Wednesday, May 31, 2006

MS 13-14

II. Those With a Role in Liturgical Celebrations

13. Liturgical services are celebrations of the Church, that is, of the holy people united in proper order under a bishop or priest. [10] In a liturgical service the priest and his ministers have a special place because of holy orders; the servers, reader, commentator, and choir members, because of the ministry they perform. [11]

Role distinctions in liturgical services. Main distinction between the ordained and the non-ordained who both have their places in the services.

14. Acting in the person of Christ, the priest presides over the gathered assembly. The prayers he sings or recites aloud are spoken in the name of the entire people of God and of all the assembly; [12] therefore all present must listen to them with reverence.

Importance of the priest; speaks for all those gathered (and not gathered for that matter) with prayers of the utmost importance.

10. See Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 26 and 41-42; Lumen Gentium no. 28.
11. See Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 29.
12. See Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 33.

Recessional Hymns--what's appropriate?

Brian takes issue with the use of a patriotic song on a weekend such as Memorial Day, specifically at the recessional. I used "America" for the recessional this weekend at my church. I was a bit ambivalent about programming it, but I did it anyway.

This brings up the question that I was thinking about the other day: what is appropriate for a "recessional hymn"? Since the documents never address such a thing, it's hard to find any guidance out there, at least from official sources.

We have lots of ink spilled over what is appropriate for the liturgy, but technically, the mass is over. It would seem then that there is at least a possibility that music outside the realm of "liturgical music" could be appropriate.

Brian seems to insist that music that follows the theme of the day or the season should be used. Ideally, I would say yes, but that seems to be little more than our best judgment, our opinion.

It seems that since we cannot use the criteria for "liturgical music", that the new criteria would probably have to be under the influence of what is appropriate music for a "sacred space." Though there is obviously much overlap I would think, I would say that the boundaries have been widened somewhat. Again, just my personal opinion since I don't know of any official documents concerning this issue.

Any thoughts from the peanut gallery? Are there any directives out there that I don't know about? Opinions? Is "America" appropriate for a recessional hymn on the weekend of Memorial Day?

Lucien Deiss

Does anyone know if this guy is still alive?

I am thumbing through his “Spirit and Song of the New Liturgy”, published 1970. Pretty revealing stuff. Excerpts:

“ would seem out of place for the Entrance Song to be sung solely by the choir or a soloist” and, a little later, discussing options for the form of the entrance song: “Gregorian Chant, traditional form: Communities who like this form and this tradition could always use it for their own edification and consolation.”

“Consolation”??? Maybe something is lost in the translation here, but that sure does sound like a goofy description of a musical formula that served the Church for most of her history.

Deiss takes an approach to the existing music of the Church that strikes me as crass; very rarely does he concede that *maybe* there is a good reason why something is the way it is even if he doesn’t understand it.

He pans, for example, the Pentecost introit, translated in the book thus: “The spirit of the Lord fills the world and knows man’s utterance.” Deiss takes issue with the “knows man’s utterance” part. What is interesting is that the Latin, “Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum, .. et hoc quod continet omnia, scientiam habet vocis...”, does not say this; a more accurate translation (taking my imperfect mastery of the Latin language into account) would seem “The spirit of the Lord fills the earthly sphere, and that which contains all things, has knowledge of the voice.” Pretty revealing: “has knowledge of the voice”, as in, knows how to speak?

He next takes aim at the psalm with that introit, from Ps. 68: “God arises, and his enemies are scattered”.....and Deiss leaves out the second part: “and they flee, those who hate him, before his face.” He says it “rather weakly denotes the mystery of God’s love diffused in our hearts by the Spirit.”

My own reading is that the Introit and psalm together call to mind the mystery of the Church: to go forth into the world and proclaim the Gospel. Were this just “John Q. Guy”, commenting on the liturgy, I would conclude that the author doesn’t understand what’s going on. It seems a bit presumptuous to say that about such a widely recognized and respected figure as Fr. Deiss, but man, this commentary on the Pentecost introit sure seems to miss the point. He’s right, there is little emphasis on the love of God, but there is profound emphasis on the Spirit and the Church’s mission.

Earlier on, he tackles the question of the location of the choir. He dismisses choir lofts as not a good liturgical placement of the choir, but gives no argument for this. Similarly, he states that the choir director should be visible to the congregation.....and gives no justification. The tradition of centuries (that had nurtured plenty of congregational singing in his neighboring Germany) is discarded like yesterday’s newspaper.

If shoddy work like this is the foundation on which so many liturgies have been designed, no wonder there is a reform of the reform in motion.

UPDATE: While I maintain Deiss’s translation per se is sketchy, the Latin does read more akin to Deiss’s translation in context. Mea culpa. Before I eat my hat entirely, though, my point still stands that the introit, even when interpreted as “knows man’s utterance”, makes sense; it just doesn’t say what Deiss thinks it should say.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

concession to the “left”?

I think I’m about to lose one of my “conservative” stripes.

I am starting to agree with those who say the tabernacle should not be in a place of prominence for the Mass. It really has nothing to do with the Mass, it seems to me - which means that a separate chapel for the tabernacle makes lots of sense.

Am I missing something? Someone out there with a really good argument for keeping tabernacles front-center of the nave? Is there a good argument for keeping them on an altar?

Country Music

This guy is an absolute wealth of information. I'd sure like to have coffee with him someday and pick his brain.

On social justice and the Church

One of the “battleground” ideas in the ongoing discussions in the Church is a certain tension between social justice and Catholic identity. Generally, those on the “left”, who voted with very little reservation for John Kerry, seem to favor the former, while those who put more attention on the latter were less inclined to vote for Kerry.

The “left” thinks Latin ought to be done away with completely, the Church should “get with the times” on sexual morality, and in general, the Church should focus her efforts on social justice rather than all else: as the kiddie song goes, “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

I’m reading through Thomas Woods’s “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization”. I wouldn’t say it’s got a lot of scholarly teeth - the author’s enthusiasm for the faith is stated up-front and easily allows a non-Catholic to dismiss it as biased. What it does, though, is put into focus what the Church had on her plate for the first millenium or so - what she was like before there was Christendom.

It seems to me that, in AD 500 or so, social justice was the obvious mission of the Church. Barbarian raids were still a big issue, which decimated the culture that was the Church’s inheritance for the first few centuries. The Gospel really did shake things up for people, in straightforward and obvious ways: no, you really are not supposed to sacrifice each other unto your little pagan deity, but are supposed to be kind to your enemies (!) and pray for your persecutors (??!?!??!).

The Church won that battle - these days, no one in civilized society ritually sacrifices another human being (except for when it’s called “abortion”). We have the “golden rule”, and in general, being kind to one’s neighbor and giving to charity are values that everyone appreciates. (Look at Bill Gates for the political capital to be gained from giving to charity.)

