Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Today I had a graveside service for one of our 90 year old parishioners. When I got there a family member, grandson I think, who is not Catholic asked if two of the musicians at his Baptist Church could sing. I met with them and they wanted to do Amazing Grace and another song that I was unfamiliar with, called "Angel Band." They did Amazing Grace as the opening and Angel Band as the concluding song. Of course it was done in a very southern fashion, kind of Bluegrass I think.

At any rate as I listened to the Protestant Hymn, Angel Band, I thought to myself that it really was a Protestant version of "May the Angels Lead You into Paradise." Is this "inculturation?"

My latest sun is sinking fast
My race is nearly run
My longest trials now are past
My triumph has begun

Oh come angel band
Come and around me stand
Bear me away on your snow white wings
To my immortal home
Bear me away on you snow white wings
To my immortal home
Oh bear my longing soul to him
Who bled and died for me
Whose blood now cleanses from all sins
And brings me victory


I know I'm near the holy ranks
Of friends and kindred dear
I brush the dew on Jordan's banks
The crossing must be near

I've almost gained my heavenly home
My spirit loudly sings
The holy ones, behold they come
I hear the noise of wings


Gene said...

One of my favorite old protestant gospel hymns. The bluegrass group I play with does it quite often.

Православный физик said...

Eh, I'm of the opinion, Catholic Hymns if we're going to use hymns for Mass...(For the record, for the Roman Rite, IMO, they don't belong, except for those that are strictly perscribed to the Liturgy)

If we do use hymns for the Liturgy, they should be 100% orthodox....better to have a capella in Prasidium, than these...but I suppose for last second additions it works.

Anonymous said...

I'd sure like to hear more details about your bluegrass band, preacher. Do you play an instrument? Bet you're a banjo player. Can I buy a CD on iTunes? I thought you had rejected, condemned and distanced yourself from evil protestants. And now you say you're playing gospel hymns? Hmmm....

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Can't judge a book by its blog, even had an African American Gospel choir in my previous parish that was the envy of many Black Baptist Churches in town to which they were invited to sing!

Joseph Johnson said...

I generally don't like to see inculturation in the Mass itself--even in its current (OF) form it should still be the ROMAN Rite (as it was before the post-conciliar reforms) but I see nothing wrong with this colloquial music at the graveside after the Requiem Mass.

As to Southern inculturation within Catholicism, I get pretty darn peeved when I go to a parish dinner and the ladies (many of whom are not Southerners) don't understand that adding sugar to already made iced tea is NOT sweet tea (it just doesn't work!).

For those who don't know, Southerners drink iced tea (usually sweet) with dinner (that's lunch to Yankees) and supper. The sugar must be added to the steeped boiling hot tea (so it melts) before the cold water is added to the hot steeped tea to fill the pitcher. Catholic parish meals are the ONLY time I get jealous of the Southern Baptists because they are culturally Southern (like me) and understand these things!

rcg said...

I'm hosting a music night at the local Knights of Columbus this Wednesday evening. Many Southerners whose families came north for work play Bluegrass and Old Time Appalachian music. There will be a fair share of Haugen and Haas warblers, I expect. It is my opinion that this is the proper place for these sorts of tunes. Mass is for Acquinas and Tisserand.

Gene said...

Anonymous, I play the guitar and sing. We are just a local group, so don't look for any CD's. LOL! However, our mandolin player was a studio musician in Nashville for several years, and our fiddle player has played with Allison Kraus and a few other names.

I don't think pop songs and gospel songs belong in the Mass.

RE: distance from Protestants: I left Calvinism for a lot of theological and devotional reasons after a long struggle. However, Calvin was not wrong about everything and much of his theology comes right out of Augustine. The issues are difficult…like Fr. MacDonald said when I was sitting in his office for one of many intense discussions on my way across the Tiber, "No one said these theological issues were easy or that they had simple answers."

Pater Ignotus said...

Joseph - Everything of human origin in the Roman Rite in the liturgy is there because of inculturation. Now it happened in a different time and in a different culture, but to say you don't like the see inculturation in the mass boggles the mind.

Damask vestments, ornately carved altars, Gregorian chant, lace, the colors of vestments used in the various seasons, the Latin language - these are all products of human culture that, over time, were incorporated into the worship of the Catholic Church.

Our liturgy is one long expression of inculturation.

Pin/Gene - As you continue to espouse non-Catholic ideas about election, predestination, and the ability we have to thwart God's universal salvific will, then you most certainly cannot say that you have "left Calvinism."

Gene said...

Ignotus, as usual, you do not know what you are talking about.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - As usual, I do know what I am talking about.

But, because you don't agree, you say "You don't know what you're talking about."

This is your consistent reaction to anyone and everyone who disagrees with you, corrects you, or whose perspective differs from yours.

It is the behavior of a weak, fearful bully.

Joseph Johnson said...

Pater Ignotus,
When I write these comments on a blog, I am not taking pains to write them with great precision as I would write a legal document or historical treatise. My comments are meant to be taken as they would be taken in a casual, spoken conversation. In that context, certain things can be assumed and taken as "given."

Obviously, you are correct about the cultural origins of things that we use at Mass (such as the Latin language which comes from the Roman Empire). I think you know what I meant when I said I don't like inculturation in the Mass. I hold to the idea that the liturgy has its own character and style which, while having historical outside cultural origins, had settled after a certain point in history (for instance, the use of Latin as the official language, the use of incense or Gregorian chant, etc.). Even a vernacular OF Mass should hold to this style.

As I have said, I think you know what I meant. For instance, I don't think Bluegrass or Country Music (or, my favorites, Ragtime or 1920's jazz or vaudeville music) would be appropriate styles for Mass. I feel the same way about African dance (or any "liturgical" dance or certain loud, exuberant "pop" styles of music---it's just not appropriate). These are just some examples of what I mean when I say I don't like inculturation at Mass. Again, I think you know very well what I meant given the "inculturated" examples that you referenced, all of which you know I would favor.

Pater Ignotus said...

Joseph - I think you want to say that you like THIS inculturation, but not THAT inculturation.

That's fine, but that is an expression of personal tastes and preferences, not an expression of what does or does not belong in the liturgy.

Pater Ignotus said...

Joseph - I think anything that is beautiful, from any time and any culture, can find a place in the liturgy. And I don't think that beauty belongs to any particular time, place, culture, or religion.

If a style of Polynesian music is beautiful to Polynesian Catholics, it can be entirely appropriate for it to be employed in the liturgy. The same is true for contemporary art and architecture. If it is truly beautiful, then why not employ it in the service of the liturgy?

The liturgy is not a possession of the Western European Church. There is, in fact, no such thing as the Western European Church and more than there is an American Catholic Church or a Chinese or a Tanzanian Catholic Church. The Church is, from the beginning, a universal reality.

There are, however, Catholics who are American, Chinese, Tanzanian, etc. That is where beauty and culture enter the picture.

Anonymous said...

Some folks just don't seem to get it...or won't face it...that the time is a faster rate each day...when the white European folks, who have run the world for centuries, will no longer do so...will no longer be the majority, will no longer be in charges. The brown people, the black people, the "colored" people will run the world. How many of them will be Catholics is unknown. The discussion of things like which way the priest faces or what he wears or what language is used or what songs are sung may be ancient history...a distant memory.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I see I'm not the only one claiming clairvoyance. However, what is written certainly can be counted as true, but the Church has always been multi-cultural and respected the cultures of many people although maintaining a more euro-centric form of the Mass. That is changing to say the least, but I wouldn't count Europe out, there is,as we believe, always resurrection and/or revival! Pope Francis by the grace of God may also effect that!

Joseph Johnson said...

As to the subject of appropriate music in the liturgy, please view the short video from Corpus Christi Watershed (with pretty young non-white women doing the presentation) entitled "Can You Tell the Difference?"

I happen to agree very much with those young ladies but, regardless of our personal preferences, please note the referenced statements by Popes and relevant passages from Church documents on the subject of music in the liturgy. There's more to it than mere personal taste or preference.

Anonymous said...

I make no claims. I just read the news.

Gene said...

And, you think reading the news makes you better informed…LOL!

Joseph Johnson said...

To follow up, on what Pater Ignotus wrote about my not liking "that" inculturation in the liturgy:

Dn't get me wrong, just as I had no problem with a song like "Angel Band" outside of a funeral Mass sung at graveside, I have no problem with other cultural expressions generally--outside of Mass. I still believe, however, that the Roman Rite should retain its character as the Roman Rite with the ancient cultural elements which have long been associated with it. Otherwise, why still call it the "Roman" Rite--wouldn't it then become the Rite of whatever cultural expressions dominate its celebration. Due to the historical spread of Catholicism before VII in non-European lands, many cultures were introduced to, and formed in, the classic Roman Rite as their form of worship.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

What PI completely disregards in the development of sacred music born of cultural expression is that most music was sacred of some kind and not profane. But even here and in the time that Gregorian Chant had its genesis other forms of music in this same period were not deemed appropriate for the Mass.
Popes, especially toward the latter part of the 1800's and early 1900's continued to emphasize that sacred words set to secular music was not appropriate for the Sacred Mass. At the time, what the pope's were criticizing were the elegant and elaborate concert Masses (which no pope condemns for concerts) sung at an actual Mass. This certainly would have been the case in Europe in places like Austria.
Ultimately it is the bishops who decided what is appropriate for the Sacred Liturgy. It is their responsibility that so often they shirk.

