Sunday, May 18, 2014


I got this from the Chant Cafe blog. It is pretty good and if not pointed out by this video I would not have noticed all the places in which the Dies Irae is a part of the music of famous movies:

This happy, clappy Sequence, the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) is required of every Extraordinary Form Requiem. It is chanted prior to the Gospel. Maybe someone can correct me, but I think it would not be illicit to be chanted as a Sequence also for the Ordinary Form Mass of the Resurrection, I mean, Funeral Mass. If not prior to the Gospel, nothing would stop anyone from chanting it at the offertory. 
Day of wrath and doom impending,
David’s word with Sibyl’s blending,
Heaven and earth in ashes ending!
Oh, what fear man's bosom rendeth,
When from heaven the Judge descendeth,
On whose sentence all dependeth.
Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth;
Through earth's sepulchres it ringeth;
All before the throne it bringeth.
Death is struck, and nature quaking,
All creation is awaking,
To its Judge an answer making.
Lo! the book, exactly worded,
Wherein all hath been recorded:
Thence shall judgement be awarded.
When the Judge his seat attaineth,
And each hidden deed arraigneth,
Nothing unavenged remaineth.
What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
Who for me be interceding,
When the just are mercy needing?
King of Majesty tremendous,
Who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!
Think, kind Jesu!–my salvation
Caused thy wondrous Incarnation;
Leave me not to reprobation!
Faint and weary, Thou hast sought me,
On the Cross of suffering bought me.
Shall such grace be vainly brought me?
Righteous Judge! for sin's pollution
Grant Thy gift of absolution,
Ere the day of retribution.
Guilty, now I pour my moaning,
All my shame with anguish owning;
Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning!
Through the sinful woman shriven,
Through the dying Thief forgiven,
Thou to me a hope hast given.
Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
Yet, Good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from fires undying!
With Thy sheep a place provide me,
From the goats afar divide me,
To Thy right hand do Thou guide me.
While the wicked are confounded,
Doomed to flames of woe unbounded
Call me with thy saints surrounded.
Low I kneel, with heart submission,
See, like ashes, my contrition;
Help me in my last condition.
Ah! that day of tears and mourning!
From the dust of earth returning
Man for judgement must prepare him;
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!
Lord, all-pitying, Jesus blest,
Grant them thine eternal rest. Amen.
 MY FINAL COMMENT: Maybe if it were chanted in its original Latin, (as dictated by God through a Dove that visited Pope Gregory) no one would be offended at the words or made to cry at a happy-clappy Mass of the Resurrection, I mean, Funeral Mass.

But could you imagine the outcry if at a happy-clappy Funeral Mass, this was chanted in English for all to understand without a translation provided?

"But Father, this Mass of the Resurrection felt so SAD and MOURNFUL and DIRGE-LIKE. I wanted to put on BLACK and cry rather than clap and be happy not sad!" 

POSTLUDE: But then, many people like "Pie Jesu" sung at funerals, and it is also requested for weddings and sometimes you hear it as Christmas music. Why is that? Here are the words to this happy-clappy song:

 "Pie Jesu" English Lyrics
Merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus
Father, who takes away the sins of the world
Grant them rest, grant them rest
Merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus
Father, who takes away the sins of the world
Grant them rest, grant them rest
Lamb of God, Lamb of God, Lamb of God, Lamb of God
Father, who takes away the sins of the world
Grant them rest, grant them rest

Here it is sung/chanted:



John Nolan said...

The Dies Irae is the most famous piece of chant ever written, and is quoted in symphonic works by Berlioz, Mussorgsky, Mahler and Rachmaninoff, among others. The Sequence itself is believed to have been written by Thomas of Celano, a pupil of St Francis, and was originally intended for the last Sunday before Advent; only later was it incorporated into the Missa pro Defunctis. Its comparatively late date and typically Franciscan piety (note the use of the first person) made it a target for the liturgists and it was an early casualty of the post-V2 reforms, although it remains (slightly altered) in the Office for All Souls.