I am becoming leery of people who focus on social justice for the Church because there is nothing distinctly Christian about what we normally think of as social justice in modern society. Sure, we could argue that abortion is an offense against social justice - it is, but not in the general mindset. Not that, intrinsically, there is anything wrong about things not being distinctly Christian. Inter-faith prayer services, when they focus on commonly accepted values like peace are a good thing.

The catch is that when the practice of the Catholic faith resembles other Christian faiths (or even non-Christian practices), the “inconveniences” of being Catholic become more and more of an issue. They become a heavier cross to bear. Further, the “inconveniences” look more and more like holdovers from a bygone era; in this regard, it is perfectly sensible, though still in error, for someone who too heavily emphasizes social justice to regard Humanæ vitæ as outdated and in need of correction/update/etc. These people’s experiences of the faith have taught them that, if only implicitly.

In summary, social justice is great and necessary - but emphasizing it at the expense of other, more distinctly Catholic elements of the faith results in a Church of “good people” who are only different from other “good people” in that they can’t explain why they think so many other “good people” are hurting themselves by using condoms - or, worse, who decide they will be “progressive” and abandon this part of their faith, since they can still think of themselves as “good people”.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

MS 10-12

10. It is advisable that there be as much suitable variety as possible in the forms of celebration and the degree of participation in proportion to the solemnity of the day and of the assembly, in order that the faithful will more willingly and effectively contribute their own participation.

Long sentence. Read it a couple more times. It may be a little less confusing if it looks like this:

"Much suitable variety in:

1) the forms of celebration


2) the degree of participation

in proportion to:

1) the solemnity of the day


2) of the assembly

so that:

the congregation will more willingly and effectively participate."

Or maybe it's just as confusing this way:)

11. The real solemnity of a liturgical service, it should be kept in mind, depends not on a more ornate musical style or more ceremonial splendor but on a worthy and reverent celebration. This means respect for the integrity of the rites, that is, carrying out each of the parts in keeping with its proper character. More ornate styles of singing and greater ceremonial splendor are obviously sometimes desirable, when they are possible. But it would be in conflict with the genuine solemnity of a liturgical service if such things were to cause any element of the service to be omitted, altered, or performed improperly.

A "worthy and reverent celebration" is brought about by "respect for the integrity of the rites."

12. The Apostolic See alone has authority to establish, in accord with the norms of tradition and particularly of the Constitution on the Liturgy, those general principles that stand as the foundation for sacred music. The various lawfully-constituted territorial bodies of bishops and the bishops themselves have authority to regulate sacred music within the already defined limits. [9]

Answers the question, "So who's in charge here?"

9. See Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 22

E-mail to professor

I composed this back in January of '05 after an "Intro to Biblical Studies" course I took at a "Catholic" institution. I no longer attend.

I'm sure I could reason some of this out a little better now, but it turned out pretty well nonetheless.


Prof. X,

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and are enjoying
the New Year, despite this frigid weather:)

I am writing this e-mail to voice some concerns I had
with the Intro to Biblical Studies course that I took
this last fall. Many things I heard and observed were
quite troubling to me.

First, I would like to write about some positives that
I experienced throughout the class. Both you and
(Lutheran Professor) seemed very knowledgable in your particular
subject areas and were able to convey that knowledge
to us in a very engaging manner. Your use of
Powerpoint was wonderful and really added to your
presentations. Your decision to make use of
small-group discussion time is always a plus in my
book. It's always good to share ideas with fellow

On the negative side, I had many reservations about
the ideologies conveyed throughout the class. During
our final class feedbach/discussion session, I was
unable to share in the love-fest for you and(Lutheran professor)
since I disagreed with most of the comments from my
peers. I was hoping that some fellow students also
had some reservations in regards to your biblical
interpretations but if there were others in the class
that felt as I did, we decided to keep quiet. I held
my tongue throughout the semester which I regret
somewhat since most of your theological opinions went
unchallenged and you were not very unbiased in most of
your assessments. I'm afraid that many of the
students in our class were swayed by your rhetoric and
will continue to spread these opinions throughout the
Catholic world. Let me address some of these specific
concerns . . .

I had my first feeling of suspicion during one of the
first few classes when the issue of Mary's perpetual
virginity came up. Someone had come across one of the
passages concerning the "brothers" of Jesus. I
thought to myself that this would be an excellent
opportunity for you to show the limitations of the
aramaic language and to show how these were either
cousins of Jesus or sons of Joseph. Your response
was disappointing to say the least. You started out
my presenting some vague responses that the Church
uses to defend the perpetual virginity of Mary, but
they were not explained very well or with any
conviction whatsoever. Then you proceeded to say that
Joe Scholar had written a three-volume work showing
that Mary most likely had other children.

Now I'm no theologian but that doesn't sound like
Catholic teaching to me. Now I'm sure Joe Scholar
talked about how it was normal for a Jewish woman to
marry and have relations with her husband and have
many children, etc. That may have been the norm but
what was not the norm was giving birth to the Son of
God through an immaculate conception. This was not
your typical Jewish marriage; raising the Son of God
was not an everyday situation, and it called for a
unique arrangement.

Just because Joe Scholar has a PhD and wrote a book
doesn't mean he was alive 2000 years ago and hung out
with Joe, Mary and the kids. Now I know of many
scholars that defend the other side of the issue, but
they weren't given much mention by you. If anything,
the biblical evidence seems to agree with the orthodox
Catholic position . . . where were these "brothers of
Jesus" when Jesus was on the cross and putting his
mother in the protection of the Beloved Disciple? Why
weren't these "brothers of Jesus" referred to as "sons
of Mary", as was Jesus? Not surprisingly, you made no
mention of tradition and the teaching of the Church
except to discredit it.

"More heresy after the break" was a quote you used one
particular class period. I chuckled to myself because
I knew it to be true; it became an expectation every
Monday night for me. I believe you made the statement
right after you said that we should have stayed
obedient to the law after Christ left; that we could
still gain our salvation through it. I'm sure you
would agree with me when I say that St. Paul would
feel differently. This was another thing that
confused me when trying to figure out your personal
theology: do you give more weight to some scripture
than to other parts? For example, as I just stated,
Paul says explicitly that we don't need the law
anymore but you stated that Jesus probably wanted us
to keep the law. So is Paul wrong? Now if St. Paul
is wrong on this aspect, what does he get right? You
commented during our look at Hebrews that St. Paul
never speaks about sacrifice in his letters in the
same way that the author of Hebrews does. So is St.
Paul right here and now the author of Hebrews is
wrong? If these books/letters are all contradicting
themselves, then are they really inspired by God? If
not, then what should we believe? Is it all up for

This method of choosing verses that fit your own
personal theology reared its ugly head in one of my
small group discussions. We were discussing
Colossians 3:18 when one of my group members said
this: "I don't think Jesus would have agreed with
Paul's statement." Well, if Jesus wouldn't agree with
this, then what would he agree with Paul on? Should
we throw all of Paul's books out or just keep the
passages that we think that Jesus would agree with?
And who decides what Jesus would agree with? What I
found interesting during that whole class discussion
is that you never brought up the possibility that
maybe this passage was to be taken at face value, that
wives SHOULD be subordinate to their husbands! No one
could even fathom that St. Paul would actually believe
this! Jesus would be up in arms! Now you would
respond that this passage creates cycles of violence;
I wouldn't necessarily disagree with that but can we
just throw out this passage as a product of the times
and not true? Was the Holy Spirit taking a coffee
break when Paul wrote this particular passage?

