We should shout this from the rooftops!
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    After a gruelling meeting with the "temporary advisory committee" on music for our parish, wherein "diversity of musical styles" was considered as a possible value, so that we can attract more people, especially young people, I was driven to deep despair.

    His Holiness, in his address to the people at WYD '08, had this to say, and it has struck me to the depths of my heart and soul. I intend to send this little excerpt in an e-mail to everyone on that committee (with my emphasis added), in the hopes that perhaps it will strike them as well, in light of what was said about the people who attend Mass at our church:

    "Dear friends, life is not governed by chance; it is not random. Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose (cf. Gen 1:28)! Life is not just a succession of events or experiences, helpful though many of them are. It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this – in truth, in goodness, and in beauty – that we find happiness and joy. Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth."
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I would be interested to see some hard data one way or another on what really attracts AND forms a good faith in youths. I'm 23, and for the past 10 years of my life I've had lots of "adults" tell me what I am supposed to like and what will get me to go to church. The worst of it was at some evangelical colleges where the modern Christian culture is a thing sold by companies - "all the cool Christians wear this! All the cool Christians listen to this group! All the cool Christians do this for worship!" all with the unspoken assumption that if you don't act as the advertisers say you're not only uncool but possibly not really Christian.

    That rant over, I'm not saying chant is going to get one more young person in the pews. I'm just saying that I'm not convinced that rock music and "relevant" "catechesis" is doing the job people expect it to do. But you can take my opinion and Lifeteen's and wind up with still not enough for a cup of coffee. I want to see some real figures on this.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    There's only one religious-message CD on billboard right now.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,223
    I am a Catholic school teacher, so I do get a feel for the interests of young people. The ones I am around have a disdain for the sacro-pop atmosphere in many churches and are looking for the missing sense of mystery and awe in worship. I'm sure that doesn't mean they are all chant nuts, but they sense that something has been lost. Some of the young people also view the guitar masses as hippie masses. With today's young folks, the word "hippie" is anything but a compliment. Of course, there are young folks who are not like this, too. I am old enough to remember all the pop type music brought into the church in the 70's for "the young people to keep them from leaving." My observation is that many of them left anyway, so what was the point? David Andrew, I feel for you in that situation. It could happen to any of us. It sounds like you need what us plain-talking southerners would describe as "a good old-fashioned arse-kicking pastor" who can straighten things out. BTW, I am convinced that hell is probably run by committees. ;-)
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I can cite anecdotal evidence too. I had some involvement in the school at my last job and heard plenty of times what the kids thought: "We like the songs in the blue book (Glory & Praise) better, the other ones are boring!" "I don't want to learn Latin, it's stupid!" On the other hand, the 3-4 graders were always impressed with "cool" organ music, and the 5-6 grade, despite their distaste and discomfort for it, would do chant with gusto. I strongly suspect that many kids were influenced by anti-chant parents and teachers. And there's no sound like 1st and 2nd graders shouting out the chant Gloria or Pater! As for me, my favorite hymn in grade school was "O Come O Come Emmanuel". But still, that's all anecdotal. I want to see some hard evidence about 1) what liturgical praxis attracts which group to Mass and 2) which praxis develops the best Catholics. Ideology is really not relevant to this (no one's brought it up, it just doesn't help matters to assert "libruls r bad Catholics"). And that's one thing I will say for certain about all the kids I worked with, and I'm sure Charles has found the same thing: they really don't care about these ideological battles, they just want to go to church and do what they're told is right.

    edit: I'm not bringing this up to argue with Charles or anyone. It just seems to me that it would be beneficial for David to have some hard data to refer to so he can say "the majority of practicing Catholics 18-25 attend Mass in Latin" or "those teens participating in Lifeteen liturgies have been shown to be more likely to defect from Catholicism later in life." There are people numbers may not sway, but David hasn't really described a team of idealogues, just people with misperceptions on the liturgy.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,223
    You're right about the kids not caring about ideological battles. I have only a bit jokingly said that the kids are great, it's the adults I sometimes can't stand. As for the evidence you mention, I don't know if any studies have been done. If they have, I haven't seen them.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Absolutely right, Charles. At first I couldn't stand kids. Then after working with them, I really began to enjoy it. Then I dealt with parents. I can't think of any way to describe my dealing with parents that would not give offense to anyone on this board with children.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I want to add that quote from Pope Benedict is why I consider him the greatest theologian of the 20th and 21st centuries.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Hm. I'm a music education researcher, and it looks like I've got a good next study here.

