Removing The Beauty Of Mass For Lent
  • TeresaH
    Posts: 53
    We musicians just got word from our priest that his theme for Lent is "fasting from beauty." He wants us to reflect and think about the sacrifice that Jesus made for us by removing the beauty of Mass, little by little each week. The musicians will drop one musical part from each Mass until we are fasting from music altogether by the fifth weekend of Lent. Here is the plan we are supposed to follow:
    Feb. 10 - Ash Wednesday - drop mass parts
    Feb. 13-14 - drop opening song
    Feb. 20-21 - drop offertory song

    Feb. 27-28 - drop communion song
    March 5-6 - drop closing song
    March 12-13 - no music
    March 19-20 - Palm Sunday - quiet music during communion, may also do quiet music during the procession if you choose
    March 24 - Holy Thursday - quiet music for opening, offertory, communion
    and closing, no mass parts
    March 25 - Good Friday - quiet music for opening, offertory, communion
    and closing, no mass parts
    (Yeah, I know, someone doesn't get Good Friday.)
    March 26-27 - Holy Saturday & Easter - Loud and joyful music! Do everything!

    We are invited to let him know if we have any questions.

    That's just the music. Who knows what else he will cut out.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,409
    Well that's... interesting.
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,359
    We are invited to let him know if we have any questions.

    Did he make his request with a straight face? Or did he communicate by e-mail? If the latter, he might be asked the former.
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,382
    I can’t believe this is serious, given that he does not understand Good Friday.

    Fasting from beauty is absurd. Read David Brooks’s recent piece in the NY Times. Lent is beautiful but in its penitential way.

    Holy Thursday will be weird. I suppose he won’t ring bells, but there is a Gloria appointed...

    Back to TLM land I go.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,791
    "fasting from beauty."

    For me: God is Truth. Truth is Beauty. Therefore God is the epitome of all that is Beautiful.

    Fasting from Beauty means fasting from God: So I presume that you are all going to apostatize during lent, and then make a Solemn Profession of Faith at the Easter Vigil to reconcile yourselves to the Church?
    Thanked by 2bonniebede CHGiffen
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,355
    The idea that the Mass parts are the first thing dropped is red flag that this is seriously unserious. It's clear the Mass parts are viewed as wallpaper. Whereas they are liturgically more important than any hymn.

    A fast from junk and fast food would be a necessary precursor to any "fast from beauty".
    Thanked by 5CHGiffen fp G JL JulieColl
  • johnmann
    Posts: 175
    Come on, guys. He's only applying the well-known principle of progressive insolemnity.
  • rollingrj
    Posts: 294
    "Life's a banquet, and most poor fools are starving to death."

    And then there is this proposal.

    I don't get it.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    What the heck.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    This could be something of a stretch, but what are the chance you could leverage this line of thinking to have them actually implement the church's liturgical law about not using extra instrumentation?
    Thanked by 2MBW CHGiffen
  • cmb
    Posts: 68
    We are invited to let him know if we have any questions.

    Have you even read Musicam Sacram?

    On a more serious note, setting aside the goofy "fasting from beauty" thing, perhaps there is an opportunity here for some positive changes. Imagine instead of "dropping" the particular Mass part/song, on the appointed Sunday, those particular parts change from what in most US Catholic churches is a contemporary Mass setting or a substituted song in place of the propers to the appointed chants:

    Feb. 10 - Ash Wednesday - Mass of ________ replaced by Mass XVII (or Jubilate Deo, if Mass XVII is too complicated)
    Feb. 13-14 - Opening Song replaced by Introit
    Feb. 20-21 - Offertory Song replaced by Offertory Chant
    Feb. 27-28 - Communion Song replaced by Communion Chant
    March 5-6 - Closing Song replaced by Marian Antiphon (Ave Regina Caelorum)

    If the pastor's objective is to introduce a more solemn/sober atmosphere during Lent (as is appropriate), this might be a good counter-proposal. "Fasting" from instrumental music during Lent is already appointed by the Church, so perhaps with the right education/encouragement this can turn into something positive.
    Thanked by 4MBW ClergetKubisz Viola G
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115

    I am not sure if it's a good idea to associate the idea of propers with a lack of beauty in the minds of this pastor or parish.
    Posts: 175
    Actually, as unrooted in liturgical propriety as this priest's plan is, it will be more effective in demarcating Lent than what is done in most parishes. I think his congregation will actually notice.

    Of course, there are better ways of making this demarcation, but I applaud him for trying something striking. If I were in the OP's shoes, I would be trying to demonstrate to the pastor that there are other ways of making a noticeable difference between Lent and Ordinary time which both respect the content of the rites and better lead to a properly celebrated Holy Week. Maybe the OP has already done this and been rebuffed. If so, rejoice in the extra rehearsal time for Easter, since little else needs to be prepared.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,216
    I think Kimberly Walnut must be the Christian Formation Director and liturgist in this parish.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,454
    Reminds me of Cardinal Ratzinger's phrase:the reductionist form of celebration. It's very interesting since this is pretty much an admission that the Low Mass is a more penitential paradigm than a Sung Mass.

    I knew an EF pastor who regularly scheduled Low Masses on Sunday even though he had a schola and choir because he purposely wanted the Mass to be "difficult" for the people so they had to struggle a bit and were deprived of the consolation of music.

    I would think singing the Mass with unaccompanied chant (as the Church prescribed in Lent before the reforms!) would provide a more austere atmosphere without depriving the people of music altogether--- a paradigm which is not liturgically appropriate in any season since the Church traditionally provides music for every day of the year and almost every hour of the day in the old liturgical books.
  • One should never remove beauty from the Mass. It should be the most beautiful part of anyone's day, whether there's music or not. "Fasting from music" is, in my view, ridiculous. It sounds like a half-baked idea to me, and also sounds like it is being implemented because some influential parishioner, or group thereof, thought of it.

    The Mass is the most beautiful thing I can think of: why would I ever take steps to make it less beautiful? In fact, efforts should be made to add beauty to the Mass during the seasons of Advent and Lent, which should feel very different, liturgically, although I personally know of parishes where Advent and Lent don't look, sound, nor feel much different from one another.

    My head asplode.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • kenstb
    Posts: 364
    We musicians just got word from our priest that his theme for Lent is "fasting from beauty."
    Wow!!! Of all the half baked... I am not sure what is meant by "fasting from beauty", but I recognize an experiment when I see one. Perhaps I missed the point, but IMHO, there seems to be a disconnect on what is meant by beauty. The holy sacrifice of the mass is the action of Christ himself, and is beautiful even when it makes use of profound silence. Removing music from the mass seems to be the height of absurdity, especially during Lent.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    At best, he's poorly explaining and poorly implementing the roman lenten idea of austerity. At worst, he is liturgically clueless.
  • We musicians just got word from our priest that his theme for Lent is "fasting from beauty."

    I didn't need to read any more after that first sentence; I knew this was going to be a doozy.

    "...his theme for Lent..." - we are talking a Catholic parish/shrine/institution, not a quasi-liturgical Protestant one, right?

    More to the point, why would we ever want to "fast from beauty?" If one really wanted to "fast from beauty," why doesn't he suggest fasting from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass altogether?

    I might ask your priest if this would entitle me to a six-weekend vacation...with a straight face.
  • kenstb
    Posts: 364
    It seems as though this priest doesn't have experienced folks to advise him, or he isn't listening to them. Sometimes it is important to get a reality check from our colleagues before we make decisions.
  • The idea that the Mass parts are the first thing dropped is red flag that this is seriously unserious. It's clear the Mass parts are viewed as wallpaper.

    @Liam: it seems as if this priest views music in the Mass (let alone "singing the Mass") as wallpaper. Full stop.
  • TeresaH
    Posts: 53
    Let me give you a bit of background on this priest. He is 60 years old and ordained 30 years ago. His sermons start with "I hate that reading ..." "Jesus Didn't know anything about agriculture" "Who are they trying to kid?" "That is another boring gospel and who cares anyway?" I have a long list of his opening statements in homilies and they are all like that. He has no understanding of scripture.
    He makes no physical gestures during the Mass --never genuflects, bows, kisses the Gospels, etc. At the Consecration he barely lifts the Host and Challis a few inches and then quickly back down. (He has no physical impairments that would interfere with any of these.)
    In the year-and-a-half he has been at our parish he has never once lead the Kyrie or Gloria. He thinks if they aren't sung they shouldn't be recited. (The only times we have had the Kyrie is when I do the music and lead it. The other musicians don't know to do it.)

    He skips a lot of the Baptismal Rite, doing only the barest minimum, which doesn't include the rejection of Satan or the promises, or much else. He will skip the washing of the hands if the server hasn't gotten everything over to him in time. Lots of things are left out. He returned from a recent trip to Mexico and told in his homily of a special occasion Mass that he took part in lasting 2 1/2 hours which he said was ridiculous. He could have "gotten them out of there in just over an hour!"

    we, as a parish, used to kneel and say the St. Michael Prayer after each Mass as soon as the priest was out and the hymn was finished. He made us stop that because it was "trapping" people.

    He brags that he has been called in numerous times by the 3 bishops he has served under for various offenses but is going to wear and do what he pleases.

    I could go on for pages. He is, however, extremely friendly and personable, which is probably why he has always gotten away with everything. There are people here who appreciate the dignity and reverence my choir gives to Mass here because they observe the difference in the congregation from when others do their show choir performances. My choir always chants at least the Communion Proper from the SEP or SCG (sometimes accompanied, sometimes not) and often one or both of the others, depending on whether or not I can find a decent hymn that fits. All musicians here are volunteers and there is no leadership.

    This is the only Catholic church in town and I don't drive so have to make the best of things here. Any solid suggestions for handling this Lent thing would be greatly appreciated. I feel like I have to do something and I'm not afraid to talk about it to him, though it may do no good. I've tried before. But I don't even know where to start.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,216
    Yikes! Only church in town - does that mean it is a small parish in a smaller city? Is the bishop getting him out of his hair by sticking him in this parish?
    Thanked by 1kenstb
  • kenstb
    Posts: 364
    He is 60 years old and ordained 30 years ago.

    Prayers for you. He is fully formed...or deformed. Maybe you can have a chat, but don't be disappointed if it only manages to raise your blood pressure.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,216
    You could always try poison. Have you seen
    "Arsenic and Old Lace" by any chance? This priest won't be missed. LOL.
    Thanked by 2kenstb ZacPB189
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,382
    You know, taken to its extremes, one might say that fasting from beauty is to fast from God. That might get his attention.

    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,355

    Trigger warning: yellow face microaggressions in spades. (Per custom, with lyrics updated to be au courant.)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,686
    I hope he'll fast from unnecessary talking during the Mass, too: if he adds his own explanations to the ritual, if he adds greetings at the start of Mass and good wishes at the end, those should all go. And the homily should be simpler and shorter as the weeks go by, until it fits on one typed page, double-spaced, which, for the sake of Lenten restraint, he should prepare in advance and read out.

    Come to think of it, what I've just suggested would probably be a real improvement to the parish Mass, unlike his idea, which is contrary to the wisdom of the Church.

    On the positive side, it's good to know the pastor considers the parish music program to be an expression of beauty.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Vilyanor
  • cmb
    Posts: 68
    Ben, yes, I attempted to disclaim the whole "fasting from beauty" idea at the top of my comments and replace it with something better. Alas, from Teresa's follow-up comment, I'm afraid this might be a lost cause. Pray for vocations and for a lovely retirement villa for your pastor.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    Oh goodness. Reading the updated story about the priest leads me to believe the biological solution is probably the only way.

    BTW, have you let the vicar general know about his hacking of the baptismal rote? That's quite serious.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,355
    "At the Consecration he barely lifts the Host and Challis a few inches and then quickly back down."

    It should be noted that of the list of particulars, this thing is not like the others: it's not inconsistent with the instructions in the Missal, which envision a showing rather than an elevation of the Body and Precious Blood and an elevation thereof at the doxology. (I am not fond of when priests get all scrupulous about this one thing or something else they cherry pick, though, and then drive trucks through other clear instructions. Because I am not a fan of cherry picking, though I love cherries.)
  • If he wants to drop the mass parts, he will have to talk to the congregation - thats their part not the choirs.
    If he is not for turning, why not suggest that you drop things in an order consistent with musica sacram order of degrees...

    These degrees are so arranged that the first may be used even by itself, but the second and third, wholly or partially, may never be used without the first. In this way the faithful will be continually led towards an ever greater participation in the singing.

    29. The following belong to the first degree:

    (a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer.

    (b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel.

    (c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord's prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.

    30. The following belong to the second degree:

    (a) the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei;

    (b) the Creed;

    (c) the prayer of the faithful.

    31. The following belong to the third degree:

    (a) the songs at the Entrance and Communion processions;

    (b) the songs after the Lesson or Epistle;

    (c) the Alleluia before the Gospel;

    (d) the song at the Offertory;

    (e) the readings of Sacred Scripture, unless it seems more suitable to proclaim them without singing.
    Thanked by 1cmb
  • I was also thinking that adhering to the 3 tiers of MS would be more beneficial. I've also noticed in parishes in my area that priests are trying to make a concerted effort to appropriately adjust the amount of solemnity for various Masses and seasons by experimenting with which parts of the Mass are to be sung: some will be one weekend, but not the next. The Gloria in particular has been the subject of this: many weeks during the summer last year, it was not sung.
    Thanked by 1Ben Yanke
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,382
    Liam, that interpretation is particularly stupid, because it PO’s basically everyone except the authors of PrayTell.
    Posts: 175
    TeresaH - I think that you have done everything already that you can and should do. I would not try to improve his plan and I would not do anything to show him up with anyone, including the choir.

    Especially since your choice of parish is constrained, I would keep my eye on the musical prize, realizing that the pastor controls everything but the quality of your preparation and performance. What you learn now from dealing with this situation may well serve you well when you have a more congenial pastor, or are working with a more congenial celebrant.

    Don't get fired over this or let it affect your vision of what music should be in the liturgy. A better day will come.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,468
    I'm so sorry. Is there any way you could ask him to switch things around? Perhaps this instead:

    Feb. 10 - Ash Wednesday - drop opening song (how dramatic? - maybe just have a short chant?)
    Feb. 13-14 - drop closing song
    Feb. 20-21 - drop offertory song (insert chant? - maybe he would even go for a Taize chant repeated? - some priests of this age just love Taize)

    Feb. 27-28 - drop communion song (insert chant?)
    March 5-6 - drop singing the psalm and Gospel Acclamation
    March 12-13 - no music
    March 19-20 - Palm Sunday - quiet music during communion may also do quiet music during the procession if you choose (again, do the chants with the appropriate verses)
    March 24 - Holy Thursday - only the ordinary and the psalm
    March 25 - Good Friday - There is no Mass, so no Mass parts - but you could chant the Crux Fidelis or Parce Domine

    This may give MORE of the austerity he desires; you could pitch it that way. You were "invited" to give questions (suggestions?)

    Well, if this doesn't work at least you will have lots of time to rehearse for a musical feast at Easter! (and lots of time to pray for his replacement!)

  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,686
    Here's a reference for Liam's point:

    The rubric on p. 697 of the Roman Missal tells the priest to raise the host "slightly" ("parum") before reciting the prayer of consecration; and then he shows ("ostendit") the consecrated host to the people.

    Now, if the priest were offering Mass versus Deum, then showing the Host to the people would imply raising it high; but if he is celebrating versus populum, then the more modest elevation complies with the rubric. There's not much point in complaining about that.

    Bp. Elliott's Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite (#301) recommends that the elevation be done in an unhurried manner, and above eye-level.
    Thanked by 2Liam Ben Yanke
  • One more beneficiary of the Donatist controversy!
    How do they get ordained?
    What bishop who loved his flock would foist such a man off on them?
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,355
    My only point being that that thing is not an outright abuse the way the other things are.
  • I don't get just leaving out whole sections of music.

    When Lent comes around this is what I do:

    - Use Lenten Hymns
    - Organ registration is reduced ie no reeds or upperwork (sometimes manuals only)
    - Alternate Mass Setting - Chant Mass or one in a minor/modal key
    - The Chanting of the Our Father is done a cappella
    - Ash Wednesday - silent recessional (no recessional hymn or postlude)
    - First Sunday of Lent - silent recessional (no recessional hymn or postlude)
    - Palm Sunday - silent recessional (no recessional hymn or postlude)
    - Some Responsorial Psalms are sung without organ accompaniment
    - A cappella Lenten Gospel Acclamations

    On Laetare Sunday, I use the organ a little more
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,216
    I will do the usual for Lent - accompany singing with no reed stops, and play no instrumentals. On "pink" Sunday, I will play some Lenten organ chorale preludes by Reger and others of note.
    Thanked by 2Salieri Spriggo
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,681
    I might ask your priest if this would entitle me to a six-weekend paid vacation...with a straight face.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,454
    Somehow I thought St. Augustine's tortured reflections on sacred music might fit into this discussion:

    St. Augustine's Confessions, Book 10, Chapter 33:

    "I used to be much more fascinated by the pleasures of sound than the pleasures of smell. I was enthralled by them, but you broke my bonds and set me free. I admit that I still find some enjoyment in the music of hymns, which are alive with your praises, when I hear them sung by well-trained melodious voices. But I do not enjoy it so much that I cannot tear myself away. I can leave it when I wish. But if I am not to turn a deaf ear to music, which is the setting for the words which give it life, I must allow it a position of some honor in my heart, and I find it difficult to assign it to its proper place. For sometimes I feel that I treat it with more honor than it deserves. I realize that when they are sung these sacred words stir my mind to greater religious fervor and kindle in me a more ardent form of piety than they would if they were not sung; and I also know that there are particular modes in song and the voice, corresponding to my various emotions and able to stimulate them because of some mysterious relationship between the two. But I ought not to allow my mind to be paralysed by the gratification of my senses, which often leads it astray. For the senses are not content to take second place. Simply because I allow them their due, as adjuncts to reason, they attempt to take precedence and forge ahead of it, with the result that I sometimes sin in this way but am not aware of it until later.

