Monday, August 23, 2010

Great Day in Atlanta and Now Frustration Abounds

Good Monday to you all.

Where do I begin?

First of all, I wanted to say what a delight it was to spend Friday and Saturday with the people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta for their Southeastern Liturgical Music Symposium. With the "text" having "arrived" on Friday, it was a perfect opportunity to talk about the pastoral and musical opportunities and challenges we face as the implementation looms. I enjoyed my conversations with these dedicated musicians. Atlanta's parishes are not unlike parishes in other areas of the country. Parishes celebrate the liturgy with an eclectic mix of musical style. The Mass we celebrated on Saturday Morning, the optional memorial of St. Pius X (how appropriate for a day focused on music!) included the Eucharistic acclamations chanted in Latin.

Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth, the executive director of ICEL, presided and preached at the liturgy. He delivered the keynote address as well. He challenged composers and publishers to set the proper texts of the entrance and communion songs to music. We have been doing this, in a limited way, here at WLP for a number of years. Of course, there arise many questions about this. David Haas and I had some discussions about how this would practically work in parishes where the custom is to sing an extended song or hymn at gathering. How would it work in parishes where the communion procession lasts up to ten minutes? These are important questions.

Monsignor also challenged us to think about ways to encourage our celebrants to sing the Mass; the dialogues and the proper prayers, as well as perhaps the Eucharistic prayer. I heard quite a few snickers from those seated near me, with phrases such as, "Yah, that'll be the day," being overheard.

He also said that he lamented the fact that there is no universal set of sung acclamations for the English-speaking world. He told us how sad he is when he visits English-speaking countries and, at Mass, he cannot enter into the liturgy because he does not know the musical setting of, say, the Sanctus. As soon as he said this, I remembered the Mass we had just celebrated. The chant for the Sanctus (in Latin) was unknown to me, so I knew what he was feeling.

The two sessions that I lead—on the publisher's perspective of the implementation—went quite well. We talked about the pastoral issues with which these musicians will need to deal. We also took a good long look at some of WLP's new and revised musical settings. For most people, this was the first time they were singing the newly translated texts. It's always a great experience to share music with dedicated musicians like I found in Atlanta.

I'd also like to say that I am quite dismayed at the entire process of the "reception" of this new translation. I thought that once we received it, the publisher's nightmare would be over. But a new nightmare has begun. How is it that texts (the Order of Mass) that received the official recognitio in June of 2008, have now been changed?

I need to do some venting here, so please bear with me. Here is the text of Cardinal Arinze's letter to Cardinal Francis George, written in June of 2008:

Addressed to Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI
President of the Conference of Bishops of the United States of America

Prot. n. 1464/06/L
Rome, June 23, 2008

Your Eminence,
This Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is pleased to enclose the decree by which it has granted recognitio for the territory of your Conference of Bishops for the new English-language transaltion of significant parts of the Ordo Missae as found in the Missale Romanumeditio typica tertia, including most of those texts used in every celebration of Holy Mass.
This Dicastery has no little satisfaction in arriving at this juncture. Nevertheless, the Congregation does not intend that these texts should be put into liturgical use immediately. Instead, the granting now of the recognitio to this crucial segment of the Roman Missal will provide time for the pastoral preparation of priests, deacons and for appropriate catechesis of the lay faithful. It will likewise facilitate the devising of musical settings for the parts of the Mass, bearing in mind the criteria set forth in the Instruction Liturgiam Authenticam n. 60, which requires that the musical settings of liturgical texts use only the actual approved texts and never be paraphrased.
As regards the text enclosed, this Dicastery wishes to draw attention to the following points:
1. The attached text is to be considered binding. For its part, this Congregation is confident that the universal use of these texts will greatly contribute to the building up of the Faith throughout the broad and diverse English-speaking world.
2. It is to be borne in mind that use of this text is restricted by copyright. Therefore, all pertinent copyright legislation in civil law is to be observed in accordance with the statues which this Congregation approved for the Mixed Commission known as the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.
3. Although the Mixed Commission took the initiative of distributing, along with these Parts of the Order of Mass, an adapted text of Eucharistic Prayer IV, Higher Authority has determined that as regards to either modification of the typical edition or the manner of translating it: non expedire.
4. Likewise, the Holy Father has decided that , in response to a recommendation of the Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (October 2-23, 2005), a selection of additional formulae of dismissal for the faithful should be introduced in n. 144 of the Missale Romanum and consequently these are include in the attached text.

