So it is official now. We have received our shipment of the Lumen Christi Missal. This is by fiat of our pastor without consultation of our music director. I feel conflicted about this.
Our music director is a really good guy, who has a good knowledge of the liturgy and a reverence for our faith. Although he is a Lutheran, he does well as an organist, pianist, director, cantor, all those roles rolled up in one person. Up until now, we have exclusively used the Gather Comprehensive hymnal as a source for English Masses. In Spanish we use the Flor y Canto hymnal, but that is another fight and another thread.
Our bishop has recently written a series for the diocesan newspaper about sacred music, explaining what the Church documents say about the use of Gregorian chant, the propers, singing the Mass ordinary, etc. Recently he hired an expert on chant, Adam Bartlett, who has published the hymnal, Simple English Propers, to be Director of Sacred Music for the cathedral. It seems that our pastor is taking these cues well. But he has not discussed this in depth with the director! He has just dropped tiny hints and now he has ordered this Lumen Christi and apparently intends to impose chant of the Ordinary of Mass, and antiphons to replace organ and piano-driven hymns from Gather.
I am extremely pleased that our pastor is going in this direction. It is what the Church wants and what our bishop wants. I believe that many parishes in the future will go to chant as the “reform of the reform” of Vatican II takes hold. I am glad to be in the vanguard of this. But yet I am scared. I am reluctant to give up the beautiful polyphony and organ accompaniment that characterize traditional hymnody. I have become an expert at singing bass harmonies and I will sorely miss that. I also fear for the congregation. This will be a great shock to them. What will they think when we suddenly begin to chant everything? How many parishioners will we lose? Will we gain an equal number who are drawn to the magic of chant? Our English-speaking community is elderly and set in their ways. I predict a large amount of dissatisfaction with any change such as this.
I am also confused by what the missal provides. Antiphon text is provided. Psalm refrains in chant notation are provided, with the verse text. No music is given for antiphons or psalm verses. There is no “Director’s copy” or “Accompaniment addition” provided (yet?) that has music for these. There appears to be no way to chant the propers without adding another book, like Simple English Propers, or a standard hymnal. I am very confused about what our pastor expects out of this book, aside from the provided readings for the whole Lectionary cycle. Currently, we have major expense and labor invested in producing worship aids, in English and Spanish, to reproduce all the readings and all the hymns for each Sunday Mass.
If anyone has parish experience with this book I would love to hear your opinions and suggestions. Please pray for our whole community as we go through this transition. I will be praying especially for our music director not to lose heart, because he is not trained in chant and this could easily cost him his job. Thank you.