Monday, May 21, 2012


The three experiences that need reform and a return to classical positions in the Catholic Mass, facing the congregation for Mass, Standing for Holy Communion and Contemporary Music, especially of the praise and worship variety!

What kind of reverence for the Most Holy Eucharist does this create for either the one receiving or the one distributing?????????

Recently I had a conversation with a deacon about the two schools of liturgical music today and that I'm not sure either side will win. There will be for some time in the future some tension between the two groups and within the Church but clearly more traditional chant-like liturgical music is in the ascendancy hopefully to replace the modern kitsch which as afflicted the Mass in so many parishes.

We have inherited since the 1960's the horrid "Folk Music" tradition that invaded our choirs and morphed them into ensembles and groups creating division and strife between folk groups and traditional choirs. In my first parish we had three different choirs at the three Sunday Morning Masses, each with their own director and each creating their own fiefdom. Occasionally we would want a "combined choir" experience for Midnight Mass or some other trans Mass celebration. Talk about tension! We eventually stopped doing that. (This is but one more reason to have a parish Music Director who puts an end to such nonsense between competing choirs.)

Today, folk groups have morphed into "contemporary choirs" using an eclectic mix of music but usually led with piano, guitar, drums and other instruments, but seldom organ. Their music is more upbeat. It's appeal is the same appeal that most of us have to popular music of our liking. It has a nice beat and makes us feel good. It is diversionary. It the same feeling I get when I hear "Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie" as it really is feel good lyrics and music. It has little to do with the "feeling" many of us get when we hear Gregorian Chant, Polyphony or tradition Metrical hymns either of the Catholic or Protestant variety. These have a specific "spiritual" feel when heard and processed, whereas the more "Broadway, rock and contemporary" songs seem to touch precisely that, our "Broadway, rock and contemporary music" experienced in our psyche that gives us an emotional lift.

For the last couple of decades we've had the decadence of "praise and worship" music invade the Catholic Mass as did folk music two generations ago. Our Savannah Diocese Clergy Conference speaker warned us priests about the dangers of "praise and worship" music for our laity. It has no place in the Mass and is questionable even for praise and worship services apart from Mass because it confuses our Catholics about Catholic spirituality when it comes to liturgical and devotional chant and its Catholic ethos. It prepares our young people to join non-denominational churches as we lay the groundwork for that transition. In other words, there is absolutely nothing "Catholic" about praise and worship music--it is non-denominational in genre and thus we evangelize our young eventually to feel quite at home in non-denominational settings that are casual and use this praise and worship music exclusively.

At St. Joseph Church, I have resisted the trend to use contemporary music at any of our Masses. Every Mass knows the same music and each Mass sings the same music, except for any thing the choir might do alone. The only contemporary Mass setting that we currently use is the Mass of Creation, but with organ which doesn't sound contemporary with that instrument. We have begun to learn more chant-like settings of songs and the cantor always chants in English the official Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphons in additional to hymns from the hymnal.

Apart from "ad orientem" and "kneeling for Holy Communion" the greatest need for liturgical reform revolves around liturgical chant and maintaining a truly Catholic heritage for it. There are many documents to support this recovery written recently and not so recently. Even in the late 1800's the Holy Father warned musicians not to allow "secular music with sacred words" invade the Catholic Mass. Of course he was speaking of concert Masses which were very complicated with many solo parts such as Mozart's Masses and others that were not meant for the Mass but for the concert hall.

Today's secular music set to sacred words is the "Broadway" sounding sounds we hear in the Church especially those accompanied by piano. If you close your eyes and forget the sacred words you are hearing and focus on the melody or sound of the music and if you feel as though you are in a piano bar, then you know you have problems with your music ministry in your church. Let's return to chant, organ and classical orchestral instruments. Let us rid ourselves of the piano, strumming guitars, bongo and snare drums and tambourines in the Church!


Kitchener Waterloo Traditional Catholic said...

Hello Father,

May I re-post this and other posts you make here?

May God bless you,


ytc said...

Go get 'em, Father.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Glen, certainly feel free to do so. God bless.

ytc said...

Oh btw, I know that girl in the red shirt, very funny that you found that picture.

Carol H. said...


I can't even begin to tell you just how good it is to hear a Priest say these things. I pray that the Holy Spirit continue to bless you as you participate in the restoration of Catholic Identity in union with the Pope.

God bless you!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

ytc, You braggin' or complainin'?

Pater Ignotus said...

What is it in the nature of the Gregorian Chant, polyphony or traditional metrical hymns that evokes the "specific spiritual feel" you mention?
How do you know if this comes from the music or from your own musical preferences?

William Meyer said...

To the first photo, ugh! Weird architecture, too--makes it look as though space was very limited.

The second is far too much like my own parish, except that the architecture in the pic seems pre-wreckovation. And in my parish, the banners are larger, and flank the altar, at the back wall. Oh, and in the pic, no EMHCs are in jeans or shorts.

In photo 3, the red-shirted EMHC seems all proud of herself, and I see nothing which resembles--to my eye--reverence.

For the rest, I am sick to death of hearing "radical" this and "radical" that, much less "revolution". I'm also driven to distraction by the laity mimicking the gestures of the celebrant (whom I simply refuse to recognize as "presider"). Also, please spare me from alol video projectors and other accoutrements more commonly found in non-denominational Protestant mega-churches.

It's time to banish what Fr. Simon (Rev. Know-it-all) has dubbed the "Hootenanny Mass".

Anonymous 5 said...

I'll grant that the Mass of Creation is likely the least offensive thing that Marty Haugen has ever written. It's actually almost stately, within an octave range that most parishioners can manage, and fairly scalar and consonant. It's a shame that this is about the best that one can hope for when it comes to modern liturgical music; it's astonishing that most of it fails to achieve at least one of these qualities.

