About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark is the Director of Music of the Archdiocese of Boston and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. His compositions have been performed worldwide.
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"In the Orthodox Churches they have kept that pristine liturgy, so beautiful. We have lost a bit the sense of adoration. They keep, they praise God, they adore God, they sing, time doesn’t count. God is the center, and this is a richness …"
— Pope Francis (8/2/2013)

Pope Francis and “recovering the allure of beauty”
published 6 March 2015 by Richard J. Clark

OPE FRANCIS has not been afraid to admit his own mistakes or failings. This is a lesson in humility. He is secure in his identity and willing to admit where he needs improvement. A surprising side effect of admitting mistakes—and correcting them—is increased credibility as a leader.

During a meeting with pastors in Rome, Pope Francis admitted his “shortcomings” in a 2005 presentation he gave on the “ars celebrandi” or the “art of celebrating the liturgy.” After being chastised for neglecting to mention anything about being in the presence of God, he has since distilled this notion with clarity.

In Carol Glatz’s National Catholic Reporter article, Liturgies need to help people experience awe, mystery of God, Pope Francis explains:

“For me the key of 'ars celebrandi’ takes the path of recovering the allure of beauty, the wonder both of the person celebrating and the people, of entering in an atmosphere that is spontaneous, normal and religious, but isn’t artificial, and that way you recover a bit of the wonder,” he said.

In doing so, Francis cites two extremes, both roadblocks to “entering into the mystery”:

If the priest is “excessively” focused on the rubrics that indicate the movements and particular gestures during Mass and “rigid, I do not enter into the mystery” because all one’s energy and attention are on the form, he said.

The other extreme, he said, is “if I am a showman, the protagonist” of the Mass, “then I do not enter into the mystery” either.

RANCIS TWICE STATES that priests must avoid artificiality. The same applies to musicians. Therefore, bear in mind that the rubrics and the GIRM are there to serve the liturgy. They are the means to an end. That end is “entering into the mystery” and encountering God in the Eucharist. Musicians must enter into this mystery with humility in order for their work to bear fruit. And a musician must never be the “protagonist“—the center of attention. Sacred music always points to the mystery.

Francis’ statements are not an excuse to ignore rubrics or formality. Nor is the opposite reaction of extreme informality or disregard of liturgical law a path to “entering into the mystery.” He simply warns to avoid making either an obstacle.

Musicians create such obstacles on their own quite easily. We may obsess over correct notes, but this is useless without passion. And passion without discipline and structure falls short of its great potential.

What is the solution? The longer we live with a piece of music—or the more we pray the Mass, the more the technical details become second nature. Obsession is gone. It is then that passion sings, beauty reclaimed, and truth revealed.

Pope Francis says we must recover the allure of beauty. Listen.