Saturday, May 4, 2013
TRUE LITURGICAL CHANT RENEWAL NEEDS DIRECTIVES AND MANDATES FROM THE BISHOP OF ROME TO ALL THE BISHOPS OF THE WORLD
The Bishop of Rome, the new one, Holy Father Francis, is a reforming pope. One of the things he is reforming is that the bishops of the Church are the ones charged by Jesus Christ to "Teach, Rule (Govern) and Sanctify." I would place "sanctifying" first. However, since Vatican II, special interests groups in the Church, from the curia, to the LCWR to the various renegade movements of priests as in our country, Ireland and Austria have tried to erode the authority of each bishop in each country to do precisely what each bishop in each country should do, "teach, rule and sanctify." All other sub-groups in the Church collaborate with the bishop in his mission and do not usurp or derail what the bishop is meant to do within the Tradition of the Church guided by Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, Natural Law and Canon Law. The divisive groups above have derailed even the mission of the Bishop of Rome helping to pave the way to his retirement.
One of the most offending groups in the Church has been the cadre of liturgists who took Sacrosanctum Concilium and distorted it and sold this distortion to bishops who then helped them to promote a distorted vision of the revision of the liturgy of the Church, the Mass in particular. No where was their deleterious effect felt more than in the area of music and the dumping of Gregorian Chant and other Catholic forms of chant in favor of hymns, Protestant hymns with Protestant theology, and modern hymns of vapid quality and bar room, Hollywood, Broadway play sentiments. These liturgical theologians who corrupted the proper implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, now a dying breed, and their supporters, are crying crocodile tears for their work being questioned and dumped by a new generation of liturgical musicologists. The old guard now feels the pain of millions of Catholics who loved Gregorian Chant and the Old Latin High Mass, see it disappear overnight at these iconoclast liturgist's behest.
Finally there are voices of reason in the Church exerting what Sacrosanctum Concilium actually taught and not some twisted vision of it from some self-absorbed liturgists. One such person is Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J. who has written a series of articles on the Mass and its proper chant. Sister holds degrees in philosophy (Ph.L), musicology (Ph.D.), theology (M.A.), and liturgical studies (Ph.D). You can read her third essay in it entirety by PRESSING HERE.
As much as I agree with Sister Joan's assessment and recommendations, I know that the majority of my parish would begin to rebel if we moved from singing the congregational parts of the Mass in English to the various official Gregorian Chants she suggests for the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. If we were to omit hymns in our hymnbook and replace them with the proper Chants for the Introit, Offertory and Communion antiphons, I really fear a great number of my people would stop coming to Mass or move to other parishes.
However, if the bishops of each diocese mandated what Sister Joan is suggesting and began to create a worldwide culture of Catholics chanting their parts of the Mass, can you imagine how much more dignified and unified our Church would be around the world in the Latin Rite if just the people's chanted parts were in Latin as Sister Joan envisions especially in our multi-cultural and multi-language parishes?
Here are some excerpts from Sister Joan's essay and vision for Liturgical Chant:
Gregorian chant may well be the Roman Church’s single most contribution to world culture. Its soaring exuberance can evoke rapture. The present-day Gregorian chant repertory consists of almost 3,000 melodies – all monophonic and without instrumental accompaniment, sung with measured but rhythmically free lines.
The Roman Rite became more or less fixed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and with it, the basic outline of plainsong, cantus planus, as Gregorian chant came to be called. By the thirteenth century, ornate chants accompanied equally elaborate liturgies. When the chants became too difficult and linguistically remote for general use, the laity fell passively silent at liturgy, unfortunately for the next several centuries.
In the nineteenth century, a renewal was initiated, but the definitive restoration of the chant came about with Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B. during the pontificate of Pius IX. From the pontificate of Pius X (1903-14 ) to the present day, major seminaries and houses of formation have been singled out to promote the teaching and study of Gregorian chant, it is that important to the Church’s liturgical life.
(MY COMMENT FIRST ABOUT THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH: Most Catholics my age who lived through the Vatican II transition were told just the opposite of what Sister writes in this paragraph. We were deceived and most Catholics my age and older would not know the truth of what she writes from our experience these past 50 years. Catholics younger than my age are clueless about liturgical history and have been cooked in a crock pot of liturgical goulash and passively accept the trash they sing or have abandoned Mass altogether):
With the renewed ecclesiology of Vatican II, full, active, and conscious participation of the Assembly was pursued as the expected outcome in liturgical worship. Vatican II’s “Sacrosanctum Concilium” did not banish the chant from the Eucharistic liturgy (#115 ff). Other suitable music was welcomed, but chant, holding “pride of place,” still remained the official music of the Roman Church. Other music was not to overshadow or displace it.
Some pastors resorted to a four-hymn Mass structure using good, solid Protestant hymns to urge singing among the faithful. Soon, an altogether foreign style pushed its way into the liturgical service, thereby sweeping away fifteen hundred years of pure, crystalline chant. Happily, it continued to flourish in monasteries and in isolated parish churches.
Gregorian Chant Banished
A stunned scholarly world looked on, appalled at the sudden appearance of poorly-composed tunes played by strummed guitars with anything that could be banged. These instruments accompanied texts, at first, non-biblical and secular. Eventually, scripture prevailed.
This seismic shock was presented as a measure to jump-start participation in the liturgy, in addition to Protestant hymns. No longer heard was the dictum, “the home of Gregorian chant is wherever there are Roman Catholics.” Was this new rage, so-called folk music, a temporary phenomenon? Or would it permanently displace Gregorian chant?
Over the years, musicologists still agree that the most consequential result of Vatican II has been the exiling of Gregorian chant from the Roman Church. It was a boorish act.
In 1975, a letter was sent to all bishops regarding the minimum repertoire of singing Gregorian chant in the parishes. Because that year was the Holy Year, large international gatherings of pilgrims were expected in Rome, and it was urged, among other reasons, that Gregorian chant be sung because “it is a sign of unity among diverse ethnic Catholic groups who gather either internationally or in the local parish churches” (“Letter to Bishops on the Minimum Repertoire of Plain Chant”). In 2007, the same directive was issued by the USCCB.
Today our parishes are already international communities, and the letter has assumed a new urgency. By realizing the musical unity of plainchant, the parish church can pass on the treasury of sacred music to the next generation of Catholics. The regular practice of singing a few Mass settings should take priority over all other composed Mass settings. The easiest chants of the Ordinary are: Mass XVII (“Deus Genitor Alme”), Mass XI (“Orbis factor”), VIII (“De Angelis”), IX (“Cum Jubilo”), and XVIII (For Advent and Lent).
Pause for a moment and imagine the effect on the universal Church if these Mass settings were sung in all Roman churches throughout the world. Their profound beauty would lift up the Church and light up the world. Having stood the test of centuries, the melodies are easy to sing and easily memorized. This inestimable treasure is our musical inheritance. It beckons us to learn how to cherish them and hand them on to the next generation. It is not the responsibility of other faith traditions to carry on the tradition, but ours, for the sake of our Church and the world.
American Catholics seek to encounter God at the Eucharistic liturgy. Why should they be forced to sing unsuitable music? Or, if they do like it, their taste may be called into question. People will travel long distances to churches with beautiful liturgies that nourish their lives. Too many have already changed parishes on this account. Worse, people are walking out.
(MY COMMENT FIRST: AMEN SISTER, YOU HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD!)The market is flooded with music for church use. Their quality varies from poorly-composed to sublime. Music directors also vary in quality from the untrained to the consummate professional. Still, the norm seems to be that there is no norm. To each director, his or her own musical pope!
Several years ago, when I would visit Eastern Christian parish churches, parishioners would frequently ask: “How do you like our chant?” Or, “how did you like our singing?” It was obvious that their chant heritage occupied “pride of place.” They took pride in their heritage which, for them, meant encountering God in worship and praise.