With every prayerful good wish, I remain
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Francis Cardinal Arinze

When this letter arrived, we in the publishing world were quite happy that we could go to our composers with this new text for the Order of Mass and encourage them to begin composing new music for a new translation. We took this part of the letter very seriously: "It will likewise facilitate the devising of musical settings for the parts of the Mass." We moved ahead quite confidently, because the letter also said that "The attached text [the texts for the Order of Mass] is to be considered binding."

In an effort to be as helpful as we could to bishops and priests, WLP went ahead and secured permission from ICEL, paid them their appropriate royalties, and received the approval of the BCDW, as we went ahead and asked Bishop J. Peter Sartain of Joliet to record the new "binding" texts of the Eucharistic Prayers.

What was received on Friday here in the United States, as well as in other English-speaking conferences around the world, is, in essence, a new text. What Cardinal Arinze wrote in 2008 was, and I hesitate to say this because of my love of and fidelity to the Church, simply a lie. 2008's text apparently was not a binding text. The recognitio was not a real recognitio.

What in heaven's name is going on here? Years and years of consultation with English-speaking bishops and their conferences around the world have occurred. The amount of money paid to translators, to other experts, and to those who facilitate the process of translation, as well as the money spent on travel and lodging for all the various meetings related to the translation, certainly must be in the millions. After all of this careful work, after all of the meetings of Catholic bishops during which the nuances of word meaning and grammar and syntax were hammered out over hours and hours of meetings, how is it that over ten thousand changes to the approved texts were made in these final months? This is extremely frustrating. Unfortunately, I think that people are just so tired of the whole thing that little protest will be heard. Might the bishops consider insisting on a new process to approve what amounts to a new translation?

Thanks for listening to my venting here.

We are scrambling now in this publishing house. We have had to return to our composers, who will need to re-write their musical settings of the doxologies to the Eucharistic Prayers. But we will do all this work because we exist to serve the needs of the singing, praying, and initiating Church.

As you can tell, it has been a frustrating few days. I remain confident and hopeful, although my dedication to the Church is a bit bruised right now. Continue we must; and continue we will.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Gregg said...

Hi Jerry...welcome back! We share your frustration. A few thoughts.

1. The Bishops don't care if the faithful (we) are frustrated. The handling of this translation and the outcome is an embarrassment to us all. Just like the sexual abuse situation. If the church was a business, it would have been bankrupt and assets sold years ago due to poor management.

2. The Entrance and Communion Antiphons could indeed work for an extended procession by adding short instrumental passages between the singing of the antiphon. It works with Taize music quite well and is quite prayerful. I would encourage you to publish settings of these. My only concern is that, many of the entrance antiphons don't seem suitable for "gathering" the faithful together...many times they are real "downers" and hardly a way to start a eucharistic celebration.

Brad said...

Sometimes, though, the message must be heard...and that is why we have the Propers. I know people want to hear "Gather Us In" and "Come to the Banquet" and "We Gather Together." But sometimes, a deeper message is more important. I also encourage WLP to find ways to set these Propers to music. I like the idea of having instrumental interludes. It would help draw the people to the action of the Mass and not have their noses stuck in a hymnal.

Gregg said...

Very good point, Brad. Jerry - we have used the communion antiphon with instrumental interludes (there are a few available, and we added the interludes) and they worked great! Each time the antiphon came around, it was sung well.

Rich said...

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for all you've been doing to keep everyone up-to-date about the situation. I certainly don't blame you for venting.

A couple of observations...

I think an increased focus on the chant settings of the Ordinary (in Latin or English) would do much to make universal international celebrations more possible. It need not be the meat and potatoes of every parish, but should be something all Catholics are at least familiar with.

Also, with regard to the Propers being downers - or altering the tradition of singing extended hymns or songs - I think the perfect compromise is to sing the "gathering" hymn as truly that - a "gathering" hymn - and then begin the Mass with the entrance of the priest to the Proper, whether sung in Latin or English, in Gregorian or a modern setting.

Thanks again for all you do!

Chironomo said...

The Bishops don't care if the faithful (we) are frustrated. The handling of this translation and the outcome is an embarrassment to us all. Just like the sexual abuse situation.


I think this might be a slightly unfair statement to make in this context. Caring that the faithful are frustrated is a distinct and often different thing from reacting to the faithful's frustration. And it is NOTHING like the sexual abuse situation...

