“In courtship rituals, a gentleman might give flowers to his beloved as a token of his love; in church, Catholics genuflect or bow before the tabernacle as a sign of their faith. These gestures are completely unnecesary (some would call them artificial) but, like poetry, they are attempts to transcend the ordinary. The male suitor could have sent his beloved a note to the effect that certain biological and socially conditioned response had produced in him a feeling that is generally classified as affection; the Catholic could have quite simply stated that he believed in a divine presence then walked past the tabernacle. But in both cases the emotions spill over; ordinary language and actions cannot contatin the feelings; there is a need to break the restraints out of the practical, to “lose control,” and the result is an irrational, out of the ordinary, poetic gesture.” – Why Catholics Can’t Sing by: Thomas Day
“The Latin Church, has always kept clearly before it the fact that religion is not a syllogism but a poem.” – H. L. Mencken
This past weekend (Now two weekends ago) I was blessed to be able to attend the Nuptial Mass of two of my friends from school: Michael and Emily (Bockweg) Haley. The weekend was full of adventure, from staying at our former classmate Ben’s funeral home. But, I digress…
The first quote, listed above comes from a book that I am reading for my Senior “Thesis” paper. I am trying to discuss how we discern whether a song (or hymn) is aesthetically pleasing and appropriate for usage at Mass. Before I entered seminary I had a huge love of Liturgy. I still have a huge love of it. But, since being in seminary and joining the Schola and finally having a chance to take organ lessons I have fallen deeply in love with the life of music in the church. There is such an amazing wealth in our historic tradition of music as Catholics, things I never knew existed until coming to seminary and taking some of the classes I have on music in worship.
At the wedding this past weekend, (now two weekends ago) I was blest to be part of a 8-person Schola Cantorum, accompanied by a Brass Quartet and Organist. My classmate and dear friend Aaron Hess, conducted the group. The music was absolutley glorious. The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield, IL and concelebrated by 6 priests, including our seminary rector and a priest MC. There was incense, torches, seminarians, a deacon. If it could be done, it was almost probably done. Everyone after the Mass commented on how absolutley beautiful it was. In fact, as we were singing the Recessional: O God Beyond All Praising, several of those around me in the choir loft (including myself) just started having tears come to our eyes. You see, we had worked on the music for this Mass for almost a year. We had poured sweat, tears, laughs, and time…lots of time into these pieces. Our hearts came out when we sung the texts or played the instruments.
We had invested not only time, but most importantly ourselves into the music, into the prayers of the Mass.
From the reading I have done on the Liturgical Renewal in America for some of my classes I believe that many of those calling for and starting the renewal invested themselves into it. Justine Ward, one of my personal favorites, developed a methodology of teaching chant to children so that they would be able to sing the prayers of the Mass. Ward, invested herself in these children because of her love of the texts, because of her love of the Mass. Thanks to her and others we now have what is commonly called: The Dialogue Mass. A Mass in which the people and the priest share in singing, in praying the Mass.
The Schola Cantorum for the Haley Nuptials, the brass quartet and organist, all of us loved the Mass. We loved the prayers. We loved what we were singing/playing. There’s an importance to that. When we invest ourselves in something, we find that we end up leaving a little bit of us there in it. As Mencken stated: “religion is … a poem.” The ways in which we encoutner the divine, can be simple, as Day states, they can be someone acknolwedging God’s existence in the Divine substance of the Eucharist with their voice, but as humans there is an importance to our rituals. When we genuflect we enter into that poem, we enter into the love relationship of God and Man. The Constant wooing, if you will of God and Humanity.
These ritualistic gestures, like when Michael prayed Evening Prayer with Emily on the side of her family’s lake and popped the question of “Will you marry me?” or when the congregation at the Nuptial Mass knelt for the Eucharistic Prayer helps us to enter into and invest in what we are doing. As Day states: “They are attempts to transcend the ordinary.”
The music which we sang for the Haley Wedding included beautiful pieces from our heritage as Catholics. There was the words of Thomas Aquinas for the Thanksgiving piece after Communion: Adoro Te Devote, Devoutly, we adore you… As the bride, Emily walked down the aisle there was Brewer’s Magnificat in D, speaking of Mary saying yes to the Lord’s will and now Emily giving herself to her new vocation of marriage. After communion, during the devotion times, we sang Schubert’s Ave Maria and a Litany to St. Joseph, as Emily and Michael placed flowers on Mary and Joseph’s altars asking them to intercede for them in their new life together. Finally the recessional was O God Beyond All Praising, singing worship and praise to God as we joined the happy couple in thanksgiving for their marriage.
The entire wedding was absolutley beautiful. Watching Bishop Paprocki, place his stole on their hands and say: “What God has joined, let no man seperate” left chills with all of us. As we sang the final verses of O God Beyond All Praising, I couldn’t help but to glance and smile at the other members of the choir. The hard work we has placed into the music for this beautiful ocasion had blossomed and come finally to completion. I glanced at Rose, one of my former classmates before she transfered and we both had tears coming down our faces. Our prayer was our singing. Our prayer for Michael and Emily was the gift of our voice. Our words helped to write the poem of this Liturgy and to assist each of those gathered and participating to transcend the ordinary, to lose control and to worship the God we all love in the best and most perfect way, we imperfect
people know how.
Let us together seek to, transcend the ordinary in the way we celebrate the beautiful Liturgies of our Roman Rite, so that this poem of the Paschal Mystery may come alive! Let us Walk this Way of Beauty together!
Oh Holy Family of Nazareth, pray for Michael and Emily Haley and help their family to be like thine!
Here’s the Video link to listen to the music from the Nuptial Mass:
“Random Organ piece??” 0:00
“Trumpet Voluntary” 2:38
“Let All Mortal Flesh” 4:06
“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” 7:38
“Introit chant (Latin)” 13:36 (Ministers, Groomsmen, and Groom)
“Canon in D” 19:37 (Bridesmaids)
“Magnificat in D Brewer” 27:14 (Bride)
“Gloria from the Mass of Wisdom” 31:05
“Responsorial Psalm” 33:17
“Festival Alleluia” 36:07
“The Servant Song” 40:16
Mass Parts were chanted simple in Latin
“”Where Charity & Love Prevail 46:17
“Adoro Te Devote” 55″05
“Ave Maria” (Schubert) 56:56
“Hymn to St. Joseph” 59:16
“O God Beyond All Praising ” 1:01:54