MERGED: Church Music Gone Astray/Gregorian Chant

Hello folks,

First time post to Catholic Answers. I am an organist and a choir director at a regular, Novus Ordo parish. I work with kids and have been working on getting them to sing Gregorian Chant. We (the sixth, seventh and eighth graders) will be singing both the Latin Introit and Offertory for Ash Wednesday.

I have read the documents of Vatican II, (and earlier) and how “Gregorian chant should have prize-place in the liturgy”, etc… Pope St. Pius X wrote, in his Motu Proprio on Sacred Music: “the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.” How is it then, that Life-Line Masses and other entertainment-laden styles, have made it in to the church?**

I would argue that it is because of the circus-like atmosphere of many Catholic churches that our people don’t know their faith. To try to fight the indifference of a confused congregation, the priest then inserts his own ego, tells jokes and tries to be funny and relevant. Sadly though, the people end up both confused theologically and irritated at his demeanor, or so wrapped up in his charm that they forget, yet again, what is really happening on the altar. Either/both ways, the people are doomed to theological ignorance and thus can’t be fed what is eternally significant and necessary.

And it is vain to hope that the blessing of heaven will descend abundantly upon us, when our homage to the Most High, instead of ascending in the odor of sweetness, puts into the hand of the Lord the scourges wherewith of old the Divine Redeemer drove the unworthy profaners from the Temple.

-Pope St. Pius X

adoremus.org/TraLeSollecitudini.html**

Well, you’re right on every count. You’re preaching to the choir. (Pun intended.)

Teach people the English translation of the Latin used in the songs. They will come around to the absolute beauty of the masters of polyphony and chant.

Ian, as a fellow church musician I first felt that kind of frustration when I was 16. Now I’m 56 and am fully expecting to celebrate my golden frustration anniversary in ten years. :wink:

Your first point: It is not I who think such instruments are profane. It is the Church. Again, Pope St. Pius X:
*5. The Church has always recognized and favored the progress of the arts, admitting to the service of religion everything good and beautiful discovered by genius in the course of ages – always, however, with due regard to the liturgical laws. Consequently modern music is also admitted to the Church, since it, too, furnishes compositions of such excellence, sobriety and gravity, that they are in no way unworthy of the liturgical functions.

Still, since modern music has risen mainly to serve profane uses, greater care must be taken with regard to it, in order that the musical compositions of modern style which are admitted in the Church may contain nothing profane, be free from reminiscences of motifs adopted in the theaters, and be not fashioned even in their external forms after the manner of profane pieces.*

I don’t mind a funny saying in the middle of a homily, should it be called for. But talk before/after the final blessing, a ‘hearty’ welcome from (which just rips the ritual out the whole event; the real greeting is: “The Lord be with you”), and a constant looking over everyone at the altar as if this is just a big conversation between the priest and us.

You know it’s funny. I was working with our theology teacher last year when he implored me to use a particular Gather hymnal song at the 8th grade graduation Mass. When he showed me which one, I remarked, “The words are quasi-heretical”; you know the type, the songs that don’t really even talk about God, just me and us. He said, (this is no joke): “Well, nobody really pays attention to the words.” I turned toward him and said, “But isn’t this all directed to God?” I think we’ve lost that in many places. We worry about what person A or person B in the pews will think. But this is all about God. (A good reason for the priest to turn ad-orientum, if you ask me…)

Even the Second Vatican Council called on Gregorian Chant as the chief form, and Polyphony as a notable second place. There has been no council or motu proprio which has reversed Pope St. Pius X’s words on the profane instruments in church.

Again, who is this all about? No wonder our young people can’t learn their faith. “The art of prayer (after all) is the art of belief.”**

I have to agree with you. Seemingly everywhere I go people have lost their faith and they replace it with what you have described. In short, entertainment. And the Church can’t compete with football games and theaters in that venue!

As a priest once stated when he arrived to take over as pastor of a very liberal parish, “I feel like I am the pastor of the Protestant church.” Quote paraphrased as I don’t know the exact words now. I feel his (and your) pain on this one.

I’m in agreement, though I’ve some time to hit my golden anniversary of frustration! :smiley:

First, thanks for writing back. Your points are well made. A little about myself: I am 29 years old, married a year ago with a baby due in 11 weeks.

Regarding your quote that “nobody follows the rules”, does that mean that we shouldn’t? Perhaps a new generation of Catholics are emerging that know that only in being faithful to the Church’s teachings taught through the centuries can we know the person of Jesus Christ in a more authentic way.

I get so fired up about this stuff, particularly when I see the young totally lose heart. I attend a parish that is considered one of the most solid in the archdiocese and yet, when I tell my 8th graders (I am their homeroom/advisory instructor) that today is the day (once every three weeks) when their class is going to chapel Mass, they groan and literally whine for minutes. I’ve almost gotten teary-eyed at the implications. We have a young, vibrant pastor and a faithful parish, but they still whine, even when going to Mass means missing class! There is a disconnect.

