A "teachable" moment
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,202
    I'm in a very interesting situation: our pastor (who has been very supportive of my work) is leaving, and we're not sure when we'll be getting a new pastor. In the meantime there has been ongoing conversation (most of it has taken place without an invitation to me to participate) with members of the pastoral council and a "subcommittee" on music regarding Sing to the Lord and it's implications regarding the kinds/types/styles of music being used or excluded at Mass (by me, as I'm the director and have the responsibility of choosing the music from week to week). With the announcement of the pastor's departure, there has been a "ramping up" on the part of the pastoral council to move forward with some "catechesis" regarding the how's and why's of the music at Mass and the formation of a "temporary advisory group".

    I've been suggesting that we hold off as the new pastor may have something to say about it (either for the better or worse. . . nonetheless he has the right to change it all by virtue of canonical authority).

    I keep being reassured that this is being done for the benefit of the "whole community," and that we owe it to everyone in the pew to educate them as to what music is and is not appropriate for Mass.

    My questions are:

    1) Is this possible or even recommended?

    2) If it seems a reasonable path, has anyone else done this; what materials have you used, and what process did you develop? (I've suggested that we bring together a core group of hand-selected individuals who have the time and are willing to enter into a lengthy learning process before we try to educate the entire community. They (the members of the council) want to put together a "temporary" advisory group consisting of a member of each of the music programs (but not the director) to get an idea of what the "people" want for their music program).

    3) Is it just me, or does this sound like I'm being sandbagged? The leader of the subcommittee insists that she doesn't want me to leave, and won't let this process push me out the door, and yet it seems like that's exactly what's being put into place.

    The bottom line is, I need this job (or any job) and I can't afford to loose the income. I don't want to be played a fool, but I also don't want to be painted as "that stubborn, pig-headed elitist musician who does nothing but get defensive when someone suggests that something other than organ should be used at Mass."

    Any solid advice would be greatly appreciated!
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    I've been through 4 or 5 pastor replacements, and I can't remember a time when the best-laid plans didn't end up in tatters. As we all know, what the pastor says goes. The committees can magically evaporate under new leadership. I would suggest that you sit tight and play it cool. STTL is not clear enough to offer a parish-wide teaching moment of any sort, not without leadership in a position to interpret.

    Maybe you should be glad that you are not tight with the committee members.
  • Felipe Gasper
    Posts: 804
    Dear David,

    I know nothing about your committee, but my gut says, “BEWARE.”

    As many have pointed out, SttL can be interpreted in several different ways. One part of the document says this, while the next will say something that almost completely contradicts the first part.

    In my opinion, any ministry should strive for what nourishes the people. Usually, hopefully, what nourishes them is also what they like, but it is inevitable that what nourishes folks sometimes isn’t what they all, or even a majority, enjoy.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Catechesis is an essential part of Catholicism which generally falters after kids leave school/CCD. So the goal of catechesis in and of itself is wonderful. The frightening thing here is that those who are developing the catechesis about music do not seem to be the best qualified in the church.

    I'm not sure what the relationships are among your different musical groups, but I might suggest a get-together of the directors of each of the music programs to work out what you would like to see when the parish comes under new management. A weekly coffee to put together your plans, concerns, capabilities, etc., might help.

    But I agree with the others who speak "caution" about a committee of non-musicians who seem intent on ostracizing the church's musical leadership from planning their own future.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,513

    I think JT is right. Play it cool.

    1. Pray
    2. Pray more
    3. Speak only what you have thought through thoroughly, then finally
    4. Pray more
    5. If what you thought to say seems reasonable, MAYBE speak carefully
  • Michael O'Connor
    Posts: 1,637
    Good luck. Definitely stay out of their way and pray for an enlightened priest to come and simply tell them that "the music director handles the music. Case closed."
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,202
    Well, I'm happy to report that the first meeting of this "advisory committee" was tonight, and it went very well, indeed!

    First of all, everyone on the committee is of varying levels of understanding regarding liturgical music and the mind of the Church. Despite this they were very open to hear what I had to say about this complex subject.

    As luck would have it, I had already typed up my thoughts in preparation for the arrival of the new pastor. I figured if I had my philosophies and thoughts as well as an accurate description of how I go about the task of selecting hymnody, etc., carefully typed out, I'd be in better shape than trying to explain it all "off the cuff." I read this to the committee, and they were very impressed and made intelligent comments and asked very important questions about culture, the cultural battle we're fighting and even my thoughts on how to go about the difficult task of introducing chant back into the musical language of the people.

    All in all, it seemed to be a very successful meeting, and I didn't feel sandbagged or ganged up on. On the contrary, it seemed that for pretty much the first time I was being given a fair hearing.

    Our new priest has been selected and his name announced. I'm confident that he'll be solid in matters of liturgy and music.
  • JDE
    Posts: 588
    Will wonders never cease!

    Congratulations. That is good news indeed.

    I'm still waiting to see if my "choral scholarships" are approved. Should find out this week or next, and if they're approved, I'm going to have to go on a recruiting mission to get anybody decent for the August startup.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,202
    I have an update on our progress, if anyone is interested.

    The group had its second meeting, and the convener seemed anxious to have a skeleton of a "mission statement" or "vision statement" worked out to present to both the pastoral council and the new pastor when he comes on board officially later this month. I was concerned about this, and said so, because of two things: 1) I cautioned that a vision statement really ought to proceed out of an understanding (which they don't yet fully possess) of what our "vision" is focused upon (the mind of the Church) and 2) she had presented several examples from parish websites she'd visited that I felt had problems.

    We discussed these vision statements and I remarked that what was important about them wasn't so much what was stated in them, but what wasn't stated. Most of them fell into the typical trap of "here's what we do and why we do it to shape the people who participate at mass." I remarked that none of them talked about music and music ministers being in service of the liturgy; they all seemed to reflect what the Holy Father has spoken against, that is, the cultural misunderstanding that people somehow form the liturgy, rather than the liturgy forming the people.

    Fortunately, although I have a real problem organizing my thoughts, as I spoke people on the committee began to realize that what is important is the mind of the Church in these matters, as reflected in her tradition and the collection of writings which includes but goes beyond just the "legislative documents." Even the parochial vicar was getting stuck on the idea of the magisterium dictating what the liturgy should look like with respect to the music. He's not completely connected with the notion that as a universal Church, we have at our core a universal liturgical language.

    Clearly there is work to be done, and while everyone seems to agree that music selected for Mass needs to be "appropriate," they're still getting hung up on "styles", fearful of taking a stand against cultural influences (contemporary music styles) that I repeatedly point out have a destructive, limiting, deforming effect on the Faithful.

    Curiously, at the end of the meeting I held up my copies of the Gregorian Missal and BFW, explaining that these little volumes actually contain everything we would need to properly prepare and execute the liturgy and its music. They asked, "do you think the Church (American bishops) will tell us we need to start using these?" As much as I personally think so, I said I couldn't speak to that, but clearly we're a long way away from conformity. One member said, "if we have to sing that stuff week after week, we'll have about 7 people in the church." (I didn't want to say it, but I was reminded of the scripture passages, "The way is narrow; few are chosen.")

    So much to do . . .