Narcissism in Music (or, “How Gregorian Chant can Save the World”)

Friday, May 6, AD 2011

Last week National Public Radio ran a story called “Narcissism on Rise in Pop Music Lyrics.” It opened up with,

On this very day in 1985, the number one song on the Billboard Top 100 was…”We Are the World” (“We are the world. We are the children.”)  Fast-forward to 2007 when Timbaland’s “Give It to Me” featuring Nelly Furtado topped the charts: “…love my a$$ and my abs in the video for ‘Promiscuous.’ My style is ridiculous.”

So more than two decades ago, we were holding hands and swaying to a song of unity, and these days, we’re bouncing to pop stars singing about how fabulous they are.  Psychologist Nathan DeWall has had the pleasure of listening to it all for research, and he found that lyrics in pop music from 1980 to 2007 reflect increasing narcissism in society. And DeWall is an associate psychology professor at the University of Kentucky.

Dr. DeWall proceeded to explain:

I was listening to a song that, really, one of my favorite bands, Weezer, had on one of their albums recently, and it’s called “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived,” and I kept wondering, who would actually say that out loud?  “I am the greatest man that ever lived. I was born to give and give and give.”

The ironic thing is it’s a song about how I’m the greatest person in the world, but it’s to the tune of “‘Tis A Gift To Be Simple,” which is a song about humility. And so what I wanted to do, instead of relying on self-report measures of personality like narcissism, I wanted to actually go into our culture, our cultural products, which are tangible artifacts of our cultural environment. And so, for that, I thought maybe song lyrics would be a very good jumping-off spot.

What we found over time is that there’s an increasing focus on me and my instead of we and our and us. So, for example, instead of talking about love being between we and us and us finding new things together, it’s mostly about how, you know, for example, Justin Timberlake in 2006 said, “I’m bringing sexy back. Yeah. Them other boys don’t know how to act. Yeah.”

There is no doubt that DeWall is correct.  Pop music is becoming more narcissistic.  The broader, age old question is: Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art?  The answer is probably some of both.  Our culture is increasingly narcissistic.  In the spirit of the NPR article, which was about music, I wish to propose a possible antidote for narcissism: the liturgy, specifically liturgical music.

Unfortunately, we must first distinguish between music that might be heard in any given liturgy and liturgical music, properly speaking.  While the Catholic Church has been plagued with bad versions of the four-hymn sandwich for decades, the fact remains that Holy Mother Church has given us a liturgical hymnbook: The Graduale Romanum,  In this book, one will find the ancient Gregorian chants.  But what many will be surprised to find is that the Church has given us specific chants for every Sunday of the year in the places that we currently sing “hymns.”  For any given Mass, there are prescribed chants for the Introit (think here of the “Opening Hymn” you are used to hearing), the Gradual (“Responsorial Psalm”), the Offertorio (“Offertory”), and the Communio (“Communion Song”).  Most of these date back more than a thousand years.  Of course, in the Graduale Romanum, one will find the chant written in Latin.  However, vernacular versions of these exist.  What is key is that the liturgical rubrics, while they permit hymns, call for a preference given to these chants.  Vatican II itself held that the Gregorian chant tradition should enjoy a “pride of place” in our liturgies.

Why do I see this as an antidote for narcissism?  The surest way to deal with this problem is to give people the sense that they are not the center of reality, nor are they the source.  The Cartesian turn to the subject has flipped classical metaphysics on its head so that people come to view reality as what is in their own minds rather than what their minds encounter on the outside.  The liturgy is a reality that is given to us, not one that is created by us.  In fact, it is in the liturgy itself that we find our own fulfillment.  When we go to Mass, we participate in reality itself, something that is much bigger than us.  If we see the Liturgy as something that we fit into rather than something that fits into our lives, we can come to understand that we are not the center of reality: God is.

The problem is, as has been observed on several observations over the past decade, there is an increasing narcissism even within the liturgy itself: both priests and people come to think that the liturgy is something that can be created and recreated with the fickle winds of changing culture.  In fact, the lack of narcissistic language in the new translation of the Roman Missal has been pointed out in comparison with the current, defective translation.  Currently, there are several places in the texts that seem to order God to do certain things and to give a primacy to the people over the divine.  The new translation, being more faithful to the Latin, has sought to correct many of these errors.  What remains to be fixed is the same problem in the hymns that are often chosen for Sunday worship.  Many of the modern hymns focus on man rather than God (think here of “Gather Us In,” or the ever-elusive “Sing a New Church Into Being”).  Quite simply, these hymns are self-centered rather than God-centered.

Contrast this with the use of the Graduale Romanum.  These chants have been given to us by the Church, each carefully constructed around sacred texts in order to serve as a sort of lectio divina for the readings of the day.  Indeed, when Gregorian chant is properly performed, it seems as if it is not of this world.  Part of that is due to the inherent structure of the music, for chant lacks a strict meter (though it has an internal rhythm of its own).  Unlike a hymn, which marches forward towards a climactic conclusion, chant allows the listener to rest in contemplation, a mirror of the eternity which we, God willing, will experience someday.  But another part is due to the words, which become primary (unlike modern pop music, where the words are often a later add-on to an already existing rhythm/chord structure).

Perhaps the most important point, however, is the fact that the music of the Mass inevitably (forgive the pun) sets the tone of the entire celebration.  It stands to reason, then, if we employ a music that is provided for us by the Church (not to mention encouraged by the rubrics), then the people will better understand that the liturgy itself is given and not created.  If they come to understand the liturgy, which is the objective center of reality, in this manner, then they will come to see that they are not the center of reality.  Thus, my rapid fire, probably incomplete, but hopefully coherent, argument that an antidote for the rise in narcissism is Gregorian Chant.  Save the liturgy, save the world.

Continue reading...

5 Responses to Narcissism in Music (or, “How Gregorian Chant can Save the World”)

Gather Us In, A Bad Song Is Playing

Friday, May 6, AD 2011

A reader writes into Fr. Z to ask why Gregorian Chant is to be preferred at Mass to hymns like “Gather Us In” which the reader, a newly minted Catholic, happens to like.  Fr. Z responds here, and the commenters also chime in with responses that hit the mark.

Fr. Z writes:

As a preamble, music for liturgical worship is not a mere add on or decoration.  It is liturgical worship.  Therefore the texts used should be sacred texts.  The texts of those ditties mentioned in the question are not sacred, liturgical texts.  They are not the prayer of the Church.

He then discusses the quality of the hymns under discussion.  This is a more subjective argument.  After all, there are people who think the hymns located in the Gather hymnal are quite extraordinary.  I question the sanity of such people, but that’s neither here nor there.  This is a country that consistently puts American Idol at the top of the ratings, so I’m obviously a bit out of the loop with my musical tastes.

Besides, even non banal hymns seem out of place in our liturgy.  On Holy Thursday I attended Mass at St. Mathew’s Cathedral.  As always, it was a beautiful, reverent, and yes, Novus Ordo liturgy.  I don’t remember the entrance hymn.  It was a nice hymn – something more fitting than one of the turds from the Gather hymnal.  And yet there was something a bit off.  It was a fairly upbeat hymn, and as Cardinal Wuerl incensed the altar it just felt jarring.  Here is this solemn moment marking the beginning of the Triduum, and the accompanying music just does not fit what is happening up there in the sanctuary.  It’s the sort of thing that just snaps you out of the moment, and that’s the problem.

The liturgy is prayer, not entertainment.  The reason that these hymns are generally inappropriate, no matter the quality, is that they simply don’t fit in with what’s supposed to be happening.  Instead of amplifying our prayers they drown them out.  That’s why I find the incessant need to have some kind of music playing at all times whenever there is more than five seconds of silence so frustrating.  You’ve all probably heard organists vamp when the hymn ends before the Priest has reached the sanctuary, or after Communion when not all have returned to their places.  Why can’t he or she just let silence reign for a few minutes?  Why is there such a need for constant noise, especially when it does not fit in appropriately with that moment in the liturgy?

Continue reading...

44 Responses to Gather Us In, A Bad Song Is Playing

  • Thanks a lot, Paul. Now I’ve got Gather Us In stuck in my head. “The lame”, indeed.

  • @Pinky,

    It’s even worse for me. I despise that “hymn” (and I think it’s granting it too much to call it that) so much that I only know the melody and the first few lines. Now I find myself mentally composing inappropriate hokey lyrics that better fit the message of that song! And all while I should be studying for final exams, which begin tomorrow!

  • The worst one for me is a hymn (I don’t know the name of it) which is set to the music of Holst’s Jupiter. Now, Holst wrote some great music, and I enjoy The Planets, and he even wrote hymns…but “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” is about the god Jupiter. It really messes me up. It’s like starting a Mass with a Hare Krishna song.

  • Shame of place for me in the worst hymn category will always be: “Sing a New Song”. Shudder !

  • The real issue here is a complete and deliberate ignoring of church teaching. The rubrics in the GIRM clearly indicate a preference given to the Gregorian Propers for the Mass. These are ancient chant pieces that have been passed down, most over a thousand years. True, the GIRM leaves room for “a suitable hymn” but lists it as the very last option. Why, then, are we such minimalists in our liturgy so as to make the last option the standard? Eliminating official Mass texts across the board in virtually every parish in the country is nothing short of a tragedy. It would be like deciding to get rid of Collect (Opening Prayer) and replace it with an off-the-cuff prayer.

    My apologies for the abruptness of this, but this really gets me fired up. Why can we not simply do what the Church asks? “Sing a New Song”? Please, God, let’s.

  • No apologies needed, Jake. You are absolutely on the money here and in your post as well.

  • May be at work is Neuhaus’ Law: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

  • Pingback: SATURDAY MORNING EDITION | ThePulp.it
  • @ Pinky and Kevin: If you can forgive the singer his shaky voice (it’s not me), then you might appreciate this parody of the Gather Hymnal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwFJv-kmaCc. Especially you, Kevin, since you find yourself composing inappropriate lyrics for it — well, it’s already been done for you! (I died when I heard what he’d done to “Here I Am, Lord”.)

  • Anthony – Great video. The same analysis (no spoilers) of “Here I Am, Lord” is in the book, Why Catholics Can’t Sing. You’ll never hear that hymn the same way again.

  • I especially dislike “Take and Eat.” For some reason it makes me think of cannibalism instead of the Eucharist. There are some hymns I enjoy from my school days at an Episcopal school. I really like this one for children, and the Catholics I know don’t seem to know it. Not appropriate for mass, but maybe for religious education classes.
    http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh712.sht

  • I am new at being Catholic, having come into the church 4 years ago from a protestant background. I have been and continue to be puzzled by the shallow nature of the hymns I find in this profound church – how can that be? In my former Episcopal church, shallow theology reigned, but we sang some deeply meaningful, historical and lovely hymns. Oh, well, clearly converts are not here for the music, but for the Eucharist!

    But a main concern I have is that when this subject is discussed, the fallback position seems to be Gregorian Chant. Everything would be better if we had Gregorian Chant back! GC may be beautiful and profound, but for the convert, it is incomprehensible. I know, I know, we can learn. But I am overwhelmed with learning, and I may not have time to learn another language in the time I’ve got left. Could the church not unleash a creative and profound new form of hymnody/chant combining music AND Theology – maybe a whole new form that feeds our prayer through use of the vernacular. Isn’t that what Gregorian Chant did in it’s day?

  • You have named the leader on my most despised hymns list – not so much because of the words as the terrible “melody.”
    The nastiest of all Communion songs, though, has got to be “There is plenty of bread at the feast of life………” It’s appropriate for dancing in to a bacchanalia – not receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion!

  • “I have been and continue to be puzzled by the shallow nature of the hymns I find in this profound church – how can that be?”

    The short answer Dawn is that the Church in this country and much of the West has undergone a musical “Babylonian Captivity” by some Catholics who came of age in the Sixties and the Seventies and are intent on their banal gibberish being almost the only music heard at Mass. Time will take care of this problem. (Since I came of age in the Sixties and the Seventies I may not live to see it, but I assume if, by the grace of God, I reach Purgatory there will be magnificent hymns, not to mention the beatific sounds of Heaven. In Hell I suspect the musical taste will reflect…best not to go there in both senses of that phrase!)

  • Oh Thank you Fr Z…THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! I so much long for sacred silence during Mass and after Mass as well when currently the second miracle is performed and the sanctuary is miraculously turned into a social hall. As for the music…I truly miss the sacred liturgical music now only heard either during Tridentine Masses or when listening to Masses on TV usually celebrated by the Holy Father. I am a revert…six years now having been away for 45 years and now near 64y/o. I long for reverence in Mass and in Church generally. I long for the space to encounter Christ that sacred silence affords. I long to forget myself and relish in the person of Christ before me. But my question to you is ‘How or what can anyone do to bring this back? Our pastors seem disinterested and more influenced by what is perceived as the will of the congregation. It is not enough to just complain or say only if.. What concretely can we do?

  • Volunteer for the choir and begin exercising an influence over song choices. I truly believe that a lot of the atrocious hymns are deeply unpopular but too many Catholics are content to stay in the pews and do a slow burn as they hear a hymn they hate endlessly recycled Mass after Mass.

  • Pinky

    It’s like starting a Mass with a Hare Krishna song.

    you neveer heard of the Christmas Caroll
    “We wish you a hare Krishna”

  • George Weigel on bad Catholic hymns:

    “For classic Lutheran theology, hymns are a theological “source:” not up there with Scripture, of course, but ranking not-so-far below Luther’s “Small Catechism.” Hymns, in this tradition, are not liturgical filler. Hymns are distinct forms of confessing the Church’s faith. Old school Lutherans take their hymns very seriously.

    Most Catholics don’t. Instead, we settle for hymns musically indistinguishable from “Les Mis” and hymns of saccharine textual sentimentality. Moreover, some hymn texts in today’s Catholic “worship resources” are, to put it bluntly, heretical. Yet Catholics once knew how to write great hymns; and there are great hymns to be borrowed, with gratitude, from Anglican, Lutheran, and other Christian sources. There being a finite amount of material that can fit into a hymnal, however, the first thing to do is clean the stables of today’s hymnals.

    Thus, with tongue only half in cheek, I propose the Index Canticorum Prohibitorum, the “Index of Forbidden Hymns.” Herewith, some examples.”

    http://catholiceducation.org/articles/arts/al0288.htm

  • An excellent discussion on bad Catholic hymns:

    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/07/06/are-these-the-ten-worst-hymns-of-all-time/

    I love this comment:

    “The problem with these hymns is that they date very badly: they may have been passible in the 60?s or 70?s (though even as a kid in the 70?s, I remembered these hymns as sounding pretty “dorky”), but they sound even more pathetic today – sort of like the aging hippy trying to “get down” with the kids. Really good hymns, like those of Gregorian chant, are timeless. But if one were making a list of the best Catholic hymns, I’d probably put “Holy God We Praise Thy Name,” near the top of the list along with hymns I remember singing in my childhood during Benediction service, “O Saving Victim,” and “Tantum Ergo.” They still send shivers up my spine!”

  • Way up there on my list for worst hymn would have to be the “We come to tell our story, we come to break the bread” one. Ack.

    I’d put that down as significantly worse than Gather Us In.

  • Unfortunately, “Taste and See” seems to be a popular Communion song in these parts.

    I am not proud of having been a lapsed Catholic for many years, but after a long absence you do notice changes in liturgical fashion. “Sons of God, Hear His Holy Word” – named the worst hymn by the FT writer – was a ’70’s staple at my parent’s old parish. I haven’t heard it since then. But to my mind, it’s far from being the worst. I haven’t heard “Lord of the Dance” in at least 30 years and for that I heartily thank God. Like a FT commenter said, I used to hear versions which sounded like Michael Flatley and crew were going to run out of the sacristy any second and start line dancing.

  • Dawn: “I am new at being Catholic, having come into the church 4 years ago from a protestant background. I have been and continue to be puzzled by the shallow nature of the hymns I find in this profound church – how can that be?”

    I am a convert myself and wondered the same. Most of my favorite hymns of youth seem far more substantial and reflective than what I typically grew up with. Thomas Day’s Why Catholics Can’t Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste was helpful reading.

  • “I have been and continue to be puzzled by the shallow nature of the hymns I find in this profound church – how can that be?”

    It’s even more puzzling when you consider the legacy of fantastic classical music inspired by — and written for — the liturgy by the greatest masters of the Western hemisphere. Not only a triumph of bad taste but also the victory of historical short-sightedness and an absurd worshipping at the Altar of the Trendy. … Or, at least, what was trendy almost fifty years ago.

  • My earlier post was written before I scrolled up and saw Mrs. Zummo’s. So it’s “Take and Eat,” not “Taste and See,” I guess. My bad. I confess to trying to block the song out of my brain whenever I hear it and to focus all my attention on the Real Presence. I suppose I’ve been successful, since I couldn’t even recall the actual name of the hymn – only that I dislike it for exactly the same reason Mrs. Zummo does.

    I’ve never heard “Anthem.” From all accounts I should consider myself lucky.

  • Even at Churches which otherwise have good music, most Communion hymns are quite awful. Are there any good Communion hymns? And I second my wife’s take on “Take and Eat.”

  • That is indeed a beautiful hymn. Unfortunately I rarely if ever hear it as a Communion hymn.

  • We have a volunteer cantor who loves singing it at communion. The advantage of being in a small parish: no budget for “professional” songsters.

  • I have to wonder – is the problem of terrible hymns an issue throughout the Catholic world, or just the Anglosphere part of it? Are churchgoers in Rome, Paris, Manila and Rio suffering through tripe produced by their own versions of Marty Haugen? Somehow it’s difficult to imagine parishioners in, say, Munich or Vienna droning along to the Germanic equivalent of “On Eagle’s Wings.” I doubt that the Holy Father distributes Communion to the strains of “Take and Eat.”

    It would be nice to have a reader from or familiar with the liturgy in a non-English speaking country enlighten us. Mundabor?

  • @Donna V:

    I’ve lived in Spain for some years and spent some time in Mexico and Argentina, as well. I can assure you that bad liturgical music is also widely present in Hispanic countries’ Masses, as well. There are always parishes with excellent music, of course, and perhaps even more than we have here in the States (percentage-wise), but I’ve heard a number of these awful “hymns” by Haugen, et al translated into Spanish and accompanied by guitars and poor singers–UGH! “Pescador de hombres” (“Fishers of men”) is an especially egregious and insipid hymn, which I believe was actually composed in Spanish first, then translated into English some time ago. But I’ve heard “Gather Us In” and “On Eagle’s Wings” in Spanish masses in those countries, as well.

