THE SPLENDOR OF LATIN AND SACRED MUSIC




- 2004' Conference of The Latin Liturgy Association
Explores "The Splendor of Latin and Sacred Music" -


If there were any doubt concerning the desire of the Church for the safeguarding and promoting of Latin in the Liturgy of the Western Church, it would have been surely dissipated by attending the latest conference of the "Latin Liturgy Association". It was held June 25-27 in Indianapolis. Its proceedings constituted a splendid introduction to the possibilities of the "Reform of the Reform" that many Catholics eagerly await after three decades of liturgical turmoil. That turmoil, in the words of Pope John Paul II, has brought such sorrow to the faithful as well as factions and divisions impeding the mission of the Church.

A special "nuts and bolts" workshop, "Give Chant a Chance in Your Parish" by Dr. Lucy Carroll, a well-known organist and musician, opened the conference proceedings. She gave excellent advice on how to reintroduce Gregorian chant and provided useful information from official Church documents proving beyond a doubt that Holy Mother Church still wants her Roman rite Catholics to use Latin chant in their worship. Examples of practical materials available such as hymnals (including one amusingly termed "Latin Chant for Dummies"), and instructional CDs for priests and choirs to learn how to sing the chant at Mass were demonstrated.

Dr. Carroll noted that the Roman liturgy is intended to be sung by priest and people, and that "chant is prayer". Even in the vernacular English Mass the priest-celebrant adds solemnity to the liturgy by chanting the collect, the prayer over the gifts, and the post-Communion. The hymns that have unfortunately replaced the chant in parish liturgies (some of the "hymns" being simply awful and some even textually heretical) are not liturgy but are rather "adjuncts" to liturgy. As the Second Vatican Council desired in its "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy", the Latin Ordinary of the Mass ought to be sung by the congregation.

It is tragic that Pope Paul VI's chant book "Jubilate Deo" issued to every bishop in 1974 to encourage authentic participation in the Roman liturgy has remained for the most part ignored – to the detriment of the post-conciliar renewal.

The keynote speaker at the conference was this writer, president emeritus of Catholics United for the Faith, and co-author in 1981 with Kenneth Whitehead' "The Pope, the Council, and the Mass", which strongly defended against hostile critics the liturgical reforms intended by the Second Vatican Council. Attendees at the conference were informed that a new and updated issue of the book will be published by Emmaus Road Publishing toward the end of the year.

The new book is necessary because of increased concern over the dismal state of the liturgy not only by such eminent theologians as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger but also by many bishops, priests, and laity. This is seen in the many recent articles dealing with liturgy such as "Latin Is Not Dead" in the May 2004 issue of "Homiletic & Pastoral Review" and "Fourteen Ways to Improve the Liturgy" in the May 2004 issue of "Crisis" magazine.

I noted the sorry consequence of the "endless relentless experimentation and tinkering with the liturgy, the constant innovations and gimmickry making for worship surprises, and the impoverishment in language, gesture, and music – all resulting in what one author has described as 'The Triumph of the Ugly and the Tasteless'". Particular damage was done to the Church by the growing perception of "a cultural, historical and liturgical discontinuity with the Catholic past" which affected "two generations of youth, already the victims of a doctrine-less catechesis – one, moreover, hostile to the supernatural and to the sacred and to the beautiful."

Also, [in my Address to the Conference] I discussed four recent Vatican documents issued by the Holy See to stop liturgical abuses and setting forth in full and uncompromising fashion the eucharistic doctrine of the Church:

  1. "The General Instruction of the Roman Missal" (GIRM);
  2. Pope John Paul II's encyclical "Ecclesia De Eucharistia";
  3. The Congregation for Divine Worship's "Redemptionis Sacramentum";
  4. and the Lineamenta ("the Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church") to be considered next year in Rome by the XI World Synod of Bishops.

I noted that they represent the essential conditions for implementing what Cardinal Ratzinger had called the "Reform of the Reform".

Regardless of the opposition and foot-dragging that will doubtless continue to be manifested in certain places and circles, these building blocks for an authentic liturgical "Reform of the Reform" are now in place.

A fascinating picture of the life of a leading recusant of the 17th century, the famous composer William Byrd, was given by Mike Withers of the "Association for Latin Liturgy" in the United Kingdom. Withers described in gripping fashion the appalling harassment and persecution unto martyrdom of English, Welsh, and Scottish Catholics in the Elizabethan and Edwardian periods. It was the Mass that was the main target of fanatical Protestant Reformers determined to uproot all "Popish superstition".

William Byrd, who had been a singer and organist at Queen Elizabeth's Chapel Royal, was to write some of the most beautiful compositions for the Latin Mass and eventually to suffer both personally and financially for being a recusant who refused to give up his Catholic faith. For his fidelity to the Church, he would be buried in an unmarked grave.

Fr. Dennis Duvelius, a priest of the Fraternity of St. Peter and parochial vicar of Holy Rosary Church, Indianapolis, spoke on the distinctive characteristics of the Dominican rite which has some remarkable similarities to the Roman rite - Sarum usage - which was celebrated in some English dioceses until the Reformation. In an impressive slide presentation, he commented on the peculiarities of the Dominican rite which, in fact, had preserved features of the Latin rite older than those of the Tridentine liturgy.

A Sung Rite

Two professors of sacred music, James Yeager of the Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio, and Dr. J. Richard Haefer of Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz., emphasized the importance of sacred music in the life of the Church.

Yeager discussed his work with the Josephinum Choir, and the course of studies he had developed for the seminarians in accordance with 40 papal documents and instructions dealing with sacred music. He noted how the Roman liturgy is a sung rite and that bad music manifests not only bad poetry but also bad theology.

