‘You sing, and the Holy Spirit does the rest’: US deacon to chant Easter proclamation at St. Peter’s Basilica

By Gina Christian, OSV News

(OSV News) — As a kid, 29-year-old Deacon Zane Langenbrunner loved to sing in church.

“The people in the pew in front of us would turn around and say to my parents, ‘He sings so loud, and we love that,'” Deacon Langenbrunner, a Mishawaka, Indiana, native studying at the Pontifical North American College (PMAC) in Rome, told OSV News.

Now, the deacon — a high school marching band alumnus who will be ordained to the sacred priesthood in June — is set to sing the Easter proclamation, or Exsultet, at the Easter Vigil Mass Pope Francis celebrates April 8 at St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Every year, one of the deacons in the PMAC choir gets to help in singing it. It’s kind of a little tradition that one of (our) guys gets to do it, and this year, I was fortunate enough to be asked,” said Deacon Langenbrunner. “I said yes.”

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, Deacon Langenbrunner’s home diocese, told OSV News he was “thrilled” at the prospect.

“Deacon Zane is a humble young man and exemplary seminarian,” said the bishop, adding “the privilege of chanting the Exsultet” was “not an easy musical task.”

In the Latin Church led by the pope, the bishop of Rome, the ancient text of the Exsultet — named for its first word, Latin for “exult” — is normally sung by a deacon (or a priest, or lay cantor if necessary) as the Paschal candle is blessed during the Easter Vigil.

The solo piece, which on average takes from 10 – 13 minutes to sing, lauds Jesus Christ’s triumph over sin and death, narrating the sweep of salvation history as the triumph of light over darkness. The text in its present form is largely identical with that used since the ninth century.

“It’s amazing how it speaks to earthly, created things, and … how they are united forever now in Christ with the things of heaven,” Deacon Langenbrunner said. “This is a victorious prayer about proclaiming this reality right now: the Son of God, taking flesh for our salvation, (coming) to unite earth and heaven.”

Deacon Langenbrunner said he only learned of his selection “about two or three weeks ago,” and his practice time was curtailed by a five-day silent retreat.

But the tenor said any twinges of anxiety he might have about singing the Exsultet, especially with Pope Francis as the principal celebrant, are offset by his excitement over “using the gift of music to glorify God.”

Thanks to his experience as percussionist — he played drums in high school, and has been doing the same for his seminarian rock band, “PMAC at the Disco” — Deacon Langenbrunner plans to bring a gentle cadence to chanting the Exsultet.

“Chant notation doesn’t have a specific rhythm lined out, but it does have some kind of movement,” he said.

Although he has sung with fellow seminarian choir members in St. Peter’s Basilica, singing solo in the world’s “most enormous church” will take an act of faith, he admitted.

“You sing, your voice goes out, and you don’t hear it come back,” he said. “You have to trust that the sound will get to the place where it needs to be projected. You sing, and the Holy Spirit does the rest.”

Deacon Langenbrunner likens the process to that of his own vocational journey.

“It’s amazing what Lord has had in store for me,” he said. “It’s beyond what I ever would have imagined.”

Author: OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.

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