  • Thanks for the reply, Kevin. Yuck, how depressing to think of “On Eagle’s Wings” spreading into the non-English-speaking Catholic world as well.

  • I am in my early 60’s and have little hope that this will change in my lifetime or even soon thereafter. So much has been undermined by my generation in our Church, it would take a revolutionary Pope to fix this mess or a lengthy series of Popes gradually changing so many things that need to be changed. Sadly, I seriously doubt such changes could come from below. The laity is too weak (and this is not necessarily a bad thing) and much of the clergy is wrong headed and still trained to be. The so-called music ministers seem hopeless and/or impotent. The entire abolition of singing at Mass would be preferable to the current situation, in my view. A (short) list of the only songs permitted would be an alternative but, even at that, I can only shudder to think what the US bishops’ bureaucracy would put on that list. Sigh! When the end comes closer, I will put together my list for my funeral and that gives me some comfort but must leave it to my wonderful wife to make sure nothing weird gets in.

  • Dear Pinky: You’ve got it backwards, I think. Holst wrote the hymn tune “Thaxted” first and then incorporated it into The Planets as Jupiter. In my diocese we sing it as “O God, Beyond all Praising” and the words are actually pretty good – “we worship you today, and sing the love amazing that songs cannot repay.” Try learning the words to a decent version and singing along with Jupiter.

  • …and to the lady in her 60’s – so am I – how do you like “Taste and see” sung to a slow version of the Wyatt Earp TV Theme? yggg.

  • The hymns I remember from my youth were different in two respects. First, they were more theological (even though some of them were written by the Wesley brothers). They were hymns about the Trinity and Mary. I think half of them rhymed “Son” and “one”. The other thing that stands out about them, I don’t know exactly how to describe. Musically, they were more baroque than romantic. They were 3/4 or 4/4 time, solidly built. They weren’t written for impassioned songleaders to interpret.

  • I am an organist/accompanist in a local parish. It seems like due to circumstances beyond my control, my task not to help facilitate a good liturgy, but to try and make it the least horrible as possible. That’s very hard to do. Can anyone relate to the following?

    1. The Gather hymnal reigns supreme. Why are we required to sing the awful stuff within its pages, just because GIA publishes it?

    2. I do not make the musical selections. They are given to me by the others…liturgy planners…etc. Because of the wide array of options in Gather, any liturgy can and often does have a mix of: a song by Marty and company, maybe an African American style piece, a tradional hymn (protestant or Catholic) and maybe something scored for drums/bass/keyboard that sounds more like happy hour at the Leopard Lounge than church. The result is that there is no continuity, no unified sound. What is the music supposed to sound like…who knows?? Proponents of this would say it represents “diversity” but I would say it represents the church having lost a musical identity.

    3. The songs are always “lead” by a cantor at a microphone, creating a very artificial sound. Why is this necessary? Why is the organ not deemed suitable to lead the singing? What’s even better is when there is a deacon who is very zealous for singing, but somewhat off pitch and always behind the beat, who has a very hot lapel mic. Then it becomes a contest between the deacon and cantor for who to follow.

    4. The insipid, banal and borderline blasphemous lyrics of some of the songs. Last week, being Mothers Day, we had to sing “Hail Mary…Gentle Woman.” Ugh. What about the part that references Mary as “morning star” and “gentle dove”…um, the last time I checked, Jesus is the Morning Star and the Holy Spirit is the Dove. Does anyone ever read these lyrics?
    What do they even mean sometimes? Usually they just mean some lame brain is trying to come up with some stupid rhyme that matches the equally lame line that just preceded it. As long as were talking “worst songs”, “All that we Have, and all that we offer…” really ranks up there.
    Ugh. But it is a favorite for the presentation of gifts….simply because it has the word “offer”. BUT, the congregation squaks out a few of the insipid lines, and so boom…”active participation” is achieved…therefore…SUCCESS! No matter if everything is horrible musically, stylistically, and theologically.

    I could go on and on but I’ve probably said far too much already. Initially, back in my naive days, I wanted to be a force for creating a better liturgy, but across the boards in US parishes, I think that goal is beyond hope.

  • Very well said James. Your comment hits the nail right on the songbook of so much that is wrong with the truly bad music prevalent in Catholic parishes today.

  • I left the church specifically because the Masses are simply not uplifting and the music is dreadfully depressing. I call it dying cow music. My daughter has changed to a Zion church and I’m considering a Baptist church. Just can’t sit through another unmotivating, soul sucking Mass. White, old men in charge, you’re not going to make very much progress in change.

  • Gee, Helen — I can’t help being white, and I can’t help being in my fifties. It’s puzzling and sad that you’d give up Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament because of songs sung by old white priests. If your pastor apologized for his age, skin color, and musical taste would that keep you from leaving the Church founded by Jesus? Almost as importantly, does being judged “by the content of your character rather than by he color of your skin” include everybody, or only for folks that aren’t old white men?

  • Well this while old man agrees with Helen insomuch as the music of so many Masses really is depressingly bad. But I suppose that is where our agreement ends. First, leaving the Church because the Mass is insufficiently uplifting is unthinkable. Even I’m not that ego-centric — and I’m a lawyer! Second, I sort of doubt that Helen and I would be moved by the same tunes. I like jazz ok and blues a lot, but not for Mass sorry. I’m not there to be entertained really, but I realize I’m odd that way.

    Now for some goodies:

    Now Thank We All Our God
    Holy Holy Holy
    Holy God We Praise Thy Name
    Come Holy Ghost
    How Great Thou Art (ok not strictly Catholic, but orthodox anyway)
    Immaculate Mary
    Faith of Our Fathers
    Oh God Almighty Father

    My final semi-rant: I have no problem with a choir reserving one song which they offer as a gift to God and his people, but I really do wish choir directors would choose hymns that are singable by normal folks — you know with normal octave ranges and with recognizable melodies. Even some outstanding choir directors are so intent on choosing the most perfect song for that day’s readings, we end up hearing it at most once every three years — in which case it is unrecognizable and therefore unsingable. End of semi-rant.

  • And I forgot to add: Oh God Beyond All Praising. Disagree with Pink on that — Agree with MEW. When properly done, very powerful hymn.

  • Hate Hate Hate the Taize music. As a 20 year member of several choirs, I dread singing that insipid “We have come to share our story…” ad nauseum. I would not, however, leave the sanctuary of the Blessed Church and the Holy Eucharist, for a church with a better playlist.

    At masses where we sing some of the classics hymns as well as spectacular choral peices (Ave Verum, Ave Maria, Panis Angelicus), the parishoners take notice. Sometimes I wish that the choir directors would take more notice, and change.

    PS – I don’t want to “Sing a New Church Into Being”, I like the one Jesus created, thank you very much.

Let Us Not Mourn the Passing of These Texts

Wednesday, March 9, AD 2011

I don’t know how many people have been keeping up with the forthcoming changes to the Roman Missal.  This has been a particular passion/hobby of mine lately.  At my home site, I am doing a weekly column of pieces explaining the new translations.  Thus far, I have discussed all the changes to the people’s parts and this Monday I will begin taking up the priest’s parts, starting with Eucharistic Prayer I.  (For those interested, the entire collection can be found here.)

Today at Mass the need for a new translation became crystal clear.  What follows is a comparison of the two prayers from the Mass.  First, the Collect.  What we heard at Mass just hour ago was,

Lord protect us in our struggle against evil.

As we begin the discipline of Lent,

make this day holy by our self-denial.

Not bad … at least there is some discussion of self-denial and discipline.  But listen to the new translation:

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting

this campaign of Christian service,

so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,

we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

Holy fasting … campaign … battle against spiritual evils … armed with weapons of self-restraint.  That’s the kind of Lent I’m talking about!  However, what really got me going was the Prayer Over the Ashes.  Here is the current “translation”:

Dear friends in Christ, let us ask our Father

to bless these ashes which we will use

as the mark of our repentance.

Lord, bless the sinner who asks for your forgiveness

and bless all those who receive these ashes.

May they keep this lenten season

in preparation for the joy of Easter.

Before we get to the new translation, just for kicks, let’s look at the Latin:

Continue reading...

9 Responses to Let Us Not Mourn the Passing of These Texts

Understanding Pope Benedict XVI on the Liturgy

Tuesday, August 31, AD 2010

Assessing Benedict’s views of the liturgy

In “Where Truth and Beauty Meet”: Understanding Benedict (The Tablet August 14, 2010) – Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity, and Fellow and Director of Studies at Magdalene College, Cambridge, aptly summarizes Pope Benedict’s view of the liturgy and his calls for reform

[Pope Benedict] believes that behind many celebrations of the new liturgy lie a raft of disastrous theological, cultural, sociological and aesthetic assumptions, linked to the unsettled time in which the liturgical reforms were carried out. In particular, he believes that twentieth-century theologies of the Eucharist place far too much emphasis on the notion that the fundamental form of the Eucharist is that of a meal, at the cost of underplaying the cosmic, redemptive, and sacrificial character of the Mass.

The Pope, of course, himself calls the Mass the “Feast of Faith”, “the Banquet of the reconciled”. Nevertheless Calvary and the empty tomb, rather than the Upper Room, are for him the proper symbolic locations of Christian liturgy. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist has to be evident in the manner of its celebration, and the failure to embody this adequately in the actual performance of the new liturgy seems to him one of the central problems of the post-conciliar reforms. …

Continue reading...

7 Responses to Understanding Pope Benedict XVI on the Liturgy

  • Chris,

    I understand the good intentions behind your post and those you quote in it.

    It is extremely difficult for me to restrain my dislike for the Novus Ordo.

    Novus Ordoism is mediocrity incarnate, and I detest nothing more than deliberate mediocrity, than a deliberate shunning of the beautiful for the plain and the banal.

    To think that we have fallen so far from the aesthetic heights reached by the Church during the Counter-Reformation, to think that we now dishonor God by presuming to offer to him during worship a bundle of sub-par prayers, songs, and movements that reflect more the subjective desires of misguided liberals than objective standards of beauty and reverence.

    Relativism has placed objective truth, egalitarianism has replaced hierarchical truth, and emotionalism has replaced spiritual truth. These are the marks of Protestantism. I have read several articles recently detailing the rapid flight of young Protestants from their churches. One of the primary reasons they do so is because young people – as opposed to the out-of-touch liberal boomers who wrecked everything – don’t want these things. They don’t want this phony “participation”, this phony “inclusiveness”, this forced leveling of everything. They want to be confronted with the truth.

    Catholics are losing young people for very similar reasons. But at the traditional Mass I go to, I see more young families all of the time. It isn’t just old people who are “sentimental”; it is young people who reject the banality of the Novus Ordo, who want a fuller, richer, deeper spiritual experience. The Church may not gain millions of new adherents by returning to her greatest traditions, but those she does retain and attract will be of the highest quality. And that’s more important.

  • Eamonn Duffy mystifies me. The Stripping of the Altars is the finest, most moving account available of the catastrophic consequences of radical liturgical revolution. When I read it, I presumed that he was a traditionalist. In fact however he sounds like a typical product of the revolution, blind to its failure and tone deaf to its consequences. When he implies that “most Catholics” are content with the Novus Ordo, is he really unaware of the war that the bishops and clergy have waged against the traditonal Mass for the last four decades, or of the profound ignorance of the traditional liturgy that now prevails among the vast majority of Catholics under the age of 50? How can you oppose a reform of the reform that nothing in your religious education or experience prepares you even to understand? It saddens me to read someone I admire so much writing like a clueless apparatchik of the “magic circle.”

  • I’m a fairly young Catholic (32), and for years I’ve been going to a Latin language Ordinary Form at a parish that celebrates Mass in both forms.

    I like the Extraordinary Form. I just prefer the Ordinary–when it is celebrated in accordance to liturgical tradition.

    I do think that sometimes enthusiasts for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass tend to shoot themselves in the foot by excessive bitterness towards the Ordinary Form, which often turns off people who are unaware of liturgical tradition.

  • Ah yes, the ol’ unprovable Freemasonic conspiracy theory. “I know a guy who heard from a priest who knew a cardinal who swore that Bugnini was a Mason.”

  • Anywhere I have heard the Traditional Mass it has been sublime.

    The Novus Ordo, although valid, leaves far too much room for ‘innovation’, which is politically correct speak for irreverent.

    I was on holiday for the Sunday on which the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary fell this year and found a Roman Catholic parish, although the building did not look like a church, at the beach. What I had a tough time finding was the tabernacle. I blessed myself facing the crucifix, thank God they had one. Eventually, I located the tabernacle – at the back of the Church!!!!

    I was also privileged to hear a rock & roll Mass, with guitar and Lady Ga Ga like headset microphone. It was great and oh so Holy. Not to mention that the celebrant was so nice as to order all of us to remain standing AFTER we received Eucharist so as to be in the same posture, how democratic. The picnic like assembly IN the Sanctuary, with female altar servers too, was especially pleasant. I was clearly noticed for doing two things in complete and utter disobedience: I received on my tongue, while kneeling and I went back to my pew and hit my knees and bowed my head.

    Is that something wrong with the Novus Ordo? No, but it seems when you give liberals an inch, they’ll take a mile, or is that a centimeter and a meter – I can’t keep clear which ‘standard’ we’re using today, I’m sure it will change tomorrow.

    The Holy Mass MUST be the most important and sacred thing we experience – if it isn’t, why bother with the Faith at all. I don’t think the Novus Ordo is all that bad (although sometimes I struggle greatly to accept that) and I am looking forward to the better translations coming Advent of 2011. Nevertheless, the real problem is having too much wiggle room. I am a big proponent of liberty in the secular world – the Mass is not secular, it is not profane – it is Sacred and when it comes to Sacred things, innovation is not pleasant and should be discouraged.

  • I did have a deep discussion with my SD about the ‘innovative’ Mass. He has directed me in the past to seek God’s Peace and look for positive things, so I stated that the Mass I heard was ‘interesting’ – that is the most positive thing I could say.

    Actually, the rubrics were valid, so the issue was irreverence and not improper form, which is precisely the problem with lax rubrics and the Novus Ordo, as practiced, in general. In some ways we are actually given more grace when we can remain peaceful and reverent during an irreverent Mass.

    Christ told (supposedly) Gabrielle Bossis, “Even if you do nothing at Mass but try to drive away distractions, you please Me all the same. I understand.”

    I also knelt on the floor in front of the tabernacle, after I located the tabernacle, and begged Christ to have mercy on all of us, especially those charged with celebrating the Mass. It was a very powerful experience. Nevertheless, I pray that the new translation and accompanying catechesis helps prevent this blatant irreverence from continuing and spreading.

The United States Youngest Cardinal

Thursday, August 26, AD 2010

A Profile of Daniel DiNardo

by Jeff Ziegler

On June 17, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo expressed “grave concern over the FDA’s current process for approving the drug Ulipristal (with the proposed trade name of Ella) for use as an ‘emergency contraceptive.’ Ulipristal is a close analogue to the abortion drug RU-486, with the same biological effect — that is, it can disrupt an established pregnancy weeks after conception has taken place.”

Cardinal DiNardo expressed these concerns as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, the latest in a line of responsibilities he has assumed in recent years. As recently as 1997, he was simply “Father Dan,” a 48-year-old Pittsburgh parish priest, before he was appointed coadjutor bishop of a small Iowa diocese. At the age of 54, he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Galveston-Houston, and at 58, Pope Benedict created him a cardinal — the first cardinal from a diocese in the South, and the youngest American cardinal since Cardinal Roger Mahony received his red hat in 1991.

Following the consistory of 2007, Pope Benedict appointed Cardinal DiNardo a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (2008) and the Pontifical Council for Culture (2009). In the fall of 2009, he assumed the leadership of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life efforts. He will take part in any conclave that occurs before his eightieth birthday in 2029 and appears destined to be one of the leading American ecclesial figures of the next two decades.

Continue reading...

9 Responses to The United States Youngest Cardinal

  • Cardinal DiNardo has been very supportive of the local Anglican Use parish.

    It would be nice if he was also a little more supportive of the Tridentine Rite as well. I don’t get the sense that he is particularly against it, but I also don’t get the impression he is promoting it either. We still only have the one Tridentine Mass per week in downtown Houston. I am unaware of any others in the diocese. Makes it difficult to cram all one million Houston-Galveston Catholics in the Cathedral.

    However, not being an insider to chancery goings on, it may be the resistance is at the parish level, and he does not think it is worth the political capital to push for it.

    On the whole, he seems to be doing a decent job.

  • My guess is that he’s so busy he can only utilize his time on certain things, hoping and praying the best for what he is unable to address such as making the Latin Mass more available.

    But I also agree with your assessment that there are some or many priests that refuse to celebrate the EF of the Latin Rite Mass.

  • Ugh. Must we call it the “EF”?

  • I prefer calling it the “Gregorian Rite Mass” myself, though not that many people may recognize it to mean the Extraordinary Form (EF) of the Latin Rite Mass.

    Traditional Latin Mass may be more accurate, but I hear people calling the OF Mass the “Latin Mass” when celebrated in the Latin language, which adds more confusion.

  • Gregorian Rite Mass? A new Rite was not created. Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite is most accurate.

    As a former Houstonian, I wish Cardinal DiNardo the very best. He has a large, multi-cultural, unruly flock to shepherd, much the same as Pope Benedict has.

  • Certainly on the Cathedral, I think he did a fine job. We could have gotten an ugly monstrosity like they have in El Lay, but instead got a pretty nice one – it actually looks like a church rather than some government or multi-purpose building.

  • Living in Houston, I can say the good cardinal was strangly silent about the Pro-choice advocacy of Barack Hussein Obama in the last presidental election.

  • “Certainly on the Cathedral, I think he did a fine job. ”

    Actually, the co-cathedral is more retired Archbishop Fiorenza’s accomplishment than it is DiNardo’s.

  • Strike my last comment, that was uncharitable of me.

