Saturday, November 24, 2012


At this morning's consistory, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI exclaimed in his homily some musical direction for the Church in recovering her Catholic universality and unity:

"Situated within the context and the perspective of the Church’s unity and universality is the College of Cardinals: it presents a variety of faces, because it expresses the face of the universal Church. In this Consistory, I want to highlight in particular the fact that the Church is the Church of all peoples, and so she speaks in the various cultures of the different continents. She is the Church of Pentecost: amid the polyphony of the various voices, she raises a single harmonious song to the living God".

All you need to do is listen to the first song and tell me how Catholic it is from the spiritual point of view and that here the Church is not raising a "a single harmonious song to the living God":

This could well be a Catholic Mass for youth, but fortunately this one is Lutheran which would cause even Martin Luther to turn in his grave! Let's keep this crap in Protestant Churches and cleanse the Catholic temple of anything that resembles this tripe!

Vincent Ambrosetti gave our clergy conference this past year. He lamented the use of Worship and Praise music by Catholics especially at Mass because what it does is to prepare young people to leave the Catholic Church and join the non-denominational Protestant communities that use this style of music and style of worship exclusively. I tend to agree with him--this stuff has nothing to do with our Catholic patrimony in terms of worship or music. It is very sad, but used to get young people into our parish and eventually out of them into the non-denominationals.

Scotland evidently has abysmal Catholic music on Sunday, if one wants to call it Catholic. This is an article from a secular newspaper in Scotland:

From Friday's 23 November 2012 Herald Scotland by Cate Devine

Lay Catholic says 'lousy music' puts the young off church

Joan Dillon, a Masters graduate of RSAMD (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), also claimed music at Mass was "more rooted in pop music than in sacred traditions" and was often "so bad it distracted people from the true purpose of worship".

She said 25 pupils from state schools currently learning Latin through the study of sacred music were the future lifeblood of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

Speaking prior to the launch of Scotland's first Academy of Sacred Music (AOSM) in Glasgow tonight, Ms Dillon, its founder, told The Herald: "There has been some pretty lousy music sung in Catholic churches and that is where things have gone wrong, why congregations are shrinking.

"It need not be so. As a parent myself it seems to me young people are being brought up immersed in the negative messages of modern music via MTV, a lot of which is demeaning.

"They need the transformative power of sacred music to balance that, but instead they are getting banal, happy-clappy stuff at Mass. Sacred music can lift young people up and help them embrace more noble ideas, yet it is not sung in many Catholic churches in Scotland."

Ms Dillon said the poor standard of church music stemmed from Vatican II, the Second Vatican Council convened in 1962 by Pope John XXIII which led to Mass being said in English rather than Latin. Her support for sacred music echoes that of leading Scots composer James MacMillan, who Ms Dillon has invited to be patron of the new academy.

Mr MacMillan was commissioned to write new sacred music for masses in Glasgow and Birmingham during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Britian in 2010 and caused controversy within the Catholic church when he claimed, in a letter to The Herald, the trend for "touchy-feely-smiley-dancey folk" worship had "repulsed" young people and "put them off going to church in their droves".

In his address tonight at St Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow, Mr MacMillan will repeat Pope Benedict's message that "the world needs beauty in order not to sink into despair" and that music is the most spiritual of the arts.

Asked by The Herald if he hoped the AOSM would improve the standard of sung music at Mass, Mr MacMillan said: "I have no doubt the initiative will have a practical impact. The AOSM is a wonderful development in liturgical music in Glasgow."

The AOSM, which is open to all religions and none, is based at Renfield St Stephen's Centre in Bath Street and runs choral classes for young people from the age of five to 18. It already has 25 students from state schools, including Glasgow's Holyrood Secondary and Uddingston Grammar.

Holyrood pupil Rosie Lavery, 14, said she would like her own church in King's Park to start a choir so she and her friends could influence what was sung. She added: "At the moment the music is sung by the congregation and it's pretty dull."

My Final Comments:

At St. Joseph Church and I suspect for some it is controversial, each Mass every Sunday provides the same music as a point of unity between the Masses and our one congregation. In other words, we don't cater each Mass to targeted groups, but rather teach them a singing repretorie from our hymnal. We are trying to create a parish tradition of music that will remain with the parish and our parishioners for the long-run.

But what is sad about this is that there isn't the same concern to do this on a diocesan or universal level, yet at least. The best thing about the pre-Vatican II era was the Sung Mass, although I'm told that the low Mass was the norm and that sung Masses weren't often very well done. I don't need to believe that rewriting of history.

In pre-Vatican II times, choirs were essential and every parish tried to have one in order to sing the High Mass. As now, the quality of choirs varied from parish to parish in pre-VAtican II times. Some choirs could sing very difficult Gregorian Chant others had to settle for plain chant, but chant they did. Some choirs did the more difficult choir Masses but not every Sunday.

The common thread in all of this was the universality of the style of music for the High Mass. You knew what was Catholic and you knew what wasn't.

For the most part, every parish that had a sung Mass on Sunday and that was most parishes, knew Gregorian chant either in its solemn or simple form for the Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Gradual, Credo, Offertory Antiphon, Sanctus, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei, and Communion Antiphon. Of course there are a variety of settings for the Latin version of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei some of which are complex but others quite simple. But all of them were based upon the same principle.

Apart from Latin, although Latin certainly figures into the equation, music united Catholic congregations worldwide into a specifically Catholic style and ethos of singing.

This is no longer the case and worship and praise music has disintegrated Catholic unity even further into oblivion and protestant nonsensicalness as it concerns this type of singing.

What will it take for the Pope and each bishop in every diocese to mandate Gregorian Chant once again as the norm for the Sung Mass whether in Latin or the vernacular. Do we need more deconstruction of the Catholic Mass's spirituality and musical identity as tripe like what is in the video above is foisted on young people who will then take it and leave for the place where it properly belongs, non-denominational Protestant Churches?


John Nolan said...

Father, your comments are very apposite. Before Vatican II there were those (Evelyn Waugh was one of them) who preferred the Low Mass to the High Mass because they found the music tiresome. Not everyone is musical, including such prominent literary figures as Samuel Johnson and WB Yeats.

At a cathedral I know well they have a good choir that sings Gregorian chant and polyphonic (Latin) masses every Sunday at the principal Mass. It is well attended, but the previous 'family Mass' which is basically a 4/5 hymn sandwich has a larger congregation, with more young families in evidence. So what do you do, presuming that you have the resources, other than to ensure that all tastes are catered for?

Anonymous 5 said...

I respectfully submit that by choosing the word "polyphony" instead of "cacophany," the Holy Father is deluding himself. I believe him to be personally orthodox, but I also believe he (and JPII) have largely refused to use their authority to correct problems that are glaringly obvious to everyone but leftist dissidents within the Church.

The VII generation shattered the unified voice of the Latin Church, not just liturgically but also (de facto, at least) doctrinally--not just disuniting us as to geography and culture but also temporally, cutting us off from the dozens of generations who all spoke and sang with the same voice. And now that the damage has been done, the VII generation wants to convince itself (and us) that the chaos that filled the vacuum is a good thing, that it _isn't_ chaos but diversity, polyphany, the tongues of Pentecost, the worthy emulation of God in confusing--excuse me, diversifying--languages at Babel. It MUST be good because this is the Catholic Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, right?

But that's fallacious. The only thing you can say about the Church is that she has never taught error. But she sure has made some awful decisions and fallen into pretty sorry states at various points throughout history.

But the members of the aging hierarchy that is responsible for the mess we have now, along with its younger disciples, can't admit that what they've done is to bring about another one of those evil eras in the history of the Church without admitting that their entire careers--their vocations--have been abused, if not wasted; they they have not been good custodians and stewards of what they were given to hand on. They indulged their egos in their youth by playign with liturgy and theology as if they were toys for self-gratification, and in doing so committed waste of corporate assets that had been amassed over centuries of slow and careful development, and now they refuse to admit it. Thus, they must talk about polyphony and not cacophony, and they must not mandate major corrections because to do otherwise would be a confession to themselves of what they've done. In short, they can't handle the truth.

Pater Ignotus said...

The "single, harmonious voice" raised to the Lord is made up of chant (Gregorian, Old Roman, Ambrosian, and Mozarabic), hymnody (including not a few by our friend Charles Wesley (Christ the Lord is Risen Today [Lyra Davidica], Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and Love Divine All Loves Excelling), instrumental, and Sacred Harp/Shaped Note congregational singing.

What a glorious God we serve, who loves such a wide variety of musical styles (and abilities).

John Nolan said...

PI, I assume that the Almighty has better critical facilities than even the best of us, so it is a bit presumptuous, not to mention self-serving, to think that He is a cultural relativist as far as music, the greatest of the arts, is concerned.

Pater Ignotus said...

John - Are you saying then that God prefers Gregorian chant and is displeased with other forms of music?

