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Joseph Pearce

Joseph Pearce is Senior Editor at the Augustine Institute, editor of the St. Austin Review and the author of books on Shakespeare, Tolkien, Chesterton and other Christian literary figures.


Writing for Faith & Culture

We welcome the submission of articles of between 600 and 1,500 words on topics related to Catholic faith and culture. Articles should be emailed as Word attachments to Joseph Pearce.

Iubilate Deo!

Iubilate Deo!

An Interview with Composer Adam Bartlett

Adam Bartlett is the President of Illuminare Publications and the editor of the Lumen Christi Missal. He specializes in Gregorian chant and composes English-language chant that grows organically out of the Gregorian tradition. With Fr. Daniel Cardo, he is engaged in an effort to assist parishes, dioceses, and apostolates in the work of authentic liturgical renewal called the Source and Summit Institute.


Faith & Culture:

In each of the past two years, you and Fr. Cardo have offered a course at the Augustine Institute called “Liturgy and the New Evangelization”—two topics not often joined. Do they belong together?


Mr. Bartlett:

It is true that we do not often find the liturgy and the new evangelization connected in many of our conversations today. I believe firmly, however, that the two cannot be separated. This conviction, in fact, seems to be at the heart of the Second Vatican Council, which demonstrated at its outset that the renewal and promotion of the liturgy must be considered before all else in light of the Council’s aims. In Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Council fathers affirmed that “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.” In other words, the liturgy is the source and summit of the new evangelization. The Council’s Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, echoes this conviction in its opening paragraph, expressing its desire to “bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church.” The light of Christ, of course, is received by the Church first and foremost in the sacred liturgy and the sacraments which transfigure the faithful and empower them for mission. In light of this reality, it seems that we cannot afford to have conversations about the new evangelization without considering its source and summit in the authentic celebration of the sacred liturgy, just as we cannot admit conversations about the liturgy without taking into account its missionary consequences, especially in light of the cultural challenges we face today. St. John Paul II articulated this relationship perfectly: “it is essential to keep clearly in mind that the liturgy is intimately linked to the Church’s mission to evangelize. If the two do not go hand in hand, both will falter.”

Faith & Culture:

How is the “reform of the reform” described by Benedict XVI different from a return to the Tridentine Rite?


Mr. Bartlett:

The term “reform of the reform” is often misunderstood and misapplied. Strictly speaking, “reform” of the liturgy is carried out only by the competent ecclesial authority, namely the Holy See, which has the competency to regulate and oversee the liturgical life of the Church. The Council called for some ritual reforms of the liturgy, however this was not its primary thrust. A better term for its overall intention, I believe, is liturgical “renewal.” The word renewal, in fact, is freely interchanged with the word reform in most English translations of the Liturgy Constitution, illustrating that the Liturgy Constitution’s aim was other than mere ritual modification. The word reform generally implies that something is broken and must be fixed. The word renewal, however, illustrates the Church’s ongoing task of drawing the whole of the faithful into a deep and fruitful, transfiguring participation in the prayer, action, sacrifice, and life of Jesus Christ which is made present to us in the sacred liturgy through sacramental signs. This is equally true for both the Ordinary (postconciliar) and Extraordinary (“Tridentine”) forms of the Mass. Its aim is the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful. Authentic liturgical renewal, therefore, is needed at all times.

It is true that such renewal can be undertaken without any need to alter the liturgical rites themselves. Instead, the principal task is one of liturgical formation and catechesis, which helps the faithful understand the meaning of the signs and symbols of the liturgy and to participate in the realities that they signify. And I would say that this task is the greatest one that we face today, both in the Ordinary and the Extraordinary forms. I do believe that the official liturgical reform following the Council went beyond its mandate, and that this is something that will be addressed in some capacity by an official “reform of the reform” within my lifetime. I do not believe, though, that it will constitute a wholesale return to the Tridentine form of the liturgy. Liturgical renewal can and should be undertaken in our parishes in the meantime in order to celebrate the liturgy as we have received it well, beautifully, in continuity with the Church’s perennial tradition, and ordered toward the re-evangelization of the West.

Adam Bartlett presents the Lumen Christi Missal to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during a private audience in May of 2017.

Adam Bartlett presents the Lumen Christi Missal to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during a private audience in May of 2017.

Faith & Culture:

Can the renewal of sacred music in today’s parishes be experienced as acceptable by what may perhaps be called everyday Catholics, or will they be put off by foreign languages and musical expression?


