HEN I WAS A TEENAGER, I used to sit with my grandparents at the kitchen table, listening to stories of when they were young in Buenos Aires in the 1920’s while we sipped the customary afternoon mate. They had emigrated to the United States when they were in their 70’s, to help my mom with us kids. As older immigrants, they did not speak any English, and since my dad was from Mexico, it was natural that everyone in the house spoke only Spanish. I never really though much about it growing up, but being fluent in Spanish in an English-speaking world has come to help me in countless ways throughout my life. Most recently, when this very interesting document cropped up, I was very glad that I was able to translate it into English so that all of you you could read it. Everyone should be able to speak a second language—it’s like having a secret superpower.
I worked on this hand in hand with my colleague, José Moreno, who is also very fluent in Spanish, and we were quite astounded by what it contained. You have to read it to believe some of the claims that were made about spoken propers! For example, Fr. Franquesa says, “It is not unreasonable, then, that when looking at the composition of the new Roman Missal, not a few people maintained the principle that in the spoken Mass one should omit all the pieces that, due to their function and nature, required singing.” Let that sink in for a moment—if a proper requires singing, you should omit it in a spoken Mass. But just because something is required to be sung does not mean its value is diminished when spoken!
* “Introit + Communion Antiphons in Masses without Singing” (1970)
—English translation copyright © 2020 by Andrea Leal.
You need to download this document and see for yourself that the changes that were made in the 1960’s were often arbitrary and were not soundly reasoned through (because frankly, “the whole world agrees” on these changes is really not a very good reason for these changes!)
José and I would not have been able to complete this translation without the kind assistance of our colleague Fr. Friel, who helped us with the correct usage of liturgical terminology. Any mistakes or errors are our own, but he was instrumental in assisting us.
“Ordo Cantus Missæ” • The Original Source
How does all this stuff works in real life? Let’s say you want to find out about the INTROIT for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. You can go directly to the source: the 1970 Ordo Cantus Missae, which my colleagues at Corpus Christi Watershed scanned and uploaded in 2014. Here is what we find:
The first thing we notice is that the Ordo Cantus Missae does not usually give Gregorian chant; rather, it “points you toward” Gregorian chants that already exist in the liturgical books. The ALLELUIA (Laudáte Dóminum) shown there is an exception, because it doesn’t exist in the 1962 Graduale Romanum, so you can’t go anywhere to find it. I presume it comes from an old manuscript, since the reformers had contempt for “neo-Gregorian” compositions, and this would be a refreshing example of the Second Vatican Council restoring something ancient to the life of the Church. We must be careful, however, because there are mysterious symbols that may cause mistakes:
That capital “A” and capital “B” warn us that something funky happens in years A and B—but we have to turn to another page to find out what’s going on. It turns out that during Year A, the Gradual Dispérsit Dedit Paupéribus substitutes for Tóllite Hóstias. It also says that during Year B, the Communion Multitúdo Languéntium substitutes for Introíbo Ad Altáre Dei. I have indicated this with red arrows:
But nothing affects the Introit, so we must locate Veníte Adorémus. Remember, we learned that on the original spot we examined:
But where is that Introit found? It actually comes from a special Ember Day in September called “Sabbato Quatuor Temporum Septembris,” which is not the easiest feast to locate:
An Easier Way To Find The Chants
Most people don’t use the Ordo Cantus Missæ to find the prayers. Instead, they use other sources such as: (#1) 1974 Graduale Romanum; (#2) 2013 Lalemant Propers; (#3) 1990 Gregorian Missal; and so forth. Another excellent source is the Saint Isaac Jogues Illuminated Missal, Gradual, and Lectionary, and here’s how the Introit appears in that book:
Let us examine, at last, the Introit for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Please notice the words plorémus ante eum (“let us weep before Him”) for reasons that will become obvious.
A Curve Ball • The Spoken Propers
When we examine the “spoken propers,” we see that we are thrown a curve ball:
A very beautiful passage—plorémus ante eum (“let us weep before Him”)—has been removed:
Why was this done? Having studied the 1970 explanation by Father Adalbert Franquesa Garrós, I see no justification for such a change. Solesmes Abbey, in their recent publication (The Gregorian Missal, 2014) tried to stick with the ICEL translation of the “spoken propers” whenever they could, but doing so has forced their translation to become inaccurate:
The Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory (Blessed John Henry Newman Institute for Liturgical Music) include the verse about “weeping before the Lord” in their Graduale Parvum:
The American Gradual by Bruce Ford normally uses the Graduale Romanum propers and not the “spoken propers,” yet for some reason Mr. Bruce Ford omits the part about weeping (perhaps owing to his use of a Protestant translation of Sacred Scripture):
We saw Father Franquesa say that the “spoken propers” were chosen:
“without relation to the chant. Therefore, it does not jeopardize the treasury of Gregorian chant in any way, which the Council mandated should be conserved wholly.”
Yet many composers have inexplicably set these “spoken propers” and one example would be Father Columba Kelly, OSB:
Father Samuel Weber also sets the “spoken propers” (Proper of the Mass for Sundays and Solemnities) and so it is only natural that the weeping section is omitted:
Sources which set the Graduale Romanum to music will include the “weeping before the Lord”—such as the Simple English Propers (Church Music Association of America, 2011) collection:
Let’s Get Serious
When it comes to a minor difference like omitting “weeping before the Lord,” this is hardly anything to get upset about. The problem is, there are numerous instances in which the propers from the Roman Gradual are completely different from the “spoken propers.” The Communion antiphon for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (SEE BELOW) is a perfect example:
It’s difficult to understand what is gained by changing these ancient antiphons. What precisely was unacceptable about the examples above? Many more examples could be cited where the “spoken antiphons” are completely different from the ancient antiphons in the Graduale Romanum.
In his 1970 document, Father Franquesa made the following statement:
Melody and text form an indivisible whole, for they were born at once. Thus, it is understood that the Gregorian composers did not hesitate to improve those texts for melodic purposes. This explains the variety that we frequently find in the pieces of the Roman Gradual. In effect, the melody is so essential in many of these texts, and it confers such an intensity and a life so characteristic, that, without it, they lose almost all of their meaning.
His statement is problematic for two reasons. First of all, Father Franquesa is incorrect to suggest that the Gregorian composers altered the texts for musical reasons. Father Adrian Fortescue (The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy, page 223) explains why the Roman Gradual doesn’t always match the Clementine Vulgate of 1692:
The text of the Introit, as of all the chants of the Mass, is taken not from the Vulgate but from the old Itala. It will be remembered that the fact that people were accustomed to sing the Itala text at Mass was the great hindrance to the spread of the Vulgate.
Furthermore, it is incorrect to assert that these passages from Sacred Scripture “lose almost all of their meaning” unless they are sung to a particular melody. For one thing, plainsong has not always been sung the same way. Moreover, the propers have always been performed in different ways: polyphony, fauxbourdon, psalm tones, and so forth. Finally, Sacred Scripture has a power irrespective of the particular Gregorian melodies, many of which are shared for multiple texts. Indeed, I find the simple vernacular settings of the Chaumonot communion antiphons quite beautiful. In a certain sense, I wish the reformers of the 1960s had simply deleted the Introit and Communion antiphons (as they deleted the Offertory antiphons). If they had done that, everyone would be on the same page!