The Church at Prayer: Sacred Music

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Friends in Christ,

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.”

With these twenty-five familiar words Holy Mass begins Sunday after Sunday.  In a form of words simple enough to teach to a child, the drama of our salvation unfolds ritually before our eyes again and again, as the veil is pulled back to reveal the salvific act of Christ’s self-abnegating love upon the Cross and the definitive triumph of His Resurrection.  We speak of the Mass as the ‘source and summit’ of the Christian life (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1324, citing paragraph 11 of Lumen Gentium from the Second Vatican Council).  If the ordinary, familiar words of the Mass are to stir our hearts and serve as the source and summit of our life as a parish, we must reflect on their sublime depth.  In the coming months Fr. Hagan and I will take all the opportunities we can to teach in our preaching and writing about the beauty and centrality of the Mass.

A first Mass-related topic that I would like to consider is sacred music and its role in the worship of God in the Mass.  It has been said that we should not stop at just ‘singing at Mass’ but rather aim to ‘sing the Mass’.  While this does not mean that every word must be sung, you may notice from the way Fr. Hagan and I tend to employ some chant in our celebration of the Mass that we are firm believers that chant can help to express the depth and meaning of the liturgy and lift our minds and hearts to God.  I often use the silly example of how strange it would be to recite the Happy Birthday song rather than sing it.  Try it and you’ll see how strange it feels. Some things are just meant to be sung!

I am personally edified by your responsiveness and would suggest that we are a parish that loves to sing-we give the voices God gave us back to Him in praise.  During the month of November our musicians will continue to introduce some new Mass settings (Lord, have mercy; Holy, Holy, Holy; Lamb of God, etc).  I am grateful for the leadership of our accompanists and cantors to get us ready for Advent. Obviously we won’t hear the Gloria once Advent starts, but we will be ready to join the angelic choirs on Christmas Eve!  Thank you for your willingness to learn something that is new for all of us.

Over the years, our various campuses have had different traditions with regard to parish or festival choirs, instrumental ensembles and cantors.  I am excited that Chris Brand, our Director of Sacred Music, is going to take the lead on forming a new women’s schola to serve our parish as a whole.  It is open to any women, high school and older.  Although we are still in the planning stages, Chris would like to organize an informational meeting in the next few weeks to determine the rehearsal schedule and other logistics. No audition is required. If you are interested and committed, then you’re in! Please contact Chris, chris@ourholycross.org or 612-790-5596 to express your interest.  I know that many have been asking for a choir.  A schola might be a stepping stone back to possibly seeing the eventual emergence of a couple of singing ensembles to elevate our worship at our various campuses.

As important as singing and music is, it is not essential for Mass to be celebrated with dignity.  I realize that some prefer simpler, more spoken or recited Masses.  Many of you will remember that spoken Masses used to be called ‘Low’ while the principal Mass was usually called ‘High’ or ‘Sung’.  While all Sunday Masses usually call for some festivity, we hope to be able to offer a certain range across our campuses.  Fr. Hagan and I have had a series of conversations with our musicians about finding the right balance and continuing to foster a strong tradition of Sacred Music.

To assist with joining our voices at Mass, I am excited to share that our new music resource has arrived.  Yes, new means adjustment, but since I arrived our musicians have offered encouragement to consider shifting to something other than the current Seasonal Missalette, which is quite limited in its contents.  After some research and conversations with other Catholic parishes we decided to try the Ignatius Press Pew Missal for at least a year.  You will see this slightly larger (annual) book in the pews in time for Advent when our current quarterly booklets expire. I urge your patience as we try something new.  No hymnal or musical resource is perfect, but we think this may offer some noticeable improvements.  One additional help will be the use of the first page or two of the bulletin as an Order of Worship that will assist with page numbers, readings and Mass parts that will all minimize the number of announcements that will have to be made during Mass.  This will begin in Advent.  Let’s lift our voices to offer praise to God, until Christ comes in glory at the sound of the final trumpet that St. Paul speaks of in our second reading today.

A couple of concluding things: Please join me in welcoming Caroline Lyngdal more fully to the parish staff.  While she is not new to the parish, she is taking on some significant duties in addition to her current role as sacristan at St. Hedwig.  She will serve as our parish Coordinator of Sacramental Formation and Family Life.  I am grateful for her yes and excited about the new ideas she brings to offer support to families, adults, parents, and children especially as they approach the Sacraments.  For those of you who do not know her, I think you will agree with me that she will be a great blessing to our whole parish in this new role of support, especially for those preparing for Marriage and Baptism.  We are thrilled to be launching a new mentor couple program to support our engaged couples and those bringing their children for baptism.  Stay tuned for more information on how you can help.

Finally, I would like to express appreciation to James Jurek for a job well done on an impressive Eagle Scout project of replacing the old chain link fence near the school with a new wooden fence.  It was a great example of the power of team work to accomplish a task.  Bravo!

Grace and peace to you all,
Fr. Howe