Friday, March 31, 2006

please, don’t beat around the bush.....

I mean, that’s just awesome. If only we could all get away with speaking our minds so clearly.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

this gender-neutering is out of hand....
“Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked”

The Lectionary has:
“Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked”

I read somewhere that this has Christological significance....yes/no? But, apparently it’s more important not to say a “man” is blessed than to allow Christological references in the Psalms.

Thank GOD for Rome’s putting their foot down on this garbage.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dialogue 3

> The URLs you forwarded are all familiar. Adoremus - I
> respect what they
> do, but I don't like a lot of their arguments.

Such as? They always make sure to have documentation behind them so I'd be surprised to hear what arguments you take issue with. You don't find the arguments compelling or you don't LIKE them?

The things I recall reading in responses to Letters to the Editor of their bulletin always seemed to have an air of false musical authority. Kinda like people who don't *actually* know music but dismiss Haugen et al. at face-value. For example, Haugen "Let All the Earth" is pretty
harmonically adventuresome - definitely steps beyond Carey Landrey.

And I suppose I'd have to confess a bit more empathy with the "other side" than I had back in the day. It's hard to ignore the enthusiasm with which so many *do* take to "Be Not Afraid". It would seem there's a conflict of interest now regarding following liturgical norms versus pastoral

And, I think the problem is bigger than music. It's that the Church no longer has the element of profundity it seems to have had in generations past. I think that's why religion is a hard sell to so many 20-something Catholics. A big reason for this, yeah, is the cheapening of the music.
(I mean, geez, *I* pass as a church organist??) But it's the whole deal, I think. And we can't just *boom!* switch back because that's not the way to care for people who have grown accustomed to the "McDonald's liturgy". Even the idea of "switch back" wouldn't be wise because, while there was beauty and profundity in old-skool liturgies, the participation of the assembly just wasn't there (from what I hear), and that's a big thing we want.

When I compare scholarly writing from pre-WW2 and the modern day, I'm struck by how much more "poetic" and subjective the older scholarship is. Opinions of aesthetic quality and such are stated as fact, etc. People today, at least the ones who actively engage their world in thought,
are much more scrupulous and less inclined to believe something. The Church
is thus doubly at a disadvantage, having pushed aside a lot of its profundity and elegance for the sake of accessibility.


A quick comment on the Haugen "Let All the Earth": harmonically adventuresome; yes . . . easily singable for a congregation; eh. Heck, I have trouble personally singing that low A; and then having to ascend a 10th in the next couple of measures is just not easy for an untrained congregation who is also seated.

Well, ok - I'll give you that the range is awkward.

And that's the kid of irresponsible composing that drives me nuts about these guys. Look at "We Are Called": why in the name of all that's holy would Haas put that in the key of A?

Because he's a tenor, and he can sing it that way! The guy's a performer, not a liturgist.

Drop it down to G so people can actually sing it! The tessitura is too high for my congregation as well as those high E's in the beginning. Not to mention some of the rhythmic discrepancies between verses; I can't get my choir to agree on the rhythms, much less the congregation. I think Thomas Day was right on when he criticized these contemporary composers who insist on making these songs hard for the average joe.

The real sign of the times, I think, is Spirit & Song 2. Look at the advertisements: "all new songs!" ...... Great! Let me put it in our pews and watch no one sing it except the choir!

>>And I suppose I'd have to confess a bit more empathy
>>with the "other side"
>>than I had back in the day. It's hard to ignore the
>>enthusiasm with which
>>so many *do* take to "Be Not Afraid". It would seem
>>there's a conflict of
>>interest now regarding following liturgical norms
>>versus pastoral
You bet. It seems to me that we've been feeding these people candy for 35 years and when we want to give them some meat and potatoes, they don't want it. If you give your kid soda and chips all the time, they won't want the steak that you cooked for dinner; our congregations are the same way. We can say, "Look at how wonderful this hymn is! This chant just helps lift up your hearts in prayer like nothing else!" and they respond, "Why haven't we done 'On Eagle's Wings' this month yet?" They LOVE crap like that!!! Dang, "On Eagle's Wings" is harder to sing than most of the literature I sang in college and they would sing it every week if I planned it that way! (BTW, I don't plan it that way; I almost NEVER do that piece)

*Well*.....the refrain is easy enough to sing, the low A's notwithstanding. The verse is tricky, but that fits with the idea of soloist on the verse with a congregational response. Ps. 91, that one is; it actually gets used as a responsorial for funerals around here, I think.

I was thinking not long seems what we're both saying is that congregational music needs not to have a "life of its own" in the liturgy, that it should be neutral as far as style. I don't care to sing Spirit & Song, and Sally Q. Freckles might hate singing "All Creatures of Our God and King". It's hard, I think, to like or dislike chant musically because it's *so* different, and it's completely guided by text.

Now please don't get me wrong; I *do* enjoy some contemporary stuff. I really like the Haugen "Taste and See" (GC 47) and I like some Haas stuff as well . . . but if it all disappeared one day and was replaced by some good ol' protestant hymns and chant, I wouldn't be too sad to
see it go.

And.....I bet the ones who'd kick and scream the most are the ones who were our age when it came into vogue. (The ones who *didn't* leave the Church after V2.)


Added by Cantor: I also imagine now that there’s a segment of people who identified so strongly with the music they grew up singing (G&P) that they would also leave the Church if we jettisoned Schutte & Co. (And, thank God, “On Eagle’s Wings” is not sung as a resp. psalm at my parish!)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

of dogs, tails, and homilies

Our pastor takes pains to make available his homilies so that I may plan music around them. This struck me as a little weird when I first encountered it; I’ve always just planned music according to the readings. Lately I’ve also started consulting the Propers of the Mass and treating them as models for texts to choose to be sung during the processionals (entrance, offertory, communion).

Thomas Day would look at this as an example of the Mass becoming “the priest’s show”, I imagine: that a priest would expect me to plan music around the words he subjectively (and fallibly) speaks in the Mass.

There are two things that come to mind here. For one, this is actually contrary to the guidelines for homilies in the GIRM, which give the following:
65. The homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.
So, the homily is an exposition of Scripture, the Ordinary, or the Proper. In other words, the homily is based off the sung texts, not vice-versa. Of course, this presumes that the sung texts are those from the Proper - which is not the norm nowadays.

The other thing that comes to mind is how “Protestant” this concept is, that the liturgy revolves around the homily. In an “ideal Mass”, subjectivity is kept to a minimum, and the liturgy itself is given maximum opportunity to catechize. (sp?) The more subjectivity there is, the more opportunity there is for our own human weakness to detract from the lessons in Scripture, the Ordinary, and the Proper.

“If I had my mouth”, I’d argue to my pastor that the homily and (option 4) musical texts, being both subjective decisions, have no interdependence. Of course, he wouldn’t take kindly to this: he’s still got his mind in liturgical reform, wants to renovate our church to have everyone facing radially. He doesn’t realize that our generation is busy picking up the pieces from their “reform”.

This all being said, my pastor’s homilies are generally well-done, even for being (literally) read word-for-word from a piece of paper.

Fauré Requiem offertory modification

Did anyone ever notice that the words “omnium fidelium” (all the faithful) are missing from Fauré’s offertory in the Requiem?

I know he took issue with “Dies iræ”; maybe he likewise disagreed with praying for “the faithful”, rather than just “the souls of the dead”?

An Open Letter to Liturgical Ministers

A few months ago, I noticed a couple of our EME's heading in the back to clean up before the recessional hymn had finished. It's happened a few more times and I took the opportunity of our parish's "Liturgical Ministry Day" to compose the following. I decided at the last minute against distributing it, and just asked our pastor to voice the concern to all assembled instead.

This is nothing profound; just something I whipped up in about a half an hour.


An Open Letter to the Liturgical Ministers of St. XXX

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for all that you do for this parish. Your contribution is greatly appreciated and we are very blessed at this parish to have so many volunteers willing to give of their time and talents. In the following, I have voiced some concerns I have in regards to music here at St. XXX. Please ponder these thoughts and discern how you may be able to respond to my requests.

1. I encourage all liturgical ministers, as representatives of St. XXX, to participate in all sung responses and hymns. We lift our voices in praise of God and each person that unites his or her voice with that of the worshipping community is said to "pray twice", in the words of St. Augustine.

2. If request number one is asking too much, I encourage each liturgical minister to open up their hymnal when everyone else is singing and to pray the text of the hymn with the rest of the community. Many of the texts of the hymns we sing during mass contain wonderful liturgical poetry that can enhance our understanding of God and His love for all creation. Please do not deny yourself the opportunity to participate in these prayers with the rest of the congregation.

3. If both of these requests are not likely to be heeded, I would greatly urge you, at the very least, to remain in your pews until the Recessional hymn has concluded. It has come to my attention that some of our ministers, for whatever reason, make haste to leave after the priest has passed by during the end of mass. Though it is your right to continue this practice, as persons of free will, I would highly discourage it for the following reasons:

--It sets a bad example for the rest of the community. As ministers that are visible to the rest of the congregation, you are seen to be persons of holiness, and therefore people that will be held to a higher standard than others, whether consciously or unconsciously. Therefore, when you do not participate in the singing at mass and even worse, leave during the singing of the recessional hymn to clean up or what not, you say with your actions that "music is not an important part of the Holy Mass, and therefore, my participation, as well as yours, is completely optional." This makes my job very difficult, as one who has devoted his life to the realm of sacred music and wishes to encourage the "full, conscious, and active participation" of the whole worshipping community, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council requested.

--Secondly, this practice encourages disunity among the congregation. It is a very frustrating experience, as many of you know, to be the lone person singing in a crowd of worshippers. The sung prayer that we lift to God seems less complete when only a percentage of the congregation is actively participating. Imagine your dismay if only 50 percent of the congregation every week actually spoke the Creed or the Our Father. Jesus prayed that "all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You." (John 17: 21) We strive as Christians to fulfill that hope of Jesus, one in prayer, one in love, one in song.

--Finally, this practice is disrespectful to me. I have trained very hard my whole life to hone my musical skills, and I work to better myself even still. Likewise, I choose the repertoire for mass with great care, trying to reflect the season and the readings in the music that I select. Though I sometimes fail, I always have the best intentions of providing music that is respectful of the Holy Mass and respectful of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am well aware that I do not please everyone all of the time with my choices as that is an impossible task; that being said, I hope that all of you understand that I try my best to fulfill my duties here at St. XXX.

So, when I notice people running for the doors during the recessional hymn, I take it as a personal slight, even though it may not be intended that way. Imagine your anger if you and I were having a conversation and in the middle of one of your sentences I just walked away from you, for seemingly no reason. I encounter that same frustration when the closing hymn is so blatantly disrespected.

I urge you as a fellow brother in Christ Jesus, to dwell on these words and contemplate them. It is not my intention to offend; as an employee of St. XXX, the staff here including myself is very grateful for the time and effort you put in to contribute to the liturgical life here at the parish. Please take these words in the way I meant to present them: with charity.

Sincerely yours in Christ,


Sunday, March 26, 2006

on the Baltimore Catechism

Taking the “solved problem” mentality that I brought up in my last post, it struck me that the Baltimore Catechism represents a sort of “solved problem”: a generally agreed-upon solution to the problem of “what words and methods will we use to teach the faith?”

One nice thing about the Baltimore Catechism was that it provided clear, concise answers to standard questions of faith: what is the Church, what is salvation, who is saved, etc. People are right to point out the shortcomings in pre-V2 catechesis that treated this Catechism as a replacement for Scripture itself; in some places children were forbidden to read the Bible! (Incidentally, I believe 19th century Popes granted indulgences to anyone who read the Bible 15 minutes daily.....the forbidding maybe was a regional aberration.) At the same time, it would be nice to have something like the Baltimore Catechism - a “cheat sheet” for learning the faith, a set of facts that every Catholic should know.

Religion is like math and science: you have to accept a lot of things as fact first, without understanding; then, over time, the understanding comes.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

is the Mass a sacrifice??

This article is a classic example of awful catechesis.

It starts out with saying that the Mass should be considered both meal and sacrifice. Then it spends the rest of its time talking about how it’s a meal. Why is this?

Just a guess, but I would wager that the author of this article is old enough to remember the Vatican II changes and thus identifies with them. He spends all his time talking to a reader who apparently thinks the Mass is just a sacrifice. The problem for someone who, like me, came after Vatican II is that I was never taught that the Mass is a sacrifice. Even in college, our (actually fairly conservative) chaplain told us that the Mass is a re-enactment of the appearance of Jesus to the two women after the Resurrection: they meet, he opens up Scripture to them, they have a meal.

Imagine my surprise to read the words of (someday St.?) Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei:
114. They, therefore, err from the path of truth who do not want to have Masses celebrated unless the faithful communicate; and those are still more in error who, in holding that it is altogether necessary for the faithful to receive holy communion as well as the priest, put forward the captious argument that here there is question not of a sacrifice merely, but of a sacrifice and a supper of brotherly union, and consider the general communion of all present as the culminating point of the whole celebration.
In typical style, P12 then proceeds to denounce the idea that a private Mass is invalid, based on the idea that it is sacrifice, not meal.

The powers-that-be are still more concerned about skirting around traditions of faith than they are about imparting that faith to us.

It did explain a lot, when I learned that the Mass is a sacrifice - for example, why we have a “Mass of the Lord’s Supper” on Holy Thursday. (I used to think, “but isn’t every Mass a re-enactment of the Last Supper?”)

So, the list of (Protestant) hymns that this strikes out from the Mass:
Alleluia, sing to Jesus (“ the Eucharistic feast”)
At That First Eucharist
....any others?

I mean, am I missing something here?

The old Catholic Encyclopedia to the rescue, at least partly. The Mass is definitely a sacrifice.....and it definitely was instituted at the Last Supper. (That’s a very long, thick article.....)

The verdict seems to be that the Mass is a sacrifice that takes the form of a ritual meal. Not unlike how the Eucharist is Christ in the form of ordinary bread and wine, perhaps?

The two hymns I mentioned, it should be borne in mind, were authored by Anglicans. That being said, “At That First Eucharist” is off the hook, it seems. “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus”....not as sure. Episcopalians seem to be more meal-oriented in their definition of Eucharist.

Liturgiam authenticam and tradition

I’ve begun to have a bit of sympathy with those who decry Liturgiam authenticam as unfair.

I mean, imagine that you’re a normal churchgoing Catholic, born after Vatican II. No problems with the status quo, not especially interested in liturgy, but just someone who attends Mass weekly. The only Gloria translation you’ve known is the dubious one we have now, and “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”, if you were to look at the Latin of which the familiar “I confess” presumes to be a translation, would strike you as an oddity, and addition.

In the coming years, it is conceivable that Mass of Creation, Community Mass, Mass of Light, Mass for the City, and every other widely used English setting of the Mass Ordinary will at least need new Glorias written, or the old ones will need to be adapted. This is going to cause quite a bit of headache for those in my field; sure, I can “pass the buck” and say it’s not my doing, but we’ll still need to find and teach new music - or, harder yet, modified versions of familiar music.

There is some interesting historical precedent for this type of change that I came across a few years back when I noticed that Palestrina’s “Sicut cervus” is not from the Latin Vulgate. It *is*, though, in the Liber usualis as well as the Graduale Romanum. Apparently this Latin text was familiar enough when Jerome’s Vulgate came around that they decided to keep it, to “grandfather it in”, so to speak. Hence, the Latin most musicians know for Psalm 42/41V, at least the first verse, is not from the standard traditional Latin Bible.

There are, of course, some important differences: one, the issue at hand is translation of ecclesiastical texts (with only one source), not Biblical texts with multiple (conflicting) sources. And English is not the mother tongue of the Church, while the Vulgate was specifically intended to be the standard Bible for all Christendom. I’d say these two make it a lower priority to retain our current Gloria (and other texts) than it was to retain “Sicut cervus”. (BTW, neither Jerome’s Hebrew nor Greek psalms match the familiar Latin.)

Liturgiam authenticam could not, in fact, have come a moment too soon. Yes, there is a now-substantial body of music based on texts that likely will be discarded....but how much worse might the situation had been after 40 more years? How many times would the Mahoneys and Trautmans have “revised” our prayers and Scripture texts? How much further would the various “translations” have grown apart from each other? For all the distress this “cleansing by fire” will surely cause soon, it might have been darn near cataclysmic down the road.

This kinda goes along with another thought I’ve had lately. In computers, periods of experimentation and competition among various practices and products tend to result in elimination of all but one or two options, which further results in creation of third-party standards of which no one group has ownership. For example, how many personal computers these days do NOT run Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux? Amiga, OS/2, and other ways of interacting with a computer have largely gone by the wayside. Even those “big 3” operating systems share a number of similarities - they all deal now with essentially the same hardware, and the same software often runs on all three, albeit with small modifications to suit each operating system. Look at web browsers - whether you use Internet Explorer or Mozilla (or Safari), a good web site is expected to conform to standards set by a non-partisan group of people whose job it is to establish standards.

The Missal of 1969, it could be said, does not define a Mass so much as describe how to “do it yourself”. It imparts a WHOLE lot of freedom. And yet, we’ve all pretty well settled into one standard way of doing most things; there are differences from parish to parish, but by and large, everyone uses “option #4” at the Entrance of the Mass, with the whole congregation expected to sing.

I believe it is the nature of the human animal to solve problems, and solved problems are boring. Religion, then, is the ultimate unsolvable problem, because by definition, there is always something new to learn, some new place for growth. The Missal of 1969 will eventually, I believe, look more like the Missal of 1962 in that it will prescribe things to do with fewer options, maybe eventually eliminating them all. We’ll have solved the problem of how to do the Mass. This is why it’s imperative that liturgical catechesis be good - with so much gunk floating around the world of Catholicism these days, we’ve got to be sure we really do solve the liturgy problem the right way, rather than coming to a false “solution”.

Friday, March 24, 2006

a GIRM oddity - anyone ever notice this?

In Latin:
64. Sequentia, quae praeter quam diebus Paschae et Pentecostes, est ad libitum, cantatur post Allelúia.

In English:
64. The Sequence, which is optional except on Easter Sunday and on Pentecost Day, is sung before the Alleluia.

So.....the Latin tells us to do the sequence after the Alleluia, but the English says to do it before.

Maybe it’s a typo - this line appears after the line describing the Alleluia, and in the chant books the sequences appear after the Alleluia. I don’t have a Lectionary on hand - anyone care to check and comment?

Interestingly, the 1975 GIRM, in English, doesn’t specify when the sequence happens, just that it’s optional except on Easter Sunday and Pentecost.

This shakes things up a bit, though, as I consider: the Alleluia is usually our priest’s “walking music”; the start of the music is when he gets up. But if there’s a sequence coming after, he’ll have to get up of his own. And are we supposed to stay standing during the sequence, or do we sit back down?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

On homosexuality and society

Not exactly music or liturgy related, but definitely Church-related.

Read these articles on The New Totalitarianism and on The Liberal Baby Bust.

The first basically asserts that homosexuality is “taking over” society, while the latter says that patriarchal society is, by nature, the natural consequence when an anti-patriarchal establishment fails to produce children.

What I wonder about is this. We’ve got a lot of homosexuality these days - or at least, it’s more visible today than it was in recent generations. Where did it come from, and will it continue?

The first question ties to the “nature vs. nurture” debate. Most homosexuals will tell you they think it’s “nature”; they were born gay/lesbian, and they could never be anything else. To propose that they could become straight is even insulting, especially with the idea of taking pride in having homosexual orientation. So, if it’s “nature”, what created this outpouring in the current generation of “natural homosexuals”? Or is it an outpouring at all, and we’ve always had this many, but are just now noticing it?

The big issue here is whether homosexuals have children. It does happen - but usually in the context of a homosexual getting married and resigning himself/herself to a heterosexual lifestyle. I mean, the only way to (naturally) have kids is to have heterosexual sex....and homosexuals don’t have a desire for that, so how will they have children?

Even if we say homosexuality is a combination of genetic factors, those combinations will eventually be “weeded out”; those parents with genetic predispositions furthest from homosexual-generating procreation will have the fewest homosexual children and thus be “most successful” in propagating their genetic code.

This has all been a strangely worded and ordered demonstration of the utter untenability of the argument that homosexuality is entirely genetic. There has to be a substantial “nurture” component, if not a predominant one.

That being the case.....what is to come of institutionalized homosexual unions? If, as the second article posits, patriarchal society is returning by sheer force of numbers, institutional homosexuality is correspondingly threatened. So, while the Canadian government may have passed its bill to condone homosexual unions and to punish those who speak out against them (heh, probably like this entry!), how long can these laws last when the population will increasingly be inclined against them?

Now.....what may happen is an increase in artificial procreation. Maybe a household of four parents: a gay couple and a lesbian couple, each of whom “cross-breed” artificially, thus allowing them regular sexual satisfaction and the status of having children. That’s a scary entire segment of the population manually controlling its procreation.

Current Position

As I had mentioned in my previous post, I have recently accepted a new job, to begin in July. Before I give the details on the new place, I'd like to give you some background on my current position.

I took the job here approximately 3 years ago. The parish is one of the smaller ones in the diocese actually, about 600 families. The demographics are very diverse: I would estimate about 65 percent caucasian, 25 percent african-american, and 10 percent other (mostly filipino and hispanic). In my adult choir, for example, I have about 8 caucasians, 2 african-americans, 1 from the Caribbean, 1 from Africa, and 1 of Hawaiian descent. The upside to the diverse population is that the crowd is very accepting of all different styles of music; gospel, contemporary, traditional, chant, etc. The downside is that a mix of styles is expected, which has been more difficult as my liturgical sensibilities have changed.

The parish is wonderful in that it is small enough that I know most of the people now and they are extremely warmhearted and appreciative of what I do, yet large enough that they can afford to pay me:) 3 masses on the weekends, about 12 funerals a year, 4 weddings, 1 adult choir, 1 seasonal youth choir . . . very manageable for a young man who is trying to be a good father and pursue a master's degree. I get oodles of time with my family unlike some of my colleagues in the diocese who have 6 weekend masses, 3 funerals a week, and five choirs. Now they're making quite a bit more dough than me, but I wouldn't switch places with them for anything.

The place has many upsides, but a few downsides which have caused me to decide to leave. For one, my choir is very limited. I consider myself a very fine musician, and one who can work with almost any group and make them sound decent . . . but this has been a tremendous challenge. When I came, they had about 8 regulars; 1 soprano, 4 altos, and 3 men. Of the three men, one had been in the choir for about as long as I had been alive and had never sang anything other than the melody! Another one is about 70 years old and has a very difficult time consistentlymatching pitch (even after I've given him voice lessons for about 2 years--talk about humbling) and my last man is by far the best musician but he's only here about one Sunday a month. So coming from directing a college campus choir that could easily sing in four parts, the fact that I could barely muster two with this group has been frustrating.

Another downside is that there's not much of a network for young couples with children. It's a very grey parish and the ones that do have young children tend to be significantly older than my wife and me. It's been harder on my wife who has had to go outside the parish to find a support system.

(The rest of this column has been deleted. I wrapped up this post by complaining about my previous pastor. No need to keep that in here . . .)

Experiment . . .

My apologies for not blogging more regularly, though Cantor is making up for me quite admirably, I must say. I just recently accepted a job offer to take another position starting in the summer, and now I need to: 1) sell my house 2) buy a new house 3) help find another person to take my current job 4) get ready to start a new job and 5) have a baby, among a gazillion other things. So, yes, my blogging will be light to say the least.

Cantor and I had talked about trying something a little different with this blog when we started it, namely, occasionally using a dialogue format. When Cantor accepted his current job last August or September, we e-mailed each other back and forth quite a bit, sharing ideas and frustrations. Needless to say, in our e-mail archives we have some dialogues that could be interesting to post.

I'm not sure exactly how the best way to format these is so any feedback is most welcome. Here's a short one to get the ball rolling.


Let me impart one important piece of advice to you as you begin this new position: make changes VERY SLOWLY! I made the mistake of trying to turn the music program upside-down when I got here and it kind of rocked the boat. It took awhile for some folks to jump on my bandwagon since I basically insinuated that the previous directors were lacking. Keep the peace for 6 months to a year before any major changes. That's my two cents.

I've kept this and similar admonishments in mind over the past couple weeks. The furthest I'm going so far is doing some unfamiliar stuff from (ed. - their hymnal). I'm not chucking any old Mass parts or anything, but I'm hoping (ed. - a new Mass part) is popular enough to warrant replacing (ed. - one from an older hymnal) - eventually. They don't have the Gelineau psalm book, which I'd like to use at the "organ" Mass, and I'm planning on having the Passion chanted on Good Friday. Introducing polyphony with the choir, Tye "Give Almes of Thy Goods". The Tye will be a weeks-long project, I'm sure. Gelineau can wait; they do have Guimont, which I think is generally ok. But yeah, I'd have to admit to being a bit overzealous about introducing new things.


Commentary from Cantor:

I’d say some people reacted negatively to me at first, but just about everyone’s “on the bandwagon” by now. In a way, I’m glad I “came out swinging”, since if I’d gone more slowly, I’d have to deal with the “but you were doing this before” argument.

As an example, since the 2nd weekend I planned here, we have sung all the Proper psalms from Guimont or (the since-purchased) Gelineau. This is a change from before I got there, when seasonal psalms were sung from the Haugen/Haas psalter or others. I’ve also encouraged cantors to lead these from the ambo, rather than from the music area (which is about 10 feet from the altar on the other side).

When people have asked, I’ve said that yes, my predecessor and I have different views on some things - and I’ve then used that as an opportunity to justify using these types of Psalm settings by pointing to relevant normative documents. (It helps that the pastor and pastoral associate have both appreciated having the psalm of the day, too.) I’ve got a couple “grumblers” still who don’t like the chanting, but the “right people” - those most interested in having good liturgy - are with me.

The Passion chanting fell through; the lector trainer insisted that lectors are better able to give a dramatic reading. It didn’t occur to me that, if she likes my cantoring, I can do the narration, the priest (who chants well) will do we just need to find a “turbist” who can sing with drama. The lector trainer, though, is right in that our cantors still haven’t generally “gotten it” as far as proclaiming text “on pitch”.

The Crusades weren’t so bad after all....

I think it’s high time we start taking stances like this. We’ve done more than our share of breast-beating in the past 50 years as the academic establishment has tried to portray the world’s oldest, largest, and greatest institution as an agent of evil.

Courtesy of Custos fidei:,,13509-2093921,00.html

Incidentally, the traditionalist site has had a good write-up about this for a while. Like many things on that site, it’s worth a read and a moment’s ponderance.

Is congregational singing doomed?

In all the hubbub in the past 100 years about encouraging congregational singing at Mass, I have yet to run across a serious investigation into a fairly obvious question: If it did used to be the norm for the congregation to sing everything, then why did someone think it was a good idea to move away from that practice?

The standard, off-the-cuff answer might attribute it to some kind of malfeasance on the part of bishops in the early Church, “taking away” from the people that right to participation that was duly theirs and placing it selfishly in the hands of musicians who selfishly wanted to display their talents with more and more ornate music. This certainly is a theory.

I wonder, though, if there isn’t a different way to look at it, and more importantly, I wonder if history isn’t repeating itself.

The Western music tradition is marked by a dichotomy of performer-and-audience: there are music-makers, and there are music-hearers. This is quite different from many non-Western traditions, where making music is a communal activity in which all (physically) participate. I’m told that in some cultures, “singing” and “dancing” are the same idea - try that one on a violin section in an orchestra! :) I wonder if this performer/hearer dichotomy didn’t develop at the same time as the singing at Mass became more the propriety of specialists than of all the people. Regardless, the tradition of “schola chant”, music to be sung by specialists, has had many centuries now to engrain itself upon our collective liturgical consciences and to erase the early tradition of “lector chant”, music to be led by a cantor and sung by congregations.

Had it not been for the Protestant tradition of congregational singing, I imagine the movement to have congregational singing at Mass would never have happened. This Protestant tradition is well-developed to foster the singing of everyone present through simple, memorable melodies that repeat several times: think of “A mighty fortress”, “Praise to the Lord”, “Wake, O Wake”, and all the other Protestant hymns we Catholics imported after Vatican II: these are not complicated, but simple melodies that stick in your head.

There is an inherent conflict, though, between this tried-and-true tradition of congregational singing and the proliferation of publishers putting out new music intended for Catholic congregations. New music is not a strange idea for John Q. Pew-dweller; he buys new CDs and downloads MP3s of his favorite music all the time. He listens to radio stations that try their darndest to have the fewest repeats, the most new music. (At the same time, these stations have to be careful to give enough play to the tunes people want to keep hearing, at least for a while.)

But learning new music is something quite different for John. He buys the CDs, and he might learn how they go, but he doesn’t necessarily sing along. If he does, he certainly is more reluctant to do so in the company of lots of other people, whom he may or may not know. And the music he does sing along with in the company of other people is probably not the most complicated stuff he listens to....since there’s a greater chance of “screwing up” with more difficult music. (Not that John necessarily pays attention to what music is more difficult to sing: he just knows what he “feels like” singing.)

Spirit & Song and other such hymnals are to standard hymnody what schola chant was to lector chant: they appeal to people’s sense of what music they like to hear, but they are more difficult kinds of music to sing. In essence, this goes along with our culture - not just the style of the music itself, but the idea that it is to be sung by specialists and heard by all.

I see the tradition of congregational singing waning during the next few decades. If the “reform of the reform” is successful in re-establishing Gregorian chant to the status it had before Vatican II (and which Vatican II intended, at least in writing, to maintain), then by necessity the congregation will sing less, since most chant would ideally be drawn from the Propers in the Graduale Romanum, which change from week to week. (The Graduale Simplex, I know, is intended to be a way to have our cake and eat it, too, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of attention given to it, and its only unofficial English translation is marred by faulty gender-neutral language.)

There may be a sustainable element in an arrangement where specialists sing the Proper (and/or the Proper is sung responsorially by all), and the whole assembly sings the Ordinary. But how long will that last? Will history repeat itself, and even the Ordinary will once again be given to the choir/cantor?

It seems that both the “new reformers” and the “Spirit-&-Songers” are advocating a decreased amount of congregational singing. (Congregations do not, and will not, sing S&S at all well unless they’ve listened to the recordings in their spare time.) The next question is: is that a bad thing?

I go back and forth here. It’s a pretty awesome experience hearing a whole congregation (or even a lot of people in the congregation) sing to God together. At the same time, the Gloria of the Pope Marcellus Mass is pretty hardcore, too, and it’s a shame that more people don’t have the opportunity to hear this music except in concerts and on recordings.

I do, though, reject Karl Rahner’s assertion that art has no place in worship. (Or something to that effect is what he said.) There is, and must be, a place for the glory of God to be shown through the genius of art well as great paintings, murals, statues, and the like.

Monday, March 20, 2006

This is very cool!

Gotta love B16!

so much for Canada.....

22,000 priests, nuns, and religious brothers.......there can’t be that many more in Canada, so maybe this makes official the dissolution of the Catholic Church in Canada?

Canada, mind you, is the group of bishops that got started using a gender-neutered Bible translation in their Lectionary. They had no authorization, but Rome eventually let them do it anyway. I guess that’s how those Canadian bishops have been so maligned by the “devils” in Rome.

Good friggin’ grief.....

Sunday, March 19, 2006

some welcome changes in the new Missal

Although the new Roman Missal is not in force yet (due to the absence of an official English translation), I thought it interesting to peruse the USCCB’s summary of changes to the Easter Triduum in this document. Here are some highlights (heh, of the highlights):
  • A second Mass of the Lord’s Supper may be offered if necessary/prudent
  • On knees is now an acceptable substitute for prostrating at the start of Good Friday
  • Stabat mater, or another appropriate chant, may be sung to honor the compassion of the BMV
  • The preparation of the Easter candle is no longer optional. (WHY this would be optional anyway is beyond me - it’s way cool!)
  • The “Christ our light” acclamations are at slightly different spots now than they were: the church door, the middle of the assembly, and before the altar.
  • The new Missal is more insistent on the necessity, if at all possible, of doing all 7 Old Testament readings at the Vigil. It still allows as few as 3; the “grave necessity” option of 2 is gone. (Again, why anyone would cut any readings from the EV is beyond me. 7 days, not 3 or 5 or 6.)
  • The Liturgy of Baptism is substantially reworked.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

on Islam....

Now, I have no problem with Islam or Muslims. But this kind of thing makes me wonder how much of the “peaceful religion” business to accept.

Some will say “oh but Christians have done this and that and this and that, all awful things, and Muslims have been such peaceful people”. Yes, and we’ve apologized for it and haven’t done it in an institutional way for several centuries. (Many, if not all, of what we now regard as the evils of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, btw, were unauthorized.)

sure as Hell.....

So I played a Memorial Mass this morning, wherein our pastor once again implicitly asserted that the deceased lady for whom the Mass was offered is with God.

It made me finally realize what’s going on behind the white vestments and “celebrating the new life of ...” on funeral programs: our pastor doesn’t believe in Hell.

I’ve heard of priests like this, but never actually encountered one. Interesting, I thought. This kinda goes along with the handsome-smiling Jesus paintings I’ve seen around the parish office. I wonder if Hell was downplayed in some kind of feel-good-ness of the 60s and 70s.

Christianity began as a religion of “making people feel good” by teaching that everyone is imbued with an immortal soul and is equal in God’s eyes. At least, that’s what I learned in high school history class; presumably there was at least some Divine guidance there, too. Today, though, it really can’t claim to be a force for “making people feel good”. Consider:
  • Modern science helps us to live longer and to hide our age, but we hear on Ash Wednesday that we are dust, and to dust we will return.
  • Culture teaches (implicitly, perhaps) that money is everything, while Christianity teaches that it is harder for a rich person to go to Heaven than for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye.
  • Christianity encourages modest dress.....while culture encourages those (esp. women) gifted with graceful figures to show off their bodies for influence and satisfaction.
  • Christianity teaches that, unless we “put our house in order”, there is a fearsome judgement awaiting each of us when we die.
I mean, a lot of times, I don’t like being Christian - who wants to believe in a religion that teaches there is a Hell, when the world basically tells us that we are our own gods? (A fundamental tenet of atheism, I once heard.)

At the same time, I also see our world awash in a sea of doubt and a lack of something to “hold onto”. One of the people in my parish refers to a hymn like “Faith of Our Fathers” as “old people music”. I tell her, “but this is the loudest thing I heard sung on Sunday, and it was at the Mass when the singing is usually the weakest”. She answers, “yeah, it’s the old people singing.” (I’ve since noticed that the Mass in question is actually the youngest congregation we get.) The strange thing is, this woman is 50 or so. She later reflected to me that the old people often like the contemporary/pop stuff.....“I guess it makes them feel more alive.”

This is, I’m finding, a stereotype of 50-something-ish types. I’m beginning to lend some weight to our pope’s condemnation of rock really does start to seem to me like a fad - one that was wildly popular and whose proponents eventually wanted it to be something to pass down, except that it lacks the “teeth” to be something a younger generation wants to adopt with such fervor.

Interesting, too, that Adoremus cites reports where young people have never gravitated to “young people music” as much as old people, at least at Mass. To be sure, there are exceptions - *I* liked the guitar songs when I was little, but then, they were the bulk of what we were fed, and I don’t recall disliking organ tunes. (And today, when I play school Masses, invariably the heartiest singing is with organ tunes.)

I’ve come to think that what young people today really look for, at the bottom of their hearts, is something to take seriously. The reason for the widespread cultural upheaval in the 60s and 70s is maybe because what asserted itself as being serious - government etc. - was “weighed in the balance and found lacking” - i.e. Watergate and Vietnam (at least in the minds of most young people at the time).

I mean, a part of me rolled my eyes when I saw the name of B16’s first encyclical: “God is love”. “Oh come on, I thought.....can’t we find something more interesting to talk about?” Thankfully, as I read parts of it, I found that there is teethy stuff in there. But honestly, I sometimes think a lot of people want to reduce all of faith to just that degree of intellectual depth: “God loves you, so everything’s fine!” Puh-LEEASE!

I think what will help the Church the most is what so many clerics are afraid of doing: teach about Hell. Teach about contraception. Teach college kids about not drinking to excess. Teach about all the “dirt that’s being swept under the rug”. Teach people to sing the Ordinary in Latin, as Vatican II stipulated should happen, and use it at Mass.

