A little something for Mary…

…on today’s Solemnity, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (this year moved to today because of the 2nd Sunday of Advent). This is my most favorite setting of the Ave Maria, and I love how Franz Biebl set a portion of the Angelus text with its Hail Marys. I hope you enjoy this one of many online recordings of this gorgeous work.

Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us.

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“Tradition and the future”

I saw this excellent video posted over at the Chant Café. In it, Fr. Joseph Kramer, FSSP. provides great insight about young people and the liturgical tradition of the Church.

More and more often in my own experience, I see and hear of young people excited about the liturgical tradition of the Church, especially the tradition of Sacred Music. Young couples want to hear chant and organ at their weddings, and kids think that music that has survived many centuries is “cool.” Strong Catholic identity, especially in  liturgical expression, is attractive.

The attractive power of the truth?

Called to be Saints

Sainthood May Sound Crazy

(An excellent post by Richard Clark over at Corpus Christi Watershed)

WE ARE ALL CALLED TO SAINTHOOD. This may sound crazy, but I am more and more convinced it is true. We could be saints. Do be afraid of it! While it is possible that our fear may hinder us more than our weakness, but both will do nicely! Yet, God’s infinite mercy desires sainthood for us. God prods us gently and not so gently in that direction.

Flannery O’Connor succinctly stated, “They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.” Have faith our cross guides us toward sharing eternal life with God.

 

Read the rest over there, along with a recording of Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus, a personal favorite!

The Attractive Power of the Truth

How do we define beauty?

Is it “in the eye of the beholder” as many would say? How’s that for an individualist post-modern “nothing-can-be-defined” position! What about a concrete, objective definition? A great way to think of beauty, for Catholics, is that beauty is the attractive power of the truth.

Some thoughts on this from a recent experience:

In the last few weeks, I have met several people who have been totally turned off by the quest of certain people in charge of certain parishes to make the Mass “cool”. They see it as plain as day: we can never keep up with the newest, most entertaining thing. If we are trying to do that, we are totally losing the point. In terms of music, it mostly ends up sounding dated and poorly put together. One person that I met recently left the Church because of bad music after her teenage years – this was a highly trained musician who had been playing organ for Mass for many years! One day she was asked to turn it off and play basically what she recalls as a “campfire tune” instead. With multiple degrees in music, she is highly educated in the arts, and certainly knows the history of Western music, especially how intertwined it is with the tradition of sacred music in the Church. She knows that the Catholic Church has incredibly beautiful music in its tradition and today, but she can’t find it. And she’s not alone among skilled musicians – she knows several others in similar situations. She thinks she would never have left the Church if chant and polyphony had continued to be the staples of the common liturgical music diet.

In a parting comment, she said that the Church is refusing to use its most powerful tool for evangelization: beauty. Especially beautiful music.

How do we know what music is beautiful?

More soon.

Immersion

I am coming to the end of my immersion into Gregorian semiology… I haven’t posted much because I have done a ton of reading in my “free time” and have, of course, been praying (at 5:30am!) Over time, I hope to share more of the things I have learned. I am still reeling in a sense from this dunk into the pool, in a good way.

I am convinced of a few things that need to be said:

1) The secrets in the signs from Laon and St. Gall (the other notations in the Graduale Triplex) are SO much more expressive than square notation (and certainly than modern notation!) We need to consult them, understand them, and FEEL them to be able not only to do justice to the Latin chants but to express the meaning of the texts, to make music, to enjoy the chants, and to pray. Metering our chant cannot have the same effect. Anyone who says plainsong is boring may be right – if it really is just plain song. Let’s make it CHANT.

2) We need to be able to be clear with our diction and not be afraid to pause the appropriate lengths in our public speaking as well as our public canting. This is not metered or unnatural hanging pauses though, these are pauses expressive of the meaning of the text, or of natural breaths.

3 )Latin is not (gasp) the only way. Chant CAN be incredibly well-done in the vernacular. It doesn’t work by forcing English to fit the Gregorian melody just because you think you have to preserve that tune intact. No, you have to respect the natural accents and flow of the English language also. It works perfectly if this is thought through. If you don’t believe me, come to St. Meinrad Archabbey and see, and certainly check out one of the many sources of English chant propers for the Mass (most are FREE!). We do, however, need to get something going and widely available in French and in Spanish too – this is where it is going, and we will lose out to bad music if we don’t work diligently on these tasks.

4) It is incredibly sad that more people can’t experience this. Yes, definitely go to one of Fr. Columba’s workshops. But I mean that people aren’t hearing this is their parishes. It CAN be done. It can be done WELL and BEAUTIFULLY. We need to show people. If they hear it, they will get it. Of course, good and faithful liturgical praxis otherwise is also necessary.

5) I now know even more how much I don’t know! I need to do this again. That is one smart monk!!!

More later…

In the mean time, I am so blessed to have been able to take this time for study, reading, prayer and retreat. AMDG!

(And thank you dear for all of your support and holding down the fort, you are wonderful.)