Also in the news: sounds and smells

A couple of less meaty news items, though perhaps more substantial than the lambs (more of them coming soon!), received notice.

First, Fr Stephen spotted an item regarding a new scent designed for Pope Benedict. Not in honour of him, but literally for him. A top flight Italian perfumer, or “nose”, Silvana Casoli, has created the scent for him exclusively (unlike the one created in honour of his diamond jubilee of priesthood and available to be purchased), and described what she tried to encapsulate in the fragrance:

…the Pope’s personality and theological outlook….pure and clean, recalling the idea of peace… the smells the Pope would smell when praying at the Grotto of Lourdes…

No doubt some will mock this, but that would be to take a cheap shot. It sounds like the Pope acted after hearing rave reviews from priests for earlier fragrances Ms Casoli blended for the Church. If Popes in centuries commissioned works of art and music, why not the far more modest undertaking of commissioning a scent. It seems like a suitably modern expression of artistic patronage, and will add a little more sensory substance to the Pope’s subtle odour of sanctity. Since it will not be for sale but for the Pope’s use only, if he ever gives away a bottle or two, the gift will increase exponentially in value due to its rarity. Come to think of it, it really is time I sought an audience with him…

Secondly, Cathnews has a story about an apparently ordinary parish choir in Adelaide that has embraced the musical heritage of the Church’s liturgy by singing Gregorian chant at Mass. Now being a monk who sings chant daily, I find this wonderful. What is even more heartening is the effect that chant is already having in the parish:

Since the introduction of Gregorian Chant to the Edwardstown Parish last Easter, the St Anthony’s Church Choir has grown to about 15 regular members – the youngest being 14-years-old. Last April, there were just four in the choir.

A choir member, all of 15 years of age, says

…she enjoys the traditional context of the chanting and its connection to the gospel and the readings of the Mass. “They mean a bit more now that we sing them, rather than just say them”…

That girl has got it. The music at too many Masses is all too often undiscerningly chosen, or chosen because of the personal preferences of the music leader, or because it matches a “theme” supposedly in the Mass of the day. However, true church music, and Gregorian chant should have pride of place in it according to Vatican II, is at the service of the liturgy not the music director, drawing not so much on a theme (real or otherwise) as the actual words of the readings at Mass, or the details of the feast being kept. The parish priest there puts it so well (my emphases):

“The congregation is now singing the Mass rather than singing at Mass, with the invitation to all present to embrace the meaning and significance of the texts reflectively and prayerfully.”

This sounds a lot more like authentic active participation than the mere activity that is often rashly dignified with that description. You can see the story in the Adelaide diocesan newspaper here. This parish seems to be setting a fruitful example for others to follow. It has lectio divina groups as well. Do I smell a Benedictine lurking …?

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4 thoughts on “Also in the news: sounds and smells

  1. Dr Hugh . says:

    How much does Silvana Casoli charge for an odour of sanctity ? It might help in many situations, as for example when kneeling behind a heavily scented fellow worshipper.

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      One of the modern hazards. Once the body odour was the great curse of close confines; now the pungent scents of the overwashed can create as much of a menace. That said, a subtle and well-crafted scent modestly applied I always find a pleasant experience.

      It is still occasionally said of us English Benedictines that you can tell which monastery a monk comes from by his aftershave. I think it is just Cistercian envy!

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  2. jerry granger-holcombe says:

    Didn’t know you had a Fr Stephen at Douai?

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