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Sunday, December 8, 2013

And the survey says...

In the original game show "Family Fued", the genial host, the late Richard Dawson, would dramatically announce, "And the survey says..." The top answer would appear in a flourish.

Now, some 30 years removed from "Family Feud", we once again face another survey with an even more dramatic flourish, the Preparatory Document for the upcoming Synod on the Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the New Evangelization. 

The Main Stream Media (MSM) has really blown this whole issue out of proportion with a string of inaccuracies which make me wonder just from where some of these reporters earned their Journalism degrees.  Nowhere in this document does the Holy See ask the bishops, priests or lay Catholics what they would like to change about the Church. This is not a survey about popular opinion akin to what Dawson used to use on "Family Feud." It is far from it.

The survey seeks to take stock of what the Church has been doing (or not) in the areas of Faith and Evangelization as they affect the family.   Some of the questions are difficult for the average lay person to answer.  I spoke to a priest friend of mine and he said that even some of his brother priests found the document to be challenging.  A few did not even know what Local and Particular Churches meant.  The "Local Church" is the diocese and the "Particular Church" is the parish.

The first question off the gate is a particularly painful one to answer and it reminds me of a conversation I had with Archbishop Gerhard Muller, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when I met him in Houston back in February.  

1. The Diffusion of the Teachings on the Family in Sacred Scripture and the Church's Magisterium
(a) Describe how the Catholic Church's teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudiam et spes,  Familiaris consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today? What formation is given to our people on the Church's teaching on family life?

Had the Holy See simply kept this as the sole question, it would have been enough.  The answer, in my opinion, pretty affects every other matter addressed in this survey.  I can only speak for my little corner of South Texas when I say that the answer is that we have not done much in the way of catechizing the faithful.  If we cannot get Catholics to even read Sacred Scripture and the Catechism, how can we even get them to read the post-conciliar documents?  Catechesis for adults is sorely lacking and this is showing rather painfully.

As I observed to Archbishop Muller, most lay Catholics down here know more about the platform of one particular political party than they do about Church teaching.  This weekend, I learned, much to my chagrin, that not a few of these lay Catholics know more about the message preached by megachurch minister Joel Osteen than they do about the Faith of the Church.  Sadly, quite a few of my fellow Catholics joined a packed house to hear Osteen preach this past Friday.  Ironically enough, Friday was the feast of St. Nicholas, who was known for his knockdown, drag down bouts with heretics.  When I charitably called out some of my fellow Catholics for showing up to this event, one woman who professed to be a "strong Catholic"(who teaches CCD and prepares young ladies for their Quince Anos celebrations) berated me for being judgmental.  I told her that what I was simply doing was offering fraternal charity.  I even quoted from Dominus Iesus in my attempts to explain to her why going to such events was not proper for a Catholic to do.  Her prompt response was one of ridicule. She claimed to have read the document, but, she never addressed it.  Instead, she focused on how strong a Catholic she was because she attended conferences.  

The next part of the question, in my opinion, seeks to take a hard, honest look at what we are doing to catechize the family at the national, diocesan and parochial level:

(c) How widespread is the Church's teaching in pastoral programs at the national, diocesan and parish levels? What catechesis has been done on the family?

Nothing substantial has really occurred here.  If catechists are out there singing the praises of Osteen and his false gospel of prosperity, how can they accurately transmit the Faith to the parishes they serve? While the Christian Family Movement certainly helps reach out to families, nothing else has occurred.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has not done much to help out.  Rather than focus on political issues such as immigration reform and affordable healthcare, I would rather the USCCB spend its energy on shoring up catechesis for adults and children.  I would rather they encourage and promote adult catechetical formation.  If parents are supposed to be the first teachers of their children in the faith, then the national conferences and the Local and Particular Churches need to do their part to give these folks the tools they need to educate their offspring.  How can we expect our children to learn their faith if the parents do know even know it themselves? 

One document that could actually help, one that was not even mentioned in the survey, is Dominus Iesus.  Promulgated by the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on August 6, 2000, and confirmed and ratified by Blessed Pope John Paul II, the declaration defines the "Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church".  In other words, it declares that the one Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church.  This is a fact that is lost on not a few Catholic families. This could help clear up a lot of misunderstandings about just who the Church is and who we are as her children.

The subsequent questions are somewhat difficult to answer because they assume that the responders know statistical data on the numbers of those families that are in irregular situations and about ministry to divorced and remarried Catholics. It also raises the question of what policies are in place to care for children who are in these irregular situations (i.e., when those in same sex unions ask for baptism for children in that setting).  These issues are more for bishops and priests to answer than the average lay Catholic.

What I found interesting was the absence of the liturgy in this survey.  If the sacred liturgy is supposed to be the source and summit of our life as the Church, how is it that the Mass has no place in the questionnaire?  Does it not concern the authors of the survey that, in some cases, Mass attendance is dwindling and this affects the family? At the local level, some families only show up when it is time for sacramental preparation; however, when the last sacrament of initiation is imparted (Confirmation), some families will not return until it is time for marriage or, in the Hispanic culture, the Quince Anos celebration. The survey talks about receiving Holy Communion; however, the sacrament of the Eucharist does not exist in a vacuum as one should assist at Mass in order to receive Our Lord. 

The survey, on the whole, raises more questions than it will, perhaps, receive answers.  To what end will this help the Synod?  I suspect that the Synod Fathers may be in for quite an opener, especially when they examine the questions and look at what "the survey says."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Let Us Give Thanks to the Lord, our God

In the United States of America on the fourth Thursday in November, we celebrate a unique national holiday, Thanksgiving Day!   Although the festivities have deteriorated somewhat into an orgy of food, football and now frenzied shopping.

However, for the Church, thanksgiving is not a new concept.  In fact, we have been celebrating it for over 2,000 years. The word "Eucharist", taken from the Greek word "eucharistia", literally means "thanksgiving".  The Church celebrates the Eucharist on a daily basis, "from the rising of the sun to its setting", as both Eucharistic Prayer III and the Prophet Malachi remind us.

Here is what Malachi notes:

For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nation, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering.

That pure offering of thanksgiving is the Holy Eucharist.  Along with being the manifestation of the Paschal Mystery, the Eucharist is also the fulfillment of the thanksgiving sacrifice of Ancient Israel, which was an offering of grain and wine, the Toda sacrifice.  For the Church, she daily offers this sacrifice in praise and thanksgiving.  It is her supreme act of worship to the Lord.