As far as the "sacrifice of the mass", you quoted an
author that talked about how this image of sacrifice
also perpetuated cycles of violence. I'm sure many
unmentioned scholars would disagree as would I. My
wife and I recently had our first child. We have had
to make many "sacrifices" and none of them have led to
any violent activities. Sacrifice doesn't have to
involve blood and guts; it has to do with selfless
love. That is what Jesus gave us on the cross and
what he gives us every day on His altar: selfless
love. Now the implication you made through your
rhetorical questioning is that Paul's theology takes
precedence over the sacrificial theology of the
Hebrews author. Now you didn't say that explicitly
but it was definitely implied in your lecture. And
then you stated that with a few exceptions, this
aspect of sacrifice was not mentioned in the early
church until the late 2nd century. I would disagree
as would the church fathers:

The Didache

"Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer
the Eucharist; but first make confession of your
faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one.
Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to
take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as
to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt.
5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord
has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice
that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the
Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal.
1:11, 14]" (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

Pope Clement I

"Our sin will not be small if we eject from the
episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have
offered its sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters
who have already finished their course, and who have
obtained a fruitful and perfect release" (Letter to
the Corinthians 44:4–5 [A.D. 80]).

Ignatius of Antioch

"Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one
common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our
Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his
Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice—even as there
is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own
fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that
all your doings are in full accord with the will of
God" (Letter to the Philadelphians 4 [A.D. 110]).

Justin Martyr

"God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve
[minor prophets], as I said before, about the
sacrifices at that time presented by you: ‘I have no
pleasure in you, says the Lord, and I will not accept
your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of
the sun to the going down of the same, my name has
been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place
incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering,
for my name is great among the Gentiles . . . [Mal.
1:10–11]. He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us
[Christians] who in every place offer sacrifices to
him, that is, the bread of the Eucharist and also the
cup of the Eucharist" (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 41
[A.D. 155]).


"He took from among creation that which is bread, and
gave thanks, saying, ‘This is my body.’ The cup
likewise, which is from among the creation to which we
belong, he confessed to be his blood. He taught the
new sacrifice of the new covenant, of which Malachi,
one of the twelve [minor] prophets, had signified
beforehand: ‘You do not do my will, says the Lord
Almighty, and I will not accept a sacrifice at your
hands. For from the rising of the sun to its setting
my name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every
place incense is offered to my name, and a pure
sacrifice; for great is my name among the Gentiles,
says the Lord Almighty’ [Mal. 1:10–11]. By these words
he makes it plain that the former people will cease to
make offerings to God; but that in every place
sacrifice will be offered to him, and indeed, a pure
one, for his name is glorified among the Gentiles"
(Against Heresies 4:17:5 [A.D. 189]).

Finally I'd like to address your feminist agenda that
not-so-subtly sneaked into nearly every class of the
semester if I recall. I found it astounding that you
were able to work in the deaconess Phoebe near the end
of almost every lecture; it was quite amazing
considering she had nothing to do with what the topic
at hand was most of the time. Come to think of it, I
think more mention of Phoebe was made throughout the
semester than was made of Jesus!

Another item that was continually brought up was that
catacomb drawing of the women sharing the Eucharist as
well as the condemnation by Pope Gelasius in the
5th(?) century of woman priests. Now what was curious
though is that you made the implication that since
this was clearly going on in the early centuries, it
should be approved by the church. Now again, I'm no
historian but I'm sure there were plenty of things
that were going on in the early church that shouldn't
have been. Clearly, there were women posing as
priests in the early church and clearly there had to
be a statement from the Church to put a stop to it.
Now it seemed to me that you were trying to accomplish
two things through this repetition of images: 1)to
plant the seed of doubt in the students in regards to
women ordination and 2) to undermine the authority of
the "patriarchal" Church. Unfortunately, I don't know
how we can draw these two conclusions from this

Another disturbing trend was a whole class period
dedicated to the apocryphal and gnostic Gospel of Mary
Magdalene. It's one thing to mention it in passing
but to say it "shows the other side of the
relationships between the apostles" is a bit
disconcerting. From what I know, this "gospel" wasn't
written until much later and can hardly be put on the
same level as our four gospels. The following
discussion on the church possibly re-evaluating the
canon and adding some of these apocrphyal books was
downright laughable. Is someone going to find some
evidence that some of these books were inspired by the
Holy Spirit and we've just been mininformed for 1800
years? We're really getting too caught up in this "Da
Vinci Code" controversy . . . The last straw was
giving any credibility to Crossan and the Jesus
Seminar. These are the guys that are riduculed by
most of the scholarly community and did their voting
by casting colored rocks or something, right?

Now here's what I'm having trouble figuring out with
liberalism in the Church: if you take scripture as
inspired by the Holy Spirit, then it makes sense that
we need guidance "into all truth" by an infallible
authority which seems to reside in the bride of
Christ, the Church. If that's the case, then it seems
silly to blatently go against the wisdom of the church
and its Tradition, ESPECIALLY when speaking infallibly
(ex. perpetual virginity of Mary) because the "the
gates of hell shall not prevail against it." How
would the gates of hell prevail against it? If it was
wrong and taught error. Now this is obviously the
orthodox position on the matter. I guess the other
option is that the Holy Spirit did not inspire the
books of the bible and that some of this stuff is no
more true than some of the romance novels you find at
the check-out counter. If that's the case, why would
you even be a Christian? How do we know what's true
and what's not? Why would you dedicate your life to
studying these scriptures if they were hogwash?

Now I would say you fall in the middle of these two:
you think the scriptures are inspired by the Holy
Spirit but the Church cannot interpret them
infallibly. I'm not sure, I'm just speculating . . .
If that is the case, then you seem to fall in the
position of most Protestants; the spirit will guide
YOU . . . you don't need anyone to tell you how to
believe. Now the obvious problem with that is that
the spirit doesn't seem to do a very good job; that's
why we have 25,000 different protestant denominations
in the US alone. Another real problem I have with
your views is that you are a Dominican sister. Now
correct me if I'm wrong, but St. Dominic and St.
Thomas Aquinas, the most well-known Dominicans,
dedicated their lives to combating heresy, some of the
same heresies that you buy into! They both loved the
Church and always stayed within the Truth taught by
the Church. How do you reconcile this with your own
personal theologies?

