• First, Contemporary, I want to thank you for quoting church documents. It's clear that you have given this substantially more thought than the average worship leader (my impression, at any rate, is that many church musicians—contemporary or otherwise—haven't actually thought about this stuff all that much... I think the members of this forum are the exception rather than the rule). I appreciate you making appeals to legitimate sources rather than using the frustrating arguments that stem from mere opinions on aesthetics.

    Clearly, the sort of issues we had in the 60s with priests not believing the teachings of the Church (even the real presence), and and a strategy of not stating any doctrinal teaching that might even possibly be unpopular, created major problems.

    Sadly, I do not believe this to be merely a thing of the past. A previous associate pastor at the parish where I grew up once quipped, "you mean you actually believe in that cookie worship?" To my knowledge, this man is still in active ministry.

    Where I depart from your analysis is when it comes to claims that contemporary music can't authentically communicate the faith.

    I'm not sure that anyone here is claiming that contemporary music can't communicate the faith; the question is rather whether or not it has the qualities intrinsic to sacred music properly suited to the temple, and more to the point: corporate worship. This is why last week I was pressing the point that contemporary worship music is inherently secular in style (even you call it "contemporary").

    I find your quote from musicam sacram interesting:
    (b) The following come under the title of sacred music here: Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony in its various forms both ancient and modern, sacred music for the organ and other approved instruments, and sacred popular music, be it liturgical or simply religious.

    Right after "sacred popular music" the qualifiers are added "be it liturgical or simply religious".

    This is, in part, where I think your argument falters a bit. Even this document to which you appeal draws a distinction between music that has a religious theme and music that is fit for liturgy. This is also something I pointed out last week. As I said in that other thread, I haven't the slightest issue with praise music existing and being enjoyed by people. Far better to listen to christian pop music than the rest of the dribble on the radio! (Seriously; I'm not being hyperbolic. Better to be cleaning the kitchen or jogging and listening to this stuff than the filth that is both overt and subversively present in all pop music.) But just because it has a religious theme, or sings about/to Jesus, doesn't make it fit for Mass or the other liturgies of the church.

    JPII flat out said that the more music is inline with Gregorian chant, the more fit it is for the temple, and the further out of harmony it is, the less worthy of the temple it becomes. Full stop. Imitating secular music with guitars and drums and all the rest that comes with it is quite far from imitating gregorian chant. There's simply no wiggle room here. There just isn't.

    An important distinction: There are two types of contemporary Christian music:
    1. "Contemporary Christian Music (CCM)" - this is 90% of what gets played on Christian radio stations. It is basically Christian pop, and sometimes Christian Country or Christian Rock, or Christian whatever style of secular music is popular. Basically none of this is liturgically appropriate, and for the record, hardly anyone plays any of this stuff liturgically.
    2. "Praise and Worship Music" or "Worship Music" - most of this music does not get played on the radio, although radio airplay does occur sometimes. Praise and worship music is written to be sung by congregations at church and to sound sacred.

    The problem is, for the average person, there is no distinction. This, to me, is a bit like quibbling over which species of counterpoint a renaissance work employs. To the average person—musician even—it simply doesn't matter.

    What a person hears on the radio is going to form their opinion of this type of music, and if 90% of it is #1, then "Houston, we have a problem". I also find myself doubting the claim that real "worship music" is written to be sung by the congregation and sound sacred. A.) it doesn't sound at all like any of the sacred music that is our centuries old patrimony, which makes this a dubious claim at best, B.) as someone who has led congregational singing from an organ bench (and been asked to accompany worship music from time to time) for well over a decade now, I can tell you that this type of music is NOT well formulated to encourage congregational singing (this is a different discussion for another day) and finally C.) [and this is the biggest one] groups that try and lead worship music are often rag-tag groups of parishioners who are not formally musically trained, or only minimally so, and they typically have little-to-no theological or liturgical training. What does this mean? It means that they then try and sing this music in the style of #1. (More often than not, they want to sing #1, not just imitate it.) I have been to multiple churches and masses where these groups "perform". (I use this term deliberately.) Invariably there are guitars, drums, bass guitars playing through amps, and all the rest. Their frame of reference is that 90% you decry, so almost invariably, that becomes the music of the temple.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,155
    What little P&W music I've heard is all 'me/we' centered, not Christ centered. Can you provide examples that are Christ centered?
  • What little P&W music I've heard is all 'me/we' centered, not Christ centered. Can you provide examples that are Christ centered?


    Some examples:

    10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman (Psalm 103: 1-2, 8-9) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtwIT8JjddM

    Above All by Michael W Smith
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbvvVwQcbus

    Alabaster by Rend Collective (Matthew 26:6-11)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJsLcwScEDA

    Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson (John 1:29)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFEK68ncZ7o

    Better Is One Day by Matt Redman (Psalm 84:10)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4Fj9bbEmVk

    Come to the River by Housefires (Isaiah 55:1, Psalm 63:1, Psalm 34:8)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKVHGi1iRLE

    Even So Come by Chris Tomlin
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuTb0LsRRTQ

    Facedown by Matt Redman (Ezekiel 1:28, Isaiah 46:5)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fB7nORy5EU

    Here I Am To Worship by Tim Hughes
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86v2ZEsEKW8

    Here's My Heart by David Crowder
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkSBmRAVXNc

    Holy Is His Name by John Michael Talbot (Luke 1:46-56)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2X11zZuvDw

    Holy Is The Lord by Chris Tomlin (Nehemiah 8:5-10, Revelation 4:8, Isaiah 6:3)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVWBt8bfmCs

    Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God by Keith and Krysten Getty
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8FKZIz97AU

    I Will Follow by Chris Tomlin (Ruth 1:16)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ohvhmGSfxI

    Is He Worthy? by Andrew Peterson (Revelation 5:2-13)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIahc83Kvp4

    It Is Well by Bethel
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNqo4Un2uZI

    Jesus Messiah by Chris Tomlin (2 Corinthians 5:21)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdxSC1tHJn0

    Jesus, Son of God by Chris Tomlin
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEtB564vots