Thus, it is most fitting that on the day that our nation sets aside to render thanks, we, as Catholics, assist at the sacred liturgy, to offer God our thanksgiving sacrifice of praise, the Eucharist.  Just as Ancient Israel gathered as a family around the Passover Lamb, the Church invites her children to gather around the altar of the Eucharist, exhorting us to, as St. Paul notes, "give thanks under all circumstances."

As we leave our particular Church after Mass on Thanksgiving Day, and move on to our domestic church (family home), let us remember the Prayer over the Offerings from today's liturgy:

God our Father,
from whose hand we have received generous gifts
so that we might learn to share your blessings in gratitude,
accept these gifts of bread and wine,
and let the perfect sacrifice of Jesus
draw us closer to all our brothers and sisters in the human family.
Through Christ our Lord.

May you and yours have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Minister of our Joy

This past Saturday, I had the joy of attending the ordination of one of our seminarians to the transitional diaconate.  Jose, who is currently in formation at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, made his vows before the Church to faithfully serve Christ and his Bride.
For me, this was a particularly profound experience.  Jose literally grew up before my eyes.  I met him when he was a fresh-faced young man, a teenager who was attending the minor seminary.  He was always willing to help us out with the many, many weddings we would have at the Cathedral.  He was just as much at home in the sacristy as he was with his own family. At such a young age, he lived and breathed the Church.
Now, some 13 years removed, young Deacon Jose still lives and breathes the Church.  Saturday’s liturgy, which he helped plan, was also indicative that he and his fellow seminarians are making their mark as the Benedictine generation.  For all of my previous rants about the state of music in Youth Masses, Deacon Jose gave me much hope.  The music he chose bore a sacred quality that was conducive to the Rites and to the Mystery celebrated.  It embodied the vision that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI laid out in Sacramentum Caritatis No. 42.  I hope that those priests in attendance were able to appreciate that.
Deacon Jose and his classmates displayed an immense joy, something that was both profound and infectious.  In his book, “Milestones”, the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger talked about the joy he experienced at his presbyteral ordination. He said that on the day of his ordination, a lark had flown into the cathedral, loudly singing.  The young Joseph Ratzinger took this as a sign that he was headed in the right direction.  He was doing the will of the Father and he was doing so joyfully.  While it was too cold for any larks to have flown  into our Cathedral, I do believe that the warmth of the Holy Spirit certainly permeated throughout the building as Deacon Jose lay prostrate before our bishop.  I pray that this divine warmth, which enflamed the first deacon, St. Stephen, will remain with Deacon Jose and his brother seminarians, for the rest of their lives, carrying them as they fulfill their vocations as priests of God and ministers of our joy.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Road tested? Tires or Mass?

H/T to Grumpy Orthodox Cat, who is usually on target.

A few days ago, I wrote of the frustrations not a few of us are experiencing with the Spirit and Song Collection published by OCP.  The response that I received from the publishing house's Spirit and Song division really did not address very much and left me with more questions than answers. As of this writing, OCP has not responded to my follow up email.

This afternoon, while assisting at Mass at my parish, I found a little booklet that raised up not a few alarms.  Published by OCP's Spirit and Song division, the pistachio-colored collection, called "Essential Songs: A Road-Tested Resource for Youth Ministry", features music taken from Spirit and Song and other resources.  Lamentably, this kind of music, designed for youth ministry, tends to creep its way into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Titles such as "Pharaoh, Pharaoh", "Here I am to Worship", "Awesome God" and "I am Yours" lack the sacred character of what is proper for the Mass.  The lyrics alone in the song "Every Move I Make" sound more like something that could haven been lifted from the Police's mega secular hit, "Every Breath You Take".

As I observed in a previous post, this particular collection seems, in my opinion, to be the kind of music that concerned the Fathers of the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist:

(S)ome lamented the poor quality of translations of liturgical texts and many musical texts in current languages, maintaining that they lacked beauty and were sometimes theologically unclear, thereby contributing to a weakening of Church teaching and to a misunderstanding of prayer. A few responses made particular mention of music and singing at Youth Masses. In this regard, it is important to avoid musical forms which, because of their profane use, are not conducive to prayer. Some responses note a certain eagerness in composing new songs, to the point of almost yielding to a consumer mentality, showing little concern for the quality of the music and text, and easily overlooking the artistic patrimony which has been theologically and musically effective in the Church’s liturgy.

This observation seemingly continues to be lost on OCP, especially its Spirit and Song and Flor y Canto divisions.  The lyrics to "Pharaoh, Pharaoh" sound like something that could have appeared in the South Park episode wherein the character Cartman tries to form a Christian rock band.  He reasons that all he has to do is add the "Jesus" to a secular song and that will make it a Praise and Worship anthem.

Somehow, "I say, Pharaoh, Pharaoh, O baby won't you let my people go.  Yeah, yeah, yeah" seriously lack the sacred nature of "Attende Domine" or even "Where Charity and Love Prevail."  Even the secular song, "All You Zombies" by the Hooters (which references the same subject matter as the piece in question) seems to have a little more of a somber, serious tone. 

OCP touts its little booklet as road-tested.  My question is this:  is this the kind of road we want our youth to travel?  Why are we dumbing down the mysteries of our faith, using music that really does not do much and something that the kids will grow out of in a short time?  "Road-tested" seems to me a more appropriate phrase for the Michelin man than for liturgy.  At some point, the wheels are going to fall off the bus and the very youth that this music is geared towards will either be thrown under that bus or try to get off it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...NO!!!

I am not anti-Christmas by any means.  We celebrate the sublime mystery of the birth of the Son of God.  As the Book of Wisdom so eloquently points out:

For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, 15 thy all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior 16 carrying the sharp sword of thy authentic command, and stood and filled all things with death, and touched heaven while standing on the earth. 17 

This august mystery we remember with beauty and solemnity on the night of December 24th and carry it through for eight days and then, depending on the liturgical calendar, for nearly two weeks.

Unfortunately, the secular world jumps the proverbial gun, celebrating one of the most sacred times of the year several weeks, if not months, too early. A friend of mine lamented on Facebook that one of the radio stations in California has already begun playing Christmas carols.  Sirius XM's Holly Channel is already blaring out Christmas music.  Our local NBC affiliate hosted a live broadcast welcoming Santa's arrival in front of Macy's.  