It can certainly be sung as an option in the OF, and in its proper place, along with the other traditional chants for the Requiem Mass. I insisted on it for my father's funeral in 1998, along with the other chants, although the Mass was mostly in English (the parish priest looked panicky when he thought I was going to insist on a Latin Mass - nowadays I would have no problem in organizing an EF Sung Mass, so much have times changed!)

Gene said...

If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is to attend a funeral that begins: "We are here today to celebrate the life of…." I have heard others begin, "We are not here to mourn, we are here to rejoice…."

Rood Screen said...

The problem is that while the new ritual instructs the priest to consult with the family in making liturgical arrangements, the family is often not very interested in being influenced by liturgical tradition in their requests. The priest becomes more like a restaurant waiter taking orders than a spiritual guide providing direction. Further, once one priest allows something peculiar at a funeral, the witnesses may insist on incorporating it when they have to plan one.

Perhaps we could have the Dies Irae playing in the background as we consult with the family.

Funerals should be mournful but hopeful intercessions on behalf of departed souls, not improvised footnotes on someone's life.

Anonymous said...

I have seen the Dies Irae work well as a postcommunion chant (in Latin) at a couple of recent OF funeral Masses that were celebrated ad orientem at high altar, in black Roman vestments in Latin (apart from readings, sermons, and intercessions). Just recently the occasional family who, though not especially liturgical or traditional themselves, wants something more dignified, seem to have started requesting such a Latin Mass funeral. I've heard comments suggesting some OF types attending thought such a new Mass was actually an old Mass, how it really "took them back", etc.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

JBS, yes this idea that the laity have to plan liturgies, which was very popular in the 1970's, not exactly the heyday of Catholicism, is the biggest problem that many places, not all, experience today with funerals and weddings.

We are asking amateurs to plan their liturgy with all the subjectivity they bring to it, especially as it concerns now the "celebration of life" movement in the Protestant churches that bleeds over to us. Music that is chosen is horrible and banal and sometimes secular drivel filled with sentimentality.

In my parish, we have a form that people use to pick the readings they wish, although I abhor even this, for the pastor should be able to pick that which he thinks this particular family should hear as a part of his ministry to them and the broader community who might attend.

We have specific hymns for the processional, offertory and Communion, but only prescribed music (three choices) for the Song of Farewell. And only May the Angels lead you... can be chosen for the recessional in Latin or English.

We also chant the proper Introit, Offertory and Communion antiphons regardless, these are simply chanted by the cantor.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Henry, people who are not Extraordinary Formophiles but who have some recollection of the Mass prior to Vatican II do in fact believe it is the pre-Vatican II Mass when the Ordinary Form is in Latin and prayed ad orientem, especially in a pre-Vatican II designed Church. This is why I think it is not necessary to change anything of the Ordinary Form except mandating the chanting of the Propers in the Missal and changing the direction of prayer.

Anonymous said...

"thought such a new Mass was actually an old Mass"

Despite the fact that at our occasional Latin Novus Ordo Mass we provide the congregation with copies of the handy OF Latin-English booklet entitled

Mass of Vatican II

It strikes me that this title is ironic, because the actual Mass of Vatican II was the TLM celebrated at every session according to the Missal of Pope John XXIII, and the Fathers of Vatican II clearly never intended any such thing as the present Novus Ordo.

Rood Screen said...

Perhaps we should first ask, "are you afraid your loved one could be suffering in Purgatory right now, pleading for your prayers?" If the answer is "yes", then allow that person a part in liturgical planning for the funeral, assuring them the Church has the power of eternal liberation.

We must remain sensitive to the sorrows of even wayward families, and mindful of the effects of Modernism on mourners, but we do no one any favors by allowing the sacred rites to become corrupted and worldly (although, alas, I have often done so).

WSquared said...

this idea that the laity have to plan liturgies, which was very popular in the 1970's, not exactly the heyday of Catholicism, is the biggest problem that many places, not all, experience today with funerals and weddings.

Yeah. Definitely not a good idea.

It's not a bad idea per se for the laity to be involved, because it can be a good teachable moment. But it's not at all a good idea to let someone who is essentially clueless to be in charge of the liturgy. It does everything and everyone a remarkable disservice. Perhaps we should stop talking about "teachable moments" and start thinking about "evangelization moments."

