Propers of Saint Tharsicius

Saint Tharsicius, or, more commonly, Saint Tarcisius, is the patron saint of altar servers. His lipsanotheca prominently features in the page the Cœtus Internationalis Ministrantium dedicates to its patron saint here. (As an aside, we register that the correct Latin term for altar server is ministrans, as opposed to the affected calque others are wont to employ, servus altaris.) While the difference in onomastic spelling may seem negligible, it can divide etymologists. Some trace his name from the city of Tarsus in the Roman province of Cilicia, rendering it in Greek as Ταρσίκιος. Others trace it from the place called Tharsis in Holy Writ, rendering it in Greek as Θαρσίκιος. In terms of pronunciation, the difference is practically imperceptible in the West, for while τ and θ are pronounced differently in Koine Greek, t and th are pronounced the same in Ecclesiastical Latin.

Tarcisius, martyr chrétien | Alexandre Falguière | 1868

That said, both East and West venerate Saint Tharsicius as a martyr. Western hagiography designates him an acolyte, one of the minor orders, based on a sixth-century legend about the martyrdom of Pope Saint Stephen I. Eastern hagiography, meanwhile, sometimes registers him a deacon, one of the major orders, which somehow agrees with the epigraph Pope Saint Damasus I wrote. The Roman Martyrology lists Saint Tharsicius under 15 August, which is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, having suffered martyrdom on this day in 257 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Valerian. As such, his feast is perpetually impeded.

In the Vetus Ordo, therefore, (click on the thumbnails below to open the files for his proper Mass and Office, as well as the chant our Choir set for the Mass propers), his feast is properly kept on 25 November, which is probably the date: either when his relics were transferred from the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus to the Basilica of San Sisto e Santa Cecilia, and thither reposed in the tomb of Pope Saint Zephyrinus; or when Pope Saint Paul I transferred his relics, together with the relics of other martyrs, from the Basilica of San Sisto e Santa Cecilia to the Basilica of San Silvestro in Capite, where they remain today. However, celebrating his feast closer to 15 August is permitted, provided that it is assigned on an unimpeded day.

Pope Saint Damasus I, who laboured to promote devotion to the martyrs, often writing epigraphs in their honour, dedicated one such poem to the child martyr, equating his resistance to deliver the Eucharist to pagans with the abnegation that Saint Stephen the Protomartyr displayed when the Jews brought him out to be stoned. He caused this inscription to be placed on the tomb of the martyr.

Par meritum, quicumque legis, cognosce duorum,
quis Damasus rector titulos post præmia reddit.
Iudaicus populus Stephanum meliora monentem
perculerat saxis, tulerat qui ex hoste trophæum,
martyrium primus rapuit levita fidelis.
Tharsicium sanctum Christi sacramenta gerentem,
cum malesana manus premeret vulgare profanis,
ipse animam potius voluit dimittere cæsus,
prodere quam canibus rabidis cœlestia membra.



Whosoever readest, know ye the equal merit of the two
to whom Pope Damasus dedicated epitaphs for their deeds.
The Jewish people had taken away and smitten with stones
Stephen foretelling better things, the faithful deacon
who first obtained martyrdom and memorial from the foe.
When an unsound rabble pressed Saint Tharsicius
to display the sacraments of Christ he was carrying,
he, being slain, instead willed to give up his soul,
than to show the heavenly particles to the raging dogs.

Saint Tharsicius is the altar server par excellence. His example stands in stark contrast to the indiscretions of today’s altar servers, who participate in acts of wanton abandon, running the gamut from prancing like perfumed ponces in video-sharing social networking platforms, to signalling forbearance of other people’s defects with an almost constipated constitution, from pining for the validation of their peers and the attention of prospective opportunistic sponsors in local iconocamerariat circles, to retelling their sacristy-profaning unchaste encounters (aberrant or not) in online freedom walls. Let us, therefore, pray that Saint Tharsicius’ great suffering, for which he received the glory of heaven, may obtain from God forgiveness for our sins, and our Lord’s sacred Body and saving Blood, which he defended until death, may fortify our life on earth and profit us unto life everlasting.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Propers of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

In July 2015, with the transfer of our priest, our community found a new home in the parish of the Most Holy Redeemer in Santol, Quezon City. The titular of the parish is, from its name, the Most Holy Redeemer (23 October in the Missal). The patron, on the other hand, is a Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (8 May in the Missal). (Cases where the titular saint and the patron saint of a parish church have been recorded in the Philippines since Spanish times.) In the Extraordinary Form, such feasts are ranked first class in the calendar proper to the parish church, and, therefore, outclass all other liturgical observations of lower rank.

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The parish keeps the feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart on the first Sunday of June. Thus, on 5 June 2016, we first celebrated this feast. There was a little hiccup to this: the full set of propers for this feast is found neither in the Liber usualis nor in the Graduale Romanum. The introit and the communion are nowhere to be found. (The tract can be found in the 1924 Graduale Romano-Seraphicum, proper to the Franciscans.) We needed to set the missing propers into chant. And, so we did.

