“There is no harm in repeating a good thing.” – Plato
She reclined against the sofa and began taking notes profusely. I told her my concerns and some anecdotes of behavior he engages in. She looked up at me and immediately said, “He needs repetition. We need to have him repeat as many sounds and words as possible in order to help him develop his motor pathways.”
AST WEEK my son had his first speech therapy session. Above is exactly what the therapist told me at the close of the session. I’m no stranger to the special education system; I was an early interventionist for more than 10 years. The use of repetition has been a fundamental part of my life. It is a well used technique in the field and I have seen its fruits, especially in my own children. In other words, readers, I have the highest of regard for repetition!
But what about repetition in the Liturgy—specifically, musical repertoire? In my experience as the cantor for a Novus Ordo Mass, repetition has been my friend. You see, the parish uses certain “Music Issue” books as hymnals and I am confined to the musical selections held within (although I have managed to sneak in a Latin chant or hymn as a ‘meditation piece’ after Communion). Now, many of the song selections are either not Catholic, too modern, or just plain bad and I refuse to sing them. Thus, I have resigned myself to use the same 20-30 songs/hymns throughout the liturgical year.
I rotate the songs as much as I feel is needed, but there are some months that I will use the same song twice, if I deem it appropriate. Repeating the same songs, every few months, has also allowed the congregation to actually learn these songs/hymns and sing aloud at Mass, which is always a wonderful thing to hear! Additionally, I have sung the ICEL Ordinary in English for the past few years and do not intend to change this any time soon. The repetition of repertoire may not be the ideal for most musicians or choir directors, but in my situation it works…and works quite well. I am truly blessed to work with a pastor who has been supportive of these musical choices and has not given me any negative feedback.
Finally, my own growth as a musician for the Liturgy has culminated in my pastor allowing me to sing the Propers in English. This has been a gradual, but intense development…the realization of a decade-long dream. The two rites of our Church differ in that the TLM Mass has one liturgical year for the readings and propers, while the Novus Ordo has three. That means triple the Introits, triple the Offertories, triple the Communions. This could have been daunting, but even with this challenge there is wisdom in our Church: repetition! 1
Every single one of the Propers I sing has an underlying repetitive melodic structure. I sing the Lalemant Propers which use the same kind of repetitive Psalm Tones that have been used by our Church for hundreds….thousands of years. They have added a depth and an extra spirit of reverence during the Mass. They have connected our little congregation to our heritage, to the saints of the past who would recognize these psalms, to the men and women who have gone before us and have fought the good fight.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Before you panic: frequently the same chant is used for more than one liturgical year. For example, look at the Introit for the Feast of the Holy Trinity. Indeed, for the “major” Solemnities and Holy Days, the chants are usually the same for all three liturgical years: ABC. If you are stressed out by the “three year” business, remember that in the Novus Ordo, you can always substitute another chant that is appropriate to the feast—here is the document signed by Archbishop Bugnini which explains that.