5 Ways to Elevate the Liturgy During Covid Restrictions
May 19, 2020
Are you feeling COVID-19 burnout yet? I get it. We all feel it. It is easy to want to bury our heads in the sand and hope that this pandemic will blow over so that everything can snap back to normal.
At the same time, you likely have a mysterious sense of inner calm and peace because you know that, as a Church, we are no strangers to crisis or to times of trial. We have had catastrophes, pandemics, persecutions, wars, and more, since the very beginning. And each time, the Church has not been content merely to weather the storm. Instead we have seized incredible opportunities in the midst of crisis to sew the seeds of renewal and rebirth.
Strength Amidst Trial
In times of trial, God raises up saints, artists, prophets, visionaries, and even martyrs to show the path forward for a battered Church and a weary world. This is happening today in our midst. I believe that we are on the verge of unbelievable renewal, even if it might be difficult to see it now. We just have to look for the opportunities around us and respond to them with fidelity and courage.
This is what we at Source & Summit hope to do. And it is what we want to help you do as well.
I do not find it ironic in any way that our initial public launch—the culmination of a slow and patient effort over the past five years—would occur, unforeseeably, within weeks of a national shutdown and the ubiquitous cancellation of the public celebration of the Mass. In some ways, I should have expected it, because our vision and aim is the authentic renewal of the Church and of the world beginning with an authentic renewal of the liturgy. At this time, no one in the Church can deny the need for real and lasting renewal.
I firmly believe that the timing was perfect, and that our moment to serve parishes in a powerful and impactful way has arrived. We are ready and equipped to support you along the path of authentic renewal by partnering with you in your work of elevating the liturgy.
A Focus on Solutions
Source & Summit exists to offer real, tangible, and innovative solutions to parishes. Practically speaking, we are a tech company. We have had a first rate software design and development team in motion since this past September, and we are mere weeks away from the initial launch of an all new digital platform for the liturgy and sacred music. This resource is designed to place the riches of the liturgy at your fingertips.
Given the COVID-19 reality of the past two months, we have been able to talk with many pastors and liturgical musicians around the country about the greatest needs facing parishes at this time. We’ve shifted our focus to respond specifically to these needs. In June, we will begin rolling out our liturgy and sacred music platform to 25 hand selected parish users, and in July we plan to extend a Beta release to up to 75 more. We anticipate a stable release for everyone in August with rich features and content ready for primetime use. If you would like to get your name on the invitation list, you can do that here.
Resources for the Return of Public Masses
Over the past week or two, many dioceses and parishes have been preparing for the return of public Masses. Guidelines seem to be released daily, but a general consensus seems to have emerged about what Mass could look like in the immediate foreseeable future.
Here are a few highlights with ideas and solutions to help you navigate the challenges ahead:
1. A focus on essentials
To limit contagion and infection, most public Masses will be socially distanced and have dramatically smaller numbers in attendance than usual. As a result, the overall number of Masses offered by a parish is likely to increase. To accommodate this reality, many dioceses suggest that parishes try to focus on essentials.
In practice, this may mean that the Mass may be simplified in its form, and may feel a bit more like a daily Mass than a typical parish Sunday Mass. Singing is integral to the Mass, but in the absence of a choir or of many liturgical musicians, a priest celebrant can chant his parts simply as they are found in the Roman Missal with a single cantor and members of the congregation replying.
The opportunity in this case is to foster the most essential and simple music of the liturgy: the sung Order of Mass.
2. Face masks and no vigorous singing: Chant the antiphons
Dioceses and civil authorities alike are recommending that everyone in public gatherings, no matter the size, wear face masks. And while Catholics are not especially known for it in the first place, directives are asking for no “vigorous singing” that could cause vocal aerosolization and increase the spread of disease.
The Church in her wisdom gives us an alternative to vigorous singing: sung speech, or put differently, chant. The Church’s chant tradition puts an emphasis on the words of the liturgy so much so that singing them takes more the form of speech than song as we think of it today.
The opportunity in this case is to introduce the sung antiphons of the Mass in your parish. Using the free resources we provide, a single cantor can chant the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion Antiphons of the Mass, as well as the Responsorial Psalm and Alleluia Verse, either entirely alone (with or without accompaniment), and the faithful can sing along lightly if they would like or otherwise pray silently with the texts that form a part of the liturgy itself. In a time when vigorous hymn singing may not be possible or practical, there is a great opportunity to introduce your core group of faithful parishioners to the simple, rich, and beautiful proper antiphons of the Mass.
3. No missals or hymnals: What can be done?
A directive in virtually every set of diocesan guidelines is to remove all print books, missalettes, and print resources from the pews in order to limit viral transmission from one person to another. This means that the music that is commonly sung at Mass in some parishes will not be readily available for use.
While it is unlikely that parishioners will want to haul their own missal or hymnal with them each week to and from Mass, or that they will even remember to do so, means that there are really only two viable options: 1. One time use booklets, and 2. Digital resources for use on mobile devices.
The opportunity here is to make use of the benefits of digital technology, both to assist the homebound and to equip safely those in the pews, either through print on demand resources or through prudent use of mobile devices. You can download a pre-filled digital missal template and download hymns and chants from the Lumen Christi Missal and Hymnal to include in it according to your need.
4. Hassle-free Licensing for live streamed Masses
Many Catholic publishers have demanded that parishes purchase a costly license in order to sing the music contained in hymnals that they have already purchased as they extend live streams to homebound parishioners.
Our model for music licensing is hassle-free. The music that the Church has called a “treasure of inestimable value” and that has been handed on to us freely as a part of our inheritance like the deposit of faith, is largely in the public domain. We publish a great deal of this music, ensuring that it is approved licitly for liturgical use, and extend it to you freely. Our own musical content is licensed in the Creative Commons which enables you to use it freely as well and without worry, as long as it is not sold or substantially altered, and as long as proper attribution is given.
The opportunity here is to stop worrying about costly licenses and pesky reporting requirements, and to make use of the classic hymns and beautiful chant settings that we publish under a Creative Commons license. Soon it will be readily available on the Source & Summit liturgy and music platform. Each week leading up to our app launch, we will offer free downloads that you can use without worry or concern. And once the app launches, you will have access to an expansive library of musical content.
5. Elevate the liturgy, renew your parish
Perhaps the greatest opportunity that we face as a Church in this moment is to invigorate the faith of our most committed disciples who will be standing outside the door the moment public Masses resume. The elderly and health compromised may not be returning for some time, and those who attended before purely out of a sense of duty or obligation may not come back, especially with the Mass obligation lifted.
What this means is that while our congregations may be smaller, they will be purer, refined by the sufferings of the moment, and hungry for an authentic encounter with the Lord in the sacred liturgy. In cultivating a culture of deep and fruitful liturgical prayer in our parishes with those who desire it the most, we will be equipping and empowering missionary disciples, and invigorating them with the riches of Christ’s Divine Life so that they can draw in and welcome seekers and call their generation back to God.
The opportunity above all in this moment is to prepare a place of deep encounter with the mystery of Christ for those who are likely to enter our parishes after a time of intense trial and suffering. The liturgy is not the place to evangelize—it presupposes faith, conversion, and initiation into the Church. But it is a place to form new evangelists into radiant beacons of Christ’s life and love who cannot help but to share the one who they love with everyone they meet. Elevating the liturgy during this time can help strengthen the core of our parishes and create a home and a culture that those who meet Christ can call their own.