Questionable song lyrics

Yes, it’s frustrating for the Catholic intellectual to attend Masses that they feel are beneath them. But that’s the way much of life is for the intellectual. Everything feels dumbed down, including the 6th grade-level newspaper. They just have to find alternatives that match their intellect. (High TLM.) Expecting everyone else to rise up to their level is unrealistic and petty. If they are truly intellectual, they should understand that.

I certainly agree with you that the U.S. is an ignorant nation when it comes to literature and use of language, and Catholics are woefully ignorant when it comes to the Bible

I would say that most Catholics don’t even know what John 3:16 is or where to find it in the Bible without use of the Table of Contents. Do you honestly think that most Catholics, especially children, know about the passage where Jesus tells the woman that dogs shouldn’t eat the children’s food? If you do, you’re kidding yourself. Sorry.

Our saying that people are ignorant is not going to make it change, though.

And I do not believe that continuing to use archaic language and phrases which no longer are appropriate for modern culture will somehow make children and teenagers say, “Hmmm, I really need to vamp up my language comprehension and add to my vocabulary.”

As for disciplining teenagers who chuckle when they say “breast” in church–well, that isn’t going to happen, is it?

Or seeing references in hymns to incomprehensible references is not going to make most Catholics say, “Hmmm, I really need to study my Bible.” (They are more likely say, “I’ll Google that when I get home.”)

My daughter spent the summer working with Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusettes. One of her projects was working with “at risk” children. They wrote plays that were produced by the professionals. She was describing the plays to us, and although they were clever and funny and very well-plotted, the language was street vernacular, very difficult for someone like me to understand because that’s not my language.

And that’s the way it is in the U.S. in 2009. We have to reach people where they are, not use language that they don’t understand. This is not a question of “dumbing down.” It’s a question of making something clear and understandable. People’s souls are at stake here. People should not go to hell because we insist upon using thees and thous.

When Catholic missionaries travel to a foreign field to evangelize, they learn the language of the people. They don’t walk around speaking the Gospel in Latin or their own language , and expect the people to get curious and seek to learn another language to hear the Gospel. They start out by ministering to the people where they are.

Of course, as Catholics do become more knowledgeable about their faith (and the Bible), many of them probably do get interested in the history and traditions, including language, of their Church and that’s great. But that’s not where a lot of Catholics start out or are right now.

Yes, it’s frustrating for the Catholic intellectual to attend Masses that they feel are beneath them. But that’s the way much of life is for the intellectual. Everything feels dumbed down, including the 6th grade-level newspaper. They just have to find alternatives that match their intellect. (High TLM.) Expecting everyone else to rise up to their level is unrealistic and petty. If they are truly intellectual, they should understand that.

I’m wondering how you suggest determining who is an “intellectual” and who is not? I think of a few families who are regular attendees of our TLM. Some are very poor and spend over an hour riding crosstown public transportation to get to that mass. At least one of those families has a special-needs adult child who has some sort of brain damage or other developmental disability. She follows along perfectly and attentively.

I find attitudes like the one expressed above to be reprehensible and flat-out ignorant. The suggestion that only “intellectuals” (whatever that is supposed to mean) can or should enjoy the wonderful treasures of the Church is ridiculous, offensive and just plain wrong.

It’s getting a little heated in here. Normally I don’t unsubscribe from a thread that I initiated, but I’m tempted …

I tend to agree. Even when modern language is not so beautiful, solemn, or dignified, it has a place in liturgy. I don’t think liturgy removes us from our ordinary everyday messy lives (and language). Rather it brings all of us (and our messy daily lives) into contact with the divine, transcendent, dignified, etc. reality of God in an entirely unique way. We are not escaping the world in liturgy. God is sanctifying the world (and us) through liturgy. Not replacing it with something else.

I tend to agree with this. People don’t understand because they are given hymns and language that is so watered down that there is no requirement to learn or think. I do think there is a place for good children’s hymns, but adults should be able to get what St Thomas is saying in his verses - if they can’t, then they need to learn.

