Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Before umpteen people play the "What Would Jesus Do" card on me, I have to mention that even Jesus called people out.  No, it wasn't a "nah-nah-nah-boo-boo" sort of calling out, like you hear on such shows as Maury or Jerry Springer, but he pointed out wrongdoings when he saw them.  My favorite example I like to use is the moneychangers in the Temple (in which Jesus was quite livid, and for all the right reasons).  He was not about to stand for such corrupt activity in his Father's house.  Period.

OK, I'm not Jesus, and I don't play him on TV, but the truth sure does hurt, doesn't it?  I'm talking about when certain publishers and composers get called out for bad music being used during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and certain hotshots from certain organizations whose names I will not mention at this time, do or say what they can in an attempt to censor those crying foul, reminiscent of when my local Ordinary (Bp. Tobin, who I am proud to say is my Bishop) makes a statement calling out a blatant pro-abortion politician and some left wingnut group threatens to sick the IRS on him for it.

This afternoon, a local friend of mine, a young budding organist (whose identity I will protect), pointed me to a new podcast started by a couple of local hotshots of the local chapter of a national organization.  I will not mention names (they vowed not to mention names, so let us give equal respect here), though some may get a good idea of the organization of which I speak.  I say "new podcast" because it's on its twelfth episode (I haven't podcasted in nearly two years, and I have about 190-ish audio-only and about 13 or so video).

First, this four-person panel was going on about how people who like the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (which I have five happy years of experience with) criticize the Ordinary Form of the Mass, and the differences in the music.  One of the biggest problems with the Ordinary Form is NOT the Ordinary Form itself, but the way it was destroyed by certain "reformer wannabes".  Liturgy was not destroyed by the Second Vatican Council, but by these "reformer wannabes" in what many today call the "Spirit of Vatican II".  Ah yes, the "spirit of the law" verses "the letter of the law" - last Sunday's Gospel reading (Sunday VI, Year A).  You have those who try to obey the law, and you have those who blatantly break the law "in the spirit of the law", to advance their own agenda.

Well, I listened to the first three minutes or so, when my friend had told me the best comes at "about the 35-minute mark".  So, I scrolled my YouTube cursor to the 35-minute mark.  Lo, and behold, the four of them (all of who I knew by name, and two of who I met personally at least once) started blasting this article by Jeff Ostrowski of Corpus Christi Watershed, which called out a poorly-written Gloria by a composer who is infamous for bad music, and called out the music's secular ties (in this case, the commercial jingle for My Little Pony - and yes, I do remember My Little Pony - I am a proud father of two sons AND two daughters).

Of course, such banality is going to be called out.  When music sounds like some kind of pop jingle (rock, folk, love ballads, whatever), these things are fine on TV.  Are they fine in a Catholic Mass?  Absolutely not.  Not in the Extraordinary Form, not in the Ordinary Form.  The Constitution on Sacred Liturgy never allowed for such dreck.  I, for one, love rock and roll of the 60's and 70's.  Do I want to hear it on the radio?  Absolutely!  Do I want to sing this stuff at Holy Mass?  Absolutely not!  Pope Benedict XVI cried foul on such music at Mass on numerous occasions before and during his papacy, most notably in his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, as did Pope John Paul II.  I haven't heard from Pope Francis on the matter yet.  He seems a bit soft-spoken, but I'm sure he has his reasons.

I need not mention the names of the composers in question whose music gets played at Mass at (unfortunately) many parishes these days.  I'm mainly preaching to the choir anyways.  Many of you who read this blog know of who I speak.  Some of these composers will write a fairly decent (read: Mass-worthy) piece.  However, their publishers print their lesser-quality (read: CD-worthy, but not Mass-worthy) pieces instead.  Mass-worthy music doesn't sound like pop, rock, love songs, and the like.  It has a unique flavor.  Mass-worthy music should not draw attention to ourselves (read: praising ourselves, bragging about how we're gathered as one, how we're all here to "have a meal").  In Mass-worthy music, one should generally not be singing the voice of God or Christ in the first person, either.

The panel of locals in the podcast claim that we "traddies" are the cause of the division of the Church.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  We're just simply trying to help steer it back in the right direction.  The ever-growing division and chaos is caused by those who want to destroy what the Church teaches, not just liturgy and music-wise, but in worldly issues as well.

The best-written comment in Jeff Ostrowski's post (and by far the most diplomatic, far better than any of my nine years of blogging and posts elsewhere) comes from renowned organist Diane Meredith Belcher (excerpt below):

Chopsticks, Kumbaya, certain seasonal Christmas songs, St. Patrick's Day odes, and "Blest be The Lord" (mercy, now it's spinning around in my head) are all perfectly fine, but folk music is, well, for folks. It's what you sing when folks are gathered together: for fun, for fellowship, for (sacred) frivolity. And there should be more of it!
Church music -- and most especially music for the mass -- should be for God. That's why it should sound different.

In her post-scriptum, she also rightfully points out, "I also find the text alteration of Schutte's Gloria most disturbing. Are we musicians not subject to the directives from Rome?"  The answer to that question is a resounding "we are"!

Again, Jesus loved the sinner, but he called out the sin.  Another thought: ignoring something bad doesn't necessarily make it go away, but implies the OK to let that "something bad" grow until it's almost (and sometimes completely) impossible, to get rid of.  These things have to be said.  The truth hurts those who don't want to hear it.  "The truth will set you free!"  This is probably as diplomatic as I can get.

Save the liturgy.  Save the world!



Bear said...

"but folk music is, well, for folks. It's what you sing when folks are gathered together: for fun, for fellowship, for (sacred) frivolity. And there should be more of it!"

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't sing that crud around a Catholic campfire, much less Holy Mass.

I was stuck listening to folk choirs at Mass, and I was stuck singing that stuff for years when I was in choirs myself. I don't deny anyone the right to like that stuff, but for some reason they denied me the right to not like that stuff, and even to like other stuff. The final straw for me at my last choir (and the reason why I no longer sing in choirs) was when some woman arrived at the parish. She arrived one week, by the next week she was offered a position on the parish council, and on the third week she showed up in the choir loft with a list of music and announced to the choir that this wa what we would be singing from now on. It was all... those guys you are not naming. I quit on the spot.

Brian Michael Page said...

Bear - great to hear from you again!

I'm not a fan of the Kumbaya-type music either, even in secular venues. But what the commentor was getting at is that there is a time and place for that stuff, and "at Holy Mass" is not that time.

"Go All the Way" by Raspberries is one of my all-time favorite tunes. In fact, that's the song that got me into music in the first place. Would I want a song of that style at Mass? Hell, no!

I've been very lucky. I work for a pastor with a spine. If he hears you say, "I'm gonna do this..." or "We're gonna do that..." and it's not kosher, he will be the first sternly to tell you, "No, you're not!" He is a real pastor and not just a facilitator. He would tell that lady you describe off in a heartbeat. ;)


Bear said...

It's good to hear from you too, Brian. I've been a little lucky at my new parish. The priest is pleased with what we have been doing, and we have actually been talking about doing a few recitals over the course of the year. On the weeks when I cantor, I have introduced the communion antiphon (in English, but I'm going to try Latin soon) and have started doing some Latin chants. The response has been... okay. At least, no one has told me to stop.

I suppose there is a time and a place for that stuff, I just can't for the life of me imagine what that is. I didn't start off hating that music/ At first I was more or less indifferent to it. But I heard it, and eventually was stuck singing it for years and years, time after time after time. I wouldn't want to sing or hear something I liked as often as I heard and sang that stuff. The only positive thing I can say is that these guys are an improvement over Carey Landry.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian,interesting the objections you shared, it's important when I seek guidance to go to The Lord not man, as you found there is often confusion.

We are the Body of Christ and He has given us guidelines even in Worship and how we are to praise Him in song which brings Unity and Maturity and as we can see in the Scriptures below, there is always a balance which is needed to reach out to all generations especially the elderly who have joyful memories of the music they grew up with or enjoyed as new Christians.

For me it was Scripture in Song, some had really beautiful words straight from Scripture, a few of my favourites were Bind us together in Love and a New Commandment I give unto you to Love one another. My first Church was a close Loving family of all ages we were there for 20 years and there was great Unity and Love and I'm sure our heartfelt worship was the unifying strength that we had in The Lord.

Ephesians 5:18-20 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Colossians 3:15-17And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.

Christian Love in our unity with Jesus - Anne