My frustrations come from my love of the Catholic
Church. The Church claims to be the one true Church
of Christ and that it cannot err in matters of faith
and morals. If I were to discover that they had erred
somewhere, then their claim to the Church of Christ
would be false and I would be gone in a heartbeat and
I would expect others to do the same. What we expect
from the Church is truth and what they expect from us
is adherence to the truth of their teachings.

I almost left (Institution) after this last semester. When I
attend an institution that claims to be Catholic, I
expect to participate in classes that stay true to the
Catholic faith and I expect to hear from teachers that
put the wisdom of the Church above their own. If I
had taken this class over at (nearby Lutheran school) with (lutheran prof.) and
another protestant professor, I would have had no
problems with it. I would have disagreed with a few
things, but that's to be expected. What upsets me is
that I had to sit through this class at a so-called
"Catholic" institution with a "Catholic" professor
that made a point to question the Church at every
turn. Not to mention a liberal Lutheran to boot. I
feel like asking for my money back.

As you can tell, I had a rough semester here at (Institution).
I use to come home every Monday night and vent for
about 20 minutes to my poor wife who had to listen to
me rant and rave about each class. I did not wish to
offend you in this e-mail but I needed to get some of
these things off my chest. I did not mean for any of
these things to be a personal attack, just differences
of opinions that I needed to speak out about. I hope
that we can still be cordial towards one another; I
would hate for there to be any resentment over this
matter. I just do not think I'll be taking any more
courses with you in the future. I will send a copy of
this e-mail to (Pres. of Institution) expressing my concerns with
this institution and the teachings that they endorse
through the views of their faculty.

I hope you have a wonderful spring semester and enjoy
your Lent/Easter combo.

God bless,

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Announcing hymns

Any opinions out there about this topic? For example, "Please join in singing our offertory hymn, number 678, "Welcome to the Jungle", number 678."

Brian had posted a while back that he was phasing the practice out in his parish; he went from the above, to just the number, then finally to announcing before mass that the hymns would not be announced and that they should use the music board up front.

On one hand, I hate to break the atmosphere of reverence that is created by the liturgy by announcing a hymn; on the other hand, I like it when people actually sing the hymns I've chosen, which they are more apt to do when I remind them.

It makes me chuckle every week after the First Reading when I announce the responsorial psalm. Not a hymnal is disturbed until I announce it; it's like the people don't know what's coming next, even though they've been coming to Sunday mass their whole lives.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

cause for genuine fear?

I read and watched “The Exorcist” and didn’t flinch. Not many things really scare me insofar as physical harm and out-and-out oppression, but this whole deal is starting to become one of them.

Interesting that the one gal dismisses the idea that homosexuality is not defined by homosexual acts (i.e. Church teaching). Is a faithful celibate nun or priest, then, asexual - since then they are obviously neither homo- nor heterosexual?

The voice of C-3PO echoes in my head: “This is madness...”

Just thinking out loud here. We in the U.S. look at Europe and see the low birth rates and wonder whether this is connected with the absence of recognition of the traditional family (even its outright persecution) in their legal systems. It’s not a given, but let’s just say it is. I’ve posted opinions here (I think I have, anyway) that there will be a new rise in patriarchy as traditional families put out many more children who will pass on those ethical values to succeeding generations. This scenario is based on the supposition that homosexual relationships (and heterosexual relationships bound up in tight control of reproduction w/ contraception etc.) will produce fewer children than traditional families.

Let’s suppose that, as many of us (myself included) posit, sexual orientation is made up, partially or entirely, by influence. It may be permanent, or it might not be, but the idea is that the moment a child is born, his/her orientation is not set in stone.

So.....what would happen if homosexuals began artifically inseminating to have families? Would the children then learn homosexuality from their environment? It might work thus: Each household would have two men and two women, all homosexual. Reproduction is entirely self-determined and artificial. What then happens is that each child effectively has four parent figures: two biological, but also two “step-parents”. Since there would be a greater pooling of resources among the parents, would they be better able to provide for their offspring than heterosexual parents? Then the homosexual children become the overachievers in school etc. Would they eventually take over society? Would heterosexuality ultimately be made illegal by the new regime?

Granted, there are holes in this unabashedly far-fetched scenario. But ..... is it possible? Would the Church, which condemns homosexual acts and (I can’t imagine not) artificial insemination, be able to function in this society, or would this put us underground again, persecuted as in antiquity?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

even the bishops say we should use choir lofts

From “Built of Living Stones”:
§ 88 § Music is integral to the liturgy. It unifies those gathered to worship, supports the song of the congregation, highlights significant parts of the liturgical action, and helps to set the tone for each celebration.108

§ 89 § It is important to recognize that the building must support the music and song of the entire worshiping assembly. In addition, "some members of the community [have] special gifts [for] leading the [assembly in] musical praise and thanksgiving."109 The skills and talents of these pastoral musicians, choirs, and instrumentalists are especially valued by the Church. Because the roles of the choirs and cantors are exercised within the liturgical community, the space chosen for the musicians should clearly express that they are part of the assembly of worshipers.110 In addition, cantors and song leaders need visual contact with the music director while they themselves are visible to the rest of the congregation.111 Apart from the singing of the Responsorial Psalm, which normally occurs at the ambo, the stand for the cantor or song leader is distinct from the ambo, which is reserved for the proclamation of the word of God.

§ 90 § The directives concerning music found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the guidance offered by Music in Catholic Worship and Liturgical Music Today112 can assist the parish in planning appropriate space for musicians. The placement and prayerful decorum of the choir members can help the rest of the community to focus on the liturgical action taking place at the ambo, the altar, and the chair. (ED: In other words, the choir should not be visible?) The ministers of music are most appropriately located in a place where they can be part of the assembly and have the ability to be heard. Occasions or physical situations may necessitate that the choir be placed in or near the sanctuary. In such circumstances, the placement of the choir should never crowd or overshadow the other ministers in the sanctuary nor should it distract from the liturgical action.

This excerpt outlines an interesting fact that, now that I think of it, is supported by the Roman documents as well: a choir should be out of sight, while a cantor should be visible. I can’t say I disagree....though I question the need for song leaders in a scenario where we really teach people that singing is something to be done at Mass, and that there is no good reason for anyone not to do it.

theology of the body and liturgy

I once was at a presentation on JP2’s Theology of the Body. Two interesting parallels hit me the other day concerning liturgical orthopraxy and the orthodox relationship between a man and a woman.

I believe an overwhelming majority of the people who discard Church teaching and implement their own localized variants in the liturgy do so out of sincere pastoral concern for the faithful. In other words, they really do believe that they are doing what is right.

Consider, though, the case of two unmarried college students who decide to have sex. Let’s make it interesting and propose that they were reared as Catholics. They have been told that premarital sex is a bad idea and not what is good for them, but maybe from a religious ed teacher who seemed uncommitted to the truth she taught - in other words, the words given to the students failed to teach them. So now, what they, in their right conscience, perceive as a greater truth is that them having sex outside marriage is a beautiful thing and will deepen their love for each other.

In both cases, we have people who act contrary to Church teaching because they honestly believe that they know better than the Church. (That’s the nicest way to regard the liturgical may be that in some cases, there really are people who want to suppress or counteract the part of Church teaching revealed in a certain part of the liturgy.)

Just as the couple does not know that they are undermining their own good by engaging in extramarital sex, how can those who violate liturgical norms assert that they are not undermining the spiritual good of their faithful? They do what they do often based on sensory feedback: they see people reacting stronger emotionally to this or that, or even evincing a clearer connection between the rite and a particular teaching. Yet how can they rely on this feedback? How can they assume that what they see is a reflection of the spiritual reality? Doesn’t the couple use the same criteria to judge that what they do is good for them: satisfaction, comfort, and all the other fruits of physical intimacy.

Another way of looking at it is a parallel between liturgy and contraception. Failing to implement the Roman Rite liturgy as given to us by the Church is a form of saying, “I accept you, but not this part.” Example: “I accept the Easter Vigil, but I reject the Church’s teaching on when the lights come on; instead, I will turn them on at the Gloria because that is what I perceive is best.” Is this not the same logic that frames the contraception issue? “I accept the gift that you make of yourself to me, but I reject the part of you that is your fertility.”

of humanity and divinity

Apparently in the movie of “The da Vinci Code”, the protagonist, near the end, reflects with the following:
Why does it have to be human or divine? Maybe human is divine?

There are two interesting things about this supposition - not so much for any depth in the idea per se, but for the implications that it has.

One is this idea of humanity being divine. I was recently talking with a pantheist. English wasn’t his native tongue, so I’m not sure I caught it all, but basically he takes a Jim Casy-like (Grapes of Wrath) approach to holiness, that all things have a holiness to them. The trouble here is that, as more and more things become “holy”, there is less and less that is not “holy”. The usefulness of the term to describe something diminishes, since what is described is less and less homogenous. The end result, as this process continues (this is why all educated people should study calculus!), is that “holiness” becomes meaningless. While there is a distinction between pantheism (all things are divine) and asserting that all humanity is divine, the effect is the same: nothing is greater than ourselves. Ayn Rand would be proud. (And thank you, again, to the one who got me to read “The Fountainhead”.)

The second is the idea of Christ present in the gathered assembly in the liturgy. As I’ve maybe blogged before, I think this idea needs REAL caution because of how close it comes to teaching exactly what Langdon (dVC protagonist) proposes: that humanity itself is divine. Thus we lose sight of the wonder of the incarnation - Jews consider it a heresy to propose that God would take human form, while Christians regard it as a sign of the incredible power of God, that He can and did become like us in all ways except sin. Thankfully, the “we are the body of Christ” idea, legitimate though it is, seems to be given a good deal more due caution in the coming generation of clergy and laypeople than in so many priests and bishops today.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Gather Comprehensive

An applicant for the job I am vacating asked the following:

I've been acquainting myself with Gather Comprehensive which I only vaguely knew heretofore. There's a great deal in it, most of it well-chosen I think, but I'd be curious to know what the parish's repertoire from it might be. Also, do you use GIA Precentor software to do any planning? Please advise.

My response:

Concerning Gather Comprehensive (GC), I actually went through the entire book a few months back and listed the songs that the congregation/choir knows as well as selections that I thought were worthy of learning down the road. Unfortunately, the list remains hand-written so I cannot sent it to you. Nevertheless, let me share a few things with you.

1) I am quite pleased with GC overall. Pretty good mix of traditional and contemporary hymns and very usable psalm settings. The mass settings are some of the best of what's out there as well. Plenty of exceptions to each of the two preceding sentences, but generally, quality stuff. Of course, there are things I would change such as:

a) Plenty of selections that I would be embrarassed to program. Examples include:

467 Spirit-Friend
503 Come to the Feast (the first word of the text is "Ho")
643 The Lord Is My Shepherd
454 Go

to name a few.

b) Knowing the demographics of St. (X), there is a paucity of songs in the "gospel" style. Only a few of the standards are included ("Soon and Very Soon", "Lead Me, Guide Me", "This Little Light of Mine").

c) Missing a few psalm settings for the liturgical year. Much more complete than the original "Gather" though.

2) The congregation's repertoire is fairly large. Since I've been here, I've introduced maybe 10-15 hymns that I thought they should know (627 Wondrous Love, 437 Christ the Lord is Risen Today) and eliminated some things that I found difficult to sing or just downright cheesy (390 Jerusalem, My Destiny comes to mind).

3) I've been pretty adamant about doing the psalm setting that is called for in the Lectionary for each week and each feast, and the congregation does a nice job when a new one comes up. Only in certain cases will I change the psalm,such as in the case of a ridiculously long setting (59 In God Alone or 24 You Will Show Me the Path of Life-Refrain 1), very difficult to sing (59 again) or a setting that is subpar musically (I find the psalm for Ascension (GC 53) very unworthy of the feast day). I haven't been a stickler about unapproved psalm translations since it would eliminate most of GC's psalter:)

4) I do not use the Precentor software because I am a computer moron.

5) As far as actual repertoire, I like to think the congregation knows the standards though there are exceptions which I never got around to introducing (SALZBURG, IN BABILONE). Let me do the Advent section as a starting point. Here's what they know:

325 (probably, I haven't done this tune since I've been here . . . high cheese factor)
328 (refrain only)
336 (choir)
340 (choir)

Definitely a few in there I would have liked to have taught, but Advent comes and goes so fast . . . you know what I mean.

All in all, I was pleased when it was in the pews when I arrived. I despise disposal missalettes so it was nice to have a good hymnal on hand. Please feel free to ask anything else you would like to know, especially if I did not address the issues you requested.

Progress in chant link

Todd muses about chant issues in this post with more to follow.

new churches with choir lofts?

I need to find some references to new churches built with with choir lofts.....anyone know of them?

Apparently a journal of church architecture (to which my pastor subscribes) never shows new churches built with choir lofts.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

MS 9

9. The choice of the style of music for a choir or congregation should be guided by the abilities of those who must do the singing. The Church does not exclude any type of sacred music from liturgical services as long as the music matches the spirit of the service itself and the character of the individual parts [7] and is not a hindrance to the required active participation of the people. [8]

I find that first sentence interesting . . . the "abilities" of the the singers determines the "style" that is to be used. Now I assume what they mean by this is if you have a choir of non-musicians, then you shouldn't be doing Palestrina. But usually "style" seems to denote categories such as gospel, chant, traditional, contemporary, etc. though these may be categories that weren't completely formed back then. Any insight?

