Monday, September 22, 2008

Just Who Do We Serve?

In the last few days I've spent some time considering the attitudes of various people towards music ministry, including those who are responsible for it. This came about largely because of a comment that I received on my choir blog that was critical of my "Three Year Plan" to gradually introduce liturgical music at the parish where I serve. The gist of the comment was this: "If you really want to bring people to Jesus with your music rather than have them leave the church, you would be nuts to do this!" I posted a rather rash response at first, but have since deleted it as I thought about it and have now come to this conclusion: We need to have a clear focus on just who we serve as liturgical musicians.

To begin with, the comment posed a false dilemma that we too often accept at face value. Our choice is not between presenting popular-style songs and catchy responses or having people leave the church. I'm not sure that this would even be the case if it were correct that people prefer pop-style liturgy music to authentic liturgical music. But what is wrong with the premise is that the purpose of music at Mass is to "bring people to Jesus", at least in the way that most people think.

What underlies this (false) premise is that the Mass, on it's own, is too distant and incomprehensible, and as such is insufficient to provide people spiritual nourishment. It is up to the music to bring the liturgy down to the level of "the people" and give them something familiar that they can go away humming when they leave. The Mass becomes an excuse for people to gather so that they can be "brought to Jesus" by the liturgical musicians who REALLY understand them in a way that the Priest doesn't. As liturgical musicians in this model, we are like evangelist-advocates for the faithful, interpreting scripture and presenting it to them in a way that they can understand so that Mass is attractive to them and has meaning. Whether consciously or sub-consciously, this is the attitude adopted by many, if not most liturgical musicians. I have come to believe that this attitude is not only misguided, it's destructive to the faith and we are finally realizing the damage that it has done.

Consider the resistance to replacing "lyrics" in pop-style liturgical songs with actual liturgical proper texts. The resistance comes only because the composers of these songs feel that it is their role to "interpret" for the faithful and present the concepts to them in a language that they can understand. They see themselves less as composers and more as preachers, speaking to the faithful and teaching them through their words. If they are required to use approved texts, how are they going to "speak to the people"? Surely their lyrics do this better than the actual texts of the Mass!

Or consider that as this attitude gained foothold, Catholic litugical musicians increasingly took on the title "Music Minister", a term borrowed from the Evangelical Protestant community, where musicians actually are a ministerial position in a church, often co-equal with the Pastor, and preach directly to the faithful through "their music". In many cases, the Pastor is a musician who sings to the faithful during services (picture televangelists). Although this model is completely alien to Catholic liturgy, I think many liturgical musicians actually see themselves in this role.

This perception is further strengthened by a presence at the front of the sanctuary facing the people. It's hard to feel that you're NOT supposed to be preaching to the people when you're up in front of them on a stage. When up in a loft in the back of the church with the Organ, the perception was that the Choir was part of the church itself, unseen and only heard echoing through the arches. But up in front of the people, facing them with microphones, there is a totally different perception and the "American Idol" within takes over and we play to the crowd.

So what can be done? First, we need to have that clear understanding of just who we serve as liturgical musicians. This is the point at which I will part ways with the vast majority of my peers... we serve the liturgy, not the people! We are supposed to be doing what the liturgy wants, not what the people want. We are supposed to present that liturgy to the best of our ability, and allow the liturgy to "bring people to Jesus". The problem is that we have lost faith in the ability of the liturgy to do that, and we feel that we need to step in and give the people what they need, lest they walk out. We need to regain that faith in our liturgy and stop trying to patch it up and fix it.

Secondly, we need to have a clear understanding of what the liturgy requires of us as musicians. This is the subject of myriad books, websites, blogs, workshops and colloquia and is too large of a subject to cover here. It isn't a matter of being "conservative" or "orthodox" or "progressive" or "liberal"... it's a matter of trusting in the liturgy as it is given to us and not interpreting it to acheive our own goals or support our own agenda.

Thirdly, we need to trust "the people" and stop pandering to them out of fear that they won't like us. Many musicians are, by nature, insecure and seek approval. When we see ourselves as presenting "our music", negative comments become an attack on us and we react by becoming defensive. We respond by performing what is popular and safe. Even though we may never have presented a chanted Entrance Antiphon or Latin sanctus, we fear doing so because we are afraid that people will criticize us for doing so, as though this is some decision of ours.

This is where it would be helpful to have some authoritative statement from the Holy See, CDW, Bishop or SOME kind of authority up the chain regarding music at Mass. We need to have some kind of defense for the criticism that may come our way, and we are afraid to take this on with little more than "Gregorian Chant should be given pride of place in the liturgy" to back us up. This is why I continue to say that such a statement is necessary if there is to be any progress on this issue. I am willing to do the work, but I'm not going to risk losing my job over it. Such a statement could be pointed to as a "job description" for liturgical musicians and would give us the needed authority to make changes. Those who don't want to make changes can ignore it, and that would be their choice. But don't deprive me of such an important tool just because some are going to ignore it. It would have been a shame if Paul VI had decided to not pen Humanae Vitae just because he feared that some would ignore it.

Understand that we serve the liturgy. Understand what the liturgy requires. Serve it fearlessly and with passion. You don't have to be a "Traditionalist" liturgical musician, just be a liturgical musician and not a "Music Minister".

I welcome your comments on this.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Chant Group Meets Again Tonight!

Tonight is the second meeting of the group that I have come to call my "Chant Project". It's really fascinating how this group has come to be, and even more interesting will be to see how it plays out. There is a lot of interest, and a lot of enthusiasm. If that is built upon, and given the opportunity to develop into a working schola, the results could be truly miraculous. What is really amazing is how everything came together.... I would like to hear from others who have started up schola groups or offered workshops in Chant and hear about how the process unfolded for them. I have to almost believe that the Holy Spirit is at work, given the obstacles that exist and which should stop any effort before it even gets started.

I am optimistic, both about my project and about Reform (with a big "R")! I have to wonder, what would happen if the reform agenda were supported by Bishops and Priests? There will, in the not-too-distant future, be more Bishops and Priests who are supportive. As momentum builds, what will happen then? If we consider that we are maybe 2 1/2 years into the "Reform", what might it look like 5 years from now? How about 10 years? When more than half of the Priests have been ordained in the "Post-Summorum" Catholic Church? There is great reason for hope and optimism as long as one realizes that there will not be sweeping change NOW, but gradual change over many years.

Our part is to be agents of change at the local level.
-Start a schola
-Organize a Chant workshop for TLM attendees
-Write grateful thank-you letters to Bishops who are supportive of Tradition
-Write polite letters to less-supportive Bishops offering your time to assist with any effort to offer the TLM in your Diocese.
-Seek out Catholics in your area who share your views on traditional liturgy and music and start talking. Even if only to share ideas, groups like this can take on a life of their own.

If anybody has other ideas for how to make things happen at the local level, feel free to post them in the comments.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What is the Pope Saying?

From His Homily at the Mass at the Esplanade des Invalides:

(My emphasis added)

"This appeal to shun idols", he added, "is also pertinent today. ... The
word 'idol' comes from the Greek and means 'image', 'figure',
'representation', but also 'ghost', 'phantom', 'vain appearance'. An idol is
a delusion, for it turns its worshipper away from reality
and places him in
the kingdom of mere appearances".

"Now", the Pope asked, "is this not a temptation in our own day - the only
one we can act upon effectively? The temptation to idolise a past that no
longer exists, forgetting its shortcomings
; the temptation to idolise a
future which does not yet exist, in the belief that, by his efforts alone,
man can bring about the kingdom of eternal joy on earth
!" In the same way,
"have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even for
knowledge, diverted man from his true destiny?"

Of course, context is everything in these kinds of statements, but in light of the statements made to the French Bishops concerning Summorum Pontificum there seems to be a call for a reality check, both for Traditionalists and for Progressives.

Also this concerning an address to representatives from the World of Culture:

Going on to consider the importance of song in monastic life, Benedict XVI noted how St. Bernard of Clairvaux, "describes the confusion resulting from a poorly executed chant as a falling into the 'zone of dissimilarity'". This
term was used by St. Augustine "to designate his condition prior to
conversion: man, who is created in God's likeness, falls in his
godforsakenness into the 'zone of dissimilarity', into a remoteness from
God, in which he no longer reflects Him, and so has become dissimilar not
only to God, but to himself, to what being human truly is".

For St. Bernard "the culture of singing is also the culture of being, and
the monks have to pray and sing in a manner commensurate with the grandeur
of the word handed down to them, with its claim on true beauty

One of the hallmarks of Benedict's approach to reform is his strong conviction that reform relies heavily on the actions of the clergy. This is eveident in the provisions of Summorum Pontificum, and a similar concept seems to underlie this statement. If there is going to be an eventual acceptance of the use of chant, it will have to begin with the Priests and religious and brought to the faithful by their example. How appropriate for a Pope named Benedict!