The "presumption" here might be that you know God's preferences...
Or that you are confusing your preferences with God's...

rcg said...

PI, I think John is saying that if we know the gift is made with inferior ingredients, the Almighty does, too.

FrAJM, that first video reminds me of Bill Murray singing the theme from Star Wars on SNL. The second may be a pale imitation of the Edwin Hawkins Singers, pun included. I also think it is where we went wrong: trying to be like the Prots in too many ways.

FrAJM, Question: how is music chosen for Mass in St Josephs? The music directors are Protestants. So is Marty Haugen. Yet it seems the results are different. Do you assist them, in some way?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

We try not to cater to tastes but sing from a hymnal, (St. Michaels now, People's Mass book previously) that has a good mix of traditional, easy to sing congregational hymns. All our Sunday Masses are sung with two having all the priest's parts sung too, but even the others have the collect, Preface and Pater Noster sung. We only use organ and on special occasions brass and tympani. Our music director is quite well versed over the last 20 or more years of Catholic Mass in selecting what is appropriate and what the congregation can sing.

Henry Edwards said...

I might suggest that the questions of God's taste or preference in music, and of ours, are equally irrelevant (if not puerile in their usual formulations).

On the one hand, surely God does not share the likes and dislikes of men, one way or another. And one the other hand, the question for us ought not to be what we like, but what is the best praise the Church has developed under the influence of the Holy Spirit to honor God in the liturgy.

Of course, Vatican II answered this question in ascribing the principal place in sacred music to Gregorian chant.

Mr. C said...

Honest to God-
He doesn't give a rip whether what is sung is Allegri's MISERERE or Joncas' "WITH THE LORD." They're both settings of Ps51.
I do believe he gives a rip about whether the affect of the rendition of either and other versions results in the conversion of one heart to reach out to another heart struggling in the depths.
Silly people, "tricks" are for kids.

Gene said...

Hey! Where'd ya' get those vids of Pater Ignotus' church?
You know, Ignotus, the really neat thing about you being a Priest is that it is living proof that God has a sense of humor...LOL!

rcg said...

Charles, I don't want to misportray want you say, but it reminds me of one of the devices used in The Satanic Verses. In this case we may confuse that the Almighty does not judge us for lack of ability with the fact that he expects us to give our best. We seem to feel that we can tempt God into forgiving a lesser effort. How would a music director feel if someone sung off key and simply pointed out that God did not care if he did?

John Nolan said...

In an earlier comment I referred to 'tastes' although 'preferences' would be a better word. I can identify four liturgical preferences in the Ordinary Form. a) A spoken Mass with no music. This often appeals to those who are prepared to turn out at 8 o'clock on a Sunday morning.
b) A Mass with four or five hymns and simple (but not usually chant-based) vernacular settings. Those attending do not generally want to hear Gregorian Chant or sacred polyphony. Often called a Parish Mass or Family Mass, and may well include faux-folk elements. c) A genuine sung or solemn Mass with GR Propers, sung Ordinary in chant or polyphony, the full ceremonial allowed by the GIRM and no vernacular hymns. Apart from the Prayer of the Faithful and the Scripture readings, such a Mass can be, and usually is, entirely in Latin.

Most parishes do a) and b) but lack the resources to do c) even if the will were there, and often it isn't. Some larger parishes realize that there are three distinct constituencies (four if you include those devoted to the EF) and arrange their liturgy accordingly; you pays your money and takes your choice. In my view it is a mistake to try and do a bit of everything in every Mass. Those who prefer a) are put out when the celebrant wants them to sing six verses of a metrical hymn (unaccompanied). Those opting for b)don't want to sit through ten minutes of a Gloria by Palestrina. Enthusiasts for c) don't expect a Sanctus (sorry, Holy) by Marty Haugen. Try that at the London Oratory and people would be killed in the stampede for the exit. Nor do they want to sing hymns; if they did, they would have opted for b). It's not rocket science, or if you prefer, scientia ballistae non est.

Nicole Stallworth said...

I love the musical tradition cultivated at St Joseph's. I've noticed that many churches will use pop/contemporary Christian or Catholic songs as part of the liturgy. These songs, written and performed by gifted artists and usually produced in a professional studio, are beautifully moving and can really help nourish a soul on a personal level--but, when they are transplanted into the Mass, they sound tinny and sentimental. I've noticed the same thing about some of the folk-y hymns I grew up singing. I like many of them, but I've outgrown them for Mass.