Report from Universa Laus 2013: Part Two

Wednesday, 21 August, began with Morning Prayer led by the German language group.  After making the Sign of the Cross, we sang the hymn “Lasst uns loben, freudig loben,” whose text was written by Georg Thumair and whose music was by Erhard Quack.  A reading of the Letter to the Romans 12:9-12, followed by silence, and a spoken collect concluded the prayer.

I offered the next major presentation, entitled “Sacrosanctum Concilium A Musical Appraisal.”  Devoted to a detailed analysis of Chapter Six, I conclude: “SC displays a desire to converse the past musical legacy of the Church as living prayer in service to the Roman Rite and not simply as an aesthetic or historical heritage, especially in the singing of Gregorian chant, in promoting the ministry of choirs, and in the use of the pipe organ.  But by far the thrust of the document is to extend the possibilities of Roman Rite liturgical music: 1) by emphasizing the role of active music-making by the entire assembly as a form of full and conscious liturgical participation; 2) by allowing the use of vernacular texts to be set musically for liturgical worship (not simply in devotions), probably as a prime means of securing the liturgical participation of the faithful; 3) by promoting programs of liturgical music formation for clergy, religious and laity; 4) by embracing styles of music in addition to Gregorian chant and of instruments in addition to the pipe organ as long as those styles and instruments enable the liturgy to achieve its purpose; 5) by acknowledging the cultural encodings carried by music, thus opening up the analysis of liturgical music to the human sciences; and 6) by encouraging composers to produce compositions responsive to changes in liturgical texts and ritual settings enabling the active participation of the assembly.”  A fairly lively discussion ensued, both immediately after the presentation and in linguistic group meetings afterward.

After music rehearsal for Thursday prayer and for the Eucharist, Bill Tamblyn led a workshop on world music and its connections to worship.  (Because I was both tired from giving my presentation and from the effects of jet lag, I skipped this workshop for a much needed nap, so I am not able to report further on its content, except to say that participants told me afterward that it was very lively and involved much enthusiastic singing [in Chinese, various African languages, Tagalog, etc.], with dancing, gesture, and improvised percussion.)

The bishop of Arundel and Brighton, the Rt. Rev. Kieren Conry, presided over the central Eucharist of the meeting on Wednesday afternoon, assisted by the newly elected Abbot of Worth, Fr. Luke.  Our Gathering Music was the Jacques Berthier “Laudate Dominum,” with verses sung by Catherine Christmas accompanied by organ and a small instrumental ensemble; the contrast between the full-throated singing of the SATB ostinato by itself and its very soft rendition under the soloist was quite wonderful in the rich acoustic of the Worth Abbey Church.  After 1 Thessalonians 2:2-8 was proclaimed in English and Polish (I think), Catherine led us in Paul Inwood’s exquisite setting of Psalm 88(89) “I will sing forever of your love, O Lord.”  After a short silence for reflection, we stood to sing an SATB Gospel Acclamation by Derek Fry, including the choral verse “I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my own sheep and my own know me.”  John 21:15-17 was proclaimed in English, an Eastern European language, and French, with a strong homily following, in which Bishop Conry spoke of new insights he had gained into the behavior of sheep from some time spent in Calvados that might have implications for our ministry; the importance of three words in the Gospel reading – sheep, love, and feed; and how our ministries as liturgical musicians were to touch the hearts of worshipers with the presence, knowledge and beauty of God.  Paul Inwood, our organist, offered an evocative improvisation during the Preparation of the Gifts.  We sang the Eucharistic Acclamations, Lord’s Prayer, and Lamb of God fundamentally in Latin from the settings provided by the Collegeville Composers’ group in Psallite, although the Lamb of God was especially enriched with invocations from almost all of the languages of the participants present.  Catherine Christmas again served as cantor for the verses of our communion processional, “If You Love Me, Feed My Lambs,” also from the Psallite project.  After the bishop’s concluding blessing, the ministers processed out and we dispersed to another organ voluntary by Paul Inwood.

The day concluded with aperitifs, a magnificent festive dinner, and shared entertainment and conversation in the commons room bar.  It comprised another rich experience of multi-cultural perspectives, shared laughter and insight, and mutual prayer.



  1. After music rehearsal for Thursday prayer and for the Eucharist

    It is interesting that all these well accomplished liturgists and musicians feel the need to rehearse before liturgy. This is in profound contrast to the general absence of having the congregation rehearse for our parish liturgies, and despite the finding of the Notre Dame Parish study back in the 1980s that having the people rehearse before Mass was strongly correlated with active participation in the Liturgy.

    The day concluded with aperitifs, a magnificent festive dinner, and shared entertainment and conversation in the commons room bar.

