Friday, October 12, 2012

A "Sample" of What a Bishop Can Do

After the last two days of examining certain statement made by a certain bishop in Arkansas, I think we need to consider some hopeful signs from another bishop in another state. Bishop Alexander Sample of the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan, seems to be a breath of fresh air among our bishops. 

Here’s an excerpt from Bishop Sample's article, “A Liturgical Quiz and An Invitation” at the website of the Diocese of Marquette newspaper. This article is in the May 14, 2012 edition of the paper, so it’s “old news” at this point, but it still is an example of what can be done about liturgical music.

The article starts out:

I propose a brief quiz on the Sacred Liturgy. Answer true or false to the following statements: 1) Vatican II changed the language of the Mass from Latin to the vernacular (in our case, English). 2) Vatican II replaced the signing of Gregorian chant at Mass with more contemporary vernacular music.

If you answered “true” to one or both of these statements, you should hear a buzzer going off right now indicating at least one incorrect answer. I am sure that this will come as a surprise to many…

He then quotes relevant paragraphs from Sacrosanctum Concilium as evidence that Latin and Gregorian chant were never diminished in value, and that “these guiding statements from Vatican II have not been fully adhered to, and have sometimes simply been ignored.”

Bishop Sample adds:

Just on the issue of singing Gregorian chant at Mass, far from enjoying a “pride of place” in the liturgy, when was the last time you heard it sung or sang it yourself at Mass? Surely “pride of place” means more than an occasional sung Sanctus or Agnus Dei.

After assuring his readers that he is not proposing a “simple return to all Latin and Gregorian chant in the Mass”, he says:

What I am saying is that, in our ongoing efforts to renew and reform the Sacred Liturgy, we need to go back to the sources that gave us the direction for liturgical renewal, especially the actual Vatican II document on the Liturgy…[W]e need to interpret the liturgical reforms called for by Vatican II in light of the whole liturgical tradition of the Church, as an organic development, and not a break with the past.

This especially applies to the area of music in the Sacred Liturgy. Let’s face it, in most places liturgical music has become simply selecting the four hymns for Mass (entrance, offertory, communion, and recessional). Many might be surprised to learn that this is not at all our liturgical tradition and is not what was envisioned by Vatican II. But that is what we have become used to.

The Church’s tradition actually calls for us to “sing the Mass,” not sing “at” Mass. The texts of the Mass given in the Missal are meant to be sung. Instead we often just paste on the four hymns which may or may not related to the actual texts of the Mass. Not sure what this means? Read on!

And Bishop Sample had a plan: he invited all to attend a two-day workshop on Sacred Music, which was apparently held last June.

I don’t know anything about the workshop – what was covered, how many attended, or whether parishes are changing their approach to liturgical music – but I do know that Bishop Sample posted the following advertisement on his Face Book page (my emphases):

I am posting HERE my advertisement for the position of Diocesan/Cathedral Director of Sacred Music. Pass the word to those who might be interesting and who might "fit the bill":

The Catholic Diocese of Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is seeking a full-time Diocesan Director of Sacred Music/Cathedral Director of Sacred Music. Time will be split between directing St. Peter Cathedral’s sacred music program and leading the diocesan effort to renew and reform sacred music as detailed in the bishop’s directives on sacred music, which seek to implement the Church’s authentic discipline regarding sacred music as outlined in official Church documents. Qualifications include fidelity to Church teaching and discipline, proficiency in organ, and knowledge of Gregorian chant. Applicants must be able to work well with choirs, cantors and other musicians and possess the patience necessary to teach others, leading them gradually to a full understanding of sacred music in Catholic worship. Full time compensation and benefits will be commensurate with applicant’s educational and work experience. Please send cover letter, resume and references to: Office of the Bishop, Diocese of Marquette, 1004 Harbor Hills Drive, Marquette, MI 49855. Deadline for submitting applications is November 15, 2012.

Oh, to see such an announcement in our own Diocesan publication! Or even to see it at just one parish in this diocese!

Well, at least one bishop is doing it.

Bishop Sample also has a pastoral letter on the Year of Faith, along with a shorter summary of that letter, posted on the Diocesan website (go here and at the bottom of the page you can click on links to see the full letter or the summary). Again, Bishop Sample has a plan; he’s specific in his approach, and he has a timetable in mind. Here’s an excerpt from the summary:

Pastoral Priorities

As the Diocese of Marquette begins this work of the New Evangelization, we will focus on certain pastoral priorities needed in our time. These pastoral priorities were identified by Blessed John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte.  
The first six of these seven pastoral priorities focus on those of us who already participate in the life of the Church. Again, our faith and commitment to following Jesus Christ in his Church must be strengthened first in order for us to share Jesus and the gift of faith with others.