    Lead Me To The Cross by Hillsong
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_24IdbJ0Tw

    Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuvfMDhTyMA

    Miracle of Grace by Curtis Stephan
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tg7539_wOE

    Miracles by Jesus Culture
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vUvi-A75BU

    No Longer Slaves by Bethel (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:7)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8TkUMJtK5k

    Open The Eyes Of My Heart by Paul Baloche (Psalm 119:18, Ephesians 1:18)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wutmEjdbedE

    Pastures of the Lord by Curtis Stephan (Psalm 23)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_PisH9P_6E

    Praise The Father, Praise The Son by Chris Tomlin
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZoxpro2LO8

    Ready the Way by Curtis Stephan (Isaiah 40:3-4)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GGd6n5g8bo

    Refiner's Fire by Brian Doerksen (Psalm 51, Zechariah 13:9, 1 Peter 1:7, Malachi 3:2-3)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Y8zP34AhuU

    Remain in Me by Chad Cates (John 15:1-7)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUh3e5be8gE

    Set Me As A Seal by Matt Maher (Song of Solomon 1:1-3, 2:2, 2:14, 3:1-4, 4:9-11, 5:5, 8:6-7)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMUehTuoTCs

    We Fall Down by Chris Tomlin (Epiphany)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ge9O_HOKcE

    What A Beautiful Name by Hillsong (Philippians 2:6-11)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQWFzMvCfLE

    This is a sample of some of the songs I play for Mass and adoration.


  • How many of these (none of which I know) are intended for congregational participation through singing, including navigating difficult rhythms?
    Thanked by 1MNadalin
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,181
    Well, that's the thing. Soloistic songs don't really fit the idea of "cantus popularis".
  • First, Contemporary, I want to thank you for quoting church documents. It's clear that you have given this substantially more thought than the average worship leader (my impression, at any rate, is that many church musicians—contemporary or otherwise—haven't actually thought about this stuff all that much... I think the members of this forum are the exception rather than the rule). I appreciate you making appeals to legitimate sources rather than using the frustrating arguments that stem from mere opinions on aesthetics.


    Thank you!

    Clearly, the sort of issues we had in the 60s with priests not believing the teachings of the Church (even the real presence), and and a strategy of not stating any doctrinal teaching that might even possibly be unpopular, created major problems.
    Sadly, I do not believe this to be merely a thing of the past. A previous associate pastor at the parish where I grew up once quipped, "you mean you actually believe in that cookie worship?" To my knowledge, this man is still in active ministry.


    I was sorry to read this. It's tragic that such priests are in ministry. I don't know where you serve, but in the four US dioceses I have had the privilege to serve in, I've only ever worked with priests who believed, and it's clear that the young priests are all doctrinally orthodox. I believe that the Church is greatly improving in this area, although some places may see it later rather than sooner. I have great hope for the future of the Church.

    I'm not sure that anyone here is claiming that contemporary music can't communicate the faith; the question is rather whether or not it has the qualities intrinsic to sacred music properly suited to the temple, and more to the point: corporate worship. This is why last week I was pressing the point that contemporary worship music is inherently secular in style (even you call it "contemporary").


    I don't accept the premise that praise and worship music is secular in style. I agree that it has similar ingredients to some secular genres, but there are important differences that make praise and worship a distinct genre from any secular style.

    An important distinction: There are two types of contemporary Christian music:
    1. "Contemporary Christian Music (CCM)" - this is 90% of what gets played on Christian radio stations. It is basically Christian pop, and sometimes Christian Country or Christian Rock, or Christian whatever style of secular music is popular. Basically none of this is liturgically appropriate, and for the record, hardly anyone plays any of this stuff liturgically.
    2. "Praise and Worship Music" or "Worship Music" - most of this music does not get played on the radio, although radio airplay does occur sometimes. Praise and worship music is written to be sung by congregations at church and to sound sacred.
    The problem is, for the average person, there is no distinction. This, to me, is a bit like quibbling over which species of counterpoint a renaissance work employs. To the average person—musician even—it simply doesn't matter.


    You may be comforted to know that this distinction is followed in practice with a high degree of fidelity. If this distinction were not widely followed, the Billboard chart for CCM and the CCLI top 100 would mostly have the same songs on them. The CCLI top 100 is the 100 songs most reported as having been played by churches in the most recent pay period for CCLI. Now, CCLI includes all denominations in this list, so ymmv. But, compare:
    https://songselect.ccli.com/search/results?List=top100
    https://www.billboard.com/charts/christian-songs/

    At a first glance I did not see any songs in common between these lists.

    Incompetent praise bands playing songs from set 2 as if they are members of set 1 is a real problem though.
    groups that try and lead worship music are often rag-tag groups of parishioners who are not formally musically trained, or only minimally so, and they typically have little-to-no theological or liturgical training. What does this mean? It means that they then try and sing this music in the style of #1. (More often than not, they want to sing #1, not just imitate it.) I have been to multiple churches and masses where these groups "perform". (I use this term deliberately.) Invariably there are guitars, drums, bass guitars playing through amps, and all the rest. Their frame of reference is that 90% you decry, so almost invariably, that becomes the music of the temple.


    I pretty much agree with everything you said here. This is a real pet peeve of mine. I've had numerous encounters with people who think that praise and worship music creates some kind of permission to be exempted from normal standards for talent, attention to detail, and so forth. I don't understand why Catholic congregations tolerate this. If you pick a praise and worship song that is played in both Catholic and Evangelical parishes then compare the actual quality of the music from a randomly sampled Catholic and Evangelical congregation, there's a high probability that the Evangelical church will sound significantly better.

    Any advocacy of mine for the liturgical usage of praise and worship is with the qualification that is it is played by people who are qualified to do an excellent job.

    Invariably there are guitars, drums, bass guitars playing through amps, and all the rest.


    You can make this sound beautiful and sacred, but it takes skill, and financial resources to have proper sound equipment. For example, see some of the links above from Hillsong and Bethel. However, it seems to me that most Catholic music programs lack both the skill and the equipment to handle these instruments properly.

