A mass given by Pope Francis last Sunday featured an original composition by Julian Revie ’02, Saint Thomas More Chapel’s composer-in-residence.
Entitled “The Love of God,” the piece was performed in Philadelphia during a two-hour service at the World Meeting of Families, a triennial conference established by Pope John Paul II. Adapted from one of Revie’s longer pieces, “Mass of the Divine Shepherd,” the composition was played by a group of over 600 performers — an adult chorus, a children’s chorus and a full orchestra — as the Pope and over 1 million attendees took Communion. The composer said that he hoped the music could help attendees reflect on their own faith, despite the chaos and crowds.
“I simply wanted to write music that [would] afford the opportunity for the congregation to find a personal spiritual space even in this unusual crowd of a million people,” Revie said.
The decision to use “The Love of God” during the papal mass came out of discussions between Revie and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s choirs. After Jean Madden, the diocese’s associate director of the Office for Divine Worship, mentioned to the composer that the office was having difficulty finding the right “musical setting” to play during administration of the sacrament of Holy Communion, Revie submitted his piece.
During the mass, worshippers heard three lines of a Biblical verse set to music, the first sung by an adult chorus, the second by the adult chorus with an orchestra and the third — a call to action — by a children’s chorus. Revie said he wanted the call to action to feel as though it was extended to the entire congregation and to those watching on television. He tried to achieve this by allowing the children’s chorus to sing first and then gradually layering melodies from sections of the adult chorus and the orchestra atop the original line, he said.
Elijah St. Clair ’19, a student who attends Sunday Mass in St. Thomas More, said he experienced this effect when watching the services online.
“The music had a flowing sensation that made it feel as if it were reaching out to touch everyone who listened to it,” St. Clair said.
Despite the chaos of over a million attendees in the crowd, Revie said he hoped the piece would create a meditative, reflective space for worshippers appropriate to the administering of Communion.
Dylan Fay LAW ’16, who traveled with Revie to Philadelphia, said he observed the congregation “collectively close its eyes and savor the moment” as Revie’s piece was performed.
“There was an atmosphere that was hard to describe, with a million other Catholics who were all there for the same thing: this unity of purpose,” Fay said. “ I don’t know if I’ll ever see something like that again.”