About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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“We must say it plainly: the Roman rite as we knew it exists no more. It has gone. Some walls of the structure have fallen, others have been altered—we can look at it as a ruin or as the partial foundation of a new building. Think back, if you remember it, to the Latin sung High Mass with Gregorian chant. Compare it with the modern post-Vatican II Mass. It is not only the words, but also the tunes and even certain actions that are different. In fact it is a different liturgy of the Mass.”
— Fr. Joseph Gelineau (1978)

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Controversial Statements About The Mass Propers
published 23 May 2013 by Jeff Ostrowski

AUL INWOOD, former president of Universa Laus, recently made some controversial statements about the Mass Propers. For those unaware, Universa Laus was founded in the 1960s to try and promote “progressive” liturgical ideas. (Readers know I don’t much care for the term “progressive,” but that’s another story.) Pope Paul VI specifically asked Universa Laus to “dissolve itself” in a letter dated 29 July 1966.

I believe his comments are open to criticism, and I would welcome this opportunity to draw some important distinctions.

The former president was harshly critical of a CCW phone interview which encouraged Catholics to put more emphasis on the Mass Propers found in the Roman Gradual. When asked to articulate the most fundamental, disturbing elements of the interview, he said:

The interviewer thinks that the antiphons of the Missal are the texts given by the Church, and that therefore we ought to be singing them in preference to anything else. That is both naive and inaccurate, but alas it is something that one often hears propounded by people who have heard it from somebody else.

— In fact the Church provides several options for singing at those points in the Mass, so it is incorrect to try to characterize these texts as the “given texts.”

— Additionally, in the universal GIRM the Missal antiphons are not even given as an option for singing. The USA, exceptionally, has inserted them as a local addition along with the Gradual Romanum in the first option.

— Thirdly, we know from those who worked on the 1970 Missal that they never intended those actual texts to be sung. The texts are there to remind us that we should be singing something at those points, but not those texts. They are only there for recitation if there is no singing.

As I’ve mentioned, I welcome this opportunity to point out several crucial errors in these statements.

1. Regarding this assertion:

In fact the Church provides several options for singing at those points in the Mass, so it is incorrect to try to characterize these texts as the “given texts.”

On the contrary, the Church does indeed give us these texts. Furthermore, a 1600 year tradition gives us these texts. The mere fact that other texts are allowed to substitute for them in no way changes the fact that the Church “gives us” these texts. If Bobby’s mother gives him a dime in addition to giving him a quarter, that in no way negates the reality that his mom gave him a dime!

Before we go on, please notice that Mr. Inwood here is clearly speaking of Sung Masses, yet makes no mention of the Graduale Romanum texts, which are the very first ones listed by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. This is important, as the reader will notice below.

2. Regarding this assertion:

The texts are there to remind us that we should be singing something at those points, but not those texts. They are only there for recitation if there is no singing.

Mr. Inwood seems to have been reading articles published by CCW and the CMAA over the years, which have been outspoken in explaining the differences between Sung Propers vs. Spoken Propers. Thanks to the documentation highlighted by those groups, folks are beginning to realize that some of the Missal Propers (Introit and Communion only) were altered from the texts in the Roman Gradual. However, lumping together all of the Propers (Sung, Spoken, Offertories, Graduals, etc.) in such a fashion is neither responsible nor correct.

For the sake of argument, let’s pretend it makes sense to “switch gears” here, and start talking about Masses without music. The statement is still inaccurate, because so many of the Introits and Communions in the Missal are identical to those found in the Graduale Romanum! Mr. Inwood’s statement would have been closer to the truth if he had added the words “regarding Entrance and Communion antiphons which were altered, and as a result do not match the Graduale version.”

The statement is hardly a “crushing blow” to the interview, which was about ALL the Mass Propers (not just the relatively small number of altered antiphons for priests saying private Masses). His statement strikes me as an attempt at “quibbling,” and, after all, which of us can say we’ve never quibbled? The thing to grasp is that these statements indicate a profound lack of understanding of the Graduale Romanum, which ought to be the first text book of any Church musician, but (alas!) in so many cases ends up being the last. Even if the interviewer or person being interviewed “slipped up” and mentioned the “Missal Propers” when it would have been more correct to say “Graduale Propers,” this is hardly a cause for concern, since the entire series of interviews is dedicated to the Mass Propers from the Roman Gradual. For example, frequent mention is made of the Offertory antiphon, which is not found in the priest’s Missal.

To summarize, the statements quoted above completely ignore the heart of the matter: the existence of the Roman Gradual and Ordo Cantus Missae.

Here’s what we as Catholics need to eliminate:

Entrance Chant: anything we like, in any style we like, with a text written by anybody (Catholic or Non-Catholic)

Offertory Chant: anything we like, in any style we like, with a text written by anybody (Catholic or Non-Catholic)

Communion Chant: anything we like, in any style we like, with a text written by anybody (Catholic or Non-Catholic)

For those who wish to learn more, this article might be a good start. The Preface to this book also might be worth reading.

Click here to listen to all the Lalemant Propers Interviews which have been conducted so far.