Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Holy Father's initiative...

Go here to view. The video is not viewable here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Baddie Traddies

They Shall Know We Are Traddies By Our Love

From the article: In a way, I was lucky. As someone who came to tradition shortly before it was cool again, I was able to soften my stance before the bad habits became too deeply ingrained. But for those who had suffered being abused and marginalized for decades, the transition must be hard. Can you imagine having the Mass that you grew up with taken away and replaced with something alien and unfamiliar? How do you think it would feel to be treated as though you are schismatic for simply clinging to the Catholicism of your youth? Would you appreciate being called a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a Pharisee for holding to your traditions and devotional practices? And how would you like to be marginalized, forced to drive 50 miles just to get to a Mass held at 1:30 in the afternoon in a parish that doesn’t want you there, and where it’s impossible to build real community because it’s local to none of the attendees? It’s as if everything these people knew about Catholicism was suddenly gone and replaced by a cheap imitation, and when they expressed their dismay, they were met by smug replies that Vatican II "did away with all that."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Emphasizing's a good thing

The Pope knows what he's doing: The Pope and Latin. Taylor Marshall does it again. FTA:

There has been a general tendency to undermine the role and place of the Pope in an attempt to defend the sacramental and juridical role of the diocesan bishop. Moreover, as everyone knows, liturgical abuse is everywhere. Benedict seems to be making slight and subtle correctives in this regard.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Ah yes, the 'participation question' that plagues the TLM. Answered here.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Spirituality of Gregorian Chant, Part 3
Chant is Not Carnal
By Ben

Gregorian chant is not the sort of music that gets your toe tapping, and you can’t really dance to it. This is because of its irregular free rhythm. The example given in Part 2 of this series was a simple chant with the rhythm of prose speech. This is quite different from other types of music which have a regularly occurring ‘beat’ a strict recurring rhythmic grid work, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 and so forth. This doesn’t mean that chant ‘has no rhythm’. Plato defined rhythm as ‘ordered movement’ but movement doesn’t have to be regular.

In the history of the Church popular (secular) forms of art have been adapted for religious use. This isn’t necessarily wrong in and of itself, but care must be taken to alter these art forms so that they are different (set apart, sanctified). Non-liturgical religious/devotional music is of course less of a problem.

In the past there have been difficulties in adapting entertainment music to religious use (examples in music include the Ars Nova, Symphony, and Opera). Has that really changed today? Music that is intended to entertain is designed to move the emotions or cause one to experience something. And one element of music that can be used is rhythm; just think of the effect dance music with a strong beat has on a person.

Now the emotions and the ‘primal’ part of man--the part which responds to a strong beat--are part of man’s lower nature. By the “lower nature” I mean the carnal, sensual part, the appetites; St. Paul calls it the flesh. Feelings, instincts and such in the lower nature aren’t wrong necessarily, but the lower nature is weak. The lower nature must be governed by the higher nature which is the intellect and will, the divine part of man, St Paul calls it ‘the spirit’.

Gregorian chant does contain emotion, and sometimes intensely. Listen to the long ornamentation on the vowel A at the end of the word alleluia (it’s called the jubilis) Another example would be the Offertory chant ‘Jubilate Deo’ the text of the first line is ‘jubilate Deo universa terrae,” Rejoice in God all the earth.

It repeats and the second time there are 48 notes on the word jubilate which means rejoice, listen.

The distinction should be clear, in Gregorian chant there is a certain sobriety. What I mean is that it is never drunk with emotion. It is structured so as not to excite the passions but rather lift the spirit. Entertaining music is meant to entertain (and there is nothing wrong with that). Chant is designed with a different purpose and doesn’t borrow from secular forms for use in liturgy. Rather it is a product of the liturgy and so set apart (be sacred) in a very pure and natural way.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Attending a Latin Mass parish

Taylor Marshall over at Canterbury Tales shares why he attends a Latin Mass parish.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Spirituality of Gregorian Chant
Part 2
By Ben

In principio erat Verbum. In the beginning was the Word.

