I would like to address this post as the former music director (13 years) for the Life Teen program at the parish that is being discussed. The young man being referenced took over for me in June. It was not my decision alone to make, but I highly recommended him for the position, have attended services where he is directing the music several times, and fully support the job he is doing.
The topic of picking music that is liturgically correct has been discussed at great length on a parish staff level. The parish employs a full time music director who has a doctorate in music composition, and the equivalent of a master’s degree in organ performance. The director is also well versed in the documents put out by the Church. He feels a responsibility as the director of music for the Cathedral parish to be an example for all of the churches in the diocese; therefore, he is constantly studying what Rome and the USCCB say about liturgical music.
I worked with him for the past six years after he started at the parish until I retired in June. He and I had many conversations about the degree to which we should use Latin in the Mass, and how to determine if songs are liturgically correct.
If you attend the Life Teen Mass at this parish, you will notice pieces of Latin used in the Mass to expose the young and older parishioners (the older of which actually make up the majority of the congregation at this Mass) to Latin. This is an entirely different topic, but I’m illustrating the amount of time and attention to detail that is put into the music program at this parish. I actually disagreed with the use of Latin in the Mass, and this is one point where the music director and I compromised. Jesus didn’t speak Latin…so…anyway, that would start a whole new thread and get us off track. I did incorporate Latin out of respect for my boss, despite never understanding how it still has a role to play. This is something that the Church is encouraging, so it’s not my place to ignore that at the Mass, even if I have doubts and discussions about it outside of Mass.
With regards to using contemporary music at this Mass, I fully support it (as the former choir director), the music director for the parish supports it, and the clergy supports it. I also support the new Life Teen choir director, and think his selection of ‘God of this City’ was entirely appropriate for Mass. I actually sat in on bass the night that he chose that song.
This is the Catholic Church, though, so my opinion doesn’t matter, nor does the opinion of anyone else besides our bishops. The beauty of the Church is that we have wise people who have thought through all of these issues, taking into account Scripture and Tradition. The U.S. bishops released a document called Sing to the Lord, and that is where this Cathedral parish takes its direction from, in addition to the bishop of the diocese (not just the opinions of my self and the music director).
I would suggest reading paragraphs 67-70 of Sing to the Lord (npmrc.org/documents/SingToTheLord.pdf). I will post paragraph 70 here:
- The cultural context refers to the setting in which the ritual and spiritual dimensions come into play. Factors such as the age, spiritual heritage, and cultural and ethnic background of a given liturgical assembly must be considered. The choice of individual compositions for congregational participation will often depend on those ways in which a particular group finds it best to join their hearts and minds to the liturgical action.
This parish offers a variety of music to meet the diverse cultural needs of the parish. Every Sunday there is a Mass that uses the organ and a full choir; a guitar/piano group that plays music from Breaking Bread; a Spanish group for the Spanish Mass; and the Life Teen group to appeal to a younger crowd, though, as I mentioned earlier, most of the people in attendance are not teens. They are people who have a cultural connection to this type of music.
I will sum this up by saying that I go to Mass first of all for the Eucharist. From there, I am willing to go at a different time or different parish to find music that speaks to me. There are so many options in the Treasure Valley of varying quality. Find one you are comfortable with, but don’t try to change something that most people enjoy.
I will agree with you on the hand motions. I never supported that, and frequently told the girls not to do that. It’s fine at a youth convention, but I haven’t been able to find anywhere supporting doing hand motions at Mass.