On reflection, I don't merely find modern liturgical music to be of poor quality compared to Palestrina, Byrd, Mozart, etc. it's not even that I find it to be in awful taste. I find it actively offensive, insulting to the dignity of the Trinity--at the very least negligently so, and sometimes, I believe, intentionally so. I have left Mass before literally in tears at the sheer ugliness I witnessed at it (not at Saint Joseph, I hasten to add). I could say the same of modern church architecture. (I'll admit that I became a 7:45 person because when I started going, that was the only Mass without music.)

Something inexplicable and quite horrid happened to Western aesthetics in the 1960's and 1970's, and I still haven't figured out why, but Catholicism was certainly a major casualty.

Joseph Johnson said...

That's a strangely shaped (square) white chasuble that the priest in the first picture is wearing. It has no obvious Christian symbols on it (what do those colored "strands" mean on the outer edges?).

Joshua Klein said...

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a Mass (in this diocese) where one of the girls in attendance was to receive her First Communion. I didn't get my hopes up and took it for granted she would receive on the hand (I was right), but what really shocked (and mortified and outraged) me is that instead of doing the cupping her hands together, she LITERALLY snatched the Host from the priest's hands and promptly consumed it. I had hoped her parents my show some sign of correcting her, but they just smiled and hugged her all the way back in the pew.

Things cannot continue the way they are going now.

Charles Culbreth said...

Not surprising opinion, FRAJM, given the natural synchronicity and coalescing of topics on LitBlogs.
And, as I mentioned at PT, the problem of "music serving Mass" doesn't really exist at the polar extremes, but in the spectrum that lies between those poles.
There isn't much I disagree with, per se, with your analysis of the last two plus generations' musical praxis. However there are at least two perspectives that you should challenge your own solutions to explain.
One, of course, contain ALL the directives of pre and post-conciliar documents from Tra the GIRM/MS/CSL. Namely, that besides observing the principle (first) place afforded chant and allowing preference for its protege polyphony, the Church clearly re-affirms the role that newly minted art must have to continually enrich the sacred treasury. That is conditional, though, articulating that such art respect and reflect those two traditions; hence your correct notion of a native "Catholic" idiom. But that leads me to point out the second challenge-
When one typifies whole genres, Praise and Worship, Sacro-pop, folk, "Ensemble" and then attaches the reality/perception of ghettoization of genres with perjorative tags like "fiefdoms" you have undermined any possibility of reasonable discussion. Here's a short example. When the St. Thomas More consortium broke through in the eighties, there wasn't a whole lot of cohesion of style among their roster of compositional styles. You had Ernie Sand's doing Desmond/Brubeck with "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" in 5/4 (Take Five)in the same collection with Paul Inwood's "Ps.47: God mounts His Throne," and Chris Walker's "Center of My Life" Ask someone with the cred to comment which of those exhibits traits that do not meet the legislative criteria, and you'll have a riot first, then someone might get around to noticing that the Inwood comes closest to containing very little secular associations, and affirming many sacred characteristics.
What I'm really saying, and have always maintained, if you're willing to a wholesale discarding of post conciliar repertoires, you're willing to do something that not even the council of Trent had the moxie to do (there's always a historical precedence.) And since Pius X, there's not been one pope who would offer such a solution larger than advice and recommendations, or pull a trigger of some comprehensive white or black list.
No matter where each of us is at, none of us can set ourselves up as a sacred music commissar or politburo, thus declaring the Church, as it is, has it "wrong" in her documents. Wish for it, work for it, pray for it, put it into place (as you're doing in Macon) but don't presume to mandate it in the "catholic" domain. We do not carry that water.
BTW, some could turn your recent, wonderful Schubert Mass into an example of questionable praxis not only from the perspective of participatio actuosa (I don't go there anymore) but also from Pius X's own inferences about classical Masses.
It's a rabbit hole, for sure. But just covering up the hole's entrance won't make the hole go away.
Worthy new art is happening. That is why you're paying your wonderful DM the big bucks: to discern and infuse that, again, into the treasury.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Ignotus, We like it because it bothers you so much. It has nothing to do with aesthetics, theology, or a "spiritual feel." We like it because you do not...I am working on a new Theology of Aggravatology. The premise is that to the degree that we aggravate modernists like you, to the same extent do we receive extra graces. The singing of Gregorian chants in the presence of a modernist is a magnum indulgence. Attending a TLM and telling a modernist about it will probably knock years, eons, off Purgatory time. LOL!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Cuthbert, spoken like a true musician...I think we probably do need a music Politbureau...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Charles thanks for the post. I agree with you concerning Schubert's Mass or any "concert" Mass, but I don't know of too many parishes which offer that type of music as a steady unhealthy diet week after week. But with that said at least Schubert's Mass is in continuity with our spirituality. I would like your comment on PI's question.

Anonymous 5 said...

Pater: Why is it so important to you always to cater to what the populace wants (which is the assumption that obviously underlies your statement)? If the people say that Marty Haugen is good, they shall have Marty Haugen--nay, if they say Marty Haugen is good, than Marty Haugen IS good. If they can't understand "consubstantial," we must not say "consubstantial." If they cannot understand Latin, we must have no Tridentine Mass.

As you contemplate your response, I'll remind you of two things: 1) Hitler was popularly elected, as were the all of our latest presidents, of both parties. This alone invalidates appealing to the sensibilities of the people. 2) Christ may have met people where they were ("Neither do I condemn you"), but he didn't leave them there ("Go and sin no more"). Nearly his whole time with the disciples was spent trying to educate them out of their parochial, comfortable habits and world views.

