Sunday, May 27, 2012


Doesn't this Litany of the Saints sound awfully like a Broadway performance? Don't get me wrong it sounds nice, but isn't this dripping in pious, entertainment sentiment of the secular nature even though it is religious, very religious in the use of the ancient litany? Please note that the name "saint" is nowhere to be heard in this illicit translation of the Litany of the Saints that is today forbidden during the new English translation of the Mass!

And now the traditional Litany of the Saints--chant and very much within our Latin Gregorian Chant tradition although in English and a licit translation of the Litany! It starts as minute 1:12

Listen to the drivel of this Responsorial Psalm loosely based upon a horrible paraphrase of Psalm 23 but with a sugary, sweet pietistic interpretation of the refrain, totally inappropriate as a correct translation of the Psalm Refrain for Holy Mass:

Now listen to this which is in keeping with our chant tradition, although not Gregorian Chant, and very much appropriate for the Liturgy of the Word, unlike the sappy first one:

I attended the ordination of permanent and transitional deacons at our Cathedral yesterday. The Cathedral Deanery Choir under the direction of Mrs. Patty Schreck for the past 65 years who is also the organist did a wonderful job and their music was very uplifting.

However, the Cathedral has been stuck for some time now in selecting music that isn't always the best liturgical music nor in keeping with the move to a more chant ethos in English that is a purer form of our Latin Rite.

Two selections at yesterday's Mass shows us once again the clash of two very powerful forces in liturgical music today and the dissonance they create.

The first is the Litany of the Saints that was selected. Apart from its more trendy contemporary style it is totally illicit because of its translation. We've just implemented the new English translation of the Mass and while I'm not sure if the Litany of the Saints has been adjusted, I know that the liturgical litany of the saints still refers to the saints by addressing them as Saint Joseph, etc. The contemporary one above that the Cathedral always uses never addresses the saints as saints. This is totally unacceptable given the new translation of the Mass and the desire for purity of translation from Latin to English. The melody though I suppose we can debate, but it is far from the traditional chant in English sung at the Sacred Heart Chapel of Notre Dame and which captures the ethos of our Latin Rite, which the contemporary, Broadway version simply does not!

The second is Psalm 23 as a Responsorial Psalm during the Liturgy of the Word. The Haugen one, "Shepherd Me O Lord..." is a silly, sugary, piety-burdened paraphrase of the Psalm 23. It has no place in the Liturgy of the Word as it is a paraphrase of the Psalm! It would be similar to choosing the Gospel from the Good News Bible!

I wouldn't even recommend it for a Communion Procession, because of the pietistic quality of this sugary, tooth decaying paraphrase and its love-sick melody. It truly is kitsch in the worse sense of the word. Maybe it would be best for a devotional song outside of Mass!

There is traditional kitsch and then there is contemporary kitsch. We need to pour both down the kitchen drain when it comes to the Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours. Save it for novenas, devotions and para-liturgies.


rob said...

Oh My Gosh! In the Marty Haugen clip, "Shepherd me O God", there's an image of "Piss Christ" inserted at 0:33!

I'm sure that the person putting the video together just grabbed an image without realizing what it was that they were actually doing!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

O my, or maybe he did know what he was doing when listening to this awful paraphrase?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I simply got this off the internet, but the more I watch it the more I wonder if this guy is really doing a parody and by way of that illustrating my points!

Pater Igntous said...

The recording of the litany you chosae to post is, I would agree, a poor rendering of the piece. As it is sung at the cathedral and elsewhere, it is a beuatiful prayer.

Henry said...

"Although not a musician . . . "

Ought not every priest be a musician, to the extent that sacred music and chant are integral to the Roman liturgy?

I understand that traditional seminarians study and practice Gregorian chant every year, for six or seven years in the seminary.

The sight of priests who appear to knowing nothing about sacred music, nothing about theology, nothing about the liturgy, nothing about the sacraments, nothing about scripture, nothing about catechetics, etc. makes one wonder what in the world was taught in their seminary.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

This is where you err good PI, for both of this hymns while superbly sung by our Cathedral choir and cantors are non-liturgical and illicit translations of the official texts of the Church and should be eliminated from their repertoire as soon as possible if not before. We don't base our selection of liturgical music purely on taste and feel, but on liturgical norms and law.

Bill Meyer said...

I am sorry to say that both of those sappy pieces are familiar to me from my own parish. Really, I think Haugen's should be proscribed.

And I don't know who is responsible for the first piece, but that should be on a Do Not Use list, as well.

Fr. Z's "Save the Liturgy, Save the World" is a noble thought, but even when the liturgy is offered as written in the Missal, this kind of music is an intrusive and profane addition.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Father for your post. Regarding "Shepherd Me O God:" Note that the messianic reference is obscured by Haugen's grnder neutral paraphrase. "Lord" in the Psalms always points to Our Blessed Lord, and in the case of Psalm 23 to the Good Shepherd. I find this messianic obfuscation to be the case in most of the "Celebration Series" paraphrases that have all but replaced the approved translation of the Responsorial Psalm in many parishes.

Charles Culbreth said...

Ach, that's a poor lad of a Scots brogue that soomhow lairnt to scoop his glissandi way passed the center of pitches, chew like a long-haired bull ever' bleedin' dipthong so as to actually concoct three syllables where one would do, and ought to have had his haggis before puttin' on 'is headphones in th' studio so's he coulda possibly actually sound like even a tenor! Give tha' lad a wee dram, send 'im on his way.

