Saturday, September 24, 2011

No pain, no gain

Father DeRosa was just telling me how much he and many of the other seminarians with him at the North American College hated it when they were forced to learn new music for the Mass. Hmm. I liked it – unless it was bad music. In fact, I remember when some music was introduced to the seminarians – over grumbling and complaint – that a few years later had become indispensable, essential parts of what all the seminarians at that time loved about the music in the chapel. Ah well; different experiences.

But I think both experiences are going to come into play for most people as we move to take up the new translation of the Mass. One of the things that Father DeRosa correctly observed was that it may be overwhelming to some when many things change at once. Sure, the hymns and chants that we sing at Mass will continue, but all of the sung Mass parts will change, along with many of the spoken texts. That will be disorienting, and may result in some frustration.

One of the steps we are taking to alleviate frustration is that we will introduce the new sung parts early – the weekend of October 16. This was actually the idea of the Bishops’ Conference. They correctly observed that First Advent is a terrible time to start new music – not least because we omit the Gloria during Advent! This will give us all time to come up to speed on the sung portions, and have them under our belts when the rest of the texts change (and you get “your Spirit” back!). Not only that, but we’ll all know the Gloria when it comes back with the angels and the shepherds at Christmas – and we will be able help the folks who have not been here since Easter.

Our music director, Richard Fitzgerald, and I just chose the Mass settings with which we will be starting. Already there must be fifty different settings available. The great thing is that the internet makes it possible to listen to them and review the scores without leaving my office! We picked chant-style settings that are fairly simple, but have enough character to them that they will hold up for bigger celebrations. We think they will be easy to learn and rewarding to master. After a while, we intend to broaden our range of settings. For now, though, I think one of each will be plenty.

Still, it will be a lot of work. I was much encouraged by your response last week to my exposition of the new translation. I think it is pretty clear that this is wildly exciting for me. That motivation will help me to get through the practical challenges of re-learning the Mass that is at the center of my day and of my life. I hope you, too, find the good in it that will excite you enough to energize you for the work of making the transition. I promise it will be worth it.

If you are interested in learning more, there are resources readily available. Last week I recommended the Catholic Standard – so every one we had was picked up. Great! But you can still find that online: Our Archdiocese has resources for you, compiled by my friend, Fr. Mark Knestout:; so does the Bishops’ Conference, at

Even Father DeRosa is willing to learn the new music, so eager is he for the arrival of this new translation. For my part, I can guarantee that there will be no bad music. And in a few years we will all be delighted to have what will be indispensable, essential parts of what we love about the Mass.

Monsignor Smith

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