Belgium: Cardinal Danneels Home Raided In Sexual Abuse Investigation

Thursday, June 24, AD 2010

Godfried Cardinal Danneels home was raided in Belgium by police searching for evidence in the sexual abuse of children.  Belgium police also raided the offices of the Archbishop of Brussels, Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard.  This came on the heels of Bishop Roger Vangheluwe’s abrupt resignation after admitting to homosexual relations with a boy this past April.

Cardinal Danneels is well known as creative in his interpretations on Church teachings.  Cardinal Danneels participated in writing Sacrosanctum Concilium, a document which influenced the complete rewriting of the liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.  Which in turned fueled the liturgical abuse that most Catholic in the West are still being exposed to.

Under his watch as prelate of Belgium, a once devout and vibrant Catholic country, Belgium’s Catholic faith has been all but eliminated.  Abortion, euthanasia, and homosexual unions have been legalized under his watch.  In addition church attendance and religious/secular vocations are at their lowest not seen since that part of Europe was pagan.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/belgium/7625123/Belgian-bishop-Roger-Vangheluwe-resigns-over-abuse-of-boy.html
Continue reading...

25 Responses to Belgium: Cardinal Danneels Home Raided In Sexual Abuse Investigation

  • Sacrosanctum Concilium is one of the four Constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, a magisterial document which we as Catholics believe reflects the guidance of the Holy Spirit over the Church. You mention it here as if the cardinal’s involvement in writing it were a sure sign of his satanic bent. Sorry, but that’s not how a REAL Catholic would see it.

  • Ron,

    It was not intended to misguide.

    I completely am in agreement with Sacrosanctum Concilium. It is those that “interpreted” it in their own misguided ideas of a worldly church that I am chastising.

  • Ron,

    You accuse me of not being a REAL Catholic by putting words in my mouth about satanic bent.

    You should be more careful of carelessly accusing others of this when it is you who are doing it.

    A self-examination of conscious is in order for you and a visit to a priest.

  • FWIW, Tito, when I read the post I, too, thought you were being critical of SC.

  • The big story here isn’t the raiding of the homes. Apparently, the Belgin police pried open the tombs of the last two archbishops in their search for “documents.” Needless to say, the Vatican is outraged at that.

    Vatican calls in Belgian ambassador

  • Chris B.,

    Ron C. accused me of words I did not say and then slandered the depth of my faith.

    You on the other hand read my article and came to the conclusion that I was critical of Cardinal Danneels.

    If pointing out facts about Cardinal Danneels is being critical, then I agree with your statement.

    You were being charitable in your analysis, Ron C. was slandering me. Big difference.

  • Christopher Ferrara offered some time ago that a lawyer looks at a document with an idea of what it allows the adversary to do to your client. His assessment of Sacrosanctum Concilium: it allows a great deal, and that has been the problem.

  • Art Deco,

    Sacrosanctum Concilium is a great document, when properly read.

    The language in this document, and so many other documents of the Second Vatican Council is very ambiguous. Which allows for a wide interpretation which they weren’t meant to be read as. Pope Benedict has time and time again hammered this point.

    The writers, such as Cardinal Danneels, did not envision the wreckage it would wrought. Though why did Cardinal Danneels and many of his colleagues endeavor to write in such ambiguous language?

    All councils up until the Second Vatican Council have written in strict and defining language.

    My two cents worth.

    In addition, Cardinal Danneels oversaw Belgium and then allowed liturgical abuse to run rampant.

    So yes, he is responsible for the damage done in Belgium due to his leadership.

  • “All councils up until the Second Vatican Council have written in strict and defining language.”

    HAH!

    Anyone who knows anything about the councils knows this is far from true. Even the language used at the Council of Nicea had to be corrected at Constantinople, because at Nicea it suggested “one hypostasis” for the Godhead! Then there is the Ephesus-Chalcedon-II Constantinople debacle.

    So I say again, HAH.

  • “All councils up until the Second Vatican Council have written in strict and defining language.”

    HAH.

  • Pingback: Police Raid Tombs of Dead Bishops in Belgium « The American Catholic
  • So you let through the hah, but deleted the post which explained it. Interesting.

    The explanation went to history. Nicea was imprecise, so imprecise it said “one hypostasis” for the Godhead, and only was to be corrected at Constantinople.

    Ephesus-Chalcedon-II Constantinople do not do much better. St Cyril, whose doctrine was promoted by Ephesus, was very imprecise — and caused problems by his discussion of “one incarnate nature of the Logos.” Chalcedon, though overcoming Cyril, still is seen as quite the compromise council — indeed, so much so that some thought it went Nestorian and further councils were called to bridge Ephesus and Chalcedon together.

  • Henry K.,

    I do not doubt the historical account of the councils you cite.

    Though the vast majority of them were concise, especially since the Council of Trent.

  • “The vast majority of them were concise, especially since Trent.” How many councils have there been after Trent? Oh, Vatican I and Vatican II. Even then, Vatican I didn’t get to do what it wanted with ecclesiology — which did leave a very imprecise ecclesiological question and led to a misunderstanding in the time before VII because of it. And Trent itself, if you study the theological questions of the time, was purposefully vague to allow different theological traditions to remain.

  • Henry K.,

    I have to admire your tenacity on your straw man argument.

    You still haven’t addressed the point that the documents emanating from the Second Vatican Council are ambiguous in their wording.

  • I am addressing the point “All councils up until the Second Vatican Council have written in strict and defining language.”

    Not only is it not true, one must wonder if “strict and defining language” is exactly what we are to be looking for. St Hilary, for example, thought otherwise, and noted putting the truths down into words will always be imprecise.

    We can then look to Scripture itself, and note how “imprecise” it is. Does that make Scripture bad? No, it opens us up to many levels of possibilities through one text. This is a strength, not a weakness.

  • Henry K.,

    Thank you for your opinion.

  • I think the whole debate about conciliar language goes nowhere without being concrete. So, for the sake of discussion… Tito, can you specify where you see ambiguity in SC?

  • Chris B.,

    I’d like to answer you, but it distracts from the main theme of the thread.

    If the post was about the ambiguity of Vatican II documents I would have fleshed it out in the column.

  • One of the defining characteristics of fundamentalists is their inability to catch a joke made at their own expense. In my post at the outset of this thread, I suggested to Tito that a REAL Catholic would not agree with his mischaracterization of one of the fundamental documents of the Vatican Council. He immediately became incensed that I had accused him of being less than a “real” Catholic.

    Tito, just FYI, the reference was to your incessant posting of those offensive videos from the self-described “real Catholics” (i.e., more-Catholic-than-God Catholics) at realcatholictv.net.

  • Ron C.,

    It’s been my personal experience that some jokes backfire because they simply don’t translate via comm-boxes.

    With that said, then cool, that was a funny joke.

  • Tito, you’re right… it’s not relevant to this particular post; perhaps we might follow up where it’s more relevant… please accept my apologies for furthering a tangential comment thread. 🙂

  • Chris B.,

    No apologies needed.

    I greatly respect your opinion and comments.

    🙂

  • Returning to the real subject of the post:

    The Fall of the Belgian Church, by Alexandra Colen. Brussels Journal June 24, 2010.

    At least their OUR perverts…, by Michael Liccione. Sacramentum Vitae June 26, 2010).

    Truly sickening.

  • By now we ALL know there is a perverted sub-culture within the catholic church worldwide. The pope and vatican have apologized to millions of catholics from almost every country on the planet.

    The catholic priests are the very men who indoctrinated us into the belief from childhood, teaching us it is SINFUL to LIE, be DECEITFUL and COVER-UP SIN. These very holy men, haven’t got a clue themselves what it means to be holy.

27 Responses to My Thoughts on the Guitar Mass

  • Guitar Mass. Ah the unspeakable horrors that simple phrase contains!

  • If they made use of instrumental pieces by Segovia at various points, that would not be offensive. Why not ditch the organ and just have plainchant?

  • Of course, there is no place in the documents of Vatican II where they specify that the organ should be replaced with the guitar. There is also no place where they specify the organ is the only acceptable liturgical instrument.

    In fact, quite the opposite is the case.

    112. The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.

    Holy Scripture, indeed, has bestowed praise upon sacred song [42], and the same may be said of the fathers of the Church and of the Roman pontiffs who in recent times, led by St. Pius X, have explained more precisely the ministerial function supplied by sacred music in the service of the Lord.

    Therefore sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites. But the Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship.

    The argument is or has been made by liturgical reformers that this is grounds for the legitimacy of guitars and other instruments. And by the manifest practice of Benedict XVI, guitars and other instruments are licit for use in the Holy Mass if they are incorporated in a solemn, dignified and reverent manner that is consistent with the Traditional Beauty of the Mass.

    I say this as someone who greatly prefers traditional styles of liturgical music; modern music is too busy, too self-centered, and too indulgent. Often times the words of liturgical music promote misunderstandings or at worst even bits of heresy.

    I lament the death of beauty and the sense of the numinous that used to be the Catholic Church’s bread and butter. But this is not an excuse to suggest everything that happened in liturgical reforms is somehow illicit. Following Father Corapi and many others, we should not reject the reforms of Vatican II but embrace what they actually are as recorded in the documents that were actually written, for these documents profess the true “Spirit of Vatican II”, which is nothing but the Catholic spirit of repentance and reform writ large.

  • Zach,
    I think you misunderstand. The statement that “I have still failed to find anything in the documents of the Second Vatican Council where it said to replace the organ with the guitar” is simply in response to the common assertion that the introduction of guitar masses was required by Vatican II. I don’t think anyone is even suggesting that guitar masses are illicit; just that the music is almost always insipid and fails the test you quote above. Yes, there are people who like the music, just as there are people who to this day don’t get why Bluto violently interrupted the Riddle Song.

  • Personally, I think Michael Iafrate would have been justified in socking Belushi in the nose.

  • Hi Mike,

    Fair enough, I didn’t see in this post the assertion that “the introduction of guitar masses was required by Vatican II”. I also didn’t know anyone thought this. What a silly idea!

  • I never used to hate guitar music, or guitars, until I turned Catholic back in 2000 and endured the happy-clappy-crappy guitar masses with the uber-banal schlock “music” that seriously infests too many Catholic masses in Mahoneyland. (Far more offensive are the schlockmeister guitar cantors who also shake rattles during the “Gloria” or elsewhere in the Mass, or plink background noise during the consecration as if they think their semi-skilled “guitar stylings” somehow add something worthwhile. to the Sacrifice of our Lord Made Present.) Too many masses I suffered through down there had the musical trashiness of that Animal House scene. Thank God there were Byzantine Catholic parishes down there where I could worship without being musically tortured. I wish had discovered THAT option sooner!

    I totally cheer the Belushi character. In fact, back when I still lived in LA before moving to a city where I can now attend the Glorious Mass of the Ages every week, I used to spend much of Mass fantasizing piling ALL the guitars in the world in a huge heap then watching as a herd of bull elephants in rut galloped over them, reducing all to a smoking pile of splinters. Somewhere in the fantasy was the additional one that all plans and diagrams for making new guitars would also be destroyed.

  • Bravo Alice!

  • Alice Ramirez: Could not have said it better.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  • As a traveler who has attended masses in a variety of locations, it is interesting to me when I see the multi-varied approaches. I am not sure I have seen the situation that Alice describes. Mostly, I see a singular guitar that is played quietly as background music to the piano/organ/keyboard and the vocalists.
    Is the “guitar mass” something more?
    If it is, then I would have to definitely have to agree with the chorus here that denounces said guitar masses, especially if accompanied by clapping and other carousing.
    If it is my experience, then I am not sure of the issue.
    I would, however, hope that each church would announce a standard mass in addition to the guitar mass.
    My two cents…. 🙂
    TheWriter @ http://www.goodwrites.com

  • Gary,

    Nothing in the Second Vatican Council mandated the imposition of guitars in the Mass.

    For more information click here:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/02/18/this-is-why-i-love-cardinal-arinze/

  • Guess you wouldn’t like the fact that I’ve played banjo in church, eh, Tito?

  • You are from West Virginia after all.

    😉

  • I thought banjo masses were great when I was thirteen.

  • Phillip, how many “banjo masses” have you attended? I’m from West Virginia and have attended zero “banjo masses.” When I played banjo at mass (which was once) it was in Toronto.

  • Hmm.

    I have yet to endure a guitar mass of a type comparable to the strumming doofus above. I have however witnessed many “contemporary music” masses with praise-band style accompaniment.

    My reaction to what I heard was, in essence: Why do Catholics have such a hard time putting together an ensemble of skillful players, singers, sound engineers, writers, and arrangers? Why must every parish ensemble have so many hacks and weak links?

    Too Many Hacks

    For that is really what I heard: A lack of skill. In some cases I heard one or two talented individuals, but they were undermined by the poor quality surrounding them. If it wasn’t that the other musicians in the ensemble were low on talent or practice, then it was the selection of music or poor sound reinforcement or both.

    Now the best worship leaders and worship bands and sound technicians and writers and arrangers among Evangelicals can, in fact, produce music worthy of a Mass. They don’t always: Sometimes they’re pretty atrocious, too. But the best ones — the type you find at the Evangelical churches known for having excellent music — can do it, and in fact do achieve it on a regular basis.

    But apparently the Catholic roster at even a very large and well-funded parish, such as the one where I attend Mass, is one or two persons deep when it comes to this skill set.

    This, I think, is one source of all the complaints from Catholics, and their predisposition to write off the entire genre of instrumentation as unfit for liturgical use. They think to themselves, “I’ve heard what a contemporary ensemble sounds like, and it’s rubbish.” What they’ve heard is rubbish: But it’s rubbish because it was mostly bad songs with mostly bad melodies and mostly bad chart, poorly arranged, played by beginner-level or intermediate-level musicians after insufficient rehearsal, and sung by mostly unskilled or unsuitable singers, badly miked, through a bad sound system, inexpertly mixed by some zero-experience kid or other, selected on the basis that he was the only one who volunteered for the job.

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

    Now pipe organs were, to be perfectly precise, the original analog synthesizers. Organ music was the original synthesizer music, and its introduction a few hundred years back scandalized traditionalists. Those of us with an appreciation of good pipe organ music can look back on that time and wonder why the traditionalists of that era regarded it to be such a wild and unsuitable innovation.

    But the traditionalists’ arguments would have been greatly strengthened had the introduction of most Catholics to this kind of church music involved a player of low caliber on an instrument of low caliber played through low-quality pipes in a church building unsuited to the instrument. (Keep in mind many historic churches and cathedrals were build around a pipe organ; that is, the architectural layout was engineered specifically to make the organ sound good.)

    That is entirely comparable to what Catholic parishes are dealing with now. (If the excellence of Catholic worship music begins to increase, then I suppose in another few hundred years our descendants wonder what the traditionalists of our era were going on about.)

    The Numbers Game

    And then there is the problem of numbers and the mobility of Protestants between churches. Let us say that in a given parish’s geographical area, there are five hundred musicians capable of playing at the skill level needed…and there are twenty churches attempting contemporary-instrumentation music, one of which is the Catholic church.

    Now if one or two of those churches have particularly talented bandleaders, their quality of music will begin to go up. As a result of this, other musicians will want to attend that church: Not necessarily to play in the worship band, but because they have the ears of a skilled musician and it hurts their ears to sit in the pews at a church where the music is bad.

    Now amongst Protestant evangelicals folks really may attend a particular church for this reason and no other — in their view the theological differences between denominations are just the fruitless debates of navel-gazing theologians, so you might as well go to church at a place where your soul is, or at least your ears are, being fed. So once a few churches begin to have good music, their pews fill with skilled musicians, giving them a “deep bullpen” from which to draw…and the music keeps getting better and better.

    But notice that this process doesn’t touch the Catholic church. A Catholic musician can’t go elsewhere, and none of the Protestant musicians are likely to show up at the Catholic church unless they’re reading the Church Fathers and considering converting. The result? The “bullpen” for a given parish is as deep as whichever Catholics are within convenient driving distance of the building.

    The Textual Issue

    I think there may also be another problem, and perhaps an insoluble one: Some of the musical parts of the Mass involve particular texts: The Gloria, the Kyrie, and so on.

    For these texts the Latin is generally well-metered and each line has the same number of syllables and the same pattern of stresses; it was written with the possibility of being set to music in mind. But the English translation of these texts is done for exactness without regard for syllable count, regular stress patterns, or any other attributes which govern lyrical suitability. And of course the grammar of Latin involves regular endings for words based on gender or tense or on whether a word is the subject or the object: Rhymes fall into place with the ease of a ripe apple falling from a tree. Not so in the English language, let alone text translated into English from other languages!

    Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t want people taking liberties with the words of the Mass: I want the real deal. I am just observing that it is difficult to set these parts of the Mass to music for the reasons stated above. Frankly it might be better to opt for the Latin text in those cases: It might lend itself more easily to musical arrangement.

    In The End

    In the end, I don’t know whether the Catholic Church will ever do contemporary-instrumentation worship music well, and if she doesn’t, perhaps she’s better off sticking to what she’s good at.

    But it’s a shame, because it lends false credibility to the notion that certain instruments are unsuited to worship of God. This is false: But certain things played on those instruments can be unsuitable, and certain ways of playing them can be unsuitable (most notably, playing them poorly).

    I hope instead that some movement for excellence in this area will begin to build in the Church, as it did with that crazy newfangled sci-fi sounding pipe organ centuries ago. I hope that centuries hence, the life of the Church will be thus enriched, as it was by the pipe organ.

    Of course, in the end, all instruments and voices will be stilled, and three things will remain: Faith, Hope, and Love, and we know which is greatest. But until then, there is room for the use of lesser gifts, and of those talents of which God makes us the stewards.

    Provided we use them well.

    A postscript: You may have noticed that throughout this post I have leaned on the terms which focus on instrumentation, such as “contemporary-instrumentation worship.” I do that because I am focusing on the appropriateness of electric guitar, folk acoustic guitar, synthesizer, and drums in worship music. I avoided the term “praise and worship music” because while all the music which falls under that heading uses the instruments listed above, not all of it is suitable for mass even when played well. This is part of what I meant about what passes for contemporary instrumentation music in parishes which attempt it: They select some truly awful numbers which probably embarrass even the Protestants who wrote them, and present this to the parishoners as “praise and worship music.”

  • RC,

    With due respect,

    The following statements of yours:

    “Now the best worship leaders and worship bands and sound technicians and writers and arrangers among Evangelicals can, in fact, produce music worthy of a Mass.”

    “the notion that certain instruments are unsuited to worship of God. This is false…”

    Are… questionable.

    The first statement, because I don’t see why an Evangelical with technical skill would understand what the Mass really is, or what sort of music is worthy of it.

    The second, because it actually has been set down in encyclicals what instruments are and are not acceptable at Mass. Of course no one cares to follow those instructions.

    My hope is that Benedict’s “reform of the reform” will put a stop to liturgical abuse, including musical abuse, and bring about the widespread reinstatement of Gregorian and polyphonic chant.

    I absolutely reject, and the Church has historically rejected, even a hint of musical relativism, the argument that one form is as good as any other provided that the “content” is somehow sacred. Forms can be profane in themselves, regardless of whether or not the words refer to saints or the most vulgar sex acts.

    To God, we are to offer up only the best. The historical distinction between sacred and profane music ought to be restored in full. I don’t object to a “Christian band” or whatever playing at a youth group meeting or some other event. But it has absolutely no place in Mass.

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_25121955_musicae-sacrae_en.html

  • Joe! Happy to see you. (Okay, to read you.)

    The bit in the encyclical (with which you answer the second of the two statements you’re debating) is something I’d read before, and I think I have not misunderstood the purpose and intent of it.

    But you’re correct to call me out on it, because I was thinking in the back of my head “the notion that the instruments I have in mind are unsuited to worship of God is false” but what came out of my fingers was “the notion that certain instruments are unsuited to worship of God…is false.”

    Not the same thing, and I should have been more careful! For certain instruments are so utterly inflexible in their sonic palette that they simply can’t generate the kind of sound needed at Mass. The harmonica, the kazoo: Instruments, to be sure, and instruments with a part to play in the soundscape of life, but, for Mass, c’mon.

    So, you got me. I said that wrong. I hold that what I was thinking was correct…but I botched it; I didn’t say what I was thinking with sufficient precision.

    So to say what I should have said: “The instruments of a praise band are capable of being played in such a way as to evoke the majesty, the sense of the numinous, the joy (quiet or exultant) called for at Mass; they are however also capable of being played with the style of a honky-tonk band; to play them in the latter fashion at Mass is execrable, but the instruments themselves are not intrinsically unsuited.”

    Better?

    Before you answer that by saying, “Better, but I still have a problem with it…,” let me anticipate one possible objection: You might say, “Better, but there’s a difference between an instrument being capable of the right kind of sounds, and an instrument easily and naturally producing the right kinds of sounds.”

    Which is a reasonable objection, but not an insurmountable one. Consider the electric guitar: One can play horribly unsuitable stuff with this instrument, or wondrously suitable. But the same is true with the violin, especially when traveling under its alternative identity, as the fiddle. Trumpets have been used in worship since the psalms were written: But not, one hopes, using the stylistic flourishes that Maynard Ferguson adopted when playing the theme song to Hawaii Five-0, such as the “rip off release.”

    In short, these are issues which are surmountable through the use of well-written arrangements played by skilled musicians: Tell ’em what to play, and they won’t get creative and start popping and slapping their fretted electric bass when you turn your back. (And another benefit to the use of well-written charts is that it weeds out the less-trained musicians. Old joke: “Q: How do you make the guitar player in a high-school band be quiet? A: Put sheet music in front of him.”

    Regarding the other statement you questioned:

    I said, “Now the best worship leaders and worship bands and sound technicians and writers and arrangers among Evangelicals can, in fact, produce music worthy of a Mass.”

    You replied, “…I don’t see why an Evangelical with technical skill would understand what the Mass really is, or what sort of music is worthy of it.”

    Well, he probably wouldn’t, until he was in the Church!

    But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t already made that kind of music, in Evangelical worship services or elsewhere, at moments when his artist’s soul and/or the Holy Spirit directed him that something special and awe-inspiring is called for at this moment.

    My point was not that an Evangelical, comfortable in his utter unfamiliarity with the origins of the Bible or the Church Fathers or the doctrines which defined the Christian faith for the first three quarters of its history, already knew what was suited to a Mass when he probably has never attended one, unless he had a Catholic friend or family member who either got married or died.

    My point was that a sliver of the music produced by these talented musicians does rise to the level and character required at Mass, even though they themselves have never thought about it that way: They were just trying to produce really excellent, well-thought-out music with a particular character to it.

    As for Benedict’s reform of the reform, I’m all for it. And if that seems contrary to what I’ve written above, remember that I’m calling for excellence here. If the contemporary instrumentation can’t be used excellently, then it shouldn’t be used! (But I hold — have indeed witnessed — that it can, so naturally I hope that it will.)

  • RC,

    I wonder if there might be a possible conflation here of music that might not necessarily be offensive to God, and music that belongs at Mass.

    Lets take the guitar, electric or acoustic, or the trumpet. Now, I don’t deny the possibility that one can make music on these instruments that is not offensive to God and perhaps even worthy of Him.

    I’m still not sure if that rises to the level required to be worthy of the specific occasion of the Mass. Trumpets are loud. Guitars are romantic. Neither is appropriate to the occasion of the Mass, which is a sacrifice. So I would say these instruments are not capable of producing sounds suitable for the Mass.

    Mass is one, perhaps two hours out of the week. I see no good reason to insist that the traditional music be replaced.

    It would be better for no one to go to Mass ever again than to sully it with profanity, musical, visual or otherwise, so that people did show up. You can quote me on that. There are appropriate venues for profane or vulgar music, so no one ought to feel denied or discriminated against.

    On a tangent that has nothing to do with anything you’ve proposed, I must say:

    Sometimes the reason for musical innovation is subversive – to use the objective power of music to change hearts and minds on critical issues. The music industry knows nothing that the ancients and the Church have always known – that music does have power, it does and alter moods and thought patterns, that it is not mindless entertainment devoid of any psychological effects.

    That is why the Papacy has always taken liturgical music extremely seriously.

  • “a sliver of the music produced by these talented musicians does rise to the level and character required at Mass”

    Eh… maybe a sliver.

  • maybe a sliver

    Now that’s a bit too optimistic for me, but a clock can be right twice a day.

  • Joe:

    Fair enough; I think our experiences differ too widely for me to argue you to a different opinion on this (or you either, Tito!). And of course I wouldn’t want to argue you to a different aesthetic sense, only on the capacity of certain instruments to deliver the appropriate results.

    So really the only thing in your (Joe’s) last note I’ll challenge — no, challenge is the wrong word. The only thing that made me go, “Whaa?” with a befuddled look and a cocked eyebrow, was this: “Guitars are romantic.” Romantic?

    Hmm. Okay, let me break this down. There are four basic kinds: Nylon-strung acoustic, steel-strung acoustic, hollow-body electric, and solid-body electric. All require amplification to be audible unless the church is a tiny one (Mass at my parish regularly has, I estimate, eight hundred in attendance). The least flexible is the nylon-strung, or classical. It sounds either (a.) almost just like a harp, (b.) Spanish, in the flamenco or true classical style a la Segovia, or (c.) 70’s singer-songwriter-esque, which I suppose comes across as “romantic.”

    Next comes the steel strung-acoustic, which sounds (a.-c.) like any of the nylon-strung options, (d.) like a harpsichord, arpeggiating with a high-end sparkle if a plectrum is used, (e.) like a richer rolling piano left-hand figure if played fingerstyle, as exhibited in some Irish music and Irish influenced tunes, and (f.) like the Indigo Girls, which is least appropriate.

    After that comes the hollow-body electric, which is best at the “jazzbox” sound, and beyond that can offer every sound that the solid-body electric can offer, but usually in an inferior way because it was designed to offer the jazzbox sound. All other sounds involve compromise.

    That leaves us with the solid-body electric, which sounds like…everything. Like a piano, like a single violin, like a cello, like a string quartet, like a harp, like a harpsichord. There is no instrument so flexible save an actual synthesizer. Buzzsaw distortion would be horribly unfit for Mass, but roll off the high end and use volume swells, and suddenly you have the sound of a cello, but with more control. Clean up the sound and turn on the echo/reverb, and the piano itself cannot roll high-octave arpeggios with such a combination of crystalline sparkle and quiet resonance, like wind chimes. And, sure, one could also make the thing sound like, oh, I don’t know, Keith Richards. But one can also make the church piano sound like Scott Joplin.

    Well. That’s enough. Time to dress and go to Mass. All this won’t change what I hear today, sadly. On with reform, to a godly end!

    (Postscript: I notice you say that trumpets are merely “loud.” I wonder if the size of the parish influences our respective judgments? As I said before, my parish has several hundred folks in even its 7AM Sunday Mass. But that’s not uncommon in the Atlanta area, where churches tend to have large numbers of congregants. I guess your parishes smaller?)

  • what is wrong with traditional catholic music for mass? what is wrong with latin chant? why doesnt the choir stay in the choir loft? that noisy guitar music makes me sick.

  • Pingback: A Second Look at Weapons of Mass Destruction « The American Catholic
  • I never cease to be amused by all the anal retentive, pharisaical prudes who, in their quest to “elevate” worhsip, do nothing more than reduce the discussion to the same banal patter you’d find at a wine tasting club.
    Jesus’ most harsh conndemnations were reserved for religious purists who effected religion without redemption…or rather, style over substance.
    The organ was banned from Christian worship for centuries because it was a pagan instrument viewed as being profane. The only reason it came into favor was that a bishop at some point was given an expensive one as a gift and decided he liked it.
    What we call “classical” music was widely condemned just a few hundred years ago as being profane and common.
    Stringed instruments have a far longer and more well-established role in our salvation history and liturgy than any other kind, perhaps except some wind and percussion instruments.
    I personally enjoy the organ when its played well, just as I enjoy guitar or ensemble when played well. Which instrument prevails is based entirely on how best to help people respond in thanks and praise to the pashcal mystery. There are some songs I love and would never play on guitar (Lift High The Cross), but there are many that the organ is too much for.
    The bottom line is that it does come down to skill and cultural relevance, and this is made clear in Church teaching, both worldwide and by the various bishops’ conferences.
    However, I had to laugh when I read “Sing to the Lord” the American Bishops’ document… it encouraged the use of the organ for “evangelization.” This is where the rubber meets the road. The aformentioned naval gazing prudes would be hard-pressed to drag their pipe organs out onto street corners among the poor and Godless who need to hear the Gospel.
    Christ himself tells us that the surest path to hell is to imitate the pharisees. Catholics are in greatest danger of this because we have such a well developed structure in our religion, theology, and liturgy. After nearly 35 years of being a Catholic liturgical musician (guitar) and with a Masters in Theology/Liturgy, I find pharisaism to be strongest in liturgical circles. It is the perfect place to be self-centered and in control but devoid of faith.

  • Tony,

    Thank you for your charitable and insightful comments.

    //sarcasm off.

  • Anytime! Thanks for your substantial, insightful reply!!// sarcasm off.

Pope Benedict XVI Wishes Us All a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 25, AD 2009

Here is the text of Pope Benedict’s Christmas Eve Homily:

Dear Brothers and Sisters! “A child is born for us, a son is given to us” (Is 9:5). What Isaiah prophesied as he gazed into the future from afar, consoling Israel amid its trials and its darkness, is now proclaimed to the shepherds as a present reality by the Angel, from whom a cloud of light streams forth: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11). The Lord is here. From this moment, God is truly “God with us”. No longer is he the distant God who can in some way be perceived from afar, in creation and in our own consciousness. He has entered the world. He is close to us. The words of the risen Christ to his followers are addressed also to us: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). For you the Saviour is born: through the Gospel and those who proclaim it, God now reminds us of the message that the Angel announced to the shepherds. It is a message that cannot leave us indifferent. If it is true, it changes everything. If it is true, it also affects me. Like the shepherds, then, I too must say: Come on, I want to go to Bethlehem to see the Word that has occurred there. The story of the shepherds is included in the Gospel for a reason. They show us the right way to respond to the message that we too have received. What is it that these first witnesses of God’s incarnation have to tell us?

Continue reading...

Happy Birthday Novus Ordo?

Wednesday, December 2, AD 2009

Among my many flaws is a deep appreciation for biting sarcasm.  A recent post by Damian Thompson at his blog at the  Telegraph is a masterpiece of this form of verbal combat:

“It is 40 years ago today since the New Mass of Paul VI was introduced into our parishes, writes Margery Popinstar, editor of The Capsule. We knew at the time that this liturgy was as close to perfection as humanly possible, but little did we guess what an efflorescence of art, architecture, music and worship lay ahead!

There were fears at first that the vernacular service would damage the solemnity of the Mass. How silly! Far from leading to liturgical abuses, the New Mass nurtured a koinonia that revived Catholic culture and packed our reordered churches to the rafters.

So dramatic was the growth in family Mass observance, indeed, that a new school of Catholic architecture arose to provide places of worship for these new congregations. Throughout the Western world, churches sprang up that combined Christian heritage with the thrilling simplicity of the modern school, creating a sense of the numinous that has proved as irresistible to secular visitors as to the faithful.

For some worshippers, it is the sheer visual beauty of the New Mass that captures the heart, with its simple yet scrupulously observed rubrics – to say nothing of the elegance of the priest’s vestments, which (though commendably less fussy than pre-conciliar outfits) exhibit a standard of meticulous craftsmanship which truly gives glory to God!

The same refreshing of tradition infuses the wonderful – and toe-tapping! – modern Mass settings and hymns produced for the revised liturgy. This music, written by the most gifted composers of our era, has won over congregations so totally that it is now rare to encounter a parish where everyone is not singing their heads off! Even the secular “hit parade” has borrowed from Catholic worship songs, so deliciously memorable – yet reverent! – is the effect they create. No wonder it is standing room only at most Masses!”

Did Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, who birthed this kairos, have any idea just how radically his innovations would transform the Church? We must, of course, all rejoice in his imminent beatification – but, in the meantime, I am tempted to borrow a phrase from a forgotten language that – can you believe it? – was used by the Church for services before 1969: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice.”

Continue reading...

15 Responses to Happy Birthday Novus Ordo?

  • If you hadn’t said this was sarcasm I would have thought that this “wumyn” was off her rocker.

    I think those that “interpreted” what they thought was the new Mass were the main culprits of causing the largest exodus of Catholics from Mother Church in history.

  • SOOOO funny! A classic!
    I love the part about “a sense of the numinous”

  • Latin has its incomparable beauty; however, English can be reverent, especially with the new Novus Ordo translations for next year. The advantage Latin has is that it is dead so it is not organically changing in meaning. Sadly the organic changes in English are overwhelmingly pejorative and politically correct (relativist).

    The fact is that the sparce Churches and modernist clerics are going to retire soon and we will see a true rennaissance in the Church if we can survive the secular progressive (Communist, Critical Theorist, neo-pagan, Satanic) persecutions that are coming.

    BTW – I like the sarcasm, but, as Tito said, it will be lost on many – probably becuase they want the liberality to be true. They have eyes but cannot see.

    Thanks for posting this and if you are blessed to have one near you – go to a Traditional Latin Mass in the Extraordinary Form (Tridentine)- it is sublime.

  • AK, English can be reverent, but there’s a natural instinct to pray in another, set-aside language. Muslims and Hindus pray in ancient languages. The ancient Jews prayed in Aramaic and spoke Hebrew; today they worship in Ancient Hebrew. I know that Armenian Apostolic rituals are in Old Armenian, and I think that many Eastern rites follow the same pattern. Even a good share of Protestants doth pray in a separate tongue. I think any attempt to bring worship into the language of the people can undermine the sense of the sacred, and these days, our sense of the sacred is in pretty bad shape.

  • Don,

    I more or less agree… but the NO services I have been to recently are getting even sillier. Sometimes I go just to see what’s going on, other times, when by my own fault or some unforseen circumstance I miss the Latin Mass and have to go to a later NO.

    Every time I go to an NO something is different. It’s constantly being tweaked and twinged, for what purposes, I don’t know.

    I don’t want to translate my preferences into objective reality, but I do believe that the Latin Mass is objectively more reverent, more conducive to spiritual growth, and more beautiful than NO. I believe that it fell out of favor precisely because of these reasons, because reverence, true spirituality and beauty have no place in a consumerist society.

    According to libertarian geniuses such as Ludwig von Mises, absolutely everything social is subjective, whether it is the value of something made in a factory or a work of art. There is no objective value, either in economics or aesthetics. Both the left and the right, such as they typically constitute themselves in America, accept this view for different reasons. The decay of the Mass parallels the decay in art.

    The assault on objective truth might find its greatest champions in the irrationalism of postmodernism but its root is in our unconscious response to the market economy, which wages an unremitting war against the very notion of sacredness. Unlike most other aspects of this phenomenon, however, the fine tuning of the Mass to appeal to spiritual consumers has continually failed.

    I don’t think consumerism has to destroy what is sacred, but I do think that it will if we are not aware of how it operates in our minds.

  • Joe,

    You hit the nail right on its head.

    Thanks for articulating your response very well!

  • Pinky,

    I agree. A Pater Noster or Ave Maria is so much more holy, sacred, reverential and satisfying than an Our Father or Hail Mary.

    May God continue to bless us with priests who seek to celebrate in the more reverential form.

    Mater Dei, ora pro nobis.

  • Joe,

    I agree with Mises on many things as pertains to subjectivity. What he misses is the objective view and the intrinsic value of created goods. Ayn Rand said she was objective but her Objectivism was all about the efficacy of man, Sola Sapiens, and her romance and love was nothing more than pornography, anger.

    Thanks in great part to you I am becoming more aware of the flaws in libertarian praxeology. I still hold that libertarian principles applied to the secular world from a Catholic perspective are valid. This will be true as regards utilitarian economics, commodities, etc. It fails, as you point out, when it comes to the objective (a perfectly subjective view for God alone). It especially fails when it comes to the sacred. Libertarian praxeology is profane and works better than any other reasonable concept in the secular world. As you point out the left/right paradigm is false because both sides, and all shades in between, accept the modernist utilitarianism. It is just as false for most of us Catholics (laity and secular clergy) to adhere so fervently to the sacred as to not be able to function in the profane world. We are in it, but not of it. Libertarian praxeology works with limits and must always keep an eye up to God, which in its current use it seldom does. We shouldn’t throw it out with all the other methods; we need to reorient it to God. He promised everyone, everything they ask for provided we seek His Kingdom first. This brings me to where you and I agree. . .

