Saturday, May 5, 2012

Restoring Cathedral-icity to a Cathedral

I was alerted to an interesting article at New Liturgical Movement: “Cathedral: Home for Liturgy of the Hours” by Matthew Alderman. 

Mr. Alderman suggests that a question that should be asked in designing a cathedral is, “What makes a church a cathedral?”

Of course, there is the obvious answer that the presence of the bishop’s cathedra makes a cathedral, but there’s more to it than that. Mr. Alderman points to Westminster Cathedral as an example (my emphases throughout):

It is instructive to compare the liturgical milieu that informed Westminster Cathedral’s establishment in 1895, with that of a typical large American diocese. Part of the problem is of course a diminished sense of the differences between Mass as celebrated by a bishop (though it is still laid out in the Ordinary Form’s Ceremonial of Bishops) and a priest’s mass, but these are ultimately matters of degree rather than quality. The most significant difference, in my mind, lies in the inclusion or exclusion of the Liturgy of the Hours as prayed by a community.

…Cardinal Vaughn saw the Office as essential to the efficacy of “a live Cathedral,” a missionary presence at the heart of a very secular city, “functioning […] on behalf of others and winning them graces.” …[H]e argued that this public prayer was “the highest function of the apostolic calling.” In this regard, Westminster Cathedral started out not much different than our own standard American cathedral. Being a mission territory, America got out of the habit of having cathedral chapters capable of singing the Office…

Choir stalls: ideal configuration
for singing the Divine Office
I am not a historian by any means, but I think Mr. Alderman has made a very important point here regarding the Church in the US: “America got out of the habit of having cathedral chapters capable of singing the Office”. I have thought for some time that America got out of the habit of singing any Liturgy – especially the Mass! This would be understandable, especially in the history of the Westward expansion. 

For instance, consider the history of theDiocese of Baker. Long distances still separate parishes within the diocese; how much more those distances must have contributed to deterioration of the liturgy in times when travel was much more restricted! In sparsely populated Eastern Oregon, I’m sure there weren’t too many of the faithful who were trained to sing Gregorian chant propers at Mass. In addition, the Protestant churches springing up probably accomplished two things: pulling people away from their Catholic faith, and encouraging Catholics to substitutes hymns for the chants at Mass.

But the singing of the Divine Office in the cathedral parish could be of great benefit to the community. Mr. Alderman notes:

…besides the spiritual graces attendant on placing the full Office at the heart of a diocesan community, there is also considerable evangelical and apostolic merit to the practice…[S]uch a living, breathing exemplar of the movement of sanctified time could be a lightning-rod for an explosion of religious revival. It would also represent a tangible way of fulfilling the Second Vatican Council's goal of encouraging the faithful to regularly participate in the Liturgy of the Hours…The Council recommended:

Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the Divine Office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually. (Par. 100)

If this is true of parish churches, how much more it should be of the cathedral church of every diocese!

I can’t speak for other dioceses, but the role of the cathedral church is something that seems to be severely neglected in the Diocese of Baker. I’ve touched on that here and here; St. Francis de Sales Cathedral seems to be more of a historic church than the active and “living” center of the Diocese. The last priestly ordination did not take place at the Cathedral. As for episcopal ordinations…hmph! As noted elsewhere, Bishop Robert F. Vasa’s ordination took place in a rodeo arena, and Bishop-elect Liam Cary’s will take place in an Aztec handball court a mere parish church, which, though large, was never designed with any kind of ordination in mind. And the anniversary of the dedication of our cathedral is probably only celebrated in the cathedral parish, and then only sporadically and without a bishop present.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see some semblance of cathedral-icity restored to St. Francis de Sales Cathedral?

Why  a Bishop Should Be Ordained in His Cathedral

For related posts, click on the “Bishop Liam Cary Posts” tab at the top of the page.


  1. Thought of you when I read that post earlier this morning! My guess is that Mons Cary will do the best he can to remedy the issues you've raised about your cathedral and its unimportance in diocesan life.

    (By the way, if you are on Twitter, some of us are praying the Angelus/Regina Caeli, more or less at six, noon and six--but of course times vary. The UK is relatively well represented but in PDT, there's only myself and one other poster. We use the tags #twitterangelus and #reginacaeli.)

  2. In a past time of my life I commuted between Salt Lake City and Seattle. Many times on a clear day I could see the Catherdral stick out like a jewel in the wide open spaces. I often wondered what it was like. It was quite a sight from 30 plus thousand feet. I do hope the new Bishop will bring it back to life.

  3. Marc - I am completely clueless about twitter, but I pray the Angelus about those times, too, so I'll be there in spirit!

    Bill - wow! I've never seen the cathedral from the air. Yes, I'm hoping we'll see some changes with the new bishop, too.

  4. Christopher William McAvoy, Emmitsburg, MDJuly 4, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    What a unique article this is. I sing the benedictine divine office regularly in english. I am very blessed to have access to a choir with stalls in the traditional format of a large Romanesque chapel here at Mt. St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, which I frequently use, as it is so often empty.

    I would like to offer you three marvelous settings I've found which allow you to sing the magnificat according to the anglican-use translation: I am continueing to search for other homophonic and polyphonic versions in latin that are as simple yet elegant as these ones. (Peregrinus Tone and Fauxbourdons) William Byrd

    Tone 8 with Faux bourdones by Thomas Morley (16th c.),

    Tone 5 with Faux bourdones by Carolus Andreas (16th c):

    In time I will typeset them to the official ICEL texts as well as Latin texts also.

    A few other fine resources for singing the divine office:

    Antiphoners: (sarum use - as used by traditional anglican churches as the book of common prayer did not provide antiphon propers.) (2007 novus ordo antiphonale monasticum) (1932 antiphonale monasticum)

    "The Saint Dunstan Hymnal", which can be checked out through interlibrary loan was a remarkable work made by the same Francis Burgess and Canon Douglas who made two of the antiphoners above.

    It contains many of the most important hymns in the Liber Hymnarius but in metrical english set to the same ancient plainchant melodies in modern notation. Not a single modern piece of music is in it. Like the liber hymnarius, it is strictly a hymnal for the divine office.

    for psalters the two best books in english are:

    The revised grail psalms (official ICEL text):
    Or "A Psalter for Prayer" by David James, a correction of the Anglican use traditional Coverdale translation, as compared to vulgate and septuagint.

    Lastly the Antiphonale Romanum II contains all the propers and music to be able to sing Vespers for the newer secular form Liturgy of the Hours, this book is almost entirely different than the english liturgy of the hours books used in the USA, yet ironically it is what is officially used to sing with in Vatican City every day of the week.

    Two Year Patristic Lectionary for the Divine Office

    These come from Matins/Vigils, these are amongst the oldest texts of the office, all from Church Fathers used for over a thousand years in the office of Matins , they are excellent to supplement other hours if matins is not prayed. However many were rearranged somewhat for this newer version.

    Happy singing and praying!


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