About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark has served since 1989 as Music Director and Organist at Saint Cecilia Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. For the Archdiocese of Boston, he directed the Office of Divine Worship Saint Cecilia Schola. His compositions have been performed on four continents.
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"When a friend speaks of his accomplishments and triumphs, he stands at a distance from our heart. When he shares his weaknesses and failings, he’s very near."
— Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

A Model of Sacred Music at Priest's First Mass
published 27 May 2016 by Richard J. Clark

HAT MUSIC DOES a newly ordained priest, who currently plays the drums in a jazz band, choose for his first Mass? This priest also has a degree from the Hartt School of Music in Music Production and Technology.

Why, he opts to sing nearly the entire Mass! He utilizes English settings of the propers. Sung parts included the readings and Credo! He chants a final blessing in Latin. The Mass was worthy of a CMAA Colloquium.

How did such a thing happen? One would have to ask Rev. Patrick Fiorillo of the Archdiocese of Boston about his musical interests and his calling to the priesthood. He speaks a little bit about it here in The Boston Pilot. I mostly suspect it comes from his understanding that sacred music is wedded to the Word. He understands that the role of sacred music is to help us pray the words of the Mass.

To the heart of Fr. Fiorillo’s understanding, please read his words below that were printed in the program of his first Mass. It is very much worth your time, and should give many of us hope, coming from someone with such a well-rounded musical and personal background.

His words are beautifully articulated for ordinary parishioners to understand, something of which he is most mindful. (This goes to his choice of English as a way of introducing the propers to parishioners.) Most impressive was the wonderful level of congregational singing, (despite a lack of mainstream songs or hymns), and the warm feedback from parishioners who clearly never experienced a Mass like this: one that was beautiful, prayerful, with a sense of transcendence.


HE MUSIC AT TODAY’S MASS will undoubtedly be a new experience for many in attendance. One may notice right away the lack of hymns in the program. Instead of employing this common practice, we will be using what are referred to as the “chant propers” of the Mass: the introit, offertory, and communion. They are one or two sentences, often scriptural, that provide a spiritual meditation on the particular liturgical day. Every Sunday, Solemnity, and Feast Day has a specific set of propers assigned to them. The collection of these Latin chants for the entire liturgical year form the Roman Church’s most ancient repertoire of Gregorian chant; many date back to the 6th century and earlier, and have been used ever since! Thus, the proper chants of the Mass are not mere musical additions to the liturgy, but form an integral part of the whole liturgical action. While we will not employ the original Latin chants in today’s Mass, we will use the same texts set to adapted melodies in English.

One may also be struck by the amount of singing at today’s Mass. Why all this singing? The reason has not to do with a preference of style or musical taste, but with the nature of chant itself. In its broadest definition, chant is fundamentally an elevated form of proclamation. The melody serves not to draw attention to itself, but to reflect and emphasize the meaning of the text in a way that is more profound than a spoken proclamation. As soon as one hears a text chanted, even to the most basic melody, one instinctively recognizes that something beyond the sphere of everyday human activities is taking place. Indeed, at Mass we become participants in the heavenly liturgy. This is why the Church has always promoted the use of beauty in sacred art, architecture, and music as a means of aiding such participation.

While many know of my love for music through my drumming and production work, my deepest musical passion has more recently become Sacred Music. It is for this reason that I feel inspired to display the best of the Church’s musical tradition in a contemporary context at this Mass of thanksgiving. I am blessed with many talented musician friends who are able to sing in the choir today, and it is my sincere hope that their voices will help us to raise our hearts and minds to God in the greatest act of worship that we can render him: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. —Fr. Patrick

WAS HONORED TO HAVE been commissioned a new setting of the Introit for this occasion, which took place on the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity at Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Parish in Waltham, Massachusetts.

PDF • Blessed Be the Holy Trinity • Introit
for Schola, SATB, Organ, Congregation

MP3 • Blessed Be the Holy Trinity • Introit

Bridgette Wargovich directed the extraordinary choir. Fr. Michael Ruminski from the Diocese of Hartford served as organist. Corey Bassett-Tirrell, a seminarian at Pope Saint John XXXIII Seminary was the cantor.

Offerings from several contemporary composers of sacred music were featured. The offertory and communion chants were by Fr. Samuel Weber. The Mass in Honor of the Immaculate Conception by Dr. Peter Latona, a Responsorial by Jeff Ostrowski, and an exquisite, yet simple arrangement of Jesu Dulcis Maria by Paul Jernberg were also sung. This was in addition to Byrd’s Ave Verum Corpus and the Mode I Salve Ragina. Also noteworthy, was a superbly sung Gospel proclaimed by Fr. Ryan Sliwa of the Diocese of Springfield.

Photography by Darcie Nielsen
Recordings by Evan Landry