Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chant Workshop This Saturday!

This Saturday, November 21, Fr. David Grondz of St. Philip Neri House and I will be conducting an Introductory Gregorian Chant Workshop. We have had great success with these in the past, and contiune to attract interest. So far we have about 30 people signed up!

With this workshop coming just before Advent, we will give special attention to chants of the Advent season.

So, Catholics in Michigan and beyond - come and learn the music which is most truly that of the Liturgy!

Chant for Beginners

An Introductory Chant Workshop

Presented by Fr. Rob Johansen and Fr. David Grondz.




Fr. Grondz Teaching at a Previous Workshop


The Workshop will include presentations on:

Reading Chant Notation
History and Spirituality of Chant
Some Fundamental Chants of the Roman Rite
Chants of the Advent Season

No previous knowledge of Chant required - This is truly for beginners!


Saturday, November 21, 2009
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM


Hackett Central Catholic High School
1000 E. Kilgore Rd.
Kalamazoo, Michigan.


For more information or to RSVP call St. Philip Neri House at (269) 385-9933, or e-mail to frdavid AT stphilipnerihouse DOT org.

(Hackett Central Catholic High School is in Kalamazoo, just a few minutes from I-94.)

Cost: $30.00 per person (includes lunch and a copy of the Parish Book of Chant).

Sponsored by St. Philip Neri House.





Fr. Rob Johansen has an extensive background in music, having studied voice, ‘cello, and conducting at the University of Illinois. He studied Chant at the Catholic University of America, and continued his Chant studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary under Calvert Shenk. He has degrees in Religious Studies, Classics, and Patristic Greek and Latin. He is currently pursuing a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in Liturgy at the Liturgical Institute in Chicago.






Fr. David Grondz received his S.T.B. from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained to the Priesthood in 2006. Fr. Grondz has studied Chant for 13 years, and served as assistant organist at the Pontifical North American College. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of St. Mary Church, Kalamazoo, where he regularly celebrates the Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
The Use of the Liturgical Tractor

I'd imagine that most of you liturgy-minded folks out there have never considered how the use of certain farm implements might complement the liturgy.

Well, back before I began my studies in liturgy here at The Liturgical Institute, I celebrated a wedding Mass for a couple of my parishioners at my little country parish. The groom, a farmer, had come up with a clever and entertaining way to make use of his tractor for the special day.


The Liturgical Tractor and its Accessory, the Liturgical Cattle Trailer
(all photos may be viewed full-size by clicking on them)


After the Nuptial Mass, the bride and groom made their way to their conveyance:


Madame, Your Chariot Awaits...


OK, so the tractor wasn't actually used in the liturgy, but the phrase "Liturgical Tractor" does have a compelling kind of ring, doesn't it?


The Bridal Party on Its Way


If you can think of, or know of, any other liturgical uses for agricultural implementa, I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, October 16, 2009

So, Where Am I Now... Or, Fr. Rob's Big Move

As I mentioned in my previous post, this summer I stepped down as pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in Dorr, Michigan, where I had served for almost 5 years. I spent much of the summer in residence at SS. John and Bernard parish in Benton Harbor, and much of my time preparing for the next phase of my priestly ministry.

I am happy to say, that after prayer, discernment, and much consultation with my bishop(s), I am now at The Liturgical Institute at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. The University of St. Mary of the Lake is most widely known for Mundelein Seminary, the seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago. I am pursuing the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL), with a concentration in Sacramental Theology and Liturgy. The program will take me two years to complete, and consists in foundational coursework in theology, as well as specialized courses in Sacramental and Liturgical Theology. The Licentiate is an advanced ecclesiastical degree, granted by a pontifical ecclesiastical faculty chartered by the Holy See. In effect, the Licentiate is more than a Master's degree, but less than the Doctorate, to which the Licentiate leads. Among other things, the Licentiate is the minimum degree required to teach theology at a Catholic seminary.

I am very grateful to be here. The process that led to me coming here began last fall in conversations with now-retired Bishop James Murray of Kalamazoo. He and I, over the years, had discussed me going back to school on several occasions, but it seemed to me that things were coming together for this now. Over the course of the winter and spring, Bishop Murray and I arrived at the conclusion that I would come to the Liturgical Institute. I am grateful for his openness to see the value my studies in this area could have for the diocese. I am also very grateful to our newly-installed bishop, Paul J. Bradley, for "seeing through" Bishop Murray's decision, and himself being very supportive of my interests and efforts in this vein. I have been impressed by Bishop Bradley's vision for the diocese and church, and for his insight into the possibilities and opportunities that my advanced training in Liturgy could open up for the benefit of our diocesan church.

I am very impressed with the program here at the Institute. The faculty are excellent, and the academic content is solid. I am also very impressed with my fellow students. They are all very accomplished people in their own right, and bring a great deal of ability, insight, and experience to our studies. As many of you may know, the Institute was founded in 2000 by Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago, to provide sound training and formation in liturgy for academics as well as parish professionals. I can say from my own experience that the Institute strives to be faithful to the mind and heart of the Church, and to inculcate a true "Spirit of the Liturgy" in continuity with the whole of the Church's liturgical patrimony. The Institute has been growing in size, visibility, and prominence in recent years, and that growth is, in my opinion, entirely deserved.

As I said before, I'm truly grateful to be here. I'm already learning buckets - I cannot tell you how many times either in class or in my reading I have thought "that's something I could take back to a parish or to the diocese." I have no doubt that I will continue to learn a great deal.

I'll keep you posted on the doings here, and what I'm learning in my studies. In the meantime, pray for me, that I can truly deepen my understanding of the sacred liturgy!

So, Where Have I Been?

Sorry to have been away for so long. I've been meaning to get back to posting for a while, but have only been able to do now. I've received a number of e-mails over the last few weeks from people asking, "Where are you? And where have you been?" Well, I will answer the first question in my next post, but I'll answer the second question first.

The answer is that I've been busy! I had a busy summer: In late June I stepped down as pastor of St. Stanislaus in Dorr (why will be apparent in that next post), and spent the rest of the summer in residence at SS. John & Bernard parish in Benton Harbor. I also travelled quite a bit. I spent some time with my father in Texas. He was preparing to move from the "Hill Country" area of Texas (northwest of San Antonio), back to Wisconsin, where he lived before his retirement 7 years ago.



My Dad's House in Texas
(all photos may be viewed full-size by clicking on them)


My dad lived on a river, near a large lake, and it was really quite idyllic: lots of waterfowl, good fishing, and other wildlife. It was not at all uncommon to have deer grazing on the property, or have troops of wild turkeys around, etc. But it had become too much for him to keep up with, and the luster of the area had decreased in the last couple of years with the severe drought Texas has been experiencing. The river is reduced to a trickle, and is now unnavigable.



In the photo above, that large outcropping of rock in the foreground was completely submerged two years ago. You can see the river in the background, a tiny trickle of its former self. The effect of the drought is even more noticeable here:


The Effects of the Drought


The portion of my dad's boat launch ramp in the foreground would have been completely submerged as well. You see the dock on the right, now a high-and-dry dock. Across the "river" you can see the neighbor's dried-out boat ramp as well.

So I was down there to help my dad prepare for his move. I also visited some friends out East for a week or so.

But much of my time and energy was taken up by preparing for my big move. About that, in my next post...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Cultivating Love for Beauty in the Liturgy

It's not exactly "news" anymore, but last month I took a group of students (7th & 8th graders, as well as some altar servers) to St. John Cantius Catholic Church in Chicago for their celebration of High Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the Ascension of the Lord. We arrived at the church in the afternoon of Ascension Thursday, where we were given a tour by one of the canons of St. John Cantius, followed by dinner at a local restaurant, and then back to the church for Mass.

I believe it is very important that the priest work to instill and cultivate in our young people an understanding and appreciation for the beauty of the Sacred, whether it be in art, music, or architecture. To that end, I have periodically tried to introduce the children at our parish school to different aspects of sacred art and sacred music: for example, I have brought an iconographer to the school to give presentations on sacred art and iconography, and guest musicians to introduce the students to different instruments and kinds of sacred music. This is "on top of" the program in liturgical music that I introduced to the school two years ago, which has produced results like this:


School Children Singing the "Regina Coeli"

But this trip to St. John Cantius is a step to giving the kids exposure to the Sacred beyond their own parish and school. Also, this was, for most of the school children, their first experience of Mass in the Extraordinary Form. I have been gradually introducing the use of Latin and Gregorian Chant over the last 3 years, so these things would not be alien to the children, but to experience these things in the usus antiquior was new for most of them.

