Questions regarding instructions on 'Suitable songs' in Mass
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    In GIRM, it is stated that the NO. 4 option for chants (or songs) at entrance (48), offering (74 referring to 48), and communion (87 although communion NO.4 got a bit vague, at least in Englis edition, by refering 86 which is about timing, but very consistent with options 1,2,and 3 in 48)

    is "(4) a suitable liturgical song similarly apporved by the Conference of Bishops or the diocean Bishop."

    Does this mean if a contemporary composer writes a song with his own inspiration and theology, he needs to get an approval from the Bishops before it to be used for Mass?
    How does he get an approval? Does he send it to his diocese, and there is someone musically and theologically competent person who gives an approval? And musicians in parishes need to know which ones are approved. Then the music that are not in those 'approved hymnals', how do we know which ones are approved?

    There seem to be lots of songs, especially in comtemporary music group that don't seem to have that approval, and the leader of the band seems to select them by his musical choice (or by vote?).
    In short, even if musicians choose No.4 options, it seems there is a clear limit according to Church's instruction, which is not followed very well by many musicians. (or is there anything that I didn't understand about this instruction?)

    Thanks
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    Mia,

    You've hit upon the single biggest source of frustration for those of us who have tried in the past (or continue to try) to bring about reform in the music of the liturgy.

    If you open any hymnal from the "big three" publishers (OCP, GIA, et al.,) you'll find a legend on one of the front pages that reads something like, "Printed under the ecclesial authority of the Archdiocese of ________ ," Chicago, in the case of GIA hymnals. This would appear on the face of it to suggest that from cover to cover the content has received the requisite "approval of the competent ecclesiastical authority." The reality however is that its more likely than not that nobody really did review the content, and the approval was simply granted for expediency and not with any real care, attention or due diligence.

    But, I can cite a case that's even worse. I've just opened the hymnal used in my own current parish, The Collegeville Hymnal. It carries the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur, which are supposed to guarantee that the publication is free of theological inconsistencies or teachings contrary to those of the Church.

    Unfortunately, contained within Collegeville Hymnal are numerous cases of texts that are quite clearly and plainly contrary to Catholic Teachings. One glaring example comes from the altered text of the hymn, "See Us, Lord, About Your Altar." I say altered because the text attribution and copyright legend bears the indication alt., which is an indication that the publishers have altered the text in some way. In doing some quick online research, there has been much discussion about the questionable theology contained in the text of verse three, which I believe was added in its entirety to the original: "Once were seen the blood and water,/ Now are seen but bread and wine;/ Once in human form he suffered; /Now his form is but a sign." There doesn't seem to be agreement in the discussions I've read about this text as to how egregious this distortion of Catholic Teaching is, but it is clear that the text raises many questions.

    So one must ask, then, if there is this example of questionable text, how many more could be contained in this book, which has otherwise received a guarantee from a "competent authority" to be free of such inconsistencies? To be sure, there are many fine vernacular texts from the tradition (Catholic tradition, mostly devotional hymns) found in this hymnal, but that doesn't excuse the fact that the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur were granted to the whole of the book when it contains problematic texts.

    I think this, more than anything else, presents the strongest case for singing the texts of the liturgy itself rather than relying on any vernacular hymn texts that have been freely composed in the last 50 years, especially when the text writers are well-known to come from or contribute their work to Protestant traditions, or have an easily recognizable heterodox, "social justice", or other political bent.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    Over the last century at least, the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur have been given willy nilly, so this doesn't surprise me in the least.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    It is frustrating indeed. However, while the local diocese and bishops don't seem to check each song (I guess it goes with new traslations of the existing hymns and altered texts)in the 'approved hymnal,' so musicians have to avoid thsoe 'questionable songs,' the Church made it clear in the instructions that it's the Church who approves the songs, not the individuals. Therefore, even the 'pastoral care' of the priests cannot go beyond this authority, and new liturgical songs have to get approvals somehow before we use them for Mass.
  • BachLover2BachLover2
    Posts: 330
    @david: david, you've mentioned many sad things. however, let's use these sad things as an opportunity to start anew. people out there are looking to the cmaa for guidance. let's let the sad news you share spur us onward to provide alternatives. i look at what cmaa is doing and am inspired. at my age, i won't be around to see the fruits, but i'll see a strong tree when i go. a tree that can stand up to the winds and frost.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 671
    So obviously we need to get some mechanism to get songs approved for liturgical use, even if you're a small publisher or a self-publisher. If there are forms you have to fill out and submit, perhaps CMAA could link to them?

    However, it's clear from this that you don't need any permission whatever to do motets that aren't carrying out a specific liturgical function.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    BachLover2,

    I'm very hopeful, indeed. In fact, just yesterday we celebrated a Solemn High Mass in the EF at the High Altar at my church, with a choir under my direction specially raised for the occasion, the first such celebration in the area in over 40 years. Our own choir is still much too underdeveloped to handle such an undertaking, and so the Pastor agreed to underwrite the costs for it, along with a celebration of Vespers with Benediction employing the same choir (to be held next Sunday).

    The Pastor is keenly aware of, and sensitive to, much of the absurdity that has gone on during the "season of silliness" and we are kindred spirits in full agreement about these matters. He seems to place a great deal of trust in my judgment and my ability to choose battles carefully.

    I think we're seeing the fruits of the CMAA's labors even now! I fully intend to use Richard Rice's new "English Mass" as soon as the Pastor approves its introduction. We may begin using certain aspects of the newly-approved translation as early as this summer. He really doesn't want to wait, and I can't say that I blame him.

    In the meantime, I continue to use great care in selecting vernacular hymnody for those Masses where Father hesitates to begin introducing chanted propers, but that's also becoming a clearer possibility as the days progress.

