Click here for a Archbishop Alexander K. Sample's pastoral letter: "Rejoice in the Lord Always"
Vision for liturgical music set in bishop’s pastoral letter
(This article is to appear in the Feb. 22, 2013 issue of The U.P. Catholic newspaper of the Diocese of Marquette.)
By Loreene Zeno Koskey
The music Upper Peninsula Catholics hear and sing at Mass is about to change, as Bishop Alexander K. Sample sets the vision for an authentic renewal and reform of sacred music in line with Vatican II and the mind of the Church.
Bishop Sample signed his Pastoral Letter on Sacred Music in Divine Worship, “Rejoice in the Lord Always,” on the Memorial of St. Agnes, Jan. 21, and released it on Feb. 12.
“In any discussion of the ars celebrandi (the ‘art of celebrating’) as it relates to the Holy Mass, perhaps nothing is more important or has a greater impact than the place of sacred music,” states Bishop Sample in the introduction to his final pastoral letter to the Church in the Diocese of Marquette.
Bishop Sample had originally intended that the document, titled “Rejoice in the Lord Always,” would form part of a larger pastoral letter on the sacred liturgy, which he had been working on for a year. Due to his appointment as Archbishop of Portland in Oregon, he stated that this larger work would not be completed, even though he hopes to finish that more comprehensive message at a later time.
“The first section of the pastoral letter on the sacred liturgy to be finished was this piece on sacred music,” noted Bishop Sample. “I have decided to issue it as a ‘stand alone’ letter.”
His reasons for doing so are twofold. First, this document had already been distributed in draft form to the musicians of the diocese at the sacred music conference held in Marquette last summer. Second, the pastoral letter will provide the incoming director of sacred music for the diocese and St. Peter Cathedral with the authority to help shape the reform and renewal of sacred music in the U.P.
In his pastoral letter, Bishop Sample sets the stage by stating, “What is attempted here is a faithful presentation of what the Church has taught as it regards sacred music from the time before the Council (Vatican II), at the Council itself, and in the implementation of the Council’s thought in subsequent years.
“Although much of what follows may contravene the formation that many have experienced over recent years, this is in no way to be interpreted as a criticism of those dedicated Church musicians who have offered their service with a generous heart and with good will.”
The pastoral letter contains sections on the history, nature, purpose, qualities and treasury of sacred music in the Church, pointing out that “Gregorian Chant…should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” (Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium)
A large portion of the document is dedicated to liturgical directives for the diocese. The general standards address active participation of all the faithful, formation of musicians and just compensation for music directors, rehearsal time, knowledge of the Church’s documents on the liturgy and sacred music, preparation to celebrate the Mass, what music should be sung at Mass, and the use of hymns.
Bishop Sample states, “The liturgical books (the Missal, Graduale and Lectionary) envision that, as a rule, we sing the Mass at Mass, rather than sing songs during Mass.”
The sung parts of the Mass consist of: 1) the Ordinary, which are the same every Sunday and include the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei; 2) the Propers, which vary according to the liturgical calendar and include the Entrance, Offertory and Communion Chants, as well as the Responsorial Psalm and Alleluia with its verse; and 3) the Orations and Dialogues, which include the texts prayed by the celebrant alone and those where the celebrant and people address each other.
Bishop Sample notes that hymns are more properly sung at the Liturgy of the Hours, rather than at Mass, but acknowledges that they may be sung in place of the Proper chants for pastoral reasons.
Specific Musical Standards for Parish Masses
In his pastoral letter, the bishop also lays out nine musical standards for parish Masses. The first relates to singing the Mass and states that one parish celebration every Sunday should be a Sung Mass that is guided by “noble simplicity.”
The second standard states that for this Sung Mass, the celebrant should sing the celebrant’s chants for the orations and dialogues to the melodies that are given in the Roman Missal or chant them on a single note if he is unable to sing the melodies.
The third standard deals with the Ordinary parts of the Mass. All parishes have already been asked to learn and use the Mass of the Resurrection. They should also learn the English plainchant and Latin Gregorian chant Mass settings.
According to the fourth standard, parishes with the necessary resources should sing the Propers in some form at the designated Sung Mass.
The fifth standard states that when hymns are substituted for the Propers, they must be genuinely sacred music, centered on God. They should also reflect the Proper text or Scripture readings of the day or at least have some reference to the liturgical season or feast.
The sixth standard of the pastoral letter calls for respect for the given liturgical texts, including the texts of the Roman Missal and the Lectionary, which comprise the official Mass in English; the English text of the Responsorial Psalm as provided in the Lectionary or the revised Grail Psalter; and the Gospel Acclamation, which is either Alleluia with no added text or a Lenten acclamation from the Lectionary, including the Gospel verse of the day.
The seventh standard relates to musical instruments. The letter states, “The Church accords the pipe organ pride of place as the musical instrument most in harmony with the spirit of the Roman liturgy.” It goes on to explain the parameters for the use of other instruments, states that recorded music may not be used at Mass and describes the use of instruments in Lent.
The acoustical environment in churches is the subject of the eighth standard, while observation of copyright laws is covered by the ninth standard.
In his pastoral letter, Bishop Sample also addresses Church musician associations and musical standards for diocesan liturgies.
The bishop concludes the letter with the hope that it will be well received by everyone in the diocese, “for the sake of an authentic renewal of the Sacred Liturgy according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the mind of the Church. I am especially counting on our wonderful and dedicated Church musicians to answer this call for renewal,” Bishop Sample emphasizes.
The entire text of “Rejoice in the Lord Always” can be found on the diocese’s website: www.dioceseofmarquette.org.