Another remarkable feature of this address is how it ties Chant into the overall understanding of God's word.... and that very subject is the main topic of this October's Bishops Synod. Perhaps he will make the connection explicit at that time? We can at least hope so!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

An Unexpected "Missa Breva"

Arrived for the 7:00AM Mass today to find that the air conditioner unit was totally not working. We are in the process of updating and replacing the 25+ year old system here, but they promised we would at least have one unit working at all times. I guess they were wrong... Temperature in the Church was AT LEAST 88 degrees. It will probably climb into the 90's by the 11:00 Mass.

So we made Mass VERY short... Organ improv for the offertory, chanted psalm response, the Priest skipped the homily (I know... but it was really uncomfortable!)and finished up with an instrumental recessional. Total time: 27 minutes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Chant Project: Our First Meeting

With threats earlier last week that our first Chant Group meeting would be pre-empted by Hurricane Ike, a change in path allowed us to meet this past Wednesday evening. A few of the signed up participants were not able to be there, but they called me ahead of time to let me know that they will be there next week! They are certainly enthusiatic...

The level of the particpants varies... some have previous choir experience and can read music, others have sung in choirs but can't read music, while for others this is their first go at singing in a group. I decided to start at the most basic level, with a little terminology and explanation of the Staff, clef and the simple neumes and what they mean.

The first piece we are tackling is the Mass XVIII Kyrie... simple but a good example since it uses mostly punctum, podatus and clivis and is mostly linear. Also an added bonus was that many of them, even those with no choir experience, knew it well enough to sing along. This made for a good example. By the end of the evening, most of the participants felt that they understood the correlation between the notation and what they were singing. That seemed to be a big step!

I've promised myself to proceed slowly and allow everyone to understand what we're doing before moving on. For those who feel thay are a little more advanced, there is the opportunity to sing with the schola for the EF Mass at the parish that is hosting us.

I will try to keep posting updates to let everyone know how this thing is going. I'm overall rather happy!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Where did I put that Permission from the Ordinary...??

While reading the recent music guidelines from the USCCB, a thought occured to me that applies to many other liturgical documents as well.

When a document specifies that "X" can be done with the permission of the local Ordinary, shouldn't that permission be explicit? Maybe a copy of such permission posted on the website of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission, or at least on file at the Chancery offices?

This thought occured to me because of the following scenario. In the past several years, and over the next few years, there will be a larger than average number of Bishops being replaced in Diocese' across the country. The "progressive" liturgical view generally holds that if a document says that "X" can be done with permission of the local Ordinary, then that permission would be extended implicitly, as though this were just some formality in the language. It is also readily observed that most of the liturgical actions modified by such permission tend to be of the more preogressive bent (extraordinary ministers, female altar servers, guitars and drums in church, outdoor Masses, etc...). Shouldn't the Ordinary's permission on these issues be a matter of public record? And shouldn't a new Ordinary be able to revoke such permission if they disagree with it?

The issue that brought this issue to the fore with me is the guitars and drums in the church. Musicam Sacram, which remains the definitive document on Sacred Music says the following, after the pronouncement of the Organ as the principal instrument for use in the liturgy, :

"The use of other instruments may also be admitted in divine worship, given the decision and consent of the competent territorial authority, provided that the instruments are suitable for sacred use, or can be adapted to it, that they are in keeping with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful."43

63. In permitting and using musical instruments, the culture and traditions of individual peoples must be taken into account. However, those instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music only, are to be altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions.44

This seems to be saying that in order to use instruments other than the Organ, the "competent territorial authority, presumably the Bishop, would need to give his consent. That consent can be given "provided that the instruments are suitable for sacred use, or can be adapted to it, that they are in keeping with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful." The passage then goes on to give some parameters for giving this permission, most specifically noting that instruments that are commonly considered suitable for secular music only are to be "altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions." In order to give permission for such instruments to be used, the "competent authority" would have to make a pretty persuasive argument for how guitars and drums are not commonly considered instruments associated with secular music. I would like to see that argument....

The point I'm getting at is this: Is there anywhere in the United States where a Bishop has actually issued such permission, and if not, could such permission be requested by a Music Director who wants to have such permission in hand to do his job effectively? A lot of liturgical abuses occur because we assume there is permission to do them. Maybe we should start asking for some of this in writing.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Chant Project: UPDATE

After my first ad ran the second week in several parish bulletins around the Diocese, I am up to EIGHT respondents in one parish, four respondents in another parish, and three other respondents, one of whom is not even Catholic, but read the ad in a friend's bulletin.

EIGHT people in one parish... I am starting to find this interesting! None of them are choir members or involved in their parish's music ministry recently. They are ALL very enthusiastic and anxious to get started.

I have gotten in contact with a person I spoke with last month at our Diocesan Music Committee meeting. He was asked by the Pastor at an area church to coordinate the music for the TLM at their parish which is celebrated on alternating weeks. He was concerned about finding people that would want to be involved. This parish is rather close by the parish from which I have gotten the best response. I think we might be able to help each other out...

And so I will repeat the advice that was given by both Jeffrey Tucker and Scott Turkington at the Chant Intensive this past June.... go and get scholas started in your area. Work out the details once you get going, but JUST GET THEM GOING!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My Chant Project

Following the CMAA Chant Intensive and the Colloquium this past June, a call went out to return home and start a chant schola. A number of the participants have started an e-mail group to share stories and ideas and keep everybody posted about the progress in our respective homelands. It seems that people are taking this seriously. I know I am. Here's my project as it stands right now.

I began by casting a wide net. I sent out e-mails to place the following ad in every parish bulletin in the Diocese.

Cantate Domino! Come join us in the Church’s sung prayer, Gregorian Chant! We are now forming a group to learn about and sing Gregorian Chant using the Solesmes Method. No prior knowledge or experience is necessary, just an interest in beautiful music and prayerful singing. Interested? Contact (my name) by phone at (my number)or by e-mail at (my e-mail).

OK... sorry I had to leave out my info there... the internet can be a scary place. No time and/or place was mentioned in the ad.... I wanted to see what the interest was, and where the interest (or resistance) was going to be. The results were interesting. Of the 18 parishes I sent the ad to, 3 parishes ran the ad "as is". Another three contacted me and asked for more specific info about time and place before they would run the ad. Fair enough.

I recieved 4 responses from one of the parishes (including a husband-wife response), 3 responses from another parish and one from the same parish who said he would be interested if the group were to meet at or near that parish. There were two responses from the third parish so far... the ad is running again this week at all three parishes. I am ecstatic! So it's not huge numbers... why am I ecstatic? NONE of the respondents are members of the choir at their parish or involved in the music program, although most of them have musical experience and some prior interest.

One is a former Benedictine with past experience in Chant and in Latin. Another was a Music Director at a Lutheran church for 20 years and is a recent convert to Catholicism. One is a 57 year old man who was an altar server as a young boy and who spoke about his devastation as a 13 year old when they stopped singing chant and using Latin at Mass. Another is a current RCIA candidate who is excited about learning more about her new faith. Only one of the respondents was aware that there is any kind of movement towards this in the church. The word needs to get out folks!

I have decided to make this (for now) a six-week "course" in basic chant skills, followed by the formation of a permanent schola by those who are interested. When I firm up a place and time for the first of these groups, I will send out a second bulletin ad to the 7 or so parishes within a reasonable distance (this is a huge Diocese... about 3 hours across North to South) with the hope of adding another few people to the initial group of respondents. with the addition of me and my wife, that would make about 8 or 9 persons. Not too bad to start.

I am thinking modestly... maybe taking on an easy Mass setting, a Gloria, the Pater Noster, Ave Maria and maybe an easier chant hymn or two (adoro te devote, Jesu dulcis memoria). After that, who knows.... I haven't planned that far ahead yet! But we're getting started, and I have become convinced that is the most important step.

One other thing. I did not run this ad in my home parish bulletin. For now, I'm keeping this project separate from my job. I think Jesus was wise in saying that no prophet is recognized in his home land. Maybe by round three or so....

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pope Benedict "Raises the Bar" Again

Watching the Final Mass of WYD 2008 demonstrates just how far we have come in a short time. There will no doubt be discussion of this Mass, as there was of the Washington Nationals Stadium Mass, for a long time to come. However, there is one overarching observation that must serve as the starting point for any discussion of this Mass... we are moving quickly towards a liturgical vision guided by the documents of Vatican II rather than the spirit of Vatican II.

As large mega-event Masses go, this one was remarkable. That it was a Youth Mass was more remarkable still. If there is a message to be had from this point of view, it is that there is no need for a distinction between a "regular Mass" and a "Youth Mass"... There was nothing in this liturgy that demonstrated a need to pander to so-called "teen interests"... no rock music, no scantily clad singer-performers, no dance numbers (OK... the Gospel Procession was a little over the top...) and no simplified rites or dumbed-down messages.

