Wednesday, January 11, 2017


My life as a priest is always fascinating, liturgically and otherwise. The Liturgy and the sacraments are the source and summit of Catholic life to include the liturgy of the Hours as well as any popular devotions that a particular priest might like. For me my two favorites are Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Rosary.

On Sunday I had Mass here at St. Anne Church in Richmond Hill, of which Savannah is a suburb. Following that Mass I traveled to our suburb, downtown Savannah, and celebrated an EF High Mass for the Feast of the Most Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Cathedral has a small female schola which chants this Mass in a splendid way and without accompaniment. It is the pristine form of the EF Mass with splendid Gregorian chant.

Then I return to my parish to celebrate our "Lifeteen Mass" at 5 PM. I do not know what an alien from outer space would make of the two different forms of the one Mass let alone the two different types of music.

Our Lifeteen Mass is very well done and it is basically upbeat in terms of the parts of the Mass which are all sung and then the filler music being of the "Praise and Worship" genre. But the words of the filler songs are doctrinally, liturgically and spiritually sound.

The kids do not gather around the altar but observe all the postures of the OF Mass from their pews.

I am eclectic when it comes to music in the liturgy. I love a spoken Mass but I also love organ and other instrumentation. Worship and Praise is not my favorite but it doesn't turn me off. I find some Gregorian Chant, especially the more complicated versions, to be tedious and too monastic for my tastes especially when it takes a minute or two to chant one word, my stomach starts churning.

But these are all issues of taste. There is no outright liturgical abuse in the music or the form of the Mass. Granted that what is considered abuse has had its boundaries tightened. We all clearly have our preferences in terms of taste and style of Mass and music.

In today's Church we must be tolerant of the legitimate forms of the Mass and any music that is deemed appropriate or no music at all. This includes tolerance for the EF Mass, the OF Mass celebrated like an EF Mass and so on.

Tolerance is the only way to survive in today's Church of diversity. Not every city is going to be as large as London, England where John Nolan lives, with choices galore for more traditional forms of the Mass especially in the Ordinary Form. In the South in the USA, where Catholic parishes are far and few between in some areas, one has to say with Jesus when he was confronted in the Garden of Gethsemane with apostles who could not keep watch with him, but rather fell asleep, that "It will have to do" because there is nothing else done anywhere nearby.


John Nolan said...

Actually, I don't live in London, but in rural Buckinghamshire, and the EF mass I sing at twice a month is in a little village called Hethe in Oxfordshire, 20 minutes' drive away. I also sing in Oxford (40 minutes) and sometimes attend the Oxford Oratory (Solemn Latin OF) where it is nice to listen to others singing for a change, as they do polyphony very well and the organ is superb.

I never encounter liturgical abuse, which is just as well as I have zero tolerance to it - and bad music is the ultimate turn-off.

Anonymous said...

Nice vestments for the EF Mass, but it looks odd having such a distance between the main altar and I guess what you would go the very back of the altar. But I suppose the main altar was moved up to where it is now years ago. Some of the older churches (like Christ the King here in Atlanta) still have the old back altar and the newer front one, with their back altar attached to the tabernacle and 3 large candlesticks.

Gene said...

But, the whole game of Liturgy roulette is absurd. And, then we have "Doctrine Let's Make a Deal,' and "Pope What's My Line," and "Priesthood I've Got A Secret," and "Vatican Keystone Cops." There is no lack for entertainment...only for the Gospel.

Gene said...

And, don't forget "Hymn Book Name That Tune" and "Priesthood Charades." Then, we have the John Calvin follies in which Totally Depraved (doctrinally) Catholics explain why Total Depravity is wrong, and the "Luther Laugh Marathon" where everyone views films of Pope Francis speeches with a voice-over reading of the Ninety-Five Theses and the entire presentation is drowned out by gut slamming laughter and people giggling until they puke. Let the good times roll, Baby!!

Православный физик said...

I suppose for the good intentions that was the Council of Trent, The loss of Liturgical Diversity was a bad thing. That Vatican II tried to restore some Liturgical Diversity for the Western church was a good thing, to the extent that we see it now, perhaps not such a good idea. The chants of the Roman Missal should be able to be simplified to even plain chant if the complex chants can't be pulled off. (That's everything from the Introit, Gradual, Offertory, Communion, and of course Ordinary). I don't think as many people would be against the use of instrumentation other than the organ if, they were supplementary in role and the music would be a simplified form of chant.

Anonymous said...

"Doctrine Let's Make A Deal" is your stock-in-trade, Mr. Gene.

You regularly reject the doctrines of the Church that you dislike. And you regularly scoff at those who use the doctrine of the Church to correct your errors.

Call the kettle black much, Mr. Pot?

Anonymous said...

"The chants of the Roman Missal should be able to be simplified to even plain chant if the complex chants can't be pulled off."

Simple plain-chant psalm-tone propers were quite common in ordinary pre-Vatican II parishes, at least in the U.S. (Google "Rossini propers".) Many of today's current TLM communities probably started out with psalm-tone propers, before graduating to the full-fledged Gregorian chant that is de rigeur for the TLM nowadays, but not as commonly heard in the old days--especially since a majority attended low Mass then, whereas the typical TLM today is a high Mass replete with chant, bells and smells.

