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Beauty is a Salve: St. Mary Star of the Sea Schola, Jackson, MI

Sometimes, we get so used to war that we don’t remember what peace looks like.

Sometimes, we fight so hard for every inch of ground we can’t quite remember home.

This is why the question eats at me constantly: how can we find the energy to resist the enemy if we forget what we’re striving for, if we lose sight of the very things from which we draw strength? 

Some years back, a friend of mine fired off a quick sentence on social media. I don’t remember what it was in reference to, but it immediately struck me, nearly perfect in its succinctness:

Beauty is a salve. 

We are wounded and battle-weary. We need to be reminded of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful on a regular basis or we risk losing our way. Whether it’s the prayers of the Church’s ancient liturgies, the rhythm of the Divine Office, a rosary in the briskness of an early morning walk, the sun setting over God’s creation, the sound of the wind, the rain, and the waves, the quiet Eucharistic presence of Our Lord within an architecture that reveres Him…whatever it is, we find God in the things that please us, that delight the senses and fill us with joy.

Perhaps one of the best such things is sacred music. Last month, I received an email from a reader that I had completely forgotten about until I committed myself today to attacking the hundreds of unread emails that never stop piling up in my inbox:

Dear Steve,

I am very fortunate to be a part of a little traditional schola at St. Mary Star of the Sea, Jackson MI. It’s a beautifully preserved church, a gem in the heart of the city.

St. Mary’s schola started out with one lone member. He chanted and sang his heart out for about 6 months. Tired of doing the one man show, he recruited two of his siblings to assist. I’m one of them. We started praying for more willing souls to participate and God ( rather quickly, I might add) has blessed us with a number of committed people, mostly amateur, with a couple of talented music directors from other churches in the area. The schola has developed a sound, one that comes with working closely together, every week. Also, a sound that comes from all of us seeking to, in our small way, give God His due.

The thing is, God answered the prayers of a few lone volunteers and, with His blessing, we now number about 12 steady members. Our Latin Mass was starved for sacred polyphony and Gregorian chant for longer than I care to remember, but now we are experiencing a richness that we never could have anticipated.

I would like to share a link to our latest video. This is a live recording from Passion Sunday.

The video is excellent. The sound rich, the echo of the parish a perfect acoustic accouterment to the practiced voices of the schola. In the background, small children can be heard babbling or crying, a door squeaks as a parent makes a hasty exit, the noises of the lived experience of Catholic worship reminding us that this is something we can experience at Mass — no professional choir required — if only we love Our Lord enough to give the gifts he has given us back to Him in service to His glory.

As the first video wound down, YouTube queued up a second – this time of the St. Mary’s Schola performing Casciolini’s Panis Angelicus. It doesn’t disappoint:

The work being done by this schola of just 12 voices is one of many examples of the Catholic renaissance that is quitely blossoming in parishes around the world — a restoration of the beauty of classical Christianity unfolding one altar rail, one sanctuary, one schola at a time.

If you’re blessed with a parish where the sacred is flourishing anew, please share whatever you can with us. We may report on news of the crisis, but our mission will always be to rebuild Catholic Culture and restore Catholic Tradition. We want to continue that most important work one story at a time.

11 thoughts on “Beauty is a Salve: St. Mary Star of the Sea Schola, Jackson, MI”

  1. The emotional and sentimental heart of TGS is profoundly in agreement with this article. “Beauty is indeed a salve”, whether it is the timeless truth, sanity and peace of the True Mass or the musical works of genius with which the life of our glorious Catholic Church has been accompanied through the centuries. These works of great art refresh, compose, calm and clear away the distractions and internal storms.

    My own great favourites are the ‘Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas’ by the Englishman John Taverner (1492-1545) and ‘Missa Corona Spinea’ by the same composer.

    Then there is the incredible piece ‘Vox caelestis patris’, a work of genius by William Mundy (1529-1591), another English Catholic composer. The Tallis Scholars production is best and is on youtube. This work has been described by serious critics as one of the glories of Western music.

    A final piece to be mentioned here is Juan de Ancieta’s (1462-1523) ‘Missa Rex Virginum’. Great beauty.

    Let us steep ourselves not only in the Catholic Faith but in the culture that faith produced. The objective? Live with beauty in this world so you can live forever with beauty in the next.

  2. We had a Lenten Schola at St. Gregory the Great church in Bluffton, SC. What a wonderful event. This, with the altar rail will bring back true belief in the Real Presence.

    • Praise God! I’m also in the Diocese of Charleston. Good things are happening in the diocese with respect to reverence in the liturgy, especially at the some of the diocese’s parishes in Greenville and Charleston.

  3. Many thanks for this, Steve! Here is another video which has a picture, about half way through, of the schola ( mostly the female singers, but some of the gents can be seen on the far end of the front pews). The thing to be noted here is how very youthful the choir is! Last I heard, we have another young teen joining us. Deo Gratias! Ave Maris Stella, ora pro nobis!

  4. In January of 2015, our little Catholic Classical School, The Lyceum, had the grand opportunity of singing at the Nellie Gray Mass in Washington, D.C. at the parish of St Mary’s Mother of God. The Pontifical Mass was led by Bishop Paproki, with Monsignor Charles Pope, Father Zulhsdorf and Father Scalia. The children range in ages from twelve to eighteen, without musical training.

    The Third Annual Nellie Gray Mass with singing by the …Lyceum Schola from Cleveland, Ohio
    Youtube ›www.The Third Annual Nellie Gray Mass with singing by the Lyceum Schola Cantorum
    I still watch this clip from time to time, for this was the Mass that my husband and I decided would be the Mass for our family henceforth.

  5. “If you’re blessed with a parish where the sacred is flourishing anew, please share whatever you can with us.” Gladly! St. Mary’s, Norwalk, Connecticut USA: the ONLY diocesan parish in Connecticut that has a Solemn Traditional Latin Mass/ TLM every Sunday MORNING–even in summer–as the principal Sunday morning Mass
    Enter “St. Mary’s Norwalk” in the search box on this website to see many photos of our TLM
    All proceeds from sale of the parish Schola’s new CD support our music program:
    You can preview the CD on our parish YouTube channel:

  6. Bravo. Just bravo. Just a handful of parishes like this in any geographic area will ultimately be enough to spread truth, beauty, and goodness, and tip the balance of power back to the pursuit of these transcendentals.


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