The Four-Hymn Sandwich
  • Hello, I'm new, and I'm learning the depths of my ignorance, having previously considered myself a well-educated (but not formally trained as a "minister") Catholic church musician.

    I would like to read an overview essay about the Four-Hymn Sandwich: a definition and historical overview (i.e., how we got from wanting to sing something at low mass to being forced to sing "I Am the Bread of Life" at funerals), and some of its problems.

    Then I would like to read an essay (or several) about why it's problematic, or more specifically, whether gently pushing one's parish away from G&P/W towards traditional hymns is a worthwhile goal vs. skip-straight-to-sung-propers. Also, Protestant vs. Catholic hymns. Clearly not all Protestant hymns are appropriate: which are best? (Another essay or set of essays.)

    I've read a lot of old threads. What I'm looking for is a synthesis, here or on another site, or even in a (gasp) book. Is there any consensus, or only competing schools of thought?

    From my perspective, singing traditional hymns is, generally speaking (or singing), a major improvement over the Glory & Praise school, but I'm willing to be educated.

    Another essay I'd like to read is: what post-Vatican II music found in the generally accepted hymnals by the dominant three publishers are worthwhile? I've avoided all of it for so long that I have no idea if there might be a few hidden gems.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen RedPop4
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,502
    It should be noted that the origin of of the "Four Hymn Sandwich" as a term in liturgy discussion boards in the 1990s (which are now long gone) was *not* about hymns vs propers but about singing the psalm, Ordinary and dialogues (and, ideally, presidential chants). It was first directed to the idea of a recited mass into which three or four hymns were the only musical moments.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 104
    Welcome! I agree this is a great forum for learning.

    I can't help you with all of your specific questions, but I think I can point you in a few helpful directions to start.

    The article at the link below is one I've found to be very helpful in explaining the Church's norms and preferences for music at Mass to people in a way suited to beginners:
    https://testeverythingblog.com/a-joyful-noise-catholic-liturgical-song-9d50c5a75794

    Also, at this link you'll find a book published by CMAA that offers essays I think you will find helpful, based on what you said you are looking for:
    https://www.scribd.com/document/12699133/Sing-Like-a-Catholic

    You should be able to download the book and read it on your preferred device. I'd recommend not reading that book cover to cover to begin with: look at the table of contents for essays on the topics you're most interested in, and read those first.
  • Welcome to the Forum and thanks for you questions.

    This essay, "Propers of the Mass Versus the Four-Hymn Sandwich," is a decent place to start. It gives a brief historical background and goes on to suggest some ways in which the sung propers can be introduced into the mass. The material linked in the article is worth reading, too.

    Besides the book Sing Like a Catholic linked to above, Joseph Swain's Sacred Treasure: Understanding Catholic Liturgical Music is well worth reading. Good discussions of hymns in the mass appears in chapter 3 (in the context of the aftermath of Vatican II) and the first part of chapter 10 (which you can read at the Google books link above).

    Hope this helps.
  • Thank you so much for these links and documents! It will take me a while to digest them. So much to learn!
  • CeciliaJulia,


    Welcome to the Forum.

    On the question of why it's problematic to use the Four-Hymn Sandwich, may I recommend either edition of Why Catholics Can't Sing.

    On the question of whether four traditional hymns are better than 4 G&P or P/W songs, may I recommend Tra Le Sollecitudine, the Motu Proprio of St. Pope Pius X, and Papal Legislation on Sacred Music by Hayburn.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,956
    I second the recommendations of Chris Garton-Zavesky

    Get it from the horse's mouth... Papel Legislation tells it from a historical perspective devoid of emotional or political leaning... and Tra Le Sollecitudine is just waiting for its day even though it is over 100 years old.
  • On my homework list. I've already read excerpts, I think.

    But I also think that, in the real world, where most people believe that the four-song sandwich with guitars and over-miked pop-style singing is right and proper because it's what they were taught and they've never heard anything else, getting them to use a 400-year-old hymn instead of "City of God" cannot be characterized as anything but a victory.

    I suppose though that this is the age-old debate of incrementalism vs. radicalism, of weaning off caffeine vs. quitting cold turkey and dealing with the headaches. And then there's outliving the adherents to the anthropocentric school.