    And Gavin, I'm a former schoolteacher and a current parent, too… I, for one, would be happy to grant an indult here to let you express your feelings on the matter!
  • It seems that most have anecdotally confirmed what I have observed. For every kid that takes to chant there's another that likes the more friendly pop tunes. I've come to believe that the issue is a red herring. It's not about music at all. If we teach children the "warm and fuzzy" Jesus only (I understand we don't want to scare them needlessly!) then the pop style lines up with their juvenile theology (intended in the literal sense). If we promote the idea of a life-long progress towards understanding, then I think (and it's just a hunch) that they will understand that solemnity and awe are part of the deal. If we could only get everyone to understand that the Church has a musical prayer style and that it is what it is, then idea of variety, appeal, and enticement leaves the picture. So, when we see adults leaving a church because the music director starting chanting one day, it suggests that somehow they got the idea that music serves a different purpose at Mass than it is supposed to.
  • Michael, as you know, I'm still in the trenches as DM for the parish and the music teacher for the PreK-8 parish school. The shift we all desire with the faithful in their "progress towards understanding" is dauntingly multifaceted. Regarding the kids- one of those facets that I've found glaringly absent in an otherwise healthy and coordinated liturgical/theological/musical curriculum at our school is the simple presence of "the priest" on campus. "He" is virtually never found on the playground during recess/lunch; "he" is seldom ever found visiting classrooms, etc. "He" is seen by students (both in parochial schools/rel.ed.) primarily at Mass; occasionally at concert or fundraising events. So, in my scenario, can we agree that "he" presents to the young eye a remote, ornately costumed "other," somewhat larger than life and an unknown quantity? My point is that if the kids see the parish priests entering into their "real lives" on a regular basis, interacting with them in casual situations at school talking sports, their interests AND religion, and establish healthy social relationships with students, then when the student body assembles for school/RE Masses, they will recognize that "their friend" is knowingly changing his behavior to a solemn, ritualized standard. He won't be an "other," he will be truly "alter Christus" and that reality might just take root in the minds and hearts of kids.
    Another facet that's important in the life-long process is an old saw for me: consistency, consistency, consistency. If the teaching staff, including the musical and liturgical specialists, are not all on the same page with "lex orandi, lex credenti," then the liturgical practices of that parish will pinball around according to personal tastes and preferred modalities of that staff, and not with the benefit of consultation with the celebrants (again, priests tend to just show up; their notion of planning amounts to knowing when to show up.)
    So, if a parish has an experienced and/or knowledgeable "Go-To" authority for matters liturgical who'll stay put for years, the kids will have their musical and liturgical vistas expand organically/systematically. But another anecdotal problem tends to mitigate that progress- a kid who has learned, accepted and practiced so-called "progressive solemnity" in their K-8 years at parochial school can easily have most of that unravel simply by observing the behaviors of their parents and other adults around them in the pews on Sunday. It slays me when I see individual kids I've had for three years or more look like zombies when they're at Mass on Sundays as older high school students. The awe and mystery factor seems no longer evident in any way on their faces or their postures. That's not what I taught and shared and witnessed with them. That comes from somewhere else. And I'm pretty sure that "condition" didn't occur just because "sacro pop" is a part of their liturgical diet.
    But every year I'll up the ante. This fall we'll be using that 1952 GIA sourcebook for kids, "The Story of Salvation for Children" that uses chant and psalm tones in modern notation and with English in grades 2-6. This will be added onto their already existing programs, which last year included Latin motets in grades 3-7, and arrangements of chant for bell choir in 8 (Bell Choir is a sort of reward reserved for the 8th grade class.) Who knows, I might even invite our parish schola to join a couple of Friday Masses and see if we get "shock or awe!"
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    Charles in CenCA,

    This is a fascinating theory. As I began to read your position on the priest as an ordinary person, and every one's "friend" I thought "no, no, no!" But as I continued to read and you unfolded the concept that when the priest is robed and at the altar he switches visibly in word and action to the "alter Christus" your theory makes sense. Unfortunately there are a fair number of priests who are unable to make that switch, and rather than seeing it from the perspective of leading by example they fall into the trap of believing that the only way to "keep the people in the pews" is to become "Fr. Personality" when celebrating the Holy Sacrifice. I just had this conversation with a friend of mine and I not more than an hour ago! In my "temporary advisory committee" meeting the other night, I was accused of not projecting a "warm, inviting, friendly personality" when leading music during the Mass. Our music area is, unfortunately, at the front and to the right of the sanctuary, set apart from the sanctuary (if you can believe it) by a funny little half-wall that sticks out from the back wall upon which is perched . . . you guessed it. . . the tabernacle. The organ console sits a few mere feet from it, and the cantor stands with his/her back to it when leading the singing. My "cold personality" when leading is a direct reflection of my awareness of where I am and in whose presence I'm standing. I could really care less if people get the "warm fuzzies" when I'm up there. Unfortunately, my predecessor of eight years has been nearly canonized for his "warm personality" during Masses. Ugh.

    I'm in even more agreement with your assessment of the relationship between those engaged in teaching and catechetical development needing to be cohesive. Unfortunately that's not the paradigm here, and in fact our school music teacher, for whom I have a very strained relationship, is completely ignorant of the impact she makes on the boys and girls who sing for the Masses where the school is the primary congregation. (She tells them when they're preparing to sing for Mass to 'remember to smile and have fun.' She has in the past willfully thwarted attempts on my part to introduce traditional hymnody to the students, claiming, among other things, that the kids can't sing with the organ, or worse, when I use the organ the guy from the formation staff who shows up can't play the guitar, because it can't be heard over the organ, and it's really important to the kids that he be up there with them, strumming away on every hymn, song and acclamation.

    Although I have no background in elementary music education, I wish I had a music teacher on our school staff who was as sensitized to the current environment as you clearly are! And bravo for upping the ante! I've got a copy of the GIA source you mentioned, and I'd give anything to see it introduced to our school music program. But we all know the quote, "If wishes were horses . . ."
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    David Andrew said: ... the cantor stands with his/her back to it when leading the singing

    Oh no no. Since the people are hard pressed to find their way out of a paper bag, the cantor is leading the Tabernacle to the people! Cantor ad populum.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    On the topic of what brings youth to Mass, my girlfriend had a typically brilliant idea that none of us have brought up: Good parenting. If kids are brought up to stop going to Mass once you're confirmed (as in my family and pretty much every one of my classmates through high school), no amount of fun at Mass will get them back there. Why should we get the blame for something that parents aren't leading on? (I am not making a comment on parenting technique here. I am only making the point that parents set the religious attitudes of the children to a large degree)

