Sunday, September 26, 2010

Little Office of the Immaculate Conception

As we treated the Little Office of St. Joseph on Wednesday and the Little Office of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on Friday, so today, Saturday, we focus on the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception. You can find this text here and here.

Along with the other four explicitly indulgenced Little Offices (Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Little Office of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Little Office of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and Little Office of St. Joseph), it is enriched with a partial indulgence.

This particular Little Office is said to have been composed by St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, the lay Jesuit. According to the immutable and infallible arbiter of all truth that is Wikipedia, he is likely not the original author of this text. Nevertheless, he can probably be credited with its promotion.

In structure, it is fairly similar to the other two Little Offices which we have treated. The Introductory Verse might strike one as being rather odd, as it changes the addressee from God (as is the case of the psalm verse it mimics) to Our Lady. This addressing of Our Lady also occurs in the short responses and concluding versicles.

The hymns are notable for their highly symbolic language. It draws mostly upon Old Testament types for the Blessed Virgin. The more poetic among us might take great delight in these texts.

For those who would want to use these prayers seasonally, rather than every day, the best times seem to be Saturdays (dedicated to Our Lady or the Immaculate Conception) or December. In the case of the Latter, the Novena of Preparation for the Immaculate Conception especially seems an excellent time for this Little Office.

It is true that the Directory of Popular Piety (101) warns against observing December simply in honor of Our Lady or the Immaculate Conception. There is great wisdom in this, given that the primary focus on Advent is the coming of Our Lord (both in his Nativity and in the parousia to come). Nevertheless, I personally do not believe that this Little Office would conflict, but rather complement, this devotion to Our Lord. However, I can understand the concerns of those who believe that it would. In their case, I would at least advocate the use of this Little Office during the Novena of the Immaculate Conception. I would especially recommend this because devotion to Our Lady during Advent is so encouraged in the same Directory (101-02).

It turns out that there is a small booklet available with these prayers. I was able to get a copy at Aquinas and More. It's small and cheap, and easily fits into another prayer book or Breviary. Give this Little Office a look!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Little Office of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

On Wednesday, we treated the Little Office of St. Joseph. Today, on account of Fridays (especially First Fridays) being held in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we focus on the Little Office of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (found here ).

It was mostly composed by one Fr. Croiset, then modified by a Fr. Gallifet. The present version was indulgenced by Pope Leo XIII, and this has subsequently been reaffirmed. It remains one of the five explicitly indulgenced Little Offices.

Like the Little Office of St. Joseph, does not have any psalmody. Rather, it has the traditional opening and conclusion for the Office, with a hymn, antiphon, versicle, and prayer between. The antiphons ask, in various ways, for the Heart of Jesus to convert our own hearts toward our Savior. The hymns are quite beautiful and vivid as well.

Like the Little Office of St. Joseph, these brief prayers seem very suitable immediately after praying the corresponding Hour of the day. This is especially so on Fridays (and First Fridays at that), or else in the month of June, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Likewise, for those laity who do not have the full Office, it may serve as a way of sanctifying the day, fulfilling the Lord's command to "pray without ceasing."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sung Vespers vs. Recited Vespers: Practicality & Effectiveness

I was asked recently by one Ryan Ellis via Twitter what I thought about a recited communal Vespers from a practical standpoint. It's a very fair question, and one deserving a better response than can be contained in 140 characters.

First, the obvious thing to say is that it is much easier to teach a group to recite Vespers in common than it is to teach them to sing Vespers in common. If we were to compare this to the Mass, it is much easier to have a Mass fully recited than one which is even partially sung. In the barest sense of the word "practical," it is more practical to recite Vespers in common.

However, aside from the merely aesthetic reasons for having a sung Vespers, we might consider its effect upon a congregation. Consider your average daily Mass, for instance: it's a Low Mass in English. Very few people show up. Granted, a lot of people won't come to a daily Mass because of their work or school schedule conflicts. Even so, I have heard people who attended daily Mass tell me that they didn't like it simply because there was no singing involved. In other words, they did not feel like they were able to adequately join in a period of worship without the singing.