    The Mass is not a commodity or even a man made construct; however, the Church can organically develop it and the Novus Ordo is valid but it is very, very bland. Almost pointless, save for the real presence of Christ. The Extraordinary form is not only Latin. A nearby parish celebrates the NO in Latin as does EWTN sometimes. Latin is beautiful, universal (hence Catholic) and fixed; however, the beauty of the Tridentine Mass goes so much further.

    What I especially like is that the priest has so much less to ‘innovate’ and the laity has so much less external participation. I also find it very difficult to pray the NO because I feel like I am being called to externally participate every couple of seconds rendering the active participation almost impossible (perhaps that is just my hang-up) and then comes the social hour of the sign of conviviality. I pray that I am not arrogant; however, when I am at an NO Mass I just keep my hands together and my eyes close and pray for His Peace, dona nobis pace.

    I feel as though the laity at the NO has no idea that we aren’t Protestants. Moreover, with all the disparate innovation going on in the congregation and the lax manner of dress it is a wonder anyone finds it holy or can even interiorly actively participate easily. If I am not mistaken the Mass is to take us out of time and space and enter into the Sacrifice on Golgotha/Calvary – how do we do that without the sacred beauty of the Extraordinary form?

  • AK,

    “Thanks in great part to you I am becoming more aware of the flaws in libertarian praxeology.”

    Well, I’m glad I could help. It’s especially reassuring given that I am sometimes accused, by members of a different blog, for being unable to “stop thinking like an American.”

    “I still hold that libertarian principles applied to the secular world from a Catholic perspective are valid.”

    Perhaps, but as you later say, only within certain limits. America’s strong classical republican tradition was all but blotted out by the Industrial Revolution. Early America had sumptuary laws, for instance, that made luxury more expensive for the rich; this reflected a view that excessively concentrated wealth and luxury were detrimental to the survival of a republic. The founders of America had a pretty strong virtue ethic that balanced out their liberalism.

    As regards your last question: I don’t think we really can. Mass is about giving God the worship owed to Him; it isn’t a tea party. People might argue that there is nothing wrong with the Mass incorporating elements of the modern culture, as it has been done for generations. But before we can make that blanket assessment, we ought to consider what, objectively, our present culture is and whether or not any parts of it are worthy of being included in the Mass.

    I say, there aren’t too many. It isn’t really that rock music or even the vanilla piano accompaniment are inherently evil, but that they are a step down from the sublime to the common and vulgar.

    And as I pointed out to a certain writer for another blog, I don’t believe that the effects in different eras of history are comparable – yes, perhaps, in the Middle Ages they had clowns and jesters and other strange practices; they also had a universal Christian culture that played a role in their daily lives. We don’t have that today. We have a culture of hedonism, consumerism, materialism and death.

    All the more reason for us to preserve a liturgy that transcends historical epochs. Are Christians not supposed to challenge the dominant secular paradigms? Are they not supposed to stand out? How do you challenge the world with your social message when your liturgy conforms to it evermore? It is an inconsistency, I believe.

    I consider myself a true “rad trad” because I believe that Christianity ought to radically challenge secular society not only in its proclamation of what is right and wrong, but in how it worships God. When we adopt Protestant gimmicks, charismatic side shows, and the like, we aren’t challenging anyone or anything. And I think that in turn greatly diminishes the challenge that our social and moral message poses to the modern world.

  • Joe when we are attacked from all sides we are probably onto something. You and I still disagree on finer points and I am sure that the same misguided fools that attack you wouldn’t find me too appealing either. Christ was condemned for being too religious and not religious enough at the same time!

    The limits to set on a Republic based on liberal (classical) principles is The Church. Sadly, this country was founded by Masons (Luciferians) so the limits were set to be removed. About 100 years ago they were removed and the USA has degraded since and now the pace is accelerating.

    40 years ago the rubrics for the practice of the Catholic faith and the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice were loosened and instead of the Church engaging the modern world as Vatican II intended, it allowed the modern world in.

    The modern world has been assessed and found wanting. We are going back to reverence and orthodoxy. Can we take the secular country back to foundational principles and forward to the one, true faith?

  • Damian Thompson can be crotchety (the last time I checked out “Holy Smoke,” he was grousing about Halloween treat-or-treaters), but every now and then, he hits the nail on the head. (And I cut him some slack for being grumpy, because it can’t be easy being a practicing Catholic in the land of Richard Dawkins and Henry VIII.)

    The worst litugical abuse I have witnessed occurred when I was still a child and it wasn’t until years later that I realized how bad it was. It was the late ’60’s. A priest at our parish who took to VII and the counterculture with great gusto held Mass in a neighbor’s living room. He was dressed in street clothes (then still a rarity in my neighborhood) and used a torn-up loaf of whole wheat bread for the Eurcharist. A hippie folk guitarist was in attendance and sang “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” and other such tunes.

    I remember my parents were shocked and horrified by the whole thing, and I imagine the other blue-collar WWII generation attendees were too. I recall being baffled by what to do with Communion, as I had had it pounded into my head by the nuns and my parents that one never bit the host. But it’s very difficult not to chew a big hunk of whole wheat bread. And I think that’s exactly why “Fr. Dan” used it – he wanted his parishioners to overcome fuddy-duddy taboos and get with the swingin’ ’60’s, man.

    A few years later, he left the priesthood to marry an nun who had taken to the spirit of the times with similiar enthusiasm.

  • The worst liturgical abuse I ever heard of occurred at the Newman Center of a secular university one of my relatives attended 25+ years ago; he claimed that the priest actually invoked Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez during Mass. (This particular Newman Center, however, has definitely cleaned up its act since then.)

    I have to admit, that while I like the revived interest in Latin and the greater availability of the Tridentine Mass as an alternative, I have a hard time getting too worked up about the supposed defects of the Novus Ordo. Perhaps it’s because that is the Mass I grew up with — I have absolutely no memory of ever having gone to a Tridentine Mass until I was an adult — and for better or worse, it’s the “real Mass” to me. Plus the vast majority of NO Masses I have attended have been properly celebrated and not marked by any of the grosser liturgical abuses others complain about.

    I used to work full time in a Catholic organization, and back then it was easy to be consumed with urgent life or death questions such as Communion on the tongue vs. in the hand, whether it was liturgically correct to sing first person songs like “I Am the Bread of Life,” and whether it was OK to hold hands at the Our Father. Today, however, living and working in an entirely secular “real world” environment, when I go to Mass on weekends, I’m just glad to be there. As long as the priest is a real priest, nothing that contradicts or misleads concerning Church teaching is said in the homily, everything is done according to the rubrics, and they don’t pray to Cesar Chavez, I’m OK with it.

    I hope nobody gets me wrong here, but to me, I don’t necessarily see it as a sign of virtue or piety to be overly picky or critical about what liturgy one attends — so long as it is valid and celebrated according to Church rules. Isn’t being content with what one has a virtue?

    What I am saying about being content with the liturgy one has applies ONLY to the attendees or congregation. Celebrants, on the other hand, show piety by exerting every effort to make their liturgies as “first class” and reverent as possible. There is absolutely no virtue in CELEBRATING a sloppy or rushed liturgy for no good reason.

  • Elaine,

    I grew up with NO too, minus a brief excursion my family took into the Maronite rite to connect with our roots (it ended when the only Maronite priest around left town). In all my youth, however, I never attended a Latin Mass and only had a vague notion of what it was all about.

    It wasn’t until after my decade of atheism that I discovered the TLM. The first time I heard the magnificent schola chanting was probably when I decided I wouldn’t be going back to NO. As I learned more about the TLM, and then went back and saw the NO, I was pretty sure I made the right choice. There’s just no comparison.

    It isn’t just about the tiny things you bring up, though when you add them altogether, they do make for two very different experiences. With NO, who knows if you’re going to have a reverent Mass, who knows if what they did last week will be what they do this week. In my parish, the TLM is the same every month, with alternating low and high Mass, as well it ought to be.

    I don’t think you give the liturgy the importance it is due. And why should you? It is hard to take liturgical matters seriously when the NO is the liturgy that defines your experience as a Catholic, because NO doesn’t really take itself seriously. I don’t know how to put that in a way that doesn’t sound rude, but no offense is intended.

    No, I don’t think we ought to hammer fellow Catholics over the heads with our liturgical preferences, but I do think it IS a virtue to introduce people to a form of worship that I believe is objectively more worthy of God, more reverent, more beautiful.

  • If you have not assisted at a TLM, do it with an open mind and do not focus on what is different than the NO, nor on the fact that you probably don’t know the rubrics. Just pray the Mass – you are transported to Calvary/The Last Supper/Eternity all at once – just be with Jesus.

    Also, try praying the Rosary in Latin (any good Catholic book store should have a cheat sheet in ecclesial Latin for you). Allow thirty days for it to really sink in and become familiar and you will be drawn by the beauty and majesty.

    Warning: It will become increasingly more difficult to assist at an NO.

  • Taking parts of what Elaine writes:

    …as long as…nothing that contradicts or misleads concerning Church teaching…I’m OK with it…

    such would be true enough, if only such were the case…but the Novus Ordo designers deliberately stripped the Old Mass of much of its Catholicity for the very purpose of undermining it…so as not to cause their ‘separated brethren’ to stumble over it…compare the texts of the two Masses, and note well the suppression of the traditional prayers, and look for the offending terms which doomed them to oblivion…case in point, the suppression of the lovely Psalm 42, at the beginning of Mass, due to its repeated sacerdotal antiphon ‘and I shall go unto the Altar of God’ and its response ‘to God, who giveth joy to my youth’…altars are material to the concept of sacrifice, thus the Altar of God, provides the imagery of the Divine Sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the context of our worship. This is inimical to the Protestant vision, which purports the one time sacrifice of Christ and the subsequent commemoration of, but not renewal of, that event in its faith. The reference to ‘youth’ in the response again grates on the Protestant ear, inasmuch as it invokes the imagery of ‘rejuvenation’, which as Catholics, we receive through confession and absolution, a second chance as it were to lives our lives anew.
    Other instances of this suppression of Catholic thought abound, but I’ll close my post with only one other…consider the removal of the phrase ‘Mystery of Faith’ from the consecrational formula, referring specifically to the transubstantion of Christ’s Body and Blood,to a awkward proclamation after the Confection, consisting of the imagery of Christ’s death, resurrection, and the impemnding parousia…curious is it not? The designers of the NO clearly intended that the true mystical event of the Mass evolve aroung the universal Christian concept of dying and rising, and coming again, instead of the unique Catholic concept of the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist under the guise of bread and wine…I fail to see how deliberately deemphasizing the transubstantiation of the matter of the Eucharist can be called not misleading the Faithful as to the teaching of Mother Chuch…

Church Opens Doors To Anglicans Seeking Reunion With Rome

Tuesday, October 20, AD 2009

PD*28697252

This morning William Cardinal Levada announced at the Vatican that Pope Benedict XVI has introduced a canonical structure in an upcoming Apostolic Constitution that allows for corporate reunion with Anglicans by establishing Personal Ordinariates.

A Personal Ordinariate would be similar to Military Ordinariates which have been established in most countries to provide pastoral care for the members of the armed forces and their dependents throughout the world.

Here are the highlights from this mornings announcement:

  • It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy.
  • Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
  • The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop.
  • The seminarians in the Ordinariate are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony.
  • These Personal Ordinariates will be formed, as needed, in consultation with local Conferences of Bishops, and their structure will be similar in some ways to that of the Military Ordinariates.

Cardinal Levada has stated:

Continue reading...

13 Responses to Church Opens Doors To Anglicans Seeking Reunion With Rome

Ad Orientem

Tuesday, August 25, AD 2009

Bishop Edward Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa is a champion of Ad Orientem.  Here you can read his thoughts on the subject.  The National Catholic Reporter wrote a piece on the subject which Father Z has put through his patented fisk machine and which may be read here.  I of course am all in favor of Ad Orientem.  Priests should render the sacrifice of the Mass at altars when possible and not at the Protestant-lite communion tables that have come into vogue since Vatican II, in a well-intentioned but completely wrong-headed attempt for greater involvement by the laity in the Mass.  Quotes from Pope Benedict regarding Ad Orientem are here at the wonderful blog New Liturgical Movement, which I had not read until researching this post.  What do you think?

Continue reading...

3 Responses to Ad Orientem

  • I never “got” all of the carrying-on about Ad Orientem until I attended a triple of back-to-back Masses (for All Souls), where the celebrant did the first Mass “the regular way”, the second Ad Orientem in English, and the third Ad Orientem in Latin.

    Oh. The difference was striking: in the first Mass it was to some degree the “Father X Show”, while in the second and third the priest was not so much “Father X” as he was the archetypal Priest.

  • Precisely Karen! Ad Orientem underlines that the Mass is a sacrifice to God and our greatest act of worship. It is all about Him and not all about us. After Mass there is plenty of time for the extensive duties that God mandates that we owe to our neighbors.

  • If “ad orientem” means towards the East, what does one do for the many churches in NYC which are built North / South?

News & Notes for A.D. 3-3-2009

Tuesday, March 3, AD 2009

Salvete AC readers!

OK, I junked the whole Latin title since I figured it wasn’t coming across that well as to what I wanted to do with this bit.  So now I’m calling this particular column ‘News & Notes’ (for now).  Here is today’s Top Seven picks in the Catholic world:

1. A great new blog by Pat McNamara about Catholic history titled appropriately enough, McNamara’s Blog.  I’ve been thinking of starting something like this for the past three years, but never got around to it.  I’m happy to say that McNamara’s Blog has great short stories on famous and little known figures in Catholicism as well as stories on non-Catholics and how they interacted and viewed our beautiful Catholic faith.  Here is the link to McNamara’s Blog: http://irishcatholichumanist.blogspot.com/

Continue reading...

9 Responses to News & Notes for A.D. 3-3-2009

The Mass-What is Optional and What Is Not

Sunday, January 4, AD 2009

the-mass

Hattips to Rich Leonardi at Ten Reasons and Father Z at What Does The Prayer Really Say.  They brought to my attention the comments of Monsignor Joseph Schaedel, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to his parishioners at Holy Rosary Church after the Monsignor dropped the Sign of Peace at the Mass.  I find the Monsignor’s comments heartening, as I suspect will other Catholics in this country who have wondered “What next!” as they have sat through the numerous changes foisted upon the Mass over the past four decades.  Here are the comments with Father Z’s “color commentary” in red.

Continue reading...

3 Responses to The Mass-What is Optional and What Is Not

  • I don’t think the Sign Of Peace is really that meaningful. We have all these differences, dislikes, & hates, etc; then we brake the progression of the Mass to do a “How de do!” to people we’d rather have nothing to do with. Then we go back to our same thought processes & ignoring the folks we shook hands with, hugged, or waved hello to as if nothing happened. It’s so phoney and bogus that it’s disgusting!

  • The Pope has mention moving the “sign of peace” to before the offertory which I think would be much more respectful of the Eucharist and the awesome mystery we are about to partake and fulfill Jesus’ words better: “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:23-24).

  • The problem is that the current practice has masked the truly important and theologically meaningful location of the offering of Christ’s Peace during the Matt. Better to preserve the TRADITIONAL practice of the kiss of peace where it is, and save handshakes, hugs and high fives for coffee time after Mass.

96 Responses to Return of Gregorian Chant

  • FYI – There will be a Gregorian Chant workshop at St. Theresa’s in Sugar Land on Feb. 13th & 14th, 2009. It will be presented by Scott Turkington, who is on the board of directors for the Church Music Association of America. $75 for the weekend, beginners welcome!

    http://www.musicasacra.com/sugarland/

    Incidentally, there is also a (free) concert of William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices at 7:30pm on Feb. 13th, put on by the St. Theresa Schola Cantorum. Come for the whole weekend!

  • Chant is a nice option for liturgy. Too bad most of the folks pushing it as if life depended on it are simply “high culture” types who simply have an emotional attachment to one particular form of music and insist on imposing it on the rest of the church.

  • Before you make sweeping statements like that, you might want to have some basic familiarity with what the advocates of traditional sacred music (chant and polyphany) actually say about it — and more importantly what the Church herself has said about chant: namely that it should (according to Vatican II) given “pride of place” as a form “specially suited to the Roman Liturgy.”

    If we take the universal understanding of our Church seriously, we should certainly be following her guidance in this regard rather than the sort of Americanist guitar strumming which is all too often inflicted on us.

    Surely as someone so able to get outside the dominant cultural paradigm you agree?

  • “who simply have an emotional attachment to one particular form of music and insist on imposing it on the rest of the church.”

    Yes. One does wonder when most music directors at masses in this country will wake up to the astounding fact that the year is 2008 and not 1978. The persistance of bad “worship” music from the sixties and the seventies of the last century is as much a wonder to behold as it is painful to hear.

  • Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium §116 (1963) says, “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman Liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services”.

    Amen.

  • [quote]If we take the universal understanding of our Church seriously, we should certainly be following her guidance in this regard rather than the sort of Americanist guitar strumming which is all too often inflicted on us.

    Surely as someone so able to get outside the dominant cultural paradigm you agree?[/quote]

    Yes, one would think so, but how could this fit into a pre-ordered worldview?

  • Darwin – First, I am quite familiar with what “they” say about it, having been active in liturgical music for about 15 years. Second, despite your wishful thinking, the “universal church” is not teaching us to restore monocultural music universally. It’s not even asking us to ban guitars. Keep dreaming. And what is “Americanist” guitar strumming anyway?

    Donald – The worst of liturgical music is from the late 80s and the 1990s. Most parishes are using music that sounds like its from the Weather Channel or Elton John “Circle of Life” crap and it’s horrid. A lot of the music from the 70s was actually quite good.

    Surely as someone so able to get outside the dominant cultural paradigm you agree?

    Yes, what better way to “get outside the dominant cultural paradigm” than by restoring the former dominant cultural paradigm, and not because the type of music is any “better” in any objective way, but because 1) of some emotional “mysterious” feeling it gives you and 2) because it suits your ecclesiological ideology.

