Mahrt quoted in Nat Cath Reporter
  • This story on contemporary music at least recognizes the issues here and quotes Mahrt, who comes across very well indeed.
  • athome
    Posts: 31
    As one who ministers in Arizona, I confirm that this indeed is the 'epicenter' of contemporary music. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me 'have you been to St. Tim's?' (a question imbued with hopes that I will commence instant mimicking of their program) I could afford to retire and move far away from the Grand Canyon state. Safe to say Arizona has a long way to go.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    Dr. Mahrt did come across with great restraint. I only scanned the article because I don't want to lose my appetite for lunch. Steve Warner has the usual lines about "co-existence." However, my experience with this has been "they" exist and "we" don't. I have no objection to anyone singing anything (except truly wretched rap). Just not in the context of worship.

    And I'll tell you this much. Based on living in the South of the US, if we focus on trying to sound like the Nashville CCM/Dove Record crowd, we'll lose. All talk aside, this is about commercial viability and we can't beat them at their own game. Besides, if I were a kid and this is what mattered to me, I'd head over to Anastasia Baptist or its equivalent. Why hang out with the Catholic wanna-bes?
  • G
    Posts: 1,387
    If only TPTB many places could be made to understand this!
    "Based on living in the South of the US, if we focus on trying to sound like the Nashville CCM/Dove Record crowd, we'll lose. All talk aside, this is about commercial viability and we can't beat them at their own game. Besides, if I were a kid and this is what mattered to me, I'd head over to Anastasia Baptist or its equivalent. Why hang out with the Catholic wanna-bes?"
    Our parish had young people going to "the Baptist Mass," (yes, "Mass" was the word used.)
    So what did we do? instead of realizing that, gee, 8 years of RE and in some cases Catholic school was leaving them ignorant of the fact of the Real Presence, we'd better make sure they know that if they practice Catholicism they are privileged to receive something they can acquire nowhere else?
    That's right, pop music and pizza parties!

    It as if we were Tiffany's, and were trying to lure customers with hot dogs or balloons....
  • The article seems to support the idea that it's all about taste. We'll never convince anyone as long as the argument is couched in those terms. I did, however, get the sense that Matt Maher -- I've seen his music and heard his recording, and he is definitely a talent -- understands the difference between liturgical music and devotional song. That's the place we need to be working. Create more opportunities in the parish for popular music to exist so that it doesn't have to find its outlet at Mass.

    The following paragraph is disturbing, though.

    “I think a great deal of the glory of the Catholic liturgical tradition is the breadth of our engagement with multiple cultures,” said Fr. J. Michael Joncas, who occupies a unique place in the discussion. Joncas is a diocesan priest, as well as a liturgical theologian at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minn. But he is best known for composing popular, post-council pieces such as “On Eagle’s Wings.” According to Joncas, an exclusive diet of praise-and-worship music at Catholic liturgy would be “as undesirable as an exclusive diet of strophic hymnody alone, or folk-pop compositions, or Renaissance motets, or Caecilian Mass parts.”

    How on earth did centuries of Catholics get by without calypso music at Mass? In a sense, I agree, but the diet should be limited to "healthy" food (chant, polyphony, traditional hymns, artistically composed newer styles from the 17th-21st centuries).
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Evangelization is such an important word for Christians. But I wonder how a Catholic do this duty withoout understanding Catholic faith. The core of our faith is, I believe, is the Eucharist, the true presence of Jesus in the the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The musicians with casual music, especially those who are briiliant, don't seem to realize how much they hurt our faith by bringing down the Eucharist as a casual event. Music is powerful, especially the music by talented musicians. How many Catholics believe the true presence of Christ in our Euchrist? I don't think it was a high number. It doesn't seem to matter anymore among those who go out and evangelize. They want to bring people to Christ, but tell them it's ok that some parts of our faith they don't have to believe and just choose whatever part you want to believe ? Some Catholics seem to appreciate Protestant faith, but still want to be called as Catholics, that is the part I don't understand as a convert. The singer says he respects the church authority and pastoral needs. I guess it doesn't matter to him that many priests cannot tell the difference between the pop style music and sacred music.

    Save the Liturgy, Save the world
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,031
    “I think a great deal of the glory of the Catholic liturgical tradition is the breadth of our engagement with multiple cultures,” said Fr. J. Michael Joncas, who occupies a unique place in the discussion.

