New Solemn High Mass: ‘An event of extraordinary spiritual and cultural significance’

New Solemn High Mass: ‘An event of extraordinary spiritual and cultural significance’ October 23, 2019

From Maggie Gallagher in The Catholic Herald:

This November 16, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C, an event of extraordinary spiritual and cultural significance will take place: a new composition for a Solemn High Pontifical Mass honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary simultaneously under her titles of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (the Patroness of Mexico and all of the Americas, and the Patroness of the United States). The Mass is called “The Mass of the Americas”, and the composer is Frank La Rocca. (For more information or to register to attend visit

A Solemn High Pontifical Mass is a rare event in the United States. A newly composed such Mass? I cannot easily find any recent precedent.

Why is it happening here and now? The answer is the patronage and inspiration of Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, who just five years ago founded The Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship. Its mission? Opening the door of Beauty to God through beautiful liturgy and energizing a Catholic culture of the arts.

“Amid many devastating scandals, sins, and problems, the greatest crisis the Church faces today is the loss of the sense of the sacred,” Archbishop Cordileone told me. “Beauty has a power to lift hearts and souls to the reality of God.”

And so the Mass of the Americas, originally composed by Frank La Rocca for the Ordinary Form of the Mass, has launched on an unprecedented Marian church tour: San Francisco, Tijuana, Houston (November 24), Dallas (2020), Mexico City (TBA) and this November 16 in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C.

The Mass of the Americas thus lies at the heart of the intersection of these two missions. “This is the revival of the Renaissance and Counter-Reformation model,” said Archbishop Cordileone, “beautiful sacred music composed from the heart of the Faith finding new audiences by moving through the great cathedrals, churches and shrines of the world.”

Composer Frank La Rocca agreed: “This recalls very powerfully the post-Tridentine project of the Church to support the creation of music and other arts that symbolically proclaim who she is and what she teaches, and to use the power of beauty to draw people into an encounter with those things. Beauty has the power to directly form the soul and prepare it to receive Truth.”

Read the rest. 

As Wikipedia describes it:

In contrast to celebration by a priest, a bishop celebrates almost the entire first half of the Solemn High Mass until the offertory at the cathedra, often referred to as his throne, to the left of the altar. Instead of saying Dominus vobiscum “The Lord be with you” as the opening liturgical greeting, a bishop says Pax vobis “Peace to you”.

A bishop also wears vestments additional to those of a priest:

  • The dalmatic, the distinctive vestment of a deacon, worn under the bishop’s chasuble to show that he has the full powers of the sacrament of Holy Orders
  • The tunicle, the particular vestment of the subdeacon, worn under the bishop’s dalmatic, further to show the fullness of the major orders. Since the 19th century it looks almost exactly the same as the dalmatic
  • The mitre, the bishop’s headdress
  • The crosier, the bishop’s hooked staff
  • Episcopal buskins along with episcopal sandals a specially decorated form of footwear, in the shape of slippers
  • A pectoral cross
  • Liturgical gloves
  • A metropolitan archbishop, celebrating Mass within the area of his province over which he has jurisdiction, wears a pallium over the chasuble, as a sign of the special authority over the suffragan bishops, granted by the Pope. The metropolitan archbishop does not need the permission of one of his suffragan bishops to celebrate Mass in one of the suffragan’s churches or even the cathedral, but he will usually do so as a sign of respect.

When the bishop sits at the cathedra, a special silk cloth, called a gremial(e), of the same liturgical colour as the bishop’s vestments is placed in his lap.


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