I would imagine that the effect would be even greater in the Hours, where so much more of the essence of the texts is that of song. You open with an acclamation (which generally ought to be sung), followed by a hymn and three psalms (or two psalms and a canticle). After the reading (which need not necessarily be sung) you have a responsory (which should) and a Gospel Canticle (ditto). One can debate whether to sing the Intercessions, Lord's Prayer, and Collect. As a dialogue, the conclusion probably ought to be sung.

So essentially, at its heart, you have six or so texts which, by their nature, can be considered songs. They need not always be sung (in fact, the General Instruction seems to argue for a case by case approach to the feasibility and manner of singing each psalm). Even so, given ancient practice, one would think that the psalmody and hymn at the very least ought to be sung if possible.

I don't think there is anything wrong with a group of the faithful gathering to pray one or more the Hours using recitation rather than singing. In fact, there is a group at my parish that has started to do just that on weekdays. I find our efforts to be complementary rather than competitive. Nevertheless, just as I believe that a sung Mass will draw more people, I believe that a sung Vespers will draw more people. Further (and this is just assumption), I believe that a sung Vespers has greater ability to inspire people to recite the other hours in common than vice versa.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Little Office of Saint Joseph

In the coming days, I hope to post on the now little-used prayers known as the Little Offices. Indeed, the subject for today is so little-used that I am not sure which prayer text is indeed indulgenced. As Wednesday is often kept as a day in honor of St. Joseph, it seems a good idea to start with the Little Office of Saint Joseph. It was initially indulgenced in 1921, and again in 1932. With the reform of the Enchiridion under Paul VI, it was retained as one of the five explicitly indulgenced Little Offices.

I have been unable to guarantee that I am providing the text of the indulgenced Little Office of Saint Joseph. My best guess as to the text of the prayer is found here. The Latin form of this text is also found in the Coeleste Palmetum, while the English translation was used in F.X. Lasance's Prayer-Book for Religious. Thus, I think it is a pretty good guess that this same prayer was later explicitly indulgenced. However, I have been unable to locate the documents issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary which provided the indulgence. If anyone knows where to locate these documents, I would be very grateful. The first was issued May 10, 1921, and the second March 18, 1932. Just as a hunch, I would expect these documents to include the official Latin version of these prayers.

In regard to the prayers themselves, I find the antiphons to be quite noteworthy. Between Prime and Sext, they are texts from Scripture specifically relating to Joseph. Indeed, with the other three antiphons (taken from the psalms) they generally tell the story of Joseph in Salvation History, and his efforts to defend his family, culminating in a period of rest at night. The hymns match the texts of the antiphon, expanding upon their themes.

Recovering this prayer would be excellent not only for Wednesdays, but also for the month of March, traditionally held in honor of St. Joseph. If indeed this short Office is the indulgenced Little Office of Saint Joseph, it would certainly be easy to use for those whose lives are too busy perhaps for the fuller Liturgy of the Hours or Breviary. It may also be good as an additional devotion after each Hour during March or on Wednesdays. It also might be a particularly worthy devotion for fathers, as St. Joseph is a model for and patron of fathers.

The Liturgy of the Hours and Grassroots Liturgical Renewal

There have been many movements toward a renewal of the liturgy in these last few months and years. Perhaps the most noteworthy project right now is the movement for a free collection of propers for the Mass. Nevertheless, even once this project is finished, it must have support of pastors in order to be implemented in parishes. How might ordinary laity engage in renewing and reforming the liturgical practice in their own parishes?

The primary answer is to stake out that ground which is currently not held or even contested by anyone in the parish. We know that Sacrosanctum Concilium called for Sunday Vespers to be celebrated in common in parishes. Individual Catholic laity may certainly join in praying the Hours together, with or without clergy (though clergy are to take their appropriate roles when they are present). The Catholic laity are certainly not forbidden to gather together as a community to pray. If they meet for a sung Vespers, learn how to chant the psalms, etc., they have undertaken a vital step in renewing the liturgical life of their parish.