Gene said...

There are some wonderful, theologically correct protestant gospel songs that are great devotional expressions of faith and Biblical truth. Certainly, they do not belong at Mass, but I will say they are a far cry better than the crap you find in Gather Us or Breaking Bread and other such pop hymnals.

Pater Ignotus said...

Joseph - I think the time has come to recognize that the Roman Rite should become - is becoming - the Catholic Rite.

Roman sensibilities, tastes, preferences once determined the shape not only of Catholic liturgy but Catholic theology as well. However, European dominance of the Western world is now little more than an historical footnote.

Good Father - you claim that "most music was sacred of some kind and not profane" needs some historical support.

I don't think it is the case at all. Popular or profane music has existed in every culture that I am aware of, and did so in far greater quantity than music that was written for or came to be used in worship.

What's the basis for your assertion?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

PI, that will be your homework to show through your own research and historical analysis that I am correct.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Chant is the music of the Mass and not just for the Latin Rite, but also for all of the Eastern Rites. As well both the Lutherans and the Anglicans have well developed chants in their own idioms.

Setting the Mass to secular music idioms goes back to the concert Masses but not before and unfortunately only in the Latin Rite.
The inheritance of this genre, condemned roundly by the popes, in the modern form is to be lamented and not viewed as Catholic or catholic if one considers chant the sacred music of the liturgy in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Churches to include the Orthodox and in Lutheranism and Anglicanism and maybe a few other Protestant denominations.

Pater Ignotus said...

No, Good Father, I am not doing your homework for you. Where do you get the notion that "most music was sacred of some kind and not profane"?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

No PI you have challenged the assertion that in the chants of the Church, east and west and one might add Judaism that there is a secular counterpart. You challenge, you then must prove your assertion, not me.

Pater Ignotus said...

Good Father, I haven't said anything about chants east, west, or Judaic...? No one, until your 4:06 post, said anything about "secular counterparts."

You asserted that, " the development of sacred music born of cultural expression is that most music was sacred of some kind and not profane."

Where do you get this notion? Is there a source you have read that makes this claim, or is this just another idea that popped into your head as you wrote?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Of course, since this is your question, when you find the sources report back!

Joseph Johnson said...

"I think the time has come to recognize that the Roman Rite should become - is becoming - the Catholic Rite."

If this were to happen (or is happening), what is to become of the other Rites (eg. Maronite, Malabar, Ruthenian, etc.). Will the generic "Catholic" (universal) Rite supplant everything else? Or, if the other Rites are allowed to continue to co-exist, does the Extraordinary Form become (by default) the ONLY form of the Roman Rite?

I understand the distinction between Sacred (big T) Tradition and historical or cultural-based tradition. I accept the OF as a valid form of the Mass. However, it is a lot easier to love and accept it when it is presented as an updated version in continuity with what had come before (a continuance of the Roman liturgical tradition) rather than something that is a complete break with the past with the essential exception that it retains the bare essentials of what Sacred Tradition requires for a valid Mass.

This reminds me of what a friend said to me one time when I had set up my living space while in college. . . I used to always have my grandfather's 1920's chest of drawers (with a functional rotary dial upright "candlestick" 'phone on it) with a wind up alarm clock ticking away on the nightstand. A Crucifix my father had as a child in the 1940's hung over my bed. My friend, who had known me for a long time, observed that, regardless of where I set up to live while in school, it always looked like the past. I responded that it would be depressing to me to live in an all modern or contemporary styled environment so I brought my little "environment" with me.

I feel the same about things in Church. While the ultimate comfort is in knowing that the Faith is unchanging, I need more--I need some continuity with the past in terms of physical externals and the Eucharist-centered piety that was more characteristic of the pre-Conciliar (and immediate post-Conciliar Church). The Faith is enough of a challenge to live up to--I don't need the additional (and unnecessary) challenge a liturgy that does not reference the past except for the more distant (Scriptural) past.

The Church takes great pains to be pastoral to all kinds of groups (cultural and otherwise), even right here in the Diocese of Savannah, which is commendable. However, what about people like myself who are who are culturally of European heritage and feel closer to Our Lord in the Eucharist when we can kneel for Communion and when loud, exuberant music is not used at Mass?

Must the modern Church try so hard to accomodate every non-European cultural group at the expense of those who are drawn to the Europeanized (Roman) style of liturgy (EF or OF)? We're still a part of the Church, too!

kkollwitz said...

I was once asked to sing That Old Rugged Cross at a Catholic funeral here in Greenville, SC. We sing Protestant hymns from time to time, especially those by Isaac Watts. And here's a song from which I sing excerpts in Catechism class when we cover Revelations: