlap and pin the pieces together, then draped them over the table to see if the proportions looked right. Once the correct placement of the frontlet was fixed, I sewed the two pieces together. Rather than trimming off the excess at the top, I let the remaining fabric fall behind the back of the table; this makes it much easier to adjust and gives the fair linen a surface to grip.
If small children or pets are a consideration, shoe laces can be sewn to the top corner of the fabric and used to tie the fabric to the table’s back legs. Hint; purchase the fringe and match the paint / embroidery thread to it.
I prefer a simple candlesticks; the pair shown are made of wrought iron ($1.99 each). I would avoid church candlesticks that can be found in antique shops since they tend to be overly ornate and draw too much attention. The focus should be the Crucifix not the candlesticks.
This entire project was executed by someone with zero sewing experience; basically it required sewing a series of straight lines. If one wishes to make this a permanent fixture, different sets of frontals can be made with damask fabrics, braid and fringe. The dossal need not match although it should harmonize with the frontal.”
Нынѣ Силы Небесныѧ съ нами невидимо служать, се, бо входитъ Царь Славы: се Жертва тайнаѧ совершена дориноситсѧ. Вѣрою и любовию приступимъ, да причастницы жизни вѣчныя будемъ. Аллилуя, аллилуя, аллилуя. (Sung by the choir of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow.)
As I am sure many of our readers know, it is the custom of the Byzantine Rite that the Eucharistic liturgy is not celebrated on the weekdays of Lent, except on the feast of the Annunciation. Therefore, at the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, extra loaves of bread are consecrated, and reserved for the rest of the week. On Wednesdays and Fridays, a service known as the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is held, in which Vespers is mixed with a Communion Rite. (It is also held on the first three days of Holy Week, and may be done on other occasions, but twice a week is the most common practice.) The first part follows the regular order of Vespers fairly closely, and the second part imitates the Great Entrance and the Communion rite of the Divine Liturgy. This chant, therefore, replaces the hymn “We who mystically represent the Cherubim,” which is sung at the Divine Liturgy as the bread and wine are brought to the altar.
Here is the Greek version:
Νῦν αἱ δυνάμεις τῶν οὐρανῶν σὺν ἡμῖν ἀοράτως λατρεύουσιν· ἰδοὺ γὰρ εἰσπορεύεται ὁ Βασιλεὺς τῆς δόξης. Ἰδοὺ θυσία μυστικὴ τετελειωμένη δορυφορεῖται· πίστει καὶ πόθῳ προσέλθωμεν, ἵνα μέτοχοι ζωῆς ἀιωνίου γενώμεθα. Ἀλληλούϊα, Ἀλληλούϊα, Ἀλληλούϊα.
Dom Alcuin, your T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy has just been published. Can you tell us something about its origins please?
The Companion was the idea of Tom Kraft, a T&T Clark editor some years ago, who wanted a volume in the series which would present something of the status quaestionis of liturgical studies in the Western Catholic Church at the beginning of the twenty first century. Undoubtedly Tom’s approach came in the light of the impetus given to these questions by the election of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. As Cardinal Ratzinger he had taught for many years that “the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is the centre of any renewal of the Church whatever.” Western Catholics have endured a number of decades of liturgical turmoil since the middle of the twentieth century, and what is “the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy” was then—and still is—very much a live issue.
Tom asked—well really, he insisted—that I compile and edit the volume. That commenced (too many) years of work with many generous contributors and others who gave of their talents eventually to produce what we hope will provide students and those generally interested in Western Catholic liturgy with a resource that contains some of the best theological, historical and pastoral liturgical scholarship available today, which does not ignore the liturgical issues of recent decades, and which will serve as a guide towards further study in these areas.
So what is “liturgy”?
The best answer to that question is found in the first chapter, “Liturgical Theology,” by Professor David Fagerberg of Notre Dame University, USA. Shorter answers are found in the A-Z section of the book. Liturgy is, of course, the public ritual worship of the Church in and through which, in Catholic theology, we hold that Christ acts in a singularly privileged way in our world today. Our optimal participation in the liturgy, our connectivity with this divine action, facilitates our own sanctification and empowers us for Christian life and mission. That’s why Cardinal Ratzinger emphasised that it is the “centre of any renewal of the Church whatever.” If we get the liturgy wrong our connectivity to Christ is impeded. And without optimal connectivity to Christ we, and those so in need of the mission of the Church today in the various and complex situations that the 21st century presents, will lack something essential, we will suffer.
Academically, where does the Companion stand in the field of liturgical studies?
Firstly I must emphasise that this is a companion to liturgical studies in “the Western Catholic tradition.” Some commentators have already noted that this subtitle is unfortunately missing from much of the Companion’s promotional material. The book neither sets out to ignore the Churches of the East nor to minimise their venerable and rich liturgical traditions. Really, another Companion should be commissioned for the great Eastern liturgical tradition.
In the light of what some have termed the “liturgy-wars” of recent decades, contemporary studies in Western liturgy have tended to be fairly ‘safe,’ avoiding critical analysis of the “troubles” following the Second Vatican Council. If you can regurgitate your professor’s take on the liturgical reform following the Council you will pass your seminary course. If you do higher studies in liturgy and do a purely historical analysis of rites or aspects of them, or “engage” with “liturgical sources” (demonstrate a knowledge of ancient liturgical texts), you will receive your degree without difficulty. But should you use history, theology or pastoral practice critically to question the status quo of liturgical thought or practice in your diocese or academic institution, you will often encounter an intolerance that verges on totalitarianism: “Don’t mention the war!” The situation is improving, certainly, but this problem persists amongst a certain generation and school of liturgists.
The Companion moves beyond this academic impasse. Many if not most of its contributors are indeed prepared to “mention the war,” and even to admit that it has occasioned severe casualties. The motivation for this is a positive one—academically and pastorally. The academic questions to which the situation of Western liturgy since the Council has given rise must be studied. The conclusions of such studies must be taken into account in decisions in respect of future liturgical life and reform. So too the associated pastoral issues must be addressed. Yes, a sound knowledge of liturgical history is very important. The ability thoroughly to engage in liturgical sources is certainly a skill and informs the historical study of liturgy. More important today, however, is the ability critically to engage with the liturgical and theological principles operative in history in making a critical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of our current ritual and pastoral practice. If the Companion helps to form a generation of liturgical scholars who are open to such an approach it will have made a significant contribution.
