Among the various initiatives of the recently rejuvenated Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, which is under the patronage of His Excellency Archbishop Cordileone and the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the Latin Mass is to return to San Quentin State Prison, with the first Mass scheduled for August 25th.
The Institute runs its own schola, which is a teaching choir that can visit parishes and communities in order to enable them to chant the Mass. Archbishop Cordileone recently visited the prison with the schola for an evening of musical meditation and prayers, and proposed this idea to the prisoners who attended. The response was enthusiastic and gratifying.
Maggie Gallagher, the director of the Benedict XVI Institute tells us about the evening:
I have just come back from an extraordinary evening with some extraordinary news for you: The Latin Mass is coming back to San Quentin for the first time in three generations!
Last night, our new Benedict XVI Institute Schola and Teaching Choir went to San Quentin for three reasons:
First, to give men forgotten by many in society the uplifting experience of pure Sacred Beauty—with music performed by four very talented professional singers.
Second, to teach these men they can chant too; just hearing these men chant the Litany of the Saints together was inspiring! Our Benedict XVI Institute Schola and Teaching Choir is not just a performing choir: we aim to show ordinary Catholics they can participate in the Mass in this special way.
So our third and most important goal last night was to invite the men at San Quentin to form a schola that will help bring back the Traditional Latin Mass on August 25.
And guess what? Twenty-five men said yes!
This overwhelming response was for me a totally unexpected gift from God. Here’s how the evening went: I drove in with Archbishop Cordileone and met Father Cassian (who will celebrate the Latin Mass August 25) as well as a prison volunteer and the Catholic chaplain Father George Williams at the entrance. As we walked into the Chapel, Father George told us: “The men are just very grateful you are here. Feel free to chat with them, they love that.”
Prison is a kind of community and like any community, there are some who actively work to make it better. We met a lot of men like that last night. Dwight, the sound guy, introduced himself and started asking about how we want to be miked for the Latin Mass. “Bobby”, an old hand, told me he used to sing the Latin Mass at St Peter’s in the Mission district [of San Francisco] with the “Christian brothers.” “Sam” who sat behind me, was a Protestant curious what this new music sounded like. He’s only been in San Quentin for two weeks “but the church scene is popping!” he told me.
Rebekah Wu, our talented music director, organized the music around the “Six Seasons” of the liturgical year. We began with Frank La Rocca’s Ave Maria (and ended with Hail Holy Queen).
Starting in Advent season, the choir mesmerized 60 or so San Quentin prisoners with a mix of Gregorian chant (“Creator Alme Siderum,” “Resonet in Laudibus,” “Attende Domine,” and sacred polyphony old and new (Bruckner’s “Vexilla Regis,” Jean Berger’s “The Eyes of All,” the lovely Christmas carol “I wonder as I wander,” and during the Easter Tridium “Jesus so Lowly”).
During the deep Lenten season, Rebekah gave testimony to God’s healing power in her own life, mentioning the good thief who ended up in paradise with Jesus. Father George interrupted to say a few words: pointing to a huge painting hung on the wall he explained. “That is Saint Dismas,” Fr. George told us. “The good thief who repented and whom Jesus saved. That painting was gifted to us by a death row inmate who died last year, Fernando Caro.” Out of evil, God can rescue beauty and give hope, if we let him.
Then it was time to bring the men into chant with the choir. Rebekah taught us all to sing the Alleluia as the chorus of “O Filii et Filiae,” and then had the men chant The Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
People who are interested in supporting the San Quentin schola can follow the link here.
Full story at New Liturgical Movement.