Organ Postludes

"The traditionally appropriate musical instrument of the Church is the organ, which, by reason of its extraordinary grandeur and majesty, has been considered a worthy adjunct to the Liturgy, whether for accompanying the chant or, when the choir is silent, for playing harmonious music at the prescribed times … Let our churches resound with organ-music that gives expression to the majesty of the edifice and breathes the sacredness of the religious rites; in this way will the art both of those who build the organs and of those who play them flourish afresh and render effective service to the sacred liturgy." — Pius XI, Divini Cultus (1928).

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The Use of Esztergom (Ritus Strigoniensis)

We are pleased to present this article on the Use of Ezstergom (Ritus Strigoniensis) by Miklos Istvan Foldvary, whose paper summarizes the work of his colleague, Fr. Atilla, a priest of Galanta, Slovakia. Fr. Atilla is an expert on the Use of Ezstergom, having obtained his PhD doing studies on the Ritus Strigoniensis. He  currently offers the Mass according to the Use of Ezstergom with permission of his Ordinary. The Latin liturgy lived in many variants in the Middle Ages. With respect to their cha­racter and history of development, we may distinguish two major periods, and accor­dingly two principal types of ritual variants. The first group comprises the ritual va­riants dating to the period prior to the process of Romanisation at first supported and later commanded by the Carolingian rulers, the second includes the post-Ca­ro­lin­gian variants which were later discontinued in the wake of the Council of Trent.

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Philippine Bishop: Stop Homily Abuse

One thing we have often stressed on this website and blog is the importance of decent homiletics. This pertains not only to the content of a homily, but also to its delivery and length. It is ironic that homiletics is in such a particularly dismal state today, given that the post-Vatican II Church was supposed to "break open the Word of God" to the people with increased Scripture readings, more Gospel-themed homiletics, and a focus on the "pilgrimage of the People of God." These "fruits", like others of the "new springtime", have not materialized. By and large priests today do not know how to give a homily. They flounder about looking for ways to make the Gospel "relevant": we get anecdotes from sports, banal personal stories, terrible jokes, interpretations of the Scriptures that we fluffy or doctrinally suspect, and worst of all, it all goes on too long.

Read more: Philippine Bishop: Stop Homily Abuse

Mandatum: Liturgical History

The Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper is distinctive for two unique features: the foot washing ceremony known as the Mandatum, and the Eucharistic procession to the Repository, which sets the stage for the services of Good Friday. Both features are well attested in the history of the East and the West and serve to highlight the Mass of the Lord's Supper as the opening of the Triduum, the "Still Days" preceding the celebration of our Blessed Lord's Resurrection on Easter. The washing of the feet has its origin in the actions of our Lord after the Last Supper, as narrated in the Gospel of St. John; it later became a sign of service in the early Christian community and eventually found its way into the liturgies of Holy Thursday. In this article, we will hypothesize about the origin of the foot-washing ritual, trace the history of the Mandatum in the Latin rite and examine the different forms it has taken over the centuries.

Read more: Mandatum: Liturgical History

Is liturgy really a big deal?

It is no surprise that liberal Catholics have traditionally placed a low value on the quality of liturgical celebrations; not on liturgy itself, because progressives think liturgy is extremely important - that is, so long as it is an anthropocentric, horizontal affair. It is not liturgy per se they disparage, but liturgy done well - that is, liturgy that is transcendent and God-centered. "Why be so finicky about the liturgy?" they say. "There are more important issues to get upset about! Issues like poverty, war, abortion and social justice!" Unfortunately, it is also common for conservative Catholics to hold dismissive attitudes towards the liturgy as well, adopting a minimalist approach that the externals of liturgical action are dispensable, can be discarded or changed without consequence, that all that matters is having a valid Eucharist, etc. Similarly, the charismatic movement tends to foster an attitude of undue casualness in the presence of the Lord. All of these are deficient approaches to the Sacred Liturgy.

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"It's all about God"

A certain priest I know operates a homeless shelter in one of Ohio’s larger cities. It is a humble, welcoming ministry - the kind of that goes on patiently doing good largely unbeknownst to the outside world. Every day a constant stream of homeless persons file looking for a hot meal and a clean bed for the evening. There is no limit on who can come or how frequently. The only condition placed upon the poor for receiving this aid is that they attend one of the daily Masses offered in the shelter’s chapel...

