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Sunday, October 20, 2013

An Open Letter to Archbishop Alexander Sample

Most Reverend and Dear Archbishop Sample:

Greetings in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

I write this letter to you on behalf of many of us who have a deep regard for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and who seek to preserve its sacred nature.  In you, we have found a kindred spirit for you have done much in the way of restoring the sacred, especially where it concerns music, to the liturgies that were celebrated in your previous diocese.

You are now the Archbishop of Portland, which is the home to Oregon Catholic Press.  Many parishes, as you well know, make use of the musical offerings published by this organization.  While there may be some merit to the compositions, the rest, especially those meant for use in Spanish-language parishes, leave much to be desired when it comes to the sacred and have become a parody of what liturgical music is supposed to be.

I brought this to the attention of OCP on several occasions and have never received a suitable response.  Staff told me that it was simply my personal opinion.  When I asked if the composers have read the documents, I received a less than satisfactory reply.  The publishing house had not even heard of the Propers.

Your Excellency, in 2007, when Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote Sacramentum Caritatis, he rightly observed that:

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). 

Unfortunately, it seems to me that this section of the document is lost on OCP's editors and composers.  Many of the compositions, most especially the ones in Spirit and Song, "fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy", sounding more like something one would hear on a secular pop radio station than within the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  The Spanish-language compositions, in my opinion, are slightly worse, employing musical styles that do not correspond to the sacred nature of the Mass.  I am also concerned with the texts, as some of the pieces focus more on the horizontal as opposed to the sacred.  One piece, "Pueblos Nuevos", seems to be tinged with Liberation Theology. 

The settings for the Ordinary of the Mass are also problematic.  The setting, especially the bilingual pieces, do not appear to respect the nature of Sacramentum Caritatis in musicality.  The bilingual Misa Santa Cecilia setting is one of the worst.  Music is supposed to be at the service of the Sacred Liturgy, not the other way around.  The setting does not reflect the sacred nature of the texts in either language.  

OCP's bilingual settings also appear to not respect Liturgicam Authenticam:

88. In the case of the Order of Mass and those parts of the Sacred Liturgy that call for the direct participation of the people, a single translation should exist in a given language,67 unless a different provision is made in individual cases. 

OCP promotes these bilingual settings as a means to unite congregations, but, it only serves to divide.  Their literature has never promoted the use of Latin in the Mass.  Latin is the unifying language because it is the Church's Mother tongue.  OCP, however, seems to ignore that fact.

Your Excellency, even OCP's Spanish-language settings for the Responsorial Psalm also have their share of problems.  Some of the styles employed are Ranchero and Bolero.  These are commonly heard on secular radio stations and the genre is far from sacred.  In fact, the tutorial recordings that OCP has use drums, bass guitars and other instruments to give a secular feel to the music. The psalms are as far away removed from chant as possible.   Furthermore, the revised Roman Missal has now included a full vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Pentecost; however, OCP continues to only provide for one option for the Responsorial Psalm and its disposable missallettes only have one option for the readings.  Last year, I addressed this problem with the OCP Spanish-language editor and he said that they would fix it.  When OCP released the new booklets, no changes were made and we were still stuck with one reading and one psalm (pre-selected by OCP).

Insofar as sacred music is concerned, OCP does not promote usage of traditional hymns such as "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence", "Attende Domine", "Jesus Christ is Ris'n Today" and "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name".  Rather, its publication, "Today's Liturgy" primarily promotes OCP compositions such as "Sing a New Song", "Christ our Light", "I Will Choose Christ" and other questionable songs.  The Propers of the Mass are completely foreign to OCP.

Your Excellency, I realize that you have other concerns within your Metropolitan See.  However, because OCP is located within the territorial boundaries of the Archdiocese of Portland, the organization falls within your jurisdiction.  What OCP does not only affects Portland; it also impacts what happens throughout the United States.  I plead with you to please intervene and examine what OCP is releasing for use.  For many years, not a few of us have had to endure the onslaught of music that is neither sacred nor liturgically appropriate.  Please address this situation.  I realize that this cannot happen overnight; however, whatever liturgical renewal anyone can hope for will only be accomplished if the liturgical music lives up to that envisioned in Sacramentum Caritatis No. 42.

Thank you, beforehand, for your kindness in reading this letter. Please be assured of my prayers.  May St. Cecilia guide you.

Respectfully submitted,
Michelle Marie Romani

1 comment:

  1. I hope the bishop sees your letter. Action is certainly needed.