In short, make Church interesting. Make our “lex orandi” take issue with the world as much as our “lex credendi” does.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

SSPX stuff

Someone in SSPX says "heck no, we won't go along with B16!":

Someone else responds:

The "powers that be" in the Church now, both lay and religious, were young and enthusiastic when the post-V2 reforms and interpretations happened. They have emotional attachments to the way things happened and accuse those who want even a modest regular use of Latin, chant, priests facing “ad orientem”, etc. of sabotaging the mission of Vatican II. Similar objections are raised against assertions that the Catholic Church is the one true Church, there is no salvation outside Christ, etc. The “hermeneutics of discontinuity” is the status quo.

The younger generation, though, doesn't have those emotional ties. Young people now are able to look at the 1962 Missal as a novelty, a curiosity that piques our interest with its foreign (to us) rites, different prayers, etc. In other words, we look at this the same way the 1960s reformers looked at St. Justin Martyr's account of ancient liturgy and say, "what was good about this that might help us today?" We look at the strongly worded statements of pre-V2 popes (and the Catechism of Trent) and ask, “how come this sounds so different from what I learned?” I’ll confess, it’s fascinating to me.

I'm a little divided whether I think reconciliation with SSPX will happen. On the one hand, future generations of non-SSPX Catholics will have less emotional attachment than the current powers-that-be to the "Spirit of Vatican II" to which the SSPX crowd so strongly objects. This will help foster reconciliation. On the other hand, future SSPX Catholics will have a stronger self-identity as being part of a "different" group of people than an average devoted non-SSPX Catholic, which will make reconciliation harder.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Textual Ignorance

I just finished a book entitled "Whose Bible Is It?" by Jaroslav Pelikan. Near the end I came across this passage:

"Yet like the beauty ever ancient, ever new of a Byzantine icon or of Gregorian chant, the stately cadences of the Book of Psalms and the haunting beauty of the Bible do run the constant danger of getting in their own way. The very familiarity of the Bible after all these centuries can dull its sharp edges and obscure its central function, which is not only to comfort the afflicted but to afflict the comfortable, including the comfortable who are sitting in the pews of their synagogue or church as they listen to its words. If it is true that every age manages to invent its own particular heresies, our own age seems especially vulnerable to an aestheticism (represented with special poignancy by the worshipful audiences who listen to Richard Wagner's Parsifal on Good Friday, as he seems to have intended) that finds the ultimate mystery of transcendence, "the mystery that awes and fascinates," in the beauty of art and music, which have the magical capacity to transport us into an otherworldy realm without at the same time calling us to account for our sins in the presence of the holy God and righteous Judge of all mankind."

Though Prof. Pelikan intends to focus on the bible in this passage, I'd like to focus my thoughts on this passage in regards to music.

My initial confession is that I have a very serious problem in regards to music in that I always tend to give primacy to the musical material and subordinate the text to it. Whether consciously, or unconsciously, it's just what happens when I participate in a musical experience. For example, when my wife wants me to listen to some pop song on the radio, I'm always at a loss for words when she asks me what I thought about a particular lyric. While the song was happening, I was analyzing the chord progression, critiquing the singer's voice, and/or trying to make up a harmony to go along with the melody (you can almost always count on that third above with music of that ilk).

Now in addition to annoying my wife (who tends to do just the opposite), I find that this is a serious problem when it comes to liturgical music. When choosing music, I often have to force myself to read through all the verses and analyze their content instead of relying so heavily on the "musical judgment" (a discussion of the three MCW judgments is for another time). And I still feel that I cannot fully appreciate the excellent texts of Wesley, Luther, Haugen (just kidding), etc. and I may never be able to. In other words I have a very hard time praying the texts that I sing. 'Tis a serious deficiency in my spiritual life, no question.

So to relate this issue to the passage by Pelikan, I often find myself in this position he describes of being swept up in the aesthetic quality of the music without really assimilating the text, much to the detriment of my spiritual welfare. Am I the only one out there that this is happening to? I think not. Is this a problem in our current society? Most definitely.

Let me look at the problem in a different way, in the way I see it being the most detrimental to the church right now.

This issue we've had for the past 40 years of trying to model liturgical music on what we hear on the radio is not a good thing, in my opinion. With this style of "contemporary" worship, it seems to me that the intention of the music very often is to appeal to your ear at the most basic, surface level, to grab you and try to suck you in. Just like music on the radio, composers have tried to find "catchy" melodies, pleasing chord progressions, and sometimes a beat you can "dance to" to bring people deeper into the text and thereby the service itself. I would contend that this approach has backfired enormously for the past couple of generations.

With this approach, we find that we are trying to sow seed on stony places (cf. Matt. 13) where there is an initial "springing up" or positive reaction from the faithful, but it has no root, and it withers. This music (I am speaking in generalities; please note that there are a few noteworthy exceptions of course) tries hard to help us deepen our relationship with Christ and His Church, but it's very essence seems to work against that goal. When composers shoot for the lowest common denominator, that is exactly what they get. The ephemeral nature of secular pop music has infested our pews as well; publishers are constantly bombarding us with their latest releases, trying to bring our liturgical music "up-to-date" so as to appeal to the young folk.

The result of this is that Catholics, especially the young folk who are trying to make the faith their own, have nothing to hold on to. Our pop culture encourages hedonism and instant gratification and that's exactly what we want out of our churches now as well. When the good news of Jesus wears off initially, we find that we're stuck with superficial music, lackluster homilies, and a general indifference to the precepts of the Christian life.

I am inclined, then, to think that this push in many orthodox circles to resurrect Gregorian chant from the dead can only be beneficial, at least in the long run. I don't need to give an apology for the use of chant in the Holy Mass since others have already done so; I will just say I'm very interested to see what happens in regards to its use in the next ten years or so.

I've more to say but let's leave it at that for now.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Jews and Good Friday intercessions

Before the 20th century, the (Roman Rite) intercession on Good Friday read thus (source: Wikipedia):
Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that our God and Lord may remove the veil from their hearts; that they also may acknowledge Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray. (Here the congregation does not kneel) Almighty and Eternal God, Who dost not exclude from Thy mercy even the faithless Jews: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of Thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, through all endless ages. Amen.
The word "faithless" (Latin "perfidis") caused a lot of misunderstanding, so John XXIII removed it in 1962. The kneeling was suspended (according to Wikipedia) to avoid imitating the Jews' mockery of the crucified Christ. Pius XII put that aside in 1955. I can't say I disagree with either of these changes; they're both grounds for quite a bit of misunderstanding.

