Parish catechesis: Gloria
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I run a monthly column in the weekly bulletin at my parish, something you should ALL consider doing. The purpose is mostly to present a variety of informative and catechetical points, although it's hard not to turn it into "why I'm right and every one of you is wrong." Anyway, I'll try to share them with you as I write, and I'm particularly pleased with the one for this coming Sunday.

    A bit of background info first: For the second year in a row, we'll be singing the Gloria VIII throughout Easter at the late Mass, which this year began at our Easter Mass. Furthermore, we had a priest from "Food for the Poor" (WARNING: DO NOT ALLOW THIS GROUP TO SPEAK AT YOUR PARISH) who was highly heterodox. He removed any masculine pronouns from the liturgy and Gospel, refused to say "Jesus Christ", wore a stole over his chausible, etc. Furthermore, in his sermon he blamed Katrina on Bush (perhaps a debatable point, but not suitable for a seromon), and said that pentecostals are more "joyful" than Catholics, who he says "don't care about Jesus's resurrection." Of course, this was during the introduction of the Gloria, during which he had that liberal pout of "We are church! We don't do Latin!" So now here's the article:

    Christos anesti! Christ is risen!
    Alithos anesti! He is Risen indeed, alleluia!
    You may remember a priest who visited last year in the Easter season to ask support for his charity. You may also recall that, in the course of his homily, he asserted that Catholics are less joyful about the resurrection than people in other Christian traditions. That is quite an offensive claim to make, and is often made against any liturgical church. However, I noticed he rushed out during the closing hymn and remained silent during the Latin Gloria at the late Mass. The Gloria is one of the most joyful texts in the Mass and the closing hymn was no doubt a festive Easter tune filled with alleluias – where is the joy in shunning this music?
    This Easter at our late Mass, like last year, we are privileged to sing the ancient “Gloria” chant in the original Latin. This is the most familiar of the chant settings, nicknamed “Mass of the Angels”. The beauty of this Gloria has inspired countless saints through the ages. I have no doubt the founders of this parish intended that music’s beauty to compliment the beauty of our church.
    Some may object, as a matter of opinion, that they do not find chant to be joyful. I’m reminded of my brother, a Marine who occasionally attends the evangelical ministry at his base. At first it was very strange for him, accustomed to the Mass, but eventually he came to like the upbeat music and high emotion. However, one day in discussing church with him he confessed to me, “Sometimes I want to get really happy and praise the Lord, but a lot of the time I’m too worn out to get all that joyful. It makes me feel like a bad Christian.” What he was beginning to understand is that contemporary worship idioms are designed to create joy, not to express it. Contrarily, the Church’s ancient liturgies give us a place to express our joy in the Gloria, to praise in the Sanctus, to beg forgiveness in the Kyrie and Confiteor. These parts of the Mass do not manufacture emotion, but give us an outlet for the soul’s disposition towards God. True, sometimes we may not feel the Easter joy, but that does not make our alleluia any less pleasing to God, since it is the soul which sings and not only the intellect. Thus let us truly rejoice that the Gloria has been restored in this great Easter season, and sing our joy with the Church!
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Gavin, this is a wonderful thing! We would love to have the opportunity, but in parishes that are as diverse as ours, we have to be careful to not only speak on behalf of our "our" Mass but the whole experience at the parish. How we would love the chance to catechize in this manner!
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    Nice job, Gavin. And also a good way to help people understand that "joy" is not about how they feel at any given moment. And that we don't have to do "Up with People" music to perk everyone up.

    Doing bulletin columns is a great way to communicate with the folks who won't get anywhere near the choir. At my last job, I did a 250-word item for each week. You can actually sit down and whack out 10 or so of these at a time. Then they were just fed into the bulletin cycle as appropriate. Sometimes something about a hymn, one of the ordinary texts, even a word like "Alleluia," or a custom associated with a particular feast.
  • Well done Gavin. I, too, have used regular columns in parish bulletins as a means to instruct and hopefully enlighten. I have been fortunate to have had pastors who trusted my judgment and gave me a good deal of slack. (It helped that I had some professional writing experience before going into church work.) Those bulletin columns probably generated more favorable comments than even my best efforts at choir direction and organ playing.

    As Jeffrey hints, however, in a parish publication you have to be sensitive to tone and never appear unnecessarily confrontational. I've stirred up trouble for myself, unknowingly, on a couple of occasions. Once, the pastor got an earful about my explanation as to why 'Let There Be Peace On Earth' was not included in a memorial service after 9-11. (One of our parishioners was a passenger on one of the WTC planes.) It would have been better if I had just endured the bitter criticisms of a few and kept my opinions to myself. Parishes with contemporary ensembles also present particularly difficult challenges. In these venues, tact must always accompany insight.

    From what I read above it seems you have the ability to walk the fine line. Best wishes in your endeavor.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    oh the things I would write if I could....

    Probably good that I can't.
  • Heath
    Posts: 934
    "contemporary worship idioms are designed to create joy, not to express it."

  • This is quite inspirational. I have to give a short set of comments tomorrow morning at a morning prayer service on music and liturgy to a mostly Anglican crowd at a mostly Baptist university. Long story. Anyway, my purpose will not be to denigrate but to offer some thoughts about how music is a vital component of liturgy. Maybe I'll post it when it's done.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    The key is to avoid negative statements ("This is why we don't do X") and stick to positive statements ("This is why we do X"). That will get rid of a lot of material people may take offense at.
  • It went pretty well this morning. I spoke about the biblical call for singing prayer and even dropped in a quote from the pope. I also borrowed some of Prof Marht's thoughts about beauty and how chant is most appropriate vehicle for liturgical sung prayer, whether it be Gregorian, Anglican, Lutheran or some other tradition. There was one nut job that spoke to me afterwards about "putting down any of God's creations is putting down God" when I went to great pains to say that pop musical style has its place in certain non-liturgical traditions. I never put down anything but rather extolled the virtues of chant. Everyone else at a mostly Baptist school seemed pleased with the remarks and I hope I planted a few seeds.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    God created pop music? I missed that part of Genesis. :P
  • I found out more about this guy today. Apparently I'm not the only one on campus who thinks he is crazy.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    God also created anthrax. Not something we need to distribute in church,
  • JDE
    Posts: 588
    Perish the thought!

    Say rather that by the envy of the devil, pop music came into the world.

    Not entirely kidding here.
  • Stella611
    Posts: 112
    What about bulletin excerpts that are more systematic in exposing the laity to the texts of the actual documents of the church on liturgy and music? Has anyone's parish done this? I would've thought something systematic would be the best way to handle it, and to give people the actual words of the church, with some short explanation if need be. Then they cannot become offended at what is said because it came from Rome. Or at least they can not take out their offense on you as the music director or priest. You are just trying to catechize. I'm thinking of a systematic inserting of excerpts from Sacrosanctum Concilium, Musicam Sacram, Sacramentum Caritatis, and then even exerpts eventually from other sources like The Spirit of the Liturgy and Turning towards the Lord.
  • Kimberly, I'm sure you have experienced the situation with some parisioners "of a certain age" that have been brainwashed to believe that Rome has no business telling a parish what to do and that they are all just a bunch old men who don't know anything about life in the trenches. But... your suggestion is a good one.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Yeah, sorry to be a wet blanket but "Rome said so" doesn't work because "Fr. Friendly told us we don't have to do that!" People have SO many creative ideas why they don't have to listen to the Church. I guess they're just following the lead of the US Bishops...
  • WGS
    Posts: 298
    Years ago, I compiled a bunch of quotations such as the "Random Sacred Music Quote(s)" you see at the top left corner of this screen. Perhaps Jeffrey has made available a compilation of the random quotes that he has assembled.

    Each week, I would arrange for one of the quotations to be printed in the parish bulletin. Who knows? Maybe someone read some of them. I think that generally, a quotation of a few lines is more likely to be read than would be a letter or exhortation of greater length.

    You need not be responding to particular problems. Instead, you'll be providing general parish education. Stick to quotations from Church documents, and you may avoid overt rejection. It may be news to some parishioners that the Church has spoken about, choirs, organs, Gregorian Chant, Latin, Degrees of Participation, etc.
  • tdunbar
    Posts: 120
    Gavin, I appreciated your point about expressing joy rather than creating joy. Along those lines, it seems to me to also be the case that when the music tries to create emotion, the result is that a narrower range of emotion is expressed in the liturgy, whatever the liturgical style.