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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.

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