Sacred Music Interviews Fr. Dennis Kolinski, S.J.C.
(Sacred Music, Fall 2007. Subscribe here)

“Bi-ritual” is what these parishes have been called. Here the 1962 Missal and the 1970 Missal live side by side, precisely as Pope Benedict XVI envisions in Summorum Pontificum, the Moto Proprio liberalizing the use of the 1962 Missal. But the term bi-ritual is now problematic. The Motu Proprio clarifies a long-standing issue: there are not two rites but one rite with two forms.

Can the two forms live coexist in peace, even in the same parish? The Pope writes: “the fear was expressed in discussions about the awaited Motu Proprio, that the possibility of a wider use of the 1962 Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities. This fear also strikes me as quite unfounded.”

The first attempts at two-form parishes came about in response to John Paul II’s first round of liberalization of the Missal of 1962, and they have been working their way toward the cultivation of serious scholas and an active liturgical life in both the new and old forms of the Roman Rite.

No parish in America has taken this model as far as St. John Cantius in Chicago, Illinois. Their Sunday Mass schedule is itself the evidence:

6:30 a.m.—Matins (Office of Readings) & Lauds (Morning Prayer)
7:30 a.m.—Tridentine Low Mass (Latin)
9:00 a.m.—Missa Normativa (1970 Missal in English)
11:00 a.m.—Missa Normativa (Latin)
12:30 p.m.—Tridentine High Mass (Latin)
2:00 p.m.—Rosary, Solemn Vespers (Evening Prayer), Exposition and Benediction
6:00 p.m.—Compline (Night Prayer)

This model is not only on display on Sunday. Every weekday includes Mass in the old and new forms, plus regular praying of the Divine Office.

The parish also offers a stunning musical program. On one Sunday in June 2007, when many parish choirs are on vacation, parishioners at St. John Cantius enjoyed the Mass for Five Voices and O Rex Gloriae by William Byrd, along with Omnes Gentes Plaudite by Christopher Tye (1505 -1572), in addition to propers sung to Gregorian chant – and this is in both the new and old forms. The music program of the parish also highlights new sacred compositions, some by the priest-musicians who work in the parish itself.

This activity has attracted the attention of the Church Music Association of America, which plans to hold its first celebrant training seminar in the sung Mass at the parish (October 17-19, 2007), and to plan a visit during the CMAA Sacred Music Colloquium at Loyola University in Chicago (June 16-21, 2008).

Sacred Music interviewed Rev. Dennis Kolinski, S.J.C., an Associate Pastor at St. John Cantius:

SM: How long have you been at the parish?

Kolinski: I started here in 1993, and I was one of the first members when the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius began in 1998. This is a specific type of religious. There are monks, there are friars, and there are canons regular. The focus of the Canons Regular is the liturgy. Our spirituality is a liturgical spirituality. The public celebration of the Mass and the Divine Office is the core of what we do. Here we have now seven priests and 26 members. In fact, just two weeks ago we had five new men enter as apostulants. They will be vested and enter the novitiate in August. Then we have a two-year novitiate. Following that, at the recommendation of our superior Fr. C. Frank Phillips, C.R., who is the pastor of our parish, we make a decision about whether they can enter the seminary.

SM: And the liturgical training?

Kolinski: That takes place here. All of our novices take Latin classes. We have classes in liturgy, canon law, Church documents, music, history, and much more. Everything we do here is essentially based on Sacrosanctum Concilium and Mediator Dei, and, in particular with regard to music, we are guided by the centrality of chant and polyphony. The Church’s music is a treasure of “inestimable value, greater even than any other art.” It is a very large part of what we do: we have seven choirs here.

SM: Back when you were just a parishioner, was there an emphasis on music?

Kolinski: Certainly. Great music has been here from the beginning when Fr. Phillips came here in 1988. He never set out with a grand plan. He was just doing what the Church was asking of us. When he was assigned here, the parish was almost dead. He had a great love of music. He is a musician himself. So he used chant and polyphony, and celebrated the Mass beautifully and reverently, with beautiful vestments – all the things that are part of our heritage. There was a choir that he had been working with. He invited them in to sing. Gradually people began to hear about the parish. Little by little the parish began to grow, and great things began to happen.

There were a total of 70 people attending two Masses when he came. Today, we have more than 1,000 families. After John Paul II issued Ecclesia Dei in 1988, Cardinal Bernadin approached Fr. Phillips and ask if he would like to be the parish with the Indult in Chicago that celebrated Mass according to the old Missal. Father was pleased to accept. From that point on, we had the Tridentine Mass but also the normative Mass. Many people who had been attending Masses of St. Pius X came here to reconcile themselves back to the Church.