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Multiple Voices in the Passion Readings

The most distinguishing feature of the Palm Sunday liturgy, whether modern or ancient, is of course the blessing, distribution and procession with palms, from whence the common name of the feast is derived. However, this is not the only distinctive feature of this Mass; it is also noteworthy for the reading of the Passion narrative in multiple voices. This is recalled in the Roman Rite, where the current official name for this feast is Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord. The ancient Gelasian Sacramentary (c. 750) makes no mention of a procession with palms but simply calls the feast Dominica in palmis, De passione Domini; many other names, ancient and modern, make reference to Jesus' passion. The reading of the Passion narrative on this day is very ancient. In this article we will trace the history of this practice, focusing in on the use of different lectors to represent the different voices in the Gospel narrative.

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Truth about the Kyrie

The Kyrie Eleison offers an interesting distinction between old Mass and New, but its history also provides an interesting challenge to contemporary myths about liturgical development. It is often supposed today that the Kyrie is a remnant of a time when the Mass was said in Greek, and thus a sign for us that just as the Mass was changed from Greek to Latin, it should be changed to the vernacular of the people. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Kyrie was a later addition, unknown in the sub-apostolic era. Modern approaches to the Kyrie actually introduce foreign elements into the liturgy, as demonstrated in classic article by Ryan Grant.

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Free 11 Page Guide to Gregorian Chant!

For many months here, we have been bringing you an ongoing series on forming and training a Gregorian choir in the parish. In our previous article in this series, Best Practices for a Gregorian Choir, we recommended training the Gregorian choir in actual chant notation - real, square, Gregorian notation. This may seem imposing, but it is really not as difficult as you may think. Though there may be a little more work up front, modern notation is inferior for conveying the interconnectedness of the melody and text and natural grouping of notes in Gregorian chant. The singing of speech will be clunky and lack nuance. Thus, a well-trained choir must understand Gregorian notation.

Read more: Free 11 Page Guide to Gregorian Chant!

Best Practices for a Gregorian Choir

It is easy for a choir to become focused on technical details and social interaction within the group. While these things are fine on their own, it must be remembered that the purpose of the Gregorian choir is to chant liturgical prayers. The liturgical choir must be developed with this in mind. It is not a concert choir or early music performance group. It exists for the purpose of singing liturgical music in its native context. There should be some awareness of the meaning of the prayers and this also improves performance. The following advice is the result of my own experience in directing a Gregorian Schola for 5 years, and discussions with other directors of Gregorian Scholas, as well as training postulants for a religious order in the art of chant.

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Comparing the New and Traditional Lectionaries

In commentary after commentary of defenders of the Novus Ordo, from liberals to so-called conservatives, a constant point that is stressed in favor of the liturgical innovations of the post-Conciliar era is the supposed superiority of the lectionary of the Novus Ordo to that of the Traditional Latin Mass. The argument goes "Since the majority of the Bible is read in the course of three years, Catholics are exposed to more scripture now than in the Traditional Liturgy, which had only a narrow selection of readings". We need to establish that this is not a dispute about translation. To be fair, I'm not concerned with issues of translation. The best arguments against the Novus Ordo are against the Latin Novus Ordo, not the ICEL translation. Defenders of the new rite can always appeal to a bad translation to explain away the endless problems with the fabricated liturgy of Bugnini's Concilium.

Read more: Comparing the New and Traditional Lectionaries

Dynamics of the Parish Schola

If you have been following this series you are familiar with what Gregorian Chant is, and why it’s important. Let’s suppose you want to get involved with reintroducing it into your parish. How do you get started? The details on getting chant reintroduced at your local Sunday Mass will vary greatly depending on context. Every situation is different. Regardless of the individual situation, one thing that must be done is to form a Choir or Schola to sing the chant. Let me mention right now that getting the current choir to switch over to chant is probably not realistic. Parish choirs are typically made up of volunteers, if the current choir is singing Eagles Wings and Gather Us In with tambourine accompaniment it’s because they want to. If you are the director or Pastor you may be able to get the current choir to sing some chant and you may pick up a few interested singers from the current choir, but to do things right you need a fresh group.

