Friday, October 28, 2016

Father Stravinskas on William Byrd

The Catholic World Report published this homily by Father Peter Stravinskas about William Byrd:

Byrd’s Catholic commitment found expression in his many motets with themes highlighting the persecution of the Chosen People in the Old Testament and their long-awaited deliverance. Who could not see (and hear) in these works an application to the plight of Catholics during the reign of Elizabeth? Interestingly, even though known to be a recusant (that is, one who refused to attend Anglican services), he continued to enjoy royal favor. Can we say that the Queen was so captivated by the beauty of his work that she was led to a good action in his regard – turning a blind eye to his practice of the Catholic Faith? Even more bizarre is the fact that the Episcopal Church in the United States honors Byrd with a feast in their liturgical calendar on November 21; just another sign of Anglican confusion, I suppose.

Byrd is also well known for his magnificent Mass compositions for three, four and five voices. You have heard some of them in this very church, and his Mass for Four Voices enhances our worship this evening. Most devotees of Byrd’s Masses, however, do not realize that they were not composed for and performed in grand cathedrals – those edifices had been purloined by the Protestants. No, those masterpieces were sung at “priest-hole” Masses – clandestine liturgies celebrated by priests under a death sentence and attended by laity whose very lives and fortunes were at stake for participating in “popish” worship.

Even in such dire straits, Byrd and the Catholic faithful wished to offer to the Triune God their very best and to be nourished themselves by those soaring melodies which brought them to contemplate heavenly realities.

Read the rest there.

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