Just days before the opening of the Council, Pope John XXIII delivered a short address on the occasion of the renovation of the organ in St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope John XXIII referred to the organ as “the king of sacred musical instruments” because “its melodies make it easier for the mystical movements of the sacred event to penetrate into the depths of the soul; admiration of virtue or desire for it; resolutions of penance and purification; a longing for a more intimate union with God; a pledge to struggle against evil; a foretaste of the happiness of heaven.” (Pope John XXIII, September 27, 1962, source: Adoremus Bulletin, July 2017).
This connection of the organ to the sacred rites is reflected upon more deeply in the "Order of Blessing of an Organ” from the The Book of Blessings. In the introductory address it states “the purpose of music in the liturgy is above all to give glory to God and to lead us to holiness. Thus the music for the organ wonderfully expresses the new song that Scripture tells us to sing to the Lord.” (Book of Blessings, No. 1330, 1989).
More recently, the Bishops in the United States wrote how the organ can play a role in the New Evangelization: “Pipe organs also play an important evangelical role in the Church’s outreach to the wider community in sacred concerts, music series, and other musical and cultural programs.” (Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship 2007, No. 88).
The Role of the Organ in the Liturgy
The following article appeared in our parish bulletin in the summer of 2017
New Organ for St. Catherine's
At the end of March 2017, Father Marcello announced the joyful news that, thanks to a bequest made to the parish, St. Catherine’s would be getting a new organ for our church. The organ was built by the Walker Technical Company in Zionsville, Pennsylvania. For the past 30+ years, Walker has been a leader in proving the highest quality digital enhancements to existing pipe organs, hybrid digital/pipe combination organs and all-digital instruments. The new organ for St. Catherine’s is a custom designed, all-digital instrument consisting of 4 manuals (keyboards) and a large selection of stops (sounds). The sounds will range from foundational choruses to bright trumpets, to soft, meditative strings and flutes. The organ also has a selection of percussion sounds such has bells and harp. Anyone interested in learning more about the Walker Technical Company and our new organ can visit their website at: www.walkertechnical.com and their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/walkerorgan/. The organ dedication recital was held on Sunday, November 12, 2017 that featured recitalist Michael Hey, assistant music director at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. The organ was blessed by Bishop Caggiano in a special Mass on Friday, December 8, 2017, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
The Parish of Saint Catherine of Siena
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The organ plays a unique role in the liturgical life of the Church. The organ is often referred to as the “voice” of a church building, and has a long history of evolution, dating back to Ancient Greece in the 3rd Century B.C. The use of the organ in churches can be traced back to the 9th Century, and modern organ building is as much a science as it is an art.
The Second Vatican Council (“Vatican II”) provided an important directive on the organ by stating that “in the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, No. 120). The word “esteem” in this passage is significant because, while other musical instruments are permissible, it is the organ that is preferable, as it directs or minds to God and the things of heaven.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reflected more deeply on this point in a 2006 papal address: "The organ has always been considered, and rightly so, the king of musical instruments, because it takes up all the sounds of creation...and gives resonance to the fullness of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to lamentation. By transcending the merely human sphere, as all music of quality does, it evokes the divine. The organ's great range of timbre, from piano to a thundering fortissimo, makes it an instrument superior to all others. It is capable of echoing and expressing all the experiences of human life. The manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God." (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Regensburg, 13 September 2006)