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St. Pius X: Restoring All Things in Christ

By Jennifer Gregory Miller (bio - articles - email) | Aug 21, 2014

August 21 marks the hundredth anniversary of the death of Pope St. Pius X, who reigned from 1903 to 1914. When I think of St. Pius X, there are notables from his papacy that come to mind: the changing the age of reception of First Communion from 12 or 14 to the age of reason, around the age of 7 and the issuing of the Motu Proprio Tra le sollecitudini which gave directives on sacred music.This was the first time the pope used the term actuosa participatio (active participation) of the people during the celebration of Mass. The Motu Proprio and his later encyclical E Supremi (On The Restoration Of All Things In Christ) launched the worldwide Liturgical Movement.

Over the years I've read many wonderful writers of the Liturgical Movement, such as Dom Gueranger, Virgil Michel, Martin Hellriegel, Gerald Ellard, Justine Ward, Pius Parsch, and Romano Guardini, to name a few. I have been particularly influenced by the female authors such as Mary Reed Newland, Maria von Trapp, Mary Perkins Ryan and Florence Berger who wrote particularly on the living the liturgy in the family. All these authors were working together with St. Pius X's motto in mind: restoring all things in Christ with the liturgy as the center of all action.

In my first column The End and the Beginning: The Cycle of the Liturgical Year I explained my philosophy, which takes the basis of inspiration from St. Pius:

"Living the Liturgy" or "living the Liturgical Year" are common phrases in Catholic circles, and the Internet is full lovely ideas of foods, crafts, teas and other family activities for feast days of the Liturgical Year. But I am taking a step back to explain my general philosophy in living the Liturgy in our Domestic Church. First I apply St. Pius X's program as stated in his first encyclical, E Supremi of August 1903, "to restore all things in Christ" (Eph. 1: 10), so that "Christ may be all and in all" (Col. 3:2), continuing with everything beginning with and leading back to the Eucharist, "the source and summit of the Christian life" (or "fount and apex" as the current translation states) (CCC 1324) keeping in mind that the "universal call to holiness" (CCC 2013) includes all of us in every walk and stage of life. I am working for sanctity for myself, my husband and our children, trying to bring us deeper into the Liturgy of the Church, and aiding each family member to develop and deepen their prayer life and relationship with Christ.

It is such a blessing to be part of Catholic Church. She is often referred to as "Mother Church"—and truly, what a good Mother she is! In all aspects She keeps in mind our needs as a whole person. Because we are physical beings, the Liturgy incorporates all our senses, having external components to bring us to the spiritual. We want life in our Domestic Church to follow that same pattern, but ensure that the practices are not hollow. The aim is to choose activities that will provide an external reminder of an interior conversation with Christ, thinking of the Benedictine theme "Ora et Labora" (Pray and Work), or Martha's hands with Mary's heart, striving to be "Contemplatives in Action."

For more particulars on the liturgical Movement, the Hillenbrand Exhibit has a nice summary. I also recommend Helen Hull Hitchhock's article on "Why the Liturgical Reform?" to understand the reasons and impact of the Movement, and also how the Movement continues today.

Focus on Gregorian Chant

Rereading some of the directives by Pius X makes one see the Church hasn't veered from holding up chant as the ideal:

3. These qualities are to be found, in the highest degree, in Gregorian Chant, which is, consequently, the Chant proper to the Roman Church, the only chant she has inherited from the ancient fathers, which she has jealously guarded for centuries... On these grounds Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the supreme model for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule: the more closely a composition for the Church approaches the Gregorian form in its movement, inspiration and savor the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.

It's not the directives that have changed over 100 years, just implementation has stepped back from the Church's ideal of sacred music. (See Liturgical Music Documents and music articles at Adoremus.) I do see that chant is making a "comeback", as seen just through the work of Musica Sacra, Church Music Association of America. It is a slow process, but not hopeless. And I'm not powerless. I can make a difference, starting at home. Just baby steps will work -- playing chant recordings, especially parts of the Mass, so then there can be the active participation as encouraged by Pius X.

And then how about teaching how to read and sing chant properly? Musica Sacra is a goldmine of chant treasures. Justine Ward gave such a gift on teaching children music through Gregorian Chant through the Ward Method. I don't have the time to wax eloquently or intelligently on chant, but I did want to pass on these particular resources. I've passed on quite a few of my personal copies to help Musica Sacra share these treasures:

  • Ward Method Instruction
  • Literature to download in particular:
    • Ward Hymnal for First and Second Year. This was a later find. The hymnal is written in numbers, not neums. The Ward Method would see the numbers but sing the Solfege syllables (Do, re, mi...). This would be a good drill in sight singing, too.
    • Ward Simplified Sunday Mass Propers for Mass for Children
    • Story of the Redemption for Children is beautiful chant verses written for the Liturgical Year. This one isn't in neums, but regular notation. I'm disappointed the scan is only b&w, as the original had two or three color, making it a little attractive.

Many of these books can be purchased online. I also recommend Gregorian Chant Masterclass taught by Theodore Marier with book and cd is one of the best instructions.

There are multiple chant resources, but the most important item to remember is to just begin and sing. Implementing reform can begin one neum at a time.

Even though St. Pius X a century ago encouraged a reform "to restore all things in Christ" so that "Christ may be all and in all", his directives still apply. Through his intercession may we keep Christ as our center throughout our lives.

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