    A good praise and worship song will work well with just a piano or acoustic guitar. Stick to that, if that's what you have the ability to do well.
  • as someone who has led congregational singing from an organ bench (and been asked to accompany worship music from time to time) for well over a decade now, I can tell you that this type of music is NOT well formulated to encourage congregational singing (this is a different discussion for another day)


    Well, that's the thing. Soloistic songs don't really fit the idea of "cantus popularis".


    How many of these (none of which I know) are intended for congregational participation through singing, including navigating difficult rhythms?


    All of the songs I listed are intended for congregational singing. I've successfully led congregations in all of these songs.

    Congregations can sing these songs well and loudly, and I've personally experienced this many times.

    The rhythms really are no difficulty for congregations. For most of the songs I listed, I can sing them by heart without having the music in front of me and without having to count. Paradoxically, this is easier for the general population than it is for classically trained musicians. The rhythms are indeed different and more complex than those commonly encountered in classical music. If you've devoted your life to being really good at classical music, these rhythms will feel foreign. Yet, to the general population, these rhythms are pretty intuitive. There's an art to leading a congregation with these songs, and part of that art is making the rhythm feel like it is the most natural way to sing the text. When you play the song in a natural way, the congregation will pick the rhythm up. Most of these songs have a feel to them, and once you pick up that feel, it will be natural and obvious how to play them, and you won't need to be counting out 16th notes to figure out how to sing or play.
  • I’ve been trying to give these a chance, but as soon as Matt Redman’s “better is one day” started I nearly chortled out loud. There is nothing about this that is church appropriate apart from the lyrics. Lyrics alone don’t meet the litmus test, however. In case you're curious, here is an introit that treats the same psalm text: https://youtu.be/sU0FsJGXiNs

    To say that one does not reconcile with the other is the understatement of the day.
    _____
    Of the examples listed above that I listened to (a number of them, by the way) the only ones that even remotely approach something I would deem "congregational" are those that resemble the structure of traditional hymnody in their melodies and poetry, even though they are cloaked in modern musical language.

    Some of them have truly fantastic words (scripture tropes) or are formulated as beautiful prayers. I rather liked the beginning of Alabaster, for instance. We need more of that humility in prayer. BUT... and it's a big but: all the examples you post are performances. They are people on stage, with flashing lights, ear pieces, fog machines, and people waiving hands in the air. I alluded to this the other day and you insisted that praise and worship music isn't a performance, and that you've never seen churches that do this. Most of these videos were filmed in protestant "churches". This IS church for them. It IS a performance.

    You can say, "but that's not how we do it in Catholic Church" but that's a cop out. These other things come part and parcel with this style of music. Either you do damage to the liturgy by performing the music properly, or you do damage to the music. You can't have it both ways: you can't play it like a professional band, but be reverent for liturgy.

    And for the record: there is nothing about a drum set that can contribute to prayerful music. Absolutely nothing.

    In the end, what you are linking to can be deemed "good music" for what it is; it is well done in respect to its own genre. But it simply isn't liturgical music. It is religious music, but not liturgical music. It is ok for it to find its own place in P&W concerts, the radio, the car and wherever else, but it is not fit for the Mass or other liturgies.

    I don't accept the premise that praise and worship music is secular in style. I agree that it has similar ingredients to some secular genres, but there are important differences that make praise and worship a distinct genre from any secular style.

    I simply fail to understand how this can be. It sounds exactly the same as secular ballads. The melodies are similar. The instrumentation is similar. The vocal styles are similar. The structure of the music (verses, refrains, vamps 2/3 of the way through, etc.) is the same. The manner of playing the instruments is the same (guitar strumming is identical. drumming is identical. etc.). The ONLY discernible difference is the subject matter of the text. That's it.

    I'll grant that there are codified tropes to P&W music (they all start comically the same, half of them are in the same key, and you can often swap out one set of lyrics for another because the chord progressions are so simple and repetitive that they sound remarkably similar), but they are not different in essence from the secular style they imitate. It really is that simple. Perhaps you perceive it to be particularly religious since it is the primary form of music making that you do at church; but that just colors your perception of it from within.

    From without, I'm telling you—and I haven't the faintest doubt that others here will back me up on this—this music strikes the ear as no different than anything else on the radio. For heaven's sake: listen to the beginning of the "better is one day" again. It is not only contemporary music, it's borderline rock.

    Yet, to the general population, these rhythms are pretty intuitive.
    Because they are the same as what they listen to on the radio. They are, on the whole, repetitive, and not substantially different to what they are used to hearing day in and day out.

    I will end it here, because it's late and I have practicing to do, but please don't interpret any of my comments as attacking you, personally. As I said, I can tell you've thought about this more deeply than many people, and I would really like to find common ground here. I'm simply pressing the idea that these songs are fit for liturgy. If we give any credence to JPII's remarks about music savoring of Gregorian chant, there's just no getting around some glaring issues here.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen hilluminar
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,169
    BUT... and it's a big but: all the examples you post are performances.
    And for the record: there is nothing about a drum set that can contribute to prayerful music. Absolutely nothing.
    But it simply isn't liturgical music. It is religious music, but not liturgical music.
    It sounds exactly the same as secular ballads. The melodies are similar. The instrumentation is similar. The vocal styles are similar. The structure of the music (verses, refrains, vamps 2/3 of the way through, etc.) is the same. The manner of playing the instruments is the same (guitar strumming is identical. drumming is identical. etc.). The ONLY discernible difference is the subject matter of the text. That's it.
    ... but they are not different in essence from the secular style they imitate.

    That about sums it up for me, too. I also agree about "Better is One Day" and of the first ten that I listened to, at least one (or two) seemed to me to be "my/I" centered, not God centered. Of the songs I listened to, if even ONE of them had been "performed" at Adoration, I would have had to leave (Adoration is no place for performances), and if performed or even programmed as for congregational singing, I would not have found them (musically) any better than the schlock that already pervades the current so-called liturgical music atmosphere in my area.

