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Will the Guitars Gently Weep?

No more guitar Masses? At least that is what we are hearing in the blogosphere. Rich Leonardi at Ten Reasons and Emily at Shrine of the Holy Whapping are reporting on Pope Benedict XVI’s call for an end to guitars and a return to traditional choral music. Did he really say that? Not exactly, but you can read the Zenit report of his comments here.

"Sacred polyphony," the Holy Father said Saturday after a concert held in his honor by the Domenico Bartolucci Foundation, "especially the so-called 'Roman school,' is a legacy that must be carefully conserved, maintained alive and made known."

It will be of "benefit not only to scholars and enthusiasts, but to the ecclesial community as a whole, for which it represents an inestimable spiritual, artistic and cultural heritage," the Pope said, after the concert in the Sistine Chapel.

"An authentic updating of sacred music cannot occur except in line with the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian Chant, and of sacred polyphony," the Pontiff added.

"This is why," Benedict XVI said, "in the musical field, as well as in that of other artistic forms, the ecclesial community has always promoted and supported those who investigate new expressive ways without rejecting the past, the history of the human spirit, which is also the history of its dialogue with God."

Pope Benedict is not trying to confine liturgical music to that written centuries ago. However, he is giving the people in the pews more credit than many of our current music directors. Most congregations really are capable of appreciating liturgical music with more depth and complexity than a Peter, Paul, and Mary sing-along. Those who disagree are very much like those who opposed the new translation of the Mass because it used too many big words.

I really like these comments from the Australian press:

Melbourne Vicar-General Les Tomlinson said he did not believe the Pope intended to ban any particular music, he just wanted greater depth. Just as the church did not aim for the lowest common denominator in the language of worship, so the same desire was at work in its music.

Leading Melbourne Catholic singer and songwriter Juliette Hughes sympathised with the Pope. "There's lots of dreadful guitar music that is a stumbling block to people who want to come back to church — that dreadful 'I want to have a beer with Jesus' music," she said.

When I come to Mass, it is not about me and my feelings. I am not looking for catchy little ditties to uplift my spirit. The Mass is about Christ. His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. His Sacrifice. His True Presence. I am at Mass to focus on Him. To Praise Him. To Worship Him. The music should reflect this.

So will guitars be banned? I don’t think so. However, music that turns the attention towards the congregation and away from Christ should be banned.


Anonymous said…
At our parish, we have to endure movie music as our cantor with an extraordinary voice sings a song from the the 1998 animated films "Quest for Camelot." The song is called "The Prayer" by Celine Dion. It's a pretty song, but it's chalk full of gender neutral lyrics and I don't think it's been approved for use in the liturgy.
Barb, sfo said…
Guess I'd better really get going learning to play the organ!
I play guitar at Mass, have done so for 25 years. And I do work VERY hard to see that it is done well, and properly, with good choices of music if I have anything to say about it. I hate seeing guitar music being condemned out of hand just because some musicians & composers have no sense of what is appropriate.
Catholic Mom said…
Barb, I know exactly what you are saying. The problem is not the musical instrument but the musicians who insist on making their liturgical music a performance or concert. As I read the Pope's comments, I think his objection is to the rejection of our sacred music heritage making liturgical music sound like secular pop music.
Anonymous said…
Oh yeah, and let's not forget to applaud after their wonderful performance. It's getting to where I want to leave just after communion so I don't have to hear the ovation.
Barb, sfo said…
I was once in a folk choir where the director told us we were "performing for God." There was nearly a mutiny right then & there. We are NOT performing for God--or for the assembly. We are LEADING THE SUNG PRAYER. Period.
Barb, sfo said…
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