04 October 2007

Heaven on earth...

It was an historic occasion a week ago in the Basilica of St. Mary Major. For the first time a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Catholic Church chanted Solemn Evensong in a Papal Basilica. What a beautiful and moving time of prayer it was. His Eminence, Bernard Cardinal Law presided and preached a marvelous sermon. We have visited him with groups of our students before, and he is always tremendously gracious. In addition to over a hundred pilgrims, Archbishop Myers of Newark and Bishop Vann of Fort Worth were in attendance.

It was a very interesting experience to hear our traditional Evensong in the ancient Roman basilica. The Preces and Responses were the 16th century Merbecke setting, harmonized by Thomas Tallis. The Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis were sung by the choir using the lush setting by A. Herbert Brewer, and they also sang as an anthem the gorgeous anthem by Ralph Vaughan Williams, “O How Amiable.” Our music director and organist, Edmund Murray, worked wonders with the music. And as an added point of interest, it was like “old home week” for him and for Cardinal Law, since Mr. Murray had taught music to the seminarians in Boston, and had worked with the Cardinal on many occasions, before moving to Texas.

Seeing the Cardinal incensing the altar during the ever-so-Anglican sounding Magnificat was a very moving experience for me. I couldn’t help but think, “Our liturgy has finally arrived!” Hearing the deep and sonorous voice of the Cardinal leading us in the General Thanksgiving (…we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks…) made me realize that the best way to preserve our Anglican way of worship is within the Catholic Church.

What an occasion. Historic Anglican prayers, gorgeous music, all offered to God in one of the most venerable basilicas in Christendom. It doesn’t get much better than that.