    Of course some types of music are better than others, and we can certainly say that some types of music are suitable for the eucharistic liturgy and others are not. And of course chant is fantastic. Sure, let’s even say it should have the “pride of place.” But it’s merely an option among many.

  • Here is a thread from Catholic Answers on the worst Catholic hymns.

    http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=197443

    Note that it goes on for 50 pages.

    My personal list of the bottom ten Catholic hymns that make my ears bleed:

    1. Sing a new song-1972.

    2. I am the bread of life-1971.

    3. On eagles’ wings-1979

    4. Here I am Lord-1979

    5. Gift of finest wheat-1976

    6. Be not afraid-1974

    7. Glory and praise to our God-1976

    8. Hosea-1972

    9. Peace is flowing like a river-1975

    10. Ashes -1978

    Bad music is created in every decade, but the seventies abuse the privilege.

    Hear is a good article that explains why this mouldy boomer music is foisted upon us so frequently at Mass.

  • I am curious if there is overlap between Donald’s bottom 10 and Michael’s top 10 from the 70’s.

    Personally I think some of those songs are defensible, particularly when they are scriptural, but to say they are defensible is not to say they are ideal.

  • I am personally a lover of Lassus, Victoria, Byrd, Palesrtina Tavener AND all of the songs on Donald’s list.

  • I have a certain shame-faced affection for Gift of Finest Wheat, though my list of horribles would line up well with Donald’s. I’d add Let Us Build the City of God in place of Gift of Finest Wheat.

    There’s an important distinction to bear in mind, however, when talking about Palestrina, Byrd or the Glory & Praise Hit Parade versus talking about chant. (And this applies equally to Gregorian Chant in the Latin Rite and the various Eastern forms of chant which are found in the Eastern Rites and the Orthodox churches.

    John Michael Talbot and Palestrina are both composers who wrote specific compositions in the idiom of their times (though one barely deserves the title and the other was among the most brilliant composers of choral music who ever lived). In that sense, Desprez, von Bingen, Monteverdi, Byrd, Tallis, Palestrina, etc. are of a specific time and culture, though composing music to fit an eternal and universal purpose. (And creating beauty which can be appreciated in many times and places.)

    Chant, however, is not a composition in the same sense. It is a mode of turning words into musical prayer, not a style for composing songs. This is what make’s Michael’s comment about “restoring the former dominant cultural paradigm” very odd. The “dominant cultural paradigm” in regards to sacred music has varied throughout the history of the Church. Medieval compositions are very different from Renaissance ones, which are in turn different from Classical and Baroque and modern ones. The various forms of chant, however, are not time and place specific in the same way. They’re flexible — listening to an African or Latin American priest or choir chant is very different from hearing a French or Spanish one — and yet they contain a universal musical language of prayer. (The use of the Church’s universal language helps as well, of course, when it comes to bridging barriers.)

    That is why the Church teaches that chant should have price of place in our liturgy — not because it is superior music or from a superior culture (though it is musically superior to much of what is churned out in any given period or by any given culture) but because chant provides the Church with a musical language of prayer which crosses cultural and temporal boundaries.

  • I appreciate music from all periods, but the problem that happened over the past generation and a half with Catholic Mass music in this country is that it largely remained frozen in time with the same 20 hymns or so, mostly from the seventies, played ad nauseum. One of the benefits of belonging to a Church that spans two millenia is that it gives us the opportunity to choose good music from many time periods, with the mediocre and bad music, alas always in the majority for any time period, residing in sweet oblivion. Time to take advantage of this and give the jejune hymns of the past two generations a rest for say a century or so.

  • “Hear is a good article that explains why this mouldy boomer music is foisted upon us so frequently at Mass.” should have been “Here is a good article that explains why this mouldy boomer music is foisted upon us so frequently at Mass.”, although, considering the subject matter, no doubt it was a Freudian slip.

  • .”..but because chant provides the Church with a musical language of prayer which crosses cultural and temporal boundaries.”

    I understand the claim and sympathize with the sentiment, but am not so sure that it is in a category unto itself, actually delivering in such a way.

  • Donald,

    Sadly I’ve been inculcated with these songs, having grown up in the 80’s and 90’s. Most of the songs you list I actually like. However, as I’ve become more and more aware of liturgical abuses, I’ve also become a little more sensitive to abuses in music, as well. There might be hope for me yet…

    As a completely useless anecdote, just this morning I was looking up the lyrics to Tim Schoenbachler’s “Rise Up, Jerusalem”. The song popped into my head at Mass yesterday, and I was trying to remember if it was something we sang in church years ago or was some pop piece that I’d heard elsewhere.

  • No problem Ryan, force of habit will cause many people to become fond of items that they would otherwise not be fond of. Of the songs produced during the seventies I actually like One Bread, One Body which I know is fingernails on the chalkboard to many people. Tastes will vary. My main point is that these songs are played too frequently and detract from the massive musical heritage that Catholics have to draw upon.

  • I am curious if there is overlap between Donald’s bottom 10 and Michael’s top 10 from the 70’s.

    Most of the songs he mentioned I don’t really like. I do like “I Am the Bread of Life” and “Be Not Afraid.” “Hosea” is also pretty good. The rest are not very good songs. “Here I Am Lord” rips off, of all things, the theme from the Brady Bunch.

    I do tend to like St Louis Jesuits hymns for the most part (only a few of the songs D mentioned were their songs), but I tend to like the more obscure ones. And I like them stripped down to folk instruments, well played, as they were intended to be played. Not translated to piano or pipe organ. And not simplistic guitar strumming. Good guitarists and singers playing “Answer When I Call,” for example is simply beautiful.

    A more interesting question is whether the songs on the “top ten worst songs” lists make it because folks are simply sick of them, and sick of bad music in general in Catholic parishes. “Be Not Afraid” is a great song, but it’s overdone and it’s usually played horribly. Any style of liturgical music can be done poorly. Donald’s later comments indicate to me that his issue is more with the fact that he is sick of certain hymns being over played. That’s certainly a legitimate point, but it does not signal an overall problem with the quality of Catholic liturgical from 1960-present.

    That said, I mostly don’t like Haas and Haugen (Haugen is better). And I can’t stand the Catholic embrace of “praise and worship” music.

    Chant, however, is not a composition in the same sense. It is a mode of turning words into musical prayer, not a style for composing songs. This is what make’s Michael’s comment about “restoring the former dominant cultural paradigm” very odd… The various forms of chant, however, are not time and place specific in the same way.

    What is “odd” is the notion that chant somehow floats above culture as if God herself wrote it. I’ve heard that argument before and frankly I find it ridiculous.

    I was fortunate to grow up in a parish that had a “folk Mass” with a very competent choir. These “folks” knew what they were doing. Great guitar players, fiddler, bass, etc. They had a huge batch of songs to draw from and they knew how the songs were intended to be played. Thus, it’s hard for me to accept the across-the-board dismissals of contemporary Catholic liturgical music.

    I’m working on an album of St Louis Jesuits songs played in a very stripped down format, with a sort of Appalachian old time feel. I am picking some of their more obscure songs for the most part.

    “Cry of the Poor,” played well, is one of the best, most hauntingly beautiful contemporary Catholic hymns in my opinion. But it does not translate well to piano or organ.

    I like Taize music (in Latin, English, or Spanish) because it feels both ancient and contemporary.

  • God herself

    Can I hope that’s a typo…?

  • That said…

    What is “odd” is the notion that chant somehow floats above culture as if God herself wrote it. I’ve heard that argument before and frankly I find it ridiculous.

    I don’t think the argument is that God himself produces chant, obviously the various forms of chant are human developments, but they’re human developments with a purpose and form different from “song writing” or “composition” in that they are means of singing pre-existing words (the words being the main emphasis) to a musical form that provides beauty without making the musical composition the center (a center to which the words are fit.)

    In this sense, a chant approach works equally well in Latin, English, Spanish, etc., so long as one takes into account the rhythms of the language itself.

    Though I can certainly imagine given your background and ideological commitments why you’d want to ignore or recategorize chanted prayer.

  • Most of what Donald puts on his list rank near the bottom of my list, too It’s not that they are necessarily bad songs (in fact, melodically some of them are very good), but most of them suffer from one serious defect: they’re virtually unsingable by ordinary people. The melodies have huge intervals in them or cover an enormous range (and sometimes both). The majority of people can only consistently sing an interval of a third or maybe a fourth, but many of these songs have fifths, sixths, and even octaves in them. Most people’s effective range is perhaps a full octave, but some of these songs stretch almost two octaves (“I Am The Bread Of Life” is especially bad about this). If your goal is to have the people sing along with the choir, this is the worst thing you can do; the result typically is absolute cacaphony. The great advantage of chant (and hymns up until the early 20th century in general) is that the intervals and ranges are relatively small (and the meter is regular). Even untrained singers can sound reasonably good with that material. By contrast, only a trained choir typically sounds good with much of the modern stuff.

    There are other issues involved that I won’t get into, such as apparently sopranos and tenors write all of the modern music and put it in keys that are uncomfortable for a bass such as myself, or performing in a style that is totally inappropriate for the source material (the parish I’m at now is the second consecutive one where the music group tries to play Andrae Crouch’s “Soon And Very Soon” and absolutely butchers it…).

  • I’m working on an album of St Louis Jesuits songs played in a very stripped down format, with a sort of Appalachian old time feel. I am picking some of their more obscure songs for the most part.

    I’d be interested in hearing it when you’re finished.

    but most of them suffer from one serious defect: they’re virtually unsingable by ordinary people.

    Truer words were never spoken. I grew up in a Presbyterian church (where they sang the Psalms, and nothing but the Psalms, set to music) and later a Southern Baptist church — and in both instances, everybody sang. Take a look around my parish on Sunday and people struggle along (if at all) while the director puts on a solo performance.

    Something’s amiss here, and it ain’t the parishioners.

  • God herself

    Can I hope that’s a typo…?

    Like his refusal to capitalize certain words, Michael I. is just going out of his way to be obnoxious.

  • One thing professional gadfly Todd Flowerday correctly points out is that everybody needs to step back and realize that hymn-sifting will occur and is occurring. Each of the currently popular hymnists is going to be lucky to have maybe five of his/her songs in a hymnal come the turn of the 21st Century. Which means that we’ll end up singing a lot of chaff, alas.

    The transcultural effect of chant is a good point. The Church has rarely been monochrome culturally, least of all during its formative years, and yet that’s when traditions of chant proliferated throughout. Take a listen at Sr. Marie Keyrouz’ eastern chant repertoire and that comes through with crystal clarity. And, yes, hymns do as well, given the hymn fragments we see in the NT (Phillipians, for example). But it is the centrality of chant to the actual liturgical prayer forms of the Church across time and culture which distinguishes it from hymnody.

  • Can I hope that’s a typo…?

    If you want to. But it’s not a typo.

    I don’t think the argument is that God himself produces chant, obviously the various forms of chant are human developments, but they’re human developments with a purpose and form different from “song writing” or “composition” in that they are means of singing pre-existing words (the words being the main emphasis) to a musical form that provides beauty without making the musical composition the center (a center to which the words are fit.)

    I said “as if” God writes chant.

    Of course I see that chant is held to be different than mere “song writing” in a way similar to how icons are not mere paintings. But even most contemporary liturgical composers do not see what they do as mere songwriting. And given what you have said about using pre-existing words, etc etc, it still does not follow that chant somehow “transcends” culture. It simply does not.

    Though I can certainly imagine given your background and ideological commitments why you’d want to ignore or recategorize chanted prayer.

    I have said a few times now in this thread that I like chant. A lot. I don’t ignore it at all. I have some on my laptop right now. But the push to enshrine chant as the only “real” form of liturgical music is misguided and not catholic (in the “small ‘c’ sense of the word). If you want to try to misrepresent my position (as usual), go ahead, but I’ll indeed point out whenever you do so.

    The great advantage of chant (and hymns up until the early 20th century in general) is that the intervals and ranges are relatively small (and the meter is regular).

    Your point about the singability is a good one. But I don’t agree that pre-20th c. hymns were easier to sing. I say this from experience in choirs over the years who have used a variety of music from different time periods.

    Take a look around my parish on Sunday and people struggle along (if at all) while the director puts on a solo performance.

    Yes, absolutely. But here again, this is a problem with the practice of liturgical music, NOT with the style of the music.

  • Can I hope that’s a typo…?

    If you want to. But it’s not a typo.

    Well, okay.

    I kind of thought it might not be, but I had hoped that my low expecations were not actually reflective of reality.

  • As Julian of Norwich says so beautifully, Jesus is our Mother…

  • Tito,

    Both man and woman were made in God’s image.

    Can you use your analogical imagination to understand that in God’s perfection there is femaleness?

  • Mark,

    I understand where you and Michael I. are coming from, but I respectfully disagree with calling God a ‘she’. It is more an act of provocation rather than anything congenial.

    The thread is about Gregorian Chant and then MIchael I. decides to throw a hand-grenade that is completely unrelated to the topic, ie, par for the course.

    What’s the name of your pooch?

  • So our Lady is our mother, in whom we are all enclosed and born of her in Christ, for she who is mother is mother of all who are saved in our savior; and our saviour is our true Mother, in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come.
    ….

    And so in our making, God almighty is our loving Father, and God all wisdom is our loving Mother, with the love and the goodness of the Holy Spirit, which is all one God, our Lord.

    The mother can give her child to suck her milk, but our precious Mother can feed us with himself, and does, most courteously and tenderly, with the blessed sacrament, which is the precious food of true life..

    The mother can lay her child tenderly to her breast, but our tender Mother Jesus can lead us easily into his blessed breast through his sweet open sidem and show us there a part of the godhead and of the joys of heaven, with inner certainty of endless bliss.

    Julian of Norwich, Shewings

  • Tito,

    The dog’s name is Georgia, or Georgie for those who are on familiar terms with her. She’s actually my girlfiend’s.

  • Mark,

    Thanks for the Julian referrence. It’s always good to learn more about the faith.

    Georgia it is. I’m a big cat and dog fan. Cats because they take care of themselves, dogs because they are loyal. Though I don’t own any as of this moment, I’m thinking of getting two kittens sometime next year.

    Felix and Nestor!

  • The thread is about Gregorian Chant and then MIchael I. decides to throw a hand-grenade that is completely unrelated to the topic, ie, par for the course.

    I’m sorry you find female terms for God “provocative.” That’s your problem, your issue, not mine.

    Utterly hilarious that you think my use of the word “she” for God was an intentional attempt to derail the conversation here. You have issues, my friend!

    Can you use your analogical imagination to understand that in God’s perfection there is femaleness?

    Tito has made clear for some time now that he has no analogical imagination.

  • Mark – Femaleness is a “hand grenade,” according to Tito. I’ll bet the women in his life must be flattered.

  • Michael,

    Maybe you are being a bit too tough on Tito. He probably just wants to respect the language that God chose in his full revelation of Himself.

    Unfortuantely, a too obsessive adherence to this langauge has historically stifled the theological imagination, and we are all the victims.

  • Utterly hilarious that you think my use of the word “she” for God was an intentional attempt to derail the conversation here.

    Of course it was. The troll’s mission accomplished!

  • From a recent post:

    Whenever I see debates about Church music, they are generally about stylistic issues, instrumentation, and the like. These debates usually center around music selection — which hymns to select and why. It’s been this way for at least as long as I’ve been involved in church music (13 years). I wish to change the terms of the debate; I’m not going to center on style or instrumentation. Instead, I wish to concentrate on the texts of the music assigned for the Mass each and every week.

    Now many will wonder at the final part of that phrase. “I didn’t know each and every Mass has music assigned already. I thought pastors, music directors, and liturgical committees chose the music for the Mass.” This kind of question is a manifestation of what I see as a case of deep liturgical amnesia that has plagued the Western Church since even before the Second Vatican Council. But that is another post for another time.

    Read on…

  • Aristotle,

    That’s a very key point you bring up, and while I think that chants are particularly appropriate forms of music to the texts appropriate to the mass, I would agree with you that it is more important that we regain the lost propers of the mass than what style of music they are in.

    Michael,

    I’ve known rather more women who are offended by the implication that they were incapable of “relating” to God when He is referred to with the masculine pronoun (which is generally how the scriptures and Church Father describe Him, after all) than who are offended by comments such as Tito’s. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I very much doubt that any women worth winning the admiration of would be offended by what he said.

    As you are no doubt aware, God is traditionally referred to in orthodox Christianity as masculine, just as the Church is traditionally referred to as feminine, and I think the case is pretty solid that doing otherwise can only be taken as:

    a) An attempt to shock and/or flaunt one’s transgressive attitude.
    b) An expression of solidarity with the sorts of “feminist theology” which have been explicitly rejected by the Church.

    Mark,

    You’re right, of course, that there are aspects of God which we, in human terms, might see as feminine. Men and women are equally made in His image. However, I must admit that I can’t see where generally sticking with describing God as the scriptures and the Church Fathers described Him has stifled theological imaginations that much over the last 2000 years.

  • Darwin/Brendan:

    On the contrary, God is referred to as both masculine and feminine throughout the history of orthodox Christianity. Jesus himself referred to God as female at times. Take it up with him.

    You’re simply not familiar with the breadth of the tradition. Sticking God in a box labeled “BOY” is transgressive, not referring to God as “she.”

    Tito-sterone is right, though: this thread is about liturgical music not “feminist theology.” The fact that you jerks can’t handle a feminine pronoun in reference to God is not my problem. YOU are the ones who are making a big deal about it, not me. Get over it.

  • Jesus himself referred to God as female at times. Take it up with him.

    Once, yes. But there’s hundreds of times more scriptural support for saying that God is pro-war (i.e., much of the Old Testament). Likewise, if you look at Church history, there were more wars started by the Church itself than there were orthodox theologians who called God “she.” So if, in a thread about Church music, someone dropped a completely irrelevant aside that God is pro-war, only jerks like you would be sidetracked over that comment, right?

  • Is today Festivus or Christmas Eve?

  • On the contrary, God is referred to as both masculine and feminine throughout the history of orthodox Christianity. Jesus himself referred to God as female at times. Take it up with him.

    I think you’re wrong about that, but if you want to provide ten specific citations from the from the New Testament and/or Church Fathers (stick to people canonized so we don’t have to argue over whether they’re “orthodox”) I’ll gladly concede the point.

