Sunday, March 2, 2014


Let's face it, there are far more Catholics who prefer this type of spirituality and music at Mass than those who clamor for the Extraordinary Form Mass:

The vast majority of Catholics, overwhelming majority of Catholics, are not into the liturgy wars. Granted a goodly number of Catholics are gnostics today and pick and choose what they will believe and think their opinion about this, that or the other is as authoritative as Scripture, Tradition and natural law. But when it comes to the liturgy, for the most part, no one is complaining and the status quo is fine.

What complaints I do hear is about music. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. Because so many variety of styles of music are allowed in the Ordinary Form of the Mass (and for that matter, it could be in the Extraordinary Form as well, especially its low Mass with a four hymn sandwich) people know what they like and don't like.

Older Catholics I once knew, most of whom are dead now, did not like bringing Protestant hymns into the Mass, such as Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art and Hark the Herald Angels Sing amongst others. Neither did they appreciate the folk genre that was foisted upon them overnight.

Today most Catholics don't even know that Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art and Hark the Herald Angels Sing are some of the greatest Protestant Hymns of their classical tradition of hymnody and spirituality.

Catholics today go to a particular Mass not so much because of the music but because of the time it is offered and family traditions. They will suffer through a liturgy celebrated poorly and with music they don't like.

But there is a vast crowd that likes modern, upbeat music, similar to the Praise and Worship music that has become so popular in the more hip or trying to be hip staid mainline Protestant denominations borrowed from the non-denominational and the pentecostal (charismatic) traditions.

I know that if we at St. Joseph had a powerful modern music ensemble, singing upbeat music with all kinds of instrumental accompaniment, that that Mass would be packed similar to the church depicted in the short video above.

This is only anecdotal evidence, but here in Macon where there are only three Catholic parishes, St.Joseph is by far the "mega Catholic Church" and the most traditional in its tradition of music. In addition what is sung at our Masses is the same for all Masses to bring unity to our various Sunday Masses and for all the parish to have a common singing tradition.

We don't want to separate families when it comes to the Mass by offering different styles of music for different tastes and generations thus having youth coming to a youth Mass and oldsters to a more staid Mass. We want families to stay together and the Church family as a whole to stay together and be on the same page.

The other two parishes offer contemporary music. Holy Spirit only has a Sunday Vigil Mass and a Sunday Morning Mass (yes, only one Mass on Sunday, what a luxury, we have four, but I digress).

Their music is contemporary for the most part, their ensemble sings up front and even though the worship space is quite small and has good studio acoustics, each singer has a microphone in front of them. Some of the music sounds country-western with a kind of a twang, but most is what we would associate with contemporary although contemporary is elusive and ever changing.

Their one Sunday Mass is full, but not brimming over with younger Catholics and the growth of this parish is status quo and in fact has declined over the last few years. Once there were two Sunday morning Masses there. On the other hand in the past 10 years, St. Joseph has added a Mass (we did not have a Saturday Vigil Mass) and we've added the once a month, First Sunday of the month EF Mass. (Today is the First Sunday as I write this, so we actually have five Masses today!)

The other parish, St. Peter Claver, traditionally an African American parish was integrated in the 1960's when whites were encouraged to go there from Saint Joseph Church and Blacks from St. Peter Claver to come here. That tradition has continued to this day. However, Saint Peter Claver has developed in the last 10 years a major ministry to Hispanic Catholics in the area, primarily Mexicans, and this group is the largest in the parish and the youngest. Of course the Mexican congregation has its own genre of music.

St. Peter Claver has had since the 1970's to this day a very good folk group. They basically sing the same things they sung in the 1970's. In fact, this group sang my first Mass in June of 1980 and came to Augusta and my home parish to do it. Last year, when I filled in for the vacationing pastor at St. Peter Claver, two of the songs that the group sung at that Mass where two that were sung at my first Mass! The current group had no idea that the very same music had been sung at my first Mass all the way back in 1980 when folk music was at its zenith.

Their folk Mass doesn't attract too many younger people, but mostly aging white people who have had a tradition of going to that Mass over the last few decades. They like the freer feeling that maintains some of the sentiments of the raging 60's for them and they are accustomed to this style of Mass.

So the bottom line is that people like what they are accustomed to liking. They aren't into the liturgy wars until what they like is changed. But usually they either accept the change, go elsewhere or stop coming altogether if their horizontal needs are not met.

And therein lies the problem with liturgy. Its beauty today is in the eye of the beholder and like so much in the Church today, beauty and truth are subjective. Gnostic Catholics pick and choose what they like and don't like and see their preferences on par with the authoritative teachings of the Church even if their preferences are different than those official teachings.

I don't see things changing any time soon. It will take judgment day, at our personal judgement or at the end of time, for major changes to take place leading to real truth and beauty.That is heaven folks, maybe folk Masses are purgatory (that's still a part of heaven)?


Gene said...

Parishioners tastes should be formed, not consulted...

Anonymous said...

All of the music at St. Joseph is played at a ridiculously slow tempo. No matter what the song is, it all sounds melancholy!

Rood Screen said...

New Coke did well in initial testing, because people like sweet things. However, no one wants to sip something so sweet all day long. They prefer classic Coke.

We can excite the emotions of congregations with energetic priests and exciting music, but can we build Christian civilization upon such fleeting attractions?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I agree that it does drag sometimes and I've tried to address that issue, but part of the problem with it appearing to drag is that we have been immersed in the contemporary fast beat culture of liturgical music that we like the excitement the fast beat and pace brings to the heart. Liturgy is meant to be contemplative to sooth the soul not excite it; listen to Gregorian chant without accompaniment which is the genre of music of the Latin Rite in it purist sense. It isn't about keeping a beat, making music into a horse race or exciting the senses as music can sometimes, even classical music written for the Mass, best performed outside of Mass rather during because these are so grandiose.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

JBS, oddly enough, your comment came to blogger before mine which is below it, but I wrote mine before I saw yours! I guess there is some Carma going on or clairvoyance! But people didn't like new Coke because it tasted like Pepsi which was always a bit sweeter than classic coke. If we wanted sweeter coke, we'd buy Pepsi. I hated new Coke and at the time, people were making comparisons with it and the new Mass. Who asked for it? And the ones making the comparison were in the secular media oddly enough.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I should add that I believe that Coke has pulled a fast one on us. They no longer have new Coke or Classic Coke, but simply Coke. I don't drink Coke of soft drinks often and when I do I order diet Coke which tastes more like the true Coke of my youth. When I have Classic Coke, rarely, and of course they no longer place the word classic on it since they don't have new Coke any longer, supposedly, it tastes like the new Coke I hated in the 80's along with everyone else. I think what you buy today really is new Coke and the people don't know it anymore or care.

Rood Screen said...

Wow! That's proof enough for me of your clairvoyance.

Anonymous said...

"karma" not "carma"

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Okay, now I have intrigued myself. As I mentioned I don't drink soft drinks with sugar anymore and seldom drink diet soft drinks, preferring water.

But before the advent of New Coke, regular Coke with sugar was less sweet than Pepsi when one bought either in the bottle.

Fountain Coke tended to taste sweeter than bottled Coke.

And canned Coke or Pepsi defintely had a different flavor coming from the chemical reaction with the cans.

Since I don't drink sugared Coke or Pepsi anymore, does what I wrote about in my youth about the differences in Coke and Pepsi still stand?

If you were to drink a taste of current Coke and a taste of current Pepsi, both sugared, would they taste the same in sweetness or not?

If they do, that tells you that Coke pulled a fast one and is giving us Faux Coke to this day! Oh, the humanity!

Pater Ignotus said...

There is much "classical music written for the mass" that has a very rapid, exciting tempo.

The Gloria from Haydn's Heiligmesse, which we sang in college chorus, has a very quick tempo. Even with that tempo, it is contemplative, prayerful, and very, very beautiful.

Music should excite the senses - since it is only be sense that we experience it!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, but these Masses in the 1700's and later were criticized by the Vatican and ultimately the pope, especially the much more complicated ones that needed orchestra and the like. I like Haydon too, but how many parishes can pull that off and if they did, it wouldn't be weekly by any means.

Let the horse race approach to what we can pull off, especially the folk or contemporary genre excites in a way secular music excites and with little else, Haydon excites in another way altogether. It soars. There's a difference.

But with that said, the authentic classical music of the Latin Rite is our own Gregorian Chant and Polyphony. These excite in a different way than the contemporary stuff.

John Nolan said...

Most Catholics don't attend Mass anyway so their musical preferences are irrelevant. Of those who do, it's difficult to generalize, but play a piece of Gregorian chant (or even Renaissance polyphony) to anyone, Catholic or not, musical or not, and without even understanding the words they will immediately put it in context. 'Yeah, it's what them monks do, innit?' The same cannot be said for the style of music in the video clip, which unless you understood the words, would have a purely secular connotation. This is why when people treat sacred music as being purely a matter of taste, they are missing the point.