Moreover, they have something which they can bring to their pastor, inviting him to join with them. I can't imagine many priests saying "no." They may then ask for the permission to use the parish church when no other event is scheduled in the evening. Again, I can't imagine a priest here saying, "no." Finally, they can invite him to take his own proper role in leading the prayers of the people (as well as any associate pastors or deacons). While some priests may not opt for this option, it's probably safe to say that many will.

This may lead to further opportunities for renewing the liturgical life of the parish. Think, for instance, of all those daily Low Masses in almost every parish in the country. Even Solemnities receive this treatment, so long as they are not also Holy Days of Obligation. If a group is able to sing the simple chants of the Mundelein Psalter, they are probably able to sing the chants of By Flowing Waters, which sets the texts of the Simple Gradual. You might then be able to provide the chants from the Psalter for the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion. While there might be some opposition to such an offer before starting a Sunday Vespers, once competence is shown, it's easy to imagine such opposition subsiding.

We have many opportunities out there. We should seize them. Don't just fight to change the way things are. We can work together to improve things as they now stand, and start things that aren't yet being done.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

First Tallahassee Sung Vespers a Success!

I am pleased to report that our first attempt at a sung (mostly chanted) Sunday Vespers was quite successful. First, we did a walk-through of the Order of the Hour of Vespers. Then we went through the relevant sections of the book. Thereafter, we began to practice singing the psalm tones (with the aid of the recordings provided by the webpage). Finally, we prayed the hour of Vespers, singing the psalms and cancticles with their antiphons, hymn, opening verse, Lord's Prayer, Collect, and conclusion.

The psalmody was sung according to the settings provided in the Mundelein Psalter. We did not learn the setting provided for the hymn this week (we hope to do this when the hymn repeats in Week III). Rather, we sang it to the tune of "Old Hundreth," which everyone knew. The responsory was also sung according to the setting provided.

In total, the whole event took about an hour. That was all! I would like to reiterate how easy it can be to get a group together using this book to sing the prayers of the Hours. After someone with even moderate musical ability has mastered this book at home, s/he can easily gather a group at the parish to form a schola or choir.

In the coming weeks, we will be refining our sound. Certainly, there were mistakes. Nevertheless, our group took it in stride much better than I had anticipated. Perhaps it was the movement of the Holy Spirit. Or maybe they all just learn more quickly than I do. Maybe it was that inherent Catholic quality, where none of us know how to sing, but all of us know how to harmonize. Whatever it was, the sound at times was, in my opinion, glorious.

These are the first baby steps. A few weeks from now, we hope to invite our clergy to take part with us. Thereafter, we hope that we may prepare for leading the parish (and perhaps the wider Tallahassee community) in this prayer. I certainly think that it would be great if we could lead our community in Vespers during a larger period of Eucharistic Adoration (perhaps on the Solemnity of Christ the King?). However, we must remember: one thing at a time. I am certain that we will be successful in the end, and God will be glorified by our little choir, then our parish, and even our Tallahassee community, joining in this evening sacrifice of praise.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Updated ICEL Chant Settings

I am happy to say that the ICEL chants which will appear in the revised Roman Missal next year have been updated. A hat tip is in order to Gotta Sing, Gotta Pray. The link to the page with the ICEL chants is here.

There were numerous complaints about changing the Order of Mass after recognitio had been granted in 2008. Even so, I believe that both those who are excited about the new translation, as well as those who are apprehensive, can take heart that the chants which will appear in the Missal itself have already been amended. I recommend taking a look at the setting based on Credo III. The changes from the 2008 version to the 2010 seemed rather seemless to me.

I respect those who are troubled by this new translation. Nevertheless, I hope that they can understand my joy in the reclamation of ancient melodies for use in the modern liturgy. I hope that soon, we may not only pray, but sing, the words of the Creed together.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Issues at RCIA: What are we Supposed to Say?

My wife went through RCIA last year. Given her recent experience making the jump (or plunge) into the Church, and given my being a Catholic geek, we figured that, between the two of us, we ought to be able to help anybody with any questions they might have. Hence we decided to join up with the team this year. There's a great group, and it's great to see the people who led Danielle along last year.