The next sentence could be interpreted and applied in a plethora of ways. Initially it says "anything goes" but then proceeds to qualify the statement by saying that the music must:

a. match the spirit of the service and the individual parts


b. not hinder the active participation of the congregation.

Who makes these decisions? This sounds like one of those articles that need to be read with other statements from the powers-that-be . . .

7.See Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 116.

8.See Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 28.

what if St. Peter’s were conquered?

Opening this up for discussion: what would happen if the decline in Italy’s native population continues, and Muslim immigrants in Rome turned aggressive and laid siege to St. Peter’s?

We’d still have “the Church”, but with our increasingly Rome-centric outlook on ecclesial matters in the past few centuries (and especially since the technology has made it easy for John Q. Layperson to read what the Pope says), would this be a shock the likes of which would make Vatican II look like changing from Gather Comp to Gather Comp II?

on “The da Vinci Code” and Catholic culture

Oh, the tumult over this movie.

This article touches on a point I’ve held for quite a while. It seems to me that exhortations to boycott a movie will only be answered in the negative - and really, I have a hard time seeing why someone should obey a boycott order.

The solution I propose for “The da Vinci Code” is not to boycott it. We need, instead, to provide an alternative and/or corresponding “shocking but true!” line of inquiry for people. We liturgy-minded people have one right in our own backyard: “the Mass as you’ve lived it is a skewed variant of what was intended by most of the Council fathers”. I mean, it’s exciting to read about Bugnini and the Freemasonry theory (which, of all the goofy conspiracy tags I’ve seen out there in traditionalist-land, is the one that seems to carry the most weight). It’s cool to read justifications why Latin should be a part of our regular liturgy. It’s different, and it contradicts the social order handed to us.

Telling people to boycott this movie is like just telling a well-developed 16-year-old girl not to have sex when she goes to parties. In both circumstances, one needs to be convinced that what their urges and their peers compel them to do is not in their best interests. I think the Catholics who will go to see “The da Vinci Code” are the ones looking for something that their regular experience of religion has not provided. Our religion is exciting, and we have a veritable monopoly on things historical that are interesting and profound. My little pet theory is that the Catholics, esp. young ones, who go to see “The da Vinci Code” are the ones who have found the “smiley, happy Jesus” (think the song “Shine, Jesus, Shine”) imagery utterly incongruent with the idea of a God who knows all things, the Alpha and the Omega.

reasons to hold onto Worship II

1) Some nice hymn choices that I’m not sure have found their way into subsequent hymnals. The harmonizations, such as “Amazing Grace”, are often worth keeping.

2) Sequences are in their pre-1998 Lectionary form (so the accentuation patterns actually WORK...more on that below), and they include a prose translation, which is helpful if, like me, your Latin is iffy at best. (And they include the Lauda Sion sequence on Body and Blood Sunday in their Lectionary.)

3) The Gelineau responses are often better than what is in Worship III; compare, for example, the Ps. 42/43 response (Easter Vigil #7) in Worship II with what you find in the current Gelineau psalter. The former is lyrical and sticks in your head; the latter is uninspiring and kinda ugly, in my not-always-humble opinion. (The text is identical, mind you.)

I actually had not realized that the pre-1998 Lectionary has the sequences in a form that respects the metrical stresses in the text, but it doesn’t surprise me given what one reason of Bp. Trautman & Co. talking about adapting language to the needs of people today. (I’ll bet people today like their poetry to rhyme just as much as people in 1940 did.)

It is interesting how the preface states a preference for not altering traditional hymn texts that, 11 years later in Worship III, the same company would effectively negate.

Any other reasons to hold onto a Worship II? (They *can* still be ordered from GIA.)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

the “active participation” question

It really is remarkable to read Bugnini’s “The Reform of the Liturgy”. (If you don’t have a copy, I recommend it.) Here is probably the biggest counter-example to the idea that Vatican II had no intention of replacing Latin with the vernacular and so forth; so many things we reformers of the reform look at as “they didn’t mean for that to happen”.....well, it kinda looks like this guy, who happened to be the guy in charge of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Consilium to revise the liturgy post-V2, did mean for those things to happen.

The bone of controversy around him (to my understanding) is that around 1975, evidence was submitted to Pope Paul VI that Bugnini was an active freemason. Within a month, Bugnini was transferred to Iran and basically stripped of anything to do with liturgy. The Vatican never denied the charges of freemasonry, and the rapidity with which Bugnini was basically exiled suggests that, whether or not the charge was true, Paul VI believed it.

Anyway, a couple interesting passages. The first, near the beginning of the chapter on “Song and Liturgy”:
(Some musicians) regarded singing as primarily the task of specialists; (other musicians, liturgists, and pastors), on the other hand, while acknowledging the indispensable role of the schola cantorum, thought it wrong to take away from the congregation the possibility of expressing itself in communal song.”

One interesting thing here is the thinking of “taking away from the congregation” - in a sense, I wonder if this is mistranslated, since they couldn’t “take away” from a congregation what it had not done in recent times. The other is how we kinda take the opposite approach these days: while we don’t deny the indispensable role of congregational singing, we (rather boldly, I feel) examine the role of liturgical music sung by specialists.

Later on, in the chapter devoted to the formation of Musicam sacram (which underwent 12 drafts, or schemas....whew!), we find: the view of the liturgists the people must truly sing in order to participate actively as desired by the liturgical constitution; in view of the musicians, however, even “listening to good, devout, and edifying music ... promotes ‘active’ participation.”
These and other observations betrayed a mentality that could not come to grips with new pastoral needs.

So, here we have it: the definition of “active participation” has, at least since V2, been a bone of contention. Reid’s “The Organic Development of the Liturgy” gives examples of this conflict from the early 20th century as well, decades before V2.
Notice, too, the “hermeneutics of discontinuity” subtly underscored in Bugnini’s phrase “new pastoral needs”. Active participation as listening was the “old mentality”, while the “new pastoral needs” dictated that active participation meant physical action and singing. And of course, if “the more the merrier”, then the best path is to maximize “active participation” by having everyone sing everything.

It is understandable that someone who reads Bugnini and thinks, “this is what V2 really meant, even if it didn’t say it” would look on our current Pope as wanting to get rid of V2.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

reflection on a particular ICEL text

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.

This is ICEL’s translation of:
Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea.

...which might be more literally translated as “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”

The passage is based on Matthew 8:8:
The centurion said in reply, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed."

One of the subtle changes I have noticed from the old Mass to the new is that parts of the old Mass taken from Scripture (i.e. “Judica me, Deus”) were removed. What remains in the new is a Mass that restricts Scripture to readings. In the Latin, the passage is closer to the Gospel passage and is thus a “mistake”, an “oversight” in the process of removing Scriptural texts. So ICEL’s “translation” makes up for this by making the prayer a little less akin to the Scripture.