If all you give people to read is Dick and Jane, they are not going to be able to tackle The Catcher in the Rye, much less T.S. Eliot.

As for the OP - I think that the song is moving toward heresy. Someone who knows their stuff should recognize the word sign as coming from the definition of a sacrament, but it says “is but a sign” which is clearly incorrect. If we say it is just a sign, then it is nothing more, and that falls well outside Catholic doctrine - or Lutheran doctrine for that matter.

I don’t know why anyone would sign or play this - it just isn’t very good. If the music is comparable to the text, I suppose it will be a real cross to bear for the congregation - an exercise in suffering.

Actually, I don’t have a problem so much with this. I don’t think it’s true to say ‘It is only Christ’ because the accidents of the wheat and wine still persist, do they not?

To me, it’s a shortened way of saying’ The accidents of wheat and wine persist. It still looks like wheat and wine. But we know, deep down, in a way we only dimly comprehend, that Jesus Christ is there, because He said so. It’s as if the appearance of wheat and wine are somehow covering and hiding the reality which we know is there’.

I tend to understand the wheat & grape verse very differently from what you all seem to.

When I hear “Wheat and grape contain the meaning: food and drink He is to all” I don’t think consecration, transubtantiation, consubstantiation or any other “ation”.

I think “The fact that we use bread and wine means that Jesus is food for.” He could have directed us to use aspirin and Pepto Bismol and the meaning would be very different: medicine He is to all.

You make some very solid points. Furthermore, some of the greatest saints in the history of the Church were not necessarily intellectuals, but, they had a deep understanding of the Faith so as to not have a problem with St. Thomas Aquinas. Take St. John Marie Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. He was ridiculed for not being intellectual enough, yet he faithfully celebrated Mass in Latin and was renowned for his gift in the Confessional. Certainly he did not need to have anything watered down in order for him to understand the Faith.

Yes, this is another important point. Catholic have previously been able to understand any number of things which are now deemed to be beyond them. I can only wonder what is causing such a decline in people’s mental abilities.

Another example is today’s martyr, St. Maximilian Kolbe. Like St. John Marie Vianney, he was considered by many not to have been learned. However, he celebrated the Mass in Latin, no doubt read St. Thomas Aquinas and understood the Gospel message well enough to the point of offering his life in exchange for another man. The Truths of the Church have not changed. Unfortunately, a lot of the language has been dumbed down to the point that it can very well become a breeding ground for confusion, misguided notions, and yes, even heresy.

This is the best argument of all for keeping our standards high at all times.

But even when “higher” languages were used by churchmen, there was still heresy.

And no excuses for it.

Why is it “heated” just because people disagree?

I’m trying very hard to be charitable and kind-spirited in my posts. I ask forgiveness if something I have written comes across as harsh. I didn’t mean it to be harsh, only challenging.

All I’m trying to say is that we need songs that people can understand, and that we shouldn’t assume that “common language” cannot express the Glories of God.

The Bible says that Jesus has no comeliness that we should be attracted to Him. Beauty is truth, but truth is not necessarily beautiful.

I know many MANY ex-Catholic Protestants, not foolish people, who say, “The Catholic Mass is so beautiful, but I don’t believe it’s true Christianity.”

The high language and beautiful practices were not enough to catechize these people or to convince them of the Truth of Catholicism. They recognized the Beauty, but they couldn’t see the Truth. Which is more important when it comes to their eternal destination? They needed to understand the words. They required someone to come down to their level, not try to lift them up to a higher level. Time enough for that AFTER they believe. But if they do not believe, it will do no good to try to lift them higher. They’re not there anymore, they’re in churches that speak to them at their level.

Many of the old Gospel hymns, using the most vulgar (not “dirty,” but common) of language express deep truths of Christianity, and are understandable, at least they were understandable in their time. Are these to be tossed because the langauge isn’t “high enough?” I should hope not.

And who or what is to make the decision about which “language use” is dignifed enough for the Mass? Again, I get the feeling that some of you would like a Roman tribunal to examine every single hymn and homily and announcement done at every Mass in the world to make sure that it is “fitting” for expressing God’s glory. Well, to my knowledge, no such tribunal exists. The authority for these things rests with the local authorities, the bishop and his priests. If the priest says, “Jesus is like Mike Ditka to me,” well, we may not think it sounds very dignified, but the priest is in charge, not us.

Actually, the one who determines the type of language to be used for the Mass is the Church, through the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. This is done specifically by a document called Liturgiam Authenticam.

Here is what the document observes, in part, about language:

  1. To be considered first of all is the choice of the languages that it will be permissible to put into use in liturgical celebrations. It is appropriate that there be elaborated in each territory a pastoral plan that takes account of the spoken languages there in use, with a distinction being made between languages which the people spontaneously speak and those which, not being used for natural communication in pastoral activity, merely remain the object of cultural interest. In considering and drafting such a plan, due caution should be exercised lest the faithful be fragmented into small groups by means of the selection of vernacular languages to be introduced into liturgical use, with the consequent danger of fomenting civil discord, to the detriment of the unity of peoples as well as of the unity of the particular Churches and the Church universal.
  1. In this plan, a clear distinction is to be made also between those languages, on the one hand, that are used universally in the territory for pastoral communication, and those, on the other hand, that are to be used in the Sacred Liturgy. In drawing up the plan, it will be necessary to take account also of the question of the resources necessary for supporting the use of a given language, such as the number of priests, deacons and lay collaborators capable of using the language, in addition to the number of experts and those trained for and capable of preparing translations of all of the liturgical books of the Roman Rite in accord with the principles enunciated here. Also to be considered are the financial and technical resources necessary for preparing translations and printing books truly worthy of liturgical use.
  1. Within the liturgical sphere, moreover, a distinction necessarily arises between languages and dialects. In particular, dialects that do not support common academic and cultural formation cannot be taken into full liturgical use, since they lack that stability and breadth that would be required for their being liturgical languages on a broader scale. In any event, the number of individual liturgical languages is not to be increased too greatly.14

This latter is necessary so that a certain unity of language may be fostered within the boundaries of one and the same nation.

  1. Moreover, the fact that a language is not introduced into full liturgical use does not mean that it is thereby altogether excluded from the Liturgy. It may be used, at least occasionally, in the Prayer of the Faithful, in the sung texts, in the invitations or instructions given to the people, or in parts of the homily, especially if the language is proper to some of Christ’s faithful who are in attendance. Nevertheless, it is always possible to use either the Latin language or another language that is widely used in that country, even if perhaps it may not be the language of all or even of a majority of the Christian faithful taking part, provided that discord among the faithful be avoided.

Here is another observation the document makes:

  1. Even if expressions should be avoided which hinder comprehension because of their excessively unusual or awkward nature, the liturgical texts should be considered as the voice of the Church at prayer, rather than of only particular congregations or individuals; thus, they should be free of an overly servile adherence to prevailing modes of expression. If indeed, in the liturgical texts, words or expressions are sometimes employed which differ somewhat from usual and everyday speech, it is often enough by virtue of this very fact that the texts become truly memorable and capable of expressing heavenly realities. Indeed, it will be seen that the observance of the principles set forth in this Instruction will contribute to the gradual development, in each vernacular, of a sacred style that will come to be recognized as proper to liturgical language. Thus it may happen that a certain manner of speech which has come to be considered somewhat obsolete in daily usage may continue to be maintained in the liturgical context. In translating biblical passages where seemingly inelegant words or expressions are used, a hasty tendency to sanitize this characteristic is likewise to be avoided. These principles, in fact, should free the Liturgy from the necessity of frequent revisions when modes of expression may have passed out of popular usage.
  1. The Sacred Liturgy engages not only man’s intellect, but the whole person, who is the “subject” of full and conscious participation in the liturgical celebration. Translators should therefore allow the signs and images of the texts, as well as the ritual actions, to speak for themselves; they should not attempt to render too explicit that which is implicit in the original texts. For the same reason, the addition of explanatory texts not contained in the editio typica is to be prudently avoided. Consideration should also be given to including in the vernacular editions at least some texts in the Latin language, especially those from the priceless treasury of Gregorian chant, which the Church recognizes as proper to the Roman Liturgy, and which, all other things being equal, is to be given pride of place in liturgical celebrations.28

Such chant, indeed, has a great power to lift the human spirit to heavenly realities.

