Sunday, May 30, 2010

Music for the Beatification Mass

First of all many thanks to commenters on my earlier post about this matter, paricularly to 'Anonymous' who gave me a very useful and important link. By the time I followed it, yesterday afternnon, the latest revised list had been published on Holy Smoke. There seems to be general agreement that it is far better than many of us had feared and I concur in that. Here is the link to and once there you can go to ABCM Rehearsal Resources and listen to the tunes (all four parts available separately where relevant). When I last looked, the list was still awaiting final approval from Rome. (Mark, I knew the 'back story' and felt the English were being lazy. That's all. At least we have a strong piece of Byrd, some Gregorian chant, some sound hymns and the wonderful Papa Haydn at the end. Please forgive me for wanting a scrap of Tallis, whose absence from the list I still mourn!)

I agree with Anonymous that some of the 'invective' expressed about the 'pre-MacMillan plan' arose through selective reporting and perhaps through the unfortunate naming of Nick Bayly's blog about the subject. I do hope that my own post was not counted as invective by Anonymous or any of my readers and assure you all that I wrote in sorrow and hope, not anger!

See also The New Liturgical Movement for comment about the apparent absence of sung Propers from the proposed Mass.

Have just discovered that the link destination given above, has changed since yesterday. Will try to sort this out before the end of today.

Next post, probably 'Vexed Issues 4', on Tuesday, D.V.

In Christo pro Papa

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vexed Issues 3: Communion in the Hand

My main concern in this series of posts is practice at Papal Masses, although much of what I say has relevance at the smallest parish Mass as well.

Those of us who prefer to receive Communion on the tongue, and kneeling, if at all possible, were relieved and overjoyed when Pope Benedict made clear his own feelings on the matter and began to 'lead by example'. Since then many more people, judging from all his televised Masses, are following him in this leadership. And yet even in St. Peter's Basilica, with his example before their very eyes, many take absolutely no notice. At the very least it seems to me the height of discourtesy to continue doing something in his presence which he is known not to favour. At one point in Portugal, the Holy Father said, "We impose nothing; we propose ceaselessly....." The trouble with those who do not follow the Pope's way, on this, as on many other things, is that they are content to accept the first part of his remark as an endorsement of their own behaviour, whilst totally ignoring its second part, which is an invitation to examine his propositions.

I agree with Mary who asked in a response to an earlier post, why Pope Benedict doesn't speak out on this, perhaps by devoting a Wednesday General Audience to his REASONS for giving Communion in the way he does. At the moment it could still be claimed that people are ignorant of these reasons. As things are, at least in UK and France, the bishops and priests who could be robustly supporting the Pope in this matter, or at the very least opening an honest discussion on the manner of receiving Communion, largely do not seem to be doing anything of the kind. Why is this? I'm afraid my own answers to the question fill me with dread.

1. Many of those priests and bishops do not agree with the Pope. Worse, they are reluctant to listen to him, leave alone to explain/pass on his teaching to the faithful, thus showing scant respect for his age, holiness, wisdom, experience and scholarship.
2. Communion in the Hand began BEFORE the Holy See gave permission for it, initially to the French Bishops Conference, and then over 40 years it gradually became common practice. The Holy See never said that it wished that to happen, quite the reverse in fact. See the original document here.
3. Many priests, laypeople, and even bishops maybe, have no recollection of the former practice, or at least none in their adult catholic lives. Those of us old enough to have these memories have had to watch in sorrow and dismay, as reverence for, and even belief in, the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, has persistently dwindled. It is this latter which really alarms me. From my own observations over four decades in England and France. I cannot help but think of Communion in the Hand as a strong influence in this direction.

A note about these large open-air Papal Masses: One still sees many people turning away from the person who has given them the Host in the hand, without consuming It first. Added to this, surely an insistence that Communion be received on the tongue would cut down the factor of risk to the Sacred Host.

Finally, on a more encouraging note, at least in one sense: In the general Communion melee in St. Peter's on Pentcost Sunday, the camera showed a young boy accepting Communion and immediately turning away with the Host still in his hand. He was grabbed, yes grabbed, by a male lay assistant to the distributing priest, and made to consume the Host there and then. The boy looked astonished and one wondered about the catechesis he had previously received.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vexed Issues 3

Apologies for delay. Today passed in a welter of unexpected demands on my time and tomorrow is a teaching day. So 'Vexed Issues' will be continued on Thursday, DV.

