Linda is a long-time parishioner of St. Boniface Parish and resident of Lafayette, IN. She is the mother of six and grandmother of eight. After her conversion to the Catholic Church many years ago, she became interested in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council regarding the reform of the sacred liturgy. For the past twenty-plus years, she has worked both at the local level, as director of music at St. Boniface Parish, and on a much larger scale, as the creator and editor of the St. Michael Hymnal, to help bring about the authentic reform of the sacred liturgy desired by the Council Fathers and by our present Holy Father.
Fr. Michael O'Connor, O.P.
Fr. Michael is a member of the Dominican Order in the Province of St. Joseph. Originally from Peru, IL, he now lives in Washington, DC at the Dominican House of Studies. He has been involved in sacred music for many years as an organist, singer and composer. Convinced of Pope Benedict's belief that the renewal of the sacred liturgy is at the heart of the renewal of the Church, Fr. Michael is committed to preaching the truth of Jesus Christ and to letting the beauty of this truth shine forth in the Church's liturgy and rich tradition of sacred music.
Interview with Linda Schafer
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I was raised a Southern Baptist, and I was received into the Catholic Church on Easter Sunday of 1979 – it seems like only yesterday.
With what Evelyn Waugh has called the “raw enthusiasm of a new convert,” I started reading everything I could get my hands on, and I heard that there had been something that had happened not too long ago, in the 1960’s, called the Second Vatican Council. It seemed like the place to go to find out where the Church is now, was to those original documents. So I did.
I also remember thinking, even before I read anything, that the heart of the Catholic faith is surely the Liturgy, and so I began reading the document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, or the Dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
My impression of the document on the Liturgy was, first of all, that it was incredibly beautiful. My second impression was that there surely must be a lot that a convert could not understand, since what I was reading in the Constitution was not particularly what I was seeing happen at Mass.
Because I wanted to learn, I began to go to meetings and ask questions. When I would ask why something was or was not done a particular way, I was told that it was not the original document that we were concerned with, but the “spirit” of Vatican II. I supposed that it would take a convert a long time to figure out what that “spirit” was, but I began to suspect more and more, the more I read, that there was more here than met the eye, so to speak, particularly regarding music.
As I continued to read the great documents of the past concerning music and the liturgy - Tra Le Solicitudini, Mediator Dei, and others - I began to believe that something had gone off-track somewhere. It was with great delight that I read in the Ratzinger Report, published in 1985, that no less an expert than the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (now Pope Benedict XVI) said the same thing.
However, it was not until Fr. Timothy Alkire became pastor of St. Boniface that I was able to take any positive and practical steps in moving the music of the parish in a more positive direction, which eventually produced the St. Michael Hymnal.
My background is in English Literature, with a strong emphasis on poetry, and so I believe in the importance of the text. While music and poetry are obviously closely related, intertwined really, poetry is able to verbalize what music can only evoke. Poetry can make doctrine not only beautiful, but articulate – I refer you to John Henry Cardinal Newman and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins as examples.
What we have happily been able to do for the new edition is to do more in-depth research on each hymn text. In looking at the text of each hymn, there are several important considerations. The first is always doctrinal faithfulness, and the second is the poetry. Also, we try to maintain the original words as much as possible. However, in searching for the original words, we have occasionally found that the altered version is actually an improvement, poetically, on the original version, sometimes altering the “purple prose” that was acceptable in the nineteenth century, but which seems overly sentimental and saccharine to the modern ear. More often, the altered version simply corrected awkward accents.
We typically retained the original “thee’s” and “thou’s” in most of the earlier hymns, adopting the modern language only in those cases where singability was affected. Most of the time, changing the pronouns to modern usage had resulted in a feeling of disconnect from the rest of the language of the poem, since the nineteenth century had its own particular idiom. One can almost always recognize an earlier hymn from its sentence structure and vocabulary, not just from its “thee’s” and “thou’s.”
Very rarely, but in one or two cases, we have done minimal editing of our own, where the hymn is too good to omit, but has one or two textual weaknesses.
We have been surprised and pleased with the response to the St. Michael Hymnal, particularly since most people have learned of it through word of mouth. I cannot give you an exact figure, but we have sold a surprising number of hymnals in the last ten years, in the tens of thousands. Parishes across the country (and even a few in other countries) have told us how delighted they are to find a permanent hymnal that is doctrinally orthodox, and that was created in a spirit of obedience to the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. They also are pleased with the selection of Gregorian chant and of beautiful hymnody, particularly with the unaltered language. The feedback has been consistently positive.
As to the new edition of the hymnal, we are placing it once again at the service of the Church, and hope that it may be useful in promoting a restoration of the sacred in the Roman Catholic Liturgy.
