The liturgies for the papal visit will include music that “brings from [the] storeroom both the new and the old” (Matthew 13:52). It includes ancient chants, settings composed for this visit, and hymns familiar to Catholics across the United States and around the world.
Tracy McDonnell has directed music at Saint Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, Md., since 1991. She will direct the Intercultural Choir for the Mass at Nationals Park. This choir includes eighty vocalists and instrumentalists, representing 35 countries of origin. Ms. McDonnell noted that looking at the choir members is like “looking at and worshipping with the Universal Church.” She noted that music is a universal language that helps to bridge cultural gaps and adds that, “it is an honor, not just to worship at a Mass when the Pope is presiding, but to represent the people of the Archdiocese [of Washington which is] so culturally rich.”
Robert LeBlanc, currently the music director at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Community in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, composed four miniatures (short musical compositions) on the theme of the Gloria. Hopefully, these selections will help the congregation become familiar with the refrain so that they can participate in singing it more fully. In addition, he wrote the music for the anthem “Spirit of God.” He said, “It was a great honor to be asked. It’s a challenge to write something for a specific purpose that is musically worthwhile, but I enjoy such a challenge.” Mr. LeBlanc does have some experience with papal liturgies. Some of his music was used for Pope John Paul II’s visit to New Orleans.
Father John Foley, S.J., is director of the Center for Liturgy at Saint Louis University. His composition, “Take, Lord, Receive,” will be used at Saint Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, when Pope Benedict meets with young people, including some with disabilities and their caregivers. Father Foley explained that the text of the song comes from the writing of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). He said that using the song for this meeting is “terrific and exactly what Ignatius would want. The prayer says that God has given us everything and so we are to give all back to him, since all we need is God’s grace.”
Dr. Leo Nestor is the Justine Bayard Ward Professor and Director of the Institute of Sacred Music in the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at the Catholic University of America. He created the setting for “Lord, You Give the Great Commission,” that will be used as the recessional hymn for the Mass at Nationals Park. Dr. Nestor, too, has written music for past papal visits (1987 and 1999) he says that this opportunity is “a singular honor…. The greatest gift a composer in the Church can receive is to witness whatever liturgical-spiritual efficacy the work may have upon the people singing, hearing, imbibing the music. I am not certain that this is a measurable entity: it resides in the relationship between the singer-hearer and Him to whom the words are sung. Beyond that, it is God who continues the work begun in us.”
Dr. Jennifer Pascual is Director of Music Ministries at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. She will be directing the music at the ecumenical event at Saint Joseph’s Church in Yorkville and for the Masses at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and Yankee Stadium. In addition, she composed the psalm settings that will be used at these Masses. She said that this opportunity is “one of the highlights of her career and her faith.” Since the Holy Father and Cardinal Egan, the Archbishop of New York, are both classically trained pianist, it is a musical highlight as well. She hopes that the music selected will help to create a “wonderful liturgical and spiritual experience” and that it “touches everyone in some way.”
Jeffrey Honoré is the director of music at Saint Benedict’s Parish in Milwaukee, WI. He composed the multilingual setting of the Agnus Dei that will be used at Nationals Park. While he was excited to learn that his composition had been selected, he added that it is “humbling when you think of all the music that has been prayed over the centuries. This ancient text being sung at this visit is a gift of God through your pen that connects you in a different way with all those who have gone before.”
Jaime Cortez, a liturgical musician in the Diocese of Phoenix, said that it is a “great honor” to have a piece of music selected. Even more, it is a “wonderful honor to be a voice for the wonderful, loving Hispanic community in the United States.” His composition, “Ven Espiritu Santo,” will be used during the Preparation of the Gifts at the Mass at Nationals Park. The text for this song comes from the sequence for Pentecost while the music reflects the upbeat rhythms of the Andes, praising God for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Brother Rufino Zaragoza, OFM, composed “My God and My All,” one of the Communion hymns for the Mass at Nationals Park. Brother Zaragoza is currently in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), working on a bilingual Vietnamese/English hymnal that includes this song. He said that the hymn’s refrain comes from a prayer chant, used by Saint Francis of Assisi. He added, “Far away from home, in a country that offers no news about the Pope’s visit to the U.S., I am deeply touched that somehow the words of Saint Francis would be sung by Americans at the Mass in Nationals Park. Francis prayed that he might offer his all to the Holy One, and in his simplicity and poverty, that he could receive all that the Holy One offers all to his beloved. Somehow this simple song found its way into the Papal Celebration. I think Saint Francis would be happy. Wish I could be there to join my fellow Americans in welcoming Pope Benedict XVI.”