Tuesday, May 7, 2013


One of the unfortunate legacies of the last 40 years or so is this idea that the laity should plan liturgies. This means planning decorations, coming up with creative things that can be done in the Mass and what hymns will be sung and what won't be sung.

In the 1970's, planners of the Mass sometimes introduced into the Liturgy of the Word, children's fables, if a children's Mass instead of one of the Scripture readings. A hoard of children would make up prayers of the faithful and then read them, sometimes two people would read one reading or poem. The offertory procession became a liturgy in itself with a hoard of people bringing up all kinds of gifts that had nothing to do with the Mass and everything to do with them.

Music choices were wild, from pop music of the day to hymns.

Today, the greatest problems with allowing people to plan their Mass is with funerals and weddings. Sentimentality reigns supreme and whatever the family wants goes. It is hard to argue with a grieving family member who wants this, that and the other and understands nothing about the Mass or a Bride and her mother who want the same.

But the Mass is given. What is the point of asking people to "plan" their Mass, especially the music? Sure there are options for Scripture readings and some legitimate choices there, but are family members who seldom come to Mass or understand little about the liturgy be the ones choosing or the pastor who knows the situation and could choose readings that speak to the needs of the people?

Do we need hymns at any Masses? No, not really, these are not disallowed but they are superfluous.

Every Mass, including funeral and Nuptial Masses have their proper "Propers" and Entrance Chant from Sacred Scripture, and an Offertory and Communion Antiphon also from Sacred Scripture. Just as we put a stop very early in the 1980's from substituting secular readings and poems at Mass, in place of the Scriptures, why in the name of God and all that is holy are we still allowing songs and hymns to substitute the official Propers of the Mass, the Scriptural Entrance chant and the two other Scriptural antiphons at the Offertory and Communion.

This is a very good interview. Share it widely because how many clergy and laity really understand the content of this interview?


Gabby said...

If the average parish choir was taught about Propers we might have a chance. In my parish, the choir director did not even realize that the go-to music for Mass are the chants from the Roman Missal, let alone know that there are such things as Propers, for which hymns are poor substitutes. But hymns are what they know so hymns are what they sing.

It's not helped when the CCCB puts out a hymnal with settings they've commissioned for the new translation and lists them as 'Setting #1', 'Setting #2', 'Setting #3' and relegates the Roman Missal music to a section call "Chants", a section largely ignored by most parish choirs.

ytc said...

And with the Lalemont Propers now, in English, there really is no excuse. The Lalemonts are so easy!

Pater Ignotus said...

We plan liturgies for a variety of reasons.

For some masses a variety of Scripture readings is offered by the Church. For example, allowing family members to choose from among the dozens of readings the Church has approved for a funeral mass can assist them in coming to terms with the loss of a loved one and with expressing their pain and their hope. Their full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy at this planning stage is desirable and can be helpful to them.

Singing hymns a legitimate option in our liturgies. Allowing the people to participate in choosing hymns for, say, a wedding, can help them to under stand the role of music and how it enhances liturgical worship. The slection process becomes a "catechetical moment."

It is not unheard of that a pastor will impose his will on the people in terms of, say, the readings that may be used for a funeral liturgy. The Church gives dozens of options and it is not within the authority of a pastor to reduce that number. If the Church allows it, the pastor has no legitimate right to deny it.

rcg said...

I think people want to merge the wake and other family events into the Mass inappropriately. While it is a good thing that the Mass is part of the family events, they go wrong trying to make it a personal event. I know I am on thin ice in liking some traditional music that is religious in nature, but I would like to hear it back at the house, but after Mass. There is also to chance I can change or correct certain lyrics to suit proper Catholic doctrine. And never sing it int he Church.

William Meyer said...

I would say that in the parishes I have attended, most of the choices made for the music have been unfortunate, at best. And it particularly rankles when a parish selects the Haugen Mass setting, not only as it is so banal, but because there are more suitable choices from Catholic composers.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

PI, I give it to you in terms of the Scripture readings and in my parish we allow close family members to choose from the readings that are allowed, but I still reserve the right to choose the Gospel since I'm preaching.
But Father, the Liturgy is given to us, why in the name of God and all that is holy should we encourage the laity to micro-manage the Liturgy and suggest things that are inimical to the Liturgy, the greatest offense being music and the secular things they might want sung or things of horrible sentimentality? And then the whole concept of eulogies by a hoard of people after Holy Communion that focus in on all the silly things the deceased did, especially his drinking and swearing!

Gene said...

More of Ignotus "Catholic lite" approach. I think he is really a Methodist in disguise...

Pater Ignotus said...

Well, I suggest that it is not within your competence to disallow what the Church allows in terms of readings approved for funerals.

When I preach, I use all of the Scripture passages chosen as the basis for my homily, not only the Gospel. Seems your approach is a tad niggardly in that regard.

No one is encouraging micro-management by the laity, but involvement in the planning of a liturgy. If a pastor allows what is "inimical to the liturgy" that's his fault. And it is not a sufficient reason to eliminate universally the involvement of the laity.

I'm not suggesting that "secular" things be allowed. You take the discussion to an absurd level so that you can strike at the straw man. Not even close - and no ceegar.

What you may find horribly sentimental others may find devout and grace-filled. There's no acocunting for taste. And if you are allowing "hoardes (sic) of people" to eulogize the deceased, stop it. (The word you wanted was horde - whatch those homophones, Good Father.)

Pin/Gene - there's nothing "Catholic Lite" about allowing what the Church herself allows - an even encourages.

Art Fleming said...

Perhaps Pater Ignotus could clarify for us:

1) What he means, specifically, by "full, conscious and active participation"


2) How choosing readings for Mass has any relationship to soothing one who is grieving.

Just asking.

Pater Ignotus said...

Art - Better than telling you what I think "full, conscious, and active participation" means, I'll offer the Church's own teaching: "To promote active participation, the people whould be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, pslamody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures and bearing." (SC 14)

And, by the way, these things are not "take it or leave it" sorts of things. No, Holy Mother Church says, “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people . . . have a right and an obligation by reason of their baptism. . . ." (SC 15) DEMANDED by the very nature of the liturgy...

A person who engages in reviewing the various suggested readings for funerals encounters the words of God and, in them, the Word of God. It is by Christ's life, death, and resurrection that we are restored to life. I don't see how a person who reflects with any depth on the readings while choosing appropriate passages can avoid encountering the healing, salvific presence of Christ.

Gene said...

Participation does not mean planning. The laity do not need to "plan" the liturgy. It is silly and unnecessary, not to mention protestant.

Templar said...

PI: " If the Church allows it, the pastor has no legitimate right to deny it."

Unless of course you're from MHT and asking for the TLM in accordance with SP....then the hell with ya.

Marc said...

Father Kavanaugh, what you've quoted about full, active participation is good. It is not, however, a definition of active participation -- it is a suggestion about some ways to promote and foster active participation.

Surely, we all know what active participation means: it is nothing other than the raising of one's heart and mind to the Lord, our Creator and Savior. The definition is right there in the Mass itself.

The question, then, is not what it is, but how to promote it. That is where Fr. Kavanaugh's quote comes in. There are various ways to promote active participation and they are liable to change over time. The Church currently recognizes that men are more readily raising their hearts and minds to God when responding audibly or singing/chanting. In the past, men were brought to participation by the symbolism of the Royal Court. Of course these things change over time, just as literature, music, and various other sense-engaging things change over time. But, the active participation itself remains the same: lifting one's heart and mind to God.

I agree that having people read the inerrant Scripture can surely be a comfort for them when a loved one dies. There is a connection between choosing the readings and meditating on the Scripture. I don't think that just because Protestants happen to do something makes it an inherently bad idea, but it does make it somewhat suspect in terms of the Church's motivation for adopting the practice.

Frankly, I think the clergy generally give too little credit to the laity, so I see no problem letting the laity choose the Scripture readings from a set list of selections. In fact, my wife and I did this when we were getting married in a Methodist Church and I was an Atheist at the time -- sitting down to select the Scripture verses was a grace-filled experience for us -- and I went to Mass and RCIA for the first time just a few weeks later.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - Participation can mean planning. And the level of lay involvement in planning liturgies varies. I believe Fr. AJM has noted previously that his lay music director chooses (plans) the music for weekend masses. She does so under his direction and with his approval, but she is the music planner, if I am not mistaken.

I imagine someone other than Fr AJM - a lay person - plans the schedules for lectors, servers, EM's, etc.

You see, the liturgies you attend are heavily planned - by lay people in many roles. See? You learn something new every day.

WSquared said...

Allowing the people to participate in choosing hymns for, say, a wedding, can help them to under stand the role of music and how it enhances liturgical worship. The slection process becomes a "catechetical moment."

But how does it become a "catechetical moment" for any lay person ignorant of, or not trained in, sacred music? I chose the music for our wedding, and I did the best I could, knowing that I knew more about the Mass than I ever have, because I did my research during Pre-Cana (for one, I chose some Bach and some Mozart, putting the little music training I had to good use, with one or two contemporary pieces, all of which were played as instrumentals).

Unfortunately, not every good book that teaches you about the Mass, especially its Scriptural basis, says anything at all about what music is appropriate and why. It is way too easy to think that chanted Propers belong only to the TLM, while hymns, Haugen, and Haas are the norm for the Novus Ordo, because the offerings of most parishes create that impression. I attend both Novus Ordo and TLM, but I had no idea that chanted Propers and Ordinaries applied also to the Novus Ordo, even in the vernacular, until later.

I was somewhat upset that I didn't even know that my home parish (on the other side of the continent) had a schola while I was picking readings and music for our nuptial Mass-- nobody told me, and nobody encouraged me to check them out; they probably weren't even looking because of what they thought the "norm" of sacred music was. By then, all of the music for our wedding had been "planned." With no idea of the musical heritage of the Church, and that it's not only an option but highly encouraged, I didn't even know where to start or what to ask for.

What would be a true catechetical moment is to show people the music that the Church actually gives us, and why, as a viable option. In the end, they may not "choose" it, but they ought to know that it's there for them and why it's there.