    First on my agenda is learning the EF mass at my pastor's request. After that (or perhaps even before that) I will start working on him regarding chanting the propers. (I'm really fortunate in that he got rid of guitars at English masses before I got here, and struck quite a few songs from our "hymnal" as anthropocentric/lateral.) But I've got to be careful about how much I want to take on. I foresee that I'm shortly going to be de facto music minister whether I like it or not, and I do not have the energy for it.
  • There is nothing intrinsic about a 400-year old hymn which makes it better than a 40 year old hymn: there were plenty of bad ones written 400 years ago.

    Now, most of the bad 400 year old ones are no longer remembered, so based on the hymns we know today, the older ones will on-average be better, because the wheat-from-chaff process is still going on for the newer ones. But do not fall into the old = good, new = bad trap. It's simplistic, and can see you overlook much fine material.

    Also, you mentioned about a distinction between Protestant vs Catholic hymns. This is bogus. Hymns express faith. But (unless they are a zillion verses long)they do not express it in its fullness, and nor do they belong to a particular church. Instead, hymns may well have been written by people who were Catholic or Protestant at the time the hymn was written. But that is no guarantee that the hymn has fully and faithfully caught the lyricist's denominational leaning.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,468
    As I remember from those days of old, one of the main purposes for hymns was to encourage congregation participation. They were used to being sung to, not singing themselves and some of the Propers were too difficult for anyone but a choir. How that all worked out is a subject of hot debate and discussion. The intentions were good.
  • Thanks for all this. I'm very tired, will try to respond tomorrow.
  • I also would like to emphasize the suggestions of Chris Garton-Zavesky. Particularly, if you are limited in time, I cannot emphasize enough Thomas Day's Why Catholics Can't Sing. It synthesizes well what happened across the board in the liturgy, how we got to this point, and what we can do about it.

    Of course, Chris Garton-Zavesky is also right that the papal documents are always a good place to start. Don't be duped by people who try to claim that pre-conciliar papal documents are no longer in force just because they are pre-conciliar.
    Thanked by 1RedPop4
  • CeciliaJulia,

    One other resource I must recommend: pretty much anything Dr. Peter Kwasniewski has written on the subject of liturgy or music or both. He comments here from time to time. I'm a relatively new reader of his, but I find that he makes good sense and doesn't just write for specialists (i.e, the six people in the room who understand the topic as deeply as the writer does).
  • CeciliaJulia,

    getting them to use a 400-year-old hymn instead of "City of God" cannot be characterized as anything but a victory.


    It might be a small victory, but it's mostly a pyrrhic victory, because it reinforces the idea that hymns are normal at Mass. It also reinforces the idea that you and I get to make up whatever fits for Mass because, in the long run, you and I control Mass. [Yes, the idea of control is very big in the P/W -- G/P ideology and was certainly part of the Bugnini agenda.]

  • dad29
    Posts: 1,595
    The intentions were good.


    Maybe, maybe not.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,468
    I think they were, for the most part. I don't remember any conscious effort to replace Propers but with all that was going on, they fell by the wayside and were not the highest priority in terms of needed translations. It was a mistake to let them become so complicated only trained choirs could sing them. Hymns, on the other hand, were available and accessible. The confusion coming out of Rome at the time did not help matters.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,956
    It was a mistake to let them become so complicated only trained choirs could sing them.


    Actually, don’t you think the propers would best be served by the choir/cantors and leave the ordinary and responses to the congregation? Why does the congregation have to sing EVERYTHING? Plus, the congregation should sing something that they can learn once and sing for many weeks. The propers change every week and it’s unrealistic to expect the congregation to sing them.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,468
    They don't, but that was the mindset at the time. We are talking about 50 years ago. However, those polyphonic Ordinaries were not any more singable. A lot of Catholic music had become, whether intended or not, performance art. However, the current situation is much worse.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,956
    Well we have had 50 years of experience to learn differently so why not go back to what we were doing? The repertoire also logically supports this mentality.

    And you’re saying it was a mistake to let the propers get complicated. I disagree. The propers should be more ornate and served by the musicians who can do them.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,468
    Because neither of us are in charge and calling the shots. The people who are haven't done a great job of it.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,956
    Actually, by the stipulation in the GIRM Musicians are allowed to pick “another appropriate chant”. So in that case, it comes down to the pastors willingness to go along with what the musician chooses.

