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A Little Rant

This week’s Arlington Catholic Herald has a front-page article on liturgical music. However, the title “Something for Everyone” tells you pretty quickly this is not an exploration of the rich musical heritage of the Catholic Church. This was not a discussion of the growing use of chant in area Masses. No, this was a happy-clapppy celebration that any kind of music is fine for the liturgy. Rock On!

Here is my written response:

As a regular reader and writer of Catholic internet blogs, I know that nothing will get the comments flowing like a discussion of Catholic liturgical music. Unfortunately, our Catholic musical heritage has been cast aside by many parishes following Vatican II. Your front-page article perpetuated the notion that “full and active participation” means the congregation must be singing along. This is erroneous. “Full and active participation” means the congregation must be fully present to the Mysteries of the Mass. The congregation should focus on the Mass rather than on personal pieties like praying the Rosary during Mass. Periods of silence do not mean the congregation is not participating. In fact, both Pope Benedict XVI and Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, have spoken of the importance of sacred silence during Mass.

Tom Schafer from St. Bernadette Church was correct when he emphasized the importance of music as prayer. The liturgical music is never supposed to be a performance or a concert. It should inspire prayer, not applause. That is why it is preferable that musicians be located in a choir loft or to the side of the sanctuary if at all possible. Musicians must augment the Mass not distract from it.

In June 2006, Pope Benedict XVI called for an updating of sacred music that reflects the tradition of the Church: "This is why 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."


Michelle said…
I only read the first bit of the article and that's enough. My first thought (before reading it) was if there was something for everyone, what about instrument-free masses? That's practically the first thing addressed: not the same, they say. Bad, they imply. Music frees us to pray, someone said. One of my biggest peeves is when trying to pray before or after communion and being completely distracted by the Eucharistic hymn. I really want a few minutes of silence or at least lyric-free organ music.

BUT, I will say this is better than my old diocese which was moving toward a unified music program. All masses in the entire diocese were directed to use the exact same music during the Eucharistic prayers (Holy, Holy, Holy and Christ Has Died, Christ Has Risen...). Had the Ueber-Music Director for the diocese had his way, every hymn at every mass in every church would be the same!

Speaking of which, they've begun doing a hymn AFTER communion and before the final Eucharistic prayer and then having an instrumental recessional. We were there last weekend, and that continues to be their SOP. Ever heard of that one? They claim it's the "right" way to do it!

And finally, I had hoped to try and get out to see you before we left, but couldn't squeeze it in. We will likely be coming back in one year. If you're still here, I'll look you up.
Anonymous said…

One of my pet peeves (as a music director) is people who consider the Communion hymn a "distraction from prayer". The Communion hymn IS the corporate prayer for Communion, period. If the proper antiphon is replaced with a congregational hymn, then that prayer belongs to the people. Don't make me quote St. Augustine!

And the post-Communion hymn is perfectly OK, and in fact supported by the liturgical legislation. I've toyed with it at my parish, but I find it lacking. No one really seems to want to sing it, and frankly I find silence more functional. Of course, the legislation DOES explicitly say that a post-communion hymn should not trump silence. You should have the hymn followed by a period of silence if you're using that option.

Catholic Mom said…
I really think it depends on how the musicians handle the Communion hymn. If the choir sings non-stop from the beginning of the distribution of Communion until the purification of the vessels is completed with the expectation the congregation will sing along then the personal contemplation of the Eucharist is really hampered. I like to return from receiving Communion, kneel, and say the Anima Christi. When a loud, chatty sounding hymn is in the background, this is difficult. There is something profound about silence punctuated by the amens of communicants. So while I appreciate the corporate prayer of the communion hymn, I just need some time for private prayer after communion.
Let's just get this out there--I love hymns and I love congregations that love to sing them. However, I'm with Catholic Mom regarding the nearly unavoidable post-Communion sing-a-thon. In my parish, we have a Communion hymn AND a "meditation song", despite the fact that after we got kneelers (oh thank you anonymous donor!!), everyone is kneeling in prayer and about 3 people (out of our 600 or so) are actually singing. Even that wouldn't be awful and might even be better if not for the meditation song. To me a meditation song would be a chant or non-lyrical organ music but noooo...they take out the tambourines and out come the guitar solos and clapping! If I have managed any kind of concentration in prayer, I am rudely blasted out of it by a praise song more appropriate as a recessional hymn (if that). The band leader was sick and we had organ music and one cantor last Sunday and I almost wept in relieved joy. The silence and the organ were sublime. If we started hearing some hymns with substance (growing up with John and Charles Wesley's hymns, I'm spoiled) maybe I'd feel differently, but singing "Say Hey! to the Carpenter" as a meditation song is loathsome. Sorry for the rant, but this has been bugging me for so long! (I will politely stop from a disection of the "Mass: The Musical" I was subjected to on a trip to NC...)

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