    Wouldn’t it nice if three to six times a year there was an evening music rehearsal for the people of the parish followed by aperitifs, a magnificent festive dinner and shared entertainment and conversation in the parish common room. Pope Francis most frequent word is “joy.” It might really help to bring a spirit of joyful music making to our parish liturgies. You don’t need to have everyone show up, just encouragement for many of those of us who sing in the pews but are shown little appreciation.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #1:
      While we have no aperatifs 😉 etc., we do have a rehearsal before each liturgy. It not only is an indispensable aid to participation, it is a gesture of hospitality to the assembly and any guests who join us. It is brief, but it is there. The Gathering hymn is announced immediately and we begin!
      Once again, thank you, Michael. I even enjoyed the nap :-)and I look forward to reading the full text of your presentation!

    2. @Jack Rakosky – comment #1:

      I believe that it is an act of courtesy to prepare the assembly to celebrate, particularly if there is an element of the unknown or little-known such as music. This stands in contrast to many conference and convention liturgies that I experience where there is no such act of courtesy, where people sight-read their way through vast tracts of unfamiliar music (the fact that they can do this does not make it right), and where confusion can often be caused because the over-dressed nature of the arrangements or interludes makes it difficult to know exactly where to come in, especially if there is no cantor/song leader.

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #9:

        Act of courtesy: Paul is quite right. My experience as a parish priest was that people responded well to this once they had got the expectation that we would do a bit of singing before Mass began. Of course not everyone was there, but enough people were always present to lead the later arrivals!

        I tried never to do more than 5 minutes maximum, to keep it brief and above all, never to run straight into the opening chant/song/hymn. So it tended to be rehearsal, then pause, then start Mass. Over the years it is possible to build up ‘repertoire’ so you need less practice time as well.

        It opened up opportunities for other things as well once people had got into the routine. Sometimes I did a bit of liturgical catechesis before Mass, as they did in the very early days at Taize.

        Alan Griffiths.

  2. What is “mutual prayer?” Is that a jet-lagged equvalent of shared prayer? I gather it is not about praying ‘invicem,’ nor praying ‘to’ one another.

  3. Any possibility of getting recordings of the music? It would be fascinating to hear contemporary liturgical music from around the world in a non-studio environment.

  4. I am profoundly grateful to Joseph Ross for correcting my English usage, since “shared prayer” is apparently the only correct way in which to speak of a community of human beings joining in common prayer.

  5. Michael: When you say that a scripture passage was being proclaimed in two or more languages, does that mean that (1) the full text was proclaimed one after the other in each language; (2) all texts were proclaimed simultaneously to three separate assemblies; (3) all texts were proclaimed simultaneously from three adjoining ambos, and each listener heard on headphones whichever version he/she wishes; or (4) a single text was proclaimed using unique and unrepeated words and phrases from each language?

    I have taken part in several vigils in which the Genesis creation story was proclaimed in mode 4: in English (by the wife) and Haitian Creole (by her husband). Because of the parallel structure of the verses, little meaning is lost for those who knew only one language. Of course more careful preparation than usual was needed, but vigils lend themselves to that.

    Otherwise, in our assemblies a single text is proclaimed in a single language, even if the liturgy is announced as bilingual. In our diocese we might have the prophecy read in English, the letter in Creole and the Gospel in Spanish. I would like to know if, in Roman rite liturgical instructions, there exists an explicit preference for a single language for each reading or an explicit prohibition of multiple languages at that time.

    If prohibited for normal celebrations, then the arrangements at Universa Laus remind me of vernacular usage in general during the liturgical weeks before SC was promulgated. When a congregation is functionally bilingual as many of ours are, there are opportunities for cross-pollination from which we all could benefit. Our heritage is replete with non-repetitive bilingual hymns (e.g. Kyrie Deus Sempiterne, In Dulci Jubilo). Most of our publishers and local planners retain the mindset that the spirituality and public prayer of each culture (even with a common editio typica) are hermetically sealed off from each other.

  6. Re: Paul Schlacter’s post at #6: At the prayer services I attended at Universa Laus this year, your pattern #1 was used: the full text was proclaimed in each language one after another. I suspect that at various times UL may have experimented with each of the other models you indicate, but they were not in evidence this year.

  7. Re: Sean Keeler’s comment at #4: I do not believe that any of the prayer services, presentations or listening sessions at UL were recorded in either video or audio form this year. If I find otherwise, I’ll be happy to let you know. There is a website ( where you can find some information about the organization and its past meetings.

  8. Re: Joseph Ross at #5. I’m sorry that I did not catch that the tone of your comment was light and friendly. In my experience, that’s one of the problems with electronic text communications. Perhaps an emoticon (e.g., 🙂 ) might help. And please forgive my jet-lagged response, which was less prudent than I normally try to be.

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