    Sometimes, too, from over-anxiety to avoid this particular trap I make the mistake of being too strict. When this happens, I have no wish but to exclude from my ears, and from the ears of the Church as well, all the melody of those lovely chants to which the Psalms of David are habitually sung; and it seems safer to me to follow the precepts which I remember often having heard ascribed to Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, who used to oblige the lectors to recite the psalms with such slight modulation of the voice that they seemed to be speaking rather than chanting. But when I remember the tears that I shed on hearing the songs of the Church in the early days, soon after I had recovered my faith, and when I realize that nowadays it is not the singing that moves me but the meaning of the words when they are sung in a clear voice to the most appropriate tune, I again acknowledge the great value of this practice. So I waver between the danger that lies in gratifying the senses and the benefits which, as I know from experience, can accrue from singing. Without committing myself to an irrevocable opinion, I am inclined to approve of the custom of singing in church, in order that by indulging the ears weaker spirits may be inspired with feelings of devotion. Yet when I find the singing itself more moving than the truth which it conveys, I confess that this is a grievous sin, and at those times I would prefer not to hear the singer.

    This, then is my present state. Let those of my readers whose hearts are filled with charity, from which good actions spring, weep with me and weep for me. Those who feel no charity in themselves will not be moved with my words. But I beg you, O Lord my God, to look upon me and listen to me. Have pity on me and heal me, for you see that I have become a problem to myself, and this is the ailment from which I suffer."
  • johnmann
    Posts: 175
    This Augustine fellow has clearly been infected by the Poltergeist of Vatican II and its obsession with literal comprehension which holds in contempt the wisdom of the Church Fathers on these matters.
  • JahazaJahaza
    Posts: 468
    I'm not sure there's anything you can do here.
    Thanked by 1Ben Yanke
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,665
    This whole thread...
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,216
    As we say in the east, who was the heretic Augustine or Donatus? The answer is both of them LOL.
  • TeresaH
    Posts: 53
    I sent the email to a trusted priest and he said it needed to go to the diocesan liturgy director. I don't hold out much hope since this priest didn't listen to the deacon before.

    It is hard for me to sit and do nothing since I've seen first-hand what happens to the faithful when priests mess with the Mass; they either don't bother with Catholicism or they go schismatic like my mother did. She got sucked in by a self-proclaimed "monk" who cons elderly widows out of everything they have. He has been warned against by about all the dioceses in the Midwest and somehow always slithers out of his legal trouble. We just got my mother back 10 months ago and are still trying to get her untangled and deprogrammed. I have another close relative who left the Church when she ran off and eloped at 18, came back several years later and eventually only found reverence at Mass with the SSPX, then went to another schismatic.

    So, I find it hard to watch this happen here, not to mention the insult to our Lord.
  • Leaving out some or all music for the entire period of Lent makes a LOT more sense than dropping chunks bit by bit. Withdrawing music bit by bit puts the question in people's minds, "What are they going to do next week?" rather than assisting them in prayer and reverence.

    This is progressive foolishness. It will bring attention to the music (well, the lack of it) rather than focus people on the lenten liturgies.

    The only way to deal with this priest is for all the musicians to band together and approach him. If any of them refuse, then just let it be - or find another parish.

    CGZ, honoring your criticism, I have scratched out my message as being useless repetition.
  • progressive foolishness

    but you repeat yourself

    That said, my choir director (EF) describes the gradual falling-apart of the liturgy during Septuagesim, Lent and Passiontide. Eventually the prayers at the foot of the altar are removed, and many other things have gone away before that.... but this raises a really important question, in my mind: since the EF is immeasurably richer in symbols and gestures is the decomposition of the liturgy in the EF more effective as a teaching tool than it can ever be in the OF?

    Imagine this:

    During the rest of the year, the schola uses Gregorian propers; during Lent it uses psalm tones or recto tono singing. This has an impact on the hearers (besides the whole angelic court, of course). I'm not advocating that we do such a thing, but that's because I'm a liturgical maximalist. On the other hand, having Organ for most of the year and intentionally refusing its use at special times highlights those times.

    The proposal described by the OP does strike me as misguided madness, but I think it results from the need to create a ritual decomposition in a decomposed liturgy.
    Thanked by 1Reval