What do you think is the Companion’s unique contribution?
I think that is, really, the shift from “safe” liturgical study to “critical” liturgical study that I was just talking about. Part III of the Companion, “The Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council,” contains two chapters by Dom Anscar Chupungco OSB (†2013). They take a very different stance to my own chapter and to that of Fr Thomas Kocik in the same section. Students should read them all, attentively and critically. Identifying our different approaches, sources and assumptions will be instructive, indeed I hope it will be formative in acquiring not only a broad appreciation of differing scholars’ stances, but more importantly in developing a critical ability to engage with the sources, underlying principles and realities. This will indeed help to form better scholarship and pastoral practice.
Is there anything else you would like to highlight about the Companion?
The Companion is a large reference book. As such it has many uses—from studying particular chapters according to given interests and needs, to quickly referring to terms and concepts in the A-Z section, as well as making use of its extensive bibliographies for further research. But it also provides something of a course for studies in liturgical theology, history and contemporary issues. Certainly, it does not and could not contain all that one could study— and that is not its purpose. Its purpose is to accompany, to be a companion for, the student of Sacred Liturgy so that he or she will be well equipped to pursue further studies in the field. I hope and pray that we have, at least in part, achieved that aim.
|The two Viscontis, Abp. Giovanni and his brother Luchino, are both represented on the façade as the church’s co-founders.|
|The Sanctuary seen from the entrance.|
|Bl. Pope Urban II Approves the Carthusian Rule, and St Bruno Refuses the Episcopacy (Crespi).|
|Crespi also painted a large number of Carthusian Saints on the walls; this is St Hugh of Grenoble, who helped St Bruno to found the order and gave them the property on which the Grande Chartreuse was constructed.|
|Part of the vault (also Crespi), with Christ in Glory, St John the Baptist, Angels and Carthusian Saints.|
|The Birth of Christ, by Simone Peterzano (1578), the teacher of Caravaggio; in the sanctuary of the church.|
|The Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension, also by Peterzano|
|The Eternal Father, and Angels with Instruments of the Passion (Peterzano)|
|The Assumption, by Biagio Bellotti (mid 18th-century)|
|The chapter house|
|The Chaterhouse of Garegnano was still in the countryside in 1865 when this map was made.|
During this two week course we will introduce students to the foundational elements of European civilisation, from the ancient world to the formation of Christian Europe.
We will study some of the milestones, both intellectual and cultural, that have marked its development; from Plato and More to Raphael and T. S. Eliot, in each case highlighting the thematic connections between the disciplines.
Whether you have just done your AS levels, left school, are on your gap year or are studying at university, if you are keen to discover some of the riches of western Europe in its philosophy, history, art and architecture, then this course is for you.
The course comprises lectures, classroom-based reading seminars and visits to galleries and museums; this exciting combination of learning techniques is essential in order to emphasise the connections across the subjects and understand the context in which major cultural and intellectual developments took place.
Class sizes are limited to 18 in order to create an intimate and dynamic community of learning. You will be studying, living, discussing and enjoying the company of a small, diverse group of enthusiastic young people on this intense course.
Highlights of the 2016 course will be; Shakespeare with Professor Andrew Moran - with a trip to see a play performed at the Globe; a day-trip to Oxford to discover more about the fascinating history of the University during the Renaissance; visits to the British Museum with Professor Edward Chaney, a private performance of early sacred music and Dante with Professor John Took.
The prospectus is here, and for more information visit the Benedictus site which has application details.
UNITED STATES (State alphabetical)
St. Clare of Assisi: a new children's choir for students in grades 3-8, forming on the west side of the Diocese of Phoenix Arizona. The choir will specialize in Gregorian chant and sacred music. Contact is Director of Music Matthew J. Meloche email@example.com
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO
Corpus Christi: The St. Cecilia Schola Cantorum offers a music education and choral experience which includes instruction in sight singing, theory, Catholic catechesis and Gregorian chant. The St. Cecilia Choir (7+ years) and the Mary’s Angels Choir (under age 7) rehearse on Friday afternoons. Open to non-parish members. Contact the director, Valerie Nicolosi, at firstname.lastname@example.orgWebsite
St Mary's: Director of Music David Hughes, a key CMAA figure and leading Catholic musician has a huge music programme involving a number of choirs with excellent opportunities for children. Contact David Hughes email@example.comWebsite
St John Cantius: The Holy Innocents Choir has nearly 100 children. Gregorian Chant and modern notation are taught, as well as catechesis. Rehearsals on Saturdays, sings at OF and EF Masses, Propers and Ordinaries; polyphonic mass settings; motets and hymns. Also occasionally sings the Divine Office with the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. Contact Director Br. Chad McCoy, SJC, email firstname.lastname@example.orgWebsite
Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church: Schola Cantorum founded three years ago as an "after school choir school." 25 choristers and 8 probationers (lower parts are choral scholars from the local university) directed by Lucas Tappan. The Schola sings every other week for the sacred liturgy as well as for concerts and tours. This year the students will be recording their first CD. Contact Lucas Tappan email@example.comWebsite
ELLICOTT CITY, MD
Regina Caeli Schola Cantorum: a Gregorian Chant class for children grade 3-8. Rehearsals on Mondays. Contact the Director Mia Coyne firstname.lastname@example.orgWebsite
St Jane Frances de Chantal: Parish Children's Choir for children grade 3-8, rehearses on Wednesday evenings and sings for Sunday 10am Mass. Gregorian Chant and Hymns. Director Mia Coyne email@example.comWebsite
