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Online Edition - February 2007

Vol. XII, No. 10

News & Views

2008 Synod of Bishops: The Word of God | US Bishops To Review More Missal Texts | Scottish Schola Revives Gregorian Chant

2008 Synod of Bishops: The Word of God

On January 25, the Holy Father received members of the ordinary council of the Synod of Bishops. The council is currently preparing the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod, due to be held in October 2008 on the theme: “The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church”.

In his address to the Council, the pope referred to the importance of the theme, “because”, he said, “the spiritual activity which expresses and nourishes the life and mission of the Church is necessarily based on the Word of God”. That Word, moreover, “being destined for all the Lord’s disciples -- as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity reminded us -- calls for special veneration and obedience, in order for it to be recognized also as an urgent call to full union between all believers in Christ”.

Pope Benedict XVI indicated that the members of the Council are about to complete the preparation of the “Lineamenta” (draft guidelines) and pointed out how these “will serve as a valuable tool enabling the entire Church to study the theme of the forthcoming assembly”.

He concluded his remarks with the hope that synodal assembly “may help to rediscover the importance of the Word of God in the lives of all Christians, and of all ecclesial and civil communities”.

The October 2008 Synod of Bishops will be the second over which Pope Benedict will preside. In October 2005 he presided over the Synod that concluded the Year of the Eucharist that had been convoked by Pope John Paul II.

Source: Vatican Information Service

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US Bishops To Review More Missal Texts

Progress is being made, if slowly, on the English translations of the Roman Missal.

Last September, the Chairman of ICEL (International Commission on English in the Liturgy), Bishop Arthur Roche, of Leeds, forwarded to the English-speaking bishops’ conferences two more “green book” (draft) segments of the proposed Missal translation: the entire Common of Saints, and the first half of the Propers of Saints.

In a letter dated December 14, Bishop Donald Trautman, Chairman of the US Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (BCL), made the new draft texts available to the bishops, with a request for their comments by the end of February.

The bishops’ comments on the new texts will be reviewed by the BCL before being forwarded to ICEL, along with the committee’s comments.

Bishop Trautman’s December letter said that the bishops’ comments on the Order of Mass II (Proper of Seasons) were discussed by the BCL at its meeting in November and forwarded to ICEL.

ICEL’s work on the revised (“gray book”) version of the Proper of Seasons is nearing completion. This revised version will again be sent to the various English-speaking bishops’ conferences for their final approval, then to the Holy See for the required recognitio.

The Proper of Saints, in which specific prayers are designated for a particular saint, begins with the General Roman calendar of feasts and solemnities through the year. The Common of Saints (e.g., for martyrs, bishops) includes the Collect, Prayer over the Offerings and Prayer after Communion, unless these appear elsewhere in the Missal.

Bishop Roche’s September letter said that he foresees that the remaining new texts from ICEL will be “coming quite rapidly”. No timetable has been ventured.

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Scottish Schola Revives Gregorian Chant

“It is the mystical music of monks that has found its niche in the new millennium”, writes Vincent Toal in the Glasgow archdiocesan publication, Flourish (October 2006).

“Gregorian chant’s unadorned melodies sweep through abbey cloisters, reflecting beauty in simplicity. In a secular age, it has won over critical audiences directing them towards the sacred. Despite this, Gregorian chant is missing from all but a very few parishes”, Mr. Toal continued; but Glasgow’s Archbishop Mario Conti is changing that. He has commissioned Father Gerard Byrne to start up a schola cantorum -- a choir dedicated to singing and studying Gregorian chant.

Archbishop Conti explained: “The decree on liturgy of the Second Vatican Council states, ‘The Church acknowledges Gregorian Chant as proper to the Roman liturgy, therefore, other things being equal it should be given pride of place in liturgical services’. We cannot pick and choose what we like in the documents of the Council. The loss of this chant would be a great disservice to our cultural heritage. I see the formation of the schola as a contribution also to the musical life of Glasgow.”

He added: “This is not to diminish the good work of providing dignified music for our worship in other languages and idioms. I acknowledge the excellent contributions of parish and school choirs and thank particularly the Saint Mungo Singers under Monsignor Gerry Fitzpatrick for the contribution they make to the liturgy across the archdiocese.”

For the past three years, Father Byrne studied Gregorian chant at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome. Now, newly appointed as assistant priest at Sacred Heart, Cumbernauld, he is eager to put his studies to practical effect with the schola.

“Gregorian chant is quite simply the lectio divina of the early Church,” he points out. “It provides a deep reflection on the Word of God in the context of the liturgy and the wider Tradition of the Church. The chant grew up and matured with the liturgy. It has a spirituality -- a liturgical spirituality -- all of its own. The same cannot be said of a great deal of the music we use in church today.”

Father Byrne is convinced that the revival of Gregorian chant can help parishes focus more on the essence of the liturgy and away from the “performance mentality” that sometimes dominates.

“True Christian, spiritual music, is never an end in itself. It returns the soul to God, causing the listener to become purified, pacified, and sanctified”, he observed. “Truly sacred music leads to the most profound silence, to true contemplation of the Divine Majesty. In this way, it actually transcends itself. Gregorian chant is such music.”

The Glasgow schola will initially be made up only of men who will take part in weekly rehearsals. While choral experience and ability to read music is preferred, previous experience of chant is not required.

It was as a teenager, studying music at Glasgow University, that Father Byrne was introduced to Gregorian chant through a CD produced by the Benedictine monks of Pluscarden Abbey. His interest deepened when Archbishop Conti asked him to enroll in the Sacred Music institute in Rome. During that time he sang in the Cappella Giulia, the choir of the Chapter of Canons of St. Peter’s Basilica, and was an assistant Master of Ceremonies to Pope Benedict.

In the past, Scotland made its contribution to the repertoire of liturgical chant. “The schola glasguensis would certainly be interested in any project which sheds light on the pre-Reformation liturgical life of our land and of our own archdiocese”, Father Byrne said. “Indeed, such studies may actually be able to inform current liturgical practice.”

For further information about the schola and to request information about joining, contact Fr. Byrne at schola_glasguensis@hotmail.co.uk

Source: Flourish, October 2006 - “Chant captures the essence of the Liturgy” by Vincent Toal

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