Saturday, February 20, 2016


The entire Ordinary Form Funeral Mass from music to the art of celebrating the Mass by Fr. Paul Scalia for his father, Justice Antonin Scalia is truly to be commended. His demeanor throughout the liturgy was stunning not only in terms of his style, but his composure, his ability to celebrate with so many and of high office in Church and State and the normal grieving that any priest has when celebrating the funeral for his parent. I am sure priests throughout the country were praying for him.

However, the homily and I mean homily was simply spectacular and made me proud to be a Catholic who has the Mass with all that Fr. Scalia indicated. But his homily was entirely focused on the person of Jesus Christ. Such a refreshing homily given what we hear at state funerals today and in home parishes!

And thank you to the Scalia family for not allowing any eulogies after Holy Communion. How wonderful!

And now if we can only get Cardinal Wuerl to stop the custom of welcoming people after the Mass has begun and thus completely disturbing the flow of prayer from the Entrance Chant to the Greeting. It was not needed and should be banned, banned I say. But I am only a humble parish priest. But this custom is a disease of many cardinals and bishops. They need to be vaccinated against it!

You can watch the funeral homily by Fr. Scalia by pressing this sentence!


Anonymous said...

I watched the entire liturgy after the fact (via YouTube. I couldn't be home to watch it live) and regarding the homily I cannot agree with you more. I was so edified by, as you say, the focus on Jesus Christ and salvation, while being able to speak of the reality of his father's life and personality. I wish, I just wish so many people would watch the homily, especially the unchurched, so as to see what the Church really is and should be. Fr. Scalia's dignity and maturity could be a standard by which all priests are measured.

I really would have loved to see an EF Mass for Mr. Scalia, because the music and choir in this liturgy, well, I can do without professional musicians who, in my opinion, detract from the Mass by "preforming" instead of offering worship in the form of music. Women in blue robes (or any color robe) at the podium lifting their arms to indicate the congregation should now "respond" really bother me. I attend a very beautiful parish with refined music and musicians, and I never get the sense the musicians are the main event, as I did at times here (i.e. during the responsorial psalm). Beautiful voices, but sterile of religious fervor. And the Angus Dei, might as well have been salon music (didn't it just beg a pitter patter of applause?) We can do so much better. Well, whadda ya gonna do? With an EF Mass, this stuff just gets pushed aside. But the Requiem during communion...angelic!

God bless Antonin Scalia, and may God grant him eternal rest. May the angels lead him into paradise; may the martyrs receive him at his arrival and lead him to the holy city Jerusalem. May choirs of angels receive him and with Lazarus, once a poor man, may he have eternal rest.


Anonymous said...

Father I must say I was praying for the EF in all its glory for the world to be exposed to, in your opinion Father why do you think Father Scalia did not offer his Father the TLM, I remember you saying that there might have been some pressure from certain folks not for Father Scalia to offer the TLM.

John Nolan said...

I would agree with Bee about the performance nature of some of the music; what was noticeable about Pope Francis's US Masses is that congregations can't even be trusted to sing a hymn without a cantrix waving her arms about and warbling into a microphone. Distracting and unnecessary. The Agnus Dei, however, was far removed from salon music; it was Renaissance polyphony, although oddly not from a Requiem Mass setting.

The beginning of the Mass was bizarre even by Novus Ordo standards. The Introit Requiem aeternam begins the Mass; here it was sung even before the body was brought in. So even without Card. Wuerl's intervention the flow of the liturgy would have been disrupted. By the way, His Eminence seemed to be dropping strong hints that the rich and powerful present should donate to the basilica's restoration project. A good start would be to remove the forward altar to the decent obscurity of a side chapel.

Fr Scalia set an excellent example to celebrants by singing his parts and using the Roman Canon. And the 'sign of peace' was omitted - in a Solemn Requiem there is no kiss of peace.

The Commendation in the NO is anodyne, protestant even; had the traditional prayers of absolution been prayed in English Fr Kavanaugh's point about more clearly conveying the Truth would have had some validity.

'Enter not into judgement with thy servant, O Lord; for in thy sight shall no man be justified, save thou grant him remission of all his sins. Therefore let not, we beseech thee, the sentence thou pronouncest in judgement fall heavily upon one whom the faithful prayer of thy Christian people commends to thee, but rather with the help of thy grace, may he be found worthy to escape the judgement of condemnation, who in his lifetime was signed with the seal of the Holy Trinity.' Sounds better in Latin, of course, but in any language doesn't really go with the white vestments.

Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed, wonderful homily and thanks for posting, Father.
I also agree with Bee and John Nolan: music as a performance should not exist at Holy Mass. I've recently addressed this issue with Fr. On this blog regarding an organist/music minister sent to our parish from Macon. I and many in the parish would give almost anything to change that appointment or influence what is going on here. Music can enhance or detract from the liturgy, as we all know. It should embellish, enhance and actually add to a reverent liturgy.

C'est la vie said...

The funeral mass for Judge Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court was profoundly prayed, offered, and celebrated with great solemnity. Fr Paul Scalia's homily was powerful, reflective, and theological. So deep that listeners were led to reflect on their relationship with God. His allusion to his father's significant mem'ries found a space for him to elicit some funny anecdotes. That brought humor and imagination to recall his father's allegiance to his faith. That's really a plus in his delivery. In toto, his homily was excellent! Congratulations Fr Paul Scalia. My condolences to you and your family.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The music at the Shrine, at Washington's Cathedral, in Baltimore, is all very similar in terms of performance. It is done well but perhaps to stylistic. I don't know, but it's high character seems stilted. But I far prefer that to what we get in so many other places.

They follow what the National Pastoral Musicians have been teaching and since the 80's as it concerns the waving conductor with big arm gestures cajoling the congregation to sing. It is time to rid the Church of this particular ministry. They are distracting and draw people's eyes toward them and the congregation does not need this ministry. Anglican congregations sing very well without it and if someone doesn't want to sing, so be it.

The shrine's altar is new but movable. It is the altar Pope Francis used to canonized St. Juniper Serra although it was placed outside to the east the Shrine.
The previous altar had a floral like altar covering on that draped down all are four sides and also had been used for decades. The new "papal" altar is an improvement but in no way of the same quality and beauty as the original high altar that is not used any longer. That altar is far off, but the distance is made up by the size and focus and from the congregation would "appear" closer to the congregation by way of "perception."

In 1977 I attended Easter Sunday Mass there and that high altar was used and can be used with the priest facing the congregation as well as ad orientem. It is a shame that it isn't used.

Back to the choir. The Shrine continues to use seat arrangements in their very, very spacious sanctuary for concelebrating priests to face the congregation. This is 1970's too. The choir does the same although there is a choir lift and other locations for the choir to sing and not be a focus. They could sing from behind the high altar that has space galore too.

However, given the amount of space in front of the high altar and behind the movable altar, choir stalls as in the Anglican Tradition would work extremely well there and the choir wearing liturgical choir garb, cassock and surplice, would be lovely there.

The concelebrating priests could be arranged in choir style to, confronting each other and not the congregation.

John Nolan said...

A word on music. The music proper to the Roman liturgy is of course Gregorian chant since it developed along with the liturgy itself, makes the text take precedence over the musical setting and yet at the same time produced by the end of the eighth century a corpus of music which is the basis of every musical development in the West since. Its universality led to the development of musical notation which took it out of the oral tradition (with some concomitant loss) but which made the art of Palestrina, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven possible.

Yet music by its nature must be performed. There are different performance styles even regarding the Chant and to sing it well requires hard work and discipline in addition to musicality. The problem with the sort of arrangement we saw the other day was that the choir conformed to modern pop-musical norms, with up-front microphoned soloist and backing group. Antiphonal singing in choir lends itself to an older musical tradition. Concelebration is a very modern trend and should be a lot rarer than it is. However, concelebrating priests facing each other is weird.

Anonymous said...

Just ridiculous in the altar area, choir members, a millions priests, chairs, floating altar, woman doing the WAVING arm thing for the people to sing which of course is alien to Roman Catholic congregations we are not Protestants we let the choir and priests sing most of the Mass. For decades now we have the WOMAN waving her hands trying to make the congregation sing silly childish and might I say Protestant hymns.

Dr. Miguel A. Faria said...

Father McDonald, thank you for your coverage of the funeral mass of Justice Antonin Scalia, posting the URL for the video, etc. , in this blog, which I read frequently. Even the comments here are instructive and informative. My wife and I were awed by the entire funeral mass and moved by Father Scalia's homily, even though we are not catholics. The solemnity of the mass very appropriate, the singing moving.

The loss of Justice Scalia could not have come at a worse moment in history. He will be sorely missed! We appreciate your coverage and instruction. Warmly, MAF

Anonymous said...

John Nolan:
Thank you for articulating what I could not with regards to the music at the Mass for Justice Scalia. I am a simple lay person, and so I really don't have the education to define or describe what I am seeing or hearing at Mass in a way that helps others know what the problem is. You're right about the Angus Dei being far above salon music. I guess what I meant was the performance of it sounded like a salon performance, not the singing of the Lamb of God. I so appreciate you mentioning that (in some of their singing), "The problem with the sort of arrangement we saw the other day was that the choir conformed to modern pop-musical norms, with up-front microphoned soloist and backing group." Yes, I think that's it. That's what bothered me.

