Young Catholic Adults’ Retreat, Douai Abbey, 2014

From Friday 19th September until after lunch on Sunday 21st a small group of Associates joined the Young Catholic Adults on their annual retreat at Douai. It was a pleasure to renew old acquaintances and enjoy a social gathering each evening with these eager young Catholics keen to explore all aspects of their faith. The theme for this weekend was True Conversion of the Soul, thoughtful talks and discussion being led by scholarly speakers, among whom I recognised Fr. Gregory Pearson, whom we had first met at a Schola weekend at Aylesford Priory, well before his ordination, instructing servers in the ceremonies of the Dominican rite Mass.

With Jeremy White, Director Emeritus of the Schola, joining us on the Friday evening before duty called him back to Covent Garden on Saturday morning, and Christopher Hodkinson, Director of the Schola, encouraging the young participants to join us, we rehearsed and performed the chant throughout the weekend, starting first with a full Grace before supper, and thereafter before and after each main meal. It was good to renew this tradition from the Schola’s earlier days, especially as the excellent dishes served at Douai merited a fulsome thank you. After running through the Dominican style of chant notation and temporarily relinquishing traditional Solesmes notation, we sang Compline, the antiphon and psalms in mode VII, not as simple, but livelier than the more austere tonus in directum. We ended with a solemn Salve and an antiphon of St. Dominic after aspersion with holy water.

On Saturday morning we sang a High Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1962 Roman rite, followed by a Marian procession round the grounds and a Litia, a short service of prayer for the Dead in the Byzantine rite, chanted in Church Slavonic and led by Fr Gabriel Diaz, a bi-ritual priest and liturgical scholar visiting from Italy. It was as well that the choir had a fairly minor role apart from frequently responding ‘Gospodi pomilij’ (Lord have mercy) since the series of beautiful prayers so expertly sung by Fr. Gabriel were printed in traditional Glagolitic script, albeit with translations in English alongside.

In the afternoon we sang Vespers for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, followed next morning by the Mass for the 15th Sunday. After supper on Saturday we all enjoyed a convivial evening over drinks with our young friends who had so enthusiastically joined us in our rehearsals and singing throughout this most pleasant weekend. I got the impression that a fair number of these young people had already encountered the chant either in their home parishes or at similar gatherings, and that they were eager to participate in the music that has adorned traditional worship for centuries.