5 March 2011

Heavenly music. But the ceremonial!

With  a a tip of the biretta to the NLM the Pimpernel congratulates the cantors, choir and musicians responsible for this splendid rendition of solemn vespers. Perhaps the opening instrumental music might have been different, but wow, this is musically impressive.

But the ceremonial! Please, urgently, somebody, go over to the Amazon widget on the side and buy these clergy, including the one in choir, ceremonial manuals for Christmas (last Christmas). In the meantime there is a lot they could learn from even the Biretiquette post that appears from time to time on the blog of a famous priest cook. They’re good men for sure, but good men should know what they’re doing in the sacred liturgy or at least have someone near them who does. Perhaps whilst they are waiting for their Christmas presents readers might like to offer constructive and polite suggestions for these good clergy on the ceremonial of vespers and Benediction?

Praise where praise is due, it’s great this took place at all. But the sacred liturgy deserves our very best. It’s not that hard to read Fortescue; you know, read the black and then do it.


  1. Heavenly? Really?

  2. Thank you for your kind words!

    We worked immensely and intensely on the ceremonial aspects of this. You should note, before you pass complete judgment, that this is the first time in over 40 years that Vespers have been offered in Rochester - it's not as if we had a template we could follow with ease. We read Fortesque. We had several hours of practice. The Benediction was a last minute change, due to the "humble suggestion" of the sisters in cloister. A word to the wise: never go against what smiling nuns in habits ask of you! So I agree, to some extent with your critique.

    That being said, I would like to point out that, coming from a diocese where squirt-guns are used for the Asperges, women preach homilies in albs, priests bless gay "marriages", and people who attend the Latin Mass are labeled as "subversive reactionaries," this was a beautiful thing, musically *and* liturgically. No one claimed it was perfect. The priests and deacons with birettas hadn't seen them used since 1967, so seeing as how they actually knew they were supposed to be worn on the head is more than sufficient in my book lol.

    And of course Our Lord deserves the best - that's what we offered Him.

    *Anxiously awaits those kindly-offered Christmas gifts*

  3. I daresay this may be the most pompous thing I've ever read.

  4. The Diocese of Rochester is Satan's dominion. Thank God there are priests courageous enough to take part in something that is sure to draw the ire or Bishop Matthew Clark. Don't forget that this is the first such EF Vespers in over 4 decades in Rochester! Sure, there will be some mistakes the first time.

  5. I certainly sympathize with the organizers of these vespers. I had to organize the assistance of a Bishop in the Gregorian Rite some weeks back and it was impossible to go by the book: we need neither had the people, nor the liturgical items, nor someone who had actually ever done it, nor the greatest good will from the bishop's behalf.
    In this "age of restoration" we can say: non omnia omnibus possumus.

  6. Yeah, it's not easy doing these things and its great they happen, but someone should have advised these guys on when not to wear birettas and how to do Benediction. That isn't too hard to find out.

  7. I really think there are more constructive things to do than complain about something after the fact. Strive for good liturgy, but don't be offensive, folks! "Deliver me, Lord, from gloomy saints!"

  8. Pimpernel: "Lighten up, Francis!"

  9. As someone who sang in the choir of this service and as the mother of the two instrumentalists who played the prelude/processional (by the way they are 14 and 15 years old), I think there is a difference between constructive criticism (believe me, I know when my cellist son is not playing the right notes) and just being nasty (see anon's comment at the top).

    DF has already explained the situation of how this service was organized and for anyone familiar with the Rochester diocese, he or she will know how challenging it is to pull something like this off. So how about some encouragment and suggestions for improvement instead of snide remarks? I am certainly no expert on EF liturgy, but I found the whole experience uplifting, sacred and beautiful. Can improvements be made? Yep. But I would take this any day given the state of liturgy in our diocese.

  10. Sir, I would like to ask you: Have you ever experienced the Diocese of Rochester? If you have not had the misfortune, I advise you to just do some quick Googling. You'll find enough to make you have nightmares. It is the most "progressive" diocese in the country--and utterly intolerant of Tradition. The Latin Mass community, from what I hear, has to fight for its single-Latin-Mass-a-week on a regular basis. Note the awfully small size of the chapel, but how full it is nonetheless. You can seat about 66 people in the chapel, plus a couple more because we had some small children. Had it been done somewhere bigger, I am sure the turnout would have filled the space. But would the diocese even recognize it? I'm certain the answer is a hard, blunt, and large, "NO." Anything which even begins to "exclude" people (for instance, Latin is "exclusive" because people don't understand it) is considered too "old-fashioned" and "unacceptable."

    I guess what I'm trying to say is this: It's a miracle it even happened at all.

  11. DF, thank you for your informative comment. Keep up the good work. (A picture of a liturgical squirt-gun would be useful...)

    Some commentators need to ask which part of "good clergy" and "it’s great this took place at all" they do not understand?

    Even in the diocese of Rochester it is possible for people celebrating the traditional liturgy to get some basics right. It's probably even more important, if that's possible, to get them right in places like that.

    Best foot forward first, chaps. The Pimpernel looks forward to praising reports of the next celebration there without reserve!

  12. "A picture of a liturgical squirt-gun would be useful..."


