Three no-fault reasons for friction
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,997
    We've had a few threads recently that touch on parish conflict, and how it can involve music ministers.

    I wonder if it might be helpful to get past blaming pastors for being unsupportive, parish council members for being power hungry and ignorant, etc etc, and try to understand some of the dynamics that are present in a unique way in our situations, and which are no one's fault. I believe that by taking these dynamics into account some of the conflict can be avoided entirely.

    1) THE DILBERT DILEMMA Unless a DM is working for that rare priest who is also a music specialist, the pastor is supervising a person whose work he doesn't entirely understand. He understands everyone else's to a great degree. He could probably sub for anyone else on his staff in a pinch, and generally overlaps with them, working closely with the DRE on sacramental prep, for example, and preparing for the audit with the bookkeeper. It's not that way with the organist or choir director in these roles. Hopefully the pastor sings, and works with the DM to plan music. But rarely could he do any vocal coaching, arranging, improvisation, or any number of the DM's bread and butter tasks. This is an awkward supervisory situation at best, and it should be taken into account at meetings. Try not to geek-speak. Try to be a regular, down to earth person. Try to explain things without being patronizing. Be the expert--own it--but not in an obnoxious way.

    2) THE ARTISTIC TEMPERAMENT It would be almost impossible for anyone who hasn't done it personally to realize how many different things a DM does perfectly, or nearly perfectly, every single Sunday. If a note is out of place, it's one note among literally thousands. This is not easy, and it's really not normal human behavior. In the same way, rehearsals have to be so arranged that every single phrase of every single chant, hymn, and anthem is done incredibly well. Again, this isn't normal. It takes an unusually idealistic person to even attempt this, and a bizarrely (I say this with love) idealistic person to enjoy doing this for decades. Couple this idealism with a sense of good and bad, right and wrong, regarding sacred music, and you have a recipe for some hugely cross-purposed conversations with parishioners, who may be rather relativistic in their views. Let's say you're on high from a really well-done Mass, and kind of joyfully walking to the donut hour, and then some parishioner corners you to ask why you haven't sung On Eagles' Wings in the last 2 weeks. This confrontation will happen out of the blue. Unless the DM has RESOLVED AHEAD OF TIME to just nod and smile, nod and smile, they might make the tragic mistake of taking this as a teaching moment, which would have a 99 and 44/100 % chance of ending in tragedy and hurt feelings all around. You would sound like Simon Cowell, no matter how nicely you try to say it. Do not teach whiners. You will regret the attempt. Just let the lava flow.

    3) "YOU ARE MUSICAL AND THEREFORE YOU DON"T HAVE TO PRACTICE" This theory was recently explained to me and it rings true. For people who don't do music, there is an underlying assumption about musicians, that they are a different kind of being, the "musical" kind. This means they can do anything musical. For those of us who work hard at it, this sounds preposterous, but what is important is the implications for others' expectations. Imagine if a non-musical priest were sitting in a rectory, thinking about a hymn that they like, and they think to themselves, "Hey, if I email the DM right now, the choir could sing that hymn tomorrow! It would go great with my homily!" What the priest doesn't understand is that in order to accommodate that hymn you'll have to forego refining the anthem and the Kyrie, two other things that really need to be done with your brief pre-Mass rehearsal time. Plus you'll have to compose and send out 2 emails, and think a little about the hymn, and make the plan for the rehearsal. All of this on what was supposed to be your Saturday off. The priest is not considering this. Do you talk to him about it, or take it on the chin? If you take it on the chin, do you resent it? Is there a way to address this sort of thing, or a rubric by which you can really and truly let it go?
  • Those are some great insights Kathy, thank you so much for sharing them! I have noticed that many people think that the music simply happens on any given Sunday: we walk in, we play/sing as the case may be, and we walk out. The reason, as you have alluded to brilliantly, is that this is all they see from us, so it is understandable how in their ignorance of our actual practices they could come to that conclusion.

