Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Papal Worship, Yankee Style

After two days of site-visits in Washington, the new papal MC Msgr Guido Marini arrives in New York today to plot the liturgies for the second leg of B16's 15-20 April East Coast trek.

Named last October as Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, the US swing will be the first PopeTrip for "Marini II," whose tenure to date has brought a distinctive sense of "restoration" to the pontiff's worship, from the reintroduction of lace albs and antique thrones to the first public papal Mass celebrated in the ad orientem stance in four decades. (Marini's shown over Papa Ratzi's shoulder at the aforementioned liturgy -- January's Baptism Mass in the Sistine Chapel.)

As he did in the capital, the chief conductor of papal prayer will visit all the Big Apple venues for Benedict's three-day stay, including St Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie (where the Pope will meet with young people and disabled children on the 19th, the third anniversary of his election), Ground Zero, St Patrick's Cathedral and Yankee Stadium, site of the climactic Sunday Mass on the 20th. Along for the journey are two of Marini's assistant MCs, including Msgr William Millea, the longtime official of the Secretariat of State and native of the diocese of Bridgeport, and Brooklyn-born Msgr Anthony Sherman, the US bishops' new Worship Czar. As in DC, the traveling party will be accompanied to each site by a horde of local officials involved in the visit's advance work.

While the extent to which the arrangements for the visit's three "Road Masses" will reflect Marini's stamp has yet to emerge, Vatican officials reportedly sought to avert large numbers of concelebrants at the liturgies during the planning's initial stages. In the end, however, the Yanks won out, and all clerics present at the Masses who wish to do so may don their vestments and celebrate with the Pope.

(In contrast to standard Stateside practice of all attending priests and bishops offering the Eucharist together, concelebration in Rome is strictly by invitation only at all papal Masses but two -- the twin celebrations of Holy Thursday -- with all others, cardinals included, vesting in choir.)

Also from the Hudson end of things, the Westchester Journal News has unveiled its PopePage for the visit, with video, photos and posts and commentary by its religion writer, Gary Stern.

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Speaking of papal liturgy, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ann Rodgers recently profiled Steel City native Tom Stehle, now a DC-area parish liturgist and music director for the 17 April PopeMass at Washington's Nationals Park.

Though Stehle maintains that his role as cantor at DC Archbishop Donald Wuerl's 1988 installation as bishop of Pittsburgh probably had little to do with his selection to play for the pontiff, looming much larger was Wuerl's desire for the ballfield liturgy "to reflect parish worship at its best."
The papal post came as a surprise to Mr. Stehle, who hadn't applied. He expected it to go to a director at the cathedral or the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

"When I first heard that the pope was coming, there was a little sense of relief that I wasn't in a position where I would necessarily be called to do this," he said. "It's a wonderful honor, but the responsibility is tremendous."

He was prepared for it, he said, by years of service at parishes in the Pittsburgh area.

Mr. Stehle, 51, was born and raised in Butler, where his parents, Raymond and Sheila, still live. He attended seminary briefly at the former St. Fidelis College and Seminary in Herman, but ultimately studied music at Duquesne University.

Duquesne, he said, is among several reasons that Pittsburgh is known for producing influential Catholic church musicians.

"Pittsburgh has a tremendous influence in church music all over the country, and my experiences at the parishes in Garfield, Robinson and Sewickley were extremely formative," he said.

From 1977 to 1979 he was music director at St. Lawrence O'Toole in Garfield. He then spent five years at Holy Trinity in Robinson. In 1984, he became associate director for the Office of Worship in the Diocese of Peoria, Ill....

He believes that now-Archbishop Wuerl of Washington remembers him from his Pittsburgh installation, but doubts that affected his selection. The archbishop apparently sought a parish-based director because he wanted the papal Mass to reflect parish worship at its best, Mr. Stehle said. It was not to be a performance by professionals, but an act of worship by everyone present.

"People should be able to come to this celebration and know that their participation is not just permitted, but encouraged," he said.

Mr. Stehle said although Washington has a pool of professional choral talent second only to New York City, the decision was made to choose choir members who are active in parish music programs throughout the archdiocese.

"We're trying to involve as many people as possible and still keep the sense of prayer," he said. "It's a great opportunity to demonstrate how the church in the 21st century can celebrate a vibrant liturgy that is very prayerful, but very alive."

He has chosen music by American composers from many ethnic traditions. The version of Ave Maria that the choir will sing was written in the 1930s by African-American composer R. Nathaniel Dett.
With the specially-formed 250-voice choir already chosen, rehearsals begin in mid-March. And, after refinishing by a Tulsa-based firm, a 1938 chalice in the possession of Washington's Apostolic Nunciature will be used at the DC Mass.

SVILUPPO: Calling B16 "the most exciting visitor to come to the United States in a long time," Wuerl did Theology on Tap duty last night at a Washington pub, with the visit as the evening's topic.

Thom Peters -- better known to some of you as AmericanPapist -- was there, and has video... to whet your appetite, here's Part One:

PHOTO: Getty Images