With all due respsect, you seem to want to oversimplify things. Perhaps reading the document might give you a better perspective.

benedictgal, a “document” cannot make a decision, write it up, and send it to parishes. It takes a person(s) to do that.

With all due respect, a document is only a guide to help real people make determinations, and each person who reads the document will interpret it differently. It seems to me that you want to interpret documents very narrowly, with no wiggle room, and that’s OK. But you are not in charge. I want to interpret documents more widely, with wiggle-room, and that’s OK, too. And I, also, am not in charge.

And it seems to me, too, although I confess to ignorance, that the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments is not in any big hurry to adopt a narrow interpretation of these documents, as many of the songs and practices that you and others deplore are still going on in the U.S. under the approval of some of the most orthodox and conservative bishops, including mine (Thomas Doran.)

Actually, the CDWDS is in a big hurry to approve the new translations of the Mass because of the issue of the lack of the quality of the language. In fact, they told the USCCB that if they do not vote on the tranlations, the Congregation will move ith or without them. Furthermore, there has been a dual change in the administration of the CDWDS, hence document promulgations (such as the one that Archbishop Ranjinth, the former secretary to the CDWDS, told me aobut) are taking a bit longer. But, that is not to say that they are not going to issue them.

Just because things are still going on in the United States, that does not necessarily mean that they have the approval of the local Ordinary or the Metropolitan. So, that does not necessarily mean that this is a jusitification of things. The bishops may not necessarily be aware of things that are going on in their particular sees. And, the bishops are bound by the authoritative documents of the Holy See, Cat.

As for your comments regarding my intepretation, it is not about being “narrow”; it’s about being faithful. As I read your comments, you seem to not be too willing to read what the Church actually says. With all due respect, inasmuch as we are all entitled to post an opinion, it is better to make an informed statement by reading the documents rather than to totally disregard them, as if they were meaningless.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification (Catechismus concil. Trident., n. 4, ex St. Augustine, “De Catechizandis rudibus”).

From the Summa:

Article 1. Whether the body of Christ be in this sacrament in very truth, or merely as in a figure or sign?

…Reply to Objection 3. Christ’s body is not in this sacrament in the same way as a body is in a place, which by its dimensions is commensurate with the place; but in a special manner which is proper to this sacrament. Hence we say that Christ’s body is upon many altars, not as in different places, but “sacramentally”: and thereby we do not understand that Christ is there only as in a sign, although a sacrament is a kind of sign; but that Christ’s body is here after a fashion proper to this sacrament, as stated above.

The sacrament is a sign but not as only a sign of Christ because it does contain Christ.

Perhaps we should take Pope Leo XIII’s teaching to heart in his encyclical AETERNI PATRIS:

  1. With wise forethought, therefore, not a few of the advocates of philosophic studies, when turning their minds recently to the practical reform of philosophy, aimed and aim at restoring the renowned teaching of Thomas Aquinas and winning it back to its ancient beauty.
  1. Domestic and civil society even, which, as all see, is exposed to great danger from this plague of perverse opinions, would certainly enjoy a far more peaceful and secure existence if a more wholesome doctrine were taught in the universities and high schools – one more in conformity with the teaching of the Church, such as is contained in the works of Thomas Aquinas.
  1. Therefore in this also let us follow the example of the Angelic Doctor, who never gave himself to reading or writing without first begging the blessing of God, who modestly confessed that whatever he knew he had acquired not so much by his own study and labor as by the divine gift; and therefore let us all, in humble and united prayer, beseech God to send forth the spirit of knowledge and of understanding to the children of the Church and open their senses for the understanding of wisdom. And that we may receive fuller fruits of the divine goodness, offer up to God the most efficacious patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is called the seat of wisdom; having at the same time as advocates St. Joseph, the most chaste spouse of the Virgin, and Peter and Paul, the chiefs of the Apostles, whose truth renewed the earth which had fallen under the impure blight of error, filling it with the light of heavenly wisdom.