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Mosebach on Losing our Liturgical Innocence

One of the most formative books in the development of my own thought on Catholic liturgy and tradition was The Heresy of Formlessness by German author Martin Mosebach (Ignatius Press, 2006). Though relatively unknown in America, Mosebach is a well-known voice for Catholic Tradition in the German speaking world. Heresy of Formlessness is truly an illuminating book that puts the liturgical rupture of the past four decades in perspective from the point of view of the layman in the pew. Particularly fascinating is Mosebach's notion that the liturgical problems since the 60's have caused us all to lose what he calls our "liturgical innocence." What does it mean to lose our liturgical innocence?

Read more: Mosebach on Losing our Liturgical Innocence

Unofficial Chant Books

Continuing our overview of chant books for use in the liturgy, the following books are not official liturgical books but are useful for the liturgical choir. For the most part they contain extractions from the official books. There are of course many other books containing collections of chant music.

The Liber Usualis (translates the “usual book”,) often referred to simply as ‘the Liber’ is for the Extraordinary form. This work was created by Dom Andre Mocquereau of Solesmes Abby. The first edition was published in 1896, prior to the creation of the 1908 Roman Gradual and 1912 Roman Antiphonal. Subsequent editions were updated to conform to the official versions of the melodies.

Read more: Unofficial Chant Books

Books of the Liturgical Choir

Last time in this series, we discussed the role of the liturgical choir and mentioned that it is an official liturgical role. Today we will discuss the various books of use to the liturgical choir interested in singing the traditional chants of the Church. First we will discuss the official liturgical books, the the Kyriale Romanum, Graduale Romanum, Antiphonale Romanum and Vesperale Romanum, examining their origins, historical development, content and usage in the context of the Mass and Divine Office. In our follow up installment next month we will take a look at the wide variety of unofficial books which are also in use.

Read more: Books of the Liturgical Choir

Introducing Liturgical Quod Libets

I know that we all know that guitars and drums are not proper to use at Mass. I know we all know that the prayers of the Mass cannot be arbitrarily changed, but Holy Water fonts should not be emptied of their contents and replaced with sand during Lent, that lay people should not give blessings at Communion or that it is wrong to replace a sanctuary crucifix with a Resurrected Christ. I know all these things, and I am sure that if you frequent this website, you know them as well. Yet unfortunately these sort of things are the norm mainstream Catholic parishes, and the faithful simply accept them because they crave innovation, or because "Father says its alright." In the confusing fuddle that is modern Catholic parochial life, where can one go to get straight answers on the ins and outs of the Novus Ordo Mass? It is to address this need that Unam Sanctam Catholicam is launching the Liturgical Quod Libet page on this site. What are Liturgical Quod Libets? Read on!

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Benedict XVI on "New Clericalism"

One of the supreme ironies of the modern crisis of Catholic identity is that the reforms of the post-Conciliar era have in many cases been followed by the very consequences the reforms hoped to avoid. Sacrosanctum Concilium envisioned a more active participation of the laity in the liturgy, and the results of the reforms have been more lay apathy. The affirmation of the role of religious in Lumen Gentium and the Church's call for religious to evangelize the world was met with an exodus of religious from their orders and a subsequent evangelization of the Church by the world. The Council's call for all Catholics to immerse themselves in Sacred Scripture led to a state of affairs in which Catholics are more ignorant of the Bible than ever and theologians openly deny the inspiration of the Scriptures or otherwise deny their traditional interpretations. Another very poignant example of this is in the question about clericalism before and after the Council.

Read more: Benedict XVI on "New Clericalism"

Can drums be used at Mass?

I am going to begin by presuming the inquiry is regarding the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite and not the Chaldean liturgy where percussive instruments are the tradition. This first distinction is important, because drums (like any musical instrument) are something intricately bound up with culture, and culture is likewise bound up with worship. Drums are used in certain cultures, and they are used legitimately in those cultural settings. Percussion was used in ancient Israel's temple worship. But the question at hand is not whether it is ever licit to incorporate drums into the worship of God, but rather whether it is permissible to incorporate drums into the liturgical worship of the Roman Rite, which is a more specific question.