And what an experience it was! We arrived and entered the church just as the brothers were beginning Vespers. The children were quite impressed by the church itself, as well anyone should be:


(all photos may be viewed full-size by clicking on them)


I enjoyed watching the kids crane their necks around trying to take it all in. Most of the kids have never been to a church as large, impressive, and chock-full of art as St. John Cantius.

After Vespers, Br. Joshua, one of the Canons of St. John Cantius, gave us a tour of the church.


Br. Joshua Explaining Various Aspects of the Sanctuary


Among the artistic beauties of the church is the Wit Stwosz Altarpiece replica. Done in carved wood, gold, and other precious materials, it is a one-quarter size replica of a famous altarpiece in Poland.



The tour was quite complete, even including a trip up to both lofts. Like many great Polish churches built in this period, St. John Cantius has a double loft - one for choir, one for the great organ. the kids were impressed both by the organ and by the view from the loft:



As I mentioned above, after the tour we went out for dinner at a nice Italian restaurant nearby, and then returned to the church for Mass. I gave the kids a brief introduction to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass before we left the school in the morning, and Br. Joshua gave some "preview" information as well. The kids were already familiar with the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, from our usage at St. Stanislaus, and I prepared for them a little handout with the propers so that they could follow those as well.

The Mass was glorious! The choir sang Tomas Luis de Victoria's Missa Ascendens Christum in Altum, as well as an impressive modern work, Colin Mawby's O Rex Gloriae, during the Offertory. The kids were entranced by the singing - that was one of the things that came up repeatedly in the days after the trip.

I had told the children beforehand that it wasn't so important to try to follow along in the Mass exactly, so much as to "take in" the whole experience and unite themselves in prayer to the priest offering the Sacrifice during the Canon. On the bus ride home, they readily confessed that they lost track of things during the Canon. A number of them wanted to know why the Canon was silent in the Extraordinary Form, which I explained. But none of them seemed unduly bothered by the fact that they lost their place here and there. I think the experience put them on such "sensory overload" that they were borne along by the whole sacred movement.


The Whole Crew after Mass


So, the kids had an experience they will remember, and some were intrigued enough to say that they wanted to go to an Extraordinary Form Mass again. (Yea!) A taste of sacred beauty does indeed inspire the thirst for more!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Introductory Chant Workshop!

Last fall, Fr. David Grondz of St. Philip Neri House in Kalamazoo and myself offered an Introductory Chant Workshop. It was a great success - so much so that we're doing it again!

So, Catholics in Michigan - come and learn the music which is most truly that of the Liturgy!

Chant for Beginners

An Introductory Chant Workshop


Presented by Fr. Rob Johansen and Fr. David Grondz.

The Workshop will include presentations on:

Reading Chant Notation
History and Spirituality of Chant
Some Fundamental Chants of the Roman Rite

No previous knowledge of Chant required - This is truly for beginners!


Saturday, March 28, 2008
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Participants will have the opportunity to put to use what they have learned, as we will be singing for the parish 5:00 PM Vigil Mass.

St. Bernard Catholic Church
555 E. Delaware
Benton Harbor, Michigan.


For more information call SS. John and Bernard parish at (269) 925-2425, or e-mail me at frrob AT earthlink DOT net.

(Benton Harbor is located approximately 40 minutes West of Kalamazoo, off of I -94.)

Cost: $30.00 per person (includes lunch and a copy of the Parish Book of Chant).

Co-sponsored by the Diocese of Kalamazoo: Office of Christian Worship, St. Philip Neri House, and SS. John and Bernard Catholic Church.


Fr. Rob Johansen has an extensive background in music, having studied voice, ‘cello, and conducting at the University of Illinois. He studied Chant at the Catholic University of America, and continued his Chant studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary under Calvert Shenk. He has degrees in Religious Studies, Classics, and Patristic Greek and Latin. He currently serves as Pastor of St. Stanislaus parish, Dorr.

Fr. David Grondz received his S.T.B. from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained to the Priesthood in 2006. Fr. Grondz has studied Chant for 13 years, and served as assistant organist at the Pontifical North American College. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of St. Mary Church, Kalamazoo, where he regularly celebrates the Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.


Thomas More College: Giving New Life to Catholic Culture

Tonight, Thomas More College in New Hampshire will host a lecture on the "Restoration of Gregorian Chant in the 20th Century", by Samuel Schmitt. This is just one of a series of speakers and events that Thomas More has sponsored, all directed at inculcating a broad and Catholic understanding and appreciation of Culture.