I *can* see a certain wisdom to keeping Scripture separate from ecclesiastical texts; at the same time, this practice would seem to stem from a refusal to acknowledge liturgical texts themselves as part of Revelation the same as Scripture. It also allows Scripture translations to be updated without making the Mass text look “old-fashioned”; nowadays, pelted as we are with new Scripture translations every few years or so (even the Vulgate!), we’re quite removed from the idea of the Latin Vulgate as being *the* Bible.

I suppose, then, putting aside the obvious issue of “duh, ICEL’s job is to *translate*, not to adapt the Mass” - what do people think? Should Scripture be mingled with the Mass text itself? (I mean, the Proper chant repertoire pretty much *is* that....)

MS 7-8

7. The amount of singing determines the gradations between the most solemn for of liturgical celebrations, in which all the parts calling for singing are sung, and the most simple form, in which nothing is sung. For the choice of parts to be sung, those should be first that of their nature are more important and particularly those sung by the priest or other ministers and answered by the congregation or sung by the priest and congregation together. Later other parts, for the congregation alone or the choir alone may be added gradually.

This paragraph is expanded upon in MS 28-31 (which we'll get to much later). Of note in this paragraph is the "degrees" of importance concerning what is to be sung in the Novus Ordo mass. The implementation of these degrees is usually ignored in current practice.

8. Whenever a choice of people for a sung liturgical celebration is possible, those with musical talent should obviously be preferred. This is particularly the case with the more solemn liturgical services, those involving more difficult music, or those to be broadcast on radio or television. [6]

Hmm. A preference for those with talent . . . doesn't seem very pastoral does it? :) This definitely seems to go against the sensibilities currently in vogue of "come one, come all" when it comes to liturgical ministries.

What do we do about folks that want to join the music ministry with very little musical talent? Boy, do I have some stories . . .

When no such choice is possible and the priest or minister does not have the voice to sing properly, he may recite, audibly and clearly, one or other of the more difficult parts belonging to him. This, however, is not to be done merely to suit the personal preference of the priest or minister.

"Sing well or not at all" is the explication here. I feel, though, that many priests are too lazy to sing what has been requested of them by this document. Well, I hate to generalize like that, but it seems pretty clear that the average congregation in America is not hearing their celebrant sing the important dialogues which are put forth in MS 29.

6. See Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instr. on sacred music and the liturgy, 3 Sept. 1958, no. 4: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 50 (1958) 656-657.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

“nice” God

Just a thought - am I the only one who didn’t grow up thinking of my parents as “nice” people? I certainly didn’t think of them as mean, either, but they, like my teachers, were ministers of discipline and enforcers of teachings that I didn’t necessarily want to accept (i.e. you really do need to brush your teeth).

Does anyone else get the sense that “nice” isn’t necessarily the right way to portray God?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

MS 5-6

I. General Norms

5. A liturgical service takes on a nobler aspect when the rites are celebrated with singing, the ministers of each rank take their parts in them, and the congregation actively participates. [4] This form of celebration gives a more graceful expression to prayer and brings out more distinctly the hierarchical character of the liturgy and the specific make-up of the community. It achieves a closer union of hearts through the union of voices. It raises the mind more readily to heavenly realities through the splendor of the rites. It makes the whole celebration a more striking symbol of the celebration to come in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Pretty straightforward paragraph other than what I have italicized. What exactly are the authors getting at at this point? Are they referring to the hierarchical character of the liturgy *itself* or the hierarchical differences between the ministers and people gathered?

Pastors are therefore to strive devotedly to achieve this form of celebration. They would do well even to adapt to congregational celebrations without singing the distribution of functions and parts that more properly belongs to sung services. They are to be particularly careful that there are enough necessary, qualified ministers and that the people's active participation is helped.

There seems to be a call here for singing even at masses that are not distinctly "sung" services. One conclusion that could be initially drawn, it would seem, is that the pastor would lead some of the music himself, i.e. through sung dialogues between himself and the congregation.

The truly successful preparation of a liturgical celebration is to be achieved through the cooperation, under the parish priest (pastor) or rector, of all who have a part in the rites themselves and in the pastoral and musical elements of the celebration.

6. To give its true structure to the celebration if the liturgy requires, first, the proper assignment of functions and the kind of execution in which "each one, minister or layperson, who has an office to perform, does all of, but only, those parts which pertain to that office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy." [5] But an additional requirement is exact fidelity to the meaning and character of each part and of each song. To achieve this end it is above all necessary that those parts which of their nature call for singing are in fact sung and in the style and form demanded by the parts themselves.

This paragraph again hints at the different roles that the ministries perform within the liturgy, which is elaborated more later in the document. The italicized sentence and the following one bring up an important principle: sing the text if its very nature demands it. A glaring example of this is the Gloria; though the GIRM allows it to be spoken, it seems that by its very nature, this text should be sung.

4. See Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 113.

5. Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 28.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Another great chant article

Again, courtesy of

An idiot’s guide to square notes

Kudos, Jeff!

the trouble with traditional music

By “traditional music”, I refer to the musical practice of the Western Church as cultivated until the middle of the 20th Century, not to “traditional hymns”, by which one typically refers to Protestant hymns (i.e. “Praise to the Lord”) or hymns derived from that tradition (“Faith of Our Fathers”, “Adeste fidelis”).

It seems there is little disagreement that a singing congregation is a laudable goal. While the Popes of the 20th century all advocated for singing, nothing gave it the priority that V2 and the subsequent reform did.

Yet, how are we to reconcile the “new-fangled” idea of congregations singing with the idea of preserving the Church’s musical heritage, most of which does not lend itself well to congregational singing. If I can be so bold, I propose that we have the following genres in our tradition:
  • chant Propers and Ordinaries, with little or no repetition (Kyrie VIII etc. notwithstanding)
  • choral motets, Ordinaries, and Propers
  • hymns
Ranked in order of feasibility for a congregation to sing, we have:
  1. hymns
  2. other chants
  3. choral music
The handful of traditional (chant-based) Catholic hymns that comes to mind is (and I’m sure there *are* more):

Ave maris stella
Creator/Conditor alme siderum (two different hymns, I know)
Corde natus ex parentis
Pange lingua...prælium
Crux fidelis
Stabat mater (not really a “hymn”, but it works)
Veni creator spiritus
O filii et filiæ
Ubi caritas
Attende domine
Puer natus in Bethlehem
Veni veni Emmanuel

(Apologies if I’ve left out someone’s favorite - feel free to comment.)

Of the chants in the Roman Kyriale (1973), none are fiendishly difficult, but it is a substantial undertaking to propose that we teach even Gloria VIII, which has a lot of melodic repetition and is in Paul VI’s Jubilate Deo, to a whole congregation. And if we want to keep the practice of changing the Ordinary setting with the season, we’ll want a separate Gloria for Easter than for non-Easter.