St Paul's, Harvard Square: home to the renowned St Paul's Choir School, one of two Catholic Choir Schools in the USA. Musical boys in 3rd grade should apply for entry at 4th grade. Contact John Robinson, Director of Music 617-868-8658 firstname.lastname@example.orgInformationWebsite
St Benedict's: Children's Schola for boys and girls grades 2-8, directed by Sandra Eller, to study sight reading skills using solfege, and sing Latin and English chant in modern and Gregorian notation. Rehearses Wednesday evenings, sings for Sunday Mass once a month. Contact Director Sandra Eller email@example.comWebsite
ST. PAUL, MN
Cathedral of St Paul: The Cathedral Choir School of Minnesota is an after-school program at the Cathedral on Wednesdays for Choristers in grades K-12, beginning with Benediction and concluding with Mass. Contact Jayne Windnagel firstname.lastname@example.org Website
LEMAY (ST. LOUIS), MO
St Martin of Tours: a new children's choir focusing on Chant and polyphony directed by Mary Pentecost, weekly rehearsals (Thursdays) and singing at a monthly Mass. Auditions for children in Grades 3-12. Contact Mary Pentecost (314) 544-5664 InformationWebsite
Cathedral of St Helena: The St Cecilia Choir for boys and girls aged 7-15 sings once a month at the 11am Mass with weekly rehearsals on Tuesdays. Website
A new youth schola (12+ years old) directed by Dr. Patricia Warren to compliment Schola Vox Clara, a Schola which serves the Extraordinary Form in the Diocese of Raleigh. Weekly rehearsals to sing for one EF Mass per month to start. Mixed voices, and gentlemen with both unchanged and changed voices are welcome. No prior choral experience is necessary. Contact Dr. Patricia Warren,
Director, Schola Vox Clara email@example.com
NEW YORK, NY
St Catherine of Siena: home of the Manhattan Catholic Children's Choir for children aged 8-14, directed by Julie Woodin. Contact firstname.lastname@example.orgInformationWebsite
Holy Family: Schola Cantorum sings at a weekly Diocesan Extraordinary Form Mass. Its members are girls and young women ages 14-23, who sing Gregorian Chant and Renaissance polyphony alone, and occasionally with a men's Schola (in formation). Contact Fr. Stephen Concordia O.S.B. email@example.comWebsite
SALT LAKE CITY, UT
Madeleine Cathedral: The Madeleine Choir School, a superb Cathedral Choir directed by Gregory Glenn with vocal training from Melanie Malinka, both inspirational musicians who are well-known to those who have attended the Colloquium the past two years in Salt Lake. Website
CHARLES TOWN, WV
St James the Greater: a number of children's choirs - Sacred Heart Choir for Kindergarten-Grade2, Saint Cecilia Choir for girls grades 3-8, Saint Gregory Choir for boys grades 3-8, Archangelus Chorale for high school students and Holy Trinity Ensemble, and auditioned choir for grades 5-12. Contact Director of Music Gary Penkala firstname.lastname@example.orgWebsite
Basilica of St Josaphat: a new children's choir is being formed. Contact Christopher Berry Director of Music email@example.comWebsite
The American Federation of Pueri Cantores Website
St John the Evangelist: Sacred Heart Choir School is a program for homeschooling boys and girls in grades 3-12 based at St John's, an Ordinariate Parish. Classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Contact the Principal, Paul Hudec firstname.lastname@example.org Website
St Michael's Cathedral: St Michael's Choir School for boys has three choirs which sing at the Cathedral: Elementary Choir (Grades 3 & 4), Junior Choir (Grades 5 & 6), Senior Choir (Grades 7-12). Contact email@example.comWebsite
Oratory of St Philip Neri: The Oratory Children's Choir - Children learn chanted ordinaries of the mass, English propers in psalm-tone and 2-pt fauxbourdon and motets from Medieval to 19th Century repertoire. Grade 4-12. Contact Oratory Music Director, Philip Fournier: firstname.lastname@example.org Website
Notre Dame de L'Assomption 1er: Les Petits Chanteurs de Passy for boys and girls aged 8-14. Rehearses Fridays and Saturdays, sings polyphony with adult back row. Contact email@example.comWebsite
Saint-Eugène - Sainte-Cécile 9e: Les Petits Chantres de Sainte-Cécile, a new choir for children launches at the end of September 2013. Rehearsals on Saturday afternoons. Contact the Director, Clotilde de Nedde firstname.lastname@example.orgFacebookWebsite
HAARLEM, THE NETHERLANDS
St Bavo Cathedral: The Koorschool is a Choir School for boys and girls from age 8. Contact email@example.comWebsite
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
London Oratory SW7: The London Oratory Junior Choir for boys and girls aged 8-16 directed by Charles Cole. Three rehearsals per week and two services including the Sunday 10am Mass. Gregorian Chant Propers and Ordinary, motets from Medieval/Renaissance through to present day. Also sings for the Royal Ballet's productions at Covent Garden. Contact firstname.lastname@example.orgInformationWebsite
PEMBURY, UNITED KINGDOM
St Anselm's TN2: Ordinariate SATB choir with some children which sings plainchant and polyphony directed by the composer Antony Pitts. Rehearses Thursday evenings and sings Solemn Mass on Sundays and Feastdays. Contact Parish Priest +44 1892 825009 Website
Jonah shows us many typical weaknesses: running away from God’s calling; refusing His demands; sleeping instead of staying vigilant; moaning in self-pity; feeling angry with God’s will; having a mean spirit about God’s generosity and mercy towards others. Basically, all the most petty reactions we can have in the face of God are demonstrated by Jonah, and yet God does not give up on him, but keeps pursuing him, keeps giving him the grace to get up again after a fall — the grace of continual, albeit painful, conversion. Jonah’s conversion, moreover, does not go in a straight line from victory to victory, but in a crooked, wavering line, from failure to success to failure again. He is a man who breaks down more than once and seems to be, so to speak, discontented with the role God has assigned him, or the results he gets in his work.
He is, in this way, utterly typical of ourselves. We often do not like the role we are assigned in the drama of history. It reminds me of auditioning for plays or musicals in high school. There were only a few really glorious parts you could get, and the rest were scrappy and trivial, like those of Guildenstern and Rosencrantz in Hamlet. We often feel like we’ve been given the scrappy, trivial parts of the drama of life, not the glorious ones in which we flatter ourselves we could really shine with all our talents.
Notice, too, how slow Jonah is to get the point. God has not treated him gently. He seizes him, throws him into the ocean, abandons him to a whale’s belly, and then rescues him from the same beast. And yet, after all this, Jonah is still not submissive to God’s will, he still kicks against the goads (cf. Acts 26:14), complaining that the Ninevites will be spared on account of their repentance, complaining that his cherished gourd plant has been wasted by a worm. It reminds one of the Jews who saw the raising of Lazarus and yet still could not put their faith in Jesus, but plotted His death.
“Jonah was very happy over the plant” (4:6). Isn’t this just like us, too? Here is Jonah, whose rather dull preaching (at least from the scraps recorded of it) has, by God’s grace, resulted in the repentance and rescue of thousands of souls, feeling very happy about a plant, instead of feeling very happy about Ninevah. Don’t we find ourselves growing attached to little things, and growing upset when they are not available — a certain kind of tea or coffee, a particular schedule for the day, the friendly words of a certain person we like — and forgetting about the immense blessings that Almighty God is pouring out on us and on our neighbors every day? How often do we think about the indwelling of the Most Blessed Trinity in the soul of the just man? If you are in a state of sanctifying grace, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are making their home within your immortal intellectual soul. You are greater than the greatest temple built by human hands. Now: what was that complaint of yours?
As in the stirring poem The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson, God relentlessly pursues Jonah because He loves him and knows that he can actually change, or better, be changed. God will not let Jonah’s limited personality, his flaws, his disobedience, get the better of him, be the final word on his tombstone. No, in some sense Jonah is going to be a saint in spite of himself, because God is the one who accomplishes this work in us. As we read in the Psalms, “It is He who made us, not we ourselves” (Ps 99:3). Men do not make themselves saints, it is God who makes men saints. This we must cry out against all the manifest and subtle Pelagianism of our times.
Yet there is something required of us — the willingness to be seized by God and shaped by Him, the willingness to be clay in the potter’s hands. Whatever might be said against old Jonah, he finally surrendered to God. Though he grumbled about it, he let the Almighty shape him. The book of Jonah ends with a question; it does not tell us how Jonah answered it. We can presume that God is successful in making his point, and that Jonah, too, is mastered by the divine patience. He learns who God is, and what, therefore, he himself has to be. God has not abandoned him up to this point, and God will not abandon him now. Jonah will become a saint because he is not going to keep himself fixed in a stance of resistance and rebellion, like Lucifer, but is willing to learn and to change.
That is why we are all fortunate to be men and not angels. If we were angels, we might have been Lucifers. If we are men, we can be Jonahs. Even Judas, as we know, could have repented, and his tragedy consists precisely in his chosen failure to do so. Peter, who did something no less evil than Judas, repented and went on to become a martyr, a perfect witness, one who followed Christ perfectly. As angels, one act of rebellion would be our everlasting death. As men, a daily act of repentance will be our everlasting life. Let us not lose this chance to gain life — the Lord is a cheerful giver who readily gives life. Let ours be the prayer of Jonah deep within the belly of the whale:
When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord;Amen.
My prayer reached you in your holy temple.
Those who worship vain idols forsake the source of mercy.
But I, with resounding praise, will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed, I will pay: deliverance is from the Lord. (2:8-10)
 It was Fr. Paul Murray’s book A Journey with Jonah: The Spirituality of Bewilderment (Columba Press, 2002) that first drew my attention to the elements of humor in Jonah. It helped me to realize, moreover, that sometimes a false (puritanical) reverence we bring to the Bible prevents us from seeing the genuine humor present in so many passages.
Over the years, we have published a large number of articles about the Station churches, which you easily can find by putting the words “Station churches” in the NLM search box on the top right of the page. If you don’t know what Station churches are, you might want to read this great article which Shawn posted in 2010, explaining their origin and significance.
|The relics of St Paul of the Cross|
|This stone in the church marks “the place of the martyrdom of Ss John and Paul in their own house.”|
Monday of the First Week of Lent - St Peter in Chains
|Blessing of the faithful with a relic at the end of the Mass.|
This interview was originally published in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, as part of an article by Roseanne Sullivan titled “Propers of the Mass Versus the Four-Hymn Sandwich.” It is reproduced here with the kind permission of the editors of the HPR and Ms. Sullivan.
Dr. Peter Kwasniewski was referred to me by Fr. Weber as a trusted liturgical expert and friend who could knowledgeably answer some questions I had originally submitted to Fr. Weber for an email interview.
You might be wondering, “What’s a Proper?” “What’s an antiphon?” “Who cares?” Only a small percentage of Catholics will have any idea of why chant settings of Mass texts in English are important, so I have written an accompanying article titled, “Propers of the Mass Vs. the Four Hymn Sandwich: Another Way of Looking at The Great Catholic Music Debate.” The accompanying article provides definitions of terms along with some background about how the singing of the Proper parts of the Mass has fallen into disuse as an unintended consequence of the introduction of Masses in the vernacular and why resources like Fr. Weber’s are needed to restore the Proper chants to their proper place in the Mass.
Question 1: Please tell us this first: Why do you think this resource is needed?
Dr. Kwasniewski: Ever since the introduction of the English liturgy, Fr. Weber has been among those asked to provide resources for singing the Mass in English. He had been been answering requests from individuals, parishes, and religious communities for many years. This new book takes care of all requests, as far as the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion antiphons go, as well as a number of other important chants for Holy Week. For this particular project of the Benedict XVI Institute, he provided the following for each of the antiphons:
• Four levels of settings, so that one cantor or a highly trained choir would have options they could manage, depending on available talent, and
• Appropriate psalm verses for the antiphons for those who would want them (and they are very helpful, since the same action in the liturgy can take a short time or a long time depending on many factors).
I know that Fr. Weber is also working on organ accompaniments in different keys, as well as SATB settings of verses.
