Why does the music at St. Gertrude sound so different than I have heard going to Mass at other places?
Excellent question! Lots of music that we hear in churches can sound more like music that we hear out and about in the world- on the radio or in a restaurant. Here at St. Gertrude’s we hope to create an atmosphere that says to your heart, mind, and soul “You’re in God’s house now and you’re here to be with Him, worshipping, praying, giving thanks, and leaving the world behind.” Singing and hearing hymns, melodies, chanted responses, the power or subtlety of the organ, or a solo cantor’s voice filling the space with the sung Word - all these elements work together to draw us into the mystery of that other world, which is eternal and timeless, like God Himself.
What is Gregorian chant?
Gregorian chant is a category of sung Latin prayers and scripture that is the signature sound of the Roman Catholic Church. Many religions have a distinctive musical sound that can be identified as belonging to them, and it’s an important part of their faith culture. The Church has had these melodies for centuries and they belong to us and Roman Catholics all over the world! They are the words and melodies that the saints we read about, grew up hearing and singing their whole lives. Many of them they probably knew by heart. Gregorian chant is named after Pope St. Gregory the Great, not because he wrote it, but because he organized it and gathered it into the collection of chants that is still used throughout the Catholic world. While chant has fallen out of use in many places, its alluring mix of peace and mystery are helping it make a comeback!
Why are some parts of the Mass sung in Latin?
Because our holy mother the Church says to! You see, Latin is the language of the Roman Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council gives us these words, “It should be arranged that the faithful can say or sing together in Latin, those parts of the Mass that belong to them” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy). I like to think of Catholicism as kind of like an “ethnicity of the soul." That’s just my way of describing the fact that the Church has an actual culture of her own. It’s such an incredible thing to me – a culture with all the elements of a particular group of people but meant for the whole world! Think of those fabulous third grade culture fairs at school - what do we find? Usually music, food, clothing and LANGUAGE. The most distinctive and important element of a culture is its language. When language is lost, often the rest of a culture is in danger of being lost too.