    Yes, but... A great deal of the glory of Catholicism was how it was able to transform those cultures into something both Christian and Catholic. It doesn't seem to do that so well anymore, because the shepherds have lost their way and are fuzzy about both what they believe, and why they believe it.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,251
    I agree with Michael O. There are all kinds of music, but most of them do not belong in the liturgy. Most contemporary Christian music fits into one category: Inspirational. Maybe good for a prayer meeting or private devotions, etc. But not the liturgy. The minute we compromise that ideal, all other compromises become valid.

    The same argument for 'less sacred' has also crept into liturgical art, vessels, architecture, vestments, etc. We owe God the best in all of them, including the music. The liturgy should be reserved for the sacred... and only the best of the best we have to offer.
  • By the way, with this story, the reporter initially wrote me and I wrote a long thing. He later wrote back and said that he wouldn't be using my comments, which is fine because Dr. Mahrt did a better job. But what I found a bit unsettling was his initial inquiry. It was filled with warnings that I must be civil and respectful and tolerant and appreciative and not say things that are bitter or mean etc. etc.-- not his exact words but you get the point. the presumption was that anyone who loves chant is a fundamentally nasty or unstable or walking around mad all the time. Actually, I must say that this presumption did not settle well on me. I mean, what if I wrote a "progressive" Catholic and asked a few questions but also demanded that his answers not be heterodox, goofy, dismissive of tradition, deviant, etc. etc.. I don't even know why a person who received such a communication would even answer.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    I also agree with Michael O'Connor about the distinction between liturgical and devotional music. I have also noted that when I attempt to explain this distinction, most people don't have a clue what I'm talking about. I think the only cure would be demanding that any and all music sung at a Mass conform to the texts of the propers and NOTHING ELSE. (I almost never shout, sorry.)

    And we do need to develop a richer para-liturgical universe for people, something more than the pre/post-Mass droning of the Rosary and the exactly three songs that people know for Benediction. Taize, Marty and Dan, calypso - all would be welcome.

    CharlesW is correct in seeing that past engagement with culture involved transformation on the part of the culture, not the Church. Well, somewhere along the way, the flow was reversed. The result is impoverished liturgical practice and the surveys that reveal that most American Catholics show little difference in morals, opinions, and values from the cultural sea in which they swim.

    Unfortunately, many of those who might have "pushed back" simply drew apart in a manner reminiscent of the 1920s response of Protestant fundamentalists in the USA after the Scopes trial. Only in the last several years do we see a serious re-engagement with our past and with beauty. I decided things were definitely taking a turn for the better when Granda opened a showroom in Chicago. Now if we could just replace all the "floating Jesuses" in Florida churches. (One lady told me, "But he looks so welcoming, doesn't he?")

    Mary Jane in northeast Florida, where everyone is becoming an amateur meteorologist again
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    I agree with Michael that the article's implicit conclusion is that it is, indeed, all about "taste." To conclude that is to remain blind to the reality that sacred chant remains the ideal. No other form of music, no matter what one's "taste," so perfectly represents unity, chastity, and fidelity to sacred text and its liturgical function as the chant.

    That is the issue.

    Agreed, too, that we need to create more opportunities for devotional music outside of the Mass, as an outlet. Reserve the music of the Mass for the best music that the Church has to offer that most closely conforms to the ideal represented by the chant.

    What I find exciting these days is that chant is again a living tradition. Small shoots, sure, but the soil is fertile. Moreover, sacred polyphony is also a living tradition. Again, small in scale, but that's no matter. Technology has changed in favor of the small. All that is necessary is to keep at it, let things take root, inspire the young, and stick with it.

    The ship may right itself if one holds fast enough to the rudder.
  • Perhaps another thread could discuss how we engage people with chant and polyphony. We all are comfortable with it, but for a very large (I'll even say majority) of Catholics, chant sounds "sad" or dreary and does not take them where it takes us. I think that we all need to become apologists for chant outside the liturgy first. Work, yes, but it's needed.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Michael, I think it's a matter of degrees. Few people would consider, say, the Communion "Oportet Te" a sad or dreary melody. Bob Hurd's setting of the tune of "Parce Domine", same thing. Mass VIII or "Of the Father's Love", same thing. And gosh, when someone's used to those, they can really hear the cheeriness of "Veni Creator", can't they? And that's a stepping stone to appreciating "Puer Natus". And pretty soon even a dark mode IV gradual sounds rather normal to people.

    Obviously, I think it's the mode that throws people off. As I often mention, my girlfriend is Lutheran and, due to the modal nature of Reformation hymnody, her favorite Christmas hymn is essentially in mode I. People composed chants in modes because the technique of doing everything in a really fast triple meter major key wasn't around then and would probably be heard as "frantic". So I think a gradual acclimation to chant modality will help people, especially with those works which are BASED on chant.

    Also necessary is catechesis and excitement. Some people talk about chant in a droning voice speaking of arsis and thesis and zzzz I just fell asleep at the computer. But someone like Jeff Tucker makes the chant exciting and shows people what he loves about it and shows the drama and devotion behind the music. I think we need to give people a good introduction to the repertoire and make it an exciting and unusual thing for them. And it doesn't hurt to say, as I said so many times to my choir, "THIS is Catholicism. This is what the Catholic faith sounds like!" People will get it, it just takes a lot of energy on our parts.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,251
    My wife sent me this a few days ago. It addresses the subject well.

    http://www.catholicexchange.com/2008/08/19/113495/
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Gavin, yes, I think that's right. Another approach is also to say the truth that "cheerful melodies" simply don't express the full range of what it is like to have faith. Chant does. Think about about seriousness, serenity, devotion, humility, forbearance. The chant repertoire is emotionally restrained in some ways, sure, and yet I find it expresses a wider range of emotions than the happy-clappy approach. So:

    1. Chant expresses a wider range of Christian emotion, with fewer extremes.

    Also, there's a lot to be said for how chant is more "gender-neutral" than most of the contemporary music I've heard. Men and women, singing chant? Doesn't matter, and it's interesting to ask why. I think it has to do with chant's fundamental restraint. No one feels embarrassed when singing chant: men don't feel forced into emotions they don't like to wear on their sleeves, and women don't feel forced into anything "militaristic." So:

    2. Chant is more gender-neutral.

    Last, I think that chant is simply a more perceptible way for Catholics to connect with the community of saints across time. To know that you're singing the same thing that was sung in the 9th century is edifying. So:

    3. Chant is a great way to connect with your Catholic roots, which is edifying.

    These seem like good reasons to me.

    Personally, I also love modal harmony, period. It's less predictable than major/minor and has an amazing expressive palette.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    One of my singers said the other day that the antiphon for the Nativity of the BVM sounded sad (Tone 1, of course). She's just not used to modal music because her musical education was as a classical harpist in a repertoire starting about 1750 onwards. I told her to focus on the splendid text.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "To know that you're singing the same thing that was sung in the 9th century is edifying."

    I think this can be a big point. At my last job, I asked all the students who their favorite saints were and then told them that, with the exception of those in the first few centuries, their favorite saints used the exact same words to pray the Pater as they were using. They were very interested in this.

    Being familiar with many theological traditions, I find it interesting that the Catholic one, compared to others, is the most concerned with things being REAL - not "real". For example, in the Sacrament, Calvinists believe in a real presence - but they mean a spiritual, not fleshly presence. Lutherans believe it too, but they believe the Body co-exists with the bread. Catholics aren't even satisfied with this, for them it IS the Body, no bread, really present. Same thing with apostolic succession. My girlfriend defines the "apostolic" part of the Creed as "having roughly the same teaching as the apostles." But for Catholics this means that St. Peter (or another apostle) REALLY laid his hands on someone who laid his hands on someone.... who laid his hands on someone who ordained your parish priest. Hence why English Catholics started the nasty rumors about Abp. Parker in the Reformation.

    It seems the same with music and text. Sure, Lutherans/Anglicans get the format of the Mass right (Introit, 2 Lessons, Canon, etc.) but they don't preserve the text faithfully. One can even go farther with the Catholic Mass and say that the Mass in Latin, and even the Tridentine Mass, has advantages because it is the exact same words used by countless saints down to the 8th century and beyond. I think that many may find chant appealing on those grounds alone, if they are informed of that.
  • The reporter just wrote to point out that he used the same wording to me that he used with people on the other side. So that lets him off the hook completely, and probably shows that I'm too sensitive to suggestions that chant people are uncharitable.
  • G
    Posts: 1,387
    The reporter just wrote to point out that he used the same wording to me that he used with people on the other side. So that lets him off the hook completely, and probably shows that I'm too sensitive to suggestions that chant people are uncharitable.


    However... we should take it as a reminder that intemperate comments (which are sometimes almost irresistible, mea culpa,) can hurt a cause.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)