John Nolan said...

The problem is that the Novus Ordo allows for any amount of interpretation, any style of music, even the abusive LA Masses where bishops troop up and by their silence assent to what is going on. Forty years ago I was able to convince myself that the new Mass was no bad thing, and the way it should be celebrated was the way it was at Brompton Oratory (that generation of Oratorians, unlike the present one, didn't have much time for the older Rite).

I now realize that celebrating the NO in a reverent and dignified way, with suitable sacred music, is in effect simply choosing one option amongst many; I don't despise it, but have come to the understanding that it is essentially unreformable. The more one learns about its genesis in the 1960s, and the personalities of those who fabricated it, the more the doubts grow. Forty years ago I would never have dreamt that I would be attending the classic Roman Rite nearly every Sunday, still less singing at it. By the way, long melismas on a single syllable are part and parcel of Gregorian chant, a very complex musical style and a very beautiful aid to meditating on the text.

The linear, wordy, didactic and monotonous nature of the NO (as usually performed) is the antithesis of the Roman Rite. Does it inspire even the few who still bother to turn up for it? I enjoy watching on youtube the transmissions from Cologne cathedral where the ceremony, music and dignity are preserved in the new Mass. The Germans don't have hang-ups about either Latin or the vernacular and no-one can doubt the experience is an authentically Catholic one. And the cathedral is packed.

Jusadbellum said...

How many young people belong to your parish Father? Are they well represented in each Mass or, if the usher's take a headcount, might you come up short? I'm thinking of kids who were confirmed in the past 3-5 years and would be high-schoolers.

Anonymous said...

I don't consider praise and worship music Catholic in any sense and it has its roots in Protestantism - many young people who attend the Life Teen Masses are often persuaded to go to the Pentecostal churches seeking after better bands and entertainment. Therefore, I think it should be phased out of all the churches. The youth would get over it and then attend Mass without seeking it as a form of entertainment.

On the other hand, I don't like the very highbrow forms of the Latin Mass. I much prefer plain chant and my favorite Mass is the Mass of the Angels, which I understand was the common form of high Mass in most parishes prior to the NO Mass being adopted as the norm.

Excerpts of the Mass of the Angels


John Nolan said...


The Missa de Angelis (Mass VIII) was done to death in parishes before V2 since congregations were more comfortable singing something in C major than in one of the Gregorian modes. It also explains the popularity of Credo III, another late composition.

What irritates me is that although there are many beautiful and easily learnt Gregorian Alleluias, the only one ever used in OF Masses is the one from the end of the Easter Vigil (GR p.195).

Gene said...

Anonymous at 9:01...what doctrines of the Church have I rejected? Name one.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, John. I found a little bit more on the Mass and it is described as the most beloved of the Masses - and I concur with that:

"MISSA DE ANGELIS. The name generally given to a very beautiful Plain-Chant Mass, in Mode XIII, prescribed in the Ratisbon Gradual, for use 'In Festis Solemnibus,' and appended to the Mechlin Gradual, as a 'Missa ad libitum.' Judging from the internal evidence afforded by the freedom of its phrasing, and the Mode in which it is written, the Missa de Angelis would seem to be by no means the oldest Mass of this class now in use: its antiquity is, however, great enough to have obliterated all trace of its history, and even of the origin of the name by which it is now generally designated, and under which it is perhaps more frequently sung than any other Mass of its kind, both in its original form, and in the English translation used at S. Alban's, Holborn, S. Mary's, Paddington, and other London Churches in which Gregorian Services are encouraged."

"The Gregorian Mass known as the Missa de Angelis is believed to date from as early as the 9th century. It is a plainsong mass, designed to be sung in unison and a cappella. It is also known as Mass VIII."

"In 1904, at the occasion of the 13th centenary of Saint Gregory the Great, a Solemn
High Mass was celebrated in the church of Saint Peter in Rome. The singing was given
entirely in Gregorian Chant, this not having been done for a long time. For this mass,
Pope Pius X himself chose the Kyrie and the Gloria of the "Missa de Angelis".

I certainly think that the Missa de Angelis has a wider appeal than some of the other Mass settings - not because it is more easily sung by a congregation but because some of the others are too highbrow for the average person in the pew (like me).


John Nolan said...


The Kyrie and Gloria of the Missa de Angelis are in Mode V with flattened B, which equates to the major scale of modern music. As also is Credo III which dates only from the 17th century. So the musical language of these relatively late pieces is one that is familiar to modern ears.

The older Gregorian modes are not 'highbrow' and their melodies are often simpler, for example the Kyrie from Mass XI (Orbis factor) which is in Mode I, and Credo I which is in Mode IV and dates back to the first millennium.

Scholas tend to avoid Mass VIII because it is too hackneyed and the Kyrie and Gloria are not 'Gregorian'. I do like the Sanctus, however, which is an older and more beautiful chant.