But if you want to play the numbers game, I can win that too, if you count all generations of Catholics and and not just our provincial little generation of the late 1970s. Most Catholics have attended Tridentine rather than vernacular Masses. It was a small group of elites, headed by Bugnini, who decided that they knew better than both the laity and the previous elites and decided (in contravention of Sacrosanctum Concilium para. 36) that the people were to be denied the Latin Mass. It is the NO and the dreadful music that usually accompanies it, then, that's countermajoritarian. Since this entire generation has been co-opted, why should we listen to it?

But when you get right down to it, my own musical preferences are superior to that of most other people. Therefore, if they like Haugen, they're wrong, and I shall do all in my power to suppress Haugen.

So: argue populism, and I shall counter with Hitler and every other horrible decision majorities have made. Argue elitism, and I have a hundred generations of Catholics to your one or two. Either way, you are wrong. The modern liturgy and the modern buildings in which it is celebrated are offensive.

Anonymous said...

It's difficult to decide which of the three disasters you mention--unsacred music, versus populum celebration, and standing for communion on the hand--has been the worst. Certainly, they combined in a perfect storm that, for a majority of Catholics, swept away the edifice of faith, devotion, and worship built by generations and centuries of forbears.

In regard to kneeling for communion, I grabbed a collection of raw screenshots of the 50th anniversary Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert Baker at the Poor Clares monastery in Hanceville and shown on EWTN:

Aside from the fact that two bishops and a mitered abbot concelebrated, this was pretty much the same as the conventual Mass is celebrated there daily 24/7/365--ad orientem, beautiful vestiture, Gregorian chant, communion on the tongue while kneeling at the altar rail, etc.

Except that their ordinary daily Mass is considerably more Latinate (whereas, mostly apart from the Ordinary, Bp. Baker showed the new English translation to advantage). Someone at Father Z's mentioned seeing the OF Latin-English missalette Mass of Vatican II (Ignatius Press) in the pews there. If the one I'm familiar with, it includes a page detailing how the Mass there at Mother Angelica's shrine is celebrated precisely in accordance with Sacrosanctum Consilium as envisioned by the fathers of the Council. Someone has remarked also that visitors to the Shrine often think they have seen the pre-Vatican II Mass, and think that the Mass back in their home parish is the Mass of Vatican II (imagine that!).

Charles Culbreth said...

Which one? I'll assume:
Pater Ignotus said...
1. What is it in the nature of the Gregorian Chant, polyphony or traditional metrical hymns that evokes the "specific spiritual feel" you mention?

2. How do you know if this comes from the music or from your own musical preferences?

May 21, 2012 10:09 AM

1. Regarding chant- I believe it's an utterly "free-of-ego" sacral language, particularly when performed in its true habitat, liturgy. And the western (and to some extent eastern rite) chant tradition imparts this pure sense of humility whether the tongue imparts it in Greek, Latin, or a vernacular, IMHO. Unfortunately, I don't think this maxim can be applied to polyphony or hymnody, tho' I agree with PI generally there is more of a likelihood of association with their sacral nature in a ritual environment. But ego entered the picture very early in the historical picture with organum's toleration, and some fruit has been spiritually nutricious, and others detrimental.

2. Again, I believe this question is answered for each individual within a mix of how much they know, intuit or feel about the music in the moment and environment, and if what preferences they do hold are informed and in consensus with whatever aggregate group the person wants to enjoin in worship.
As you know, AWR/PTB had an article about the two axiomatic forms of the jazz Mass in Germany and the "normative" Mass at St. John's. What wasn't cited in the article or commentary was a critical analysis of whether there are viable examples of clearly spiritual or mystical examples (even purposefully couched in Christianity) in the jazz catalog, not the least of which have the names of Edward Ellington, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Paul Winter/Paul Halley, Jan Garbareck in that legacy. But you generally won't find those magnum opi in the local parish jazz Mass; you'll get some Dixieland combo howling "O when the saints...." or somesuch. Or worse, that new age faux garbage at the papal Mass in Berlin during the Penitential Rite.
But, I can listen to some Gil Evans jazz orchestra arrangements with Miles Davis like Rodrigo's Concierto de Araunjez (sp?) and, pardon the pun, I'm in heaven.
I think we're going to remain a big tent church in all ways. That's not a sentiment that would gain traction among my dearest conservative colleagues and friends, but as long as the liturgy inexorably moves toward more overt and authentic sacrality, and chant becomes the norm and standard, or is invited to the table within a parish's weekend schedule on a regular basis, I'll be a happy camper.

Pater Ignotus said...

Anon 5 - Good Fr. McDonald made an assertion, that certain music has a specific spiritual feel - a Catholic spiritual feel at that - when heard and processed. I asked if he could offer an argument to back up his assertion.

I am not defending any composer, past, present, or future, or any pastor's or congregation's choice of music.

I enjoy Gregorian chant and "sacred" ployphony as much as the next Catholic, but my question has nothing to do with personal prefernces.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with Hitler or some "numbers game."

And Good Father, I's like to hear YOUR comments, not Charles'.

Anonymous said...

"What is it in the nature of the Gregorian Chant, polyphony or traditional metrical hymns that evokes the "specific spiritual feel" you mention?
How do you know if this comes from the music or from your own musical preferences?"

No, personal preferences may differ from one person to the next. But Gregorian chant and traditional sacred music are part of the warp and woof of the liturgy of the Roman rite, having evolved as an integral part of it over a period of well over a thousand years.

rcg said...