I was a teenager in the 1960s when this faux-folk soft-pop style of 'liturgical' 'music' (the two sets of inverted commas are deliberate) first appeared, and I was singularly unimpressed.

The nearest thing to real folk music in the liturgy can be found in the traditional Office hymns. A good example might be Veni Creator Spiritus, from the Second Vespers of Pentecost, but often used out of context. Consider:
1. It is modal, not tonal, in this case Mode 8. This is a characteristic of folk music. A lot of Irish folk songs are in Mode 7 (e.g. 'She walked through the fair').
2. The melody was in the oral tradition long before it was written down.
3. Like folk song, it is strophic, in other words each verse is set to the same melody, which is not developed.
4. It is in free rhythm, not metrical. This reflects the folk music tradition where the words are as important, if not more important than the music.
5. It doesn't require accompaniment. When, in the early 20th century, a serious attempt was made to record folk music and preserve it before it was lost, the researchers usually found it sung unaccompanied and from memory.

You don't even have to sing these hymns in Latin, since accurate and singable translations are available.

Anonymous said...

Gnostic Catholics = judgement

non-annoymous said...

I want my parish to have a "Twerk Mass", where we bring in Hooters girls to be Ushers, Altar Servers, and to twerk with the folk rock band playing the liturgical music. That will get butts in the pews for sure. Unless Father tries to Twerk.

John Nolan said...

Some very interesting observations here (leaving aside the discussion of the dubious merits of different kinds of fizzy coloured water). Gregorian Chant as we know it and (usually) sing it today is very much influenced by the Solesmes monastic tradition, and we tend to think of it as meditative and contemplative. Indeed, it is sometimes used as 'mood music', where the text, which is all-important, becomes irrelevant. However, to take a well-known example, the Dies Irae, it is important when singing it to bring out the contrasts. 'Quantus tremor est futurus' and 'Rex tremendae majestatis' should not be delivered in the same way as 'Recordare Jesu pie'. Similarly, the Communio 'Factus est repente' (Pentecost Sunday) begins: "Suddenly, a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind". Let's hear the mighty wind! The chant is dramatic, leaping up a fifth only to suddenly drop back and even more suddenly leap up again. To sing it insipidly is criminal. In general, chant in parishes should err on the side of briskness.

The 'Viennese' school (Mozart, the Haydn brothers, Beethoven, Hummel being the most notable) brought the symphonic principle to sacred music. This has been aptly described as 'the large-scale integration of contrasts'. Thus we have contrasts in tonality, tempo, dynamics, instrumentation; and in many cases the contrast between soloists and full choir - but everything is integrated into a convincing overall structure. A typical Gloria will have a brisk and driven opening, a slower and more contemplative middle section 'Qui tollis etc.', with the tempo picking up at 'Quoniam Tu solus Sanctus' and ending with a final fugue.

I find this style both compelling and uplifting, and it is better in the liturgical context for which it was written. Believe me, after singing in a Gregorian schola and having to do Asperges, Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Gradual, Alleluia/Tract, sometimes a Sequence, all in succession, a bit less participation and the opportunity to listen and be moved by the work of a genius while others put the effort in, is really appreciated!

Anonymous said...

This is sort off topic. But I don't know how to ask you this question. I follow your blog daily. I'm a 60 year old Cradle Catholic wife for 38 years, mother of 4 and grandmother to 7 grandchildren. I live in Oklahoma. I read you and other blogs trying to figure out what happen to the Catholic Church. I know you encourage/prefer Holy Communion to be received on the tongue. About 4 months ago I started receiving Communion on the tongue due to Fr. Z and you. Here is my question. My granddaughter is preparing for First Communion. I am attending classes with her. Her parish priest has mentioned twice that the Early Church fathers and people received Communion in the hand. Then he explains the proper way to do this. He does allow you to receive Communion on the tongue. It's just that he is really encouraging that the hand is really okay. Is he really telling us the truth about the Early Church people? Thank you

Cameron said...

Never had a New Coke!

rcg said...

FWIW, ?I was the witness and sponsor for a Baptist convert yesterday in our FSSP Parish. He has attended Mass in at least one other parish, of which there are many. While he has confessed to the teachings of the Church superordinately, he noted the music as one of the reasons he landed in our parish. Anecdotally, of course.

George said...