    It's a catch-22 really. We must make the performance seem effortless, or it will be awful to listen to. If we are struggling in any way, or any mistakes are made, we are seen as incompetent, but if the performance is effortless, it seems like it doesn't take hard work to do.
  • For people who don't do music, there is an underlying assumption about musicians, that they are a different kind of being, the "musical" kind. This means they can do anything musical.

    e.g., my wife, who thinks that I could teach my granddaughters to play instruments that I do not play, because I "play all the instruments." I'm flexible, but not that flexible.
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  • Liam
    Posts: 3,687
    Many of these syndromes inhabit workplaces in the for-profit world, btw. Just under less than easy to see guises.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,997
    I totally agree, Liam. But I believe the level of difficulty is higher in the Church world for many reasons on the natural level, and some on the supernatural.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,687
    Kathy

    Agreed. The mission involved, and the categorical imperative that Church People Do Not Confront Each Other Because It's Not NICE, allow things to fester badly.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,997
    I agree, that's a big problem. But also because of the complex of missions.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87indycxudo
  • Kathy--

    Thank you for your incredible insights. I have to say, however, that while what you say is amazingly true and something for all of us to truly reflect on, the fact still remains that unless our choirs have a sense of commitment, nothing can be learned. Yes, I have a very difficult, uncompromising pastor, but things would be a lot easier if the choir would step up to the plate, come to rehearsals and realize that anything of value takes a lot of study. After careful, thought-provoking and prayerful contemplation regarding my leadership skills, I've run (in the last few months) the entire gamut of emotions (from total dictatorship to loving, supportive servant leadership) only to have my choir become even more complacent.

    The fact remains that we live in a society today where worship is not a main focal point of the ordinary person's week. The churches are getting increasingly empty as weeks go by. It's not the music, nor the director, nor the priest. It's society as a whole and the burdens that are put on people on a daily basis which, unfortunately, have led to people turning from the faith.

    We need, as directors, to get our choirs excited about music and it's influence on the minds and hearts of PIP's. But we cannot do that if the singers themselves do not show total commitment to their ministry. In the words of Clerget, it is a "Catch 22", but in many ways. The music must sound effortless to the listener, yet takes work, dedication and study by everybody (including the ordinary choir member) whose job it is to provide that music.

  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Do any of y'all share this pithy observation of mine about what MT56 mentioned as a sort of malaise and dwindling to bare ruined choirs; that is- have our parishes been morphed so that "public relations" drives many of its efforts and responsibilities in a conventional sense, rather than a Christian sense? Do we let "public relations" be the operational modality, rather than actually fostering real relationships with our public?
  • In an effort to counteract this conventional sense of duty, I have tried offering prayer services and mini-retreats, but nobody has bitten. I've brought in chant experts to excite the people and offered my home as a place for rehearsal so that we can have fellowship (and pot luck dinners) along with a good, productive rehearsal, but every effort has been denied.

    Please....if anybody knows of a good antidote to this problem of complacency, please let me know. I've seen it in other ministries as well. The lector ministry, which used to have people literally arguing over who got to read at what mass, has dwindled down to a few die-hards who do double duty on weekends. Many times the priest has to solicit altar servers from the pews because those scheduled did not show up. Distribution of communion has taken longer because Eucharistic Ministers are not respecting their commitments. A couple of weeks ago, our Deacon waited outside the social hall for RCIA candidates to come for a scheduled meeting, and nobody showed up. Our Advent Penance Service yielded a very poor attendance.

    How can we possibly foster real relationships with the public when they don't want relationships and run out, often after communion to be the first out of the parking lot? It doesn't help that our priest dashes down the aisle after the final blessing, or that, through the penitential rite, people are still coming into the church, using the restrooms and getting their children settled.

    The conventional sense of responsibility does, indeed drive so many away.

    I am open to any and all suggestions, but this problem is far greater than the music ministry.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,029
    I wish I had answers for you, MT56. It sounds like you are in a very difficult situation and you will be in my prayers. Don't give up; you never know whose hearts you are touching each week.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,886
    It sounds to me like you have a pastor who is not on the same page as the congregation, and many have gone elsewhere. Those remaining, it appears, have either decided to wait him out, or they just don't care. I don't know of a fix for that. Even if you get a new pastor, it will take him years to undo this situation.
  • I'm really starting to think that all of these discussions on conflict, hashing the differences between "artists" and "non-artists," etc. are a waste of time.