    Sticking God in a box labeled “BOY” is transgressive

    If you read what we wrote, we pretty specifically did not do that.

    Tito-sterone is right, though: this thread is about liturgical music

    Just so. Thus, if you want to return to that, I’ll throw this out: It strikes me that one of the things you’re missing when you talk about chant being culturally specific rather than a universal part of the Church is that chant as a form is not a product of a specific regional culture, but rather of Catholic culture.

    So while it’s well and good that you have an affection for religious music in a bluegrass style (a style to some extent specific to your region of origin) it strikes me as important that we as Catholics also give significant (not merely token) place in all her liturgies to both her universal language and to her developed forms of music and prayer.

    There’s a balance to be found here. I think in many cases in the immediately pre-Vatican II period there was a tendency to attempt to impose a lot of European cultural baggage along with an authentically Catholic culture, yet since the 70s (though this seems to be slowly and surely correcting itself) we seem to have swung in the opposite direction and our authentically Catholic language, music and other cultural elements are often ignored and replaced with quickie knock-offs of the local regional cultural forms.

  • I think you’re wrong about that, but if you want to provide ten specific citations from the from the New Testament and/or Church Fathers (stick to people canonized so we don’t have to argue over whether they’re “orthodox”) I’ll gladly concede the point.

    Why ten? That’s arbitrary number. Even if Jesus referred to God as female “once” (as S.B. incorrectly states) is that not enough to convince you that referring to God as “she” ONCE in a stupid blog thread might be acceptable?

    is not a product of a specific regional culture, but rather of Catholic culture.

    “Catholic culture” cannot be completely isolated from culture in general.

    it strikes me as important that we as Catholics also give significant (not merely token) place in all her liturgies to both her universal language and to her developed forms of music and prayer.

    Sure. But nevertheless, it still remains an OPTION to do so.

  • Why am I in moderation? Because I called God a “she”?!

  • Probably for the same reason that Vox Nova automatically moderates comments that use certain rude words.

  • I’m not sure why the comment was in moderation, but I pushed it through.

    Yes, ten is an arbitrary number. I’d be moderately impressed with five, come to that. But I did indeed pick it arbitrarily. Given the thousands of times that God is referred to in the scriptures and by the Church Fathers, it seems to me that if you can’t locate ten specific instances where God is referred to with the feminine pronoun (and this would have to mean just calling God “she” or “her” — not an analogy to a mother or some such literary device) then that would substantiate my claim that your use is unusual — and only makes sense as a way to make a statement or dissent from the traditional Christian understanding of God.

    “Catholic culture” cannot be completely isolated from culture in general.

    Certainly not, but it doesn’t need to be wrapped in the dregs of the culture in general either. At no time in the Church’s history has chant been the prevailing musical form in the wider culture — it’s always been specific to the Church and her worship.

    Sure. But nevertheless, it still remains an OPTION to do so.

    Yep. Kind of like it’s an option to occasionally celebrate mass in the vernacular.

  • Even if Jesus referred to God as female “once” (as S.B. incorrectly state

    Put up or shut up. Give a citation outside of the mother hen passage (“How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing”).

  • …only makes sense as a way to make a statement or dissent from the traditional Christian understanding of God.

    There is no “dissent” involved in using “she” as a pronoun for God. Unless you happen to think God is male. THAT is heresy.

    Kind of like it’s an option to occasionally celebrate mass in the vernacular.

    Latin and vernacular are both options. Yes. What is your point?

    Give a citation outside of the mother hen passage

    The parable of the woman and the lost coin.

  • That’s not a very good example — the whole point of that story was the attitude towards the lost coin; the story had absolutely zero to do with “femaleness,” or any attributes thought to be particularly “female.” Just like the point of the “unjust judge” story was the value of persistence, not to say that God is literally an unjust judge.

  • Why do some people get so sensitive in regards to the issue of the femaleness of God?

  • I think what you meant to ask was, “Why do some people get so sensitive [towards attempts to derail a conversation by raising bogus arguments] in regards to the issue of the femaleness of God?”

  • If you sincerely are puzzled, check out the (a) and (b) points in Darwin’s comment, December 24, 2008 A.D. at 12:54 am

  • S.B. – I didn’t “derail” anything. I used a female pronoun for God, as I often do, and there was a comment made about it. In response to that comment, I didn’t fight back, if you remember. The ones “derailing” the conversation are the folks who can’t seem to deal with a casual comment.

    Mark – There is, sadly, a deep hatred of women that persists in some quarters of Catholicism. Of course they will protest, “I love my wife, I love my daughters, I love my mother.” But their god is Maleness. It’s connected to their love of war, their admiration of soldiering, their passion for guns. Even Christ’s use of female images for God does not satisfy them: the feminine must be excluded from the Godhead.

  • S.B. – I will not continue talking about the reasons why I used a female pronoun, if you are concerned about “derailing” the thread. I suggest that if you are really concerned about it, then you too should shut us about it and deal with it. I may continue to use the word “she,” just as I would “he,” in reference to God. But that ain’t “derailing” anything.

  • There is, sadly, a deep hatred of soldiers and policemen that persists in some quarters of Catholicism. Of course they will protest, “I love my friends who are soldiers.” But their god is their own political beliefs, not Christianity. It’s connected to their leftist posturing, and their desire to fit in with their radical friends. Even God’s repeated commandment to wage war throughout the Old Testament does not satisfy them: Anything to do with soldiers must be excluded from their faith.

  • Yes, Michael, I am afraid you are correct.

  • My comment, if it wasn’t obvious, was intended to be as facetious and silly as Michael’s psychoanalysis. The notion that you have a “deep hatred of women” if you don’t mind private gun ownership and if you’re thankful for the service of American soldiers . . . that’s one of the most knee-jerk examples of ideological dimwittedness I’ve ever heard.

  • There is, sadly, a deep hatred of women that persists in some quarters of Catholicism. Of course they will protest, “I love my wife, I love my daughters, I love my mother.” But their god is Maleness. It’s connected to their love of war, their admiration of soldiering, their passion for guns. Even Christ’s use of female images for God does not satisfy them: the feminine must be excluded from the Godhead.

    I suspect that you know very well this is not the motivation involved, though I have little doubt that you have the low opinion you state of those who disagree with you. Because although you’re a somewhat unpleasant and disdainful person at times, you’re not particularly stupid — and as analysis goes that above is pretty stupid.

    Now you gave as an example of Jesus referring to God with a feminine pronoun “The parable of the woman and the lost coin.” This pretty much substantiates my expectation when I said, “you can’t locate ten specific instances where God is referred to with the feminine pronoun (and this would have to mean just calling God “she” or “her” — not an analogy to a mother or some such literary device)”

    The text of the parable you mention is:
    “Or what woman having ten coins 2 and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

    I should hardly have to point out to you that this is a case of Jesus comparing God’s rejoicing in the return of one sinner to that of a woman who finds a lost coin — at no point in it does Jesus refer to God as “she”. (I can’t really imagine you’ve gotten as far an academic theology as you have at this point without knowing the difference — so I must assume that you either think we’re pretty stupid or that you’re being disingenuous in making your argument.)

    Now if someone did actually object to parables, analogies and similes in which God is compared to a woman for one reason or another, you might perhaps have a case that that person has a hang up about women based on some sort of prejudice or disdain. That’s not the case, however. You’re simply referring to God as if He were female by referring to Him as “she” or “her”. (I’m assuming that your lack of capitalization is simply typing laziness, such as I at times suffer from myself, and not a point such as your lack of capitalization with “america” and “usa”.) Doing so puts you very much outside the tradition of how God has always referred to Himself in revelation, and outside the traditional language of the Church.

    That said, I don’t really doubt you when you say,
    may continue to use the word “she,” just as I would “he,” in reference to God.
    Because when it comes to making a statement, you don’t seem to mind putting yourself outside of the traditional range of Church thought.

    ———-

    But since you seem to feel all this is a distraction, I’ll close by returning to point.

    When you said: Sure. But nevertheless, it still remains an OPTION to do so.

    I fell into the temptation to go for the snappy content-less reply and said: Yep. Kind of like it’s an option to occasionally celebrate mass in the vernacular.

    Instead, I should have been more clear as to why I’ve been objecting to your repeated characterization of the use of chant in liturgy as “just an option”.

    First, the use of chant and the use of Latin were both originally intended (as in, when the rubrics were written — and in the case of chant this is still reflected in the current rubrics) as the norm while the use of the other songs in place of chant, and of vernacular in place of Latin, are the options — allowable exceptions to the norm.

    This clearly doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to use other songs in other styles in the context of the liturgy, nor to use the vernacular in place of Latin in some or all of the liturgy. Using other music and other languages remain a perfectly acceptable option.

    The problem, however, is that in the modern US these exceptions have become the norm, and often what was meant to be the norm is harshly opposed. (For example, one of the priests at our parish, when the choir chanted the introit before the entrance hymn, gave the directive: I don’t want you people doing that Latin stuff at any of my masses again.)

    This trampling of the very aspects of our Catholic liturgical culture which bring all parts of the universal Church together (rather than fragmenting us apart so that even the Spanish, Vietnamese and English masses at the same parish become foreign to one another) causes serious problems for the Church. And your initial dismissive comment on this thread, and subsequent follow ups, suggest to me that you either don’t “get it” or are part of the problem.

  • There is, sadly, a deep hatred of women that persists in some quarters of Catholicism. Of course they will protest, “I love my wife, I love my daughters, I love my mother.” But their god is Maleness.

    Does your diagnosis apply to Benedict XVI?

    First of all we have to say that the Bible does indeed, when addressing God in prayer, use the image of him as Father, and not as Mother, but that in images used in talking about God it always equally attributes feminine characteristics to him.” God and the World p. 101

    Notice the distinction Benedict makes between referring to God and describing God’s attributes or characteristics. As Darwin noted, your assertion above is either disingenuous or sloppy. The Bible does not describe God as ‘she,’ but it describe God as possessing ‘feminine’ characteristics. Those are two very different things. More Benedict XVI:

    Yes, why is this strictly limited to calling God Father?….I would in the first place hold on to the fact that the word ‘Father’ naturally remains an image. It remains true that God is neither male nor female, but is simply God. Yet at the same time we are talking about an image that was given to us authentically by Christ himself, and is thus non-exchangeable…
    God and the World p. 102

    Notice, Benedict XVI seems to take it for granted that we are ‘strictly limited to calling God Father.’ He goes on to explain what some of the reasons for this might be, but says we cannot come to a definitive answer. I would submit for your consideration that those who believe, like Benedict XVI, that God should be referred to using masculine pronouns do so not because of some sort of ‘deep hatred of women,’ but rather because it is the language through which God has chosen to reveal Himself.

  • I have promised S.B. that I would not “derail” the conversation further. I encourage all of the men here to get over the fact that I used “she” in reference to God.

    Hey, by the way, do any women read this blog?? You have no women contributors….

    Something to think about.

  • Michael I.,

    It’s a shame that even during Christmas you continue in your uncharitable ways. You have not contributed anything to the thread concerning Gregorian Chant except your bile and hatred for all things sacred to our beautiful Catholic faith.

    If you continue distracting from the conversation, you will be put back on probation.

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,.

    Tito

  • You have not contributed anything to the thread concerning Gregorian Chant except your bile and hatred for all things sacred to our beautiful Catholic faith.

    Baloney. I repeatedly said how much I love chant. I simply don’t think it should be used instrumentally as a symbol in the ideological battles of the Catholic Right.

    You need to look at who really has derailed the conversation.

    Even during the holidays you are a major league nutcase. But happy Christmas to you anyway.

  • Michael I.,

    Too bad you wished me a “Happy Christmas” preceded by an insult.

    Par for the course.

  • I must say that the arguments for primacy of Gregorian chant have been wanting, even in both the claims for 1) a special universality, in contrast to beautiful “compositions”; and 2) their separateness from the hymnody. In the end, all we have left standing is an argument from authority…

    And why does God’s using masculine language preclude us from also acknowledging that a) he transcends the human sexes; and b) contains equally the perfection of both sexes in God’s unique, special way, as Genesis informs us that both man AND woman are made in God’s image.

  • I must say that the arguments for primacy of Gregorian chant have been wanting, even in both the claims for 1) a special universality, in contrast to beautiful “compositions”; and 2) their separateness from the hymnody. In the end, all we have left standing is an argument from authority…

    Well, given that the Church is the authority in determining the wording and form of the liturgy, I’m not sure that an argument from authority is really out of place. Indeed, attempts at arguments from first principles for one liturgical form or another usually come up rather poor.

    There are, I think, good arguments for chant which could be made from first principles. (One might note, for instance, that most major religious traditions have their own forms of chanted prayer.) But it’s not really an issue one can make arguments about as one might about the necessity of an all powerful deity being one.

    And why does God’s using masculine language preclude us from also acknowledging that a) he transcends the human sexes; and b) contains equally the perfection of both sexes in God’s unique, special way, as Genesis informs us that both man AND woman are made in God’s image.

    It doesn’t. Everyone agrees on that.

  • It doesn’t. Everyone agrees on that.

    Sure. “Everyone” “agrees” on it but some insist on using language that says the precise opposite. And condemns anyone who uses a female pronoun for God — in casual conversation, mind you, not a liturgical formula.

  • As discussed above, Pope Benedict XVI has said we are ‘strictly limited to calling God Father,’ and that this image, having been provided by Christ, is ‘non-negotiable.’ There is a difference between attributing ‘feminine’ attributes to God like compassion, and referring to God using a feminine pronoun (one happens in Scripture, the other doesn’t as BXVI and numerous commentators noted above).

    Thus far, it is not clear whether you disagree with this distinction, are ignorant of it, or don’t understand it. You have offered nothing other than insults and third-rate exegesis to support your point of view. Granted, this is a combox on a blog, but it is intended to be a forum for discussion; if you are unwilling (or incapable) of having a discussion on this topic, then at a minimum please refrain from insults and other childish behavior.

  • Invoking the “non-negotiable” language, eh? That’s a conversation stopper.

    A few things to keep in mind:

    1) Though I don’t know the context of that particular passage from Ratzinger (I don’t have that particular book of his) it seems to be an expression of his opinion. You are certainly free to cite him to strengthen your argument, but you need to understand that you are citing his personal opinion in this case. His opinion is certainly a strong participant in these discussions, but in this case he does not represent a “final word” so to speak.

    2) Again, I can’t look at the context of the passage you plucked, but I truly have no problems with Ratzinger’s views necessarily because I don’t think he is in contradiction to my position. Take for example his assertion that “Yet at the same time we are talking about an image that was given to us authentically by Christ himself, and is thus non-exchangeable…” Of course there is real significance to the images of God that Christ gave us. The image of God as Father is indeed “non-exchangeable” in that sense. We don’t simply “get rid of it” because it offends modern sensibilities. I am not in favor of renaming the persons of the Trinity, for example, as some feminist theologians have suggested. But insisting on retaining the “Father” language in reference to God does not exclude the possibility of other images (as we have seen, Jesus used female images for God).

    3) There is a good deal of evidence that the “Abba” language that Jesus used is not as “masculine” as many of you anti-feminists would like to think.

    4) COMPASSION IS NOT A “FEMININE” QUALITY. IT IS A HUMAN QUALITY. These bogus dualisms are precisely part of the problem. Let’s not perpetuate them.

    You have offered nothing other than insults and third-rate exegesis to support your point of view.

    5) You may not like my views, but I am not insulting anyone (save for the ever-charming Tito, I suppose, who does not really qualify as a dialogue partner in this case). Nor have I attempted any sort of “exegesis.” I guess it’s easy to call my exegesis “third rate” when I haven’t attempted any. Figures. It would be like me calling your “theology” third rate when you clearly haven’t engaged in anything remotely resembling theology.

    If you are unwilling (or incapable) of having a discussion on this topic…

    Once more, you might not like my views, but it’s absurd for you to suggest that I am “unwilling” or “incapable” of having a discussion on the topic. I never really intended a discussion on the topic (as I have said) but quite clearly have been bullied into it through a snarky response to my use of the word “she,” then accused of “derailing” the previous conversation. If ya’ll would LIKE to discuss the appropriateness of feminine images of God, fine, but you can’t then accuse me of “derailing” the conversation on liturgical music when I participate in the new discussion.

    Which is it going to be?

  • As you are no doubt aware, God is traditionally referred to in orthodox Christianity as masculine, just as the Church is traditionally referred to as feminine..

    If this is to imply that God is really masculine, and not feminine, then would it follow that we are all really feminine, not masculine…

  • 1) Agreed.

    2) There is a fairly clear distinction, as discussed above, between referring to God as having attributes typically described as feminine (like a mother hen…) to God, and referring to God as feminine. That is the distinction Benedict XVI articulates, and it is the distinction between your position and his (and mine).

    3) All well and good. Why do you refer to me as an anti-feminist? Feminism has a lot of different meanings. Is Benedict anti-feminist? Was JP II? If so, then fine. Otherwise, all I have done is cite Benedict’s position.

    4) Notice I put ‘feminine’ in quotes above; I agree compassion is a human attribute. Later in the passage I cited, Benedict XVI was describing the use of the word ‘rachamin’ in the Old Testament, which is a word for sympathy/compassion with corporal overtones referring to the ‘motherly body’ of God. That’s why I used compassion.

    5) You may not like my views, but I am not insulting anyone (save for the ever-charming Tito…) Nor have I attempted any sort of “exegesis.”

    5) Nonsense. You wrote, “But their god is Maleness. It’s connected to their love of war, their admiration of soldiering, their passion for guns.” Unless Tito is now multiple persons, you were insulting more people than Tito. And yes, saying somebody’s ‘god’ is ‘maleness’ (whatever that means) is an insult as is saying they love war.

    As to exegesis, you seem to think describing God’s attributes using feminine images (e.g. the woman and the lost coin – suggesting God desires and rejoices over every individual’s salvation; and the mother hen analogy- referring to a lament over the failure of people to respond), is identical with referring to God as female. This, as Benedict XVI and other commentators have noted, is fallacious. There may be a valid case for referring to God as ‘She’ or ‘Herself’, and perhaps these passages can be cited as incidental support, but these passages do something quite different than referring to God as feminine. This is not exactly ground-breaking, nor is it difficult to understand. That is why I referred to your interpretation as third-rate exegesis.