In my view and experience, it’s the loss of the sense of the sacred that has them beg the question: What am I doing here? If the priest entertains them, it becomes a strange mix of forced entertainment, done by a poor, non-trained actor who is missing talking about Jesus, the Sacraments, salvation, Heaven and Hell, angels, etc…

This quote sums it up:
“We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren that is for the Prostestants.” - Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, main author of the New Mass, L’Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965

CHECK OUT THE LINKS! Not all the priests and people in charge are doing the right thing, that’s for sure!

youtube.com/watch?v=uX2bO2tgVD8&feature=related

Mark Thompson here at CAF has shown that this quote is completely mistranslated and taken out of context. Perhaps you can message him for details…in any event, it shouldn’t sum anything up for you.

Yes, I’ve explained it here among several other places. This was a newspaper article in which he was explaining why the “You are heretics!” language was being taken out of the Good Friday prayers – from the old form of the Mass. He was not claiming to make any sort of general remarks about his overall approach to liturgy. From what I have been able to determine, the “strip out everything Catholic” version comes from a paraphrase once rendered by Abp. Lefebvre, who may not even have meant it to be taken seriously, but more as a “what he was saying basically amounts to ___” kind of attack (like if President Obama announces “I will continue to fund Planned Parenthood” and a Catholic commentator says, “Obama is essentially saying it’s okay to kill children!” Then 40 years later online debate about Obama centers on his famous quotation, “It’s okay to kill children.”).

In my view and experience, it’s the loss of the sense of the sacred that has them beg the question: What am I doing here?* If the priest entertains them, it becomes a strange mix of forced entertainment, done by a poor, non-trained actor who is missing talking about Jesus, the Sacraments, salvation, Heaven and Hell, angels, etc…

This quote sums it up:
“We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren that is for the Prostestants.” - Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, main author of the New Mass, L’Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965

 Congratulations on the wedding and the baby!  That's certainly alot to celebrate.  

 By no means was I implying that the rules are rendered arbitrary when nobody pays any attention to them.  The rules are always in force.  Contrary to what some might mistakenly believe, the Church is not a democracy and doctrine as well as practice is not a matter of popular vote.  
 In regard to following the church teachings, the problem is that too many people attempt to render an "interpretation" of the teachings after the fact, and that is where many go astray, thus the popular and well-founded complaint about things done "in the spirit of Vatican II" that bear little if any resemblance to the documents.  However accurate those persons might have been in their assessments, a few of them were just as guilty of rendering their own interpretation of Vatican II that may or may have not been any closer to the mark.  Needless to say, it can be a little confusing for the average layman.  
 That's exactly the danger in the current topic.  How close am I to imposing my own personal preferences upon Church teaching?  It's all too easy to read the documents for yourself and attempt to see how well it all fits in with your own perspective.  It might seem silly to say that, but sometimes that is exactly what we do.  Certainly I have my own opinions on many matters and while I may express my opinions on the Catholic Answers forum I recognize my own need for guidance and look to the Church to provide that.  
 Ultimately if anyone suspects that liturgical abuse is going on, whether it be handholding during the Pater Noster or acoustic guitars being played at Mass, the matter won't be decided here, at least not by me.  
 I took a course on Western music at a local university and I'm not about to try to pass myself off as an expert on anything.  But it is interesting to understand how music evolved.  Bach fugues were popular in the 18th century.  Why would a hymn set from a melody written by Bach be more acceptable than a melody written within the last ten years?  And Bach was a Lutheran.  Certainly there are plenty of trite and poorly written lyrics in any hymnal you'd find in the pews, but I disagree with a formula that gives value to something in correlation with its age.  We all have our favorite songs and musical styles.  It's a quandary, to say the least, but it won't be decided by me and I suppose we can all be grateful for that.  Furthermore, plainchant was strictly monophonic in its conception, unaccompanied by any instrument whatsoever.  So if you wish to favor the organ you can go back far enough into history to find a time when the organ itself was not in use.  
 Ultimately there's too much that can be said on the subject but ultimately we submit to the authority give to us by God, Who gives us this authority because He loves us.  God gives us everything because He loves us, and that includes the Mass, music itself, and one another.  I have my personal preferences and am not afraid to put in my two cents, but as I've already said, it's not going to be my decision.*

[quote=Theophilus
]

Thanks for writing, everyone.

First, Mr. Thompson, I see your signature is a Gregorian Chant. How often have you heard that particular chant done in your parish church, even after Vatican II said “Gregorian Chant should have prize-place in the Liturgy?” If not often or at all, then is it possible that many of the interpretations of Vatican II have been WAY off? I see, from reading other postings of yours, that you try to be the moderate, not-too left, not-too right middle of the road Catholic. What does ‘middle’ mean when the leftist modernists has pulled the debate so hard left?