FrAJM, do you leave the Music Director to resolve the conflict between musical styles of the choir? It seems you would give your vision of worship to the Musical Director who makes it happen.

Charles Culbreth captures my concern with evicting banjos and bagpipes from Mass, the catechesis is in the words and the 'spirit' is guided by the musical setting. This is, however, what allows me to sacrifice my beloved pentachordal instrument: we are looking for an atmosphere that supports a FORMAL meeting with God. The recent discussion of Ghanaian music during their Mass, including the beating of the breast during the act of contrition highlighted the problem with translating the Mass meaningfully into other cultures. I believe this is a completely false dilemma in that it ignores the manner one beats his breast, like Nick Diaz as he enters the Octagon or like Job creeping into the presence of his Lord.

When I lived overseas the US Military would broadcast television programs from the US for the viewing pleasure of the 'troops'. There were very few really top notch programs. In fact, I noticed that many were programs I had never heard of. Later, I discovered that many of the programs that failed to make it to the air in the US, that includes the time slot AFTER Larry King, were given to the military to show to Americans living in countries with no English programming. These programs were so poor that they were beat out by late night reruns of 'I Love Lucy' in the USA, so were shown to us. This is how I see the contemporary music in our worship, including everything Messrs Haugen and Haas ever wrote or even borrowed from Vaughn Williams or Tesserand. We are held captive to endure a distracting tune while being confused by the pet theology of its composer almost as a mental break from the adjoining prayers. It seems that we Catholics long for more spirituality in popular music so we do the next best thing and bring a pop tune with new lyrics to Mass. Sometimes we borrow a score from Celtic, Negro Spirituals, Spanish, or even Hawaiian. There is nothing more entertaining than watching a bunch of Midwestern Germans trying to yodel 'Jesus on the Main Line'. Perhaps we envy other religions their snappy music and simple lyrics. No more than I envy their kool-aide for my wine. And why should Latin pose a problem? Remember the debacle of the English version '99 Luft Ballons'? People can say the lyrics just fine making a sound that is words to a knowing ear, then look up the meaning later.

But Culbreth is right, there is worthy new music happening, so we should not proscribe, as I am admittedly prone to do, any composer of sacred music born after JSB.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

My music director certainly knows what I want and I do have diverse taste and far prefer gospel genre to contemporary and find gospel more in sinc with our tradition than contemporary. But mr md takes care of all the musical personalities not me thank God!

rcg said...

PI, in my case it is not that the Gregorian is exclusively able to convey that 'spirituality' but that it does it properly with the carefully crafted words of the prayer. As a fan of opera, not just opry, it is often a criticism of a vocalist as to how well they pronounce the words of the language of the piece. When the author of the piece has done a proper job the language is often EASIER to pronounce. Conversely, proper pronunciation makes the piece much easier to sing. Therefore, the quality of the thought, the object, frozen by the Latin prayer is more correctly conveyed in the metre and tonal inflection that supports its proper meaning. Mel Tillis is a great example of an 'Opry' person who was able to convey the complete emotional setting of his words quite clearly in song whilst struggling daily with the same vernacular.

I believe that it is possible to compose a thoughtful and correct prayer in English, if not any language, and to do so in a way that supports rendering it into a musical score. It is important that the tune support the words rather than the other way around.

William Meyer said...

Pater: Gregorian chant invariably provokes feelings of reverence as Haugen/Haas, et al, never will.

Reverence, true reverence, has been so long absent from many parishes that it would likely not be recognized.

Charles Culbreth said...

"But Culbreth is right..."
Thanks, rcg, may I quote you as I seldom if ever have heard that uttered! ;-)
And PI, I meant no disrespect to you I'm sure you realized. I just responded to FRAJM's direct question. Sorry if that caused offense.

Anonymous 5 said...


Fair enough. But if I read a subjectivist slant into your post, it's because 1) you've been explicitly populist/subjectivist in so many past posts and 2) you used a subjective phrase in this one. And at the risk of violating Godwin's law, I do think that when one begins discussing what the people want as a basis for liturgical decisions, Hitler's ghost is always lurking out there somewhere. As Louis Brandeis said, "I give the client what he needs, not what he wants."

Pater Ignotus said...

Charles - How does Gregorian chant "impart this pure sense of humility"? Is it in the texts, the notes, the tempo, . . . ? Describe...?

Anonymous said...

In neither sacred liturgy or liturgy per se should we fall prey to personal and subjective preferences, either our own or anyone else's.

The only objective anchor is reliance on standards that been handed on to us, developed by our predecessors under the influence of the Holy Spirit, with the inevitable human missteps and false turns gradually corrected and rough spots smoothed by the process of history.

Only time tells us what is right. What has survived for centuries is probably right. What looks transient, probably is. The experience of recent decades looks now like a historical blip. Haugen-Haas and (more generally) the liturgy of recent decades, appear not to be achieving the stability of form from time to time and place to place that makes for a lasting rite. (However, if they're still here a thousand years from now, they will thereby have proved their staying power.)

ytc said...

Good and proper liturgical music is like literature.

Literature is defined as such either:

1) By a work surviving a long time. For example, Macbeth.


2) By being universally acclaimed as such by literary experts, even if the work is new. For example, works by Cormac McCarthy.


3) A combination of the above. For example, Atlas Shrugged.

Haugen/Haas/Jancas certainly hasn't met 1.

Haugen/Haas/Jancas work is almost universally declaimed by musical experts.
That isn't to say a work of text not considered good enough to be literature or a musical piece not considered excellent can't be liked. It's just to say that it isn't the best of art. And that is why the Junie B. Jones series isn't assigned by high school English teachers with any sense, and is why [the vast majority of] Haugen/Haas/Jancas is not appreciated by pastors and parishes with discerning taste in liturgical music in a way that would admit its use into the sacred liturgy as anything other than perhaps an entrance/exit hymn.


