I received in the mail a new instructional DVD for a TLM, Missa Cantata, prepared by the excellent Canons of St. John Cantius in Chicago.
I went through it and it was a treat.
First, St. John’s is a beautiful Polish church, on the north side. It was pulled from the ruins and closure by the efforts of Fr. Frank Phillips, who truly has his head screwed on the the right direction about things liturgical, musical and religious. This is a fine priest, parish, and religious community. At St. John’s you can find both the older form of Mass in the Novus Ordo offered properly.
This DVD, which you can order here, gives you a real sense of the the sounds and sites of a Missa Cantata at St. John Cantius in Chicago.
It also shows you how to do one yourself. It is useful for priests, of course, but also for serving teams and choir directors. More on that later.
The DVD gives you a whole Missa Cantata in the Extraordinary form. That is, it is a sung High Mass for Christmas, Midnight Mass, but without deacon and subdeacon.
There is also a section showing Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament as well as for preparation for the priest before Mass and indices for getting around in the different sections of the complete Mass and complete Benediction. Why they did their indices in Latin… I don’t know, unless they are thinking this should be language neutral.
As the complete Missa Cantata unfolds, you notice an inset window showing what is going on elsewhere or from another angle. This makes the DVD that much more useful.
You can hear the words spoken in the sanctuary together with the chant. This DVD gives you a real sense of the the sounds and sites of a Missa Cantata.
There are titles that flash to let you know the part of Mass you are watching. This is less pedagogical than the FSSP DVD, in that the FSSP DVD is a bit more detailed, with its voice over commentary and the various camera angles you can choose. This SJC DVD has a bit more information for how to participate. For example, you see in the inset window when to stand or sit or kneel. Also, it gives a real sense of the pace of the Mass, which is very valuable for newcomers.
The sound is excellent, though the video quality could be a little better on the computer it was excellent on the television with a DVD player. If don’t have HD, btw.
The editing is excellent.
An advantage to the camera angles and editing is that you can see what and where the servers are standing or how they move. Thus, this DVD could be very useful for teams learning to serve a Missa Cantata.
The chant, by their own schola is as good as I have heard in years. The voices are strong and masculine, with nothing of the prissiness that sometimes sneaks into some styles of chant. The pace is good and I sense they have some comprehension of what they are singing. They have a good differentiation of dynamics, which brings the chant alive.
Also, the way this is put together, a choir director would be able to learn, for example, the timing of things, when to start singing this or that.
The celebrant is careful and reverent, having a strong voice and an … adequate Latin pronunciation.
The celebrant reads the readings in English and preaches. I found it a bit amusing that after the Gospel, while the celebrant removed his maniple and made his way to the ambo, there was a brief organ improvisation on Vom Himmel hoch, by Friedrich Wilhelm Zachau (+1712). text by Martin Luther. It uncannily rings of Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, at which I believe the late Augustinian hermit friar Martin Luther must be spinning in his tomb, this being a Latin Missa Cantata by Augustinian canons. A little joke perhaps.
There was a mixed group making the responses.
There is a micro sermon… nothing terribly interesting there. The real purpose of the DVD is to show you what to do.
The St.John Cantius is a splendid church and in those moments when the camera pans around, you see some of the beautiful sites, …
… especially their stunning nativity scene in the church. Among the wonders at St. John’s is a fine Neapolitan presepio. Yours truly many years ago helped Fr. Philips get some of the very first figures. It is now pretty amazing, though I recall they had some problems with theft years ago. But I digress….
I watched the DVD on my computer and found that some of the control features were not usable, such as pause and moving the slidebar to a different point in the recording. On TV with a DVD player they worked just fine.
It would be very useful to have this DVD from St. John Cantius even if you have the FSSP DVD. They compliment each other in many ways.
First, this DVD might be more useful for servers and training servers for a Missa Cantata.
Also, the chant and polyphony is worthy in itself. For example, there is a stunning polyphonic Ave Maria at the Offertory.
What this DVD does is give you a sense also of the importance of sacred music as an integrating part, pars integrans, in the sacred action of Holy Mass. This has been an an important element of the of mission of St. John Cantius since Fr. Phillips took over there many years ago. He very much upholds and continues the work Msgr. Richard Schuler did for some many years at St. Agnes in St. Paul, once known for its fine music and liturgy, a bastion against the aberrations of the post-Conciliar storm. At St. John’s in Chicago this tradition continues with sacred music and excellent worship in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form – as Holy Church asked.
Mass VIII, alas, is used, but it is sung well, by a mixed group, which is not my preference. They are trying, I suspect, to emphasize congregational singing of the Ordinary.
Before Communion there was a Second Confiteor. After the threefold Ecce Agnus Dei Communion was distributed to the servers, whom you can see passing along the paten each to the others. A priest comes in from the sacristy to help with Communion. The method of distribution is seen, including how the priest takes the paten from the server before returning to the altar. This would be useful for people who haven’t been to the TLM so that they can understand how to receive. At this point there are two inset windows so that you can see what is going on also at the credence table.
Included is Solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, which could be very useful for a parish priest who wants to implement these devotions in his parish.
Remember, with Summorum Pontificum, you can do Benedict like this even if you don’t have Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Think about that. With this section of the DVD you can pretty learn how to do the whole thing.
Serving teams could also find it very useful. Again, the music is very fine. Most places wouldn’t be able to execute what they do at St. John’s, but it does set a standard.
I can imagine this, for example, being done on Sunday afternoons in Cathedrals with their choirs.
Some addition sections on the DVD include how to do things such as lay out vestments in the sacristy (Scaenae praeparatio) and how to prepare the chalice, how to vest, including the prayers. You can see what the server does to help the priest. There is also fine music included in this section, I believe from the excellency Christmas music CD’s St. John’s prepared some time ago. I have two of them and they are among my favorites I listen to at Christmastide.
The prayers in the preparatory section are voice-overs. The Latin is … adequate, though you would be well advised to check the texts closely on your own for meaning, accents, etc. Sometimes I think priests and others try to get a little too fancy or sound too Italian. But this is very minor.
The text is not flashed as the priest vests. I suppose they figured you can find the text easily enough on your own.
The video quality in the sacristy might have been better with better lighting, but you can certainly see with ease what is going on.
There is included an index referring you back to the individual parts of Mass fairly easily. So, if you want to see how the Offertory works, you can choose it. When using my computer to watch the DVD, however, this is where it became a little difficult to navigate. You have to know how to get back to the indices. No problem on the TV with a DVD player.
While supplies last, they are offering this DVD free of charge to priests and seminarians and to others who make a purchase of $40 or more from their Cantius Webstore. You could start with their Christmas music CDs, which I have and enjoy.
Order the DVD here.
In his cover letter to me, Fr. Scott Haynes wrote that Lay volunteers put this project together. They did a fine job, I must say. The production quality is very high. Fr. Haynes wrote, "This demonstrates how laity, on the parish level, actively consciously, enthusiastically can help to restore the Extraordinary Form, with all of its solemnity and reverence.
They are just doing what the Council actually asked for.
With Summorum Pontificum, they have taken worship to another level.