Saturday, October 07, 2006

Sacred Music; A Letter from Deacon Bill; Latin in Worship

The St. Ann Choir is singing some sterling sacred music at Our Lady of Peace Church off Great America Parkway in Santa Clara this coming Saturday 10/7 at 7:30 p.m. at the monthly First Saturday Tridentine Mass.

One main counter-revolutionary goal of traditionalists among the sacred music community is to return to the singing of the songs of the Mass instead of singing hymns at the Mass. Singing the songs of the Mass is in harmony (no joke) with the act of worship, while singing hymns at Mass is discordant.

Some accounts state that American Catholic Churches have replaced the traditional Latin Mass chants with a Protestantized set of rousing (or depressing as the case may be) hymns to an extent not seen in other countries because the Protestant influence is very great in the US. (This this may be the result of a misinterpretation of ecumenism.) The current Pope is solidly behind a return to the use of sacred chant and other music from the Church's long tradition of worship music (think Mozart Masses, for example) which Vatican II documents call a priceless heritage of the Church.

One of the choir members edits the Santa Clara Weekly and is advertising the choir's performance, and she will write an article afterwards about it. (She is the one who plans to publish an article from me about my lost trip to Prague in November, which also mentions the St. Ann Choir.)

I asked everyone in my email list to come cheer us on (prayerfully and silently of course).

Now for my latest adventure followed by some excerpts from Raymond Arroyo's bio of Mother Angelica that show that the goals of EWTN and the St. Ann choir are quite similar in many ways, with a craving to return to the beautiful and the reverent in the celebration of the Mass.

My latest adventure was actually a letter I got Saturday from Deacon Bill Steltemeier, Chairman of EWTN. When I was at the 25th anniversary celebration in Birmingham I took a photo of him on stage that is cute because he turned the whole fan thing around by taking photos of those of us who were taking photos of the people on the stage.

I met Deacon Bill the first time I went to the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament back in June, and I told him that I was inspired by the fact that I had somehow gotten into Arroyo's World Over Live show as an audience of one the night before, and that I thought that the next thing would be that I would be able to meet Mother Angelica. Deacon Bill told me her health was so poor that she only got out of bed for a few minutes every day, so meeting her was out of the question. Can't trust all inspirations, I guess.

Anyway I sent a photo to Deacon Bill of him with his camera, along with a photo of Raymond Arroyo squeezing my hand and me beaming away, plus the Arroyo interview article I published in San Francisco Faith. I wrote Deacon Bill that I had started watching EWTN after my Israeli pilgrimage last November where I met Fr. Joseph Mary Wolfe. Because he was such a good pure priest, I started watching EWTN Masses to see if I could see more of Fr. Joseph.

Deacon Bill wrote me that when he repeated to Fr. Joseph what I had written about him being such a good pure priest, that Fr. Joseph blushed.

He also said there is only one Raymond Arroyo and that whereever he goes Raymond gets into things. He said that in the photo I sent him of the two of us, I made Raymond look good. Smile.

Here is a Catholic court jester link I found that shows celebrity look-alikes, and Raymond's celebrity look alike is Pee Wee Herman. Dittmann saw the resemblance before I ever chanced upon that website, but I didn't. In his defense, I have to add that Raymond is a much handsomer, vastly more intelligent, charming, and articulate not to mention hysterically funnier version of Pee Wee, always impeccably dressed in a very good suit. When I first met Arroyo after hearing him speak at the EWTN 25th anniversary in San Francisco, I said, "Did anyone ever tell you you're a riot?" He said, "Well, I"ve started a few."]

Deacon Bill also said that if I come back to Huntsville and get back to the shrine I should say hi to him. And he sent me two mini-books
written by Mother Angelica. One of them called The Healing Power of Suffering is grabbing my attention and working on my heart.

Deacon Bill said his wife and he both enjoyed the picture of him with the camera. He added, "Keep up the good work." And then he added to his official signature "Love, Bill" with a smiley face.

Ain't that cute?

Love, Roseanne :-)

PS. One tie-in with what St. Ann choir is trying to do is that at EWTN, the ordinary (repeated) parts of the Mass are sung in Latin chant [except of course the Kyrie Eleison (Lord Have Mercy)--which is in Greek]. You may be interested in the following, which describes some misunderstandings about the actual intention of the Second Vatican Council as regards the Latin Mass, the use of chant, and which direction the priest is supposed to face, which were illustrated by Mother Angelica's struggles with the National Council of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), as detailed in Raymond Arroyo's NY TImes bestselling bio of Mother Angelica.

At EWTN's chapel they sing the Gloria (Glory to God), the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), Pater Noster (Our Father) in Latin. According to Arroyo's book, Mother Angelica turned to Latin because she was distressed at the changes in the English translations that the American bishops were promoting in the early 90s. FIrst she set some of her nuns to reviewing the documents of Vatican II. "The nuns discovered that the Second Vatican Council had never intended a wholesale abandonment of Latin in the new Mass. Quite the contrary, the official council and papal documents encouraged the retention of Latin and use of Gregorian chant in the renewed Liturgy. . . .

"Though the Monastery [while it was still located in Birmingham before it moved to Hanceville] celebrated the new Mass of Vatican II, the priest with his back to the people, the sounds of the service, and the old devotions were often mistaken as a throwback to a bygone era. In point of fact, it was much closer to the renewal foreseen by the Second Vatican Council--and it was beaming into nearly every diocese in America."

On the topic of the priest facing away from the people (ad orientem) the book details a momentous struggle between Mother Angelica and Bishop Foley of Birmingham in concert with the 'National Council of Catholic Bishops (NCCB). The NCCB was up in arms over Mother's choice to have the friars say the Mass facing away from the people. Bishop Foley issued a decree banning ad orientem Masses as "'an illicit innovation or sacrilege' of the priest turning his back to the people," but Mother Angelica eventually won her struggle because Cardinal Ratzinger was on the same side.

"Cardinal Ratzinger had long espoused the virtues of the ad orientem priestly posture, saluting its theological emphasis--principally the unified orientation of the priest and the people offering sacrifice to God rather than to one another." A fax came from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments ruling against Bishop Foley's decree of prohibition.

Bishop Foley and his cohorts lost that battle, but the bishop got in another lick. When Mother Angelica dedicated her new 55 million dollar Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville with its golden fixed altar, centrally located gold tabernacle, massive gold altarpiece (reredos), and eight foot monstrance of gold and precious stones, the bishop couldn't ban ad orientem Masses, but he could and did ban televising them. Mother Angelica dug in her heels, and no Masses have ever been broadcast from the new Shrine, because all Masses at the Shrine are always said by the priest in the ad orientem posture.

Meanwhile, EWTN beams Masses from the original much-humbler chapel in Birmingham adjacent to the TV station 75 miles away in Birmingham, and there the Mass is sung mostly in Latin chant with the exception of the homily, readings, and some prayers, but with the priest facing the people.

I think it's important to note that the Vatican sent Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, to preside at the Mass and join the final EWTN 25th anniversary celebration that was held in Birmingham. Bishop Foley came too. The Mass was said facing the congregation.
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