Friday, June 30, 2006

one style of music?

I’d be grateful for commentary on this idea: there is only one style of music suitable for congregational singing, which is congregational music.

Defining traits:
  • One clear and obvious musical line emerges as being primary. This single line (the “melody”) generally spans about an octave and is easily singable.
  • Instrumentation is not necessary for the musical integrity and singability of the melody; it is there only to beautify and to make the music more easily singable.
  • Instrumentation generally plays a chordal accompaniment; drums and other unpitched instruments can contribute to the musical texture as well.

Haas’s “Mass of Light” definitely loses something without the instrumental accompaniment that Proulx’s “Community Mass” retains in that setting.

I am more and more convinced that the “style wars” some have described are really a non-issue. Give people music they *can* sing and that, by its nature, invites congregational singing - this was Thomas Day’s argument, and it is mine as well. Foley “Come to the Water” is too sustained for congregations to sing it well.

At the same time, we need to give more place to the choir and instruments to do their own, non-congregational music making. In my parish we generally use Guimont psalms - brand new music and text for the folks each week, and yet we get pretty good congregational singing there. Why? I have a hunch that it’s partly because the musical form of those types of psalm settings makes it simple and obvious that there are times when the assembly does sing, and there are times when they don’t sing.

In short, let’s accentuate the technical distinctions between congregational and ministerial music.

NCR whines (anonymously) about the new translation


Honestly, what is all the hubbub about? “Consubstantial”? Fine - it’s a weird word! But can’t these people at least be reasonable and concede that “under my roof” makes just as much sense in English as it does in Latin?

And I love how no one signed their name here.

This is not an issue of professional liturgists and 11 scheming men who don’t all natively speak English. (Some value in non-native speakers, ja?) This is not an issue of overturning 35-odd years of translation. This is an issue of people, in 2006, looking at a translation of “et cum spiritu tuo” made in 1970 and acknowledging that even in Latin, what that says is more akin to “and with your spirit” than “and also with you”.

Professional liturgists telling me the current translation is more accurate would be like a mathematician telling me that 2 + 2 = 5. I don’t need a degree in Latin, classics, or liturgy, to know what “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” means.

MCW 1-9

The Theology of Celebration

1. We are Christians because through the Christian community we have met Jesus Christ, heard his word in invitation, and responded to him in faith. We gather at Mass that we may hear and express our faith again in this assembly and, by expressing it, renew and deepen it.

2. We do not come to meet Christ as if he were absent from the rest of our lives. We come together to deepen our awareness of, and commitment to, the action of his Spirit in the whole of our lives at every moment. We come together to acknowledge the love of God poured out among us in the work of the Spirit, to stand in awe and praise.

3. We are cerebrating when we involve ourselves meaningfully in the thoughts, words, songs, and gestures of the worshiping community—when everything we do is wholehearted and authentic for us—when we mean the words and want to do what is done.

4. People in love make signs of love, not only to express their love but also to deepen it. Love never expressed dies. Christians' love for Christ and for one another and Christians' faith in Christ and in one another must be expressed in the signs and symbols of celebration or they will die.

5. Celebrations need not fail, even on a particular Sunday when our feelings do not match the invitation of Christ and his Church to worship. Faith does not always permeate our feelings. But the signs and symbols of worship can give bodily expression to faith as we celebrate. Our own faith is stimulated. We become one with others whose faith is similarly expressed. We rise above our own feelings to respond to God in prayer.

Kinda like how, if you look in a mirror and force yourself to smile, you will just about always feel better?

6. Faith grows when it is well expressed in celebration. Good celebrations foster and nourish faith. Poor celebrations may weaken and destroy it.

I don’t know that I’d say a poor celebration per se weakens/destroys faith, but it makes it easier to discard one’s faith.

7. To celebrate the liturgy means to do the action or perform the sign in such a way that its full meaning and impact shine forth in clear and compelling fashion. Since liturgical signs are vehicles of communication and instruments of faith, they must be simple and comprehensible. Since they are directed to fellow human beings, they must be humanly attractive. They must be meaningful and appealing to the body of worshipers or they will fail to stir up faith and people will fail to worship the Father. a liturgical sign necessarily directed to fellow human beings?

“Appealing to the body of worshipers”.....this doesn’t seem to jive with the formational character of the liturgy; growth in Christ is not always appealing to us at first, and we don’t always perceive the instrument of that growth as such. And of course, very few things are appealing to everyone; even when they are, appeal is not the goal of liturgy.

Meaningful....not sure I agree here, either. As a general rule, yes, but there are some things that we only understand with time.

8. The signs of celebration should tee short, clear, end unencumbered by useless repetition; they should be "within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation."'

If the signs need explanation to communicate faith, they will often be watched instead of celebrated.

Quoting from Vatican II CSL. This is tricky - obviously, the sign of the Cross requires some explanation, as does the elevation and other elements of the liturgy.

9. In true celebration each sign or sacramental action will be invested with the personal and prayerful faith, care, attention, and enthusiasm of those who carry it out.

Good stuff, that.

a romp through “Music in Catholic Worship”

Since Music in Catholic Worship (MCW) is now online, PT and I thought it would be cool to take it apart in the same way PT is doing with Musicam sacram (MS).

We had originally thought to hold off on this until PT finishes with MS, but a couple things have sprung up:

1) The US Bishops are apparently convening in August to draft a new document to replace MCW. In the interim, they are seeking input from various sources. There seem to be some readers of this blog who might have some influence, so a discussion of this document seems appropriate.

2) At the rate PT is going, we’ll have the new Mass translation before he’s done. :) (He has plenty of more important things than blogging to keep himself occupied at the moment.)

So, here goes......

Nicene Creed from the new (proposed) translation


Thursday, June 29, 2006

little note

If you posted a comment and didn’t get a reply, it may be because we never got a notice that you posted.

The pattern seems to be that only people who post a home page or with a account trigger the alert that someone commented; unfortunately, I only caught up w/ comments from Brandon, Fr. Klingele, Rob Clayton, and anonymous just now.

Hope you’re still reading! (And I also hope Google fixes this bug....)

a site advocating female ordination

Pretty sketchy arguments, but some interesting facts (i.e. historical devotion to Mary Priest) that I didn’t know.

And, once again, to the rescue:
Slavery and Christianity
Slavery and ethics

We really need to be addressing this stuff out in the real world. PrayingTwice and I are young adults, and most of our peers (especially the musicians!) regard the Church as being hopelessly behind the times on this stuff. When it’s not discussed in parishes, it looks as if the Church has no good answers to the points made by folks like - which, in turn, is what makes people take “The Da Vinci Code” seriously.

Monday, June 26, 2006

the Roman Gradual and music ministry

I, like PrayingTwice, have been away from the blogging for a while, prompted partly by a lack of things coming to mind to blog out, and partly also by playing Neverwinter Nights. :)

I did want to blog a bit, though, about the Roman Gradual and the important role that I feel it plays in my own approach to music ministry. This discussion assumes people know what the RG is and are familiar with the approach to choosing music put forth in the BCL’s “Music in Catholic Worship”.

The big thing is that the Gradual texts are *part* of the Mass, just as much as the readings from the Lectionary. This is a RADICAL shift for most folks from the idea of “the songs at Mass”.

When I first discovered the Gradual, I was intrigued by how some of the texts were matched to readings, but others (such as, for example, the Introit of 13th OT) don’t seem to match at all. My “Music in Catholic Worship” mindset found this odd, until I stepped back and realized the point above - these texts are part of the Mass, and they, like the presidential prayers (Collect, post-Communion, etc.), have a liturgical legitimacy of their own that “Here I Am, Lord” lacks.

In other words, the Gradual texts are part of the Mass and are there by default. “Here I Am, Lord” is only there because of “Music in Catholic Worship” and a subjective judgement that this music is suitable for a particular Mass.

