Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Honestly, why do these people bother?

NCRp’s latest editorial is perhaps revealing.

What you find at the above editorial is a one-page-ish rant that the Church still teaches things that the (anonymous?) writer apparently finds inconvenient.

A few excerpts:

...the teaching (on contraception) makes little sense, doesn’t match the experience of lay Catholics and tends to reduce all of human love to the act of breeding.

Whether the teaching makes sense - I honestly am not prepared to make a great-big defense of it, maybe because it largely has not been a relevant Church teaching for me in my life. Likewise, I can’t comment on how it matches lay Catholics’ real-life experiences; my parents were “divorced” before my first memories, and neither of them ever married.

The teaching, however, certainly does not “reduce all of human love to the act of breeding”. For one, we are only dealing with one type of love - not a parent/child relationship, not a platonic friendship, not a mentor/student, but one of romantic involvement in the context of marriage. So, let’s assume the author meant “reduce all of marital love to the act of breeding.”

The teaching on contraception, as I see it, is that sex is inseparable from procreation, just as it is inseparable from love. By “inseparable”, I mean in the context of right order; not that you can’t have sex without loving the other person or without being open to procreation, but it makes no objective sense to do so.

You can want not to have children, say the bishops, you just can’t do anything “unnatural” about it. It’s a strange concept, like not wanting to die of heart disease while not doing anything “unnatural” about it.

Nice: children compared to heart disease.

There’s a reason 96 percent of Catholics have ignored the birth control teaching for decades.

Does that include the 75% or so (or whatever high percentage it actually is now) of Catholics who don’t go to Mass regularly anyway?

And, on homosexuality....

Homosexuals are “objectively disordered” (that’s about as bad as it humanly gets, in our understanding of things), but we love them and want them to be members of our community.

I have never heard of homosexual people described by a practicing educated Catholic as “disordered”; rather, it is the act and (IIRC) the inclination that are disordered. I get so tired of discussing this point - honestly, this is the kind of rhetoric we got from the generally anti-Catholic editorials (usu. penned by former Catholics) in my undergrad student newspaper.

The editorial derides the following in the bishops’ work:
“In the context of parish life, however, general public self-disclosures are not helpful and should not be encouraged. ... Sad to say, there are many persons with a homosexual inclination who feel alienated from the church.”

I would like to know how many bishops would favor a public “coming out” for adulterers, alcoholics, abusive parents, and/or people who masturbate. The proper Catholic response to any of these things is essentially, of course, “get thee to a confessional, and quickly go.”

Not that, of course, “coming out” necessarily implies telling people one is actively engaging in homosexual sex. I could see it being the case, all things else equal, that someone would publicly share one of their crosses - say, if a priest or deacon told his congregation about an inclination to anger. However, “coming out”, in our society, is LOADED with strings attached - I wonder what the reception would be (and how common it is) if someone confessed to a large congregation, “I am gay and have every intention of living my life according to Church teaching, including abstinence from sexual activity.” What would the gay establishment (yes, it does exist ... ask anyone who works professionally in fine arts) say? Would this person be vilified by that establishment, pitied, mocked? (I suspect yes - would be interested to read counterexamples.)

The last two paragraphs simply must be seen to be believed:
No one’s come out with a program, but we’ll venture yet one more hunch. It has become apparent in recent years that there’s been an upsurge in historical ecclesiastical finery and other goods. We’ve seen more birettas (those funny three-peak hats with the fuzzy ball on top that come in different colors depending on clerical rank) and cassocks (the kind with real buttons, no zippers for the purists) and ecclesiastically correct color shoes and socks, lots of lacy surplices and even the capa magna (yards and yards of silk, a cape long enough that it has to be attended by two altar boys or seminarians, also in full regalia). In some places they’re even naming monsignors again.

It’s as if someone has discovered a props closet full of old stuff and they’re putting it out all over the stage. Bishops, pestered by the abuse scandal that they’ve avoided looking full in the face, find it easier to try to order others’ lives. They have found the things of a more settled time, a time when their authority wasn’t dependent on persuading or relating to other humans. It was enough to have the office and the clothing. Things worked. Dig a little deeper in the closet and bring out the Latin texts, bring back the old documents, bring back the days when homosexuals were quiet and told no one about who they essentially are. Someone even found a canopy under which the royally clad leader can process.

