Most of us have heard the term “Gregorian chant” in reference to the sacred music of the Church, and many of us have sung it in schools or churches during our lifetime.
Today we celebrate Saint Gregory the Great, the pope for whom it is named. He served the Church as pope from the years 590 to 604, and is said to have ordered the collection of the hymns and chants that were in use at his time so that they could be standardized and made available to all the churches of the Latin rite of the Catholic church. In those days all the liturgy was in Latin; that continued until our own time, when during the 1970s, the language of our worship changed into the vernacular of each country and a whole new body of music was composed in the various languages of Christendom.
However, since then many Catholics and even others have discovered that the abandonment of the Latin language and of Gregorian chant has deprived the universal church of a very effective means of worshiping God and sanctifying humankind. Now, little by little, both these linguistic forms—the Latin language and the singing of prayers and hymns to the tune of Gregorian chant—are making their way back into the life of the Catholic Church. How far this will go, I would not venture to guess. At Holy Rosary church in Houston we have Mass in Latin every Sunday morning at 9:30, and the Gregorian chant is used not only then but at other times as well in our sacred services. There is a new Benedictine monastery presently being built in Oklahoma which conducts all its sacred services in Latin and all its music is Gregorian. The ancient Benedictine abbey of Solesmes in France is the official keeper of Gregorian chant and its promoter throughout the Church and the world.
As we celebrate Saint Gregory the Great who saw the value of music in our prayer life, let us pray for all those who are concerned with our liturgy and our sacred music. He is supposed to have said, “Who sings well, prays twice.” Let us do our best to sing well, to pray as much and as well as we can, and thus to give glory to our God and add to our own sanctification and that of those with whom and for whom we pray. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.