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Basic Structure of Liturgical Music

Continuing in our series on restoring traditional liturgical music, we will discuss the structure of the liturgy in relation to music and then the different liturgical roles.

In looking at the liturgy the focus will be on the Mass, but do remember that there is more to liturgy than just the Mass. The texts of the liturgy, generally speaking, can be divided into two different categories. These are the ‘Ordinary’ and the ‘Propers'.

The ‘Ordinary’ can be thought of as the underlying framework of the liturgy. These are the texts which, for the most part, do not change from day to day or Sunday to Sunday. In the case of the Mass this would be the ‘Order of Mass’...

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Four Traits of Gregorian Chant

In the previous introductory article to this series we discussed the principles of what makes certain types of music inappropriate for use in the liturgy. We spoke about art as communication and the function of musical forms and also mentioned that Gregorian chant is the native liturgical music in the west. In this article we will offer a definition Gregorian Chant and discuss the ways in which it is distinctive. Gregorian chant is the official music of the Roman Liturgy; or more precisely it is the official sung prayer of the Roman liturgy. Chant is not music sung at the liturgy as an artistic decoration placed on the liturgical action. Rather it is liturgy. To put it another way, Gregorian chant is the liturgical prayer sung rather than spoken. It is important to note that Gregorian chant is not a style. The collection of chant contains several styles. Rather, Gregorian chant is a corpus of music. This corpus includes simple things such as singing the Mass responses on a single note as well as difficult and ornate antiphons sung by trained choirs.

Read more: Four Traits of Gregorian Chant

Liturgy, Decorum and the Bible

There are many practices that certain laity and priests, of their own authority, have introduced into the Catholic liturgy that find no precedent in two thousand years of Christian Tradition. Yet, if questioned on the justification for these practices, their adherents will often cite examples out of the Bible. A common example is David dancing before the Ark as justification for liturgical dancing; a new one I encountered recently is the practice in charismatic parishes of people taking their shoes off and going about barefoot in the sanctuary, even in the immediate presence of the Blessed Sacrament. The argument in favor of this behavior is that it calls to mind the intimacy God wishes to have with us, as well as the example of Moses, who when coming into God's presence, was told to remove his sandals. Based on these considerations, this practice of going about in the sanctuary barefoot is considered praiseworthy and not irreverent in the least. Yet, as we shall see, the practice is based on an errant approach to the Bible and liturgy that wrongly assumes that it is acceptable to lift liturgical practices directly from things we read in the Bible without reference to the Church's Tradition.

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Primer on Restoring Liturgical Music

What is wrong with contemporary Catholic liturgical music, and why should we prefer a return to the Church's traditional forms of liturgical music? Let us begin by recalling that the Church’s liturgy is her official public prayer. As such, it is the common patrimony of all Catholics (not the private property of one parish, priest or bishop). In the Church's liturgy, we necessarily find an expression of the faith. The Liturgical arts, like all arts, are modes of communication, in this case, meant to communicate important truths about God and how He is to be worshiped. This article and subsequent follow-ups will deal with restoring to use, one of these arts, the native musical form of the Latin Church.

Read more: Primer on Restoring Liturgical Music

Are Traditionalists Guilty of Pharisaism?

One of the most reoccurring and stinging accusations made against Traditional Catholics is the charge of “Pharisaism” or “legalism.” This is a very serious claim: after all, the Pharisees were the human agents responsible for the crucifixion of Christ and were referred to as a “brood of vipers” by Our Lord Himself (Matt. 22:33). It was of the Pharisees that Jesus asked the terrifying question, “How can any of you escape damnation?” Therefore, Traditionalists ought to respond to this charge with utmost seriousness and not just take it when liberal Catholics, Protestants or conservative Catholics start hurling the “P” word around.

The derogatory power in the label “Pharisee” consists not in the word itself, but in what this word brings to mind. When someone calls a Trad a Pharisee, they are of course not saying that we are adherents to a sect of 1st century Judaism. Rather, they are leveling the same criticisms that Christ leveled against the Pharisees of His day...