SM: How did go from being one person to the creation of an entire new order of priests?

Kolinski: He was pleased that wonderful things were happening but he also knew that it would come to an end if something were to happen to him. So he had the inspiration to do something to carry on this work in a more formal way. He was drawn to form a new community of men. He talked to Cardinal George, who thought there was something authentic happening, and the men moved in. From then, it’s been a whirlwind of activity, with ever more growth and activity.

SM: Tell us about the bi-ritualism of the parish.

Kolinski: Ever since the Tridentine Mass came here, we have continued to also use the Novus Ordo Missae. Fr. Phillips originally imagined that the new community would be tri-ritual, as a way of making a bridge between East and West. But it became apparent that there were important juridical issues in formalizing the Byzantine rite here. This plan was tabled, and our focus has been on the two forms of the Roman Rite. Our priests say both the ordinary and the extraordinary form. We offer all that the Church offers within the Roman Rite.

SM: That is a principle the order holds to?

Kolinski: We would not accept someone who came to us and said: “I will only say the Tridentine Form.” No, the Canons Regular is a bi-ritual community and we embrace the full range of the Church’s liturgical offerings. The same is true with regard to the ordinary form. We say that if you can’t find what you want here, you have nowhere to go. We have a Tridentine low and high Mass every Sunday, along with a normative Mass in English and Latin. The priests rotate between Masses.

SM: Are all of your Masses sung?

Kolinski: All except Saturday night, the anticipated Low Mass and the morning Low Mass on Sunday. Otherwise, we use Gregorian chant at all Masses, even the English normative Masses.

SM: Do you look at musical ability when considering candidates?

Kolinski: Not especially. There is a wide range of musical ability here. If someone is weak in this area, we work with it as best we can. We don’t have anyone who is tone deaf. In fact, there are very few people who truly are tone deaf. But we train people in music, and this makes a difference. All of those in formation here are part of the schola. Every day of the week, they have some kind of musical rehearsal. All the novices are taught chant. They all lead the Divine Office on a rotating schedule, and that includes intoning.

SM: Many people who attend the old Mass and the new observe few connections between them.

Kolinski: And this is where the music really does make the difference. This is the key aesthetic bridge between the two forms. In a larger sense, the bridge is the Church’s tradition, of which the music is part. If you want to see a true Vatican II parish, come to St. John Cantius, where the actual instruction from the Council is being carried out. Here we have always looked to the future that we are beginning to see coming to fruition today, a future in which chant is the music of the Catholic liturgy.

SM: Can you say more about the new and old propers?

Kolinski: As you imply with your question, they aren’t that different. Sometimes the schola only needs to learn one set of propers to prepare for Masses in both forms. And even when they are different, it’s not as if the new Mass employs a completely new proper. It is just placed in a different liturgy of the year. And the forms are the same in the Psalms and all the parts of the liturgy. Even when the propers are different, we will sing the same ordinary setting in the new and old forms, so that there is continuity.

SM: How do parishioners respond to the liturgical differences between the forms?

Kolinski: In the early days, we had parishioners who would come only to the old form and others who would come to the new form. But not everyone is focused on the differences. I can recall one young man born long after the Council who showed up to the 11:00am Mass, which is the Latin normative Mass from the Missal of 1970. He was swept up in the beauty, and thought it was Heaven. Excitedly, he told one of the brothers after Mass: “I will never go to another Novus Ordo Mass!”

SM: Did the Brother tell him that he had just attended a Novus Ordo Mass?

Kolinski: He didn’t have the heart to tell him.

SM: So today, most people don’t focus on the differences.

Kolinski: There are a few, but most people choose their Mass based on the time of day that is convenient for them. It’s true that the 1970 Missal did not grow organically from what preceded it in a manner that it should have. And yet what’s really been interesting to us, and very heartening, is that most of the old traditionalists will now attend Mass in the new form. And that includes most of the parishioners who used to attend the St. Pius X chapel. Now, they come to the Novus Ordo and receive communion and just avail themselves to the sacraments in every way. They might still prefer the traditional Roman Rite, to which they have a right, but there is a lot of crossover.

SM: One of the main worries about liberalizing the old Mass was that doing so would be divisive. But that isn’t your experience.

Kolinski: Precisely, and those who level that criticism haven’t typically experienced what we do here. They just don’t know what they are talking about. It’s parishes like this that are actually uniting people. We have many traditionalists who are attending Novus Ordo Masses now, and convinced new Mass Catholics happily attending the classical form. There is peace and contentment. In many ways, we are the living example that Pope Benedict is precisely right that the liberalization is good for the whole Church, old and young and everyone in between.

SM: We have a tendency to regard the new form as somehow hermetically sealed off from history. How does having the two forms side by side affect the spirit and attitude you take to the new form.