The need for this resource is simple to grasp. The propers (as you no doubt explain in your article) are part of the basic structure of the Roman Rite of the Mass. They are ancient—we find them in the earliest manuscripts we have of the Mass, and they were handed down for centuries. They are part of our inheritance from the apostles, first bishops, and first Christian communities, who were steeped in Jewish worship, and for whom the psalms occupied a central place.
The Psalms came to be the very backbone of the Western liturgical tradition, in the Mass as in the Divine Office, because they are the very prayers Jesus inspired and then carried on His own sacred lips, sang in the synagogues, and offered to the Father on the gibbet of Calvary. There is simply no way to avoid the fact that these Proper chants are not a mere add-on or marginal feature but stand at the very center of our liturgical heritage.
In the days before the Council, when the Low Mass tended to predominate, after permission was given for hymns to be sung during the parts of the Mass where the priest prayed silently, the Propers were still always retained, albeit only recited. The Council asked for High or Sung Mass to become the norm—the Sung Mass as it then existed, where the Propers and the Ordinary would be chanted. But after the Council, chaos broke out, and the Propers, like many other treasures, were abandoned and forgotten.
I see a real parallel between what happened to the Propers and what happened to the man en route to Jericho, who was attacked and left by the side of the road to die. The priest and the Levite passed him by, but the Samaritan stopped, took him up and cared for him, and made sure the man would be restored to full vigor. Jesus identified himself with the Samaritan and asks us to do the same. We are now in a position to be Good Samaritans, take the Propers up again, care for them, and restore them to their fitting role in the Mass.
In short, if we would honor Our Lord and the traditions He Himself inspired in our Church, the Propers need to be restored to their place of honor in the Mass. This collection of chants makes it truly possible and practical to do so in the context of celebrations in English.
Question 2: I’ve found several reviewers of this book claiming that it is the best of the many attempt to set the Propers in English. You yourself wrote in an Amazon review: “Fr. Weber’s magnum opus does the job better overall than has ever been done before.” Music director Andrew R. Motyka wrote a review at Corpus Christi Watershed in which he said that the publication of this book “sets an extremely high bar for those of us interested in the musical proper of the Mass.... He is undoubtedly one of the modern masters of setting English chant.” Given that there are already similar collections available, including Adam Bartlett’s Simple English Propers, Arlene Oost-Zinner’s Parish Book of Psalms, Corpus Christi Watershed’s Lalemant Propers, Fr. Guy Nicholls’ Graduale Parvum, and the Simple Choral Gradual of Richard Rice, what makes The Proper of the Mass different from the others?
Dr. Kwasniewski: The distinguishing mark of the book is twofold: (1) for all the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion antiphons, it contains full chant settings in the style and spirit, and often the very melodies, of the Latin originals in the Graduale Romanum; (2) for the same texts, it gives a pair of psalm-tone settings, so that a cantor or choir can easily “shift gears” from more melodic or melismatic settings to straightforward psalm tone settings. In this way, the book is versatile. For example, I could see using different levels of settings for different Masses, because, as we know, at most parishes one of the Masses is more of a “high” Mass, while others might be plainer and shorter—but all of them can and should benefit from chanted Propers.
Question 3: What a labor of love! Jeffrey Ostrowski at Corpus Christi Watershed and others have mentioned that Fr. Weber has been writing the settings for these antiphons for years, one antiphon at a time, and has published different versions for each chant over the years, testing and refining them. Do you know how long it took him to compose and set the chants in this nearly 1,000-page book?
Dr. Kwasniewski: For sure, it’s been a long-term project. The most intensive period has been the past four years, but he’s been fielding requests to set this or that proper antiphon for decades. Seminaries, parishes, cathedrals, monasteries, colleges, chapels, have used these chants successfully and given him feedback on what works best. The melodies have been refined through experience, just as it happened with the original Latin chants. And the task is still going on, as Father writes the organ accompaniments and SATB psalm verses. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the saying goes.
Question 4: Who will sing the chants? If the congregation will be singing them, how will they learn them? I ran across an interview that you conducted with Fr. Weber at the New Liturgical Movement website about another book, the Hymnal for the Hours. In that interview, Fr. Weber described an approach where the chant settings are made available to the congregation in booklets; he said that, with the lead of a “strong and confident cantor,” the congregation is always able to sing alternately, with little or no practice. Is this the method recommended for these chant settings? Do you expect this to be a pew book that everyone can use?
Dr. Kwasniewski: Oh, no, the Proper of the Mass is not for the congregation; it is for cantors and choir. As Vatican II stated, there is a special and important role for the choir—not everything is meant to be sung by everybody. This flies in the face of a certain narrow interpretation of “active participation,” where the lowest common denominator prevails. In reality, Vatican II taught that there are actions and roles appropriate to various individuals, and each person should do those things, but only those things, that pertain to his role. The layman does not say the words of consecration; the celebrant does not say “And with your spirit.” The congregation is supposed to sing the many responses, the chants of the Ordinary, and, when appropriate, simple antiphons (although on special feasts a polyphonic Mass and motets might be sung to mark the occasion).
But for Sundays and Holy Days, a cantor or choir should be there to sing the Propers, while the people actively participate by listening meditatively, allowing themselves to be moved by the melodies and texts, and offering them to God as their own prayers. Indeed, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI taught that such prayerful listening is an important mode of participation, all the more so because modern Western man is too much given to a superficial activism that seldom penetrates into the depths.
However, Ignatius Press has also brought out the Ignatius Pew Missal, which has been very successful and is growing in popularity. This is an annual publication whose fine classic hymns and simple chant settings make it a worthy alternative to the other annual paperbacks on the market. In this book all the music is chosen or written so that it can be sung by the congregation. I would think that having the Ignatius Pew Missal in the aisles and The Proper of the Mass in the choir loft would be an excellent combination for most parishes.