This really shook me when I first found it, as did the stipulation in the GIRM that the priest’s homily should proceed from the readings, the Ordinary, .... OR the Proper. A priest could actually work in the Gradual texts into his homily, but I would be loath to suggest a priest would plan a homily around “Now In This Banquet”. My earlier post on the Pentecost Introit (and Communion) offers a good example of when this might be appropriate.

Of course, the problem is congregational singing - we won’t get many congregations to sing chant Propers, even in English. (If you want to try this route, the Anglican Use Gradual may be of use to you.) So, some folks are now looking to things like Tietze introit hymns and responsorial Communion antiphons that adapt the Gradual texts (or those in the Missal, which don’t always match) to an idiom more amenable to congregational singing.

A third route exists, though: treating the Gradual texts as additional “fodder” for music planning ideas. NPM is getting into this act; notice the ones marked “E” for “Entrance antiphon”. (More often than not, of course, this refers to what is in the Missal.)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

MS 22-26

22. Depending on the established customs of peoples and on other circumstances, a choir may be made up of men and boys, of all men or all boys, of both men and women, and, where the situation really requires, even of all women.

Is this the first time that a document allowed women to take part in a choir? I know that the practice was frowned upon if not forbidden before the council . . .

23. According to the design of the particular church, the place for the choir is to be such that:

a. its status as a part of the community with a special function is clearly evident;

b. the performance of its liturgical ministry is facilitated; [20]

c. full, that is, sacramental, participation in the Mass remains convenient for each of the members.

When there are women members, the choir's place is to be outside the sanctuary.

From the above, I think you could make a case for the choir placed in the loft or in front. I'm not trying to make a case for the presence of the choir in front, just stating that MS doesn't seem to forbid it.

As to the last item, is there an assumption at play here that says that women will never be in the sanctuary?

24. In addition to musical training, choir members should receive instruction on the liturgy and on spirituality. Then the results of the proper fulfillment of their liturgical ministry will be the dignity of the liturgical service and an example for the faithful, as well as the spiritual benefit of the choir members themselves.

Exactly. I think that it is imperative that our choir members have a greater understanding of the liturgy than the average pew-sitter.

25. Diocesan, national, and international associations for sacred music, especially those approved and repeatedly endorsed by the Apostolic See, are to offer help for both the artistic and spiritual training of choirs.

I think this one if finally getting off the ground. NPM has been around for quite a while but it seems that the CMAA is finally growing and the advent of these chant colloquiums seems to indicate that more is on the way.

26. The priest, ministers, servers, choir members, and commentator are to sing or recite the parts assigned to them in a fully intelligible way, in order to make it easier and obvious for the congregation to respond when the rite requires. The priest and the ministers of every rank should join their own voices with those of the entire assembly in the parts belonging to the congregation. [21]

"Commentator"? What's a "commentator"?

The last sentence should be anonymously forwarded to every priest in the US :)

20. See Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instr. Inter Oecumenici, 26 Sept. 1964, no. 97.

21. See Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instr. Inter Oecumenici, 26 Sept. 1964, no. 48 b.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Life transitions

Sorry I've been inactive for a bit . . . there's been a lot going on recently including giving birth to a new child (well, not me, my wife) and a dreadful move to a new city with a new job starting up in less than two weeks. I'll try to post something before the weekend but after that I'll be MIA for a bit.

Please pray for me and my family.

Monday, June 19, 2006

more on funerals

Readers of this blog will take note of my occasional writing on the state of funerals today.

Recently I was at a funeral where the reading was the “The souls of the just are in the hand of God” reading (Wis 3:1-3). My red flag went up when I remembered that this text is the offertory for All Saints. Another flag went up when I heard the Beatitudes in the Gospel reading - the Beatitudes are the communion for All Saints.

And, sure enough, these are legit options for funerals.

But, this is another example of the doctrinally perilous borrowing of ideas from All Saints to put into funerals. We really gotta remind people: All Saints is a big party for the people we know are with God; All Souls is an occasion of prayer for everyone else who has died. The funeral I mention, though, seemed much more of a party for the deceased.


Does anyone know about this collection?