I doona want PI to have a cardiac episode, but the Becker Litany isn't the worst setting ever to come doon the hill. But (switching dialects) any affectation by the cantor in any metered setting absolutely destroys the ritual moment in a similar manner as when an actor breaks character in a play and the "fourth wall" is thus broken and difficult to reconstruct. So, the demand upon the cantor is to neither sound like an unctious crooner (ala the recording) or a Mr Droopy droning on after a few Zombie cocktails. In other words, someone with mad skills.
But the point is that what is really lost with the Becker metric setting, even in capable hands, is the unceasing dialogue self-evident and present in the traditional chant. The way I describe it to my parochial kids is that there must be a audible moment when the incantation and the response overlap, or as in football, the moment when both the quarterback and the running back have one hand on the ball during the exchange. Even when I've done the Becker I've made the choir extend the vowel on "pray-er" so that it connects the tissue of the next sequence of names. And, again giving credit to both approaches, oddly the metric Becker has to be forcibily kept to metronomic accuracy because it doesn't have the incessant impetus and forward momentum that is natural in the chant.
Lastly, the idea that Marty's SMOG would be misappropriated as the actual responsorial is so out of touch. Not even Mahony would endorse that as licit in the ever increasing "light of day" environment; I mean even SttL got that right.
I don't begrudge anyone the use of the paraphrase as a fourth option processional if it passes all the other taste tests, but discretion, the better part of valor, is seldom applied in St. Normal's. Familiarity, OTOH, is always applied, though we know it often breeds, well, you know.
Contrary to what PI or others might misconceive as my musical taste or profile, I'm quite the eclectic in practice. But, ya gotta have the skills so you can avoid being the prima donna or Mr. Caruso whose siren song is meant to call attention to, uh, their own visages. Rare ability, that.

Pater Ignotus said...

Charles - When we sang Becker's Litany at the cathedral last Saturday, there was significant overlap in the parts of the cantor and congregation parts.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

It was well performed but is not the liturgical translation of the litany of the saints and should have been retired the first Sunday of Advent 2011 with all the other parts of the Mass that were revised although this litany was never kosher as a English translation even under old translation guidelines.

Anonymous said...

What leads you to say that the use of this Litany was "illicit"?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

A purely illicit translation into English for both periods of the English liturgy especially since the implementation of the new translation.

rcg said...

Attended Mass in a Southern town this weekend in Tennessee. They are in the same struggle as all our parishes, theirs is greater in some ways as they have a very modern (c. 1977) church building, fan shaped, almost semi circular, and have Jacuzzi style baptismal font in the Narthex. They were, in the past, shepherded by an ultra progressive priest. But now they are led by a young priest who chanted his parts of the Mass, and although conducted versus Populum, was very, very focused on the Body and Blood, and spoke of Purgatory as a good thing in his homily. And he rang the chimes and we sang hymns that may well have all been known to Fr. Ryan, as all the authors passed on before the Wilson administration. The singing was wonderful, but as it was near Nashville, I expected nothing less. The Deacon, who may have been a college athlete in the past, had a fleet of male servers in cassock and surplice that he directed by turn and step.

It was absolutely lovely.

rcg said...

Oh, and about the 'Shepherd Me O Lord' tune. It is said that you should write technical manuals for 7th grade level to target the average person who may take a wrench to your device. It never occurred to me that Haugen may write insipid tunes that could be sung by Hulk Hogan to make them more accessible to the rest of us.

ytc said...

I've always thought it was really stupid to sing anything other than the Missal version of the Litany of the Saints.

Joseph Johnson said...

My wife, a convert and a former lifelong Southern Baptist (as was my mother), sampled the music on this post and commented that the more contemporary style sounded like what you would hear in a protestant church whereas the more traditional chant (or chant-based) music sounded "like you're in a Catholic Church."

I take from this observation that there still is an image, or pre-conceived idea (which to me, by the way, is not always a bad thing), as to what worship in a Catholic Church should look and sound like and that it is distinctive in style. Do we want to make our kids more comfortable with a style used in many protestant churches (so that they will not feel such a big change should they decide to start attending one) or do we want to instill in our kids a sense of being part of a distinct identity and tradition as Catholics. To me this "stereotypical" distinctive Catholic style (chant, Latin, in addition to the fundamental dogmatic belief in the Real Presence, etc.) is part of forming Catholic identity. To only teach the core beliefs but leave out the small "t" traditions which have historically set us apart and often served to reinforce those core beliefs is to shortchange kids on learning and internalizing their Catholic identity.

It's easier to dare to be different on the big things that count (like religious freedom and life issues) when you are already used to being different on so many smaller things.

ytc said...

Joseph Johnson, of course. I am a convert myself and the one thing that drew me to Catholicism, other than the truth I experienced in it, was the image of Catholic worship that was portrayed in movies and TV shows. It was absolutely infectious.

There is absolutely a "Catholic thing" that Protestants perceive. Things that come to their minds are: priests in cassocks, sisters galore, good organ music, crucifixes, incense, chant, flashy vestments.

I guarantee your average Protestant doesn't imagine Catholicism as "gatherin round God's table to celebrate the Memorial of the Last Supper." If that was the image that was portrayed to me, it would have seriously hindered my decision to convert. Call me shallow, but these things matter.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

ytc...ditto. I was a Presbyterian minister, and if I thought what I was getting was more of the same I never would have come over. I am thankful that God led me to Fr. MacDonald and St. Joseph's. Had I first encountered some other Priests and Churches that I have since experienced, I would still be holding forth on TULIP Calvinism and sending them all to Hell every Sunday morning...oh, and celebrating the "Lord's Supper" (pass the biscuits and black-eyed peas, please).