Question 5: Chant composers differ about the right way to adapt Latin chants into English. Jeffrey Ostrowski at Corpus Christi Watershed has written about a “sing as you speak” approach that claims the natural rhythm of spoken language should determine how chants are composed. The opposite approach, which Ostrowski prefers, is called cantilation. Ostrowski wrote that the problem with “sing as you speak,” is that “music is not speech. Music is music.” Should chant be written as speech or as music? Can you define cantilation and share your thoughts on this topic?
Dr. Kwasniewski: Cantillation is “heightened speech.” The sacred melodic patterns come to us from the Temple and Synagogue. These patterns served the Word of God in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. The task is not to “adapt Latin chants”—the task is to tailor the patterns of cantilation to suit the target language. An apt comparison: when you buy a suit, the fashion or “mode” is common to all. But each suit must be tailored to fit the individual, not the other way around. When I go to buy a suit, the tailor does not trim my arms and legs to fit the one-size-fits-all suit… It is the other way around.
Jeffrey Ostrowski is certainly right to this extent: there should be, as much as possible, the beauty of a true melody in chanted antiphons, as we see in the Graduale Romanum and the Divine Office antiphons. Psalm tones come in handy for longer texts or simpler ceremonies, but one would not wish to subsist on a diet of them—it would be like fasting on bread and water, rather than having a piece of broiled fish, as Jesus did after the Resurrection.
Question 6: What would be the main differences between English and Latin that one needs to take into consideration when setting English texts to chant? When one adapts melodies from an existing Gregorian chant setting of the Latin, what kinds of changes to the chants does one need to make to accommodate the differences between English and Latin?
Dr. Kwasniewski: Fr. Weber’s approach, for the first two settings of each antiphon, has been to take his inspiration from a Gregorian exemplar, whenever available, while tailoring the traditional melodic patterns to suit the needs of the English words. This produces a feeling of “oh, that’s the famous chant for Christmas!” but without the awkwardness of the Palmer-Burgess method of forcing the
English into an unchanged melody originally designed for a different language altogether. English is a challenging language to set to music because it has a lot of diphthongs, its sentences tend to end on ‘masculine’ cadences (strong beats with no left-over syllables, such as, “Lord,” “God,” “him,” “praise,” and so forth), and there are consonant combinations that are hard to enunciate clearly. Plus, Americans sing with a bit of a twang, so we don’t have the “polished” sound of English choirboys. But these challenges can be overcome by taking great care in setting the words to melodies, and by preparing the chants well in choir practice.
Question 7: Lots of discussions have gone around in sacred music circles about the fact that the wording of the Propers differs between the Graduale Romanum, whose antiphons are appointed to be sung, and the Roman Missal, which contains frequently different Entrance and Communion antiphons that were chosen for ease in being spoken at Mass. I’ve seen some criticism of the Proper of the Mass because it uses the wording for the Entrance and Communion antiphons from the Roman Missal. I’ve also seen that in the United States version of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal dioceses have been given permission to use either the version of these antiphon from the Roman Missal or from the Graduale Romanum. In his Foreword, Archbishop Cordileone wrote that the book is a valuable resource for the English speaking world, but some object that neither the Irish or United Kingdom versions of the GIRM allow this option. What are your thoughts about these issues?
Dr. Kwasniewski: The project had as its goal the setting of the texts of the Roman Missal, with the United States primarily in view, but without excluding other countries (as I will explain in a moment). This much seems true to me: as a matter of liturgical law, in which I am far from expert, we are in a state of some confusion as regards what texts ought to be sung at Mass. We cannot go wrong by taking our texts either from the Graduale Romanum (as has been done in this book for the Offertory antiphons, since they do not exist in the Roman Missal) or from the Roman Missal itself, either because it is permitted to do so or under the generous umbrella of alius cantus aptus (other appropriate song). There are other approaches that could work, too. The only thing that is non-negotiable is keeping the music and texts truly in line with the rubrics, laws, and “genius” of the Roman Rite.
Perhaps many years from now, this confusion will all be sorted out, one standard set of antiphons will be created for all circumstances, and the singing or reciting of them will be made obligatory. (It is quite bizarre, when you come to think about it, that this supremely obvious step was not taken long ago.) But we are, I think, still far away from that official resolution of our difficulties, and meanwhile, generations of Catholics are growing up without the faintest clue about the kind of music and texts that are historically authentic and liturgically appropriate to the Mass. We need to do something now; indeed, we needed to do something yesterday, but at least now we have the resources. They will serve admirably for the years ahead, as the Church gradually continues to assimilate the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI on the hermeneutic of continuity and his own personal example of friendliness to tradition, which has been so influential among young Catholics who are zealous for the Faith.
Question 8: In looking back on the history of Gregorian chant, we see that growth of chant as an intrinsic part of the Mass was organic and its composers were anonymous. Different versions of the chanted liturgy came into being in different parts of the Catholic world, until various popes in effect canonized a single official collection of chants that made up the music of the liturgy of the Roman rite. Then a rupture happened, and after the introduction of the vernacular Mass, chant almost disappeared. Fr. Weber’s work is part of an increasing movement to bring chant back into the Mass where it belongs, but so much has changed in the Church that it is hard for me to imagine how the movement can succeed. Chants are now composed by individuals whose names and reputations are known, and collections are made available for sale by publishers. The average Catholic pastor and music director seem to ignore directives from the Vatican and from the bishops who make the rules. And even when a pastor educates himself about the Church’s will for liturgical music and tries patiently to reintroduce the missing parts of the Mass, the outrage from parishioners who feel entitled to their favorite hymns has been known to drive the pastor from his parish. Do you see any ray of hope here?
Dr. Kwasniewski: We have to take a long, long view on all this. Our times may well be the most confused period in the Church’s history, liturgically speaking, but there have been many times over the course of the centuries when liturgical practice was at a low ebb, and when renewal was desperately needed. Many improbable victories have been won across the great arc of Church history. We just need to do the right thing, all of us who know what the Church is asking for and what her liturgy demands, and leave the rest to Divine Providence. The progressive ways of the 1960s and 1970s, although they still have their defenders, are really showing their age and are not attracting new converts. The rediscovery of tradition is the place where it’s at today.
