Monday, August 16, 2010

Resources We Need to Create

I've served in two missions and part of what is needed for mission priests is resources. Having the right books is important--and hopefully these can be printed soon and quickly. And they should be beautiful books and not simply functional. Everything that we offer to God should be our finest in all respects. Yes, good liturgical books are necessary.

But I really have in mind other resources that are needed beyond liturgical books, which I work on a great deal personally. Mission priests need so much more. Here are a couple of items that come to my mind which would greatly help flesh out mission parishes:

Music CDs
I would love it if a choir master would take a small select choir of no more than 6 voices and record simple Mass settings that mission parishes could learn to sing. Most people learn to sing by ear because they don't read music, and yet finding recordings to help them is impossible. When things get recorded it is by larger choirs who really want to do more "interesting" pieces of music which small communities can't hope to do as lovely and as moving as the music is.

What I have in mind would be a CD that includes a recording of the Asperges me, the Vidi aquam (from the Burgess English Gradual), and four different Mass settings: the Missa de Angelis, Missa Marialis (Cum jubilo), the Missa Orbis Factor, and the Missa Pentitentialis. All of these can be found in English translations. The English Gradual is a great source except the organist/choir master would need to write a simple accompaniment for each piece (a possible publication?). The Missa Marialis can be found, with accompaniment, in the 1940 Hymnal and parts of the Missal de Angelis can be found there as well. The traditional Credos associated with each setting should be recorded with the settings to make this a very helpful CD.

I would also like to see a complete CD that includes the entire Requiem Mass in plainsong with a minimum of choristers. This should include the Sub venite, the Mass itself, the In Paradisum, the Absolutions and even the music used at the graveside. This CD would help train a chanter to be able to sing a Requiem solo if needed during the week. What an important resource!

Finally, in regards to music, a CD with the basic music of Vespers would be helpful. A sample psalm of each of the eight modes, the Magnificat and each of the Marian Antiphons (in the simplest of authentic settings) would round this out very nicely. Were these CDs to be created by a nice little choir, it would definitely be an incredible help to many, many missions and small churches. I would also think that the CD set could be sold for a nice little profit as well. I'd buy a set!

A Loan Chest
Missions are expensive to get going, and traditional Western worship requires all sorts of gizmos and whatchamacallits. Often more established parishes have older ones that have been replaced and could give the older piece to a common loan chest. This includes vestments of course. Even donations of new pieces would be great for a loan chest.

A loan chest might actually help some parishes get started. Then they could slowly begin purchasing their own pieces and return the loaners. In addition to providing a living stipend and package for a priest, renting a space and so forth, the material items to begin a parish (new) run about $35,000 or so. It might be able to be done for less with imagination and used items, but it nevertheless is quite an investment. A loan chest would be a magnificent ministry and a great ancillary to evangelism.

Popular Religious Books
Most converts that I have met love to read. It is part of where they are at spiritually. They are trying to learn about their church for their soul's growth and sanctification. It would be helpful to have some books written that would help people learn to participate better in the Mass, to understand what is happening before their eyes. These books certainly should be written on a popular level. There are some out now, but were they written to the particular audience, patrimony, or rite, they would be so much more powerful for the faithful.

Christian Education
The area of Christian education in mission parishes is a daunting topic. Because there are usually too few children to make classes for each age group, more flexible programs are needed. Those with experience in this area would do a great service to the Church if they were to make some of their materials available to the rest of us.

Handbook of Ideas
This may be a particularly American item, but I think it would be helpful to have a handbook of ideas for parish evangelism, parish ministries and so forth. Not all of the ideas would be tried every where, and not all would be even desired. But they might spark other ideas that could be used locally.

One handbook that I've been considering putting together myself deals with building the items needed for a mission that has to set up and take down after each service. This is a not too uncommon experience of mission parishes that borrow space, be it in a school cafeteria or elsewhere. I have in mind to make drawings of how to build a portable altar (which might be modified to become an Altar of Repose), gradines, tabernacle and so forth. I would have suggestions about how to set up the altar so it looked traditional and complete without breaking the bank. Having worked as a draftsman out of high school and later a technical writer and illustrator this would be right up my alley.

Other handbooks would be equally helpful I'm sure.

There is so much that can be done beginning right now. There is no reason that work can't be started even today. Waiting on what may or may not happen in the future is paralyzing and numbing spiritually. Let us all work towards tasks that are helpful to each other and so help to build up the Body of Christ.


  1. I have often felt the need for music resources along the lines that you suggest. Even a simple recording on cd of Merbeck's mass would be helpful. It would also help to have a cd, perhaps only two voices in unison, of enough of the very simply music of the "English Gradual" to help starting parishes as well.

    I think it would also help to have a cd of a priest's tutorial (The Romans do have such a tutorial in Latin) for collects, conclusions, epistle, Gospel, prefaces as well as the exultet and solemn Good Friday collects would be very useful. I am under the impression that such things are no longer really taught in modern Episcopalian or Roman seminaries, and I can only imagine what the Charismatic Episcopalians are doing. I often shudder when attending so-called traditional services, either wr Orthodox or continuing Anglican, where it is obvious that the celebrant has no training whatsoever in the proper chanting of the offices; and rely on the Russian manner of bellowing everything out in a sort of sing-song.

    The Lutherans have published a very high church book for the daily office, "The Brotherhood Prayer Book," and it is accompanied by a cd that has all of the tones and special music in the book (in traditional square notation); it is excellent and the only criticism is that it only has a single voice on the cd, which does not really give a sense of what unison Gregorian chant should really sound like (even having only two voices would have been a great improvement).

  2. The priest's tutorial would be very helpful as well. I think a lot can be done in this area which would be a great aid to the Church and I think it would fine a good market too. Many, many choir directors would buy copies of it just to have it even if they weren't going to use the texts themselves. I don't think that one would lose money in creating these aids, in fact I think just the opposite.

  3. Good luck on this. You can't even find Byzantine stuff like this for new missions. If your wife and kids don't have a musical talent, it's pretty difficult.

  4. I think that one reason that it is far more probably to make such a project for the western rite is that the wr's simplicity makes it possible, this is especially true if Mattins and Evensong are done from the BCP. It is indeed possible to do a very respectable sung mass using Merbeck with the simple propers from the "English Gradual."