Friday, December 7, 2007


As promised, the paragraph that is headed The Gathered Liturgical Assembly. Something about bishops, priests, publishers, musicians, and liturgeists in North America and that word "gather" and all of its grammatical forms that makes me want to reach for the Pepto Bismol - quickly!

24. "In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a holy people, a people whom God has made his own, a royal priesthood, so that they may give thanks to God and offer the spotless Victim not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, and so that they may learn to offer themselves.” This is the basis for the “full, conscious and active participation” of the faithful demanded by the very nature of the Liturgy.

25. Because the gathered liturgical assembly forms one body, each of its members must shun “any appearance of individualism or division, keeping before their eyes that they have only one Father in heaven and accordingly are all brothers and sisters to each other.”

I firmly agree with this. However, in regards to where I placed emphases above, the problem lies, not in the faithful's "forming a holy people", yadda yadda yadda, but in many of the songs we sing at Mass, especially as the entrance hymn. These songs in question seem to focus on us instead of God the Father, or Our Lord Jesus Christ, or the Eucharist, or even the Blessed Virgin Mary. They often brag about us, lifting not only our hearts (lifting hearts is a good thing, yes), but our egos, nearly if not so to the point of conceit and/or hypocracy. Look at the 2008 Music Issue - #309 and #401 respectively, the latter being far more popular:

309. Now as we gather, God's chosen people, into one body, into one place...

401. We are a pilgrim people, we are the Church of God, a fam'ly of believers, disciples of the Lord. United in one spirit, ignited by the fire, still burning through the ages, still present in our lives...

Songs sung during Communion (as opposed to Communion songs, like those given to us by the Church already in the Roman Missal and the Graduale Romanum) often fall victim to similar story lines. Again... not good.

26. Singing is one of the primary ways that the assembly of the faithful participates actively in the Liturgy. The people are encouraged “to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalms, antiphons [and] hymns. . . .” The musical formation of the assembly must be a continuing concern in order to foster full, conscious, and active participation.

Yes, yes, and yes. Encourage them! Challenge them! Do not, however, baby them with dumbed-down music. Your average adult congregation CAN handle average adult words. They need not be brought down to kindergarten level.

27. So that the holy people may sing with one voice, the music must be within its members’ capability. Some congregations are able to learn more quickly and will desire more variety. Others will be more comfortable with a stable number of songs so that they can be at ease when they sing. Familiarity with a stable repertoire of liturgical songs rich in theological content can deepen the faith of the community through repetition and memorization. A pastoral judgment must be made in all cases.

The average standard hymn or sung Mass setting usually IS within its members' capability. If there is one thing that bugs me is when someone uses "these people know nothing about music" as a lame excuse to bring music down to the least common denominator. "Be not afraid" to challenge the people with a good solid Mass setting or a good solid Catholic hymn. Stick with it until they get it - and they will.

The next post will be on "Ministers of Liturgical Music". There's another one - everyone's a "minister" these days. Music ministers. Host ministers. Cup ministers. Now greeters in some places are called "hospitality ministers". Next thing you know, the sexton will be called the "minister of the physical plant" or even "interior minister". Maybe the town's garbagemen will be called "sanitation ministers" when they come to empty the parish dumpster. Who knows?


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