This morning I celebrated Lauds with the canons of St. Peter’s Basilica at the invitation of Fr. Pierre Paul OMV, choirmaster of the Cappella Giulia (and thus successor to Palestrina). After Lauds I concelebrated at the 10:30 Mass in the basilica. I’m in Rome to consult on the Vesperale (evening prayer in Latin chant) which I’m preparing for Sant’ Anselmo, the Benedictine headquarters.
There were about 15 canons and a handful of other clergy at morning prayer in the canons’ chapel.
The liturgy was entirely sung from beginning to end. Very handsome leaflet, prepared by Fr. Pierre, gave us everything we needed (in Latin) to join in. Celebrant and two assistants, all in cope. About 6 altar boys. All sung according to the reformed Roman rite, beginning with Invitatory and Psalm 95. Psalms in alternation between cantors (five very capable singers) and the rest of us. Cantors sang antiphon before psalm, all could join in on its repeat at the end of the psalm. No pause between psalms, alas, but I wasn’t expecting that either. Altar incensed during the Benedictus.
There was constant traffic of people walking through the basilica behind the chapel during our prayer. It wasn’t that loud, and I was pretty much able to focus on our sung prayer. But I wished it were possible to move the big doors so the curtains could be pulled shut to absorb a bit more of the sound.
I shared this thought with Fr. Pierre: After such a beautiful and dignified reformed liturgy, why would anyone hanker after the unreformed preconciliar one?? This celebration was so coherent, so rooted in tradition and yet so carefully renewed and improved. Fr. Pierre heartily agreed with me. He suggested – I’m paraphrasing loosely here – that the abuses and silliness in some places after the Council perhaps set up an overreaction where some seek refuge in the wrong places. That sounds right – that plus some other things, no doubt.
* * * * *
Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica was all Latin chant, except Italian responsorial psalm. (Readings in Italian and Spanish, petitions in several languages.) People were given a well laid-out booklet with most everything in it, and entire Order of Mass (but not propers) helpfully translated into four languages. I heard some singing from the congregation, but from a distance I couldn’t really tell how much. I suspect it was rather weak, given the proficiency of most Catholics in Latin chant. But hey, I’ve heard weak singing in English in plenty of places in the U.S.
Mass XII – and this is rather humorous. As much as I’ve sung and worked with Latin chant propers for so many years and know the Graduale quite well, the fact is that I’ve never had reason to sing many of the Latin chant Mass ordinaries. This is the first time in my life I’ve sung this Mass, and first time also for the beautiful Credo IV.
At one point in my life I sang the Latin invitatory antiphon and Psalm 95 of the Office of the day at the beginning of each day for about a half year so I’d become familiar with this repertoire. Maybe I need to do the same with Mass settings. But singing an invitatory psalm alone feels right to me, a good way to pray in private and start the day, whereas it seems rather odd to sit in my monastic room singing a Mass setting out of context. I’ll think about this.
They asked me to read the English-language petition. It was about those who have wandered away from the Church because of our lack of charity, that God bring them back to himself. I accidentally said “love” instead of “charity.” But mistakes sometimes happen in the liturgy.
You know, “caritas” really shouldn’t be rendered “charity,” for that latter has narrow connotations in contemporary English of donating a handout to a good cause. “Love” is deeper and richer. I know, I know, there are several words in Latin that can be translated as “love” in English, and some want a new English word for each different Latin word so things line up. I don’t think that’s a reason to pick a bad English word. And of course in the case of Mass petitions, we’re free to draft in vernacular and don’t need to work from a Latin original.
Bread and wine and paten and chalices etc. were brought to the altar near the end of the Creed. GIRM doesn’t allow that, does it?? BTW, did you know that our word for a little table, credenza, is related to “credence table,” and this comes from the unfortunate custom of going to the table to get things while the Creed was still being sung?
* * * * *
One of the concelebrants looked very much like Piero Marini, so I made brave, and butchered the Italian language, by greeting him and telling him that we published his book in English, A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal.
Archbishop Marini was delighted to hear that I teach liturgy in Collegeville. He wished to embolden me to keep teaching the history of the liturgy and its renewal, especially at a time when some want to rewrite that history and undo the renewal.
Then Marini told me who the next prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship will be, but I don’t feel that I should divulge that here. I’ll tell you right after it’s announced.
What, you don’t believe me?