Pater Ignotus said...

Anon 5 - What do you read as "explicitly subjectivist/populist" in my past posts and what "subjective phrase" have I used in this one?

Charles said...


First of all, the simple discipline of uniting the 150 psalms as the core (if not sole) texts of the liturgical chants to mark the hours of each week in the monastic traditions to a corpus of unison melodies that were as purposefully crafted and refined by anonymous choirs of monks in contours that are at once unique, accessible in tessitura (range), and illustrative to those texts. It's not unlike asking why the Grand Canyon is a majestic sight, in part or in toto. (And consider that all of these chants were promulgated by rote memorization for the most part over centuries.
Now we move to the medium itself- the sole intent is too subsume the individual vocal talent and variation of the chanter into the indescribable beauty that is the blended unison sonority of multiple humans. And then that "one" voice accomplishes that by acquiring the nuances of rhythmic and accentual precision, phonetic and vowel clarity and formational purity. And then the genius involved of having to reconstruct the issues of phrasing and tempi, etc., are in and of themselves, a proven and not unworthy lifetime's calling for the doms and monks of Solemnes and other locales, but for a new generation that has chosen chant not because of scholarship, but experientially realizing that it makes our corporate prayer truly transcendent, truly oriented to God alone, truly an expression that is not a prosaical reconstruction or allusion to scripture, but the Logos itself. One can put on a set of Bose headphones and listen to the monks at Heiligenkreuz Abbey in Austria and "get" what my words cannot fully impart above. But better than that, you can go to chant conferences yearly throughout the states, or parishes like St. John's Cantius in Chicago, or join an accomplished schola or choir and experience these aspects fully realized as a whole, and walk away a completely changed worshipper.
I know, because that's what happened to me and my wife, PI. I've put 42 years of my 61 into the liturgy, I can still riff on any of my multitude of guitars and basses with the best of the old hippies, but I would leave that all behind if I could worship at an EF in at least a chanted Missa Cantata or a chant/polyphony Missa Solemnis every day in my own home parish!
I still love and respect all the music I've played and led over four decades. But if you want to know when I approached God in worship not as "CC, director of music" but as one of his children, it was through the miracle of just such a Mass chanted to perfection a year ago this June.

Charles said...

For my money, I would leave Fr. Joncas out of your trio of examples. His compositional abilities are a far flung, fully competent exception to his confreres you cite.
He has composed some polyphony worthy of Palestrina, Tallis and Victoria of late, and other styles that bear no resemblance to H/H.

ytc said...

Wow, I actually spelled his name wrong. That's weird, as I know how to spell it...


ytc said...

Father McDonald, for your viewing pleasure here is a video of the now two-day-old ordinations of the FSSP. Quite a triumphalistic Mass.

This is not related to this musical discussion, just wanted to let Father see that.

PS: I feel very bad for Bishop Bruskewitz for having to inherit such an amazingly horrid cathedral.

rcg said...

ytc, ygtbkm. Atlas Shrugged? Are you trolling for Pin or me? Seriously, I like that book a lot, but great? Her literary capability is on a par with her philosophical strengths, which is to say a little below Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Charles Culbreth said...


....crickets chirping.....

When you ask a question as such you did, it can't be considered as rhetorical.
Was my explanation insufficient, or...? Did it meet or exceed your need to know a subjective reason?
In any case, I look forward to your response.

Adlai said...

And Pater Ignotus, I'd like to hear YOUR answer to my question, will you or won't you allow the TLM at your parish?

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

I had an interesting experience not long ago that is most instructive regarding Ignotus and his ilk. A group of protestant students/recent converts from Mercer University (who have attended St. Joseph's) went to Mass at Ignotus' Church. When someone asked them how it compared to St. Jo's, they said they like Ignotus' Church better. When asked why, they replied, "Because it is just like the churches we came from." That speaks volumes on many levels. The sad thing is that Ignotus probably thinks it is a compliment.

rcg said...

Pin, that is the same thing we were told by one of the leaders in a Liturgical working group. He had been raised Catholic in our parish, moved to Georgia and attended a Methodist Church and really liked it. He grew one of those little beard between the lower lip and chin, moved back here and has begun clamouring for changes to the Liturgy to make it more community oriented. He wants a rock mass because the neighbouring parish has one and young people would feel more involved. He actually stated in his presentation that Mass was about community and worship of God was what you did at home. I spoke up and asked him to explain that in detail. He looked stunned and sat down but I WAS THE ONLY ONE IN THE CHURCH THAT CHALLENGED THAT STATEMENT. BTW, that other church with the rock Mass, I have attended it to fulfill my obligation. Besides the lame, lame, lame nature of the rock music they had a 'hymnal' with a forward by Messrs, Haugen and Haas where they proudly exclaimed how far music had come from the 'old days' when they did not have electric pianos and amplified basses for the music. This defines the rupture for me: how can people think of the music as contributing to the spiritual aspect of the Mass if it distracts from the prayer, draws the focus from the priest and God to the performers of the music?

Anonymous said...

"Praise and worship" music has always struck me as having a shallow character about it. Something missing.

Try as I might...I just can't tolerate it. Here and there a decent song comes along, but that's about it.

I rather like the comment that it sets the stage for Catholics to fall into non-denimination true!

Let Cahtolic music be Catholic. Period.

Having said all that...start with Kneeling for Holy Communion, then it will be a more natural flow to start on the other things..most important things Jesus Himself.

Carl said...