    And you’re still side stepping your comment about letting them become too difficult. You can’t have it both ways.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • MarkB
    Posts: 104
    Very few parishes have decent choirs. Most can't even perform the OCP/GIA/WLP schlock at better than mediocre quality. The resources and talent pool to assemble choirs that could sing propers from the GR every week is beyond reach for over 95% of parishes in the U.S. So besides changing people's mindsets, you have to have the capability to execute and most parishes are nowhere within reach of that.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,956
    MarkB

    Your stance plays both ways.

    If you never offer the ability to sing excellent music nobody (that is worth their weight in musical notes) will come forward. In the last three churches I had a meager choir, but they were challenged by singing excellent music. If you never offer the opportunity, you will definitely not get any forces to support and grow the program. If you constantly dumb it down all you will ever get is dummies.

    I’d rather have a good quartet than a mediocre ensemble of 12 or 16.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,013
    The bishops at VII thought the proper chants were too complex for widespread use. They asked for, and got, a simpler selection of authentic chants, GS. You don't actually need more talent than one cantor capable of Sprechgesang. And there are several versions in English, including By Flowing Waters.
    Some of the problem is musicians who don't want to put themselves out of a job.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 104
    francis, it does cut both ways, as I myself know personally: when I have been in positions to decide whether to join a parish and its music program I was definitely put off by poor execution and/or small ensembles and thought, "No way would I join that horrible group." Quality attracts quality.

    I would advocate what a_f_hawkins suggested: starting more simply with settings of propers that are within the reach of musicians, whether in Latin or English. Then using more complex settings and finally introducing the GR when choirs are ready for it and when people have been accustomed to singing propers instead of hymns.

    The choir and music program I'm in right now are going through some discontent as the new pastor is steering the program toward more Latin and more authentic sacred music. Not even propers yet. I'm talking singing more Latin hymns and simpler chants, preferring traditional English hymns, and banning the more sentimental and unsophisticated OCP/GIA stuff that people in the parish have been used to for over ten years and dearly love. We've lost choir members and parishioners over it. Ignorant accusations of "Pre-Vatican II" and all that have been made by those leaving.

    To return to this thread's original topic, changing people's mindsets about singing hymns at Mass is not easy. For over forty years most Catholics have mostly experienced GIA/OCP/G&P songs at Mass: music that has been fairly easy to perform and sing. I agree we should switch to singing propers and Latin. People have to be led there with catechesis (the topic of another current thread) by visionary priests and music directors, but it doesn't happen overnight. Few parishes have knowledgeable enough priests and music directors to make it happen, never mind the question of vocal talent in a volunteer choir, many of whose members love singing but don't have much formal musical training.

  • PaxMelodius: we don't need to have that argument. Forgive me for using a bit of hyperbole and I'll forgive you for assuming I think everything written since 1966 is dreck. I've worked with several very fine conductor/composers over the years, and I know there are some good ones here whose music I've not yet had the opportunity to hear. (If you are one of them, please know that I meant no slight.) I also asked if there were any hidden gems from the GIA/OCP/G&P/W era/books that I might want to learn or revisit.
  • It might be a small victory, but it's mostly a pyrrhic victory, because it reinforces the idea that hymns are normal at Mass. It also reinforces the idea that you and I get to make up whatever fits for Mass because, in the long run, you and I control Mass. [Yes, the idea of control is very big in the P/W -- G/P ideology and was certainly part of the Bugnini agenda.]


    Chris, unfortunately, the reality is that, within certain limits, we do get to choose.

    I went through our "hymnal" and created a list of all the older hymns which I know. I did not include any of the G&P-type stuff which I do not like to sing. I gave the list to the volunteer organist (who isn't really an organist, of course) to use when choosing music for masses where I cantor (so far, generally feasts and holy days rather than Sundays). This is because she was just picking the music she likes and a lot of it was stuff I'd never heard before that she assumed I know, and I would end up sightreading (because no, we don't even have rehearsals except for a few minutes right before mass to go over the psalm).

    The pastor had long since gone through the hymnal and struck out all of the anthropocentric/lateral songs, so even before I gave her my list, she was already choosing a fair number of the older hymns, because there are proportionally more of them available.

