26 June 2006

The Master Cometh!

In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, as the use of the vernacular in the liturgy became the focus of many well-intentioned efforts at aggiornamento -- often at the expense of ressourcement -- the Order of the Visitation in the United States received a great gift: the work and expertise of Abbot Marcel Rooney, osb.

In the mid 1970's, Father Marcel (then novice master for Conception Abbey, later elected as its eighth abbot), was commissioned by our Federation President, the late Mother Anne Madeleine Ernstmann, vhm, to compose music for the English translation of the Liturgy of the Hours. Dedicating a decade to this magnum opus, Rooney composed music for every antiphon of every hour of the office. He captured the haunting tones of Gregorian chant in his modern musical compositions. In addition, he composed 16 psalm tones based upon the eight traditional Gregorian modes for use with the Grail translation of the psalms, currently in use in the United States. During this decade, Conception Abbey welcomed scores our sisters for six summers of music instruction in order to learn to sing the office using Rooney's music. His work gave us an extraordinary gift: an office that is dynamic, melodic, beautiful and "singable." Today, every monastery of the Visitation is united by his music. Nearly thirty years later, one can be visiting a monastery many miles from home and, closing her eyes in choir, be at home in her own monastery.

Periodically he visits our monasteries for a little "brush up" and "up date." This week we are privileged to have Abbot Marcel with us for a few days. Faithful readers can expect a short hiatus in blogposts while the master is here...we shall return in a few days.

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