Sometimes I wonder who has more power in the parish: the pastor or the musical director. In my parish, it seems like the musical director calls all the shots, while the pastor acts like a hired hand. We have ridiculous Broadway style liturgical music, with drums, guitars, and - God help us - recorder flutes. I once challenged the musical director to give us more chant. As soon as I said the word "chant", he got a look in his eyes.... kind of like Dracula when he sees a Crucifix. Why are modern musical directors so afraid of chant???

Oh, and we use the Gia "mass of joy and peace" settings. The Gloria (which is sung every single mass)repeats the first few lines as a "chorus" 7 or 8 times, making the Gloria a five minute production... every single mass. What I don't understand, is why, if Vatican II called for an elimination of repitition in the mass, why are we using a Gloria that repeats the "chorus" 8 times? Why can't we just chant the Gloria straight thru in a couple minutes? But it seems like the musical director has the final say so and the pastor bows to him.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, most of us Catholic priests hire our Music Directors to keep us informed as to what is not only good liturgical music but to keep us abreast of what is expected today. We are not experts in music and I claim no experitise in determining what is good and what is bad. So if you have a music director who has their own agenda and contrary to the pastor who really has the ultimate authority for the ltirugical life of the parish, second to the bishop I should add, and if that music director does not know that and becomes an "fiefdom" unto themselves and their ministry, then there is a problem of leadership to say the least.
As it concerns PI's query to me about musical styles, I can only refer him to papal documents on the liturgy esepcially that of the late 1800's that Charles references that sacred words set to a secular idiom should be avoided or eliminated. I don't have that document to quote off hand but maybe Charles does. The question is to recognize what secular idiom that sacred texts of the Mass were being set to at the time of the late 1800's that the Church was reigning in. What is it today. I would surmise that secular music such as folk, contemporary, rock and Broadway no matter how uplifting and good in musical quality is not meant for the Catholic liturgy or for our piety or spirituality. For example there is a modern Leonard Bernstein Mass setting from the 1960's which is fine for the concert hall but not fine for the Mass any part of it.

rcg said...

Carol, I am relieved that your music director makes you suffer as much as mine does me. Our Gloria is sung with stanzas, as is yours and I have the same questions about that. When you evacuated our Dayton parish for the South I had visions of you attending St Joseph and envied you every time he posted a photo of his initiatives. Now I feel better. ;-)

Carol H. said...

Sorry to disappoint you, rcg, but I do attend St. Joseph! It was Carl who made the comment, not me (Carol).

I will say a novena for the enlightenment of your MD, or his replacement if God prefers, so that you wont need to suffer any more- having been there I fully share your pain. Actually, I'll say another one for the diocese afterwards because it is more than just the MDs that need help there.

Offer up your frustrations to God in union with the Holy Sacrafice of the Mass for their intentions, and He will use it where it is most needed. God bless you!

rcg said...

Carol, I am cast back into the wilderness. But do hold off on the prayer for removal of our MD, I am afraid that action might burn a hole in the roof. Meanwhile, we are migrating to the relatively nearby FSSP Parish as our current entanglements end. The young priest there make FrAJM look quite liberal!!

Charles said...

Fr. et al,
I'm still puzzled as to why PI has yet to respond, unless this is part of this person's M.O. to take advantage of people who are acting in good faith. C'est la vie.
Anyway, There are two books, one huge, the other brief, that would provide anyone interested with an overview of the chronology and relationship of primary and secondary level legislation and documents pertaining to liturgcal music at service.
*SACRED MUSIC AND THE LITURGICAL REFORM by our friend Fr. Anthony Ruff. Some have decried this huge volume as a doctoral dissertation on steroids, but it is exhaustive and very enlightening (and expensive!) Totally great read, plus one gains an understanding of why AWR comes "off" as equivocating occasionally. There's a lot on his knowledge plate.
*FROM SACRED SONG TO RITUAL MUSIC is more of a pamphlet by comparison compiled by Fr. Mike Joncas, yes that Mike Joncas. This is more of a forensical outline of the same documents, but lacks any offering of perspective to guide the reader towards making conclusions.

I believe that the principal document whose "spirit" still hovers over the VII document/legislation is the 1903 motu of Pius X, TRA LE SOLLECITUDINI and an accompanying letter (even more severely worded) to his fellow bishops in Italy, I believe.) Those of us inclined towards a literal universal reform that restores chant but also reorders our understanding of the issue of FACP which is inclusive towards the Faithful keep this motu close to the vest. There was a great deal of interpretation and experimentation between 1903 and 1967 when MUSICA SACRAM was promulgated, but it seems to me that the prescriptions of MS were premised upon Pius' intentions.
And, of course, there's significant debate as to the intent of the chairman of the committee charged to institutionalize new liturgical legislation such as MS, THE CONSITUTION ON SACRED LITURGY and THE GENERAL INSTRUCTION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL, Bp. Bugnini.
Without the convenient political device of a church "supreme court" the Magisterium will filter through the tensions of interpretations of these documents for decades, perhaps centuries.
However, what I'm convinced of is that there is a vast majority of priests and bishops who are woefully ignorant of the actual content of these primary and lawful documents (as opposed to the now-defunct Music in Catholic Worship and it's successor, Sing to the Lord, American advisory documents that aren't binding) and that ignorance means that their celebrational sensibiities are arbitrary, malformed or prejudicial. If our leaders literally cannot define the difference between an ordinary and a proper in casual conversation, we remain waist deep in the big muddy. I know this from direct experience.

Carl said...

Carol H., I'll gladly take your novena! Thank you.

William Meyer said...

Father, our Musical Director is also our Liturgist. Scary. She has also written A Prayerbook for Catechumens and Candidates, in which I suspect I would find, on counting, that the most repeated word is radical.