    It really all comes down to the priest. Will he back you enough for you to implement a program that you can at least live with and settle on, or not? If yes, you'll find that you don't have all these problems. If not, move on.

    I'm not meaning to sound at all dismissive of those in these terrible situations; I've been there myself. But after coming OUT of those situations, I'm beginning to get clarity regarding the fact that it all comes down to the priest. Nothing else really matters. And it really does strike me (these days) as the solution to the bad situations as being "just leave."

    If you're in a place where the choir isn't interested in working, the priest doesn't back you, all the people do is complain, etc. you should probably just leave as soon as you can do so. It's not going to change. All the discussion in the world and philosophies and theories on congregational learning, etc. won't change it.
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  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,997
    Well, yes, in the case of terrible situations.

    What I'm trying to address is the buildup to the terribleness. Sometimes, relationships that could have gone well, go badly. Sometimes that is somebody's fault. And sometimes it's not exactly anyone's fault, but could have been handled in such a way that it worked well, but no one knew how to do that.

    Thoughtful communication can keep good things good.

    I remember this one boss--a very good one--and I was trying to write him a note. I went through a few drafts on sticky notes before the note came out the way I meant it. And I thought to myself, gee whiz, why are you being so scrupulous? And I answered myself, because this job is important to me and I want to communicate well with my boss. And I still think that was the right way to think about this.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I find this essay and plea a companion and a bolster to my question above:

    http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2013/12/war-on-tradition-not-normal-and-must-be.html#more
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  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,130
    Our Lady has warned us over and over about the grave error that was to befall us, not from outside, but from within the very bosom of the Church. UNTIL we follow Her prescripts and do the very specific things she asks of us, we will continue in a downward spiral into schism, heresey and apostasy. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, help us to turn our hearts fully back to you.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,373
    The fact remains that we live in a society today where worship is not a main focal point of the ordinary person's week.


    The fact remains that today worship is not the main focal point of worship.


    Fixed.
  • But, I stand firm in saying that if worship were the main focal point of a person's week, then the main focal point of worship would be worship and nothing secular. When worship becomes a grounds for difficulties and a tug of war of control, then it's lost all sense of worship no matter how you look at it.
    Thanked by 1chonak
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,997
    Melo, that essay isn't very wise, I think. Seminarians who "fight back" tend to have their vocations taken away from them. OTOH, seminary rectors appointed within the last decade are supportive of tradition, thank God, which is one of the reasons seminarians feel safe pursuing their vocations.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,677
    The essay comes from the Chiesa di S. Caterina in Vocogno (Diocese of Novara), where Fr. Alberto Secci and his colleagues offer the traditional liturgy. Going by his remarks on various web pages, it seems that there is considerable opposition to the implementation of Summorum Pontificum there, with pastors often refusing permission for the celebration of the old form of Mass in their churches (a discretion which SP grants to pastors).

    I don't think the situation is that severe in this country.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    There's considerable clerical resistance to S.P. in my home diocese on Long Island.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,997
    Still, it's irresponsible to call on seminarians to fight. They have to protect their vocations, and are already in enough of an existential pickle without liturgists trying to make them responsible for changing the system. Bishops have to change the system. It's the job of bishops.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,677
    To give credit where it's due, Julie's diocese promotes the TLM on its website:
    http://www.drvc.org/masstimes

    Two parishes are listed and the Ecclesia Dei directory lists two more.

    This doesn't contradict her point, but it's good to know the TLM is available in some places, and even in Sunday morning prime time.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    If you consider the fact that our diocese is comprised of 1.6 million Catholics and there is literally a Catholic church in every neighborhood, then 2 Sunday TLM's, and one out in the hinterlands at 4pm on Sunday afternoon is not exactly "a wide and generous application" of S.P.