  13. They got more than "some basics" right. So the priests didn't doff the birettas at the right time. Everything else (for the most part) went off without a hitch. Psalmtones matched the modes of the antiphons, servers executed their roles flawlessly, the schola stayed perfectly on pitch, the priest(s) were prayerful, all the sanctuary-dwelling folks turned in to the middle, not out to the sides, the incensing was done properly, the presider demonstrated a mastery of his sung portions . . . and yet we're fixating on hats?

    Everyone's been very civil in this thread, but I think, sir, you're being very snide indeed. I always cringe when someone refers to himself in the third person - it smacks of poor taste. Maye you don't see it, but your words tear-down more than they build-up. Who would feel encouraged to put this sort of thing on again when they know some online liturgist lurks in the shadows to eviscerate his or her efforts?

  14. Jon, the Pimpernel respectfully asks you to consider that fear of God whom we encounter in the sacred liturgy should give us sufficient pause to get things right in advance.

    Bowing before an altar before genuflecting to a tabernacle on another altar directly behind it, birettas worn more than bishops wear mitres, the use of dalmatics at vespers, incensing without the assistance of the assistants, the needless changing of a cope, the carrying a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament to an altar by a cleric in a dalmatic, and back again later, the same cleric standing beside the celebrant during the giving of benediction, etc. etc, are just plan bad liturgy.

    They are worse when presented as a good example of the tradition.

    If people really don't have sufficient awe of God in preparing the liturgy (and the Pimpernel does not accuse DF or his people of this - their good will is evident) then fear of the Pimpernel might just serve as a substitute to help them along.

    Did the Pimpernel criticise the music? He thinks not. But he understands well that commentators don't always read before they write.

    The Pimpernel, Sir, is not being at all snide. He has complimented and encouraged DF above, implicitly and explicitly. But he also knows that the sacred liturgy has exacting standards, to which we must all rise, and if we fall short, it is pride and arrogance to pretend otherwise. He does not at all accuse DF or his people of that, exactly the opposite, but it does seem that some commentators wish to assert that this celebration of Vespers was both well motivated and well executed ceremonially. It was undoubtedly the former and just as undoubtedly not the latter.

    Eviscerate, sir? Tempt not the Pimpernel!

  15. Funny . . . the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius used Dalmatics . . . I guess they could use a sound thrashing, too.

    Perhaps you should organize a Vespers service so as to show these folks how to do it right. ;)

  16. Hey! Everyone relax. A little post game quarterbacking is OK. Actually they may have tried a little too hard. Just a celebrant would have been enough. A priest or Deacon could have brought the monstrancein surplice and stole (The Nuns have extensive adoration so the unusual exposition and reposition.) I am certain that there is no set of matching copes for pluvialistae. The went when St. Bernard's Seminnary was abandoned. The Rev. Michael Forbes, Rochester , MN formerly Rochester, NY

  17. Anon 02:11 The Brompton Oratory in London celebrate Vespers correctly every Sunday afternoon according to the old rite. Other Oratories do too I think.

  18. There's also a booklet for these Vespers, so you can follow along all the Latin chants and see the English translations: http://www.transitofvenus.nl/LiturgiaHorarum/booklets/LHOffParBMV.pdf
    You will notice that the singing of the verses and hymn, due to unforeseen, last minute changes, turned out to be a little different. Nevertheless, it's good to see that these EF Vespers were celebrated and I certainly hope they will do this again some time – for which occasion the encouraging feedback given on this blog might be very helpful.

  19. Ink, congratulations on the video. Sorry the Pimpernel can't post your comment because of the abuse in it. But here it is with the offensive bit removed.

    Pimpernel. Sir. You probably don't recognize my username--I'm not very well-known. I'm a behind-the-scenes kind of girl, and it was MY video that was posted. And I'm a student at a heterodox high school, constantly fighting for Truth and orthodoxy. I know my research. You bow to an altar. You genuflect to a tabernacle. An altar is the focal point of the liturgy and must house a relic--a carry-over from the days when Mass was said literally on the bones of martyrs. Inside the tabernacle is the True Presence--you know, Jesus. Our God-King, our Saviour, the one who DIED ON A CROSS TO SAVE OUR IMMORTAL SOULS. It stands to reason that you reverence them separately and differently. Do me a favour, or three? Breathe. Speak in the first person, not the third. And reread your comments. Look at this: "incensing without the assistance of the assistants"; "the needless changing of a cope"; "the carrying a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament to an altar by a cleric in a dalmatic, and back again later, the same cleric standing beside the celebrant during the giving of benediction" Let's do this in order. One: Incense is best used in the hands of someone who knows how to use it. You're waving around a miniature fire in a metal container. I'm kind of glad it didn't change hands too much. Two: Wouldn't you rather a priest be MORE reverent for Benediction? I bet you'd nitpick if he DIDN'T change. Three: Benediction was added at the absolute last minute. As in, I had barely enough time to get my hat before I had to be there to set up the camera and microphones. So they didn't have time to work out the exact actions. And it HAPPENED. Adoration and benediction HAPPENED. We spent time in the presence of God. The ceremony was solemn and reverent and there was no improvising of prayers (which I have seen many-a-time, even/especially during the Eucharistic Prayer). ...charity. That is more important than utterly flawless liturgy.