She seems a huge fan of Haugen, Haas, Schutte, Farrell, and when I occasionally find she has chosen a piece from priot to 1985, it is, more often than not, Amazing Grace.

I pray for her conversion.

Carol H. said...

It seems that the Holy Spirit has placed music on everybody's mind this week. Please check out Fr. Z's post today entitled "What Does SC 116 Really Say?"


It is a good post about Gregorian Chant which contains an interesting link that illustrates the music battle that is going on in Rome.


I'll gladly make a novena on your behalf. Which diocese are you in?

Carl said...

Carol H., I am in the eternally troubled Archdiocese of Detroit, where the beautiful and sacred historic churches are being closed and turned into nightclubs, and the thriving suburban parishes are ugly multi-purpose worship centers with tiny wood altars and hideous felt banners.

If only Archbisop Vigneron would take the sacred marble altars, statues, icons, and communion rails from the closing parishes, and install them in the surviving suburban parishes that lack any such sacred artwork, it would not be that bad. But for some unknown reason, that does not seem to be an option. Perhaps it is because the priests who come from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit are formed as center-left social workers.. and that is probably the very reason Sacred Heart Seminary cannot atrtract any vocations, resulting in our critical archdiocese priest shortage.

Pater Ignotus said...

Charles - Sorry for the delay in responding - been busy.

I'm not sure where in your response is the answer to my question. Are the "anonymous" monks the source of the "imparted humility" or is it the "accessible rage." Mind you, I'm not arguing here that Gregorian chant isn't beautiful - it most certainly is.

Psalms can be and are elegantly, upliftingly rendered in music other than Gregorian. Several years ago I bought a CD of Corsican Chant, music that was suppressed when Gregorian Chant was imposed on the Church. It is, in my opinion, every bit as beautiful as Gregorian, bringing together western and middle-eastern sounds in a stunning mixture. The Tantum Ergo is the most beautiful I have heard.

Shakerdom has also given us pslams that are every bit as ethereal as Gregorian.

These, and other styles, give us sonorous blends of multiple voices.

I don't share what seems to be your view 9correct me if I am not understanding) that the solo is somehow foreign to authentic Catholic worship.

Carol H. said...


I've never been to Michigan, but it sounds bad. I'll begin the novena tonight.

God bless you.

rcg said...

Carl, don't know if it will help your Diocese directly, but you might save a few of the pieces. Contact SPORCH. They sound like something Templar would apply to a heretic, but they are working to save the art, altar rails, etc. as well as reclaim a local Catholic neighbourhood that has fallen on Zombie Apocalypse level hard times. The lady that runs it considered a little nuts by the local liberal Catholics, so she must be OK.

Charles Culbreth said...

Thanks for clarifying the delayed response, PI.
I don't have a clue how it could be misunderstood that tens of generations of anonymous monks might, not to mention, would impart "humility" prior to Gutenberg and mass distribution. And where you get "accessible rage" has no association with moi.
You asked for a defense of G. Chant as uniquely suited and appropriate as a native expression of a sacral worship music, that's what I provided. I, too, have collections of Corsican and other chant traditions of the western and eastern rites, and I find your claim that they were suppressed (to what end?) officially by the Church ludicrous. Were they, how would you have recordings of them now? Were they, explain how the Church in Milan has expressed permission to accompany their liturgies in their native Ambrosian chant repertoires? Explain why the use of the Anglican Propers formulae are concomitant with all things liturgical in the Anglican Ordinariate?
I am the last person who would dispute your claim that other forms and styles of musical composition are finely suited to setting psalm and other texts, but that was not implicit in your question to me, so it is very disingenuous to divert attention away from my response to you with references to the Shaker hymn tradition or others (implied) as evidence to sway opinion away from the question of a nativistic and historically proven (and unequalled) sacral/musical language that is generically AND specifically known as Gregorian Chant.
Nobody asked me to compare musical traditions. I was asked and I answered why I believe Gregorian Chant is supremely suitable to the Roman Rites of the Catholic Church.

Martial Artist said...

Mr. Culbreth,

Thank you for putting into words what I have experienced when listening to sacred music (particularly chant, but also some polyphony), but heretofore lacked the vocabulary to express from my experience of those two musical idioms, an experience not unlike that you describe from last June. It is not, as you correctly state, a matter of personal taste, but rather as you describe, the experience of being translated to a state wherein I am able to approach God in worship as one of his children. None of the "Christian praise music" in the world, and only some of the traditional hymnody, is able to move me into that "space."

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

Pater Ignotus said...

Charles - That should have been "accessible raNge".

No, I did not ask for "a defense of G Chant." I asked Good Father McDonald "What is it in the nature of the Gregorian Chant, polyphony or traditional metrical hymns that evokes the "specific spiritual feel" you mention?"

And I asked you "How does Gregorian chant "impart this pure sense of humility"? Is it in the texts, the notes, the tempo, . . . ?

You cite the tens of generations of monks, but that is not in the nature of the music. And I don't agree that the virtue of the composers necessarily translates into "virtue" in the music they write.

G Chant is "native" - to whom? To which culture? To what era?

The Old Biddy said...

