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Renowned as composer, conductor, theorist, author, pedagogue, and organist, Aurelio Porfiri has served the Church on multiple continents at the highest levels. Born and raised in Italy, he currently serves as Director of Choral Activities and Composer in Residence for Santa Rosa de Lima School (Macao, China).
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“I still haven’t made up my mind whether I shall publish it all. Some people are so humorless, so uncharitable, and so absurdly wrong-headed, that one would probably do far better to relax and enjoy life than worry oneself to death trying to instruct or entertain a public which will only despise one’s efforts, or at least feel no gratitude for them. Most readers know nothing about canon law. Many regard it with contempt and find everything heavy going that isn’t completely lowbrow. Some are so grimly serious that they disapprove of all humor. Others come to different conclusions every time they stand up or sit down. They seize upon your publications, as a wrestler seizes upon his opponent’s hair, and use them to drag you down, while they themselves remain quite invulnerable, because their barren pates are completely bald, so there’s nothing for you to get hold of.”
— St. Thomas More to Peter Gilles, 1516

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Latin And Western Civilization
published 6 May 2014 by Aurelio Porfiri

529 Peter May 6, 2014 HY IS IT IMPORTANT to know Latin? I know that when some people read this phrase they will start to think of me as a strong traditionalist. It is not true. I am a realist. And being a realist, even a pragmatist, teaches us an important lesson: Latin is one of the foundations of western culture. The Catholic Church has grown in this culture for centuries, and moreover, the church was creating many of the features that make western civilization a bright example for all the world. Latin was one of the foundations of this civilization.

Now, what is the role of Latin in today’s liturgies? It has become one of the strong points in traditionalists’ agenda. I am sorry, but this is not fair. Latin is heritage for each one of us, because in this language are preserved treasures of art and faith. We need not be fanatics — and, of course, it’s also important to try to work for the implementation of good music using vernacular languages — but Latin must remain always as a model of synthesis, clarity, and elegance.

And why would we desire to lose millions of compositions that have used (and continue to use) this language? The problem is always to go from one extreme to the other. Latin and the compositions in Latin must always remain a model for sound compositions in vernacular languages. And still there is so much good material that can be used. Let us hope that one day there will be a serious meditation about what it really means to understand something in the liturgy, that is not a common gathering, but the revelation of a sacred mystery.


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