No music should be such that it overpowers the rest of the liturgy because then you would have a Mass where many would come more for the entertainment and aural excitement and the music would lose the liturgical purpose with which it written and composed for. Music does play on the emotions and there are those who attend modern protestant wordship services which feature uptempo pop-type arrangements and brings about the phenomena of those who confuse the "excitations" engendered by the music to a movement of the Holy Spirit. I know that there are small parishes that have to make do with limited musical resources but even so,one can try to work from the best and most fitting repertoire one can.

Liturgical music should correspond to the purpose it should serve (and it is not entertainment).

rcg said...

To add a bit to John Nolan's points about folk music: It clearly is the content that is important as many of the favorite hymns of recent years borrow traditional melodies. The problem is that they often had more message in the emotional dimension of the melody and had flawed content. Tantum Ergo can be chanted to several melodies while many psalms have been adopted to Ralph Vaughn Williams' folk collection that ended up in the English Hymnal.

Rood Screen said...


I look forward to seeing Fr. McDonald's response to your excellent question.

From what I've read on the subject, there is no recorded history of Communion in the hand within the Roman liturgical tradition (until the 20th century). There is evidence of the practice in the East, but even then the practice was surrounded by mystical rituals and gestures that would be foreign to modern sensibilities. The modern practice of Communion in the hand simply has no historical precedent.

The legal norm in the Western Church remains Communion on the tongue, although Communion in the hand can be permitted by the local bishops.

Try reading the little book entitled "Dominus Est" by Athanasius Schneider, which has a preface by Cardinal Ranjith.

John Nolan said...

Anonymous @ 1:11 pm

You are being told a half-truth at best. Receiving the Body of Christ in the left hand and transferring It to the mouth with the fingers of the right has no precedent. In the early Church where Communion was in the hand it was always in the palm of the right hand and transferred directly to the mouth. Moreover the palm had to be purified before and after. Bishop Athanasius Schneider in his little book 'Dominus Est - It is the Lord!' gives the details.

Anonymous said...

In the early days of the Church the faithful frequently carried the Blessed Eucharist with them to their homes (cf. Tertullian, "Ad uxor.", II, v; Cyprian, "De lapsis", xxvi) or upon long journeys (Ambrose, De excessu fratris, I, 43, 46), while the deacons were accustomed to take the Blessed Sacrament to those who did not attend Divine service (cf. Justin, Apol., I, n. 67), as well as to the martyrs, the incarcerated, and the infirm (cf. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., VI, xliv). The deacons were also obliged to transfer the particles that remained to specially prepared repositories called Pastophoria (cf. Apostolic Constitutions, VIII, xiii). [Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article "The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist" (c. 1913)]

"And even in the church, when the priest gives the portion, the recipient takes it with complete power over it, and so lifts it to his lips with his own hand." [St. Basil the Great: Letter 93 (C├Žsaria, concerning Communion) in its entirety (c. 378 AD)]

(Cateches. Mystagog. v.(1))

When thou goest to receive communion go not with thy wrists extended, nor with thy fingers separated, but placing thy left hand as a throne for thy right, which is to receive so great a King, and in the hollow of the palm receive the body of Christ, saying, Amen. [St. Cyril of Jerusalem: "Fifth Mystagogical Catechesis", 21: PG 33. col 1125 (c. 350 AD) as cited by the Quintsext Synod of Trullo Canon 101 (c. 692 AD)]

Wherefore with all fear and a pure conscience and certain faith let us draw near and it will assuredly be to us as we believe, doubting nothing. Let us pay homage to it in all purity both of soul and body: for it is twofold. Let us draw near to it with an ardent desire, and with our hands held in the form of the cross let us receive the body of the Crucified One: and let us apply our eyes and lips and brows and partake of the divine coal,... [St. John Damascus: "De Fide Orthodoxa" Book IV, ch. XIII (circa 730 AD)]

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Certainly it was allowed in the early Church as described but the current practice falls short of what actually occurred at that time. The bigger question is why did the practice cease in both the east and the west by legislation? Two things a more developed theology of Real Presence and a developed sense of reverence to go with it. Also abuse and sacrilege with the laity taking the Sacrament home as a good luck charm, burying it in fields for a good crop and taking the Host for Satanic worship purposes.

We all know that today's communion practices has led to serious abuse and diminished reverence.

But with that said it is allowed and people should be taught to receive in the hand carefully and reverently.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Cameron if you have had current coke and given your age, you have never had classic coke as Coke pulled a fast one!

rcg said...