On the contrary, this was excellent liturgy offered to God on behalf of the Youth, whom Benedict obviously respects and values. We heard beautiful music presented by an orchestra and Organist with Choir. We heard a well-trained schola chant the Introit, the Veni sancte Spiritus during Confirmation and the Communion Antiphon in Latin. The Mass Ordinary was sung in beautiful (if not a little theatrical?) settings using Latin and vernacular texts combined. The entire assembly chanted the Pater Noster in Latin. There didn't seem to be any problem understanding what was going on...

The few moments of questionable taste stood out starkly and seemed out of place. The Aboriginal Gospel Procession, the easy-listening karaoke style "Taste and See" at communion.... these now seem nostalgic and sentimental, leftovers of a passing era. Requiem in Pace.

The absence of Extraordinary Ministers, the all-male altar servers, the Pope distributing Communion kneeling and on the tongue. Expect these to be permanent fixtures at events like this in the future, and expect them to eventually make their way back into parish settings. Eventually... it will take time, as this took time. We are a large flock of sheep, and there is only one shepherd. But he is determined.

He has raised the bar. Will we make the effort to rise up to it, or will we opt to "limbo" our way under it?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We are Known by the Company We Keep

I had to answer a query from a choir member about why we don't use the "Mass of Remembrance" (we remember how you loved us to your death...) and while looking up the problematic texts to the acclamations, my travels led me to the Sheet Music Plus website.

I was on the page for Mass of Remembrance, and like all sites of this type, they cross-promote music... you know the old "If you liked Mass of Remembrance, you might also like..."

And so what might I like if I actually liked Mass of Remembrance?

If you liked Mass of Remembrance, you may also like music by:

I have to hand it to them.... they nailed it right on the head!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The TLM Leads Youth To Idolatry?

Such is the claim in an incredible article that appeared in the latest issue of Today’s Liturgy titled “Avoiding the Golden Calf”. Reading this article I had to wonder what the author, Robert Feduccia, was trying to accomplish. Like the review of Sing To The Lord that also appeared in this issue of Today’s Liturgy, it seems to be an agenda driven editorial more than anything else, but let’s take a look.

The author begins with a touching story about his visit to the Tomb of the Unknowns in Washington D.C. The focus here is the complex ceremony performed by the Old Guard at the tomb. The precise attention to detail and the expertly performed actions, while impressive, cause the author to begin worrying about whether they are actually honoring the Unkowns in the tomb, or are they more concerned with the ceremony itself.

"…my thoughts go to the next question: What do they love? Do they love the unknowns or do they love the ceremony? I hope they love the ceremony. It is noble, worthy of preservation and demonstrates the honor the fallen deserve. But more than the ceremony, I hope they love the soldiers to whom the honor of the ceremony is directed. "

"I think this can serve as a good analogy for worship and can also help frame the question for those seeking to make an offering in spirit and truth. "

OK… aside from insulting the Old Guard at the Tomb of the Unkowns, the author hurls a few insults at Catholics who worship in the Extraordinary Form, although he hasn’t yet made that connection, so you don’t know you’re being insulted until later. It is comforting to me that the author believes that the Extraordinary Form liturgy is worthy of preservation.

To begin, I question whether this is really the “good analogy” that the author claims. Comparing a military ceremony, contrived by men to honor men, with worship inspired by the Holy Spirit to Honor Almighty God may lead to some false comparisons. In the case of the Old Guard, the unknowns are honored through the commitment and dedication of the men who spend many hours learning this complex and precise ceremony. The point of learning the ceremony is to perform it perfectly. By performing it perfectly, the men have accomplished that goal for which they have sacrificed. This is how they honor the dead.

The author seems to want us to apply this same paradigm to the rubrics of the Extraordinary Form, as he mentions it in the very next few sentences:

"I see today’s committed young adult Catholics drawn toward worship. I find there are those who are attracted by the Traditional Roman eucharistic liturgy. The grace of sacred art, the nobility of chant, and the sense of mystery and transcendence that the Missal of Blessed John XXIII or the Novus Ordo can provide all have great resonance with a large group of younger Catholics. Another form of worship that seems to truly appeal to younger Catholics is one where Praise and Worship songs, those written and published by both Catholics and the larger community of Christian believers, are frequently used. "

A few comments are due at this point. This article pretends to be a criticism of the concept of “worshipping the liturgy”, and the author would like you to believe that he is criticizing both Traditional liturgy and Praise and Worship style liturgy at this point. However, the analogy of the Old Guard at the Tomb of the Unkowns and its precise ceremony really don’t apply to P&W style worship, so it is obvious that the criticism is being leveled at the Traditional Mass. Note that “there are those who are attracted by the Traditional Roman Eucharistic liturgy”, but P&W worship “truly appeals” to younger Catholics.

This simple comparison reveals a serious bias on the part of the author. Consider if the author would have said “I find that the Traditional Roman Liturgy truly appeals to younger Catholics”. Such a statement would require that the author then criticize the liturgy itself and demonstrate some actual flaw to make his point that these young Catholics are being misled. Instead, by making their preference for the Extraordinary Form into an emotional response (attraction), it leaves open the argument that their attraction is actually to the external elements of the liturgy, and not directed towards the worship of God. The author is clearly implying that there is an intrinsic flaw in the structure of the Traditional Mass and its distinctive rubrics that opens it up to the type of “worship of the liturgy” that he is critical of.

Compare this to the P&W style worship which “truly appeals” to younger Catholics. The implication here is that this style of liturgy is authentic, and the individual’s attraction to it is justified because of it’s worth. The author’s eventual criticism is not of the liturgy or its form but of how some individuals lack the depth to experience liturgy beyond mere externals, and end up being attracted by this or that song. This is not a criticism of the worship style, but of those who worship. From this point on, the article is dealing in apples and oranges.

Another odd moment in the passage above is in need of comment:

"The grace of sacred art, the nobility of chant, and the sense of mystery and transcendence that the Missal of Blessed John XXIII or the Novus Ordo can provide all have great resonance with a large group of younger Catholics. "

Is this a blunder, or is the author saying that if the Novus Ordo is implemented with a sense of mystery, using sacred art and noble chant it will also have great resonance with a large group of younger Catholics? If this was his intention, then his criticism is also expanded to the Latin Novus Ordo as well, and his actual agenda becomes clearer.

The author goes on:

“I hold dearly the truth that we are destined for an eternity of worship. Our Catholic understanding of salvation is that all creation will be summed up in Christ, will be fused with him. In that union with him, we will enjoy the same blissful, ecstatic and eternal relationship with the Father that the Son enjoys."

“Anything that draws the young Church into this relationship is a friend to me, and I am its ally. That said, there are concerns that I have, not in these forms, but in our humanity that is so given to efforts that miss the mark.”

What are these “efforts that miss the mark” that he is speaking of? Is he saying that we aspire to worship perfectly but never are able to? Is he trying to imply that we construct methods of worship (like the Extraordinary Form) that may lead us to false worship? Is he talking about the Extraordinary form at all, or is he possibly claiming that P&W style worship is an effort that misses the mark? The very next paragraph makes clear what he is referring to here.

"The Missal of Blessed John XXIII is beautiful; it is transcendent. If we understand art as a human effort to express the reality of God, the Missal is itself a work of art."

So.. the Missal of Blessed John XXIII is a work of art. Art is a human effort. Our humanity is so given to efforts that miss the mark. Get it now? He goes on…

“It is noble, rooted in timelessness, artful and divine. It is obvious why people can feel so passionate about its use. Nonetheless, I find that there are dangers in making the Latin Mass, as it is commonly called, an idol. “

And so here we are at the point of the article. Latin Mass = Danger. Latin Mass=Idolatry. Lest you think I’m reading too much into this... the article continues:

“Relating back to the question about the sentinels, what is being loved? Is it the form or is it the one whom the form makes present? In other words, is the Father being worshipped by our communion with His son, or is the liturgy being worshipped? We should want to give our best for the Lord. The attention to precision and detail that draws many young Catholics to this Missal can become the focus of the worship. It is a danger that demands great spiritual attention. The form of worship should not be idolized.”

The italics on the word “form” belong to the author… his criticism is of the form of the worship, specifically of the Extraordinary Form of worship. The comparison to the ceremony performed by the Old Guard forces the reader to accept his view that the Extraordinary Form developed as a method of honoring God through the completion of a complex series of precise actions, dressed up in beauty and reverence performed for the purpose of attracting the faithful. If this was all there was to it, the author would indeed be correct in warning unwary souls of the danger of worshipping form over substance. The problem here is a matter of the author’s misunderstanding of the purpose of worship. The next passage sums this up…

"The Missal of Blessed John XXIII is a noble and precise offering to the Father. Praise and Worship are meant to capture the heart of the individual. I have been to gatherings where I felt that my chest could not contain my heart. Those times, where the love that I felt for the Lord was so overwhelming are among the greatest moments of spiritual consolation I have ever encountered."

Apparently, for the author, worship is about how we feel, and the purpose of worship is to elicit feelings in us, to arouse our emotions and “draw us into” the experience of loving the Lord. The Missal of Blessed John XXIII is a “precise offering to the Father”. Praise and Worship “captures the heart of the individual”. The Missal of John XXIII is about form. Praise and Worship is about feelings.

