Wednesday, June 11, 2008

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.

No comments: