This web site is a memorial to those individuals who were passionate about the reform of the
Roman Catholic liturgy as set forth in Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy)
and who now, in eternal life, worship the God whom they served in this life.

Lucien Deiss, CSSp

Lucien Deiss, CSSp
1921 — 2007 

The following tribute was prepared by Alan Hommerding
Senior editor at World Library Publications

On Tuesday, October 9, 2007, Reverend Lucien Deiss, CSSp., celebrated what he often referred to as "the most joyful day of my life" in returning home to be with his Lord. His funeral was celebrated on Saturday, October 13 at Seminaire des Missiones in Larue, France.

Best known to Roman Catholics in the U.S. through his scriptural songs such as "All the Earth," "Keep in Mind," and "Grant to Us, O Lord," Fr. Deiss was also widely known in Europe and the United States as a scholar in the fields of Sacred Scripture and Patristics. He was selected by Pope Paul VI to coordinate the Lectionary psalter following the Second Vatican Council. His "Biblical Hymns and Psalms" was the first significant way that millions of Catholics in the U.S. came to sing the Word of God and treasure it in their hearts. For this he was given an honorary Doctorate in Sacred Music from Duquesne University.

A tireless advocate of the reforms of Vatican II, Fr. Deiss continually encouraged those who worked in liturgical reform in this country to remain fervent in prayer to the Holy Spirit, and he dedicated much of his life to liturgical catechesis through workshops and the well-known "Deiss days" sponsored by WLP (then World Library of Sacred Music). He was, above all, a man of prayer, dedicated to the celebration of the Eucharist, and was always filled with a gentle and loving humor.

The following tribute was prepared by Fred Moleck 
Editor of Table Talk, published by GIA Publications

On Tuesday, October 9, 2007, in Bicetre, France, Spiritan Father Lucien Deiss, CSSp, died. His death closes a monumental era of post–Vatican II liturgical reform.

For nearly a half century his musical compositions and groundbreaking work in Scripture scholarship and commentary set him on a course that was Spirit driven–to spread God's word.

His missionary work did not take him to remote places known only in National Geographic specials.

No. His work was into the mission field of the parish church, cathedral, school, and religious community.

More than likely your parish, cathedral, school, or religious community has felt his impact. If you've ever sung:
    Keep in mind that Jesus Christ has died for us and is risen from the dead.
    He is our saving Lord, he is joy for all ages.
you have felt and experienced his mission to wake us up to sing praise to God.

Just last week at a Mass where I was the hired help (paid substitute organist), the assembly sang "Keep in Mind" with conviction.

It was the communion processional. That means the community sang it without the printed page—"off the heart," if you will.

Not only "off the heart" but "from the heart." "Keep in Mind" is firmly established in the common repertory of thousands of churches and serves well as a communion processional, a gathering processional (it is especially effective at funerals), and in some places, the memorial acclamation at the Eucharist.

Yes, yes, yes. I know that is not a prescribed memorial acclamation. I am equally aware that in some of those places where it is sung, parish people with torches and pitchforks would be at the rectory doors should "Keep in Mind" be removed from the repertory.

Father Deiss’ impact on the liturgical music reforms of the past fifty years continues to be felt. The success of the impact is based on two factors: impeccable academic and scholarly credentials, and a passionate pastoral sense.

He taught chant in his religious order's seminary. His biblical scholarship was tapped by the Vatican to structure the lectionary cycles in the reformed liturgy.

His essays on chant and psalmody are benchmarks in the evolution of Scripture renewal in our lifetimes.

His innumerable workshops and keynote presentations at liturgical music conferences, diocesan study days, and university seminars indicate to me that he took his scholarship and music skills to where the church should be—in the midst of people.

He could not be contained in a classroom or a library. He was not captive in the ivory tower too familiar in academic scenes.

He actively spread God's word by enfleshing it with some of the most humanly attractive music ever composed for use at the liturgy.

