Monday, March 13, 2006


Here is the complete Eastern Oklahoma Catholic in .pdf form (edition 3/6/06). Scroll to page 3 of 19 of the .pdf for the article that is being quoted in Catholic blogosphere. His latest article is titled Parishes must recover sense of the sacredness in the sanctuary. Here are some more snippets, with some of my own commentary added. (emphasis my own)

"I do not consider fidelity to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal as a legalistic imposition, nor as simply “following the rubrics.”Rather, our obedience here is an open, public profession that the Eucharist is something which we have received and not something which we ourselves make. It is something which we must hand on in its entirety to our children and grandchildren."

"Our fidelity to the General Instruction is also a daily reminder that the Eucharist is not a “thing” which can be manipulated or played with. The Eucharist is not subject to the whims of those who celebrate it nor those who derive their life from it. The Eucharist is a Person, Jesus Christ, who gives Himself to us that we might participate in His selfsurrender."

The last sentence in the above paragraph is one I deliberately emphasized. I had quite the ongoing argument with one person on a certain message board (who was seeking to abolish Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament) that the Eucharist that we receive in Holy Communion IS, of course, Jesus Christ. Should we adore him? Absolutely! He's not just any old piece of food. He needs to be adored and received with the utmost care and love.

"The Church has always been quite insistent that when we celebrate the Eucharist we neither invent it nor do we make it as if from nothing. Rather, it is something we have received, and that “something” is Christ’s own being handed over, so that we can say that every individual celebration of the saving action of the Mass - whether in Holy Family Cathedral or one of our storefront missions - is a participation in the full Paschal Mystery of Christ who is the same “yesterday, today, and always.”"

This re-iterates something that the iPadre has mentioned time and time again in homilies and other talks and columns - that we don't give God the liturgy. We receive it from him.

"It is Christ who allows us to receive this liturgical action and through it to participate in His obediential worship of the Father. The Mass is not something that we do, but something that we receive, and all those who celebrate the Mass, both the celebrant and the congregation, must be conscious that what we have received must in turn be handed over in its entirety to those who come after us."

" is absolutely essential that our liturgies be characterized by the kind of openness which can only be created by a deep and genuine silence which will allow the recreating Word of God to be heard in its fullness. By silence, I do not mean the mere avoidance of noise, but a much more profound silence, that deep silence of the heart which promotes an attitude of openness and receptivity to the Word spoken by the Father and proclaimed in the Scriptures. This is the silence which we experienced during Pope John Paul II’s Year of the Eucharist, when we rested in silent adoration each Sunday after Communion."

And for that reason:
"Don’t fill reflective space with music for music’s sake." (- Subtitle of next paragraph)

"There are periods in the liturgy into which silence naturally fits, periods in which silence allows the worshipper to dispose himself or herself to participate in the saving action of the Mass by listening for the voice of God Who speaks to the heart in silence. These periods are specified in the GIRM, and I am asking our pastors and priests to respect the congregation’s need for reflective space in the penitential rite, in the Liturgy of the Word after the first reading and again after the homily and, finally, after Communion."

As a personal practice, this is why I let any visiting priests know (my pastor already knows this) that I deliberately wait for the celebrant to stand before I start intoning the Alleluia (or Lenten replacement thereof). This is my duty in keeping in accord with what the good Bishop has stated above, for priests, and below, for music ministers:

"At the same time, I am asking choir directors, musicians, and liturgy coordinators not to fill those open spaces with music for music’s sake. Let there be silence so that God’s creative and redeeming Word can be heard. Let the Word penetrate the heart and the mind of the pray-er."

God wasn't in a hurry. Why should we be. Silence doesn't necessarily constitute a "dead spot" in the liturgy, unless we've stopped abruptly during incensing at the Offertory. We can make some cool excuses to bring on some sort of silence. We don't have to "intone something" right away. Like the Alleluia, as I mentioned above. Wait for Father to get up. You've created the silence. After the First Reading, wait for the lector to sit down before you start the Psalm. The lector won't sing it for you, don't worry. Many a lector I've met will claim that he/she can't sing in the first place. And a trained lector on Sunday will NOT just READ the Psalm on you. Don't worry. He/she will park his/her tookus. Silence! Nice silence! Shhhhhhhhhhh! Sit! Start Psalm. Let Father sit down in silence after Communion while the server, sacristan, or deacon is "cleaning up the Supper mess", that is, purifying vessels and putting everything back into place. Ahhhhhhhh! Sweet silence! Let us pray.