    The point is, there is no music director. The organist is in charge of picking hymns by default. The pastor gave her one set of parameters. I gave her my own priorities, for when I'm cantoring. If I were willing, I could plan and choose and everyone would be happy, because she doesn't really want control either, and Father's way too busy. So the reality at my parish is: an imperfect human gets to pick according to her own tastes. But I may be at the only parish in America where nobody wants the power! :)
    Thanked by 2PaxMelodious RedPop4
  • re: Why Catholics Can't Sing. I picked up that book in a bookstore probably ten years ago, and read part of it, and should have bought it. For me, it was an "Emperor's New Clothes" moment: it gave me permission not to like the Glory & Praise music, and to say so.

    I still haven't read the book, but I've recently read several reviews of both editions. I can't recall if I've searched here for discussions on it or not.
  • re: Sing LIke a Catholic. I don't want to create a scribd account. Is there somewhere else I can download this book?
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,595
    performance art


    Really? Should it NOT have been art? And how does a well-trained choir sing in a "non-performance" style?

    Frankly, that terminology is wrong on every count. If it's not art, it's not worthy of the House of God. If it's performed poorly, ditto.

    Perhaps you are thinking of Mozart's C Minor,or Beethoven's Solemnis?
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,468
    I think some of the very difficult music, intended for choirs only, and beyond the capabilities of most congregations can create problems. It may be beautiful, but is it singable without a very good choir or ensemble? Art comes in all shapes and sizes and much of it isn't Gregorian. While it may be possible to develop to that level over time, you may find yourself unemployed if you start out with it. After 50+ years in music, I still find lengthy melismas to be the equivalent of Catholic yodeling. I hate them and that's a personal preference. Those likes and dislikes are an influence even if you are not aware of them. I am all for art, but we are talking worship not a performance stage. Plenty of "art" isn't worthy of God's house. That would probably include most Mozart.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,468

    And you’re saying it was a mistake to let the propers get complicated. I disagree. The propers should be more ornate and served by the musicians who can do them.


    The Propers were complicated to begin with and many pre-Vatican II choirs didn't do them. It isn't a matter of going back to things that were rarely done in many places, if at all.

    Pastors are pastors, and no two are identical. You learn to live and work with what you have, or you go elsewhere, either voluntarily or involuntarily.
    Thanked by 2CeciliaJulia RedPop4
  • Charles,

    Personally speaking (and so Francis may pour Sulphur on my head, and so may you) I'm not interested in going back to some mythical golden age in the 1950's. I want to go forward to get out of the muck the Church is in right now. That way, the worst will be behind us, instead of waiting for us, up ahead. I think the way to do that is to promote what the Church has been telling us for years to do.... whether we've been doing it, well or badly.

    CeciliaJulia,

    I understand your point, but you may have missed mine, accidentally. Once one accepts that the liturgy isn't something we receive, then "choice" becomes corrosive of good liturgy, even as it become more and more popular and -- um.... -- driven by momentum or inertia or something like that. Sure, one can make better or worse choices of stuff other than what the Church required (until the so-called Vel Missal) for so long, but the point is that none of those choices arrive at what is proper (in both senses) for the Roman Rite. If one is choosing (as I've proposed in another thread) that it is possible to sing polyphonic music using the prescribed texts or Gregorian melodies (or in the case of some composers, polyphonic music based on those melodies), one is at least using the prescribed text, and exercising proper judgment. If, on the other hand, regulations notwithstanding, one starts from a blank slate, then whatever one chooses is more-or-less good, within the category of wrong answers. Thomas Day makes this point, and so does Peter Kwasniewski.

  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,395
    Thanks, CeciliaJulia, for mentioning that Sing Like a Catholic was listed with a Scribd link. I've wanted to phase out references to that site, and I've set up a copy of the book on our media server.
  • Chonak, thank you! I know there were a couple of documents I found referenced here or on the CMAA site that I could not find except on scribd. I was too tired at the time to post about them. (N.B. this may be the only one, I don't recall.) I will make an effort to identify any other docs only available on scribd and let you know.

    Also, may I ask/suggest if any effort has been made to upload all of the public domain books and documents to the Internet Archive?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,468

    Personally speaking (and so Francis may pour Sulphur on my head, and so may you) I'm not interested in going back to some mythical golden age in the 1950's.


