OBODY SEEMS TO KNOW anything about “Edward C. Currie,” who was deeply involved with the creation of the New Saint Basil Hymnal (1958). Indeed, the dates of his birth & death seem a mystery. In any event, Mr. Currie complained bitterly about hymn lyrics that “unduly emphasize the human nature of the Savior,” and declared such texts to be “positively harmful.” Regarding many of the texts in the Old Saint Basil Hymnal, he was undoubtedly correct, and (in a moment), I’ll have something to say regarding harmful movements in the Catholic Church.
Above Reproach: I have no idea what Mr. Currie thought of “Herzliebster Jesu” (a Passiontide Chorale). It was not included in the New Saint Basil, but other fine Catholic hymnals do include it, such as the London Oratory Hymn Book (1998) and the Brébeuf hymnal (2018). Dr. Marier’s hymnal and the New Westminster Hymnal include the tune, but use a different text. Below is the hymn we’re discussing, which I consider above reproach. According to the Brébeuf footnotes, the text is based on passages from Meditationes Divi Augustini by John of Fécamp, a Benedictine Abbot who died in 1097AD.
Whispering During Improvisation? Last Sunday, the females sang this hymn. They sang in unison—since we didn’t have time to rehearse SATB parts. Then, while improvising on the organ, I whispered to them “Add the Alto line!” Listen to how well they did:
Also, check out this recording by the fabulous females in our volunteer parish choir.
Failed Movements: Mr. Currie made reference to a “bad movement” in the Church. Throughout the history of the Church, certain clerics have promulgated errors. (I wish I could say otherwise, but we must face the truth.) One particularly dangerous “movement” was Jansenism, started by the Roman Catholic bishop of Ypres. The Church is made up of frail, human, sinful men. Indeed, Judas Iscariot was chosen by our Lord to be one of the Apostles!
Rebuking Roche: These days, it seems like the Church’s “human side” is all too apparent. The current head of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Arthur Roche, publicly attempted to ban the traditional Pontificale. But such an assertion was strongly rebuked by Pope Francis with a decree (02/11/2022). Some clerics at the Vatican have also tried to pretend the “Extraordinary Form” ceased to exist when the clock struck midnight on 15 July 2021. And yet, in the most recent high-level document from the Vatican—Praedicate Evangelium (03/19/2022)—such a notion is contradicted explicitly. The sad reality is that “careerism” in the Catholic Church is nothing new, although we’ve had some success eliminating nepotism.1
Fulton J. Sheen’s Response: Before his death on 17 January 2020, I would often ask Father Valentine on the telephone: “How are you doing, Father?” His answer was always the same: “As good as God wants.” The point is simple: God is the Creator, we are His creatures. We might exclaim: “I don’t understand why God allows powerful clerics to embrace heresy and lead the faithful astray.” But what good does such complaining accomplish? The response of holy saints—even when they observed scandals—remains simple: “Lord, do with me what Thou wilt.” And we should be careful … because Fulton J. Sheen used to say that if the Church were as holy as we wish, we’d be too afraid to join because of our sins.
New Choir Members: Let’s not waste our energy on Church scandals. Instead, let’s move forward with faith, hope, and charity! This season, my choirs gained approximately fifteen (15) new members—and they’re doing extremely well. Last Sunday, they sang a hymn to Saint Joseph (since 19 March was his feast day), and you can listen to how they did:
* Mp3 Download • Hymn to Saint Joseph
—This hymn is #791 in The Saint Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal.
Crucial Techniques: I introduced a “Kyrie Eleison” from Verdelot’s Missa Philomena a few weeks ago, and we’re learning it in sections. You can listen to our attempt—and remember this is the first time several of these singers have ever sung a cappella polyphony! Powerful techniques do exist which will help your volunteer choir sound amazing. You don’t have to be fearful once you start taking advantage of these techniques. This year, Sacred Music Symposium 2022 is dedicated to sharing these techniques with you. Instead of dreading working with amateurs, come to the symposium! You will learn how working with volunteer choirs can be a source of spectacular joy!
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 In their pursuit of power, some clerics seem willing to make any statement—no matter how preposterous! Again, this is nothing new in the life of the Church. For instance, back in 1951, a clandestine Vatican committee (Commissio Piana) enacted a rather sloppy reform of the Easter Vigil. The major changes were: (1) modifications of the Easter Candle blessing; (2) elimination of much Sacred Scripture; (3) substituting a rather “cheap” glass container for the ancient baptistery; and (4) changing the time of the ceremony, based upon an incorrect historical hypothesis. In a shameless and bizarre speech in 1966, Annibale Bugnini had the nerve to say this botched reform brought “a breath of new life to the whole Church.” Annibale Bugnini went on to say that the experimental Easter Vigil “came like a sweet scented spring in full blossom.” What a curious thing to say! What sane person would equate eliminating Scripture readings with the “scent” of spring blossoms?