Gregorian chant is different from almost all other types of vocal music in that its texts are not fit to music. Most of the words in chant are prose. They are taken from scripture and since they are sacred they aren’t paraphrased to fit the music. Rather the shape of the music is determined by the text.

The simplest form of chant is when a text of scripture is chanted to a ‘tone’ or even 'rectotono’. (single reciting pitch.) Here is an example:
Listening you can see how the music is an expression of prayer, an expression of the sacred text, it flows out from, rather than being imposed upon the words. This idea is pretty basic but also very important. This is different than almost all other types of music.

‘Contemporary’ and other types of religious/devotional music are also divorced from this idea. Other types of music take a sentiment, an emotion, or an idea and create some form of poetry that is regular (prose is irregular) for the purpose of music, this is okay in the right context, but it isn’t sung prayer or at least not in the same sense that chant is.

One might try an experiment to better understand this concept. Take some prayer, perhaps the ‘Glory be to the Father’, and pray it with sincerity by reciting it, then pray it by singing it on a single comfortable pitch. The idea that prayer has burst into music should then become clear.

In conclusion I would like to quote from the book, ‘An Introduction to the Interpretation of Gregorian Chant” by Luigi Agustoni and Johannes Goschl, page two.

“The text is not something that just happens to be attached to a particular melody but rather the text is a sounded word that has flowered into a musical work. The line does not run from the melody to the text that has been set, but on the contrary the exact opposite. The direction is from the word to its realization in musical sound. The source, from which the Gregorian melodies originate and are nourished, is the word. In fact, it is the word of the liturgy, a word that possesses a sacramental character according to the statements of the Second Vatican Council, (*) for Christ is present in it, and in it Christ is received. This word of the liturgy, which in the final analysis is always God speaking to us, that is to say, the encounter of the human being with God, finds its highest expression when it can blossom forth in music. This happens in Gregorian chant to an eminent degree.”

* They reference Art. 51 of the Constitution on the sacred liturgy, “The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word.”

Friday, July 2, 2010

On chant

The spirituality of Gregorian Chant

Part One, definitions

By Ben

While I am not an expert on the subject of Gregorian Chant, I do know something about it and think that at least a general understanding of the chant would be beneficial for all Catholics. Gregorian chant belongs to and is for, everyone, even those who “cannot sing”.

Before we can talk about the chant, though, we must define it. Musicologists have their own definitions of course (‘Frankish/Roman monophonic liturgical music prior to the tenth century’….etc.) but they are viewing the chant as a musical artifact to be studied like any other fossil. They have a role to play, but we must look at things differently.

Gregorian chant is ancient, its origins/composers are lost in time, it belongs to no one and so it is everyone’s. No single culture can claim it as their own. Like the liturgy itself it has absorbed and surpassed cultures and emerged as purely Christian and universal. For us the chant is alive. It is just as much part of the liturgy now as ever. So, on to some definitions.

For our purposes, Gregorian chant is the native music of the Roman liturgy (other Catholic liturgies, the Ambrosian for example, have their own chant); it is not music that accompanies the liturgy, it is the liturgy, sung. It is in the Latin language. It takes its name from Pope St. Gregory the Great who was very important in the development of the Roman Liturgy (similarly St. Ambrose is important to the Ambrosian Liturgy, to follow my previous example). It is prayer burst into music.

I would like to include some other reasons why we should care about Gregorian chant.

It is the foundation of all western music; musical notation was invented because of it; modern music theory, scales, ABC, Do Re Me--all of it developed as a result of chant. Even types of music that at first glance seem very removed from chant can be traced back to it.

For Christians chant is sacred. Almost all of its texts are from scripture. For Catholics in particular the church has declared, most recently in the Second Vatican Council that chant “has pride of place”.

I hope this sets an adequate foundation for an explanation of the spirituality of the Chant.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The past is our future

It's been quite some time since my last post. As you probably already know, a TLM was celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 24, in honor of Pope Benedict's fifth anniversary.

I was otherwise engaged in Stockbridge, MA, and hope I can find a video of the Mass, which was a project of EWTN carried it live.