    I've refrained from chiming in on this thread because of its disturbing nature ... but: When the P&W music gets especially loud and raucous with drums, squawking electric guitars, and shrieking/grunting/groaning vocalists, I become more and more convinced that with this sort of music, P&W doesn't stand for Praise & Worship, but rather the noise suggest that it might stand for Pratt & Whitney (jet engines).

  • I wonder if this would be a good analogy for why praise and worship music is inappropriate for mass:

    Let's say a theologian is developing a new idea. If his new idea is something that is completely new and not grounded in established theology, his idea will be largely rejected. Suppose, however, he says "Thomas Aquinas said X. From his thoughts I can conclude Y." This new idea is going to have a lot more credibility because it is grounded in what came before.

    You could also extend this to science. A scientist who makes a discovery by expanding the work of others is going to be better received than one who says something completely new. It's not a perfect comparison because sometimes established scientific thought is completely wrong (think what happened to Galileo).

    To bring this back to music: if a composer bases a work on already established sacred music but expands the musical idea, that work is more suitable for liturgy. A good example of this would be polyphony. It started as an embellishment on Gregorian chant. You can often find parts of the chant melody in a polyphonic piece. However, composers of praise and worship music after Vatican II (I'm thinking St Louis Jesuits, etc) we're trying to be completely different. Their music is not suitable for mass because it is a complete break with what came before.
  • Your analogy holds to a certain point, I think.

    Even works based in older ideas can sometimes be regarded with hostile suspicion, and rightly so.

    If someone were to say (as I read in print, but I'll paraphrase because I don't have the book in front of me) "St. John tells us that Jesus intended to be taken seriously. Thomas Aquinas got Jesus and St. John all wrong by inverting the ideas. The "mystical" body of Christ is the Holy Eucharist, and the TRUE body of Christ is the Church".... such a person, though he cited both Scripture and Tradition, would be mistaken to such a degree that his every utterance should be held suspect.


  • I usually dont participate in these discussions but reading some of the arguments and taking some time away from the argument- I would like to offer some principals to keep in mind.

    1. There is a time and place for everything. Praise and worship could be helpful for some souls especially at the beginning of their growth in the spiritual life but this should be outside the sacramental life of the Church. The official music of the church is gregorian chant and thus it should be given the predominant place as stated in several church documents.

    2. Divine Worship is not for ourselves but for God. There is a penitential nature in the liturgy which suggests that even if a certain type of music makes me FEEL closer to God, I should not be looking for FEELINGS in the liturgy but to offer a sacrifice of praise to God in the way the church recommends its faithful. The liturgy is not a time to bring out my own personal preferences in worship but to unite myself with the Universal Church in singing the song of the Bride of Christ at CALVARY.

    3. I have found from experience, that many have been drawn to conversion through praise and worship but later on, when the consolations and feelings went away they found it hard to pray, felt God had abandoned them and left the church all together. Keep in mind the doctrine of Saint John of the Cross, which teaches that we should strive to go to God by the road of self- emptying of all that is not Him including that which causes SENSIBLE devotion. Of course in the beginning these things are helpful, but they are only means to the end of attaining union with God, and we should learn at some point to feed on substantial food and not just milk (as St Paul says).

    In summa: Praise and worship can be helpful for some people but these people should be careful to give it its time and place, and even then should be careful that they are not seeking consolations but the God of Consolation in prayer- and remember that the Church in its wisdom has given gregorian as the official music of the liturgy and thus it should be esteemed by them even if it is not naturally pleasing to their nature.

    On the other side of the fence, those who love tradition should also be careful to not be so rigid remembering that the Incarnate Word came down and took on our Humanity and thus, the Evangelization of the Culture at time requires creative evanglization to incorportate traditions within the good already embeded in the culture.

    2 sides of the coin.

    Sister Marie
  • Chris, I was simply using Aquinas as an example of a well respected theologian. You could put Augustine, Newman, or any number of others in there.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,707
    OK... I am chiming in as one who was on the bleeding edge of P&W for many years (decades), beginning (when it all started) in the late 60's on the guitar, and ending (on the guitar) in 2013... 40+ years. I had the Hammond B3 in my teen years and play jazz piano today... so in these regards, I am (or have been) a professional musician of 'contemporary musical styles', and I have also composed music for all situations... classical, jazz, rock, pop, P&W ensembles, and more.

    Regrettably, I am one of the original 'experimenters' of liturgical musical style. In my final years of leading a congregation as a full time DoM, I played what I dubbed the 'guorgan'... playing the 12 string guitar along with the pedals of the pipe organ, and sang into a microphone from the front of the sanctuary... (btw, I did this at that point because I was 'saving' my job as the admin was doing everything they could to fire me because I simultaneously held to all the aspects of tradition (dogma, sacred music [gregorian chant, polyphony, pipe organ])... in the end I lasted two more years playing a chameleon when they finally said to me... "we cannot fire you because of your job performance... you have done a perfect job... however, you have a DIFFERENT PHILOSOPHY from us, and on that point we are letting you go."

    So here is the long and short of it...

    Gnu theology is married to Gnu music.

    Tradition is married to authentic sacred music.

    The Gnu church DOES NOT WANT tradition (both in theology nor its expression of sacred music). You as a DoM might find yourself in a temporary hybrid environment where the two can coexist, but it WILL BE TEMPORARY... even if that means a few weeks or even a few years. But your willingness and capacity to produce both Gnu and Traditional will significantly determine your longevity in a position. Beyond that, the change of a pastor will certainly challenge any perceived stability in the situation in either direction.

    The Novus Ordo IS a 'new order' ... it IS a new rite... (the present stance from the Vatican is finally making this truth black and white)... I have lived and labored in this foxhole for almost 50 years and have consistently suffered the fallout of this phenomenon from 1969-2013. It is a diabolical perfectly unbalanced schizophrenic liturgical millieu, or as Paul VI described it, "the church is undergoing self-demolition."

