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Tuesday 15 December 2015

Father Stephen Somerville - Requiescat in pace

Updated with funeral arrangements...

Father Stephen Somerville passed to his eternal reward last night, (December 12, 2015) around 11:00 P.M. Father was a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto. He recently suffered two serious strokes, he was 86.

Father Somerville was also a musician and composer. He wrote the Good Shepherd Mass for the English liturgy in 1965 which was adapted in 1970 for the bowdlerised Gloria and Sanctus and then corrected back by St. Michael's Choir School in 2011 with his permission. I enjoy every opportunity to sing his Responsorial Psalms in CBWII which are finely crafted based upon his authority in chant at St. Michael's Choir School. Last weekend was the 50th anniversary of his first conducting of the Tenor/Bass Choir of St. Michael's at the annual Massey Hall Christmas Concert. I have great memories of singing Handel's Messiah standing beside him in the Bass section a number of years ago in Etobicoke and singing his corrected Gloria translation (later modified by the Choir School) with him at the piano just a few years ago when visiting him at St. Bernard's Convalescent Home. Father Somerville was also the Chaplain on the set of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

The ICEL rebuke

He was well-known as "Canada's liturgist" having participated on the International Committee for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) which translated the Missal of Paul VI into English from the original Latin. It is important to know that the English translation used from 1965 to 1969 of the modified 1962 Roman Missal was a faithful translation. The Novus Ordo Missae was translated by ICEL using a translation method called dynamic equivalence. Father John Zuhlsdorf began his blog from years of writing in The Wanderer highlighting the grievous textual errors in the Missal, now corrected, and which still exist in the Liturgy of the Hours.

In his later years, Father Somerville regretted his work on ICEL. He came to the conclusion that the virtual abolition of the Roman Missal of 1962 was a grievous error; but not only that, but the translation of the Latin of the Novus Ordo Missae was "damaging" to the Faith. He issued his rebuke of ICEL and an apology for his participation in their now repudiated and disgraced work in what is known as The Somerville Letter.

The suspension

Father Somerville began assisting at the Holy Mass with the Society of St. Pius X in Toronto on a periodic basis to cover for their vacations. Following a much publicised series of communications with the then Monsignor and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Toronto, the now laicised banker and investment advisor, John K. Murphy, then Cardinal Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic known for his over-eager suspensions of conservative and orthodox priests, suspended Father Somerville after consultation with the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. To be fair to Ambrozic, Father Somerville left him little room to proceed in any other direction. Summorum Pontificum was still five years away and the lifting of the excommunications on the SSPX bishops, even further.

To his credit, Cardinal Thomas Collins has brought back many of these good men, victims of the so-called "conservative" Ambrozic's vengeance. Yet, even in Father Somerville's retirement, this was not possible as he continued to refuse to follow the previous Cardinal's demands, which had been made public by him, leaving Cardinal Collins with little room to find a solution to Ambrozic's suspension.

I spoke to Father Somerville about it once. It saddened him greatly; but he insisted that he could "not retract what he fundamentally believed to be true." Ironically, it was on our way to the lounge in the convalescent home where he would play on the piano as I sang his revised, revised Gloria in English for the corrected translation in 2011. The irony and contradiction were not lost upon me.

Funeral arrangements are pending but it is known that Father requested that his funeral rites be undertaken at the Society of St. Pius X Chapel in Toronto. Sadly, it will mean that the priests of the Archdiocese will probably not be able to attend. 

If, magnanimity and mercy were to prevail, his funeral would be held at St. Paul's Basilica with St. Michael's Choir School so loved by Father Somerville (and his late brother Father Peter Somerville) with the Society of St. Pius X Toronto Pastor given "faculties" for a day to celebrate the funeral rites with the Cardinal in attendance, all in the spirit of the worldwide facilities for the SSPX from Pope Francis for the Sacrament of Penance. It is the Year of Mercy, after all. 

Rest in peace good Father. I was happy to have known you a little, sang with you, sang Mass for you and visited with you. Thank you for all you did, your Responsorial Psalms are still the best!

This is the only recording of his beautiful L'arche hymn which I have been able to find. The lyrics follow:

Lord Jesus, of you I will sing as I journey.
I’ll tell all my brothers about you wherever I go.
You alone are man's life and his peace and his love, 
Lord Jesus, of you I will sing as I journey.

Lord Jesus, I’ll praise you as long as I journey.
May all of my joy be a faithful reflection of You.
May the earth and the sea and the sky join my song.
Lord Jesus, I’ll praise you as long as I journey.

As long as I live, Jesus, make me your servant,
To carry your cross and to share all your burdens and tears;
For you saved me by giving your body and blood.
As long as I live, Jesus, make me your servant.

I fear in the dark and the doubt of my journey,
But courage will come with the sound of your steps by my side,
And with all of my brother you saved by your love,

We’ll sing Your dawn at the end of our journey.

