LifeTeen is a hot-button issue around here. The debate between both sides gets hotter than a jalapeno. Most, if not all, of what I will post in these succeeding paragraphs are points that I have made in previous threads.
One of the local Catholic schools adopted the LifeTeen model for their Masses and it is not very good. In fact, one of the priests, a friend of mine, dreads having to go celebrate Mass there because of the music and because of the other idiosyncratic practices that have crept up. The local monastery brought a LifeTeen band to play at its Sunday Mass. It was disconcerting, distracting and totally the opposite of what sacred liturgical music should be.
Most LifeTeen Masses, unfortunately, tend to carry a great deal of baggage with them. Abuses have crept up such as having the kids gathering around the altar and having an alternative ending to the Mass. While the Holy See had to personally intervene to put a stop to the ilicit practices, some groups, as has been noted in these threads, continue to have the kids gathering around the altar. Proponents who enthusiastically defend LifeTeen will claim that an indult was offered; however, no such documentation exists. This begs the question as to whether or not Rome would allow “innovations” to creep into the Mass in the first place, especially since the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has already issued document after document calling for a return to what we are supposed to do, not what we want to do.
The music is not at all suitable for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, despite what impassionate LifeTeen supporters may claim. In fact, the situation also caught the attention of the Fathers of the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist who observed that:
In other responses some lamented the poor quality of translations of liturgical texts and many musical texts in current languages, maintaining that they lacked beauty and were sometimes theologically unclear, thereby contributing to a weakening of Church teaching and to a misunderstanding of prayer. A few responses made particular mention of music and singing at Youth Masses. In this regard, it is important to avoid musical forms which, because of their profane use, are not conducive to prayer. Some responses note a certain eagerness in composing new songs, to the point of almost yielding to a consumer mentality, showing little concern for the quality of the music and text, and easily overlooking the artistic patrimony which has been theologically and musically effective in the Church’s liturgy.
This was the Holy Father’s response, as noted in Sacramentum Caritatis:
- In the ars celebrandi, liturgical song has a pre-eminent place. (126) Saint Augustine rightly says in a famous sermon that “the new man sings a new song. Singing is an expression of joy and, if we consider the matter, an expression of love” (127). The People of God assembled for the liturgy sings the praises of God. In the course of her two-thousand-year history, the Church has created, and still creates, music and songs which represent a rich patrimony of faith and love. This heritage must not be lost. Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration (128). Consequently everything – texts, music, execution – ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons (129). Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed (130) as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy (131).
We should not adapt the Mass to changing, fleeting trends. Rather, we should adapt ourselves to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Not very many songs used at these LifeTeen Masses focus on authentic Church teaching. While some of these may quote scripture, the settings are not at all appropriate for the Mass and do not inspire the proper reverence for the sacred mysteries unfolding before us.
Unfortunately, some of the ecclesial movements within the Church have seen fit to do with the Mass as they please. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not the personal property of anyone to do with as they please. Pope Benedict expressed that point rather directly when he ordered the Neocatechumenal Way to stop the abusive practices that they had introduced into the Mass.
There is nothing wrong with either movement, per se. What is disconcerting is the manner in which they treat the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They can and should conduct their non-liturgical gatherings in a manner based on their particular organization; however, when it comes to the Mass, they should hold fast to the norms that the Church prescribes.