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.
Connect on Facebook:
Connect on Twitter:
Essentially the Missal of St. Pius V is the Gregorian Sacramentary; that again is formed from the Gelasian book which depends on the Leonine collection. We find the prayers of our Canon in the treatise “De Sacramentis” and allusions to it in the 4th century. So our Mass goes back, without essential change, to the age when it first developed out of the oldest liturgy of all. It is still redolent of that liturgy, of the days when Caesar ruled the world and thought he could stamp out the faith of Christ, when our fathers met together before dawn and sang a hymn to Christ as to a God. The final result of our enquiry is that, in spite of unsolved problems, in spite of later changes, there is not in Christendom another rite so venerable as ours.
— Fr. Adrian Fortescue (d. 1923)

Do not mistake competence for conservatism.
published 15 May 2015 by Richard J. Clark

OST PEOPLE LIKE categories. Those who market products demand them. Likewise, we place labels upon each other. (I am guilty of this.) Then when we get to know someone or a situation more deeply, we may find they defy easy classification.

Interestingly, the more knowledgeable a musician is about the Roman Rite, the Vatican II documents, and the GIRM, the more likely that musician is to be labeled “conservative” in their views. This is viewed negatively in some circles and positively in others. This is nonsense. It should be viewed simply as professional competence—no more—no less.

Professional competence is precisely this: you know what you are doing and why you are doing it. And church musicians must do several things well all at once. Therefore, it is incumbent upon them to improve their skills in the following areas:

1 • Play, conduct, sing well.
2 • Know the Church Documents; know the liturgy.
3 • Teach and catechize well.
4 • Be an effective administrator.
5 • Be a pastoral leader with good people skills.

Cultivating and effectively integrating all of these areas takes years if not decades. All-around competence is a matter of professionalism, not ideology. Interestingly, while No. 2 is often viewed as “conservative,” No. 5 is viewed in some circles as “liberal” or “progressive.” This too is nonsense. A pastoral approach is one of the most important aspects of being competent. It must be exercised with at least equal weight with all other areas. I.e., If one has studied music and liturgy at a high level, so must one be highly pastoral.

ERHAPS ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE is the vow of obedience taken by priests. I happen to know some priests who dislike the new translation of the Roman Missal—some, quite vehemently. However, one would never know this by attending any masses they celebrate. They are doing what the Church is asking of them and doing it well. This is obedience. This is also professional competence. Their personal view or opinion did not come into play.

Likewise, musicians must temper their own personal tastes. I have musical interests that are well beyond the scope of this blog or the liturgy. As such, the Mass is not a showcase for my personal ideology or interests. Does such an idea make me conservative? Or do considering pastoral needs in my decisions make me liberal? I don’t care, and I am weary of such labels. But I hope this approach make me better at my job. I hope such views lead to prayer.