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Monday, September 10, 2012


Over at the Chant Cafe blog, Fr. Christopher Smith offers some food for thought to his brother priests regarding the importance of using solid musical resources, especially those provided by the Church Music Association of America.   While this is all and good, Fr. Smith makes what I consider a painful observation:  the serious dearth of the same kinds of liturgical musical resources for Spanish-language parishes.

Several months ago, I reviewed the latest incarnation of Flor y Canto, the Spanish-language music book published by OCP.  When I read the promotional materials, I had such high hopes for this publication, but, as I indicated in my review, I found that the actual product differs sharply from what the Church's authoritative documents on music state.  Reading Fr. Smith's observations made me revisit the issue once more.

It seems to me that when musical pieces are offered for use in Spanish-language Masses, they seem to focus more on ethnic culture than on the Church's form of cultic, sacrificial worship.  The pieces, ranging from Ranchera to Mariachi to light Spanish pop, seem more secular than sacred.  Along with stylistic problems, the lyrics, too, seem to focus more on ourselves than on God.  In a couple of instances, they also seem to have serious theological issues that might border on Liberation Theology.  Case in point, "Hombres Nuevos", re-titled "Pueblos Nuevos" or "Danos Un Corazon."  If you look at the lyrics, the song makes the plea to "Give us a new heart"; however, even though God is implied, He does not make an explicit appearance in the song.  It's more about fighting for justice here on Earth, ignoring the realities of Heaven.   "Amor de Dios" talks about "building the community", but, I find it devoid of any real reference to Christ.  "Ven al Banquete" seems to remove any real notion of sacrifice within the Liturgy, focusing, instead, on the meal aspect of the Mass.

As Fr. Smith reminds us, "hymns are not a part of the Roman Eucharistic Liturgy."  While the point is slowly getting across to English-speaking parishes, the concept is still quite foreign to those who assist at Spanish-language Masses.  It's as though we don't think that giving the faithful this kind of exposure to sacred music in their language is important.  It's as though we want to pander to some sort of cultural experience  instead of educating the faithful in the Church's mindset on what it is to "sing the Mass", instead of merely "singing at Mass."

Sadly, this is a problem that was created, in part, by the very publishing house which is supposed to be of service to the Church.  While I can understand that things, even liturgical publications, tend to be market-driven in today's world, such should not be the case when it comes to the Mass.   I do not want to "create" liturgies that are "vibrant and engaging", that reflect our different cultural experiences.  While there can be a place for inculturation (and the Spaniards, for the most part, showed some of this back in the 16th century when they colonized Mexico), we cannot make culture the end all and the be all of the sacred liturgy.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not the time for cultural pandering; it is the time to offer fitting worship to the Lord.

God willing, when we come to the new Jerusalem to participate in the heavenly liturgy, we will not be hyphenated Catholics (Mexican-American Catholics, Italian-Catholics, German Catholics, French-Catholics, British-Catholics, etc), we will be one Church.  Our earthly liturgies should reflect that heavenly reality.  So should our music.

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