Many people have noticed a certain shift in air regarding the celebration of the Mass in this country. I know that many of the seminarians that I am in contact with, and certainly many of the new young priests, have a joyful enthusiasm about the new Springtime in the Church, as is being led by our beloved Holy Father. These young men have a love for tradition, a genuine love for the Church, and a great and holy desire for obedience.
And certainly anyone who wants to do what the Church teaches concerning liturgical music cannot but find a preferential option for Gregorian chant. The new St. Michael Hymnal has more chant than ever. Restoration of course is always a very gradual process, and cannot be accomplished overnight, or even in a generation. Also, it must always proceed with true charity. It is our hope that during the coming years, many pastors will find our hymnal useful as a transitional hymnal, bringing from the musical storehouse “both the old and the new.”
Interview with Fr. Michael, O.P.
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A preacher is someone whose life is dedicated to sharing and proclaiming the truth – the truth that is Jesus Christ. The preacher must remember, however, that while the truth speaks very powerfully to the mind there is also the heart that must be addressed. Pope Benedict has pointed out that beauty is the language native to the human heart. He once said: “The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of an arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes so that we can see the truth more clearly.” The Holy Father insists that truth and beauty belong together and that they must be presented together. He does so because he knows how much man needs both truth and beauty in order to appreciate and live the fullness of the Christian life. God is not only true, He is also good and beautiful.
Beauty serves the sacred liturgy by expressing the honor and glory due to the Triune God we worship, as well as by appealing to our own hearts and convicting us of the Truth that we encounter in the sacred liturgy. Pope Benedict writes, “I think that the great music born within the Church is an audible and perceptible rendering of the truth of our faith. In listening to sacred music – suddenly we feel: it is true!” The preacher, in his mission to communicate the truth of the Gospel, finds an indispensible ally in the power of beauty to move human hearts to embrace the fullness of the truth. As the Holy Father once exclaimed upon hearing a piece of sacred music: “Anyone who has heard this knows that the faith is true!”
Before entering the Dominican Order I worked as a church music director. The pastor of this church wanted to improve the state of liturgical music at the parish and we decided that in order to do so, we would need to buy a new hymnal. I learned about the St. Michael Hymnal and immediately found it to be in a class of its own because of its concern for unadulterated language, its promotion of Gregorian chant, and its rich collection of hymnody. Our parish purchased the hymnal and was greatly enriched by it.
In the process of buying the hymnal, I became acquainted with St. Boniface Church in Lafayette, IN where the hymnal was created and with Linda Schafer, the editor and creator of the hymnal. I told her how enthused I was to find a hymnal that was faithful to the Church’s vision of sacred music, and at the same time actually usable in a parish that did not have a strong or traditional music program. I also offered to help with the project in any way that I might be able to. She accepted my offer and I began working on preparing the choir edition of the St. Michael Hymnal.
The choir edition was completed after a few years, and just as it was, it was announced that a new translation of the Ordinary of the Mass in English would be promulgated. This, of course, meant that the English Ordinaries of the Mass in the present edition of the St. Michael would become obsolete. It was decided to take this opportunity to prepare a new edition of the hymnal (the 4th Edition.) I was asked to be the music editor of this new edition and I have greatly enjoyed working on the project over the past few years.
One of Pope Benedict's dominant themes in talking about the Church's liturgy is the notion of continuity. In the Body of Christ, the Church, we are deeply connected to all that has gone before us. In my own compositions, I am most interested in sounding this note of continuity. I am drawn to beautiful melodic themes and ideas from the past which might be used to serve the sacred liturgy today.
The Eucharistic acclamations of my Siena Chant Mass are simply based on the opening notes of the traditional Gregorian chant Mode VII psalm tone. The rest of the setting is inspired by other Mode VII chant motifs. The rhythm of these mass part is intended to be "chant-like" - something of a blend between plainchant and metered music.
The Mass of St. Michael grew out of two very strong and beautiful melodies from the Ukrainian chant tradition. The lyrical and solemn character of these melodies provided a perfect basis for a new metrical setting of the mass. This mass is dedicated to the honor of my patron saint, Michael the Archangel, also the patron saint of the Ukraine.
I have always loved Mendelssohn's oratorio, Elijah. I find it to be a deeply spiritual and exceptionally beautiful work. As I was listening to it one day and heard the great angelic chorus sing "Holy, Holy, Holy is God the Lord" I couldn't help but think that this would make for a wonderful Sanctus. Using themes from "Lord, God of Abraham," "Cast Thy Burden Upon the Lord," and "O Rest in the Lord" as well, the beautiful melodies of Mendelssohn's oratorio provide the basis for my Mass of the Great Prophet.