From an interview published today by Catholic World Report: Portland’s new archbishop: “I’m a teacher at heart”.
CWR: The Archdiocese of Portland is home to Oregon Catholic Press, which produces missals and liturgical music materials used by two-thirds of our country’s Catholic churches. You have developed an interest in the liturgy—in fact, you’re writing a pastoral letter on the topic. Can you share with us some highlights of that letter?
Sample: Yes. It is on pastoral music, and is just being released. We just hired a new director of sacred music, and this will be his road map. It will be my last contribution to the life of the Church in Marquette.
In this letter I discuss the liturgical movement of the Church, what Vatican II said about liturgical music, documents released on the topic after Vatican II, as well as writings by popes about [liturgical music]. It is not my vision or my ideas; I try to present the Church’s vision.
It is clear that the Council calls for the liturgy to be sung. In recent decades we’ve adopted the practice of singing songs at Mass. We take the Mass, and attach four hymns or songs to it. But this is not the Church’s vision. We need to sing the Mass. It is meant to be sung. The texts of the Mass are meant to be sung.
The Church provides us with chant, which is integral to liturgy, and should inspire the music of the Mass. We need to get away from singing songs at Mass and return to singing the Mass. And Gregorian chant is best suited to the Mass. The new director I hired [in the Diocese of Marquette] will introduce chant. It will be a huge shift for the people.
I mean no criticism of our sacred musicians, who are very dedicated. It will be a shift for them as well.
And, in addition to Latin chant, we also need to introduce chant in English. Although the Second Vatican Council said that chant should be given “pride of place,” one rarely hears it in parishes. Music is an important part of celebrating the Mass. As Pope Benedict has said, if we get the music right, we’ll get the spirit of the Mass right.
CWR: Where have you seen liturgy and liturgical music done well?
Sample: The parishes I’ve visited have all different levels of quality of music. In my formative years, the liturgy at the Church of St. Agnes in St. Paul, Minnesota, led by Msgr. Richard Schuler (1920-2007), was outstanding. More recently, the liturgy and music at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the March for Life was spectacular.
CWR: You’ve been involved in ordinations for the Fraternity of St. Peter, which celebrates the traditional liturgy of the Roman rite. What do you like about the pre-Vatican II rite of the Mass, and will we be seeing more of it in Portland?
Sample: I appreciate the Tridentine liturgy. I am 100 percent a product of the Second Vatican Council, in that I grew up in its wake, and all my formation was post-Vatican II. Therefore, my fondness for the Tridentine liturgy is not based in nostalgia. Having been exposed to it, I’ve gained a great appreciation for it.
What sparked my interest in it was Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum [granting greater freedom to priests to celebrate the older form of the liturgy]. I thought, “I’m a bishop of the Catholic Church, and it’s my responsibility to know how to celebrate Mass according to both the new and old rites.” I’ve learned the Tridentine liturgy, and have since celebrated three Pontifical High Masses and Masses for the Fraternity of St. Peter and the Institute of Christ the King (in Florence, Italy).
I believe that Pope Benedict wants the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to influence liturgical reform, to lead to a reform of the reform, because in some areas we’ve gotten off track. He wants the pre-conciliar liturgy to help shape the new liturgy and help reconcile us with the past. If the Tridentine Mass was once beautiful, it cannot now be harmful.
The Tridentine Mass certainly has many strengths; for example, it clearly stresses the sacrificial nature of the Mass. It also draws many young people who did not grow up with it. They’re discovering their heritage and tradition. It’s providing them with something they’re not finding in the ordinary form. We need to pay attention to that.
When I arrive in Portland, I’ll find out the status of the Tridentine Mass, and see if there are stable groups who want it. As their archbishop, I’ll do what I can to make it available.
Photo source: FSSP