In summary, people are becoming proud of being Catholics (again?), as shown through more use of distinctly Catholic signs and forms.

NCRp can’t handle that. They don’t want such a countercultural church. They want a group of nice people that affirms everyone, with a smiley sticker on their sweater, as long as it’s what society at large wants. In short, they want The Vineyard.

Maybe that’s going too far. But geez, the arrogance of some of these people appalls me. Church teaching on homosexuality and contraception just ain’t changing, so why get so worked up about it when the bishops take on their task to teach these things?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Beatitudes at a funeral - yes or no?

The facts of the case are these:

1) The pre-V2 and post-V2 Missal both have the Beatitudes as the Gospel reading for All Saints.

2) The post-V2 Missal includes the Beatitudes as an option for funerals and All Souls - which, of course, was not the case prior to V2. (Another such reading is the one from Wisdom, “The souls of the just are in the hand of God” - the offertory for All Saints.)

So, my question is, for those of you reading - does using material from All Saints in funerals (and All Souls) blur the distinction between the celebration of the saints and the prayers for the souls of the (other) deceased? This being the case, is it a faux pas to read/sing the Beatitudes (or the Wisdom passage) at a funeral, since those have a traditional (and current) association with All Souls?

You can probably guess (esp. if you read my post on All Souls) that I am opposed to any mixing of the texts for these two feasts. There is just way too much subtle suggestion that we ought to presume that anyone with a grieving family is, of course, in heaven, since we dare not offend the bereaved. My contention is that we do them a disservice by suggesting it’s ok to judge the deceased (even if the judgement be positive).

32 OT--B

32 OT—B (11-12)

Processional: Allow my Prayer and Plea ( ST. BRIDE)

Psalm: Praise the Lord, my soul! Ps. 146: 7, 8-9, 9-10 (Gelineau)

Offertory: God Be in My Head (Rutter)

Communion: Dominus regit me (chant—women)
Psalm 23 (Dvorak)

Thanksgiving: I Sing the Mighty Power of God W 133 (MOZART)

Recessional: Holy, Holy, Holy W 118 (NICAEA)

I have a world-class tenor as my cantor for this mass. He has the potential to be world-renowned someday; he's really that good and only 21! He sang the Dvorak very beautifully, as expected.

New position

As I had promised long ago, here's just a little info about the new job I took in early July.

My reasons for leaving my previous position were numerous, though none made the move imperative. The big ones though were the fact that my pastor was a very poor administrator and the parish's financial resources were falling very quickly. Being a small parish to begin with, I was afraid that in the next year or two they may have asked me to go to half-time, which just wasn't happening with a wife and two young children. Pairing this with the fact that he was way more liberal than I was comfortable with made a move very likely.

And of course, the music situation was less than stellar; I inherited one small choir (approximately 8 singers when I started) with a very low level of musicianship. For example, of my 3 men, one was in his early 70's and could not match pitch consistently, one had been in the choir longer than I had been alive and had always sung melody before I came (!), and the third attended only sporadically. Coming straight from a student teaching experience where I worked with wonderful choirs, this was a tough transition at first. Though we nearly doubled the size of the choir in my tenure, and I brought them as far as I could, we were still a long way from performing any Palestrina.

So we made a move; I am currently the Director of Music at a prominent Newman Center at a secular university in the midwest. Though there are many sketchy Centers throughout the country, I can assure you this one is top-notch. Orthodox through and through. We've been cranking out vocations for years now with no end in sight. It's truly a wonderful place.

Here's what I inherited:

6 ensembles--

1) "Traditional" choir which I personally direct--chant, polyphony, anthems, etc. . . all the good stuff

2) Gregorian Schola--we've had to rebuild this one somewhat as the numbers were quite small when I came--it's going to be a couple of years before it really gets rolling, I think

3) "Contemporary" choir--all Gather-based music

4) and 5) Two ensembles that use mostly music in the "traditional" vein with some "contemporary stuff mixed-in

6) "Praise and Worship" ensemble--this was just instituted as I was coming in--of course, the potential for disaster was high with this experiment, but so far so good--this will probably require a separate post in the future

We have student directors for 2)-6) which I oversee and mentor. As you can see, we have many weekend masses, all pretty well attended. We've got a bit of a juggernaut here, if you will. The music ministry itself encompasses approximately 80 people or so and we hope to build on that in the years to come.

I must say the biggest impetus for coming here was 1), the "traditional" choir. This is an ensemble that was untouched by the musical silliness after the council. They have a history of doing chant, organ-based hymns, and great choral stuff. The group has had its ups and downs in regards to numbers and ability, but I think we're headed in the right direction. I inherited about 12 singers in July and we're up to around 23 after some pretty aggressive recruiting measures. It's a real pleasure working with this group and much more musically satisfying than my previous choir.

Working with the student directors has been a blessing as well. Though two of the five are actually a few months older than me (!), my rapport with them has been very fruitful I believe. We met for an intensive 3-day workshop before the year began and we meet weekly for working lunches in which we discuss liturgical music issues and some occasional sessions for improvement. It's been interesting as I have the whole range of musical preferences from my Schola director to my "Praise and Worship" director. Though we've had some heated moments, it's been a very supportive environment and a lot of bonds have been formed.

The job as a whole is much different than my previous one. I rarely have to touch a keyboard anymore as all the ensembles have paid accompanists. This is a big switch from playing piano/organ for 3 masses a weekend. I also do quite a bit more desk work than before. Come to think of it, I didn't even have a desk at my old job! :) I spend gobs of time sending, reading, and responding to e-mails.

It's very exciting to work in an environment in which young people are given the opportunity to truly make the faith their own. I discovered my own faith in college and so I can empathize somewhat with the struggles that can entail. Our whole pastoral staff is dedicated to preaching the gospel to the whole campus if need be, and we're not afraid of our Catholic identity. We really have a strong presence on this campus and it will continue to increase as our facilities expand in the near future.

Also, my family is very happy in this area. We're living in a wonderful cultural environment without the hassles of a big city (which we experienced before). We live in a nice, quiet neighborhood away from campus and my wife is starting to form a support system in the area. God has truly blessed me and my family. Here's to my next 35 years in this position! :)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Waitwaitwait....about that music directory....

Would the Graduale(s) and Gregorian Missal be prohibited from being used at Mass, since they would not contain the core repertoire???

I am half-joking; I can’t imagine the wording wouldn’t involve “other than the approved liturgical books, this repertoire must be included”. Still, it would be kinda funny (and sad, too) if they overlooked this one. I mean, yeah, sad, but .... in a laughing-at-ourselves kind of way, it would be a funny “oops - forgot about that” moment. :)

the choral Sanctus lives....?

CMAA has put up an article by a canon lawyer arguing that because Musicam sacram is a specific law, and because the GIRM is a general law that does not specifically abrogate the terms of the older document, the choral Sanctus (and, indeed, entire choral Ordinary) is licit at Mass in the modern rite.

Anyone care to do devil’s advocate? I am fairly satisfied with the argument.

Monday, November 13, 2006

glass Communion vessels forbidden?

I was reading through this interview with Cardinal Arinze, and I was a bit surprised to read that glass is forbidden for use as a vessel for Holy Communion.

GIRM says:
328. Sacred vessels are to be made from precious metal. If they are made from metal that rusts or from a metal less precious than gold, then ordinarily they should be gilded on the inside.

329. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, sacred vessels may also be made from other solid materials that, according to the common estimation in each region, are precious, for example, ebony or other hard woods, provided that such materials are suited to sacred use and do not easily break or deteriorate. This applies to all vessels which hold the hosts, such as the paten, the ciborium, the pyx, the monstrance, and other things of this kind.

Well, 329 provides the leeway. “Who are you to say glass isn’t precious to us?” “How easily is ‘easily’”?

Anyway, happy Monday to those reading.

Friday, November 10, 2006

LitAuth and the anticipated indult

Readers of this blog may recall the 2001 document Liturgiam authenticam which stressed the need to preserve the unity of the Roman Rite by ensuring that translations from original languages (Latin, Hebrew, etc.) to vernaculars were as accurate as possible while still maintaining some semblance of “working” with the language. We all, I am sure, know of the squabble caused by this document, which flew in the face of how so many had interpreted “participatio actuosa”. Some of you may have read Peter Jeffery’s informative (but largely off-topic, IMO) critique of the document. And we probably all are aware of the new Missal translation (and with it, new Lectionary etc.) coming down the pipe as a result.

So, after AALLLL this hullabaloo, has anyone else looked at the anticipated liberalization of the 1962 Missal and seen something like a de facto fracture in the Roman Rite, the very kind of thing for which SO many have spent so many words anguishing?

That being said, assuming the indult is a complete, always-and-everywhere license to use the old Missal, it at least would be a fracture with stringent restrictions, as opposed to the pre-LitAuth translational scheme which basically permitted any kind of text deviations one justified as meeting the people’s need for a liturgical language to which they could relate.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Schola Antiqua

This group is very good. If you're in that area, check them out . . .


'Harmonies for the Queen of Heavens'
Friday, November 10 at 8 pm
Rockefeller Chapel
5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.

Schola Antiqua of Chicago
Calvin M. Bower, director

The Schola Antiqua of Chicago performs Guillaume Du
Fay's last polyphonic mass, based on the antiphon "Ave
Regina Celorum" and the composer's 1463 motet of the
same name, interspersed with plainchant. Free. For
more information, call 773-702-7059.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Parrott does Handel

Wow. Wow! Wow!!!

Everyone who reads this needs to run over to Amazon and purchase this. $9.99 for four CD's of two of Handel's greatest oratorios! By the incredible Taverner Choir under the direction of Andrew Parrott!

I have both of these recordings from previous purchases. The choral singing is top-notch; the choruses in these works are to die for. The solo singing is great in "Israel in Egypt", somewhat hit-or-miss in "Messiah." But "Messiah" is worth picking up just to hear the angelic Emma Kirkby. And again, this chorus is fabulous! The best soprano section I've ever heard . . .

I cannot recommend this purchase more . . . I may pick up another copy myself.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The problem with funerals (or, Why I Love All Souls Day)

The problem with funeral liturgies is that we give families (whether they want it or not) the responsibility for planning readings and music, which very few have any experience with or knowledge of at all.

So, the end result is that people choose songs (and readings) that look familiar. I am playing one shortly with “Lift Up Your Hearts” as an opener, and we all can name other familiar funeral favorites - “Here I Am, Lord”, “On Eagle’s Wings”, etc.

I am aware that the Order of Christian Funerals tells us to do precisely this, to plan the readings and music with the families. But I think this practice is due for a good, hard look.

I really looked forward to All Souls, admittedly because a couple of my own works were in the plan:

Entrance: my English introit hymn of the “Requiem æternam”, sung to ST. COLUMBA
Psalm: my setting of the Ps. 25 from the Lectionary
Offertory: Be Not Afraid (NOT my choice - more on this later)
Eucharistic prayers: Mass of Creation (might as well)
Communion: my responsorial setting of “Lux æterna”, in English
Recessional: “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”, sung to ST. COLUMBA

I don’t mean to pat myself too much on the back here (NB: a committee did screen all this), but I really felt like the Entrance and Communion texts, being explicit prayers for the deceased, just “fit” better and made the occasion a much more special one than had we sung “On Eagle’s Wings” or some such.

We have, largely through liturgical music but also through ministers’ avoidance of difficult issues (e.g. the “wives be submissive” Epistle passage some weeks back), set ourselves up as a religion of preferences. We have “youth Masses” with lots of music I wouldn’t have liked at all when I was 15 or so - and the planners of such events know this, but their concern is sometimes not so much catholic (i.e. universal) liturgy as popular liturgy, liturgy that appeals to the tastes of a popular majority. Weddings - the dreaded Bridezilla, anyone? She has learned all her life that liturgical music is “songs” punctuating a liturgy, so of course she plans her wedding with songs she likes. (The wise groom just looks on, accepting this as something that’s a bigger deal for her than for him.)

Anyway, back to funerals. Isn’t it strange that the Beatitudes, traditionally read on All Saints, are now an option for funerals (and All Souls) as well? We blur the distinction between these two occasions when such things happen - I only noticed that “Be Not Afraid” quotes the Beatitudes in the third verse, so really, that one would seem better not used for funerals. (I actually kinda like it for weddings - the wedding propers speak much about similar things.)

I am not sure how to solve this problem; the death of a loved one is not the occasion to inform a grieving family that the parish has a new policy of only a few tunes, all of which are specific to funerals but none of which is familiar (unless they love All Souls Day like I do). But at the same time, I think we can start to take steps in this direction if, ironically enough, the music we use on Sundays becomes *less* familiar, less like a radio where “I hope my favorite (church) song gets sung today.” Introit hymns are, I think, a good solution here - even changing just the text and keeping the tune is enough to communicate that each Mass is special, in and of itself, which includes sung texts as well as spoken.

The Communion proper, btw, was sung so-so; I think people appreciated it, but maybe didn’t want to go to the effort of singing something new, even short as it was (6 bars, I think). So, here we have a question of “participation in the liturgy” - a fuller sign of participation is possible with more familiar music, BUT the liturgy in which the people participate is lessened when the texts are not specific to the day/occasion. Not just “participation” is important, but “participation in the liturgy”.

sigh. Funeral in the morning for a kid who was 16 and got broadsided by an SUV with no lights on. He was a vegetable for a few days, and there was nothing that could have been done. I’ve been through some very rough times in my life, but never such an incredible jolt of acute pain as the family of this poor kid must be going through. Wow.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The “responsorial psalm” needs a new name.

I’ve gotten a bit tired of this unwieldy term, “responsorial psalm”. Besides that it is 6 syllables long, with 3 of them stressed, it fails even to describe a unique moment of the Mass. Consider:

Responsorial psalmody is at the heart of the Graduale simplex, which gives chants for use at any of the processionals of Mass as well as the chants between the readings. Responsorial psalmody is how Gregorian Communion propers work as well. Further, the Easter Vigil Alleluia is a responsorial psalm, and even songs like “On Eagle’s Wings” could really be called responsorial psalms.

I’ve got parishioners who just call it the “responsorial”, reinforcing an ignorance of the fact that “responsorial” is just a musical form, and one that can describe several songs used at Mass, even the Prayer of the Faithful (if they’re sung). Some people get confused when the Communion song is a “responsorial” antiphon and psalm.

So, what to call this thing, the text from the Lectionary meant to be sung immediately after the first reading? We can’t use the term “Gradual” since that refers to a genre of Gregorian melody, and the post-1st-reading chant doesn’t even necessarily have music. “Chant after the 1st reading” is much too unwieldy.

How about “lesson psalm”? This establishes both its place during the lessons (i.e. readings) and tells what it is (a psalm, though almost all - maybe all - of them are excerpts rather than entire psalms).

With a revision of the Lectionary coming up (this being, I understand, a bona-fide revision of the choice of readings, not just a new translation as in 1998), now might be the ideal time to bring this to the attention of relevant authorities.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Bach chorale cantatas based on tunes we still sing

BWV 80 - Ein’ feste Burg (“A mighty fortress is our God”)

Excepting maybe the “Ehre sei dir, Gott” of the Christmas Oratorio, I’m not sure there’s any Bach more fun than mvts. 1 and 5 of this one. Herreweghe does a romp on this one. (And I like those trumpets and timpani - which Bach didn’t write, but they’re cool anyway, so why not?)

BWV 140 - Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (“Wake, O Wake”)

You probably got it in your undergrad music history sequence, but if you were like me, you were so overloaded with Gabrieli, Schüta, Buxtehude, et al that there wasn’t room to savor Bach. This one only gradually grew on me, and I still am so-so on the solo movements. I still haven’t found a recording of this one I really think does the trick.

BWV 137 - Lobe den Herren (“Praise to the Lord”)

The last one is lesser-known, but it’d be a great piece to put together for a summer concert or some such. Pretty standard chorale cantata: big opening chorus with the chorale in the soprano as a cantus firmus, some solo movements, then a straight-up harmonization of the chorale.

Interesting how the tune is different - I wonder why the discrepancy between what Bach used and what I’ve always otherwise seen and sung.

BWV 192 - Nun danket alle Gott (“Now thank we all our God”)

Again, lesser-known, and actually incomplete. But, we do have the opening chorus, a duet, and a closing chorus. The opening is pretty demanding on the singers and has some interesting “extra” padding - first and last vocal entrances are unrelated to the chorale. The 2nd chorus reminds one “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” with the constant triplet motion in the violins, but here the singers get in on the fun, too. :)

Any that I missed? Of course, there are other great chorale cantatas, but I am specifically interested in ones based on chorales we still sing, esp. in Catholic churches. (I believe some churches do still sing “Mit Fried’ und Freud’” and “Werde munter, mein Gemüthe”, e.g. “Jesu Joy” - but these seem less prevalent?)

Musicam sacram vs. Music in Catholic Worship

Here is a great article comparing Musicam sacram with Music in Catholic Worship. It first appeared in AIM about a year ago and is reprinted now at Adoremus, apparently with some revisions.

Reflection on MCW Revision

From a participant in the Oct. 7th meeting:

It was quite a diverse group of people – which alone was quite edifying. The music subcommittee allowed anyone who wanted, the opportunity to speak for 2 minutes on “what should be held in mind in the revision of the United States documents on liturgical music.” With such diversity, you can imagine that the comments covered the spectrum. However, the main issues which were raised over and over (from various participants) were – the Church’s heritage and contemporary expressions; inculturation; competencies of the liturgical musician; expanding the 3 judgments – perhaps adding a fourth (the Theological Judgment); maintain a sense of the document’s theology of celebration (MCW’s opening section); maintain a sense of the importance of active participation of the whole assembly.

The subcommittee then identified 3 main areas from the morning’s discussion: Sacredness of liturgy and music; the church’s heritage of music and contemporary expressions; the cultural diversity of the United States . Again, anyone who wanted could address any or all of these three points, having 3 minutes to speak.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Apparebit repentina dies

Paul Hindemith did the world a favor by setting this ancient precursor to Dies iræ to music; I had the joy of singing this setting when I was an undergrad. Highly recommended.

Here is the text.

31 OT--B

31 OT--B (11-5)

Processional: For All the Saints

Psalm: I love you, Lord, my strength W 650

Offertory: Benedic, anima mea (Lassus)

Communion: Notas mihi (chant--men)

Thanksgiving: Those Who Love and Those Who labor W 277

Recessional: Ye Watchers and ye Holy Ones W 313

"For All the Saints" is just too good to do only on All Saints!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

An email address for us

Since PT and I need some anonymity on this blog, we can’t directly post our contact info. However, we would like a way for people to contact us besides posting comments; thus, we have the following email set up to contact us about things on the blog:


"Parody" Masses

I was perusing some of the posts over at the discussion forums at rpinet.com, and one thread dealt with the concept of modern "parody" masses. The composer had written a "Morning Has Broken" Mass which makes me wince in pain to even think of it.

Someone then responded that the use of a familiar tune as the basis of an Ordinary setting usually wound up to be a bit tedious in practice. I must agree.

Though this was a common practice in the Renaissance era, the treatment of the melodies were much different than how they are done now. Now, the melodies are not placed within the context of an imitative technique that treated the tune with reverence and care. Now, we get the exact tune, nearly note-for-note, on which the text of the Ordinary is grafted. It has an air of artificiality and manipulation about it if you ask me.

Two of the most obvious settings are Proulx's "Missa Emmanuel" and his "Corpus Christi Mass", the former using "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and the latter using "Adoro Te Devote." Though both of the melodies are strikingly beautiful, and the settings well-composed (as is most of his music), the practical effect is less than desirable. If you use the "Missa Emmanuel" throughout Advent, what happens on the 4th Sunday of Advent when you actually want to use "O Come" ? I'd be so sick of that melody that the original tune would be ruined for me. It's just overkill.

I wonder though if you could pull off the parody technique in a way that the effect isn't so overwhelming. For instance, what about a mass setting that uses a number of different familiar tunes. Such as an Advent setting that uses a chant Kyrie traditionally associated with Advent (Mass XVII, perhaps), an Alleuia from "O Come", NUN KOMM DER HEILAND HEIDEN for the Sanctus, etc. . . Is this too contrived?

Am I missing anything in this discussion? Would anyone like to stick up for the Proulx parody masses?