ONGREGAVIT NOS IN UNUM Christi amor. Together we are united in the love of Christ. This is the second line of the Holy Thursday chant “Ubi Caritas.” Is this idea Liberal or Conservative? Does singing it in Latin make it conservative? Does a new setting in the vernacular make it liberal?
These questions are nonsense of course, and we are beyond all of this.
Recently, much has been written, said, and done with regard to Harvard University allowing a Black Mass and its last minute cancellation. (Here is a MUST READ article by Fr. David Barnes, What This Priest Saw At the Harvard Eucharistic Procession, in which he writes about the genuine faith of so many college students.) Faith and action of Roman Catholics all around Massachusetts and beyond spoke loud and clear. No one asked who was “liberal” or “conservative.” We were united in the Eucharist. The response of the people was the Universal Church sending a clear message as one voice.
When confronted with a true enemy of faith -– disguised in whatever innocuous or attractive façade — we see through it and gravitate toward unity. Thousands took action praying, processing, singing, and defending the faith despite ridicule and criticism. Why? Because present in our midst was a serious dose of perspective—a spiritual wake-up call.
ET WE FIND IN LITURGICAL MATTERS a great deal of infighting and division. Liturgy is not unimportant as it fosters the universality of truth. The Sacred, Beautiful, and Universal is not a “conservative” idea. (Actually, I think it’s rather “progressive” – as I toss about another ambiguous term.) The liturgy should be universal as the Eucharist is its center, lest we forget. In that light, here are a couple of stories:
Recently I taped a radio interview with Dr. Jennifer Pascual in which we spoke of singing the mass and singing the propers. The seemingly benign use of the description of “young conservative priests” supporting chant was a description I would hope to do without. I would pray that the idea of singing the mass is neither conservative, nor liberal, but universal and prayerful. Dr. Pascual was certainly in agreement. If the liturgical music in question is indeed universal, then it will stand on its own merit.
Another simple anecdote exemplifies the need to unify and work together in the face of a “wake up call.” Back in the 1990’s, while studying organ with James David Christie, I also became hooked on Gregorian Chant. Growing up in the 1970’s I had little exposure or experience in chant. There was no YouTube to listen to chant and no Corpus Christi Watershed in which to download many resources. (I like to scare students in my choirs by telling them that “when I was in college, I had a typewriter.” The horror!)
As such, we were one of the very few local parishes in the 1990’s singing Gregorian chant on a weekly basis outside of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross or St. Paul’s in Cambridge. Yet, as human nature goes, there will always be individuals who may agree with most of what one does, but will complain unceasingly anyway with little constructive criticism to offer. (Msgr. Wadsworth is fond of saying, “Put three experts in Gregorian Chant in a room and you’ll have three different ways of singing it.”) Yet, when traditional sacred music was threatened by inevitable changes in the structure of the diocese, such individuals, now with eyes wide open from a dose of reality have became big supporters. They experienced a wake-up call and realized they were in an oasis in the desert.
INALLY, I HAVE OFTEN FOUND that I can work with people with whom I disagree, yet sometimes can’t accomplish much with individuals with whom I have much in common. Why is this? Usually, those who are self-confident and happy with themselves do not feel threatened. One can accomplish much despite disagreement. Those who feel threatened or insecure, even if there is 95% agreement, are often difficult to work with because of perceived nonexistent threats. Sadly, this is human nature.
Therefore, let us be united in the love of Christ and in the Eucharist. It is easier said than done. Perhaps we should pray and be vigilant for the perspective we need and a wake-up call that may actually be grace from God.