    Good that you don't want to go back there, Chris. I was 13 in 1960, heard the music firsthand, and most have no idea how bad it was. There wasn't much golden about it, with sappy Marian hymns, and Montani arrangements out the wazoo.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • Chris,

    In an ideal world, I could bang my gavel and say, "starting this Sunday" (which happens to be the first Sunday of the liturgical year) "we will follow the rubrics to the letter." Honestly, I wish that I had the energy to do just that. I really do.

    Is there any parish in America which currently sings the contemporary version of the G&P four-song sandwich, with or without guitars and microphones, which would be pleased with that? The result would be me singing a capella and solo to a half-empty church--assuming that my pastor supported me fully.

    Some might say "so be it," those are the rules, and argue tough cookies, and if you build it they will come, etc. I might even be one of those people. I'm not being sarcastic; I really wish I had the energy to take it on. (And N.B. that when I learn the EF with my pastor it will be exactly me singing solo in an empty half-empty chapel because it will be a weekday mass, and I hope to build a regular EF mass from that beginning.)

    The reality is that the church is a human institution. We got here through human error. We have to get out of it in a way that takes human frailty into account. Perfection is of course always the goal. But we are fallen and imperfect. We have to manage what we have. And that means taking whatever reality we find on the ground, and working towards that goal in manageable steps.

    As to whether human choices make bad liturgy, of course they do. I've been experiencing that my entire life, usually at the hands of "liturgical ministers." I have been viscerally revolted by many of their pronouncements. I have always felt intuitively that their musical choices degraded the liturgy. But what was I to do when the diocesan minister of the Office of Worship--who was earning a Ph.D. and teaching others--cited the USCCB, and the bishop himself seemed to support her choices, or at least not object to them?

    And today I can't fault a woman who gives freely of her time and talent and is de facto in charge of choosing four songs for Sunday mass because she is following the rules as she has been taught them. That's not her fault. Until I found this website and forum a few short weeks ago, I thought she was following the rules, too. Now that I've been (am being) educated, I hope to teach her differently--and perhaps my pastor too. But I can't do that this week. It will take time. For now, nudging in the direction of restoring the dignity and majesty of the liturgy is what I am able to do, while I study and prepare to do more.
    Thanked by 1PaxMelodious
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,468
    I can see a bit of progress in my 17 years at my parish, mostly by listing what is not there anymore. The items that have disappeared are:

    Negro spirituals, a favorite of my predecessor that I thought were out of context and not suitable for mass.

    Haugen/Haas hymns and such from those 70's hymnals and that time period.

    Four hymns. I did manage to drop the offertory hymn and have at most, three hymns. At some masses, the communion hymns have also disappeared and English Propers are back.

    The awful Ordinaries that have been replaced by ICEL chant.

    Those Broadway stage anthems - you all know what I am talking about. Gone.

    Piano is no longer used at Sunday mass and is there mostly for weddings and when the pipe organ breaks down or is being repaired.

    So, some progress. Is everything perfect, no. But progress.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,956
    CGZ

    I am not at all interested in “Going back” to a particular point in time either. What I am proposing is that we follow the Motu of 1904 as it truly is the gold standard (IMHO) of sacred music. No sulfur needed.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,956
    CeciliaJulia

    Welcome to the forum. It sounds as though you have gotten quite an eye opening education in the past month or so. From the tone of your post it sounds like you have the right disposition to move forward with good influence.

    Two things are critical:

    1. You must have the full backing and support of the pastor before making any changes. And that means he must be fully educated on the volatility of any actions taken to change what has been in place for a long time. The two of you must be very deliberate in your decisions and unwavering once changes have been made. Take baby steps. Meet objections head on with compassion, a listening ear and understanding heart.

    2. Work out a five-year plan of action that is reasonable for all involved, including musicians, choristers, cantors, and is sensitive to the congregation. It’s like steering a big ship. You have to turn the rudder slowly to have any effect.
  • Also, you mentioned about a distinction between Protestant vs Catholic hymns. This is bogus. Hymns express faith. But (unless they are a zillion verses long) they do not express it in its fullness, and nor do they belong to a particular church. Instead, hymns may well have been written by people who were Catholic or Protestant at the time the hymn was written. But that is no guarantee that the hymn has fully and faithfully caught the lyricist's denominational leaning.