"I am also asking our people to recover their sense of the sacredness of the sanctuary by refraining from idle conversation in Church before and after Mass. How is it that Christ, the Host of this Sacred Banquet, can invite us as guests to share communion with Him and yet we do not respond? He speaks to us, yet we do not hear Him since we prefer to engage in unnecessary and trivial conversations with those around us. Is there any topic of greater value or of more pressing urgency than His love for us? Let us then be mindful of Who it is who calls us so that we might direct our conversation to Him, in gratitude for his love and with sorrow for our sins."

Some of the biggest pet peeves of mine - those few people who can't even shut their pieholes for two minutes. I have times when I no sooner announce Please join in singing our recessional hymn.... and you have people right around you chit-chatting, in an outdoor voice, mind you! It's like their chit-chat HAS TO OUTBLAST those who are actually trying to sing that last hymn. Another instance that really got me peeved was when one gentleman approached me after the postlude because "the people in the narthex couldn't hear themselves talk". Of course they can't. The narthex at that particular parish was right underneath the gallery pipe case. And, again, it was a postlude. Not exactly something that normally gets limited to strings and celestes, mind you. Ya wanna shoot the breeze, go outside.

"Since it is important to guard this sense of silence, this sense of the sacred, even at times of great joy and after celebrations involving the whole parish, I am asking that pastors exercise reasonable caution after baptisms, confirmations and weddings to ensure that a family’s desire for keepsake photographs does not give way to an attitude which disregards the sacredness of our churches and the Presence - after Mass as well as during Communion - of Him who is the Author of the Sacraments we celebrate."

Yes, and shut the dang cell phones off, too! Matter of fact, take them off "vibrate" while you're at it. Better still, lock it in the glove box of your motor vehicle, and do not take it out until you leave church! The next paragraph or two can be read here. But more follows:

"At this point, too, some mention must be made of the great dis-ease I feel when I see the celebrant at the altar while the cantor or the choir stands arrayed either to his right or to his left. I am uncomfortable when I watch the congregation forced to shift their focus from the celebrant to the singers, and from the singers back to the celebrant, over and over again during the course of the liturgy. This greatly upsets the balance of the Mass between proclamation and response (when our song is our response to what has been proclaimed) by making the response itself something that we have to respond to."

This makes me ask the musical question: What on earth were pastors, musicians, and other wreck-o-vators thinking??? Yes, I'm referring to those who either had new churches built where the music ministry somehow shares the stage with the celebrant, or existing churches where the organ console, piano (why piano?), and choir suddenly get moved downstairs in a new stage, only for a resounding choir loft be left to deteriorate. And that cathedral in Milwaukee --- what happened in there is a crying shame!

"If we have built our churches in such a way that the only place for the choir, the cantor and the musicians is beside or behind the sanctuary, then we face an architectural difficulty which will have to be addressed eventually by architects and designers. But we should be honest enough to acknowledge that the placement of the choir, the cantor and the musicians has proven to be a terrible distraction in many parishes."

The solution at Holy Ghost was an easy one. You see, Holy Ghost was one of those poorly-built churches. A 1987 ediface replacing a nicer one that burned down completely, the choir and musicians, accompanied by only a Kurzweil 250 keyboard (which the director often programmed instead of played live - NOT GOOD), were up front. Our pastor made a very simple solution - trade places with the cry room. So, now the choir is in back (or out west) (the windows to the old cry room, of course, were removed), and the cry room is now a closed room on the south side of the building. Of course, my predecessor gave her notice over it. So, when I came down to audition, the transferral of areas (cry and choir) were still a work in progress. I marvelled at the finished product, which was complete before I started work there. Kurzweil was also removed, replaced by a Rodgers ORGAN.

Music at Mass is simply "sung prayer". Music by the choir is "enhanced sung prayer". What it should NOT be is "concert performance", classical, rock, pop, or otherwise. My predecessor, according to some sources, insisted that when her choir sang at Mass, it was to be thought a "performance". All the more reason to deep-six the "stage". The liturgy documents mention that the choir should be situated in a prominent place, and should be part of the "assembly", or the congregation. The choir is just as much part of the congregation in the loft, and probably more a part of the congregation in the loft, than on stage. In the loft, the choir is facing the altar like everyone else. On stage, they often (not always) face the congregation, thus attracting attention to themselves, many times not realizing such.

Again - why wasn't Bishop Slattery head of the BCL? I'd like to hear more from him.



Ron Rolling said...

Two things.

1. Enjoying your 'blog, first time I have seen it. Things you are writing are echoing in this musician's voice and head and heart.

2. Saw your combox note about a possible job. Send the link to me. Leave it with your original message.

Anonymous said...

Ay-MEN! Bp. Slattery sounds like a model of orthodoxy.

I'm in something of the opposite situation where I am. Our music ministry is right in the sanctuary, less than 10 feet or so from the wooden table we use as an altar.

The church does have a choir loft, but the organ and piano haven't been up there for YEARS, and I don't think there's ever been a pipe organ.

Any thoughts on how to move the music ministry to the choir loft? It'd be a big deal, since there are speakers for the "organ" bolted onto the (brick) wall, and the organ console is, of course, not trivial to move.

(Re-post....I hope it's not impolite to prefer a link to a blog than to a profile.)

Brian Michael Page said...

My parish never had a pipe organ. But the Rodgers Insignia 577 is the CLOSEST that we've ever had. I mentioned the Kurzweil P.O.S. we previously had. The old church had a Hammond (no better than the Kurzweil). The Rodgers was anonymously donated fully via a "specific use" gift.

If you have a choir loft, your organ CAN be moved. I don't know what your church is like, but CAN safely say consulting the organ company would be your best bet. Not the local organ maintainance guy, but the company that actually built your organ (or local sales rep for said organbuilder). They will usually be glad to come to your church and look at logistics, and give you a decent financial estimate. Anything is possible.

As for the piano, sell it and defray the cost of moving the organ. Ya really don't need the piano. ;-)


Anonymous said...

Believe me, I'd like to sell the piano - it's a hunk o' junk upright.

It's not as easy as that, though; we have Gather Comp and Spirit & Song for hymnals. I think the thinking was that the former is "traditional", and the latter is "contemporary"...while the reality is that the amount of *usable* congregational music we now have is pretty low. (How many congregations really sing "My Lord Will Come Again"???)

The parish has a lot of people who are very attached to the musical cruft of the 70s and 80s. They're now having to close their school because of rising health care costs. Now does not seem to be the right time to introduce such a drastic change as getting rid of the piano; it would leave a large part of the hymnal unusable, and it's not too hard to think I'd lose my job over it, or just be prevented from doing it by others on staff.

Do you have cantors down front? If not, do you ever use responsorial singing during the processionals?

Brian Michael Page said...

Your situation sounds like that of my former parish - to boot, the only parish in 25 years to fire me. Once I started introducing standard hymnody, there were murmurs in the choir ranks like "there are certain songs we'll never get to sing again". ("Rain Down" by Cortez and "Table of Plenty" were two of them). I'm usually one to take that risk.

My CURRENT pastor simply used the current GIRM as the excuse to say "look, this is how the Church (note the capital "C") wants us to worship", and that was that. Did we lose a few? Sure, we did. We also gained back what was driven away by the earlier drivel on the most part, so it all evened out. Do I like to see people go? Absolutely not, but sometimes that's life. We have OCP's missal and music issue, at least until this new translation is completed - then we'll go hardcover. My boss is a big fan of Adoremus. So it will be guaranteed to be something up that alley (thank God).

NO singers or musicians are up front at my parish. All music is played/sung down back, where it belongs. That's how the pastor wants it. That's how I want it. As it is, there is a wedding this May where the visiting organist wants to bring his own keyboard. The answer was, "no, we have the organ" (after a very quick consult with Father).


Anonymous said...

What about the responsorial Psalm? Do you send a cantor to the ambo, or do you sing it from someplace else?

How do you weed out "Rain Down" with the GIRM? I'm not a fan of such stuff at Mass either, but I can't find anything rubrical to say it should be *excluded* - everything that approaches it (nothing profane etc.) is too subjective to resist the "well that's just YOUR interpretation" line.