I don’t think it matters that today we know the names of the composers, whereas we don’t know who the anonymous monks were who wrote the original chants. Let’s not forget that by the Middle Ages the poets who wrote the great sequences and Marian antiphons are known to us by name, that our ancestors used to attribute a great deal of chant to St. Gregory and St. Ambrose, and that we know the names of all the great composers of the Renaissance—Palestrina, Byrd, Tallis, Victoria, Guerrero, Morales, and so many others—whose music is held up by the Church as the most fitting sacred music after chant. As with St. John the Baptist, we’re not worthy to unfasten their sandal straps, but by placing ourselves in the school of Gregorian chant and patiently taking up this work, their spirit will rub off on us. We, too, must strive to produce music that is worthy of the sacred liturgy and of its musical heritage.
It is also not entirely true to think of the chant of the past as a single monolithic entity. There were various kinds and traditions of chants in the Western and Eastern churches, and while certain forms eventually predominated, a certain healthy pluralism tended to prevail—healthy because it was essentially built upon a deep consensus about the nature and structure of the liturgy, its multitudinous musical requirements, and the fitting manner of meeting its artistic needs. Thus, for us today to have several English chant books to choose from is a sign of vitality, not a sign of anarchy, even though I firmly believe that, over time, artistic judgment will shape market forces and some of the current options will quietly pass away. Of course I have no crystal ball (as it were), but I predict that Fr. Weber’s Proper of the Mass will become established as the definitive book of its kind.
The ignorance of Church documents is a huge problem, and I can only hope and pray that younger clergy will take pains to educate themselves by wide reading and careful thinking. There is certainly no lack of germane reading material out there, like William Mahrt’s The Musical Shape of the Liturgy, Jeffrey Tucker’s Sing Like a Catholic, or my own Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis.
As for priests getting in trouble, we all need to remember that an incremental approach is going to work better 99% of the time. Don’t just get rid of hymns. Introduce Propers alongside hymns—something that is easy to do, if, for example, you sing a couple of verses from a hymn to cover the procession, and then chant the Introit as the priest incenses the altar. The same thing can be done at Offertory and Communion. Slowly bring in a selection of better hymns and phase out the worst of the repertoire. Pick one of the Sunday Masses and ramp up the sacred music for that one, so that it can be the “flagship,” but people who are not ready for it still have other options. It’s going to require strategy and patience; it won’t be an overnight fix. On the other hand, we should be grateful for the many communities that have availed themselves of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum, because the strict rubrics of the 1962 Missal facilitate “ready-made” good liturgy, and, for many, it’s somehow less of a problem to see the introduction of a different form of the Roman Rite (hey, we’re all about diversity these days!) than to see unexpected changes to the vernacular Mass they’re accustomed to.
Still, the worst thing is doing nothing and being stuck in the rut of conformism—just going along with whatever happens to be the status quo. The liturgy is our most precious possession as Catholics and we need to treat it with the greatest love, wonder, and reverence. To do so, we must restore the treasury of sacred music that Vatican II itself praised and called for.
Dr. Kwasniewski is Professor of Theology and Choirmaster at Wyoming Catholic College. His book Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church, was published by Angelico Press, and he is currently finishing his latest book, Ecstasy and Rapture in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas.
The program is called Veterum Sapientia after the Apostolic Constitution which Saint John XXIII signed at the high altar of St. Peter’s (Feb. 22, 1962), defending and promoting the study of Latin by seminarians.
Veterum Sapientia is intended for intermediate to advanced students of Latin, the minimum being two semesters of seminary Latin. It will also be conducted entirely in Latin. While this seems daunting, the response of participants has been overwhelming positive. Through activities, conversation, and games the full-immersion experience helps participants transition from a passive knowledge of Latin to an active command, helping one to enter into the language more completely. For priests, that means entering more deeply into Latin prayers, sacraments, and ecclesial texts, helping us “sentire cum Ecclesia.” We also use our more active command of the language to investigate the full breadth of ecclesiastical latinity: scriptural, patristic, scholastic, renaissance, liturgical, and curial.
For more information, including video testimonials and interviews about the program, as well as registration, please visit the website: https://veterumsapientia.com/.
In a letter written in the year 403 A.D., St Augustine reports to Jerome on how these labors were being received.
“One of our brother bishops, when he had decreed that your version should be read in the church over which he presides, came upon a word in the prophet Jonah which was very different from that which had long been familiar to the senses and memory of all, and had been chanted for so many generations. There arose so great a tumult among the people, especially among the Greeks, who reproved it and denouncing the translation as false, that the bishop was compelled to ask for the testimony of the Jews. (This was in the town of Oea.) These, whether from ignorance or malice, answered that what was in the Hebrew books was the same that the Greeks and Latins had and read. ... The man was compelled to correct (your version) as if it were faulty, since he did not wish, after this great danger (to himself), to be without a congregation.” (ep. 71 ad Hieronymum)
Augustine therefore exhorts Jerome to return to his project of providing the Church with a better Latin translation of the Greek version of the Old Testament, as he had successfully done with the New. The Hebrew word in question is the name of the plant which grows over Jonah’s head to shield him from the sun in chapter four; Jerome had rendered this as “ivy”, where the Septuagint, and the Old Latin which derives from it, had “gourd.” In his reply, therefore, Jerome explains that it was the Septuagint, not himself, that was wrong on this point, and that three other Greek translations of the Bible, all made by Jews, all agreed in calling it an ivy. He also suggests rather archly that the Jews whom the good bishop of Oea had consulted on the matter were either ignorant of Hebrew, or had played a trick on him “in mockery of the gourd-planters”. (ep. 75, Hieronymi ad Augustinum)
In the classical philosophical tradition, signs are either natural or conventional. Smoke is a natural sign of fire. Language is a conventional sign; what is called “dog” in English might just as well be called “chien” or “canis” or “hund” in another language. What is signified by these signs depends on the agreement of a certain group of people.