Last week, when we broke up from the large group into small groups, there were questions over how to know what responses one should make in the liturgy. I thought it would be best if the group was able to have a copy of the Order of Mass, and thought it would be wonderful if there was a pdf booklet online. As it turns out, there is indeed such a pdf booklet, which may be found here!

Of course, we are soon moving into a period where even those who have been Catholics for their whole lives will need to learn these responses again. Indeed, we are already fortunate enough to have the new translation of the Order of Mass. I for one find them to be quite beautiful and generally an improvement on the previous translation (even if there are some parts that could probably be smoothed out a bit). While the new translation is certainly easy to access, it seems like it would be a great idea to put it in a booklet form as well. If anyone has done this, I would love to know. Also, we can have a challenge to make such a booklet.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ecumenical Evening Prayer of the Papal Visit

If you're like me, you've been following the information coming out about Benedict XVI's Apostolic Journey to the UK. A lot has been said about the relative use of Latin vs. English in the Missal for the journey (i.e., the Prefaces and Eucharistic prayers will be in Latin). I have heard relatively little comment, however, on the Ecumenical Evening Prayer (Vespers, or Evensong). It can be found here, starting on page 57 (but really starting on page 60) of the document.

I find it noteworthy that the option chosen for the ecumenical gathering was a Vespers service. In the United States, for instance, the liturgy from the Book of Blessings for ecumenical gatherings was chosen for the comparable event. It is probably fair to say that we can see in this a recognition of the retention of the practice of praying the Hours in the Anglican tradition, as the style comes from the Anglican form of Evensong. The use of the more traditional version of the psalm and Magnificat might also point to the Holy Father's preference for sacral, beautiful language for the liturgy.

Owing to the publication of Anglicanorum Coetibus, we can be sure that the Holy Father sees great worth in the Anglican patrimony. Evensong would certainly count among this patrimony. We can probably see in this an affirmation of the Anglican Use Catholics, as well as those who may soon come into full Communion with the Church under the provisions of Anglicanorum Coetibus.

In the future, even in our parishes, I believe that Vespers would be an excellent way to engage in ecumenical prayer. This goes whether we use the texts of the Liturgy of the Hours, or those of the Anglican Use Book of Divine Worship.

I'm curious to know what you might think about this. Please let me know!

Sunday Sung Vespers in Tallahassee

I am happy to report on a local experiment to have a sung Vespers in Tallahassee. Probably a good chunk of the people who would be drawn to this blog will be familiar with the following text from the Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:
Pastors of souls shall see to it that the chief Hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually (SC 100).

Just before this statement, the Constitution reads: "It is, moreover, fitting that the office, both in choir and in common, be sung when possible (SC 99).

As such, a small group of laity in Tallahassee, FL are seeking to institute a Sung Sunday Vespers at 5:00 on Sundays. At the beginning, we will use the Mundelein Psalter, because it is easy to use and easy to learn. Also, it is fully in keeping with the approved ICEL text of the Roman Rite Ordinary Form Liturgy of the Hours, while providing the actual Latin hymns (along with English translations) from the Latin edition.

It is interesting to see on a number of blogs that many believe that we are "rolling back" the reforms of Vatican II. Many of us seeing the implementation of the Council finally coming. If we were to implement a Sung Vespers, think of the opportunities:
  • A setting of worship much more suitable for ecumenical gatherings than the Mass (as we can see from the example of John Paul II and Benedict XVI every Jan. 25 for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul)
  • A way to more fully encourage the sanctification of the day, wherein the community has the opportunity to gather for worship in the Morning Mass, but the evening Sacrifice of Praise.
  • A greater familiarity with the Psalter, our truly divinely inspired prayer book (and, for that matter hymnal). As we rarely hear the propers sung or recited during the liturgy through an accident of history, an embrace of Sunday Vespers can be all the more crucial in implementing a greater call for familiarity with Scripture.
These are just a few of the ideas that could come to mind. Our first meeting, to learn to sing the hours, is scheduled for this Sunday, September 19th. I ask for your prayers in this endeavor, and hope that our actions here may encourage others to act in a similar fashion.