I don't know what is supposed to be sung (in the formal sense) at Mass, but when I attend a Mass where I hear something that sounds like an operatic performance or as you say, "pop-musical" style, it grates on me, and no matter how beautiful it's performed, I find myself ill at ease.

Thanks for helping me to understand and articulate a little better the things I see and hear at Mass.


Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think that the Washington/Baltimore tradition of music tends towards pomposity/performance. There is a tendency towards triumphalism too. I find this odd when one considers that the post-Vatican II Church is suppose to be less triumphalistic.

I think that Fr. Scalia had to deal with the rector. He also had to deal with a massive building that needs big sounds in order to be heard. There has to be an outside marching band sound because the sound in a large place disperses.

A simple men's schola chanting the propers would not have worked well in this space unless amplified.

In many ways, I think Fr. Scalia and I are on the same page liturgically. He celebrates as I do, although he's a bit more polished than I. I can see that he loves both forms of the one Latin Rite and that the EF has influenced him in the OF, but he was faithful to the rubrics and GIRM of the OF.

I would like to see how he celebrates the EF. He stated in his homily that they would also have a "memorial" on March 1st. I presume this would be at his father's Church or the church that Fr. Scalia is a pastor. I suspect too, that it could be an EF Requiem.

Jusadbellum said...

I agree with the assessment that that homily was one of..if not THE best homily I have ever heard. It wasn't a eulogy, it was far better than 'saying good words', it was evangelical, missionary, profound and funny all rolled together.

It focused on Christ and only in light of Christ talked of the deceased. And thus the whole message was essentially the Good News: grace, mercy, forgiveness can overcome human failure, sin, guilt and that we the living can help the deceased by our prayers united to the Lord through this mystical body that is the Church.

It was a tour de force. I wanted to stand and cheer (but would have scared the dog).

Anonymous said...

Still not sure as to why Father Scalia did not offer the TLM his father loved so much, it puzzles me all the talk of how Justice Scalia loved the TLM yet he had to settle for the OF very odd indeed.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Usually, a priest visiting a parish other than his own does not impose his personal liturgical preferences on the place being visited. If, in his assignment, the parish uses a Benedictine altar arrangement, he doesn't move the candlesticks around when he celebrates in a church where this arrangement is not used. Conversely, if he doesn't prefer the Benedictine arrangement, he doesn't walk in an expect the sacristan to adjust things to meet his "style."

That's "Good Manners" for a visiting priest.

It is not at all uncommon or, somehow, improper to celebrate mass according to the customs/practices of the place. I suspect Fr. Scalia is entirely aware of this and didn't even try to make the Basilica staff bend to his will. He seems to be mature enough to know how to behave.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...


Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned that it is quite possible that Justice Scalia had a private traditional Requiem Mass. It is strange though that he chose to be cremated. Although permitted in the Church it is still frowned upon because of its pagan connotations which were against the resurrection of the body. I thought Fr Scalia's sermon was excellent. A transcript of his sermon is available at the below link.

I thought the vestments were awful, the white pall awful too. The problem is that most people cannot face death and its consequences and so much is done by sections of the Church to make it appear more like the resurrection than death and judgment.

I haven't heard the music but I can imagine what it was like. The Mass will have been the chocolate box version of the NO at its operatic best and somewhere God is tucked in there - the sweet centre that is so often overlooked with the passing parade and all the actors that it takes to perform the NO Mass.

I hope Justice Scalia did get a simple traditional TLM. I suspect he did ...

John Nolan said...

'A simple men's schola chanting the propers would not have worked well in this space unless amplified'.

Not so. In 2010 I was part of a schola of six which provided all the music for Mass (Ordinary and Propers) and Vespers in Downside Abbey, a very large building. This included a Pontifical High Mass celebrated by Bishop Athanasius Schneider. More does not mean better, or even louder, when it comes to chant. The building itself provides the amplification.

George said...

Father Kavanaugh:

I agree.It is "Good Manners", but humility and consideration for others are also involved.

Anonymous said...

I have finally had a chance to look at a bit of Justice Scalia's funeral but even the best of OF Masses don't seem like a Mass to me. I thought Fr Scalia looked uncomfortable sitting in the chair as communion was distributed and why was the choir placed where they were and not in the loft or towards the back of the church? I noticed also the chatter before Mass. It is certainly an improvement on the average Sunday Mass but it is much more akin to a protestant service than the traditional Catholic Mass. Certainly I think the Mass needs to be changed to ad orientem as a matter of priority. I think facing the people is an intrusion into the priest's ability to commune with God during Mass and the faithful too.