Pastoral Message – October 24, 2021
Greetings to all of you at Saints Simon & Jude! My name is Andre Rossignol and I am thrilled to be joining the parish as the Director of Music Ministries. This coming December will mark my twentieth year making music in the Catholic Church and I am honored and blessed to begin this new chapter here with you. If you are just perusing this first paragraph, but do not intend to read the entire reflection I would like for your main takeaway to be join the music ministry!
What do you think of when you imagine what Catholic music is? Maybe you think of monks in a secluded abbey chanting the Liturgy of the Hours. Or maybe you imagine the music of Bob Hurd, Michael Joncas, or John Micahel Talbot. Maybe what you hear is the joyful, contemporary, and energetic sounds of the “Glory to God” from the Mass of Saint Ann by Ed Bolduc. Or do you hear the mighty organ soaring on the strains of “All Creatures of Our God and King”?
My response to all of the answers would be, “Yes, me too!” What we hear in the sacred Mass should serve the liturgy and inspire reverence, joy, awe, and devotion in our hearts as we witness the miracle on the altar when the priest consecrates the bread and wine to become the real presence of Jesus Christ. Since Vatican II, the Church has undergone tremendous growth in a relatively short amount of time. And since then, liturgical music has expanded to include many different musical genres. Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholic musicians “not to forget the musical heritage of the past, to renew it and increase it with new compositions.”
Pope Francis has recently renewed the call to Catholic composers and musicians to essentially up their game by striving to write and create music that is befitting of our liturgy.
A recently composed song that comes to my mind when I think of the Holy Father’s words is “Miracle of Grace” by Curtis Stephan. The first verse echoes the sense of awe and the mystery of the sacrament of the Eucharist in the great hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas, “Pange lingua gloriosi”:
Miracle of grace, mystery of faith,
calling us to venture to the deep.
Though our senses fail, your graces still prevail,
and we become the love that we receive.
It is a wonderful addition to the canon of Eucharistic hymns written over the centuries. We are blessed to be living in a time of renewal in church music. But I do not mean to imply that these newly composed songs should replace the hymns that have been passed down to us. In fact, I love the great hymns of our faith! Take “Praise to the Lord” (LOBE DEN HERREN), for example. When I sing,
Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in us adore him!
All that has life and breath come now with praises before him!
Let the “Amen” sound from his people again,
Now as we worship before him!
(and not just that verse, but every single one) I inevitably get chills! I had the good fortune to spend several years singing in the company of a brother from the Benedictine order. I learned how to sing Gregorian chant from him. Chant is very dear to my heart; it is the wellspring from which all Catholic sacred music comes.
Coming back to Pope Francis’ exhortation to musicians he said, “Sacred music also carries out another task, that of bringing together Christian history: in the liturgy, Gregorian chant, polyphony, popular music and contemporary music resonate. It is as though, in that moment, there were all the past and present generations praising God, each with its own sensitivity.” (emphasis added). I think that is key for us to remember. Sacred music is not about what we like or prefer. It is about how it serves the sacred liturgy. We offer the very best of our praise at the altar of God because that is what he is worthy of: our very best. And as Catholic Christians it is our calling as a parish to have the finest music we can provide at our Masses.
And with all that being said, if you have a talent in music, be it sung or instrumental, please contact me! If you can sing, consider joining the adult choir at the 11:15 am Mass. We will be singing music from the canon of Catholic sacred music including music from the Renaissance all the way to contemporary choral music. Or if you think you might prefer a smaller ensemble we will need singers at other Masses as well to sing in contemporary groups. And instrumentalists let me know what you play! I will find a place for you. Young adults and teens, this is a wonderful way to start serving your parish. Parents, we will be starting the children’s choir back up soon!
I pray for God’s blessing on us as a congregation and I look forward to meeting all of you as we worship together!
Director of Music Ministry