    So, y'all can keep on arguing the point from one side or the other (splitting hairs ad nuseum), but for me, the proof is in how I was treated for decades... dealing with those who run the Gnu church... I received nothing but suspicion and hostility (more or less) depending upon how much I was willing to compromise my own philosophy and serve their own agenda.
    Thanked by 1sdtalley3
  • Nathan,
    I completely agree with your employment of Aquinas. I understood what you meant. Indeed, you could have used Augustine or Athanasius or anyone else and my point would have been the same: sources can be quoted inaccurately or with the desire to give an air of credibility which the citer doesn't deserve based on how he used the source. This doesn't change the reliability of the original source. Aquinas doesn't become less reliable because some clueless twits quote him to serve self-serving purpose. The Bible doesn't become less the written word of God just because people can quote it selectively to demonstrate all sorts of nonsense:

    "And Cain killed his brother Abel"
    "Go thou, and do likewise".
  • sources can be quoted inaccurately or with the desire to give an air of credibility which the citer doesn't deserve based on how he used the source.
    A great irony in this observation is the fact that this is precisely what happened in the wake of the council. "VII fathers want XXX" (but when you actually read the documents you realize great liberties were taken with their "interpretation").
  • I think I misunderstood your original point, Chris. Thanks for the clarification.
  • Mark, others,

    Francis (as he frequently does) has hit the nail squarely on the head. The music which is so completely unlike anything the Church has approved and encouraged before reflects the fact that the self-understanding of those who promote it is at odds with what the Church has always taught.

    Can you like Billy Joel? Sure. Can you claim that his music belongs at the public worship of the Church? Not if you want to be taken seriously.
  • I’ve been trying to give these a chance, but as soon as Matt Redman’s “better is one day” started I nearly chortled out loud. There is nothing about this that is church appropriate apart from the lyrics.


    From without, I'm telling you—and I haven't the faintest doubt that others here will back me up on this—this music strikes the ear as no different than anything else on the radio. For heaven's sake: listen to the beginning of the "better is one day" again. It is not only contemporary music, it's borderline rock.


    I'm having a hard time understanding what your objection is to Better Is One Day in particular. The recording has some studio effects in it that a live worship band wouldn't ever use. The beginning of the recording has an "oh oh oh" flourish that wouldn't be done in church either, maybe you were referencing that? Anyways, I kind of regret sending this recording because it's full of studio effects and I forget that others don't have a mental model in their head to filter out the studio effects and hear how it would sound with a small ensemble. For example, the choir I direct is usually just some singers plus me on the piano. Occasionally we have guitar players. Here's the same song without studio effects: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L51-vKnYT30&ab_channel=CephasKIM (the singer could improve his vocal technique a bit, but for the most part I think this recording is well executed)

    no different than anything else on the radio


    I disagree. Could a radio station that plays rock, pop, or any other secular genre swap out their playlist for any of these songs and expect to keep their audience? I think this is extremely unlikely. There are significant differences between these genres and praise and worship, and audience members accustomed to their preferred genre wouldn't like praise and worship being substituted in. Now, there are Christian bands that have succeeded in the crossover market, but that's because they write their music in explicitly pop or rock styles to get airplay on such radio stations. One such artist is Skillet, and their music sounds like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mjlM_RnsVE&ab_channel=AtlanticRecords No credible liturgical music program includes Skillet in their repertoire.

    all the examples you post are performances. They are people on stage, with flashing lights, ear pieces, fog machines, and people waiving hands in the air. I alluded to this the other day and you insisted that praise and worship music isn't a performance, and that you've never seen churches that do this. Most of these videos were filmed in protestant "churches". This IS church for them. It IS a performance.


    Whether something is a performance or a prayer is a matter intention and I think it is simply impossible to know the intentions of any of the people leading worship in these videos. Yes, Protestant churches have their musicians lead from the front, and their purpose for doing this is to have the musicians lead the congregation in prayer. Raising ones hands in prayer is a traditional posture of prayer that goes all way back to the Old Testament. I don't think it's our place to tell Protestants that they aren't really praying when they go to church, and from my personal experience in having friendships with people who attend such churches, I am confident that they are genuine when they say that this is a prayer form for them.

    I think fog machines are kind of silly, but it seems like it serves a similar role for them that incense serves for us. I would never use a fog machine in a Catholic context, but I think this is entirely a matter of how different populations socially construct the meaning of a fog machine. A fog machine totally wouldn't fly in a Catholic context, on the other hand, the role that Protestants socially construct the fog machine to play is such that I don't think their presence is a good argument that they are performing rather than praying.

    Similarly, ear pieces are a very useful piece of sound equipment. They allow you to hear the mix directly in your ear, along with a click track that helps keep everyone in time. I would love to use them if the parish I serve in had vastly more money than we actually have.

    I do agree that the lights in some of these videos are utilized in a self-aggrandizing way. I would prefer to see that changed.

    You can say, "but that's not how we do it in Catholic Church" but that's a cop out. These other things come part and parcel with this style of music. Either you do damage to the liturgy by performing the music properly, or you do damage to the music. You can't have it both ways: you can't play it like a professional band, but be reverent for liturgy.


    I disagree with your claims about what are intrinsic to the character of praise and worship music. It appears to me that your argument is that instrumentation and something like being up front with cool lighting are intrinsic to praise and worship. They are very much not. My choir plays from a choir loft and it's either me and some singers or me, some singers, a guitar player, and a bass player. I think the main things that are intrinsic to praise and worship are the chord progressions and rhythms. You can play that with any instrument that can support the chord progressions and rhythms well. The vast majority of praise and worship songs sound good with piano alone and with guitar alone. Good praise and worship songs have the human voice as the primary instrument such that the instrumental accompaniment is of secondary importance.

    And for the record: there is nothing about a drum set that can contribute to prayerful music. Absolutely nothing.


    A survey of global religions particularly including expressions of Christianity outside of Europe and North America would find that the religious use of drums is very common. This suggests to me that there are sacred ways to use drums. As a musician serving in the United States, I have to be sensitive to what the religious culture surrounding drums is here, but that's a slightly different conversation.
  • I simply fail to understand how this can be. It sounds exactly the same as secular ballads. The melodies are similar. The instrumentation is similar. The vocal styles are similar. The structure of the music (verses, refrains, vamps 2/3 of the way through, etc.) is the same. The manner of playing the instruments is the same (guitar strumming is identical. drumming is identical. etc.). The ONLY discernible difference is the subject matter of the text. That's it.

    I'll grant that there are codified tropes to P&W music (they all start comically the same, half of them are in the same key, and you can often swap out one set of lyrics for another because the chord progressions are so simple and repetitive that they sound remarkably similar), but they are not different in essence from the secular style they imitate. It really is that simple. Perhaps you perceive it to be particularly religious since it is the primary form of music making that you do at church; but that just colors your perception of it from within.

    From without, I'm telling you—and I haven't the faintest doubt that others here will back me up on this—this music strikes the ear as no different than anything else on the radio. For heaven's sake: listen to the beginning of the "better is one day" again. It is not only contemporary music, it's borderline rock.


    Praise and worship music utilizes several compositional techniques that distinguish it from secular music.

    First and foremost, good praise and worship music uses the human voice as the primary instrument. So, everything else about how the song is written should be about supporting the singing, and not about having the instrumentation overpower the singer.

    Furthermore, good praise and worship music makes the text the primary aspect of the music. So, everything else about how the song is written should be about presenting the text in a way that flatters the text.

    These two features distinguish praise and worship music from numerous popular styles of music that really aren't about the singing or the text. For example, it seems to me that in rock music, often the lyrics are of secondary importance and the core of the song is about what the drums and guitars are doing.

    The primary compositional feature of praise and worship is syncopated rhythms. Praise and worship uses syncopation to create a sense of timelessness. The sense of timelessness is created by having the beat and chord changes remain on beats 1 and 3 (if we're in 4 4), while having the lyrics hit on times off of the main beats. This communicates something about the timelessness of God and the timelessness of the truth proclaimed in the lyrics.

    A compositional technique that also results in a sense of timelessness writing chord progressions such that the name note can be throughout the progression. For example, in the key of C, the chords C and Am7 differ by only one note. It's common to see transitions between these two chords in praise and worship, as it is between many other chord combinations that have this property (e.g. C2 and G)

    Which leads to the second major property of praise and worship, which is the use of chord inversions and extensions that people perceive as sacred. For example, a more ethereal and light sound can be created by covering up the root of the chord by inverting the bass note. The chorus of Here I Am To Worship starts:

    So here I (B7sus) am to (E) worship here I am to (B/D#) bow down
    Here I am to (E/G#) say that You’re my (A) God


    People also tend to have sacred associations with the major 2 and major 7 chord extensions. People who are good at praise and worship will throw in lots of chord extensions even above and beyond what is on the lead sheet.

    I'll grant that there are codified tropes to P&W music (they all start comically the same, half of them are in the same key, and you can often swap out one set of lyrics for another because the chord progressions are so simple and repetitive that they sound remarkably similar)


    Really, all diatonic music uses mostly the same 4 chords over and over again (I IV V vi). If the composer is clever maybe you'll also see the ii or iii. But, it's how you use them. In the key of C, there are three versions of the C chord that have different colors (C, C/E, C/G). And you can extend it as a C2, C7, Cmaj7, or C9. With all these possibilities, you really have a huge number of permutations and get a wide palate of sounds. I don't think that you need non-diatonic chords to have interesting music.

    Now, it does seem to be a feature of hymnody to make frequent use of non-diatonic chords, and that's a cool feature of hymnody. I just don't think this is the only way to make good music.

    As an aside, I went through the Pslams from the Lumen Christi Missal and assigned chord symbols and it seemed to me that the vast majority of chord assignments were of the 4 most common chords listed previously (I IV V vi). So I think really a lot of sacred music uses mostly these chords.
  • I also find myself doubting the claim that real "worship music" is written to be sung by the congregation and sound sacred. A.) it doesn't sound at all like any of the sacred music that is our centuries old patrimony, which makes this a dubious claim at best,


    To bring this back to music: if a composer bases a work on already established sacred music but expands the musical idea, that work is more suitable for liturgy. A good example of this would be polyphony. It started as an embellishment on Gregorian chant. You can often find parts of the chant melody in a polyphonic piece. However, composers of praise and worship music after Vatican II (I'm thinking St Louis Jesuits, etc) we're trying to be completely different. Their music is not suitable for mass because it is a complete break with what came before.


    The music which is so completely unlike anything the Church has approved and encouraged before reflects the fact that the self-understanding of those who promote it is at odds with what the Church has always taught.


    Yes, praise and worship is a different genre of music than Gregorian Chant. That being said, are y'all actually attempting to argue that new sacred genres of music can't be invented?

    Many of you know the history of music much better than me, but from my knowledge it doesn't seem to me that most genres of sacred music exist as matters of incremental change from Gregorian Chant. While this is true of polyphony, it seems to me that this is very much not the case of hymnody. There was a time in the history of the church where metrical hymns were new. I'm curious if anyone on here is so devoted to their principles as to say that should never play hymns, only chant and polyphony. Such a principle would also rule out the use of African-American spirituals, Gospel music, and entirely write off the sacred music in places like Africa where the sacred music has a primarily non-European patrimony.

    I'm sorry to quote this so many times but Sacrosancum Concilium address this directly:
    119. In certain parts of the world, especially mission lands, there are peoples who have their own musical traditions, and these play a great part in their religious and social life. For this reason due importance is to be attached to their music, and a suitable place is to be given to it, not only in forming their attitude toward religion, but also in adapting worship to their native genius, as indicated in Art. 39 and 40.
  • JPII flat out said that the more music is inline with Gregorian chant, the more fit it is for the temple, and the further out of harmony it is, the less worthy of the temple it becomes. Full stop. Imitating secular music with guitars and drums and all the rest that comes with it is quite far from imitating gregorian chant. There's simply no wiggle room here. There just isn't.


    If we give any credence to JPII's remarks about music savoring of Gregorian chant, there's just no getting around some glaring issues here.