    David, that description of being "cold" during Mass is utterly bizarre. Did you ask (or did someone say) what exactly they expect you to do? "HEY Y'ALL! LET'S SIIIIIIING!!!!!!!!!!!!!"? Then again I remember in high school, while at my first job, my friend dared me when announcing the entrance hymn to call out "LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT!!" If only I would have known that I'm an evil cold ogre for not having done that...
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 989
    I briefly tried the "warm and welcoming" school of "song leading" when I got a Catholic Church job a few years ago. (No one in the Orthodox or Episcopal churches would even know what this is talking about.) I alternately felt like (a) a big phony or (b) a show pony getting high on thinking that all those folks are looking at me. By nature, I am actually (b) - a show pony of the first water. However, one day it dawned on me that, yes, it wasn't "all about me." When called upon to do this, I start them, face front and sing.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I honestly don't know what the "warm and welcoming" school of song leading is. Does it involve smiling excessively while playing the organ or what?
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    I dunno. I've started studying "Youtube" footage of Liberace being warm and personable, talking to the TV audience through the camera. Seems that's what people want. I guess when I announce hymns and songs I should announce them like it's a sing-along.
  • David, that's what the prevailing wisdom is. We are a culture of the "entertained", reality shows notwithstanding. We are told that Catholics don't sing because they haven't been invited to do so a) enough or b) with sufficient enthusiasm. BTW at a church I was helping out at yesterday, the recessional was something I had not sung before. I'm a trained professional musician and I had to be on my toes to get all the melodic skips, changes in meter, unexpected rhythms, and long final notes (it's in 6/8, so you can guess what it probably was "go and ..." etc.). Could it be that the music is what is holding folks back? Nah!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,223
    The music? Surely you jest, sir. ;-) All kidding aside, I have found some of the music requires a professional musician to sing. It's beyond the abilities of the average congregation. I could never get away with using some of the "new" stuff - not really new anymore, but a fad that has run its course. The pastor will not allow hymns to be announced - something about ruining the solemnity of the mass. The people get they number from the hymn board in front, and it better be something worth singing. Otherwise they shut the hymnals and look forward in silence. Sometimes you just have to be grateful to have a pastor and a congregation that won't put up with nonsense.
  • Charles, try programming more 4-square hymns. Start with entrance and recessional always being traditional hymns and listen for them. They'll sing. O sure, a few might complain, but just tell them you can't hear what they are saying because the congregation is singing so loudly.
  • Dan F.Dan F.
    Posts: 205
    Why do not more churches use the hymn boards? I was just at one where none of the ordinary was listed, nor announced, nor posted on the blank hymn board! At my parish we have triple redundency at the beginning of mass: worship aid, hymn board and announcement all give the number of the opening hymn. I for one could go without the announcement.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 989
    I played in a church today with a hymn board where everything is announced because someone might not see it. (Couldn't they ask their neighbor?) I also watched the director and realized that she is directing the congregation on the hymns. Maybe this is a hang-over from the "congregation is one big choir" school of thought in the 1970s? Her back is to the choir during hymns, which is just karaoking along anyway. And she does have a 1,000 watt smile and a wonderful sincere manner. She got started in church music in the early 80's, got her advanced degree from Notre Dame then, and has continued in the way she was trained. When I worked as her assistant director, she did let me work on more traditional music with the choir. (When I moved away, that disappeared.)

    And what always makes it so hard for me is that I love her and lots of the people like her. This is the music and the style they know. And at the same time, it's just so inappropriate. (Sorry, late Sunday fatigue.)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,223
    I was joking a bit in the earlier post, but I long ago cut the number of mass hymns down to three. I do a traditional entrance and recessional hymn with either a choir anthem/motet, or organ piece during the presentation of the gifts - which will always be the offertory to me. But the communion hymns in Ritual Song are largely wretched. So I am often stuck with a sing-songy and sacharine communion hymn. I have given some thought to introducing psalms at communion with antiphons that the congregation could sing without hymnals. My congregation actually has pretty good taste. They won't sing the 70's stuff and put their hymnals away in protest. My predecessor mentioned that the congregation wouldn't sing. I found that they do sing the traditional hymns reasonably well.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    Funny, I've been heading toward the concept of the opening and closing being traditional hymnody, and predictably and right on schedule the complaints started to come.

    BTW, my first year we were using service leaflets that had either the title and number of the hymns, or the whole thing (if we didn't have it in one of our hymnal/songbooks) and by the end of that year we were announcing nothing. Owing to budget cuts we had to abandon our reprint permissions and subscription to "HymnPrint" and decided to scrap making the leaflets, going back to announcing everything. I'm hoping that our new Pastor will decide that some other program can cut back on their "arts and crafts supplies" (like the cost for the white sheets and paints the 1st Communion classes use to make their "personalized" altar cloths . . . no kidding) so that we can have dignified, reverent, song-announcing-free Masses!

