Everyone and everything from singers and priests to the cathedral itself in the New York archdiocese are making final preparations for the Pope’s next stop during his first papal trip to the U.S.
â€śI’m ecstatic,â€ť Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie, rector of St. Patrickâ€™s Cathedral in New York City, told CNA.
â€śHe generates so much charism, his way of talking with people, his way of approaching the world and the various problems we deal with is very engaging.â€ť
Msgr. Ritchie said that the Pope’s first stop in New York City will be an evening prayer service at the cathedral â€“ in some ways a very average service for a busy and unique city.
â€śThe Pope is doing something that is not extraordinary, but quite ordinary, but it will be done in an extraordinary way,â€ť he said. â€śWhat weâ€™re going to be doing Thursday night is the evening prayer of the Church, which is basically the same anywhere in the world.â€ť
The evening prayer, also called â€śVespersâ€ť is an integral part of the Churchâ€™s liturgical life. â€śVespers is prayed by all of the priests, all deacons, many religious orders, some sisters, some brothers,â€ť Msgr. Ritchie explained.
â€śIt is prayed as a pious activity by many laypeople, who join their personal prayer with that of the Church. It is a liturgical act, even if itâ€™s done just by the priest in private, because it is a part of the liturgy of the Church.â€ť
The service, he said, consists of psalms, readings of the scriptures. The papal vespers on Thursday will also feature a homily given by Pope Francis.
â€śWhat we will be doing is a part of the daily life of the Church and sharing that with other people.â€ť
The vespers service will also contain musical settings for the psalms, and hymns, sung by the Cathedralâ€™s Choir and orchestral players.
â€śWeâ€™ve been planning this actually since February of this year,â€ť Dr. Jennifer Pascual, Director of Music at St. Patrickâ€™s Cathedral told CNA.
â€śWeâ€™re starting off with a prelude concert of entirely sacred music,â€ť she said, adding that the music for the prelude and vespers services will include â€śa whole repertoire from Palestrina of the Classical Baroque through the Romantic through living composers of today.â€ť
The Cathedralâ€™s choir and other choirs from New York City will also provide the music for the Popeâ€™s Mass at Madison Square Garden on Friday Sept. 25. Mass parts for the Eucharistic prayer will all be said in Latin, at the request of the Vatican.
The choir will also sing â€śPescador de hombres,â€ť â€śwhich I understand is the Popeâ€™s favorite hymn,â€ť at the Mass, added Dr. Pascual, with a full orchestral arrangement.
Liturgies and music are not the only things being prepared for Pope Francisâ€™ visit: the 136-year-old building of St. Patrickâ€™s Cathedral itself is also receiving its own final touches before Thursdayâ€™s Vespers.
The renovation process started the nine years ago when parts of the facade of the historic St. Patrickâ€™s Cathedral began to fall down. Reconstruction â€śbegan in earnest,â€ť Msgr. Ritchie said, in 2012.
â€śWe were ready to finish in December of this year, then all of a sudden we began to hear rumors that the Pope might be coming to New York.â€ť Msgr. Ritchie and other members of the Cathedral staff sat down with builders and architects, he said, â€śand we looked at schedules and said it is possibleâ€ť to finish the renovations by the Popeâ€™s visit.
â€śWe put in some more effort and we worked some weekends and people bent over backwards to make sure the work is done.â€ť
Photo credit: www.shutterstock.com.
By Adelaide Mena