Saturday, July 23, 2011

Benedictines: Liturgical Powerhouse for a Liturgical Transition

This past week a number of our sisters who are musicians attended the National Pastoral Musicians convention in Louisville. A major theme of the week was the role of musicians in preparing parishes for the new English translation of the Roman missal, to be implemented starting this coming Advent. As many of you probably know, the new translation of the mass is richer Scripturally, and is closer to the Latin base text produced by Rome. As many countries use the English translation as well as the Latin to get a meaningful version of their own, it is important that our words actually capture the meaning intended by the Church. Lex orandi, lex credendi is our traditional saying that we pray what we believe. We need to make sure we're getting the words right.

Of course new words mean new music. Composers have been hard at work writing new masses, and at this point it's anyone's guess as to which one will be the next "Mass of Creation," the one that everyone knows. The directives coming with the new translation also call for common knowledge of particular chant versions of the mass. Both presiders and the congregration will be chanting more of their parts at mass. Benedictines, as major keepers of chant, have written most of these new chants in the missal. At the the NPM conference, the meetings on chant were packed. Frs. Anthony Ruff and Columba Stewart were teaching and sharing their new work, as well as former Benedictine Charles Thatcher and oblate Paul Ford. People want to know how to do chant well, and they want to know how to introduce it in their parishes so that people will find chant engaging and beautiful, not slow and ponderous. Done well, it can actually flow more quickly than some traditional musical settings.

Benedictines also are physically producing the new translation of the missal. Liturgical Press, a work of the monks of St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, is producing an edition of the hefty tome, along with various worship aids that will help the average parishioner follow along in the first days of the new translation. Their missal also features the artwork of Br. Martin Erspamer, a monk from St. Meinrad.

Our sisters will be on the front lines as music ministers in parishes and schools, helping to prepare people for this transition in Catholic liturgical life. Keep your eyes and ears open over the coming months. November 27 will be here before you know it!

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