Saturday, March 4, 2017


Ask any priest and he will tell you that music 🎶 in the Mass can be the most contentious aspect of parish ministry because everyone has their own opinion about it, subjective and objective.

Here are some opinions I have heard 👂 in all my parishes like All My Children 👶 ":

The organ is too loud
The tempo is too slow
The piano sounds like a piano bar
Chant is boring
Worship and praise is the way to go
It sounds like a Broadway 🎭 melody
It's too Protestant
It's too Pentecostal
It isn't Catholic

I could go on and on.

I have inherited a conundrum in my new parish. Twice a month we have an extra "Lifeteen Mass" on Sunday afternoon with a lifeteen band. The music 🎶 is well done ✅ but completely different was what our parish sings each Sunday. On top of that we take teens away from the Mass they go to as a family. The music is worship and praise. Some of it is vapid. But the band is good and nice to listen earning applause at the end of Mass.

On top of that, out of a potential of about 320 9th through 12th graders, we get about 20 at this Mass with bout 40 people my age (baby boomers) who are trying in a nostalgic way to recapture the folk music mentality of their long gone youth!

So I welcome pope Francis remarks but wonder if his last paragraph just muddies the waters more?

Pope Francis calls for renewal of sacred music tradition

Sistine chapel choir - RV
Sistine chapel choir - RV
04/03/2017 11:31
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday received the participants in a major international conference on sacred music, a half-century after the promulgation of the Conciliar document, Musicam sacram on music in the sacred liturgy.
Over 400 people taking part in the gathering organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Culture around the theme: Music and the Church: cult and culture fifty years after Musicam sacram, met in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace to hear the Holy Father.
Click below to hear our report
“Certainly,” said Pope Francis, “the encounter with modernity and the introduction of [vernacular] tongues into the Liturgy stirred up many problems: of musical languages, forms and genres.”
The Holy father went on to say, “Sometimes a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality have prevailed, to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of liturgical celebrations.”
The Pope encouraged the various actors in the field of liturgical music – from composers, conductors, musicians and choristers, to liturgical animators – to do their best to contribute to the renewal of sacred music and liturgical chant, especially as far as the quality of sacred music is concerned.
“To facilitate this process,” Pope Francis said, “we need to promote proper musical education, especially for those who are preparing to become priests – in dialogue with the musical trends of our time, with the demands of the different cultural areas, and with an ecumenical attitude.”


TJM said...

He had me but lost me when he interjected the ecumenical nonsense! Does he mean we should ditch music like Pange Lingua and Panis Angelicus to make those who do not believe in the Real Presence (Transubstantiation) happy?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I am not sure what the pope means by ecumenical. We do choose hymns today that are good and ecumenical. While I don't think Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art are Catholic in sound, spirituality or devotion, these are used in many parishes. Few Catholics would know that "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" is a wonderful Methodist Hymn which prior to Vatican II would not have been allowed even as a prelude to Midnight Mass.

More importantly both Episcopalians and Lutherans have a tradition of wonderful chant which they in fact teach to their congregations. Anglican Chant is particularly beautiful and sounds like Polyphony. We could learn how to teach our own people to chant based upon their traditions.

TJM said...

Father McDonald,

This is the problem with Santita! He never defines his terms. The Episcopal Cathedral in Chicago's music program blows Holy Name Cathedral's out of the water. The Episcopal Cathedral uses Latin chant and polyphony whereas Holy Name under Cupich has regressed to simpleton music. The hymns you mention would be fine outside of Mass as part of a concert on sacred music. I remember doing a lot of hymns for the May Procession we would never use at Mass.

I was in a Chant Choir prior to Vatican II and we did sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing prior to the start of Midnight Mass. Our pastor at that time was a stickler for the rubrics and proprieties so it must have been allowed in a pre-Mass musical program. I do recall that Schubert's Ave Maria was verboten at weddings.

John Nolan said...

What the heck is a liturgical animator?

Rood Screen said...

John Nolan,

Surely a "liturgical animator" is a fellow who draws cartoons during the sermon, not unlike courtroom sketch artists.

Victor said...

Mr Nolan: Musicam Sacram at #26 speaks of a "commentator" along with the others who have tasks at Mass, such as the priest, readers, and choir members. The role of a commentator is that of an animator in the sense of encouraging the people to participate such as in singing in which case it is usually the cantor standing up at the ambo and swinging away the arms, and is still comomon in many places. I recall there also used to be those who would inform the people (usually from the ambo) about what was going on at Mass so as to encourage their participation, which meant knowledge of the goings on. Weird, but participation was the overwhelming thought at the time of the document. Like so much in Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), the pendulum had swung the other way in reaction to the perceived passivity of the faithful at Mass. Of course, what was perceived and what was real may not have been the same.

Fr. McDonald: I think you are on to something in interpreting what the Holy Father meant by this "ecumenical attitude". Did JS Bach write sacred music? I think he did, and is part of that treasure of sacred music that SC speaks about. So even though Bach was a Lutheran, it would not be heretical to include his music at a Catholic Mass. Ditto for fine sacred music composed by Anglicans. Personally, there should be much more music from the Eastern Orthodox tradition in Catholic churches instead of that commercial glitter found in the current big name Catholic hymnals.

Gene said...

Liturgical animator: That is a position we need to is the guy who stands behind the Priest with a cattle prod and zaps him when he gets sloppy, lazy, or too creative.

Rood Screen said...


Good sourcing.

Anonymous said...

Let me suggest that this discussion misses the main point about liturgical music--which is that we should sing the Mass, not at Mass. That is, the propers and ordinary of the Mass, not hymns however musically fine and theologically correct.

The Church's treasury contains many beautiful Latin hymns, but their place is in the Divine Office, not the Mass. There are many musically wonderful and theologically deep vernacular hymns--most by Anglicans, some by Lutherans and Methodists,etc--but their place is not at Mass.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Henry you are correct but the EF Mass even prior to Vatican II allowed for anthems in addition to the prospers at the entrance, offertory and Communion. I saw a film of a Mass prior to the Council which had this.

John Nolan said...

The use of Office hymns as 'fillers' (during the Communion, say) can be justified by the fact that otherwise congregations would never hear them. Few parishes (then and now) have the resources to sing Vespers. By contrast the Anglicans in their cathedrals and collegiate chapels have a tradition of sung Evensong.

A Pontifical Low Mass is usually accompanied by polyphonic motets, although no parts of the Mass itself are sung.

Anonymous said...

Fr. McDonald, non-liturgical music at Mass before Vatican II was an abuse then, as it is now. Many of the post-Vatican II abuses grew out of pre-Vatican II abuses. Those who destroyed the liturgy after Vatican II had been trying long before Vatican II.

Anonymous said...

There is no objection to liturgical hymns--e.g., Office hymns--as "fillers". The abuse is the use of non-liturgical music (however excellent, however sacred). Of course, there is no objection to processional and recessional hymns, these being outside the Mass itself.

Anonymous said...

Pope Benedict: "Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attraction fades quickly - it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation."