New Liturgical Institute in San Francisco

New Liturgical Institute in San Francisco

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by Roseanne T. Sullivan

It’s exciting news, though San Francisco Bay Area Catholics hoping-against-hope for better-trained priests could easily have missed it.  Buried way down in an April 2013 article on the achievements of Salvatore Cordileone during his first year as Archbishop of San Francisco was this encouraging nugget:  Fr. Samuel Weber, OSB, a famous Gregorian chant expert and composer of chant had been recruited to help set up a Liturgical Institute at St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park.  

Fr. Weber was the original founder and director of the Institute of Sacred Music in St. Louis, which was established in 2008 at the direction of Cardinal Raymond Burke. According to Jeffrey Tucker at the online The Chant Café, “Fr. Weber is truly one of the greatest and most inspired Catholic music scholars, composers, and practitioners of chant in the English-speaking world.”

Weber

PHOTO COURTESY OF Jeffrey Tucker at The New Liturgical Movement (newliturgicalmovement.com)

“Fr. Weber is truly one of the greatest and most inspired Catholic music scholars, composers, and practitioners of chant in the English-speaking world.”

What The Future May Hold

Although specific details about the goals of the new Liturgical Institute are not available at this time, it won’t be long.  Archbishop Cordileone has decided to allow interviews about the Institute after January 1. The following list of services provided by the St. Louis Institute of Sacred Music might be a good indication of what the San Francisco seminary has in store:

  • Programs of education in Sacred Music, especially Gregorian Chant, for parish musicians, other archdiocesan institutions and interested individuals
  • Assistance to parishes with the singing of the Mass in English—for example, the Entrance Antiphon, the Responsorial Psalm, and the Communion Antiphon
  • Assistance with the singing of the Liturgy of the Hours
  • Assistance to parishes which wish to develop a schola cantorum for the singing of Gregorian Chant
  • Programs for the full implementation of the English translation of the Roman Missal in the archdiocese

Priests from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter’s (FSSP) with his Excellency, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, after their 25th Anniversary Solemn Pontifical High Mass at the Mission San Diego de Alcala on November 15, 2013. The Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco flew to San Diego to attend this special event.
PHOTO COURTESY OF Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco

“There will be workshops on reciting liturgies and chanting,” anticipates Father Raymund Reyes, Pastor of St. Anne of the Sunset Church in San Francisco. “I just sense that the liturgy is important for him, creating a culture of prayer and worship. Maybe he believes that through that effort of creating a culture of prayer, they can change the structure of everything else in the lives of the faithful in the Archdiocese.”

“Maybe he believes that through that effort of creating a culture of prayer, they can change the structure of everything else in the lives of the faithful in the Archdiocese.”

2009: Total Noncompliance

In November 2009, more than two years after Summorum Pontificum, online blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf asked seminarians to report about training for and availability of the Traditional Latin Mass and the Latin language in their local seminaries.  

Father Z published this report of total noncompliance from the San Francisco seminary: “I am a seminarian at St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, California, which is staffed by the Sulpicians.  There is currently no training offered in either the EF or in the OF with Latin.  Latin is not even offered as a course anymore (before this year it was always an elective.)  Last year the Dean of Students (who is now the Rector) told a seminarian friend of mine that there are no plans to introduce training in the EF.

In contrast, a seminarian from the Archdiocese of St. Louis reported much better news. Latin Masses in the EF and OF form were celebrated regularly by the Rector and by four priests who also taught in the seminary, and training in chant and Latin was provided. Latin hymns and chants were sung at English Masses.  “For all who wish, complete training is available in the EF for celebrating Mass, Vespers and the Sacraments, and for learning how to serve. Latin is taught every semester.  … The Latin texts of the both the OF and EF are explained and practiced as part of the course. … A course in Gregorian chant is available as an elective, usually once a year.  Fostering Gregorian chant, the Latin liturgy and the study of liturgical and patristic Latin is one of the important responsibilities of the Institute of Sacred Music established by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke.

Why Focus on the Liturgy?

For the many who cynically refer to San Francisco as ‘Sodom and Gomorrah by the Bay,’ liturgical change would seem to be the least of the challenges facing Archbishop Cordileone.  

People who are close to the archbishop, however, explain why he is focusing on liturgy in spite of the enormity of other pressing issues. According to those who know him well, Cordileone is a man of prayer, who understands not only that prayer and personal holiness are important for everyone — priests and laity — but also that “a major source for their spiritual formation is the Mass.” 

Some have feared that the impetus that Pope Benedict XVI gave to improvements in both forms of Catholic liturgy with Summorum Pontificum might be stalled now that he has retired. It is heartening to learn that improvement to liturgy is still a priority for a number of stellar Church leaders, including Cardinal Burke and Archbishop Cordileone, and to see that they show no signs of flagging in their dedication.

Cordileone is a man of prayer, who understands not only that prayer and personal holiness are important for everyone, priests and laity, but also that “a major source for their spiritual formation is the Mass.”


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