Notice that the author talks at length about his meaningful experience at Praise and Worship, but never mentions how he feels while worshipping in the Extraordinary Form. The clichés and tired platitudes about the EF being “noble” and “beautiful” and “transcendent” are empty praise at best, sort of like the person who claims they aren’t racist because they have “black friends”. I doubt that the author has much experience worshipping in the Extraordinary Form, but I am certain that he doesn’t want that experience to be available to young Catholics.

The author then goes in what seems like a new direction, taking up the issue of musical selection in Praise and Worship style liturgy.

“I have found that many people attach themselves to certain songs. When that song isn’t used during a service, they claim the worship experience wasn’t good. ‘I just didn’t feel it’ they say. People have commented to me about feelings of resentment and anger toward the person leading music when he or she doesn’t play a certain song or doesn’t play it properly. The worshipper felt disconnected as the others sang the song poorly or in a different way from how he or she learned it.”

What a positive and resounding endorsement of P&W liturgy this is! The author apparently doesn’t see this as a problem with the form of the liturgy though, but as an issue with the individual and how they feel. The result is a dilemma, elegantly expressed by the author as he concludes his argument:

“This kind of emotional attachment to songs has even made its way into the liturgy. Songs to be used during a specific liturgy are chosen because people like them, not because they draw attention to the present liturgical action. These songs get an emotional response, but not necessarily the type of emotional response we should be aiming for. Is greater immersion into the liturgical action desired, or is the emotional response of familiarity on the part of the congregation desired?"

That is the question! Too bad he doesn’t answer it. The truth is, it can’t be answered without repudiating the purpose of Praise and Worship liturgy, which is to elicit emotional responses and feelings from the participant. A greater immersion into the liturgical action would make worshipping God the object of the liturgy. The author is torn by the realization that P&W liturgy is about US! He wants it to be about worshipping God, but understands that ultimately it is about how we FEEL. He knows that if he answers that we need greater immersion in the liturgical action, he admits to a flaw in the form of the worship itself and would have to propose selecting music that is liturgically centered, abandoning the popular-music based liturgy model. If he answers that the emotional response of familiarity is desired, he admits that the current model disregards the liturgy itself. And so he doesn’t answer.

Besides, this article isn’t about criticizing P&W style worship. Notice that he had no problem definitively answering his questions regarding the Extraordinary Form Mass:

“…is the Father being worshipped by our communion with His son, or is the liturgy being worshipped? We should want to give our best for the Lord. The attention to precision and detail that draws many young Catholics to this Missal can become the focus of the worship. It is a danger that demands great spiritual attention. The form of worship should not be idolized.”

So, in the spirit of the author’s article, I’ll leave it up to you to decide: Is the author actually concerned about the souls of young Catholics being led astray, or is he just expressing a personal prejudice against Traditional liturgy? You decide.

And one more thing; why is he so concerned about young Catholics attending Mass in the Extraordinary Form anyway? Everyone knows that it only appeals to a few breakaway ultra-orthodox groups and there is no interest in it anywhere else… right?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

In What I Have Done, And In What I Have Failed To Do….

Omission can be a serious matter. In reporting news, it can be used to shape the story to fit a particular agenda. It can be used to manipulate public opinion by leaving out things that disagree with a particular agenda being forwarded. We even have sins of omission. Our Confiteor contains a reference to omission when it says “I have sinned….in what I have done and in what I have failed to do”. So it might be said that omission becomes something more than just “editing” when it concerns reporting on matters relating to the liturgy. It becomes the obvious promotion of an agenda, perhaps even an attempt to deceive the intended audience.

Not that I would expect any less from our friends at OCP, particularly when it comes to reporting on recent developments in sacred music in the Catholic Church. Much of what is happening does not bode particularly well for them. It’s with this in mind that I just have to comment on the recent reviews of “New Documents” in the August-November edition of Today’s Liturgy. The subject of the review is the two most recent documents from the USCCB relating to music, the Directory for Music and the Liturgy and Sing To The Lord: Music in Divine Worship. I have been waiting for nearly two years for an OCP response to the first of these documents, and some 6 months now for them to write about the latter.

Mostly, I was anxious to see how they would approach some of the less convenient parts of these documents. The first document, with the suggestion that the number of songs, “if they are to be used widely by the faithful, should be relatively fixed”, would pose particular problems for the publishing industry. Let’s see how they spin this…

“It might be helpful to look at what Liturgiam Authenticam actually states: “If they (liturgical songs) are to be used widely by the faithful, they should remain relatively fixed so that confusion among the faithful may be avoided”(108). Due to the rich blessing of a large number of talented and prolific composers and the tremendous number of songs available and used throughout the country, it would be difficult, if not completely impossible, to identify any one group of songs used as widely as the document presumes. Our national diversity makes the selection of a common repertoire a practical impossibility.”

Sense the terror and fear in this response? The words used to respond make the agenda clear: rich blessing, large number, prolific, tremendous number, throughout the country…. followed by difficult, completely impossible, as the document presumes, practical impossibility. The message is clear; what Liturgiam Authenticam is asking can’t be done. There are too many songs already being used by too many people in too many places to narrow it down to a stable repertoire. Further, all of these songs are necessary to accommodate the diversity present in the Church, making compliance with LA a “practical impossibility.

OK, never mind that creating such a stable repertoire would all but put OCP out of business, we are supposed to believe that they are acting in the best interest of the Church. But the particulars of the Directory frighten them… it could easily go either way and they have no control over it. They go out of their way on three different places in the review to note that this document requires approval from the Holy See, and as of yet it has not been approved. It is also noted that the document “is likely to undergo changes made by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments”, though it fails to mention that such changes would likely be adverse in their view, and could well include demands for an actual “list” of approved songs as is required by Liturgiam Authenticam. Guess they just left that one out…

The review of Sing To The Lord, however, breaks new ground in the tactical omission of particular items that disagree with your agenda. To read this review, you would think that SttL is just a re-wording of Music in Catholic Worship. I understand that SttL was not the document that it was supposed to be, nor was it all that many had hoped for, but… there is plenty in it to rejoice over, and all in all it sets the ground for the dismantling of the progressive music agenda if it were to be implemented. The reviewer must have missed most of that…

Some highlights of the review: My emphasis and comments

“In Section II (The Church at Prayer) attention is focused on those who have significant roles in the celebration of the liturgy. After mentioning ordained ministers (for 3 pages !) the document stresses (for 1 page) the role of the Gathered Liturgical Assembly, the entire people present at a celebration. Only then does it address ( for 5 ½ pages!) ministers of liturgical music as such, highlighting the various individual ministerial responsibilities. Perhaps this may not seem of great significance, but I do not agree. Sing to The Lord clearly emphasizes that music ministers are servants of the assembly, a concept that is not always understood or appreciated.”

WHAAT!! You have to stretch like Mary Lou Retton to get that out of Section II of this document. To begin with, since when is something mentioned for 3 pages, addressed for 5 ½ pages, but stressed for 1 page? Wouldn’t we ordinarily say that those topics to which more space is given are being stressed? I guess it just wouldn’t do to say that the “role of the Gathered Liturgical Assembly, the entire people present at a celebration” is mentioned, since we all know that that’s what the Mass is all about, right?

And then there is the matter of the music ministers being servants of the assembly.

(Relevant quotes from SttL, please)

Choir members, like all liturgical ministers, should exercise their ministry with evident faith and should participate in the entire liturgical celebration, recognizing that they are servants of the Liturgy and members of the gathered assembly.

The director of music ministries fosters the active participation of the liturgical assembly in singing; coordinates the preparation of music to be sung at various liturgical celebrations; and promotes the ministries of choirs, psalmists, cantors, organists, and all who serve the Liturgy.

Directors are collaborators with bishops, priests, and deacons, who exercise a pastoral ministry based on the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which configures them to Christ the Head and consecrates them for a role that is unique and necessary for the communion of the Church.

So…Sing To The Lord does clearly emphasize what the role of the music minister is, and it isn’t to be a servant of the assembly. It is to be a collaborator with the clergy and a servant of the liturgy. I would have to say there is a big difference between the two, and I have a hard time believing that the author simply overlooked this point since he went out of his way to discuss it. This was deliberate. On the topic of omissions, most of what is said in the section concerning the Choir emphasizes the unique role of the Choir separate from the assembly. This section makes note of places where the Choir exercise their unique role such as:

Choirs and ensembles, on the other hand, comprise persons drawn from the community who possess the requisite musical skills and a commitment to the established schedule of rehearsals and Liturgies. Thus, they are able to enrich the celebration by adding musical elements beyond the capabilities of the congregation alone.(SttL 28)

At times, the choir performs its ministry by singing alone. The choir may draw on the treasury of sacred music, singing compositions by composers of various periods and in various musical styles, as well as music that expresses the faith of the various cultures that enrich the Church. Appropriate times where the choir might commonly sing alone include a prelude before Mass, the Entrance chant, the Preparation of the Gifts, during the Communion procession or after the reception of Communion, and the recessional. (SttL 30)

So… what this particular passage is saying is that the Choir can sing any part of the Mass by itself! The assembly does not have to sing everything… it can sit back and listen at times. This is what is meant by Interior Participation… but we’ll get to that in a moment.

