Launching the Missal: Chant-anxiety

Implementing the new English translation of the Roman Missal is beginning to cause -- and will continue to cause -- a bit of a stir. That's understandable. After all, reasonable people would expect that not every change will be received enthusiastically. And, that when it comes to the prayers we pray, change itself is likely to be a hard sell. For most of us, praying from the heart also means praying by heart. The prospect of being missal-bound, even for a brief period, is probably not something your average Catholic is looking forward to.

But by far the biggest concern I've heard voiced is much more an anxiety than a complaint. At the core, it is this: to some very sincere practicing Catholics, it seems like the new words of the Mass are a move "backward," a withdrawal to some pre-Vatican II way of being Church that is no longer capable of holding a conversation with the culture in which we now live.

Aside from language that can be characterized as "poetic" (if you like it) or "antiquated" (if you don't), the single largest reason for this concern is the first-ever inclusion of official chanted liturgical responses. It appears that providing for the use of Gregorian chant in English-speaking Roman Catholic parishes is intimidating in some way.

In the 28 years since I came into the Church, I've witnessed chant-a-phobia many times and in many venues. I've seen music ministers, pastors, deacons, choir members, and parishioners all suffer from various forms of chant anxiety. But I've also seen all the above get over their reticence once they learn the secret of the centuries: Gregorian chant is for dummies. Anyone can chant.

I know that everyone can chant because I have heard our own two-year-olds do it. I also know that only a very strange mother would teach her kids Gregorian chant. Maybe so; but chant has been part of our admittedly too-brief family prayers for years. Our kids learned how to chant because they heard it. I used to sing the Gregorian "Ave Maria" to them as a lullaby. (It makes a very good one, by the way.) Over the years, we've expanded our repertoire. Lately, we've been practicing the chants of the new Roman Missal together at home.

If you think about it, chant makes pastoral sense. It rose from the need for all kinds of people to worship God together: literate and illiterate, young and old, professional musicians and those with little or no musical training. It is repetitive, easy to follow, and doesn't rely much on mastering the one skill that is the greatest downfall of parish choirs: counting. The rhythms are dictated not by the tune, but by the words. The notes are rarely too long or too high for a standard issue set of vocal cords. On the contrary, many of the Mass music settings we commonly use now are quite difficult. Many people find the more contemporary music rhythmically difficult, outside their vocal range, and often with unpredictable melodies or odd-sounding harmonies and accompaniments. Sure, these elements can make the music more interesting, but they often make it less singable as well.

Beyond any practical concerns, though, lies the art of finding the right balance between being able to dialogue with the surrounding culture, and bringing the fullness of Catholic identity and culture into our worship of God. Of course there is, and should be, room for contemporary music at Mass. But we have come to a point where we ought to be asking if there is room for Gregorian chant at Mass as well.

I am grateful that Rome and the 11 English-speaking bishops' conferences who all opted to include the official chants in their version of the Roman Missal have chosen to reaffirm the value of Gregorian chant in the life of the Church. It's easy to see why. Certainly chant would have to be placed on a top-ten list of the hallmarks of Catholicism. If we were to ask the question, "What does being Catholic sound like?" it would difficult to come up with a more appropriate answer than Gregorian chant. The funny thing is that while many Catholics would consider the chant traditions of other religious too beautiful and mystical to lose, few seem to consider our own tradition worth the work it takes to keep it alive and hand it on.

To sum it up, Gregorian chant can be done in parishes, and there are plenty of reasons it should be done. In the decisions we'll all be making as we implement the new Roman Missal, we ought to be open to the possibility that the overall good of the Church may not be best served by holding on to the Mass music we have been using by default for years in its new and improved, updated form. Our archdiocese is not alone in recommending that every parish try the official chant responses long enough for their people to learn them. In Boston, we will be permitted to introduce the official chants of the Gloria, Sanctus, Memorial Acclamations, and Agnus Dei in September. There are all kinds of resources available to inform and assist in that endeavor.

-- General information and texts with commentary: www.usccb.org/romanmissal.

-- Archdiocese of Boston information and materials: www.bostoncatholic.org/newromanmissal.aspx.

-- Sheet music for the chants: www.icelweb.org/musicfolder/openmusic.php.

-- Link to keyboard and guitar accompaniments through: www.basicchant.com/.

-- Materials for teaching chant to children, choirs, and parishes: www.basicchant.com/.

-- MP3 recordings of the Roman Missal chants: www.npm.org/Chants/order.html.

-- Video tutorials for various Roman Missal chants: www.chantcafe.com/2010/09/tutorial-videos-on-new-missal-chants.html.

Email Jaymie: jsw@loavesandfishesministry.net.

I am willing to help any parish implement the new translation of the Roman Missal as their pastoral team deems best, or assist a parish in considering how to implement the new translations of the Roman Missal.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.

Nation
Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Nation
Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

World
Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Local
Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Local
Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Local
Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Local
Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Local
Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

Nation
N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

Nation
U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Nation
Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Nation
Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

World
Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

World
Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Nation
Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Nation
Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Nation
Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Nation
Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Nation
Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

World
Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

World
Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

World
Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Nation
Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

World
Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Nation
Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

World
Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

World
What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

World
Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...

World
Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...