This is related to my other thread about paying church musicians. That thread has many interesting and thought-filled opinions from many CAF members, including me :) .
One of the thoughts that keeps popping up in that thread is that "music isn't really all that important to the Mass, since it's not required."
There are variations of that thought on the thread, but they all revolve around the fact that there is no rubric that requires music in the OF Mass. (I will confess ignorance about the rubrics regarding EF Mass music requirements--perhaps someone will be kind enough to post this information.)
Many of the posters stated that they make it a point to attend Masses with no music, or that they wish their parish offered the option of a music-less Mass.
Other posters on that thread have posted links to various Church documents about the importance of music in the Mass, and contend that even though music is not required in the Mass, it is still very important and that it would be a negative development if the majority of Masses became music-less. (I think it be helpful if posters would post those same links and others on this thread, if they can spare the time.)
I would like to know what CAF members think of this question--how important IS music in the Mass, anyway?
For those who do not know me, my husband and I are converts to Catholicism from evangelical Protestantism (2004). From childhood, I played piano in whatever church I was a member of, and for the most part, I loved the rich variety of music in the evangelical churches. I still love it all--classical and baroque music (pipe organ and other instruments, including whole orchestras), traditional hymns (mainly Eurocentric), traditional American hymns and gospel (I LOVE Fannie Crosy, Phillip Bliss, and even A.B. Simpson hymns!), contemporary hymns, Christian rock and country, Southern gospel, children's music, and the best of the praise and worship music.
I was raised to participate in church music, not spectate. I do NOT enjoy the trend among Christians to sit and listen to professionals sing and play. I prefer to sing and play myself, and to listen to my fellow Christians in my own church and community sing and play.
This has hugely influenced the way I approach the Mass. To me, singing is not just an option, it's a necessity. I wouldn't dream of sitting there and just listening, unless I had a cold and couldn't sing.
Jesus said that "If we are silent, the rocks will cry out." Fannie Crosby wrote, ""I sing for I cannot be silent, His love is the theme of my song." If I had no choice, I would attend a music-less Mass, but I would sing anyway, in my heart, and I would sing out loud as I walked to my car after the Mass. (I often do this, and people comment on it!)
Those of you who know me know that I do not like any form of chant. I have tried for eight years to like it, but it hasn't happened yet. I will keep trying. But I recognize the importance of chant in Catholic Church tradition (small "t"), and I'm very glad when others enjoy chant and have the opportunity to sing it in their parishes.
My husband and I grew up in the era when Christian rock music was just beginning, and we actually lived through ferocious "church music wars" in which guitarists were physically escorted OUT of the church, and sermons were preached on "demon rock."
Time and time again, we've witnessed church splits over the issue of church music, and we've seen both young and old people leave the church they love because of music conflicts.
That's my background.
Here's my opening foray on this question. I think that whether I or any of us personally consider Mass music important is inconsequential. The FACT is that in the United States, music is incredibly important to many many people of all ages, races, and religions.
I have seen elderly people depart from their childhood church and begin attending a liberal church for the sole reason that the MUSIC was good at the liberal church.
I've seen many many Catholics who attend Mass at their parish, and then drive down the road to the Protestant megachurch, or across town to the two-hundred year old Lutheran parish, to hear the GOOD music that is a staple in these churches.
I've seen many teenagers and young people stop attending church (Protestant and Catholic) because they hated the music so much. And I've seen these same young people crowd by the thousands into a weekly meeting at the Assemblies of God church to hear the best in Christian rock.
I've seen classical musicians quit attending traditional churches, Catholic and Protestant, to attend the Unitarian, the LDS, or the Christian Science communities, because these are the only religious communities that offer the opportunity to play, sing, and hear the greatest works of the classical music masters. Also, the musicians will be PAID a competitive stipend or salary in these communities.
I know African Americans who attend church for several hours on Sundays because of the great music. [edited]
And I know many people who spend thousands of dollars on acquiring a "music library," either vinyl, CDs, or iTunes.
I know that many of you can share anecdotes like this. It's just fact--in the U.S., music is important.
And I personally think that the Catholic Church cannot ignore this. To move towards music-less Masses would be, in my opinion, a disaster in the U.S. that would result in massive attrition from the Mass and eventually from the Catholic Church.
What do YOU think? :)