Any priest should always be absolutely clear about what the Mass is and what it is not. He should be unafraid to both meet any couple where they are and know the direction in which he is to point them. If there's a ton of catechetical catching up that they need to do, that's okay. That's where prayer comes in. It's also very, very important for any couple or grieving family to know that the Sacraments will strengthen and enable them, because God acts through the Sacraments. I've had the experience of being confronted by the faith in which I was raised and which I thought I knew but didn't while preparing for marriage. Looking back, it was as good a time as any.

There are ways of being gentle but firm, and it's so important that everybody have a sense of what God actually wants to give them and their loved ones. The hardest stumbling block always tends to be the fact that Mass is NOT All About You And What You Want. We often say that our culture and society are ones that don't know how to give, which is true enough. Perhaps more tellingly, however, we have a culture and society that don't know how to receive.

Robert Kumpel said...

I still recall attending the funeral Mass of a cousin several years ago. He was a very troubled man and died during the withdrawal period of trying to kick heroin. I can still remember the priest smiling at the homily and telling us we should be happy for him because "Now he is with Jesus." All I could think is "How do YOU know that?"

We don't do any favors for the dead by neglecting to pray for them or assuring ourselves that they are in Heaven. Canonizations are best left to the Vatican. By trying to comfort the family with such unfounded assurances, priests only encourage everyone to forget about praying for the repose of the deceased's soul. Just because everyone decided they don't like the ideas of Purgatory or Hell doesn't mean that they went away. There's no Vatican II document or encyclical that has revoked their existence.

Victor W. said...

The problem with Sequences is that they no longer exist in the OF. A Sequence was so called because it followed the Alleluia, or, in the case of the traditional Requiem Mass, the Tract. Well, the V2 liturgical de-formers saw to it that there would be no more Tracts for funeral rites in the OF because St Gregory the Great no longer matters for modern man who requires Alleluias at funerals to be happy. Just recently, those liturgical de-formers have seen to it that the old Sequences come before the Alleluia, not after, and therefore they are no longer Sequences.

John Nolan said...

Victor, that's an interesting point, and shows a clear divergence between the Lectionary and the Graduale. In the former, the verse before the Gospel is called the 'Gospel Acclamation' which is why the 2002 GIRM says that the Sequence should precede it. However, historically the interlectionary chants are meditative, not acclamatory and if the Graduale is used (as it should be in a Sung Mass) the traditional order is retained, along with the traditional chants.

As regards the Missa pro Defunctis, the reformers with their tidy minds ruled that the Alleluia be used outside Lent, and the 1974 Graduale includes five options for this (the fifth, 'Ego vos elegi de mundo' being reserved for priests and religious) and four options for the Tract. There is no indication that these Tracts should not be used outside Lent, and they frequently are. I have yet to encounter a sung Mass for All Souls which featured the Alleluia.

Dom Daniel Saulnier writes: 'The Tract and the Canticle represent the oldest layer of the chants of the Mass, that of psalmody without refrain ... In accordance with a law well known to liturgists we encounter them in the most venerable places of the liturgical year, the Easter Vigil and Lent.' There are of course no Tracts in the Lectionary. And if you lose the chant, you lose the text also. This is where the EF wins hands down over the OF. Even with no singing at all, the EF has all the Proper texts of the Solemn Mass.

John Nolan said...


The Lloyd Webber piece you posted shows what can happen when composers with little liturgical sensitivity set liturgical texts (and far greater composers than LW are also guilty, Hector Berlioz for instance).

The text is 'Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem' (Merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest). This was the only part of the Dies Irae set by Gabriel Faure in his Requiem, and a comparison of his version with LW's clearly shows up the difference between a pop composer and a serious one.

LW omits the 'Domine' and then fast-forwards to 'qui tollis peccata mundi'. This only makes sense theologically if preceded by 'Agnus Dei'. However, even he does not confuse the Persons of the Trinity as did the wretch who produced the English lyrics - 'Father, who takes away the sins of the world'??!!

Father Kevin Estabrook said...

I'd be interested to read your thoughts on WHY we gloss over death and judgment.