Mr. Bartlett:

Yes, it absolutely can, and it is happening in hundreds, if not thousands of ordinary parishes across the country even now. A major instrument in this renewal is the availability of a newly developed repertoire of English chant that sets the texts of the Mass in simple, beautiful, and accessible musical settings. These chants largely set the proper antiphons of the Mass which have been long neglected over the past 50 years, in addition to the dialogues, responses, and parts of the Mass Ordinary as found in the 2011 translation of the Roman Missal. In my experience, after implementing these simple and accessible chants in a parish context, the door is opened to much more of the Church’s authentic musical tradition, much of which is in Latin and of a greater musical complexity. Even for parishes that do not have the resources to make use of these treasures, the chant settings found in the Lumen Christi Missal can help almost any parish sing the Mass in a beautiful and integral way.

Faith & Culture:

What are some of the formative influences upon your convictions about theology, liturgy, and music?


Mr. Bartlett:

Without a doubt, the father of the “new liturgical movement”, Joseph Ratzinger / Benedict XVI, resides at the top of my list, but certainly in continuity with his papal predecessor St. John Paul II who was foundationally important for me in my early formation. Many of the Liturgical Movement figures such as Romano Guardini, Columba Marmion, and St. Pius X have been greatly influential, as have the Thomists Josef Pieper, A.G. Sertillanges, and James Schall, as well as generalists like Mortimer Adler and the world of ideas that he opens up. I have also had the good fortune of having many excellent musical mentors throughout the years, most notably Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB, who passed away just this past June at the age of 87. Dom Columba opened me up to the world of Gregorian Semiology and the school of Dom Eugene Cardine, forever rooting my conception of liturgical music in the sacramentality of the Word of God, made flesh in the phenomenon of liturgical song.

Faith & Culture:

What are some of the formative influences in your musical background?


Mr. Bartlett:

Unlike some of my colleagues, I was not a boy chorister at a cathedral choir school, or anything like that. I did grow up in a musical family, though, and had the guitar dropped in my lap at a young age which I played up into my college years. Prior to music school, most of my musical experience occurred in more of an informal, improvisatory context, which included rock band gigs on Saturday night followed by folk Mass gigs on Sunday morning. Upon entering the university, following an Evangelical musical streak, I transitioned into jazz and classical guitar performance, classical composition, and choral conducting which opened me up to the immense sacred music tradition of the Catholic Church. Palestrina played a pivotal role in my transition to sacred music, along with Byrd, Victoria, Lassus, Josquin, and Gregorian chant. I was also inspired by modern composers like Arvo Pärt and Morten Lauridsen who had bucked the modernist trend and sought to return to the sacred and transcendent. This is the path that I have resolved to follow.

Faith & Culture:

What is the role of silence in liturgy? Can music prepare us to experience silence as a positive reality?


Mr. Bartlett:

Cardinal Sarah has written much recently on the need for silence, not only in the liturgy but also amidst the noisiness and chaos of postmodern world. He describes the role of music in the liturgy as emerging from silence and leading back to silence. This conception of silence, however, is not a mere absence of sound, but is a profound contemplative, receptive, internal stillness in which the attuned soul can, with the help of grace, contemplate the reality and mystery of God. Even more, it can lead us into an actual participation in the same reality. Authentic sacred music fosters this interior silence, even as it is being heard and sung. Silence is not sacred music’s enemy, but its place of repose and wellspring. A common misconception in the postconciliar era has held that silence is the enemy of liturgical participation, and that external activity is the measure of active participation. Unfortunately, this conception has had devastating effects on our liturgical culture which has often come to shun silence. The liturgical tradition up through our time, as expressed in the modern liturgical books, fosters silence as an essential part of the liturgy. An authentic renewal of sacred music on the parish level can help draw missionary disciples into a silence that leads into the mystery of God, setting their souls on fire and empowering their lives of mission.


Faith & Culture:

What are your aspirations for the Source and Summit Institute?


Mr. Bartlett:

The Source and Summit Institute is the culmination of a decade-long effort to provide resources and formation for authentic liturgical renewal to parishes, apostolates, and those on the grassroots level. Illuminare Publications, which I established in 2011, is becoming the liturgical publication arm of the Institute, and we are developing an array of complementary training and formation resources that will assist pastors, musicians, liturgists, and parish staff members in undertaking the work of liturgical renewal on the parish level. We will offer a digital platform for liturgical preparation, formation, and prayer, which we plan to rollout to parishes as well as individuals in 2019. I would ask readers for their prayers and support as we spearhead this effort aimed at renewing the liturgy as the source and summit of the new evangelization.

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