Via Media

Both via New Liturgical Movement.

First, a parish in Vancouver really putting serious effort into sacred music:

The Montreal-born Jarvis has many years of experience in sacred church music as a performer and conductor. He has toured various countries, including Italy, where his choir sang for Pope John Paul II. Most recently, he served as artistic director of the critically-acclaimed period instrument ensemble The Baroque Players of Hamilton.


Last summer, he and Father Donnelly set to work developing a program of sacred music designed to inspire and enrich the spiritual understanding of St. Jude’s parishioners.

“The Church,” said Father Donnelly, “is very particular when it comes to sacred music. The definitions are clear. It must be music that is holy, i.e. sacred; it must contain goodness of form, i.e. beauty and artistic merit; and it must also possess universality, which is described by the Vatican as having characteristics so that ‘nobody of any nation may receive an impression other than good on hearing it.’”

Universality also means, the pastor added, that the music is recognizable as sacred music by the faithful around the world and therefore encourages inclusivity. Although it may not be Palestrina or Gregorian Chant, it must evoke the sacred.


In his pamphlet Why Are We Singing Gregorian Chant? Father Donnelly notes that documents on sacred music from Vatican II describe chant as music that is “proper to the Roman liturgy” and which “should be given pride of place” (Musicam Sacram, n.50, 1967).

The Vatican has specified, Father Donnelly said, that the highest degree of good sacred music is to be found in chant … “the chant proper to the Roman Church, the only chant she has inherited from the ancient fathers … which she prescribes exclusively for some parts of the liturgy, and which the most recent studies have so happily restored to their integrity and purity.”

In 1974 Pope Paul VI sent every bishop a booklet of Gregorian Chants accompanied by a letter insisting that all Catholics become familiar with at least some Latin Gregorian chants, such as the Gloria, the Credo, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei.


“In considering what Vatican II had to say about music,” said Father Donnelly, “I would say that what has been happening in many parishes often does not reflect the Church’s intentions.

“I think we are finding a way at St. Jude’s to put in play the mind of the Church. It is similar to the Church’s views on language. While today the vernacular is to be used in the Mass, the Vatican’s intention was never that Latin is no longer valid or useful.”


“Music is the most powerful of all the arts when it comes to the Church. Our aim is to foster congregational singing. The people here do not sing ‘at’ Mass, they sing the Mass.

“The responses are sung, and at all Sunday Masses we sing the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei in Gregorian Chant, which was actually not written for professional choirs but for the community to sing.”

Much more here. I just highlight these sections to show you that we’re not yelping into a vacuum here. It’s happening.

And then some rather astonishing before and after pictures of a parish renovation (scratch that -replacement) in the Austin diocese.

Also, from the same issue of the B.C. Catholic as the music piece, this report on a talk by Leeds Bishop Arthur Roche, chairman of ICEL

At the end, Bishop Roche hopes his translating work with ICEL helps bring out more clarity and richness within the Mass, but also proves to be a unifying force.

“As Catholics we are united to every other Catholic here and now, and through our bishop, we are united to our Holy Father in Rome. We are also united to every Catholic who ever lived, or who ever believed, and we are also united to all Catholics who will ever live or who will ever believe.”

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