Veni, Sancte Spiritus

imageThis Sunday, 15 May, we celebrate Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, when the promised Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, which enabled them to preach the gospel to all nations.

As a church musician, it’s one of my favorite days of the liturgical year.  The chants, hymns, motets, etc. connected with this feast are some of the finest in the vast repertory of sacred music.  One of the reasons I enjoy Pentecost is because we sing a Sequence at Mass.

For the average or even occasional churchgoer, the Sequence may seem like an interruption or a diversion to the Mass.  The Sequence, however, is not inconsequential.  The Sequence, historically, is a liturgical hymn of the Mass (as opposed to a liturgical hymn of the Divine Office) and was sung before the proclamation of the Gospel.  Over the course of the Middle Ages, a number of Sequences were written and sung at Masses.  As with all sacred music, some of the Sequences were great and others were not so great.  Length, musical quality, and theological content started to become questionable with many of the Sequences.

During the liturgical reforms of the Counter-Reformation in the sixteenth century, the Council of Trent decided to suppress the use of Sequences, with the exception of four: Victimæ Paschali (Easter), Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Pentecost), Lauda Sion (Corpus Christi), and Dies iræ (Requiem Mass).  In 1727, Pope Benedict XIII restored the Sequence Stabat Mater for use on the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s retained all but the Dies iræ, which was sung at the Requiem Mass.  It remains, however, as a hymn ad libitum, in the Liturgy of the Hours during the week before Advent.

The Sequence for Pentecost, Veni, Sancte Spiritus, is commonly attributed to Pope Innocent III (1189–1216).  While it is customarily sung to a chant, it has been set to music by a number of composers, including Josquin, Palestrina, Lassus, Victoria, and Byrd.

Tomorrow, when you’re at Mass and the choir chants the Sequence, prayerfully reflect upon the poetry, the music, and the historical importance of the text and the music throughout the ages.


A Concert for Peace


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I would like to invite you to attend A Concert for Peace, this coming Sunday, April 21 at 7 o’clock at the Church of St. Stephen, 151 East 28th St., between 3rd and Lexington Aves. in Manhattan.  This will be an opportunity for us to come together and be united through music at this difficult time.  A number of friends and I will perform a program dedicated to the heroes of the Boston Marathon.  Admission is free, but a free-will offering will be accepted to benefit those affected by the tragedy.

A Concert for Peace

When Tragedy Strikes at Home


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Patriots’ Day has always been a very memorable day for me. Observed as a civic holiday in Massachusetts, it commemorates the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, the start of the American Revolutionary War. As a child, there would be a routine to the day that would be repeated year after year.

My father and I would set our alarms for 4:30 a.m. and, by 5:00 a.m., we were on the road, driving to Lexington to watch the re-enactment of the battle there. I recall Paul Revere riding his horse to the Battle Green, calling out, “The British are coming!”, followed by the Red Coats marching into town. Shortly thereafter, the shot heard ’round the world indeed marked the start of the Revolution.

After the re-enactment, we would walk to a nearby church for a pancake breakfast. By 9:00 a.m., we were back home, where we rested and prepared for the next event of the day, heading into Downtown Boston to watch the thousands of runners participating in the Boston Marathon.

My mother was an avid runner and she ran the Boston Marathon twice in 1988 and in 1990. As we watched the race, she would point out certain marathon celebrities, among them, Johnny Kelley, a man who ran the Boston Marathon for more than fifty consecutive years (well into his 80s) and Dick and Rick Hoyt, the father/son duo, where the father would push his handicapped son in a wheelchair for the entire 26.2 miles.

The Boston Marathon now brings nostalgia for me, especially after my mother’s death in 2010. The tragic events that took place yesterday afternoon only added to my sadness, especially since I, as a native Bostonian, share a deep connection with the marathon.

After returning home from a lunch on the Hudson on a beautiful spring afternoon, I received a text from my youngest brother, Daniel, asking if I had heard about the explosion at the finish line of the marathon and to tell me that my father and younger brother, Tim, were but a short distance from the finish line at the time of the explosion. They were safe, unharmed, and were rushing to safety. At that point, the depth of the tragedy began to sink in. I was able to stream one of Boston’s local news stations and remained glued to the television throughout the day. When I retired around midnight, there were still very few facts: three were dead and about one hundred were injured. Who is responsible for this action and the motives behind it were not yet known.