The reviewer then turns to Section III of Sing To The Lord (The Music of Catholic Worship). In doing so, he moves unseen over one particular part of Section II, inconveniently titled “Latin in The Liturgy”. This section contains such gems as:

Pastors should ensure “that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin
those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”60 They should be able to sing
these parts of the Mass proper to them, at least according to the simpler melodies

At international and multicultural gatherings of different language groups, it is most
appropriate to celebrate the Liturgy in Latin, “with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful.”61 In addition, “selections of Gregorian chant should be sung” at such gatherings, whenever possible

To facilitate the singing of texts in Latin, the singers should be trained in its correct
pronunciation and understand its meaning. To the greatest extent possible and applicable, singers and choir directors are encouraged to deepen their familiarity with the Latin language.

Each worshiping community in the United States
, including all age groups and all
ethnic groups, should, at a minimum, learn Kyrie XVI, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII, all of which are typically included in congregational worship aids. More difficult chants, such as Gloria VIII and settings of the Credo and Pater Noster, might be learned after the easier chants have been mastered.71

When the congregation does not sing an antiphon or hymn, proper chants from the Graduale Romanum might be sung by a choir that is able to render these challenging pieces well. As an easier alternative, chants of the Graduale Simplex are recommended.

Geez… for the life of me I can’t figure how he overlooked all of this. Oh well… on to the section on instruments. The reviewer writes:

I find it very insightful that under the second heading, “Instruments”, the first one listed, and by implication the most important, is the human voice.

Yes, it is the first instrument listed. It is discussed for a total of 2 sentences in this context. The next instrument listed is the organ, discussed for slightly more than a full page. No mention of that in the review though….

But it is his statement “and by implication the most important” that I find fascinating. He seems to be saying that since the document lists the Human Voice first under instruments, it is thereby the most important instrument. Hmm… I find it very insightful that under the first heading, “Different Kinds of Music for the Liturgy”, the first one listed is Gregorian Chant, followed by The Composers and Music of Our Day. Did he miss the implications of that section? Or maybe the section on Participation, where the first type of participation listed is Internal Participation

Even when listening to the various prayers and readings of the Liturgy or to the singing of the
choir, the assembly continues to participate actively as they “unite themselves interiorly to what the ministers or choir sing, so that by listening to them they may raise their minds to God.”

Did the reviewer miss the implication that by being listed first under the heading of participation, that this is perhaps the most important kind of participation? I don’t think he missed it at all. I think he omitted it.

The end of the review draws attention to two other sections that survived from Music in Catholic Worship, the explanation of Progressive Solemnity and the Three-Fold Judgment. These are extolled as “sections that combine to set the context for music that will enable a particular community to express its faith in song in a fitting and meaningful way.” He explains that

“In simple terms, this document reminds us that what is sung and how it is sung makes a very effective and practical means of highlighting the more important liturgical days from those of less solemnity.”

Yes, that would be very simple terms… it also reminds us that the most important music sung during the Mass is the Priest’s Chants and his dialogues with the assembly, followed by the Sanctus, memorial and Amen. After that, the Antiphons and Psalms, refrains and responses such as the Kyrie and Agnus Dei, and lastly, the least important music in the liturgy are the hymns sung by the assembly. Maybe that couldn’t be explained in simple terms. Or maybe he just left it out because it doesn’t fit the idea that the assembly is the most important part of the Mass. That got omitted too.

All in all, this review is transparent. But what would we expect from OCP? Can we honestly expect them to look out for the good of the liturgy? Would they gladly put themselves out of business for the sake of the liturgy? Remember, the reviewer says that the music ministers are servant to the assembly. Incredible. One would think that a review of such an important document would point out all of those things that differ from the current norms. Instead, it talks about those things that are the status quo, and that’s it. All of the rest is omitted.

And one more thing. The reviewer…. The Most Reverend Ronald P. Herzog, Bishop of Alexandria Louisiana. He voted on this document back in November, so don’t even try to say that he doesn’t know what’s in there.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Beating that Horse a Little More...

I had to remove the original posting here... seems the author of the article (or a friend of the author it seems) is using the "copyright" bit to stop commentary. Oh well...

However, their comment on my combox is NOT copyrighted, so let's see what they had to say:

My emphasis and comments

I fail to understand why music in the Catholic Church must have such a narrow definition (such as...?). Our own God is infinite and yet you are saying there is no room for other forms of expression beyond chant and scholas (I did not say that, nor do I believe that). If you attend liturgies in other places such as South America or Africa, you would find a completely different form of expression (true... however they may well be in error as well. Liturgical abuses are not restricted to the U.S.A). Nowhere does it say that artists must be so constricted in their creativity to worship a God that is far bigger than anyone can imagine.(Umm..Tra le Solicitudini, Musicae Sacrae, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Musica Sacra, Liturgiam Authenticam, Sacramentum Caritatis.. as well as numerous writing by our current Holy Father.)

I personally love chant. I've been a member of choirs over the years. I know that the Vatican prefers chant most especially for the liturgy. But we aren't at liturgy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are out in the world most of the time and it's hard sometimes to stay connected to our God with all the distractions the world provides (precisely... so placing our faith within the context of such distraction is the answer?). Popular forms of music are a wonderful way to stay connected to our faith and even feed it and share it with others (I would strongly disagree). It's something you can take with you in your car, your mp3 player, or it can just play in your head. I could go on and on how much my faith life has been fed by contemporary music with lyrics about the Catholic faith. (and it has shaped your faith into a particular form)

I have to say that I personally know the writer of the article you printed on your blog. He works tirelessly and donates so much time to this effort of promoting Catholic (pop) music. He has a very large family and a responsible job at a university and yet finds the time to work with Critical Mass, and work with people such as those involved with the Eucharistic Congress. Critical Mass is an excellent band and has inspired many young people to worship our Lord (but it has inspired them to worship HOW... ?). It is too bad that the committee could not work a little harder to find a place to them to play at the Congress.

You mention why Critical Mass didn't suggest themselves directly as band to perform. If you are offering to help someone promote an event, don't you think it's a little crass to promote your own band in the process? (not at all... most of the bands there would have done so in an instant) It was obvious that Critical Mass was a viable choice and the committee was well aware of their work. I think the committee could have done better by them.

Also, please note that this story was reprinted on your blog without our permission (and has been removed... my apologies). There is a copyright at the bottom of this and all stories that requires that you email the editor for permission to post a story before doing so:

© Copyright 2008 GrapeVine. Permission to copy or reprint this story must be obtained by writing to Used by permission.

Since the story was already here, I figured I might as well comment on it. (thanks).


So there we have it. Yes, of course I understand that this was not intended to be in the context of Mass, although certainly MC Marini's role in organizing the Eucharistic Congress certainly wouldn't rule that OUT! The point I was making, that was sorta sidestepped in this comment, was that there is a disjunct between the message of Catholicism and the medium of Rock Music. I wish I had said it first, but Pope Benedict XVI beat me to the punch in "Liturgy and Church Music". His analysis of why the medium of Rock Music is incompatible not only with Catholic worship, but with the entire message of the Catholic faith should be read by any and all "Catholic Rockers" who truly believe that what they are doing is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The conclusion is that, well, not all spirits that inspire are holy.

If you, the commentor, are reading this, I would urge you to click on the above link and read what he has to say about what you are doing. The problem is, obedience is perhaps the most trying of virtues.

From the Horse's Mouth...

Sometimes one just has to get information "from the source" as they say...

This from an interview with Dan Schutte at the "Grapevine" blog... I wonder if they actually listened to what he was saying at this point...

My songwriting process can be different for different pieces. Sometimes it begins with a melody. Often it will begin with a single line of text that I use to begin to create a melody. As the music will often run beyond the snippet of text that I have, I then have to fill in the rest of the lyrics. As a piece comes together I will play and sing it many times over looking for places that don’t feel quite right. This is where, I suspect, the creative intuition enters the process in discerning when something is just right or not. I will often have to work at certain places in the music or lyrics until I discover what feels right.

Of course there is nothing unusual about this process of song-writing... it's how all pop music is written! Melody first, lyrics invented to fit the melody. Reminds me of Sir Paul McCartney's tale about how he wrote the ballad "Yesterday"... beginning with the lyrics "scrambled eggs", creating a melody from that, then scrapped those words and put in the word "yesterday", and from that "filled in" the rest of the words. An excellent creative process. For pop music.

However, this is the antithesis of sacred music in which the text has primacy, and the music comes from the text. That is the model provided by Gregorian Chant and Polyphony. That is the model that even contemporary sacred music is to follow. Not that it is a "revelation"... but here we have Mr. Schutte admitting that he does just the opposite.

