Honesty During Catechesis on Sacred Music
  • It occurred to me recently, having had the opportunity in the past to introduce chant to sacred music programs, that we should be direct about the implications of what we teach.

    Specifically, on one occasion, explaining the Church's stated desire for music, I was asked, "Have we been doing it wrong this whole time?" I can't recall my response at the time, but we ought to preempt this question by stating upfront that, yes, we have been doing it wrong this whole time. A discussion of how specifically and perhaps why could follow.

    Many folks resist proper sacred music because they do not understand this fundamental aspect of Vatican II's teaching on the liturgy and the subsequent decades of impoverished worship.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,730
    It might be helpful to explain where typical practice (the "four-hymn sandwich") came from, with its origin in the practice of low Mass with music: i.e., with four vernacular hymns. After all, it wasn't schemed up out of mere disobedience.
  • That is a valid point.

    My goal was not as much to question the form of music in the Mass, but the style and hierarchy.

    *Relatedly: based on Musicam Sacram's order of importance, ought we to chant/sing all of the Order and Kyriale before we introduce the Graduale? I recognize that it is easier to have trained singers singing at the processions before teaching a congregation the Credo, but isn't the latter more important?
  • Although I see Chonak's point, it must be stated clearly and unambiguously that the mess we see all around us is in large part the result of the willful disobedience of those wished to change the Church's worship from theocentric to anthropocentric. Mushy piety isn't (primarily) the cause, but the symptom of another disease.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • As Msgr. Richard Schuler has ably documented, the abandonment of Latin and the propers chants (or their effective prohibition where they were not being done already) and the proliferation of "folk"-style songs and other sub-par music was the result of deliberate action on the part of bishop's conferences as well as individual dioceses. This is one reason why people are incredulous that these changes were all a mistake since the orders came from "above."

    As Msgr. Schuler writes, "In the name of actuosa participatio, guitar players, various combos, folk-singers and even grade school children undertook to write and perform music for church, providing both texts and notes. That such ineptitude and ignorance, albeit sincere, could have taken hold of a serious and sacred sector of life, the worship of God, can only be explained by reference to the direction given from the central authority in the country. The phenomenon was witnessed in all parts of the country; it came from a common source. That source was the Music Advisory Board of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy."
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,593
    I was recently running a chant class for candidates for the (permanent) diaconate. I put clips directly from the Roman Missal into the handout and as we worked through them we got to the Sign of Peace. Since I left the rubrics and priest's parts in, one candidate noticed the rubric for the priest to turn to face he people. Instantly this turned to a discussion of ad orientem. I could tell they wanted to talk about it more, but I explained the rubric and quickly shifted the discussion back to music.

    Keeping on topic and not getting side tracked too much is usually a good policy.
  • @matthewj: Especially good policy since I can't imagine "permanent" deacons have much liturgical say, and would thus feel as helpless as we musicians to make the needed corrections.

    I am curious if anyone has had particular success explaining to parishioners and singers that we have been misled or in error for this period. Has it worked to adjust views on chant and sacred music?
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,717
    “We’ve not been doing it nearly as right as the Church had hoped would develop over time” is likely be a better rhetorical opener response. You can’t argue people into love.
  • @Liam, I like that approach.

    I often speak of "the Church," which I understand instinctively, but I wonder if it does not mean as much or the same to some of the people with whom I have spoken.
  • it must be stated clearly and unambiguously that the mess we see all around us is in large part the result of the willful disobedience of those wished to change the Church's worship from theocentric to anthropocentric.


    I am learning so much here. THIS is what I have understood intuitively my entire life, though I have never been able to articulate it. This is a major part of why I am so turned off by post-Vatican II music in general, and why I have resisted and resented the lectures and decrees of "liturgical ministers" and "music ministers" at both the diocesan and parish levels for decades.

    This is one reason why people are incredulous that these changes were all a mistake since the orders came from "above" . . . . "That source was the Music Advisory Board of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy."


    And THIS, which I first learned about in an old thread somewhere on this forum, makes me angry. I have been arguing for years that it was a mistake to pretend that the 500-year musical history and tradition no longer existed after 1970. Why throw it all away? Yet I heard this recently from my organist when I asked if we could sing "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones" instead of "All My Days" on All Souls: she said, "but it's so old!" As if that was an inherently bad thing! How does one counteract this postmodernist narrative?

    (N.B. Fortunately, this organist cheerfully allows me to set parameters for musical choices, at least when I am cantoring--so far only at non-Sunday liturgies--because I explained that I don't know many of the newer songs that she just assumed I know. I gave her a list of "my old-fashioned hymns"--all the traditional hymns in our hymnal, saying that these are the ones it is safe to assume I know. Because while yes, I can sight-read most of the newer songs, or learn them via youtube or in three minutes at the organ with her before mass--why should I have to stress over that when there are so many beautiful traditional choices that I already know?)

    Anyway, learning that all this nonsense comes from a Bishops' Committee that was never formally adopted or even voted upon, and that most of it is in actual contradiction to the promulgations of Vatican II, really makes me feel cheated. Especially since the USCCB has been used as the support for the decrees of liturgical ministers whenever I have raised questions. If only I'd known I could trump them with Vatican II documents!
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen rich_enough
  • CeciliaJulia,

    Eventually, I encourage you to read Reform of the Liturgy by Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, who was at the head of the Consilium which implemented the reform. I finally succeeded on my third attempt, and -- like you -- I thought of myself as relatively well-educated in music and liturgy before I read it. You'll see some interesting sleight of hand, but for now I'll leave you with one tidbit. He claims that there is no justification for retaining Latin in the Liturgy because …. and my jaw hit the floor when I read this the second time, since the first time I read the sentence I assumed I must have made a mistake …. the addressee must be able to understand what is being said to him.
  • Thank you, I'll add it to my reading list.

    How did this turn into a job??
  • I've just been reading the excerpts on music from the rubrics in the GIRM, via https://testeverythingblog.com/a-joyful-noise-catholic-liturgical-song-9d50c5a75794 (which link was provided to me in another thread), and it just makes me more and more annoyed. I thought I was a well-catechized Catholic musician. I have never even heard of this before! It is hard to wrap my head around how badly we have been abused by both bad music and bad rubrics over the last 50 years. It's really appalling.
  • How did this turn into a job??


    Think of it more as a magnificent obsession.