It’s billed as responsorial music that embodies the Proper texts. I did check the “Song for the Table” (hrm - altar? table?) for Pentecost, and it’s a sharp departure from the Sacramentary and Gradual texts....

Just wondering if I have the right understanding of this collection?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Well, that was quick....

The address to the US Bishops about the new Order of Mass translation:

It passed, and by a landslide:

Monday, June 12, 2006

trends in liturgical music for the new century?

I’ve been thinking lately, if we were to outline what the progress these days in American liturgical music is, how would it look?

What I would say is status quo in most American parishes today is:

  • Entrance/Offertory/Communion/Recessional all drawn from the same pool of songs/hymns

  • Responsorial psalms and Alleluias sung either “song style” (i.e. Haugen “Shepherd Me, O God”) or with text fidelity (Gelineau, Guimont, Schiavone, etc.)

  • Ordinary settings generally stick to the text, perhaps with minor alterations

  • The only (short) acclamations sung are the Mystery of Faith and the Great Amen

  • Very little singing outside what is listed above

If you think this is inaccurate, please do comment.

Movements that signal a shift in the way many of us are thinking about all this:

  • A move toward Lectionary texts for the responsorial Psalm and Alleluia/VbtG, which usually takes the form of psalm tone chanting of verses with metered responses

  • Tietze’s “Introit Hymns for the Church Year” and Biery’s settings of Communion antiphons for Advent and Lent (as well as Proper settings and paraphrases from CanticaNova and other publishers) testify to a renewed interest in the idea of texts that are matched specifically to a particular Mass.

  • I believe very few (in terms of percentage)young adults who are regular churchgoers have much problem with Latin. The antagonism to it seems to be concentrated in the people who were young adults 40 years ago.

If you’ve spent much time reading this blog, you know that I, at least, am fully in favor of all of the above changes. :)

I would also like to believe we are moving on past the “Spirit & Song” mentality that publishes so much music that is darn near impossible for a congregation to sing well. (A bassoonist friend of mine - a very fine musician - used to attend Mass with his Catholic girlfriend, and he commented to me one time how strangely difficult the “congregational” music was.) But, this I haven’t seen; parishes still sing Haugen “Now In This Banquet”, “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”, and other such tunes. And of course, the one that baffles everyone in “On Eagle’s Wings” - how people sing this one, no one knows, but they do sing it.

I think we will not see Renaissance polyphony and the Gregorian repertory assuming its vaunted position as given in the Church documents. Instead, the “spirit” of these styles - faithful adherence to the liturgical text - will again become the accepted practice among musicians. In short, the change will not be toward universal acceptance of a historical musical style, but it will re-embrace the textual fidelity that characterizes great historical liturgical music. Musicians will be just that, and “liturgists’” roles in music will be confined to text.

Yes/no? Where do you see church music going?

Friday, June 09, 2006

MS 19-21

19. Because of the liturgical ministry it exercises, the choir (capella musica, schola cantorum) should be mentioned here explicitly.

The conciliar norms regarding reform of the liturgy have given the choir's function greater prominence and importance. The choir is responsible for the correct performance of the parts that belong to it, according to the differing types of liturgical assembly and for helping the faithful to take an active part in the singing.


a. Choirs are to be developed with great care, especially in cathedrals and other major churches, in seminaries, and in religious houses of study.

b. In smaller churches as well a choir should be formed, even if there are only a few members.

Twofold purpose of the choir:

1) Correct performance of the parts that belong to it

2) Helping the faithful to take an active part in the singing.

Not very inspiring; functional to say the least in this context.

20. Over the centuries the choirs of basilicas, cathedrals, monasteries, and other major churches have won high praise because they have preserved and developed the priceless treasury of sacred music. By means of rules issued specifically for them and reviewed and approved by the Ordinary such choirs are to be continued in order to carry out liturgical celebrations with greater solemnity.

Nevertheless choir directors and parish priests (pastors) or rectors of churches are to ensure that the congregation always joins in the singing of at least the more simple parts belonging to them.

In other words, keep working toward the advancement of liturgical music through choirs striving for excellence yet not usurping the participation of the faithful.