This is a dumb question, I'm sure, but the people sing along well with no visible musical leadership? (I mean, if German Lutherans have been doing it for these few centuries, surely we US Catholics can pull it off!)

Brian Michael Page said...

Nope - Psalm is sung from the music area in back. Two of the Masses I am alone, so I cantor from the console. The Saturday Mass sometimes has a cantor, otherwise it's me. At the choir's Mass, the cantor sings within the choir.

Other documents (check the Adoremus site for all them nice links -, plus the writings of Pope Benedict XVI before his papacy, will support that sacred music must be unique, separate from the secular/profane. To me that says, "if it sounds like something I'd play on the radio, it's not sacred". Melodies/harmonies must be sacred, no less than the liturgical texts must be sacred.

In lieu of something tacky like "Rain Down", I'd probably go with something a little more authentic, like the "Rorate Caeli".


Brian Michael Page said...

Oh, and yes, it can be pulled off. I am one of few Catholic organists (in my area anyways) that often plays a whole verse for an intro, instead of the first or last line, or perhaps some made up thing that doesn't even match (like the actual intro written in Glory and Praise for "Be Not a Wuss" and "Beagle's Things"). It does get more people to sing, though more people tell me I "play like a Protestant". That's ok. ;)


Anonymous said...

While I'm picking your brain about the psalm, which resource do you usu. use for it? (And have you used either the Schiavone or WLP Lectionary psalter?)

Brian Michael Page said...

I like the WLP psalter for its use of Psalm tones for the verses. I haven't tried the Schiavone yet. I have the melody edition of Journeysongs II with the readings. His melodies aren't the easiest for the average congregant. However, at least they're not dumbed down like most of Respond and Acclaim. So, OCP has improved in that department, at least.

Normally I use the settings out of Worship II and III. However, I also have used some of my own settings (with the proper approved translations), and some to just psalm tones. I also use Alexander Peloquin's "Songs of Israel" (two volumes) for some settings as well.

Peloquin's settings are really nice, but you have to sift through to find the singable ones (for congregations). Check out our blog archives - I have a music list for every week of the past year posted.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I realized just after posting, "doh, he posts all his music online".

If I didn't need the anonymity I'd do the same. Alas.

I was at a place a few years back that was still using Worship II, including that hymnal's Gelineau responses. Then I get to my new parish and, for the first time, encounter the Worship III responses. What on *earth* was GIA thinking, making new responses that, like this past Sunday, change KEYS from the response to the verse? (Gm to Am!)

Anonymous said...

Enjoy the blog! That said, I think that Alstott's Respond and Acclaim psalms are good. Simple enough for a congregation to pick up and the verses themselves are very chant-like in structure. I have to agree with the ban of Rain Down (as well as everything ever composed by Carey Landry). Our Director of Music is now on a diversity kick - even though the parish make-up is hardly diverse and still about 98% white suburbanites.

Anonymous said...

Remember, though, that liturgy is not a "majority rules" game. It should be, as much as possible, about what works for humanity at large - ergo the (ideal) use of Latin and plainchant, which have more claim to cultural neutrality than any other language and music. Obviously there's give and take here - parishes have less to worry about insofar as being "neutral" than, say, cathedrals and chapels, which get a more diverse congregation.

I respectfully disagree about R&A - some of the responses are interesting, but the 2-line-repeat verses are kinda boring for me. Definitely better, though, than Haugen/Haas metrical paraphrases, at least for the LotW. I use Guimont a lot, and Gelineau with some frequency as well.

I've managed to avoid Rain Down so far....

Brian Michael Page said...

Some verses in R&A are good. Others sound like something you can play on "one strum per bar". The antiphons are a sticking point for me. Many of the antiphons sound like something from Romper Room. And notice the similar pattern on the descants - they all start on a bar or two delay, kinda like a good rock band harmony.

Makes me think of the Raspberries' "Go all the way"

" feels so right, (feels so right)"

That kind of effect. I'm a BIG diehard fan of the Raspberries, but not in church.

The Guimont settings (most of them) aren't bad at all. I like the harmonies on the psalm tones. Beats R&A by a longshot.