    Today almost everything was from the "Tops of the Pops '80's" stuff, even though it was accompanied on the organ. Could have heard an ant belch in the middle of the songs. . . nobody was singing. Of course, the "Andrews Sisters" on the mics figured it was high time to take over, singing in parts so that it would sound "nice." *sigh*

    So much work to do . . . so little bourbon left.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,223
    I understand. If I were in your situation I would probably turn to drink as well. So much depends on the pastor. My pastor directed me to choose two traditional hymns, one for entrance and one for recessional. He said that if one of the two hymns was less familiar to the congregation, use it for the recessional. We do have the giant hymnboard up front with 4 inch numbers, but no announcements. For special occasions, we print a program with everything in it.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    I was actually able to convince the liturgy committee to retain enough of a budget to produce fairly decent service booklets for Christmas Midnight Mass, Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion and Holy Week/Easter Vigil.

    These are the most solemn and reverent liturgical celebrations we have, I think primarily because there's no foolishness about announcing hymns and cajoling people to participate with warm, friendly banter.
  • David, Stick to your guns. Eventually the traditional hymns will become "what we always do", which is, after all the strongest reason for doing anything.
  • G
    Posts: 1,391
    "they will recognize that 'their friend' is knowingly changing his behavior to a solemn, ritualized standard."
    They would if he DID, perhaps....

    "the white sheets and paints the 1st Communion classes use to make their "personalized" altar cloths . . . no kidding"

    Well, you have made me count my blessings, my New year's Resoluti.... um, my mid-July Resolution is to not grouse next year when the altar is decorated with a dead branch stuck in a pot with wads of masking tape stuck to it to represent our sinful souls, which are traded out for butterflies on Easter morning.
    'Cause I guess it could be worse...

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 989
    I'm grateful for this line of posts because it reminds me - woefully, I'll admit - that all the wackiness in the Church is not confined to my geographical location. Personalized altar cloths, branches with masking tape and butterflies - and we wonder why no one has a taste for good music? Traditional hymnody and chant are totally incongruous in churches that behave as though everyone were still in primary school.

    There's a lot of heavy lifting to be done - and most of it lies outside the reach of church musicians.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,223
    There are periods of time throughout history when whatever was produced in the arts proved to have little lasting value. I think we are emerging from one of those periods when there were no significant talents producing anything of lasting significance.
  • Well original G, that was the point of my fanciful musings: that "Father" would model behaviors appropriate to the social mileaus at which he would regularly be present. Alas, I suppose that would be nostalgia for the "Father O'Malley's" of the Bing Crosby/Bells of St. Mary's era. And of course, I omited mention of the Number One excuse "why" priests aren't generally visible on their own parochial school campuses: they're being sensitive and overly careful not to give the appearance that smacks of "familiarity" with young children. Uh huh.
    Regarding David's shifting of the entrance/recessional literature to trad. hymns- one thing I've been trying to do at my place, both with my programming and advising other leaders, is to use trad hymns that have some direct resonance to the Introit Proper antiphon. It's not always possible to find those tendons of connection, but doing so provides us with an opportunity for a modest catechesis regarding "awareness" of the function of the Propers. I suppose one could do the same with contemp. songs as well. But I find the trad well much deeper to that purpose.
  • Also traditional hymns are just more suited to the processions that they accompany. Gather Us In doesn't hold up in this respect. It's just more difficult to be less than dignified when processing to a strong organ and the solid pacing of a Victorian hymn.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Charles: as per Fr. Weber, I think an old Scottish psalm-hymn would work where no alternative can be found. Just pick one in the same meter as a hymn your congregation knows (WINCHESTER NEW perhaps) and do it up on a handout.