With this process duplicated over and over again by such "composers" (I prefer songwriter), is it any wonder that texts eventually emerge that have nothing whatsoever to do with the Catholic Faith? The point for them is not the words.... it's the melody. A tune. A pretty tune. A singable tune. The words are an afterthought, something to go along with that tune. Who cares what they say, as long as they sound nice.

Thank you Mr. Schutte, et al....

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Pope Speaks (again) about The Organ

While at Castlegandolfo, The Holy Father addressed a group from Regensburg who had come to visit him. The following comes from the Vatican News Service:

VATICAN CITY, 5 JUL 2008 (VIS) - This morning in Castelgandolfo, the HolyFather received a group of pilgrims from Regensburg, Germany. In brief remarks to them, the Pope recalled the "marvellous day" inSeptember 2006 when he blessed the new organ - the "Benedikt-Orgel" - in the"Alte Kapelle" of Regensburg, of which his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger,was once director.
"I have an indelible memory", said the Holy Father, "of how - in the harmony of that wonderful organ, of the choir conducted by Mr Kohlhaufel, and the luminous beauty of the church - we experienced the joy that comes from God. Not just the 'spark of the Gods' of which Schiller speaks, but truly the flame of the Holy Spirit which brought us to feel in our innermost being what we also know from the Gospel of St. John: that He Himself is joy.And this joy was communicated to us".

Benedict XVI spoke of his contentment "that this organ continues to play and so helps people to perceive something of the splendour of our faith; a splendour ignited by the Holy Spirit Himself. Thus the organ has an evangelising role, in its own way it announces the Gospel".

It always picques my curiosity when the Holy Father makes off-the-cuff comments like this. This reminds me of his comments to the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music last November, when he touched on very much the same thing, the evangelizing power of sacred music. At that time, the suggestion was made by Msgr. Miserachs that a curial office for Sacred Music may be a good idea. Then all went quiet on the topic. Now it re-emerges during Benedict's time away.

Just seems curious.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Wars and Rumors of Wars

Signs of the endtimes? So we're told, and if that's the case, we may be heading that way. If there is any truth to the rumors that began circulating a few days ago, we're in for the Mother of All Liturgy Wars (MOALW), as it was "leaked" in the Italian Press by a "source close to the Vatican" that there may be an effort originating from the Holy See and the CDWDS to mandate that the consecration formula as well as other sacramental formulae for Baptisms, Confirmation and confession be said in Latin. During Mass. Everywhere in the World. Including the US.

Call me a sceptic, but I think this might not be too well received in some circles. There have also been numerous comments across the blogs that this seems to far "out there" to be anything but a wild rumor. While I agree that it is a bold move, I for one think that this may well be coming our way. Why? Because this is an issue that Benedict has spoken about often in his writings and statements, and it is a move which he has good reason to make at this time.

Consider the convergence of several disparate events: The issue of discussions with the SSPX regarding a return to full communion, the recent re-introduction of communion kneeling received on the tongue at Papal Masses and the One Year anniversary of Summorum Pontificum. Each of these events, decidedly important, would have been considered highly unlikely only a short while ago. They are all tied closely to the issue of a return to tradition. And, they are all connected to issues that arose from the "hermeneutic of rupture" that Benedict has spoken about in relation to the post Vatican II liturgy.

So too for the issue of the Latin language at Mass. In Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict spoke at length about the importance of the Latin language, not only as a traditional element of liturgy, but as a way of assuring the proper transmission of the faith. And at no point in the Mass is this so important as in the consecration formula. If there were to be a place in the Mass where the use of Latin for this purpose would be of greatest importance, that would be it. And this consideration, the proper transmission of the faith, is strengthened further by the recent squabbling over the translation of "pro multis" in the Eucharistic Prayer. As the ultimate arbiter of things liturgical, perhaps it is time for the Pope to step in and resolve this issue. That may be what is coming. That and the MOALW.

Monday, June 30, 2008

And The Survey Says....

I was a bit disturbed by this report on the most recent Pew survey, that is until I got to the end....

US Catholics tilt left, Pew survey finds

Washington, Jun. 30, 2008 ( - A newly released study from the Pew Forum shows that many self-described American Catholics ignore Church teachings on both theological and social issues.

In March the Pew Forum released the first findings of an ambitious"religious landscape" survey, showing an important demographic shift within American Catholicism, with with younger Catholics less likely to remain active in the Church, while Hispanic immigrants replace many of the "cradle Catholics" who no longer practice the faith. The Pew survey found widespread dissent from Church teaching and a massive exodus from the Catholic Church, concluding that "roughly one-third of those who were raised Catholic have left the church, and approximately one-in-ten American adults are former Catholics."

In its follow-up report, comparing the beliefs and practices of America's major religious groups, the Pew Forum found that 48% of Catholics respondents favor legal abortion (16% in all cases, 32% in most cases), while only 18% agree that abortion should always be illegal. A substantial majority of the Catholics polled-- 58%-- said that society should accept homosexuality.

On theological issues, only 16% of American Catholics believe that the Church is the one true means of salvation, the Pew Forum found. (By comparison, 36% of the Evangelical respondents chose that answer.) An overwhelming 79% of the Catholics said that many different faiths could lead to eternal life.

I will interject for a moment here...and so I wondered... how could this be? Are faithful Catholics really this far gone?? Then came the punchline...

The Pew Forum survey did not make a distinction between active and lapsed Catholics. In fact, 48% of the respondents who identified themselves as Catholics said that they attended Mass "a few times a year" or even less frequently.

The Pew survey demonstrated an apparent liberal tilt in the political views of American Catholics. Although 36% of those surveyed described themselves as conservatives, and only 18% as liberals, a slim majority (51%) favored more government programs and 60% supported stronger environment laws. About one-third (33%) of the respondents said that they favored the Republican party, while nearly half (48%) favored the Democrats.

And so.. when the pew survey wants to find out what Catholics think and believe they ask... former Catholics? Were the members of other faiths interviewed "former members" of those groups? I doubt it.

This opens up the age old argument about what IS a Catholic anyway. Can someone who supports abortion, finds no moral objection to homosexuality, does not believe that the Church is the means of salvation and only attends Mass a few times a year (Christmas and Easter I'm guessing) really claim to be Catholic? I doubt that too.

My Three Predictions about Sacred Music: UPDATE

Last November, before the Bishops composed and voted on the new guidelines, I wrote an article containing three predictions for what would be happening with Sacred Music at 6 months, 12 months and 18 months in the future. At that time I said that I would check back and see how things are turning out....

The prediction for 6 months:

There is going to be a transformation of the discussion/ debate concerning music at Mass within 6 months.
Further still, there is going to be a radical transformation of this issue and how it is discussed. The transformation will become apparent this next week with the Bishop’s vote on Sing To The Lord: Music In Divine Worship, although I will qualify that by saying it is not the document itself that will bring about the transformation. Rather, this document is going to serve as a kind of epitaph for the last 40 years of liturgical music, putting a good face on it and speaking lovingly while affirming that it has passed on, paving the way for what will follow. The key feature of this document is that it will affirm that the directives of the Second Vatican Council concerning music need to be clarified, and that future development of music needs to be guided by the principles set forth in the council documents themselves.

Ok... this was certainly the most vague of my three predictions, but remember that it was made before the new music document was made public. Has there been a "transformation"of the discussion about Sacred Music? Consider the following:

  • November 9th 2007: Msgr. Miserachs hints that there may be a curial office for Sacred Music in the works and that "a pontifical office with authority over sacred music would correct the abuses that have occurred in this area"
  • December 6th 2007: The USCCB announces the new music document Sing To The Lord: Music in Divine Worship. Although this document is not everything that some would have liked, it is HUGE in terms of political impact on the status quo. With MCW, as vague as it was, there was a sense of "official approval" for the continued movement away from the Church's traditional music in favor of a "people's music" approach. The new guidelines make it difficult to infer such an approval in the future, with prominent statements on the use of Latin language in the liturgy, a statement regarding a minimum repertoire of Gregorian Chant ordinary settings that EVERY assembly should know, extended discussion of Antiphons at Mass and how they should be used, a strong statement about the importance of the presider's chants and the "sung Mass" model being preferred over the current "spoken Mass with hymns". All of these points and others made in SttL refute the general direction of progressive liturgists and in a sense put them in opposition to the official position of the USCCB. The new vision laid out in SttL is, in a sense, a considerable change in direction for liturgical music, albeit one that may take several years to have real impact.
  • The Masses at D.C Nationals Stadium and St. Patrick's Cathedral. The Pope's visit to the United States in April created an atmosphere in which the usually rarified and esoteric discussions about liturgical music suddely were thrust onto the pages of the New York Times and mainstream news services. Two of the "mega-liturgies", D.C Nationals Stadium and St. Patrick's created an easy comparison, so obvious that even those not normally concerned with liturgical music made note of the differences. The verdict.... Il Papa was not pleased with the music at DC, while he was obviously overjoyed with the Mass at St. Patrick's. Later, the Mass at Yankee Stadium prominently featured beautiful hymnody, Gregorian Chant selections, appropriate psalmody and the unusual occurance of 30, 000 faithful singing the Credo III in Latin together. I doubt such a public Mass would have been possible even two years ago...

