GREENBRAE, Calif. — Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said the purpose of a new liturgical institute he created is to "reclaim the sense of the sacred" in liturgical expression at the parish level.
It also will offer a deeper sense of formation to lay ministers such as lectors, music directors, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion and those who bring Communion to the sick, he said.
Archbishop Cordileone made the comments at an event held on the eve of the feast of Epiphany in the parish hall of St. Sebastian Church in Greenbrae.
More than 200 sacred music lovers from around the archdiocese and beyond filled the hall and practiced Gregorian chant with the archbishop in preparation for afternoon vespers.
The event, organized by St. Sebastian pastor Father Mark Taheny and a group of parish volunteers, served as the archbishop's launch point for publicly introducing the new Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship at St. Patrick's Seminary & University in Menlo Park and its director, Benedictine Father Samuel Weber.
The institute's program -- still in development while it seeks funding -- will offer liturgical education courses toward certification at St. Patrick's, at parishes and online.
According to the archbishop, a liturgical mindset and a sensitivity to the sacred is critical to the integrity of worship. He said the institute can provide the necessary foundation to parish pastors who choose to use it as a resource.
"It's not enough to know how to pronounce the words correctly," said the archbishop, using the role of lector as an example. "To proclaim the word of God well, you must know what the words mean in an historical context and what the author is trying to say."
Extraordinary ministers of holy Communion likewise must develop eucharistic piety and devotion, he said. "It's not just a matter of doing a job, it's a matter of loving the Lord and handling what is most sacred to us."
Music is at the heart of the institute, the archbishop said as he introduced Father Weber, founder of the Institute for Sacred Music in St. Louis and a highly regarded scholar, composer and practitioner of chant in the English-speaking world.
"We want to reclaim sacred music, which is so much at the heart of our celebration of the Mass," said the archbishop, who puts Gregorian chant at the first place of the Mass. "It doesn't replace other forms of music, but those forms must be in harmony with the sacred traditions of chant."
The archbishop said that he has emphasized to the pastors in the archdiocese that the institute is a resource, not a requirement being imposed on them. He said that all lay ministers and indeed all Catholics benefit from a renewal of traditional forms of worship.
"My experience is that when people are exposed to the riches of the church's traditions, when they are properly explained and when a person is properly catechized, they respond and get excited about being Catholic," said the archbishop. "Formation helps solidify and deepen their own Catholic identity."