For his part, Dr. Haefer discussed the nature of the hymn as "a song that praises God" and traced its history to St. Paul's urging the earliest Christians to "in all wisdom teach and admonish one another by psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing in your hearts to God by His Grace" (I Cor. 3:16). He discussed the composers of a vast repertoire of Latin hymnody (the Formative Period, 4th-7th centuries; the Period of Florescence, 8th-16th centuries; and the Period of Decline, 17th-20th centuries).

Penalties For Non-observance

The Most Rev. Thomas Paprocki, auxiliary bishop of Chicago and a member of LLA's Board of Episcopal Advisers, gave an impressive talk on "Why Stick to the Book?" – that is, why follow the law of the Church on liturgical matters? A canon lawyer himself, Bishop Paprocki listed the many provisions in the 1983 code which oblige bishops, priests, and lay faithful to obedience in following the Church's explicit rubrics and from abuses such as "raucous socializing" and freewheeling "liturgizing" by celebrants.

The bishop emphasized that "sticking to the liturgical books" was to:

  • protect from doctrinally unsound or heretical statements,
  • to maintain communion among the faithful,
  • to preserve Tradition that must be handed down, and
  • to respect the rights of the faithful to the liturgy as prescribed by the Church.

He also observed that canon law also has penalties for non-observance, including even in the most grave cases, removal from office.

For his many years of support for the LLA, Bishop Paprocki was presented the LLA's special "Domus Dei" award.

Fr. James Jackson, FSSP, rector of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, Denton, Neb., spoke on how seminarians are trained for the priesthood at the American Seminary for the Fraternity of St. Peter. He noted the discipline in effect at the seminary in terms of a relatively "closed campus" that does not permit undue liberties by seminarians. He noted the false reliance on psychology in some seminaries which has promoted a sense of self-fulfillment or self-actualization among students instead of self-transcendence that encourages the renunciation of self for Christ.

From the first year of formation, there is stress on prayer, hard manual labor, and a spirit of sacrifice and generosity. The seminary is only too aware of the danger to the faith of seminarians that results from rationalism in Scripture study via the historical-critical method popularized by the German unbeliever, Bultmann. The Tridentine Mass' eschatological dimension and reverential ritual he regarded as particularly suitable for the religious formation of seminarians.

Those attending the conference were duly amazed on hearing Fr. Robert Pasley speak about "Mater Ecclesiae Chapel, An Unbelievable Story." This first Tridentine parish in the United States (it is in Camden, N.J., and has Fr. Pasley as rector) draws Catholics from five states.

Parish Masses with sacred music, novenas, devotions, daily Confession, and a remarkable plethora of apostolic activities distinguish Mater Ecclesiae Chapel, which Fr. Pasley was able to rescue from debt and liquidation. Begun with 70 families, there are now 425 families dedicated to living the Catholic faith in a parish where it is taught with love and enthusiasm. Moreover, this Tridentine parish has received acceptance from the pastors of other parishes in the diocese who have noted its spirit of cooperation with other parishes and diocesan programs.

This brief article cannot express the feelings of those at the conference who were able to attend the magnificent services arranged for participants. There was the marvelous Latin vespers service (First Vespers: Fourth Sunday After Pentecost) that was sung at beautiful Holy Rosary Church by its Choir and Schola Cantorum. It was an awesome experience to hear Gregorian chant sung with such perfection. I myself had never heard a Latin vespers service sung with Gregorian chant in a Catholic parish. It was fittingly concluded with Cardinal Newman's lovely hymn "Lead, Kindly Light".

Another beautiful church, one of the most revered landmarks of Indianapolis, Old St. John's, was the scene for a magnificent celebration of the Novus Ordo in Latin for the Saturday Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It featured Plainchant for the Proper of the Mass and congregational singing led by the Choir of Holy Rosary Church of Gregorian Mass IX, "Cum Jubilo".

Sunday's concluding Solemn Mass for the conference proved to be an unforgettable experience not only for the Tridentine liturgy's magnificent setting in historic Sacred Heart Church but for the up-lifting of the entire congregation to the "third heaven" with the celebration of Mozart's Mass in C major Coronation, K. 317, sung by The Bach Chorale and Orchestra, Lafayette, Ind., and the Schola Cantorum of Holy Rosary Church chanting the Proper of the Mass.

It is to the credit of the officers of the "Latin Liturgy Association" (and to Dr. David Kubiak who helped greatly with the musical and logistical aspects of the conference) that the wishes of Pope John Paul II for the fostering and indeed restoration of sacred music in the solemn and public prayer of the Church were so splendidly realized at this conference (See also the Chirograph on the Centenary of the Motu Proprio "Tra Le Sollecitudini" on Sacred Music of Pope John Paul II November 22, 2003).

The conference was a fitting close to the presidency of the LLA by Staten Island attorney William J. Leininger who has so ably led the organization the last five years. He is succeeded by James F. Pauer of Rocky River, Ohio, who will enjoy the continued assistance of fellow national officers Scott Calta of Dallas, Ga., and Jane Errera of Bethlehem, Pa.

Readers who wish to join the LLA or to request information concerning it or to obtain a free copy of its informative newsletter are welcome to write:

Latin Liturgy Association,
P.O. Box 3017,
Bethlehem, PA 180170017.

The LLA web site is: http://www.latinliturgy.com/.



About James Likoudis
James Likoudis is an expert in Catholic apologetics. He is the author of several books dealing with Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations, including his most recent "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church." He has written many articles published by various religious papers and magazines.
He can be reached at:  jlikoudis@cuf.org, or visit  Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage