Moving slowly versus inertia
  • On another thread I've posted a comment regarding my experiences over the last several years regarding how accusations of changing things too quickly don't square with the facts.

    I have a friend in church music who has experienced the same thing. He's very orthodox in his Catholic faith as well as his understanding of the importance of solid music in the liturgy. Like me, he is a classically-trained organist with many years of experience in choral music of the Western liturgical tradition. At a previous parish, he was accused of "changing things too much" when in fact, apart from actually training the choir and cantors to sing properly, he used, quite literally, the exact same music lists from previous years without change or deviation. In other words, he would go back to the planning sheets from the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time for cycle A from three years ago and use whatever had been selected. He did this as an experiment for a period of time, and low and behold people continued to complain that he was changing things too much.

    So, the topic for discussion, the question before us is: what empirical evidence do we use to determine the difference between inertia and moving very slowly?

    I'm wrestling with this on a regular basis, as I'm sure many of us are. I've been told to "meet people where they are then move them toward my goal." The trouble is, as illustrated above, absolutely no change whatsoever is perceived as change! Imagine the hue and cry if I actually did introduce a chant to the liturgy, even if it were in English. If no change is perceived as change, this would likely be seen as a radical attempt on my part to overthrow the entire stability of the parish. Those on staff and in the parish who keep pushing for "a more contemporary mix of music, especially for the youth" are seen as understanding the needs of the people and possessing pastoral sensitivity. Meanwhile I'm seen as unbending and insensitive. I can't seem to shake the feeling that I'm a completely unrealistic whack-job with no better intentions, motivations or understanding than the liberal Newchurch types who keep pushing for more "contemporary, upbeat" music in the liturgy. I'm just pushing for the opposite.

    What has been the experience of others? What has worked and not worked?
  • There is no one model, but one thing we've found is that when we push forward in one area, we volunteer to back off in another area. When we first came on the scene, we were forced to do the Paul VI Gloria (I think that is what it was called). It had no choir parts, so we wrote some and unplugged the organ/piano. We did that for a while and then slowly moved to an English plainsong version, meanwhile pushing forward away from Mass of Creation Sanctus into another and better setting. Eventually we got the whole Mass setting in plainsong English with no instruments. We slowly introduced the Latin in the Sanctus and Agnus, and kept the Gloria in English. When this year we finally got the Gloria in Latin, we let the Sanctus and Agnus revert back to English, as a way of dealing with possible criticism that we were going all Latin. When that stabilized, as it did recently, we pushed forward again with a Latin Agnus. We only need now to reintroduce the Latin Sanctus and we will have a full Latin ordinary! Yes, it did take 8 years, which is ridiculous, but the change is real. So it's been two steps forward and one and sometime two steps back stretched over a long period of time. A crazy dance but the results have been great.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    So, it would seem...

    Impatience in the pursuit of liturgical ideals is no virtue, and patience in dealing with the liturgically mundane is no vice.

    (For the record, count me among the impatient!)
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Thank you Jeffrey. Your patience and humility are very inspiring. I'm also very encouraged. Compare to your story, I feel I'm going too fast. I guess each parish is different, and the word 'slowly ' can vary. I will pray for more patience and humility for all the church musicians.
  • paul
    Posts: 60
    I remember when I was at another church and was implementing changes (that the new priest had asked me to implement) and got a lot of flak for it. A lady said to me "It just doesn't feel like my church anymore". I guess I was using the same repertoire they were used to, just accompaniment style (organ instead of praise combo or just piano) that they weren't used to. I seem to remember something, I think it's in SttL, that it's not a good principle to come in and rip the liturgical rug out from under a faith community. If they have their traditions "all things being equal", they're to be respected. What Jeffrey has very cleverly done, over the course of a couple years, is establish a new tradition. It's hard to undo traditions without stepping on toes, but from everything he write, he seems to have come up with a relatively painless (except for him, maybe) way of transitioning into a different space.
  • I wonder how the size and demographic of a parish play into the whole equation?

    I'm dealing with a suburban parish that has experienced explosive growth in the last ten years (and I mean explosive as in from 850 families 15 years ago to nearly 5,000 now), with a demographic of something on the order of 40% younger families with children.

    Does this matter? Would it perhaps explain why the attempt to move forward is always absolutely glacial?

    What are the practical considerations with respect to catechesis and preparation of a parish for changes like the introduction of a bit of chant or Latin to the Mass? Given how long it took the pastor to institute the appropriate changes regarding the pouring out of the wine prior to consecration (a nearly two-year effort) and to fine-tune the process of distributing communion under both species (with the requisite number of EME's, the figures are staggering), would it ever be possible for him to, say, institute the "Benedictine" arrangement of the altar without literally years of catechesis? And not just of the people, but first of the staff?

    It's just mind-boggling that we read of parish after parish where the changes are coming, and makes the desire for it burn even hotter in my situation!
  • What gets me is to hear how the “Vatican II changes” were implemented in at least some places: people came to Mass one weekend and got their familiar low Mass, and the next weekend the communion rail was gone, and the priest faced the assembly and spoke in English/ The explanations offered were scant at best.

    Now, many of us are eager to implement changes of a much smaller magnitude (does anyone here advocate for fully Latin liturgy in normal parishes on a regular basis?), and what do we constantly hear? “Go slowly.”

    My cynical side says, “yeah, go slowly so that ‘bigger fish’ will come up and effectively forestall any intended changes.”
  • Cantor, this is a different world now. The laity have much more power than they did in 1968 and those in power (to be fair, those who have it their way) will do what it takes to keep the status quo. The advantage that the Vat 2 changes had was that it was a virtually universal change (with the attendant collateral damage). If you try to change the currently universal practice in one church you have to fight not only TPTB but also deal with the fact that you are making your parish different from all the others in your area. THAT is the biggest obstacle IMO. It's not going to be easy, but there's no alternative.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    It's been said to death before: I'm young, inexperienced, offensive, and uncaring. But I don't see David's narrow view that "if people complain about no change, surely they'll freak out over massive change!" I always said that if people are going to be angry anyway (usually because I'm not Polish or some rumor started by a friend of the previous organist) I'll give them something to be angry about. I'm not going to play the pity game against David or anyone here, but my last job was so very depressing at times, and that without any friends in the area. It seems like many of you feel the same, but for what? A minor victory you got (singing 2 hymns with organ at a Mass instead of 1) while someone else got a major victory against you? Again, people will complain, and you will feel bad. So why let that happen over nothing?

    I see too many people on here misstating our goals. Our goal is NOT to make people like sacred music. Let me just throw this out there: we like it because we're geeks. Our goal should be to make people EXPECT it. You don't get that attitude by making it a thing "let's allow this once a year and the other times do the exact opposite. Maybe in a few years we can do it twice!" I can say with confidence that the only music inappropriate to the Mass that I ever did on Sundays at my last parish was "On This Day O Beautiful Mother". People still asked for Glory & Praise back, but they did it with decreasing frequency. The main complaint was "we don't know these hymns", which we all know is code for "we don't want to learn these hymns". And when people complained, I ALWAYS said to them "I will NOT argue with you about whether or not we should have Latin or chant. We MUST. I would love, however, to dialog with you as to how much fulfills the Church's mandate while not being above people's heads and such." Unsurprisingly, asking people for solutions shot them down...

    I'm not saying make a complete, unexplained conversion of your musical praxis. There was still PLENTY I wanted to accomplish at my last church. But we don't need to SNEAK things in, we need to make changes and give people time to ADJUST. Fr. Z posted about my former church making a short change to ad orientem. I don't want to spill the beans on things that aren't the business of anyone here, but I would guess that will NOT be welcome. I'm sure my former boss will be swarmed with complaints, and I can name people in the parish who will likely leave because he faced the altar for two weeks (and then the table goes back). But still celebrating Mass ad orientem is the RIGHT thing to do, and there may yet be positive fruit out of all that. And Fr would not be in a position to do that if he had a music director who was afraid of progress.

    Finally, let me mention that he finished his sermon series (although it's not online) with a sermon on how bad music and Mass facing the people are destructive to the focus of the liturgy. And a guitar player in the Saturday folk group, who was involved in a "strike" before I got there, came to him after Mass and said "Father, I've been reading about Vatican 2 and I'm surprised how much in the Mass as most people do it isn't supposed to be there. Like that ad orientem thing." He didn't hang up his guitar and lead a chant schola, but he's learning DUE TO the constant pressure that Fr and I had applied.

    That's my two cents. I recognize others have different views, and I respect that. However, I find that being overly cautious is usually unwarranted and some real progress can be made if we just DO things.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Let me add that I've become a bit more Republican/Libertarian as of late. "By their own bootstraps" and such. If you can't pay your bills, get a better job. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, don't make the government force people to insure you, move. If you can't afford gas, get a more fuel-efficient car. And again, if you can't afford the car get a better job.

    That is to say some parishes probably just don't "deserve" to have a musician like us. If the priest isn't on board and willing to back you, you're not getting ANYWHERE. If, borrowing from the title, there's inertia and movement in the OPPOSITE direction at the parish, don't even bother working there. It's not worth the trouble trying to slow them down and having imagined victories like "they may have guitar and bass, but at least I kept them from getting a drum set!" I'm not going to give career advice to anyone, as I need it more than most. But I will say that I've gone back to college to make sure I DON'T have to work in a parish where I have to make significant changes again.
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    Gavin, you're a very interesting guy. I don't always agree with you, but I hope you make it to the Colloquium next year so everyone can meet you.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,546
    "Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!"
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    It makes me wonder why
  • Miacoyne,

    What makes you wonder why?
  • Well, I do kind of agree with Gavin on the rather thankless task of slowing down the train in the wrong direction. I might add that one should develop some good people skills to make the job easier (or possible). Lay the groundwork before moving. If you start the ship in motion to correct course, make sure you have the 1st and 2nd mates in agreement. Here I mean the pastor, deacon(s), and other lay leaders. Not all will want to go along with you, but you need to learn the game that every politician knows -- build consensus groups so that you are not all alone. You may have to live with G&P music for a while during this period, but if you want the changes to happen and to stick, it's necessary. For me, it was liturgy committee. Every month I brought in something to make them think. No one else was ambitious enough to counter my "propaganda" so I was well along the way in changing the hearts of the "movers" of the parish. I had to leave for my present academic job before the process was complete, but I felt good about where we were going. During those 2 years, I changed almost nothing except my expectations for the choir. That's another story, but also a positive one. BTW I started up a youth group with pop music for the monthly youth Mass to cover my flanks, but I never let them do anything that was not appropriate for Mass (well, text-wise at least).
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I personally like Jeff's suggestion to give as much as you take. If you have a "blended" program, give 3 songs to an antiphon. If you are introducing a chant kyrie, use a popular ordinary. It's not the way I did things, but I wouldn't mind giving it a try.

    And at this point, I've made the decision that I'm done with "fixing" churches. I'm fed up with fighting people who want to keep me from doing my job. There ARE churches out there that have either a preserved tradition of good music, a new one, or are 100% on board to start one. And if one isn't open when I've got my degree, there's always the prots. Heck, even now the Boston Christian Science Motherchurch is hiring - what a job! Even if I were to return to a "fixer" church, I'd make sure that there was a good choir and a d*** good priest.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I wonder why some people want to go so fast. I expect there will be contemporary group for a long long time, at least in my parish. I respect for their devotion and enthusiasm. But I also believe someday, maybe not in my life time, they will drop their guitar and tambourines, join our schola and sing chants. Maybe I'm not ambitious as some people here, but I plant the seeds, and I'm happy with that. I might see something grow out of my planting, which I already witnessed, and I'll do my best with eveything I have to make them grow, but at the same time, I don't really plan to see the fruits. I do my best and the rest of it is in God's hand. As Mother Teresa says do all your work with love ( I believe she meant love of people.)
    Every parish is different. And I know my parish people are not ready for any drastic changes, not even our priests. Would you give solid food to a baby when he is not ready?(maybe you guys don't understand this very well :) Even if you had a best nutritious food, you know he cannot digest, you have to wait and help him to get ready. Just pushing it is not gonna work. Again, every parish situation is different. And I feel that many good musicians here are very stressed and frustrated. I hope we don't loose them too soon.
  • I should add that I would be thrilled if a pastor came to us and said: "Folks, if you are going to sing at this parish, I insist on full Gregorian propers and ordinary every week, and no addition of hymns that are not part of the structure of the Mass. Also, all readings in this parish will be sung, whether English or Latin, and I expect that schola members will assist in this at the Ordinary Form. Meanwhile, all extra rehearsal time should be spent working polyponic ordinary settings to sing at all major feasts."

    Yes Father, whatever you say.
  • Forgive me if I don't see it, but in my case I don't think the issue is that I'm trying to move things along too quickly. The issue is that despite the few little things I've tried, nothing is moving at all. Nothing. Nada. Meanwhile, in the course of the last two years the contemporary ensemble has been given all but free reign, carte blanche. They're growing by leaps and bounds. I've been told that we don't own enough sound equipment or music stands to accommodate them all. And more want to join. Meanwhile the 13 or 14 folks who have been hanging on by their fingernails in the parish adult choir feel like they're not wanted or appreciated. I've been told that we can't change a single aspect of the 9 AM Mass, not one note, hymn or acclamation, without requiring a complete re-evaluation of the entire catechetical emphasis and liturgical understanding of the whole parish, all 11,000 of them. To introduce the entrance antiphon in place of the opening hymn at 9 AM will require that the entire liturgy staff be on board. This includes the person in charge of sacramental prep who seems to have unbridled control over the liturgy committee, and whose liturgical and catechetical sensibilities are firmly rooted in the "spirit of Vatican II," to the point that the instant the issue of versus populum as against ad orientem is raised, even in casual conversation, she is literally provoked to turn her back and walk away, proclaiming over her shoulder, "I can't talk about this."

    Can you imagine if Father tried to put a few extra candles or a crucifix on the altar? Why, if the sac prep doyenne is to be believed, there'd be rioting in the parking lot. I can do nothing, nothing, without requiring a monumental discussion and consensus from everyone from her to the school cook.

    The obvious answer is that I must, as the disciples were instructed, leave the town, knocking the dust from my sandals at the gates as I leave. But, has anyone else had to deal with this, to this extreme? I honestly feel like I've slipped into some unreal, nightmarish realization of everything that is completely in keeping with all that was wrong, nay evil, about the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

    Is it time for me to write letters to the archdiocese? Rome? Remember, I live in the epicenter and birthplace of Haugen, Haas and Joncas. The Rev. Jan Michael Joncas has presided at Masses at our church. He verges on beatification even now, to hear some folk in the Twin Cities speak of him. David Haas operates his Music Ministry Alive program right here, producing little disciples every summer who then, often with the full backing of their parents, go back to their parishes and insist that Haas' way is so much better than anything else going. Haugen gives workshops, keynotes and concerts regularly. Is this juggernaut too much for one person to fight against? Apart from St. Agnes, St. Louis King of France and Nativity of Mary, I know of no other Catholic parish in the greater Twin Cities area where the "season of silliness" hasn't impacted some element of the music ministry.

    I keep hoping that someone will kidnap me in the middle of the night and take me to a little room where a man in all black, a bald head and pince nez sunglasses will offer me the "blue pill or the red pill" and that I'll wake up having been rescued from the Matrix.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    It's so sad to hear all this frustrating story. Is there anyone in your parish who can share the same view with you in doing music minisry there? Do you have a schola who agrees with you and sing at least one Mass in the right way, even if it's 7:30 mass where nobody wants to do it? I hope you don't give up. It seems that they really needs you. Can I dare to say that God sends you there for good reason. I don't think I can't do it. That's why I'm here, not there. I'm not qualified to handle those problems. David, you seem to have good knoledge and talents. I'm sure you did something good there. I wish we can all go there and help you. Someday you might have to move out there, but until then I hope you don't give up. What we are doing is a very very hard work. But you know that we are doing the right thing, and God wants you to keep doing it and trust Him that he is going to help you.
    I'm friend to contemporary group people here. I try to understand where they are, because I was very close to where they are. I used to think David Haas' music was OK.
    But I learned what Sacred music truly is, and that's what really helps to bring people close to God, not the yucky casual pop music. (Maybe for some people singing contemporary music is a first stpe to find the genuin sacred music. But the sacred music should be heard somehow. Otherwise, they will never get out of that level. A few month ago Pope Benedic announced that he wishes all the parish have Tridentine Mass. He didn't say a few parishes, or he didn't say no more Mass in Vernacular. He wants to have it available for people who are ready for it. I think we can do the same. The sacred music should be available in every parish in some mass, so people who are ready for it can join.) Most average Catholics just don't know things about Liturgy, and they are just purely ignorant. In many ways it's not their faults that they are ignorant. Please feel sorry for them and pray for them.
    My schola sings on Saturday Mass. I added all the Ordinary parts with chants. One time, I had a chance to have the microphone, so I told the congregation why we are singing Latin chants. I didn't use my words, I just quoted two statements from Vatican council II documents; the Church places Gregorain chants 1st place in liturgical sevices (116), and the Church wants the Faithful sing and say the Ordinary parts in Latin and the steps should be taken (54). I saw people nodding their heads and some even thank me that they would not have know it. I could feel my priest staring at me. There are times my priest don't completey agree with me, but I always asked permission from my priest whenever I added a part to sing chant. I aslo try to be respectful when I do that and give them good reasons with qoutes and writings. They are very busy and sometimes they can't pay enough attention to music. I do care for my priests and thankful for their work. and I do care for my parish and I'd like to help them as much as I can.
    Sorry for my long personal story, but I wanted to share with you. Thank you for reading.
    Mia
  • rogue63
    Posts: 410
    David, having read your saga over the course of the past few weeks, it sounds rather hopeless. The only time I ever experienced anything quite so discouraging and unstoppable was for one miserable semester in graduate school, when my wife and I, newly married, romped off into what we thought were well-paid grad assistant positions in roles we knew very well. Your use of the word "evil" is a good descriptior for what we experienced: we had been deceived, of course, by the gentlemen in charge and the whole program was just completely insane, with no desire for learning, no interest in improvement, no desire for new ideas, nothing at all---I was expected to just stand there and observe bad music-making with no comment whatever. Evil and insane--a lunatic asylum staffed by madmen.

    We prayed very hard for several months, and the Lord provided a miraculous way out, and we took it. Today, three years later, we're still happily married with a young son, and I'm in a new job, teaching music at an orthodox parish where sacred music is gaining ground. Why does this matter to you? It may not, but I wanted to give you a little hope. As much as it often seems like a mere platitude, genuine and earnest prayer is often the only lasting solution to our problems, temporal and spiritual (and those two spheres often seem inextricably linked). I certainly know that if I hadn't had such a negative experience and wanted to leave grad school, my career course would have stayed along my original plans, and my life would be drastically different today. I certainly would NOT be involved with the beautiful treasury of sacred music, and we would not have our beautiful young son. I remember mentioning a similar wish to my wife about the Matrix scenario when we were going through that horrible time. I won't presume to offer advice about the job, but I can certainly recommend the benefits of deep and patient prayer. Best wishes, and you'll be in my prayers.
  • My thanks to all for the remarks of sympathy. I go back and forth between being convinced I'm a complete whack-job and wondering if I'm the only sane around.

    I'm embarrassed to say that prayer is the one thing I've ignored in much of this, but sometimes I feel like, as the psalmist said, "tears have been my meat day and night."

    On a different note, there is a pastor of a small, rural church who has asked me to advise him on how to get a music program up and going in his parish. I'm going task lots of questions and listen to his answers more than say anything. If I find that he really understands what it's all about, I may see if I can't parlay it into something. I'm hoping he wants things like the PBC or BFW in the pews, and is interested in the catechesis necessary to bring the parish along.
  • The story reminds me of something I've been thinking about for a long time: how utterly and complete cut off from current trends are the "contemporary music" people. It's like they haven't read anything at all, and don't care to. The Pope doesn't matter. The GIRM doesn't matter. The long history of music in Church doesn't matter. The fact that 1000 years of the greatest musical treasures are going unheard doesn't matter. The responsibilities to the larger Church and the faith do no matter. They would instead prefer to remain in a state of blissful ignorance about all of this and just continue to sing 1970s standards every week until the end of time. I know that this description doesn't apply to all of them, but it characterizes many I've known. Really it is a problem of responsibility: they just don't feel that they have any beyond their week-to-week performance opportunity. I really don't see much hope in ever shaking these people from their blindness, and by "these people" I mean parish musicians who are paid and have been doing this for two to three decades, and see no reason to learn or improve what they are doing or make it part of a bigger picture of anything outside the parish walls. It really does boggle the mind.
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    I hate to say it but money talks. It appears the clergy doesn't want to upset the collection basket.
  • Jan,

    Well, that's as may be, but ISTM that if people are hungering for greater reverence at Mass, and the noisy, aging hippie minority is controlling things, and the collections are suffering anyways (much to the puzzlement of the leadership), it certainly couldn't hurt to give it a try, now could it?

    Besides, I know from my own personal experience while on vacation that while attending Mass with a really dreadful crooning cantor and lounge-style pianist and a rather heterodox "Fr. Nice Guy" priest celebrant, I put a dollar in the basket. The next weekend, I had an opportunity to attend an FSSP chapel (with no music) and was so refreshed by the reverence and solid preaching of the priest, I plunked down a 5-spot.

    Yep, you're right. Money talks. But what language?
  • People thought I was upset over the name of the person who leads the guitars at our church having his name listed as a musical director on the front of the bulletin...they can't understand that that's not it....it's that they continually refer to this group as a "Contemporary Music Ensemble."

    We are planning on singing the Arvo Part Berlinner Messe (in Latin, of course) and now don't know how to describe it. In the terms of Catholic Contemporary Music is it POST-Contemporary?

    I suppose doing truly contemporary music might limit attendance at some Masses.
  • >>We are planning on singing the Arvo Part Berlinner Messe (in Latin, of course) and now don't know how to describe it. In the terms of Catholic Contemporary Music is it POST-Contemporary?
  • Dear Noel,

    I would describe the Pärt as “accessible, contemporary”.

    Jeffrey wrote:
    how utterly and complete cut off from current trends are the "contemporary music" people.
    Yes, yes, and yes. I continually find that such people a) believe a fantasy that “everyone loves singing Tom Booth at Mass”, and b) don’t care two whits about liturgical propriety.

    Not all such people are “aging hippies”; I get brides from time to time who have pretty strong preferences to avoid anything they perceive as “chant”. (I guess we dare not allow our wedding to sound like church!)

    The issue, as I see it, is that this kind of stuff enjoys a “just as valid” status....which justifies the feelings of people who, for one reason or another, don’t find more “churchy” music to please their aesthetic tastes.

    I just wish I had a pastor who will look at the determinedly non-singing congregation members and tell them they are supposed to sing, and if they don’t, they enter a state of objective sin. That’s my big pet peeve of late.
  • Cantor,

    I'm not so sure that refusing to sing is an objective sin. In fact, ISTM that to think so sort of plays into the very "spirit of Vatican II" mindset that's permitted much of the awful music we deal with to be introduced into the Mass in the first place, all in the name of ensuring "full, active and conscious participation of all."

    I actually feel that, just as with other aspects of our lives wherein not everyone is at the same depth of spiritual maturity or capable of engaging themselves in the same disciplines of prayer, not everyone is capable of entering into the exercise and discipline of singing in the liturgy. We ask the saints to intercede for us in those things that we are ourselves unable to do, or find difficult. Why then is it a necessarily universal truism that all people at all times and in all places given their various dispositions and conditions should be capable of singing?

    I think the universal church and her music should be just that. If we can't participate in the Mass, the communion of saints and the angels are in attendance as well, with our guardian angels and patrons carrying us spiritually during those times when we can't seem to "pull it off" ourselves. Perhaps my theology on this is shaky, but ISTM that I've heard this described before.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,223
    I would agree that many of the "contemporary music people" are today's "know-nothings." But I look at the aftermath of Vatican II as Protestantism finally doing to the church what it couldn't do at Trent. At the time of Trent, the church actually had leadership that rebuffed Protestantism. After Vatican II, the attitude was, "look at the Protestants. They sing, they do this, they do that, let's do it too," ad nauseam. Rampant individualism, along with an empahisis on feelings, became the order of the day. It was, and is, "I feel, therefore I am." And you can't reason with this post -Vatican II crowd, because they don't even begin to understand reason, logic, or tradition. It's all about them and you will have hell to pay if you forget that. If we ever needed for God to raise up saints to lead the church, we need it today. Is it worse in the U.S. than in other countries? I really don't know. But there was a heresy called Americanism. I wonder if it has triumphed somewhat to the point of being behind some of the ills of the church in the U.S. Greater minds than mine will have to figure this one out.
  • Noel,
    Are you doing the Part at Sunday Mass?
    C

    Well, the best answer I can give you is: "I need this job, I need the benefits." so the answer is no.

    We anticipate this for a Mass, by invitation, that explores liturgical music.
  • Dear David,

    I was referring more to the parts of the Mass that GIRM and Musicam sacram pretty clearly say the congregation should sing, e.g. the dialogues.

    Would you not agree, though, that a Catholic who attends Mass and obstinately refuses to sing even one note, even just an “Ahhh-men”, is out of line?

    ISTM that your way of thinking of congregational singing isn’t in step with the “letter of the law” as various documents from even before V2 have spelled it out. I am as staunch as anyone of an opponent of the “everyone sings 5 hymns at Mass” approach championed by Haas & Co., but I do think we need to devote some attention to telling congregations that yes, it is your duty to sing certain parts of the Mass.
  • Noel, let me say after visiting your ministry website a few weeks back, I have no doubt your philosophy and praxis will ensure your stay and influence.
    Regarding this thread's overall topic of moving the agenda along...
    Dealing with all parish political factions and personnel dramas is less problematic, I believe, if you remain conversant and pliant when dealing with any involved party who decides to cross your path; be it the pastor, the egocentric ensemble guy, a brainwashed DRE or cookie cutter parochial school teachers, the kid who wants "Awesome God" played every week or the lady who misses the quiet Mass- one's ability to win friends and influence people has more to do with whether they trust that you are both transparently honest and sincere while charitable, accepting/tolerant of their random and often ridiculous preferences, and then can calmly and systematically point them back to the Roman Catholic Church. The person most in need of that trusting, helping hand is generally the pastor; and they are loathe to alter whatever status quo they've carried in their psychological kit bag for years.
    Most priests I've known are to some extent in great need of an attitude adjustment (read "ass kicking.") However, they whom I've known and still work with keep some measure of cloistered emotional distance from those DMs among us who have demonstrated both superior knowledge and authentic, excellent practice in our duties. And, as I've said a thousand times (like Gavin) one has to stay put in one's tenure to achieve a sort of universal parish credibility among all interest parties besides the check-signing cleric. But, once one has acquired that credibility and trust, then it becomes time to take some risks and push the envelope; let key people know that this period of re-adjustment is not some reactionary fad. Like MJB said in her article a year ago, everyone is used to the latest change, whether in personnel or ritual approach and style. They'll give it the same "ho hum, we can ignore this too" if it's didactically shoved in front of them.
    I'm working via Musica Sacram, first with the clerics once I can get Mister Mister to agree to a corporate pow wow; once I lay out the underlying principles that provide a clear understanding of the canons to them, they cannot dismiss their import by claiming ignorance anymore. Once they grasp how the mere act of trying to cant a collect, no matter how gifted or bereft of singing talent they possess, speaks with much more volume than any cult of personality, then you have the foundation for a serious dialogue. That opens up to ancillary stuff like ad orientem and the Benedictine altar, etc. If that dialogue bears fruit on Sunday through their unique (and to the public) enhanced role as presiders, then you should be able to engage one's musical peers in a more serious discussion that's not centered around a false status quo.
    At least, that's what I'm aiming for at my place. It's never easy and it's seldom that paradigms change on a dime just because they happen to be correct or "authentic."
    In a way, I almost think one has to go about one's "moving and shaking" like a Soprano; the wise guy, black hand type, not the divas. I know that betrays my "transparency" credo; but if in my heart I have the the wisdom of the Sacred Heart's love and compassion for His Bride, okay I'll work quietly in the shadows in order to expose the Light.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,223
    Of course, you are correct. The whole process is one of "feeling" your way along and making course adjustments depending on what you encounter. It's going to take years to undo 40 years of bad music and inept church leadership in liturgy. I realize that, but still have my days when I swear I will never work in another Catholic church again. On the good days, which are actually most days, I know progress is being made. It's like the old painting of the pope guiding the ship between the two pillars. Follow that ship.
  • Cantor,

    Thank you for your clarification.

    You're right, I do agree with you that obstinacy is a serious problem (and a sin). Yesterday's readings talked about proper fraternal correction, which is something that I think gets glossed over on a regular basis.

    By that same token, you would agree, would you not, that not everyone is capable of singing, even an "amen," if their soul is in a state of dryness. One of the beautiful aspects of our Faith is that when we are in those dry times, we have the broader church to carry us. I was simply cautioning, even within the context of a Mass celebrated with the best, purest forms of music and only asking the people to sing those parts belonging to them, to use their visibly active participation as a "gold standard" for evaluating their disposition or obstinacy is perhaps a bit harsh.
  • "Would you not agree, though, that a Catholic who attends Mass and obstinately refuses to sing even one note, even just an “Ahhh-men”, is out of line?"

    I tend to disagree. I think that they should be left alone, and we need to work to find things that they will want to sing. I think that we should reduce, rather then increase, how much of the Mass they should sing.

    The variety of the Protestant service is not Catholic. Catholic is repetition, repetition, repetition. I feel that the heart of the music to be sung by the people is the Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen and Agnus Dei. Tell a Baptist Preacher that he's going to do the exact same service every week with no changes, no chance to insert his personality and charm the people, inflame them and scare them....and he would immediately envision empty offering plates and having to drive a school bus to have money to eat.

    Then I'd like them to chant the Creed on one note. But sing the Glory to God, the great Hymn of the church.

    I'd prefer that they not sing the Alleluia or Psalm. Let the singers whom God has given voices the opportunity to sing them...and beautifully. But from a loft where they cannot be seen. And please, please cut all the microphone wires in the church that do not lead to the pulpit or the celebrant's wireless microphone.

    The Mass should be more a Quaker service than any other protestant form.

    And, if I have not offended enough people already. STOP CALLING A PULPIT AN AMBO. Ambones [don't you love the plural?] are not what most churches have. I have served at a church with an historic Ambo. There IS a difference....recognize it, educate people and we won't stumble when we fail to call a pulpit an ambo.

    Now I am condeming you all to days of trying not to be singing in your heads, "Dem' bones, dem' bones, dem....AM-bones...."
  • Dem' bones, dem' bones, dem.....TROMBONES!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,223
    Sackbutts, sackbutts, dem sackbutts! ;-) I am in agreement with Noel. Let those who want to sing do so - when it's a part of the mass they are supposed to sing.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I had an opportunity to attend an FSSP chapel (with no music) and was so refreshed by the reverence and solid preaching of the priest, I plunked down a 5-spot.


    A five-spot? That and a Graduale Triplex will buy you a venti macchiato.
  • 1) I can't afford a Triplex (have you priced one lately? I think last I checked they're around $80).

    2) I hate macchiatos (or, is it macchiati?)

    3) If you think a five-dollar bill is too little, talk to my creditors.

    (I know you're just funnin'. So am I. I think. I'll get back to you after my second Manhattan!)
  • G
    Posts: 1,391
    If you try to change the currently universal practice in one church you have to fight not only TPTB but also deal with the fact that you are making your parish different from all the others in your area. THAT is the biggest obstacle IMO.