Waking up this morning, I learned the sad news that an eight-year-old boy from the neighborhood where I grew up was one of the three who died yesterday. His father was running the marathon and he was at the finish line with his mother and siblings. One of the pictures of young Martin Richard struck me. It was taken after his First Communion. The background was all too familiar to me: the steps of St. Ann’s Church in Neponset, my home parish, where I received my First Communion and Confirmation, where I served as an altar boy, a lector, and, in high school, as Director of Music and Organist. If it wasn’t enough for this tragedy to happen in Boston, it strikes even closer to home knowing that one of the victims was an innocent, happy young boy “from the neighborhood”, a characteristic of so many of us who grew up there. While it may be described as “tough”, Dorchester is anything but that right now. The neighborhood is deeply grieving a young man whose future was horribly ended yesterday. In times of tragedy, neighbors open their homes to each other, because we’re all family.

As I write, we still don’t know who did this or why he/she/they did it. It is never easy to comprehend why people commit such graves acts of evil. It is even harder to grasp when we have neither the who nor the why.

However, Bostonians, indeed all Americans, will not succumb to this act of terrorism. We will grow stronger because of it. In a telegram to Boston’s archbishop, Seán Cardinal O’Malley, Pope Francis “prays that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good.” Bostonians will do just that.

The City of Boston is a sad place today. Amidst the sadness, however, there is both charity and love. Where charity and love abide, God is ever there.

Ubi caritas et amor, Maurice Duruflé (1902–1986)

Where charity and love abide, God is ever there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

Prayers for Mayor Menino



Most of my friends are well aware that I grew up in Boston.  In addition to reading the New York Times every morning, I also check out the headlines and the obituaries of the Boston Globe.

Over the past few months, I have taken an interest in reading about Boston’s mayor, Tom Menino.  Mayor Menino has been in office since 1993, when his predecessor, Ray Flynn, was nominated by President Clinton to serve as the Ambassador of the United States to the Holy See.

Mayor Menino recently announced that he will not seek re-election this November.  This comes after the mayor spent several months convalescing from some serious health scares.  This morning, the mayor underwent a successful surgery to repair a bone in his leg, which he fractured after falling yesterday.

Mayor Menino has done a lot of amazing things to maintain Boston’s place among America’s great cities.  (The Red Sox even won the World Series twice during his term in office!)  Let’s keep him in our prayers and hope that he will overcome his current health issues, enabling him to end his twenty-year run with great success.

Small Acts with Great Love


To show people how to love.

I am not an outwardly emotional person.  However, watching the Holy Father stop the popemobile and embrace this exceptional child (as Cardinal Cushing of Boston called them) brought me to tears.

My uncle Joe was born with cerebral palsy, so this gesture has some very special meaning to me.  Despite all of the challenges he has in his life, Joe never fails to express his love to his family and friends.

Thank you, Pope Francis, for reciprocating the love to this dear boy.



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I have posted rather minimally during the past few weeks, especially since the election of Pope Francis. Silence is a gift from above. Anybody who knows me well knows that it takes a lot to keep me silent.

Since the Holy Father’s election, I have been flooded with e-mails and phone calls from friends all over the world, asking for my thoughts, my opinion, and sharing articles that speculate what this papacy will bring.

When Cardinal Tauran announced the name of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as our new pope, I fell silent. “Who?!” I had never heard of him and therefore never expected that he would be elected to the papacy.

I can only say that what unfolds in the weeks and months to come will be quite interesting to behold. The Holy Spirit has selected him to be Peter for us and he has asked us to pray for him. Surely, he is praying for each of us, even if he doesn’t know us by face or name. Let’s pray for him, as well.

Pope Francis’s life has changed drastically in a matter of minutes – and not just his name and wardrobe. The world is watching his every move. We’re all sizing him up with our favorite popes of recent memory. Is it fair to judge him? Would we want to be judged?

Let us remember Francis, the bishop of Rome. He has a lot to teach us, but we’ll never be able to hear unless our hearts and minds are ready and silent.

Gregorian Chant at the Pope’s Inauguration Mass



I did not wake up at 4:00 a.m. this morning to watch the Inauguration Mass of Pope Francis.  I decided that I could watch it “on demand” at any point during the day.  That’s exactly what I did.

While there are many people speculating about Pope Francis’s liturgical ideas and how much of Benedict XVI’s innovations will be “thrown out”, it needs to be acknowledged that the most of the music for this Mass came from the Church’s rich treasury of sacred music: Gregorian Chant.

It seems clear that Pope Francis himself is not a singer.  (He doesn’t chant the Mass, for example.)  However, one does not need to be a musician to appreciate good music.  We were spoiled, in that regard, by Pope Benedict XVI, in that he was an accomplished pianist with a strong love of classical music.

Inauguration Mass of Pope Francis


This morning, the Mass for the Beginning of the Petrine Ministry of Pope Francis was celebrated at the Vatican.

Today, March 19th, is the Solemnity of St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church.  In his homily, His Holiness said:

“The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.”

The complete text of Francis’ homily is available on the Vatican’s website.