Thursday, January 12, 2012

Nuptial Mass Reflections: The Importance of Music

Wendi’s daughter was married a week or so ago. The nuptial Mass (novus ordo), she maintains, “was the most beautiful Mass I have ever attended.” Now, of course we recognize that she must have been biased, since it was her own daughter’s wedding! But wait…there were reactions from others, as well.

Okay...this isn't actually a photo from
Wendi's daughter's wedding...but beauty is beauty!
Wendi’s friend, Dr. David E. Saunders, served as organist/cantor and chantmaster for the Mass. On his blog A View From the Loft, he wrote:
This will be a Nuptial Mass unlike any I've ever been a part of...

It will involve...a Mass that will feature the actual chanted texts called for by the rite, sung in Latin by a group of musicians dedicated and committed to the restoration of chant in the Mass...No "Here Comes the Bride, Fair Fat and Wide" at this wedding, oh no.

Here, for example, is the text the Church appoints for the entrance (Introit) that will be sung for this Mass:

God is in his holy dwelling place; the God who causes us to dwell together, one at heart, in his house; he himself will give power and strength to his people. (Psalm verse:) Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; and let those who hate him flee before his face.

Powerful stuff to begin the Nuptial Mass. The Church isn't interested in Hallmark card-style sentimental twaddle. This is an important moment in the life of a man and woman who have decided to join their lives in a holy, sacramental vocation; a vocation equal in importance to the Church with that of a priest or religious (nun or monk). Invoking God in this way shifts the focus from "the bride's special day" to a true sacramental celebration, which is the property of the Universal Church and nobody else

Wendi sees an application beyond the nuptial Mass, though – an application to every single Sunday of the year. Here are her reflections, which she posted on her blog Cradle Stories (my emphases):
I was quite serious when I said that my daughter's Nuptial Mass was the most beautiful Mass I have ever attended.  The priest was exactly as a priest should be.  Reverent, but joyful.  The homily was very personalized to my daughter and her husband.  The music was exactly what the music should be.  Chant and Polyphony, well-executed.  No hymns, nothing happy/clappy.

What I wasn't prepared for was the reaction of the other people in attendance.  It rather shocked me and overwhelmed me a little bit to be honest.

There wasn't a reception, just dinner with the immediate families.  During the course of the evening, about 90% of the guests made it a point to come tell me how beautiful the Mass was.  One guest made the comment that she's been to a lot of Catholic weddings in her life and that this one was the most beautiful she had ever been to.

I got that particular phrase quite often..."The most beautiful Mass I've ever been to."
It continued on Sunday.  One parishioner that had attended, stopped me in the hallway to ask if my next daughter (who just became engaged over Christmas) was going to have the same kind of Mass.  When I confirmed that yes she was...this lovely person all but begged me to put an announcement in the bulletin inviting the entire parish.

She went on to say...

"Everyone should experience a Mass like that at least once in their life.  And do you know how many girls of marriageable age are in this parish?  They should see it so they know what they can have for their own weddings."

It was nice to hear and I agree it was extraordinarily beautiful.


The reaction has taken me completely off guard.  I was startled by it.

WHY were so many people having this reaction to a Mass?

Especially those in our parish.

The priest is like that at every mass he offers.  I could somewhat understand the reaction of visiting guests.

Good priests are not terribly common, although as the Blessed John Paul generation comes in they are becoming more so.

But the locals should be used to this.

After some discussion with a number of friends trying to puzzle this out, I finally got it.

It was that the music and the priest matched.
They don't usually.

In many parishes the priest is reverent.

The music on the other hand...Parish music programs have been all but destroyed in the last forty years.

Here's the thing though...We could have that kind of music at every Mass.  It's possible.   

With two exceptions, everyone who sang for my daughter's wedding is a parishioner.  There are a number of others in the pews who have beautiful voices.  So even if the people who sang for the wedding can't come every week, good music is possible.

But people have to be willing to work for it.

Good music doesn't just happen.

The good music happened for my daughter's wedding for a number of reasons and through the efforts of a number of people.

I knew what it could be and I was determined that she should have it.

I have a number of friends and acquaintances, who were extremely generous with their time and talent, coming in the evenings after work or caring for family all day to rehearse the music.  While their spouses generously stayed home doing all the evening things (homework, bathtime, prayer, bedtime etc...) with their children.

So this isn't about me. Or any individual musician.  It's about all of us, working very hard, together, to offer the best of ourselves in the worship of Almighty God in the Sacrifice of the Mass.
Combine that with a reverent priest and you get beauty.  Extraordinary beauty.

I wish we did that every week.  I wish that my daughter's Nuptial Mass didn't stand out.

When a Mass like that is the norm, it will mean that we have the fullness of our religious heritage every week.

Which we should.

I'm realistic and therefore I don't think it will happen anytime in the near future.

But it could.

So, I'll keep supporting the priest and the music director in improving our sacred music program.

I'll keep inviting my friends to come to rehearsals.  It's a time commitment, and everyone is busy (me too).

I think it's worth it.

So I'll keep praying and supporting.

Thanks for reading.

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