And what do we do with the Creed? Teach four, even five, settings of the longest text of the Mass? (Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Eastertide, Ordinary Time)

The notion that a congregation should sing is a pretty radical one, it seems, in light of the musical tradition of the Church. At some point, those of us who advocate for more traditional music in the liturgy will have to face this problem and provide an answer: there are only so many musical events in the liturgy, and the more we honor the artistic heritage of the Church, the less congregational singing there is.

I mean, even if we propose that congregations sing the Ordinary and the choir sings the Proper. (Made possible with the translational 1985 Gregorian Missal in pews?) The stipulation that congregations sing the Ordinary immediately wipes out an incredible wealth of music - Palestrina, Rheinberger, the choral settings of less exalted composers of the 20th century, and all points in between.

What if we used choral Ordinary settings just for solemnities and so forth, one might propose. Would we deny the pew folks the experience of singing the Gloria on Christmas?

I’m not really sure where a good solution lies. It does seem pretty clear, though, both from analysis and from what I’ve read of the politics and proceedings, that the musicians were given fairly little influence on Sacrosanctum concilium, Musicam sacram, and the 1969 GIRM.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Liturgical Piety

Read an insightful post on this topic here.

quick note for advocacy of chant and polyphony

The qualities that St. Pius X identified as making these forms ideal for liturgy are not primarily aesthetic.

This must be understood unambiguously: P10 did not establish chant as the ideal music for liturgy because he thought it was pretty. He made this point because it clothes its text with maximum freedom to accomodate any stresses or weak syllables in the text.

It’s pretty remarkable, when you think about it, how (as far as I know) nearly ever extant piece of Catholic liturgical music sets its text without an iota of change to the sacred text. Music changes, text is constant - probably THE hallmark of the liturgical music tradition of the Western world.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Musicam Sacram 1-4


1. Sacred music is one of the elements of liturgical reform that Vatican Council II considered thoroughly. The Council explained the role of music in divine worship and set out many principles and rules in the Constitution on the Liturgy, which has an entire chapter on the subject.

(Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium n. 112-121 found here)

2. The recently begun reform of the liturgy is already putting the conciliar enactments into effect. The new norms relative to the faithful's active participation and the structuring of the rites, however, have given rise to some problems about music and its ministerial function. It seems necessary to solve these in order to bring out more clearly the meaning of the relevant principles of the Constitution on the Liturgy.

It almost seems that the writers were starting to see some of the abuses that we are so familiar with currently. The second sentence seems to imply that some of these problems pertain to the "active" participation of the people which we're still battling over.

3. By mandate of Pope Paul VI the Consilium has carefully examined these problems and drawn up the present Instruction. It is not a collection of all the legislation on sacred music, but a statement simply of the principal norms that seem most needed at the present time. The Instruction also stands as a continuation and compliment of the earlier Instruction of the Congregation of Rites on the correct carrying out of the Constitution on the Liturgy, which was also prepared by the Consilium and issued 26 September 1964.

Admits that this is not an exhaustive statement, but one that addresses the principal norms "most needed at the present time."

4. The reasonable expectation is that in welcoming and carrying out these norms pastors, composers, and the faithful, will strive with one accord to achieve the genuine purpose of sacred music, "which is the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful." [1]

Perhaps a bit unreasonable it seems; I've yet to come across a pastor who has ever even mentioned this document. I'm not sure many even know it exists, much less have read it.

a. Music is "sacred" insofar as it is composed for the celebration of divine worship and possesses integrity of form. [2]

William Mahrt argues in his article for the most recent issue of Sacred Music (found here) that this should be translated literally as "excellence of forms." (plural) Excellent article.

b. The term "sacred music" here includes: Gregorian chant, the several styles of polyphony, both ancient and modern; sacred music for organ and for other permitted instruments, and the sacred, i.e., liturgical or religious, music of the people. [3]

Notice the hierarchy of styles here; chant at the top and "music of the people" at the bottom.

Calling all “NPM members”

NPM has a survey online now for its members to offer feedback.

It makes no effort to verify people’s identities as NPM members, though - so any of us can submit the survey.

So.....if you are an NPM member, take the survey. If you’re not, take it anyway; maybe this is your chance to indicate why you take issue with the organization.

NB: There is nothing preventing multiple submissions, but please go easy on the (apparently either technologically challenged or just naïve) NPM folks, and only submit once.

The URL, should you wish to copy/paste, is

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Trek Through Musicam Sacram

I thought it might be very edifying for me and some of our readers to trek through some pertinent documents relating to liturgical music, starting with Musicam Sacram. Though I won't be able to provide the liturgical insights that others in the blogosphere could, I shall do my best to stir up some discussion.

Basically, I'll post every few days with a small portion of MS and any thoughts I have on the section at hand. I invite you to bring your knowledge and/or questions to the table in the combox and this will be a worthwhile experience for all.

The complete text can he found here.

Chant interpretation

In my upcoming job, there is an expectation that Gregorian chant will be used often during the mass (Thank God!). As exciting as it is to be in a place where this is already established and I don't have to ruffle feathers by introducing chant here and there, I must say it has brought the question of interpretation to my attention.

Now I'm no chant scholar by any means but I've been a part of a couple of schola's that have sung chant often, so I am quite familiar with the basics and the "usual" method of chant interpretation. But I'm also aware that there are disagreements in the scholarly community about historical performance practice pertaining to this genre of music, though I'm not well-read on the subject.

One experience I can bring to the conversation though is a service I was a part of with an ensemble in which I currently participate. In was an Advent service in a local monastery with a group of monks who alternated chant with our choral selections. Lovely service to say the least. Anyways, I must say I was taken aback by one of the monks who sang some solo chant. He sang a few pieces in which he took the written line and improvised upon it with a style reminiscent of a heavily ornamented chorale prelude of Bach. Lots and lots of extra notes in a very rapid manner; the opposite of what you expect chant to be.

I wish you were all here in my study so I could vocal-model a bit of it for you, but I will just say that I was completely turned off by it. The armchair musicologist in me found it intriguing for historical reasons, but for spiritual ones, I found it lacking.

Maybe it would grow on me in time, though I doubt it. I must say that I like my chant like I like my beer: smooth, with a nice aftertaste. Give me that meditative, no vibrato, Solesmes-sound any day of the week over Joe Scholar's latest historical interpretation.

Now don't think I'm opposed to the historically-informed performance practice movement. I love my Bach recordings by Gardiner and Parrott among others. I love the sound of those period instruments, the brisk tempos, the clean sound from the choir, etc. But I think it's important to know your audience; people in the pews in Sunday are uninterested in matters such as these when it comes to music. They want to be inspired by the chant and have their hearts "lifted up." I don't feel that the previous example I brought up does the job that is required of the music.

So to conclude, unless I am convinced otherwise, I think it's safe to say that I'll stick pretty closely to the traditional interpretation of the Ordinaries and the Propers with my future choir. In other words, don't expect me to drop some coin for a copy of the Graduale Triplex anytime soon.