However, I would ditto your idea about the Propers. Also recall that the Entrance and Communion Antiphons have Psalm verses that go with them....these can be quite long if needed. And it is indeed true that these are not "Gathering Songs" in the sense that we now understand... they (Introit - Offertorium- Communio) are a scriptural framework for the liturgy, not "self-contained" comments on the action. It will require a change in how we understand the liturgy.

Nick Baty said...

And how "proper" are the propers. They only appear to fit year A and are far from "proper" to years B and C. Or is this about to change? (Apologies if it is and I've missed out.)

Anonymous said...


Yesterday, out of the blue, our priest sang all the propers, and most of the dialogs, to which the congregation responded. I detected no snickering. And this parish hardly ever hears these parts sung.

On the recognitio mess, has anyone come out and asked Cdl George or Bp Serratelli just what happened? Surely someone in your publishing house must be able to call those gentlemen up and ask such a question.

Brad, I don't share your confidence that the "people want to hear "Gather Us In" and "Come to the Banquet" and "We Gather Together." I think most of the folks in the pews will either follow the lead of the cantor or just not sing at all.

Along with Gregg and Chironomo, I think the use of the introit and communion antiphons would be great. I'm not going to hold my breath, however.

Miranda Lapin said...

No offense, but I'd be just as happy not to have to sing "Gather Us In" ever again.

Gregg said...

OMG, Chironomo and I agree on something! (LOL)

Seriously, I think there is great potential out there with the antiphons.

Nick brings up a good point. Anyone know the answer?

Todd said...

The mainstream repertoire of Catholic church music isn't intended to appeal to globetrotters and travelers. Unless I've missed something in SC after a dozen or more readings.

No idea what you sang in Atlanta, but there should be a more or less universal chant setting of the ordinary. Why not use it?

That said, ordinary pilgrims deserve a repertoire they can count on. It seems we have that now with MR3. Problem solved, right?

As for the antiphons, let me add another wrench. What about useful options: a Lectionary-harmonized set replacing the current offerings, two or three suggested psalms to be used in concert with each antiphon, and perhaps the expansion of texts to include canticles from both the Old and New Testaments.

Maybe the propers haven't caught on because as a body they're too timid, they don't include enough of the NT repertoire, and maybe just because the vernacular singing of Scripture-based music is simply superior when programmed with a sense of discernment.

Gregg said...

Todd, excellent idea. This is all great discussion and, something we all seem to be agreeing on. It's refreshing.

Anonymous said...


Love your blog. Keep up the great work, and stay positive!

One correction, if I may: Saturday was the memorial (NOT optional) of St. Pius X.


kkollwitz said...

AS a catechist, I much prefer the new translation, which is closer to the Scripture from which parts of the Mass are taken.

Fr. Gene Vavrick said...

Jerry, hang in there! The Church is bigger than the bishops!

Fr. Gene Vavrick
Diocese of Trenton, NH said...


Are the "ten thousand changes" remark confirmed, or a mere repetition of gossip?

Anonymous said...

No texts have arrived in Australia yet.

Anonymous said...

I will find a way to accept this translation because I have no choice. However, I believe that the deception of the Roman hierarchy is disgraceful and I, for one, have one more reason to have LESS confidence in anything they might say in the future (which is already about as low as it can get). 10,000 changes? They don't happen last minute. They knew all along they would make these changes, they just weren't up front about it. But, I think, business as usual for them.

Rich said...

Nick -

I don't know about the possible inclusion of lectionary cycle-appropriate Propers in the new Missal, but I would point out that there are often alternatives presented in the Graduale that are more appropriate for the readings in years other than Year A.

Brad said...

FJH 3rd said: "I don't share your confidence that the "people want to hear "Gather Us In" and "Come to the Banquet" and "We Gather Together." I think most of the folks in the pews will either follow the lead of the cantor or just not sing at all."

For Advent last year, I pulled out the Advent Gathering Rite from Word and Song, using one verse for each week (to the tune of Of the Father's Love Begotten), which were based on the Propers. After 2 weeks, I discontinued it and stuck to O Come O Come Emmanuel because the people wouldn't sing. They are too used to a loud, familiar opening hymn instead of contemplative propers for entrances (which is unfortunate). How can we address this and get the people to sing things they are not familiar with? They do ok with the responsorial psalms, but throw anything new and simple at them for the entrance, and you can almost hear crickets. I would plow forward with it, but if the people aren't singing, I worry the priest will insist I do something everyone knows...which becomes "Gather us in" and "We Gather together"!