Why do (some) priests feel compelled to celebrate the happy-clappy Mass of the Resurrection?

Why do the people insist on it?

I remember a funeral Mass for a young suicide, where the mother of the deceased insisted on having "Joy to the World" sung as the closing procession. It was the most insane thing of i've ever witnessed.

All of the young peers of the deceased were horrified/confused as they watched the mother insist that "everyone should be smiling and joyful".

What is it about our culture that feels/believes it is wrong to grieve, and to acknowledge Jesus who will come to Judge the living and the dead?

John Nolan said...

The most poisonous fruit of Vatican II was the deliberate destruction of the funeral liturgy, to the extent that even educated Catholics nowadays haven't a clue what it is about. 'A celebration of the life of N.'; 'The church's ministry to the bereaved'; it's all hogwash.

Post-V2 Catholics enter life with a baptismal rite which is anodyne, shorn of its exorcisms and indistinguishable from what Protestants do (I know, I have attended Anglican christenings) and leave it with an ad hoc funeral service which bears no relation to what is still supposed to be Catholic doctrine.

It's a colossal swindle which came about not as a result of accident but by design. As late as the 1990s they were still rewriting the ritual books to produce a rite of exorcism which doesn't work; and as for the ghastly 'Book of Blessings' which doesn't actually bless anything, I know of fairly liberal priests who hold it in contempt.

My entire adult life has been spent in avoiding the inanities of 'mainstream' post-V2 Catholicism. Fortunately I was baptized in 1951 and my obsequies will be according to the rites prevailing at that time; and any priest visiting me in extremis will use the Rituale Romanum, a copy of which I have on my bookshelf.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Fr. Kevin, These sorts of things happen all the time. I would hope the priest is simply caught between a rock and a hard place with a grieving mom in denial about the gravity of the tragedy. Hopefully the priest doesn't think this is a good pastoral decision. One would hope a priest would gently nudge the mother to another choice.

The problem is the pastor not limiting choices and making clear what is acceptable in those limited cg
Ho ices. The more we can move from sentimentality in planning liturgies, limiting choices and making clear who makes the final approval the better.

WSquared said...

You know, Father, the short answer to the question with which you head this blog post is that we as a culture hate suffering and not just death, and don't even want to think about it.

The longer answer is that I rather suspect that glossing over death and judgment and jumping directly to Heaven not only shows ignorance of the Four Last Things, but is arguably encouraged by widespread cultural assumption (and presumption) on so many different levels that one can have the Resurrection without the Crucifixion. That's just incoherent, at odds with nurturing an adult faith, and encourages unbelief: "Death, where is thy sting?" Let's not even go there, right?

One cannot have Easter Sunday without Good Friday, just as living every day as though it's Good Friday with no Easter Sunday in sight means that one's faith is in vain. Moreover, there is no rising with Christ without being crucified with Him, and no mercy and forgiveness without the capacity to receive them through repentance and penance.

This is the same kind of cognitively disjointed theology of cheap grace that encourages fawning over Baby Jesus in the manger and preferences for kiddie crosses in pastels because a Crucifix would "scare the kids." The Crucifix is, well, "not nice." And it's just as well: "nice" Christianity essentially denies or at least obscures that God is present in our suffering, suffering with us. Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection are not one-off past events to be sentimentalized, but are starkly present in our now, re-presented at every Mass, and not just on Sundays. The latter also implies that choosing eternal life-- the life of eternity-- is for the here and now, and not just an afterthought for the afterlife.

Also, how many Catholics attend Mass at Easter, certainly, but don't realize that there is an entire Easter Triduum during Holy Week? One is obligated to come to Mass on Easter Sunday and not obligated to attend all of the Easter Triduum, but there is something missing when one feels no loss and barrenness on Good Friday, or expects to avoid being confronted by them, and yet expects to skip merrily on to Easter (which most people understand not as a fifty-day period of celebration to be embraced with a sense of wonder, but a blandly domesticated candy-festooned blowout crammed into just one day).

"We are not here to mourn, we are here to rejoice…."

@Gene: so much for "blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted," huh?

Gene said...

Wow, Wsquared. I can't add anything to that. Amen.