Kolinski: We always try to do the best we can with the liturgy we are given, with the highest possible attention to detail and rubrical precision. This is of utmost importance. So when we train people, we press this upon them. There can be no mixing of forms and rubrics. And we do not do that. We have a few things here that would be regarded as local custom but it is not a mixing of rubrics.

At the same time, the Tridentine Mass has a flow-over effect on the celebration of the normative Mass. There is a decorum and posture that comes with the ritual that is influenced by the history and provide an excellent model for the new form. There is no casualness about it.

There are so many things that are common to both Masses. But it is best to be familiar with the old Mass in order to fully understand it. If you look at the normative Mass in the light of tradition, and then do it with beautiful music and appropriate vestments, and with the posture that has always been traditional, you don’t really see a radical difference. You observe liturgical continuity.

SM: There are more choices with the new form but when faced with a choice, you tend to choose tradition, is that right?

Kolinski: That’s right. For example, there are celebrants of the normative Mass in many parishes who like to constantly change, doing canon one this day and canon two this day, and so. We don’t really do that. Each priest tends to stick to one path, and that is a general pattern that we all fall into. We all tend to use the penitential rite that includes the Confiteor.

SM: What if the family of a deceased person requested the sequence Dies Irae in the new form. Would you comply?

Kolinski: We would incorporate it. There are many opportunities for music in the ordinary form of the Mass, and people have a choice. The Dies Irae is beautiful and appropriate. Many times, people don’t realize that it is there and when they do realize it, they are not sure that it is allowed. So there are ways in which the two-form setting here at St. John Cantius fills out the details.

SM: Are all your Masses said ad orientem?

Kolinski: For five years now, that has been true. No one complained. In fact, people love it. In the same way, parishioners want to receive communion at the rail. If someone wants to stand, we permit it, but, for the most part, people prefer kneeling.

And speaking of what people want, let me relay an interesting case. We have a rich community for youth here. There are boys’ camps. We have a youth choir with more than 100 kids in it. This choir does amazing things. They will go out to a retreat center for a few days. If somehow it turns out that they are doing things that prevent them from chanting the Divine Office with the brothers, they get very upset! They want to practice their faith. Most Catholics do.

SM: What books are in the pews in the Church?

Kolinski: We don’t keep anything in the pews. We try to avoid the clutter. But as people are walking in, we have materials they can pick up depend on what Mass they are attending. We have the Adoremus Hymnal. We have an English-Latin booklet on the Tridentine Mass, as published by the Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei. We have a missalette put out by Paluch here in Chicago. It is a good publication with nice images and good ordinary settings. We print hymns in the bulletin.

As for the ordinary settings, most people have memorized them, so they can sing along. This is what happens when you come week after week. Many people bring their own liturgical books, like the Liber Usualis, the Gregorian Missal, or the Graduale. For the traditional Mass, peoiple bring a variety of Missals. Some people attempt to sing the propers with the schola, which is fine.

SM: Do people sing at the Tridentine Mass?

Kolinski: Oh sure, many people sing, and we encourage that. Now, I’ve heard some people say that they prefer the Low Mass and that’s fine too.

SM: Is the chant accompanied or not?

Kolinski: The chant is always unaccompanied. Sometimes on weekday Mass, uses we use light accompaniment. But the norm here is unaccompanied. We believe that this is best and most fitting with tradition.

SM: Many priests, when the Motu Proprio came out, must have felt slightly intimidated by the prospect of learning the classical form of the Mass. What would you recommend as baby steps toward solemnity?

Kolinski: The first essential step is to be perfectly faithful to the rubrics. Don’t see them as a burden or a skeleton on which one has to be creative, but rather as a means toward faithfulness.

Second, I suggest that priests be attentive to singing the acclamations in the English Mass, instead of just saying them. Singing the Mass is the normative way, and always has been. We need to restore this. It is not difficult. The problem is that many priests haven’t been trained in seminary. It is a small step but it makes an enormous difference. Celebrants can start with just one section of the Mass. Sing it and observe what happens.

The next step is to say or sing some parts in Latin. There is so much that can be done with language in the ordinary form that provides a bridge to the extraordinary form, which otherwise might seem completely forbidding. There are so many ways to approach a higher level of solemnity.

SM: We are all looking forward to the priests-training seminar in October.

Kolinski: It is going to be wonderful! Priests just need a bit of training and formation. This seminar is going to provide a wonderful opportunity for celebrants. It’s not only about technical training. We also have the chance to clarify some core concepts about what the liturgy is about and what its center is. Once we have a clear conception of the ideal, progress is much easier. Also, our special visitors are going to absolutely love our church and the community we have here.