Vernacular Music

As someone who joined the Catholic Church later in life, I had the opportunity to attend mass many times before becoming Catholic. At least among the other music students who took me to mass, my general impression became “A mass is a mass is a mass.” Very little changed from one celebration to the next or from one parish to the next. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, there was a desire for consistency and uniformity in celebration that kept mass the same from place to place. That changed fifty years ago this weekend. On March 7, 1965, Blessed Paul VI celebrated the first mass in Italian in the parish of Ognissanti (All Saints), Rome. It was the first mass in the vernacular celebrated by the pope in modern times.

With the celebration of mass now in the local language, there was a shift from uniformity to unity. I experienced this when I lived in France. The music and language were different, but the mass was still the same. Even though still a Protestant at that point, I felt more at home worshiping with the Catholics because I knew what was going on. I might not understand the language, but I knew the form. (In fact, the mass helped me learn the language!)

Some people look at new music in the church just as I suspect some people viewed the arrival of the vernacular: a corruption from the secular world that should not be admitted to the realm of the sacred. Instead, I choose to believe music is a vehicle that not only brings us closer to God, but God closer to us. Music is a language that needs to be part of our vernacular as well. As I traveled around Europe, worshiping in many different languages, I hope you will be able to worship with the music here at the Cathedral whether it is old and familiar or new and different.


Bulletin Notes for the Cathedral of Mary, Our Queen, March 8, 2015