Inculturation according to Church Documents
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,397
    eft94530 helpfully mined a century's worth of documents to find the church's teaching on inculturation, especially as it relates to the liturgy. These are the paragraphs he mentioned:

    Mediator Dei:

    59. The Church is without question a living organism, and as an organism, in respect of the sacred liturgy also, she grows, matures, develops, adapts and accommodates herself to temporal needs and circumstances, provided only that the integrity of her doctrine be safeguarded. This notwithstanding, the temerity and daring of those who introduce novel liturgical practices, or call for the revival of obsolete rites out of harmony with prevailing laws and rubrics, deserve severe reproof. It has pained Us grievously to note, Venerable Brethren, that such innovations are actually being introduced, not merely in minor details but in matters of major importance as well. We instance, in point of fact, those who make use of the vernacular in the celebration of the august eucharistic sacrifice; those who transfer certain feast-days - which have been appointed and established after mature deliberation - to other dates; those, finally, who delete from the prayerbooks approved for public use the sacred texts of the Old Testament, deeming them little suited and inopportune for modern Times New Roman.

    188. Three characteristics of which Our predecessor Pius X spoke should adorn all liturgical services: sacredness, which abhors any profane influence; nobility, which true and genuine arts should serve and foster; and universality, which, while safeguarding local and legitimate custom, reveals the catholic unity of the Church.[168]

    189. We desire to commend and urge the adornment of churches and altars. Let each one feel moved by the inspired word, "the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up";[169] and strive as much as in him lies that everything in the church, including vestments and liturgical furnishings, even though not rich nor lavish, be perfectly clean and appropriate, since all is consecrated to the Divine Majesty. If we have previously disapproved of the error of those who would wish to outlaw images from churches on the plea of reviving an ancient tradition, We now deem it Our duty to censure the inconsiderate zeal of those who propose for veneration in the Churches and on the altars, without any just reason, a multitude of sacred images and statues, and also those who display unauthorized relics, those who emphasize special and insignificant practices, neglecting essential and necessary things. They thus bring religion into derision and lessen the dignity of worship.

    190. Let us recall, as well, the decree about "not introducing new forms of worship and devotion."[170] We commend the exact observance of this decree to your vigilance.

    191. As regards music, let the clear and guiding norms of the Apostolic See be scrupulously observed. Gregorian chant, which the Roman Church considers her own as handed down from antiquity and kept under her close tutelage, is proposed to the faithful as belonging to them also. In certain parts of the liturgy the Church definitely prescribes it;[171] it makes the celebration of the sacred mysteries not only more dignified and solemn but helps very much to increase the faith and devotion of the congregation. For this reason, Our predecessors of immortal memory, Pius X and Pius XI, decree - and We are happy to confirm with Our authority the norms laid down by them - that in seminaries and religious institutes, Gregorian chant be diligently and zealously promoted, and moreover that the old Scholae Cantorum be restored, at least in the principal churches. This has already been done with happy results in not a few places.[172]

    192. Besides, "so that the faithful take a more active part in divine worship, let Gregorian chant be restored to popular use in the parts proper to the people. Indeed it is very necessary that the faithful attend the sacred ceremonies not as if they were outsiders or mute onlookers, but let them fully appreciate the beauty of the liturgy and take part in the sacred ceremonies, alternating their voices with the priest and the choir, according to the prescribed norms. If, please God, this is done, it will not happen that the congregation hardly ever or only in a low murmur answer the prayers in Latin or in the vernacular."[173] A congregation that is devoutly present at the sacrifice, in which our Savior together with His children redeemed with His sacred blood sings the nuptial hymn of His immense love, cannot keep silent, for "song befits the lover"[174] and, as the ancient saying has it, "he who sings well prays twice." Thus the Church militant, faithful as well as clergy, joins in the hymns of the Church triumphant and with the choirs of angels, and, all together, sing a wondrous and eternal hymn of praise to the most Holy Trinity in keeping with words of the preface, "with whom our voices, too, thou wouldst bid to be admitted."[175]

    193. It cannot be said that modem music and singing should be entirely excluded from Catholic worship. For, if they are not profane nor unbecoming to the sacredness of the place and function, and do not spring from a desire of achieving extraordinary and unusual effects, then our churches must admit them since they can contribute in no small way to the splendor of the sacred ceremonies, can lift the mind to higher things and foster true devotion of soul.
    194. We also exhort you, Venerable Brethren, to promote with care congregational singing, and to see to its accurate execution with all due dignity, since it easily stirs up and arouses the faith and piety of large gatherings of the faithful. Let the full harmonious singing of our people rise to heaven like the bursting of a thunderous sea[176] and let them testify by the melody of their song to the unity of their hearts and minds[177], as becomes brothers and the children of the same Father.

    195. What We have said about music, applies to the other fine arts, especially to architecture, sculpture and painting. Recent works of art which lend themselves to the materials of modern composition, should not be universally despised and rejected through prejudice. Modern art should be given free scope in the due and reverent service of the church and the sacred rites, provided that they preserve a correct balance between styles tending neither to extreme realism nor to excessive "symbolism," and that the needs of the Christian community are taken into consideration rather than the particular taste or talent of the individual artist. Thus modern art will be able to join its voice to that wonderful choir of praise to which have contributed, in honor of the Catholic faith, the greatest artists throughout the centuries. Nevertheless, in keeping with the duty of Our office, We cannot help deploring and condemning those works of art, recently introduced by some, which seem to be a distortion and perversion of true art and which at Times New Roman openly shock Christian taste, modesty and devotion, and shamefully offend the true religious sense. These must be entirely excluded and banished from our churches, like "anything else that is not in keeping with the sanctity of the place."[178]

    Musicae Sacrae Disciplinae

    69. What we have written thus far applies primarily to those nations where the Catholic religion is already firmly established. In mission lands it will not be possible to accomplish all these things until the number of Christians has grown sufficiently, larger church buildings have been erected, the children of Christians properly attend schools established by the Church and, finally, until there is an adequate number of sacred ministers. Still We urgently exhort apostolic workers who are laboring strenuously in these extensive parts of the Lord's vineyard to pay careful attention to this matter as one of the serious problems of their ministry.

    70. Many of the peoples entrusted to the ministry of the missionaries take great delight in music and beautify the ceremonies dedicated to the worship of idols with religious singing. It is not prudent, then, for the heralds of Christ, the true God, to minimize or neglect entirely this effective help in their apostolate. Hence the preachers of the Gospel in pagan lands should sedulously and willingly promote in the course of their apostolic ministry the love for religious song which is cherished by the men entrusted to their care. In this way these people can have, in contrast to their own religious music which is frequently admired even in cultivated countries, sacred Christian hymns in which the truths of the faith, the life of Christ the Lord and the praises of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints can be sung in a language and in melodies familiar to them.

    71. Missionaries should likewise be mindful of the fact that, from the beginning, when the Catholic Church sent preachers of the Gospel into lands not yet illumined by the light of faith, it took care to bring into those countries, along with the sacred liturgical rites, musical compositions, among which were the Gregorian melodies. It did this so that the people who were to be converted might be more easily led to accept the truths of the Christian religion by the attractiveness of these melodies.

    72. So that the desired effect may be produced by what We have recommended and ordered in this encyclical, following in the footsteps of Our predecessors, you, venerable brethren, must carefully use all the aids offered by the lofty function entrusted to you by Christ the Lord and committed to you by the Church. As experience teaches, these aids are employed to great advantage in many churches throughout the Christian world.

    75. Great care must be taken that those who are preparing for the reception of sacred orders in your seminaries and in missionary or religious houses of study are properly instructed in the doctrine and use of sacred music and Gregorian chant according to the mind of the Church by teachers who are experts in this field, who esteem the traditional customs and teachings and who are entirely obedient to the precepts and norms of the Holy See.
    De musica sacra et sacra liturgia

    112. The foreign missions present special problems in the introduction, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, and sacred chant.
    A distinction must first be made between people who have their own culture, very rich, and in some instances going back for thousands of years, and people who still have not developed a high level of culture.
    With this in mind, some general principles may be established:

    a) Missionary priests must be trained in the sacred liturgy, and sacred chant.

    b) If the people to whom the priests are sent already have a highly developed musical culture, the missionaries should cautiously try to adapt this native music to sacred use. In particular, private devotions should be arranged so that the native faithful can use their own traditional language, and musical idiom to express their religious devotion. But the missionaries should remember that even the Gregorian melodies can sometimes easily be sung by native peoples, as experience has shown, because these melodies often bear close resemblances to their own native music.

    c) But if the natives are of a less civilized race, then what has been said in paragraph "b" must be adapted to suit the capabilities, and character of these peoples. Where there is a good religious family life and community of spirit, the missionaries should be very careful not to extinguish it, but rather to rid it of superstitions, and imbue it with a true Christian spirit.
    B. Public and private schools of sacred music.

    Sacrosanctum Concilium

    37. Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples. Anything in these peoples' way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit.

    38. Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved; and this should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.

    39. Within the limits set by the typical editions of the liturgical books, it shall be for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to specify adaptations, especially in the case of the administration of the sacraments, the sacramentals, processions, liturgical language, sacred music, and the arts, but according to the fundamental norms laid down in this Constitution.

    40. In some places and circumstances, however, an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed, and this entails greater difficulties. Wherefore:
    1) The competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, must, in this matter, carefully and prudently consider which elements from the traditions and culture of individual peoples might appropriately be admitted into divine worship. Adaptations which are judged to be useful or necessary should when be submitted to the Apostolic See, by whose consent they may be introduced.
    2) To ensure that adaptations may be made with all the circumspection which they demand, the Apostolic See will grant power to this same territorial ecclesiastical authority to permit and to direct, as the case requires, the necessary preliminary experiments over a determined period of time among certain groups suited for the purpose.
    3) Because liturgical laws often involve special difficulties with respect to adaptation, particularly in mission lands, men who are experts in these matters must be employed to formulate them.

    65. In mission lands it is found that some of the peoples already make use of initiation rites. Elements from these, when capable of being adapted to Christian ritual, may be admitted along with those already found in Christian tradition, according to the norm laid down in Art. 37-40, of this Constitution.

    68. The baptismal rite should contain variants, to be used at the discretion of the local ordinary, for occasions when a very large number are to be baptized together. Moreover, a shorter rite is to be drawn up, especially for mission lands, to be used by catechists, but also by the faithful in general when there is danger of death, and neither priest nor deacon is available.

    119. In certain parts of the world, especially mission lands, there are peoples who have their own musical traditions, and these play a great part in their religious and social life. For this reason due importance is to be attached to their music, and a suitable place is to be given to it, not only in forming their attitude toward religion, but also in adapting worship to their native genius, as indicated in Art. 39 and 40.
    Therefore, when missionaries are being given training in music, every effort should be made to see that they become competent in promoting the traditional music of these peoples, both in schools and in sacred services, as far as may be practicable.

    Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy

    91. Popular piety is naturally marked by historical and cultural factors. The sheer variety of its expressions is an indicator of that fact. It reflects forms of popular piety that have arisen and been accepted in many particular Churches throughout the ages, and are a sure sign of the extent to which the faith has taken root in the hearts of particular peoples, and of its influence on the daily lives of the faithful. Indeed, "popular piety is the first and most fundamental form of the faith's "inculturation", and should be continually guided and oriented by the Liturgy, which, in its turn, nourishes the faith though the heart"(103). The encounter between the innovative dynamism of the Gospel message, and the various elements of a given culture, is affirmed in popular piety(104).

    92. The adaptation or inculturation of a particular pious exercise should not present special difficulties at the level of language, musical and artistic forms, or even of adopting certain gestures. While at one level pious exercises do not concentrate on the essential elements of the sacramental life, at another, it has to be remembered, they are in many cases popular in origin and come directly from the people, and have been formulated in the language of the people, within the framework of the Catholic faith.
    The fact that pious exercises and devotions express popular sentiment, does not, however, authorize personalistic or subjective approaches to this material. With due respect for the competence proper to local Ordinaries or the Major Superiors of religious orders in cases involving devotions connected with their Orders, the Conference of Bishops should decide in matters relating to pious exercises widely diffused in a particular country or in a vast region.
    Great vigilance and a deep sense of discernment are required to ensure that ideas contrary to the Christian faith, or forms of worship vitiated by syncretism, are not insinuated into pious exercises though various forms of language.
    It is especially necessary to ensure that those pious exercises undergoing adaptation or inculturation retain their identity and their essential characteristics. In this regard, particular attention must always be given to their historical origin and to the doctrinal and cultic elements by which they are constituted.
    With regard to the question of assuming certain elements from popular piety in the process of inculturating the Liturgy, reference should be made to the relative Instruction already published on the subject by this Dicastery(105).
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    Very helpful, Kathy. There is much to think about here.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,397
    Brand new teaching on the subject:

    This strikes me as relevant: "The decisions he made did not depend on some abstract strategy of inculturation of the faith, but on events as a whole, on the meetings and experiences he accumulated."

    Instead of going by the latest published pastoral trend on inculturation, the first thing to do is listen to the people and to encounter them.

    I was asked to play some guitar songs for a Confirmation retreat. I brought along an unobjectionable song, in fact I rather like it theologically--Give Me Jesus. Another group of confirmandi in another state, an older group, had made this song into an anthem of sorts. Anyways, these new kids didn't like it exactly. But then they made a new arrangement of their own (they had sung together Gospel style for years at their catholic school).

    The moral, I guess, is inculturation doesn't necessarily mean Awesome God or Pan de Vida. Whatever it is, it doesn't come in a box.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    I love the arr. of "Give me Jesus' by Larry Fleming. It's part of a set of 3 spirituals he arranged years and years ago. The others are 'Ride on King Jesus' and Ev'ryTime I think about Jesus.

  • Chrism
    Posts: 830
    I keep going back in my mind to the Huron Carol. Here you have a canonized missionary to a foreign land in which Christ is not known. Many people would argue he should set the Ordinary of the Mass to some Huron dance music, complete with shaman. Instead, St. Jean de Brébeuf composed his own Huron text, "Ahattonia", and set it to a French secular tune: hear the results. In any event, the Hurons were converted.

    Three hundred years later, some white guy came along (Middleton) and "translated" it back into English, changing the text into something that fit HIS conception of what that inculturation ought to have entailed. You can compare the texts: the spiritual battle seen, lived and suffered by the saint, vs. the John Bull type's pedantic dumbing down of the Nativity for the simple little Indians--and the rich Western Protestants who bought the song. Maybe I'm too harsh on Middleton, but it leaves me cold.

    Kathy, you mentioned "Awesome God" -- is this even Christian? It seems rather like the "local religion" that needs to be converted.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    We have many good examples of missionaries in mission lands. But how about the diversity in America? The country has been Christianized long time ago (I mean started as one.) Although I believe there's a contant conversion, I felt that traditional Catholics are neglected in this country. In the Church document, I read that when you deal with diversity, care should be also given to 'minorities.'

    All the parishes I know have the confirmation classes and retreats that all candidates have to go through. And many families who teach their children more traditional and authentic catechism don't have choice but to go through classes that mostly talk about feelings and the retreats with music that are rather distracting and very annoying than helpful. (my boys told me about the music and the classes.) Most parishes don't offer any confirmation classes that are suitable for these children but mostly for kids who are supposedly new to faith, although this supposed to be 'confimation' class. Some people wanted to have Traditional Mass, but the diocese refused.