    JPII's full quote in context states:
    12. With regard to compositions of liturgical music, I make my own the "general rule" that St Pius X formulated in these words: "The more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savour the Gregorian melodic form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple"[33]. It is not, of course, a question of imitating Gregorian chant but rather of ensuring that new compositions are imbued with the same spirit that inspired and little by little came to shape it. Only an artist who is profoundly steeped in the sensus Ecclesiae can attempt to perceive and express in melody the truth of the Mystery that is celebrated in the Liturgy[34]. In this perspective, in my Letter to Artists I wrote: "How many sacred works have been composed through the centuries by people deeply imbued with the sense of mystery! The faith of countless believers has been nourished by melodies flowing from the hearts of other believers, either introduced into the Liturgy or used as an aid to dignified worship. In song, faith is experienced as vibrant joy, love and confident expectation of the saving intervention of God"


    The section I put in bold seems highly relevant to me. I find this all very confusing, because at face value that sentence seems to directly contradict the previous sentence, but the way I'm reading this, JPII is claiming that there are some underlying principles that any sacred genre of music ought to follow, that being said, I'm not getting a lot of clarity from his use of language here.

    Further complicating things is that from what I've heard other people on this board post, JPII had the music at the Vatican be pretty contemporary while he was Pope, like, I've read people on here complain about how bad the music at the Vatican was during his papacy. According to the internet his favorite songs was Pescador de Hombres (Barka in Polish). [please correct me if I am misinformed about any of this] All of this suggests to me that it is unlikely that JPII intended for his words to mean that only music that was Gregorian Chant or nearly identical to Gregorian Chant was liturgically appropriate.
    Thanked by 1a_f_hawkins
  • Contemporary, I'm not saying new genres cannot be developed; I'm saying they should be a logical, organic growth of the old. To use my prior example, we didn't go from chant to 8 part polyphony overnight. We started with chant, then added sustained drone notes underneath it. Then this turned into parts moving together in 4ths or 5ths which turned into having two parts moving independently of each other. Composers then started adding more and more complex parts until we have some of the great Renaissance motets.

    Metrical hymnody did develope naturally too (though more so in the Lutheran and Anglican churches and eventually adopted, I'm not sure how though, into the Catholic church). Baroque polyphony, such as Bach, developed from Renaissance polyphony. The chorale developed out of this, and it was a short step from there to hymns. The Catholic church already had Gregorian chant hymns such as Adoro Te Devote, and somewhere they eventually added the metrical hymnody (hopefully someone else has further clarification on this).

    In reference to the quote about missionary territory, it was my understanding that it mean to adopt the indigenous sacred music, not party music. Our culture in the United States is Western European, and praise and worship is based on our culture's party music. The sacred music that developed in our culture is chant, polyphony, hymns, etc.
  • My father once wrote a satirical piece on Wee Willy Winkie. He was mocking the intellectual elite who engage in literary criticism and a kind of historicity. His grandson, my own second son, wrote a parody (with a friend) of some point of Latin and Greek paedagogy. I've written some of my own parodies.

    Contemporary's defense of Praise and Worship music has some striking similarities to this species of mockery. The confusing part, for me, is that he intends to be taken quite seriously.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,155
    Could a radio station that plays rock, pop, or any other secular genre swap out their playlist for any of these songs and expect to keep their audience?


    No they couldn't. One reason being most P&W music on the radio is crap. I've tried to listen to Christian radio stations and the music is not quality music. I get tired of listening to it after just a couple of songs. There is nothing really uplifting about it. The muzak played in stores and on elevators is better.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,955
    One of the biggest problems I have with P&W music at mass is rather simple. The "performers" are often terrible musicians. What talent they think they have, they have done nothing to develop. Even if you can tolerate the music you can't tolerate the level of musicianship.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen bhcordova
  • Even if you can tolerate the music you can't tolerate the level of musicianship.
    This is true of parish music writ large, although I agree it's a particular problem with P&W ensembles. I think the latter observation is due to the fact many parish praise groups turn into a catchall for anyone remotely interested in music at the parish. This is how you end up with two bass guitars (one teenage male, one older gentleman reliving the glory days), steel string guitar (the mid-forties guy who kinda seems like he knows what he's doing), flute (young girl; screechy), and tenor saxophone (God save us), piano, and a drum set, and then a bevy of 13-15 year old girls fighting for their own mic so they can out swoop their competitors. (This isn't a caricature; I've seen this with my own eyes on more than one occasion.)
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,955
    (This isn't a caricature; I've seen this with my own eyes on more than one occasion.)


    Oh, I have seen it, too. The parish where I worked for 20 years had one "contemporary" mass on Sunday afternoons. The musicians were such an odd bunch that I used hum the Addams family theme when they came down for communion. I know, wicked is my middle name. LOL. They were all too gray haired and dated to be called contemporary by any stretch.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,707
    There is a praise and worship group in our county... they call themselves “0rdinary Time”.
  • I think fog machines are kind of silly, but it seems like it serves a similar role for them that incense serves for us.

    I was trying to follow, without prejudice, but this is where you lost me.

    I laughed.
  • We launched a new kind of regular diocesan youth event recently. About 200 youth were present (good for our small, rural diocese).

    Towards the end of the event, I played organ and directed an enlofted, traditional choir of youth from across the diocese singing a wide range of sacred music during a Eucharistic holy hour, with five priests hearing confessions, exposition, and Benediction, in a gorgeous Romanesque church. In the hall beforehand, my dear friend the youth ministry director for the diocese opened the event with games, a praise session (of the “unplugged” sort), after which dinner, a speaker, and some small group time before Adoration. (We’re a good team — he was hesitant about the p&w, and I was cautious about the politics of the choral music for a youth event at the diocesan level.)

    The reviews were very positive for the whole thing, but what struck me:

    As far as my reviewers were concerned, I could have been singing any random pieces of traditional sacred music I pleased (frankly: I was!). The reviews for the music in the holy hour were very general and extremely positive. They focused on the reverence and beauty that the selection and quality of music offered for the period of adoration.

    The reviews for the praise session were good, too, but picky. In these, people wanted specific songs, gestures, etc to be used, based on specific models, or on the radio hits of the day. In that case, the immediacy of the connection, and the personal, emotional attachment to the particular pieces, were key, not the general “feel” of that portion.

