Music during Mass and Theology

Yes, the “contemporary” bug has invaded my Catholic Church.

Nothing turns me off more than having a group of overly happy musicians, playing modern cliche instruments, facing the congregations and living out their failed rock-star dreams while claiming the “tickle” they get is to serve God.

I’m not saying these folk have a bad intent. However, they do harm to the service, and to the church. They don’t face the Holy of Holies, which is the center of the service. They perform, they aren’t away from the viewing audience. They distract, and they seek attention.

I’ve always thought there’s a theology to music. There’s a reason why single-tone chants were done for so long. Performing harmonic, soul-filled music can provide “good feelings” regardless of if its about God or not.

So many mega churches mistake the feelings from a cliche, simple strum jam melody as the presence of God.

As for my church, it infuriates me, and absolutely kills my ability to worship. I’m not sure if it’s my self-righteousness and ego talking, but I think there is a theological discussion in all of this.

What do you think?

I agree, but -

Either this is an exaggeration or you’re too sensitive to distraction. Your Lord and God is there with you and some silly band is ~killing the vibe~ so much that you literally can’t worship? Look, I agree that smells and bells and Gregorian chant are wonderful treasures of the Church, but it’s all in the service to the real presence.

I’m not so sure.

Yes, God is there, and the silly band is attempting to dissuade attention from Him… That does tick me off. It’s not “killing a vibe”… it’s irrelevant whether you feel a vibe in worship, or if you feel anything at all.

This is a remarkably different issue than smells and bells.

So does it kill your ability to worship or not?

It certainly hurts it… and to be quite honest, it should, right?

I mean, given what they’re doing…

My point is, no, it should not “absolutely kill” your “ability” to worship. You can think it’s wrong, and it can be wrong, but you shouldn’t let it interfere with your duty to worship Jesus.

Think of it this way - Mary and Joseph didn’t let the unjust, mean accommodations stop them from worshiping Jesus at the nativity.

I attend. It’s not interfering with me showing up.

However, given what I know about the injection of attention to a performer’s self, and the emotion they’re trying to garner… I can’t sing with them, like I love to for modest, safe, non-visual instruments.

I won’t support those who try to hijack the service away from God. I’ll pray with the Priest (the only one who really ought to be facing the congregation) I’ll participate in creeds, no problem.

They also didn’t have showy musicians up next to Him saying “Hey! Look at us!”

You keep trying to point attention to what the musicians are doing wrong, but you can only control your own behavior and response, which is what I’m trying to attend to. I’m not sure what kind of responses you were seeking here - maybe affirmation? Can you join the choir and do your best to influence it from the inside? Go to another parish? if it’s really preventing you from worshiping Jesus that would be best.

Oh, I can do things on my own as far as going elsewhere, but this thread is more than just me, at least that’s what I intended it to be. I wanted to talk about the effects of injecting contemporary style into mass, and I would say it’s an overall negative effect.

However, I like to hear what others think.

OP; what comes over is YOUR negativity and YOUR opinions. Some of which are uncharitable I think.

If this is so painful to you? Why attend that church when you know it is going to happen there? Are you approaching mass in the right respectful spirit? THAT is what matters.

All this is YOUR reaction, YOUR opinion, YOUR view, and there must be other churches that are quiet.

Bless you!

And me? I would not attend mass there myself… Once would have been enough. Mass matters too much. Sometimes when I go into the Cathedral here to pray, someone has put music on and I cannot focus then so I leave quietly and find another church to pray in. This is MY problem and I do not expect the cathedral to change its ways for me.

But it looks like the two of you have it under control. :wink:

Oh, all right, I’ll jump in.

I am not convinced that you really know what the musicians’ motives and intentions are. You say that they are “living out their failed rock-star dreams,” attempting to take attention away from God, trying to garner emotions, and trying to hijack the service away from God. Now, I wasn’t there, but simply based on what you wrote, I think it’s possible that their intentions and expectations are much better than that. It is their job to lead the faithful in song, and this requires that they engage the faithful to some degree. It doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be the main event.

It is hard to judge their motives. Some people are very inspired by that type of music, others cringe and get distracted.

It would be best if you attend another Catholic parish where the music is more traditional with chant,organ or schola. If their music and your reaction impedes your worship, that would be the best thing to do.

In general, I dislike that type of music, too. However, locally there is a Spanish Mass with guitars that is very reverent and inspiring.

Even as the son of a musical director of our parish growing up, I have a very strange mix of being very edified by some post-Vatican II hymns (All The Ends of The Earth, Glory and Praise to Our God, One Bread One Body), but also being so turned off by them and their over-sentimentality at the same time?

I remember in college when I was practicing as a Byzantine Catholic that I was blown away at how amazing and prayerful the congregation sounded when instruments were removed.

Well, here in Seoul there are very prayerful and skilled traditional-minded (even using a lot of Latin) choirs at most Catholic parishes. It’s very nice.

I think it just depends on each parish individually and their own community’s leanings liturgically.:shrug: Maybe you can try some other parishes. But I do agree that too much sentimentality in current hymnology is very distracting from theology, or even can be theologically incorrect (Ex. in One Bread, One Body when it has the faithful singing ‘a cup of blessing which we bless’ besides being terrible writing is just so wrong. The laity are not blessing the cup, the priest is consecrating the wine to become the Blood of Christ…)

We have the responsorial psalm to reggae.

Longtime Music Director in 4 parishes over the years, church musician, and former parish liturgist here:

NOTHING happens without the expressed permission of the Pastor.

You’re complaining to the wrong people.

  1. trained musicians are hard to come by, and no one wants to compensate them or reimburse them for attending great Liturgical music workshops.
  2. Priests in general, don’t want to pay for a person who is trained in Gregorian chant, high Church music, or traditional organists. This is a fact.
  3. They kind of don’t like it anyway. They WANT the more accessible stuff because they believe it will attract more people. Not going to into whether that is true or not, but that’s how they feel.
  4. As a musician there are no “cliché” instruments. That’s just insulting.
  5. Most church music systems amount to little more than a Dixie up and a string. Again, parishes cannot or will not spend on this aspect of liturgy. And yes, most priests want microphones and a sound system in their churches. But they most always have problems with them.
  6. People like the OP complain 24-7 without having any idea what it takes to purchase appropriate music, teach people to read the music, and get people to actually participate instead of sitting around rolling their eyes.
  7. I don’t think one can paint with such a broad brush stroke the motives of people. It’s most uncharitable.

You know, I used to think I really disliked “contemporary Christian music,” and then over this past weekend I had the opportunity to hear some that was actually really, really, good, and it was from some local musicians.

I don’t think I’d like it in the context of Mass, but has my heart changed a little bit as to the value of the music overall? Do I think the Holy Spirit can move us using that kind of music? I think yes, when it is good.

And there’s no doubt that these musicians really loved the Lord, as well as their Catholic faith.

So that was an interesting experience I had. You might find it useful and pertinent. :shrug:

I’ve read some whining, complaining, self-centered posts in my time, but the OP takes the cake with this one! Do we have a slap emoticon on here? His constant harping and boo-hooing has taken absurdity and selfishness to a whole new level. Hey Friscus! Guess what? At some point in history, even what they have at a Latin Mass was considered “new and contemporary” . I think I just made some Trad’s head spin off with that fact!

You summed up most of my thoughts, and most of the rest were covered by the posters who said that the OP cannot know the intentions or spirit of the musicians, and whether or not they’re seeking attention or actually worshiping in their own way.

I’m in the choir at our noon mass, I sing bass. We have a four part choir, a piano, sometimes an acoustic guitar, and on a special occasion we have a young man who plays beautiful violin. Our mass parts and our selected hymns tend to be more upbeat, especially the sending forth hymn. The 7 a.m. mass I have attended a few times. They tend to be more calm, slower paced, older style (though still no chant, in fact we use way more chant in the noon service because our choir director mixes it in.) They have a simple choir. Most people who go to the morning mass can’t stand the noon mass, and people who go to the noon mass often find the morning mass too sleepy (and not just because of the early hour.) I like both, but I prefer the noon mass style.


The point is, people worship differently. We all hear the same readings, the same gospel, and (in the case of our two masses) pretty much the same homily because it’s usually the same priest. If you find it more prayerful to have chant, or at least older hymns and more “traditional” instruments, then it would be better for you to find another mass. I love attending the chant mass at another local parish on occasion. The music is a peripheral, though important, part of the mass service, and different styles appeal to different worshipers. It’s not about entertaining anyone, nor anyone’s ego (I personally sing the hymns towards the tabernacle, by the way) it’s about what helps facilitate worship for different people. I, for one, am glad that we’re no longer up in the choir loft, as I am disabled and would not be able to be in the choir if we were.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit