Monday, December 3, 2007


Recently, the US Bishops approved their guidebook, Sing to the Lord. I saved meself a copy in .pdf form. It's one nice-sized 87-page .pdf file. My aim is to dig into this little "guidebook", not released as any particular law like much of the Vatican documents, but a "guide". Or is it more of a head game that the committee now formerly known as the BCL is playing with the Vatican, aka Bp. Trautman's last dirty deed as BCL head?

This is the BCL document that is supposed to be the successor of the infamous Music in Catholic Worship, published in 1972. What really was supposed to happen was the BCL coming up with a directory of an approved common repertoire to conform with the 2001 document, Liturgicam Authenticam. This directory was something that was supposed to be completed and submitted to Rome in five years' time. That's five years from 2001. Guess what... never happened! Instead, six years from 2001, we get Sing to the Lord.

Now, there are parts of this document that I firmly agree with. There are other parts that make me want to scratch my head and say, "WTF???"

One of the first things you'll notice is, just like the English translation of the most recent GIRM with adaptations for the United States, the excessive use of the word "gather" and forms thereof.

The first nine paragraphs attempt to tell us "Why We Sing". Then we go into "Participation."

10. Holy Mother Church clearly affirms the role within worship of the entire liturgical assembly (bishop, priest, deacon, acolytes, ministers of the Word, music leaders, choir,
extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and the congregation). Through grace, the
liturgical assembly partakes in the life of the Blessed Trinity, which is itself a communion of
love. In a perfect way, the Persons of the Trinity remain themselves even as they share all that they are. For our part, “we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another.” The Church urges all members of the liturgical assembly to receive this divine gift and to participate fully “depending on their orders [and] their role in the liturgical services.”

This line I just emphasized implies, to me anyways, that the congregation doesn't necessarily sing every single thing that has notes. This is something I have been saying for quite some time. Even the GIRM gives options as to who can sing certain pieces (e.g., "cantor/choir alternating with congregation", "choir alone", etc. for the singing of the Communion).

(extracted from 11). “The full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else, for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit.”

This leads to something I've tried to say for a long time, now stated by the Bishops.

(extracted from 12). Even when listening to the various prayers and readings of the Liturgy or to the singing of the choir, the assembly continues to participate actively as they “unite themselves interiorly to what the ministers or choir sing, so that by listening to them they may raise their minds to God.”

There you go! Now, on the other hand...

13. Participation must also be external, so that internal participation can be expressed and
reinforced by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes, and by the acclamations, responses, and
singing. The quality of our participation in such sung praise comes less from our vocal ability than from the desire of our hearts to sing together of our love for God. Participation in the Sacred Liturgy both expresses and strengthens the faith that is in us.

That is something I will not deny, in terms of congregational singing. But let's not misinterpret what is meant by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. Sit, stand, kneel, bow at the specified instances - yes. Sing - yes. Go into orans or hand-holding or other crazy movements promoted by Alcoholics Anonymous during the Lord's Prayer - no.

14. Our participation in the Liturgy is challenging. Sometimes, our voices do not correspond to the convictions of our hearts. At other times, we are distracted or preoccupied by the cares of the world. But Christ always invites us to enter into song, to rise above our own preoccupations, and to give our entire selves to the hymn of his Paschal Sacrifice for the honor and glory of the Most Blessed Trinity.

So far, so good. Will there be a turn for the worst? Tune in on my next post.

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