    Can be.
    Our DRE, (I love the phrase "sacramental prep doyenne," by the way!,) in discussing the problem that frequently arises when she insists on forcing people to have their children baptized our particular, (and unique, I believe,) way, and they say naturally that no one requires parents to jump through those hoops at St X's, that we must just say, "well, that's the way we do it here."
    When I said we would have a much stronger argument if we instead told them, that's the way the Church, (big "C",) asks us to do it and she looked both annoyed and furtive -- I realized that what we were doing was NOT part of the rubrics, or the way the Church wants the sacrament administered., (this was early in my tenure, before I was aware of how "creative" some of TPTB liked to be, and I had not done much study beyond matters that were my business as a musician.)
    I have had great difficulty, even after 5 years, with the single positive change I have been able to make in all that time, using the In Paradisum as a recessional at funerals with a quirky and opinionated "funeral choir" which serves all the parishes in town.
    Naturally the complaint is, Yeah? if that's what we're SUPPOSED to do, why don't we have to do it at any other parish in the area, (including the cathedral.)

    I wonder why some people want to go so fast.

    I think many, many, many people despair of living long enough to see any improvement. I read such thoughts in comboxes all the time. I have older choristers who I think to cheer up with news of the "oh, did you hear what Ratzinger/Ranjith/Serratelli said about....?" who sigh that they'll never see whatever it is.
    And I think some of it has to do with asserting ones rights, ones freedom from someone who has no right to exert power over one.
    It's the damned unfairness of it.
    In the "liturgy wars" the ersatz "liberal" party likes to make big noises about someone, (Rome, that new meanie of a pastor, the silly old-fashioned chant musicians, whoever,) supposedly trying to "make" them do something, but it's a great big lie.
    Most of us recognize their genuine illiberality in trying to bend us to their will.
    If our parish were somehow to miraculously allow me to use a Gregorian Sanctus at one Mass this weekend, there are four parishes within walking distance and more than a dozen within a 10 minutes drive where the disgruntled could go to get their Mass of Creation fix, (not to mention waiting an hour and a half here....)
    But someone who doesn't care for the Lifeteen aesthetic, or objects to being bullied into singing "Ashes" or hectored into saying the responses louder, what are their choices? how far would they have to go?
    An hour's drive, that's how far. Another diocese. Another state. (They could stay in state, and go an hour and a half.)
    Or they can sit through a "blend" of bad hymns, good hymns, a some psalm tones, and maybe a Palestrina motet, if we have time after the congregational communion hymn is finished and before the EM has arrived in the loft, or if the EM has a quick stride, after the hymn, after the choir receives, but before the EM makes it back to the tabernacle and all music must cease.
    They can't even find a "quiet Mass." Verboten...
    Don't get me wrong, I would love it if everyone had and appreciated beautiful and appropriate Liturgy, but all I'm really striving for is not being forced to endure, and in some cases provide, ugly and inappropriate Liturgy.

    I just wish I had a pastor who will look at the determinedly non-singing congregation members and tell them they are supposed to sing, and if they don’t, they enter a state of objective sin. That’s my big pet peeve of late.

    Careful what you wish for.... there is someone I know who will say "the Lord be with you," and if he's not pleased with the decibel level of the response will repeat, "the LORD be WITH yooooou.....?" with an I can't HEEEEAR you inflection.
    I can't afford a Triplex

    Not guaranteeing they'll have any now, but i bought mine a couple years ago for 25% off list through half.com, not sure everyone knows about this site.
    I'll get back to you after my second Manhattan!

    Spending priorities....
    (I am only teasing!)

    Save the Liturgy, Save the World!
  • David wrote:
    By that same token, you would agree, would you not, that not everyone is capable of singing, even an "amen," if their soul is in a state of dryness. One of the beautiful aspects of our Faith is that when we are in those dry times, we have the broader church to carry us. I was simply cautioning, even within the context of a Mass celebrated with the best, purest forms of music and only asking the people to sing those parts belonging to them, to use their visibly active participation as a "gold standard" for evaluating their disposition or obstinacy is perhaps a bit harsh.

    A good point. Pius XII was careful to point out in Mediator Dei that external participation (e.g. singing) was not necessary for people to reap spiritual fruit from the liturgy.

    Still, there is no good reason, all things equal, for someone to choose not to sing his/her part of the Mass, just as there is no good reason (again, all things equal) for a capable priest to refuse to sing his part.

    I think even a tone-deaf person should sing at Mass. Everyone can sing “Amen”; some just don’t match the given pitch. ;-)
  • Noel wrote:
    I think that they should be left alone, and we need to work to find things that they will want to sing. I think that we should reduce, rather then increase, how much of the Mass they should sing.

    I don’t know about the “find things they will want to sing”. Many, many Catholics I encounter do not want to sing in Latin. At all.

    The variety of the Protestant service is not Catholic. Catholic is repetition, repetition, repetition. I feel that the heart of the music to be sung by the people is the Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen and Agnus Dei. Tell a Baptist Preacher that he's going to do the exact same service every week with no changes, no chance to insert his personality and charm the people, inflame them and scare them....and he would immediately envision empty offering plates and having to drive a school bus to have money to eat.

    I think I agree with you here, but I am not sure I understand your point. I do agree that the people’s part should primarily be the acclamations, dialogues, and Mass Ordinary.

    I'd prefer that they not sing the Alleluia or Psalm. Let the singers whom God has given voices the opportunity to sing them...and beautifully. But from a loft where they cannot be seen. And please, please cut all the microphone wires in the church that do not lead to the pulpit or the celebrant's wireless microphone.

    Of course, your argument here is with the rubrics that give precedence to the ambo for the singing of the responsorial psalm. (“Built of Living Stones”, at least)

    ISTM that the “response”-orial psalm is rather a silly form without the people’s sung “response”. I’m ok with this form as it stands...maybe because in my own parish, we do make it work, even with the proper responses and verses. Our congregations actually sing the brand-new response each week about as well as they sing anything.....which is to say, not nearly as well as they should, but hey.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Like Cantor, I find the de-emphasis on external participation puzzling. He didn't spell it out, but I suspect the folks he's talking about are the people 30 and lower who won't touch a hymnal if it has $100 bills between each page. Are we supposed to believe the dead-eyed teen in jeans half asleep in the pews during offertory is more devout a participant than the person who just does what they're told and picks up a hymnal? I realize that not everyone is spiritually disposed to sing - although when I'm at a spiritual low point, I ALWAYS sing because that's what gets me out! But if half of your congregation is suffering from intense spiritual depression, and that number rises anytime the music is in Latin, you've got some SERIOUS problems in your church!

    Why DO we excuse this with congregation members? WHY?? Would we be happy about a priest who skips the collect because "I don't know this one"? Shortened the Canon because "It's more than 2 verses"? In the old days, would a server get a free ride if he neglected his responses? All of these are horrible neglects of the role assigned in the rubrics, so WHY are we allowing the congregation, a specified choir, to neglect THEIR role? And for that matter, do YOUR servers make any responses or sing the music? Mine didn't. I'm going to posit a theory before anyone posts for the hundredth time about "participatio actuoso": the dead-head teens and rosarying old ladies probably AREN'T just in such a deep and active participation in the text of the Mass that they are left without so much as the energy for an Amen.

    That said, I think we can make motions and shamings and pleas all we like, but I think we have to just tell the truth: there is a role assigned to the congregation in the OF, and they have to do it. Again, there ARE exceptions. But look at your parish and all the other ones in America: are they 1/2 to 3/4 full of exceptions? No, these are people who don't see their role as important and still have the "brownie points" view of the Mass obligation. We need to challenge these people; perhaps if we can get them doing some external participation, the internal will follow.
  • But Gavin, what if there are people for whom external participation comes at the expense of internal contemplation? I've felt this before, this sense of not wanting to make a noise or move my mouth because I'm struck so profoundly by spiritual emotion. This happens to me especially in a tremendously beautiful liturgy. It happened to me in Portland this year. I recall that it happened once at St. Agnes in NY at a Mass at which the Machaut Missa Notre Dame was sung. I was awe struck and completely silenced by it, to the point that I couldn't even think of vocalizing responses. I just wanted to pray. I really don't see what is wrong with that.
  • "Of course, your argument here is with the rubrics that give precedence to the ambo for the singing of the responsorial psalm. (“Built of Living Stones”, at least)"

    No, we do not sing the psalm from the Pulpit (remember, there is a difference between ambones and...pulpiti?) my psalmists will sing it from a step, as specified in its name. And silence is often the most beautiful prayer....and silence can be enhanced by a beautiful chant melody...the silence before and after it is the canvas it's beauty is painted on.

    We sing the antiphon, the psalmist sings (unfortunately...there is a life and death struggle going on to get them to abandon the OCP melodies and sing psalm tones) and they all sing the antiphon at the end.

    This has stopped them from rushing through verses and eliminated interrupting the psalm with little responsorial jingles. It is better to have the people either meditating on the antiphon or listening to the verses than to be thinking, "When do we sing?"
  • The people who stand with closed mouths when we sing in Latin, as their children join in the singing....is this an occasion of....sin?
  • STOP CALLING A PULPIT AN AMBO. Ambones [don't you love the plural?] are not what most churches have. I have served at a church with an historic Ambo. There IS a difference....recognize it, educate people and we won't stumble when we fail to call a pulpit an ambo.


    (Warning: snarking, not directed at frogman noel, ahead . . .)

    I've just plucked a little volume off my shelf entitled,Worship Music: A Concise Dictionary by the highly-respected, dare I say legendary Edward Foley, Capuchin. Not unlike the Grove Dictionary of Music, each entry in this dictionary is contributed by a different author. In looking up "ambo", one reads the following definition, provided by Gordon E. Truitt (an equally highly-respected member of NPM):

    Ambo [Latin from Greek ambon]. "Pulpit." A raised platform in a church, clearly in evidence by the 4th century. It is used for chanting scriptural parts of the mass, preaching, announcements, lessons of the divine office and chanting the Exultet.


    (Announcements? Funny, but I'm unaware of any description of "announcements" being included in the liturgy of the 4th century. But hey, I'm not Edward Foley, Capuchin or Gordon E. Truitt.)

    Interestingly, there is no parallel or self-referent definition of "pulpit" provided in the book. We don't want to go confusing the issue, now do we.

    Now, going over to the encyclopedia at newadvent.org, we get a bit more information that seems to contradict what Truitt and Foley assert. Makes me wonder what else in this little dictionary might be incomplete, inaccurate or misleading.
  • frogman noel said:
    STOP CALLING A PULPIT AN AMBO. Ambones [don't you love the plural?]

    So the cantors who get up and gesticulate wildly during their performance can now be officially designated...

    The Hambones in the Ambones!
  • G
    Posts: 1,391
    the highly-respected, dare I say legendary Edward Foley,


    I take it you've never attended one of his seminars....

    The Hambones in the Ambones!


    This is priceless!

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • G,

    On the contrary, I've attended a number of NPM conventions where he either presented a keynote or a "breakout" session. I also own (purchased during my NPM days) his multi-CD series on Mystagogy in the Eucharist.