Theophilus, as a Brother in the Lord I have a few pointers. First, like I wrote above, when Vatican II mentions Gregorian Chant explicitly, as well as the exception, Polyphony, I don’t think it’s all-together fair or courageous to say that, “well, yes, some on the left did go overboard but…” No! They completely maligned that text’s reading. They instituted what they wanted, not what they should. Mandating that altars be turned toward the people, doing away with Latin, girl servers, rock-band Masses, etc… There are SO many examples of this trash that were NEVER cited in Vatican II. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. To tolerate a wrong isn’t virtuous; it’s either patient, waiting for a chance to turn it around, or it’s cowardice.

I agree, ranting and raving won’t help fix anything, but to just accept it is akin to always letting the bad kids in class get all of the attention while the good, interested, curious kids are thirsting. Eventually they get bored and they just quit. And that’s what our current ‘main-line’ interpretation of Vatican II is doing to kids (and adults).

The value of a Bach hymn tune is complex to measure, though, from a theory perspective the phrasing, built-in breath, vocal range, simplicity of rhythm, proper word stress, etc… are often a MONUMENTAL step-up from the music of Haugen, Haas, Schutte and the crew. Besides their twisted, humanist theology they write notes so long and vocal lines that appear to just try to fill in the chord, not lead anywhere, that it is impossible not to pass a negative judgement on them. There are good, modern composers, and we should try to continue to grow good new, Sacred Music. Pope St. Pius X said the same thing in his Motu Proprio.
[/quote]

I sang it today, as a matter of fact, about three hours ago. Yes, that particular one.

If not often or at all, then is it possible that many of the interpretations of Vatican II have been WAY off? I see, from reading other postings of yours, that you try to be the moderate, not-too left, not-too right middle of the road Catholic. What does ‘middle’ mean when the leftist modernists has pulled the debate so hard left?

“Middle-of-the-road” for the CAF Liturgy and Traditional forums would probably put me in about the top five percent of traditionalism and conservatism, with respect to the actual 1.2 billion-member Church.

Mr. Thompson, if you sang it then I applaud your parish. But please sir, it is virtually UNHEARD of do such a thing in the post-Vatican II era, at least it has been. There are young people, like myself, who are trying to re-introduce these things. Running into the ‘Gather’ hymnal and its disciples has been hard on the spirit, as the choir at my church has been called “ultra-conservative”. Huh? This is even with doing English simple chant stuff.

Please realize that your position is in the minority and when folks like me get on this board to lament the struggles taking place, they are struggles you and your parish have (exceptionally) not faced in the same way. When ‘Lift High the Cross’ is “not inviting” enough, you know there is a theological disconnect between what we say we are doing on the altar and what the post-Vatican II lay person is thinking.

The Gregorian is sung in every Sunday Mass (both rite) in my Church too. People love it.

In the other hand Hungarians since the 16th century sing vernacular hymns explaining the Liturgy. It does not made them protestants. Some of these songs are beautiful some are kitsch. We are imperfect, we had to live with that.

We are imperfect, one more reason we owe obedience to God. We should not be imposing our opinions in teh Church. I know that most Catholics have no idea what they are singing in the Church is improper songs for the Mas and most people dont even realize because all they care about is the beat and makes them want to dance. most Catholics have no sound theology knowledge, therefore have no idea if it is even appropriate for hte Mass. I can tell that most Catholics now and days have no idea what the Mass is.
I remember how Solomon who loved God so much slowly fell away from God. First, he begin taking wives outside his faith. Soon, he found himself worshipping other gods. That is what happened to us. Catholics have done just that. it begin by going into false religions. Mixing up with all kinds of different faiths. Today, we have all this confusion. God has built one Church with a pure faith and True teachings. We have no business in going into other religions and worse adapt them. that is how we fall away from the True teachings of God. slowly killing ourselves. There is only One Church we must listen to and no other. that is why today, we have syncretism going on in the Church, budhism, protestantism heresies, meditations prayers from hinduism and so forth. We have abandon what is pure and True to adhere to which is false and that is a serious offense against God. We no longer look to God for instruction instead we decided to listen to falsehood from the enemies of the Church. Peace.

Out of all the OF Masses that I have attended there has never been Gregorian Chant sung during the Mass. I think this is a shame. Can all the Gregorian Chant Masses like the De Angelis Gregorian Chant setting which is the most popular and all the other settings and Credo I,II, and III be used?

Also, is there room for a gregorian chant schola in an OF Mass? If so what parts of the Mass would they sing besides the ordinary parts of the Mass that I mentioned above since a choir would sing the ordinary?

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