Now, I understand that retailers need to generate a huge buzz so that they can make the sales.  My father was a retailer for nearly 30 years. Retail put food on our table, gave us a roof over our heads and paid for my Catholic school education.  But, even as a child, I remember that the "holiday buying season" did not begin until the day AFTER Thanksgiving.  Christmas decorations went up at that time.  Now, it seems that Christmas, at least from the secular standpoint, competes for real estate with Halloween.  Thanksgiving isn't even on people's radar screens, insofar as decorations and marketing are concerned.  

Sadly, this secular cultural aspect has even infiltrated the Church.  A dear priest friend of mine throws, in the words of the great Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, a "spittle feckled nutty" every time he hears Christmas music played on the local Catholic radio station during Advent. Brides planning their weddings during Advent ask the parish priest if the Christmas tree will be up, not realizing that such decorations are not proper to the liturgical season.  Sadly, there have been a couple of parishes that, on the first weekend of Advent, already have the Christmas trees lit up, completely dwarfing the Advent wreath.  It's enough to transform me into a liturgical Grumpy Cat and cough up a few hairballs.

The Church is supposed to transform the culture, not be transformed by it. In the midst of the tempest that is the holiday shopping season, the Barque of St. Peter, through a proper celebration of the season of Advent, is supposed to give us a safe harbor from all of the madness at the malls and shopping centers.  Advent is a time of joyful, yet penitent, reflection as we prepare for the two-fold coming of Christ, first as infant and then as just Judge.  Yet, it is hard to get that sense of the beauty of the Advent season when one walks into a parish that looks like Charlie Brown's worst commercialized Christmas nightmare.

I am not saying that we should parade around with perpetual frowns like Grumpy Liturgical Cats.  However, we should do our best to give witness to the real meanings of the seasons of Advent and Christmas. Parents need to talk to their children about Advent and teach them that while the Malls and the media claim it's Christmas time, it really is not.  We cannot and should not let secular culture dictate to us when we should celebrate our sacred liturgical seasons. 

Although we are nearing the end of the Year of Faith, that does not mean that our evangelization efforts should cease.  It means, rather, that we must continue to evangelize, even if it means starting with our own.  Only then, can we reclaim both Advent and Christmas.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Prayers for a President

This Friday, November 22nd, marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  Much has been written about the life and times of the late President, including his flaws (moral and otherwise) and achievements.

However, as many will engage in various events commemorating the sad occasion of Kennedy's death, I believe that, as a Catholic, the most appropriate way to remember him is to pray for the repose of his soul.

In the Second Book of Maccabees, we read the account of Judas who, finding out that those men who had been helping him in battle died because they wore pagan amulets:

On the next day, as by that time it had become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kinsmen in the sepulchres of their fathers. 40 Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. 41  
So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; 42 and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. 43  
He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45 But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

Every November, each council of the Knights of Columbus has a Memorial Mass wherein the members pray for the repose of the souls of their deceased brethren.  The ritual, which takes place prior to the Post-Communion Prayer, features an empty chair on which the names of the deceased Knights are placed.   A member reads of the name of each deceased Knight while another one answers aloud, "Present."  The last name read at each ritual is that of John F. Kennedy. For all of his foibles, faults and issues, Kennedy died a member of the Knights of Columbus. He was the first Catholic and the first Knight to hold the office of President of the United States. Even after a half a century, the Knights throughout the United States of America still pray for the repose of Kennedy's soul.

We cannot and should not stand in judgment over the fate of Kennedy's soul.  Only God can do that.   We can call out bad behavior and questionable moral conduct. We cannot judge a person.  Christ judged the conduct of the Samaritan woman at the well, Zaccheus and the woman who was about to be stoned to death; however, He also had much love for them. Judas Maccabees lamented over the evil that his warriors had committed.  However, he had faith in God and he believed in the resurrection of the dead.  If he made atonement for the sake of his dead soldiers, how much more can we do than to offer up the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for one of our own?

I challenge my fellow Catholics to stop and say a prayer this coming Friday for the repose of the soul of President John F. Kennedy, whether at Mass or when engaging in whatever daily prayer regimen one has. It is a holy and pious thing to do and it is one of the spiritual acts of mercy.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Rights of the Faithful Departed

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger blesses the grave of Blessed John Paul II (photo from St. Peter's Basilica)

Redemptionis Sacramentum reminds us that the faithful have the right to a properly celebrated liturgy.  I believe that this right to the Rite also extends to the faithful departed.

Having gone through funeral preparations first-hand (my mother's, my paternal grandmother's and my maternal aunt's), I know that this is one of the hardest things for a family member or a close friend to do.  Funeral directors who are well-versed in the Rites of the Church can be (and are) very helpful.  Lamentably, it has been my sad experience that those who should be the most knowledgeable, the clergy themselves, wind up causing the most harm.

One of the saddest instances is a lack of availability on the part of some of the clergy.  In the document Ecclesia de Mysterio, the Church specifically states that:

In the present circumstances of growing dechristianization and of abandonment of religious practice, death and the time of obsequies can be one of the most opportune pastoral moments in which the ordained minister can meet with the non-practicing members of the faithful. 
It is thus desirable that Priests and Deacons, even at some sacrifice to themselves, should preside personally at funeral rites in accordance with local custom, so as to pray for the dead and be close to their families, thus availing of an opportunity for appropriate evangelization.

In my own area, on not a few occasions, pastors send the laity to conduct the Vigil for the Deceased or the final rites at the cemetery.  While Ecclesia de Mysterio does make some provisions for the laity to be involved in these particular rites, it should only happen when there is a "true absence of sacred ministers."  This means that such involvement of the laity could certainly be useful in outlying missionary territories (or even outlying areas such as Alaska and rural parts of Canada) where a priest is only able to make limited visits to impart the sacraments; however, I do not believe that such a provision is meant for urban areas where both deacons and priests are readily available. Even in those cases when the laity are involved, Ecclesia de Mysterio requires that these individuals be properly trained.  Unfortunately, even in these instances, those laity who are involved in either the Vigil or at the cemetery, tend to misrepresent the Church's teaching, either almost canonizing the deceased or offering a reflection that is not necessarily in step with the Faith.  

