AINT Viator’s College was also a seminary for the training of priests. When I graduated, Bishop Edmund Dunne of Peoria sent me to St. Paul’s Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, to finish my studies for the priesthood. These were the days of World War I; food was meager and I developed an ulcer which required an operation. The courses were extremely good, especially in Sacred Scripture, history, and moral theology.
The music teacher of Gregorian chant had to train all of us, whether we had singing voices or not. I was among those who could hardly carry a key on a ring. Grace Moore later on confirmed this. About twenty years later, however, when I returned to give a lecture in an auditorium in St. Paul, I was introduced by my music teacher, who praised me for my singing. I am sure the good man did not purposely lie; he just had a bad memory. They say singing is every man’s birthright but it certainly never was mine. I didn’t sound good even in a shower.
On Saturday, 20 September 1919, I was ordained a priest, by the grace of God, in the cathedral at Peoria. […]
In 1920, I was to offer Holy Week Eucharist in St. Patrick’s Church in Washington. The liturgy of that week is slightly different from that of other days of the year, and I was a bit concerned as to whether I could do it properly. One of the directions given in Latin during the course of the Holy Saturday liturgy was to sing Alleluia three times. There are about forty-nine notes in that Alleluia, which would test even the skills of a Caruso. I did my best to give utterance to all those black notes in the missal.
I gave a sigh of relief at the end of the Alleluia, but old Monsignor Thomas—the pastor, who wore purple socks—shouted out from the sacristy in the hearing range of the entire congregation: “Sing it again!” I sang it again, simply because he ordered me to do it. When I finished the second effort, again in still louder tones, he cried: “Sing it again!” which I did in reluctant obedience and feeling very stupid for having to do so. But then I noticed at the end of the Latin directive about singing Alleluia the little word ter, which means three times. That incident always reminded me of the story of the man who had a choice of marrying either a beautiful servant girl who was unknown or an ugly opera singer who was quite famous. He opted for the opera singer. The morning after the honeymoon, he took one look at her and said: “For heaven’s sake, sing.”
And here’s the “Alleluia” referred to by Archbishop Sheen:
Anyone who’s heard Fulton J. Sheen speak about the Mass realizes how much he loved the liturgy. The 1961 Fulton J. Sheen Sunday Missal is wonderful. Many wonder why Sheen never talked about the liturgical changes. I suspect, like his book editor, Fr. Caraman, Sheen felt the need to keep silence about these changes. I will have more to say about this subject—as well as Fr. Caraman’s need to keep silent about changes he didn’t like—at a later date.