Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Some of the most dogmatic people in the Church are liturgists and musicians. They are also some of the most clerical, controling and unrelenting.

While on this blog, there are some who prefer the 1962 Missal and are quite vocal about it, they know as well as I that they are in the minority in terms of complaining about not having the 1962 missal in their parishes. The number one complaint concerns not the form of the Mass, but the music of the Mass.

Since Vatican II and with the 1970 misssal and its subsequent reforms, there is a wide range of what style of music can be sung at Mass. If you ask most rank and file Cathoics, when they think of the music of the Mass, they think of the four hymns that most parishes sing during the Mass but in reaity are simply filler or add-on and not intrinsic to the Mass--the Processional hymn from a hymnal, either contemporary or traditional, the offertory hymn which is not required; the communion hymns and anthems, clearly filler music and the recessional hymn which is not mentioned in the GIRM or rubrics of the Mass.

If an authentic and organic revision of the 1962 Missal had occurred and the music of the Mass meant that one sang the Mass, especially the offiical Introit, Offertory and Communion antiphons, I don't think we would have the problems we have today. Keep in mind the four-hymn sandwhich was applied to the post-Vatican II Sung Mass which was common in many places for the Low Mass of pre-Vatican II times. Most parishes had many low Masses on Sunday. It was allowed to sing devotional hymns at these Mass although nothing of the Mass was sung, all was spoken.

The Sung Mass of the pre-Vatican II Mass required no devotional hymns except perhaps for fillers at the offertory and Communion. What was sung was the Mass in Latin Chant, either simple or more complex chant and for those with good scholas and choirs, maaybe polyphony or theatrical settings of the Latin Mass (although this was very rare on a normal Sunday).

The biggest problem in the post-Vatican II era (that began almost immediately in the mid 1960's) was the allowance of other instruments apart from the organ for music duiring the Mass. Guitars and tambourines made their appearance. Then drums and bongos. Then banjos and cassenettes. In the 1960's many of these newly allowed instruments were encouraged to keep the young interested in the Church. Rock and Roll was the in-thing and somehow folk music became a trend also.

This divided families. Parents despised the rock and roll Masses and so children went to that particular Mass while parents went to the organ Mass.

This trend continues with the so-called Lifeteen Masses geared toward the young.

Don't get me wrong. While I have no desire to begin a "folk group" in 2014, I can tolerate "folk or contemporary" muisc at Mass. I have filled in on Sunday at our two other Macon parishes which have contemporary groups leading the music and I don't find it off-putting but I do find the Catholic spirituality of the Mass compromised a bit by this style of music that for the most part is difficult to sing and usually only the group is singing and not the congregation.

But this is true also of our St. Michael's Hymnal at St. Joseph Church. While there are many traditional hymns in it with a few contemporary ones, some are difficult to sing and some are real clunkers.

Should we narrow the types of instruments used at Mass and once again recover the Low Mass/ High Mass terms as they were understood prior to Vatican II and be strict about it. This means at a low Mass, nothing of the Mass is chanted but all of the Mass is spoken. Hymns may be allowed as filler. The high Mass is the Mass itself sung, every part of it with no substitutions of any part with hymns.

So, should we go back to the low Mass, high Mass concepts and rigidly so? Will this solve the problems?


JBS said...

It is traditional in English to describe the priest as either "saying" or "singing" the Mass. I think we could begin by identifying the kind of Mass based upon whether the priest says his parts or sings them. Later, the choir could be brought into this system.

rcg said...

We have this, "Praise Him with lyre and dancing, tambourine..." The banjo is the perfect union of tambourine and lyre so you are dancing on thin ice, Father.

The Mass is a prayer, the ultimate prayer. We need to treat it as such. I hope people are moved to outward praise they should have an outlet for such afterward. Take the rock Mass as Youngman would say, take it, please). I think if the Mass were followed by a youth meeting where they could sing and play instruments in the proper way it would have been a very good thing. As it actually happened it became exceeding difficult if not impossible to pray During Mass, even the prayers of the Mass itself.

We need to reset things; we may find our way to the purpose of the Mass again.

Anonymous said...

"Praise Him with lyre and dancing, tambourine..." The banjo is the perfect union of tambourine and lyre"

Setting aside the fact that one can use a biblical quotation to support any nonsense one wants to . . . Of course one can praise God with tambourine and tambourine.

But not in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which in fact is not devoted to praise of God per se, but rather to Adoration, Worship, Propitiation, and Petition.

Context is everything. We have plenty of opportunity in contexts other than Holy Mass to praise God with with tamboutine and banjo, and even with dancing.

Joseph Johnson said...

Just a side note:
Being part of a minority in a parish that does not offer Mass according to the 1962 Missal and complaining about said lack has nothing to do with whether Mass according to that form should be offered in that parish.

Summorum Pontificum says nothing about having a majority in a parish who want the 1962 Missal as a prerequisite to adding that Mass to the parish schedule. There is no minimum size for a "stable group" requesting this Mass which triggers Summorum.