Bugnini and the gang rewrote the prayer thus for the Novus Ordo Mass:
Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant. (Silent prayer) Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I just like how explicit the older prayer is: the Jews are wrong, and we hope they come around. The current prayer, while there's nothing wrong with it, seems to contain less emphasis on the conversion of Jews for their salvation. ISTM that praying for the conversion of Jews (and schismatics et al), especially in the context of mention that the grace of salvation can extend to those outside the faith, is more inclusive of the fullness of faith. ATST, I can also see virtue in a focus on salvation, since that is the end goal of conversion. It's just that the latter also includes the possibility of the erroneous thinking that we shouldn't work to convert Jews (or worse, that the Jewish religion is itself as valid as the Catholic), while the former explicitly deals with what we should be doing.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

A little musical humor....

You have to know what 12-tone music is:

Friday, March 10, 2006

"inclusive language"

As most readers here will know, the term "inclusive language" is often used to indicate the purging of gender-specific references to God or people from texts. For example:

Psalm 1: Blessed is the man who fears the Lord.
Psalm 1, "inclusive": Blessed is the one (or "Blessed are they") who fear(s) the Lord.

Psalm 95: If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.
Psalm 95, "inclusive": If today you hear God's voice, harden not your hearts.

I don't mean to comment here on the practice itself, but on the term "inclusive". In short, I mean to demonstrate that this is a poor choice of terminology and that the term "gender-neutral" is a more advisable choice.

It must be understood that nearly all cases of "inclusive language" modifications are more explicitly described as "gender-neutral language": eliminating references to one gender or the other.

No one is in favor of "excluding" anyone from the liturgy. (Non-Catholics exclude themselves, but that's another discussion.) It makes us feel good to think we've been "inclusive" - it's a word that just sounds good and charitable. Calling a language modification "inclusive" has a nicer ring than "gender-neutral"; the latter takes more effort to feel like it's been grasped.

But what of someone who is against (as I generally am) the practice of such modifications? If I say "I do not favor inclusive language", this leads to the following morphings of thought:

he is against inclusive language
he is against inclusivity
he is against including all people
he favors excluding some people
he favors excluding
he excludes, rather than includes

Thus we see the danger of the term "inclusive language": a disagreement on the prudence or necessity of a language modification leads fairly naturally to a presumption of something far different from a matter of linguistic opinion.

It can also be said that eliminating gender-specific references to God "excludes" the language that Jesus Himself really, the two terms are not even interchageable.

EDIT: Please note before posting comments that this post is NOT an argument for or against gender-neutral language. It is an argument about terminology only, not the practice itself.

not ANOTHER change to the Lectionary!!

Does having readings in English mean everything's going to have to be republished every 10 years??? I just bought a study lectionary for my office, and I've been writing various psalm settings. Now I'm going to have to redo them all???

They say they're using the NRSV as the basis.....presumably this will result in "NRSV, Catholic Edition", with the gender-neutral language discarded in favor of more literal translations. This should be a good thing; the linguistic shortcomings of the NAB have been a subject of lament.

Welcome all!

Greetings to all our new readers (both of you) who have joined us in our foray into the world of blogging. I shall attempt to make this initial post concise, yet informative, erudite, yet lighthearted.

Since my dearest co-blogger, Cantor, has been so kind as to set up this blog and handle all the computer junk that I know so little about, please allow me to introduce him as well as myself in this post.

First off, both of us are full-time liturgical musicians on the outskirts of major US cities (different ones). We attended college together and met through the campus ministry at the Newman Center at which we both rediscovered (or more aptly, discovered) our Catholic faith. Cantor is a very intelligent man who passed up a very lucrative career to become a (ahem) career musician. Though at times I'm sure he would question his decision, I am certain that giving glory to God through music is a very suitable position for him to be in, since he is an extraordinarily talented musician and a man of great faith. I shall speak no more of him though since we both desire to maintain a high level of anonymity . . . there will almost certainly be times where we would like to vent our frustrations and we would hate for our respective pastors to be lurking :)

As for me, I have been a full-time liturgical musician for approximately 3 years and I have enjoyed the profession for the most part. I am married with 2 children (one still in utero) and have a strong desire to have many more little ones, God willing. I have a great love of the Catholic faith and I struggle daily to become a better Catholic, a better husband, a better father and a better musician. Only through God's grace can I accomplish those goals, and I rely on Him heavily.

This blog came about with the goal of sharing ideas (and frustrations) concerning liturgical music, with the hopes of gaining and disseminating knowledge, and to help in our own small way to work towards the betterment of this ministry here in the US. Both of us in are parishes where it is a significant struggle to realize the ideals set before us by our beloved leaders due to the "Spirit of Vatican" continuing to move upon the waters of our churches. We struggle to find some middle ground where the tradition of the universal Church is respected, the tradition of the local church is respected, and where we won't be fired for doing an all-Latin (and Greek) Ordinary during mass :)

Thanks for joining us!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

on funerals

There seems to exist a certain tension one can observe these days between the prayers of the funeral rite and the execution of funerals themselves. In short, we pray words that acknowledge the reality of hell and judgement and the uncertainty of the fate of the deceased, while in action we typically deny these dogmatic truths.

Yes, there is a resurrection.....but the only ones whom we can say with certainty have received it are Christ, Mary, and the saints. (Beatified, maybe? Not sure.)

The big thing that overlooks this is the white vestments. As I understand things, the white vestments focus the attention on Christ, rather than the deceased. The common perception, though, I think, is that the vestments celebrate the "new life" of the deceased.....which we can't celebrate because, well, we don't know what's happened to this person! By contrast, black vestments focus entirely on the deceased - we don't know where they've gone, but we do know they're gone from us.

An article, btw, on black vestments at funerals:

References to "new life" in association with the deceased exacerbate this problem, at least in my parish. We have hymnals donated by a now-deceased member of the parish that, on the cover, have the date the donor was "born to new life".

I've started to wonder if all of our liturgical and catechetical problems couldn't be addressed by fixing the state of funeral liturgies.