Report on Universa Laus 2013: Part Three

Thursday, 22 August 2013, began with Morning Prayer led by the French-speaking group.  Our initial music was “Vous, qui êtes entrés dans le Mystère,” the Refrain sung SATB with a soloist singing the three verses whose text was grafted by Philippe Goeseels with music provided by Grazia Previdi.  My translation of the text of the Refrain: “You, who have entered into the Mystery of Jesus, of the Friend, of the Messiah, have become responsible for your brothers [and sisters], servants and shepherds of his sheep.”  The verses are beautifully structured to an abba rhyme scheme in French that my slavishly literal translation cannot hope to reproduce: “1. Who is he, according to you, this Jesus? / Who is he, according to you, this Son of Man? / Jeremiah or John the Baptist in person? / Is he the prophet who is to come to you?” “2. The questions assail you and yet / The Holy Spirit reveals his message to you / and the Father breathes in you the response: / ‘He is the Christ, the Son of the living God!’” “3. You could loosen or take your place/ as Living Stones of the Church. / The power of Evil is overcome / and of the Kingdom, you receive the keys.”  Matthew 16: 15-17 was proclaimed in French as the Gospel reading, followed by a time of reflection during which we heard an improvised keyboard composition.  A simple French collect concluded the prayer. (It should be clear that there was a direct connection between our opening music, inspired by Matthew 16:13-20, and the Gospel proclamation.)

Fr. Aidan Peter Rossiter, CJ, offered a very passionate address in “Sacrosanctum Concilium? We’ve Only Scratched the Surface! Pastoral Reflections on SC 50 years on.”  He articulated his fundamental stance at the very beginning of his talk: “My basic position is that we have only just scratched the surface of the immense pastoral implications for the liturgy in the life of the Church that arise out of the dogmatic and prophetic constitutions of the Second Vatican Council especially Sacrosanctum Concilium and Lumen Gentium.  A radical – not revolutionary – agenda was placed before us and we need to use our history to realize that agenda.”  To that end Fr. Rossiter examined: 1) The new English translation of the third post-Vatican II edition of the Missale Romanum as a point of departure; 2) celebrating who we are as the baptized and redeemed; 3) how SC’s ecclesiology begs a new ecclesiastical mind set; 4) issues of leadership and formation; and 5) music and the arts in worship.  Extensive discussion of Fr. Rossiter’s paper followed in individual language groups.

After the UL General Assembly in which present and future directions for the organization were give a vigorous airing by the formal members, the entire group re-gathered to discuss the central issues raised by the week’s presentations.  Two of three articulated issues were highlighted: 1) the role of music in establishing or furthering liturgical hospitality; 2) what role music might play in liturgical formation for clergy and laity.

The group who had presented a workshop on Belgian liturgical music on Tuesday prepared and led Evening Prayer.  It began by choral singing by the assembly in the style of Andre Gouzes of a series of versicles and responses in French as an invitatory: “Lord, listen to my call. / Let my prayer come before you like incense / And my hands like an evening offering. / Give glory to the Father all-powerful, / To his Son, Jesus Christ the Lord, / To the Spirit who lives in our hearts  / For the ages of ages. Amen!”  We then sang another hymn by Philippe Goeseels and Grazia Previdi based on John 15:9-17, “Aimez-vous les uns les autres” (“Love one another”), marked by solo voices singing the words of Jesus with assembly inserting “Aimez-vous…” regularly into these texts.  Luke 10:21-24 was proclaimed in French, after which we sang a Refrain (SATB)/verse (soloist) setting of Psalm 137: “De tout mon coeur, je te rends grâce, Seigneur, éternel est ton amour” (“With all my heart, I give you thanks, Lord; eternal is your love”).  Individuals speaking in their native languages offered various prayers of petition, after each of which we sang “Dona nobis pacem cordium” (“Grant us peace of heart”); this time of petitionary prayer was concluded with chanting the Lord’s Prayer in Latin.  We then sang a setting of the Magnificat with the assembly proffering “Magnificat anima mea Dominum” and vocalizing under the verses of the Mary’s Canticle sung in French, German, Italian, an Eastern European language, and English by solo cantors.

After dinner, the day concluded with two short rehearsals of the music for Morning Prayer and the Departure Prayer for tomorrow.  By this stage many of us were quite tired, but making plans for the next UL meeting as well as setting up networking on various projects until the next general meeting.


  1. Thanks for the report on Fr Aidan Rossiter’s paper. He was in formation when I was working with the SVD formation community in London in the late 80’s, and as the report shows, a committed pastor and scholar. Fr Aidan is a multi-talented musician with a fine ear for language and sound theological common sense. Any way of accessing the full text of his presentation.

  2. Paul Inwood told me that Universa Laus intends to post the major presentations on its website ( sometime in the near future.

  3. As someone who has attended Universa Laus gatherings in the past, I’d just like to add a small reflection on Aidan Rossiter’s thesis, the idea that ‘we’ve only just scratched the surface’ of what was envisaged by Sacrosanctum Concilium. This is unquestionably true. Without in any way detracting from the great insights and challenges contained in that document, I would add the following two questions:
    If it is true that we have only just scratched the surface (after 50 years of trying!), what does that say about the feasibility of the whole project?
    If the Sacrosanctum Concilium ‘project’ is inherently unfeasible, what does that say about the ethos of the whole Liturgical Movement which led up to it?
    Perhaps these two questions can also give rise to a third: are we making a mistake in seeing Sacrosanctum Concilium as a ‘project’ in the first place?

    1. @Ian Coleman – comment #3:

      Ian, I’m afraid you’re misreading what Aidan actually said. His major premise was that many actions (or inactions) have actively prevented us from pastorally implementing what SC mandated, not that SC itself was unimplementable.

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