In the meantime, God bless all here.

In Christo pro Papa

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Sequence: Veni Sancte Spiritus

Veni Creator Spiritus

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Papal Mass in Coventry.(Vexed Issues: Part 2)

Like many others, I was vastly relieved that the list of possible music to be dished up to our Holy Father, is now likely to be dignified by the inclusion of work by MacMillan. However the news raises certain other questions.

1. To have the same Mass setting both in Glasgow and Coventry, is to say the least of it, rather poor. It makes it look as if England itself has nothing to offer. It smacks of laziness and not caring enough about our own culture, maybe even ignorance of it.

2. In other countries the Holy Father has visited, (and in Rome itself) we've become used to bits of De Angelis for the Ordinary, and 'do what you must' for the Propers. Is England going to do something spectacular and have the MacMillan Ordinary with Gregorian Propers? I'm not holding my breath, but it is in fact the perfect opportunity, to show awareness of the links between MacMillan, the Chant and even Renaissance Polyphony. If we did that, we'd really show the Holy Father that we know what we're about.

3. Benedict XVI continually tells us we must not lose touch with the Christian roots of Europe. Who, in a position of influence in England & Wales has taken the blindest bit of notice, specifically in the musical realm? From Nick Bayly's blog 'Music for the Community', to which Damian linked for a list of proposed music for the Coventry Mass, you would think that our Catholic culture began after 1962. He actually refers to these pieces, written in the 70s and 80s as 'classics', although he does not have the grace to put the word in inverted commas. And he actually condemns one piece as being a mere sop to 'nostalgia' for people from the early post Vat II years. That actually made me laugh, although with hollowness.

4. Are we not in danger of missing a most perfect catechetical, and generally educative opportunity here? This cutting off of everything that happened up until Vatican II and its quite clearly faulty implementation, has meant, among many other things, that it is unfashionable for English Catholics to honour their Martyrs. When I was a young woman, we prayed daily for their canonisation. By the time Paul VI did this, I think in 1971, their martydom already seemed to have been forgotten, a rather embarrassing excess.

5. Christian England, such as remains of it, needs to face the fact of her history during the first Reformation. An excellent way to do this is to listen t0 her greatest Christian composers, Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. To me, it is a gift from God that they lived through that horribly cruel period and did not have their heads struck from their shoulders. It is unlikely that the Holy Father will be offered the precious peak of our musical creativity when he visits England. He will not hear the 'Spem in Alium' of Thomas Tallis sung on English soil. This afternoon when choosing the video which Mark posted so quickly, I wept bitter tears, that for countless reasons we are unable, or unwilling to give our Holy Father such a gift. (As I've already said, the capability and talent is there. It is just not being asked to come forward.)

6. But you know, the thing about Tallis and Byrd, is that they both wrote sublime music to English as well as Latin words, (Byrd being the younger by, I think, about 35 years). Now wouldn't it be a real sign of healing, of mutual forgiveness for all the horrors of that first Reformation, during which English soil was soaked with the blood of martyrs on both sides, if we could have, at some point during Pope Benedict's visit, one motet by each man: from Tallis in English, "If ye love me, keep my commandments", and from Byrd in Latin, his "Ave Verum".

Now, wouldn't that reflect true Ecumenism?

Please join me in praying that we will see something of the kind.

In Christo pro Papa

Spem in alium

Spem in Alium (Thomas Tallis)

Friday, May 21, 2010

A busy day in St. Romain

Suffice to say that it is Pentecost in two days' time, but on Tuesday I was informed there would be a wedding in our church, the first one for at least five years, on the day preceding the Solemnity, for which I'd already decided to make a bit of a floral fuss, - for Our Lord, you understand. Unfortunately our locals do not yet come to adore Him..