So is there a transformation of the discussion about Sacred Music taking place? I think there is, although it is a difficult thing to put a finger on at this point. Consider that the Winter-Spring edition of the OCP Journal Today's Liturgy bore the foreboding title Music in a Time of Change.

...and of course, when OCP says there is change happening we can be assured that it's for real!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Threefold Judgment Revisited

During a discussion this past week on the merits and shortcomings of the new music document, Sing To The Lord: Music In Divine Worship, the issue of the retained “Three-Fold Judgment” of music for use in the liturgy came up. It is generally considered to be a problematic, if not actually destructive element of the new document. This facet of STTL was held over from Music in Catholic Worship, where it had the effect within the document of permitting virtually ANY style of music which was, at a minimum, at least music. As such, it’s inclusion in STTL might seem to be a sort of “deal breaker” for those who were hoping for a set of guidelines with some direction to them. However, in light of the context in which this document exists, it does not have to be seen in this way, but can instead be seen as an argument in favor of the Church’s traditional music.

The problem with the Three-Fold Judgment as was outlined in MCW was the criteria to be used. In the context of MCW, where active participation was the criteria for all liturgical judgments, one was left evaluating music based on its suitability for group singing, with all other considerations being secondary. This had the effect, maybe unintended, maybe not, of effectively eliminating that very music that was proclaimed as a “great treasure” of the Church, Gregorian Chant. In its place, more simplistic songs modeled on popular songs were judged more suitable because of their supposed suitability for being sung by the assembly. Of course, the reality was that much of this music was more difficult than most of the Gregorian music intended to be sung by the assembly, with the result being that Gregorian Chant was replaced by music that was less suitable liturgically and musically.

Sing To The Lord: Music In Divine Worship maintains the Three-Fold Judgment, but within a new context. In the new document there are significant differences in the criteria laid out for evaluating both the textual content and the musical aspects of liturgical music. At the outset of SttL, the concept of active participation is discussed at length, with greater importance being given to “interior participation” and only secondary consideration given to participation through singing. This is no small difference. The emphasis on interior participation, drawing people into prayer, would tend to favor music of greater depth, and would mitigate against the kind of simplicity and banality too often found in music modeled on popular song models. The “lowest denominator” criteria that was proposed in MCW has been replaced by a description of active participation more in line with that written about in Benedict XVI’s writings, and more in line with that described in Sacrosanctum Concilium and Musicam Sacram. Although the “Three-Fold Judgment” remains, the criteria for judging has changed.

Of course, this assumes a very thorough reading of SttL, as well as some familiarity with Sacrosanctum Concilium, Musicam Sacram and the relevant writings of Pope Benedict XVI. It also assumes a willingness on the part of Pastors and musicians to begin looking at liturgy with a “hermeneutic of continuity” as has been said so often in the writings of Benedict XVI. Happily however, there is a renewed energy towards reform, perhaps enough to encourage and support some serious thought about sacred music.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Some Thoughts on Mutual Enrichment

The recent statement by His Emminence Cardinal Castillon Hoyos to the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales has caused considerable comment these past few days. On the one hand, his statements bode very well for the traditionalists… that Pope Benedict desires that the Extraordinary Form Mass be offered in every parish is in itself an incredible revelation to be made public by a highly placed official in the Vatican. This alone has given energy and hope to the many who would like to see the Church move towards this type of reform.

What has caused some consternation, on the other hand, is the continued position expressed that there should be mutual enrichment of the two forms of the liturgy. What does this mean exactly? The Cardinal’s exact words in regard to this issue:

This brings me to my third point. You are rightly convinced that the usus antiquior is not a museum piece, but a living expression of Catholic worship. If it is living, we must also expect it to develop. Our Holy Father is also of this conviction. As you know, he chose motu proprio – that is on his own initiative – to alter the text of the prayer pro Iudæis in the Good Friday liturgy. The intention of the prayer was in no way weakened, but a formulation was provided which respected sensitivities.

Likewise, as you also know, Summorum Pontificum has also provided for the Liturgy of the Word to be proclaimed in the vernacular without being first read by the celebrant in Latin. Today’s Pontifical Mass, of course, will have the readings solemnly chanted in Latin, but for less solemn celebrations the Liturgy of the Word may be proclaimed directly in the language of the people. This is already a concrete instance of what our Holy Father wrote in his letter accompanying the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum:

"the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal. The “Ecclesia Dei” Commission, in contact with various bodies devoted to the usus antiquior, will study the practical possibilities in this regard."

Naturally we will be happy for your input in this important matter. I simply ask you not to be opposed in principle to the necessary adaptation which our Holy Father has called for.

This brings me to another important point. I am aware that the response of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” with regard to the observance of Holy Days of obligation has caused a certain amount of disturbance in some circles. It should be noted that the dates of these Holy Days remain the same in both the Missal of 1962 and the Missal of 1970. When the Holy See has given the Episcopal Conference of a given country permission to move certain Holy Days to the following Sunday, this should be observed by all Catholics in that country. Nothing prevents the celebration of the Feast of the Ascension, for example, on the prior Thursday, but it should be clear that this is not a Mass of obligation and that the Mass of the Ascension should also be celebrated on the following Sunday. This is a sacrifice which I ask you to make with joy as a sign of your unity with the Catholic Church in your country.

Ok…. If we agree that there will need to be some compromise and mutual enrichment for the two forms of the Roman Rite to co-exist in a living worship environment, and that should be agreed upon, then there isn’t much to argue about in the Cardinal’s statement. But where is the mutual in this mutual enrichment?

A popular radio personality has repeatedly noted that in the political arena, when we talk about “reaching across the aisle”, such reaching almost always goes one-way, and that to liberals, compromise consists of the conservative position caving in to the demands of the liberal position. So far, the same can be observed in our situation (N.B- I am not suggesting here that the OF is a “liberal” liturgy and the EF is a “conservative” liturgy, only that the same principle applies as regards compromise).

For instance, in the above passage from the Cardinal’s address he outlines a number of ways in which the Extraordinary Form will need to adopt the practices of the Ordinary Form liturgy, including proclaiming the Liturgy of the Word in the vernacular, accepting the changes to the prayer pro Iudæis in the Good Friday Liturgy, and transferring the Holy Day obligations to the following Sunday when this is the applicable law in the diocese. So far, it’s all going one-way…

What about bringing some aspects of the Extraordinary Form into the Ordinary Form? There are some very obvious and meaningful ways that would not even require any actual changes in the law regarding the Novus Ordo. The issue of ad orientem would be the most logical starting point, followed by perhaps the reception of communion on the tongue. These are both issues that have been in the forefront lately, and it seems that Pope Benedict supports both of these practices becoming the norm in the Novus Ordo. Requiring both of these practices in the OF would be a sign of actual compromise, and meaningful mutual enrichment.

The problem I see is that, while it is mandated that the EF must use the new Good Friday Prayer, and it is mandated that the Holy Day obligation has to be transferred to the following Sunday, it is only suggested (and not even in writing) that ad orientem is permitted in the Novus Ordo, and it is encouraged, but only by example, that communion may be given on the tongue. Why not take the same position with these issues as with the Holy Day obligation issue and just mandate that Mass will be said ad orientem in the Ordinary Form, and mandate that communion will be distributed on the tongue? This would go a long way towards bringing the two forms closer, and would eliminate the confusion about the status of these practices in both forms. If these are only going to be suggested in the Ordinary Form, then it should be only suggested that the new Good Friday Prayer be used, and only encouraged that the Holy Day Obligation be moved to the following Sunday in the Extraordinary Form.

If there are truly going to be two forms of the same rite, then these forms need to be treated equally. Until real mutual enrichment begins to take place, and I do believe that we will begin to see some required changes in the NO, then there will continue to be suspicion among traditionalists that they are being asked to give- give- give, while the NO is allowed to continue unchanged. If allowed to build, such suspicion will only further divide us into separate camps, and discourage any further willingness to “reach across the aisle”…

Monday, June 16, 2008

Greetings to the CMAA Colloquium...

I just returned to my home in Florida two days ago from the Chant Intensive, and was not able to stay the extra week for the colloquium. My wife and I are already planning to attend next year though. To all of those who are taking part in the colloquium this week, greetings! I am anxiously awaiting to hear some first hand reports on the week's activities from those who are there.

Statement from Cardinal Hoyos

This from an article in the Telegraph (UK) via WDTPRS:

"Asked whether the Latin Mass would be celebrated in many ordinary parishes in future, Cardinal Castrillon said: “Not many parishes – all parishes. The Holy Father is offering this not only for the few groups who demand it, but so that everybody knows this way of celebrating the Eucharist.”