Here is an interesting forum post that discusses the ramifications of the Mass, as far as bringing back the TLM. Some of the comments are provocative, but many good points are raised.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Our beloved Pope's anniversary is being celebrated in a special way this year -- with a Traditional Latin Mass at the National Shrine's high altar. Via The Anchoress.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Sacred Liturgy and a Culture of Life

While this article does not explicitly mention the TLM, its major points certainly speak to the need for sacred liturgy. Do read it all. From the article:

In Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II taught that the root cause of the culture of death is a loss of the sense of God and, in the same vein, one will note that Pope Benedict XVI has been working quite intently to bring back the sense of transcendence and God-centredness within our liturgies; in short, to bring back a sense of God. So it is that a consistent theme emerges and also a consistent recognition of a problem within our churches today. The Holy Father knows well that if God is obscured within the sacred liturgy – the very place that is not only the source and summit of the Church, but also the heart, soul and primary point of contact for the faithful -- then it is likely to follow that God will be absent or obscured in the lives of the faithful as well. Consequently, this lack of sense of the Divine can lead to living a humanistic or self-centred existence which further leads to a lost sense of the sacredness of man; without a Creator, man becomes a mere organism in the vast universe of organisms that can be manipulated and used for any kind of fantasy by anyone who is stronger or more powerful.

It is well known that many parishes today have become more centred upon themselves as a community than being clearly centred upon God – what Ratzinger has called the “self-enclosed circle”. Many parishes are not following the authorized liturgical texts and rubrics -- often out of a misguided sense of "pastoral" creativity, or even simply out of ignorance. Nor do they sufficiently consider (let alone express) those elements which lend a sense of transcendence to the worship of God, particularly as expressed through the medium of beauty. To some these might seem rather unimportant surface considerations, but they are not. The sacred liturgy and doctrine are intertwined and the experiential dimension of the liturgy is a profound moment for catechesis and conversion. Accordingly, when there is problematic approach to the liturgy, and when unauthorized innovations are introduced, there can be a deficiency as well as a coinciding distortion of Catholic belief passed on to the faithful, and further a loss in the power of the liturgy to move the human heart and mind towards God.

By contrast, the sacred liturgy, when celebrated well and focused on God, is where the building of the culture of life begins for within the liturgy one experiences and encounters the perfection of the culture of life from the giver of life Himself, God our Creator.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sacred Music

Jeffrey Tucker from Dappled Things posts about the state of Catholic music today. Not pretty. From the article:

If I were to pick one word to describe the present state of music in the Catholic world, I would choose tedium. Nothing new ever happens. The repertoire is mostly from the 1970s, with some 1980s elaborations, but in a style that is dreadfully dated by popular standards. It is particularly pathetic that much of this music depends heavily on the sound and feel of people who want to be inspired by the “groove”—yet the music demonstrates a chilling lack of inspiration. Most of this material does not play itself; it sounds unusually boring in the hands of bored musicians.

The hymns are chosen before Mass from the usual standbys, as if there were nothing more to Catholic music than flipping pages and pointing.

Do read it all. He has suggestions that would go a long way to remedying the situation. I am very grateful to the small band of chanters in our parish who are bringing back the sacredness to Sacred Music.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Losing the Key

An article on Bringing Back Latin, by Mark J. Clark. A snippet:

I have put off until now answering an obvious question, namely, why does all this matter? Just as the academy and the educated world outgrew Latin, why not allow the Church to do the same? I respond that, even if, Deo gratias, the Church should encompass the globe and become literally catholic in language and culture, and even if, Deus vetet, the Catholic Church in Europe should wither on the vine, it would still be true that the vast majority of Roman Catholic culture and tradition grew up and was formed speaking Latin. It is, as it were, the native language of the Roman Catholic Church, and were we to let it die we would in fact suffer the loss of our mother tongue. We would have access to our patrimony, that wonder-filled treasury that now lays unseen in the Church’s attic, only in bits and pieces and then only in translation. We would become foreigners to our own tradition, to our own thoughts. This is a potentially grievous loss for a Church that holds Tradition sacred. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have recently reminded us that the Church needs Latin for this very reason.

Via Ecclesia Latina.