Many Catholic musicians were captured by his first compositions to hit the American church. They were mostly settings of the psalms that appeared in Biblical Hymns and Psalms, volume 1 (1965, five printings) and volume 2 (1970, three printings)—in all, over one million copies.

Incredibly accessible to the average congregation (mild singers, but willing to sing something), the collections provided well-crafted translation of the psalms with easily sung music.

The collections also taught us what the psalms are—religious poetry that span the human experience.

For example, exultation—Psalm 100, "All the Earth Proclaim the Lord"; nuptial joy—Psalm 128, "Like Olive Branches"; comfort in God's presence—Psalm 131, "My Soul Is Longing for Your Peace"; exuberant joy—Psalm 57, "I Want to Sing, I Want to Shout Your Joy."

This last setting of "Psalm 57 fairly danced, and that's just what we did: we danced.

A happy alliance was formed when Father Deiss was joined by le danseur premier Gloria Weyman, who expanded our minds and consciousness (blew our minds comes closer) when she interpreted his texts in classic choreography.

An experienced dancer (former member of the Ballet Russe) and teacher, she brought an artistic sense to the new concept of liturgical dance forms.

Her ebullient personality and patient instructions to the fledgling dancers who signed up for the workshop (I was one at a dance workshop in 1968) helped us to feel that we didn't have two left feet and three heads.

In case you are wondering, the answer is no. I did not wear a leotard, tutu, or pointed shoes. My "comfortable clothes" were my usual vesture: khakis, blues button-down oxford shirt, and penny loafers.

Her charisma and grace added to the missionary effort of Father Deiss. One cannot think of one name without the other.

Singing the psalms. Lyrical translations of the psalms. Liturgical dance. Experiencing fresh air in the church's liturgy. Streching liturgical norms.

They were all part of the vigor in the first days of liturgical reforms.

Central to that exuberance was the work of Father Lucien Deiss. If you have a few moments now, why don't you sing quietly to yourself or with someone else “Keep in Mind” in thanksgiving for his life among us and the invaluable partnership that Gloria Weyman added to the missionary effort.

    Keep in mind that Jesus Christ has died for us and is risen from the dead.
    He is our saving Lord, he is joy for all ages.


The following tribute prepared by Mary G. Fox
Editor of Rite, published by Liturgy Training Publications 

As the director of the Notre Dame Folk Choir, Steven Warner continues to see the effect that the music of Lucien Deiss, CSSp, has on young people. During a rehearsal, Warner found that all the students knew Deiss’s antiphon “Keep in Mind” and that one was studying his writings. The cross-reference of the liturgical music composition and the sought-after theological treatises summed up Deiss’s contributions perfectly, Warner said.

Unaware that Deiss had died two days prior to the rehearsal, Warner explained the liturgical composer’s legacy to his students. “I made a comment that here was a piece from 40 years ago, written at the dawning of the implementation of the documents from the Second Vatican Council, and yet, like a wonderful wine, it still had a beautiful taste for the soul and a richness for the spiritual palette.”

Deiss, composer of “Priestly People,” “All the Earth,” and more than 400 other liturgical songs and hymns, died in France on October 9 in the teaching hospital of Bicetre, France. On October 13, the Mass of Resurrection was celebrated at the grande Seminary Chapel in Chevilly, France. Deiss was 86 years old.

To honor him, Deiss’s music will be played at the 7 p.m. Evening Prayer November 26 at the Duquesne University Chapel, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Duquesne University is the only university run by the Spiritans, the order of which Deiss was a member.

Working with Deiss at workshops, Warner came to know the man as a “humble and thoughtful liturgical genius.” Warner said, “We are left with the musical insights of this extraordinary man of God. And we are left with his zeal for and love of a fully active, participatory assembly. There is a reason we still sing his songs, composed in the ‘60s, when barely anything else has survived from that transitional time. His was the foundational vision that endured.”

