I received an e-mail from Catholic Culture today and it included a link to this article. Very thought provoking and an excellent article. I wish every parish pastor and head of the music would have to read this- discuss and understand it.
This is an excellent article as it accurately diagnoses the problems that I have seen week in and week out in many of our parishes down here.
I just happened across this as well, outside this forum.
I disagree with 9 and 12.
I strongly agree with many points.
I strongly agree with points 9 and 10. Part of the problem with the Memorial Acclamations written by folks like Haugen, Haas, Hurd, et al, is that they are repetitive. They are sung either twice or, in some cases, thrice. I have seen many Papal Masses. The Memorial Acclamations sung by the Capella Sistena Choir are only sung once. They are simple, yet, magnificent, and they require no outlandish preludes, as Haugen has for his Mass of Creation. At least, the new translations have finally gotten rid of “Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.” The Memorial Acclamation is addressed to Christ in the second person, as “you”, not in the third person.
The Great Amen, unfortunately, suffers from the same fate. Haugen, Hurd, Haas and even my favorite composer, Proulx, seem to think that we need to have six “Amens”. Again, I hold the Papal Mass as the standard bearer. The Amen is sung three times, but, each variation has a different note to it. There is no flourish in the intro. It is simple and majestic.
I for one, do not necessarily like singing during Communion, especially if the song is insipid and inappropriate. No one should force anyone to sing, especially during this time when we are having a personal encounter with God, Himself. It is the time when God comes into our hearts to dwell. If you want to sing, that is fine with me; however, do not force me to sing when I would rather spend my time in silent prayer.
The article has many good points, but the writers seem to have the impression that those who disagree with their liturgical preferences are somehow not Catholic enough.
[size=2]All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman liturgy. Other types of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded, provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful.
Many read this seem to grab ahold of this one statement: “Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman liturgy.” They ignore, however, all the other things around it- like “all other things being equal”, “Other types of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded”. It’s my understanding basically that this means that Gregorian chant has a long and noble history in the Latin Rite, so the magisterium wants us to recognize Gregorian Chant for the treasure that it is (and not just in academics either- but in the setting for which it was intended- the liturgy).
The time of communion is not the time for a “personal” encounter with God. It is time for a “communal” encounter. We receive, not only the Body and Blood of Christ but we become the Body of Christ in union with those around us. It is a moment of koinonia, of community. The communion song reflects that communion with others, the fact that we are one Body receiving our Lord, not a group of individuals. That is why, the typical posture during this time is standing until everyone receives (although we do not usually see that here in the US). While I am singing the song at communion, I keep in mind all as they come up to recieve and especially remember those who for whatever reason cannot receive. The time for personal silent thanksgiving is during the period of silence after everyone receives. The problem is that in some churches they do not give enough time for this period of reflection. I do think that the music during the communion procession should be simple. A short refrain, with a cantor or choir singing the verses is very nice. So it a simple chant, something the assembly does not need to look in a book to sing. I believe that singing reflects this communion that we should be seeking with God and with those around us.
I agree with most.
10 – This one is up to the priest. The solution offered doesn’t work if Fr. is on a walkabout since the Agnus Dei must accompany his actions not be sung in a vacuum.
11 – Since it’s perfectly proper for this hymn to be done by the choir alone, it would be good to see that happen more frequently. That would take care of the argument that “we can’t sing a Gregorian chant or a Latin hymn ‘because the assembly doesn’t know it.’”
Oops, that should have been 12.
11 is wrong because they advocate starting the Communion chant too late. It should start when the priest is receiving Communion not after he has received since it’s to accompany EVERYONE’S Communion, not just the assembly’s.
The only point I strongly disagree with is #1. This would possibly work in older church buildings, but so many Catholic churches are modern buildings, and the acoustics are simply not conducive to unamplified sound. I would say that more than half of the parishes in our city were built in modern times and have modern architecture that requires amplication of sound.
The nave in my parish is a “clamshell,” built in 1972. The priest who designed it had all kinds of noble ideas about architecture that points to God. I think it is a beautiful nave in which all the various architectural features draw a person straight to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. But the acoustics are dreadful. Several sound techs have come in to try to rig up a sound system that actually works, but I still find so many dead spots in the nave. When I am playing the piano, I cannot hear the cantor even though they are less than six feet away from me (and miked)! I often think that they ought to just give up and issue everyone in the Mass personal ear buds so that the Mass can be broadcast over an iPod (or whatever!).
It doesn’t matter if the speakers and musicians are trained to use a full voice and the power of their diaphragm or not. It wouldn’t matter if Placido Domingo or Renee Fleming did the cantoring–it would still sound like a very old Say And See toy!
This would also elminate the use of regular, ordinary, untrained singers and speakers for cantors and lectors, and replace them with people who must be trained to properly use their voice on a stage. This smacks just a little of elitism to me, since regular ordinary people with no professional training in use of the voice would not be able to participate as cantor or lector. This is not the way the OF Mass should be, should it?
Silence is certainly a beautiful way to worship the Lord, but mumbling is not silence. Most people, including me, will not stick around if we can’t hear anything. I like silence, but I can’t tolerate incoherent mumbling, and I think many people, especially older people, and possibly people with a large family of small (noisy) children, would feel the same way.
Frankly, I was taught that the Mass and the Catholic Church do not disdain humanity, but rather, appeal to the human senses, ALL of them (sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste). It doesn’t seem right and proper to eliminate “hearing” as though somehow it is irreverent to “hear” the Mass. There is nothing worldly or noble about being unable to hear.