Tools, like words and other conventional signs, are means to accomplish certain tasks. My grandfather would always remind me that a chisel is not a screwdriver or pry bar, even though they have a similar shape. Similarly, a wood plane is not a paint scraper. The more specific or important the task, the more “sacred” or “set apart” the tool. He was a master woodworker and engineer, who had countless patents at Eastman Kodak, as well as numerous gorgeous Williamsburg reproductions he made in his basement workshop. I learned over the years that his methods and ways were not haphazard, but were rather the seamless fusion of art, craft, and science. If I wanted results like his, imitation and humility, not innovation, were the first steps.
I say the topic of sacred signs is a difficult question, because the meaning of all conventional signs, is, well, conventional. The meaning of words, for example, is shaped by what people think the word means. Just ask my second cousin, Gay. What means something in one age and place can come to mean something entirely different in another. Carpet bags, which were a fashionable purse in the northern United States at the time of the American Civil War, became a sign of Northern greed and aggression as they were carried south by eager schoolmarms during the Reconstruction Era. What was just a purse became a sign of a complex socio-political reality, a shibboleth. What is insignificant for one person may be highly significant for another, according to their knowledge and background.
How does this issue of changing signs relate to our liturgy and our faith?
Church architecture and other sacred arts, says Fr. Lang, are different from “spiritual” art. What is spiritual reflects the personal, individual experience of the artist, but what is sacred must be a means for others to reflect on a revealed, universal truth. As such, the object or goal of the sacred arts is to reveal or teach about something that is a fixed part of the Christian, catholic, apostolic tradition. Ultimately that tradition must be at unity with itself... the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church is founded on one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In other words, because sacred art serves public, didactic purpose (as opposed to “spiritual” art), it must be timeless and universal. It’s both a sign and a tool.
If you are anything like me, you experience a healthy amount of frustration and disappointment when a beautiful historic church is being used in ways contrary to its original intent. Removing the front pews and putting the altar in the middle of the nave might for some seem to be a sign of the Incarnation, of Christ among the people, but in reality it means I can’t see the priest or hear him clearly. It means musicians and folk groups are in the logical focal point (under the apse), and Christ is put in some obscure corner, where, like the Magdalen, we can’t find him. It means the elaborate symbolism of the cruciform shape of the church is lost, and like a Picasso painting, the parts of the “body” are broken up and spread around in dysfunctional ways. If anything, Picasso is making a statement about confusion and brokenness, not about strength and health. For me, seeing a beautiful church used in this way is like seeing someone using one of my grandpa’s finely honed chisels as a screwdriver. I want to shout, “Stop that, you fool!”
Sacred arts and architecture are tools with a purpose. To that end, Fr. Lang reminds us of Pope Benedict’s words about architecture: “The very nature of a Christian church is defined by the liturgy.” Little details become really important here. Consider the chant for Christmas morning, Mass at Dawn: “Lux fulgebit hodie super nos… - Today, a light shall dawn upon us.” If our parish church is built with the altar facing East (according to the Tradition), people attending Mass early Christmas morning will literally see the sun dawning through the sanctuary windows as the chant is being sung about the “Son” dawning. Not only that, in the weeks and months following Christmas, the days begin getting longer. Christ is indeed the light of the world. This is the richness that comes to life when we are faithful to our own tradition, when we use a chisel as a chisel, and not as a screwdriver.
Of course the changing of conventional signs makes some of this very difficult. Demographics shift, and ethnically Black and Hispanic Catholic populations, for example, might not appreciate a blond, blue-eyed Sacred Heart statue in the same way as the German immigrants who made it a century ago. It’s important to be sensitive to these changes, so that our Catholic faith remains universal. Nonetheless “there is one Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we exist” (I Cor. 8:6). We must keep the Incarnation as the focus of our effort, despite the difficulties; pure abstraction in the modern sense must not and cannot be the answer. Fr. Lang circumvents the problems here by suggesting four general principles for authentic Catholic architecture: “verticality” or height, “orientation” or directionality, “thresholds” or boundaries, and images. The last principle is especially important; quoting Cardinal Ratzinger, he writes, “Iconoclasm is incompatible with faith in the Incarnation of God.”
So, if you see liturgy as a fusion of theology, art, revelation, nature, human aspiration and divine reconciliation, making present the transcendent beauty of God and his works, I encourage you to read Signs of the Holy One. If you’d rather use your chisels as screwdrivers, well, I say “Stop that!”
Thanks to Fr Cyril Law for bring this video to my attention, and providing this description of the procession in honor of Our Lord’s Passion held each year on the Chinese island of Macau.
The night procession takes place on the vigil of the First Sunday of Lent, which almost invariably occurs around the same time as Chinese New Year. It is a rather unique scene to see the buzz of traditional Chinese festivity punctuated by Chopin’s sober Funeral March, accompanying the Via Crucis amidst cartoonish decorations and gaudy red lanterns.
After a conventual Mass on Saturday morning at the Church of St Augustine (built 1591), a Via Crucis in Chinese takes place in the afternoon, followed by the Vigil Mass and the Via Crucis in Portuguese. At 7 pm, the Statue of the cross-bearing Bom Jesus, (veiled in purple lace to symbolize Our Lord being brought to trial), is carried down to the Sé Catedral da Natividade de Nossa Senhora (1576). The Dean of the Cathedral Chapter leads the procession, escorted by the magenta-clad members of the Confraria (Confraternity). The Macau Police Brass Band provides the beating march music to this annual event. The Bishop of Macau welcomes the Statue at the Cathedral and the vigil concludes with a sermon in Portuguese.
On Sunday, the statue is brought back to St Augustine’s Church through the major thoroughfares of the city centre. The bishop, carrying the relic of the True Cross under a canopy, participates in the procession together with the Canons, clergy, twelve children dressed in white, torch-bearers and banner-bearers representing each parish. A young girl is chosen each year to perform the role of Veronica, and sings the O Vos Omnes while unveiling the cloth depicting the Holy Face each time the procession stops for a stational shrine. The faithful all respond likewise in Latin singing Parce Domine with the short refrain Senhor Deus, misericordia in Portuguese.
Click here to see a report on the procession from Macau television.
The day procession, from the year 2013.