1. Holiness—The universal call to holiness must be taken seriously. No one is exempted from this call; it is the necessary consequence of our baptism.

2. Prayer—Our prayer must grow and make progress "as a genuine dialogue of love…" Our parishes and missions must become genuine “schools of prayer.”

3. Sunday Eucharist—The celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Christian life. Not all believers realize the grave obligation to participate with the rest of the Catholic community in the celebration of the Mass. In the work of the New Evangelization, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist must become once again the heart of every disciple’s life.

4. Reconciliation—All of us, clergy, religious and lay faithful, must rediscover the beauty and power of this great gift that Jesus has given to the Church.

5. Primacy of Grace—We must be reminded that "without Christ we can do nothing" (cf. John 15:5). It is the grace and power of Christ that we must depend on, not our own efforts.

6. Listening to the Word—The study of Sacred Scripture, praying and reflecting on the Word of God, and applying these teachings and the living Tradition of the Church, to our lives will become a major focus of the renewal of faith.

7. Proclaiming the Word—Animated by the Holy Spirit, with the same zeal and fervor of the Apostles and the first Christians, we must proclaim the Gospel by our words and the witness of our lives.

The Three “Fronts” of the New Evangelization

1. The Liturgy—The Sacred Liturgy encompasses a special and particular space for the New Evangelization. Lex orandi lex credendi – the law of praying is the law of believing.

2. Faith Formation & Catechesis—Adults, youth and children must all receive a thorough, systematic and substantial education in the mysteries of our Catholic faith. They must be well equipped to explain and defend the faith and to pass on the gift of faith to others.

3. Charity—We must witness to our faith in Jesus Christ in our daily lives, especially in our works of charity and kindness toward the poor and those who are in most need among us.

I think it sounds like he’s put some thought into this Year of Faith, and that he intends to lead the faithful through it like a true shepherd.

I’m thinking of moving…


  1. Haha! I'm thinking of moving too!!!

    We just got a new bishop a few years ago. I prayed so hard for a good CATHOLIC shepherd. I could only conclude that our diocese wasn't worthy of one, which isn't hard to believe.


  2. I don't want to take the liberty of posting a link, but Bishop Daniel Jenky sent a very beautiful letter about devotion to Our Lady to the Priests, Deacons, Religious Educators, Pastoral Leaders and Faithful of the Diocese of Peoria.

    All I can say is that if our bishop did that, I would think I had died and gone to Heaven!


  3. Lorraine, there's no problem with posting a link like that! Go ahead, and save me the google time!

  4. My pleasure...

    Hope it works!


  5. Among other reasons, this tops them all - I'll be a Michigander any day! They are quite fortunate to have Bishop Sample to shepherd them in the U.P.!

    I love to see photos of courageous Priests and Bishops too. They aren't 101 years old. God-willing this good Bishop will be around for many years to come to break through the cycle of poor catechesis!

    Lex orandi lex credendi - he sure hit the nail on the head. Basically, he is saying that bad stuff isn't going to happen on his watch!

    He is in my Rosary tonight. Thanks for the post!

  6. I am from the Diocese of Marquette. We are blessed beyond words to have Bishop Sample as our Shepherd. If you have ever met him, you would not forget it. He is a holy man filled with the love for Christ. I knew him when he was a priest at our parish. Which happens to be the only parish he was a priest at. What Bishop Sample is doing is very much needed in our area too as well as throughout the whole world. At several men's conferences that he has held, his statement is, RISE UP O' MEN OF GOD! Telling us that he cannot do this alone but needs our help as well. He has also held two women's conferences in the last couple years, asking for their help. He has once a year activities involving 7th and 8th grade students and in the opposite year, involving 9th to 12th grades. He meets and walks among the young people. There are so many wonderful things I could say about him but his actions speak for themselves. We have about 65,000 Catholics in our diocese and sadly, maybe only half attend church on a regular basis. But as you can see, our diocese is going to change that by the grace of God. Reading your posts makes me realize just how lucky we are to have this man as our Bishop! Thank you all and I pray you will all be blessed with a Shepherd who walks in the footsteps of Christ! Brad, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish

  7. Brad, thanks for sharing - that is so nice to hear! Sometimes a bishop looks good "on paper" (or in the news), but only talks the talk and doesn't walk the walk, Sounds like Bishop Sample is the real deal. I hope his example will inspire others!


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