Tuesday, June 01, 2010


A CMAA friend and colleague posted this question at the Musica Sacra Forum:

Let's just imagine a bishop is looking for ideas as to how to get the people of his diocese interested in Gregorian chant. He has one, maybe two very busy musicians working for him directly. Though amenable to such a broad project, it is unlikely that they'd be able to add any more to their workload.

This bishop- like several I imagine- desires authentic liturgical renewal and recognizes the beauty and primacy of Gregorian chant. He'd prefer the incremental approach, and he's working at ground zero in all but a handful of parishes.

As we privately communicated, she expressly wanted my $.57 worth of advice, so this is what I offered:

*Avail the DM/Organist of the cathedral (and his rector) with what others have called a mandate from bishop, along with timetables and benchmark assessment points that eventually culminate with the weekly Sunday scheduling of an Ordinary Form Mass wherein virtually everything, save the homily, is chanted, whether in English (or another vernacular) or Latin. I would not advocate within this “mandate” the goal of scheduling an EF Mass, as there are parishes in proximity that offer that form weekly. This articulated mandate, chronology and methodology must also be published in the diocesan newspaper, and all diocesan parish bulletins initially, with updates published over time in the same organs.

*Have diocesan personnel (HR, arggghhh) staff prepare a census of parishes within the diocese that have: 1. Full time DM’s and/or Directors of Liturgy; 2. PT Ministers of Music/Choir Directors; Pastors/Administrators; other interested clergy/laity with experience and interest in chant. Have the diocesan Director of Lit/Worship, or the chair of its Worship Commission (if that’s the case) prepare, review, print and mail/email a document that expresses the bishop’s will to establish an ad hoc commission in which he charges members to assess their own parish practices in relation to the curial legislation, the USCCB document STtL, the bishop’s rightful obligation and authority to lead the Faithful towards greater orthopraxis, the scholarship and catechesis provided in these concerns by the Holy Father in many published books and letters, and any/all pastoral concerns these reorientations would put into action at the parish level.

*If the diocese already has a number of highly experienced DMs/organists and pastors who are prominently known associates of CMAA, NPM and/or certain publishers. They could be convened to meet with the cathedral DM and the bishop himself, for a face to face sharing of their experiences with “re-forming” whole parish liturgical/musical practices, whether towards chant, other traditional forms, or contemporary/multicultural forms. The bishop, if an extremely gifted listener as is the Holy Father, would thus demonstrate his collegiality as a gateway towards engaging the likely diverse philosophies of these prominent DM’s to accept their responsibility to faithfully and completely serve the Church and her faithful through collaborative consultation and actions, rather than conflict and divisive disagreement.

*Have the DM of the cathedral and other DM’s where chant and polyphony is normatively employed at service cull an agreed-upon library of chant repertoires, in both vernacular (most likely English and Spanish) language(s) and Latin, and in both square-neume and modern, stem-less notehead typesets (ie. American Gradual) that will be used in the cathedral program, and eventually in parishes in deaneries that have the musical personnel resources to initiate the regular, systematic use of chanted Propers and ordinaries at Sunday Mass(es.)

*If the diocese engages in producing televised Masses for shut-ins, encourage the management of the production company invite more scholas or chant capable choirs to provide music for those. In a similar vein, cathedral and parishes that use podcasting their services should make concerted efforts to integrate heavily chanted Masses into their podcast rotations on the web.

*If the diocese has a strong tradition of celebrating “multiculturalism,” the bishop should make known his desire to integrate the native culture of chant into diocesan liturgical and devotional events. Orders of Worship should reflect this so that the bishop can exemplify the chant tradition in his cantillation of collects and prayers, in Latin or not.

*The bishop should also entreaty the advice of his fellow ordinaries in the metropolitan as to these efforts, so that he can be regarded by his brothers as leading by example, rather than a pastor who defers responsibility upward.

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