21. Especially where even a small choir is not possible, there must be at least one or more cantors, thoroughly trained to intone at least the simpler chants that the congregation sings and to lead and sustain the singing.

Even in churches having a choir it is better for a cantor to be present for those celebrations that the choir cannot attend but that should be carried out with some degree of solemnity and thus with singing.

Cantor's responsibilities:

1) Intone the simpler chants that the congregation sings

2) To lead and sustain the singing.

The first seems to imply that music is being used that requires intonation . . . chant, anyone?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

MS 17-18

17. At the proper times a holy silence is also to be observed. [17] That does not mean treating the faithful as outsiders or mute onlookers at the liturgical service; it means rather making use of their own sentiments to bring them closer to the mystery being celebrated. Such sentiments are evoked by the word of God, the songs and prayers, and the people's spiritual bonds with the priest as he recites the parts belonging to the celebrant.

It's so hard to find a refuge from the constant bombardment of sound in today's world. Even within the liturgy we tend to think that any time no one is speaking, the organist should be playing something. Many priests have told me that they feel uncomfortable when they are doing something non-verbal and there is no music in the background.

18. Those of the faithful who are members of religious societies for the laity should receive special training in sacred song, in order that they may make an effective contribution to sustaining and furthering the congregation's participation. [18] But the training of all the people in this regard is to be carried out thoroughly and patiently as part of their complete liturgical formation. It should be suited to their age, condition, way of life, and stage of religious development and should begin from the very first years of their schooling in the primary grades. [19]

"Religious societies for the laity"? Are they speaking of apostolates such as Regnum Christi, and Opus Dei or just parish groups such as the Knights of Columbus, Altar Sodality, etc.?

They bring up an interesting point though: these are the folks who are most likely to participate fully in the liturgy and to lead others by example, so we should work them over first. I like it.

Yet the paragraph goes on to say that all should receive "thorough" and "patient" training in their liturgical formation. No concrete steps though, other than that we should start this area of catechesis at an early age.

17. See Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 30.
18. See Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instr. Inter Oecumenici, 26 Sept. 1964, nos. 19 and 59.
19. See Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 19. Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instr. on sacred music and the liturgy, 3 Sept. 1958, nos. 106-108: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 50 (1958) 660.

Funeral music

Most of the time, I don't mind doing funerals, but every once in a while you get a family that really tries my limited virtues of charity and patience.

I got a call today from the daughter of the deceased who requested the following for the upcoming mass:

Prelude: "Mary's a Grand Ol' Name" by George M. Cohan

Processional: "Be Not Afraid"

Responsorial Psalm: "All I Ask of You" (Norbet)

Gospel Acclamation: "Amen" (African-American spiritual)

Offertory: "One Bread, One Body"

Communion: "I Have Loved You"

Meditation: "Ave Maria" (Schubert)

Recessional: "How Great Thou Art"

Two highlights from our conversation:

1) When I was trying to gently persuade her to actually program a psalm during the responsorial psalm, she said, "Well, we've already printed it in the program." She printed the program without consulting me first. Thanks.

2) I told her that the text for the gospel acclamation needed to actually be "Alleluia" and she said in an irritated tone, "Well, now I see why people are leaving the Catholic church, saying that's it's too rigid . . . " Yikes.

I get so frustrated with the usual "funeral family": many don't go to church themselves, though the parent was devout, yet they know the liturgy so well that they believe that Broadway showtunes are appropriate, just because the song title has the name of the deceased contained within it. God help us.

Monday, June 05, 2006

of Pentecost readings, Propers, and castrated liturgy

One of the interesting finds linked from is an article by Jacob Michael about the “whitewashing” of the Scripture readings in the 1970 Lectionary. I think I’ve happened upon one.