And from this statement, and others he has made in the past few months, a theory has arisen that there is some sort of TLM "mandate" on the way.

I don't know.... such a thing certainly could be possible, but if so, it isn't being indicated in this statement at least. In this case, Cardinal Hoyos seems to be expressing his view that the TLM will eventually be present in all parishes in the future. How far in the future? It doesn't say. Perhaps he is thinking 20 years.... 50 years... 100 years?

The article in the Telegraph also makes another rather bold statement:

In addition, all seminaries will be required to teach trainee priests how to say the old Mass so that they can celebrate it in all parishes. Catholic congregations throughout the world will receive special instruction on how to appreciate the old services, formerly known as the Tridentine Rite.

Did Cardinal Hoyos say this, or is this some leap of logic being put forward by Damien Thompson who is known for his zeal for the TLM? We will have to wait and see.

Let's assume for a moment that Cardinal Hoyos DID say something to this effect. He has made such statements before, indicating that seminaries will be required to teach the TLM. This DOESN'T mean that every seminarian will have to learn it, but just that the seminary will HAVE to offer it. Still an option. The issue of Catholic congregations receiving instruction is more interesting however. I will try to find the actual article from November of 2006 (I remember it well though) about a committee which would be developing a DVD based instructional program to be distributed to all parishes with the release of the new Missal translation.

Is this the same thing... no, but such a program IS being developed for the Missal translation, and it wouldn't be out of the question to distribute such a "mandatory" catechetical program in parishes for the TLM. It is done quite frequently these days. The Bishops Faith Appeal. Protecting God's Children. If as much effort was put into teaching the faithful about the TLM as is spent educating them on the importance of giving to the Faith Appeal or the need to be vigilant about pedophile janitors, CCD Teachers, choir members and volunteer ushers (oddly, Priests were never mentioned in the program I had to attend), then we would all be wise to buy stock in the company that makes chapel veils.

Again, it's a case of "wait and see".... maybe there is something brewing. We are still waiting for the clarification document on Summorum Pontificum. Maybe it was decided to go in a different direction given the attitude of some Bishops. Maybe the Holy See truly desires that the TLM be present in every parish, gave Bishops the chance to move on it and is now taking the next step. Maybe there is something going on that we don't know about out here in the blogosphere. There are so many possibilities that even an educated guess is one in a million.

What we can do is be thankful for the developments that HAVE taken place, and continue to pray for the Church. Nothing will happen overnight. Then again, we could wake up tomorrow to.... who knows? These are strange times.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An interesting snippett...

While researching a source for another article, I came across this little bit from Sacrosanctum Concilium:

"Let bishops carefully remove from the house of God and from other sacred places those works of artists which are repugnant to faith, morals, and Christian piety, and which offend true religious sense either by depraved forms or by lack of artistic worth, mediocrity and pretense."

Depraved forms? Mediocrity? Pretense? Repugnant to faith? Offend true religious sense? Who would create such things to use in the church? Let's all be thankful that our ever vigilant Bishops have removed all such art from the house of God!

Now excuse me while I go find the music for "Table of Plenty" for Mass this weekend....

Can Catholic laity save Sacred Music?

A few more thoughts that have arisen during the Chant Intensive this week. It has been an inspiring, if not exhausting week so far, and a lot has been accomplished in a short time. However.... something very strange happened on the way to the Chant Intensive.... and whatever it was must have swallowed up ALL of the Priests and Deacons that should be attending this week. Given the importance of Gregorian Music to the liturgy, and the interest in liturgy that has been generated by the events of the past two years, one would think that more Priests and Deacons would be interested in investigating this thing called "Chant" that was skipped over in Seminary.

No such luck though... it looks like the laity are on their own in this struggle, at least for now. Which leads to my question of the day... Can Catholic laity save sacred music? Sacred music has needed saving before. The monestaries were the repository of tradition for centuries, and preserved and developed the chant tradition in it's proper environment... The Divine Office. The liturgical movement of the early 20th century brought chant back into prominence in the Church's liturgy outside the monestary, with help from the top in the form of a certain Motu Proprio from Pius X. The Vatican even went so far as to set up the Pontifical Academy for the study and promotion of Sacred Music, and approved and distributed books and materials, and followed up with additional legislation to support the implementation of this restoration.

Today we have no less daunting a task than did the monestaries of the middle ages, or the liturgical movement of the early 20th century. However, the current task is made all the more daunting by the lack of assistance from the Church. It's almost like the benevolent stranger who tries to help some poor soul who neither appreciates nor wants their help. Not only do you not get thanks, but you actually have to fight them to help them. It seems like something of an uphill battle to restore Sacred Music to a Church that won't get behind the effort. And with the Church silent on this issue, the effort all falls on the laity who are working from a position of weakness.

Can the laity save sacred music? The answer may be "yes", but then the question becomes "how long will we be willing to keep trying". Even the most fanatical advocates will draw the line at some point if their efforts aren't acknowledged and rewarded.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Being Careful Not To Compare

I awoke this morning in time to get to morning Mass at John Cantius (it's about 20 minutes from Loyola where the chant workshop is going on), not too difficult since my body is still on "Eastern" time, but my clock is on "Central", so everything seems an hour later to me! I caught about the last 10 minutes of the Canons Regular (about 20 of them) saying morning prayer together with antiphonal psalmody. Nice!

It was difficult to not keep thinking of whether it would be possible to get a liturgical program like this going in parishes across the country, and if so, then how? While driving back to campus, I came up with a few thoughts on the subject that, while not the most optimistic, at least lays out the areas that I think need the most work.

To begin with, despite the elaborate and magnificent structure that is St. John Cantius, that's not what's responsible. There are magnificent Churches across the country, many of which do not present the liturgy well. And it is not necessarily that they have made the decision to make use of both Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the liturgy. That too is a part, but again, there are parishes across the country, and increasingly so, that make use of both forms.

No, it was while sitting in the church watching the Canons Regular recite Morning Prayer together that the real reason was made obvious. It begins with a decision by the Priests. Not a decision to try and do what the parishioners want, but to do what the Church requires. Not to try and shape the liturgy according to peoples lives and schedules, but to shape the peoples lives and schedules according to the liturgy.

From this, everything else comes... the beautiful art and architecture (what the Liturgy requires), the beautiful music (what the liturgy requires), the attention to daily prayer and devotions (what the liturgy requires)... it all begins with that decision to SUBMIT to the Church rather than trying to shape it to our convenience, to be like children and do as we are told.

This decision will be a long time coming in many parishes, and until it is made, those who try to bring beautiful art and architecture, beautiful music and adherence to tradions will be fighting the administration every step of the way. It's not really possible to compare one parish with another, or to criticize a parish for not having "gotten on the bandwagon" or "with the program"... in some places it really is not yet possible. That decision hasn't been made.

Pray for Our Priests...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mass at St. John Cantius

Being in Chicago on a Sunday morning has it's advantages... Mass at St. John Cantius. I don't really know what to say except to thank God for such a place, and to pray that there shall be more and more places like it.

After Mass (The 12:30PM Tridentine Mass), the thought ocurred to me that the best way to dispel the many, many misconceptions, protestations and criticisms of the "Old Mass" (Priest turning his back, not being able to understand what's going on, no participation from the assembly) is to simply go to Mass. Particularly go to a beautiful and so carefully prepared and executed Mass such as one finds at John Cantius. You would be hard pressed to say you don't understand what's going on... that is entirely clear! The direction that the Priest faces seems not only natural, but is demanded by the action of the Mass. And given the faces of the people in the pews, riveted, yes riveted, to what was taking place before them, and responding when called to, I would dare anyone to say that they were not participating in this sacrifice.

The logic of the liturgy is laid bare before us in the "Old Mass"... tghe role of beauty, the role of silence, the role of the Priest and the role of the faithful are all so obvious, that for a moment, I very uncharitably thought "What were they thinking, God, what were they thinking to change this?" And the reason suddenly became clear why Pope Benedict has taken the path that he has with the liturgy... for the first time in a long time, I felt Catholic, I felt that this is what we are supposed to be. These things we call "tradition" aren't old worn out relics. They are what we are supposed to be.

St. Mary's Kalamazoo Workshop

What a day! In a small converted gymnasium in Kalamazoo MI, you could find Fr. Rob Johansen ("Thrown Back" blog), Jeffrey Tucker (NLM) and Fr. Z (WDTPRS) and, well, me too (Chironomo's Podium, Authentic Update).... all there for the cause of CHANT! It was truly incredible and encouraging to see so many people, directors, cantors and choir members coming together to learn about Sacred Music. We are moving forward, I am assured of that now. How long it will take depends on us, and on the grace of God.

Just for the record, I am at a Dunkin' Donuts (I am NOT a "Starbuck's fan) across the street from my hotel in downtown Chicago. It looks like I'll be able to go to the 12:30PM Mass at John Cantius, which I am really looking forward to. After all the bad weather here last night (Tornadoes, etc...) the weather is beautiful. It seems to always be the most beautiful after a storm. Maybe that's a sign....