I don't appreciate the efforts of some priests, as well as laypeople run amok, who, in denigrating or at least obscuring the Church's musical tradition over the last forty years, have ended up creating a situation that essentially lost this bride in the weeds. Yeah, that was a "catechetical moment," all right. Thanks for that.

Art Fleming said...

Pater Ignotus:

Thank you. I wanted a clarification and you provided one in the clearest possible terms.

Now that you've explained how the bereaved can encounter the healing power of God in His word, I have another question: Since my family has a special attachment to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, would you be willing, if they requested and if I left specific instructions, to offering (or making arrangements to offer) the Extraordinary Form for my funeral?

I know you are open-minded and certainly would not want to disallow what the Church permits.

Pater Ignotus said...

WS - As I understand it, a "catechetical moment" is an opportunity to teach. That presumes some level of ignorance. In helping a family plan a liturgy - funeral, wedding, baptism, etc., - the person guiding the process can explain the role of music, the appropriateness of this or that reading, the reasons why the Church does/does not allow certain options.

I think that is how such an encounter becomes a catechetical moment.

Gene said...

Ignotus, making out a schedule is hardly planning the liturgy. The music director chooses with Fr.'s approval. Fr. is pretty hands-on and is not going to relinquish control of what goes on in his parish...nor should he. I attend Mass at another parish which is very post-Vat II and the Priest is so laid back the laity do most everything. Mass is uninspiring and casual, I am often afraid the Priest might actually fall asleep during the Mass, and Confession in this large parish is from 4:30 to 5 on Saturday and the two times I have been there was no one else there. After one of my Confessions, he gave me absolution with the caveat: "Very well, go say an Our Father and come join us for coffee and cake." There is just no excuse for such sorriness.

WSquared said...

Oh, I'm well aware of what a catechetical moment is, Pater Ignotus.

I think I can say that I've been on the receiving end of a couple of "opportunities to teach" that offered me little to no substance.

I will grant that you are correct with picking the readings, though.

Picking the music is where the average parish falls down on the job. There is in many a case nobody to truly "teach" anything in that regard, and it's a case of the blind leading the blind.

the person guiding the process can explain the role of music, the appropriateness of this or that reading, the reasons why the Church does/does not allow certain options.

Except if he or she is not actually trained in sacred music, or can't be bothered because he/she hates Latin and the Church's tradition (even if the Church makes allowances for these), the lessons the person imparts and any "guidance" will fall short.

While it is helpful to know that certain secular pieces of music-- like the Wedding March from Lohengrin, for example-- are not appropriate, that doesn't mean that it isn't awful when the Church gives us, encourages, and allows the Propers, but all we get is Marty Haugen.

I would've preferred silence at my nuptial Mass if the only other option was a drum kit and somebody banging away on their wretched guitar. And if Father so-and-so can allow some Beatles song at a requiem Mass because of the "taste" of his parishioners, why can't he allow the appropriate chants for the same reason?

Oh, but wait: all tastes are equal, but some are clearly more equal than others, and what's "allowed" tends to be highly selective and intolerant: vernacular being "allowed" means "banning of Latin entirely." Hymns being "allowed" means "banning of chant entirely." Got it.

The Eastern Church has no problem combining the vernacular with the liturgical language. But somehow, English speakers in the Latin Rite Church can't be bothered.

Pater Ignotus said...

WS - well, since you asked, "But how does it become a "catechetical moment" for any lay person ignorant of, or not trained in, sacred music?" I determined you wanted an answer.

"If the Church allows it, the pastor has no legitimate right to deny it" is a reference to the funeral readings. There are other times when a pastor may, or even should, "deny" a request or practice. A pastor may, for legitimate reasons, refuse to allow the formation of a KofC Council in his parish, may refuse to allow an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion to use a personal pyx, may not allow a member of the parish to stand for election to the parish council.

I would think that such "denials" or "refusals" would be rare. In general, you can't pastor a parish well by vetoing a large number of things.

Pin/Gene - Planning is not planning. You are good a Orwellian newspeak. You could be a doubleplusgood member of the Thinkpol!

Gene said...

Ignotus, That is not what I said. You continue to twist what people say, to prevaricate, and you remain fundamentally dishonest.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - Riiiiight. You didn't say that just like you didn't say that African Americans are a "feral miniroty." How could I have been so mistaken....?

Gene said...

Ignotus, Once again, as I pointed out before and you choose to ignore, I merely used the term "feral minorities" with no specific referent. You concluded that I meant Blacks. See, you are simply incapable of being intellectually honest.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin-Gene - and I pointed out the thee times when you said that "feral minority" did refer to blacks. I'll do it again soon.

Joe Potillor said...

For big solemn Liturgies, there should indeed be coordination, (sloppy Liturgy angers me like few things in the world)....however this should be done in accordance with the rubrics laid down by Holy Mother Church and in line with her thinking. The only Liturgical "planning" that should exist is making sure everyone knows exactly what their role is and when to do said role.

Gene said...

I'm gonna' have some t-shirts made that say: "Have You Hugged Your Feral Minority Today?" I'll save you a couple...