    The Ecclesia Dei directory has not been updated to reflect the fact that one weekly TLM which had been in existence since 2007 and had 120 people in attendance every week was abruptly cancelled for no apparent reason whatsoever in 2011. This was a Missa Cantata at my own parish, and I have sent multiple letters of appeal to my pastor, to my local bishop and to the PCED asking for it to be resumed, but to no avail. I was hopeful that the further relaxation of legislation in Universae Ecclesiae would help us, but not a word has been forthcoming.

    One additional note: Of the two Latin Masses which are available, one was held until recently in a retired priests' home where it was discovered, to the horror of the families who attended, that recovering pedophile priests were in residence there. It has since been moved to another church, thankfully, but I think it reflects the attitude of the authorities toward the Latin Mass here.
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  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Point taken, Kathy. But I cited the (errant) essay as bolstering a plea for more transparency in the universal church as well as the local church. In my mind, that requires acknowledging that the term "public relations" for a priest/pastor means direct and concerned contact with real persons in public, not a perfunctory message or article in a weekly bulletin or monthly newspaper. I think we actually agree on this point, no?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,997
    I don't know about transparency on the universal level. About pastoral care on the local level, though, I'm sure we agree about the need for a priest to know the people.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    that requires acknowledging that the term "public relations" for a priest/pastor means direct and concerned contact with real persons in public


    Yes, something along the lines of Pope John Paul II's "pastoral strategy of accompaniment" would be a vast improvement. I can count on one hand the number of priests of my acquaintance who would fit in the category of true "pastor". I don't know what is taught in seminaries, but it would seem that priests are trained to be CEO's and managers rather than to have the kindness, zeal and solicitude of shepherds like Papa Wojtyla and Papa Bergoglio.

    It's probably a perennial problem, though, as Manzoni illustrates well in his clerical characters in The Betrothed. We will always have our Don Abbondio's and our Cardinal Borromeo's and our Fra Christoforo's and everyone in between, and the clerical class will always have a mixed bag of sheep.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,886
    If you look at the debt load many parishes are carrying, I am not so sure they learn much about management in seminaries. Many I have met could use some basic business courses.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    P.S. If I might add one thing @ The Betrothed which I consider one of the best Catholic novels of all time---even though it was at one time banned for "anticlericalism" for its sometimes unflattering depictions of Don Abbondio, the parish priest.

    I've always been intrigued by the character of Cardinal Borromeo who is depicted accurately as a man of immense goodness, holiness and kindness. However, as the story unfolds, it was his decision to hold a Eucharistic procession through the streets of Milan, asking for God's favor just as the bubonic plague was breaking out, that probably caused the plague to spread exponentially.

    There are so many fascinating moral aspects of this novel. I could talk about it all day. I see that it is Pope Francis' favorite novel as well.

    P.S. The Betrothed was the only book Cardinal Wyszinski's (sp.?) took with him besides his breviary when he was placed under house arrest by the Communists.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,686
    it all comes down to the priest. Nothing else really matters. And it really does strike me (these days) as the solution to the bad situations as being "just leave."

    If you're in a place where the choir isn't interested in working, the priest doesn't back you, all the people do is complain, etc. you should probably just leave as soon as you can do so. It's not going to change. All the discussion in the world and philosophies and theories on congregational learning, etc. won't change it.


    Yup. It is rare to find a parish pastor who 'knows what he doesn't know' (e.g., musical issues) and who will not kowtow to the sheeple, particularly if money is on the line. I've been fortunate, having worked for three of those fellows. I've also been un-fortunate, having worked for two who were none of the above.

  • Our situation is that the organist and choir director are both "self taught" and don't know what they don't know. Sadly, they are quite successful in running off any volunteers who know anything about music. The choir shows up on Sunday and sings 9 hymns without practice. Thankfully, many of the choristers are talented, though untaught and it isn't quite as bad as it could be--nor nearly as wonderful as it should be!
  • The choir shows up on Sunday and sings 9 hymns without practice.


    Yes, mine is bad about not warming up. I'm about to put the kibosh on that in the next couple of weeks.