At Fatima Church, it's that time again: time for the yearly accounting. I just finished the final draft of my annual report. I won't bore you all with the particulars, though. If you really want to read the details of what this music director does all year when he's not sipping martinis in Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C., you will be able to shortly when my entire report will be posted at the Fatima Parish website: www.fatimalafayette.org. I always like to preface the body of my report with a little of what our creative liturgists like to call "catechesis". I find that it informs the readers that what we do doesn't come into being simply over tea and scones with the pastor in the rectory after High Mass, when we have a hour to kill before late Sunday morning Low.
The Roman Catholic church musician is charged with the duty to present sacred texts through music which underscore lessons from Holy Scripture both to instruct the faithful and to re-orient their souls for worship of the Almighty. He also must select appropriate instrumental repertoire which fosters the same. The music of the house of God is not the music of the secular world. We allow ourselves so easily to be duped by modern culture, that in our churches there is a place for secular music and for music which imitates it. Our society teaches us that the sonorities and style of popular music should attract us all the more to worship, even worship within a Catholic liturgical context. This false logic produces a house of God imbued with the secular, a temple much like that which Christ himself cleansed, according to the Gospel of St. Mark 11:15ff. The true music of the house of God is concerned solely with the worship of the Most High and must be suitable to accompany the Latin Rite, whose participation in the one sacrifice of Calvary enables the faithful to partake in a foretaste of the Beatific Vision. The secular idiom inherently falls short here, and by its very nature can only deemphasize the Eucharistic Mystery, interfering with the mystic participation in the timeless and thus shifting the attention of the soul from the Holy Sacrifice to the self and to the emotional euphoria its music brings, both of which the indisputable icons of secularism: the self and self-gratification.
Sacred music has indeed changed and developed through its 2000 year history, however, care must be taken that all music used for liturgical purposes is organically and historically linked to the Church’s 2000 year music tradition, as the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, has stated time and again, and most recently on June 25, 2006: “Genuine renewal in Catholic music cannot be achieved except by following the great traditions of the past, of Gregorian chants and sacred polyphony.” The repertoire of chant and polyphony is vast indeed; so too is the treasury of contemporary compositions which have sprung from this tradition and which are still being composed today in the 21st century. We have wasted much time in experimentation with secular idioms in an attempt to homogenize the secular and the sacred, and that in an age when recordings of monks singing the daily office in Latin reach the “top 10” pop chart list. As Catholics we are called to evangelization, to sanctify the secular, not to secularize the sacred. The Church musician offers to God a sacrifice of music and offers to the faithful words and melodies to take along into their workaday world. Sacred music helps to establish a connection between us, the people of God, and our Creator, not only during Holy Mass, but afterwards and throughout the week. Sacred music brings us back to the house of God, if not only for a moment in the day, as we recall our visit to His house and the heavenly banquet to which He continually invites us. “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” Psalm 84:10.