Yesterday, I did the greenery collection and arranged the backgrounds in the vases and today hauled up from the garden, buckets of roses with which to complete the displays. When I arrived with the first load, Abbe Marchand was there waiting to greet the nuptial pair and take them through a rehearsal. And so it happened that I did the remaining floral work, hidden in Our Lady's chapel with Our Lord, whilst he gave them their last instruction before their marriage. They were in front of the high altar with him, and sufficiently far away for me not to be able to hear what was being said, only the steady hum of their voices. And meanwhile, I got on with the little bit of work it was my privilege and pleasure to do. So peaceful, so right, so normal, those young ones, guided by a priest of Our Lord in preparation to embrace the sacrament of marriage, and the 'old handmaid' in the background doing her stuff!

Before they finished, I took away a bucket of discarded foliage. When I came back with a broom to sweep away all the little bits and pieces from the chapel floor, the Abbe was in his car and about to drive off. Just as I approached the church door he lowered his window and said to me, (translation) " I find what you have done, most beautiful. Thank you." And all the time with a seraphic smile on his young face. I know he understands why I do it, and with God's help, I always will. It's nothing to do with his saying nice things to me so that I can puff up my feathers. I trust in Our Lord that Abbe Marchand knows that mine aims to be a quiet participation. So why am I telling you this? Just, I suppose, so that you can be certain that it exists. God help me.

Tomorrow, I hope to comment on Communion at the Holy Father's Masses, and the latest news about the forthcoming Mass in Coventry. It would have been done today, but as you see other matters have intervened. Deo gratias.

In Christo pro Papa

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Music for Papal Liturgies in Portugal

Thank you to Mark for arranging the two videos in the previous post.

As already acknowledged, I was for the most part, uplifted by the music during the most recent Papal trip, but I maintain that it lost a golden opportunity to let the Holy Father hear at least one piece that would have demonstrated beyond doubt, that Portuguese composers hold an indisputable place as jewels in the crown of renaissance polyphony - Cardoso, Escobar, Fonseca, Lobo (Duarte, not to be confused with the Spanish Alonso) to name but a few.

The Holy Father congratulated the Portuguese on the strength of their culture, but they had not let him hear in public, any of this important aspect of it. Surely, they could have produced a choir capable of singing this music just once during the trip. Of course it is quite right that everyone should be able to sing in joy before the Lord and, His Blessed Mother, in the company of the Holy Father, when the opportunity presents itself. I am not disputing that at all. I just find it depressing that some of the most exquisite treasures remain hidden on these occasions. After the Communion (I think at Fatima) would have been the perfect time to place one of them. Instead we had a beefy operatic rendering of 'Panis Angelicus' from a soprano who had so much vibrato that she was actually out of tune for 50 per cent of the time, making poor old Cesar's tune almost unrecognisable, and that's saying something! (Sorry I can't stand vibrato in a liturgical setting and in any case, what has Franck to do with Portuguese culture?) On the other hand the woman's voice was suited to the Magnificat which followed. Whether post Communion was the right place for it is another matter. I suspect not, considering Pope Benedict's plea for silence at this point in the proceedings, a plea which seems to be increasingly ignored, even in St. Peter's.

As far as the upcoming trip to England is concerned, taking notice of what the Pope proposes about the Mass is one thing, but to subject him to music with which he is known not to be personally comfortable, is to me the height of discourtesy and inhospitality. It is not the way this most honoured guest should be treated. Judging from what Damian Thompson says about the music being prepared for the Beatification Mass at Coventry airport, it seems that the intention is to present him with a diet he will find indigestible. The furthest we will go back in OUR culture is to a piece by Elgar. And here was I (silly me) praying for the 40 part 'Spem in Alium' of Tallis, and maybe Byrd's Ave Verum. Perhaps there's still a chance that we'll have them at a Vespers somewhere during the visit. Make no mistake, there is enough choral strength and expertise in Britain to carry it off. (It is not a question of whether I like what is apparently being proposed, but of whether the Pope, and above all, Newman himself ,would like it.) It will be tragic if the 'powers that be' decide not to harness the necessary talents and experience that are obviously available to them, particularly when it is English choirs, notably that of Westminster Cathedral and New College Oxford, who have promoted the works of the Portuguese composers who inspired this post in the first place. If in the UK, the Pope is given a menu of what he once called 'utility music' (Ratzinger Report, 1985), you will never again see me criticising what happened in Portugal!

