FEW SHORT MONTHS AGO, I had the privilege of taking part in a Sacred Music Retreat near Cincinnati, Ohio. Hosted by the Oratorian Community of Cincinnati, the retreat featured Msgr. Wadsworth as the spiritual presenter, along with Kevin Allen and Nick Lemme as the music presenters. Fifty choir members from around the country—California to Maryland, Minnesota to Texas—came together for four days of intense Liturgy in the Extraordinary Form.
In general terms, a retreat is an opportunity to immerse oneself in meditation over conferences proposed by the retreat master, to spend time in individual and group prayer, all while focused on some spiritual end. Often, the traditional retreat is virtually silent except the periods of vocal prayer, and the focus is typically on the relationship of one’s soul with the Creator.
This was almost exactly the same…but completely and utterly different.
INTENDED FOR liturgical Martha’s more than liturgical Mary’s, our retreat was designed to probe the dignity and value of being a member of the liturgical choir and the corresponding responsibilities inherent therein. Spiritual conferences examined the Liturgy, the Sanctification of Time, the nature of pontifical ceremonies. The rehearsals were acts of prayer that sought to give us the tools to better accomplish our purpose. The liturgies were meditations in which we fulfilled our role of increasing the honor and glory rendered to God through participation in the worship of the Church.
The schedule was…ambitious. Prime at 6:15am followed by short meditation and Mass. Six hours of rehearsals bookending two hours of spiritual conferences. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and time for confessions. Compline at 9:00pm followed by Grand Silence. Fourteen liturgies over the span of four days including the three public pontifical liturgies of Saturday and Sunday, celebrated by Bp. Slattery. Immersion in what defines our very purpose as members of the choir. Within these liturgies, we had an intentional range of the very simple to the very solemn. Low Mass and Prime in recto-tone without cantors; simple sung Compline with cantors; Solemn Vespers and Solemn Mass; Pontifical Vespers, Pontifical Matins / Lauds of the Dead, and two Pontifical High Masses—we ran a full gamut of different liturgical functions to illustrate the rich diversity of the Extraordinary Form. Throughout, our focus was on perfection of effort over perfection of performance, although we worked diligently for the latter with the public liturgies—no easy feat given the amount of music involved.
Several of the participants described the retreat as transformational in how they view their role as liturgical musicians. Of course, different things resonated with different people. For some, the musical and liturgical pedagogy while for others, the spiritual conferences. For some, the techniques gleaned from working with outstanding master musicians that we had as presenters while for others, the chance to form relationships with other directors and choir members. Relationships not merely as friends with common purpose but ordered toward aiding one another in the task of increasing the honor and glory of God through our music.
Feedback from participants revolved around two key statements. The first was the surprise that many had at discovering the deep and profound spirituality simply from chanting the Divine Office over the course of the retreat. For many, the Divine Office was a unique experience, and the hours of Prime and Compline quite moving and meaningful. The other statement was the recognition that we need more events just like this! “When will the next retreat be held?” was a question I heard frequently in the last day or two.
If you’d like more information about the Sacred Music Retreat or other similar events in the future, please visit the above link to our Facebook page. From that page, there are links to recordings and pictures from the retreat. Other groups have discussed hosting similar retreats in the future, and we will post information as we are made aware. Some of you may be interested to know that we are “in discovery” regarding a Sacred Music Pilgrimage to Europe in 2023 (exclusively Extraordinary Form). We’ll continue to post information about that as we explore the options that are available to us.
I leave you with the two mottos that define purpose in our choir:
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam. Da mihi animas, cetera tolle.
[All] to the greater glory of God. Give me souls, take away the rest.
We hope you enjoyed this guest article by John Schauble.
Source of Information: Official Letter
Source of Images: J. Senneff Facebook Page