ONEST. Be honest when I ask you this question: “How many of your parishioners could recite from memory even a simple prayer like Tantum Ergo in English?” Can you? Here is my attempt (without looking at any book): “Bowing low, therefore, let us adore so great a Sacrament. The old law yields to the new rite. And if our human understanding is deficient, a lively faith will make up for what’s lacking.” How did I do? I hope I was basically correct. You can compare my attempt to this literal translation by Monsignor Charles E. Spence.1
Combating Heresy • Floating around even today is the false notion that we should not adore JESUS CHRIST at Mass. As a matter of fact, adoration is hugely important at Mass. From what I can tell, the heresy began in the post-conciliar years. For example, the AMERICAN CATHOLIC HYMNBOOK (1992) included injunctions such as (direct quotations):
(1) “Hymns directed to the Trinity as such or to each person successively should not be used”;
(2) “The Mass is not primarily a time for silence and adoration of Christ”;
(3) “Holy Father is a good Communion hymn precisely because it is not in adoration of Christ.”
The editors brag that their “translation” of ADÓRO TE DEVÓTE completely changes the meaning of the original. Indeed, on page 655, the editors say Tantum Ergo should never (!) be used at Mass! In the post-conciliar years, some also emphasized the “banquet” aspect of Mass while downplaying (or even denying) the reality that Mass is primarily a sacrifice.
Archbishop of Canterbury • Before England fell away in 1534AD, it had a vigorous and vibrant intellectual life which supported the Holy Catholic Faith. John Peckham (d. 1292) was a Franciscan friar and Archbishop of Canterbury starting in 1279AD. He was such a powerful philosopher and theologian that he actually beat Saint Thomas Aquinas in a Paris debate (at least according to one priest I spoke to). The Brébeuf Catholic Hymnal provided—for the first time in history—a literal English translation of Archbishop Peckham’s magnificent and lengthy hymn to the Holy Eucharist. The Brébeuf Hymnal also provides numerous musical settings for it, as well as various “singable” translations by Catholic priests and bishops. Here is a short excerpt of what is without question one of the Church’s mightiest treatises on the SANCTISSIMUM:
* PDF Download • EXCERPT (Archbishop Peckham’s Eucharistic Hymn)
—The entire hymn is translated in The Saint Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal.
Last Sunday, our volunteer choir attempted the “singable” translation created by Monsignor Ronald Knox:
Theodore Marier • The tune is wonderful, and was used at least three times by Dr. Theodore Marier in his hymnal: Pages 310, 401, and 217. Our choir will eventually sing that piece in Latin, but it’s still needs a little work. We use that same tune when we sing the “Ave Maris Stella” in English:
Indeed, the Brébeuf Hymnal includes several other texts with that same melody, as you can discover by doing a search on the HYMN PORTAL for “Ave Virgo Virginum.”
Still Learning • Another hymn we’re learning is REGENT SQUARE. At present, we’re singing that melody in unison with organ accompaniment (see below) but we plan on learning the SATB harmonies found in the Brébeuf Hymnal, which are particularly resplendent.
Music Is Crucial • To be completely honest, I don’t know whether I could have successfully completed the “challenge” presented at the beginning of this article were it not for music. Singing things over and over again helps me remember and understand them. The whole idea behind the Brébeuf Hymnal is to imitate Father John Brébeuf and his companions, who cleverly placed the various truths of the Faith into songs and rhymes (in the languages of the Native Americans). Anyone who has read about these holy Jesuit missionaries realizes how much they suffered in order to learn the native tongues. The Huron language was particularly difficult, because the sounds emanated from one’s stomach. For someone like Father Noël Chabanel, it was a particular cross not to be able to learn that language (without great difficulty) because he had been a college professor in France whose specialty was rhetoric and poetry.
1 A splendid literal translation into English can also be found on page 347 of the Brébeuf Catholic Hymnal. Indeed, the entire prayer (“Pange Lingua”) by Saint Thomas Aquinas can we found there, as well as numerous musical versions and excellent “singable” (metrical and rhymed) translations by Catholic priests and Bishops.