In Christo pro Papa

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Portuguese Polyphony: two outstanding examples

Hodie Nobis (de Cristo) and Alma Redemptoris Mater (Fernandez)


Quid hic statis (Cardoso)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thank you to my commenters on previous post

I will respond tomorrow, D.V.

God bless all here.

In Christo pro Papa

Friday, May 14, 2010

Girl Altar Servers and Extraordinary Ministers.

Both of these were seen at the Papal Masses in Portugal: the first at Fatima and the second at Porto.

I am shocked and puzzled by both things, not because I could not be open to them if properly prepared for them in the context of a Papal Mass, and they were really unavoidable. In my knowledge Pope Benedict has never countenanced either of these things before. Why did he apparently do so on this Portuguese trip?

The extraordinary ministers are one thing. I suppose it would be fairly easy to make a case that there weren't enough priests to go round, but I'm not convinced, particularly not in the Year of the Priest.

The girl altar servers are another matter. If the Pope has decided that they are acceptable, then the Vatican should issue a clear statement so that we all know where we are. If on the other hand this was just some of the 'powers that be' in Portugal pushing their luck, and the Pope didn't know about it before it happened, then there should also be an explanation. I'll have to look at the video again but I'm pretty certain that one of the servers who brought him the cruets at the lavabo at Mass in Fatima was a girl, and absolutely certain that girls brought him the incense for incensing the altar and Blessed Sacrament during the Benediction which followed the Mass. I must admit to thinking at the time, and this in all seriousness, that he is so holy as to not recognise the difference anymore between a girl and a boy.

Maybe we'll never know what went on here. I would be most grateful for comments about what you saw and how you felt about it. Has the Pope changed his mind, or was he manipulated? If the first, I go along with him. If the second, I am deeply worried.

I'm upset, not by the things themselves, but that they happened without warning, when we have been constantly reminded that they are not to be considered as norms.

In Christo pro Papa


Monday, May 10, 2010

Update on my 'unanswered' papal letter.

Shortly after my last post on this subject, I was given two contacts in Rome, for which help I am most grateful. One is at the Congregation for Clergy, and the other at the Pontifical Commission 'Ecclesia Dei'. I have written to both and will keep you posted as to any reply I may receive.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Volcanic Dust Cloud heading for Lisbon and Rome

This according to our French Sunday newspaper 'Sud-Ouest Dimanche.' If the prevailing wind continues in an easterly direction, both cities may have flight problems and the Holy Father's trip may have to be postponed. Northern Spain is already affected. Madrid is OK so far but 19 airports including Barcelona, are closed.

Here in the S.E. Charente we are just on the edge of the cloud. Bergerac Airport in the Dordogne is already closed.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Kasper and Fellay; "The Bishops Themselves"; Preparing for Portugal

My apologies for absence. Explanations would be complicated and time consuming. Please forgive me.

To my mind Cardinal Kasper and Bishop Fellay personify extremes of the Holy Father's most difficult problem within the Church. Cardinal Kasper has recently given a press conference in Paris and Bishop Fellay has written to his supporters in the SPPX. I cannot agree with the bishop's critical remarks about the Pope having visited the Synagogue and the Lutheran community in Rome, but at least his letter was an internal affair, whereas the Cardinal's statements were deliberately public on the doorstep of another cardinal who dislikes the fact that the SSPX is so strong in France. We know the talks are difficult, but Cardinal Kasper is not involved in them. Speaking as he did just makes them more difficult. I'm sorry, but I must say that I do not trust his possible motives. Believe you me the previous sentence is the mildest expression I can manage of very much stronger feelings.

I am still fretting about bishops generally so I was glad this morning to read Jeff Mirus on the sixth document of Vatican II - 'Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops'. Chapter 2 is entitled 'The Bishops Themselves" and here you can read what Vatican II thought they should be and do to satisfactorily fulfil their office. My own reading made me feel better about Vatican II, but I'm afraid, worse about some of our bishops. For example, "Bishops must guard Church Doctrine, teaching the faithful to defend and propagate it."

Preparing for Portugal
Turning to the immediate future, John Allen has an excellently helpful piece on Portugal and what we may expect the Holy Father to do and say whilst he's in the country next week.