ILLAINS UNDERSTAND one reality: He who controls language controls the masses. We see this in our secular culture. For example, our media refers to abortion as a “women’s issue”—yet about 50% of babies murdered are female. So how can it be a women’s issue when the murders are equally split between boys and girls? Even worse is the slogan: “If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one.” That’s like telling an 1860s abolitionist: “If you don’t like slavery, don’t own a slave.”
Controlling the “Masses” • For fifty years, we’ve witnessed certain church leaders control the language—and thereby control the Masses (with a capital “M”). For example, Vatican II solemnly declared: “The treasury of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care.” But for half a century, progressive Catholics have insisted that preserve and foster with great care means banish, prohibit, and vilify. Those who promote the Catholic treasury are warned to stop ‘resisting’ Vatican II. It beggars belief that this situation still exists.1
Quick Example • In a moment, I will speak about the mind-blowing GLORIA from Missa Ave Maris Stella, published by Father Cristóbal de Morales in 1544AD, which contains a perfect canon between Alto and Tenor while the CANTUS FIRMUS (“Ave Maris Stella”) is sung in augmentation by the Soprano section. In the following demonstration, I made those voices extremely loud in order to make it easier for you to hear the canon:
Intimidate Jeff? • I refuse to allow anyone—anyone—to browbeat me into prevaricating when it comes to the authentic Catholic treasury. For example, only a lunatic would mention Marty Haugen, Dan Schutte, John Foley, or David Haas in the same sentence as Guerrero, Morales, Victoria, or Palestrina. Nor do “hurt feelings” come into play here. Missa Back-To-The-Future (a recent offering by OREGON CATHOLIC PRESS) isn’t part of the “treasury” mandated by Vatican II; nor do I belong on the basketball court with Michael Jordan. And it’s not a close call. When the composer was born makes no difference; e.g. several compositions featured in this video are contemporary. Nor is it a matter of complexity—e.g. plainsong melodies are straightforward and simple.
Jeff’s Feeble Attempt • My choir is learning that GLORIA, and it’s going to require a lot of work. This is music from the sacred treasury which—according to Vatican II—Catholics must “preserve and foster with great care” … and the wonderful volunteers in my choir are doing precisely that! Here’s my feeble attempt to record all the voices:
Father Michael Irwin • In the 1990s, during the Mass on Holy Thursday, Father Michael Irwin, FSSP, preached a homily about the sacred priesthood. He spoke of an American diocese that had virtually no seminarians. Therefore, the diocese offered to pay an young man who would join the seminary $35,000 per year as a salary … and in the 1990s that was a lot of money! But Father Irwin said it wasn’t working, because: “Our young men don’t want an easy road; our young men want a challenge. No serious Catholic should become a priest just to make money.” Along those same lines, even though this GLORIA is not easy, my volunteer choir is enjoying learning it because they also want a challenge.
Original Part Books • Here’s how the musical score for this GLORIA looked in the 16th century:
Dr. Stevenson • The inimitable Robert Murrell Stevenson (d. 2012) had this to say about Missa Ave Maris Stella by Father Morales:
An attempt at imposing a still tighter unity upon a mass of plainsong derivation is made in Morales’s “Ave maris stella.” When Josquin wrote his mass of the same title (“Liber secundus” of 1505), he ended with Agnuses, each of which boasts a canon—Agnus I between bass and tenor at the fifth, Agnus II between alto and soprano at a fourth, and Agnus III between tenor and soprano at an octave. This was insufficient for Morales, who insisted on going further: with a canon in every full movement, always at the interval of a lower fourth, and always between alto and tenor II. In the earlier movements, his canonic voices recall the plainsong rather fragmentarily, the outer voices carrying it instead. But in the Sanctus he even has the two canonic voices sing the hymn, and—as usual when he quotes plainsong—with the utmost fidelity to the Gregorian original. During the climactic final Agnus a 6, Morales elevates the original hymn to ‘cantus firmus’ status in cantus I. […] Symbolically the plainsong—like the star hailed in the hymn text—shines above a turbulent sea of churning voices. In the nether surge, the three “accompanying” voices continually pick up for imitation melodic fragments thrown out by the two canonic voices. The whole mass is one of surpassing grandeur, comparable in peninsular art only with such achievements as the fifteenth-century Gothic nave of Seville Cathedral. What can be called peculiarly Spanish in Morales’s accomplishment are (1) the subordination of science to an expressive purpose, and (2) the application of the most rigorous devices, by preference, to a plainsong. In Josquin’s Missa ad Jugam (“Liber tertius” of 1514), each full movement embodied a canon between superius and tenor at the interval of an under-fifth. But neither Josquin nor Palestrina in his like-named work attempted canon simultaneously with plainsong paraphrase. It remained Morales’s special prerogative to rise highest in the display of his contrapuntal powers while yoking himself most securely with a plainsong. Truly, Morales has lavished his greatest art on this Marian text.
1 After all, how can something explicitly mandated by the Council be ‘against’ that same Council? It reminds one of 1972, when the U.S Supreme Court officially declared the death penalty “unconstitutional,” even though our constitution explicitly says that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law” (U.S. Const. amend. XIV, §1). What did they think it means to deprive citizens of life? These justices—in their infinite wisdom—deemed the constitution itself unconstitutional. One is reminded of Saint Paul: “Thinking themselves wise, they became as fools” (Rom 1:22).