    This has always been my intuitive understanding as well. I asked the question because I've seen a few comments in old threads suggesting that we should eschew "Protestant" hymns, with particular animus towards some well-known spirituals. I've never quite understood this animus. I grew up singing "Amazing Grace," for example, with the word "soul" substituted for "wretch" but I don't see what difference it makes. Yes, there is an overall Protestant sensibility, and I understand the Protestant emphasis on being "saved" by "grace alone" is, to our Catholic understanding, incomplete. But it's incomplete, not wrong. We all need grace, and it is indeed amazing.

    Many older Protestant hymns are even less objectionable. They seem to me to be far less objectionable than the current crop of anthropocentric/lateral songs in current Catholic usage.

    Perhaps someone could point me to an earlier thread (or an essay elsewhere) where this has been threshed out, rather than discussing it here. I didn't mean to open another can of worms.
    Thanked by 1PaxMelodious
  • Hymns, on the other hand, were available and accessible. The confusion coming out of Rome at the time did not help matters.


    I find this part of the topic really interesting.

    I have a memory of a particularly bad moment in my youth when during the entrance song a priest waved his arms and shouted, "sing! sing! How can you be a good Catholic if you don't sing?" He stared at my father in the second row, who stared right back at him. I suspect that if I had not been standing next to him, my dad would have turned his back and walked out. (I wanted to also, and I was singing!) Unfortunately, for my dad, this was the straw that broke the camel's back. He gave up on the post-Vatican II church. He stopped going to mass a few months later. (N.B. however that he always considered himself Catholic and died having received the sacraments a few days before.)

    This, in my opinion, is the sin of how Vatican II was implemented (at least in the U.S.). This is why some of the things I have learned here, namely that it was false, infuriates me.

    Which brings me back to this "congregational participation" vs. "being sung at" by a choir performing music. Am I right in understanding that part of the reason Vatican II was held in the first place was to discover ways to encourage "congregational participation," and one of the ways this was emphasized was through music? Didn't Pius X talk about this, and isn't it part of how we ended up with the four-hymn sandwich before Vatican II?

    I am not fully convinced that "congregational participation" is or should be the goal of the liturgy. I think that is part of how we ended up with the anthropocentric/lateral problem.

    Well-written hymns are accessible, often much more so than the post-Vatican II songs that were purportedly written to be more accessible. (I think Day discusses this in his book.)

    So should we be trying to make the liturgy beautiful and majestic, and in that way allow God's presence to enter the hearts of the congregation, or should we focus on "encouraging" them to "participate" in an overt way?

    At least part of the argument that I've read here promoting chant is that it is, when done well (and simply), accessible to the congregation. So does chant cut the Gordian knot?
  • CeciliaJulia,

    The objection to Amazing Grace isn't often over the word wretch, at least around here. As one who stands to object nearly every time someone else proposes this hymn as a wonderful Catholic standard, I wish to clarify at least this much: GRACE, as Calvinists understand the term, must operate in this hymn, which makes it unacceptable for Catholic use.

    You're right that much of the "current crop of anthropocentric/lateral songs" is objectionable, but only if the speaker has a Catholic sensibility. See my previous comments (on another currently active thread) about better or worse choices within the category of bad.

    Francis has an excellent plan: make sure you have the support of your pastor, and plan a 5-yr strategy. Just make sure that, when you make your plan, you make quantum steps, so that if your pastor is reassigned, and progress stops, you've arrived at somewhere you can stop.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • CeciliaJulia,

    Part of the problem (as you can see discussed in many places, some of them intelligently) is that "participation" means one thing in official documents and quite another in the minds of the agitators and, frequently, in the minds of ordinary pew-sitting Catholics.

    I have near my house a despicable place, where the San Francisco 49ers play their home games. I've never been to a game there, and I intend never to attend any event there. [Hold on, I'm getting there]. If I were ever to set foot inside it for any event, I wouldn't be playing the game, but I would be participating in the experience. The experience of the players would be different from mine in the stands. The experience of the coaches would be different from that of the players, too, but in a manner different from my experience. Even among the player, the nose guard will experience the game differently from the quarterback. To some degree, each of us participated in the event. In the same way, the weapons officer and the cook in the galley of a great ship contribute to the success of the mission, but we wouldn't want them to trade places. Imagine: food delivered with the intention of destroying the target, or torpedoes which fortified the enemy.

    There's nothing wrong, necessarily, with seeking the participation of the faithful, but Pope Pius XII's admonition that we would be pursuing the wrong course if we expected everyone to participate in the same way all the time must be kept in mind.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,502
    "Some might say "so be it," those are the rules, and argue tough cookies, . . ."

    Well, since the adoption of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, congregants are more or less free to parish-shop, though it doesn't change their canonical domicile which can have a hook in certain sacramental situations, and the freedom can be effectively more limited in areas with wide distances between Catholic parishes. The other thing that changed is that pastors don't necessarily have a right to life tenure, but can be appointed for limited terms, so pastors and sheep both are moving parts.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • Francis, Charles, and Chris (and everyone else): I am deeply grateful for this discussion. It really, really helps.

    I am now to the point where I need to stop reading the forum and start reading the documents. :) Then I can start working with my pastor on a plan (or, more realistically, presenting a plan to my pastor, but I expect his full support).

    Unfortunately, I don't have five years here. I have less than one. This is due to external forces and life events. Something drastic could happen to change my timeline, but at the moment I can only commit to less than a year.

    Remarkably, though, I seem to have landed in a place where getting to sung propers (in English probably) within a year might be possible. The fact that there is no music director (or any paid musicians at all), for example, pretty much means that I can take over as much as I'm willing to. There is already a tradition of singing the simple Latin chant ordinary for Advent and Lent. The "choir" at the mass in question consists of about half a dozen women, mostly in their 20s, some of whom read music. They don't sing in parts now. They seem interested in learning to sing the ordinary chants correctly (they seem to recognize a qualitative difference in what they've done in the past and what I have shown them). I'm thinking of them as a proto-schola.

    I've already mentioned my pastor's tendencies towards more traditional music and liturgy, especially at the English masses (only two each weekend). There seems to be at least some appreciation of chant from the congregation. We don't even have a real hymnal to replace.

    In short, there are fewer hurdles to overcome than in a lot of parishes. In several areas, there is a blank slate.

    Given the events and upheaval I have experienced in my personal life over the past two years, I have to believe that the Holy Spirit led me directly to this parish at this time in order to forge this new/old thing for the glory of God. Please pray for me.

    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Liam,

    Did you mean "lift" or "life" tenure? If they're lifting tenure, whose are they lifting?
    Thanked by 2CeciliaJulia Liam
  • There is already a tradition of singing the simple Latin chant ordinary for Advent and Lent.



    Well, it's something. Just as long as the choir's reason for doing so isn't the following . . .

    image
  • Cute! I presume it was a decision by the pastor. I don't know his rationale.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,395
    More great stuff for your reading list:

    A five-part series about liturgical music in the 20th century: "Buried Treasure" by Susan Benofy.

    It is an undisputed fact that nearly every twentieth-century pope — and an ecumenical council — have called for the revival of Gregorian Chant in the Church’s living liturgy. Yet, after nearly a hundred years, we seem no closer to achieving this goal than when Pope Pius X urged that this buried treasure be recovered.

    Why didn’t it happen? Although the secular world has recently shown renewed interest in and appreciation for classic Catholic music, can Catholics today hope to recover and "re-inculturate" the Church’s heritage of sacred music?

    Susan Benofy, research editor of the Adoremus Bulletin, offers insight into the history of this long effort in a series of essays that begins in this issue.
  • Re too-complex propers vs hymns:

    According to the theology courses I attended, a Catholic mindset is both-and, not either-or. So, yes, we want propers - sometimes. We want hymns - sometimes - too. A wise pastor knows from observation that in places where most people actively engage with the music the Christian message seems to sink in more deeply. Hymns facilitate that more readily than propers.

    Our music needs to reach the hearts of people who are marginally-churched, musically uneducated and in some cases illiterate. It also needs to reach the hearts of people who are well educated and have very refined sensibilities. And everyone in the middle.

    Some will be able to achieve excellently-executed propers. Some will manage similar in hymnody. Some of us will do considerably less well. But God is kind and merciful and appreciates that we do the best we can with what we've got.
    Thanked by 3MarkB Liam CeciliaJulia