Our concluding half-day of work began with Morning Prayer, led by the English-speaking group.  After chanting the usual opening dialogue for the Liturgy of the Hours (“O God, come to our aid”…), we sang Paul Inwood’s setting of Psalm 117 yoked with the Trisagion antiphon “Holy is God” in a two part round.  The Scripture (1 John 4:9) was proclaimed in English, Moldavian, and Dutch, with the antiphon “Holy is God” repeated after each proclamation.  Intercessions followed with the spoken dialogue: “Lord in your mercy / Hear our prayer,” and after a concluding collect Morning Prayer came to an end with the usual spoken dialogue: “Let us bless the Lord. / Thanks be to God.”

The next hour was dedicated to a summary report from two of our members who attempted to collate the various strands of thought that had arisen over the week.  They organized these “thoughts and impressions shared” under three headings: 1) Hospitality (“Universa Laus / Universal House”); 2) Training and Growth; 3) Unity in diversity.  Touchingly they ended their report with four questions that brought all our work to a theological level: “Qui est ce Père, qui espère?” (Literally, “Who is that Father who hopes,” but with a beautiful rhyme between “Father” and “hopes” suggesting that to give hope is at the core of what it means to be the Father.) “Quel est cet Homme qui pardonne?” (Literally, “Who is that Man who forgives?” but with the same rhyme between “Man” and “forgives,” suggesting that it is of the essence of Christ to effect reconciliation.) “Quel est ce Vent qui invente?” (Literally, “What is this Wind that creates?” but with the same rhyme between “Wind” and “creates,” suggesting that it is of the very nature of the Holy Spirit to bring about newness.) “Qui est ce Dieu qui se donne?” (Breaking with the rhyme pattern, the final question asks “Who is this God [i.e., Father, Man, Wind] who gives himself?”)  Quite the set of questions for liturgical musicians to ponder as they consider the purpose of their music making!

A much-needed coffee break then led to a final general discussion of the future directions that Universa Laus might or should take.  Topics of liturgical and musical inculturation came to the fore, as well as the development of analytical tools for engaging and encouraging the production of liturgical music, and a cry from the heart for new topics responsive to the situation in the world and Church fifty years after the Second Vatican Council (i.e., text and music writers experimenting with new ways of ritual prayer). 

Our concluding prayer was led by the Italian language group as a bridge to next years meeting in Loreto.  After a spoken Sign of the Cross, we heard the Gospel of the Visitation proclaimed in Italian, English, an Eastern European language, and German.  We then heard a selection from the commentary of St. Ambrose (of Milan) on this passage from the Gospel of Luke proclaimed in Italian.  We rose to sing the Magnificat in Italian, with a melodic antiphon sung before and after the canticle, and the verses of the canticle alternated between soloists and the assembly to a new psalm tone.  After a concluding prayer, we sang “Ciascun giorno a te, Maria,” a metrical Italian hymn text by Luciano Migliavacca and Gianocarlo Boretti, set to the hymn tune I would identify with the words “Daily, Daily Sing to Mary.”

If my description of the past week’s gathering has sparked any interest, I would invite Pray Tell readers to consider coming to Universa Laus 2014 in Loreto, Italy.  The registration cost for the week would be 100 euros, with 60 euros per day for lodging.  Loreto is on the main Adriatic train line, easily accessible from Bologna, Pescara or Ancona airports.  Please check the Universa Laus website  for more information as it becomes available.