Commissioned music, sacred hymns elevate Bishop Burbidge's installation Mass

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Music is a universal language. Each lyric can speak to a person in a unique way, evoke memories or set the tone for liturgical celebrations. As St. Augustine noted, “He who sings, prays twice.”

The music for Bishop Michael F. Burbidge’s installation Mass Dec. 6 was chosen to encompass prayer, remembrance, conversation and more.

Richard P. Gibala, director of music at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, said the first thing he does when choosing music is read through the Scripture readings of the day and “the Holy Spirit goes to work and the music comes from that.”

The music inspired by the Holy Spirit included a eucharistic hymn commissioned from composer Christopher Walker.

“It’s a great gift for the diocese to commission a piece of music for the bishop,” said Gibala, who invited Walker to consider composing a piece last year.

The song, “Panis Angelicus,” includes a simple Latin refrain, which Gibala hopes every congregation will be able to sing. The verses were written in English, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese and Tagalog, representing the diversity in the Arlington Diocese, said Gibala. The cantors were Alan Palacios Chan, Que-Thanh Hoang Le and Julie Kim.

The entrance hymn, “O God Beyond All Praising,” was requested by Bishop Burbidge. Gibala wrote the responsorial psalm, “Here Am I, Lord. I Come to Do Your Will” for Bishop Paul S. Loverde’s installation in 1999. It was the psalm of the day.

The Gospel acclamation was written by William H. Atwood, former director of music and coordinator of liturgical ministries at All Saints Church in Manassas. It was used for the dedication of the new church for the largest parish in the diocese.

Gibala also wrote the response to the prayers of the faithful, which he said was sung in Philadelphia when Pope Francis came to visit.

“It just seemed like an appropriate time to do that response,” he said.

The offertory hymn by John Ness Beck incorporated the bishop’s episcopal motto, “Walk Humbly with Your God.” The Mass concluded with the song “Te Deum,” with the lyrics beginning “Holy God, we praise thy name.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016

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