It started with exploring the Propers for Pentecost and writing a congregational Communion antiphon and psalm for the day. I was struck by the psalm verses in the Gradual:
God will arise for battle; the enemy will be scattered; those who hate God will flee. .. Then the just will be glad; they will rejoice before God; they will celebrate with great joy. Sing to God, praise the divine name; exalt the rider of the clouds. Rejoice before this God whose name is the LORD. Father of the fatherless, defender of widows-- this is the God whose abode is holy. .. God, when you went forth before your people, when you marched through the desert, Selah. The earth quaked, the heavens shook, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel. Blessed be the Lord day by day, God, our salvation, who carries us. Our God is a God who saves; escape from death is in the LORD God's hands. Summon again, O God, your power, the divine power you once showed for us. Awesome is God in his holy place, the God of Israel, who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!
The Introit verse is the first line from the above.

This made me step back and think: singing of God’s enemies scattered, on the day on which we celebrate the institution of the Church. Almost a re-enactment of the “wondrous battle” referenced in the Easter sequence: the Church takes Christ’s role and does battle with evil in the world, since Christ has conquered the evil that is not in the world (death).

Thinking back to the article on fisheaters, I checked the Gospel in the old Mass with the one(s) (a few options) in the new. Sure enough......

The traditional Mass has John 14:23-31...
Jesus said, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name--he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me, but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”

The new Mass offers a couple options for year B. Option #1, John 20:19-23...
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Option #2, John 15:26-27 and 16:12-15...
Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”

Sure enough, the passage left out in the 2nd option, John 16:1-11...
“I have told you this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour 1 is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you. I did not tell you this from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

What’s more, this verse of the “Veni creator Spiritus” hymn (“Come, Holy Ghost”) is nearly always left out of hymnals:
Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.

So, your typical Catholic Mass today will have no mention of a spirit of battle with evil that pervades the traditional liturgy and even the Propers of the new Mass.

I don’t really identify with those who insist the traditional Latin Mass is the best way to go. But I do think they have some valid points that should be addressed. Did the makers of the new Lectionary really intend to remove all references to battle with evil, damnation, etc. and give us a “happy-smiley” Mass? (Lucien Deiss, I know, was involved with at least some of the resp. psalms in the Lectionary.)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

of traditionalism

I’ve spent some time in the past few months posting comments on the forum at

The site itself offers a wealth of information that argues for the traditionalist mentality: that the Missal of 1962 is superior to the 1969 Missal and that the Church would be best served by a return, greater or entire, of its use.

(Some traditionalists are "sedevacantists" and do not acknowledge Paul VI or successors as true Popes. Sometimes Blessed John XXIII falls into the non-Pope category as well. This site’s author is not of that opinion, though she has a section in the forum where that issue is discuessed.)

It’s an interesting site. Some posts reflect a mentality kinda like a high school student (or college student, or professor, ...) will get really into something esoteric and become convinced that they have found something that should change the world. Relatively few posts are actually *from* people who remember when the 1969 Missal was new; this is predominantly a young crowd. It’s not for the faint of heart if you’re of the opinion that the 1969 Missal is just-fine-thank-you-very-much. This being said, many of the posts I have seen border on fanatic - even if these people are correct in what they propose, they go about bringing it to life all wrong.

The enthusiasm for the former Missal is telling, I think, that the reforms of the 60s and 70s were too dramatic - or else there wouldn’t be people of a new generation taking such interest in what things were like when their (grand)parents were kids.

My own experience of looking at the old rite has been revelatory: so many things that people said were taught are contradicted in the prayers. One person said she was taught that Protestants are going to hell - yet the Good Friday prayers (and the Baltimore Catechism from which she learned) explicitly state that God can save anyone, and that we cannot know that anyone is damned. It makes me wonder how many Vatican II fathers had this on their minds during the Council - making the faith of the people reconcile with the prayer of the Church.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

One more idea why Catholics don’t sing

Schoenberg’s preferred term for what we call atonality was “pantonality” (or whatever the German equivalent of the term is). He wanted people to see his music as “covering all tonalities”; instead, we perceive it as eschewing all sense of tonality altogether.

Pantheism may be considered a form of atheism: if all things are divine, then the term “divine” ceases to refer to anything in particular, which effectively makes it cease to exist.

I do not accept the premise that the only reason someone would decide not to sing at Mass is that they are unwilling to make the sacrifice to God of their discomfort with singing. For a lot of people, I do think that’s the case, but not all.

Many lament that congregations do not understand the idea that their singing fulfills a liturgical role. I propose that one reason for this is that we ask them to sing everything, which reduces the “specialness” of their role as singers in the same way that pantheism “reduces” to atheism, and pantonality to atonality.

I wish we could try this: make the Ordinary and the acclamations the only congregational music, and give the processional songs/chants to music ministers alone. Just to see what happens when the people see that there are times when they sing, and there are times when they don’t sing.

In my own experience, some of the heartiest singing is with responsorial Psalms. Could it be because there is a clear distinction here between what is congregational music (the response) and what is ministerial music (the verses)?

Friday, June 02, 2006

consolidation of parishes a good thing?

Many Catholics these days are justifiably afraid of parish closings and mergers, given the shortage of clergy that, while more severe in other countries like France, is still bound to affect Americans as well.

At the same time, I wonder if this won’t be a good thing. With fewer parishes around, there will be less “parish shopping”, which, in turn, will anchor people more securely to their geographical parish. Pastoral ministers - not just priests, but musicians as well - will have a bit more freedom to try out new things, with less fear that people will simply go to the neighboring parish.

This isn’t a solidly built theory or anything, just an idea that has occurred to me as people warn me that if I don’t plan music people like, they will leave our parish. ISTM, then, that maybe people need a bit of “Mom says to eat your peas”; liturgical music should, given good quality of the music, have a sort of relative universality that eschews many stylistic preferences. (I do think chant accomplishes this admirably.)

MS 15-16

15. The faithful carry out their proper liturgical function by offering their complete, conscious, and active participation. The very nature of the liturgy demands this and it is the right and duty of the Christian people by reason of their baptism. [13]

This participation must be:

a. internal, that is, the faithful make their thoughts match what they say and hear,
and cooperate with divine grace; [14]

b. but also external, that is, they express their inner participation through their gestures,
outward bearing, acclamations, responses, and song. [15]

The faithful are also to be taught that they should try to raise their mind to God through interior participation as they listen to the singing of ministers or choir.

This is a very important paragraph in regards to our understanding of the call for "full, conscious, and active participation" in SC. Many liturgists have interpreted that to mean that the people should be doing, saying, and singing everything that the priest is not. This document clarifies SC and says that not only is participation external, but also internal--the last tag applies this internal participation in regards to the role of the choir in their particular and important ministry.

In other words, yes, the choir can sing by themselves sometimes.

16. A liturgical celebration can have no more solemn or pleasing feature than the whole assembly's expressing its faith and devotion in song. Thus an active participation that is manifested by singing should be carefully fostered along these lines:

Am I misreading this first sentence? Surely the Eucharist is a more solemn and pleasing feature . . .

a. It should include especially the acclamations, responses to the greetings of the priest and
the ministers and responses to the litanies, the antiphons and psalms, the verses of the
responsorial psalm, and other similar verses, hymns, and canticles. [16]

All fine until we get to "the verses of the responsorial psalm"; it seems the other documents relegate these to the music ministers in particular.

b. Pertinent catechesis as well as actual practice should lead the people gradually to a more
extensive and indeed complete participation in all the parts proper to them.

This is one where we've definitely dropped the ball as a church. I don't think many of the people in the pews truly understand the role of liturgical music and the role that they themselves are to play.

c. Some of the congregational parts may be assigned to the choir alone, however, especially
when the people are not yet sufficiently trained or melodies for part-singing are used. But the
people are not to be excluded from the other parts proper to them. The practice of assigning
the singing of the entire Proper and Ordinary of the Mass to the choir alone without the rest
of the congregation is not to be permitted.

Fair enough. The choir should not usurp completely the role of the people in musical worship. But again, they are allowed to do some parts without the congregation.

The second half of the first sentence strikes me: it assumes (at least in this translation) that the people will eventually be "sufficiently trained." What are the parameters in this context for sufficient training?

13. See Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 14.
14. See Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 11.
15. See Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 30.
16. See Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 30.