I think Point # 1 is a false trail that really doesn’t lead to more reverence and liturgical correctness, but rather, leads to attrition and possible heresy, as there is also the danger that if people don’t hear things correctly, they will unintentionally believe incorrectly in what they THINK they heard.
**I think that rather than “turning down the volume” by eliminating use of mikes, a more sensible and productive approach would be restore more times in the Mass when silence is appropriate in the liturgy . **
E.g., when I play piano at Mass, I always try to keep playing (softly) until ALL have received Communion (people don’t want to feel as though everyone is staring at them when they receive), but when everyone has been served, I end the song, and allow the congregation a time of silence to pray or to observe in reverence the priest as he takes care of the Body and Blood of Christ after Holy Communion.
I also make sure never to noodle around during other times that are supposed to be silent (I hear some organists and pianists do this during Mass, and I don’t think it’s correct. One liturgical director actually TOLD me to noodle around during these times so that there would be no silence during Mass.
**The other step that could be taken is to teach a group of people (the ushers?) and of course, ALL the lectors and cantors, to properly use the sound system! ** I can think of plenty of occasions when the poor ushers, usually elderly gentlemen, crank up the volume in an attempt to fix a balance problem. But all those knobs and buttons and dials! How confusing! Also, I’ve seen cantors who do not pull the mike close to them, so we can’t hear them, and I’ve seen cantors put their lips on the mike so that we hear every loud “P”! I think that a lot of microphone problems could be solved by proper training.
My other reaction to this list is that it requires a Music/Liturgy Director in the parish. These things don’t just happen. A real person has to plan and “produce” these changes, and teach the people, choir, cantors, instrumentalists, etc.
The organist or pianist can’t initiate these changes during Mass (unless someone has invented an organ that has a human voice and can sing human words–wouldn’t that be cool?)
I think the idea of Catholic parishes having full-time or even part-time Music/Liturgy Directors is a delightful fantasy.
In many parishes, this position seems to be filled with a layperson who has a full-time job outside of the parish. Some of these people don’t even read music, or have any knowledge of music other than what they have heard all their lives in their parishes. I’m not condemning them. On the contrary, I admire them for their willingness to step up and serve their parish in this task.
Certainly laypeople can initiate changes, and hopefully some will, with a humble and loving attitude. But I think it’s harder for laypeople, and almost impossible for laypeople who don’t have a lot of knowledge about music.
BTW, I also think that having a choir is a delightful fantasy for many parishes. It’s a shame, but even our parish of 7000 people only manages to produce a choir of about two dozen people., and they only sing at one Mass (out of nine) on weekends. That’s enough people, but I can remember growing up and seeing church choirs of 60 people or more (Protestant churches). Sigh.
What other times would that be? That director’s ‘directions’ were obviously not based on any document I know since they all insist that there are to be periods of sacred silence during Mass. Unfortunately, they are often omitted. How many priests actually have a period of silence after “Let us pray”? We should all have a chance to think a silent prayer before he launches into the Collect.
I’ve heard this before and I disagree with the part that says "The time of communion is not the time for a “personal” encounter with God. That is not to say that we should not be aware of the communal Body of Christ. I just think that it is possible to do two things at one time. I think it is rediculous to tell the person who was the first to receive Communion, especially on a Sunday or a day when the Communion line last for a long time, that they are not to have a personal encounter with Jesus present within them until the period of silence after everyone has received. The Eucharist Presence of Jesus is within us for only about 15 minutes. During those short few minutes of personal encounter we can also call to mind the Presence of Jesus within everyone who has received and that we are part of the Body of Christ.
Well said. Thank you.
Also, as the GIRM notes, the communion song serves a liturgical purpose:
" Its purpose is to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the “communitarian” nature of the procession to receive Communion.
to highlight more clearly the “communitarian” nature of the procession to receive Communion.
Note that it is the ‘procession’ that is communal. The reception of Communion itself is very much a personal encounter with Jesus.
I agree, and her request put me as the hired pianist in an awkward position. I believe that we are to submit to our leaders unless they request us to do something sinful. It is incorrect but not “sinful” to play piano when the liturgical director tells me to play. So I played in obedience to her request, trusting that the Lord would see that my heart was in a submissive place towards the ones that HE has placed in authority over me.
BTW, this is one of those lay music directors that I described in my earlier post, and I think a lot of parishes have music/liturgy directors like this, and I think that’s where a lot of the liturgy ends up taking a turn for the incorrect, and then the incorrect practices become entrenched in parish life.
Like I said, the practices in the 14 steps article require a real PERSON to implement. The priest, bless his heart, can’t do everything. **If there is no qualified music/liturgy director in the parish, then I fear that these changes will not be implemented in most parishes. ** The faithful who bang their heads against the wall wishing that the article could be taken seriously are just doing damage to their heads without accomplishing anything, except possibly alienating other people around them away from the “traditionalist” POV.
And that’s too bad, because although I disagree with the author’s implied conclusion that the attrition from Mass is due to the loss of traditional Catholic Mass practices, I do believe that it’s very appropriate and timely for the Catholic Church to maintain a distinctly “Catholic” identity, to follow the rubrics as best as they can according to their bishop’s interpretation, and that 13 of the Steps in the articles would make these things happen.
I also believe, as m123e5 pointed out, that the “documents” do not forbid the use of “contemporary music” as long as it “corresponds to the spirit of the liturgical action and fosters participation of all the faithful.” IMO, nothing in this articles or in the 14 steps forbids the use of contemporary music. It is a very well-balanced, well-thought-out, and charitable article except for #1, which is wishful thinking on the part of the author, IMO.