The catechesis-liturgy-music connection
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    This topic is directed more at those who either have served or currently serve in a "spirit of Vatican II" parish.

    As some of you may be aware, quite often it is the music of the church that is identified as the cause or solution to spotty attendance or low levels of participation. We all know the talking points: the traditional music is too "churchy" (I personally love that one), it's too "durgy", boring, etc., what we need is music that's "uplifting", or "gets the kids enthused about coming to church." This to them means less organ, less traditional hymnody, chant, polyphony and other music of the Western art tradition, and more piano, guitar, percussion, praise choruses, etc.

    I maintain that what's really at fault is poor catechesis, especially of the last two generations of young people. I just completed the annual round of first communion Masses, and I had very little to do with the planning of the music. Most of it was chosen by the lay "ecclesial minister" who prepares the first sacraments. Among the ways that the children were prepared for this monumental rite of passage, they created an "altar cloth" which featured their names and their own hand prints, in primary colors. This was carried up by four of the first communicants to the altar during the offertory, while the song, "We Come To Your Feast" (a typical Haugen song) was sung.

    So the question is, does any of this instill the kind of reverence and awe demanded by the liturgy? Do these exercises instill the sense of transcendence these boys and girls are entering into?

    It seems to me that as church musicians we've permitted those engaged in catechetical activities in the Church, mostly lay people of the "spirit of VCII" newchurch mindset, to ignore the weaknesses of their efforts and raise the straw dog of "we need to make the music relevant." All the while, they pat themselves on the back for doing such a terrific job of catechising the young faithful, who then grow up coming to Mass chewing gum, never opening their mouths (even to recite the basic spoken responses of the Mass), coming late, leaving early, and on and on the irregularities go. Is this truly the fault of the music? Is it truly the obligation of the musician to permit poorly-composed inappropriate music into the liturgy as a way of covering up the fact that the Faithful have been fed a weak soup of catechesis for the last 40 years?

    Isn't it about time that we insist that reverent liturgy is the responsibility of the clergy, in cooperation with the laity in positions of leadership (especially catechists) and that if we had good liturgy attended by well-formed (that is, properly catechised) laity, the argument regarding "relevant" music would naturally return to what is good, true and beautiful?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,100
    Spot on, DA. It's a tuff go. Without proper catechesis of the priesthood it will be very difficult to effect any change. I have been in those situations where I am swimming against the current. It becomes a very delicate balance.

    In one situation here close to home the priest has been approached numerous times by parishoners wanting the Latin Rite Mass. He has expressed it this way: "that is not for our parish" ...and this is a conservative priest in his 50's. I think we are coming to a point where the sheep and the goats will go right and left on this issue.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    David, it is with all respect that I say: Duh.

    The LCMS, a usually conservative church holding to the Lutheran confessions has been drifting towards evangelicalism as of late. My friend Sean, a seminarian in that church, once summed it up for me so very well: "Why is anyone surprised our churches are rapidly shrinking? We're teaching people to be evangelical, so of course they're going to become evangelical! We're catechizing them right out of Lutheranism!" How much does that apply to Catholicism? I know plenty who have left Catholicism because they were never presented with it. Would most of them still be Catholic if they were raised in real Catholicism? I doubt it! But at least then you can actually say you tried!

    My parish priest and religious ed director make a valiant effort to raise the kids Catholic. They have regular holy hours, I've sat in on their sessions and the instructors are all zealous to teach the kids traditional Catholic piety. While playing for a Holy Hour, I was thinking "Gosh, for all these kids this must be incredibly boring", then it hit me: sometimes it's "boring" to be Catholic. (I hope you all know what I'm getting at!) If they're raised expecting Catholicism to be fun, they'll just turn away when it stops being fun for them. If they're raised expecting it to be "boring", they'll hold to the faith if they want it, not just to have fun. You can see this in the adults who complain and moan about Latin: they were brought up that church should be fun for them, and won't tollerate anything less. I would bet money I'd get the same response if I replaced the Saturday folk Mass with a "praise band": it's not FUN FOR THEM, so they don't want it.

    Francis, I would bet that your priest refused the requests for the EF because he feels he can't get away with it. Knowing the workings of parishes, I know that people WILL complain about an EF Mass, even if they don't go. We had the Roman Canon sung in Latin at our Christmas Midnight Mass, and my priest had TONS of complaints: all from people who weren't there! I have even considered offering the parish a large stipend for a Requiem Mass said for my father or something, but I know that it wouldn't be politically expedient for my boss to offer it. How sad it is when our decisions about liturgy are governed by politics!!
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    As is typical of my rants, I sometimes don't state the point I'm trying to make.

    I had a rather lengthy after-dinner conversation with a group of conservatives in my parish, who were lamenting the fact that the culture of our parish seems so weak. We have a church ("worship space") that incorporates traditional elements (brick work, Roman arches, little carpeting, marble flooring in the sanctuary) but within a thoroughly modern style (a processional axis that's off-center, "gathered" seating with a slightly raked floor, movable sanctuary furnishings, a tabernacle that's to one side of the sanctuary "platform" and not particularly noble; the liturgical west end opens directly into the "gathering space" (or "loitering space" as I sometimes call it); this "gathering space" is where the two-tiered font is located, making it impractical for use during Masses, etc.

    One in the group was day-dreaming about a time when a fixed high altar could be built and more traditional architectural elements could be included (statuary, relocation of the tabernacle, proper placement of the sedilla for the Sacred Ministers, etc.). I said that it would be difficult, because the building itself makes that kind of re-structuring almost impossible. (A concept I find interesting in itself. Isn't it odd that churches laid out in the traditional cruciform style were so easy to "wreckovate" by the progressives, while more modern buildings are so poorly constructed that it's nearly impossible to re-orient them for proper liturgical use?) My other point was that because the people's understanding of the liturgy itself was malformed due to years of poor catechesis, it would be terrifically difficult to make any changes to the way the Mass is celebrated in terms of the layout of the building and sanctuary, let alone a return to the EF, or even the OF in Latin.

    But the question of architectural elements gets to the real heart of the matter. As St. Augustine of Hippo put it, there is a balance between beauty, truth and goodness. It seems to me that these things all hang together in a very delicate balance. Once a part of that balance is disturbed, the rest comes crashing down. Poor catechesis leads to a poor understanding of liturgy and the sacraments which then causes elements like music and art fall victim to the "entertainment value" mentality.

    Fr. Z and others have been on about the Holy Father's desire to reinvigorate the Faith via a truly organic reform of the reform; the liturgy is the tip of the spear. I think we need to keep our eyes on all aspects of this, most especially so as to not permit those who are getting nervous (the "lay ecclesial ministers" who are stuck in the '80's, invested in Thomas Groome's "shared Christian praxis" as the best catechetical process) to deflect the real issue by blaming "bad" or "boring" or "irrelevant" music exclusively for the larger problems the church is facing.
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    david andrew, you are exactly right; the architecture has a lot to do with it. And yes, the traditional cruciform style made it easy to change, but it also made it easy to change BACK. I was at the cathedral of St. Helena in Helena, Montana, when it was 'wreckovated' in 1982-83, but they couldn't change the basic structure of the church, so in 2002-03 it was 'reformed' and is back to what it should be. My present parish church , on the other hand, was built in the early 70's and exhibits many of the traits you mentioned, so no matter what we would want to do, it would be impossible without tearing the whole thing down and starting over.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,100
    The easiest wreckovation that creates the greatest havoc at the smallest expense has got to be either carpet, and/or 'bench pads'.
  • G
    Posts: 1,386
    "This was carried up by four of the first communicants to the altar during the offertory, while the song, 'We Come To Your Feast' (a typical Haugen song) was sung."
    A little correction -- Joncas, not Haugen.
    You might be interested in the parody below.
    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

    1.Let's lay down a nice rhythm
    A samba would be swell.
    For praying or for dancing?
    It's kinda hard to tell.
    A hook that's really catchy,
    And bouncy would be nice
    Some cheery syncopation 'Cause it's a celebration
    And not a sacrifice

    Refrain: We sing of ourselves
    We sing about us
    To give You Your due,
    Sing too much of You
    Would seem too big a fuss
    So humble and meek,
    We doubt that You'd seek
    To make Your worth and glory the center of the story,
    So we'll sing of ourselves

    2. Well, yeah, the text could center
    On Him on Whom we feed.
    But it just seems more nat'ral
    To focus on our need.
    And our preoccupations,
    And what we'd like to do.
    Then if we have some time left, some energy to rhyme left,
    We might just mention You.
    Refrain

    3. We've heard about Your passion
    We've heard it all before.
    But music that befits that
    Could really be a bore.
    Reflecting on that bummer's
    Not how we want to feel
    'Cause dying's sorta dreary, Let's just sing something cheery
    And get on with the meal.
    Refrain

    4.It's too much of a bother
    Rememb'ring what we do
    Is worthy of solemn'ty
    Or mostly about You
    We're here for affirmation,
    Okay-ness, sweet and pat
    We'll get more satisfaction from de - scribing our own action,
    Let's concentrate on that.
    Refrain
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    G,

    You made my day!!!! (Except for the fact that I suddenly had a mouthful of bourbon on the front of my shirt and had to be patted on the back for quite some time).