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In festo B. M. V. a Sacro CordeThese chants proper to the choir (click the thumbnail to open the file) were first chanted in 2016. In 2017, the parish feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was liturgically dislodged from the first Sunday of June in the Extraordinary Form. Pentecost fell on that Sunday, 4 June 2017. The liturgical observance of the feast was on the following 12 June, a Monday, the first unimpeded day after Whitsuntide. This year, 3 June is not impeded, so we have to observe the feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, impeding, however, the usual external solemnity of the Corpus Christi after the feast on Thursday.

Let us rejoice and exult in the Lord, for knowing His Name, we hope in Him, Who does not abandon those beseeching Him, and let us beg the intercession of our Blessed Mother, in whom is all the grace of the way and the truth, and all the hope of life and virtue!

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Litany of the Holy Name

In the course of the long history of Christendom, Holy Mother Church approved six litanies for public recitation, and adorned these with indulgences. Of these six, four appear in the Liber usualis with their respective tones (Sacred Heart, Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph, and the Saints), sometimes with more than one tone.

Goya - Adoración del nombre de Dios o La Gloria
Adoración del nombre de Dios o La gloria | Francisco Goya | 1777

The approved tone of the Litany of the Precious Blood, if ever one existed, continues to elude discovery. What we have are various tones composed by devout Catholics who wanted to chant the litanies but found no tone printed. One tone saw light on account of the 2011 Christus Rex Pilgrimage. Another, out of necessity, in time for the feast of the Precious Blood. Our very own version of this Litany follows this tradition! The hunt for the approved chant goes on.

Litaniae Sanctissimi Nominis IesuFortunately, the approved tone of the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus appeared a few years ago. The tone appears in the 1955 Cantuale Romano-Seraphicum (here is the two-page extract). The 1922 edition of the Cantuale does not include this tone. The memo, somehow, got lost in the mail, and we learned of the tone quite late. That is, in between waiting for the proverbial manna to fall from heaven, and fighting the urge to succumb to learned helplessness, we managed to produce our own tone for the Litany (click on the thumbnail to open the file). Today, Saturday, being the eve of the feast of the Holy Child of Cebu, reminded us of this. Let us devoutly chant these litanies in honour of the Most Holy Name of the Child Jesus of Cebu.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Litany of the Precious Blood

John XXIII, on 24 February 1960, issued the bull Inde a primis [1], approving for public use a Litany drawn up the Sacred Congregation of Rites in honour of the Precious Blood. Of the five such litanies approved for public use prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Precious Blood stands out as the only one to have not been set to chant in the Liber, or in the Graduale. As such, to our knowledge, there are no chant notation for it that can be called ‘official’.

Cristo después de la flagelación
Cristo después de la flagelaciónBartolomé Esteban Murillo | after 1665

Precious BloodIn 2011, we decided to set the Litany to chant. The result (click on the image to access the file) is on the left.

The feast of the Precious Blood started as a Spanish devotion. Saint Gaspar del Bufalo later introduced the devotion to Italy, founding the Missionaries of the Precious Blood at the request of Pius VII in 1814. In 1849, Pius IX made a vow to extend the feast to the Universal Church if he recovered the Papal States. Sure enough, on 30 June 1849, the French army reclaimed the Papal States for the Church. On 10 August that year, Pius IX issued the bull Redempti sumus [2], fulfilling his vow, fixing the feast on the first Sunday after 30 June each year, the anniversary of the victory. This Sunday, of course, is the first Sunday of July.

Continue reading “Litany of the Precious Blood”

Square Note app

In order to sing Gregorian chant, unless we have already memorised the Church’s entire treasury of sacred music, we need to look at something that contains both text and notation. Happily, for us, chant books (not in the same scale as the large cantorals of old) are available. Supply-versus-demand, however, does not quite allow everyone to access these books physically. And so these have been digitised. We now take this opportunity first to draw attention to the Gregorian chant resources we have consolidated in our Resources page.

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Technology, however, opens more frontiers where we think there is nothing more beyond. And so a thoughtfully devised app, the handiwork of Fr. Matthew Spencer, O. S. J. and Bro. Stephen Spencer, O. S. J., has now entered the market for techy church musicians: it is called Square Note. It intends to “[put] a huge library of Gregorian Chant scores—over 600 unique chants and counting—right at your fingertips”, and “[bring] the ancient music of the Church to your mobile devices, ready for you to [utilise] in your schola, your choir, or your home”. Let us stop here now and direct ourselves to reviews and impressions on the app here (CCW) and here (NLM, check the combox).

Square Note

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this tool? Purchasing the app is cheaper by two orders of magnitude than buying an old copy of the Graduale Romanum or a reprinted edition of the Liber usualis. Cantors who feel comfortable around electronic gadgets and are savvy about matters digital can now avoid lugging around the enormous volume of a typical Liber usualis (the 1962 edition is easily the thickest of all its incarnations). The playback will certainly be useful to beginners who are still in the process of digesting the principles of chanting; but this should be used sparingly to avoid cultivating dependency to it in terms of chant rhythm (which is why seasoned cantors will probably avoid this feature for very obvious reasons.)

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Breakthroughs in chant scholarship has brought forth a Graduale Triplex and spawned a Graduale Novum in the semiological direction. Perhaps, this one will sire a Graduale Digitale in the ictualist or episematic school of interpretation.