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Fr. Van de Steen's "A Short Mass for the People" launched

Fr. Kali Pietre M. Llamado

Minister, Ministry on Music in the Liturgy, Archdiocese of Manila

photos from Manila Cathedral Facebook page and website

On August 22, choirs and music ministers from the Archdiocese of Manila and different dioceses gathered for the first time after two years of pandemic lockdowns for the launching of Fr. Van de Steen’s “A Short Mass for the People.” The event culminated with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist presided by Fr. Gennie Diwa, Director of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission of Manila.

The liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council envisioned the use of the vernacular in the celebrations of the Church. Diocesan commissions were tasked to prepare popular versions that would set into melodies the parts and texts for the people so that full, conscious, and active participation can be fostered in the liturgy.

With this in mind, Fr. John Van de Steen, a longtime missionary to the Philippines and liturgical musician collaborating in different dioceses especially Manila, composed A Short People’s Mass, a musical setting of the parts, responses, and acclamations proper to the people. Its simple melodies were intended to help the people sing the liturgy so that the vision of the Council of active participation could be fulfilled. But though simple, Fr. Van de Steen used his expertise in sacred music, so that we could hear the influence of the musical heritage of the Church, particularly Gregorian chant in his work.

Fr. John Van de Steen

For a long time, this musical setting by Fr. Van de Steen has been used in the community of San Carlos Seminary in Makati City where he served as formator and musical director for many years. With the publication of the English translation of the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal, this beloved musical setting has been waiting to be adapted to the new official texts so that it could be used again.

Through the early initiatives of Fr. Ral Jaden Paguergan of the Diocese of Antipolo and the able help of Moses Importa of the Diocese of Pasig, we are now able to publish A Short Mass for the People, which includes the original work of Fr. Van de Steen adapted to the new official texts of the Mass. We have also included some timeless works of Fr. Van de Steen: From Many Grapes (Offertory Hymn), Each Sigh, Each Look (Communion Hymn), and his last magnum opus The Divine Praises.

In his new Apostolic Letter, Desiderio Desideravi, our Holy Father Pope Francis said that “We would have had no other possibility of a true encounter with the Lord other than that of the community that celebrates.” (DD 8) May this updated edition of Fr. John Van de Steen’s Mass for the People help in God’s desire to draw us into Himself and the Church, and so “open the cramped space of spiritual individualism.” (DD 32)

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