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A church in San Francisco has done what many other churches in the country are doing: using Latin in parts of the Mass.
BY VALERIE SCHMALZREGISTER CORRESPONDENT
SAN FRANCISCO — When Gloria Gazave
started as a cantor at St. Thomas More Church in San Francisco, she turned her
classical training as a singer to good use.
The 5 p.m. Saturday Mass now
features the Kyrie sung in Greek, with the Sanctus, Gloria, Agnus Dei and
sometimes the Creed and Memorial Acclamation sung in Latin.
“It was real slow at first, but now
people sing along. It is not that hard,” said the mother of five. The church
prints song sheets that include the Latin chants.
“I was kind of nervous about how it
was going to be accepted,” Gazave said. “But everyone has commented on how
beautiful it is.”
St. Thomas More is part of a quiet
trend to incorporate traditional Latin Church music, particularly the chants,
into the body of the vernacular Novus Ordo Mass. This is not the beginning of a
return to the Mass in Latin, several experts said, but a recognition that a
part of the Church’s heritage needs to reclaim its position within the liturgy.
The trend is accelerating at the
same time as a new English translation of the Roman Missal, expected to
reincorporate more traditional language, is in the works, several liturgy
“There is a renewed interest in the
Latin texts, the Latin chants,” said Patrick Vallez-Kelly, director of the
Archdiocese of San Francisco’s Office of Worship. “I think some people are
going back to the instructions that came out of the Second Vatican Council that
have always exhorted us to maintain a basic repertoire of Latin. That has
largely been ignored in the American church. There is a generation of music
directors and liturgists who are coming back to that — this is something of
Vatican II encouraged the use of
Gregorian chant and recommended it to have “pride of place” in the liturgy.
“There may be a natural call that
this kind of natural chanting has on the human heart, and that’s why for so
many years of being absent from the churches it is now being welcomed by so
many,” said Helen Hull Hitchcock, editor of the Adoremus Bulletin. “As St. Augustine said,
‘Singing is praying twice.’”
Pope Benedict XVI’s love of
traditional church music is also sparking the movement toward more Latin and
Gregorian music, Vallez-Kelly said. The Holy Father wrote extensively on the
liturgy as a professor and then as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, particularly in The Spirit of the Liturgy.
Now that he is Pope, his thoughts have become more familiar.
“I think in some ways he’s a voice
for what other people have been feeling,” Vallez-Kelly said. “There are certain
aspects to the liturgical renewal that weren’t done well. There has been a lot
of disregard for the norms — and a lot of free experimentation done poorly.”
In fact, the Church Music
Association of America’s sacred music seminars that once drew 40 to 50 people now
lure hundreds of Catholic musical directors, organists and singers, Religion
News Service reported. And St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke this spring
announced the creation of Institute of Sacred Music in the Office of Sacred
Worship and the appointment as director of noted music scholar and Benedictine
Father Samuel Weber.
In San Francisco, a city of
immigrants, the number of foreign language Masses is high. At Sts. Peter and
Paul Church near Fisherman’s Wharf, the Chinese Mass includes the Our Father in
Latin, said Salesian Father Harold Danielson. The church’s Italian Mass
includes some Latin chants as do some of the regular English Masses, the priest
While some might hope the renewed
interest in the Latin chants is a movement back toward the days when the Mass
was entirely in Latin, Church liturgy scholar Father Giles Dimock said the Mass
in the language of the people is here to stay.
“My own opinion is that most people
are happy to be able to understand the Mass, particularly the readings, but
they miss the great Church music of the past,” said the Dominican priest, who
taught liturgy for 40 years in Rome and Washington, D.C., and is now at
Franciscan University at Steubenville, Ohio.
Pope Benedict’s relaxing of
restrictions on celebration of the Extraordinary Rite of the Mass in Latin will
mean greater celebration of the Mass in Latin both in the extraordinary form
and the ordinary form, Father Dimock said.
But Mass in Latin will remain just
one form of the Mass celebrated in the Church. Father Dimock noted that during
his recent visit Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in English, “but they used a
great deal of Latin music” in Yankee Stadium and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and
the Masses were “very beautiful. I don’t think it has to be all or nothing.”
The papal Masses in New York had an
evangelical aspect, Hitchcock said. “Uniting this kind of beauty with the texts
in the Mass creates an appeal that is beyond mere words or intellect. This is
one of the functions of music in the liturgy that Pope Benedict has fostered
throughout his career.”
“Personally I think it’s a bit odd
that for years the only place you could hear some of the great Catholic music
was in the high Anglican churches,” said Father Dimock. “It is our heritage.”
Valerie Schmalz is based
in San Francisco.