Dear Fr. Allan, Mr. Ignotus, Mr. Culbreth and everyone else here, thank you for articulating your thoughts and knowledge. It is very exciting reading and an old biddy like me is wondering about a few things:
a)Aren't the words of Gregorian chant, the Propers at least, all scriptural? Mr. Ignotus, would that count as a "specific spiritual feel"?
b)Same for sacred polyphony?
c)As for the comment, "impart this pure sense of humility", I am bit confused here. I presume, and I could be wrong, Gregorian chant is part of a bigger liturgical picture of how we Catholics worship God. If that be so, would this count as "imparting this pure sense of humility"? I can't see how we could worship God otherwise, regardless of the chant or polyphony or hymns or whatever being sung. Then again, I could be wrong. Are we supposed to be waiting for or expecting Gregorian chant or something or other to "impart" in us a "pure sense of humility" before we get on our knees?
d)Hymns. Now don't get me started. I like, I know we're not supposed to talk about our likes and dislikes but I do like, really good lyrics with smashing tunes. Words which address God and Jesus and that sort of thing, especially at Communion. Of course, I'd rather everybody just kept quiet and left us to be with Jesus by ourselves, but we can't have everything. If we had to have something, it's always nice to hear a hymn start like this - "Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all, how can I love thee as I ought?"
Or even like this very, very old number "O Lord, I am not worthy That Thou shouldst come to me; But speak the word of comfort, my spirit healed shall be". Then there is the more modern stuff, a lot of which I don't understand. I don't understand how we can sing words at Communion which (i) do not address Jesus and (ii) talks only about us and at other times (not only Communion) paraphrase Scripture or are "based" on Scripture. I don't understand because I'm thinking to myself, wasn't the real McCoy good enough?
e)Mr. Ignotus, you are right, tens of generations of monks singing this stuff is not the nature of the music. It is the evidence of the nature of the music. (Then again, I could be wrong.)
f)As for the word "native". I think Bishop Olmsted has the answer.
"...the Church, though existing in many cultures, has her own authentic culture because she has authentic liturgy...both which come to her from Christ.The unity and integrity of the Roman Rite is embodied in the Rite's sacred texts and musical forms, as a vine is expressed in its branches."
If I am reading Bishop Olmsted correctly, Gregorian chant is native to us, to the Catholic culture and because it is from Christ, the liturgy (of which Gregorian chant is a part of) transcends temporal time and space. Thus, it is of and for eras past, present and that which is yet to come. Then again, I could be wrong.

My, that was a long letter. Well, you boys just go on discussing. Don't mind this old biddy here(who does wander a bit). Thank you all and God bless.

Charles said...

No, I did not ask for "a defense of G Chant." I asked Good Father McDonald "What is it in the nature of the Gregorian Chant, polyphony or traditional metrical hymns that evokes the "specific spiritual feel" you mention?"

And I asked you "How does Gregorian chant "impart this pure sense of humility"? Is it in the texts, the notes, the tempo, . . . ?

Along with the commentary of dear Ms. Biddy, PI, I'm gonna stand with my response as sufficient to your (somewhat obstinant) consternation and pointless contradiction.

You cite the tens of generations of monks, but that is not in the nature of the music. And I don't agree that the virtue of the composers necessarily translates into "virtue" in the music they write.

It is integral to the disciplines learned and applied to the craft and evolution of these unique and seminal melody/text unions, PI. If, according to scriptural tradition, we were created in "His own image," that connotes information about our nature. I did not comment at all upon the virtue of chant composers, but their collective genius. Please avoid straw man suppositions.
G Chant is "native" - to whom? To which culture? To what era?
You and semantics! I'm going to go all "Grout" with this, but, there is evidence a-plenty pentatonicism and modality, namely even the eight modes of GC, are fairly universally found in global music traditions (along with hundreds + of other mode constructs.) If you want to go all Margaret Mead in Papua New Guinea, be my guest. Again, I'll stand on my comments both in general and specifically to the Roman Rite perspective.

Pater Ignotus said...

Biddy - There are many chants and hymns that are scriptural, ancient and modern.

I like a smashing hymn tune as much as the next Catholic. I cannot imagine worship that is without "Lift High the Cross," or "I Know That My redeemer Lives," or several others. Our worship would, then, be impoverished.

I don't think we can presume that all monk-composers were necessarily virtuous and humble. One hopes, but...

I don't agree that Gregorian chant alone transcends time and space. Even the best music, sung poorly, can lead not to sublime contemplation of the divine mysteries, but to a desire to run far, far away.

Gregorian chant has a place in our worship - but so do other forms of music.

Pater Ignotus said...

Charles - And I will stand on my questions in the face of your diversionary, inadequate, and off-point "responses."

And I will stand on my assertion that I certainly didn't ask for a comparison of G chant to other musical styles. Conparisons, in any case, are odious.

I did not comment on the virtue of the composers, but on your assertion that their assumed virtue gives Gregorian chant is "humility." Is there basis for such an assertion?

We are made in God's nature, but how does your "made in God's nature" argument take into account that our nature is fallen?

Charles Culbreth said...

Before I cross the beam over the stream, PI, I'm going to level an ad hominem at myself- I've behaved like King Arthur (Graham Chapman) as depicted in "MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL." And I am quite the naif, tho' not quite the "Fool on the hill."
Quoting that "Arthur,": "This is silly."
B'bye PI.

Pater Ignotus said...

B'bye, Chuck.

Franz Schubert said...

Hello Father,

Interestingly, whilst this conversation was taking place I commenced writing a Mass in the ancient style.

I have no training in music theory and would be a bare pass at grade 5 piano (formally that is). I didn't have a clue what a Mass was actually. Kyrie was written for Dad's funeral. He was an atheist and I am not a Christian.

I have been back engineering ancient music for about 3 years on an off with increased seriousness, although I wrote my first dance around age 16 when I got my first piano.

We may not agree on anything else, but I have made it my mission to resurrect the music of the Holy Roman Empire at least back to Palestrina. The last century has been a dissonant tragedy and the true art which has been developed over the centuries is in danger of being lost.

Frank Reitzenstein