We should know what sign means philosophically. Also meaning and form.

Definition of Meaning:

  1. what is intended to be, or actually is, expressed or indicated; signification; import: the three meanings of a word.
  2. the end, purpose, or significance of something: What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of this intrusion?

From the Summa:

Article 4. Whether this sacrament is suitably called by various names?

Objection 1. It seems that this sacrament is not suitably called by various names. For names should correspond with things. But this sacrament is one, as stated above (Article 2). Therefore, it ought not to be called by various names.

On the contrary, is the use of these expressions by the faithful.

With regard to the future it has a third meaning, inasmuch as this sacrament foreshadows the Divine fruition, which shall come to pass in heaven; and according to this it is called “Viaticum,” because it supplies the way of winning thither. And in this respect it is also called the “Eucharist,” that is, “good grace,” because “the grace of God is life everlasting” (Romans 6:23); or because it really contains Christ, Who is “full of grace.”

The meaning is it contains Christ. If the song had a “specific” meaning in opposition to what the Church (and Aquinas) has defined then we should then be opposed to it. People get hung up judging from a position of ignorance and we should not do that. All this is much ado about nothing.

  1. Once were seen the blood and water:** Now is seen but bread and wine**;
    Once in human form he [sic] suffered, Now his [sic] form is but a sign.

4.** Wheat and grape contain the meaning**: Food and drink he[sic] is to all;
One in him[sic] we kneel adoring, Gathered by his [sic] loving call.

#3 is so grossly ambiguous, as is obvious from the opposing views on this thread, that it should be discarded on those grounds alone.

#4 is obviously not describing transubstantiation and therefore is erroneous, which only lends credence that #3 is not to be taken within a Catholic context either.

Are the lack of capitalization of “He” “His” etc., in referring to Christ, in the original? That’s a little troubling as well although if someone typed it by hand it was probably just accidental.

benedictgal, I always read the quotes and links to documents that you post, and because I am a musician who plays at Mass, I read whatever documents that pertain to music WHEN I BECOME AWARE OF THEM.

But I don’t interpret them the same way you do. Just because I read them doesn’t mean that I will interpret them the same way you do.

Since I was not raised a Catholic, and you were, I freely admit that you know more than I do and this is probably the reason that I do not interpret documents the same way. I am reading them through 40 years of evangelical Protestantism, while you are reading them through years of Catholicism.

Also, I am not an intellectual like you are. I am merely a pianist who plays at Mass when I am needed. I will do whatever the Church tells me to do. That’s one of the main reasons I became a Catholic–I believe totally in the Authority of the Holy Catholic Church. I do not wish to assume ANY authority myself.

I think a lot of people are like me–that’s probably why you see so many “dumbed down” songs and practices in parishes. There are a lot more people like me than like you, even though I think that you and others see it differently. Perhaps the friends that you associate with are all intelligent and appreciative of the finer things, and that’s why you assume that so many people are like that. The truth is, most of us are more like “Cops” than Joseph Ratzinger’s writings (which I do not comprehend at all–I may as read them in German as English!).

I hope that when the “higher language” is established and there are no more Haugen and Haas songs, that your predictions and those of others on this thread will come true–that people will flock to Mass, enjoy the beauty of the restored liturgy, and have a better understanding of Catholic theology. But what I suspect will happen–and it saddens me, it truly does–is that many people will leave, just like they did after Vatican II, and some who stay will be even more confused about what their Church actually teaches. I hope not, but I fear so. I do not think that the U.S. is ready for this. JMO.

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