    What makes the scene at my church so tragic is that the "cantors" just wail away (all ladies) on the descant and such. It's a horrid noise. Yet they'd probably think the same thing if, God forbid and heaven forefend, a setting of the Panis Angelicus were to be sung.

    As for the "gaff" of mistaking a Haugen tune for a Joncas tune . . . how silly of me. Kind of like mistaking the Burgundian School organum setting for a Notre Dame school setting. I'm so embarrassed.
  • G
    Posts: 1,386
    Okay, gonna try this again... I thought I had posted a long reply last night, from which I now see the Holy Spirit, through the machinations of my computer seems to have saved you all. It was probably strident, or uncharitable, or unintelligible, (or maybe in relating personal experience I absent-mindedly named names, rather than Msgr. InCharge, or Mr. RelEd and Miss KiddieLit.)

    "While playing for a Holy Hour, I was thinking 'Gosh, for all these kids this must be incredibly boring', then it hit me: sometimes it's 'boring' to be Catholic. (I hope you all know what I'm getting at!) If they're raised expecting Catholicism to be fun, they'll just turn away when it stops being fun for them. If they're raised expecting it to be 'boring', they'll hold to the faith if they want it, not just to have fun."
    While I did know where you're going with this, I think you're doing a disservice to the conversation, by setting up "fun" and "boring" as the two poles, (although those might be the word choice of the children you were observing.)
    People, especially children, usually experience "fun" as residing in externals, places, sounds, activities, people, etc. outside themselves.
    Yes, their usual preferred situations and activities may not always draw them in, according to their moods, but they will not therefore think of what usually is "fun" whether it's going to Disney World or to the Ring Cycle, as "boring."
    Boredom is usually experienced as a state of oneself.
    We may describe something as boring, but what I think we really register is "I am currently bored, " (in a way we don't usually register, "I am currently having fun.')
    Now, to go back to one of my examples, most staunch Wagnerians would be appalled and insulted, not at the notion that others find endless melodies "boring" but at the suggestion they themselves find it "fun."
    The very word trivializes the object of their enjoyment.
    And I think it trivializes worship, either liturgical or devotional.
    The approach that has been taken by too many priests, liturgists, catechists and musicians for ... well, for the sake of argument, "two generations."
    "Fun" has been treated as a positive value.
    It is not.
    Liturgy should be, must be, engaging, attractive, interesting, fascinating, compelling, joy-giving -- but never "fun."
    It is inappropriate, maybe blasphemous, to seek to either give or receive "fun" at the re-presentation of the ritual murder of the Son of God and His subsequent triumph over death.
    And to get back to the topic at hand, yes, David, it IS a catechetical failure, and not just of those visibly engaged in Faith Formation, or of celebrants, but of musicians and parents and PIPs.
    Although raising Catholics "expecting it to be 'boring'" is equally damaging, and may have been the great catechetical failure prior to the one we are currently feeling the results of.
    Because again, the re-presentation of the ritual murder of the Son of God and His subsequent triumph over death can no more be boring than it can be fun.
    Objectively, there can be NOTHING more engaging.
    Catholics need to be raised "expecting" what they do to reflect its importance.
    Our Faith is IMPORTANT. Practicing it is IMPORTANT. Everything about it should reflect its IMPORTANCE.
    Our failure has been in convincing others, children and those who do not share our Faith, that we believe what we say we believe.
    And why have we failed to convince?
    Because in many cases it is a LIE.
    Isn't it?
    Many erstwhile Catholics, even in positions of authority, DON’T believe what they say they believe.
    There is a way human beings deal with matter and people of import.
    Is that the way we deal with the Mass? with God? with God present in the Blessed Sacrament?
    Our behavior clearly demonstrates our priorities.
    The bishop who permits Sunday morning sporting events, the parent who trades gossip in the pew after Mass, while his toddler runs wind sprints, the priest who cracks jokes to the servers while he is vesting, the musician who programs inappropriate music because "the people like it," the catechist who cannot receive because he is in an irregular situation that is "too expensive" to rectify, the parochial school principal who gives Mass a pass on weekends because he's gone four times during the week, the able-bodied choir member who can't be bothered to kneel, the liturgist who looks at ritual as something fabricated by himself rather than received, the composer who alters the Word to fit his invention -- oh, they are catechizing, all right.
    They are catechizing that the Eucharist is NOT the Source and Summit of our Faith, of our very existence. They are teaching that Christ is NOT Real-ly Present in the Blessed Sacrament. They are teaching that they'd rather increase while God and His Church decrease.
    Are they heretics? are they evil?
    No.
    For the most part, they have not thought it through. Their seeming belief is that of a parrot, and their actual disbelief is that of a dog. (My black lab doesn't believe in the doctrine of the Real Presence either, but I don't think he's really considered it, and its implications...)
    So the Songs of Self are a symptom, yes, but in this vicious circle they are also cause, the reinforce and perpetuate the ignorance.
    We can't let ourselves off the hook.
    I would argue that it is the obligation of the musician, NOT "to permit poorly-composed inappropriate music into the liturgy as a way of covering up the" catechetical failures, but to fight against it tooth and nail, (or by stealth, if need be,) and become part of the solution.
    It is our obligation, as musicians, to learn and practice and program and sing and play music that reflects the Eucharist's importance.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • G
    Posts: 1,386
    I apologize, I could have put all that in fewer words, to whit:
    you are being asked to solve a problem, not of your making, with a solution that is just more of the problem.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,100
    Correction to my earlier post. The removal of the Tabernacle from the main altar is by far the worst mistake in wreckovation history.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    "But, but, but . . . Jesus is present on the altar and in the midst of the gathered community during the eucharistic celebration. You're just confusing people when you put the tabernacle up there in the center of that old high altar."

    Riiiiiiiiiiigh-t.

    Sorry, feeling a wee bit vinegary today.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,100
    my dogma has eaten your karma.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    Many thanks to G for the excellent parody. And catechesis is the issue. I've come to the conclusion in the last 2-3 years that most folks don't have a CLUE what's happening during the Mass. It's a weekly Bible reading with an bit of uplift in the homily and then we all share a ritual snack after donating money. The music? It's something in the background. That's rather blunt, but that's the read I get. And I don't get it from complaints. It's what I've heard from folks who are enthusiastic and really want to do the right thing.

    On the other hand, many of us who work in churches and probably do know better preach that same mis-understanding with our behavior. Especially now that the surrounding culture values the casual and comfortable so highly - who wants to look like a stick with all that genuflecting and reverence? (Of course, all the liturgical propriety in the world can conceal other faults. One of my favorite spiritual writers, an Orthodox abbess commented that most of us live our lives as "practical atheists" because if we really deeply believed what's in all those prayers and readings, would we act the way we do?)

    Now I'm going to sing the parody again.
  • G
    Posts: 1,386
    "I've come to the conclusion in the last 2-3 years that most folks don't have a CLUE what's happening during the Mass. It's a weekly Bible reading with an bit of uplift in the homily and then we all share a ritual snack after donating money. The music? It's something in the background. That's rather blunt, but that's the read I get. And I don't get it from complaints. It's what I've heard from folks who are enthusiastic and really want to do the right thing. "

    Yes, YES, YESSSS.
    Give the woman a ceegar!
    People of good will and devotion, faithfully practicing lay people, (even, occasionally, and saddest of all, hard working priests...,) they just don't know.
    (And I was horrible for a long time, I assumed they knew better and just didn't care.)
    I can't count how many times I have said something in a meeting about either correct praxis or correct theology, and gotten blank looks from people my age and younger, and kindly but dismissive, "oh, Vatican Two changed all that..." from older people, (and they sincerely believe that.)
    Even if they are not totally ignorant of what authoritative documents say, in many cases they have been led to believe every instruction is a suggestion, every rubric an option.
    Odd, it seems to go against the laws of nature and ergonomics and gravity, but it is definitely going to take the Church longer to fill this hole than it took Her to dig Herself into it.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,854
    G, a favorite parody of mine is:

    Gather us in, the old and the flakey,
    Gather us in, the hippies of yore.
    Gather us in, the senile and kinky,
    We were the young in 1964.

    I am used to being called uncharitable. It kind of bounces off me anymore.
  • Michael O'Connor
    Posts: 1,638
    I know we have great fun with the folks of a certain age, but I think it's about time we start enticing them towards our thinking. My schola, btw, has an average age in the 50s (only because there are couple of younger folks to pull down the average). I talk a little each rehearsal about the myths of Vatican II and have slowly been revealing what has been hidden from them. Sometimes they are quite shocked.