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St. Cyprian on "Disciplined Prayer"

In honor of the Feast of Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian,  (September 16th), let us look at Cyprian's excellent Treatise on the Lord's Prayer, where he speaks of a topic that is very relevant today vis-a-vis the discussions between traditionalist and charismatic Catholics on the proper posture for prayer. Rather than preface the saint, I will just let him speak for himself:
"Let our speech and petition when we pray be under discipline, observing quietness and modesty. Let us consider that we are standing in God's sight. We must please the divine eyes both with the habit of body and with the measure of voice. For as it is characteristic of a shameless man to be noisy with his cries, so, on the other hand, it is fitting to the modest man to pray with moderated petitions
Read more: St. Cyprian on "Disciplined Prayer"

Law and Tradition

In two weeks (September, 2011), all of the dioceses in the U.K. will reinstate the pre-Vatican II law requiring (not recommending) but requiring abstinence of meat on Fridays. This is a very welcome development from a region of the Church that is known for its wackiness and extremely progressive tendencies. We should all applaud this move by the British bishops as a step in the right direction and pray that such measures would be contemplated and enacted by their American counterparts.

How often have we all wished that the bishops of the world and the Holy Father would take definitive stands for the restoration of tradition! Imagine if this directive was followed up by another directive forbidding communion in the hand, or abolishing altar girls, or forcefully asking the bishops to stop relegating all the major feast days to Sunday, or forbidding drums in Mass, mandating chant, etc. How we would rejoice!

Read more: Law and Tradition

Law and Tradition

In two weeks (September, 2011), all of the dioceses in the U.K. will reinstate the pre-Vatican II law requiring (not recommending) but requiring abstinence of meat on Fridays. This is a very welcome development from a region of the Church that is known for its wackiness and extremely progressive tendencies. We should all applaud this move by the British bishops as a step in the right direction and pray that such measures would be contemplated and enacted by their American counterparts.

How often have we all wished that the bishops of the world and the Holy Father would take definitive stands for the restoration of tradition! Imagine if this directive was followed up by another directive forbidding communion in the hand, or abolishing altar girls, or forcefully asking the bishops to stop relegating all the major feast days to Sunday, or forbidding drums in Mass, mandating chant, etc. How we would rejoice!

Read more: Law and Tradition

Papal Masses are Liturgical Paradigms

The Holy Father recently gave an improvised talk to the members of the Choir of the Pontifical Chapel. In this talk he made some truly extraordinary statements regarding the function that papal liturgies play in setting the liturgical tone for the universal Church. Benedict said:

"Papal liturgies, broadcast internationally, are a model by which all liturgical celebrations can be measured...papal ceremonies should be liturgical paradigms for the entire world. Those who follow papal ceremonies probably use them as a measure of accord by which the liturgy must be measured. In this way, the liturgy is transformed into a path through which the Pope teaches the Catholic faithful, giving them a proper idea of what they should expect [from the liturgy]." (Miles Christi Report, no. 107, Sept. 2009).

Read more: Papal Masses are Liturgical Paradigms

Signum Crucis in the Mass

One of the changes made by the post-Vatican II reformers to the Mass was the elimination of many of the signs of the cross, which were seen as superfluous and repetitive.
Now, it is the case that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass contains abundantly more signs of the cross than does the Novus Ordo - forty-eight, I have heard (I've also heard 40). But does the fact that this sacred gesture is repeated so often mean that it is superfluous? Is it a medieval "encrustation" that has been uselessly repeated and multiplied until it has lost all meaning?
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Communion Straw Men

In our Diocesan publication, "FAITH Magazine," I recently came across an article on the reception of Holy Communion that made my eye twitch; not necessarily because it said anything wrong per se, but because it gave only half of the answer and neglected to provide a ton of historical and liturgical information that would have been more helpful in answering the question. The question posed was whether or not communion in the hand was disrespectful. The question is answered by Fr. Joe Krupp, a popular priest in our diocese who runs a Q&A segment in the diocesan magazine. Here is the article in its entirety, which I will comment on afterward:

Q. Recently, at church, someone told me receiving communion in the hand is disrespectful. Is this accurate? How should I receive communion?

Read more: Communion Straw Men