O Lord, Open Thou Our Lips, and our mouth shall show forth thy praise. (September 18, 2016)
In the weekly bulletins over the past few months, much has been written about music, and I urge you to visit Parish website’s bulletin archive, specifically the pastoral letters of May 8, May 15, June 5, June 26, and my letter of introduction on August 28. That music has received so much consideration in the merger and continues to be a focal point in our common life testifies to its indispensable role as handmaiden of the sacred liturgy and our clergy’s commitment to its excellence. But practically speaking what does all this mean for someone in the pews? What can you expect? And how can you most effectively take advantage of all that the Parish has to offer? Here is a start:
THE SUNG MASS
Since July, all of the Parish’s Masses with music have had essentially the same outline, providing a healthy commonality of experience. This form – Sung Mass – will continue at the evening Masses at both churches. The Mass Ordinary of the Roman Missal will be sung through Ordinary Time. The major Propers (the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion Antiphons) are chanted by the cantor in an English translation of the Latin texts found in the Graduale Romanum, the official chant book of the Roman Church. Each of the three Masses is slightly different: the Saturday 6:00 PM includes the Post-Communion hymn; the Sunday 6:00 PM is preceded by Vespers (more on that further on); and the Sunday 5:00 PM is an a cappella Mass with cantor only, offering a more contemplative variation. Several Low Masses (without music) are also offered each weekend.
THE HIGH MASS
The 10:00 AM Sunday Mass at St. Catherine’s is the Parish’s ‘Family Mass’ at which, beginning on September 11th, the burgeoning volunteer Parish Choir sings. Initial response for members has been very promising, with people joining from both churches and from the wider community! The ensemble rehearses at 9:00 AM on Sunday mornings in St. Dominic’s Hall, and any adult is welcome and encouraged to join! As the group gains traction, it will eventually become responsible for the Propers and will learn simple motets. For more information, simply contact me or stop-by after Mass.
THE SOLEMN MASS
The Solemn Mass is at the heart of the Parish’s liturgical life. As such, it is celebrated on Sundays (at 12:00 Noon at St. Vincent’s), on major feast days, and to mark important occasions in the community. Additional prayers sung by the congregation at this Mass include the Credo and a seasonally-changing Marian Antiphon after the dismissal. The celebrant’s orations and other responsory prayers (e.g. Preface dialogue) are also chanted.
The Schola Cantorum, the Parish’s professional ensemble of eight singers, will sing for this Mass, beginning on October 2nd. Schola Cantorum is the official term used by the Roman Church to denote a liturgical choir and literally means ‘school of singing’. The Schola will chant the Latin Propers (including the Alleluia) according to the Dominican Graduale, the chant book particular to the Order of Preachers. Offertory and Communion motets will follow the Antiphons, and on feast days a choral Ordinary will be offered. This broad range of repertoire will survey the very best in the treasured patrimony of Catholic polyphony.
Vespers will be offered each Sunday at 5:15 PM at St. Vincent’s, beginning September 18th. This sung Office of Evening Prayer includes a hymn, a selection of psalms, a Scripture reading, a responsory, and the Magnificat – the Canticle of Mary.
Public celebration of the Divine Office in the modern Church is unfortunately rare, and thus the typical person may be apprehensive to attend a service with which he is unaccustomed, for fear of not knowing what to do. To combat this unfamiliarity, a 4:30 PM instructional class in St. Vincent’s Parish Hall will precede the liturgy. At first, this class will simply cover the basics of how to chant those parts for which the congregation is responsible. Eventually, the class’s scope will expand to include some musical and liturgical history. While in some respects the experience will be cumulative, do not be discouraged from attending if you can only do so occasionally!
BEYOND THE FALL
This is just a foretaste of things to come! A brochure will soon be distributed detailing all of the musical liturgies for the season, including weekday feasts and special services such as Lessons and Carols! The brochure, as well as a forthcoming appeal letter, will also provide information about the Parish’s Friends of Music – the apparatus through which you can financially support the program. People from both churches have been very generous in the past, and I entreat your continued benevolence. More importantly, I hope that you will participate evermore fully in the liturgical role given to you by Mother Church as members of the faithful: to sing with a full heart and listen with an open mind. The leaflets we print are meant to aid in both actions, so please use them! And above all, as you offer prayers, please include one for the musicians of the Parish, that we may worthily magnify God’s holy name through the work of our vocation.
Sincerely yours in Christ,