New hymn composed for Blessed Sacrament centennial celebration

By David Cooley.

In honor of its centennial celebration, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Ft. Mitchell, commissioned Father Ricky Manalo, C.S.P., and Gerard Chiusano to compose and arrange, respectively, a new hymn entitled “O Sacrum Convivium.”

The idea began with Blessed Sacrament’s music director Matt Spencer and was vindicated by the Centennial Planning Committee.

“We were performing a piece in the hymnal by Father Manalo and Gerard Chiusano and Father Vogelpohl really liked the piece so I contacted them and asked them to take up this project,” said Mr. Spencer.

Mr. Spencer had met Father Manalo and Gerard Chiusano, who live in San Francisco, California, previously at the National Pastoral Musicians Association Convention.

“I am familiar with their work through what I have been doing at Blessed Sacrament and they have very good arrangements,” he said. “I asked them if they would be interested in a commission for our 100th anniversary and they agreed. We simply requested that the text be a paraphrase of O Sacrum Convivium and left all the musical aspects up to them.”

The phrase “O Sacrum Convivium” comes from Evening Prayer II (Liturgy of the Hours, vespers) on Corpus Christi Sunday.

“I couldn’t be happier with the piece,” said Mr. Spencer. “I really think it is going to be one of those hymns that quickly becomes a staple for a lot of the parishioners, and especially for the choir.”

Father Manalo, a member of the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle, better known as the Paulist Fathers, studied at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, N. Y. Over the last 25 years he has composed somewhere between 150 and 200 pieces, mostly for the Oregon Catholic Press. The Paulist Fathers are a religious community that was founded in New York City in 1858.

Although Father Manalo was not able to be present at the centennial Mass he was able to hear the piece performed through the power of modern technology.

“I was extremely happy with the piece. It is always one of the greatest joys for a liturgical composer to hear an assembly sing your hymn,” Father Manalo said. “I was very happy with how the choir sounded. It was wonderful to see everything come together. It is one thing to write something but there is a lot to be said about the actual ritual action that is going on.”

“I was a composer before I became a priest,” he said. “When I joined the priesthood I specifically joined a religious community, within which I was able to be a priest as well as a teacher and a liturgical composer. All these roles compliment each other — I have my religious community identity with the Paulist Fathers, I have my clerical identity as a priest, I have a sort of geeky academic identity at Santa Clara University and there is also this musical, artistic side of me. It is all interrelated; all of these roles feed off of and inform each other.”

While “O Sacrum Convivium” was produced in time to be sung at the centennial Mass it is not completely finished. It is still being developed, with different aspects of the piece being modified and tweaked. The hope is that it will be sent off to the publisher soon.

To hear the audio recording of the hymn being performed at the centennial Mass click below!