The liturgical composer was a scholar who helped people understand the word of God through songs and hymns. A press release the Spiritans issued October 16 quoted Deiss’s account of how he fell into composing music. “I used to do ministry in the little church of Bon Pasteur, close to the seminary. I wanted the people of the parish to sing a lot more, so I formed a choir for Gregorian chant. But it didn’t work ... which turned out to be a blessing for me. I realized that the people knew almost nothing of the Bible, so I decided to try using music to help them memorize the more important texts.”

Sometimes even those who knew that Deiss taught scripture and liturgy for nine years, were surprised when he spoke on scripture. Recalling a meeting in Rome, Duquesne University professor of biblical studies Sean P. Kealy, CSSp, said, “Our community invited him to speak on one occasion expecting that he would talk on music. But he came and gave a rather profound lecture on Form Criticism. He really loved the scripture, and his genius was to blend simple biblical texts with simple joyful melodies which anyone could join in with.”

Laetitia Blane, retired director of liturgical music at Boston College, called Deiss “a prophet of his era.”

“In the 60s,” she said, “his music gave voice to our prayer.” She added, “We remember a wonderful prophet.”

Blane, who was a soloist for Deiss at National Pastoral Musicians meetings, is a co-founder of the NPM Cantor and Choir Director Institutes. She said that she and others relied on the guidance Deiss offered in Spirit and Song of the New Liturgy. There, he outlined the priorities for singing at liturgies. “We used his outline to help people understand how we use song in liturgy—the ministerial function of when to sing, when it is a priority. His outline was the most comprehensive way to understand Music and Catholic Worship and the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.”

“I think his music will stand the test of time,” said Stephen Steinbeiser, liturgist at the Duquesne chapel. Steinbeiser, who collaborated with Deiss at workshops and concerts at Duquesne, described him “as a gentle, humble fellow.” Deiss, Steinbeiser said, considered his work part of his service, never accepting a stipend.

He explained, “Lucien really was a scripture scholar. He understood it. He taught it. He loved it really. He had the unique ability to take these wonderful translations of text and wed them to a wonderful melody. As he looked at it, it was his offering to God.”

Steinbeiser said that Deiss was particularly delighted when the scriptural meaning of his music was grasped. “He would just have this light in his eye when he saw that someone understood his message. He helped teach the deeper meaning of scripture and how the word of God can lead us to a relationship with God. Joy really is an infallible sign of the Spirit. He just delighted when he saw communities brought to prayer.”

From Deiss, Father Jan Michael Joncas learned “the importance of studying the biblical and liturgical texts if I was to set them with any degree of intelligence and artistry.” When a teenage Joncas proudly showed Deiss a composition, Deiss patiently explained its failings.

Joncas said, “After that meeting, I absolutely devoured every Deiss composition I could get my hands on, wearing out my copy of the volumes of Biblical Hymns and Songs. I was certainly influenced by his pattern of having fairly extensive refrains assigned to congregational singing with more complex verses taken by soloists and/or choir members, and I wrote my share of ‘Deiss-styled’ hymns before coming under other influences.”

Through the years, Deiss continued to amaze Joncas. “I was impressed with how open he was to quite diverse musical realizations of biblical and liturgical texts as long as they both highlighted the message to be proclaimed and authentically represented the culture encountering these texts.”

While preparing to teach a course on twentieth and twenty-first century liturgical music, Joncas was “delighted to find that Deiss had been the choirmaster for Jean Langlais’s Missa Salve Regina, first sung at Notre Dame in Paris at Christmas Midnight Mass in 1954. I had meant to send him a note for being a true ‘pontifex’ (bridgebuilder) between developments in pastoral liturgy in the pre-Vatican II era and the explosion of compositional creativity in the post-Vatican II era.”

The Rev. Virgil C. Funk, president emeritus of NPM, described the composer and scholar as a person who lived authentically. Responding to an e-mail he wrote, “Keep in mind that Jesus Christ has died for us” ... Fr. Lucien Deiss not only believed those words, but lived them.... ‘If you live with the Lord, you shall die with the Lord.’ And so he has.”