Wow. I think this is a high-water mark, anywhere, any place, since Vatican II.
Bishop John Doerfler of the diocese of Marquette, Michigan, building on the work of his liturgically traditionalist predecessor Alexander Sample, has mandated far-reaching music reforms for every parish in his diocese:
- every parish will sing the English missal chants for part of the year;
- every parish will sing the Latin Mass parts for part of the year;
- every parish will sing Communion antiphons every Sunday to a simple tone;
- other hymnals will eventually be eliminated and a new diocesan hymnal will be used.
Here’s the document:
In an accompanying letter dated yesterday and sent out with the new instruction to priests, deacons, and pastoral coordinators, Bishop Doerfler says that he received invaluable advice from the Priests’ Council in drafting this instruction.
I’m intrigued by the quick turn-around for input on the new diocesan hymnal – everything has to be submitted by this April. That sounds like a recipe for disaster or mediocrity, frankly. Editing a high-quality hymnal takes a long time (think 5 or 8 years) and involves lots of expertise in lots of areas from liturgists, musicians, poets, outlay editors, and so forth. But the plan is to have the hymnal out already by 2017.
How will parishes compile their suggestions, and on what grounds? And how will the diocese secure copyrights for all the materials from various publishers in widespread use? Will the publishers allow their materials to be used in a hymnal not of their own production?
Maybe so. Maybe there is a plan for this ambitious agenda to be carried out in short order.
And the switch to chant in English and Latin – how will that work?
I’m not sure how to put this, for I’m an advocate of English and Latin chant, and I’m heartened that we’ve begun to use more of it at St. John’s Abbey. We use the ICEL Missal chants, and we’ve gone from one to two Latin Mass settings, with two more in the daily Mass binders that I put together in conjunction with the new missal. I was involved in composing the ICEL English chant, so I have a bit of a bias in favor of it.
But. This a monastery, and Anthony Ruff is the music director. How will it work in every parish of every kind in this diocese to move to a type of music so foreign to most of the people? How will it be carried out in the smallest parishes with the most limited resources? Will it draw people in, or will it drive them away?
I’ve never been to the Diocese of Marquette. But I think of my home parish, a tiny rural parish in southern Minnesota which is part of a four-parish cluster served by one priest. The musicians there are generous, and they do their very best playing electric piano or guitar. Very occasionally there is an organist for the small electronic organ.
Who would teach this congregation to sing English chant, and how would it go over? I don’t see it happening, to be honest. And Latin? Dream on.
Mind you, this is not because Vatican II was mis-implemented and the Latin chant was thrown out and a well-rooted tradition was abandoned. The parishioners have never sung a Latin Mass from the time my home parish was founded over a hundred years ago. Like in many or most of the small parishes in the area, there were mostly Low Masses in the old days with perhaps a small choir singing English hymns or maybe Latin hymns or maybe Latin Mass parts – or, more likely, there was no choir and no singing at all at Sunday Mass.
The people in my home parish are generous and cooperative and well-disposed toward the leadership of priests and sisters and musicians- at least they were when I was growing up, and I don’t believe they’ve changed. But my sense is that if you tried to introduce a congregational Latin Sanctus, you would not get more than maybe 5-10% to join in. I’m being generous. The rest would wait it out and wonder what on earth is going on.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope the implementation of this directive goes well, is well-received, and builds up the church in Marquette.
This is not quite the way I would encourage the use of more English chant and Latin chant, which is dear to my heart. But maybe this way will work well in Marquette.
It will be interesting to hear how all this goes.