Mexican Coke tases very close the Original.

George said...

Anonymous at 4:44

Other than your first paragraph,
you are referencing Saints of the Eastern Church which confirms what JBS was saying.
I'm not sure how much your first paragraph applies to this issue.
Even prior to receiving in he hand coming into use in the modern Church, the Eucharist was transported for various reasons (the sick and invalids etc.)

Joseph Johnson said...

You're right about Mexican Coke (for those who don't know, it still comes in glass bottles in the taller size that we Americans used to call a "King size Coke"). The glass bottle will say "Hecho in Mexico" (made in Mexico). To my knowledge, the Mexican Coke always still is made with real cane sugar--no high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener. This may account for the taste being more like the American Coke of old.

Thanks be to God we finally used the Nicene Creed at Mass yesterday at my home parish!

John Nolan said...

What Sts Cyril and Basil have to say, as quoted by Anonymous@4:44, is often used to justify the modern practice. But Cyril talks of not extending the wrists and receiving in the palm of the right hand (the left hand underneath the right, as a 'throne' and, keeping the fingers together, transferring the Sacrament directly to the mouth. Basil also talks of raising the hand to the mouth. The idea of receiving the Host in the left hand and picking It up with the fingers would have scandalized them. In some ancient liturgies even the priest did not use his fingers.

Rood Screen said...

Joseph Johnson, I'm curious what exactly you mean when you say you "finally used the Nicene Creed at Mass"?

Joseph Johnson said...

Fr. JBS,
Sometime back, I mentioned here that our pastor had not been using the Nicene Creed and that he used the Apostles' Creed instead at Sunday Mass. Last Sunday was the first time in his tenure at my home parish that we have used the Nicene Creed. Our previous pastor, who had a decidedly more traditional bent, had also used the Apostles' Creed after the new English translation came out. I don't recall him ever getting us back to the Nicene Creed, either.

Anyway, our deacon told me that he had suggested to our current pastor that we use the Nicene Creed (because I had mentioned it to the deacon) and the pastor agreed. I had always thought the Nicene Creed was the norm with the Apostles' Creed being an option only at Lent or for children's Masses.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Joseph I prefer the Nicene Creed for Sunday but the new English translation missal allow either without prejudice which is odd:

The rubric:

Instead of the Niceno-Constatinople Creed, especially during Lent and Easter Time, the baptismal Symbol of the Roman Church, known as the Apostles' Creed, may be used.

So this rubric is either mistranslated or a new option exists foe any Mass with a Creed during the liturgical year.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, Father, how many who like this type of music are actually staying on when they leave college?

For example, I started out with 34 cousins on the Catholic side of my family, about 15 of whom are still practising the faith - of the total 60 plus children now grown up and in their 20s maybe 3 of them are now practising the Faith sporadically. What future is there for the Church with that retention rate? I also come from a very strong Catholic family and there would be a higher rate of my family in the 50/60 age group practising than in most Catholic families I know. What hope have we unless there is some radical change because the pentecostals do the whole thing better and they're stronger on moral teachings too.


George said...

The Apostles creed omits the filioque phrase which is in the Nicene Creed (although from what I've read, not every version of it).
For this reason, I prefer the Nicene.

Joseph Johnson said...

Fr. McDonald,
Well, that certainly is a change from what we had before! I guess the only thing I fear (with the options being equal) is the overuse of the shorter Apostles' Creed just like the current overuse of Eucharistic Prayer II (the shortest one) with more rare (almost nonexistent, in some parishes) usage of the Roman Canon.

If we want more continuity with the EF then it makes more sense to use the OF forms/options that are used in the EF Mass (Nicene Creed and Roman Canon, also known as Eucharistic Prayer I). As I've said, this is new to me that the form of the Credo may be optional just as the form of the Canon.

John Nolan said...

My CTS New Sunday Missal has the Apostles' Creed, following the Nicene Creed, in Latin and English, but with no indication when it might be used. I have found one setting in Gregorian Chant, at - it is adapted from Credo VI, but I can't imagine ever being called upon to sing it.

There are a lot of ghastly pop-type settings, most of which play fast-and-loose with the words, and even a version set to Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' which would have poor Ludwig turning in his grave.

Why it should be deemed suitable for Lent and Eastertide escapes me. It's quite common to avoid Credo III in penitential seasons and sing Credo I instead, but substituting the Apostle's Creed seems to be a recent option which is best avoided.