  • “If this is to imply that God is really masculine, and not feminine, then would it follow that we are all really feminine, not masculine…”

    It is fairly common in the tradition of the Church and Christianity to think of the soul as feminine in response to God. Even non-Catholic writers addressing a popular audience like C.S. Lewis discuss this, saying that there is a larger sense in which all souls are feminine/receptive in response to God’s initiative. Ever read the Song of Songs?

  • Sure. “Everyone” “agrees” on it but some insist on using language that says the precise opposite. And condemns anyone who uses a female pronoun for God — in casual conversation, mind you, not a liturgical formula.

    Because there’s a very big difference between the two points Mark made, which I fully agree with (That God transcends human sexes and that both men and women find their perfection as creatures in God, in whose image both men and women are made) and the peculiarly modern idea of alternately referring to God as “he” and “she”.

    Nor does consistently referring to God as “He” (which is, after all, the choice that God Himself has made in His interactions with humanity) serve to deny either of those points.

  • I’m working on an album of St Louis Jesuits songs played in a very stripped down format, with a sort of Appalachian old time feel. I am picking some of their more obscure songs for the most part.

    This has got to be one of the most unintentionally funny things I’ve read on St. Blog’s in a long time, all the more so coming from the oh-so-serious commenter who wrote it. Thanks for the chuckle.

  • Ah, come on, that project could be cool Rich…it all depends on which songs are chosen and the arrangements.

  • There is a fairly clear distinction, as discussed above, between referring to God as having attributes typically described as feminine (like a mother hen…) to God, and referring to God as feminine. That is the distinction Benedict XVI articulates, and it is the distinction between your position and his (and mine).

    […]

    As to exegesis, you seem to think describing God’s attributes using feminine images (e.g. the woman and the lost coin – suggesting God desires and rejoices over every individual’s salvation; and the mother hen analogy- referring to a lament over the failure of people to respond), is identical with referring to God as female.

    Right here you show that you can’t even control the “distinctions” you think you are making. In the first, you say that I can’t distinguish between using female images for God and describing God as “feminine.” In the second, you say that I don’t know the distinction between using female images and calling God “female.” These are two very different things.

    Note, however, that I never said “God is female.” All I did was to use the word “she” in reference to God. Just as using “he” in reference to God is not a claim that God is male — in orthodox Catholic thought, anyway — use of the word “she” does not imply that God is female.

    There may be a valid case for referring to God as ‘She’ or ‘Herself’…

    Then it’s interesting that no one here, save Mark, rushed to my defense for doing so in the first place. Because my use of the word “she” was seriously not done as a statement, but casually.

    …and perhaps these passages can be cited as incidental support

    Which is all I used them for. And yet you slam me for “third rate exegesis” when I was doing no such thing.

    …but these passages do something quite different than referring to God as feminine.

    Well, no. They do MANY things including referring to God as feminine. To say that these passages do not refer to God as feminine when they clearly do (in the course of telling us other things about God of course) is simply to have an allergy to comparing females with God. That is a huge problem.

    Nonsense. You wrote, “But their god is Maleness. It’s connected to their love of war, their admiration of soldiering, their passion for guns.” Unless Tito is now multiple persons, you were insulting more people than Tito. And yes, saying somebody’s ‘god’ is ‘maleness’ (whatever that means) is an insult as is saying they love war.

    Those are not insults, but observations.

    …the peculiarly modern idea of alternately referring to God as “he” and “she”.

    If you think referring to God using both masculine and feminine pronouns is “modern,” then you clearly have no familiarity with the history of world religions, the history of Judaism, or the history of Christianity. Blaming everything on “modernism” is typical here, but quite stuppid in this case.

    Nor does consistently referring to God as “He” (which is, after all, the choice that God Himself has made in His interactions with humanity) serve to deny either of those points.

    This “God himself used masculine words” is silly as well. Quite a fundamentalist Protestant approach.

    Nor does consistently referring to God as “He” (which is, after all, the choice that God Himself has made in His interactions with humanity) serve to deny either of those points.

    I agree with Mark’s points too, obviously, and I don’t think occasionally referring to God as “she” serves to deny his points either.

  • For those who are interested, I was just reading in Peter Kreeft’s The Philosophy of Jesus this little section….

    “Alone among the many ancient gods, the Jewish God was always ‘He’, never ‘She’ (or ‘It’ or ‘They’ or the Hermaphrodite). For ‘She’ symbolized something immanent, while ‘He” was transcendent. ‘She’ was the Womb of all things, the cosmic Mother, but ‘He’ was other than Mother Earth. He created the earth, and He came into it from without, as a man comes into a woman. He impregnated nonbeing with being, darkness with light, dead matter with life, history with miracles, minds with revelations, His chosen people with prophets, and souls with salvation (which John Henry referred to). He was transcendent.

    That is why only Judaism, of all ancient religions, had no goddesses and no priestesses. For priests are representatives and symbols of gods. Priests mediate not only Man to God but also God to Man. Women can represent Man to God as well as men can, for women are equally human, valuable, good, and pious. But women cannot represent this God to Man, for God is not our Mother but our Father. Earth is our Mother.

    Jesus always called God ‘Father.’ And Jesus was anything but a male chauvinist. He liberated women more than anyone else in His time. But He was also a Jew. He believed that Judaism was the revelation of the true God. He believed that God had taught us how to speak of Him. He not only believed this, He knew it, for He was there! He was (and is) the eternal Logos or Mind or Reason or Word of God. He was the Mind that had invented Judaism – unless He was a liar and Judaism was a lie.”

    By the way, I think Chant is the way to go… I would like to see more churches chanting the antiphons… the Intro, Gospel, and Communion… maybe a combination of them in Latin and then English… I think that would be cool. (as you can see; I’m a Medieval Modern.) 🙂

  • Bret,

    Peter Kreeft is one of my favorite apologists.

    That is why we don’t have priestesses as well in the Catholic Church. Though the Roy Bourgeois supporters and their SOA conspirators would beg to differ of Mr. Kreeft’s conclusion(s).

  • o say that these passages do not refer to God as feminine

    Again, when Jesus says that God cares about the lost sinner as much as a housewife might care about a lost coin, that is NOT “referring to God as feminine” in any way whatsoever.

  • Note, however, that I never said “God is female.” All I did was to use the word “she” in reference to God. Just as using “he” in reference to God is not a claim that God is male — in orthodox Catholic thought, anyway — use of the word “she” does not imply that God is female.

    The difference is that traditional Christian writing has always referred to God as “He” while not asserting that He is a male. Traditional Christian writing has not referred to God as “She”. When you go around referring to “God herself” you strongly imply a claim that God is female (or at the very least a strong rejection of referring to God with masculine terminology). By the same token, if you went around calling God “it” or “they” people would take you to be making a statement about your beliefs as to the nature of God. There doubtless are senses in which one could strive to justify such a usage, but since the usage would be contrary to all tradition using it (especially in passing when discussing other topics) would be taken as making a statement.

    Well, no. They do MANY things including referring to God as feminine. To say that these passages do not refer to God as feminine when they clearly do (in the course of telling us other things about God of course) is simply to have an allergy to comparing females with God. That is a huge problem.

    So does the “mother hen” passage consist of referring to God’s avian nature? I know the modern education can be a bit peculiar, but I can’t really imagine that you’re unclear on how an analogy or simile works.

    If I were to make an observation along the lines of, “In discussion, Michael is like a harpy. A harpy will follow her victim constantly, pecking and tearing, yet never engaging in a direct fight — hovering always just out of reach and flapping her wings in the face of her prey while screaming incessantly,” I would clearly be describing you in rude and unflattering terms, and imputing a number of characteristics to you, but one could hardly claim that I was saying you were female and could rightly be described as “Michael herself.”

    The passages in question certainly describe God, and they do so by drawing on examples and similes which describe women (or female birds, etc.) but that certainly does not mean that they refer to God as feminine.

    Our archetypal language is frequently gendered. For instance, if I said, “Michael cared for his son as tenderly as any mother could have,” I wouldn’t be saying you were female, but rather drawing on a cultural archetype which sees mothers as more tender than fathers.

    If you think referring to God using both masculine and feminine pronouns is “modern,” then you clearly have no familiarity with the history of world religions, the history of Judaism, or the history of Christianity. Blaming everything on “modernism” is typical here, but quite stuppid in this case.

    Read what I wrote. I said specifically that the tactic of referring alternately to God as “him” and “her” was very modern. You’re described yourself as having the habit of alternately referring to God as “he” and “she” more or less at random without attempting to make any particular theological point by it. I challenge you to point to any orthodox Christian writer living before 1700 who did the same. In this sense, yes, what you’re doing is very modern.

    And I continue to stand by my claim that there is practically no precedent in the history of orthodox Christianity for referring to God at all with the feminine pronoun, except in the middle of a analogy or simile. (Note: If you’d made some sort of statement along the lines of, “God watches over us with more care than any mother over her children,” no one would have challenged you. It’s the random “God herself” that’s causing disagreement.) If you want to shoot me down on that claim by providing specific citations, I’m perfectly happy to look at them.

  • If I were to make an observation along the lines of, “In discussion, Michael is like a harpy. A harpy will follow her victim constantly, pecking and tearing, yet never engaging in a direct fight — hovering always just out of reach and flapping her wings in the face of her prey while screaming incessantly,” I would clearly be describing you in rude and unflattering terms, and imputing a number of characteristics to you, but one could hardly claim that I was saying you were female and could rightly be described as “Michael herself.”

    Marvelous.

  • Bret (and Peter Kreeft, who is a philosopher, not a scholar of Israelite religion) has clearly never heard of Ashera, nor of the development of monotheism is Judaism.

    Though the Roy Bourgeois supporters and their SOA conspirators would beg to differ of Mr. Kreeft’s conclusion(s).

    Tito does not seem to have the intellectual capacity to distinguish movements and persons. I do not support Bourgeois’ actions with regard to women’s ordination. But that had nothing to do with his work to close the SOA.

    Traditional Christian writing has not referred to God as “She”.

    Julian of Norwich did. That IS traditional. When you use the word “traditional,” you are using it to exclude certain traditions from view. That’s dishonest.

    I said specifically that the tactic of referring alternately to God as “him” and “her” was very modern.

    No, it’s not. There are pre-modern instances of it. Julian of Norwich.

    ou’re described yourself as having the habit of alternately referring to God as “he” and “she” more or less at random without attempting to make any particular theological point by it.

    Who says I am not making a theological point by it? I most certainly am. What I meant above is that I am not attempting to derail the conversation here or to be “controversial.”

    And I continue to stand by my claim that there is practically no precedent in the history of orthodox Christianity for referring to God at all with the feminine pronoun, except in the middle of a analogy or simile.

    But masculine language for God (“he”) is an analogy as well. ALL RELIGIOUS LANGUAGE is analogy.

    It’s the random “God herself” that’s causing disagreement.

    It’s not random. And it should not cause disagreement if you acknowledge that God is neither male nor female.

    If you want to shoot me down on that claim by providing specific citations, I’m perfectly happy to look at them.

    I am fairly certain that some of the Church Fathers even used feminine images for God, but I am on vacation and don’t have my resources with me. Perhaps someone here who specializes in patristics (anyone?) would know.

  • If I were to make an observation along the lines of, “In discussion, Michael is like a harpy. A harpy will follow her victim constantly, pecking and tearing, yet never engaging in a direct fight — hovering always just out of reach and flapping her wings in the face of her prey while screaming incessantly,” I would clearly be describing you in rude and unflattering terms, and imputing a number of characteristics to you, but one could hardly claim that I was saying you were female and could rightly be described as “Michael herself.”

    Of course, there are clear difference between God’s being and my own being. So your analogy breaks down and is, in fact, irrelevant.

    Again, here we have a case of Protestant thinking: God is a being like us, only bigger.

  • Of course, there are clear difference between God’s being and my own being. So your analogy breaks down and is, in fact, irrelevant.

    Nah, you’re just being obtuse. DC is describing how analogies work. If you can’t follow the point that’s fine, but it is irrelevant for the purpose of his explanation who the subject of the analogy is.

    Again, here we have a case of Protestant thinking: God is a being like us, only bigger.

    So ‘Protestant thinking’ involves thinking ‘God is a being like us, only bigger’? Well, I guess there are more barriers to ecumenical dialogue than I realized. Or perhaps the barrier in this case is that you (and MM, for whatever reason) have an odd habit of describing anything ignorant as ‘Protestant’. Sure some Protestants probably think that. So, for that matter, do some Catholics. It’s a matter of education and reflection. If you are going to describe something as ‘Protestant,’ it would be better if you limited yourself to what educated Protestants believe. In my opinion, it is embarrassing for a grad student in theology to make such an ignorant generalization. But then, you also believe people who refer to God as ‘Him’ do so because they ‘hate women.’ What a subtle and nuanced appreciation you have of those who differ from you!

  • Julian of Norwich did. That IS traditional. When you use the word “traditional,” you are using it to exclude certain traditions from view. That’s dishonest.

    I can’t speak to Julian of Norwich as I haven’t read her Revelations of Divine Love. My understanding is that she consistently uses feminine familiar imagery in speaking about God (thus talking about the senses in which Jesus and God the Father nurture us like a mother) but I do not know linguistically how she refers to God. My suspicion would be given what I’ve read about her and given that she was never formally censured and the general theological tenor of the 1400s, that she used a lot of feminine imagery (and thus has been much cited and misused by modern feminists who are driving at a wholly different point) but that she did not habitually refer to God as “She”. However, I’d have to read Revelations of Divine Love to know.

    But yes, I do mean to be restrictive when I say “traditional” because I try to write with a certain degree of precision and I don’t want you to be able to wiggle into supporting your claims by going all Eileen Pagels on me.

    I said specifically that the tactic of referring alternately to God as “him” and “her” was very modern.

    No, it’s not. There are pre-modern instances of it. Julian of Norwich.

    Again, you seem rather stubbornly to ignore the different between using feminine imagery (in Julian’s case, recounting mystical visions of God) and referring to “God herself” in passing.

    Plus, if Julian is the only writer who did this (and again, I’ve no where read that she simply alternated referring to God as “he” and “she” as you said that you do) one uncanonized anchoress hardly makes for a tradition.

    You certainly know a lot more about trendy and avante guarde modern theologians than I do, and it wouldn’t surprise me if a certain number of the works you’ve read make the claim that alternately referring to God as “he” and “she” in order to express the idea that God is not “a male” has precedence in traditional Christianity. However, so far as I can tell, I’ve studied linguistics and language rather more than you have, and I’m pretty confident in asserting that this is a rather modern use of language.

    Of course, there are clear difference between God’s being and my own being. So your analogy breaks down and is, in fact, irrelevant.

    Again, here we have a case of Protestant thinking: God is a being like us, only bigger.

    There is most certainly a big difference between your being and God’s being, but prose composition is the same either way. Using feminine imagery to describe you is not linguistically any different than using feminine imagery to describe God — in neither case is it then appropriate to in a completely unrelated place talk about “Michael herself” or “God herself”.

    And while you are a male in a sense in which God clearly is not (aside, of course, from the obvious fact that Jesus was himself a human man, while at the same time being fully divine) it is equally the case that you and God are traditionally referred to using masculine pronouns. And thus in either case it would be seen as making some sort of a statement to do otherwise.

    Essentially, through use the usage of “He” to refer to God has become the standard neutral usage. When we talk about “God himself” we use the standard usage which Christians have used for 2000 years and which Jews used before that from a fairly early period. (Though obviously, there are linguisticly plural usages in some of the earliest parts of the Old Testament which present their own issues — but that’s another topic.) To refer to God as “she”, “it” or “they” instead thus strongly indicates a desire to disagree with the traditional understanding of God — asserting that He is female or is neuter or is plural.

  • That said, I recognize that we’re all on vacation right now (and I promised Eric that I’d use that vacation to, among other things, write a substantive post on gun control) so with the assurance that I’ve said everything I can several times over I’ll give it a rest and offer you the last word if you want it.

    Though others should, of course, feel free to do as they like.

  • If you are going to describe something as ‘Protestant,’ it would be better if you limited yourself to what educated Protestants believe. In my opinion, it is embarrassing for a grad student in theology to make such an ignorant generalization.

    I’m quite serious. The Protestant tendency is to think of God as if God were a being in the world, whereas the Catholic distinction is to place God radically outside the world. This is why Protestants tend to have problems with understanding the Catholic principle of mediation. I realize my way of explaining it was not very sophisticated. But I did that on purpose.

  • o refer to God as “she”, “it” or “they” instead thus strongly indicates a desire to disagree with the traditional understanding of God — asserting that He is female or is neuter or is plural.

    This is simply not true. In fact, using “she” from time to time is precisely a way of stressing the traditional, orthodox understanding of God. I have not asserted that God is female. God is neither male nor female. And God is both one and plural, by the way. That whole “Trinity” thing.

  • “Hey, by the way, do any women read this blog?? ”

    My wife does 🙂 But I’m sure she’s bored with this particular thread already. *yawn*

    Getting back to topic – Here’s a reminder about the Chant Workshop at St. Theresa’s in Sugar Land in February, presented by CMAA:

    http://www.musicasacra.com/sugarland/

    Beginners welcome! Merry Christmas to all.

  • Thanks, Alan. I’ll let my wife know about the workshop. Maybe she and one or two others from the St. Elizabeth’s schola can make it.

  • Still looking for some female commenters on this blog. Can’t find one.

  • Still looking for some female commenters on this blog. Can’t find one.

    You don’t have many female commenters on VN either, dude. Sure, there’s the occasional female blogger or commenter, but easily 90% of the posts and comments are written by males. So if you’re trying to impress feminists for some inexplicable reason, you’re failing too.

  • I suppose everyone needs a hobby, but you don’t seem to be very good at this one if you assume that commenters with names like MissJean, Esther, and Kathy are all men.

    Or were you laboring under some sort of patriarchal illusion that because you asked on this particular thread if there were any woman commenters that they were then obliged to come and announce themselves to you here?

  • Michael I. I thought you were married? I hope your wife doesnt’ know that your trolling around for women on The American Catholic.

  • Pingback: Adios Heretics, Hello Orthodoxy! « The American Catholic