Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ministering to ex-hippies?

I had a funny moment a few weeks back when a woman who plays in one of our guitar groups lamented to me about how “everything is going back to the old ways”. We had a chat about it and have exchanged a couple emails.

She remembers fondly the Mass of the early 70s, when “for the first time” she was able to understand the Mass, and has a couple of kids who, she laments, find more interest at our local Vineyard than in our church, though they do still come to Mass and participate in parish activities. She’s afraid the coming/expected changes in the Church, such as those discussed here, on TNLM, etc., will alienate these young adult types even more.

I don’t know that she’s especially bothered by anything I’ve done except using Guimont-type responsorial psalms, but she has spoken of some of these things as “old church”. She mentioned in passing she figured by now priests would be allowed to marry, women would be priests, etc. etc. She is probably averse to any Latin, or anything that reminds her of how Mass was in 1960.

None of this gives me pause or makes me wonder if I’m on the right path in introducing more Scripture-centric ways of singing (esp. with the approval these practices have enjoyed of the pastor and other staff), but it does make me wonder: how are we going to minister to the disillusioned ex-hippies who thought they were re-creating the Catholic Church in some kind of “cool” late 20th century, everybody’s-equal image, who thought in 1970 that every difficult Church teaching was a holdover of a past made irrelevant by the advances humankind has made and that surely would be abrogated in a short time?


At Thursday, July 20, 2006 9:34:00 PM, Anonymous moconnor said...

This is a great topic. I have to admire you and your guitarists ability to sit down and discuss the matter calmly. These discussions are usually somewhat heated and defensive. It's great that you can sympathize with this person. Can you imagine what it must have been like for the Mass to change almost overnight? I was only a young child, so I don't remember it that well. Your friend was then in the position to council older folks who may have felt lost and betrayed, but in a much more dramatic sense. As we age, change gets more difficult, especially if were one of the agents of that change. That was a special generation that felt that the world was truly changing for the better. It's no wonder they feel a bit betrayed by the return of what they felt, and perhaps were told, were primitive and superstitious vestiges of the Dark Ages. The best you can do is try to explain how the return to some traditional practices is Church's reassessment of how the first 40 years of the Reform has gone. It is just trying to fix some misconceptions that cropped up in the exuberance of the initial changes and that not everyone is served by what the Church has become. Good luck!

At Friday, July 21, 2006 2:57:00 PM, Blogger Doubting Thomas said...

It seems to me, having been in the "let's update everything" camp, and moved over the course of several years (not just overnight), that what is needed is real evangelization and education from the pulpit. Most well intentioned Catholics believe what is being told them from the pulpit if it is being said with conviction. If they are only hearing social justice (a good thing to hear in itself), then they will only consider social justice important. For those who are there but not fully evangelized, they will hear what they want to hear. Evangelical Protestants have it right insofar as they always preach a real, living, vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. That is something you don't hear alot of from Catholic pulpits. We also don't hear alot of things about the liturgy or the Communion of Saints, which are fundamental to understanding the Liturgy. If even the priests who want to see old ways return are only framing it in the perspective of a "cultural heritage" then those who don't immediately care for that cultural expression will tune out. But when it's related to our relationship with Christ and the Saints of all ages, then it begins to become important. Sorry for the long reply.

At Friday, July 21, 2006 5:20:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

Hm - I agree with what you’re saying, DT, but ATST I think the liturgy is a questionable tool for evangelization the likes of which you’re discussing.

I have known Protestants who spend several hours doing various things in their churches on Sunday and other days - we might want to get something like that going, but the liturgy itself has its own life and its own sense of self.

I definitely think you’re on to something with the “cultural heritage” plug - it can’t be the only reason for re-embracing (more) traditional liturgical practices. We may not have to worry about this, though - as more and more parishes (in America, at least) become bilingual, the sense of liturgy as belonging to a locality may weaken - certainly the use of Latin will seem more advantageous.

At Friday, July 21, 2006 6:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can tell you how I'm doing it.

I am unable to, say, join the Society for a Moratorium... because although not a single piece of music from that crowd is the best choice in any situation, I continues to program it because I will not repeat the errors made by those who took control of music in our churches 40 years ago(I refer to their pastoral errors, their aesthetic and liturgical errors being even worse, but not, I hope, a danger for me.)

I know too many people who were told outrigth, your services are no longer needed, your tastes are no longer worthy, your ways are no longer allowed.
Motet books thrown away because Latin was banned, didn't you know?; professionals fired because amateurs (self-taught, non-music-reading guitarists,) were more "authentic," more "spirit-filled," choirs disbanded because non-congregational singing was innappropriate; old ladies told their (admittedly mediocre) favorite devotional hymns could not be done in the New Church, new (even more mediocre) music was taking its place.

So I work in a "Gather Us In," here and there, just as if I'd been doing this work then, I would have played "To Jesus, Heart All Burning," for my Grandma.

And at prayer services (as opposed to Mass,) I'll let that guy play his banjo and that old nun lead everyone in the "liturgical calesthenics" she tries to urge eveyone into on, "Oh, oh, oh, How Good Is the Lord! (clap!) Oh, oh, oh...."

And I'll explain as nicely as I can why I will not sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow or Let It Be at funerals,(2 recent requests, which my predecessor would have honored,) and offer to come to the funeral parlor and do it the night before.

At Sunday, July 23, 2006 8:54:00 PM, Blogger Jeffrey Tucker said...

This is a very tricky issue. The temptation, and perhaps even the wise course, is to tolerate a mixed program during the transition: some chant, a Latin motet, an old-timey sturdy hymn, and a hippy favorite during communion or some such. And yet: the case for the genuinely Catholic aesthetic is made not by making it part of the hit parade of liturgical music but by integrating it completely within the liturgy so that it can become the sung prayer it truly is. A mixed program can be even more disorienting that a fully "contemporary" one. The response might be, well, I liked that spunky opening number but that offertory was just a big downers, etc.

I don't have a good answer to this problem except that you have to adhere to principle as much as possible, while also keeping in mind the principle of charity and sympathy for those sincerely attached to the SLJ, e.g.. This is more art than science. It might be the most difficult problem we face, and there are no easy answers.

At Thursday, July 27, 2006 6:30:00 PM, Blogger JPSonnen said...

nice for us that the good old graduale romanum already tells us what music is of the mind of the church for any day of the week...

At Wednesday, August 09, 2006 9:35:00 PM, Anonymous Tim said...

This is my first visit to this blog, and I just want to say how pleased I am to hear people discussing ways to minister to the "aging hippies." Most blogs are content just to ridicule them. Orthodox Catholics run such a risk right now of assuming the same smug, triumphalist attitude that the Spirit of VII crowd had in their heyday. If we succumb to that temptation, the recent trend toward orthodoxy will be just that: a trend, another pendulum swing.


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