    Brick by brick!
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Congratulations, sounds really good.
    I totally agree with your point in your previous post,

    "Sing the Liturgy."

    For some reason, people who were in positions focused on singing hymns in early days after Vatican II, and even brought 'Miachael Row your Boat," "Peter, Paul and Mary," and led us to have 4 sandwich hymns as standard in mamy local parishes (even to priests). I don't even remember singing so many hymns when I was a Protestant, (anyways, they don't sing liturgy) and feeling so much pressure on singing during service. Even with common sense, singing so many hymns instead of singing the Liturgy just don't seem right. (Of course, I didn't even think about that until a few years ago playing organ in my parish. I took it for granted assuming that music director and the pastor had it everything right.)
    I'm glad Catholics are going back to singing the Liturgy now as the Church desires and instructs us, even if many have to do slowly and brick by brick.

    (For the first time in this area we are planning to have a Sung Traditional Mass. We found a young priest who is interested in having it in his parish. We have to prepare and learn a lot more, but we are very excited.)
  • BachLover2BachLover2
    Posts: 330
    wonderful. all great news.
  • G
    Posts: 1,391
    I needed a song for children for a devotion and wrote a rhyming text "after" the words of a saint.
    But before teaching it, I asked my pastor to review it to make sure none of my paraphrasing had created something theologically inappropriate or misleading -- he looked at me as if I were crazy.
    "Oh, it's just a song," is a phrase I've heard more than once when the suitability of a piece of music was discussed at Liturgy Committee meetings.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,402
    Before publishing my collection of hymn texts I sent it around to theology professors and grad students of my acquaintance. There were some incredibly astute comments and corrections.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,402
    Btw, I've noticed two kinds of people have the attitude of "Oh, it's just a song." The first kind are just what you expect, wielding a rather dulled theological blade. The second kind champion chant-only, to the exclusion of serious consideration of hymns.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    The one as bad as the other, Kathy! We shouldn't forget that Aquinas wrote hymns, and that some warhorse Latin texts like Stabat Mater have clear and regular poetic rhythm/meter.
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    But let's have a little perspective here: unfortunately, what is being sung in 99% of all parishes? Hymns. So a little effort on the part of those who want Propers instead is not exactly a serious call for the exclusion of hymns.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Thanks, gregp. Sing the Liturgy. That's what we need in many parishes for the reform of the reform (or organic development and continuity of the tradition that the Church is asking.) Hymns have their own places, especially non-liturgical hymns.
    I started Propers at the offertory and communion in English (we still have a communion hymn afterwards.) I'm waiting for the rignt time to introduce Introit. When we sang those simple Propers, I heard lots of compliment (they never heard Propers before), and I don't think anyone says 'oh, it's just a song' to those Propers. There are reasons for people say 'it's just a song.'
  • Congregational Hymns
    Solemnity of the Ascension
    Basilica of tne National Shrine of the Assumption
    Baltimore, Maryland
    Novus Ordo Latin Mass

    Cor Jesu Sacratissimum
    Attende Domine
    Adoramus te, Christe (Dubois)

    The responsorial psalm and alleluia verse were sung in English from 'Respond and Acclaim'.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,402
    Attende Domine on the Ascension? I don't get it.
  • Or Adoramus te (Passion text), or a Sacred Heart hymn? And no Ascension hymn? Yup. That's what was on offer.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,402
    This is the sort of thing that makes a movement like this questionable to our critics. Dubois is fine, okay, but the St. Gregory hymnal is not the key to the future. Liturgical continuity is not the retrieval of the 19th century. We have to dig much, much deeper.

    Fortunately this is a deep mine. But we have to let go of our own attachments.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,612
    I am not sure the 19th century was any worse musically, than any others. I know we talk about the glories of earlier times, but were we actually able to hear how some of that music was performed, it might be an eye opener. I think we need to be careful in looking back to early centuries, lest we become as guilty of archaeologism as some of the post Vatican II reformers. I don't find any unbroken traditions of church music practiced everywhere in excellence. There were huge time gaps where some of those musical "traditions" nearly disappeared. As for the definition of "suitable," wouldn't we all like someone in authority to decide that? I have quit trying to figure out "suitable" and have gone with my pastor's definition of good church music. "It must be reverent and sacred." It works for me.
  • In this case, it has nothing to do with the 'Reform of the Reform', but simply a complete failure to know what do for music at a Latin-language Mass.
    Even the Saint Gregory Hymnal has songs for all major feast!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,612
    Of course it does. But then I don't do Latin language masses. At certain times of the year, we sing a Latin ordinary, but that's about it. A veteran musician told me she retired because the church couldn't seem to make up its mind what it wanted in the way of music. I understood what she meant. There's not much direction, at least in this country, from the bishops.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,402
    Daniel, I see your point. It reminds me of the time I went to a Spanish Mass on the Vigil of Pentecost and the opening hymn was, incredibly wrongly, Morning Has Broken.

    My point here is that I'm guessing the schola probably has a dozen or fewer Latin pieces that "sound" suitable to someone's ear for a Latin NO, just because they sound like they're out of The St. Gregory Hymnal. You can't go wrong with Adoramus Te, Christe!

    There's a certain aura surrounding these 19th c. pieces that gives them carte blanche, anywhere in the repertoire, on any Sunday.

    Thinking these songs are always appropriate is a little like thinking language is sacral just BECAUSE it contains thee's and thou's.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    I couldn't agree with you more, Kathy.

    (CharlesW, the 19th c. was hands down the best musical century--having produced William Henry Fry's lovely Santa Claus symphony)
  • Oh, there's no schola or choir at this Mass ever, just a heavily mic'd cantor and organ.
    There's never any chant.