Death is the time when the faithful most need their parish priests and/or their deacons.  Even those of us who are properly formed in the Faith need the consolation of the clergy.  I know that when my own mother died, I was blessed to have my parochial vicar from my parish in Austin support me through the process.  The pain was very deep.  This is also a time to also evangelize those in mourning who have left the Church. Pope Francis encourages pastors to be close to their flocks, even to the point of knowing the name of the family pet.  Certainly, the death of a family member can afford clergy the tine to offer consolation, through the Rites of the Church, to those families in need as well as prayers and supplications for the person who has died.  At one funeral I attended, I saw the disappointment in the family when an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion showed up for the final Rite at the Cemetery.  They had expected the priest to be there and he did not come.  This is not the first time this has happened. 

Another stickling point centers around the music used at these particular liturgies.  Some clergy, as I have experienced, seem to have a misguided pastoral sense, allowing everything and anything to be played and sung at the funeral Mass.  Down here, one musician includes "Heaven Must Have Needed an Angel" as his repertoire.  The song's bad theology and equally horrid musicality conflict with the sacred nature of the Eucharist.  On a few occasions, Mariachis have been used for funeral Masses.  This particular genre is ill-suited for the Mass and seems to stand in opposition to the Rites. Other funeral Masses have featured the use of recorded music.  This violates the Church's liturgical practices and is not allowed.

The Church is not inflexible when it comes to these kinds of liturgies.  The families are free to select appropriate readings from the Lectionary.  Unfortunately, even at that, there are some clergy who will not even give the family that opportunity.  The readings are pre-selected by the parish and not much wiggle room is given to the family, even though the relatives do have that legitimate option. Ironically, parishes like this tend to not be as vigilant over the music. Nonetheless, insofar as that is concerned, ideally, through proper guidance, families can also select fitting music for the funeral Mass.  

The final issue centers around the "eulogy".  According to the Order of Catholic Funerals, "there is never to be a eulogy at the funeral Mass."  Inasmuch as the celebrant may allow a relative or a friend to say a few brief words about the deceased at the concluding rite, such remarks might best be made after the Vigil or after the rite of committal.  This is not a moment of canonization of the deceased.  This is a moment of prayer for the soul of the departed.  We also tend to misunderstand what a funeral liturgy is. It is not a celebration of the deceased's life.  The Funeral Mass offers supplication for the deceased and comfort to the survivors. 

One of the corporal works of mercy is to bury the dead. One of the spiritual works of mercy is to pray for the living and the dead.   If we hold true to Redemptionis Sacramentum, than part and parcel of both of these works of mercy is to ensure that the dead rightfully receive the proper Rites. 

And the Debate Continues

I regret that Mr. Feduccia, the general manager for OCP's Spirit and Song division, was upset because of my previous post.  My posting his email was not meant to cause him embarrassment; however, if one is involved in publishing music that is meant for use in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, there is a demand for accountability.  The "emperor's new clothes" are not necessarily new.  In fact, as the boy in the fable pointed out, they aren't even clothes at all.

The reason why I chose to make this a public discourse is precisely because, at some point, OCP needs to be held accountable for what is produces.  It seems to me that we are more concerned about the "trans fat" affecting our diets than about the issues affecting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which should be our greater worry.  This debate needs to be out in the open.  I apologize if this forum offended him; it was certainly not my intention.

In fairness to Mr. Feduccia, here is my own response to him. It is lengthy because I have quoted the appropriate sources to answer the points that he made in his email.


Dear Mr. Feduccia:

I regret that my posting your remarks on my blog upset you; however, the response that you gave me is similar to previous conversations that I have had with OCP.

You did not address the concerns that I had, which, interestingly enough, are being shared by bishops who responded to the Lineamenta that the Holy See sent out in preparation for the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist.  The Synod Fathers and the bishop-respondents clearly noted that there were issues with the kinds of music used at “Youth Masses”.  The genre that both they and I referenced, seems to me, is one and the same with that of Spirit and Song.

You noted that you were "befuddled" that the priests who have come into their vocation through LifeTeen are now rejecting the music (e.g. Spirit and Song) that they encountered while part of that movement.  Perhaps it could be because, in their studies in the seminary, these priests realized that this particular genre is not conducive to the sacred nature of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  It may work well for settings outside of the sacred liturgy, but, not for the Mass itself.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI made this point in Sacramentum Caritatis, No. 42, which I quoted in my initial correspondence to you.

With all due respect, even the citations from the GIRM and Sacrosanctum Concilium do not make your point.  I believe that the inculturation that SC refers to is more applicable to the scenario that you presented from your visit to Africa than it would for youth.   Even Blessed John Paul II, who founded World Youth Day, voice caution in citing inculturation.  In his Chirograph on Sacred Music, issued two years before his death, the Supreme Pontiff wrote that:

6. The music and song requested by the liturgical reform - it is right to stress this point - must comply with the legitimate demands of adaptation and inculturation. It is clear, however, that any innovation in this sensitive matter must respect specific criteria such as the search for musical expressions which respond to the necessary involvement of the entire assembly in the celebration and which, at the same time, avoid any concessions to frivolity or superficiality. Likewise, on the whole, those elitist forms of "inculturation" which introduce into the Liturgy ancient or contemporary compositions of possible artistic value, but that indulge in a language that is incomprehensible to the majority, should be avoided. 
In this regard St Pius X pointed out - using the term universal - a further prerequisite of music destined for worship: "...while every nation", he noted, "is permitted to admit into its ecclesiastical compositions those special forms which may be said to constitute its native music, still these forms must be subordinate in such a manner to the general character of sacred music, that nobody of any nation may receive an impression other than good on hearing them"[16]. In other words, the sacred context of the celebration must never become a laboratory for experimentation or permit forms of composition and performance to be introduced without careful review.

Regarding musicality, Blessed John Paul II also made some very strong observations, along the same vein as both his successor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his predecessors, Pope St. Pius X and Pope Paul VI, when he noted that:

4. In continuity with the teachings of St Pius X and the Second Vatican Council, it is necessary first of all to emphasize that music destined for sacred rites must have holiness as its reference point:  indeed, "sacred music increases in holiness to the degree that it is intimately linked with liturgical action"[11]. For this very reason, "not all without distinction that is outside the temple (profanum) is fit to cross its threshold", my venerable Predecessor Paul VI wisely said, commenting on a Decree of the Council of Trent[12]. And he explained that "if music - instrumental and vocal - does not possess at the same time the sense of prayer, dignity and beauty, it precludes the entry into the sphere of the sacred and the religious"[13]. Today, moreover, the meaning of the category "sacred music" has been broadened to include repertoires that cannot be part of the celebration without violating the spirit and norms of the Liturgy itself. 
St Pius X's reform aimed specifically at purifying Church music from the contamination of profane theatrical music that in many countries had polluted the repertoire and musical praxis of the Liturgy. In our day too, careful thought, as I emphasized in the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, should be given to the fact that not all the expressions of figurative art or of music are able "to express adequately the mystery grasped in the fullness of the Church's faith"[14]. Consequently, not all forms of music can be considered suitable for liturgical celebrations. 
5. Another principle, affirmed by St Pius X in the Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini and which is closely connected with the previous one, is that of sound form. There can be no music composed for the celebration of sacred rites which is not first of all "true art" or which does not have that efficacy "which the Church aims at obtaining in admitting into her Liturgy the art of musical sounds"[15].

Furthermore, the citation from the GIRM clearly states that the default music for the Church is found in the Introit and the Antiphons, something that OCP has never taken into consideration.  There is no need to have a book featuring 200 songs when the Church has already given us the Gradual Roman, which OCP, in my opinion, continues to ignore.

You indicated that the USCCB document, Sing to the Lord, served as the reference point for Spirit and Song.  However, the document seems to be more suggestive than regulatory in nature.  Even that document, which was never sent to the Holy See for the necessary recognitio, had to be corrected because it encouraged adding additional tropes to the Agnus Dei, even though Sacrosanctum Concilium, which you yourself quoted in your correspondence to me, prohibits anyone from making additions to the sacred texts of the liturgy. Certainly, Sing to the Lord is binding when it quotes and emphasizes existing law; however, to base one's liturgical programming simply on that document, while ignoring what the Holy See has extensively written (including what Popes have officially stated) is to fail to perform due diligence.

With regard to active participation, I believe that there seems to be a well-meaning, but, misguided, interpretation on your part.  I was privileged to hear Malcolm Cardinal Ranjinth address the Gateway Liturgical Conference in 2008 when I was in St. Louis, Missouri.  At the time, he was an archbishop and Secretary to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.  He noted that there is a false perception of what "actuosa participatio" means.

The pope (Benedict XVI), in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, defines actuosa participatio as a call to a total assimilation in the very action of Christ the High Priest. It is in no way a call to activism, a misunderstanding that spread widely in the aftermath of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Stated Cardinal Ratzinger: “what does it [active participation] mean...? Unfortunately the word was very quickly misunderstood to mean something external, entailing a need for general activity, as if as many people as possible, as often as possible, should be visibly engaged in action” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, p. 171). 
We know that in many places this led to the amalgamation of the sanctuary with the assembly, the clericalization of the laity and the filling up of the sanctuary with the noisy and distracting presence of a large number of people. One could say that virtually Wall Street moved into the sanctuary. But was that really what the Council Fathers advocated? Cardinal Ratzinger does not think so. For him, “the real ‘action’ in the liturgy in which we are all supposed to participate is the action of God Himself. This is what is new and distinctive about Christian liturgy: God Himself acts and does what is essential” (ibid, p. 173). 
This kind of participation in the very action of Christ, the High Priest, requires from us nothing less than an attitude of being totally absorbed in Him. Says the cardinal “the point is that, ultimately, the difference between the actio Christi and our own action is done away with. There is only one action, which is at the same time His and ours — ours because we have become ‘one body and one spirit ‘with Him” (ibid p. 174).
Active participation, thus, is not a giving way to any activism but an integral and total assimilation into the person of Christ who is truly the High Priest of that eternal and uninterrupted celebration of the heavenly liturgy. 
The Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, too, as we know, spoke of this when it defined liturgy further as a foretaste of the “heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem towards which we journey as pilgrims, and in which Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true Tabernacle” (cf. Rev. 21:2; Col. 3:1; Heb. 8:2)-(SC 8). 
Hence, everything we do should help us to achieve that and that alone is the true meaning of the “participatio”: a taking part in a bigger actio. Participatio itself is, I would say, in this sense, an ars [art] where we ourselves are not the artists; neither do we follow an art taught or handed down to us by others, but allow the Lord to be the artist through us, becoming part of what He does. As far as we are concerned, it is participatio in the order of “esse” — being. All that we do in liturgy makes us achieve that union with the eternal high priest, Christ and His sanctifying offering. The more we become part of the oratio of Christ, His eternal self-offering to God as the expiatory Sacrificial Lamb (Rev. 14:1-5), so much more would it be able to transform us into the Logos and make us experience the redeeming effects of such a transformation. Without that, as Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, we would radically misunderstand the “theo-drama” of the liturgy, lapsing into mere parody (cf. ibid p. 175).

In other words, one can actively participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by uniting oneself with the prayers that are chanted (Introits and Antiphons).  Actuosa Participatio is not confined to vocal nor physical activity. I have experienced this first hand whenever I have been at a Mass where the Propers are chanted.  I may not know the melody, but, I can unite myself to these prayers.  In fact, even when I have gone to Masses at Our Lady of Walsingham Church, the Oridinariate Parish in Houston, the chants used are quite conducive to prayer that they foster a sense of the divine, encouraging interior prayer.  This is also quite true in the chanting of the Propers in Latin during the Papal Masses. These chants, regardless of the language, set a sacred tone to the Mass because they signal to us that Something, Someone greater than ourselves is present. Spirit and Song, in my opinion, fails, lamentably, to do this.  This is perhaps why the priests who were formally a part of LifeTeen when they were adolescents are now rejecting this particular genre of music.

I realize that this is a lengthy response; however, in charity, I am compelled to point out these things that I believe OCP fails to take into account, not only in Spirit and Song, but in its other collections, most notably, Flor y Canto.  OCP carries an obligation to adhere to the Church documents and to produce sacred music that "respects the meaning of the liturgy (Sacramentum Caritatis 42)" so that such "correspond(s) to the meaning of the mystery celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons."

With all due respect, Spirit and Song does not live up to this test.  In the end, both the liturgy and the youth are cheated out of proper liturgical music.

Respectfully submitted,
Michelle Marie Romani

Friday, November 15, 2013

No Reply at All

I sent my previous post, "Shadows and Fog", in the form of an email, to OCP's Spirit and Song division.  Inasmuch as I wanted to receive a response from Ken Canedo, I heard back from Robert Feduccia, the General Manager for Spirit and Song.

The response left me somewhat befuddled.  It reminded me of that old Genesis song from the 1980s, "No Reply at All."   Below, is the text of his email.  I leave it to you, dear reader, to assess the situation.  In a subsequent post, I will lay out my response to him.

Hi Michelle:

I do not wish to dismiss you. You obviously love the Church and you obviously love our Lord. As a disciple, I want to first thank you and say to you that what binds us in unity, the Eucharist and the Universal pastor, is greater than anything that divides us, liturgical music. 

The documental footing that we stand on is Sacrosanctum conciliumGeneral Instruction on the Roman MissalSing to the Lord.

First to set the tone, the Roman Missal has a two-fold characteristic. It is Roman and imbued with Roman Culture. For example, Gregorian Chant is proper to the Roman liturgy just as Byzantine chants are proper to the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. It is for this reason that the Church rightly preserves that which is proper to the liturgy. As the General Instruction on the Roman Missalstates it's first two of four options for music at the liturgy:

(1)  the antiphon from The Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting
(2)  the seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple Gradual
These options are there to preserve the patrimony of the Roman Rite.
The uniquely Roman character proper to the Roman Missal is the first characteristic. The second characteristic of the Roman Rite is that it is a universal rite. It functions as both the Roman Missal and the Missal for the Universal Church. It for this reason that the General Instruction on the Roman Missal provides the next two options for music:
(3)  a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the diocesan Bishop, including psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms
(4) a suitable liturgical song similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the diocesan Bishop.

The Church provides other options for music besides that which is proper to the Roman Missal as she says in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal:
“All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy. Other types of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded, provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful.”

The two paramount requirements are 1) the fully conscious and active participation of the faithful 2) correspondence to the spirit of the liturgical action.
Please know, that understand the issue you have is the stylistic nature of contemporary music. It is not whether or not the lyrical content corresponds. It is, by it's very nature, the music does not correspond. I do understand that and I'm getting there :-) I just want to lay out the linear nature of our thought.
The fully conscious and active participation of the faithful requires prayer and song. Sacrosanctum concilium states in paragraph 7 “Praesens adest denique dum supplicat et psallit Ecclesia …” The English the translation is that Christ is present when the Church (supplicat) prays and (psallit) sings. As an aside, the Latin verb for sing in this paragraph literally means to sing to an accompanied plucked instrument. That's not part of my argument, but I do find it interesting. My point is this. There is a presence of Christ that is called for by the dogmatic constitution that is dependent upon people's prayer and people's singing, their prayerful singing. It is a very pragmatic requirement.

Prayerful singing that corresponds to the spirit of the liturgical action is the focus of everything we do. Again, the Roman Rite is both Roman and Universal. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal say, "All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy." The unstated question is, "Equally does what?" The answer is, "Equally leads to the participation of all the faithful." There are many who are trying to raise the dignity of chant in order for it to be on equal footing as other forms of sacred music as described by General Instruction on the Roman Missal. I do not believe it is as we talk today. I also would not be of the opinion that we should stop the publication of other forms of sacred music. 

To speak anecdotally for moment, the number of vocations that have come from the Life Teen movement is staggering. As a movement, they have fostered an unparalleled love for the authentic and orthodox teaching of the Church within the young people they serve. I must admit I get befuddled by the number of priests who are against the use of contemporary music despite the fact that their own evangelization came through the use of such contemporary music during praise and worship, Eucharistic adoration, and at the liturgy itself.

But back to the doctrinal sources, Sacrosanctum concilium 37-39 states the following:

D) Norms for adapting the Liturgy to the culture and traditions of peoples
37. Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples. Anything in these peoples' way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit.
38. Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved; and this should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.
39. Within the limits set by the typical editions of the liturgical books, it shall be for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to specify adaptations, especially in the case of the administration of the sacraments, the sacramentals, processions, liturgical language, sacred music, and the arts, but according to the fundamental norms laid down in this Constitution.

Such cultural considerations are vital to the work of evangelization. This is particularly true in missionary lands, but it is also true in our land, the land of the New Evangelization. It is for this reason that we at Spirit & Song see ourselves as a ministry of the New Evangelization. Our Roman Missal is Roman and is to preserve the Roman patrimony. It is also Universal and adaptable according to the pastoral need of the people. It is for this reason that Sacrsanctum concilium upholds the entrance of art, music and customs from the local culture. I was recently in Africa and experienced the power of the Roman Rite accompanied by drums and dancing. That certainly looks profane to the Western eye, but this aided the Church's work in evangelization in Ghana. The Roman Rite allows such flexibility and adaptation.

The definition of that which is profane lies, according to Sacrasanctum concilium 22, with the territorial episcopal authority: 
22. 1. Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.
2. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.
3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.

Our territorial body is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and their document, Sing to the Lord, serves our nation as the guidepost for music in the liturgy. They recognize the tension in which we live, the tension between the preservation of the Roman Rite's patrimony and the pastoral nature of the liturgy. That pastoral nature includes the work of evangelization. We see that Spirit & Song is able to aid in the work of evangelization and that the songs, even in their style that considers the local music as allowed by SC 39, has the ability to draw people into prayerful participation that is demanded by the sacred liturgy.

Blessings to you!
Robert Feduccia, general manager Spirit & Song

The reply really did not address anything.  It seemed to me that he completely ignored the issue raised by the Fathers of the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist when they wrote their concerns about the music used during “Youth Masses.”   As I indicated earlier, I will, in a subsequent post, put forth my reply to Mr. Feduccia.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Shadows and Fog

A few days ago, I got into somewhat of a Twitter disagreement with one of the OCP composers, Ken Canedo, who is, from what I understand, responsible for the Spirit and Song collection.  I regret that I used the term "wrecking ball" when referencing the composition.  Mr. Canedo took exception to it, saying that I was "nasty"; however, when I sent him subsequent tweets and links to the blog (with citations from the authoritative documents of the Holy See to back my points) to better explain my position, he never responded.