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that the soul of Thy servant Stephen, Thy priest, whom in this life Thou didst honour with the sacred office, may rejoice in the glory of heaven for evermore. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
O Lord, we pray Thee that the soul of Thy priest, Thy servant Stephen, which, while he abode in this world, Thou didst adorn with sacred gifts, may ever rejoice in a glorious place in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.   
O God, Thou didst raise Thy servant Stephen to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ, according to the Order of Melchisedech, giving him the sublime power to offer the Eternal Sacrifice, to bring the Body and Blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ down upon the altar, and to absolve the sins of men in Thine own holy Name. We beseech Thee to reward his faithfulness and to forget his faults, admitting him speedily into Thy holy presence, there to enjoy forever the recompense of his labours. This we ask through Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord. Amen.
Eternal Rest grant unto him O Lord and may perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.
Father Somerville after Solemn Mass at Martyr's Shrine, Midland, Ontario
Photo courtesy of Carl Vanderwouden

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr. Stephen Somerville
            Born April 1, 1931; ordained priest by Cardinal McGuigan of Toronto May 26, 1956;
died December 12, 2015, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Visitation at Humphrey’s Funeral Home,
1403 Bayview Avenue (at Davisville) Toronto,
on Wednesday, December 16, 2 - 4 pm,    
Fr. Emanuel Herkel will lead the Rosary at 3 pm.
6 - 8 pm – Prayers by Fr. Brian Clough (Toronto Diocese).

Traditional Latin Requiem Mass will be celebrated at the Church of the Transfiguration (SSPX)
11 Aldgate Ave, Toronto, ON 
on Thursday, December 17th at 11 am
followed by reception at the church hall. 
416-503-8854 (Church)   416-251-0499 (Priory)

There will also be a Novus Ordo Funeral Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 520 Sherbourne St, Toronto,
on Friday, December 18th at 10:00 am, celebrated by Fr. Brian Clough
 Internment will follow at St. Augustine’s Seminary - Our Lady of the Clergy Cemetery.
As an organist, conductor, composer and singer of church music; as an ardent birdwatcher and camper; as a writer, a mentor and pastor of souls, Father Somerville was in all things a priest of Jesus Christ.

Requiescat in pace


Winefred said...

Please advise regarding funeral arrangements.

Barona said...

God rest his soul.

Unknown said...

"Sadly, it will mean that the priests of the Archdiocese will probably not be able to attend." I don't know how sad that is, or how true. Anyone can attend the SSPX chapel, right?

Anonymous said...

I read the article about Father Somerville's passing from this life. Father Somerville, although I have never met him, was apparently a very kind and saintly person. He is in a place of joy and happiness that we could never understand because I am sure he is with Our Lord. Pray for me, Father Somerville. I did not know how to post this any other way but as "anonymous". But I would like for anyone reading this to know that my name is Rosemary Gremillion, a cradle Catholic

Romanitas Press said...

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. Requiescat in pace.

Sixupman said...

It is ironic that a now laicised cleric should have pontificated and had power upon Traditional Priest! Such is and has been life in Mother Church.

In 2006 a priest friend and colleague associated with SSPX did have diocesan clergy travel to his requiem. A travesty was the fact of a Traditional adherent Jesuit denied a Tridentine Requiem!

We should remember all clergy victimised for their adherence to the vows of their ordination.

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

Who is Fr. Brian Clough?

Unknown said...

Like Fr. Stephen, he's an alumnus of St. Michael's Choir School - probably a student of SS

Anonymous said...

I am with Father Nicholson. He died in schism.

Vox Cantoris said...

Father Brian Clough is the Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese of Toronto and a former student of his at St. Michael's Choir School.

Vox Cantoris said...

Listen to me Anonymous 9:05 December 15.

First, Father Paul Nicholson is a personal friend of mine. He presided at my marriage. You have stated a falsehood, a calumny. Father Paul Nicholson did not said that. I have seen his FB post of a few days ago and he did not say that. I have checked it again now and nowhere has he said that Father Somerville "died in schism."

Second, Father Stephen Somerville most assuredly did not "die in schism." For your information, he lived in an Archdiocesan of Toronto nursing home, Providence Villa. He received a Diocesan Pension and support from the Shepherd's Trust. He will have two funerals in fact, the first being at the SSPX Chapel in Toronto (where I will assist in Schola for him, so that probably makes me a schismatic too) and then the next day, the Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese of Toronto and a former student of his at St. Michael's Choir School, Father Brian Clough, will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial with his body present at Our Lady of Lourdes in Toronto. Then he will be buried at St. Augustine's Seminary overlooking Lake Ontario.

Now, tell me again how he "died in schism?"

The Catholic Church does not hold funerals for schismatics or bury them at their seminaries!

Anonymous said...

Has not Father Nicholson said repeatedly that the SSPX are schismatic and that we should not attend their chapels?

Vox Cantoris said...

Anon, again;

You wrote, "I am with Father Nicholson. He died in schism." Father Nicholson did not say that about Father Stephen Somerville, the subject of this post.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Is the St. Michael's Choir School 2011 edition of his 'revised New' Good Shepherd Gloria available online or in print? This could be very helpful to people.
John Behr, Vancouver

Vox Cantoris said...

Hello John,

Unfortunately no, or at least, not yet. I have a copy but was asked by the Choir School not to share it, though I am free to use it. I expect that that they are working to see it published in the next CCCB hymnal which I am told is in planning.

John Behr said...

Thanks for the info, that sounds sensible