Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chanting "new" prayers

My lady-friend, who currently attends the Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts in New Hampshire, introduced me to a chant she recently heard when attending chapel there. It’s the prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel, set to a composition by a musician who works at the school. The same chant got a nod today in a post on the New Liturgical Movement. Here’s a recording of the chant below:

What makes this remarkable is that we’re applying old styles of music (in this case, Byzantine chant) to a relatively new prayer. It was originally composed by Pope Leo XIII and ordered to be prayed after all low Masses in 1884 as part of a set of prayers for the deliverance of Rome, which had been conquered by revolutionaries and converted into the capital of the new Kingdom of Italy not long before. (So that otherwise excellent opening sequence in the movie Gangs of New York which has Liam Neeson's character, "Priest" Vallon, reciting the Saint Michael prayer in 1840's-'50's New York City is anachronistic.) It is, therefore, a fine example of medievalism in action, and I heartily approve.

Another related example, by the way, would be the common prayer before meals (“Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts…”) set to a simple Gregorian chant, again featured on the New Liturgical Movement. I hope these all represent a moving trend away from the “low Mass mentality” toward a culture that embraces singing in prayer, even outside of the liturgy. I’d be really interested to see chant or choral settings of the Rosary prayers now.


  1. The monks of Norcia printed a book for sung table blessings.

    It follows kievan chant's mode. Not byzantine by the way, but influenced by both byzantine, slavic and catholic ways of chanting via Poland!