I certainly do not want to engage in a Twitter battle with him nor anyone else; however, if we confine our arguments to simple expressions of feelings and sentiments without stepping back and examining the bigger picture, then we cannot engage in any kind of a dialogue.  I encountered the same problem with Mark Hart, one of the national leaders from the LifeTeen movement. Rather than address my points, his team sent me a link to a talk given by a "conservative" priest who had "seen the light" about using contemporary Praise and Worship music for the Mass.  Neither Mark nor the priest (nor the LifeTeen staff, for that matter), quoted any of the documents from the Congregation for Divine Worship to justify their vehement support.  The commentary seemed to me to be based on feelings.

In 2004, when Blessed John Paul II wrote his last encyclical, "Ecclesia de Eucharistia", he observed that there were shadows that have creeped into the Mass, shadows that needed to be dispelled.  In preparation for the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist, the Holy See prepared a set of questions that were submitted to the bishops from around the world (both Latin and Eastern Rites), the prefects of various Roman Congregations and Superiors General of the religious orders.  One such question centered around the issue that Polish Pontiff had addressed:

4. The Shadows in the Celebration of the Eucharist: In the Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (n. 10) the Holy Father mentions "shadows" in the celebration of the Eucharist. What are the negative aspects (abuses, misunderstandings) existing in Eucharistic worship? What elements or actions done in practice can obscure the profound sense of the Eucharistic mystery? What is the cause of such a disorienting situation for the faithful? 

Also in that same Lineamenta, the document brings up the issue of the music used during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  It notes that:

The Dignity of Chant and Sacred Music51. Chant and music ought to be worthy of the mystery which is celebrated, as seen in the psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles of Sacred Scripture. (cf. Col 3:16) Therefore, from the first centuries, the Church has considered sacred music as an integrating part of the Liturgy. While embracing various musical forms, the Church’s Magisterium has constantly emphasised that “various forms of music be consistent with the spirit of the Sacred Liturgy”,190 so as to avoid the risk that divine worship might be adversely affected by unsuitable profane elements.

This fact seems to be lost on Ken Canedo, Mark Hart and adherents of the Spirit and Song collection. Inasmuch as OCP has now come up with a supposedly new and improved version of the book, I do not know if the publishing house took to heart the concerns that the Fathers of the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist expressed in the Instrumentum Laboris 

62. Some responses particularly mentioned the use of musical instruments, referring to the general guidelines contained in the Constitution Sacrosanctum concilium.89 In this regard, a certain appreciation was often voiced in the Latin tradition for the organ, whose majestic sound adds solemnity to worship and is conducive to contemplation. Some responses also made reference to experiences associated with the use of other musical instruments in the liturgy. Positive results in this area were achieved with the consensus of competent ecclesiastical authority, who judged these instruments proper for sacred use, in keeping with the dignity of the place and the edification of the faithful. 
In other responses some lamented the poor quality of translations of liturgical texts and many musical texts in current languages, maintaining that they lacked beauty and were sometimes theologically unclear, thereby contributing to a weakening of Church teaching and to a misunderstanding of prayer. A few responses made particular mention of music and singing at Youth Masses. In this regard, it is important to avoid musical forms which, because of their profane use, are not conducive to prayer. Some responses note a certain eagerness in composing new songs, to the point of almost yielding to a consumer mentality, showing little concern for the quality of the music and text, and easily overlooking the artistic patrimony which has been theologically and musically effective in the Church’s liturgy.

This is an area of concern that neither Mr. Canedo, Mr. Hart nor OCP has ever addressed. Mr. Canedo was noting about how excited he was to play his guitar at St. Peter's Basilica.  That is all well and good; however, an entirely different matter is coming up with music that does not sound like something that one would hear on a secular easy listening station nor on a Broadway stage.  

When he wrote his Apostolic Exhortation in response to the Synod on the Eucharist in 2007, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI echoed the concerns that the Synod Fathers shared about the question of music in the liturgy.  I have often quoted this on numerous occasions in this blog; however, it bears repeating:

Liturgical song 
42. In the ars celebrandi, liturgical song has a pre-eminent place. (126) Saint Augustine rightly says in a famous sermon that "the new man sings a new song. Singing is an expression of joy and, if we consider the matter, an expression of love" (127). The People of God assembled for the liturgy sings the praises of God. In the course of her two-thousand-year history, the Church has created, and still creates, music and songs which represent a rich patrimony of faith and love. This heritage must not be lost. Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration (128). Consequently everything – texts, music, execution – ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons (129). Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed (130) as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy (131).

The whole Spirit and Song/LifeTeen approach to music in the Mass, in my opinion, fails to live up to the parameters established by Sacramentum Caritatis 42.  When I pointed this out to Ken Canedo, he never responded.  When I have pointed this out to staff from both GIA and OCP, they told me that this was simply my opinion and dismissed it.  Even the new version of Spirit and Song has still not quite gotten up to par with SC 42.  Inasmuch as composers like Matt Maher were popular at this year's World Youth Day, that does not mean that their particular style of music is fitting for the Mass.  In its website, OCP touts the fact that they consulted with young adults and youth ministers to find music that engages this group in ages.  It also states that they consulted with Catholic theologians to ensure that the content is theologically sound.  That is all well and good; however, the musical genre (the musicality, if you will) continues to fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy.

Interestingly enough, there is a growing movement within the youth, a yearning, if you will, for the sacred.  This is evidenced by the increasing number of members of the Juventuum Movements that are springing up worldwide.  These young people hunger for the sacred and want to experience Something beyond themselves.  They are finding it at Juventuum.

OCP still has a chance to dispel the shadows that exist in the liturgy by improving the quality of the music the house produces for the Mass.  The youth, OCP's target audience, years for the Sacred.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, by its very nature, demands the Sacred.  It is part of the Church's heritage and it should not be cast out into the darkness.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Just Who Is the Church

When we talk about the Church, we tend to think about the warm living bodies that occupy the pews on any given Sunday.  We address issues such as religious education for children and adults, various parish activities and other events that involve the larger diocesan family.

However, if we merely confine our definition of the Church, to those who are presently on this Earth, we fail to see the big picture.  Every November, the Church reminds us that there are two very concrete realities that we must consider insofar as just who makes up the complete Body of Christ.  Those of us us who are breathing make up the Church Militant. We are the ones who are still down in the trenches waging the day-to-day battle against sin and temptation.  But, it's not just about us.  On November 1st and November 2nd, the Church calls to mind two other members of her family, the Church Triumphant (the Saints in heaven) and the Church Suffering (the Holy Souls in Purgatory). While we do not physically see these two groups, they remain an integral part of the People of God.  They are part of the Church and they are part of us.  We are united to them and they to us by the bond of love, a yoke that will never be broken.  That is what it means to be a part of the Communion of Saints.

All three components of the Church, Triumphant, Militant and Suffering, come together during every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  The Prefaces of the Eucharistic Prayers remind us that our voices join the unending choruses of the angels and saints as we chant the Sanctus.  At every Mass, the veil between heaven and earth and time and space is lifted.  We are not alone as we are joined by a cloud of unseen witnesses, as St. Paul reminds us, who unite their sublime praises to ours.  During the Memorial of the Eucharistic Prayer, we pray for and with the souls in Purgatory, as we ask God to look upon them in His great mercy so that they, too, will receive "kind admittance" into His Kingdom, just as St. Dismas did.

Sadly, we may often be too caught up in trying to make the Mass more creative that we do not take into account the divine, heavenly reality that transpires at every liturgy.  We try to look for music to make the Mass more relevant to us instead of helping the earthly liturgy be more reflective of the sublime nature of the divine one.

Maybe this is one of the things that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI meant to convey when he called for a mutual enrichment between the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of the Mass.  In the Extraordinary Form, the awareness of the unity of the Church (Triumphant, Militant and Suffering) seems more apparent with both the texts of the prayers and the music.  There seems to be an other-ness to the liturgy, a sense that something greater than ourselves is happening.  This is not to say that one cannot get the same sense in the Ordinary Form of the Mass; however, it can be difficult when one uses substandard music such as "Table of Plenty", "I am the Light of the World", "Rain Down" and "Gather Us In" or crafts General Intercessions that sound more like political statements than prayers.  When things like that happen, we focus on ourselves, thinking we are the only ones in the Church, instead of recognizing that we just make up two-thirds of the Body of Christ.

Yet, the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering still pray with and for us.  They remain in union with us even when we forget that they are there.  We are not alone.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Propers are Proper!

For the Solemnity of All Saints Day, I was privileged to cantor at two different parishes, my maternal ancestral parish for the Vigil and my own parish for the actual day.  I used the Introit and Communion Antiphon from Adam Bartlett's magnificent opus, Simple English Propers.

As someone who does not read any kind of musical notation, I found these settings to live up to the name and more.  The online tutorials provided by the Church Music Association of America, both on YouTube and Vimeo, made following the tune and the text quite easy.

On a deeper level, the Simple English Propers allows for one to both sing the Mass and pray the Mass.  Often, those in charge of music for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass review hymns trying to determine which piece "fits" the liturgy.  What one might fail to realize is that the Church has already given us the music and the text for just about any given Mass.    Let's look at the Introit for the Solemnity of All Saints:

The sacredness of the chant, coupled with the text of the Introit, which comes to us from the Roman Gradual, sets the tone that something extraordinary is beginning.  It conveys the sense of the divine act more clearly than a hymn.  In fact, if we look at the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, this is certainly the intent of the Church:

The Entrance47. When the people are gathered, and as the Priest enters with the Deacon and ministers, the Entrance Chant begins. Its purpose is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical time or festivity, and accompany the procession of the Priest and ministers. 
48. This chant is sung alternately by the choir and the people or similarly by a cantor and the people, or entirely by the people, or by the choir alone. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another setting; (2) the antiphon and Psalm of the Graduale Simplex for the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year, similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. 
If there is no singing at the Entrance, the antiphon given in the Missal is recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a reader; otherwise, it is recited by the Priest himself, who may even adapt it as an introductory explanation (cf. no. 31).

The Introit, Antiphon, if you will, is the default music of the Church.  It constitutes the liturgical prayer of the Church as found in the Roman Gradual.  Sadly, the fourth option, the use of hymns, has taken over the rightful place of the Propers.  In some parishes, for example, "Table of Plenty" usurped the Introit for All Saints Day.  Inasmuch as the theology of that particular song is somewhat suspect and the musicality is not quite sacred, the idea that it would stand in for something that is part of the Church's liturgical treasury makes no sense.  

The same holds true for the Communion Antiphon, which is supposed to begin as the celebrant consumes the Sacred Species.  Here is the Communion Antiphon from the Simple English Propers:

Communion Antiphon All Saints Day

B lessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see
God; * blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called
sons of God; blessed are those who suffer persecution for
the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of hea-ven.

While there are modern settings of the Beatitudes (Blest are They), these do not contain the corresponding Psalm 126(125). The musicality of the modern hymns also does not lend itself to the sacred nature of the Communion Chant.  Again, we turn to the GIRM for guidance:

87. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for singing at Communion: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another musical setting; (2) the antiphon with Psalm from the Graduale Simplex of the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) some other suitable liturgical chant (cf. no. 86) approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. This is sung either by the choir alone or by the choir or a cantor with the people.
However, if there is no singing, the antiphon given in the Missal may be recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a reader; otherwise, it is recited by the Priest himself after he has received Communion and before he distributes Communion to the faithful.

As with the Introit, the Communion Antiphon is the default music of the Church for this particular moment in the liturgy.  Yet, in the United States, publishing houses promote the fourth option, the usage of hymns, instead of what the Church has already provided for us to use.  The Communion Antiphon forms part of the Church's liturgical prayer.  It is not a mere song.

After yesterday's Mass, someone came up to the celebrant and commented on how different the liturgy was.  She told him that she found the Mass "more prayerful" and that the music seemed to her to set a sacred tone.  The celebrant seemed pleased with the reaction and he noted that it was because the Introit and the Communion Antiphon are the prayers of the Church.

The problem with using hymns is that, more often than not, we wind up with music that has both questionable theology and substandard musicality.  It's more along the lines of what we (or the publishing house) thinks that the theme of the Mass should be.  When this issue came up in the Catholic Answers Liturgy Forum, one of the participants, a parish music director, defended the use of hymns, stating that the USCCB had given the green light for hymns.  However, to cheat the liturgy out of the music that is proper to the Mass constitutes a great disservice to the liturgy.  Furthermore, the manner in which hymns are composed in this day and age turns the liturgy into being at the service of the music instead of the other way around.

Yes, learning the Introit and the Antiphon requires a bit of work, especially if one does not know how to read music; however, we owe it to the integrity of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to give it our best.  The fact that the Church Music Association of America has already made tutorial videos makes things a lot easier.

Let us reclaim what is Proper to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!