Some of you will recall, a few months ago, that Thomas More instituted a program in Sacred Art, headed by English artist and iconographer David Clayton. I had David visit my parish last year, where he gave several presentations to my parish and school. I can say firsthand that David is both an outstanding artist and teacher. I have no doubt that this program, called the "Way of Beauty Art Program" will accomplish great things.

But as I said, these efforts serve a larger and broader vision: the restoration of a living and creative Catholic culture. To be truly Catholic and creative, it must be rooted in the Tradition of the Church, which is the wellspring of all Western culture. To this end, students at Thomas More not only read the "Great Books", but experience the fruits of that Catholic tradition through the "Way of Beauty" program and it's programs at Rome and Oxford.

The President of Thomas More College, Jeffrey Nelson, is the source of the vision which has brought about these initiatives at the College. I've known Dr. Nelson since my graduate school days at Catholic University, when he was working for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. He had then, and has brought to his post at Thomas More, a vision of the Liberal Arts as part of the great Catholic tradition of learning, cultivation of beauty, and pursuit of virtue which constitute Catholic culture. These elements all complement one another, and Dr. Nelson and the faculty at Thomas More are working to bring them together in a program which, when it reaches fruition, will be perhaps the finest Catholic Liberal Arts curriculum in the country.

It's places like Thomas More College where the "Catholic revival" are happening. It's places like this where we will see the vision of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI for a "new springtime" in the Church come to its fulfillment.

Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form!

I will offer a



Ecce Agnus Dei...


Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the
Roman Rite

(Missa Cantata)


Sunday, March 22, 2009
Laetare Sunday
(Fourth Sunday of Lent)
1:00 PM

St. Stanislaus Catholic Church
1871 136th Avenue
Dorr, Michigan


I will be the celebrant.

Music will again be provided by the Schola of the Chair of St. Peter


Let us come and worship!

Friday, January 09, 2009

(Arch)Bishop Vigneron on Liturgy


I'm coming to the party a bit late, but I am very excited and happy that Bishop Allen Vigneron, late of Oakland, California, has been named as the next Archbishop of Detroit.

I know Bishop Vigneron from his days as rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, where I had the good fortune to complete my studies for the priesthood from 1998-2001. He is an outstanding teacher and pastor. He is loyal to the Church and her Magisterium, and patient and generous as well.

Bishop Vigneron is deeply concerned with the state of the liturgical life in the church in the country, and as rector of the seminary tried to inculcate in us seminarians a sense of reverence and a respect for the liturgy as something given. Toward that end he implemented significant reforms of the seminary's liturgical practice, most notably introducing and establishing as normative the use of the Proper antiphons at seminary Masses, and moving away from the use of hymnody. He brought the late Calvert Shenk to Sacred Heart, and one of his specific charges to Cal was to restore the Propers to their rightful place in the liturgy. This move was not at all popular in some quarters of the seminary faculty (though it was quite well received by the overwhelming majority of seminarians), and provoked a storm of criticism and outright attack from certain elements of the Archdiocesan establishment. But Bishop Vigneron persevered and continued these reforms in spite of the opposition.

I am confident that we will see good things happen in the Archdiocese of Detroit, and eventually beyond, as a result of Bishop Vigneron's accession to the see. This is good news for all who want to see the liturgy celebrated according to the authentic vision and mind of the Church, and good news for all who value fidelity to the Church's teaching and discipline.

Back in 2000, while I was still a seminarian, I wrote an article for Adoremus based on an interview I had with Bishop Vigneron. The article, titled "Liturgy as Ecology" discusses the liturgical formation and training offered by the seminary. However, it provides insight not only into Bishop Vigneron's approach to the liturgical life of the seminary, but into his broader liturgical vision as well:
The single greatest problem is the tendency to turn the Liturgy into a focus on the self, rather than on God. Bishop Vigneron believes these tendencies are misguided, because they "obscure the Christological and Trinitarian focus inherent in liturgy."

"Liturgy", he says, "is not entertainment, it is not self-validated. Liturgy is the experience of heaven, not something that happens to me in some sort of emotional-personal state."

Bishop Vigneron has a great deal more of importance to say in this article, please read the whole thing here.

Pray for him, and for the Archdiocese of Detroit! Ad multos gloriosque annos!