    I have for a long time viewed p&w as particularly devotional, rather than liturgical, in that way. It is about *specific resonance* rather than *universal qualities*. Now, each genre has much of both. This is unavoidable in any particulars. But the question is one of genre-wide focus, and the kinds of motives that therefore inform the artistic decisions of the composers or lyricists who craft the pieces.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Nihil,

    Help me understand how P&W is devotional in nature. My sense (although I avoid the stuff, so it may be prejudice instead of empirical data at this point) is that it's egocentric navel-contemplative schlock.
  • davido
    Posts: 895
    The comparison of fog machines and incense makes me think we lack an basic understanding of sacrificial religion.
  • The comparison of fog machines and incense makes me think we lack an basic understanding of sacrificial religion.


    I think fog machines are kind of silly, but it seems like it serves a similar role for them that incense serves for us.

    I was trying to follow, without prejudice, but this is where you lost me.

    I laughed.


    I intuitively don't like fog machines. I don't have much of a rational explanation for why I don't like them, which makes me unwilling to condemn others for using them.

    Incense has been explained to me as representing our prayers rising to heaven. As far as I can tell fog machines functionally do the same thing.

    If someone has a good explanation for why this is not the case, I'd love to hear it, I would sincerely love to have a good argument to back up my intuitive dislike of fog machines.
  • Incense is used to ritually purify sacred things. The symbolism of the prayers rising with the smoke is an accretion.
  • davido
    Posts: 895
    Incense is attached to the cult of deities in many ancient cultures, so much that its use is nearly synonymous with prayer.
    In the Mosaic faith, it was mandated for many of the sacrificial offerings, and was there was even a dedicated altar of incense where incense was the thing offered.
    In Roman times, the act that sent many Christians to martyrdom was the refusal to offer a pinch of incense to the emperor’s representative deity.
    Incense is a precious stuff, a fruit of the earth sort of, derived from tree bark. It is interesting that it’s destruction by fire transforms it into something even more precious in premodern cultures: a sweet aroma.

    A fog machine is a theater tool that turns chemicals into clouds for dramatic effect. There is either no odor, or else a slight chemical smell. No connection with prayer or with any religious cult, Christian or otherwise. Just a cheap trick to sell tickets.
  • Incense is used to ritually purify sacred things. The symbolism of the prayers rising with the smoke is an accretion.
    But a biblical accretion c.f. Rev 5:8 and 8:3-4
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,955
    Incense was also used in earlier times to hide body odors. They weren't keen on bathing after the fall of Rome. Before Rome, it probably wasn't much different.
  • Liam
    Posts: 5,003
    Consider the aroma of ritual burning of choice organs and accompanying fats on an altar of sacrifice, and the smell of blood. People were much more accustomed to body odors by comparison.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,955
    I have read that one of the reasons for the giant thurible at the destination of the St. James pilgrimage is to disguise the smell of sweaty hikers.

    The choice organs being burned in many Catholic churches are the pounds of flesh extorted from the parishioners.
  • choice organs being burned


    Phew - thought you were going full-on Orthodox there for a second, Charles!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,955
    Stimson, if you are referring to organ instruments, believe it or not the Greek Orthodox church here has an organ. I understand it is becoming common in U.S. Greek churches. Of course, the Russians think the whole thing smacks of heresy. Other organs we won't discuss this close to the arrival of Santa. I have been on the naughty list for years.
  • Help me understand how P&W is devotional in nature. My sense (although I avoid the stuff, so it may be prejudice instead of empirical data at this point) is that it's egocentric navel-contemplative schlock.


    I mean that, like “Good Night, Sweet Jesus,” played at a 50s Novena, it doesn’t aim at universal fittingness or timelessness, but rises or falls with the success it has in evoking the desired emotional response from the listener. It, like all devotional music, “gets old fast.”
  • I don't know "Good Night, Sweet Jesus", but I grasp the intended image, I think.

    I think I might call it pseudocontemplative or pseudodevotional.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,473
    Im sorry, I don't wish to offend, but what's wrong with saying it's really bad music, and I can't stand it?
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 693
    Chris, you can listen to "Good Night, Sweet Jesus", on the Catholic Devotional hymns website.

    The hymn was written and composed by Fr. James Curry, when he was a chaplain at the local prison in Lower Manhattan, a prison colloquially known as "the Tombs". Fr. Curry, would later be elevated to Monsignor. The hymn became widely used and spread rather quickly among Catholic schools, parishes and missions as well as in some Protestant circles. The hymn was praised by Cardinal Hayes and Bishop Dunn of New York as well as many other church dignitaries hailing it as the most effective closing hymn for evening services.

    Despite the attacks on its composition, the popularity of the hymn continued to grow. Several radio programs in the 1930s and 1940s including Father Coughlin's Hour, Father Finn's Catholic Truth Period, Edward MacHugh's Gospel Hour, and the Choir Loft - a radio program in Boston which featured the choir from St. Leonard's Church, concluded their radio programs with this hymn. The hymn was also included in two surveys: one conducted by McLaughlin and Reilly during WWII, which included 100 Catholic Chaplains of the Armed Forces. They were asked for a list of hymns that resulted in spontaneous congregational singing by service men and women during chapel services, "Good Night, Sweet Jesus" was among them. The hymn appeared in editions of the Catholic Chapel Hymnal.

    Another survey was conducted by Extension Magazine (now known as Catholic Extension Magazine) in 1946. Actually, this was a contest to name your favorite Catholic hymn and was featured in the HYMNS OF ALL CHURCHES radio program out of Chicago. I have a short write-up on this survey. It's very interesting and informative.
  • Based on what you've written, it was the On Eagle's Wings of its era.
  • oldhymnsoldhymns
    Posts: 227
    Chris: That's probably a good analogy!
    Thanked by 1NihilNominis
  • I don't mean to imply that it was dreck, only that
    a list of hymns that resulted in spontaneous congregational singing by service men and women during chapel services, "Good Night, Sweet Jesus" was among them
    would qualify it and OEW in the same boat.
  • I listened to the hymn. It was definitely the OEW of its era, and it is little wonder that it was quickly superseded by the likes of OEW.